Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I used to wonder if that was just me seeking what I don't have at the cost of not appreciating the many blessings that I do have. I would chide myself for not being able to live in the present and enjoy what the moment has to offer and get frustrated at not being able to quite do so. It is very comforting to see that I am not alone in feeling odd and left out in crowds and that there is niche for people like me who want to travel with their children and make it a trip to fully enjoy and remember. Despite everything, in the end it is true that : Adults who travel alone with kids face some pressures that two-parent families don’t.
Monday, September 29, 2008
In which the concept and potential of @names is explained in 140 words or less
MS: Will @names on Twitter eventually become as highly sought after as .com domain names?
R: It's ironic that @names are simply reversed email addresses that drop the domain name. The concept of @names is much bigger than Twitter.
Uninterrupted tweeting can be a good thing if you know how to use it.
MS: Has Twitter ever been a nuisance? When (if ever) do you turn it off?
R: If Twitter is annoying you then you don't understand Twitter.
The only way to find out what Twitter is all about is to kick the tires yourself.
MS: How do you make your friends and family understand why you use Twitter?
R: I've given up trying to explain Twitter to people. The point is for you to sign-up and figure it out for yourself.
Whatever, else Twitter may or may not do for your social and professional life, chances are it will be enable you to master the art of confining your thoughts to less than 140 words. The only logical next step then would be to for everyone to start tweeting in Twaiku.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Janis Wunderlich is a mother of five who does everything a typical suburban soccer mom does and then she has a second life as a sculptor feverishly creating works that she must haste to get out the door lest the they come in harms way in a five kid household. Her life and art beg the question how she does it as much as who does she think she is.
Wunderlich is not alone is struggling to find balance between her desire to be a woman as defined by marriage and motherhood and to be an artist at the same time. Of the five women artists profiled in this movie three of them have been forced to choose their art over their marriage because their husbands were simply unable to reconcile with the intense need these women felt to keep creating art.
We meet the experts who talk about how phenomenally underrepresented women artists are in the professional arena when you consider the statistics on name recognition and solo exhibitions. One of them, Leonard Shlain hits the nail on its head when he says hindering female artists from reaching their full potential is akin to having half of the body paralysed after a stroke. The whole society suffers when half it is immobilized.
Pamela Tanner Boll does an outstanding job of putting in perspective what would be considered by many as a fringe issue - namely the struggles of women artists in the context of much larger and far more critical social issues. She makes a compelling case for why we would not be able to move ahead as a society if we restrained the creative energies of half of it.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The men shared no such stories but they prodded the women to sharing more once they had begun. I have seen this theme repeated in many social gatherings involving men and women who are good acquaintances but not really friends. The girls will talk about boys they had once been with. Little things at a dinner table will trigger memories - the one who made a mean creme brulee, the one who was a wine connoisseur, the one who was a cheapskate when it came to tipping - the list goes on.
You sense a mix of nostalgia and disappointment in how these stories are told. Each failed relationship becomes to a woman of a certain age, a mile marker on the long road that failed to take them to a home and family of their own. One drink too many and they will talk about it if only to make light of something that weighs on their mind. For a man, perhaps it is a little different. Each woman that came and went from his life life, is a notch on the stake of their manliness - an accomplishment even if not a whole scale conquest.
A dinner with co-workers is not the best place for them to engage in manly braggadocio. Not surprisingly, they hold their peace and enjoy hearing it about it from a woman's perspective. As they hear, it might cross their mind that somewhere an ex-girlfriend after one margarita too many, must be reminiscing their time together as well just as these women around his dinner table are doing. That must offer some satisfaction.
Friday, September 26, 2008
When it comes to email and work, I find my response time being inversely proportional to their distance from me in the food chain. The higher up they are, the quicker is my reaction with a couple of exceptions. A major snafu or a bellicose customer would usually take precedence. If there is a query with a binary or simple answer, I will respond right away no matter who it is from so I don't hold up whatever the other person is trying to get done.
It is generally believed (and even observed) that women are on the average better at multi-tasking than men are. So it should come as no surprise that they are able to respond to emails faster and also continue with their other tasks. It may not as the pundits are saying :
But such a swift response may have a downside - it may mean the sender is stressed or has low self-esteem, according to research.
Women, in particular, felt more pressure to respond quickly to a new email than men..
When it comes to personal mail, I will either respond with a day or two or chances are it will get drowned somewhere in my Inbox unresponded to for many months. I will think about writing that email every once in a while but not quite get to it. I figure everyone has a certain cadence to responding to their mail personal or official. They have their best and worst response times and for reasons that are idiosyncratic to their lives and personalities. In the end, there may be far more worthy subjects for research even if your area of interest is email.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Used to be that women in third world countries had to tolerate abusive and even violent husbands because they lacked the wherewithal to leave them. They had been married so their parents would need to feed one mouth less. It just would not work economically for her to go back home with or out without kids even without the huge amount of social pressure such a move would bring in its wake.
When I read this article about divorce being the latest luxury in America, I had to wonder if recession if deep and long enough would turn the clock back on the emancipated women of the West by a couple of hundred years. But as with every cloud, thanks to the creativity of divorce attorneys even this situation has a silver lining. If you are too broke to split up and go solo, you could at least sign a "cohabitation agreement" which is defined thusly:
A cohabitation agreement includes an understanding of each partner’s responsibilities for financial issues, a projected date of separation, the value of assets and debts, how much of each asset and debt each partner gets, a plan for living in the same house, custody arrangements, child care expenses and can even include issues about dating.
Except for the custody arrangements and dating expenses bit, that reads like the state of many a less than perfect marriage. You have to assume that the separation of heart and soul has already taken place in such a marriage so there is no date to project.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
If I can coax her to read just a little more to see if she may end up liking it, and she reaches the end of Chapter 1, chances are she'll stick with it to the point that I will need to peel her away from it. So, off I go looking for recommendations on contemporary children's literature and have more than 90% of my discoveries summarily rejected. My most recent casualty has been Half Magic by Edward Eager described thusly :
Jane and her sister are having a very boring summer. Yet, everything changes after Jane finds a coin on the street, which grants wishes. The only problem is that only half of the wish comes true. She realizes that her wish will only be granted if she asks for twice as much as she wanted. Jane is then bewildered in the calculations for her desires…
To me that was a fascinating plot and definitely worth reading. I got it from the library and handed it to J, eager to see her enjoy the story. Her first complaint was about the names of the chapters - "too boring". The chapters, I admit are somewhat uninspiringly named :
How It Began
What Happened To Their Mother
What Happened To Mark
What Happened To Katherine
What Happened To Martha
What Happened To Jane
How It Ended
How It Began Again
Once she got past that to Chapter 1, she did not like the opening line of the book :
It began one day in summer about thirty years ago, and it happened to four children.
With that the book was cast away in favor of some others that she liked more. Like a bowl of boiled brussels sprouts, I push Half Magic her way every once in a while knowing that she will get hooked if she persists with it to end of the first chapter. She responds by pushing it aside telling me she'll read it "later". I had no idea kids were such fussy and impatient readers - I thought my challenges ended at the dinner table.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
There is Clara Wong, the wealthy lady of leisure who has given up her prescription medicines in favor of retail therapy. A shoe when she does not know where is going, a bag when she is feeling sad and so on - she is familiar with her ailments and what it will take to numb the pain when it strikes. Then there is the Renu, the eight year old kid who has been abandoned by her parents in a mall and learns to survive there not unlike a rat would giving new meaning to the phrase mall-rat. We see Aaron and his cosplaying girlfriend reach relationship denouement without having stepped out of the mall.
The lives of all these characters and a host of others who inhabit the mall nearly 24/7 confluence as they escape their real lives into a more fantastical one that the malls help them conjure. It is as Hui Hui the cosplaying teenager puts it "Everyone in Singapore needs a bit of cosplay in their lives". Li Lin turns that into a more universal need that malls, retail mania and consumer culture serves around the world. There is a lot to like about this movie but I particularly loved the music which accentuates the ambiance the story needed to be told so well.
To order the movie online visit :
Sunday, September 21, 2008
But every once in a while in this cesspool of random ramblings, one may find something of value and originality - a thought worthy of a pause and ponder and god forbid an impulse for yet another blog or tag. So we keep feeding each one and other ideas that have been regurgitated many times over hoping someday that the typing monkey hordes will co-author a Shakespeare.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Source : Funksoup.com
Me : What triggered the creation of Zoomlab ?
Josephine: I had gotten a Fulbright scholarship and went to Amsterdam to do interactive art & performance. I was fortunate to get an artist residency while there and immersed myself in the field of networked performance (are you familiar with networked performance?)
Me: No I am not.
Josephine: These are performance in which the artists are in disparate geographical locations, using networked technologies like streaming, etc - to link together and perform. So while I was on the Fulbright grant, I had a very rich cultural experience while living abroad and when I came back, I wanted to share that thought it was invaluable so I thought - why can't we create cultural connection using performance in a networked environment the technology is already there. So the idea of collaboratively creating art & performances together in order to promote cultural exchange came about and became ZoomLab and eventually the Kidz Connect project (and the pilot project)
Me: Have you found school systems being receptive to the idea of using Second Life to teach ? To an average layperson SL connotes "serious" gaming and there seems in that an inherent conflict of interest with education. Do you find yourself having to educate the educators ?
Josephine : Well, there's usually an advocate for using SL a really enthusiastic teacher it only takes one really enthusiastic advocate to push it through the biggest hurdles administratively have been things like setting up the infrastructure in SL for the youth communities and getting support from administration but otherwise, I've met with some very interested educators.
Me: Do you work with elementary schools as well ?
Josephine: Not right now and it is because of the logistics. TSL (teen SL) requires that the kids be between 13-17 so far, we've concentrated on working with teens. Are you an educator too?
Me: I am a mother of a second grader and very interested in her education :)
Josephine: I just met someone the other day that specializes in programs for elementary school kids - and getting them into serious gaming.
Me: Do you see the lack of cultural interaction as a significant miss in the education system ? Or in other words what are you hoping SL with bring to the table that real time interaction among kids - specially in those parts of America and around the world where there is a lot of ethnic diversity. I do have a question about gaming for kids but I'll save that for later.
Josephine: Oh goodness, yes there's a serious lack of cultural interaction. Within the US in general - we're so isolated - and especially within the education system. During our pilot project, one of the US teens, upon first seeing the Dutch students, was surprised and said, "There's black people in Amsterdam?" I guess she thought that they were all blond and wore wooden shoes. :-)
Josephine: Yes, a lot of the kids don't know what is going on outside their neighborhood and don't really care either
Me: I agree.
Josephine: Until you connect them with somebody in another country, and give them something fun to do together - and eventually, within that creation process, they'll bond and begin to care about what's going on 'across the pond'. I think there's a sort of magic that happens when people create and perform together - that's really experiential - what performers refer to as the 'performance high' and that's a very bonding experience that I think can be created within a virtual platform too.
For example, I've done networked performances in which there was a musician in NY and another in LA, and dancers in FL and Houston. The musicians didn't know each other and neither did the dancers. We rehearsed and performed a piece over 2 years, and even tho the musicians/dancers didn't meet each other, they really did 'know' each other.
You get to know someone's style when you improvise and perform with them - quite intimately, even tho it's at a distance. You create presence with each other and it can become quite layered. And I can honestly say that we all consider each other friends, even tho a couple of them still have never met. Similarly within the Kidz Connect project, even tho the teens haven't met, I know they will continue to be friends and connect in TSL.
Me: A big part of cultural connection in my mind has to do with empathy. Do you see SL playing a role there ? Would it perhaps helps kids around the world appreciate the suffering of kids just like them but growing up in Darfur or say Afghanistan ?
Josephine: Yes I definitely think so. you can create projects that promote awareness of those cultures. Are you familiar with global kids?
Me: No I am not
Josephine: They do some very good work. I and my colleagues end up working with them a lot. they also do quite a bit of work in SL they've done projects for example, in which teens are invited to make machinima in TSL around certain subjects, like human trafficking and such for example here's the 'Race to Equality' machinima some teens recently shot.
Me: Kids my child's age are growing up in a world where their most natural element is being connected and online. Does SL not add yet more virtuality in their lives when what they need is more of the real ?
Josephine: Yes, absolutely, they are growing up in a very 'connected' way where they immediately have a digital identity . Good question - I think that the virtual component is here to stay and the point is to learn how to negotiate it how to multitask effectively when to give your attention to reality as well as to virtuality in Kidz Connect, we do 'mixed reality' shows mixing RL and SL by using a combination of SL, avatar exploration and RL streamed video and, not surprisingly, the teens can negotiate the mixture of RL and SL with no problem at all one of the scenes that the kids wrote in the most recent show, starts off in SL and turns into RL
Me: Do you see there being a SL divide as kids of today grow up ?
Josephine: You mean like a digital divide but specifically having to do with SL?
Me: Yes. The digital as in internet and mobile apps is one thing but to be able to traverse back and forth between RL and SL is quite another skill.
Josephine: Well, I think SL might be the current metaverse platform du jour but in a year or less, I'm fairly certain another platform will pop up and be the 'next big thing' so I wouldn't call it an SL divide but I would say that 3D virtual worlds are here to stay. They will be developing more over time. Raph Koster who is legendary in the gaming world, is coming out with his own 3D virtual world that will be called Metaplace it will function from within a browser and will enable cross-world linking so rather than having to use a software client to log in, you'll be able to access it within your browser - now that's a big development the virtual world will be brought to you in your internet browser, rather than bringing the internet to the virtual world. but anyway, yes 3D web is really just on the horizon
Me: That's a game changer !
Me: How do you see ambient devices converging with SL ? Would it be within the realm of possible to see the world through my own rose colored glasses where everything in my world is just as I want it to be ?
Josephine: People are already experimenting with alternative interfaces for SL i.e., using sensor input instead of mouse input and when you look at interfaces like the Wii which is really just a set of accelerometers and infrared we're not very far from being able to use, for example, camera input which means that we'll be able to do some interesting things with human movement translation into virtual worlds which could also have some interesting implications for people that are physically challenged.
Me: You mentioned the importance of being able to start and stop living in SL and transition over to RL. Do you see every kid who has been exposed to SL being able to do so or would some just fail to learn that particular skill ?
Josephine: Not necessarily to start and stop 'living' in SL - rather, to be able to negotiate within and between the spaces most kids already know how to negotiate and navigate within a virtual world. Most have grown up with gameboys.
Me: See I find that a hard concept to grasp but then I have not experienced SL :)
Josephine: This just teaches them that they can be creative within it and they're encouraged to be. They really take to it very quickly, almost without effort.
Me: I have kept my 6 year old away from gaming simply because I am not sure when it stops being a good thing and becomes addictive. Do you have advise for gaming challenged parents like myself ?
Josephine: Well, there are certainly quite a few resources out there about it - here's a particularly good presentation on "Virtual Worlds, Real Skills" that was given by my friend Rafi from global kids at a conference at MIT and this one about collective wisdom which is a great article too. There is another study about MMO players and leadership.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
These things are contagious. I found myself carrying it over to another building where I had a meeting. My co-worker there had until then been buried under deadlines and had not paid attention to the stock price. When I mentioned it, his disbelief gave way to pessimism and fear. It was not a very productive meeting with everyone talking about what all this means to our lives, homes and jobs. We were feeding into each others' fears and worries until the sum of all our negativity leads us into a situation where we have real reason to panic. I wonder if this is how it feels before the credit default swap tsunami strikes.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
..what made Beatie tabloid fodder is that in a he/she world of opposite pronouns and sexes, he represents the trans in gender, the mind-spinning possibility that gender is not either/or but both/and
NY Times columnist Guy Trebay notes in his column He's Pregnant, You're Speechless :
Partly a carnival sideshow and partly a glimpse at shifting sexual tectonics, his image and story powered past traditional definitions of gender and exposed a realm that seemed more than passing strange to some observers — and altogether natural to those who inhabit it.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Conversely, what happens when individualist urn collectivist ? Also, in large, complex and heterogeneous cultures like China or India how the different parts of it - on a varying sliding scale that ranges from highly individual to highly collective work in concert. Those would far more interesting themes to write Op-Eds about. Clearly, that takes more than stringing together a bunch of off the cuff borrowed observations and call it an article as Brooks is prone to doing.
Monday, September 15, 2008
It took us some growing used to the crude commentary on our anatomies and the constant bust level staring of the self-styled Lotharios who lorded over the campus. A lot of these guys had come from the remote backwaters of India and were around women in an urban setting for the first time. To them, seeing girls in form fitting tee-shirts and jeans was like being in a strip club for the very first time and they behaved accordingly.
Yet every once in a while, us girls had our comeuppance. We would be on our way back from college to the ladies hostel and there would be this one guy walking down the street. The agent provocateur in our group, I will call her A, had this rather suggestive way of calling out single digit numbers when the victim was within earshot that had the singular effect of turning him red in the face specially when her sidekick, K would do this oh-so-subtle once over and provide her assessment in the form of another single digit number sometimes even a second smaller one.
Everyone knew what was going on, but there was nothing substantially offensive. The rest of us who lacked the nerve to do what A and K did, thought their method was super-slick. It got the job done without resorting to the depths of vulgarity that the guys descended to. As is often the case, these random victims of A and K were almost never the ones who had offended any of us. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and they represented their sex.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
As for the woman herself, once she lowers the bar that low for how far out of line her spouse can step without jeopardizing their marriage, chances are, her husband will stop at nothing - he now has carte blanche to do exactly as he pleases without fear of consequences or retribution. How could any of those scenarios be a good outcome from a marriage, how could such a marriage be worth preserving. Seemingly contrary to commonsense, these otherwise smart women do what seems utterly wrong both for themselves and their children.
What is more, this behavior does not seem to be restricted to the ordinary and middle-class. Rich and famous women have likewise accepted their errant husbands when it would appear they had no reason to tolerate bad behavior. Maybe there comes a point in a married woman's life, when she is betrayed by her husband, any or all options she has available are wholly unfavorable to for her far more than they are for the straying husband.
If she has achieved a certain standing in society by virtue of her marriage or is atleast greatly helped by it, she stands to loose that position all that it entails if she walks away without any guarantees she can do even better alone or with someone else. Past a certain age, she no longer feels confident that men will still find her appealing enough to consider marriage or she would be able to find someone (potentially even older than herself) who would appeal to her. If she walks away, the other woman walks right in to her life, run the home she helped build and share the children she gave birth to.
Sometimes, the cold math of it all just does not add up to make sense to walk away for the sake of injured dignity and hurt pride. Maybe these women stay on because it is the logical best option to remain the thorn on their cheating husband's side and bar another woman from feasting on the fruits of her labor. Ironically, it is two women working against each other over a man who is the cause of all their troubles in the first place.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
It signals (to me) in the best case, that they've said their piece and have worked it out of their system since. Day to day, they go about their life at work just like the non-Dilbert people - they are not getting all steamed up in a pressure-cooker whose safety valve happens to be Dilbert. In the worst case, they have one very important thing to say and they want to make sure they are heard. Dilbert is the voice of their dissent.
However, when the material is dynamic and frequently refreshed, it gives me more food for thought and I might add, concern. It would a whole lot more fun and cathartic to take their show on the road as this blogger does with great aplomb. What's more the blogger could get a book deal out it - I would hate for Bob to end up in a syndicated comic strip and become Dilbert's competition.
In an article titled Dilbert is Bosses' Stooge, the writer quotes author Norman Solomon who gets it right :
Thus, the Dilbert character is an agent of a "corporate America (that) is not selling us the rope to hang it with, (but) the illusions to exculpate it with," Solomon contends. "Labor unions haven't adopted Dilbert characters as insignia. But corporations in droves have rushed to link themselves with Dilbert, Why?
"Dilbert mirrors the mass media's crocodile tears for working people -- and echoes the ambient noises from Wall Street."
Friday, September 12, 2008
If you can push yourself hard enough, you might get through it and get something out of it for your troubles. But if you are attention span challenged like I am, you'll be lucky to make it to page fifty. The Economist article cites the following conclusion of two researches Corey Fincher and Randy Thornhill :
The two researchers also looked at anthropological data on how much people in “traditional” (ie, non-urban) societies move around in different parts of the world. They found that in more religiously diverse (and more disease-ridden) places people move shorter distances than in healthier, religiously monotonous societies. The implication is that religious diversity causes people to keep themselves to themselves, and thus makes it harder for them to catch germs from infidels.
This seems similar to Diamond's argument that ancient societies succeeded or failed based on the luck of the geographical draw. Likewise, people would be more or less disease-ridden based on the religious make-up of their environment. The case for tying germs and religion does actually come in the conclusion of the article :
Perhaps, then, the underlying reason why there is so much hostility between ethnic groups is nothing to do with the groups themselves, but instead with the diseases they may bring.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
My 45-day quest to convince a craigslist scammer to write me a poem-- and how she lost her mind and tried to become my friend
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
However, in my neck of the woods, no one acts like the axis of their world has titled far east. The edge of the world and the boundaries of our county coincide quite nicely even today. In a sense, I am living in a time wrap so a friendly reminder about the true state of the world is always welcome. Then a few days ago, I read this update on my Linked In homepage.
I am interested to co-develop these Chinese IDN domains into directories with an Indian entrepreneur that would like to market Indian services in China in Chinese.
It is a moment of truth when you read something that resembles what you are familiar with and realize a) Though you have been in the information technology business for quite a while and do what you can to remain "informed", you did not understand what that sentence meant but more importantly b) You have no idea exactly how much you don't know what you don't know. This becomes critical when the difference between knowing and not could determine your prospects in the job market of the future.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Who makes a good spy or a good liar?
I don’t think there’s any one answer to that. Being a good actor, being a good poker player. Being a good con man. Con men are people who are sociopathic, who do not feel remorse, and who are very attuned, strangely, to other people and can read them very well. If I know what you really want to hear and what is in your heart of hearts, your fondest desire, because I’m good at reading you and I’m street-smart about assessing you, then I can feed you what you want to hear. A good con man does that. A good magician does that. You also have to have a good memory.
That description fits a lot of players I have encountered in my life. Most of them are more than averagely smart and engaging conversationalists. When pressed for specific information about themselves or asked questions about their past, they will offer a slew of data but even the most diligent dredging of it will not yield any useful answers. However, the sheer volume of material will give you the warm and fuzzy about the man - a lot like a Big Mac or a Big Gulp will offer comfort but no nourishment when you are very hungry.
Monday, September 08, 2008
As America becomes more unequal, it also becomes less Republican. The trends we have dismissed are ending by devouring us.
He talks about how inequality and home is directly proportional to equality between nations - they both rise or fall together.
The family revolution coincided with another: a great shift from a national to a planetary division of labor. Inequality within nations is rising in large part because inequality is declining among nations. A generation ago, even a poor American was still better off than most people in China. Today the lifestyles of middle-class Chinese increasingly approximate those of middle-class Americans, while the lifestyles of upper and lower America increasingly diverge. Less-skilled Americans now face hundreds of millions of new wage competitors, while highly skilled Americans can sell their services in a worldwide market.A much older article corroborates this point of view as far as what is happening in India - those on the right side of the digital divide now have lifestyles comparable to their peers in America but those on the wrong side are seeing their fortunes slider further south. The warnings about the widening income gap and its catastrophic consequences continue to this day.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
So, it was with a great deal of anticipation that I picked up Due Considerations. To say the least, I was hoping to be introduced again to a fresh crop of literary talent from around the world, writers and works Updike had not been able to give consideration to before. But more than that I was hoping to hear his own thoughts about anything he thought worthy of consideration.
While his reviews are as detailed, informative and insightful as they have always been, often he comes across as a little too kind to be critical or perhaps he has deliberately chosen to comment on works that he finds easy to lavish praise upon. Whatever, the case, I found myself skimming through the entire section titled "Considering Books" and agreeing with NYT reviewer Christopher Hitchens when he says: Fair-mindedness here threatens to decline into something completely passive, neutral and inert.
I must be one of those readers who loved every line of what Updike had to say about the literary output of others but have really been waiting for him to share more of himself with his readers.
In his essay "On Literary Biographies" Updike writes about the readers of such works :
We read, those of us who do, literary biographies for a variety of reasons, of which the first and perhaps the most note-worthy is the desire to prolong and extend our intimacy with the author - to partake again, from another angle, of the joys we have experienced within the author's oeuvre, in the presence of a voice and mind we have come to love.
That describes precisely why I would have loved to hear more about Updike in his own words about himself. I missed that in Due Considerations - he just has not considered himself nearly enough. I would love a book devoted entirely to Personal Considerations which forms only a small section of this one.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
This Business Week article on the leaking of GMAT questions (a part of a series I have been following for some time) is reflective of the kind of bathwaterism that bedevils any large enterprise public or private. Instead of trying to go after the root cause of the problem, the solution is the punish the effect and everyone who was tainted by it. This is akin to covering chicken-pox with concealer instead of preventing it by inoculation.
The users of the service as several of the commentators point out did not necessarily know that it was illegal and to that extent going after them retro-actively does not really help plug the hole through which the questions are leaking. Would it not make sense to use much more sophisticated technology to select the questions for the test and also deliver a customized and adaptive version to each test taker based on the sum total of all their academic and non-academic credentials. Needless to say, the use of a wide pool of geographically and culturally varied resources to prepare the questions is equally if not more critical.
As long as the rules of engagement are transparent and the system has been independently vetted and verified for accuracy everyone should be comfortable and more importantly advance knowledge or preparation would not confer any significant advantage. In the end, a test for the best institutions of learning should be all about putting learned concepts to the most intelligent and innovative use without having "prepared" in advance. The focus of such testing needs to shift from measuring skill to measuring innate talent.
While any amount of help understanding concepts and theoretical underpinnings of the subjects being tested is perfectly legitimate, the test itself should be designed in such a way that it just cannot be a learned or taught skill. Just doing that will put all coaching, hot-housing and tutoring facilities out of business. The standardized test even with questions randomly culled from a massive database is a set up for failure, a disaster waiting to happen.
This is exactly how India has failed to maintain the strength and consistency of its IIT and IIM brands, and would be where the American system would fail as well once the ratio of the available slots to the number of aspirants to them falls low enough.
Returning to the Business Week story itself, as much as the actions and decisions of GMAC reek of bureaucratic short-sightedness, it may prove to be a strong deterrent against seeking any form of "help" in preparing for the GMAT - at least until someone comes up with a more creative way to game the system. I can't imagine this will be the last time something like Scoretop will make headlines. As long as testing status quo prevails, elite education will produce no more than "excellent sheep" as William Deresiewicz writes.
Friday, September 05, 2008
My well-meaning neighbor recommended that I intervene so the teacher does something to ease her troubles but I figured, this might be an opportunity for her to toughen up a little. After all, the real world has plenty of aggressive, pushy people with really big voices and she'll need to survive and make herself heard above the din.
Even as I made that decision, I was troubled by it. What if J needed more help coping with this than I thought she did ? Was I making the right choice by throwing her into the melee and having her learn to swim on her own ? Were there other kids in her shoes ? In short, what was the wisdom of the crowds on this issue - namely, how do you help your child come to grips with the demands of a timed test and what did it mean when they were having trouble . I did not have to look very far to find out. As always, a vibrant support group was only two clicks away and I counted my blessings.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
What struck as different about this movie is how the bizarre story unfolds - there is nothing Stephen King or Night Shyamalan about it and yet I was not able to sleep all night. The two other movies I recall having this effect on me were American Psycho and Hannibal but then I do my very best to stay away from the horror genre.
I am not sure what one should expect in true dark comedy but this was clearly not what I had counted on. I would have been able to deal with something like The Virgin Suicides. If visceral reaction is a measure of success for a horror film this one scores very high at least with audiences like me who have a very low threshold to begin with. How it fares with horror movie fans with a stomach for the stomach-churning could be a whole different thing.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.
When you combine the fact that we use Google to help us navigate our way through our huge off line memory and indeed don't use our brains as a repository of information and facts as we did in our pre-Google days, net-neutrality becomes that much more important.
Without it, all the talk of a flat, interconnected and convergent world where the geeks from Estonia, Mali, Silicon Valley and Shanghai have a level playing field will not amount to much. The guy with access to the express lane and superior content will be information rich and the rest will turn into the digital have-nots who can no longer count on Google to supplement the function of their brains as they have grown used to doing.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Without giving the plot away, the story is explores the nature of love and morality through real life stories told by Manek Mulla, the protagonist to a group of his friends. There are tenuous links that join the lives of all the characters who feature in the stories, some obvious others not quite. Each sub-plot can stand on its own strength but bringing them together results is something that is far greater than the sum of the parts.
Each story centers around the complicated trade-offs people make in love and life, as they try to strike that delicate balance between the mundane business of living day to day and living for something greater than themselves. Often they stumble and fall, taking their moral high-ground down with them as they do. When they get back up, they will rearrange the facts to fit the outcome and invent a version of history that shows them in more favorable light than they deserve to be shown in. Rashomon comes to mind in how the story depicts subjectivity of perception on each individual's recollection of the events.
This is a movie that will leave you with many unanswered questions and trigger introspection on who and how you have loved, why you have left or stayed with them. For anyone who is interested in meaningful cinema from India, this movie should be a must watch.
Monday, September 01, 2008
If you haven't heard, Russia has been dropping cluster bombs on innocent civilians in the Georgian republic which has killed and wounded many innocent people. Survivor Corps is one of the lead organizations in the movement to ban cluster bombs and to assist survivors of this terrible weapon. I've put together this social media news release which explains everything.
I would be grateful if you could blog about this very important subject, it would help many people.
I am very glad to help get the word out and hope my voice and that of the many other little people in cyberspace gets heard over the din of corporate 24/7 news networks. An NYT op-ed column gives me hope though. Frank Rich says :
But now that media are being transformed at a speed comparable to the ever-doubling power of microchips, cable’s ascendancy could also be as short-lived as, say, the reign of AOL. Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Forum, which monitors the intersection of politics and technology, points out that when networks judge their success by who got the biggest share of the television audience, “they are still counting horses while the world has moved on to counting locomotives.” The Web, in its infinite iterations,is eroding all 20th-century media.