Friday, April 30, 2010

Death of intellect

"The buck stops here" is a phrase that was popularized by US President Harry S Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval office. Recently, the sauve P Chidambaram reminded Buddhadeb Bhattacharya of this statement. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, a self-proclaimed intellectual and alumni of the elite Presidency College in Calcutta, asked Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to mind his language.

It’s a pity that Buddha failed to understand the message behind this. But that’s not something that I intend to highlight within the scope of this essay.

A major faction of educated India was hooked on to the many vernacular events happening in the country’s ever busy current affairs.

We had Sania Mirza trying to bring about Indo – Pak peace (not the bhai-bhai types) by marrying the now jobless cricketer Shoaib Malik. Even more interesting was how Pakistan wants her to help bring down fertility rates in the country (I am not sure how she will manage to stop people from procreating, especially considering that she was being googled to increase testosterone levels. Not my type though, I would rather google Monica Bellucci or a Cheryl Cole or Bipasha Basu!!).

We had the IPL cricketing madness followed by IPL non-cricketing madness. We were educated on how IPL was run as a family business for Modi and his extended family.

There was the ‘Dantewada Massacre’ where Maoist brutally murdered CRPF jawans. There was also ‘Mango man Massacre’ where Govt brutally murdered and continues to murder lower middle with price rise burdens.

Media went berserk covering these news items. We heard talk about the garments (*****) Sania and Shoaib wore for the wedding and what they did not wear there after. All news channels had exclusive interviews on how their supposed love story evolved. We heard of how Lalit Modi married his mother’s friend and his extravagant life style. SMSs were flying around on how he had axe effect earlier (he was surrounded by beautiful women) and now has tax effect.

With so many happenings, we can expect the whole of educated India to be hooked on to following these events. But collectively, these events could not even come close to something that’s occupying educated India’s time and imagination.

The phenomenon called “Farmville”.

FarmVille is a real-time farm simulation game developed by Zynga, available as an application on the social-networking website Facebook. The game allows members of Facebook to manage a virtual farm by planting, growing and harvesting virtual crops and trees, and raising livestock (many of these people may find it difficult to move a piece of waste into a dust bin at home). Since its launch in June 2009, FarmVille has become the most popular game application on Facebook, with over 82.4 million active users and over 23.8 million fans in April 2010.The total FarmVille users are over 20% of the users of Facebook and over 1% of the population of the world.

Farmville ad:

The game, which allows players to amass virtual money by farming and harvesting crops, strikes a seductive balance between simple interface and Pavlovian reward system. (The original and most famous example of this involved the salivary conditioning of Pavlov's dogs. During his research on the physiology of digestion in dogs, Pavlov noticed that, rather than simply salivating in the presence of meat powder, the dogs began to salivate in the presence of the lab technician who normally fed them). Just about every activity in the game is rewarded by some form of virtual prize, be it experience points or game world currency. Players who want to short-circuit the whole working for money dynamic can simply input their credit card numbers and convert real world money into Farmville cash, which can then be used to upgrade their operations.

Addiction to this game is at an all time high and at a never seen before levels. Now there is help being made available to overcome Farmville addiction:

Here is an example highlighting the madness that this game has created. Quite recently there was a movement which was initiated to include India’s national flag on Farmville. More than three million Facebook users live in India and there are many more Farmville players of Indian-origin who have backed the cause.

The game’s developer Zynga is cashing in on this madness, literally. They are trying to get people to pay cash for in game currency so they can level up faster and have a better overall experience.

The more number of friends, the higher you go. This craze has moved people to unbelievable levels of creating fake friends (which I consider a safer option) and also accepting friendship from total strangers (there by throwing open your details into the open). I would not be surprised if in coming months, facebook users in India are more than the total population (considering the number of fake accounts each one of them are creating).

The game is resulting in a complete cascading failure of the higher functions of the human brain, so you're reduced to a near-vegetative state save for motor skills necessary to operate the mouse, by which you accept your rewards of flowers, animals, farming equipment.

I would recommend Zynga to add a caption in their website. Farmville: Your intellect stops here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mango Man chronicles

The salaried employee, like R.K.Laxman's Common Man, has been silently carrying the heavy cross unaided by any, but he has been the honest and unfailing citizen in paying what is due to Ceasar (a.k.a., Govt of India). Month on month the salary slip cuts through the heart of ‘Mango man’.
Today, the biggest concern facing the country is rising prices. Food inflation is hovering near 20 per cent. Everyone is facing the brunt of rising prices. Food prices are soaring. . . all essential items like vegetables, oil, milk, sugar are getting costlier. Rentals and real estate rates have almost doubled in just a few months in most cities. The real estate prices are at record highs making life miserable, especially for people who have migrated to cities for jobs.
Inflation hits you badly as prices keep rising. You end up spending more money for things that you could buy for less earlier. What you could buy for Rs 100, some months ago, would now cost you nearly double. As a result, your savings will come down. As prices rise, the purchasing power of money goes down too.
Inflation does not spare retired folk and people with fixed incomes are burdened very badly. Inflation de-stablises the economy as consumers and investors change their spending habits.
Where is all this money going? What is burdening ‘aam aadmi’?

330 crores down the drain

In a setback to India's space programme, GSLV D-3, the satellite launch vehicle showcasing its indigenous cryogenic technology, trailed off its designated course and went out of control shortly after lift-off from the spaceport on Thursday. The rocket, along with its two payloads -- satellites GSAT-4 and GAGAN -- crashed into the Bay of Bengal 293 seconds after launch.
It took scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) around 17 years and 330 crores to develop cryogenic motors after its bid to import the technology from Russia in 1992 failed because of opposition from the US.
India has no choice but to master this technology in the long run as it is technology that has been denied to the country, the sources said.

India’s own white elephant

The overall developmental cost of Tejas Light Combat Aircraft has quietly zoomed past the Rs 13,000-crore mark, with the government sanctioning the extension of the fighter's "full-scale engineering development'' (FSED) till December 31, 2018.
This, in effect, means the Tejas developmental saga will now stretch across 35 years, sanctioned as the project was way back in 1983 at a cost of Rs 560 crore to replace the ageing MiG-21s.
Tejas, in fact, can now give the Arjun main-battle tank a run for its money in terms of years taken for full development. The tank project, after all, was first approved 36 years ago.
I am not sure if these are the projects suit a nation with a dubious distinction of having a third of the world’s poor.
Aam aadmi is the funniest ‘cliché’ coined by some genius. Aadmi is being squeezed like a mango and filled on to the ‘slice’ bottle. As shown in the slice ad, people on top will continue to use it for their ‘pleasure’able activities.
Aam aadmi has to be bear being raped till he resurfaces again just before the election.