Archive for October 9, 2006

Rack ruckus

It must have been conceived by a very disturbed mind. Only a sadist can devise such a diabolical scheme which has the capacity to inflict pain across the spectrum of society. No one is spared as it is designed to cause maximum damage.

As the trained moved in slowly towards the platform, adjusting the rather heavy bag on my shoulder I leaped towards the pole in the middle. An elbow free in its trajectory planted itself in my nonchalant right eye. Even as I entered in one piece, jostling with the crowd, I instinctively removed the bag off my shoulder. With my best faux Jordan stride I looked up to fling it on to the overhead rack. To my horror, the rack was gone.

My fellow passengers smiled at my senile attempt to find a place for my bag. They smiled at my perplexity and empathized with my angst. Some even had a bemused expression on their faces, as if still reeling from the shock.

A youngster brimming with mirth suggested that the racks were removed to encourage “socially acceptable distance” between two men in trains, a conspiracy to discourage probable gay intentions. As I smirked at the tirade my co-passenger enlightened me, the overhead racks were removed from that Virar to Churchgate local, and four others as a trial, for “security reasons”. This was an interesting. Were they trying to curb terrorism by removing rack from five trains? And importantly who were “they”?

The overhead rack in a Mumbai local is an inseparable part of everyday travel for millions in the city. A pedestal of temporary respite where one can rest ones burden momentarily. It is a high point which encourages humanitarianism by providing an opportunity to people to help others. As bags of all grades are balanced on each other, a helping hand is always willing to stretch and make way for more items.

The gent’s compartment desperate for any conversation has it own brand of ‘bag’ ice-breakers. A series of grunts directing the apt placement of the precious possession, capped with a barely audible “thank you”. Also, it serves as an excellent support to hold on to, as the train quivers uninitiated and almost flings you in a very precarious position. An embarrassment is thus averted.

I am having visions of utmost distress. I foresee people standing in a cramped compartment with bags over their heads. Dabbas would spill due to constant agitation, staining the crisp white to a murky yellow. With both hands occupied, one cannot hold on to the handles above or protect their vitals below.

An exasperating itch on the shoulder blade cannot be subdued. A projectile of saliva and mucus lands squarely on your cheek. As you brush it off it disgust, the culprit sniffling explains that he couldn’t cover his face in time. Indeed, it is a ghastly situation.

Besides if a person wanted to plant a bomb, he can easily slip it below the seat. An underworld by itself infested with leftovers, lonely wrappers, scurrying arthropods and probably friendly leprechauns. Only the severely paranoid looks beneath the seat before sitting.

Removing the last left bastion of communal harmony is hardly an answer to curb miscreants. How about better surveillance techniques, more railway guards or better yet, an approachable friendly enquiry system. This would go a long way in safeguarding out trains.
The perpetrators of the 7/11 blast must be found quickly and brought to justice. They should be dealt without impunity and severely to serve as a deterrent to any such future designs.

I humbly appeal to the powers that be to avert a crisis in the lives of millions traveling by the local trains by restoring our racks, just as they were. Let us be free, as we were meant to be.

****

Journo death toll – 76.
Another journo killed while performing her duty.

Ms Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was found dead
Saturday afternoon from a bullet wound in the elevator of the building where
she lived in Moscow.

Such acts must be vociferously condemned.

Weeekly Synopsis

Your views and comments
upto 8 October 2006

*****
I liked Abhishek’s write up man. That dude is mighty pissed off. I agree with him, they all a bunch of frikin hypocrites.
Rahul

*****
Regarding the “IE article

  • PG Bt course on hold
  • Are we equipped to handle the demand that is supposedly not met by the university. Why do we continue to ignore the fact that the UG course is under-staffed and the lab facilities are horrendous. First we need to make our base fstrong then work at the upper levels.
    Pooja Desai
    via email


    Absolutely. Right on the money.

    *****
    ….There are no ground realities in your blog…Its all from the main stream media or the net…
    Jimmy

    I know but there isn’t much that I can do about it right now. You must understand that even though I remain intrigued by this field I have moved on, sort of. So please join me send me your thoughts, ideas and voice. I’ll feature them on the blog. Then u can have actual ground reality, as you see it.

    *****
    Nice blog…please write more frequently.
    Rekha Lad

    *****
    …If we exclude the IITs, TIFR, IISC, etc and a couple of other institutes there is very little scope for a Bt grad to move ahead with this chosen profession. Mumbai Unviversity I have heard sucks and doesnot have even the basic infrastucture necessary for its functioning…
    Sunil

    So have I. Yes there are very few avenues if you seriously want to pursue Bt in Mumbai.
    But keep the faith, since career growth is relatively slow in this field you must be patient.
    Equip yourself with as much information as you can find to chart you career plan.


    *****
    …..F**k you Bt baiters. Let us do our jobs and you mind your business. GM and gene manipulation is here to stay…..Hey Abhishek if you can’t understand it don’t diss it.
    Vishal
    via email

    Our articulate friend here finds it amusing to use abuse to make his point….well so do I …so F**k you too mate….why are you so pissed off?…I have the right to my opinion…and just because you need to borrow it from what your Mama doesn’t mean the whole world should agree with it….Sorry for the F word…I wasted it on a worthless POS like you.
    Take care man have a nice day. – Abhishek


    If you do not wish to be featured, indicate accordingly.

    Ig Nobel awards

    The most anticipated awards in scientific circle should be, in my opinion, and which to some extent is true, are the Ig Nobel awards – ” The research that makes people laugh and then think.”

    Here are this years winners:

    ORNITHOLOGY: Ivan R. Schwab, of the University of California Davis, and the late Philip R.A. May of the University of California Los Angeles, for exploring and explaining why woodpeckers don’t get headaches.

    PEACE: Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, for inventing an electromechanical teenager repellant — a device that makes annoying noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults; and for later using that same technology to make telephone ringtones that are audible to teenagers but not to their teachers.

    MATHEMATICS: Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed.

    MEDICINE: Francis M. Fesmire of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, for his medical case report “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage“; and Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven of Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel, for their subsequent medical case report also titled “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage.”

    PHYSICS: Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, in Paris, for their insights into why, when you bend dry spaghetti, it often breaks into more than two pieces.

    CHEMISTRY: Antonio Mulet, José Javier Benedito and José Bon of the University of Valencia, Spain, and Carmen Rosselló of the University of Illes Balears, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for their study “Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature.”

    BIOLOGY: Bart Knols (of Wageningen Agricultural University, in Wageningen, the Netherlands; and of the National Institute for Medical Research, in Ifakara Centre, Tanzania, and of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna Austria) and Ruurd de Jong (of Wageningen Agricultural University and of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Italy) for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.

    For the list of other whacky winners from previous years see link:

  • Improbable winners
  • Nobel cause.

    The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2006 was awarded jointly to Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello for their discovery of “RNA interferance – gene silencing by double stranded RNA.”

    illustration

    The full text of the research can be viewed at the following link:
    (Nobel prize press release):

  • RNA interference
  • This year’s recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry — Roger D. Kornberg — obtained the first actual pictures at the molecular level that reveal how the genetic information stored in genes is relayed so that it can be used by the body. He obtained those images in a group of organisms that includes humans.

    read more :

    Among the journals in which Kornberg has published is the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The ACS weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News, ran an extensive article on chemistry’s role in the genetics revolution in its March 10, 2003, issue. That story is available at:

    http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/8110/print/8110dna.html.

    other winners:
    Nobel prize in Physics to John C. Mather and George F. Smoot
    “for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation”

    Nobel prize for Economics Edmund S. Phelps
    “for his analysis of intertemporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy”

    Nobel Homepage:

  • Nobelprize.org
  • Worst year for journalists

    2006 now has the dubious distinction of being the year when the maximum number of journalists have been killed world-wide. The death toll this year stands at 75, significantly greater than 58 last year.

    As information becomes the driving force of this century’s economy, the custodians of this immensely prized factor are under seige from various quarters. The have died performing their duty.

    This year has seen two major world conflicts uptil now. 26 of these deaths have taken place in Iraq, where journo’s are severely pesecuted.

    It is alarming and we must take notice of this as a serious threat to freedom of thought and right to information.

    2 Indian journalists have died this year.

    The World Association of News Press release reads as follows:

    Record Number of Journalists Killed in 2006

    Seventy-five journalists have been killed so far this year, making 2006 the deadliest year for journalists on record, the World Association ofNewspapers said Thursday.

    Twenty-six of the deaths occurred in Iraq, where journalists continue to be targetted and murdered.

    The 75 journalists and other media workers killed through September makes 2006 the most deadly year since WAN began keeping records of journalist murders in 1997. Seventy-two journalists were killed in 2004.

    “Journalists in Iraq are not only facing the danger that comes with working in a war zone, they are being hunted down and assassinated simply because they are suspected of cooperating with western news agencies, because of their religious or political affiliation, or because their murderers believe that killing journalists will advance their aims,” said Timothy Balding, CEO
    of the Paris-based WAN.

    “Journalism today is more dangerous than ever,” he said. “More than 500 journalists have been killed in the past decade, often for simply doing their jobs. These murders are a direct attack not only on individuals, but also on society as a whole. Yet few of the killers are ever brought to justice.”

    The Philippines, where criminal gangs and corrupt politicians have long been targetting investigative journalists without fear of prosecution, has seen eight journalists murdered so far in 2006.

    Journalists have been killed in 19 other countries this year: Afghanistan (1), Angola (2), Bangladesh (1), Brazil (1), China (2), Colombia (4), Democratic Republic of Congo (1), Ecuador (2), Guatemala (1), Guyana (6), India (2), Indonesia (1), Lebanon (2), Mexico (1), Pakistan (3), Russia (1), Somalia (1), Sri Lanka (5), Sudan (1), Turkmenistan (1) and Venezuela (2).

    The death toll compares with 58 killed in 2005, 72 killed in 2004, 53 killed
    in 2003, 46 killed in 2002, 60 killed in 2001, 53 killed in 2000, 70 killed
    in 1999, 28 in 1998, and 26 in 1997.

    Details of all the cases can be found on the WAN web site at
    http://www.wan-press.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=706 .

    (Editors please note: illustrations for this story are available at
    http://www.wan-press.org/article6661.html ).

    Several press freedom organisations track the number of journalists killed each year. The numbers vary based on the criteria used by different associations. WAN¹s figures include all media workers killed in the line of duty or targeted because of their work. It also includes cases where the motive for the killings is unsure or where investigations have not been
    completed.

    The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry,defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 73 national newspaper associations, newspapers and newspaper executives in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups.

    What’s wrong with Biotech?

    Abhishek Seth, an aspiring writer, disgruntled citizen and my alter ego writes for TBI. The content is not by any length a measure of his capability as a writer. The opinions in this post are solely his own.

    And yes if this offends you….well, it was meant to!

    ****

    What’s wrong with Bt?
    The above question should not be treated as a mere rhetoric. Think, churn your grey cells, and dust those cobwebs. Remove those self-imposed blinders of fantasy, grandeur and take a look around.

    2% of those who pass with a Bt graduate degree will actually be in a position to make a difference. The unfortunate who choose to stay will further someone else’s thoughts and designs on how the world must be. In pharma companies, research institutes or as solution providers they will act as facilitators of borrowed intellect.

    Which brings me to the original purpose of the majority while joining Bt, it must have been “to make a difference” or better yet “heal humanity”. Discover a new molecule to rid mankind of very bloody conceivable disease, food for all, agricultural revolution via restructured crops and so on. How many of them actually do something about it?

    WHO GIVES A SHIT, RIGHT!

    We want to be marketing heads, in management earning money for MNCs. That’s the truth. Even if someone gets into corporate financed research, the direction of research is seldom defined by the person at work. You just rehash protocols, make generics most of the time. Even if you come up with some novel idea, by the time it reaches manufacturing, its cost is so high that it can’t be afforded by common people.

    The structure of research today is such that it necessarily is detrimental to the primary benefactor, the people. Companies have one agenda, ‘the bottom line’. If it has or cannot be met by your work, it is a failure. The validity of an idea depends on how useful it is to the people, translated it means can we make money off your back. That’s all there is to it.

    Show me a corporate financed project which does not benefit the company and I’ll show you a delusional moron who refuses to wake up from his dream.

    ****

    Proponents of gene manipulation argue that we must not be averse to new technologies as it has so much potential to improve the quality of life of the masses. GM food can annihilate wide-spread hunger not only in India but also throughout the world. Less fertilizers, more productivity, more income, everyone will be happy. But they are not, are they?

    Here is a question for these geneticists;

    Is there a way to fully determine the risk factors of introducing such a crop in the environment?

    The answer is a predictable, of course not. As the technology is in the nascent stage, there is a lot we need to know before such an assessment can be made. It can be predicted to 60% accuracy at the best. We will work at it as it comes, that is how research works.

    Wait a minute, if it isn’t fully safe why is it already in our environment? There is a possibility that these crops will mutate into God knows what shit, or even worse they will give rise to super bugs with newer diseases. All hell might break loose, but it’s a part of research isn’t it.

    ****

    My pet peeve

    Many scientists or researchers have this notion or rather firmly believe that a few casualties as a collateral in a research is acceptable for the “greater good”. So many lives will be saved later on.

    Hey dumbass, how about enlisting your daughter or your mother in the test. Maybe the next time you calculate the therapeutic index of a drug, put them up for lethal dose studies. Let’s see your commitment to the greater cause then. Frickin hypocrites!