Friday, December 02, 2016

QoTD


I am not a fan [of flag burning]. I agree that the American flag should not be disrespected. It's a sacred symbol that should be honored, whether it be on paper plates, or napkins, or banana hammocks.
-- Stephen Colbert [The Late Show (30 November 2016); the clip is also embedded below -- the relevant part starts at the 7th minute.]

Monday, November 28, 2016

Whistleblowing is Hard (and Dangerous): Theranos Edition


Just drop everything and read this absolutely gripping WSJ story on Tyler Shultz, the Theranos whistleblower (who also happens to be the grandson of former Secretary of State George Shultz, who was -- and continues to be -- associated with Theranos).

This snippet is from the section where the lawyers appear:

A few weeks later, Mr. [Tyler] Shultz was confronted by his father after arriving for dinner with his parents at their home in Los Gatos, Calif. His grandfather had called to say Theranos suspected he had talked to the Journal reporter. Theranos’s lawyers wanted to meet with him the next day.

He says he called his grandfather and asked if they could meet without lawyers. The elder Mr. Shultz agreed and invited his grandson to his house. The mood was tense but cordial, Tyler Shultz recalls, and he denied talking to any reporters. He says his step-grandmother was present during the conversation.

His grandfather asked if he would sign a one-page confidentiality agreement to give Theranos peace of mind. According to Tyler Shultz, when he said yes, his grandfather revealed that two lawyers were waiting upstairs with the agreement.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Links


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

"Trump Begins: The Dawn of the Donald"


Turbulent events demand an origin story. To make sense of "Just What Happened?"

Here's one from the land of Stephen Colbert [Update (24 November 2016): It looks like the embed doesn't work, but this link works, at least for now: The Dawn of the Donald].

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Laura Benanti, the Awesome


In these grim times, there's nothing better as a cheerer upper than Laura Benanti's impersonation of Melania Trump. Here are the three "Late Night with Stephen Colbert" shows she has appeared in so far:

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Quotes


If you are going to use mice in your research, there are all these federal requirements that have to be complied with. [...] And yet, when it comes to your teaching assistant, [there is] no such requirement that you treat them in a humane way. [...] If someone has engaged in sexual harassment, or if someone has discriminated, or if someone is a sexual predator, they should not have access to federal dollars.
-- Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

That quote is from this CNN story on sexual harassment in science that uses Geoffrey Marcy's case in UC-Berkeley as an example. Here's another quote:

... Institutions are incentivised to protect their faculty.
-- Jessica Kirkpatrick, Astrophysicist.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The New Yorker on the Deutche Bank's 10 Billion Dollar Scandal


As always, we go the extra mile to get you the juiciest of excerpts from the actual story:

Although the bank’s headquarters remained in Germany, power migrated from conservative Frankfurt to London, the investment-banking hub where the most lavish profits were generated. The assimilation of different banking cultures was not always successful. In the nineties, when hundreds of Americans went to work for Deutsche Bank in London, German managers had to place a sign in the entrance hall spelling out “Deutsche” phonetically, because many Americans called their employer “Douche Bank.”

[Bold emphasis added, in case any nanopolitan reader needed a confirmation].

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

In Memory of Ramesh Mahadevan


I am grateful for this break -- just because it allows me to say a silent "thank you" to my dear friend who is no more. I have lost count of the things he opened my mind to, my eyes to, my ears to. Here's one of them, in a different avatar. He would have enjoyed it too.

"Library of Alexandra"


Sci-Hub has been making waves. Such huge waves that the AAAS flagship, Science has taken note, with not just one, but three pieces devoted to the website, and its founder, Alexandra Elbakyan. This profile of Elbakyan is quite balanced; it might be because a lot of downloads are by researchers in the rich countries. The third article is an editorial by Marcia McNutt: My love-hate of Sci-Hub.

Here's a WaPo summary, triggered by the revelations in Science. Here's a cool analysis of the Sci-Hub data dump [Edit: here's one more.]

* * *

The title is from this comment in the Reddit thread on Sci-Hub from a couple of months ago.

Friday, March 11, 2016

RIP, Ramesh Mahadevan


Ramesh Mahadevan, a close friend from my grad school days, passed away last night. I'm posting a quick note here to alert some of his friends who are also among this blog's readers.

* * *

His hilarious take on the curious subculture of desi grad students in the US in the 1980s (originally posted at the soc.culture.indian group) earned him a huge fan following. Those of us who had the great fortune to interact with him personally also got to experience his sensitive and compassionate side. Personally, he has been a source of strength ever since we met way back in 1985. I'll miss him a lot.

* * *

Ramesh has been mentioned in several posts here. Right at this moment, his website -- mahadevanramesh.net is not working, which is a pity; however, his blog has some of his writing since his return to India.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

An Illustrated History of Free Speech in India


From Gandhi to Arindam Chaudhuri is the title of this illustrated history. Absolutely great stuff from the Free Speech Journal, appearing at Scroll.in.

Monday, February 29, 2016

"... We [the students] ... declare our resistance"


When I wrote the post on #StandWithJNU yesterday, I was not aware of a petition that students in IISc and NCBS (and, probably, several other institutions) have helped in drafting [I thank Vishu Guttal for the pointer]. The petition is admirably clear, direct and forthright in stating, "By stifling their [Rohith's, Kanhaiya's and other such students'] voices, the government crushes not only the voice of students as a community but of marginalised students in particular. Against this we must collectively stand, and declare our resistance."

Also worth noting: the petition is available in many Indian languages.

Read the petition, and sign it if it speaks to you. [I have signed it, and I see several familiar names in the list of signatories.] Also, please do share it with others you know.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

#StandWithJNU


These are depressingly bad times for higher ed institutions in India. If administrators were the victims of authoritarian excess in iconic institutions such as IIT-D and ISI-Kolkata, they also seem to be complicit in dishing it out to students at other iconic institutions such as IIT-M, University of Hyderabad and Jawaharlal Nehru University. Politicians (even "responsible" ones such as central ministers) and news anchors throw the "anti-national" mud indiscriminately at students [sometimes with such epic ineptitude -- which would be funny if only lives and reputations were not at stake]. Kafila and Smoke Signals [Prem Panicker's blog] have been my go-to places for updates on the terrible travesty that has been playing out in Delhi and elsewhere in the country.

These troubled times also offer an opportunity to learn more about nationalism and its discontents (one of whom is a Bharat Ratna!). Also about dissent, free speech, their limits. And about universities, their mission. Here are some links that have educated me on these and related issues.

  1. Siddharth Varadarajan: On Kanhaiya: It is Time to Stand Up and Be Counted.

  2. Sangeeta Dasgupta: Umar Khalid, My Student.

  3. Amitava Kumar: Hounding students is pest control? Big ‘mishtake’.

  4. Christina Daniels' response to a speech by HRD Minister in the Lok Sabha. It includes a punchy quote [“Politicians are not born; they are excreted.”] and an insightful one [“Orators are most vehement when their cause is weak.”] -- both from Cicero!

  5. And a totally doctored video featuring Kanhaiya Kumar.

Some more:

  1. C.P. Surendran: India will pay for Arnab Goswami and Swapan Dasgupta's nationalism.

  2. Gopalkrishna Gandhi: In Defence of Mother India, Students’ Movement Takes Charge.

  3. Tunku Varadarajan: Reverse Swing: The BJP versus the jholawala.

  4. Lawrence Liang: Ultra-nationalists make light of patriotism. Here's an excerpt where he quotes Mahatma Gandhi:

    In contrast to the knee-jerk declaration that any criticism of the government or the state is necessarily seditious speech, let’s not forget that Mahatma Gandhi had been tried under the same provision (Sec. 124-A) in 1921 for an article that he had published in Young India. In his statement on March 18, 1922 before Judge Broomfield, Gandhiji famously asserted: “Section 124-A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite violence.”

    Gandhi was prescient in his sharp legal understanding of the provision and it is not surprising that his interpretation of the law is what the Supreme Court in the postcolonial context has also reiterated, consistently holding that mere words and criticism do not qualify for sedition and it has to be accompanied by an incitement to imminent violence. [...]