Monday, March 28, 2016

Kerala Elections

 

A survey by a leading television channel of the state suggests a close finish in the elections due in Kerala, with the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) having a slight edge over its rival, the United Democratic Front (UDF). This should not come as a surprise, for the state has been rotating between these two coalitions for almost as long as one can remember. It is as if the electorate is never fully satisfied with their performance after they have been given a chance to govern.

It could also be that it intends to place political parties permanently on probation. There is seldom anything like a “wave” in Kerala. This could be for one of two reasons: That a politically aware populace is not easily swayed by persons, or that interests are deeply entrenched and loyalties fully formed. Malayalis tend not to be heroworshippers. The charisma of E.M.S. Namboodiripad, unlike Jawaharlal Nehru, had derived not from his personality but from his luminous intelligence. The people of the state also very likely have a sense of the constraints faced by its economy and don’t accept great change as a quick possibility. But a churning is perhaps still considered desirable to keep in check the arrogance of politicians, preventing them from assuming that they will always remain in power.

There is, however, some genuine cause for popular dissatisfaction with the UDF currently in power. Despite the unusually mild manner of the chief minister and the efforts he has made to cultivate an image of accessibility to the public — via 24×7 CCTV coverage of his office and adalats held at periodic intervals — two corruption scandals have blighted the image of the UDF. The first is one in which the finance minister was accused of having taken money as quid pro quo for a favourable cabinet decision affecting owners of bars. Though K.M. Mani, the concerned minister, is yet to be indicted, he had to resign, bowing to public pressure. The chief minister is relatively unaffected by the allegations but has shown himself to be unduly sympathetic to Mani’s predicament and unwilling to let him go.

The other scandal has closer links to the chief minister. It has to do with the promoters of a private company dealing 3/29/2016 webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3Aindianexpress.com%2Farticle%2Findia%2Findia­news­india%2Fkerala­assembly­elections­201… http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3Aindianexpress.com%2Farticle%2Findia%2Findia­news­india%2Fkerala­assembly­elections­2016… 2/2 in solar panels advancing its prospects by claiming proximity to the government. Links between the promoters and the chief minister’s office, including an unusually large number of telephone calls from one of them to the chief minister’s official gunman, have been detected. Even though the chief minister has stoutly denied any wrongdoing, the whole affair has left him under a cloud. The two scandals surfacing so close to the elections is likely to have dimmed the chances of the UDF returning to power. In Kerala, there is low tolerance of the misuse of office in the pursuit of personal gain.

However, for the people of Kerala, the relevant question would be whether the present opposition, the LDF, has anything substantially different to offer by way of policies that can improve their lives. As the composition of the leadership of the LDF has not undergone any change in the past decade, there is little for them to hope for in this respect. Not only are the faces that matter the same, the announcement that they are both — V.S. Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan — to receive tickets means that we have not seen the last of the longstanding rivalry between the two. The public would be naive to overlook the impact of this on governance. But the issue is not so much of dissonance within the LDF but whether it has anything new to bring to the table after its lacklustre performance over 2006­11. Kerala’s fundamental constraint is that it is an economy dependent on the rest of the world, notably the Gulf region. Not only has the government, therefore, had little control over it for some decades, but this model is also unlikely to be sustained. The Gulf is reeling under the impact of declining oil prices and the construction boom, confined mainly to Dubai, cannot last indefinitely. Unbounded outmigration is not a reasonable prospect. Therefore, if unemployment — estimated to be three times the national average in Kerala — is an issue, the way out would have to be through domestic production. But for domestic production to be feasible, it must be competitive. Three factors determine a region’s competitiveness: The educational profile of its workforce, the industrial climate, and the availability of producer services. Historically, the CPM’s contribution to a negative industrial climate characterised by labour militancy is substantial. Labour militancy may have declined, but its shadow has apparently not paled.

Beyond trade unionism, which has been the opiate of the Left, both fronts share an approach to governance defined by welfarism. Even before establishing health and education on a strong footing, successive governments have championed the proliferation of welfare schemes. This has meant that little is left for investment in infrastructure for production, which only the state, as opposed to the market, can provide. Producer services, ranging from water supply to waste management, set limits to productive activity.

The said survey also indicated that the BJP may open its account with seats in the legislature for the first time. It is difficult to say right now which of the two fronts this will impact. But one thing is certain: Unless the manifestos of the two extant fronts contain something radically new, we are unlikely to see a change in the profile of the state. It will have to continue to live by exporting labour, with the attendant consequence for its autonomy.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Former Players Slam Afridi, Angry Fans Smash TV Sets In Pakistan

 

Former players slammed Shahid Afridi's "tactically weak" captaincy, while irate fans smashed TV sets in disgust as Pakistan reacted angrily to the national team's defeat at the hands of arch-rivals India.

Former players slammed Shahid Afridi's "tactically weak" captaincy, while irate fans smashed TV sets in disgust as Pakistan reacted angrily to the national team's defeat at the hands of arch-rivals India in the ICC World Twenty20.

Pakistan lost by six wickets to India in Kolkata on Saturday. The result ensured that India remained unbeaten against Pakistan in the ICC world events.

Soon after the Indians notched up the win, disappointed cricket fans came out on roads to vent their anger and television channels showed them smashing TV sets in anger in some areas. (Virat Kohli special nails Pakistan )

At some places fans also raised slogans against the Cricket Board and the team for letting them down again.

Former players and experts also lashed out at Shahid Afridi for his decision to drop spinner Emad Wasim and coming in to bat at one down.

Former Test batsman Basit Ali, who now heads the national junior selection committee, came up with the bizarre theory that former captain and great Imran Khan deliberately gave wrong advice to the team.(Virat Kohli wanted to stay calm and thrash Pakistan )

West Indian great Brian Lara was critical of Pakistan's decision to not play a specialist spinner.

The former Test captain also questioned the role of Afridi on PTV sports channel.

"I don't consider him a spinner or a proper batsman. I used to play him like a pace bowler. I am surprised that Pakistan dropped a spinner for the match against India," he said.

Lara said he was disappointed with the Pakistani performance.

"Neither Afridi nor Shoaib Malik are proper spinners and you needed a specialist spinner who can turn the ball in the match. Both bowled short of length and didn't get the right turn."

Pakistan's former captain Rashid Latif rued the absence of stability in the team. (Virat Kohli played an amazing innings: Shahid Afridi )

"It made no sense to not take a specialist spinner to India. Worst to also drop a spinner for this match. There was also no reason for shuffling the batting order it hit the momentum of the team. Why Afridi preferred to come in place of Hafeez at one down is a mystery for me," Latif told PTI.

Pakistan's former spin great Saqlain Mushtaq also questioned the team's tactics for the big match.

"They couldn't read the pitch. But for such a high profile match they should have played a proper spinner. It was not a pitch to field four fast bowlers," he said.
"Pakistan management should have noted that New Zealand beat India by playing three spinners."

Saqlain said he was disappointed that Pakistan had lost another big opportunity to beat India in a World Cup match.

"I don't know when it is going to happen. But we contribute to our own downfall by making tactical blunders."

Former Test captain turned commentator, Ramiz Raja also felt that the selection was not right against India.

"This team management to me does not appear to have the ability to make the right decisions. It is strange they had decided to field an extra pace bowler one day before the match," Ramiz said on Geo News channel.

Former Test opener and ex-head coach Mohsin Khan said that Afridi needed to now lead by example in the remaining matches.

"We got it all wrong tactically against India. We ended up at least 25 runs short and then we had no plan to dismiss Virat Kohli early despite knowing he has been the main thorn in our side in recent times," he said.

Mohsin said it didn't make sense for Afridi to come one down when Hafeez had scored 60 in the last match.

"Afridi's captaincy also left a lot to be desired. He and the management got the playing eleven wrong on a pitch on which the ball was turning square."

Mohsin, however, praised Virat Kohli, who struck an unbeaten fifty, and Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for turning things around.

"They lost to New Zealand and were under pressure yet they bounced back beautifully in such a high voltage match.

They showed better tactics and nerves."

Former Test leg-spinner Abdul Qadir said the team should atone for its defeat to India by doing well against New Zealand and Australia and reaching the semi-finals of the tournament.

"We are playing cricket without any direction and we are not producing players who can cope with pressure."

Pakistan's former Test spinner Iqbal Qasim, however, felt the media built too much hype before playing India and this was unwarranted.

"I think we will win the day we take a match against India normally like we do against other teams," he reasoned.

Snapdeal

 

First, watch this video:

 

Now watch these more recent ones.

 

 

 

“We work hard and party harder” – Snapdeal Employee. Spoke to soon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Heat

 

Man its getting hot here. You don’t have to read the papers or listen to the news to confirm that the temperature is rising across the country, and around the world too. But the papers all full of ‘record-breaking’ news, the maximum temperatures recorded so far this year have shattered all time records.

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Climate change is usually assessed over years and decades, and 2015 shattered the record set in 2014 for the hottest year seen, in data stretching back to 1850.The Nasa data shows the average global surface temperature in February was 1.35C warmer than the average temperature for the month between 1951-1980, a far bigger margin than ever seen before. The previous record, set just one month earlier in January, was 1.15C above the long-term average for that month. February was the third consecutive month to break the global temperature record, which is calculated by setting the temperature for a particular month against the average temperature from that month between 1951-1980.February was 1.35C above the norm, easily surpassing the 1.14C margin from January of this year, which also set a record.

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Temperatures in Bangalore city is now higher than that of Chennai, which was always known for this hotter climate. While driving back home from work, I can feel the hot air coming in , instead of the otherwise cooler breeze. And things are going to get much more complicated, with load shedding power outages coming up soon. And the last insult to this injury is that the water table in the city is also quickly drying up. News reports say Bengaluru will become hotter this summer. And there is drinking water in stock at KRS only for 60 days.

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A study conducted by V Balasubramanian, former additional chief secretary of Karnataka, has sounded a warning bell for Bengaluru: If the current rate of groundwater utilisation continues, there will be a major crisis by 2025 when people may have to be evacuated. The state is also facing an increase in pollution of groundwater in many areas. The groundwater in about 12 of the 30 districts in Karnataka is highly polluted, a recent study by the department of mines and geology shows. "Groundwater is highly polluted with excess concentration of fluoride, arsenic, iron, nitrate and salinity due to both anthropogenic and geogenic factors, particularly in the districts of north Karnataka. The quality of water is deteriorating due to the mixing of sewerage through unlined open drains, leakage from cesspits and septic tanks, and contamination from industrial wastes," the report said.

 

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In the month of March, Kerala usually sees a lot of pre­monsoon activity. But this year the pre­monsoon activity has been little subdued. There is hardly any thundershower activity in the region which is evident around this time of the year. Neither the thundershower activity nor the moderate showers of pre­monsoon has showed up in god’s own country. The current temperatures of the state are at scorching high. The temperatures during the day are fairly high. Mornings and late afternoons will see a lot raised temperatures, as the winds will be flowing from the lands to the sea. These winds are hotter as they travel over the land. But then early evenings and nights will see sudden change in winds that will allow the sea breeze to move towards the land. Early evenings and nights will experience a dip in temperature but this dip in temperature can hardly be experienced as the overall humidity level will be high. But later in the night, the reversal of the sea breeze can be experienced; the temperatures will see a rise. The dissonance over the stability of temperature will be observed over the region, with constant high humid levels sticking their heads up in the state.

90s had some great movies !

 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Non-Karnataka Vehicles Need Not Pay Lifetime Tax

 

The big news and hot topic of discussion today was not the cricket matches, or the looming elections, or the political cacophony, or Mallya’s escape. The big news is the Karnataka High court ruling in favor of owners of vehicles not regsitered in Karnataka. You see, any vehicle with a non-KA number is instant feast for the traffic police. If the vehicle is in Karnataka for more than 30 days, they have to pay lifetime tax. And vehicle taxes of Karnataka is highest in the country ! The high court on Thursday quashed the amendment (to Karnataka Motor Vehicles Taxation) by the state government to collect LTT from the vehicles registered outside the state and plying in the state for more than 30 days.

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The court also quashed the demand notices issued by the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) to owners of several such vehicles to pay the tax. Several non-KA numberplate bearing vehicles were seized by the Transport Department for non-payment of tax and plying in Karnataka beyond 30 days. The state government had implemented the rule by notifying it in the gazette on February 28, 2014.

In the first year of implementing the rule (2014-15), the transport department collected a whopping Rs 40 crore by initiating action against over 4,000 'defaulting' vehicle owners.In the last two years after the rule came into force, RTO managed to collect Rs 100 crore through LTT and penalties.

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Road tax on passenger vehicles is the highest in Karnataka, across all price slabs. Overall, road tax is more than 10% in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Rates in northern states, which comprise a high volume market, are between 8% and 4% for cheaper cars and around 8% for mid-segment cars. But as car prices (ex-showroom) rise, road tax rates go up even in states such as Delhi and Rajasthan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Primary Function Of Water Towers Is…..to pump Water !

 

I didn’t know this. All these years I used to look up at water towers and say “Why did they have to build them that tall ?” Here in India, water towers are used primarily as…landmarks ! The Koramangala water tank is well known, then there is the Sankey water tank. But today I learned that the reason of building the water reservoir on a tower is to let gravity act on it, and the water pressure thus created will let the water rise up into higher floors in buildings. Look at the diagram:

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At first glance, it would be easy to assume that water towers exist to store water. They are, after all, giant above ground vessels filled with anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of gallons of water.

But whether you’re talking about a modest little water tower perched atop an apartment building in New York City or a giant municipal water tower, water storage is not the primary function of the tower (if water storage was the only goal, it would be significantly cheaper to build a reservoir). The primary function of water towers is to pressurize water for distribution. Elevating the water high above the pipes that distribute it throughout the surrounding building or community ensures that hydrostatic pressure, driven by gravity, forces the water down and through the system.

The design helps keep the cost of water distribution lower for two reasons. First, it allows for centralization of pumping and pressurization, and decreases the number of pumping stations needed in the vicinity of the water tower. Second, it allows the water company to pump water up to the tower during off-peak energy times to decrease the expense of running the pumps.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How The Woosters Captured Delhi

It was at the Hay-on-Wye Festival of Literature a few years ago that I realised with horror how low the fortunes of PG Wodehouse had sunk in his native land. I was on stage for a panel discussion on the works of the Master when the moderator, a gifted and suave young literary impresario, began the proceedings by asking innocently, "So how do you pronounce it - is it Woad-house or Wood-house?"

Woadhouse? You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather, except that Wodehouse himself would have disdained the cliche, instead describing my expression as, perhaps, that of one who "had swallowed an east wind" (Carry On, Jeeves, 1925). The fact was that a luminary at the premier book event in the British Isles had no idea how to pronounce the name of the man I regarded as the finest English writer since Shakespeare. I spent the rest of the panel discussion looking (to echo a description of Bertie Wooster's Uncle Tom) like a pterodactyl with a secret sorrow.

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My dismay had Indian roots. Like many of my compatriots, I had discovered Wodehouse young and pursued my delight across the 95 volumes of the oeuvre, savouring book after book as if the pleasure would never end. When All India Radio announced, one sunny afternoon in February 1975, that Wodehouse had died, I felt a cloud of darkness settle over me. The newly (and belatedly) knighted Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves and of the prize pig the Empress of Blandings, was in his 94th year, but his death still came as a shock. Every English-language newspaper in India carried it on their front pages; the articles and letters that were published in the following days about his life and work would have filled volumes.

Three decades earlier, Wodehouse had reacted to the passing of his stepdaughter, Leonora, with the numbed words: "I thought she was immortal." I had thought Wodehouse was immortal too, and I felt like one who had "drained the four-ale of life and found a dead mouse at the bottom of the pewter" (Sam the Sudden, also from that vintage year of 1925).

For months before his death, I had procrastinated over a letter to Wodehouse. It was a collegian's fan letter, made special by being written on the letterhead (complete with curly-tailed pig) of the Wodehouse Society of St Stephen's College, Delhi University. Ours was then the only Wodehouse Society in the world, and I was its president, a distinction I prized over all others in an active and eclectic extra-curricular life. The Wodehouse Society ran mimicry and comic speech contests and organised the annual Lord Ickenham Memorial Practical Joke Week, the bane of all at college who took themselves too seriously. The society's underground rag, Spice, edited by a wildly original classmate who was to go on to become a counsellor to the prime minister of India, was by far the most popular newspaper on campus; even its misprints were deliberate, and deliberately funny.

I had wanted to tell the Master all this, and to gladden his famously indulgent heart with the tribute being paid to him at this incongruous outpost of Wodehouseana, thousands of miles away from any place he had ever written about. But I had never been satisfied by the prose of any of my drafts of the letter. Writing to the man Evelyn Waugh had called "the greatest living writer of the English language, the head of my profession", was like offering a souffle to Bocuse. It had to be just right. Of course, it never was, and now I would never be able to reach out and establish this small connection to the writer who had given me more joy than anything else in my life.

The loss was personal, but it was also widely shared: PG Wodehouse is by far the most popular English-language writer in India, his readership exceeding that of Agatha Christie or John Grisham. His erudite butlers, absent-minded earls and silly-ass aristocrats, out to pinch policemen's helmets on boat race night or perform convoluted acts of petty larceny at the behest of tyrannical aunts, are familiar to, and beloved by, most educated Indians. I cannot think of an Indian family I know that does not have at least one Wodehouse book on its shelves, and most have several. In a country where most people's earning capacity has not kept up with inflation and book-borrowing is part of the culture, libraries stock multiple copies of each Wodehouse title. At the British Council libraries in the major Indian cities, demand for Wodehouse reputedly outstrips that for any other author, so that each month's list of "new arrivals" includes reissues of old Wodehouse favourites.

In the 27 years since his death, much has changed in India, but Wodehouse still commands the heights. His works are sold on railway station platforms and airport bookstalls alongside the latest bestsellers. In 1988, the state-run television network Doordarshan broadcast a 10-part Hindi adaptation of his 1923 classic Leave it to Psmith, with the Shropshire castle of the Earl of Emsworth becoming the Rajasthani palace of an indolent Maharaja. (The series was a disaster: Wodehousean purists were appalled by the changes, and the TV audience discovered that English humour does not translate too well into Hindi.) Quiz contests, a popular activity in urban India, continue to feature questions about Wodehouse's books ("What is Jeeves's first name?" "Which of Bertie Wooster's fiancees persisted in calling the stars, 'God's daisy chain'?") But, alas, reports from St Stephen's College tell me that the Wodehouse Society is now defunct, having fallen into disrepute when one of its practical joke weeks went awry (it appears to have involved women's underwear flying at half-mast from the flagpole).

Many are astonished at the extent of Wodehouse's popularity in India, particularly when, elsewhere in the English-speaking world, he is no longer much read. Americans know Wodehouse from re-runs of earlier TV versions of his short stories on programmes with names such as Masterpiece Theatre, but these have a limited audience, even though some of his funniest stories were set in Hollywood and he lived the last three decades of his life in Remsenberg, Long Island. The critic Michael Dirda noted in the Washington Post some years ago that Wodehouse "seems to have lost his general audience and become mainly a cult author savoured by connoisseurs for his prose artistry".

That is increasingly true in England and the rest of the Commonwealth, but not in India. While no English-language writer can truly be said to have a "mass" following in India, where only 2% of the population reads English, Wodehouse has maintained a general rather than a cult audience among this Anglophone minority: unlike others who have enjoyed fleeting success, he has never gone out of fashion. This bewilders those who think that nothing could be further removed from Indian life, with its poverty and political intensity, than the cheerfully silly escapades of Wodehouse's decadent Edwardian Young Men in Spats. Indians enjoying Wodehouse, they suggest, makes about as much sense as the cognoscenti of Chad lapping up Jay McInerney.

At one level, India's fascination with Wodehouse is indeed one of those enduring and endearing international mysteries, like why Pakistanis are good at squash but none of their neighbours is, or why the Americans, who can afford to do anything the right way, have never managed to understand that tea is made with boiling water, not boiled water. And yet many have convinced themselves that there is more to it than that. Some have seen in Wodehouse's popularity a lingering nostalgia for the Raj, the British Empire in India. Writing in 1988, the journalist Richard West thought India's Wodehouse devotees were those who hankered after the England of 50 years before (ie the 1930s). That was the age when the English loved and treasured their own language, when schoolchildren learned Shakespeare, Wordsworth and even Rudyard Kipling... It was Malcolm Muggeridge who remarked that the Indians are now the last Englishmen. That may be why they love such a quintessentially English writer.

Those lines are, of course, somewhat more fatuous than anything Wodehouse himself ever wrote. Wodehouse is loved by Indians who loathe Kipling and detest the Raj and all its works. Indeed, despite a brief stint in a Hong Kong bank, Wodehouse had no colonial connection himself, and the Raj is largely absent from his books. (There is only one notable exception I can recall, in a 1935 short story: "Why is there unrest in India? Because its inhabitants eat only an occasional handful of rice. The day when Mahatma Gandhi sits down to a good juicy steak and follows it up with roly-poly pudding and a spot of Stilton, you will see the end of all this nonsense of Civil Disobedience."

But Indians saw that the comment was meant to elicit laughter, not agreement. If anything, Wodehouse is one British writer whom Indian nationalists could admire without fear of political incorrectness. My former mother-in-law, the daughter of a prominent Indian nationalist politician, remembers introducing Britain's last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, to the works of Wodehouse in 1942; it was typical that the symbol of the British Empire had not read the "quintessentially English" Wodehouse but that the Indian freedom-fighter had.

Indeed, it is precisely the lack of politics in Wodehouse's writing, or indeed of any other social or philosophic content, that made what Waugh called his "idyllic world" so free of the trappings of Englishness, quintessential or otherwise. Unlike almost any other writer, Wodehouse does not require his readers to identify with any of his characters: they are stock figures, almost theatrical archetypes whose carefully plotted exits and entrances one follows because they are amusing, not because one is actually meant to care about them. Whereas other English novelists burdened their readers with the specificities of their characters' lives and circumstances, Wodehouse's existed in a never-never land that was almost as unreal to his English readers as to his Indian ones. Indian readers were able to enjoy Wodehouse free of the anxiety of allegiance; for all its droll particularities, the world he created, from London's Drones Club to the village of Matcham Scratchings, was a world of the imagination, to which Indians required no visa.

But they did need a passport, and that was the English language. English was undoubtedly Britain's most valuable and abiding legacy to India, and educated Indians, a famously polyglot people, rapidly learned and delighted in it - both for itself, and as a means to various ends. These ends were both political (for Indians turned the language of the imperialists into the language of nationalism) and pleasureable (for the language granted access to a wider world of ideas and entertainments). It was only natural that Indians would enjoy a writer who used language as Wodehouse did - playing with its rich storehouse of classical precedents, mockingly subverting the very canons colonialism had taught Indians they were supposed to venerate.

"He groaned slightly and winced, like Prometheus watching his vulture dropping in for lunch." Or: "The butler was looking nervous, like Macbeth interviewing Lady Macbeth after one of her visits to the spare room." And best of all, in a country ruled for the better part of two centuries by the dispensable siblings of the British nobility: "Unlike the male codfish which, suddenly finding itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger sons."

That sentence captures much of the Wodehouse magic - what PN Furbank called his "comic pretence of verbal precision, an exhibition of lexicology." Wodehouse's writing embodied erudition, literary allusion, jocular slang and an uncanny sense of timing that owed much to the long-extinct art of music-hall comedy: "She... [resembled] one of those engravings of the mistresses of Bourbon kings which make one feel that the mon archs who selected them must have been men of iron, impervious to fear, or else short-sighted." Furbank thought Wodehouse's "whole style [was] a joke about literacy". But it is a particularly literate joke. No authorial dedication will ever match Wodehouse's oft-plagiarised classic, for his 1925 collection of golfing stories, The Heart of a Goof: "To my daughter Leonora, without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time."

Part of Wodehouse's appeal to Indians certainly lies in the uniqueness of his style, which inveigled us into a sort of conspiracy of universalism: his humour was inclusive, for his mock-serious generalisations were, of course, as absurd to those he was ostensibly writing about as to us. "Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag." The terrifying Honoria Glossop has, "a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge". Aunts, who always loom large in Wodehouse's world, bellow to each other, "like mastodons across the primeval swamp".

Jeeves, the gentleman's personal gentleman, coughs softly, like, "a very old sheep clearing its throat on a distant mountain-top". Evelyn Waugh worshipped Wodehouse's penchant for tossing off original similes: "a soul as grey as a stevedore's undervest"; "her face was shining like the seat of a bus driver's trousers"; "a slow, pleasant voice, like clotted cream made audible"; "she looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression".

My own favourites stretch the possibilities of the language in unexpected ways: "She had more curves than a scenic railway"; "I turned him down like a bedspread"; and the much-quoted "if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled".

This insidious but good-humoured subversion of the language, conducted with straight-faced aplomb, appeals most of all to a people who have acquired English, but rebel against its heritage. The colonial connection left strange patterns on the minds of the connected. Wodehouse's is a world we can share with the English on equal terms, because they are just as surprised by its enchantments. As we near the 100th anniversary of the publication of his first book, The Pothunters, in September 1902, perhaps that is as good an argument as any for a long-overdue Wodehouse revival in England.

· Shashi Tharoor is Under Secretary-General for Communications at the United Nations. His latest novel, Riot: a Love Story is published in paperback in the US by Arcade in September. Everyman is publishing new editions of all the novels and stories of PG Wodehouse. The next batch, due in September, comprises Blandings Castle , Jeeves in the Offing , The Luck of the Bodkins and Young Men in Spats (all £9.99).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Hi-Tech Begging

 

Today I read about Abe Hagenston, a homeless man in America, who has taken begging to new heights. He is happy to receive money via credit cards, and offers up his machined so donators can swipe their cards on them. Guess this was bound to happen.

Hagenston, who calls himself “Honest Abe,” was panhandling near the 8 Mile overpass on I-75 when the TV news folks caught up with him.

Abe proudly noted that he has helped organize some of the panhandlers in his area into a union of sorts. He says they’ve worked out a schedule to panhandle in shifts to avoid stepping on each other’s territory.

Disappointed that Detroit hasn’t seen much snow to shovel for extra cash, “Honest Abe” said his intake hasn’t been as good as it could be. But the new credit card swiper is helping.

“I take VISA, MasterCard, American Express,” Abe said. “I’m the only homeless guy in America who can take a credit card. It’s all done safely and securely through square.com.”

Anyone who has been to a large city will be familiar with being asked if they can 'spare some change' by homeless men on the streets.

However, that call could become a thing of the past now that one rough sleeper in Detroit has started accepting card payments via a reader attached to his smartphone.

Abe Hagenston, who calls himself 'Honest Abe', told CBS Detroit that he began accepting the payments while trying to save up cash for a new pair of prescription glasses.

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Hagenston told reporters that he has been on the streets for seven years, and lives underneath the 8 Mile overpass where it crosses Interstate 75.

While he would usually have spent the winter shoveling snow to make extra cash, Hagenston said this year's mild weather has left him with nothing to do.

So instead of going to work, Hagenston said he and several other vagrants from around the city have organized 'like a union'.

Now they take it in turns to panhandle across certain zones of the city before splitting the money they make between themselves.

As part of the team's efforts to rake in more cash, 'Honest Abe' acquired a mobile card reader from tech company Square.

Hagenston also appears to have a Facebook page with a Myspace account linked to it that goes under the name of 'Honest Abe'.

According to information on those profiles he graduated from LaBelle High School in Idaho in 1992 and studied at Edison State College in Florida.

He also claims 'consultant' as his occupation, but gives no details on whether he is still employed or what company he works for. 

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In March last year Hagenston (pictured) founded the new-defunct Spanging.com where he offered to complete odd jobs such as window washing and yard cleaning in return for money

An image uploaded to the Facebook profile appears to show a young boy leaning on his chest, thought Hagenston's face is not visible. 

This is also not the first time that Hagenston has attempted to use technology to make money, having previously founded website Spanging.com, according to another CBS story.

The site, named after a slang word for begging, was designed to attract offers of work from concerned passersby, with services on offer including yard work, painting, and window washing.

Square is a tech firm founded by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and provides businesses with payment methods based around smartphone and tablet technology.

The smallest credit card readers, which plug into Apple or Android smartphones, are usually free to acquire with Square making its money by charging a 2.75 per cent fee on each transaction.

The owner of the reader is then paid all their earnings the following day by direct debit into a bank account.

The readers, which can be upgraded to include a contactless sensor or a tablet attached to a swivel-stand, were designed for start-up stores or businesses with no fixed location - such as market stands or food carts.

Abe claims to be the first homeless person in America to make use of the technology.

He added: 'I take VISA, MasterCard, American Express. I’m the only homeless guy in America who can take a credit card. It’s all done safely and securely through Square.com.' 

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Hagenston now says he is accepting donations via card payment thanks to a Square reader attached to his smartphone (file image) which he says will be used to buy new prescription glasses

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reports Coming In Of Big IBM Layoffs Underway In The U.S.

 

Last week, IBM reported to investors that its workforce at the end of 2015 was almost as big as its workforce at the end of 2014 (within less than 1 percent), in spite of a year in which 70,000 employees left the company, to be replaced with new hires and acquisitions.

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By the end of this week, the picture may look quite different. Today reports are coming in that big layoffs across the United States are underway, likely one-third of the U.S. workforce, according to one soon-to-be-laid-off IBMer. (At the end of 2015, IBM had approximately 378,000 employees worldwide; it no longer breaks out numbers for individual countries.) Such reports used to be gathered by the Endicott Alliance, a union organizing effort that closed its doors last year. Now they are being collected by an informal Facebook group, “WatchingIBM,” that was started by former members of that organization.

Likely adding to the pain of many of these workers is a recent change in IBM’s severance policy, reducing a potential maximum of six months of benefits to one month’s worth. The new policy only applies to those who lose their jobs due to the elimination of a position or due to unsatisfactory performance, and it should kick in during mass layoffs. However, employees in the past have complained, directly to me and to others, that the company often manipulates performance reviews to eliminate employees. There are some signals in the stories below that this is happening in this case.

Here’s what some of those affected today reported to the WatchingIBM Facebook group:

"I am a GTS Strategic Outsourcing casualty of the mass firing today. My manager told me it was big and widespread, and I'd be hearing from a lot of people that will also be notified today.”

"After 41 plus years I got the call today. How many more ways can they take from hard working IBM'rs? I was ready to go last year when they had the severance package. Why didn't they do it then? We have been living and working with this ‘writing on the wall’ for years. What stings the most is the severance cut.”

“Latest areas getting cut: AA IBM CMS Cloud Division; AMS Strategic Technical Services; Global Services Parts Operations; GTS Strategic Outsourcing. Workers are also reporting work is being moved offshore to Hungary and Brazil.”

"I am cut while my replacement H1B visa worker stays."

“The 6 hardware planners in Poughkeepsie were all laid off as of as of 5/31 with one-month severance.”

“The big s$#* job is that I'm only getting 1 month severance instead of the 25 weeks I am entitled when I was hired.”

“Our Service Availability Management team got the axe today. Very sad day after 28 years with the company”

I also received a phone call from a soon-to-be former IBM employee at a New Jersey IBM facility who had a similar story to tell. I had never spoken to him before but he was reaching out because he believed the media needs to get the word out about what is happening. Here’s what he had to say:

“It is bad, really bad. It’s a mass layoff today. It is a sad day for IBM. People are being told not to talk about it. I was told by a manager in getting the news [of my job being eliminated], who was reading off of a script, that one third of the U.S. workforce is being ‘rebalanced,’ which is what they call it.

Concerning performance reviews, I’ve gotten 2+’s [IBM employees are rated on a scale of 1 to 3, 1 being the highest] for years, this year I got a 3. The manager told me he’d been told that he needed to RA a certain number of people. But I’m hearing that even people with 2s were RA’d [another IBM term for layoff, it stands for resource action] today.

They are giving us 90 days paid working notice, one-month severance, and $2500 in money for retraining.

IBM is trying to candy coat this thing, they will frame it as a skill set change. But we think it’s more about jobs going to India and other places.”

An IBM spokesperson said that rumors of layoffs affecting a third of the U.S. workforce today are untrue, and  IBM “currently has more than 25,000 open positions” as part of “transforming its business to lead in a new era of cognitive and cloud computing.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Drumpfinator

 

John Oliver focused on Donald Trump this time, and brought forward various issues and problems with the candidate. But the best was when he unveiled that his team had put together a new browser extension, which would convert all the ‘Trump’ on websites to ‘Driumpf’. And it works !

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