Thursday, December 25, 2008

Harold Pinter Dies

Harold Pinter, the great British playwright, has died. You can read further about him on my blog:
http://britishwriters.blogspot.com/

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Media Coverage

I have been reading in the newspapers that the Indian parliamentarians have debated whether they should enforce a code of ethics for the media (read, electronic media) in events of national importance and disaster. This debate is sure to open up a can of worms, however, keeping in mind, the rather problematic, if not abysmal, role played by the television channels in the recent coverage, this would be a welcome step.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Has the world changed?

My last post was 10 days ago and in the last 10 days, a lot seems to have happened. The first and the foremost that is in our minds--the sad Mumbai terror attacks, some people have called it India's 9/11. Amitav Ghosh, the well known writer, has written a very interesting article on it. But we can always discuss that link later.

What was very distressing to me was the fact that the Indian media people were very immature. We had live updates and the Tv channels had to be told by the security commandos that they should stop live updates because it might give away the positions of the forces to the militants. Isn't it shameful? Can't the TV channels have enough sense to understand such delicate situations?

When the 9/11 took place in the US, did the US TV channels react the same way? Did they too show bloodied bodies on their networks? We had a number of channels and newspapers stating that 'the country was brought down to its knees' or 'the city was brought down to its knees' by 'ten' or 'twenty' young men etc. When 9/11 took place did Bush say so? Did US media say that the US was brought down to its knees? Or that the country was cowed down?

These are very important and pertinent questions.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The new US Administration and Economy

Finally, Obama has decided to appoint the Treasury Secretary, which helped the US markets go up by 400-450 odd points. This is good news. Now, he should get the fiscal stimulus plan going as soon as possible.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Falling Stocks and Time for Change

Finally, we have Barack Obama firmly ensconced in the White House but in the last two days, the Dow Jones has fallen a good 900 points. There are still fears about the economy and they refuse to go away. After electing Barack Obama and after ecstatic crowds in New York, which I saw on the channels, it is time for the economy. General Motors has fallen again. It keeps on making multi-year lows. The last low that it made for perhaps a 53 year low. So, is the company going to fold up? If that is the case, then the low prices of the company's stock could well nigh be justified. Else, it would simply be the case of oversold and over-afraid stock markets.

There was a wonderful article that I read by Warren Buffett. It was published in the New York Times as an op-ed article and it was titled, "Buy American. I am." I found the title very interesting. It was a very insightful piece which made out a case for buying into the stock markets. I remember a very interesting line from that article. He said that we have an opportunity today to buy a slice of America at a marked-down price. I thought it was put pretty well.

Yes, there is a lot of bad news on the financial front. We are in the midst of a global recession. This is pretty much clear to everyone. So what? We had the Great Depression in 1929 but by 1932, the stocks had gained by 30% and much later, they had gained phenomenally. So, didn't the Great Depression too go away within a life time? It did.

Let us look at the bad news. There is bleak US job data. There are profit warnings from GM and Cisco. UK is in a recession. Some nations are close to defaults and need IMF protection. But the prices at which some well-known companies are available today both in the US and in other markets is mind boggling. The low stock prices make you feel as if these companies were going to fold up and close shop. But I don't think anything like this is going to happen in either the short or the long term. This is mere emotion.

I would like to give you a very interesting fact. If you look at US markets, there is a company called Kraft Foods. They make cheese, biscuits and other products. Last year, Warren Buffett paid a price to buy Kraft Foods stock. However, today, the price at which the Kraft Foods stock is available is lower than the price that Buffett himself paid. So, it either means that the stock markets and various investors have stopped trusting Warren Buffett's investing instincts or else the price is abysmally low.

These are oversold markets. The only problem with falling markets is that it demands a great deal of courage to go out and buy when everyone else is selling and the markets are falling every day. And then when any blue chip stock you see falls just about every day, you aren't sure about the stock you would like to go out and buy. However, times are these are great for famous investors. If you really want to make a pot of money, the proverbial pot of gold, this is the best time to go out and buy into blue chips slowly. There is no need to put all your money into stocks at one go because no one can really time the markets but it indeed a great time to invest gradually.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Habib Jalib - Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha

Have you heard this song by the great revolutionary poet, Habib Jalib

Check out the YouTube Video and enjoy.



Habib Jalib - Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha - Laal - Click here for more blooper videos

Monday, September 15, 2008

Best Bets in a Falling US Market

Which stock are you going to buy in these bad times, if you happened to stay in the United States? Probably, nothing. But isn't that being foolish, being scared of the dips in the markets. Dips are good because they cleanse the system. The only problem, this time around, is that we don't know which sectors are well insulated. Automobiles are in the lurch and financial services, along with insurance and real estate, are to be avoided. That doesn't leave us much room. Pharma stocks are uncertain right now but they wouldn't be a bad bet in the long run.

Today, I would like to speak about a company that has never failed to amaze me. I am sure all of you have heard about it. We are talking about the great Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway and about its Class A stock, which is awfully expensive to buy.

You can track the stock here at the AOL Finance website. The current market price is $120,400, so, if you had the money, you could make a purchase. The stock has taken a beating because of the broader market trends and I find it a pretty defensive stock in these market conditions.

(This post does not purport to give advice in the stock markets and constitutes the personal views of the author.)

Only Good News in Stock Market Gloom

The only good news in the present stock market gloom is the fall in oil prices. Oil is selling a bit under $100 per barrel. It has really taken a hit from its highs of $140 odd per barrel. If we had a spike in oil price, even if it were a speculative one, or if we had any other oil related crisis the world over, it would send the financial markets in a real tailspin.

There is real fear on Wall Street. And most companies believe that they might be the next after the fall of Lehmann Brothers. So, the United States government, along with its friends in the OPEC, should ensure stability, or even better a fall, in oil prices for the next week or two till the present crisis subsides. One also hopes that Wall Street does not come up with further gloomy news.

Collapse in Stock Markets

There is a major fall in the stock markets. Wall Stress has been badly bruised. Another one of the venerable financial firms has collapsed. Lehman Brothers is no more and it had been there for the last 158 years. And add to this, another bit, Merrill Lynch has decided to sell itself to Bank of America. And AIG, American International Group, which offered Tata-AIG insurance in India, is trying to keep afloat.

This wave of collapses some after an earlier wave, where we had Bear Stearns being sold off for a pittance. And Citi taking in a big write-down. We also had Fannie and Freddie in deep waters.

The Indian markets are ruling about 4.5% down at the moment. Interestingly, there is nothing which is so serious with India that it should be fall. So, this is actually sentimental. Yes, when the US sneezes, the world catches a cough.

It is undoubtedly shocking and very terrifying for anyone who is into the financial markets right now. But there isn't much room for real panic for the people in the Indian stock markets. In fact, I would suggest my NRI friends and other foreign nationals to seek avenues for investment in the Indian markets.

There is good and real qualitative money to be made from the Indian markets at this juncture. The only important thing to keep in mind is to adopt an intelligent approach.

Management Lessons from Dhirubhai Ambani

For those of you, who haven't heard of the great Dhirubhai Ambani, you have heard nothing all your lives. He was one man who rose from middle class beginnings and became one of India's biggest industrialists. He singlehandedly created Reliance Industries, the great brand and the conglomorate that it is today.

Here is one management gem from him:

Dhirubhaism: Change your orbit, constantly!

He would often explain that we are all born into an orbit. It is up to us to progress to the next. We could choose to live and die in the orbit that we are born in. But that would be a criminal waste of potential. When we push ourselves into the next orbit, we benefit not only ourselves but everyone connected with us. Take India's push for development. There was once a time our country's growth rate was just 4 per cent. Look at us today, galloping along at a healthy 7-8 per cent. This is no miracle. It is the product of a handful of determined orbit changers like Dhirubhai, all of whose efforts have benefited a larger sphere in their respective fields.

However, when you change orbits, you will create friction. The good news is that your enemies from your previous orbit will never be able to reach you in your new one. By the time resentment builds up in your new orbit, you should move to the next level. And so on.

Changing orbits is the key to our progress as a nation.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Alexa Ranks and Further News

I am really sorry, my dear folks, about my absence, or rather my silence. It has been few days but the truth of the matter is that I was exceptionally busy with a number of things, and so busy, that I didn't even have the time to complete my sleep well. I'm not exactly out of the woods yet but would surely be soon.

The good news here is that we have broken into the first million with the Alexa rank as of today. The latest Alexa rank of this blog is:

944, 361

This is really a very important milestone and it means a lot.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stock Picking Strategies: Cherry Picking

There are a number of stock picking strategies. One of them is known as cherry picking. The idea of cherry picking is to buy those stocks which are available at rock bottom prices or which are going through bad times due to various reasons. Cherry picking is a sure short strategy but something that requires a lot of patience from the investor. It is quite possible for the investor to lose faith and exit quickly, which would either result in a loss or in minimal profits.

So, how do you pick the cherries? If you were in the US, should you buy General Motors (GM)? I'm a member of Social Picks, the social networking site on stocks that Reuters runs. I am upbeat on General Motors but a number of other investors feel that it is an absolutely wrong and foolhardy choice. But wait a bit... GM is a pretty old company, which is going through really bad times. There are fears that the company could fold up. The stock price is really down. But does it mean that the company would file for bankruptcy protection? Not really.

The company is going through what are known as classic recessionary conditions. Accumulating such a stock in small and regular quantities is not a very bad idea. It has its risks and it requires a high degree of patience on part of the investor. But it also has the potential of creating decent profits. The only risk with a company like GM is if it were to file for bankruptcy or were to be bundled out for a cheap price, like Bear Stearns. Unless that happens, any worse case scenarios aren't so bad. The company could recover from high oil prices and falling sales. The United States could recover from the recession. If GM performs very badly, it could be taken over by another foreign company, which might as well have a positive effect on stock price.

So, if you think logically, cherry picking isn't such a bad idea.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Obama's Latest

This seems just off the wires. I don't know how authentic this is or whether it is simply one of those rhetorical comments by a budding politician. I found a rather sensational piece of news on the Indian Express website, where it quoted Obama saying that 'Pakistan is preparing for a war with India'.

You can read the news here.

Recent Stock Market Experiences

Now, believe me, I'm not bragging at all. I had bought shares of Apollo Tyres last month for Rs. 30 a share and today, after the fall in the markets, Apollo Tyres is still selling at Rs. 37 a share. So, we are essentially talking about a profit of Rs. 7 or 23% profit within a month. I don't think that's bad. I could have easily sold my stock. But I am trying to change my investing strategy these days. For a long time in life, I have tried my hand at various trading strategies, inluding day trading, BTST (Buy today-sell tomorrow), very short term trading (with a week's margin), short term and medium term investing (selling stocks at a profit within a time frame of two to six months).

But now, I would like to try my hand at a very different investing strategy in life. There was a time in life, about ten years ago, when I used to follow this strategy. But those days, this strategy wasn't very well worked out in my mind. Now, it seems that it has been well worked out mentally. These days, I have begun investing in stocks the same way as one invests money in long term bank deposits. I am now following the classic long term investment strategy and I have this strong feeling that it is going to pay me pretty well.

Stock Market Moves

Isn't it nice when you find that your own evaluations of the stock markets are backed by well-known brokerages? On August 11, 2008, Anand Rathi, a well-known Indian brokerage recommended Development Credit Bank [DCB] at the current market price of Rs. 58 with a stop loss of Rs. 50 and a medium term target of Rs. 78. Earlier this year, I had bought the stock at Rs. 110 and sold it at Rs. 145 within a short span of three weeks. So, when it started falling and it reached a low of Rs. 45, I thought that was the right time to buy it. But when I was signalling a buy in my personal charts, there was no brokerage recommending it. But now when it began rising a bit, we have Anand Rathi recommending a buy.

I find this really interesting. And fascinating. I am only hampered by big time finance, which is why I am still a small time player. With more finance or with investment finance from some of my friends, I could do a pretty good deal. I would not be able to beat the legendary Warren Buffett because he has been a genius and I have often found him pretty inspiring. But I would have done pretty well if I had started off with an investment partnership.

And I would do pretty well even if I opened one right away!

Crash at Wall Street

Yesterday, there was a major crash at Wall Street and it seems that the experts did not seem to know the reason behind it. As a result, there was a major sell-off in Asia and Asian indices fell heavily across the board. The Bombay Stock Exchange in India fell 415 points. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell and breached 20,000, which is the lowest in seventeen months. It seems as if the economists expect the United States to have lost another 70,000 jobs last month. There are still fears of recession in Europe. Interestingly, this fall in the Wall Street came yesterday even as oil prices fell. Usually, a fall in oil prices leads to a rise in stock prices. So, the movement in the markets yesterday was somewhat perplexing. It seems as if the markets are still trying to find their bottom and they don't seem to have stabilized anywhere at all, despite some rally in stocks that we saw in the eight weeks or so. Oil has certainly fallen from its peaks but the stocks would still need another booster dose to get fired up. This also means that any rise in oil prices could have a rather debilitating effect on the stock markets worldwide, especially with the depressed market sentiments.

Palin Good for the Democrats, Too

I thought this was a pretty fascinating little piece--> http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/04/palin-good-for-the-democrats-too/

Notes on Blogging

The difficult thing about blogging is that you should blog every day or few times a day even though the format of the blog allows you the freedom to be erratic. However, you should blog every day for a variety of reasons, which include your being a 'professional blogger' but they also include the fact that a blog is a constantly read document. It is a weblog, a web diary, but it is also something that people read and if you have few readers who would read your blog regularly, it would be so painful for them to log onto your site any given day and not find anything new. So, even if you don't have commercial reasons for blogging, you should blog for the sake of those who would like to read what you write.

Further Updates

One of my former students has been asking me to lend him some books that would help him increase his knowledge about Parsis and about the Zoroastrian community. I have been slow to respond here for the simple reason that I have been possessive of my books. But I would lend him some of my books and that gave me another idea-->

Why shouldn't I also write about it on my blog?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Latest Alexa Ranks--Going up fast

Dear Folks,

The latest Alexa rank for my blog is 1,085,320. On August 27th, it was 1,236,843, which you can read here http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/latest-alexa-rank-rising.html

The Alexa rank on August 23 was 1,370,821 about which you can read here--> http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/latest-alexa-rank.html

And the Alexa rank on August 21, 2008 was 1,485,817 and you can read about it here-->http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/latest-alexa-rank.html

So, in the last two weeks, we have moved up 400,000 in Alexa rankings for our blog. I know it would be tough to grow at the same pace in the coming days but I am sure your support and repeat visits would certainly help.

Thanks a lot, folks.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Personal Note

I am sorry for being lax for the last four days. I had promised myself that I would have one hundred posts in August but I missed it by a whisker. But that doesn't mater. I understand that you might have found my silences deafening. I am sorry about it but I was too fatigued to write anything here. There was a lot of physical fatigue that caught up with me and I was too busy with some other projects.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Short Note for Journalism Students

I would like to inform my students that I am collecting a number of online resources dealing with English phonetics. I would be uploading the list pretty soon. I am sure you would find it really useful.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Helpful Links for Public Relations Students

I have found some links for my students. These links should be helpful for students pursuing a course in public relations.

1. PodUniversal at http://www.poduniversal.com/
2. Corporate ezine at http://www.corpezine.com/
3. PR Discussions at http://pr-discussions.blogspot.com/
4. PR Point Blog at http://prpoint.com/blog/
5. CIPR-Chartered Institute of Public Relations at http://www.cipr.co.uk/index.htm
6. Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management at http://www.globalpr.org/

I wouldn't state that these materials are exhaustive in any way. But they should help the students get a good, firm grasp of what public relations entails in addition to their lectures.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Webhosting Review Website

Have you ever thought about hosting your own website? Or do you always go in for free providers and host your websites there? Or you just don't have your own website? I know of a number of people who don't even have their won websites.

I thought I was always net savvy and I find it tough to believe that people won't have their own websites, especially those people who are kind of well-known people.

I learned about a website that I wished I had found out earlier because I would have gained a lot from it myself. This website is called webhosting rating. It is a website that rates some hosting providers. There are so many web hosting providers out there on the Internet that it becomes tough for an individual to make an informed decision. And there are sufficient possibilities of the person being taken for a ride. So, Web Hosting Rating is a great website because it reviews hosting providers. If people are going to get themselves a new web hosting account, it would be really beneficial to go to this website and find out about the various hosting providers.

They have some very interesting articles there. You can read one on Payment Options for Your E-Commerce Site.

Notes

There have been so many things going on in my life that I sometimes feel at a loss to describe everything. But I still feel that I could do a lot more. The more I work harder and the more activities, I find myself involved in, the more I have this feeling that I'm not doing anything at all.

Why do I have this feeling? It isn't a feeling of dissatisfaction... in fact, I'm really satisfied in life but I still have this great burning fire in my belly.

Website: Review of Diet Pill

I found about a website that reviews fenphedra, which is a diet pill. The website states that when the reviewer first heard of Fenphedra, it was kept like a hidden secret. Then later on, it was learnt that this medicine was quite effective. The website tells us that that Fenphedra is a CART activator. A CART activator is defined as a chemical in the brain that tells the body that the stomach is full, even when it isn't full. So, if one feels very hungry and if one takes this pill, the person would lose the appetite. The website states that the pill is made up of a buffered caffeine salt that is gentle on the stomach. The website also states that the medicine has Phenylethylamine, which is defined as an ingredient that creates a good feeling in the person who takes it. But one certainly needs to check on the claims independently and if the website's assessments are correct, one should certainly believe them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Website that Reviews Extreme Acai Berry

In the first place, you might be tempted to ask me, "What is extreme acai berry?" And that itself would have me explain the term 'acai berry'. Acai berry is a traditional palm fruit and it is believed to be quite beneficial. So, we have this website that reviews a drug, a diet pill, which claims to offer the benefits of the acai berry and states that the drug offers great health benefits. This website in question seeks to debunk the claim.

The arguments used here are quite convincing. They are against a diet pill called 'extreme acai berry', which has a website and which claims they would offer a '14 day trial' and then they would auto-bill and auto-ship the customer. It is an interesting site because it reviews health products sold online and seeks to alert customers about the various scams that are floating around. I found it quite interesting to read.

Website: Driver Side

Isn't 'Driver Side' a strange name for a website? Nope. It isn't because it deals with automobiles. It is a site that tells you about the car that you drive. It makes it easy for you to buy, own and sell a car. The website states that it provides tools which would help in this objective. The website has very interesting features. As a website focused on automobiles, I found it very impressive. The site has a drop-down menu, where one can choose the year of the car from 1945 to 2009, the make of the car, which includes a number of brands from Aston Martin to Mazda and Ford to Ferrari. One can also choose the model concerned.

The website is fascinating in a number of ways. In terms of utility, it is quite helpful because it would give you an opportunity to find out about the car that you drive, its year, make and model. On yet another level, for the car enthusiast, the car buff, one can always improve one's knowledge about the various car models that are covered on the website. And the list is quite comprehensive.

Latest Alexa Rank: Rising...

On August 21st, my Alexa rank was 1,485,817 and that post can be seen at:
http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/bad-news-earlier-and-now-good-news.html

Then on August 23, 2008, my Alexa rank was 1,370,821. This post can be seen at http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/latest-alexa-rank.html

And today, August 27, morning, 7.00 am Indian time, my Alexa rank is being shown as:

OK... OK.... hold your breath folks--->

I said, hold it folks.....

The latest Alexa rank is: 1,236,843

The most interesting thing here is that in the last six days, we have increased our traffic by 250,000. :):) Not bad.

The credit goes to you. Please keep on visiting and please give me more success.

Educational Counselling

One of my former students who's pretty qualified and is certainly a post graduate and has an excellent CV emailed me a week ago. S/he came to my house and we discussed his/her future career plans. So, s/he's going to study further, which is fine. The interesting bit was when s/he emailed me and asked me if s/he could also teach as a guest faculty at few places, where s/he has seen other students teach. And s/he knows, and I know too, that those other students who are teaching at various places weren't as competent or qualified as him/her.

That's exactly why it took me a week or so to write this post. I didn't have the heart to email him/her right away.

Let me explain in an off-tangential manner. In 2001, we had a new course at the University. It started at our Department and this was Certificate in Italian. We had this teacher from the Italian Cultural Centre, Carlo Buldrini, a very senior and an exceptionally competent person. I had been working since 1995 in various adjunct capacities and in 2001, I still didn't have full time tenure. When the course began, I had already been to Italy for the First ProZ.com Annual Conference, where I presented a paper on literary translation.

And Carlo was also the former cultural counsellor. He was also the person who had co-authored the book that was used to teach Italian at the Italian Cultural Centre in New Delhi. So, I would discuss with Carlo, or rather crib a bit, about how one has to wait a long time to get full time tenure in India. I would often tell him that I had spent six years in an adjunct position. To which, Carlo said, "The situation is so much better here. In Italy, it is worse. You have to wait till you are forty or forty five to get full time tenure."

I found his words pretty comforting. And then in 2002, I did get my full time tenure. Carlo also said that back home, he knew of students who would run after their supervisors...and give them a lot of importance to find a job. Now, I had never done that and who knows that might have been one of the reasons for the delay. But when I looked at what he told me, it did seem quite comforting to realize that I had been an adjunct faculty a mere six years.

Coming back to my former student, I didn't have the heart to tell him/her that s/he probably would need to run around some 'senior' [read 'the people who mattered'] professors, if s/he really wanted to get an adjunct position. Another alternative [if like me, s/he doesn't like running after people and has a strong sense of self-esteem] is to put in 'cold CVs'. But as every marketer should know, 'cold CVs' always have a lower chance of being successful. And they take a long time to bear fruit. And then in most hierarchical and feudal systems which are prevalent at so many places in India, it would be foolhardy to think in terms of 'cold CVs'.

I would suggest that my former student should use both approaches--the running around one as also the 'cold CV' one. If s/he wants, I am always there for expert advice and I am also there to form career strategies for my students.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Website: Phentermine Review

I guess this would certainly interest those kindred souls like me, who are into a number of things, such as translating life sciences materials. Consumer Price Watch is a website that states it is a 'source of unbiased diet pill reviews for consumers'. I have taught PR (Public Relations) to know that any claim should always be analyzed and not taken at face value.

Here, they speak about Phentermine Review. Now, most of you might be at a loss about Phentermine itself! And you can't be blamed for being so. Most people that we know, who do not belong to the medical profession or aren't part of the medical support staff, are really unaware of the medicines floating around in the markets or what their compositions might be. This seems strange because these prescribed medicines that we take from reputed doctors affect us. They don't affect the doctor.

The website states that Phentermine causes 10-15% more weight loss compared to a placebo in a double-blind study. So, what is a placebo? It is a harmless substance. And what is a double-blind study? It is a randomized study where two groups of people are administered the drug and both the doctor and the patient are unaware of who is being administered the study drug and who is being administered the placebo. This is to ensure fairness in the results and to eliminate any element of personal or psychological bias.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Interesting Article: The Evil of Religion

You might like to read a very interesting article called The Evil of Religion. I found it a pretty interesting and a logical article. Congrats to Ajit Dongre.

Joe Biden

Finally,Obama has decided on Joe Biden as his running mate. It was like a long delayed suspense. We have a story from the Associated Press that says picking Biden as running mate reflects Obama's lack of confidence. You can read that story here:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080823/ap_on_el_ge/veepstakes_analysis

I wouldn't say as much but with Biden, Obama has chosen an 'experienced, respected' Democrat. Is this his strategy to counter McCain's 'experience'? If it is so, then what about the message for change?

Interesting questions. Many answers. Some tough ones too.

Latest Alexa Rank

Today, August 23, 2008, my Alexa rank is being shown as

1,370,821

which is excellent because it was 1,485,817 on August 21st and you can read about my earlier rank here:

http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/bad-news-earlier-and-now-good-news.html


My target is to break into 1,000,000 soon. But I could do it only if you folks keep on visiting in large numbers and support me as you have done till now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Usain Bolt: Exercise for Journalism Students



Attempt a profile of Usain Bolt. The profile should be succinct and should include an analysis of the negative observations on his antics on the field. The write-up should strive to create a comprehensive profile of the sprinter.



Bolt is the tallest in the picture above.

He is third from left.



Read the following stories on Usain Bolt and write his profile:

1. New York Times story at
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/sports/AP-OLY-ATH-Track-and-Field.html

2. Wikipedia article on Usain Bolt at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usain_Bolt

3. The Hindu on Usain Bolt at
http://www.hindu.com/2008/08/22/stories/2008082256572100.htm

4. Times Online UK on Usain Bolt at
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/athletics/article4042917.ece

5. The Telegraph, India, on Usain Bolt at
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080820/jsp/sports/story_9717270.jsp

6. Michael Johnson writing on Usain Bolt at the BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympics/athletics/7572854.stm

7. Usain Bolt in The Slate at http://www.slate.com/id/2197679/

8. Usain Bolt at the ESPN at
http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/summer08/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&id=3542980

9. Usain Bolt at the Chicago Tribune at
http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/olympics/chi-usain-bolt-080816-ht,0,3670201.story

10. Usain Bolt in The Edmonton Sun at
http://www.edmontonsun.com/Sports/Beijing2008/2008/08/22/6540651.html


11. Article in The Independent, UK, at
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-bolt-upright-905359.html

Profile: Usain Bolt

''To me, I'm a performer,'' Bolt said. ''I come out here to be a performer and let the people enjoy themselves. Sometimes, it's good to enjoy yourself. This is my work, it's my job. If you don't enjoy your job, it doesn't make any sense to actually do it because you won't have any fun.''

If you don't write on Usain Bolt, you write on nobody else. Only four people: Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Bobby Morrow and Jesse Owens have won the 100, 200 and 400-meter relay at the Olympics. In terms of greatness, I would place him at par with Jesse Owens right now. Later, as we get to see Bolt, one might rate him higher. He has broken records which have been pretty old.

Investment Perceptions

I have such anecdotes to narrate about the perceptions of most people about the stock markets and about investing that it would probably make you die laughing. People have such outlandish and strange ideas when it comes to investing that one could find it really difficult to believe.

I had a good friend. I still know him. We used to stay nearby and meet everyday. So, one day, about ten years ago, he met me and said, "I have made some money working for a company and I have some extra cash to spare. I would like to discuss investment options with you." I told him, "That's great. But before you begin investing, the first thing we should discuss would be the returns that you would expect on your investments."

Those days, the banks gave a maximum of 10% per annum on term deposits. He had made some money as a freelancer and he wasn't eligible for the Employees Provident Fund, which would have given him a return of 12% tax free. Anyway, he wasn't in the tax bracket but if he were, the maximum tax bracket was 30%, so, the maximum taxable return, he could have got would have been around 17% in a year.

So, when I asked him, what he expected from the stock markets to do for him, pat came his reply. He said, "I would like to double my money in a fortnight but I could wait for a month." I was furious and as he was a good friend, he didn't mind my outburst. I told him, "You jolly well get into a casino!"

Most people have such strange notions about investing money in the stock markets. If the best return that he could have got in the country from safer avenues was 17%, he should have been content with around 25% from the markets. If he set his objectives at 25%, he wouldn't ever lose his money and would invest scientifically and his investments would be strong fundamentally.

Website: Black Friday Online

How many of you are aware of Black Friday, the day which is next to Thanksgiving? If you need to buy something that day, how would you do so? So, we have a website that seeks to help us by speaking about how we can buy items on Black Friday and the website is http://www.blackfridayonline.com/

The site also offers free alerts when new items are available for purchase at different stores for this occasion. There are a number of items that you can buy here. They have a wide variety of items. For instance, you can buy office supplies from Office Max or you can buy books and other stuff from Amazon. For instance, when you go to the Office Max page, you would be amazed to find out about the number of items that they have on sale. These include Kodak cameras, Sandisk USB drives, HP and Brother printers, Kaspersky Internet Security, Logitech Mouse and Keyboard combo, routers, adapters, headsets, projectors, furniture and toners among other items.

This is a pretty interesting idea and I am really happy that the site owners took trouble of making a site that helps people with their holiday plans. Isn't it really great and thoughtful?

Charles Dickens’s Hard Times-2

The noted English critic F. R. Leavis called Hard Times as a minor classic. He was one of those rare critics who praised the novel. Most critics had criticized the novel. But one should also keep in mind the fact that Charles Dickens was a novelist steeped in the social realist tradition and his novels display a clear sense of social realism. Hard Times is, in fact, a novel that belongs to a sub-genre of the Victorial novel called the 'social problem novel'--a novel that specifically focussed on social problems of the day. The social problem being discussed in this novel is the problem of the present educational system in England and the follies inbuilt into it.

Connect! Connect!

I learned about this website that features connectors. Oh my, what are connectors in the first place? Take a look at their website. They have a chart here. You can click on pictures to get a close-up. Connectors are small extensions that are attached to wires and they go into computers and computing systems. Like you have the connector in a PS2 keyboard, on one end, you have the keyboard and on the other end, you have the cable and at the end of it, the connector.

So, that's a connector. Let us connect well now!

Motivational Teaching

Today morning, I was in my Compulsory English class and I was teaching my students. So, while teaching them, in the course of the discussion, I referred to that famous quote by Robert Browning, where he says that 'a man's reach must exceed his grasp; or what's a heaven for?' [the quote has been paraphrased].

How true! We should all strive continually to exceed our reach in life and we should do it so well that we shouldn't able to grasp or comprehend how well we have done in our lives.

Amen!

Personal Blogging Milestones

I have reached 115 posts till now and this is the 116th post since May 1, 2008. And in the month of August, I have had 73 posts and this is the 74th post. When I crossed 50 posts earlier this month, I was really excited. And I didn't even inform you people about crossing the 100th post.

When I began this blog, my target was 500 posts in the first year. Now, I have an average of about 30 posts [if I reach 120 posts in August] per month, which means I'm pretty close.

However, my immediate target is 100 posts for the month of August, which means I am about 25-27 posts short and I have 10 days to go. And I would certainly like to maintain the quality of my posts. I would also like to keep my posts informative and helpful to a number of people including my students at the University.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blog Since 2003

I found a pretty old blog. It is called Everyday With Beej. And though the blog looks like a perfect collection of diary entries, it retains its readability. That's the good thing about it. Many diary entry formats could turn you off. I liked the post, Tips For An Exceptional Life. Nothing very erudite or anything but very interesting, listing things. Too many videos. Then I went to the Blog Archive on the page and I was amazed to find that this person had been writing since 2003. That was amazing. I haven't seen a great number of blogs that have been there that long.

The blog states that it is about life, family, friends, anything under the sun. This is the original blog format and I congratulate the writer for keeping to it.

Somebody Wrote About Me

Hey hey.... folks, do you know what happened? A gentleman found out about me and mentioned me on his blog!

Wow! Please go ahead and tell your friends about it and about my blog too.

You can find the gentleman's post here:

http://www.techne-eikon.com/business/a-better-definition-of-blogging

Enjoy!

Rank Spank

Has your blog suffered because it was spanked by Google and it got a lower rank? Here, we have Rank Spank, a website by Izea, who give you RealRank and give you a new perspective to standard Google rank.

Bad news earlier.... and now, good news-Alexa Rank

Well, if my Google pagerank has come down to 2 as I told you in an earlier post... we also know that the Alexa traffic ranking is pretty reputed.

If you look at my earlier post made on August 17 on Alexa rank, my rank that day was 1,539,822 and my present Alexa rank for today is---- and lease hold your breath now---and my present Alexa rank is:

1,485,817

Now, don't you think that calls for a celebration? And this is between August 17 and August 21! Wow! In just 4 days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On Obama's Veep Choice

Pajamas Media is a blog that focuses on news. It was also ranked as one of the most informative blogs in a recent study.

There's an interesting article here on Obama and his choice of the running mate. Read it here.

Info: Blog Lists

I think this is probably the most comprehensive list of Blog Lists. Its a blog called Bloggers Blog, seems like a meta-name. The link that I gave you here has got excellent posts. Simply excellent and really informative by any yardstick. We have information on Bloglines which is now ranking blogs and feeds by their popularity. Then we have information on a Carnegie Mellon study that ranks the most informative blogs. The amount of information that is packed into this blog is astounding and it is certainly immensely helpful.

A Very Fascinating Blog

This is simply amazing! What do you think a blog is for? Blog=Weblog, diary, personal notes... professional work, showcasing of professional talents. And now, we have a news website as a blog.:)

If you wish to read news about economy, politics or health as also a number of other topics such as high technology or United States news, this website provides it all.

Well, well, I didn't provide you the name of the website. The website is aptly called News Company and you can see it at News Company

The site summarizes a lot of news. I like the effort that the person has put in here. In fact, when I began blogging, I thought of doing something similar but someone's beaten me to an excellent idea and I won't feel bad about it.

Bad... very bad

It seems Google has been bad with me. They just reduced my page rank from 4 to 2. Why? Really inexplicable because I know I have been getting more visitors and I know I have got visitors from a variety of places around the world. But at least, Alexa doesn't seem to use such whimsical measurements. But in a way, I believe its a good thing because I would work doubly hard to ensure that my traffic rankings improve. I remain fully committed to improving my traffic rank and I'm quite serious about positioning my blog.

Charles Dickens's Hard Times-1

Hard Times is a novel that I am currently teaching to my BA (1st) year students. The important characters are Thomas Gradgrind, Josiah Bounderby, Sissy Jupe, Stephen Blackpool, Tom Gradgrind, Louisa Gradgrind... also Slackbridge to some extent.

You can find a good study guide along with the text at Bibliomania.com and you can find another copy of the complete text at Project Gutenberg. The novel is divided into three parts, Sowing, Reaping and Garnering, which are to some extent self-evident. The first chapter is titled "The One Thing Needful", while the second chapter is titled, "Murdering the Innocents".

The novel begins with this memorable paragraph:

'NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!' (The emphasis is mine)

and on the first page itself, you have another very interesting insight:

The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim. (The emphasis is mine)

I'll continue with my thoughts and notes about the novel in small instalments, so that you would enjoy reading it.

Website: The Incurable Romantic

I found a website called The Incurable Romantic and like its name, it seems to have everything on the subject. The website is a blog or in the blog format and it seems to have more than one author. There seem two authors there. There was a very interesting post there called Magical Moments.

Some of you might find the stuff slightly mushy, which is a distinct possibility but even then its a pretty good idea to have a website of this sort. I really like such ideas, even if they are mushy or too descriptive.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Website: Property Mixer

Please do not think of this as a mixer-grinder-juicer but this might be closer to a cement mixer! Property Mixer is a new social networking website that deals with the property and the real estate sector. I got to learn about it because one of my friends, who's into the property business in New Delhi, sent me an invite. I look at such invites askance but on some thought, I clicked and logged in and then looked for the profile of the CEO and found that she has a blog too!

The website is Property Mixer http://www.propertymixer.com/ and the CEO's blog is http://propertymixer.blogspot.com/ and its quite informative.

This was a chance find and I am happy I found it.

Website: Not Guru

I am sure the name of the website would probably set you thinking: what is this? Not Guru? It certainly raises your eyebrows the first time you hear it. I am sure that was probably why they named it that way. The site says that it is meant for those people who aren't too technical, who aren't really 'gurus' in that sense of the term.

There's an excellent post on how to open a file if you cannot open it on your computer. The site also uses good screen shots. I liked the idea, quite refreshing. It was the name that I found disconcerting to start with but later when you surf the website, it doesn't really seem so strange to you.

The website is a variety of posts on a number of issues. It isn't as if its only a technology site--we even have a post that shows the 'strange food' that was available at the Olympics. They have even shown pictures of various creatures that one could have eaten there.

You can access the website at Tiips and Curiosities for Mom and Pop Businesses

News: Suicidal Thoughts Among Students

I found a news on Medindia, which is quite pertinent for the student community as well as others. This study says that suicidal thoughts are common among students. It says that half the 26,000 students in institutions across the country had suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives. The report can be read here.

Fall in Dow Jones

The Dow Jones has fallen again. Right now, at 3.17 pm, it is down 203 points or 1.75%, which is considered a pretty steep fall. So, we need to wait for Nikkei to open next morning and see how Japan reacts and then how Hang Seng reacts in Hong Kong. If they are depressed too, then we can expect the Indian markets to witness a fall.

I know oil has risen a bit and there is news that Iran has offered to launch satellites of Muslim countries. Iran has already claimed that it has test fired a new rocket capable of carrying a satellite into orbit. The story can be read at the New York Times. I still don't know if there is some US economy data that has also contributed to the fall.

Let us wait and watch.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Website: Termite Guide

(This is a sponsored post)

I found a very interesting website that tells us how to get rid of termites. It speaks about a number of termites and you can see them here: termite images

I have had a lot of problems with termites in my house too and I have a huge library of 1500 books and I really feel scared of them. I found this website to be really informative and I thought it was a boon to me because it tells me a lot of things about termites.

The website is http://www.killthetermites.com/

Very Interesting Article on Twitter

This is a chance find. You wouldn't really imagine the way one gets to find interesting articles these days. People castigate Google as a behemoth--I really admire it. Google dishes out various advertisements when you access your gmail and I found this article there.

Businessweek
, which is a very reputed magazine, ran a story about Twitter and about the business models being followed by social networking sites and I found it so interesting that I thought I would discuss it a bit here. This is a recent article, published today and it is called The Trouble With Twitter. The article can be found at this link.

Website on Distance Learning

It seems most of you would feel I keep on surfing or as one of my colleagues told me that I work very hard. Do I? I don;t know. Where's the time to think? Anyhow, I learned about this interesting website that seems to promote distance learning and home study in the UK. There are courses such as book keeping, child care and social studies. Its a website on open learning and the website can be found at 2 distance learning courses

The website is pretty exhaustive in the information that it has on its pages. It says that UK Open Learning is a registered centre with the Open College Network of the North West region in the United Kingdom. It states that it offers fully recognized courses that carry learning credit for further learning. Good and interesting idea. Now that I got into a job, I still feel I could register for some courses and add some more degrees to my CV. Even though I do study every day and read a lot, I still find formal study quite fascinating and magical.

The lure is always there. UK Open Learning have courses in information technology, project management, writing courses, Aromatherapy (wow!), reflexology, health, fitness, life coaching....Its a long and a pretty impressive list. If I started talking about the entire list of courses they offer, you might just feel I reproduced their website. I feel positive about this website and I am going to check out every possible thing they offer in my spare time. I would find this to be a educational and an informative exercise.

Meandering Thoughts on Classroom Strategy

I have taught this novel, Hard Times for a number of years. And we have it in the BA (Ist) year English major curriculum in our University. It has always been there in the curriculum. I can understand the exigencies and the problems of making a curriculum--I have been willy-nilly a part of it as well. Since 1995, when I began teaching, Hard Times has always been a part of the course.

I have taught it for such a long time that I have even forgotten the first time when I started teaching it in my career. But ever since I started teaching this text, no one in my department has ever opted to teach it, except perhaps once or twice, a couple of friends, who were junior to me. And we follow the *seniority principle* quite strictly--again, one can't simply fault it because these are administrative matters, which are best left outside the purview of this blog. We might discuss them in my other blog that focusses on academic matters, Issues in Academics at http://issuesinacademics.blogspot.com

Anyway, my students have always found it to be a pretty difficult novel. In India, I guess things are a bit different from the West. Here, the students start reading the text after they come to the first class. And right from school, the students have become so accustomed to being spoonfed by their teachers that they seem to have less initiative and confidence among themselves.

It would be wrong to state entirely that they do not possess confidence but they do have less confidence when it comes to reading or being inquisitive about knowledge.

This year, when I started teaching the novel, I asked my students to buy the book (that's what you do in the first lecture. So sad, isn't it? You just waste a 45 minute slot!) and we have had teaching for a week, which includes two lectures last week and actually, I had the third lecture today. Looking at it from a retrospective point of view, I think the response has been fine. I have the next lecture with them on Thursday, August 21st and I'm sure most of my students would have completed reading the novel.

I have also given assignments to two students. There's one girl, who clearly professes that she doesn't like reading. I like her honesty. I have rarely seen such young people who are so honest but she seems bright and she seems hardworking. She will write a plain vanilla summary for me on Thursday. Then there's this boy, who seems articulate and likes talking to both girls and boys among his peer group. He seems to be articulate and seems to command some attention amongst his peers. I have asked him to write a detailed character sketch of Thomas Gradgrind.

It would be nice to have these two kids working on the novel. I believe that this girl, who says she doesn't like reading has quite some promise. I am going to take it as my personal challenge as a teacher to make her like reading and make her love literature. After all, literature's a great subject to study.

The other boy would be good in the class too. People who can command the attention of their peers are nice people in the classroom.

I have already outlined the novel to them in the classroom. I have already told them about how tragic Stephen Blackppol is as a character. I have given them few pointers.

But the challenge actually starts the moment they come with the books well read to the classroom. But that's not just the challenge, its also the fun part as a teacher. It all depends a lot on the teacher and the teacher's teaching philosophy and strategies. If the teacher is able to motivate and inspire the students, they really work well and they become pretty malleable. If the teacher is too hard, then it really fails.

There is no communication when the teacher is too hard and unbending. I have seen so many teachers who are hard but we don't have a system of student feedback and they never get to know what's actually happening in the world around them. Many of them also live in ivory castles thinking that they are the best. But lack of two-way communication in a classroom situation can be fatal to the learning process. It becomes something quite similar to the chaos seen in Harold Pinter's famous and unsettling play, The Homecoming.

Blog News

Dear All,

You might just think this is crazy! And I won't blame you for doing so. When I told one of my friends about the new blog that I have got, he said, "Well, I'm going to start a blog where I'll interview myself!" And he added further, "Blogs don't cost anything, one can open any number that one wants!"

Ha ha ha ha....

But jokes apart, this blog is called http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com and it is my personal blog, Roomy Naqvy's persona blog. The new blog that I'm referring to is called Issues in Academics and you can access it at http://issuesinacademics.blogspot.com and I plan to make it into an excellent online resource that discusses various issues in the academic world as also have some educational resources as well.

And if I had told my friend about my third blog, Learning Translation, http://learningtranslation.blogspot.com, he would have surely put me into the loony bin! The idea behind this blog is to put all kinds of translation related resources online as also to help or rather mentor novice translators in the profession. I am sure this would be helpful to the students as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Website: Digital Frames




I learned about this website called Digital Frames, which I guess is quite a unique concept. In all the years that I have been surfing, I have not come across such a concept. The website Digital Frames states that they make digital photo frames. One can use these picture frames to showcase one's pictures the same way as they can be shown in the living room or at other places. They come with 1 GB of internal memory and the website states that they can be customized and user-configured as well. In terms of durability, this seems more durable than a mere photo frame that we had in the olden days.

Also, in terms of utility, the concept seems quite good because 1 GB of internal memory can certainly hold a large number of pictures and can be quite useful because electronic goods have a longer life than products from the brick-and-mortar world. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is one frame that is available in wood as well. Isn't wood elegant? This is certainly using the best of the olden days elite class with the great utility that technological innovation provides us. There is also a mini-heart shaped digital picture frame that can be attached to a key ring as well. So, this website provides a fully customized experience.

Indeed, very fascinating. I am forever amazed by the wonders of the Internet as I was in the days I started using it.

Information: Golden Quill Awards

I just learned about the Golden Quill Book Awards 2008 and we can follow the shortlisted books at http://www.indiaplaza.in/goldenquill/

It seems they have a voting system here. I don't know this works. I haven't read any of the nominated books but have heard about couple of them being discussed at electronic mailing lists. The Jury includes Mahashweta Devi, Sir Mark Tully, Shanta Gokhale and Anita Nair and the jury page is at http://www.indiaplaza.in/goldenquill/goldenquill_jury.aspx

Information: Abhinav Bindra's Blog

I came across Abhinav Bindra's blog. Who is he? He is the person who won the first individual gold medal for India in the Olympics. I wrote about him in an earlier post: http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/indian-won-olympic-gold.html

By the way, I found out that he even has a blog of his own. You can look him up at http://abhinavbindra.blogspot.com/ and this blog began in August 2008! So, I'm reporting it fresh to you. This is like breaking news.

Enjoy!

Finance: Repair Your Bad Credit Online

I guess this must count as another one of those fascinating websites. This one relates to the financial world. For those of you who are unaware of my financial acumen and my engagement with the world of finances, you should meet me in person, if you know me personally, or you should get in touch. This website is called Repair Your Bad Credit. It seeks to help people with Credit Repair, Bad Credit Repair.

For people, who have never had a bad credit, this might be tough to understand. But one can get a bad credit due to a variety of reasons and some of which aren't even because of one's own fault. Suppose, you applied for a credit card and the bank company executives deliberately wanted you to apply for a n expensive card to make up their targets while you wanted a lower card, your application would be rejected and you might get a bad rating. This is why this website which claims to Repair Credit sounds like a pretty good idea for people who have been afflicted with this problem.

They have a link that tells you about the various advantages that accrue to a person from using their service and it can be found at Advantages of Credit Repair. The website also has a link that shows the varied services that they provide and it can be seen at Online Bad Credit Repair Services page.

They offer Credit Repair Services and they have some pretty good ideas about what one can do with good credit. It surely sounds interesting. And it is really important these days because of low credit offtake internationally. Most people are getting lower credit simply due to the current global crisis and so, if there's a website that can help with repairing credit, I guess it should sound pretty fascinating.

Fascinating News

I am sure this calls for a celebration and all of you have contributed to it. I began this blog on May 1, 2008, and the first time when I checked my Alexa ranking, it was 2,111,649 and the latest Alexa rank for this blog is 1,539, 822.

For those, who are unaware about Alexa, I would like to tell you that Alexa ranks websites on their traffic and it tells you how better you are compared to your competitors.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

History of Blogging: Excellent Resource

I am sure that if you read through Rebecca Blood's "Weblogs: A History and Perspective", you would agree with me that this is the most comprehensive article on the issue. You can read the entire article here: http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html and if would like to cite it somewhere, then you could do it as follows:

Blood, Rebecca. "Weblogs: A History and Perspective", Rebecca's Pocket. 07 September 2000. 25 October 2006.

I really loved a comment there. Rebecca says: "Searching for a filter-style weblog by clicking through the thousands of weblogs listed at weblogs.com, the Eatonweb Portal, or Blogger Directory can be a
Sisyphean task." [The emphasis is mine].

How true! And for those, who don't know what Sisyphean Task means, you can always read the piece "The Myth of Sisyphus" by the great French existentialist writer and Nobel Laureate, Albert Camus.

Origins of the Word: Weblog

We have all heard of weblogs and the word 'blog' or 'blogs' which is a shortened form of it but have we ever wondered about its origins or about the person who coined the term. The word 'weblog' was coined by Jorn Barger and my reference for this information is the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/askbruce/articles/browse/blogging_1.shtml

The very influential and long-established blog run by Jorn Barger is Robot Wisdom and you can learn about the history of blogging at http://robotwisdom.com/weblogs/ and a biographical sketch of Jorn Barger can be found in this Wikipedia article.

Educational Resource: BBC Learning English

This is yet another article in my Educational Resource series on my blog. The last post, which was posted here http://roomynaqvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/educational-resource-nyt-learning.html and this is yet another learning resource that is available online.

My endeavour is to give you an excellent collection of such learning and educational resources online so that you won't need to go anywhere else and you would feel really good about my blog. This is also in consonance with my objective to mentor young people. Moreover, most young people that I know are not even aware of which resources to access and how to access them. So, if I am able to do something for them, it would be a good contribution.

The BBC Learning English website can be accessed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/ and I believe that this is yet another excellent resource. If you use it properly and extensively, it should be able to make a substantial difference (read improvement) in your English language skills.

There are also certain links on the BBC Hindi website where you can also watch videos that teach you English. Not bad, isn't it?

Let us now go back to the BBC Learning English website. There is a section on English pronunciation which is available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/pron/ and you can even download files from there, including an introductory video, which is available at http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/pronunciation/mp4/pron_main_intro.mp4

They even have a section on grammar, where you can also learn about various phrasal verbs and believe me, I know this from my experience as an English teacher, most people, especially, those that I teach here in India, are really deficient in using phrasal verbs. This is the link to the phrasal verbs section on the BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/

Enjoy and be so fluent in the English language that you might marvel at your own skills.

Online Forum: Argue with Everyone

(This is a sponsored post)

I think this is the most exciting online find--it's an online forum, a website, that says 'argue with everyone' and on 'everything', so, you can argue anywhere and on just about any topic, which can also include arguing against gun control and its a pretty good idea. In fact, this goes back to the original days of the Internet, where we had websites that promoted as a completely free medium.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Personal Notes of a Translator

I have been a translator for such a long time. I received the Katha Translation Award for translating a Gujarati short story into English way back in 1996 and then for a number of years, I have had quite a bit of professional translation experience. Then in 2005, I was interviewed by Dr. Tim Altanero, who was an Associate Professor at Austin Community College, for an article that he wrote on translating airline menus for Multilingual Computing and Technology, which is a well-known magazine that caters to the translation and the localization industry. You can read that article online at this link. And I taught a Certificate in Translation Proficiency for three years in my University. I have also taught Diploma in Translation Proficiency for the last two years.

I was a Moderator of ProZ.com for English-Gujarati, Gujarati-English language communities and also for the Literature Forum from December 2000 to December 2007, when I quit due to personal reasons. Presently, I am one of the co-moderators of the American Translators' Association's Language Technology Division's mailing list.

All this sounds good to those who can understand what it means.

But years ago, things were a bit different. The person who I would like to acknowledge as my guru, the person who really motivated me to begin translating in my life was a gentleman called Professor K Satchidanandan. He is a well known Malayalam writer and he used to be the editor of Indian Literature, a journal published by the Indian Academy of Letters, which is called the Sahitya Akademi here.

I wanted to write this post here to publicly acknowledge my debt to him and I shall remain indebted to him forever. Thanks a lot, Professor K Satchidanandan.

Parcel Forwarding

(This is a sponsored post but it doesn't mean that I will write a positive review because it is one.)

I found about this very interesting website and it is a mail forwarding and a parcel forwarding service: Maildrop

Very interesting ideas! This is an award winning service and it covers six countries in the world with only one account. I must admit I am forever amazed by the wonderful use of the Internet. I couldn't have ever imagined a service like mail forwarding till I heard about it and I really felt excited enough to share it with all of you.

Imagined Communities: From Benedict Anderson to Facebook

If I were to write a scholarly paper titled Imagined Communities: From Benedict Anderson to Facebook, I am sure it would provoke tremendous outrage among all purist scholars and academics who love to show they are 'mainstream'. But the first question that would strike me would be: Why should it provoke a sense of outrage? The answers are not hard to find. It would provoke such a sense of outrage because we think of our academic scholars and their categories as hallowed, as rarefied, as something very scholarly to the point that it cannot be applied anywhere beyond their original scholarly confines. At least, this is what, I would normally see from a number of academics that I have seen and known in the Indian academia. I do understand, however, that academics in the American academia tend to be more open towards newer technologies and developments.

So, for those readers, who haven't been introduced to Benedict Anderson and who probably believe what the brouhaha is all about, it would not be wrong to state that the concept of 'imagined communities' is owed to him. Anderson first propounded this term in his book, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, which appeared in 1983 . So, exactly twenty five years later, I propose that the meaning be expanded. To quote from Anderson himself:

The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet. (Cited from http://www.nationalismproject.org/what/anderson.htm)
There is another interview here that one can read as well to learn about his views. And there is a Wikipedia article on Imagined Communities.

Interestingly, what has happened after the explosion of the Internet in its second avatar is a great implosion of social networking sites. There are also a large number of people who believe that there is a lot of networking as well as marketing power in these sites. One often hears of phrases such as 'the power of social communication'. If one thought of social networking as frivolos or as something that only promoted dating, then one needs to rethink a bit because recently Reuters launched a social networking site called Social Picks, which is essentially social networking site focussing on stocks.

I came across a very fascinating paper that gave me the spark to post this seemingly preposterous article. This paper is titled 'Imagined Communities: Awareness, Information Sharing, and Privacy on the Facebook' and it is available at http://petworkshop.org/2006/preproc/preproc_03.pdf.

It certainly set me thinking that the concept of nation and the concept of imagined community has certainly changed in the age of cybernetics. There has been a clear shift which should be clearly marked and it should be properly debated.

My Contribution to University Website

When the earlier Vice Chancellor, Mr. Syed Shahid Mahdi decided that our University should get a website, I was one of the people involved with it but as it happens in India, a lot of work that you do is rather undocumented, which is quite the opposite of what happens in the West. I never had a single official letter which outlined the contribution that I had made. But here, we have an online link, in one of the Newsletters published by my University, which shows my contribution.

You can access the Newsletter at http://jmi.nic.in/cit/2004_2000_IT.pdf, where you can look up my name on page 32 under 'Special Invitees to the Website Development Committee' and 'Members of the Web Team: Text Review'.

Educational Resource: NYT Learning Network

I learned about the New York Times Learning Network some time ago and forgot to mention it here. This is one of premier educational resources online and you learn a lot from it. It is good for both students and teachers.

You also have a link to Education Life, which is an educational supplement from the NYT. You can access it here: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/education/edlife/index.html

And you also have Campus Weblines, which will help students in putting their campus newspapers online. You can look it up here: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/specials/weblines/

The best thing about the New York Times Learning Network is the fact that it is a rich repository. It hosts lesson plans and news summaries. These documents can easily be modified for an English teaching course. In fact, they can be used quite efficiently for second language learners.

Custom Video Cables

I think this is really interesting. Imagine, I found out about a website that features custom video cables and they are of all types, shapes and sizes. Here is the site: Custom Video Cable

I had never thought of anyone being so ingenious ever to make a website on video cables of all sorts. This is really unusual in terms of being a website. It is this focus that makes it unique. There are serial cables, there are custom audio cables, coaxial cables... you name it, all the cables are there!

The website is also quite informative in nature. For instance, I learned from there that they have five different types of audio cables on offer. They also have various types of keyboard cables.

The best thing that I really liked about this website were its tutorials. I thought they were just great. For instance, the power cord is defined as the mains voltage with power between 100 and 240 volts. Now, I didn't know that the power cord can also work at 100 volts. In these tutorials, we get to glean a number of facts. For instance, they define SATA cable and give us what SATA stands for: Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.

International Prizes / Awards-1

I got my personal copy of The Economist, which I subscribe to, so, it costs me a bit less and I saw an advertisement there about the St. Andrews Prize for the Environment which is open to people from all countries across the world. The home page of their website http://www.thestandrewsprize.com/index.htm has the following information to offer:

Welcome to the
St Andrews Prize for the
Environment website.

The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is an initiative by the University of St Andrews in Scotland and the international integrated energy company, ConocoPhillips.

The Prize recognises significant contributions to environmental conservation and since its launch in 1998 has attracted entries from more than 50 countries each year on diverse topics including;

  • sustainable development in the Amazon rainforest
  • urban regeneration
  • recycling
  • health and water issues
  • renewable energy

Submissions for the annual prize are assessed by a panel of eminent trustees representing science, industry and government with the award going to the project the Trustees consider displays the best combination of good science, economic realism and political acceptability.

Visit the site for further information about the Prize and how to enter the annual competition.


The Prize is worth $75,000 and there are two additional awards of $25,000 each. The idea is to promote a project that can save the environment and can be replicated across the world in various local communities.

There is a call of entries for the 2009 Prize and the last date for which is 31 October 2008.

Civilizational Contours: Walk the Talk-1

Professor Alok Bhalla is really a motivational figure. I had known him earlier when I got an opportunity to listen to him at various places, including the Sahitya Akademi [The National Academy of Letters, India].

Yesterday, a colleague of mine, Professor Alok Bhalla and I went for coffee. So, it wasn't a talk or any philosophical discussion in the strict sense of the term. But if you keep in touch with enlightened minds, you will always gain something worthwhile.

As we took a cup of coffee, my colleague asked Professor Bhalla what he meant by going back to our philosophical contours. So, he explicated his position. He said that in the Indian civilization, there is a lot of commonality that doesn't always exist in many other cultures of the world. He said, for example, in India, we always take a bit from this culture and give a bit to another, which is why we have this composite nature.

He gave us this example of Intezar Hussain, the noted Urdu writer and to quote Professor Bhalla, "Intezar Hussain said he was an orthodox Shia muslim and to me, religiosity comes with difficulty but we had no problems communicating." Then I referred to 'nohas' and 'mersias' that Indian Shia muslims sing during Muharram and I said that there are many common Indian images there, which have no equivalent to the Arab world. And he agreed. Later, when we were going back to the Dept., he told my colleague, "See, this is what I meant by composite culture, where I had no difficulty understanding the word 'noha' and 'mersia'. This is the composite culture that Gandhi and Nehru spoke about. We don't have the kind of violence that the concept of postcolonial has when it is foregrounded by the Western academia."

He then spoke about Andrews being a great friend of Gandhi and he said, "When Gandhi wrote to Andrews, he wrote 'Dear Charlie' and when Andrews wrote to Gandhi, he wrote 'Dear Bapu', and Andrews was an Englishman. So, isn't this another instance of the composite Indian culture?"

And we couldn't agree more with Professor Alok Bhalla.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Latest Inflation Figures in India

The news just came in couple of hours ago that the latest inflation figures are out and it now stands officially at 12.44%. Last week, it was 12.01% and the latest figures are a 16-year high. The Indian Finance Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram, has said that the latest figures are disappointing and he had expressed hopes earlier that it would come down to single digits within the next two quarters.

New Website: Who Just Called Me

(This is a sponsored post but it doesn't mean that this is a partisan post)

I just learned about a very interesting new service, which is called Who Just Called Me? , in fact, I even found the web address very fascinating. They spent some time in thinking about the name. This is a good reverse phone look up service. And I checked couple of numbers and it seems good. The only thing is that it is US based right now.

Great News: Professor Alok Bhalla


This is slightly old but still... We have Professor Alok Bhalla who has been appointed as Visiting Professor at the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi from 2008-2009 and he shall be with us for the next two years. This is a great moment to rejoice for us because all my life, I have rarely seen a more erudite person as Professor Bhalla who was also very lucid in his ideas, speech and language.

For those of us, who have been lost in the information overload of our age, here is some information on Professor Alok Bhalla, none of which is really comprehensive or complete. But this information that I'm providing below is by way of a teaser....

If you would like to see how Professor Bhalla looks, we have a picture here. This isn't the best of pictures because he is much more graceful and very expressive in person. And this same image can also be seen at the Urdu Studies website.

There is a book review that you can read of a book by Professor Alok Bhalla. This review was written in The Hindu by the renowned poet, Keki Daruwalla. You can read the review here.

He has around twenty three books published and is a major authority on translation studies and partition literature among others. He is also deeply interested in Latin American literature. I am sure everyone at the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University, would gain a lot from his presence. And I'm sure anyone who is a student here can always gain from his insights and listen to him speak.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Career Prospects-2: Why Masters in English?

There was a student of mine. She secured 49% in her BA in English literature. Before her BA results came out, she applied for Masters in English at a university and she was able to clear the entrance test and the interview. She was selected for the course but she needed to secure 50% in her BA to become eligible to take the entrance test for MA. So, obviously her admission to Masters was cancelled. She was distraught and told me that she didn't know what she could do in life because she couldn't get into MA in English.

For most formal courses, a student needs to secure 50% in her undergraduate degree. So, in effect, a number of formal educational degrees are closed to her. But that does not mean that she can not do anything else in her life. I counselled her out of her depression and then gave her some pointers. The first thing she could do, if she were hell-bent on studying Masters in English would be to look into the open university system. In India, we have an excellent open university, which has a wide network. This is called the IGNOU-Indira Gandhi National Open University.

But this isn't really the central point of my argument. My first query is: Why should anyone desire to complete a Masters in English Literature unless they really were interested in literary studies? And even then, the curriculum that we have does not focus a lot on really inculcating a love of literature. Interestingly, the way in which teaching is imparted at various institutions leaves a lot to be desired. So, essentially, one would not gain a lot from the course, except of course, a degree to one's name. And yes, in India, where the colonial hangover remains and also the fact that English is a global language, a Masters degree in English certainly gives a person bragging rights.

For a large number of students, a Masters in English does not really achieve their intended dream and they just have a higher qualification in their hands.

Career Prospects-1

I plan to start writing about the various career opportunities that young people could have after completing their undergraduate degree in India. Sometimes, it pains me to see that many of my students only focus their attention on few traditional courses and do not explore further alternatives.

Website: Essays website

I found out about this essays site, http://www.essays.org and they claim that one can buy essays from them. So, if that's the case, then what's new about this site. The new thing about this web site however is the fact that they also ask you to sell your essays to them. They also have a very helpful page, where they give you tips on how to write a good essay. They call it Write an Essay in Ten Steps. That link can be found here.

On the website, one essay that I found was titled 'Ernest Hemingway', while another essay was titled 'The Comic Character in Three Periods of English Drama'. The web site clearly states that students can simply sell their college and term essays to them and if they accept those essays based on the terms which aren't really clear, then they would make a payment for the essays bought. It also lists the number of words that exist in an essay. The website goes on to say that they would pay upto 350 Euros for an essay. I thought that was pretty high. But one needs to test the system before we begin to doubt it. There are various categories here, in terms of the subjects displayed. Though I am sure as the site develops, they would do better and introduce further categories.

Sounds interesting, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Simple Notes

Sometimes, I feel so tired as I did today. But I just take a short nap and get back to my work. I love all the work that I do. I met some new students in the last couple of days. And as they are new to the campus, first year students, 'freshmen', they seem more enthusiastic. Later, when they have been here for some time, there's something that we must do to them to make them completely lifeless. And right now, its getting late, 11.10 pm, and today we had a power cut as well.

And I need to prepare for my lecture tomorrow. I plan to slowly update my blog with all the various teaching that I do in my life at different places. Teaching is, in fact, my weakness. I can't help it. I love it the same way as some women love to make food. Its like a hobby and I get paid for doing so. Isn't it nice in life? That's why I rarely feel tired. Even if sometimes, I do feel physically tired, it is momentary and then the spirit is quite indefatigable.

In many ways, I have often thought of Santiago, the character in Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Old Man and the Sea as a model to follow in life. Its a slightly macho model to follow--something my die-hard feminists, and rather misplaced ones, would find objectionable. But otherwise, if you look at the message in this novel, about the greatness of human endurance, I am sure there's a lot to learn here.

There are a number of literary characters and situations which are really motivational. In another innovative solution, I plan to talk about it as well.

Website About Rap Ringtones

I found out about this website that seeks to offer rap music ringtones. When I saw the website, I was immediately transported to few of our rap musicians who had 'changed' the landscape of Hindi film songs. The website Rap Music Ringtones states that no credit card is needed and that one can listen to the ringtones for free, which is always interesting and welcome. The website looks good and I enjoyed listening to few ringtones, including the David Banner one. They also have a ringtone from Eminem. Really exciting website! If one feels bored, why not just go there and listen to some rap ringtones?

What is your favorite Hindi song?

If I asked you about your favorite Hindi song, what would you reply? That could be a very tough question because there are so many songs--thousands of them and you might like so many at the same time. I liked 'O Saathi re' when I was a child and I also liked 'Mere sapno ki raani kab aayegi tu' but I think the song that takes the cake is 'Yeh Jeevan Hai, Is Jeevan Ka Yahi Hai Yahi Hai Rang Roop' [This is Life, This Is How It Is, How It Is, Our Life]. This song was sung by the great Kishore Kumar and is from the Hindi movie, Piya ka Ghar (1972)--a pretty old movie but the lyrics are forever young. You can easily get the lyrics by doing an online search for the song.

Yeh Jeevan Hai, Is Jeevan Ka
Yahi Hai - Yahi Hai - Yahi Hai Rungroop
Thode Ghum Hain, Thodi Khushiyan
[There are some pains, some joys]
Yahi Hai - Yahi Hai - Yahi Hai Chaon Dhoop
[This is it, this is it--the peace and hassle]


Simply wonderful. For those of you, who know Hindi, you must read it and listen to it and those
who don't know Hindi, you can always find a translation. Or you can always find a translator
like me to help you out. :) Translation is really a fun activity.

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