The world of no good

wanna have a fun life, travel, and see different cultures.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Update on entrance exams in Tamil Nade

The Madras high-court has rejected the state govt.'s plan to scrap the CET. One of the suggestions made was the immediate announcement of any plans (of the govt.) for next year. In short, if the govt. plans to scrap the CET next year, then they should warn all concerned ASAP. The suggestion is in the right direction, but I feel there should be more time given to students, and even a year is too little time for a change of this magnitude. The govt. should chalk out an exact plan and aim to implement it over the next 5-10 years. And immediate attention should be directed at unifying the different 'boards'. These different 'boards', more than any other factor, are hindering the simplification of our educational system, and it is high-time we got rid of them (obviously, all except one;)).

I am sure there are many hurdles to what i suggest, and it seems far easier on paper than in reality. However, (although a truism) necessities cannot be avoided.

Stand-up New York

Was in New York a week back. Had a blast. And my pocket's got a gaping hole, too. Manhattan is a million times more expensive than Dela-hella-no-ware - or more commonly known as Delaware - that tiny stub of a state between Maryland and Jersey (joysey for the italian New-Yorkers)

A must-do in NYC is an evening at one of the stand-up comedy clubs. Went to a place called 'Stand-up New York' - pretty far uptown (past Columbia). There were about 8 guys who did their routines there. And I swear, except for one lady, they were hilarious.

Sadly, can't remember the jokes. But, i guess their art lay in their delivery and not all was in the content.

I wish I lived in NYC. The friend who took me to the club is a regular there. Oh, how I envy him!

My next trip to NYC will have to include checking out the jazz-bars. Another long-dreamt dream(?!). Actually, I am sure Philly has a good selection of jazz-bars too, and it is closer to home (dela-hella...). Have to get there!

Pet Food S(h/c)am

I just realised something last night about pet food (and more generally, pet products). They usually (almost always) have the warning 'Not fit for human consumption'. For the last seven and a half years, I took the statement for granted without bothering to think about it.

A moment's thought in that direction prompted the question 'why?'. I mean, after all, in theory, it is just cooked meat. Why should meat cooked for animals not be fit for human consumption? I reasoned, perhaps, it has to do with the fact that they put all kinds of meat in it (intestines, brains...). But, people do eat all that. I mean, there is nothing wrong with eating it. In the end, I couldn't think of a convincing answer. I figured, the warning is because pet food manufacturers are not really quality conscious (just found out that there is no quality standard for pet food - even in the US).

It has to be that pet food is just not good enough. But the obvious trump card manufacturers hold is that pets don't usually rebel and 'voice' their opinions. And any long term effect of chemicals and crap in the food is bound to be ascribed to other (invented) factors.

A little online (re-)searching showed me that pet foods contain processessed offals of a variety of (dead) animals - including cats and dogs!! (note, euthanised animals have Sodium Pentabarbitol - u can imagine the effects of its regular ingestion) Pet-food manufacturing methods have been questioned by veterinarians for years now. In fact, home-cooked food is encouraged for pets. And if that isn't possible, at least, regular tid-bits of left-overs - just to get some balance in their (chemical) diet.

I have a dog (teddy) at home. Have had him for the last 7 1/2 years. And all this while, i have (force-)fed him pet food (pedigree, mostly). Fortunately, he gets to eat a lot of junk food too (chocolates, gulab jamuns, chips...). Just beginning to realise that maybe the junk food ain't so junky after all.

Just a final thought - cheating people is one thing (they can atleast rebel). but cheating animals because they can't fight back is just sad.

Yes, such morality has no end, and I know we indulge in a lot of things on a daily basis which aren't exactly great for the other animals on earth. But, at least we do most of it openly with an acceptance of our shortcomings - or are we just fooling ourselves into believing the unavoidability of our actions?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Review: Insecurities of a Middle Aged Indian Expatriate

Thought I'd review this story (look at the end of this post for links) blogged by a friend fo mine. Let me start with : definitely worth a read.

The story is told in a series of three posts (over 2 1/2 months! - agonising for anyone who followed it, i am sure). The plot itself is something every expatriate can relate to. In fact, it is actually a matter of considerable worry for expatriates living in some parts of the world. The story is set in one such part, the Middle East (no specific country mentioned). It is about an Indian guy, Appan, working as an Engineer in a power station, who is due to have a medical check-up for visa-renewal. The bulk of the story is set within the span of a couple of days. Most of it deals with the mental battles that Appan faces. I will not divulge anymore than this, as it is bound to spoil it for the reader.

One thing I do wish to point out about the story is the continuous improvement the writer makes in his literary style. The first post kicks off matters pretty normally - being very 'to the point' - and seems more of an account than a story. The second post shows the writer experimenting more with the descriptive subtleties that are essential to any good story. The writer looks to develop the backgrounds more thouroughly - in particular, he adds a more human appeal to his characters. And the last post, is by far the best. In fact, it has some real flashes of brilliance. The author really captures the sentiments of normal humans beings. The story develops a very real feel and suddenly the characters appear much more life-like. The following lines, especially, have a lasting effect on the reader:

'He already started making a list of dos and donts....coverup a few years.....'

I think it was really awesome. And, anyone who reads the whole story will notice that the author finishes off in style.

One negative for the story is definitely the grammar/spellings. They are a put-off at times. But, it is clear that the errors are more because of the author's negligence than his inadequacy.

Finally Review: As mentioned before, definitely worth a read.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

Monday, June 06, 2005

Good news or bad news?

The announcement by the TN government (govt) that entrance exams are henceforth abolished is worth speculating over.

The good news as has been highlighted by the govt is that students will have less to study. Entrance exams and school boards have different syllabi. Given that students study the required stuff in high-school, it is in everyone's best interests that any extra 'junk' be swept off. This much, i guess, everyone likes.

Now comes the bad news. TN, like most (dunno if it is all) Indian states is troubled by multiple educational boards - CBSE, ICSE, State Board (SB)... - this was the first thing that came to mind because I myself was a CBSE student and know quite well that there is a huge difference in the grading policies, syllabi and general approach to teaching between CBSE and other boards. Traditionally, in TN, SB students have got higher scores than their CBSE and ICSE counterparts. This is where the trouble lies (I will ignore difference is standard for the moment). This differential grading patterns are enough to worry about. Students in the 'wrong' boards are screwed!

Bad news is in store even for the poor kids who chanced it by waiting out an extra year (in many case, more than a year) to improve their scores. What's to become of them? Are we to let them take an 'entrance' exam specially designed for them, or are we to consider just their high-school grades. The second option is unfair, because the students chose to wait another year crucially based on their being allowed to take another shot at the entrance exam.

There seems to be some sort of a solution for the kids from different boards. People have suggested adding 5 points to CBSE scores. This, in my opinion, is still not fair. Because it assumes that the range and distributions of the boards will be equated by this addition. For the sake of clarity let me take a hypothetical example.

highest score in SB 100
lowest score in SB 30

highest score in CBSE 95
lowest score in CBSE 25

This still doesn't mean that adding 5 points to a CBSE score is then mathematically fair. Because it is entirely possible (and in my opinion highly probably) that the bulk of the SB students score above 80, and the bulk of the CBSE student score above 70 - the difference being around 10 points then. In short, the highest and lowest values do not cater to needs of the ones in the middle of the distribution.

To be really fair, the different boards for the moment should be considered separately and the scores should be mapped to separate normal distribution curves. This is relatively simple (Something that I have done for my own classes). Once, the scores of each board (separately) are mapped to a normal-distribution curve, ranking the students will be fairly easy - it will depend on their position on the curve - then, considering the 'normally distributed scores' will be mathematically fair.

However, the kids who waited to take the exam again don't have any seriously fair options.

The real fault for this mess lies in two main facts. First, a 'change' in educational policy, especially one of this degree of consequence, needs to be announced well in advance, and is not to be implemented overnight. Second, the sequence of changes the govt. appears to have chosen is quite obviously wrong. It should have aimed at neutralising differences between boards/syllabi and then gone on to abolishing the entrance exams.

I always thought it was ridiculous that India had more than one educational board. It makes no sense. This is a problem we as a country need to sort out right away. Different states have different boards, different yardsticks for academic performance and so on. This cannot be the case if we are to harmonise the differences in the country. Yes, I agree with each state wanting to promote its own culture through the educational system. This should show up in the form of extra courses of history, geography and languages and so on. It should not affect the core courses which should be common to everyone across the country. This is especially important for the sciences and mathematics and courses like management, economics, civics and so on, to which local cultures or traditions have very little to add.

The educational system requires serious reworking. The troubles we see in TN today are so obviously the 'kickbacks' of an ill-designed system. I know, it is easy for me to sit hear and talk , but the fact remains that the changes needed are not very difficult to effect. It requires just a little political foresight.

For more info: (general view) (administration view) (SB and CBSE views)