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Archive for June 2008

How much is a billion???

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Thanks to Arthi for this link about the discrepancy in the British and the American meanings of the word “billion”.

We were first told about this by a friend of ours at a get together and needless to say, we pooh-poohed it and put it down to his havign drunk too much wine. It is surprising that such confusion can exist, though I am sure it is not really affecting any of the world’s markets or anything. I just hope that the worlds population is being counted in the American version of the billion ๐Ÿ™‚

A notable point is that both these systems, with the multiples of 10 or 100 or 1000 were invented by the French. In this regard, I find the French to be quite remarkable, as they develop very simple systems that easily avoid confusion. They use the metric system as against the pounds and miles used in UK/USA, they use 24 hour time instead of am/pm and in most of their databases, they have the person’s surname in capitals, so when an outsider comes in and takes a look, he/she knows instantly which is the surname without having to maintain two fields in the database records.

Vive la France!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Written by clueso

June 24, 2008 at 12:09 am

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you must be kidding me!!!!

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I had heard of free range chicken/eggs/milk etc but the first time I came across the concept of free range kids is when I read this blog after watching a news item on the BBC. Lenore Skenazy, the person who started this movement and it’s associated blog supposedly let her 9 year old son use the NYC subway alone to make his way from some point in the city back home. She did it because she had taught her son how to use the subway and he felt like testing his knowledge out alone once. For this, she got branded as “America’s worst mum”.

Most of the people interviewed on the news item spoke of the horrors the world holds for innocent young kids nowadays. One spoke of how any one of the cars parked on the street could hold kidnappers who are just waiting to pounce on kids who are not accompanied all over the place. The result? Parents, very usually in mega huge SUVs, chauffeuring their kids around everywhere. God only knows how much CO2 emissions are involved in this.

I may not be the best person to understand a parent’s concern (I don’t have kids) but almost all adults alive today probably grew up with a lot of freedom, safe from abductors and sexual predators, so its a method that works and in my opinion should not be scrapped so easily. All the best to the free range kids movement!!

Written by clueso

June 14, 2008 at 11:41 pm

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Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin wedding

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One of today’s hottest bit of news is that the Man. Utd footballer Wayne Rooney got married to girlfriend Coleen McLoughlin. What was interesting about it was that a magazine named OK paid 5 million Pounds for rights to the official marriage photos and hence the couple was obliged to ensure that they minimised the opportunity they gave rival photographers. I was surprised at the figure when I learnt that the bid for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s twins photographs is around the $15 million dollar mark.

I find it hard to find words to describe how incredible and disgusting I find such news. Are people really so wrapped up in celebrity news that a magazine can afford to pay 5 million pounds for photos of a footballer’s wedding? or $15 million dollars for photos of unborn children???? and then there was the guy who said that Paris Hilton is great because “she makes news that makes our lives interesting”. Surely a person’s life shouldn’t need to be made interesting by Paris Hilton news of all things…

I came across the term stereotypical behaviour when my wife was doing a degree on animal behaviour. To understand this concept, imagine an tiger in a zoo. Now, in the wild, the tiger will spend most of its time walking around, marking territory, stalking and hunting prey, probably fighting other tigers etc etc. But when it is kept in a zoo with a regular and sustained food supply, the animal suddenly has all the time in the world and nothing to do with it. As a response to this, the tiger starts pacing in it’s cage or exhibiting other behaviour that is not normally observed in tigers.

Sometimes I wonder if this celebrity obsession is a stereotypical behaviour in humans. After all, thanks to technology, we are now more productive and therefore have more time on our hands. So maybe this somewhat unhealthy obsession with what people are doing and who they are sleeping with is an effect of that…in case someone has any more knowledge about this, I am interested in getting to know ๐Ÿ™‚

But now, I will carry on with life wondering how this obsession can exist and how the $20 million + could have been used for better purposes than printing some photographs in a magazine…

Written by clueso

June 13, 2008 at 12:10 am

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French Open again…

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Another French open final, another Federer-Nadal clash and the same result as when I wrote my old post “Federer bites the dust”.

But this final would scare the bejesus out of any Federer supporter. For that one day, the match was so one sided, the victory so complete, that one could have been forgiven if they thought that there could be no rivalry between the two players. To say that Nadal was amazing is an understatement, that he could do nothing wrong is slightly better, but to truly express my opinion, I will have to resort to language that would probably not be suitable here.

True, Federer was not his normal self and was making errors which you would not generally associate with him, but it was difficult to see how much further he would have gone even if he was playing his usual game. Its like fighting an elephant, you stand a better chance with a spear than a needle, but the spear still does not give you a great chance. I am sure that beating Nadal on clay is going to be one heck of a nightmare for Federer.

With the focus now shifting to Wimbledon in about a month’s time, it will be interesting to know if Nadal captures that crown as well this year…

Written by clueso

June 9, 2008 at 12:12 pm

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Profit….but not just profit.

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One of the first things I did when I landed in Southampton to begin my course at the university was to take a bus ride into town to equip my new dwelling with some of the basic necessities of life. The buses which served the university were modern, clean, comfortable and in my opinion, quite good value for money. In comparison, some of the other buses I saw seemed to be older, slightly grubby and slightly more expensive. It kind of got me thinking as how that happened, when common wisdom dictated that the more expensive service should be the better quality.

A few days later, I learnt that the bus company I travelled on was formed by an alliance between the university and the city council and was what is termed a “not just for profit”(NJfP) firm. I am no expert on business, but I find this kind of business truly interesting and in some cases, even revolutionary.

The rationale behind this company was to first provide a good service to it’s customers and secondly to do so in a way that allows it to be self sustaining and not to have to rely on handouts. So if the company makes a profit of a million pounds, instead of distributing a chunk of it to share holders, they use it to buy a new bus and extend the service, or maybe to keep their fares at the same level instead despite inflation. While a profit driven enterprise will try to seek out every loophole to get that extra Rupee/Dollar/Pound by keeping wages to the bare minimum and cutting every corner, NJfP companies can reinvest in themselves aggressively to become better and the “side-effect” of being better is that maybe they will become more profitable. Other side effects of these businesses could be creating a more efficient market by keeping prices down and better deals for employees as their salaries are not forever the target for those seeking to push the profit graph skywards.

Of late, I have come to agree with Michael Douglas’ statement in the movie “Wall Street”, where he asserts that “greed is good”. I also believe that the object of the greed need not be money and a business enterprise could be run with a different set of priorities, which may mean that the firm is still profitable and there is more good going around for the owners/employees/consumers. As I said, I am no expert, but somehow my layman self still seems confident of this concept.

Written by clueso

June 9, 2008 at 12:03 am

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Yasin

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Below is a writeup by my father in a Rotary club magazine about a patient he treated. It is quite well written so I will shut up and allow you to read it yourselves.

Yasinโ€™s story โ€“ facing the world without a face

It is about 5 years since Yasin fluttered into our lives like a butterfly and made a lasting impression on all of us.

He was the elder of two brothers, living with their parents, in poverty. One morning after returning to his hut from his bath at the community tap ,Yasin headed for the bottle of coconut hair oil and poured some on his head. Terrifyingly his father had brought in some battery acid and kept it in the same corner and the little boy mistook the bottles. He suffered horrific burns of his face and scalp as the acid dipped down. Medical attention was not of the best, in keeping with their poverty. He did heal after a while , but was left with a horribly disfigured face.

Most crucially he had burns to both upper eyelids which had now scarred and left him unable to blink or close his eyes. To know how awful this โ€“ please try this experiment. Hold one upper eyelid fully open with your finger and walk, read or simply lie down under a fan. Try to do this for 5 minutes by the clock โ€“ I am sure you cannot bear the discomfort. Now imagine both eyes fixed open 24 hours a day , in or outdoors with no relief after 5 minutes. Steadily in this situation, the eye dries out , the cornea (clear central portion) goes opaque white and blindness follows .

Tragedy still haunted the two brothers who soon afterwards lost both parents and over time found themselves inmates of a Government run orphanage. For his eyes, he would be referred to the suitable hospitals, but lacking Plastic surgical facilities, he was only prescribed eyedrops and sent back. The inevitable drying up process had been initiated and he was getting early clouding in his left eye.

This is where fate intervened, It was Christmas time and a group of carol singers visited his orphanage to spread Yuletide cheer. They spotted his pitiable condition and sent a cry of help to the Rotary Club of Panaji MidTown, knowing the humanitarian work done by them. Dr Deep Bhandare from the club got me to see the boy.

Realising the urgency of the situation we decided that he needed admission to my hospital in Ponda and surgery as soon as possible. The bureaucratic obstacles to getting a child to a private hospital from a state orphanage were significant but were surmounted by the actively involved Rotarians.

And so this little sad looking but smiling waif came into our lives. His left eye was operated first as it was critical. Normally I would have sent him back and operated his other eye after a fortnight or so, but having learnt to be afraid of bureaucracy involved in readmission, pretended that he needed a longer hospital stay and operated on his other eye as well. He stayed with us for over 3 weeks and grabbed our hearts in the process.

He was polite, neat, well mannered, impishly cheerful and always wanted to help in little ways. My staff members vied with each other in feeding him and he came home with us for a meal. We decided to decline the financial payments offered by the Rotary Club of Panaji MidTown and have since then treated him free for the last five years.

Once blindness was averted ,the crisis was over but he needed a lot of surgical work to make his face โ€˜humanโ€™.Plastic surgery needs often repeated and sometimes staged procedures nad this arduous journey was embarked upon.

Yasin would come to the hospital in school holidays, always with enthusiasm and eagerness. He would leave with a smile on his face and never wince even once when removing stitches.

He has undergone over half a dozen surgeries to improve various parts of his face โ€“ better definition of upper and lower lips, to correct out turning of lower lip, to improve forehead, add definition to his nose and improve scars where possible.The extensive bald scalp had to be reduced to attempt a more natural hairline โ€“ he still needs more surgery. It must be remembered that scarring is permanent and cannot be erased, and that further surgery always adds new scars .

The Rotarians of the club have been enthusiastic in ferrying him to and fro , and organizing the necessary permits for absence. Aided by other socially minded persons notably Mrs Chico ,they have provided a nurturing hand to him and helped out tremendously with his education, particularly in convincing hardened school authorities in granting admission to someone, they feel, will scare other students.

Today Yasin is becoming a confident young lad doing well in studies and games. Speaking English and aspiring to a technical course and a productive employment , helped by his Rotarian mentors,

We recognize the generous help from the Rotarians of Panaji Midtown in Yasinโ€™s transformation.

Both I and my wife Smita are however most grateful to Yasin for having come into our lives and touched us with his optimism. determination , and his quiet cheerfulness in facing this world when he had no face to speak of! We find ourselves enriched by getting to know him and spend time watching him grow as a human being.

Dr R P Usgaocar

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Doctors spend about twice the average amount of time in education before they can start working, they lead busy professional lives, staying away from family and sacrificing their hobbies just because a patient turned up at the wrong time of the day. After all this, they very often face ingratitude from their patients and of late are even in the danger of facing legal action if things go wrong, through no fault of theirs. But just when we are about to ask the question “why would anyone want to be a doctor?” there will be a case like this and it will all be worth it.

Written by clueso

June 4, 2008 at 11:38 pm

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