Apr 29, 2008

its the French

"Everyone is a prisoner of his own experience. No one can eliminate prejudices--just recognize them."
Edward R. Murrow

read this in todays post thought I'd share it on my blog, I would leave it up to the online community to draw there own inferences.

...About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the french prison system are Muslim, according to Muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though Muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country's population.

...In Britain, 11 percent of prisoners are Muslim in contrast to about 3 percent of all inhabitants, according to the Justice Ministry. Research by the Open Society Institute, an advocacy organization, shows that in the Netherlands 20 percent of adult prisoners and 26 percent of all juvenile offenders are Muslim; the country is about 5.5 percent Muslim. In Belgium, Muslims from Morocco and Turkey make up at least 16 percent of the prison population, compared with 2 percent of the general populace, the research found.

read the rest hear:

Apr 24, 2008

near zero-energy houses in the east coast

there is a new community being built in the east coast that do not require much energy, the pilot project is in paterson, NJ check out the details on BASF website.

The BASF Near-Zero Energy Home-Paterson, N.J., will serve as a proposed template for the City of Paterson's ongoing project to build 3,000 affordable housing units. Paterson is one of New Jersey's largest and most economically challenged cities. Local home construction builders and unskilled labor forces will be encouraged to participate in the project to learn about and implement new energy saving construction techniques into other projects within the region.

Sudoku, the new favorite pass time

Sudoku, which means 'Single Number', seems to be the 'it' mind game these days. Though there's nothing better than doing a crossword puzzle on a nice Sunday afternoon, solving a sudoku puzzle can be just as fun. I have been a huge fan of crossword puzzles and mind games since i was a kid and this craze of sudoku has given me a new challenge to take on. I think a crossword puzzle is a test of one's general knowledge where as sudoku challenges one to use logical thinking and reasoning.

Sudoku was invented in 1979 by an American architect Howard Garns, it became popular in Japan in 1986 and became an international hit in 2004-2005. Howard died of cancer in 1989, and though he lived to see the games success in Japan, he missed its recent Worldwide fame.

Since 2004/2005 sudoku has taken to crowds all over the world. In fact, you'll find that most workplaces now hold weekly or monthly sudoku contests among co-workers. I think mind games like sudoku, tangrams, crossword puzzles, Rubik's cube, etc are all great in developing one's logical, analytical, and intellectual skills. Although such games are usually a hit amongst adults, I think promoting them in the classroom would sharpen a child's skills without using rudimentary ways of teaching.

Like the crossword puzzle, you'll be sure to find sudoku puzzles in almost every electronic or printed newspaper. Here are a couple of resources I use to get my daily dosage of sudoku:

Sudoku - Los Angeles Times

Sudoku - New York Times

Apr 23, 2008

If you care for Earth (part 5/5)

if you are building a new house, see if you can make provisions for:

1- Solar Electric Home Power System
2- Ceiling Fan Outlets
3- Fluorescent Light Bulbs
4- Increased Insulation Energy Efficient Windows
5- Water Conserving Landscape
6- Tankless Water Heater
7- Environmentally Friendly Flooring
8- Satellite linked Irrigation Controller
9- Construction Materials Recycling
10- Fiberglass Doors
11- Fiber Cement Siding
12- Gray water system
13- Water Conserving Fixtures
14- High-Efficiency Furnace and Programmable Thermostat
15- Radiant Roof Barrier Sheathing
16- Structured Plumbing
17- Tightly Sealed Ducts
18- Water Conserving Laundry Equipment
19- Environmentally Friendly Paint
20- Eco-Cabinets
21- Foam Wrapped Building Envelope
22- Recycled Content Decking
all this will help you

1- improve energy efficiency
2- conserve water
3- improve indoor air quality

If you care for Earth (part 4/5)

when it comes to choosing your diet, look for low-carbon (not just low-carb) diet which means
1- don't condone groceries that have traveled a long distance to end up on your plate
2- choose chicken over beef or lamb
3- cheese is also a high carbon food (same industrialized system, which is fertilizer-intensive)
4- avoid sea food as much as possible ( it requires a lot more energy to keep it fresh and it usually needs to be flown, 80% of seafood in the US market is imported
5- eat locally grown seasonal food
6- avoid bottled water, if necessary then go for locally bottled water
7- order only the food that you will eat (left overs are not good for the planet, as all that energy spent in producing them went to waste plus the food will rot in land fills and create methane
8- do not use paper/plastic plates and cups, use long lasting, durable china and silver ware (use environment friendly dish washing liquid if possible)

Apr 22, 2008

If you care for Earth (part 3/5)

1- use bicycle
2- use public transport as much as possible whenever given a choice, choose a train, bus (in that order)
3- use an electric hybrid
4- use electric scooters and cars
5- plan your trip before hitting the road so you get more done in single trip
6- ride sharing

If you care for Earth (part 2/5)

Waste management
1- recycle
2- reduce the amount of trash you need to throw out,
3- dont buy stuff that is packed in smaller chunks ( it produces much more waste)
4- ask your home owners association to reduce the garbage collection to once a week instead of twice

If you care for Earth (part 1/5)

if you care about the World you live in and find yourself asking what more can you do to help our planet here are a few tips on how to reduce energy consumption around the house:

1- change all your light bulbs to LEDs or compact florescent
2- buy energy star compliant electronics
3- try never to leave your electronics on stand-by
4- never leave phone charger/adapters plugged in to walls (if you aren't using them)
5- hyper insulate your homes
6- get a higher R rated window pane for your windows
7- use tankless water heaters
8- use detergent that doesn't require a longer wash cycle or hot water
9- use smart washer/dryer
10- avoid central air-conditioning/heating otherwise get multi zone systems, and keep your thermostat at 68 degrees in winters and 74 degrees in summer, use fans
11- do not use microwave
12- get your house equipped with solar or wind power
13- turn off lights when ever leaving a section of your house
13- buy environment friendly detergent, buy hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine bleach

Apr 19, 2008

google web application platform

google recently unvailed its web platform (similar in idea to amazon S3/EC3) you can serve your server side web applications on google scalable infrastructure with free access to google account authentication and google file system, so far only python is supported.

these guys have literally made IT infrastructure business in to a utility business.

Alan Greenspan on fiscal conservatism?

Im just very disappointed, he said glumly, as he sat in his living room. Smaller government, lower spending, lower taxes, less regulation, they had the resources to do it, they had the knowledge to do it, they had the political majorities to do it. And they didnt.

Alan Greenspan expressing his opinion on the Bush administration fiscal policies. I had bookmarked ths interview last year when it first came out, just didnt get a chance to share it, so here it is, still as amusing as it was the first time I saw it.

Read the full interview on newyork times here

Apr 17, 2008

Grading the States 2008

'Pew's Center on the States' identifies and advances state policy solutions. My bringing up the trust is in regards to its recent publication "Grading the States 2008" report, this is an annual report that tracks the performance of the various state government functions which in turn reflects on the performance of the State Government employees ( known as 'civil servants' in the common wealth countries) in this years report Virginia scored an A, which is indeed well deserved.

Virginians have always provided leadership when it comes to public services in fact the schools here are ranked consistently at the top amongst there peers in various independent publications, last year Education Week published a survey indicating that a child born in Virginia has a better chance for life success than children born in any other state in the nation.

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie mellon professor whose last lecture has been the most downloaded internet artifact in recent history mentions that one of the last things he has done is to buy a house for his family in the Cheasepeak Norfolk Virginia region as he belives its the best place to raise kids.

And, for the second year in a row, Virginia was named the best state for business by Forbes.com (thanks to the business friendly environment created by the local leadership).

For those interested, I will re-publish the Executive summary from Pews report, you can read the full report here.

Smart long-term planning is one reason Virginia has long been one of the best managed states in the country.
Performance measures guide budgeting and management decisions. Sound strategies provide the state with high-quality employees and information technology (IT) without great expense.

Virginia uses state and agency strategic plans to achieve social goals by linking program and managerial performance measures. These measures are tracked online so that the public can easily see the results. Strategic IT planning also is tied closely with performance and delivers savings to the state through innovative agency investments.

Virginia takes a sound, long-term approach to money management but has scrambled to balance revenues and expenditures in today’s uncertain economic climate. The procurement system links to the federal system to take advantage of discounts available to the state and local governments.

Virginia is a leader in human resources management. Human capital planning and good data help agency decision makers plan for the future. Virginia’s knowledge management system allows officials to offer training to new workers to give them the skills and information that have helped the current workforce succeed.

Virginia has a multiyear capital planning process. It does not have criteria to help set priorities in the selection of buildings projects, but it has a good system for public input in plan development. Virginia recently developed a capital asset management system, though it does not conduct regular comprehensive condition assessments of its buildings.

Apr 14, 2008

Salman Ahmad's Junoon

So we went to a Salman Ahmad/Junoon concert on April 6th at the tidal basin in Washington D.C. The event was sponsored by the Pakistani Embassy and the concert was part of the annual Cherry Blossom festival here in D.C. The venue couldn't have been any better than the steps of the Thomas Jefferson memorial, in front of the tidal basin. Unfortunately, it was a very cloudy and dark day which didn't set the right ambiance for the lively music of Junoon.

The original members of the group have split up and the band now comprises of Salman Ahmad and Pandit Samir Chatterjee. I remember my first Junoon concert,when the original group was together, it was the best live concert I've ever been to. Just as Bryan, Salman, and Ali walked onto the stage, the audience was screaming and jumping up and down. In fact, I remember a stampede of die-hard fans running down the aisles toward the stage just to get a closer look at the singers. This weekend's concert was a bit of a disappointment in comparison to Junoon concerts in the past.

Although Salman Ahmad is a great guitarist, his voice doesn't have the same Junoon that Ali Azmat had. I guess the fact that they were playing in an open air venue with out all the right equipment didn't help. In fact, just this last month we saw Salman perform at a National Geographic event and that was a great concert. It was at this concert that I met Salman's wife, Samina Ahmad, who seems like a very friendly person and is interested in meeting all of Salman's fans. I also had a chance to chat with his father, who is indeed very proud of his son's accomplishments. It was nice to see how his family supports him and shares his passion for music.

Salman currently lives in New York with his family and performs/lectures on Sufi music.

Apr 8, 2008

Interesting weekend (part 2/2)

ok so you cut him some slack thinking he is a car enthusiast (I talk about Toyota prius a lot, but then I do that with a sense of civic duty) the only thing this guy was interested in was himself! and I thought teens ends at nineteen but 'Mr. Super 40s' was kicking and screaming '18 till I die'.

Now comes the next morning, all of us went to listen to Adil Najam speak on Sustainable development and climate change (which is a subject dear to me and I will blog in detail on this) this guy decides to skip this event (he is too busy sustaining himself) has no interest in it and decides to meet us for lunch after the event.

The rest of us decide to go for halwa puri at a Pakistani restaurant, now all of us are at this restaurant and 'Mr. Valley Girl' decides that he cannot eat halwa puri now if you don't like halwa puri thats fine I can respect your taste in food, but to make it sound as if its beneath you because 'ALL PAKISTANIS like it ' is frankly intolerable, he has a knack of saying all the wrong words at the right time, I bet he keeps his mouth shut during board meeting and does most communication in writing just to avoid having the taste of foot in his mouth too often.

Apr 7, 2008

Interesting weekend (part 1/2)

living in Washington DC is like having front seats to a live comedy show where you see all kinds of characters zipping in and out, trying to stand out in one way or the other, especially now that the overall US economy is taking a hit people from all over the country can be seen flaunting there credentials in the town that holds the keys to 20% of the US economy.

This week was interesting for many reasons, on Saturday we met a Pakistani technology executive now working in California, people who know CresSoft may know him too, CresSoft, in the good old days use to be one of the more prominent software development shops in Pakistan, but then due to there inability to pull through a few key projects and a string of some very bad management decisions lost its prominence.

Nevertheless, meeting this guy was quite the disappointment. One would expect to have an intellectual discussion about technology or hear anecdotes of a experienced past from someone like him. Yet, this guy made every attempt to sell himself through his posessions. I think conversation starters shouldn't include going down one's list of assets but instead a hearty discussion on world politics, civic issues, current events, etc. I think this type of an approach exhibits qualities of someone with an inflated ego coupled with a severe inferiority complex seemingly rooted in their ancestry. A decent chap would usually come and introduce himself by telling you a little about himself and then perhaps soliciting introductions from others, but 'Mr. Desi Inferiority Complex' had his own agenda, the conversation went from cars, to health care to taxes and the guy never disappointed once, he goes from establishing BMW ownership to how he is in a high income tax bracket to basically how he is so much better then everyone else.

Anyways, by the time the evening ended, even a dog in the room would have puked, for crying out loud he was in the city to see colleges with his teenage son (who sounded so even keeled), but 'Mr. Shallow' was so busy talking about himself we didn't hear much about anything else.

you would think the torture would end there but nope it gets even more interesting read on :) ...

Apr 2, 2008

Food and Energy Crisis

Recently had a few email exchanges with a couple of friends on food/energy crisis (and possible solutions) thought it might interest some of the blog community so here are the emails:

food crisis is directly related to energy crisis:

1-In today's world farming is energy intensive, farmers use huge trackers/tillers to work the land, all of it requires lots of energy

2-since in a capitalist economy production is driven by demand therefore farmers are responding to the energy demand by moving from food crops to energy crops

3-even if that trend is reversed, farmers would not be able to work there fields as there would be no energy available to do so

One existing solution to both the problems is in Cuba's collective farming (small farms with in communities where every one pitches in) though most of us capitalist would denounce it vehemently as it would mean a fundamental shift in how we use growth as the main measure of corporate success, part of the shift would also require us reducing consumption by a great degree

Another solution (which I don't think is yet proven in the field on a large scale) would be micro power (wind mills, solar panels) as suggested by Amory Lovins, where the grid would serve to carry energy from houses to other houses and industrial complexes/agricultural farms (though given the astronomical power requirements of these complexes, I wonder if it will ever be feasible.

I think the only other option left is to use BTUs from human embryos (matrix :)), think about it, since the whole human life will be simulated in a capsule no need for energy hogging SUVs, or mass farming, heck you don't even need food diversity as all you would need is glucose to keep the brain alive ;)

Ethanol is a scam! Unless it comes from fields that do not require tilling (CO2 emissions from farm equipment), enormous fertilizer inputs (mostly manufactured from natural gas Haber process) and water inputs etc...

It's CO2 neutral as long as the plants absorb the same amount of CO2 emitted by the manufacturing and final use of the ethanol. But it's a total scam if the entire process requires massive fossil fuel, water inputs and gov farmer subsidies (US style industrial agriculture). And don't even start me with top-soil erosion issues.

US: Let's use massive amounts of the cleanest burning fossil fuel (natural gas) to make fertilizer, subsidize farmers since they cannot break even because they have to buy expensive GMO seeds and accompanying expensive toxic pesticides from criminal companies like Monsanto, and destroy our fertile top-soil in the process. Now we can drive inefficient SUVs on ethanol that costs us more than just burning the natural gas we started with!

Brazil: Let's cultivate/harvest (no till, little inputs) endless seas of sugarcane which is much more efficient than maize/corn, and instead of burning the plants every year lets make ethanol to offset ~ 40% of our gasoline usage in our relatively few lightweight cars.

Still, after all that, Brazil has to import oil although it's a major oil producer!!!

Biofuels: Green energy or grim reaper?
Biofuels 'crime against humanity'
The Ethanol Scam: One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles
Ethanol fuel in Brazil

The Ethanol Scam: One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles

Insightful to know who else is drinking the kool-aid:

As former CIA director James Woolsey, an outspoken ethanol evangelist, puts it, "American farmers, by making the commitment to grow more corn for ethanol, are at the top of the spear on the war against terrorism."
If you love America, how can you not love ethanol?

Anyway, today's WSJ reports Soybean is becoming a more lucrative crop so US farmers will plant more of that and 20% less corn. Also, prices of milk, eggs and other staples have jumped 20-30% over the past year.

people like James Woolsey have genuine interest in making US energy independent (some of there drive may be based on patriotism rather then science but that's ok) a lot of the people when talking about ethanol think about ethanol production from algae or other future crops where the return might be 1:30 or something crazy like that, in any case if a real solution doesn't arrive soon, we may actually become the first generation shopping for matrix style pods, imagine being the bunny in the Energizer commercial :)

Apr 1, 2008

Opera meets Rock

What do you get when you mix classic Opera with rock music? This fusion is best described by the music of the East Village Opera Company. This group performed at the George Washington Lisner Auditorium this past Saturday, performing all time Opera hits with a touch of rock. Opera is normally an acquired taste which may be difficult for some to digest, but this five-piece band has taken some of the most complex works of Puccini and Mozart and given them an upbeat funk. This transformation of classical works to new age rock makes the music more approachable for the average listener. The East Village Opera Company has taken great musical hits like “La donna รจ mobile” from Rigoletto, “Habanera” from Carmen, and “Nessun dorma” from Turandot and given them a new color. Although the band tries to maintain the originality of these master pieces by performing in the native language, the meaning is literally lost for a greater part of their English-speaking audience. Including on-stage sub-titles or captions would perhaps help them in overcoming this language barrier. All in all, the East Village Opera Company is a good place to start for someone new to the world of Opera. Who knows, this group may turn one into a Mozart junkie.