Bungee rope

And now they passed the $700B bailout. Only two days after they rejected it.

In a country where I am yet to figure out what is the best way to drink from a water fountain. But then that is only me. :-)

Economic Plunge

DOW plunged 778 points today, the worst drop ever, after the $700 billion bailout was rejected by the United States House of Representatives.

Wow. I am not sure what the repercussions of this depression is going to be like.

DOW had dropped 685 points on September 17th 2001, the first trading day after 9-11.

Developing story

Senator Obama’s iPod

There are some articles I read here and there, which I have no connection to whatsoever. But I still get a feel-good rush in my body. For no reason.

CNN.com had this article – What’s on Barack Obama’s iPod? – a few days back, and it listed most artists he listens to. Get ready for this, because Senator Obama has a genuinely eclectic taste.
Bob Dylan.
Bruce Springsteen.
Rolling Stones.
Elton John.
Earth, Wind & Fire.
Stevie Wonder.
Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker from the jazz front.
“Actually, one of my favorites during the political season is ‘Maggie’s Farm,’ ” Obama said of one of Dylan’s tracks. “It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric.” In the song, Dylan sings about trying be himself, “but everybody wants you to be just like them.”
[snip]
Several musicians on Obama’s iPod support his bid for the White House, including Bruce Springsteen. Earlier this month, Dylan told a British newspaper that he believes Obama is redefining politics in the United States and could deliver change to a nation in upheaval.
“I’ve got to say, having both Dylan and Bruce Springsteen say kind words about you is pretty remarkable,” Obama said. “Those guys are icons.”
Obama said he hasn’t met Springsteen, but the two have talked over the phone.
“Not only do I love Bruce’s music, but I just love him as a person,” Obama said. “He is a guy who has never lost track of his roots, who knows who he is, who has never put on a front.”
And did he address him as the Boss?
“You’ve got to,” the candidate said.

Turns out Senator Obama does not think highly of the rap of today’s generation. Though he correctly says that this music has removed segregation in the music culture, he quoted that there was way too much materialism and misogyny in the lyrics. He is concerned about that fact that his daughters listen to it. While he says that hip hop and rap moguls Russell Simmons, Jay-Z and Ludacris are “great talents and great businessmen”, he feels that it would be nice if he could have his daughters listen to this music without him worrything that they are getting bad images of themselves.

Senator Obama at Penn State, 2008

Why I had that feel-good rush when I read all this? Probably because I listen to a lot of stuff he listens to too. And I really admire him and agree with his taste.

And that will be $220,000,000,000

So, as of 16th May, the Zimbabwe annual inflation rate hit 355,000%.

Wow.
Stop printing money. Seriously. There’s way too much of it in the market. Again, stop printing money. Seriously. There’s way too much of it in the market.
A close second is Burma at 39.5%. No more zeros. Just 39.5%.

The inflation rate was 165000% in February, and it rose to this whopping figure now. To give you an idea as to what this number means – 355,000% annual rate means prices are doubling every week. Something, let’s say – toothpaste – that costs $10 today is going to cost $20 next week, and $160 by the end of the month. And $4500 billion next year.
Ouch.
Even if my math is wrong, $4500 billion for toothpaste is slightly over the edge, by most standards.
But then, as you might think, nothing costs ZW$10 in Zimbabwe. The country needs major rebooting with a current unemployment fraction of 85%. Understandably, a HUGE section lies below the poverty line.
A brief history: A few disastrous decisions were made in the past few years. Currently, Zimbabwean people have $100 million, $250 million and $500 million currency notes. By May 20th, the $5 billion, $25 billion and $50 billion notes are hitting the market.
When it started in 1980, the Zimbabwean dollar was valued at USD 1.00 = ZWD 0.68. As of
May 2008, USD 1.00 is valued at ZWD 315,000,000.

Huh.
Going to Zimbabwe? Carry lots of money. Like $50.

HandiCAPable

Blade Runner.

Fastest man on no legs.
Oscar Pistorius.

On May 16th 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Oscar Pistorius, the 21-year-old South African paralympic is eligible to race against able-bodied athletes, overturning a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations in January this year. The initial ban was on the grounds that Pistorius has an unfair advantage because prosthetic legs avoid any lactic acid buildup during the race, thereby making him less tired than other able bodied runners. However, Pistorius has been fighting against this, at the cost of his training just so he can compete at the same level as other able bodied racers.
Earlier in 2007, The British Telegraph ran this article “Pistorius is no novelty sprinter” highlighting the difficulties he is facing with trying to compete with artificial limbs. He has been doggedly pursuing for permission to race in the 400 m in the Beijing Olympics, where his timing for one lap is a really impressive 46.34 seconds against the world record (Michael Johnson’s 8-year old world record of 43.18 seconds). Awesome what the fiber blades can achieve. Also in this race is

Pistorius has been the subject of criticism because of claims that his artificial limbs, which are J-shaped carbon-fibre prosthetics called the “Cheetah Flex-Foot” manufactured by Icelandic company Ă–ssur, give him an advantage over able-bodied runners. It has been claimed that the “blades” he uses are longer than is necessary, allowing him to cover more ground in each stride. Furthermore, it is said that the Cheetahs return more energy per stride without ever becoming fatigued or requiring the same “investment of energy” and that they are not subject to metabolite or lactic acid build-up that slows down ordinary athletes. Pistorius and his coach, Ampie Louw, reject these allegations, saying that his prosthetics do not give him an unfair advantage. They have brought up disadvantages that Pistorius faces, such as rain (which leaves traction hard to attain), wind (which blows the devices sideways), and the fact that he needs more energy to start running than others. Additionally, Professor Robert Gailey of the University of Miami claimed that they return only about 80% of the energy absorbed in each stride, while a natural leg returns up to 240%, providing much more spring. Pistorius has said: “If they [the IAAF] ever found evidence that I was gaining an advantage, then I would stop running because I would not want to compete at a top level if I knew I had an unfair advantage.”
Personally I have no idea whether he has an added advantage or not. But I do think that he should be allowed to race, and no further restrictions should be imposed upon him. A big step for the physically challenged.

Mr. President and the first… girlfriend?

President Sarkozy’s visit has put India in a fix. And why won’t it? Girlfriend Carla Bruni “is not considered wife or spouse”. The Indian government is at a loss for words when it’s coming to choosing the right protocol for Ms. Bruni.
Sarkozy and Bruni did not leave behind a stormless wake in Egypt. An opposition member of the Cairo parliament even accused the French president of being party to “official prostitution” in the Islamic country. Reactions in India are unlikely to be as harsh as the Egyptian politician’s comment, but there are doubtful looks all around.

The Indian foreign office is likely to leave it to the French governmnent, through its mission here, to suggest if Ms. Bruni should be granted First Lady status.

If Bruni is given First Lady status, the Indian government will have to assign the couple to a single room and fix a separate program of engagements for her – shopping in Janpath, meeting women/spouses of important people, ensuring she is seated next to Sarkozy at banquets etc.

But if she is not to have official engagements, she will have time to spare because Sarkozy will be involved with the intricacies of the Eurocopter and nuclear deals in bilateral relations.

However, it is most likely that Ms. Bruni will be given privileges of a delegate accompanying the president.

Sources:
The Telegraph, 6 Jan 2008
IBN Live
http://www.nydailynews.com/img/2007/12/26/amd_sarkozy.jpg

Paying for music: As you like it

Radiohead

I am not much of Radiohead fan. But a certain stint of theirs caught my attention. This British alternative rock band formed way back in 1986, rising to fame with the release of The Bends (1995) and OK Computer (1997). Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001) saw the pinnacle of their popularity in the music industry.

In October 2007, they released In Rainbows. Apart from the music itself, the USP of this album release was the fact that it was available online with a BLANK in the cost field. The artists requested fans to pay what they felt was appropriate. Official figures of sales were not released, but it was reported that 1.2 million copies were downloaded on the very first day, and as it turned out, more people paid for it compared to those who did not. :-)

"Pay what you want", they said. In my opinion this was something wonderful… an intelligent step towards anti-piracy. Music artists should get paid for their talent when we download their songs. Otherwise it’s just plain stealing. However, when it came to evaluating the price of their music, they handed the reins of judgment to their fans. "Pay what you feel like for our efforts." While some paid the standard cost of $0.99 a song, some were more generous.

piracy_2Dkills_2Dmusic_2D

Though by some standards it might seem like foolhardiness, I feel that when the artists pleads in this way to the music lover, a personal note is struck – "Please don’t steal this music… we have worked hard towards it!" It makes a greater number of people NOT download it for free.

Picture courtesy: http://www.byte.org/images/piracy_2Dkills_2Dmusic_2D.gif

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