Enough *** Already

Google never fails to make the headlines. Be it the release of the Google Pack, or setting a court date with the federal government. Last week it was their decision to enter the Chinese market with an official .cn website. This decision has been criticized by everyone and their uncles. Today, I heard perhaps the worst argument for why they should not have done this.

For the uninitiated, China, with its communist ruling party, does not have the same freedom of speech that we enjoy in what can be termed western influenced democracies. They required that if Google was launching an official Chinese version of their search engine, they censor results that the government was opposed to. China is dealing with the flack of such decisions in their own way, thought various human rights watchdog organizations.

I was listening to a newly downloaded podcast today and I was treated to some horrendous commentary. “Google is an American company, hiring American workers, making American dollars. I can not understand their reasoning for doing something so preposterous.” Thankfully, I have deleted this podcast from my players and have unsubscribe to its feed. It is pretty amazing the crap that people are allowed to put out on the net. All of a sudden I’m all for censorship! 😉

To refute: Google is owned by its share holders. One of its founders is Russian by birth. It stock is traded on the NASDAQ. It makes money in all kinds of currencies and they have employees all over the world.

All that is unimportant. The point of contention here is whether Google did the right thing by acceding to the demands of the Communist rule in China. I believe that they have done the right thing. By providing the Chinese with some results in their own language, in their own way, they are providing the basis of what might becomes the a movement for more freedom of speech and expression. Google, I am told, tells the user when their search has been censored. MSN and Yahoo, companies with a longer presence in China, do not do the same.

Yes, I am a Google aficionado. It may seem to readers, that in my eyes, Google can do nothing wrong. Not true. I have criticized some of their actions in the past. In this case, I believe they are doing the right thing. Here is a link to a well written article that I closely mirrors my own feelings.

P.S. The *** in the post title is meant to censorship. Get it? Har! Har!

The Origin of AIDS

“There was no AIDS in America until the exact year the government began experimenting with gay men.” I think a better way to word this is that there was no known case of AIDS in America until the government began to experiment with yada, yada, yada.

To read the full article, go here. The article is slightly scientific, but it is mighty interesting, but maybe somewhat of a conspiracy theory. I don’t know, and I don’t know enough to know. Some digging might yield interesting answers.

But does it really matter where it originated from? Or is it just a matter of curiosity and something that will allow for finger pointing? Or maybe it will allow for the right method for vaccine development.

Safety in West Philly

I’ve lived in West Philadelphia for slightly over 4 years now. Before I arrived here, I heard innumerable stories about the West Philly Ghetto, the increase in crime as one moves westwards, and the general need to be safe. I have consistently moved westwards in Philly, to my current location. I’ve driven through West Philly many times. I’ve never really come face to face with any of the horrendous activities that I read in the news. A friend had their bike stolen. Another was mugged, but got away safe. A third had money stolen outside of an ATM. But the worst yet is this news article.

A graduate student of Drexel was beaten up by 4 high school students from University City high school. It wasn’t a drunken brawl, where a couple of punches were thrown. He was nearly beaten to death. The worst part? I was in the middle of the afternoon, when school was let off early. What is scary is that it happened somewhere around 36th and Spring Garden Street. I used to live a few blocks away on 36th and Powelton. University City High School, the school that the students were from, is on 36th, between Market and Lancaster. I have walked past it many times — mornings, afternoons and nights. I’ve seen students sitting around there looking like they were doing nothing. I’ve walked past students in the middle of the afternoon when the get out of school. A lot of them look like they could beat me down without effort. And I’m talking about the girls.

This morning, I was working an event where students from the very same high school were present, and were being recruited to Drexel when they graduate. It got me thinking, about inner city schools in general. These students looked very, very normal. So why do some kids suddenly get such urges? Peer pressure is an incredibly strong force.

Another statistic that I just heard – from the beginning of January until the 22nd, there were 19 reported murders in Philadelphia. That is almost one a day. Pretty scary, huh? Anyway, rant time over. Just got to be more careful and encourage others to do so as well.

So much for that…

Yesterday I went ga-ga over Google. I gave them props for saying no to phone companies posing as extortionists. I also predicted that Yahoo, and other companies will follow suite. There was other news circulating at the same time that Google said “Hell, no!” to the US DoJ when they were subpoenaed to provide search results relating to pornography. I hoped that Yahoo et al. would follow suite here too and protect the civil liberties of the search-engine using public. But according to this Slashdot article, AOL, MSN and Yahoo! have all complied. To what extent though, is still unknown.

My view is probably biased, and it’s not because I have a particular affinity for pornography (or certainly not one that I will accept!). From a sociology class that I’ve been taking (Sex, Crime and Violence on the Internet), I’ve learnt that all the hoo-haa surrounding the online porn business is largely propaganda and has little credence. But it is just a wait and watch now. I wonder if Google will surrender. They do, after all, get about 46% of all search traffic, and have recently contracted with AOL to provide their search results as well.

Love affair with with Google

As my love affair with Google continues, I bring you two pieces of news that just makes they even more lovable. The first is that Google has proclaimed their IM platform, Google Talk to be an open federation. Quoting straight from the Google Blog, “Open federation is technical jargon for when people on different services can talk to each other.” Email is a federated system. As is the phone service. Can you imagine a world where one is only able to call or e-mail another who subscribes to the same service? I’d have to have a million different e-mail addresses (as opposed to my current 20!) and 10 different phones. Why should IM (and VoIP) be any different? Hooray for Google. As of now, Talk is only compatible with a few smaller players, most of whom proclaimed to be open source anyway. But hopefully the bigger players (Yahoo!, MSN, AIM, and Skype will all follow suite).

The second reason for my extolling the virtues of Google today? This blog entry. Phone companies have been threatening to create a “2-tiered” internet system for a while now. In simple terms, traffic from their own ISP, websites and customers will be given preference on pipes that they own. Unless the big websites (read Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc) pay them a fee. Google has gone ahead and called their bluff. I expect that Yahoo! will soon follow suite.

Now for what may even be termed a rant against Google. Surprised? I recently installed Google Desktop v2. In the 2 days that I’ve had it installed, I didn’t use it all that much. And it seemed to slow down my system a fair bit. I also noticed that my Google searches were taking upwards of half a second now. This is a big change, when I’m used to a response in under one-tenth of a second. By my own admission, I’m a fairly organised person. And this shows on my computer too. I can find almost any file on my PC within a few seconds. However, I can see the use of the software to a person with less technical competencies and a more disorganised lifestyle. If I can find a compelling reason to stay with the Desktop, I may continue with it. Otherwise, it is possible the first piece of Google software that I am disappointed with.

A New Sexuality Overtaking India?

Or maybe the title of this post should read “An Old Sexuality Returning to India?”

I read a few months ago that the popular “wings-and winks” chain was planning to enter the Indian market. A recent web search for articles relating to such news yielded this. The news article on MSNBC was published in August 2004. I’ve not been able to find anything more recent confirming intent on part of the restaurant to bring their food, beer and skimpily clothed girls to the bustling Indian metros.

What does the world’s quintessential men’s magazine do when they find that their publishing sales in their premier western markets are declining? They turn to the new world economies of course. Playboy magazine has said that they are seeking to enter the Indian market, according to this IHT article. The magazine will not be called Playboy and will not feature nudity, according to the article. The article makes some interesting generalizations regarding the emergence of sexuality into the mainstream in India. The author claims that the India of the 21st century is much like the America of the 1950s, sexually speaking of course. This should mean that in approximately 20 years, we can expect to see women marching in the streets, burning their underclothes and long haired hippie males impregnating everything in site. It is hard for me not to become judgmental about the angle that the author is taking. I see him as an Indian, born (or brought up) in the west, and making assumptions about a country that he knows only through infrequent visits to his grandparents. “Sex is bubbling”, he says, “one-quarter of urban, unmarried women have sex, one-third read erotic literature and half go on dates.”  No doubt the Indian youth in urban metros are increasingly westernized by what they see in the mainstream media. However, the power of the Indian family should not be underestimated, nor the power of religion in a country that is all consumed by it. We should not forget too, that the majority of the Indian population is still rural. But the real kicker about this article is that the author states right at the beginning that the magazine will not feature the Playboy name nor the famous Playboy bunnies. So where is the need for a 26 year old living with his parents to “hide his stash?” The author compares our famous cave paintings, sculptures and the Kama Sutra to this new revolution that he claims is about to hit India.

The introduction of a men’s magazine published by Playboy enterprise is not going to impact Indian sexuality in any major way. But maybe Maxim, the magazine that my roommate claims to subscribe to for the articles, might bring about this revolution? Maxim has ventured into the Indian market as well. Priyanka Chopra is on the cover of the first issue that apparently hit newsstands in the New Year. The author, published on the Guardian, claims that, “this is not the typical coy, sari-clad Bollywood pose, rather a scantily clad woman who looks directly at the camera.” Obviously he is unaware of the current state of Bollywood. I don’t remember the last time I saw a Bollywood actress under the age of 45 wearing a sari on screen. Comparing the two articles, one wonders if the authors are talking about the same India. “Indian men never touch a woman in public, unless she is elderly or sick” and “smoking and drinking are symbols of moral laxity among Indians” are direct quotes from the articles. I’ve walked along many streets in India holding my girlfriend’s hand. I’ve bought beer and had a drink with friends. No one judges me or my morals. India is not an archaic land that is ruled by iron-fisted rulers where women were required to be covered from head to toe. The Indian girls that I know I are as fashion conscious, as beautiful, as talented, as motivated and as free-thinking as girls in the USA (the only other country I’ve lived in). It would be refreshing for once to see an article that accurately depicted the social changes occurring in urban India as it integrates itself into the world economy.

There is one and only one reason that companies like Hooter, Maxim and Playboy are so eagerly eyeing the Indian market – money. With a GDP growing at 7% annually and an ever increasing purchasing power of the middle class, there can be no other reason. It is certainly not because these companies are hatching a super secret pan to change the Indian sexual scene, as the authors of these articles seem to be implying. Wrestling over sexuality will happen as a natural progression of society, civilization, and culture, without or without these magazines. Spirituality need not be exclusive of sexuality, as one Maxim India employee claims.

The continued westernization of India is inevitable. The magazines and restaurant are certain to cause a stir in some section of the population. But in the land of the Kama Sutra, where sex is revered (the author wasn’t kidding when he claimed seeing murals of orgies in temples!) what is needed more urgently than anything else, is good, clear education about sex. Instead of treating it as an immoral, taboo and dirty act that is reserved for the bedroom only, the youth of India need to be sent the correct message. Sex is natural and feeling sexual urges is normal. Give them the opportunity to find and discover it themselves. They will not go wrong. I guarantee you.

I hate those mices to pieces

Web-rant time: So ever since I’ve moved in to this apartment, we’ve had a mouse problem. With the weather finally reaching what it should be in the middle of January, the problem has just become worse. While earlier we’d only see them scampering from behind the refrigerator to behind the dishwasher, they seem to have gotten bolder and smarter. 6 loaves of bread had to be discarded this past weekend. Cleaning up rat droppings on the counter-top is a daily task. And only one has been caught using a trap, when it dragged the trap and its broken leg into my room early one morning. I did catch another, using two tupperware containers in the wee hours of the morning when it was tormenting my roommate and his girlfriend. A third was found by me, dead and stuck to a glue trap. The four other “men” in our apartment are yet to open their scores. I don’t want to waste any more food to the mice, and more importantly I want to know that the food I am eating is safe and clean. Since we’ve had no luck in trapping them, the next step is to create a routine where no food is ever left open and accessible. Now trying to get 5 college guys to follow routine is the bigger challenge. Just stick me with the mice instead.