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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Government Monitoring of Email

This is just in. The government is seriously considering asking Google to help it in monitoring the email. Google India has adopted the no comment policy so far, but they are not denying receiving such a proposal from the government.

If you are wondering what it is, I would say, Gross invasion of privacy!! That's what it is. How low can a Government stoop? Stoop, as in accepting their total incompetence in governing without invading the private space of citizens. Stoop, as in displaying total ignorance about the dynamics driving the situation in the country. Stoop, as in being totally clueless about the technology.

They say it is for terrorism. Frankly, and this is what I totally believe, they might as well plead with the terrorists to register with the government before starting any of their activities. It works like this, if the terrorist are using email they will have enough knowledge about redirecting emails so as to make it difficult for the agencies to track them, at least delay them sufficiently to succeed in their nefarious activities. And if they don't use email, hell! it does not matter. So what purpose are the politicos and the bureaucrats achieving by passing such a resolution, other than harassing people and maybe finding fall guys to cover up the real culprits.

Here is a proposal. If we really want to gain from all this monitoring business and since the effort is being made I recommend that the emails and the phone conversations of all the politicians, babus, judges and lawyers be monitored so as to put a total end to corruption, lobbying and horse trading, witch hunting etc. Then we wouldn't have to interrogate the Radias, Rajus and Mehtas of India long after the damage is done.

In any case, if the law is being proposed shouldn't the leaders and government officials lead by example to present their emails and telephonic conversations for public and media scrutiny. In that case sure, pass the law, resolution or whatever else you can call it, others will follow, because we, the people of India, have nothing to hide.

Eyes Watering Over Soaring Onion Prices - Govt Curbs Export

The price of onions has been soaring steadily for the past one month in the city of Mumbai and other parts of the country as well. Starting from Rs 40 per Kg, the price has now gone upto more than Rs 70-80 per Kg. In some parts it is being sold for even as high as Rs 100 per Kg. These soaring prices are definitely affecting the common man and the poor as onion is used as a main ingredient in most Indian cooking, specially in North India. Onion is the food for the poor, as they eat dry rotis with an onion to curb their appetite, when there is nothing else to eat. Not only onions, the prices of vegetables too have gone up so much that it is becoming very difficult for the housewife to manage her kitchen on a tight budget.

Image source:

The unseasonal rains in most parts of the country this year is supposedly the cause for this crisis, as most of the onion crops were damaged. But there is no near end to this crisis in sight as the govt in the state say that things may ease only by January end. Though the govt has taken steps by curbing the export and in fact banned all export of this commodity, onion is now being imported from Pakistan.  They hope that the situation will improve as 25-30 truckloads of onions have arrived at the Wagah border near Amritsar. The centre will decide where this stock should be sent.

Maharashtra is supposed to be the country's highest producer of onions, about 31 lakh tonnes on an average. India is the second highest onion producing country after China and the biggest exporter of this essential commodity.

 Image Source: "Onion prices have helped topple Indian governments in the past."

What's interesting to observe is that in the past, onions have been the cause of toppling the ruling govt. Will this crisis reduce Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh to tears, only time will tell. In the meantime, they need to do something fast to check the horrendous rise in prices of all the essential commodities, that includes vegetables and petrol. The question that arises in the minds of the common people is that there may be foul play, or dirty politics behind this whole crisis. Are the onions being hoarded on purpose by unscrupulous elements? Speculations, speculations...are plenty.

"A food ministry official told reporters that agriculture cooperative major, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED), has been stopped from giving fresh clearance to exporters.

"We have decided to suspend issuing no objection certificate (NOC) to onion exporters till Jan 15. A decision has also been taken to double the minimum export price to $1,200 per tonne for those NOCs which are yet to be implemented," the official said.

The official suspected speculative elements behind the price rise." News Report.

"Data sourced from the National horticulture Board (NHB) show that prices of bitter gourd, brinjal, cauliflower and tomato have all risen since November, which is unusual given that supply of vegetables usually rise during winters, which should have been more pronounced this year given that monsoons have been rather good". News Report.

"The rise has been blamed on unusually heavy rains in growing areas, as well as on hoarders and speculators." News Report

"Prices have skyrocketed in recent days to as much as Rs 70 a kg Centre has asked Nafed and other agencies to voluntarily stop exports Agri ministry has doubled export prices of onion, making it uncompetitive In Maharashtra, onion may be distributed through ration shops if stocks run out Summer crop that is harvested towards Jan-end may be only hope." News Report.

It is a common strategy used by the govt to divert attention from other scandals and scams, to start something that will take the focus of the common man to something else that is more important. Is this just a the wake of scams like Adarsh, and 2G and other land scams that have been rocking the state govt of Maharastra for quite some time? 

In the meantime....tears continue to flow.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Watch "Sheila Ki Jawani" Tees Maar Khan (Full Song) HD

"Sheila ki Jawani" is a hot item number from the latest Bollywood movie directed by Farah Khan, Tees Mar Khan. This song has become the most popular song of the year featuring the hot and sexy, sizzling Katrina Kaif. Sheila is proving to be the ultimate sex bombshell. Katrina Kaif, "whose Sheila ki jawani in Farah Khan's Christmas release Tees Maar Khan is making the right noises, has also helped her consolidate her position as the sexiest woman in the world." Kaif's win comes close on the heels of Salman being voted the sexiest man alive by the People magazine.

Katrina Kaif voted sexiest woman in the world - Photos, pics, wallpapers

Watch "Sheila Ki Jawani" Tees Maar Khan (Full Song) HD on you tube video at the link provided. The movie Tees Mar Khan will be released in Theatres on the 24th December, just in time for Christmas.

No Boards For CBSE Students - Finally CBSE Students will Graduate Without Sitting for Board Exams

Finally, the students appearing for the class x CBSE exams can heave a sigh of relief. There will be no stress on appearing for the much feared board exams for the students in the coming year. Earlier there was much confusion for the class Xth student over whether to sit for the CBSE board exams or opt out of it, as the option was provided. But it was not clear whether their decision either ways would have any negative effect on their academic course later in life. It has now been clarified that "whether they choose to sit for the board exams or not, the marksheets that will be issued to them will be the same. In other words, they will look identical, and one will be hardpressed to figure out who appeared for the CBSE board exam, and who opted out. The bottom line is that on paper it will make little difference whether or not you decide to appear for the board exams in the coming year."

It is for the first time that over 5L CBSE students will graduate next year without sitting for the board exams. The exams are now optional, a first of its kind in the country. A student can opt out from the boards and answer an internal exam instead without any consequences as the marksheet for both the exams will be the same. Many students have already chosen not to sit for the boards this year and the numbers are increasing. By taking this step, CBSE aims to reduce the stress levels among the students appearing for the Xth class examinations.

How will it work?

In both the cases, 60% of the assessment will be carried out by the school that involves project work, sports, class participation, etc during the school curriculum. The remaining 40% is the written examination that will be set by the CBSE board. Now, the students who opt to sit for the board exams will have their papers corrected by the external examiners. For those who don't opt for the boards, the papers will be corrected by the school itself. 

The principals of all the schools insist and assure all the apprehensive parents that there will be no bias in the results of the students in either event. Whether they choose to appear for the boards or not, their mark sheet will remain the same and the marks will be equally effective in their admission to junior colleges. To make sure the results are not biased, the answer paper will be re-assessed by a second examiner.

Given below are some questions and answers provided by the news report to ease your mind:

Q. If you opt out of the CBSE Class X board exam, will the marksheet reflect your choice?

A: No.The internal school assessment marksheet will be identical to that issued to a student who sat for the board exam

Q. If you opt out of the CBSE board exam,will you get your results at the same time as someone who sits for it?

A: Yes

Q. Who will assess the exam papers?

A: For those who appear for the board exam,60% of the assessment will be done by the school and 40% by external examiners.

For those who opt out of the board exam,the entire assessment will be undertaken by the school.

Q. Who sets the exam papers?

A: The board will set the papers for both students who appear for the board exams as well as those who dont.In both cases,this will account for 40% of the total assessment.

Q. If you choose to not sit for the board exam,will the marksheet that you receive be adequate while applying to another board?

A: Yes.You can apply to a junior college in Mumbai on the basis of your marks even if you do not sit for the board exam. 

Q. If you are a Class X student at a particular CBSE school,are you guaranteed a seat in Class XI in the same school?

A. Yes (irrespective of whether or not you appear for the board exam)

Q. Are all CBSE schools in the country giving students the option of dropping the Class X board exam?

A. Only CBSE schools that run till Class XII are giving students the option of dropping out of the board exam.

Q. When is the last day to finalize your decision?

A:  December 15, 2010.

Well, the last date to make your decision has flown past, so either way, whether you are sitting for the boards or not, it doesn't matter. So, just relax, and study for the exams like any other exam, without any stress. That's the whole idea. 

While this piece of news may come as a good news for some, most may still be skeptical about the results and the consequences, either way. Whether this system will really work, only time will tell. For example, "Jyotsna Wankhade whose son will be appearing for the board exam says: In Mumbai,  there are many issues and prejudices when it comes to students from other boards.We dont want to give the government another reason to not accept our sons application."

The Xth class board exam may have become optional, but the students will still have to sit for the XIIth board examinations.

Being Too Clean Can Be a Health Hazard

The more we have evolved as human beings, the more conscious we have become of our hygiene and cleanliness. So much so that the zeal for cleanliness has turned into an obsession for some, and we end up sterilizing everything in our paths. From the time a baby is born, we make sure that everything is clean and sterilized and as much “germ-free” as possible, which includes the antibacterial soaps, wipes, tissues, using disposable diapers and sterilizing the feeding bottle etc. The practise of personal hygiene habits continues with the growth of the child into adulthood. But sometimes, being too clean can be a health hazard.

The zeal for cleanliness may be the major factor for the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of various harmful bacteria. The antibacterial products, that we use, kill most of the harmful bacteria but are also equally capable of eliminating more than one-third of the good bacteria that are normally present in and vital to the health of our skin.

 Hand washing with antibacterial soaps
         (Source : Wikimedia Commons)

A recent study, conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health, suggests that young people who are overexposed to antibacterial soaps containing triclosan may suffer more allergies and exposure to higher levels of Bisphenol A among adults may negatively influence the immune system.

Triclosan is a chemical compound that is commonly used in products like antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, pens, diaper bags and medical devices. Bisphenol A is found in plastics and also in the protective lining of food cans. Both these chemicals are considered to be endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), which affect the hormones in the body.

"The triclosan findings in the younger age groups may support the 'hygiene hypothesis,' which maintains that living in very clean and hygienic environments may impact our exposure to micro-organisms that are beneficial for development of the immune system," said Allison Aiello, associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health and principal investigator on the study.

"It is possible that a person can be too clean for his or her own good," agreed Aiello, who is also a visiting associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard.

"The hard part to get across is that a little dirt is a good thing," says Stuart B. Levy, M.D., director of the Centre for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. "You should wash after normal activities, where you come in contact with microbes and dirt, especially before you eat. But you don't have to clean every 5 to 10 minutes." (Source: The Dirt on Cleanliness)

“We need antibacterial products in hospitals and in the homes of people who have low immunity,” acknowledges Dr. Levy. "When I send a patient home, I will often tell her to use an antibacterial cleaner until her condition is healed. I will say that she should cleanse with it for minutes, not seconds. But when I find out she has been using that same antibacterial product casually in the home, I worry whether it will do any good " he says. "Bacteria have likely already been selected that resist it."

For your daily use, Dr. Levy recommends “the use of fast-acting non-residues for cleaning: bleaches, peroxides, alcohols, and the traditional soap and water. And when you do wash your hands, wash them thoroughly for 15 to 30 seconds with plain soap and water.” 

The widespread use of anti-bacterial could eventually mean that they will be ineffective when we really need them. There is a need for conscious effort at reducing the use of anti-bacterial products, and obsessive behaviour concerned with being clean, ought to be checked. This is not to say that we should stop being hygiene conscious, but put a limit to it and use the anti-bacterial products only where it is called for. In other words, a little dirt is good for health.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Search Engine Optimization, SEO, for Website Owners – Bang For Your Buck

Search Engine Optimization, SEO, is a subject which most website owners do not understand much of and hold in awe. Almost every business or professional service, needs to have a website these days. Since designing and developing a website is beyond the scope of the website owners and their IT department, if they have one, most people hire a professional company to design and develop the website, of course on payment. This is where the things get murky. The website developer will make your website but wants extra money for Search Engine Optimization.

Now, what use is a website of, if it is not optimized for search? Should you be paying for a product which does not meet your ultimate objective of being visible on the Internet? We have seen many websites, even those which are listed as recent works of the website developing companies, which are not optimised for search. When we were looking for a website developer for a client, we spoke to a couple of these people and asked them why the websites developed by them were not optimised for search. I got the answer that the website owners had not paid for SEO. Wow!

Now consider this, the developer wants extra money for doing basic things which are required to be done in accordance with the W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium guidelines. Let us take, for example, accessibility. It is required that web be made accessible to people with disabilities. One of the requirements is that all the images in websites be tagged with alt text, which will allow a vision impaired person using a screen reader to know what the image is. Search Engines also promote accessibility. But the website developer will not use alt text for the images unless you pay him for it. Search engines will accordingly penalise your website for having images without alt text.

This is ridiculous. First they charge you and do only half the job, and then, they charge you again for completing their original job. SEO as a service should start from the point of completion of development of a Search Engine friendly (optimised) Website and should mainly comprise of optimising the external factors which are used for ranking of web pages. Unfortunately the SEO companies as well as website developers are treating SEO as a completely separate business and are essentially looting customers.

Most of the things required for optimising a website are actually a part of the development process and if the website owners know what these things are, they can ensure that the coding is done accordingly. Therefore it is imperative that website owners know what SEO is and how they can demand for the basic elements to be incorporated in the website itself.

Our book, Search Engine Optimisation - A Handbook of Easy Tips, Tools & Techniques has been written with this in mind and covers the basic requirements of SEO for website and SEO for content. Website owners will find this book handy and will be able to cut costs in the website development process and also get better results for their money.

The Kindle version of the book is available at

The paperback book is currently available at the publisher website at,,7766A/isbn:9788122311525/index.html The book should be available in stores and other online book stores as well, in a few days time.

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