Wednesday, 26 December 2012

car headlights

As I get older, it is becoming more and more difficult to drive at night. The bright, high-beam headlights of the oncoming cars are totally blinding and force me to practically stop till the car passes me.
Is there no way to design cars that do not blind the drivers of cars in the opposite lane?
Cars are getting fancier headlamps that are more blinding than the ones before. These high intensity headlamps are deadly, since the blinding effect continues after the car has passed by.
No one seems to be bothered by this. Am I the only one affected by this? Or are others used to driving blind?
It looks like people in other countries are at least aware this problem.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

How ironic that the police has come out in force to fight back the protestors at India gate but din't do anything to the criminals. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

private universities

I was looking at the list of private universities in India. Out of 113, only 45 have been inspected by the UGC, according to Wikipedia. It does not say what the inspection resulted in. Of these less than half are general universities. others are for special is for Homeopathy and another for Yoga. One university is for energy and oil..
Surely you don't have universities for one subject!!   It's one thing to get an illness treated as per homeopathy or to practise yoga, but a university???
I think a university should have various disciplines..sciences, social sciences, mathematics, management, arts, fine arts.......all taught together in one campus, or in linked campuses. In fact, if possible, law, engineering and medicine should also be taught in the university along with the above.
It is also the drawback of the IIT system  that they do not have enough diversity. The really good students are deprived of the enrichment this exposure to diversity can bring. The mediocre students may or may not benefit from the diversity, but one odd from them may realise he is great at  say- music appreciation. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

the energy of the young

I recently learnt about the dropbox feature and am trying to use it to access  my files - background notes for lectures, interesting articles-I-meant-to-read- but-never-did  etc from my college computer. But I am slow at getting technology, so it is taking time to figure out the most efficient way to do this.
This is the beginning of my winding up process since I retire in three months.
Retirement after almost 20 years is scary. For all my annoyance at my students, I will deeply miss being surrounded by young people. Their physical exuberance rubs off on one and one does not feel ones age. I sometimes get annoyed or exasperated at, and sometimes enjoy the silly things students do. But mostly I will miss their  energy- it pervades the place.  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Eucalyptus in Hyderabad

The Nilgiris have large tracts of eucalyptus plantations. Around Coonoor, Ketti, and Ooty, we see a lot of these trees. Below these trees, there is a carpet of fallen leavesand not a single plant grows beneath these trees. The local people collect the fallen leaves. Amidst the trees, one suddenly sees a hut of sorts . Its roof is covered with dried eucalyptus leaves. Inside the hut there is a steam distillation unit. The unit consists of a drum, with compartments  atop a hearth. A pipe runs out and the distillate is collected in a pot. The unit is managed by a man.  He runs the unit and collects the oil from the leaves.The exhausted leaves are spread on top of the hut and when dry, used as fuel for the steam distillation unit.
All this is very well, but the trees are tall and not quite rooted deep enough for their heights. Hence, we often come across fallen trees after a storm. One evening, just about 200 metres short of our house, a tree had fallen, and we had to turn back, and take a detour through the forests. Three villages and 10 km later,  we reached home.
Eucalyptus trees  use up ground water. They deplete the already precarious water balance in the Nilgiris.
In fact eucalyptus is good for dehydrating swamps. The army housing areas usually  have eucalyptus trees planted around the colony septic tanks.
Plantations in the Nilgiris were done in the 19th century by the British who probably did not realise its impact, or even if they did, would not have cared much. But  the Hyderabad urban forestry division in its wisdom decides to "green" wastelands by planting rows and rows of eucalyptus.
Any primer in biology would tell you that monoculture does not make a good forest. Forest health depends on its biodiversity, yet the forest department insists on planting rows and rows of the same species ......... including the eucalyptus. The semi arid region of Hyderabad is already in drought condition, on top of that to deplete ground water by planting eucalyptus is terrible. Does not the forest department have anyone who understands forests?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

private colleges

Recently, I have been reading a lot of people voicing the view that private institutions are the way to go for high quality higher education. Maybe they think of ISB when they mean private. But ISB is not what private colleges are like. They are cubby hole colleges, and IIPM-like universities.

Many private colleges are run like businesses....maximise profit and minimise expenditure.  Nothing wrong per se, if you are looking at a long term goal.
But what it actually  means, is  employing low grade faculty and paying them small amounts; and employing very few teachers.......just enough to manage to make all the students pass their exams.
Expenditure on lab consumables is minimised by not having lab classes.........or at best, having just one once a week for one or two months in a year instead of the mandated once a week sessions all through the year.
These colleges do not have even a semblance of sports/NCC/NSS or any such activities, no  debate/elocution/dramatics/music- absolutely no activity at all. Just lectures morning, noon and evening, in a cubby hole for a classroom- maybe the master bedroom of a 3 BHK apartment.
That is what  private colleges I have seen look like.

ngo s

I have this scepticism about  ngo s but told myself that it is just unfounded prejudice. I went ahead and contacted a couple of well established, CSR kind of ngo s working in the area of school education, but have so far found them unresponsive. They don't even say they can't help- just dont answer mails or phones.
On the other hand, Azim Premji University was helpful in giving me time, listen to me and suggest what I could do. Perhaps my bias against ngos is not really unfounded.