Sunday, July 31, 2016

Textiles and Terror

Last month a terror strike at the Holey Artisan Cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, left 21 people dead, along with two police officers and four terrorists. Among them were nine Italians, seven Japanese, one Indian, three Bangladeshi's and one US citizen.

More than half the number of victims were closely linked to an industry that is critical to the country's economy: Textiles.

What has been the impact of this terror attack on Bangladesh's textile sector?

The textile sector constitutes around 80% of Bangladesh’s total exports providing direct employment to 4 million people. This $19 billion-a-year, export-oriented ready-made garment (RMG) industry accounted for 45% of all industrial employment in the country, and yet, only contributed 5% of the Bangladesh's total national income.

Over the past few years, Bangladesh had surpassed India in the export of RMGs - thanks to cheaper labour, better support from the government and a favourable global trade-quota system. In India around 12 percent of exports are from the textile sector and it employs more than 38 million people. Since there are nearly 10x more people in India dependant on the textile sector any change in trends was bound to have a cross-border impact.

This point hit home when I ran into a neighbour who works with an RMG export firm. He was unusually upbeat. "Things are now looking up", he said, grinning happily, "Our industry is not getting the attention it deserves!" INR 6,000 had been allocated in the latest Budget for financial incentives, along with a move towards flexible labour laws. "Now, with the Europeans and Americans getting wary about Bangladesh, we sure to bounce back!"

It seems the global textile-RMG market is not very different from the local subzi-mandi's (vegetable markets). Frequent meetings and the perception of safety, and the assurance of having a glass of chai in peace and quiet, are all confidence builders for both buyers and sellers...


- Dhaka - The Attack Victims (CNN - 6 July 2016) -

- ET, 23 Jun., 2016) -

- (IBT 23 June 2016) -

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Let There Be Light

Are high pressure sodium vapour lamps more efficient than LEDs?

The key to answering this question is "Luminous Efficacy", a measure of how well a light source a Watt of electricity into Lumens, a measure of light intensity visible to the human eye.

Today, while clearing some litter at a nearby park, I came across this box -

It was lying on the grass, right below a high-mast lamp. Even though I knew that these sodium vapor lamps consumed a lot of electricity, what struck me was the quantum of light produced by these bulbs. A 400W bulb produces more than 44,000 lumens!

If this makes little sense, just compare it to the standard LED lamps being distributed by the government, in its efforts to being down household electricity  consumption -

In terms of luminous efficacy, one would have thought that the LED lamps are a lot more efficient that any incandescent, power-guzzling bulb. However, in terms of light output (lumens), the sodium vapour lamp produces 110 lumens/W while the LED lights prouduce 114 lumens/W, which is hardly any difference.

If there is not much difference in the efficiency of LED bulbs and sodium-vapour lamps, is there a big difference in cost? The sodium-vapour lamp costs INR 675 per unit while an (unsubsidized) LED lamp costs anywhere between INR 150 and 250. This means that the cost of luminous efficacy is INR 0.16 lm/W/INR for the sodium-vapour lamp and 0.57 lm/W/INR for LEDs.  

This simply means that you are getting 3.5 times more bang for your buck with LEDs, compared to sodium-vapour lamps. So it does make sense to switch to LEDs.

Now, what is the difference is cost between LEDs meantand SVs for high-mast lamps? That would berhaps perhaps be a better comparison of oranges with oranges!


* Energy efficiency of LEDs -


* 2009 - Toshiba releases 93 lm/W bulbs -

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Disruptive Designs

Another fascinating are some nuggets:

* Ying Zheng (300 BC) - The first military leader who insisted that all bows and arrows be designed identically.  Having interchangable daggers, axes, spears, shields and every other form of weaponry, made fighting much more

* Edward Teach aka Blackbeard designed the jolly-roger design used by sea pirates

* Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy was among the first to study the impact of technology on daily life

* Arthur Zang. He's a young, Cameroonian design engineer who has a adapted a tablet computer into the Cardiopad, a mobile heart-monitoring device


Rolex Awardee -

Chasing out Yoursites123

I am constantly at odds with a virus that hijacks my browsers. It goes by the name "Yoursites123".

A few months back I had cleaned it out of Chrome and it worked just fine - until last week. Now the browser keeps hanging, forcing me to re-boot and employ that peculiar Chrome-special shortcut to get back all my tabs.

For a change, I switched back to Explorer and found that the earlier clean-up exercise had no impact on browsers other than Chrome. So when I got down, once again, to the step-by-step process for removing Yoursites123, a bigger problem surfaced - there were other bugs lurking in the dark corners.

Like the soot-balls in a Miyazaki movie, these turned up when I cast the following spell on the command-line:

The appearance of strange IP addresses below "localhost" is supposed to indicate that my PC has been hacked. And these three three fellows certainly look strange and suspicious.

What are these bugs doings in my machine? How do I get rid of them?

So far, all the online help available points you to some fancy sofware, which may again contain other new viruses. How do I figure the difference between online frauds and the do-gooders?


* Command Line reference -
* Removing Sougou -
* Removing --

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Notes, Emotions and Classical Music

Benjamin Zander on "Transformative Power of Classical Music". This would count among the most cheerful and engaging TED video's I have seen.

While explaining how music connects to our deepest emotions, Zander says at one point, "This is a B. The next note is a C. And the job of the C is to make the B sad. And it does, doesn't it?"

In fact it does. This made me wonder if there was any connection between Western classical notes that evoke a particular emotion, and their equivalent in the Indian classical "Swara-maala". In the Hindustani classical tradition, Raagas that evoke a feeling of sadness ("Karuna" / Compassion) are - Desh, Vihag and Peelu.

If B and C are considered equivalent to Sa and Re across scales, does this combination figure in Desh, Vihag and Peelu as well?

Amongst the three, the combination of B and C (or, roughly, Sa and Re) seems to be there only for Raag Desh, and that too only in the ascending notes (Aaroha).

Is this because the Karuna has a much deeper meaning than just "Sad"? Or am I missing something here?


* Western / Indian Note Equivalents -
* Mood and Nature of Indian Classical Ragas -
* Raga's -
* Solfege -

Friday, July 01, 2016

Captain Sparrow

Has there really been a shap decline the population of House Sparrows in India? In our corner of the National Capital Region (Noida) evidence points the other way.

This summer our home seems to have become the favoured destination for a variety of creatures. A couple of squirrels have claimed the space under a bedroom airconditioner; A pigeon laid two eggs on another window ledge, a tennis-ball-sized honeycomb nest on the foyer roof is home to family of yellow wasps, and the fourth corner of the house is the domain of Captain Sparrow and his family.

Three years ago, four organisations - BNHS, MoEF, NCBS and NCF -  had launched a two-month campaign to build public awareness on the disappearing House Sparrow. While participating in the nation-wide "Citizen Sparrow"survey I had pointed out that, at least in Noida, there was absolutely no shortage of this little bird. They were all over the place - in the hedges, on the Arjuna trees, and all over the local vegetable market. 

As if to reinforce this data-point, Captain Sparrow landed on one of our windows that just would not close. In this gap, safe from the prying claws of crows, rats and black-shouldered kites, it started making a tentative nest. At first it was a shoddy piece of work and none of his girlfriends were impressed. He then added a roof, some extra furnishings, and got steady with one. 

First it was a single, tiny, speckled egg. 

A week later there were three more.  

All four eggs went out of sight for a while until one morning we discovered that there were two plump little chicks in the nest. 

Every morning they made a huge racket and Captain and his wife seemed to be perpetually going to and fro getting them things to eat. If any of us approached the nest for a peek, the chicks would quickly backtrack in to the deepest corner, turning themselves completely silent and invisible against the straws and twigs.

Then, as suddenly as they had come, both the chicks turned into young ladies and flew away. So that was that we thought, time to clean up the window sill and settle down for some peace and quiet. 

We then went off on a three week holiday in mid-May. When we returned home in the June, not only had Captain refurbished his hangout, it was now a plush nest with two more chicks! 

So in just one summer, our window sill has been a maternity ward that has seen four baby sparrows fly out into the world.

Will Captain Sparrow come back again next season? We hope so!


* Citizen Sparrow -
* India Searches for its missing sparrows (2012) -
* Citizen Sparrow Survey Report (2013)

Extraordinary Facets

A TED video on Conversations. A Malayalam writer and an unsung politician.

One common thread that runs through all three is the delight of discovering something completely unexpected. Serendipity in many colorful layers.

In the TED video by Celeste Headlee one quotation struck me: "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't" (Bill Nye). I had heard this one before but in an altogether different context. Over here Headlee was talking about the Art of Conversation.  Dig a little deeper and you find that the need to keep your mind open about people extends way beyond people you are ever likely to meet in flesh and blood.

Last week saw the release of new book on a Congress party politician and ex-PM who, for a change, has no roads named in his honor: "Half Lion" by Vinay Sitapati. The book seems to be full of surprises and stories of intrigue that was, until now, outside the 'public domain'. Such revelations are, of course, expected from biographies on politicians. What you would not expect to find are facets and qualities that seem so very unlike the regular, seasoned politicians.

PVN Rao was aparently a serious polyglot and technophile. He could speak Telugu, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, and even some Oriya. Over the years, he had not only taught himself COBOL and BASIC but also went on to code in UNIX for mainframes!

Then you have the famous Malayalam writer, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. A few days ago I revisited "Bhargavinilayam", one of his well known short stories. Even while going down a familiar path I was surprised to notice that, as a writer his interest in music went way beyond Kerala. He would travel from one cheap rental house to another carrying all his belongings in a few cartons. One of the boxes contained his favourite wind-up gramophone with a collection of over 200 LP records. His range of interests was quite amazing - Pankaj Mullick, Dilipkumar Roy, Saigal, Bing Crosby, Paul Robeson, Abdul Karim Khan, Kanan Devi, Kumari Manju Dasgupta, Kurshid, Juthika Roy, M.S. Subbulakshmi...

 What an amazing world some people carry in their minds!


* TED - "10 Ways to have a Better Conversation" by Celeste Headlee

* Book Review - ET -

* A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces - Extraordinary Short-Stories from the 19th Century to the Present, Edited by David Davidar, Aleph, 2014