Damn the Torpedo
Glass Ceiling Shattered
Is Google a Verb
Think it Through
Damn the Torpedo
According to a New York Times report, air pollution in Beijing in mid-January reached such critical levels that compelled the authorities to issue urgent health warnings. “It closed four major highways, prompting the panicked buying of air filters and donning of face masks.” At the same time, the report adds, the smog cover enveloping New Delhi was, as per common air pollution measurement criteria, even more dangerous. There were no alarming reports – none whatever – in our media, which was busy reporting on the antics of AAP Home Minister and the gimmicks of its Chief Minister.
Is it because we aren’t affected by the highly harmful effects of our pollution levels on our respiratory systems? Why then do we take everything in our lethargic stride? How is it that our otherwise boisterous news media – print as well as electronic – is more busy reporting on how a popular actor, doing a stunt, got injured on the sets and a Chief Minister holding a Cabinet meeting in his Wagon R? Does this indicate our priorities? Let people die breathing poison while the media is busy reporting trivia.
We’re told alarm bells started ringing in the American Embassy in Beijing when the “measure of harmful fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 went above 500.” What about its measurement in the air that we breathe day after day when we drive to work on Mehrauli-Gurgaon road. During peak hours, it is far above the dangerous levels. But in India, human life is cheap. What’s more important is to collect excise duty on the sale of more diesel-driven vehicles than spare a thought for the lives of those who will be affected by the poison they spew.
Newspapers in other parts of the world where human beings are cared for, carry daily reports on the levels of rising air pollution so that citizenry is aware of the price they are paying for so-called economic growth. Do you know the rise in air pollution every high-rise building in Noida and Gurgaon causes to supply power by installing and running giant diesel generators?
Our society seems to have adopted the guiding principle of the famed Irish Admiral who said: “Damn the torpedo, full speed ahead!”
Glass Ceiling Shattered
To my utter dismay, the glass ceiling has cracked open. And of all the places in Detroit, and in the feeder of all industries! General Motors named Mary T Barra as its first woman CEO, to succeed the present incumbent when he retires early in 2014. What a startling way to start the New Year! Need I tell you that this will be first for the US auto industry.
That the announcement came a day after US treasury said it had sold off the last of the GM stock it had received in exchange for the $49.5 billion bailout of the company makes the news all the more intriguing.
Barra cut her professional teeth in the automobile industry. In fact she a second generation GM employee – her father too served in GM. And the industry watchers weren’t in for surprise. Some of them knew that it was coming.
“She is a leader in the company’s ongoing turnaround, revitalizing GM’s product development process resulting in the launch of critically acclaimed new products while delivering record product quality ratings and higher customer satisfaction,” says the company announcement.
If you’re working in industry, don’t henceforth count out the second sex competitors in the scramble to the top.
They were the pin-ups of the town that proved – if it was ever required - that love can grip you at any age. Even controversies failed to stick to this Teflon couple – Shashi and Sunanda Tharoor. And then all of a sudden, their marriage imploded. Two days after Sunanda took to Twitter and accused Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar of “stalking” her husband and trying to end her marriage, she was dead.
As investigation into her death continues, it is hard not to draw parallels with many other celebrity marriages or alliances that got buried beneath the debris of extra-marital romance.
A friend of mine – a real Bollywood film buff – has compiled a list of such real-life tragic stories.
Let’s take the Geeta (Ghosh Roy) Dutt – Guru Dutt affair. They married for love but never lived happily thereafter. Geeta was an established singer who married a struggling director. Eventually, both hit the bottle and things turned sour after Geeta became suspicious that Guru was having an affair with another Bollywood celebrity. They had their last fight on a night in 1964. Next day, Guru Dutt was found dead after having a cocktail of alcohol and sleeping pills.
Have you forgotten Marilyn Monroe who once had married the famous American playwright Arthur Miller? Archives have been dug up and they tell us a sordid tale of President Kennedy and his younger brother, Robert taking turn to take her to bed. Torn between various loves, she ended her life in 1962 by accessing an ample dose of Nembutal sleeping pills.
Every Englishman knows that marital fidelity has never been a strong point of the House of Windsor. Diana and married the Prince of Wales in a fairytale ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. The heir apparent to the throne was already having an affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, his present wife. As Dianna said, “There were three people in this marriage from the start.” She too lurched from one bad relationship to another and died in a car crash while trying to avoid paparazzi in 1997.
And you know the story of the greatest golfer of all time – I’m referring to Tiger Woods – who in 2009 was found out to be a great serial philanderer.
If that’s how the great and mighty live and enjoy life why do you blame Francois Hollande? He at least has given it a pedestrian look by going on a scooter to meet his actor girlfriend, Julie Gayet.
Is Google a Verb?
Information Technology has invaded every conceivable area of our lives. How could then the English language claim immunity? For any information that you need – how to make mushroom soup or the name of George Washington’s black mistress – you turn either to Wikipedia or Google. And the latter has now become a part of the ever-growing English vocabulary.
The transitive verb to google (also spelled with capita G) means using the Google search engine to obtain information on something or somebody on the World Wide Web. Dictionaries have gone a step further. They define the verb to mean to use any web search engine, such as Yahoo or Bing. Heavens know how many they are.
The pundits tell me that goggle can also be used as intransitive verb. And lo and behold the first recorded usage of google used as an intransitive verb, was on July 8, 1998, by Google co-founder Larry Page himself, who wrote on a mailing list: “Have fun and keep googling!”
What happens if I cannot find some information that I’m looking for even by Googling? I’m told there’s word for that too. (Did you know?) It’s called ungoogleable. It simply means it cannot be found using any web search engine.
The cure for alcoholism could lie deep – very deep – within the recesses of human DNA. The Telegraph reports on a study in which scientists say they have discovered a gene linked to excessive drinking. Researchers from five British universities conducted an experiment on lab mice to corroborate. Though people drink to excess for different reasons, the findings suggest some may be more genetically at risk for alcoholism than others.
As per an article in the Journal of Proteomics, new research has found that snake venoms stored for up to 80 years remain biologically active.
Snake venoms have been used – you’ll shocked to hear – to develop drugs such as Captopril, used to treat high blood pressure, and Byetta, which is used to treat diabetes and is (surprisingly enough) prescribed as an anti-obesity drug.
University of Queensland researchers examined 52 venom samples and found they remained biologically active even after being stored for up to eight decades. “The research shows that properly stored venoms remain scientifically useful for decades and that vintage venom collections may be of continuing value in toxin research,” said Associate Professor Bryan Fry.
“The venoms of different species have extensive variation so each venom sample is a precious resource which could contain the next wonder-drug,” said Dr Fry.
Think it Through
Last week, I quoted under this head Bertrand Russell. Here’s another gem by him from an essay entitled “Is There a God?”
“It is said (I do not know with what truth) that a certain Hindu thinker believed the earth to rest upon an elephant. When asked what the elephant rested upon, he replied that it rested upon a tortoise. When asked what the tortoise rested upon, he said, ‘I am tired of this. Suppose we change the subject.’ This illustrates the unsatisfactory character of the First-Cause argument.”
Do you agree?