Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's a Mad, M.A.D. world

It's a Mad, mad world. Not that anything wrong with that, we're all a little insane inside.

But this Madness is of a different kind. It's the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction - M.A.D.

A little more about the concept - MAD is a doctrine of military strategy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two opposing sides would effectively result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender It is based on the theory of deterrence according to which the deployment of strong weapons is essential to threaten the enemy in order to prevent the use of the very same weapons. The strategy is effectively a form of Nash equilibrium, in which both sides are attempting to avoid their worst possible outcome—nuclear annihilation.

This has worked well in the past, and to a great extent, is still working really well. Yet, there are some flaws to the inherent assumptions of the concept. Indeed, I am going against my general personality and being cynical, pessimistic and playing doomsday soothsayer; but I can hardly help thinking that even the most optimistic prediction makes for only a fearful world, teetering on the brink of war.

MAD is not a new concept, but nuclear weapons bring the concept to an entirely new level, and takes the power out of the hands of many, and puts it in the hands of a few.

I will cease disserting MAD further, and move on, in general to Weapons of Mass Destruction.

WMDs have changed the dynamics of war. While war was always an arena to prove one's superiority over the "enemy", never before has it brought with it such utter and dramatic results, and never before have they had the potential to be more destructive - or more prolonged.

There are many kinds of Weapons of Mass Destruction today - Biological, Chemical, Nuclear, Conventional, Radiological (Dirty) - each with its own "Pros and Cons" if weapons could ever have them.

Oh, and additional terms used in a military context include atomic, biological, and chemical (ABC) warfare and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) warfare. We even have funky abbreviations for the types of weapon.

Weapons exist for one sole purpose - to destroy, but the weapons of today make it much easier to take a life than ever before.

We all remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki - "Little Boy" (Hiroshima) had a yield of 13-18 kilotons while "Fat Man" (Nagasaki) had a yield of 21 kilotons.

While those numbers by themselves mean little, I would like to hazard a guess that visuals may help. This ( ) is a 50 tonne bomb. Exploding this bomb would be equivalent to exploding 50 tonnes of TNT. Now imagine exploding 840 of these all at once in the same place. That was Nagasaki.

I shall not argue on whether the specific actions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were warranted, all I wanted to do was paint a picture of the destructive potential of our weapons - but wait, we've made progress since then. Now we have Megaton bombs. The Soviet Union's Tsar Bomba was originally designed to have a yield of about 100 megatons of TNT; however that was reduced by half in order to limit the amount of nuclear fallout that would result.

A 100 megaton test would have the destructive potential of about five thousand Nagasaki's. The test with reduced tonnage released about the same energy as two and a half thousand Nagasaki's and about four thousand Hiroshima's.

Thousands of people died without a name. Thousands more still live with its effects, and the entire world lives either in the shadow of fear of a blissful (and often wilful) ignorance of the possibility of war raising its ugly head again. The possibility now is more real than ever.

There exist lost Nuclear weapons in the world, and as Giles Prentice (Frank Whaley) says in a movie bearing the name of what these lost weapons are called - "I don't know what's scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it." That movie was Broken Arrow. And yes, it is a real term, and yes, there are Broken Arrow's in this world.

Of course, I only talked so far of nuclear weapons. What of the other kinds. I fear I'm losing my audience here. I urge you to stay with me for just a while longer. If need be; grab a coffee, take a leak or listen to some happy music if this depressed you.

"Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god" (Jean Rostand). How true. And so is what Oppenheimer said when he exclaimed "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." and so is what Test director Kenneth Bainbridge said (replied?) to Oppenheimer: "Now we are all sons of bitches."

Oh, and Oppenheimer said this during the Trinity test, a precursor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The test was an explosion with a 20 kiloton yield.

It isn't just nuclear weapons. Guns, bombs, high explosives, landmines, grenades, trip mines, torpedoes, homing missiles. All these are weapons that can are meant to be able to make killing cold, ruthless and efficient .It wasn't in a day that all these weapons were made; certain nation(s) [hint, hint] spend the most on "defense", even in the middle of a recession. There's never enough money for whatever needs it, but there's always money for mayhem.

Call it whatever you want; defense, security, it doesn't matter, although in truth, the obscene spending on what should rightly be called offense can best be called insecurity. Why is it that when we are armed to the teeth, we are still quaking in our boots?

Why is it that the very power that empowers us drains us? It's what maintains the delicate balance in this fragile world. It was what kept the world together - and yet apart at the same time. How can you truly be friends with someone when you know that they could potentially decimate you? Do we actually take pleasure in taking life?

I can hardly think of a better answer to this than that we have merely made it easy - taken emotion out of the equation. Take guns for example. All it needs is one pull of the trigger. It isn't called the great equaliser for no reason. At the same time, it made it easier to take a life.

Anyone (feel free to disagree) who has been in a fisticuff though, would attest to the how surprised they were at how much of a fight they put up as well as how much of a fight the other person put up. Sure; it was two people aiming to hurt each other. Yet at some level - there is fear, there is respect for the other person, and at the end of the fight, there is surprise at what was just "achieved". There is a feeling of being tired, more appropriately - spent. The next time, you'll think twice before getting into it even if you "won".

Now imagine a person wanting to kill with their bare hands, it can be safely assumed that he/she in for a long fight and they must really want the other person dead if they want to succeed.

Take away the method of violence; what remains is the effort it would take to resort to those acts. If world leaders, terrorists, soldiers, criminals, shooters, and pretty much anyone with intent to hurt or take life had no option but to fight with their bare hands. Just their bare hands, I have a feeling we'd have much less violence in the world.

We need to go back to the time when taking life meant murder, passionate revenge, directed violence, mano a mano. Instead, we have decimation, utter and complete obliteration, annihilation of people with no means to defend themselves as means to becoming a god or a martyr. We need emotion. The fact that taking life still means you're killing should be brought back into the consciousness.

I don't condone killing, but all I'm saying is that it's too easy now. It's easy to forget death when confronted by numbers. One dead, I can feel something, 2 dead - sure. What about five, or 10, or 78 dead, 150 dead, 45 injured. I hear the news tell me that 85-90 people died, why; don't the five people make a difference to the count? What does all this mean to me - ALMOST NOTHING! I shed a tear now and then. Once in a blue moon I shed two - one for the fact that so many people are dying, and one for the fact that I'm so inured to it that I could write something like this without shedding a single one.

Sunday, August 24, 2008 - My latest

My newest post was pretty long (with this it wont be my newest anymore; but let's spare the technicalities), So I set the year of publishing as 1988 so it doesn't show up here and the other posts are visible as well. Read my latest at

I'm not going to talk much about it. Instead I'll let my disdain for customer service in general and in particular with ICICI Lombard Insurance and particularly in India be known.

Here are transcripts of the chat I had with customer service. (with my contact details * bleeped * out)

Tilak: May I know what is your query?

Avinash CHandrashekar: yes

Avinash CHandrashekar: I was charged for an insurance policy that I tried to buy

Avinash CHandrashekar: but wasn't able to"

Read for yourself what follows at

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

God, Calvin and Hobbes

God is a concept we all wrestle with. Does god exist? Who is he? Or is it a she? Or does god transcend such trivialities? I haven't taken much time in my life to think about god, and I'm not sure I believe (s)he exists, and I don't feel any less complete for it.

I don't unbelieve in god either, because saying I don't believe in god is claiming knowledge about the truth of god, of which I have none.

Yet; if I was forced to pick a stand, I would say lean more towards belief than not; and this has nothing to do with my knowlegde of the truth of god's existence and more to do with the comfort and satisfaction the belief provides. There are times when I believe in god more strongly than others, and in my darkest times, that belief helps me.

I apologise if I sound confusing, but it may be of a little help if I draw a parallel to an exceptional comic that the genius Bill Watterson used to draw a long time ago called Calvin and Hobbes. The times I believe in god, or come as close to doing so as I do, my character is closer to that of Calvin and I view god as a friend and maybe a voice in my head, but at that point, god is almost as real to me as Hobbes is to Calvin.

And then there are the times when I don't think about god at all, and at these times, my character would be close to that of Calvin's parents'. They never see Hobbes as alive, maybe only because they don't think about him as such; and he makes no difference to their lives. Yet; at their darkest times, they view Hobbes differently. Calvin's mom talks to Hobbes when she sits next to a dying raccoon Calvin found, and talks to Hobbes, even mentioning that she does so when in such situations.

When their house was burgled, Calvin rushes to find Hobbes who they had left behind and Calvin's dad he wished he had a stuffed tiger to comfort them.

The reality of Hobbes itself isn't settled. For example; Calvin had Hobbes tie him in knots that couldn't be untied even by his father who is immensely surprised by that fact. On the other hand, Hobbes is never animated when Calvin's parents are present, maybe because of not needing to be or Calvin's parents not believing in him.

Hobbes seems neither a figment of Calvin's active imagination, nor a tangible entity. And that reminds me of the focus of the piece: God and his existence. But maybe that's the beauty of it all; we never do know the truth about God. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be, we can go on with our life being either believing in god or not, and he appears that real to us.

If there is a benevolent god and I have lived a full life, I will be rewarded, regardless of whether I believe or not. If there isn't a god, I would have still lived a full life.

And that is how I will lead it. God (if real) would approve.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

(English) Literacy is for everyone

One can't afford to be behind on the current affairs you see

Fuel Prices: Part 1.5

A follow up to the earlier post.

I showed the post to my father who commented on an error in the post, which was identified again by my good friend Vatsan, and here is what he wrote; and what sums up the error; and my response

And yes; there will be another, more detailed and accurate analysis of fuel prices in the (near (hopefully)) future

Anonymous Vatsan said...

dude, there is a mistake in your analysis of the prices.
even though you can get only 46% petrol from crude, that doesnt multiply the price of petrol by 1/0.46, because there are other components of crude that have monetary value.
these may of lower or of higher monetary value. and this could even give an error in the range of +50% (or more, or less. depending on the value of these other commodities obtained from crude) in the price of petrol.
and you also havent factored in the price of the fractional distillation and the refining. which would increase the price by a bit.
but, i do think that it is safe to say that all factors included, the price of a litre of petrol, without subsidies and duties, would be a sizeable amount lesser than 76 INR.

June 21, 2008 11:00 PM

Blogger Avi C said...

@ Vatsan; you're the second person after my dad to point this out to me. Yes; what you say is right. Absolutely correct. In fact, I was planning to write a new blog entry explaining my error.

I could say that I've chosen a worst case scenario, but then again, I haven't included the refining costs, etc.

I did look up the actual price and saw it mentioned somewhere and it was about Rs.71/L , which is about 5 rupees away from my estimate.

A best case scenario, on the other hand would be about 76*.46 (assuming all the crude is refined into petroleum and there are NO extra costs involved), which is about Rs.35 but that, obviously isn't the case. That said, I am planning on a blog entry with more variables involved.

June 22, 2008 12:08 AM

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Traveller's Tales

While I can't really say I've travelled too much, I can say, with all the confidence in the world; that I've made the most of each and every trip. To begin with; I'm the kind of person who's probably throw away a map just so I wouldn't look at it, and to say that a rainy day is only an occasion to eat something different. Yet; there was one trip that really wore me out; one from New York to Frankfurt, with my flight postponed by over eight hours, my luggage lost in transit, my phone battery running dead, having drunk black coffee without a meal; there was little I could do but wait.

I soon began cribbing to a fellow passenger. Misery loves company. I soon settled with being bored and looking at the pictures I had taken of my exploits before my arrival. All I was hoping for was a distraction, and it soon came in the form of a large man, who I've since tried to contact many times, but have been quite unsuccessful. We got chatting; but after a while, I could only remain silent. That was one of the few times in my life I can remember listening without saying a word.

RSK was a millionare, and that was past tense even when I met him. He was a prisoner, now free and on his way to his home country. As he went on, I got more than just a way to pass my time. He originally went to Nigeria for some business dealings, and things seemed to be going well until someone stole his identity and he was convicted of fraud. He went on with his story; he was forced to stay in dark, dingy cells and undergo inhuman treatment. He was forced to sign a confession everyday, and the only thing that stopped him from doing so was his integrity.

In spite of his inhuman treatment, he candidly admitted that of all the inmates, he was meted the best treatment; and there would often be fights in the prison on who would stay with him in the cell; him being the only "whitey" there. The impact of racism hadn't become as apparent to me until then. His own government seemed ill inclined on pursuing his release. He continued about how for many days he had almost no food to eat. His torment ultimately did come to an end six months later, when thanks to the intervention of the Goverment, he was flying on an Emergency Visa to Canada, hoping that he could take up his issue with his government.

I recorded many things on that trip on my video camera; but I missed recording this "interview". When I look back, I do regret it, but it wouldn't really have been the same with me pointing a camera at his face.

I decided, of course, I would keep in touch with such an interesting person, and asked him how I could contact him, and he scribbled his email behind the receipt for his Big Mac (or as he called it; his first taste of home) and handed it to me. I've never succeeded in contacting him, but I still have that receipt, safe with me, and a lone picture to remind me of him; or contemplate on when I have a really bad day.

Then again, I never really needed a picture: RSK is a man I will never, ever forget.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fuel Prices: The Long and Short of it

This is not a post that describes
1) Goverment Policies
2) Conspiracy Theories
3) Organic Chemistry
4) Eric Theodore Cartman

The short of it;
a litre of petrol; as of Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 should cost 76.3458 Indian Rupees, but it still costs less than Rs.60

This is NOT accounting for the numberous other charges that will inevitably add to the cost of petrol like duties, profit margins, sales tax, etc.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions

The slightly more in-depth analysis
Let's get on with it

Oil Dashboard
June, Tuesday 10 2008

Anyway; that's the price for a barrel of crude oil according to
So; how much is a barrel?

The barrel is the name of several units of volume

Oil barrel: 42 US gallons, 158.9873 litres,[1] or 34.9723 Imperial (UK) gallons.

Taken from Wikipedia

so 158.9873 litres of crude for US $131.50 as of June 10, 2008.

This works out to about 131.50US$/158.9873 L of crude; i.e. about 0.82711009 US $ / L of crude. Keep in mind that this is NOT what you put into your vehicle.

Now how much PETROL do you get from a litre of Crude

I was wondering the same and so I did a bit of googlin and I found a nice little blog. The blog linked to a certain site which didn't work and so had to be accessed using the wayback machine

Click here for that site

From that source, we obtain the data that only about 19.5 gallons of the 42 gallons of crude cab be obtained as petroleum. Going ahead with the math, this is only
Only about 46.42 % or .4642 of the crude is petrol.
This means from one barrel of Crude, we obtain .4642*158.9873 L=73.8019 L of Petrol per barrel
This means the cost/litre of petrol is
131.50US$/73.8019L=1.7817$/L of petrol.

How much is this in Indian Rupees (thanks to
Live rates at 2008.06.10 20:26:13 UTC

1.7817 USD


76.3458 INR

United States Dollars
India Rupees
1 USD = 42.8500 INR
1 INR = 0.0233372 USD

There you have it; a litre of petrol; as of Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 should cost 76.3458 Indian Rupees, but it still costs less than Rs.60

This is NOT accounting for the numberous other charges that will inevitably add to the cost of petrol like duties, profit margins, sales tax, etc.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Things I don't understand (Short Version)

Organic Chemistry
Bigger Picture
Etc (this too; I do not understand et cetera)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What is it that you want the most. Tell Me; and you may have it

I'm serious. You MAY have it. Ask for WHATEVER you want. Whatever. I wont tell you WHEN you'll get it. Or even IF you'll get it. But I can assure you that there IS a chance you will get it. I can also ASSURE you that if you don't ask, you DEFINITELY WONT get it.

Ask for anything. I already owe people (including me) a Lamborghini, a trip to space (or was it the moon), an engineering college, a HUGE treat, a few beatings, a phone repair, miscellaneous repairs, my music collection, one Avinash cooked meal, essays, a ferrari, a mac, 3 fiddy, etc.

Shoot the moon, though I don't assure you you'll get it; so make up a list; and we'll see what you get.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fear, Hope, etc.

Fear. What is it about it that so fascinates people? There's a word for every fear, from Arachibutyrophobia; the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth to the fear of long word; ironically called Hippopotomonstrosesquipped
aliophobia. All emotions; passion, joy, sadness, anger and vengeance atleast seem uniquely human. Yet fear is an emotion that permeates through all creatures. A surprising number of decisions seem to at some basic level have grounding in fear. Even extremely motivated decisions are sometimes beset with the fear of failure. Fear is what makes the M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) concept so very effective. Fear seems to make any situation worse. The ancients prayed to their gods for fear of divine retribution. The fear of fear is a device that moves forward many a movie. And speaking of movies, one doesn't often pause to think why the gun is never loaded. The gun is pointed to the head and the next thing to happen is not for the gun to go off, but for the (wo)man to slowly wrap the thumb behind the pistol and cock it. Death; formerly staring at you in the face, now stares you right in the eye. That is the power of fear.

And then there's courage. Courage, people say is not the absence of fear but the ability to face it. The primal instincts leave no room for courage. The first instinct is to fear, to stay away, the second is flight, to run and only the third is to fight. Yet courage seems almost the polar opposite of our basic survival instincts.

What motivates this instinct? Is it to break away from that which seemingly ties us to our "animal" roots? To be courageous is to be noble, to be human. It also symbolizes to some extent hope; in the words of the great Architect of the Matrix "The quintessential human emotion; simultaneously the source of your greatest strength and your greatest weakness." It really must be quite some emotion to be described as the quintessentia of humanity, and indeed it is. After all, it is the last thing to come out of Pandora's Box; the metaphorical box that was the cause of all suffering and disease also contained hope.

Nobody embodied hope as much as did Robert Krueger, a man I met while on my way to India from GYLC. Flying to Canada on an emergency Visa, he was imprisoned for eight months in Nigeria when someone stole his identity. A millionaire, he was forced to undergo brutal treatment at the hands of the authorities, yet he lost not hope and was eventually rescued.

Indeed, it is as much a strength as it is a weakness. It's what keeps people going when all seems lost. It's also why people risk so much in their attempt to gain something, when they know they could lose everything.

All other emotions seem to follow; love, courage, ambition and happiness, and it seems to answer why hope is so essential. It's a key to the other emotions; including happiness. If we never hoped and treated everything as mere fact, then none of the other emotions would exist. And if happiness is the reason to live, then we couldn't afford to lose emotion. After all, it isn't possible to feel happy without feeling anything at all. Is it?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The best of Sweeney Todd

Wanna buy a bottle misses?

Sweeney Todd:
What is this?

Mrs. Lovett:
What is this?

Sweeney Todd:
Smells like piss

Mrs. Lovett:
Smells like, ew!

Sweeney Todd:(said with Lovett)
What is this? This is piss. piss with ink

Mrs. Lovett: (said with Sweeney)
I wouldn't touch it if i was you, dear

There's a whole in the world like a great black pit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it
and its morals aren't worth what a pin can spit
and it goes by the name of London.
At the top of the hole sit the previlaged few
Making mock of the vermin in the lonely zoo
turning beauty to filth and greed...
I too have sailed the world and seen its wonders,
for the cruelty of men is as wonderous as Peru
but there's no place like London!

Now we all deserve to die
Even you Mrs. Lovett...even I
Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief
For the rest of us death will be a relief
We all deserve to die.

No one's gonna hurt you,
No one's gonna dare.
Others can desert you,
Not to worry, whistle, I'll be there.

There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
and it's filled with people who are filled with shit!
And the vermin of the world inhabit it!

I will have vengenance.
I will have salvation.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Please visit the page, rate it and comment on it

Hey all. I am featured on the following page:
It would be really nice if you could comment on it (on that page and here). And tell your friends about it by giving them the following snipped URL
Global Youth Awards

How polite rejections are!

Dear Avinash,

The Admissions Committee has completed its review of your application, and I am so sorry to tell you that we are unable to offer you admission to MIT.

Please understand that this is in no way a judgment of you as a student or as a person, since our decision has more to do with the applicant pool than anything else - most of our applicants are not admitted simply because we do not have enough space in our entering class. This year we had almost 13,500 candidates for fewer than 1,600 offers of admission, from which will come our 1,000 freshmen. Since all of our decisions are made at one time and all available spaces have been committed, all decisions are final.

I am very sorry to bring you this disappointing news, and I wish you the very best as you continue with your education.


Stuart Schmill
Interim Director of Admissions

Friday, March 7, 2008

I replied, so I reposted

Just for fun people, dunt take it too seriously! Leave a comment if you want!

1. Who are you?
2. Are we friends?
3. When and how did we meet?
4. Do you have a crush on me?
5. Give me a nickname and explain why you picked it.
6. Describe me in one word.
7. What was your first impression?
8. Do you still think that way about me now?
9. What reminds you of me?
10. If you could give me anything what would it be?
11. How well do you know me?
12. When's the last time you saw me?
13. Ever wanted to tell me something but couldn't?
14. Are you going to post this in your notes and see what I say about you?