Archive for October, 2009

FarmVille on Facebook

Posted: October 25, 2009 in social issues
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I see almost every one playing FarmVille on Facebook at my office. I have seen them rejoicing over sowing, ploughing, buying seeds, buying cows, horses, constructing a house, what not, almost everything. People who do not even know anything about agriculture and farming also indulge in this game, a game which is addictive in the non-existent world in which all these players live in happily. They talk and discuss about the progress of farming with friends.farmFarmVille is a real-time farm simulation game developed by Zynga, available as an application on the social networking website Facebook. The game allows members of Facebook to manage a virtual farm by planting, growing and harvesting virtual crops, trees, and livestock. Since its launch in June 2009, FarmVille has become the most popular game application on Facebook. And why not, when everybody is hooked to their computers even in offices to play the game?! They stay back till late night only because they are playing it.

These are the same people who look down upon agriculture and farmers in the real world, but cultivate a filed in the non-existent world. Neither do they understand the risk or pain undergone by farmers. These are the same people who do not even have respect for the labour of farmers or for the food grains they produce. I have seen many of these people wasting food in functions and showing disrespect to farmers. They don’t understand  how many sleepless night a farmer spends to give them that food. His sweat of 8-10 months goes down the drain in few minutes. They don’t even see people who starve without food when they waste food on their plates.

Sometimes I wonder why don’t these people go and do some farming in real life? Why do they waste their time like this? Why do they fake things like this and forget reality?

I found some strange stories about Nobel laureates.

1. Robert Lucas is winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in economics for his work on the theory of “rational expectations,” split his $1 million prize with his ex-wife.

Robert Lucas

Robert Lucas

If there were a Nobel Prize for Foresight or Timing, she should be nominated, based on a clause in their divorce settlement from seven years earlier: “Wife shall receive 50 per cent of any Nobel Prize.” The clause expired on October 31, 1995. Had Lucas won any year after, he would have kept the whole million.

2. Physicist Lise Meitner, whose work helped lead to the discovery of nuclear fission, was reportedly nominated for the Nobel Prize 13 times without ever winning (though nominations are kept secret, so we don’t know for sure).

Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner

This makes her the Dynasty of the Nobel Prize scene — that show was nominated for 24 Emmy Awards but never won. Other analogies we’d accept: The Color Purple (11 Oscar nominations in 1985, no wins), the Buffalo Bills or Minnesota Vikings (4 Super Bowl losses each without a victory) and William Jennings Bryan (three-time Democratic nominee for President, losing twice to McKinley and once to Taft.)

3. People who refused the Nobel Prize:

(i) Le Duc Tho was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with Henry Kissinger for their roles in brokering a Vietnam cease fire at the Paris Peace Accords.

Le Duc Tho

Le Duc Tho

 Le Duc Tho with Henry Kissinger

Le Duc Tho with Henry Kissinger

Citing the absence of actual peace in Vietnam, Tho declined to accept.

(ii) Jean Paul Sartre waved off the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre

His explanation: “It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form.”

(iii) Afraid of Soviet retribution if he travelled to Stockholm to claim his prize, Boris Pasternak declined to accept the 1958 Prize in Literature, which he’d earned for Doctor Zhivago.

Boris Pasternak

Boris Pasternak

The Academy refused his refusal. “This refusal, of course, in no way alters the validity of the award. There remains only for the Academy, however, to announce with regret that the presentation of the Prize cannot take place.” Yevgeny Pasternak accepted the prize on behalf of his deceased father in 1989.

(iv) Swedish poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt won Nobel for Literature in 1918.

Erik Axel Karlfeldt

Erik Axel Karlfeldt

He did not accept because he was secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize. He was given the award posthumously in 1931. This was allowed because the nomination was made before Karlfeldt died — no candidate may be proposed after death.

4. In 2007, 90-year-old professor Leonid Hurwicz became the oldest person to ever win (one-third of the Prize in Economics); at 87,

Leonid Hurwiczwriter Doris Lessing became the oldest woman (Literature).

 Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing

5. DNA expert Kary Mullis — 1993 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry — was scheduled to be a defense witness in O.J. Simpson’s murder trial.

Kary Mullis

Kary Mullis

However, Simpson’s lawyer Barry Scheck felt the prosecution’s DNA case was already essentially destroyed, and he didn’t want Mullis’ personal life to distract jurors (he’d expressed an affinity for LSD.)

6. Big names who never won:

Dmitri Mendeleev, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, Henrik Ibsen, Joan Robinson, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Jules-Henri Poincaré, Raymond Damadian and Mahatma Gandhi.

Dmitri Mendeleev

Dmitri Mendeleev

Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein

Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen

James Joyce

James Joyce

Joan Robinson

Joan Robinson

 Jules-Henri Poincaré

Jules-Henri Poincaré

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Raymond Damadian

Raymond Damadian

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

7. Winners without the greatest reputations:

(i) Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, who won in 1976 for his research in human slow-virus infections, spent 19 months in jail after pleading guilty in 1997 to charges of child molestation.

Daniel Carleton Gajdusek

Daniel Carleton Gajdusek

(ii) Johannes Fibiger won in 1926 after discovering parasitic worms cause cancer — a breakthrough that turned out to not be true.

Johannes Fibiger

Johannes Fibiger

(iii) Yasser Arafat shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.

Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres

This decision caused Nobel Committee member Kare Kristiansen to resign.

Yitzhak Rabin

Yitzhak Rabin

“What consequences will result,” he asked at the time, “when a terrorist with such a background is awarded the world’s most prestigious prize?”

(iv) William Shockley won for Physics in 1956 for his role in the invention of the semiconductor, but his support of the eugenics movement alienated the scientific community.

William Shockley

William Shockley

Shockley also donated sperm to the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank developed to spread humanity’s best genes.

8. As part of his divorce settlement, Einstein’s Nobel Prize money went to his ex-wife, Mileva Maric.

Mileva Maric with einstein

Mileva Maric with einstein

9. The Curie family is a Nobel Prize machine, winning five: Pierre and Marie for Physics in 1901;

Pierre Curie with Marie

Pierre Curie with Marie

Marie solo for Chemistry in 1911; daughter Irene and her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie for Chemistry in 1935;

Frédéric Joliot with Irene Curie

Frédéric Joliot with Irene Curie

and Henry Labouisse — Irene’s daughter Eve’s second husband — accepted on behalf of UNICEF in 1965. No family has won more.

Henry Labouisse (left)

Henry Labouisse (left)

10. Marie Curie’s second prize was marred by a scandal. Then a widow, Curie had an affair with a married scientist, Paul Langevin — a former pupil of Pierre Curie.

 Paul Langevin

Paul Langevin

Love letters were involved, eventually leading to a duel between Langevin and the editor of the newspaper that had printed them (no shots were actually fired.) According to NobelPrize.org, when it was suggested that Curie not accept the prize, she wrote a shrewd letter, “which pointed out that she had been awarded the Prize for her discovery of radium and polonium, and that she could not accept the principle that appreciation of the value of scientific work should be influenced by slander concerning a researcher’s private life.”

11. Singing support — While there’s no evidence the Nobel judges can be swayed by theme songs, that hasn’t stopped Loriana Lana from composing one for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

 Loriana Lana

Loriana Lana

“Peace Can” includes the lyrics, “Silvio forever will be / Silvio is reality / Silvio forever! /Silvio gives us trust.”

12. Alfred Nobel — inventor of dynamite — may have been inspired to create the Nobel Prize after a premature obituary in a French newspaper called him a “merchant of death.”

Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel

13. Nobel died on December 10, 1896. The formal awards ceremony is held in Stockholm each year on the anniversary of his death. The first awards show took place on December 10, 1901.

Pics courtesy: Google

I wondered when I came to know that US President Barack Obama has won Nobel Prize for Peace. I wonder if the award is more about the promise of change than actual change.

“I am the commander-in-chief of a country that’s responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies,” Obama, the fourth US President to win the Nobel, said.

Will the award create more jobs in the US? Will it fetch Republican votes on Capitol Hill for Obama’s health care push? Will he accept the prize or give it back until he has achieved real world peace? After all, any award is meant for accomplishments and not for intentions.

Ironically, the award was announced on the same day that Obama met with his war council yet again to consider sending up to 40,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. Not, only that, how can people forget the US (NASA)’s attempt to crash a probe into the lunar surface a few hours after Obama’s win? It is nothing but a prize for a promise.

On the contrast, Greg Mortenson, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, whom the bookies gave 20-to-1 odds of winning! Son of a missionary, a former Army medic and mountaineer, Mortenson has made it his mission to build schools for girls in places where opium dealers and tribal warlords kill people for trying. His Central Asia Institute has built over 130 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His mission has inspired millions of people to view the protection and education of girls as a key to peace and prosperity and progress.

The prize may give Obama more power to haul unruly nations. But peacemaking is more about ingenuity than inspiration, about reading other nations’ selfish interests and strategically exploiting them for the common good.

Around 35 people, including eight children and six women, drowned when a boat carrying 76 tourists sank in the catchment area of the Mullaperiyar river in Kerala around 5.15 pm on Wednesday, around 12 km away from the landing in the artificial lake near Thekkady.

The lake is known for tree stumps that dot waters, some of them submerged, making boat navigation the exclusive domain of experienced boat drivers. None of the passengers on board was known to be wearing a life jacket.

The tragedy of the boat ‘Jalakanyaka’, belonging to the Kerala Tourism Development Corporationm, once again throws light on the need of implementing safety standards for tourism services in general and for boat cruises in particular.

This is not the first time such a tragedy has occurred in Kerala. In February 2007, 15 schoolchildren and three teachers of St Antony’s Upper Primary School, Elavoor, drowned when their cruise boat capsized at the Thattekkad bird sanctuary. The accident had happened around sunset. As was the case in Thekkady, none was wearing a life jacket.

Then owner-cum-driver of the boat P.M. Raju had been awarded a sentence of five years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh for being guilty of rash navigation of vessel and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The sentence was later suspended on an appeal.

In 2002, 29 people drowned in Kumarakom and the victims were local commuters and not tourists.

The boat might have toppled because the centre of gravity of the boat was higher. The problem could have been accentuated by the passengers moving to one side of a boat with a second deck. I wonder, why tourists were not provided with life jackets? Why were they not asked to sit instead of standing and rushing to the upper deck of the boat?

The Kerala police department has opened helpline numbers in Thiruvananthapuram, Kumali and Thekkady.
Thiruvananthapuram: 0471 2331403,  0471 2331639
Kumali: 04869 222111,  04869 222620
Thekkady: 04896 222620,   9446052361
Toll free number: 170