Censorship on School Campuses


This post is about the intolerance plaguing American University Campuses, which label themselves as mostly “liberal”.

What does “liberal” mean in its correct sense?

“Liberal” means a generously endowed viewpoint, with no outward biases towards anyone, an acceptance of anyone’s ideas, an examination of all kinds of viewpoints, et al. “Liberal” in itself, denotes “acceptance” of anyone, any idea. This is all the more critical on university campuses, which pride themselves on their openness to outside influences and ideas.

A particular viewpoint, simply because it is considered too “conservative” or it is emanating from a conservative speaker, cannot be construed as “illiberal” and so not worthy of a meaningful analysis and discussion amongst elitist liberals. Such a rejection, subtle or otherwise, points towards an intolerance which is commonly not found on university campuses, or in the environs of academic research.

Why then are the students of famous universities not open to listening to conservative, though controversial, speakers with some standing in society? Why are the universities losing their cool and reversing their invitations to such speakers? Why are they blaming the potential law and order problems that could evolve if the university administrators do indeed allow the conservative speakers on campuses?

How come universities are under the control of left-wing student organizations? How is this the only acceptable mode of operation on a university campus? How come left-wingers are considered more acceptable as compared to right-wingers?

My conclusion is that most people do not like to hear differing views. There are many governments around the world who would not like to even discuss opposing views to their ideology. I have plenty of friends who want to have “alignment”, which simply means they wish to have my endorsement of their views. I may or may not endorse their views, but strong endorsement results in strong inclusion. You become “part and parcel” of a particular group of thinkers or ideologists, and you will become either a left-winger or a right-winger.

On a political note, most people that I meet belong to a non-conservative ideology (though they may follow a strictly conservative ideology when it comes to their personal lives). Very few conservatives wish to show that they are one, especially in Asia. I am sure that this is not the case in the U.S. however. As a visitor to the U.S., I keep my views to myself, and rarely indulge in a free-for-all, late night discussion on what is right and what is wrong.

Left-wing idealists do indeed induce some fear due to their overwhelming numbers, and their strength is further enhanced by Democratic Party Officials / Cabinet Members / Liberals at university commencement speeches. Conservatives tend to be richer and elusive to a certain extent, keeping their views to a strictly conservative network of friends and associates wherein their acceptability is rather high.

My surmise is simple – if university and college campuses proclaim themselves as liberal centres of higher learning and research, it is imperative on their part to be open to all viewpoints, irrespective of political ideologies, race, gender or colour of the speakers invited to campuses. Such “different” kind of speakers cannot be shouted down simply because they do not conform to the regular left-wing expectations.

Significant time goes into evaluating all kinds of speakers and determining who would be the right fit for a commencement speech. A number of committees approve the selection. However, due to pressure from a certain group of students, the university administration decides to call off the invitation. This is utter nonsense and not compatible with academic criteria on assessment, evaluation, determination and collaboration.

Students can choose to hear just one type of view all their lives and they will be poorer to that extent, and universities should not be absolved of their dereliction towards their academic duties concerning impartiality of viewpoints.

I am sure there are many dissenters but this is my view. All views should be analyzed, discussed, debated and discarded or accepted. University campuses are the most important crucibles for experimentation of new ideas, and they need to defend their status against any vested student community, irrespective of political or religious ideologies.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th July 2017

 

 

Advertisements

Needling Russia


“Mother Russia” should not be trifled with.

At least not by other European countries.

It’s OK for the U.S. to say bad things about Russia, impose sanctions, and get away with whatever the Senate, or the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress wishes to impose. It’s also fine for Nikki Haley, the Permanent Ambassador of the U.S. to the U.N. Security Council to utter very bad things about Russia, which are in any case, totally ignored by Russia.

Russia is a difficult country to deal with, no doubt about it. Russia is also unpredictable on most occasions. It is true that Russia sometimes takes inexplicable decisions, and sides with some of the world’s worst dictators. It is also true that minus the energy (oil and natural gas) business, there is virtually nothing in Russia that the world would want to buy (except of course, its defence equipment). It is true that Russia is not a transparent country.

Notwithstanding all of the above, Russia is still one of the top 5 greatest countries in the world (in my opinion). It has the largest land mass for a country, almost twice the size of the U.S. or China, but with less than half the population of the U.S. It is a permanent veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council. It possesses massive weapons of mass destruction. Russia is a space power as well. And, Russia has huge natural resources.

The erstwhile Soviet Union was even bigger, and more powerful than Russia. But, under President Putin, Russia has been fast regaining some of the power it had lost, with a rapid military modernisation program, and an assertiveness which is yet to be matched by the Western nations. Russia has a strong mind of its own, and makes its own calculations on the emerging strategic scenario, and does not toe the line of any other major power. Russia has been a constant thorn on the side of the U.S., which has not been able to completely claim its world super power No.1 status after President Putin’s ascendancy.

Given this situation, what is the best course of action for European nations, many of who share borders with Russia?

Sabre-rattling with NATO is one way, which most European countries are already doing in a visible manner just to threaten Russia. Do they honestly think that Russia is bothered? Of course, it is annoyed, and somewhat concerned when it sees the most advanced missile systems from the U.S. in its backyard. Increasingly, Russia also sees NATO military exercises happening very close to its borders. However, notwithstanding such provocations, Russia knows that one missile strike by NATO, or one misadventure of any sort by NATO, would set the clock back on Europe to medieval times. All of Europe is very conveniently located within easy reach of Russia’s airforce and missiles, and any war over European skies is sure to cause extensive destruction. And, the U.S. is far away to have a real problem on its soil.

Given this scenario, it is only but natural that Finland has set a model for dancing with the big white bear. Finland shares a long border with Russia, and there has been no military adventure of any sort along its border for a rather long time. In fact, Russia has long ago pulled back its armed forces from the Finnish border, and maintains a peaceful relationship with Finland. Though technically Finland is a Western country, it is not a NATO member. That fact has helped to maintain the peace and the calm between the two nations.

In any case, why fight against a very large country with nuclear weapons and long range missiles? Of course, the forced acquisition of Crimea by Russia back in 2014 has upset all European nations, especially the ones who were under Soviet occupation after the Second World War. It has brought back rather unpleasant memories, and the real possibility that President Putin would go far to reclaim the lost Soviet glory.

In my opinion, Russia wants to be recognised genuinely as a world power, compatible with its status as a U.N. Security Council Member. It does not like the constant needling by NATO at its edges, and the expanding threats that it sees everyday on the tactical side and the expansion of NATO on the strategic side. Left alone, Russia is not a threat, it just wants respect and recognition. It wants trade with the West, not sanctions on the basis of  unproven assertions, such as what has been imposed on it by the U.S. Congress earlier this week. It would like to settle the war in Syria, and could be leveraged to pressurise North Korea. It sees that the U.S. sanctions are going to affect its export of natural gas to Western Europe, affecting its hard currency earnings.

Russia sees some positive signs from Germany, Italy and France, though not from the U.K. Europe does not like the ongoing confusion in the U.S. with President Trump’s Government, and is afraid that further tightening of the sanctions against Russia would affect Europe as well.

Given all of the above, it would be better for EU/NATO to sign a peace treaty with Russia and constrain both sides from aggression. Imagine what would happen when an unknown person succeeds President Putin as the next Russian President – wild cards are terrible for foreign policy, like what we have seen with President Trump.

Time for peace, Europe and Russia. Work for a stronger Europe and a stable Russia, and engage Russia in joint policymaking and mutual trade, rather than constantly threatening each other.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th July 2017

 

 

 

The Danger of China


China is the world’s most populous country, and its second largest economy with a GDP of USD 11.2T in 2016. Its GDP per capita stands at a little more than USD 8,000. This is a huge accomplishment in less than 25 years. The size of China’s economy dwarfs that of India by a ratio of 5:1 and is more than twice the size of the Japanese economy. It has only the U.S. to surpass (the size of the U.S. economy in 2016 was USD 18.6T). China is a U.N. Security Council member and wields significant influence in world affairs by throwing its political, economic and military muscle all together.

However, most people forget that China is a totalitarian regime, with its Communist party ruling the nation for the past nearly seven decades with an iron hand, with very little tolerance for dissent. The major difference is the adoption of free market philosophy by the Communist party in 1979 when the then Chairman Deng Xiao Ping opened up the Chinese economy to outsiders and global investments. But, one can never forget the fact that the regime is authoritarian and flexes its muscles against its own citizens and other countries who are seen to be going against its interests.

Since there is no democracy in China, generally outsiders (and citizens) have to toe the party line and government mandates in their operations in China. People who don’t are punished. After all what can you expect from a dictatorship which is not accountable to the people of the country?

All this could be fine for the trading nations of the world and for countries who are afraid of the growing might of China. However, what is not fine is the militant aggression demonstrated by China on its way to the apex of the world. And, now there is just one country which could test China’s limits and arrest its aggression. That is, of course, the U.S. No other country can hamper China’s intentions as badly as the U.S.

China claims all of South China Sea as its own, and is soon planning to extend its Air Defense Identification Zone to West Pacific Ocean. There is one simple strategy that China is adopting – that its Navy should be able to access and control seas which are thousands of miles away from its own shores. So, it is developing a Blue Ocean Navy capable of operating far away from its shores, like the U.S. Even Russia, the U.K., and France have their limits, but apparently China does not have any limits – financial or otherwise. It is seeking to claim world hegemony like what the U.K. did in its heydays, and what the U.S. has been doing via its global military might posturing over the past several decades.

China wishes to challenge the U.S. in every sphere. It is very clear that China does not play by international rules. It has consistently ignored mandates and rulings from global multilateral institutions (not unlike the U.S.). It has ignored the ruling of the World Court on the territorial sovereignty of the Philippines. It will continue to do so, as China feels it cannot be challenged. The ASEAN nations will toe China’s line, as these countries are dependent on China for trade. Chinese economy is far too big for any country to ignore. So China cleverly uses its economy as a big carrot for making countries follow its diktat.

There are a few countries who won’t do that as a matter of philosophy, apart from the U.S. India is a good example of a nation which would stand on its own, irrespective of what China does or does not do. China, for example, has not allowed India its much desired access to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, but that has not held India back from doing nuclear commerce with several countries such as Australia. China needles India along the Line of Control at the border between the two countries, but so far India has stood its ground. Of course, it is easy to see that the U.S. and India are large countries with significant power on the world stage. India also adopts a multi-pronged alliance strategy by working with the U.S., Japan, and Australia on military related matters such as joint naval exercises.

The Chinese Navy is conducting joint naval exercises with Russia in Baltic Sea this week, and alarm bells are ringing (rightfully) in many Western capitals. Baltic Sea is very, very far from China, and yet China has chosen to send some of its most advanced ships for this exercise. The U.S. must be worried. Europe is a very different theatre, with many countries closely packed together and several of these countries have borders with Russia. And, Russia has a Baltic sea port in Kaliningrad.

The unfortunate thing is that China is not a transparent nation with democratic ideals and an open society and media. Many things are unknown and not discussed in civil society. This is the most worrying factor for other nations, who have to depend on what the Chinese leaders publicly say and do, and then carry out their own assessments and preparations.

So, China is a danger to world stability and peace, unless it becomes less aggressive and less petty in dealing with smaller Asian nations. A country, irrespective of its size or population, cannot aspire to become a global leader who is respected around the world, while trying to steal what is rightfully others’ property and livelihood. China needs to learn this fact, and learn it very quickly. It needs to develop “soft” power like what the U.S. also has (apart from its hard military power), and that would take China a much longer time than just 25 years. China also would not be able to match India on “soft” power – India has much more respect on the world stage and is considered mostly a friend if not a big trading nation.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd July 2017

 

Never a boring day


Never a boring day.

Yes, it has never been boring with all the action in Washington DC, mostly caused by President Donald Trump himself.

Last week has been another chaotic week with President Trump causing significant damage to his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions blaming him in connection with his recusal from the Russia investigation. President Trump criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the ex FBI Director in charge of the Russia investigation. He criticized Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General who appointed Robert Mueller to the post of Special Counsel. He even went on to say that he can pardon anyone, including his relatives, friends, and even himself! I have not even attempted to cover all that President Trump did to himself in terms of continuous damage over this past week. I can only say with certainty that there were many folks smiling around the world at the funny situation that the President is placing the U.S. in – I was disappointed, as I sincerely had believed that President Trump would be a firm and strong leader with a no nonsense approach to solving not just America’s problems, but also some of the intractable world problems which have been simmering for a long time, and which President Obama could not resolve despite his best efforts.

Now, it has become seriously hard for me to defend President Trump with anyone who has been easy to criticize his indefensible actions and utterances. Honestly, it is not necessary for the President of the U.S. to keep constantly telegraphing his thoughts to the world at large. There are matters which require a deliberate thought process before getting public exposure, and which also require a strong team work within the President’s Cabinet. It is becoming very clear that the President hardly thinks before sending out his infamous tweets on matters of national importance. He needs to urgently realize that running the U.S. Government as its Chief Executive is very different from running his own corporation.

While President Trump has kept the twitterati and the paparazzi scrambling to interpret his tweets and random utterances, he has also continuously pleased with millions of people around the world who are enjoying the fun. Previously the fun was delivered by third world leaders, but now by a first world leader. Why not enjoy it as long as it last?

This will not be good for the image and credibility of the U.S. While President Trump has every right to communicate directly to American Citizens, his treatment of the establishment media can only exacerbate an already rather fragile situation. Since there is some smoke, we cannot fault the news media from their own investigations. President Trump now calls these big news media as “fake news” originators. Even Fox News is slowly distancing itself from close allegiance to the President.

The Republican Party lost its Obamacare repeal initiative in the Senate by not being able to bring it to a vote. It was a huge slap to President Trump, and he could hardly contain his rage against Democrats and a few of the Republican Senators who refused to cooperate.

With all this stuff, it is not unreasonable to think that the U.S. Government business would be at a standstill. Luckily, that is not the case. Things are happening, and decisions are being taken, that is the positive news. It is however apparent that mundane government business is not in the mind of President Trump as he is constantly being challenged on the Russia matter, and he seems to be hating it.

If he stops thinking about it, stops tweeting about it, stops challenging the folks conducting the investigation, stops worrying about what is going to happen to his son and son-in-law and some of his close allies, then everything will get into a better shape. He can bring his extraordinary energy into finding jobs for unemployed Americans, bringing trillions of dollars stashed in foreign shores by U.S. Corporations, rationalizing the complicated U.S. tax regime, investing in the crumbling infrastructure, and many other such initiatives in which he strongly believes in.

However, it has never been a boring day thus far.

Have a great weekend folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd July 2017

The emergence of a global power (again)


You can easily guess, right?

I am going to write about……….

Cannot guess? Of course, you can.

My brackets in the title line should give you a hint.

No, it is not about India. May be that will take another 5 years or so.

It is about………RUSSIA. Yes, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia is again emerging as a global power that needs to be respected and feared about.

It is not about ancient Russian history or the enormity of the Russian geography (it is the single biggest country by geographical size). It is not about Russians, per se. The Russian population is shrinking. It is not about their nuclear power. It is not about their army. It is not about Russian energy industry (the biggest oil producer in the world, neck to neck with Saudi Arabia). It is not about Russian technology.

It is about one single man who has brought Russian pride to the fore. It is Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia.

An inscrutable man, Putin exudes power. He is far more potent than any other politician in power today in the world scene. He is surely more powerful than President Donald Trump of the U.S. He can get things done in Kremlin, that Trump cannot get done in Washington DC today. He is extremely powerful, he is not easily understood, he is not easily accessible, he has over 80% approval rating amongst the Russian public, as against less than 40% for Trump in the U.S.

The inability of other countries (including the U.S.) to make a reasonable guess on what is next on Putin’s Agenda, ensures that his aura remains intact. Putin is investing in his country’s defences, investing in modernising his nuclear forces, enhancing his cyber warfare technology, improving his energy productivity, mining the Arctic Ocean, and doing a number of other things in a concerted manner which should worry the Western nations, especially the European countries. It is critical to note that he is doing everything very fast.

Is there any benefit in provoking the Russian bear?

Not at all. While there is no need to be paranoid about what Putin will do (it is as difficult to guess that as guessing what Trump will do next), it is also very important not to unnecessarily provoke Russia. That is exactly what NATO is doing. It is reasonable for Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland to be mortally afraid of Putin, but that is no reason to bring advanced missiles and tanks to the borders of Russia. Putin has no use for these countries – he just wanted Crimea back (which was donated to Ukraine).

What are these guys smoking (I mean the NATO leadership and the U.S.).? It takes hardly any time for Russia to smoke out many of these countries. It is better to build a strong relationship with Russia on a sustainable basis, invite Russia to participate in NATO deliberations, and coordinate military activities with Russia, rather than to needle it. Russia unambiguously portrayed its capabilities in Crimea and most recently in Syria.

Does NATO want to take a calculated risk? It is not advisable to do so.

Russia has the advantage of surprise element built into all its planning. It has moved its active divisions to its western borders in response to NATO military exercises. It has moved its advanced S-400 missile batteries to Kaliningrad, the location of which is strategic and dangerous to NATO countries. It has its military waiting on the eastern borders of Ukraine. It is surely not happy with Ukraine, Poland and Latvia.

What are the options open to NATO?

Nothing much, except to destroy all of Europe with an all-out war with Russia, which could easily turn nuclear. Russia apparently does not have a nuclear non-first-use policy. And, neither does the U.K. which has Trident nuclear submarines trained on Russia. A nuclear holocaust in Europe would be unthinkable, but that does not mean Russia will not activate its strategic nuclear forces in response to aggressive and provocative actions by NATO. Loading nuclear missiles with active nuclear warheads appears out of line in today’s world, but not impossible given the tensions. While a nuclear war may never happen again, it is best that all nations avoid unnecessary provocation.

So, in a nutshell, NATO needs to sit back and think carefully, and should not get prodded by the U.S. and the U.K. It should use more sober heads in plotting a collaborative strategy. Putin may not be the worst of Russian presidents yet. He may be more reasonable than others in Kremlin. The West is not even in a position to predict who will be the next Russian president!!!

The European people should push the European Parliament and NATO to take a step back in the confrontation with Russia. THINK! Before ACTING RASHLY!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th July 2017

Charlie’s Counsel


I met with an old friend of mine yesterday who worked with me in Singapore many years ago. He is from the Philippines and was visiting Singapore on business. He is some 7 years younger to me, but is wiser than me and I should say, more broad-minded. I always try to meet up with him whenever he visits Singapore, and has been the beneficiary of his counsel on many matters of life.

He thinks highly of me as well, and shares his views on business and life with me. We know each others’ families, and I have stayed with him in Manila during one of my trips. My views on the Philippines is largely shaped by his commentary on his country.

Yesterday’s meeting was no different. It was a real pleasure to catch up, and the meeting veered towards substantive life issues. Charlie has been impacted by his father’s recent demise. He also described the cancer plaguing one of our mutual friends in the U.S. He mentioned that life is fragile and we all need to do things which we enjoy right away without any undue delay. No procrastination. Spend more time with your family and friends. Do not have regrets.

He asked me a rhetorical question – “is the world going to miss you tomorrow morning if you are gone today”, and the answer was a firm “No”. The world will move on with its business, and a small group of family members and close friends will probably shed tears and express remorse and grief, and that would be all. Things will get back to normal and even close family and friends will move on in life, except for occasional remembrances.

It is kind of difficult to understand and digest this aspect of life. What can we then do today that would impact folks around us? How can people feel the positive impact of anyone in their lives? We are not talking here about the great historical figures who built nations (like Mahatma Gandhi, or Lee Kuan Yew), or who discovered scientific breakthroughs (like Albert Einstein, or Thomas Edison), or the first astronaut who flew around the earth (Yuri Gagarin), et al. Many of these people have had strong impact in the manner in which nations and lives have developed during the 20th Century, and there are hundred of such figures whose names can easily be recalled. But, how about yours? Will anyone outside your immediate circle recall your positive contributions to society? Will anyone even remember us?

If a person has led a good life, causing no harm to others, always wanting to help others especially the downtrodden, and tries to contribute to society in some positive manner, it is not necessary that he or she should be famous with an easily recallable name. The small positive contribution will be recognised by the society. However, the most important effect is that his or her children carry on the same principles in their respective lives, and inculcate similar philosophies in their immediate circles. A small group of people will surely recall how good a person was during his or her lifetime. And, that should be enough.

Coming back to Charlie, he was gazing beyond me yesterday and thinking seriously about the fragility of human life. I told him that I completely synchronise with him on his line of thinking, and suggested that we should spend more time together discussing these aspects of life. It is critical to decipher when one becomes happy, and most of us do not ask ourselves that question – “what makes us truly happy?”. Think about it for a couple of minutes and you will see that the answer is quite complex. There are many happy things that you can do, there are things that you can do which makes others happy, but what exactly that you do that makes you very happy? Think about it.

May be sailing in the sunset with your life partner will make you very happy, or celebrating the arrival of your first grand-son or grand-daughter will make you very happy. But do you become very happy when you receive a huge sales commission or you sell a share for a big profit?

What are you going to do with that money?

We still live on 3 simple meals a day, and our wants are minimal (at least for most of us). One does not need to have huge amount of money unless one wants to donate to charity and help people of Syria, Rwanda, Angola, and other very poor countries.

So, it is time to ruminate your position in the circus of life and whether you are playing it well, not just for your own benefit but for others’ as well. Are people around you happy about you? What are you doing today to positively contribute to the mood at home, or to society at large?

A lot to think for the weekend, I guess.

Have a good one.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th July 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Laptop Procurement Process


For the past 4.5 years, I have been using a Lenovo X230 laptop. I recall the process I went through in selecting the same after my usual exhaustive evaluation, and placing the order just before I was embarking on a trip to the U.S. way back in November 2012. I received the laptop during a training program I was attending at Reno, Nevada in early December 2012.

I still continue to use the same laptop (which is functioning normally) for most of my work. At office, I use a MacBook Air, so I continue to witness the differences between the two operating environments on an ongoing basis. Of course, since our minds speed up due to the world speeding up, everything one possesses seem to be slowing down, and it was not different with the X230 – it appeared to be slow, more because I had cluttered it with lots of useless applications over the years (which I had been doing to all my previous laptops as well, so nothing new here). Sometimes, due to my excessive attention to enhancing the performance or cleaning up the clutter of huge number of trashed files or optimizing the Windows Registry, the Lenovo X230 did not like me. It used to hang, and I had to do a hard reboot (which I do not suggest). Once, I lost a file on which I had done significant work, and I was furious, but could not blame the laptop. I started backing up using the Seagate backup software (with which I struggled a lot before getting it to work properly), and things seemed to be getting fine, with occasional hiccups.

However, my wife wanted a new laptop for herself without my encroachment all the time. Though she had her own Apple MacBook, that was taken by my son on loan and it became his permanent possession. One day, my wife took a strong position on her computing needs and refused to time slice between Lenovo Windows 10 and Apple MacBook. She demanded I get her a new one and did not provide any specifications for the same. I guess she secretly desired an Apple, but I had been consistently under-selling the new range of MacBooks, pointing out battery problems and lack of new processors, etc., I also felt that Apple is not paying enough attention to the MacBook range, instead focusing only on the iPhone. Slowly, I was able to edge her towards Windows 10, with the promise that I will get her the best that is available in the market.

It took me couple of months of intermittent research, but finally I narrowed it down to three choices: Dell, HP and Lenovo. I would be surprised if most shortlists do not have these three names anyway, especially in the Windows world. The Microsoft SurfacePro was also in the running, but I dropped it considering the fact that it was not sturdy enough to be a home laptop. My wife was specific on one thing – she did not want to have a touch screen, and she did not want the funny pyramid or triangle type standing ones.

Lenovo Yoga range and HP’s latest laptop range were indeed sexy with tons of new features. I really liked the Yoga and almost selected a model that fit my specs, but finally chose the Dell. Within the Dell range, I struggled a lot between XPS 13 with rose gold colour and XPS 15. Had XPS 13 been available with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, I would have gone for it and saved a few hundred dollars of additional investment, but XPS 13 did not have that combination (at least in the online ordering site of Dell). I was very clear that the new laptop should have the latest Intel Kaby Lake processor, 16GB main memory and 512GB SSD drive. In terms of graphics processors, I preferred the NVidia against Intel’s own. I was fine with 13.3″ screen with no edges (maximum screen real estate) at the minimum and wanted 4K resolution if it was not too expensive. The Dell XPS 15 met all these specs but I downgraded the screen resolution from 4K to 2K as the additional investment was almost USD 400!

I also wanted backlit keyboard and a fingerprint scanner, with all the usual ports. I had to keep raising the budget to meet my expectations, and as always, was surprised that not every “good” feature was available in a laptop that should not cost more than USD 1,200. But, alas, that was not to be. The cheaper laptops (you see these advertised from USD 300 onwards) lack most of these features and surely are not geared to delaying product obsolescence. In electronics, there is no guarantee of not getting obsolete in 12 months time, but I was preparing for something which could stand on its own feet for at least a 2 to 3 year timeframe.

So, I went ahead and specified a 4-year warranty coverage (1 + 3). This substantially increases the cost. As folks who have used Apple would know, the Apple Care protection is not cheap, but it is absolutely a necessary thing – never avoid investing in Apple Care, as repairs are hugely expensive when it comes to maintaining Apple products. Windows laptops from major manufacturers are not far behind from a repair cost perspective, so I decided to invest upfront. I also wanted a laptop which can be purchased in the U.S. (like my own Lenovo) and then transferred over to the country where we live.

So, my wife now has the Dell XPS 15 with a beautiful 15.6″ display and specs which match what I have listed above. It is blazingly fast (of course, since there are hardly any cluttering applications on it – she won’t allow those to be installed anyway), and looks pretty nice, though a bit heavy to carry around. It is an appropriate acquisition for older folks like us with eyesight challenges (wearing glasses, hope she does not read this!!!), with a bigger screen and big font sizes.

I have installed the usual Anti-Virus, Firewall and related software to protect the laptop. I believe this is an excellent choice for the specs I have outlined. I am available for any unpaid consultation for digitally challenged folks who would like to design their home networks and operate a set of devices – not just laptops, but other devices such as Amazon Echo (which I recently installed and will write about soon), and also protect the network from cyber snoopers.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

9th July 2017

 

 

Chicago O’Hare and Jet Lag


I flew from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Singapore via Taipei last weekend. My Eva Air flight was at 00:30 hours, past Friday midnight and I cleared all formalities by 10:15 PM Friday evening.

I was totally surprised at the level of airport activity – there were passengers, of course, and airport personnel, but O’Hare did not look like a major international airport at all. Almost all the restaurants were closed, except for a lousy coffee shop and a bar with no food. This was Terminal 5, and I am sure there might have been more activity in the other terminals, but we could not leave this terminal and go to the others to check out. My family was hungry and so was I, but the maximum we could get was a brownie and coffee. This was simply unacceptable, and I could not resist comparisons with major Asian flight hubs such as Singapore, Seoul, Bangkok or Hong Kong, which are alive with activities 24×7. You can almost get anything you want in the Singapore Changi International Airport even at midnight.

American airports need to be upgraded with more passenger services and better quality infrastructure. These airports are decades old and appear to have hardly seen a major facelift over the years. I saw one DFS shop open with exorbitant prices for almost everything. But as time went on, the activity levels dropped except around the departure gates. I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation was similar in other major international airports in the U.S.

Well, at least the gate handling was uneventful, and Eva Air departure personnel handled the crowd efficiently, and the flight left on time (except for the short taxiing delay of 10 to 15 minutes). I decided to align my body with the time at Chicago and went to sleep after some food. Many folks were seeing movies. I slept for some 6 to 7 hours and when I got up we were some 70% through with our journey time. It was morning time in Chicago and I again aligned my body with some activities like walking around the cabin, stretching the legs, seeing some movies, etc., keeping awake till the plane landed at Taipei. It was going to be 4 AM in Taipei the next day. And, I felt fresh. It worked for me and I had no jet lag at all even after we landed in Singapore around noon time Sunday.

Of course, I went to sleep pretty early Sunday night and had a good 8 hour sleep, and that brought my body in alignment with the local timing in Singapore. However, my family members were having difficulties with jet lag affecting them for couple of days before they felt all right.

So, the key learning was to ensure sync with the origin location of the flight, rather than the destination. This worked for me. I never felt sleepy during late afternoons upon arrival, and this was different from my previous experiences.

Well, Singapore always looks welcoming when we arrive its beautiful airport, so here we are! It was a wonderful vacation in the U.S. and when I walked around New York and Washington, I felt that I should have worked in these places at least once in my lifetime!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

8th July 2017