Thursday, November 21, 2013

Google India Ad That Made Me Cry!

Ads are expected to but rarely capture human emotions. But when they do, they make a real impact. Google India has more than demonstrated the impact of their services on Indians (and Pakistanis) through this ad.  It is certainly worthy of a view for anyone interested in ad business or in Google's services.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried.  I cried for the emotion expressed in the ad are so tender - long lost friends coming together.  But I also cried because the ad expresses hope of the two nations that are being kept apart by crazies on both sides, can come together.

When an ad supporting a product does all that, in my book it has achieved it's goal.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Minotaur Slays Yet Another Warrior

According to Ariad's company website..."The name ARIAD originates from the Greek myth of Ariadne, a daughter of Minos II, king of Crete"... who gave Theseus, a spool of thread that would enable him to slay Minotaur and return back safely.  Unfortunately, in this case, the "Minotaur" of drug development - the adverse events - ended up devouring Ariad's latest drug Iclusig (ponatinib)

According to NY Times, FDA today announced that they are halting the sales of Iclusig in the US. The serious danger of blood clots had lead to, amputations in some cases, and death in other cases, of individuals taking the drug.  These adverse events were serious enough that the FDA decided it could not allow continued marketing of the drug.

This is yet another example of just how challenging and risky drug development remains. Iclusig's approval was heralded as a triumph of the vision of Ariad's founder Harvey Burger, who toiled away for years and persisted in the face of heavy odds to develop Iclusig and get it registered.  But signs of trouble began right from the beginning when Iclusig's approval was greeted with a decline in share price of Ariad due to the black box warning in the label.  Harvey didn't believe that the adverse events of Iclusig were serious enough to warrant caution, but the street was worried. It seems prescient now that the FDA would require a black box warning in Iclusig's label warning the prescribers of the risk of serious adverse events.

In some ways, Ariad has been a troubled company right from get go.  Ariad's earlier entry into the market place was ridaforolimus, which it partnered out to Merck in the hopes of rapid and extensive development. The partnership ran into trouble mid way and Merck took control of the drug's development and commercialization.  Unfortunately, the drug was set back significantly when FDA recently turned down the application for an indication in Sarcoma unless Merck conducted additional trials to demonstrate safety.   

Ariad had an opportunity to license out the drug to a deeper pocketed partner before the drug was approved and recoup some of the large investments made in the molecule's development. But management decided that they would rather commercialize the drug themselves than give away economic value to some one else.  This, unfortunately, meant that the company and its investors were also taking on the risk of something going wrong.

Today Ariad's hopes of a commercializing a drug that would help millions of patients, are in tatters, and so are the hopes of its founder and the investors who believed in him.  It will be quite a miracle if the company comes out of this death spiral intact.  As I write this, it is difficult not to feel bad for the man who set the vision for the company, the investors who followed him and funded him, the patients who contributed to development of the drug, and those patients who could have benefited from the drug being on the market.  

FDA Finds Spices From India Contaminated With Rodent and Insect Filth

New York Times reports that a study by the FDA found that more than 12% of US spice imports are contaminated with insect and rodent parts/filth.  This news should be shocking to any foodie, but as a vegetarian I find this exceedingly repulsive.  The FDA must exercise the strength of its powers to ensure that food safety is practiced by the growers and importers.

The unfortunate situation of having to consume contaminated spices stems from the common practice of purchasing ground up spices rather than buying whole spices.  In the old days, must of the spice trade used to occur in whole spices.  Families would by whole "dhaniya" (cilantro seeds) or whole "mirchi" (pepper) etc and take them home where the spices would be closely examined and cleaned before being ground up.  This practice extended to other edible grains like "gehun" (wheat for flour "ata") and pulses like "dal" (lentils), "chana" (grams) etc.  Today, despite the widespread availability of small portable mills, it is difficult to enjoy the benefits of clean food for lack of time and extreme difficulty of finding whole grain in Western countries.

Whole Foods and a few other vendors do sell some whole grain.  But the trade is nothing compared to the whole grains and whole spices trade to be found in old motherland like India and Iran.  So, even if you wanted to care for your family health and buy whole grain and spices, chances are that you are unlikely to be successful, if you live in the United States.

FDA has mandated insect content for the flour manufacturers in the US.  When I first found out about this in my food microbiology class decades ago, I was horrified.  But at that time we used to bring home whole grain and get it milled after cleaning it.  Today since the possibility of milling grains and whole spices is minimal, I view those standards as a better of the evil of eating spices and flour manufactured by businesses who do not maintain such standards to those who do follow those standards.

Perhaps some organization will recognize the value of this and leverage it for creating a differentiated product.  I wouldn't mind paying a little extra for spices that are stamped with a seal of approval from an organization that monitors the insect and rodent filth and only approves those that meet the threshold set by the FDA for clean and safe food fit for human consumption.

First Compatibility Issue in Mac OSX Maverick

Downloaded OSX Maverick and so far it has been fine for the programs I use regularly; only a few programs have had issues.
>  Open Office seems to work fine.
>  Freemind - Program automatically triggered a Java installation.  Took about two minutes after which program worked fine
>  GIMP 2.8:  Seemed to work just fine
>  Handbrake:  Seems to open fine but haven't ripped any new DVDs yet.
>  Inkscape:  Required me to install XQuartz.  Took about 5 minutes to install.
>  Lync 2011 - Had to update to 14.0.6.  Not sure its related to Maverick.  I haven't used Lync in a while
>  Scribus:  No issues
>  Pencil Project:  Keeps crashing at start.  Haven't yet figured out the issue yet.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The crazy rules requiring turning the electronic equipment off during take off and landings come to an end

FAA, at long last, has decided to change the ridiculous rules that require one to switch off their personal electronic devices for take off and landing.  It is a mind boggling mystery to me as to why the FAA put this rule in the first place.  Clearly, the rule has been difficult to enforce short of going down the aisle and checking each and every iphone, kindle or computer to make sure that it is in fact off.  I know many a fellow travellers simply turn their devices off or cover them up rather than follow the rule and turn them "off".

Interestingly, one still cannot use the cell phone on the plane.  The article suggests that it is the FCC not FAA that governs the rules on use of cell phones and FCC has not yet rendered verdict on whether it is safe to be talking on the cell phone or not during takeoffs and landings.  This is just another example of how the regulatory bodies failure to act together or coordinate their effort and come up with a ruling once and for all,

I am not arguing for removal of the rule, for the last thing I want is for the passenger sitting next to me to be yapping away while I am trying to get some sleep. But, the rules should be based on scientific rationale.  If the cell phone signal is likely to interfere with pilot communication, I can understand it.  If the cell phone signal could send the plane in a different direction, I can understand that too.  But there is no evidence pointing to this.  In fact, evidence to the contrary has been around for years.

So, let's end these bizarre rules and set the electronic devices free.  FCC, it is your time to let rationality and sanity prevail.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

From tomorrow, I start taking one of the EdX Courses

EdX founder Anant Agarwal. Photo: Jonathan Haeber of Degree of Freedom weblog

Ok, I will be the first one to admit that I am a late comer to the MOOC party.  But if you are newer still, MOOC stands for "Massive Open Online Course", and is a new movement wherein Institutions of higher learning like Harvard, UC Berkley, etc have begun to offer their course work online for any one to take, without charging any thing for it.

Majority of human suffering has one origin - ignorance, ignorance stemming out of inability to access good quality education due to economic circumstances.  So, you can imagine the promise of such a proposition where any one around the world can access education for the cost of internet access!  And when the education comes from top tier professors from top tier Universities, it makes the proposition even sweeter.

No more does an aspiring student in India or Ivory Coast or Burundi or Guatemala have to wonder if they will get a grant or scholarship to attend an institution of higher learning in the US.  They can simply sit in their home and access the same quality education available to a student who can afford to come here and take lessons in real time.

I am sure there are hurdles, and to realize the potential and understand the hurdles, I am going to take an online course myself.  I want to see if the technology holds up to its promise.  I want to see if it is personally challenging to take a course without other students surrounding me, without the kind of structure a university provides.

There are many online offerings offered by different vendors and insitutions, but the one I am interested in is EdX, which was started by Prof. Anant Agarwal.  Prof. Agarwal's vision was to release the EdX platform as a opensource platform which they realized recently.  There are some news reports which are suggesting the China is going to use this platform to open up it's higher education learning system.

EdX has a long list of courses addressing a wide variety of subject matters.  The course I am taking is Fundamentals of Clinical Trials, being offered by Prof. James Ware of Harvard.  Periodically I will be posting my experiences here.  If you are interested in the topic, you can join the course yourself - the course starts tomorrow, October 14th 2013 - and see if the MOOC movement lives up to its promise.

Yet another example of how India is a tough market for Western companies

Walmart decides to buy out Indian partner

Entering a foreign market is challenging for the best of companies.  But when a company like Walmart fails, it is time to sit up and take a look.  There will be detailed analyses of what went wrong, but I can speculate on one reason - cultural difference.  It is quite likely that the Indian partners were not a good cultural fit for Walmart.  In a 50/50 relationship (which is what is mandated by the Indian retail laws for entering the Indian market), it is often difficult to tell who is the decision maker.  Either the Indian partner was not aligned with Walmart decision making process, or Walmart was perhaps seen to want to control the key decisions in the partnership.

When Walmart has done well, as it does in many countries including Mexico, it has full control of the operations.  Walmart was forced into a 50/50 business ownership model created by Indian government at the behest of local businesses and given Walmart's penchant for strict cost controls and inventory management, the partnership was ripe for conflict.  I'm sure many are surprised that the partnership lasted as long as it did (~6 years), but it probably did as Walmart didn't really have a choice.  But perhaps a point was reached where Walmart decided that the cost of doing business with a partner was too high for them, and they would be better off keeping the business they have at the moment and walking away from the rest of the opportunity.

Another factor, some have speculated, may be perhaps it was the investigation into the investment made by Walmart in an investment vehicle created by local partner launched by Indian Government that precipitated this dissolution of partnership.  Walmart is smarting with investigations of its business methods in Mexico, and the last thing they need is for the US Government breathing down its neck for corrupt practices in another market.

Monday, September 30, 2013

iCloud scrolling issue and Zoom in Chrome

I use iCloud for some of my work, and being on Windows machine, I tend to use Chrome for my work.  All of a sudden yesterday I had a strange situation happen.  When in iCloud, the page would scroll down automagically.  Some how I managed for a few hours, but then it became quite frustrating, but what to do?  I kept on plodding.  

At one point, I was squinting at the screen to read something small when I decided to Zoom-in and lo and behold, the scrolling stopped!

Turns out, if you zoom out in Chrome, iCloud will display this page scrolling issue. It doesn't happen at 100% zoom, or if you Zoom-in at a higher than 100% level.

So, if you are facing a scrolling issue in Chrome and iCloud, simply set your zoom level back to 100% and get on with your work!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

First 60mins of a presentation

Bruce Kasanoff has an interesting take on how to handle the first 60 minutes of a presentation.


 Leave a comment!

Installing OpenOffice 4.0 without admin privileges

Have you tried to install programs on your external drive and encountered an error saying that " are logged in as a user without sufficient administrator rights for this system"? I was using Windows 7 enterprise edition, and I recently encountered this error when trying to install OpenOffice 4.0 on my external drive.

A little search on the net I found that it is easy to overcome this issue by simply creating a batch file that directs the program to install without admin privileges. After trying it, I realized that it wasn't as simple as suggested, so here is my attempt to simplify it for you. So, if you are interested in installing OpenOffice 4.0 without admin privileges, here are the steps:

  • Download Openoffice 4.0 installer from here. Once you have downloaded the installer, run the installer as usual. It will ask you where you want to install the files, and decompress them in the folder of your choice. However, instead of going ahead and installing the files, it will bring up the above mentioned error box. 
  • Simply close out the box, and abort the installation. The folder with the decompressed files will still be there in the location where you put it. Now, in that folder, download this file and unzip it. 
  • Once it is unzipped, simply double click on the file and it will bring up the OpenOffice installer, which will ask you where you would like to install the software. Select your external drive, with the appropriate folder name, and proceed with installation. 
  • The only issue now is, where are the shortcuts to open the program?
    Since you didn't run the set up program, there are no shortcuts in the Start menu. To create a shortcut in the startup menu, navigate into OpenOffice folder > Program folder and create a shortcut of the soffice.exe application file. Rename the shortcut to OpenOffice and drag it to the start menu and "pin" it there. Now when you need to open the openoffice, simply go to start menu and click on openoffice icon. Of course, you will have to have the external drive attached to the computer for it to work! 
If you successfully used this technique, write a comment below and let me know. Enjoy Openoffice 4.0.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fighting Words From Gabby Giffords

Gabby Giffords forwarded a New York Times Op Ed piece which I want to share with you.  As a person affected by the Gun violence, I think Gabby has earned a right to speak on this issue.  I agree 100% with her that this is a time to express the outrage we feel against this Senate and this Congress.  If the Congress won't listen, let's throw the bums out!


A Senate in the Gun Lobby's Grip 
By Gabrielle Giffords 

SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them. 

On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms -- a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count. 

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents -- who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them. 

I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we're going to hear: vague platitudes like "tough vote" and "complicated issue." I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending. Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I'm furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo -- desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation -- to go on. 

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You've lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators' e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I'm asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You've disappointed me, and there will be consequences. 

People have told me that I'm courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the pavement in front of the Safeway for hours. 

I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away. Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job. 

They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby -- and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing. 

They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done -- trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you -- but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony. 

This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I've always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy's history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate -- people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list. 

Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities' interests ahead of the gun lobby's. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way. 

The Great Cop-out On Gun Control Legislation

Yesterday Senate rejected the bipartisan gun control legislation proposed by Joe Manchin and Patrick Toomey, when they failed to muster the required 60 votes. According to press, 90% of democrats voted for the legislation that required background checks for those buying guns and limiting number of rounds in the magazines, while 90% of the Republicans voted against it.

This legislation, which came about after the massacre of little children in New Town, Connecticut by a deranged young man, is a real blow to the efforts to curb gun violence in the US. The conservative second amendment advocates have become as irrational as the conservative religious zealots that deem abortion as an unholy act fit to be banned even if the life of the mother is in danger. The hypocrisy of these conservatives is unbelievable - it is not ok to abort a fetus to save a woman's life, but it is ok to kill little babies to protect the second amendment right to bear arms!

If the death of five and six year old children, as it happened in New Town, CT, cannot motivate the Senate to do the right thing, then I think this Senate has lost it's moral center.

And all this is happening at a time when the public opinion is in favor of sensible gun control legislation. Even the gun manufacturers are in favor of some sorts of controls that will make this PR nightmare go away. But the NRA lobby and its conservative lackeys in the Congress and the Senate will go to the end of the earth to ensure that no controls are put to their right to bear arms. When the founding fathers wrote the second amendment into the constitution, they did not envision a populace walking around with Glocks and Kalashnikovs killing innocent children. Second amendment was designed to protect against the tyranny of the distant King, who willfully disregarded the opinion of the populace, and not the legitimate oversight of a local democratically elected government.

It is time to take our democracy back. If the Senate will not pass a sensible gun control legislation that protects our children from being brutally murdered by some mass murderer with easy access to guns, then we need to put into Congress those Representatives and Senators who represent our views and give us a sensible legislation.

It is time to call your Representative and your Senator and let them know that you are watching them. If they do not represent your views and vote accordingly, come election time you will take the action and vote them out of the office.

Sent from my iPad