Month: February 2012

What we boycott

This post has to begin with a story to set the context and since the story is not original, it needs to refer to the source – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17121978

BBC covered story about how Apple manufacturing unit in China works. They show that they are interested in the people who build the gadget. They show how teenages who are very poor work at the factory. They live with 7 other people in a small dorm. They show suicide nets around the building. They tell that 18 workers have jumped the building in past few years and that apple has employed councilors to prevent the suicides. Who is to blame for this? Apple? Employers at Foxconn (not sure if they are part of apple, they are referred to differently). The interviewers ask what the most common complaint is – low pay. They show that the workers cannot even buy the product they build.

This story was posted by my collegue J on our group and the responses were – depressing. J and I had a conversation today and he asked if I still wanted to use my iPad after seeing this story. My response was that I need to know more details and context of work environment. The story mentions that the suicide rate at Foxconn is lesser than the average suicide rate in factories in China.

Why should I not stop using my iPad if Apple is such an evil, torturing its employees? First off I don’t think my not using iPad will make much of a difference to Apple market value or sale. J spoke about ideals and said he doesn’t wear Nike because it is a result of child labor.

Everyone has their own list of things they stand against. Its sometimes defined by their individual experiences and what they have seen around them. Like I am anti child labor but I don’t believe abolishing it completely is the best solution. If we abolish child labor in a country like India, several houses will go without food and die of hunger. There are bad child labor like children working in tobacco factory having to lick tobacco leaf to manufacture beedi (indian version of cigrette without filter). And there is child labor like children working in a garage with parents and can learn a vocation as they grow up.

How do we define whats good and whats bad?

Monarchy is good for some countries like a friend from Brunei told me that they have a nice and caring King and they don’t really care about democracy. India despite a democratic country does not seem to have a single political party that people are happy with.

J asked me that I’m okay if the suicide rate at Apple is less than the average. No I’m not okay with it but the problem is not the Apple manufacturing unit, its more than that. I would rather work at the root of the problem than show my anger (or whatever emotion it may be) by not using Apple products. And when it comes to doing something, yes I want to do something about everything but I know its not humanly possible. I will do what I can, and what I cannot I refuse to cry over it. Yes its depressing to see how wrong certain things in the world are but its like my friend P used to say – If children in one part of the world do not have food, doesn’t mean I will stuff myself only not to waste food and fall sick.

If people are as worried as they are about the state of the world, then well its simple, pick a cause and do something about it. Many people just end up sending money when there is flood or tsunami. Some people travel and give away packets of food and clothing etc. Go all out to not just collect clothing. Take the pain to separate clothes by age, sizes etc, pack them and help send them over. If you feel its wrong for people in Kashmir to go through what they are, then go and find out a way to help them. Lighting candle is not really doing anything for them except media getting a story out of it. Yes lighting candle serves purpose sometimes, just know when it does and when its just a face.

And find out what people really need. Afghani women don’t worry about HIV and condoms as much as staying alive and having food and shelter.

J wasn’t completely able to understand why I wasn’t as affected after watching the video. That’s because I’ve grown up in a country where IT professionals with little experience are saving 3lacs a year but a farmer is committing suicide because he cannot pay the same debt incurred over years. Is there an IT professional willing to give away a years saving to save life of a farmer? Are 20 IT professionals willing to give their month saving to pool in and save life of a farmer? The answer is they pay taxes so its government’s responsibility to take care of everything else.

The one thing I have learnt over the past few years of my life is that nothing is as it meets the eye (yes there are exceptions).

No I’m not heartless, I refuse to show emotions where I don’t know the details of situation or don’t have much influence over.

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LSE Student accommodation – where to stay

Its time of the year when people start hearing back from LSE and start making accommodation applications. Last year when we were deciding there was absolutely no clarity on where to go and how to decide. I thought of writing something about each student hall, may be useful to some.

* Grosvenor : The most expensive and upper class hall. I haven’t been there so its all I’ve heard. The location is perfect, a few minutes walk from LSE and great area. People who live thr have mixed reactions. No real complains. The only one I’ve ever heard is rooms are small.

* Northumberland: The best location ever! Next to Trafalgar, makes it easy to go attend all the events and fireworks including the new year’s eve celebrations. I’ve been there and its quite nice in many ways. Kitchens are reasonably big, I personally don’t think they are good enough for everyday cooking. The hallways are like a hotel, in fact it is a hotel converted to student hall. My biggest no deal is the bathrooms. They look like airplane restrooms, only slightly bigger to accommodate shower. Rooms are tiny and to get a decent view out of the window, you need to be on floor 7 or 8, which means more expensive rooms. The best is that the area is always awake making it safer to move around and go for walks around thames anytime of the day. Its 5 mins from Big Ben and Hyde Park. The most amazing area ever to live in. If you’re looking at shared acco, its got awesome rooms. While the view may not be as good as upper floors, the rooms are thrice the size of single rooms.

* Bankside: A friend living at Northumberland said people talk about location for Northumberland when Bankside has a lot better walk. Its 20 mins walk from LSE and you have to cross milenium bridge which is absolutely gorgeous! Not sure about neighbourhood. I haven’t been to bankside so wouldn’t know. I do remember going for a walk around the bridge and found that area relatively quieter and not many people around. Another friend who lives there had once said she wasn’t too happy with the neighbourhood. The biggest drawback is limited kitchen. Biggest positive is that its got a bar and you get dinner. It was my second choice and while I haven’t been there I think it is real nice.

* Butler’s Wharf: Don’t know much. Everyone who lives there loves it. Its just too far! at least 45 mins walk to LSE. I know people who have bicycles – it would be tough in winters though. Buses and tubes are well connected. I’ll go there probably this weekend, might update my blog after.Some people have told me its a nice location too. Its further away from bankside on the other side of thames (the south side I think). The kitchens are supposed to be bigger and people have this bond they share with their flatmates. The only other place I’ve seen the flatmate bonding is at Lilian which is the next hall I write about

* Lilian Knowles: I love the hall. Its weirdly awesome area to be in – near Liverpool street, a minute from Spitalfield market, brick lane, St Pauls etc and I hate the neighbourhood. The entrance is opposite a car park in a lonely street. The straight road from liverpool street station to LK is smaller than service lanes and is quite shady to walk in after 10 at night. Oh and that’s also the area of Jack the Ripper to scare some people. What’s good is that the rooms are good, nice bathrooms, good kitchen and super strict security, so you cant walk into another flat unless you a resident opens it. I’ve seen their studio and like it as well. Clean nice place. Its popular to have thin walls and people get to hear what their neighbours are upto. If you have loud neighbours, well you hear everything! A nice common room which I haven’t seen people use. People usually stay in their own flats and have this flatmate bonding which is real good.

* Sydney Webb: The hall most popular for mugging and unsafe neighbourhood. I haven’t heard first hand info but friends of friends have been mugged. I’ve been thr a few times. The flat system is like LK, good bonding with flatmates but no one talks to others. Common room is used more than at LK. The neighbourhood can be quiet. Its all residential for most part. 10 mins walk and its the best area ever – London Bridge borough market and tower bridge. Its near Ministry of Sound – elephant and castle. The point is to get anywhere there are dark roads to cross which is scary at night. The other side of the story is that I personally think its a nice area and the only mugging incidents I’ve heard were after 3 in the night/morning and I would wonder why would anyone be out alone at that hour. I know people do that but still go out with friends if you’re partying out late. Almost forgot to mention, this is the only place with fridge in your room.

* Rosebery: This comes at the end because this is where I stay. Fantastic neighbourhood and relatively cheap. Its also the smallest hall with only 300 students. The plus is unlike bankside and high holborn, we have different wings for undergrads and post grads. The hall is not automated on security systems. We still have old key locks and you could pretty much walk across any flats. In fact flats are only for name sake. Bathrooms are shared which can be bad on some people if your flatmates dont keep it clean. The plus is the housekeeping staff cleans bathrooms and kitchen everyday. Saves you the effort of cleaning bathrooms. Low side is you may be sharing it with 2-4 people. There is kitchen but not you can use to cook everyday. Its small and shared by 10-12 people. What I love about this place is how informal it is. People usually mix up easily because you see them at dinner table or in common room. There are no restrictions on going to another room so you dont think before walking up to someone. The low side is expect your things to disappear from the kitchen. I’ve lost plates, pans, spoons and lots of food items like bread and milk etc. Nothing that would worry me though. Sometimes they show up and then they dont. You could always reserve a place for you in a cupboard which no one would touch as long as ur careful about it not lying around in common drawers (all implicitly organized areas). I know kitchens where no one touches each other’s stuff. My kitchen is the worst of all in disappearing things. Common room is small but nice. There is dinner which is easy for those who dont want to cook everyday. There is TV room which now has a playstation. The student committee is good here. Oh and I love the neighbourhood. Walking around at any hour is mostly safe unless you go to quieter darker streets behind the hall. You wouldn’t ever have the need to go thr. Its a 25 mins walk from LSE, nothing fancy on the way to look at though.

I havent written about High Holborn cuz all the info online is all I know. I’ve been there and its the same thing. Too many people, large common room, awesome location, next to LSE etc.

So how do you select?

Don’t want undergrads around at all – Remove High Holborn, Bankside and Rosebery. Northumberland has some undergrad but its mostly a post grad hall.

Want to be able to go back and forth LSE and room many times a day – Grosvenor, High Holborn and Northumberland are your options.

The most scenic walk – Bankside

Need food served for you – Bankside and Rosebery (Not sure about High Holborn)

Quieter rooms – Lilian Knowles, Sydney Webb to some extent – northumberland and rosebery. Rest of the halls may or may not depending on how social you get, ur room location etc. And I do not know about a few halls so take this with a pinch of salt.

Party places – Bankside, High Holborn, Northumberland. All the halls party, depends on how social you are.

Tourist areas within 10 mins walk – Northumberland, Grosvenor, High Holborn, Lilian Knowles and Bankside

The rest is online to read, contract duration and other facilities kind of stuff.

Hope this post is helpful to some!