Chand Baori Stepwell

According to Wikipedia, a stepwell is a well “in which the water is reached by descending a set of steps to the water level.”

The builders dug deep trenches into the earth for dependable, year-round groundwater. They lined the walls of these trenches with blocks of stone, without mortar, and created stairs leading down to the water. The majority of surviving stepwells originally served a leisure purpose as well as providing water. This was because the base of the well provided relief from the daytime heat, and this was increased if the well was covered. Stepwells also served as a place for social gatherings and religious ceremonies. Usually, women were more associated with these wells because they were the ones who collected the water. Also, it was they who prayed and offered gifts to the goddess of the well for her blessings. This led to the building of some significant ornamental and architectural features, often associated with dwellings and in urban areas. It also ensured their survival as monuments.

The Chand Baori stepwell in India was built beginning in the 8th century CE and consists of 3,500 steps that descend 13 stories down.

Chand Baori Stepwell
Chand Baori Stepwell

Indian Officials Forced to Drain Lake After HIV-Positive Woman Drowns In It

The Times of India recently reported that officials were forced to drain a 36-acre lake after an HIV-positive woman committed suicide by drowning herself in the lake.

The residents of Morab, around 30km from Hubballi, have refused to drink water from their village lake after an HIV-positive woman committed suicide by jumping into it a week ago. Unable to convince them, the authorities are now draining the water from the 36-acre lake — roughly the size of 25 football fields — which they hope to refill with water from the Malaprabha canal. The Morab lake is the biggest in Navalgund taluk and the only source of drinking water for villagers and cattle. As of now, villagers trek 2-3km to the Malaprabha canal to fetch water.

. . .

The body of the woman was found in the lake on November 29. Word immediately spread the water had been contaminated, creating panic. Villagers refused to drink the water and pressured the gram panchayat and the Navalgund taluk administration to drain the lake. Authorities tried to convince the villagers that the water was not contaminated and that they would test the water, but no one relented. The authorities have now deployed 20 siphon tubes with four motors to pump out the water.

Indian Police Lose Password to Corruption Reporting System . . . For Eight Years

These police must really take their corruption-fighting job seriously.

Police in India have failed to act on hundreds of corruption complaints over an eight-year period because they did not know a computer password, it seems.

Delhi officers could not operate a portal holding more than 600 complaints – a lapse that has gone undetected since 2006, the Indian Express Newspaper said. The complaints came from India’s anti-corruption agency, called the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

But two senior police officers have now been trained in the system, and can access the 667 cases that have piled up since the portal launched. One officer told the paper the oversight was “a technical problem”, and complaints are now being addressed.

DigMyPics.Com vs. ScanCafe.Com

Like a lot of people, I have thousands of photographs preserved on 35mm slides and negatives that I’ve really wanted to get scanned. There are a lot of companies that will do that for you, but the two leaders in that area are DigMyPics and ScanCafe . . . two companies that have often had a contentious relationship, to say the least.

After ScanCafe.Com became popular a year or so ago, based on undercutting DigMyPics pricing, DigMyPics started a campaign to highlight the fact that ScanCafe was shipping photos to India for scanning.  For example, on its website DigMyPics had this helpful FAQ entry,

Will the work be done in the USA?

Some companies quietly your photos to a foreign country to have the work performed to increase their profit. For instance, one company in Miami will ship your photos to Costa Rica and another in California will ship them to India to have the scanning done even though these companies never mention those facts on their websites or they give the information in carefully chosen language and bury it in far less prominent places than their pricing.**

Nothing against Costa Rica or India, but I wouldn’t want my photos shipped there by a third party and out of my control.

While outsourcing to another country may make sense with high volume, low margin manufactured goods, it hasn’t worked so well with services. Irrespective of the clear risks involved with sending your photos to a third world country, it’s quite clear that dealing with the company’s employees who are working on your project in your language and culture produces a much more efficient and gratifying end user experience as well as a superior final product.

Rest assured that DigMyPics never ships your photos anywhere else and that all work is done right here in the USA by professional American photographers and artists.

Got that. India and/or Costa Rica are “risk[y] . . . third-world countries” where your photos are “out of my control.” Certainly you’d be much better sending your photos to a safe, American company (cue the Lee Greenwood music).

So last night, I was once again pondering whether to send my negatives off to be scanned and hit the DigMyPics site to see what their current pricing was. And this is what is currently on their front page,

To our customers and friends,

On Monday May 5, 2008 at approximately 2am, Arizona Time, DigMyPics suffered a devastating fire which destroyed our building and most of its contents.  The fire was large and the neighboring city of Mesa was called in to help fight it.  Three large ladder trucks were used to douse the flames.   Despite the best efforts of both city’s firefighters, the building was completely destroyed. Our website, email, customer database, and telephone lines are all currently down as a result.

As you can imagine, Annette and I are heartbroken by what has happened. We always believed that our customers placed their trust in us when they sent us their photos and videos and we took that responsibility personally and extremely seriously.

Annette, the employees of DigMyPics, and I are all still in shock and disbelief and we aren’t sure if we’ll even try to rebuild the company.  What we are sure of is that we want to help those people that had put their trust in us to retrieve whatever is retrievable.  We’re putting together a restoration team to help us restore whatever is uncovered.  The Gilbert Fire Department has been extremely helpful to us and are sensitive to what we had in the building.  They’re working hard to help us find and extract our customer’s photos and videos.  The scene is currently under their custody as they investigate the fire’s cause but today we delivered a trailer to them and they’ve agreed to put any photos, film, hard drives or computers that they find in that trailer and give us access to it twice a day.  We’ll take the material to another site we’ve temporarily leased to begin work on salvaging any images or videos that can be saved.

I don’t want to give any false hope, some people may have lost everything, but we had some encouraging news today.  The fire department was able to successfully retrieve our servers and their forensic team has told us that the servers look good and that the data is likely retrievable.  We store a copy of the images that have been completed on some of those servers.  The building is completely destroyed but the roof collapse may have sheltered some areas from the worst effects.  Fire crews are removing pieces of the roof and have found some photos and reels in tact.


Importing Textbooks from India

The New York Times recently ran a brief article about the burgeoning grey market in textbooks published in India. An engineering textbook that might cost $150-$200 in the United States might sell for $8-$10 in India.

According to the Times, it is legal for U.S. students to import such books for personal use, though the Indians exporting the textbooks are breaking the laws of that country.

On the one hand, it is just plain weird to think there are essentially region-specific textbooks to go along with region-specific DVDs and video games.

On the other hand, the publishing companies are in exactly the same boat that pharmaceutical companies frequently find themselves in. It is both in their economic interest and good public relations to sell goods in poor countries at deeply discounted prices. Essentially, consumers in rich countries end up subsiding consumers in poorer countries.

But this is only feasible if they are able to prevent reimportation. And given that some textbooks now cost more than a couple grams of cocaine, trying to stop reimportation of textbooks will be about as successful as efforts to stop importation of cocaine have been (plus you have to assume that there isn’t a lot of violence in the illegal textbook business, which on the downside means there won’t be any cool rap songs about jacking someone for his books).

Yet another example of how price discrimination is becoming increasingly difficult when information travels so quickly.

PETA Files Complaint Over Ad Featuring Parakeets

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint against Samsung in India over an advertisement for Samsung’s X200 mobile phone.

The advertisement shows two children releasing a couple parakeets from their cage. But according to PETA coordinator N G Jayashimha,

The parakeets used in the advertisement are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA) 1972. Trading, trafficking, caging or displaying the birds is banned.


Animal activists go cuckoo over bird ad. Prashant Shankarnarayan, Mid-Day.Com, January 4, 2006.