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What is Akand Sitra's take on the website IAS-baba?

I love websites.Especially the ones which help you in building your career. They are free. They are informative and the best thing about them is that they are dynamic - That is, they HAVE to be updated with new information every single day, which means, if one commits to start a website then he has to ensure that he is present every single day, making and uploading new content, without hindering the website's quality - Which is a very tough job to do.And not many websites have teams which are capable of doing that. Most of the websites do start on a grand scale, but they do get dissipated after a while. And this is what worries me when I try to follow any new website.But, after observing IAS-Baba for almost a month, I am convinced that this is going to give a very tough competition to other such websites like Insights, GKToday, etc., which, currently are the masters of the online IAS coaching segment.And what makes me think so? Let's analyze it bit by bit.1) The Website's StructureThe look and feel of a website is very important if one wants recurring viewers. I wouldn't visit a website again the next day, if I don't like what I see the first day. So, the website, especially, the ones loaded with lots of information, must be clean, simple and attractive. Insights had excelled at that, in their 'blog-type' interface, and IAS-Baba has upped its ante by giving a cleaner and cuter interface, especially the circular icons which are very pleasing to look at.And the logo, of a 'Baba' meditating, is very well designed, and gives a funky look, for an otherwise serious preparation.2) The ContentNo matter how good-looking the website is, if it doesn't have the required content, then it will die. It will have such a brutal death, that it might not come back again. And the most important aspect of a 'daily' website such as IAS-Baba should be that new content must be uploaded 'daily'.So, when I was asked this question a week ago, I had decided to observe the website for a week, to see if these guys slipped in quality or if they were punctual enough to work every single day. And surprisingly, they were. This meant that they had a great team, with dedicated personnel, who had enough knowledge to guide the rest of us. So, then I decided to analyze their content more closely, to see if they were worth following everyday.3) Current Affairs SectionAnyone can make hundreds of questions and keep asking them everyday as prelims mock tests. The true knowledge and dedication comes, when one has to wake up early in the morning, read the newspaper, understand the whole content, select the ones suitable for IAS preparation, then write an article on it (I know how tough it is to write articles every single day), with relevant background information and then publish it before the end of the day!!So, if you want to understand the quality of a website, you shouldn't look at their pre-made questions, but to dynamic on-the-spot Current Affairs Section.And IAS-Baba has blown my mind in this section.For example, if we take today's (25th June) CA analysis - IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs - 25 June 2015, we can see that on top of just stating the news, they even gave theoretical background of important information, which needs a lot of preparation, and the best part that I liked here is the - "Connecting the Dots" feature, where additional inter-linking of various concepts related to the news is also mentioned!The one thing I have learnt after giving Mains twice is, inter-linking of various concepts from various subjects, in such a way that there is some kind of coherence in the answer - And IASBaba does exactly that. The team seems to surely know what they are doing.4) Language Parity!I don't think I have seen any website which gives so much importance to the Hindi segment as IASBaba does, and that, really is commendable. I live in Mukherjee Nagar and have seen first hand, how much Hindi medium aspirants suffer to get quality material in Hindi. Most of the them, mostly spend their time translating notes from English to Hindi. And this section is very large indeed. So IASBaba is doing the right thing in catering to this segment through their Hindi initiatives.Current Affairs in Hindi is such a tough job to do, but IASBaba seems to do it with ease - IASbaba Daily Current Affairs-25th June- हिंदी - IASbaba5) Monthly Magazine and Yojana GistI think this is where I was truly impressed, by the quality and creativity of the team. - Baba's Monthly Magazine - IASbabaThey start off with a hoard of Mains questions, and then give a series of important articles, from which the answers of the questions can be written. It was simple, clear and very effective indeed.But, I liked the Yojana Gist more, (I don't know why you guys spell it as 'Jist', maybe it is a new concept or a spelling mistake :D Get it right) - Jist of Tourism - June 2015 on IASbabaI like it more because the whole Yojana magazine is summarized in the form of Mains and Prelims questions, and that makes it more readable and user-friendly and has a huge effect on the mind, rather than reading boring essays. Anyways, I have stopped buying the magazine, thinking I'll just read your "Jist". :D6) Mind Maps!Make your Mind Maps more popular. I just love them. They are a pretty neat concept. I can see the amount of work that has been put into them, and they do simplify a lot of stuff, so do make them more prominent. And moreover, why dont you guys start making mindmaps for Current Affairs too? That should help all of us a lot. But, for now, these 50 mind-maps are more than enough. :DMind Map Archive - IASbaba7) Other InitiativesI am not giving much importance for Prelims questions, Video analysis of Big Picture etc., because I see them in almost every website. The questions are good, they are conceptual, but a bit easy I guess. Insights gives tougher questions, but in my opinion, easy conceptual questions are better for beginners. Concepts need to be clear first, before going to the tougher questions.So, according to me, beginners should use IAS-Baba daily prelims questions as practice ones, and once they become veterans, should start using Insights' questions as practice ones.Well, I appreciate that even CSAT questions are asked in Hindi! That was a nice master-stroke to attract more of Hindi aspirants.SuggestionsWell, noone is perfect, and that stands for websites too. Everyone is on an eternal journey to perfection, and improvement is a constant necessity to better ourselves. So, here is some free advice and suggestions to help improve the website much better.1) Start off with some Mains questions.That helps you in a lot of ways -a) It brings more interaction into the website, which would make it more socially-oriented.b) If people answer questions, they would keep coming back to check more comments, which would increase the Page-Views dramatically, thereby increasing the revenue manifold.c) It gives a lot of writing practice to the thousands of online aspirants - This is where Insights excels.d) Writing on the website would make one emotionally attached to it, thus making him a recurring user, which would give you a very loyal base and a steady source of page-views and income. :D2) You should update your website to have a mobile-friendly interface too. The website we see on the phone is very different and super-elongated with bad formatting. Check into it. :)3) Make an App! :D I know it is very early and it is too much to ask, but a mobile app would be super cool. Maybe we could get notifications with prelims questions every day, and solving them instantly would give a nice feel. :P4) Make the Daily Quiz in a traditional "Quiz" format, something on the lines of Insights instead of just uploading a PDF page. I think there is some plug-in for that, do find out. Or just do both. Have a PDF version also, for us to download and save. :D5) And have more initiatives for Optionals also! :DAnyways, that's it for now. And that is my take on the website. All the very best, and you have earned another loyal follower. :DThe best part of this to an aspirant is that - It doesn't matter how many new websites come up, if the quality of the content is good, it is not the website which is the winner in the end, but the aspirant himself.It is not GkToday vs Insights vs IASBaba, or anything. This is not a fight which is going on. No one can take over the entire internet domain, because we aren't talking about social networking sites like Facebook or search engines like Google to have a monopoly. We are talking about information-laden websites, which can be used within one hour daily and then can be moved on to the next website.So, these websites would complement each other in studies and thus shouldn't be seen as rivals, but more as options to help equip an aspirant crack this draconian of an examination. So, let's hail them all!Thank you internet, for making our lives so much easier. :P

What kind of books are in your bookshelf?

We have thirty-eight bookcases in our house holding about four thousand books, most of them nonfiction.The largest single subject is American history, which I used to teach to undergraduates. Big subgroups here include antebellum slavery, the United States in World War II, and 20th century American memoirs.Most of my American history books fit on this one wall, with another bookcase around the corner:The next largest subject is non-U.S. history, mostly European but also Asian and a smattering of others, shelved by country:Great Britain gets nine shelves, with the British in World War I and World War II getting two shelves each. My German history section has five shelves, and all but half a shelf is related to World War II. I have another two shelves on the Holocaust.Asian history (Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam) gets a bookcase.Lately I’ve been getting books on the modern built environment of Japan. Why? My kids are deeply into anime and I’ve become fascinated by the background art. (Speaking of which, the movie Your Name is wonderful, as is In this Corner of the World which recreates Hiroshima’s pre-war urban center.)Frustratingly, most books on Japanese buildings available in English focus on traditional Japanese architecture such as temples. It’s as if the only books on American architecture were on log cabins! Fortunately, I discovered the Architectural Institute of Japan has available for download books and reports from the 1930s through the 1970s, which I’m able to decipher with Google Translate.Anyway, other sizable nonfiction subjects include transportation (trains and seafaring), language and writing, graphic design, typography, art, and architecture. Religion gets its own bookcase (sacred texts and the history of religion – I have no interest in inspirational works), as does philosophy (the standard Western authors and epistemology).My science books (one full bookcase and part of another) are mostly popular works on biology, medicine, and astronomy – the sort of stuff marketed to interested amateurs like me who just don’t have the chops to follow the professional literature.General fiction is organized alphabetically on this wall:Classic science fiction (I don’t really follow current authors) has its own tall bookcase round the corner, humor gets a short bookcase upstairs, and I’ve also got a couple shelves of poetry and drama. Cookbooks (a full bookcase), hobby books, and juvenile books held by the family in common are shelved elsewhere in the house (J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are in the regular fiction section, where you’d find all of Roald Dahl if I only I had the room). Each bedroom also has one or two bookcases.Some books that you think would be shelved together end up arbitrarily at opposite ends of the house. Architecture shares a large eight-shelf bookcase with art in the main book room, except for a shelf of Japanese architecture I keep upstairs in my bedroom, while books on architectural modeling are in the basement hobby room with my model-making supplies.For a long time, I’ve kept a “Bunk, Bull, Deceit & Obfuscation” shelf. Some highlights: Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods on “ancient astronauts” is shelved next to a fundamentalist Christian critique called Crash Go the Chariots. It declares von Däniken to be wrong because — out of the whole universe of reasons — he’s “not Biblical.”The crown jewel of my BBD&O shelf is a weighty, self-published book of poetry and essays by someone from my old hometown who I’ve never met, but whose writing appears to be clear evidence of mental derangement. I was embarrassed when an old friend’s new husband from back home noticed it on a visit and exclaimed “Hey, I know that guy!”This same shelf, by the way, is where I’ve domiciled Ayn Rand. (Matthew Bates’ own answer to this same question notwithstanding, strange women writing puerile novels is no basis for a system of government.)Speaking of fellow Quorans, I’ve got Mike Massimino’s book Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe, which was strongly recommended to me by Julie Ritt. It’s a wonderful book and, after some deliberation, ended up shelved in space exploration rather than with my other modern American memoirs.I’ve also recently read Andrew Karam’s Rig Ship for Ultra Quiet, about his Cold War service on a nuclear attack submarine. It’s a great read, although I feel guilty about getting it as a free Kindle loan as an Amazon Prime perk. Normally I’d buy a retail copy to support an author I know, but new paperbacks are currently going for almost $200. The used ones fetch $50. Wow.Karam has a new book, Comets: Nature and Culture, aimed at those with an interest in the history of astronomy. I used to do typesetting, and this book hits a trifecta with me: one of my favorite Quorans, writing on a topic that fascinates me, in a book expertly composed by the excellent British publisher, Reaktion Books.What about other ebooks? I mostly use my Kindle for reading free PDFs of older books downloaded from the Internet Archive and Google Books. On my Kindle you’ll also find about two thousand ex-slave narratives from the Federal Writers Project (you can download these as 34 PDF volumes from the Library of Congress).My law books are split between the house and my office downtown. Treatises and reference works relevant to law are at the office, while legal histories and other fun reads are at home.Finally, I’m a big dictionary nerd. I keep my compact OED2 on a rotating stand in my office and I have an identical stand at home for my Merriam-Webster unabridged. It’s a printing of the second edition (of course!) with the ghost word “dord” — cool, huh?

I fell in love with China, but I know nothing is perfect. What are some ugly truths about China?

For the record, I am Mainland Chinese, born and raised. Just because I am answering this question does not mean I am somehow unpatriotically badmouthing my country. It is even more absurd to assume I am non-Chinese (either ethnically or legally). This answer was created to simply provide an “insider’s point of view” that may help people interested in China to gain deeper understanding of my country.If you do not like this answer, simply downvote it. However, take the time to let it sink in first, and check my other (rather patriotic) answers to get an idea of where I usually stand when talking about China.China is, according to my personal observations, the biggest producer of traitors (over 1 million Chinese served as cooperation forces or assistants for the Japanese during the invasion) and reverse-nationalists 逆向民族主义者 in the world, the latter is a term used to describe people who are racist/nationalist towards their own country and compatriots. The earlier case of a Chinese tutor in an Australian university publicly calling the Chinese students in his class 留学豚 (study-abroad pigs) is but one among many such incidents (Chinese-Australian tutor accused of racism by Chinese students). So if you do not like disloyal people, especially those being disloyal for no good reason, chances are that you will not like some of your Chinese friends when you learn about where they stand in terms of self identity.And don’t even get me started on historic figures like Qin Hui (suspected by historians to be a Jurchen spy, yet managed to become the prime minister of the Song Empire and back-stabbed the war hero Yue Fei) and his master Zhao Gou (Emperor Gao Zong of the Song Dynasty): JC Hóu's answer to Which Chinese person across all Chinese history is the most universally hated by Chinese people today?Demographically China is extremely unbalanced: The eastern provinces are crowded, especially if you travel using public transportation and visit the tourist attractions. Try go out during the holidays: it gets even worse. People mountain people sea 人山人海.The provinces and autonomous regions in the west are in contrast very sparsely-populated (merely 6% of the total population reside to the northwest of the Heihe–Tengchong Line) that things can get really inconvenient for visitors and even local people. On the other hand, I guess it is more or less the norm for many other countries as well. But countries like Germany and France do handle it better.Chinese people are generally extremely bad at foreign languages: JC Hóu's answer to Is English language a required subject in Chinese schools?JC Hóu's answer to If English speakers consider Chinese a very unfamiliar and difficult language to learn, wouldn't English be the same for the Chinese learners?What’s worse, their keen desire to learn English and other foreign languages will not help you (the visitors) nor them, as a lot them tend to bug foreigners they know to practice with them, which is a gigantic waste of time for both sides if they are not sufficiently committed. Furthermore, many Chinese people do not even believe their compatriots can be fluent in English (I’ve got one in the comment section who mistakened me as a SE Asian badmouthing China).Update: the comment has been deleted.Based on point 3, Chinese people do not know how to “sell” the country, the culture, and the merits of themselves well. Even educated, knowledgeable and culturally sophisticated young Chinese would try to talk about superficial things about China with foreigners (and expect superficial responses!), like this: “How do you like the food in China? (come on, praise our cuisine)” From my personal experience, more than half of the conversations between a foreign visitor and an English-speaking Chinese would end up like this, despite the latter can be very talkative and sophisticated when engaging in discussion in his/her mother tongue. This is partially due to the fact that they are not proficient enough to talk about the history, the culture, the technology…Foreigners not being able to understand our country is one thing, our incapability to better explain our country is another.Frauds. Frauds everywhere. It’s actually an East Asian thing. Most of the fraud patterns prevalent in Mainland China originated from Japan, and have been exported to the Chinese people via Taiwan (some were invented by the Taiwanese directly). But nevertheless, there are many, many of these grey profit circles run by local Chinese people to scam money from their fellow Chinese, and they have no boundaries or bottom lines.Lack of information available publicly. I am not referring to serious things like the income of officials. Those are not available in most countries for obvious reasons. I am talking about basic info here: for example, the government websites are poorly developed and usually lack critical information people visiting these sites are looking for (I have experienced this first-hand to have found out that the two phone numbers on the local border control’s website are both invalid, like they do not like to receive phone calls despite being a part of the nation’s law enforcement force). Interestingly, Chinese people visiting Africa, SE Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe complain about similar things.Distrust among strangers. There are countless helpful people everywhere in China, but the equally large groups of selfish and even vicious people have made it hard for people to trust strangers. Example: 彭宇案 Xu Shoulan v. Peng Yu, in which a young man tried to help an old lady fell down on the street get up, was later framed by the old lady and her family to be the one that knocked the old lady over (update: there was a re-investigation years later and according to the later investigation results, they did bump into each other, but the first original verdict, which caused the most controversies, was inappropriate nonetheless).Superstitions. In rural China all kinds of superstitions flourish among the people, ranking from mostly harmless rituals (burning Joss paper as a tribute to the deceased), to money-scamming superstitious plots (internet-based Buddhist/Taoist apps or websites), to deadly bloody cults (some Eastern Lightning believers bashed a woman to death in a local McDonald’s in Shandong a few years ago simply because she refused to give them her phone number: they wanted to continue harassing her and got her to “convert”: The Chinese cult that kills 'demons' - BBC News).The famous (infamous, really) Falungong is something in between, mostly focusing on money-collecting (“prove your commitment to the master by buying this new CD of his teachings” and “no need for hospitals, take this lucky-charm from the master and your mother’s cancer will be gone in no time” sort of stuff) when they operated in China in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Chinese Christians (mainly protestants) and Muslims also have a disputed reputation for bullying non-religious people.Lack of ability and determination to fight: both militarily and in daily life. It is true that Chinese people are mostly peace-loving, but in the wrong scenarios this would come out to make them seem too weak and submissive.Militarily, although today’s Chinese soldiers are well-trained and strictly examined during their service, the majority of the population do not experience any serious level of self-defense or army reserve training. There is not sufficient training for the general public, all sorts of them: earthquake drills, fire drills, self-protection information in the case of terrorist attacks, first-aid training, etc. Therefore ordinary Chinese people are more prone to suffer heavy casualties in the event of terrorist attacks (consider how Israeli or Finnish people would react when attacked as in the case of the 2014 Kunming attack) or other natural (2008 Sichuan earthquake) or man-made disasters (2014 Shanghai stampede).In daily scenarios, many are reluctant to stand up against line cutters, loud noise makers, illegal retailers (selling fake watches, fake phones, or even 切糕), pick-pockets, reckless drivers, …Updating…Sources:I. About point 1, the Chinese collaborators of the Japanese invaders part:Second Sino-Japanese War - Wikipedia: 900,000 served for various puppet regimes collaborating with the Japanese (original: Jowett, Phillip (2005). Rays of the Rising Sun: Japan's Asian Allies 1931–45 Volume 1: China and Manchukuo. Helion and Company Ltd. ISBN 1-874622-21-3).This is military only, not counting things like 保安隊 (“peace-keeping forces”, which was something more like Ustasha’s forces) or 偽警察 (police of the puppet regime). Some believe a greater number of ~1,200,000 is more accurate.Maximal strength of the Chinese military during the war: 5,600,000, according to He Yingqin in one of his publications in 1947. Cited by various Chinese Wiki-like sites.About Chiang’s acquiescence to the defection of some troops.Historic archive 中華民國重要史料初編——對日抗戰時期 (Preliminary Archive of Important Republic of China’s Historic Documents - the Anti-Japanese War Period; link 中華民國重要史料初編 (23) uploads | Scribd): One example being Li Jichun 李际春, who had been collaborating with the Japanese prior to the 9.18 Incident in 1931. In 1933 after the negotiations following the conflicts in Hebei, Li was absurdly appointed to be the person in charge of sorting out the local puppet troops for the RoC government. He received 484,000 Yuan for cooperating from the KMT regime (from what I have read, in the 1920s and 1930s, 1 or 2 yuan would be enough for family fine-dining in cities like Peiping/Beijing and Tianjin). In July, 1933, his 4,000 troops were later sent to Machang, Tianjin, where part of them were recruited to fight the communists in Jiangxi. The remaining 1,300+ were disbanded.Memoirs of Yasuji Okamura (Chinese version, available at 冈村宁次回忆录.pdf), page 327:这些将领可以说对蒋介石不够忠诚,但对国家民族倒有相当诚意。他们到北京或在当地初次见到我时就说:“我们不是投敌叛国的人,共产党才是中国的叛逆,我们是想和日军一起消灭他们的。我们至今仍在接受重庆的军饷。如果贵军要与中央军作战,我们不能协助。这点能谅解。”“These (defected and/or surrendered) generals can be said to have been disloyal to Chiang Kai-Shek, but they are quite responsible when it comes to their state, their nation (from the perspective of Okamura). When they met me in Peiping (today’s Beijing) or other places for the first time, they would say ‘We are not traitors, the communists are. We would like to wipe them out by working with the Japanese army. We are still receiving funding, provisions from the government in Chongqing. If you want to attack the (RoC) central army, we cannot assist you. Please understand this. ’ ”These are just 九牛一毛 (one hair among the countless on cows’ bodies) if one can read Chinese.

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