Hindi in Bay Area High Schools

In 2007 I wrote about Hindi being accepted for foreign language credit in area high schools, mainly due to the tireless efforts of Madhu Aggarwal of the Madhu Bhasha Kendra. Since then over 100 students have used the Kendra to complete their language credits and 55 are currently enrolled, but their journey has not been easy. Because of the dearth of trained and certified language teachers in the schools themselves, students have had to work on their credits outside of their primary high school in certified programs like those of the Kendra.

All that is changing with the enrollment of the first Hindi language instruction student at the Teacher Education Department at California State University, East Bay.

Sharon Simonson of SV1World does a nice job of capturing Hindi’s journey thus far. She writes

Anupama Sarna plans to complete her Hindi teacher certification at CSU, East Bay next year. The principal of a private, nonprofit Hindi language school in Fremont would be the first to gain a primary teacher certification in Hindi and become the second certified Hindi language teacher in the state. The honor of first California certified Hindi teacher goes to Madhu Aggarwal, the founder of the Fremont school, MBK Language Center, who in 2013 gained her primary certification in science, then added Hindi language….

“Now when I go to a (public) school asking that they start a Hindi program, they can no longer say they can’t find (certified) teachers. That has been a major roadblock to even initiate these conversations,” she said. “Considering the number of Indian people (in Fremont), there is no reason whatsoever that Hindi is not offered in our school system.”

(You can read the entire article here.)

Mihir Baya is one of the high-schoolers who attends Hindi language classes at Madhu Aggarwal’s school. He is a freshman at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont and found the opportunity to study for a language class outside school useful because he could pick another elective of his choice at school.

Mihir started learning Hindi last year in 8th grade because his parents wanted him to learn one of the most important languages of his culture. Says dad Vinod, “The intent was to have some familiarity with the language of our origin, so that when he is India or interacts with folks back home he can do that with some ease.” He searched for programs that offered high-school credit and found Madhu Aggarwal’s classes.

Says Mihir, “I can now read and write fluently but am still working on grammar and fluency in speaking Hindi.” Since he skipped a level in his Hindi program, he gets to complete 3 years of language requirement that most UC’s look for in just 2 years.

Madhu Aggarwal hopes that the availability of Teacher Certification training in Hindi will open doors for other teachers interested in teaching Hindi at the high school level. The ultimate goal is to make Hindi seamlessly available in high schools across the country, and that can only happen if there are enough trained teachers available.

Her one-woman crusade has taken Hindi, India’s national language, from an exotic foreign phenomenon to mainstream education in the U.S. Perhaps one day we will have immersion classes in Hindi like the Mandarin ones in local elementary schools. As the Indian economy and market become more and more attractive to non-Indian businesses and visitors, Hindi might become a sought-after world language. A rich, complex, and inclusive language, it rewards students with a whole new perspective on a warm and welcoming culture. Bonus: You wouldn’t have to read the subtitles in Bollywood movies anymore!

Propositions on the Ballot on November 4, 2014

It’s that time of the year again. Yes, that time when we scratch our heads and say, “What, there’s an election again?” then blissfully ignore it till it’s time to complain about why government isn’t working!

If you’re in the 3% of voters who actually vote in midterm elections, more power to you. Here are the propositions on the ballot this year and how I will vote on them.

SUMMARY:                                                                                                                                   Proposition 1 – Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act: VOTE YES                               Proposition 2 – Rainy Day Fund:  VOTE YES                                                                       Proposition 45 – Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act: VOTE YES Proposition 46 – Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap and Drug Testing of Doctors Initiative:  VOTE NO                                                                                                                                     Proposition 47 – Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative: VOTE YES               Proposition 48 – the Referendum on Indian Gaming Compacts: VOTE NO


Proposition 1 – Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act: VOTE YES

Essentially, the drought has scared the government sick,(as it should you) and it is scrambling to catch up on spending some money to improve water conservation, storage and recycling systems. It would issue bonds for this purpose and use money from the General Fund to pay off the bonds. The way the money would be spent is as follows – watershed restoration ($1.5 billion), groundwater cleanup and monitoring ($900 million), water storage ($2.7 billion), flood management ($395 million), water recycling ($725 million) and stormwater capture ($200 million). (courtesy Mercury News). The two main points of opposition are that there is a lot of spending for watershed restoration that polluters should be on the hook for instead of taxpayers, and that a large percentage is kept for water storage, which means building new dams, which ecologists disapprove of.

While noting the opposition, I think we do need to spend some money of building efficient water systems so I am voting yes.

Proposition 2 – Rainy Day Fund:  VOTE YES

The measure creates a rainy day fund so that California budgets are not subject to the vagaries of economic swings. It requires annual transfer of 1.5% of general fund revenues to state budget stabilization account and additional transfer of personal capital gains tax revenues exceeding 8% of general fund revenues to budget stabilization account and, under certain conditions, a dedicated K–14 school reserve fund.

Governor Brown has been touting this as a savior to school budgets, but the fact is that the K-12 reserve fund only kicks in under very special circumstances. In addition, the measure caps the amount local school districts can hold in their reserves, which sounds really bad. But, my limited experience with the Fremont school district has led me to believe that school districts do tend to be ultra conservative with reserves, sometimes reducing teachers and increasing class sizes even when there was money on hand to keep going for a year or two, so I am not really bothered by this. The fact is that a decent rainy day fund makes complete sense.

Proposition 45 – Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act: VOTE YES

This measure would require changes to health insurance rates, or anything else affecting the charges associated with health insurance, to be approved by the California Insurance Commissioner before taking effect. The main opposition to this comes from health insurance companies (of course!) and the arguments are that it gives too much power to the Insurance Commissioner. Well, we do want some regulation of health rates. As the Mercury News argues, we have regulation of car insurance in California, and that works well, so why not regulation of health insurance rates as well? If the insurance commissioner takes decisions that benefit companies instead of consumers we just elect him/her out.

Proposition 46 – Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap and Drug Testing of Doctors Initiative: VOTE NO

This measure was developed after 2 children were killed by a driver under the influence of alcohol and abused prescription drugs. It would mandate random drug testing of doctors, and increase the cap on damages for medical malpractice from 200,000 to 1,000,000 dollars. It would also make doctors use a tracking system to make sure a patient is not getting multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors.

I am quite conflicted about this. I initially thought that the damages would make malpractice premiums go up and was opposed to the bill on those grounds, but turn out that the cap was set in the 1970s, and if it was pegged to inflation, it would be around $1.1 million by now so that’s fair enough. The use of the tracking system also makes sense. But the random drug testing of doctors begs the question, do we have that little faith in our doctors? Mine have been routinely competent and hard-working and I suspect most of you would feel the same way. There’s something really icky about subjecting doctors to that kind of treatment. I would have to vote no based on that. Why not write a clean bill just raising the malpractice damages to factor in inflation and fix the tracking of prescription drugs?

Proposition 47 – Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative: VOTE YES

Finally a no-brainer! This measure would reduce the punishment for non-serious, non-violent crimes form a felony to a misdemeanor. It would also permit re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative reduces to misdemeanors, hopefully clearing our jails of people who don’t deserve to be there. There are adequate precautions for people who have been convicted of more serious crimes before.

Proposition 48 – the Referendum on Indian Gaming Compacts: VOTE NO

In 2005, a Native American tribe approached the governor to build a casino offsite from its tribal reservation. This was approved by the legislature by way of AB 277. This measure, Proposition 48, asks the public to ratify that compact. In short, if you vote yes, the approval will go ahead for a casino to be built outside the tribal reservation. If you vote no, it will not.

I guess which side you take depends on whether you like having lots of casinos in the state of California. If you think casinos are good (or harmless, at any rate), vote yes. If you believe this sets a dangerous precedent of tribes being allowed to build casinos outside of their reservation (which it does) and lots of new casinos are not a good thing, vote no. I know what I am picking.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya – Lacking a Core

Humpty_Sharma_Ki_Dulhania_PosterI blame Farah Khan. After the huge success of Main Hoon Na filmmakers realized that they could just slap a coat of fresh paint on old Bollywood hits, add a tribute scene or two, repackage the tried and tested formula with some contemporary flavor and thrust it on unsuspecting audiences too young to remember the original.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya makes no bones about the fact that it is a DDLJ remake. The opening credits show the tapori hero Humpty Sharma unashamedly crying to the final train scene from the original movie. To this hackneyed plot are added updates that are supposed to represent modernity, namely,
– Hero with a funny name (Barfi, Bunny, Humpty)
– Heroine who smokes, drinks, and swears (Tanu Weds Manu, Shuddh Desi Romance)
– Guilt-free premarital sex
– Sympathetic family
– 2 sidekicks for the hero (young unknowns who have replaced the comic relief characters Johnny Lever etc. used to play)
– Loose, street banter
– Side plot where everybody demonstrates how cool they are with someone being gay by making jokes about homosexuality.

DDLJ was a complete romantic fantasy, but it was Aditya Chopra’s own fantasy, so the movie still had some authenticity despite the caricatured characters and unrealistic plot. HSKD is based on someone else’s fantasy, so the characters, their motivations, their environment are twice removed from reality. It is as if the writers of HSKD lived in a film set their whole lives where they experienced nothing except other Bollywood movies.

Each character is a pastiche of many other Bollywood screen entities and this leads to characters behaving in schizophrenic ways. Ashutosh Rana as the heroine’s father swings wildly between an Anupam Kher-like sympathetic figure and an Amrish Puri tyrant. Alia Bhat channels a firebrand Kajol from DDLJ, a demure Rani from KKHH, and a no-holds-barred Kangana from Tanu Weds Manu, sometimes in the same scene. Varun Dhawan as the titular Humpty tries very hard to create a personality for himself, but his slack-jawed dialogue delivery does no justice to his character, who is a blend of Aamir from Rangeela, Shahrukh from DDLJ and Saif from, well, any Saif movie.

Even the scenes are cut/pasted from other movies. This leads to very jarring juxtapositions. The heroine comes from a fairly conservative family but they seem to be okay with her spending the night with strangers. She and the hero impulsively have sex one night, most likely the first time for her, but the next day she seems cool with it, something her upbringing, as shown in the movie, does not support. The heroine’s father, despite having serious objections to Humpty, agrees to let him stay in his house for five days when the lovebirds koochy-coo every night and exhibit PDAs every day.

It doesn’t help that the music sucks. Music has saved many a bad movie from disaster (I Hate Luv Storys comes to mind) but in this case the soundtrack is a generic 3-wedding-songs, 1-tragic-song package that does nothing except provide bathroom breaks.

The leads are nice looking, especially Alia Bhatt who is bursting with health and vitality but, in the hands of inexperienced director Shashank Khaitan, both she and Varun Dhawan (David Dhawan’s son) just wing it through the movie. Dhawan, in particular, has his mouth open all the time and looks like he is just about to drool. It is an ultra-relaxed style of emoting that is popular these days, but what inexperienced actors don’t realize that it takes a lot of effort to look natural. For pointers I would direct them to Kangana in Queen, who achieved that effortless style after working hard at it in several movies earlier.

Unfortunately these kind of movies have been successful and, judging by the reaction in yesterday’s screening, the audience liked the movie just fine. In a summer drought of light-hearted time-pass fare, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya is a drop of recycled water, not tasty, but relieving thirst all the same.


A Sense of Despair

By Isheeta Sanghi

treeLast month, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the head of the Uttar Pradesh’s governing party, said he was opposed to a law calling for gang rapists to be executed. “Boys will be boys,” he said. “They make mistakes.””

Oh, you read it correctly. Boys will be boys he says. Whatever the hell that means. I swear sometimes I wonder if these people think before they speak. Actually, I wonder if they have daughters, if they have wives, if they have mothers. And God forbid if any of them were raped, murdered, and hung from a mango tree. Then would it be ok for boys to just be boys?

If you read the article below, you’ll see the USA Today reference where it’s reported that a rape takes place every 22 minutes in India. That’s three and a half rapes in the time of your standard lunch break. Think about that.


I know that it’s very easy for me to sit here in Silicon Valley and write about these things, and say change, change, change. But the thought depresses me that, even if I went there and tried to change things, chances are I wouldn’t be able to make a difference. I’d probably manage to make some TV show broadcast about how we feel for a month and then it would be on to the next hot political nonsense story.

So what can we do besides keeping writing about it, making the world more informed about it, and hoping and praying that one day Indian society will finally snap out of its mindset and realize that both men and women are equal?

I have such a love hate relationship with the country and its people. It’s a beautiful place, and the people are beautiful there – but dear God, some of them are also extremely ugly.

I also wonder if these politicians realize that when they make these bold statements, what they’re doing is endorsing rape. Because when you say “boys will be boys,” you’re pretty much telling all the young boys out there–if you eff up, if you rape a girl, it’s ok, I mean sh** happens. And you might get locked up for a bit, but when you get out of lock up you can do it again, don’t worry, you are still just being a boy, and we will again let you live.

This is the reality of the situation, the ridiculousness of the situation and the sadness of the situation. Again – I fully acknowledge that all I’m doing is writing about it and that if I really cared I would do something – but honestly what can I do? I’m not going to lie, I’ve thought about going and trying to make a difference and make a change, but I get scared off because I figure that not only will they try to squash my voice, they will most likely hurt me in the process.

This is a society that is so old, and so set in its ways and mindset that there’s nothing I could possibly do. It moves with the times – it has malls, it has metros, it has imported cars, but you know what? What lives in those malls, who shops in those metros and who sits in those imported cars? People who clearly have no hearts and no conscience.

IsheetaOriginally from the Bay Area, Isheeta went to India for her higher education.She studied and worked in Delhi and Bangalore, and now works at a tech company in the Silicon Valley (surprise surprise!) Though she would love to write regularly, most of her entries are left incomplete – she’s working on it though!


Propositions, Measures, and Candidates on the Ballot on June 3, 2014

VoteYes, there is an election this Tuesday. Yes, I know many of you are finding out about this right now. But please, please, use this quick primer and show up at your polling place on Tuesday. Because far fewer people participate in primaries, a lot of extremist stuff gets credence and support.

Come on, you can do this. You’ll find no lines at all at your local polling booth and in just 15 minutes you’ll get a glow of having done your civic duty that will last till at least the midterms in November. Plus, you can start every conversation till November with the words “Did you vote on June 3” knowing that at least 70-80% of the time you be rewarded with a blank look on the listener’s face and a really superior feeling inside you.

I’m making it easy for you, so what’s your excuse?

Proposition 41 – Vote YES. Prop. 41, the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act of 2014, redirects $600 million of previously approved, un-issued bond funds to construct and rehabilitate housing for California’s large population of homeless veterans. Basically the permission to hold a bond issue had already been approved for a different program known as CAlVet Home and Farm Loan program that provides low cost loans to vets. Turns out there’s not much demand for that, so the State wants to redirect the approval to provide actual housing. I’m all for it, both for ethical and economic reasons. Getting homeless vets off the streets is a good thing, any way you look at it.

Proposition 42 – Vote YES. This one is tricky. So far local governments have been reimbursed by the California State government for the costs of making public records accessible and transparent. In a rather sneaky move, the State government decided to cut the funds for public information access, thus making local compliance “optional.” (Local governments could always argue that they didn’t have the funds because the state cut off the supply.)

This proposition moves the burden of funding access for to public records from State governments to local governments. Now the Fremont city government will have to pay for any costs associated with giving the public access to Fremont records, which makes logical sense. Also, the wording in this proposition makes it harder for local governments not to give the public access to information, which is an even better thing.

Measure E (Fremont)- Vote YES. This measure approves of a $650 million bond measure to build and improve schools in Fremont. If you are a Fremont resident , this is a no-brainer. Fremont schools are running at capacity (bulging at the seams, really) and they are all in pretty bad condition. I should know since, between my two kids, I’ve been a school parent for 12 years. With the new construction popping up in the Patterson Ranch area and the proposed development of the hub (and the BART expansion) Fremont is a very desirable destination for young professionals with little kids who are going to need a quality education. So go and vote for your interests here.

There are a few important positions also being contested in these primaries. I will not be voting for the Board of Equalization positions because, frankly, I have no idea what a Board of Equalization does. I suppose that makes me a bad citizen but I’ve tried to learn, I really have. Put it down to early-onset memory loss. But there are some other interesting races.

jerry brownGovernor – Jerry Brown. Jerry Brown’s main opponent is Neil Kashkari, and Indian American Republican who was the architect of the TARP program that bailed out banks at the peak of the financial crisis of 2008. He hews to the party platform, asking for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, reducing government regulations, and reducing labor influence in business. He also opposes Obamacare, the Affordable Health care Act. ‘Nuff said.

Ro KhannaRepresentative for District 17 – Ro Khanna. (Hard to think of the word “District” without conjuring up images from the Hunger Games!) I have to admit I am a wee bit biased towards Khanna because I happened to meet him while writing a review of his book “Entrepreneurial Nation.” The book is upbeat and offers some solutions to America’s big problem of losing manufacturing to cheaper countries like China. Khanna’s experience as Deputy undersecretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration gives him some insight into the way Washington works, though it is hard to beat the experience of his main opponent Mike Honda, who has served 7 terms in office. Honda has been a reliable party vote. What makes me tilt towards Khanna is the lack of initiative on Honda’s part; he did not get any bills passed despite building an incredible amount of goodwill in office.

downloadSwalwellRepresentative for District 15 – Eric Swalwell. Turns out, after the recent round of redistricting, my house falls under this district. (Go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ to see where your address belongs.) Swalwell is a relative newcomer who has the Philippines Charitable Giving Act to his credit so far. He is a reliable Democrat, supporting additional funds for education and less for defense, and stimulus for renewable energy jobs. In the two years he has been around (yes, two…isn’t it ridiculous that Congress Reps have to fight an election every two years? When do they have the time to do their job?) he has been good about reaching out to his constituents and giving the public every opportunity to engage with him through phone conferences and town halls. His main opponent is Ellen Corbett, a very respected State Senator taking the plunge into national politics, but since this is an open primary, the two are likely to fight it out in November again.

So there you go. If you live in a different district you will have to do your homework or just vote for the party of your choice, but do make the effort.

See you at the polls.



Kids and Art Foundation – Going Strong

kids & art workshopFive years ago, I had written about the non-profit Kids & Art on this blog. I recall being moved and inspired by this organization that helps kids fighting cancer find a few moments of joy and normalcy in their stressful lives.

Then life intruded and Kids & Art receded to the back of my mind till this year when I was looking for an opportunity for my daughter Lori to give back. She has been dealing with the normal trials and tribulations of a pre-teen and I thought it would be good for her to focus on the bravery and courage of others who were less fortunate. With her interest in art, volunteering at a Kids & Art workshop seemed to be a good fit.

On Sunday, May 4, 2014, we set out for the Lick Wilderming, a college-prep high school with a strong arts foundation. The school is set in a fairly nondescript part of San Francisco and looks quite unassuming from the outside but, enter its doors and you are transported to an airy, cantilevered campus that appears to float above its surroundings.

The visual art room, where the Kids & Art workshop was being held, is a long, wonderfully messy room filled with light and art supplies. On this Sunday afternoon, the room was bustling with kids and their families, artists, and volunteers from the Lick Wilderming freshman class.

I met Purvi Shah, the founder of Kids & Art. Her younger son Amaey’s fight with leukemia was the inspiration for K&A. Sadly, Amaey passed away in 2011 at the age of 9, but the flourishing Kids & Art program is the testament to a mother’s love, determination, and desire to honor her son.

In the last five years, Kids & Art has come a long way. Its original mission was to provide a place for kids with cancer to meet and enjoy creating art without the shadow of their illness in the room for a few hours. Today the participants in the workshops include the care circles of the kids—siblings, family, friends—as well as children whose parents have been affected by the disease.

“We have also included kids in hospice care,” says Purvi. “An artist usually visits them at home and the two work on a piece together.” In addition, Kids & Art has reached out to kids in hospitals like Stanford Children’s Hospital, Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, UCSF children’s hospital in San Francisco, and the California Pacific Medical Center.

The workshops are held on the first Sunday of every month and have been held in prestigious locations like Google and Pixar. “Nearly 150 people showed up for the workshop held at Google,” says Purvi.

Getting professional artists to volunteer for the workshops has been one of the bigger achievements of the organization. The roster of artists, once about 15, has grown to about 50-60 and features professionals like Roque (“call me Rocky”) Ballesteros, co-founder of animation company Ghostbot.

“I learnt about Kids & Art from a friend who was involved with the organization,” says Roque. He started volunteering at the Pixar workshop. “I was very nervous the first time,” recalls Roque. “The kids are going through so much and I wasn’t sure what to say and how to say it. But I realized very quickly that these kids, no matter what they are dealing with, are just kids and will let you know exactly how they feel about your art, what they like and dislike. It doesn’t matter what kind of artist you think you are!”

For Roque, volunteering at Kids & Art workshops is also a way of getting back to his first love – painting. “When you are creating art digitally, you always have a way to go back and fix your mistakes. But when you are painting on canvas or a piece of wood, it is like wrestling with the medium. Just picking up a paintbrush, dipping it in paint and applying it – [the process] improves my skills.”

Roque has roped in several of his fellow artists to come and help out with the program. In this particular workshop he helped my daughter and another child develop their individual pieces. While they hesitantly began creating their own superhero characters, he created Doctor Baby, a Pepto-Bismol pink villain too cute to be evil!

I asked Purvi how these workshops were funded. Some of the funding is from grants, but the primary source of funding is from auctioning off the children’s art. “We also license the art to corporates for use in their office spaces,” says Purvi.

An innovative idea that is in play is using the children’s art as backdrops for corporate kids and art dental cardcommunication. Tanya Manyak, a dentist with a practice in San Mateo, uses Kids & Art work in the reminder cards patients fill out after appointments. Says Tanya, “When we send out the reminder cards, we always get questions about the organization. ‘What’s on this card?’ Who created it?’ That gives us an opportunity to talk about Kids & Art.” She so strongly believes in the value of incorporating this art in her business practices that she has presented the idea to her dentist study groups. “We now have dentists from Alabama and Virginia interested in licensing our art,” says Purvi.

Kids & Art also receives donations in honor of loved ones. Future plans for Kids & Art include music, yoga, and meditation workshops.

If you are interested in licensing art from the workshops, becoming a corporate partner, volunteering, or supporting Kids & Art with your donations, click here. The new season for the Kids & Art workshops begins in July, so look for a list of the upcoming workshops here.

Kids & Art is also one of the causes being supported by the Sevathon event on June 22, 2014. To adopt it as your cause for the Sevathon Walk/Run/Sun Salutations, click here.

To learn more about the organization, do attend the upcoming exhibition and benefit on June 1, 2014. This event is to celebrate the amazing artists who participate in and support the art workshops and to thank them for their continuous generosity because, as Purvi says, “Without our artists there would be no art for our kids.”


Website: http://www.kidsandart.org/

Contact: http://www.kidsandart.org/contact/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kidsandartorg

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/kidsandartorg

Instagram: http://instagram.com/kidsandartorg

Cui Bono?

I have an app called Ghostery on my computer. Fed up with an insane numberGhostery of pop-up ads ruining my reading and surfing experience, I installed the little extension that is supposed to block not just ads but also trackers – code from companies that are trying to learn more about you from your online habits. It usually runs quietly in the background but occasionally Ghostery will behave a trifle overzealously, blocking legitimate content on a site because the underlying code is structured like a pop up.

On these occasions the only thing to do is to pause blocking. When you do that Ghostery spits out a list of everything that’s running in the background, as if to say, “Do you really want to do this? Because here’s everyone who’s watching you right now.” It’s an effective tactic because it is pretty scary when you realize that at any point of time you are on the web, you are being tracked by at least a dozen or more companies, with names like Certona and Monotate and Bazaarvoice. And the longer you stay on a site, the longer the list grows.
To a web marketer this is probably routine, but to a lay user like me the level of intrusion is a revelation. These trackers are labelled under categories like “widgets” and “beacons” and “analytics” tools. Some are even honest about their purpose, calling themselves “advertising.” By far the most intrusive are the web beacons, also known as web bugs, which track your movement across sites. These are the little crawlers that ensure that a recent search for “women’s camel hair coat” follows you from site to site, making targeted ads for similar apparel pop up on every future site you visit. Wondering why you are seeing an ad for diet pills on Facebook? You probably visited a health food site or read an article on losing weight.

Tech titans like Mark Zuckerberg have been in the news recently for asking the NSA to cease spying on American citizens. The level of hypocrisy is breathtaking because anyone who is on the web to make money is doing exactly what the NSA is accused of. Companies like Facebook and Google have a pretty deep profile on each of their users. At the moment the information is probably used only in aggregate but it is just a step away from being individualized if needed.

You might argue that we bring it upon ourselves by posting every detail of our lives on social media, from where we eat to where we shop to where we give. But the mining for our personal data is everywhere, not just on social media. You can choose never to post on Facebook and still there will be companies on the web who know a lot more about you than you would care to reveal. The above mentioned Certona “delivers the most personalized customer experiences tailored to each individual using continuous behavioral profiling and predictive technology, resulting in increased engagement and conversions.” You can be sure this “behavior profiling” is not coming from social media. I once took a survey a few years ago that claimed to be able to tell me who I was from my surfing habits. Given my heavy emphasis on political blogs and sports, it concluded I was a middle-aged man. Okay, it wasn’t very accurate but the tracking technology has improved significantly in the last few years.

You might also argue that it has always been in this way. The endangered newspaper survived these many years because of the advertising it sold. Once the web promised better targeting, its days became numbered. But this level of tracking feels uncomfortable, like being a “Big Brother” participant every moment of my life.

What annoys me the most is that I am not sure how useful all the data mining is to the miner. Consider this example: Based on my search terms on its site, apparel company Land’s End now knows that I am in the market for a winter jacket. It aggressively bombards me with pictures of and sales information on the jackets everywhere I go next, whether it is a social media site or news feed. Does this make me more likely to buy one of the advertised items? Not unless you believe nagging is the best way to get someone to do something. It’s like shopping in a store that is entirely made up of checkout lanes with their impulse-buy positioning.

The reason that this saturation approach has worked so far for internet marketers is because it is a numbers game. Because the internet offers access to such a large global audience, even a small percentage of conversions can make the company money. These are customers who would not have been accessible in the pre-internet days or accessible at a prohibitive cost. It’s not unlike the Nigerian emails begging for money. The scammer sends out the email to 100 million people. All he/she needs is .1% to fall for it. The same goes for internet advertisers. The remaining 99.9% of us, who tear our hair out at the dating, weight-loss, and shoe ads that follow us around, are expendable.

Resistance by way of blockers is futile because programmers (probably coding away in an erstwhile Soviet Socialist Republic) simply create new apps to override the old. Pop-up blockers have led to pop-over ads, which are not as delicious as they sound. The biggest deterrent to effective ad blocking are the publishers themselves, because their (net) worth is judged by how many viewers and clickers they can snag in their net. Let’s face it, we may delude ourselves into thinking that we are the shoppers, but we are actually the product.

Still, the popularity of anti-trackers like Ghostery and Do Not Track Plus are a sign that the bacon is fighting back. Ghostery recently got a bump from master leaker and privacy advocate Edward Snowden himself. Facebook has woken up to the barrage of ads its users experience and is quietly trying to control the flow. Eventually users will get desensitized to the ads swirling around them and make them ineffective. The worry is who will survive the war to get online viewership. We’ve already seen the demise of traditional media and brick and mortar stores. We’ve seen the rise of a few monopolistic online giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google. As individual users, as human beings, we have ceded more and more power to entities that manipulate and control us. When the war is over, will we be the prize or the collateral damage?