Thursday, December 30, 2010

The holy dip in the trough

 Owing to the state of shock that beheld the moment, I was caught frozen adoring my mobile phone which at that precise moment was undergoing ablution in the deep-dish Sambar container that our household covets as a piece of priceless possession. The LCD screen provided by Sony Ericsson was ever so refulgent from underneath the translucent liquid that topped it. And no, my cellular phone definitely wasn't an ingredient in the new recipe for Sambar that I was trying out. How it came about to be in this bedraggled position is a story that expresses as much mystery as any typical Tamil or Telugu movie would and so I have benevolently decided to spare my readers of that trouble. In an instinctive reaction, I matrix-pulled the phone out of the container though it was now the phone's turn to get frozen, but irradiate all the same. All the electronics-common-sense that my brain had managed to understand and index through the past decade was swept away by the puerile joy on seeing the phone alive despite the debacle it just underwent.

Murphy and the other genuine laws of physics were not so benevolent though. Fighting my initial adolescent euphoria, I had to try flip the lid down to see if that augured well with the phone. And there it was - the deadly flicker of death, like the sparks of a dying candle, the phone showed a final flare of its former glory before shutting itself off. Damn! I need to get a new phone now. But such kindness was deemed unwarranted to me.  The phone came back to life when I restarted it, but took an enormous amount of time to become operational. And that has been the problem ever since - it has become an obstinate child that needs to be entreated with tenderness, fortitude and oppressiveness all at the same time. It requires careful and delicate touches required of an eye surgeon to make it respond to the charger, an aeon before it responds to an key press or a flip and an equal amount of time to make it stop from any of the random action that it choses to take on receiving an impulse.

The pinnacle of my misery is when someone calls me - the phone keeps ringing despite my earnest attempts to keep it quiet. No amount of pacification helps - neither attempting to take the call nor drop it seemed to work with my phone. It couldn't have chosen a more opportune moment to embarrass me than at the birthday party of a friend with a room full of people pristinely talking and exchanging pleasantries. The volume of its ringing mutated from a mild purr to an ominous hooting proportionately attracting as much audience with every passing moment. I changed colors faster than a chameleon - from white to yellow to pink to purple to blue to green. And then, there had to be this brilliant suggestion from one among the audience while I was trying my best to convince the onlookers about my incapacity to deal with my phone - "Why don't you try silencing it?". Oh, yeah! Thanks! Like I didn't think of that.

But there are somethings that the phone started doing excellently, sometimes a tad too steadfastly. Alarm, for instance exerted itself beyond its expectations to wake not only me, but also my room-mate whose threw me a few fiery glances powerful enough to cook my breakfast. At that moment, I realized how much I missed my previous room-mate who used to promptly set alarm in his mobile phone and benevolently slipped it underneath my pillow when I am fast asleep. And then there is the MegaPixel camera which I had been once so proud of that no longer wants to turn itself on and the music player which I had grown to love as a soulful companion that has departed never to arrive again. Such dolor forced me to endure the ordeal of looking for a new mobile phone which I assure you is no easy task requiring all the financial tact and wizardry that one could conjure. My provider has this strange policy of extending step-motherly treatment to its existing customers while treating new customers lucratively. It actually took me a few minutes to digest the fact that a new connection would be less expensive than upgrading the existing connection. Take a bow for customer loyalty!

And so, here I am writing the woeful story of how I ended up with a punch-holed wallet and a semi-mortified phone that isn't open to any deal anylonger. On the brighter side, I'll be gifting myself with a new phone absolving myself of all the crime that I had committed and all the trials undergone as a result. Just the fairy tale end that was required to bid adieu to the decade!

Have a great year ahead folks!! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My fair lady

Famished as much as I was then, I couldn't help noticing the sweet aroma of caffeine mixed with Pecan and Ginger. That isn't the surprising fact, given the recent accounts of my gluttony exploits have been critically acclaimed thanks to my hyperactive socially networked accomplices. But what was surprising was that I also happened to notice a girl sulking at the corner by the window, buried over a mound of books and discreetly fiddling with a brightly colored "smart" phone that distinctly stood out from the general mood of the coffee shop. I ordered my special brew coffee/lunch and went near the glass window which insulates the cold from outside yet lets through the sunlight to provide the warmth - one of the rare moments of pleasure that one can experience on the bright days of winter.

And it was at this juncture that I heard a shuffle behind my shoulders (and thanks to the semi-reflective properties of silicon glass) and realized that the girl was now accompanied by a friend who was a guy. That observation of mine had to be further fine-tuned when I heard the very first words that he spoke to the girl. No amount of bureaucratic or social protocols would have mandated him to apologize as profusely as he did; except if he were her boy-friend. I am almost sure that it beats by quite a margin, a murder convict pleading guilty of genocide and asking for pardon from a death sentence. By that time, my lunch arrived and I was obliged to stay put and hear the ongoing conversation. In my defense, I have to say that 'overhear' is not an apt term I should have used, as the conversation was happening right behind my back and the only option I had was to walk away clumsily with the food in my hand. On hindsight though, I really think that would have been the saner choice.

Now that I have established my innocence, I shall now proceed with relating the crux of the conversation I happened to hear. I'll have to refer to them as the 'girl' and 'guy' since I did not even turn to look at them, let alone know their names. And it is least surprising that I did not learn it through the conversation either, given that human recognizable proper-nouns are to be promptly replaced by diabetic pro-nouns like sweety, sweetheart, sugar, darling, etc., during all conversation between couples. The guy had apparently committed the unpardonable crime of coming in 5 minutes later than she had called him (as he was giving a project presentation), which triggered another round of apologies tendered in all possible permutations known to mankind. To be noted is that my friends have already classified me under the emotionally-challenged species and I was already beginning to feel uncomfortable with all the emotional appeals taking place behind me. For a moment, I felt relieved when she said she was cross with him for being late and was about to walk away. Fair enough, I thought.

Destiny is never so kind! He stopped her and made her sit down which was followed by another tirade of emotions as she began to initiate the intricate process of converting anger into self-pity and started sobbing. Ouch! "Just leave! Get up and just leave the damn place.."- I thought.  The will of my mind was subdued only by the half eaten sandwich and the thought of potentially ending up with a coffee stained T-shirt (provided by my previous employers, of course). Coming back to the present, she was saying that the homework needs to be done in another hour and that "we" would not be able to do it. But it was when he asked, "What time do you need to submit it?" that its implication struck me in full (Again, I'm well known to be spontainity-challenged). Interesting..., I thought, but was interrupted by a fresh burst of vocal cacophony from behind. She said that she was not going to submit "her" homework because "he" was late and "he" was responsible for it. But what totally stumped me was when he started apologizing again and pleaded with her to complete and submit her homework. Oh! the ways of the world!

And what ensued further is chronicled for purely academic interests - She overslept and he apologized. She forgot to bring her glove and he apologized. She got to campus late and he apologized. She couldn't find an "app" for her smart phone that morning (she did have time for that!) and he apologized. She wouldn't pay the bill for the coffee and he apologized. Readers, please pardon me for my inability to elaborate further on those parts of the conversation - our language falls drastically insufficient in its ability to express them with any finer granularity than the term mushiness allows.

As you would have guessed, this emotional overdose was way too much beyond my earthly abilities of forbearance and I took flight at the earliest possible moment. I must have looked quite a sight with a half filled coffee cup in one hand, a bunch of crumpled tissues and silverware in the other and a sandwich stuffed mouth. For, the Samaritan beside me, whom I thought so far to be sunken deep into his MacBook Pro and oblivious to all the ensuing drama, looked up and smiled. The smile said one word - compassion.


PS. I had drafted this write up almost a year ago, but was not happy either with the phrasing/structure or the authenticity about the generality of the content. The former was remedied with rephrasing the content and latter by various similar encounters and snippets that had been related to me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Inception - a thoroughly thought thought about thought

Okay. So there are hundreds of reviews about this movie written by well known and renowned critics, but I feel it is right on my part to write on the movie that I felt was one among the best that I've seen in the last few years. I have been criticising movies one too many and my readers have at times found it disconcerting that I should consistently have a negative take on reviewing the movies. And it is now time to change that perception.

Despite being in a very quiet part of New Jersey, I have had a lot of opportunities (I'm still not sure I've capitalized as much as I should have) for travel and entertainment respites. Theatres in these parts of the country usually run empty and I have an unbeatable record of being the only person to watch a movie thanks to the friend who ditched me and "happened" to miss the train. But that is a different story, and so was the story the day I went to watch the 'Inception'. The theatre ran almost a full house on the opening Friday and the hall did have a huge capacity of about 600. If it were 'Sura' there would have been ample time and patience for the audience to express their emotions and whistle. But, this one was different.

The thing that impressed me the most is the plot. Unlike most other movies that are being produced all around the world left, right and center, the ones that trade off the plot for the cast and action, Inception is woven into the plot as tight as a cocoon's nest. After a long time, I have truly enjoyed a movie because of its ability to derive its strength from the plot. I'm sure it has taken Nolan quite a while to come up with the plot (despite it's obvious ancestral properties from Matrix) and with great care and intricacy. Any less and the movie would not have probably had the same integrity of thought and feature. The concept of lucid dreams and sharing dreams has been out in the world for centuries (I personally know of its existence in one of the ancient Indian scripts - Bhagavat Purana and the oldest surviving text of this script is at least a thousand years old), but it still takes an amazing amount of effort and thought to capture it a 2 hour celluloid. For instance, the fact that your dreams are woven into reality is amazingly casted in form of people losing gravity in the dream when the previous level has people suspended in the air.

With a story of this kind, it is quite easy for people to get carried away with making the movie infinitely complex, but Nolan's effort in making it simple to the viewer yet not lose the value of the concept just amazed me. With the right measure of terminology (limbo, kick, inception) to give it a sci-fi bent, the story has been carved into shape by equally brilliant screenplay. The pace of the movie is just right and keeps the audience always interested in what is happening on screen. If one were to pardon my sense of drawing parallelisms, I'd say Sekhar Kammula comes the closest to this calibre when it comes to screenplay and integrity of thought. I'm sure this movie would go a long way in making Hollywood (and Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood, ??llywoods ) appreciate the importance of thought in the inception of a movie. And yes, I still cannot believe how DiCaprio has managed to make such splendid choice of movies. Either, he is really worthy of these, or he should go buy lottery tickets. In either case, he is going to be a billionaire.

There isn't much of a suspense in the plot and leaving the end wide open to audience hardly qualifies as a suspense in my perception. Yet, I shall not be delving into the details of the plot or the storyline, like I usually do. For now, I remain happy and immersed in the ecstasy of seeing a movie that is well scripted and amazing thought out. Unless you are addicted to watching movies like Sura which are perfect antonyms of Inception, I'm sure it will be love at first sight.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Chains, The Markets and The Saws

I have a couple of posts that I had started drafting before this but I am pretty sure this one is going to see the light and on to my blog much before it's predecessors. It happened yesterday, when I was shopping in the supermarket and a "Marketing Manager" waylaid me and gave me his intellectual piece of advice about making money. For reasons that are obvious, I do not want to mention the name, origin or the firm he represented as they are of no consequence to what I'm going to relate here. So here he was, explaining to me about a shopping card that I can "buy" and earn points when I recommend somebody for buying the card. The 'Concept' he said, was simple - the more people I get to join, the more money I make. He went on to explain that I get a certain 'percentage' of points for each person who joins the chain with my "Number". And then, we just en-cash the points for free supplies from the "most" supermarkets all around the country!

While I stood dazed at his attempt, he conveniently 'understood' that the person he was talking to wasn't making heads or tails of this brilliant opportunity. And he went on explaining how the growth of the chain under me would generate revenue for me without me having to do anything. He said that computer scientists call this type of chain a 'Tree" or a pyramid and that it is a very powerful mathematical model that has been translated into a marketing model by the most brilliant of market strategists in New York. He even said, in full happiness of having stumped me, that the "growth" I would have in terms of revenue would be exponential. And I continued my state of daze, my mind thrown in its own whirlwind of thoughts, anguish and pity. Realizing that I hardly spoke anything, he gave me his card and left in pursuit of another outbound customer. I'm sure he wouldn't have imagined to meet a person, who has been working on a "Tree Differencing Optimization" problem for a part of his thesis dissertation and has been traveling up and down the 'Tree' data structure like a monkey for the past three months.

What I'm now going to talk about is my very own personal opinion and I hope it remains the same. It is the general lack of awareness about these "Pyramid" or "Chain" business models which made me wonder if people who stepped into this even realize the extent and impact of what they were doing! I have to agree that the "Chain Marketing" was one of the most brilliant marketing model that has been invented to attract low and middle income group, who, otherwise would not have invested in a business venture. That said, I do strongly believe that this is one of the most unethical ways to make money. Trust me, I do!

So what is this "Chain Marketing" ?

A Marketing model based on the exponential growth of a tree. For all my fellow computer science and math enthusiasts, the number of nodes at each level of depth of a tree is n^d, where n is the spread of nodes and d is the depth of the tree.

What does this mean to the chain marketing strategy. For a very simple analysis - let us assume that a person who bought the card, initiates no more than two others into the program. So the tree would now look as shown in the left. Imagine you are at the top (Red) of the chain. Assume you initiate two people (Green) into the program, and the green  initiate two more people (Blue), and the blues initiate two apiece. Now let's do a computation of the income - Assume for simplicity, profit of 10% per person and the card sells for $100. The Blues would get $20, the Greens ($20 + $4), and the Red ($20 + $5).  So what is the big deal here? If you haven't already noticed the second component, viz., the profit percentage keeps increasing the with the number of people in the tree. And even for a small spread tree, like the above, which is called a binary tree - the number of people at each level d grows by 2^d. For a ternary tree, you would imagine this number to grow even faster- and yes, it does as can be seen below. 
This strategy is a version of the well known doubling the chessmen problem. Imagine if you actually took this as an opportunity to make money and initiate probably a hundred to operate for you! Yes, we are talking about minting some serious money in here. Sounds like a fair deal, isn't it? You are just making use of mathematics and smart marketing and hardwork (yes, you are expending huge amounts of effort to initiate people into the chain) to make money. It looks like a very fair opportunity for everyone, after all, you could always initiate more people and retrieve your investment. What is so unethical about it? Think.

Common sense says that there has to be some logical point where the growth has to stop - there are just finite number of people out there in the whole world. Therefore, there are people who end up at the bottom of the chain, but do you want to take a guess how many..? Remember, at each level in the chain, the number of people grow by a factor of n^d which is large, very very large. Believe me, I've been working for the past few months on a tree with the number n hovering about 25~30 and it takes a 4Ghz computer hours to even count the numbers! Come again... the number is large. Agreed. So whats unethical about it? Well, if you have understood this, it is simple - the more the number of people you initiate, the more the spread and growth in the chain resulting in a gargantuan number of people at the very end of the chain. A lot of people who will not be getting their value for the $100 card that they bought. They will end up losing a part of their money which travels to the ones at the top of the chain who make profit out of it.

As you can see, the higher up in the chain you are, the more money you make. Again, what is so unethical about it? I'm not cheating someone!! I'm just providing them with an opportunity to make money by initiating them into this program. With every person whom you initiate into the program, there are potentially thousands at the bottom of the pyramid. Hey! I know the math. So what? You still haven't told me what is so unethical about this?       Nothing.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Delaware Water Gap - A hikers delight!

It is that time of the year again, but a different location. Very different, almost half way across the globe from the one that I had visited last year. My last year has not been devoid of travelling footprints and it sure doesnt warrant such a long exile from writing a travelogue (my last one was on a visit to Warangal, AP, India). I had been to the Smoky Mountains(TN ,US) a few months ago, which is one of the most beautiful places I've hiked, but it is just too well known and too well documented for me to write something on it and make it useful for a potential traveller. But why bore you with my rationalization!

Late last month, we, a few enthusiastic (albeit bored) interns from the AT&T Research Labs decided to dust our running shoes and hike at a nearby place called Delaware Water Gap. The place was supposed to be one of the best locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for hiking and one of the most scenic as per the authorities' website. And beautiful it was indeed. But why this travelogue? One, most of my friends are not aware of this place and I want to bring it to their notice. Two, a hiker's experience is usually different from 'facts' provided in the websites and provides a different perspective. Three, Google Analytics tells me that a lot of reading is being done on my travelogues. And four, I've been upto a heap of coding over the long weekend and it is becoming impossible for me to think straight without a break.

The Water Gap is at a little over an hour's journey from Morristown, NJ (a little sense of loyalty to the place :D ) and about two hours from NYC I'd imagine. There are a host of hiking trails in here - for all nC2 gradient and distances. Being researchers by profession and opting to go with the time tested 'law of diminishing returns', we decided to hike the toughest way up and climb the easier way down and yet not repeat trails and view points.

The climb was through the 'Red Dot' trail, which has got a higher gradient and hence the shortest distance leading up to the Mt. Tammany. The trail is half gravel and half rocky and lined with huge, shady trees lined up all around you. I am sure this trail has one of the best views of the water gap between Mt. Tammany and Mt. Minsi (on the PA front).  For the more adventurous, there are a couple of quick detours that one can take on the way up the Red Dot trail for a nice view of the water gap. It takes about an hour and a half of walk at a relaxed pace to climb the entire trail and at the top is a nice view point giving a picturesque view of the water gap in all its curve and glory.

The 'Blue Blaze' meets the 'Red Dot' at this point and we walked down the blue blaze that has a lovely gradient and a pleasant walk which is what exactly one needed after the heavier climb upwards. There aren't too many view points on this trail, but you get to see a lot of dense trees and wilderness all around you. When accompanied by a light breeze and fall colors I'd imagine this trail to seem like a path through heaven. Incidentally enough, we actually saw wildlife in the form of a bear (whereas we saw none in the Smoky mountains though  that is more reputed for its bear population) near a small rivulet. The stream marks the end of the descent and that we have joined yet another trail (the green blaze this time).

On the mid-way between the Green Blaze and the Yellow Blaze (if I remember right) was supposed to be a Holly Spring and surprisingly I believe we missed sighting that spot, despite walking the correct trail. (Though a parallel stream of thought says that the spring could as well have been the stainless steel pipes running a few drops of water from and undisclosed source). Nonetheless, that was the only place that wasn't well marked out during our 3 hour descent down the hills.

From then on, we took the more famous and popular Appalachian trail that goes to the Dunsfield Parking lot (from where we embarked on the Red Dot) . Though we walked this trail only because we had to, it was a very pleasant and easy walk along the trail which ran alongside the stream and it was clear why this was one of the most popular trails in the region. The entire hike took us about 5 hours at an easy pace and I would probably make an educated guess of about 5 miles about the distance we would have covered. The water gap is supposed to have water sports like tubing and rafting, but going by the amount rapids the river had (if at all it had any) I'm sure it would not be one of the more adventurous to navigate. While the place is close enough and reachable for a day hike, I'm sure camping at this place would be major fun too. There are a number of camping sites that you can reserve in advance if you plan on an overnight trip to these hills.

  • About two hours drive from NY/NJ. Not sure if there are public transit available (though we did see a train station on the PA front of the river)
  • Best time for visit would be Spring/Fall - but we hiked it on a warm summer day and the weather was still enjoyable for the most part thanks to the dense trees around.
  • Lighting is scarce at this place and campers be prepared for providing your own lighting sources.
  • Carry plenty of water and electrolytes - there aren't any available nearby once you hit the trails.
  • It is preferable to pack your own food from the city though there are a few dining options near exits 4A,B,C.
  • Though the trails are well marked out, do remember to carry a rough sketch of the trails that you plan to hike.

Some pictures in random order and no specific context:

Monday, May 03, 2010

What is in a name!

It is exam time and we, the Grad Students run caffeine in our veins as a dietary supplement for blood. And despite our albino appearance, fate shows no mercy to running us head first into encounters like...

"Hi there, what can I get for you today?"

"Can I have a medium coffee please?"

"Sure. What's your name?"


"Is that the full name..?"

Venam da... valikkudhu... "Shankar Narayanan"

"The what ?"

Where did you learn your grammar - proper nouns don't have articles as prefixes !!

"That's S..H..A..N.."

"Can you spell that out please?"

Ippo adhu dan da pannaren.. padutharanungley..!


"etch, what...?"

It's English, not Spanish !! Words in English exist where H is not silent!

"H for house.."

"whooos ?"

"H for HULK"

"Ah.. H.. I got it!"

Very smart !


"Wow.. That's a pretty complicated name..!  (beaming).. let's spell it again.."

Dei, dei.. inum muzhusa naalu alphabet kooda mudikaleyey da ! Adhukkula repeat spelling ah !


"K for king, A for Art, R for .."

"SHANKRR.. is there a double 'R'..? "

Vechuka da.. unakku enna venumo vechuko.. kaapi ya kodunga da... oru vaai kaapi ketadhu kuthama da.. sobba.. sobbababababaaaa...

(Not letting it go.. ) "Wow, looks like I got it.. thats pretty complicated.. why don't we keep it simple ? (grin)"

Enda.. ungalukku puriyala 'ndra dukkaaga en pera 'Arnold Somasegar' nu maathi vechuka mudiyuma da... !!

"So is there a last name..?" (by the time even the coffee arrives)

anney..venam.. valikudhu... azhuduruven..

(Still holding the cup in his hand and waving it all around animatedly)  adha koduthutu pesunga da... 

"How do you pronounce it..?"

And it started all over again!

Aaniyey pudunga vendam, inimel naan coffee keten, enna pinja seruppaleyey adi ! 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Behold the beauty!

Aren't the so called 'insignificant' events often the ones that give you the moment that you cherish from a puritan perspective? Aren't these the times when your lips involuntarily smile ever so slightly? Aren't these the times when your throat lets out a brief chuckle and your heart feels a milligram lighter? Aren't these the moments that your mind archives in the briefcase of joy?

At least I think so, for the past couple of week has been a real bundle for me, a perfect cocktail of joy, indecisiveness, peace, disappointment, beauty and euphoria - all in impeccable doses. But then, it's neither me nor my story that would interest the reader. My intention was to bring to fore how grossly we remain aloof to the things around us.

Beauty is all around. And paradise is where you are. And when people say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, they lie. It is not very often that nature is so benevolent and you get corrected of your mis-perceptions so soon after you err. One of my previous post spoke about the search for the beauty that was ephemeral and today the quest is proven preposterous and void. And why is that? Because beauty doesn't lie in the eyes of the beholder. It lies beyond, all so expansive and emphatic - everywhere. And beyond your perception. The cards are dealt in binary, you either see it or it just doesn't exist.

I was in for a surprise, for amidst my exam schedules and perhaps because of it, my sky-gazing sessions have increased dramatically and I happened to see it. Just another day, like the ones that had gone by in the past few days, but, it was seen today - quite emphatically, showing its disdain for my lack of vision so far! I rushed for my camera, for it is the only way to capture in celluloid (binary in my case) what your mind might fail to archive. I spent a frenzy hour clicking away with my camera only to realize the vanity of the act: you could keep clicking endlessly. Of course, I did come up with a few nature clicks which I am posting for my reader's benefits, but I hope to have conveyed the point beyond it.

And no, it wasn't just the sky or the spring blooms that are messengers of joy. I received an email one morning from a friend of mine, and as I read through it - I smiled. There was joy and beauty in it. And incidentally, the email too spoke in length about both joy and beauty. I spent an evening walking with friends and talking incoherently about a legion of things. I spent another entire evening with a friend of mine at the university talking about how routers should be scoped to be seen as an issue with the internet until they process data at transmission rates. On the new year day, it was a session of 'Vishnu sahasranamam' and 'Sri Suktam' followed up by a payasam with my friends that made the day. Aren't these beauty personified? Aren't these as beautiful as anything that you have felt and would cherish?

I see the point in people readily accepting things of nature as embodiments of beauty, but aren't man made entities beautiful too? Is it not radiated perpetually by things all around? In fact, if you were to look at it, even thoughts (I'd even venture to categorize them as physical entities, but then thats a different thought altogether) can radiate joy and beauty. And so Mr.X(Y) now asks - what should I be doing now?, and the answer would be - "See".

Friday, April 02, 2010

You too eclipse!

'Not even eclipse is so benign' was what I discovered when I was battling deadlines to patch up a project submission due later that day. Eclipse is one of the few OpenSource tools that I've respected for its utility and its awesome support community. Name a distribution of OS, and you are almost certain to find a suitable build of eclipse ready as ever to be downloaded and used by the click of a button. Well, so I thought, until now..

I wasn't trying anything out of the oridnary: just download one of the numerous pre-built archives that eclipse provides you with. I extracted the archive and wait.., let me back off for a moment. This is a technical post and hence I am at the liberty of adding in more details ;-). Ahem, So, I recently decided to run into "karmic koala' and had to undergo the process of builing my dev-tools from the scratch - hence the eclipse installation and hence the post. So, as you would expect, I extracted the archive into one of the folders and did a

pnsn@ubuntu: ~/dev/eclipse$ ./eclipse 

And bang came the surprise:

bash: ./eclipse No such file or directory

I went - what the hell?  Just to make sure I was in my sense I did an ls, chmod, and all the tricks that I could think of - even an exec!

pnsn@ubuntu: ~/dev/eclipse$ exec ./eclipse
bash: ../../../eclipse: No such file or directory
bash: ../../../eclipse: Success 
And as I was 2mm close to nirvana, I thought I should perhaps try out what my version of java said it was., and

pnsn@ubuntu:~/dev/eclipse$ java -version
java version "1.6.0_15"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_15-b03)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 14.1-b02, mixed mode)

And so I figured out the culprit - the java was a 64bit and I was trying a 32bit version of eclipse. And the realization dawned - not even Eclipse can be benign! There's no way that you can identify the problem without an error message and there's nothing that can drive you mad than a queer error message that is not obviously related with the actual issue. Perhaps, there's an obvious difficulty that prevents the eclipse folks from figuring out these incompatibilities or  redirect to a more helpful message. Not my cup of tea- in either case. There's something that I can do, for the sake of my brothers-in-arm of the programming community who might face this very problem, inching closer to insanity and stumbling on to this page - without any further attempt at modesty, I'll be benign.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On a Spring day

The first rain drop came rushing towards the small gap that existed surreptitiously between the black leather coat and the Yankees cap waking me up into the realization of a welcome change - spring. The temperature rose with the rain, brining in warmth on my body and within. I inhaled deeply, the fresh smell of earth tingling my memories, space warping me into my pseudo-hometown at Kerala. Its definitely not a place frequented by me, but there are bits and pieces of memories that I hold of my ancestral place, the bits and pieces which rejoined for a few brief moments, here, in West Lafayette. If you were a believer of 'you are where your mind is and your senses are', then I was out in that small village of Kerala at that moment. I am sure it is not joy or happiness that I felt, and if at all it was a feeling, it was an intangible adjective yet to be baptised.

You never know if it was the rain, the warmth, the smell or the imaginative mind which was the cause. It was one of those moments when nature conspires against your logic and rationality to bluff your senses. Why bother about the cause when the effect is magical. I had to take a walk - to try and regain the perception that jolted me by its brief sojourn. And walk, I did, though that hardly helped - it was compulsion and excitement that motivated it, not logic. Nevertheless, walk, I did through the trail that was so conveniently placed right next to my office building. The trail was beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable (I'd recommend it to my fellow folks here), but the magic was missing, the secret ingredient of the secret ingredient soup.

Incidentally, I also happened to hit upon a nature trip to one of the most beautiful locations in the central United States, and a part of me was searching for the same experience. And as is the rule- you seldom get to what you look forward to! The trip was beautiful and amazing though - I really did enjoy the long hikes, the mad rush of water and the refreshing rain, but the magic was missing. If you think I was sad after these feeble yet ordained attempts of recreating a wonderful feel, you got me all wrong so far. I do have those moments archived in my memory, though as the result of an unconscious choice made by my mind.

Why am I reminded of this event today, impulsively and out of the blue? I took a long walk and the early spring bloom on my courtyard grabbed my attention and admiration. I stepped out to take a deep breath and admire the lovely flowers and felt the cool breeze showering me with warmth. If Spring chose to showcase its first bloom and beauty right in my courtyard, why would I miss it?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Round Table Conference on Parliamentary Affairs - Dr.JP's day out.

To start with a disclaimer is a benign way to start rendering an apology - the only appropriate way to misuse media for a propaganda catering my own selfish desire. No, its not myself that I am going to start plugging in this post not it is going to be Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan whose speech at the last RTC on Parliamentary affairs is the sole inspiration behind this post. I had come to watch the video recently, a month back, and since it has been around in the wide world for over 6 months, I had imagined it would have been watched by a good many number of people. But a recent post in Facebook that attracted comments stating this particular speech as mind-blowing (which it is!) attracted my attention towards the fact of this particular speech not having attracted as much attention. And hence my post.

People who have known Dr.JP would probably need no introduction, and people who do not yet, it's time you do some reading about this personality. Adhering to spirit with which I started this post, I am not publicizing this speech of his because he is a visionary, pragmatist, an amazing orator and a person whom I respect for his abilities (though all of the above is true). I am doing it for my own, selfish reason to have a better India in the future- not for you, not for the sake of people, only for me.  Though I am intending to add a few extracts from his speech, I would highly recommend that you listen to the speech first hand, there's a good chance that you could come up with a better perspective.

Dr.JP has shared his thoughts starting with optimism, not because things in our country are painting a rosy picture, but because there is a possibility for us to paint that picture in future. And he brings out sound reasons why he entertains these optimistic feelings - Indian political system he says has
- Competitive elections.
- Political Freedom.
- Winners do not punish losers just because they are losers.
- Elected Government is truly in power.

Given that, I shall now probably surmise what I felt were the four key take aways from the speech:

Lack of faith and utter contempt of the Political faction has triggered in the non-democratic organs gaining popularity in our country,which is a very dangerous feeling that is currently developing in the country.

Systemic issues with the political parties and election systems. Entry barrier for decent elements into politics who have no chances of winning or contesting an election through legitimate means. As he rightly put it, "buying" of votes through money and freebies (including the Rs.2/Kg rice, bicycles, television, liquor) has become absolutely a necessary, but not sufficient condition to win an election. Also, politicians have resorted to these means possibly because they have to win and not merely because they want to be dishonest.

The importance of marginal votes and the lack of a proportional, representative system of election at the centre. This is the only plausible way that each individual's vote would translate into the centre- something that wouldn't happen with our current first past the post system.

Empowerment of the MP's in the parliament- which is essential for the best material to come to the fore. No party member would now go against the party views even if they are not in agreement with a policy. An MP has now become a mere number, ballast, in our current system.

I just loved the way he closed his speech "there is a real chance that something can be done, and this is the window of opportunity". What struck me about his speech is the fact that he propels not mere allegations and poking of the wounds that our political system has, but provides workable solutions (some of them which he feels implementable are still a black box for me). But there was enough sense in what he said, to make me understand that, there is a distinct and possibility for the change to happen - not for the nation, not for the people but for the political fraternity itself.

Though a long shot, I have one further reason to be more optimistic than Dr.JP, it is a young India now with the median age of the population being 25.1 years. There is huge window of opportunity for our generation to make a mark and there are quite a few people who have already embarked on this task!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Mile Sur mera tumhara - Will it ever? Addendum...

For the first time in the six years of my blogging, I am tempted to create a post so short, an addendum to one of my prior posts. The milk has been spilled long ago, wonder why now make it a slime..?

Says the following article from IBN....

"Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar will feature in a new version of Mile Sur Mera Tumhara after fans gave their thumbs down to the song.

Kailash Surendranath, the mind behind the national integration song, said he will soon shoot the song with Tendulkar.
“Very soon we will see Sachin in the edited version of Phir Mile Sur. He is keen to do the song. We had tried to get him as well as other cricketers earlier but they were busy playing back-to-back matches and, moreover, we were under pressure to release the song on Republic Day,” Surendranath, who conceived and conceptualised the song along with his wife Arti said.
The song, which is a modern follow up to the iconic unofficial national anthem of the 1980s Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, has been shot with more than 60 personalities including film stars like Amitabh BachchanShah Rukh KhanAamir Khan, sporting stars like Saina Nehwal, Vijender Singh and also several musicians, was released officially by Bachchan on January 26.
Nath hinted at the possibility of updating the new version from time to time with inclusion of more personalities.
Many have found ‘Phir Mile...´ lacking in spirit due to its presence of many film personalities. Its length (at 16 minutes) has also come in for criticism."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mile Sur mera tumhara... Will it ever?

The last Republic Day was my second consecutive in a foreign land, but this time, we did celebrate. 'Celebrate' of course translates to having a cool time with friends, fellow desi's, and munching snack goodies. But then, when did we ever celebrate India's Republic day ? On a philosophical note, there's nothing in it for us to celebrate - the closest that we can get to the event is to mumble a silent thanks for being born in a free and democratic country. But that is not the subject of my post this time, its something else that stood out like a bitter pill on that day. I 'happened' to see the remake of a song that is at least a couple of decades old, a song that I unknowingly grew up with, a song that was imprinted in my mind, a song that had subtled its message to me - 'mile sur mera tumhara'.

Yes, for those who are still surprised, there is a new version of the song out since this Republic day, called 'Phir mile sur mera tumhara'. Bridled with the underlying theme of unity in diversity, the original song was meant to invoke a sense of well being, unity and patriotism. Sadly, I cannot but call the second version nothing beyond a mere Bollywood album! I have held myself with great difficulty not to post the youtube links for the song, for the fear that I might inadvertently cause more people to watch it. Given that introduction, I shall restrain myself to call it an album hereon.

The primary fact that irks me is the screen presence in the album - most of them are Bollywood actors (and their fashionable self!). I would personally prefer not to represent my country with most of the faces in the album. Simply because there are so many others who are more worthy of being featured. Not that I have anything against our dear Bollywood- it is just that it becomes diametrically opposite to the theme to be portrayed. You might question the presence of Actors in the previous version as well - but remember, those were the days of just one channel and microscopic media. The only visual mass communication media were films and they are the only ones who might be recognized by the common man. Do you really think that is still the state of the current Indian communication scenario, where the TRP bids tick faster than the clock and each political party boasts of its own personal channel. In contrast to two decades ago when news from one part of the country came a day later to another part, people in India now know more of American politics and global economic crisis than the number of states in the country (a definite pun intended). Given this, the choice of celebrities for this version simply appalls me! Why did one have to stick to a Bollywood propaganda? Compare SPB and BMK's stature to Vikram's gorilla-chest-thumping and Surya's chocolate smiles. Compare Dr. Kalam's mighty stature to Salman's tantex style antics. Compare Vishwanathan Anand to Ranbir Kapoor and Mahesh Babu. Truly sardonic. 

And as if the choice of characters were not just enough - the apparent attempt to portray the 'modern' and 'youth' driven India is through fashion parades and Dard-e-discos! What in the world are we trying to achieve with these displays? Certainly not peace, proportion or patriotism! I'm surprised how mini-skirts (if at all there was one) and bulging biceps could even be remotely related to any of these. Is there no more context in one's personal  appearance in these days..? I thought we still lived in a culture where a 'ramarajan-style-cocktail-colored' shirt would still not be acceptable for an interview. 

During times when a 30 second advertisement conveys effective messages, a 16 minute album recreated out of its 7 minute predecessor leaves one stunned with its mediocrity and banality. It is not an anti-album propaganda that I am doing here, it is just a question that we should ask ourselves - is this the sort of message of National Integration that we would want to pass on to our next generation? Is this how you would want to represent your country to the world? Are these the personalities with whom we want our generation to be remembered by posterity? It makes me shudder to think how a remake of this video would look like 20 years hence. Sepulchral.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Why the campaign against quizzes

Well, without mincing words and cutting the short story shorter, its facebook that has made me arrive at this decision. Recently some intellect invented these quizzes and a few geniuses began scoring points on them. And frankly, I still don't get why people take up these quizzes despite my repeated assurances that they don't contribute to our general knowledge. For instance there was this absolutely perfect quiz that I found recently...

"What number are you from 1 to 10?" - And a person actually took the quiz and was even quite elated of that fact. Here goes some of the comments that I can recollect from that intellectual conversation...

A (the person who took the quiz): Whoa!! 5, Thats's so true.. I was born in the month of May !! :)
Yeah!! And so are 1/12th of the world's population.

B: Hey !!!!!!!! Same pinch !!!!!!!!
Will you please stop doing that! Exclamations still mean something in English grammar!

C: he he... You remember we scored a 5/25 in the recent apti that we took...
Big deal.. And you are proud of it!

D:  :D
Well, that actually was a comment.

A: True.., and you know what 25/5 is again 5!
Aha ! Now thats a true genius.

E:  Hey A, how do I take that quiz..?
Why in the world would you want to take that..?

F: doood, I goott six :)
Oh yes! And you should be proud of that! And please, please, please, sit through a 3rd grade spelling class!

I simply had to stop reading beyond that point. Well, if that wasn't enough, there's another of these ultra hi-fi quizzes...

"Which bollywood actor is your perfect date?" And the answer is S R Khan

A (the person who actually took the quiz): Whoa, the King Khan :) :) :)
Yeah! In your dreams!!

B: Hmmmmmmm...... I would have preferred Hritik..
As if your opinion matters! And since when did you turn into a honey bee ?

C: Hey!! Awesome yaaaa,..
I know that would be awesome, you weirdo! Get off my facebook !!

D: Liked, Liked! Hope it's a blind date.
Of course! He has to be blind to date you!

E: I'd suggest you go to CafeDay, its got a lovely ambience :)
Is there any more sanity left in this world?

F: He's married you know, but who cares .. he he..
Are you that hopelessly desperate? And stop giggling at your own fatuity!!

And these are only a few samples of these 'intelligentia' quizzes.  What's your favourite color? Whats your friend's favourite color? (Why would you take a quiz to find that). Who's your best friend for the day? (I'm sure he would definitely denounce you after this effort of yours!) What's your picture of the month/day/year/decade/century? (You are hopeless beyond this point). Identify this bollywood actor, your friend scored 100% (And the pictures are invariably SRK, Salman, Aamir and Amitabh).

Well, to this point, I had made this post create a jovial reading material. To move on to more serious aspects, there are some serious negatives to these apparently dumb quizzes. The questions that you answer while taking these quizzes are actually asking for information that might probably be linked to your real and personal life. You might actually end up giving more information than you would if you were subjected to a formal debriefing by the FBI with a lie detector! For instance, a conglomerate of these quizzes can actually help someone even identify what could be your password or your secret question for most secure websites. While most of us take care not to reveal our personal information beyond a point in these social networking sites, we tend to divulge more information on these seemingly irrelevant and simpleton quizzes. And while your messages, comments, etc.., are all a part of the social networking site (which guarantees (if there is any) safety and usage of these information) the quizzes and the results are saved out of the networking site's domain - which means not only do you allow these folks to access your information, but also you allow them to take away your information to their own databases on which you literally have no legal claim or knowhow. Well, that's that - just be beware my friends, tough these might appear to be fun initially, they might become more complicated. Beyond a point.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

An academic conversation

This post is the first one its kind that you would find in my blog- a discussion. Though most of you who know me personally would know how fond I am of these debates/discussions/arguments and I've found it very difficult to keep track of or document these just due to the sheer numbers. But this one, I was compelled to post- more due to guilt and the enormity of the opinions. I am one of the culprits, who has been educated with the common man's money, and have run off to another country for my academic pursuits. This, perhaps, is one of the ways that I can thank all those unseen hands who had worked/paid for my education. I hope this also reminds me about the debt I owe to my countrymen.

I have put up the entire conversation as such, for it is more than fair that I present them without distortion when I had copied other's thoughts. With due respect to the owners of these thoughts, of which I am one of the fellow conspirators..

"In TamilNadu Govt will sponsor for de BE MBBS edu for 1st person who goes 2 college in a family - take a look here."

"Of all the great policy by tamilnadu govt in distributing the tax income. like giving free TV, 2 rs rice (which eventually goes to fast food resturants), this is the only acceptable one."

"There are chances that even this move gets misused. Hope its used in the right spirit."

"Poverty and education needn always be related. And why only BE/MBBS ? Anyways, let's see how it works out."

"Shouldn't the economic status be a factor for the grant?"

"color tv didnt reach poor people, I know a poor carpenter near my area didnt get a free color tv, and the owner of that house sold that govt TV to carpenter for 500rs. All these free are bullshits.. the only ppl who might benefit from this offer would be politicians relations.."

"agreed totally.. which is precisely why we should see the reason in the earlier argument... Now that we are actually discussing this, where do you think is the missing link here..? Most BE/MBBS colleges are private institutions and this would attract more govt funds (clean money as white as snow) to those institutions which would again end up in the coffers of Mr.Rich Guys.. Strikes a thought..? Now to the aspect of it being actually useful to students., yes I do agree it might actually be helpful to few students - but does a guy who is inherently rich say Mr. Pollachi-with-20-acres deserve this award..? Yes, he does if he is meritorious - to promote ppl to study further, in which case this should be a scholarship and not a freebie. Whereas most middle income folks whose parents are not graduates would still have to take up loans to pay up the huge fee the private institutions demand. In fact, by plain economics, I wouldn't be surprised if the BE/MBBS fees get hiked just due to the liquidity boost in the education market due to this grant..."

 "I would assume that they wouldn be sponsoring for BE / MBBS in private instis that too with seats selling at 30+L for MBBS now !! Freebies/subsidies will always be a stop gap solution, but the trouble is with time it becomes a way of life (the subsidised petrol, gas cylinder, etc). The govt should more be looking at adding more coll with good facilities which will reduce the depedency on private colleges and also reduce fees gradually."

"Stats say that more than 95% of the institutions are private in TN (and more are under construction), and if they don't sponsor students into those insti's then about 95% of the folks don't get the so-called benefit. And if they sponsor just the govt colleges, its all the more unfair as these students are already being subjected to a ridiculously low priced premier quality education. To be honest, most of us who come from Govt. colleges are the most eligible looters since we have been literally educated with tax payer's money aka subsidy. The only justification we can perhaps offer is the fact that it's based on merit - a rough analogy for scholarships ( of course with reservation et al.). But with the entrance exams being doffed, TN education system is nothing but an alternative for lottery (which TN govt banned a few years ago)."


Friday, January 01, 2010

Deka-dian ramblings

I have always wondered what's wrong with the people who celebrate New Year's day. It's just some day in the year that someone back in time had marked as number 1. And we continued to count the days then on like the monkey's who threw the cap down. But then, what are metrics without benchmarks and would humans ever satiate themselves without comparisons. And so, I guess, 1st of Jan became a benchmark for us to help keep up with our math. And why am I amplifying this brain-dead fact? Today's benchmark apparently marks the end of a decade. The first decade in which my memory is stable enough to recollect the facts and fiction of the events that transpired (read: conspired) in those years that flew by.

I still remember the January of 2000 which heaved a sigh of relief to multitudes of people - for the pragmatics, Y2K wasn't as big an issue and for the phantacists - the world certainly did not end in an Armageddon. But it marked the beginning of my introduction to the realities of education, my 10th Board exams - a beginning of the race in which you don't even have the liberty to lose. And was I intimidated by it ? No - I was too stupid and brain-dead to realize the importance of what was scheduled to happen in the next ten years. And have I grown wiser? The next ten years would tell.

But for now, lets dwell in the past where a kid cramming up for his 10 standard exams grew up to be ten years older and still cramming for his examinations. The transitions have been many - from a school in Coimbatore to a University in a distant land. From playing pacman on a computer to writing rule systems on clusters. From Newton's laws to NP Completeness. From a leaky ink pen to a comfort-something gel felt tipped pen. From 512KB floppy to 1TB External HDD. From sleeping 9PM-7AM to sleeping 5AM-3PM. From 4.5 feet to 5.9 feet. Goes without saying - there have been too many changes. But then, changes are the order of the nature, the inevitable.

Talking about changes is not obviously interesting - they are but the order of the nature. Has anything remained static is what would be more interesting. Well, yes - I still do not care what people think of me. I am still without preferences, opinions and options. I am still incapable of crying. I am still incapable of understanding the physical meaning of De Morgan's laws. I still like Organic Chemistry. I still bite my nails. I am still a miniature numismatist. I still play badminton. I am still in love with books. I still adore age of empires. I am still in touch with most of my friends. I still like travelling. I still do not spend time in front of a TV. I still carry a bag to school. I still do think spirits exist. I still don't wear a tie. I still do pencil sketches. I still have a good handwriting. I am still slow in understanding concepts. I still don't understand why "Kyonki saans bhi kabhi bahu thi" never ends.

I am still wondering why this sudden contemplation and this abstract post - out of the blue. And why I don't yet have a good way to end the post, a conclusion that logically binds up the whole bunch of ramblings that flew out of me in the past 5 minutes. I still hate having to let go off things without a logical conclusion. Perhaps,  picture abhi bhi baki hai mere dost !