Sunday, December 19, 2010

My father's cough syrup

There have been a few tweets from Google about teaching technology to parents.  My brother and I had made a few attempts, but my parents were least interested.  My father wouldn't try anything other than solitaire games and my mother is happy with her books.  I used to feel that she must be thorough with all those stories, but at her age she must be forgetting a lot.

Now coming back to teaching technology, I didn't want to try again, but my father gave a chance.  He complained about the cost of his cough syrup.  I thought I could explain it.  I could visualize the travel of that fifty rupee note from my father's pension account.

Preparing for a long story, I started - "Appa, are you proud that I am earning so much?"  He didn't see any sense in my question.  He appeared confused, "Why?  I'm always proud of you.".  I continued, "Good, let me tell you how I make so much money and that will answer your question on the price of cough syrup."  He let me continue.

- "See Appa, the money you are paying for the cough syrup, is shared between so many people in between - the retailer, the wholesaler and the manufacturer."
- "Yes, I understand"
- "Let's follow the trail on the manufacturer as they get a big chunk of it.  Who manufactures your cough syrup?"
He named a company, being a chronic asthmatic, he knew a lot about medicines and their manufacturers.
- "Well, this company has a lot of expenses - you know things like cost of raw materials, operational cost of manufacturing plants, distribution network, support staff, manage the market..."
- "I know about everything except the market."
I was glad I could get to my part of the story so fast.
- "See, just manufacturing and pushing it to distributors is not enough.  They should know when to increase the production and where to focus on distribution."
- "So?"
- Here is where technology comes in - Your son, that is I, am a cog in the wheel that gives the information to the manufacturers about the market.
There are companies that collect market specific data about products.  They load it in huge computers, programs are written in every step to load the data, process and report that data.  This is called business intelligence.  These programs are dependent on other programs - called databases, operating systems etc.  Some of us write programs that are part of the databases, operating systems, and some write programs for loading, processing and reporting.  And there are a number of people who manage these programmers.
All of us need to get paid, and paid well - to keep their parents proud.  Now you know why your cough syrup is expensive."

I was satisfied with my explanation. He appeared more confused, a bit sad and said - "So, you are still dependent on me!"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My experiment with astrology

I wasn't a big fan of predictions, but I surprised myself at deciding to learn Astrology from my neighbor.  I flirted with palmistry when I was in college.   Going all the way to learn Astrology is not something I could have predicted with my limited knowledge on palmistry.

It is one of those impulsive decisions I am known for.  Last year, I decided to try my hand at learning to play Veena, it has been going on fine so far, except for the occasional guilty consciousness for not practicing enough, only when I see Rajesh Vaidhya on TV.

Coming back to my Astrology, I started with all earnestness, met the teacher on a Vijyadhasami day, gave a token guru dakshina, bought his book and two big workbooks - one as a notes book and the other as a record note.  I  called up my parents to send my horoscope and everyone's they know of.  I searched for the horoscopes of Rajini, Jayalalitha and even Karunanidhi.  Who cares if he doesn't believe in it!

My learning started in a strictly scientific way.   I chose to take myself as the sample subject - that's the only subject I can claim to know.  There are these planetary positions at the time of my birth.  These are observations. And there rules.  Applying the rules on the observation, I arrive at inferences.  I cross-check it against my insignificant life and build my knowledge base.

Here, a brief intro about astrology and predictions.  The predictions that you see in magazines consider about 8 parameter, that is, positions of eight planets with respect to the position of sun or moon at the time of birth.  In Indian methodology, all are not planets.  But, that's out of scope for this blog.  For accurate predictions, the number of parameters are a lot more.

I began calculating planetary positions at different times to compare against eventful periods in my life.  After a week, I realized my brain is not strong enough to handle more than one parameter.  With that realization, the hope on the accuracy of my prediction disappeared.

I live in the present and like it that way - நேற்றைய நினைவும் இல்லை - நாளைய பயமும் இல்லை had been my approach to life.  Astrology didn't let me be my usual self.  After about 4 weeks, I decided to call it off.

I didn't gain the knowledge; but am a lot wiser!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Selling / Buying Real-Estate - A quick guide

Disclaimer:  This write-up is supposed to introduce you to the procedures and is not a legal advice.  Always consult a lawyer worth his salt before signing any documents.  Feel free to contact me to suggest corrections or need more clarity.

We were busy during the first half of this year in two real estate transactions - the sale of our apartment and then the purchase of an independent house.  After that, we got a number of queries from our friends on the procedures; so, I thought of documenting the experience.

I'll skip all the steps involved until the buyers and sellers have met and agreed on the transaction.  Let's focus on the procedures alone.

The seller will have to give the buyer copies of the following documents.

  1. The sale deed that is the proof of your purchase
  2. Encumbrance Certificate for at least about 30 years.  
  3. Parent Documents - Documents that trace the ownership of the property / its parts for the past 30 years.  In addition to sale deed, it might include release documents (that someone has given up ownership), settlement (someone was awarded), legal heir and death certificates (if any of the earlier sellers had inherited the property), power of attorney (that the person who signed the sale deed was authorized to do so by the rightful owner)
  4. Latest receipt of property tax paid
A quick digression on what this encumbrance certificate is and how to get it.  This certificate is issued by the corporation or other applicable authority that states the transactions about the property for a given time period.  Any sale, release or other activity on the given property is recorded and the certificate refers to those transactions.  You may get a single certificate of a long period or choose to get the certificate for a smaller duration, typically since the time the seller bought the property.

The buyer will take these, may hire a lawyer to review the documents for completeness.  Usually, the buyer would need up to a couple of months to complete the sale process.  He may use the time to arrange for funds through loans.  Once the buyer finds the ownership and the supporting documents clean, you will go for a sale agreement.

A sale agreement is made to state that the buyers and sellers have agreed on the sale price, payment terms and an approximate duration within which the sale could be completed.  Once the sale agreement is made, the  buyer can take it along with the documents mentioned above to his financing institution for a housing loan.

The housing loan institution might have authorized a loan amount to the buyer (based on his income, profession etc) earlier.  The authorization doesn't guarantee a loan for the specified property.  After submitting the documents mentioned above, the housing finance company would scrutinize them and approve a loan for the buyer and for the requested property.  This takes anything between 2-4 weeks depending upon the property type, its sale history and availability of supporting documents.  The financial institution will ask for the originals of all the submitted copies for verification.

Once the loan  is approved, a draft of the sale deed may be prepared and reviewed by both the parties for correctness and completeness. This draft sale deed must be submitted to the financial institution.  The seller's bank information may have to be passed onto the housing finance company along with the payment amount and mode details.  This will also be stated in the sale deed.  Then the buyers, sellers and the financial institution (if any) agree on the date of registration.

To register, the buyer pays for the stamp and the registration charges.  After Telgi and all, the stamp paper's denomination is usually a small percentage of the actual stamp duty.  The remaining amount is paid as a demand draft along with the registration charges as two separate DDs.  The registration charge is a percentage of the transaction amount.  It has been a known practice that the transaction amount is under quoted to cheat on the registration charges.  Take my recommendation - do not attempt it for it is cheating and you will have more trouble explaining it to IT department.

On the date of registration, the seller must be ready with all the original documents.  Photographs, proof of identities and copies of PAN cards of the buyers and sellers must be submitted at the registrar's office.  The financial institution will send its person with the checks.  The registrar will verify the property details and approve a registration.  This will be followed by signing the sale deed and placing the thumb impression. The document will be entered into the government records after a survey of the property and scanning of the sale deed.  This takes about 2 weeks.  But at the time of registration,  a slip would be given with the details of the document registration (serial number).  Usually, the person from the financial institution will take it and collect the originals when they are ready.

The buyer can collect the copies of the documents from the financial institution. The seller may also need the copies as sometime the bank may ask for it before accepting high value deposits.

Now the sale is over.  The next steps are, changing the owner names in property tax, water and electricity departments.  The sequence is as follows:
1.  Property Tax:  Take copies of all the documents mentioned above and attested copies of the sale deed, fill-up couple of forms in the Corporation office (or whatever authority the property comes under).  The name transfer will be effective in about 2-3 weeks.
2.  Water Tax:  Take the copies of the sale deed, changed ownership information in the property tax (as a receipt for the recent period), fill up forms etc.  This takes up to a week.
3.  Electricity: Take the copies of the sale deed, changed ownership information in the property tax (as a receipt for the recent period), fill up forms etc.  One of the forms needs signatures from the previous owners.  So, do not tick off the seller until you get signature in this form.  If the sellers have inherited the property, you will have to attach the supporting documents of legal heir etc.  This takes couple of weeks to complete.

We did all this, starting last December.  The legal due-diligence of the property that we bought took a good 4 months as it had all kinds of history.  We had to beg at the financial institution for a lower rate as the time they had given at the time of authorization had elapsed by the time we went for registration.

The post-sale formalities went on for another 4 months and included a step of getting an updated patta.  Patta is the official land record that states the property details and its ownership.  Now we got all the documentation done.

The next step is apply for demolition and reconstruction.  The story continues for us....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

பூவுலகின் சவால்களும் காந்தியின் தீர்வும்

I helped a little girl to prepare for her oratorical competition.  God bless her to make a mark.  The title was given to her by her school.

பூவுலகம் மிகப்பெரிது.  அதன் சவால்களும் மிகப்பெரியன.  தூசு, மாசு, வெப்பமயமாக்கம் என்று பல சவால்கள்.  சற்றே தேடினால் இவை எல்லாவற்றிற்கும் காந்தியடிகளிடம் தீர்வு இருக்கும்.  ஆனால், என் போன்ற பள்ளி மாணவ மாணவியரின் உலகம் எது?  அவற்றின் சவால்கள் என்ன?

நம் நாட்டின் புராணங்கள்படி, குழந்தைகளின் உலகம் அவர்களின் தாய் தந்தைதான்.  அதாவது, நம் குடும்பங்கள். நம் நட்டைப்பொருத்தவரை நம் வீட்டில் இருக்கும் எல்லாரும் அதில் சேர்த்தி.  இப்படிப்பட்ட நம் உலகத்தின், முக்கிய சவால் என்ன? பல குடும்பங்களின் சவால், அவற்றின் வறுமை, நோய்  போன்ற பிரச்சினைகள் தாம்.  சரியான கல்வி அறிவு, வேலை வாய்ப்பு போன்றவை இல்லாதது என்று பல காரணங்கள் சொல்லலாம்.  ஆனால், படித்த, வேலை உள்ளவர்கள் இருக்கும் குடும்பங்களிலும் முன்னே சொன்ன சவால்கள் இருக்கின்றன.

அப்படியானால் இந்த சவால்களின் காரணம் என்ன தெரியுமா? பல குடும்பங்களில் இருக்கும் ஒரு சிலருக்கு இருக்கும் குடிப்பழக்கம் தான்.  இதனால் என்னென்ன பிரச்சினைகள்?  அன்பும் அமைதியும் இருக்க வேண்டிய இல்லங்களில், சண்டையும் சச்சரவும் இருக்கிறது.  இப்படிப்பட்ட குடும்பங்கள்தான் வறுமையிலும் நோயிலும் வாடுகின்றன.  

குடும்பங்களின் இந்த சவால்,  நம் ஊருக்கும் நாட்டிற்கும், ஏன் இந்த உலகத்திற்கும் பெரிய சவால் தான்.  மது அருந்துவது, விளையாட்டாகி, பின் பழக்கமாகி, அதன் பின் ஒரு நோயாகவே மாறி விட்டது.  இந்த நோய், மலேரியா, காலரா போன்று பரவி, சமூக நோயாகவே மாறி விட்டது.

இது நம் நாட்டிற்கு மட்டுமல்ல, வளர்ந்த அமெரிக்கா போன்ற நாடுகளிலும் இது ஒரு பிரச்சினை தான்.  நன்கு படித்து, நல்ல வேலைக்கு செல்ல வேண்டிய பல இளைஞர்கள்  மதுவிற்கு அடிமையாகி தம் உடல், மன ஆரோக்கியத்தை இழப்பது அங்கும் நடக்கிறது.  ஆனால், இதில் மிக வருந்தத்தக்க விஷயம் என்னவென்றால், நம் நாட்டில் நம் அரசாங்கமே மதுவை விற்பதுதான்.  

குடிப்பழக்கத்தில் செலவிடப்படும் பணம் கல்விக்கும் தரமான உணவிற்கும் செலவிடப்பட்டால் குடும்பங்கள் வளம் பெறும்.  அந்தப்பணத்தில், சிறிதளவு சேமிக்கப்பட்டாலே வீடும் நாடும் நலம் பெறும்.

இந்த உலகத்தின் மிகப்பெரிய சவால் என்னவென்று பார்த்தோம்.  இதைப்பற்றி காந்தி என்ன சொல்லி இருக்கிறார் தெரியுமா? 

"குடிப்பழக்கம் ஒருவரின் உடல், மனம், அறிவு மற்றும் செல்வத்தை அழித்துவிடும்.
மது ஒருவரை, தன்னை மறக்கச்செய்யும்.  தன் பாதிப்பு இருக்கும் வரை, அவரால் உருப்படியாக எதுவும் செய்ய முடியாது.  குடிப்பழக்கம் உள்ளவர்கள், தம்மையும், அவரைச்சேர்ந்தவர்களையும் அழித்துக்கொள்கிறார்கள். கண்ணியத்தையும் இங்கிதத்தையும் இழந்தவர்களாகின்றனர். "

சொல்லுதல் யார்க்கும் எளிய அரியவாம்
சொல்லிய வண்ணம் செயல்

சொன்னது இருக்கட்டும்.  என்ன செய்தார் தெரியுமா?  
காந்தி அடிகள் பல அறிவுரைகள் சொன்னதோடு நிறுத்திக்கொள்ளவில்லை.  அவர் சொன்னதைச் செய்தவர்.  இங்கிலாந்திற்கு சட்டம் படிக்கச் சென்றபோது, அவர் தன் தாய்க்கு மூன்று உறுதி மொழி அளித்தார்.  அவற்றில் முக்கியமானது "மது அருந்தமாட்டேன்" என்பது.  இங்கிலாந்து போன்ற குளிர் பிரதேசங்களில் மது அருந்தாமல் இருப்பவர்கள் அரிது.  அந்த நிலையிலும், மதுவின் தீமையை உணர்ந்த காந்தி அடிகள் தன் உறுதி மொழிப்படி நடக்கவும் செய்தார்.

சவாலையும், காந்தி தந்த அறிவுரையும் பற்றி அறிந்தோம்.  இதை எப்படி நடைமுறைப்படுத்துவது?  நாம் ஒவ்வொருவரும் நமக்குத்தெரிந்த குடிப்பழக்கம் உள்ளவர்களிடம் அப்பழக்கத்தின் தீமையை எடுத்துரைப்போம்.  அவர்களை அப்பழக்கத்திலிருந்து மீட்க உதவுவோம்.  அவர்கள் மதுவினின்று விலகி இருக்க அவர்களுக்கு மன உறுதி தேவை.  அந்த மன உறுதி அவர்களுக்கு இருக்க நாம் நம்  கடவுளை வேண்டுவோம்.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Endhiran and the possibilities

Thanks to Endhiran and its translations in Telugu and Hindi, there will be more talk on what all can a Robot do or can't do in the days to come.  As a below average student of computer science, I set out to think through what are the possibilities.  Here is my serious below-average analysis of the possibilities.

The Sense of I
My favorite topic.  What do humans mean by their sense of self?  There is  physiological self, that is one's identification with his/her body.  And there is the psychological self - that one identifies himself as a Hindu, Tamil, Communist, Educated, CEO etc.  I believe both are possibilities with machines.  I use the term machine to refer to the Robots with their knowledge base and their decision support systems.

Physiological Self of a Machine:  The physiological self is to present to protect itself - that an organism is not simply a collection of sensory organs, but something that coordinates actions between the organs.  To start with, the physiological self could be defined for the first few generations of machines by their creators - the humans.  Later generations may be able to build upon it and define the physiological self better.

Psychological Self of a Machine:  Our psychological self got created out of factors like geography, languages, roles and responsibilities and beliefs created by generations of knowledge acquisition.  The same is possible with machines.  Again, the first few generations of psychological self could be influenced by the humans that created them.  The human mindset has been expanding from its early tribal one.  So, the machines may start with a higher level of identity.  There could be US machines, Chinese, Russian and Indian machines, each dealing with the data associated with respective regions.

Collective Consciousness
It is said that the collective intelligence is many times stronger than the sum of individual intelligence.  If that's the case, an advanced robot  would start at a slightly higher level of intelligence than the average human intelligence.  And there will be a need to connect these machines as well.  As the connections increase, their collective intelligence would increase too.

Would robots harm humans?
If we see robots as evolution of humans, this is a possibility.  If there was a time in history when neanderthals and humans co-existed,  there was a high chance that humans might have harmed neanderthals.  Fear, space and food insecurity might have resulted in the fights.  Can man's fear of machines trigger an insecurity for machines and result in fights?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brain Slow-down

I was lying down staring at the ceiling fan. The fan had a circular metal piece at the center and it had the radii with ridges.  When the fan is on, I can't see the ridges, but all of us a sudden I felt I'm able to see the ridges for a fraction of a second.  I realized I could see the ridges when I was blinking my eyes.  I wasn't sure whether the vision of ridges precedes the act of blinking or the other way around.

The theory behind the persistence of vision is still being debated or debunked.  Instead of banking on a theory, I have my own explanation.

As the fan center rotates at more than 24 cycles a second, the ridges are not visible.  We can compare this to the movie watching experience where 72 or more still images are produced per second to create an illusion of motion.  When I blink, as the last image captured by the eye is processed by the brain, it doesn't have a succeeding image to perceive a rotating circle.  So, the last image is experienced by the brain as it exists - with the ridges.  When the act of blinking ends, images of the rotating circle reach the brain continuously.  So, the static image is experienced by the brain for just a fraction of a second.

I think there is some amount of slow-down in the way my brain processes the signals.  I had more such experiences.  In one instance, I could sense the experience of sound through my left ear was delayed by a fraction a second after I experienced the sound through my right ear.

I wish I could work with a neurosurgeon to understand the signal processing of the brain with such experiences.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Morality & Mr. G

From an email I sent to my brother:

Dear Bro,

We started talking about moral correctness coming in the way when you want to worship.  Let me start from the childhood and work my way through on this topic.  Don't expect smart one-liners or punch dialogs.  This is logic.

Have you ever wondered on whether a 2-3 year old kid cares about God, deity etc.  Ignore the knowledge thrust upon them.  They really do not have an opinion about God.  In fact, they do not need an opinion about God.  Because their consciousness hasn't evolved fully and there is no "I".  Their consciousness isn't limited to their physical body.  

What adults think of consciousness is often their own identity.  Everything you think you experience is through this identity.  But what is this identity made of?  In the beginning it just starts with a name - your name.  Then you start identifying with your family, village, city, region, country etc.  There are ideologies associated with this.  Religion and Society play a big role in establishing ideologies. There are more teachings thrust upon us and learnings we get from the surroundings.  Being morally right is one such teaching.  Someone taught you that you should be kind, be fair etc.  

As you know already, morality is a very fluid aspect in our lives, society.  From time to time, this has changed.  There are various levels of morality - starting from "thou shalt not ogle at other's wives" to "be kind to the old and infirm".  Some change more frequently and there are conditions and contradictions all over.  

By letting your actions controlled by these ideas result in conflicts.  For example, worshipping is considered to be a good act and so is being fair to the old and poor.  If you have to skip worshipping because of helping a poor it might cause guilty consciousness.  That's a terrible thing for anyone.

Visualize these ideas as a wall between you and God.  The strength of these ideas is directly proportional to the thickness of this wall.  It doesn't matter on what your ideas are - image about yourself, your knowledge, your caste, religion, language.  There are a few weak spots in the wall - they are your vulnerable area, your weaknesses, failures, helplessness etc. Through these vulnerable points, you can pierce a hole in the wall and feel the God on the other side.  Being morally right is one strong area in this wall, hard to pierce.  At some point, you start identifying yourself with these ideas.  Real God doesn't have anything to do with this morality or ideas.  He/She/It is far too simple to handle this stuff.

So, if you think you are fair, remember that this doesn't help in your relationship with God.  It can help you fit in a society better.  That's about it.

Let me come to the practical problem that we started with.  Is it fair to spend more money to have a dharshan of your favorite deity? It depends on your relationship with your deity.  If you can lose yourself in front of the deity, it doesn't matter what you do to get there.  At that stage, your identity disappears and just consciousness exists there. 

On the other hand, if you are cutting the line, you maintaing your strong identity and your relationship with your God is not worth a mention, there is bad "karma" on all counts. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

On Perceptions of Indian Developers in the West

In response to Ram's blog Perceptions of Indian Developers in the West

On comparing the capabilities of developers, here is a typical experience.

We took over a significant but small piece of software couple of years ago.  It was written by one person in C, way back in late 1980s.  Let's call him Adam.  Adam had used an environment that was available then.  He had no version control and no documentation.  It had been backed up on another server.  That was the only version available outside of Adam's machine.

Though the organization was particular about software development standards, this one was left as is - for fear of breaking anything or antagonizing Adam or both.  It was a program that was closely guarded, possibly not out of any insecurity, but just circumstances.  It was using Adam's own data structures, could have been rewritten to make use of databases and other libraries.  But not done, for no one saw value in redoing it.

Adam got old, old enough to retire, but his service was extended year after year for three years.  At some point the top management gathered strength to take a decision, decided to let him go and prepared for the transition.

We had a smart developer take over this piece of code.  Let's call him Amit.  He had just about 2 years of experience.  If you were to compare the two developers, they would fit in the perfect stereotypes that you see in the media - one western nerd and the other Indian developer who wears flashy clothes and speaks with Hindi accent.

The surprise was, it went just fine.  Offshore development brings in certain constraints that helps in better management of the software development process.  We spent the first 3-4 weeks trying to compile the code in a virgin environment.  For the first time, the program was compiled on a machine different from Adam's machine.  The dependencies on tools and interdependencies on libraries were identified and documented.  During this period, Adam had his share of stereotypical fun at Amit.  Once Amit could compile it successfully, his confidence grew.  He also set it up on a version control system at client's site.

In the next month, as Adam retired, Amit was confident enough to train another developer.  The two developers worked directly with the other stakeholders, removing the need for a project manager's mediation.  In couple of months, the two developers got total control of the system, handled Level 2 and 3 of production support.  Everyone could forget Adam.  

Indian developers are just as good as any other developers.  The benefit western developers get is, by staying with a problem long enough.  That gives them the confidence about the domain and technology.  On the other hand, Indian developers move from project to project, not spending the same amount of time.  It also gives them better exposure.  I met seasoned architects at a client's place who were not aware on desktop sharing tools over the web or open source reporting tools.

It is unfair to brand one as good and others bad.  A famous Tamil movie dialog goes - "அரிவாள் நாங்க வெட்டினாலும் வெட்டும்.  துப்பாக்கி நாங்க சுட்டாலும் சுடும்".    Applies in technology as well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

ஆன்மீகம் அவர்களுக்கல்ல - உங்களுக்குத்தான்

வியாழக்கிழமை.  காலை ஒரு மணி நேரத்தை வாரந்திரப் பத்திரிகைகளில் வீணடிக்கும் நாள்.  இன்று கொஞ்சம் குறிக்கோளோடு பத்திரிகைகளைப் பார்த்தேன்.  நித்யானந்தா விவகாரம் அடங்கியதால், அதைப்பற்றி எதாவது வித்தியாசமான கண்ணோட்டத்தைத் தேடினேன். ஜக்கி பற்றிய இரண்டு கட்டுரைகளில் எதுவும் சிறப்பாக இல்லை. அதனால் நான் சென்ற வாரம் எழுதியதை கொஞ்சம் விலாவாரியாக தமிழில் எழுதலாம் என்று எழுதுகிறேன்.

நித்தியானந்தா போன்ற விஷயங்கள் தினம் நடந்து கொண்டிருக்கிறது.  சம்பந்தப்பட்டவர்கள் உங்களுக்கு அயலார்களே. நீங்கள் மதிக்கும் ஒருவர் இப்படி நடந்துகொண்டால் நீங்கள் என்ன செய்வீர்கள்? அது உங்கள் குருவாகவோ, கடவுளாகவோ,தலைவனாகவோ, நெருங்கிய உறவாகவோ அல்லது நீங்களாகவோ இருக்கலாம். உங்களை கலங்க அடிக்க, ஒரு நிகழ்ச்சி தேவையில்லை. செய்தி போதும். அது அதன் வேலையை செய்ய ஆரம்பிக்கும்.

நீங்கள் கோழையாக இருந்தால் செய்தியை மறுக்க ஆரம்பிப்பீர்கள்.  அப்படி ஒன்று நடக்கவில்லை, இது திட்டமிட்ட சதி போன்றவை இந்த ரகம்.  சமீபத்திய மறுப்பு, கம்ப்யுட்டர் கிராபிக்ஸ் சதி.

நீங்கள் அடாவடி பார்ட்டியாக இருந்தால், மறுக்க மாட்டீர்கள்.  நியாயப்படுத்துவீர்கள். இந்த நிகழ்ச்சியில் இதுவரை யாரும் நியாயப்படுத்தவில்லை. இந்தியாவில் யாரும் அப்படி செய்ய முயற்சிப்பதும் இல்லை.

நீங்கள் பிராக்டிகல் மனிதன் என்றால், இதை மறக்கவோ, அல்லது வேறு ஒருவர் மீது நம்பிக்கை வைக்க ஆரம்பிப்பீர்கள்.

இவை எல்லாம் உங்கள் செயல்கள். இந்த நிலையில்,மிகச்சிலரின் செயல்கள் ஆக்கப்பூர்வமாக இருந்திருக்கின்றன. சுவாமி தயானந்தசரஸ்வதி, சக்தி இல்லாத உருவ வழிபாட்டை எதிர்க்க ஆர்யா சமாஜத்தை ஆரம்பிக்க வைத்தது.

சில அழிவு நிலைக்கும் சென்றன. ஏமாற்றத்தை சந்திக்க முடியாமல், திருச்சியில் ஒரு குடும்பம், மொத்தமாக தற்கொலை செய்து கொண்டது.

இவை எல்லாம் செயல்கள் - உணர்வுகள் இல்லை. உங்கள் உண்மையான உணர்வு என்ன? வெட்கம், ஏமாற்றப்பட்ட உணர்வு, அருவருப்பு மற்றும் பல.

இந்த உணர்வோடு ஒரு நிமிடம் இருந்தது பாருங்கள். இந்த உணர்வு உடம்பில் தோன்றும் வலி அல்லது எரிச்சல் போன்றது. உடம்பில் வலி வருவதை நாம் இயல்பாக எடுத்துக்கொள்கிறோம். தாங்க முடியாத போது, வலி நிவாரணத்தைத் தேடுகிறோம்.

மனதில் இந்த உணர்வுகள் சிறு அசௌகரியத்தை ஏற்படுத்துகின்றன.  அவ்வளவு தான். இந்தஅசௌகரியத்தை ஒரு நிமிடம் அனுபவித்து விட்டால், அது அதன் பின் தொல்லை தருவது இல்லை. அதன்பின், இப்படிப்பட்ட செய்திகள் உங்களைப்பாதிப்பதில்லை. சற்றே வித்தியாசமாக மற்றொரு செய்தி பாதிக்கலாம். இவற்றை எல்லாம் எப்படி கையாள்வது என்று தெரிந்து விட்டால், எந்த செய்தியும் உங்களை அசைக்க முடியாது.

நம்பிக்கை என்பது ஆன்மீகத்திற்கு மட்டும் சொந்தமானதில்லை. கம்யூனிச நம்பிக்கையாளர்கள் சோவித் வீழ்ந்த போது கலங்கினார்கள். தூய்மையான அரசியல் மீது நம்பிக்கை வைத்தவர்கள், நிக்சன் மற்றும் கிளிண்டன் காலத்தில் கலங்கினார்கள். ஜனநாயகத்தில் நம்பிக்கை வைத்தவர்கள் எமெர்ஜென்சியின்போது கலங்கி இருப்பார்கள்.

நம்பிக்கை வைக்காமல் உங்களால் இருக்க முடியாது. ஒரு மனிதரின் மேலோ, கடவுள், தலைவன், சின்னம், நிறுவனத்தின் மேலோ நம்பிக்கை வைப்பது, உங்களைப்போல் இயற்கையானது. ஒன்றைவிட்டு மற்றொன்றின்  மேல் நம்பிக்கை வைக்கலாம். ஆனால் அதற்கும் சோதனை வராது என்பது நிச்சயமில்லை. இந்தக்காலத்தில், சோதனை வரும் என்பது தான் நிச்சயம்.  அதை சமாளிக்கத் தெரிந்துவிட்டால், நிம்மதியாக வாழலாம்.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Coping up with the shaken-up faith

Ram had written about one side of the Nityananda event.  I want to focus on another aspect of it - coping with your faith shaken up.  To start with spirituality is not about "them" but is about "you".

The followers of Nityananda must be really troubled by the recent events.  It doesn't matter whether the event was real or doctored.  The very information is enough to trouble them.   When Dayanda Saraswathi's belief was shaken up, it triggered the creation of Arya Samaj.  Another extreme event was a family suicide in Trichy when they realized a sick member of their family can't be cured by their belief.  There are more common cases like some of my agnostic friends who have faith in the legal system.  They do get shaken up when they learn that the system is not all that clean.  They contemplate relocating to another place where the system isn't so badly corrupted.

At times of crisis, it is hard to keep the faith because of the flow of information from all directions, created by all kinds of people about the icon one believes in.  The icon need not be a person, it could be a deity, a system or even a symbol.  The world has seen enough and more desecration of symbols and the violence that follows.  What is the best way to cope with the agitating mind?

The common reactions are to deny the event if you are weak, punish the offenders if you are strong or shift the faith if you are practical.  If you aren't lucky, the new faith may face the same situation soon.  But you got to have faith - that's how you identify yourself - as a follower of a religion, political party, legal or belief system.  As long as the identity exists, faith will exist.  So, not having faith (religious, spiritual or otherwise) is out of question.

To get over the crisis, just look at how you feel,  you might feel restless, agitated.  Be with that experience.  Resist any thought that demands an action like argument, violence, writing letters to the editor, blogging etc.  To experience the feeling would be very uncomfortable, but if really experienced, disappears in minutes. The next moment, the troubling piece of information doesn't affect you.  That way you get to keep your faith and also not get affected by its troubles.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

எனக்கு ஏன் கெளதம் படங்கள் பிடிப்பதில்லை

வீட்டில் கெளதம் மேனன் படங்கள் பார்ப்பதில் ஒரு சௌகரியம் - சேனல் மாற்றலாம், ஓட விட்டு முடிவை மட்டும் பார்க்கலாம்.  மொத்தத்தில் எனக்கு கெளதம் மேனன் படங்கள் பிடிப்பதில்லை என்பது தான் உண்மை.  ஏன் என்று நண்பன் கேட்டான்.  உட்கார்ந்து யோசித்தேன்.

கெளதம் மேனன் படங்களுக்கும் மணி ரத்தினத்தின் படங்களும் கிட்டத்தட்ட ஒரே ஸ்டைலில் இருப்பது போல் தோன்றுகிறது. இருந்தாலும், கெளதம் மேனன் படங்களை வெறுக்கும் அளவிற்கு மணியின் படங்களை வெறுப்பதில்லை.  காரணம் இதுதான்.

இரண்டு பேரின் படங்களில் இருக்கும் பொது இழை - சாதாரண மனிதர்களின் அசாதாரண தருணங்கள்.

இரண்டு பேரின் படங்களிலும் முக்கிய கதா பாத்திரங்கள் கொஞ்சம் ஹாலிவுட் வாசம் அடிப்பார்கள்.  கிளின்ட் ஈஸ்ட்வுட் போல அதிகம் பேச மாட்டார்கள், மிக புத்திசாலிகள் - ஆனால் சூப்பர் மென் இல்லை.  அவர்கள் சாதாரணர்கள் என்று சொன்னாலும், அப்படிப்பட்ட மனிதர்களை நீங்கள் பார்க்க வாய்ப்பில்லை.  இதனாலே ஒரு ஒட்டாத நிலை இருக்கும்.  ஆனால் மணியின் படங்களில் சுற்றங்கள் இதை பெரும்பாலும் மறைத்துவிடும்.  நாயகனில் டெல்லி கணேஷ், ஜனகராஜ் கதாபாத்திரங்கள், ரோஜாவில் பாட்டிகள், அலை பாயுதேவில் பிரமிட் நடராசன், பல படங்களில் குறுக்கே ஓடும் குழந்தைகள் என்று நம் கவனம் திசை திரும்பிவிடும்.

கெளதம் மேனோனின் படங்களில் இப்படிப்பட்ட கதாபாத்திரங்கள் இல்லாததால், you are stuck with boring protagonists.  அவர்கள் பெரும்பாலும் ஒண்டியாக இருப்பார்கள்.  தனியாக இருப்பவர்கள் மிக சந்தோஷமாக இருப்பதில்லை.  இதற்கு மேல், ஒரு தாங்க முடியாத கொடூரம் - கை, கால், தலை குறைந்த பட்சம் விரல் என்று எதையாவது வெட்டுவார்கள்.  (விண்ணைத்தாண்டி வருவாயா-வில் சிம்பு அடக்கி வாசித்ததன் காரணம் புரிகிறது.)

நம் இயக்குனர்கள் கதைகளை மட்டும் படி எடுத்து லோக்கல் கதாபாத்திரங்களை சேர்ப்பார்கள்.  கெளதம் மேனனோ கதை, கதாபாத்திரங்கள், களம் எல்லாவற்றையும் படி எடுத்து தமிழ்ப்படங்களை அடுத்த லெவெலுக்கு எடுத்துச்செல்வதாக பேட்டி கொடுப்பார்.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Attending Parent Teacher's Meeting

I'm not a big fan of parent teacher's meeting, for I have nothing much to communicate to the teacher.  And my son isn't of the same kind as his illustrious uncles who had their parents visit the school more often.  The usual conversation would be: 

Teacher: He is a nice boy, he needs to improve on ...
I: Thank you.  Does he interact with his classmates and teachers well?
Teacher: Yes He is very obedient and polite.
I: Thank you.

The meeting would end there after I sign to log my attendance.  Most fathers I get to see have a similar conversation.  Mothers have longer, at times irritating conversations.  Since the teacher happens to belong to the same gender, she continues to answer politely.  I can't imagine how a male teacher would handle conversations with mom after mom.  Must be a tough job!

I had a meeting today.  I knew the teacher already.  A distant relation.  So, I had one extra line to speak - "How are you?".  Before signing off, I thanked her and her co-workers for their contribution in creating interest in science among the students.  The mom, the next one in line pitched in and said - "The class is competitive".   I couldn't see the correlation between good teaching and competition.  To cut short any possible long conversation, I said, "I really do not care about competition, I just want learning to happen and it does.  I'm fine."  I got up to leave.  The mom wouldn't let it go. She continued, "But competition is good, it helps the kids be successful in their lives".  

I hate to stereo-type moms like that, but this one is a serious stereo type.  A success for her would mean, her  son / daughter's entry to IIT, the next best one would be to the second line of colleges BITS, NITS etc.  A bonus would be an entry in to IIM.  Their life time goal is done when the kid gets his/her campus placement in CTS and boards the flight to US.  I would compare them to the owners of clumsy little cars navigating through the traffic in Chennai.  Speed up, cut a few others, break a few rules here and there, bribe the cop - all for just staying ahead by a couple of hundred meters.  In the absence of so-called "competition", the kids would just be fine, some of them would be a bit slow, but all of them will have comfortable lives, thanks to the society and a good education.  

By introducing competition, they lose the fun in observing the kid having his own personality.  The kid could be a commie, an atheist, a yogi or a naturalist, painter, philosopher, scientist and what not. 

I said, "... as long as they love their lives, that's enough for me.." and walked away.  

Friday, January 22, 2010

YouTube, HTML5 on Chrome says that Chrome works with HTML 5.  But this is what I get to see on Chrome.

Strange.  Did I mess up anything or someone at YouTube constructed the HTML as follows:

<div class="yt-static-tt-entry"> 
<div class="info"> 
<h3>Supported Browsers</h3> 
<p>Right now we support browsers that support both the <video> tag in HTML5 and the h.264 video codec. These include:</p> 
<ul style="list-style-type: disc;"> 
<li style="margin-left: 2em">Google Chrome</li> 
<li style="margin-left: 2em">Apple Safari (version 4+)</li> 
<li style="margin-left: 2em">Microsoft Internet Explorer with Chrome Frame installed (<a href="">Get Chrome Frame</a>)</li> 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Google Spreadsheet - Excel Export Compatibility Issues

In Google Spreadsheet, the function ROUNDUP expects two parameters - the value and number of digits. But the second parameter is optional, defaulting to 0. If you had given just one parameter for the function, it works fine until you do an excel export.

In Google spreadsheet, the formula was:

In the exported excel, it came out as

Really weird export. It took me a while to suspect that the missing parameter was causing the problem. Once the parameter was supplied, the exported excel looked fine.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Interview Questions

Tired of being called to interview fresh graduates who can't think, I gave our HR person three sets of questions as follows. I didn't want to copy paste objective type questions. I wanted to see how they think, present etc.

Set 1

1. Write the events that happen between requesting for a web-site address in browser's address bar and the retrieval of the web page. State your assumptions on internet / intranet, static / dynamic web sites.
2. Write a function (secondLargest) to find the second largest number in a given array of integers. (Expectation is just the function in such a way it can be reused in multiple programs with the most optimal solution in any programming language.)
3. Write a data structure in C/C++/C#/Java to store folders and files in a computer.

Set 2

1. Give step-by-step instructions to go from your home to college. Be clear that a stranger to these places can simply follow the instructions and still reach the destination with no additional help.
2. Write a function (shuffle) to shuffle elements in an array of 54 entries to mimic the shuffling of cards.
3. Give the data structure for playing cards that can be used to construct games like solitaire, freecell etc in any programming language that you know.

Set 3

1. Give a checklist to help an eight standard student to prepare and attend Science / Mathematics examination without surprises and panic.
2. Write a function (fizzbuzz) to print sequence of numbers on screen. For 7 and multiples of 7, it must print 'fizz' and for 7 and numbers ending with 7, it must print 'buzz' and for all other numbers, it must print just that number. If a number is a multiple of 7 and ends with 7, it must print both 'fizz' and 'buzz'.
3. Map to an appropriate data structures, the following with explanation: Storing newspapers, On-boarding of passengers in a bus, Grading of students in a class, Distribution of product from manufacturer to consumer, Real-Estate Brokers

The expectation was, if they write something close to common sense, they can be trained. If they were surprised at these questions, they can go home, prepare and come back to give the test after a week. The second test could be a bit more difficult.

In the past two-three weeks, a number of fresh graduates walked in for the test, not one answered these to meet our expectations. They had expressed surprise, but never cared to come back.

I am worried at the state of education in this state.