Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Of traffic, teams and companies

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"The grand unification theory is nought but analogies connecting seemingly unrelated things"

When you drive through Bangalore traffic, more often than not, you are not driving... You are probably waiting at traffic junctions or trying to wiggle through evanescent worm holes.

The strange fact about driving is that it becomes automatic after some time - You don't even pay attention while changing gears or switching between the accelerator and the brake. And since that frees up your mind, it tends to wander into the realm of contemplation...

As I watched vehicles around me, I drew some parallels that I wanted to list out in this post.

1) Among motorbikes, cars and buses, bikes are the fastest when it comes to rate of picking up speed or accelerating while buses are the slowest. However, once all vehicles start accelerating, bikes soon get left behind as cars and buses zoom past them. Companies are also of these types small caps (start-ups), mid caps and large caps. While start-ups can grow very quickly, larger companies with their higher muscle power - both in terms of finance and man-power can quickly outpace smaller companies

2) Bikes cannot sustain long distance like cars and buses. While on a long distance drive, riding a motorcycle is least comfortable of the three and can make you sore. The fuel capacity also is quite limited and needs constant refuelling to reach your destination. Cars and buses are much more comfortable and needs lesser refuelling. Companies are also similar in terms of funding.

3) Bikes are more agile, then comes cars and finally buses. This is something that you have definitely noticed in traffic. You can quickly manoeuvre a bike and ride through that narrow space between a car and a bus. Cars are much less easy to manoeuvre while buses simply cannot move. Companies are also similar with start-ups being significantly more agile with less bureaucracy and fewer meetings before decisions are arrived at and plans are put into action. Large companies are behemoths that take forever to make even the smallest change in course.

4) Bikes are more unstable and can severely injure the rider in an accident when compared to cars and buses. Start-ups can vanish overnight unlike larger companies

5) When a bike goes down, very few people die unlike in cars and buses. Just like how many people lose their jobs when larger companies go down unlike start-ups.

6) If a bus crashes into a bike...

7) There are bike clubs. I have not heard of bus clubs... There are also biker chicks ;-)

8) Riding bikes are definitely more thrilling than a bus ride. Enough said.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Knight's Tour

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"The dark knight can never be blocked... nor can the white knight"

The Knight's Tour is a mathematical puzzle which I had played on a Windows Phone game called Doors. I didn't know it was called Knight's Tour till I watched this Numberphile video. I had some time to spare and wrote a simple version of it that you can test out below.

The objective of the game is to make sure that every square of the board has been occupied by your knight once. Click on any valid square to make your move

Programmers: Do you think you can write a program to find solutions?

Knight's Tour

Move the knight and cover every single square without repeating a square

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Yellow Journalism

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"That moron asked me not to be judgemental about him"

We love watching movies and I am sure that you have watched this scene that appears in several motion pictures; The protagonist walks into his house and is shocked to see a dead man with a knife sticking out of his stomach. He drops whatever he was holding and rushes towards the slumped body he has identified as his father, an eminent lawyer who fought injustice with a fiery passion. It is obvious to the son that his father was murdered by some land baron / politician who was rubbed the wrong way by the deceased, but he puts those thoughts aside for the moment. He has a slight glimmer of hope that his father might still be alive and worries that he is in pain. He crouches beside his father and pulls the knife out of him. At that exact same time, a police inspector and a couple of constables arrive at that scene on a supposed tip-off. "Hands up, you are under arrest" he shouts as the constables proceed to hold down the grief stricken man. "I have done nothing, I am innocent. Oh father!" yells the protagonist as he is dragged away handcuffed. Upon investigation, it is found that the hero's fingerprints are found on the knife. They also find the lawyer's blood stains on the son's clothes. "It has been done for property" announces the public prosecutor with a flourish after systematically placing the "facts" in front of the court. The court announces that a remorseless greedy son such as him deserves to languish in prison for 14 years. The land baron shouts "Cheers" immediately in the next scene as his cronies join him in raucous laughter...

We feel sorry for the protagonist. Of course, it is a movie and you know sooner or later, the evil people are going to pay their dues while the hero winds up with that beautiful heroine. However, the truth is that the hero was falsely implicated by prima facie evidence. It is only that WE know that it is a movie and that WE know that the hero was innocent that we aren't worried about it...

But does real life work like this? Unfortunately, the answer is no. People, in general, arrive at conclusions based on prima facie facts only - That is, they arrive at conclusions based on what is presented to them and don't analyse deeper. Let's have a look at this example.

Yellow journalism

This is a newspaper article from Times Of India, dated October 21, 2015

Click on the image to enlarge the image and read the article. Now, from the headlines, it is very obvious that this is some sort of hate crime. Poor Dalits - that too kids - were burnt alive by vicious thugs from upper caste.

Immediately people will start fortifying thoughts that they have had in the past - India will never grow because of casteism. That's right, this stupid system has been a dark spot in the face of India's cultural past. Then some "intellectuals" will start talking about "blot on democracy" and "fabric of society" while moron Congress supporters will start saying "Oh, so this is the Acche Din promised by Modi"

Alright, what happened to those kids is really unfortunate. However, please read the article carefully - Do you see any reason for the killing? The only point mentioned here is "confrontation over a murder" which is not clear - Who murdered whom? They have also mentioned that "a religious programme was held which helped the attackers" - How? Atheists will now talk about how religion and caste is responsible for all sorts of problems...

Alright, now let's look at the exact same incident from Times Of India's mobile app - previous day

See the highlighted section? Police inquiries show that a piece of property was the reason for the hatred between them. Clearly, the Dalit and Upper Caste Rajput had no role to play here. The dispute was because of some property. If that is the case, why is it that the story is projected in a different way? Also, why is it that there is no mention of "property" in the print version?

Here is another news item - Again, Times Of India

Dalit girl gang raped - What kind of headlines is this? Shouldn't it have been "14 year old girl gang-raped"?

The point of putting the word "Dalit" in the headline is justified if she was raped because she is Dalit. But if you read the news item, there is no mention of the reason. So she was raped like any other girl was raped - because of the rapist's perversion and not because she is Dalit. Does the newspaper write "23 year old Madhwa Brahmin girl gang-raped"? Does that make any sense?

You see, these journalists understand exactly how to play on our sentiments. By showing only bits of information and presenting it in a certain fashion, it is very easy to play with people's minds. Take the case of Dadri beef lynching - It is amazing how people quickly spoke about the safety of Muslims in India. I even read some ridiculous comments equating Indians with ISIS because of some sporadic killing.

While I observed great commentaries on the regrettable killing of a couple of men over beef, I rarely see any voices against the systematic holocaust of Kashmiri Pandits. Why do we not read about them in the papers? Why do we not hear debates about them? Why is there no anger?

I specifically mention this because people vehemently oppose painting all Muslims with the same brush because of the acts of a few terrorists - absolutely agreed. A few bad eggs don't necessarily define the entire religion - and yet, "intellectuals" who claim to be the voice of reason because they are also atheists write things like...

"Great going hindus..."

Before you arrive at any conclusion, make sure you have all the facts ready. Just because you are reading some printed material, don't jump to the conclusion that the material is 100% true. History is often tainted and historical records of the so called great kings should only be taken with a pinch of salt because those records were written under the aegis of the very king they are describing - Who would dare call a king a moron when he has the ability to hang you or drive a spear through the heads of your entire family?

Similarly, journalists also have ulterior motives. They like to sensationalise and stir emotions of the masses. It's imperative as educated people to invest more time and energy into uncovering the truth before branding things and drawing conclusions and judgements. More importantly, we should develop an understanding that things don't need to be exactly the way in which it was presented to us - The hero was indeed caught holding a knife that killed his father... But he was innocent all the time. Do not judge before you know the full facts.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Playing old DOS games

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Only 90's kids will understand this"

Remember the good old days of Dangerous Dave, Doom and Commander Keen? I remember spending countless hours playing all those games - Jazz Jackrabbit, Cosmo's cosmic adventures, Hocus Pocus, Prince of Persia... the list is endless.

I recently stumbled upon a great way to play those old DOS based games on your modern computer. I thought of sharing it with you guys.

Install DosBox
The first step is to download and install DosBox, a DOS emulator.
Download DosBox

Download Games
The next step is to download games. There is a wonderful site that hosts all these old games. You can search and download the games of your choice from here.
Download Games

Make games available on DosBox
After you download games, unzip the files
Create a dedicated folder to put all your downloaded games. Like, C:\dos_games or ~/dos_games.

Now, run DosBox. You should see the terminal. Run the command below:
mount c C:\dos_games or mount c ~/dos_games as the case might be - replace the path with whatever is your path.

Here, the 'c' that comes after 'mount' is the drive to which you are mapping your local disk. So, you can say 'd', 'e' or anything else to map subsequent folders.

If it goes through successfully, you should see the success message. Now go to C drive in the DosBox (or whichever drive you mounted to) by typing C: and pressing enter. Run the dir command to list your files and the folder(s) should be visible. That's it, start playing!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Kannada Hater

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Keep an open mind about everything in life"

"There are more Indians in the US than within the borders of India", he said. "What in heaven's name do you mean?" I asked. He replied, "Yes, in other countries, there are many Indians. But within India, you have a Bihari, a Madarasi, a Tamilian, a Telgite, a Kannadiga, Hindu, Muslim etc. but no Indians"

It's an old SMS forward that I paraphrased above. But a deep one nonetheless

I was absent-mindedly scrolling through the infinite curated posts on my Facebook wall the other day when I stumbled upon a post. What caught my attention was the fact that my junior from college had 'liked' it, but the photo of the guy in the post was my former colleague. What was the connection? I then paid a little more attention and noticed that it was a photo accompanied by a write-up of some sort. I clicked on it to expand the content and read something as follows:

(Clearly not the original content - but something along these lines. Narrated like a play by the Original Poster [OP] )
The scene is set in a bus. Characters are bus conductor, bad man (my former colleague) and hero (the narrator) [words chosen by OP] 
The bus was relatively empty. The bus conductor approaches the bad man and tells him "You are sitting in a seat reserved for conductors. Please sit somewhere else." To this, bad man responds "No I am comfortable here. Sit somewhere else" To which conductor again politely says something similar in Kannada (because apparently he can speak only Kannada and passable English) to which bad man arrogantly replies "You Kannadigas are fools. Why can't you learn other languages like English or Hindi" The conductor keeps quiet at this retort while the remaining people in the bus also don't react. 
How can he, a person who came from somewhere else talk about Kannada like this? The hero got seriously offended and felt like he was slapped on his face by a slipper. So he decided to fight for justice and for Kannada and started abusing the bad man, left right and centre, giving the usual "All languages are important" speech. Then bad man learnt he was defeated and eventually scurried away like the rat that he is. This is followed a long set of bullet points about equality and all that jazz.

This post became viral with thousands of likes and hundreds of shares. Many people left comments of their opinions of the matter - Some verbally abusive, some calling him names, some pitying the state of affairs, some saying Kannadigas are too nice and thus get into this situation and so on. One person grossly generalised saying all Biharis are rapists, all Malayalees go to the gulf and work instead of in their homeland and so on...

Alright, I am not saying you should not get offended. What I found strange was that nobody actually took some time to see if what the Original Poster (OP) is saying is true or not. He has written his account of the story. The question is, is that to be taken as 100% true account? Is that how it must have happened? How do we know that he has not glossed over details?

My former colleague (who has apparently quit Facebook now) is from somewhere in the North, probably Delhi. Do you think it is possible that he comes down to Bangalore, sits in a bus surrounded by locals and abuses the local language? Do you think that this is a remotely plausible situation? Do you think someone from Bangalore would go to, say Tamil Nadu, and yell "Tamil sucks"? Anyone with a little bit of common sense knows that you will get beaten up. Do you think someone would go to Saudi Arabia and say something like Islam sucks? Think about it. The idea of going to a different place and abusing locals is not something anyone with basic common sense does.

Secondly, nobody starts abusing in the second sentence - especially, when he asked him to change seat, why would he abuse Kannada? That too in the second sentence? It doesn't fit...

What must have happened is - The conductor must have asked this guy to sit somewhere or must have repeatedly tried to have a conversation in Kannada. Talking to a non-Kannadiga in Kannada is as bad as talking to a non-Malayalee guy in Malayalam or talking to a non French guy in French. The other guy simply doesn't understand what he is talking and must have asked him to talk in a common language. I am, of course, guessing because this makes more sense to me. I am not saying that "Bad Man" was polite - I don't know what happened. But I am sure that the story didn't happen as narrated above, because it is not logical.

However, what interests me more is the reaction. The furore in the "Hero's" wall is something to be seen to be believed. The snowball effect made it appear like they would go up in arms and butcher him if he was around. And this is precisely how the media controls public opinion. They selectively release information in ways to sensationalise incidents. People lap up stories as they arrive without paying heed and start sharing them. Every story has two sides - and we must make conscious attempts to learn the other side.

[Click on the image to enlarge]

This is also why history should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Remember, it is the victors who write stories very often. Whether great kings of the past were truly great or barbaric is something we cannot be sure of from the writings of people from their era. They would write it in that way to win the favour of the king rather than earn his wrath - for the king could have them executed because he felt like it.

To summarise, one should not jump to conclusions based on one sided accounts. Every dispute has two sides and one should listen to both sides before arriving at conclusions. Perhaps the bad man was bad after all, but it is too early to jump to that without hearing what he has to say. Don't be like the media-persons who act like they are judges and juries unto themselves, who frame and blame and run trials on their own account, who fabricate stories and give partial one-sided accounts.  Keep an open mind about everything in life. Don't get biased.

Comments from Facebook

  • Chandan Siddaiah Good blog!! Ur points to be noted.. smile emoticon
  • Narayan Jalan Thank you so much Nikhil for writing this. I was also planning to put exactly same message on that post that how could someone already proclaimed the heroism, felon in their story telling. Let that be decided by reader. Nevertheless, You made it all in good phrase . thanks once again smile emoticon