Showing posts from 2018

Hierarchy of Needs

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"I thought. I shouldn't have..."

I was scrolling through Facebook the other day and looking at pictures posted by friends. Happy photographs of couples driving down to view sunsets, posing in front of lovely beaches, new homes that they had bought, fancy cars - You get the picture.

As I looked at these, I had a strange thought. A philosophical thought. A thought that I should not have had, now that I look back.

Most of us are working in some company - an MNC, a start-up or something that we are running ourselves. We work with the intent of earning money. We earn money so that we are able to lead a good life. But how do we define a good life? A life where we live in a comfortable house with amenities like a TV, refrigerator, air conditioning, washing machine and other gadgets like a home theatre system, computers, tablets among others. A good life also means that we own a car, travel to various places, eat out...

But we aspire for more. With a d…

Wealth of Nation

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"The herd is powerful when they are together. They can be an army or a mob..."

I am reminded of an old story where a king decided to run a charity drive where all citizens were requested to donate some milk. A giant vat was placed in the centre of the capital and citizens were requested to pour a glass of milk into it. A miser decided to pour a glass of water, for who would notice a glass of water in a vat of milk? The citizens arrived one by one with their vessels and emptied the contents into the vat. The miser was jubilant that he had gotten away with it.  The king checked the vat in the evening and was baffled when he saw that it was full of water...!

I had an interesting conversation with a cab driver recently. The driver was explaining that he only runs airport routes and prefers it to rides within the city. He told that it was economically preferable and was less of a headache. During his elaboration on his expenses, he revealed that the sig…

The age of data

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"If you like this post, perhaps you will like this post"

We live in an era of data. We use technology every day - To make phone calls, to navigate, to check our email, spend time on social media, read the news or get that weird query answered. The interesting aspect though is that almost all of these services are free. And we know that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

How do these companies make money? We know that companies such as Google and Facebook are primarily ad-driven. I wonder how many people would use Facebook if it was a paid platform. Ads have been driving these businesses for a very long time. But ever since machine learning has taken the world by storm, companies have been steadily working towards the collection of data. If you want to know someone's likes or dislikes, you need to know more about them. A person who likes Harry Potter is likely to enjoy Lord of the Rings.

But just knowing what someone likes isn't adequat…

Madrasi vs Bihari

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Generalisation is wrong - unless you are building a machine learning model."

An incident prompted me to write this post. I happened to read this article where two cars met with an accident on Marathahalli bridge. One of the drivers inspected his vehicle to check if there were any damages and proceeded to drive away. Suddenly, the driver of a water tanker (completely unrelated to the accident) held him and started beating him. This driver, who was not involved in the accident, was agitated that a North Indian driver was creating a traffic jam in Bangalore.

At the outset, one might be keen to dismiss this incident as the actions of one lunatic is inconsequential. However, I started reading the comments and was astounded by what I saw.

There was a barrage of comments from two groups - North Indians and South Indians. There were some South Indians who were asking the "Northies" to return to their home states. The "Northies" said th…

Of Geopolitics and Games

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Life is a game in which only the fittest survive"

I have always found geopolitics to be a fascinating subject. The world is composed of groups of people who have divided the Earth into various chunks. Peaceniks like to say that the world is one family - "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam". However, the world doesn't run on such idealism. Many countries, in reality, are trying to increase their spheres of influence while trying to undermine their rivals. Some countries vie for regional dominance while others try to be superpowers.

Any country that is seeking to be a dominant player in the game of geopolitics tries to subjugate their competition by adopting a few tried and tested techniques. One of them is the use of financial pressure. The US, with her dominant position as the world's largest economy, is able to pressurise other countries such as Iran, Korea and Russia through sanctions. By imposing trade embargos and preventing other partner…

Natural Factories

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Nature loves symmetry. I wonder why? Did all asymmetric ones die out?"

We have to consider various aspects while trying to develop a complex system. Take the example of a car. We first start by defining what features and qualities the final car needs to have. Then, we move to divide the car into logical subunits. We think about the design of each of these subunits and how they will interact with one another. The subunits should perform their tasks efficiently but also be economical to produce while looking aesthetically pleasing. We've to think about the energy source or fuel, rate of consumption, rate of recharge, wastes produced and how to eliminate, etc.

Once we're ready with this, we move on to develop a prototype, run various tests, iteratively improve the design till we reach a design that's meeting all the goals sufficiently.

We then proceed to mass produce them. This, of course, requires capital for land, factories, workers, ma…

On Mindfulness

Swami Gulagulaananda quoted Kanakadasa:
"naanu hodare hodenu [I can go if I could go]"

There was a tale that I had heard in my childhood. Kanakadasa, the great poet and saint, was asked who could attain salvation by his master, Vyasatirtha. Kanakadasa replied, "naanu hodare hodenu" in Kannada. The sentence can be translated to: "I might go if I want". Many of the scholars at the convention were offended that Kanakadasa had earlier told that nobody at the convention, including his own master, could attain salvation. However, his master saw wisdom in Kanakadasa's words and asked him to elaborate what he said. Kanakadasa explains his pun, which can also be translated as "If I goes, I could go", meaning that a person who rejects ego can attain salvation.

As I looked around at society in general, I started seeing a pattern. I saw a certain quality lacking in most people, and I wondered what the right word for that quality should be - The answer: …

The Eye Opener

Swami Gulagulaananda said:We all owe a debt to society… You are significantly more privileged than you think

The soft rays of the morning sun slipped through the blinds and woke up Simi. As she opened her well rested eyes, a smile formed on her face as she looked at the calendar on the wall. Just one more day to go. She looked at the neat array of stuffed dolls adorning a specially created shelf. But this birthday was special and she knew exactly what she wanted. "Maaaa!! Coffee!!" she yelled.

A few moments later, her parents walked into her room, beaming at their daughter. Offering her the cup, her mom asked her, "Just one more day for your birthday, Simi beta. What do you want for your present?" This was the moment that she was waiting for. She held the cup between her palms and interwoven fingers and looked at the brown liquid. Then, gushing a little, she said "Ma, Pa, I want the new iPhone X". At this, her mom turned to look at her dad. Her dad obv…

The Europe Trip: Part 1 - Preparation

Swami Gulagulaananda quoted Abraham Lincoln: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe"

Europe is a dream destination for many travel enthusiasts. Having read about the intricate work of Michaelangelo, the grandeur of the Vatican, the glorious Roman empire as well as of relatively modern periods of the Nazi era, I thought that a visit to Europe may be a great idea.
I am not a travel expert, but I will try to walk through some of the things that I did in order to make my entire trip hassle-free. Spend time to prepare well and the trip will go through smoothly. There are a couple of ways to plan your trip. One, is through package tours with a travel agency like Kesari Travels, Thomas Cook, etc. and the other is to plan your entire trip yourself.
Booking through travel agencies has several advantages. You don't have many headaches. The agency takes care of everything, including stay, food and point to point travel. Personally, I t…

The problems of scale

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"There are always problems associated with scale... especially when my weight doesn't seem to reduce"

Scalability has been a popular buzz word for some time and with the increasing use of the internet, social media and machine learning, data collections and performing operations at scale has become very important. But scale isn't something that is necessarily confined to the realm of technology. In this post, let's have a look at how solutions that work for some problems don't work at scale.

A long time ago, I came across a fascinating website called Project Euler. Project Euler presented us with a series of mathematical problems of increasing difficulty and the objective is solve them under a minute using a computer program. The first few could be as simple as sum of the first 100 numbers or sum of first 50 even numbers which were quite easy to solve for even novice programmers. Most engineering students might remember these as pra…

The Cynical Citizen

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"A person with jaundiced eyes sees everything yellow... figuratively speaking"

A lawyer who deals with contracts and divorces observes that every litigant who approaches him complains about breaches of contracts and unhappy marriages. As he goes through years of practice, he perhaps becomes cynical and distrusts contracts and marriages because he has seen so many of them fall apart. However, the reality could be that there are thousands of happy marriages and thousands of people who have been adhering to their contractual obligations. And yet, the lawyer never gets to hear of them in his daily routine - If everything was fine, people wouldn't approach a lawyer to tell him that everything is going hunky-dory...

Let's have a look at policemen. Policemen are among those who are often distrusted by the average citizen. Most of the times, an ordinary citizen's opinions of policemen is that they are lazy, corrupt, don't do their jobs and …

Phone numbers for signing up is quite dangerous

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Reduce, reuse... I am not so sure about recycling phone numbers"

In the good ol' days, people used to create accounts on various platforms using email addresses. But as smart phones started becoming ubiquitous and as 'Mobile First' approaches became the norm with a million apps cropping up every other day, a paradigm shift happened in the sign up process - Mobile numbers were introduced for registering new accounts.

Mobile numbers had a few advantages over email addresses - Creating an email addresses is cheap, and people can quickly create multiple email addresses without much hassle. However, people most likely have only one number, and occasionally, some have two. People are less likely to abuse systems like First time user discount using mobile phones because it is not possible, unlike emails. Verification using OTP is a lot faster than signing up using emails.

And so, signing up using mobile phones started becoming the de-facto st…

The Mole

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"The higher the moving parts, the higher the chance of failure. Unless you have a process set up"

Startled by the shrill sound of my digital alarm, I groped around to hit the snooze button. I thought I had explicitly turned it off, but I was mistaken. Sleep had eluded me for the past few weeks due to the murder case that had kept me awake through several nights at a stretch, and having finally solved it, these few winks of sleep that I had been having were well deserved. As I groggily waved my arms into the darkness trying to reach my clock, I realised by the alternate shimmering of the screen, that it was my phone that had been ringing. Through my heavy eyelids, I tried to concentrate on the name on the screen - It was the Police Commissioner.

The sight of that label jolted me upright. I immediately grabbed the phone and answered it. "I'm sorry to wake you up in the middle of the night, Surya, but there has been a development. How soon ca…