Thursday, November 24, 2011

Everyone knows a person like that

And moreover,Galileo said that the earth moved around the sun,not that the earth was flat.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The most dangerous thing.

The world today is much more connected and smaller than ever before,and will definitely come together closer in the future,thanks to rapid advancements in communications and transportation.And yet,an irrelevant relic of the past haunts us,slowing down progress like no other.The thing being talked about is jingoism. While I have speculated about the origins of jingoism before,and written about it,this post will be focusing on the ills it brings.

Being proud of one's group is a fine thing, it becomes a problem when one tends to believe that one's group is intrinsically superior to all other groups that have existed,are existing ,and will exist.An individual having such beliefs and tendencies would be looked at as deficient in mental capacity and cognitive abilities,and yet a larger group agreeing with him tends to negate the absurd nature of his original claim (To members of that group). The situation becomes potentially more dangerous when other groups,having similar delusions of grandeur about themselves,come into the picture.The whole scenario then becomes potentially explosive and dangerous to be in.

In a world that is not bound by any natural boundaries,restricting oneself to life in a small circle is without any semblance of logic.We ought to free ourselves of the shackles of primitive thought in a postmodern world.

We humans are all comprised of the same set of anatomic parts,the same set of impulses ,the same set of emotions and the same set of weaknesses,and no one group can claim superiority in any form over any other,be it a race,religion,nationality,or any of the various other distinctions we use to segregate ourselves.That is the only way to a better future.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tea,anyone ?

Anyone who's lived in South-India for any amount of time will definitely be familiar with the small Tea-shops that dot the sides of the streets ,everywhere.

Indian Tea-shops(Tea Kadais,as they are known in Tamil) are a generic structure-They are all small hole-in-the-wall joints,having a bench or two right outside the establishment for customers to seat themselves,and most of them have not more than two employees - One person to prepare Tea,Coffee or other simple hot milk-based beverages,and another person to collect and wash the glass cups in which the drinks are served,and to help the tea-maker (AKA Tea-master) with other 'trivial' tasks.

The Tea shops also usually have stocks of snacks,that go well with the drinks - Savory local favorites such as Murukku(A snack made by deep-frying spiced millet dough in patterns that sometime resemble fractals),Thattais(A small hardened spicy pancake made from a spiced dough similar to the murukku batter,but more granular) and mixtures(An unimaginative name for an awesome snack made by mixing up small batches of other savory and sweet snack-foods) and butter cookies and tea-cakes.Apart from these,Tea-shops also act as newspaper stockists,with a number of national and regional broadsheets available for purchase).

Tea-shops are an important part of smaller towns and villages,where they serve a function,not unlike the taverns of 18th century England -People meet together at the Tea-shops,and discuss whatever is the most pressing news at that time-From disappointing cricket scores to the new political developments that have happened in the country.

Tea-shops are a classic example of local ,generic non-franchised businesses that are very hard to find in a lot of other places,with many food and drink chains opening up their 'branches' everywhere around the world.Also,Many tea-shops are shunned by the younger population who tend to prefer the larger and more expensive coffee-chains that have cropped up everywhere,due to the perceived 'coolness' factor associated with them.This is especially true in the bigger cities like Chennai and Bangalore.Also,many Tea-shops are looked down upon by the younger population as 'unhygienic' and 'dirty' ,even if the beverage preparation is done in the open,for all to see.

In spite of the many such hard-times that have fallen upon them,they will never ever disappear,for they have become an integral part of the scenery in South India,much like the Hot dog stands of New York and the Fish&Chips shops of London.To many South Indians,sometimes all that it takes to set right a day that has been bad to one is a perfect cup of Tea from the local Tea-Kadai,with a Thattai to go with it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Being Cool - Part 1

"Ha,that's so uncool",said A.
"Why is it so?",I asked him,quite puzzled at his statment.
"Well,it doesn't look sleek at all,for starters,and frankly,what would people say,if they see it?",He said.
"Well,it is quite old,so obviously it doesn't look 'sleek' like any of the newer ones in the market,but it does it's job perfectly well,and truth be told,it is quite awesome at what it does.And does it really matter how it looks like,as long as it's functionality is retained?",I asked.
"Moreover,why do you need to care what others think of it ?",I added.
"Well,they're cool and you're not",he said.
I was quite irritated now,and said " who even defines what's cool,anyway? It's not like 'coolness' is a standard quantity,anyway.It's just the average of everyone's opinions taken,with a slight curving of the results to fit in with the most stupid of the lot"
He looked at me and was about to say something,when A's friend walked towards us ,took a look at what I was having and said,"You have that? That is so cool,man!",streching each syllable like it was a piece of rubber,and proceeded to talk with A.
I slapped myself on the forehead,shook my head hoplessly,and silently wished for a flying saucer to take me away to a better and more sensible place.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What death can teach us.

I had signed into Facebook,when I learnt from my newsfeed that someone on my friends' list had posted a message on his wall about a friend of his being killed in an accident.I visited the departed person's profile to see it being flooded with messages wishing for his soul to rest in peace.I scrolled down a bit to see that just a few days ago,he had been online and had posted a link to a music video,had wished someone on their birthday,had changed his profile picture,and other such smal things that we all do when we are on Facebook.It was then that I thought to myself - The person who died surely did not know it was coming.The person who died must have had his share of ambitions,likes,dislikes,plans for the future etc.The person who died must have had a number of things that he had wished to do sometime in the future - Maybe he had wanted to learn something new,perhaps he wanted to confess love to someone he held dear,maybe he had had plans to apologize to someone he had hurt in the past,and maybe he had wanted to make peace with someone who had hurt him.
Perhaps when death was near,and he knew for a fact that he was going to be no more,he did regret not doing a lot of those aforementioned things.Maybe he thought of things that could have been but were clearly not going to be,now.
I then thought to myself-One can never know when one is going to be touched by the cold yet caring hands of death.And at the moment of one's death,though we will all have our regrets,ranging from the small and insignificant to the huge and monumental,it is upon us to see that we have as few as them as possible.I urge everyone who does read this,to go ahead and do something that he always has wanted to do.We all ought to,for we do not know what the next moment brings.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fruit of Insomnia - A Nursery Rhymesque poem.

Twas a midsummer's night,
And every other person did sleep;
Everyone except this humble one,
And I did try counting sheep.

The stars in the sky did glitter,
and the sandman's work was done;
But while everyone else got their forty winks,
I did not get even one.

The world did seem to be silent,
except for some snores;
I thought I'd sing myself a Lullaby,
And I sang till my throat was hoarse.

I closed my eyes and awaited,
for the sleeping to ensue;
But then I heard a very loud cry,
and it went 'Cock-A-doodle-do!'.

Now,The sun was back in the sky,
and the day was indeed bright;
Yet,now I was filled with hope,
Perhaps I shall sleep tonight!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Of things that could have been

Yesterday has gone away,
and tomorrow remains to be seen;
All that is left are memories,
and visions of things that could have been.

The choices have been already made,
and the changeless chain has been set in motion;
One cannot change or alter and affect,
that which is cidevant causation.

Present-day's preferences' precipitates will persist,
long after the future is but the past;
Yet,one cannot discern if those choices,
are those that shall last.

Yesterday is etched in stone,
while today's choices are umpteen;
One should work to a better tomorrow,
than worry about things that could have been.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On the digitizing of taste.

Modern computers have come a long way since their early mathematical calculator days,and their usage has made our lives a very pleasant experience.Using a computing device and an internet connection,we can do things that would have been considered impossible only a few decades ago,such as have a 'real',eye to eye conversation with another person on the other side of the earth. With the use of robotic arms,it is even possible to physically manipulate objects acorss the globe. We are now in a world that is becoming smaller,thanks to the advent of high speed computing,and high speed internet. Yet,there are certain aspects of our living experience that we have not yet attempted to 'replicate' virtually,one of the most important of them being our gustatory sense ,more commonly known as the sense of taste.

One's sense of taste may not seem to be a very important part of our life experience(Atleast,not as important as one's visual/ocular sense),but that definitely is not true. Our sense of taste can act as a comforting element,can be an antidepressant,and when acting along with its closely related cousing,the sense of smell,can trigger memories of long ago.Taste can also help us identify harmful chemicals,and identify the differences between two similar looking substances etc. Thus,digitising of taste would have a lot of potential uses,if realized.

One way that this can possibly be done is by considering the four basic (or five,depending on which part of the world you're from) tastes -Sweetness,Bitterness,Saltiness and Sourness (And Umami) as 'primary' tastes,with diffferent rations giving different composite tastes,not unlike how different combinations of the different primary colours give rise to the other colours.One potential problem with this prospect is the vast number of combinations possible.With only three primary colours,the total number of colours identifiable on a computer is 16,777,216,and the number of composite tastes would obviously be much greater than this number. Also,the effect of food's texture on taste would not have been considered then,though it is an important consideration(Ground potatoes taste different than sliced potatoes,for example).The second major challenge that exists is the construction of relevant transducers-What use does the digitising of tastes have,if one is not able to actually tap them in the real world ? The conversion of the 'taste' of an object into digital signals itself can possibly be overcome by emulating the way that the human body itself does it - Maybe by constructing an artifical tongue and associated set of nerves.The complimentary system though ,would be much more complex to realize.In a presentation that a associate and me gave on this topic 4 years ago,when in college(The presentation proceeded quite bitterly ,no pun intended),we speculated the usage of directly interfacing with the
taster's nervous system,but obviously this has its own risks,and is definitely not a simplistic system.

If one were to construct a taste-digitizer system,it would only be a matter of time before personal computing systems such as Macs,PCs and smartphones incorporated one within them.Restaurants and food companies would even be able to put up the 'tastes' of their products online,for people to relish and compare with the competitior's products.People would be able to try new and exotic cuisines from the comfort of their homes,and cookery shows would acquire a whole new dimension.I even envision a smartphone app that would probbaly show you how different combinations of different ingredients would taste like.It would also be able to bring people 'closer',in all new ways.Of course,apart from these uses,it owuld have potential uses in law enforcement corporations etc to identify drugs,and to identify if a certain product is contaminated etc.

I'm very excited at the prospects that the future holds,and hope to see the evolution of such a system sometime soon. Let us all look forward to what the future brings with it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Parallel universes away ?

One can say that no moment of one's life is greater than any other,for each of them has shaped our present in their own ways.Yet,there are certain moments in the past that one seems to remember better than any other.One tends to ponder how different the present may be,if only he had acted in a different way in those moments,than he has.Certain choices ,made differently might have resutled in one being muuch more happier ,and certain other choices would probably have resulted in a more duller/sorrowful present.
Sometimes,I'd like to think that there are instances of me ,in other universes,taking a different choice than I have.The thought is a very comforting one to have,indeed.I wonder how my life has turned out to be,in those other 'planes of existence' and hope that those 'other mes' not too unhappy with life there.
Either way,Whether or not I'm happy with the results of choices I took in the past,I've learnt to be accepting of them all,and hope that the future will be filled with more of the good ones than the bad.
Thus,here I'm,looking ahead,with hopes that the future is filled with good choices,and wishing the same for all!

Also,if you have any such moments,and don't mind sharing them with the world,do tell us.We can talk about the things that could have been

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The origins of Jingoism ?

As a former student of an instituiton with a large mixed student population,I have had many opportunities to witness jingoistic tendencies among people.The region from which one hails from,the primary language that one speaks,one's religious beliefs and even the kind of music that one listens to can all be hailed as reasons for people holding chavunistic attitudes.Passive jngoism always seems to be at play,and usually turns active after a trigger-Even something as trivial as a region-specific sporting event can act as a reason for violent confrontation between people belonging to different 'groups'.
It can also be clearly seen that fanaticism exists everywhere,and at every level-From small gangs and cliques to large nations with aggressive foreign policies.The number of people who do not identify themselves as belonging to any one group at any level are few and far apart.(It can also be argued that a group of two or more such people can be considered a group itself.)
Groups at any level also seem to possess the following traits :

1.Consensual agreement among its members for certain issues,even if the members do not agree with each other for other issues,seen as irrelevant to the functioning of the group itself.

2.A tendency amongst most of its members to regard their group as superior to other groups on the same level.

3.A tendency among most of its members to be aggressive to any member formerly part of the group,but is not anymore.

4.The members of a group at one level are all not necessarily part of a single group at another level,but the ones who are,tend to form sub-groups within a group.

The reason why groups exist is definitely not a singular one,and one reason surely cannot satisfactorily explain their prescence,though I believe that groups arise because humans are naturally pack animals,and in the absence of a rigid pack system,we tend to blend into what is the closest equivalent.In pack animals such as dogs and wolves,agression towards non-members of the pack is sometimes observed,and the parallel to this in human society may be jingoism.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Astrology website experiment! - PRANK!

It was yet another boring night when I was Googling random stuff (as always),I came across this website that talked about astrology,solving problems with gemstones etc. After seeing that their 'basic' package that involved a reading,a solution,and how a 'premium' package can be helpful,I decided to pull a prank on them- I wanted to enter details of a totally fictitious character and random dates and events and send it across for a 'basic' reading.Due to total lack of creativity to come up with any other fictitious name,I entered the name 'Bruce Wayne'( The alter-ego of the Batman,for all those who just awoke from your cryogenic preservation).As for the dates,they were completely made up by me. There was also a column for entering details about any significant events that have happened so far ,and I entered details of events that did happen to Batman in the comics,such as his parents being shot down by a mugger,his back being broken,the death of Jason Todd(The second Robin) etc. Also,I created an email id specifically for this purpose - '',as I did not want to use my own email id (I'm a major spamophobe :P).
Today,I finally got a reply from the website.It reads as follows:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Rakesh Singhal <>
Date: Sat, Feb 5, 2011 at 8:54 AM
Subject: Re: Advice from Lifescape Astrology

Hello Mr bruce wayne,
a man who by heart is well wisher of society , colleagues and friends is getting worst from the same elements. your chart is likely to be included in our future training programmes.
your objectives are my objectives too, but before that, you need to be financially well off. you will do well in business, and in case there is any doubt, you remove them.
please wear emerald. keep in touch, and send us your observations after one month of wearing emerald.
yes, points mentioned by you can be read from your chart.
wish you good luck,
rakesh singhal

------ Original Message ------
Sent: 2/4/2011 12:00:08 PM
Subject: Advice from Lifescape Astrology
First name: Bruce

Last name: Wayne

Gender: M

Date : 19

Month : 2

Year : 1967

Hour : 5

Minute :

Town: Gotham city

State: NY

Country: USA


Email 2:

Eventdate1: October 1975

Event1: Parents killed by mugger

Eventdate2: June 1988

Event2: Partner dies

Eventdate3: January 1993

Event3: Back broken by a thug

Eventdate4: September 2008

Event4: Cheated by current girlfriend

Profession: Business

Problems: Bring peace to Gotham city and strike terror into the hearts of criminals

Casestudies: Yes

This clearly proves how true the website's claims are. I urge anyone who is reading this blog to try a similar thing with other such websites.Lets hunt these morons out!

Here is the image of 'Bruce Wayne's natal chart' that the website sent me:
Here's the excel file that I got from the website that has the details of the above chart in a spreadsheet:
Here's a pdf copy of the original form:
I only have one thing to say to the website in question,and to other 'practitioners of astrology' : FAIL! :D :D

The real 'secret'

If one were to look at any list of bestselling books of the last ten years, one can see that a good portion of the ones noted are what are known as 'self-help' books. One thing that's common to these books is their purported nature of showing the reader how to make the 'best use' of his/her life and turn out 'successful'.Some of the more recent ones even go as far as saying that it's possible to obtain anything that one wants by merely wishing for it.Another common feature of these books is the usage of pseudo-scientific terms such as 'Quantum consciousness','Collective subconscious' etc and the usage of non-existent phenomena to highlight the author's attempt at explaining what according to him/her is the nature of the working of the world.The blurbs on these books all seem to claim that the ideas espoused by the book in question is mankind's key to understanding the universe.
The authors of all these books want to point out that our lives so far has been empty and meaningless and that they are the ones who will rescue us from the mundaneness that we have created,and turn us into 'highly successful people',who know 'the secret' of being good at everything.

If the books have helped anyone become succesful at what they do,it is the authors themselves,no doubt having got considerably richer with the sales of the books.
It leaves one to wonder if people have become so insecure about themselves,that they need someone else to tell them how to go about their lives.

One just needs to pause and think to know that the world around is beautiful in its own regard. Surely,the stars in the sky are enchanting,even without a 'God' to hold them up.The way nature works is a marvel,even without a 'spirit' to drive it.And it surely is common-sense to know that one can have what one wants/needs,by suitably working at getting it.

Our ability to reason and understand is what drove our species to have considerable mastery over much of the world,and ignoring our voice of reason will not be a good thing at all.