Happy Makar Sankranti

kitefestival2009-hp.gif

I loved this Google doodle and immediately felt the urge to wish all of you (using it). I haven't been at home for Sankranti (read as kite-flying-festival, for me) since 5 years. I haven't been much of a kite-flyer, but I did have my share of moments! Hope you guys have a great time "flying".

ps1: Read the "Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini, if you haven't yet.

ps2: This is my first post of 2010. ;)

Shoot!

I've been caught "shooting" with a camera and looked upon as 'terrorist' material. Not once or twice, but 4 times, at 3 different places, by different people. Friends with "pro" cameras (or pro-looking ones) have been stopped on quite a few occasions being mistaken for reporters. I'm not talking of those instances. I am counting the times when I've been in "real" trouble and was treated as a potential terrorist. Four Times.

The last time was special, since I was robbed of cash by a Public servant in the 'Khakhi', who was apparently doing his duties! I leave the cribbing about corrupt men and lost cash for later. It obviously didn't feel nice, being treated in that fashion.

And that, just for having a camera and trying to learn the art of "shooting" pictures. Thankfully, it was something that I could, shut off (along with my mouth) and throw into my backpack.

What of people born to parents who believe in a particular god. People suspected for what their parents named them. People suspected for dressing the way their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters dress.

Wonder when the world 'll grow up…

Stress and us

[Cross-posted on the FOSSEE Blog]

Don't tell me I didn't warn you, if you walk into our lab sometime and mistake it for a game zone in your neighbourhood. You are indeed in "the" lab. If you came looking for Prof. Prabhu you'll have to return. You'll only find PR vowing to see the end of baali, for having a nice time pawning him. You won't find me around - I'm cloaked and busy creating havoc. Unless, of course, you are the seer KD. Watch your step extremely carefully or you won't know when and how fuchmed's GM hit you. And don't dare venture anywhere near madrazr, jumping all around with a shockwave, unless you are capable enjoying some real nasty shocks. Well, the team is busy in one of it's two SB sessions per day. SB (short for Stress Buster) sessions are intense 15 minute rounds of bzflag - 3D first person tank battle game.

Hope you didn't start thinking, I'm just goofing off here, doing nothing at all. If it's not already clear, SB sessions are exactly what they are called - Stress Busters. Just to refresh ourselves and get back to work, with greater force. What then, am I doing for the rest of my time?

Mainly I've been developing course content that we have been working on, called Software Tools, Techniques and Practices. I have been working on a session for elementary LaTeX and basic Linux tools. I've also been attending classes of Digital Control and trying to Python-ize the Matlab/Scilab code that the course uses.

But, that's not all. I've helped a guy restore a Joomla site on Day-1. I screwed up a brand new installation of a server with some real skill; then expect to be screwed but get some encouragement with the words, "It was a good learning experience for us." Seen a Debian server upgrade from Etch to Lenny in under 10 minutes. Installed an instance of twiki and struggled to configure it. Helped a Humanities Scholar with LaTeX. Attended a workshop on Instruction Design. Restored Qmail on an old Fedora 3 server. Goofed around in gimp, for a CD cover and a T-shirt design. Chipped in with bits, for mutating Ubuntu into "LivePython". Did a bit of css and javascript tweaking… The list goes on!

Now, don't you think we deserve the SB's? ;)

A Confession

Lost in thought, in the maddening crowd waiting for the next train on a Sunday evening, I was staring blankly, looking at nothing in particular. I had come to see-off UC, Sunil and 9.

A man carrying a stretcher on his head, suddenly comes into my focus and I have an impulse to look down. But, I manage to look at people who are closer to the guy, and see looks of pity, shock and disgust. Most of them looked down, sooner than later. It was not long before the man, was right next to me and I could see an injured man lying on the stretcher with a stream of blood oozing out of his head. All I could manage was another expression of pity, shock and disgust. I didn't want to act as if I had seen nothing. I didn't want to stay as if I could do nothing about it. I didn't want to look down. But, that's all I ended up doing. The man carrying the stretcher was not exactly struggling, but I'm sure he would've more than liked some help. Not one amongst us moved.

Around half a minute later, I see a constable walking calmly (maybe with a shade of concern in his stride) in that direction. The next train was there in less than a minute and 9 got into it. I was feeling absolute disgust at my reaction. In the hope of making some amends, I walked in the direction that the stretcher guy took. Soon I found them. I didn't have to search. There was an audience of onlookers, watching the stretcher carrying guy inspect the other guy. He was waiting near the entrance of the station and I'm guessing he had called for some medical help and was waiting for it to arrive. The policeman and a couple of others were standing next to him, while he was inspecting the injuries. Everybody else was watching — from the stairs, from the over bridge, the platform, the tracks. Everywhere. Being a part of that crowd was the last thing I wanted to do. I walked away.

PS: I (infact, we - uc, sunil, 9 and me) have had my own tryst with the Mumbai local. Keep your head on your shoulders, while you are anywhere near them. They are not the trains in your local fair.

Good, Bad or Human?

Well, this could be called a post after ages, considering that most of previous posts have just been 'news reports'. I have been wanting to make a post since long, but I probably lost it. I really am unable to write anything that I find worth posting [It does raise questions about the existence of this blog. I'm writing this, to answer that question to myself.]

This post is provoked by an act of sharing, an act of kindness, an act of goodness, that surprised me. This post isn't about the act itself, but it's about me being surprised. Why on earth should I (or anybody) be surprised, when someone is just being human? Aren't human beings meant to be and feel human?

I wonder why people say, "this is a bad, bad world." I find a lot of goodness and humanness around me. Unless I strain my memory really hard, I can only recall people who try to be as good and nice as they can be; People trying to be as human as possible. Either there's something utterly wrong with my judgment of people or there's something wrong with the general feeling that the world is a bad, bad place.

There's one other possibility that just strikes me - I am so nice to people that, everyone else tries to be nice with me. I don't think I am such a big deviation from the average. I'm just another goat, in the great herd.

And another one, I'm in a really special place, presently. I have been only to the special places. I have visited only the places that are at an extreme, far away from the 'average' place in the world. But, given I'm just another goat in the great herd, this is very unlikely. I am probably grazing at a random spot on the great grasslands.

Since these are ruled out, it boils down to either a wrong judgment or a wrong general feeling.

Coming to my judgment, I wouldn't call myself an Oracle or the wise one, but I'm no dumb ass either. Well, taking the statistical route, the number of times I've had any real "nasty" surprises in dealing with people has been much lesser than the number of times things turned out nearly as expected. My judgment could, therefore, possibly given some credibility.

So, that leaves me with just one possibility. The idea that the world is a bad, bad place is not entirely true, if not completely absurd and outright wrong. The world is really a nice place, with "human" beings inhabiting it. The nasty surprises that you get, really are the surprises and not the general rule.

To do or not to do

Achieve something, I'm often reminded,
achieve something, something that's worthwhile.
Don't just kill time, they say,
for, brutally, it shall kill you someday.

Make the best use of time, I tell myself,
for I realize, how I spend my days
is how I'm spending my life and
I'm going to get just one of it!

But, what is worthwhile, I wonder
everything seems so good one moment
and all meaning vanishes the very next.
I'm utterly confused, somebody help!

Pick one from, spoke my brother,
the 'everything' that seems good
and do it right, just, do it right!
Life, as you live through it, shall
teach you to do things that are right
and at the end of it all, you'll
never regret what you've done
but, only what you couldn't!

-—

Inspired by

  1. a late-night conversation with a friend
  2. Annie Dillard, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives"

who am I?

dead and lifeless, in a box I lie
just my size, to be buried deep somewhere,
arranged with flowers, bright and fragrant
more alive than dead, are they
the final goodbye I have said,
gone am I, never to return–but
who am I, who am I, who am I?

am I –
the knowledge I arduously gained,
from all the books I read and re-read.
the wealth and riches I made,
at the cost of sweat, often also blood.
the skill with utmost care I groomed,
for that, today, has me world-renowned.
the numerous battles I braved,
where win or loss never, only a fight mattered.
all those dreams I dared to dream,
and the goals I never, or have, reached.

None of it, I realised, am I,
but, who am I, who am I, who am I
deep and loud, for one last time I wonder
"the difference, you make to the world,
is who you are", my Master answered,
"Life's fragrance is in service,
it grows and unfurls, far and wide,
long after you are lifeless and dead"

arbit blab

Well, just another post to make it clear that

  • I'm still alive
  • I haven't forgotten that I have a blog
  • I haven't forgotten my blog's password
  • I haven't lost the ability to write arbit crap.
  • I'm not busy with anything interesting
  • My Keyboard works fine

Arbit stuff going on around me off-late.

  • We've had our official farewell; So we've officially bid goodbye to B.I.T.S - Goa. People tried their best to make the occasion appear "senti" but it seemed more like "psenti" for me.
  • I wonder why our VC calls BITS as B.I.T.S; is it something similar to people choosing to call SAP as S.A.P?
  • Most of the advice given was of a copy-book style. But I liked one of them, though it wasn't expressed well enough for me - Learning from Books still remains an important way of learning, even if work teaches you a LOT.
  • College now has its own Debian Repository hosted on a server running Hardy. Hats off to bad\\_sector for showing the enthu to get things done. The LUG here's got a great bunch of people right now and its growing in leaps and bounds. I'm excited.
  • A couple of my friends picked up Debian recently and apparently both of them are loving it thoroughly. Linux, as addictive as ever.
  • It's been a while since I've been on the winning side in carroms. Its so boring to be on the losing side for so long.
  • Word is not a document exchange format1 ; Use html, plain text, pdf or the open document format.(if you are not averse to openness) [I mention this now because I faced a lot of trouble recently trying to handle some .doc files which replaced the html pages that were being used on the PS site.]
  • So often, little things get blown out of proportion, so quickly. Or its just that not everybody sees them as 'little' things.
  • On slow connections, the download 'handler' of firefox does really poorly. It's next to impossible to download anything over half an MB.
  • This from the preface of SICP2 ,a text book for an introductory course on Computer Programming at MIT

    Our design of this introductory computer-science subject reflects two major concerns. First, we want to establish the idea that a computer language is not just a way of getting a computer to perform operations but rather that it is a novel formal medium for expressing ideas about methodology. Thus, programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute. Second, we believe that the essential material to be addressed by a subject at this level is not the syntax of particular programming-language constructs, nor clever algorithms for computing particular functions efficiently, nor even the mathematical analysis of algorithms and the foundations of computing, but rather the techniques used to control the intellectual complexity of large software systems.

    I would like to see a few courses developed on similar lines here.

  • Gmail themes are good. I only tried the "Terminal" theme, though. I loved it!
  • For the very first time, I upgraded a distro. I successfully moved to Intrepid from Hardy. (and that too with the campus net!) This was before the repositories had been set-up. Now, it should be a much simpler job to achieve the same
  • Just got the news of more Violence in Mumbai; What the hell do these people want? I end this post here.

Here's an xkcd strip I liked. real_programmers.png


Footnotes:

1

Word is not a document exchange format

2

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

21

Yes, I've turned 21 today. I'd like to write a post today, but this song (by Adam Sandler?) more or less conveys, how I feel.

I'd just like to thank everyone, who prays for me to grow up and not just old.

The Happy Birthday Song

Once a year we celebrate
With stupid hats and plastic plates
The fact that you were able to make
Another trip around the sun

And the whole clan gathers round
And gifts and laughter do abound
And we let out a joyful sound
And sing that stupid song

Happy birthday!
Now you're one year older!
Happy birthday!
Your life still isn't over!
Happy birthday!
You did not accomplish much
But you didn't die this year
I guess that's good enough

So let's drink to your fading health
And hope you don't remind yourself
The chance of finding fame and wealth
Decrease with every year

Does it feel like you're doing laps
And eating food and taking naps
And hoping that someday perhaps
Your life will hold some cheer

Happy birthday!
What have you done that matters?
Happy birthday!
You're starting to get fatter
Happy birthday!
It's downhill from now on
Try not to remind yourself
Your best years are all gone

If cryogenics were all free
Then you could live like Walt Disney
And live for all eternity
Inside a block of ice

But instead your time is set
This is the only life you get
And though it hasn't ended yet
Sometimes you wish it might

Happy birthday!
You wish you had more money
Happy birthday!
Your life's so sad it's funny
Happy birthday!
How much more can you take?
But your friends are hungry
So just cut the stupid cake

Happy birthday!
Happy birthday!
Happy birthday, dear…

Software Freedom Day

Three Cheers to 'Free Software'!

A toast for GNU on its 25th Birthday!1

If you intend to ask, what I did on this day, I have nothing to show. I haven't done anything that's tangible but yes, I have re-dedicated myself to the idea of Free Software. This post intends to shed some light on a few things (if not for the benefit of others, just as a reminder for myself)

  • Free Software is a matter of liberty, not price. I've often been in a position that required me to correct people. 'Free Software' is software that's free as in free speech and not free beer. For the lack of a better word in english, the word 'free' which also means gratis has been used. Using the term 'Libre' sometimes helps and if you are in this part of the world, "mukt" is the best word to use.
  • Free Software2 comes along with four fundamental freedoms. To put it simply, the freedom to use, study, share and modify any software.
  • Free Software may have the advantage of being 'technically sounder', but the philosophy is what matters the most to me.
  • I will do whatever is possible within my capacity to spread the philosophy and the associated freedom

Be Free, My Friend!

Here is an extract from one of Stallman's 3 essays:

We must talk about Freedom

Estimates today are that there are ten million users of GNU/Linux systems such as Debian GNU/Linux and Red Hat Linux. Free software has developed such practical advantages that users are flocking to it for purely practical reasons.

The good consequences of this are evident: more interest in developing free software, more customers for free software businesses, and more ability to encourage companies to develop commercial free software instead of proprietary software products.

But interest in the software is growing faster than awareness of the philosophy it is based on, and this leads to trouble. Our ability to meet the challenges and threats described above depends on the will to stand firm for freedom. To make sure our community has this will, we need to spread the idea to the new users as they come into the community.

But we are failing to do so: the efforts to attract new users into our community are far outstripping the efforts to teach them the civics of our community. We need to do both, and we need to keep the two efforts in balance.


Footnotes:

2

The Free Software Definition

3

The GNU Project by Richard Stallman