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Showing posts with the label Musings

Cities, Planning and freedom!

 As I glanced through this article on my newsfeed, the picture caught my eye - so elegant, so mesmerising and so neat! Wow! What a view of Paris - the city of Love. Compare this image of Paris to any Indian city and the Indian city will look ugly, disorganized and pitiful - you'd probably use these images to label cities as First World and Third World countries.  But scratch under the surface of your reactionary thoughts, you will realise that the pictures reveal a very different story. Paris or for that matter any city which looks well organized are usually a result of one regime, one ruler being dominant at the time of development of the city - such that the ruler could convert huge swathes of land from private ownership to state ownership, and then develop them into planned cities. A chaotic disorganized city, on the other hand, is a result of common people having exercised their individual rights, their ingenuity, their individual personas, their likes, dislikes to create a ch

The natural order of things!

I just finished watching all 4 seasons of Mr. Robot - the cyberpunk TV/Web Series about a fictional sequence of events where a vigilante hacker group fsociety (styled on the  Anonymous group ) attacks E-Corp, the world's largest conglomerate (think GE + JP Morgan) and brings them down through a Ransomware attack.  The objective of the attack is to free millions of people from massive debt which they are running - the fountainhead of debt across the US being E-Corp. With the hack, millions of loans become unserviceable because data for them is no longer available, but it also leads to E-corp being unable to dispense cash to its depositors and freezing of further lending, ultimately the entire hacking episode leads to an economic collapse! While my initial interest in the series arose due to its cyberpunk lineage, my interest post Season 1 was retained more because of its depiction of the interplay between epochal events and the nature of human society. Eliot / Mr Robot's origin

A mundane interpretation of ज्ञान योग [Gyan Yog]

Today is International Yoga day - a day on which the whole world 'celebrates' the ancient practice of Yog / Yoga, albeit in a much-simplified form as a mere 'exercise' regimen. Unlike its popular format - the Hath Yoga - the term Yoga denotes a set of practices which can be used by a human being to take the path of salvation - Moksha [मोक्ष]. Background There are mainly three pathways to salvation - Karm Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Gyan Yoga. The three paths are not mutually exclusive. Karm yoga is the path of unselfish action without being attached to the fruits or consequences - the path taught by Lord Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita. Bhakti Yoga is about attaining salvation through extreme devotion towards a god - some examples are those of Meera and Varkari devotees of Bhagwaan Vitthal in Maharashtra. [You can look up more on these online - a lot of information is available on Wikipedia and blogs about these] Gyan Yoga means that one can achieve salvation by gaining knowledge

The good things about Covid-19 outbreak

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus - Mumbai Unprecedented Lockdown Its been a month and 10 days of the lockdown here in India, an attempt to contain the outbreak of Covid-19; the deadly virus which has engulfed the whole world and caused the death of thousands - possibly the most deaths mankind has seen in a span of few months since the Second World War. [I mean this only in the global context though, locally we have had wars, calamities and similar viral outbreaks which have outnumbered Covid-19.] As the founder of a travel startup, I was initially terribly shaken at how life has been thrown completely out of gear by this deadly virus. Travel is the worst affected sector; suddenly 2020 which we had planned to be the 'explosive growth' year for us has thrown us into an existential crisis. The situation has taken such a wild turn that I've grown comfortably numb only shifting the timeline of our 'explosive' growth to the next calendar year [or potentially even furt

We are living in a dystopian world!

As I sipped my cutting cup of of tea at the tea stall, I couldn't but help notice the guffaws of the sabzi waala (vegetable vendor) sitting right next - from what I could overhear in the cacophony of street traffic, he was watching some Bhojpuri standup comedy. The chai waala (tea vendor) noticed my scrutiny of his neighbour, smiled and then said: Jio ने सबको बीज़ी कर दिया है! ग्राहक आए या ना आए - ये अपना भोजपुरी इन्टरटेंमेंट में ही लगा रहता है! 😆  With the economic headwinds strong, and no sight of respite - it amused me to notice the scene I was in. The poor vendor was not disappointed or dejected; he wasn't looking forward to his job or future either - notably, food inflation has remained at its lowest levels in the last few years due to efforts of Modi government and the vegetable vendor has surely not had or expected higher earnings. Other forms of inflation - housing, transport (fuel) etc - are moderate and hence his savings, if he has any, would not have grown,  r

Role models and future of a country

There have been a lot of controversies of late - a movie which was claimed to have twisted historical facts, a caste-based protest, a politically influenced crime or the issue of sharing river water between two states. In all these cases, facts elude the public and the vote always remains is pretty divided and vitriolic because there are always two sides of every story. It is no-one's guess that a filmmaker may have apparently taken a lot of liberties in historical depiction or that a particular law may have been misused or water or financial devolution could have been fairer or anything else. However, protestors have often gone wild with threats to kill or even cause damage to public and private property. Sane voices argue that these non-issues keep people and media away from discussing real issues like the state of the economy, the rise of crony capitalism, deteriorating finances of the middle class or farmers committing suicide. So why is it that that large hordes of peop

Socialism, Communism, Open Source and Browsers

I love Firefox and the Mozilla foundation - it was the beacon of innovation when Microsoft tried to kill it with repeated versions of its buggy Internet Explorer! If you were involved in software development or managing online products circa 2005-2008 , you would know the nightmare it was to develop a website compatible with IE and its myriad of versions (IE6 was especially notorious)! At that time, Firefox was our ray of hope, and I would have tried to evangelise almost every friend, family or client to ditch IE and embrace FF. With clients, however, the big problem was, Firefox was an Open Source software and the corporate world has a certain amount of scepticism towards this species of software. [Ironical because most of the largest software services in the world run on Operating Systems which are clones of Linux and most of the web's websites run on Apache - these two being probably the largest Open Source projects in the world!] Source:  Netcraft Webserver survey 2017

Are we witnessing Modern day Mahabharat?

Chance and serendipity can often spring profound thoughts and insights; I experienced one such moment today. I was driving towards office and switched on the Radio. All India Radio FM Gold channel was broadcasting an audio re-run of the famed Mahabharat TV Serial. Prologue: The episode was the last part (Anudyuta Parva) of Sabha Parva  - after Pandavas lose their wealth, kingdom and respect in a gambling game and leave for their penance of 12 years Vanvaas & 1 year Agyaatvaas. In the scene after their exit, Vidur (the Prime Minister) visits the quarters of Patriarch Pitaamah Bhishm. Bhishm is cross with himself for not stopping the unethical gambling game which ultimately led to a public disrobing of his great grand daughter-in-law Draupadi .  During the episode, Bhishma utters a very insightful line - कभी कभी मनुष्य अपनी विवशता को अपना कर्तव्य मान  लेता है| [Meaning: Sometimes one assume one's helplessness to be his obligation.]  This line rang a bell tak

Personalization is against Privacy - but is it a threat to mankind's existence?

The Economist argues in this article how online services which provide for personalised services are breaching some age-old notions of privacy. Google mines the data it collects from users for two purposes. One is to improve the user experience, making its various online services more personal, useful and rewarding for the individual—and thereby increasing their popularity. The other purpose is to provide better targeted information for advertisers. That is fine for the vast majority of internet users, who are happy to trade a measure of privacy for the convenience. However, most people (though not all) stop short of blurting out more intimate details about their private lives. Even so, all those innocuous bits of self-revelation can be pieced together, jig-saw fashion, by intelligent algorithms. Throw in the digital paper-trails stashed in Google searches and Amazon purchases, and things can begin to get a little scary. The above is a foregone conclusion - we all are ignorin

Hints for extraterrestrial life from human beings

** The existence of Intelligent Extraterrestrial life is a common topic for Science fiction - stories, movies or even discussions. There are various visions of an alien proposed - doomsday / apocalypse themed movies portray them as reptiles with high frequency reproduction capabilities. However, few other more benevolent themes like the E.T.  or Avatar show them as humanoid. Which of these two versions are more likely to be true? Let us look at it from another perspective, what are some of the characteristics of an intelligent animal? Some which come to mind are [ Source ]: The use of tools The ability to learn and remember (obtain knowledge) through experience, study, or instruction The ability to communicate (the ability to give and receive information) The ability to solve complex problems Humans have fingers which gives them a lot of flexibility to handle complex tasks such as writing or drawing art. We can't be exactly sure whether our fingers evolved by usag

The Rail and the Road of career

My daughter was watching one of those Kindergarten videos on shapes [ YouTube ] and at this scene where a car is waiting for the 'Shape Train' to cross the level crossing; I ruminated a conversation between the vehicles where ... The car wonders to itself  - "I wish I could go as fast as the train!" The train itself responds "I wish I could roam anywhere like the car does!" [ and not be forced to run only where the track goes ] I realized my rumination had a lot of similarity to the differences, perceptions and expectations of 'Corporate' vs. 'Entrepreneur' career paths. Corporate career is like the Railway - you have a defined career path to progress up, if you perform well, play your moves properly (including living with or harnessing office politics and networking), you can reach the top echelons very fast and without much financial risk on yourself. Entrepreneurship is like driving a car on the road - you have a lot of freedom w

The irony of our times ...

The irony of our times ... Those who oppose crimes against themselves, inflict crimes on their own people  Those who want peace within, advocate bombing the 'criminal' states  Those who oppose 'repressive' regimes, side with them when the 'rebels' start bombing their countries  Those who work for off-shoring IT businesses, condemn governments for allowing cheap Chinese imports  'Export' cloth manufacturers encourage laws restricting of foreign manufactured vehicles Families who built houses with repatriation money castigate illegal immigrants from neighboring countries  Those who worship most feverishly are also those who preach hatred People conduct 'culture' festivals at the Bank of rivers damaging fragile ecosystems on the riverbed  Those who find affirmation action 'unfair' to the majority cringe when the government taxes their savings  Minorities always cite the law; majorities make the law!  My opportunity is fair -

Features vs. Users

davewinerabttwtr As  @DaveWiner , tweeted about twitter's innovation stalling because it closed its API than open it, another friend of mine emailed me asking about which Social Bookmarking service I use. To put it in context, in 2008-9, I too had started to build a social bookmarking application Bloozle , which was aimed at sharing links (bookmarks) by users, tagging them (to create 'folksonomies), enable sharing and finally presenting a technology curated 'magazine' for end users to browse. What we envisaged as bloozle, is today available as a combination of Twitter / Facebook based link sharing (with #hashtags acting as tags) and Flipboard based 'curation' of those links for you to read. Long story short - this friend of mine was a part of the team for Bloozle and hence, we share the love to hate Twitter-Flipboard combo for 'stealing' away our success! :-) My friend commented (sic)- "i am just back on delicious and find it way b