On-line Education | RMS

Educators, and all those who wish to contribute to on-line educational works: please do not to let your work be made non-free. Offer your assistance and text to educational works that carry free/libre licenses, preferably copyleft licenses so that all versions of the work must respect teachers’ and students’ freedom. Then invite educational activities to use and redistribute these works on that freedom-respecting basis, if they will. Together we can make education a domain of freedom.

via On-line Education|RMS

Mostly people don’t bother about what they get for gratis on the Internet, but institutions cannot adopt the same approach. Licensing is as much important as much as the actual content. But an archaic system will not go down till it is compelled to, and it will fight till the very end.

Wikipedia | New Politics Of Knowledge

Professionals are no longer needed for the bare purpose of the mass distribution of information and the shaping of opinion. The hegemony of the professional in determining our background knowledge is disappearing—a deeply profound truth that not everyone has fully absorbed.

In their view, Wikipedia represents the democratization of knowledge itself, on a global scale, something possible for the first time in human history.

As wonderful as it might be that the hegemony of professionals over knowledge is lessening, there is a downside: our grasp of and respect for reliable information suffers.  With the rejection of professionalism has come a widespread rejection of expertise—of the proper role in society of people who make it their life’s work to know stuff.

For instance, journalists, interviewers, and conference organizers—people trying to gather an audience, in other words—use “expert” to mean “a person we can pass off as someone who can speak with some authority on a subject.”  Also, we say the “local expert” on a subject is the person who knows most, among those in a group, about the subject.  Neither of these are the very interesting senses of “expert.”

To exclude the public is to put readers at the mercy of wrongheaded intellectual fads; and to exclude experts, or to fail to give them a special role in an encyclopedia project, is to risk getting expert opinion wrong.

If we reject the use of credentials, we reject all evidence of expertise; ergo, lacking any means of establishing who is an expert, we reject expertise itself.  Meritocrats are necessarily expert-lovers.

Experts know particular topics particularly well.  By paying closer attention to experts, we improve our chances of getting the truth; by ignoring them, we throw our chances to the wind.  Thus, if we reduce experts to the level of the rest of us, even when they speak about their areas of knowledge, we reduce society’s collective grasp of the truth.

via On The New Politics Of Knowledge | Conversation | Edge

On the brighter side of it, we are for the first time able to participate in many things. Just being trained in a discipline (PhD?) does not automatically create opportunities for one in the old system. But in Wikipedia it does. How many people who have PhD do get an opportunity to write a text-book or a popular article? I would like to ask how many of contributors on Wikipedia are really subject experts? There might be many, and they would be able to point at the right evidence, when needed to “show off” their authority in the field, which the normal user won’t be. So what’s the fuss about?

 

 

Orwell On Books…

In two of his essays Books vs. Cigarretes and Bookshop Memories George Orwell tells us what he thinks about books. Me being a bibliophile could relate to many things he said.

He says out of the 900 odd books he has, around 500 are bought second-hand. While most of mine are second hand.

The idea that the buying, or even the reading, of books is an expensive hobby and beyond the reach of the average person is so  widespread that it deserves some detailed examination.

Even now I know of people who get and give weird reactions to the sight of books, as if they are something ugly and avoidable.

This is because book-giving, book-borrowing and book-stealing more or less even out.

Well may be in the long run it is indeed true. I have lost many books, but there are may be more with me which belong to others, but which I did not steal. But many just ended up being with me.

It is difficult to establish any relationship between the price of books and the value one gets out of them. “Books” includes novels, poetry, text books, works of reference, sociological treatises and much else, and length and price do not correspond to one another, especially if one habitually buys books second-hand. You may spend ten shillings on a poem of 500 lines, and you may spend sixpence on a dictionary which you consult at odd moments over a period of twenty years. There are books that one reads over and over again, books that become part of the furniture of one’s mind and alter one’s whole attitude to life, books that one dips into but never reads through, books that one reads at a single sitting and forgets a week later: and the cost, in terms of money, may be the same in each case. But if one regards reading simply as a recreation, like going to the pictures, then it is possible to make a rough estimate of what it costs.

Here I see an analogy between books and humans (or is it the other way round?). Just as he describes different types of books, some of which we just dip into, some we savour for our lives, some we just refer maybe once in a while, so are our human contacts, some are just hi-bye types, some we share our intimate moments with, some we just meet once in our lives, but they are unforgettable, some we just forget, and others we want to forget. Seen in this way at another level, books are just ideas that are present in them, so are the humans we come in contact with (though at times the physical intimacy is better, (but isn’t physical intimacy also an idea)). Some people we make our heroes, some books give us our philosophy of life. Some people give us sound advice, many books save us from despair. Books are actually people who talk to us, make us experience things we would otherwise not experience, isn’t the same true of people also. But of course there are crap books and there are crap people.

If you concentrated on more serious books, and still bought everything that you read, your expenses would be about the same. The books would cost more but they would take longer to read. In either case you would still possess the books after you had read them, and they would be saleable at about a third of their purchase price. If you bought only second-hand books, your reading expenses would, of course, be much less: perhaps sixpence an hour would be a fair estimate.

I never sold my books, and hopefully will never need to.

And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less
pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not  because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive.

And he ends Bookshop Memories thus

But as soon as I went to work in the bookshop I stopped buying books. Seen in the mass, five or ten thousand at a time, books were boring and even slightly sickening. Nowadays I do buy one occasionally, but only if it is a book that I want to read and can’t borrow, and I never buy junk. The sweet smell of decaying paper appeals to me no longer. It is too closely associated in my mind with paranoiac customers and dead bluebottles.

I hope I do not end up doing the same. For now I think I am maybe making a transition from bibliophilia to bibliomania.

For a comprehensive list of Orwell’s works see: http://orwell.ru

Freedom of Expression in India

This is a meta blog, as it is a blog about this blog.

About 10 years back the GoI decided that there were a lot of dissident voices from the North-East on Yahoo! Groups which were harmful to the health of the nation. The result was that there was a blanket ban on Yahoo! groups. Then people who were using Yahoo! Groups other than what GoI thought was harmful, suffered too. It was a classic case of complete misunderstanding about the nature of how the internet works. Of course then as now people had means to go over the blockade. That was 10 years back, net penetration was not that much, so we could forgive the bureaucracy over such things. Claiming disease called ignorance.

10 years have passed, one would have expected that the babus and their political masters would have learned (something) about how this new technology works and how it is fundamentally different than other mass media. If not the old babus, the somewhat younger generation which replaced them. (Oh, but I heard babus never retire they are kept on the job as part of this or that committee.) In a sense of deja vu, this time also the trouble was in the North-East. After the violence there, and its strange aftermath in Bombay (Middle-West) thousands of kilometers away and also in Bangalore (Down-South). Then began the blame games and it was discovered that the social networking sites were the culprit. So what is the quick fix solution? Ban all of them.

ना रहेगा बास ना बजेगी बांसुरी .

So this blog and my other blogs were not accessible through my humble Photon+ conncetion. It just refused to open these sites. I thought it was some problem with my connection. Only today I came to know the grim reality, that they had actually blocked WordPress, completely! Though other ISPs as of now have not, but it may not be long before they do that. This is akin to banning all printing presses as someone prints something objectionable to someone. And in a democracy, someone will get offended by whatever you say. But it might be just that the babus are also executing their freedom of speech, by giving orders to ISPs for blocking other people’s Freedom of Speech. Here we are in paradoxical situation.

Can Freedom of Speech of one person supersede the Freedom of Speech of other? But the constitution says that all people are equal, then how is this possible?

Orwell comes to our rescue then when says:

All are equal and some are more equal than others.

This cuts the knot for us, and we can perfectly make sense of the things that are happening around us.

Maybe someone needs to  put up a PIL in SC against such blanket bans in the future, to uphold the Right to Free Speech! And I sincerely hope that person who makes such a PIL is more equal than others.
And may be not all of you will be able to read this, as wordpress is blocked…

The PhD Octopus

Thus, we at Harvard are proud of the number of candidates whom we reject, and of
the inability of men who are not distingues in intellect to pass our tests.

This is something the American philosopher and psychologist William James wrote in the Harvard Monthly of March 1903 The Ph.D. Octopus.

Brilliancy and originality by themselves won’t save a thesis for the doctorate; it must also exhibit a heavy technical apparatus of learning; and this our candidate had neglected to bring to bear.

To our surprise we were given to understand in reply that the quality per se of the man signified nothing in this connection, and that the three magical letters were the thing seriously required. The College had always gloried in a list of faculty members who bore the doctor’s title, and to make a gap in the galaxy, and admit a common fox without a tail, would be a degradation impossible to be thought of.

"This must be a terribly distinguished crowd,-- their titles shine like the stars in the 
firmament; Ph.D.'s, S.D.'s, and Litt.D.'s bespangle the page as if they were sprinkled 
over it from a pepper caster."

“No instructor who is not a Doctor” has become a maxim in the smaller institutions which represent demand; and in each of the larger ones which represent supply, the same belief in decorated scholarship expresses itself in two antagonistic passions, one for multiplying as much as possible the annual output of doctors, the other for raising the standard of difficulty in passing, so that the Ph.D. of the special institution shall carry a higher blaze of distinction than it does elsewhere. Thus, we at Harvard are proud of the number of candidates whom we reject, and of the inability of men who are not distingues in intellect to pass our tests.

But the institutionizing on a large scale of any natural combination of need and motive always tends to run into technicality and to develop a tyrannical Machine with unforeseen powers of exclusion and corruption.

First of all, is not our growing tendency to appoint no instructors who are not also doctors an instance of pure sham? Will any one pretend for a moment that the doctor’s degree is a guarantee that its possessor will be successful as a teacher? Notoriously his moral, social, and personal characteristics may utterly disqualify him for success in the class-room; and of these characteristics his doctor’s examination is unable to take any account whatever. Certain bare human beings will always be better candidates for a given place than all the doctor-applicants on hand; and to exclude the former by a rigid rule, and in the end to have to sift the latter by private inquiry into their personal peculiarities among those who know them, just as if they were not doctors at all, is to stultify one’s own procedure.

The truth is that the Doctor-Monopoly in teaching, which is becoming so rooted an American custom, can show no serious grounds whatsoever for itself in reason. As it actually prevails and grows in vogue among us, it is due to childish motives exclusively. In reality it is but a sham, a bauble, a dodge, whereby to decorate the catalogues of schools and colleges.

We advertise our “schools” and send out our degree-requirements, knowing well that aspirants of all sorts will be attracted, and at the same time we set a standard which intends to pass no man who has not native intellectual distinction.

It forms an interesting reading considering this is what we are exactly doing and what is happening around us. For example the rule that prevents permanent appointments in colleges if the candidate is without a PhD. Or for that matter the ‘stamping’ that happens if you are from a so called privileged institute.

As the first quote that I have used from the article, summarizes the way our society recognize academic talent. If you are the selected ones from 10,000 odd people then indeed you are smart and the institute that selects you is indeed greatest. The ratio of the people applying for the courses to the ones that are actually accepted forms a good indicator of the ‘quality’ of the institute. The same institutes when choosing a faculty would apply even higher standards and even more people with decorations, on the list.

Caffeine…

Caffeine is the source of new ideas. - Anon (in Fortune)

My day starts with a cup of coffee, and this cup mostly fulfils my daily requirement for caffeine.
Long gone are the days of instant coffee and now I do brew my own.F or this purpose I mostly rely on two of Bombay’s best coffee shops that I know of; namely Philips Coffee and Tea and Mysore Concerns (The Coffee People since 1939).

Both shops I discovered quite accidentally. Philips Tea and Coffee has registered office near Khadi Bhavan on D. N. Road in Fort. Naturally curious I enquired, but there was no sale there, and they guided me to a Sale store down the lane towards Strand Book Shop. There are two varieties of coffee beans available with them the Highlander and Peaberry. Peaberry which I prefer is priced at Rs. 420 a kilo and Highlander is a little low, maybe Rs. 380. The best part is that they grind the beans just in front of you and the aroma that is generated is too good to be described in words. Since I have a “fussy coffee machine” it is not very happy to brew when the powder is too fine, so they grind it as per my requirement, a bit coarse. They have chain of shops throughout Bombay, I mostly take my stock from the Chembur which is close to where I live, but sometimes also from the Fort shop, which is where I visit to hunt for books. They also sell a variety of teas and stock a few magazines many of them Mallu.

The Mysore Concerns shop I discovered quite weirdly. I was on my BEST-bus tours of Bombay some years back, and suddenly near Maheshwari Udyan or King’s Circle I smelt coffee. It was a strong one. And just as the bus passed over it went away. Anyways I was supposed to get down at the stop, as I was on a book hunting mission. I just could not resist myself from finding source of the smell. And the source turned out to be the Mysore Concerns shop, which keeps on grinding coffee beans throughout the day which produces aroma which wanders along the streets. They also sell Coimbatore butter which I have never tried. But this was too good to resist. The price is lower as compared to Philips Rs. 340 per kilo and AFAIK they do not have any variants in the coffee they sell. But going to Matunga all the way to get coffee was not practical many times, but then someone told me that you get it in Chembur too. Although the pack says there is NO BRANCH as opposed to Philips people.

I have collected quite a number of different cups ~ 20 for the morning coffee ritual, and the milk is mostly got from the canteen, I do not as yet like black coffee, I want it with lots of milk (preferably buffalo) and no sugar. Some of the more costly ones are from Chimp and the logo of the brand a Chimp printed on the inside of the cup seems to enjoy surfing the sea of coffee as much as I do.

I had a fortunate visit to a spice garden which belonged to a friend near Bangalore, and I saw there coffee plants ,the green beans and the fragrant white flowers for the first time. They tell me that till you roast the coffee beans you don’t get the aroma of coffee from any other part of the plant.

 

And remember always: a bad coffee is worse than no coffee…

And interestingly the science behind the coffee rings, though not the above one, is explanied.

I won’t brag about myself

“I am a human being. I will be telling you a lie if I say it (not getting the media coverage) did not matter but now I realise that this was a blessing in disguise because not being in limelight, I was able to concentrate more on my event and the result is there for all to see,”

Vijay said he was taken aback when people, including media, expressed surprise about his podium finish.

“I have not given to flamboyance, people say one should perform and you will be noticed. I have been performing for last eight years, I have won 110 national and 45 International medals and now some friends want to know about me after this Olympic medal which amuses me. It is not my job to go talking or bragging about my achievements. I am an Army man not a PR guy,”

he said.

Vijay said he was taken aback when people, including media, expressed surprise about his podium finish.

“I have been getting phone calls from India. They say I turned out to be a dark horse. They want to know more about me. Sometimes I do feel bit bad about it but then, I have learnt to take these things in my stride,”

he said.

“I am a national champion since 2004 in my event. I won two gold medals with new Games Record in 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, a gold and a bronze in Doha Asiad, a silver in World Championship in China, three gold and a silver in 2010 Commonwealth Games, two bronze in Guangzhou Asian Games and if still my medal winning performance has surprised people and media, I can’t help it,”

said the 27-year-old marksman.

via I won’t brag about myself | Firstpost.

Rejection…

There were times when I was locked for role but was then called and told it’s not happening. Many rejections happened. Rejection had become a friend. After a point it stopped affecting me. It became just another thing after I went through emotions of shock, anger, frustration every time, in that order

via Nawazuddin Siddique | DNA

Flying Circus of Physics…

The Flying Circus of Physics began one dark and dreary night in 1968 while I was a graduate student at the University of Maryland. Well, actually, to most graduate students nearly all nights are dark and dreary, but I mean that that particular night was really dark and dreary. I was a full-time teaching assistant, and earlier in the day I had given a quiz to Sharon, one of my students. She did badly and at the end turned to me with the challenge, “What has anything of this to do with my life?”

I jumped to respond, “Sharon, this is physics! This has everything to do with your life!”

As she turned more to face me, with eyes and voice both tightened, she said in measured pace, “Give me some examples.”

I thought and thought but could not come up with a single one. I had spent at least six years studying physics and I could not come up with even a single example.That night I realized that the trouble with Sharon was actually the trouble with me: This thing called physics was something people did in a physics building, not something that was connected with the real world of Sharon or me. So, I decided to collect some real-world examples and, to catch her attention, I called the collection The Flying Circus of Physics.

via Jearl Walker | Flying Circus of Physics

Examinations: Students, Teachers and the System

We think of exams as simple troublesome exchanges with students:

Glance at some of the uses of examinations:

  • Measure students' knowledge of facts, principles, definitions, 
    experimental methods, etc
  • Measure students' understanding of the field studied
  • Show students what they have learnt
  • Show teacher what students have learnt
  • Provide students with landmarks in their studies
  • Provide students with landmarks in their studies and check 
    their progress
  • Make comparisons among students, or among teachers, 
    or among schools
  • Act as prognostic test to direct students to careers
  • Act as diagnostic test for placing students in fast 
    or slow programs
  • Act as an incentive to encourage study
  • Encourage study by promoting competition among students
  • Certify necessary level for later jobs
  • Certify a general educational background for later jobs
  • Act as test of general intelligence for jobs
  • Award's, scholarships, prizes etc.

There is no need to read all that list; I post it only as a warning against trying to do too many different things at once. These many uses are the variables in examining business, and unless we separate the variables, or at least think about separating them, our business will continue to suffer from confusion and damage.

There are two more aspects of great importance well known but seldom mentioned. First the effect of examination on teachers and their teaching –

coercive if imposed from the outside; guiding if adopted sensibly. That is how to change a whole teaching program to new aims and methods – institute new examinations. It can affect a teacher strongly.

It can also be the way to wreck a new program – keep the old exams, or try to correlate students’ progress with success in old exams.

Second: tremendous effect on students.

Examinations tell them our real aims, at least so they believe. If we stress clear understanding and aim at growing knowledge of physics, we may completely sabotage our teaching by a final examination that asks for numbers to be put in memorized formulas. However loud our sermons, however intriguing the experiments, students will be judged by that exam – and so will next years students who hear about it.

From:

Examinations: Powerful Agents for Good or Ill in Teaching | Eric M. Rogers | Am. J. Phys. 37, 954 (1969)

Though here the real power players the bureaucrats and (highly) qualified PhDs in education or otherwise who decide what is to be taught and how it is evaluated in the classroom. They are “coercive” as Rogers points out and teachers, the meek dictators (after Krishna Kumar), are the point of contact with the students and have to face the heat from all the sides. They are more like foot soldiers most of whom have no idea of what they are doing, why they are doing; while generals in their cozy rooms, are planning how to strike the enemy (is the enemy the students or their lack of (interest in ) education, I still wonder).  In other words most of them don’t have an birds-eye-view of system that they are a focal part of.

Or as Morris Kline puts it:

A couple of years of desperate but fruitless efforts caused Peter to sit back and think. He had projected himself and his own values and he had failed. He was not reaching his students. The liberal arts students saw no value in mathematics. The mathematics majors pursued mathematics because, like Peter, they were pleased to get correct answers to problems. But there was no genuine interest in the subject. Those students who would use mathematics in some profession or career insisted on being shown immediately how the material could be useful to them. A mere assurance that they would need it did not suffice. And so Peter began to wonder whether the subject matter prescribed in the syllabi was really suitable. Perhaps, unintentionally, he was wasting his students’ time.

Peter decided to investigate the value of the material he had been asked to teach. His first recourse was to check with his colleagues, who had taught from five to twenty-five or more years. But they knew no more than Peter about what physical scientists, social scientists, engineers, and high school and elementary school teachers really ought to learn. Like himself, they merely followed syllabi – and no one knew who had written the syllabi.

Peter’s next recourse was to examine the textbooks in the field. Surely professors in other institutions had overcome the problems he faced. His first glance through publishers’ catalogues cheered him. He saw titles such as Mathematics for Liberal Arts, Mathematics for Biologists, Calculus for Social Scientists, and Applied Mathematics for Engineers. He eagerly secured copies. But the texts proved to be a crushing disappointment. Only the authors’ and publishers names seemed to differentiate them. The contents were about the same, whether the authors in their prefaces or the publishers in their advertising literature professed to address liberal arts students, prospective engineers, students of business, or prospective teachers. Motivation and use of the mathematics were entirely ignored. It was evident that these authors had no idea of what anyone did with mathematics.

From: A Critique Of Undergrduate Education. (Commonly Known As: Why The Professor Can’t Teach?) | Morris Kline

Both of the works are about 50 years old, but they still reflect the educational system as of now.

What Wikipedia is not… then what it is?

Although anyone can be an editor, there are community processes and standards that make Wikipedia neither an anarchy, democracy, nor bureaucracy.

via What Wikipedia is Not

Disclaimer: Let me make some things clear, I am not against Wikipedia, or its policies. I am (great) admirer and (very heavy) user, and (very little) contributor to the wonderful platform, which aims to provide free knowledge to everyone. In this post I am just trying to collect thoughts that I have about the Wikipedia’s social system and its relation to the society at large.

Then what is wikipedia? Is it a feudal system, which they do not mention in the list above? Although there are people who are called bureaucrats, they say it is not a bureaucracy, I think they mean it in the traditional sense of the wor(l)d (pun intended).

But for a new person, who is trying to edit the first article, there is too much of bureaucracy (read rules), involved, and it may not be a pleasant experience at all, especially for the so called technologically-challenged people. To describe in one word it is intimidating. The trouble is only there till, actually you become used to it, and become part of the system. This is more like the adaptation to smell, after a while in a stinking place, you don’t feel the stink anymore (just an analogy, I do not mean that Wikipedia stinks!). The rules become a part of your editing skills, which you do want to see in other editors. But how many people are able to get over this first major hurdle is not known to me, but I guess (which can be completely wrong) this number can be significant. This will in general reduce the number of producers and just tend to increase the number of consumers in the commercial sense of the word.

Another thing that the above quote says it is not a democracy. Again here I think, Wikipedia is not a democracy in the sense of common usage of the term. In a democracy, by definition the popular aspirations get through, and they may not be even the best for a society, as we many times see in the Indian context. But then it mostly the people who are editing the Wikipedia who decide by consensus that certain thing should be done. Is it not like majority win? So there is in fact a strong democratic element in Wikipedia.

Do we also want a society that is same as above “neither an anarchy, democracy, nor bureaucracy”? What kind of society would you like to live in?

 

Debunking bad science

Debunking bad science should be constant obligation of the science community, even if it takes time away from serious research or seems to be a losing battle. One takes comfort from the fact there is no Gresham’s laws in science. In the long run, good science drives out bad.

via Martin Gardner | Wikiquote.

We are stardust…

The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements – the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution – weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way they could get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.

via Lawrence M. Krauss – Wikiquote.

Cram, don’t think

The message from 15 years of education in my country – first at a top-notch school and then at one of the best known colleges in India – was:

Facts are more important than thought and imagination; that it’s more important to know the answers than think critically; that exams are more important than knowledge itself. Some may say that in college the majority of us chose the convenient way out and they are right.Our system of education, even at the undergraduate level, does not encourage us – in fact, gives us every opportunity not to think independently, critically, creatively or analytically.

via The Hindu

Love or Lust?

My predecessors believed only good people fall in love and bad people have sex. This was the simple thing — falling in love is the aspiration that should be endorsed and having sex is something that should be outlawed. The garden needs to be weeded off this thing called lust.

Mahesh Bhatt via Tehelka.

Which category do you fall in?

On Days, coming, bygones and persistent

The marking of a day named after a particular section of the population or a particular political cause or even a slogan could be seen as a secular festival and was used to remember and rally supporters, amplify and spread the central message of the movement.

What is interesting is that most of these post-1945 days originated from within state institutions or global institutions, whose massive bureau­cracies were deployed to popularise them.

However, over the past few decades these days have been captured, almost wholesale, by corporate interests which shamelessly use them to market their goods and launch public relations exercises. This takeover by the private sector has paralleled the retreat of the State and the spread of neo-liberalism as the hegemonic ruling ideology of our times.

Thus, the various days to mark different diseases provide excellent opportunities for corporate hospitals and health insurers to frighten people and access their services. Women’s Day is similarly used to make women “feel good” by making them purchase cosmetics.

The recent World Environment Day (5 June) is a case in point. If it were not for the advertisements which were splashed all over the newspapers or the various “events” organised by different companies and showrooms, one would never have remembered that 5 June was World Environment Day.

The political power of the private sector is the foundation on which the negotiations over ­climate change have become so intractable.

Events like World Environment Day (and the earlier Earth Day and Earth Hour) have now become opportunities for these pursuers of private profit to greenwash themselves and hide their politics.

We perhaps need to abandon all these ­special “Days” and find newer, better tools for building solidarities, raising public awareness and celebrating our politics.

via Greenwash Day.

Irony at its best!

The President (well there is only one President, the President of US of A, rest others are just presidents) said,

“In our global economy, we can’t just have a few leaders of the most advanced economies making decisions that touch the lives of billions of people around the world.”

via Firstpost

Isn’t it ironical that President Obama is saying this. Him, his predecessors and his successors have done it, he is doing it, and they will continue to do it. Is it still a secret that the decisions that indeed affect lives of billions of people are taken by “just a few leaders of the most advanced economies.” How do you otherwise explain monopolies of a few companies over most of the economy in the “Free World”?

JEE and school system

“The old JEE (is?) destroying school system, leading to rampant coaching industry, biased in favour of urban areas and boys.”

“IITs cannot pursue excellence at the cost of the school system. They must also have a stake in Board exams.”

via Firstpost.

What Kapil Sibbal says is maybe true. But the damage is already done. Lets see what is the outcome of this.

… तर मराठी शाळा बंद पडतील

मैदाने आहेत , पण क्रीडा साहित्य नाही .. प्रयोगशाळेत प्रयोगाचे साहित्य नाही .. तुटके बेंच आणि गळकी छपरे .. अशा दारुण स्थितीत असलेल्या मराठी शाळांना संजीवनी मिळावी , यासाठी वेतनेतर अनुदान तातडीने सुरु करावे , अशी मागणी राज्य शिक्षक परिषदेने केली आहे . हे अनुदान न मिलाल्यास राज्यातील शेकडो मराठी शाळा बंद पडतील अशी भीती परिषदेने व्यक्त केली आहे .

via Maharashtra Times.

आता आपण काही केले नाही तर मग कोण करणार? आमच्या खैरात शाळे मध्ये विज बिल भरायची काही तरतुदच नाही आहे. त्यामुळे तिथला विज पुरवठा खंडित पण करण्यात आला होता.

Remaking ebooks from existing pdfs, djvu

Suppose you have an ebook or an article in pdf format, which unfortunately is not cleaned. By not cleaned we mean

  • Single page scan with edge darkening, pages not aligned that is text is rotated differently , page size different, library and use marks marks etc.
  • 2-in-1 scan: Two pages simultaneously scanned together, the central spine dark band, pages not rotated properly, edge and wear marks,  library marks etc.

In this case we cannot use the tools like scantailor for cleaning the images directly. For this we first need to extract images from the PDF file and then do a processing on these images. One can do extract the images one by one and process them, but then we can do it in a better way also.

First we split the pdf file into single PDFs by using the most versatile pdftk

For this in the terminal type

$ pdftk file.pdf burst

It will create as many pdf files as there are pages. with names like pg_0000.pdf etc.

Now next task is to convert these pdf to images, for this we use the convert command, but we don’t want to convert files one by one by

convert pg_0000.pdf pg_0000.tiff

But this is not very useful for large number of files, we want to make this in one go. So we do the following

$ for i in $(ls | grep pdf;);
do
convert -density 600 $i $i.tiff;
done
Lets see what these commands do:

ls

will list all the files in that directory

ls | grep pdf

This will filter out the files with pdf in the filename and provide us with a list

On this list we can do a lot of operations as we do in on any other list

for i in $(ls | grep pdf)

is calling each member of this list that we generated and treating it as variable i

and for each memberwe

do

the following

convert -density 600 $i $i.tiff

and after this is over the task is

done

We can set the dpi for the output images by passing the number, above it is set as 600. The output images will be named same as the input pdf files.

Now we can happily run scantailor on these images to clean them up!

PS:

Instead of a PDF if you have a djvu file we have another approach.

Step 1

Convert the djvu file into a multipage tif file, by using ddjvu command.

$ddjvu -format=tiff -verbose -quality=uncompressed input_file.djvu output_file.tif

With this command we will get a tiff format, with same resolution as the original djvu file.

Once the multipage tif file is there, it can be split into its original pages by tiffsplit command.

$tiffsplit input_file.tif

And we are done. Now we can happily run scantailor on these tiff files.

 

On the Marathas…

Meanwhile the task of resisting Aurangzeb called less for a saint than for a man of action ; and such a man appeared in the person of Sivaji Bonsla, the son of a chief of no great property in the neighbourhood of the Western Ghauts to the east of Bombay. Born in 1627 – the year when George Villiers, Duke of Bucking- ham, led his abortive expedition to Rochelle – he was brought up at Puna, and early conceived the ambition of dispossessing the Mohammedans of the south, and setting up a Hindu kingdom in their stead. His men were hardy peasants from the mountains ; his horses, not less important than his men, were drawn from the valleys; and with these he sallied forth to capture hill-fortresses, and to use them as bases for raids upon the surrounding country. Being a great military genius he rapidly achieved success; and by 1664 had carried his incursions so far as to seize and sack the imperial city of Gujarat. This was a direct defiance to Aurangzeb, who sent an army to crush him, and succeeded in forcing him to surrender upon terms; but the wily chief soon contrived to escape, and returning to the Dekhan quickly reestablished and widened his ascendancy. He died in 1680, but he had already done his work in founding the power of the Marathas.

What the Marathas exactly were or are no one seems able accurately to define. They were not a caste, they were not a sect, they were not a nation; and, though some of them claim to be of Rajput origin, this pretension seems to be disposed of by anthropometric tests. Their name is taken from the territory of Maharashtra, and their language is called Marathi ; but they are not the only inhabitants of that territory nor the only speakers of that tongue. In 1901 they numbered only five millions; and yet in the seventeenth century they ruined the armies of Aurangzeb, shattered the might of the Moguls and bade fair to become the masters of India. It is difficult therefore to predicate anything certain of them except that they were and are emphatically a power, and that they rose to that eminence wholly by the sword. Yet, though they were valiant warriors, their military organisation was loose enough ; while their military tactics, if one may coin an expression, were of the offensive-elusive order. They swarmed out as great disorderly bodies of horse, devouring the country like locusts, carefully avoiding anything like a pitched battle, but hovering always about their enemy’s flanks and communications, swift to see and to make profit of the slightest advantage, equally swift to perceive and to avoid any danger. Thus they wore out the Mogul armies, and broke the hearts of their generals by remaining always near enough to inflict much mischief, but always remote enough to suffer no harm. If they were suddenly compelled to assume the defensive, they had a perfect genius for choosing and occupying a position where they could resist attack ; and woe to the army that retreated before them. Their leaders have always included some of the deepest and subtlest intellects in India ; and yet their genius, so long as their ascendancy lasted, revealed itself as mainly destructive, and their instincts as wholly predatory. They levied tribute remorselessly, under pain of pillage, upon vast districts, and on condition of payment suffered them to escape famine and desolation. They showed, indeed, remarkable administrative talent in the collection of that tribute; but there their constructive work came to an end. It is therefore hard to see how India could have improved – how indeed it could have failed to deteriorate – under their mastery. The history of the country, so far as we have traced it, has been a continuous record of wars, revolts and intestine divisions ; in the midst of which, at rare intervals of precarious repose, there had sprung up noble monuments of art and literature. There was nothing creative about the Marathas. Their reign, it is true, was short; but, even had it been prolonged, we can hardly conceive of the association of poetry or architecture with their name. For all their valiance and subtlety their rule was a blight rather than an influence. Once indeed, and in one particular, they imitated a foreign model in their own domain of war ; and we must now examine where they found this model, and how it was turned to their own ruin.

via text of “Narrative of the visit to India of their majesties, King George V. and Queen Mary, and of the coronation durbar held at Delhi, 12th December, 1911” by Fortescue, John, Sir, 1859-1933.

A parable on…

A Parable

Once upon a time, in a far away country, there was a community that had a wonderful machine. The machine had been built by most inventive of their people … generation after generation of men and women toiling to construct its parts… experimenting with individual components until each was perfected… fitting them together until the whole mechanism ran smoothly. They had built its outer casing of burnished metal and on one side, they had attached a complex control panel. The name of the machine, KNOWLEDGE, was engraved on a plaque  set in the centre of the control panel.

The community used the machine in their efforts to understand the world and to solve all kinds of problems. But the leaders of the community were not satisfied. It was a competitive world… they wanted more problems solved and they wanted them solved faster.

The main limitation for the use of machine was the rate at which data could be prepared for input. Specialist machine operators called ‘predictors’, carried out this exacting and time consuming task… naturally the number of problems solved each year depended directly on the number and skill of the predictors.

The community leaders focussed on the problem of training predictors. The traditional method, whereby promising girls and boys were taken into long-term apprenticeship, was deemed too slow and too expensive. Surely, they reasoned, we can find more efficient approach. So saying,  they called the elders together and asked them to think about the matter.

After a few months, the elders reported that they had devised an approach that showed promise. In summary, they suggested that the machine be disassembled. Then each component could be studied and understood with ease… the operation of machine would become an open book to all who cared to look.

Their plan was greeted with enthusiasm. So, the burnished covers were pulled off, and the major mechanisms of the machine fell out… they had plaques with labels like HISTORY and GEOGRAPHY and PHYSICS and MATHEMATICS. These mechanisms were pulled apart in their turn… of course, care was taken to keep all the pieces in separate piles. Eventually, the technicians had reduced the machine to little heaps of metal plates and rods and nuts and bolts and springs and gear wheels. Each heap was put in a box, carefully labelled with the name of the mechanism whose part it contained, and the boxes were lined up for the community to inspect.

The members of the community were delighted. Their leaders were ecstatic. They ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over the quality of components, the obvious skill that had gone in their construction, the beauty of designs. Here, displayed for all, were the inner workings of KNOWLEDGE.

In his exuberance, one man plunged his hand into a box and scooped up a handful of tiny, jewel-like  gear wheels and springs. He held them out to his daughter and glancing, at the label on the box, said:

“Look, my child! Look! Mathematics! ”

From: Turtle Speaks Mathematics by Barry Newell

You can get the book (and another nice little book Turtle Confusion) here.

 

Max Planck – on scientific truth

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

via Max Planck – Wikiquote.

This I think in general applies to the state of educational system in general. All the people who are opposing the use of technology in the classrooms, will never see the light, but instead will just die and the newer generation will induced to teach with use of technology.

Mahatma Phooley’s Thoughts on Education

In this post I will reproduce the letter written by Joteerao Phooley (मराठी: जोतीराव फुले ) (in the modern times his name is written as Phule instead of Phooley as he himself wrote) one of the great reformers in India. The letter was written to the Hunter Education Commission for “opinion as to the system and personnel employed in the lower schools of the Educational Department” in 1882. Though the suggestions were largely ignored by the commission they give us an insight to the state of education and its possible remedies during that era. But when one reads the letter, one can relate immediately to the present state of education in the country, all the possible issues that one will think of are covered: the overarching presence of divisions in the society (caste, religion, gender), teacher training or rather lack of it, textbooks, syllabus, scholarships for the needy, school drop-outs, school inspections, school management, structure of fees, distance learning, privatisation of education etc.

This reminds of of a quote from Seymour Papert in Children’s Machine: Rethink of School in Age of Computers which suits very well what I am going to describe.

Imagine a party of time travelers from an earlier century, among them one group of surgeons and another of school- teachers, each group eager to see how much things have changed in their profession a hundred or more years into the future. Imagine the bewilderment of the surgeons finding themselves in the operating room of a modern hospital. Although they would know that an operation of some sort was being performed, and might even be able to guess at the target organ, they would in almost all cases be unable to figure out what the surgeon was trying to accomplish or what was the purpose of the many strange devices he and the surgical staff were employing. The rituals of antisepsis and anesthesia, the beeping electronics, and even the bright lights, all so familiar to television audiences, would be utterly unfamiliar to them.

The time-traveling teachers would respond very differently to a modern elementary school classroom. They might be puzzled by a few strange objects. They might notice that some standard techniques had changed and would likely disagree among themselves about whether the changes they saw were for the better or the worse but they would fully see the point of most of what was being attempted and could quite easily take over the class. I use this parable to provide a rough-and-ready measure of the unevennes progress across the broad front of historical change. In the wake of the startling growth of science and technology in our recent past, some areas of human activity have undergone megachange. Telecommunications, entertainment, and transportation, as well as medicine, are among them. School is a notable example of an area that has not. One cannot say that there has been no change at all in the way we dish out education to our students. Of course there has; the parable gives me a way of pointing out what most of us know about our system of schooling: Yes, it has changed, but not in ways that have substantially altered its nature. The parable sets up the question: Why, through a period when so much human activity has been revolutionized, have we not seen comparable change in the way we help our children learn? (emphasis mine)

In this letter one gets a window in the past, regarding the practices of education in that era. It is as if we are time-travelling to the past, and we can indeed relate to most of things that Phooley says. If one were to write a diagnosis and possible solutions for the problems of education present in India, many of the sentences from the letter can be taken as they are, and they will fit in the current scenario. This letter presents shows that Phooley had a deep understanding of the educational system that he was trying so hard to reform. The educational experience that Phooley had was wide ranging, as he started the first indigenous school for girls, then went on to open the first “an indigenous mixed school for the lower classes, especially the Mahars and Mangs”, along with these he was “also been a teacher for some years in a mission female boarding school.”

In the first part of the letter he quotes extensively from Slavery (मराठी: गुलामगिरी). And sets a stage upon which the systemic way in which “Brahmin thraldom” is in place. I do not know if he is talking about Marx when he says:

A well-informed English writer states that our income is derived, not from surplus pro ts, but from capital; not from luxuries, but from the poorest necessaries. It is the product of sin and tears.

He questions the policy of the Government

Upon what grounds is it asserted that the best way to advance the moral and intellectual welfare of the people is to raise the standard of instruction among the higher classes?

And at times becomes very dramatic to describe the dire situation at hand!

I sincerely hope that Government will ere long see the error of their ways, trust less to writers or men who look through highclass spectacles, and take the glory into their own hands of emancipating my Shudra brethren from the trammels of bondage which the Brahmins have woven around them like the coils of a serpent.

The next section is in particular about the state of primary education in Bombay Presidency. Joteerao has hold of relevant statistics in this regard. He laments the absence of schools for the lower classes in general and identifies in general the cause of misery as the general lack of education.

A good deal of their poverty, their want of self-reliance, their entire dependence upon the learned and intelligent classes, is attributable to this deplorable state of education among thepeasantry.

About village he says that

In villages also most of the cultivating classes hold aloof owing to extreme poverty, and also because they require their children to tend cattle and look after their fields.

And makes a recommendation that:

… primary education of the masses should be made compulsory up to a certain age, say at least 12 years.

Citing statistics he says:

Under the promise of the Queen’s Proclamation I beg to urge that Mahars, Mangs, and other lower classes, where their number is large enough, should have separate schools for them, as they are not allowed to attend the other schools owing to caste prejudices.

As regarding the actual suggestions that he makes for the Commission, are worthy to take note of:

With regard to the few Government primary schools that exist in the Presidency, I beg to observe that the primary education imparted in them is not at all placed on a satisfactory or sound basis. The system is imperfect in so far as it does not prove practical, and useful in the future career of the pupils.

Further he has particular suggestions regarding the remodelling of the system. First of all he talks about the almost complete occupation of teacher’s posts by Brahmins and that too untrained ones. These issues particularly relate to teacher professional development. I do not know anything about the colleges for training teachers which were present then. Also he suggests the minimum salary for the teachers “To secure a better class of teachers and to improve their position,”

As to the actual content which is to be taught to the students he is very practical.

The course of instruction should consist of reading, writing Modi and Balbodh and accounts, and a rudimentary knowledge of, general history, general geography, and grammar, also an elementary
knowledge of agriculture and a few lessons on moral duties and sanitation.

And for the villages he says (a studio approach to education!)

The studies in the village schools might be fewer than those in larger villages and towns, but not the less practical. In connection with lessons in agriculture, a small model farm, where practical instruction to the pupils can be given, would be a decided advantage and, if really eciently managed, would be productive of the greatest good to the country.

The textbooks which are lamented about in almost all educational surveys find a mention here:

The text-book in use, both in the primary and Anglo-vernacular schools, require revision and recasting as much as they are not practical or progressive in their scope. Lessons on technical education and morality, sanitation and agriculture, and some useful arts,. should be interspersed among them in progressive series.

As regards to the fees paid by the students he suggests that: “fees in the primary schools should be as 1 to 2 from the children of cess-payers and non-cess payers.” And on important note he also advises on placing a quality control over the schools by inspection, but at the same time mentioning “advisability of visiting these schools at other times and without any intimation being given.” It seems the schools then as they are now are only dressed up when they are being inspected. Also he says

No reliance can be placed on the district or village officers owing to the multifarious duties devolving on them, as they seldom find time to visit them, and when they do, their examination is necessarily very super ficial and imperfect.

Further he says that the number of primary schools need to be increased and provides ways in which these schools can be funded. Though he is very much for the municipalities providing the funding for the schools, but he is totally against the management being transferred to them.

The Municipalities in large towns should be asked to contribute whole share of the expenses incurred on primary schools within the municipal area. But in no case ought the management of the same to be entirely made over to them, They should be under the supervision of the Educational Department.

Also he is particular about the handling of funds as regards to primary education.

The administration of the funds for primary education should ordinarily be in the hands of the Director of Public Instruction.

In the next section he describes the state of Indigenous Schools in the Bombay Presidency.

Indigenous schools exist a good deal in cities, towns and some large villages, especially where there is a Brahmin population. From the latest reports of Public Instruction in this presidency, it is found that there are 1,049 indigenous schools with about 27,694 pupils in them.

And this is what he has to say as regards to the content in these schools

They are conducted on the old village system. The boys are generally taught the multiplication table by heart, a little Modi writing and reading, and, to recite a few religious pieces.

And is particularly harsh on the quality of teachers in these schools:

The teachers, as a rule, are not capable of effecting any improvements, as they are not initiated in the art of teaching. … The teachers generally come from the dregs of Brahminical society. Their qualifi cations hardly go beyond reading and writing Marathi very indi fferently, and casting accounts up to the rule of three or so. They set, up as teachers as the last resource of getting a livelihood. Their failure or unfi tness in other callings of life obliges them to open schools.

This we can say is true for many teachers in our own era. There are a very few who will choose to become teachers, usually it is the last choice, when all other choices are gone. And further Phooley adds for the training of the teachers:

No arrangements exist in the country to train up teachers for indigenous schools. The indigenous schools could not be turned to any good account, unless the present teachers are replaced by men from the training colleges and by those who pass the 6th standard in the vernaculars. The present teachers will willingly accept State aid but money thus spent will be thrown away.

The next section he describes the state of Higher Education in his times.

The cry over the whole country has been for some time past that Government have amply provided for higher education, whereas that of the masses has been neglected. To some extent this cry is justified, although the classes directly benefitted by the higher education may not readily admit it. But for all this no well-wisher of his country would desire that Government should, at the present time, withdraw its aid from higher education. All that they would wish is, that as one class of the body politic has been neglected, its advancement should form as anxious a concern as that of the other.

About the general education in India he says:

Education in India is still in its infancy. Any withdrawal of State aid from higher education cannot but be injurious to the spread of education generally.

He furthers this by adding that the withdrawal may be partial.

A taste for education among the higher and wealthy classes, such as the Brahmins and Purbhoos, especially those classes who live by the pen, has been created, and a gradual withdrawal of State aid may be possible so far as these classes are concerned; but in the middle and lower classes, among whom higher education has made no perceptible progress, such a withdrawal would be a great hardship. In the event of such withdrawal, boys will be obliged to have recourse to inefficient and sectarian schools much against their wish, and the cause of education cannot but suffer.

Phooley also has concerns regarding privatisation of education, which we are facing now.

Nor could any part of such education be entrusted to private agency. For a long time to come the entire educational machinery, both ministerial and executive, must be in the hands of Government. Both the higher and primary education require all the fostering care and attention which Government can bestow on it.The withdrawal of Government from schools or colleges would not only tend to check the spread of education, but would seriously endanger that spirit of neutrality which has all along been the aim of Government to foster, owing to the different nationalities and religious creeds prevalent in India. This withdrawal may, to a certain extent, create a spirit of self-reliance for local purposes in the higher and wealthy classes, but the cause of education would be so far injured that the spirit of self-reliance would take years to remedy that evil.

He says that the Government schools are much superior to the private ones, one does not know whether this claim will hold in the current times, though for Higher Education this may be generally true as to get admitted to Government run colleges and institutions is much harder than private ones. But whether the reason is same for that one does not know, comparing the salaries that are paid in international schools as opposed to the Government schools the balance is upturned.

The superiority of Government schools is mainly owing to the richly paid staff of teachers and professors
which it is not possible for a private schools to maintain.

The content of what is taught in these schools is again brought under scanner as in the case of primary education:

The character of instruction given in the Government higher schools, is not at all practical, or such as is required for the necessities of ordinary life. It is only good to turn out so many clerks and schoolmasters.

And one wouldn’t agree more with what he says about the matriculation exam:

The Matriculation examination unduly engrosses the attention of the teachers and pupils, and the course of studies prescribed has no practical element in it, so as to fit the pupil for his future career in independent life.

Also he is very much for printing of textbooks by the Government, which will encourage “private studies”, thus opening up possibilities for distance education and lead to “diffusion of knowledge in country”:

The higher education should be so arranged as to be within easy reach of all, and the books on the subjects for the Matriculation examination should be published in the Government Gazette, as is done in Madras and Bengal. Such a course will encourage private studies and secure larger diffusion of knowledge in the country. It is a boon to the people that the Bombay University recognises private studies in the case of those presenting for the entrance examination. I hope, the University authorities will be pleased to extend the same boon to higher examinations. If private studies were recognised by the University in granting the degrees of B.A., M.A. &c., many young men will devote their time to private studies.

Further he has to say regarding the scholarships being granted to the students

The system of Government scholarships, at present followed in the Government schools, is also defective, as much as it gives undue encouragement to those classes only, who have already acquired a taste for education to the detriment of the other classes. The system might, be so arranged that some of these scholarships should be awarded to such classes amongst whom education has made no progress.

On this issue he further adds:

The system of awarding them by competition, although abstractedly equitable, does not tend to the spread of education among other classes.

In the final section he mentions the state in which “educated natives” are left who are not able to find public service, as most of the education that they are imparted with is “not of a technical or practical nature”.

The present number of educated men is very small in relation to the country at large, and we trust that the day may notbe far distant when we shall have the present number multiplied a hundred-fold and all betaking themselves to useful and remunerative occupations and not be looking after service.

Also in the last lines of the letter he recommends the spread of female education.

In conclusion, I beg to request the Education Commission to be kind enough to sanction measures for the spread of female primary education on a more liberal scale.

Thus the letter ends and Phooley states his status as:

Merchant and Cultivator and
Municipal Commissioner

To read the letter in retrospect about 130 years later, one cannot but help to relate to the status quo in many aspects of education in general which Phooley describes, thus reminding one of the time-travellers of Papert. One theme which runs through the entire letter is that the people who are already on the higher class of the society, are the ones who benefit most from the educational reforms, and this is detrimental to diffusion of knowledge in all strata of the society. As regards to the content of what is actually taught in schools, absence of practical knowledge, quality and quantity of teachers, prospective jobs, the quality of textbooks one would recommend almost the same things even today.

The complete letter is reproduced below. A PDF version of the letter is available here.

Continue reading

When Kings Rode To Delhi…

Recently read a book titled When Kings Rode to Delhi by  Gabrielle Festing, which is available here. In the book there is a chapter on Sivaji called The Mountain Rat, title supposedly given by Aurangazeb to Sivaji. After the killing of Afzal Khan, this is what the author has to say:

 In the eyes of a Maratha, who believed himself Bhavani’s chosen warrior, such treachery was meritorious, and the slaughter of the envoy was an act of devotion.

Further the author describes various exploits and acts of Shivaji and in the end he says:

An attempt has been made to cast a glamour about him and his hordes, as patriots, deliverers of their country from foreign rule, devoted heroes who faced desperate odds. After a dispassionate survey no glamour remains. Sivaji was a typical Maratha of the best kind that is to say, he was as unlike the Rajputs from whom he claimed descent as the South African Boer from the good Lord James of Douglas. Never, unless they were driven to it, did the Marathas fight a pitched battle in open field ; the joy of fighting, which made the Rajput deck himself with the bridal coronet, the desperate valour which heaped the plain of Samugarh with yellow robes till it looked like a meadow of saffron, was incomprehensible to the wolves of the Deccan. They fought, not for a point of honour, or because they enjoyed fighting, but in a commercial. spirit, for the sake of what they could get; their word for “to conquer in battle” means simply “to spoil an enemy.” The Rajput was indolent, when not roused by pride or the thirst for battle; the Maratha was untiringly energetic as long as he had anything to gain, but would sacrifice nothing for pride or scruple.

This must be said for Sivaji, that while he lived his followers were forbidden to plunder mosques or women ; after his death his son pursued a different policy.

In Denial of Fukushima

The arrogance and jingoism exhibited by the Nuclear lobby in India is well known. Even in face of disaster
Fukushima, the people in DAE remain adamant that there is no option to Nuclear Energy and also that it is safe from accidents, and even if an accidents happens at all they will be ready to control. The optimism that they have regarding issues of safety in case of radioactive materials and nuclear reactors is something a person with a good understanding of science would not share. Too much reliance on the idea that “nothing can go wrong” is what will lead to the horrible consequences of not understanding the Golem. And the statements by the DAE junta does exactly this. The very idea that the reactors are completely safe; are different than what was present in Japan, we can contain the damage, are what are needed to be questioned.

A nice article in Tehelka makes the point more clearer. Here are some lines from the same:

Fukushima also demonstrated unambiguously that communities living near nuclear facilities would be the worst affected in the event of an accident, a lesson that hasn’t been lost on the local populations in Koodankulam and Jaitapur. At the other end of the spectrum was the reaction of the people associated with nuclear establishments, who vociferously argued that it was essential to persist with nuclear power — not surprising, since it conforms to their self-interest.

Whatever the experts at DAE maybe saying, the images that the people at large are seeing are that of desolate landscapes, ruined buildings, poisoned farmlands, and inaccessible homes. The very idea that Nuclear Power can solve all the issue of power in India is questionable. Lets say even if we construct 10 such more plants, where will be the power used? Who will get the priority over the power? The villages near which the power plants are present, or the metro cities whose demands for power and its abuse are ever increasing. Just think about how many electrical appliances  you have, and how many you could do without?

On 15 March 2011, NPCIL Chairman SK Jain trivialised what was going on in Japan saying, “There is no nuclear accident or incident in Fukushima… It is a well-planned emergency preparedness programme… (that) the nuclear operators of the Tokyo Electric Power Company are carrying out to contain the residual heat after the plants had an automatic shutdown following a major earthquake.” Such denial would be laughable but when the person thus opining is in charge of India’s power reactor fleet, it ceases to be amusing.

In September 2011, for example, the DAE Secretary claimed: “We are prepared to handle an event like Fukushima.” This assertion is belied by the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, who testified to the Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2010 that it was “nowhere (near) meeting an eventuality that may arise out of nuclear and radiological emergencies”.

On more than one occasion, the DAE Secretary has made assertions that the probability of a nuclear accident in India is zero. In November 2011, for example, he stated that the probability was “one in infinity”. The public image sought to be created is one of great confidence in safety. Is such confidence justified?

The first point to note is that the very statement that the likelihood of an accident is zero is scientifically untenable; every nuclear reactor has a finite, albeit small, probability of undergoing a catastrophic failure.

A second question: is the confidence on the part of officials about the zero probability of accidents good for safety? This is not a question about technology but about organisations. … Safety scholar James Reason once noted: “If an organisation is convinced that it has achieved a safe culture, it almost certainly has not.” The DAE and its attendant institutions appear to be convinced not just that they have a safe culture, but that the hazardous technologies they operate are incapable of undergoing accidents. This is not conducive to safety.

What the Koodankulam protest tells us is that these populations are not consenting to be subject to this risk. They deserve to be listened to, not dismissed as stooges of foreign funding. That is an insult to the intellects and minds of millions of people and to democracy itself.

Indian culture…

“The Indian culture is very different, it’s not a team culture. They lack leaders in the team because they are not trained to be leaders. From an early age, their parents make all decisions, their schoolteachers make their decisions, their cricket coaches make the decisions,” Chappell said.

“The culture of India is such that, if you put your head above the parapet someone will shoot it. Knock your head off. So they learn to keep their head down and not take responsibility.”

“The Poms British taught them really well to keep their head down. For if someone was deemed to be responsible, they’d get punished. So the Indians have learned to avoid responsibility. So before taking responsibility for any decisions, they prefer not to,” Chappell was quoted  at a promotional event for his book ‘Fierce Focus’.

via Greg Chappell on Indian culture.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

The Golem at Large

Recently I completed reading of the second book in the Golem series, the complete being The Golem at Large: What you should know about technology by Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch. The book discusses cases from technology field in which there is a ‘regress’, in even expert people are not able to decide objectively what to make out of results of experiment, which at first sight seem to be so objective.

Some of the examples that they choose are well known, some are not. For example the much famed demonstration by Richard Feynman on O-Rings is brought out from its almost cult status. The demonstration by Feynman when looked at with all the background seems to be very naive. Similarly many other examples de-mythify different examples from different technologies.

Some of the quotes that I have liked are as under.
+ 4 It would, of course, be foolish to suggest that technology and
science are identical. Typically, technologies are more directly
linked to the worlds of political and military power and business
influence than are sciences.

+ 6 But disputes are representative and illustrative of the roots of
knowledge; they show us knowledge in the making.

+ 10 It would be wrong to draw any conclusions for science and
technology in general from wartime statements; wartime claims
about the success of the missile reflect the demands of war rather
than the demands of truth.

+ 28 As always, if only we could fight the last war again we would
do it so much better.

+ 28 Just as military men dream of fighting a war in which there is
never any shortage of information or supplies, while the enemy
always does the expected, so experts have their dreams of
scientific measurement in which signal is signal and noise follows
the model given in the statistical textbooks. As the generals
dream of man- oeuvres, so the experts dream of the mythical model
of science.

+ 28 Even when we have unlimited access to laboratory conditions, the
process of measurement does not fit the dream; that was the point
of our earlier book ¡V the first volume of the Golem series.

+ 32 Skimp, save and cut corners, give too much decision-making
power to reckless managers and uncaring bureaucrats, ignore the
pleas of your best scientists and engineers, and you will be
punished.

+ 38 Whether two things are similar or different, Wittgenstein
noted, always involves a human judgement.

+ 40 The `correct’ outcome can only be achieved if the experiments or
tests in question have been performed competently, but a competent
experiment can only be judged by its outcome.

+ 62 The treatment of the controversial aspects must be different to
the uncontroversial aspects. The same is true of what we loosely
refer to as experiments: one does not do experiments on the
uncontroversial, one engages in demonstrations.

+ 64 In an experiment, that would be cheating, but in a display, no
one would complain. A demonstration lies somewhere in the middle
of this scale. Classroom demonstrations, the first bits of science
we see, are a good case. Teachers often know that this or that
`experiment’ will only work if the conditions are `just so’, but
this information is not vouchsafed to the students.

+ 64 A demonstration or display is something that is properly set
before the lay public precisely because its appearance is meant
to convey an unambiguous message to the senses, the message that
we are told to take from it. But the significance of an experiment
can be assessed only be experts.

+ 71 Anything seen on television is controlled by the lens, the
director, the editor and the commentators. It is they who control
the conclusions that seem to follow from the `direct evidence of
the senses’.

+ 74 The public were not served well, not because they necessarily
drew false conclusions, but because they did not have access to
evidence needed to draw conclusions with the proper degree of
provisionality. There is no short cut through the contested
terrain which the golem must negotiate.

+ 77 A vast industry supported by national governments makes sure it
understands how oil is found, where it is found and who has the
rights to find it.

+ 82 In some ways it is easier to delve into the first few
nanoseconds of the universe than to reconstruct something buried
deep in the core of the earth.

+ 86 This is the `experimenter’s regress’. If you believe that
microbiological activity exists at great depths then this is
evidence that a competently performed experiment has been carried
out. If you believe that microbiological activity is impossible or
extremely unlikely then the evidence of biological activity is
evidence for doubting the experiment. Experiment alone cannot
settle the matter.

+ 91 In short, Gold’s non-biological theory and its assessment are
intertwined with the politics and commerce of oil
exploration. There is no neutral place where a `pure’ assessment
of the validity of his claims can be made.

+ 96 With several hundred equations to play with, this is an area
where `theory’ and `guesswork’ are not as far apart as
conventional ideas about science would encourage us to think.

+ 102 I think there are really two different approaches. One is to
say that this is a branch of science and that everything must be
based on objective criteria which people can understand. The other
is to say that is just too inflexible, and that there’s something
called judgement – intuition if you like – which has its place in
the sciences and that it’s the people who are intuitive who are
successful.

+ 104 It is also possible to argue that modellers who did not suffer from big
mistakes were lucky while some others were unlucky to have been wrong.

+ 106 Even if you believe that large errors are bound to prove you
wrong, you may still argue about the meaning of `large’ and you
may still think that the difference between accuracy and
inaccuracy was not clever economics but luck. Finally, you may
always say that the economy changed radically.

+ 106 … it was not the model but the economy that was wrong.

+ 107 The experimenter’s regress occurs when scientists cannot
decide what the outcome of an experiment should be and therefore
cannot use the outcome as a criterion of whether the experiment
worked or not.

+ 107 Oh absolutely, that’s why it’s absolutely pointless to publish
these forecast error bands because they are extremely
large. . . . I’m all for publishing full and frank statements but
you see the difficulty [with] these standards errors is that
they’re huge.

+ … In fact, we could have done this at the National Institute in
the mid 70s, but we suppressed it on the grounds that the standard
errors were so large, that it would have been difficult for
non-specialists, you know people using the models, using the
forecasts, to appreciate. It would have discredited them.

+ 108 Science is often used as a way of avoiding responsibility;
some kinds of fascism can be seen as the substitution of
calculation for moral responsibility.

+ 110 That is, it selected those who were `. . . willing to
subordinate their education to their careers’.

+ 111 The economists who build the models deserve credibility, but
their models do not; one should not use the same criteria to judge
expert advice as one uses to judge the coherence of a model.

+ 124 Flipping to and fro between science being all about certainty
and science being a political conspiracy is an undesirable state
of affairs.

+ 149 In effect, a group of lay people had managed to reframe the
scientific conduct of clinical research: they changed the way it
was conceived and practised.

+ 151 Feynman gives the impression that doubts can always be simply
resolved by a scientist who is smart enough.

+ 151 The danger is always that enchantment is the precursor of
disenchantment.

+ 153 Golem science and technology is a body of expertise, and
expertise must be respected. But we should not give unconditional
respect before we understand just what the expertise comprises and
whether it is relevant. To give unconditional respect is to make
science and technology a fetish.

If sharks were people…

This is how one of the most subversive books School is Dead by Everett Reimer opens.

‘If sharks were people,’ his landlady’s little daughter asked Mr. K, ‘would they be nicer to the little fish?’ ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘if sharks were people, they would have strong boxes built in the sea for little fish. There they would put in all sorts of food, plants and little animals, too. They would see to it that the boxes always had fresh water, and they would take absolutely every sort of sanitary measure. When, for example, a little fish would injure his fin, it would be immediately bandaged so that he would not die on the sharks before his time had come. In order that the little fish would never be sad, there would be big water parties from time to time; for happy fish taste better than sad ones. Of course, there would be schools in the big boxes as well. There the little fish would learn how to swim into the mouths of the sharks. They would need, for example, geography so that they could find the sharks, lazing around somewhere. The main subject would naturally be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that the grandest, most beautiful thing is for a little fish to offer himself happily, and that they must all believe in the sharks, above all when they say that they will provide for a beautiful future. One would let the little fish know that this future is only assured  when they learn obedience. They must shy away from all lowly, materialistic and Marxist inclinations, and inform the sharks immediately if any one of them betrayed such tendencies. … If sharks were people, there would of course be art as well. There would be beautiful pictures of sharks’ teeth, all in magnificent colors, of their mouths and throats as pure playgrounds where one can tumble and play. The theatres on the bottom of the sea would offer plays showing heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically down the throats of the sharks, and the music would be so beautiful that its sounds would lead the little fish dreamily to the chapels and, filled with the most pleasant thoughts, they would stream down the sharks’ throats. There would certainly be religion. … It would teach that true life really begins in the sharks’ bellies. And if sharks were people, the little fish would stop being, as they are now, equals. Some would be given offices and be put over the others. Those a little bigger would even be allowed to eat the smaller ones. That would  only be delightful for the sharks, for then they would more often have bigger crumbs to gobble up. And the most important of the little fish, those with offices, would look to the ordering of the little fish. And they would become teachers, officers, box-building engineers, etc. In short, there could only be culture in the sea if the sharks were people.’

Bertolt Brecht: Kalendergeschichten

Bank Accounts with no Account

”Look, every chief minister has been corrupt. In that sense, Yeddy is no different,” says a member of the Congress. “But he is probably the first CM to collect bribes and kickbacks in cheques.”

via Tehelka – India’s Independent Weekly News Magazine.

These are the words for the former Karnataka Cheif Minister B. S. Yedurappa. This should be read by all the bankers, they can make accounts which cannot be accounted. So that people who are taking bribes can have it easier. Is this not what the Swiss Banks and the tax havens are doing?

 

Transparency Revolution

To quote A K Antony on the current state of affairs in the nation.

“Our country is passing through a transparency revolution. Walls of secrecy are crumbling gradually. But politicians, bureaucracy, judiciary, business people, armed forces, and journalists are still not ready for this transition to transparency,”

And then he adds:

“But they will have to follow the transition and I don’t think anybody can take any step in a different direction,”

Lets see how much of this comes through, within our life times.

India would have been a better place without Sathya Sai Baba

Posting for a wider reading.

India would have been a better place without Sathya Sai Baba
Sanal Edamaruku
President
Indian Rationalist Association & Rationalist International

When Sathya Sai Baba died this morning (24 April 2011) at the age of
85 years, he proved once again that miracles and predictions fail. He
had predicted at a public gathering at his head quarters in
Puttaparthy, in 2000, and repeatedly many times, that he would die at
the age of 96 only. And till the last moment, many of his devotees
clung to his word and waited for a miracle. May it be an eye opener
for the millions of gullible people whom he misguided and deluded.

De mortuis nihil nisi bene, they say, say nothing but good of the
dead. But I think Sathya Sai Baba’s case qualifies for an exception.
Too great is the damage that he did to India. His devastating
influence on reason and scientific temper caused huge setback to the
country. At a time, when scientific progress led to great social and
economic leaps and scientific awakening started spreading all over
India, Sathya Sai Baba launched a “counter revolution” of
superstition, supported by irresponsible politicians and other public
figures who should have known better. In my judgment, this is his
greatest crime. I have succeeded again and again to expose him
publicly as a fraud, so did some other rationalists. But due to his
political protectors he was never held responsible for his crimes
against public reason. Nor was he ever booked for any other crime he
was accused of. Numerous cases of alleged sexual abuse and murder are
yet to be investigated, not to mention the financial secrets of his
empire.

Sathya Sai Baba insisted in all seriousness that he was god, the
creator of the universe, and “proved” his divinity with a couple of
small “miracles”. As son of a village tantric he was familiar with the
hand sleights and tricks of the trade. However, he did not only
fascinate poor and uneducated villagers with his fraudulent
performances. Over the years, he managed to attract a galaxy of
India’s rich and powerful, among them ministers, prime ministers,
presidents, chief justices, top industrialists and superstars.

Sathya Sai Baba had a special modus operandi that was the key for his
astonishing success and the root of his enormous clout. Many of his
high society devotees came to serve their own vested interests. Some
came to rub shoulders with the prominent. Many joined the club because
it was working as a powerful syndicate spreading its tentacles all
over the political system. It was a way to the top jobs and a way to
get things done. Others were seeking financial support or wanted to
get rid of ill-gotten black money: The empire, it is alleged, was
based on money laundering, using foreign devotees and branches. In
fact, the huge foreign donations to Sai Baba stood in contrast to the
comparatively modest number of active foreign devotees and the
sometimes quite weak foreign branches, some of them residing in
private homes. That is no great surprise, when one considers that Sai
Baba did not speak any other language than Telugu and traveled only
once in his whole life abroad – to visit his friend Idi Amin in
Uganda.

On his 80th birthday, Sai Baba’s supporters announced that he would
turn from a miracle man to a philanthropist. That was, after I had
demonstrated his miracles so often in TV shows that many kids in the
streets could imitate them. That he since spent a part of the great
fortunes, swindled out of the gullible, for social development around
his ancestral village, is highlighted now to present him as a saint.
But as useful and welcome hospitals, schools and drinking water
projects for the poor always may be: this kind of alibi-philanthropy
is well known even from mafia-bosses. It cannot be weighed against his
crimes and the damage he has done to the Indian society.

In December 2005, I wrote a letter to then President Dr. Abdul Kalam,
one of Sai Baba’s ardent supporters, which was never answered. I
demanded criminal investigations against Sai Baba. If his social
development projects are meant to be indulgence to nullify his crimes,
this procedure is unprecedented and unacceptable, I wrote. It is a
shame for India that well-founded accusations and numerous reputed
witnesses against Sai Baba are ignored without any investigation. Do
saffron clothes make an offender untouchable for the law? Do we have
to tolerate that political protectionism raises its head so boldly,
mocking India’s democracy?

Sathya Sai Baba caused great damage to India. His irresponsible
political patrons corrupted the political culture of India. Encouraged
by the clout of Sathya sai Baba, a new clan of miracle mongers
imitated him. India would have been a better place without Sathya Sai
Baba.

(This or other articles from the  Rationalist International Bulletin
may be reproduced by journals, blogs or web sites without change or
alteration in its content, and with due acknowledgment.)

Rationalist International: rationalistinternational@gmail.com

Pakistan and Afghan-India

“Every time I think we’ve hit rock bottom, I find both countries have shovel in their hand and are digging further down trying to find a new bottom, one Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

via Pakistan squeezed by Afghan-India pact – Hindustan Times.

This reflects the current state of affairs between Pakistan and US. What is interesting is that this is going on for quite some time and one does not know what both countries are upto. Hope that this situation is resolved in the time to come.

Negotiations

“You’re never going to end negotiations unless you begin it,”

via BBC News – UN Security Council to consider Palestinian membership.

But if the negotiations are going to be one sided, as they have been so far, what is the use of such things. With US using all its might to crush the aspirations of the people of Palestine, what more can one say. Each day the kind of media attention [read propaganda] that is shown across media channels in favour of Israel is a lot [is it due to all the Jewish media barons?]. And you speak anything against the state of Israel, you become anti-semitic. Maybe Israel should look into its own past to understand what it is up to. Santayana says

Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

Gift of Love and Mayawati

ITAT had accepted Mayawati’s claim that immovable property worth Rs 62.72 lakh and cash payments of Rs 2 lakh were gifts given by her supporters out of love and affection.

via Delhi high court says ‘gift of love’ to Mayawati not taxable – The Times of India.

Now that this being the case, it reminds me of the Jadu ki Jhappi  of Munnabhai. How many more people will get tax exemptions based on this judgment? And what if a commoner like me argues the same way?

People and Media

All of these were moments when there was a paradigm shift that led to an immediate public outcry. People made a lot of noise and had a lot of complaints. People were very upset about these shifts…until they weren’t. In the news cycle, the outcry is significant and it is problematic, but it’s also important to note how quickly these things are forgotten.

via Netflix Killing DVDs Like Apple Killed Floppies? – Slashdot.

This would mean that technology is driven more by media and how it is projected in minds of people. For example 15 years back a very few cared about the quality of water that was available for free, now almost everyone wants a “bottle of packaged drinking water”. Initially people joked at this idea that general public would be paying for something as natural as water, but now look at what it has come to now. Almost every other village will have stalls which sell packaged drinking water [and not to mention the beverages of Pepsi and Coca Cola], and people tend to buy them wherever they are available. Maybe the Food Corporation of India should learn from the marketing strategies of these MNCs to make sure that the food reaches the hungry and does not rot in their warehouses instead.

A self referential post for others

This post is for those who are reading this :Post!
When you read this post, you will know it is meant for you!

You can fool all people for some time.

You can fool some people for all the time.

But, you cannot fool all the people for all the time.

Hope that the message reaches those for whom it is meant!

That is for those people who are reading this post!!

You anyway are wasting your time by reading this sort of trash written by me!!!

Free Software Tools for scanning and making e-books

How to give a new life to books which are out of copyright!
Here is a short summary of the Free Software tools that I have found useful for converting hard copies into readable/searchable formats  in GNU/Linux!

Typically the making a soft-copy from a hard-copy involves following steps:

Step1:
Scan the Hard copy using a scanner / camera. This step generates image files
typically .tiff, .png or .jpeg. Some scanning programs also have option of directly generating to .pdf
Basically at this stage you have all the data, if you compress the folder into a comic book reader format .cbr or .cbz format you are good to go. But for a more professional touch read on. The main step to scan the books properly. Some do’s and dont’s

Align the pages to the sides of the scanner.
If the book is small size scan 2 pages at once.
If the book is too large adjust the scan in the image preview side so that only one page is scanned.

If these steps are done properly there is a little that we have to do in the second step. And we can directly jump to Step 3.

Preferably scan in the binary grayscale form, unless there are colored images in the text. This will help reduce the final size of the file.

Scan at minimum 300 dpi, this is the optimum level that I have come to after trials and errors with different resolutions, their final results and the time taken for each scan. Of course this can differ depending on what is that you are scanning. Many people do the scanning at 600 dpi, but I am happy at 300 dpi. Note: The 300 dpi images can be upscaled in scan-tailor to 600 dpi.

First of all for the scanning itself. Most of the scanners come with an installation disk for M$-Windows or Mac-OSX. But for GNU/Linux there seems to be no ‘installation disk’. The Xsane package allows quite a few scanners which are detected and are ready for use as soon as you plug them in.
The list of the scanners which are supported by Xsane can be found here:

http://www.sane-project.org/sane-mfgs.html

When we bought our scanner we had to search this list to get the compatible scanner.
What is the problem with the manufacturers, why do they not want to sell more, to people who are using Free Software?

If your scanner is not in the list, then you might have to do some R&D before your scanner is up and running like I had to do for my old HP 2400 Scanjet at my home.

Once your scanner is up and running.  You scan the images preferably in .tiff format as they can be processed and compressed without much loss of quality. This again I have found by trial and error.

Step2:
Crop the files and rotate them to remove unwanted white spaces or
accidental entries of adjoining pages from the images that were obtained. When the pages are scanned as 2 pages in one image, we may need to separate the pages.

Initially I did it manually, it was the second most boring part after the scanning. But I have found a very wonderful tool for this work.

Imagemagick provides a set of tools which work like magick in images, hence the name I guess 🙂

This is one of the best tools for batch processing image files.

Then I found out the dream tool that I was looking for.
The is called Scan-Tailor, as the name suggests it is meant for processing of scanned images.

Scan Tailor can be found at http://scantailor.sourceforge.net/ or directly from Ubuntu Software Centre.

Step by step scan tailor cleans and creates amazingly good output files from relatively unclean images.

There are a total of 6 steps in scan-tailor which produces the desired output.
You have to choose the folder in which your scanned images are. Scan-tailor produces a directory called out in the same folder by default. The steps are as follows

  1. Change the Orientation: This enables one to change the orientation of all the files in the directory. This is good option in case you have scanned the book in a different orientation.
  2. Split Pages: This step will tell whether the scans that we have made are single page scans, single page with some marginal text from other page or two page scans. Most of the times the auto detection works well with single page and two page scans. But it is a good idea to check manually whether all the pages have been divided correctly, so that it does not create problems later. If you find that a page has been divided incorrectly then we can slide the margin to correct it. In case of two page scans the two pages are shown with a semitransparent blue or red layer on top of them. After looking at all the pages we commit the result.
  3. Deskew: After the pages have been split we need to change the orientation for better alignment of the text. Here in my experience most of the auto-orientation works fine. But still it is a good idea to check manually the pages, in case something is missed.
  4. Select Content: This is the one step that I have found as the most useful one in the scan-tailor. Here you can select the portion of the text that will appear in the final output. So that you can say goodbye to all the dark lines that come inevitably as part of scanning. Also some library marks can be removed easily by this step. The auto option works well when the text is in nice box shape, but it may leave wide areas open also. The box shape can be changed the way we want. If you want a blank page, remove the content box, by right clicking on the box.
  5. Page Layout: Here one can set the dimensions for the output page and how each page content will be on the page.
  6. Output: Produces the final output with all the above changes.

The output is stored in a directory called Out in the same folder. The original images are not changed, so that in case you want some changes or something goes wrong we can always go  back to the original files. Also numbering of the images is done.
So we have cleaned pages of same size from the scanned pages.

Update: The latest scantailor has image -de-warping facility. See the amazing thing at work here:

Step 3:

Collate the processed files in Step 2 to one single PDF. For this I have used the convert command.

Typical synatax is like this

convert *.tiff output.pdf
This command will take all the .tiff files in the given directory and collate these files into a pdf named output.pdf

http://www.pdflabs.com/tools/pdftk-the-pdf-toolkit/

Alternative to Step 3

Another alternative is to use gscan2pdf for joining the image files into pdf and doing the OCR which can be tesseract or cunieform. gscan2pdf is also able to scan files and stich them into pdf , but I would recommend that you use scantailor as one of the intermediate steps.

Also using gscan2pdf gives you an option for editing the files, if, for example, you might want to remove some marks from the images. For this it opens the image in GIMP.


Step 4: 
OCR the PDF file.
Now this is again tricky, I could not find a good application which would OCR the pdf file and embed the resulting text on the pdf file. But I have found a hack on the following link which seems to work fine 🙂

http://blog.konradvoelkel.de/2010/01/linux-ocr-and-pdf-problem-solved/

The hack is a bash script which does the required work.

Alternate

gscan2pdf can do OCR for you using cunieform or tesseract as backends. The end result is a searchable text, but it does not sit on the image, as it would happen in a vector pdf, but is embedded on the page as “note” at the top-left-hand corner.

Step 5:

Optimize the PDF file generated in Step 4.

Here there is a nautilus shell script which I have found in the link below which does optimization.
http://www.webupd8.org/2010/11/download-compress-pdf-12-nautilus.html

Step 6: 

In case you want to convert the .pdf to .djvu there is one step solution for that also

pdf2djvu -o output.djvu input.pdf

 

The tips and tricks here are by no means complete or the best. But this is what I have found to be useful. Some of the professional and non-free softwares can do all these, but the point of writing this article was to make a list of Free and Open Source Softwares for this purpose.

Comments and suggestions are welcome!

WikiLeaks and India

Now that Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks is causing some people sleepless nights in the West, the effect is slowly being felt in India. With the expose, exposing the incumbent Congress and the opposition BJP every now and then. The counter accusations follow from the parties. Some things that I have noted when an expose happens is as follows:

  1.  Typically the party in the soup tries to downplay WikiLeaks itself, saying that this is what has been said by the US diplomats and is nothing more than office gossip.
  2. At the same time the other party mounts an attack on the party in soup, trying to tell us “Isn’t it the same thing that we were saying from so many years?” And they will tell you how the other party is bad to its core. In this case they never question the authenticity of WikiLeaks. 
  3. The cycle repeats. Only the role of the parties are changed!

So WikiLeaks is like a hot potato, which none of our political parties have courage to handle. As soon as they land with one, they try to throw it away as soon as possible. When it is in someone else’s hand they will try to make some brownie points out of it.

Indian media with some exceptions is trying to play down the damage done by WikiLeaks to the political and the civil system. They may be hand-in-glove with those accused, or may be afraid that their own names may appear in the future issues of WikiLeaks.

Sibal Vs Hazare

Apparently Kapil Sibbal the person who negotiated with the Anti-corruption rally activists cannot make simple deductions about the state in which the country is in. Being the HRD minister he should know better.

Sibal said this in a public meeting 

I ask this question, if a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs help for medical services then he will call up a politician. How will Lokpal Bill help.


When Mr. Hazare responded by saying that Mr, Sibal should not be in the committee if he thinks Lokpal bill is useless, then Sibal clarified his position by saying:

the scope of the Bill is different. The problems of the common man are different.

I said that if you want to educate children, then this has no connection to Lokpal. If there is no convenience of water…Lokpal is only connected to corruption and we will bring a good bill that will stop corruption.

To get to what I am saying you do not even have to read between the lines. The very fact that there are problems in the Indian system, the likes of which Sibal mentions, viz. poor child not having means for education, poor man needing medical services and others at least in part are linked to India being a very corrupt  state. Since we are a corrupt state, that is the reason people cannot get access to basic needs of a good life, like education for their children and medical services, without clout of some politician, as Mr. Sibal puts it. And this is accepted, by saying that going through a politican will perhaps help a poor person, than cleaning the system itself.

How can a bad governing system which is corrupt as deep as it can be, and public inconvenience it causes and a strong anti-corruption bill be not related? The Lokpal Bill is in every related to problems of common man,  and that is the reason why it gathered such a wide support.

The Children’s Machine

These are some unfinished notes that I have taken while reading the Children’s Machine by Seymour Papert. Hope that someday I will weave them into something more fluid.

  Why, though a period when so much human activity has been
  revolutionized, have we not seen comparable change in the way we
  help our children learn?

* Quotes

  116

  One could indeed make kitchen math part of the School by making School part of the kitchen.

  127
 
  Are there any snakes in the house?
  Yes there are, there are zero snakes in the house!

  So. negative numbers are numbers too, and their reality grows in the course of playing with turtle.

  130
  You can’t retire from a good project simply because it has succeeded.

  139

  Constructionism: It does not call in question the value of  instruction as such

  The kind of knowledge that children most need is the knowledge that will help them get more knowledge.

  140
  If the children really want to learn something, and have the opportunity to learn it in its use, they do so even if the teaching is poor.

  Constructionism looks more closely than other educational -isms at  the idea of mental construction. It attaches a special importance to role of constructions in the world as a support for those in the head, thereby becoming less of a purely mentalistic doctrine. It also takes the idea of constructing in the head more seriously by recognizing more than one kind of construction and by asking questions about the methods and materials used.

  How can one become expert in constructing knowledge?

  What skills are required?

  Are these skills different for different kinds of knowledge?

  144

  School math, like the ideology, though not necessarily the practice, of modern science, is based on the idea of generality – the single, universally correct method that will work for all problems and for all people.

  145

  Use what you’ve got, improvise, make do.

  147

  The natural context for learning would be through particiaption in other activities other than math itself.

  148

  The reason is that the educators who advocate imposing abstract ways of thinking on students almost practice what they preach – as I  tried to do in adopting a concrete style of writing – but with very different effects.

  149

  But however concrete their data, any statistical question about  “the effect” of “the computer” is irretrievably abstract. This is because all such studies depend on use of what is known as the “scientific method,” in form of experiments designed to study the effect of one factor which is varied while taking great pains to
  keep everything else same. … But nothing could be more absurd than  an experiment in which computers are placed in a classroom where nothing else has changed. The entire point of all the examples I have given is that the computers serve best when they allow everything to change.

  150

  The concept of highly rigorous and formal scientific method that most of us have been taught in school is really an ideology  proclaimed in books, taught in schools and argued by philosophers but widely ignored in actual practice of science.

  154

  They count the same, but it’s more eggs.

  161
  My overarching message to anyone who wishes to influence, or simple understand, the development of educational computing is that it is not about one damn product after another (to paraphrase a saying
  about how school teaches history). Its essence is the growth of a  culture, and it can be influenced constructively only through understanding and fostering trends in this culture.

  167
  I would be rather precisely wrong than vaguely right.
  – Patrick Suppes
  
    It had been obvious to me for a long time that one of the major difficulties in school subjects such as mathematics and science is that School insists on the student being precisely right. Surely it is necessary in some situations to be precisely right. But these situations cannot be the right ones for developing the kind of thinking that I most treasure myself and many creative people I know.

    168
    What computers had offered me was exactly what they should offer children! They should serve children as instruments to work with and to think with, as means to carry out projects, the source of concepts to think new ideas. The last thing in the world I wanted or needed was a drill and practice program telling me to do this sum of spell that word! Why should we impose such a thing on children?

    183
    The opportunity for fantasy opens the to a feeling of intimacy
    with the work and provides a peep at how emotional side of
    children’s relationship with science and technology could be very
    different from what is traditional in School. Fantasy has always
    been encouraged in good creative writing and art
    classes. Excluding it from science is a foolish neglect of an
    opportunity to develop bonding between children and science.

    184
   
    Errors can become sources of information.

    185

    Although the ultimate goal was the same, the means were more than
    just qualitatively different; they were episte,mologically
    different in that they used a different way of thinking.

    Traditional epistemology is an epistemology of precision:
    Knowledge is valued for being precise and considered inferior if
    it lacks precision. Cybernetics creates an epistemology of
    “managed vagueness.”

    197

    The real problem was that I was still thinking in terms of how to
    “get the children to do something.” This is the educator’s
    instinctive way of thinking: How can you get children to like
    math, to write wonderfully, to enjoy programming, to use
    higher-order thinking skills? It took a long time for me to
    understand in my gut, even after I was going around saying it,
    that Logo gaphics was successful because of the powet it /gave/ to
    children, not because of the performance it /got from/ them.

    Children love constructing things, so let’s choose a construction
    set and add to it whatever is needed for these to make cybernetic
    models.

    198

    What will they [children] learn from it [Logo]? And won’t it favor
    boys over girls?

    The first question concerns what piece of the school curriculum is
    being learned but I attach the most importance to such issues as
    children’s relationship with technology, then idea of learning,
    their sense of self. As for the gender issue, I am thinking more
    about, how in the long run comoutational activities will affect
    gender than how the gener will affect the activities.

    Their work provies good examples of material that overlaps with
    School science and math, and of an alternative style applied to
    these subjects – instead of formal style that uses rules, a
    concrete style that uses objects.

    202
   
    It is worth noting that the students appreciated the
    self-organizing nature of the traffic jam only because they had
    written the programs themselves. Had they been using a packaged
    simulation, they would have had no way of knowing the elegant
    simplicity of the programs underlying the jam.

    Emergent stuctures often behave very differently than the elements
    that compose them.

    207

    The cathedral model of education applies the same principle to
    building knowledge structures. The curriculum designer in cast in
    the role of a “knowledge architect” who will specify a plan, a
    tight progra, for the placement of “knowledge brick’s” in
    children’s minds.

    208

    What is typical of emergently programmed systems is that
    deviations from what was expected do not cause the wholw to
    collapse but provoke adaptive responses.

    209
   
    We are living with an edicational systsem that is fundamentally as
    irrational as the command economy and ultimately for the same
    reason. It does not have capacity for local adaptation that is
    necessary for a complex system even to function effieciently in a
    changing environment, and is doubly necessary for such a system to
    be able to evolve.

    Defininf educational success by test scores is not very different
    from couting nails made rather than nails used.
   
    212

    But calling hierarchy into question is the crux of the problem if
    educational change.

    216
   
    Each of these cases suggests ways in which a little school created
    in a militant spirit can mobilize technology as an assertion of
    identity.

    217
   
    I could continue in this spirit, but this may be enough to make
    the point that little schools could give themselves a deeper and
    more conscious specific identity. Everything I have said in this
    book converges to suggest that this would produce rich
    intellectual environments in which not only children and teachers
    but also new ideas about learning would develop together.

    I see little schools as the most powerful, perhaps an essential,
    route to generating variety for the evolution of education.

    The prevailing wisdom in the education establishment might agree
    with the need for variety but look to other sources to provide
    it. For example, many – let us call them the Rigorous
    Researchers – would say that the proper place for both variation
    and selection is in the laboratory. On their model, researchers
    should develop large numbers of different ideas, test them
    rigorously, select the best, and disseminate them to schools.

    In my view this is simply Gosplan in disguise.

    218

    The importance of the concept of the little school is that it
    provides a powerful, perhaps by far the most powerful, strategy to
    allow the operation of the principle of variation and selection.

    This objection depends on an assumption that is at the core of the
    technicalist model of education: Certain procedures are the best,
    and the people involved can be ordered to carry them out. But even
    if there were such a thing as “the best method” for learning, it
    would still only be the best, or even mildly good, if people
    believed in it. The bueracrat thinks that you can make people
    beleive in something by issuing orders.

    221

    The design of learning environment has to take account of the
    cultural environment as well, anad its implementation must make
    serious effort at involvement of the communities in which it is to
    operate.

    223

    It is no longer necessary to bring a thousand children together in
    one building and under one administration in order to develop a
    sense of community.

    224

    I do not see that School can be defended in its social role. It
    does not serve the functions it claims, and will do so less and
    less.

*

  MegaChange!

  Talking about megachange feels to them like fiddling when Rome
  burns. Education today is faced with immediate, urgent
  problems. Tell us how to use your computer to solve some of the
  many immediate practical problems we have, they say.

  Impediments to change in education such as, cost, politics, the
  immense power of the vested interests of school bureaucrats, or lack
  of scientific research on new forms of learning.

  Large number of teachers manage to create within the walls of their
  own classrooms oases of learning profoundly at odds with the
  education philosophy espoused by their administrators…

  But despite the many manifestations of a widespread desire for
  something different, the education establishment, including most of
  its research community, remains largely committed to the educational
  philosophy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and
  so far none of those who challenge these have hallowed traditions
  has been able to loosen the hold of the educational establishement
  on how children are taught.

  Do children like games more than homework because, the later is
  harder than the former?

  Most [games] are hard, with complex information – as well as
  techniques – to be mastered, in the information often much more
  difficult and time consuming to master than the technique.

  These toys, by empowering children to test out ideas about working
  within prefixed rules and structures in a way few other toys are
  capable of doing, have proved capable of teaching students about the
  possibilities and drawbacks of a newly presented system in ways many
  adults should envy.

  In trying to teach children what adults want them to know, does
  School utitlize the way human beings most naturally learn in
  non-school settings?

  If it has so long been so desperately needed, why have previous
  calls for it not caught fire?

  K[G]nowledge Machine

  Is reading the principal access route to knowledge?

  Ask a symapathetic adult who would reward her curiosity with praise.

  Literacy is being able to read and write. Illiteracy can be
  remedied by teaching children the mechanical skill of decoding black
  marks on white paper.

  /Letteracy/ and /Letterate/

  Reading from Word to Reading from World

  … the Knowledge Machine offers children a transition between
  preschool learning and true literacy in way that is more personal,
  more negotiational, more gradual, and so less precarious thant the
  abrupt transition we now ask chidlrento malke as they move from
  learning through direct experience to using the orinted word as a
  source of important information.

  …. School’s way is the only way beacause they have never seen or
  imagined convincing alternatives in the ability to impart certain
  kinds of knowledge.

    * Babies learn to talk without curriculum or formal lessson

    * People develop hobbies at skills without teachers

    * social behavior is picked up other than through classroom
      beahvior

     Parable of the Automobile:

      … certain problems that had been abstract and hard to grasp
      became concrete and transparent, and certain projects that had
      seemed interesting but too complex to undertake became
      manageable.

      Paulo Freire: “Banking model” information is deposited in
      child’s mind like money in a savings account.
     
      /Tools/ for creating new experiments in effective fashion.

      * Ideas

    * Dewey: children would learn better if learning were truly a
          part of living experience

    * Freire: chidlren would learn better if they were truly in
          charge of their own learning processes

    * Piaget: intelligence emerges from an evolutionary process in
          which many factors must have time to find their equilibrium.

    * Vygotsky: Conversation plays a crucial role in learning.

    Why did the discovery method fail?

    By closing off a much larger basis of knowledge that should
        serve as a foundation for formal mathematics taught in school
        and perhas a minimal intuitive basis directly connected with
        it.

    The central problem of mathematics education is to find ways
        to draw on the child’s vast experience of oral
        mathematics. Computers can do this.

    Giving chidlren opportunity learn and use mathematics in a
        nonformalized way of knowing encourages rather than inhibits
        the eventual adoption of formalized way, just as the XO,
        rather than discouraging reading, would eventually stimulate
        children to read.

    The design process is not used to learn more formal geometry.

    Traditionally teh art and writing classes are for fantasy but
        science deals with facts; union of technology with biology.
   

    It allows them to enter science through a region where
        scientific thinking is most like there own thinking.

    Reading biographies and iterrogating friends has convinced me
        that all successful learners find ways to take charge of their
        early lives sufficiently to develop a sense of intellectual
        identity.

    Piaget’s first article: a paradox?

    Schools have inherent tendency to infantilize the children by
        placing them in a position of have to do so as they are told,
        to occupy themselves with work dictated by someone else and
        that, morever, has no intrinsic value – school work is done only
        because the designer of the curriculum decided that doingthis
        work would shape the doer into a desirable form[for the
        authorities?].

    NatGeo: Kidnet??Robert Tinker

    Researchers, following the so-called scientific method of
        using controlled experiments, solemnly expose the children to
        a “treatment” of some sort and then look at measurable
        results. But this flies in the face of all common knowledge
        of how human beings develop.
   
    The method of controlled experimentation that evaluates an
        idea by implementing it, taking care to keep everything else
        the same, and measuring the result, may be an appropriate way
        to evaluate the effects of a small modification. However, it
        can tell us nothing about ideas that might lead to deep
        change… It will be steered less by the outcome of tests and
        measurements than by its participant’ intuitive understanding.

    The prevalent literal-minded, “what you see is what you get”
        approach measuring the effectiveness of computers in learning
        by teh achievements in present-day classroons makes it certain
        that tomorrow will always be prisoner of yesterday.

    Example of Jet attached to horse wagon.

    … most people are more interested in what they learn than in how
        the learning happens.

   
    But math is not about feeling the relationship of your body to
        numbers.

    Turtle lets you do this!

    Intellectual work is adult child’s play.

    Example that if observation of schools in some country where
        only one writing instrument could be provided for every fifty
        students suggested that writing does not significantly help
        learning.

    The change requires a much longer and more social computer
        experience than is possible with two machines at the back of
        the classroom.

    /Balkanized Curriculum and impersonal rote learning/

    What had started as a subversive instrument of change was
        neutralized by the system and converted into an instrument of
        consolidation.

    Schools will not come to use computers “properly” because
        researchers tell it how to do so.’

    It is characteristic of a conservative systems that
        acoomodation will come only when the opportunities of
        assimilation have been exhausted.

    Supposed Advantages
    * Immediate Feedback
    * Individualized instruction
    * Neutrality *

      CAI will often modestly raise test scores, especially at the low end
      of the scale. But it does without questioning the structure or the
      educational goals of the traditional School.
   
      Today, because it is the 15th Monday of your 5th grade year,
          you have to do this sum irrespective of who you are or what
          you really want to do; do what you are told and do it the
          way you are told to do it.

      Piaget was the theorist of learning without curriculum;
      School spawned the projectof developing a Piagetian curriculum.

      The central issue of change in education is the tension
      between technicalizing and not technicalizing, and here the teacher
      occupies the fulcrum position.

      Shaw: He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.

      The system defeats its own purpose in attempt to enforce them.

      School has evolved a heirarchical system of control that
          sets narrow limits within which the actors – administators
          as well as teachers – are allowed to exercise a degree of
          personal initiative.

      Hierarchy vs. Heterarchy

      The major obstacle in the way of teachers becoming learners
      is inhibition about learning.

The problem with `developed’ countries as opposed to `developing’ ones
is that the developed countries are already there, there is no further
development possible.

In education, the highest mark of success is not having imitators but
inspiring others to do something else.

As long as there is afixed curriculum, a teacher has no need to become
involved in the question what is and what is not mathematics.

Society cannot afford to keep back its potentially best teachers
simply because some. or even most, are unwilling.

The how-to-do-it literature in the constructivist subculture is almost
as strongly biased to the teacher side as it is in the instructionist
subculture.

Some etymology:

/Mathematikos/ disposed to learn
/mathema/ a lesson
/manthanein/ to learn

\ldots mathetics is to learning what heuristics is to problem solving.

What is that feeling when you look at a familiar object, with a sense
that you are looking at the object for the first time?
It is /jamais vu/.

Attempts by teachers and textbook authors to connect school fractions
with real life via representations as pies simply reuslyed in a new
rigidity.

* What is the difference in learning at school and all other learning?
  Generally in life, knowledge is acquired to be used. But school
  learning more often fits Freire’s apt metaphor: Knowledge is treated
  like money, to be put away in a bank for the future.

 
* What does /Computer Literacy/ mean?
     

* The Technology of the Blackboard and The Technology of The Computer

   

* Lines You can use:

**
   The computer to program the student…
   OR
   The student to program the computer…

**
   Computer as an expensive set of flash cards.

**
   If the students scores improve, our approach must be right.

**
   Self-directed activities versus carefully guided ones
**
   If the scores improve does it mean that the strategy is effective/
   approach is right?
**
   Heterarchical versus Hierarchical
**
   Totalitarian Education or Trivialized Education

How science should be taught

Science is an adventure of the whole human race to learn to live in and
perhaps to love the universe in which they are. To be a part of it is to
understand, to understand oneself, to begin to feel that there is a capacity
within man far beyond what he felt he had, of an infinite extension of
human possibilities ….

I propose that science be taught at whatever level, from the lowest to the
highest, in the humanistic way. It should be taught with a certain historical
understanding, with a certain philosophical understanding with a social
understanding and a human understanding in the sense of the biography, the
nature of the people who made this construction, the triumphs, the trials, the tribulations.

I. I. RABI

Nobel Laureate in Physics

Kabuki

Kabuki is a comic series from artist and writer David Mack. It is about an assassin who struggles with her identity in near future Japan.

Kabuki is one of the 8 eight assassin in the Noh, a secret Government agency which balances the power in Japan’s underworld.
As far as the storyline is concerned one can trace a lot of influences on the art and the characters of the story [at least the ones I am familiar with]. Not to mention the industrial style that we see in Blade Runner.

The first Volume Circle of Blood tell us about the origins of Kabuki. The art form in this Volume is black and white. Some of the other volumes are in color. In this volume there is a strong influence from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland.Especially in the Issue where Kai is killed by Kabuki the entire setup of the Mad Hatter’s tea party has been taken. When Kai takes Kabuki to visit his collections, the book that she picks up is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The passage she reads is this :

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

And I think I can relate very well to the quote of Kai on books [who has a formidable collection], when he compares the paper books with those that are digital :

But I love the intimacy of books. I love the physical act of turning
the pages and the tactile sensations of fine rice paper contrasting
with an embossed hardcover in my hand.

Influence from Carroll can also be found in other as pack of cards.

We are only faces, yet we are faceless… nothing but a pack of cards
in wonderland.

And in case of Kabuki when she says

I am a reflection, trapped in the world of a little girl.

It seems that David Mack has a fascination for M. C. Escher like I do. There are many influences of Escher in the later Volumes of Kabuki and especially in Metamorphosis. Incidentally metamorphosis is the theme in numerous Escher’s drawings, in which one thing transforms into another. Similarly in all the Metamorphosis issues the theme is of transformation. Also one of the characters is named M. C. Square which I think is a sort of tribute to Escher.
Also there is one quote in Skin Deep # 1 from Escher, which is quoted below.

The crossing of the divide between abstract and concrete,
representations between `mute’ and `speaking’ figures leads us to the
heart of what fascinated me. – M. C. Escher

In the later Volumes when Kabuki is in the reformation center, one cannot but help to think that there is an influence of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and thus indirectly of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. Somehow I a find myself bumping into Orwell every now and then, is there a deep connection, or is this theory ladenness of data on my part?  Particularly the character of Akemi the way she builds up the morale of Kabuki has very strong resemblance in which ‘V’ builds up Evey’s mental state

 If it can be taken from you, it was never you to begin with.
After they take away all they can what remains is you.
Only in these situations, we truly know who we are.

The passing of notes on Origami constructions of different animals also reminds us of the same modus operandi in case of Evey’s build up by the Actress in V for Vendetta.

Though the masks form an integral part of the style of the Kabuki dancers in Japan, the kind of attachment that our lead female Kabuki has with the mask resembles the character of V. Under their masks both have scars on their face, but as one the characters in Kabuki puts it

 I think your scars are far deeper than the eyes can see.

Which I think is true in both cases of V and Kabuki. There is a trauma attached to the scar behind the mask, which they cannot forget, they do not want to forget. What they remember is revenge which RGV quoting in Rakhtacharitra [Blood History]  from Gita says:

Revenge is the purest form of emotion.

The masks gives them a new identity, which they can relate to. The masks that they were have become them. They cannot be separated from them. They have become their identity, which they cannot forsake, at any costs.

This post is not complete, will update it when time permits.

* Quotes
** Circle of blood
# 3

One must aim beyond the target. One must aim a long way. Our whole
life, our whole spirit travels with the arrow. And when the arrow has
been fired, it is never the end.

# 4

When in the company of deceptive hearts, be only honest, and your
opponents will fool themselves.

I am a reflection, trapped in the world of a little girl.

# 5

I am invisible, untraceable… like tears in the rain.

But I love the intimacy of books. I love the physical act of turning
the pages and the tactile sensations of fine rice paper contrasting
with an embossed hardcover in my hand.

But then, everybody has their own ghosts, don’t they?

Kai, is life a straight line or a circle?
Both and neither. It’s a spiral like your DNA.

There is no morality in virtual reality. What kind of person will he
grow up to be?

#6

She is going to break your heart into two.
Its true.
Its not hard to realize.
She is going to smile to make you frown,
what a clown.
‘Cause everybody knows
She’s a femme fatale
The things she does to please
she’s just a little tease.

It is time to master duality of your nature you must decide who you
really are.

I play my games, but the hand of fate is much quicker than the lie.

Just as the locusts cloak the sun, my perceptions blinded me.

The warrior unencumbered and willing to go further than his opponent
would always win.

I swallowed the locusts, and with it my fear

Look at the swan skimming the water. Angel wings of ivory feathers, its
eyes veiled in a mask of black. Its beauty rivaled only by its very
own reflection. Ghostly and regal, it seems to glide effortlessly on
the ponds surface, but below the surface… its feed are peddling like
hell…

We are faceless pawns.
Funny thing about pawns. If they make it to the other side, they
become the most powerful player on the board. That is where I am
going. The other side.

I am armed only with the power that my physical presence commands.

I feel the burning of their gaze and it keeps me warm.

A voice in my head tells me the bullet had my name on it.
I tell the voice that they misspelled my name.

# Fear the Reaper

A city whose technology has surpassed its humanity.

If you gaze into eyes of the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

Sometimes there is no comedy, there is no tragedy only a closing
curtain. Sometimes the curtain falls slowly, sometimes it just falls.

We are only faces, yet we are faceless… nothing but a pack of cards
in wonderland.

I am drifting in the dark halfway between the Sun and the Moon.

** Masks of the Noh

#1
Crying and laughter… pain and desire are sisters.

#2

Time always catches up with you.

Never in words had I experienced the chilling satisfaction of words.

#4

Nothing is black and white anymore, it all blurs together.

** Skin Deep

#1

I used to get lost in the shuffle, now I just shuffle along with the
lost.

I think your scars are far deeper than the eyes can see.

The crossing of the divide between abstract and concrete,
representations between `mute’ and `speaking’ figures leads us to the
heart of what fascinated me. – M C Escher

The transformation takes place within our minds.

The only way to define your own identity is to be completely alone.

I don’t seek to find myself.
I seek to loose myself.
Escape is a burning hope.

If horror is not your friend it is your enemy.

** Metamorphosis

#2
You have an interesting way of putting things. And interesting places
to put them.

If it can be taken from you, it was never you to begin with.
After they take away all they can what remains is you.
Only in these situations, we truly know who we are.

#6
Your yesterday is about to collide with your tomorrow.

Your environment reflects your internal disposition.

You can’t face the future until you resolve the past.

 

Thinking Humans

There is at least one philosophical problem in
which all thinking men are interested: the problem of under-
standing the world in which we live, including ourselves,who are
part of that world, and our knowledge of it.
– Karl Popper

Conjectures and Refutations

शिवाजी महाराजांचा आत्मा [The Soul of Shivaji Maharaj]

 

 I am grateful that you are honoring my statue. But perhaps if you show equal enthusiasm for principles, I would be a hundred times more happier. [July 1928]

 What Shankarrao Kirloskar  has written about 80 years ago still holds true today!

जे शंकरराव किर्लोस्करानी ८० वर्षां आधी व्यक्त केले ते आज पण तेवढेच खरे आहे!
शिवाजी महाराजांचा आत्मा 

सन्दर्भ : शब्द व रेषा – शं. वि. किर्लोस्कर

Absurdity of TV Censorship

Recently I was watching a movie on the TV, a movie that I had seen earlier. But then as I watched on there seemed to be scenes, dialogs and words missing from the movie. According to the new laws of censorship in cinema one cannot show cigarette being smoked on the screen and forget about liquor not to mention anything about strong language or nudity. Similar things have been adopted for the TV channels. Don’t show this, don’t talk about that.

I ask the question why?

 Why is that we need to censor things which according to some individuals is vile, corrupting? As a democracy Indians do have a right to elect whom they see fit to govern them, so aren’t enlightened citizens good enough to select what they want to see? Because, if they are not, then even giving them voting rights would be dangerous, they might elect vile and corrupt politicians to power! And if at all the things such as cigarette and liquor, harsh language  with all the Effour letter words,love acts, nudity will corrupt the population, why not banish them from the society. One one hand the government is keen on taxing the industries which manufacture these products in the first place, on the other hand this thing happens! Also one of the arguments that is given is that closing of such industries will take away employment from a whole lot of people. So by censoring cigarettes and liquor is not the government doing exactly that? There is a contradiction which I think I will never be able to understand.

I remember there was a question raised in parliament about this some years back by somebody. It must be sometime in August the logo for a music channel had the Indian tricolor on it. At the same time late in the night [11ish] there used to be a program for dancers. PYTs used to dance on music wearing as you might have guessed a bit skimpy clothes. So some morally upright MP raised this question, that how could be such a thing allowed? In response somebody else pointed out what was the MP doing watching such a thing in the first place at such an unholy hour in the night. The story here reflects the typical attitude, they want all for themselves but when it comes to public, the public needs to be told what they should watch on media. This the Government is doing, controlling the media and trying to control your thoughts.

But fortunately for us, and unfortunately for the government, this is the age of Internet. The example of Wikileaks has shown us that even the mighty US Government cannot stop the flow of information on the Internet. But who can forget Indian Governments attempt to kill Savita Bhabhi? India’s first own porn star was put to death by an Government by issuing the ISPs to not allow to access the said web site which hosted her. But that did not kill her, did it? Instead she became immortal.

Perhaps the Government should look at the implications and be practical when they are trying to implement the laws of morality over general public. Do not we see people smoking and drinking in public, isn’t molesting of women and their brutal rapes a part of our daily lives, aren’t children getting the worst of the things that we as a civilization have to offer to them? Then why make a facade of moral values to try to take control of the media? This is my take on it. The Government doesn’t bother whether you or your children grow up as shitbags, but what it bothers about is the control, the thought control precisely.

Government wants the control.

Controlling media would also control what people think and see. And its not just about any Government, the politicians that we see are just the tip of the iceberg. The Government is a system which wants above everything else, the control. There was a time when the control was easy, but we still haven’t got over the License Raj, have we? Now they want to introduce the UID, a solution for all the ills in this country. UID, at best, is a solution looking for a problem. The UID project is in place just because the industry has something to sell, and tax payers money has no guardians. They say they will monitor all the progress of an individual. And you know how safe are we when we give all the control to a central authority.

From what we have happening in India in the recent years it wont be long before we have our own version of Orwellian dystopia.

Big Brother Babu is watching you.

The UID will enter into all aspects of your life, birth, education, property, communications, death, travel. UID does not make your country safe, but makes it easier to target “the most dangerous man” as told by Spyder Jerusalem in the Vertigo comics series Transmetropolitan.

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to
 think things out for himself, without regard to prevailing
 superstitions or taboos. Almost inevitable he comes to the
 conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and
 intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. Even
 if he is not romantic personally he is apt to spread discontent among
 those who are.

 – H L Mencken

Till then beware of what decisions that you support, as they will be paid for by your own children…

Turtle Art Galore…

Here is one for the Turtle Art!

The idea that the child should program the computer and not the other way round was initiated by Seymour Papert in his book Mindstorms. Papert calls the field constructionism instead of Piaget’s constructvism. Will elaborate the detailed differnces in some other post. But we at gnowledge.org lab  are tryingto bring that in India using Sugar as a learning platform and we are not exclusively using OLPCs for that. We conduct regular teacher training workshops throughour India. One of our basic guidelies in all this is the use of Free and Open Source Software in education.
One of the first things that we introduce to newcomes in Sugar is the Turtle Blocks.

How to define Turtle Art? Well it is a studio! It has components of mathematics. logic, and art embedded in it. Artemis Papert [related to Seymour Papert?] has a website on the art that can be created using Turtle Art here www.turtleart.org

Have a look at the amazing gallery with the source code also available in case you want to have a peek at how such lovely pictures can be made using Turtle Blocks!!

Here is mine, adopted from the cover of the Turtle Art Book 3 by Artemis Papert.

And this is how I did it.

An Open Letter to the Railway Minister

This is an open letter to The Railway Minister of India. Whoever it is. Though currently Mamta Banerjee aka Didi is the one who is holding the post. This post is related to the derailing and death of the Gyaneshwari Express:

The Gyaneshwari Express derailment occurred on 28 May 2010 in the West
Midnapore district of West Bengal, India. It was disputed as to
whether sabotage or a bomb caused damage on the railway track, which
in turn led to a train’s derailment before an oncoming goods train hit
the loose carriages killing at least 141 passengers.[1]

Now the aftermath of this incidence is that instead of accepting that there is a problem of law and order as regards to the Maoists, the Government is steadily denying that there is a problem. As a result of that all the night running trains in the affected areas have been halted. Instead of trying to look for a solution to the problem, the Government is trying to hide it from the people. So as a result the common people are suffering. The media is supporting the Government in totally being oblivious to the delay in the trains caused by this. I don’t know of any coverage, but if it is there, I have not seen it.

The trains get late everyday on an average by 8 – 10 hours! Can you believe this? Once in a while is okay, but everyday? And that too from last 7-8 months? Miss Banerjee what do you have to say for all this delay? If you and the Government is so scared of the Maoists that you cannot run trains in their dominated areas after sundown, at least admit it! You can at least change the train timings… But you are too clever to do that, as you have the state elections lined soon, so instead you will not do this, citing no reason whatsoever?

Think about the trouble it is causing to people, who have to catch trains at odd times, have to sleep on platforms, just because the trains are running late on a regular basis. The railways are there for the public, are the not? And if the public is being left out of the equation, there is something missing. Are you not ashamed as the railway minister, that trains are running regularly late? Or is it the chalta hai attitude that you want to show off? If you cannot solve the Maoist problem at least you can change the train timings so that the passengers are not left in turmoil at the railway station waiting 10 hours after the scheduled time of the arrival of their train…

On Cameras…

A worthy quote from issue 1 of 4 part limited series comics Gangland from Vertigo Comics on cameras and photos..

   I’ve been always fascinated by cameras. Little boxes and inside
   each one, a tiny thief, ready to steal at touch of a button. To
   pocket a moment of time.

   What they steal can never be returned; what they take they keep
   forever…

   Stealing moments in time with my invisible eye…
  
   As if I could replace what’s missing in my heart with a few spare
   moments clipped from other people’s lives.

Sophie’s World

I had heard about Sophie’s World from quite a number of sources. Finally I got a worn out copy from Fort for 100 bucks. Finished it in the next couple of days. This was about two years back. It is one of the best bedside introductions to philosophy…
Embedded in mystery and weirdness.
The best part of the climax is a p”hilosophical party”, which I also wish to have…

 Quotes:

Who are you?

“You are me.”

“I am you.”

You can’t experience being alive without realizing that you have to die, she thought.

Where does the world come from?

How could it be “the easiest way”?

… the only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder…

Why was it so difficult to be absorbed in the most vital and, in a way, the most natural of all questions?

So it is easier to ask philosophical questions than to answer them.

Actually, we are the white rabbit being pulled out of the hat.

and anyway it would be pointless to chase after someone who was determined to get away.

It all has to do with habit.

Do you think it can do what it does?

A philosopher never gets quite used to the world.

She understood that people had always felt a need to explain the processes of nature. Perhaps they could not live without such explanations. And that they made up all those myths in the time before there was anything called science.

… nothing can come from nothing …

Once we have determined what a particular philosopher’s project is, it is easier to follow his line of thought, since no one philosopher concerns himself with the whole of philosophy.

How can I “see” a flower, for example?

You probably wouldn’t admire a friend who was good at everything if it cost her no effort.

She decided that philosophy was not something you can learn; but perhaps you can learn to think philosophically.
 Why is Lego the most ingenious toy in the world?

Why did people quit playing when they grew up?

“I’m not playing!” Sophie retorted indignantly, “I’m doing a very complicated philosophical experiment!”

Do you believe in Fate?
Is sickness the punishment of the gods?
What forces govern the course of history?

Who had the right to call other people’s belief superstition?

One day we will meet, but I shall be the one to decide when and where.

Thus the “fortune-teller” is trying to foresee something that is really quite unforeseeable.
This is characteristic of all forms of foreseeing. And precisely because what they “see” is so vague, it is hard to repudiate fortune-tellers’ claims.

Over the entrance to the temple at Delphi was a famous inscription: KNOW THYSELF! It
reminded visitors that man must never believe himself to be more than mortal—and that no man can escape his destiny.

…wisest is she who knows she does not know…

Is there such a thing as natural modesty? 
Wisest is she who knows she does not know… 
True insight comes from within. 
He who knows what is right will do right.

But today, most people think it is “natural,” even though
it is still strictly forbidden in lots of countries.

 But the more she did, the more clearly she saw that knowing what you don’t know is also a kind of knowledge.

But didn’t all knowledge come into people’s heads from the outside?

The history of ideas is like a drama in many acts.

In order for democracy to work, people had to be educated enough to take part in the
democratic process.

“The question is complex and life is short.”

Modesty—or the lack of it—is first and foremost a matter of social convention.

“You can seek him in the present, you can seek him in the past, but you will never find
his equal.”  on Socrates

So it is no easy matter to distinguish between the teachings of Socrates and the philosophy of Plato.

Socrates saw his task as helping people to “give birth” to the correct insight, since
real understanding must come from within. It cannot be imparted by someone else. And only
the understanding that comes from within can lead to true insight.

Something within him left him no choice.

A  “philosopher” really means “one who loves wisdom.”

A philosopher knows that in reality he knows very little.

…it troubled him that he knew so little.

“One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.”

Any one question can be more explosive than a thousand answers.

All he knew was that he knew nothing—and it troubled him. So he became a
philosopher—someone who does not give up but tirelessly pursues his quest for truth.

Can you live a happy life if you continually do things you know deep down are wrong?

“We don’t learn anything there. The difference between schoolteachers and philosophers is that school-teachers think they know a lot of stuff that they try to force down our throats. Philosophers try to figure things out together with the pupils.”

“It’s not him who’s disturbed. But he likes to disturb others—to shake them out of their rut.”

… several tall buildings had risen from the ruins …

 We still speak of Socratic or Platonic philosophy, but actually being Plato or Socrates is quite another matter.”

 Plato’s four tasks.
 First you must think over how a baker can bake fifty absolutely identical cookies.
 Then you can ask yourself why all horses are the same.
 Next you must decide whether you think that man has an immortal soul.
 And finally you must say whether men and women are equally sensible.

 … a longing to return to the realm of the soul…

Because even though some horses were as brown as bears and others
were as white as lambs, all horses had something in common.

All she knew was that dead bodies were either
cremated or buried, so there was no future for them.

Why are horses the same, Sophie? You probably don’t think they are at all. But there is
something that all horses have in common, something that enables us to identify them as
horses. A particular horse “flows,” naturally. It might be old and lame, and in time it will die. But
the “form” of the horse is eternal and immutable.

Because clearly, the mold itself must be utter perfection—and in a sense, more beautiful—in comparison with these crude copies.

… the girl in the mirror winked with both eyes…

Was it the path she had taken earlier?

How could a person who had never seen a live chicken or a picture of a chicken ever have any “idea” of a chicken?

What came first—the chicken or the “idea” chicken ?
Are we born with innate “ideas”? What is the difference between a plant, an animal, and a human? 
Why does it rain? 
What does it take to live a good life?

…a meticulous organizer who wanted to clarify our concepts …

You’ll have to content yourself with the fact that you are not the only one who can’t exceed your own limits.

Everybody is more or less peculiar. I am a person, so I am more or less peculiar. You have only one girl, so I am the most peculiar.

Common sense and conscience can both be compared to a muscle. If you don’t use a muscle, it gets weaker and weaker.”

The world is me, she thought.

And as you know, when a thing gets bigger and bigger it’s more difficult to keep it to yourself.

It is the only way to become more than a naked ape. It is the only way to avoid floating in a vacuum.

… going only part of the way is not the same as going the wrong way…

Sorry. My lips are sealed.”

But she had been nervous, and when you’re nervous its comforting to break all taboos.

“It’s easy to know better after the fact.”

We shall become better acquainted by and by

But philosophy is not a harmless party game.

One generation ages while another generation is brought forth.

Life is both sad and solemn. We are let into a wonderful world, we meet one another here, greet each other—and wander together for a brief moment. Then we lose each other and disappear as suddenly and unreasonably as we arrived.

“It’s not a silly question if you can’t answer it.

“Does all this really matter?” “Does it matter? You bet it matters!

“Smart. But not so smart really.”

“Is it really as simple as that?”

For the wages of sin is death.

That was a serious slip of the tongue.”
“But a slip of the tongue is never wholly accidental.”

…such stuff as dreams are made on…

She knew her mother knew that Sophie knew her mother wouldn’t believe it either.

“No, there’s a lot I don’t know.”

“Well, nearly everything that’s important comes either from Greece or from Italy.”

That was actually quite a lot in the space of one second.

carpe diem’—‘seize the day.’

‘memento mori,’ which means ‘Remember that you must die.’

But any display of magnificence presupposes a display of power. It has often been said that the political situation in the Baroque period was not unlike its art and architec

… he wanted to clear all the rubble off the site…

“You begin to work out your own philosophy.”

‘How can you be certain that your whole life is not a dream?’

Y – The Last Man

Recently read the comics series Y The Last Man.

 Tale of a single human male and his pet monkey, who survive an instant death to all the mammals that have the ‘Y’ chromosome; read males. All the mammal males, even the sperms die at the same time. This leads the world in chaos. Yorick the only male to survive this disaster is escorted by Agent 355 with Dr. Mann a scientist, who seems to be the only woman who is capable of doing anything about the catastrophe. So starts the adventure, with only one male remaining in the world

Quotes

#1

Who wants peace, when we have not yet begun to fight?

I am not afraid of the world…. I am afraid of the world without you.

# 5

When the game is over, the Queen and the Pawn go in the same box.

# 7

No price is too great for your opponents king.

# 8

There’s a line I never thought I’d have to hear again.

# 09

Your imprisonment was also your emancipation.

# 12

Euphemisms are only for those who feel guilt about what they are
describing.

With little power comes little responsibility.

# 13

None of us is innocent.

# 14

… but sometimes you must do terrible things for peace.

# 15

This is what happens to friends when a man comes between them.

# 18

Ain’t nothing worse than ladies in numbers.

Is this some kinda joke?
That’s what I keep asking myself.

The Day of The Locust

# 20

It was like, they had crossed the finish line already, you know? But I
still had a million laps to run.

Everyone else just thinks I’m dumb and impulsive and .. well not that
I am not…

Endings have to be earned.

# 21

Isn’t this the part where you do something stupid?

# 22

Good thing, our shit lawys goes according to plans…

Just because you can dance doesn’t mean that you are a dancer…

# 25

I came here for forgiveness… but now I’ve just got more shit to be
sorry for.

The things we do make us what we are.

You fuck better than you preach.

# 27
 You, young man are wise beyond your years.

# 29

Karma is a fucking urban legend.

# 32

Waters won’t be always this calm.

# 35

And I’m no more guilty than you are qualified to sit on that bench.

# 37

The future never shapes up like you figure it will…

# 38
Come on, we have a rumour to kill…
# 42

Love isn’t an emotion it’s an abstract construct mammals assign to a
biological imperative they don’t fully understand.

# 43

Everybody needs somebody.

Sure, this will probably end up being another in a long line of
emotionally crippling misadventures.

No, real relationships can only be forged by hate.

The gangster of love knows how to simulate all passages great and
small.

Yes, you are very beautiful when you cry.

# 44

Everybody has got something to hide.

Everybody’s got something, right?

# 47

How is it wrong if no one ever knows about it?

We may be changing countries, but we will net let that country change
us.

# 49

Mixed messages in my bane existence.

# 50

Faith and science can be friends, but they make for a disastrous
marriage.

Answers to the unknown are all around us.

# 51

Our bodies tell us that we love so many, but there’s room in our
hearts for so few.

# 52

Our sexes maybe equal, but they are not the same.

Because you confused your protective instincts with romantic
feelings.

# 53

Still, you can take the girl out of htthe amazon, but you can’t always
take the amazons out of the girl, right?

# 55

A good relationship isn’t where one the other person makes you feel
better, but where they make you better.

# 57

So you would have said no to the man, but yes to the last man.

I have so many different ways to respond to that, I don’t know even
where to begin.

# 60

We spend nine months trying to get out of a women and rest of our
lives trying to get back in.

Gel’fand’s Quote

This is taken from The Method of Coordinates by I. M. Gel’fand
E.G. Glagoleva A.A. Kirillov

Of course, it was not our intention that aIl these
students who studied from these books or even
completed the School should choose mathematics as
their future career. Nevertheless, no matter what they
would later choose, the results of this training re­
mained with them. For many, this had been their first
experience in being able to do something on their own
— completely independently.

1 would like to make one comment here. Sorne of my
American colleagues have explained to me that
American students are not really accustomed to think­
ing and working hard, and for this reason we must
make the material as attractive as possible. Permit me
to not completely agree with this opinion. From my
long experience with young students aU over the
world 1 know that they are curious and inquisitive and
1 beIieve that if they have sorne clear mate rial pre­
sented in a simple form, they will prefer this to aIl
artificial means of attracting their attention — much as
one ,buys books for their content and not for their
dazzling jacket designs that engage only for the
moment.

The most important thing a student can get from the
study of mathematics is the attainment of a higher
intellectualleveL In this light 1would like to point out
as an example the famous American physicist and
teacher Richard Feynman who succeeded in writing
both his popular books and scientific works in a
simple and attractive manner.

I. M. Gel’fand

A Woman’s Snare…

They chatter with one man,
Look at another with amorous gestures;
And in their minds think of yet another,
Who then is loved by a woman?

From: Bhartrihari [7th Century]

When you read these lines, the immediate thing that you want to do is to find a woman in your memory lanes that fits the above bill. One will perhaps find not one, but many. But, perhaps this also applies to men, in fact I think they are more likely to do so, if you accept the explanations from evolutionary psychology and comparative psychology.

In evolutionary psychology they say that the males want to produce as many offspring as possible. So they try to mate with as many females as possible, many times the quality does not matter, only quantity does. This is so because the males do not have to invest [sic] a lot in mating. The analogy that is often given to the sperm production in males is to spam mails that hit your mailbox daily. Even if one in 10 million makes it, your job is done. But for the females the bodily investment is much larger. So females they say prefer quality over quantity. After the copulation it is the female who has to bear the child, and the responsibility of male becomes minimal. Imagine if a human male copulated daily with a fertile female, which I guess one can, how many children can he produce in a life time? Perhaps in thousands. Similarly if we think of human females producing children when they can, that is taking into consideration their biology; perhaps one child in a year, considering all other factors, the total number will be max at 2 dozen or so. So it is the males who would are more likely to be mating more than women to produce children and that too with many different ones, if they have the capabilities.

This particular observation is not general, and of course does not apply to all species. There are species of sea-horse in which the males rear the young ones, in almost all birds the rearing of offspring is the joint responsibility of the couple. In animals who have social structures, as in case of humans and monkeys, the young ones are raised socially.

But we being humans, do not copulate just for procreation, we do also copulate for recreation [of ourselves that is]. They say that dolphins and chimps are the only other creatures which do so, no wonder they are called intelligent. All other animals copulate when their natural cycle tells them to. So in this light of recreational copulation the above verses acquire a different meaning. There are women and men who copulate and want to copulate for recreation, it is perhaps their nature to do so, but perhaps they are bound too strongly by the social sanctions that surround them.

The next question to ask is that is it right for them to do so?

Well, the answer depends on what one thinks of such social norms. Are they to be followed in to to, or they have an interpretation dependent logic.

The answer is something that I do not know…

PS: Perhaps the essay might sound silly, it is; I have to expand on certain sections.

Why children hate maths…

          Today, because it is the 15th Monday of your 5th grade year,
          you have to do this sum irrespective of who you are or what
          you really want to do; do what you are told and do it the
          way you are told to do it.

 From: The Children’s Machine by Seymour Papert

मेरी दु‌आ…

 मेरी दु‌आ है तेरी आरजु बदल जा‌‌ए

तेरी दुआ से कजा तो बदल नही‌‌ सकती
मगर है ईससे ये मुमकीन की तु बदल जाए


तेरी खुदी मे अगर इनकलाब हो पैदा
अजब नही के ये चार सो बदल जाए


वही शराब वही हया अो हु रहे बाकी
तरीक-ए-सबिक अो रस‌मे कदो बदल जाए


 तेरी दु‌आ है की हो तेरी आरजु पुरी
मेरी दु‌आ है तेरी आरजु बदल जा‌‌ए

अलामा ईकबाल

Blossoms in Bangalore…

Well, Blossoms in Bangalore? I was in Bangalore during the spring and start of summer 2010, and have seen quite a lot of them. Here is a sample!

But it is not this blossom that I am talking about. But there is a special Blossoms in Bangalore. It is round the year blossom of books! With the bibliophile that I am, the book is like a three storied candy shop.

But anyways, I came to know about this “candy shop” from Tanu. She told me that you MUST VISIT this place.

 http://www.blossombookhouse.com

Okay, then me and GN directly landed from the airport to the Blossoms Book House in Church Street. The store has a unique feature to store your bags, they have small lockers and you lock your bag and keep the key!

That apart the book store is one of the best that I have ever visited, no questions about that.
The lower floor has books on philosophy, nature, films, music, architecture, media. General reading etc.

The second floor is full of literature. This is a floor I have had not found time to visit in my two trips there.

The best is the third floor. It has books on science, mathematics, computers, psychology, history and biographies among others.

And the popular science section is amazing!
 They have all the titles arranged according to author names: like in a library and they maintain a computer catalog of these books. I got some really good titles here. Many of Mir books, Dover editions which were out of print. And that too at a reasonable if not cheap price always. The most commonly found book is Contact by Carl Sagan. I must have seen at least ~ 20 copies of this book in different editions in this store.

The best part is that along with new books they also have old and second hand books. Which really sets the day for you. Out of print and rare books to be found here!!

 Apart from that I met long forgotten volumes, it was like meeting old friends unexpectedly in a strange place. (Perhaps they were happy to meet me also 😉

We could not just finish in time, it was already their closing time. And I did not feel how the three hours went by. Me and GN were just collecting, filling basket after basket by books. Finally the time came to leave, and books amounted to two cartons! How were we supposed to carry? They suggested that they will send it by parcel to Mumbai! So were are done!

No matter what kind of books you read, you are sure to get them here!

The next time story was no different. And we were in till there closing time again!

I wanted to spend an entire day there, but could not. May
be will try next time.

But if you are in Bangalore its a MUST VISIT.

A paradise and candy shop for bibliophiles!!

Saurav is planning a visit to Bangalore just for Blossoms!!

[Blossoms photos by Tanu, please get some shots from the inside!!]

Other Candy shops:


http://me-damitr.blogspot.com/2009/05/candy-shops-for-bibliophiles-3.html
http://me-damitr.blogspot.com/2009/05/candy-shops-for-bibliophiles-2.html
http://me-damitr.blogspot.com/2009/05/candy-lanes-for-bibliophiles-1.html

For actual blossoms

http://me-damitr.blogspot.com/2008/05/summer-and-spring-special.html

Cigol

I have coined a new term: cigol.
The term may have some meaning, google gives it as a surname for many.
But for me it is something, which I am suffering due to.
To guess the meaning read the term backwards.

And you will get it!

Now there is a term illogical which is already existent, but when I mean cigol, it is
not exactly illogical. There is a differnece. The difference is that
illogical would mean devoid of logic. But in case of cigol, the logic is
very much there, but is reversed. They are very much applicable to babus.
For example if something is supposed to help you, they make it in such a way
that it becomes unhelpful, deliberately.

I would love to cite a lot of examples, but alas I cannot for reasons known to all.

Some thing from this book needs no title…

I love the artist or scholar whose activity is like the bee
pursuing the delicious nectar of the flowers. The bee has no
mind to become a renowned authority on which flowers
contain the best nectar; the bee simply loves nectar. In all
probability, the bee, through his actual experience will soon
have a fantastic knowledge of the flower geography of his
neighborhood-as good perhaps as any human scholar who
“studies” botany. And I say the bee really knows the flower
much better than the botanist. The botanist merely knows
about the flower; the bee knows the flower directly. The more
analytically minded reader might well ask, at this point, just
what I mean by “knowing about something” versus “knowing it
directly.” I wish I could answer him! The distinction is so
difficult to explain rationally, and yet it is of such vital
importance.

Humans as Fermions

Humans as Fermions

* The Fermions

  Fermions are one set of fundamental particles and the other one are
  bosons. The distinguishing factor between bosons and fermions is
  that the fermions have half integral spins, whereas the boson have
  integral spins. Their names suggest that the bosons were discovered
  by S N Bose, an Indian physicist and fermions by E Fermi. Now
  another this is that the fermions follow what is known as the Pauli
  exclusion principle. That is to say you cannot have two fermions
  which have all the quantum numbers same.

The Pauli exclusion principle is a quantum mechanical principle formulated by the Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli in 1925. In its simplest form for electrons in a single atom, it states that no two electrons can have the same four quantum numbers; that is, if n, l, and ml are the same, ms must be different such that the electrons have opposite spins. More generally, no two identical fermions (particles with half-integer spin) may occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. A more rigorous statement of this principle is that for two identical fermions, the total wave function is anti-symmetric.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauli_exclusion_principle

And electrons are fermions It is this principle which decides the electronic
  configuration in atoms. The filling up principle or the aufbau
  principle works according to the exclusion principle. So when near
  to each other the electrons will tend to have different quantum
  numbers. If all the quantum numbers are same for a given pair of
  electrons, then they must have the spins opposite. But now if a
  third electron is to be arranged in the same orbit, it simple cannot
  be accommodate; it has to go in a different orbit. So that the
  electrons behave, as if they do not like the proximity of each
  other.

* Local trains
  Now when observing humans when they are in a crowded environment
  like a local train in Mumbai, I feel that the humans do behave
  exactly like fermions. That is to say that they do not like the
  proximity of each other, just like the electron do not like
  proximity of each other in the electronic orbits. I have observed
  this many a times in the local trains. Usually the trains are very
  crowded. Even to get a position to stand comfortably is a privilege,
  especially in the peak hours.

  When you board the train at the starting station like the VT, then
  what follows is closely analogous to filling up of the electronic
  orbitals in the atom. The seats that are usually taken first are the
  window seats. In the atom it would correspond to the first filling
  of the principal quantum number. In the window seats also the
  preference is to the seats for the windows which face the incoming
  air, that is facing towards the direction of travel.

  Then the seats are filled in the order of least occupancy. People
  want to sit at the seats which are least occupied. Normally the
  seats can take 3 people, and 4 with a bit of difficulty. But the
  norm is that 4 people are seated on a single seat. Once all the seats
  are filled up to 4 occupants, then people tend to stand in between
  the seats. The analogy does not extend to the people who are
  standing at the doors, there it is more like an ensemble of free
  particles, which are jumping in and out of the compartments.

  So coming back to the seating arrangements what I have observed is
  that once the seats are filled with 4 occupants. That is the maximum
  that our ‘seat’ orbital can take. The rest are occupied in between
  states. They are like virtual states, ready to jump into the empty
  seats as soon as one gets empty.

* The Law of 3 
  Lets assume that the people standing in between are like the
  electron sea in metals. Now lets assume a situation in which there
  are a few people who are standing in between seats and all the seats
  are seated by 4 people. Now lets see what happens when one of the
  person who is sitting stands up to get off the train. As soon as the
  seat gets empty, one of the persons who is standing goes to fill in
  the empty seat. As more and more people get off, the people who are
  standing take up their seats. Finally we reach a state when there
  are no more people who left are standing. Now all the seats have
  four seated occupants. Now if a single person gets up. There is one
  seat with just three people, but people don’t tend to move to that
  seat. It just not worth the effort, by going from a 4 seated seat
  again to a 4 seated seat, you don’t gain much. So you remain seated
  where ever you are. But if you are one of the people who are seated
  on the seat where the person just left from, you surely feel
  relieved.
 
  Now let us try to visualize the situation if 2 people from a single
  seat leave off. Two people leaving from 2 different seats will not
  help. It has to be 2 people who were seated on the same seat. After
  this what we have is that, there is a seat where only 2 people are
  seated and rest of the seats have 4 people seating on them. As soon
  as this happens, a person from a 4 seater, will try to get to the 2
  seater seat. This results in two 3 seater seats, whereas the rest
  are 4 seaters. Even more if 3 people from the same seat go away, the
  resulting changing of seats by people results in maximizing the
  number of 3 seater seats. This is the law of behavior of people in a
  local train ;). I call it the Law of 3. This just also touches on
  the idea of what is called in psychology as personal space. We
  are comfortable only within a certain distance from each other. And
  make it a point to bring this into existence we make the movements.

  Well this is just a vague analogy, to the actual behavior of the
  fermions is much more involved, but nonetheless the analogy is worth
  observing.

A Mass charger for OLPC!

1
~~
  I am currently working on deploying OLPCs [One Laptop Per Child] a.k.a.
  the $ 100 laptop a.k.a. XO in India. The Green colored laptop looks
  pretty with children being very happy to have one, and what is best
  is that the children or their parents do not pay for it, but the
  child gets to keep it, take it home and play with it!

More information at laptop.org, sugarlabs.org

2 Khairat
~~~~~~~~~

  The first pilot was started in Khairat, sleepy tribal village about
  60 kms from Mumbai. This will be the third year in Khairat. So a
  generation of children are present who have been using the XO
  consistently. Though we got on to this project last year, the Sugar
  platform I already knew about. The parents tell us that the children
  have developed special affinity with their laptops, at times even
  not allowing their elder siblings to even touch it. Pedagogically
  the support at Khairat has not been so good. The teacher their
  Mr. Surve learned most of the activities with the Sugar on his
  own. Along with the new and some upgraded activities, but thats
  another story.

3 Charging Problems
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  One of the consistent problems that was faced in Khairat is how do
  you charge the laptops. Though these laptops consume quite a less
  amount of power as compared to normal ones, the fact remains that
  they run on the battery and batteries tend to dicharged when
  used. There was some solution provided in terms of a rotating wheel,
  wherein a dynamo is used to charge the XOs. But this did not work
  out well. The Khairat school is not very large about 23 students
  across all the 4 grades of the primary. So to charge all the laptops
  at the school, we needed to have 23 plug points, to put the cute
  little green chargers in! If you scale it up, if you have to have lets say 100
  deployments then, 100 plug points! The OLPC design team came up with
  a charger which can charge upto 5 laptops, but then we need to
  import that too, with the XOs. What we wanted is to charge a large
  number of XO’s at one go. The desiderata was that technology should
  be indegenious, cheap, and should be `open’. Open is used here in
  the sense of being transparent to anyone who wants to repair or know
  its workings. Also the problems of the charging at Khairat were
  compounded by the fact that many of the chargers had gone bad. The
  things were so bad that for the entire class of 23 students they had
  only 5 working  chargers, so that the students could not charge the
  laptops, the scheme that was implemented in this case is that the
  children would bring the laptops to the school, charge it there turn
  by turn. All this was further complicated the `load-shedding’ of the
  Electricity Board. The schedule of the electricity board is such
  that it does not allow for continuous charging.

  The first option that we tried was to get a similar charger from
  Lamington Road. When we enquired we got one for about 200
  rupees. But even if we get 20 of those, we did not have enough plug
  points in the school. And even if they were there, the lenght of the
  wire on the chargers isn’t much, so the students have to sit close
  to the extensions. This isn’t by all means a very good idea, AC 230
  V all near kids, in primary. Many of the chargers had bare wires,
  and accidents can always happen. But this still doesn’t solve our
  problem of mass charging. We needed a charging station. Since we did
  not have one, we had to design one.

3.1 So what was to be done?
===========================

  We tried to take a supply from a
  We found that the rating on the chargers required them to charged
  with above 6 V. What could give us a continuous supply of regulated
  power and was cheap?

4 The Solution
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jude had an excellent idea. We use the standard SMPS [Switched Mode
Power Supply] which powers the regular desktops to charge the XOs. The
main purpose of the SMPS is to provide a regulated DC supply from the
AC mains, to which it is connected. The standard SMPS comes with two
levels of DC voltage as the output; one is 5 V and the other is 12
V. To operate a computer and its various parts both are needed. The 12
V supply is given to parts like the motors which operate inside the
HDDs. Whereas the 5 V supply acts like the logic 1, 0 V being
logic 0 for the binary operations to be performed on the digital
devices, that is the transistors. The current capacity of the SMPS is
about Amps. This is more than sufficient to safely charge about 10
XOs. So from one SMPS we can safely charge 10 XOs.

4.1 Now, how exactly it was to be done?
========================================

So what we did was to get the SMPS about Rs. 440 at Lamington
Road. Derive a power cable from one of the many outputs given
there. Then from that one output we would need to draw 10 outlets for
charging the XOs. The number 10 seemed to be reasonable to be drawn
from a 400 W SMPS.

Anyways so the steps for the construction went as follows:

Draw the 12 V supply from the SMPS, that is, the yellow wire and the
ground, the black.

The first thing that we did was to cut the first main wire for about a
metre. This wire was of 25 guage, the gauge has to be high for the
main cable as it has to draw power for all the 10 XOs.

Now for connecting the main power cable to the SMPS, we needed the
female connectors and join this to the output of power supply. This is
the same thing which goes inside your IDE drives. But in this case we
wil be deriving the 12 V supply and not touching the 6 V
supply. Making this connection requires a bit of skill, as we
discovered later, the joints were shaky, even after all the crimping
that we did. They had to redone at Jude’s office.

Now after the first metre of the main power cable, we attached 4 more
wires, 2 black and 2 red. One each black and red wires were braided
and ended in the DC jack for the XOs. So at the first `T’ joint we had
two outputs for the XOs. For the joint itself, we had 8 wires coming
there. So we soldered the wires. Jude suggested that we could get what
are known as `shorting caps’ for making the final product.

Now this step was repeated for the remaining 4 `T’s. So at the end
voila we had a mass charger for the OLPC.

5 The Short
~~~~~~~~~~~

So we tested our creation with 10 XOs, being charged simultaneously by
the charger. But there was a problem, the joints started to heat
up. There was a short some where in the circuit. We did not test for
continuity. So we had to redo the entire thing again. 😦

The short was finally found in one of the DC jacks, which when twisted
and pressed, had a protrusion which actually punctured the other wire
and thus shorted the entire circuit. Finally after almost re-doing the
entire circuit, we were on our way to test our charger.

With all the XOs attached. The light on the battery indicator of the
XOs was red and amber. Then slowly after almost an hour, slowly one by
one, the XOs were being charged, indicated by the indicator becoming
green. 🙂

Laboratory of The Mind

 Having gone through the book Robert Browns Laboratory of Mind – Thought Experiments in Natural
Sciences, I have taken the following notes. Though the book starts with examples from a varied disciplines it culminates trying to interpret the EPR paradox in a way. Though an interesting book to read for a philosopher of science. I would have liked to see some detailed discussions on some of the thought experiments, the book could have been more aptly titled  Thought Experiments in [Quantum]  Sciences, though there is an entire chapter on Einstein, who is the master of such thought experiments, equaled only by Galileo.

 Quotes

  As I was sitting in my chair
  I knew the bottom wasn’t there,
  Nor legs nor back, but I just sat,
  Ignoring little things like that.

  Logic alone cannot give us great wealth of mathematical results.

   since abstract objects if they did exist would be unknowable.

    just as no experiment in physics is really crucial, so no argument
    in philosophy is really conclusive. 73

    In reality the very opposite happens. It is the theory which
    decides what we can observe…’ 106

    the crucial difference between Einstein and those who make the
    correspondence with experimental fact the chief deciding factor
    for or against a theory: even though the ‘experimental facts’ at
    that time very clearly seemed to favor the theory of his opponents
    rather than his own, he finds the ad hoc character of their
    theories more significant and objectionable than an apparent
    disagreement between his theory and their ‘facts’. 120

    As Heisenberg put it, This probability function represents a
    mixture of two things, partly a fact and partly our knowledge of a
    fact’ (1958, 45). 128

    What is even meant by ‘an interpretation of the QM formalism’ is
    somewhat vague. Logicians have a precise notion of
    ‘interpretation’ or ‘model of a formal system’, but that won’t do
    here. To start with, the formalism is already partially
    interpreted; it is hooked to observational input and output in a
    clear and unambiguous way.  This partial interpretation is called
    the minimal statistical interpretation. What it can do is handle
    everything observable. It is often favoured by those who advocate
    an instrumentalist outlook for scientific theories in general. But
    our interest is with how the world really works, not just with
    making successful observable predictions. Only those lacking a
    soul are content with the minimal statistical interpretation. 131

    In many (perhaps all) scientific theories, there are elements
    which are taken as just brute facts. For instance, in Newton’s
    physics, inertia is an unexplained explainer; it accounts for
    other phenomena, but is itself unaccounted for. Are EPR
    correlations like that? 146

* Questions
1. When we see one swan to be white we do not conclude immediately
   that all swans are white. But on the other hand we conclude that
   all gold atoms have the same atomic number 79. Why is there an
   asymmetry between the two modes of thought?

2. Why does 3>2 seems intuitively pretty obvious, whereas `proton is heavier than
   electron’ does not?

3. Quine says, our conviction that 2+2=4 does not stem from laboratory
   observations, no matter how carefully performed or often
   repeated. Comment.

4. How would things be different if there were no abstract objects but
   everything else, including our ‘intuitions’, remained the same?

5. Is Newton’s first law only vacuously true? Let me elaborate on
   this. The first law as known states the following:

   /A body will continue its state motion or rest, unless it is acted
   upon by a force./
  
   Now how do we do this experiment in real? Can we have /any/ test
   body which is far away from any other body, so that there are /no/
   forces acting on the test body? If not, then how can we be assured
   about the validity of the first law?

6. Though we often now make fun of theories like phlogiston, caloric
   or aether, they were actually successful to some degree in their
   day and were believed by reasonable people. (Maxwell once said that
   the aether theory was the best confirmed in all science.) The
   physical world somehow or other contributed to the production of
   these rational, but false, beliefs. How is it that a (physical)
   world that contains no phlogiston, caloric, or aether can somehow
   be responsible for bringing about the phlogiston, caloric, and
   aether theories?

Seeing Red

Recently I came across a book called Seeing Red by H. Arp.
The book questions the fundamental ideas in the Big Bang Cosmology.
The basic idea that is questioned is that the Distance-redshift relation; that
is the more redshift and object has more distant it is from us. This idea forms
the bedrock on which the Big Bang Theory rests. So questioning this idea is out
of question for the Big Bang theorists. But even when an observation occurs which
does not confirm these ideas, it is so to speak, swept under the carpet, literally. When
the data confirms the beliefs that they hold; namely the theory; then the instrument is
working fine, when it does not, it is noise; the instrument is faulty.

Also it points out in the red tapism in the scientific community, where one follows
the leader or gets isolated, as  is the case with Arp. The opaqueness in the `peer review’
process is higlighted by numerous examples which arp cites in his interactions with
editors and referees for the prestigious journals in Astronomy. The very value of democratic
process in science is under question, so are the naive ideas of Popper who thought that scientists
always try to falsify their own theories. Here it seems it is the opposite case, with scientists
trying to suppress the observations which contradict with their own pet theories, by all
possible means, most of them un-ethical for a scientist, at least in theory. Along with the
journals, the conferences are also exposed, in which only the already set theories are entertained
with no data which questions the popular theories are allowed to be shown, which is the very
spirit of science. When every thing else fails the integrity of the person is under question.

The last chapter is a must read for all students of science.
Here are some of the quotes from the text:

 Quotes from Seeing Red

**
   09
  “No matter how conclusive the evidence, we have the power to
   minimize and suppress it.”

   12
   Scientists, particularly at the most prestigious institutions, regularly suppress and ridicule findings
   which contradict their current theories and assumptions.
  
   The average astronomer, however, would look at them and start to
   argue that they must be accidental, because astronomers now feel
   compelled to fit the observations to the theory and not vice versa.
  
   13
   But no matter how intimidatingly complex the calculation, no
   matter how small the probability of accident may be, the
   calculation does not tell you whether the result is true or not. In
   fact, no matter how significant the number is, scientists won’t
   believe if they don’t want to.
  
   14
   A reasonable response would be to notice such a case and say,
   “If I see a few more cases like this I will have to believe it is
   real.” Most astronomers say, “This violates proven physics
   [i.e. their assumptions] and therefore must be invalid. After all,
   no matter how improbable, it is only one case.”

  17
  The paper was also testimony to the fact that sensible analysis
  of observations was being blocked and ignored, while the high
  profile journals were submerged with a flood of elaborations of
  incorrect assumptions which prevented anyone from remembering
  anything important for more than a few years.

  21

  The establishment always confuses data with theories.

  Clearly, the main purpose of these “review of the theory talks” was
  to fix firmly in everyone’s mind what the party line was so that all
  observations could be interpreted properly.

  23

  Shortly thereafter, the Space Telescope Science Institute
  announced it was suspending the amateur program because it was “too
  great a strain on its expert personnel.”

  Professionals start out with a theory and only see those details
  which can be interpreted in terms of that theory.

  The reason the point is so sensitive is that the influential people
  in the field know what the observations portend, but they are too
  deeply committed to go back. The result will surely be to inexorably
  push academic science toward a position akin to that of the medieval
  church. But if that is the evolutionarily necessary solution, then
  perhaps we should hasten the process of replacing the present system
  with a more effective mode of doing science.

  25

  “Well I know you can’t be right, but I will help you where I can.”

  36

  Martin Elvis from the Cambridge Center for Astrophysics (CFA)
  jumped up and said, “That’s noise.” I argued that you could see that
  it was not noise.

  75

  One thing has been accomplished, though. I now understand what
  should be called the statistics of nihilism. It can be reduced to a
  very simple axiom: “No matter how many times something new has been
  observed, it cannot be believed until it has been observed again.” I
  have also reduced my attitude toward this form of statistics to an
  axiom: “No matter how bad a thing you say about it, it is not bad
  enough.”

  91

  “If you are wrong it doesn’t make any difference, if you are right it
  is enormously important.”

  175

  I feel very strongly about what happened and I want to make my
  position clear: Astrophysical Journal Letters is the normal journal
  for publishing new observations from the Hubble Space Telescope. The
  telescope cost billions of dollars of public funds. The vast
  majority of page charges which pay for the publication of the
  journal come from government supported contracts. The overriding,
  first directive of the editor is to communicate important new
  astronomical results. If the editorial process violates its primary
  responsibility, it misuses public funds.

  261

  But the fatal flaw, it seems to me, is that people who are
  interested in power are spurred by emotions which interfere with
  their reason.

Azlan Shah Cup 2010

Well so far so good.
We are the defending champions in the Azlan Shah Hockey tournament for 2010.
Last year we won it, I wrote a post about that here.

This years things aren’t looking bad either.

Our matches so far:

Thursday, May 6
China v India
India drew 1-1

Friday, May 7
Pakistan v India
India won 4-1

Sunday, May 9
South Korea v India
India won 3-2

Update 01:

Monday, May 10
Australia v India
India won 4-3

Yes! We did it!! Finally !!!
Forthcoming

Wednesday, May 12
 India v Malaysia
India Lost 5 – 2

Saturday, May 15
India v Egypt
India won 7-1

Lets see how the results are and hope for the best.

Update:
From the official website: http://www.azlanshahcup.com

MEDIA RELEASE
Due to bad weather, the final between India and Korea was abandoned after 6 minutes and 14 seconds minutes of play. And after discussions and consultations beyween the Tournament Director Paul Richards, the Organising Committee, with the consent of His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah decided that India ad Korea will be joint champions for the 19th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Both teams will receive 11 champions medals and arrangements will be made to send another 11 champions medals to both countries by the Organising Committee.
This is the 5th title for India and 2nd for Korea. And since the inception of the Azlan Shah Cup, this is the first time that teams have been declared joint champions.

So this year also we are the champs!!

Anonymous Stranger

Last month I has a strange experience with a anonymous stranger.
I call the person anonymous is because the identity of that person is not known to me. I received a SMS which has some riddle like lines..
This led to an exchange of SMS which I am reporting here.
This is a monologue, which some people in the past have accused me of doing, for the reason that `Save sent msgs’ function is disabled on my phone. So feel free to fill in the in between SMS on my side, where you want to

It all started with these two messages from this number 902856xxxx
[The numbers at the beginning are YEAR:MONTH:DAY:HOURS:MINUTES]


2010:04:14:00:46: Yews over unwilling. Restless elated yet. Elated sumer amply relumes each..
2010:04:14:16:36: Each Not Chancing His Arrival Not To Ingenuity Not Green

I tried to call, then  all other SMS came from this number, when 909612xxxx

2010:04:14:20:31: Dont dont dont call.. Look what happens when you do.. Now i have to text you from this number..
2010:04:15:20:35: so i assume you could not decipher the first two text s code
2010:04:16:21:15: Ok lets take it this way.. If you dont want me to text give me a missed and if you want dont react.. I highly suspect we have the prevalence of the former here.. So please go ahead..
2010:04:16:22:05: You know you are like pepin but of course in only your stubborn and nonchalant ways..
2010:04:17:09:41: Finally.. Not that i know what s m means but still its porgress.. Did you decode?
2010:04:17:09:47: Attitude.. It like it.. Infact i think you should patent it.. For obvious  reasons you know..
2010:04:17:10:01: Ok now amit s again become pepin.. Tell me are my text so loathable or its just you..
2010:04:17:11:27: Ok so my texts are not good and you are intended upon talking in monosyllables.. At least we agree on one thing.. Its progress again..
2010:04:17:14:07: didnt intend upon disturbin bt i texted n it ws nt deleverin so i thought i hav troubled u 2 d extend of switchin off ur phone..wanted 2 ask if u really dont like.. I wont text.?
2010:04:17:14:11: Yea i know you want to say ‘your wish’.. cos i started.. But seriously you can say bluntly..
2010:04:17:14:16: Oh regarding choice between texting or not texting or something more difficult..
2010:04:17:14:22: Ah.. Thats  what i meant by difficult.. No nothing.. Nothin at all infact.. Lets save us both some messages.. You : then why are you texting me. Me : nothing particular but i ll stop the moment you tell me to.. you: ….. Me : oks… Now you can complete..
2010:04:17:14:25: Flattered..
2010:04:17:14:25: At least pepin thinks i m worth hmmm s..
2010:04:17:14:28: Ok then.. Do think.. Do what you rmind says.. What is it saying now..
2010:04:17:14:36: Ok forget if you dont want to answer.. Or still wordless.?
2010:04:17:14:43: Come on pepin.. Ok dont try to know your mind. Its complex.. Ask me who has been trying to extract replys from you all week..
2010:04:17:14:45: Oh god.. Will you ever reply without me asking you a question..
2010:04:17:14:53: He was french dictator.. Reminds of you..
2010:04:17:14:59: Angry?
2010:04:17:15:02: Hmmm.. So you know him..
2010:04:17:15:13: Cute.. but dont know try to know him personaly.. not a nice guy..
2010:04:17:15:17: Why not.. I know all dictators personally..
2010:04:17:15:19: Ok.. Who s your ideal person.. O mean you admire the ideas of whom,, Somebody i would know..
2010:04:17:15:26: Lets see if i am a physicist if would like chandrashekhar or einstein or stephen hawking.. Read breif hostory of time? Its beautiful..
2010:04:17:15:30: Come on pepin… Say na..
2010:04:17:15:34: Khan
2010:04:17:15:38: ?
2010:04:17:15:44: Yeah y him.. He was worse than pepin.. Are you kidding..
2010:04:17:15:58: Please talk in more than one word.. Its difficult you know..
2010:04:17:16:30: Kay zhala..
2010:04:17:16:33: :-).. Am i very boring.. Yes you are interesting..
2010:04:17:16:55: That means yes?
2010:04:17:17:02: That is because you.. No first answer.. Am i really boring..
2010:04:17:17:03: Or moderately so..
2010:04:17:17:19: At least yes or no..
2010:04:17:17:24: Can you know if you ll talk to me..
2010:04:17:17:25: Did you realise this was your longest sentence
2010:04:17:17:26: No.. I m otherwise very boring.. Its better on text..
2010:04:17:17:27: Yup.. Your highness is gettin better..
2010:04:17:17:31: No.. I m otherwise very boring.. Its better on text..        
2010:04:17:17:32: Yup.. Your highness is gettin better..
2010:04:17:17:35: You feelin it.? Because for me its like.. Come on girl.. Come up with something cool..
2010:04:17:17:48: The signal is bad here.. Airtel sucks.. And what else s going on..
2010:04:17:17:50: Ok mr pepin but please say more that two words..
2010:04:17:17:51: Okay chose one.. Sea or moutain.. Orange or red.. Cat or dog..
2010:04:17:17:54: Afraid? Of what 🙂 I have given up on studies.. How s your ph d going..
2010:04:17:17:59: No silly.. Given up means going okay okay..
2010:04:17:18:00: Y u got married..
2010:04:17:18:00: Sounding so sad like hmmm..
2010:04:17:18:02: Okay chose one.. Sea or mountain.. orange or red.. Cat or dog..
2010:04:17:18:04: Sea or moutain..
2010:04:17:18:05: Cat or dog..
2010:04:17:18:05: Yaar amit i dont know.. Y would otherwise i ask you..
2010:04:17:18:10: Ok.. You are somebosy who gets angry unexpectedly, likes travelling, loyal to very very limited people and.. Okay select one.. Eyes or nose..
2010:04:17:18:12: And think what people are from inside is more mp that what people look..
2010:04:17:18:13: .Am i correct or wrong. What percent
2010:04:17:18:24: You know this is what is unexpected.. The moment i think you are ok you become cold again.. Ok you only say since my talks are vague apparently
2010:04:17:18:27: Your game.?
2010:04:17:18:30: Cute but.. Anyways..
2010:04:17:18:32: Its just too early… And by the way mr pepin my knowing your identity is default.. And playing games.. Not my cup of tea
2010:04:17:18:33: Well you r naive.. Lets assume for the moment what you said was cute..
2010:04:17:18:35: Ok then it is.. Do you realise.. One sms includes more than sixty char nad you use just two of them.. National wastage..
2010:04:17:18:35: Ok fav author..?
2010:04:17:18:36: Coffee.?
2010:04:17:18:38: Amit say na..
2010:04:17:18:40: Say one.. You are such a spoilsport..
2010:04:17:18:45: Yeah since i am an expert on abbreviations that one beats me..
2010:04:17:18:47: Ok..
2010:04:17:18:51: Kay zhala again?
2010:04:17:19:10: So what does sm really mean
2010:04:17:19:11: No say na..
2010:04:17:19:12: Come on say na
2010:04:17:19:14: I understood that pepin.. But justified enough.. I m keeping my share of identity so you can keep your sm to yourself..
2010:04:17:19:16: No my initials are not that.. But whats that.. Where did you get it from..
2010:04:17:19:17: No ad they are not my initials..
2010:04:17:19:19: No.. Come on.. I m hidin.. Will not lie..
2010:04:17:19:21: Yeah.. I really dont know where you are getting that from but do tell me..
2010:04:17:19:21: Say na whats sm
2010:04:17:19:24: And you have appeal for..?
2010:04:17:19:25: Seriously..
2010:04:17:19:27: No not why not at all.. Cool..
2010:04:17:19:33: Kay zhaka again?
2010:04:17:19:38: Ok.. Will text you once i am in a position to disclose my identity.. Take care..

I really don’t know what sense to make out of all this…

A long due rant…

Writing after a long time…

A long overdue rant…
Now a days I find a lot of hoo-halah going on about saving energy for a greener future and all that. They say it is the need of the hour. I don’t disagree with them. But there are somethings which are basically wrong in implementing the saving electricity in the current norms. Saving electricity would also mean, not to use it when it is not really needed. I will elaborate a bit on what I mean.

Rich get to eat, the [little bit] less rich do not…

I live in Mumbai, the erstwhile Bombay. Maharashtra is facing an acute shortage of power, they tell us. But Mumbai, being the financial capital of the country, needs to be lighted up, 24×7, 365 times in a year. I am told that people here can pay for the electricity that they use, it is much more needed here. Do they mean people elsewhere in the state cannot pay and they do not need energy? They do pay, and they do need energy too. Then why this bias, against the people who are not in Mumbai. Whereas Mumbai gets an UPS, the Un-interrupted Power Supply, the other cities are getting the IPS, not the Indian Police Service, but the Interrupted Power Supply. Ok. Granted that Mumbai is the financial hub and needs to be powered 24×7, but are people in Mumbai even bothered about the kind of power that they waste. Compare this with 12 and 14 hrs of load shedding in the villages. The entire life cycle of people there is now regulated by the cycle of load shedding. They need to water their farms in the night, as during day time there is no electricity for them to use.

Power in Mumbai is wasted because, they can afford to waste it, they know it has an UPS. In similar logic none of the metros should suffer, but this does not happen. All others except Mumbai suffer.

And what happens in Mumbai, huge billboards, flashing the products of corporate houses are lighted through the night. Why the hell should other common people suffer, in distant lands, so that the corporates can show off their products in the night time. Having the billboards itself is an eyesore across the city. A billboard bathing in flood lights is like poking the eyesore. Just shut the lights off the billboards. This is sheer lavish way of spending the sparse energy way we have. Another similar phenomena is the lighting that is put up on the hotels and shops and the neon signs on the building. Needless to say are the customers moths, who go to neon-lighted stores? And during Diwali and New Year times this particular phenomena reaches the peak. Just get over it.

And the ACs. They say 40% of the total power is consumed by the ACs. Most of the office buildings are dotted with ACs. The more you have better it is supposed to be. Are they must? Throughout the year? Maybe sometimes the heat is unbearable but isn’t weather in Mumbai ever good enough that we can just survive on humble old ceiling fan? Many of the so called modern constructions, especially buildings with glass faces are worst of the lot. They just lock the heat, making it a green house, which makes it harder to cool adding to the energy woes. This might be a good design for the Europeans and Americans but for us is it? Since the Europeans were tie and coat, we also do, and it is considered to be elite. Whether it suits our weather conditions or not is another issue altogether, about which few bother…

The centralized AC does not provide any flexibility to the end users, whether they want such conditioned air or not. It is just imposed upon them. The temperature is kept less than what you would find comfortable at 17 or 18 C. Then people who are working inside wear warm clothes; sweaters, jackets, caps and all the woollens. Is this rational? First you cool the place, so much that it becomes unbearably cold, then you put on clothes to get warm again! I was told that at an elite academic institute, the temperatures are so low, that users had to put electrical heaters, below their chairs, in order to be able to work, apart from the woollens and jackets!!

Mighty Magnificent Malls…

They say that so-so mall is the largest in Asia. This one has so-so features, this one has so many stores blah blah blah… To tell you the truth, all the malls I have visited across the country look the same to me. I mean from outside they may have varied designs, but from inside they are all the same. And why shouldn’t they be, they all serve just one purpose. Selling. And selling to you. In this case the form differs [at least externally], but the function remains the same. And what do these offer. Well almost all the malls offer the same things. They are statistically similar objects. I mean here and there, there will be variations, but on an average, they are all the same. They are also same for another reason, they are the most obscene wastage of scanty electrical power that we have. The entire mall is air-conditioned, they tell you! What the efff? Just think about how much power must be fed to the AC plant to cool such a huge place. And that too for what? So that some shopkeepers [mostly corporates] can sell their stuff to you! And you are paying the price, by purchasing the items in the mall. Why can’t they just keep the shops, air conditioned, that will surely save a lot of energy. Why the hell do you need the corridors, open spaces and the toilets air conditioned? Then they have escalators too. Are all of us too old to climb a few stairs? The normal stairs are hidden somewhere in the huge complex of the magnificent mall. So that they make it a point that you have to use the escalators!
One of the ways in which this can be salvaged somehow is that, each mall must keep one day in a week off. This will surely take some load off the main line.

Another point that I want to make is the sports matches. Why cannot we have all the matches in broad daylight? I think daylight, on a normal cloudless day is good enough for any sport. Are the players afraid of getting sun tan? I don’t think so. Just to fill coffers of a few, we are again spending our precious electrical energy on these activities, which can be easily avoided.

Smarter buildings and homes…

We now live in a digital society. By that I mean almost all of us are surrounded by electronic devices. Even if you think you are not a tech freak, which I am, just count the number of electronic devices you use daily. It can be cell phone, a music player, a digital camera, a handy cam, a computer, a laptop. The list will be different for you, but the same story is repeated almost with everyone. Now when you have so many devices, they need power to work. Alright most of them have a rechargeable set of batteries, which you can charge and use. And then for each of these devices, you have an adapter, which you have to put in the mains to use. The mains in India is at 230 V AC, most of the devices, that I use at least, are working at much lower DC voltages 3, 5, 9 and 12 V being the common ones. The adapters covert the AC of the mains line to DC. This is basically a step down transformer with a bridge rectifier. Now what happens to the excess power from the mains? This is just lost as heat to the ambient! How hot does your charger get at times? Now that we have so many devices which require DC power supply, won’t it be a logical solution to provide for a DC power line also. This will save so much power from the mains, being just used to heat the adapter. The power requirement [read wattage] of the DC line won’t be high. So this need not be even provided by the state. One can have independent inputs for each building. Fixing solar panelson the terrace, and then driving the DC line through these panels will an effective way. The new buildings that are coming up, can be made mandatory to have this structure. This will achieve two goals, as I see it. First one, it will make the load on the main line, by at least some amount. If you just take the cell phones, they say there are more than 10 crore of them in India. Each one of them charges the other day, and this continues throughout the year. Even with a small wattage requirement for charging of just one cell phone, when scaled to a national level, the number is rather large. And then we say we don’t have enough power. The second one is that it will make the users independent producers of their own power. The initial cost maybe high, but in the long run, this will certainly pay off.

 Some of the chargers, adapters that I have.

Apart from devices mentioned above, don’t think that your regular desktop computer is not wasting any power. Any regular desktop has a SMPS [Switched Mode Power Supply]. These are really devices which are the adapters for your desktop. They take in 230 V AC and convert it to 12 and 5 V DC supply. With CRT monitors it was almost impossible to have a complete DC system for desktop computers. But now with LCD and LED monitors, we can have a complete DC machine architecture. When you are using the normal UPS on a desktop machine, you are triply wasting power. First when you are converting 230 V AC to the 12 V DC in the battery [most of the UPS that I have seen have a12 V DC battery] in the UPS batteries. Secondly when the mains is off you are coverting 12 V DC  into 230 V AC. Thirdly then you again convert this 230 V AC, which you have just now converted from a 12 V DC, to 5 and 12 V DC. Great! And this is how you want to achieve efficiency. Simple solutions to basic problems like these can cause a lot of energy to be saved…

Now I will divulge a bit from what I have said till now. Now the theme is a bit different…

The Problem of Vidharbha…

I come from Vidharbha, the land in the central part of India. The Eastern part of Maharastra. And also the powerhouse for the state. Most of the thermal power plants are in Vidharbha. The plight of people here is the worst. With so many power plants around, the region still faces acute shortage of power. The reason, the rest of the state has to be supplied the power. And mind you most of the ministers of the state are not from Vidharbha, so the people here are in the bottom of the priority list. Just remember the suicide of the farmers and what the state has done about it.
In my last visit I could see a paradoxical situation, which has been etched on my mind. I saw a thermal power plant, burning all its coal, giving out all its steam, producing all its electricity and transfering it all to the main power lines. But… But from where I was standing and watching this huge power plant fully in operation, there was no power. The load shedding was ON. The irony was that one could watch the power being generated in the plant, but it was not for the people whose land, air and water were polluted, it was for the elite people in the West…

Love, but know not why

Love, but know not why

Love not me for comely grace,
For my pleasing eye or face,
Nor for any outward part;
No, nor for my constant heart:
For those may fail or turn ill, —
So thou and I shall sever.

Keep therefore a true woman’s eye,
And love me still, but know not why:
So hast thou the same reason still
To doat upon me ever.

– Anonymous

Gather ye rosebuds…

Gather ye rosebuds…

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is the best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be coy not, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

– Robert Herrick

Sophia…

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom and getteth understanding…
She is more precious than rubies, and all that thou hast cannot be compared unto her.
Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left riches and honor.
Her are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

From Proverbs 3:13-17

Quotable Sandman…

I have been reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series recently. Out of the 10 first volumes I have completed 8 and two are still remaining. The Sandman is the Lord of Dreams, and I have found a few lines worth quoting from the series…

And what do you want from me?
Everything. What else is there to want?

Am I dreaming?
Not a bit of it. Quite the reverse if anything.

Getting what you want and being happy are two quite different things.

If you have nothing left to want, then you just wait until there is nothing left to wait for.

You really are just what you look like you are.

I do not know. I think so.

We do not represent them. We are them.

They say death is kinder than he is.

His hot fingers are already invading her soft curves and moist crevices.

Sleep until life wakes you.

It isn’t fair, but it is right.

Eventually, it begins to get dark.

There is a joy in there, of course, and love, and touching.
The presence that makes the absence unbearable.

Her kiss is a deep ocean.
Her kiss is not a deep ocean.
Her kiss is the grey sky.

Her kiss is a blind alley.

Her kiss is her touch is her breath
is her fingers is what remains
after the laughing is over.

Her kiss is the blackness.
Her kiss is not the blackness.

Her kiss is a black dog.
That follows you in the darkness.

And people ask,
Does despair despair?
Does dream dream?
Does desire desire?

Is everything over?
No, its just begun.

If you can’t be happy when you are, you can’t be happy anywhere.

Hell is other people.

To be despair. It is a portrait.
Only close your eyes and feel.

They are after all, all we have.

Who knew? Who could have known?

I have heard the language of the apocalypses, and now I will embrace silence.

That’s not unlikely. This is unlikely.

You don’t believe me. I don’t mind, I don’t always believe me either.

It cannot be stolen. It cannot be given away.

Perhaps one of our problems may prove a solution to the other.

But this kind of thing, doesn’t happen to you, does it? It happens to other people.

I am coming, though the way is ardous and strange.

My admiration doesn’t lessen my anger.

Great stories will always return to their original forms.

I have learnt from my mistakes, but I have had more time to commit more mistakes.

She isn’t yours Nathan. She belongs to no one, except herself.

A black mirror made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront.

For all of you, the dream is over. I have taken it away from you.

I don’t understand it, but I believe it.

If my dream was true, then everthing we know, everything that we think we know is a lie.

When its just you and a blank sheet of paper.

If that is what you wish, it is done.

Is anything forever?

It’s a fools prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak.

His folly, is no fault of mine.

I am that merry wanderer of night.

It never happened and yet it is true.

And it is forever summers twilight…

And I wonder, why I wonder…

But the price of getting what you want, is getting what you once wanted.

Things need not have happened to be true.

You make your own hell.

And who might you be?

But I know of things no one else knows.

To absent friends, lost loves and old gods, and the season of mists; may each and every one of us give the devil his due.

…as if merely saying something were enough to make it true.

…it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.

We do what we must. Lucien. Sometimes we can choose path we follow, sometimes choices are made for us. And sometimes we have no choice at all.

Innocence, once lost, can never be regained.

The kind where you know it is a nightmare, but you still can’t wake yourself up.

I think hell is something you carry around you, not somewhere you go.

Your impertinence invites my severest displeasure.

Times have changed and we have changed with them.

Do not wander from the path when you return.

If only it were that easy.

I never thought disposing of the unwanted would be so hard.

There must be a hell, for without hell heaven has no meaning.

As such though I regret it, I cannot fault it.

Tell her that we need to talk.

We will hurt you and we are not sorry.

The land is far from lost.

So what are we waiting for, exactly? I mean, if that is not a dumb question?

However, I am not sure that I know the answer.

We are in the twilightzone.

I don’t have to kill a rabbit, do I?

Shit in one hand and wish in other, see which fills up first.

I’d been lying so hard I’d convinced myself I was telling them the truth.

Sometimes inaction itself is action.

It was freely given and well meant.

I don’t think home is a place anymore. I think it is a state of mind.

For they have sown the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind.

We should take our goodbyes whenever we can.

Liberty is a bitch who must be bedded on a matress of corpses.

Tyranny like hell is not easily conquered.

The truth here is a matter of conjecture.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem to lightly.

We write our names in the sand, then waves roll and wash them away.

She ought to be mine, but she isn’t, is she?

His madness keeps him sane.

What more than that a man could desire?

For the lesson perhaps, if for nothing else.

Values’s in what people think. Not in what’s real. Value’s in dreams, boy.

You shouldn’t trust the storyteller; only trust the story.

wishes are best left sometimes ungranted…

Am I arguing with a dream?

I’ll wake you up and you will go where dreams go.

And forewarned is seldom forearmed.

You come in, you do not go out again.

A good mystery can last forever.

For those were the days of wonder.

It is unwise to summon what you cannot dismiss.

It has been far too long since we sat beneath the summer moon together and talked of pleasant fripperies, of that and this, and left others to speak sensible things of import and consequence.

I do not wish. I know. What must happen, will happen.That is the way of it.

There’s is something I want and I can’t have it and I am going to take it anyway. That’s my problem.

Somethings are too big to be seen, some emotions are too huge to be felt.

I think you are more in love with the idea of your dead love than you were with the girl herself.

There will be conditions, but then, there always are.

Thou hast made the furies cry.

There are always rules.

He is not one to forget a slight. Nor to forgive.

But he does not change. He will not. Perhaps he cannot.

You do not give. We take.

But you have made your own errors. It was your own life.

I’m not blessed or merciful. I’m just me.

Someone once brought me a flower, clandestinely. That means I do not know who it was. And I never saw the flower, either. Maybe they never brought it after all.

Ah, that is unlike you.What’s wrong?

And it distresses me to see you troubled.

I hate being nowhere.

We shall seek answers. We may seek questions also.

Shadow plays of memory are forever being enacted, on paths that you walked on not too long ago.

Life is a strange way of describing our experience.

I can do that if I have to.

And somebody said he wouldn’t keep going on about a perfectly understandable mistake that anyone could have made.

Don’t drink the cup, just the coffee.

Because there’s no such thing as one sided coin.

Why does it seem like none of us, know what we are doing?

Nothing new can exist without destroying the old.

One cannot begin a new dream without abandoning the last.

Life like time is a journey through darkness.

What’s done can’t be undone.

We do not always accomplish what we set out to do.

Our journey is over, all debts are paid.

… in a manner of recognizing a line from a familiar poem in a strange book.

Nobody is fine on their own. people need people.

It wasn’t that the things got bad, but they were no more spectacularly good.

And you never get to learn what happens to anyone else.

It is fearful thing to be haunted by those who loved you once, it is fearful to haunt those one loves.

There is a thin line between intoxication and unconsciousness, and I think he is about to cross it.

There are rumours, but that is all they are.

Like there was nothing left to hold on to. Nothing left to believe.

Ghalib and communication…

Nawab Agha Khan Ashq wrote the following lines about Ghalib, which I think also applies to a lot of `intellectuals’.

अगर अपना काहा तुम अाप ही समझे तो क्या समझे?
मजा कहने का तब है, एक कहे अैार दुसरा समझे
जुबान मिर लिखे अैार कलाम सैादा समझे
मगर ईनका काहा ये अाप समझे या खुदा समझे.

(If only you understand what you have composed, what is one to do?
The joy of composing is when one composes and others understand too
When Meer writes and Sauda say we understand
But his couplets only he understands and God, its true.)

D…

Well, I am D.
Now what does this D stands for, some call it a family name…
It is that, but it stands for something more, something beyond the oblivion…

D is for Desire!

D is for Delight!

D is for Despair!

D is for Delirium!

D is for Dream!

D is for Destiny!

D is for Death!

D is for Damitr!