Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Black Mirror - the side effects of the drug called "Technology"

You always look for triggers to write... and sometimes you need something really strong to jolt you out of a writer's block... or should I call it a blogger's block! If you're wondering what my trigger was... well it was a TV anthology series called "Black Mirror". The name probably doesn't suggest a lot, but a Wikipedia Search helped me understand that the title refers to the many black shiny surfaces we come across in our daily lives... smart phones, tablets, laptops, TV screens, etc. The devices that seem to control more and more of our lives, each day, every day...

"Black Mirror" is a British science-fiction series that dwells on modern society in the near future and the possibilities galore brought upon by technological advancements - unexpected consequences you may call them.

Working in a pharmaceutical company, a particular comment from the series creator, Charlie Brooker, caught my attention - "If technology is a drug, then what precisely are the side effects?" Tech companies for long now have been working on technologies that can make the world a healthier and better place to live, but such a comparison between "tech" & "drug" was quite intriguing... so I watched the series to get a sense of what Brooker meant by "side effects" and the area between "delight and discomfort". If I were to summarize my critique of the series in brief... it's the most believable sci-fi I have ever seen and having said that, it's a bit frightening. The series brings up riveting issues and each time leaving you thinking...that could happen...Read on to get a feeler of what the future may behold, at least as per "Black Mirror" and I couldn't debate much....

Social Media
With interesting takes on the power of social media, it highlights how it could influence simple things such as the press and their decisions to far reaching impacts such as recreating the dead from their online social & multimedia history. So, how different would your reincarnation be from the dead YOU? I guess that depends on how true you were about yourself on social media...Freaky? No? You decide! If you thought we worry about social status too much today... you're in for a surprise. Imagine yourself being scored on a social scale every moment of every day...imagine it altering human behavior towards you and society at large.

We all love Reality TV don't we... so much so that we may end up not realizing how real is "real". And even if it were real, maybe our mad thirst for entertainment could lead us to a horrifying realization that even individual suffering serves as wonderful entertainment. Imagine the future of convict imprisonment and dealing out justice, or should I say "entertainment"? "Ring any bells..."Hunger Games", "The Condemned", "The Truman Show"...

Mind Control
You thought hypnosis was frightening - how about people entering your mind....no, they won't see what's there; only you will... sighing with relief? I'm not too sure if even you want to explore the depths of your own mind - technology triggering your own worst memories. What do you think? You love scary roller coasters that make your hair stand on its ends... well you'll love the future of gaming then....like they say, our worst fears are in our own minds. Ever thought about its impacts on high tech warfare - yes, there's more to worry about than chemical bombs.

The Past & The Future
Wouldn't you love to revisit the past? I know time travel doesn't sound like the near future and as far as I'm concerned, I've dropped its possibilities in my lifetime. But I'm not talking about time travel. How about reliving the past like watching a movie, shot through your own eyes... sounds great doesn't it... there are side effects remember. Maybe you're not a person to dwell on the past...are you among those who think even a 100 years of living is not enough...and you wish to immortalize yourself like god. Medicine couldn't do it, though we have been extending life expectancy.... but what if you had tech that could just let you live better in a new world - a supercomputer world? Sounds kick ass doesn't it... ask around... see what others say?

Of course, this blog and Black Mirror are just the tip of the iceberg. We probably tell many of our loved ones that their gadgets and the Internet have taken over them but soon after we ourselves are immersed in online shopping or solution googling. The fact is that the world shall continue to become a smaller place - true globalization, and we may need to embrace it. However, prepare for the sea-change possibilities that innovative technology may bring our ways - many that may look "safe, necessary and supportive" on the face of it but quite "dangerous, self serving and debilitating" down below.

Any other crazy but possible future side effects of technology coming to your mind?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Bangalore Trip

Have u ever been really misunderstood? Of course you have. We all have been through it. A blog post I wrote in Jan turned out to be too controversial for my taste. Fought with two very important people over it. And then I disappeared into a cocoon, a bit scared of hurting more feelings. But I came back, after a few smiles over the same post - my hands itching to write. And here I am writing again....

Regarding the last few months... LOTS has happened!! I've become an Alumni. I've been hired. I've fought over one of my life's biggest decisions. I've met some old friends after a very very long time. and the vacation still aint over. Some of you who follow me on Facebook, might know what I'm bragging about but for the rest...
  • I've graduated from IIM Indore with a Post Graduate Diploma in Management
  • I shall be joining Pfizer on June 28th
  • Let's skip this one for the time being
  • I traveled to Bangalore and met friends from my days in Kota and Chennai
Yes, I'm still in bullet-point mode. :)
Points 1 and 2 - Not for today, and not for this blog. Point 3 would require a whole new blog or a book.
The Bangalore trip.... that's when the mind starts flowing with words.

They call Bangalore (or should I say Bangaluru) the Silicon Valley of India. Naturally, it's the city where many of my best friends are employed today. In addition to that, a cousin sister and her two great kids... The city becomes an emotional magnet, to which I surrendered this summer. The trip being pretty much unplanned saw me traveling by buses almost everywhere. I hate Railways for allowing people to plan their trips 3 months in advance and then cancel 24 hrs b4 departure, losing just 20 bucks. Madness!!

What was so amazing about the Bangalore Trip? Friends & Family (I'm sure that sounds strange after my previous post, but then again I did say I'm a big sucker for family and even bigger when it comes to friends)... We have strange relations with many members of the family, but with some we just have an understanding, a bonding.. though we meet very little, we feel we can just open up to them. That's how it is with my cousin in Bangalore... even though we're 12 yrs apart by age. and her daughter, well she's a true doll - one gal whom it's so hard to say goodbye to. Some people could really get parenting skills from that pair (I mean my Sis and Jiju). :) It became tough when I had to divide the limited time between her family and my friends out there. But, I'd say I managed pretty well, even though time management isn't my forte.

When we say goodbyes we always think we'll meet people some time soon. Even me.... but that's not how it worked out with my roommate from Kota (Anurag); we met after 6 years, and boy was that a long time for buddies like us. GE had to send that fool off to Bulgaria or Hungary or Bosnia or some country like that.... and hence I was only able to spend about half a day with him, half of which I spent twitching with food poisoning (not what you expect after eating at a place like Sahib Sindh Sultan - awesome decor I must say however). Whatever the pain may have been, the shared nostalgia was amazing!! It felt like we were 18 again, playing cricket, tackling neighbors, sharing meals in Kota again.

There was a touch of Chennai and Indore as well in Bangalore. The former I met after 2 years and the latter... well after 2 months, but both felt like ages. An evening which took us from Shoppers Stop to Hard Rock Cafe to UB City to some restaurant whose name I can't recall (strange considering that I gave my treat there)... followed by a night which some would wish to remember and some.... well..... u know what I mean. ;-) Let's just say we were in high spirits, some more than others. What will I never forget from that day.... Chandu's bag of gold, Raj's constant whining as he sat behind me on his Pulsar :), Gokul's advice and also his description of how TCS mates work, Rudra & Sidhu driving all the way from Chennai, the argument with Swati over the route to her guesthouse, Rijin's photography stints, Raj's community mug, Sachin's persistent efforts to get back home b4 his mom wakes up and well.... my dance (read "hands and legs moving in unknown directions in no particular fashion") and mimickery (no, not of politicians or film stars, but of a German Shepherd and a Pomeranian).

Though I was gone from home for almost a month (including the time spent in Surat & Mumbai), I hardly felt the time pass (unlike my time spent in Udaipur). I just hope Bangalore beckons me again very soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dear Family

A 1000 nails being hammered into my head. That's how it feels right now. Nothing extraordinary - just a severe headache in full force (A result of physical and mental exertion). The former due to a bit of early morning traveling and some very hot weather and the latter due to a Pandora's Box full of reasons. I too hope that, similar to mythological beliefs, once all the pains of this box are released, "hope" is left inside.

You must be wondering what fills my Pandora's Box.... Well, to keep it simple, "Family & Relationships". I know there's loads of hype in this world about family being the first home and how loving and caring family members are... bla bla bla. Fine, all that is great. I agree, it has its benefits. But the heavy burden and pain and tears it also brings along is probably ignored by many. Or maybe some people are just born into perfect families, though I highly doubt that. I truly feel that all blood relations are pretty screwed up. I'm sure it'll be scientifically proved some day that similar gene structures repel each other (A new and evolved Bio-magnetism Theory).

April-June 2010 has been the longest time period I've spent at home since 2002, and I must say, i haven't enjoyed it one bit. I'm honestly sick of all the back-biting and fake love & care shown for each other. I hate that many of us just cant be honest and tell each other how much we hate each others guts. It's frustrating to see how much people compromise and struggle to keep a good face in the family. I find it highly baffling - the capacity which people possess to speak and bother about everything beneath the sky, other than themselves. 

They say "Honesty is the best policy" and "Lying is a bad deed", but then they teach their children lies from Day 1. We call half those lies "Good Manners". The remaining half is eulogized by us Indians as OUR great culture. "Beta, Sabhi ko Pranam bolna" ; "Uncle-Aunty, Bahut achha laga aap padhaare" . The minute they're out the gate, you bitch about them. What the hell??

We worship many relations in India. Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, Husband etc. Yeah, we had our own ways of celebrating them, far before Archies and 123greetings created so-called " ----- Days". How many of us actually love "all the above". If you said Yes, I have a few words for you... "Good, but quit lying to yourself". I'm not saying all family-relationships suck, but yes most DO. We curse the Americans for their rotten culture. Why? Because they're frank? Because they don't tolerate bull shit? Because they say goodbye to relationships which lost their meaning at the age of 15. or sometimes at the age of 4.... or is it because they're over-professional when it comes to family?

I have very rarely seen 2 brothers live "happily ever after", it's not just the Ambani Bros.  We just don't shoot each other (well at least most of the time). Half the marriages in our culture are compromises, but we're greater than the western society coz we stick together like glue and pretend to be hunky dory. Half the kids in our country also hate their old parents. But we have the best culture in this world because we don't send them to old-age homes. I wonder how many of you have witnessed family quarrels... or seen family-wealth division. How much more professional can we get man....

I'm probably one of the biggest family-loving suckers in this world, but I won't lie, not to myself, not to anyone else, maintaining many of these blood-based or should I say gene-based relationships, gives me nightmares and at times a real heart-ache. I once told one of my siblings... "I wish I could keep everyone happy". But I ask myself now... Who am I kidding. It's impossible. We just LOVE to HATE....

P.S. To all those who have the same A-T-G-C structure as me, please don't call me to give me Gyaan. I love you all.... :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Early Morning Phone Call...

How many of you get triggered to write at 8 in the morning, as soon as u get up? Well, I'm writing exactly at that time, except that I haven't slept all night. Am I an Insomniac, a Workaholic, an Owl or just a freak... You'd have to know me for another 50 years to actually decide. So you're wondering what that trigger was? It was an early morning call from a dear friend of mine. It was a pretty interesting call actualy. Very much like 2 ordinary people speaking, except that neither one of us is ordinary.

So, it's just two non-ordinary people speaking about a lot of weird stuff... "sleep" to start off with...and "sleep" to move on with... So much "sleep" talk that I ended up putting this on FB - "Sleep is too over-rated". Of course my dear friend had my best interests at heart and she was just trying to make me realise that "ordinary" people sleep!! Sounded absurd coming from a non-ordinary person like her... :)

Anyways, as I said... Sleep IS over-rated and the talk did eventually shift to other crazier topics. This time the trigger was FB and one of its friend suggestions - "Vineet Nair". The discussion began on "Nair" and I ended up doing a search on Wikepedia, which informed me that the Nairs are a clan from Kerala and are also known as Malayala Kshatriya. That was when I remembered a search I had done last night, about "matriarchal society". Behind that is another long story and another phone call...(Yes, like my friends Neha & Ashish say... I am on my phone a lot). If you're wondering what matriarchal societies are, I'll tell u just enough to keep you interested... It refers to a form of society in which the leading role is taken by the women and especially by mothers of a community. Yes guys, I mean to say exactly what your thinking - Men take their wives' surnames after marriage, women/mothers own all the property, daughters GET all the property. Snap out of your nightmares (or beautiful dreams if you're a gal) coz Wikipedia says this - "There are no known societies that are unambiguously matriarchal." I'm hopeful even though my other friend (the one I was speaking to last night) said that 25 years from now, when I have kids, India might just be a matriarchy. I'm not any prophet, but I find that close to impossible.

All this discussion on Wikipedia facts ended up in my dear friend saying that now she knew what I did all night... Girls are sooooo naive... Sorry was that too cheezy? :)
Anyways, i moved on to more interesting grounds after that... I thought of reading out lyrics of two beautiful songs I had heard a few days back. The words made so much sense... especially me reading them to her. I don't think she realised that either... :)

We spoke about quite a few other things as well...

a) A cheque of mine which I "supposedly" did not tell this friend about (at least not b4 she found out from someone else) and now that cheque is lost in the stationary of SBI probably and never got cashed into my account. I told her - "tumhari nazar lag gai" and asked her not to repeat the same to another cheque coming in 2 days...She replied - "I'll transfer your lost money from my account to yours if you want".. now, if you're thinking..What a gr8 friend... I'll just tell you that she was JOKING and she's a pakka baniya (is the gender right for a gal... dunno).

b) A Teaching Associate at IIM Indore who apparently has a lot of student friends on FB, including my dear friend.

c) A blog - "Wake up and Smell the Coffee" which I was recommending her to read.... This was I believe the time when she commented - "I guess this is the prelude to an author's life" in a very sarcastic but friendly way. I joked back - "Why don't u just say Madness before becoming an Author". She kinda didn't like that joke. She doesn't like a LOT of things about me (my humour being just one of those things which are pretty high up on the list). I got a good verbal bashing for that.... And that was just the start.

Over the course of our 27 minute talk... she got the impression (more than once) that I was asking her to hang up or sleep (never realising that she HERSELF did mention numerous times that she loved sleeping and could take another nap). Anyways, she eventually slammed the phone on me (I don't know if that line works these days, considering that we all use cell phones, but anyways, I'm sure u get the point). I know... How rude of her!! She didn't call back either. Yes... I did, and gave her a nice sentimental line - "You won't always find people who'll call you back" and then I hung up (what did u think I'd do...??). This time she did call back... but it all went down-hill from there.. I could feel the tension between us on the line. It ended with a lot of silence... another one of my crazy jokes and a pretty rough "good bye". No one called after that...

But technology did some more damage. I'm referring to the devil abbreviated as "SMS". She texted a few things... and I wrote back nastier stuff (her fault... she put them in my mouth, or should I say fingers..). That was the end of the beautiful morning... From Great to Nice to Bad to Horrible. Am I saying Sorry to her...?? I'd love to, but I know her too well. She wouldn't care. After a couple of days, she'll just behave as if nothing happened... Suits her. Doesn't suit me but I guess we all live in a matriarchal society in some ways... :)

This post is dedicated to my "Dear Friend"... Friends Forever....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Truth Behind each Mask

In a way, this post is a review of "Adam", the Hugh Dancy-Rose Byrne starring movie released in 2009, however it's a bit more about human behaviour. No I'm not going to get into psychology or philosophy, and you might be intrigued by my views.

First... A brief background about "Adam"... the movie is about Adam, who suffers from Asperger Syndrome, which in turn is the reason for his odd behaviour when it comes to interacting with the society at large. The movie is a sweet romantic comedy with elements of drama included to give seriousness to the characters. Adam seems to survive on - meals consisting of All-Bran Cereal and Macaroni & Cheese and his love for electronics & astronomy (to be honest he's a know-all nerd). His life turns up-side down when he meets Beth who has just moved into the same apartment as him. Beth pulls Adam out of his sheltered life into the true world. The relationship they share is amazing (to say the least), and shows you an extreme case of love between two very different individuals. Anyways, I'll let you watch the movie to enjoy the feel truly.

What i'm interested in bringing out is the innocent honesty of Adam, which of course leads him to people's weird looks on most occasions. Asparger Syndrome (AS) might be called a neurobiological disorder but what's true, is that in many ways it keeps you a child... a child true to himself and true to everyone else. Why is it a disorder? Because we're used to social norms and lies and anyone who doesn't fit into our society is weird? Well, it led me to wonder... aren't we all the one's who have been ruined by age and social up-bringing? Aren't we the ones who wear masks day in and day out? Aren't we the ones who lie to our family, our friends or anyone else for that matter?

Day in and day out, we are expected to understand what other people are thinking. But we aren't ready to just express ourselves without having to lie. We just pretend to understand the world... we're expected to know what our loved ones are feeling, but is it that easy? And are our predictions always correct (ask a boy and girl in a relationship, you'll know what I mean)? We love to hide our true self because we're scared of what people would think about us. Wouldn't it be nice if for once the whole world wore no mask? Wouldn't you like to be honest to every person you interacted with? I think I would... I'd love to discard my mask and be able to speak my heart and mind out, without the fear of "what they would think". The world would be a better place if all of us had an element of AS in us. Initially it might sound difficult, it might sound uncivilized. but in the end, it would be beautiful.... Then again... that's my view. :)

Just one more thing... Do check out these two soundtracks from "Adam" (they're lovely):
"Someone else's life" by Joshua Radin
"When you find Me" by Joshua Radin feat. Maria Taylor

This post is dedicated to all those with Asperger Syndrome

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Author Within...

It's been a habit for me... When I'm supposed to be the busiest in my life, I suddenly seem to find some time to write on my blog. I guess it helps me keep my cool. Yes, i love writing. Today, I finally started to write a novel. ok, now don't give me that look... It's been a dream to write stories, and I lost the touch after the first short story I wrote when I was in Read School, Connecticut (5th Grade). It's become such a distant memory now.

At times I feel that I would've ended up a writer if I stayed in the U.S. But, once back in India, I just ended up following that race of ambitions.. fulfilling the family's dreams... From a Writer to a Doctor to an Engineer to a Manager and Entrepreneur... The first two I never actually became... the third is for namesake... and the last two, well, I guess I'm finally passionate about them.. Education tends to do this to you... You don't need "3 idiots" to learn that... And parents won't change even after they see such movies. :) No, I'm not criticizing the movie! Far from it... I'm a hard core fan of Aamir and loved the movie.

Excuse me for this mindset... It's Placement Season and well... You're mind starts to think this is all trivial. Yeah... Money, fame, recognition.... Who needs all that, right?? Yeah right... Who are you kidding? Unless, you're in your early 60s like my dad, don't even think you're gonna fool anyone. Yeah, we all wana make a difference, but I havent' seen too many people who would do it at the cost of their own careers. Now, you're probably branding me as "Typical IIM Grad". Stop being judgemental, and just read....

Everyone has dreams, right?? You ask kids... They want to be a Painter, a Dancer, a Singer, a Filmstar, a Sportstar... The things he/she finds more glamorous, come higher up the list... I wanted to be a writer.. I was fascinated by the way we could make the world look/behave through our imagination. I loved movies (especially animations like Lion King, Aladdin etc) and wished I could cook up some story like that some day. It was then that a teacher encouraged me to write for the school magazine... and I did. What happened after that... Well, Daddy dearest decided to move back to India and the rest is history... (No, I'm not complaining about having come back here. I'm not a hard core patriot, but I do love India, in many ways... and more than anything else, this place has given me gr8 friends). But yes, after coming back here, it was all about proving your worth to the family. Writing was not a career. Not that I myself ever took it seriously. As I grew up, materialism began to set in. Money became the ever-existing vice. it became "god" at some age. And then, that was history...

What state of my life am I now in....?? The stage where I say to myself... I'll do work that'll make me happy, but not at a very low pay. Money doesn't rule the mind, but "work" does. In management parlons, it's the profile, the JD that matters. But "packages" are always at the side of the mind, in addition to brand names... So we become choosy. We think we deserve better. Never really knowing, when "better" arrives. and so, today, I sat down and began to think... What do I really want. And you know what I came up with...??

I saw myself travelling... Travelling to crazy unknown places... Why? To write... a novel. Meeting people, interacting (through sign language on many occasions) and putting thoughts into words. Not worrying about next week's paycheck, but writing coz I love it. Not to win any Nobel or Booker or Pulitzer... But because I love it!!

Ok, this was not any revelation and I have not decided to become a travelling gypsy, so don't jump to conclusions. :) But I did decide today to start writing... bit by bit... and come up with a short novel. Please don't ask me "when" or "about what". Let the author inside me decide. Maybe I'm just trying to hold on to the ashes of a dead dream. But then again, I'd like to try...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Anger, Boredom, Loneliness and Burning Eyes...

I'm gonna use this post as a scratch notepad today. So if you're looking for something really awesome and interesting to read... Well, then this is probably not the place.. :)

I'm in that state where I'm tired and wish to sleep, but more than that I feel like speaking to a close friend. I can hear people enjoying and shouting around.. all over the hostel, but I'm lonely. I have work to do but my brain is just not motivated enough. You're thinking I've gone nuts. Come on... have you never experienced this? I'm sure you have....

It seems like someone has taken shelter in my eyes and has lit a chimney inside.. They're burning like hell. But I can't sleep.
If only people could understand my state of mind and not be so crazy about sleeping all the time, I'd have someone to talk to. But then again, we expect too much sometimes, and we are mad enough to think that we're entitled to that freedom.
It's strange how some people can speak for hours on the phone but the same can't happen face to face, apparently they wouldn't be able to sleep. I guess my speech is a lullaby to them... Well at least my wife will some day be glad that I put my kids to bed real fast.

Right now, I miss my 2 dogs a lot.. Winny and Punnu (The names might sound timid, but they're ferocious German Shephards). Dogs.... They'll just lie by your side and listen to anything you want to say, even if they're dead tired and SLEEPY. All they need is a litle bit of love. Miss you fella's.

I could go on writing like this forever, but I'm bored of doing this also. Many avid bloggers will say that this post is a piece of trash and that blogs aren't supposed to be written like some Diary. But I don't really give a damn. So if you're planning to comment anything like that... think twice!
Yes, I'm in a foul mood.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wolfram|Alpha - Making all the World's Systematic Knowledge Computable

Google today has become synonymous with "Search". Don't many of us use the phrase - "Google it"? Market shares of Google Search in most countries has been seen to be 80% and more , with few exceptions such as China - 26% (market leader-baidu), South Korea - 3% (market leader-Naver). Thus, one thing's clear - most of us don't go beyond Google when it comes to searching for data over the internet. Is it because Google is the best, or is it because human beings are used to comfort zones and don't always like change? Haven't we seen it in many other cases (Mobile Tele. - Nokia; OS - Windows)? Anyway, I'm not here to study human psychology or evaluate Google's competence, though that might be an interesting area of research in strategy or marketing :). I'm scribbling today to speak about a new search engine I came across recently - Wolfram Alpha.

Named after it's creator Mr. Stephen Wolfram, Wolfram|Alpha (That name may not go too well with Indians! WolfRam??) was launched in May 2009. Wolfram Alpha, unlike google calls itself an "Answer Engine". What's that supposed to mean?? Well essentially, a user would key in a computational query like "San Francisco to Tokyo" and Wolfram's responses would give you data such as distance, flight time, path, city details, etc. It computes and infers these answers using a core knowledge base of curated, structured data. In a way, Wolfram resembles Cyc, an artificial intelligence project that began in 1984 and aimed at assembling common sense knowledge to perform human-like reasoning. Wolfram|Alpha is built on Wolfram's flagship product, Mathematica, a computational software program used in scientific, engineering, mathematical and other areas of technical computing.

Boring? Too technical? Well I'll tell you something interesting about Wolfram... It responds like a human being! So you can ask Wolfram a natural, fact-based question like "How old is Manmohan Singh?" and you'll be given the answer accurate to the day. To have fun, you can try out some of these questions with Wolfram:
1. Who are you?
2. Who is your father?
3. Who am I?
4. Where am I?

Though it's only been 2 months since it's birth and Wolfram has loads to learn, this infant is a fast learner. The data it presently possesses is by no means small. Try keying in "India" or "Microsoft Apple" and see the response! Wolfram also provides you an option to convert and store your query's answer as a pdf. If you still think Wolfram isn't the cool new kid on the block, then check out his very own blog and see what else he can do!

About the Creator - Stephen Wolfram:
Born in London in 1959, Stephen Wolfram is a distinguished scientist, inventor, author and business leader. Wolfram's early scientific work was mainly in the areas of high-energy physics, quantum field theory and cosmology. A PhD holder at the age of 20, Wolfram has devoted his life to Research & Education. It was in late 1986 that he began his research on Mathematica , which has been hailed as a major advance in Computing. Currently, Wolfram is the President & CEO of his company Wolfram Research.

When computers were initially launched, it was imagined that they would eventually have the capability to answer questions the way Wolfram|Alpha does today. Hopefully, this "Answer Engine" is a giant leap towards the quest of making all knowledge computational!

Other related links:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfram_Alpha
2. http://blog.wolfram.com/2009/03/05/wolframalpha-is-coming/
3. http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-06/ts_levy

Sunday, February 22, 2009

And the Seasons Go On........

People get addicted to alcohol...to cigarettes...and drugs.... I'm addicted to something totally different - "English TV Series". I'm sure those of you who've seen the likes of Prison Break, Friends, How I Met Your Mother,"24" or Heroes would understand why.

They remind me of the tag line of Lays Chips - "No one can eat Just One". Of course here there's a different sense involved - the eyes and mind to be more specific. I remember nights spent watching some of these serials when I've gone from midnight to dawn and at times even till the sun is right above the head. That's the advantage (or disadvantage, if you wana call it that) of watching the downloaded series on laptop and not on TV. No advertisements (though I really love watching ads most of the times) and no one-week breaks after each episode. I feel like a 4 year old with a truck-load of chocolate ice cream.

Once you start watching these series, you fall in love with some of the characters like Barney Stinson and Chandler Bing. And then there are others by whom you're awed... like Michael Scofield. They've become such huge personalities that I'm pretty sure, 90% people who know these actors, don't know their real name. You can say they've been Christened once again.... :) They're all over the net... Blogs (like this one), Wiki, Websites, etc.

But you know, nothing stays great forever, not even "Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi" (please note the sarcasm). God knows how people watch that bull ****. I pity our Indian public sometimes; have they nothing better to do?? Hey, I don't loathe all Indian series. I have a few of my Hindi favorites also.. "Rishtey" from Zee TV, "Office Office" from SAB TV and a few others.
OK, where was I??? Yeah, I was saying.. "Nothing Stays Great Forever" - and I'm starting to see some of my favorite TV series become draaaaaaaaaaaags........... It's like, these people want to squeeze every last bit from their show's TRP. Commercialism at it's best!!

Prison Break went from "Fox River" to "The Chase" to "Sona" to "Scylla" across 4 seasons and it still hasn't ended. I'd probably kill myself if I had to run for so long!! The show has started getting on my nerves. I feel as if after every few episodes these guys cook up a new story and air a few more shows. After sometime, they themselves probably won't have a clue where the show is heading. They've taken some inspiration I guess from Ekta Kapoor. Honestly speaking, I was mesmerized by Seasons 1 and to an extent 2, but after that it's been just downhill. To the relief of many souls like me, sources say that the show will probably close after another six episodes, starting in mid-April this year.

I guess Prison Break was such a big hit that even "Heroes", a series on NBC, has recently picked up its style. I'm not kidding... the most recent episodes of season 3 (3x14,3x15,3x16) have become a crash course of Season 1 and 2 of Prison Break with some variations of course. If you watch it, you'll know what I mean. I wish Tim Kring would just put those super humans out of their misery. The show's concept was great but then the producers began to get greedy and they ruined everything.

Of course there are always shows such as "Friends" which I could watch a dozen more times and I wouldn't mind that many seasons more either. The same goes for "How I Met Your Mother" and Barney Stinson too (However, to be honest, I do get irritated and anxious sometimes over the suspense being built around who the mother's gonna be...)

I guess you now realise how addicted I am to all of these, that I get worked up over their murder by their own creators. What should I say.... I'm just one of a million out there.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mercedes - World Class Stuff in every Area...

I'm too busy to write a blog post right now. Actually, if my colleagues were to know that I'm even writing this, they'd call me crazy.
So why am I here?? Well, I just came across this really awesome website made by Mercedes and had to tell you about it... No time to get into the details, so I'll just leave you with the link, and you can thank me later. For all those web-designing freaks, do not miss this!! And yeah, have some patience, it takes some time to load, but I promise you, it's worth it. It's like, Women.... They take hours to get dressed for that important day... You get pissed, but in the end, you know it was worth it. :-)
See ya fellas.... Let me know if you enjoy the site... Look at every link and see the beauty behind the website.

p.s. Thank You Praveen... I picked up the link from your google status message.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"OK" - The Holy Grail of Etymology

How are you? I'm ok. (fine)
How was your exam? Oh, it was okay. (not excellent but not poor either)
Did you hurt your leg? No, its o.k. (uninjured)
Are all the above uses for the word "OK" , okay?? (correct)

So, let me ask you now, is ok/OK/o.k./okay a word? or is it an acronym or an abbreviation for some words? And whatever it is, where did it originate? Never really thought about it, did you? Neither did I. But a few days back, I learnt that hardly anyone knew what it meant or where it came from... Let me enlighten those of you who're interested.
Over the past couple of days, I went through quite a few documents online, and learnt that "okay" was surrounded by numerous controversial explanations. Some of them were quite funny too. But b4 I enlist some of those, I want to ask u - What do u think ok means? Keep that in mind and read on....

Lets keep the true, or should i say "most accepted" explanation for the end. First, some aberrations...

Most words of modern English are believed to have come from some other language. Thus, came many of the explanations below:
1. Greek "olla kalla" - all right/satisfactory
2. Red Indians' Choctaw "okeh" - it is so
3. Finnish "oikea" - proper/correct
4. Latin "omnis korecta" - all right
5. Scottish "och aye" - "all is well"

Boring?? Let me tell you a few of the better ones then:
1. OK stands for "Old Kinderhook", which is the nickname of Martin Van Buren, the 8th American president(1837-1841) who was from Kinderhook, NY. During his campaigns "OK" was used as a branding agent.
2. They are the initials of "Old Keokuk", a native american tribal chief who used to sign treaties with his initials.
3. They come from the signature of a railroad shipping clerk, "Obadiah Kelly" who put his initials on bills of lading after checking them.
4. It's short for "Orrin Kendall", a cracker (biscuits) supplier to the Union Army during the Civil War. Their crackers were considered to be of very good quality.
5. Short for "Aux Cayes", a Haitian port famous for its rum.
6. Greek usage - "Omega khi" - incantation used to drive away fleas

I guess that's enough of suspense. Let's come to the most accepted one now, and probably the funniest too.
In 1963-64, Allen Walker Read of Columbia University uncovered the truth behind "ok" in a series of articles published in the journal "American Speech". According to these articles, OK's origin dates back to 1838. In the summer of that year, Boston newspaper editors started creating abbreviations for various phrases, ex. GTDHD - "Give the Devil his due", OFM - "Our first men", etc. This practice is very similar to what we do today on the internet. Often, these editors would deliberately misspell (as a joke) some of these abbreviations. It was in this fashion that OK was born. On March 23, 1839, one of the editors at Boston Post wrote this "....perhaps if he should return to Boston, via Providence, he of the [Providence] Journal, and his train-band, would have the "contribution box",etc. - o.k. - all correct - and cause the corks to fly....". The o.k. represents a misspelt "all correct" as "orl korrekt". This abbreviation was repeated in various news articles and became quite common jargon.
OK would've become a ghost, just like GTDHD and OFM, if it were not for various other occurences of the same term. You can say it was popularized and marketed by incidents such as "Old Kinderhook" and many others.

I'm sure there are still many other explanations cited by various scholars for "ok". You're free to believe any of them (you can even share them with us), but one thing's for sure. "OK" is here to stay.....

P.S. To read about other interesting facts on the origin of words/phrases, you can check out "Word Myths" by David Wilton and Ivan Brunetti.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In search of a lost friend.... "William (Billy) Spanos"

One of the things I've always cherished in life is childhood friendship (Something which many of us in India call "Langotiye yaar"). And by childhood, I mean the days when you were learning to read, write, spell and ride a bicycle. I consider those people very special who have been able to maintain that bond throughout their life. Sometimes we meet people in this world, whom we wish we had known since childhood. But unfortunately, we only have one shot at those diaper-days and some of us make the best of it...
Why am I writing about this today? Well, for quite some time now I've been trying to get in touch with a really good friend of mine, whom I know since the days which my mind can remember. You'd wonder that in this era of the "www", tracking down anyone would be easy. But, my searches have ended in a tall wall every time. I've had a go at Google, Yahoo, MSN, Rediff and so many more but in vain. I have even gone to the extent of messaging every single profile with the name "Billy/William Spanos" on various social networking sites such as orkut, facebook, hi5, etc. Now before you start calling me crazy, let me tell you the complexities of my case.
Billy and I grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut during the late 80s and early 90s. He is a few years younger than me but I guess that never really mattered. Our houses were right opposite each other and out of 24 hrs in a day, if you were to remove the 14 hrs of sleep and school, the remaining 10 were always spent playing together. Billy is basically Greek but I think he was born in US only. We fought like all other friends but it never lasted long. Our parents always had to search both houses before declaring us lost. Oh..... we never really got lost. We'd just be hanging around. I miss every moment of those days; fooling around with sand & mud, jumping on the trampoline, playing video games, racing on our bicycles (with 3 wheels), playing basketball. But what I miss the most are the Swings, where we tried our best to go real high and touch the sky, as if that were possible!! I recall Billy trying hard to teach me how to ride a bicycle, but I was a horrible learner. Poor Billy!
I remember how glad I was when Billy shifted to my school (Read Elementary) from his previous one. It was like the cherry on top of dessert. After that, on many occassions Anna or Taso (Billy's parents) used to drop us to school together. I've had many other friends at School and I've made many more over the years, but I can never forget that little fellow who taught me what friendship is.
I left the U.S. in 1995 and that was the last time I saw Billy (except for a picture of his which he sent me a few years later). Little did I know that I would never be returning to USA (atleast not in the near future) and may never see him again. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to recognize him today, that's why even the pictures on net don't really help. During the initial years after 95', we used to write to each other (email wasn't really prominent during that time) but then the letters just got lost in the haze. It kinda reminds me of "Kumbh ka Mela" which Indian cinematogrophers use so conveniently in many movies.
Today, when I try his VERY OLD number which I have, it's useless. I guess he's changed his home and as I said, the net hasn't helped me much. In a way, this blog-post is like a last-pitch effort in my search for that long-lost buddy; In the hope that maybe he or someone else who knows him will read it. Miss you brother.....
The collage below contains a few pics from those good old days.

P.S. If any of you out there want to mention some of their childhood memories of friends, feel free to do so. You have my Ears, or I should say Eyes.... :-)

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's a Shark...It's a Submarine... No, It's sQuba!!

In the 1977 movie, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, Roger Moore (James Bond from 1973-1985), a secret agent, impressively dove below the waves in a sleek vehicle that moments before seemed to be an ordinary car. Of course the scene never actually took place; it was just an animation.

No Fins, but this one still Swims:
The movie fake became a reality for visitors at the Geneva Motor Show (March 2008) in the form of “sQuba”, the world’s first real submersible car from Rinspeed. Though military vehicles have been known to travel under water in the past, they are restricted to driving slowly over submerged ground.

With sQuba, you can now drive straight into water and the car will float. To go on a diving experience, you just have to crack open the doors. While under water, you can breathe from an integrated tank of compressed air. When you’re ready to retreat to land, just crawl your way back to any nearby ramp/beach. The sQuba would even give turtles a complex.
For sQuba, the true challenge was to make it swim like a fish under water, in addition to making it water-tight and pressure-resistant. The car’s open cockpit solves buoyancy issues and also serves the purpose of higher safety. In the absence of any occupants, the car surfaces automatically. The sQuba is even capable of autonomous driving on land thanks to a sophisticated laser sensor system from the Hamburg Company Ibeo - without any help from the driver or passenger. The sQuba is an environment-friendly vehicle with zero-emissions, powered by Lithium ion batteries. Even the Motorex lubricants used in the ‘sQuba’ are biodegradable. The car has been given a sporty look which was converted into a diver’s dream by Swiss specialist “Esoro”.
Starting with initial concepts, it took the highly skilled development team at Esoro, just six months to realize the entire project. Rinspeed Founder-CEO, Frank M. Rinderknecht (52) has always been known for his extraordinary automotive creations. But with sQuba, he says he has fulfilled a 3 decade dream.

Some other technical facts on sQuba:
Empty Weight: approx. 920 kg. (Approximately equal to the weight of a Maruti Suzuki 800)
Top Speed: >120 km/hr.
Water Speed: > 6 km/hr.
Under water speed: > 3 km/hr.
Dive depth: 10 metres
Seating capacity: 2
Cost to build prototype: 1.5 million USD (Rinderknecht claims that when produced commercially, the car will cost less than a Rolls Royce, even then, that’s about $400,000 minimum)

I agree that the sQuba is a true novelty; a child’s fantasy and every diver’s dream, but let’s be realistic. How many people would be interested to go diving with their car? And what happens if the car breaks down under water? How many mechanics can actually fix this really COOL car? But I guess I’m just trying to find faults. The truth is that such an innovation deserves a round of applause. Keep it up Rinspeed…

Before I end, I just want to quote these words of John Lennon (Beatles), which were displayed on the home page of Rinspeed:
"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one"

Friday, November 7, 2008

Michael Crichton: The Literary World loses a great Author

Jurassic Park...Timeline...Andromeda Strain...Coma...Congo
The mastermind behind all those big names has passed on to another world, leaving behind him a trail of stories which questioned and defied the laws of common nature.

Michael Crichton, died at the age of 66 after battling with cancer, on November 5th in Los Angeles. The author has left behind his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family, friends and many patron readers. Michael was a student of Harvard Medical School, where he had started writing. Some of his initial work as an author was under two different pseudonyms, John Lange and Jeffery Hudson. There was also a collaboration with his younger brother Douglas under the shared nom de plume Michael Douglas. He dropped his profession in medicine in 1970, when the pen began to dominate the stethoscope.
Crichton has to his credit more than a dozen best selling books, some of which I mentioned at the top, mostly under the category of science-fiction. But at times, he has swung to completely alienated genres and produced best-selling books such as "The Great Train Robbery" and "Disclosure". His work has sold over 150 million copies. Some of his novels have been captured as movies, for example Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Timeline, etc. and have broken box office records.

He is also the creator of "ER" , one of America's biggest Emmy award-winning medical drama TV series. The series is now into its 15th season(which started in Sep. 2008). Being aired on NBC, this show is set primarily in the emergency room of a fictional county hospital.
Crichton's work was an inspiration to many. Though "State of Fear" landed into some amount of controversy for challenging global warming, he was never afraid to challenge scientists from any field. He leaves behind his imprints on our minds and the zeal to ask "WHY" for any natural phenomenon.

For free downloads of some of Crichton's most famous books, click on the collage below:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Orkut - A new feature

I consider Orkut as the GOD of all social-networking sites in India. Though I'm not a strong promoter of such sites, I agree that they do have great benefits.
One thing I've always appreciated about Orkut and certain other similar websites has been the way they have developed themselves to become more user-friendly. They have also provided many applications which support their core functions. Tracking what your friends have been doing has become far simpler today then what it was in 2004, when orkut was launched.
I don't want to bore you with core features which all of you know about. The objective of this post is to praise one of their new features:
"View this conversation", provided in scrapbooks
This feature helps you track the complete discussion which you've had with a particular individual. Of course, your discussion will only be tracked if it has been posted as "Reply" by your friend.
Sometimes people forget in what context someone has replied to them, especially when the reply comes after 15 days. :-) This new feature makes your life easier. Since most people use the "Reply" function, you don't have to go to their scrapbooks to view your recent scraps anymore.