Realization comes pretty late ...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, September 25, 2010 9:14 PM 2 comments
This is the kind of post that would either have you in splits or have you thinking that the positions of my brain and something else have somehow interchanged.

I started shaving (my beard) when I was in Std. IX (13 years of age) but I would usually go to the barber once in 3 or 4 months to get the job done. After joining college I bought my own shaving kit but I would use it only in case of an "emergency" or when it just caught my fancy to shave - just for fun.

I still continued going to the barber and would get shaved only once in 2 or 3 or 4 months (usually tied the job with a haircut).

My friends never got that. They would repeatedly ask me whether I was inconvenienced by the bushy beard. It never troubled me, though, and I never got why they all thought so.

Apparently, stubbles itch may probably make one feel awkward. Somehow, I never felt that way.

I thought that whole thing about regular shaving making one's skin and beard hard were hogwash and I was special and everyone else was just going crazy setting a lot of store by urban legend.

Then a barber told me one day that it was *very* easy to shave off my beard (I told him it was around 3 months old). That got me thinking. After all, here was a guy with experience, and he ought to be right.

And then I got married, and thereby lost the freedom to "maintain" my beard as I would really have liked to.

Actually, in a very narcissistic sort of way, I actually liked to grow my beard for long periods of time just to gloat at the look of surprise on people's faces when I got it shaved off.

And I can't do this any more now. I'm now like any average Joe, shaving my beard on my own. Ah, the drudgery! You know, it's quite a pleasurable experience sitting down on a reclining chair, all tucked up, listening to some olde worlde music and getting royal treatment.

And to top it all, most supermarkets do not stock the kind of blade that goes on my nearly 10-year old razor, a Gillette SensorExcel World Cup Edition (1998 vintage with the blue-coloured grip strips rather than the standard-issue grey strips). They would rather have me spend a few hundred bucks and get a new razor and a new set of blades.

So much for the backward compatibility we pathetic little enterprise software designers and engineers have to ensure with every freakin' piece of code we write. Luckily, I ultimately found a set of blades that would work with my razor and I was all set to go.

So these days I'm doing the job on my own, religiously, five times a week. And horror of horrors, my stubble now starts to itch!

What have I done to myself?! I've absolutely managed to spoil something so pure and innocent and made it into this irritating monster, and it is definitely *not* going to change for the better.

Oh!!! What a life......

Swacchata Tyaj Prabhuta ...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Thursday, September 23, 2010 9:15 PM 2 comments
Often times I've heard the argument that one must appear "neat" before visiting a place of worship (this could also include sitting down for prayer at home in front of a deity).

I have been - on many an occasion years ago- rapped on the knuckles for "neglecting" to, for example, take a head-bath before sitting down for prayer.

First of all, I do not particularly relish prayer/worship of any kind (i.e. at home or at the temple). I will not say I am an atheist. It is just that I do not think that there is a designated time and place for worship. The fundamental tenet of any religion is that a person should first be a good human being and his/her actions should not hurt those around him/her.

I do not have any illusions that regular prayer and worship will automatically absolve me of all my sins and wrongdoings. For all those words and deeds of mine that may have hurt others (I am pretty sure no human being is perfect in that sense and everyone, including me, must have hurt someone or the other albeit unintentionally), I repent regularly.

I also have a lot to be thankful for, and this is another of the reasons why people are urged to worship God - to express their gratitude for their daily bread etc. I do this in a different way. I respect the power that made the Universe (and by extension - Nature and Life).

In this light, I believe that cleanliness should not be limited just to the physical, in that it is not sufficient to be neat and prim and proper physically. One should be clean in terms of the mind and soul too during a prayer session.

Often times, it hurts me to see people carry the baggage of hate, scorn, derision and all the other vile emotions to their respective places of worship. At the same time, it is not uncommon to see instances of cheating and mistrust manifest themselves at these same places.

I wonder how this can be changed. I ask myself how it might be possible to tell those self-professed religious, God-fearing people that the show they put on is hollow, and without inner cleanliness, there can be no true Godliness.

Incredible Power cuts!

Posted by Tandarin Nike Wednesday, September 22, 2010 9:08 PM 5 comments
Eleven outages of various lengths in the space of 13 hours that has left the pathetic UPS of my friend absolutely bone-dry and totally incapable of riding even something as small as a single voltage blip!

What a life..?

What's a guy to do? Especially one who has seen no outages abroad since 2006.

It's very difficult to think about working from home these days here in India, as the power backup offered by the generators in the apartment complex in question here in South India is abysmal (just one light each in the hall and the kitchen) given the kind of erratic power supply we are fortunate enough to have been bestowed upon ourselves. God... please HELP us.

One option for my dear friend is to work on a laptop. It's time to get a new battery for that aging office ThinkPad he uses. The damn thing doesn't even last 45 minutes now, and not even that much if there is lots of disk activity such as during boot-up.

However, I see no reason in spending roughly 2 to 3k INR on a battery for a laptop that won't even fetch him a few hundred bucks. Anyway, the machine belongs to the office so he probably does not have to worry too much about this aspect, although I'd rather use a newer machine with faster hardware.

Secondly, I simply do not enjoy programming on a pathetic 1024x768 15" screen, and definitely not with the 1920x1200 I can get from my Dell 24" LCD (back home). However, that LCD needs power, again, and loads of it (at least compared to a laptop screen). With the UPS low on reserve power, hooking up the LCD to the laptop is again not a smooth option for sure.

In the absence of efficient, mature solar panels that can consistently (i.e. irrespective of how bright/cloudy it is) deliver 300W of power and given current battery technology, what's a guy really to do if he wants to work from home? Shift to a different place in town (not very feasible and besides, many other factors come into play)? Use loads and loads of costly, inefficient solar panels and depend on utility power + UPS for the night (if needed)?

The long-term solution really is to have a battery technology that combines the advantages offered by lithium-ion batteries such as low size/weight, easy maintenance, quick charge times (compared to the kind of backup time they offer) and consistent output along with those of lead-acid batteries such as low cost and the ability to support a high power draw for a long time.

Such a technology would make millions here in India leap for joy but we're still a few years away, at best, from getting there. Though I must say, I have access to such technology and hardware in Bahrain.

My friend can probably get an inverter, but I don't know if the apartment owners' association would permit the usage of one, and in any case his main problem is not the rest of the appliances at home but only the computer, and during day time on a few days at that.

Besides, he would still be affected by the same problem he is facing now - of not enjoying 18 straight hours of uninterrupted power to keep his UPS batteries fully charged and capable of serving his machine's power needs for 1.5+ hours at a stretch (incredible ratio, isn't it?).

Don't ask me the details. I would definitely not do such a miserable setup specification/design. It's just crap when the suppliers here wringle their way through sales talk. I have had my good time designing and overseeing commissioning of in excess of 200KVA UPS's at single sites.

One thing for sure, there is incredible scope for young engineers who would like to take power engineering as a subject in India. That's both at research as well as commercial harware manufacture levels.

Wish I was twenty years younger to take the nation building task, as there is no other place on earth where such opportunities abound. India is the place to be in.

Hope young minds are reading this.....

Wisdom gone for a Sixer...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, September 21, 2010 9:28 PM 2 comments
This is an interesting incident that I witnessed nearly a couple of weeks back at a large store in close proximity to my residence in Mumbai.

I was standing in the queue at one of the billing counters as I had picked up a couple of things. It was a Saturday evening (I should mention that I absolutely hate visiting malls because of the crowds, and Saturday evenings are *really* crowded - but that day was one of those unpalatable exceptions) and the queues were all very long.

I would have chosen a shorter queue, but I stood in the queue for the billing counter nearest to the exit gate because my wife was standing outside.

She did not have a cell phone and hence I did not want her to worry about where I was.

The wife of the gentleman standing in front of me in the queue suddenly came barging in with their two kids and started admonishing the poor man for choosing "the longest queue". She literally dragged him over to another queue which was noticeably shorter.

The elder of the two kids must have been five - maybe six - years old, and as the lady told her husband, "Did you notice that you chose the longest queue?" while they were walking over to the other queue, this kid chimed out, "Which will slowly become the shortest queue."

Perhaps I am underestimating five to six-year old kids, but that moment really struck something in me, and got me thinking. Here was conventional wisdom of one kind against another. The lady employed a greedy algorithm of sorts.

The end result she had in mind was that her family should get out of the queue and the shop as quickly as it could. In a sense, her approach was probably near-sighted. All things (such as the efficiency of the clerk at the billing counter and the average number of billable items per head of customers in a queue) being equal, the shortest queue does guarantee the quickest path to the exit, but in the real world, all things are not always equal.

More often not, a variant of Murphy's law applies where you see that the queue you just moved out of suddenly starts moving a lot faster than the one you just joined (this could sometimes be just imagination and the fickleness that is such a big part of any human being).

However, I was amazed to see a young kid realizing the fact that this kind of a greedy approach to minimize waiting times at queues could actually result in a sub-optimal solution.

That said, one simply cannot just stay put in a certain queue if it is or happens to become the longest and one is short on time.

It is an interesting thing - pitting one form of conventional wisdom or common sense against the other.

Usually, common sense is derived out of fact and/or considerable experience, and here is one situation where neither really counts.

Like they say, 'Common Sense is not too common' .....

Obsolescence never meant the end of anything—it's just the beginning

Posted by Tandarin Nike Monday, September 20, 2010 6:19 AM 2 comments
They say it comes with age. They all talk about how our grandparents can't understand new-fangled dresses, hairdos, food, jobs, gadgets and what have you. Living in the past is taboo and all they want to hear about is progress and life in the fast lane.

I fell for it all. Till the other day I mentioned "old" people and a propensity to not accept change in the same breath. And then I suddenly realized that I too began harbouring similar tendencies.

Everyone nowadays wants a cellphone that can take photographs, allow them to surf, read mail, play games, watch movies, connect to their computers and transfer stuff, feed their dog, wash their clothes, call others names etc. etc. I say I don't. One, I don't have the patience to scour through reams of specifications to find the one model that I want. Two, I don't want to have this patience. Why should I, when my current cellphone can faithfully do all that I ask it to?

The digital world has moved from categories and classifications and folders to tags. I had no patience for that too, atleast initially. I've begun sucking up to tags very recently; that too in a very limited manner to organize my bookmarks online so that I don't have to worry about corrupted browser profiles and dead sectors on hard disks.

So, am I being obsolete? Perhaps I'm missing out on progress and life in the fast lane. Maybe. Now, is there anything wrong with this? Can one consider obsolescene to really be taboo?

I can only answer by saying that I'm comfortable with what I use to achieve my needs. I don't feel it eats too much into my productivity or efficiency, and more importantly, my budget, to currently do what I want to do with the technology I use at the moment.

Unless I can find a truly great use for any of this new-fangled stuff, it's all useless to me. I don't fancy reading email from my cellphone simply because more often than not I have a computer with internet access available to me most of the time. My commutes are short and infrequent and I can live for an hour a day without having ready access to the internet. After all, who checks mail or reads news online when they're asleep? Just add an hour and nothing is lost.

Such is the case for many other things. There are definitely people who can put the latest technology to the greatest use. Markets, however niche or mainstream, always existed for practically anything that could be designed, produced and sold.

I feel I have to consider how my lot can be improved in a manner corresponding to the investment made on such technology before taking the jump. That's fair, isn't it?

So, my dear granddads and grandmoms, despair thou not. You have led great lives and continue to be shining role models to us despite still living in the past.

Ganapati Bappa Morya!!!

Posted by Tandarin Nike Monday, September 13, 2010 9:38 PM 2 comments
The visage of Ganesha (or Ganapati) is easily recognizable as the elephant-headed God of Knowledge and Wisdom. A Ganesha murti can be found in the home of every Hindu. Tiny Ganesha figurines also grace the dashboard of new cars; and Ganesha icons in a variety of poses is a popular gift for family and friends. With the ever-growing popularity of Ganesha, devotees start their prayers with this hymn to Ganesha.

Many are familiar with the legend of Ganesha’s coming to life.

Once when Shiva was away and Parvati wanted to bathe, she created a male child from the skin of her body and gave it life. She instructed the child to let no one come her way.

While she bathed and the child stood guard, Shiva arrived, but was stopped by the child whom Shiva does not recognize.

A fight ensued and Shiva beheads the boy and discards the head. When Parvati finds out what happened to her child, her sorrow remains inconsolable. To make amends, Shiva instructs his band of followers to bring the first head they come across. When they return with the head of an elephant, Shiva places it on the child’s body and gives it new life. Thus Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, came to be.

Children are intriqued by the appearance of Ganesha and want to know: “Why does he have a trunk? Why does he have large ears?” and so on. While this hymn does not answer these questions, enlightened people over the ages have guided us to perceive the unique aspects of Ganesha’s form in a manner that is relevant to our own lives.

The elephantine ears guide us to give people our full attention, particularly to our family and friends. The overly large head further guides us to reflect on what people say and to carefully judge the merits of their words. The narrow eyes caution us to focus on our surroundings and be ever watchful.

The small mouth hidden behind the trunk prompts us to speak sparingly, but with clarity and truth; and the enormous stomach symbolizes our need to digest all good and bad experiences life brings our way.

A rear hand holds a noose directing us to control our senses and desires; the other rear hand wields an axe, useful in severing our desires and attachments, which trap us in this materialistic world.

The front right hand is always raised in blessing, in a posture called the abhaya hasta – removing fears of the unknown. Seeing such a posed hand soothes our heart, drives away worries, and reassures us that we are ever in God’s care. And despite all the challenges that come our way, he stands by us and loves us dearly, always!

And finally, with his left hand presenting modaka (rice muffins), Ganesha promises us sweet fruits of our labors and ultimate peace in our spiritual quest.

Ganapati Bappa More Ya!!!
Ganapati 2010 at Nayak's-Banakal - Karnataka ....

Ganesh Chaturthi (or Ganapati Chovati as we Konkanis call it) is THE celebration in our extended family home in Banakal- Karnataka. We took a few days respite in Shimoga meeting our relatives and then returned to our ancestral home just in time for the Ganesh Chaturthi Utsav (festival).

Over the next day, our extended family home transformed itself into a festive temple. The entire woman folk of the Nayak-fold got busy preparing traditional Konkani sweets and foods for the occassion.

Siblings and cousins from all over Karnataka descended on our ancestral home on the auspicious day. Professional that we have become, we as flower stringers decorated our main hall in elaborate arrangements of plump marigolds.

Humongous pots and pans, giant oil lamps and other puja accompaniments were retrieved from storage and polished to a high gleam. The ornaments which deck the murthy were brought from the safe storage vaults of the local bank and kept ready for dressing.

The day before, jackfruit leaves were washed and pinned to make the pocket KhoTo idli. Torans of mango leaves decorated our doors, and officially, Ganesh Chaturthi was underway. While the women folk strung their favorite ‘garlands’ and traded gossip, we boys went to pick up our Ganesh murthy.

In this first pic, Ganapati has only been brought and kept in place

During the first puja, the murthy was dressed with flowers, and with the recitation of chants, sanctified with the divine presence.

During the one day of Ganapati, all pujas were performed as prescribed in the Puranas, including recitations from the Vedas by a dedicated bhatmaam who has been assigned the task by his father who in turn has recited many of the pujas for our ancestors.

At the end of the day, the murthy was consigned to the family well (visarjan), leaving us all in melancholy.

Until of course the next year.... Ganapati bappa morya, pudcha varshi laukar ya..