Saturday, November 07, 2009

A few excerpts from the Global Environment Outlook report

I am still reading the GEO report

We humans, like most animals on Earth, rely largely on water for our sustenance. Directly by drinking; indirectly by applying it for irrigation, aquaculture, industry etc

The knowledge that over two-thirds (2/3) of the surface of this Earth is water is common-place. The knowledge that barely 3% of all the water on Earth is sufficiently desalinated as to be available for human use is less common.

The sub-continent is home to one of the largest concentration of species in the world

At present, the subcontinent is still one of the single largest concentrations of arable land

In it's scientific detached manner, the report illustrates the impact of our historic/existing consumption patterns

Whilst interiors risk drought, populations near sea-shores are at the risk of shoreline degradation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Practical Programming: The ritual of implement worship

Navratri = Nau + Ratri = Nine Nights.

Today is the Tenth/Final day of the Navratri festival; one amongst many of a period of fervour for those who adhere to the Sanatana Dharma.

The tenth day symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Many legends are attributed to this day, paramount amongst these are
  1. Execution of Ravana by Rama
  2. Execution of Mahishasura by Durga
Similarly many rituals are bound to this day too. Vehicle/Tool worship is one amongst the many esoteric rituals performed on this day to empower it till the next year.

Imagine the situation if you will : The villain has secured a secret weapon, and aims to enslave the entire universe. Just when it seems things are going to go from worse, to worst, a hero appears on his trusty steed and challenges the villain to battle. A _terrific_ battle has raged for ten whole days finally comes to an end. The protagonist has emerged victorious, and is ready to return home. The invincible protagonist is unscathed. The adulation of millions applies not only to the protagonist, but to all that is associated with him; weapons, garments, vehicle/mount etc.

All well, and good.

Even today, distances in India are large. Merely travelling to/from work consumes close to 20kms, without including pool-travel distances; mid-day chore driving and so on. A good deal of wear and tear is involved. Travelling back in time to the period of our Hero and Villain there were probably few, if any, roads. Most travelling would be through the wilderness guided by the moon/stars etc.

I wonder, could what we deem to be vehicle 'worship' actually refer to the task of servicing the vehicle after the rigours of a full-blown battle? A means to drive a community of people of less evolved thought in the direction of maintaining their implements to prolong the existence of the tool directly, and the survival of the community in the long run?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Towards Civilization; One Step

Take an educated person, and put him in a featureless, soundless room
with uniform lighting( either it is lighted 24x7x365, or it is not ).
Sooner or later, the person will try to devise a way to keep track of
the passage of time. The easiest way to do so would be by tracking the

Now we change the scenario a little; instead of a featureless room we
put him in a room with uniform features. The outcome will be similar,
if not identical.

Change the scenario a little more; make the features non-uniform and
endlessly varying. Allow sound to impinge on the senses at random.
Allow the light to vary at random. The outcome will still be similar.

Now assume the person to be you. You are placed on Earth at a random
location in a distant time when the concept of a static human
population did not exist even in thought. The endlessly varying
features are those of Nature. The endless variation in light is that
from the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. The random noises are the
sounds of Nature, and her other creations. You realize, dimly, that
you are a little different from the rest around you; not provided with
boundless strength, or venom, or claws. That great meat-eating beast
does not always hunt you. Sometimes it hunts you stealthily, and
sometimes it merely growls at you without making a charge. The nest
from which the snake devoured eggs, sometimes has no eggs in it... and
sometimes there are eggs in the nest the very next day.

It's all very puzzling, except that you don't know the word yet.

Suddenly one day, you realize the answer. The behaviour of the beast
is similar to your own. When you hunt, you're stealthy too. When
you've eaten to your fill, you don't chase your prey; why spend energy
on another chase when, now that the cramps from hunger are finally
gone, you may finally sleep. This leads to another discovery – the
huge beast must stay full longer too, even though it's stomach,
appetite, and size are so much larger. Through a sequence of such
small discoveries communicated wordlessly across generations the
balance shifts.

The greatest such discovery is that there is a cycle to all events.
Looking around there is nothing to relate the cycles too. Everything
around you is bound to it's own cycle of transience. The light dawns
upon you; up there, high above you is a marker, the Moon. Each time
you sleep, the Moon shows a particular face.

In a major move towards order, and civilization; you have discovered a calendar,
and a means to mark time.

Monday, April 06, 2009


कोई भी सॉफ्टवेर डेवेलोपमेंट अनेक छोटे-छोटे विभाजन करके आगे बढता है | कुछ सरल, तो कुछ कठिन ; कुछ छोटे जिन्हें एक व्यक्ति अकेले ही बस कुछ घड़ी में पूर्ण कर दे , तो कुछ इतने विशाल ५० व्यक्तिओं कई मॉस में भी न पूर्ण करें | जैसे भी कार्य हो, अन्यामंसक होना अत्यन्त दुखदाई बन सकता है |

उद्धरण के लिए - समझो के रास्ते-चलते कोई आपका थैला छीन कर भाग जाये | आम तौर पर कोई भी व्यक्ति चोर का पीछा करने वाला होता है। अब पीछा करते करते यदि चोर अपने किसी साथी को थैला थमा दे, और दोनों अलग अलग रास्ता भागें तो निर्णय करने में यह ध्यान रखे के वह साथी संभवतः लंबा नाच नचाने कि त्यारी कर आया है। उसका पीछा करना कठिन होना ही है। साथी ही में प्रथम चोर को पकड़ने कि संभावना अधिक है, और चोर पकड़ा गया, तो चोरी तो पकड़ी जानी ही है।

अतः हमारे साथ जब कोई नवयुवक चाकरी करने आए तो उन्हें समझाना अनिवार्य होता है कि वे महारथी अर्जुन के तरह अपने कार्य के सफल पूर्ति के ओर अग्रसर रहें, चूँकि किसी और कार्य पर ध्यान बांटना भी हार है |


We do our development work focussed on lots of tasks; some complex, some simple, and some plain unwieldly. Working on complex tasks, it's easy to get distracted and lose track of the original task; something that can be expensive.

Therefore one of the notes we have for newbies is -

Stay focussed on your in-hand task, because digressing means you've already lost.

For instance, say
  1. You're shopping
  2. Someone snatches your shopping-bag, and runs off
  3. You chase the thief
  4. The thief tosses the bag at an accomplice, who runs off too
  5. Options now are -
  • Continue chasing the original snatcher
  • Chase the accomplice who just showed up (probably refreshed, and full of stamina)

It makes sense to opt for (a), because catching hold of the snatcher implies a higher probability of regaining your belongings.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Applied Programming: Reuse

Information Technology / Programmer wannabes invariably have the word 'Reuse' drummed into them almost from the first day as a student. This is one probable reason we Indians are usually good programmers. We reuse everything, even our Soul ( see: reincarnation )

Jokes apart, the reuse that is drummed into an IT student is usually in the context of OOP, or programming where we talk of reusing the code written once to be used elsewhere. The term reuse, though, goes much further. We reuse a great many things without even realizing it. For instance, software development contracts will often have similar, even almost identical clauses. The reason is that similar problems are expected to arise, and therefore are dealt with in a similar manner. Whilst these rudimentary applications of reuse are valuable, reuse itself can be far more valuable by way of mentoring (something that only came to mind after I read this)

The reason I choose to link mentoring to the concept of reuse is because mentoring provides an apprentice with the opportunity to capitalize upon the experience of the mentor. Organizations such as IBM, Microsoft, InfoSys have mentor programmes to help their employees growth.

What should I look for in a mentor?
The thoughts that come to my mind are -
  1. Trust & Communication (the two must go together)
  2. Better than average understanding of the domain (Finance, Software...) under which the mentoring occurs
  3. Better than average Time Management skills, and as a corollary - not a workaholic
  4. Compatibility
I put in the third point - Time Management - with some diffidence because -
  • It simply doesn't make sense to assign someone as a mentor, only to find they're not able to justice to either their primary role or their mentor role.
  • The apprentice might pick up the bad-skills too
  • Poor time-management might also mean a stressed work-style; in the long run this could be detrimental to health, and to teamwork.
In winding up, reusing knowledge gained by others is something we do all the time - right from the first 'A' at school, this continues throughout life. The broader form of reuse of experience by Mentoring provides a means to build a relationship between the mentor and an apprentice that could potentially be capitalized upon by the organization.