Books galore

January 31, 2005 at 10:11 am | Posted in Books | 2 Comments

I have been reading some awesome writing these days and thought i ll share some of these:

“The Hungry Tide” – Amithav Ghosh: This is an absolute must read. The author takes us through sunderbans and the writing is so descriptive that we are almost there with the heroes, living their every moment of joy, happiness and sorrow…..

“Catch – 22” – Joseph Heller: This is a classic and i guess some of you may have already read this. The setting is World War II and this is a hilarious read, that takes us through the life of Captain Yossarian, who wants to get out because he is the only one crazy enough to realize that total strangers are out to get him… But if he asks Doc Daneka to get out, it means he is sane enough to realise that his life is in peril… this is catch- 22. Chief White Half coat, Captain Black, Major Major Major Major, Orr, Dunbar.. each of the characters have a unique trait.. This too is a must read…

“Inscrutable Americans” – Anurag Mathur: Hilarious

“Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking glass house” – Lewis Carroll: Super Fantasy

Am also in possession of “The book of lost tales” – J.R.R and “Mein Kampf” – Adolf Hitler that i am yet to read. I’ll be back with these and more…..

Cheers,
Laks

“A book is only as good as the person who reads it” – Laks 😉

Lewis Carroll – revisited

January 31, 2005 at 10:06 am | Posted in Lewis Carroll, Poems | 1 Comment

Here’s another one of those Carroll classics…..

The Walrus and the Carpenter

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

– Lewis Carroll

Cheers,
Laks

“Individual rights are the means of subordinating the society to the moral law” – Ayn Rand (On the occassion of the Hundredth anniverssary of Ayn Rand on 2nd Feb)

Are jobs being sacrificed for greater technology? – Part I

January 19, 2005 at 10:44 am | Posted in Andy Kessler, Technology and Implications | Leave a comment

Today I found a nice read written by Andy Kessler, in his new book “Running Money”. Thought i ll share it here. This article beautifully sums up how technology is making inroads into people’s lives. Are jobs being sacrificed for greater technology? Well.. read on…

United Paper Shuffle

by Andy Kessler

“You can’t wear jeans,” the woman at the United Airlines counter told me.

“What was that?” I asked.

“I’m sorry, we have rules and codes of conduct to adhere to. I can’t let you sit in First Class wearing jeans.”

“Really?” I had a cheap suit in my bag, but the last thing I wanted to do was dash into some phone booth and change into super executive so I could fly to Chicago.

“We can’t have some sort of riff-raff in our premium sections.”

“Well, I’m headed to a–“

“This is United Airlines, global leaders in air travel and destinations.”

“I’m interv–“

“Just a second. Your record is flashing red. This is very odd. Are you some sort of VIP?”

“I like to think so, but I don’t think too many beyond my mother would agree.”

“Well someone at United Airlines thinks so. Your record has been flagged and the ticket comped. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like this. Family members get comped, but something is going on here with your record. Here you go, seat 2B. Or is that ‘not to be,’ tee-hee. Enjoy your flight.”

She then whispered, “Next time, please don’t wear jeans — we have standards here.”

“OK, got it,” I whispered back.

“And welcome to the Friendly Skies,” she shot back.

Actually, I was headed to a job interview at United Airlines outside of Chicago. I was a 26-year-old techie, and could not have cared less about United. But they were nice enough to provide a round trip first class ticket to Chicago, where my girlfriend Nancy happened to live, and I was tired of paying up for the 771-mile trip.

On board, I sat next to a pilot who told me he was jealous that I got to wear jeans in First Class. I saved the “I’m interviewing” line just in case he started harassing me, but he couldn’t have been a nicer guy.

Chicago, Illinois: Spring 1985

“Hello, welcome to United Airlines. Thanks for coming out all this way. I’m sure you have a very busy schedule, I appreciate your time.”

“Not a problem, I have been looking forward to this visit to Chicago.”

“Great. Oh, I should introduce myself. I’m Norm Poole. I haven’t been here that long, six months or so. I was hired with the task of updating United’s computer systems. It’s pretty antiquated stuff around here. You’re from Bell Labs, right?”

“Yes — Holmdel.”

“Great. I saw that on your resume, that’s why you’re here. Actually, my son is also with the Labs, out here at Indian Hill.”

“I doubt I know him, it’s a big place.”

“OK then, let’s head back to my office. It’s a bit of a hike. They don’t care too much for us tech types.” Norm and I proceeded to walk what seemed like a quarter mile through United’s building.

“You know that United is building a new terminal at O’Hare?”

“I think I read something about that.”

“Yeah, it is loosely based on the Great Crystal Palace of Victorian England fame, 1850-something.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“As far as I can tell, lots of glass.”

“I like watching the planes take off and land.”

“Most people do, calms the nerves. Actually, the Crystal Palace was part of the Great Exhibition that showed off all the accomplishments of England and its colonies. So the powers that be around here want the new terminal to be as high tech as possible, to show off their constant path towards progress, a â Now is the Time’ sort of thing.”

“Isn’t that the tag line of the GE Carousel of Progress at Disneyland?”

“Probably. Wasn’t it the World’s Fair? No matter. We’ll show off our advanced thinking.”

“How is that?” I asked

.”Lots of computer monitors, maybe even in color. Plus, we have to figure out some scheme to move data around without wires. The architect has already placed all the glass and forgot we might need wires. Wires are pretty ugly, so my group has to fix the design flaws with some wireless technology.”

We wound our way through the building talking about computers and networking. I realize later that the interview had already started, but I was too busy talking in the sights.

“So, you know a lot about the UNIX operating system?” Norm asked.

“Sure, I use it, and I can program in C.” I answered.

“Great. That’s what we use around here.”

We kept cutting through these large rooms with giant tables in the middle of them.

“Personally, I prefer VAXes. UNIX machines are always crashing.”

“OK, Andy. This is an airline. There is an unwritten rule to not use that word.”

“Which word?”

“The C-word.”

“Oh, I get it, sorry. I find that UNIX machines are … are prone to unscheduled service disruptions.”

“There you go. You’ll fit in here well.”

As we walked through more of these rooms, I kept noticing what looked like airline tickets stacked in foot-high piles all over these massive tables. Workers (almost exclusively women, but of all ages), were gabbing away while flipping through these piles of tickets. It seemed like United Airlines Global Headquarters had dozens of these rooms, with stacks and stacks and stacks of these tickets.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked.

“Sure. Fire away.” Norm answered.

“What’s with those giant tables and all those women?”

Norm started to chuckle. “Oh that? Ticket sorting. It’s sort of the dirty little secret of the airline business. We can get people on and off planes, and fly them to where they need to go, but then we have to sort all their damn tickets.”

“Don’t you just throw them out after the flight takes off?” There were no depths to my personal naivete.

“We wish. Every single ticket is flown back to headquarters to be processed. First we have to strip out our competitors tickets, which we accept for payment, and then settle with them.”

“Aren’t they a different color or something?”

“That would make it too easy, but not a bad idea. Once their tickets are gone, we have to sort our own tickets and match them against the flight manifests to make sure everyone actually paid, measure yield and load and all those other things that schedulers like to know about.”

“Wow, sounds like a really boring job.”

“I’m sure it is. Most of these people are high-school grads, and maybe a few dropouts. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to sort tickets, but you’ve got to be literate.”

“But this is 1985. Shouldn’t this stuff be automated somehow?”

“You’re kidding right? There is a room full of Ph.Ds who sit around and figure out just how to code those stupid tickets, so when we get them back, we know where they came from. Each ticket is touched something like fifteen times from the time we collect it at the airport until we are done with our sorting and accounting.”

“But isn’t it expensive?”

“Probably 20 bucks per ticket. I’ve only been here for six months, but as far as I can tell, the airline industry is not that concerned about costs. First, they — er, we — can just raise prices. You pay the $20, not us. Second, if we took one olive out of each salad we serve on every flight, we could save a half a million bucks a year. Sorting tickets is a necessary evil.”

“Still … “

“I know, I know. I agree. If I were in charge, that is the first thing I would attack. Get rid of the stupid tickets. But my priority, my mandate, is to make the Crystal Palace at O’Hare seem high tech.”

We walked through four or five more of these rooms, and I started thinking hitting rocks with a sledgehammer all day was more interesting than running an airline.

“OK, we’re finally here.”

Not me.

Cheers,
Laks

“It’s not the voting that’s democracy, but the counting”

Interview with Anders Hejlsberg

January 17, 2005 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Anders Hejlsberg, C#, Interviews from on the Internet | Leave a comment

Folks,

Theserverside.net is running a interview with Anders Hejlsberg – Chief Architect at Microsoft, he is the chief designer of the C# programming language in his own words. The interview serves to elucidate the various design reasons as to why C# is what it is and for those in the camp that says C# is a very cheap copy of Java, this can be pretty illuminating.

The format the interview is organized is also very fresh, videos on a question by question basis.


http://theserverside.net/talks/videos/AndersHejlsberg
/interview.tss?bandwidth=dsl

Cheers,
Laks

Verdict – C# = Java++ 😉

Lewis Caroll

January 17, 2005 at 4:35 am | Posted in Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll, Poems | Leave a comment

Lewis Caroll is the “guru” of fantasy and whimsical writing. This is one of my fav carroll.

Classical Mad Gardener’s Song

He thought he saw an Elephant,
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
‘At length I realise,’ he said,
‘The bitterness of Life!’

He thought he saw a Buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:

He looked again, and found it was
His Sister’s Husband’s Niece.
‘Unless you leave this house,’ he said,
‘I’ll send for the Police!’

He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The Middle of Next Week.
The one thing I regret,’ he said,
‘Is that it cannot speak!’

He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A Hippopotamus.
‘If this should stay to dine,’ he said,
‘There won’t be much for us!’

He thought he saw a Kangaroo
That worked a coffee-mill:
He looked again, and found it was
A Vegetable-Pill.
‘Were I to swallow this,’ he said,
‘I should be very ill!’

He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
That stood beside his bed:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bear without a Head.
‘Poor thing,’ he said, ‘poor silly thing!
It’s waiting to be fed!’

He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again, and found it was
A Penny-Postage Stamp.
‘You’d best be getting home,’ he said:
‘The nights are very damp!’

He thought he saw a Garden-Door
That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
A Double Rule of Three:
‘And all its mystery,’ he said,
‘Is clear as day to me!’

He thought he saw a Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
‘A fact so dread,’ he faintly said,
‘Extinguishes all hope!’

– Lewis Caroll

For more on Lewis Caroll and Jabberwocky –

http://www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/jabber/jabberwocky.html

Cheers,
Laks

Hope is the dream of the waking man

Benford’s Law

January 16, 2005 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Benford's Law, Probability | Leave a comment

When I was searching around for a fix to one of the problems i was facing at work, i came across one of my favourite weird facts in maths. It was a senior who introduced me to this (Thx PS).

In any data set of base-ten numbers, one would expect to see each digit occurring at each place with equal probability 1/10 ~ 11%. For example, in a huge set of numbers, one would expect to see as many 2’s in the leading digit as 9’s, i.e. with a probability 1/9 (we ignore 0’s here). This works well with fake data generated with a random number generator but with naturally occurring data, this generally isn’t true.

It comes as a great surprise that, if the numbers under investigation are not entirely random but somehow socially or naturally related, the distribution of the first digit is not uniform. More accurately, digit D appears as the first digit with the frequency proportional to log10(1 + 1/D). In other words, one may expect 1 to be the first digit of a random number in about 30% of cases, 2 will come up in about 18% of cases, 3 in 12%, 4 in 9%, 5 in 8%, etc. This is known as Benford’s Law.

This amazing fact was first discovered by American astronomer Simon Newcomb in 1881, a time when Logarithm books were used for all complex mathematical calculations. Newcomb observed that the pages of the logarithm book, starting the number 1 were worn much more than other pages. After analyzing several sets of naturally occurring data, Newcomb went on to derive what later became Benford’s law. Newcomb was rewarded for his effort by being ignored.

In 1938, Frank Benford arrived at the same formula after a comprehensive investigation of listings of data covering a variety of natural phenomena. (Benford’s original data table can be found on Eric Weisstein’s Treasure Troves of MathematicsBenford’s Law page.) The law applies to budget, income tax or population figures as well as street addresses of people listed in the book American Men of Science.

Following Benford’s Law, or Looking Out for No. 1 by Malcom. W. Browne is an interesting read of the applications of this Law. One such is the following excerpts from the same

“Probability predictions are often surprising. In the case of the coin-tossing experiment, Dr. Hill wrote in the current issue of the magazine American Scientist, a “quite involved calculation” revealed a surprising probability. It showed, he said, that the overwhelming odds are that at some point in a series of 200 tosses, either heads or tails will come up six or more times in a row. Most fakers don’t know this and avoid guessing long runs of heads or tails, which they mistakenly believe to be improbable. At just a glance, Dr. Hill can see whether or not a student’s 200 coin-toss results contain a run of six heads or tails; if they don’t, the student is branded a fake.”

Interesting huh?? Why don’t you try it out? It worked for me.

Cheers,
Laks

Not everthing that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts – Albert. E

Me… Myself… and …??

January 16, 2005 at 3:07 pm | Posted in About Me... | 1 Comment

Didn’t want to clutter up the right hand side of this page with too much and thought i’ll pen something about me as a separate entry. Well here goes…

I am doing my masters in software engineering from PSG Tech, this is a college in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, Southern India (for the benefit of those whose not in the know). I am currently working at D. E. Shaw & Co at Hyderabad.

I love music (in any form), play the violin and to a very miniscule extent the bass guitar too. Nothing would more enjoyable to me than mixing a live concert. Someday i hope to make some music of my own. Outdoor sports of any kind interests me. I play basketball and cricket. Trekking and travelling are also passions. I love to go to new places and meet new people. And i am an ardent fan of Indian Cricket (esp of it’s not too popular but infamous skipper Sourav Ganguly), Basketball (NBA and more), F1 Racing (Schumi rules full stop) and many many more…..

I also love reading. Currently i am into On Noam Chomsky, Jeffery Sachs, Amartya Sen, Saki. Am also a movie buff…BIG time(English, Tamil, Hindi).. 🙂

Well… thats me…

Cheers,
Laks

It’s one life.. Live it to the fullest

Sound of Music

January 16, 2005 at 3:04 pm | Posted in Music | 1 Comment

As one of my friends used to say “music is god”, a religion, a faith, a belief that knows no boundaries. It is one universal language that everyone understands, no matter where one is from, what language one speaks, what colour one is or what one does for a living. Beatles are heard in India and are appreciated as equally as they would be anywhere in the western world, while Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Zakir Hussain and other exponents of Indian music are heard and appreciated world wide.

Google defines music as follows : http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=music&r=67

I find the following closest to my perception :

“The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre”

But the terms melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre are as fuzzy as it can get, my definition of melody could mean Metallica while someone else’s definition of melody would be Illayaraja or M. S. And in different moods, the same perception of melody oscillates. This is one of the reasons I picked this definition as it really does not define but leaves each one to interpret it for oneself.

There’s this aesthetic quality about music that appeals to everyone. No matter what kind of music one listens to, I feel that the underlying strains are the same. This is described by the basic Indian classical music’s fundamentals, the theory of ragas. By saying so, I am not against any other for of music or do not mean to say that it cannot be expressed by the same. As with everyone, I prefer to tread on familiar grounds. The same can be translated to any other style of music. As far as I am concerned, its all in the notes and the theory of raga puts these notes together in the most comprehensive and systematic manner known to me. This was so beautifully illustrated in the Swarutsav- 2001- Streams In Confluence, by Ganesh-Kumaresh and Tafiq Qureshi. If you can ever get to listen to this music, please do, it’ll help you understand what I am talking about. Ragas transcend the boundaries of language and lyrics. They convey human emotions at different levels.

So much for digressing, coming back to what I was going to say, no matter what kind of music, the underlying strain reduces itself to a particular raga or a combination thereof that combines to produce that effect, that WOW we feel when we hear good music, doesn’t matter if you’re listening to Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman or Bryan Adams or Vanessa Mae or Bach or Linkin Park.

Coming to the point, not so much that I am indeed making a point here, the folklore of Andalusia, Spain is as beautiful as the delightful crooning of Sanjay Subramanium on full flow at Madras in December’s music season. It’s all boils down to these building blocks or strains of ragas. If one can open his/her mind to this, one can truly appreciate all kinds of music and the kind of nuances and the subtlety in each. Like the famous words go, “they are all the same and yet they are different”.

Cheers,
Laks

“Music is indeed GOD”

In nuce

January 16, 2005 at 1:06 pm | Posted in In nuce | Leave a comment

In media res

“In the middle things” or ” — by Horace, refers to the literary technique of beginning a narrative in them middle of, or at a late point in, the story, after much action has already taken place. Examples include the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Paradise Lost. Compare ab initio.

In memoriam

“In memory of” — i.e. to remember or honor a deceased person.

In nuce

“In a nutshell.”

In partibus infidelium

“The land of the infidels” — infidels here refers to non-Christians. After Islam conquered a big part of the Roman Empire, the corresponding bishoprics didn’t disappear, but remained as honorific titles.

In rerum natura

“In the nature of things.”

The above are few excerpts from the “list of Latin phrases” from http://en.wikipedia.org/.

Googling on “in nuce” gives about 46,700 results, most of which is on the Queen In nuce album. But this is neither about Queen nor about rock. This page is the journal that would bear the brunt of the capricious musings and ramblings of a man. This is all about his perspective of things and events happening in the world around him. His opinions, his perceptions, his judgments and “in nuce” this is the world perceived by his senses.

Cheers,
Laks

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