Thursday, April 30, 2009

English's position among Indian languages.

I no more use any standalone transliteration software to type Malayalam. To post in this blog in Malayalam, I type it in gmail, using gmail's transliteration, and send it as an email to the blog. Its really easy this way. I also changed my display language in gmail to Malayalam (might or might not revert back, because I am more used to using English words for certain words associated with particular functionalities in Computers and Technology (like "delete" than "ഉപേക്ഷിക്കുക")

When we talk about whether English should continue to get the position it has in the linguistics of the country (it is one of the two main official languages), especially when people like Mulayam Singh and his Samajwadi Party did in their recent Election Manifesto, or some RSS Swadesi fellow or a simple Hindu chauvinist (with bad English?) talk about replacing English with Hindi, we hear arguments like: "In this modern world, of Computers and IT, how are you possibly going to live with Hindi? You are taking us backwards, into the 19th century". This comes from politicians, TV journalists, and many other people, even Hindi people).

Technology is going to make this a poor, shallow argument. Most of the popular things in the Internet can be done in major languages (google, gmail, Office, even OS (like the GUI of linux: KDE), are available in Malayalam). This is soon going to be much more pervasive, and more error-free. Google currently supports translations to and from Hindi, and hopefully will soon support other Indic languages. Its not tough to write an add-on in Firefox that will automatically translate every single web page in English that is loaded to Hindi, and vice-versa. When we come to filling forms, or writing a computer program, we will have to go with the way these are designed to be done, but this requires no great knowledge of English, as the great German, French and the Russian programmers (among others) have demonstrated. And technology might change this as well. So much research is going into Natural Language Processing, Speech processing and Machine Learning in the area of languages. Ten years later, the field will be revolutionised for sure. Unless, may be, if you are working in a call center :-) (which can also be impacted).

There are much better reasons to go for English above Hindi , or consider them equal. Even these might be challenged by technology - albeit slowly, and may be we will be able to get rid of English by massively making use of language softwares so that the purposes of a common language can be met (will that be useful?), but in any case, our Hindi journalists are not going to like the reasons or results :-)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reader's block

"Reader's block"
A big word. Is this actually a real phenomenon? Do a reader go into a "block", unable to read, just like that? Or is it that he doesn't get the right book, and all he gets is some book that doesnt impress/interest him?

I went into a reader's block for may be 6 months. Before that, I read about 3-4 books a month for sometime, before which, I read about perhaps a book a month. Then I started with the eternal hero Jawaharlal's Glimpses of the World History with the firm understanding that I am never going to complete such a huge non-fiction book, however great it is. True to my awareness of myself, I left the book at may be 250th page (read over a month). The effect was not much on me, except that I dont remember reading any book after that for six months. I did try to read, but somehow, I left them in the first ten pages, and I dont remember the book's names.

That was before I stumbled on Is Paris Burning by Dominique/Lappierre, in the vain hope that the author's style of writing would help to get rid of the ghost of "reader's block" that had affected me. I had enjoyed half of Freedom at Midnight and O Jerusalem!, but left them there :). Sadly, after about 80 pages, like one of the reviewer's of the film of the same name on the same book asked, I asked myself: Is Paris Boring? The problem was, the book had so many names, and so many chapters with started with lines similar to: "At the same time, in a nondescript house in the state of [X], Mr. [Y] woke up, with a hangover of a bad sleep." That chapter will be about Mr. Y, and then the next chapter will be about another Mr. Y waking up somewhere else, and what went through his mind.

There were good things with the book too. I realized that I had a horrible knowledge of even the timeline of WW2: so much so that I didnt realize that France was under German occupation for about 5 years or so. I had no clues about the Vichy goverment, de Gaulle's role in the whole thing, and his relation with Roosevelt and others. I got more interested, in fact got fascinated about de Gaulle, and his role in shaping the face of modern France, and many of its liberal outlook. And perhaps its laziness. But I left the book at 80 pages, moving on to Wikipedia :)

Then I started To the End of the Rhine by Bernard Levin: I found it quite interesting: it almost started with a Chapter on Swiss Military, which started with a quote which went like: "At xyz's time, Italy witnessed a period of highest violence and bloodshed, and they created Renaissance. Switzerland had democracy for 500 years, and they created the Cuckoo Clock". (I dont remember who the xyz was. And Swiss democracy was a special type of democracy, quite unlike any modern democracy: for eg: the Women got voting rights only as late as 1971!!). About their military, its like a paranoid government expecting the doomsday tomorrow, with underground oil lakes, hospitals and hostels that can withstand a Hiroshima happening some one kilometer nearby, waiting to be used in case of an attack. All Swiss guys (from lawyers to professors, I understand) must serve for some period every year, and have guns and even grenades at home. Most of the strategic places (like bridges) are mined. No wonder they follow a policy of stringent, aggressive neutrality.

The book then went to Liechenstein, where, according to the book, 10% of national income came from selling postage stamps. And the country being a tax haven, just near the Swiss border, majority of the rest of national income comes from financial institutions making use of its tax haven status, and tourism which banks on the "one of the smallest country" status. He also writes about an amusing parking ticket he got, written in 4 languages or so, in an explicitly polite language.

Then it became boring, with long passages on the architecture of buildings across Rhine. The book fell from my hands, I fell into deep sleep and didnt read the book again.

Till I started with No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I bought the book more than an year back, from Strand. I reached the bookshop before leaving for Calicut, and wanted to get a book. I found none to my taste, and was feeling bad after two hours or so, when it was time for me to leave. I just saw this book, went through the theme, and just picked it. Gave it to my friend, who read it, and loved it. I got it back last week(!!), with a strong recommendation. So I started reading it this Saturday. I was feeling bad when I started it, but I loved it, and finished it yesterday. It was entertaining, and got me started on this country called Botswana, familiar to me through the stamps from the place my father's stamp collection had. Botswana is a real exception to the impression we have about African countries. The place has a reasonably strong democracy, rule of law, non-corrupt courts and a modern military(which obeys the government commands). And the population density is like 3 persons every km square, and is bordering Zimbabwe and South Africa, which made me feel like: I WANT TO SEE THIS PLACE!!

So, was "reader's block" a phenomenon by itself, or was it that, I was trying to read books that were boring? If it is the former, I am glad that its over at least for now. Otherwise, I will try to read an interesting book next time. Both not bad options :-)

The statistical average Indian citizen and the voter. (incomplete)

For a start:

Agriculture provides 60% of employment.
Hindus form 80% of population.
SC 16%, ST 7%, OBC at least 32% (could be up to 50%), Upper castes around 30%- of total population.
51.4% are males.






Sunday, April 26, 2009

A sad answer to the quest of fun | A honest intellectual inquiry

Sex makes everything complicated. --Even when you don't have it, the not having it... makes things complicated. Which is why it's usually better to have it.
-- The Holiday.

Why did love - and sex - complicate life so much? It would be far simpler for us not to have to worry about them.

How terrible to be a man, and to have sex on one's mind all the time, as men are supposed to do?

-- Mma Ramotswe.The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Sex complicates every relation. Why?

Why are we here, on top of earth? Why are we here for?

If you believe in Science, then you are here to procreate, spread your genes around, more and more. And sex is one of the most important act here. So, everybody should be doing it with everyone else (without a STD), with the idea of making the world full of your healthy kids.

But here, the ladies have a problem, they have a tough gestation period before the baby comes out, and hence its not possible for them to fuck around and conceive every random man's kid. They have to be selective here, so that the kid will be healthy enough to spread her genes in an optimum way. The feeling of love is just a quality assurance process here.

However, if you are using a good contraceptive, the problem of eggs getting fertilized does not arise. Have a good sleep after sex, get up, take a bath, have a good breakfast and go to office. Simple as that, it should be.

Then, why is sex making things so complicated? Why people are generally so choosy about it, give it so much importance, especially about with whom they are doing it?

We were talking about the Natural part here. There is a Nurture part also. That ie, the culture part.

Before getting in to the culture part, there could be another "evolutionary" reason for this. If a man or woman has a history of fucking a lot of people, then they may not stay for long in the relation; like, they may continue to cheat or they may call the relation a day, and get on to newer things, without really bothering about hurting the partner or the societal norms. So the sexual history may give a clue about the reliability of the guy or lady, which is very important from an evolutionary/reproductive point of view. Point valid, even in the presence of a contraceptive.

Now, let me get into the societal/culture part. Society dictates sex should not be done with every random drone on the street. It should be done with people whom you love. Or with whom you are married to. If you are married to someone or is in love with someone, and does sex with someone else, you are cheating. But why? If you are using a contraceptive, is it not just like, well, kissing someone on their cheek?

If you ask Engels, he will say society has set this rule because of its Paternal mentality, i.e, ladies should be chaste enough to identify the proper inheritor of the man's property. If a lady fucks with random people everyday and conceives a kid with a father with an ambiguous identity, it will become tough to identify the inheritance of a man's property. But here also, the lady should conceive, and if a contraceptive is used, the problem does not arise.

So the reluctance to do sex, or the feeling that sex makes things complicated, is it just a remnant of the Paternal society Engels was talking about, when contraceptives were not discovered or commonly used? Are more and more people becoming less chaste, or bother less about doing sex, because of the availability of contraceptives?

But there is the religious reason. Abrahamic religions have tough rules about fucking. And Hinduism, even though initially a strong supporter of free sex, became affected by the Abrahamic religions and the Victorian attitude towards sex. So is sex so complicated because of Religion? But then, athiests should be fucking around all the time, which is not the case. But are atheists more open to sex than a strong theist? Perhaps.

Another reason for the reluctance to do sex must come from the fact that while doing it you are opening up your body for someone else, which you dont do all the time. So, you are being selective about whom you are doing this intimate process with. But this is just like the reluctance of showing your not-so-impressive body when you are going to swim. Or doing push-ups in a crowded city center, in front of other people. All the feelings which will disappear in due course :-)

So, in the scenario where the possibility of a pregnancy is ruled out, the only reasons I could think of the importance of carefully selecting the person with whom you do sex with comes from the 1) Keeping a safe sexual history of a person which could be important later 2) The reluctance to do an intimate, physical process with a random guy (or a girl) 3) Religion.

Fuck, silly, what about the emotional part? You are so silly. You do sex when you are emotionally close with someone. That is what complicates everything. Everything else is secondary.

Hmm, but that was covered in the evolutionary section of this post, aint so? Emotion is just an evolutionary tool to....

Or is it? Just like the choice of a man in choosing to use a contraceptive in direct contradiction with evolutionary/reproductive theory(which wants him to fuck around like crazy, subject to maintaining good health), is his brain so heavily wired up that it's products like emotion is no longer just an evolutionary tool? That means, we cannot rationalize that sex should not be complicated?

Hmm, yes, perhaps, till science solves the nature vs nurture question about emotion. Till then, if one feels sex is complicated, we might have to allow them to feel so.

Thats sad. For a guy especially.

Note: This article should be considered as a "honest intellectual enquiry post" or at least a "humour post"(Where's the humour?). I aint that bad.

Who's wrong...

P. Sainath and Yogendra Yadav: both liberal, sensible people, who have done great, exemplary work in the media.

Last week's Sainath's article in The Hindu said:
 
At least two major newspapers have informed their desks that the word "recession" is not to be used in connection with India. Recession is something that happens in the United States, not here. The word stands exiled from the editorial lexicon. If a rather disastrous situation has somehow to be indicated, the term "downturn" or "slowdown" will suffice — and it is to be used with some discretion. But not recession. That would upset the happy buying mood so vital amongst media audiences for the economy to come out of, er, um, well, recession.
This don't-worry-be-happy decree throws up both funny and tragic situations. Several times, publications in this denial mode sport headlines telling us "the worst is over and recovery is just around the corner." 

Now, in today's Hindu, Yadav writes:

The media has tried but failed to make the global meltdown a factor in our politics.
 
One of them has got it fully wrong. But how come? Can one write anything and get away with it? We aint talking about Hindutva spin-doctors here, but liberals!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reading is good

The Swiss military, Liechtenstein economy and Life and Democracy in Botswana.  Some revelations :-)

Reading is good.

Learning and knowing new things is good.

Hope to continue this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

പണ്ടാറം

എന്തരോ എന്തോ. കഴിഞ്ഞ ഒരാഴ്ചയില്‍ രണ്ടു ഗവേര്‍മെന്റ്റ് സൈറ്റില്‍ ഈ തെറ്റ് (എറര്‍) കിട്ടി. വേറെ രണ്ടു ഗോവെര്‍മെന്റിനോട് ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട് കെടക്കുന്ന സൈറ്റിലും ഇത് കിട്ടി. കഴിഞ്ഞ ഒരാഴ്ചയില്‍. സൈറ്റുകള്‍: india post, railways, yhai (youth hostel) and one of the embassy websites. എല്ലാം മൈക്രോസോഫ്റ്റ് സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയര്‍ കൊണ്ട് ഡെവലപ്പ് ചെയ്ത സൈറ്റുകള്‍.  ഇവന്മാര്‍ക്കൊക്കെ ഒരു സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയര്‍ എഴുതുമ്പോ നന്നായിട്ടെഴുതിക്കൂടെ... അല്ലാതെ ഒരു പൈന്കിളി കഥ എഴുതുന്നത്‌ പോലെ എന്തൊക്കെയോ കുത്തിക്കുറിച്ചു ....!  മനുഷേനെ പിരാന്തുപിടിപ്പിക്കാന്‍ പണ്ടാരങ്ങള്‍ എല്ലാം കൂടി രാവിലെ തന്നെ ഇറങ്ങിക്കോളും....

പണ്ടാറം



Monday, April 20, 2009

ഒരു പെസ്സിമിസ്ടിന്റെ ജല്പനങ്ങള്‍

ഇത് എഴുതിയത് ഞാന്‍ തന്നെ ആണോന്നാണു ഇപ്പോ സംശയം.... സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയര്‍ എഞ്ചിനീയറിങ്, മെഷീന്‍ ലേര്‍ിംഗ്, രോബോടിച്സ്, തന്നെ പ്രശ്നം പരിഹരിക്കുന്ന മൃദുലമായ വെയര്‍ (സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയര്‍) ... എന്തൊക്കെ പുകിലായിരുന്നു... ഇപ്പൊ പുട്ട് ഉണ്ടാക്കുന്നത്‌ മാത്രം ആണ് ഏക ആശ്വാസം...
ഒരു പൊസ്തകം വായിച്ചിട്ട് എത്ര കാലായി. വായിക്കാന്‍ ഇരിക്കുമ്പോ അപ്പൊ ഒറക്കം വരും. എങ്ങനെ ആണ് വിസ്ഡം ഉണ്ടാക്കന്ടെതെന്നു ചോദിച്ചപ്പോ വാറന്‍പ്പൂപ്പന്‍ പറഞ്ഞത് "റീഡ് റീഡ് റീഡ്" എന്നാണു. ഈ പോക്ക് പോയ ഞാന്‍ വയസ്സായാലും വൈസ് ആവുന്ന ലക്ഷണം ഇല്ല.

എത്ര സിനിമ ഡൗണ്‍ലോഡ്‌ ചെയ്തു. പക്ഷെ എല്ലാം imdb റേറ്റിംഗ് നോക്കി എടുത്ത ബുജി പടങ്ങള്‍... കാണാന്‍ തോന്നണേ ഇല്ല...
saving private ryan പോലെ, schindler's list പോലെ, amelie പോലെ, shawshank redumption പോലെ, good bad and ugly പോലെ വേറൊരു പടം... ആരും ഇത് വരെ പിടിച്ചിട്ടില്ലേ മക്കളെ....

തെന്തൂട്ടനാവോ...ഇങ്ങനെ പോയാല്‍ മരണം വരെ എങ്ങനെ ചെലവോഴിക്കും...

എന്തൂട്ടാ ചെയ്യാ.

എനിച്ചു ബോര്‍ അടിക്കുന്നു.
മടുത്തു. എന്തൂട്ടാ ചെയ്യാ.
ഓഫീസില്‍ ആണ്. ഒറങ്ങാന്‍ പറ്റില്ല.
കഥ എഴുതാന്‍ ക്രിയേറ്റിവിറ്റി തോന്നണില്ല.
ബ്ലോഗ് എഴുതാന്‍ മൂഡ് ഇല്ല.
ആലോചിക്കാന്‍ തോന്നണില്ല.
തമാശ. ഫൂ.
ജോലി ചെയ്യാനോ പ്രോഗ്രാം ചെയ്യാനോ ഒന്നും തോന്നണില്ല
എന്തൂട്ടാ ചെയ്യാ. ആര്‍ക്കറിയാം.
മിണ്ടാണ്ട്‌ കീ ബോര്‍ഡില്‍ കൊട്ടി കൊണ്ടിരിക്കാം...മോണിറ്ററില്‍ "ഉറ്റു" നോക്കി.... ഉറങ്ങാം.
ഒന്നൊന്നര മണിക്കൂര്‍ കഴിഞ്ഞാല്‍ മേലധികാരികള്‍ വീട്ടീ പോവ്വും
അപ്പൊ എനിച്ചും പോവ്വാം
അത്രന്നെ അല്ല പിന്നെ.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where did we eat breakfast when in Chickmagalur?

I can never forget about the *next* meal I am going to take. Got a helluva pot belly to prove that. This causes me to remember all the hotels I've ever been to. Especially the good ones and the horrible ones. When I go to a place near one of such hotel that earned a "good" rating in my list, the hotel and its food will occupy a major part of my mind, and I grow restless, till I go and eat something from there. Guess my fellow travellers, friends or family, dont share this quality of mine, so they may not enjoy this as much as I do(in fact most of them cant take it!)

So, if I happened to eat from a Kamat hotel(whose all branches I love), that too in Chikmagalur (with not so many good hotels), how can I forget it? And how I wont take a photograph to remind myself of the glories of the olden days?

So, here goes for all those who doubted whether we indeed had our breakfast from Kamat hotel in Chickmagalur.

Though this photo, by itself does not prove that we ate from there; since this is a hotel in Chickmagalur (proved by online records), it is probable that we ate from here. And since this the only hotel picture we have from our trip to Chickmagalur(not other areas we visited in the trip), it must be the only place from we ate!

Sony prefers research into Arts over Robotics ?


What's this? "Language", "Music", "Art/Science" and - nothing less than - "Sustainability", are the current research topics, that too in a corporate laboratory. And "Robotics" & "Neuroscience" have become - "past"!
AAMOF, the research is not in Language or Music per se, but about the computational problems in these areas, perhaps for Sony's commercial applications in these fields.