Thursday, July 28, 2005

Moving offices...

I just moved offices. My view out of the window went from this

to this

The only reason I moved was that now I have my own office space rather than sharing it with 3 others.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Why QWERTY keyboard?

I had always wondered, but never discovered until today why the keyboard is laid out in this wierd way. It appears that this keyboard layout was designed by Scholes so as to slow typing speed. The initial model has a mechanical problem caused by people typing fast and hence the keybaord was laid out in such a way that our fingers would have to travel maximum distance.

Isn't it stupid that computers use the same layout when no such mechanical problems canever exist?

Read more about this at How Stuff Works and Wikipedia.

Quick note on earlier post

I wanted to add that my last post was a piece I wrote nearly 8 years ago for my now-defunct personal webpage. I put it up here again, as it may serve as background on a post that refuses to see daylight.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Colour symbolism in Hindu culture

Pootu vaitha oru vatta nila...

So goes a song from the movie tamil Idhayam. Roughly translated it is "A round moon with a bindhi". Tamil poets from the days of yore (this one by poet Vairamuthu),have tried to descibe the beauty of a tamil woman. A few constants in their descriptions -long hair decked with flowers, chandramukhi (woman with a face like the moon) and a pottu (bindi) smack in the middle of her forehead.

Yes, the pottu adds greatly to a woman's beauty, but why the red pottu and in that specific location? The red color and the location can be prefuncturily explained based on aesthetics. Red is a beautiful and bright color that contrasts well with the fair skinned aryan woman and symmetry requires the location specified earlier.

Is that all there is to it? Well , I think not. A key aspect of Hindu culture (I am specifically referring it to as culture rather than religion as I believe we muddled the two later on) is its symbolism. So here is my take on it......

The pottu is mainly red in color. Red color has the longest wavelength and can thus be seen the farthest (that is why the stop light is red!!!). Red also symbolizes fire... the fire of passion. When a girl is young, she wears the pottu to signify the passion in her. The question that could come up here is - Doesn't a man have passion? He certainly does, but our (rather our ancestor's) society, being as it was, allowed men to lay bare their passion - for education, women etc.

When the woman is married, she applies it to the top of her forehead where the hair starts. This is to indicate that her love is consummated or satisfied. It is a sort of warning sign to all other men who look at her. Also in some cultures, the woman cover her hair after her wedding. This is because the hair is black and black signifies that it accepts everything/everyone.

The color symbolism is so important in our culture. Another such symbolism is why widows wear white and their hair shorn. White as a color repels all light/colors. When a woman is clothed in white, she tells the wold that she is no longer an active participant..... I repel all of you.. all I have is within me.

Women these days barely wear the pottu. They ignore it as having religious connotations, which do not go well in this liberal, modern and hence civilized (so they say) world. Even the few who wear it, prefer black to red.

This is just one example of a religious symbol having no religious roots, rather a societal or cultural root. There are many more such examples. I wish people would stop to ask or think, why we (or our parents) do certain things the way we (or they) do and try to come up with rational explanations rather than accepting them on blind faith or rejecting them as being religious.

We don't give our ancestor's enough credit for being rational thinkers!!

Point of view

I came across this quote attributed to the great German mathematician David Hilbert:
Some people have got a mental horizon of radius zero and call it their point of view.
Liked it!!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

NOKIA - connecting people

...disconnecting families

Ask Warne!!!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Dehyphenation of India-Pakistan

As a rule, I decided I would not write anything about India-Pakistan relations in my blog as I have a few very good friends from Pakistan and do not want to write anything that can be construed as being deprecating. But I could not help myself from writing this.

While most (if not all) analysis on PM Manmohan Singh's visit say that the biggest gain for India from the trip was the dehyphenation of India and Pakistan for American policy makers, I can only muse why it took so long. The hyphenation, thanks to the British (with a lot of help from Nehru, Jinnah, Gandhiji and the others), was natural as long as the hyphenation existed between the two superpowers after WWII USA-USSR, with India leaning towards USSR and Pakistan towards USA. I said it was natural, but I am wrong. Hyphenation, I believe, can exist only between countries of equal size or capability, if you will. But suprisingly, India-Pakistan hyphenation existed even long after USSR disintegrated and Russia did not posses the stature any more to be hyphenated with the US of A. India, in turn, cannot and should not hope to be hyphenated with China, a country that is way ahead of India in all spheres (except democracy some maay point out).

That said, I think the hyphenation makes sense in another context. Pakistan and India, particularly the North of India, have a lot in common. At the time of the partition, Muslims in the north of India, mainly the Hindi/Urdu speaking, moved over to Pakistan while the Bengali speaking Muslims moved to Bangladesh (or then East Pakistan). The south of India was thankfully kept out of it. But I am digressing here.

Thus the hyphenation makes sense - similar people having different coloured passports thanks to an imaginary line, a line that not everyone were (or are) happy with. In some ways this hyphenation represents that imaginary line. But then why not India-Bangladesh? Well the Bangladesh are not Hindi?Urdu speaking, are they? India, unfortunately is historically Hindi centric. No, there is no typo there... it is Hindi-centric - not Hindu-centric. Ok let me leave this at that.

But then, what really helped get rid of this hyphenation? It is not very difficult to see. India, the 4th largest economy in the world, has gone from being India - a land of snake charmers, to India - a land of IT experts, outsourcing capital of the world, a land that exports experts. Unfortunately, Pakistan has come to represent what can go wrong when democracy fails. It has become, particularly these past few weeks, as a land that exports Islamic terrorists and ideologies.

It is really unfortunate that our countries should have taken these disparate routes - but India, could have potentially gone the same route, if not for its diversity.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Kuttime enters world...

Arthi and self became proud parents of a baby girl today. She was born at 4:57 IST at Mehta Hospital in Chennai.

More later....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bush Vs The Godfather

Don Corleone valued one thing most - loyalty to friends and so does the President of the United States - NY Times has this line in an article in todays paper on the Karl Rove case
They point to the words Mr. Bush used to silence conservative critics of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last week, warning them curtly, "I'm loyal to my friends."
The Don stuck to his principles and faith and refused to go against it and so does President Bush. The biggest difference between these two characters (one fictional and the other not - unfortunately) is that the Don was prepared to accept his mistakes and that made him a better person.

Go figure!!!!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A New Kind of Science (or NKS as the Wolfram guys say)

I bought the NKS book within a couple of weeks of its release in 2002. I started reading it then but got put off by the Preface and Introductory chapter in the book where I could not digest the huge dose of Wolfram's ego we were subjected to. That and work pressures meant that the book was subjected to dust in a corner of my bookshelf.

I started reading the book Sunday. A couple of things have changed that prompted me to read this book. A hot sunday eve in Trondheim, without a book to read can be pretty depressing - particularly when you are tired after a long cyle ride. I just finished reading Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino and needed a book to read. It was a choice between Godel, Escher, Bach and NKS.

My reasearch requires me to think out-of-the-box as the field I am working is a work in progress for over 30 years now with no definite end in sight. Thus a new approach would definitely do me good and I thought NKS may be called for.

I have thus far read 100 out of the 1200 pages of the book (which could have been considerably reduced if the Is in the book were omitted). I realize that Wolfram has ignored work of other researchers in the field, or has appropriated their results as his own. The book nevertheless gives a good background and explains the field very well and thus provides a good summary. The whole area of cellular automata is interesting and the book is a good and interesting read.

All said, I think the book's title overreaches in calling it a New Kind of Science.