Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Signing up!

As a part of setting our rented apartment up, I called up a telephone service provider. It took us, I & the customer service representative, the better part of two minutes to get through all the information that was needed to set us up with a landline connection.

The representative first guessed my name as a Greek one. And then, as he was entering all the information into the system & going through the process of setting my account up, he told me how he had been to Sri Lanka on the ship he worked for back in 1980 ( & said I was exactly three years old then by the way of proving his arithmetic abilities!), & how he had wandered off into the streets looking for local cuisine, & how he had eaten one of everything on offer in a local restaurant ( he did not say whether he had paid for each one, too), & how the color of his face had changed with the spice content of each dish. He then said that it was quite a show & children gathered all around him laughing at this quaint American doing strange things. And he said, that, not knowing how to react, he decided to join the children in their merry laughter.

He went on to say that how similar people are anywhere you go, & how governments just represent the politics of a country & how this representation is often mistaken for what people are like.

At this point, he said I was all set & thanked me for bringing up fond memories.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Blog Boom

I have this opinion that blogging as social networking platform is slowly eating away at certain other networking platforms such as ryze, or Orkut. Per this article, the total blogs in April 2005 stood at 50 million with approximately 1 million blogs from the Indian Subcontinent. Here are my reasons why blogging is such a growing medium, not necessarily in any order of significance:
  • Your blog is the virtual you. There is no other platform which gives an opportunity to express the sum total of the person you are as much as blogging does. With blogging, you are not your resume or just someone who is interested in white collar crimes.
  • Blogging is not need-based. It is wish-based. So while you'll be active on LinkedIn, if you're looking for a job or growing your business at any point, you can blog for much more mundane reasons like reporting what your dog did last Sunday or publicizing what is so weird about you.
  • Content-type: While most networking sites go as far as letting you upload a photograph of yourself, with blogging you get: as many photos as you want, dynamic content like RSS feeds, videos, & sundry other scripts you can run for various purposes (like site meters). A blog any day is more dynamic, & more you, than your other networking profile(s).
  • Customization: You can make your blog look the way you want to limited only by your exposure to web technologies. Even if you're not a HTML/CSS/Ajax wizard, each blog can be customized easily to make it your own. Other networking sites provide you with only a filter to differentiate public information about yourself from the private ones.
  • Interactive: This is a very important reason why blogs are so popular. Blogging is essentially a communication platform & potentially develops into a community. I find that people whose posts receive a lot of comments also post more frequently than those whose blogs do not get too much traffic. With other social networking platforms, the extent of communication is limited by their very design (like Orkut scrapbooks)
  • No sign-up required: Anybody can see your blog, & just about anybody can comment, depending on how you've configured your blog. Other networking sites typically need you to be a member to view a profile. With blogging, everybody is welcome to participate.
  • Auxiliary technologies: There are a host of other technologies that support blogging. These include RSS which lets people subscribe to your blog & be notified when you publish. Technocrati maintains blogger profiles & lets the world discover the type of content they are interested in. You can also post from email.
  • And finally, while you'd typically have just one Ryze or Orkut profile, you can have many blogs.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The devotee

Recently, there was an editorial in TOI about the Islamic world & a very short historical analysis by Murad Ali Baig on why certain aspects of Islam are the way they are today. Particularly, there was a note on how there was one consolidated Medina version of the Qu'ran compiled in 665 A.D. & how the various other versions of the holy book were burnt.

Now, it is very possible that such a representation of history is totally inaccurate. It is possible that Mr. Baig had done no research of any sort at all & there were never versions of the Holy book which were burnt. It is possible, also, that his research is indeed accurate.

I asked an Islamic friend of mine to read the article & tell me if he agreed to Baig's points of view. At the time, my motive was to understand Baig's representations, analysis, interpretations & conclusion & I did not really mean to question the authenticity of his historical research.

My friend told me that he did not agree that the book burning incident ever happened. When I asked him why, he said, almost choking himself with passion, that it is by Allah's dictate that the Qu'ran cannot be changed in any way imaginable, & so there could not have been any versions of it.

While I sat still half-apologetic, & not a little annoyed at his faith-based reply, that I ever brought this topic up; it was, in a way, the stark encounter with raw faith which was an absolute first.

Even if I were to discount this as a thought process borne out of a minority complex, I perceive that there is a general rise in staunch religiosity in the world in general, & that makes me very very uncomfortable.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Set Pieces

Vishy Anand has appeared in many NIIT commercials. The connection is obvious - intelligence, speed, strategy, & whatever other parallels this game represents. And such a notion is not a parochial one, but fairly universal.

In May 1997,
Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov, compelling us to rethink what we mean by intelligence, to look again at the possibilities of capturing our elusive moments of grand inspiration within the realm of a mundane & predictable algorithm.

That mundane & predictable algorithm follows a computational model called
recursion. Ray Kurzweil has written a very informative & insightful article on the use of recursion to play a perfect game of chess.

So while my mind boggles at the sight of a chess board, & my grasp of the
"Towers of Hanoi" remains feeble, it simply boils down to the inability of my cranial hardware to implement a call-stack.

And that, categorically, is not my fault.