Who are they kidding?

"Pack your bags to go explore the pearl of the gulf, daily flights from Sharjah to Kozhikode and Thiruvanathapuram"?

I might be drawing a hasty conclusion here, but I figure this flight is for one reason and one reason only and that’s to ship labour from India to the Gulf (and back).

Considering that, isn’t it curious that Indigo feels the need to promote it with a mail suggesting it would be a great tourist draw?

Blurry pujo

First time I managed to be in Kolkata over durga pujo. To say it’s a pretty big deal is a bit of a understatement. Christmas Lighting in shop windows have nothing on the pandals (the temporary structures built to house the gods) and thakurs (the idols of Durga and her children – Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik).

Apparently around 3,000 of these are built around Kolkata, and from a week spent spotting them in every street corner I have absolutely no reason to question that number.  Each neighbourhood has at least one, and there are famed ones with budgets counted in millions of rupees. This year one was 3D printed, another adorned with tens of millions worth of gold, another with diamonds and so on and so forth. There are prizes to be won from a wide range of newspapers, corporates, tv channels etc.

Durga Puja in Bengal is the celebration of the goddess Durga’s (wife of the in western circles more well-known Shiv) visit to her father (Himalaya). Visiting your parents after you’ve been married is of course joyous (can’t be much fun waiting on your husband and his family). Additionally, it’s celebrating Durga’s defeat of evil – in the form of a demon who has taken the shape of a buffalo.

The basic activity involves a) buying, gifting & wearing of new clothes and b) taking said clothes (and yourself) pandal-hopping across the city. While the festival can’t exactly be called secular (since well, you know, the Hindu pantheon and myths feature pretty heavily) for most people it seems to be more a festival/carnival type event rather than a heavily loaded religious one.

Finally, after five days of sweating, crowding, wearing new clothes, eating mishti and too much food the sad day of Durga’s departure from her father (to head back to her husband) comes and Durga (along with her children) is taken – with much ruckus – to the river in which she is then left to find her way back to Shiv in the Himalayas.

Philosophy of Software Development

In Work-Oriented Devlopment of Software Artifacts, Pelle Ehn describes his experiences on a series of projects that explored making software easier to use, more appropriate to its final use, and made by both programmers and end users. For me, the high point of the book was the way in which he considers software development in the context of four philosophers: Descartes, Marx, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein.

A person working in the style of Descartes considers there to be an external reality worth describing, and turns her efforts toward capturing that reality in requirements, in models, and in the code. The first half-century of software development is filled with the Cartesion work style.

A person working in the style of Marx first asks, “Whom does this new system benefit? What changes in the social power structure accrue from its deployment?” This is a good question to consider, whether or not you like Marx.

A person working in the style of Heidegger considers the system for its efficacy as a tool. Ideally, the user does not “see” the system at all, but rather, sees through the system to the task being performed. For example, when I am typing, I don’t “see” the word processor, I see the page growing text. An accomplished pianist sees the music being formed, not the piano; a good carpenter sees the nail going into the wood, not the hammering tool. Heidegger’s frame can help us produce systems more fit for use.

It is only the style of Wittgenstein that directly opposes the style of Descartes. A person working in this style views the unfolding of the software design as the unfolding of a language game, in which new words are added to the language over time.

via Pelle Ehn, Wittgensteins Language Game – Agile Software Development — www.e-reading.ws.


They never taught me this in university.

Protesters against rape arrested

Early in the morning today Thursday (13th June) there was a protest in the wake of the two latest gruesome gang-rapes and killing in West Bengal. They peacefully sang and held placards, an offense for which the police responded by brutally manhandling and arresting the protesters.

Early in the morning today Thursday (13th June) there was a protest in the wake of the two latest gruesome gang-rapes and killing in West Bengal. They peacefully sang and held placards, an offense for which the police responded by brutally manhandling and arresting the protesters.


If only my wall could talk

I’d like to have a wall, which at various random moments would either record a few minutes or so, or play back any previously stored recording. Playback with appropriate fade-in and maybe even a clearing of the throat for effect. Imagine after 30 years suddenly being interrupted by a conversation you had when you were half your age, oh joy.

Get me that, a dry erase wall and a round bed and I should be pretty much set for life.

Ladies traveling alone with dogs

A passenger traveling in First Air condition class or first class may take a dog into the compartment only with the concurrence of fellow passengers on payment of charges vide Clause(1) above. The charges are to be prepaid. If fellow passengers subsequently object to the dog remainig in the compartment, it will be removed to the Guard’s van, no refund being given. Dogs detected unbooked with the passenger in IA and Ist class compartments will be charged six times the Luggage scale Rate subject to a minimum of Rs.50/-. A lady travelling alone with children under 12 years of age in a first class compartment may take with her in the compartment one dog on payment of charges at the Dog Box Rates,subject to a minimum of Rs.10/-provided that if another lady enters the compartment, the dog can only be allowed to remain in the compartment with her consent. Any dog detected unbooked will be charged at double the dog-box rate for the distance up to the point of detection and at the dog-box rate for the distance beyond the total charge being subject to a minimum of Rs.20/- for each dog.

Yes, you got it right, the rules for carrying dogs (a k a any minor pets) don’t make much sense. Not that the rules matter much. A full narrative of my experiences with animals (cats) on India rail is forthcoming!

via Welcome to Indian Railway Passenger reservation Enquiry.

My belief system can’t cause harm? My foot it can’t

It can’t be harmful what I think, [….], my belief system cannot be harmful to anybody else, it’s what I do that can hurt somebody.

Humans evolved from Neanderthals

Interviewer: “Do you accept that humans evolved from something other than humans?”
Cardinal Pell (Australia): “Probably. Yeah, probably. From neaderthals.”
Richard Dawkins: “Neanderthals? (shocked face) Why from Neaderthals?”
Cardinal Pell (Australia): “Well, who else would you suggest?”
….Dawkins speechless, tries to educate mr Cardinal, gets:
Cardinal Pell (Australia): “Something in the evolutionary story seems to have come before humans… A lot of people say it’s neanderthals.”


Huh? Which people? If I’m forced to get a pass in study on religion in school, couldn’t Mr Cardinal be forced to get a pass in biology…

Card Confused

The letters to our office with regards to the "National Population Registry" (NPR) camps got me interested and confused. 

The NPR is run by census office under the home ministry and is a registry of all usual residents, ie. everybody who has "resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.".

It captures all sorts of data about the person including biometric data (finger prints, iris scans, photograph) and issues a smart card containing such data. At that point I had to stop and think – hey, how does this relate to the vaunted (by government, criticised by others..) UID set up by Nilekani?

From the letter we received at our office it wasn't quite clear. It did state that even if a UID/Aadhaar  had been received you should still attend the NPR camp and get your details updated. 

After some Googling it turns out that:

a) Original remit of UID didn't include issuing any cards or such, simply to collect the data and maintain the database
b) NPR was supposed to use this database to issue smart cards
c) In some areas smart cards could be issued by the local registrar
d) UID did float a tender in 2011 for the issuance of some 150 million cards 
e) Said tender was later cancelled in the end of 2011
f) After registering some 200 million people NPR was supposed to take over all registration of biometric data from UIDAI – that point has now in Jan been crossed

Conclusion is that supposedly UID number will be printed on a persons NPR smart card and if no UID exists the NPR biometric data collected should result in a UID number being created.

All this means that the NPR smart card  happily adds to the bewildering array of identification that an proper Indian resident needs to/can carry:
  1. UID registration (paper slip with Aadhaar number from UIDAI)
  2. NPR registration/smart card
  3. PAN card for income taxes
  4. Voters ID
  5. Ration card
  6. Passport
  7. ….
Not to mention extras such as: ESI smart card, drivers license, etc.

Additionally to make matters easier the UID and NPR databases are registering all residents – ie. not only citizens – where as the PAN database is for any tax resident (defined differently from UID/NPR usual residence status) and naturally voters id/passports are based on only on citizens…