Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A late elegy TP

A name, showing in tiny font, at the bookshops around Delhi, has always been my curiosity. Being raised in the Tolkien world, I didn't look much beyond, to other popular fantasy. But I do remember the names that made for the non-Tolkien ecosystem. One such, was Terry Pratchett. Today, I find that the name has gone to the grave with its owner; it happened in the recent past (last year, 2015). 

Terry Pratchett was often confused with Terry Gilliam in the early days. Being in awe of Monty Python, I would come to a dead stop wherever the names Terry, Cleese, Idle, Palin, Graham would come up.. there were two Terry-s in the team, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, and with a diverse portfolio of endeavors to their credit, I would give special care to "Terry" wherever I came across it. And hence I ran into Mr. Pratchett sometimes, but only to browse through in no particular regard.

Then I picked up some background on Pratchett's Discworld series of novels. There were 41 of them. Starting 1971 (The Carpet People), they kept coming until 2015 (Shepherd's Crown), the year of his death. More than 85 million books sold in 37 languages, which also made him the best-selling UK author in the 1990s.

His early interests included astronomy.[19] He collected Brooke Bond tea cards about space, owned a telescope[20] and wanted to be an astronomer but lacked the necessary mathematical skills.[19] He developed an interest in reading science fiction 
Pratchett was well known for his penchant for wearing large, black fedora hats,[34] as seen on the inside back covers of most of his books. His style has been described as "more that of urban cowboy than city gent."  
Concern for the future of civilisation prompted him to install five kilowatts of photovoltaic cells (for solar energy) at his house.[36] Having been interested in astronomy since childhood, he had an observatory built in his garden.[19][20] An asteroid (127005 Pratchett) is named after him.  
In late 2009, he did make himself a sword, with the help of his friends. He told a Times Higher Educationinterviewer that “At the end of last year I made my own sword. I dug out the iron ore from a field about 10 miles away – I was helped by interested friends. We lugged 80 kilos of iron ore, used clay from the garden and straw to make a kiln, and lit the kiln with wildfire by making it with a bow.' Colin Smythe, his long-term friend and agent, donated some pieces of meteoric iron – ‘thunderbolt iron’ has a special place in magic and we put that in the smelt, and I remember when we sawed the iron apart it looked like silver. 

Mar 12, 2015, he breathed his last, the verbose knight.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

WYSIWIWA argument

What our present government is doing is an argument I'm not getting into. It wastes a lot of time. Just to step out and see, it is a lot easier to explain yourself, and indeed win the argument. This organism stays indoors most of the time these days, but a single visit to the unfolding "vision" of India, that exists and (tries to) function outside is enough to have me push my thoughts out with certitude.

WYSIWIWS - What You See Is What I Wanted To Argue

The night before, almost a coupla hours were spent with O, holding strongly opposing viewpoint of what my favorite state-controlled industry, the Indian Railways, is doing. I want those back. If I had a quality called "vehemency" (strongly protesting wrong perceptions and beliefs), and were less lazy, then those coupla hours could've been better argued with a visit to the Old Delhi Railway Station, where I happened to be last night.

Anything I write about it here would be an understatement. The experience was a crass one. Soon as I stepped out from the Metro Station (that directly connects), there was a large waterbody to skirt around - more like a body of piss than a body of water, in reality. It looked like they still can't get the damn public urinals functioning - earlier people were urinating on the walls and the stench was the first thing to hit one on the way out of the Metro Station, followed by trails of urine to hop over. Now, there is a public urinal in place, whose mismanagement has consolidated all the human excreta and put it for an even more real experience with bad hygiene. Who knew so many diseases were for the taking, besides the promised travel, by our Railways. Travelers converged into a single-person channel that skirted around the water body. Ones in rush, and the valiant ones, splash through the pool, affecting even ones who thought they stayed outta it.

Then, the long queues. Despite anticipating large traveler traffic, - which is to increase in numbers, as the festival of Holi comes close (it falls on 24th of March) - there is no preparation to handle the menace. It already felt a menace. Mismanaged queues, barring the throughfare on one side, and the water body on the other. It adds greatly to the traveler discomfort, and yet authorities turn a blind eye to it.

If you wonder what "Vision" this conveys, and what all has been done in budget spending in the last coupla years, then there is one clear answer to all your questions - the ATMs (automated ticketing machines) that have been setup around the complex. Who doesn't like the BSOD errors on display terminals! Two were seen working. There were a three that said they didn't work - a simple BSOD message. There were five or six more (in the far background), that were just dead, no display, and assured us that they won't ever work. And to fire our imagination about setting up infrastructure for Magleav trains... either shows how lying is at work, or how our existing infrastructre (that I'm sure won't be taken out of service anytime soon) will suffer stagnation and people will come to eschew train travel.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Unoriginality is annoying

A coupla days back, it was a pleasant surprise to read about an innovative undertaking by the environmental science students at Delhi University - to monitor bird sounds and find out whether the birdsong has changed due to rising pollution in the city. Conjecture is that due to the damping effect of pollution, the birdsong cannot travel far, hence the birds now sing at a higher frequency than usual.
DU to study how pollution affects birds’ sound

Today, to some shock, it turns out to be an existing idea. The original research is covered well in an article here - too well covered, I guess.
Present annoyance comes from the death of the excitement caused by considering it an original idea. I dunno what scholars have, if not for things they would like to conceptualize and do.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

war and lust

Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury expounds the following
The condition of man... is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.
Curiosity is the lust of the mind.
Just google "hobbes quotes" and more of his viewpoints put in sensational words come up.

I am two of his state of minds. For every line penned, he would be in a unique state altogether. Calling to wage wars in the middle of the lustful pursuits of the mental and jobless realm. My flatmate doesn't help it either - his arrival set an avalanche that buried my day's thoughts under rubble. That rubble I pick and throw here on the blog. Survival skills coming to the test, which is fine with me.

Knolling has occupied much of the day. The things on the bed, the ones strewn on my laptop and pen drives, the ones on the table, the ones in my head, the path of gainfully employed existence - and in that same order of success (or completion).

Also, a conversation set off an avalanche shortly before flatmate showed up, but it was akin to a gold vein shooting up and burying what would be just stones, or flat formless thoughts from the day, to leave me with a lot of nuggets to pick up from around. I have been seeking a career as a gold prospector, so the imagery might be an inspired one, but the result of that conversation was positive and took me on a different chain of thought altogether.

Last week with the onset of Spring season in Nainital

Hanging midway into the week

We are into Wednesday. This organism is still stuck on his Monday plans. What a better way than announce a call to action, for the week to start. What a better way to resign to the futility of toughts.

The first thing I'd imagined about this week the last week was returning to Delhi. That was done! Rest of the imaginations didn't turn into factual realities.

Recollecting yesterday, sleep comes to mind. Recollecting the day before, sleeplessness comes to mind. The purpose for the starting days of the week were swapped, in terms of sleep, and consequentially negated, in terms of purpose.

Recollections run old, and the old days also seem resurgent, but not in terms of any purpose. The prospects of a purpose (and gold) prosper, in the meantime. Still hanging there.


Just a coupla days back, Vedanta won India's first gold mine auction - that of the Baghmara mine in Chattisgarh. It is estimated to give a total yield of 2700kg. Presently, India consumes about 900-1000 tonnes of gold per annum. It produces 15 tonnes of those, and procures the remaining 885-985 tonnes. Being a gold-crazy nation, and yet locally mining for 1.5% of its total needs, our priorities seem haywire. The infamous bureaucratic red tape has also shown its magic here, by delay of licenses; and corruption also reared its head here, in the way of the recent mining scams coming to light.

Coincidentally, today, I started into looking into a career as a gold prospector. Finding gold in the wild was and is still an adventure. The cool thing is that gold is a siderophile (ie tends to bond with metallic iron) and a chalcogen (occuring in an ore like copper), so it is found commonly, albeit in trace amounts. The funny thing is, that it takes little to bootstrap oneself into finding gold. Knowledge, skill, technology, time, these four ingredients are what make it work. Even with technology missing, and time short, the former two ingredients can go a long way.

PS: Gold has the chemical symbol Au, which is Latin for Aurum, which refers to the yellow of the dawn

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Russians climbing it right

There are several things on my mind. To filter out through, on this morning, to chagrin (maybe fate), is the history on the V Thread (aka the Abalakov Anchor) an anchor made using, but ultimately sans the ice screws. The screws are drawn out, and all that's left is ice and rope, and a 200-400lb load in the form of you, the anchored.

When its Soviet inventor, Vitaly Mikhalovich Abakov, engineered it in the 1930s, he was arrested for embracing western mountaineering techniques; something similar to the sedition charges that our dissenting loud mouths face today. Only if the dissenters in our country were arrested for "making" than "saying" things, we would see a much healthier environment despite dissent that might even lead to some fantastic application of a small principle towards solving a big problem.

The first hollow screws were developed in the 1930s and were much faster to place than their predecessors; their hollow core allowing for relief of pressure as chewed up ice could spit out the end of the screw. It wasn’t until the 50s or 60s that thicker screws were made with a larger core. It was sometime during that period that Abalakov invented the V-thread and dramatically changed what climbers thought was possible on steep ice and alpine routes.