Monday, May 22, 2017

Much grief for nothing

Evan Williams, the (co?) founder of Twitter, Medium, and our own Blogger has recently apoligised for something.

That something, as per the Indian Express is:

It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry

 I have nothing to say about Donald Trump or America: because I am not an American. You know, not my zoo, not my animals. Secondly, he won in an election and not a civil war! Thirdly, how can we be sure that Twitter was the tipping point?

I do have an issue with Evan apologising, though.

I strongly think that he or anyone else does not have to apoligise for making something good. Lots of people, companies, governments, celebrities, schools, NGOs and others communicate via Twitter. I am sure most of these communications are positive.

It is also possible that Twitter might be used for illegal and immoral activities. If that is true, Evan might want to apoligise for it as well. That is certainly his choice. But I strongly think it is not required.

Moreover, do we think if Twitter was not there, this electoral result would be any different? There are many, many websites and services and apps and whatnot. Twitter was just the easiest medium at that time to reach lotsof people!

Looks like Evan's guilt is only for the fact that he made a great website. I would be happy to make a tenth of the impact he has had on the world!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

So, I have enjoyed watching the TV series The Big Bang Theory. One of the characters in that series went to space, and I was surprised to find out that one of the characters that went with him is in fact a real life astronaut.

Enter Mike Massimino!

And of course, Mike has written a book on his experience in space. Not only his experience in space, but also his first inspiration for it. And how, even though he had forgot about it, his life path took him to towards robotics. And then, his PhD and how he struggled and came on top with help of friends. And then, his selection as an astronaut and the struggles he undertook for that. And then, his struggles for becoming a part of the Hubble project and to be able to do a spacewalk.

All in all, the book, or at least the first two thirds is the story of a normal guy working hard, facing problems and succeeding with the help of friends and family. Then Mike goes into safety for astronauts in light of the incident involving Kalpana Chawla's demise. He then talks about his second trip before talking about his life after being an astronaut.

Here are a few parts I liked in no particular order:

Practice makes perfect. How often I practice my stuff?
The answer will leave me ashamed.

When you are screwed, you are screwed!

No more self made men! 

I wonder what eyesight has to do with so much
instrumentation in today's planes and shuttles.
At least it made the book a bit more interesting.

So, you are an astronaut?

I like this attitude.

And I think my stuff and time is expensive.

You mean the times I feel stupid have been
 my best times at school and in office?

I do not use pillows!  NASA's gotta dis-invent
their pillow thingies. Oh, wait.

The stakes are high indeed in space.

Earth as seen from space. Through the eyes and through the heart :-)

"The line isn't moving. The sin isn't moving. We are."

Sometimes the facts are a bit too simple.

"Being the right person isn't about being perfect;
it's about being able to handle whatever life throws at you."
More than anything else, this guy's humility and perseverance are the biggest lessons I got from the book.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

There have been five mass extinctions in the past. This book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History shows that we are currently going through the sixth one. And that we, humans are responsible for this undergoing mass extinction event. And, that there is still hope and more importantly, evidence, for improvement.

This book starts with history and slowly comes to the present. It includes amphibians, mastodons, auks, corals, forests and agriculture, and also why we, homo sapiens, made the Neanderthals and homo erectus extinct, among others.  A chapter by chapter summary of the book is available on Wikipedia. 

Here are some excerpts.

The trunk in elephant-like animals evolved five times separately!

Georges Cuvier: The father of paleontology

Darwin and his guru, Charles Lyell

We humans are the worst.

"Long periods of boredom interrupted occasionally by panic."

Back to school.

Human impact on world geology.

Ocean acdification and mass extinctions.

Are we living in the twilight of the corals?

Twilight indeed.

Speculating why more species live in the tropics.

Who would have thought some species can migrate so much in response to ecological changes?

Climate change and borders.

We, and all other species are cold-adapted.

Insects are everywhere, and outnumbering everyone.

Islands on land: indeed.

Humans: contributing to extinctions since prehistoric times!

Neanderthals: cultured or not?

In little parts, we are all Neanderthals.

From The Madness Gene, the second to last chapter.
A very eye opening and overall knowledge expanding book.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dangal

I just saw the movie Dangal.

Aamir Khan's weight gain for the movie felt very inspiring. It is very easy to fake things, but some people take the hard way and leave us awestruck.

The movie, based on real people, was very good. I surely did not feel like having wasted my money after watching.

Throughout the movie, I had one complaint: why was Aamir's character, Mr. Mahavir Singh Phogat telling his daughter what to do from the stands during her bouts? I felt this was some bogus way of showing a female wrestler perform well. But in the final bout, when there was no Aamir there, Geeta remembered what her father had told her while teaching her how to swim: Don't expect your father to save you from drowning every time. And she went on to win the fight without any guidance from him. This teach-a-man-to-fish rather than give-a-man-a-fish moment felt great, not in the least because it proved that my problem was misguided!

One thing I thought was not right was that in the final bout, the Australian wrestler looked at least a few kilograms heavier than Geeta.

I always thought that there is needless hype around Aamir Khan. But at least in case of this movie, I was wrong.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The best advertisements

(I have no idea of what advertising is or how it works, so feel free to enlighten me.)

I just saw this Havells wires advertisement, the tiger vs dragon one.  "वो fire  है, तो मैं wire है!" Could have been funnier in Punjabi.




Till the end I was not sure what product the advertisement was for. More importantly, I did not care.

The product at the end was just a happy coincidence. The coincidence part made sure the product wasn't forced.

Now I might be biased due to any number of things, or this one advertisement might have been too good to cater to the "rules", but this is what advertisements should be like.

Any idiot can go around screaming about their product, but that does not give the consumer any value. (Consumer here is the person watching the advertisement, since the advertisement itself is the product here.)

What are some of your favourite advertisements?