Wayland, Hearing aids, Multiverse & Identity

Wayland

First up, I read Antoine BeauprΓ©’s Wayland to Sway migration with interest. While he said it’s done and dusted or something similar, the post shows there’s still quite a ways to go. I wouldn’t say it’s done or whatever till it’s integrated so well that a person installs it and doesn’t really need to fiddle with config files as an average user. For specific use-cases you may need to, but that should be outside of a normal user (layperson) experience.

I have been using mate for a long long time and truth be told been very happy with it. The only thing I found about Wayland on mate is this discussion or rather this entry. The roadmap on Ubuntu Mate is also quite iffy. The Mate Wayland entry on Debian wiki also perhaps need an updation but dunno much as the latest update it shares is 2019 and it’s 2022. One thing to note, at least according to Antoine, things should be better as and when it gets integrated even on legacy hardware. I would be interested to know how it would work on old desktops and laptops rather than new or is there some barrier? I, for one would have liked to see or know about why lightdm didn’t work on Wayland and if there’s support. From what little I know lightdm is much lighter than gdm3 and doesn’t require much memory and from what little I have experienced works very well with mate. I have been using it since 2015/16 although the Debian changelog tells me that it has been present since 2011. I was hoping to see if there was a Wayland specific mailing list, something like debian-wayland but apparently there’s not :(. Using ‘mate desktop wayland’ (tried few other variations on the keywords) but search fails to find any meaningful answer :(. FWIW and I don’t know the reason why but Archwiki never fails to amaze me. Interestingly, it just says No for mate. I probably would contact upstream in the coming days to know what their plans are and hopefully they will document what their plans are on integrating Wayland in both short-term and long-term with an update, or if there is something more recent they have documented elsewhere, get that update on the Debian wiki so people know.

The other interesting thread I read was Russel Coker’s Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen5 entry. I would be in the market in a few months to find/buy a Thinkpad but probably of AMD rather than Intel because part of recent past history with Intel as well as AMD having a bit of an edge over Intel as far as graphics is concerned. I wonder why Russel was looking into Intel and not AMD. Would be interested to know why Intel and not AMD? Any specific reason ???

Hearing Aids

I finally bought hearing aids about a couple of weeks back and have been practicing using them. I was able to have quite a few conversations although music is still I’m not able to listen clearly but it is still a far cry from before and for the better. I am able to have conversations with people and also reply and they do not have to make that extra effort that they needed to. Make things easier for everybody. The one I bought is at the starting range although the hearing aids go all the way to 8 lakhs for a pair (INR 800,000), the more expensive ones having WiFi, Bluetooth and more channels, it all depends on how much can one afford. And AFAIK there is not a single Indian manufacturer who is known in this business.

One thing I did notice is while the hearing aids are remarkably sturdy if they fall down as they are small, yet you have to be careful of both dust and water . That does makes life a bit difficult as my house and city both gets sand quite a bit everyday. I don’t think they made any India-specific changes, if they had, would probably make things better. I haven’t yet looked at it, but it may be possible to hack it remotely. There may or may not be security issues involved, probably would try once I’ve bit more time am bit more comfortable to try and see what I can find out. If I had bought it before, maybe I would have applied for the Debian event happening in Kerala, if nothing else, would have been to document what happened there in detail. 😦

I probably would have to get a new motherboard for my desktop probably in a year or two as quite a few motherboards also have WiFi (WiFi 6 ?) think on the southbridge. I at least would have a look in new year and know more as to what’s been happening. For last at least 2-3 years there has been a rumor which has been confirmed time and again that the Tata Group has been in talks with multiple vendors to set chip fabrication and testing business but to date they haven’t been able to find one. They do keep on giving press conferences about the same but that’s all they do :(. Just shared the latest one above.

The Long War – Terry Pratchett, Stephen Braxter

Long Earth – Terry Pratchett, Stephen Braxter

ISBN13: 9780062067777

Last month there was also a seconds books sale where I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Long War. But before I share about the book itself, I had a discussion with another of my friends and had to re-share part of that conversation. While the gentleman was adamant that non-fiction books are great, my point as always is both are equal. As I shared perhaps on this blog itself, perhaps multiple times, that I had seen a YT video in which a professor shared multiple textbooks of physics and shared how they are wrong and have been wrong and kept them in a specific corner. He took the latest book which he honestly said doesn’t have any mistakes as far as he know and yet still kept in that same corner denoting that it is highly possible that future understanding will make the knowledge or understanding we know different. An example of physics in the nano world and how that is different and basically turns our understanding than what we know.

Now as far as the book is concerned, remember Michael Crichton’s Timeline. Now that book was originally written in the 1960’s while this one was written by both the honorable gentleman in 2013. So almost 50+ years difference between the two books, and that even shows how they think about things. In this book, you no longer need a big machine, but have something called a stepper machine which is say similar to a cellphone, that size and that frame, thickness etc. In this one, the idea of multiverse is also there but done a tad differently. In this, we do not have other humans or copy humans but have multiple earths that may have same or different geography as how evolution happened. None of the multiverse earths have humans but have different species depending on the evolution that happened there. There are something called as trolls but they have a much different meaning and way about them about how most fantasy authors portray trolls. While they are big in this as well, they are as gentle as bears or rabbits. So the whole thing is about real estate and how humans have spread out on multiple earths and the politics therein. Interestingly, the story was trashed or given negative reviews on Goodreads. The sad part is/was that it was written and published in 2013 when perhaps the possibility of war or anything like that was very remote especially in the States, but now we are now in 2022 and just had an insurrection happen and whole lot of Americans are radicalized, whether you see the left or the right depending on your ideology. An American did share few weeks ago how some shares are looking at Proportional Representation and that should make both parties come more towards the center and be a bit more transparent. What was interesting to me is the fact that states have much more rights to do elections and electioneering the way they want rather than a set model which everyone has common which is what happens in India. This also does poke holes into the whole Donald Trump ‘stolen democracy’ drama but that’s a different story altogether.

One of the more interesting things I came to know about is that there are 4 books in the long series and this was the second book in itself. I do not want to dwell on the characters themselves as frankly speaking I haven’t read all the four books and it would be gross injustice on my part to talk about the characters themselves. Did I enjoy reading the book, for sure. What was interesting and very true of human nature is that even if we have the ability or had the ability to have whole worlds to ourselves, we are bound to mess it up. And in that aspect, I don’t think he is too far off the mark. If I had a whole world, wouldn’t I try to exploit it to the best or worse of my ability. One of the more interesting topics in the book is the barter system they have thought of that is called as favors. If you are in multiple worlds, then having a currency, even fiat money is of no use and they have to find ways and means to trade with one another. The book also touches a bit on slavery but only just and doesn’t really explore it as much as it could have.

Identity

Now this has many meanings to it. Couple of weeks ago, saw a transgender meet. For the uninitiated or rather people like me, basically it is about people who are born in one gender but do not identify with it but the other and they express it first through their clothes and expression and the end of the journey perhaps is with having the organs but this may or may not be feasible, as such surgery is expensive and also not available everywhere. After section 377 was repealed few years ago, we do have a third gender on forms as well as have something called a Transgender Act but how much the needle has moved in society is still a question. They were doing a roadshow near my house hence I was able to talk with them with my new hearing aids and while there was lot of traffic was able to understand some of their issues. For e.g. they find it difficult to get houses on rent, but then it is similar for bachelor guys or girls also. One could argue to what degree it is, and that perhaps maybe. Also, there is a myth that they are somehow promiscuous but that I believe is neither here or there. Osho said an average person thinks about the opposite sex every few seconds or a minute. I am sure even Freud would have similar ideas. So, if you look in that way everybody is promiscuous as far as thought is concerned. The other part being opportunity but that again is function of so many other things. Some people are able to attract a lot of people, others might not. And then whether they chose to act on that opportunity or not is another thing altogether.

Another word that is or was used is called gender fluid, but that too is iffy as gender fluid may or may not mean transgender. Also, while watching some nature documentary few days/weeks back had come to know that trees have something like 18 odd genders. That just blows me out of the mind and does re-question this whole idea of sexuality and identity to only two which seems somewhat regressive at least to me. If we think humans are part of nature, then we need to be open up perhaps a bit more.

But identity as I shared above has more than one meaning. For e.g. citizenship, that one is born in India is even messier to know, understand and define. I had come across this article about couple of months back. Now think about this. Now, there have been studies and surveys about citizenship and it says something like 60% birth registrations are done in metro cities. Now Metro cities are 10 as defined by Indian state.

But there are roughly an odd 4k cities in India and probably twice the number of villages and those are conservative numbers as we still don’t record things meticulously, maybe due to the Indian oral tradition or just being lazy or both, one part is also that if you document people and villages and towns, then you are also obligated to give them some things as a state and that perhaps is not what the Indian state wants.

A small village in India could be anywhere from few hundreds of people to a few thousand. And all the new interventions whether it is PAN, Aadhar has just made holes rather than making things better.

They are not inclusive but exclusive. And none of this takes into account Indian character and the way things are done in India. In most households, excluding the celebs (they are in a world of pain altogether when it comes to baby names but then it’s big business but that’s an entire different saga altogether, so not going to touch that.) I would use or say my individual case as that is and seems to be something which is regular even today. I was given a nickname when I was 3 years old and given a name when I was 5-6 when I was put in school. I also came to know in school few kids who didn’t like their names and couple of them cajoled and actually changed their names while they were kids, most of us just stayed with what we got. I do remember sharing about ‘nakushi’ or something similar a name given to few girls in Maharashtra by their parents and the state intervened and changed their names. But that too is another story in itself. What I find most problematic is that the state seems to be blind, and this seems to be by design rather than a mistake. Couple of years back, Assam did something called NRC (National Register of Citizens) and by the Govt’s own account it was a failure of massive proportions. And they still want to bring in CAA, screwing up Assam more. And this is the same Govt. went shown how incorrect it was, blamed it all on the High Court and it’s the same Govt. that shopped around for judges to put somebody called Mr. Saibaba (an invalid 90 year adivasi) against whom the Govt. hasn’t even a single proof as of date. Apparently, they went to 6 judges who couldn’t give what the decision the Govt. wanted. All this info. is in public domain. So the current party ruling, i.e. BJP just wants to make more divisions rather than taking people along as they don’t have answers either on economy, inflation or issues that people are facing.

One bright light has been Rahul Gandhi who has been doing a padhyatra (walking) from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and has had tremendous success although mainstream media has showed almost nothing what he is doing or why he is doing that. Not only he had people following him, there are and were many who took his example and using the same values of inclusiveness are walking where they can. And this is not to do with just a political party but more with a political thought of inclusiveness, that we are one irrespective of what I believe, eat, wear etc. And that gentleman has been giving press conferences while our dear P.M. even after 8 years doesn’t have the guts to do a single press conference.

Before closing, I do want to take another aspect, Rahul Gandhi’s mother is an Italian or was from Italy before she married. But for BJP she is still Italian. Rishi Sunak, who has become the UK Prime Minister they think of him as Indian and yet he has sworn using the Queen’s name. And the same goes for Canada Kumar (Akshay Kumar) and many others. How the right is able to blind and deaf to what it thinks is beyond me. All these people have taken an oath in the name of the Queen and they have to be loyal to her or rather now King Charles III. The disconnect continues.

The Road to Gandolfo, Webforms, Hearing Loss info & Mum’s Birthday.

The Road to Gandolfo

I think I had read this book almost 10-12 years back and somehow ended up reading it up again. Apparently, he had put this fiction, story, book under some other pen name earlier. It is possible that I might have read it under that name and hence forgotten all about it. This book/story is full of innuendo, irony, sarcasm and basically the thrill of life. There are two main characters in the book, the first is General Mackenzie who has spent almost 3 to 4 decades being a spy/a counterintelligence expert in the Queen’s service. And while he outclasses them all even at the ripe age of 50, he is thrown out under the pretext of conduct unbecoming of an officer.

The other main character is Sam Devereaux. This gentleman is an army lawyer and is basically counting the days when he completes his tour of duty as a military lawyer and start his corporate civil law with somebody he knows. It is much to his dismay that while under a week is left for his tour of duty to be left over he is summoned to try and extradite General MacKenzie who has been put on house arrest. Apparently, in China there was a sculpture of a great Chinese gentleman in the nude. For reasons unknown or rather not being shared herein, he basically breaks part of the sculpture. This of course, enrages the Chinese and they call it a diplomatic accident and try to put the General into house arrest. Unfortunately for both the General and his captors, he decides to escape/go for it. While he does succeed entering the American embassy, he finds himself to be person non-grata and is thrown back outside where the Chinese recapture him.

This is where the Embassy & the Govt. decide it would be better if somehow the General could be removed from China permanently so he doesn’t cause any further diplomatic accidents. In order to do that Sam’s services are bought.

Now in order to understand the General, Sam learns that he has 4 ex-wives. He promptly goes and meet them to understand why the general behaved as he did. He apparently also peed on the American flag. To his surprise, all the four ex-wives are still very much in with the general. During the course of interviewing the ladies he is seduced by them and also gives names to their chests in order to differentiate between each one of them. Later he is seduced by the eldest of the four wives and they spend the evening together.

Next day Sam meets and is promptly manhandled by the general and the diplomatic papers are seen by the general. After meeting the general and the Chinese counterpart, they quickly agree to extradite him as they do not know how to keep the general control. During his stay of house arrest, the General reads one of the ‘communist rags’ as he puts it and gets the idea to kidnap the pope and that forms the basis of the story.

Castel Gandolfo seems to be a real place which is in Italy and is apparently is the papal residence where s/he goes to reside every winter. The book is written in 1976 hence in the book, the General decides to form a corporation for which he would raise funds in order to make the kidnapping. The amount in 1976 was 40 million dollars and it was a big sum, to be with times, let’s think of say 40 billion dollars so gets the scale of things.

Now while a part of me wants to tell the rest of the story, the story isn’t really mine to tell. Read The Road to Gandolfo for the rest. While I can’t guarantee you much, I can say you might find yourself constantly amused by the antics of both the General, Sam and the General’s ex-wives. There are also a few minute characters that you will meet on the way, hope you discover them and enjoy it immensely as I have.

One thing I have to say, while I was reading it, I very much got vibes of ‘Not a penny more, not a penny less’ by Jeffrey Archer. As shared before, lots of twists and turns, enjoy the ride πŸ™‚

Webforms

Webforms are nothing but a form you fill on the web or www. Webforms are and were a thing from early 90s to today. I was supposed to register for https://www.swavlambancard.gov.in/ almost a month back but procrastinated till few couple of days back and with good reason. I was hoping one of my good friends would help me but they had their own thing. So finally, I tried to fill the form few days back. It took me almost 30 odd attempts to finally fill the form and was given an enrollment number. Why it took me 30 odd attempts and with what should tell you the reason –

  1. I felt like I was filling the form from 1990’s rather than today because –
  2. The form doesn’t know either its state or saves data during a session – This lesson has been learned a long time back by almost all service providers except Govt. of India. Both the browsers on a mobile as well as desktop can save data during session. If you don’t know what I mean by that go to about:preferences#privacy in Firefox and look at Manage Data. There you will find most sites do put some data along with cookies arguably to help make your web experience better. Chrome or Chromium has the same thing perhaps shared under a different name but its the same thing. But that is not all.
  3. None of the fields have any verification. The form is of 3 pages. The verification at the end of the document doesn’t tell you what is wrong and what needs to be corrected. Really think on this, I am on a 24″ LED monitor and I’m filling the form and I had to do it at least 20-30 times before it was accepted. And guess what, I have no clue even about why it was selected. The same data, the same everything and after the nth time it accepted. Now if I am facing such a problem when I have some idea how technology works somewhat how are people who are trying to fill this form on 6″ mobiles supposed to do? And many of them not at all clued in technology as I am.

I could go on outlining many of the issues that I faced but they are all similar in many ways the problems faced while filling the ‘NEW’ Income Tax forms. Of course the New Income Tax portal is a whole ball-game in itself as it gives new errors every time instead of solving them. Most C.A.’s have turned to third-party xml tools that enable you to upload xml compliant data to the ‘New’ Income tax portal but this is for businesses and those who can afford it. Again, even that is in a sort of messy state but that is a whole another tale altogether.

One of the reasons to my mind why the forms are designed the way they are so that people go to specific cybercafes or get individual people to fill and upload it and make more money. I was told to go to a specific cybercafe and meet a certain individual and he asked for INR 500/- to do the work. While I don’t have financial problems, I was more worried about my data going into the wrong hands. But I can see a very steady way to make money without doing much hard work.

Hearing Loss info.

Now because I had been both to Kamla Nehru Hospital as well as Sasoon and especially the deaf department, I saw many kids with half-formed ears. I had asked the doctors and they had shared this is due to malnutrition. We do know that women during pregnancies need more calories, more everything as they are eating for two bodies, not one. And this is large-scale, apparently more than 5 percent of population have children like this. And this number was of 2014, what is it today nobody knows. I also came to know that at least for some people like me, due to Covid they became deaf. I had asked the doctors if they knew of people who had become deaf due to Covid. They basically replied in the negative as they don’t have the resources to monitor the same. The Govt. has an idea of health ID but just like Aadhar has to many serious sinister implications. Somebody had shared with me a long time back that in India systems work inspite of Govt. machinery rather than because of it. Meaning that the Government itself ties itself into several knots and then people have to be creative to try and figure a way out to help people. I found another issue while dealing with them.

Apparently, even though I have 60% hearing loss I would be given a certificate of 40% hearing loss and they call it Temporary Progressive Loss. I saw almost all the people who had come, many of them having far severe defencies than me getting the same/similar certificate. All of them got Temporary Progressive. Some of the cases were real puzzling. For e.g. I met another Agarwal who had a severe accident few months ago and there is some kind of paralysis & bone issue. The doctors have given up but even that gentleman was given Temporary Progressive. From what little I could understand, the idea is that over period if there is possibility of things becoming better then it should be given. Another gentleman suffered a case of dwarfism. Even he was given the same certificate. Think there have been orders from above so that people even having difficulties are not helped. Another point if you look in a macro sense, it presents a somewhat rosy picture. If someone were to debunk the Govt. data either from India or abroad then from GOI perspective they have an ‘agenda’ even though the people who are suffering are our brothers and sisters 😦 And all of this is because I can read, write, articulate. Perhaps many of them may not even have a voice or a platform.

Even to get this temporary progressive disability certificate there is more than 4 months of running from one place to the other, 4 months of culmination of work. This I can share and tell from my experience, who knows how much else others might have suffered for the same. In my case a review will happen after 5 years, in most other cases they have given only 1 year. Of course, this does justify people’s jobs and perhaps partly it may be due to that. Such are times where I really miss that I am unable to hear otherwise could have fleshed out lot more other people’s sufferings.

And just so people know/understand this is happening in the heart of the city whose population easily exceeds 6 million plus and is supposed to be a progressive city. I do appreciate and understand the difficulties that the doctors are placed under.

Mum’s Birthday & Social Engineering.

While I don’t want to get into details, in the last couple of weeks mum’s birthday was there and that had totally escaped me. I have been trying to disassociate myself from her and at times it’s hard and then you don’t remember and somebody makes you remember. So, on one hand guilty, and the other do not know what to do. If she were alive I would have bought a piece of cake or something. Didn’t feel like it, hence donated some money to the local aged home. This way at least I hope they have some semblance of peace. All of them are of her similar age group.

The other thing that I began to observe in the earnest, fake identities have become the norm. Many people took elon musk’s potrait using their own names in the handles, but even then Elon “Free Speech” Musk banned them. So much for free speech. Then I saw quite a few handles that have cute women as their profile picture but they are good at social engineering. This has started only a couple of weeks back and have seen quite a few handles leaving Twitter and joining Mastodon. Also, have been hearing that many admins of Mastodon pods are unable to get on top of this. Also, lot of people complaining as it isn’t user-friendly UI as twitter is. Do they not realize that Twitter has its own IP and any competing network can’t copy or infringe on their product. Otherwise, they will be sued like how Ford was & potentially win. I am not really gonna talk much about it as the blog post has become quite long and that needs its own post to do any sort of justice to it. Till later people πŸ™‚

Shantaram, The Pyramid, Japan’s Hikikomori & Backpack

Shantaram

I know I have been quite behind in review of books but then that’s life. First up is actually not as much as a shocker but somewhat of a pleasant surprise. So, a bit of background before I share the news. If you have been living under a rock, then about 10-12 years ago a book called Shantaram was released. While the book is said to have been released in 2003/4 I got it in my hand around 2008/09 or somewhere around that. The book is like a good meal, a buffet. To share the synopsis, Lin a 20 something Australian guy gets involved with a girl, she encourages him to get into heroin, he becomes a heroin user. And drugs, especially hard drugs need constant replenishment, it is a chemical thing. So, to fund those cravings, he starts to steal, rising to rob a bank and while getting away shoots a cop who becomes dead. Now either he surrenders or is caught is unclear, but he is tortured in the jail. So one day, he escapes from prison, lands up at home of somebody who owes him a favor, gets some money, gets a fake passport and lands up in Mumbai/Bombay as it was then known. This is from where the actual story starts. And how a 6 foot something Australian guy relying on his street smartness and know how the transformation happens from Lin to Shantaram. Now what I have shared is perhaps just 5% of the synopsis, as shared the real story starts here.

Now the good news, last week 4 episodes of Shantaram were screened by Apple TV. Interestingly, I have seen quite a number people turning up to buy or get this book and also sharing it on Goodreads. Now there seems to have been some differences from the book to TV. Now I’m relying on 10-12 year back memory but IIRC Khaderbhai, one of the main characters who sort of takes Lin/Shantaram under his wing is an Indian. In the series, he is a western or at least looks western/Middle Eastern to me. Also, they have tried to reproduce 1980s in Mumbai/Bombay but dunno how accurate they were 😦 My impression of that city from couple of visits at that point in time where they were still more tongas (horse-ridden carriages), an occasional two wheelers and not many three wheelers. Although, it was one of the more turbulent times as lot of agitation for worker rights were happening around that time and a lot of industrial action. Later that led to lot of closure of manufacturing in Bombay and it became more commercial. It would be interesting to know whether they shot it in actual India or just made a set somewhere in Australia, where it possibly might have been shot. The chawl of the book needs a bit of arid land and Australia has lots of it.

It is also interesting as this was a project that had who’s who interested in it for a long time but somehow none of them was able to bring the project to fruition, the project seems to largely have an Australian cast as well as second generations of Indians growing in Australia. To take names, Amitabh Bacchan, Johnny Depp, Russel Crowe each of them wanted to make it into a feature film. In retrospect, it is good it was not into a movie, otherwise they would have to cut a lot of material and that perhaps wouldn’t have been sufficient. Making it into a web series made sure they could have it in multiple seasons if people like it. There is a lot between now and 12 episodes to even guess till where it would leave you then. So, if you have not read the book and have some holidays coming up, can recommend it. The writing IIRC is easy and just flows. There is a bit of action but much more nuance in the book while in the web series they are naturally more about action. There is also quite a bit of philosophy between him and Kaderbhai and while the series touches upon it, it doesn’t do justice but then again it is being commercially made.

Read the book, see the series and share your thoughts on what you think. It is possible that the series might go up or down but am sharing from where I see it, may do another at the end of the season, depending on where they leave it and my impressions.

Update – A slight update from the last blog post. Seems Rishi Sunak seems would be made PM of UK. With Hunt as chancellor and Rishi Sunak, Austerity 2.0 seems complete. There have been numerous articles which share how austerity gives rises to fascism and vice-versa. History gives lot of lessons about the same. In Germany, when the economy was not good, it was all blamed on the Jews for number of years. This was the reason for rise of Hitler, and while it did go up by a bit, propaganda by him and his loyalists did the rest. And we know and have read about the Holocaust. Today quite a few Germans deny it or deny parts of it but that’s how misinformation spreads. Also Hitler is looked now more as an aberration rather than something to do with the German soul. I am not gonna talk more as there is still lots to share and that actually perhaps requires its own blog post to do justice for the same.

The Pyramid by Henning Mankell

I had actually wanted to review this book but then the bomb called Shantaram appeared and I had to post it above. I had read two-three books before it, but most of them were about multiple beheadings and serial killers. Enough to put anybody into depression. I do not know if modern crime needs to show crime and desperation of and to such a level. Why I and most loved and continue to love Sherlock Holmes as most stories were not about gross violence but rather a homage to the art of deduction, which pretty much seems to be missing in modern crime thrillers rather than grotesque stuff.

In that, like a sort of fresh air I read/am reading the Pyramid by Henning Mankell. The book is about a character made by Monsieur Henning Mankell named Kurt Wallender. I am aware of the series called Wallender but haven’t yet seen it. The book starts with Wallender as a beat cop around age 20 and on his first case. He is ambitious, wants to become a detective and has a narrow escape with death. I wouldn’t go much into it as it basically gives you an idea of the character and how he thinks and what he does. He is more intuitive by nature and somewhat of a loner. Probably most detectives IRL are, dunno, have no clue. At least in the literary world it makes sense, in real world think there would be much irony for sure. This is speculation on my part, who knows.

Back to the book though. The book has 5 stories a sort of prequel one could say but also not entirely true. The first case starts when he is a beat cop in 1969 and he is just a beat cop. It is a kind of a prequel and a kind of an anthology as he covers from the first case to the 1990s where he is ending his career sort of.

Before I start sharing about the stories in the book, I found the foreword also quite interesting. It asks questions about the interplay of the role of welfare state and the Swedish democracy. Incidentally did watch couple of videos about a sort of mixed sort of political representation that happens in Sweden. It uses what is known as proportional representation. Ironically, Sweden made a turn to the far right this election season. The book was originally in Swedish and were translated to English by Ebba Segerberg and Laurie Thompson.

While all the stories are interesting, would share the last three or at least ask the questions of intrigue. Of course, to answer them you would need to read the book πŸ˜‰

So the last three stories I found the most intriguing.

The first one is titled Man on the Beach. Apparently, a gentleman goes to one of the beaches, a sort of lonely beach, hails a taxi and while returning suddenly dies. The Taxi driver showing good presence of mind takes it to hospital where the gentleman is declared dead on arrival. Unlike in India, he doesn’t run away but goes to the cafeteria and waits there for the cops to arrive and take his statement. Now the man is in his early 40s and looks to be fit. Upon searching his pockets he is found to relatively well-off and later it turns out he owns a couple of shops. So then here are the questions ?

What was the man doing on a beach, in summer that beach is somewhat popular but other times not so much, so what was he doing there?

How did he die, was it a simple heart attack or something more? If he had been drugged or something then when and how?

These and more questions can be answered by reading the story ‘Man on the Beach’.

2. The death of a photographer – Apparently, Kurt lives in a small town where almost all the residents have been served one way or the other by the town photographer. The man was polite and had worked for something like 40 odd years before he is killed/murdered. Apparently, he is murdered late at night. So here come the questions –

a. The shop doesn’t even stock any cameras and his cash box has cash. Further investigation reveals it is approximate to his average takeout for the day. So if it’s not for cash, then what is the motive ?

b. The body was discovered by his cleaning staff who has worked for almost 20 years, 3 days a week. She has her own set of keys to come and clean the office? Did she give the keys to someone, if yes why?

c. Even after investigation, there is no scandal about the man, no other woman or any vices like gambling etc. that could rack up loans. Also, nobody seems to know him and yet take him for granted till he dies. The whole thing appears to be quite strange. Again, the answers lie in the book.

3. The Pyramid – Kurt is sleeping one night when the telephone rings. The ‘scene’ starts with a Piper Cherokee, a single piston aircraft flying low and dropping something somewhere or getting somebody from/on the coast of Sweden. It turns and after a while crashes. Kurt is called to investigate it. Turns out, the plane was supposed to be destroyed. On crash, both the pilot and the passenger are into pieces so only dental records can prove who they are. Same day or a day or two later, two seemingly ordinary somewhat elderly women, spinsters, by all accounts, live above the shop where they sell buttons and all kinds of sewing needs of the town. They seem middle-class. Later the charred bodies of the two sisters are found :(. So here come the questions –

a.Did the plane drop something or pick something somebody up ? The Cherokee is a small plane so any plane field or something it could have landed up or if a place was somehow marked then could be dropped or picked up without actually landing.

b. The firefighter suspects arson started at multiple places with the use of petrol? The question is why would somebody wanna do that? The sisters don’t seem to be wealthy and practically everybody has bought stuff from them. They weren’t popular but weren’t also unpopular.

c. Are the two crimes connected or unconnected? If connected, then how?

d. Most important question, why the title Pyramid is given to the story. Why does the author share the name Pyramid. Does he mean the same or the original thing? He could have named it triangle. Again, answers to all the above can be found in the book.

One thing I also became very aware of during reading the book that it is difficult to understand people’s behavior and what they do. And this is without even any criminality involved in. Let’s say for e.g. I die in some mysterious circumstances, the possibility of the police finding my actions in last days would be limited and this is when I have hearing loss. And this probably is more to do with how our minds are wired. And most people I know are much more privacy conscious/aware than I am.

Japan’s Hikikomori

Japan has been a curious country. It was more or less a colonizer and somewhat of a feared power till it dragged the U.S. unnecessarily in World War 2. The result of the two atom bombs and the restitution meant that Japan had to build again from the ground up. It is also in a seismically unstable place as they have frequent earthquakes although the buildings are hardened/balanced to make sure that vibrations don’t tear buildings apart. Had seen years ago on Natgeo a documentary that explains all that. Apart from that, Japan was helped by the Americans and there was good kinship between them till the 1980s till it signed the Plaza Accord which enhanced asset price bubbles that eventually burst. Something from which they are smarting even today. Japan has a constitutional monarchy. A somewhat history lesson or why it exists even today can be found here. Asset price bubbles of the 1980s, more than 50 percent of the population on zero hour contracts and the rest tend to suffer from overwork. There is a term called Karoshi that explains all. An Indian pig-pen would be two, two and a half times larger than a typical Japanese home. Most Japanese live in micro-apartments called ‘konbachiku’. All of the above stresses meant that lately many young Japanese people have become Hikikomori. Bloomberg featured about the same a couple of years back. I came to know about it as many Indians are given the idea of Japan being a successful country without knowing the ills and issues it faces. Even in that most women get the wrong end of the short stick i.e. even it they manage to find jobs, it would be most back-breaking menial work. The employment statistics of Japan’s internal ministry tells its own story.

If you look at the data above, it seems that the between 2002 and 2019, the share of zero hour contracts has increased while regular work has decreased. This also means that those on the bottom of the ladder can no longer afford a home. There is and was a viral video called ‘Lost in Manboo‘ that went viral few years ago. It is a perfect set of storms. Add to that the Fukushima nuclear incident about which I had shared a few years ago. While the workers are blamed but all design decisions are taken by the management. And as was shown in numerous movies, documentaries etc. Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, the line workers knew the correct things to do and correct decisions to take unlike the management. The shut-ins story is almost a decade or two decades old. It is similar story in South Korea but not as depressive as the in Japan. It is somewhat depressive story but needed to be shared. The stories shared in the bloomberg article makes your heart ache 😦

Backpacks

In and around 2015, I had bought a Targus backpack, very much similar to the Targus TSB194US-70 Motor 16-inch Backpack. That bag has given me a lot of comfort over the years but now has become frayed the zip sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t. Unlike those days there are a bunch of companies now operating in India. There are eight different companies that I came to know about, Aircase, Harrisons Sirius, HP Oddyssey, Mokobara, Artic Hunter, Dell Pro Hybrid, Dell Roller Backpack and lastly the Decathlon Quechua Hiking backpack 32L – NH Escape 500 . Now of all the above, two backpacks seem the best, the first one is Harrisons Sirius, with 45L capacity, I don’t think I would need another bag at all. The runner-up is the Decathlon Quecha Hiking Backpack 32L. One of the better things in all the bags is that all have hidden pockets for easy taking in and out of passport while having being ant-theft. I do not have to stress how stressful it is to take out the passport and put it back in. Almost all the vendors have made sure that it is not a stress point anymore. The good thing about the Quecha is that they are giving 10 years warranty, the point to be asked is if that is does the warranty cover the zip. Zips are the first thing that goes out in bags.That actually has what happened to my current bag. Decathlon has a store in Wakad, Pune while I have reached out to the gentleman in charge of Harrisons India to see if they have a reseller in Pune. So hopefully, in next one week I should have a backpack that isn’t spilling with things all over the place, whichever I’m able to figure out.

Pune Rains, Uncosted Budgets, Hearing Loss Covid, Fracking

Pune Rains

Lemme start with a slightly funny picture that tells as much about Pune, my city as anything else does.

Pune- Leave your attitude behind, we have our own

This and similar tags, puns and whatnot you will find if you are entering Pune from the road highway. You can also find similar similar symbols and Puns all over the city and they are partly sarcasm and ironic and partly the truth. Puneities work from the attitude that they know everything rather than nothing, including yours truly πŸ˜‰ . What is the basis of that or why is there such kind of confidence I have no clue or idea, it is what it is. Approximately 24 hrs. ago, apparently we had a cloudburst. What I came to know later is that we got 100 mm of rain. Sharing from local news site. Much more interesting was a thread made on Reddit where many people half-seriously asked where they can buy a boat. One of the reasons being even if it’s October, in fact, we passed middle of October and it’s still raining. Even today in the evening, it rained for quite a while. As I had shared in a few blog posts before, June where rains should have started, it didn’t, it actually started late July or even August, so something has shifted. The current leadership does not believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change or human activity induced climate change even though that is a reality. I could share many links and even using the term above should give links to various studies. Most of the people who are opposed to it are either misinformed or influenced from the fossil fuel industry. Again, could share many links, but will share just one atm. I have talked to quite a few people about it but nobody has ever been able to give a convincing answer as to why GM had to crush the cars. Let’s even take the argument that it was the worst manufactured car in history and there have been quite a few, have the others been crushed? If not, then the reason shared or given by most people sounds hollow. And if you look into it, they had an opportunity that they let go, and now most of them are scrambling and yet most of the legacy auto manufacturers will be out of existence if they don’t get back into the game in the next 2-3 years. There have been a bunch of announcements but we are yet to see. The Chinese though have moved far ahead, although one has to remark that they have been doing that for the last decade, so they have a 10-year head start, hardly surprising then.

But I need to get back to the subject, another gentleman on Reddit remarked that if you start to use boat, and others start to use boat, then the Govt. will tax it. In fact, somebody had shared the below the other day –

Different types of taxes collected by GOI

Many of the taxes that I have shared above are by the Modi Govt. who came on the platform, manifesto that once they come to power they will reduce taxes for the common man, they have reduced taxes but only for the Corporates. For the common man, the taxes have only gone up, both direct tax and indirect tax. Any reference to the Tory party who have also done similar things and have also shared that it is labor who had done large expenditures even though they have been 8 years in power, I am sure for most is purely coincidental. Incidentally, that is the same tack that was taken even by the Republican party. They all like to give tax benefits to the 1% while for the rest is austerity claiming some reason, even if it has been proven to be false.

Corporate Tax Rate, Revenue Loss to Govt.

The figures mentioned above are findings of parliamentary panel so nobody can accuse of anybody having a bias. Also, I probably had shared this but still feel the need to re-share it as people still believe that 2G scam happened even though there are plenty of arguments I can share to prove how it was all a fabricated lie.

Vinod Rai Mafinama in Uttarakhand High Court.
Part 2 of the same Mafinama.

How pathetic Mr. Rai’s understanding of economics is can be gauged from the fact that he was made Chairman of IDFC and subsequently had to be thrown out. That whole lie was engineered to throw UPA out and it worked. There are and have been many such ‘coincidences’ happening over the last 8 years, parallel stories happening in India and UK.

This was just yesterday, about a year back Air India was given back to the Tatas, There was controversy about the ‘supposed auctions’ as only Indigo was the only other party allowed to be at auction but not allowed to buy but more as a spectator as they already have 60% of the Indian civil aviation market. And there was lot of cheering from the Govt. side that finally Air India has been bought home to its true owners, the Tatas. The Tatas too started cheering and sharing how they will take down all the workers, worker unions and everything will be happy glory within a year. In fact, just couple of days back they shared new plans. Btw for the takeover of Air India, they had bought loans from the Banks and they are in the category of too big to fail. As I have shared couple of times before, RBI has not shared any inspection reports of nationalized or private banks after 2013/14. While by law, RBI is supposed to do inspection reports every 3 months and share them in the Public domain. And if you ask any of their supporter, for everything they will say UPA did x or y, which only goes to show morally bankrupt the present Govt. is. Coming back to the topic, before I forget, the idea of sharing their plans is so that they can again borrow money from the banks.

But that is not the only story. Just one day back, Smita Prakash, one of the biggest cheerleaders of the present Govt. (she is the boss at Asia News International (ANI)) posted how Air India had treated her sister and other 21 passengers. Basically, they had bought business tickets but the whole cabin was dirty, they complained and they were forced to sit in economy class, not just her cousin sister but the other 21 odd passengers too. Of course Ms Smita became calm as her sister was given free air tickets on Vistara and other goodies. Of course, after that she didn’t post anything about the other 21 odd passengers after that. And yes, I understand she is supposed to be a reporter but as can be seen from the twitter thread, there is or was no follow up. Incidentally, she is one of many who has calling others about Revdi culture (freebies to the masses.) but guess that only applies to other people not her or her sister. Again, if there are any coincidences of similar nature in the UK or when Trump was P.M. of the U.S. they are just ‘coincidental’.

The Uncosted budget

India and the UK have many parallels, it’s mind boggling. Before we get into the nitty-gritties, saw something that would be of some interest to the people here.

For those who might not be able to see above, apparently there is place in UK called Tufton Street where there are quite a few organizations that are shadowy and whose finances are not known as to how they are financed. Ms. Truss and quite a few of the people in the cabinet are from the same shadowy organizations. Mr. Kwasi Kwarteng, the just-departed chancellor is and was part of the same group.

Now even for me it was a new term to learn and understand what is an uncosted budget is. To make it much more easier I share the example using a common person who goes to the bank for a loan –

Now M/S X wants a loan of say Rs. 1000/- for whatever reason. He/she/they go to the bank and asks give me a loan of say INR 1000/- The banks asks them to produce a statement of accounts to show what their financial position is. They produce a somewhat half-filled statement of accounts – In which all liabilities are shown, but incomes are not. The bank says you already have so much liabilities, how are you gonna pay those, accounts have to be matched otherwise you are not solvent. M/s X adamantly refuses to do any changes citing that they don’t need to.

At this point, M/s X credit rating goes down and nobody in the market will give them a loan. At the same time, the assets they had held, their value also depreciates because it became known that they can’t act responsibly. So whose to say whether or not M/s X has those number of assets and priced them accurately. But the drama doesn’t end there, M/s X says this is the responsibility of actually Mr. Z ( cue – The Bank of England) as they are my accountant/lawyer etc. M/s Z says as any lawyer/accountant should. This is not under my remit. If the clients either gives incomplete information or false information or whatever then it is their responsibility not mine. And in fact, the Chancellor is supposed to be the one who is given the responsibility of making the budget.

The Chancellor is very similar to our Finance Minister. Because the UK has constitutional monarchy, I am guessing the terms are slightly different, otherwise the functionality seems to be the same. For two weeks, there was lot of chaos, lot of pension funds lost quite a bit in the market and in the end Mr. Kwasi Kwarteng was ousted out of the job. Incredibly, the same media and newspapers who had praised Mr. Kwarteng just few weeks back as the best Tory budget, they couldn’t wait to bury him. And while I have attempted to simplify what happened, the best explanation of what has happened can be found in an article from the guardian. Speculation is rife in the UK as to who’s ruling atm as the new Chancellor has reversed almost all the policies that Ms. Truss had bought and she is now more or less a figurehead. Mr. Hunt, the new chancellor doesn’t have anybody behind him. Apparently, the gentleman wanted to throw his hat the ring in the Tory leadership contest that was held about a month back and he couldn’t get 20 MP’s to support him. Another thing that is different between UK and India is that in UK by law the PM has to answer questions put up to him or her by the opposition leaders. That is the way accountability is measured there. This is known as PMQ’s or Prime Minister Questions and Answers. One can just go to YouTube or any streaming service and give Liz Truss and PMQ’s and if they are interested of a certain date, give a date and they can see how she answered the questions thrown at her. Unfortunately, all she could do in both times were non-answers. In fact, the Tories seem to be using some of Labor’s policies after they had bad-mouthed the same policies. Politics of right-wing both in the UK and the US seems so out of touch with the people whom they are supposed to protect and administer. An article about cyclists which is sort of half-truth, half irony shows how screwed up the policies are of the RW (right-wing). Now they are questions about the pensions triple-lock. Sadly, it is the working class who would suffer the most, most of the rich have already moved their money abroad several years ago. The Financial Times, did share a video about how things have been unfolding –

Seems Ms. Truss forgot to add Financial Times in the list of anti-growth coalition she is so fond of. Also, the Tory party seems to want to create more tax havens in the UK and calling them investment zones. Of course, most of the top tax havens are situated around the UK itself. I wouldn’t go more into as that would probably require its own article, although most of that information is all in public domain.

Fracking

I don’t really want to take much time as the blog post has become long. There have been many articles written why Fracking is bad and that is why even the Tories had put in their Manifesto that they won’t allow Fracking but apparently, today they are trying to reopen Fracking. And again how bad it is and can be found out by the article in Guardian.



Dowry, Racism, Railways

Dowry

Few days back, had posted about the movie Raksha Bandhan and whatever I felt about it. Sadly, just couple of days back, somebody shared this link. Part of me was shocked and part of me was not. Couple of acquaintances of mine in the past had said the same thing for their daughters. And in such situations you are generally left speechless because you don’t know what the right thing to do is. If he has shared it with you being an outsider, how many times he must have told the same to their wife and daughters? And from what little I have gathered in life, many people have justified it on similar lines. And while the protests were there, sadly the book was not removed. Now if nurses are reading such literature, how their thought process might be forming, you can tell :(. And these are the ones whom we call for when we are sick and tired :(. And I have not taken into account how the girls/women themselves might be feeling. There are similar things in another country but probably not the same, nor the same motivations though although feeling helplessness in both would be a common thing.

But such statements are not alone. Another gentleman in slightly different context shared this as well –

The above is a statement shared in a book recommended for CTET (Central Teacher’s Eligibility Test that became mandatory to be taken as the RTE (Right To Education) Act came in.). The statement says “People from cold places are white, beautiful, well-built, healthy and wise. And people from hot places are black, irritable and of violent nature.”

Now while I can agree with one part of the statement that people residing in colder regions are more fair than others but there are loads of other factors that determine fairness or skin color/skin pigmentation. After a bit of search came to know that this and similar articulation have been made in an idea/work called ‘Environmental Determinism‘. Now if you look at that page, you would realize this was what colonialism is and was all about. The idea that the white man had god-given right to rule over others. Similarly, if you are fair, you can lord over others. Seems simplistic, but yet it has a powerful hold on many people in India. Forget the common man, this thinking is and was applicable to some of our better-known Freedom fighters. Pune’s own Bal Gangadhar Tilak – The Artic Home to the Vedas. It sort of talks about Aryans and how they invaded India and became settled here. I haven’t read or have access to the book so have to rely on third-party sources. The reason I’m sharing all this is that the right-wing has been doing this myth-making for sometime now and unless and until you put a light on it, it will continue to perpetuate 😦 . For those who have read this blog, do know that India is and has been in casteism from ever. They even took the fair comment and applied it to all Brahmins. According to them, all Brahmins are fair and hence have god-given right to lord over others. What is called the Eton boy’s network serves the same in this casteism. The only solution is those idea under limelight and investigate. To take the above, how does one prove that all fair people are wise and peaceful while all people black and brown are violent. If that is so, how does one count for Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson the list is probably endless. And not to forget that when Mahatma Gandhiji did his nonviolent movements either in India or in South Africa, both black and brown people in millions took part. Similar examples of Martin Luther King Jr. I know and read of so many non-violent civl movements that took place in the U.S. For e.g. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. So just based on these examples, one can conclude that at least the part about the fair having exclusive rights to being fair and noble is not correct.

Now as far as violence goes, while every race, every community has had done violence in the past or been a victim of the same. So no one is and can be blameless, although in light of the above statement, the question can argumentated as to who were the Vikings? Both popular imagination and serious history shares stories about Vikings. The Vikings were somewhat nomadic in nature even though they had permanent settlements but even then they went on raids, raped women, captured both men and women and sold them at slaves. So they are what pirates came to be, but not the kind Hollywood romanticizes about. Europe in itself has been a tale in conflict since time immemorial. It is only after the formation of EU that most of these countries stopped fighting each other From a historical point perspective, it is too new. So even the part of fair being non-violent dies in face of this evidence. I could go on but this is enough on that topic.

Railways and Industrial Action around the World.

While I have shared about Railways so many times on this blog, it continues to fascinate me that how people don’t understand the first things about Railways. For e.g. Railways is a natural monopoly. What that means is and you can look at all and any type of privatization around the world, you will see it is a monopoly. Unlike the road or Skies, Railways is and would always be limited by infrastructure and the ability to have new infrastructure. Unlike in road or Skies (even they have their limits) you cannot run train services on a whim. At any particular point in time, only a single train could and should occupy a stretch of Railway network. You could have more trains on one line, but then the likelihood of front or rear-end collisions becomes a real possibility. You also need all sorts of good and reliable communications, redundant infrastructure so if one thing fails then you have something in place. The reason being a single train can carry anywhere from 2000 to 5000 passengers or more. While this is true of Indian Railways, Railways around the world would probably have some sort of similar numbers.It is in this light that I share the below videos.

To be more precise, see the fuller video –

Now to give context to the recording above, Mike Lynch is the general secretary at RMT. For those who came in late, both UK and the U.S. have been threatened by railway strikes. And the reason for the strikes or threat of strikes is similar. Now from the company perspective, all they care is to invest less and make the most profits that can be given to equity shareholders. At the same time, they have freezed the salaries of railway workers for the last 3 years. While the politicians who were asking the questions, apparently gave themselves raise twice this year. They are asking them to negotiate at 8% while inflation in the UK has been 12.3% and projected to go higher. And it is not only the money. Since the 1980s when UK privatized the Railways, they stopped investing in the infrastructure. And that meant that the UK Railway infrastructure over period of time started getting behind and is even behind say Indian Railways which used to provide most bang for the buck. And Indian Railways is far from ideal. Ironically, most of the operators on UK are nationalized Railways of France, Germany etc. but after the hard Brexit, they too are mulling to cut their operations short, they have too 😦 There is also the EU Entry/Exit system that would come next year.

Why am I sharing about what is happening in UK Rail, because the Indian Government wants to follow the same thing, and fooling the public into saying we would do it better. What inevitably will happen is that ticket prices go up, people no longer use the service, the number of services go down and eventually they are cancelled. This has happened both in Indian Railways as well as Airlines. In fact, GOI just recently announced a credit scheme just a few days back to help Airlines stay afloat. I was chatting with a friend who had come down to Pune from Chennai and the round-trip cost him INR 15k/- on that single trip alone. We reminisced how a few years ago, 8 years to be precise, we could buy an Air ticket for 2.5k/- just a few days before the trip and did it. I remember doing/experiencing at least a dozen odd trips via air in the years before 2014. My friend used to come to Pune, almost every weekend because he could afford it, now he can’t do that. And these are people who are in the above 5-10% of the population. And this is not just in UK, but also in the United States. There is one big difference though, the U.S. is mainly a freight carrier while the UK Railway Operations are mostly passenger based. What was and is interesting that Scotland had to nationalize their services as they realized the Operators cannot or will not function when they were most needed. Most of the public even in the UK seem to want a nationalized rail service, at least their polls say so. So, it would definitely be interesting to see what happens in the UK next year.

In the end, I know I promised to share about books, but the above incidents have just been too fascinating to not just share the news but also share what I think about them. Free markets function good where there is competition, for example what is and has been happening in China for EV’s but not where you have natural monopolies. In all Railway privatization, you have to handover the area to one person, then they have no motivation. If you have multiple operators, then there would always be haggling as to who will run the train and at what time. In either scenario, it doesn’t work and raises prices while not delivering anything better 😦

I do take examples from UK because lot of things are India are still the legacy of the British. The whole civil department that was created in 1953 is/was a copy of the British civil department at that time and it is to this day.

P.S. – Just came to know that the UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng was just sacked as UK Chancellor. I do commend Truss for facing the press even though she might be dumped a week later unlike our PM who hasn’t faced a single press conference in the last 8 odd years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTP6ogBqU7of

The difference in Indian and UK politics seems to be that the English are now asking questions while here in India, most people are still sleeping without a care in the world.

Another thing to note Minidebconf Palakkad is gonna happen 12-13th November 2022. I am probably not gonna go but would request everyone who wants to do something in free software to attend it. I am not sure whether I would be of any use like this and also when I get back, it would be an empty house. But for people young and old, who want to do anything with free/open source software it is a chance not to be missed. Registration of the same closes on 1st of November 2022. All the best, break a leg πŸ˜‰

Just read this, beautifully done.

Men, Women, and the state of the World

Before we start, I would suggest that people understand that the blog post would talk of some mature topics.

Raksha Bandhan

While I am or was supposed to share reviews of a couple of books but this would have to be stayed back, maybe would that over the weekend. A few days back saw ‘Raksha Bandhan‘. Sadly the movie flopped. The topic of the movie was dowry, a social evil that has taken millions of lives, especially of girls and women in my country. Akshay Kumar plays the role of Lala Kedarnath, a chaath seller who inherits it from his family that has been doing it for generations. The claim is whoever eats from his chaat would have a boy. That is not his claim but a myth or something people made over time. If one would have used probability or statistics, then it probably would have been 50:50 as nature would have its own balance. It is we who skewed the balance and did infanticide, selective abortion if it’s a girl child etc. etc. even though sex selection or sex determination is unlawful by law now. But those statements don’t even come in the movie. So anyways he has this chaat thing (for those thinking and seeing the video, it is poori, there are quite a few different types and you fill it with a combination of spices and veggies.) The gentleman has 4 unmarried sisters. The whole movie is about his struggle of getting his 4 sisters married. The first sister he is somehow able to get married by paying 17 lakhs where he has to mortgage his shop. He is under the belief that his sister is happy and is in the struggle to get the rest of his three sisters married.

A social activist comes and says that dowry is evil. He asks her how many daughters she has, and she says two. He says that’s why she has the thoughts she has. If she had two male children, her thinking would be different. This is somewhere they should have gone more but events overtake them. He literally sells one of his kidneys illegally so he can raise money for the remaining three sisters. He is still under the impression that his first sister is happy.

Suddenly, he gets the news that his sister is dead. While there is a Police investigation, one of the neighbors who is seeing from the balcony says that the husband used to beat her and demand more dowry. apparently, the husband wanted a fridge or a scooter or something.

In India, we have the custom of Raksha Bandhan where the sister ties a colorful thread and the brother gives her gifts and vows to protect her. On the day she is supposed to tie the rakhi, she is murdered :(. If you leave aside the movie for a moment, NCRB data shows that violence against women has only grown instead of coming down. Many might not have known that for the last two-three years the data has been incomplete or there is no data. If one were to drill down into the reports, they would be more shocking.

After the death of his sister, he goes through a sort of catharsis and vows that he would make his sisters so educated, so badass that people would line up to marry them and there would be no more dowry. Over a period of time, the three sisters did find their mates and he is able to marry his crush/lover but it pushes them to their 60s (Around Akshay’s real age.) While I liked the movie, I knew it would have flopped. The reason is simple, most people in my country believe in tradition. And anything that goes against that belief system has automatically flopped

After seeing the movie, I couldn’t literally sleep for the next couple of days as thoughts came swirling around. The laws are made by men and for men only. The 2012 Delhi Rape case, supposed to make changes didn’t make changes at all. Just recently, a young woman/girl was gang-raped and when she went to the police station to report the rape, the cop raped her too. An investigation did take place and the cop was found guilty and was suspended. Are a cop’s suspension and the dignity of a woman are same? In law, in justice, there is a concept called proportional punishment. Unfortunately, Indian law fails to follow them in implementation.

Just a few days ago, there was news about how the noted lawyer Indira Jaising is rudely addressed by her peers and judges alike. Ideally, she should have been one of the twelve Supreme Court Justices by now but has always been overlooked because she is fiercely independent and non-corruptible. As can be seen from her Wikipedia page she is passionate about fighting for women, and human and environmental rights, all of which is a big no-no in the present Government’s eyes. While she is more than capable of defending herself, most women aren’t. And yet, I see most women are not with her as well which is a shame 😦

Other countries, a similar Environment

It would be a mistake to think that it only happens in India. For e.g. a few weeks back, around my birthday a 22-year-old Iranian woman was murdered in a police lockup because she didn’t wear a hijab. That death intensified in protests and of course, the Iranian mainstream and conservative media and folks blamed it all on the US and Europe. The BBC has done a lot of reporting on it while in India there was virtually no reporting of the same. If you see the interviews of the Iranian cops that have been shared and the accused (later criminals) in the 2012 gang rape case, except for the words the tone, and the idea, everything is the same. The rapists did it because she was corrupting people, the cops killed her because she is corrupting other women. Not much change. While this would have played in the press, GOI didn’t want it as they were trying to mend fences with Iran and wanted cheap Iranian oil rather than the expensive American Oil that we have been importing. In fact, the U.S. sanctioned an Indian Company over an alleged Iranian Oil deal and that story was also killed in the press. Today, GOI holds the most power as to what news gets widely disseminated and what does not. Both of these would be another couple of topics that probably need their own article/blog post so will not venture further.

Now again, if we thought it was just up to Iran or Muslim states, nothing could be further from the truth. Bigotry knows no bounds. Whether it is the Haredim and Chassidic Jewish communities, the Duggar family, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women, or Fundamentalist Baptists the list goes on and on. Imagine almost 50% of a country is against abortions due to whatever reason. Could you guess which country it is, if you guessed the United States of America, you guessed it right. It took me a while to understand why women voted against their own rights. The American right and the Indian right are similar in one way, both of them believe in conspiracy theories, that some recent research has shown may be an addictive disorder. And one side of the political spectrum does it more than the other. No prizes for guessing who.

I actually stopped listing as sooner or later it would involve all religions, the only difference would be in some degrees here or there. Indian mythology, for example, has most of the time shown women in a bad light. Even though Sita is blamed for her own abduction, victim blaming and victim shaming have a history in Indian mythology since the 4th century. In such a scenario, how have we changed?

Even in Parsis, there is a lot of conservation and quite a bit of in-breeding happens in them. There have been quite a bit of mental cases and their population has shrunk.

In almost all Asian Societies say Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Korea, etc., etc. in all these countries the population has been stagnant to failing. One of the reasons being they want to maintain the purity of the blood and they are failing because rearing a child is expensive in those countries.

Just last week came to know about this – In some Islamic societies require men to grow beards, apparently the sight of a smooth-cheeked man is apparently enough to invoke β€œimmoral thoughts” among other men.

I am probably going to update the blog post over the weekend as there are still a lot of thoughts going on still in my mind. Haven’t been able to sleep for the last two days because of these and similar thoughts, probably not even tonight, but maybe on the weekend when I’m not so disturbed. I am fully aware, this is nothing viz-a-vis the women who are literally going through hell at any point in time.

Update – Just came to know that the U.S. State Department has reduced its India Travel Advisory Level to 2 on a scale of 4 & asked its citizens to exercise increased caution while traveling to India due to crime & terrorism, it identifies rape as the fastest growing crime in India. This may partially be in response to a string of high-profile rape cases and the rapists who were not just freed but felicitated in the Bilkis Bano Rape case. While Jaishankhar would try some sort of feeble response, he can’t say much as his own sons are all working and situated in the U.S.

Death Certificate, Legal Heir, Succession Certificate, and Indian Bureaucracy.

Death Certificate

After waiting for almost two, two, and a half months, I finally got mum’s death certificate last week. A part of me was saddened as it felt like I was nailing her or putting nails to the coffin or whatever it is, (even though I’m an Agarwal) I just felt sad and awful. I was told just get a death certificate and your problems will be over. Some people wanted me to give some amount under the table or something which I didn’t want to party of and because of that perhaps it took a month, month and a half more as I came to know later that it had been issued almost a month and a half back. The inflation over the last 8 years of the present Govt. has made the corrupt even more corrupt, all the while projecting and telling others that the others are corrupt. There had been also a few politicians who were caught red-handed but then pieces of evidence & witnesses vanish overnight. I don’t really wanna go in that direction as it would make for an unpleasant reading with no solutions at all unless the present Central Govt. goes out.

Intestate and Will

I came to know the word Intestate. This was a new word/term for me. A lookup told me that intestate means a person dying without putting a will. That legal term comes from U.K. law. I had read a long long time back that almost all our laws have and were made or taken from U.K. law. IIRC, massive sections of the CRPC Act even today have that colonial legacy. While in its (BJP) manifesto that had been shared with the public at the time of the election, they had shared that they will remove a whole swathe of laws that don’t make sense in today’s environment. But when hard and good questions were asked, they trimmed a few, modified a few, and left most of them as it is. Sadly, most of the laws that they did modify increased Government control over people instead of decreasing, It’s been 8 years and yet we still don’t have a Privacy law. They had made something but it was too vague and would have invited suits from day 1 so pretty much on backburner :(. A good insight into what I mean is an article in the Hindu I read a few days back. Once you read that article, I am sure you will have as many questions as I have but sadly no answers.

Law is not supposed to be partisan but today it is. I could cite examples from both the U.S. and UK courts about progressive judgments or the way they go about it, but then again when our people think they know better 😦 But this again does not help me apart from setting some kind of background of where we are.) I have on this blog also shared how Africans have been setting new records in transparency and they did it almost 5 years back. For those new to the blog, African countries have been now broadcasting proceedings of their SC for almost 5 years now. I noticed it when privacy law was being debated and a few handles that I follow on Twitter and elsewhere had gone and given their submission in their SC. It was fascinating to not only hear but also read about the case from multiple viewpoints.

And just to remind people, I am sharing all of this from Pune, Maharashtra which is the second-biggest city in Maharashtra that has something like six million people and probably a million or more transitory students, and casual laborers but then again that doesn’t help me other than providing a kind of context to what I’m sharing..

Now a couple of years back or more I had asked mum to make a will. If she wanted to bequeath something to somebody else she could do that, had shared about that. There was some article in Indian Express or elsewhere that told people what they should be doing, especially if they had cost the barrier of age 60. Now for reasons best known to her, she refused and now I have to figure out what is the right way to go about doing things.

Twitter Experiences

Now before Twitter, a few people had been asking me about having a legal heir certificate, while others are asking about a succession certificate and some claim a Death Certificate is enough. Now I asked the same question on Twitter hoping at the max of 5-10 responses but was overwhelmed by the response. I got something like 50-60 odd replies. Probably, one of the better responses was given by Dr. Paras Jain who shared the following –

“Answer is qualified Movable assets nothing required Bank LIC flat with society nomination done nothing required except death certificate. However, each will insist on a notarized indemnity bond If the nomination is not done. Depends on whims & fancy of each mind legal heir certificate,+ all” – Dr. Paras Jain. (cleared up the grammar a little, otherwise, views are of Dr. Paras.)

What was interesting for me is that most people just didn’t give me advice, many of them also shared their own experiences or what they did or went through. I was surprised to learn e.g. that a succession certificate can take up to 6 months or more. Part of me isn’t surprised to learn that as do know we have a huge pendency of cases in High Courts, District Courts leading all the way to the Supreme Court. India Today shared a brief article sharing the same and similar issues. Such delays have become far too common now 😦

Supertech Demolition and Others

Over the last couple of months, a number of high-profile demolitions have taken place and in most cases, the loss has been of homebuyers. See for e.g. the case of Supertech. A much more detailed article was penned by Moneylife. There were a few Muslims whose homes were demolished just a couple of months back that were being celebrated, but now just 2-3 days back a politician by the name of Shrikant Tyagi, a BJP leader, his flat was partly demolished and there was a lot of hue and cry. Although we shouldn’t be discussing on the basis of religion but legality, somehow the idea has been put that there are two kinds of laws, one for the majority, the other for the minority. And this has been going on for the last 8 odd years, hence you see different reactions to the same incidents instead of similar reactions. In all the cases, no strictures are passed either against the Municipality or against lenders.

The most obvious question, let’s say for argument’s sake, I was a homeowner in Supertech. I bought a flat for say 10 lakhs in 2012. According to the courts, today I am supposed to get 22 lakhs at 12% simple interest for 10 years. Let’s say even if the builder was in a position and does honor the order, the homeowner will not get a house in the same area as the circle rate would probably have quadrupled by then at the very least. The circle rate alone might be the above amount. The reason is very simple, a builder buys land on the cheap when there is no development around. His/her/their whole idea is once development happens due to other builders also building flats, the whole area gets developed and they are able to sell the flats at a premium. Even Circle rates get affected as the builder pays below the table and asks the officers of the municipal authority to hike the circle rate every few months. Again, wouldn’t go into much depth as the whole thing is rotten to the core. There are many such projects. I have shared Krishnaraj Rao’s videos on this blog a few times. I am sure there are a few good men like him. At the end, sadly this is where we are 😦

P.S. – I haven’t shared any book reviews this week as this post itself has become too long. I probably may blog about a couple of books in the next couple of days, till later.

Rama II, Arthur C. Clarke, Aliens

Rama II

This would be more of a short post about the current book I am reading. Now people who have seen Arrival would probably be more at home. People who have also seen Avatar would also be familiar to the theme or concept I am sharing about. Now before I go into detail, it seems that Arthur C. Clarke wanted to use a powerful god or mythological character for the name and that is somehow the RAMA series started.

Now the first book in the series explores an extraterrestrial spaceship that earth people see/connect with. The spaceship is going somewhere and is doing an Earth flyby so humans don’t have much time to explore the spaceship and it is difficult to figure out how the spaceship worked. The spaceship is around 40 km. long. They don’t meet any living Ramans but mostly automated systems and something called biots.

As I’m still reading it, I can’t really say what happens next. Although in Rama or Rama I, the powers that be want to destroy it while in the end last they don’t. Whether they could have destroyed it or not would be whole another argument. What people need to realize is that the book is a giant ‘What IF’ scenario.

Aliens

If there were any intelligent life in the Universe, I don’t think they will take the pain of visiting Earth. And the reasons are far more mundane than anything else. Look at how we treat each other. One of the largest democracies on Earth, The U.S. has been so divided. While the progressives have made some good policies, the Republicans are into political stunts, consider the political stunt of sending Refugees to Martha’s Vineyard. The ex-president also made a statement that he can declassify anything just by thinking about it. Now understand this, a refugee is a legal migrant whose papers would be looked into by the American Govt. and till the time he/she/their application is approved or declined they can work, have a house, or do whatever to support themselves. There is a huge difference between having refugee status and being an undocumented migrant. And it isn’t as if the Republicans don’t know this, they did it because they thought they will be able to get away with it.

Both the above episodes don’t throw us in a good light. If we treat others like the above, how can we expect to be treated? And refugees always have a hard time, not just in the U.S, , the UK you name it. The UK just some months ago announced a controversial deal where they will send Refugees to Rwanda while their refugee application is accepted or denied, most of them would be denied.

The Indian Government is more of the same. A friend, a casual acquaintance Nishant Shah shared the same issues as I had shared a few weeks back even though he’s an NRI. So, it seems we are incapable of helping ourselves as well as helping others. On top of it, we have the temerity of using the word ‘alien’ for them.

Now, just for a moment, imagine you are an intelligent life form. An intelligent life-form that could coax energy from the stars, why would you come to Earth, where the people at large have already destroyed more than half of the atmosphere and still arguing about it with the other half. On top of it, we see a list of authoritarian figures like Putin, Xi Jinping whose whole idea is to hold on to power for as long as they can, damn the consequences. Mr. Modi is no different, he is the dumbest of the lot and that’s saying something. Most of the projects made by him are in disarray, Pune Metro, my city giving an example. And this is when Pune was the first applicant to apply for a Metro. Just like the UK, India too has tanked the economy under his guidance. Every time they come closer to target dates, the targets are put far into the future, for e.g. now they have said 2040 for a good economy. And just like in other countries, he has some following even though he has a record of failure in every sector of the economy, education, and defense, the list is endless. There isn’t a single accomplishment by him other than screwing with other religions. Most of my countrymen also don’t really care or have a bother to see how the economy grows and how exports play a crucial part otherwise they would be more alert. Also, just like the UK, India too gave tax cuts to the wealthy, most people don’t understand how economies function and the PM doesn’t care. The media too is subservient and because nobody asks the questions, nobody seems to be accountable :(.

Religion

There is another aspect that also has been to the fore, just like in medieval times, I see a great fervor for religion happening here, especially since the pandemic and people are much more insecure than ever before. Before, I used to think that insecurity and religious appeal only happen in the uneducated, and I was wrong. I have friends who are highly educated and yet still are blinded by religion. In many such cases or situations, I find their faith to be a sham. If you have faith, then there shouldn’t be any room for doubt or insecurity. And if you are not in doubt or insecure, you won’t need to talk about your religion. The difference between the two is that a person is satiated himself/herself/themselves with thirst and hunger. That person would be in a relaxed mode while the other person would continue to create drama as there is no peace in their heart.

Another fact is none of the major religions, whether it is Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or even Hinduism has allowed for the existence of extraterrestrials. We have already labeled them as ‘aliens’ even before meeting them & just our imagination. And more often than not, we end up killing them. There are and have been scores of movies that have explored the idea. Independence day, Aliens, Arrival, the list goes on and on. And because our religions have never thought about the idea of ET’s and how they will affect us, if ET’s do come, all the religions and religious practices would panic and die. That is the possibility why even the 1947 Roswell Incident has been covered up .

If the above was not enough, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans would always be a black mark against humanity. From the alien perspective, if you look at the technology that they have vis-a-vis what we have, they will probably think of us as spoilt babies and they wouldn’t be wrong. Spoilt babies with nuclear weapons are not exactly a healthy mix 😦

Earth

To add to our fragile ego, we didn’t even leave earth even though we have made sure we exploit it as much as we can. We even made the anthropocentric or homocentric view that makes man the apex animal and to top it we have this weird idea that extraterrestrials come here or will invade for water. A species that knows how to get energy out of stars but cannot make a little of H2O. The idea belies logic and again has been done to death. Why we as humans are so insecure even though we have been given so much I fail to understand. I have shared on numerous times the Kardeshev Scale on this blog itself.

The above are some of the reasons why Arthur C. Clarke’s works are so controversial and this is when I haven’t even read the whole book. It forces us to ask questions that we normally would never think about. And I have to repeat that when these books were published for the first time, they were new ideas. All the movies, from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, Aliens, Arrival, and Avatar, somewhere or the other reference some aspect of this work. It is highly possible that I may read and re-read the book couple of times before beginning the next one. There is also quite a bit of human drama, but then that is to be expected. I have to admit I did have some nice dreams after reading just the first few pages, imagining being given the opportunity to experience an Extraterrestrial spaceship that is beyond our wildest dreams. While the Governments may try to cover up or something, the ones who get to experience that spacecraft would be unimaginable. And if they were able to share the pictures or a Livestream, it would be nothing short of amazing.

For those who want to, there is a lot going on with the New James Webb Telescope. I am sure it would give rise to more questions than answers.

Books and Indian Tourism

Fiction

A few days ago somebody asked me and I think it is an often requested to perhaps all fiction readers as to why we like fiction? First of all, reading in itself is told as food for the soul. Because, whenever you write or read anything you don’t just read it, you also visualize it. And that visualization is and would be far greater than any attempt in cinema as there are no budget constraints and it takes no more than a minute to visualize a scenario if the writer is any good. You just close your eyes and in a moment you are transported to a different world. This is also what is known as ‘world building’. Something fantasy writers are especially gifted in. Also, with the whole parallel Universes being a reality, it is just so much fertile land for imagination that I just cannot believe that it hasn’t been worked to death to date. And you do need a lot of patience to make a world, to make characters, to make characters a bit eccentric one way or the other. And you have to know to put into a three, five, or whatever number of acts you want to put in. And then, of course, they have readers like us who dream and add more color to the story than the author did. As we take his, her, or their story and weave countless stories depending on where we are, where we are and who we are.

What people need to understand is that not just readers want escapism but writers too want to escape from the human condition. And they find solace in whatever they write. The well-known example of J.R.R. Tolkien is always there. How he must have felt each day coming after war, to somehow find the strength and just dream away, transport himself to a world of hobbits, elves, and other mysterious beings. It surely must have taken a lot of pain from him that otherwise, he would have felt. There are many others. What also does happen now and then, is authors believe in their own intelligence so much, that they commit crimes, but that’s par for the course.

Dean Koontz, Odd Apocalypse

Currently, I am reading the above title. It is perhaps one of the first horror title books that I have read which has so much fun. The ‘hero’ has a great sense of wit, humor, and sarcasm that you can cut butter with it. Now if you got that, this is par for the wordplay happening every second paragraph and I’m just 100 pages in of the 500-page Novel.

Now, while I haven’t read the whole book and I’m just speculating, what if at the end we realize that the hero all along was or is the villain. Sadly, we don’t have many such twisted stories and that too is perhaps because most people used to have black and white rather than grey characters. From all my reading, and even watching web series and whatnot, it is only the Europeans who seem to have a taste for exploring grey characters and giving twists at the end that people cannot anticipate. Even their heroes or heroines are grey characters. and they can really take you for a ride. It is also perhaps how we humans are, neither black nor white but more greyish. Having grey characters also frees the author quite a bit as she doesn’t have to use so-called tropes and just led the characters to lead themselves.

Indian Book publishing Industry

I do know Bengali stories do have a lot of grey characters, but sadly most of the good works are still in Bengali and not widely published compared to say European or American authors. While there is huge potential in the Indian publishing market for English books and there is also hunger, getting good and cheap publishers is the issue. Just recently SAGE publishing division shut down and this does not augur well for the Indian market. In the past few years, I and other readers have seen some very good publishing houses quit India for one reason or the other. GST has also made the sector more expensive. The only thing that works now and has been for some time is the seconds and thirds market. For e.g. I just bought today about 15-20 books @INR 125/- a kind of belated present for the self. That would be what, at the most 2 USD or 2 Euros per book. I bet even a burger costs more than that, but again India being a price-sensitive market, at these prices the seconds book sells. And these are all my favorite authors, Lee Child, Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz, and so on and so forth. I also saw a lot of fantasy books but they would have to wait for another day.

Tourism in India for Debconf 23

I had shared a while back that I would write a bit about tourism as Debconf or Annual Debian Conference will happen in India next year around this time. I was supposed to write it in the FAQ but couldn’t find a place or a corner where I could write it. There are actually two things that people need to be aware of. The one thing that people need to be very aware of is food poisoning or Delhi Belly. This is a far too common sight that I have witnessed especially with westerners when they come to visit India. I am somewhat shocked that it hasn’t been shared in the FAQ but then perhaps we cannot cover all the bases therein. I did find this interesting article and would recommend the suggestions given in it wholeheartedly. I would suggest people coming to India to buy and have purifying water tablets with them if they decide to stay back and explore India.

Now the problem with tourism is, that one can have as much tourism as one wants. One of the unique ways I found some westerners having the time of their life is buying an Indian Rickshaw or Tuk-Tuk and traveling with it. A few years ago, when I was more adventourous-spirited I was able to meet a few of them. There is also the Race with Rickshaws that happens in Rajasthan and you get to see about 10 odd cities in and around Rajasthan state and get to see the vibrancy in the North. If somebody really wants to explore India, then I would suggest getting down to Goa, specifically, South Goa, meeting with the hippie crowd, and getting one of the hippie guidebooks to India. Most people forget that the Hippies came to India in the 1960s and many of them just never left. Tap water in Pune is ok, have seen and experienced the same in Himachal, Garwhal, and Uttarakhand, although it has been a few years since I have been to those places. North-East is a place I have yet to venture into.

India does have a lot of beauty but most people are not clean-conscious so if you go to common tourist destinations, you will find a lot of garbage. Most cities in India do give you an option of homestays and some even offer food, so if you are on a budget as well as wanna experience life with an Indian family, that could be something you could look into. So you can see and share about India with different eyes.

There is casteism, racism, and all that. Generally speaking, you would see it wielded a lot more in your face in North India than in South India where it is there but far more subtle. About food, what has been shared in the India BOF. Have to say, it doesn’t even scratch the surface. If you stay with an Indian family, there is probably a much better chance of exploring the variety of food that India has to offer. From the western perspective, we tend to overcook stuff and make food with Masalas but that’s the way most people like it. People who have had hot sauces or whatnot would probably find India much easier to adjust to as tastes might be similar to some extent.

If you want to socialize with young people, while discos are an option, meetup.com also is a good place. You can share your passions and many people have taken to it with gusto. We also have been hosting Comiccons in India, but I haven’t had the opportunity to attend them so far. India has a rich oral culture reach going back a few thousand years, but many of those who are practicing those reside more in villages rather than in cities. And while there have been attempts in the past to record them, most of those have come to naught as money runs out as there is no commercial viability to such projects, but that probably is for another day.

In the end, what I have shared is barely a drop in the ocean that is India. Come, have fun, explore, enjoy and invigorate yourself and others πŸ™‚

Politics, accessibility, books

Politics

I have been reading books, both fiction and non-fiction for a long long time. My first book was a comic most probably when I was down with Malaria when I was a kid. I must be around 4-5 years old. Over the years, books have given me great joy and I continue to find nuggets of useful information, both in fiction as well as non-fiction books. So here’s to sharing something and how that can lead you to a rabbit hole. This entry would be a bit NSFW as far as language is concerned.

NYPD Red 5 by James Patterson – First of all, have no clue as to why James Patterson’s popularity has been falling. He used to be right there with Lee Child and others, but not so much now. While I try to be mysterious about books, I would give a bit of heads-up so people know what to expect. This is probably more towards the Adult crowd as there is a bit of sex as well as quite a few grey characters. The NYPD Red is a sort of elite police task force that basically is for celebrities. In the book series, they do a lot of ass-kissing (figuratively more than literally).

Now the reason I have always liked fiction is that however wild the assumption or presumption is, it does have somewhere a grain of truth. And each and every time I read a book or two, that gets cemented. One of the statements in the book told something about how 9/11 took a lot of police personnel out of the game. First, there were a number of policemen who were patrolling the Two Towers, so they perished literally during the explosion. Then there were policemen who were given the cases to close the cases (bring the cases to conclusion). When you are investigating your own brethren or even civilians who perished 9/11 they must have experienced emotional trauma and no outlet. Mental health even in cops is the same and given similar help as you and me (i.e. next to none.) But both of these were my assumptions. The only statement that was in the book was they lost a lot of bench strength. Even NYFD (New York Fire Department). This led me to me to With Crime At Record Lows, Should NYC Have Fewer Cops? This is more right-wing sentiment and in fact, there have been calls to defund the police. This led me to https://cbcny.org/ and one specific graph. Unfortunately, this tells the story from 2010-2022 but not before. I was looking for data from around 1999 to 2005 because that will tell whether or not it happened.

Then I remembered reading in newspapers the year or two later how 9/11 had led NYC to recession. I looked up online and for sure NY was booming before 9/11. One can argue that NYC could come down and that is pretty much possible, everything that goes up comes down, it’s a law of nature but it would have been steady rather than abrupt. And once you are in recession, the first thing to go is personnel. So people both from NYPD and NYFD were let go, even though they were needed the most then. As you can see, a single statement in a book can take you to places & time literally.

Edit: Addition 11th September – There were quite a few people who also died from New York Port Authority and they also lost quite a number of people directly and indirectly and did a lot of patrolling of the water bodies near NYC. Later on, even in their department, there were a lot of early retirements.

Kosovo

A couple of days back I had a look at the Debconf 2023 BOF that was done in Kosovo. One of the interesting things that happened during the BOF is when a woman participant chimed in and asks India to recognize Kosovo. Immediately it triggered me and I opened the Kosovo Wikipedia page to get some understanding of the topic. Reading up on it, came to know Russia didn’t agree and doesn’t recognize Kosovo. Mr. Modi likes Putin and India imports a lot of its oil from Russia. Unrelatedly, but still useful, we rejected to join IPEF. Earlier, we had rejected China’s BRI. India has never been as vulnerable as she is now. Our foreign balance has reached record lows. Now India has been importing quite a bit of Russian crude and has been buying arms and ammunition from them. We are also scheduled to buy a couple of warships and submarines etc. We even took arms and ammunition from them on lease. So we can’t afford that they are displeased with India. Even though Russia has more than friendly relations with both China and Pakistan. At the same time, the U.S. is back to aiding Pakistan which the mainstream media in India refuses to even cover. And to top all of this, we have the Chip 4 Alliance but that needs its own article, truth be told but we will do with a paragraph 😦

Edit – Addition 11th September – Seems Kosovo isn’t unique in that situation, there are 3-4 states like that. A brief look at worldpopulationreview tells you there are many more.

Chip 4 Alliance

For almost a decade I have been screaming about this on my blog as well as everywhere that chip fabrication is a national security thing. And for years, most people deny it. And now we have chip 4 alliance. Now to understand this, you have to understand that China for almost a decade, somewhere around 2014 or so came up with something called ‘the big fund‘. Now one can argue one way or the other how successful the fund has been, but it has, without doubt, created ripples so strong that the U.S., Taiwan, Japan, and probably South Korea will join and try to stem the tide. Interestingly, in this grouping, South Korea is the weakest in the statements and what they have been saying. Within the group itself, there is a lot of tension and China would use that and there are a number of unresolved issues between the three countries that both China & Russia would exploit. For e.g. the Comfort women between South Korea and Japan. Or the 1985 Accord Agreement between Japan and the U.S.

Now people need to understand this, this is not just about China but also about us. If China has 5-6x times India’s GDP and their research budget is at the very least 100x times what India spends, how do you think we will be self-reliant? Whom are we fooling? Are we not tired of fooling ourselves 😦 In diplomacy, countries use leverage. Sadly, we let go of some of our most experienced negotiators in 2014 and since then have been singing in the wind 😦

Accessibility, Jitsi, IRC, Element-Desktop

The Wikipedia page on Accessibility says the following – Accessibility is the design of products, devices, services, vehicles, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology. Now IRC or Internet Relay Chat has been accessible for a long time. I know of even blind people who have been able to navigate IRC quite effortlessly as there has been a lot of work done to make sure all the joints ‘speak to each other’ so people with one or more disabilities still can use, and contribute without an issue. It does help that IRC and many clients have been there since the 1970s so most of them have had more than enough time to get all the bugs fixed and both text-to-speech and speech-to-text work brilliantly on IRC. Newer software like Jitsi or for that matter Telegram is lacking those features. A few days ago, discovered on Telegram I was shared that Samsung Voice input is also able to do the same. The Samsung Voice Input works wonder as it translates voice to text, I have not yet tried the text-to-speech but perhaps somebody can and they can share whatever the results can be one way or the other. I have tried element-desktop both on the desktop as well as mobile phone and it has been disappointing, to say the least. On the desktop, it is unruly and freezes once in a while, and is buggy. The mobile version is a little better but that’s not saying a lot. I prefer the desktop version as I can use the full-size keyboard. The bug I reported has been there since its Riot days. I had put up a bug report even then. All in all, yesterday was disappointing 😦

Debian on Phone

History

Before I start, the game I was talking about is called Cell To Singularity. Now I haven’t gone much in the game as I have shared but think that the Singularity it refers to is the Technological Singularity that people think will happen. Whether that will happen or not is open to debate to one and all. This is going to be a bit long one.

Confession Time :- When I was sharing in the blog post, I had no clue that we actually had sessions on it in this year’s Debconf. I just saw the schedule yesterday and then came to know. Then I saw Guido’s two talks, one at Debconf as well as one as Froscon. In fact, saw the Froscon talk first, and then the one at Debconf. Both the talks are nearly the same except for a thing here or a thing there.

Now because I was not there so my understanding and knowledge would be disadvantageously asymmetrical to Guido and others who were there and could talk and share more. Having a Debian mobile or Debian on the mobile could also make Debian more popular and connectable to the masses, one of the things that were not pointed out in the Debian India BOF sadly. At the same time, there are some facts that are not on the table and hence not thought about.

Being a B.Com person, I have been following not just the technical but also how the economics work and smartphone penetration in India is pretty low or historically been very low, say around 3-4% while the majority that people use, almost 90-95% of the market uses what are called non-smartphones or dumbphones. Especially during the pandemic and even after that the dumbphones market actually went up while smartphones stagnated and even came down. There is a lot of inventory at most of the dealers that they can’t get rid of. From a dealer perspective, it probably makes more sense to buy and sell dumbphones more in number as the turnaround of capital is much faster and easier than for smartphones. I have seen people spend a number of hours and rightly so in order to make their minds up on a smartphone while for a dumbphone, it is a 10-minute thing. Ask around, figure out who is selling at the cheapest, and just buy. Most of these low-end phones are coming from China. In fact, even in the middle and getting even into smartphones, the Chinese are the masters from whom we buy, even as they have occupied Indian territory. In the top five, Samsung comes at number three of four (sharing about Samsung as a fan and having used them.) even though battery times are atrocious, especially with Android 12L. The only hope that most of the smartphone manufacturers have is lowering the sticker prices and hoping that 5G Adoption picks up and that is what they are betting on but that comes with its own share of drawbacks as can be seen.

GNOME, MATE, memory leaks, Payments

FWIW, while I do have GNOME and do use a couple of tools from the GNOME stack, I hate GNOME with a passion. I have been a mate user for almost a decade now and really love the simplicity that mate has vis-a-vis GNOME. And with each release, MATE has only become better. So, it would be nice if we can have MATE on the mobile phone. How ‘adaptive’ the apps might be on the smaller area, I dunno. It would be interesting to find out if and how people are looking at debugging memory leaks on mobile phones. Although finding memory leaks on any platform is good, finding them and fixing them on a mobile phone is pretty much critical as most phones have fixed & relatively small amounts of memory and it is and can get quickly exhausted.

One of the things that were asked in the Q&A was about payments. The interesting thing is both UK and India are the same or markedly similar in regard as far as contactless payments being concerned. What most Indians have or use is basically UPI which is basically backed by your bank. Unlike in some other countries where you have a selection of wallets and even temporary/permanent virtual accounts whereby you can minimize your risks in case your mobile gets stolen or something, here we don’t have that. There are three digital wallets that I know – Paytm – Not used (have heard it’s creepy, but don’t really know), Google pay (Unfortunately, this is the one I use, they bought multiple features, and in the last couple of years have really taken the game away from Paytm but also creepy.). The last one is Samsung Pay (haven’t really used it as their find my phone app. always crashes, dunno how it is supposed to work.) But I do find that the apps. are vulnerable. Every day there is some or other news of fraud happening. Previously, only States like Bihar and Jharkhand used to be infamous for cybercrime as a hub, but now even States like Andhra Pradesh have joined and surpassed them :(. People have lost lakhs and crores, this is just a few days back. Some more info. on UPI can be found here and GitHub has a few implementation examples that anybody could look at and run away with it.

Balancing on three things

For any new mobile phone to crack the market, it has to balance three things. One, achieve economies of scale. Unless, that is not taken care of or done, however good or bad the product might be, it remains a niche and dies after some time. While Guido shared about Openmoko and N900, one of the more interesting bits from a user perspective at least was the OLPC project. There are many nuances that the short article didn’t go through. While I can’t say for other countries, at least in India, no education initiative happens without corruption. And perhaps Nicholas’s hands were tied while other manufacturers would and could do to achieve their sales targets. In India, it flopped because there was no way for volunteers to buy or get OLPC unless they were part of a school or college. There was some traction in FOSS communities, but that died down once OLPC did the partnership with MS-Windows, and proverbially broke the camel’s back. FWIW, I think the idea, the concept, and even the machine were far ahead of their time.

The other two legs are support and Warranty – Without going into any details, I can share and tell there were quite a few OLPC type attempts using conventional laptops or using Android and FOSS or others or even using one of the mainstream distributions but the problems have always been polishing, training and support. Guido talked about privacy as a winning feature but fails to take into account that people want to know that their privacy isn’t being violated. If a mobile phone answers to ‘Hey Google’ does it mean it was passively gathering, storing, and sending info to third parties, we just don’t know. The mobile phone could be part of ‘the right to repair’ profile while at the same time it can force us to ask many questions about the way things currently are and going to be. Six months down the line all the flagships of all companies are working on being able to take and share through satellites (Satellite Internet) and perhaps maybe a few non-flagships. Of course, if you are going to use a satellite, then you are going to drain that much more quickly. In all and every event there are always gonna be tradeoffs.

The Debian-mobile mailing list doesn’t seem to have many takers. The latest I could find there is written by Paul Wise. I am in a similar boat (Samsung; SM-M526B; Lahaina; arm64-v8a) v12. It is difficult to know which release would work on your machine, make sure that the building from the source is not tainted and pristine and needs a way to backup and restore if you need to. I even tried installing GNURoot Debian and the Xserver alternative they had shared but was unable to use the touch interface on the fakeroot instance 😦 . The system talks about a back key but what back key I have no clue.

Precursor Events Debconf 2023

As far as precursor events are concerned before Debconf 23 in India, all the festivals that we have could be used to showcase Debian. In fact, the ongoing Ganesh Chaturthi would have been the perfect way to showcase Debian and apps. according to the audience. Even the festival of Durga Puja, Diwali etc. can be used. When commercial organizations use the same festivals, why can’t we? What perhaps we would need to figure out is the funding part as well as getting permissions from Municipal authorities. One of the things for e.g. that we could do is buy either a permanent 24″ monitor or a 34″ TV and use that to display Debian and apps. The bigger, the better. Something that we could use day to day and also is used for events. This would require significant amounts of energy so we could approach companies, small businesses and individuals both for volunteering as well as helping out with funding.

Somebody asked how we could do online stuff and why it is somewhat boring. What could be done for e.g. instead of 4-5 hrs. of things, break it into manageable 45 minute pieces. 4-5 hrs. is long and is gonna fatigue the best of people. Make it into 45-minute negotiable chunks, and intersphere it with jokes, hacks, anecdotes, and war stories. People do not like or want to be talked down to but rather converse. One of the things that I saw many of the artists do is have shows and limit the audience to 20-24 people on zoom call or whatever videoconferencing system you have and play with them. The passive audience enjoys the play between the standup guy and the ‘crowd’ he works on, some of them may be known to him personally so he can push that envelope a bit more. The same thing can be applied here. Share the passion, and share why we are doing something. For e.g. you could do smem -t -k | less and give a whole talk about how memory is used and freed during a session, how are things different on desktop and ARM as far as memory architecture is concerned (if there is). What is being done on the hardware side, what is on the software side and go on and on. Then share about troubleshooting applications. Valgrind is super slow and makes life hell, is there some better app ? Doesn’t matter if you are a front-end or a back-end developer you need to know this and figure out the best way to deal with in your app/program. That would have lot of value. And this is just an e.g. to help trigger more ideas from the community. I am sure others probably have more fun ideas as to what can be done. I am stopping here now otherwise would just go on, till later. Feel free to comment, feedback. Hope it generates some more thinking and excitement on the grey cells.

Fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkein

J.R.R. Tolkein

Now unless you have been living under a rock cave, I am sure you know who Mr. Tolkein is. Apparently, the gentleman passed away on 2nd September 1973 at the sprightly age of 80. And this gives fans like me to talk about fantasy, fantasy authors, and the love-hate relationship we have with them. For a matter of record, I am currently reading Babylon Steel by Gaie Sebold. Now while I won’t go into many details (I never like to, if I enjoy a book, I would want the book to be mysterious rather than give praise, simply so that the next person enjoys it as much as I did without having any expectations.) Now this book has plenty of sex so wouldn’t recommend it for teenagers but more perhaps to mature audiences, although for the life of me couldn’t find any rating on the book. I did come across common sense media but unfortunately, it isn’t well known beyond perhaps some people who use it. They sadly don’t have a google/Android app 😦 And before anybody comments, I know that Android is no longer interested in supporting FOSS, their loss, not ours but that is entirely a blog post/article in itself. so let’s leave that aside for now.

Fantasy

So before talking about Mr. Tolkien and his creations let’s talk and share a bit about fantasy. We know for a fact that the conscious mind functions at less than 5%, while the other bits are made by the subconscious and the unconscious mind (the three mind model.) So any thought or idea first germinates n either the unconscious or the subconscious part of the mind and then comes into the conscious mind. It is the reason we also dream. That’s the subconscious and unconscious mind at work. While we say fantasy mostly to books, it is all around us and not just in prose but in song, dance, and all sorts of creativity are fantasy. Even Sci-fi actually comes from fantasy. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to people, they took out sci-fi and even divided fantasy into high fantasy and low fantasy. I am not going to go much into that but here’s a helpful link for those who might want to look more into it. Now the question arises, why do people write? I have asked this question many a time to the authors I have met and the answers are as varied as they come. Two of the most common answers are the need to write (an itch they can’t control or won’t control) and the other is it’s extremely healing. In my own case, even writing mere blog posts I found it unburdening & cathartetic. I believe this last part is what drove Mr. Tolkein and the story and arc that LOTR became.

Tolkien, LOTR, World War I

The casual reader might not know but if you followed or were curious about Mr. Tolkien, you would have found out that Mr. Tolkien served in World War 1 or what is known as the Great War. It was supposed to be the war that ended all wars but sadly didn’t. One of the things that set apart Mr. Tolkein from many of his peers was that Mr. Tolkien was very straight about himself and corresponded with people far and wide. There is actually a book called ‘The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien’ that I hope to get at one of the used book depots. That book spans about 480 pages and gives all the answers as to why Mr. Tolkien made Middle-earth as it was made. I sadly haven’t had the opportunity to get it and it is somewhat expensive. But I’m sure that if World War 1 wouldn’t have happened and Mr. Tolkein hadn’t taken part and experienced what he experienced, we wouldn’t have LOTR. I can bet losing his friends and comrades, and the pain he felt for those around him propelled him to write about land and a race called Hobbits. I haven’t done enough fantasy reading but I do feel that his description of hobbits and the way they were and are is unique. The names and surnames he used were for humor as well as to make a statement about them. Having names such as Harfoots, Padfoot, Took and others just wouldn’t be for fun, would it? Also, the responses and the behavior in the four books by Hobbits are almost human-like. It is almost like they are or were our cousins at one point in time but we allowed ourselves to forget. Even the corruption of humans has been shown as well as self-doubt.

There is another part that I found and find fascinating, unlike most books where there is a single hero, in LOTR we have many heroes and heroines. This again, I would attribute to Mr. Tolkien and the heroism he saw on the battlefield and beyond it. All the tender emotions he shares with readers like us are because either he himself or others around him were subjected to grace and wonderment. This is all I derive from the books, those who have ‘The letters of J.R.R. Tolkein’, feel free to correct me. I was supposed to write this yesterday but real life has its own way.

I could go on and on, perhaps at a later date or time I may expand on it, but it isn’t a coincidence that ‘Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power’ is starting broadcast on the same day when Mr. Tolkein died. In the very end, fantasy is something humans got and does not matter how rich or poor you are. If one were to look, both artists like Michaelangelo and many other artists, who often didn’t have enough to have two square meals in the day, but still somehow were inspired to sketch models of airplanes, flying machines which are shockingly similar to the real thing. Many may not know that almost all primates, including apes, monkeys, squirrels, and even dolphins dream. And all of them have elaborate, complex dreams just as we do. Sadly, this info. is not known by most people otherwise, we would be so much empathetic towards our cousins in the animal kingdom.

Culture, Books, Friends

Culture

Just before I start, I would like to point out that this post may or would probably be NSFW. Again, what is SFW (Safe at Work) and NSFW that so much depends on culture and perception of culture from wherever we are or wherever we take birth? But still, to be on the safe side I have put it as NSFW. Now there have been a few statements and ideas that gave me a pause. This will be a sort of chaotic blog post as I am in such a phase today.

For e.g. while I do not know which culture or which country this comes from, somebody shared that in some cultures one can talk/comment ‘May your poop be easy’ and with a straight face. I dunno which culture is this but if somebody asked me that I would just die from laughing or maybe poop there itself. While I can understand if it is a constipated person, but a whole culture? Until and unless their DNA is really screwed, I don’t think so but then what do I know? I do know that we shit when we have extreme reactions of either joy or fear. And IIRC, this comes from mammal response when they were in dangerous situations and we got the same as humans evolved. I would really be interested to know which culture is that. I did come to know that the Japanese do wish that you may not experience hard work or something to that effect while ironically they themselves are becoming extinct due to hard work and not enough relaxation, toxic workplace is common in Japan according to social scientists and population experts.

Another term that I couldn’t figure out is ‘The Florida Man Strikes again’ and this term is usually used when somebody does something stupid or something weird. While it is exclusively used in the American context, I am curious to know how that came about. Why does Florida have such people or is it an exaggeration? I have heard the term e.g. ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas ‘. Think it is also called Sin city although why just Vegas is beyond me?

Omicron-8712 Blood pressure machine

I felt so stupid. I found another site or e-commerce site called Wellness Forever. They had the blood pressure machine I wanted, an Omron-8172. I bought it online and they delivered the same within half an hour. Amazon took six days and in the end, didn’t deliver it at all.

I tried taking measurements from it yesterday. I have yet to figure out what it all means but I did get measurements of 109 SYS, 88 DIA and Pulse is 72. As far as the pulse is concerned, guess that is normal, the others just don’t know. If only I had known this couple of months ago. I was able to register the product as well as download and use the Omron Connect app. For roughly INR 2.5k you have a sort of health monitoring system. It isn’t Star Trek Tricorder in any shape or form but it will have to do while the tricorder gets invented. And while we are on the subject let’s not forget Elizabeth Holmes and the scam called Theranos. It really is something to see How Elizabeth Holmes modeled so much of herself on Steve Jobs mimicking how he left college/education halfway. A part of me is sad that Theranos is not real. Joe Scott just a few days ago shared some perspectives on the same just a few days ago. The idea in itself is pretty seductive, to say the least, and that is the reason the scam went on for more than a decade and perhaps would have been longer if some people hadn’t gotten the truth out.

I do see potentially, something like that coming on as A.I. takes a bigger role in automating testing. Half a decade to a decade from now, who knows if there is an algorithm that is able to do what is needed? If such a product were to come to the marketplace at a decent price, it would revolutionize medicine, especially in countries like India, South Africa, and all sorts of remote places. Especially, with all sorts of off-grid technologies coming and maturing in the marketplace. Before I forget, there is a game called ‘Cell’ on Android that tells or shares about the evolution of life on earth. It also shares credence to the idea that life has come 6 times on Earth and has been destroyed multiple times by asteroids. It is in the idle sort of game format, so you can see the humble beginnings from the primordial soup to various kinds of cells and bacteria to finally a mammal. This is where I am and a long way to go.

Indian Bureaucracy

One of the few things that Britishers gave to India, is the bureaucracy and the bureaucracy tests us in myriad ways. It would be full 2 months on 5th September and I haven’t yet got a death certificate. And I need that for a sundry number of things. The same goes for a disability certificate. What is and was interesting is my trip to the local big hospital called Sassoon Hospital. My mum had shared incidents that occurred in the 1950s when she and the family had come to Pune. According to her, when she was alive, while Sassoon was the place to be, it was big and chaotic and you never knew where you are going. That was in 1950, I had the same experience in 2022. The term/adage ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’ seems to be held true for Sassoon Hospital.

Btw, those of you who think the Devil exists, he is totally a fallacy. There is a popular myth that the devil comes to deal that he/she/they come to deal with you when somebody close to you passes, I was waiting desperately for him when mum passed. Any deal that he/she/they would have offered me I would have gladly taken, but all my wait was all for nothing. While I believe evil exists, that is manifested by humans and nobody else. The whole idea and story of the devil is just to control young children and nothing beyond that 😦

Debconf 2023, friends, JPEGOptim, and EV’s

Quite a number of friends had gone to Albania this year as India won the right to host Debconf for the year 2023. While I did lurk on the Debconf orga IRC channel, I’m not sure how helpful I would be currently. One news that warmed my heart is some people would be coming to India to check the site way before and make sure things go smoothly. Nothing like having more eyes (in this case bodies) to throw at a problem and hopefully it will be sorted. While I have not been working for the last couple of years, one of the things that I had to do and have been doing is moving a lot of stuff online. This is in part due to the Government’s own intention of having everything on the cloud. One of the things I probably may have shared it more than enough times is that the storage most of these sites give is like the 1990s. I tried jpegoptim and while it works, it degrades the quality of the image quite a bit. The whole thing seems backward, especially as newer and newer smartphones are capturing more data per picture (megapixel resolution), case in point Samsung Galaxy A04 that is being introduced. But this is not only about newer phones, even my earlier phone, Samsung J-5/500 which I bought in 2016 took images at 5 MB. So it is not a new issue but a continuous issue. And almost all Govt. sites have the upper band fixed at 1 MB. But this is not limited to Govt. sites alone, most sites in India are somewhat frozen in the 1990s. And it isn’t as if resources for designing web pages using HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, Python, or Java aren’t available. If worse comes to worst, one can even use amp to make his, her or their point. But this is if they want to do stuff. I would be sharing a few photos with commentary, there are still places where I can put photos apart from social media πŸ™‚

Friends

Last week, Saturday suddenly all the friends decided to show up. I have no clue one way or the other why but am glad they showed up.

Mahendra, Akshat, Shirish and Sagar Sukhose (Mangesh's friend).
Mahendra, Akshat, Shirish and Sagar Sukhose (Mangesh’s friend) at Bal Gandharva..
Electric scooter as shared by Akshat seen in Albania
Electric scooter as shared by Akshat seen in Albania
Somebody making a  real-life replica of Wall Street on F.C. Road (Commercial, all glass)
Somebody making a real-life replica of Wall Street on F.C. Road (Commercial, all glass)
Ganesh Idol near my house
Ganesh Idol near my house
Wearing new clothes
Wearing new clothes

I will have to be a bit rapid about what I am sharing above so here goes nothing –

1. The first picture shows Mahendra, Akshat, me, and Sagar Sukhose (Mangesh’s friend). The picture was taken by Mangesh Diwate. We talked quite a bit of various things that could be done in Debian. A few of the things that I shared were (bringing more stuff from BSD to Debian, I am sure there’s still quite a lot of security software that could be advantageous to have in Debian.) The best person to talk to or guide about this would undoubtedly be Paul Wise or as he is affectionally called Pabs. He is one of the shy ones and yet knows so much about how things work. The one and only time I met him is 2016. The other thing that we talked about is porting Debian to one of the phones. This has been done in the past and done by a Puneitie some 4-5 years back. While I don’t recollect the gentleman’s name, I remember that the porting was done on a Motorola phone as that was the easiest to do. He had tried some other mobile but that didn’t work. Making Debian available on phone is hard work. Just to have an idea, I went to the xda developers forum and found out that while M51 has been added, my specific phone model is not there. A Samsung Galaxy M52G Android (samsung; SM-M526B; lahaina; arm64-v8a) v12 . You look at the chat and you understand how difficult the process might be. One of the other ideas that Akshat pitched was Debian Astro, this is something that is close to the heart of many, including me. I also proposed to have some kind of web app or something where we can find and share about the various astronomy and related projects done by various agencies. While there is a NASA app, nothing comes close to JSR and that site just shares stuff, no speculation. There are so many projects taken or being done by the EU, JAXA, ISRO, and even middle-east countries are trying but other than people who are following some of the developments, we hear almost nothing. Even the Chinese have made some long strides but most people know nothing about the same. And it’s sad to know that those developments are not being known, shared, or even speculated about as much as say NASA or SpaceX is. How do we go about it and how do we get people to contribute or ask questions around it would be interesting.

2. The second picture was something that was shared by Akshat. Akshat was sharing how in Albania people are moving on these electric ‘scooters’. I dunno if that is the right word for it or what. I had heard from a couple of friends who had gone to Vietnam a few years ago how most people in Vietnam had modified their scooters and they were snaking lines of electric wires charging scooters. I have no clue whether they were closer to Vespa or something like above. In India, the Govt. is in partnership with the oil, gas, and coal mafia just as it was in Australia (the new Govt. in Australia is making changes) the same thing is here. With the humongous profits that the oil sector provides the petro states and others, Corruption is bound to happen. We talk and that’s the extent of things.

3. The third picture is from a nearby area called F.C. Road or Fergusson College Road. The area has come up quite sharply (commercially) in the last few years. Apparently, Mr. Kushal is making a real-life replica of Wall Street which would be given to commercial tenants. Right now the real estate market is tight in India, we will know how things pan out in the next few years.

4. Number four is an image of a Ganesh idol near my house. There is a 10-day festival of the elephant god that people used to celebrate every year. For the last couple of years because of the pandemic, people were unable to celebrate the festival as it is meant to celebrate. This time some people are going overboard while others are cautious and rightfully so.

5. Last and not least, one of the things that people do at this celebration is to have new clothes, so I shared a photo of a gentleman who had bought and was wearing new clothes. While most countries around the world are similar, Latin America is very similar to India in many ways, perhaps Gunnar can share. especially about religious activities. The elephant god is known for his penchant for sweets and that can be seen from his rounded stomach, that is also how he is celebrated. He is known to make problems disappear or that is supposed to be his thing. We do have something like 4 billion gods, so each one has to be given some work or quality to justify the same πŸ˜‰

Mum and Books

The last day

The first lesson I would like everybody to know and have is to buy two machines, especially a machine to check low blood pressure. I had actually ordered one from Amazon but they never delivered. I hope to sue them in consumer court in due course of time. The other one is a blood sugar machine which I ordered and did get, but the former is more important than the latter, and the reason why will be known soon.

Mum had stopped eating solids and was entirely on liquids for the last month of her life. I did try enticing her however I could with aromatic food but failed. Add to that we had weird weather this entire year. June is supposed to be when the weather turns and we have gentle showers, but this whole June it felt like we were in an oven. She asked for liquids whenever and although I hated that she was not eating solids, at least she was having liquids (juices and whatnot) and that’s how I pacified myself. I had been repeatedly told by family and extended family to get a full-time nurse but she objected time and again for the same and I had to side with her.

Then July 1st came around and part of extended family also came, and they impressed both on me and her to get a nurse so finally, I was able to get her nurse. I was also being pulled in various directions (outside my stuff, mumma’s stuff) and doing whatever she needed in terms of supplies. On July 4th, think she had low blood pressure but without a machine, one cannot know. At least that’s what I know. If somebody knows anything better, please share, who knows it may save lives. I don’t have a blood pressure monitor even to date 😦

There used to be 5-6 doctors in our locality before the Pandemic, but because of the Pandemic and whatever other reasons, almost all doctors had given up attending house calls. And the house where I live is a 100-year-old house so it has narrow passageways and we have no lift. So taking her in and out is a challenge and an ordeal, and something that is not easily done. I had to do some more works so I asked the nurse to stay a bit over 8 p.m. I came and the nurse left for the day. That day I had been distracted for a number of reasons which I don’t remember what was but at that point in time, doing those works seemed important. I called out to her but she didn’t respond. I remember the night before she had been agitated while sleeping, I slept nearby and kept an eye on her. I had called her a few times to ask whether she needed something but she didn’t respond. (this is about the earlier night). That evening, it was raining quite a bit, I called her a few times but she didn’t speak. I kissed her on the cheek and realized she is cold. Mumma usually becomes very agitated if she feels cold and shouts at me. I realized she is cold and her body a bit stiff. I was supposed to eat but just couldn’t. I dunno what I suspected, I just hired a rickshaw and went around till 9 p.m. and it was a fruitless search for a doctor. I returned home, and again called her but there was no response.

Because she was not responding, I became fearful, had a shat, and then dialed the hospital. Asking for the ambulance, it took about an hr. but finally, the ambulance came in. It was now 11 o clock or 2300 hrs. when the ambulance arrived in. It took another half an hr. getting few kids who had come from some movie or something to get them to help mum get down through the passage to the ambulance. We finally reached the hospital at 2330. The people on casualty that day were known to me, and they also knew my hearing problem, so it was much easier to communicate. Half an hour later, they proclaimed her dead.

Fortunately or not, I had just bought the newer mobile phone just a few days back. And right now, In India, WhatsApp is one of the most used apps. So I was able to chat with everybody and tell them what was happening or rather what has happened. Of all, mamaji (mother’s brother) shared that most members of the family would not be able to come except a cousin sister who lives in Mumbai. I was instructed to get the body refrigerated for a few hrs. It is only then I came to know various ways in which the body is refrigerated and how cruel it would have been towards Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s family, but that is politics. I had to go to quite a few places and was back home around 3 a.m. I was supposed to sleep, but sleep was out of the question. I whiled away a few hrs. playing, seeing movies, something or the other to keep myself distracted as literally, I had no idea what to do. Morning came, took a bath, went outside, had some snacks, came home and somewhere then slept. One of my Mausi’s (mother’s sister) was insisting to get the body burnt in the morning itself but I wanted at least one relative to be there on the last journey. Cousin sister and her husband came to Pune around 4 p.m. I somehow woke, ringing, the vibration I do not know what. I took a short bath, rushed to the place where we had kept the body, got the body and from there where we had asked permission to get the body burned. More than anything else, I felt so sad that except for cousin sister, and me, nobody was with her on the last journey. Even that day, it was raining hard, so people avoided going out. Brother-in-law tried to give me some money, but I brushed it off. I just wanted their company, money is and was never the criteria. So, in the evening we had a meal, my cousin sister, brother-in-law, their two daughters and me. The next day we took the bones and ash to Alandi and did what was needed.

I have tried to resurrect the day so many times in my head trying to figure out what I could have done better and am inconclusive. Having a blood pressure monitor for sure would have prevented the tragedy or at least post-phoned for it for a few more days, weeks, years, dunno. I am not medically inclined.

The Books

I have to confess, the time they said she is no more, I was hoping that the doctors would say, we have a pill, would you like to take it, it would reunite you with mum. Maybe it wa crazy or whatever, but if such a situation had been, I would have easily gone for it. If I were to go, some people might miss me, but nobody would miss me terribly, and at least I would be with her. There was nothing to look forward to. What saved me from going mad was Michael Crichton’s Timeline. It is a fascinating and seductive book. I had actually read it years ago but had forgotten. So many days and nights I was able to sleep hoping that quantum teleportation can be achieved. Anybody in my space would be easily enticed. What joy would it be if I were to meet mum once again. I can tell my other dumb child what to do so she lives for few more years. I could talk to her, just be with her for some time. It is a powerful and seductive idea. I can see so many cults and whatnot that can be formed around it, there may already be, who knows.

Another good book that helped me to date has been Through The, Rings Of Fire (Hardcover, J. D. Benedict Thyagarajan). It is an autobiography of Venkat Chalasany (story of an orphan boy who became a successful builder in Pune and the setbacks he had.) While the author has very strong views and I sometimes feel very naive views about things, I was taken a ride of my own city as it was in 1970s and 1980s. I could very well imagine all the different places and people as if they were happening right now. While I have finished the main story, there is still a bit left to read and I read 5-10 minutes every day as it’s like a sweet morsel, it’s like somebody sharing a tale passed without me having to make an effort. And no lies, the author has been pretty upfront where he has exaggerated or told lies or simply made-up stuff.

I was thinking of adding something about movies and some more info or impressions about android but it seems that would have to wait, I do hope, it does work for somebody, even if a single life can be saved from what I shared above, my job is done.

Mum, Samsung Galaxy M-52

Mum

I dunno from where to start. While I’m not supposed to announce it, mum left this earth a month ago (thirteen days when I started to write this blog post) ago. I am still in part denial, part shock, and morose. Of all the seasons in a year, the rainy season used to be my favorite, now would I ever be able to look and feel other than the emptiness that this season has given me? In some senses, it is and was very ironic, when she became ill about last year, I had promised myself I would be by her side for 5-6 years, not go anywhere either Hillhacks or Debconf or any meetup and I was ok with that. Now that she’s no more I have no clue why am I living. What is the purpose, the utility? When she was alive, the utility was understandable. We had an unspoken agreement, I would like after her, and she was supposed to look after me. A part of me self-blames as I am sure, I have done thousands of things wrong otherwise the deal was that she was going to be for another decade. But now that she has left not even halfway, I dunno what to do. I don’t have someone to fight with anymore 😦

It’s mostly a robotic existence atm. I try to distract myself via movies, web series, the web, books, etc. whatever can take my mind off. From the day she died to date, I have a lower back pain which acts as a reminder. It’s been a month, I eat, drink, and am surviving but still feel empty. I do things suggested by extended family but within there is no feeling, just emptiness :(. I have no clue if things will get better and even if I do want the change. I clearly have no idea, so let me share a little about what I know.

Samsung Galaxy M-52G

Just a couple of days before she died, part of our extended family had come and she chose that opportunity to gift me Samsung Galaxy M-52G even though my birthday was 3 months away. Ironically, after I purchased it, the next day, one of the resellers of the phone cut the price from INR 28k to 20k. If a day more, I could have saved another 8k/- but what’s done is done 😦

To my mind, the phone is middling yet a solid phone. I had the phone drop accidentally at times but not a single scratch or anything like that. One can look at the specs in greater detail on fccd.io. Before the recent price drop, as I shared it was a mid-range phone so am gonna review it on that basis itself. One of the first things I did is to buy a plastic cover as well as a cover shield even though the original one is meant to work for a year or more. This was simply for added protection and it has served me to date. Even with the additional weight, I can easily use it with one hand. It only becomes problematic when using chatting apps. such as Whatsapp, Telegram, Quicksy and a few others where it comes with Samsung keyboard with the divided/split keyboard. The A.I. for guessing words and sentences are spot-on when you are doing it in English but if you try a mixture of Hinglish (Hindi and English) that becomes a bit of a nightmare. Tryng to each A.I; new words is something of a task. I wish there was an interface in which I could train the A.I. so it could be served for Hinglish words also. I do think it does, but it’s too rudimentary as it is to be any useful at least where it is now.

WiFi Direct

While my previous phone did use wifi direct but it that ancient android version wasn’t wedded to Wifi Direct as this one is. You have essentially two ways to connect to any system outside. One is through Wi-Fi Direct and the more expensive way is through mobile data. One of the strange things I found quite a number of times, that Wifi would lose it pairings. Before we get into it, Wikipedia has a good explanation of what Wifi direct is all about. Apparently, either my phone or my modem loses the pairing, which of the two is the culprit, I really don’t know. There are two apps from the Play Store that do help in figuring out what the issue is (although it is limited in what it gives out in info. but still good.) The first one is Wifi Signal Meter and the other one is WifiAnalyzer (open-source). I have found that pairing done through Wifi Signal Meter works better than through Google’s own implementation which feels lacking.

The whole universe of Android seems to be built on apps and games and many of these can be bought for money, but many of these can also be played using a combination of micro-transactions and ads. For many a game, you cannot play for more than 5 minutes before you either see an ad or wait for something like 2-3 hrs. before you attempt again. Hogwarts Mystery, for e.g., is an example of that. Another one would be ‘Explore Lands’. While Hogwarts Mystery is more towards the lore created by J.K.Rowling and you can really get into the thick of things if you know the lore, Explore lands is more into Exploration of areas. In both the games, you are basically looking to gain energy over a period of time, which requires either money or viewing ads or a combination of both Sadly most ads and even Google don’t seem to have caught up that I’m deaf so most ads do not have subtitles, so more often than not they are useless to me. I have found also that many games share screenshots or videos that have nothing to do with how the game is. So there is quite a bit of misleading going on. I did read that Android had been having issues with connecting with developers after their app. is in the Play Store. Most apps. ask and require a whole lot of permissions that aren’t needed by that app.

F-Droid

Think Pirate Praveen had introduced me to F-Droid and a whole lot of things have happened in F-Droid, lot more apps. games etc. the look of F-Droid has been pulled back. In fact, I found Neo Store to be a better skin to see F-Droid. I have yet to explore more of F-Droid before sharing any recommendations and spending some time on it. I do find that many of foss apps. do need to work on how we communicate with our users. For e.g. one app. that Praveen had shared with me recently was Quicksy. And while it is better, it uses a double negative while asking permission whether it should or not to use more of the phone’s resources. It is an example of that sort of language that we need to be aware of and be better.

I know this post is more on the mobile rather than the desktop but that is where I’m living currently.