May 142010

Many of you might have read the novel Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, which revolves around a character named Yossarian who finds himself stuck on to a battlefield without relief. And his every attempt towards his disengagement from his assignment leads to a catch 22 situation and a failed attempt. Catch 22 is a situation where in you need to carry out one out the few actions, but any action you choose will lead to an unwanted situation.

That was bit theoretical and not well phrased but  should serve the purpose of explanation. I had read this novel a few years back on my first ship. But I remember it today along with the catch 22 situation we had to face in our school days.

We had a very disciplinary nun, Sr. Rebecca, as the principal of our Pope John XXIII high school. She was the kind of person who never took talk backs from her students. “Don’t argue with me” were the words repeating, now and again from her mouth, just like the repeatedly running flash news on the bottom of a TV screen. And “wham”!! A good “pasting”, as she called it(punishing with a cane lash on hands), would follow. I always prayed that I would never want to be in such situation.

But God works in mysterious ways!! I had to face her once.

It so happened that I had scored less marks in a particular exam, and my father, being a teacher, wanted to find out where I had gone wrong. So he came to visit the principal one day and requested for my answer paper set, so that he could check it at home leisurely. Those were the days when open day(open day in India, is the day on which parents are asked to visit the school before results declarations, to gauge their child’s performance) was not a fad, so the principal initially refused. But later after a bit of talk she agreed and called me over the intercom. I went to her office, where she asked me to collect the papers from her or the vice principal at the end of school. So I went after the school to collect them, but was told by the vice principal that the principal was out and the papers were locked in the storage and could not be handed over to me. I came home empty handed, and was scolded by my dad, who thought that I didn’t go to collect the papers.

Few days later the principal entered our classroom on regular visit. She was already angry as she entered, and I being the person sitting near the entrance, became the object of her anger. “This boy’s(even though she knew my name very well, that was not important here) father came to me and requested to give him this boy’s exam papers. I took them out of the storage, but he is yet to collect them after so many days. They are still lying in my office. Tell me why didn’t you come? TELL ME!!” I manage to word out a feeble explanation which went, “Sister, actually I…..”, and stopped there. Because already it was, WHAM!! “Don’t argue with me.”

Catch 22 isn’t it?

May 132010

How mad can an engineer be? It remains an unanswered question. But how crazy can an engineer be in his childhood? Analyse yourself after reading these incidents of my life.

(FYI : All the incidents in these stories are real, and any coincidence of the incidents with any other individual, is purely incidental. I reserve the rights to narrate my own stories.)

1. The very first fascination of my life, related to engineering, was electric motor. In my case, it the fan in our room, that went round and round, on a flick of a switch. I was too much interested in it.  And it had a regulator, which had to be rotated to increase or reduce the speed. I was really interested in knowing what went inside to make the fan rotate. And my interest inspired me to build up a crude theory that there was a smaller motor inside the regulator, which turned upon the rotation of the regulator knob, and it somehow made the fan to rotate.

Why I thought this, I still cant figure out. I was too small to understand the meaning of most of the words I have typed above. I never knew the word theory, or that fan, as it was called, which was actually a motor, or why a regulator was called so. But I had a desire to get the imaginary “small motor”, out of the regulator.

Once there was no one at home, and I decided to fulfill my desire. The regulator was housed in a casing which had charred of from the top, due to the heat generated in it. I inserted my tiny fingers in through the top.

It was my lucky day, as I was standing on a wooden bed and only few fingers of my hand were touching the wall. I was thrown away by the electric shock on to the mattress and escaped shaken, but without injuries. My desire for the motor vanished, and during engineering, I found it to be my weakest subject.

2. Then after a few years my maternal uncle bought a scooter. And I was very much interested in its working. By that time I had read some of the volumes of ‘Young Scientist’ in our school library. And somewhere in those volumes, was the theory of thermocouples which became a point of interest for me. Now, I knew that scooter burned petrol for its power, but I was unaware of a machine called as internal combustion engine, residing inside the scooter.

On analysing deeper, the problem at hand(how scooter works?), and the limited data I had acquired(working of thermocouples), my somewhat adult mind put two and two together. I later found out that by putting two and two together, the answer that I had got was zero. Because I had made up a theory that the petrol burnt up to give out enough heat for one electrode of the thermocouple and the other electrode was placed somewhere far at the front of the scooter to allow proper cold temperature at that point. Armed with this theory, I completed my junior years in the college, and even educated my younger brother about it.

My theory was ultimately negated by the subject IC engines in the fourth semester of engineering.

3. The third incident also involved IC engine and my brother. My brother, luckily had an appetite for all the information and explainations I conjured about anything, with even doubting once….Not so now, after so many years of foolery.

I was in the second year of engineering, the first engineer to be in my family, and after completion of the third semester, our family went to Goa for a picnic. Once while crossing a river, we used the roll-on roll-off ferry boat service, and me, the ‘to be engineer’ of the family, choose to seat near the engine room, which offered a good view of the loud, smoky, oily engine.(I had no idea, that I would go ahead and become a marine engineer. But thats how fate works.) So as I was sitting there, admiring the oily, ugly thing, my brother approached me and asked what that black noisy thing was? And I informed that it was an engine. I had read somewhere about the different types of engines like 2-stroke and 4-stroke. And upon seeing the engine structure, I immediately “recognised” it to be a 3-stroke engine.

Any mechanical or automobile engineer will laugh at me at this point. There is no such thing as a 3-stroke engine. There are just 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines, depending upon the number of power strokes for every rotation of the engine. What I had seen were the three cylinders of the boat engine, and assumed that they were 3-stroke. I even informed my brother that 3-stroke were more powerful as compared to 2-stroke, but less powerful than 4-stroke. My brother swallowed all the information and basked in the glory that his elder brother was so well informed.

My this theory was again negated by IC engines in the semester that followed immediately. As I reached home from the college home that day, the first thing I did was to tell my brother the truth. I didn’t want him to be laughed at.

He stopped believing in my theories from then on….

So, can’t you gauge how crazy an engineer can be in his childhood?

Apr 222010

Few of us might have knowledge of the keynesian economics. What I understand of it in layman terms, is that it a dig and fill policy, where in the government pays someone to dig a hole and pays someone else to fill the hole. Nothing productive comes out f it, but John Maynard Keynes theorises that this can help to stimulate a stalled economy. I am not an economist, so wouldn’t venture to analyse this. But the way our infrastructure projects work in India, it seems that the keynesian economics is embeded deeply in to our economic policies.

If you are anywhere  in India, just look around you. Observe any of the government infrastructure project which is underway. It will be noted that, all of these projects have generated large amount of employment. Much more than that required for the project.

Point in case 1 : Very recently, a railway platform at Dadar(a suburban railway station in Mumbai) was extended to accomodate the longer trains. It was inaugurated a few months back by a union minister. Just today I saw the platform being dug up at one end to accomodate something under it. We have very good brains working on all the projects in India, but by not preplanning this underground accomodation, our government succeeds in generating more employment to the poor labourers( and more dough to the contractors, I am sure).

Point in Case 2 : A few months back, one fine morning, I saw that huge holes were dug up on a road that I frequent. I later learnt that they were for the upcoming skywalk project in that area. The road stayed dug for couple of months. Then on another fine morning I saw that they were filled up overnight. I later learnt that the project had been scrapped along with many other in the entire city. Here again employment was generated twice( and the promised moolah to the contractors). Its a different thing that the road has not yet been repaired after filling.

Point in case 3 : These same skywalks. They have crawled all over the city. Lots of public money has been utilised to create this ugly crawling metal structures, glorified with a futuristic name. But the utilisation is at the very least. People find it inconvienent to walk for long distances. First thing that comes to their mind is about climbing such a height, without any elevator facility. No consideration has been given to the disables while constructing the skywalks(anyway, no consideration is ever give to the disabled in India). And these skywalks being built right in the middle of the road at some places, have resulted in more congestion. So I guess, the government has some future plans of creating employment for dismantling this bridges.

Though these are typical examples, this kind of policy is adapted in almost all the government projects. Prove me wrong!!

Its very heartening to see the economy reviving so fast, and the dig and fill policy playing a good part in it. I would advise stock investors to invest in infrastructure companies. They are sure to give you good returns.

Feb 202010

The commenwealth shooting championship opened yesterday with flood of medals for India. While Anisa Sayed, Anurag Singh, Gagan Narang and PT Raghunath made India proud with their gold medal efforts, the organisers and the officials added some more feathers in our already tattered caps.

First of all the organisers decided to play the australian national anthem for the Indian winners. May be it was to calm down australians so as to stop more attacks on Indians in australia. Or may be all the national anthem tapes were missing, since they were being played at thousands of  movie theaters across the country.

Secondly, our beloved Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, the Indian Olympic Association chief, started the event by asserting that there could be some security lapses in a mega event like this. And to think that we are applying(unsuccessfully) for  hosting the olympics in India!!

And look who missed it? It seems personal rivalry preceded duties towards jobs.

Organisers who have been trying to learn from their mistakes, are failing time and again. Messing around in october during he games will not be in our best interests. If we want to be eligible for hosting the olympics, commonwealth should not be taken lightly.

Feb 112010

Have you activated the caller tunes on your mobile? You could be wasting your money!!

I see that people have picked up this habit of activating every odd service that is ‘”provided” by a cell phone service provider. And caller tunes, or dialer tunes, or hello tunes, whatever the operator may call it, is on of those services. I regard availing such services as being made fool out of. And we require to pay for being fooled!! Allow this clarification.

1. On an average, a call on the phone is answered in around 5 – 8 seconds. So now lets do some exercise on this. pick up a song which you like, and sing it with the same speed that it is actually sung. But do that only for maximum of 8 seconds. Did you even get past the first verse? I bet, no. So now, if you will be picking up the phone in around 8 seconds, how much song do you think, the calling party will hear? Is it worth what you pay for?

2. Lets talk about quality of the sound. Though it can depend on your speakers, I have checked the sound quality on best quality head phones. Its worthless!! I remember using magnetic cassette tapes in olden times. If the head of the cassette player got fouled with dirt, or if the tape was damaged or scratched, how would the output quality be? Well, I have heard exact same quality of sound on caller tunes by some operators. Is it worth the money you pay?

3. When ever I call up a friend of mine, I hear a pre-recorded voice from the telcom operator, informing me that I can activate the caller tune which is about to follow, by pressing some combination of keys. The message is so long, that I haven’t heard what tune my friend has activated, till now. Each time, he picks up the phone before the message finishes. So, do you think you should pay for the ads from the operator?

4. My uncle activated the caller tunes facility, as it was free for few days. And yes, he forgot to deactivate the service on time. And before he could realise, some money was automatically deducted from his balance. So, since he had already paid for it, he decided to continue the service till the end of the month and deactivate it then. And he forgot again. This went on for few months, until he finally deactivated on the day that he was charged again for it.

So now my question if, “Do you think it is worth?”

I don’t think so….

Jan 312010

I just had my bath, but that didn’t inspire me in posting this. Its was the TV.

Television has come to this world long back, and its had become somewhat an integral part of our life. I remember those days when we used to keep free time in the evening for the tv shows. In India, doordarshan, our national carrier, beamed vast genre of programs and serials. And one of them was the Soap Opera.

The very first soap opera beamed on national tv in India was “Buniyaad”. Many of you might remember it. Though I didn’t understand what was going on in it, neither was I interested, but I watched it regularly, cause we had just one tv(it’s the same case now, but I wouldn’t care less) and my parents were interested. Or may be because our national tv beamed only two channels, and the other one’s clarity was once in a blue moon affair.But what can I say about it? I just “Grew with it”. So long it was, that I celebrated few of my birthdays seeing it.

Then came cable tv, and later satellite. And along it brought flood of soaps. It was a bit difficult for us to understand the language( or the pace of it rather)  of the programs in foreign channels(english), so we stuck to hindi and marathi(I knew these marathi maanoos issue would surface sooner or later, so I had to be thorough). Anyway, me and my brother had some control of the remote now and then, to watch sports, discovery, news etc. Else it had become a sole property of my mother. And for what? These soaps(am still talking about the tv ones, not the bathing ones).

Prime time was like information time for my mother, when she could get enough info to discuss at the office, with her friends, the next day. Lots of serials, with a trade mark double k’s in the title, were aired on prime television, and they were like a religious affair. “I must see these serial today”, was the favourite sentence of my mother. And after few month of viewing, the name of the serial on my mothers lips used to change. I just didn’t understand why my mom would change loyalties so suddenly. And then I investigated, and realised, that some of the serials were off air, as the TRP’s were going down.

I see that this is a very common practice followed nowadays. Soaps are being aired for a long time. Families break up, families makeup(an of course, lots of makeup goes on the ladies). People die. People are reborn, resurrected, reunited. Sane men commit crimes. Murderers have a change of soul. And lots of bullshit. And you know how they end? Poof!! Just go of air. Without any explanation to the viewers.

But the viewers are least bothered. After enduring the drama of few families, interrelated by a spiders web, and affecting each others life in some way or the other, the viewer gets bored and wants a fresh outlook to life. Which the new soap provide. And the producers are happy. Cause the directors, script writers have given up on the story which they have messed up after such a long run.

You know what, soaps, in India at least I would say, are a waste of time for the viewers. You sit an hour in front of the tv, watching an actor trying to get an expression on his face which should be there but of which he is incapable, is a total waste of your time. These programs go on and on as the writer is able to write the script. It can include lots of festivals in it right on time. And these inclusions are the fillers, as the writer has lost it all.

Whenever you watch a film, how would you feel if the film builds up a story, but just midway, the director comes on the screen apologising that this was all he could manage, and that the end of it?

Then why don’t you feel the same about soap?

Jan 182010

Well. Am taking my chances. Against all odds, namely the surveyors at the examination section of the mercantile marine departmant, India, I start my struggle to procure the Certificate of Chance. Or the CoC, as majority of mariners, know it. I was among those who called it Certificate of Competency, but my colleague Jimmy, enlightened me about the true meaning of this abbreviation, and that left me thinking.

Certificate of Chance!! Is it? More I ponder upon it, more I feel that, for once, my friend Jimmy, has said something true. Certificate of Chance. Yes, it is chance, that confers upon you this certificate, to work on board a ship at a higher position(Though that means nothing for us marine engineers, as all the job profiles in the engine side, on a ship managed by Indian superintendents, are same. Sloggers. But that’s a different matter altogether).

No matter how many ships you have sailed, before appearing for the exams of a higher CoC, you always have to leave it to chance to clear through. No matter how hard you study, and how good you write the papers, the results appear to be printed based upon a game of dice.

Your chances are good if the surveyor is in a good mood. You, an aspirant second engineer, will get off answering to questions meant for a trainee engineer. There is no unravelling of true knowledge possessed by the examinee in the oral examinations. It just depends on whether you came in after another examinee, who has foiled the examiner’s mood.

In short, the examinations for CoC gauge your chances, not your competence.

Right now I am studying for my certificate of chance. But I wonder whether I should study or just leave it to chance? After all, Life’s a struggle, and we all leave it to chance.

Jan 132010

And the recommended name for this award is home minister Mr. R.R. Patil!! After a brave ride into naxal infested(the use of this word is not an indication of any disrespect towards naxalites, but an indication of my poor vocabulary), and aquiring some information on the living conditions of the villagers, who would be a more worthy candidate? And the gesture of sipping tea, with the neglected folks is worth mentioning.

Now for the more important part. R.R. Patil said (a month back), he went (yesterday), and now its time he changes something. As he said that what he saw there and what he had been told back in mantralaya and assembly is different, now its in is hands to find out why he was misinformed, and what he can do about it. That the living conditions of the people in the interiors, far away from the reach of development, are well below standards, is not a hidden fact. But the doubting Thomas needed to see Jesus in flesh to believe. And he saw. So now, what can be done about it?

So now that you have taken a huge risk Mr. Minister, the recommendation of the award by us being a bonus for your efforts, its time that you make good use of the information(which was difficult for RAW to get) and bring about some change.

Else it will be considered as just another “chooti baat in baadhi country”(small events in big country), the words that were put in to your mouth by our very own media

Dec 172009

“Do you take this video game character to be your wife?”  No not a wedding scene in some latest sci-fi movie. It has happened in the real world. A man named sal9000 married the love of his life in Japan. But its with a difference. The love of his life goes by the name Nene Anegasaki, and she lives inside Nintendo DS video game called as love plus.

Basically, love plus, is a dating sim, inline with the virtual pet created in Japan few years back. It has a behavioural pattern of a girlfriend, and the user can interact with the character in different ways. And interact in this way!! Marry!!! And with a promise not to leave her, even if the upgraded version comes in the market.

I have heard of wedding fires being lit on a plane and under the water. I have seen photos of the bride, the groom and the minister, hanging in mid air hundreds of feet above ground, and conducting the rituals. And I have read about lot more innovative ways of going about this marriage business. But this virtually is world apart. 

This man refuses to give out his real name, since he is afraid of jokes and insults, but then, his images have appeared on world television, and his marriage was broadcast live on the internet. So I guess, his family has already gifted him a honeymoon package. I am just concerned if he intends to bring about some form of life out of this union. If he manages, which side will it land, the real side or the virtual side.

You know people, I thought that the topics were drying up for my blog. But now I feel that there is enough foolery in this world to write about. So hoping to be back soon.

Hehehehe…… In Japan, of all the places!!

Dec 132009

Though I am not a huge cricket fan, I manage to sit through the entire ordeal sometimes. Such was the day yesterday. I watched the match till India won, and rejoiced!!

No now I wake up in the morning, and on the front page of the times of India, it proclaims that the birthday boy was instrumental in the victory. And it amuses me. Whats so special about birthdays, that sportsmen manage to shine on these days? Of course, its a very happy day for that person, but is it the only day that theparticular sportsman can perform. I have always noticed the same thing with tendulker. A game coincides with his birthday, and he scores!!

Brilliant plan follows. As you all know, analysts and coaches for this game have struggled hard to find people who could make a winning combination. Left-right handed combinations, all rounders, hard hitters, fast bowlers(by fast I the word exclusively represents speed, not line, length or some brain behind the delivery), sloggers have all been tried out. You know what…they are blind to the fact. India has a huge population of cricket aspirents, and I am sure that the birthday calander would take up the entire 365 days of the years if noted for all these people. So, induct them all in the team, and combine the people with birthdays on the day of the game. And then we will have the most successful combination, and the no. 1 team for life.

Please note though, this can be successful in one day and the more shorter version of the game. For test cricket( for which I still keep high regards), It would be a faliure, since you cant have a birthday on all the five days, and the shine is limited to only one day for that person. Also no offense meant towards tendulker, sehwag, dravid etc, who have managed to shine few more times.

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