Saturday, October 31, 2009

Murphy's law - Review

Murphy's Law is a fictional book by Colin Bateman about an undercover cop Murphy Martin. The author doesn't try to prove Murphy's law that if anything can go wrong it will. In fact its quite the contrary and the only relationship of the title is with the protaganist's name and to catch your attention on bookshelves. There is also a BBC TV series by the same name.

Reading the book is like watching a really good gangster movie like Goodfellas or Departed. It has lot of twists and is unputdownable. It starts out as a regular infiltration movie with the protaganist making himself believable to the gangsters as a singer at a pub. The gangster family headed by Terry Hatcher is in the funeral services business and is also involved in protection, diamond robberies, murders and drug deals. Murphy makes his inflitration convincing initially as singer and later as driver. The other gangster characters Mitch, Johnny, Annie, Noreen have been well sketched.

After Murphy earns the trust of Hatcher, he is involved in their funeral business as driver and as accomplice in robberies. The plot in this book revolves around the sequence of events leading to Hatcher's major drug deal with a japanese gang. After Murphy enters the gang, its a roller coaster ride with lots of spiral twists and turns. And what do you expect when two gangs meet for a drug deal - ofcourse an adrenalin pumping shootout where lots of twists and truths which makes for a satisfying ending.

Murphy's character has lots of interesting shades as singer, funny guy and undercover cop with a sad history. There are some missing holes about his past life, which is expected from TV series to serve as missing links for future seasons. But that doesn't make the first book any less interesting. Overall a very fast paced and interesting read if you liked inflitration movies like Departed.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pigs don't fly

Swine flu is creating panic all over the world and being at Pune, the epicentre (Is it a volcano?) of the disease in India, i cant think of anything else to blog about at the moment except that. If you came here looking for medical advice on how to combat Swine flu, look elsewhere. If you want to make fun of the virus and the soothsayers hang on. Swine flu is disproving the old saying that 'Pigs dont fly'. All the news channels are saying it everyday, so you better believe it. This is my argument/rant that Pigs really dont fly :)

Uptil now, i have never bothered about seasonal flu. There are millions of viruses which can cause seasonal flu and it is difficult for the doctors to figure out the specific virus strain that caused it and administer a vaccine for that. My dad used to say that common cold can be treated in 7 days without medication and just 1 week with medication. That's how well we understand flu viruses, atleast as far as therapy goes. Maybe if they had a wikipedia of all the different flu viruses that have ever affected mankind, we would be in a better position to fight flu or the well known common cold.

I like the adjective 'common' in 'common cold'. When you're having a bad cold, it's such a relief to know that its so 'common' to have a cold. When you're in a relaxed state after accepting that, it's so much easier to come out of any disease. If only cancer was called 'common tumor', cancer patients wont be so hopeless.

Think of it from the perspective of the Virus. How would you feel when all humans are just categorized as different variants of the species HomoSapiens as H1S1, H5S1 etc without any identity. Well, the taxonomist thought "What's in a name?" just like the human taxonomists dont bother to name each individual animal. You would be dying in anger to prove to the world that you're special and establish your name. That's exactly what the Swine flu virus did with a vengeance, when the rest of its common cold siblings are completely ignored by humankind and even its cousin Avian flu could not attain much glory. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft of the Virus world (Human, Bird and Pig, not in that order!) decided to collaborate and come out with a combination we call AH1N1.

This might seem like a really stupid argument, but after having read The Selfish Gene, you tend to believe that each organism is just a machine for the DNA to survive. The virus replicates to propage its DNA. Thats the reason humans treat their child with all the care, its their only chance to propagate their DNA even though they are mortal. Nonetheless, there are other equally bizzarre journalism like this: "You wont die of Swine flu because the Virus wants to spread. If the host dies, it cant spread anymore. The virus wants you to be alive and kicking and sneezing so that you will go out and it can spread.". Even Richard Dawkins would not have thought of that!. Remember Rachel saying in the movie Ring "She just wanted to be heard". Oh the pity virus, it just wanted to spread :(

If thats stupid, consider this conspiracy theory. It argues that Swine flu is a biowar labtest gone wrong. What is the probability that a sick pig, bird and human viruses come together and spread across the world in 2 months, unless Dr Dolittle is sick and decided to have animal sex with his sick pets GugGub(pig) and DabDab(duck) and they ended up giving birth to AH1N1. We dont pity the Mexicans specifically like we pitied the Japanese in 1945, because the scientists seriously misjudged the capability of a Virus to spread across the world. They could have atleast learnt from Microsoft Windows

There are other conspiracy theorists who argue that Swine flu is being hyped up by Media, who get paid by Pharma companies to spread panic and fear of the unknown among public, so that they can get world governments to indulge in mass vaccination programmes and make zillions of dollars. Imagine the creators of Tamiflu and Relenza sitting on billions on cash, and WHO telling the world that by 2010, 2 billion people would be affected by SwineFlu. I say WTF, bcos thats 1/3 of the population. I think WHO needs some statistics lessons. Take a city like Pune for example. The population of Pune is 5 million, out of which 500 (0.01%) have been affected and 10 (2% mortality rate) have died. If thats a small sample, world over, out of 6 billion people, 200,000 (0.003%) have been affected and 2000 have died (1% mortality rate).
Even if it spreads 10 times by 2010, just 0.1% of the population and not 1/3 are going to be affected. I dont have the statistics for common flu because its common, we dont panic and it just goes away, but i guess the numbers would be marginally lesser.

Pharma companies are hurrying to create a vaccine for Swine flu. A vaccine is a weakened less virulent form of the virus to train the immune system to fight the antibody and then remember it. Louis Pasteur need not have been a genius to discover this. Even Adam Sandler could come up with that idea in Longest Yard to boost the confidence of prison guards by setting up a football game with a weak team of prisoners. The medical world still doesn't fully understand the virus and can only hope that the weakened flu doesn't become really strong like the prisoners in Longest Yard. But they sure know that they're going to make zillions of dollars through mass vaccination programmes.

I finally had a chance to rant out on all the shit the media has been feeding me in the last week. Dont believe all that you hear from the news channels. Just use that info to be aware of the situation in your neighborhood. Swine flu is a little less common than common flu, but i'm planning to use this as an opportunity to eat with nutritional awareness and increase my immunity and get some exercise and good sleep. I dont mind if this is a conspiracy by Food industry to make people eat healthy food.

PS: The title of this blogpost is inspired by a really bad PJ by a co-worker.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back on the Wireless Web

I'm finally back on the blogosphere after 45 days without internet access at night when my blogging neurons are most active. And this time im on the wireless web. Not WiFi, its so yesteryear. Im connected on Reliance Netconnect EVDO, which is a CDMA wireless broadband technology. Don't be impressed by the tech, true to Reliance the speed and service suck top notch. I dont know why the Ambanis make so much money. Anyway, something is better than nothing.

It looks cool and suave, but its a horrible chinese product. And guess what, it doesn't work out of the box on Linux because the device behaves as both Modem and FlashDrive.

Getting it working on Linux is not for the faint hearted. This is how i got ZTE8710 working on Ubuntu Intrepid after 3 hours (It's supposedly easier in Ubuntu Jaunty):

Make sure you're logged in as root
$ su

Step 1. Make OS recognize it as Modem and not a FlashDrive.

You can do this either by using usb_modeswitch or ZTE8700 drivers.

And the following cmds are helpful for debugging this step:

$ lsusb
Vendor and Product of device. If the device is being recognized as FlashDrive Vendor/Product is 0x19d2/0xfff6. If the device is recognized as Modem, Vendor/Product is 0x19d2/0xfff1

$ dmesg | tail
Tail kernel log to see if USB is being mounted in the proper location. If its mounted on /media its treated as flash drive. If its mounted on /dev/ttyUSB, its treated as Modem

$ tail -f /var/log/messages
This log is also a Kernel log where you can monitor device being connected/disconnected

What to choose?

usb_modeswitch is written exactly for the purpose of switching from Flash drive mode to Modem. But somehow i couldn't get it to work.

As suggested in tuxhat post, this is what i did.
1. Download ZTE drivers for AC8700 from
2. $ dpkg -i ztemtEVDO-1.1-8-i386-ubuntu804.deb
3. Installation fails saying ztemt.ko not found.
4. Don't give up yet
$ cd /usr/local/bin/ztemtEVDO
$ tar -xvf usb-serial.tar.gz

Go to extracted folder and run make.
It builds ztemt.ko. Copy ztemt.ko to /usr/local/bin/ztemtEVDO

5. Now ztemt comes with 2 utils: ztemtevdo and ztemtvcdromd. ztemtvcdromd is used for swtiching modes

$ ztemtvcdromd
reinsert device
$ lsusb

The device must have switched from Flash mode(0xfff6) to Modem mode(0xfff1)

$ ztemtevdo still errors out. I haven't figured out what it is.

If you have got it going till now, cheers.

Step 2. Mount usbserial kernel module to use the USB modem

usbserial module is not loaded by default in Ubuntu. You can load it in two ways:
1. Add a line to /boot/grub/menu.lst file [works only in Ubuntu Jaunty]
2. Use modprobe
$ modprobe usbserial vendor=$VENDOR_ID product=$PRODUCT_ID

This turned out to be the timesucker for me. The Product ID you use here is the product id corresponsing to Modem mode(0xfff1) not FlashDrive mode(0xfff6). So don't execute this command until you successfully switch to modem mode

Its time for some command line trivia:

loads a kernel module with supplied options

list all loaded kernel modules

lsmod | grep usbserial
check if usbserial is successfully loaded

If you got it mounted successfully, you're just one step away from getting disappointed (ofcourse after using Reliance Netconnect on Ubuntu)

Step 3. Use wvdial to connect

The next step is a breeze. Get wvdial, edit the config file and you're connected.

$ sudo apt-get install wvdial
make install from source (

$ vi /etc/wvdial.conf

Here's a snapshot of my config file:

[Dialer Defaults]
Init2=ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Modem Type = Analog Modem
Username=########## (Your 10 digit number)
stupid mode=1

Now run
$ wvdial

And you're Netconnected. All this pain for 'some stupid mode = 1' surfing through a dumb AT command modem.

So, what do you have to do for everyday surfing?
$ su
$ ztemtvcdromd
Plugin device
[Optional: $ lsusb to make sure device is in modem mode]
$ modprobe usbserial vendor=$VENDOR_ID product=$PRODUCT_ID
$ wvdial

Or make a convenient shell script and execute it.

Here are some more links which i found helpful:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why we survived?

Now that you're ROFL after seeing the obese man, have you ever wondered why we survived all these years? Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is based on the whole premise of "survival of the fittest". And do you call that fit? The point is its not fit as in gym/healthy, but fittest could be interpreted in a lot of ways - the species that survives is the one that is fittest for the circumstances.

Why should the human animal survive and prosper all these years when there are stronger animals out there? And we are so far ahead in the evolutionary game that we control the survival/extinction of the rest of the species. They are under our mercy, or atleast getting the mercy of the subset of homo sapiens who are members of PeTA or WWF. I have sometimes wondered while walking on the streets, why we humans built those huge buildings and live comfortably. Why not Tigers, Rats, Dogs or Ants?

Reproduction alone is not the answer because rats multiply faster. The next obvious answer would be Sixth sense. But billions of humans living alone with their sixth sense could not have dominated the earth the way we have dominated today. There's an element of collectivism that helped us unite in some way and survive so far. We still don't have as much collectivism as Ants, who could have easily been here instead of us. Imagine zillions of ants walking the face of earth, slowly and steadily building huge ant mounds and industries, which is easily possible. But their collectivism was not enough to beat us. If only they were carnivorous and fed on humans, they wouldn't be the object of fancy of every child playing in the park or backyard. Or they would not have become a cute decorating item on your coffee table.

Humans have both collectivism and individualism. The individualism makes some humans aspire to greatness, like a Wright brothers or Newton or Shakespeare or Einstein or Da Vinci, which help us like turbochargers in the evolutionary game. But the important element that made sure we didn't re-invent the wheel or re-invent the fire in evolutionary terms, was the transmission of knowledge from one generation to another. And the tools that helped us are language, books and internet, and not to forget schools and colleges and universities.

Intellect was the key in later years, but that still could not have helped early humans beat a lion in catching a deer. There could have been no "Teach yourself How to catch a deer in 21 days without being eaten by a Lion" in those days. Humans were not completely carnivores, and that solves half your food problems, because flesh rots faster than vegetables and they didn't have refrigerators in those days.

Can you think of any animal that doesn't have an external dependency on food? Even cows need grass. And if you have been to a park with monkeys, even they depend on the snack food you feed them, in additon to the fruits and nuts on the trees. That's where it all started. Imagine humans feeding monkeys in a park. Flashback 50 billion years. Only there are no humans to feed the monkeys, because the humans have not yet evolved from the monkeys. The monkeys jump around trees, grab fruits and vegetables and sometimes eat in groups. Some monkeys are more advanced than the others and fed on meat. As evolutionary rumours in erstwhile People magazine "Primates" go, one monkey-man dropped his food in the sea, discovered that salt added taste to his otherwise raw meat. Another monkey-man dropped his food in the fire and heating was born. Monkey man one meets Monkey man two and cooking was born. Salt evolved into garam masala, schezuan sauce and numerous other spicy tastemakers. And heating evolved into Firestoves, Kerosene stoves, Gas cylinders, Ovens, Microwaves and Magnetic Induction cookers.

And the external dependency of humans on food was gone. Now they no longer needed to hunt for food. They can store and cook their own food, which no other animal can even today. Now when everybody has to hunt for food everyday, humans can happily cook and feed on 3 sumptuous meals a day, and have other things to think about than where the next meal is coming from. They thought of agriculture, industries, science, philosophy, wars, computers and a lot of other things.

After depending on restaurants for a long time for food, I recently discovered this freedom from external dependency after learning to cook using the magnetic induction cooker i recently bought and the numerous packed and ready to cook foods available. I felt like the Neanderthal man walking on earth feeling sorry for the Lions and Tigers who'll never learn how to cook.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

If Yossarian Lives In a Big City

Yossarian is a popular fictional character in the book Catch 22. He has a lot of witty and funny lines in the novel, and here's Yossarian ranting about pollution for a change instead of me:

"They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him calmly.

"No one's trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.

"Then why are they polluting my lungs?" Yossarian asked.

"They're polluting everyone's lungs," Clevinger answered. "They're trying to kill everyone."

"And what difference does that make?"

"Who, specifically, do you think is trying to murder you?"

"Every one of them," Yossarian told him.

"Every one of whom?"

"Every one of whom do you think?"

"I haven't any idea."

"Then how do you know they aren't?"

In search of Fresh air

The most common cure people suggest for anything is to get some fresh air. But where is the fresh air? I recently discovered fresh air in a hopelessly polluted city like Chennai. Try traveling in a busy polluted street at 6 PM and at 6 AM and notice the difference. The same choking street is radically different at 6 AM and is full of fresh air.

If we reduce our pollution levels for just 6 hours, and allow some time for nature to recuperate, see how well nature rewards us. Nature has its own air purifying mechanisms and absorbs the insane amount of pollution we stuff upon it. Imagine if we stop or atleast reduce pollution levels forever, how fresh the air would be. And fresh air is known to make wonders to your health. No wait, i dont need to convince you, Fresh air is my fundamental right. I cant breathe polluted air because of lone drivers who travel in big cars and breathe marginally fresher stale air.

This early morning experience has clearly convinced me that when Humans are extinct from respiratory problems due to inhaling polluted/stale air, Nature will need just a little over 6 hours to recuperate and become habitable to Aliens or the next generation of ecologically-aware smarter Humans.

There are situations like these that reassert my faith in Nature in the Nature vs Humans ecowar. Whenever you fly from one big city to another, you can see through the window seats of airlines, that the concrete jungles of big cities are just 10% of the surface of earth. Nature predominates the rest. Or imagine a busy traffic day interrupted by rain. It takes 15 minutes of downpour to down out the pollution and bring in the smell of rain and some fresh air. I hope i get my regular dosage of fresh air every morning before they ruin it for the rest of the day.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Mackintosh or Mac is one of the most desired computing devices. Of late it has become relatively affordable. I never knew Mac was Unix-based and as powerful as any Linux box until last year. I just thought it was a glossy device with a flashy UI for Rich startup CEOs to brag about. Even with student discounts, MacBook is still not for the masses.

One elusive thing about Mac is the difficulty of installing Mac OS X on PCs. Thats also the USP of Mac. Why would you want to pay for expensive glossy hardware when you can get the same experience on a cheaper laptop. Every platform needs a USP like this.

Even after Mac shifted from PowerPC to Intel microprocessors, it still isn't easy to install Mac on a PC. For the poor people out there who can't afford a Mac, there are several ways to do it:

1. Get a Theme
This is by far the easiest option if you want only the Mac look and feel and are not bothered about Time machine or TextMate. And this is legal too. But a Mac underneath is more than just the glossy looks for flaunting. The differentiating factors in a Mac desktop are the cool buttons, the dock and global menubar. Checkout this link on how to convert your Ubuntu Intrepid to OS X Leopard lookalike.

And here's how i saved 2000 $ by adding Mac OS X Theme on Ubuntu Intrepid on a rusty old Desktop. So much for the looks!

2. Virtualization

There aren't many virtualization options available for the OS X and it isn't a breeze like other Linux or windows installations. You need to do lots of patches and tweaks on the Install image and virtual os settings to get it work. And it doesn't work on VirtualBox, which is a freeware. VMWare is relatively easier compared to Qemu, but it isnt free.

Checkout this guide for how to get it working with VMWare

Checkout this forum for how to get it working with Qemu

And for the faint hearted, there's a pre-patched VMWare image of OS X which works like a charm on a VMWare player. Search for pcwiz vmware in your fav torrent tracker, find an image and follow this guide. Actually there's not much in the guide, you just get the image and run it.

Here's a VMWare install of Mac OS X Leopard on a Dell laptop:

Checkout your favorite torrent trackers for the corresponding image files. Browse around forum to find out other virtualization options

In case you still havent guessed, lots of essential things like Ethernet, Sound and USB dont work properly on a Virtual OS. Ethernet and Sound might work if you're lucky or perseverent.

3. Patched DVD

The last option for people who want the real Mac OS X on a real partition is to get a Patched DVD like Kalyway etc, perform BIOS tweaks and after lots of struggle get it working. Checkout for discussions and guides

LEV-Riders's guide to the Polluted big cities

I have been riding an electric vehicle for a while now. Its called Velociti and its made by Ultra Motors which is a UK based LEV(Light Electric Vehicle) company. It has a max speed of 40 Km/hr and a max range of 50 Kms per charge.

It has some really cool features like it discharges when you go uphill on bridges or flyovers and charges like a dynamo when you go downhill. Feynmann would be so proud about the Engineers of Ultra Motors for applying the Law of conservation of energy and utilizing the conversion of Potential energy to Kinetic energy to store electric current and trying to solve the Energy problems of the world. The world where people are traveling alone in Big cars rushing from Point A to Point B everyday while another set of people are traveling in Big cars from Point B to Point A while you're stuck in the middle of a traffic signal at Point C wondering whats so interesting about Point B that everybody from Point A wants to get there and whats so interesting about Point A that everybody from Point B wants to get there. And mind you this happens everyday, between any 2 random places in all the big cities of earth. Why wouldn't people decide once and for all where they want to be - Point A or Point B, and stay there and walk or cycle or electric-bike everyday, saving the millions of people at the numerous Point C locations from breathing Carbon monoxide and dying of slow poison. Douglas Adams would really hope they build the intergalactic superhighway and destroy Planet earth sooner before we ruin it for the next generation.

People in Point C are no different and are just in transit from Point-Alpha to Point-Beta. Its just that they do not contribute to the slow impending death of Planet Earth due to Global warming or The Return of the Ice age. And their crude oil independency doesn't make them vote for a government based on the increase/decrease of crude oil prices and they dont offer any kind of economic motivation to wars like Iraq. So much for their Environmental, Political and Philanthropic influences, they might as well dream of their Scientific influences that the electricity for their bikes come from clean hydro-electric sources or from a Portable nuclear reactor in the backyard of a multistorey apartment building.

I wish my rear-view mirrors and the body of my bike are reflective solar panels, but a drop in an ocean doesnt turn sewage into clean water. I just hope the galactic superhighway is built before Day after tomorrow, and Ford Prefect saves me from the Mostly Harmless planet.

Levels of Happiness

When you're running late and get stuck in a traffic jam, especially the long ones which never seem to end, you seem to have no choice but to get frustrated. Its beyond your control unless you're Bruce Almighty or belong to a different human species called 'Morning-persons'. Getting Murphy to explain such things beyond your control only adds to the frustration. And Einstein will tell you that if you get stuck in a traffic jam for 5 minutes, it will seem like half an hour, but when you sit and chat with a pretty girl for half an hour, it'll seem like 5 minutes. Why would anyone want to sit on a hot stove these days? And you cant even get into a microwave oven, forget the harmful radiations!

A different perception can help in reducing your level of frustration atleast. Consider what would have made you happy at that instant. Green light. Consider what would have made you most frustrated at that point. The light turning red when you're just about to cross the signal. For a uniformly distributed traffic signal controlled by a relativity-ignorant electronic timer at some average peak time of the day, your wait time is inversely proportional to your distance from the signal. So the farther away you're from a signal, the lesser your wait time at the signal. Your level of frustration is directly proportional to your wait time, excluding the other random acts of unkindness (like Pollution) the world inflicts upon you to make you even more frustrated. And your level of happiness is inversely proportional to your level of frustration, unless you're way too depressed or happily driving under influence. So the next time you get stuck in a traffic jam, feel frustrated only when you're the first in the waiting line. At all other times only decrease the tangential angle of your smiling arc, contemplating the philosophical mysteries of life so you can blog about it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

DIY Army Tank

Life is beautiful is one of my favorite movies. I like it more than Schindler's list in the genre of holocaust movies. While every other holocaust movie is about the tragedies of concentration camps, this movie is completely different. It is about a father(Guido) making a lot of sacrifice to protect his five year old son(Joshua) from even the thoughts of war and its horrors in concentration camps. He pretends to his son that everything is a game and whoever scores 1000 points wins the game and gets a real Army tank. Guido instills a lot of hope and cheerfulness to his son.

The final scene is one of the most touching moments in cinematic history. Guido tells his son Joshua to hide and not come out until everybody is gone, and also tells him thats the final test before he wins the Tank. But Guido is finally caught and shot by a Nazi soldier. He makes sure that his son doesn't know about it. Joshua comes out of his hiding place in the morning unaware of his father's death. And out of nowhere a US Army tank arrives in front of Joshua. Joshua thinks he has finally won the prize and is ultimately joyous.

Watch the final scene on youtube...

So why the digression about Life is beautiful? Well, the Tank which i recently built from a DIY woodcrafting kit reminded me of the final scene from Life is beautiful. The kit is similar to other woodcrafting kits and comes with 3 sheets of wood. It takes around 2-3 hours to assemble and here's the completely assembled wooden army tank:

Not too real? Ok lets start painting the Tank.

I tried painting the tank with a camouflage pattern thats common in the Army. But somehow it didnt work out and i settled on bottle green for the whole tank. To make it look darker, the bottle green color was obtained by mixing green and black to give the tank varying shades of bottle green. And after painting for over an hour, here's the Tank in all its glory:

It looks even more real on a camouflage cloth.

Now that's a Toy Tank that even Joshua will envy me for! (unless he joined the US/Italian army!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chandler's Creative Discontent

Chandler is the funniest and most sarcastic guy in Friends. This is not about his funny lines, but about his Christmas in Tulsa. In one episode, He is supposed to work in Tulsa during Christmas to finish some paperwork or else he'll get fired.

Monica: This is so unfair. You don't even like your job.
Chandler (surprised): So who does?
Phoebe: Oh I like my job!
Joey: I like my job...
Rachel: I love my job!
Ross: I can't get enough dinosaurs!

Chandler might be naive to think that because he doesn't like his job, no one else does. But the rest of the friends gang totally love their jobs. contentment and discontent, not just in job, even in other aspects of life. There is an article by J. Krishnamurti titled Creative discontent which argues that discontent is good because when you're discontent, you don't just stay happy, your discontent will direct you to take initiative in a lot of creative ways to find contentment, and that's good for the world. Thats how most big inventions and business ideas are born. Even though contentment and job satisfaction is what most people aspire for, its not too bad to be discontent at times.

After Tulsa, Chandler quit his job doing "Statistical Reconfiguration and Data processing"(!) to join Advertising as an Intern and to find his real calling. Not sure if his fictional initiative helped the world in some creative way, but it definitely helped the producers and writers of the show and the subject of this blog post.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Choice And Time

Road Not Taken is a beautiful poem by Robert Frost. It illustrates the confusion we have in taking decisions.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference

Robert Frost's choice of the Road Less Travelled may not always be the right choice. You don't just choose to be different without judging the merits/demerits of each choice. Sometimes its not a question of whether its less travelled or more worn out. Sometimes its more than two roads that diverge. Sometimes the choices are influenced by others and sometimes you just don't have the time to choose.

The author of The Paradox of Choice says that the more choices we have, the less happy we are. Here's an excerpt from One Minute Book Reviews:

"...unlimited choice produces genuine suffering. The more choices we have to make, the less certainty we seem to have. When we have 285 kinds of cookies to choose from in the grocery store, how can we be sure we’ve picked the right one? And that’s just cookies. When faced with seemingly unlimited choices that have significant consequences like which stocks to invest in, which career to pursue or even which person to marry, many people make choices that will never satisfy them."

Here's a TED talk of the author making his point:

When a Poet can't help you make an informed decision and an Author tells you the choices will make you unhappy anyways(i haven't read the book yet!), Punk Rock band Greenday gives a completely different perspective in the song Time of your life.

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

Billie Joe (Greenday Lead singer) tells us that sometimes you let Time take the decision and just let go. In the end if you look back it tuns out to be right and it couldn't have been better. Reflect on your life and think of the times you were totally confused. Time chooses the Road for us at such times.

He'll keep you in a jar

Some Psychedelic Rock songs of the 70s and 80s can evoke a rare moment of philosophical enlightenment. One such song is Sappy by Nirvana. The song title itself is an unusual word play on Sad and Happy - Its called Sappy. Its definitely not one of their popular songs (in comparison to Smells like Teen spirit). But it is definitely Kurt Cobain's favorite song . He tried singing the song in different tones and moods and could not attain the perfection he wanted. There are even two different lyrical changes here and here

The lyrics of the song makes you wonder if Kurt Cobain was elevated to a whole new spiritual level when he wrote this song. Songmeanings and Songfacts have several interpretations of the hidden meanings of the Song. Here's the solo from the song:

He'll keep you in a jar
And you'll think you're happy
He'll give you breathing holes
Then you'll think you're happy
He'll cover you with grass
And you'll think you're happy

You're in a laundry room,
You're in a laundry room

The metaphor that impressed me a lot is the line "He'll keep you in a jar" comparing God to a small boy playing with bugs in a jar. And no prizes for guessing what the bugs represent!

Creation vs Evolution has always been a topic of major debate between believers and atheists. There are several alternative theories to dispute the existence of God. God could be a Simulator controlling earthly forms like the game Sim city and the simulator could be just another Alien. A very humorous take on this comes in Hithchiker's Guide to the Galaxy where Earth is just a super computer built by a superrace of Mice(!) in another galaxy to find the Ultimate question for the Ultimate Answer to Life, Universe and Everything (Click here to get Wikipedia's help in your ultimate spiritual quest to find the meaning of it all). Why not Aliens or Mice, why should it be an Unexplainable God is the argument here. Another interesting take on Reality comes in the movie Matrix where we humans are part of a Matrix, which is just a battery source, and what we perceive as reality is just electrical signals being fed to our brains. Computer programmers might even say 'God is real unless declared int'. Being a confused agnostic and a programmer, im just adding the interpretation of this song to my Array of God theories.

The song Sappy uses He as a reference to God to minimize controversy. It offers a whole new perception of God, happiness and what we want in life. 'breathing holes' is a metaphor for the basic essentials.'grass' represents materialistic possessions and money. And the 'laundry room' represents the cycle of birth and death or maybe something else!

The chorus repeats thrice and each time it is preceded by a different verse:

And if you save yourself
You will make him happy
And if you cut yourself
You will think you're happy
And if you fool yourself
You will make him happy

If you strive for salvation and redemption you'll make God happy. And when you endure Pain and Hardship in life you'll make yourself happy. And if you accept both you'll only fool yourself and make God happy (if he exists)

There are two different endings to the song. "conclusion came to you" refers to death before you realise this. "clue that came to you" refers to the enlightenment that comes with this realisation or maybe i'm clueless about Kurt Cobain's lyrical depth