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.