The quantum mechanical features of my laptop…

My laptop has developed certain quantum mechanical features after its recent repairs [^]. In particular, if I press the “power on” button, it does not always get “measured” into the “power-on” state.

That’s right. In starting the machine, it is not possible to predict when the power-on button may work, when it may lead to an actual boot-up. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

For instance, the last time I shut it down was on the last night, just before dinner. Then, after dinner, when I tried to restart it, the quantum mechanical features kicked in and the associated randomness was such that it simply refused the request. Ditto, this morning. Ditto, early afternoon today. But now (at around 18:00 hrs on 09 October), it somehow got up and going!

Fortunately, I have taken backup of crucial data (though not all). So, I can afford to look at it with a sense of humour.

But still, if I don’t come back for a somewhat longer period of time than is usual (about 8–10 days), then know that, in all probability, I was just waiting helplessly in getting this thing repaired, once again. (I plan to take it to the repairsman tomorrow morning.) …

…The real bad part isn’t this forced break in browsing or blogging. The real bad part is: my inability to continue with my ANN studies. It’s not possible to maintain any tempo in studies in this now-on-now-off sort of a manner—i.e., when the latter is not chosen by you.

Yes, I do like browsing, but once I get into the mood of studying a new topic (and, BTW, just reading through pop-sci articles does not count as studies) and especially if the studies also involve programming, then having these forced breaks is really bad. …

Anyway, bye for now, and take care.

PS: I added that note on browsing and then it struck me. Check out a few resources while I am gone and following up with the laptop repairs (and no links because right while writing this postscript, the machine crashed, and so I am somehow completing it using smartphone—I hate this stuff, I mean typing using at most two fingers, modtly just one):

  1. As to Frauchiger and Renner’s controversial much-discussed result, Chris Lee’s account at ArsTechnica is the simplest to follow. Go through it before any other sources/commentaries, whether to the version published recently in Nature Comm. or the earlier ones, since 2016.
  2. Carver Mead’s interview in the American Spectator makes for an interesting read even after almost two decades.
  3. Vinod Khosla’s prediction in 2017 that AI will make radiologists obsolete in 5 years’ time. One year is down already. And that way, the first time he made remarks to that sort of an effect were some 6+ years ago, in 2012!
  4. As to AI’s actual status today, see the Quanta Magazine article: “Machine learning confronts the elephant in the room” by Kevin Hartnett. Both funny and illuminating (esp. if you have some idea about how ML works).
  5. And, finally, a pretty interesting coverage of something about which I didn’t have any idea beforehand whatsoever: “New AI strategy mimics how brains learn to smell” by Jordana Cepelwicz in Quanta Mag.

Ok. Bye, really, for now. See you after the laptop begins working.

A Song I Like:
Indian, instrumental: Theme song of “Malgudi Days”
Music: L. Vaidyanathan




May the person from Oakland, CA, USA, please stand up and be counted?

May the person from Oakland, CA, USA, please stand up and be counted?

I mean the one who has been hitting my blog, in the rather more recent times, a bit too far often to be otherwise statistically justifiable?


[The predecessor to him, during the Obama years, was someone similar from “Mississauga, Canada.”

But nearly not as noticeable, robotic, and therefore, not so readily noticeable. At least to me, back then.]

And once again: If you are/want to be fake, leave this blog alone. I don’t need your support.

For one simple reason: I know you can’t give me that.

Another reason, viz. the fact that I have been a programmer, and so know: Robots are controlled by people.

No songs section for this post.


I am keeping my New Year’s…

I am keeping my NYR [^], made last year.

How about you?

No, really. I AM keeping my NYR. Here’s how.

December is meant for making resolutions. (It doesn’t matter whether it’s the 1st or the 31st; the month is [the?] December; that’s what matters.)


January is meant for making a time-table. … But it must be something on which you can execute. I have been actively engaged doing that. … You could see that, couldn’t you? … And, what’s more, you could’ve bet about it at any time in the past, too, couldn’t you?

Since execution can only follow, and not precede, planning, it must be February before execution proper itself can begin. As far as I am concerned, I will make sure of that. [And you know me. You know that I always deliver on all my promises, don’t you?]

March is known for madness. To be avoided, of course.

April is known for foolishness. To be avoided, as far as possible, but, hey, as “friends” of this blog, you know, it’s nothing to be afraid of!

May, in this part of the world, is far too hot for any one to handle it right, OK? The work-efficiency naturally drops down. This fact must be factored into any and every good piece of planning, I say! (Recall the British Governors and Other officers of the Bombay Presidency shifting their offices to Matheran/Mahabaleshwar during summer? [Anyone ever cared to measure the efficiency of this measure on their part? I mean, on work?])

Now, yes, June does bring in the [very welcome] monsoons, finally! But then, monsoon also is universally known to be the most romantic of all seasons. [It leaves a certain something of a feeling which ordinarily would require you to down a Sundowner or so. [I am trying to be honest, here!]… And then, even Kalidas would seem to agree. Remember (Sanskrit) “aashaaDhasya pratham…”? Naturally, the month is not very conducive to work, is it?]


This is [just] January, and my time-table is all done up and ready. Or, at least, it’s [at least] half-way through. …

I will really, really begin work in the second half of the year.

Bye until then.

A Song I Don’t Ever Recall Liking Back Then [When Things Mattered Far More Routinely in Far More Respects than They Do Today]

[Not too sure I like it today either. But there were certain happy isolated instances related to my more recent career which are associated with it. I had registered, but hadn’t known this fact, until recently.

But then, recently, I happened suddenly to “re-hear” the phrase (Hindi) “yeh kaunsaa…”, complete with the piece of the “sax” which follows it…

Then, the world had become [in a [comparatively] recent past] a slightly better place to live in.

So, I’d decided, not quite fully certain but still being inclined to this possibility, that I might actually like this song. … But I still don’t fully, you know… But I still do fully want to run it, you know…

Anyway, just listen to it…]

(Hindi) “chocolate, lime juice, ice-cream…” [No, it really is a Hindi song. Just listen to it further…]
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar [A peculiarity of this song is that precisely when [an aged] Lata sounds [a bit] heavy [of course due to the age not to mention the pressures of the day-to-day work and every one’s normal inability to hit the sweet spot every time!], the directors of the movie and the music together focus your attention on a rather cheerfully smiling and dancing Madhuri. [No, never been one of my favorite actresses, but then, that’s an entirely different story altogether.]]
Music: Ramlaxman
Lyrics: Dev Kohli [?]

[PS: And, coming to the video of this song, did you notice that the hero drives a Maruti Gypsy?

I mean, ask any NRI in USA, and they he will tell you that it was because this was an early 90’s movie; the fruits of the [half-/quarter-/oct-something-/etc.] economic liberalization had still not been had by the general public; the liberalization they [I mean these NRIs] had brought about.

If these [I mean the economic freedoms] were to be brought about , they could easily point out, with good amount of references to Hindi movies of the recent years, that the presence on Indian roads of the [government-subsidized-diesel-driven] SUVs could easily have been seen in the same movie!!!

Hmmm…¬† Point[s] taken.]

How about your NYR?

[A bit of an editing is still due, I am sure… TBD, when I get the time to do so…]

Yes I know it!

Note: A long update was posted on 12th December 2017, 11:35 IST.

This post is spurred by my browsing of certain twitter feeds of certain pop-sci. writers.

The URL being highlighted—and it would be, say, “negligible,” but for the reputation of the Web domain name on which it appears—is this: [^].

I want to remind you that I know the answers to all the essential quantum mysteries.

Not only that, I also want to remind you that I can discuss about them, in person.

It’s just that my circumstances—past, and present (though I don’t know about future)—which compel me to say, definitely, that I am not available for writing it down for you (i.e. for the layman) whether here or elsewhere, as of now. Neither am I available for discussions on Skype, or via video conferencing, or with whatever “remoting” mode you have in mind. Uh… Yes… WhatsApp? Include it, too. Or something—anything—like that. Whether such requests come from some millionaire Indian in USA (and there are tons of them out there), or otherwise. Nope. A flat no is the answer for all such requests. They are out of question, bounds… At least for now.

… Things may change in future, but at least for the time being, the discussions would have to be with those who already have studied (the non-relativistic) quantum physics as it is taught in universities, up to graduate (PhD) level.

And, you have to have discussions in person. That’s the firm condition being set (for the gain of their knowledge ūüôā ).

Just wanted to remind you, that’s all!

Update on 12th December 2017, 11:35 AM IST:

I have moved the update to a new post.


A Song I Like:

(Western, Instrumental) “Berlin Melody”
Credits: Billy Vaughn

[The same 45 RPM thingie [as in here [^], and here [^]] . … I was always unsure whether I liked this one better or the “Come September” one. … Guess, after the n-th thought, that it was this one. There is an odd-even thing about it. For odd ‘n” I think this one is better. For even ‘n’, I think the “Come September” is better.

… And then, there also are a few more musical goodies which came my way during that vacation, and I will make sure that they find their way to you too….

Actually, it’s not the simple odd-even thing. The maths here is more complicated than just the binary logic. It’s an n-ary logic. And, I am “equally” divided among them all. (4+ decades later, I still remain divided.)… (But perhaps the “best” of them was a Marathi one, though it clearly showed a best sort of a learning coming from also the Western music. I will share it the next time.)]

[As usual, may be, another revision [?]… Is it due? Yes, one was due. Have edited streamlined the main post, and then, also added a long update on 12th December 2017, as noted above.]



Monsoon—it’s officially here!

Yes, the monsoon has arrived! Even in the mainland peninsular India!

… Yes, even the government says so, now! [^].

The news was expected for quite some time, may be a week or so by now. … I have been tracking not just the IMD but also SkyMetWeather [^], and in fact, also the blogging by the latter’s CEO. Here is the latest from him [^].

As to the IMD, well, none at IMD blogs. … But still, you have to give them some credit. One would have thought that they would wait for Modi’s address to the joint session of the US Congress to get over before “notorizing” the arrival of the monsoon. … No, the quoted phrase is not mine; it comes from a blog post by Jatin Singh, the CEO of SkyMetWeather. [Sorry, can’t locate that post of his so readily; will insert the link later, if I get it.] That post by Singh had appeared about a week ago, and the author had rightly shown in it why and how the arrival of the Monsoon could be announced right back then—a week ago. … Anyway, apparently, in forming the subjective judgment of the objective criteria [once again, the characterization comes from Jatin Singh], the IMD, it seems, followed the rains more than the PM.

All the same, it’s a huge (and hugely welcome) a piece of news.

… If you are an American (or come from any advanced country) you just cannot in your entire lifetime imagine just what the phrase “Monsoon arrival” means to an Indian.

Yes, I am an Indian. Naturally, my memory (and/or attention-span) is short. Naturally, I’ve already forgotten how fast I had consumed my Internet data-pack limit last month (as was mentioned in my last post). The fact of the matter is, the data pack got renewed just a few days ago. And that’s all that matters to me, right now.

Naturally, I have watched quite a few satellite animation videos, and in fact also want to strongly recommend that you, too, go and watch them. Check out here [^] and here [^]. (As to the EuMetSat site, I have no idea why they have a blank atmosphere on 7th June until about 20:00 UTC.)

For the same reason—of being an Indian all the way to my core—I do not, and would never ever in my life, associate any of the following with the word “monsoon”:

  • Random interruptions in the electricity supply (in the cities where there at all is an electricity supply)
  • Overflowing gutters, drainages, nullahs and minor rivers in the cities; also the blocked roads, the broken down buses, the cancelled trains
  • News of people in the cities being evacuated, but only after a few have already drowned because of the “sudden” increase in the water levels in the areas down-stream of dams, because of a “sudden” and very heavy downpour, even though every one owns a cell phone these days, including those in the slums in the cities and the villages in the rural areas.
  • News of bus getting washed away in the floods in the rural areas because the driver thought that the waters overflowing on the low-lying bridge was not deep enough or fast enough
  • News of young, educated, sleek people from Mumbai and Pune (including those employed in the IT industry, including young women) drowning at Alibag or Murud or Ganapati Pule beach, despite the local people urging them again and again not to go swimming in the seas at a time they themselves don’t dare doing so, because the sea is so rough
  • News of young, educated, sleek people from Pune and Mumbai (including those employed in the IT industry, including young women) drowning at the Bushy dam at Lonavala, despite police yelling at them, using even loudspeakers, not to go and play in the rough waters
  • And, oh, yes, add the Bhandardara lake near Nasik too.¬† Also the waterfalls near Mahabaleshwar. …

Yes, you have to be an Indian to have this kind of a sense of “humour,” too.

… Yes, we Indians are like that only.

… If we weren’t, life would immediately become far too depressing for even us to handle.

But, any way, we the Indians really feel good when we see the kind of reception our PM receives abroad.

… All of us do. Including those of us in the S. F. Bay Area. (Including those who have become American citizens.) It’s one of those few, few things which makes our lives acquire some luminosity, some rich splashes of the rainbow hues, even if only temporarily. Life becomes interesting then. Magnificent. Majestic. We feel proud then. … We can. Yes, we can. We can feel proud. At such moments.

Our movie-makers know all about it, all too well—the feel good factor. Not just the Hindi cinema, but, now-a-days, also the Marathi cinema.

The Marathi cinema, too, has by now become technically rich. And sleek. As sleek as those young crowds who must flock to the Sinhgad fort on their super-macho motorbikes (or in their massive SUVs) on every week-end during the Monsoons, despite knowing very well in advance that all roads to and near Sinhgad would be overflowing with vehicles, resulting in 5+ hours of traffic jams.

Hey, every one needs to feel better, at  least once in a while, OK?

OK. So, let me, too, join them all, and share a recent Marathi movie song with you.

A Song I Like:

Regardless of what all I wrote above, I actually like this song.

About this song: There is something a bit strange about this song. … Sometimes, a song excels in only a few departments: great tune, great voice, great singing, great orchestration, great acting, great-looking actors, great location, great picturization, or just a great overall theme. Etc. This song is strange in the sense that it is good on many such counts—when the factors are taken individually. The thing is: There is no complete integration of these elements. That’s the strange part about this song… I mean to say, for example, that the words mention rains, but the picturization doesn’t show any. The words, phrases and even metaphors are authentic (even traditional) Marathi, but the orchestration is Western. Etc. And even then, even if a complete consistency is not there, the song, somehow, comes out good. That’s strange.

Anyway, it indeed is a good song. (It certainly is better integrated than the movie in which it appears.) And, yes, I like it.

[As you must have guessed by now, yes, for this time round, I do mean to refer not just the audio, but also to the video of this song. [Yes, I realized that I have the bandwidth to go watch it right now, and that’s all that mattered to me, right now. … Remember, I am an Indian?]]

Anyway, here is the song:

(Marathi) “kadhee too, rimjhim zaraNaari barasaat…”
Lyrics: Shrirang Godbole
Singer: Hrishikesh Ranade
Music: Avinash-Vishwajeet

[Perhaps a minor editing pass may be done 2–3 days later. [Done, right away.]¬† … My stint at the previous college got over in late-April, and so, these days, I am busy applying for jobs, attending interviews and all. … The research has taken a back-seat for the time being. Implication: I will be busy attending interviews or traveling in the near future, and so, it may be 2–3 days (perhaps 3–4 days) before I am able to come back and think of improving this blog post or check the comments queue here. … But then, probably, even minor editing isn’t required for this post anyway; so regard this version as more or less the final version. [Yes, that’s right. The editing is now done.] … Take care and bye for now.]



Hail Python well MATE

Hail Python! (Yes, I have converted):

As you know, I’ve been using Ubuntu LTS (currently 14.04.01). These days it has even become the OS of my primary usage. I like the current Ubuntu as much as I had liked NT4 and Win2K when they were in vogue.

I began moving away from the Windows mainly because the one IDE that I really loved, viz. VC++ 6, got superseded by a series of software that were, increasingly, unusable by me. For instance, increasingly too complex. And, increasingly too sluggish.

There then followed a period of a kind of quantum mechanical-ness: I didn’t find either Windows + Visual Studio suitable, nor did I find any of the alternatives (e.g. RedHat + vi/emacs/whatever + configure + make + GDB + …) attractive enough.

And, for some reasons unknown to me, I’ve never found Java as “my” platform.

As to Java, no, neither the personality of Scott McNealy nor the institution of the DoJ in USA had anything to do with it. In many ways, Java is a very good language, but somehow I never found the non-C++ features of it attractive even an iota: be it the lack of genericity, or the idea of downloading the bytecodes and the flakinesses of the VMs supporting it (owing mainly to the complexity of the language), or the excessive reliance on the ‘net and the big SUN servers that it implied, or, as may be shocking to you, even the famous Java reflection! (Given the other design features of Java, and the way it was handled, I thought that it was a feature for the clueless programmer—which Java programmers anyway tend to be (even if IMO the Visual Basic programmers very strongly compete with them in that department).)

And thus, I was in a state of QM-like superposition, for a long, long, time.

Partial measurements began to occur when, sometime as late as in the ‘teens, Eclipse IMO improved to the point that it wouldn’t leave a previous instance of the debug image sneakily lurking in the OS even after you thought you had terminated it. Sometime in between, Eclipse also had begun honouring the classic keyboard short-cuts of VC++: F11 would really step into a C++ function; F10 would really execute a function call without stepping into it; etc. Good!

Still, by this time, C++ “libraries” had already become huge, very huge. A code-base of a half-million LOC was routine; some exceeded millions of LOC. Further, each library assumed or required a different make system, a different version of the GCC etc., and perhaps much more importantly, none was equally well-supported on both Linux and Windows; for examples on one or more on these counts, cf. OpenFOAM, PetSc, Boost, CGAL, ParaView, QT, TAUCS, SuperLU, et al., just to name a few. The C++ template classes had become so huge that for writing even very simple applications, say a simple dialog box based GUI doing something meaningful on the numerical side, you began drowning in countless template parameters if not also namespaces. And, of course, when it came to computational engineering, there was this permanent headache of having to write wrappers even for as simple a task as translating a vector or a matrix from one library to another, just to give you an example.

I thus had actually become a low productivity C++ programmer, despite the over-abundance of the in-principle “reusable” components and packages. … I pined for the good old days of VC++ 6 on Win2K. (Last year or so, I even tried installing VC++ 6 on Win7, and then found that forget having “support”, the IDE wouldn’t even install i.e. work on Win7.)

In the meanwhile, I had noticed Python, but as they (for instance the folks painting the backsides of auto-rickshaws and trucks) in India say, (Hindi) “samay se pahele aur bhaagya se jyaadaa/adhik…” …

… Even if you allow an innovative new idea to take root in your mind, it still has to ripen a bit before it begins to make sense.

Then, this week (as you might have guessed), I happened to have an epiphany of sorts.

And, yes, as a result, I have converted!

I have become Pythonic. Well, at least Pythetic! … Pythonewbie! (Fine. This should work.)

As you know, I was going to convert my check-dams C++ code into Python. As I said in the last update of my last post, I initially began learning the language the hard way [^]. However, being a fairly accomplished C++ programmer—apart from a professional working experience of about a decade, I had also written, e.g., a yacc-like front-end taking EBNF grammar for LALR1 languages and spitting out parser-tables, just as hobby pursued on evenings—I soon got tired of learning Python the hard way, and instead opted for a softer way. I did a lot of search, downloaded `n’ number of tutorials, codes, etc., went through the Google education [^], and quickly became, as I said, a Pythonewbie.

Let me first jot down what all the components of the Python ecosystem I have downloaded and have begun already trying: wxPython, PyQT, PyOpenGL, Pyglet, VPython, matplotlib, and of course, NumPy and SciPy. I also drool at the possibilities of using the Python bindings for OpenFOAM, VTK/ParaView, CGAL, FENICS, and many, many, many others.

Why did I convert only now? Why not earlier?

Apart from (Hindi) “samay se pahele aur bhaagya se jyaadaa/adhik,” here are some more mundane reasons, listed in no particular order:

1. I was led to believe (or at least thought) that Python was a scripting language, that it is a good alternative to, say, the shell scripts.


Python is—at least at this stage of development of the language and of the entire eco-system—not a language per say, but rather an ingenious tool to glue together massive but fast C/C++/FORTRAN libraries together.

2. I was also led away from Python because it lacked the cozy, secure, protective, nurturing, etc. environment of the C/C++ “{}” blocks.

I had come to like and rely on this K&R innovation so much, that a lack of the braces was one very definite (but eventually very minor) reason that Visual BASIC (and OO FORTRAN) had turned me away. As to Python, I felt plain insecure. I had a very definite fear of the program crashes any time I made a simple mistake concerning a mere indentation. … Well, that way, the C++ code I myself wrote never had the highly irritating sloppiness of the unevenly spaced indentations. But I anyway did carry this fear. (For the same reason, I found the design of the OpenFOAM input files far more comfortable than it actually is: you see, it uses a lot of braces!)

But now, I came to realize that while the fear of going block-less isn’t without reason, practically speaking, it also is largely unfounded. … Even if in Python you don’t have the protection of the C/C++ blocks, in practice, you still can’t possibly make too many mistakes about scopes and object lifetimes for the simple reason that in Python, functions themselves become so very short! (I said scope and lifetime, not visibility. Visibility does remain a different game, with its own subtleties, in Python.)

Another virtue of Python:

Another thing. Python is small. Translation: Its interpreters are sturdy. This is one count on which Java, IMO, truly floundered, and as far as I gather from others, it still does.

(No, don’t try to convince me otherwise. I also see Java’s bugs on my own. …. Just fix, for instance, that bug in the Java VM which leads to this Eclipse CDT bug. Suppose you are working on a C++ project, and so, there are a bunch of C++ files open in various tabs of the Eclipse editor. Suppose that you then open a text file, e.g. the OutputData.txt file, in an additional Eclipse tab. Then, you go to some C++ file, edit it, build it, and debug/run the program so that the OutputData.txt file on the disk changes. You switch the tab to the text file. Naturally, the tab contents needs to refreshed. Eclipse, being written in Java, is stupid enough not to refresh it automatically; it instead tells you go to the menu File/Refresh this page. That’s what happens if the text file tab isn’t the active one. [Eclipse is in version 3.8+. [Yes, it is written in Java.]] Now, if you repeatedly do this thing (even just a couple of times or so), the menu item File/Refresh is found painted in a way as if it were disabled. As far as I can make it out, it seems to be a Java VM bug, not an Eclipse bug; it also occurs in some other Java programs (though I can’t tell you off-hand which ones). In any case, go ahead San Francisco Bay-Area i.e. Java-Loving Programmer(s), fix Your Platform first, and then think of trying to convert me.)

Python becomes reliably sturdy precisely because it recognizes that it can’t and hence shouldn’t try to be good at too many things.

Python doesn’t pretend to give you any GUI or graphics capability—not even to the extent to which TurboC/C++ did. On the other hand, Java/C# tried to be masters of everything: GUI, network, graphics…. You know where they end(ed) up. And where C and even FORTRAN continue chugging along even today. (In case you didn’t know: both remain within top 5 languages, after some 50+ and 40+ years, respectively.)

The question to pose (but usually not posed) to a recent convert:

Since I am a recent convert, you may now be tempted to probe me: “Any downside to Python?”

My answer: You are right, there are downsides. It’s just that they don’t matter to me, because they aren’t relevant to me—either my personal background or my present purposes.

Python might make learning “programming” incredibly easy and fast. But if you are going to be a serious, professional programmer, there are so many principles and rules that you must additionally learn, and far too many of these are simply not accessible while working within the Python environment. Just to give you some examples: Type safety. Object life-time management, including programmer-controlled dynamic (de)allocation. Static vs. dynamic binding. Pointer arithmetic. (As to pointers: Both God and the actual hardware use it. (That’s another point against Java, and in favour of C/C++)). Stack frames. Finite memory. Etc.¬† Yet, at the same time, Python also merrily exposes system calls. Think of a script-kiddie delinking a file or a folder!

Yes, Python is better (much, much better) than BASIC for teaching some of the ideas of computers and programming to kids (e.g. to CBSE Std. XI kids in India). But taken as an independent language, and for the routine programming use, it would have to rank much below average.

… But then, Python shouldn’t at all be seen that way in the first place.

As I said, Python should be seen not as a language but simply as a powerful and sturdy tool for integration of an incredible variety of the super-fast C++ (even FORTRAN) libraries, in the simplest possible manner, and with cleanest—i.e., most readable kind of—source code.

Ok. Enough about Python. … I don’t say you should become a Python programmer. I merely told you the reasons why I converted.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

What about the MATE?

Now, a word about the MATE part of the title.

I have installed the UbuntuMATE 1.8 shell on my Ubuntu 14.04.01 LTS, replacing the Gnome Unity shell.

Good riddance!

And, I have also taken this opportunity to disable the overlaying of the scroll-bars [^] (even though doing so would have been possible also on Unity, I learned only now (“samay se pahele…”)).

I feel light. Yes. Light. … Lighter. … Lightest.

The theme I run is Redmond. This way, I get the same Windows experience which I liked and still do. [No, thanks, but I won’t like to try the tiles environment even for free, let alone out of piracy.]

MATE is neat. It should be included in the official Ubuntu distro as early as possible. (I gather that they do have a definite plan to do so.)

And, in the interests of conserving mankind’s shared resources including disk-spaces, energy usage, and most importantly, mental sanity, first, all the distributions of all versions of the Unity shell should be permanently deleted from all the servers of the world, except for an archival copy or two for reference in the studies of pathological cases of the practice of computer science. Then, this archival copy should be given a permanent resting place next to that of the Microsoft Bob.

[Oh, yes, BTW, I know, the title is slightly stupid… But what else can strike you if you write something—anything—about Unity and Microsoft Bob also in the same post? Also, Java?]

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

OK. Back to trying out the different C++ libraries, now far more easily, from within the Python environment. … I am going to have to try many libraries first (and also explore Python itself further) before I come true on the promise about the next version of that check-dams toy program.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

A Song I Like:
(Hindi) “ik raastaa hai zindagi…”
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Rajesh Roshan
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi

[PS: This song is from 1979—the year I was in my XII. It is, thus, some 36 years old.

Going further back by 36 years, to 1943, guess we are somewhere firmly in the “unknown” territory of Hindi film songs. Sehgal’s “baabool moraa” is from even slightly earlier times, from 1938, and it sounds so quaint. Talking of 1943 proper, even the more modern sounding Anil Biswas had this “dheere dheere aa re baadal” in the movie Kismet—do check it out, how quaint it sounds to the ears of even my generation. And I am not even talking of the other “gems” of that era!

… When I was growing up, the elders would always talk about how beautiful the old songs were—and how trashy, the new ones. But come to think of it, there was a much smaller period of just 23 years between say Chori Chori (1956) and 1979, than there is between 1979 and 2015.

Yet, this song of 1979 sounds so completely modern, at least as far as its audio goes. BTW, in case you don’t know, in this section of my blog, I primarily refer only to the audio tracks of songs. Making an exception for this song, and thus referring also to its video, except for a little oddity about the kind of clothes Shashi Kapoor is seen wearing, there is almost nothing that is 35 years old to that song. … May be because of the rural/jungle settings in which it was shot. Even Shashi Kapoor’s bike looks almost every bit modern. I don’t know which one it actually was, but going by the shape of the tank, of the headlamp, and of the front side indicators, not to mention the overall way in which it takes to the road and handles the curves, I would bet that it was a Yamaha bike. (It can’t possibly be a Rajdoot 350—which also was about the same size—because the Rajdoot 350 was launched in India, I just checked, only 4 years later, in 1983—the year I graduated from COEP.)

Conclusion? There is some sort of an underlying cultural reason why people in their 50s (like me) no longer sound or even look as old as people in their 50s used to, when we were young. … Even if we now are that old. Well, at least, “mature.” [No Hollywood actresses were harmed in the writing of this post. [Hollywood is in California, USA.]]]


My take on Harry Binswanger’s interesting article in the Forbes

The Objectivist philosopher Dr. Harry Binswanger has written an interesting article in the Forbes. The following is what he yesterday noted at his Web site, HBL [^], from where I got to know about that article. BTW, he frequently updates the front page of HBL, and so, I am taking the liberty to quote his yesterday’s noting in its entirety:

“My new post is on the debt of gratitude the 99% owe the 1%. It contains a proposal, probably familiar to those here, that anyone who earns over a million dollars be exempted from all income tax.

It’s a big hit on Forbes. How big, you ask? Well it beat my previous record which was against gun control. That had an amazing 38,717 views, over a few weeks. The current article has had 88,000 views in one day. And it’s only going up from here.”

He then provided a link to the article, which is here [^].

Yesterday, I went through the article, and also quite a few comments. … Obviously, Dr. Binswanger should be happy about the interest the article has generated! As of writing of this post, the number of hits to this article had reached a mind boggling 164,409, and the number of comments, 585!

A notable feature here is not just the volume and the nature of the comments, but also Dr. Binswanger’s clean, direct, thorough, and gentlemanly responses to those comments. … I myself couldn’t have kept as much of patience replying back some of those nasty comments. (And you could tell that much about me, couldn’t you? (LOL!))…

The last time I commented on his Forbes column/blog [^] was in response to his article on immigration [^]. I dug it up today; it’s here [^]. …Wow! it’s seven months already! … Of course, I should have known—I have changed my stand since then; now, I am willing to¬† go for work anywhere, even to the USA!

Anyway, coming back to this week’s article of Dr. Binswanger’s, I thought it best not to comment on the Forbes blog, because I thought that the format of those immediate comments and re-comments, all done at the e-speed, wouldn’t be appropriate for what I had to say in response to that article…. What I have to say is something I wanted to do in a bit more relaxed mood, thinking aloud. My position is that I do not fully agree with Dr. Binswanger here. … So, before continuing to read any further, if you haven’t already done so, please go and completely read that article, and also at least the comments “called out” by the author, before continuing here.

I now presume that you have read the article and the prominent comments.

I will not bother noting down what all are the good or even great points in that article. With Dr. Binswanger, you always expect that. I will note only concerning my objection, the point where I disagree. But before that, a bit about the context.

For context, if you don’t know it, Dr. Binswanger’s obvious intent here is to counter a recent cultural idea that has gained a lot of traction among businessmen, both in the USA and in India. I don’t know who formulated this particular expression of it, but knowing that detail is not very important. What is important that many—far too many, in fact—prominent American businessmen and rich people have espoused it. Including not just Warren Buffett but also Bill Gates. (Some in SF Bay Area might want to reverse the order of noting down the two names here!) They, and others like them, have been canvassing for rich people to take a pledge to “give back” to the society.

The basic idea is ancient—it is as old as altruism is—but its specific formulation here is more in the Christian mould, and more couched for the American businessman. And, despite Ayn Rand Institute’s moral defence of the right of Microsoft not to be split in that DoJ case in the 1990s, Bill Gates, apparently, hasn’t learnt anything. On the contrary, he has been an enthusiastic front-runner in this recent “give back” drive.

Dr. Binswanger, for good reasons, would wish to counter this expression of altruism in the American culture today. Ayn Rand had a principled opposition to what she called the axis of mysticism, altruism and collectivism [^]. She instead upheld reason, rational egoism and individualism, in their respective places. (These are the main issues of contention respectively in epistemology, ethics, and politics.) Collectivism, she demonstrated, leads to statism and dictatorships, whereas individual rights lead to Capitalism. So, given this nutty but highly influential “give back” drive, and the fact that he is a pro-Capitalism philosopher, it was obvious that while writing for a business magazine, Dr. Binswanger would engage this battle against collectivism, at a level more basic to it: at the level of ethics, and on the issue of altruism vs. [rational] egoism.

His latest article is to be seen in this light. And, seen this way, if he were to be completely consistent in his position including also on the application side, I couldn’t possibly have had any issue with it.

However, I do have a problem—that way, a minor problem, but a problem, nevertheless—with this article. Dr. Binswanger here seems to have advocated a position that is, I think, perhaps a bit too narrow for an unqualified and immediate endorsement.

I don’t have any problem with the basic idea behind his suggestion: that if at all giving back should be the issue, then it’s the 99% that should give back to the 1%. The only issue I have are with the details.

The first detail: Is it really only the 1%? Or should it rather be something like, say, 2%? 5%? … I don’t know, but I am just wondering… It’s a very minor, quantitative detail, but still, that 1% figure seems to me, off-hand, too small—even elitist.

And, I have another, relatively much more important, issue here—call it a problem if you wish: Just how do you decide who constitutes the top x%?

Here, Dr. Binswanger follows the historically valid criterion: the income. Historically, it seems, the income would have made for a valid criterion in the USA: the government interference was almost nothing as compared to today, and so, “income” would have been the same as “the money made in the [mostly] free market,” which would have been the same as “the earned money,” which, in turn, would have been in direct proportion to “productive achievement.” So, it would have been valid to say that if you made a million, you are an honourable man because you are so productive. Productivity (including creativity, etc.) is a virtue.

The trouble is that today’s system is not capitalistic at all. Not even in the USA. Even though Americans habitually forget this simple fact.

Today, the income no longer is tied with the productive achievement of a man or how¬† worthy his output actually is (and can be). In fact, the whole issue comes up precisely because the government exercises such a great deal of coercive control in the economy (and with government, all controls are always coercive; there is no such a thing as a non-coercive government control—it’s a contradiction in terms).

Here, realize that the one element of Dr. Binswanger’s suggestion, namely that Congressional Honors (and only that—honor) may be bestowed on productive individuals is not in itself bad. We live in such bad times that it “instinctively” seems to us that selection procedures followed even if “only” for honors would always be fully problematic, even if it were to be a completely free, Capitalistic society. (And, so, we tend to overemphasize the idea that in a free society, there would be no government honors.) However, historically, in the USA, that never was the case. American presidents were known to boast of the wealth they personally made, and simultaneously, also used to be eager to bestow social honors on the other, wealthy, individuals, all in a manner so innocent as to seem to belong to a realm of fairy tales, today. And, people would by and large have no problem with who was thus honored and who was not. The goodwill among people was so great and so authentic. So, in that sense, honors, even Congressional Honors, by themselves, would be fine by me.

The trouble is, when the government is so big as to create as much of a mess as the one in which we currently live, the very idea that some government- or politicians-bestowed honors should go, without qualification, to all the millionaires seems preposterous not just out of envy/jealousy, but also because far too many of us have (or at least I have) the sense that far too many of them simply made a killing precisely exploiting government-enforced restrictions or controls of the economy—or at least influenced government in some way to derive benefits (“grabbing,” really speaking).

From what I gather by regularly reading HBL site, Steve Jobs is Dr. Binswanger’s favorite example of a great money-maker—and Jobs indeed was one, in very many important ways.

But Jobs himself was found at least actively supporting if not outright canvassing for the DoJ to “break the back of Microsoft” just a decade ago—the times incidentally coinciding with quite some part of the wealth he made. And, the quoted words are his own; he said that in a fairly serious even if somewhat passionate settings—or at least the local Palo Alto and San Jose newspapers had carried such news items back then. Now, suppose you supply some great (objectively valid) contextual material to show how Jobs was simply tired of, say, Microsoft‘s abuse of the government power, by some background deals they struck with the government and all, and so, to save his business, with no better alternatives left (despite ARI’s presence right in his home state), he had to begin, say, “encouraging” the DoJ only as a counter-measure, and therefore, he really would deserve honors despite all those utterances. Suppose you say that, in Jobs’ defence. It still leaves open the issue of whether you then want the honors also to go to both Bill Gates and Scott McNealy, together with Jobs. And, also to that guy who founded some company called WebVan or so. People would want to buy vegetables online, he thought. People would not want to leave their armchair and go to market, have a direct look at vegetables like spinach and ochra, they would not want to touch and press a couple of apples or grapefruit from all sides, before coming to the conclusion that that material was good enough to take to their kitchens, he thought. Give people some good stock photographs of fresh vegetables on the Internet, and some great discount deals, and the convenience of delivery to their door-step after just a mouse-click, and they will happily buy even perishable food items like vegetables online, he thought. And bet his company on this idea. The company went bust, of course, but he made millions via what is known as the “exit parachute.”

In Dr. Binswanger’s scheme, he could have easily received the congressional honors for some 2–3 years in a row, before the company went bust, and also for a few years after that—due to the exit parachute, he would continue to make millions every year for some more years even in case the company went bust. Some money-making personality! Or, make it a plural, a sizeable one at that. Personalities!

Dr. Binswanger, it might seem, is naive.¬† Possible. More probable is this possibility that first he thought of this neat interest-generating idea, of turning the “giving back” idea on its head. This part¬†is actually neat. But then, he probably simply got carried away a bit too far.

Though ideations in terms such as (economic) “class” and all that was so unlike Ayn Rand, she did once observe (though I can’t off-hand tell you where I read it) that the middle-class is the most productive among the three classes. The middle class, she had noted, is a product of Capitalism; it had never existed in any civilization and in any culture prior to the rise of capitalism.

I used to work in the SF Bay Area—arguably one of the most competitive places of work for software development—during the late nighties and early naughties. I have come across (though not necessarily personally) many, many examples of highly productive men—entrepreneurs and engineers, and even marketing people—making it big purely on their own hard work and merit. Some—in fact, many—might have become millionaires. (Microsoft, at that time, was minting a relatively very big number of new millionaires (was it 100?) per month.) And yet, I must note, per my actual, direct observations, the Venn overlap between the millionaires and the productive was only partial. There were enough on both sides of the “left-out” areas that one couldn’t possibly ignore them. Many good, productive people never made millions, though they did earn respectably well (in excess of $100 k/year).

My informal feel is that if you take the income distribution curve, the most productive would be in a band next to the top income earners. I mean to say, if you superimpose the distribution of the productivity of people (i.e. number of productive people at a given income level) on top of the income distribution curve, then, at least in today’s USA, the peak of the productivity curve would likely be on the higher income side, but not at the very topmost income levels. It would be somewhere next to it.

… Best surgeons—those who actually perform surgery as in contrast to those who don’t perform any surgery and only own or manage hospitals—would be found at, say, around the $500 k to $1 million levels. (Am I right?) Perhaps $5 million levels. But they won’t be found at the $50 million level. And, further, their density would be significantly high also in the $100 k to $250 k levels. Similarly, for lawyers and engineers. Greatest engineers are often “happy” working anywhere between, say, $70 k to $250 k. They typically miss the millionaire club. (And, I don’t buy the idea that Steve Jobs was great and his engineers relatively dumb, because it was only he who thought that so much slimming down of cell-phones was possible, or desirable. From what I know of the Bay Area engineers, that’s not possible, in fact. Engineers would be smart enough to think similarly too, though outwardly they would say: “it can’t be done.” The reason wouldn’t only be a relative incompetence, not in all cases anyway. A more likely reason would be simply that they were gunning for all those bonuses and stock options, which, BTW, wouldn’t come their way if they didn’t make it look difficult. And all of that money would still put them within only the $100 k to $500k bracket.)

I am not denying Jobs’ genius. I am pointing out another, orthogonal fact, viz., that if you take that distribution of # of productive people at a given income level, then some of the higher-level parts of this curve may go up and include some of the highest money-makers too. But its peak will not be at the highest income levels. If you want to approximate it via an all-or-nothing band (by cutting off at some low enough a level), then, the resulting band would certainly fall short of the topmost income levels.

Where does that, then, leave us? Fortunately for us, the number of the topmost earners would also be much much less than the number of productive but not-so-wealthy people. And, fortunately for us, I think, at least in the USA, the productive people’s band would lie right next to the topmost income peoples’ band. And, this make it easy to device a policy. We can afford to be generous, club the two together, and advocate for a top 2%, 3% or 5% or so. As an approximate band, they may be singled out for the remaining majority to be grateful towards them. I don’t care if you take it to the top 10% or even 15% levels. Just remember, as you widen the group, its inspiration-generation potential drops. And, that’s the last point I want to write about, today.

Nobody is really (i.e. in actual fact) inspired by a top money-makers such as Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs. And the reason is not, as many Objectivists think, that the culture is that bad. The fact is, people are awed, even mystified, by the top money-makers, esp. the wealthiest ones in today’s mixed economy. But people do not want to emulate them. Not even the most ambitious but productive among the low-earners. And not even if all tax was to be exempted for top earners like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. The reason is not a lack of ambition or moral strength or ability, and the reason is not “bad culture.” The reason is: because people are smart enough to realize, and correctly so, that these are the rather “freak” cases, speaking statistically. The amount of wealth they made came about via such a narrow and unique set of circumstances that it’s impossible for someone starting afresh to plan his career using as narrow and unique combination as that, and also not face in the process the risk, not just of possible failure, but also of too high expectations coming crashing too cruelly down. And therefore, the smartest and even the most productive among the topmost income earners (i.e. leaving aside all crooks and government’s bed-fellows aside) do not actually have a great inspiration potential.

Admiration potential? Yes. But potential for inspiration, in the sense Dr. Binswanger would desire? So as to effect the cultural change towards a better culture? LOL! Not really. People may talk in terms like “Bill Gates inspires me,” simply because they are just looking for some words to use, but in their mind doesn’t really seem to act that way—inspiration is not what their mind seems to derive.

There might be a few areas of exceptions here, of course. I am just continuing to think aloud. Top athletes (like Michael Jordan) may perhaps actually inspire the potential top athletes. But the phenomenon does not carry over more broadly into all fields of productive endeavour. And, for that matter, even among athletes, top money-makers don’t necessarily inspire the potentially best athletes, anyway. Think: who is not inspired by Sachin Tendulkar? And then, think: but who all athletes are¬†inspired, in the real sense of the term, also by all those other millionaire cricketers? And then, also think: what makes people want to top, say, the carom tournaments or represent India in hockey team? Why does the great amount of money present in cricket still fails to inspire them to go to cricket? So, when it comes to inspiration, the top money-makers don’t inspire others, top performers do. … Indeed, it’s probably only in the finance and finance-dominated fields that top money-makers might also be the most inspiring people—I don’t know, but that could easily to be the case. In most other fields, the correlation simply does not hold good. Performance “out-inspires” money. And not because of any dichotomy the element of statism introduces, but simply as a fact of the human nature.

So, if the intent is reversing the bad cultural trends, Dr. Binswanger could have advocated honoring the most productive ones—and stopped there. But he went further, and made the issue conceptually narrower, by focusing on income as the criterion. And that’s where I disagree. Just the way he fights collectivism by taking the battle to a more fundamental level, that of ethics (altruism vs. egoism), similarly, he could have taken the suggestion to a bit more fundamental level, and advocated the most productive ones, instead of the richest ones. The former are the best candidates to appreciate the goal of bringing about a cultural change for the better, anyway—the latter may or may not be (and in today’s mixed economy, often are not).

People wouldn’t mind (or even care) if Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs get honored—or at least get all those tax exemptions, which too is what Dr. Binswanger suggests—so long as they could see that the actual productive geniuses also were getting honored, in fact a relatively greater number of them.

At a personal level, I don’t care if Mr. Forbes gets honored by the government or receives tax exemptions—so long as both Dr. Binswanger and I get 100% tax exemption on all our respective incomes, whatever these may be. That’s the bottom-line.

Otherwise, since the statists and collectivists aren’t going to reduce the government spending ahead of all that cultural change even if they accept Dr. Binswanger’s suggestion, what, effectively, he ends up doing is asking me to shell out even more income tax out of my income, in order to subsidize the top money-“makers” of today’s. And, why? Because they are productive geniuses, that’s why. Tough luck.

Now, that, really, is the bottom line.

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Update: I could locate Ayn Rand’s take on the middle class. She uses even stronger words—strong enough that no additional emphasis is necessary!:

“A nation‚Äôs productive‚ÄĒand moral, and intellectual‚ÄĒtop is the middle class. It is a broad reservoir of energy, it is a country‚Äôs motor and lifeblood, which feeds the rest.”
–Ayn Rand

See the excerpts here [^].


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A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “kai din se mujhe, kabhi sapano mein..”
Singers: Hemlata and Shailendra Singh
Music: Ravindra Jain
Lyrics: Ravindra Jain

[May be I will come back and streamline this writing a bit.]


My Current Study and Research Plans. Also, Seeking a Little Research Funding…

0. This again is a post that grew out of my reply [^] to a comment by Arjen Dijksman [^].

So, here is my study + research plan (as of today):

1. Finish reading Whittaker’s “A History of Theories of Aether and Electricity.” Write brief notes (for myself).

After subsequent comment by Arjen, I am also adding Maxwell’s “Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism” as well as his “Matter and Motion.”

2. Finish reading Griffith’s Electrodynamics. No emphasis on solving problems.

3. Then, implement a toy FDTD (simplest problems, but in 3D, just for better understanding—I understand everything better once I make a running program out of it).

4. Possibly at this time, write a paper showing the relation between my approach and EM wave propagation. Use it to simulate light, now also with angular momentum (i.e. a cone in 3D after diffraction).

It would be great if folks at Princeton/Harvard or other places can generate detailed photon detection events data, for empirical comparisons.

In this context, I may mention that I have located the suppliers of the required experimental apparatus, and find that a certain basic version of the apparatus is within a few lakhs of Rupees.

I wonder if I write an email to Vinod Khosla, asking him to gift me this equipment (with a written understanding that as soon as I finish my experimentation, the equipment goes to an IIT or engineering college of his choice for permanent ownership), whether he will honor the request or not.

Mind you, the current photon theory is a product of several Nobel laureates, none of who could resolve those aspects of the quantum wave-particle duality paradox that I have (in my mind, all the aspects). As stated earlier in a separate post, my approach leads to empirically verifiable predictions concerning the transient dynamics of photon propagation. These are new predictions. The proposed experiments will be crucial in determining which theory is right—the existing mainstream theory is right or mine.

Thus, this is definitely a very important and fundamental study, something that someone like Mr. Khosla cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be ashamed of sponsoring. So, there really is something solid here for Mr. Khosla to think about. The total funds required are less than $10,000 or so—not much going by the size of funds he can invest.

Also, if you can suggest anyone else (apart from Mr. Khosla, that is), please drop me a line. Thanks in advance.

(Please, don’t suggest me Bill Gates. Or the Perimeter Institute. Or the Kavli Institute. Etc. This is not about platform-, nation- wars. This is a simple thought. Mr. Khosla is of Indian origin. He has made it big. He funds projects in India. I have been in the Silicon Valley for a few years. I have no comparable connections, or rather, possibilities of connection, with any of the others. It’s as simple as that. So, please keep your suggestions realistic. Thanks.)

5. Soon after finishing reading Griffith (ED), also finish reading a good special relativity text. I do plan to finish Resnick, and also French & Taylor. But these may be too elementary.

If you have any suggestions, drop a line.

I have a definite theoretical idea in mind for the same physics as covered by special relativity. May be write an article detailing it. (Always possible: A simulation to go with it).

6. Finish taking notes of QM books up to the level of (in apparently increasing order of “difficulty”) Scherrer, Liboff, Griffith, and then, Shankar.

I think it might make sense to first finish just one book and then look up others. I am still not sure which one it has to be. I am inclined towards Liboff, but find also Scherrer tempting for the purpose.

I will not be solving all (or even a majority of) problems at this time, though.

7. Immediately after: Write an initial paper detailing theory + simulation for electron diffraction/interference. Provide contrasts to existing theory.

It would be wonderful if detailed empirical data of Tonomura’s experiment can be had for comparison.

I am not going to press Mr. Khosla for funding this part, though. But for the photons experiment, I think, the request would be both reasonable and within Mr. Khosla’s charitable activities budget. [You don’t know me. I would have gone ahead and bought the equipment on my own, except for the fact that I still have debts arising from my 6–7 years of unemployment + the expense for my heart bypass surgery (borne purely through personal loans).]

8. I initially thought that with my day-job commitments and schedule, I could cover up to point 5 here, at most point 6, by this year-end. But Arjen thinks that it is overambitious. On second thoughts, I agree with him.

Anyway, that’s what my plan looks like, as of today. … Someone has said: “plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

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A Song I Like
(Marathi/Konkani) “ago pori, sambal dariyaalaa toophaan aaayalay bhaari…”
Singers: Pushpaa Pagdhare and Rafi Mohammad
Music: Shrikant Thakare
Lyrics: Vandana Vitankar