June 30, 2007

Dilbert - Engineer and an Egg Dream!

Dilbert Pick-of-the-day!

June 26, 2007

Anyone ready to Challenge me in doing this feat?

Hop into your car (be it a Maruti, a Honda City or a Mercedez)...Turn On the ignition switch....drive it stylishly into the city roads....spot a nice vehicle (like a Mahindra & Mahindra Jeep or a Eicher Tractor)....set your car right behind this mini truck....Smile!.....transfer your weight to the accelerator peddle and ram the mini truck with your car :-)

Wondering what I'm talking about? Ahh, thats something I did this morning - rammed a mighty Mahindra Bolero with my baby Hyundai Santro! No....it was not to find a place in the Guinness Book!...it was a road accident.

Having said that, an accident report is never complete without the cops, and in India, a story that involves cops and accidents is never complete without money! To put it in simple terms, cops in India are closely associated with bribe. And, I had my first experience (hopefully the last!) today.

It was about 09:40Hrs when the accident happened. Both the vehicles, my car and the monstrous vehicle I'd hit, were made to clear the road and we had to park the vehicle on the road side. I was filled with shock and darkness on seeing my lilliputian car's front portion damaged like a boxer's face. The bonnet was smashed and so was the front bumper and the headlights. It was about 10:00Hrs when the police investigation team arrived at the spot and noted down the details of both the vehicles involved. A cop from the investigation team then got into my car and we drove down to the local police station.

The police station investigation cell was nothing but a thatched room with walls made of a material that had more of earth and less of bricks. The sunlight entered the room through the entrance door only. The room adjacent to this cell was a resting room for cops - found 4-5 cops in there resting (seemed to me like four buffaloes in a contamination bin). I was asked to wait outside this cell for more than an hour. Its been a cloudy day today, and the humidity was in its highs. I was called in at around 11:10Hrs.

The Sub-Inspector of Police for that jurisdiction asked me to sit on a bench on the other side of his wooden table. This was his opening statement - "Sir, where are you working?"...to which I said "I work at Alwarpet". (Not getting what he wanted to know) The Sub-Inspector again asked "Which company are you working?"...and I said "IBM". He immediately asked me "What role do you play?"....(Ahh, he has finally narrowed down!)..and I told him "I am a programmer and lead a small team" (to underplay. Giving my real role will raise the bribe-bar!). Then he told me "Sir, there are two options - either you can go to the court and pay a fine, which will take you a lot of time and money. I can help you in a better way too - you can pay the fine here and finish the formality in 5minutes". (Ah, that revealed the money-hungry cop) I told him that I would prefer to finish the formality at the very moment in the station. (That brought a smile on the cop's face) He said "Okay Sir, you will need to pay a fine (for a cop, this term that refers to bribe) of INR 2000." I ended up paying the fine.

This was not all! Then came the driver of the vehicle ahead of me - "Please do something for the damage. My vehicle owner will otherwise take it from my salary"...I told him that I can pay a mx of INR 500 (as it was just a step that was broken in his vehicle). But the driver insisted that it would cost more and that the owner would deduct the amount from his salary....he claimed that he was the bread runner for his family. (Oh, that triggered the humanitarian in me) I agreed to pay him INR 1000.

Thats not all! The cop was now wondering how to make more money! He then took that driver into task for not having an insurance for the vehicle (which seemingly expired in February this year). By this time, I had received my Accident Report Certificate, which I needed to claim motor insurance for the repair. Opportunity strikes only once! I told the cops and made my way out of that dingy investigation cell!

Net-Net, I had to spend INR 3000 for bribe and compensation (which will never get into the hands of the driver!) for getting a certificate of accident. I take this opportunity to give a few tips to the readers (in case you ever happen to fall into such a situation, which You Will hopefully Not!):
  1. Firstly, stay really cool. This helps you tackle the situation really well
  2. Approach the other part involved in the accident, and propose for a compromise (if you have hit them from behind) else ask him if he will bear the damage (if you were hit from behind)
  3. On agreement, just say a big NO to the cops (who will manage to appear in the scene from nowhere), and tell them that you both have agreed on a compromise
  4. Call up your vehicle dealership/ service station and explain them the situation
  5. Drive down to your service station after duly settling the damage with the other party involved
Thanks to Hari for sharing these tips (he just called me to tell this :-) )!
Had I known this earlier, I could've potentially saved INR 2000.

June 25, 2007

A Tricky Trick - Subliminal Messaging - Its now in Indian Politics!

Power of the subconscious mind is often not considered with enough seriousness by most of us. In 1957, market researcher James Vicary claimed that quickly flashing messages on a movie screen, in Fort Lee, New Jersey, had influenced people to purchase more food and drink. Vicary coined the term subliminal advertising and formed the Subliminal Projection Company based on a six-week test. Vicary claimed that during the presentation of the movie Picnic he used a tachistoscope to project the words "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Hungry? Eat popcorn" for 1/3000 of a second at five-second intervals. Vicary asserted that during the test, sales of popcorn and Coke in that New Jersey theater increased 57.8 percent and 18.1 percent respectively.

Vicary's claims were promoted in Vance Packard's book The Hidden Persuaders, and led to a public outcry, and to many conspiracy theories of governments and cults using the technique to their advantage. The practice of subliminal advertising was subsequently banned in the United Kingdom and Australia, and by American networks and the National Association of Broadcasters in 1958.

Today, I sense something very similar to this happening in Chennai, India. DMK, the ruling party in the state has practically covered the city with posters of its supremo M.Karunanidhi and his son M.K.Stalin. Those hoardings which housed advertisements of Honda City and MRF, is today brandishing the pictures of the DMK Supremo and his son. This reminded me of the famous infamous art of advertising that used Subliminal Messaging.

With the elections approaching, the DMK has resorted to this never-before mass scale poster/ banner trick. People in the city notice these posters every time they hit the roads on their way- to office, to school, to shopping, to home, etc. Little do people realize the fact that their eyes captured the pictures of these two people more than the number of traffic signals.

I am personally against this kind of a marketing strategy, especially in the field of politics. I hope people in the city realize this and consciously take decisions when it comes to the D-Day - The State Elections. I wish this kind of political marketing is banned in the country.

Dilbert - Chronic Cubicle Syndrome II

Dilbert Pick-of-the-day!

June 21, 2007

10 Days . Zero (close to) Running . Zero Blogging

This best describes the past 10 days. I've often discovered this in me - Lost in thoughts, daubed with emotions, days filled with introspection. Neither do I know why this happens, nor do I know if this is a common happening in the lives of many other people.

The one thing I like about these days is that it makes me a more 'positive' being. My thinking get much clearer after these days. I sometimes compare this to a 'maintenance period'. The mind is a machine that works better and faster than any physical machine created by man....even the computer. When software houses plan a maintenance shutdown to these physical machines once every quarter, why not accept the fact that this mental machine needs a 'pit stop' once in a month?

I've often witnessed myself being more resourceful and creative after this 'refueling' exercise (which is something I've never been able to gain control over!...its how the firmware was coded :-)..."We are programmed to receive")

Having said that, I hope to get myself going in all spheres of my daily life now on....until my next 'pit stop'. Kudos to the most fascinating creation of God - The Mind!

June 11, 2007

ECR Marathon . July 15th 2007 . 30 kilometers

Fellow Runners...

Game to do a 30K marathon? How about running alongside the Bay of Bengal? Sounds interesting?
If so, here is something for you. We, at Chennai Runners, are organizing a 30K marathon on the 15th July. This is going to start from ECR Toll Gate and continue till Mahabalipuram.

For more information on this, please watch this space. You can optionally get information from my blog too.

Stay Tuned!

Chennai Runners . The Hindu . Caught in the act!

The Hindu featured Chennai Runners in action!

We had The Hindu meeting us yesterday at Anna University, after our regular Sunday 15K run down our Classic Route. Here are some pictures of the team we took yesterday at Anna University:

(Above)From L to R: Jayakanthan, Ram,Anbu, Ravi, Sundar, Shahid, Karthik (me), Senthil, Hari and KK

Run is fun!

June 09, 2007

Running . Chennai Runners . News

Chennai Runners in the news. This is something we've been trying to do, to spread the message of Running, and the inherent fun associated with it. There has been a lot of questions and opinions on why we need to hit the news. Here are my mentations on the 'need' for media support.

What is our mantra?
  1. We want to spread a message - The fun in running, for a reason - Healthy living
  2. We underpin the message with our activity - Running
  3. We want more people to consciously think of running as a daily routine
How do we make Chennai chant the mantra of "Healthy Living"?
  1. Reach out to people living across the length and breadth of the city
  2. Accomplish the above by running in different parts of the city - Chennai Runners tshirt and caps will help here
  3. Why do we want to spread "Chennai Runners" group, than just running? - Running, if done without prior experience, can lead to injuries. We offer support and mentoring to people who want to start running
  4. How serious are we with running and this message? - Nike supports us! That itself speaks a thousand words
  5. How do we spread this mantra, and our existence? - Media comes to play here
What is in it for the media? Why cover/ support us?
  1. They get to spread a very good message
  2. They get to advertise their brand
  3. The sponsors (which the media will garner) will get to advertise with a message that they support a cause
What is in it (media coverage) for us?
  1. We want to do a long run, and we need logistic support (water, refreshment, etc)
  2. We get to spread a message (the core reason why we started to run - Fun filled way to stay healthy)
  3. We are also supporting a bunch of kids who run at the SDAT (Sports Development Authority of Tamilnadu) grounds - Media relations can help us highlight the efforts put in by these kids - which will helps us get them into a decent educational institute
Net-Net, run is fun....but we want many more Chennaiites to realize (and practice) this. We want these poor kids to get something noteworthy out of this exercise.

Lets run and lets make Chennai run with us..
Lets get ahead and lets help these kids get ahead..

Dear Reader,

Should this (fun-filled running) interest you, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me, or visit our website. Lets have fun, and live a healthy life!



June 08, 2007

The Art of Creative Thinking

There is this friend of mine who recently asked me a question that set me thinking. The question was a totally unexpected one. It went like - "Karthik, why do you blog? From Dilbert, Running and Eating to Business Studies and Technology...." - Thats an interesting question and a noteworthy observation :-)

Ever since the five point realization, blogging has become a habit more than a task to me. Blogging has given me an opportunity to express myself and my thoughts beyond boundaries. Being a deep thinker, its the challenge of expressing myself as always challenged me. Thoughts travel in the speed faster than that of light. Capturing them is always the challenge.

In electronic circuits, there is something called as a 'heat sink', which is used to absorb the heat dissipated by the components like resistors, capacitors, transistors, etc. This in turn helps the electronic components to function better and betters efficiency. This is precisely what blog does to this complex mind of mine. The feeling after blogging an article is awesome.

So that answers the first part of my friend's question "Karthik, why do you blog?". Now comes the tricky (and interesting) part - "From Dilbert, Running and Eating to Business Studies and Technology....". This can be answered in a nut-shell....but let me not do that.

If you have observed closely, you will find something thats common across these different topics - "Thoughts and/or Creativity". Thoughts and Creativity?...you may wonder. They are related to each other in multiple ways. Thoughts trigger Creativity and vice versa.

The Dilbert comic videos that you would see in my blog is one typical example of the above. They make you think of things you unknowingly did/ observed back at work, in a very different perspective. So is the case with running. Running is something we would dismiss as yet another human act or as yet another tiring activity. But running is something that rather can turn a person more creative. This is because it relieves the stress and also gives you that high.

When the mind is flooded with myriad thoughts, lesser margin is set aside for the inset of creativity. Creativity comes when thoughts get filtered and structured. Imagine going to a press meeting unprepared. The mind tends to lose cognizance of the situation when random questions are posted by the media. The same press meeting will turn out to be a good advertising event, if one prepares before hand. Its all about a stressed mind (more creative) and a relaxed mind (less creative).

"Structured thoughts (and its outcome) helps one lessen the workload, hence creating space and time for creativity and thinking.

PS: If you've observed something in this article - there has been an attempt not to use "I" for myself. Just to be a standout from the rest of my articles

June 05, 2007

Chennai Runners all set to go!

We at Chennai Runners have finally come out with our poster. Here is a copy for the internet readers. I greatly appreciate if you could pin a copy of this poster @ your office notice boards too! (Please buzz me incase you need any help)

June 03, 2007

"Search Chennai" - A Web 2.0 Portal

There are a zillion websites and web pages that offer links to various places and areas of interest in Chennai. But most of these links lead to pages that most often are outdated. What if we had a website that hosted data and information about ins and outs of Chennai - and managed by Chennaiites! ? What if Chennaiites could collaborate to both, consume and refine information! ?

"Search Chennai" is for the Newbies in the city of Chennai, or for those who are planning to migrate to Chennai from an outside location (viz., R2I). Search Chennai is a Web 2.0 portal that is designed to serve people with content and information that has been populated and refined by Chennaiites. Its a Wiki that has just been rolled out on PBWiki's powerful Wiki hosting service.

I will need help from Chennaiites in populating the Wiki with information and data. I see many people put up some really useful information in their blogs and other personal web spaces. It will be great if you could add the same to this portal too. Some basic categories of information has been created as placeholders under the Quicklinks section on the Wiki main page.

I also request everyone of you to please forward this link (http://searchchennai.pbwiki.com/) to as many Chennaiites you know. This is an effort to effectively create and harvest information about Chennai. I look forward to your support.

I also appreciate comments - good and/or bad - to this idea. Thank you very much!

June 02, 2007

The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters

Beautiful is better than ugly.

Explicit is better than implicit.

Simple is better than complex.

Complex is better than complicated.

Flat is better than nested.

Sparse is better than dense.

Readability counts.

Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.

Although practicality beats purity.

Errors should never pass silently.

Unless explicitly silenced.

In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.

There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.

Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.

Now is better than never.

Although never is often better than *right* now.

If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.

If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.

(Thanks to Dorai for sharing these lovely verses!)

Web Server in 50 lines of code - A Must Read

Here is something wonderful that I recently read - Roll Your Web server in 50 lines of Python code. This is really fascinating to me for two reasons -
  1. The very reason that a basic server is written in just 50 lines
  2. The potency and power of the Python programming language (its an Open Source!)
I urge you to take a look into this article - I'm sure its something that will fascinate you too!

I've started to get my hands dirty with the "serpentine" language!

MIT's OpenCourseWare

I thought many people knew about MIT's OpenCourseWare. But since many people have expressed ignorance to the presence of such "Open Source" course materials from MIT Sloan , I thought of publishing this here.

MIT OCW is a large-scale, Web-based publication of the educational materials from the MIT faculty's courses. This unique initiative enables the open sharing of the MIT faculty's teaching materials with educators, enrolled students, and self-learners around the world. MIT OCW provides users with open access to the syllabi, lecture notes, course calendars, problem sets and solutions, exams, reading lists, even a selection of video lectures, from 1550 MIT courses representing 34 departments and all five of MIT's schools. The initiative will include materials from virutally all courses by the year 2008.

This opens up a lot of possibilities for those seeking self-education or even just curiousness about what a Massachusetts Institute of Technology course is like.

Of course the catches are 1) No certification or degrees awarded and 2) No access to faculty. The only thing needed is internet access. Some translations are available.

Check out the CourseWare here.

June 01, 2007

0 to 21.1 km in 7!

No, I'm not going to talk about a race bike. Its about the man who did a half marathon from "Zero running " in 6-7 weeks...

Yes, thats Ravi for you. Works in a company that I used to work for. Runs with a team that I am a part of. Runs like a seasoned marathoner who has completed a dozen marathons. It was my first long run on Sunday, the 27th May 2007, after a respite of more than a month. I was almost felt like a tyro to running. This was when I met Ravi, a soft spoken enthusiastic runner.

Not having run for a long time, I thought of picking up someone who would give me company through the run. I thought Ravi was the right choice, as I knew he was quiet new to the group. The run began and I couldn't make after about 6kms.....Ravi was far ahead of me. I quit the decided route and did my quota at the Anna University grounds and got back to our starting point at CP Ramasamy road. Was surprised to see Ravi reach the spot in 1.5 hours - covering 8miles! That was an amazing timing!

This is when I realized that Ravi had completed the Bangalore Midnight Marathon just over a week back. He had never run before in his life. He joined the team and also completed his first half marathon (esp. a Midnight Marathon) in 2.5 Hours in just a few months time!

Running is sheer Fun. A fun-filled activity to stay fit!

If you've ever thought that running is for the PT Ushas or Michael Johnsons, its time you gave it another thought! It is indeed for anyone who wants to have fun!

The spirit of running is not only in marathons or races, its also in the short errands to the store next street! Think about it!

Chennai Runners now runs on the Internet!

Yes, Chennai Runners has started to run on the internet - We have our own website!!

Chennai Runners is a group of enthusiastic and fun loving runners (beginners to marathoners!). We do weekly runs in the southern part of Chennai and also unique Friday "Fun Runs" in a place that is located in central Chennai.

No...we are not kidding! Nike and FitnessOne have come forward to support us in spreading the message of running to stay fit...and ofcourse the Fun in our Run!

For more information on what we do and how we do, do check out our website at www.ChennaiRunners.com

Run! Thats the easiest way to stay Fit!