20-2021 Don’t look before you leap #2

Don’t look before you leap #2

Dont look before you leap #1

It was sometime in 1998. India had still not entered the Internet like we see today, or rather the Internet had not entered India like we see it today. There was still no public or private enterprise giving access to the Internet. The communication infrastructure was in an unbelievably pathetic state. Not every house had a phone connection. We were still living in a world of fixed landline phones and snail mail technology.

IEEE started activities vigorously in Hyderabad, at about the same epoch. It was necessary to reach out to as many people as possible. The w-w-web was found to be an inexpensive but effective option. I proposed voluntarily to create a presence for IEEE (India Council) and IEEE Hyderabad Section on the w-w-web. As usual, I did not look or hesitate before I decided to take the leap. There were of course many unseen and unknown hurdles which could have ruined my dream.

I recall some of the major obstacles which came my way:

0. I knew I was developing a high-visibility, long-lasting product for an audience of highly competent professionals. So I had to be extra careful at ever step. All the work had to be done by myself, single-handed, without any help from anybody. Web technology itself was not known to many people at that time.

1. Internet access was through remote terminals connected to the server via shell access. Familiarity with command line tools was a very helpful skill. Dial-up modems using slow, unreliable phone lines were the only choice we had.

2. Web technology itself was in HTML 3.x age. The browser I had to use was a purely text-oriented one : Lynx. The browser had many limitations, it could not even parse tables (or frames). No graphics, no colours and none of the fancy features commonly used today by everyone.

3. We had to be contended with dial up modems (over pulse-based telephone lines using ATDP commands). The mail client available was only mutt. Only serial-line protocols e.g. kermit were available (at least to me) for downloads/uploads.

4. Very little scope for browsing and obtaining online help. No way to Google for answers you didnt know.

5. Content for populating the website had to be collected and organised from scratch, almost all alone.

In spite of all the above obstacles, I managed to create fairly exhaustive websites for IEEE India Council and IEEE Hyderabad Section. This achievement received appreciation from all users, and also recognition by IEEE Headquarters in the form of an international award presented at Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). The citation said “for providing excellent websites for IEEE India Council and other Indian Sections”. I am proud to note that IEEE Hyderabad led IEEE India to find a place on the web. This was further confirmed by another award from IEEE for outstanding achievements and contributions

The seed I sowed on 1998, has grown to be a lovely tree and is now helping many activities of IEEE in India.

This is one more evidence of the power of positive thinking, and taking the leap without hesitation.

partha

Anti-climax :: I had to discontinue my 35 year old relationship with IEEE, because of a humiliating/insulting gesture by the Chairman of IEEE Hyderabad Section. They say “the axe may forget, but the tree cannot”.

*****

17-2021 Do’nt look before you leap !

leap-manSounds counter-intuitive to what they taught you at school ? It is not always a good idea to “look before you leap”. You may keep looking and decide not to leap. You may give up even before trying.

Looking back, as I blow my own trumpet, 41 years after my bold step, I would never have thought I would succeed. I would not even have tried. Thank GOD, I did’nt look or hesitate. All options were stacked up against me when I took up a mission to do my PhD, in France (Grenoble):

  1. I was young, immature and inexperienced. I worked in an alien land. I knew nothing about their culture and customs, except a sparse smattering of their language. To make matters worse, the weather and the diet were not the ones I had grown up with. I had to live a frugal life, within a modest scholarship/allowance.
  2. Those were the primitive days of computation, aka “the stone-age of computing”. We struggled with stand-alone computers which were programmed with punched cardpunched cards. How many of you have seen or used punched cards for programming computers ? I have.
  3. How many of you have worked on a real “teletype” terminal from Teletype Corporation ? I have. teletype
  4. How many of you have used a punched paper-tape to boot up your computer ? I have.
  5. I had no idea of what I had to achieve, nor how to go about it.
  6. It took several months of groping around, to zero-in on the specific problem I had to attempt. A lucky incident gave me the clue on which way I had to go.
  7. Access to essential devices like a photocopier was rare or was very limited.
  8. There was no Internet or web. I spent several days in the library thumbing through hundreds of journals and perhaps thousands of articles, and copying/taking notes by hand.
  9. Getting a reprint of a publication/paper involved writing a request (on a postcard) and sending it to the author by post. It would take a week or ten days or more for the letter to reach its destination, and another ten days for the reply to reach me. Add to this, the time it took for the author to notice my request and send me the reprint (if he/she wished to).
  10. There was no email. There was no way to ask queries, give/receive feedback, get updates or news.
  11. There were no laser printers of the kind we see everywhere today. My thesis was the first to be typed on an IBM golf-ball typewriter (a remarkable innovation in those days). IBM_golf-ball . Changing the font or the characters-set involved changing the “golf ball” under use.
  12. No presentation software or LCD projectors were available. All presentations were made using transparent acetate foils projected using a back-lit overhead projector. My foils were prepared using a flat-bed Tektronics plotter (considered as a glorious innovation in those days) !
  13. There were no word-processors around. The tool called LaTeX was made available much after I had completed my thesis. LaTeX is today’s defacto tool for writing theses and technically profound documents. The technology I used was limited to a pencil, cutting and pasting text exactly the way it meant literally.
  14. Writing a Ph D thesis in formal French needs much more than a working knowledge of that language. This was to be followed by a much more stressful and frightening experience of standing
    in front of a jam-packed amphi-theatre and an eminent jury and defending your work (in French).

Luckily, it all went off well. I would not have taken the leap, if I had known all these obstacles before hand. Thank GOD, I did not look before I took the plunge. I did not fall on my face.

In fact, an unprecedented and dramatic event helped people realise the practical relevance and importance of my thesis. I now know why they say “Fortune favours the bold”.

All I had to do was to keep my eyes open and tenaciously keep up the effort. Reminds me of the famous story about G B Dantzig. That is the power of positive thinking, or rather not thinking at all about the possible hurdles you may have to clear.

08-2021 Lessons a pencil can teach us !

Lessons a pencil can teach us !

A young boy was watching his grandmother writing on a book. He asked her what she was writing.

His grandmother stopped writing and said to her grandson:
I am writing a story, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using.
I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up.’

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special.
‘But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve seen!’

“That depends on how you look at things. It has seven qualities which, if you manage to adopt them, will make you a happy person who is always at peace with the world.”

  1. First quality: You must never forget that there is a hand guiding you. We call that hand God / almighty / supreme power and He always Guides us according to His Will.
  2. Second quality: Now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpener. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, it is much sharper.
    So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.
  3. Third quality: The pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes.
    This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the right path.
  4. Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.
  5. Fifth quality: It always leaves a mark.
    In just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in every action of yours.
  6. Sixth quality : It gets shorter and shorter with use…. so also life.
    Make the most while it lasts.
  7. Seventh quality: It writes till the very end.
    Be useful and productive till your last day on this mother Earth
  8. ***

02-2021 : A nightmare in broad daylight — AXIS BANK ATM

It happened in broad daylight at about 0930, on Sunday, 25 April 2021, at the ATM of AXIS BANK on Old Airport Road, Bowenpally (ATM #APCN69811) .



As I was busy withdrawing cash, a middle-aged man enters the ATM from behind me, in spite of a clear sticker on the gate that only one person is allowed to enter at a time. His intentions became clear from what followed. When I started objecting and asked him to stay outside, he created a loud and aggressive ruckus, obviously to confuse me and divert my attention. Suddenly, he pounced on me and tried to snatch the money which had just popped out of the ATM. By instinct , I resisted and prevented him from grabbing my money. Frustrated by not being able to get what he wanted, he punched hard on my nose 3-4 times. This resulted in a fracture in the nasal bridge bone and very serious injury to my eye. Seeing the blood and also seeing that people had gathered outside, he quietly slipped out and fled the scene.

AXIS BANK ATMOf course, I called up the police and lodged a formal complaint along with what is called a MLC (Medico-legal Certificate) from a reputed hospital nearby. Now the football match between the police and others will start. The Police has other things to do.

The bank — AXIS Bank, obviously could’nt care less. The Bank is busy dilly dallying and inventing lame excuses and diplomatically-worded hollow promises.

If AXIS BANK is serious about customer safety, all that they have to do is implement some simple security measures. Here are a few suggestions to make roadside ATMs safer for users like me:

  1. Introduce a mechanism by which the ATM cabin can be bolted from inside. It should be possible to open it only from inside, or by authorised personnel, from outside (using a special tool).
    Such latches are common in the toilets of all trains and planes.
  2. Provide a PANIC /SOS button plus a hooter inside the ATM cabin. The hooter/siren itself may also be placed outside the ATM cabin. Often, mobile phones may not be of help, since the culprit can easily snatch it while you are trying to dial for help.
    Such “alarm chains” are provided in all passenger wagons in all trains.
  3. A hotline from the SOS/PANIC button to the nearest branch of the bank, or to the nearest police station, will help locate the distressed ATM easily and rush rescue teams to the ATM.
  4. Install appropriate sensors to detect the entry of more than one person into the ATM cabin and activate the panic hooter/siren.
  5. Provide CCTV cameras which monitor the street outside.
  6. Display prominently an emergency 24×7 phone number. And ensure that help arrives urgently. The 12 digit numbers being used now is of no value in an emergency. Use a number of not more than 3 digits like 100, 108
    The above emergency SOS/PANIC number should be displayed prominently in the ATM cabin, as well as on the ATM monitor screen, and should be visible from outside the ATM cabin.
  7. Introduce sentries/guards and patrolling squads at all ATMs
  8. Introduce a more closer and meaningful relationship and arrangements with the local police and law enforcing agents.
  9. Regularly audit safety/security of all ATMs. Publish all security breaches and incidents and the remedial actions taken.
  10. Introduce pronto all other security arrangements not listed above.
  11. Adequately compensate the victims for any loss or bodily injury or death
  12. Provide insurance cover to ALL its customers for incidents like this.

I expect AXIS BANK (and all other banks) to announce the steps they have taken to improve safety and security for their customers. The bank is morally responsible to ensure the safety and security of all its customers within its premises (including all ATM cabins) .

***

PS: Please forward this message to your bank and to all your friends. Take care and stay safe. You can also send your suggestions and comments to drpartha@gmail.com

Your safety is in your hands.

04-2020 Quand je ne serai plus la …..

I wrote this post when I saw the latin phrase Memento Mori (Remember that you will die).
Just after that, my friend passed away and I learnt about that by accident, only four years later.

It can happen any time. It will happen to all. When my time comes, I do not want my friends to wonder why Partha does not answer mails or phone calls. I usually answer all my mails promptly and regularly. There must be a reason, if you do not get a response/reaction from me. If this ever happens to you, for an unreasonably long time :

  1. Send one or two reminders to my main/regular ID drpartha@gmail.com, and then try my fall-back mail ID
  2. Take a look at my twitter account https://twitter.com/profpartha (@profpartha)
    I usually post some stuff there regularly, at least 2-3 times a week. When the tweets stop coming, the inevitable has happened.
  3. Call up home by phone to find out.
  4. Find out from my next of kin :
    • premap2@gmail.com
    • parishramp@gmail.com
    • prayathna@gmail.com
  5. inform all our common friends and contacts
    (send this page to all who might be interested in knowing about me)

Thank you in advance, since I cannot thank you when the time comes.

Adieu,

partha

PS:

THIS ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE ON 2020-02-10

01-2020 Macau we will never forget you.

My most pleasant memories always lead me to Macau (erstwhile Portugal colony in current China), with all my family on an assignment with United Nations University.
macau
chopsticksWe decided to take souvenirs which would be useful for us always. We chose two such amazing pieces of Chinese culture (and of course plenty of porcelains): the Abacus, and Chinese chopsticks. We (my children and I) even spent several weeks trying to master the abacus. We took an abacus for each one of us.

My wife joined us when we had training sessions on the use of chopsticks !abacus We bought a pair for each one of us.

We will always remember our visit to Macau.

I wish we had an “action replay” button in our life. Till then, Macau will be in my dreams every day.

15-2019 Meet my best friend…..Nobody

Meet my best friend…..Mr. Nobody

Nobody knows who I am
Nobody cares for what I do
Nobody bothers about me
Nobody understands how I feel
Nobody wants me around
Nobody walks with me while I cross the desert
Nobody stands by me when I face the storm
Nobody thinks that I am his friend
Nobody warns me when I am nearing the edge of a cliff
Nobody cares if I am dead or alive
Nobody will bring flowers to my grave

PS : Nobody reads such lamentable blogs
(reprinted from an earlier blog of mine dated 2011-05-07 )

3-2019 Reaching out

It is easy to be in touch with me :

You can email me at: drpartha@gmail.com or you can use this innovative contact form hosted on this same selfpress site.

Make use of any of my outreach initiatives :

You may know me already from any of my non-intrusive, non-invasive way of reaching out (listed below) . All this, is in addition to a huge collection of informative web pages located at:
https://drpartha.org.in/

handshake I also contribute to and maintain these blogs:

  1. For personal news and experiences
  2. For academic events and activities
  3. For personal rants and trolls
  4. For my views and opinions on social issues (now merged with the above blog)

You can easily visit all the above and also subscribe to the above blogs and be updated regularly.

There is also a huge collection of tutorial documents available for download under a CC-BY-SA license.

His outreach efforts include several destinations around the globe.

And, regular tweets on his twitter page keep you updated about his recent interests, in addition to leading you to several useful resources.

You can enjoy all this, at your own will and whenever you feel like it. You are free to take it, or leave it, or ignore it altogether.

***