Nice article on Obama's post-partisan economic thinking

Being the arm-chair marco-economist that I am, I keep trying to understand what makes economies work and how history is an effect of economic activity.

I found this article on IHT on Obama's economic thinking to be quite a good read.

I particularly enjoyed the comparisons made to prior economic policy and his approaches to solving the shortcomings in earlier models.

Superstition in the workplace (was It happens only in India.)

Just read this today while flipping through unread e-mail. This was sent by a person (obviously) in charge of arranging for food & drink to all employees working in an office where I used to work in Bangalore.

Subject: Grahana the Solar Eclipse
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2008 00:12:12 -0700
To: people in bangalore <e-mail address hidden>

Hi All,

Tomorrow there will be a solar eclipse between 3 and 6 PM. Since it is considered unhealthy to consume food during the eclipse no snacks or fruits will be provided between 3 and 6 PM. The coffee/tea vending machine will continue to be functional but employees may employ discretion in its use.

<name hidden>

I'm a little outraged (and would have complained if I were still working in that office) and a little stupefied.

I'm not sure on who's authority the person-in-charge was acting other than his own. I can understand that some suppliers might have has issues with serving food, but that should have then been explicitly mentioned as the reason for the non-supply of food.

The "employees may employ discretion" part I find really funny. I believe that people always exercise discretion in using the coffee machine -- I usually don't hit the brew button for entertainment.

The fact that I'm noticing this makes me worry if I'm slowly losing my connection to India.

High Resolution Displays

Today I got my laptop at work changed to something that supports 1400x1050 on a 287 mm wide screen (normal aspect ratio of 4:3). To my laptop I also have connected a 400x300 mm CRT monitor which supports up to 2048x1536 at 85 Hz.

A bit of math tells me that

1400dots * 25.4mm/inch / 287mm = 123.90 dpi
400mm * 123.90dpi / 25.4mm/inch = 1951.18 dots

My monitor actually supports a resolution of 1920x1440, giving me the best dpi match I've had since I started doing Xinerama.

What my monitor does is:

1920dots * 25.4mm/inch / 400mm = 121.92 dpi

Given that I can't use all the reported visible area on a CRT it actually is an even better match than the numbers speak of.

The big deal about the dpi matching is that fonts don't become bigger/smaller as I move windows from 1 screen to another. Also, also my font sizes and settings look equally good on both screens.

OTOH, a typical 17" LCD monitor which does 1280x1024 is usually 345 mm wide.

That gives:

1280dots * 25.4mm/inch / 345mm = 94.23 dpi

I am working at a 30% higher resolution than what is most common. When I say resolution I mean dpi and not just monitor screen pixel area.

One of the things that vi users say is lacking in emacs is support for anti-aliased fonts. I can't help concede that point.

However once you move your life to 123 dpi things change.

If you ever get a chance to use a 123 dpi screen, try this:

emacs -r --font "-*-bitstream vera sans mono-medium-r-*--*-*-100-100-*-*-*-*"

Now do you still really need AA? :D

Also, Serif fonts begin to start looking usable at these resolutions as well. At low dot resolutions Serif fonts like Times New Roman look a bit blurred.
  • Current Mood
    happy happy

End of a long trip

I'm sitting in the iway right outside Delhi Airport's domestic arrival terminal.

Before this over the course of the last few days I've been to Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Jaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar, Agra and Bikaner (Snaps coming soon)

I choose an afternoon flight back home so that I could take a look around the National Capital. However, after my all night drive from Bikaner to Jaipur I just don't have the energy.

I realized that traveling alone is a lot of fun -- it was something I've always wanted to do but never did till now. The good parts are that you do things at your own speed and have lot's of time to think about things that you would never be able to do if you were with company.

The bad part of course is when you're zapped and stuck in a hostile airport in a new city things can get very boring.

This airport is particularly hostile, the terminals are not internally connected and one end of the airport to the other is almost a kilometer long walk.

They won't let you in until 2 hours of your scheduled departure and you don't get anything to eat within the airport campus outside of the terminal buildings :(

There's not much around the airport from what I could gather -- I couldn't even find a newsstand.

Apart from that I regret having missed Alan Cox's talk today at FOSS, would have been great to hear him speak. They are not too many people in the world who have implemented and debugged a non-BSD derived implementation of TCP/IP.

On the whole it's been an action packed few days, trains running through the desert have been freezing cold in the early mornings -- I don't remember feeling that cold since I left the UK. Apparently, there are stretches that the train passed by that have minimum temperatures in the range of -6 degrees Celsius. Definitely not something that a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt get you through.

There Taj Mahal is simply magnificent as are some of the places in Udiapur. I think the Taj Mahal is a good reason for India to exist. A creation that beautiful needs to be protected -- something that didn't always happen
  • Current Music
    Take me home, country roads

Childhoods' End?

Childhoods' End -- Arthur C. Clarke

The master writer talks about how the human race re-integrates with the parent race and childhood as we know it has come to and end. I read this book a long time ago maybe sometime in 1996-97. I was too young to fully appreciate it but it has left a lasting impact on my mind.

Yet for most of us aliens don't cause the end of our own childhoods.

In response to anomalizer's post

The realness of our early life where most people moved towards a specific goal and knew that they would know if they got there has now be replaced by a kind of realness of early adult life. We know (some) what that we are working towards something but have no way of knowing when we got there. That why idiomatic goals replace real ones -- for example arwind has mentioned often marriage in his posts of late. Marriage is not a goal in its self. However the notion of marriage is an idiom for a number of other changes that come along with it. Resolving this IMO is a simple matter of doing what you did in your earlier years. Set definite goals for your self and set yourself a date for them. For example, if you want to find a better half set yourself that goal and *do* something about it. The truth is earlier our exams were forced upon us and we took them reasonably seriously, now those exams are no longer forced down our throats and we tend not to take them seriously. Suddenly we are left with a bunch of "goals" and yet we find that our life is drifting.

Where do we go from here? I have find my self drifting with increasingly frequency these days. Losing passion for my day job makes it worse. Presented with this situation I find that it helps to set yourself realistic goals and keep working towards them. It's alright if they don't revolve around love, money and power.
  • Current Music
    Bob Dylan - Mr. Tambourine Man

(no subject)

Getting a chance to blog after a long time.

I've had a really stressful and hard last 2-3 weeks at work. I've tried hard not to let that impact my personal life but succeeded only partially.

Some times when you work hard you tend to party a bit harder. I've been hungover more times in the than I would have liked to be and that's had a bad effect on the little time I have had off. Would really love to take a vacation at this time but I think I've got a few more things to finish off before that.

Over the last 6 months here I've developed a new set of work ethics which mostly relate to responsibility, ownership and a bunch of stuff that you would end up reading in one of those self-improvement books. However, all that has taken a lot of passion out of my work.

Situation -- A team/manager expects an engineer to do things in ways he/she doesn't necessarily agree with they end up in a deadlocked situation with neither of able to convince the other. It's a healthy thing. The problem is that unfortunately one person reports to the other.

Here's where my new ethos come in. Helped me out a bit, at another time I might have been fired for incompetence.

But I've started wondering what I'm doing programming for a living. I mean it's nice having all those qualities but really would like to be spending my time doing stuff I enjoy.

I find Hans Reiser's passion inspiring. Check out this interview. I would love to be that way. Time to abandon the paycheck? Sounds like the most exciting in months.

What is an engineer supposed to do?
  • Current Music
    Bob Dylan - Blowing in the Wind

Free as in 'free speech' and not 'free beer' -- think again?,1367,68144,00.html

Free beer recipe released under the Creative Commons license.

Sounds good to me.

But this raises some important questions in my mind. As much as I believe people should be allowed to take somebody else's creation an innovate on it, I also believe that people should be given a fair chance to profit from their own creation, else the motivation to create itself will be lost.

Where do we draw the line? If I invent something I feel I should be in a position to profit from it (right-wing). The law feels I should not be able to indefinitely profit from it (lefty law). Stallman would argue that I should not profit from the creation per se and instead make money distributing and consulting (left-wing).

The true economics of Stallman's model is hard to prove. And it carries a longer gestation period than the simple right-wing model.

Does it lead to more innovation -- no clear picture here either. Apple a company with a motive achieved more for GUI's on *nix than any open source effort.

GCC on the other hand sets a new standard for a portable compiler. Both ways work.

So what's the right thing to do? I guess we should leave the choice to the creator. What should the creator do?

In school, I used to be stingy about sharing things that I created/knew about. Whether it was code or the name of a good textbook I wouldn't let it out. By the time I entered college, I started sharing those things. It didn't make me poorer. But by that time, I had given up on the academic rat-race.

Maybe that's the problem - rat-races make people more selfish than they normally are? In a rat-race free world, would people give freely, at least that what does not make the giver poorer? When I think of it, I suppose that it does -- but the truth of the matter is we live in the world where, "I'm bigger/better/faster/richer/... than the rest of you" is a powerful motivator. Sport is about that too sometimes.

Sport actually provides and interesting example. When I play snooker (yes, I've moved on from pool) I can play to win or I can play to push my self to new limits. Playing to win depends on my opponent. If he's a push-over I manage to just about push him over. If my opponent is good, then I play well too. If I play to push myself to new limits I play well all the time. I've observed it personally. So in effect if I allow the rat-race concept to fade away and treat myself as the bar I play better on average.

Maybe that's what it is. People who struggle with self-belief tend to focus on their opponent, since it makes them feel better about themselves. People who are comfortable about themselves focus on the joy of doing the task at hand. It's a difference in mindset.

So what's the answer to the GPL vs. closed source debate? Closed-source might be better for people getting their feet wet. Gives them something to focus on until they hone their skill with the force. Once you are strong and confident -- that's when you can play for the sheer joy of playing the game.
  • Current Music
    Metallica - Sad but True