CS Sharada Prasad | My Blog
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Is routine the killer?

Please watch the video before you read further.

The journey is inspiring. The video communicates the charm of the experience quite well. The take away message of the video is emphasized in multiple times – routine is the enemy of time and it has to be disrupted. For the life to be called “well lived”, the brain should be turned on, all the time. The way to turn the brain on is to travel, to provide the brain with an external stimulation. I have some concerns regarding such an approach to life.

Routine is life to many of us. Many people have jobs that don’t pay well to save and travel, many have families that they cannot leave and go. A well lived life need not be a life where one is well traveled.

I love motorcycles. But I also understand the importance of doing journeys on a bicycle. Certain places are so beautiful that the only way to experience the cultural and natural landscape is to take more time to immerse ourselves. Cycling provides a great opportunity to do so. But doing long trips on bicycle is not everyone’s cup of tea. I admire and appreciate Jedidiah Jenkins effort in doing the whole trip on a bicycle. But one should also remember that travel is a new industry heavily promoted by capitalistic forces. The video urges people to travel but it does not take into consideration the damage such a travel can do to the environment. Not everyone has the time and stamina to bicycle.

What I prefer instead is developing a sense of gratitude for all that I already have. The brain can be conditioned through meditation and other spiritual practices to be constantly alert and stimulated. The mind can be trained to imagine and experience good things. Below is the video I recommend

What can we learn from Pitcher plants?

Pitcher plants stay in one place but hunt moving creatures by their art of lethal attraction. Some of the pitcher plants consume small rodents, snakes, and insects in whole. But not all of the plants nitrogen needs are met by the food it consumes. Hence it has evolved to attract tree shrews and some species of bats to use pitcher plant as a toilet bowl. The plant does not feed on these creatures as it needs their poop, a great fertilizer.

Hope the plant inspires us to rethink about the nutrients present in our own excreta.

The memory game

Star Trail, Mexico

Star Trail, Mexico

Many of my friends brag about their children’s capability to identify cars from a distance. Some are such experts that they can name a car just by its engine sound. I am impressed. I am glad that children have developed such memory. Even I was fascinated by, if not obsessed with,  cars during my childhood days. The list of cars was small Ambassador, Maruti 800, Fiat, Premier Padmini, and Contessa Classic. Hence identifying them was not considered as a memory prowess. Also, there was no way for us get to know about cars other than those that were on the streets. There were no weekly magazines dedicated to cars, no internet, no huge billboards with insecure men standing next to huge cars, no car games on the computer or smartphones.

Even Srushti, my niece, will start identifying cars and we might all start bragging about it. Identifying soon become a norm and not a talent. What would be nice for children (and elders) is to identify plants and trees around them, and the stars above them. I walk past trees without knowing their names. They are there in the same place all the time, smiling at me, and greeting me with their shade. But I am this rude person who does not care to even know their names. I take them for granted. I have been walking under the starlit sky ever since my birth. But I can hardly identify any constellation. I don’t know the birds those chirping birds or names of the moths and butterflies that hover over the flowers in my garden.

Unless I get connected to the nature around me, I might not observe the changes in it. I easily recognize the sickness in a friend but not in stranger. Nature should no longer remain a stranger to me. I want to be re-introduced to it through Srushti. I hope the two of us will be able to develop stronger bonds with nature. I hope we both realize how diverse nature is and how boring man-made things can get.

Open Defecation – Government is the culprit

Delhi Metro is an ambitious project costing thousands of crores. Yesterday I walked out of IIT-Delhi hostel gate and saw a group of workers working behind the barricade of Delhi Metro, near the flyover. It was about 6:15pm. I walked to the group of workers who were getting out of a huge pit. A brief conversation with them revealed the following.

They are migratory workers (nothing new). They have been living right next to the work site in tents. Contractor provides only water and electricity but no toilet facility. They defecate behind the nearby shrubs ( which is at least 400-600 meters from the tents they live in). I observed that one of the workers was living with a woman and a year old child. I just could not imagine the hassle the woman has to go through.

I tried speaking to the contractor. His name is Sohanlal. He did not answer any of my questions stating that he is too tired and that I should visit him during the morning hours. When I asked him whether I can take a picture of the workers and their family, he said, “Why don’t you go and take pictures of other poor people? They are everywhere in this city”

Laursen and Toubro is the main implementing agency for Delhi Metro. It is accruing profits while the people who work for it are not getting access to basic sanitation. Last time when I was in Delhi, I saw a constriction work at the swimming people. Even the workers there did not have access to toilets and had to defecate in open. Government should stop its double standards. It should insist in all its contracts that basic sanitation be provided to all the workers working on any project funded by the government. Only when the government shows that kind of commitment can a country flourish. Superficial acts will not help.

Delhi is a reflection of affairs in this country – inequality, injustice, violence, rapes, poverty, drugs, prostitution, and religious politics. Delhi has to fix its own problems first before venturing to fix the problems of rest of the country.

Difference between UC-E17 and UC-E6 USB cables

My Fujifilm x100s, my earlier Nikon D7100, and my new Nikon D750 don’t have a micro or mini USB connectors on them. Hence one needs to use a special cable. While Fuji just calls it as an USB cable, Nikon has fancy names for these cables. The names of the USB cables that come with different camera models of Nikon also vary. For example, the cable that comes with Nikon D7100 is called UC-E17 while the one with D750 is called UC-E17. Is there any difference between the two? Apparently not. I used UC-E6 on D750 and UC-E17 on D7100. Both the camera has responded well. Even my Fuji x100s worked with both the cables. I did not find any links online that could explain the differences among the USB cables of Nikon (there is also an UC-E16!). I did not do any tests related transfer rates on any of the cameras. I am happy as long as I can transfer the files. So, if you’re looking for an extra cable to use with any of these cameras, just grab the one that is the cheapest ( UC-E17 /16 or 6) in your favourite online store.

Clock Reset Icon Mystery – Nikon D750

On day 1 of getting my new Nikon D750, I made several changes to the default factory settings. Several icons lit up on the back LCD screen when I pressed “Info” button.  But the presence of “Clock Reset” icon worried me. Even after 10 days, it just stayed there. According to the user manual, the icon should flash if there is any problem with the internal clock or internal clock battery. The internal clock battery charges within two days and lasts for three months. In my case, the icon just stayed there. It did not flash/blink. In the above pics, I am talking about the clock icon to the left of NR icon. It just stayed there. I changed the battery once, left the camera without any battery for two days, and the internal clock was not reset.

Clock reset Icon - D750

Clock reset Icon - D750

I posted queries on Amazon.com and flickr D750 club. The mystery was solved by Peter Hastings on Flickr. The icon appears when long exposure noise reduction is enabled. Disable that feature and the icon will disappear.

I wasn’t seeing the icon on mine but when I was trying to replicate your settings it appeared!

See what happens when you turn long exposure NR off!

I thought that it might be a software bug, but when I looked at the manual, the ‘clock not set’ icon on p15 is like a clock showing 9 o’clock, but the icon on p14 looks like a clock at 3 o’clock. And if you look at the top of p14 in the manual, the arrow under ’28’ points to between the two icons, not just at the letters ‘NR’, so I think that it’s intended that when you turn NR on, both icons should appear – the clock indicating long exposure.

I don’t know where the ‘clock not set’ icon flashes – presumably it isn’t allocated a spot on the ‘info’ page because you will probably never get it?

Peter

Thank you for shopping with us!

The opportunity to spend the long weekends of Dasara and Diwali with my parents, brothers and their family excited me. My mind was pre-occupied with the ways to surprise my family with gifts and celebrate with gusto. I did not have much time to shop as I had to finish my assignments before I left for my break. I decided to do all my shopping online. The offers on the net made me beam with pride. India has progressed a lot! Online shopping, net banking, cellphone coverage, high-speed internet, and online train and bus ticket booking facilities. What more could I have asked for?

The home pages of these shopping portals are seductive. Limited stock cookware, 1 rupee pen drives, phones and TVs on incredible exchange offers. Shopping in the malls is a great exercise for the Indian middle class which is slowly turning obese and diabetic. Online shopping ruined it all by confining the middle class to the comfy couches. But now one can buy an exercising belt online which will vibrate, when tied around your abdomen or thigh, to keep our muscles in shape. That belt is the best innovation of the century.

To surprise my family, I spent several hours at office on the internet finding the best online deals.  I could not spend much time with my wife or child for next two days. I was shopping at office and working at home. But I was glad that I could find some fantastic deals and meet my project deadline. My family packed for the Diwali holidays with all the enthusiasm it could muster. When we reached the train station, it was clear that whole of India was going home to celebrate Diwali.

We reached Bangalore on Thursday morning. With four full days to go, we were giddy with the options of movies we could watch, food we could cook, and stories we could share. While everyone was catching up with one another, I was standing at the gate expecting the arrival of the courier guy. The website had assured me that I would receive my delivery before noon that day. It was already 11:55. I was growing impatient. The courier guy arrived at 12:20, full twenty minutes late. I yelled at him for not being punctual. I told him I would complain to the company about the delay. He apologized profusely. When I collected my big and heavy package with a stern warning, he wished me a happy Diwali, probably to lighten my mood up. I smiled and wished him back.

“How far is your house?” I asked.

“4 kilometers”

“That’s not far. You can go home to have special lunch today. Right?”

“I live alone. My wife and parents live in Bijapur”

“Oh? You should have applied for a two-day leave and spent all four days with your family.”

” We are not allowed to take any time off during the festival season as many people shop on our website and we have to deliver all the gifts by the assured date and time during the festival season. ”

He looked at his watch and said, “I am getting late for my next delivery. Happy Diwali. Thank you for shopping with us. ”

The big and heavy package in my hands seemed empty.

GPX file – Kalindi Khal pass trek

Kalindi - the fiery mountain

Kalindi – the fiery mountain

I completed this trek last month. Online, I could not find any GPX or any other GPS supported files related to this trek. Here is the link to the GPX file logged by my GPS during our trek.

Day 1: Gangotri to Chirbasa

Day 2: Chirbasa to Bhojwassa

Day 3: Bhojwassa to Tapovan

Day 4: Tapovan to Nandanvan

Day 5: Nandanvan to Vasuki Tal

Day 6: Vasuki Tal to Khara Pattar

Day 7: Khara Pattar to Shweta Glacier

Day 8: Shweta Glaciet to Kalindi Base

Day 9: Kalindi base to Raj Parav

Day 10: Raj Parav to Ghastoli

Day 11: Ghastoli to Badrinath

All the photographs were geotagged and here is a link to some of them.

What should India’s priorities be?

When India succeeded in its Mars mission, I had mixed feelings in my heart. Where are our real priorities? Yes, it is important to focus on understanding what happened on Mars. But how important is that? The reason I am questioning the magnitude of importance is that I am confused about the priorities of India, a nation with limited financial resources at its disposal. When India needs to focus on basic things such as building toilets, providing safe water, and making health and education more accessible, spending money on space research looks not so rational to me. Yes, it makes sense to launch satellites that help our farmers with better weather prediction, our civilians with better navigation, and the country with robust communication systems. But Mars mission is not what India should have focused on.

Yes, India succeeded in sending a probe to mars at a fraction ($74 million USD) of the money spent by USA ($617 million USD). It does say a lot about how good India is at creating and reusing indigenous technologies. It will make any Indian proud. But the effort and resource could have been used to focus and fix problems that are haunting our country. The money could have been spent at understanding how fast our Himalayan glaciers are melting, how to avert disasters that occurred in Uttarkhand last year and Jammu and Kashmir this year. With the money spent on Mars mission, India could have built half a million toilets, supported the annual education of at least 1 million children, constructed several hundred schools or a good number of hospitals in the rural areas of India.

Initiatives like Mars mission are a reflection of the priorities of the society that clearly ignores the needs of the majority of its people – poor, illiterate, malnourished.

Credits and references:

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/09/23/how-india-mounted-the-worlds-cheapest-mission-to-mars/

Protecting women?

Of late I am seeing videos and posts about how men ought to protect women, how protecting women is religion etc. An example video is below.

The worrying part of messages like these is that they portray perpetrators, men and religion, as saviours, and women as vulnerable beings who need protection. But that vulnerability, a kind of oppression, imposed on the women from the outside by the societies.  Before saying ‘men should protect women’, we should understand who has made them vulnerable. Then, instead of saying “Men should protect women”, we will say,  “Religions – stop oppressing women!” and “Men should stop being assholes!”