Stop the jokes right now itself

We still have time. You remember, last time we made jokes about how Indians have strong immunity that nothing can make us sick. And see where we are right now? A new strain has come. From the UK. Another even more infectious has come from South Africa. Even kids are susceptible now. The vaccine might nullify it (or might nullify it in 6 weeks) but who knows? Each joke might be costly. Why jinx it?

Not kidding.

Here’s a plug to my old post which might give you some guidelines.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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Acronyms can GFT

A rant is due from a long time. Here it goes:

One time I had a dream. It was somewhat like this:

I woke up from deep sleep, got ready, and went out to buy something. As soon I reached a shop, I asked the shop owner to give me something. He asked me ‘What?’. I repeated what I wanted. He seemed to not understand me. I kept on telling him but he kept on shaking his head as if I was speaking another language.

I came back home and picked up my phone to call my friend. The friend picked up just after 1 ring. I said something. But he didn’t seem to get it and he said ‘What?’. I said something again. Again, he kept saying ‘Hello!?’. Irritated I cut the phone and I thought that I will text him instead. I messaged him. He replied back ‘Have you gone nuts? What are you typing? What does it mean?’.

I checked what I had sent him. I also realized what I was saying on phone. And what I said to the shopkeeper as well.

It was all in acronyms. I was speaking, writing, texting all in Acronyms. All in short forms with no regard to grammar, receiver’s state of mind, decency of humanity but GM, HRU, TC, TX, and so on. It was a nightmare. It indeed was a nightmare!

Acronyms. We all are surrounded by them. They have taken over us. They have been there for some time. Since people started to write, they also found ways to shorten what they wrote in the beginning. They have morphed a bit, changed a lot, evolved sometimes, and stayed the same. They have seen it all. They are coming to get us. They have stuck around long enough to irritate one and all. If they haven’t (oh sorry have not) irked you yet, they will.

What would one do with the time which one saved by not typing full words? FYI, GNU stands for GNU’s Not Unix (!). ANT stands for Another Neat Tool. PIN code could have been called just Code but no! OK has been On Kerosine or some time it was for All Correct or now just K. Can you get past a day when you are not hit by one or the other acronym someone created because they were too busy to write it wholly out? Moreover, who approves these short forms? Shouldn’t there be a law to approve them first so that they become universally acceptable first? Shortening words or transforming words happen with time, but when did PTO become ‘Personal Time Off’ from ‘Please Turn Over’? I say let’s take SMH, AFAIK, RT, ID, and so on, wrap them around, etc., and then throw it send it to Wuhan’s Abandoned Wet Market or bury it under some Internet Cable in some sea.

But you say, there’s a Glossary? Haha, no you should be sorry to have explanations given explicitely for previous blunders.

What would one do when the country’s Prime Minister himself is an acronym enthusiast?

PostScript: Just google “Acronyms Seriously Suck – Elon Musk” if you have some time saved by sending across acronyms instead of full sentences. Obviously, you don’t have any time saved. So take this instead.

Photo by Surendran MP on Unsplash

So I recently watched: The Great Conjunction

Rating: 🌟🌟

I watched both virtually as well as in person. Heh, screw you 2020.

Of course. A celestial event which last happened 800 years ago when except some astrologers, nobody would have even cared for, happened again. It won’t repeat again for many years, certainly nobody alive right now would be able to view it again. Unless, cryogenics becomes cool.

So, I went out in the evening and watched the great Saturn and Jupiter conjunction. I would say, the hype was great, the trailer was promising. However, the story was lame. The performance lamer. Since I didn’t have a telescope or good binoculars, I couldn’t see its actual beauty. Although I did watch 2 planets just a fraction of 1° apart as seen from the Earth. If I hadn’t worn my specs, they would have looked even more blurred.

Some days back I woke up at 2.30 AM in North India winters to see the Geonids. Or Leonids. Or something.

Both the occassions flopped for me. I hardly saw any elongated star or any shooting comets.

But being a part of rare events, which happen only once in many lifetimes is something which gives me thrill. The fact that Saturn and Jupiter won’t appear this closer again for years, even when I saw them but could hardly distinguish the difference tells me that it is so easy to fool non-nerd humans. I could have made so much money out of people’s superstitions if I had pursued the profession of an astrologer. How does two planets in 1 frame matter anyways? Unless they collide, is there any fun?

Ah I have been seeing a lot of Rick and Morty nowadays.

Algorithm isn’t the answer always

In 2009, Pilot Sully landed a full fledged plane in New York’s Hudson river when its engines malfunctioned. Although he saved a lot of lives but he was still criticized for taking such an extraordinary decision. Simulations showed that he could divert the plane to another nearby air strip. But as they show in the eponymous movie, that simulation forgets to take human struggle into account. When the plane malfunctioned pilots kept on trying for at least a minute to get it back on track. They could have panicked, they could’ve gotten cold feet, but instead of giving up, they tried for a minute or so to get the plane working. Simulations later showed that if you added that minute, it was not possible to reach the airstrip. So human mind’s strategy at that time was actually correct and simulation wasn’t.

I am studying Data Science and I work for a company making software for Retail Data Science. Data Mining, predictive modeling, training, etc. are the terms I see and read all day. There are factors at play in the world today which are forcing everyone to find the method to the madness from the huge chunks of data we have at our hands. But relying on data and algorithms is a two edged sword. In fact, whatever I am studying and working with professionally has certain limitations.

We know that Covid Vaccine is now being given to front line workers. In one of the cases, an algorithm was used to find out the order in which the vaccine should be given. The algorithm, which is obviously highly dependent on what we feed as initial parameters, chose some names of the Medical staff. However, it did a mistake which led to actual front line workers to protest. It didn’t chose names of staff who were on ICU duty and who had the real imminent danger of infection.

We should be grateful to the work done by scientists but we forget that an algorithm is as good as what it takes as input, how it is supposed to run models, and how much tested it is. Over relying on it blindly isn’t the answer and it might lead to more problems than it is supposed to solve.

I guess, data scientists and softwares have some tradeoffs when it comes to accuracy and the quality of data fed. And not all works with 0s and 1s. Human emotions aren’t tangible but still play a huge role in almost everything.

P.S.: This.

All Pomp and No Shaw

Morgan Housel, whose writing is increasingly becoming most sought after for me, shared this wonderful little paragraph from a book called ‘The Secret Wisdom of Nature‘:

In undisturbed ancient forests, youngsters have to spend their first two hundred years waiting patiently in their mothers’ shade. As they struggle to put on a few feet, they develop wood that is incredibly dense. In modern managed forests today, seedlings grow without any parental shade to slow them down. They shoot up and form large growth rings even without a nutrient boost from added nitrogen. Consequently, their woody cells are much larger than normal and contain much more air, which makes them susceptible to fungi—after all, fungi like to breathe, too. A tree that grows quickly rots quickly and therefore never has a chance to grow old.

It is such a powerful lesson. Going viral, making headlines, or getting too much hype in a short span of time will mostly end up being negative. For example, Prithvi Shaw is a young Indian cricketer. He played too well to be unnoticed at a very young age such that the media and some Cricketers hyped him up to be the next Sachin Tendulkar. I doubt if he would’ve said something like that himself but that hype might have affected him in some manner. Now when the time and opportunity came, he blew it by getting out on 0 and 4 runes in India Australia Test Match.

We judge too quickly and put people either on a high pedestal or totally ruin their confidence by putting them down. Social Media adds fuel to the fire. The people who are the real deal are still sweating it out. They are still burning the midnight oil. They are still trying to get better at their game. They don’t care about the hype. They want to be so strong at their roots that no wind or storm can sway them off.

Photo by Zach Reiner on Unsplash

Vagabonding and Lucky Ali

When it comes to traveling, unfortunately, I have been like a Kite with Chinese Manjha. Basically, I have been to some places but always tied to a certain place with a cord that could never be broken. I have hardly traveled. When I see YouTubers with backpack travelers, it just fills me with envy and amazement (that their fellow people allow them to travel alone? Or is it just the mind that is conditioned to be stationary). The show Lonely Planet on Discovery back in the 90s used to be one of my favorites. In fact, you need not even watch a TV Show (or Google Earth) to travel anywhere. There are songs and music and voices which can take you places.

The music of Lucky Ali is like that. It gives a sense of a person traveling to somewhere alone with a backpack across the countryside. There is a feeling of leaving the civilized world behind, and sometimes returning to the civilized world but there’s travel involved. His videos also visualized a person going somewhere, meeting people, searching for something while the destination not being very clear. The lyrics and the somewhat different than usual music and voice always painted a picture of a vagabond.

There’s a video of Lucky Ali performing live in Goa floating around on the Internet nowadays. And then there are some more videos of him where he is bearded, humming things, and living a life of his own. Maybe he himself wants to keep his image like that. A Musician traveling to places with his guitar, now aging with every appearance, still having the soulful voice and the magical gift of making music that stays with you long after you’re done listening to it.

When ‘O Sanam’ was released, I had no inclination towards or knowledge of music. The only song I grooved to that time was Pak-chik-pak-Raja Babu. I was not even a teenager then but Lucky Ali made me hooked at a different level altogether. I told myself that one day when I will travel alone, this would be the first song on my playlist. I remember I used to never miss visiting one of my relative’s house because they used to own the audio cassette of his second album ‘Sifar’ and just getting to listen to ‘Dekha hai Aise Bhi’ was bliss.

Travel and Music are two things which take you places, literally and figuratively. Movies involving traveling always have peculiar music too. One recent example was the movie Karwaan. Traveling is something I have always wanted but never got the courage to really try traveling alone. Maybe a time will come for that, maybe it won’t. Till then, I can keep listening to Lucky Ali.

Having said all of the above, I am not a fan of his Live performances. Maybe the reason is that when you seeing a live performance, it is stationary and the melody is not just the same. It looks like he is struggling to sing and he would better be traveling and singing someplace else.

Photo by Andreas Selter on Unsplash

Virtual Marathons

Every city which used to organize epic Marathons, Half-Marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, and my favorite 2.5Ks are now resorting to Virtual Marathons. Basically, in a period of a week or so, participants have to install apps and just run wherever they can and whenever they can. They can run marathons and take breaks in between. The app would track their miles ran while keeping them safe from the dangers of the crowd. So, you don’t have to wake up early morning or late at night, get ready in your track pants, reach the starting point, see a huge crowd and wonder if people don’t have any other job, huff-puff, and start running. Soon you realize that running isn’t your cup of tea while you miss the warmth of your bed and you miss your tea. Deep inside you know that you just joined for showing off on social media. But seeing everyone running or walking or crawling, you also join the struggle to reach the final point to grab your participation medal and groupfie.

But in virtual marathons, your struggle won’t be visible and the motivation to run which comes with a crowd might not be present. Except for actual runners, they would still go and run in actuality.

When it comes to a group activity done virtually, people have started to embrace it now more wholeheartedly. But physical activities like participating in Marathons are yet to become normal. Still, enthusiasts would continue to show off their completed miles and you will regret missing out this year. You can still keep it as your new year resolution because running virtually might be easier than not finishing a proper run.