Friday, July 24, 2009

Murder on Hosur Road....

My heart cringes everyday as I drive down from Anepalya/Neelasandra (where Bannerghatta Road actually starts) to Koramangala on Hosur Road. A once beautiful promenade stretching from the NIANP institute right upto Mico Corporate office at Koramangala full of beautiful old trees is being destroyed for road-widening. It's really sad to watch all these huge trees being cut down so mercilessly...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pinching anyone?

My two-and-a-half year old loves to pinch! He doesn't pinch everyone - just me and his mom. He does it to show affection and love when he is happy. And he only pinches elbows - rather the skin at the back of the elbow.

It's really cute and funny - he will say "Papa pinching beku" and then I should give him my elbow and he will grit his teeth and start pinching my elbows :-) and take his excess love out. If he is really excited and happy - I should offer both my hands!

A quick googling for pinchers turned up some results where the babies at this age do pinch - and its not so uncommon - but more out of frustration and anger. Mine doesn't really do it when he is frustrated or angry - then he just throws a tantrum and bawls.

I guess it will pass and is just another phase of growing up. But all-in-all - it's really cute watching him pinch away!

Incidentally, it's quite amazing too to see how kids pick-up their parent's OCDs :-) - I have a long-time habit that when I wear socks, I fold over the top portion of the sock where the elastic band would be... primarily so that I don't get those tight elastic marks around my leg. So as a matter of routine, when I put socks on my son's feet getting him ready for school, I did the same. This happened a couple of times. After that I was surprised to see that he was demanding that they be always folded over - from me in case I forgot and from my wife too - who couldn't figure out where he picked this funny habit from!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lists, lists and more lists!

Was just reviewing my list of things to do... are you that kind of a person?

I am a lost-case list-addict. I can't do without them. Can't function without them. If I lose my to-do - I honestly won't know what to do.

Although it has its share of critics, my view on this is that besides the fact that it helps me organize - it really clears up my head and leaves space to think of other things :-) Once I jot down an item on my list - I remove it from my thoughts - the list will remind me when I look at it next. This is a good thing - but very bad if I were to lose the list. It almost brings nightmares to my mind - as close to the feelings I get when I visualize sudenly losing my laptop.

On the other hand, there is nothing quite satisfying as being able to check off so many items from your list and watch them disappear of your to-do list! Some days, if I check four-five items off - I know that's been a good day!

I have a list for everything - for work, for personal, for life, for love, for issues, for things to buy, for projects; if there's something that needs more than one bullet to do - it's going on my list!

Given the importance of lists in my life, I spend a fair amount of time searching for a way to organize my lists and track them. At the moment, I am very happy to recommend ToDoList from http://www.abstractspoon.com - it's free, it's convenient, simple and I have been using it for a while with much satisfaction.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Coming up: papaya plants

Have been planning to try and see how papaya plants will do...

Planting papaya is relatively easy... buy a papaya from the shop, see if you like it - if you do - then scoop out all the seeds from the center of the papaya. These aren't actually the seeds - the seeds are within them - these are essentially juice sacks encasing the seed itself.

Place these juice sacks-cum-seeds between a folded peice of newspaper and roll them with your hand till you pop the juice sacks - open the news paper and you will see smaller black coloured seed kernel - these are the actual seeds - clean them up and place aside on a dry paper, preferably in the sun, for at least a week. After this, they are good to use for planting and can be kept for almost a year!

When planting, choose a location and scatter some of the seeds in that spot. Choose some more spots similarly and scatter seeds in each of the spots. Scatter/sprinkle a few (10?) in each spot - not just one. Not all seeds may germinate - so you want to provide some extra. Cover the seeds with some mud/compost/mulch.

From those that germinate (which may take a couple of weeks) - see which ones are doing better and pull out those that don't look strong.

As they grow, you will have to see whether its a male or female papaya plant that you have got. Males don't give fruit - so you want to have a lot of females with maybe one male for every 15 females. You will be able to make out this by looking at the flower - the male will normally have long thin stalks coming out with flowers at the end of it whereas the females will have flowers right at the trunk of the plant itself.

Hope to try this soon!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Growing Mango Trees

A few weeks back I planted five mango trees!

I purchased the saplings for Rs. 50 each which albeit expensive, were apparently from good stock and of good "Mallika" variety. Mallika is native variety to India and is supposed to quite disease-resistant. Of course, the fruit itself I have tasted and like!

When buying the saplings, I was surprised to see that they are grown as graftings rather than from seeds and upon further reading, now understand that the best mango trees are grown as grafts from existing, proven and productive trees. Apparently, trees grown directly from a seed (albeit of a very tasty mango) will not give good fruit, take a long time to fruit and will be very fibrous. Some useful info is here http://www.tropicalrainflorist.com/mango_trees.htm

Mango trees can grow up to 90-100 ft in height and should start yeilding fruit in 3-4 years. They make excellent shade trees and grow a pretty large canopy so should be planted at least 50 feet away from existing structures. Although we have planted them fairly far apart - I didn't check the exact distance at the time - we chose five different spots and dug a hole and have planted them.

I hope to have more actual on-the-ground updates on my mango saplings going forward and hopefully will be eating its fruit in the forseeable future too!

All in all, a really satisfying activity! Much better than spending 250 bucks on a move ticket...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Take a bow Mr. Nilekani!

I am so impressed with Nandan Nilekani. It takes a lot of courage, guts and drive to make this big jump that he is making.

He and his wife have already been making significant contributions on the NGO side... but to do this full-time - kudos to him!

I have been reading also about the various "obstacles" that he is likely to face, how it's all going to be a failure and hearing from cynics about how Infosys will make money, and how this will never work out.

I say - put a good man with drive to do something - something good will come out of it - inspite of all the obstacles. Whatever Unique ID we get from the quirkily named Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will be far better with Mr. Nilekani heading it...

Having said that - obstacles are there and duplication, errors, misuse, etc are all big ones.

My suggestion to the Chairman is that first attack at the base so that no new data gets generated wrongly. In other words - at hospitals at the time of birth - make it mandatory that every child when born gets a Unique ID - like a birth certificate - like a Social Security Number in the US.

Next attack the other end - people dying need a death certificate - make sure each such event gets logged into the UID - either to someone already in the system or by creation of a new record in the system.

This will at least get the new data correct - and then begins the onerous task of getting the existing population into the system.

For existing data, a good way to quickly get off the ground would be to provide a self-service portal where people with existing ID (like a passport) can logon and self-register, provide proof-of-ID and submit an application. This will make it much easier than to do a data collection effort. The applications can be scrutinized against the other ID database (passport) and if okay - can be integrated into the UID.

Of course that would take care of more urban than rural population - the primary political target for the UID. But there will be ways - for example take the Yashashwini database in Karnataka and you will get a good bunch of the population into the system with relatively "correct" info!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wall of Equations

Have been reading Asimov's Second Foundation on my daily commute, it's quite engaging and sometimes don't feel like putting the book down and starting the car on the green light.

I was amazed at the "wall of equations" which jump to life as you speak and gesture described in the book; leave no shadows as you move around in front of it... zoom-in and zoom-out based on your finger movements, have vibrant color and graphics! Amazing... because technology like that is actually now looking like a reality and some interesting prototypes are visible in the tech world.

Wonder if these guys read his description and then got inspired!

Here's the extract:
He depressed a lever on his side of the desk and the room was in darkness. But only for a moment, since with a gradually livening flush, the two long walls of the room glowed to life. First, a pearly white, unrelieved, then a trace of faint darkness here and there, and finally, the fine neatly printed equations in black, with an occasional red hairline that wavered through the darker forest like a staggering rillet.

"Come, my boy, step here before the wall. You will not cast a shadow. This light does not radiate from the Radiant in an ordinary manner. To tell you the truth, I do not know even faintly by what medium this effect is produced, but you will not cast a shadow. I know that."

They stood together in the light. Each wall was thirty feet long, and ten high. The writing was small and covered every inch.

A slow silence. The student pointed a finger and as he did so, the line of equations marched down the wall, until the single series of functions he had thought of - one could scarcely consider the quick, generalized gesture of the finger to have been sufficiently precise - was at eye-level.

"Before you obtain your Speakerhood," continued the First Speaker, "you yourself will have to make an original contribution to the Plan. It is not such great blasphemy. Every red mark you see on the wall is the contribution of a man among us who lived since Seldon. Why ... why-" He looked upward, "There!"

The whole wall seemed to whirl down upon him.

"This," he said, "is mine." A fine red line encircled two forking arrows and included six square feet of deductions along each path. Between the two were a series of equations in red.