Sunday, February 5, 2023

Hosting a Ghost


This is a spooky time of Year. Summer has gone past and we enter into the crisp air of the fall season. Fall in New England is famous for its kaleidoscopic exuberance of colors which render a surreal and almost unreal experience. It is also a time to invoke the spirits as we close in on Halloween.  In India, we observed a fortnight dedicated to our deceased ancestors which ended on New moon day famous as “Sarva Pitari Amavasya”. That definitely calls for a discussion on Paranormal or supernatural Phenomena popularly known as Ghosts. That’s a topic very close to the heart of many. Imagine discussing this on a dark night and amidst a spooky ambiance with close-knit friends: Sharing Ghost Stories over a warm cuppa on a cool autumn night. Many of us surely have been there and done that.   

Do you believe in Ghost: How many times we have been asked that? Many of us believe in the positive energy beyond our explanation. They may call it Divinity. Nature or the universe loves to establish a balance. To balance this positive energy there must be a negative one. Some may call it evil. Can ghosts be a small form of that energy? So why not believe in this argument?  We culturally believe the Ghosts to be some form of spirits whose desires are unfulfilled and the souls lie in limbo between life and salvation or rebirth. Different cultures have multiple variations and explanations.  The entertainment industry has used the horror genre to an extent of overkill barring a few exceptions like Omen or some parts of paranormal activity where you really tend to believe in the Ghost, the rest all turn into a gory fest. All Ghost stories have one thing in common very few people claim to be protagonists, whereas most know of someone who went through that. But having assumed the veracity of those few, for me conclusion lies that our minds are the hosts where Ghosts reside. They are figments or part of our imagination and nothing more. Rest all is entertainment.  

Recently on this topic, I studied a psychological paper explaining whether Ghosts exist. Are ghosts real? The paper said that the current science can’t prove that there are spirits walking through walls or screaming below floorboards. Our spooky sightings, however, have certainly felt real. Humans have been spotting specters for as long as we’ve been around, and to some degree, we can explain why. Thanks to campfire tales and multimillion-dollar horror flicks, spooky notions can infiltrate our subconscious even without any real-life supernatural encounters. We have such a tendency because the human mind is highly suggestible. We’ve evolved to take cues from the outside world to escape threats like an animal chasing us, so a well-placed hint can make us see things that aren’t there. Our preconceptions can also cause us to find supernatural evidence in garbled noise or blurred images. If a ghost hunter or psychic instructs you to listen for a certain phrase, then your brain (which loves identifying patterns) tries as hard as it can to create those exact words from various bits of random sound. We are conditioned. According to the experts, there are six reasons that human minds believe that Ghosts exist.  

First of that is: You’d Rather Not Risk ItWhat if they exist? It’s easy to disregard the notion of paranormal activity in broad daylight, but everything changes when you head into a dark basement. Unfamiliar and threatening environments kick our survival instincts up a notch. Our ancestors had to keep a constant lookout for stealthy hazards like leopards and snakes, and folks with a “better safe than sorry” attitude were more likely to survive and reproduce. When it comes to our habitats, humans tend to think of places as safe when they offer two things: prospect (a clear view of the outside world) and refuge (the opportunity to hide from danger). A poorly lit old house gives us neither of those two accommodations, blocking our ability to see what’s around the corner and providing plenty of shadows in which malicious entities could lurk.   

The second point which makes you believe in Ghost is at the bottom of your subconscious mind you need company. Some occurrences provided “instantaneous relief from painful grief symptoms,” while others strengthened preexisting religious views. Mental Benefits such as a sense of connection to others is something you can derive from believing in their existence  

The third reason is that your brain is unwell. Ghostly occurrences can be the result of larger problems in our gray matter. For some, hearing voices or experiencing a vision can be an early indicator of medical conditions such as schizophrenia. Some evidence even suggests that people with underlying brain disorders tend to have paranormal confrontations that are more intense and negative than the average brush with the beyond.  

The fourth reason is sometimes as simple as Bad Vibrations and Sound. Sometimes people experience an otherworldly encounter simply because something in their environment is making a strange noise that sends their bodies into disarray. Most of us don’t regularly carry around audio gauges, so it’s hard to know how many hauntings might be explained by a buzzing fan or a rumbling fridge.  

Fifth Reason is the Place: A far more troubling circumstantial peculiarity is the notion that mold and other pollutants—often found in old buildings—can mess with people’s minds. Disturbances in the planet’s magnetosphere, which are usually caused by anomalous outer-space events like solar flares, might mess with the inner workings of the brain, scrambling our perceptions in strange ways. So far, the evidence supporting this hypothesis is pretty thin.  

Finally, Your Mind is playing tricks: seizures in the temporal lobe—the area of your noggin that processes visual memory and spoken language—might trigger ghost sightings. Electrical disturbances in this brain area could make us feel connected to otherworldly realms.  

So relax and be entertained but don’t get scared: Ghosts live in your mind.  

Monday, January 30, 2023

Word Cup Beyond Expectations


The whole of India is sad after experiencing the drubbing we had during the world cup semifinals versus England.  We are experiencing the same fate in Cricket as English Soccer hosting the biggest soccer league but winning no world cup.  But I am not that dissappointed. We performed beyond the expectations I had during this world cup. We reached semis defeating Pakistan and Bangladesh and downing minnows. I was not even sure of that thanks to the great preparation we had running up to the world cup. It all started with the regime change in coaching as well as the captainship year back 

Before I delve into regime change and its serious impact, I would admit that the previous regimes under the captainship of Dhoni and Kohli under Ravi Shastri also had stumbling blocks at the knockout stages before the pandemic. But the way we dominated the group stage did make those losses subject matter of mental conditioning than the team ability. Under the current regime, some vague decision-making has really impacted the way we play cricket. The previous regime had a tremendous focus on fitness. Doing away with the Yo-Yo test resulted in the selection of unfit players including the leader. We have tremendous bench strength thanks to IPL as shown in the epic test series win in Australia. Some stubborn beliefs in non-performers like K L Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, and a few more really impacted hard. T20 requires a completely different mindset with a focus on all-around skills with lengthy batting and effective bowling options. We fell short drastically. When Bumrah got injured I had no hopes based on this team selected. 

We had that confusion prior to 19 WC in England for 50 overs at the no 4 batting position. But that was the only slot that was under the cloud. This team had the opposite situation. Only two slots were justified: Hardik and Surya. Rest all were under the cloud of uncertainty.  A great talent like Virat has to have a rebound. His fitness focus and work ethics are stupendous. His return to form was a big bonus thanks to which we could reach semis. But in semis even he was out of place especially with Surya getting out. Hardik was a saving grace which even then was found to be inadequate thanks to the bowling effort.  I don’t want to be a naysayer but unless things change drastically we might have similar issues for WC 23 in India. But then Indian conditions are my only hope. 

Now let’s revisit the IPL issue. As I said it has given us bench strength but it’s really first-class cricket that needs to be given priority in the international selection. Of course, we have to live with IPL or T20 franchise economy: a mini version played twice a year: one in India other in a foreign country can really give our player exposure to foreign conditions. Our players were sort of out of place in Australian playing conditions of longer grounds and the bounce.  Of course, workload management is the key as we found Bumrah missing very important tournaments.  

Coach and Captain form the essence of leadership and team management. The captain needs to deserve his position in the team both by performance and fitness. Coach has a determinant role of boosting confidence within the team to enhance performance. The coach needs flexibility rather than fixed ideas, especially in shorter formats.  But under the current regime, we lost a series SAF and test versus England.  Just as our test team with its focus on fitness, resilience, and fighting spirit had shown wonders in Australia and England. The Series in Australia in 20-21 especially the Gabba test was epic. Win in Gabba test can be compared only second to 83 World Cup Win.  But then the back door politics of BCCI resulted in regime change. And as I had predicted in this column last year our performance plummeted and there are more questions about the future than answers.  

In the last decade, we were the top team across various formats. Our test team did wonders outside India in the latter half of the last decade.  Nightmare overseas test tours of 11-12 under the leadership of MS Dhoni were forgotten by the resilience shown by Kohli-Rahane-Shashtri management. We won meaningless bilateral series in the limited over format. We topped the league stage in most of the ICC tournaments but we lost crucial matches and silverware eluded us since that day in April 2011. The era between 2007 after the exiting of Dravid as captain till the 2013 champion’s trophy under the leadership of Dhoni was a golden era. IPL flourished but lost its way after spot-fixing scandals and the pandemic. Indian cricket fortunes for the last year are in the doldrums across the format. It’s time to rebuild but I don’t see that happening under the current regime. We have some genuinely talented players in our country. We need to revive Ranji and other first-class cricket allowing top players to perform yet balancing out with commercials of franchise cricket. Incoming BCCI management under Roger Binny has its task cut out.  Will it take a bold decision what BCCI did in 2007 when a young leader was appointed under the new coaching staff? Hardik seems to be the answer in limited overs while in longer formats Sehwagsque ways of Pant can be worth a try. We need to look beyond our borders for new coaching ideas. A complete overhaul is the order of the day.  

In India, everyone apart from those at the helm have ideas to manage the cricketing affairs of the Indian Cricket team. This is just one more piece of advice given by a fan. After all, as famous Marathi author P L Deshpande has said Cricket is not a sport to play but a sport to talk about by millions of fans. Though it's World Cup for Cricket, It’s a Word Cup for each fan. 


Sunday, January 15, 2023

Time Please


Most of the Western World shifted their clock by one hour last weekend which was the first weekend of November. For the next four months in March, we will have more difference between the Indian and US times. Offshore teams will adjust their world clocks reducing overlap, especially on East Coast.  Bank timings in India anyways are out of bounds during civil hours. The world never sleeps for Global citizens. In fact, it’s not the sun but the clock which set the time in the modern era. We discipline our lives by the time on the clock. Our working lives and wages are determined by it, and often our “free time” is rigidly managed by it too. Broadly speaking, even our bodily functions are regulated by the clock: We usually eat our meals at appropriate clock times as opposed to whenever we are hungry, go to sleep at appropriate clock times as opposed to whenever we are tired and attribute more significance to the arresting tones of a clock alarm than the apparent rising of the sun at the center of our solar system  

But shifting this hour is been discussed quite a lot in this part of the world. Standard time resumed pushing sunset and sunrise one hour earlier. Children here are reminded of the “fall back, spring forward” saying. The official change occurs when 2 a.m. EDT falls back to 1 a.m. EST.   Every state, except most parts of Arizona and Hawaii, observe daylight saving time. Daylight saving time was initially implemented as an emergency energy-saving measure during the world wars, but it stuck around.  Many people think about whether it is needed anymore. Pushing back the clock in winter is meant to give schoolchildren more morning sunlight on the way to school and to ensure more daylight during working hours for construction workers and other outdoor laborers. But whether the benefits in safety and energy savings outweigh the costs of shifted sleep cycles, drowsy commuters, and confusion from misaligned clocks is a long-running debate. The current November-to-March return to standard time was only set by the US federal law in 2007 though many states followed it earlier. But there’s been a growing movement calling for ditching fall back and sticking with spring forward. Last year, the US Senate unanimously voted to make daylight saving time permanent, but the legislation has been stuck in the House ever since, and it’s unclear if it will budge. Who’s going to win this argument? The scales seem to be leaning toward a year-round daylight saving time clock — but only time will tell.  

Fundamentally, shifting the clocks, either way, confounds people’s circadian rhythms, the 24-hour schedule followed by the metabolism that tells you when to eat, sleep, work and relax. For every hour that your sleeping time shifts, it takes a day to adjust. Health-wise, the serious health effects are associated with the “spring forward” shift. Fatal car accidents increase by around 6 percent on the days after that shift, for example. Heart attack rates go up as well, with studies finding a relative risk increase of 4 to 29 percent. There is also evidence for increased strokes, missed doctor’s appointments, and even suicides.  

Many people aim that daylight saving time should be the permanent standard. They argue mainly that more evening light promotes physical and mental health. Those hours of daylight better align with normal human circadian rhythms, which take their cues from sunlight exposure, as per the study by experts.  Energy consumption plays a pretty significant role in the discussion.  People’s schedules are based on the clock, but the sun is doing its own thing. Daylight saving reapportions lightness and darkness ratios, so people have more waking/productive hours when it’s light out and less electricity is needed. For that reason, DST has often been justified as an energy conservation measure, all the way back to World Wars I and II with national DST measures going into effect during World War I and World War II. But does it work? The research says it actually doesn’t. One research says, Of the 7 million households included in the study, the researchers found that using DST actually increased electricity demand, with fall usage going up between 2 and 4 percent and overall use by 1 percent. While DST worked to decrease the number of energy people used for lighting, they found it increased when it came to air conditioning. The economists also cite actual research and historical data showing the negative effects of lost sleep, including some major ones —the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the near meltdown at Three Mile Island, the massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez, and the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.  

For years, ending daylight saving time has been a pet project for politicians. But it didn’t make headway in Congress until last spring when the Senate surprisingly passed a bill getting rid of daylight saving time just a couple of days after the annual March “spring forward” jolt in the clocks.   But 59 percent of people across the U.S., according to a poll from March, support ditching the clock change in favor of permanent daylight saving time. Some states are heeding that public interest and starting to evaluate their relationship with the practice on the state level.  At least 19 states have adopted resolutions or legislation to make daylight saving permanent — a show of their support on the issue. But then the experiment of making Daylight savings permanent failed in 1974 when many Americans and the senate dreaded the prospect of dark long winter mornings, especially for the children going to school.  So this time not sure if this move succeeds.  

 As usual there is politics about everything. Even the Time or ‘Samay’ as we say in the Indian context is not spared. But just to note we have no control over Time but it’s just clock settings we can change. Sun will rise as it has been since the ages.  We are just spectators here. 

Monday, January 2, 2023

OpenSource World


Those functioning in Information Technology World will know about the existence of  a  community driven by the common good and in opposition to capitalist models like software licenses and IPs controlled by companies like Microsoft or Oracle. Though the opposition is less to Business applications or productivity tools, it is prominent for something as basic as Operating Systems and Infrastructure. This community believes in collaboration. Welcome to the world of Open Source.  

With open-source software, everyone has the ability to solve business problems and even carry out social change. Open Source paved the way for something as effective as the World Wide Web as well as pioneered remote collaborative development which was essential during the pandemic.  Today most of the cloud runs on Linux. Thus free software runs every contemporary computing resource. And many of the programming languages fueling the growth of software development, such as Python, are also free and open. And its impact only continues to grow, democratizing technology and driving innovation.  

There is a difference between Open Source and Free Software. The term “open source” implies that the source code is “open,” hence it is available to view and review. Free software, on the other hand, adds the additional requirement that there is a license to make modifications to the code.   Strictly speaking, you can view open-source code, but not necessarily put that code to use. Free software ensures that you can make changes and share those changes with others. Further, neither open-source nor free software says anything either implicitly or explicitly about its commercialization. While many open-source and free software projects are maintained by non-commercial enterprises, many commercial organizations profit from free software. For example, they might offer support or consultation or outsource modifications and customizations. Perhaps the place where open-source software most directly touches the public is in the realm of the World Wide Web. Tim Berners-Lee, its inventor, convinced his management at CERN to let him release his protocol under a free-software license (previous protocols were proprietary), and Marc Andreessen released the first graphical web browser, Mosaic, under a free-software license. Mosaic incorporated a feature, “view source,” that let any user see the source code of the page they were viewing, bringing an unprecedented level of transparency to computing and leading to the rapid adoption of Web 1.0.  

Because contributions to free-software projects are by definition unrestricted, it is not surprising that a decentralized, global community of developers has fueled its growth. The distributed nature of this community exposed the need for tools for distributed software development, which is one reason for the popularity of productivity tools such as Git. During the Covid pandemic, the commercial software world adopted the remote collaboration frameworks that have been used by the free-software community for decades.  

Open source, as described above, undoubtedly has demystified computing for much of the world who would never have the privilege of working for a proprietary software company. Free software has given that same multitude the license to do something tangible with that knowledge. The clearest way open source drives innovation is by expanding the pool of programmers who can examine, critique, and modify existing code. But, on a broader scale, when the principles of open source are embedded into the process of education itself, the ability to innovate is democratized; it becomes not the privilege of a few, but the right (and obligation) of the many.  

Open-source software is a dominant presence in the industry. The majority of cloud applications are open-source, and almost 90 percent of smartphones run open-source software. What’s more, most software developers hone their craft on free software projects, giving them valuable, accessible opportunities to learn, improve their skills and create better, more impactful software throughout their careers.  

Many companies having diametrically opposing stands on Open Source are moving towards Open Source.  

Microsoft recently called open source software the "industry-accepted model for cross-company collaboration. Experts believe that open source is likely the future for continued improved innovation.   

Open source gives businesses peace of mind because they have guaranteed access to their own data regardless of what happens with the source of the software. It gives businesses agility without having to invest a lot of time. Does that mean that there is no place for traditional software but the benefits of utilizing and sharing your own developments are much more?  Many Industry Leaders believe that the key to making open-source the future of the software industry is actually investing in these open-source communities and making them a priority.  

In hindsight, open source is a box of tools, and it might be difficult to get started and run or operate the software. There is often a lack of structure around the adoption of these tools. Other hurdles the industry will have to overcome to make the future a reality are establishing more coding standards, implementing peer review, and focusing on security. But many experts are emerging to help business users adopt Open Source.   

Few other key drivers of Open Source adoption are Source Code Ownership; there will be no end of a cycle for a product. These tools can be easy to customize as per business needs. These tools are reliable and scalable as they are reviewed and tested by a community. They can seamlessly integrate into other ecosystems of legacy and modern applications thanks to the existence of APIs.   

The philosophy of Open Source is central to humanity, its history, and its evolution. Resources like water, land, food, and clothing were initially owned by the community but human nature resulted in private ownership of land, thus resulting in ownership of energy and food resources. This resulted in the evolution of the whole economic model throughout its history. This generated lot of conflict and tragedy for humans. Now with connectivity and collaboration being the essence of human innovation, it is but natural that Open Source should democratize these resources creating new business models of its own. Open Source is here to stay and has a long way to go.