Sunday, December 02, 2007

Life ...

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream!
(In the text that follows, you might be caught cryptically between "life" and (game of) "Life", but that's life).

Life is one of the most brilliant things I have enjoyed.
Imagine that Life began infinite years ago with an initial state and a generation of cells. Life then progresses through its unfathomable journey with a set of simple rules. Here they are:
  • A cell is represented by a square in a grid that extends infinitely in both directions on a 2-D plane.
  • Life begins with an initial generation wherein certain cells are live and others are dead.
  • A live cell is identified by marking its square, a dead cell is identified by leaving it empty.
  • Life transitions from a given generation to the next by following simple rules that are based on number of cells in the eight cells neighboring each cell :
    1. Death by Overcrowding: If a live cell is neighbored by 4 to 8 live cells, it dies.
    2. Death by Loneliness: If a live cell is neighbored by 0 or 1 live cell it dies.
    3. Survival: If a live cell is surrounded by 2 or 3 cells, it survives.
    4. Birth: If a dead cell (or cell that was never born) is surrounded by 3 cells, it is reborn (or born).
    5. You apply the rules and mark a cell as live or dead before marking it as such.
Results of applying these simple rules to a generation that started with 3 live cells (imagine that the grid is infinite) are shown below (B: Birth, D: Death, S: Survival).

And the pattern alternates for many many more generations to come!

Just like in real life, Life generates interesting patterns based on these rules and initial generation and can go on forever. Thanks to John Conway for introducing us to this fascinatingly abstract game.

Byron sent this to me, thanks a ton, Byron!

See here for a nice description and a "Java Applet" demo of Life.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Impressive Steve Jobs ...

I think the only way you can succeed in life is by being a maniac. Steve Paul Jobs is one.

Please spend 15 minutes of your time watching the attached video. It's well worth your time. Don't get carried away, but this is one of the most impressive speeches.

Thanks to Youtube and in my eyes, this is the strength of Youtube and that's why Google bought them for $1.6B. I will write about that later.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Timeless Mumbai ...

Timeless Mumbai
This photograph is one of my all-time-favorites. It captures the "timelessness" of the city of Mumbai perfectly well.

[Taken from Flickr.]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Helping End the World Hunger ...

I thought FreeRice is doing a commendable job in this. We should contribute and benefit others while getting benefited ourselves. Check it out ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Do Software Companies Really Care for Users of Their Software?

I am being very careful about this post. It is definitely not an outburst of a bad day at work or bad experience with a software (e.g. Word Processor) I use .

Whatever you are told by the executives of a (software) company, it should be taken with a grain of salt. All companies have to make money.

But the user of their software has to be at the center of their strategy, i.e. their day-today operations. It is obviously required that companies come up with interesting schemes and support the user in a paid manner, but the (hapless) user has to be at the center of all of that.

It is not easy, however. You need to have empathy and practical intelligence, both. This combination is very rare. Usability of software is its number one quality and anything done to improve that should be done all the time. Usability, interestingly, rarely challenges the stability of the software.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Vishy Anand is the undisputed world champion ...

This is one of the happiest days of my life.

Vishy Anand became the undisputed World Chess Champion today. He achieved this feat in Mexico City in the world championship tournament with formidable opponents like Kramnik, Gelfand, Leko, Svidler, Aronian, Morozevich and Grischuk.

When time permitted, I watched some of his games live (online). It was such a feast! Especially the game against Morozevich had brilliancy prize written all over it. It's remarkable to experience the tension in watching these games live (some may wonder how).

After departure of Gary Kasparov from professional chess world, we wanted a player who could fill that void. Of course both Kramnik and Topalov are capable, but Vishy edges them with his tenacity and longevity promise. Novelties have been his forte for several years. I won't say I like his blitz style while playing classical time control chess games, but that does make him the maverick he is. That brings him the Oscar Awards he has amassed.

He was always there, but not quite. I remember his 1996 loss against Gary Kasparov. Today, he wiped out all of that and at the age of 38, he achieved this crowning glory. I am happy not only because I am a fellow Indian, but also because he was able to overcome those little (very little?) inaccuracies stopping him from getting there. For past almost two years, he seemed to be working on it -- to convert minimal advantage into a full point and to save a game in a must-save situation. I think he is a different player now and has been able to make those subtle modifications. At that level, this is very difficult. First, the numero uno of the Chess world, and now the undisputed champion of it -- Priceless!

Hats off!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Interesting Advertisement ...

Commercials, errr... advertising campaign banners are often very informative and educative. The attached (click to enlarge) is one example of such eye-opening banners. I definitely know few friends who will appreciate this! (All rights about the image are reserved by Rajasthan Patrika. I am not claiming any credit here).

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sending Money to India via ICICI Bank ...

This is a quick recipe that is intended to help me more than anyone else :)

If you want to send money to India, there are few options.
  1. The best is to draw a demand draft from (e.g.) State Bank of India in the name of the beneficiary. Banks need cashier's checks to be deposited to them so that they can draw the demand draft in Indian Rupees. I have used this several times. The advantage is that you get the best exchange rate. The only caveat is you need someone trustworthy (e.g. yourself) to carry the demand draft to India and hand it over to the beneficiary.
  2. ACH transfers, money2India programs work great, but I think exchange rates are a bit dicey. So, I usually avoid them.
  3. The last one is wire transfer. The following procedure is only for transferring from local bank in the USA to ICICI Bank in India.
    1. Get all the details of the beneficiary (name, address, phone number in India, ICICI Bank account number). Keep them handy.
    2. Local bank will ask you to fill in a form. Always do the wire transfer from USA to USA. That is, there are intermediate banks that are affiliated to ICICI Bank. These banks are all over the world. You need to know the exact details of those banks. For example, for the US, here is the information:
      1. Intermediary Bank SWIFT Code: CHAUS33XXX
      2. Intermediary Bank Name: JP Morgan Chase, New York. A more complete list for other countries is here.
      3. Intermediary Bank Routing Number: FED ABA 021000021.
      4. Intermediary Bank Account Number: 400808595. (The idea is that your local bank transfers the money to Chase Manhattan in this account and then it's transferred to your beneficiary's ICICI account in India. It is absolutely important that you transfer the money to this Intermediary. That saves you money as it is a domestic wire transfer for your local bank in the USA.
    3. Provide the details of the ICICI Bank.
      1. Name of the bank: ICICI Bank, with address. All the locations of ICICI Bank are available here -- -- click on "Branches" and find it yourself.
      2. SWIFT Code: ICICINBBXXX (This is for their Mumbai Branch). I will fill in the details for other branches. Note: Please ask your beneficiaries to go to their ICICI Bank Branch and get the SWIFT code for that Branch or for the main branch in that city.
That's it, you are done.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Problem with displaying devnagari characters in Firefox on Mac.

This post is to demonstrate the problem with Firefox (Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070515 Firefox/ on Mac OS X (10.4.10).

I have a simple HTML page with my name using the UTF-8 character encoding. This name is expressed in the Devanagari Script. This is how Firefox displays this on my Mac.

The same HTML page is displayed as expected in Safari on the same Mac.

The actual HTML page is as follows:

<title> Testing Devanagari on Mac/Firefox </title>

My Name: केदार म्हसवडे



Sunday, May 20, 2007

Remembering David Halberstam ...

The news of David Halberstam's death is unfortunate. I haven't read this celebrated author of 15 bestsellers, but he must have been a notable journalist and storyteller. It is just unfortunate that his illustrious life had to end this way.

When I was reading about the ordeal that Jean Halberstam (his wife of 27 years) and Kevin Jones (the unfortunate UC-Berkeley student who chauffeured him) my mind just filled with grief and helplessness. Various minds will have various reflections about this (sadly) commonplace incident, but I really feel for Kevin Jones. He must be going through a lot of trauma.

Being an Indian, I know that driving on the US roads is a joy. I just pray that I remind myself that getting to drive on US roadways is a privilege. I just pray that all drivers listen to "Mr. RoadShow's" advice that he gives everyday in the San Jose Mercury News. I just pray that I am attentive during driving and so is everyone else :). This everyday activity, so commonplace, is supposed to be safe. It has become so tricky -- and might have dire consequences. And still, it is so taken for granted. Accidents are part and parcel of everyday life. But one should not feel that enough care was not taken, that's all we can ensure.

David -- while you rest in peace, I just hope that we, as a society are better drivers!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Vishy Anand: The new number one ...

Viswanathan Anand is lonely at the top!

Yes, he achieved this remarkable feat in the new ELO Ranking list just released by FIDE. Obviously, the top 3 in the list, Vishy Anand and Kramnik/Topalov are more-or-less comparable in their prowess, but Vishy has made a point by beating the duo by 14 points!

He's been the most consistent player in the last decade, dare I say. He promised the world to be more cautious and yet creative while playing big tournaments and the results are quite fabulous. A master getting his reward. Winning a chess tournament (or a game for that matter) is a big deal. He corrected mistakes that he committed in Wijk-Aan-Zee and converted the 0's into 1's in other games to win his favorite Linares Tournament (after 9 years) by a full point.

The next goal for this remarkable player is to break the 2800 limit. I am sure he'll do it by playing fine chess in the months to come.

A great chess master's games are always memorable like the things of beauty that John Keats has said. Vishy's games are a resounding testament to that. His game collections like the one at are so exhilarating that I feel as if I have just heard a Mozart Symphony or a Lata Mangeshkar Melody. Art, isn't it?

I am very happy.

A great quote ...

While reading a book on funny quotes I found this quite interesting quote:

This sentance has three erors.