27 December 2013

There is no such thing as Zero Error Syndrome

Elbert Hubbard, a US writer, is credited for this quote.

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.

Often we use error and mistake interchangeably.
Most corporate honchos and government officials fear to make errors. They strive to keep their watch error free. It is called the zero error syndrome.

But by Hubbard's logic, if you fear to make an error, you have already made an error.
Therefore, there is no such thing as zero error (syndrome).

Hence proved.

01 November 2013

Two truisms, too true

I have developed Osteoarthritis now (OA). My left knee is all messed up. The doctor said it is an occupational hazard of an infantryman. Well, hazard or not, here I am with OA.
 But the consequence of this affliction is that the doctor ordered me to the gym. As my friend Arun Dhar will tell you, I loathe exercises: of the sandmodel kind, as well as the calisthenics kind. However, doctor's orders are orders; one you needs to cycle and to cross-train at the gym for an hour (An hour??) ( I hope I am not the first one to use cross-train as a verb)
 There are two truisms I discovered at the gym:
 (a) The more you sham in war, the more you sweat in peace.
 (b) When you cycle for 30 minutes in the gym, no matter however fast you cycle, you take the same amount of  time.
Too true, the two truisms?

27 September 2013

One story each on Google and Microsoft


Why did Google give up coffee? Here is the answer:


Microsoft: Apologising for ctrl+alt+delete


I think it is wrong for Gates to apologise. Whenever I pressed Ctrl+Alt+Delete, I always thought I was doing something very profound. Just Ctrl or Alt or Delete wouldn't be quite the same. Also notice that no one ever says Delete+Alt+Ctrl or Alt+Delete+Ctrl, although the action would be quite the same. These options just does not seem right. QED.

02 September 2013

Comparisons are Odious

Comparisons maybe odious but we never fail to compare Bengal and Kerala-and not for their Left leanings alone.
Kerala's diet is coconut, rice, banana, and fish while Bengal's diet is rice, fish, banana, and coconut. (The order matters).
Kerala's political cycle is Congress, Left, Congress, Left... While Bengal's political cycle is Congress, Congress, Left, Left, Left, Left, Left, TNC..
The Bengalee keeps adding alphabets to make new left parties: for eg, CPM, CPML, CPML (KS), CPML (CM)... The Malayalee thinks we need to put a stop at CPM.
Now, these are reconcilable differences. As are such subtle differences as this: the Keralite likes sea fish but the Bengalee likes fresh water fish.
But there is one irreconcilable difference:
The Malayalee husband needs to wear glasses, while the Bengalee husband needs to wear hearing aid. Why?
Because everytime the Malayalee wife addresses her husband, she confirms if he can see: Nokiyoo!! (Do you see?). On the other hand, the Bengalee wife confirms if her husband can hear: Ogo Sunchoo!! (Do you hear?)

16 July 2013

Re-employment Opportunity for Exservicemen and Women

The Hindu reports that 50 plus Army officers will have to undergo Physical Proficiency Tests (PPT) every quarter:


There is an opportunity in this challenge; for the 50 plus Army man/women this is a challenge, for the 54 plus exservicemen and women this is an opportunity.

The moot question is: who will grade the Army Chief (or the Army Commander, or the Corps Commander, or the Div Commander, or the Brigade Commander) every quarter without fear or favour? I concede that the Army Chief does not have to worry about promotions but maybe there is a proviso wherein s/he cannot become a Governor if s/he doesn't pass the PPTs. (Maybe there is proviso that debars the Chief from becoming a President if s/he doesn't pass the PPTs as well. As an aside: I dream of the day when a Chief will become the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces)

But take the example of PPTs of the Army Commanders. Do you think the Chief will have the time to conduct PPTs for the Army Commanders every quarter? S/he will be up to his neck in pursuit of higher direction of war. Where is the time to conduct PPTs for the Army Commanders?

Think about it. Will the Army Commanders have time to conduct PPTs for the Corps Commanders, the Corps Commanders for the Div Commanders...Well, the buck always stops at the Commanding Officer (CO) level. And I guess the COs have plenty of time to conduct PPTs. Any case COs are, more often than not, less than 50. So, let's leave the COs out of this.

Step in, the 54 plus exservicemen and women. They have no axe to grind. They don't need to fawn over Army Chiefs and Army Commanders. They are the perfect people to conduct these tests. They know the ropes and have previous knowledge of these tests. They could be easily be recruited / hired as consultants to conduct PPTs for Brigadiers and Generals.

This, I think, is a great re-employment opportunity for exservicemen and women.

But be cautioned. This will only work till the time PPTs are not introduced for exservicemen and women. I am told that such a proposal is also in the pipeline. Then, things will get a little complicated.

08 May 2013

In our school textbooks

In my time the lessons and questions in our prescribed English books in school were dull and boring. Almost all lessons lectured the students on morality or on good behaviour. I was happy to note that things have changed a bit from then. Lessons in the prescribed CBSE English books have become really interesting and fun. For example, here is a question from grammar in the current CBSE prescribed book. This question does bring a smile on our faces.

On Page 114 of English Course (Communicative) Work Book (Class X) of Central Board Secondary Education (CBSE) is this Grammar Question:

6. In the passage given below, one word has been omitted in each line. In

your answer sheet write the missing word along with the word that comes

before and the word that comes after it against the correct blank number.

Ensure that the word that forms your answer is underlined.

When the Class IX examinations over, the Deputy (a) ___________________

Commissioner asked his son he had done his (b) ___________________

English paper well. The boy told him that was easy (c) ___________________

and that for one question had written that his (d) ___________________

father was washerman. The boy's father shouted (e) ___________________

angrily but son replied, "I did not know the (f) ___________________

spelling Deputy commissioner and I did not want (g) ___________________

to one mark." (h) ___________________

But wait a minute. Is this question really funny? 

Some of us may not even notice that what the question is actually saying—perhaps inadvertently—is that the job of a Deputy Commissioner is superior to that of  the washerman. Remember dignity of labour? And remember Right to Education? It is quite likely that today a washerman’s son would sit alongside a Deputy Commissioner’s son in the same class. The washerman’s son would grow with the knowledge that his father is a lesser man. Not good.

I acknowledge that it is difficult to bring out textbooks that are completely politically correct. But we have to start purging books of hidden prejudice. We have to design our children’s books very carefully; books that have well thought out content. Classroom is a place for integration, not for disaggregation.

25 April 2013

Excel Lent Depression: Part 2

Microsoft's new offering Office 365(of which Excel is also a part) is being thrust upon 80 lakh Indian college students reports The Hindu. Remember, it was not the fault of Excel that Reinhart and Rogoff did a coding error. Microsoft Excel is the purest spreadsheet that was ever invented. Ha! Ha! How can we ever blame MS Excel if the learned professors made an error in coding?

Is it all hunky dory then? Not at all, as the daily Hindu suggests:

Come June 30, over 80 lakh college students all over India would have little choice but to use Microsoft Office 365 in their college computers, locked by a government contract that may well be more expensive than the use of an open source equivalent in the long run.

The decision by the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) will limit engineering students to a particular product at a time when their exposure should be widened, say experts. It also forces college administrations to adopt one technology instead of giving them the flexibility to install whatever suits their students’ needs best, they said.

The Hindu then contrasts open-source software against proprietary software:

Open-source software such as Linux has become popular among college students in recent times as its zero-cost approach promotes inclusivity, with former President Abdul Kalam stating “In India, open source software will have to come and stay in a big way, for the benefit of our billion people.”
Remember there are enough open source Office suites available that are free and are as good if not better than Microsoft Office. Also note that even one rupee is costlier than zero rupees.

The thing about Office 365 (unlike previous MS Office offerings) is that you cannot buy an instance outright. You need to keep paying rental every month. So Microsoft is going to pocket billions every year just by renting out Office 365 to poor college-going Indian students.

Compare the old policy of 'buy once (or download for free, if it happens to be open-source) and use it forever' to the new policy of 'rent once and keep paying forever'.

So will this new policy lead to Excel lent student Depression? Only time will tell.


While Microsoft has no qualms about milking poor Indian students dry, the Company joins the chorus in America in branding Indian software companies like Infosys, Wipro and Tata as outsourcing companies. The result is a proposed comprehensive immigration bill which if passed would bar companies from hiring people on H-1B visa if 50 percent of their employees are not Americans.

Read about this in a recent Times of India Article here.

Excel Lent Depression: Part 1

Krugman, while writing in his blog in The New York Times, titled his recent post 'Excel Depression' . I have gone ahead and tweaked the title and have named my blog 'Excel Lent Depression'. The reason is that Microsoft Excel, which is one of the apps in the Microsoft Office suite, has lent itself to be used and cause a huge depression in Europe. That 'Excel Lent Depression' sounds like 'Excellent Depression' is only incidental. 

The genesis of the story as recounted by Krugman is:

At the beginning of 2010, two Harvard economists, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, circulated a paper, “Growth in a Time of Debt,” that purported to identify a critical “threshold,” a tipping point, for government indebtedness. Once debt exceeds 90 percent of gross domestic product, they claimed, economic growth drops off sharply.

The problem with this theory, continues Krugman:

First, the learned Professors omitted some data; second, they used unusual and highly questionable statistical procedures; and finally, yes, they made an Excel coding error. Correct these oddities and errors, and you get what other researchers have found: some correlation between high debt and slow growth, with no indication of which is causing which, but no sign at all of that 90 percent “threshold.”

To explain why all this led to Excel Depression, Krugman points out:

Ms. Reinhart and Mr. Rogoff had credibility thanks to a widely admired earlier book on the history of financial crises, and their timing was impeccable. The paper came out just after Greece went into crisis and played right into the desire of many officials to “pivot” from stimulus to austerity. As a result, the paper instantly became famous; it was, and is, surely the most influential economic analysis of recent years.

I know there is something called self fulfilling prophecy. Is there also something called self fulfilling data?

Ah, but the learned Professors while acknowledging the Excel coding error, 'defended their other decisions and claimed that they never asserted that debt necessarily causes slow growth.' This defence is much like the way that I have asserted in this blog that while 'Excel Lent Depression' sounds like 'Excellent Depression', they are totally different. We need to recognise the two as homophonic expressions and nothing more.

Ineresting? ShareThis

search engine marketing