Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Astrology, My Father,Ayyappan and me

To understand this, one should not posses pre-conceived notion about Astrology,should know hashing,theory of probability,index numbers, correlation  vs causation and a bit of  human psychology

Today, I happen to see a Facebook post mocking Astrology on my wall. As usual, people who feel they are cut above the others in intellect (that itself is a superstition of some kind), began to go on a tirade against it.

In the year 1996,my father, after handing over the traditional business of selling crackers to my brother, started practicing Astrology (did it for eight years before he passed away in 2004). I was skeptical as well as apprehensive about it. My worry was mostly from the fact that he will end up becoming  a messenger of bad news, for others.

Statistical correlation of his predictions were unusually high. I know that my father do not have super natural powers. I was literally perplexed. In those days, I had written a Malayalam font engine which can be used to print characters in Malayalam on a dot matrix printer. To evaluate that, an astrologer by the name Ayyappan, a retired KSEB engineer came to my office.

Mr. Ayyapan was writing an astrology software and to print horoscope he was looking for Malayalam printing solution. He was welcomed by my boss, who is an atheist. In the midst of conversation, an interesting piece of conversation happened.

Boss :-  "Isn't Astrology superstitious?"
Ayyappan:-"If you are looking for determinism in Astrological prediction,definitely it is not a science. But,there is high degree of correlation,not much sure about causation"

Boss got stunned and he stared at me. I could not control my smile. It was, as if, you were pelting stones at somebody's house,he also joins you.

That particular incident explained to me,why my father was successful in prediction and made some money, which made my life easier. He did not bother me for money till he died.

Astrology uses planetary position, time and place as source data. Like you do, Hashing in Computer science, the source data will be converted into a index number(an indicator).That index will be used to lookup a table of rules and another table meant for exception to the rule. That is all Astrology provides. From there onward, Astrologer takes over and interprets the rules and it's exceptions to suit his goal.

One thing is sure for me. There is striking correlation between astrological prediction and real life events, at a statistical level. I am sure that there is no causation between source data and prediction. If you feel, correlation is enough, consult an astrologer. Otherwise, believe your instinct and do not bother.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Essential traits for a Business Analyst - Part 2

In this post, let me try to define Business Analyst. The term "Business Analyst" can be decomposed into Business + Analyst.

Let us create an operational definition of the term Business

"A set of economic activities which have been undertaken to make a profit by selling goods or services can be called a Business. To run a Modern Business one needs to create an organization with subsystems to take care of various functions like purchase,sales,operations,accounting,finance,administration,marketing,advertising/branding etc.The interplay between various functions are defined based on the vision and mission of the organization,as per it's business model"

Now, we need to understand what the term Analyst means

"A person who examines or studies a particular area in detail is an Analyst. The process which an Analyst use to do his job can be called Analysis. The Analysis breaks down the concepts in a particular area into constituent elements to study them in detail and will use synthesis to compose elements together for a favorable outcome,for the perspective from which the analysis has been undertaken".

A Business Analyst is a person who uses analytical tools to study the business process with an intention to mutate or enhance it. His skills are valuable when business processes are automated as the analyst knows about business processes,it's bottleneck etc. better than any other stakeholders in the business. The formal documents prepared by a Business Analyst can be used as a foundation for kick-starting an IT project.

Essential traits for a Business Analyst - Part 1

Business Analyst is a trade which has been regarded as a support activity by the IT services Industry. But,from a operational perspective, the function has got great value than it has been attributed to. The Software engineers mostly do not care about the functional domains, as they are "obsessed" with technical domains. When technical people think bottom up, there is necessity for people who can think top down,  from a functional perspective.

In other words,Business Analysts are mid-wives between the consumers of the application and producers of the application. For some reasons,BA has shown an affinity towards the business side of things than technology side. IMHO,it should be at the mid-point.

A Business Analysts should be equally good at Business concepts and Technical artifacts. Without understanding the idea of computation and it's realization through code and databases,a business analyst will be in constant conflict with software developers.

Moreover, his biggest threat for job can come from erstwhile technical people who are trying to morph as Business Analysts. Following series of articles will try to give a personal perspective of the Business Analysis ( as applied to Software Industry ) Profession.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What is "happening" in Technopark(Trivandrum)?

A murder which resulted in the death of two ( a girl and her maternal grand mother) in Attingal because of a love triangle( women, husband and her "lover" ) did make some news recently. I think, this murder has put Technopark and it's lifestyle under the "limelight" of public consciousness,much to the dismay of people who work in companies which are housed in the campus.

An affair which started between two colleagues,spiraled out of control and resulted in the murder of a three year old and a grandmother. The illicit affair (both are married to different people) made it a story of love,treason etc. Altogether, like a plot of a film.

If you are reasonably doing well ( or from a well to do family) and a guy who leads a car to carpet life,Technopark gives you immunity from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. You start early in the morning and work late into night has statistical conformance there.  In Every company,there will be 20% of the people will be in this category. Obviously, in a place where 30,000 work,there are 6000 sightings of people who are working from dawn to night.

The whole life is centered around the office and colleagues, for these guys. Obviously,interface happens more often between a colleague from opposite gender than your real life partner. This can have some kind of "chemical imbalance" between people in their already "stressed" lives. If one quarter of the 6000 workaholics are paired, it becomes 750 affairs. Out of the 750 odd affairs, only 10% will be serious and can result in a marital breakdown.

If you take a look at it,there are at least 50 (to 75 ) instances of erstwhile partners working in the same campus,some times even together in the same company.  Most of them (which I am aware of) have taken it in their stride. This particular one is a rare occasion,where it has culminated in a disastrous ending.

For a single event,why should an area which has helped to put Kerala on the IT map should be "villanized"? There are more percentage of illicit affairs outside Techno-park!

Philosophy/Computer Programming - a discussion

A week ago, I presented a session on Modern JavaScript. The presentation gave the rationale of JavaScript programming language constructs like dynamic typing,prototype based OOP, functional programming etc. I had mentioned about Austrian Philosopher,Ludwig Wittgenstein and his Tractutus Logico Philosophicus. Wittgenstein was mentioned in the context of duck typing ( which in turn, is an instance of Family resemblance theorem). "If something walks like a duck, quack likes a duck, it is a duck" has got striking resemblance to object dispatch in dynamic languages which supports prototype based OOP.

After the talk,I met Kaustabh who knows about the Philosopher and his works. He had studied Philosophy from Jadavpur university,West Bengal. We discussed about the interplay between some philosophical ideas and computer programming. The topics we discussed include Reduction-ism,Proof by Contradiction,Jungian Archetypes,Metaphysics/Ontology etc. 

Reading "Genome" By MATT RIDLEY

I had blogged about my interest in learning evolutionary biology at the Genetics level. To get a better overview of the subject,I picked up a book which I had purchased a decade ago,written by Matt Ridley. The title of the book is "Genome - The Autobiography of a Species in 23 chapters".

The author assigns a character or trait to each of the chromosome like {Life.1}.{Self interest , 8},{Sex,15}. Even though, I purchased it long back,I could not follow it back then, as there was some cognitive difficulty for me while learning central dogma of Genetics.

I am hoping that with my renewed interest in Genetics, Genome book will make more sense to me.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Illiterates in Biology-myself included

For a week,I have been contacting my friends who in the past have claimed that they do have good understanding of Genetics and related topics in the biology. But, when I contacted them to understand the central dogmas of Evolutionary biology,all of them (all of them!) backed away from explaining the stuff, to me. The confusion stems from the fact that people use DNA,Gene and Chromosome interchangeably. The confusion can be like,"DNA is in Gene?" or "Gene is DNA?" or "Chromosome in Gene?" or "Gene in Chromosome?" etc.. etc.

After couple of days,I began to do a forensic analysis (still a work-in-progress)  of the whole puzzle and after endless confusions,I (seems to) have managed to understand things from a structural perspective. This is essential for an algorithmic understanding of the genetic process.

The context is as follows. To understand some topics in Evolutionary Psychology,I had some need to learn about Chromosomes,Gene,DNA/RNA , replicators (translation,transcription,re-combination,mutation) etc. I do  understand now ( after reading a lot ) it in a schematic manner (the information is not still convincing for me) as

  • there are bases ( {A,C,T,G,U} ). They stand for Adenine,Cytosine,Thymine,Guanine,Uracil. Uracil is found only in RNA. 
  • bases are paired ( { A,T} , {C,G} ) in a double helical structure on both sides of DNA
  • an arbitrary sequence of base within a Chromosome is called Gene. Or a Chromosome is collection of Gene. A chromosome can contain 30,000-80,000 Genes.
  • a three word sequence within a Gene can form a recipe for  amino acid ( some three letter sequence are invalid) from a list of amino acids.Some three letter sequence do not depict an amino acids. Only twenty of them do.
  • Humans do have 23 chromosomes Or a collection of 23 chromosomes are found in a Human cell.
  • Chromosomes are found in the nucleus of Cell.
  • Humans and other organisms who have Nucleus within Cells are called EUKARYOTE. A PROKARYOTE (bacteria etc) do not have nucleus.
I have learned some more things like tRNA ( transfer RNA ) , mRNA ( messenger RNA ), Introns,Exons,Replication,Translation,Protiens,Enzymes,Promoters etc. I will post about it. 

I am happy to travel and learn from anyone who feels that they have good understanding of the whole process. So far,I have not come across anyone!

"Should I do PhD? or should I just eat Kichadi?? "

I happen to see a Facebook post from Renjith P Ravindran,a guy whom I know mostly through Social media ( met him once and he helped me write my first printed article!). The post was ,"Should I do PhD? or should I just eat Kichadi?? "

I do not exactly know what he meant by Kichadi. I believe,he might be mentioning about "hodge-podge" of tricks and techniques acquired during his masters. It is like Kichidi (Mixed vegitable curry). May be, further implication might be, a PhD might give him a comprehensive view (as opposed to kichadi view).

Having a "Dr" prefix in front of one's name is honorable achievement. In  the process,one might learn a lot as well and might achieve some kind of cognitive closure in a narrow field of study. The rigor of a PhD will help a person to work on formal techniques (mathematical/logical)  of his subject. If it is on some kind of algorithms which has got practical use,a patent or an entrepreneurial opportunity might be lurking inside. In effect,at least,he or she will come out better in terms of intellectual ability.

The price one pays for a PhD are numerous too. Late marriage,problems of adapting to lesser mortals,inability to work in environment where imperfect information is the norm,finding a job which suits your qualification etc are some of them.

Studying for PhD to focus intensely on a field of study to achieve some kind of fundamental breakthrough. This requires studying the state of the art and coming up with new ideas/formal techniques which might be of some cognitive value or practical purpose. This will easily take away three to ten years of one life.

Doing PhD is not bad. Where you are doing it is also important!In a country like USA, there is option to work in between and re-join the program or you have got even option to drop out and create a new company!. People do drop out of PhD to take-up jobs there.

IMHO,PhD will give you some cool years away from the "hustle and bustle" of modern urban life. If you do not become a professor or entrepreneur,it will be futile to take one!. Should your study has got potential to be converted into a venture? If you feel so, go for it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A "purdah fallacy" and a real life Event

I Just happen to find a picture where a snap of women wearing purdah is annotated in Malayalam as follows,"My beauty and grace is for my husband,not for others in the world". I am sure that the lady might not have made that remark. The remark might be from a fanatic who thinks that (pre-islamic) Arabian custom of veil is part of the Islam and women are to be covered.

Out of fear of going out of favor with elders,women might comply to wear purdah. In my opinion,It is a kind of "social strangulation". In Kerala,before the advent of Pan Islamic affinity in the 80s, Purdah was only used in pockets of Kasargod, Malapuram and adjoining northern districts.

During 1990s, I am seeing it is being insisted by the elders in the community that Purdah is mandatory. In an age where women are making great strides,these fundamentalists are treating women as slaves. 

In the deserts of Arabia, Purdah was a pre-Islamic custom and it was used as a device to hide the beauty of some women from the horny men around. Obviously,It might have entered the religious edicts. Now,I am seeing purdah clad women wearing tight dress to attract people around. The motto seems to be , "If my face is only for my husband, my structure is for the world". Women are programmed to attract man and men are supposed to go after women. That is law of nature. There are good criminal laws to protect women, there is no need to import a custom which existed long ago. 

This an incident which happened long ago ( I think in 1998/1999 ). A Xian friend and another friend who is a Muslim were engaged in dialogue when I was teaching C/C++ to both of them.

Xian:- Why some Muslim insists that we can have up-to four wives ?

Muslim:"One answer I can give you. Look,women is Islam should cover themselves up and how come a man will be able to see whether a girl is matching his expectation of a  wife? So, u might get unattractive women in the process and I think Islam wants to give a second or third choice to man to try his luck. It was in those good times! Now, there is a small problem. If the first wife has got strong siblings,you will marry only once, If you try otherwise, your legs can be amputated as well."

Everyone: Ha...Ha..

A dig at Rene Descartes!

Rene Descartes was a French Philosopher and Mathematician who might have made geometry easy for all of us. He is the inventor of Co-ordinate geometry ( may be, co-inventor along with Pierre De Fermat ),which unified arithmetic and algebra.

I happen to stumble upon this site,which gives a description of his work and times.

 "He studied law, but since he had rich parents he never had to earn any money with his learned profession"

The interpretation could be, he had plenty of time to do fancy things (like inventing Analytic Geometry). Long ago, Garry Kasparov was asked by a Journalist,"Why Russians are good Chess Players?". His answer surprised everyone,"They do not have anything worthwhile to do,so they play Chess all the time".

""Descartes was also an influential philosopher. He tried to explain the whole world through logical thinking. He started with doubting everything and then building up on axioms as it had been done in geometry since the time of the Greeks. He stated one of his axioms in his famous sentence "I think, therefore I am". Once he had proved with this sentence that he existed, he assumed that everything which people can have a clear picture of, has to exist too. Since his idea of God was of a perfect being, knowing everything, and being able accomplish whatever he wanted to, he concluded that God had to exist These ideas could not be deducted from the physical world, but come only from God. In Descartes' time, this was a very important conclusion. Scientists were very religious and highly motivated to find the laws behind nature as a way to glorify God!"

In the pre-renaissance time, Scientists believed in the God and used to  glorify God. Renaissance has not started yet, Darwin was not born as well.

Even more hilarious 

"With his system to explain the world, he "proved" many things, among others that animals could not feel like humans do. He said that they were equivalents to machines. Apparently he got a bit lost in his mathematical and logical thinking, and never found the time to really look at an animal"

Had Descartes been given opportunity to dabble with animals ( instead of mathematical/logical thinking), with his view that animals are lesser life form,the animals which were subjects of his experiments would have had a tough time.

A Parallel between Exams and Caste System

Human beings take decisions on precedence. Things which are artificial can be interpreted as natural,If sightings of a phenomena is found at different places. Even our Judicial system ( the universal judicial systems ) banks on precedence to judge on cases.

I do have "Examophobia" ( fear of exams) and that is one of the reasons academic study scared me. Let's talk about Caste System and it's connection to precedence. 

Division of Labor is clearly cited as a necessity for economic progress is highlighted in the celebrated "Wealth of Nations" written by Adam Smith's (father of modern economics). Pin factory model in his celebrated Wealth of Nations ( a marvelous piece of work) epitomizes specialization and it's virtue. Long before Adam Smith, the societies used to resort to division of labor as a mechanism to beat the odds against them. Some people became warriors, some specialized in ceremonies, some became janitor , arts , science etc. People who practiced professions were grouped together and given a moniker. 

Soon, the curse of precedence set in, and the inversion of logic happened.

"Profession was the basis of Caste. As time progressed,Caste became basis of Profession"

Likewise, Exams were a mechanism to judge the competence (level of learning) of  people. As time progressed,scores in Exam became the focus of all activities. People began to focus on scores than learning.

P(A|B) <> P(B|A)  => Humans do not understand Probability,Conditional probability is even more counter intuitive. Conventions are convenient.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Self centrism - the biggest impediment to learning

Some of my friends do have pre-conceived notions against others ( including me ) as much as I am having against them and  others. Prejudice is a good device to reduce the complexity of life. By stereo typing people around,we can navigate territories by using some formulas. 

Every man will have some unique qualities which differentiates him from others. Some people might have bit more. The problem comes when you shift yourself to a new place where your (old) formulas are not relevant. This can be a new friend group, a company or a new community. All of a sudden,"expert" becomes a novice. He has to start from the scratch.

Self-Centric people refuse to adapt and try to benchmark themselves against the top dogs in the new environment against his or her own expertise in a particular area ( which is not at all relevant in the new milieu ). Rather than adapting to the environment, he is effectively trying to change the environment. That means,he is in for a practically impossible task. 

The root cause of self-centrism comes from being winners for a long time in a particular milieu. Winners who cannot re-invent themselves after a period of time or adapt to the changes around or come in terms with new environments which they are thrust into, often gets frustrated and becomes nihilistic in everything. They fail to see even the obvious.

Be a selfish man, but , Self centrism is dangerous!

A Poem on JavaScript!

There lived a hacker named Brendon
Worked for the NetScape, for a living
Worked on a Browser Named Navigator
His manger asked to Design a Language
That too, a Language for casual programmers
He choose Simplicity and Modernity
To be Simple,Typing became Dynamic
To be Modern,It has to have OOP thingy
OOP in dynamic means the Prototype
Prototype is Just a Dictionary
To reduce Objects to Key/Value
Function Ought to be a Value
To Make function a  Value,
Functional Constructs crept in
He resorted to borrow from Scheme
Scheme is a modern LISP
LISP is for Lot of Irritating and Silly Parenthesis
Thus JavaScript,became Ugly
Despite, having a good Anatomy!

PS:- If you understand this, think, otherwise study it!

"Murphy boy" and Mandakini

From the Year 1985 to 1989 , Mandakini (Yasmeen Joseph) was a sensation. Since her on screen chemistry with Mithun Chakraborty was superb,she was my favorite actress as well. At least, Dance Dance and Commando are two movies which I remember well.

Today, I saw a Facebook post remembering Clint, the whiz kid who has drawn more pictures than an average community will in his life time. Clint was a familiar name in my younger days. This reminded me of the "Murphy Boy", a boy which was picturized in the Murphy radio ad. In those days,KSRTC bus used to  ply with the Murphy radio ad on them. I did a search on the Internet.

Voila! The "Murphy boy" is Kagyur Tulku Rinpoche,an erstwhile Buddhist monk from Himachal ( probably from Dharamshala, a son of Tibetan refuge?)  and his wife is Mandakini. I did read about some Mandakini Gossip to revive my dormant memories of the past!

Synopsis of my talk @ Barcamp Kerala 15

Games,Psychology and Economics - Some anecdotes

Politics is intrinsic to  any group formed to achieve an objective. Most believe it is dirty and shy away from
meddling in intra group activities. Because of some subjective experiences and consant conflicts,the presenter did a "amateur" study of this subject. The prima facie conclusion of the on going study can be summarized as ,"Without intra group activties,no Group will survive". If you do not enjoy political conflicts/gossips/bickering , you will lead a "poor" life!

The examples include Gaming patterns and Biases/Fallacies which amplify the problems within any group. A
Philosophical framework for navigating political territories will be discussed as well.
For registration and information,go to the page here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Robustness Principle - It is sensible for me

I just happened to come across an idiom which comes in the context of computing ( and seems to have applications in real life). The idiom is called "Robustness Principle"

According to wikipedia,

"In computing, the robustness principle is a general design guideline for software:

Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others (often reworded as "Be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you accept").
The principle is also known as Postel's law, after Internet pioneer Jon Postel, who wrote in an early specification of the Transmission Control Protocol that:[1]

TCP implementations should follow a general principle of robustness: be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others."

This principle was mentioned by one Mr. Ashley Thomas in a Facebook post. He was responding to the call for grammatical and spelling correctness while communicating in the English language.

As you age,you need to obey this law and be line-ant towards others. Be it in personal life or professional life. Especially, in intellectual matters.

The discussion on Facebook was about Sanjay (a friend) getting irritated by people using except in lieu of accept. Ashley Thomas wrote the following:

"Be conservative in what you say; Be liberal in what you except"

Change - Induce or deduce?

Our propensity to see the world in a synchronous manner is one of the root causes of most troubles we encounter as  human beings. The quest for finding cause/effect relationship between events and things dominate our instincts. Our belief system and mindset is result of the conformance or lack of it regarding things out there in the world.

The initial environment influence which a person inherits stay with she or he as human beings we require some kind of anchoring to revert to a stable state. To reduce the inertia involved in accepting change,one needs to take deliberate action ( block busting) or some kind of disruptive event has to happen which mandates a change in outlook.

We can disrupt our way of looking at things deductively and inductively. The inductive method is to change the environment we live in and deductive method is to read/think about new things.

What kind of change you prefer? Deductive or Inductive?

Translation to Malayalam

ലോകത്തെ ക്രമീകരിച്ചു കാണുവാൻ ഉള്ള ത്വര ആണ് മനുഷ്യന്റെ മിക്ക പ്രശ്നങ്ങളുടെയും  മൂല കാരണം. നമ്മുടെ ഉപഭോത മനസ്സ് എല്ലാപ്രതിഭാസങ്ങളിലും ഒരു കാരണവും അതിന്റെ പ്രഭാവവും  കാണാൻ ശ്രമിക്കാറുണ്ട്. നമ്മുടെ വിശ്വാസ പ്രമാണങ്ങളുടെ മൂല ഹേതു നമ്മൾ വിശ്വസിക്കു ന്നതത്വങ്ങളുടെ കാഴ്ചയോ അതിന്റെ അഭാവമോ ആണ് തിരുമാനിക്കുന്നത്

നമ്മൾ വളര്ന്നു വന്ന സാഹചര്യത്തിന്റെ പ്രഭാവം നമ്മളെ വിട്ടു പോകാൻ സാധിക്കാതത്തിനു കാരണം മനുഷ്യ മനസിന്‌ ഒരു നന്ഗൂരം അതിന്റെ സ്തിരതക്ക് വേണ്ടി നല്ലത് ആണ്. മാറ്റത്തിനുള്ള ജടത്വം കുറക്കുനതിനു വേണ്ടി പരിശ്രമം അല്ലെങ്കിൽ മാറുന്നതിനു നമ്മളെ നിർഭന്ദിക്കുന്ന എന്തെങ്കിലും കാര്യം ചുറ്റു  പാടും നടന്നാൽ നമ്മൾ നന്ഗൂരം വലിച്ചെറിയാൻ നിർഭന്ദിതം ആകും.

നമ്മുടെ വീക്ഷണം പ്രേരണ ( induction ) മൂലമോ നിഗമനം (deduction ) മൂലമോ നമ്മള്ക് തെറ്റിക്കാൻ സാധിക്കും. ആധ്യതെതതു നമ്മളുടെ ചുറ്റുപാടുകൾ മാറ്റിയാലോ  രണ്ടാമതെത് വായ്നയിലൂടെയോ ചിന്തയിലൂടെയോ മാറ്റാൻ സാധിക്കും

നിങ്ങൾ എങ്ങനത്തെ മാറ്റം ആണ് ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നത് ? പ്രേരണ ആണോ നിഗമനം ആണോ ?

A Truism about Economics!

"Modern Society is run on the basis of Justice to the Capital. If you or me are slaves to the Capital, people like Ambani/Buffet/BillG are hostages to it" - Praseed Pai, Circa 2014

I coined the phrase "Justice to the Capital" in the year 2011,sitting in the campus of Intel,Bangalore. The Justice is done to the capital, if it's expected rate of return is achieved. It does not care how it was achieved . It silently allows others to make money in it's quest to appreciate. As long as its goal is achieved, It will allow the status quo regarding  the people who handle it.