Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bravery Test!

When I was doing my graduation, I used to stay with three of my batch-mates. We had a rented a two bedroom apartment. I was staying in one of the bedrooms which had an attached terrace. I had opted for that bedroom for the beautiful view of the neighborhood the terrace gave.

It was my third year in the professional college (engineering). I had an usual fun-filled college day. Following that, I was occupied in writing some journals for submissions. Later, I went to sleep a bit early. While I was sleeping in my bedroom, I suddenly heard a big sound. It felt like something really BIG had fallen down. Half-awake, I reluctantly glanced through the translucent window. Reluctant because most of the times it would turn out to be something that I would ignore and go back to sleep like someone dropping their luggage bags, someone is moving in/out, bike falling, etc. But, this was NOT one of those days! I saw a shadow getting up from the bottom of my window. I could not tell if it was the effects of the neighboring lights or that person was indeed HUGE.

I was totally awake by then. A bit scared too. The time had slowed down for me. It felt like someone had pressed the "Slow Motion" button of my life. I was feeling the gut of every microsecond I was living. With each passing moment, my sub-conscience was pumping various thoughts into my mind which in turn was churning stories out of it.

There were three things of which I was 100% sure of :-
1. He was uninvited.
2. He had broken into my house.
3. He had definitely jumped into my terrace from some other flat/wall.

All of the circumstantial evidences were pointing to him being a Thief. Although the door and the windows were all closed, I wasn't feeling safe at all. There were no grills on the windows. I was feeling that the person in my terrace could break in anytime through the windows.

I had to do something about it. I made up my mind to face the man myself. I tried recollecting my Karate classes which I had learnt in 3rd grade(only for a few months before I dropped out) and barely remembered except some words and vague memories like "Upper punch...hiyaa. Middle punch...hiyaaa. Lower punch...hiyaaa" :P I even visualized the amazing Kung-Fu fight of Bruce Lee vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I might have even imagined myself attempting some of the stunts from this fight :D

That fictional glory was only for a fraction. I was soon back to reality. But, those confidence-boosting visuals had prepared me to face my fear. This was indeed a "Bravery Test"! I could still see the shadow. I went ahead and without making any noise, gradually opened the door of the terrace . I slowly peeked in to see who the person is, what is he carrying and what are his intentions. I was all prepared to close the door in case of any sudden pouncing from his side. What I saw was that he was trying to get down of my terrace. I realized that he was trying to run away. Suddenly, I felt like transformed from "Being the Prey" to "Being the Predator". I was now the cat in this cat-mouse chase!

He was attempting a shabby escape. That place is otherwise very silent at that time of the night. So, as I walked straight to him, he could clearly hear my foot-steps to know that I was approaching him. By now, he was half way on the pipe and half way on the edge of my terrace. Dim light from a bulb in the surrounding terrace was falling slightly on our faces giving us a glimpse of each other. Both of us were looking straight into the eyes of each other. My assumptions had gone for a toss as I could not understand why he was running away. I was filled with "curiosity" to know the reason, "confidence" to face him and an ounce of "fear" for the unseen. On the other hand, that man looked drunk and frightened.

We then had a brief conversation like this :-

ME : Who are you?
MAN : Ummmm...I am...
ME : (before he could complete his sentence, interrupting him...) What the heck are you doing in my flat? Why shouldn't I yell and awake others and get you prisoned?
MAN : (with his eyes lowered with shame) My name is XYZ. I stay in the apartment just upstairs to yours. I had a BIG fight with my wife. She locked me inside the bedroom for I was drunk and fighting with her. She won't let me out till morning. So, I jumped out of the flat to your terrace.
ME : (Totally shocked; glancing up to the window which was like 20-25 feet high and then looking back to him; also, trying hard to control my laughter) O-K. So, where are you going now?
MAN : (By now, descended almost half the pipe) I am going for a drink now. I will come back in the morning.

I was all surprised for he had jumped out of window of his flat from a height of 20-25 feet and was crawling on pipes just to get more drunk than he was! I even wanted to ask him if he had money. But, by then, he had disappeared from the sight. There was a grin on my face for the bravery test was over. Time started running at its normal speed again. After closing the door of the terrace, I went straight to the other rooms and woke my flat-mates and told them the story. We all were laughing the whole night about it. In the next few days, we all made sure to make that man realize his GUILT. I don't expect him to have stopped drinking but he would definitely think a lot before attempting such a stunt again! :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

SMS Filtering/Blocking

One thing that has been bothering me since long time are the BULK SMS. Most of us don't want to receive these SMS or rather receive only those that we are really interested in. But, as it seems, the default policy is that everyone receives these SPAM SMS unless they have registered for Do Not Disturb (DND) with their mobile subscriber. But, I could hardly perceive any changes what-so-ever even after doing that.

So, I decided to tackle the problem myself. I looked for applications that support SMS blocking. I found quite a few free ones for my iPhone. They have facility of content/pattern based SMS filtering. For the past few months, I have been compiling pattern-based signatures and fine tuning them so as to block as many unwanted BULK SMS as possible. The BULK SMS that now make it to my inbox have reduced drastically :)

Not all BULK SMS can be quantified as SPAM just on the basis of some patterns. Some of them do not have a specific pattern and using generic signatures for them would lead to "False Positives". Blocking such SMSes would need applications that do heuristics and learn with time. As of now, I am not aware of any applications doing that. Until we have such applications, we will have to rely on these simple content based filtering applications.

Applications currently supporting such pattern matching are:-
  1. iPhone(Jailbroken)          =>   iBlackList, mCleaner
  2. Android based mobiles   =>   SMS Filter Lite(Free), SMS Filter(Paid)

Case-Sensitive patterns for blocking BULK SMS

INFO BSE CODE;BTST CALL;TMTOPGAIN;BUY NOW;FOLLOW UP ON;SURE SHOT;BSNL RADIO;Whatever is the market;ust next 3 Days;DREAMGAIN;for 3 Days;full 160 character;Rocket Call;order soon;DO BUY;Limited Period;Positional Call;Correspondence course;JACKPOT;BUY CALL;INTRADAY;BASE CALL;Farmax;IIPS;Short Term Cal;love money;Century Ply;Breaking News;Work from internet;earn an extra income;NSE is available;BSE is available;Why stand in line;Shiv kripa;BUY FOR BULL;Value BUY;Buy Nifty;CALL BUY;University18;Rupees Daily in;Postgraduate program in;DLF;save tax upto;ASSURED GIFT;BUY BSE;SPY PEN;Why to follow crowd;Beyond Petals;Nse Code;SURE BUYER CIRCUIT;BSE BLAST CALL;Buy MTS;LOSSES IN SHARE MARKET;Will Hit Upper Circuit;Will hit upper circuit;India Bse Code;BUY IN BUNCH NOW;Enjoy festive season with;Infomedia Yellow Pages;Dream Holiday in Jungle;ANNUAL DISCOUNT OFFER;U R LUCKY ONE;Dreams Events;career se pareshan;Treatment for Hairloss;IF YOU NEED FINANCE;SEND Free SMS;SMS MEDICAL;MTECHTIPS;mtechtips;EARN DAILY;KRIPA KAVACH;ONLINE INCOME;

The signatures are separated by semi-colon. Please check for the separator required by the application that you are using and make the changes in this signature set accordingly. You may have to fine tune it further based on your taste and needs.

Also, if you have some more signatures/applications to suggest, do let me know!
I will try to keep this list updated until the DND works perfectly or the BULK SMS are banned.

Don't forget to thank me if I have helped you to reduce some SPAM from your life :)

1. Use these patterns/signatures at your own risk. I am not responsible if someone loses their important data because of these signatures.
2. These signatures are fine tuned for the BULK SMS in India. They may not be applicable to other countries.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

US Trip

Ever since I got to know of our branch in San Diego, I always wanted to go there. San Diego is all known for its beautiful climate, beaches and surfing. It never seemed to materialize though. But, as they say, sometimes things happen when you least expect it. The sudden business needs had put us (Sagar and me) on a flight to San Diego. We reached on Saturday morning.

When we reached San Diego, we were all jet-lagged. So, after relaxing for a while, we went to the famous La Jolla beach and had some fun.

Good thing is the climate is always pleasant out there. The breeze from the Cold Pacific keeps the weather all cool even at 12PM with the Sun right above the head. Another good thing is that there are hardly any traces of air or sound pollution. We visited "Dave and Buster's" gaming zone on one of the week days. It is great fun to play in there; especially when you are a part of a big herd!

After five days of business training, Saturday was all reserved for Universal Studios. Our only motive to go to Universal Studios was to relish the rides over there. We totally loved all the rides over there - Terminator-2 3D, Shrek 4D, Mummy ride, Jurassic Park ride. Mummy ride was quite amusing for its reverse effect. But, the "WOW Moment" of the entire stay was the "King Kong 360 degree 3D movie". It is totally awesome! An excerpt from the movie "King Kong" (by Peter Jackson) was shown inside a tunnel where the movie is going on in all directions (360 degree view) in 3D. In fact, at some places, your tram becomes part of the movie itself.  I was totally enthralled by it. A perfect prototype of what the future entertainment is gonna be like!

The next day we had gone to Old Town, San Diego. The State Historic Park over there has preserved and recreated Old Town as it existed during the Mexican and early American periods. We got to see rich cultural beauty of San Diego. We also got a chance to listen to the country music and dance.

In the evening, we visited the "Point Loma" lighthouse. The view from this point is super-awesome! You get to see the San Diego City on one side and Pacific ocean on the other side. It is so serene!

Because of time crunch, for the third weekend, we had to chose between Disney and Sea World. "Sea World" was an unanimous choice! It turns out to be way better than I expected. The Shamu's show was the most amazing part of it. A killer whale named Shamu is the main lead of that show. Although they had announced that the Shamu's splash goes up to like sixteenth row, my usual trait of curiosity made be stand up from my seat while Shamu was preparing for splash. End result was me all wet inside out :P The other shows were Sea Lion show, Dolphin show, Penguin show, etc. Another adventurous part was the ride called "Journey to Atlantis"! It is a six minutes ride which is a combination of water ride and roller coaster including a 60 foot plunge into the lake! We enjoyed it thoroughly!

One best thing about California is that you get almost all kinds of cuisines over there. So, apart from all these small outings, we spent a lot of time trying out different cuisines. Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Vietnami and Greek cuisines were the ones that made on my list. As a result, when I returned back to India, I was feeling more food-lagged than jet-lagged :P Actually, I still am :)

On our way back, I happened to witness one great phenomenon called as "Glory". It is an optical phenomenon which results in you seeing an halo around the object. Took me 4-5 attempts to time it. iPhone came handy for it!

Although it was a short business trip, we had loads of fun!

Related Links:-

Monday, October 11, 2010

Inertia !

They say that children are the most curious ones on the planet. I don't know about the other children, but, I surely was one of the most curious ones for sure. 

When you are a tot, everyone in your surrounding is bombarding you with lots of DOs and DONTs. These dos and donts are either axioms, personal/shared experience based, intuition based, of religious origin or even superstitious. But, then, you just assume everything said by them to be true. Like many other things, my parents and teachers had imbibed in me that

"One should never jump/get off a moving object, otherwise you get hurt".  

This was an unquestioned truth for me for quite some years. But, as I started getting older (and probably smarter), "Logical Reasoning" began playing its BIG role. I started questioning things in order to know them. I wanted to understand things with my own logic and in turn, develop that logic itself.

While in this phase (I guess when I was around 5 years old), my then logical reasoning suddenly found a conflict with the same axiom which was wallowing deep down in my brain - "One should never jump off a moving object; otherwise you get hurt". I somehow could not digest it as truth anymore. This conflict was because my reasoning was something like this -

"If there is nothing at the 'destination of jump' that is gonna pierce/cut me through, how can I get hurt on jumping off a moving object! 

When I jump off a moving thing, I should be able to do it just like a normal jump. This jump should be similar to jumping between two still objects. What makes this jump so special to hurt someone???"

Instead of asking this question directly to my parents, I somehow decided to use my own ways. The only way of knowing the truth was to jump off a moving object. And, so was decided. The plan was to jump off the moving scooter of my father. This was a secret mission and my father was least aware of it.

It was an usual day. My father asked me if I was interested in going along with him to buy the groceries. I was totally in for it. This was exactly what I wanted.

We went to the grocery store and shopped the required items. On our way home, I wanted to test my reasoning. The destination chosen was very near to my home and just before the speed breaker so that the speed is slow. This was to minimize the wounds in case I was wrong. I don't remember how I got this last minute addition. May be it was my sub-conscience. Anyways, my projected outcome of the experiment was something like this: -

As against this, the actual outcome was something like this: -

Thanks to the last minute addition, I wasn't hurt except some minor scratches. Immediately thereafter, my father stopped the scooter and came running to me. He started asking me as to how did I fall suddenly. I spontaneously responded that I had jumped. He was both confused and ferocious at the same time. But, he still tried asking me the reason politely. Then, followed the explanation of what I was testing and the logical reasoning behind it. I don't remember whether dad told me the actual reasoning I was interested to know or not. Probably he did. But, I do remember the big scolding I had. Even I had realized the mistake and hence, was just nodding to everything my father was saying.

After few years, in school, while taking the science lessons, when teacher explained about Inertia and the first law of "Newton's Laws of Motion", I exactly knew how and why :D While everyone in the class was taking the lessons seriously, I was the one who was smiling :)

PS:- Jumping from a moving object is dangerous and do not attempt it under any circumstances! I am not responsible for anyone performing such an act after reading this blog! 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Answer in your mother-tongue!

Let's roll back the time to the year 1996. I was in 6th standard then. My normal routine then was:- going to school early morning, completing homework in the afternoon and playing all through the evening to the night. One day at school, while I was reading the notice board,  I saw a notice for some basic Sanskrit exam and the minimum qualification required was studying in 6th standard. Curious to learn/try Sanskrit, I enrolled for the exam. I was the only one from my class(or rather, batch) who had enrolled for that exam. I bought the required study book. It was some small book with around 100 pages. All I had informed my parents was that I had enrolled for some Sanskrit exam and would appear for it in a few weeks.

I started the preparation. The book contained basic Sanskrit grammar. The book had relevant explanation in English. I started learning on my own. The preparation time was around three weeks.

Then, came the Judgement Day. I went to exam hall which was situated in a nearby Marathi medium school. Being new to the place, I was curiously glancing everywhere. The exam start bell rang and I got the question paper. As usual, I started reading the notices at the top of the paper.  There was only one notice and it was

"Answer in your mother-tongue"

I was part of a English medium school and had read a book which was Sanskrit explained in English. So, I had planned to write the paper in English. But, this statement totally confused me because my mother-tongue is "Marwadi". I started wondering as to what to do. The supervisor did not look friendly to me (thanks to his appearance and continuous yelling at other students). I wasn't  feeling comfortable to go and ask him as to what to do. I decided to make my own assumptions.

First assumption was that I have to answer the question paper in "Marwadi" as the examiner can and will  figure out by all possible means that my mother tongue is Marwadi.

Then, I started wondering as to how to write in Marwadi. At least, I am not aware of the script. I confidently made second assumption that I have to write Marwadi in English script. 

Now, the next doubt was, how will the examiner know and understand Marwadi. I continued to make the third assumption that they might have employed required people who know all languages.

Confident about all my assumptions, I started writing the paper. For every question, I used to first translate from Sanskrit to English and then to Marwadi in my mind and then write these Marwadi sentences in English. How Complex! After some time, I started enjoying the process and completed all the questions I knew answer of. The duration was one hour and I had finished it in forty minutes only. I submitted my answer sheet to the supervisor and went out. My mom had come to pick me up.

I wanted to ask/tell my mom about the exam. But again, I was feeling hesitant (this time to avoid making fool of myself). While we were walking out of the school, I decided to ask my doubt in the form of a hidden question wrapped in a statement. I told my mom in a how-foolish-it-is tone

"Mom, You know what...The paper was very funny...They had asked to answer in our mother-tongue and for the first time, I wrote something in Marwadi".

Mom suddenly stopped walking and looked back at me with a big smile on her face. That smile said it all. I had got answer to my hidden question. I had goofed up!

Mom suggested me that since 15 minutes were left, I could actually request the examiner for letting me write the answers again. I agreed to that and went back to the supervisor. Now, I had a bigger thing to explain to him and that too in front of everyone. I took small frightened steps towards the supervisor and whispered to him whatever had happened. He started laughing and (surprisingly) very easily agreed by saying that I had next 15 minutes to write the paper again. I thanked him and wrote the paper again; this time in English language written in English script! I completed it exactly in 15 minutes! Soon, mom and me were off to home laughing at the incident. A month later, the results were out and I had scored 42/50.

This incident continues to be one of the most memorable and humorous incident of my life. Whenever I remember this, I start rolling on floor laughing on myself :)

PS: Normally, the terminology of "Answer/Translate in your mother-tongue" is very common in Marathi medium schools. But, being in English medium school, this was very new terminology for me.