The Ratio

Pitch black. No, that’s not right. It wasn’t pitch black. There was a pattern. A glittering, shimmering pattern hanging in the darkness, spreading out in every direction, enveloping every inch of vision. A pattern of minute, flickering blue dots, of brighter balls of fire, and swirling smoky spirals of the same stuff. There was some order beneath the apparent chaos that clouded vision. The smaller balls circled the bigger ones and the swirling mists stirred as if with purpose. And this, in every way you look. No visible horizon, to perceptible end to this pattern. It was a whole universe.

 

Among the uncountable spiraling galaxies there was one no different from the rest, swirling slowly away since eternity. It was a disc, denser towards the center and thinning out towards the edge. It was a cluster of matter, of stars, planets, asteroids, comets and dust, of force and energy and interaction, like an isolated island of existence, and yet so much a part of the whole thing.

 

In that cluster there was a certain system no different from the million others. It consisted of a central star of average age, a few billion years, and circling it were nine planets and a ring of asteroids. The system followed the same laws that bound the rest of the universe, the same pattern of matter and interaction among them.

 

The third planet from this central star was one of a less-than-average diameter. It was composed mainly of the same elements that formed the star it circled, so it could be concluded that it had been formed from the star itself. It had a layer of an oxide of hydrogen over most of its crust, and an outermost layer of a mixture of gases, chiefly constituting nitrogen, over its solid surface. Its distance from the star allowed the maintenance of an optimum temperature. This planet had life, of various forms, evolved from a single-celled form. It had a structure to it, an ecological network, and ruling it currently was a certain species named the Homo sapien.

 

They have society, and have learnt the use of wheels, fire and language, and hence have progressed significantly in the field of their mode of living, and have finally reached a stage where they have dubbed this mode a word called ‘civilization’ [siv-uhl-ie-zay-shan]. They have devised methods of forming groups and tribes to facilitate internal conflict and thus introduce a certain measure of variety to their otherwise dull existence. Some of these methods are ‘politics’ [pohl-i-tix], ‘sports’ [spohrts], race [rayss] and ‘religion’ [ri-lee-jan]. They have settled in cities and have taken up different occupations that can provide them with a certain unit of exchange of material based on their value. They call this physical unit ‘money’ [mun-ee], of two principal types: flat, oblong and made of fibre; and small, circular, made of metal. This forms the base of a barter system in which by some remarkable method the unit of exchange has slowly come to occupy a more important position than the things that are exchanged. We might, hence, observe these Homo sapiens engaging in internal conflict for money rather than the things it stands for. Which is funny. Oh man, funny. I beg your pardon.

 

They have, as you can see, woven a rather efficient and rigid structure into their world which has simplified their lives, as they might like to claim, by badly restricting the options they can take each day as they get out of bed, but has simultaneously — without letting them know — slowly and subtly restricted life itself  to a countable number of options to take when they get out of bed. The race as a whole suffers under the misconception that the options they have are finite, when in fact they are quite an endless list of possibilities, which is — oh, so funny. Ha ha. Oh, man, that’s dead funny. Like — oh, sorry. I beg your pardon once again.

 

So it is evident that the Homo sapiens have come to a stage where they regard themselves as supreme, their feats as the only ones in the universe worthy of mention — oh, if only they would ever glance at the universe once and wonder about that feat — and have generally succeeded in wrapping themselves up comfortably in a much-reduced list of reality, and pass day after day in a half-awake state of passive acceptance of the world, with a constant subconscious mentality that makes them feel they are important. And so they — he-he — so they strut around like proud roosters in a tiny farm when the huge, huge world’s laughing at them — oh God, oh my — that’s dead funny… They, they pick themselves up to their full height of 1.13X10-11 Astronomical units (0.000000000000113 A.U. – actual computation of average height) and look over the rims of their spectacles and, and — oh God, I — I can’t do this any more, oh — oh man, this is, oh — so funny!

Oh, sorry. I beg your — oh, ha-ha!

1Life.

He-he!

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What’s a Rule?

Here’s a picture I came up with in Photoshop. I’m not trying to fool you here into believing I’m much of an expert at these. All I did was pick up the net and the football (separately) from the internet, put them together with some text, and apply some effects here and there. But I have to admit, I’m pleased with it.

Click the image to have the 1024X768 version.

1Life.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Tell me something…

I stared at the busy crossing. There was a red light, and the line of cars was whining to get going. The afternoon sun was beating down on the city and the traffic policeman who stood on the stand was visibly tired and in a bad mood. I stood on the pavement with her and I wondered…

Can you believe this is a dream?

Can you tell me what might have been the reason behind setting up such a colossal and complex structure? To craft dew drops on silent leaves, to craft the grey of low clouds, to craft faces, her face, those eyes…

‘I haven’t slept for seven days. My eyes are setting in deeper in their sockets everyday.’ She said.

Whose sleep is this? Whose dream? Whose whim is logic and reason? Whose imagination is this reality? Whose handiwork is this universe? Whose mind are we living in? Where do we find us when we wake?

It must have been bloody hard work, incorporating thoughts and emotions in this dream. Poor fellow, only He knows how much He must have had to sweat over envy and joy and sorrow, and… and love. Wonder how long that took. Wonder how hard He worked behind making it seem important and meaningful. Because He’s done a mighty fine job, I can see. Her face, her eyes…

Maybe my mind is a universe too, with its own little members and processes and structure. But I’m not as good as Him. Mine’s a small world.

Why do I feel so lonely at times that I feel like crying?

Why am I afraid of myself?

Why don’t I listen to me?

Why can’t I know myself?

Why do I have so many thoughts in my head? Why doesn’t someone come and take them all away and whisper softly to me that my troubles are all over?

Why does it all appear so petty to me? Marks, tests, percentage, being a Good Boy

Why can’t I be who I am? Do I even know how to?

Why am I so old? Why do I feel like I’m as old as Him? Goddammit, I’m only 17!

Why is yesterday so disconnected from now in my mind? Why does my life break up into little fragments in my mind? Like it’s not a single journey, but I’ve started on a new one today and let’s forget about the last one. Last one? When was that?

Do I like to be sad or not?

They say to keep away from addictions. An addiction will have you clinging to it, and you can’t imagine living without it. Isn’t life the biggest addiction ever?

What joy does everyone get from being so narrow in their beliefs, from having only a countable finity of things to believe in and not imagine and believe in ‘impossibilities’? What is impossible in a dream when the Dreamer is one who can weave things like love into it?

What if one day I pinch myself awake and realize all this I believed in was never real?

What is music, and art, and a bad smell, and a bad taste, and pain? What is the rationality of their qualification as the things they are?

Can friendship be an illusion? Doesn’t God have friends?

I’m so, so alone in this huge sea of thought.

Before I end, one firm little footing to stand on, one undeniable, unalterable little thing to believe in: Ich liebe Alis.

1Life.

 

Reboot

Critical security error. The system will reboot in approximately the following time. Please save all work in progress and log off. For more information, click this message.

 

Alan Ashbird stared dumbfounded at the computer screen, watching the tiny counter count down slowly and inevitably to 00:00, followed by the shutdown sequence. After thirty seconds, a dark square frame was all he had in front of his eyes, instead of the application he was supposed to be working on. Alan lifted his coffee cup to his lips, remembered that it had been empty for an hour and a quarter, and set it back on his desk. Then he looked down at the floor, at the polished grey tiles that were ubiquitous in this office.

‘I don’t believe it. That’s the first time my machine threw up. I don’t believe it. I…’ He looked up at the screen again, but he knew it had no chance of coming to life again. It was a critical hardware problem, probably something with the RAM, or maybe the data cable was loose. The reboot was merely a false promise. He knew from his expertise that without any probing it had little chance of starting up again. In any case, he didn’t have enough time then to open up the machine and fix it up. He would have to wait till the next morning, and that meant his project would invariably be late. The thought made him feel slightly sick, and he lowered his head again, resting it on the edge of his desk. As he stared at the floor now, wondering if he would go into the hassle of continuing with the work on his home computer and perhaps mail it later to his office, he came to a slow realization that there was a soft red light on the floor tiles, a single long bar that lay over his shining business shoes. It took him a few seconds to figure out where this was coming from, and then he got up and walked over to the huge French windows. Very slowly he pulled apart the blinds and stood back.

A magnificent red sunset lay sprawled across the huge horizon, tipping the buildings and towers of the New York skyline with a shade of jet black and dark maroon as they stood in ghostly silhouette against the burning canvas of the sky. Here and there a few careless tints of purple or orange showed, and a thin layer of cirrus was suspended just above the glowing vermillion sun, its lower surface bright with the halo of the setting ball of fire. The glass panels and turrets of the dark ocean of office buildings caught the dying rays and lit up like little golden flames here and there. Far below at the foot of the building, the street was alive with tiny moving dots of light, and ran through the heart of the city like a thin neon snake all the way up to the horizon where the buildings grew minute and hazy, like little scratches of charcoal against the glowing sky.

Alan Ashbird, application designer at a leading software firm, a literal wizard with programming, a successful negotiator with mammoth business deals, owner of a grey Citroen, a black Jaguar, and a sprawling house at the other end of the city, was watching the first sunset of his life.

 

Seven years ago when Alan was starting on his present job he was merely one of the countless heads that trickle into the business every day and get fired after a few weeks, for such was the modus operandi of the job market in this city. The only difference he knew he had was inside him — a burning passion for his subject. He understood it like elementary arithmetic, and could go to such ends in his subject with mental manipulation alone as would require an organized team a whole project. With his subject he was the Picasso of art, the O Henry of word, the Kennedy of politics. He knew what he was doing and wanted to do with his subject, and it was this confident thrust in him that finally got him noticed. He got a permanent job at the firm as Junior Test Programmer. He married his childhood friend Alison and settled in the city. Initially family life took away some of his attention to work, but his priorities were soon reshuffled and he began the slow progress up the corporate ladder. He felt immensely happy inside to be doing what he was, and actually looked forward to his office hours. He was like a painter whose profession was never, ever just a job. It was his life. Seven years later, he stood a proud Chief Application Designer, and work encompassed now all his life. He did half the job that his entire team was assigned, he did overtime, and he even came over on Saturdays to keep ahead of the schedule. He returned home each night to find his daughter gone to sleep, and Alison watching TV, a nonchalant expression that had begun to hover over her face a few months back now settled into permanence. Alan would flop clumsily on the sofa, want dinner, have it and then go to sleep. The next day only began for him when he was at his desk.

 

Five minutes later when the sun had set and dark droplets of navy ink had begun trickling down the dome of the sky towards the horizon, Alan returned to his desk and sat down. He stared at the sleek black surface of the expensive LCD, beginning to feel a silent sprouting of tiny thoughts and conflicts in his head. From where they came he had no idea, only a dim and rather improbable notion kept tugging at his consciousness: that it was the sunset, the photons of the dying light that had travelled one and a half million kilometres from their fiery home to reach his consciousness, to nourish some old and forgotten thought. He could feel that for the first time in a long while his thoughts were not concerned with the subject of his profession or work-life. They crowded around his active mind, growing in number each passing moment, enclosing him slowly in a dense cloud of thought. And they were different, somehow in a different sense of even the word different, somehow higher, somehow more… as if packets of thought from some higher realm were being fed one by one into his mind.

Alan thought of his position now in the work hierarchy. It was a busy life, true, but he was an important person, and his company knew how valuable he was to them. He had to devote almost all his waking hours to the purpose of his organization, and he realized anew how life itself for him was now enclosed in his 32nd floor office. He thought of his childhood, of the laughter with friends, and sunsets at the beach with his parents, and once a vehement tantrum concerning an ice-cream that had dropped on the sand. He thought of the first time that he had heard the name Alison Adams, the new girl in class. He thought of the unbounded imaginations that swirled through him when he used to look up at the night sky stars. He recalled how he first fell in love with programming. That was a class in elementary BASIC, and he thought he could feel some unknown spasm of excitement every time he sat down from then on to solve a problem with his computer. He had wanted once to be able to have the life of a painter, never having to work a single day to feed himself, only an incessant dwelling in the subject of his dreams, in a world where his destiny was his profession. He had wanted a life of purpose. And all his dreams had come true. He had married Alison and taken up his dream job, and had no material deficiencies whatsoever. Yet, after some pronounced bend in his perfect life, he realized now that there had grown a vacuum where there should be a path. He couldn’t remember when he had last gone home early, when he had last taken his daughter to the park, when he had last visited the Art Museum or watched a movie or the stars of the night sky that used to be his friends long, long ago, as if in some forgotten previous birth. Life for him now was an endless string of projects, a sort of enforced order to hide the underlying void that had grown over time. What was he working for, he thought, what was the point of keeping alive to arrive at work tomorrow, if he didn’t have the time today to look up at the forgotten gifts of life, to pick up the trampled flowers and know that these were the purpose he had dreamt about when he started out, that the reason he came to work each day, the professional problems he battled with each moment in his mind, all comes down to being there to watch the beautiful sunset outside, being there to hear his daughter’s laughter. What could his work provide him with anyway, except fat money and a hollow pride? He now discovered rather suddenly that his over-eagerness for work was no longer the enthusiasm of passion he once had, only a sort of voluntary obsession, an opium to keep himself from discovering that he, Alan Ashbird, had strayed so, so far from his heart that he had lost track. It made sense no longer for him to believe that the beauty of life is all there is to it, that the evening star is the reason man keeps alive, that a loving family waiting at home is what the meaning of a hard day’s work comes down to, that there remains left no meaning whatsoever in trading today for tomorrow and never rise and look what today could have given him. There remains only a long, long series of days, all for the sake of keeping alive on the next day. Like a chain of dominoes lined up, and each one falls on the next and that on the next and so on to keep the equilibrium, until the last domino has not another next to it and drops to the ground, a vacuous, blank end to a life that had lost its purpose, where each day never learnt to stand alone as Today, and only remained an empty tool to provide a tomorrow to itself. Alan realized again, and with a sharp pain, that he was no longer his dream painter who paints because of all the love he has for life and for his canvas; he paints to have it sold so that he can be alive the next day. His dabs of colour have lost their meaning, and are little more than the labours of a worker at a factory, or the begging of a roadside tramp, begging to keep alive, when letting go of life would be so much more sensible, for there is left no meaning, no purpose, no reason to look forward to the next morning. He, Alan Ashbird, had lost himself in the metropolis called life, and he was a long way from home where he stood now.

Alan watched the last of the blue trickle away from the sky outside, and the velvety-black of night take its place in a subtle maneuver that has been repeated every evening since eternity, unnoticed. It was impossible now to connect it with the fiery red sky of sunset that had crawled into his office through the blinds. The sea of buildings outside the window was now putting on its familiar pattern of minute luminous dots as the city began to stir.

Alan reached out and took a piece of paper. On it he slowly scribbled the words Won’t be at work today. Continue with project. He pinned it to a file and put it on his desk where it would be most conspicuous. He picked up his briefcase and walked up to the French windows. He looked down to where the people were like toys and flickering dots of light whizzed by to their various destinations. The street looked beautiful, he concluded. He also wished it would be a slow journey home tonight. He wanted to have all the time to think of a nice restaurant to take his wife and daughter.

 

It was time to reboot.

Government Blocks Blog Domains

Yes. The honorable Government of India has blocked access to a number of leading blog hosting domains, including the vastly popular Blogspot. The reason? It wanted to block sites related to terrorist activities. Now connect that with Blogspot, and you could get a seat in the Parliament for yourself.

We, the people of India, are most unfortunate to be ruled by a government that is clueless about blogs. Tell me what percentage of the ruling body actually knows what a blog is. No, not the definition. How it operates, its implications, but above all, what a blog means to its owner. They never knew, and they shall never find out. Yet they pass blind orders like these today, blocking major blog domains. They claim that they are only trying to reduce terrorism. Ask them what they did in the field of security. Ask them why it is so easy to bomb trains in a place like Mumbai. They have no answer to that. They are, however, ever-ready in proving their expertise at tackling terrorism by blocking sites. Little do they know that it’s the same thing as telling an athlete not to run, snatching palette, paint and canvas from an artist, and preventing an author from touching his pen. Little do they know what implications these blockings hold for us bloggers.

It’s a mad, mad government out there.

1Life.

 

The full report as on The Statesman:

 

Bloggers can’t be choosers in India

 

Javed Anwer

NEW DELHI, July 18: Over this weekend, India had something more in common with China than a high economic growth rate. Breaking with its stated policy of freedom of speech, the government cracked down on several websites and asked Internet Service Providers to block access to them.

The banned sites include hugely popular blogspot.com, typepad.com and geocities.com. All three sites host millions of blogs. The blocking of the sites started, as Soumyadip ~ a blogger who uses Blogspot put it ~ “on Friday night,” when he was unable to access his blog through his Exatt connection. By Saturday the word was going around the blogging community that Blogspot, Typad and Geocities were inaccessible.

“I initially thought that it might be a server problem, but when I tried going through an anonymiser site, the blogs were opening fine. It struck me that there must be some blocking going on somewhere,” he said. The bloggers have lashed out at the government move. Though there are indications that the government only wanted to block some sites related to terrorist activities, in an ill-implemented move, it succeeded in blocking whole domains such as Blogspot.

And the worst part is that most of the ISPs are still in denial. A senior MTNL official said on condition of anonymity that this whole talk of censorship is a “misconception”. He said, “as far as I know MTNL has not banned Blogspot, and they are accessible.”

But when The Statesman tried to access the Blogospot pages using an MTNL account, they were still inaccessible. That the ban is genuine was proved by a senior manager at a private ISP. He said, “We are merely following Department of Telecom orders which came last week and because we do not have capability to selectively ban a site or portion of site, we had to ban full domains”.

Mr Rajesh Malhotra, director of public relations at DoT refused to comment. He said only Mr MS Mathur, secretary, DoT, can look into the matter. When contacted, Mr Mathur refused to comment saying that he would not talk about it as he was not at his office. Bloggers have responded by moving to other avenues.

Peter Griffin, the celebrated blogger behind blogs such as Tsunami Blog said it’s a “silly ban” that cannot be imposed on Internet. “It’s a ban ordered by clueless politicians who have no idea how the Internet works, passed on by clueless bureaucrats to clueless technical staff at ISPs,” he added.

Griffin said: “The government should have informed people by telling them the reasons behind banning a blog.”

Most bloggers have started blogging from other blog hosting sites like WordPress and Live Journal which surprisingly have not been banned, while many of them are accessing their blogs through public proxies. Ironically, pkblogs.com ~ a site launched by Pakistani bloggers to access their blogs when they were banned in their country ~ is being used by their Indian counterparts too.

While talking about waging a cyber crusade, some bloggers are also suggesting use of the Right to Information Act to know why they have been deprived of a medium that is essentially meant for freedom of expression.

Notwithstanding the problems faced by thousands of bloggers in India, the high-handedness of the government is sure to tarnish India’s image in the foreign media. By Tuesday afternoon most of the world’s major blogger bastions like BoingBoing.com and Digg.com were discussing the censorship. Mainstream media such as The Inquirer and The Guardian were also slamming the move.

At Digg, one user named CaptainSparrow wrote: “For a democracy like India, this is a shame… censoring is different from blocking/banning… if media ain’t free, fear creeps in… and it wont be a democracy no more… can’t watch India walking in the footsteps of China.” OB Kenobi throws in his bit as he says: “Maybe we should block all those Indian customer service outsourcers”.

The situation is best summed up by Mr Griffin when he said: “The whole world will be laughing at India and its obvious incompetence and lack of knowledge reflected in an ill-conceived and poorly executed Internet ban.”

“I can just hope that somebody within the Indian government would be sensible enough to realise their folly before its too late,” he added.