Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cross at your own risk

After crossing a road for over a year, for the first time, I saw the pedestrian light turn green.
Finally, light was fixed :)

Well, not quite. It turned red in 1 or 2 seconds and traffic started flowing.

Chandigarh is a rich city. We don't want people crossing the main roads on foot and slowing down the Punjabis!

A Pedestrian on a Zebra Crossing!

A few days ago, I crossed a busy road on a Zebra crossing. I found a railing blocking the crossing on the other side!

Should we jump over the railing or walk on the road 20 meters till the railing ends?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Silent Spectator

The taxi took a quick turn and nearly hit the scooterist coming straight.

The scooterist was understandably upset and the taxi driver incorrectly furious. A policeman joined the commotion. He told the scooterist that be thankful that he was still alive. If he made any more fuss, the policeman would charge him with rash driving.

The scooterist meekly drove away.

I was wondering that even police seem to be unaware of the traffic rules. The driver was cheerful and told me that this was their domain and they took good care of the folks in this area.

I remained silent.

Punjab introduces police stations for NRI's

Yesterday, the newspaper reported that Punjab has opened the first Police Station for NRI's to resolve their problems quickly. I keep wondering why.

Is it that 'Time is Money' in the West and 'Time is Eternal' for us?
Is it that NRI's are accustomed to politeness and need specially trained police?
Or is it just 'activity' masquerading as 'action'?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Would I Have Been Guilty of Man-slaughter?

I stopped at a zebra crossing to let an old man pass. He was surprised but happy.

A car behind me overtook me from the wrong side and nearly hit the old man.

I keep wondering if I would have been guilty of manslaughter because I had clearly violated the socially accepted behaviour by stopping at a zebra crossing.

It wasn't a Sack of Potatoes

I had got a permanent job - in a research organisation. I had found a place to stay in Colaba in Mumbai(Bombay at that time). I was happy, lost in thought, and walking home after eating.

My foot hit (actually, more like, touched) a sack protruding from a bus stop. I could hear abuses hurled at me. I walked fast, dared not look back. What could I have done? I knew that people slept on the roads but this experience still troubles me. 'Resident Indian' guilt?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Western Railway and Optimising Capacity

It is convenient to have a train stop at a station nearest your home. Since trains are crowded, it is even better if the train starts at a station near the home.

All this results in trains having to change tracks. We need synchronization of threads. Every time the train stood waiting for the signal, I kept wondering if there was a better way.

Sometimes a little more discomfort may be the better option.

Suppose, we get rid of some more stops. E.g. after Bombay Central, straight to Churchgate. The fast train from Churchgate to Borivali used to take about an hour to cover. The slow train took around an hour and fifteen minutes. The Virar train which did not stop on stations between Andheri and Borivali took 45 minutes.

So, if we got rid of slow trains and we reduced the number of stops, we could cover the distance from Borivali to Churchgate in about 35 minutes. Since there were very few Virar trains, we would virtually be halving the travel time - or, more importantly, doubling the capacity.

Since the signaling system determines the gap between the trains, faster travel would imply that the time gap between the trains reduces by half. That is two tracks could cover the load.

We could use an additional track to run from Borivali to Churchgate stopping only at Andheri in the morning and in the reverse direction in the evening. This could help in increased peak time capacity.

The 4th track could run a shuttle service stopping at each station between neighboring stops of fast trains.

A little refactoring and a little redesign can go a long way in improving performance and capacity of an application.

Isn't 7044 bigger than 360

When I took the post doc assignment in IIT, Kanpur, the professor informed me that IIT,K had good computational facilities. They has an IBM 7044. I was only aware of IBM 360 and 7044 was a bigger number.

I was keen to return, in retrospect from a misplaced notion of patriotism. Nothing else mattered. However, I could not have imagined that I would be killing my career in Computational Physics.

Ten minute interview with potatoes

It was over thirty years ago. I had spent the night being bitten by mosquitoes and was the only idiot wearing a tie and a jacket for an interview.

It was my first interview. There were 50 candidates for 2 vacancies and all to be interviewed in a day. I do not recall anyone being interviewed for more than 10 minutes.

My turn came and I felt like an ass-hole. The Vice-Chancellor spent at least 5 minutes of the 10 wondering whether I was eligible. I had a Bachelors degree (Summa cum laude) and a PhD. However, the minimum requirements were a 2nd Class Masters. I did not have one. I had post-doctoral assignments in University of Helsinki, Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, and was a post doc at IIT, Kanpur, at the time. Oh, well - may be I had to write to Northwestern U. to send me a Master's degree as well.

My frustration was 'eased' by a friend. He said that the potatoes will get to know you. Then you will get a job. He elaborated further. Just as we put potatoes in every vegetable, some professors are in every selection committee.

I did not take a teaching assignment until 25 years later. But that is another story.

Triggered by Reservation of Higher Education

Every society needs some form of affirmative action. However, the amount of coverage and effort devoted by the Indian press to reservation policy depresses me.

Even if new IIT's and IIM's are created, we are creating opportunities for thousands when the need is for millions.

Why not improve the existing institutions? What happened to the Regional Engineering Colleges which were upgraded to NIT's? Was the impact in the change of name only?

What will prevent the new IIT's from degenerating into replicas of the existing institutions other than the IIT's?