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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Kathmandu does well ~ to pay bonus !!

The Licchavis were the most famous clan amongst the ruling confederate clans of the VajjiMahajanapada of ancient India. Vaishali (a city in modern-day northern Bihar) the capital and homeland of the Licchavis, was the capital of the Vajjimahajanapada also. It was later occupied by Ajatashatru, who annexed the Vajji territory into his kingdom.  Kautilya in his Arthaśāstra, describes the Licchavis as a tribal confederation (gaasangha), whose leader uses the title of rājā(rājaśabdopajīvinah). The beautiful land of Nepal, the gateway to Himalayas (Mount Everest !)

Their website reads :  -  when we opened our first store in 1987, Kathmandu was a small specialist outdoor retailer, manufacturing many of our own products. We drew inspiration from our customers: people who saw themselves as travellers, not tourists; people who saw the outdoors as an invitation, rather than something to fear or conquer. We wanted to encourage our customers to get out and explore what the world has to offer – to Live the Dream – and designed products to give people the confidence to go anywhere in the world, whether they are intrepid explorers or backyard enthusiasts. During the 1990s, our focus on design intensified: we became a leader in designing products that are original, sustainable, engineered and adaptive.

It is that of Kathmandu Holdings Limited is a transnational chain of retail stores, selling travel and adventure outdoor apparel and equipment. Kathmandu is a leading retailer of clothing and equipment for travel and adventure in New Zealand, Australia and the UK.   Not sure of the reasoning of the name - Kathmandu was founded by John Pawson and Jan Cameron in 1987 following their sale of the ALP Sports Clothing label. The company set up its first retail outlets in Australia whilst manufacturing most of its original clothing range in New Zealand.  The company was in 2006 fully acquired by an Australasian private equity company and it was listed on the Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges in 2009. 

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal.   Kathmandu is also the largest metropolis in the Himalayan hill region. Nepali is the most spoken language in the city which  stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 feet) above sea level in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal.  Kathmandu is and has been for many years the centre of Nepal's history, art, culture and economy.  Tourism is an important part of the economy. The city is the gateway to the Nepalese Himalayas, and home to seven world heritage sites; the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur, the Stupas of Swayambhunath and Baudhanath, and the temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan. Historic areas of Kathmandu were devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25th April 2015 and have since been reconstructed mostly.

The reason for this post is the news of bonus I read in NZ Herald.  Kathmandu Holdings is eyeing further expansion into the Northern Hemisphere following a record year in earnings and successfully acquiring Oboz Footwear. The outdoor equipment and clothing retailer posted a net profit after tax of $50.5 million for the 12 months ended July 21, up 32.9 per cent, or $12.5m, from the previous year. Sales increased by 11.7 per cent to $497m, and its gross profit increased by 14.2 per cent to $315.5m.  more importantly, Kathmandu is going to pay 1800 of its permanent staff a bonus of $1,000. The company employs 2000 staff.

Still a senior analyst  said the Christchurch-based company could have paid its staff a greater bonus. "A $2 million impact in earnings is very small," he said. "They still delivered a stellar result as well as a higher dividend with shareholders so they could have shared a little bit more of that with staff, which really is a key part of the customer experience."  It is stated that  Kathmandu's full-year earnings were a record result, offset from a turnaround in the Australian business.

~ one keeps reading such articles, day-dreaming something for their own !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th Sept. 2018

liquefaction that can sink a Ship !!

In materials science, liquefaction is a process that generates a liquid from a solid or a gas or that generates a non-liquid phase which behaves in accordance with fluid dynamics. It occurs both naturally and artificially. – pic credit

Bulk Jupiter, a Bahamas registered cargo ship,  sank off the coast of Vietnam in Jan 2015. On 2 January 2015 Bulk Jupiter sank off the coast of Vũng Tàu, Vietnam. She departed from Kuantan, Malaysia on 30 December 2014 with a cargo of 46,400 tons of bauxite and a crew of 19 Filipinos.  Its owners were to state - “From the general alarm sounding in the early morning hours of January 2nd, and abandon ship was heard on the intercom, it took only minutes before the vessel had developed a heavy list to starboard. The cook made his way starboard and jumped overboard. The vessel sank shortly thereafter.” The cook, Angelito Rojas, was rescued after 8 – 9 hours and the bodies of two other crew men recovered. Apart from no other bodies or wreckage could be  found.

Bauxite is a sedimentary rock with a relatively high aluminium content. It is the world's main source of aluminium. Bauxite consists mostly of the aluminium minerals ~ in  1821 the French geologist Pierre Berthier discovered bauxite near the village of Les Baux in Provence, southern France.  In 1861, French chemist Henri Sainte-Claire Deville named the substance "bauxite".  Solid cargoes like crushed ore or sand can suddenly turn to liquid… and cause the ship to sink. And the phenomenon happens more frequently than you might think.  ~ is what was read today in an interesting report in BBC. (reproduced report by  Susan Gourvenec From The Conversation)

Think of a dangerous cargo, and toxic waste or explosives might come to mind. But granular cargoes such as crushed ore and mineral sands are responsible for the loss of numerous ships every year. On average, 10 ‘solid bulk cargo’ carriers have been lost at sea each year for the last decade. Solid bulk cargoes – defined as granular materials loaded directly into a ship’s hold – can suddenly turn from a solid state into a liquid state, a process known as liquefaction. And this can be disastrous for any ship carrying them – and their crew.

In 2015, the 56,000-tonne bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter rapidly sunk around 300km (187 miles) south-west of Vietnam, with only one of its 19-strong crew surviving. This prompted warnings from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) about the possible liquefaction of the relatively new solid bulk cargo bauxite (an aluminium ore). A lot is known about the physics of the liquefaction of granular materials from geotechnical and earthquake engineering. The vigorous shaking of the Earth causes pressure in the ground water to increase to such a level that the soil ‘liquefies’. Yet despite our understanding of this phenomenon, and the guidelines in place to prevent it occurring, it is still causing ships to sink and taking their crew with them.

Solid bulk cargoes can suddenly turn from a solid state into a liquid state, which can be disastrous for any ship carrying them !!  Solid bulk cargoes are typically ‘two-phase’ materials as they contain water between the solid particles. When the particles can touch, the friction between them makes the material act like a solid (even though there is liquid present). But when the water pressure rises, these inter-particle forces reduce and the strength of the material decreases. When the friction is reduced to zero, the material acts like a liquid (even though the solid particles are still present). A solid bulk cargo that is apparently stable on the quayside can liquefy because pressures in the water between the particles build up as it is loaded onto the ship. This is especially likely if, as is common practice, the cargo is loaded with a conveyor belt from the quayside into the hold, which can involve a fall of significant height. The vibration and motion of the ship from the engine and the sea during the voyage can also increase the water pressure and lead to liquefaction of the cargo.

When a solid bulk cargo liquefies, it can shift or slosh inside a ship’s hold, making the vessel less stable. A liquefied cargo can shift completely to one side of the hold. If it regains its strength and reverts to a solid state, the cargo will remain in the shifted position, causing the ship to permanently tilt or ‘list’ in the water. The cargo can then liquefy again and shift further, increasing the angle of list. At some point, the angle of list becomes so great that water enters the hull through the hatch covers, or the vessel is no longer stable enough to recover from the rolling motion caused by the waves. Water can also move from within the cargo to its surface as a result of liquefaction and subsequent sloshing of this free water can further impact the vessel’s stability. Unless the sloshing can be stopped, the ship is in danger of sinking.

The International Maritime Organisation has codes governing how much moisture is allowed in solid bulk cargo in order to prevent liquefaction. So why does it still happen? The technical answer is that the existing guidance on stowing and shipping solid bulk cargoes is too simplistic. Liquefaction potential depends not just on how much moisture is in a bulk cargo but also other material characteristics, such as the particle size distribution, the ratio of the volume of solid particles to water and the relative density of the cargo, as well as the method of loading and the motions of the vessel during the voyage.

The production and transport of new materials, such as bauxite, and increased processing of traditional ores before they are transported, means more cargo is being carried whose material behaviour is not well understood. This increases the risk of cargo liquefaction. Commercial agendas also play a role. For example, pressure to load vessels quickly leads to more hard loading even though it risks raising the water pressure in the cargoes. And pressure to deliver the same tonnage of cargo as was loaded may discourage the crew of the vessel draining cargoes during the voyage.

To tackle these problems, the shipping industry needs to better understand the material behaviour of solid bulk cargoes now being transported and prescribe appropriate testing. New technology could help. Sensors in a ship’s hold could monitor the water pressure of the bulk cargo. Or the surface of the cargo could be monitored, for example using lasers, to identify any changes in its position. The challenge is developing a technology that is cheap enough, quick to install and robust enough to survive loading and unloading of the cargo. If these challenges can be overcome, combining data on the water pressure and movement of the cargo with information on the weather and the ship’s movements could produce a real-time warning of whether the cargo was about to liquefy. The crew could then act to prevent the water pressure in the cargo rising too much, for example, by draining water from the cargo holds (to reduce water pressure) or changing course of the vessel to avoid particularly bad weather (to reduce ship motions). Or if that were not possible, they could evacuate the vessel. In this way, this phenomenon of solid bulk cargo liquefaction could be overcome, and fewer ships and crew would be lost at sea.

Bulk Jupiter sank off the coast of Vietnam in Jan 2015.  Early reports indicated that the likely cause of the sinking was sudden loss of stability from the bauxite cargo.  There was a circular of IMO warning   ship's masters about the liquefaction hazards of bauxite.  They were warned not to accept bauxite for carriage unless:
        the moisture limit for the specific cargo is certified as less than the indicative moisture limit of 10% and the particle size distribution as is detailed in the individual schedule for bauxite in the IMSBC Code; or
        the cargo is declared as Group A (cargoes that may liquefy) and the shipper declares the transportable moisture limit (TML) and moisture content; or
        the cargo has been assessed as not presenting Group A properties.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th Sept 2018.  This article originally appeared on The Conversation, and  republished under a Creative Commons licence.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Clock towers ! ¬ and the clock that always runs wrong !!

Modern day youngsters may not really understand many a thing – one of that is the importance of watch ~ a wrist watch was a luxury till about 5 decades ago… only college goers and rich  were blessed with wrist watches ~ HMT ruled the roost… the most common Q that one to put to the other on the road was ‘may I know what the time is ?’ ~ now the Q is ‘where are you ?’ [everyone talking on mobile on street and perhaps mostly asking the other person as to where he / she is ?]

At a time when time was at a premium and not many possessed watches – there were those ubiquitous clock towers; yes clock-towers as landmarks – some of the famous clocks include the one at Central, at Presidency college, P. Orr & sons, Madras University and many other bus stands……… Britishers built lot of things which were landmarks……….. the Royapettah Clock Tower  was certainly a landmark, before the EA Mall became the fad.  At home, have seen some elders have the time in watch set a few minutes faster – that way – one could get a warning they would say .. .. I always wonder whether that will work at all – when one is aware that the clock is running 10 mins or so faster, would not we always reckon that extra time and somehow contrive to be late !
Presidency College – Clock seen from long 
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland  since at least the 15th  century.  Edinburgh is the seat of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the supreme courts of Scotland.  The city has long been a centre of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, Scots law, literature, the sciences and engineering.

Arrive in Edinburgh on any given day and there are certain things you can guarantee. The fairy-tale Gothic of the royal castle, built on an extinct volcanic plug. The medieval riddle of alleys and lanes. The majesty of the churchyards and macabre spires set against a barb of basalt crags, all as if created by a mad god. Yet there is one other given in the Scottish capital, and it is the hallmark of Princes Street, the city’s main thoroughfare that runs east to west joining Leith to the West End. The time on the turret clock atop The Balmoral Hotel is always wrong. By three minutes, to be exact.

While the clock tower’s story is legendary in Edinburgh, it remains a riddle for many first-timers. To the untrained eye, the 58m-high landmark is simply part of the grand finale when surveyed from Calton Hill, Edinburgh’s go-to city-centre viewpoint. There it sits to the left of the Dugald Stewart Monument, like a giant exclamation mark above the glazed roof of Waverley Train Station.  Except, of course, that the dial’s big hand and little hand are out of sync with Greenwich Mean Time. It is a calculated miscalculation that helps keep the city on time !

This bold irregularity is, in fact, a historical quirk first introduced in 1902 when the Edwardian-era building opened as the North British Station Hotel. Then, as now, it overlooked the platforms and signal boxes of Waverley Train Station, and just as porters in red jackets met guests off the train, whisking them from the station booking hall to the interconnected reception desk in the hotel’s basement, the North British Railway Company owners wanted to make sure their passengers – and Edinburgh’s hurrying public – wouldn’t miss their trains. Given an extra three minutes, they reasoned, these travellers would have more time on the clock to collect their tickets, to reach their corridor carriages and to unload their luggage before the stationmaster’s whistle blew. Still today, it is a calculated miscalculation that helps keep the city on time.

The Balmoral’s clock is purposefully fast to allow travellers extra time to catch their trains from the neighbouring Waverley Station.   It is stated  that the only major change over the past 116 years is the clock was manually wound until the 1970s, when it was electrified.  That the clock is wrong every day of the year is not technically true, either. Its time is stretched to accommodate an annual event. On New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as Scots call it, the tower welcomes a special one-off house call, when an engineer is dispatched to remedy the timekeeping error. “Plain and simple, the clock needs to be right for the traditional countdown to the midnight bells”, -  “Beyond that, everyone relies on it being wrong.”

So  turret clock has remained dependably inaccurate over the past century – its service keepers say that though hard to believe, this perhaps the only place where people are paid to keep things wrong !!  “There’s never been a time when we’ve been asked to make it right,” one said, matter-of-factly. “People have smartphones and watches, of course, but you’ll be surprised by how much they rely on public clocks, especially when they’re in a rush. There’s still a need for it, and for the foreseeable future it’ll still be wrong.”

Today, the wrong time is taken for granted in Edinburgh, not because of retrospective sentimentality, but because familiarity breeds affection.   “There’d be a public outcry if it was ever on time”.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
-mostly reproduced from an interesting article in BBC Travel.

the most prolific writer is ............ 'not a person' !!

It was the summer of 1928, when Jawaharlal Nehru began writing letters to his young daughter, Indira, who was in Mussoorie at that time. In the first letter, 'Book of Nature', he talks about how life began in the universe.  When Indira was about to turn 13 in 1930, Nehru started sending her more detailed letters. These letters contained his understanding of the world which he wanted to further impart to his daughter.

Long before the invent of SMS, MMS and interesting media apps – see a Tamil movie of 1970s, love was conveyed only in letters – and they employed small boys working in tea-shops, dogs, birds and what not ! – to say, they are in love .. incidentally, have you ever written a love-letter ? or a letter to your lover ?? – who do you think is the most prolific writer ?  (you may find it interesting to know that most prolific is no human at all !).. 

The answer could depend on what you perceive – some have had very long career in writing with hundreds of their works getting published. While some best-selling authors have written a small number of books that have sold millions of copies.  To me, Sujatha was the most prolific, capable of writing on almost everything – then there were Kalki, Chandilyan, Sri Venugopalan (Pushpa Thangathurai) and others. once in a college, a student slyly asked Sujatha – when would you stop writing .. ?  - the genius, gently responded – ‘ at night, when I feel sleepy ‘ !! - pic credit 

In the pure sense, there is nothing greater than our epics – Sri Ramayana and Maha Barath.  The Maha Barath, the great tale of Bharata dynasty   an epic narrative of the Kuruketra War  - the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes. It also contains the most sacred learning – the ‘Gitopadesam’.  Veda Vyāsa is its author.  The Mahābhārata is the longest epic poem known and has been described as "the longest poem ever written" as it consists of over 100,000 śloka or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. At about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahābhārata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Rāmāyaa

“Inflatable duck baby pool with canopy.” “Hot selling colourful temporary full arm tattoo for men.” “Splendid reusable dog pee pad (minimum order: 500).” Load up the homepage for e-commerce giant, Alibaba – a wholesale shopping site that’s more or less China’s answer to eBay – and you’ll find images and descriptions of anything you could wish to buy, from kitchen sinks to luxury yachts. Every item has a short headline, but most are little more than lists of keywords: hand-picked search terms to ensure this USB phone charger or that pair of flame-resistant overalls float to the top in a sea of thousands upon thousands of similar items.

It sounds simple, but there’s an art to this copywriting. Yet Alibaba recently revealed that it is training an artificial intelligence to generate these item descriptions automatically – and they’re not the only ones. Over the last few decades AIs have been taught to compose music, paint pictures and write (bad) poems. Now they’re writing advertising copy, 20,000 lines of it a second. “Generative bots are the new chatbot,” says Jun Wang at University College London. “Generating copy is just one of the applications that can be done.”

Launched by Alibaba’s digital marketing arm, Alimama, the AI copywriter applies deep learning and natural-language processing tech to millions of item descriptions on Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao sites to generate new copy of its own. “The tool removes the inconvenience of having to spend hours seeking design inspiration by looking at competitor listings and manufacturer sites,” says an Alibaba spokesperson. “The user can create their ideal copy with just a couple of clicks.” Despite their forays into the world of art, creating unexciting text such as ad-copy is where generative systems will have the biggest impact in the short term. Software will produce millions of words and images that millions of people will see – and be influenced by – every day. And if they do the job well enough, we will never even notice the difference.

The line between human and machine agency is already blurred online. Twitter bots sow the seeds of misinformation, spambots generate oddly poetic emails about Viagra, and automatic aggregators find and republish online news articles so quickly it can be hard to tell who first published what and when. Take the news about Alibaba’s copywriter. The English version of the press release was picked up by several news outlets, mainly in the UK, the US and India. But among those first reports was a video on an obscure YouTube channel called “Breaking News”. A synthesised voice reads out the news story, with subtitles appearing over a series of stock images related to Alibaba and ecommerce. Buried in the video’s description is a link to the text’s source: an article published an hour or so before by International Business Times, a website based in India.
The speed and weird sloppiness with which the original story was repurposed – the subheadings are copied over as if part of the main text – strongly suggest the video was automatically generated. As does the fact that, apart from the Alibaba video, the channel seems to post nothing but news reports about international football, also all republished from other sources. We have news about one AI churned out by another. Welcome to the future: at once weird and mundane. Someone may be picking which stories to republish, but no obvious human activity is visible on the channel or the associated Twitter account. So we have news about one AI churned out by another. Welcome to the future: at once weird and mundane.

“It's not science fiction,” says Wang. He thinks advertising is a perfect fit for generative AI because it has a clear goal. “You want to maximise the number of people that click and then buy,” he says. “We’re not talking about generating art.”    According to Alibaba, using its tool is simple. You provide a link to the item you want a description of and click a button. “This brings up numerous copy ideas and options,” says the Alibaba spokesperson. “The user can then alter everything from the length to tone, as they see fit.” The tool is also prolific. Alibaba claims that it can produce 20,000 lines of copy a second and that it is being used nearly a million times a day by companies – including US clothing brand Dickies – that want to create multiple versions of advertisements that still grab our attention when presented in different sized slots on webpages.

And it’s not just Alibaba. The company’s main rival says it is also using software – which it calls an "AI writing robot” – to generate item descriptions. According to tech website ZDNet,’s system can produce more than 1,000 “pieces of content” a day and has a flair for flowery language, describing wedding rings as symbolising “holy matrimony drops from the sky”.

The problem with a machine-learning approach like that used by Alibaba and is that the generative system will tend to learn the most average way of saying things. “AI is really good at generic formats but the more you want to specialise or customise it becomes a much, much harder problem,” says Riedl. “I don’t think we’re there yet.” Perhaps not, but it is where we’re heading.

As soon as you load a webpage, the page lets the internet's ad-brokers know who is visiting and a high-speed bidding war kicks off, typically involving around 100 advertisers, with the winners getting to show you their ads. The whole process is over in 100 milliseconds, faster than the blink of an eye. Google’s trackers operate on around 75% of the million most popular websites. The three biggest ad networks – Adsense, Admob and DoubleClick – are run by Google. And there are few places on the internet that Google cannot track you. Its trackers operate on around 75% of the million most-popular websites. And if Google can’t see you, Facebook – which has trackers on 25% of those sites - probably can.

Those trackers record what we search for, what websites we visit and how long we spend on them. Say someone is interested in shoes and is known to have bought a particular type of shoe from a particular store.  “It is highly probable that you will convert,” says Wang. “We also estimate, for this type of user in this type of market, how much to bid in order to win.”

These AI systems are getting smarter but are they getting more creative? Here’s a famous six-word story by Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” It’s ad copy, similar to the descriptions churned out by Alibaba’s AI. But the emotional resonance of Hemingway’s words comes from his deep understanding of a human life that machines do not have. Even if they produced those words, we would not react to them in the same way.  As well as telling stories and becoming better salespeople, more creative AIs could also be used to generate customised campaign emails or social media posts for political candidates. 

Gone would be the days when people used to blur out in mikes fitted to auto-rickshaws, with candidate following in open jeep – the auto-speaker would read out what the campaign manager would want them to speak ! – days were different when we grew

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
~ largely reproduced from an interesting article in BBC