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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Schizophrenia ~ SYMA Growth students hear on 'mental health'

In Mar 2016  Chief Minister Ms  J Jayalalithaa announced that Dr M Sarada Menon (92) was  chosen for Avvaiyar award of Tamil Nadu government ..  The award carries `1 lakh, a gold medal weighing eight grams, a certificate of merit and a shawl. (heard of her ?)

Srinivas Youngmens Association (popularly SYMA) has been running a full time tuition centre for X & + 2 students since 2008 and this is our 11th year of operation.  Almost all our students are from ‘economically suffering class’ and most of them are first generation students.  In the modern day World with rising prices, intense competition, not so conducive atmosphere for studies at home, the students are always under immense pressure.  Added could be peer pressure, sometimes not so well treated at school by teachers and fellow-students, parents being too harsh or not caring at all; parents who often compare and put their ward down – life is always challenging for some.  Today after an 1 ½ hour session, most students felt happy and thanked those 2 who spoke them passionately.

Not so easy to answer a simple Q ~ when physically ill – say, continued headache, fever, body pains, stomach disorder and anything similar, one would immediately rush to a Doctor – but what happens in the society, when for some reason, one is not too comfortable with their mental health.  ‘Mental health’ itself is seen as an ‘oxymoron’ !  ..

Random Harvest  - released in 1942 was based on  James Hilton novel of the same name, directed by Mervyn LeRoy. It starred Ronald Colman as a shell-shocked, amnesiac World War I soldier, and Greer Garson as his love interest.  In Tamil tinseldom, mental disorder is shown in very negative manner most times.  In ‘Deiva Thirumagal’ – Vikaram starred in a role of mentally disabled whose peaceful life in Ooty undergoes change when his daughter is born and wife dies during childbirth.  In Tamil movie, ‘Thillalangadi’ – Santhanam as Dr Paul an amnesiac is made to believe that he is a Doctor and starts diagnosing falsely.   

Mental health is a level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment.  The state of a healthy mind could include -  emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. 

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Over the course of one’s  life, if one experiences mental health problems, thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including: biological factors, life experiences and family history.
The word dreaded – ‘Schizophrenia’  is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling. The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.  There are several factors that contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia.

SCARF is the acronym for the Schizophrenia Research Foundation, a non governmental, non profit organization in Chennai, founded in 1984 by a group of philanthropists and mental health professionals led by Dr. M.Sarada Menon.  Today Dr R Padmavathi, Director  and  Dr D Vijayaraghavan, Psychiatrist,  were at NKT National Boys High School and spoke to our SYMA Growth tuition centre students (only X standard students.) it was a very interactive session, with students raising some doubts on the state of mental health.  Dr Vijayaraghavan & Dr Padmavathi patiently encouraged to understand these more, making them much relived of their stresses.

SYMA thanks SCARF, Dr R Padmavathi & Dr D Vijayaraghavan for their visit and time in talking to our students, which would change the life of students in a better way. SYMA is planning couple of more sessions for our + 2 Science & Commerce students as well.  Here are some photos taken in my mobile .. ..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
23rd Sept. 2018.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

wreck of legendary ship of Capt Cook - HMS Endeavour is located !!

Kalaniʻōpuʻu-a-Kaiamamao (1729 – 1782) was a Hawaiian monarch, who was called Terreeoboo, King of Owhyhee by James Cook and other Europeans.  He was the king of the island during the times Captain James Cook came to Hawaiʻi and went aboard his ship on 26 November 1778.  They exchanged gifts but that friendship was not to last longer !

US Space Shuttle Endeavour (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-105) is a retired orbiter from NASA's Space Shuttle program and the fifth and final operational shuttle built. It embarked on its first mission, STS-49, in May 1992 and its 25th  and final mission, STS-134, in May 2011. The United States Congress approved the construction of Endeavour in 1987 to replace Challenger, which was lost in 1986. Structural spares built during the construction of Discovery and Atlantis were used in its assembly. NASA chose, on cost grounds, to build Endeavour from spares rather than refitting .. .. ..

Captain James Cook FRS [1728 – 1779] was a famed Explorer,  navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy.  He is hailed hero of the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.  Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. He saw action in the Seven Years' War and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec.  In three voyages, Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe. Cook first rose to prominence as a cartographer during the Seven Years’ War, when his detailed charts of the Saint Lawrence River helped the British pull off a surprise attack against French-held Quebec. He mapped lands from New Zealand to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean in greater detail and on a scale not previously achieved. As he progressed on his voyages of discovery, he surveyed and named features, and he recorded islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time.

In the early 1760s, he was given a ship and tasked with charting the island of Newfoundland off the coast of Canada. The map he produced was so accurate that it was still in use in the 20th century. Cook’s skill at charting the seas would later become a crucial tool in his explorer’s arsenal. He won command of his first round-the-world voyage in part because he could be trusted to navigate in uncharted territory and bring home precise maps of the lands he discovered.  Cook was attacked and killed in 1779 during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific while attempting to kidnap Kalaniʻōpuʻu, a Hawaiian chief, in order to reclaim a cutter stolen from one of his ships.

HMS Endeavour, also known as HM Bark Endeavour, was a British Royal Navy research vessel that Lieutenant James Cook commanded to Australia and New Zealand on his first voyage of discovery from 1768 to 1771. She was launched in 1764 as the collier Earl of Pembroke, and the navy purchased her in 1768 for a scientific mission to the Pacific Ocean and to explore the seas near Australia.  The navy renamed and commissioned her as His Majesty's Bark the Endeavour. She departed Plymouth in August 1768, rounded Cape Horn, and reached Tahiti in time to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the Sun. She then set sail into the largely uncharted ocean to the south, stopping at the Pacific islands of Huahine, Borabora, and Raiatea to allow Cook to claim them for Great Britain. In September 1769, she anchored off New Zealand, the first European vessel to reach the islands since Abel Tasman's Heemskerck 127 years earlier. In April 1770, Endeavour became the first ship to reach the east coast of Australia, when Cook went ashore at what is now known as Botany Bay.

In 1770, She resumed her westward journey on 26 December, rounded the Cape of Good Hope on 13 March 1771, and reached the English port of Dover on 12 July, having been at sea for nearly three years. Endeavour was largely forgotten after her epic voyage and spent the next three years sailing to and from the Falkland Islands. She was sold into private hands in 1775 and later renamed as Lord Sandwich; she was hired as a British troop transport during the American War of Independence and was scuttled in a blockade of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island in 1778. Relics are displayed at maritime museums worldwide, including six of her cannon and an anchor.

DailyMailAustralia today reports that Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour is finally found: Wreck of legendary ship used on first voyage to Australia 250 years ago is discovered off the coast of America ! Marine archaeologists who have spent more than two decades painstakingly searching for the vessel say they have now identified what could be the wreck's exact final resting spot.  Details of what will solve one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time will be officially announced on Friday in the United States. The event will take place on Goat Island, a small island in Narragansett Bay, off Newport, Rhode Island, near to where the scuttled remains are believed to be.

Archaeologists learned 20 years ago that the ship was scuttled in Newport Harbour. But the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP), said experts have 'narrowed the search for the Endeavour from a fleet of thirteen vessels to five, and now possibly to one or two archaeological sites'.  The Friday announcement according to MailOnline  will involve archaeologists from RIMAP and the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANNM). The identification of the vessel's final resting place has raised hopes the HMS Endeavour will be able to be excavated next year. Director of RIMAP, Kathy Abbass, said the discovery would be significant for a number of countries, including Australia, the US, Britain and New Zealand. 

Centuries ago, in  April of 1770 individuals on the ship first spotted Australia, and on April 29 the HMS Endeavour became the first European vessel to make landfall on the east coast of the island. Cook spent four months charting the coast and at one point ran into trouble when the ship struck part of the Great Barrier Reef. The ship was 24 miles off the coast at the time with not enough life boats, but managed to clear the water from the hull of the ship and make its way safely back to shore. Captain Cook was killed in 1779 during a fight with Hawaiians on the island. The Endeavor soon became a naval transport ship

Interesting ! ~ amazing facts stranger than fiction !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
19th Sept. 2018

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cameron White struck by Billy Stanlake

Billy Stanlake ~ an extremely tall fast bowler at 204 centimetres, won a surprise call-up to Australia's one-day international squad in January 2017 to play against Pakistan. Stanlake impressed selectors with his pace and bounce; he was picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad but had to leave at the start after he fractured a finger in his right hand ! ~ he is in news for wrong reasons.

Cameron White has played 4 tests – all against India in 2008 series ~ he has been a good batsman though – former  Australian batsman Cameron White was hit with a vicious Billy Stanlake beamer in the first JLT Cup match in Townsville. Queensland’s Stanlake, who can hit speeds of up to 150km/h, had a bad case of early season rust, going for 20 runs off his first two overs. White, representing Victoria, had only faced four balls before Stanlake’s beamer struck him in the shoulder.  It was indeed a  scary moment in Townsville, but Cameron White was able to shake it off and the Doc has given him the all clear to continue his innings against the Bulls.  The commentators were worried about the blow, initially thinking it hit White in the helmet or throat.

“It just slipped out of his hand, Billy Stanlake, and Cameron White has copped it,” the commentator said. “It was certainly dangerous.” Doctors cleared White but the ball seemed to rattle the 35-year-old, who wasn’t able to kick on. White struggled after the blow, limping to 10 off 35 balls before being caught by Chris Lynn after top edging a pull shot off Jack Wildermuth. Stanlake improved from there to have 1-29 off six overs. Victoria were languishing at 4-66 when White was dismissed but a big partnership from Glenn Maxwell (80) and Nic Maddinson (68) stabilised the innings with a 101-run partnership.

It’s a good response from Maxwell who was told to score more centuries if he wants to be selected for the Australian team but again falling short of the triple figures. Maxwell was snubbed by selectors last week, who named a Test squad to play Pakistan in the UAE.  MailOnline raises concern on - Why weren't people offering help?' at that scary moment when White was struck on head. 

Queensland's Stanlake, who can hit speeds of up to 150km/h, delivered the illegal bowl, which appeared to hit the 35-year-old in the helmet or throat.  Cameron White was lucky to escape injury ! ~ as  he collapsed on the pitch after being hit, commentators speculated whether or not White had been hit in the head, but it was later revealed the ball hit his shoulder. Relating it to the past,  many fans took to social media to share their thoughts about the illegal bowl. 'God, why weren't people offering more urgent help? And why didn't the umpire send the bowler off straight away? And why didn't the bowler appear to be very worried or very apologetic??' one person wrote.

'How does an international pro bowl a ball that bad??!! Very dangerous at that pace and well done to White for the evasive action. This could have been nasty,' another person said. The concerns for White comes in the wake of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes's death, who died three days before his 26th  birthday after he was hit in the head with a ball. Hughes was struck in the back of the head by a ball delivered by bowler Sean Abbott in 2014, and he never recovered from the devastating head injury. After collapsing on the pitch, Hughes was rushed to St Vincent's Hospital and was placed in an induced coma but tragically died 48 hours later.

There have been many  Cricket injuries – most of them came under hostile conditions like the Kingston carnage when Holding, Daniel and others ripped off India, when Sarfraz, Imran, Wasim Akram, Akhthar struck, Bob Willis bounced or Australia served bouncers from slinging Thomson, Lillee, Walker and more !

When I faced Holding, I received 4 bouncers in an over and a beamer… the next over from him was the same – when he again said the beamer had slipped, I understood that this was a strategy to intimidate.  Lloyd fearing his future as Captain finding us 98 for no loss was desperate and utterly frustrated. ……………. The carnage ensued .. in the pavilion, there was none to attend to Anshuman Gaekwad.  Jamaican ticket authorities showed no regard for the seriousness of injury.  The whole thing was sickening.  Never have I seen such cold-blooded and indifferent behaviour of Cricket officials, and the spectators to put it mildly, were positively inhuman. – extracted from Sunil Gavaskar’s description of the carnage at Sabina Park. I have posted earlier on ‘worst injuries on Cricketing field’ - In his debut series, Sachin was injured and batted with blood and rose to eminence.  There are very many other stories but a very harsh  one was that of Contractor and the worst being that of Raman Lamba.

Nariman Jamshedji "Nari" Contractor , the left handed opener born in Godhra,  had two ribs broken by Brian Statham at Lords in 1959.   Contractor led India to a series win against England in 1961-62 and captained the side to West Indies the same season. There, in the match against Barbados, he was struck at the back of the skull  by Griffith  and was unconscious for six days, requiring a blood transfusion; his life was saved but his international career was abruptly ended.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th Sept. 2018.

the man behind India's Engineer's Day

15th Sept is celebrated as Engineer’s Day in India – commemorating Sir M Vishweshvaraya, KCIE, FASc.  It is perhaps fitting that the day remembers an  Engineer so popular and devoted to the life of engineering.  Google celebrated the day by dedicating a  doodle  to celebrate M Visvesvaraya's 158th  birthday who is known to have lived by the phrase, "Work is Worship". The doodle had a color sketch of Sir MV with a sketch of a bridge in the background. The bridge, among M Visvesvaraya's most notable projects, is a representation of the Krishna Raja Sagara Lake and dam. In 1924, Sir MV designed the Krishna Raja Sagara Lake and dam, the largest reservoir in India at the time, and oversaw the construction of the project. The dam is known to have provided drinking water for several cities.

Sir Mokshagundam Vishweshvaraya KCIE, FASc (1861 – 1962)  the brilliant engineer was also  the 19th  Diwan of Mysore, who served from 1912 to 1918. He received India's highest honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1955. He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the British Indian Empire (KCIE) by King George V for his contributions to the public good.  

Visvesvaraya took a job with the PWD of Bombay and later was invited to join the Indian Irrigation Commission. He implemented an extremely intricate system of irrigation in Deccan. He designed and patented a system of automatic weir water floodgates that were first installed in 1903 at Khadakvasla Reservoir near Pune. These gates were employed to raise flood supply level of storage in reservoir to the highest level likely to be attained without causing any damage to the dam. In 1906–07, Government of India sent him to Aden to study water supply and drainage systems.  Visvesvaraya achieved celebrity status when he designed a flood protection system for city of Hyderabad. He was instrumental in developing a system to protect Visakhapatnam port from sea erosion.  Visvesvaraya gave his valuable technical advice for the location of Mokama Bridge over Ganga in Bihar. At the time, he was over 90 years old.

He was called "Father of Modern Mysore State".  During his service with the government of Mysore State, he was responsible for founding of (under the patronage of the Mysore government) Mysore Soap Factory, Parasitoid Laboratory, Mysore Iron & Steel Works (now known as Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Limited) in Bhadravathi, Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic, Bangalore, Bangalore Agricultural University, State Bank of Mysore, Century Club, Mysore Chamber of Commerce (presently known as the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FKCCI) the apex Chamber of Commerce in Karnataka, University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering Bangalore and numerous other industrial ventures. He encouraged private investment in the industry during his tenure as Diwan of Mysore. He was instrumental in charting out the plan for road construction between Tirumala and Tirupati. He was known for sincerity, time management, and dedication to a cause. Visvesvaraya is known to have designed and planned the entire area of Jayanagar in south Bangalore.

He joined  service as assistant engineer in Bombay, 1885; served in Nasik, Khandesh and Pune; was  Sanitary engineer, Bombay, member, Sanitary Board, 1901; gave evidence before Indian Irrigation Commission, 1901. He retired from British service, 1909; later became Chief engineer and secretary to the government of Mysore, 1909.  It is stated that he retired on his volition and went on touring foreign countries studying them and then suggested relief measures to save Hyderabad from the threat of Musi river. With the support of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, Maharaja of Mysore, Visvesvaraya made good contribution as diwan to the all-round development of Mysore state. Not only the achievements listed above, but many other industries and public works owe their inception or active nurturing to him.
Many educational institutions have been named after him and two  metro stations in India, one in Bengaluru on the Purple Line (Sir M. Visvesvaraya Station, Central College), and another one in Delhi on the Pink Line (Sir Vishveshwaraiah Moti Bagh), have been named after him.  In case you care to ask FASc after his name -  Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore was founded by C. V. Raman, and was registered as a Society on 24 April 1934. Inaugurated in y 1934, it began with 65 founding fellows. The first general meeting of Fellows, held on the same day, elected Raman as President, and adopted the constitution of the Academy ~ Sir Visvesvaraya was one of its renowned members.

Krishna Raja Sagara, also popularly known as KRS, across Cauvery is attributed to this great person.  The  ornamental garden, Brindavan Gardens, is visited by thousands of people daily. The region of Mysore and especially Mandya had historically been dry and had witnessed mass migration to adjoining areas in the hot summers. A severe drought in 1875–76 had wiped out one-fifth of the population of the Kingdom of Mysore. Crop failures were common due to lack of water for irrigation.  The Kaveri river was seen as a potential source of irrigation water for the farmers in and around Mysore in the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore.The Chief Engineer of Mysore M. Visvesvaraya presented a blueprint of a dam to be built across the river near the village of Kannambadi. However, he faced opposition from the finance ministry of the government of Mysore, who said the project would "serve no purpose" and that the electricity produced from it would not be of complete use due to lack in demand. He then approached T. Ananda Rao, the Diwan of Mysore and the Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV for a reconsideration. Upon examining, the latter gave his consent issuing an order on 11 October 1911 to begin the project and a sum of ₹81 lakh was set aside for it. Madras Presidency then opposed the project and urged the imperial government to not approve it. Upon Visvesvaraya's persuasion, the government consented.

Incidentally, if you are to glance the Wikipedia page on Sir Visvesvaraya again – the first para reads :  “He is held in high regard as a pre-eminent Engineer of India. He is regarded as the chief engineer responsible for the construction of the Krishna Raja Sagara dam in the North-West suburb of Mysuru city, though his contribution was very minimal and chief engineer of the flood protection system for the city of Hyderabad.”  .. .. .. is something amiss on this page !!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th Sept. 2018.