Thursday, September 27, 2007

About Jainism

Lots of friends have asked me about being a Jain and i admit i haven't been able to get through to most of them. Most just hear about our strict vegetarianism, and sign off with that. I've always wanted to show how it's more than that.. how there's something deeper and more divine to Jainism than just being vegetarian. I myself don't know many of the scriptures and meanings. Fortunately, TOI's Speaking Tree has published an article about Jainism today... For those who wanna know what Jainism is really about, read ahead!

Celebrate Forgiveness: Kshamavani Divas

Shugan C Jain

Kshamavani Parva celebrates forgiveness as a way to a life of love, friendship, peace and harmony. When you forgive, you stop feeling resentful; there is no more indignation or anger against another for a perceived offence, difference or mistake; there is no clamour for punishment. It means the end of violence.
Jains classify forgiveness as: gifted by the one who forgives, earned by the one seeking it, and natural as a part of our divine nature. Forgiveness can be earned by request or prayer, pratikra
mana or confession and penitence, and prayascitta or willingness to suffer consequences.
Natural forgiveness, on the other hand, is automatic and effortless as it emanates from pure soul or paramatma, illustrating the dictum that to err is human, to forgive is divine.

Mahavira said we should forgive our own soul first. To forgive others is a practical application of this supreme forgiveness. It is the path of spiritual purification. Mahavira said: “The one whom you hurt or kill is you. All souls are equal and similar and have the same nature and qualities”. Ahimsa Paramo Dharma. Anger begets more anger and forgiveness and love beget more forgiveness and love. Forgiveness benefits both the forgiver and the forgiven.
Jain seers advise: “It is my bad karmas yielding results now even though i have not caused harm to him. So i must perform penance. I am the doer of my karmas and the enjoyer of their results”. It is the weak who give in to anger. The daily duties of all Jains include pratikramana and prayascitta. Every year, the month of Bhadra is considered holy and the last 18 days of the month are observed as either Paryusana or Das Laksan Parva.
On the last day, Kshamavani Divas, the resounding theme is:
“Miccha me dukkadam” — “We ask forgiveness for any harm we may have caused you, by thought, word, or action, knowingly or unknowingly”; “Khamemi savve jiva” — “I grant forgiveness to all living beings”; “Savve jiva khamanatu me” — “May all living beings grant me forgiveness”; “Metti me savve bhuyesu” — “My friendship is with all living beings” and “Vairam majham na kenai” — “My enemy is totally non-existent”.
In Buddhism, forgiveness is seen as a practice to prevent harmful emotions from causing havoc on one’s mental well-being: “In
contemplating the law of karma, we realise that it is not a matter of seeking revenge but of practising metta or loving kindness, mudita, upekkha and karuna to avoid generating resentment, and then seek forgiveness. If we haven’t forgiven, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn. That is what suffers”.
Jesus Christ, when being crucified prayed to God to forgive his tormentors as they “know not what they do”. The concept of confession and seeking absolution, and ending prayers by seeking forgiveness and the Lord’s blessings are applications of the principle of forgiveness.
In Islam, Allah is described as “the most forgiving”. Jews observe a Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Just prior to Yom Kippur, Jews will ask forgiveness of those they have wronged during the year. Mahatma Gandhi forgave his assassin even as he was dying. His practice of non-violence and satyagraha is based on the principle of forgiveness.
Those who forgive are happier and healthier than those who are resentful, say studies. Forgiveness is part of ahimsa; it helps us overcome anger and hatred.
The writer is founder-director, International School for Jain Studies, New Delhi.

Satyagraha In Burma!

How many times have you heard people saying that satyagraha & non-violence can't work in today's world? A little-known country in east asia is about to put that contention to the test!

The centuries-old wisdom of Buddhism has pitted itself against one of the most brutal military rulers on the planet. They are taking on a heavily armed ruthless army with literally nothing but prayers. Thousands of protesters - buddhist monks, who are highly revered & respected for their benevolence & peaceful way of life both in Burma and abroad - are being intimidated, arrested, and brutally beaten up with rifle butts while you read this. And still all the protests till date remain peaceful & non-violent, reminding one of the golden days of India's struggle for freedom.
As citizens of not just our country but of humanity, it becomes our duty to know what's happening and spread the word. That may be the only way to prevent the Burmese massacre of 1988 from happening again.

Our leaders in India have called this an 'internal affair' and don't wanna talk about it when they should actually be at the forefront to bring the dictatorship to see common sense. Remember, once upon a time India's struggle for independence had been termed an 'internal affair' of the British Empire. How ironical that today Britain itself is calling for action against the military rulers of Burma/Myanmar when the world's biggest democracy is keeping its mouth shut while peaceful protesters die! It makes me feel there are more true Indians on Burma's streets than there are in our parliament.

Please step out of sports hysteria and find out what's going on behind the front pages!
see & read these latest articles:
Burma protests: Your pictures
Burma monasteries in night raids
Accounts from inside Burma
Burma cyber-dissidents crack censorship

And see this one too on (an online petition being sent directly to political leaders)

Get aware of the real news, the stuff that matters. Forward this mail. Blog this issue. Make our leaders sit up & take notice. And let's finally make good use of the Internet!

Quotes from eyewitnesses, as told to the BBC:

Now the military junta is reducing the internet connection bandwidth and we have to wait for a long time to see a page. Security forces block the route of demonstrations. Yesterday night, the junta announced to people in Rangoon and Mandalay not to leave their houses 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM. I think if the junta decides, they will cut off communication such as internet and telephone lines so that no information can be leaked to the outside world. David, Rangoon

At about 10 o'clock the riot police blocked the road, but the monks pushed through the blockade and climbed the Shwedagon pagoda from the eastern side. After eating there, they came down from the pagoda about noon, in a line. At that point they were rounded up and charged with batons by the police. The monks responded merely by reciting prayers. People fled from the scene and it was mainly women who were targeted and beaten. The mob was dispersed and some people were arrested. Near the eastern stairway, tear gas was used to disperse the crowd. The monks - together with monks from Thingangyun - are said to march towards downtown. About thirty monks were badly hurt and hospitalised. Anonymous eyewitness, Rangoon

At 13:00 a silent and orderly line of several thousand monks has passed at the bottom of the street where my office is located. Not a sound from them, a calm and determined march. Traffic blocks up, buses and taxis open their doors, people stream out and go towards the marchers at an unusually quick pace. People just leave their cars at the side of the road. At the same time, while the sun is burning down, there are huge dark-grey clouds in the sky and loud thunder cracks over their heads. Win, Rangoon

Friday, September 21, 2007

Peace Dividend

This Article was published in today's Times of India, on the occasion of International Peace Day.
written by Sheena Sobti, a student of class XI, DPS, R K Puram, New Delhi.
We stand at a crossroads today, witnessing the greatest technological advancements of all time, and yet at the risk of losing all we have built over the centuries. This selfimposed threat comes from rising unrest and chaos in our world. It is ironic that in an age considered more sophisticated than all the preceding world orders, we are simplistic enough to overlook what was given prime importance even in the ancient world — peace. And we are in grave danger of paying an unimaginable price for this neglect. No development can be sustainable in the lack of peace — be it peace without, or peace within. The scourge of war and social tension can take an indescribable toll on material and moral wealth. Strife is an impediment not only to the prosperity of nations, but also for the overall advancement of individuals. The very religions that were founded to bring us closer to peace are now being misused for just the opposite reasons. Terrorism has reared its ugly head and looms large over all modern nations. Communalism imperils the unity and integrity of each country, and insignificant issues are raked up and made the bone of contention between faiths. Racism encourages separatism and liberation movements, which are prolonged for years and involve unnecessary bloodshed.
It is indeed paradoxical that in this age of globalisation, when the world is nothing but a global village and information technology has made boundaries of state and nation a non-entity, we continue to restrict ourselves to barriers of nationality, caste, creed or race. The shackles of discord can only be broken if each and every one of us rises to the occasion and recognises, as John F Kennedy rightly said, that “mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind”. If there is to be peace on earth, it must begin within us. Religious and political leaders are at an immensely influential position to bring about world peace. The former can do so by highlighting the universality of each creed, the latter by merging nations into one complete family. Peace is a journey of a thousand miles, and it must be taken one step at a time. Let us begin with our own little step, and see what a world of difference that makes.
When a teenager shows more wisdom in thought than our experienced leaders do in action, we should sit up and take notice. Let's do away with the seniority concept in politics, because after all a 'seasoned politician' is just another loser, incapable of changing himself or the system.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mobile-to-mobile calls: the ultimate future of mobile telephony?

Our modern-day cell phones are more limited than walkie-talkies made over 40 yrs ago! Don't believe that? read on..
Consider these situations and locations: Bhuj in the Gujarat earthquake, regions around south Asia after the december-04 tsunami, Mumbai and rural maharashtra in the 2005 floods. There were people trapped & in need of food, medical attention at out-of-sight locations in all these situations, many of them had working cell-phones with them, but most couldn't call for help as the nearest cell phone towers were knocked out, there was no network coverage. Now, imagine this: what if all these people had, instead of the latest cell phones, a 30-yr-old walkie-talkie, ? This may not have all the hi-fi features, but at least you could contact anyone receiving the same frequency in a very wide area, with minimal battery power used! To be able to contact a far-away rescue team, giving them the exact location and number of survivors, could have really saved several lives. But how is it, that today's modern cell phones, with all their advanced technology, can't get you out of such a life-or-death situation when a 40 yr-old relic could have?

This is an unfortunate result of some bad telecom planning.. in the interest of keeping constant revenues, telecom infrastucture makes you completely dependent on the network and subsequently on a small bunch of fallible communication towers. Now, every cell phone out there surely has the basic technology required to communicate with other radio devices some kms away. Imagine this: in the event of a disaster, if people's cell phones could communicate with each other instead of depending on a network and relay messages effectively to the rescue teams. Even if there was only one working cell phone at every 1 km distance, relaying messages could mean connectivity with the most remote of areas! The potential benefits in times of crisis are so vast that you'd think why this hasn't been already applied, after all it would be the natural next step in communications after the walkie-talkie.

Unfortunately, with a business climate worldwide wanting to earn revenue on telecom, the phone-to-phone idea was given a silent burial. It's perfect capitalistic sense: by shackling the phones in the most complex of protocols, authorisation and authentication, the mobile communication towers would be the point of passing and hence of revenue. Imagine a normal everyday situation: two people sitting in adjoining buildings, just a wall apart, and they can't contact each other because the network coverage is low. Wouldn't it be much simpler if the two cell phones could just search for and communicate with each other? Thankfully some companies are waking up to the glaring hole in common sense.. read this news article from
Mobile system promises free calls
As expected there's stiff opposition, without any foresight towards the above mentioned problems whatsoever, from service providers who know that with the revival of such basic techniques for communication, their revenues will surely dwindle. Just as well.. it's already ridiculous that we pay so much for services in an industry that's almost wholly automated! The service providers are literally reaping a harvest from their high revenues for sms's.. a service that's charged pretty disproportionate to its actual cost of operation. And since there's few employees, the major wealth goes to the few owners instead of the local populace. A capitalist's dream indeed!

Right now they're actually fighting tooth and nail for regulations (read: shackles) against VOIP which basically lets one make almost free phone calls anywhere using the internet, and popular free peer-to-peer applications like skype. Let's hope they don't win over the general interests of the people. I believe the next communication revolution is going to include the inevitable fall of revenues of major service providers with the proliferation of unit-to-unit communication. With the technology for effective peer-to-peer mobile communication ready, let's hope we get to see truly free phone calls in a few years!

BARF Compression: holy grail or goose chase?

I was surfing a community in orkut and came across this poll about BARF compression.. Followed the link to a nice blog and from there to

It's apparently a new open-source compression which can reduce any file by at least one byte. Taking that recursively, it's theoretically possible to reduce any file, no matter how big, to 1 or even 0 bytes. I was amazed at the possibilities that this 1-byte compression can have..( Imagine 700mb-movies fitting in a byte!) and downloaded barf.exe and got started right away. 10 minutes on I realized the secret.. I'm sorry to say this, mate, but it's a TRICK! Like any magic trick, the missing bytes have been stored somewhere else discretely.

Let me explain how I found out:
1. same as other guys who've tried, i took a new notepad file, a.txt, wrote abcdefg in it.
2. compressed it 4 times. I noticed how the filename got appended by an extension everytime. When it truly compressed larger files it was just a .x , but once the reduce-by-1-byte game begins, 3-letter extensions come in. That raised my doubts, that there might be some pattern to the so-called random extension..
3. i renamed the last extension of the compressed file (which now read only "efg" in notepad) by changing the digit in it. And then resumed the decompression back to 7 bytes, to the original a.txt filename.
4. Now the a.txt file which read "abcdefg" before has become "abcHefg"! how did 'd' get replaced by 'H' ??
5. It's becoz i changed one extension mid-way thru, and IT was storing the missing byte, and thus the original data was altered!

There's a quicker way to see this.. If you have downloaded the barf compressor then use these steps to expose the trick
1. In the same folder as barf.exe, make any file a.txt, write "abcd" in it. (sans quotes)
2. Now rename it to "a.txt.x9o"
3. >barf d a.txt.x9o //on the command prompt
4. now the new "a.txt" has 1 more byte, and it reads japanese here on my pc..
5. still not had enough? Do >barf c a.txt //at the prompt again
6. I'll pay u big money if the output file from this compression isn't named "a.txt.x9o" and it doesn't contain your original data!

What this means: There's no bloody compression here, all it did was replace the first byte inside the file with a 3-letter extension (4, including the dot)! This way the file itself maybe compressed, but the computer's file-registry (or whatever they call it in the FAT/NTFS hard drives) has to carry 4 more bytes (there's a dot too) In short you're just passing along information between file & filename which is stored by the OS somewhere else. In the end the system's space occupied gets bigger, and this is purely useless transferring it thru internet.. The filename will itself take more time going thru than the original file!

So, sorry guys & taran in particular, but there's no miraculous way here to turn your 700mb movie into a 1-byte file.. if you try it, you're gonna end up with a file having.. (700x1024x1024 -1) extensions in it! your OS will commit suicide before that happens.. we know it can't allow filenames to go beyond a certain range.
The BARF will initially compress a file as best as it can & put a ".x" extension to it, but this is worse than other compressors. I tried it on a 9.36KB .csv file.. After 2 compressions with barf, the file had a .csv.x.x extension and weighed 7.10KB. But the same .csv , thru winrar, became only 3.63KB. Once you see the 3-letter extensions come instead of .x, you'll know it's just fooling with you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sign the Petition to stop the iraq war

I've recently signed an online petition launched by -- some of the people partly behind the recent LiveEarth concerts worldwide. I've also posted a video made by them previously ("stop the clash of civilisations").
Please read this article on the current REAL situation in iraq, backed by real facts and not rhetoric
Iraq's humanitarian catastrophe: the facts and figures
And then sign an online petition here:
Just give your name & email addr, and trust me these are the good guys, u won't need to do any verification procedure or get any spams from them.

This crisis is too real to be ignored, and action needs to be taken without any thirst for revenge or pride, else we all risk committing the same mistakes the US administration did. Here's a quote from the email that Avaaz is sending to members :
Dear friends,

With hundreds of thousands killed, 4 million homeless, and massive ethnic cleansing, Iraq is not just a political disaster-- it is now the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. But this week, incredibly, US President Bush and General Petraeus will claim their approach is working, and refuse to change their devastating course. It's time for the world to step in.

Over 100,000 of us have already signed the "NEW Plan" for Iraq – calling for a UN-brokered diplomatic solution and a full US withdrawal, but we need a major power to support the plan. Of all the world powers, France has led opposition to the war. It could be the strongest voice to call for international action as most world leaders converge on the UN next week for its annual summit.
Remember: the devil is always in the details! Don't shape your opinion based on a fact-less 30-second commentary you just saw on TV.. Those guys are just TRP-mongers. It's the 24-hr news channels that fooled americans into believing in their war in the first place. They're gonna say one thing one day and something totally different the next. The typed word is still the world's most authentic & credible form of news... read it in national & global newspapers and their websites (i recommend they show feedback by readers too on the same page).
Let's do our bit to make a difference, right now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

NASA going the wrong way: let's not follow them

I found this article in an online student journalism magazine from Boston : "SciTini". Here's the link:
NASA's Moon Shot is a Blank
If you read this post then make sure your read the article too.
It illustrates a very evident phenomenon seen in govt administrations all over the world nowadays: they seem to be dumbing down more than ever. Facts are being replaced by rhetoric, and detailed explanations are giving way to bulleted lists and points.

This is turning out as a serious crisis for NASA, whose decisions ought to be based more on scientific pursuit than rhetoric. Now, several of their critical scientific study projects are being shelved and the resources being diverted to simpler, though admittedly more 'exciting' projects like the manned mars mission. The devil, as always, lies in the details.
here's a quote from the link above:
Six earth science programs are set to be sacrificed this year: Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM), Atmospheric Soundings from Geostationary Orbit (ASGO), Ocean Vector Winds (OVW), Landsat Data Continuity Bridge Mission, Glory, and the Wide Swatch Ocean Altimeter, measuring precipitation, temperature and water vapor, wind speed and direction near the ocean’s surface, land cover, solar irradiance, and sea level height, respectively. Together these missions would paint a highly detailed and in-depth look at many factors related to climate change that would be invaluable not only to climate science but to humanity at large.

Projects that would contribute so much to the common man right now are being sacrificed for less serious ones. The reason why not many people are getting alarmed is because now, more often than before we tend to skip the details. Someone who has no idea about any complex, scientific unmanned missions (and doesn't want to) will naturally choose the more expensive but simpler, more 'manly' (for want of a better word) manned mission. The problem is, that someone is sitting in the chair that controls the funding!

With this series of events being witnessed at NASA which was once probably the most technically advanced organization in the world, i hope the space agencies elsewhere in europe, india, china, japan will learn and avoid the same follies. The 'race' to put a man on the moon and other planets will right now not do anything to predict the next big climate disaster. One manned mission can be replaced by many more unmanned projects, for the same financial & technical resources. And right now the world needs these projects more.

We desperately need much more intensive study of world climate on an enormous scale. It's ridiculous that even today an old man looking up at the sky can make the same weather prediction as our best met department's. And even after watching the horror of disaster movies like Deep Impact, it's a joke that humanity has yet to devise a credible defense strategy against any earth-threatening asteroid. Today we still wouldn't be able to fend off 6 out of 10 wayward and dangerous space bodies, for the simple reason that we haven't cared to chart all the moving objects in the solar system as of yet. It's not like we don't have the telescopes.. It's like standing blindfolded with a gun in your hand - you have the capability to destroy the threat but it's all useless since you don't know where it's coming from.

I hope that in coming years, instead of following the american bandwagon, the other space agencies in the world do more to address these more pressing issues. Today we have the technology and capability to unmask almost all the unpredictable things that affect us, and remove or minimize their effects on the citizenry. If only we don't let rhetoric and pride take precedence over common sense.

seeing this from orkut?

Hi! if you're an orkut friend of mine and are seeing these posts from inside orkut, then please click on the "view website" link on top! Else you probably won't see all the embedded slideshows, videos and photos that make up the posts here!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Gmax in Singapore

We went to this awesome ride in Singapore called Gmax.. you'll have to see the videos below to believe it!

1. Gmax, from the outside:

2.Gmax, from the inside:

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Trip pics

Me and 4 other college-mates (sort of) got back from a trip around SE Asia last month. The detailed blog is long overdue, but let's start it with this: a picture slideshow (2 actually.. picasa won't allow more than 500 pics in an album)

Part 1: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok

Part 2: Pattaya, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur

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