Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Let There Be Light

Are high pressure sodium vapour lamps more efficient than LEDs?

The key to answering this question is "Luminous Efficacy", a measure of how well a light source a Watt of electricity into Lumens, a measure of light intensity visible to the human eye.

Today, while clearing some litter at a nearby park, I came across this box -

It was lying on the grass, right below a high-mast lamp. Even though I knew that these sodium vapor lamps consumed a lot of electricity, what struck me was the quantum of light produced by these bulbs. A 400W bulb produces more than 44,000 lumens!

If this makes little sense, just compare it to the standard LED lamps being distributed by the government, in its efforts to being down household electricity  consumption -

In terms of luminous efficacy, one would have thought that the LED lamps are a lot more efficient that any incandescent, power-guzzling bulb. However, in terms of light output (lumens), the sodium vapour lamp produces 110 lumens/W while the LED lights prouduce 114 lumens/W, which is hardly any difference.

If there is not much difference in the efficiency of LED bulbs and sodium-vapour lamps, is there a big difference in cost? The sodium-vapour lamp costs INR 675 per unit while an (unsubsidized) LED lamp costs anywhere between INR 150 and 250. This means that the cost of luminous efficacy is INR 0.16 lm/W/INR for the sodium-vapour lamp and 0.57 lm/W/INR for LEDs.  

This simply means that you are getting 3.5 times more bang for your buck with LEDs, compared to sodium-vapour lamps. So it does make sense to switch to LEDs.

Now, what is the difference is cost between LEDs meantand SVs for high-mast lamps? That would berhaps perhaps be a better comparison of oranges with oranges!


* Energy efficiency of LEDs - http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/led_energy_efficiency.pdf

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminous_efficacy

* 2009 - Toshiba releases 93 lm/W bulbs - http://ledsreview.com/news/367/

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Disruptive Designs

Another fascinating talk...here are some nuggets:

* Ying Zheng (300 BC) - The first military leader who insisted that all bows and arrows be designed identically.  Having interchangable daggers, axes, spears, shields and every other form of weaponry, made fighting much more

* Edward Teach aka Blackbeard designed the jolly-roger design used by sea pirates

* Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy was among the first to study the impact of technology on daily life

* Arthur Zang. He's a young, Cameroonian design engineer who has a adapted a tablet computer into the Cardiopad, a mobile heart-monitoring device


Rolex Awardee - http://www.rolexawards.com/profiles/young_laureates/kailas_neeti

Chasing out Yoursites123

I am constantly at odds with a virus that hijacks my browsers. It goes by the name "Yoursites123".

A few months back I had cleaned it out of Chrome and it worked just fine - until last week. Now the browser keeps hanging, forcing me to re-boot and employ that peculiar Chrome-special shortcut to get back all my tabs.

For a change, I switched back to Explorer and found that the earlier clean-up exercise had no impact on browsers other than Chrome. So when I got down, once again, to the step-by-step process for removing Yoursites123, a bigger problem surfaced - there were other bugs lurking in the dark corners.

Like the soot-balls in a Miyazaki movie, these turned up when I cast the following spell on the command-line:

The appearance of strange IP addresses below "localhost" is supposed to indicate that my PC has been hacked. And these three three fellows certainly look strange and suspicious.       down.baidu2016.com       123.sogou.com       www.czzsyzgm.com

What are these bugs doings in my machine? How do I get rid of them?

So far, all the online help available points you to some fancy sofware, which may again contain other new viruses. How do I figure the difference between online frauds and the do-gooders?


* Command Line reference - https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490890.aspx
* Removing Sougou - http://easyviruskilling.com/how-can-i-remove-123-sogou-com-virus-123-sogou-com-removal-guide/
* Removing down.baidu2016.com -- http://greatis.com/blog/how-to-remove-malware/remove-down-baidu2016-com.htm
* http://www.fixingvirus.com/remove-www-czzsyzgm-comwww-czzsyzxl-com-threat-and-protect-your-os/

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Notes, Emotions and Classical Music

Benjamin Zander on "Transformative Power of Classical Music". This would count among the most cheerful and engaging TED video's I have seen.

While explaining how music connects to our deepest emotions, Zander says at one point, "This is a B. The next note is a C. And the job of the C is to make the B sad. And it does, doesn't it?"

In fact it does. This made me wonder if there was any connection between Western classical notes that evoke a particular emotion, and their equivalent in the Indian classical "Swara-maala". In the Hindustani classical tradition, Raagas that evoke a feeling of sadness ("Karuna" / Compassion) are - Desh, Vihag and Peelu.

If B and C are considered equivalent to Sa and Re across scales, does this combination figure in Desh, Vihag and Peelu as well?

Amongst the three, the combination of B and C (or, roughly, Sa and Re) seems to be there only for Raag Desh, and that too only in the ascending notes (Aaroha).

Is this because the Karuna has a much deeper meaning than just "Sad"? Or am I missing something here?


* Western / Indian Note Equivalents - http://chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/western_Indian_scale.html
* Mood and Nature of Indian Classical Ragas - http://musicalescapades.com/useful-articles/moods-nature-raga-raaga.htm
* Raga's - http://www.soundofindia.com/raagas.asp
* Solfege - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solf%C3%A8ge

Friday, July 01, 2016

Captain Sparrow

Has there really been a shap decline the population of House Sparrows in India? In our corner of the National Capital Region (Noida) evidence points the other way.

This summer our home seems to have become the favoured destination for a variety of creatures. A couple of squirrels have claimed the space under a bedroom airconditioner; A pigeon laid two eggs on another window ledge, a tennis-ball-sized honeycomb nest on the foyer roof is home to family of yellow wasps, and the fourth corner of the house is the domain of Captain Sparrow and his family.

Three years ago, four organisations - BNHS, MoEF, NCBS and NCF -  had launched a two-month campaign to build public awareness on the disappearing House Sparrow. While participating in the nation-wide "Citizen Sparrow"survey I had pointed out that, at least in Noida, there was absolutely no shortage of this little bird. They were all over the place - in the hedges, on the Arjuna trees, and all over the local vegetable market. 

As if to reinforce this data-point, Captain Sparrow landed on one of our windows that just would not close. In this gap, safe from the prying claws of crows, rats and black-shouldered kites, it started making a tentative nest. At first it was a shoddy piece of work and none of his girlfriends were impressed. He then added a roof, some extra furnishings, and got steady with one. 

First it was a single, tiny, speckled egg. 

A week later there were three more.  

All four eggs went out of sight for a while until one morning we discovered that there were two plump little chicks in the nest. 

Every morning they made a huge racket and Captain and his wife seemed to be perpetually going to and fro getting them things to eat. If any of us approached the nest for a peek, the chicks would quickly backtrack in to the deepest corner, turning themselves completely silent and invisible against the straws and twigs.

Then, as suddenly as they had come, both the chicks turned into young ladies and flew away. So that was that we thought, time to clean up the window sill and settle down for some peace and quiet. 

We then went off on a three week holiday in mid-May. When we returned home in the June, not only had Captain refurbished his hangout, it was now a plush nest with two more chicks! 

So in just one summer, our window sill has been a maternity ward that has seen four baby sparrows fly out into the world.

Will Captain Sparrow come back again next season? We hope so!


* Citizen Sparrow - http://www.citizensparrow.in/
* India Searches for its missing sparrows (2012) - http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/india-searches-for-its-missing-sparrows/article3287189.ece
* Citizen Sparrow Survey Report (2013)

Extraordinary Facets

A TED video on Conversations. A Malayalam writer and an unsung politician.

One common thread that runs through all three is the delight of discovering something completely unexpected. Serendipity in many colorful layers.

In the TED video by Celeste Headlee one quotation struck me: "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't" (Bill Nye). I had heard this one before but in an altogether different context. Over here Headlee was talking about the Art of Conversation.  Dig a little deeper and you find that the need to keep your mind open about people extends way beyond people you are ever likely to meet in flesh and blood.

Last week saw the release of new book on a Congress party politician and ex-PM who, for a change, has no roads named in his honor: "Half Lion" by Vinay Sitapati. The book seems to be full of surprises and stories of intrigue that was, until now, outside the 'public domain'. Such revelations are, of course, expected from biographies on politicians. What you would not expect to find are facets and qualities that seem so very unlike the regular, seasoned politicians.

PVN Rao was aparently a serious polyglot and technophile. He could speak Telugu, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, and even some Oriya. Over the years, he had not only taught himself COBOL and BASIC but also went on to code in UNIX for mainframes!

Then you have the famous Malayalam writer, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. A few days ago I revisited "Bhargavinilayam", one of his well known short stories. Even while going down a familiar path I was surprised to notice that, as a writer his interest in music went way beyond Kerala. He would travel from one cheap rental house to another carrying all his belongings in a few cartons. One of the boxes contained his favourite wind-up gramophone with a collection of over 200 LP records. His range of interests was quite amazing - Pankaj Mullick, Dilipkumar Roy, Saigal, Bing Crosby, Paul Robeson, Abdul Karim Khan, Kanan Devi, Kumari Manju Dasgupta, Kurshid, Juthika Roy, M.S. Subbulakshmi...

 What an amazing world some people carry in their minds!


* TED - "10 Ways to have a Better Conversation" by Celeste Headlee

* Book Review - ET - http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/vinay-sitapati-on-congress-betrayal-of-pv-narasimha-rao-and-bjps-attempts-at-reviving-his-legacy/articleshow/52918738.cms

* A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces - Extraordinary Short-Stories from the 19th Century to the Present, Edited by David Davidar, Aleph, 2014

Monday, June 27, 2016

India's War

Over the past few weeks two different authors launching two very similar sounding books: "India's War" by Srinath Raghavan and "India's Wars" by Arjun Subramaniam. Except for the pudgy looking elephant on the Srinath's book, both would have had similar covers too.

I picked the author was more familiar - Srinath. There are already a lot of glowing book reviews in the magazines and newspapers so let me just stick to the points that I found interesting or fascinating.

"India's War" makes a very interesting start with the author's curiosity getting piqued at the Indian Military Academy. At IMA, officer cadets were divided into groups named after distant, strange-sounding places in foreign lands. Battlefields where Indian units fought - and won - many significant victories.

Victories and defeats. The book does not attempt to whitewash battles where the British Indian Army suffered significant defeats. I liked that. I also liked the way in which the Germans and Japanese were given due credit for adopting significantly better strategies and tactics. Details of the logistics and costs involved in ramping up an army from 50,000 to 2.5 million, and the travails of moving the divisions from one corner of the world to another, makes fassinating reading.

It was also good to know that the supposedly "progressive" princely state of Travancore, under Divan Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyer, fared no better than British Bengal when it came to providing foodgrains for its citizens. While the former starved for the want of imported rice from Burma, the latter just shipped off whatever it as reserve-stocks for British soldiers in Europe. During the Famine in Travancore (1941-43), a sack of rice cost Rs. 65. An Indian soldier fighting in North Africa or Southern Europe received a monthly salary of Rs. 17 while the British tommies in the adjascent trenches got Rs.67 - three times the salary for the same work.

Unknown names also came to the fore: Maruyama Daisaburo, the spy who lived in Gandhi's Wardha ashram in the 1930s went on to set up a superb school for espionage in Penang. And then there was Lt Gen Mutaguchi Renya, Commander of the 15th Army in Northern Burma. If it were not for the misclculation he made for for the main offensive "Operation U-Go (8 march 1944) and  Op Ha-Go (to stop and destroy the 5th and 7th Indian Division along the Mayu Ridge), the war could have turned out very differently indeed!

Delhi Metro: Blueline Blues

Stranded: Delhi Metro Blueline

Is the Delhi Metro unprepared to cope with its own rapid expansion? How do passengers cope with sudden disruptions in the suburban network?

Things that you read in the papers, shake your head in disappointment, and then flip over to the next page. It takes a first hand  experience to jolt you out of the detached, disinterested way in which most of us go through the daily grind. I got mine today.

At 15:30 today, I went down the ITO station to a business meeting at Dwaraka Sector-12 . On a normal day this journey takes about 40-60 minutes and I was quite sure that I would reach in time. About an hour later, at Uttam Nagar on the outskirts of Dwaraka, the train suddenly stopped. For the next one hour annoucements on the PA system mentioned a "technical snag", and then about "disruption in electrical supply" which would be "repaired soon". At 17:45 the train slowly crawled to the next station.

By this time it was clear that I would have to reschedule my meeting. So I went down for a chat with the metro staff before taking a return train to Noida. "Oh, this sort of thing keeps happening", said the man at the turnstiles, "There is no way to predict how long the repair work is going to take...40 minute, or four hour, your guess is as good as mine!"

A fee passengers who had stepped out to look for alternate transport came back dejected. As soon as news of the network failure got around, the taxi and auto drivers had promptly switched to "surrge pricing", a nifty term for fleecing helpless people.

Nearly an hour later, at 18:30 the train came to a stop at Rajiv Chowk. There was an unbelievable mass of humanity outside the windows, and as soon as the doors slid open, commuters exploded into the compartment, and then, the doors would not close because folks on the outside just did not want to let go. It took a lot of coaxing and cajoling from the guards to get the train rolling again. The same scene was repeated at the next major crossing - Yamuna Bank.

I got out of the Blue-Line at 19:30, full four hours after I entered into the network.

DMRC is clearly under severe strain. The Delhi network currently handles an average ridership of 2.7 million people a day, of which the Blue-Line (the longest with 44 stations) handles a million passengers - 64 percent of the load.

Is there a pattern to the network failures along the Blue-Line? Is there a better way of communicating such failures to the commuters? Is there a more cost effective way of evacuating passengers in emergency situations?

DMRC has an active PR department but it needs to go way beyond issuing the usual press-releases. Disruptions like these present opportunities to prepare the city for bigger emergencies.


* 27 June 2016 - http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-metro-blue-line-overhead-wire-fault-2880355/

* 4 June 2016: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/snag-on-metro-blue-line-delays-services-in-delhi-2833522/

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Look at Rexit

A day before Brexit, there has been a sharp drop in the number of shrill op-ed's and commentaries on "Rexit" - the exit of RBI Governer, Raghuram Rajan.

Reactions to Rexit have, by now, covered the entire spectrum of reactions and predictions, from the impending collapse of the Indian economy to 'good riddance'. As a man-on-the-street, I have been trying to understand why the governement decided not to extend Rajan's tenure, who, by all accounts seemed to be the perfect man for the job.

So far, the many opinions rationalizing Rajan's exit centred on a handful of points: The RBI governor was exceeding his brief; he was playing to the gallery by taking on the role of a public intellectual and a government functionary at the same time; He was not being senstive enough to the plight of rural India by refusing to lower the interest rates, etc..

Today I came across an entirely new angle presented by Gurumurty. According to him, Rajan, with his Western education did not sufficiently understand the importance of small towns, the unorganised sector. He illustrated this with two examples:

  • Morvi, Gujarat: The town produces 70 % of ceramics, 80% of CFL lamps, and the largest producer of clocks in India. It has the highest per-capita income in the country.
  • Tirupur, Tamil Nadu: Here, entrepreneurs with less than 10 years of formal education export more than USD 4 billion worth of knitwear garments.

According to Gurumurthy, towns like Morvi and Tirupur account for more than 58 million unfunded, unorganised businesses that needed a capital of INR 12 Lakh Crores (USD 184 billion). A new financial architecture called the Mudra Bank, to fund these unorganised businesses, has been stonewalled by Rajan at RBI citing regulatory arbitrage and systemic risk.

Obviously there is more to Mudra than meets the eye. Finance is certainly a problem for SMEs, especially for those located in rural areas where the going rate from local money lenders ranges from 30 to 120 percent. If RBI under Rajan was not too keen on having yet another banking/regulatory body (apart from NABARD, SIDBI and NHB) what were the arguments against it?


* Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) - wiki - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Units_Development_and_Refinance_Agency_Bank

* Mudra Bank - Genesis - http://www.mudra.org.in/AboutUs/Genesis

* Unnikrishnan, Dinesh (Firstpost, 2015) -- http://www.firstpost.com/business/mudra-bank-has-an-obvious-risk-of-endorsing-shadow-banks-2189251.html
- National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi) and National Housing Bank (NHB)

* Gurumurty - http://linkis.com/newindianexpress.com/4AnuK
* Sanjay Baru - Interesting - http://m.firstpost.com/politics/the-numbers-rbi-governor-raghuram-rajan-did-not-get-2014-and-282-2846970.html
* Harish - http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/in-fact-where-raghuram-rajan-may-have-erred-in-policy-2865447/

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Marthanda Varma's Legacy

Padmanabhapuram Palace

A casual visitor driving on NH-47 from Kerala to Kanyakumari (aka Cape Comorin), Tamil Nadu is stuck by two things: firstly, the roads in Kerala are now much, much better, and that despite change in language, climate and topography, close linkages continue to be forged between the two southernmost districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

My last visit to the Cape was more than three decades ago. It was a journey in an Ambassador taxi packed with cousins from Bombay and I have vivid memories of the large ponds and hills along the way, the visit to the Vivekananda Rock and the long line of vendors selling polished sea-shells and packets of multicolored sands.

Almost every accessible site of historical interest seems to have strong connections with one king of Travancore - Marthanda Varma (1705-1758) .

Marthanda Varma was perhaps the most proactive and agressive of Travancore rulers. He had inherited a weak state surrounded by enemies, at a time when the Europeans had just promoted themselves from supplicants and spice traders, to power brokers and conquistadors.

Varma survived numerous assasination attempts before striking back to decimate his enemies, and to make strategic alliances that would make Kerala what it is today.

It was also during Varma's reign that the Padmanabha Swami Temple in Trivandrum became a major repository for state treasure. Recent discoveries put the value of this treasure at more than USD 1 Trillion!

Yet, when you look at the map it is difficult to understand why Varma made his capital city at Padmanabhapuram, a city far from his hilly hinterland in Kerala and one that was vulnerable to attacks from the land and sea.

Perhaps due to this vulnerable location European traders thought it was logical to start their conquest of Travancore from Colachel port. In 1741, Dutch East India Company forces led by Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy landed at Colachel port and marched north-east towards Padmanabhapuram Palace, hoping that a quick, dirty battle would force a surrender leading to a full control over the spice trade.

Vattakottai Fort, Kanyakumari Distt, TN
Unfortunately for De Lannoy, superior weapons and battle tactics were not of much help when the Travancore kind, Marthanda Verma called in reinforcements from his coastal domains. The Dutch army was not only defeated but the captured European soldiers were offered terms which turned out to be a lot more attractive than the incentives being offered by their employer which was also the richest MNC of the time.

De Lannoy became the Chief Strategist of the Travancore army and, over the next 20 years,  went on to oversee the construction and reinforcement of a number of forts Kerala. He was also instrumental in building a defense line that stopped the Mysorean army led by Tipu Sultan from conquering Travancore.

The original question, however, still remains unanswered: Why did the rulers of Travancore place thier capital city so far away from the hinterland?


* USD 1 Trillion Treasure in Kerala Temple - http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2015/11/13/a-one-trillion-dollar-hidden-treasure-chamber-is-discovered-at-indias-sree-padmanabhaswam-temple/#4a82c6ab21eb
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devi_Kanya_Kumari