Warning: mysql_connect(): Access denied for user 'oh_wordpress_user'@'burnside.dreamhost.com' (using password: YES) in /home/dont_panic/blog.onkarhoysala.com/wp-content/plugins/owa/plugins/db/owa_db_mysql.php on line 106

Warning: mysql_select_db() expects parameter 2 to be resource, boolean given in /home/dont_panic/blog.onkarhoysala.com/wp-content/plugins/owa/plugins/db/owa_db_mysql.php on line 109

Warning: mysql_set_charset() expects parameter 2 to be resource, boolean given in /home/dont_panic/blog.onkarhoysala.com/wp-content/plugins/owa/plugins/db/owa_db_mysql.php on line 112

Warning: mysql_errno() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home/dont_panic/blog.onkarhoysala.com/wp-content/plugins/owa/plugins/db/owa_db_mysql.php on line 159
Onkar Hoysala / Blog

The Fearless’ Birthday

It is my pleasure to report that The Fearless graced us with his presence to celebrate his birthday. Some photos and videos follow.

Here’s the leader cutting the cake.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Refresh the page if the video doesn’t load. BTW, this isn’t hosted on youtube as a homage to the Fearless, since he doesn’t like the evil doers at Google.

And the photos:

Also, these were two of the photos of the occasion that gave the Fearless his name as, well, the Fearless.


(Check out the file names :P)

Also, I feel obliged to tell the readers that when the Leader cut his birthday cake, doves were heard to be singing the birthday song. Or maybe that was just the candle.

A Farewell

I’d posted a year and a half ago that I was having trouble deciding between CSTEP and Exeter (this post). I decided to join CSTEP eventually, considering I’d loved working there during the 6 month internship. At CSTEP, I was to work with the folks at the Next Generation Infrastructure Lab(NGIL); and I absolutely enjoyed working there. It was an environment where people from wide variety of backgrounds could work together on a problem, opinions from everyone would be considered, discussions and arguments were encouraged, and working didn’t involve clocking-in at 9 and clocking-out at 5 (of course, that also meant we worked around the clock most of the time, but I am sure every one of us enjoyed that). I could not have asked for a better workplace than NGIL for my first job.

It is a pity my stint at CSTEP had to end the way it did, amidst such tension and with so many people leaving at the same time. The work was great, the people were great, and I’m sure I (and many other friends of mine) have been spoilt by the amazing bosses we had in Sub and Robin. In just the two years I was there, we at NGIL did a LOT of work. We created games, created software tools, worked on collecting and cleaning primary data (a copy of the data collected as part of the Urban Poverty Survey can be found here), held workshops, did some policy analyses as well, to name a few. And of course, we published our work.

It is saddening that I won’t be part of the same group anymore. It also is a new beginning, and I’m looking forward to it!

Complete Asterix collection

So I finally got the complete collection of Asterix, and I’m behaving like a little kid again! Ever since I watched “The Twelve Tasks of Asterix” on a VHS as a kid at my grandparents’ house, I’ve been completely mental about these comics. Grandad had the complete collection on VHS but had only a few of the books. Was a bit disappointed when I found out today that “The Twelve Tasks” was a movie only and not a book, but there are 34 other books to read all over again. :D

My bookshelf now, with complete collections of Asterix, Tintin, Jeeves and Wooster and Calvin and Hobbes.

Of course, certain other people got much better deals for the Tintin and Asterix collections, but I prefer not to talk too much about it.

P.S: Sorry for the bad and really large pics though. Didn’t have the patience to re-size them even!


The Harry Potter universe is possibly one of the least complex magical universes. It isn’t anywhere as intricately designed as Middle Earth or Westeros and so the Potter series certainly doesn’t fall under the high fantasy genre. The magic system too isn’t very well defined (the wizards use the same spells they learnt in year 1 or 2 in the 7th year, and against the Dark Lord. Come on!). So I think the biggest reason I am still such a fan of the series is because I grew up reading it. It was the reason I started liking fantasy and also it was the “transition” series between reading Blyton’s and Dahl’s books (I still haven’t read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory though) to reading LoTR, Holmes, classics like Monte Cristo, Dickens’ works etc. Plus I was a huge fan of Dumbledore, Hermione and Snape.

It was in July of 2001 that my aunt and uncle gifted me the first four Potter books as a birthday present. I liked them so much I read them some 6 times at least! The fifth book came out when I was in class 10, and my parents said I’d be allowed to read it only after the exams. Turns out that was all part of a surprise and I got the fifth book as a birthday present from my parents. I’d pre-ordered the sixth book and went to the store at 6 AM to pick it up the day it released and I finished reading it in 2 hours straight because one of my friends had threatened to spoil the ending otherwise. Even book 7 I finished within a couple of hours of getting it early in the morning. They might not be the best books in the world, but some parts were certainly bloody good; the Chamber of Secrets fight, Quidditch, Dumbledore fighting Voldemort in book 5 (the only wizard he ever feared! That was so awesome!), Dumbledore’s death, Snape’s tale throughout the series, the truth about Dumbledore and the deathly hallows, and perhaps the best part in all seven books, Sirius’s story in book 3.

The movies weren’t great though.  Movies hardly ever do justice to the books but the Potter movies have omitted too many important details from the books, and have changed quite a lot of stuff too (like Harry getting the Firebolt at the end  in the third movie, instead of in the middle of the plot like in the book). But they are still damn good fun! I just watched the last movie and liked it. McGonagall and Snape’s duel was simply brilliant! So were some of the dialogues and also Molly Weasley dueling Bellatrix. I would’ve liked to see a lot more of Bellatrix though; Helena Bonham Carter is one amazing actor! I never liked the ending of the 7th book, but the movie ending was simply silly. I thought I’d be a little nostalgic after the movie considering the Potter series would be finishing, but the ending kind of made it all a little too comic. They should have just left that part out of the movie.

History and Philosophy of Science – 1 : My Notes

Starting this month, we began a series of classes on the History and Philosophy of Science and plan to have one such discussion every month. This was the first class that I attended in which we were given a few chapters to read and were asked to discuss our questions and opinions in the class. We were given the first three chapters of the book “Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science” by Peter Godfrey-Smith, a professor of philosophy at Harvard University. My notes from that discussion are what I’ve written below.

The discussions revolved around three questions

  1. What is ‘Science’? Can it described apart from the methodology that it uses?
  2. What is the role of Objectivity in Science? Does interpretation make observation false?
  3. What makes Science different from other kinds of investigation?

Godfrey-Smith, in the first three chapters, talks about

  1. The history of science and the importance of Scientific Revolution
  2. The “three pieces of the answer” to the question of how science works: Empiricism, Mathematics and Social structure.
  3. Logical Positivism and Logical Empiricism and the problems faced by logical positivists and empiricists
  4. Induction and confirmation of a scientific theory

First off, I think it is necessary to write what my views were about the philosophy of science while reading the three chapters from Godfrey-Smith’s book. My initial opinion was that Science is a process of investigation of “stuff”. All investigations are scientific. The investigations should be carried out using an accepted method, they should be based on questions that don’t relate to just physics, chemistry, biology or other traditionally accepted “sciences” and the results must be presented in a “language” that is agnostic of the person who reads it. What I mean by the last part is that regardless of who reads/sees/learns/listens to the results, the result should be communicable without any loss of information and with complete objectivity. Here is where I ran into trouble and my mind went into overdrive both while reading and during the discussion.

Some things about my views of Science really troubled me and the same questions that the author mentions in the book started popping up. What are “stuff”? Are all investigations scientific? What “topics” can be considered science? What do I mean by language? Is complete objectivity possible? (The author also points out that the term “objective” itself might not be complete objective. It might mean “absence of bias” or it could be used to express claims about “whether the existence of something is independent of our minds”). Then I ran into an even more basic question, which a few other people also had during the discussion: Why are we asking the question “What is Science” at all? It is, after all, a word humans invented and gave constraints to. And if we were to answer it, should we find an answer to it using the scientific method; or should we define scientific method first, for which we need to define science!

Another problem was that of empiricism and past experience. How can we be sure to base our result on something that happened in the past? As Godfrey-Smith points out, even if past experiences have helped provide good answers to many problems, that was still in the past! How can we be sure that the future results will be close to or based on our past experiences? Yesterday my Mom found a hole in the mosquito net in the kitchen window and she said that by all her previous experiences she was very sure a rat was inside the kitchen. This is an investigation and by the previous premise, this is a scientific investigation, and by past experience we ought to be certain that the rat is inside the kitchen. But how can we be completely sure of that fact? In all probability the darned rat is inside the kitchen but there is no way to make sure of it using just our past experience. Also, how do we call something a “fact”? If we were to think empiricism as the only way science works, then isn’t teaching science at schools against empiricism as the kids need to learn science by experience alone? This, however, could be answered to a certain extent. Learning at school falls under the Social Structure of Science, where we learn from the experiences and knowledge of others.

Then comes the question of considering all investigations as scientific. If we were to apply Godel’s incompleteness theorem (of which I know very little) here, it would mean that using the elements of the system, we cannot prove if or not there exists any investigation that is non-scientific. So how can we conclude that all investigations are scientific? Then comes the question of subjectivity. How subjective can the proofs to an investigation be? For instance, in my sister’s Environmental Science question paper, one question was “Holes in the ozone layer cause Skin cancer. True or False?”. Is it possible to find Boolean answers to such questions with absolute proof? What all can be considered as Sciences and to what extent can the answer to this question be subjective? Can Art be considered a Science? (Aditi pointed out here that many people don’t consider art a Science probably because of the significant difference in the end goals of Art and the other things traditionally considered Science. Art is for recreation while traditional sciences are mostly not). Language was another big question mark. When we talk about a “common language” for Science do we mean a commonly spoken/written language like English or a common tone of writing/speaking about Science in any language or both?

One of the biggest discussions we had was that of “a theory for everything”. Again, if we go by Godel’s incompleteness theorem, we cannot prove the non-existence of a lot of things using just the elements of the system available to us. So how can we define “everything” and how can we find a theory for it?

The induction and confirmation of scientific theories were not discussed during this session. I had a ton of questions about them but considering I found the chapter so immensely confusing, I’d rather write about it after the next discussion in June.

An Epic Rivalry – My Take

For the first time since Australian Open 2008, neither Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal is in a grand slam final. If that seems like an unbelievable stat, the fact that Federer and Nadal have won 21 of the last 23 grand slams, albeit a pretty well known stat, is just incredibly mind boggling. A lot has been said of their rivalry but lately it seems that most of their “rivalry” has been off-court; i.e. more in terms of statistics. They have met on court just once in 2009 and once in 2010. They seem to have great respect for each other and both of them are pretty open about their friendliness towards each other. This is a very nice article in The Hindu saying pretty much the same thing.

This made me think that this really isn’t quite like a rivalry. Sure, they play their best tennis against each other and produce some really high quality tennis matches. I, however, would like to think of it as a partnership; one in which they have won everything in sight for the last 6 years, save perhaps the Paris Masters in which neither of them has even made it to the finals. The way these two have been winning tournaments the last few years, they’ve almost made it seem simple! On one hand they seem to have an ostensibly intense rivalry but on the other hand over the years, both seem to have become more and more friendly and have also worked together and made significant contributions to the society through tennis. They played two exhibition matches last year for the charities that they run respectively and were also in a lot of ways responsible for ‘Rally for Relief’ and ‘Hit for Haiti’. The most striking thing about these two players however, is how they’ve been able to silence their critics. After Wimbledon 2008, people started saying Federer is at the end of his career but within the next one and a half years, he’d won the Olympic Doubles gold medal, one US Open, French Open, Wimbledon and an Australian Open, along with a bunch of other tournaments. One of my first posts on this blog was about Rafa and I wrote about how I thought that Rafa would return very strongly (this was around the time Rafa was defeated by Soderling in the French open). After losing in the quarter finals to Murray last year at the Australian Open, Nadal clean swept the clay court Masters 1000 tournaments and won the next three grand slams (this somehow reminds me of how Tendulkar has silenced his critics over and over again).

This “rivalry” has been so dominant that other good players like Djokovic and Murray have had almost no chance to prove that they are actually bloody good! A few people seem to think Murray is an over hyped player (quite a few of my Facebook friends think so). I’m sorry, but the guy has been in the top 5 for the last 3 years, has won 6 Masters 1000 tournaments, has been to 3 Grand Slam finals (including the current Australian Open) and has a 8-6 winning record against Federer – the only other top 10 player to have a positive winning record against Federer is Nadal. Saying Murray is anything but extremely good just doesn’t seem right, even though it is just somebody else’s opinion. Murray might not have won a grand slam but then again, not many people have, in the last few years! Just 4 Grand Slam champions since 2005 French Open, to be precise: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Del Potro. As I said, I think a lot of this criticism Murray and Djokovic receive about not winning more Grand Slams could be attributed to the fact that Rafa and Federer seem to make winning Grand Slams so easy!

But I’ve just rambled off statistics in this post. What is most important to me is that the reason I like tennis as much as I do today is because of Federer and Nadal. A couple of years ago, I was the sort of Federer fan who got upset if he lost to Nadal. Then, after that superb Wimbledon final in 2008, I started liking Rafa’s game but still used to get pretty upset when Murray or Djokovic or anyone else defeated Federer. I was the sort of guy who thought Federer could win every tournament he played, as if he were invincible. Lately though, I guess I’ve grown up in the way I see tennis. Now that I see Federer and Nadal as just humans and not some super-human-player-beings, it somehow makes tennis just better.

Don Bradman

I found this article I wrote for the school magazine when I was in class 6 (or 7, don’t remember which). Please ignore the grammar and spelling mistakes of the 13 year old me :)

Don Bradman

The image is 1.6mb; it might take a while to load. A 6.4mb image with a much higher resolution can be found here.

Environment, Trees and Schools

On 5th June, a couple of schools near my house (and a lot of other schools too) decided that it would be nice to get school kids to hold placards that read “Save trees” or “Save environment” and make them walk down roads shouting the same. It was all very admirable of the schools but it got me wondering, is that enough? Is there a point in trying to put across such an important message, to both the students and to the public, on just one day of the year?

In school, I distinctly remember hating the subject “Environmental Science” and I’m not very sure anybody else in my class liked it either. I’m not sure any school kid likes it today. This, I think, is because of the way this “subject” is handled. The teachers themselves don’t give much attention to it. It is considered a far less important subject than mathematics and the sciences. If I remember right, we just had that subject till 4th standard! I don’t want to start off on how much schooling is screwed up, but because “getting more marks” is the highest priority for students, parents and teachers, a topic as important as this is being ignored simply because it is not in the curriculum. I don’t mean to devalue the intent of the schools or the students who participated in these walks on environment day, but is it really effective in the long run if a sense of protecting the environment isn’t deeply inculcated in everybody? I don’t think there are many schools who concentrate as much on educating their students on the importance of preserving fuel, power and the environment as they concentrate on marks.

The people ‘running the show’ today seem to have little or no idea about the environment. There exist some monumental morons who seem to think that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a natural disaster. In the recent past, South Banglaore’s greenery has reduced. 73 trees are being cut near Tagore circle in Basavanagudi to make way for an underpass. Earlier, a whole lot of trees were cut near National High School to make way for a flyover. What’s worse, the flyover was never necessary then and now, the underpass isn’t necessary either. Nanda road, with so many trees on both sides that it always looked like sundown, is all set to lose its amazing charm. This is just a very small number of examples.

Clearly it is an absolute necessity that the current generation be properly educated about saving trees, climate change and alternative fuels. I don’t just mean schools. VTU too had a “course” on environmental education, which was nothing short of rubbish. Actually, it does not make sense to have it as a “subject” at all. It is way too important to be a subject that students study to get some marks. In school, we had an English teacher called Padma Sharma. She always used to say, “Reading and learning are two vastly different things”. Somehow, these protest walks the school students staged and the subjects like “Environmental Science” seem analogous to “reading” and not “learning”. The environment certainly deserves more attention than that.

P.S: My intent here is not to say that the people responsible aren’t doing anything to save trees or to protect the environment; my intent is to emphasize that proper education about the environment and climate change isn’t being provided at any level, especially at schools.

4 years

Finally we finish engineering. Just the exams left. And I’ve become slightly nostalgic all of a sudden!

The four years at college have certainly not been uneventful, unlike two years at Jain College. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve started liking my college all of a sudden. The lectures were dreary, lecturers were stupid, moronic or downright indecent, scope for actually learning something was nearly nil, the syllabus was definitely something worth reading only a couple of days before the exams and the college lacked certain (read: a lot of) facilities. In fact, my main problem with college is that it is just the same as many other colleges in Bangalore. They constantly claim they are different but are exactly same as every other place. But academics apart, there have been some great moments in the last four years, both in college and outside of it.

The best thing that happened to me in college was Trivial Pursuit. The best thing that happened for Trivial Pursuit in the last four years was its first quiz fest. Shravan, Adishesh and I decided to ask permission for a quiz fest after a truly pathetic quiz at the VTU fest last year. When the fest turned out to be a huge success after two months of trouble and a meager prize money, I simply could not be happier.

My best moment in college, though, was when i got placed at Exeter. I was initially skeptical about taking it up but then I had a look at their client list and was pretty impressed! Possibly the hardest choice I’ve had to make in the last four years was to choose between working at Exeter and working at CSTEP. The few months i spent interning at CSTEP have, by far, been the best academically. I’ve learnt more about computer science, programming (programming != computer science. “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”- Dijkstra) and software development in general than I’ve learnt in 4 years studying them in college. I was in a complete fix when Aditi and I were asked if we’d be interested in joining CSTEP as employees. As I said, choosing Exeter over CSTEP was probably the hardest choice I’ve had to make. *edit: I’m still thinking about this :)*

It is only fair to mention Dandeli here. White water rafting was the best one and a half hours in 22 years. :) I still maintain that those couple of hours were better than a week in Goa and much much better than a week in Pondy.

A lot more things are worth mentioning but I’m just too bored to type and there’s too much to study. Surprisingly few in number, yes, but these are definitely the things that have had the most impact in the last four years.

Things I've learnt from Indian TV

  1. If you get a plastic surgery, your height inevitably increases or decreases, atleast by a few inches.
  2. It is completely possible for a 14 year-old to survive a pointblank shot to the forehead.
  3. Your financial status is decided by the car you drive (the not-so-well-off drive Ambassadors). If you are not well-off, you stay in the outhouse of a bungalow.
  4. The outhouse of any bungalow is almost always the size of a mansion.
  5. It is very common for a person suffering from a serious mental illness since birth to somehow become alright and run the family business single handedly.
  6. The daughter-in-law is either a goody-two-shoes or a vicious villain. There is no middle ground.
  7. The same applies to mothers-in-law.
  8. It is very much acceptable for people to keep crying for days together.
  9. Rani of Jhansi had a look-alike.
  10. All Indian kings lived in spectacular palaces and all Britishers were vile and cunning and had golden teeth.
  11. Reality shows are not made up at all.
  12. Televised swayamvars/swayamvadhus are the “in things”.
  13. It is essential for reporters to add “Exclusively brought to you by XYZ news channel” every 2 minutes, while in the middle of a report (Its not like there are other important things to report anyway, so some bragging is worthwhile. Genius.).
  14. It is also essesntial to play movie songs while reporting news.
  15. Command over the language is not a necessary quality for a reporter.
  16. IPL > anything else.

I find these things extremely amusing and annoying at the same time. Britishers were cunning yes, but depicting that with golden teeth? Some of these TV shows have twisted Indian history and mythologies. The notion of short and sweet does not seem to exist in Indian TV. A good example is the show on Shirdi Sai Baba. It went from being good to hopelessly convoluted storyline. The show on Krishna ended after Krishna grew up because the popularity of the show was only because of the kid that played the baby Krishna. Soap operas are by far the silliest shows made. Bad dialogues, bad acting, no story (or rather, the same story in every show) and the endless number of villains – its too much to handle. Swayamvars and swayamvadhus make a mockery of the most celebrated and respected aspect of our culture. News channels are a joke. BBC World gives more details about Indian news than any of these channels. Some of these points are just nit-pickings, but combine them all together and we get the largest number of news channels making fools of themselves. Sigh.

It wasn’t always like this. The Akbar-Birbal series, in which Anang Desai played Bribal, was excellent. Sarabhai vs Sarabhai was also excellent, and I’ve no idea why they haven’t renewed it for a second season after saying the would. There were a few other good shows like Siddhant and Special Squad that ended after a few episodes. Some of the old TV shows were very good, from what I hear from my parents. News channels were pretty good until a few years ago.

I sincerely hope they improve. At least the news channels. At the moment though, they’re all part of one big mess.
P.S: I’m sure I’ve missed out many points here. Feel free to post as comments the “things you’ve learnt from TV”.

Return top