— by Arnab Gupta

Octopress — adding category tags to the blog RSS feed

May 28, 2016

Right from the beginning, I’ve assigned broad categories to every post I’ve written here. (For example, this is my—very lacking—Health Monitoring series of posts.) However, Octopress does not include these category tags by default into the RSS feed. So if a reader is using an RSS feed-reader app or website, they cannot make use of the assigned categories even if the app or website was capable of doing so.

I’ve now added some code necessary to add the categories to the RSS feed, and this is what I did.

☞ Creating “Linked-List” type posts

May 27, 2016

One of my long-time to-do’s for this blog was to be able to create “linked-list” type posts, where the main heading points, not to a single webpage for the dedicated blog post, but to an external website of interest. (This type of post has been made famous by John Gruber, who is, incidentally, also the creator of the Markdown syntax.)

Well, now I know how to do this (evidence—this post! Ta-da! The title for this post points to The Candler Blog). It turns out it’s not too difficult, but even so, I had help all the way, from The Candler Blog. He has this same implementation, and it turns out, he also has a blog post dedicated to discussing how he did it!

Okay, so, “Daring Fireball-style Linked List posts,” for the uninitiated, refers to the publishing style of John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. For the most thorough explanation of how this works, see Shawn Blanc’s excellent 2009 article, “The Link Post” […]

But how is it done in Octopress? It’s actually very simple. I got a great deal of help, when I was first setting up the site, from Connor Montgomery, who posted his own link post tutorial a few weeks ago. I have since refined the code on my site beyond what we worked out together.

(The Candler Blog website seems otherwise very interesting as well. Go check it out!)

Of Cricket, Mankad-ing, and the Spirit of the Game

February 03, 2016

The Under-19 cricket world cup is on, and there has been a lot of controversy about a West Indies bowler running a Zimbabwean batsman out as he came in to bowl. Colloquially, this is called ‘Mankad’-ing, and some people view this form of dismissal as “not quite done”. As it happens every time, lots of people are talking about “spirit of the game” and “no warnings issued to the batsman”.

I think those people are in the wrong.

(Here’s the video.)

On Failure in Metallic Materials

June 07, 2015

As a continuation of my series on composite materials and health monitoring, I wanted to talk about failure in composites. In writing it, I decided that first I needed to talk about failure in metallic materials. In writing that, it turned out that it was long enough to be a separate post by itself. So here it is, a small primer on failure, especially in metallic materials.

We’ll talk about composites next time.

On India’s World Cup performance (they lost today)

March 26, 2015

It’s always gutting to see your team lose, isn’t it. Gutting, and infuriating. “They should have won! If only they’d played better!”

Let’s think back though, to the beginning of the World Cup, before a ball had been bowled. Remember those days, just after the triseries with Australia and England? What if someone had said then that India would reach the semifinal? We’d have smirked. “With this team? This bowling attack?” Winning 7 games on the trot? Smirk. 70 wickets in 7 games? Best economy rate as a bowling unit? Cohesive batting performance from the entire unit? Fast bowlers bowling with pace and discipline? Smirk; smirk; smirk.

India have done well to reach the semifinals. They’ve been an excellent team. Their flaw today was that they were not a great team. But that’s okay, being excellent isn’t half bad.

Yes, they had a collective off-day. The bowlers sprayed it around a bit, uncharacteristically. The batters got out in inopportune moments, uncharacteristically. Dhawan usually scores big once he gets a start (and gets a catch dropped). Kohli usually gets himself in and ups his scoring rate, and doesn’t get out at all. There’s usually always Rahane, and even Raina has scored a hundred this world cup. Usually; just not today.

They came across a genuinely better team today, and lost. No shame in that; that takes nothing away from their excellence. Then too, they actually brought Australia back from what looked to be a certain 360+ score. That’s something in itself, no?

Also, a thought: how many teams have defended their world cup titles successfully? West Indies in the 1970s, and Australia in the 1990s and 2000s. It needs a great team, not merely an excellent one, to be able to defend trophies across four year periods and in different conditions. Would we call this Indian team “great”, comparable to the West Indian and Australian teams of before? Definitely not, right? Not yet. Maybe with time and more experience, and maybe a couple of different players, but certainly not yet.

So they came across a better team. They lost. So what? They played well until they lost; they played with pride and with skill and with passion and with excellence.

They kept the Tricolor flying high. Let’s be proud of that.

☞ So-called “Scientist” bets against science; loses

March 15, 2015

This is from the BBC:

A German biologist who offered €100,000 (£71,350; $106,300) to anyone who could prove that measles is a virus has been ordered by a court to pay up.

Stefan Lanka, who believes the illness is psychosomatic, made the pledge four years ago on his website.

The reward was later claimed by German doctor David Barden, who gathered evidence from various medical studies. Mr Lanka dismissed the findings.

The guy is a biologist? I can understand a non-scientist being deeply skeptical of journal articles and medical findings… but a biologist?

The institution that gave him his degree(s) should consider rescinding whatever degree(s) he has, because:

(a) he clearly cannot review scientific literature and gain an understanding of a subject by himself.

(b) he clearly cannot follow a trail of logic and scientific understanding through published medical research even when it is presented to him by someone else.

Here’s how human society works — we all have our own specializations, and it’s part of our responsibility as specialists to help out others who aren’t knowledgeable in, and cannot tell good from bad, or even have an understanding of, our area of expertise. This isn’t just for “scientists”, of course, but for everyone.

Imagine how little we in general know about the inner workings of our automobiles compared to the expert (mechanic) who’s in charge of fixing them. Now imagine a person who calls himself a mechanic, but (a) doesn’t understand how a certain system in the car works, and (b) cannot follow the logic, and doesn’t believe it when another mechanic shows it to him! Would you ever go solicit this person’s expertise again?

This ‘biologist’ is like our hypothetical mechanic.

☞ Elementary school dumps homework; parents are ‘outraged’

March 10, 2015


A public elementary school is abolishing traditional homework assignments and telling kids to play instead — outraging parents who say they may pull their kids out of the school.

Teachers at P.S. 116 on East 33rd Street have stopped assigning take-home math worksheets and essays, and are instead encouraging students to read books and spend time with their family, according to a letter the school’s principal, Jane Hsu, sent to parents last month.

This is excellent on the part of the school. Allowing kids the time and the encouragement to do other things is, I think, a crucial part of a child’s development that we as a society have forgotten to focus on. We’ve become so enamored with the idea of “learning” that we’ve forgotten that “education” isn’t just found in schools. A well-rounded character and an indepedent mind are just as important, and non-school activities can be crucial in developing those aspects.

From a parent:

“They’ve decided that giving homework to younger ages [elementary school students] isn’t viable. I don’t necessarily agree. I think they should have homework — some of it is about discipline. I want [my daughter] to have fun, but I also want her to be working towards a goal.”

Take everything in that statement, only take out the word “homework” from it. Yes, kids should learn. Yes, discipline is part of it. But why should learning feel like “work”? Find them activities, and teach them discipline, and the ideas of working towards a goal, with something other than school activity.

Parents — please don’t freak out. This is good for your kids. Let the schools decide how they want to impart the education that they need to impart. Meanwhile, your kids having more free time is a good thing (even if it sometimes means more headache on you!). They can use this time productively, and it’s up to you help them be productive. Find them books; introduce them to hobbies; open them up to music and sport and writing and painting — and whatever else your kids may find interesting!

Other schools — please consider similar measures! While some homework is okay, there’s often too much of it, and tends to sap much of the fun and sense of fulfilment that an education can be.

When we think about shaping the development of our next generation, we might do well to re-evaluate our childhood with the added clarity of hindsight. What did we love, and what did we hate; what things helped us, and what things were a disadvantage? How must things be different for a generation that’s removed from ours by an entire generation? We experienced childhood a certain way, and even if our childhood was the best possible, that doesn’t mean that it remains the best way for a future generation.

Thoughts on Interstellar, the movie (spoilers!)

November 08, 2014

This post contains spoilers. Please go watch the movie, and then read this. Seriously, go watch. This is an all-time movie, and I have a feeling this will stand the test of time and gain even more popularity as time goes on. This one is that good.

I just had to jot down some thoughts about the movie — and particularly the science therein. One, I’m interested in this stuff, and can’t help it. But also, two, I heard people pooh-poohing it away, and I didn’t like that at all. So here goes.

In summary: I loved it. This is what science-fiction is supposed to look like — a combination of adventure and extrapolation of real science into the unknown. I’ve been reading and hearing some of the negative ‘reviews’, and it seems to me that most of it revolves around “hey, that’s not science, it’d never work that way!” The great thing about this movie is most of the ‘extrapolations’ are in directions that are truly unknown, and until science does cover those areas, your, mine, and the Nolans’ imagination is as good as anyone’s.