Thursday, 25 September 2014

Halls prices upped by 100%!

In what was one of the biggest price rises of all times, the doughty Mondelez raised prices of the celebrated Halls lozenges by as much as 100 percent. The 50p candy that remained a cult with students in all Indian classrooms to fight the somnolence and prevent consequences of falling asleep in front of a ruffian professor, was facing some serious competition from new entrants of late. And while a price rise was always on the cards, Halls was left with no other option but to raise by a quantum of its current price to make the coinage convenient. 

Halls, which remains an addiction with those born in 90's despite bawdy people associating impotency and other ramifications with excessive consumption, was a tool for instant oral gratification as per its original positioning. While conventional way of consuming candies was still applicable, Halls was never taken alone. It was always considered too mainstream. Halls dosages were always followed by a gulp of cold water to top up the sensation and make it persist even more. The Me Gusta feeling has been one of Halls' trademarks. 

So while brand denigration and stagnation has been very prevalent with brands from the 90's, a 50p price rise in Halls raises certain questions on market's move to not accept 50p and 25p coins even though the retailers continue to dole them out to the grin of their customers. A customer(who wished to be named but why should we name him, huh?) blatantly burst out on shopkeepers saying that "either they hand me out an eclairs which I can't eat as I've no teeth or they roll out two 50p dimes". We received no comment from the product manager of Halls as he was relishing a bath in the overhead tank of his home, which is partially filled with Halls lozenges, as per a butler

Interestingly, neither the CPI nor the CPM or TMC are willing to foment public outrage by misleading them or alluring them for 12 Rupees and a rotten banana to act as adversaries. However, an online pole conducted on the DeepWeb resulted in some astonishing findings. While 35 percent of the Halls eaters who didn't smoke were simply sad now that they won't get "1 me 2", the other 65 percent believe that this is a part of a larger conspiracy to wipe out the smoking junta off the planet, given that this followed a price rice in Cigarettes as well, Interestingly though, Halls penetration in Pan Shops was always on the drop due to new and innovative products like My Bite(German literal for Mein Kampf, supposedly). 

Another issue which points to the esurient media is that no attention was paid to such an important and path breaking news. Media personnel could be seen haggling around in zoos, competing with the rabidness of the animals trapped in cages, or they could be seen defending their schmuck stand against a celebrity, whom they thought would be easy to toy around with not knowing that she was a little to tall for that to happen. The remaining ones were seen calling the Chinese delegate using roman numeral conversions or praising India's Mars mission while having problems with their own reception networks. Glad we were there to save the world this time around.   

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The myth of universal order

The theory that is put to consideration herein might spark off a lot of rage and that's why I kept the idea of proposing it at bay for very long. I was waiting for just another piece of news to support it, so that I could assure myself of not ending up putting forth what would have been no more than codswallop. And boy, did it arrive finally! So with solemn belief that at least this of all posts on this blog might witness some daylight, I proceed forward to write another post that goes pretty well with the theme of the blog - What you can't see?

A few days ago, I came across this question on why people end up in debauchery, why guns are drawn out, why equality never pervaded, why class systems always thrived and why exploitation became a perennial universal tool. While it can't be gainsaid that men are susceptible to addiction and illicit influence and that the human mind is pretty amenable, what about the collective human conscience? That question struck me so hard that I actually looked for more and more evidence in our glorious history. While beguiling tales of people putting their country back on track with solid determination are aplenty, even these revamped kingdoms almost always ended up in turmoil because of no other reason but the people again. So if we leave nature apart and focus solely on the human nature, a pretty lugubrious pattern emerges. Human beings like disorder and chaos, and it's built in our DNA. No matter how hard we try not to go off the reservation, it's a trait so inhered in our genetic mapping, that as a community we can never escape that. Surprised? Well, let me put in a few examples for you. 

Now while some of these examples might be questioned on the basis of a handful of men starting off something, please try to observe how support was garnered from other intellectuals and suddenly detonation took place. So we start with the best example till date - The Nazi holocaust. There are tomes and tomes dedicated to this subject, everyone knows one common denominator. The German suffering post the treaty of Versailles which was another disaster that came in the backdrop of yet another disaster. And the newly emerged Nazi ideology of pure Aryan supremacy and domination. So while there were a few flagbearers and the Germans were all ears to history's greatest orotund Hitler, it was not the fear that the Nazis instilled that might have provoked the Germans to commit the genocide. Neither could it be the presence of the same opinions as their leader. A closer inspection suggests that many people wouldn't have even followed such a schmuck reasoning at the first place. So what was it that could have propelled people to abjure their sense and logical ability and to plunge into the biggest blot in the history of mankind. Well, it was the enrapturing idea of living in a chaotic iniquitous world. 

It might be both surprising and befuddling but we human beings are forced to dissemble an appearance of acceptability of social customs. We all know somehow that we are embroiled in nonsensical systems of blasphemy and blatant authoritarianism, but we cope with it because we don't see sense in going out as a kamikaze all alone and getting nothing out of it. We want bloodshed, we want commotion, we want confusion, we want lust, we want an eye for an eye . Externally, we are suave and cherubic, inwardly we are ambivalent about the lives we live. There is always this burning desire of breaking free. So all that we need to break free eventually, is a commitment by other to it. Moreover, once we know that there are others in the same boat, we express ourselves more truly and we create ripples. Somehow the ideals of simple living are mere fallacies. We know we've been fooled by millennia of human progress which has come to such artificial living. We are tenebrous from inside, craving for an explosion, We know our daily lives and our paltry routine is very very banal. We're all apostates waiting for a shot. And when it arrives, boom! 

A second not so old and not so disturbing an example is the financial crises of 2008. While most financial crises are the fault of a few men, this one was spread over decades of fanaticism and incendiary measures over the Wall Street, It seems from one look that it was only the bankers, the i bankers and insurance companies and regulatory and rating agencies at fault, which already would amount to about a lac or two of involvements. But it was almost everyone. The entire system of CDOs and CDS was complicated and no detailed exposition of financial products is ever made available. However,even after reports surfaced of alleged spuriousness, no one gave a damn. One incentive was money which was made on a rather colossal scale. Specially the men at the top of the securitization food chain had bonuses larger than the lifetimes of the their 7 generations combined. However everyone, nearly everyone turned a blind eye to the perils of what was about to come. Despite allegations of Goldman Sachs betting against the same instruments they sold to their clients, more money kept pouring into the system and more and more people jumped on the bandwagon. People knew collectively that this was a ticking time bomb and yet they acceded. The actions of everyone in the system combined post 2005 suggested that people wanted a disaster, a complete annihilation. They wanted the stock market to plunge, they wanted to put wayward bets, they wanted the entire financial system to collapse. They simply wanted each and every bit of it!

Now finally, a local and a palpably out of context example. It is also the much needed impetus to write this down that I talked about in the beginning. This one is about deliberate lack of responsibility. We've seen people craving for instant fame getting into rigmaroles by putting controversial stuff online and rising to fame and falling down in seconds, if not days. But how do you absolve complete organizations involved in this. I'm talking about Times of India. We all know that the standards of news reporting have made a complete baloney of the rich news correspondence networks that we've had for more than most of the other countries in the world. However, how would you classify a news network that begins to post anything. Just about anything. Yes, people need entertainment but TOI knows that people are going to come back with a backlash and are going to bomb you with loathe and despise. Yet they do that, knowing that they'll win short term fame at the cost of long term loyalty. They know they'll find patrons in the short term and they know they'll be routed in the foreseeable future. Yet they do that. Yet they deliberately exercise this breach of responsibility, yet they let anything be posted on their online version. While it was the elaborate emphasis on an actress' bosom that sparked off the controversy, but take most of the articles and either they are absolutely irrelevant , all related to guilt or penance of someone, or some filthy but glamorous crime that'll grab eyeballs or something else. So while TOI could either be termed rapacious for likes or visibility, it is us because we are so used to getting beguiled by such stuff. We want the goriness, we want the lasciviousness, we want the commotion, we want the kerfuffle. And even though we may not know that, we want that controversy that ensues. It's just that we ourselves are not capable of causing or handling that, so someone else has to do it for us. 

So, what's the point in all this. We all are animals, ruffian and irascible beasts living under a veil of morals and social conformance. But on the inside, there is this regurgitating voice that speaks but fizzes off because of our so called customs and rituals that we have to respect and consecrate. We do something, we want to do something else. We say something, but we feel something else. And slowly and steadily we begin to repent and resent but to keep the brawl and the mayhem at bay. We know we have to keep appearances to blend in, but we know enough that we may have our chances someday. We know the chances are grim but we've seen countless examples of a community finally getting its chance. And we know that when that chance arrives and a million men get to work together, success is all inevitable. The rage has always been in our blood. The instinct of being an animal never ceded, it's just that like a predator waits for the prey to go vulnerable, we let the situation take that stance. And when it does, order goes for a toss. Order is ephemeral, local or universal. Even the most stable of systems collapse, even the most staunch of economies witness a turmoil. a portion of Fortune 500 companies shut down every decade and new systems emerge to wade through the chaos, just to become another instrument of chaos and entropy sometime in future. If none of the natural systems are stable, how could we even possible think the human conscience to be. Order may be made a mandate for us to remain ingrained as a brick of a civilization but no order persists for more than a fee morsel of generations. It is bound to go down and so it will. The entire concept of universal order, thus stands as a myth. A myth that has been busted already. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

An open letter to the iPhone 6 fanatic next door!

Dear not so dear random iPhone 6 rumor monger/fan,

It is with utmost lack of respect, humility and consideration that I write this. I was thrilled to witness celebrity iCloud account hacks and people doing all kinds of weird things with buckets containing ice. It was pure bliss to grasp all that craze and wickedness on public platforms. I mean where else would you have people taking baths, dressing well, combing up to shed that disheveled appearance just to drop a bucket of gelid water on them and waste 10 bucks or 14 minutes on the laundry. But I was amazed to see all the activity and was enamored to the Internet until I saw your flagrant iPhone 6 love splurging out and taking over my news feed. 

People speculating about the features, anticipating the size and girth, and people expecting surprises in the package. I would feel sanguine about my own life if what I expected was a mate, because even a mate shall be scrutinized on all those aspects - features, sizes of all sorts, and surprises, but this is so garish. You know you'll end up spending 10x of what a rock solid durable, exultant and spectacular local or China made set is likely to cost, with more enhanced features(size being the most important as people consider in both aforementioned decisions), but yet you drool over any leak on the pictures, price or even the guys who'll launch.

My above transgression shall portray me as a Luddite on grounds of sounding uncool and not following the zeitgeist, but then I actually invest at least a month in exploring 100 handsets every month of all ranges and still zero in on none. I mean that's what smartphone shopping is all about in my opinion. So many online portals that give reviews of people enraptured or cribbing after their purchase, that at the end you defer your purchase in the hope of meeting your inamorata one day - The ultimate smartphone, just like the ultimate mate. Okay will not materialize gamy anymore!

Ask me how joyous it is to tinker with a 4k smartphone that is so old that the company wouldn't even accept they once made it. Its camera has gone frail, right side of key panel doesn't work and does not even have a working mouthpeiece. But who says you need to be an engineer to solve technical issues. You use removal of back cover to click pictures so that lens has no plastic scratched and smudged casing preventing clear view. You have autocompletete to get words with those characters that you can't type and then a cut and paste help you get those characters without them being available on the keypad anymore! And you have earphones to go along for the mouthpiece. 

All in all, life becomes an affair of managing the mere morsel, something that you're likely to relish much more than that 45k tawdry iPhone which comes up all loaded and makes you a slave. No one teaches you more than an old faulty cell phone and research on new cell phones that you never end up buying. Life is a constant rumpus and an iPhone can only help you get this far. Let your existing smartphone rot to hell and you still use it like there was no problem. And one day, your not so extant smartphone shall decide to pay you back all the love and veneration you had for it. Life works in miserable ways, you know. Btw, Steve Jobs and Woznaik rock, but Tim Cook doesn't! 

Yours disparagingly 

Monday, 8 September 2014

There she goes.

There she goes,
In the riling maudlin raze,
In the puerile beckoning gaze,
In their tenebrous glance,
In their odious parlance, 
They try to take off her guard,
And they try it so very hard,
But yet there she goes and keeps going.

There she goes,
Like a savant of life,
All in red, blue and strife, 
Pallid, lumber and distraught,
Shriveled in a morsel cocotte,
Binge in their morose cahoots,
They all tried to pull her off shoots,
But yet there she goes and keeps going.

There she goes,
Their toying mermaid,
Treated with revile and upbraid,
Binged in their deeds so macabre,
Squibs and yet desperate to have her,
Coiling her down to the girth of soil,
Paging the pariah in reign of toil,
But yet there she goes and keeps going. 

There she goes,
Alone in her grisly fight, 
Enemy full of artifice and slight, 
Looking for ways to make her mend,
Lambent nights brought to impend, 
Carrying her down in desolate dungeon,
Label her off with shrill of truncheon,
But yet there she goes and keeps going.  

There she goes, 
Her arms around like meant to cuddle,
Despite the turmoil and morbid muddle,
Measure of anxiety rocked her vein,
But never again did she choose do deign,
Light shone again and bliss emerged,
Quelled the darkness and soon she surged,
But yet there she goes and keeps going.

And this is a small requiem to all those mighty women who dared to take a bold stand and raise their voice against the ignominy and hegemony and to grab their share from the hands of the hardest of all adversaries. This is to tell you that you are awesome. :)

The other 96%.

Imagine a world that is composed of multiple realities, with realities being subjected to every person who dares to be an observant. A world where multiple realities collide, collapse and hide from each other, leaving only a small portion of themselves accessible to the general public, the proletariat, and largely remaining hidden, becoming the sole possession of the ultra powerful, who then use it to change the reality itself. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the Internet for you!

I can’t vouch for the veracity of what I’m about to write because this is a pretty dark and recondite phenomenon with no clear authority in terms of both information and control. However, some studies on this subject matter have been published and verified by experts who have experiences from this astounding world. So, let’s plunge into what is now formally known as the Deep Web, the dark and sometimes grisly counterpart of the morsel Internet as we normally witness on a day to day basis.

It is believed that once we witness something again and again, then courtesy of the reinforcement, that thing in itself becomes our own version of the reality, We never bother to touch what’s beyond what we witness. Time constraints and lack of knowledge blindfold us, and as a result, we can never really find out how constricted our version of the universe is. I was absolutely stupefied when I was finally able to take my own blindfold off. We surf the Internet for hours every day, roaming through content of all types, running queries on search engines, and finally feeling content on finding all sorts of documents and information we ever sought. And that is it. Truth is, there is an entirely different realm of the Internet that actually commences from the very point our infatuation with it ends. This is the real Internet as true patrons of the same would call it. And this is the Internet that you and me, didn’t have access too. Well only until you read this. So, you ready?

Internet is a complex network of networks. There is panoply of routers, hubs, switches and layers and layers of communication protocols that run on these devices to formally form what we fondly call and amateurishly believe to be the "Real Internet". In reality, only 4% of the actual Internet is accessible to us, with “the other 96%” escaping our eye. Truth be told, our version of the Internet is all that we can access either through search engine queries and various links and IP address file system paths that may be shared with us. The gigantic search engines with all their finesse are able to crawl and index multiple types of web content across the globe and make a formidable database of it which they bring at our disposal by providing us query and retrieval search mechanisms. While you are usually stunned by Google’s amazing splendour of producing zillions of search results in nanoseconds, it is still a meagre portion of all that is out there. This 4% of the Internet is called the Surface or Indexed Internet. This is easily accessible to all Internet users. However, a real gateway guards these minion search engines from moving beyond that. The other 96% is largely comprised of the following.

The “touch me not” Internet
While website admins and bloggers may consider this a baloney to be called a revelation, normal surfers of the Internet wouldn’t know that a substantial portion of the Internet doesn’t want itself to be seen by the search engines. One always has the option of changing the robots.xml and sitemap.xml configuration files on one’s web servers to forbid access to web crawlers and hence even though these sites may still be available for public use, you never find them because you don’t have a search engine to lead you to them. The only way these sites thrive is through private and in-person link sharing mechanisms. One may believe it’s fatuous to not render oneself visible to these prolific search engines who take your page to the world. However, you wouldn’t actually want to do that if you were running say a political activism blog or something and only wanted selected patrons to access the site. Moreover, if you wanted to run a secret site which could have been vulnerable if allowed to be indexed by various search engines, you would use your own private servers to host the site. A user then would have to key in the specific IP address to access the secret site and the rest of the Internet would never even know you existed unless they bumped in by serendipity by keying the right address by chance. Various corporations, institutions, organizations and hold on to your hats -terrorist outfits; use these configurations to host data for only the privy to access. I’m damn sure you too would have witnessed this while filling up some online academic form or something which was prevented from being indexed because the site admins would have wanted a limited load on the servers. They could have ensured that by using controlled dissemination of the url.

The private and virtual private networks
This is a pretty common phenomenon in corporations which have got multiple access points to access common databases and company networks. They’d set up networks which prevent access to the outside world and forbid incoming access from the outside world as well. Hacking or rather ‘cracking’ is the art of breaking into these networks by breaching the security firewalls that are vested with the responsibility of protecting access privileges to these networks. So internal company mail and access portals are now accessible only within the company network because there are virtual tunnels which are impregnable and all company network communication, even though while it is being routed through the Internet, is actually invisible to the outside world.

The dynamic Internet
While search engines are phenomenal at accessing the static content, what about those websites which render content on the basis of information that a user fills in? So for example, a registration website which has a homepage and an about page will have these two pages indexed by the Internet, however when it comes to the registration page itself, the search engines will only be able to index the basic page where the details are to be entered. Post that, there could be a multitude of combinations regarding what more Internet forms are opened up and what new content pages are displayed. It is all dependent on what data you entered and what information is stored on the database. Hence an examination result can never be indexed by the search engines because they simply don’t know what to enter, maybe a roll number and email or date of birth combination. Just imagine the amount of data on such a site that is actually rendered only post the search engine has been blocked access. Actually, all that Internet is hidden in databases, petabytes and petabytes of data, which comes out and manifests itself on the Internet only when a user commands it to. Hence this Internet too is not accessible to the general public. You need a designated user or a ‘cracker’ to access it.

The Dark or ‘Dead’ Internet
Those who know of the origins of the Internet, know that ARPANET was the actual predecessor of multiple small scale networks across US DoD establishments and university departments, and all of them culminated into the Internet. However, so emphatic was the evolution of the Internet and so rapid was the metamorphosis, that all protocols were designed keeping only the new and future machines in mind and all the legacy systems were tantamount to codswallop on the new Internet. Hence even though these systems had an Internet of their own, that was rendered obsolete and the latest machines were never granted access to that tenebrous Internet. As you might have guessed, these old machines too were never granted access to the new Internet. Hence their Internet in all its essence, remained a cooped up phenomenon. However, it is believed that this dead space is still functional somehow in short ranges and private networks. Hence these machines wherever they exist, can still communicate with each other till their archaic protocols don’t muddle with modern devices and get blocked. Surprisingly, this is the safest of all networks today because no one knows where it exists and how to get in because even the literature on their protocol design is not available to the public at large.

And finally, the “Deep Web”
This surely is the most fascinating of all that we’re likely to stumble upon as a part of this discussion. There was a need of extreme anonymity within the realms of the Internet. Who doesn't want anyone snooping and eavesdropping on their conversations like the Thought Police does, and who wouldn't want a private space of their own, on the brilliant communication medium - The Internet itself. That is what consummated in this arcane and yet immaculate concept. Some brilliant minds came up with new communication protocols and TOR is ostensibly the accepted standard. In fact Tor is your ticket to the world of deep web! The deep web is that portion of the Internet which has a communication language of its own. In  appearance it maybe similar to ‘our” Internet but the very difference in language renders it inaccessible to us.

Tor comes up with its own browser and routing mechanisms and every network packet that is sent across the deep web, is actually routed through what they call TOR relays. Hence contrary to what happens in normal Internet communication where a source computers puts its IP address and destination IP address in network communication packets and then these packets are vehemently delivered. In Tor, the packets are bounced off through a network of about 5000 random systems or Tor relays and hence both the source and destination IP addresses are masqueraded deep within multiple layers of encryption making it nearly impossible for your next door neighborhood virtual espionage to track any of this communication to you or the recipient. Simply said, unlike conventional or our Internet, Tor makes sure that Deep Web packets remain invisible and even though the final output is still the same i.e a packet getting delivered, no one knows where it came from and where it went to.

Tor stands for The Onion Router because these Deep Web websites are actually provided with a .onion domain suffix. This ergo provides Tor and Deep Web with a new communication paradigm of their own, completely invisible to the outside world. What is this Deep Web used for? Well, since its effectiveness in ensuring one’s anonymity cant be gainsaid, it’s the favorite of those who seek it. Political activists who fear death in the event of their posts getting traced back to them, now have a resort. Personal conversations between prominent leaders is now more secure. On the flip side, insider trading can never be surfaced and you can also have ammunition, guns, drugs and what not delivered at your home! The Deep Web follows a similar design. There are blogs like this one, there are shopping portals and there are forums. In case you thought you caught me on money transfers, well Deep Web supports bitcoins! In fact bitcoins are the standard currency in Deep Web and Deep Web in itself becomes a large market or a virtual economy for the regulation of the same.

I’m not an expert on this subject but I simply wanted to give you a flavor of the Internet you never thought existed. Just like the theme of the blog that says “What you can’t see”, modern technology and its revelations have made sure that reality is subjective and purely in the eyes of the beholder. All that we see, so profound and so comported, and yet there is a reality, wading in parallel, striving and thriving at the same time, waiting for you to pay a visit. Will you?