Search for Vikram

It has been about 5 days since my last post here. When we last left Vikram, we had left it incommunicado close to the surface of the Moon.

Since then, there has been a lot of speculation with little or no information. There is no information from ISRO including what it seems to be doing now. Information is coming in at a tangent, from astronomers studying Doppler readings of the Lander and the Orbiter.

ISRO’s last official update (at the time of writing) states that it had located the lander and that it was trying to establish communication with it. There was a lot of speculation initially about the status of the lander. Many foreign observers (like Jonathan McDowell, Cees Bassa, Chris B etc.)said that the lander had very little chance of survival knowing the speed at which it was travelling at the time ISRO received the last telemetry from the lander. ISRO released information to some sections of the media (PTI report ) that the lander was intact but toppled. This was not found as an update on the ISRO website.

Science reporters then began to question ISRO’s claim that the mission was 90-95% success. Vasudevan Mukunth for The Wire considered the method by which they arrived at the success rate. Jacob Koshy writes in The Hindu with much more depth and history for the reasons why this quote now looks like a way to airbrush the failure. There has been no official response yet. S M Ahmed who had an instrument on board the Moon Impact Probe of Chandrayaan 1 discusses possibilities as to the fate of the lander on his blog.

The lack of information now has people studying the few statements that ISRO has already made. A story in India Today seems to re-interpret ISRO’s message to say that they were in touch with Vikram till about 400 m above the surface of the Moon and not 2.1 km like many media reports have since claimed.

Meanwhile, Ryan Watkins, a planetary scientist tweeted that NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will look for Vikram on September 17. LRO’s camera has a resolution of 0.5 m at an orbit of 100 km. It is believed that at this altitude, the images would not discern enough detail to let us know whether the lander is intact. There were reports that ISRO will lower the orbit of the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter to take a closer look. The orbiter has a camera with a better resolution than LRO. We got word from Edgar Kaiser, an amateur radio astronomer today that Chandrayaan 2 orbiter has now lowered its orbit above the South Pole.

Chandrayaan 2 orbiter orbit change detected on Doppler. Image: Edgar Kaiser

This seems contrary to rumours that K Sivan, ISRO Chairman has asked scientists to move on and focus on future missions. There were also some fairly stupid remarks from DRDO Chairman saying that PM Modi’s hug enabled ISRO to find Vikram.

While I’ve mostly given up on chances of locating Vikram intact we can await efforts from Deep Space Network (DSN) to hail the lander in hopes that it will be able to contact it.

Doppler seems to be bursting various balloons of hope that ISRO has created. It seems to be breaking news about the orbiter and lander. In space, you can’t lie. Covering up mistakes makes the situation much worse than needs to be.

On WhatsApp forwards

We all get numerous messages which are fake on WhatsApp and forward it without giving it too much thought. Thejesh GN has written on his blog about these forwards, with suggestions on how WhatsApp could handle fake news. 

It is important that you verify things you hear on WhatsApp from another primary source. If you trust the person sending you the forward, do question if he/she thinks the news is true or not. I would suggest using Google News and to visit a news publication you trust or visit the organisation/individual’s website.

Pulimurugan (2016)

Pulimurugan is an action film starring Mohanlal and Kamalinee Mukherjee.

It’s been a long while since we went for a movie. We only had a wedding reception chalked in to attend in the evening and so had booked to watch Aanandam in the evening. When my aunt called to ask if we could catch Pulimurugan for the morning show, we decided to go after getting the wife’s assent.

Pulimurugan has two or three strand story. There is the story of the protagonist’s life, the story of the constant struggle between man and animal for land and the exploitation of the forest by miscreants big and small. The story interlaces all of these and their meeting points make the movie interesting for me.

The protagonist of the movie is a tiger hunter but he only hunts for man-eaters. This leads him to constant skirmishes with the law, which does not allow for the killing of tigers. The protagonist turns hunter because a man-eater kills his father when he is only a child. As an adult, the same protagonist admits that it is the humans who are the real trespassers and not the animal.

The protagonist’s innocence having lived in the forest his whole life leads him to break the law transporting forest produce (sandalwood and ganja) illegally from the forest. The miscreants treat him as an asset in their trade. The protagonist at one time admits that humans are worse enemies than animals in the forest.

The last thing that everyone I asked seems to have been going on about was the wonderful action scenes. The action scenes are beautifully choreographed and shot. There are some wonderful close calls that almost take your breathe away and have you at the edge of your seats.

All in all, I loved watching the film and would recommend that you watch it too.

 

 

Middle Management

C Gopinath writes in The Hindu Business Line on the lack of attention on mid-level management in relation to the news related to Wells Fargo. I found this paragraph to be instructive and applicable to many organisations in India today:

The problem lies in a managerial culture that has eviscerated the role of the middle manager. Mid-level managers are key to an organisation, translating the policies of the top to operational systems and procedures, and in reverse, interpreting and communicating issues and market intelligence from the bottom. Thanks to new ERP systems and misplaced process re-engineering, the role of the middle manager has been castrated. ‘Yes managers’ have come to occupy those positions. They tell their bosses only what the top wants to hear.

Digibank

When we mention digital banking today, what comes to mind are mobile apps and internet banking facility provided by our bankers. DBS, a bank from Singapore, changed that by launching Digibank. It applies the term to banking from end to end.

I read about digibank first on Twitter via ads while a tweet from  @sengupta made me want to try it out:

 

It kept the whole concept vague when it launched. When you download their app, you realise the badassity of the idea. When you first download their app, you get to use it as a wallet, like you would use Paytm’s offering. It then offers you a steep incentive to upgrade this into an account by paying a steep 7% interest when you convert the wallet into an account. Then you can walk in to any Café Coffee Day coffee shop and confirm your identity via a biometric authentication process through the Aadhar database.

The first hindrance it removes is the tedious task of visiting a bank with a form filled up Digibank.pngonline and KYC documents. Here you just walk in to a Café Coffee Day outlet that is open from 11 AM to 11 PM with your mobile phone that has a code on it! The bank also saves tremendously on manpower costs. For the customer, visiting a less formal atmosphere like a coffee shop is less of a hassle than visiting a bank branch during business hours. He/she also probably saves a holiday.

The second hindrance it removes is all the paperwork. eAadhar enables authentication of a customer without him having to take any documents at all. With the data that the customer fed into the app and by taking required permissions, the bank can probably just download the information from the eAadhar platform and the Income Tax website. Imagine the paper that can be saved by saving the paper used for  the accounting opening form and the photocopies you had to get for a traditional bank.

The third hindrance it removes is the use of a smart assistance to remove waiting for banks to open to get your problems resolved. If the inbuilt smart assistant does not resolve your problem, it gets transferred to a real person. Technology and AI can actually handle most issues that customers approach a bank with.

That said, being a new thing, there will be teething issues and problems that need to be resolved. My authentication did not work. I don’t know what was the problem. But I was happy that when I wanted to close my account, they did it quite quickly and then sent me an email once that was done.

However, this is how I hope banking will be done in the future. From your device and from your homes.

 

Desire

There are moments when I wonder if I had done such and such a thing at such and such a time, how my life would have changed. I realize the importance of doing that thing at that time but never actually do it. That is what makes me average. People who know what to do and then who have the gumption to actually do it are the people who are successful.

Where does the gumption to do it come from?

It comes from previous successes.

How does one go about building the gumption?

It comes from small victories.

Where do these small victories come from?

From taking the first step.

What motivates one to take the first step?

Having the desire to achieve the first step.

The world is full of suffering,

The suffering has a cause

The cause of suffering is desire.

Mumbai. January 8, 2016.