Some Thoughts On Internet Privacy

Once my friend claimed, Bing can identify you using 128 different parameters and can store all the searches you have done so far. Though i dont bing, i know Google has control to more parameters has more data. It is equally frustrating when Facebook asks “how far from <here> do you live ?”, and claims it will customize my experience based on that. Very rarely i think about these seriously. This post is the result of one such thought.

Back in college, i had the habit of doing egoistic searches. Will type my name or email address in Google and feel happy if i get few pages of search results. It gave a sense of false significance. I tried doing it a while ago, after so many years. Now it is a bit alarming when i see my name or information listed there. While i do pay some attention to this and try to keep things private,  with the number of websites i have account in, this was expected. What set me off was this site called “yatedo”.  Yatedo is a people search engine, but how it operates seems to be a little different. Yatedo scraps information from your public profile and creates its own Yatedo profile page, will all the information including links to blog posts. If you do not want it, you have to opt out🙂 Pretty cool, huh ? Atleast the creators thought so.

Who gives them the information ? It is us. Google/Facebook/LinkedIn, usually change their privacy policies, give you a two page essay to read. Never have i bothered to check it out, but i do change the settings and try to avoid displaying a lot of personal details as public. What i missed, Yatedo caught. A lot of debate is already happening in the web about Yatedo, but they manage to stay safe hiding behind some French law, which once again i never bothered to check. Read this in Quora, if you are not aware – http://www.quora.com/Is-Yatedo-illegal-How-do-I-delete-my-Yatedo-profile-which-was-created-without-my-consent. For a while I was furious about being ignorant, but when i saw most of my friends do have an yatedo profile, i felt a little ok😛 The quora link has information on how to delete the information and how to make your stuff private, if you want to. After doing the steps in the link, also try to request google to remove it from search results – https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals

This is part of a big problem. It is always scary to think about what Google/Facebook/LinkedIn do with the data. While facebook does provide a way to deactivate your profile, linkedin does not even have an option. You can only disable your public profile. I never bothered to check about Google, because i am not planning to do it anytime. It is tough to get out of the web created by Google. Google has simplified a lot of things and that has made me totally dependent on it. When i store a contact in my android phone, i choose my google account as the one where the information should go. Considering that i format, root, install a different ROM or keep testing my phone now and then, storing in google looks like a good option to make sure i don’t lose my contacts anytime.

As a last point, How far can companies  benefit from this frivolous data. I have no clue, i have less idea about Big data, what exactly are the data they are looking at, how exactly can they use the data in decision making. Recently i received a amazon gift voucher from Amazon for Rs.100, for taking up a survey and letting them know about my shopping preference. If Amazon is willing to pay Rs.100 to get views of a guy who is not a avid shopper, may be it is safe to assume that companies are looking for data seriously. What if they have the data from which they can guess. Do companies like Google possess such data. What about governments ? Will be happy if they are not. This episode of “Numb3rs” TV serial episode seems to be on related lines – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWaxF0U5y28 watch if you have 40 minutes.

“Google is Skynet” looks like a pretty valid statement.  I am not sure about that, only thing i am sure is i will not be the one that the terminators will come searching for😀😀😀 As of now I am in a state of rest with incomplete data, feeding data to Google and getting few things done easily from them. As Newton said, need a external force for any change in action. Will continue to do so till acted upon by external force.

Whats up!!!!!

Long time since i blogged. The last year appraisal(blog report) from wordpress showed 2014 was pretty bad🙂 WordPress sugar coated the report with some nice stats and encouraging words but the fact was I had a total of 3 blog posts in 2014 with the last post coming on May, 2014. Yep, it didn’t make sense to trouble everyone with the details about the mundane life.  While review of movies, treks and travels looks repetitive, others were too personal to share in this space. It is this thought process that blocks most of the blog posts from getting published.

A sense of ennui has crept in as years passed by and the childish excitement seems to be missing. It is tough to keep the child in you active for a long time. Without that everything looks quite normal and ordinary🙂 Let us blame it on the civilization and the society🙂 Civilization seems to have screwed up the priorities. Though our needs look no different from that of any other animal species, we seem to be following a very convoluted process. Enough of philosophy. From the way the human species has successfully multiplied and established itself eradicating the other species, probably it makes more sense to follow the process with eyes closed😀😀😀

Anyway 2014 has been a very interesting year with few unforgettable moments. A lot of interesting things happened personally. Few important decisions made. Reading habit has reduced a lot. I was trying to read the tamil book Kaval Kottam, and it turns out to be a book which i may not finish. Did go on few treks with the last one being Nishanimotte @ Coorg, Karnataka, but chose not to blog about them. MullayanagiriKemmangundi full trek still remains incomplete, with one more attempt made during 2014 monsoon which ended again halfway at Bababudangiri. Lets see what 2015 has in store.

KumaraParvatha – II

Frequency of trekking has reduced a lot. More or less equal to the number of blog posts i manage to write in a year. So when an opportunity came up, could not resist it, even though it was mid April. Also, it was led by Captain Muthukumar, which meant most of logistics are already taken care and the only action that might be required is
walking during the trek. So trip was on, the place decided was Kokkebetta in Coorg. People joined, left, started for the trip and had to pull out at the last minute, eventually we were left with a gang of 4. Good crowd considering that it is getting difficult to get a good trekking crowd. Looks like Kokkebetta takes only 45 minutes to reach the peak, not worthy to be called a trek so on the last hour the place was changed to Kumaraparvatha. Kumaraparvatha is supposed to be tough, had experienced it once, doing it in a single day on summer looked like a self imposed punishment. The only reprieve was, we will be climbing via somwarpet route and climbing down to Kukke, and this route is supposed to be little easier.10261973_642393812481789_7551459377866756883_n

Got down at Kushal Nagar at 4.30AM and waited for the bus to Somwarpet. The first bus to somwarpet is operated by Swamy travels and starts at 6.00 AM sharp. From Somwarpet, you need to catch one more bus (Pushpagiri Travels) to Beedhalli. The trek started at 9.00AM. From Beedhalli, it is 4KM to forest guest house. First half of 4KM is tar road till a temple, and the next half one has to follow the jeep track to the forest guest house. The real trek starts from here. We reached the guest house at 9.45AM. After completing the registration at the forest guest house it is 7KM to the pushpagiri peak. Good part was the first 3-4KM is through dense forest, which protects you from sunlight and makes the trek a lot easier. Since it has rained on the day before, it was relatively cool and enjoyable. The only problem we faced under these conditions were the leeches.. We walked fast, and managed to escape without any bites. After the forest, there is a moderately steep climb, to reach the peak. We managed to reach the peak around 12.30PM and rested for a while, helping ourselves to the snacks and juices we carried.

Anyway could not spend much time on the peak, as the strenuous second half waited and also had to consider the time factor. The rains on the previous day, had made the weather a little pleasant and there was some mist at the peak, which did make it a little awesome. Started the climb down at around 1.15PM. Considering that the last part of the trek is in the forest again, wanted to complete it before 6.00PM or before we lose the sunlight. So walked fast with little breaks. Halted for around 15 minutes at Bhattar Mane, for the butter milk and continued the race against the sun. The sight of snake crossing the path and elephant dung on the path inside the forest, made us forget the breaks. Finally the trek ended at just after 6PM but was too tired to celebrate the fact that i had completed 25KM with less breaks in a trek on a single day. The journey back home was in the last seat of Karnataka Sarige bus, the only option that was available to us. The last seat factor went unnoticed as the tiredness took over and i slept like a log through out the journey.

Auroville Marathon

It all started with our friend Vanniaperumal asking us to join him for a trip to Pondicherry. He had plans of participating in the Auroville marathon. He has taken up running as hobby for some reason and is spending good amount of time discovering the streets in his village. It was long since we went for a trip together. With the trekking gang disintegrated escaping out of bangalore on some trip was becoming a rare phenomenon. So decided to join him for the trip and for some reason registered for the the marathon as well. We had not given too much of thought on whether it was possible to complete, what sort of training it required etc.

The training started a month before the marathon with a 10K run in lalbagh. 10KM on the first day was not a good idea, we realized it the hard way completing it mostly by walking and taking 1 hour 40 minutes. That day it dawned upon us that 21KM is going to be a daunting task and requires a lot of practice. Tried running in the morning for sometime but sleep is more precious than these stuffs. So hit the gym @ office in the evening for the first time in life. I had decided never to visit a gym but to remain healthy by doing routine activities. But i had no other option this time and started running 3 to 4 KM daily.

Running was fun. Running 21KM was self imposed punishment. Realized that when we decided to try 21KM before the marathon day and tried the same in lalbagh. It took 3 hours 20 minutes, with some running and lot of walking. End result was a lot of pain and walking style like a duck after that. But we knew it was achievable. Few more days at the gym and a week of rest, we were ready for the marathon on Feb 9. Atleast we thought we were.

Went to Pondicherry on Feb 8. Visited Auroville and collected the BIB. Liked the atmosphere in Auroville and how organized they were. After some roaming around Pondicherry and enjoying the TN cuisines in their original taste, visited auroville in the night again as Vanni had registered the pasta dinner. That dinner helps in running better next day it seems🙂 Mani and myself assumed idly and dosa does the same and had that for dinner. Came back to room and rested. Should say, i did relish the food in pondicherry.

Auroville was bustling with activity when we reached at 5.30AM.  This time there were more than 2000 participants for the half marathon alone so it was crowded. I was supposed to start in the first wave of 600 @ 6:15AM, while vanni and mani were in the wave that started at 6.25AM. The marathon started sharply at 6:15AM and i started running without much plan, with the only intention of finishing it without injuries. Soon i was running a decent pace, overtaking the slow runners and in sight of the leaders. Thanks to the gym, was able to maintain the pace for sometime but soon settled to the speed i am comfortable with, around 8-8.5KMPH. Was excited every time i crossed every KM mark, but as time progressed 1KM looked a little elongated. Could not stop thinking the organizers are playing some cruel trick and increased the distance. Anyway, at the end of an hour, i had completed 8KM. Was able to maintain the pace and completed 10KM in 1 hour 15 minutes.

10KM was a sign of achievement, soon a signal from the cerebrum asked me to slow down. I could see a lot of people from second, third and fourth wave overtaking and disappearing. Since it was expected didn’t care much. But when girls overtook, there was a tight slap on the ego, but body and mind were in unison and made sure there was no increase in the speed. But no sign of Vanni and Mani. At the second hour i completed around 15KM and around here, Vanni crossed me, uttered few words hastily and ran ahead. Mani was nowhere in sight.

After 15KM, succumbed to the pressure of mind and started walking. Tried doing it at a reasonable pace, but dont think i achieved it. It was also turning hot, which was acting as a deterrent. Continued walking till 20KM in the next 50 or so minutes. After 20KM, not sure what motivated me, is that the crowd near the finishing line or the gal who was irritating me by overtaking me and then walking in front and doing the same once i crossed her, i suddenly got some energy to run again. When it was around 300 meters from the finishing line, found that there is a chance to complete the marathon within 3 hours. Was pumped up in seconds and started sprinting. It felt like sprinting, probably was running at a decent pace. Not sure where the energy had vanished after 15KM, and how it returned. Atlast the finish line was in sight, body ached, gasped a little for breath but completed the marathon at last in around 2 hours 59 minutes. Target achieved.

I am still not sure, how running 21KM is fun🙂 But wont deny getting a medal and posing for a photo, though it is your own camera did give a momentary happiness. A sense of achievement and completion that is missing in this adult life. I was not comparing myself with others, nor did i find think about how will it help  in future, what i had was a childish joy of accomplishing something though it could be worthless. In that way, it was fun indeed.  Now i am running few KMs in gym daily. Looks like there is one marathon on the way, lets see if i run in that as well.

The Dying Democracy

“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” – George Bernard Shaw

Lets say, I have 100 Rs and i want to buy something. I go to a shop pay 100 and get it. The shop owner gets the 100 rupees, but is under the assumption that the product he sold me was given to me due to his great efforts and decides to remind me about his benevolence by printing his name, family name and his photo everywhere in the product. And the cost incurred to engrave them should also be paid from my pocket. I think it is right to feel irritated.

All this comes after buying a Rs.10 water bottle at the bus station, the famous “Amma Kudineer” water bottle that is sold at the bus stations in Tamilnadu. There is a green sticker with CM’s smiling photo and the word “Amma Drinking Water”. Above the sticker is a symbol of two big leaves. Everyone in Tamilnadu knows that is the symbol of AIADMK party. They can’t have that. So on top of the two leaves there are two more smaller leaves. Now it is not a party symbol any more, but point delivered. Towards the bottom of the water bottle, once again it has the word “Amma” engraved in English on one side and in Tamil on the other side. The only mention about a government body involved was in “Processed & Packaged by State Express Transport Corporation Tamilnadu Ltd” in very small letters, which you can find only if you want to find. To me it looked a lot despotic.

The plan as such is a good move, was received with great acclaim, considering that earlier we ended up paying 15 – 20 Rs for sub-standard low quality water. Let us also assume that since India is a developing nation, all the tax money is spent in other activities and is not possible for government to give free and hygienic water at public places. Only problem is it is made to appear like a benevolent act for which I should be grateful, while it is nothing but a duty of the elected governemnt. A name and symbol related to the government might have left me satisfied something like “Rail Neer” as introduced by IRCTC which does not carry any officer’s or ruler’s photo.

No i do not support DMK, i despise the nepotism that exists in that party. I do not have high hopes on the so called secular congress that seems to be corrupt, and on Modi who has pledged to take country towards progress. I do agree, this is not an issue,  when compared to the blatant violation of democracy that we see in a lot of instances. This is just another reminder of what our rulers are. And when i see people happy about atleast something happening, it reminds that we have brought democracy to a very low level with our ignorance. As a kid, I believed a lot when leaders talked about the country becoming super power,  but it looks more like many many assumptions that vanished into thin year when i started becoming older. The current situation looks exactly similar to the story in “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, a revolution followed by a constitution that aims at equality which eventually ends in despotism and nepotism and slavery. Recommend you to read, if you haven’t done so, and you will realize that we are no different than the horses and donkeys of the “Animal Farm”🙂

Mullayanagiri – Bababudangiri Trek 2013

This blog is turning out to be a travelogue. Will have to change it. With New Year close on the heels, think will add it to the empty list of New Year resolutions, though what happens to

Anyway this trip was the third attempt to complete full length of the jinxed Mullayanagiri – Kemmangundi trek. Having balked at previous attempts, Attempt #1 and Attempt #2 due to various reasons, was excited about this trek. Dec 14 was fixed as the date for the quest. The plan died in few days when people in trekking gang were unable to join due to different reason and got a life when Rakesh Balakrishnan kindled the thought, why not just the two of us with just two days to go for the weekend. It was a great idea,  but just two of us trekking in reserved forest and camping nowhere near civilization did send shivers down the spine. Though we were excited and enthusiastic, the real test would be when we start walking. The plan looked exciting, achievable and foolish as well. The hopes died, when BMC from where we usually rent our tents said tents were not available during that weekend. But we did managed to arrange from Mars Adventures. We purchased sleeping bags from Decathlon, since it looked a better option than renting them for every trip. Bus tickets to chickmagalur were never a problem, and soon we saw ourselves packing.

Day 1  – Saturday  – Dec 14, 2013

Reached chickmagalur at around 5.00AM, checked into a hotel and got ready for the trip at 8.00AM. Made sure to open the tent and pack it in our bags. Carrying tent in hand is laborious and makes the ascent difficult. There is a single bus service from chickmagalur to Sarpadhari, the trek starting point. Bus name is S.M.S but they start at their own sweet time when they feel it is crowded enough. So if you want to start the trek early, better to choose cab/auto. We went in an auto who charged Rs. 250. The trek from Sarpadhari to Bababudangiri/Galikere can be split into four parts

1) The climb from Sarpadhari to Mullayanagiri Peak.
2) Mullayanagiri to Attigundi checkpost.
3) Checkpost – BSNL tower via that knife edge that is exactly opposite to the checkpost.
4) BSNL tower – Bababudangiri/Galikere.

IMG_8566Our aim was to camp at Galikere and trek to Kemmangundi the next day. Knew at every part, it will be a race against time. Started the trek at 9.15Am. It was a quick climb (by our standards) to the peak and we reached the peak before 11.00AM. Mullayanagiri was awesome as usual. A little misty even after monsoon. The grasses were slowly drying after the monsoon but was green enough to make a grand sight. We spent a little time at the peak and started for part 2 of the trek. Finding the path to attigundi post from mullayangiri peak was tough. But from the previous attempt i knew it existed somewhere behind the temple. So after a little search were able to locate it. Once we find the path, the walk to Attigundi checkpost is easy, so we did it without taking many breaks. Had a quick lunch @ Attigundi checkpost. Everything was going according to plan🙂 Or looked like.

The twist waited when we were about to start the third part of the trek. It was Dattareya Jeyanthi on Dec 15, 2013 and due to security reasons the knife edge the direct path which goes through the gorge(knife’s path) to the BSNL tower was closed. The police advised us to go via the road. We followed the road for a while, searched for a path and decided to the walk parallel to the original route and join the path from knife edge at some point. There was no path, so had to venture into the bushes and shrubs and create our own path chasing away the small snakes (exaggerated, found only one)  that were resting. The next hour was dedicated to this. The good part was we were able to do it and get back to the original path, and the bad part was we had lost a good amount of time. And we reached the BSNL tower by 5.00PM.

Any trek will involve meeting a local who will claim the place we intend to go is not near as we think, but it is +x KM. Such meeting happened in the BSNL tower. We were under the impression that Galikere is around 4-5KM from BSNLIMG_8719 tower, but the guy there claimed it is 8KM. We knew 8KM after 5PM will involve trekking in the dark. Anyway learnt next day that Galikere is 5KM from the place and the route is not difficult either. The guy also showed us Manikyadhara, that is very close to the tower, where we can camp. Mr. Prasad, the forest officer we met during the last visit had mentioned that it is good for camping and we get food/fish fry there. I remembered the place name and the office name because of the mention of fish fry. Manikyadhara also has a small waterfalls which attracts tourists. Anyway all shops were closed due to Dattareya Jeyanthi and there were no jeeps as well. Otherwise it is possible to rent a jeep from there to Galikere. With were very little options left we decided to camp near a pond in Manikyadhara. The place was pretty and peaceful. There were no rough winds which left us in absolute silence. Still was able to manage only a disturbed sleep due to the cold weather and possibly due to the uneasy tranquility that prevailed.

Day 2 – Sunday – Dec 15, 2013

Woke up around 6IMG_8736.30AM to the sound of birds. In particular there was a bird that whistled/sang beautifully. Was not able to sight it. Spent sometime roaming and exploring the area around the tent, more importantly waiting for the sun to heat up a little, so the bath in Manikyadhara falls will be enjoyable. Though Manikyadhara falls did not have much water to offer, the bath was exhilarating. Camping at Manikyadhara meant 5KM gets added to the Day 2 trek to Kemmangundi, making it more than 20KM and impossible. So we called it a day and walked towards Bababudangiri. From the “My Tracks” android app the total distance we covered was around 13KM on the first day and 3KM walk to bababudangiri on the second day. The SMS bus service was the only option available. Boarded the bus at  11.15AM which started at 12.45PM and reached chickmagalur at the right time to catch the 2PM bus back to bangalore🙂

Though the weather during december was good and helped in trekking without drizzle and leeches, it is during the monsoon or just after the end of monsoon, Mullayanagiri is at its supreme grandeur. The thought beckons attempt #4 for the full 30+ KM trek, time will answer whether it will happen.

Belur Halebidu Trip

Not sure how many times the trip was planned and cancelled in the past. It was on the list for a long time, and interest accrued everytime i stumbled upon some photos in the web. Everytime a plan was made, there was a reason to cancel it as well. This time we planned it on Friday evening and started on friday night. Plan was simple, catch the last bus to Belur in the night, spend time in the temples the next day and reach bangalore before 9PM. Surprisingly we were able to execute it without hiccups. Boarded the 11.30PM bus to chickmagalur and reached Belur by 4.30AM with very little sleep. Ambled through the streets searching for a lodge, found most of them closed. After a while checked into a not so good room utilized the 1hour we had for a nap.

Went early to the ChennaKeshava temple and were able to attended the first pooja that was happening there. After that we had the whole day to soak ourselves in the aesthetic beauty of the two masterpieces of the hoysala architecture. The temples are built using soapstones. The outer and inner walls of these star shaped temples were filled with numerous intricate carvings, notable ones a.k.a the ones that we recongnised, include Lord Narasimha tearing Hiranyakashipu, Gajasurasamhara, Vishnu’s varaha avatar, Arjun in his suyamvaram etc. With careful and patient observation one might be able to discover a lot of details in the sculptures. No wonder it took more than a century to build it. Might have been more appealing if they were not destroyed during invasions. The outer walls also houses 38 madhanikas statues or women statues. Each of the madhanikas strike a different pose. There are around 644 elephants on the outer walls and it is said each one is distinct. There is also a huge pillar that is not fixed to the ground but stands on its weight for centuries. There are three more temples in the same complex – Kappe Channigraya temple, Sowmyanayaki temple and an Andal temple. Spent few hours filling the camera’s memory card and then started to Halebidu, to visit the Hoysaleshwara and  Kedareshwara temple.

They live upto the expectations that you have set from seeing the chennakeshava temples. The base of the temple walls consist of moldings with friezes that consist of elephants, lions, scrolls, horses, scrolls, puranic scenes, mythical beasts (makara) and swans. You can see some sculptures that were in chennakeshava temple as well, but that would not act as a deterrent to explore the other sculptures. A slight drizzle did disturb a bit, but it did set expectations if we are to attempt a trek in mullayanagiri or kemmanagundi. After few hours in the temple, started the journey back and reached as planned. Overall a nice trip that went fine with little planning.

Photos @ Picasa