Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why Open Source is good

I'm reading The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson, PhD. On page 117 of the paperback there is a discussion about communities of interest and what makes for genuine science. Since computing is one of the sciences, I thought it the best short argument for Open Source one could make. Robinson quotes from Michael Polyani:

"Scientists, freely making their own choice of problems and pursuing them in the light of their own personal judgement are in fact cooperating as members of a closely knit organization....Any attempt to organize the group...under a single authority would eliminate their independent initiatives and thus reduce their joint effectiveness to that of the single person directing them from the center. It would in effect, paralyze their cooperation."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Bangalore Adventure, part 21: The Fabulous Intersection

My last post described a mis-guided, but ultimately interesting walk in search of 80 Foot Road. I had just passed a neighborhood mosque and I kept thinking about the little map from the hotel guidebook. If the fork to 80 Foot Road was not coming up shortly, then I had already passed it though I couldn't see how that could be as there weren't any street signs saying such.

Still, according to the map in my mind, if I had passed it, then I should be walking mostly parallel to 80 Foot Road and I should certainly be there if I turned right at the next large street.

The lane I was on got narrower. I passed a small dark shop with live chickens in cages: were they selling meat or eggs? Maybe both. Next door was definitely about meat, a peice of fresh-that-morning lamb was hanging from a hook outside.

Popular Mutton Stall by mpries

There was a shoe & leather repair shop; a shop stacked full of old newspapers; a few other uncertain businesses; knife-sharpening, old metal, candy and soft drinks. The shopkeepers were invisible, nobody was on the street. Since the call to prayer had just ended, perhaps the entire area was Muslim.

All the shop fronts were faded wood with peeling paint and wide-open doors or shutters -- not many windows, nothing shiny, nothing freshly painted. Just when I was thinking maybe this lane would dead end in a collection of trash heaps and ramshackle huts, it connected with a wider, busy street with cars and buses. 10th Main!

Uncertainty turned into expectation. This looked promising. My little lane might have continued on the other side after a short jog around a sharp corner, or maybe not. It didn't matter. If I turned left, 10th Main would take me back toward 100 Foot Road which would be a straight shot home to the Diamond District.

None of the storefronts here matched the nighttime scenery I had seen the last time we went to dinner on 80 Foot Road. And I still did not see that name on any street sign. I decided to turn right. I had faith in that hotel map. 80 Foot Road could be ahead of me, still parallel to me. Maybe it was just the next block down.

Well no, it wasn't there. But walking along 10th Main was pretty good. Lots of activity, businesses, gated residential complexes, doctor's offices, restaurants. I walked and walked. No sign of 80 Foot Road. In the distance was a tall broadcast or electrical tower. It seemed to be located in a park or along a rail line and it seemed to be near a major traffic intersection. That was a good target for a destination. From there, I could decide what to do - retrace my steps or take that bigger road ahead toward Airport Road.

On the left was a park with squatter's tents and a cricket grounds. I crossed a busy street. The electrical tower was further away than I thought. Oh well, it's not worth the effort. I turned right at the very next corner. Again I was on a small narrow dirt street, crowded with parked cars, empty carts and a few standing cows. Nothing was moving. The street got narrower the further I walked and turned more and more into something that looked like a country village. Then this little street ended. I was on an even narrower, dark dirt lane crowded in by two and three story wood and stucco apartment buildings. I could go left or right but straight ahead was a gate and a walkaway to a building.

This building had a small sign that said Saint Somebody Home(John or Joseph?). This surprised me. I don't know why but I was always surprised by all of the evidence of Christianity thriving in India. It didn't really make sense to be surprised, after all, Americans and the British have been shipping missionaries to Asia for decades. Yet, I guess I never expected those efforts to have really caught on amongst all the competition.

Briefly, I thought this was a home for priests or monks, or elderly believers. Later, I decided it might just be an apartment building that had been given a hopeful sounding name. I turned right so at least I would be heading back towards the Leela Palace and the Diamond District. After a few more buildings, the lane straightened out some and I could see it intersected with that busy street I had crossed a few minutes ago. I was zig-zagging from side-to-side down the lane trying to dodge puddles and cow flops in the dirt so I didn't see the features of the intersection until I was right there in the middle of it. The puddle I was avoiding had caused me to face left and I looked up from my feet.

Two Religions Coexisting by mpries


There, next to a lively yellow Hindu temple was a white church topped by golden crosses looking as European and as Catholic as could be. Through a glass window you could see Mary praying. It was a painted wooden statue but of a size and attitude as if you were looking in on a living person in their home. The Ave Maria Church. Again, I was surprised by Christianity in India. How did this come to be here? And who were the people who came to this church?

And then, as if to utterly destroy that question, as I looked across the street, I saw a towering Hindu goddess, Ammavaru, three stories high in glorious color. Oh, my, a face-off between divine women. Or maybe they collaborated for universal harmony when no one was looking.

Plus, if religion wasn't your thing, there was a shop behind me that was filled to the rafters with an undescribable rainbow of plastic exports from China -- toys, housewares, jewelery, flip-flops, etc. It was magical. Everything that was wild, wacky, unexpected, and contradictory about my Bangalore adventure was summed up in this accidental walk to this fabulous intersection.

The Faboulus Intersection by mpries

(Ironically, the Google map shows clearly that I was on 80 Foot Road all along and just turned the wrong way at 10th Main.)

A few more adventures to come....