Review : Unbreakable - M.C Mary Kom

“Sometimes I wonder how I sustained my passion given that I had neither exposure to the possibilities nor opportunities.” - M.C. Mary Kom

The above is what makes Chungneijang “Magnificent”. Whenever I read a biography or memoir I love to read about the author’s childhood and relate it to my own. Unlike in the cases of Feynman, Randy or Woz I was not able to make a connection. The reader will find out that they have taken a lot in life for granted. This reveal hits one hard and will stay for a very long time. The initial chapters look at her difficult beginnings and realization how far she has come against all odds. It is impossible to not root for Mary as you move from one page to another.

The book feels less exciting as it enters the phase when Mary actually starts winning big. This isn’t due to sloppy writing but due the very high standards set by the initial chapters. These chapters also highlight our country’s neglect to sports other than cricket.

Mary is blessed with loving in-laws who don’t come in the way of her pursuit. I am not sure if it is unique or has to do with the culture in Manipur. Either ways the rest of the country has a lot of learning to do here. Same holds true for Onler who sacrifices his own career to make Mary win. She is a rare example whose career was able to take the hits of marriage and child birth afterward. This comeback is no short of a fairytale given how things work in India for women.

Mary’s win despite the odds stacked against her is even more inspirational than that of James J Braddock. Read this even if you have watched the Movie. Read the initial chapters if you don’t have time on your plate but do not miss this epic story.

As I write this review today Mary Kom has missed the Rio berth. So far India has won only 2 medals and both of them are by women. Things have not changed and maybe they never will. On the positive side, I sure know the perfect birthday gift for a stary eyed teenager. :)

Get rid of annoying TOI ads

Honestly, I am not a big fan of TOI but they are often the top link in Google News for news related to India. I use an adblocker for all websites this has been a source of a little annoyance while visiting their website.

Given their rather poor implementation of this anti ad-blocking system it is a piece of cake to work around it. You do not need to install any extensions.

In Chrome’s settings search for “Javascript” and then click “Manage Exceptions”. Add their website to the exceptions and select block. That it.

A new word for hacker?

This post# brought up something I have thought about before.

People have asked me in my previous post to make acronyms clear at the beginning of my posts. I think I should do the same with the main assumption of this post.

In the traditional sense a hacker is a person who is extremely interested in exploring the things and recondite workings of any computer system. Most often, hackers are the expert programmers.

It troubles me how almost no one tends to recognize the original meaning. The more frustrating fact is that the original hackers and the community as a whole still tend to stick to the same world. A couple of days I was trying to find out some Quora or HN Post which describes something along the lines of “how the hacker culture has changed over time and what are the modern day hackers doing today?” I am curious about this becase I want to know how people manage to spend serious time on things they like and still go along with their daily jobs. This bothers me as I tend to totally mess this up while finding balance between EnI and what I would like to study.

A few days back Github introduced an option to add a bio. From what I see it has not really caught up yet (at least in my circle). As I have been reading a lot about hackers this summer I decided to use something like ‘An Aspiring Hacker’. But finally, I decided not to go with it thanks to the number of people I know who would confuse it with a cracker. I have a feeling that this problem is especially more severe among Indians. Credits to the charlatan Ankit Fadia.

In the end, I have finally decided to go with ‘Aiming for 10k Hours’ - inspired from Peter Norvig’s essay about the same topic. I guess this makes more sense for me. Reason being that I totally lack certain excellent qualities that define a hacker. I spend more time worrying than I spend on hacking stuff. Also, I spend a lot of time reading how to do stuff instead of actually doing it. But overall making stuff is what makes me feel the best. The reason why I spend less time doing it is probably because I treat it as a reward for going through the rest of the material. Should I change that? I am not sure.

# Don’t ask me how I got to such an old post.

The Golden Age of MOOCs is over and Why I hate Coursera

At dinner last night with a friend we ended up discussing how the internet has made the society fairer. We talked about the Arab Spring, the maker movement and most importantly MOOCs. I have always been a fan of MOOCs since my first exposure. The option to learn from the comfort of my room and topics which are not even offered at my university is every nerds dream come true. Of late we have seen MOOC providers caring less about the students and more about the $$$. I know they have the right to and maybe they should if they want to sustain the great offerings. But to begin with they should stop the game of telling people that they care for students and are here to “provides universal access to the world’s best education”.

This is not the first time I am pissed about some MOOC provider royally screwing up students. I remember Udacity disabling the option to submit assignments for Georgia Tech OMSCS Courses. I was upset but I understood that it may be due to the pressure from the university. Things got worse with the Nanodegree saga where they deleted the old forums in the name of cleaning spam. What followed next was removal of course notes which were nothing beyond the transcripts + screenshots of the slides. What came next was crappy courses which were teaching you frameworks instead of teaching you Computer Science. I understand Udacity’s pain they had to pivot. Maybe the founders did not want this but the ones putting in the money did. In all even though the party was mostly over they had added good to the world in terms of the materials of the excellent early courses.

Before all this came there was the phenomena of scraping off the certificates. Frankly, I don’t mind. The reason is that most of what I am learning is because I want to and not because it will land me a higher paying job. But every time Coursera makes some change what came to my mind was “It can’t get worse.”

First, they did away with the free certs like everyone else. My reaction. Meh who cares until I can learn the cool stuff. Next, they follow it up with disabling free access to quizzes and assignments. My reaction - Why?? Everyone understands that quizzes and assignments are where a very large part of the learning happens. How am I supposed to master an algorithms course without submitting solutions to the problems? Still they were showing quizzes and just disabled submissions. I was unhappy but still I thought it can’t get any worse. Finally (??), They are now removing all the courses on the old platform. This is what finally broke my heart. There are tons of courses that are not on the new platform. The courses on the old platform have problem sets and quizzes and this is what seems to bother them. The loss of material in the public domain as of now both that on the forums and in the quizzes and assignments is tremendous. And obviously they were very generous to send out a mail reminding us of backing up our data suggesting this brilliant method.

Screenshots? Thank You!

** Update: Sunday, 12. June 2016 03:30AM ** - As of now Coursera is not charging for quizzes in every course on the new platform. Some of the courses are still completly free to enroll with full course except the certificate. I hope they keep it this way.

I don't know what I want

This is strange. I like programming I guess I have always liked it since my first exposure. I have been that akward teenager in school the nerdy types they show in the movies. The ones who are weird to talk to. Despite all that at school I had always been confident about myself. The motto was is simple I never cared about what the others said or atleast I have been sucessful in making myself belive so. Somehow, somewhere JEE Prep, college. the internet has beaten that out of me. Now my happiness stems from what others think and this saddens me deeply. I remember when I had learnt to use one of those skiddish virus creators for the first time it felt great. I have been fortunate enough to have that magical feeling several times. The feeling where you realize that a lot more is possible. When I first made my first power point animation. When I used infinite loops in a batch file script to make tons of folders. I still get awed by tons of cool things I come across daily but I hardly get THAT feeling. Reading AI and Math makes me feel good but not the same. Is that because I realize that there is a lot to learn, so much that I may never do it? Or is that because I have always been living in a bubble and now I am scared of those who are better than me. I guess it is the latter. Learning in isolation has been my power because when you do that you never know where you are. Now that can be limiting but probably not for me because I learn due to my fascination with things. When I learn when others are watching I just can’t. I like presenting my work and I enjoy when people appreciate me but I just want to show the finished product and not the process. I want people to stay away during the process. I don’t know how to fix myself. I just want to go back to stop caring about everyone else.