Cartoons of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin & Hillary Clinton

Outlined in Inkscape & colored in Gimp

Donald Trump
image

Vladimir Putin
image

Hillary Clinton
image

Posted in news | Leave a comment

Bike trip to Palani from Palakkad

If you want to avoid the crowds, choose a weekday and start early. By early, I mean that you want to get there by 8-9 o’ clock. Around noon, the nada will be closed for an hour. So, try to get the hilltop much ahead of it.

From Palakkad, Pazhani is over a 100 kilometers. You take the Palakkad-Pollachi road and go via Pollachi & Udumalapettai to Pazhani.

Once there, you go to the right of the main entrance for the free parking area. I don’t know if there is a separate parking space for two-wheelers but if you want to park it there chain your vehicle to a post. Otherwise, some nuts will box your vehicle in. I found that my vehicle had been moved behind a post & the nuts had parked two SUVs on either-side with no space to reverse. I have good upper-body strength and lifted the bike by its wheels one-by-one in about two minutes. Initially, it looked like I was stuck there for good. So, beware!

On the left of the main entrance is a free storage for footwear. Remember to get the numbered token.

Also on the left is a shed for tonsuring the head. You need to buy a ticket from the guard before sitting before the barber. Nearby, there is a bathing area (Rs.20). You should have brought a towel and a spare set of clothing. Also maybe a cup, Dettol and plastic bag for wet clothes.

In summer, it is better to climb the hill after a meal. I thought I would take my lunch after darshan and to my dismay found myself feeling woozy midway. On previous trips, I went up with no breaks. This time, my vision grew dark around three-fourth of the way and I decided to take breaks, even as female casual labour around me were transporting heavy headloads.

At the hilltop, I bought a prasadam ladoo and became re-energized. I also bought prasadam puliyokarai, which I ate after darshan. It was as good as perumal-koil puliyokarai.

My darshan was delayed by the closing of the nada. The crowd was heavy and grew heavier by the hour. Finally, after several hours in the serpentine queue I had a good darshan of Dandayudhapani in all his glory.

The stone-paved area around the temple and the steps going down becomes very very hot at noon. I decided to take the rope car on the way down but queue area was way too crowded. I took my lunch at the hilltop restaurant and went downhill by foot.

On the way back, I stopped for some palm fruit, near Karumapuram, about 10 kilometers before Kerala border. The guy asked me if I wanted neera and I said, “Fine, one glass”. But, there was no glass! He made a palm leaf bowl instead and disemboweled a palm fruit into it. Then, he poured some neera into the bowl.

Neera is the clear sap harvested from a cut made in the palm flower. It is non-alcoholic. (It becomes fermented (alcoholic) naturally to form toddy.) I have had neera before from a Khadi store and it was only mildly sweet. It also had a raw aftertaste. This was different. The water from inside the palm fruit (analogous to coconut water) seems to have overwhelmed everything and oversweetens the serving. Both TN & Kerala governments are n
now promoting the sales of neera.

image

Posted in news | Leave a comment

RIP Michael J Kaplan (of Sorting It All Out blog)

If MS (Multiple Sclerosis) did not kill him, then another MS (Microsoft) certainly had helped him meet fate.

In his heyday, Michael Kaplan was one of the most popular guys on MSDN (a Microsoft website devoted to software developers.) At Microsoft, Kaplan lead the team on Unicode, languages, software keyboards and internationalization. His MSDN blog Sorting it all out was followed by thousands of developers all over the world. Kaplan explained complex issues and helped out other developers suffering from problems with Unicode and Microsoft Windows software internals. [Microsoft was a member of the Unicode consortium and Kaplan was probably on of its important representative at the organization. The Unicode consortium’s job is to organize the scripts of world’s languages ready for the keyboard.]

Kaplan suffered from multiple sclerosis and moved in a wheelchair. This did not seems to have been a major impediment to his colorful life.

I got introduced to his work when I read an article by him in MSDN library (a software knowledgebase bundled with Visual Studio). Several years later, I learned that he had joined Microsft and was involved in software keyboards of various languages that Microsoft Windows had to support. He had been to India as well. He was a guest speaker at the World Tamil Congress. (His Twitter feed photo has him wearing an angavasthram with which he must have been honored at the event.)

One fine day, I realized that the RSS feed for the blog had not been updated for a long time. (Strangely, when I visited the blog URL, the Microsoft website asked me to log in. I logged in with a hotmail ID but it did not show the blog at all.) Microsoft had deleted the blog – all nine years of it!

Kaplan created SIA2 blog on blogspot, where he posted that the SIAO was gone and cached versions were available from Archive.org. On a WordPress blog that he created, Kaplan explained that he unintentionally courted trouble twice on his blog.

Over that decade, I’ve gone through twenty seven “romantic” relationships (the life of serial monogamy!). I’ve lost relatives, gained nieces, burned bridges, lived through being snowed out for a month, met half a dozen execs and wrote about most of them, had an online nervous breakdown over a best friend passing away and then later finding out she was interested in going out with me.

In all that time and with those thousands and thousands of blogs, there are only two that I sincerely regretted.

The first one saw my manager’s manager’s manager’s HR Generalist put me on Paid Administrative Leave while she worked with experts to determine if VP Brian Valentine was justified in simply firing me (that skip skip level manager defended me in a meeting with Brian that I was not invited to).

In the end, it turned out be mainly due to the art (it was that infamous RSOD post that Slashdot covered because of the art.

The second one was after I was granted a patent that I honestly believed never should have been issued. My manager at the time asked the site admin to take down the entire Blog and he did that so thoroughly that I can’t even look at any Blog on the site!

Then one day, Microsoft informed him that his blog was gone for good and there would be no backups given to him either. (Kaplan clarified this to Spolsky to whom I sent a mail about the sorry saga.) Kaplan could tell his followers on Twitter and probably Facebook what happened to SIAO. Most of them, like me, were on RSS and never knew what happened.

Kaplan wrote about reinflating the blog using Archive.org’s copy. He bought a domain for siao2.com and it almost worked for a while. Someone else did a better job at http://archives.miloush.net/michkap/archive/ and now all siao2.com links redirect to this new archive.

The last update on his Twitter feed is from September 2015. He had apparently died a month later. His Facebook page is gone. In August, Kaplan lost his job at Microsoft as part of Satya Nadella’s Reduction In Force exercise. Microsoft was nasty to him in his final months, when he was “out on disability”.

Just putting it out there if you wanted to email me at my Microsoft email address; it is not valid anymore. I am not dead and really does want any rumors starting up just because Microsoft had other things to do. I had just been sent an email informing me that some stock was going to vest at the end of August… No word yet on the money they owe me for lost and/or damaged stuff, and no word on the 75% of three days plus 60% of three days overpayment that was sent to collections, but I expect that I’ll find out about how they plan to settle that soon enough.

Microsoft was so coy and diplomatic that they asked a collection agency to get back some overpayment!

Posted in software | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How to write citations with Markdown & retain links in your article’s references section

I use Markdown to write articles but it surprisingly does not support citations. Markdown simply removes all references after it creates hyperlinks in the output. Today, I was writing an article today with markdown and decided to find a solution.

I found that markdown references need not always be to an external URL – they could also be referring to intra-document anchors. So, I used an HTML-style anchor (prefixed with # character) in the markdown reference. Then, I placed an empty HTML SPAN tag before the citation with the anchor name set as the value of the tag’s ID attribute. This trick takes advantage of the fact that markdown ignores HTML tags and outputs them without processing. Here is the markdown.

By the [1920s][nbc], commercial radio networks run by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) had become popular. Although the television was invented in the 1930s, it did not take off as factories and materials were diverted for war production. Thus, radio enjoyed two decades as the most popular medium for news and entertainment. It was known as the *[golden age of radio][golden_age]*. After World War II, TV displaced radio in popularity. Radio served a niche segment of people on their commute. In the age of the Internet,

...

[nbc]: #nbc
[golden_age]: #golden_age
 
References
----------
  * <span id="nbc"></span>
  National Broadcasting Company history files - [https://lccn.loc.gov/2002660093](https://lccn.loc.gov/2002660093)
  * <span id="golden_age"></span> 
  Golden Age of American radio - [http://www.britannica.com/topic/Golden-Age-of-American-radio](http://www.britannica.com/topic/Golden-Age-of-American-radio)
 
...

In other words, markdown references link to SPAN tags instead of external URLs. The span tags are located in the citations. So, the links lead to the citations and the citations then lead to the external URLs.

The markdown references can be placed even outside the references section, as the former gets completely removed from the output. For readability, just add a newline after the SPAN tag.

HTML output with the citations still intact.

HTML output with the citations still intact.

Posted in how to, software, technology | Tagged | Leave a comment

Create a Twitter Archive – A PDF dump of all tweets from an account

I have 51 tweets in my @SubhashBrowser account. So, this command will create the Twitter dump.

bash twitter-to-pdf.txt SubhashBrowser 51

Subhash TweetsToRSS must be running when you execute this command. You also need wkhtmltopdf and pdftk installed. The content of twitter-to-pdf.txt is as follows:

# Initialize variables
iPage=1
iMax=1
iRemainder=0
sDocs=""

let "iMax = $2 / 25"
let "iRemainder = $2 % 25"
if [ $iRemainder -gt 0 ]; then
  let "iMax = iMax + 1"
fi

sJavaScript = 
	"(function(){ " + 
	"  var arIframes=document.getElementsByTagName('iframe');" +
	"  var n = arIframes.length; " + 
	"  for (var i=0;i<n;i++) { " + 
	"  arIframes[0].parentElement.removeChild(arIframes[0]); " +
	"}})()" # Javascript to remove YouTube iframes generated by TweetsToRSS

# Create archives
for (( iPage=1; iPage<=iMax; iPage++ ))
do
  echo "Converting http://localhost:8080/?q=%40$1&output=html&older-than=$iPage"
  wkhtmltopdf --quiet \
              --encoding utf-8 \
              --debug-javascript --javascript-delay 60 --run-script "$sJavaScript" 	\
              --user-style-sheet wkhtml_twitter_style.css \
              --image-dpi 300 -s A3 \
              --margin-top 0 --margin-right 0 --margin-bottom 0 --margin-left 0 \
              "http://localhost:8080/?q=%40$1&output=html&older-than=$iPage" \
              "@$1-archive-$iPage.pdf"
  sDocs="$sDocs @$1-archive-$iPage.pdf"	 					  
done

# Combine archives
pdftk $sDocs cat output Complete-Twitter-Archive-of-@$1.pdf

# Updated metadata
echo "InfoKey: Creator" > $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoValue: Subhash TweetsToRSS (www.vsubhash.com)" >> $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoKey: Title" >> $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoValue: The complete Twitter archive of @$1" >> $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoKey: Subject" >> $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoValue: Collection of all tweets from @$1" >> $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoKey: Author" >> $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoValue: V. Subhash" >> $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoKey: Keywords" >> $1-meta.txt
echo "InfoValue: $1, twitter, tweets, archive" >> $1-meta.txt
pdftk Complete-Twitter-Archive-of-@$1.pdf \
      update_info $1-meta.txt \
      output The-Complete-Twitter-Archive-of-@$1.pdf

# Cleanup
mkdir $1-backup
if [ -d $1-backup  ]; then
	mv @$1-archive-*.pdf ./$1-backup
	mv Complete-Twitter-Archive-of-@$1.pdf ./$1-backup
	mv $1-meta.txt ./$1-backup
fi
All 51 tweets from my @SubhashBrowser has been dumped into a PDF archive.

All 51 tweets from my @SubhashBrowser has been dumped into a PDF archive.

Twitter seems to have placed a limit of just above 3000 to the number of tweets you can pull from an account. Here is the complete Twitter archive of US President Donald J Trump (@realDonaldTrump).

https://www.scribd.com/document/337137738/The-Complete-Twitter-Archive-of-Donald-J-Trump-RealDonaldTrump-2016-2017

Posted in software | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tourist spots in and around Palakkad

Palakkad Fort

This was right in the middle of the city and so was easy to check out. It was used by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. It was later taken over by the British. For a tourist, the Palakkad fort may be a disappointment. It is on flat ground and the ramparts around the fort are not very imposing. Like true Indians, visitors have left their mark on the walls. It covers considerable real estate right in the middle of the city and currently houses a jail and an office for the civil supplies department. The fort is also a venue for cultural events. The often-hyped-up Hanuman temple is in reality a very small shrine.

Tipu's fort in Palakkad City

Tipu’s fort in Palakkad City

Malampuzha Dam

This dam is some distance from the middle of the city. It has a large park, a ropeway, a snake park, an aquarium and a boating area. The dam is very high and stores water for the city. Best time to visit would be after 4 o’ clock.

Malampuzha dam

Malampuzha dam

There is a hilltop cottage for those who would like to stay longer than an evening visit. I expect the sunsets or sunrises to be great. The ropeway goes from one end of the dam, across the park and boating area, and then back again. The aquarium and the snake park on the sides of the park have very good specimens. I was surprised to find a fish called Miss Kerala. There is also a government-run shop that sells forest produce generated by tribal communities. I bought some honey and it tastes great.

Park and waterway near the dam

Park and waterway near the dam

The boating area is accessible from the park via a suspension bridge. As you get off the bridge, there is a huge nude Yakshi statue. It is impossible for kids to avoid the Yakshi as the bridge bobs a lot and demands parents’ attention. Ancient Indians did not create such huge eyesores. Our temples have nudes but you barely notice it.

Nude Yakshi statue drying her hair, possibly.

Nude Yakshi statue drying her hair, possibly.

Kava

Malampuzha has several other privately-run man-made attractions around it. However, Kava is different. Thanks to wooded and winding roads to this area, the drive from and to Kava is just great. Interestingly, the moment I landed near the spot, an old woman asked me for a lift. I took her all the way to Anakkal. The return journey had even better scenery. Palakkad is at sea level while Kava is at a high altitude. Here rain clouds are crashing the hills all the time, even as Palakkad remains bone-dry. When I was there, the skies were rumbling continously and was sounded spectacular. Surprisingly, the place has been spared of any man-built structures. Most people simply drive to the waterfront. Buses halt on the side of the road. Except for some cows, goats and shepherds, the place is usually empty.

Malamapuzha map showing route to Kava

Malamapuzha map showing route to Kava

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Subhash Browser & Feed Reader v2016.12.12 released

This update contains numerous fixes and aesthetic improvements.

http://www.vsubhash.com/article.asp?id=126&info=Subhash_Browser_Feed_Reader_app

image

Posted in news, software | Tagged | Leave a comment