Friday, May 30, 2008

Web Archives to the rescue….

It does not happen often that you get stuck in something you really HAVE to get done and the first person you ask comes knows the perfect solution to your problem. But that’s exactly what happened the other day…

I needed some information that I knew had been posted on the internet in 2005 and had since been taken down. All I had with me was a now dysfunctional URL.

So, I sat there wiggling my thumbs thinking what to do when my friend comes along and I tell him my problem. He asked me for the URL and within seconds I had on my computer screen the web-page (with all the links, photographs etc) which had been removed from the internet 3 years ago!

And that’s how I came to know about web-archiving and I think it is totally cool. The basic idea is that computer programmers called web-crawlers traverse through the pages on WWW from time to time and archive them. People like me who want to refer to back dated information can access these old web-pages…

Issues like copy rights are taken care of by giving the publisher the right to remove his or her web-page from the archives. I think that it is essential that people who don’t intend to use the archives should still be aware that such things exist. It is essential that you make sure that you remove the content that you don’t want to be public in the future not only from your own web-page but also from public web archives.

Though I got my project done, that was of secondary importance now. After all, I had the last 10 or so years of Web-archives to check out!!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

BMC banned??

The aforementioned BMC stands for Bangalore Mountaineering Club which is basically a bunch of adventure enthusiasts who organize treks and camps in and around Bangalore at very affordable prices. They work on zero profit, for the sheer joy of bringing to others the opportunity of coming close to nature and its infinite beauty.

And yet, with all those noble intensions, today I ban it from my list of worthy, coveted, joinable and likable organizations.

Why?? Good question!

Well, the story started a couple of weeks ago when I received an email from BMC saying that they had banned me because “based on the attitude and behavior” I had shown on the two treks I had been to with them, they felt I treated them like “hospitality industry” and expected them to provide “services”.

Now, that did NOT seem right. On both the treks that I had been to, I had been more than happy with the facilities and at no point had I expected or asked anything of the organizers at all. So I contacted BMC and asked for a clarification.

So this is what it boils down to: I was banned because on one of the treks 7 of us had moved ahead of the rest of the group with the government certified guide accompanying us. Since the visibility at that time was low, getting separated from the guide had caused anxiety in the people left behind for some ten minutes or so before the group leader could come down and stop the bunch of us that were moving ahead of the rest.

Booo! Hooo!! Hoooooooo!!!!!! I am banned because I moved ahead!!! Get out of here! Please ANYONE with any trekking experience at all, point out one expedition in which on not even one occasion some people moved ahead or behind and got separated from the rest?

The weirdness does not end there as there is a twist in this story… I am (to the best of my knowledge) the ONLY person of the 7 (who had moved ahead) who was banned, and (again) that did not seem right!

So the explanation offered by BMC is that “it all adds up”! Apparently, the concerned BMC organizer had been informed that on an earlier trek I had gobbled down a couple of sleeping bags at night! No really….! And, he didn’t care to find out the truth from me while on that trek or at any time after that.

Now BMC accepts that the informer may have misrepresented facts, but is also indifferent enough to not want to set things straight with her. In their own words “This was not the main issue and it was really the second incident (moving ahead of the rest) that brought the first one back to mind”. Yeah right!

The initial bewilderment over the incident has now given way to mirth! After all isn’t it ridiculous that BMC did not bother to face up to me BEFORE sending me a ‘You have been banned from BMC’-email and instead told me later that they “expected me to respond to it”. That to my mind is concomitant to hanging someone and then asking if he has anything to say in his defense! .... What the hell!!!!

I cannot cure the insecurities people have and if that means that random people will ban me from random organizations for random reasons, I couldn’t care less.

Human nature often puzzles me… and this is just one of the many times I am left chuckling with the thought “You have GOT to be kidding me!”

Why blog?

As I have mentioned in the blog description, this is an attempt to record insights and conundrums that come and (since they are not recorded) go. We all ask questions when we get stuck, while beating our heads against merciless demons like the society and the system, when we feel wronged or cheated or when something all of a sudden fascinates us. Sometimes our questions are answered, and at other times we learn to live with the mysteries of the world around us.

But nonetheless, I feel asking questions is important. After all who knows how deep the rabbit hole runs? You will never know unless you make an attempt to uncover the truth, open your mind to new possibilities, and stop shielding yourself from shocks and surprises... asking is the first step towards finding out what lies beneath.

Not every search leads to a treasure. Similarly inquiries into why things are the way they are can lead to nowhere. Or worst, we might end up finding out something we did not want to know; something that makes us uncomfortable or unhappy. But then, like the classical thought experiment called Schrödinger's cat attempts to illustrate, you will never know till you open the box!

This blog is my attempt to open the box, to ask questions. My goal is to simply understand what I can and keep a list of the things that need further investigation or thought. I hope the questions that I talk about here will whet the appetite for inquiry in my readers as well. I solicit answers/thoughts/insights pertinent to the issues at hand and suggestions for things my readers would like to see discussed.

And before signing off, one disclaimer: I reserve the right to ask DUMB questions! J After all, why not??