General

How to Win an Internet Argument

duty_calls

Credits: XKCD [ http://xkcd.com/386/ ]

Choose the Right Viewpoint

Before taking part in an online argument, it is wise to carefully choose a viewpoint that is the most widely believed and hence will get you the most public support. Knowing which viewpoint is supported by the majority of the population is easy: just pick the one that is stupidest, requires the least amount of intelligence, is supported by the most politicians and has the least amount of evidence to back it up. An argument with all of these qualities is guaranteed to be the one with the most public support.

Wrong: Climate Change is a major challenge for our species and we need to use all our combined intellect and resources to avert this catastrophe and leave a better world for future generations.

Right: Climate Change is false propaganda by those pesky liberals.

Awesome: Climate Change is a conspiracy by the Illuminati so they can control the world and impose evil things like science and education on the innocent population.

Use Incorrect Grammar

Whatever you do, don’t write a single sentence that is actually comprehensible.  Using correct grammar or language that suggests you were privileged enough to receive even the most minimal amount of education  is suicide in the world of online arguments. It is also extremely crucial that you misspell all words that are more than three letters long.

Wrong: I am sorry sir, but you seem to be exceedingly ignorant and uninformed of the issue at hand.

Right: Die u stupid imbaceele!

Awesome: Fak u fegit, K? U bez stoopid. Plz dying now.

Credits: XKCD [ http://xkcd.com/1081/ ]

Take Ad Hominem to the Next Level

Whoever said nonsense like, “Attack the idea, not the person“, was clearly an Indian agent trying to spread false propaganda. To win an internet argument you must never ever ever pay attention to the your opponent’s ideas, logic or evidence. The best thing to do is to disregard everything he has to say and keep hurling insults at him, his parents and (only for professionals) his ancestry, race and language.

Preposterously Wrong: I agree with most of your evidence however you must remember that correlation does not imply causation in all cases, and hence the conclusions you draw may be unjustified.

Wrong: Your argument is invalid.

Right: Damn u aNd ur grAndMa. U <insert race> morons r <insert unfriendly country> agents trys 2 destroying my contry. Pplz like u shud B deadened and hanging. Stoopid treitor pPlz.

The Capslock is Your Friend

You may sometimes run into a problem if your assertion is not convincing enough. Some people make the mistake of mentioning objective evidence and logic to support their claim. That’s stupid, don’t do that. The best technique to work your way out of this situation is to  just keep repeating your assertion in an exceedingly aggressive and illiterate-sounding tone. Turning on the caps-lock and SHOUTING EVERYTHING IN CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  is strongly recommended.

And that’s that. I’m sure with these simple, easily implementable techniques you will never lose an internet argument again.

The Stirring of a Breeze

Note: This post was also republished here.

Hostels

I see posts from numerous freshmen on the LUMS Class of 2018 Facebook group discussing their upcoming departure and preparations for their new life at LUMS. Everyone is expressing their joy and excitement. How they can’t wait for the orientation. How their dream has finally come true. When they are planning to depart for Lahore. What they are looking forward to. What their plans are.

Although this is what I, too, should be feeling right now, as I sit here in my soon to be vacated room with shopping bags and boxes beside my bed filled with clothes and presents for relatives in Pakistan, all I am feeling is an overwhelming sense of sadness and… emptiness; along with an inability to appreciate the fact that all this is actually happening. I’m really leaving.

Quotation-Carl-Sagan-space-sense-Meetville-Quotes-211390

It’s sort of strange when you think about it. All through the A-Levels and the SATs, this is what I have been looking forward to: going to a prestigious university and learning Science and Engineering. I still remember looking up the requirements of universities online and going through the immensely tedious and annoying (akin to torture, really) admission processes. I was excited then… restless, motivated, driven… but not sad. Not the least bit sad or anxious.

Maybe it was because I was so occupied with what I could gain from achieving my goal that I hardly took the time to contemplate what I will be losing, at least temporarily. I think I can handle living in the on-campus accommodation (especially considering it’s probably one of the best in Pakistan). I also believe I can handle the tough workloads and competitive environment of a Science and Engineering School. I also hope that if I work hard it won’t be difficult to get into my desired major, Electrical Engineering, along with a minor in Physics. However, the biggest problem I think I will face is the fact that, well… I’ll miss my mom a lot.

This is for grad school but most of the stuff is applicable to undergrads as well. Especially the last part.

What I must realize, however, is that times have somewhat changed since the departure of 19 year old Chandrasekhar on a ship to Cambridge for his MSc. in Physics. I’m going on an airplane instead of a ship, for one. Not to mention, I can contact my family instantly via phone calls, emails, social networking etc. instead of sending ye olde letters or waiting for the telephone operator to finally put an international call through. Hence, I definitely need to stop acting like a baby.

I can’t live on my dad’s money forever and I know it. On top of that, university will provide me with something I have always craved and hungered for… knowledge. Especially knowledge about Physics and Engineering and all sorts of other scientific fields. I guess I should stop sulking like a kindergartener and act like an adult for once (which is pretty difficult for me, considering I have a maturity and IQ level less than that of an average elementary school student). When I was young, I always assumed I’d be far more mature and grown-up-ish at the age of 19. Yet, here I am, as stupid as ever.

Also, on a more positive note, this is my 96th blog post. Only four more left till I reach the goal of publishing a 100 posts on this blog. I still vividly remember the day I made my first post after transitioning from my previous blog about three years ago. Ah… the memories.

An Open Letter to Chickens

Disclaimer: I am brain-damaged.

ChickenDear Chickens,

You are one of the most mysterious animals that exist on this tiny blueish speck we are obliged to call a planet. I have way too many questions and I have been wondering about them for way too long. I want answers, and I want them right now. If you fail to cooperate… well, let’s just say Chicken Biryani has always been one of my favourite dishes. I warn you, this is not an empty threat. You can go crying to PETA or wherever you want, but I will still carry out what I intend to do unless, of course, you give in to my demands. As they say, everything is fair in love and chicken curry.

My first question relates to your origins. I want you to tell me as soon as possible whether it was you that came first or whether it was the egg. Be very careful, I won’t tolerate any beating around the bush and lame word play. I want a crystal clear, single word answer. Was it you or the egg?

derrivative

Secondly, pray tell me guys… why, in the name of chicken sheesh kebabs, did you cross that bloody road? What, you’re offended by that are you? Well, mail that to someone who cares. I won’t tolerate any of that nonsensical neo-liberal propaganda you all are so deviously propagating. Stuff like, “I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.” You damn rooster-necks think you’re pretty cunning, huh? You think I don’t understand what you master plan is? You think I don’t know that you’re all in it together, do you?

That fake innocent-looking clucking of yours and that mock stupidity you show may be good enough to fool the average Joe but it isn’t nearly sleek enough to deceive me. You need to try a little harder if you’re planning to convince the thinking man. You know what else I know, but you don’t know I know? You can fly. Yeah, you think you’re made everyone fall for your stupid ‘too-fat-to-fly” act, but I know. I know you can fly, I’ve seen you do it! You just pretend to be unable to fly in order to appease your bosses down in Antarctica, isn’t that correct?

Yeah. I know the penguins are your bosses. I’ve known that for a long time. Remember that ginger cat you though was on your side? Well, she was a double agent! Muhahaha. She worked for me. She told me all about your secret rituals. How you all send secret messages early in the morning when you think all us lazy dumb humans are asleep.

All that seemingly meaningless “Cuck-oroo Coo. Cluck. Cuck-oroo Coo.” You think I didn’t notice the hidden pattern? You think I was too retarded to crack the secret encryption codes you use? Well, you thought wrong! I know all about your cunning little plan of enslaving humans.

chicken fowl play

Your numbers have been growing, haven’t they? There are already more than 50 billion of you compared to only about 7 billion of us. On top of that, I have been told by good authority that you have already perfected the technology of light-sabers and ion-cannons. You have also figured out a way to destroy to us biologically from the inside using your secret ‘bird-flu’ project. So my last question is… why are you holding back? Why?

You can easily conquer the human race right now if you want to, so why wait? Is it, perhaps, because you’re plotting something even more evil? Or was your goal something other (and probably more sinister) than world domination from the very start? As I said earlier, I am not going to tolerate any of your false pretenses and lame excuses anymore. I want answers and I want them right now! Otherwise, you will be responsible for the consequences.

Yours carnivorously,
Muhammad “Chicken Hunter”  Tirmazi

 

Putting Things in Perspective

Note: This content of this post is similar enough to a previous post of mine titled We Are Negligible for the post to be mentioned here, but not enough for this post to be considered a sequel.

calvin-significant

The philosopher Immanuel Kant once wrote in his essay, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch,

Without man and his potential for moral progress, the whole of reality would be a mere wilderness, a thing in vain, and have no final purpose.

Like most philosophers, Kant had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Even if he did, his analysis is incorrect to the point of being considered self-centered and childish. Looking at the vastness of the cosmos and its grand scales (which I discussed in the post I linked above) does the hypotheses that without the existence of an insignificant collection of life-forms wandering on the surface of a speck of dust orbiting a tiny nuclear fusion reactor, one of billions spiraling around a black hole forming a structure that is just one of infinitely many in a universe (which might turn out to be just one of infinitely many other universes), that without the existence of these puny little beings, the whole of reality will descend into chaos hold weight?

Well, I don’t know about philosophy, but in the scientific point of view this assumption is preposterous. One must remember that for 99.9% of the about thirteen billion years of cosmic history, humans weren’t even around. Was the cosmos at that time any worse off without our existence? Of course not. On top of that, I hate to say it but (at the incredulously naively ridiculously over-optimistically estimated very very most) in about a couple billion years we won’t be around to make these nonsensical arrogant claims anymore. Here is a video that discusses the ultimate fate of the universe (it was made with the help of Caltech Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist Sean Carroll, so I’m guessing it’s pretty scientifically accurate) :

It seems depressing, right? Makes one feel insignificant. Putting things in the cosmic perspective may seem disconcerting, but it is a very nice means of self-improvement. For example, if Napoleon, Genghis Khan or any number of modern war-mongering generals and politicians were to stop and think for a moment in the cosmic perspective, perhaps along these lines:

I am about to send my army to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, fellow beings who share my moment in time. I am about to widow and orphan countless people. And after all this cruelty I’ll be able to claim ownership of a tiny portion of a microscopic dot which carries no particular significance in the cosmos. Is it all worth it?

Perhaps there would would be fewer wars and bloodshed and we’ll finally learn how to live in harmony respecting each other’s differences and treating each other as equals. Another good thing the cosmic perspective does is that it gets rid of your ego. It is impossible to contemplate about your existence and your place in the cosmos without developing humility. Here is a video of Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing one’s ego and its relation to the cosmic perspective:

One might ask, in all this emptiness, how does one add purpose and significance to one’s life? Well, if you measure your worth by the amount of lands you have conquered or the amount of wealth you have amassed then I don’t think being reminded of your place in the universe will give you any comfort as it will make you realize your insignificance even though you are trying hard to deceive yourself into believing you are important. On the other hand, if you measure your worth by the amount of people you have helped and influenced in your life and by the knowledge and understanding you have gained, then I think this perspective should be far more uplifting than it is depressing. In his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, astronomer Carl Sagan wrote (yes, I quote Carl Sagan a lot, deal with it):

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Maybe if we think of things in this perspective, perhaps there still might be some hope for us, as a species to one day end famine, reverse climate change, establish world-peace and journey to the planets and the stars. Until then, and once again I quote Carl Sagan, “for small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Finally, here is a photo called “Earthrise” taken by an astronaut during the Apollo 8 mission. It shows the beauty and fragility of the tiny planet we call home…

earthrise

Books Everyone Should Read

book

Some of the best books I’ve read till now, and think other people should read too…

  1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  2. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
  3. A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  4. The Time Machine by H. G Wells
  5. 1984 by George Orwell
  6. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G Wells
  7. The Martian by Andy Weir
  8. Contact by Carl Sagan
  9. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  10. What is Man? by Mark Twain
  11. The Adventures of Sherlock Homes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [1]
  12. The Big Four by Agatha Christie [2]
  13. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  14. The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  15. The Hound of Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  16. The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  17. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  18. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  19. The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking
  20. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  21. A Mathematician’s Apology by G. H. Hardy [3]
  22. Letters to A Young Mathematician by Ian Stewart
  23. The Character of Physical Law by Richard P. Feynman [4]

[1]: Including all the other short story collections Conan Doyle wrote about the fictional detective.

[2]: All the other novels in the Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie are awesome too.

[3]: Be sure to get the edition that has the introduction written by C. P. Snow

[4]: I watched the actual lectures instead of reading the book.

Books I regret reading and hate with a vengeance…

  1. All the nonsense written by Jane Austen
  2. All the nonsense written by Louisa May Alcott
  3. All the nonsense written by J. K Rowling
  4. All the nonsense written by Enid Blyton
  5. All the nonsense written by C. S Lewis

Damn you, Mechanics!

Yay, I have time! Valuable precious time! What should I do with it? I know. Let’s write a blog post! Let’s begin the same way I begin most of my posts… by complaining about stuff. This time, I’ll complain about classical mechanics.

There is nothing, I swear, nothing more mind-mindbogglingly, horrifyingly, self-esteem-loweringly, tear-inducingly, terrifyingly tedious than classical mechanics. Or at least the curriculum I am being forced to learn. Seriously, it’s something like an evil dementor that haunts me constantly, draining all hope, happiness and courage away, literally feeding on my soul. And all I can do about it is write blog posts and tweets.

If I ever meet my biggest enemy; I don’t have one yet, but let’s assume it’s that annoying raccoon from TV, Aamir Liaqat; I won’t imprison, torture, maim, or murder him. Oh, no. All those punishments are too lenient. I’ll do something way worse. Something that will ruin his self-esteem, mental-health and the remainder of his pathetic life. I’ll take out my Mechanics 1 textbook, go over to the review exercises and order him to solve one of those lengthy questions with the “*” at the beginning. Now that is real punishment.

To be frank, though, part of the reason I find Classical Mechanics difficult might also be the fact that I’m not really that interested in it. As Mr. Tyson said:

Of course, I don’t hate applied math in general. I think it’s awesome. In fact, I don’t hate Classical Mechanics entirely, either. I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy at least some of the advanced chapters. I’m not afraid of tedious problems, as long as they are challenging and profound. The problem with most of the chapters I’m doing right now, is that they aren’t that challenging at all, but still infinitely tedious.

All the concepts discussed up till now require only simple algebra. None of those awesome limits or differential equations that make life worth living. But judging from a sneak peak at the final two chapters, I think things might get better soon. Until then, I guess I’ll have to clench my teeth and make the best of things.

My Head Hurts…

People tend to have things in their lives that they hate and despise fanatically at times, and yet can’t live without. For me, it’s Mathematics. I am scared of it, yet delighted by it. Disgusted, yet enchanted by it. The phases change arbitrarily.

Sometimes I find myself considering bribing Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman to give a fatwa against the blasted thing. At other times I find myself eagerly searching for challenging trigonometric identities and polynomial equations on the internet. At any rate, I can never be indifferent to it.

Alas! I am a fool. Maths might seem good enough, it might be beautiful, well-mannered, graceful; but from the inside, it is cruel, calculating and treacherous. The thing that bothers me most is its prejudice.

It treats a choice few of its subjects very generously. It rewards them with an increased understanding of the world. It helps them create mind-blowingly spectacular inventions and robust economies. It gives them the sensation of power and enlightenment. But for most people, it is a brutal dictatress, tormenting and impoverishing them.

It’s behavior and decisions are highly unpredictable, yet their finality is always inarguable. One can never call it reckless, imprudent or illogical. It defines logic. People who disagree with it are considered fools.

For me, it’s been a mixed meal. I’ve been rewarded sometimes. But most of the time, I’ve been betrayed and burdened with ghastly, unsolvable problems  that take hours and sometimes even days to understand.

Whenever I manage to master a concept and think I’m advancing, I always hear it cackle and whisper,

You foolish mortal! You think you’ve understood me? You don’t know a thing! I have another, even ghastlier trap in store for you…

Note: The writer has been studying mathematics for the past two weeks to symptoms of paranoia and schezophrenia may be apparent in the post.

A Tale of One City…. Divided in Two.

My town, Buraimi, is a strange one.  It’s a kind of no man’s land between Oman and the UAE.  The Omani Border check post is located 6 km from here, and the UAE Border check post surrounds the town’s other three sides.  On the other side of the border, is the huge city of Al-Ain, in the UAE. The town of Buraimi, was actually just a small suburban colony of Al-Ain. After the border between Oman and the UAE was defined, Buraimi was excluded from Al-Ain and a border was built between the two. You can even see the cars in Al-Ain passing right beside you at parts where the border is between two adjacent roads.

Omanis living in Buraimi regularly go to Al-Ain. Both countries being part of the GCC, do not need a visa. Expatriates, like me, need to buy a 50 Rial. 6 month pass to visit Al-Ain.

I think it’s very extra-ordinary, to be living in a city divided into two. I can use both currencies here, the Omani Rial and the UAE Dirham. I can get the full advantages of the huge bustling city of Al-Ain, while enjoying the quiet , peaceful townlife of Buraimi at the same time. 😎 .

Cool Software Mascots

Just a listing  the Software-Related mascots I think are cool.

Wilber, The GIMP Mascot

Wilber looks pretty fitting. It gives a nice touch to GIMP. Not only does it represent the GNU Image Manipulation Program(GIMP), it also represents the Open-source world.

Herley, The Darwin Mascot

Looks pretty cool, though a weird mixture of the devil and the loony tunes.

The BSD Daemon

Another good-looking devil.

The GNU Wildebeest

Looks good. I think it has a sense of humour. I like it a lot, especially as it represents GNU, which is one of the greatest strengths of the open-source world.

Duke, the Java Mascot

One of my favourites. It looks cool and wacky. It also gets regularly updated by the folks at Oracle.

What exactly is a Hacker?


After getting repeated e-mails from people asking me to code software-cracks and viruses, and Facebook messages e.g

Hi! I am “insert name of idiot”, do you really know HACKING!?? Can you teach me how to hack someone’s Facebook or email account?

Damn you! It’s hackers like you who are ruining the world and making the internet a dangerous place!!

Hey! You’re a hacker? Wow, I sure hope you don’t hack my PC.

Therefore, I think it is necessary to clarify what exactly is a hacker. So that idiots don’t send these messages to me. OK, here are some quotes…

The term hacking has a bad reputation in the press. They use it to refer to people who break into systems or wreak havoc with computers as their weapon. Among people who write code, though, the term hack refers to a quick-and-dirty solution to a problem, or a clever way to get something done. And the term hacker is taken very much as a compliment, referring to someone as being creative, having the technical chops to get things done.
~Swing Hacks – Chris Adamson and Joshua Marinacci

“A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and stretching their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.”
~Jargon File

Therefore as you can see, the term hacker is used for a skilled and creative Software Developer, who knows all the tricks of the trade and can do extra-ordinary things with programmable systems. In fact, hackers are great people. The Kernel and boot-loader of your Operating-System was written by hackers. Many awesome games were made by hackers. Many programming languages were created by hackers, and the list goes on. Read the book, Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution to know about all the good stuff hackers did. And for God’s sake, stop asking for Software-Cracks!