Search Results: "bunk"

31 March 2022

Russell Coker: Links March 2022

Anarcat wrote a great blog post about switching from OpenNTP to Chrony which gives a good overview of how NTP works and how accurate the different versions are [1]. Bleeping Computer has an amusing article about criminals who copied a lot of data from NVidia servers including specs of their latest products [2], they are threatening to release all the data if NVidia doesn t stop crippling their GPUs to make them unsuitable for crypto currency mining. I don t support these criminals, but I think NVidia should allow people who buy hardware to use their property as they choose. If cryptocurrency miners buy all the NVidia products then NVidia still makes the sales, they could even auction them to make more money. NPR has a disturbing article about the way execution by lethal injection works in the US [3]. It seems that most people die in an extremely unpleasant way. It makes the North Korean execution by anti-aircraft gun seem civilised. The DirtyPipe vulnerability is the latest serious security issue in the Linux kernel [4]. The report of how it was discovered is very interesting and should be read by all sysadmins. SE Linux will not save you from this as the vulnerability allows writing to read-only files like /etc/passwd. Politico has an insightful analysis of Putin, it s not good news he wants to conquer all territory that had ever been part of a Russian empire at any time in history [5]. The Guardian has an informative article about the EU s attempts to debunk Russian propaganda about Covid19 [6]. Fortunately the sanctions are reducing Russia s ability to do such things now. The Guardian has in interesting article about a project to use literary analysis to predict wars [7]. Funded by the German military but funding was cut after it was proven to work. The Fact Act is a proposal by David Brin for political changes in the US to involve scientists and statisticians in an official advisory role in the legislative process [8], it s an idea with a lot of potential. Technology Review has an interesting interview with the leader of the NSA s Research Directorate [9]. In 2008 the EFF posted a long and informative article about the RIAA s war against music fans [10]. I had followed a lot of the news about this when it was happening, but I still learnt some things from this article that I hadn t known at the time. Also considering past legal battles in the context of the current situation is useful. As an aside all the music I want to listen to is now on YouTube and youtube-dl works really well for me. The 1952 edition of Psychiatry: Journal of Interpersonal Relations has an interesting article On Cooling the Mark Out [11] which starts about how criminal gangs engaged in fraud try to make their victims come to terms with the loss in a way that doesn t involve the police. But it goes on to cover ways of dealing with loss of status in general. The layout is hacky with words broken by hyphens in the middle of lines as it appears to have been scanned from paper, converted to MS-Word, and from there to PDF. But it s worth it. The Internet Heist by Cory Doctorow is an insightful series of 3 articles about the MPAA (MAFIAA) attempts to take over all TV distribution in the US [12]. Wired has an interesting exerpt from the book Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence , by Amy B. Zegart [13]. Interesting summary of the open source intelligence systems (which have nothing to do with open source as free software). But it would be interesting to have an open source intelligence organisation along similar lines to open source software. The guy who tracks billionaire s private jets is an example of this.

30 December 2021

Chris Lamb: Favourite books of 2021: Non-fiction

As a follow-up to yesterday's post listing my favourite memoirs and biographies I read in 2021, today I'll be outlining my favourite works of non-fiction. Books that just missed the cut include: The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell for its thrilleresque narrative of a modern-day Robin Hood (and if you get to the end, a completely unexpected twist); Paul Fussell's Class: A Guide to the American Status System as an amusing chaser of sorts to Kate Fox's Watching the English; John Carey's Little History of Poetry for its exhilarating summation of almost four millennia of verse; David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years for numerous historical insights, not least its rejoinder to our dangerously misleading view of ancient barter systems; and, although I didn't treasure everything about it, I won't hesitate to gift Pen Vogler's Scoff to a number of friends over the next year. The weakest book of non-fiction I read this year was undoubtedly Roger Scruton's How to Be a Conservative: I much preferred The Decadent Society for Ross Douthat for my yearly ration of the 'intellectual right'. I also very much enjoyed reading a number of classic texts from academic sociology, but they are difficult to recommend or even summarise. These included One-Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse, Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism by Frederic Jameson and The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber. 'These are heavy books', remarks John Proctor in Arthur Miller's The Crucible... All round-up posts for 2021: Memoir/biography, Non-fiction (this post) & Fiction (coming soon).

Hidden Valley Road (2020) Robert Kolker A compelling and disturbing account of the Galvin family six of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia which details a journey through the study and misunderstanding of the condition. The story of the Galvin family offers a parallel history of the science of schizophrenia itself, from the era of institutionalisation, lobotomies and the 'schizo mother', to the contemporary search for genetic markers for the disease... all amidst fundamental disagreements about the nature of schizophrenia and, indeed, of all illnesses of the mind. Samples of the Galvins' DNA informed decades of research which, curiously, continues to this day, potentially offering paths to treatment, prediction and even eradication of the disease, although on this last point I fancy that I detect a kind of neo-Victorian hubris that we alone will be the ones to find a cure. Either way, a gentle yet ultimately tragic view of a curiously 'American' family, where the inherent lack of narrative satisfaction brings a frustration and sadness of its own.

Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape (2021) Cat Flyn In this disarmingly lyrical book, Cat Flyn addresses the twin questions of what happens after humans are gone and how far can our damage to nature be undone. From the forbidden areas of post-war France to the mining regions of Scotland, Islands of Abandonment explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live in an attempt to give us a glimpse into what happens when mankind's impact on nature is, for one reason or another, forced to stop. Needless to say, if anxieties in this area are not curdling away in your subconscious mind, you are probably in some kind of denial. Through a journey into desolate, eerie and ravaged areas in the world, this artfully-written study offers profound insights into human nature, eschewing the usual dry sawdust of Wikipedia trivia. Indeed, I summed it up to a close friend remarking that, through some kind of hilarious administrative error, the book's publisher accidentally dispatched a poet instead of a scientist to write this book. With glimmers of hope within the (mostly) tragic travelogue, Islands of Abandonment is not only a compelling read, but also a fascinating insight into the relationship between Nature and Man.

The Anatomy of Fascism (2004) Robert O. Paxton Everyone is absolutely sure they know what fascism is... or at least they feel confident choosing from a buffet of features to suit the political mood. To be sure, this is not a new phenomenon: even as 'early' as 1946, George Orwell complained in Politics and the English Language that the word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies something not desirable . Still, it has proved uncommonly hard to define the core nature of fascism and what differentiates it from related political movements. This is still of great significance in the twenty-first century, for the definition ultimately determines where the powerful label of 'fascist' can be applied today. Part of the enjoyment of reading this book was having my own cosy definition thoroughly dismantled and replaced with a robust system of abstractions and common themes. This is achieved through a study of the intellectual origins of fascism and how it played out in the streets of Berlin, Rome and Paris. Moreover, unlike Strongmen (see above), fascisms that failed to gain meaningful power are analysed too, including Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. Curiously enough, Paxton's own definition of fascism is left to the final chapter, and by the time you reach it, you get an anti-climatic feeling of it being redundant. Indeed, whatever it actually is, fascism is really not quite like any other 'isms' at all, so to try and classify it like one might be a mistake. In his introduction, Paxton warns that many of those infamous images associated with fascism (eg. Hitler in Triumph of the Will, Mussolini speaking from a balcony, etc.) have the ability to induce facile errors about the fascist leader and the apparent compliance of the crowd. (Contemporary accounts often record how sceptical the common man was of the leader's political message, even if they were transfixed by their oratorical bombast.) As it happens, I thus believe I had something of an advantage of reading this via an audiobook, and completely avoided re-absorbing these iconic images. To me, this was an implicit reminder that, however you choose to reduce it to a definition, fascism is undoubtedly the most visual of all political forms, presenting itself to us in vivid and iconic primary images: ranks of disciplined marching youths, coloured-shirted militants beating up members of demonised minorities; the post-war pictures from the concentration camps... Still, regardless of you choose to read it, The Anatomy of Fascism is a powerful book that can teach a great deal about fascism in particular and history in general.

What Good are the Arts? (2005) John Carey What Good are the Arts? takes a delightfully sceptical look at the nature of art, and cuts through the sanctimony and cant that inevitably surrounds them. It begins by revealing the flaws in lofty aesthetic theories and, along the way, debunks the claims that art makes us better people. They may certainly bring joy into your life, but by no means do the fine arts make you automatically virtuous. Carey also rejects the entire enterprise of separating things into things that are art and things that are not, making a thoroughly convincing case that there is no transcendental category containing so-called 'true' works of art. But what is perhaps equally important to what Carey is claiming is the way he does all this. As in, this is an extremely enjoyable book to read, with not only a fine sense of pace and language, but a devilish sense of humour as well. To be clear, What Good are the Arts? it is no crotchety monograph: Leo Tolstoy's *What Is Art? (1897) is hilarious to read in similar ways, but you can't avoid feeling its cantankerous tone holds Tolstoy's argument back. By contrast, Carey makes his argument in a playful sort of manner, in a way that made me slightly sad to read other polemics throughout the year. It's definitely not that modern genre of boomer jeremiad about the young, political correctness or, heaven forbid, 'cancel culture'... which, incidentally, made Carey's 2014 memoir, The Unexpected Professor something of a disappointing follow-up. Just for fun, Carey later undermines his own argument by arguing at length for the value of one art in particular. Literature, Carey asserts, is the only art capable of reasoning and the only art with the ability to criticise. Perhaps so, and Carey spends a chapter or so contending that fiction has the exclusive power to inspire the mind and move the heart towards practical ends... or at least far better than any work of conceptual art. Whilst reading this book I found myself taking down innumerable quotations and laughing at the jokes far more than I disagreed. And the sustained and intellectual style of polemic makes this a pretty strong candidate for my favourite overall book of the year.

16 December 2021

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, November 2021

A Debian LTS logo
Every month we review the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering. Please find the report for November below. Debian project funding We continue to looking forward to hearing about Debian project proposals from various Debian stakeholders. This month has seen work on a survey that will go out to Debian Developers to gather feedback on what they think should be the priorities for funding in the project. Learn more about the rationale behind this initiative in this article. Debian LTS contributors In November 13 contributors were paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available below. If you re interested in participating in the LTS or ELTS teams, we welcome participation from the Debian community. Simply get in touch with Jeremiah if you are interested in participating. Evolution of the situation In November we released 31 DLAs. The security tracker currently lists 23 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 16 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

17 November 2021

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, October 2021

A Debian LTS logo
Every month we review the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering. Please find the report for October below. Debian project funding We re looking forward to receiving more projects from various Debian teams! Learn more about the rationale behind this initiative in this article. Debian LTS contributors In October 12 contributors were paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available below. Evolution of the situation In October we released 34 DLAs.

Also, we would like to remark once again that we are constantly looking for new contributors. Please contact Jeremiah if you are interested! The security tracker currently lists 37 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 22 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

19 October 2021

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, September 2021

A Debian LTS logo
Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering. Debian project funding Folks from the LTS team, along with members of the Debian Android Tools team and Phil Morrel, have proposed work on the Java build tool, gradle, which is currently blocked due to the need to build with a plugin not available in Debian. The LTS team reviewed the project submission and it has been approved. After approval we ve created a Request for Bids which is active now. You ll hear more about this through official Debian channels, but in the meantime, if you feel you can help with this project, please submit a bid. Thanks! This September, Freexian set aside 2550 EUR to fund Debian projects. We re looking forward to receive more projects from various Debian teams! Learn more about the rationale behind this initiative in this article. Debian LTS contributors In September, 15 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In September we released 30 DLAs. September was also the second month of Jeremiah coordinating LTS contributors. Also, we would like say that we are always looking for new contributors to LTS. Please contact Jeremiah if you are interested! The security tracker currently lists 33 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 26 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

4 October 2021

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, August 2021

A Debian LTS logo
Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering. Debian project funding In August, we put aside 2460 EUR to fund Debian projects. We received a new project proposal that got approved and there s an associated bid request if you feel like proposing yourself to implement this project. We re looking forward to receive more projects from various Debian teams! Learn more about the rationale behind this initiative in this article. Debian LTS contributors In August, 14 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In August we released 30 DLAs.

This is the first month of Jeremiah coordinating LTS contributors. We would like to thank Holger Levsen for his work on this role up to now.

Also, we would like to remark once again that we are constantly looking for new contributors. Please contact Jeremiah if you are interested! The security tracker currently lists 73 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 29 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

16 July 2021

Russell Coker: Thoughts about RAM and Storage Changes

My first Linux system in 1992 was a 386 with 4MB of RAM and a 120MB hard drive which (for some reason I forgot) only was supported by Linux for about 90MB. My first hard drive was 70MB and could do 500KB/s for contiguous IO, my first Linux hard drive was probably a bit faster, maybe 1MB/s. My current Linux workstation has 64G of RAM and 2*1TB NVMe devices that can sustain about 1.1GB/s. The laptop I m using right now has 8GB of RAM and a 180GB SSD that can do 380MB/s. My laptop has 2000* the RAM of my first Linux system and maybe 400* the contiguous IO speed. Currently I don t even run a VM with less than 4GB of RAM, NB I m not saying that smaller VMs aren t useful merely that I don t happen to be using them now. Modern AMD64 CPUs support 2MB huge pages . As a proportion of system RAM if I used 2MB pages everywhere they would be a smaller portion of system RAM than the 4KB pages on my first Linux system! I am not suggesting using 2MB pages for general systems. For my workstations the majority of processes are using less than 10MB of resident memory and given the different uses for memory mapped shared objects, memory mapped file IO, malloc(), stack, heap, etc there would be a lot of inefficiency having 2MB the limit for all allocation. But as systems worked with 4MB of RAM or less and 4K pages it would surely work to have only 2MB pages with 64GB or more of RAM. Back in the 90s it seemed ridiculous to me to have 256 byte pages on a 68030 CPU, but 4K pages on a modern AMD64 system is even more ridiculous. Apparently AMD64 supports 1GB pages on some CPUs, that seems ridiculously large but when run on a system with 1TB of RAM that s comparable to 4K pages on my first Linux system. Currently AWS offers 24TB EC2 instances and the Google Cloud Project offers 12TB virtual machines. It might even make sense to have the entire OS using 1GB pages for some usage scenarios on such systems, wasting tens of GB of RAM to save TLB thrashing might be a good trade-off. My personal laptop has 200* the RAM of my first Linux system and maybe 400* the contiguous IO speed. An employer recently assigned me a Thinkpad Carbon X1 Gen6 with an NVMe device that could sustain 5GB/s until the CPU overheated, that s 5000* the contiguous IO speed of my first Linux hard drive. My Linux hard drive had a 28ms average access time and my first Linux hard drive probably was a little better, let s call it 20ms for the sake of discussion. It s generally quoted that access times for NVMe are at best 10us, that s 2000* better than my first Linux hard drive. As seek times are the main factor for swap performance a laptop with 8GB of RAM and a fast NVMe device could be expected to give adequate performance with 2000* the swap of my first Linux system. For the work laptop in question I had 8G of swap and my personal laptop has 6G of swap which is somewhat comparable to the 4MB of swap on my first Linux system in that swap is about equal to RAM size, so I guess my personal laptop is performing better than it can be expected to. These are just some idle thoughts about hardware changes over the years. Don t take it as advice for purchasing hardware and don t take it too seriously in general. Also when writing comments don t restrict yourself to being overly serious, feel free to run the numbers on what systems with petabytes of Optane might be like, speculate on what NUMA systems in laptops might be like, etc. Go wild.

13 May 2021

Shirish Agarwal: Population, Immigration, Vaccines and Mass-Surveilance.

The Population Issue and its many facets Another couple of weeks passed. A Lot of things happening, lots of anger and depression in folks due to handling in pandemic, but instead of blaming they are willing to blame everybody else including the population. Many of them want forced sterilization like what Sanjay Gandhi did during the Emergency (1975). I had to share So Long, My son . A very moving tale of two families of what happened to them during the one-child policy in China. I was so moved by it and couldn t believe that the Chinese censors allowed it to be produced, shot, edited, and then shared worldwide. It also won a couple of awards at the 69th Berlin Film Festival, silver bear for the best actor and the actress in that category. But more than the award, the theme, and the concept as well as the length of the movie which was astonishing. Over a 3 hr. something it paints a moving picture of love, loss, shame, relief, anger, and asking for forgiveness. All of which can be identified by any rational person with feelings worldwide.

Girl child What was also interesting though was what it couldn t or wasn t able to talk about and that is the Chinese leftover men. In fact, a similar situation exists here in India, only it has been suppressed. This has been more pronounced more in Asia than in other places. One big thing in this is human trafficking and mostly women trafficking. For the Chinese male, that was happening on a large scale from all neighboring countries including India. This has been shared in media and everybody knows about it and yet people are silent. But this is not limited to just the Chinese, even Indians have been doing it. Even yesteryear actress Rupa Ganguly was caught red-handed but then later let off after formal questioning as she is from the ruling party. So much for justice. What is and has been surprising at least for me is Rwanda which is in the top 10 of some of the best places in equal gender. It, along with other African countries have also been in news for putting quite a significant amount of percentage of GDP into public healthcare (between 20-10%), but that is a story for a bit later. People forget or want to forget that it was in Satara, a city in my own state where 220 girls changed their name from nakusha or unwanted to something else and that had become a piece of global news. One would think that after so many years, things would have changed, the only change that has happened is that now we have two ministries, The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) and The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoHFW). Sadly, in both cases, the ministries have been found wanting, Whether it was the high-profile Hathras case or even the routine cries of help which given by women on the twitter helpline. Sadly, neither of these ministries talks about POSH guidelines which came up after the 2012 gangrape case. For both these ministries, it should have been a pinned tweet. There is also the 1994 PCPNDT Act which although made in 1994, actually functioned in 2006, although what happens underground even today nobody knows  . On the global stage, about a decade ago, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt argued in their book Freakonomics how legalized abortion both made the coming population explosion as well as expected crime rates to be reduced. There was a huge pushback on the same from the conservatives and has become a matter of debate, perhaps something that the Conservatives wanted. Interestingly, it hasn t made them go back but go forward as can be seen from the Freakonomics site.

Climate Change Another topic that came up for discussion was repeatedly climate change, but when I share Shell s own 1998 Confidential report titled Greenhouse effect all become strangely silent. The silence here is of two parts, there probably is a large swathe of Indians who haven t read the report and there may be a minority who have read it and know what already has been shared with U.S. Congress. The Conservative s argument has been for it is jobs and a weak we need to research more . There was a partial debunk of it on the TBD podcast by Matt Farell and his brother Sean Farell as to how quickly the energy companies are taking to the coming change.

Health Budget Before going to Covid stories. I first wanted to talk about Health Budgets. From the last 7 years the Center s allocation for health has been between 0.34 to 0.8% per year. That amount barely covers the salaries to the staff, let alone any money for equipment or anything else. And here by allocation I mean, what is actually spent, not the one that is shared by GOI as part of budget proposal. In fact, an article on Wire gives a good breakdown of the numbers. Even those who are on the path of free markets describe India s health business model as a flawed one. See the Bloomberg Quint story on that. Now let me come to Rwanda. Why did I chose Rwanda, I could have chosen South Africa where I went for Debconf 2016, I chose because Rwanda s story is that much more inspiring. In many ways much more inspiring than that South Africa in many ways. Here is a country which for decades had one war or the other, culminating into the Rwanda Civil War which ended in 1994. And coincidentally, they gained independence on a similar timeline as South Africa ending Apartheid in 1994. What does the country do, when it gains its independence, it first puts most of its resources in the healthcare sector. The first few years at 20% of GDP, later than at 10% of GDP till everybody has universal medical coverage. Coming back to the Bloomberg article I shared, the story does not go into the depth of beyond-expiry date medicines, spurious medicines and whatnot. Sadly, most media in India does not cover the deaths happening in rural areas and this I am talking about normal times. Today what is happening in rural areas is just pure madness. For last couple of days have been talking with people who are and have been covering rural areas. In many of those communities, there is vaccine hesitancy and why, because there have been whatsapp forwards sharing that if you go to a hospital you will die and your kidney or some other part of the body will be taken by the doctor. This does two things, it scares people into not going and getting vaccinated, at the same time they are prejudiced against science. This is politics of the lowest kind. And they do it so that they will be forced to go to temples or babas and what not and ask for solutions. And whether they work or not is immaterial, they get fixed and property and money is seized. Sadly, there are not many Indian movies of North which have tried to show it except for oh my god but even here it doesn t go the distance. A much more honest approach was done in Trance . I have never understood how the South Indian movies are able to do a more honest job of story-telling than what is done in Bollywood even though they do in 1/10th the budget that is needed in Bollywood. Although, have to say with OTT, some baggage has been shed but with the whole film certification rearing its ugly head through MEITY orders, it seems two steps backward instead of forward. The idea being simply to infantilize the citizens even more. That is a whole different ball-game which probably will require its own space.

Vaccine issues One good news though is that Vaccination has started. But it has been a long story full of greed by none other than GOI (Government of India) or the ruling party BJP. Where should I start with. I probably should start with this excellent article done by Priyanka Pulla. It is interesting and fascinating to know how vaccines are made, at least one way which she shared. She also shared about the Cutter Incident which happened in the late 50 s. The response was on expected lines, character assassination of her and the newspaper they published but could not critique any of the points made by her. Not a single point that she didn t think about x or y. Interestingly enough, in January 2021 Bharati Biotech was supposed to be share phase 3 trial data but hasn t been put up in public domain till May 2021. In fact, there have been a few threads raised by both well-meaning Indians as well as others globally especially on twitter to which GOI/ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) is silent. Another interesting point to note is that Russia did say in its press release that it is possible that their vaccine may not be standard (read inactivation on their vaccines and another way is possible but would take time, again Brazil has objected, but India hasn t till date.) What also has been interesting is the homegrown B.1.617 lineage or known as double mutant . This was first discovered from my own state, Maharashtra and then transported around the world. There is also B.1.618 which was found in West Bengal and is same or supposed to be similar to the one found in South Africa. This one is known as Triple mutant . About B.1.618 we don t know much other than knowing that it is much more easily transferable, much more infectious. Most countries have banned flights from India and I cannot fault them anyway. Hell, when even our diplomats do not care for procedures to be followed during the pandemic then how a common man is supposed to do. Of course, now for next month, Mr. Modi was supposed to go and now will not attend the G7 meeting. Whether, it is because he would have to face the press (the only Prime Minister and the only Indian Prime Minister who never has faced free press.) or because the Indian delegation has been disinvited, we would never know.

A good article which shares lots of lows with how things have been done in India has been an article by Arundhati Roy. And while the article in itself is excellent and shares a bit of the bitter truth but is still incomplete as so much has been happening. The problem is that the issue manifests in so many ways, it is difficult to hold on. As Arundhati shared, should we just look at figures and numbers and hold on, or should we look at individual ones, for e.g. the one shared in Outlook India. Or the one shared by Dr. Dipshika Ghosh who works in Covid ICU in some hospital
Dr. Dipika Ghosh sharing an incident in Covid Ward

Interestingly as well, while in the vaccine issue, Brazil Anvisa doesn t know what they are doing or the regulator just isn t knowledgeable etc. (statements by various people in GOI, when it comes to testing kits, the same is an approver.)

ICMR/DGCI approving internationally validated kits, Press release.

Twitter In the midst of all this, one thing that many people have forgotten and seem to have forgotten that Twitter and other tools are used by only the elite. The reason why the whole thing has become serious now than in the first phase is because the elite of India have also fallen sick and dying which was not the case so much in the first phase. The population on Twitter is estimated to be around 30-34 million and people who are everyday around 20 odd million or so, which is what 2% of the Indian population which is estimated to be around 1.34 billion. The other 98% don t even know that there is something like twitter on which you can ask help. Twitter itself is exclusionary in many ways, with both the emoticons, the language and all sorts of things. There is a small subset who does use Twitter in regional languages, but they are too small to write anything about. The main language is English which does become a hindrance to lot of people.

Censorship Censorship of Indians critical of Govt. mishandling has been non-stop. Even U.S. which usually doesn t interfere into India s internal politics was forced to make an exception. But of course, this has been on deaf ears. There is and was a good thread on Twitter by Gaurav Sabnis, a friend, fellow Puneite now settled in U.S. as a professor.
Gaurav on Trump-Biden on vaccination of their own citizens
Now just to surmise what has been happened in India and what has been happening in most of the countries around the world. Most of the countries have done centralization purchasing of the vaccine and then is distributed by the States, this is what we understand as co-operative federalism. While last year, GOI took a lot of money under the shady PM Cares fund for vaccine purchase, donations from well-meaning Indians as well as Industries and trade bodies. Then later, GOI said it would leave the states hanging and it is they who would have to buy vaccines from the manufacturers. This is again cheap politics. The idea behind it is simple, GOI knows that almost all the states are strapped for cash. This is not new news, this I have shared a couple of months back. The problem has been that for the last 6-8 months no GST meeting has taken place as shared by Punjab s Finance Minister Amarinder Singh. What will happen is that all the states will fight in-between themselves for the vaccine and most of them are now non-BJP Governments. The idea is let the states fight and somehow be on top. So, the pandemic, instead of being a public health issue has become something of on which politics has to played. The news on whatsapp by RW media is it s ok even if a million or two also die, as it is India is heavily populated. Although that argument vanishes for those who lose their dear and near ones. But that just isn t the issue, the issue goes much more deeper than that Oxygen:12%
Remedisivir:12%
Sanitiser:12%
Ventilator:12%
PPE:18%
Ambulances 28% Now all the products above are essential medical equipment and should be declared as essential medical equipment and should have price controls on which GST is levied. In times of pandemic, should the center be profiting on those. States want to let go and even want the center to let go so that some relief is there to the public, while at the same time make them as essential medical equipment with price controls. But GOI doesn t want to. Leaders of opposition parties wrote open letters but no effect. What is sad to me is how Ambulances are being taxed at 28%. Are they luxury items or sin goods ? This also reminds of the recent discovery shared by Mr. Pappu Yadav in Bihar. You can see the color of ambulances as shared by Mr. Yadav, and the same news being shared by India TV news showing other ambulances. Also, the weak argument being made of not having enough drivers. Ideally, you should have 2-3 people, both 9-1-1 and Chicago Fire show 2 people in ambulance but a few times they have also shown to be flipped over. European seems to have three people in ambulance, also they are also much more disciplined as drivers, at least an opinion shared by an American expat.
Pappu Yadav, President Jan Adhikar Party, Bihar May 11, 2021
What is also interesting to note is GOI plays this game of Health is State subject and health is Central subject depending on its convenience. Last year, when it invoked the Epidemic and DMA Act it was a Central subject, now when bodies are flowing down the Ganges and pyres being lit everywhere, it becomes a State subject. But when and where money is involved, it again becomes a Central subject. The States are also understanding it, but they are fighting on too many fronts.
Snippets from Karnataka High Court hearing today, 13th March 2021
One of the good things is most of the High Courts have woken up. Many of the people on the RW think that the Courts are doing Judicial activism . And while there may be an iota of truth in it, the bitter truth is that many judges or relatives or their helpers have diagnosed and some have even died due to Covid. In face of the inevitable, what can they do. They are hauling up local Governments to make sure they are accountable while at the same time making sure that they get access to medical facilities. And I as a citizen don t see any wrong in that even if they are doing it for selfish reasons. Because, even if justice is being done for selfish reasons, if it does improve medical delivery systems for the masses, it is cool. If it means that the poor and everybody else are able to get vaccinations, oxygen and whatever they need, it is cool. Of course, we are still seeing reports of patients spending in the region of INR 50k and more for each day spent in hospital. But as there are no price controls, judges cannot do anything unless they want to make an enemy of the medical lobby in the country. A good story on medicines and what happens in rural areas, see no further than Laakhon mein ek.
Allahabad High Court hauling Uttar Pradesh Govt. for lack of Oxygen is equal to genocide, May 11, 2021
The censorship is not just related to takedown requests on twitter but nowadays also any articles which are critical of the GOI s handling. I have been seeing many articles which have shared facts and have been critical of GOI being taken down. Previously, we used to see 404 errors happen 7-10 years down the line and that was reasonable. Now we see that happen, days weeks or months. India seems to be turning more into China and North Korea and become more anti-science day-by-day

Fake websites Before going into fake websites, let me start with a fake newspaper which was started by none other than the Gujarat CM Mr. Modi in 2005 .
Gujarat Satya Samachar 2005 launched by Mr. Modi.
And if this wasn t enough than on Feb 8, 2005, he had invoked Official Secrets Act
Mr. Modi invoking Official Secrets Act, Feb 8 2005 Gujarat Samachar
The headlines were In Modi s regime press freedom is in peril-Down with Modi s dictatorship. So this was a tried and tested technique. The above information was shared by Mr. Urvish Kothari, who incidentally also has his own youtube channel. Now cut to 2021, and we have a slew of fake websites being done by the same party. In fact, it seems they started this right from 2011. A good article on BBC itself tells the story. Hell, Disinfo.eu which basically combats disinformation in EU has a whole pdf chronicling how BJP has been doing it. Some of the sites it shared are

Times of New York
Manchester Times
Times of Los Angeles
Manhattan Post
Washington Herald
and many more. The idea being take any site name which sounds similar to a brand name recognized by Indians and make fool of them. Of course, those of who use whois and other such tools can easily know what is happening. Two more were added to the list yesterday, Daily Guardian and Australia Today. There are of course, many features which tell them apart from genuine websites. Most of these are on shared hosting rather than dedicated hosting, most of these are bought either from Godaddy and Bluehost. While Bluehost used to be a class act once upon a time, both the above will do anything as long as they get money. Don t care whether it s a fake website or true. Capitalism at its finest or worst depending upon how you look at it. But most of these details are lost on people who do not know web servers, at all and instead think see it is from an exotic site, a foreign site and it chooses to have same ideas as me. Those who are corrupt or see politics as a tool to win at any cost will not see it as evil. And as a gentleman Raghav shared with me, it is so easy to fool us. An example he shared which I had forgotten. Peter England which used to be an Irish brand was bought by Aditya Birla group way back in 2000. But even today, when you go for Peter England, the way the packaging is done, the way the prices are, more often than not, people believe they are buying the Irish brand. While sharing this, there is so much of Naom Chomsky which comes to my mind again and again

Caste Issues I had written about caste issues a few times on this blog. This again came to the fore as news came that a Hindu sect used forced labor from Dalit community to make a temple. This was also shared by the hill. In both, Mr. Joshi doesn t tell that if they were volunteers then why their passports have been taken forcibly, also I looked at both minimum wage prevailing in New Jersey as a state as well as wage given to those who are in the construction Industry. Even in minimum wage, they were giving $1 when the prevailing minimum wage for unskilled work is $12.00 and as Mr. Joshi shared that they are specialized artisans, then they should be paid between $23 $30 per hour. If this isn t exploitation, then I don t know what is. And this is not the first instance, the first instance was perhaps the case against Cisco which was done by John Doe. While I had been busy with other things, it seems Cisco had put up both a demurrer petition and a petition to strike which the Court stayed. This seemed to all over again a type of apartheid practice, only this time applied to caste. The good thing is that the court stayed the petition. Dr. Ambedkar s statement if Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem given at Columbia University in 1916, seems to be proven right in today s time and sadly has aged well. But this is not just something which is there only in U.S. this is there in India even today, just couple of days back, a popular actress Munmun Dutta used a casteist slur and then later apologized giving the excuse that she didn t know Hindi. And this is patently false as she has been in the Bollywood industry for almost now 16-17 years. This again, was not an isolated incident. Seema Singh, a lecturer in IIT-Kharagpur abused students from SC, ST backgrounds and was later suspended. There is an SC/ST Atrocities Act but that has been diluted by this Govt. A bit on the background of Dr. Ambedkar can be found at a blog on Columbia website. As I have shared and asked before, how do we think, for what reason the Age of Englightenment or the Age of Reason happened. If I were a fat monk or a priest who was privileges, would I have let Age of Enlightenment happen. It broke religion or rather Church which was most powerful to not so powerful and that power was more distributed among all sort of thinkers, philosophers, tinkers, inventors and so on and so forth.

Situation going forward I believe things are going to be far more complex and deadly before they get better. I had to share another term called Comorbidities which fortunately or unfortunately has also become part of twitter lexicon. While I have shared what it means, it simply means when you have an existing ailment or condition and then Coronavirus attacks you. The Virus will weaken you. The Vaccine in the best case just stops the damage, but the damage already done can t be reversed. There are people who advise and people who are taking steroids but that again has its own side-effects. And this is now, when we are in summer. I am afraid for those who have recovered, what will happen to them during the Monsoons. We know that the Virus attacks most the lungs and their quality of life will be affected. Even the immune system may have issues. We also know about the inflammation. And the grant that has been given to University of Dundee also has signs of worry, both for people like me (obese) as well as those who have heart issues already. In other news, my city which has been under partial lockdown since a month, has been extended for another couple of weeks. There are rumors that the same may continue till the year-end even if it means economics goes out of the window.There is possibility that in the next few months something like 2 million odd Indians could die
The above is a conversation between Karan Thapar and an Oxford Mathematician Dr. Murad Banaji who has shared that the under-counting of cases in India is huge. Even BBC shared an article on the scope of under-counting. Of course, those on the RW call of the evidence including the deaths and obituaries in newspapers as a narrative . And when asked that when deaths used to be in the 20 s or 30 s which has jumped to 200-300 deaths and this is just the middle class and above. The poor don t have the money to get wood and that is the reason you are seeing the bodies in Ganges whether in Buxar Bihar or Gajipur, Uttar Pradesh. The sights and visuals makes for sorry reading
Pandit Ranjan Mishra son on his father s death due to unavailability of oxygen, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 11th May 2021.
For those who don t know Pandit Ranjan Mishra was a renowned classical singer. More importantly, he was the first person to suggest Mr. Modi s name as a Prime Ministerial Candidate. If they couldn t fulfil his oxygen needs, then what can be expected for the normal public.

Conclusion Sadly, this time I have no humorous piece to share, I can however share a documentary which was shared on Feluda . I have shared about Feluda or Prodosh Chandra Mitter a few times on this blog. He has been the answer of James Bond from India. I have shared previously about The Golden Fortress . An amazing piece of art by Satyajit Ray. I watched that documentary two-three times. I thought, mistakenly that I am the only fool or fan of Feluda in Pune to find out that there are people who are even more than me. There were so many facets both about Feluda and master craftsman Satyajit Ray that I was unaware about. I was just simply amazed. I even shared few of the tidbits with mum as well, although now she has been truly hooked to Korean dramas. The only solace from all the surrounding madness. So, if you have nothing to do, you can look up his books, read them and then see the movies. And my first recommendation would be the Golden Fortress. The only thing I would say, do not have high hopes. The movie is beautiful. It starts slow and then picks up speed, just like a train. So, till later. Update The Mass surveillance part I could not do justice do hence removed it at the last moment. It actually needs its whole space, article. There is so much that the Govt. is doing under the guise of the pandemic that it is difficult to share it all in one article. As it is, the article is big

11 April 2021

Vishal Gupta: Sikkim 101 for Backpackers

Host to Kanchenjunga, the world s third-highest mountain peak and the endangered Red Panda, Sikkim is a state in northeastern India. Nestled between Nepal, Tibet (China), Bhutan and West Bengal (India), the state offers a smorgasbord of cultures and cuisines. That said, it s hardly surprising that the old spice route meanders through western Sikkim, connecting Lhasa with the ports of Bengal. Although the latter could also be attributed to cardamom (kali elaichi), a perennial herb native to Sikkim, which the state is the second-largest producer of, globally. Lastly, having been to and lived in India, all my life, I can confidently say Sikkim is one of the cleanest & safest regions in India, making it ideal for first-time backpackers.

Brief History
  • 17th century: The Kingdom of Sikkim is founded by the Namgyal dynasty and ruled by Buddhist priest-kings known as the Chogyal.
  • 1890: Sikkim becomes a princely state of British India.
  • 1947: Sikkim continues its protectorate status with the Union of India, post-Indian-independence.
  • 1973: Anti-royalist riots take place in front of the Chogyal's palace, by Nepalis seeking greater representation.
  • 1975: Referendum leads to the deposition of the monarchy and Sikkim joins India as its 22nd state.
Languages
  • Official: English, Nepali, Sikkimese/Bhotia and Lepcha
  • Though Hindi and Nepali share the same script (Devanagari), they are not mutually intelligible. Yet, most people in Sikkim can understand and speak Hindi.
Ethnicity
  • Nepalis: Migrated in large numbers (from Nepal) and soon became the dominant community
  • Bhutias: People of Tibetan origin. Major inhabitants in Northern Sikkim.
  • Lepchas: Original inhabitants of Sikkim

Food
  • Tibetan/Nepali dishes (mostly consumed during winter)
    • Thukpa: Noodle soup, rich in spices and vegetables. Usually contains some form of meat. Common variations: Thenthuk and Gyathuk
    • Momos: Steamed or fried dumplings, usually with a meat filling.
    • Saadheko: Spicy marinated chicken salad.
    • Gundruk Soup: A soup made from Gundruk, a fermented leafy green vegetable.
    • Sinki : A fermented radish tap-root product, traditionally consumed as a base for soup and as a pickle. Eerily similar to Kimchi.
  • While pork and beef are pretty common, finding vegetarian dishes is equally easy.
  • Staple: Dal-Bhat with Subzi. Rice is a lot more common than wheat (rice) possibly due to greater carb content and proximity to West Bengal, India s largest producer of Rice.
  • Good places to eat in Gangtok
    • Hamro Bhansa Ghar, Nimtho (Nepali)
    • Taste of Tibet
    • Dragon Wok (Chinese & Japanese)

Buddhism in Sikkim
  • Bayul Demojong (Sikkim), is the most sacred Land in the Himalayas as per the belief of the Northern Buddhists and various religious texts.
  • Sikkim was blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, the great Buddhist saint who visited Sikkim in the 8th century and consecrated the land.
  • However, Buddhism is said to have reached Sikkim only in the 17th century with the arrival of three Tibetan monks viz. Rigdzin Goedki Demthruchen, Mon Kathok Sonam Gyaltshen & Rigdzin Legden Je at Yuksom. Together, they established a Buddhist monastery.
  • In 1642 they crowned Phuntsog Namgyal as the first monarch of Sikkim and gave him the title of Chogyal, or Dharma Raja.
  • The faith became popular through its royal patronage and soon many villages had their own monastery.
  • Today Sikkim has over 200 monasteries.

Major monasteries
  • Rumtek Monastery, 20Km from Gangtok
  • Lingdum/Ranka Monastery, 17Km from Gangtok
  • Phodong Monastery, 28Km from Gangtok
  • Ralang Monastery, 10Km from Ravangla
  • Tsuklakhang Monastery, Royal Palace, Gangtok
  • Enchey Monastery, Gangtok
  • Tashiding Monastery, 35Km from Ravangla


Reaching Sikkim
  • Gangtok, being the capital, is easiest to reach amongst other regions, by public transport and shared cabs.
  • By Air:
    • Pakyong (PYG) :
      • Nearest airport from Gangtok (about 1 hour away)
      • Tabletop airport
      • Reserved cabs cost around INR 1200.
      • As of Apr 2021, the only flights to PYG are from IGI (Delhi) and CCU (Kolkata).
    • Bagdogra (IXB) :
      • About 20 minutes from Siliguri and 4 hours from Gangtok.
      • Larger airport with flights to most major Indian cities.
      • Reserved cabs cost about INR 3000. Shared cabs cost about INR 350.
  • By Train:
    • New Jalpaiguri (NJP) :
      • About 20 minutes from Siliguri and 4 hours from Gangtok.
      • Reserved cabs cost about INR 3000. Shared cabs from INR 350.
  • By Road:
    • NH10 connects Siliguri to Gangtok
    • If you can t find buses plying to Gangtok directly, reach Siliguri and then take a cab to Gangtok.
  • Sikkim Nationalised Transport Div. also runs hourly buses between Siliguri and Gangtok and daily buses on other common routes. They re cheaper than shared cabs.
  • Wizzride also operates shared cabs between Siliguri/Bagdogra/NJP, Gangtok and Darjeeling. They cost about the same as shared cabs but pack in half as many people in luxury cars (Innova, Xylo, etc.) and are hence more comfortable.

Gangtok
  • Time needed: 1D/1N
  • Places to visit:
    • Hanuman Tok
    • Ganesh Tok
    • Tashi View Point [6,800ft]
    • MG Marg
    • Sikkim Zoo
    • Gangtok Ropeway
    • Enchey Monastery
    • Tsuklakhang Palace & Monastery
  • Hostels: Tagalong Backpackers (would strongly recommend), Zostel Gangtok
  • Places to chill: Travel Cafe, Caf Live & Loud and Gangtok Groove
  • Places to shop: Lal Market and MG Marg

Getting Around
  • Taxis operate on a reserved or shared basis. In case of the latter, you can pool with other commuters your taxis will pick up and drop en-route.
  • Naturally shared taxis only operate on popular routes. The easiest way to get around Gangtok is to catch a shared cab from MG Marg.
  • Reserved taxis for Gangtok sightseeing cost around INR 1000-1500, depending upon the spots you d like to see
  • Key taxi/bus stands :
    • Deorali stand: For Darjeeling, Siliguri, Kalimpong
    • Vajra stand: For North & East Sikkim (Tsomgo Lake & Nathula)
    • Rumtek taxi: For Ravangla, Pelling, Namchi, Geyzing, Jorethang and Singtam.
Exploring Gangtok on an MTB

North Sikkim
  • The easiest & most economical way to explore North Sikkim is the 3D/2N package offered by shared-cab drivers.
  • This includes food, permits, cab rides and accommodation (1N in Lachen and 1N in Lachung)
  • The accommodation on both nights are at homestays with bare necessities, so keep your hopes low.
  • In the spirit of sustainable tourism, you ll be asked to discard single-use plastic bottles, so please carry a bottle that you can refill along the way.
  • Zero Point and Gurdongmer Lake are snow-capped throughout the year
3D/2N Shared-cab Package Itinerary
  • Day 1
    • Gangtok (10am) - Chungthang - Lachung (stay)
  • Day 2
    • Pre-lunch : Lachung (6am) - Yumthang Valley [12,139ft] - Zero Point - Lachung [15,300ft]
    • Post-lunch : Lachung - Chungthang - Lachen (stay)
  • Day 3
    • Pre-lunch : Lachen (5am) - Kala Patthar - Gurdongmer Lake [16,910ft] - Lachen
    • Post-lunch : Lachen - Chungthang - Gangtok (7pm)
  • This itinerary is idealistic and depends on the level of snowfall.
  • Some drivers might switch up Day 2 and 3 itineraries by visiting Lachen and then Lachung, depending upon the weather.
  • Areas beyond Lachen & Lachung are heavily militarized since the Indo-China border is only a few miles away.

East Sikkim

Zuluk and Silk Route
  • Time needed: 2D/1N
  • Zuluk [9,400ft] is a small hamlet with an excellent view of the eastern Himalayan range including the Kanchenjunga.
  • Was once a transit point to the historic Silk Route from Tibet (Lhasa) to India (West Bengal).
  • The drive from Gangtok to Zuluk takes at least four hours. Hence, it makes sense to spend the night at a homestay and space out your trip to Zuluk

Tsomgo Lake and Nathula
  • Time Needed : 1D
  • A Protected Area Permit is required to visit these places, due to their proximity to the Chinese border
  • Tsomgo/Chhangu Lake [12,313ft]
    • Glacial lake, 40 km from Gangtok.
    • Remains frozen during the winter season.
    • You can also ride on the back of a Yak for INR 300
  • Baba Mandir
    • An old temple dedicated to Baba Harbhajan Singh, a Sepoy in the 23rd Regiment, who died in 1962 near the Nathu La during Indo China war.
  • Nathula Pass [14,450ft]
    • Located on the Indo-Tibetan border crossing of the Old Silk Route, it is one of the three open trading posts between India and China.
    • Plays a key role in the Sino-Indian Trade and also serves as an official Border Personnel Meeting(BPM) Point.
    • May get cordoned off by the Indian Army in event of heavy snowfall or for other security reasons.


West Sikkim
  • Time needed: 3N/1N
  • Hostels at Pelling : Mochilerro Ostillo

Itinerary

Day 1: Gangtok - Ravangla - Pelling
  • Leave Gangtok early, for Ravangla through the Temi Tea Estate route.
  • Spend some time at the tea garden and then visit Buddha Park at Ravangla
  • Head to Pelling from Ravangla

Day 2: Pelling sightseeing
  • Hire a cab and visit Skywalk, Pemayangtse Monastery, Rabdentse Ruins, Kecheopalri Lake, Kanchenjunga Falls.

Day 3: Pelling - Gangtok/Siliguri
  • Wake up early to catch a glimpse of Kanchenjunga at the Pelling Helipad around sunrise
  • Head back to Gangtok on a shared-cab
  • You could take a bus/taxi back to Siliguri if Pelling is your last stop.

Darjeeling
  • In my opinion, Darjeeling is lovely for a two-day detour on your way back to Bagdogra/Siliguri and not any longer (unless you re a Bengali couple on a honeymoon)
  • Once a part of Sikkim, Darjeeling was ceded to the East India Company after a series of wars, with Sikkim briefly receiving a grant from EIC for gifting Darjeeling to the latter
  • Post-independence, Darjeeling was merged with the state of West Bengal.

Itinerary

Day 1 :
  • Take a cab from Gangtok to Darjeeling (shared-cabs cost INR 300 per seat)
  • Reach Darjeeling by noon and check in to your Hostel. I stayed at Hideout.
  • Spend the evening visiting either a monastery (or the Batasia Loop), Nehru Road and Mall Road.
  • Grab dinner at Glenary whilst listening to live music.

Day 2:
  • Wake up early to catch the sunrise and a glimpse of Kanchenjunga at Tiger Hill. Since Tiger Hill is 10km from Darjeeling and requires a permit, book your taxi in advance.
  • Alternatively, if you don t want to get up at 4am or shell out INR1500 on the cab to Tiger Hill, walk to the Kanchenjunga View Point down Mall Road
  • Next, queue up outside Keventers for breakfast with a view in a century-old cafe
  • Get a cab at Gandhi Road and visit a tea garden (Happy Valley is the closest) and the Ropeway. I was lucky to meet 6 other backpackers at my hostel and we ended up pooling the cab at INR 200 per person, with INR 1400 being on the expensive side, but you could bargain.
  • Get lunch, buy some tea at Golden Tips, pack your bags and hop on a shared-cab back to Siliguri. It took us about 4hrs to reach Siliguri, with an hour to spare before my train.
  • If you ve still got time on your hands, then check out the Peace Pagoda and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (Toy Train). At INR 1500, I found the latter to be too expensive and skipped it.


Tips and hacks
  • Download offline maps, especially when you re exploring Northern Sikkim.
  • Food and booze are the cheapest in Gangtok. Stash up before heading to other regions.
  • Keep your Aadhar/Passport handy since you need permits to travel to North & East Sikkim.
  • In rural areas and some cafes, you may get to try Rhododendron Wine, made from Rhododendron arboreum a.k.a Gurans. Its production is a little hush-hush since the flower is considered holy and is also the National Flower of Nepal.
  • If you don t want to invest in a new jacket, boots or a pair of gloves, you can always rent them at nominal rates from your hotel or little stores around tourist sites.
  • Check the weather of a region before heading there. Low visibility and precipitation can quite literally dampen your experience.
  • Keep your itinerary flexible to accommodate for rest and impromptu plans.
  • Shops and restaurants close by 8pm in Sikkim and Darjeeling. Plan for the same.

Carry
  • a couple of extra pairs of socks (woollen, if possible)
  • a pair of slippers to wear indoors
  • a reusable water bottle
  • an umbrella
  • a power bank
  • a couple of tablets of Diamox. Helps deal with altitude sickness
  • extra clothes and wet bags since you may not get a chance to wash/dry your clothes
  • a few passport size photographs

Shared-cab hacks
  • Intercity rides can be exhausting. If you can afford it, pay for an additional seat.
  • Call shotgun on the drives beyond Lachen and Lachung. The views are breathtaking.
  • Return cabs tend to be cheaper (WB cabs travelling from SK and vice-versa)

Cost
  • My median daily expenditure (back when I went to Sikkim in early March 2021) was INR 1350.
  • This includes stay (bunk bed), food, wine and transit (shared cabs)
  • In my defence, I splurged on food, wine and extra seats in shared cabs, but if you re on a budget, you could easily get by on INR 1 - 1.2k per day.
  • For a 9-day trip, I ended up shelling out nearly INR 15k, including 2AC trains to & from Kolkata
  • Note : Summer (March to May) and Autumn (October to December) are peak seasons, and thereby more expensive to travel around.

Souvenirs and things you should buy

Buddhist souvenirs :
  • Colourful Prayer Flags (great for tying on bikes or behind car windshields)
  • Miniature Prayer/Mani Wheels
  • Lucky Charms, Pendants and Key Chains
  • Cham Dance masks and robes
  • Singing Bowls
  • Common symbols: Om mani padme hum, Ashtamangala, Zodiac signs

Handicrafts & Handlooms
  • Tibetan Yak Wool shawls, scarfs and carpets
  • Sikkimese Ceramic cups
  • Thangka Paintings

Edibles
  • Darjeeling Tea (usually brewed and not boiled)
  • Wine (Arucha Peach & Rhododendron)
  • Dalle Khursani (Chilli) Paste and Pickle

Header Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

21 February 2021

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: dput-ng or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hooks

As my contributions to Debian continue to grow in number, I find myself uploading to the archive more and more often. Although I'm pretty happy with my current sbuild-based workflow, twice in the past few weeks I inadvertently made a binary upload instead of a source-only one.1 As it turns out, I am not the only DD who has had this problem before. As Nicolas Dandrimont kindly pointed to me, dput-ng supports pre and post upload hooks that can be used to lint your uploads. Even better, it also ships with a check-debs hook that lets you block binary uploads. Pretty neat, right? In a perfect world, enabling the hook would only be a matter of adding it in the hook list of /etc/dput.d/metas/debian.json and using the following defaults:
"check-debs":  
    "enforce": "source",
    "skip": false
 ,
Sadly, bug #983160 currently makes this whole setup more complex than it should be and forces me to use two different dput-ng profiles pointing to two different files in /etc/dput.d/metas: a default source-only one (ftp-master) and a binary upload one (ftp-master-binary). Otherwise, one could use a single profile that disallows binary uploads and when needed, override the hook using something like this:
$ dput --override "check-debs.enforce=debs" foo_1.0.0-1_amd64.changes
I did start debugging the --override issue in dput-ng, but I'm not sure I'll have time to submit a patch anytime soon. In the meantime, I'm happy to report I shouldn't be uploading the wrong .changes file by mistake again!

  1. Thanks to Holger Levsen and Adrian Bunk for catching those and notifying me.

15 February 2021

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, January 2020

A Debian LTS logo Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering. Debian project funding In January, we put aside 2175 EUR to fund Debian projects. As part of this Carles Pina i Estany started to work on better no-dsa support for the PTS which recently resulted in two merge requests which will hopefully be deployed soon. We re looking forward to receive more projects from various Debian teams! Learn more about the rationale behind this initiative in this article. Debian LTS contributors In January, 13 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In January we released 28 DLAs and held our first LTS team meeting for 2021 on IRC, with the next public IRC meeting coming up at the end of March. During that meeting Utkarsh shared that after he rolled out the python-certbot update (on December 8th 2020) the maintainer told him: I just checked with Let s Encrypt, and the stats show that you just saved 142,500 people from having their certificates start failing next month. I didn t know LTS was still that used!

Finally, we would like to welcome sipgate GmbH as a new silver sponsor. Also remember that we are constantly looking for new contributors. Please contact Holger if you are interested. The security tracker currently lists 43 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 23 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

28 December 2020

Russ Allbery: Review: Your Day, Your Way

Review: Your Day, Your Way, by Timothy Caulfield
Publisher: Running Press
Copyright: December 2020
ISBN: 0-7624-7248-0
Format: Kindle
Pages: 236
In case you're wondering why I would pick up a self-help book with such an uninspiring title, it's because this book was originally published in Canada with the title Relax, Damnit! Why Caulfield's US publishers would have changed that title is beyond me. Canada clearly got the better end of this deal. (I'm hoping it's not because they thought "damn" would scare someone off, but it probably is.) The topic of this book is a scientific take on all the little decisions that you may worry about throughout the day: whether to eat breakfast, how much water to drink, whether public toilet seats are risky, whether to weigh yourself, how important flossing is, and much more. Caulfield is a law professor at the University of Alberta specializing in health law and scientific ethics, but the hat he's wearing when writing this book is that of professional skeptic. I found out about this book through Dr. Jen Gunter, a connection that you won't find surprising when I mention that one of Caulfield's earlier books is titled Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?. (Spoiler: yes.) Caulfield chose to organize this collection of random essays around the timeline of a single day, starting with waking up (how long should you sleep?) and morning routines (what do scientific studies say about brushing your teeth?), going through a work day (there's a chapter on multitasking and why you really shouldn't do it), and concluding with dinner (no, you can't taste the difference between most wines even if you think you can), evening routines, and sleep. This worked for me. It's still a bit arbitrary, but it's hard to organize random bits of skepticism, and this layout let Caulfield make a point about how frequently most people check their phones. (Stop doomscrolling. It makes you feel bad. Yes, I'm talking to myself.) I've now read several books, and considerably more essays, on scientific skepticism of this type. They're all a bit the same, and unless you enjoy this general genre of writing, there aren't many compelling reasons to read this specific entry. (Ben Goldacre's Bad Science is still my favorite.) I think the only tidbit that I found surprising and hadn't heard elsewhere is that the science on flossing is meh at best. The rest is the standard mix of mainstream scientific advice (don't drink raw milk, you're not going to catch something from a public toilet seat, multivitamins just give you expensive urine), advice that's scientifically correct but that I'm still not going to follow (there's no scientific reason to wash your hair daily but I still prefer how it feels), and advice to not worry about things with no evidence on either side (it doesn't matter whether you eat breakfast, ten thousand steps is a marketing gimmick, drink water when you're thirsty and don't worry about how much). Caulfield does have a particularly good debunking of the myth that angry ranting helps you calm down and feel better (it does the exact opposite), but if you're reasonably well-read on scientific trivia, nothing here will be that novel. If you don't follow scientific trivia and want a good collection of debunking essays, this book is fine. I certainly won't discourage you from reading it. Caulfield is engaging and succinct, and there's a balanced mix of odd trivia, debunking of pseudoscience, and good public health advice, all comfortably in line with what I've read elsewhere. That said, I found it striking to read this book shortly after Can't Even. I was hoping that Caulfield would tackle the larger problem of anxiety and overload that is in part created by the proliferation of arbitrary standards and rules to which we hold ourselves. He does tackle some related topics, such as our bizarre belief in the US (and apparently Canada) that it is unsafe to let children walk to school without adult supervision, but Caulfield's solutions are nearly all individual. He wants to inform the reader, he wants to show you how to analyze scientific research and notice when news articles are scaring you unnecessarily, and he wants you to become more immune to fear-mongering. Petersen's salient point in Can't Even is that many of us are burned out already and this is even more work. In order to avoid being gratuitously frightened and deceived by con artists and sensational news stories, we have to run a mental checklist of evidence evaluation and go do independent research. Sure, this works, makes you better at risk analysis, and may thus make you feel calmer, but this takes a lot of time and energy. Wasn't a point of having the news media that other people would do some of that work for you? Once again, everything that's wrong with the world becomes another chore or energy expenditure that we all have to independently make. I know, it's asking too much of a harmless book on the scientific evidence behind daily life decisions to make a political point about individual versus collective effort. But it's hard to shake the feeling that asking individuals to try harder to ignore intentionally deceptive and well-funded propaganda campaigns doesn't scale. Not everyone enjoys skepticism as a hobby, and there's only so much individual energy to go around. Relax, Damnit! is good advice as far as it goes. But I'm more in the mood for the books that look at who is making us so anxious in the first place and how we can (collectively) get them to stop. I don't know what that looks like (there are obvious free speech concerns), but we need reliable sources of information that don't make us anxious. Rating: 6 out of 10

18 December 2020

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, November 2020

A Debian LTS logo Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS. Individual reports In November, 239.25 work hours have been dispatched among 13 paid contributors. Their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In November we held the last LTS team meeting for 2020 on IRC, with the next one coming up at the end of January.
We announced a new formalized initiative for Funding Debian projects with money from Freexian s LTS service.
Finally, we would like to remark once again that we are constantly looking for new contributors. Please contact Holger if you are interested! We re also glad to welcome two new sponsors, Moxa, a device manufacturer, and a French research lab (Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod). The security tracker currently lists 37 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 40 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

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17 November 2020

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, October 2020

A Debian LTS logo Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS. Individual reports In October, 221.50 work hours have been dispatched among 13 paid contributors. Their reports are available: Evolution of the situation October was a regular LTS month with a LTS team meeting done via video chat thus there s no log to be shared. After more than five years of contributing to LTS (and ELTS), Mike Gabriel announced that he founded a new company called Frei(e) Software GmbH and thus would leave us to concentrate on this new endeavor. Best of luck with that, Mike! So, once again, this is a good moment to remind that we are constantly looking for new contributors. Please contact Holger if you are interested! The security tracker currently lists 42 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 39 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

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15 October 2020

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, September 2020

A Debian LTS logo Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS. Individual reports In September, 208.25 work hours have been dispatched among 13 paid contributors. Their reports are available: Evolution of the situation September was a regular LTS month with an IRC meeting. The security tracker currently lists 45 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 48 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

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15 September 2020

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, August 2020

A Debian LTS logo Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS. Individual reports In August, 237.25 work hours have been dispatched among 14 paid contributors. Their reports are available: Evolution of the situation August was a regular LTS month once again, even though it was only our 2nd month with Stretch LTS.
At the end of August some of us participated in DebConf 20 online where we held our monthly team meeting. A video is available.
As of now this video is also the only public resource about the LTS survey we held in July, though a written summary is expected to be released soon. The security tracker currently lists 56 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 55 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that recently joined are in bold.

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28 August 2020

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, July 2020

A Debian LTS logo Like each month, albeit a bit later due to vacation, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS. Individual reports In July, 249.25 work hours have been dispatched among 14 paid contributors. Their reports are available: Evolution of the situation July was our first month of Stretch LTS! Given this is our fourth LTS release we anticipated a smooth transition and it seems everything indeed went very well. Many thanks to the members of the Debian ftpmaster-, security, release- and publicity- teams who helped us make this happen!
Stretch LTS begun on July 18th 2020 after the 13th and final Stretch point release. and is currently scheduled to end on June 30th 2022. Last month, we asked you to participate in a survey and we got 1764 submissions, which is pretty awesome. Thank you very much for participating!. Right now we are still busy crunching the results, but we already shared some early analysis during the Debconf LTS bof this week. The security tracker currently lists 54 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 52 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors New sponsors are in bold.

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24 June 2020

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, May 2020

A Debian LTS logo Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS. Individual reports In May, 198 work hours have been dispatched among 14 paid contributors. Their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In May 2020 we had our second (virtual) contributors meeting on IRC, Logs and minutes are available online. Then we also moved our ToDo from the Debian wiki to the issue tracker on salsa.debian.org.
Sadly three contributors went inactive in May: Adrian Bunk, Anton Gladky and Dylan A ssi. And while there are currently still enough active contributors to shoulder the existing work, we like to use this opportunity that we are always looking for new contributors. Please mail Holger if you are interested.
Finally, we like to remind you for a last time, that the end of Jessie LTS is coming in less than a month!
In case you missed it (or missed to act), please read this post about keeping Debian 8 Jessie alive for longer than 5 years. If you expect to have Debian 8 servers/devices running after June 30th 2020, and would like to have security updates for them, please get in touch with Freexian. The security tracker currently lists 6 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 30 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors New sponsors are in bold. With the upcoming start of Jessie ELTS, we are welcoming a few new sponsors and others should join soon.

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23 May 2020

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, April 2020

A Debian LTS logo Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS. Individual reports In April, 284.5 work hours have been dispatched among 14 paid contributors. Their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In April we dispatched more hours than ever and another was new too, we had our first (virtual) contributors meeting on IRC! Logs and minutes are available and we plan to continue doing IRC meetings every other month.
Sadly one contributor decided to go inactive in April, Hugo Lefeuvre.
Finally, we like to remind you, that the end of Jessie LTS is coming in less than two months!
In case you missed it (or missed to act), please read this post about keeping Debian 8 Jessie alive for longer than 5 years. If you expect to have Debian 8 servers/devices running after June 30th 2020, and would like to have security updates for them, please get in touch with Freexian. The security tracker currently lists 4 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 25 packages needing an update. Thanks to our sponsors New sponsors are in bold.

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20 November 2017

Reproducible builds folks: Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #133

Here's what happened in the Reproducible Builds effort between Sunday November 5 and Saturday November 11 2017: Upcoming events On November 17th Chris Lamb will present at Open Compliance Summit, Yokohama, Japan on how reproducible builds ensures the long-term sustainability of technology infrastructure. We plan to hold an assembly at 34C3 - hope to see you there! LEDE CI tests Thanks to the work of lynxis, Mattia and h01ger, we're now testing all LEDE packages in our setup. This is our first result for the ar71xx target: "502 (100.0%) out of 502 built images and 4932 (94.8%) out of 5200 built packages were reproducible in our test setup." - see below for details how this was achieved. Bootstrapping and Diverse Double Compilation As a follow-up of a discussion on bootstrapping compilers we had on the Berlin summit, Bernhard and Ximin worked on a Proof of Concept for Diverse Double Compilation of tinycc (aka tcc). Ximin Luo did a successful diverse-double compilation of tinycc git HEAD using gcc-7.2.0, clang-4.0.1, icc-18.0.0 and pgcc-17.10-0 (pgcc needs to triple-compile it). More variations are planned for the future, with the eventual aim to reproduce the same binaries cross-distro, and extend it to test GCC itself. Packages reviewed and fixed, and bugs filed Patches filed upstream: Patches filed in Debian: Patches filed in OpenSUSE: Reviews of unreproducible packages 73 package reviews have been added, 88 have been updated and 40 have been removed in this week, adding to our knowledge about identified issues. 4 issue types have been updated: Weekly QA work During our reproducibility testing, FTBFS bugs have been detected and reported by: diffoscope development Mattia Rizzolo uploaded version 88~bpo9+1 to stretch-backports. reprotest development reproducible-website development theunreproduciblepackage development tests.reproducible-builds.org in detail Misc. This week's edition was written by Ximin Luo, Bernhard M. Wiedemann, Chris Lamb and Holger Levsen & reviewed by a bunch of Reproducible Builds folks on IRC & the mailing lists.

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