Learning ActionScript

When I first jumped into programming in ActionScript about a year ago, I was carrying a lot of baggage with me from 6 years of Director/Lingo development. I was expecting more than just a change in syntax – this was going to be a paradigm shift for me! From coding in a language that comes close to writing a sentence, to something that resembled a real programming language. Heck, it even had {}’s.

Thing’s didn’t go as smoothly as I had expected though. This was nothing like what I had expected or was used to. Code in separate text files? What in heavens name are classpaths? And why does this language have an overdose of ;’s? Being on a tight schedule didn’t help much. I threw in the towel, hacked together something using old school techniques, and just about threw out Flash from my arsenal.

But an opportunity presented itself to give a second shot at Flash. NPAPL contracted their website redesign to Fractal Ink and an important aspect of the project was their portfolio. Since they wanted a lot of glitz into the presentation, this task would generally have been assigned to the designers. But due to the immense volume of data involved (100+ projects), I figured that a data-driven solution would make more sense than having the design team churn out a multi-megabyte, timeline driven file.

So I got to work digging up tutorials on component development, database access and XML parsing. Since the site was being hosted on a Windows server meant that my PHP skills would be of limited help (we ended up using static XML files instead). But the Flash code was pristine. I had finally broken through the glass ceiling.

I don’t remember the instant at which the change came through. But even today as I look upon the code, it looks nice. Simple, easy, readable. It took less than a few seconds to understand how it all fits together. What I remember thinking at that time was “How will I do this in Director”. By abstracting my thoughts out of the unfamiliar syntax of ActionScript, I was able to work my way around the requirements and atleast devise a solution. What remained was a very simple translation exercise, which got underway with ease.

I’ve moved on a lot since then today. I’m not a Flash guru or anything. But then I’d rather not be stuck working in a single environment day-in day-out. The new world of the interweb is rich in technologies, and I’m going to taste them all.

A Search for the Truth

I’ve spoken to several people since July 11 and can’t help notice the anguish that creeps through their voice when they speak about our government’s inability to stop terror strikes on our soil. Why is it that the largest democracy, heralded as a world power by many, isn’t able to protect its citizens? When the United States was attacked in 2001, President Bush came down hard upon the terrorist organisations and the nations which were suspected to harbour them – to the point of launching a full scale war in coalition with some of the strongest armies in the world. Why then can’t India perform such a feat against a country that it knows is responsible for several terror attacks in the past?

Our search for the answer begins on the premise that that the minority community feels insecure in India which political parties look to exploit.

Over the years I have seen the BJP and Shiv Sena combine champion the Hindutva cause. L. K. Advani has openly incited Hindus to bring down the Babri Masjid. Bal Thackarey used Saamna to encourage his party workers to launch offensives on Muslims during the riots of 1992-93. And in spite of the findings of the Sri Krishna Commission, the perpetrators of this violence are going scot-free. In such a situation, the insecurity that the community feels is not unfounded.

The problem is further aggravated by more politicians, who portray themselves as benefactors of the downtrodden. Parallels are drawn between the Hindus in Pakistan with the Muslims in India. The message that Muslim youth receive is that India is not their home and any act of violence that they help perpetrate upon its citizens will show their loyalty to their own motherland. Enter the LeT or Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, and their steady supply of weapons, explosives and training camps. These organisations fuel their terror operations on this sentiment.

In this vitriolic political scenario we bring in a government composed of a rickety coalition of parties with conflicting ideology. The Opposition is looking for every opportunity to criticize the ruling coalition and bring its government to a grinding halt – the country be damned, we want our seats back. And we expect this government to lead the country into an offensive war? Against a country which a sizable segment of the population considers their true homeland? That is wishful thinking at best and ridiculous misunderstanding of the political situation of India at worst.

All I can say to conclude is that India will never launch a war on terrorism unless its citizens unite in their opinion of what they call their homeland. And the power to do that lies with the citizens themselves.

  1. Always treat your communal neighbours the way you would want to be treated.
  2. Boycott media mouthpieces which carry a communal twist to their reporting.
  3. Speak up against wrongdoings by politicians, whether they are against the majority or minority community.
  4. Teach your children about the equality of religions and communities at an early age.
  5. Never violate human rights in an attempt to seek justice for wrongdoings.

Birds Banned in Mumbai

In an unprecedented move, that could have far reaching consequences on the country’s ornithological populace, the Balasaheb Thackarey led Shiv Sena has officially banned birds from entering the country’s financial capital, Mumbai. Shiv Sena spokespersons say it is an unfortunate step, but is required in order to maintain the dignity of statues and busts scattered throughout the city. Earlier, birds would use these statues as resting points, and defecate upon them. Post this ban, statues will finally be able to heave a sigh of relief for not being mistreated in such a manner. Shiv Sena leader Udhav Thackarey says, “Imagine how you would feel if a bird came and shat upon your brand new outfit? Such is the condition of statues in the city many of which are being subjected to such rude treatment within hours of dedication.”

When asked how the ban will be implemented given the communication barriers between humans and their feathered friends, several creative ideas have been put forth by party members –

  1. Installation of a fine wire net over the entire city with entrance/exit points for non-feathered creatures
  2. Satellite monitoring of the city’s precincts, along with James Bond-style satellite mounted laser’s to pinpoint and annihilate offending birds
  3. Worldwide extermination of birds (a bit difficult to implement given that Shiv Sena’s jurisdiction extends only within Dadar)

Sena leaders have promised their cadres to lay these plans before the state government and demand implementation at the earliest.

In related news, noted animal activist Maneka Gandhi has raised her voice firmly against the Sena stand. Joining hands with her are hard line animal rights organisations AHIMSA and PETA. Although details of their plan of action haven’t been revealed yet, spokespersons for both organisations say their plans will take flight soon.