Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Grad Student

"Being a graduate student is like becoming all of the Seven Dwarves. In the beginning you're Dopey and Bashful. In the middle, you are usually sick (Sneezy), tired (Sleepy), and irritable (Grumpy). But at the end, they call you Doc, and then you're Happy."

- From "So long, and thanks for the Ph.D.!"


"Everything I wanted to know about C.S. graduate school
at the beginning but didn't learn until later."

The 4th guide in the Hitchhiker's guide trilogy
(and if that doesn't make sense, you obviously have not read Douglas Adams)

by Ronald T. Azuma

A fairly well written article about life as a graduate student and how to survive graduate school. The best part of this was the quoted text above comparing the state of a graduate student with the seven dwarves from the fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (oops, I actually meant this link, the previous one is hilarious take on same story, and if you suffer from any morality issues, please dont click on that link, the language is profane and the narrative has a wicked twist)

(<#added later> I am taking off the link to the wickedly funny story as it seems to be related to a porn site though it cannot be called a "porn site" as such, not that I have anything againt porn, but I dont want to directly link to it off this blog, for those of you who would like to read it, I suggest you dont do it in office and you can get to it by keying "utterpants snowhite" into Google. I had linked the text "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" to this URL earlier<#/added later>)

Anyways, graduate school was fun, whenever you are not numb enough to not notice how much fun it is. Here is a night shot of our room when I was at Grad School.

What did you think would be there other than computers you pervert!! We are talking of desi grad students here :D and that too ones that have learnt to use the computer for ermmm, all their needs. Yanyways, there are a total of 5 computers there and a switch and a 12 port (I think) USB hub, they generated enough heat (of the thermodynamic kind) in the room to keep us warm even during the cold NY winters.

There are quite a few stories from stories from grad school, however, they are so "ghise-pite" (endlessly flogged) for most of my friends that I will put some of them here only after thinking a bit :D

Monday, August 28, 2006

Where I belong

Where I belong

i build my wall, i dig my hole
i clench my fist, i grind my teeth
this is where i belong, i am still warm

bitter is the taste that is sweet
black is the colour that is white
this is where i belong, i am still warm

searing drinks quench my lust,
while still warm ash quenches my thirst
this is where i belong, i am still warm

minds here, how they excude fear,
the paths here, can take you no near
this is where i belong, i am still warm

the thieves here can commit no sin
as sleep is all they can hope to win
this is where i belong, i am still warm

when idols crack, while principles break
faith gets frayed, beliefs! what a freak!
this is where i belong, i am still warm

for redemption one shall scavenge,
a bit like some clockwork orange
i feel so cold

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chimps released from detention recently

Here is an e-mail I got from some random person, who I dont even know. I shall reproduce it in full (well, almost) just so that the effect is not lost:
(Please note that this e-mail is a confirmed hoax (DUH!), I have a reply from IMA to prove it, take a look at the e-mail from IMA Hon. Joint Secretary, Dr. Dharam Prakash at the end of this post)

Drinks released from IMA recently
Dear friends,

Pesticide Percentage(%) in cool drinks released from IMA recently.

1 Thums up 15.2%
2 Coke 13.4%
3 7 up 12.5%
4 Mirinda 10.7%
5 Pepsi 109%
6 Fanta 9.1%

If the Range exceeds
2.1%, then its very dangerous to the Human
Results in Cancer!
So don't drink any brand from
Coke and Pepsi!
This Message is from Indian Medical Association. Please pass it to
all known persons in your e-mails Save Indians!!!.............Save

With regards,


I feel a mixture of pity and loathing when I see things like this. Any person with basic congnitive capabilities and who has any IQ higher than that of a cerebrally challenged chimp high on LSD (CCCHL) should be able to make out what is plausible and what is outright gibberish (the mail above being a prime example of gibberish). And I know that the person who so proudly sent this e-mail to unknown people of all things has purpotedly studied science for more than a decade. I would like to flame torch the miscreant(s) who passed off as science teacher(s) to loathsome characters as these.

The IMA is the Indian Medical Association. It is a national level body of licensed medical practicioners. Pray, tell me, what do doctors have to do with testing pesticide levels in cool drinks??? And here we have the IMA miraculously releasing pesticide laced drinks :D

And look at the percentages! At these levels, people like me would have been composing this from the netherworld after all the internal organs are dissolved by the "pesticide".

I am sure another bunch of CCCHLs will have dutifully forwarded this e-mail to their respective torture lists amidst much high pitched screeching and chattering.

And look at the grand finale... Save India! Save Mankind! Yes, Mankind needs saving but from such simians with easy access to the internet and lots of time to kill and lots of energy to waste.

But this time I decided to give these CCCHLs a piece of my mind and replied to this mail starting with a "Who are you? How do I know you?" grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Is it any wonder that I belong here?

Added Later:

I had written to the IMA via their website and I have got this reply:
From:"Indian Medical Association-Projects" Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2006 11:31:48 +0530
Dear Sir,
Received your email and noted the contents.
I wish to inform you that IMA has not conducted any study on the pesticide level.
With kind regards,
Dr. Dharam Prakash
Hony. Joint Secretary, IMA

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


After the last few posts, :-)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Some more Shantaram

OK, before people accuse me of being obsessed with this book, I should say that I am doing that only because many people were visiting my blog looking for quotes from Shantaram, and I thought that I will add a few more to the ones I already had here

Also, although I liked the book and even enjoyed it a *lot* it is not by far the best book I have read. Whew! :-)

So without any further ado, here you go:

You can never tell what people have inside them, until you start taking it away

A dream is a place where a wish and a fear meet. When the wish and fear are exactly the same, we call the dream a nightmare.

Silence is the tortured mans revenge

If fate doesn't make you laugh, you just don't get the joke

Men reveal what they think when they look away, and what they feel when they hesitate. With women, it’s the other way around.

News is about what people do. Gossip is about how they enjoyed doing it.

Nothing grieves more deeply or pathetically than one half of a great love that isn’t meant to be.

There’s no meanness too spiteful or too cruel, when we hate someone for all the wrong reasons.

Every virtuous act has some dark secret in its heart; every risk we take contains a mystery that can’t be solved.

Guilt is the hilt of the knife that we use on ourselves, and love is often the blade; but it’s worry that keeps the knife sharp; and worry that gets most of us, in the end.

At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread instead is that we won’t stop loving them, even after they are dead and gone.

Logic and Reason


I adore you, sweetheart.
I know how much you like to hear that - but I don't only write it because you like it - I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you - almost two years but I Know you will excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; & I thought there was no sense to writing.

But I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead - but I still want to comfort and take care of you - and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you - I want to do little projects with you. I never thought just until now that we can do that together. What should we do. We started to learn to make things together - or learn Chinese - or getting a movie projector. Can't I do something now. No. I am alone without you and you were the "idea-woman" and general instigator of all our wild adventures.

When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn't have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need becasue I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true - you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else - but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know that you will assure me that I am foolish & that you want me to have full happiness & don't want to be in my way. I'll bet that you are surprised that I don't even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you cant help it, darling, and nor can I - I don't understand it, for I have met many girls & very nice ones and I don't want to remain alone - but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you.
I love my wife. My wife is dead.

PS: Please excuse my not mailing this - but I don't know your new address.

The above was a letter written by Richard Feynman. I read it while reading a book about his life and works called "Genius". Now, Feynman, as he claims in the letter is a rationalist, he is also an atheist. He is a zealot who believes in the fundamental truth of science. So much so, that he refused to say the hebrew prayer that the rabbi asked him to at the funeral of his father, whom Feynman loved dearly.(he was born Jewish. All physicists are :D)

It is really hard to imagine a person who is so much a realist and for whom logic has always been sacred thinking and feeling what he does in this letter. There are indeed powers so much more powerful than our intellects, the powers that made us. No, I am not talking of a God here. I am talking about the humanity in us and evolution. The fun part is, our intellect is but a product of the forces of evolution.

anyways, two phrases:
"the tyranny of emotions"
"the tyranny of reason"

Monday, August 07, 2006

Red Hammer

I learnt something last week. I learnt that I should not delete mails without reading them first. Even evil mails with Fwd written all over the subject line. I should give them exactly 10 seconds and decide if I should read them further or not.

Now for the particular mail that set me off on this thoroughly intersting ramble. Many of you might have read this e-mail which asks you to do some irrelevant addition problems and then ambushes you with a sudden, "Think of a colour and a tool quickly". Most people are supposed to think of the colour red and the hammer. ( I wonder what that pervert and miscreant, Freud would have said or thought :D)

Anyways, this got me wondering as I did think of a hammer but not the colour red (I thought of blue), and I set off on a wild google chase. And it did throw up some intersting stuff - Prototype Theory

Now prototype theory, after some rather shallow and quick reading of stuff available online, suggests that there is a graded categorization in the elements that we identify. We understand some of the elememts we perceive based on a distance from a prototype that we have internalised. This internalization happens as we learn to recognize various objects.

here is something that I quote from wikepedia:

The other notion related to prototypes is that of a Basic Level in cognitive categorization. Thus, when asked What are you sitting on?, most subjects prefer to say chair rather than a subordinate such as kitchen chair or a superordinate such as furniture. Basic categories are relatively homogeneous in terms of sensori-motor affordances - a chair is associated with bending of one's knees, a fruit with picking it up and putting it in your mouth, etc. At the subordinate level (e.g. [dentist's chairs], [kitchen chairs] etc.) hardly any significant features can be added to that of the basic level; whereas at the superordinate level, these conceptual similarities are hard to pinpoint. A picture of a chair is easy to draw (or visualize), but drawing furniture would be difficult.

Rosch (1978) defines the basic level as that level that has the highest degree of cue validity. Thus, a category like [animal] may have a prototypical member, but no cognitive visual representation. On the other hand, basic categories in [animal], i.e. [dog], [bird], [fish], are full of informational content and can easily be categorised in terms of Gestalt and semantic features.

And the reason why many people (not 98% as the mail claims) chose red as the colour and hammer as the tool is because, red and hammer are one of the most prototypical in their respective category, colour and tool.


Here are a few links that I read during my wild google chase (I have half a mind to copyright that term :-) )
(Added Later: Darn!!!!! There is always somebody out there who has already done what I wanted to do. )

Vincenze's pit
The language guy
The prototype theory, an analysis by Anastasia Giannakopoulu

(OK, you caught me on the last one, I din't read it completely, somehow, somebody named Anastasia writing about psycology gave me the shivers. And I know, I know, this one has a different last name, but what to doo, I am a last nameless rice eating south Indian onleeee ayyooooo!)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


According to some sources the word emandan in malayalam means "very big" "top notch" "immense" "powerful" etc...

This word is a new word added to malayalam, it appears, unofficially. You could call it colloquial usage or even slang.

And like many such new words, there is quite a bit of history to that. This word is derived from the name of the german warship SMS Emden. Emden was a bit like a legendary anti-establishment entity in times of general resentment to authority, that generates part respect, part fear and part joy in the minds of the people.

The SMS Emden

The time was during the first world war, the British, the rulers of India then, were fighting a world war, and fighting hard. It was also the time of the raj, when the sun never set on the empire. The British Navy then, was quite easily the best and the most powerful in the world. This was the arm of the British empire that enforced the writ of the pre-eminent power on planet Earth, Britan.

At a time like this, the SMS Emden, which was named after the german town of Emden, set off on one of the most romanticised and legendary cruises during the first world war . It was apparently, a piston engined ship and not a steam turbine driven ship like most ships then. It was apparently the last piston engined ship built for the German navy.

So we have this classic david vs. goliath face off. Mr. David being the SMS Emden, and Mr. Goliath being almost all of the Allied navies present int he Indian Ocean region. After many thrilling raids and naval battles all over the "backyard" of the British, the Indian Ocean, the Emden raided the port city of Madras, now called Chennai.

I reproduce the effect it had on the people of Chennai from chennaionline.com

It was a quiet night and life was going on as usual in Chennai. Suddenly, a pair of bright searchlights were turned on the city from the sea. Even as the few people on the streets stopped in their tracks, the noise of deafening explosions rent the air. Apart from the High Court compound, shells landed in the Royal Barracks, among the oil tanks of the British-owned Burmah Shell Company (setting off a conflagration), on the sand bar outside Fort St. George and on a British ship, 'Supra', where a British sailor manning the lights was killed. Caught by surprise, it took a little while for the British Army to react. But by the time the Royal Guards had trained their searchlights out to sea, the Emden had struck tents and slipped away beyond the horizon.

Senior citizens still remember that night. A retired lawyer, R. Kesava Iyengar (age 96), who lived in Thambu Chetty Street at that time, was "chatting with relatives around 9 pm when we heard a defeaning noise like nothing we had ever heard before....... Outside, there was absolute pandemonium and people were running in all directions. We couldn't sleep a wink that night."

Kalidas (age 92) was lying outside his house in San Thome and just looking at the stars "when I saw bright searchlights in the sky. Before I could make any sense of it, loud explosions were heard and I rushed to San Thome beach along with some friends. We saw the huge oil tanks of Burmah Shell Oil Company in flames." A friend working in the house of a British Shell employee reported that some explosive material had landed through a bedroom window and destroyed everything inside.

A centenarian retired police constable T. R Srinivasulu Naidu, who was in Chetpet's Naoroji Road at the time, remembers the searchlights and the explosions and frightened people running helter skelter in the dark. Next morning, there were military police all over the beach road. "We spoke of nothing else for weeks afterwards."

"Sangu" Ganesan, so called after a weekly "Sangu" (the Conch shell) he owned, was working in "Ganesh & Co" on Thambu Chetty Street at the time. He was at home with some friends when they heard the massive explosions. "We were terrified and ran out into the streets. The sky was covered with smoke. The next day, we saw the High Court building's compound wall blown to smithereens."

Anyways, the Emden also raided all along the coast of southern India and Sri Lanka, and that is how the local language of Kerala, malayalam, got its new word.

There is also the curious story of one of India's freedom fighters, Champakraman Pillai, (or Shenbagaraman Pillai, depending on how you want to pronounce it) landing at Madras that night, and dramatically applying the sand from one of the beaches on his forehead while a bunch of awestruck fishermen looked on. He is supposed to have said that he has come to free Mother India from the yoke of the British. It is claimed that he was on Emden, variously as commanding it (untrue), as the Engineer on it (I don't know for sure) or as a intelligence operative on it. However, we do not know how much of this story is real and how much is a legend. But that is for another day, another blog.