Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

We will prevail.

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2008 at 11:56 am

It is a sad day. ‘Our’ Mumbai is under siege. Many have lost their lives. The lives prematurely stolen from them in an extreme unjust manner. Apart from offering my solidarity and prayers, I am not sure what I should do.

I am deferring from using the phrase “Spirit of Mumbai” at this instance, since it is phrase vandalised by politicians and others with vested interest. I am deferring from using the phrase “terrorism”, since it is also a word glorified and vandalised by its perpetuators. It is a term we see being used liberally by people who do not understand what the term ‘terror’ actual means.

I tried to imagine the terror inside a person in front of a gun point. I couldn’t. I tried to image the terror inside a person in the midst of a cross fire. I couldn’t. I tried to imagine the terror inside a person struck by a bullet. I couldn’t. I tried to imagine the terror inside a person who has to witness his or her loved one being shot down by a bullet. I couldn’t, though the thought gave me a cold and uneasy shudder. I know it is intense. I know it is not pleasant and it is ugly. I know it is a suffering I never would like to go through.

The form of terror that is directly accessible to me at this moment is the fear of such ghastly activities forming  fissures and disconnect in the perception or awareness of our common human condition. The possibility of the induced fear masking the connections and flow of emotions or expressions between us. Ties being broken, dogma prevailing and braids of terror and hate cowling into us.

However, Mumbai, you give me hope. Your humanity gives me hope.

Human Chain - A photograph by flickr user Vinu

Human Chain - A photograph by flickr user "Vinu"

I am quoting below a chant poem by Nikki Giovanni’s during the Virginia Tech Convocation commemorating the April 16th Virgina Tech massacre.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today,
and we will be sad for quite a while.
We are not moving on,
we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly,
we are brave enough to bend to cry,
and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy.
We know we did nothing to deserve it,
but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS,
neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army,
neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory,
neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water,
neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized.
No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds.
We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid.
We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be.
We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities.
We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.


An Angel Walked Past Him

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Exactly 10 years ago, something extremely significant and good happened in my life. For starters, it is the day I joined an engineering college (and thus instrumental in setting the direction of my career so far). But more importantly, that day I had a vision. It was not the CEO/politician genre of vision. But something more simple, something more fundamental, something more significant, something more personal and something far more prettier than anything I had ever seen. The sight was real, at the same time had a tad surreal touch to it. The vision had co-existence in my mind and in the physical reality.

I had the vision of a girl! Yes, I saw my Cuckoo for the first time that day!

So here is the story of Appoose’ Vision.

A typical 18 year old youth. First day at college. His radar is in alert mode; Vigorously scanning for beautiful people among the crowd. A red alert triggers in his radar. He suspect that many simultaneous triggers have been registered in many a mental radars around him. The many whose base architecture were endowed with that extra Y-chromosome. He could feel his head turning. He sees the heads of the fellow Y-chromosome-walas also turning.

And behold! an angel walked past him!

Now to make the events more fun (or filmy), please feel free and imagine the “hero meets heroine” situations in the movies (the soft focus, colour-rich background, title track melody playing and whole lot of extras with their flashy costumes).

An angel walked past him!

Aah! Though the event’s projection to reality was slightly less Karan Johar-ish , the reality of his nostalgic recollection seems to give the {[A-Z]}ollywood-ish platitude a run for their money!

Now to make the events sound more elitist, let’s take a snapshot of our protagonist’s anatomical condition and mental thoughts.

An angel walked past him!

His heart stops fluttering for a second. A numbness spreads all around him. There are butterflies in his stomach. Suddenly, his heart freewheels. It starts to beat with a rigour and pace it seldom had achieved in the past. Adrenaline is pumped in humongous quantities into his system. He could feel the sweat beads running through his temple. He becomes aware of his condition.

He is happy to be there. Burying his past apprehensions, he is happy that he chose that college. He is annoyed with his male peers who is sharing the sight with him. “It is not fair” he feels ; “I do not want to share this sight with these idiots!”.

She was different from most other girls he had met. He could get a sense of her playful nature, innocence and immaturity. He always had imagined himself as a boy who will forever resist the thought of him becoming a grown up man. He suddenly imagines her to be `the’ girl who will always resist the thought of her growing up to be a mature adult woman and cling on to girl-hood forever. She was sporting a tom-boyish look; with extremely short hair (a rare sight in Kerala!). She was a misnomer (in a good way) to the most girls he had seen so far. The radical difference in her physical attire makes it easy for him to associate all the qualities he attributed to the girl in his dreams to her. That moment (and henceforth) she was the perfect girl to him!

A quick insertion sort places her in the top position of his temporal mental list of beautiful women. Little did he realise that the entry will remain in that position forever.

He is looking for a more direct sight of her. He wants to get a good full look of those beautiful big eyes! He knows that she is aware of the multiple eyes that are fixated on her. He gets a feeling that she is enjoying the attention, however he is extremely worried that if she catches him staring, he might get down-graded to a status of `one of those ogling wretches’.  Suddenly he locks his eyes with hers. He, in one frantic and an extremely non-gracious motion shifts his gaze and stares towards the ground near his feet. “Damm.. Damn… Damn… Damn…” he thinks

He feels ashamed for a moment. However, this is masqueraded by his overt and sudden awareness of his anatomical state. His heart and mind is palpitating again. It reminds him of an instance from a memoir he had read in Reader’s Digest describing how the author met his future wife for the first time. He builds an isomorphism between the situations. This helps in regaining some of his swollen spirit.

He picturises himself in a imaginary conversation with her. Contrary to his innate introvert qualities, he imagines him to be a natural conversationalist. His words lauded with both an easy and natural wit as well as charm. His speech is void of any stammers or the awkward pauses to search for the right word. He imagines his audience to be gripped and impressed by the flow of words originating from him. However, her feminine instincts prevents her from showing open appreciation. But, he could see right through her mask.

She moves away out of his vision

He gives out a deep sigh.

10 years and counting

10 years and Counting

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Writing Angst

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2008 at 12:06 am
Creative Angst

Creative Angst

To identify concepts of which I have either crisp or blurry mental models and put it down in paper, coherently and with loss of completeness is appearing to be a very hard process for me. I am struggling badly at the moment. The picture is courtesy my attempt to learn inkscape (to prepare illustrations for the thesis) and also an expression of my current emotional condition.

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Creative Angst is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.

The Chocolate Method and its Caveats

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Chocolate Method was derived from the Martini method suggested here

The rule is that whenever I write a paragraph towards the thesis, I earn a bite into a chocolate bar. The goal is to get to 12 paragraphs per day, so that I can get a full chocolate.

Caveat 1: I find that my paragraphs are getting progressively smaller and unnecessarily broken down at the middle.

I also had set a time out. That is the counter is reset every day. First reward happens if I reach 6 para (the reward being the 5 Rupee wala Diary Milk), and if I reach 12 para I can buy any chocolate of my choice.

Caveat 2: Faulty counter, which refuses to flush out the increments from previous days.

The Charm of Radio

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2008 at 10:29 am

Radio is making a major comeback in my life, however in a mutated form via podcasts and internet radio. My daily schedule has found entries for BBC global news podcast and the New Yorker Fiction reading (usually just after getting up from bed and just before bed respectively). Apart, from the vintage charm which is a pertinent entity in itself I feel there is a huge pragmatic relevance and realism for radio in a 21st century netizen life. A snapshot of the wakey time of an average geek’s daily life comprises of staring at a computer screen and continuously  processing textual and visual entities which appear in them. (I prophesies that this habit will metastasis to layman’s life structure in the very near future, if it had not taken place already). The problem with such a lifestyle is that the classic couch potato based recreational activities like watching TV which is predominately a visual crunching activity for our brain or reading a magazine/tabloid which involves processing text starts to become more tedious than relaxing. Mainly because, they are a rehash of the activities that one is doing in the entire day.

Let me not oversimplify here and brush the inherent content in the media under the carpet. True, there are no, no, …. no substitutes for an amazing movie or a novel. However, I am talking from the perspective which has mostly the main stream media in its view-port. Addressing those hours of the day of our personal lives which goes into the vortex of un-productivity and frustration, watching third rate reality shows like {Big {Brother|Boss} }* or going through the page3 pages. The moments when we get into a state of high inertia and negative-zombiness which unfortunately seems to be on the rising curve courtesy the bunch of ignoramus jokers who run the media and the mob who seems to be happy with status quo. These activities had a relevance when our working habits were different. It provided a context switch from the predominant activities one has to induldge in a day and also provided a portal to a different reality. The latter (escape to a temporary world) is applicable today also. However, here lies the crux of the problem.  Due to the homogenuity in the nature of work and leisure activities, the realisation of the context switch to the virtual space created by the media is often not registered in many peoples’ (atleast not in my) mind. The escape (or trap) to the different reality is often involuntary rather than voluntary. And chances are that one is presented with potent (mallu:potta) content and thereby subjecting yourself to high intensity, low quality mental torture!

Contrast this to the process of you going to watch a movie during yester-years, It starts with a process of mental preparedness and anticipation. When you go and sit in a theatre, the effect of the ambiance starts to kick up in your mind. You sit in an slightly alien environment compared to your couch at home. The lights dim. A subtle awareness of your co-viewers’ presence and a sense of participation with a collective audience finds a place in back of your mind. Then the show begins and if the celluloid creation is good, you willingly surrender your sense of reality to the movie makers. It is this sense of emotional quality, that the current day especially TV media has been 100% unsuccessful.

It is this void that radio is filling up. Especially, listening to some of the book-reading sessions from the New Yorker podcasts has personally been very satisfying and an highly immersive experience tor me. Similarly, the radio news (courtesy BBC) is evoking more empathy in me rather than the same content supported with visuals. The extra agility and participatory factor it brings in is refreshing. I am really loving the juxtaposition of the emotion content transferred via human voices and structural content build up using words.

ps: A lot of work is going on about immersive media in the geek world, to which I am personally trying to put in my chips. The irony is that I find the late 19th century form of media to be much more immersive than most of present and modern form of media!

Acceptance Speech

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Akin to millions, my admiration to Obama has been on the upward curve. Even when I try to strip out the emotion (both perceived and transfered) out of equation, a whole lot of admiration remains.  Yesterdays acceptance speech was a prime example. “What a speech!”.

These are some of my primary reactions after I watched the speech. Obama maintained a semi-happy and semi-serious expression as he walked towards the podium, and as the speech progressed his tone turned more stoic, serious and oozed out hope and confidence. There was no overt enthusiasm or excessive celebration. Infact, Obama did not give the room or a moment of lose focus for the crowd to converge into a victory cry! (even though it was a celebration they rightly earned and deserved). He drove home the clear and crisp message that the work is not done, it is just starting.

“This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change.”.

A perfect anti-thesis to hate/paranoia inducing and short-sighted methodology prominent in politics being replaced by hope-inducing and intellectual thinking. There is sudden spike in my impression about America. I just hope that this promise and dream is true. I hope that the essence behind the shouts of the ‘yes we can’ can find collectively strength and existence for prolonged period of time and bring about the change. For the time being, I am very tempted to join the crowd and shout “yes we can!”

My best wishes to the people of America and for their hope that they are ready for the change!

An Endorsment for Barack Obama

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2008 at 2:29 am

An Endorsement

A PhD thesis to write, five years of acquired procrastination skills, a profound fascination towards web 2.0 and social web and an election looming in corner. You don’t need much eloquence to describe to others (or to myself) the circumstances that has forced myself to put my thesis writing (supposedly unknowingly) in the back burner. I find myself reading all the op-ed of the prominent Liberal press, partaking in discussion forums, and having my share of frustration realising the futility of arguing with a hard-core right-winger

And yes! I am a big Obama supporter and like many others in the world feel it is unfair that I cannot cast my ballot! (Take about Americanization of the world!). However, let me pen out the specific quality of the candidate which has made a profound impact on me.

I had only a very vague idea or interest about American political system till a few months ago. The general notion was that Democrats are better than Republicans. More specifically, Clinton was way better than Bush, Al Gore would have made a way better president than Bush (at-least we could have had a slightly more greener planet). However, I was ambivalent to the internal dynamics of the Democratic party, hence for a long time the democratic primaries did not interest me much.

The first time I realised Barack Obama was in a blog post about his interview at Google. Asked by Eric Schmidt about “the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers,” Obama replied that “the bubble
sort would be the wrong way to go”. That was fancy full. A presidential candidate who has some clue about CS! This was followed by his speech “A More Perfect Union”. I was amazed by his oratory skill (this was made more profound when I compared his ability to articulate to that of the current incumbent American president!). With each of his speeches, notable of them being his Energy speech at Michigan State University and the nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, my admiration for Obama grew. However I still gave adequate weightage to the criticism that he might just be a fanciful orator, who lacks real political skills. Is incompetence and questionable motive getting masqueraded by the sheer glamour and aura of his words and personality.

This blog post aims to detail out how I grew out of the cynicism and moved towards a position of admiration and respect for Mr. Obama. However, I have made a mental note to review my position time and time again (going with the assumption that he will be elected the president of U.S.A).As mentioned earlier, my cynicism had two parts, first – the motivation, second – the skill level (or preparedness). So, I am going to go one by one.

What really struck me in Obama speeches are their clarity, consistency and the ability to say the right things. The juxtaposition of these three qualities are a hard thing to achieve, especially when you are in the media spotlight for an extended period of time. And frankly, this is a breath of fresh air in modern politics, where flip-flopping of stances are ubiquitous and viewpoints itself are ambiguous. I believe, for someone to be this clear and consistent, apart from oratory skills, he/she will need to have extreme passion and conviction on what he/she is speaking about.

One can argue that someone like Hitler also possessed the same set of skills. His arguments and speeches had clarity and to a certain extend consistent. Maybe the extreme nature of his extremist and fundamentalist ideas were not overtly evident in his initial speeches, however Hitler rarely contradicted himself. The fact of the matter is that Hitler also possessed the high amount of passion and
conviction. However, this is where the third and the most important aspect kicks in.

`Saying the right things’. First of all we need to scrutinize whether Mr.Obama is really saying the right things or his ideas are ineffective or even malicious. So let’s do a quick parse on what the U.S Senator is claiming. For the time being let’s keep aside the implementation aspect (for eg, providing Health care via mandatory
scheme or giving tax credits) and concentrate on the intend. Provide health care, make education cheaper, attack global poverty, stop a war, de-polarise a society, protect environment, develop infrastructure. All of them perfectly honourable. No Hitler-like ambition in any of them. I also note in passing most of Mr. McCain’s intention are more or less well placed. Anyway the point I want to raise is that we may effectively rule out malice.

Now let us go back to implementation. Unlike his republican rival, Obama has exhibited a far greater amount of pragmatism. Being, an engineer, my trade is the complicated art of trying to understand and manages trade-offs. Obama has shown far deeper skill and knowledge in the formulation or speculation of the challenges his country is facing. He is also modest in acknowledging his country’s short-comings and limits. And most, importantly he has taken pains in proposing the possible solution (almost always indicating the hardness of the problem) and proposes achievable targets and charts out his action plan in a coherent manner. I would be lying if I claim that there is no optimism in his plans. However, prima-facie most of his plan appears to be do-able, however with a lot of hard work and focus.

So in terms of ideas he is a far superior candidate. This is the most important reason I endorse Obama. If you want to do something (positive) consciously towards a goal, you will have to first imagine it to be possible. You will then have to imagine the process through which you will reach there. You have to build up conviction on your ideas, and you should retain a reasonable amount of clarity. As Micheal Phelps remarked “I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I
think your mind really controls everything.”, first step in addressing challenges and expanding boundaries start by imagination. The thought process seems have gone through. Conversely, Bush administration is a
prime example of the problem caused by `lack of imagination’

This is coupled with his ability as a motivator and mobiliser. <to be continued>

ps: Note, my impressions and opinions on politics in general are based on the Indian political and US political systems and landscapes. My familiarity to former based on me being a (passive) part of the system
and the later from media exposure.