Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Not fair

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Some of the most rememberable moments I had in my life were the moments I completed my half-marathon runs. In all of these occasion my body had completely given up, but the trill of crossing the finishing line made me trod forward. I also distinctly remember the boy who ran to me with a bottle of glucose water and probed me to get back to run somewhere at 16km during the Mumbai marathon and the two volunteer girls who ran either side of me during my last kilometer of Geneva marathon when I thought I could not run anymore. All of these strangers were really instrumental for the moments I consider as one of my most treasured achievements.

It is beyond comprehension how someone can take away such precious lives, rudely interrupting the pure and intimate conversation these runners were having with their internal spirits and the fraternal conversations the great souls who came to cheer were having with the runners. The cheers that were imparting courage, motivation and strenght . It is sad! Really sad! and really not fair!

But what else can we do, but keep calm and carry on.


Self Discovery

In Uncategorized on March 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm

“Know Thyself” This is the single most important lesson that I keep realizing quite often but never has managed to internalize. (Quoting Matrix “There is difference between knowing the path and walking the path”). In a nutshell, knowing thyself I believe has two components (the yin and yang of it): our ability to search inward and our ability to doubt ourself and the reality that we perceive. Strangely these two forces ( our beliefs and our doubts ) tangos around in a mysterious manner to form an extraordinary dance. These thoughts/doubts are quite profound and has bothered many of the best minds for centuries. I think it is a good and essential thing in process of self-discovery.

Element of doubt is very fundamental to us. Without doubt we will become dogmatic, horrible and insensitive people ( ) . Life is like driving in a non-illuminated and non-familiar road at night with only your headlines turned on. You only see the immediate vicinity, and only has the vague memory of the path you have traced so far. In my mind I treat my life as a search for beauty; and climax moments are the ones which bring extreme gratification and suffering in this search [ and both again is essential for the other to exist].

It is really funny what one can discover by searching inward. I think almost all human discovery is courtesy our ability to search inward and explore our own self. For example Einstein was able to re-write our understanding of fabric of space and time by searching inward. One of his early leads to theory of relativity was a simple thought experiments that he is moving at the same speed of light and he wondered how he will perceive light. It was an extremely first-person cause and effect imagination the he channelized to build into his radical theory of special|general relativity.

The funny part is that; though I have made only these mental models, I am bad student and hypocrite who does not listen to myself and engage in the hard-task of self-searching.

The Tree of Life

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2012 at 10:34 pm

“The Tree of Life” is almost certainly the best film from Hollywood I have seen so far!

For me (and I believe it is true for a most of us) understanding of scale and time is always local. A story, an event, a phenomena is always grasped and understood by positioning ourselves in a very local space and time frame. It is such difficult mental prisons that Terrence Malik breaks, and he breaks them with some of the most breath-taking visuals cohered with grandiose music.

Film opens with the monologue :

The nuns taught us there were two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.

And to a certain extent, I believe that such dichotomies and polychotomies (immaterial if they are true of not) are useful abstraction tools to handle the complexities of our lives.  But often, it is easy to get trapped (or be held hostage) to these imperfect thoughts. Loosely, the film is a recollective narrative of a childhood; a very personal, sensitive and spiritually aware depiction of 1950s Texan family. Just after the first few minutes of the film, something remarkable and unexpected happens! Film shifts itself into a cosmic scale and pace with images of exploding stars, planets in motion, evolution, and a benevolent dinosaur; whilst hooking (and contrasting) itself to the infinitesimal scale primary thread by subtle voice-overs. We later rejoin to the O’Brien family, back in the microscopic scale, but rich in emotion and deep in spiritual drama. This is really daring piece of film-making (and the only comparison I can make is of Tarkovsky’s Solaris), and deserves to be stood up and applauded!

The Feynman Algorithm

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 11:58 pm

There was this boy who wanted to solve many interesting computer science problems. He had a lot of ideas. They were sometimes simple, at other times complicated.

He had a friend. He was a good friend and was very learned. His name was called Google. Whenever he thought about something interesting, first thing he did was tell it to Google; and they talked and talked, whilst strolling endlessly through perpetual landscapes, where direction and orientation have limited meaning. Life was good!

One day, after walking for sometime, the boy’s shoulder started to hurt carrying his ideas around. So he decided to keep it in a neat corner, near a picket fence which marked the end of a meadow; and he along with his friend continued to wander and wander; deep into the forest.

But alas, the boy man did not notice the falling night and the brewing storm in the non-distant horizon. A powerful thunder startled him, and he fell down. Down he went and got stuck in a thorny bush. Whereas Google who was as light as a dried & crumbled leaf, (apparently due to the lack of soul), was swept away by a powerful gush of wind. His idea, which was solute, dissolved in the rain; formed a narrow stream and flowed away. However, one of the droplets, on its way down hill, got stuck in the eye-lash of the trapped man. The petrified man took the droplet, and stared into it; partially because he was scared and partially because the droplet was pretty and mysterious as a new born child. He was first overcome with sorrow and then a extra-ordinary sense of beauty.

The droplet started forming strange shapes; it was a free-form being with a mind of her own; a gelatinous fluffy substance. She teased and mocked him by making strange faces at him. He was perplexed, angry, but nevertheless grateful for her company. Then unexpectedly, she took the form of a pair of wings and attached herself to him. A strange sense of divinity started to glow across the newly formed combined being; akin to an arch-angle with a good-news message to share. In one elegant stroke, they flew out of the thorny, uncomfortable bush and took refuge under a tree. Exhaustion had overcome him by then. He went into a peaceful slumber. He dreamt about good things; chocolates, love and passion.

He woke up next morning, but he couldn’t find his droplet anywhere; but he realised that they have merged into a single being; like lovers do in their deepest moment of intimacy.

“It is much more easier, productive and way more fun to think things through; rather than running elsewhere seeking for inspiration.”

So traversed this thought through his mind in a path which exactly adhered to a Fibonacci spiral, devoid of any imperfection (at least to the measurable limits). Suddenly from the corner of his eyes he saw his old friend Google. Though a bit battered, he seemed to be in good health. The man told Google about the magical experience he had the previous night, but Google didn’t seem much interested. Then he told his friend about his post-script thought.

“Hmm.. Interesting!” Google said

“Do you know about the Feynmann algorithm”, Google continued:

The Feynman Algorithm:

1. Write down the problem.
2. Think real hard.
3. Write down the solution.

“Ha ha, that is interesting”, the man said.

The friends starting talking again; and they wandered and wandered. But the fragile spirit inside him who had gallantly rescued him, cut off from her much needed solitude, got squeezed from all sides by the endless and squeaky chatter. She slowly reformed her wings and flew away silently, unnoticed by the man.

New Blog

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2010 at 4:19 pm

nothing more to say. 😐

Plagiarism in Mainstream Indian Press

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm

There was time not so long ago I used to wait for the paper-wala to drop my English daily (‘The Hindu’ specifically) in the morning.  The evolution of Indian press from a honest, credible institution to a malignant, over-sensationalist and dishonest form never fail to impress me. Now a days it doesn’t take much time to discover that the projected ivory tower is full of hypocritical, covetous frauds, whose sole intention is to defend their reader count at any cost.

Just came across the below flickr group

If you follow the discussion in the group, it is evident that the press is comfortably numb and arrogant over the whole thing. This post is to show my solidarity to all the photographers (and bloggers) whose work has been shamelessly stolen by the mainstream press. Please do take your fight to the very end.

Merry Christmas

In Uncategorized on December 25, 2008 at 1:00 am

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Johnny Reid performing Silent Night

Symmetry, Harmony and Passion

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2008 at 1:28 pm


This post is dedicated to Bach. Creations of Bach, to me epitomises the need for structure and also the flexibility and vitality only a well thought of structure will be able to provide. Bach and the patterns he put forward was responsible for shattering many of my immature, premature and abrupt notions. For starters, I curse myself of not getting formal training in western classical music.

My favourite Bach moment is Aria da Capo from Goldberg Variations, especially its first section . Each note so beautiful in itself. Their connection to each other form a precious bead of music, a unique stream of human emotions and extreme beauty.

I am linking below a youtube video of the performance of Goldberg Variations 26-30 and Aria da Capo by Glenn Gould. Aria da Capo starts from timeline 5:48.

The music evokes a sense of beauty in me and many a times are transcendent in nature. But at the same time, there is a painful awareness that I missing out in another realm of understanding and appreciation.

For example, there is an entire different (dare I say, richer) form of mysticism and a sense of wonder that are accessible for a student of mathematics (like me) attached to the story of creation starting from the big bang, the forming of galaxies, solar system and the planets, the evolution of life in a tiny little planet called earth, and finally ending unfinished at a current picture of the modern 21st century world we see around and understand. The understanding of the mathematics, both in its abstract form and its details about the governess of the physical phenomena in this creation story evokes a new sense of beauty. My understanding and appreciation is limited and my mental structures incomplete, but present and unbounded.

However, this kind of representational understanding of music is still inaccessible to me, hopefully not for long. I know there is a beauty out there, which I am unable to see so far, mainly due to shortcomings in me. And it is this presence; rather the belief in the presence of structure and its subsequent quest that drives me forward.

Now, let me come to the second lesson of vitality and flexibility a `good’ structure provide. I am linking below three different interpretations of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BMV 565).

Leopold Stokowski’s interpretation. Conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch

Hans-Andre Stramm’s interpretation

Sir Henry Wood’s interpretation. Conducted by Andrew Davis

Each one of the interpretations is special in its own way. Though their perspectives ever so slightly perturbed, each one of them is highly genuine and relevant. Though the score they follow is the same (and brilliant), the arrangement is unique, the texture is different, tone is different and their contribution massive. It is a testimony towards Bach’s and his interpretators’ genius. A good structure always provide room for innovation and creation. A good creator always use existing and high quality structures.

One of the lessons, I learned the hard way is the essence of making genuine contribution is not to start from scratch, but to build upon the structures build up by the giants in the past, be it science, art or social science.

Let me end the post by throwing in some of my personal, but derived philosophy and beliefs. Included in all of us is a fundamental instinct of making a quest towards symmetry and harmony. Our quest takes the form of pattern seeking (both conscious and unconscious). When we strike upon a pattern of symmetry and harmony (be it in love, art or science) we find happiness. Nature has innate symmetry and structure, many of which are yet to discovered. Hence our lives are worth living a million times and the quest highly rewarding.

Let me leave you with a picture of E8 group and a TED talk by Dr. Garret Lisi who gives a run through of his new theory of everything!

E8 Group - A illustration by Claudio Rocchini

E8 Group - A illustration by Claudio Rocchini

Ted talk by Antony Garrett Lisi

Further Reading

  1. For Symmetry in Bach’s Music
  2. Mathematics: A Beauty and a beast – An article from Nature magazine

ps : The sound that an orchestra can produce (referring to Stokowski’s intepretation) is irreplacable, isn’t it ?

My Thesis Graffiti

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2008 at 6:08 pm

Ran the draft of my entire PhD thesis through Wordle. This is what it spat out

Thesis Graffiti - White Background Version

Graffiti of my Thesis - White Background Version

Graffiti of my Thesis

Graffiti of my Thesis - Black Background Version

There are a few LaTeX objects which have bypassed my quick and ugly regex filter. However, I believe the graffiti gives a rather nice snapshot on what all I have been dwiddling in the past 5 years or so.

I am planning to do another one (in a white background) and put it in back inner cover of the thesis (or as an appendix). Suggestions and comments will be appreciated.

Creative Commons License
Thesis Graffiti by Appu Shaji is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at

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.