Friday, December 30, 2005

Travel Writing

So, it's about 2 am CST. I was about to cozy up with a book and read myself to sleep as I usually do but then I felt something nagging me. I could not place my finger on it for 15 minutes or so and then it hit me. I wanted to write ! I know it sounds corny but it's true. I have not exercised my creative muscles in the last 2 weeks (save for the last post, which did not require that much exercise) and a fortnight is pretty long for a dry spell. Yes, I know it the spell happened more because of laziness on my part than anything else but that's just splitting hairs.

Anyway, so once I figured out that I wanted to write, I then turned my attention to what, if anything, was going to be the object of this creative exercise. A blog post ! Even if I ramble on sleepily, it fits within the blog paradigm and I will get that nagging feeling out of my head. Brilliant ! Excellent ! Umm ... err ... where was I ? Oh yeah, something about rambling.

So now I know I want to write and I also know what I want to write. That's a pretty good start, don't you think ? Now, I need to figure out what to write about when I am writing what I decided to write (try saying that fast more than once !). I know ... I will write about what I am currently reading - The Best American Travel Writing 2004. It's one of my favorite genres - Travel Essays - and one of my favorite series - The Best American Writing. I pretty much finished the rest in the 2004 set some time ago but had not gotten to this one until the flight to St. Louis.

I first got exposed to travelogues when I picked up a copy of the excellent City of Djinns by the brilliant and under-read William Dalrymple. Being a delhite myself, I really appreciated the wonderful account of Mr. Dalrymple's stay and exploits in the Indian capital. From then on, there was no stopping me. I went on to the mesmerising From the Holy Mountain - an account of his travel among the orthodox Christian population living in the Middle Eastern nations. I was so taken with his descriptions that I did something I rarely do - I looked up his email address from his official website and emailed him to express my sheer joy at having read such a wonderful piece of work. To my surprise, I got an email back from him within the hour thanking me for my comments and enquiring about what I was studying (I had mentioned I was a student). I also read his The Age of Kali during the summer when I was in NY and I was flabbergasted ! He had outdone himself. I emailed him with comments along similar lines and his reply was very heartening. He said that I had just made his day with my comments. He also encouraged me to read his latest, this time a work of historical fiction and critically acclaimed, White Mughals. Alas, I have not yet found time to read it but it has been on my list for some time now and I hope to relish it soon.

Anyway, back to the book I am reading now. It is pretty darn good and I think I have some new favorites whose columns I will attempt to track during the coming year. In fact, may be I can post links to some of my favorite pieces that were actually published online. Let's see if Google can help me out here ... ah, here we go - The heart-stirring Facing Famine (Tom Haines, Boston Globe), the personally resonating The People On The Bus (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker), the pleasantly mis-titled (read it and you will see) Kashmiri Extremism (Kevin Fedarko, Skiing) and the hilariously entertaining Canadian Gothic (Douglas Anthony Cooper, Travel & Leisure). I would have liked to post links to all the articles collected in the book but the reasons for my reluctance are threefold:

  • I think that sleep I mentioned earlier is catching up with me.
  • I really want to convince you to buy this book. No, I don't work for the publisher. I just really like it when extremely well written words find a large readership.
  • I have not finished the book yet.

So, if you have been holding off on reading travelogues, you now have even fewer excuses to do so. Happy vicarious traveling, my friends !

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I just received the best comment I have ever received on this blog - The exams must be over. Please blog!. It is wonderful to know that there are people that actually check my blog regularly. I am deeply appreciative of such nice people and hope that they continue to be regular readers.

Enough gushing. Let's talk updates. Exams are indeed over. I managed to pull straight A's again this semester. However, that's not the only good news. The clincher is that I am completely done with the coursework requirements of the PhD and now it's time for the most interesting part - the actual research and writing the dissertation. Oh, another bit of good news - my cumulative GPA is 4.0. Not a monumental achievement, but still a bit of an ego-boost especially because the CS coursework at UMCP is notoriously difficult.

I was giddy at the thought of not having to take any more classes (yes, they were fun but there comes a time when you just don't want to write any more exams) and so I went on a two day television binge, catching up with my large collection of yet-unseen DVDs - M*A*S*H, Frasier, Agatha Christie's Poirot. There were times I thought about blogging but those thoughts were soon pushed aside by the well-deserved laziness that had enveloped me.

And then it was Christmas time. Family, friends and lots of shopping - online and otherwise. One of my dear old college friends visited from Lansing, Michigan. As I already mentioned, I was otherwise unengaged and so I was able to give her a guided tour of the area - the district looking even more breathtaking during holiday season, the debauchery-drenched yet beautiful Atlantic City and the solemn views of the capital city of Annapolis.

I am typing this from St. Louis, Missouri. I am visiting one of my best friends from college, who has been in the US for a short term project. I will be here long enough to usher in 2006 and then I will head out to MD on January 1st.

That's a pretty long update, I think, and I don't want to test the patience of the few regular readers that I have, so I will end here. I apologize in advance for the lack of links in this post (I usually try and link to everything relevant in the post) but the wireless signal seems to be pretty dismal in this part of the apartment and I am too tired to hunt for a better spot. Therefore, a "linkless" post would have to do for today. Happy Holidays !

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A compelling case for wanderlust

I don't think I have ever been more motivated to travel around the globe (other than reading this) than when watching this excellent video. Well done, Matt Harding ! You made me laugh, enjoy music and want to go trekking around the world with a handycam.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ah, Morbidity ... I missed you !

[Note: If you don't know sarcasm when you see it, you are the ideal audience for reading the following post.]

Slashdot is reporting that SciAm is running a story about whether the world is prepared for a flu pandemic. Here's a little excerpt: One day a highly contagious and lethal strain of influenza will sweep across all humanity, claiming millions of lives. It may arrive in months or not for years--but the next pandemic is inevitable. Are we ready ?

Now picture these exact same words on a Star Wars style crawl. Cool, isn't it ? So, if the now infamous avian influenza strain (with the menacing technical name H5N1 ... hmm, I don't know about you but that does sound cooler to me than R2D2 !! A coincidence ? May be, may be not !!) mutates into a lethal strain and becomes capable of being passed from a human to another human, it might prove to be twice as deadly as the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed about a 100 million people.

My reaction to this story was actually three-fold. Here's my first reaction with my Calvin hat on :

Here's the second one with my George Carlin hat on :

Imagine that I am saying something like "Well, we deserve it !!" in a much funnier way.

And, finally, this one with my Homer Simpson hat on (which, I gotta say, is my favorite hat) :

So, you got great Star Wars tie ins, edge-of-the-seat suspense, a touch of helplessness (can't make a vaccine before the virus mutates and by then it's too late !!) and a pretty diverse range of emotional reactions. I smell a blockbuster !

And if nothing else, at least we got SciAm to sell more copies, right ?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This Just In: Kansas Education Board Is Nuts

So, the Kansas Board of Education has approved new science standards which would allow the theory of evolution to be challenged in public schools and also allow intelligent design to be taught along with evolution. Are you thinking the same thing that I am thinking ? Why is this news ? It's Kansas, after all, right ? They tried to do this once before in 1999 when they actually excised almost all references to evolution from text books. Well, here's the more interesting and scary part from the same CNN story I linked to before:

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Isn't that ingenious ?! No more claims that ID is unscientific. Even science is unscientific ! This is so dumb, it's brilliant !!


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Tim Bray likes Vikram Seth !

So, I was doing my regular RSS feeding and I read this in one of the posts:

This is the latest by Vikram Seth, best known for A Suitable Boy. Seth is one of only two or three authors whose new works I buy on sight, without waiting to read reviews (mind you, since he only publishes every decade or so, this is not an expensive habit).

I had not yet looked at the source of the post and when I did ... lo and behold ... it was Mr. Tim Bray's excellent blog Ongoing. Tim, in case you didn't know, is the co-inventor of XML and XML namespaces, currently working at Sun Microsystems. A very smart man with insightful posts. Well, it's good to have something in common with him. I have been waiting for a long time for Seth to come out with a new novel after An Equal Music and here it is - Two Lives. Another item for the wish list.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

No More Danish Feta For You !

I just heard this on NPR: The European Court of Justice has decided that only the "white cheese soaked in brine and originating in Greece" can be called Feta - this inane decision goes into effect starting 2007. France, Britain, Germany and Denmark had applied were lobbying against this ruling.

EU, I have two words for you - Ay Caramba !!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lasagna & Birdwatching?

I was just watching The Daily Show and saw a commercial for Ask Jeeves. It was interesting to say the least. Here's how it went: A bird-watcher is standing in the marshes observing what I can only assume are some very interesting birds - because why else would you be in a marsh? Of course, that's something for another post. A woman comes out with a child and says, "I need a recipe for lasagna". The bird-watcher makes a face and then ignores her. This is followed by a voice-over which says, "Don't ask a bird-watcher. Ask Jeeves." Now, I understand the point of this commercial. But is there an arcane relationship between bird-watching and lasagna of which I have been unaware all this time? Have I been kept in the dark when it comes to the one of the most boring pastimes on the planet and the-food-that-Garfield-loves ?

Speaking of the show, Alan Alda was on ! Even though it was just for 10 minutes, I found out that he has just written his memoirs - Never Have Your Dog Stuffed : And Other Things I've Learned. Oh well, another day, another book on the wish list.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

They did it again !

I had forgotten all about the Booker Prize shortlist, which was supposed to come out on 8th September. I just remembered and looked it up, hoping that they had found their way to nominate Rushdie again. Of course, life is full of disappointments and therefore, no Rushdie. *sigh* Well at least, they did retain my other favorite this year - Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Never you mind, Mr. Rushdie. You will always be no. 1 in my book !

Sunday, September 11, 2005

But Groundhog Day was on !

That's how I excused myself the other day when what was supposed to be a 5 minute break turned into a 2 hour interlude and left 2 oh-my-god-I-need-to-read papers unread in its wake. Groundhog Day is a member of the set that I call "Black Hole Movies". They are the movies that suck you in no matter what you are doing. Once you turn the TV on, you are no longer a man of your own free will. The force of these movies is so strong that it even lasts across commercials, so you are not immune even if you are watching it on network television (Heaven help you if you are watching commercial-free television!). Now, here are some axioms about the Black Hole set:

1) There is one such set for every person on the planet.

2) If you deny the existence of such a set, you are pathetically deluded.

3) The set only grows with time.

4) As soon as you come across a movie from this set on the TV, you will experience a strong urge to put down anything that you are doing and submit to its will.

5) You will experience strong feelings of joy and giddiness after watching such a movie which will far outweigh any feelings of guilt about shirking work, if any.

6) If you actually try to use this set as an excuse to another person (esp. a superior), you will be ridiculed and laughed out of the room.

7) There is no requirement that all movies in this set be good movies. Some movies may derive their force from the atrocity of their scripts.

8) If you record yourself watching a black hole movie and play it back in reverse while you are standing on your head wearing a one-sleeved shirt, you will hear the words "resistance is futile" over and over.

I will now reveal to you some members of my black hole set. Judge not lest ye shall be judged. Groundhog Day, Godzilla, Jeepers Creepers 2, One Fine Day, Army of Darkness, Scent of a Woman, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Agneepath, The LOTR Trilogy, The Die Hard Trilogy.

[ P.S.- Yes, I do not have a social life. Thanks for asking. ]

Monday, August 22, 2005

Rushdie Rocks !!

So I have been really busy lately since these are the last 2 weeks of my internship and I have to present my summer research work to the whole group. So I have not had a lot of time to do other things like read or write. Of course I still have to take time out to feed this cute guy and take him for a walk:

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So today I finally got to bed about half an hour early and had time to resume my re-read of Rushdie's Satanic Verses. I had first read it back in junior year of college and I have always been in awe of it. Now, before I get accused of supporting an anti-Islamic agenda, let me make it clear that I am one of those people who can appreciate a work of art without attaching any religious connotations to it. I watched The Passion of The Christ and I thought it was an excellent movie. A movie, that's it - not anti-Semitic pro-Catholic propaganda as it is claimed to be. Whatever Gibson's intentions might have been, I still see it as a piece of entertainment and therefore treat it as such. Same with Verses - it is fiction.

Phew, that was a long disclaimer. Where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to describe how much Rushdie rocks as an author! Well ... a lot! For those of you unfamiliar with Rushdie, here are a few pointers:

1) He was born in India but raised in the UK. He is British by nationality.

2) He won the Booker Prize in 1981 for Midnight's Children (my all time favorite book). The same book then won the Booker Of Bookers' Prize in 1993 for being the best work in fiction to have won the Booker in its first 25 years. He was nominated 3 more times for Shame, Satanic Verses and The Moor's Last Sigh but did not win. (A gross oversight, as I like to claim).

3) He has been longlisted for this year's Booker as well for Shalimar The Clown (which yours truly has already pre-ordered, of course. It comes out in September.)

Yes, I am aware that I am gushing like a school girl but when it comes to authors like Rushdie (or Ishiguro, Morrison, Desai and countless others), the gushing is pretty much involuntary. Here's a little excerpt from Satanic Verses:

"They hadn't been getting along lately.
He told himself that afterwards, but not during.

Afterwards, he told himself, we were on the rocks, may be it was the missing babies, may be we grew away from each other, may be this, may be that.

During, he looked away from all the strain, all the scratchiness,, all the fights that never got going, he closed his eyes and waited until her smile came back. He allowed himself to believe in that smile, that brilliant counterfeit of joy."

It's passages like these that make me glad I became a reading nerd.

[ BTW, the canine's name is Java. He belongs to my landlady. I apologize if the pic is not very good. I took it with my new cellphone (flash warning). Don't you just love shameless self-promotions ?! ]

Thursday, August 18, 2005

InfoVis/Flash Excellence !

I was never a big fan of Flash but that's probably because Flash creativity was not as prevalent as it is now. The Flickr Tag Browser is an excellent example of good Flash and an even better example of Information Visualization. I should make sure and get this added to the InfoVis Collection that our class created back in Spring'05.

Man, this is addictive ! Oh, BTW, if you are not familiar with Flickr ... where ya been ?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I have recently been bitten by the Haiku bug. They are amazing little things, aren't they? Here are the 3 that I wrote very recently. The last one is sort of a riddle. Try and guess if you can.

Broken heart yonder.
Life is empty and devoid,
Love does not answer.

War lives once again.
Death rides naked and merciless,
Men turn a deaf ear.

Intruder Alert.
Greek tragedy replayed.
Blue death imminent.

My favorite modern Haiku of all time is the one that won's Haiku Computer Error Message contest:

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Positively Brilliant !!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Slashdot + Microsoft Windows = Hilarity

All right, so I don't need a lot of convincing to grant you that the Slashdot crowd is not a big fan of Microsoft, especially that infernal piece of software they call an Operating System*. The latest story there is "Getting a handle on Vista" - discussing the features of the Microsoft Vista, Microsoft's new OS that they plan to release in late 2006. One of these "features" is, and I quote a Microsoft executive here, "reducing the number of times computers will have to be rebooted".

I could stop here because the humor inherent in that statement itself is sufficient to prove the equation in the title correct. I won't.

A poster on Slashdot commented that Microsoft made similar claims about Windows 2000 when it advertised it as "only having 7 events that would necessitate a reboot". The person (blessed with an amazing sense of humor) who replied to that post said:

it does only have seven events that necessitate a reboot:
  1. Installing anything
  2. Uninstalling anything
  3. Being connected to a network
  4. Not being connected to a network
  5. Running an application
  6. Not running an application
  7. Starting up
I have not laughed this hard since ... since ... um ... for a long time !

* Didn't I mention it? I'm one of the Slashdot crowd !

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bloglash be damned !

Apparently this gentleman is upset with blogs. Very upset. Very very upset. He says a blogger is "anyone with enough time or narcissism to document every tedious bit of minutia filling their uneventful lives." Never thought I would be described as narcissistic. Ah well ... another day, another discovery.

Oh, and speaking of tedious bit of minutia, I have to say that I am loving watching the old seasons of Frasier. Buying that six-season pack was a very good decision. As I have said over and over again on my instrument of narcissistic self-expression, Wit rules. And you know what ? So does Sarcasm.

Take that, Mr. Angry Man !

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I have the tickets !

Alright ... so I just bought the tickets for Glengarry Glen Ross from and got a pretty good deal I think ($78 vs $115 full price). They are for the 2 pm show next Saturday (7/30). I am pretty excited and nervous at the same time. I will get to see Alan Alda in person and may be get an autograph as well. Let's see how it goes.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


The world abounds with men and women,
wielding pens mightier and wiser than mine.
Their written word emotes life itself,
while I produce that which is mediocrity defined.

Day after day I struggle to find words with voice,
while They speak the language that transcends all that is man-made.
It is They who are read and revered,
and They who are remembered even when men's memories begin to fade.

Think not that I wish ill of them,
or even envy them their skill.
Respect and awe I bestow upon their work,
and some hope that inspiration be instilled.

Perhaps the future holds promise,
perchance the days will come.
I shall find the golden words that elude me now,
and, God willing, even be read by some.

Throw out that PC [not] !!

Just read on Slashdot that there is an NYTimes article [registration reqd. for reading] that talks about how certain people have developed a new response to the growing problem of Spyware - throw out your PC and buy a new one !! Absolutely outrageous ! By doing this, you don't do anything except indirectly give Microsoft an incentive to not fix this problem. Any new PC you buy will fetch it more profits from the licensing fee of another copy of Windows.

One of the people mentioned in the articles holds a PhD in Computer Science, no less! This is sort of disappointing because rather than actually get at the root cause of their problem, people think that just buying a new computer will solve it ! Of course it would arise again if you do not change your habits.

Let me reiterate a couple things that have been mentioned over and over again in conjunction with the Spyware issue:

1) Do not use Internet Explorer : I cannot stress this enough ! Most exploits are written for IE and you should use Mozilla Firefox - much safer.

2) Change your browsing habits : Do not just blindly click "Yes" or "OK" to any pop-up dialog or window that asks you a question. Try to understand the question that it's asking you. If you do not understand it, then better to be safe and click "No" or "Cancel". Do not click on advertisements or flash banners on websites no matter how enticing their message !

3) Another cannot-stress-enough-er, Do not open email attachments !

BTW, if you do decide to get rid of your PC, please seriously consider getting an Apple Mac Mini or an iMac. The Mac Mini is very affordable (~$500) and will work with your existing keyboard, monitor and mouse. Apple's operating system is based on UNIX and has no spyware problems at all.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Mr. Alan Alda

I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but Alan Alda is my favorite actor. I first came across him as Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce in the incomparable TV show M*A*S*H. He superb acting, as well as directing, garnered him a flabbergasting 21 Emmy nominations and 5 wins during the 11-year lifetime of the show. And then he did the brilliant science show Frontiers, in collaboration with Scientific American. And then there was the fantastic ER episode - The Peace of Wild Things [the eponymous Wendell Berry poem], for which he was nominated for yet another Emmy. Then, of course, there was the Oscar-nominated performance for The Aviator - which brings me to the actual point of this post (other than fawning over Mr. Alda).

I just found out that he has been nominated for a "best supporting actor" Emmy for his work in West Wing and caught a brief sound bite of him saying something to the effect of "Has there been someone before who has actually lost all 3 in the same year ?" And then it hit me ... he has been nominated for an Oscar, a Tony - for the broadway resurrection of David Mamet's glorious Glengarry Glen Ross. which I will definitely be catching before curtains go down in late August and I head back to MD - and, now, an Emmy. My question is - "Has someone been nominated for all 3 in the same year before ?"

Anyway, I really really hope that he wins.

[ PS: I only mention an iota of the work that Mr. Alda did between M*A*S*H and The Aviator. ]

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Finally, Monsieur Poirot !

I have finally been able to crack the mystery before Poirot solves it in the episode. I shall always remember "The Spanish Chest", Episode 12. That is good news, n'est pas ?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Museum of Ancient Inventions

Found a link to the remarkable Virtual Museum of Ancient Inventions. Things invented by those distant civilizations without which modern life would pretty much not exist. Don't believe me? Let's peruse the exhibit and let me try to convince you of the veracity of the above statement:

1) What do we have first? Ah, yes ... the Woven Cloth from 7000 BC. Wouldn't be very social without this, would we?

2) Potter's Wheel, Egypt, 2400 BC : You know why civilization would have ended without this invention? Other than the fact that we would still be spilling more than drinking, the coasters would never have been invented. The Horror !!

3) Candles, Rome, 500 BC. "Quick ... honey ... this matchstick is about to go out. Light another one. Damn these power cuts !! If only someone could have invented ... something made out of wax that keeps burning for a long time".

4) Arches, Rome, 500 BC. Invented for a more practical purpose - supporting massive aqueducts that carried huge amounts of water from the mountains into the city - arches have found their way into almost every form of architecture known to man.

5) Stone-hurling Catapult, Greece, 400 BC. This one I can live without. A weapon is a weapon is a weapon.

6) Battery, Baghdad, 250 BC. Come on? It's not obvious?

7) Compass, China, 220 BC. "Always getting lost? Never getting where you want to be? Try this amazing new invention - the South Pointer, or as people will call it later, the Compass !"

8) Steam Engine, Alexandria, 100 AD. And here we were, giving James Watt all the credit ! I am sure he has no problems sharing !

9) Abacus, Russia & Japan, Date Unknown. If we didn't have this ... you wouldn't know whether this is item number 9 or 45.

Lots more where that came from. Do visit the museum itself.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

World Monument Fund Watch 2006

I was just reading on the always-informative MetaFilter, that the World Monument Fund has released its 2006 Endangered Monuments List. As the post says, the WMF has taken the unprecedented step of putting the entire country of Iraq on the list. Of course, for those of you not familiar with Iraq, historically known as Mesopotamia. it was the seat of some of the most ancient and advanced civilizations. Read more about that here.

Personally, I just wanted to see if there was anything in India that was on this watch list. Lo and behold, there are actually 8 in the entire Indian subcontinent and 4 in India itself ! These are:

* Watson's Hotel in Bombay : The earliest surviving example of cast-iron architecture from colonial India, built around 1869.
* Dalhousie Square in Calcutta : A 2 square KM area in the heart of Calcutta - once the epicenter and capital of the Raj.
* Dhangkar Gompa in Himachal Pradesh : A forgotten monastery (gompa = temple) on the Indo-Tibetan border from at least 600 years old.
* Guru Lhakhang & Sumda Chung Temples in Sumda Chung : Two of the oldest (11th century) Buddhist temples used for worship to this day.

Although the conditions of all of these monuments is deplorable - and points to the relatively scant attention that the Indian government pays to its historical heritage - I am particularly saddened by the situation at the Watson Hotel, because I have actually been there and seen it. Despite the complete lack of attention by the current owner and the defiling balconies, the beauty still shines through. Recently, three of the balconies collapsed and killed 1 person. I hope that this shines light on the urgency of the situation and that WMF is able to persuade the government to let the proposed restoration and conservation work go through.

Friday, July 08, 2005


I just finished Disc 3 of the Agatha Christie's Poirot Collection (5 more to go). I absolutely adore the theme music of this show. Let me see if I can find it online ... hmm, found a sequenced MIDI here but not the original - which is just absolutely incomparable. Anyway, I was wondering about what it was about the theme music that not only made me feel good but also free and stress-less (a term coined by my friend Miriam). And then it hit me, it was because in India, Poirot was broadcast on Sundays at 12.30 p.m.

Ahh ... Sundays in India ! Nothing like having a delicious mom-made Indian breakfast, watching a string of BBC classics (Poirot, the hilarious Jeeves & Wooster and the brilliant Sherlock Holmes Mysteries) and knowing that half of Sunday is still there to enjoy after the shows.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Mad About "Mad About You"

A long time ago, in a land not so far away ... in fact, right here ... funny and intelligent television was actually "regular" television. You did not have to pay $44.95 a month just to be able to watch something that would be just the right kind of funny (one of the ways to identify this form of funny is to be able to laugh at all the right places without the canned laughter). I know it's hard to imagine this while living in today's world of - euphemistically speaking - incredibly mediocre TV, but believe me, I have proof. This proof lies in the episodes of a beautifully crafted, gem of a show called Mad About You.

I could write tomes about how good this show is but I don't want to be one of those fans. Just watch it.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

I just finished watching Hotel Rwanda. I am speechless. I had seen a lot of interviews with Don Cheadle and the director, Terry George but nothing could have prepared me for this movie. I think Joaquin Phoenix's character Jack Daglish sums it up when he says, "I am so ashamed."

It is tragic that the one universal trait among men in this world is hatred and not compassion.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Trying out Blogger Images

Hmmm ... I don't know how I could have missed this. I have wanted this feature ever since I started this blog - the ability to actually post images in my posts without having to link to images hosted elsewhere. Well done, Google/Blogger !

Let's see ... which pic should I pick? I guess graduation will have to do...

[PS: This is back in December '03 when I got my MS in Electrical Engineering. I am sort of proud of it even if my buddy Mike said "Meh! Real men get PhDs." I am working on that part. ]

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


I am sure you have heard of Ms Mukhtar Mai, a genuinely brave Pakistani woman who was gang-raped on the orders of the local village council as punishment for her brother's "indiscreet" fraternization. This happened about 3 years ago and since then Ms. Mai has suffered even more ordeals - Being barred to travel abroad and tell her story, the rapists being acquitted for lack of evidence etc. But I don't want to talk about her admirable struggle itself in the face of such great odds (read the brilliant Nicholas Kristof's column here for more on that).

I want to talk about a quote from the "President" of Pakistan which pretty much sums up his feelings of apathy towards this iniquity. Upon being asked by the BBC to comment, he said "We are no worse than any other developing country".

Am I the only one who is appalled by this? That is his excuse? "No one else does anything, so why should we?" I am sorry if this seems like an overreaction but I don't think Mr Musharraf makes for a very good President, let alone a human being.

[Update: Looks like the Supreme Court is not as apathetic as the rest of the Pakistani government - it overturned the acquittals of the accused and gave orders for them to be retried at a future date. Ms. Mai's passport has also been returned to her.]

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Tigger Tribute

I just read on Google News that the amazingly talented ventriloquist Paul Winchell, who voiced my favorite character in the Winnie The Pooh [Warning: Flash intensive] series - Tigger. Tigger always made that show so upbeat and optimistic, even when Pooh and Piglet were down in the dumps.

Here's something I didn't know - Winchell was also the voice of Dick Dastardly of Dastardly & Muttley (I still remember that sneaky laugh) fame.

Here's to you, Paul. You made a lot of kids laugh in your lifetime ... a man can do a lot worse with his life.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Pointless Indignance

I had decided that I would not be posting anything today. I had considered posting something when I finished watching the brilliant The Breakfast Club but I realized that most of you out there probably had not waited this long to see it and any kind of recommendation or praise I could muster up would be moot. So, I decided I would just go to bed and read.

What I am reading currently is the insightful collection of essays called "The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters" by the always brilliant and masterful William Dalrymple. This is Mr Dalrymple's second book about his experiences in India. The first one, one of my all time favorites, was City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, a fascinating read about his stay in the city that I grew up in. This second one covers almost the entire subcontinent.

This might look like a post about how wonderful the book is, and I wish it was since the book is quite wonderful. However, I am a little too angry to do any such post proper justice. I am reading the chapter about Vijayaraje Scindia - the late Rajmata (Queen Mother) of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior (now part of the state of Madhya Pradesh). She figured quite prominently in Indian politics during the 1990s. To call her a hardliner would be quite an understatement. She was one of the vice-presidents of the Bhartiya Janata Party, the political arm of the right-wing Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Association of National Volunteers).

Every year since 1989, various of the Rajmata's organizations had held an annual rally at the site of a disputed Mosque - the Babri Masjid - which, they claimed, had been built by invading Muslim rulers over the holy site of the birth of the Hindu god Rama. The purpose of such a rally was to perform sacred rites to indicate their intentions to rebuild the temple. On December 6, 1992, however, at one such rally, a vast crowd of 200,000 militant Hindus stormed the barricades and tore the entire Mosque down with ropes, pickaxes, hammers and even their own hands. They then attacked the local Muslim population and also the foreign correspondents at the scene with knives and iron bars.

This event itself is galling, but what makes be absolutely crazy is the behavior of this so called Queen. She, despite having signed a written pldege to the Indian High Court guaranteeing the safety of the mosque, was at a podium cheering and shouting encouraging words to the crowd over a microphone. Here are some other snippets from an interview taken by Dalrymple about 5 weeks later (during which the city of Bombay witnessed some of the worst acts ever performed by Indians against Indians since the partition in 1947 - 1400 Muslims died at the hands of local lynch mobs):

1) When asked whether she at least condemned the attacks on the journalists, she replied "Acha Hua" (it was a good thing that happened)

2) The Rajmata's political mentor, Sardar Angre, when asked to comment on the murders said that "The Muslims must be made to understand that they should be proud of Hindustan. Look at what happens at cricket matches: the Muslims always support Pakistan."

3) When Dalrymple mentioned that "... can hardly justify murdering people because they support the wrong cricket team", the Rajmata had the temerity to say, "Hindus are docile people. They always welcome anyone - even the Jews", and then nodded her head to emphasize that this was an act of extreme tolerance.

4) She later mentioned that "... if only the Muslims followed the Hindu ideology there would be no more trouble. They should accept our common culture and unite in the name of God."

I am literally at a loss for words. Words like these should not be uttered by any human being let alone a Queen and a servant of the people. I know I have been indignant about the state of Indian politics before and I know that it is pointless since reason is hardly a weapon that prevails when it comes to things like this. However, I cannot help being appalled that I belong to a country where such thinking is not only acceptable but also encouraged. You may tell me that people have moved on but frankly, I am not sure that things have changed. Even though the Rajmata has passed on, there is no shortage of intolerance and hate.

[ PS: I am a practicing Hindu and I do not believe that my God has or will ever ask for a drop of blood to be shed in his name. ]

[ PPS: This post borrows heavily from The Age of Kali. ]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Inimitable Al Pacino

Is there anyone out there who does not love Scent of a Woman? This cinematic gem blows me away every time I watch it. If the Academy had not pulled its act together and gave a very deserving Pacino his first (can you believe that?) Best Actor Oscar, I would have been mighty pissed.

You nailed it, Al.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

No Telly [Update]

Ok, so I guess I was a little quick to judge NetFlix's customer service yesterday. I talked to Matt, a longtime NetFlix subscriber, today and he said that there has really never been any reason for him to actually call the customer service. Everything is fully automated and available online. And I also got an answer to my question about real customer service agent getting replaced with an FAQ list. It happened because of the business model that Amazon and NetFlix have brought to the table. They are able to offer such reduced prices and other incentives precisely because they of their streamlined business model - real agents need real salaries.

Also most of the people on that particular thread I mentioned yesterday with the complaints were not really the sharpest tacks in the bunch, which I agree with.

So, with Matt's vehement recommendation and my sister's gentle reminder that a little TV might actually be good for me, I am reconsidering NetFlix.

Of course, a summer with nothing but books also sounds great.

What's a guy to do?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

No Telly

I was thinking about getting NetFlix while I am in NY for the summer. I found this interesting blog where people post comments and discuss NetFlix's service. I gotta say, when I read this particular thread, I was bothered and started having second thoughts about signing up.

Actually the real reason I found this blog was because I had to Google for the NetFlix Customer Service 800 number!! "Why Google for it?", you say? "Just go to their website and click on the Contact Us link!" Well, I tried that. They don't have an 800 number on their website. The reason for this eludes me. When did this happen? When did talking to a Customer Service agent get replaced with reading an FAQ list?

Anyway, so let's see what the alternatives are. Blockbuster? I don't think so. Walmart? I am just not sure if they are good enough in this DVD rental business right now. Plus, neither of them has a customer service number on its website.

So, then I thought that since I am going to get broadband out there anyway, why not just get one of those digital cable + internet deals? It would be easier and cheaper.

And then it hit me. I keep complaining that I don't have enough time to read. This is a perfect opportunity to escape the dramatically mediocre programming on television and get some serious reading done.

And so it is decided. There shall be no television for 3.5 months. I know I am going to experience some serious withdrawal but I think my hard-bound friends can help me get over it without any problem.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I Return ... Unencumbered

So, exams are finally over. Semester ends tomorrow and I am going to be free ... for about 3 days and then I head to IBM Research in New York, for what promises to be a grueling 3.5 months, except ... guess what ... no exams :-)

Anyway, I have been unplugged from my blog for about 2 months now (except for a thought here and there) and I felt like the first thing I should do after the exam is over (5 minutes ago) is to feed my bloggy and so here I am.

BTW, just because I have not been writing does not mean that I have not been reading other people's blogs. I regularly read Sammy's (now I can start working on her challenge) and I recently discovered the lair of SuperKate - Adventures in Narcissism. Fantastic stuff and of course, she holds a special place in my heart since she was nice enough to leave a comment on my nostalgic post saying that she loves India as well and all Indophiles are just ... like I said ... special.

Anyway, sorry if this post is a little inane ... just wanted to re-attach the blogging tube. (Someone, somewhere, is using a lame-o-meter on this post and the score is off the chart).

Saturday, April 30, 2005

I Miss My India !

It just hits me sometimes - it's usually while listening to awesome Hindi music or when I have not talked to Mamma, Papa and Didi for a while - I really miss India !!

Hey India ... I should have said this a long time ago ... I love you !

Thursday, April 14, 2005

How I have missed you !!!

All right, so for the 3 people who read my blog, I am back !! I was Powerbook-less for about 10 days and so completely de-blogged. I just missed it so much. Welcome back, my friend !!

Friday, April 01, 2005

An Older Poem

Was indulging in a bit of ego-massaging by searching for my own name on Yahoo! Search. Found this old poem about pollution that I had written as a sophomore in college. This has always been one of my most favorite pieces, environmental connections notwithstanding. It's a little sophomoric of course ...

The Audacity Of A By-Product

You made me
I will unmake you all.

You bred me
I will wipe out your brood.

You fed me
I will devour your souls.

An Ironic Doom...
A Fitting Death...
You let me breathe
I will choke you dead.

The slave shall live...
The masters will die...
You let me loose
Catch me if you can!!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

First triple-pronged post

My usual posts are about one thing and only that thing. I came across something today that actually addresses 3 things that I have always wanted to talk about:

1) Macs Rock : This comes as no surprise to people who actually own macs. There is a perennial belief in the computing universe that:

Macs are good for the "creatively inclined" (the writers, graphic designers and photographers) and the more "technologically challenged" (parents, grandparents et al).

Somehow, over time, that belief begat this belief:

Macs is not for the more serious workers among us - say, for example, scientists, engineers and programmers.

I fall in that category and believe me, the second is complete hogwash. The Mac Rocketh ! It is a Unix machine, only cooler. Read more here. Oh, and if you don't want to take my word, may be you will listen to Paul Graham[1] in his essay Return Of The Mac. No? How about Tim O'Reilly[2] in Watching Alpha Geeks ? No? Now you are just being difficult !!

2) Hackers : You should have noted above in Paul Graham's essay, that he refers to hackers. If not there, you MUST have come across it somewhere or the other. Chances are, that if this "somewhere" is the television or the newspapers, you have come to believe that all hackers are crooks. Even more hogwash ! I beg you to read this ! If you want more, you can even go and get this and this.

3) Computer Science Research : Another issue that Paul Graham nailed right on the head in the Mac essay was the fact that what researchers and hackers (I hope you read (2) above) do today is what usually tends to become the dominant technology of the future. Yes, it might sound like I am tooting my own horn but I am not. You want examples? Here you go :

So there. I've said my piece(s). Thanks to Paul Graham for providing the impetus[3].

[1] if you are interested in functional programming and LISP would know him from On Lisp and ANSI Common Lisp.

[2] If you do anything with computers, you know O'Reilly Books.

[3] His other essays are equally brilliant.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

"As Time Goes By"

I just finished watching the first and second complete season of the BBC show As Time Goes By. A show that would be referred to today as a "brit-com", a term derived from the American neologism "sitcom" ... which is anachronistric, actually, because BBC was making comedies long before the American networks came up with the idea of a "situational comedy".

Anyway, back to the outstanding comedy of As Time Goes By ... that show has something that I think almost all modern day sitcoms and their trans-atlantic counterparts lack. The humor in this show is rooted in wit - actual honest-to-god wit ! It does not have to resort to buffoonery with props, inane gestures and facial expressions or even lewd and suggestive double entendres, all of which seems disguised as humor these days*. I am talking about the sort of wit that I witnessed dripping from the dialogue in Charade (to name one such masterpiece), or coming out of the mouth of the inimitable John Cleese as Basil Fawlty in the hilarious Fawlty Towers. Refreshing to say the least. Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer are absolutely brilliant, and so is the supporting cast.

I first TiVoed this entire series from PBS and fell in love with it. Just recently bought the first 2 complete seasons and I am almost on the verge of shelling out the $100 and buy the rest of the series all at once (all seasons except the last 2 are available). This is the only TV show other than M*A*S*H for which I have felt the desire to own.

*Note: For all those who think, upon reading this post, that I am trying to put down the art of physical comedy, please rest assured. Even a dolt like me would not dare to compare the mediocrity that is today's sitcom with the genius of Chaplin , Laurel & Hardy or The Three Stooges.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Weapon Of Choice

Ok, tell me that you have seen the Fatboy Slim video Weapon of Choice. If you have not, please add it to your "I must see this" list (you do have one, don't you ?). Actually. you know what ... you can cross it off that list now, because you can see it right now, right here.

When I first saw this video, I could not believe that Christopher Walken was the guy in the video. When I picture Chris Walken, I picture scenes from Deer Hunter, Dead Zone and Last Man Standing (to name a fraction of the great stuff he has done). The dance is pretty great, I gotta say !

My image of Chris Walken took a further hit (in a good way) when I saw an old SNL episode with him hosting ! He was hilarious !! I mean it ... fabulously hilarious !

Go watch the video.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

IBM it is !

It is final. I will be interning at the IBM T.J.Watson Research Center in Yorktown, NY. I got the final offer today. Have to start looking for housing now. The duration is 14 weeks. As soon as the offer arrived, I emailed the people at Microsoft Research and told them that I was going to accept IBM's offer and thanked them for their interest.

I will be working with the Statistical Text Analytics group down at Watson. I am reading up on a lot of stuff that I will need as background. I am very excited about working in this area. Hopefully I will get a good direction towards what will become my dissertation.

I can't believe I am going to be in NY !! I am still thinking about where to live for those weeks ... NYU has some summer housing available - mmmm ... Living in Manhattan !! But I have heard that the commute is a killer. I guess I could stay in Yorktown and then hang out in the city on the weekends.

Any advice from New Yorkers or former IBM interns will be more than welcome !

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"Ending The Feud"

Ok, so I used to write ... a lot ! Poetry and short stories were my favorites. I have not written anything in a while - various reasons (nothing that can't be classified as lame). I wrote something yesterday. At first, I was not sure if this was the right place to post them. But then I thought about it and here is how I convinced myself :

1) It IS a "green idea".
2) This IS my blog.
3) Shameless self-promotion is the way of the world.

Anyway, if I hear comments on the order of "what is this crap?!" and "for shame !", I will rethink the move. Until then, enjoy:

Ending The Feud

Must we fight?
I know I have paid little attention to you, old friends,
in the years gone by,
for reasons that, now, matter to little or no ends.

Tumultuous times ... those years were,
recovery from a broken heart arrived slow.
Rose-colored glasses came off,
and a good helping of life came in tow.

Although refuge I did seek,
among your brothers, born of fathers and mothers nobler than I.
Faithful companions they proved to be,
more animate than untrustworthy humans, a worthy ally.

Pens and papers, they were to be feared,
fear of pain and solitude, that accompanied you in those dark days.
I learned to live ... no, exist
without the craft, without the art - carry on in a dull haze.

Today I feel the void,
it has grown big and black.
Today I discern the need,
I must have my craft back !

And so I genuflect and ask for forgiveness,
please end this crippling blight.
I must have you in my corner,
because, to live ... I must write !

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Firefox has a commercial (finally) !

Just read on the fabulous Ad blog - AdJab (I discovered them because they were doing live online coverage of all the superbowl commercials and so I did not have to sit in front of the TV all that time) that an enterprising student at the Savannah College of Art & Design has made a slick firefox commercial. Very nicely done.

I am glad to see that Firefox has had its first step in direct media advertising, no matter how small.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Instant Text Collages [Update]

There is now a better way to "spell" your favorite words using pictures. This is better because:

a) It uses Flickr

b) It gives you the HTML source for the "spelling", so that you don't have to do the screenshot hack that I had to do in my earlier post.

Of course, there is an invariant here ... it remains cool-but-useless.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Lion In Winter

I am watching the new The Lion in Winter - the one with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close - and it is pretty good. Well done, well acted, well presented, but you know, I sincerely don't understand the reason for (re)making this movie. Is there a single mortal soul out there in the world, who thinks that there was something wrong with the first one or that someone could do it better ?!! I mean ... how could you possibly play Henry and Eleanor better than Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn ? Isn't that ... well ... impossible ?

No, seriously ... I am asking.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Instant Text Collages

I promised myself when I started this blog that I would not post links to cool-but-useless stuff that I find here and there while traipsing on the internet. Well, I guess there comes a time to break every promise.

This is very cool-but-useless !! It allowed me to turn this :

Nitin Rules !

into this :

[Note: The above image is a screenshot. The website actually gives you a separate image for each letter. I was just too lazy to copy each one separately and put them together.]

Monday, March 14, 2005

Indexing Jon Stewart

Just read on BoingBoing that someone has written a script that parses the free clips of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart available on Comedy Central and puts them in this central place. And without ads !! Hmm ... to describe how awesome this is, let me reach into my vocabulary bag and see what comes out ... oh, it's an old friend - w00t !!

BTW, I am sure I have mentioned the brilliance of Jon before.

[ Update: 11/8/2005 - The site is no more. Sad but given the URL, inevitable ]

A comment on comments

Was browsing the old posts' archive for some info and saw that people have left comments on my old posts as well. Some comments highlight the things I don't know - like the fact that Diane Sawyer is married to Mike Nichols. Others are just fellow bloggers passing by and being kind. Didn't know about these since I had forgotten to enable the notification feature for my blog. That oversight has been corrected (I was going to say rectified, but I have an aversion to that word. I am kind of anal that way !! Get it ? Rectified ? Anal ? ... Never mind !)

To all of you who take the time to read my posts and leave comments, I say a big and resounding "Thank You !!"

Amul Hits

So, I grew up on a brand of Indian butter called Amul, and what delicious butter it was! They also used to have these sketches on their boxes. A new one every month. They covered everything ... political satire, obituaries and even public service announcements. I used to go to the local grocery store just to read the latest one. Ah, good times :-)

Just found out on the awesome Metafilter that they have put all of these sketches online and called them, aptly enough, Amul Hits. Since I have been here in the US, I have been missing out on these. Good to know that there is one place where I can just go and read up on the latest sketches. They have ones going back as far as 1976.

BTW, if you don't know what Amul is and how it works, read it here. This is one of the most successful cooperative efforts that directly benefits the farmers in Indian Villages. The story of the ad mascot The Amul Butter Girl is also pretty cool.

I looked around in the 2004-2005 section and here are a few of my favorite ones:

On Athens Olympics 2004 - August'04

Bush v Kerry - November'04

On the ownership issue in the Reliance Group between brothers Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani - November'04

Friday, March 11, 2005


So, Google said no for the summer internship. Ah, well, I was over-reaching anyway. I don't think I am smart enough and plus the interview was as bad as it could have been.

Hmm, my first "depressed" post.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Visualizing Escher ?

In my Information Visualization class today, we were talking about visualizing tree data, like filesystems in computers, ontologies or any other hierarchical data genre, and one of the tools was a Hyperbolic Tree Visualizer. Apparently, they got idea from this sketch by the brilliant M.C. Escher. I was really impressed.

I have always found Escher's work to be amazing. His work elegantly expresses blatant violations of physical laws and beautiful challenges to perception, but to see an actual tool built around one of his works is pretty cool. Here is my favorite Escher sketch from 1961, Waterfall. (If you don't see anything wrong with that picture, look again!). This has been my desktop wallpaper for a long time.

I asked Prof Shneiderman if he thought that Escher truly was the inspiration for the tool and he said "Probably not". Ah well, dreams live on.

If you are a big fan like me, you can also buy a book of his prints - the one that I have and love. And for more on the relationship between arts, mathematic and computer science, check out Douglas Hofstadter's awesome (and long) book - GEB.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Someone actually reads what I write ?

Just read a comment on the previous post that I have been picked as the TenDot Bleek Site of the Moment. I don't know what to say !! This is awesome !! For all you people that are too lazy to click and scroll, here is what TenDot had to say about my blog: Sweet. A CompSci PhD student with an eye for content. Clean lines, lots of links. I give it an A+. w00t!

You know the word "w00t" and anything related to me have never been together in the same sentence ... until now. w00t !! And now I proudly display the TenDot badge:

I say again ... w00t !

Suketu Mehta

Just read that Suketu Mehta has won the second prize in Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Awards for his first work - "Maximum City : Bombay Lost and Found" (Suketu Mehta). I remember a fantastic piece he wrote for the New York Times magazine about his experiences with Indian cinema and essentially, his rediscovery of bollywood. Hmm ... may be it is online. May He-Who-Knows-All can find it for me. Voila ! Here it is - Bollywood Confidential [Warning: registration required at]. Awesome article ! I am glad I saved that issue.

Anyway, I am happy to see that he is being recognized. I added his book to my wishlist. Oh, speaking of which, here is my wishlist. So, if any of you are ever in a dilemma about what to get me for a gift ... *wink*

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The internship standoff - IBM or Google ?

So, I had applied for research internships for this summer at IBM and Google. I interviewed with IBM this past Tuesday. My interviewer was Kishore. Pretty smart guy all around and very nice to talk to. I was not really that nervous even though I should have been (The man came up with the evaluation metric for the the area I work in - Machine Translation or MT) !) We chatted for about 30 mins about what all I had done in MT and what his interests were and so forth.

He called me back on Thursday and gave me the good news. Well, good and bad, actually. Good news, of course, that I had been selected for the summer internship program. Bad - I won't be working with Kishore's group. I will be working with another group that works on statistical techniques for named-entity tracking and co-reference resolution. Kishore said that there is virtually no distinction between his group and this one, since they use the same tools and techniques, mostly Maximum Entropy techniques. Christof also brought up some good points about this: 1) No one in our research group actually works on this area, so i will be able to provide this unique focus. 2) Since the tools and techniques are the same for both MT and what I would be working on, nothing is actually stopping me from applying the same to the MT problem.

So, all in all I am pretty excited about IBM. It's the T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, NY. Stacy told me that that's only about an hour from the city. So guess where i will be on the weekends ? :-)

Now, about Google, I have an interview next week. Assuming I get in (which is a big assumption, their interviews are supposed to be pretty rigorous), I would be in quite a quandary. All right, let's weigh the pros and cons:

+ I will get to work with Franz Och, one of the stalwarts of MT and the creator of the state-of-the-art MT system.
+ Google = Cool.
+ Get to live in California for 3 whole months, and that too close to San Francisco.
- Probably have to sign a Non-disclosure agreement and will not be able to publish the research that I do or use it for my dissertation.
- New entrant in the area of Natural Language Processing (including MT).

+ Well respected and established research groups in NLP and MT (The first word-alignment based translation models were called IBM-models, for God's sake! )
+ IBM may not be cool but it is a research giant.
+ IBM has always had strong academic ties and they publish a whole lot more than Google. Good chance of publication and of doing real and meaningful research.
+ Close to NYC and also to MD.
- My work would not directly be in MT.
- No Franz Och.

Well, I listed the pros and cons but I still don't have an answer. I guess I will worry about it if and when the time comes.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I give up !

Yes, Guriqbal. I do! You win! I will send an email out to all the old classmates today. in fact, the email is ready. It's a tad long, though. Well, I guess 5 years is not a short duration either. Anyway, succumbing to nostalgia doesn't seem that bad. We'll see if (or how much) I regret this decision later. If I do, I know who to blame !!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sidney Lumet Binge

I need to go on a Sidney Lumet binge. I just saw him get the honorary Oscar. I had seen so many of his movies but did not know that he had directed them: Network, Dog Day Afternoon. Power, 12 Angry Men, Q & A, Guilty As Sin, Murder On The Orient Express, Child's Play. Here are the ones I had always wanted to see but did not know they were Lumet's: Serpico, The Verdict, All the King's Men. And now here are the ones that I just found out about: The Group, The Hill, Bye Bye Braverman, The Anderson Tapes, The Wiz.

It is unbelievable to me that he has never won an academy award before. I have to agree with NY Times that this is a gross oversight. Well, it's not like they have not done this with other people. They did that to Al Pacino. He got nominated 7 times before he finally won for his brilliant and earth-shattering performance in Scent Of A Woman. But what about Bob Hope? What about Scorcese? I hope that oversight is corrected today when he wins for The Aviator. I know I wanted Eastwood to win, but I could not believe that Scorcese has not won before. How could he be passed over for Raging Bull? Taxi Driver? I think Eastwood can easily forego this one. So, I would officially like to change my vote to Martin Scorcese for Best Director. (I know it does not matter, but I was right about The Incredibles!! )

Back to Chris Rock. I got to say I am not really enjoying him as the host. i miss Whoopi, Billy and Robin.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Marriage Works ?

I forgot to post this earlier (well, not really but I guess procrastination is kind of like forgetting right?) but I saw an interesting billboard on the Metro station on Saturday when I was out in D.C. It said, plainly, "Marriage Works". Of course, you might be amused by that, what with the divorce rates going through the roof. And I am not saying I was not.

I see this as false advertising in any country. I would have been much happier if they had said "Marriage can work". Sorry to be nit-picky, but I think a message telling people that marriage is something that you need to work on every day, rather than pre-packaged utopian bliss, should prove to spread more awareness (if that was your purpose in the first place).

What? Just because I am not married, I am not qualified to give marital advice?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Grill From Ipanema

Mirna invited all of us for a brunch out in Washington, DC on Saturday. It was sort of a farewell gathering as she will be going back to Brazil on Friday. The venue was a cozy little Brazilian restaurant called "The Grill From Ipanema". For all you non-jazz fans, that name is a take on the famous bossa nova song "The Girl From Ipanema" (my favorite version is the most famous one, the one performed by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto. Here is the original Brazilian version.)

Let me see if I can remember who all were there that I know: My advisor, of course, and her husband Steve. Okan and David. And Mirna, of course. I also got to know Okan's roommate, Tikir, a little better. He is a very nice guy and very fun to talk to. Also met David's girlfriend Hwa (sp?).

We ordered from the brunch menu. The food was pretty good and so was the service. I got the "Frango Ao Molho Branco" - which, as Mirna told me, literally means, "Chicken and White Sauce". Systran says it means "Chicken The White Gravy". Close enough. It was not cheap though. $17.99 for each entreé, not including the gratuities and taxes. I guess it is to be expected when you are eating in Adams Morgan. Anyway, we got our choice of drinks and I ordered iced tea again without asking whether it was sweetened or not. Had to drink unsweetened iced tea for the rest of the afternoon. The irony was that they had free refills too.

The conversation was fun. At one point we were talking about programming languages, since Bonnie is teaching a class in Java this semester but her real allegiance certainly lies with Lisp. David and I (the resident pythonistas) were chatting up python every chance we could get. It is nice to have a fellow python lover in the research group, I must say.

I also talked with Okan and Tikir about the similarities and differences between the education systems of India and Turkey. Turns out they are not all that different. Other topics in the conversation included airline-bashing (domestic and international) and neighborly relations (or the lack thereof) between India-Pakistan and Turkey-Greece.

We also had our choice of dessert included in the price of the brunch. Well, it was not really much of a choice. There were just 3 items on the menu: Fried Banana, Rice Pudding and Guava Paté with Cheese. Okan, Tikir and I ordered one of each and shared. The rice pudding tasted very simiar to the Indian version.

After the meal, Bonnie and Steve left. The rest of us walked back to the Metro station. David, Hwa and I headed back East. Okan, Tikir and Mirna headed off the to zoo to see the new baby cheetahs.

Mirna said that she is looking forward to going back but in 2 weeks she will be missing the US too much. Well, that never happens to me. When I go to India, I wish i could stay in India forever. May be my threshold is just higher :-)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Did you ever own one of the top 100 gadgets?

Mobile PC Magazine has come out with a list of the 100 best gadgets of all time. It is a pretty well-thought out list, paying tribute not just to trend-setting successes like the Sony Mavica digital camera, but also gadgets that might have failed in their specific incarnations but created a niche, like the Casio Cassopeia E-10. Of course the life-altering culture-forming ones are there in good numbers (in chronological order):

1. Abacus (190 AD)
2. Telephone (1876)
3. Master Lock Padlock (1924)
4. Schick Electric Razor (1931)
5. Zippo Windproof Lighter (1932)
6. Accusplit Memory Stopwatch (1972)
7. Rubik's Cube (1974)
8. Motorola Bravo Numeric Pager (1986)
9. The Car Alarm Key Fob (somewhere in the 1990s)

Here are some that I actually owned (or currently own):

1. HP-35 Scientific Calculator (1972)
2. Sony Walkmans (1979)
3. Nintendo Game Boy (1989) [a.k.a "The Big Fridge"]
4. Apple iPod (2001)

What about the number 1 gadget? I am proud to say that the number 1 gadget of all time is an Apple Powerbook. No, not the one I currently have but a model made almost 15 years ago !! Amazing or what ?!!

What about you? Did you ever own any of these?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Oscar Fever

The Academy Awards are next Sunday and I am actually excited because this time Chris Rock is hosting. I was actually pretty surprised when I first heard this news. I didn't think Rock was the kind of host the Academy will be comfortable with. His humor is rowdy and incisive but not in a Robin Williams kind of way. I love Rock's stand up. His 2004 show on HBO was, as Montgomery Burns would say, "Excellent" ! But I am apprehensive about this. Not for Rock. Oh, i am sure he can handle anything they throw at him. I am just worried about all the people he will "make fun of" (euphemism alert!). In a way, he has already started.

Anyway, the point of this post was to talk about old man Oscar. First of all, I am very excited that work from India has been nominated. "Little Terrorist", directed by Ashvin Kumar. is a story about "crossing boundaries". A Pakistani boy crosses the border after his ball and ends up in a minefield. He is given shelter by an orthodox Hindu Brahmin and the story is about their relationship. And don't forget, this is a short (15 minutes). I would be interested to see how he is able to develop and portray the relationship in that short a time period. Definitely must-see.

Now, as far as the main awards go, Here's who I hope will win. The ones I think I will probably lose on are marked with an asterisk(*):
  1. Best Actor*: Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby. I was kind of surprised to see that Paul Giamatti's brilliant performance in Sideways went unnoticed.
  2. Best Actress*: Hillary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. I have heard that Annette Benning might actually win this for Being Julia but since I did not see that one, I can't say.
  3. Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church for Sideways. One of the most brilliant portrayals of a loser in a long long time.
  4. Best Supporting Actress*: Virginia Madsen for Sideways.
  5. Best Animated Feature Film: The Incredibles. Oh please please please!! I guess since Shark Tale was one of the 3 animated feature films. they had to nominate it as well. What a stinker that one was! Yes, I could have just not seen it but I was on a plane ... what is your excuse? Shrek 2 is definitely a contender.
  6. Best Movie: Well, this is a tough one. I can't make up my mind actually. Million Dollar Baby was awesome. Sideways was original and laugh-out-loud funny. Aviator was a Scorcese. Ray is a memoriam to a legend and the finest acting from Jamie Foxx. Hotel Rwanda is supposed to be excellent too. So, I have pretty much no idea what is going to happen. (Well, a small part of me roots for Sideways. Flawless, funny comedies come few and far between.)
Anyway, all will be resolved on 27th February. Enjoy !