Saturday, December 31, 2005
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Here is a sketch I did way back in 1999 - when I had more time on my hands. I came across an old calendar with photographs by Robert Doisneau at a old book dealer in New York. I bought the calendar, and the first thing I did when I reached home was sketch this.
The original photo is here. More photos by Doisneau are here.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Though I haven't read the entire Sept issue of the Scientific American, here is a graphic and some quotes I would like to share with you that is relevant to my earlier post and Sunil's post. In the introductory article of the special issue, The Climax of Humanity, an eight point plan is presented for the 21st century. George Musser goes on to say:
A recurring theme of this plan is that business is not necessarily the enemy of nature, or vice versa. Traditionally the economy and the environment have not been described in lik eterms. The most watched economic statistics, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), do not measure resource depletion; they are essentially measures of cash flow rather than balance sheets of assets and liabilities. If you clear-cut a forest, GDP jumps even though you have wipes out an asset that could have bought in a steady stream of income.
More broadly, the prices we pay for goods and services seldom include the associated environmental costs. Someone else picks up the tab - and that someone is usually us in another guise. By one estimate, the average American taxpayer forks out $2,000 a year to subsidize farming, driving, mining and other activities with a heavy environmental footprint. The distorted markets gives consumers and producers litte incentive to clean up. Environmentalists inadvertently reinforce this tendency when they focus on the priceless attractions of nature, which are deeply meaningful but difficult to weigh against more pressing concerns. The Endangered Species Act has provided iconic examples of advocates talking past one another. Greens blamed th3 plight of spotted owls on loggers; the loggers blamed unemployment on self-indulgent orinthology. In fact, both were victims of unsustainable forestry.
In recent years, economists and evironmental scientists have come together to hang a price tag on nature's benefits. Far from demeaning nature, this exercise reveals how much we depend on it. The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, published earlier this year, identified services - from pollination to water filteration - that humans would have to provide for themselves, at great cost, if nature did not. Of the 24 broad categories of services, the team found that 15 are being used faster than they regenerate.
When the environment is accounted for, what is good for nature is often what is good for the economy and even for individual business sectors. Fishers, for example, maximize their profits when they harvest fisheries at a sustainable level; beyond that point, both yeilds and profits decline as more people chase ever fewer fish. To be sure, life is always not so convenient. Society must sometimes make real trade-offs. But it is only beginning to explore teh win-win options.
I have yet to read the details of the action plan (which forms the entire content of the special issue) - but it promises to be a good read.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Michael Higgins' wonderful blog Chocolate and Gold Coins has quite a few posts on an economist's view of resource utilization (two of them are here and here). Half Sigma is another blog with an economist's view of resource utilization. His views on recycling (here and here) and energy are opposed to mine.
In this post, I will try to answer the question "Is there a Conflict between Economic Viability and Sustainable Resource Utilization?", while trying to show that applying economic theory coupled with science, the economists might have to change their views. For more on how to reason economically go here (Link via Michael Higgins' post Teaching Economics to Everyone).
Economics analyzes the costs and the benefits of improving patterns of resource use. Economic theory has failed as it does not have a connection to the physical world - where the resources originate. It has followed a price system where the environment (atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere) are free; thus markets prices will not reflect the true costs associated with producing/consuming a product. I agree with economists in that markets work, but one must make sure that the basis is correct.
Thermodynamics is a formal system or procedure to evaluate and understand the interaction of people, machines etc with the environment. In other words, it is a set of rules governing the behaviour of the natural world. Thus, thermodynamics would be the ideal basis for setting the value of materials.
Exergy, a thermodynamic quantity derived from the Second Law, is defined as energy quality or the ability to do work. It is important to remember that there is continuous exergy loss in society as a whole. Exergy of any material can be calculated by defining a constant reference environment (it composition, temperature and pressure). Exergy is thus a measure of the physical value of the material. This can be used as a basis for the economic value of a material.
VAT (Value Added Tax) can be modified to include an exergy cost (sum of exergy consumption from the environment and waste exergy released to the environment). Thus VAT can move from the purview of bureaucrats to that of scientists, where the tax is a measure of the physical value. This would automatically increase the costs of products that have harmful waste products and renewables would get a boost.
When the two pillars of economic theory, incentives matter and markets work, are allowed to function with the material value based on exergy - recycling and renewable energy sources would be viable. And, of course, gasoline prices would probably reach double digits!!!
Thus, there is no conflict in Economic Viability and Sustainable Resource Utilization, as long as economic value is linked to the physical value of a material.
1. It is worthwhile to note that with this tax Nuclear power would be one of the most expensive sources of energy.
2. The tax proposed here is not my idea . It was mentioned by Prof Jan Szargut during a panel discussion on the furture of exergy analysis at the ECOS 05 conference. Goran Wall also proposed this idea a couple of years ago.
3. Sunil, in his post on the economics of conservation, adds a different dimension to the debate. He presents a case for the conservation of natural habitats and the economic costs incurred when they are ignored.
4. Browsing though my mail from when I was on vacation, I noticed that the Scientific American September edition is a Special Issue - Crossroads for Planet Earth. I haven't read it yet.
On a more serious note, thermodynamically there has never been an energy crisis. As energy is always conserved, there can never be an energy cris. What we call an energy crisis is actaully an exergy crisis - in other words the useful work that can be produced is reducing, unable to meet demands. Exergy is not a conserved thermodynamic quantity.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
I just corrected proofs for one of my papers for Applied Thermal Engineering, finished writing an invited paper for the same journal (during my vacation, I might add) and have to start writing another invited paper for Energy - The International Journal. All this leaves me with very little time to work towards my paper for the biggest conference in my area PSE/ESCAPE 2006, which is due in Nov.
I am spending way too much time disseminating the results of our research rather than producing more. Need to find a balance!!!!!
Friday, September 23, 2005
Ananya - a name suggested by my cousin- is the very essence of Advaita. We were initially planning on calling her Jyotsna (moonlight) - a subtle reference to the fact that she was concieved in November when the moon rules in Norway. As I was filling out her Birth Certificate, Arthi changed her mind and we then decided to go with Ananya.
The Gods know her as Sri Jayalakshmi (her religious name) and my parents like to call her Anagha (without blemish).
To Arthi and me, she will always be KuttiMe.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
I was feeling fatherish (if that is a word) a couple of days after July 18th and then it dissapeared - only to reappear now, as I am preparing for my trip. Guess it will truly sink in when I hold her in my arms.
I will be in Chennai till the 15th of Sept and then spend a few days in Mumbai before heading back home (yes, Trondheim is home now!!!) on the 18th.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Dropping Knowledge gives you this chance.
Dropping Knowledge describes itself as an eductaional resource that connects people around the globe seeking to exchange ideas and solutions to the most pressing questions of our day.
On their website they say
dropping knowlege means dropping the assumption that we know all the answers. It means questioning the conventional wisdom. It means figuring out which questions are the most important to ask, sharing answers and then challenging those answers. We call the proctice of asking questions and sharing wisdom, dropping knowledge.
599 questions have been asked thus far. All these questions (and many more yet to be asked) will be combined to form a social issue framework. A pool of 1000 potential participants will form a web-based source of research, which will be used to narrow the answers by 112 global leaders. An audio-visual interactive archive online will be built for these answers that will encourage a global discussion.
The scale of the projec is very impressive. Wether it will succeed or not in its ultimate goal of generating wisdom...well, as always, only time will tell.
Go on, ask your question.
Link via WorldChanging.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
In his book "Globalized Islam," the French scholar Olivier Roy points out that today's jihadists have a lot in common with the left-wing extremists of the 1930's and 1960's. Ideologically, Islamic neofundamentalism occupies the same militant space that was once occupied by Marxism. It draws the same sorts of recruits (educated second-generation immigrants, for example), uses some of the same symbols and vilifies some of the same enemies (imperialism and capitalism).
Roy emphasizes that the jihadists are the products of globalization, and its enemies. They are detached from any specific country or culture, he says, and take up jihad because it attaches them to something. They are generally not politically active before they take up jihad. They are looking to strike a vague blow against the system and so give their lives (and deaths) shape and meaning.
This view is quite interesting and contrary to my view - posted as a comment to Sunil Laxman's post on the same topic.
The image above has no fixed pattern (particularly on the right side), and each pixel seems to be unrelated to the next. If each pixel were taken to be an event, the image would represent a collection of events, or more pertinently, a seemingly random collection of events.
Erik Fosnes Hansen in his book Tales of Protection, writes that seemingly disparate and unconnected events in life are connected by a profound something - a something that has not been found or recognized as yet.
The image shown here is a Cellular Automaton of 500 steps from Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science (You can find an earlier post on this here). The image is produced starting with a single black pixel and each subsequent pixel is colored according to Rule 30 in the book. Thus, the seemingly random collection of pixels (or events) is produced using a simple program (Rule 30) and is the something, in this case.
Wolfram, in the introduction to the book, boldly states that this new science, an intellectual revolution, can be used to explain everything. I have only ploughed through 168 pages of this 1197 pages book. Based on what I have read thus far, it is very exciting.
Is this the key to understanding the connection between seemingly disconnected events - such as the probability case?
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
In Tales of Protection, Erik Fosnes Hansen bases his fiction on how a collection of seemingly random events are connected by a pattern. As an example:
The probability of heads or tails occurring when a coin is tossed is 0.5. If we get heads 9 times in a row, one would think that there is a greater chance of getting tails the next toss. Yet, the probability is still only 0.5 of getting heads (or tails). Over a large number of tosses, the heads and tails will even out according to its probability. This is fundamental in figuring probability and is call the Law of Large Numbers.
The paradox is that one toss of a coin is unrelated to the next, yet over a large number of tosses the number of heads attain an equilibrium value ( = 0.5 x number of tosses). How is this possible? If the two of us were tossing coins in different parts of the world, would heads turning up for me be affected by what you get?
Is this a self-referencing paradox related to the Gödel's Incompletenesss Theorem? On second thoughts, we probably should leave this much abused theorem be.
Statistics is to engineers, like lamp-posts are to drunks - they are used more for support than for illumination.This got me thinking - where is statistics used for illumination? Before we proceed it would be worthwhile checking the definition of statistics given here.
Census, I feel, is a practical branch of statistics mainly because its sample is the entire population. Analyzing the census data could illuminate what already exists, but when one tries to use this data for prediction, it is no longer practical. Similar is the case with polls. How scientific are scientifically conducted polls?
Michael Schemer, differentiating between anecdotal thinking (that leads to superstition) and science in his column Skeptic in The Scientific American May 05 issue says:
What we havehere is a signal-to-noise problem. Humans evolved brains that are pattern-recognition machines, adept at detecting signals that enhance or threaten survival amid a very noisy world. This capability is association learning - associating the causal connections between A and B - as when our ancestors associated the seasons with the migration of game animals.
Unfortunately, the system has flaws. Superstitions are false associations - A appears connected to B, but it is not (the baseball player who doesn't shave and hits a home run). Las Vegas was built on associated learning.
..... - if you scan enough noise, you will eventually find a signal, whether it is there or not.
We evolved as a social primate species whose language ability facilitated the exchange of such association anecdotes. The problem is that although true pattern recognition helps us survive, false pattern recognition does not get us killed, so the overall phenomenon has endured the winnowing process of natural selection. .... Anecdotal thinking comes naturally; science requires training.
The key from the piece above is - if you scan enough noise, you will eventually find a signal, whether it is there or not. This is similar to the fact that any set of data can be fitted to a polynomial equation - I vaguely remember reading that the figure of an elephant can be fitted with a polynomial equation. But what value does this equation have in predicting the next data point?
Statistics is a form of pattern recognition, or rather a method for pattern recognition. If used without the right set of data, it becomes nothing more than anecdotal thinking. Thus statistics are a rigorous method in science is questionable.
Statistics has played, and certainly will play, a huge part in science and engineering - in my area of expertise, thermodynamics, Statistical Thermodynamics is important to answer question Why? rather than How? answered by Classical Thermodynamics. I understand that regression analysis, parameter estimation etc are widely used in science and engineering. But the most important footnote when using any of these methods is their range of applicability - which again depends on the data used.
What I am trying to convey through this muddled post is that unless used within a clear predefined set of constraints or bounds, the use of statistics is equivalent to anecdotal thinking and is divorced from science.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Isn't it stupid that computers use the same layout when no such mechanical problems canever exist?
Read more about this at How Stuff Works and Wikipedia.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Pootu vaitha oru vatta nila...
So goes a song from the movie tamil Idhayam. Roughly translated it is "A round moon with a bindhi". Tamil poets from the days of yore (this one by poet Vairamuthu),have tried to descibe the beauty of a tamil woman. A few constants in their descriptions -long hair decked with flowers, chandramukhi (woman with a face like the moon) and a pottu (bindi) smack in the middle of her forehead.
Yes, the pottu adds greatly to a woman's beauty, but why the red pottu and in that specific location? The red color and the location can be prefuncturily explained based on aesthetics. Red is a beautiful and bright color that contrasts well with the fair skinned aryan woman and symmetry requires the location specified earlier.
Is that all there is to it? Well , I think not. A key aspect of Hindu culture (I am specifically referring it to as culture rather than religion as I believe we muddled the two later on) is its symbolism. So here is my take on it......
The pottu is mainly red in color. Red color has the longest wavelength and can thus be seen the farthest (that is why the stop light is red!!!). Red also symbolizes fire... the fire of passion. When a girl is young, she wears the pottu to signify the passion in her. The question that could come up here is - Doesn't a man have passion? He certainly does, but our (rather our ancestor's) society, being as it was, allowed men to lay bare their passion - for education, women etc.
When the woman is married, she applies it to the top of her forehead where the hair starts. This is to indicate that her love is consummated or satisfied. It is a sort of warning sign to all other men who look at her. Also in some cultures, the woman cover her hair after her wedding. This is because the hair is black and black signifies that it accepts everything/everyone.
The color symbolism is so important in our culture. Another such symbolism is why widows wear white and their hair shorn. White as a color repels all light/colors. When a woman is clothed in white, she tells the wold that she is no longer an active participant..... I repel all of you.. all I have is within me.
Women these days barely wear the pottu. They ignore it as having religious connotations, which do not go well in this liberal, modern and hence civilized (so they say) world. Even the few who wear it, prefer black to red.
This is just one example of a religious symbol having no religious roots, rather a societal or cultural root. There are many more such examples. I wish people would stop to ask or think, why we (or our parents) do certain things the way we (or they) do and try to come up with rational explanations rather than accepting them on blind faith or rejecting them as being religious.
We don't give our ancestor's enough credit for being rational thinkers!!
Friday, July 22, 2005
While most (if not all) analysis on PM Manmohan Singh's visit say that the biggest gain for India from the trip was the dehyphenation of India and Pakistan for American policy makers, I can only muse why it took so long. The hyphenation, thanks to the British (with a lot of help from Nehru, Jinnah, Gandhiji and the others), was natural as long as the hyphenation existed between the two superpowers after WWII USA-USSR, with India leaning towards USSR and Pakistan towards USA. I said it was natural, but I am wrong. Hyphenation, I believe, can exist only between countries of equal size or capability, if you will. But suprisingly, India-Pakistan hyphenation existed even long after USSR disintegrated and Russia did not posses the stature any more to be hyphenated with the US of A. India, in turn, cannot and should not hope to be hyphenated with China, a country that is way ahead of India in all spheres (except democracy some maay point out).
That said, I think the hyphenation makes sense in another context. Pakistan and India, particularly the North of India, have a lot in common. At the time of the partition, Muslims in the north of India, mainly the Hindi/Urdu speaking, moved over to Pakistan while the Bengali speaking Muslims moved to Bangladesh (or then East Pakistan). The south of India was thankfully kept out of it. But I am digressing here.
Thus the hyphenation makes sense - similar people having different coloured passports thanks to an imaginary line, a line that not everyone were (or are) happy with. In some ways this hyphenation represents that imaginary line. But then why not India-Bangladesh? Well the Bangladesh are not Hindi?Urdu speaking, are they? India, unfortunately is historically Hindi centric. No, there is no typo there... it is Hindi-centric - not Hindu-centric. Ok let me leave this at that.
But then, what really helped get rid of this hyphenation? It is not very difficult to see. India, the 4th largest economy in the world, has gone from being India - a land of snake charmers, to India - a land of IT experts, outsourcing capital of the world, a land that exports experts. Unfortunately, Pakistan has come to represent what can go wrong when democracy fails. It has become, particularly these past few weeks, as a land that exports Islamic terrorists and ideologies.
It is really unfortunate that our countries should have taken these disparate routes - but India, could have potentially gone the same route, if not for its diversity.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
They point to the words Mr. Bush used to silence conservative critics of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last week, warning them curtly, "I'm loyal to my friends."The Don stuck to his principles and faith and refused to go against it and so does President Bush. The biggest difference between these two characters (one fictional and the other not - unfortunately) is that the Don was prepared to accept his mistakes and that made him a better person.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
I started reading the book Sunday. A couple of things have changed that prompted me to read this book. A hot sunday eve in Trondheim, without a book to read can be pretty depressing - particularly when you are tired after a long cyle ride. I just finished reading Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino and needed a book to read. It was a choice between Godel, Escher, Bach and NKS.
My reasearch requires me to think out-of-the-box as the field I am working is a work in progress for over 30 years now with no definite end in sight. Thus a new approach would definitely do me good and I thought NKS may be called for.
I have thus far read 100 out of the 1200 pages of the book (which could have been considerably reduced if the Is in the book were omitted). I realize that Wolfram has ignored work of other researchers in the field, or has appropriated their results as his own. The book nevertheless gives a good background and explains the field very well and thus provides a good summary. The whole area of cellular automata is interesting and the book is a good and interesting read.
All said, I think the book's title overreaches in calling it a New Kind of Science.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Choosing a name is not so straight forward. Thanks to this small thing called numerology, we have to not just pull out one name out of the hat for each sex... but a slew of them to ensure atleast one fits the bill (or number, if you will).
There are also a couple of other things on the back of our minds. Fresh out of reading Jumpa Lahiri's "The Namesake" a couple of months ago, we are wary of choosing a name that kuttime will be ashamed to be called by for the rest of her life. Hence, the search for nice and practical names is high on the list of priorities.
My first name is great. Never had problems with it, mainly because most people around New York metropolitan area, with its huge hispanic population, thought it was Raul (rather than Rahul) and now here in Europe they still think it is Raul - like the Spanish/Real Madrid striker!!! Now, my last name is another matter. My second day in the US I was referred to as Anan..blah..blah..blah - by the Manager of the International Student Services and a woman of Indian origin!!!!!
I must thank my lucky stars that my Grandpa, when he made my passport forgot my actual first name and made my passport out with my "home" name - Rahul. My actual first name is Ramakrishnan!!! If my official name was Ramakrishnan Anantharaman.. forget it.. we won't even go there!!!
I have flirted with the idea of changing my official name to Rahul A. Raman as it is compulsary in our family to have a name with Rama shabda (hence the Ramakrishnans and Anantharamans). Never got around to doing it as it would be more pain to change everything. But, I made a decision then to name my child So-and-so R. Raman.
It is amazing then that I came across this absolutely hilarious post on South Indian names through Amit Varma's IndiaUncut. I present a sampling of the post but urge you to read the complete post at http://sidin.blogspot.com/2004/05/travails-of-single-south-indian-men-of.html . It is a must read and one of the funniest pieces I have ever come across.
"Our futures are shot to hell as soon as our parents bestow
upon us names that are anything but alluring. I cannot imagine a more foolproof way of making sure the child remains single till classified advertisements or that maternal uncle in San Francisco thinks otherwise. Name him "Parthasarathy Venkatachalapthy" and his inherent capability to combat celibacy is obliterated before he could even talk. He will grow to be known as Partha. Before he knows, his smart, seductively named northy classmates start calling him Paratha. No woman in their right minds will go anyway near poor Parthasarathy. His investment banking job doesn't help either. His employer loves him though. He has no personal life you see. By this time the Sanjay Singhs and Bobby Khans from his class have small businesses of their own and spend 60% of their lives in discos and pubs. The remaining 40% is spent coochicooing with leather and denim clad muses in their penthouse flats on Nepean Sea Road. Business is safely in the hands of the Mallu manager. After all with a name like Blossom Babykutty he cant use his 30000 salary anywhere. Blossom gave up on society when in school they automatically enrolled him for Cookery Classes. Along with all the girls.
Yes my dear reader, nomenclature is the first nail in a coffin of neglect and hormonal pandemonium. In a kinder world they would just name the poor southern male child and throw him off the balcony. "Yes appa we have named him Goundamani..." THUD. Life would have been less kinder to him anyway."
And what's in a name you ask.........
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The pregnant woman is made to wear many glass bangles - an odd number on one hand and an even number on the other - in addition to a set of gold and silver bangles. She is given many gifts and after this function the pregnant woman goes to her mother's place for childbirth.
The emotional part of the child's brain is said to be developed in the 7th month. As the mother recieves gifts and is adorned in bangles - she is happy and this happiness is transferred to the baby. Further, as this is the time the baby can also hear clearly, the sound from the clanging of the glass bangles amuses the baby.
Arthi's vallaikappu took place on the 10th of June at her parent's home in Chennai. A few photos of the function can be seen at
A little bit about bangles from an article in the Hindu titled Epitome of Feminine Grace to end this blog.
Bangles, the decorative ornaments of women, have over the centuries acquired a socio-cultural-religious significance. Literature through the ages has glorified this ornament and made it the epitome of feminine grace.
The ornament was purely a decorative accessory in the pre-Vedic era and even in the post-Vedic times until the medieval period. Medieval India gave Hinduism a chauvinistic twist distorting Vedic concepts and introduced ritualistic beliefs. It was at this stage that the bangle was transformed from a mere decoration to a symbol of marriage. The bangle thus began to gain social significance and ritualistic relevance.
Sarojini Naidu extols them as ''The rainbow tainted circles of light lustrous tokens of radiant light'. 'Truly, bangles' circles of light are an inseparable part of Indian woman without which she is incomplete. From a suckling to the grey-haired they lend an inexplicable charm and dignity. They are as varied as the womanfolk itself in their appeal and beauty. The tender feminine grace acquires an additional sheen with them. They are as old as the Vedas. Whatever the impact of changing times and fashions, bangles continue to have their undiminished sway particularly in the celebration of any occasion from a simple birthday to a grand marriage.
Bangles also have traditional value. Hindu married women always wear some bangles round both their wrists as it is considered inauspicious to be bare armed.Kameswari, an architect, says that bangles do not play a role in her daily attire, but likes to wear them on occasions and festivals as bangles have sentimental value.
A teacher from Central School, R. Nagamani, says bangles are like a shadow to substance for a Hindu woman. A woman is incomplete without bangles. They are not just ornaments but a part of womanhood and honour.
Bangles are not mere jewellery but an expression of feminity and is beyond class, creed and culture.
Friday, June 03, 2005
The constitution was rejected in both these countries for different reasons, but it is the Frech No vote that has come under most scrutiny. Whatever the rationale the French people may have had for voting No, I am sure the criticism of the social structure they hold so dear did not figure in the mix.
An Op-ed column in the NY Times by Davik Brooks quite succintly points out what the problem is. I qoute Brooks below:
"The core fact is that the European model is foundering under the fact that billions of people are willing to work harder than Europeans are. Europeans clearly love their way of life, but don't know how to sustain it.
Over the last few decades, American liberals have lauded the German model or the Swedish model or the European model. But these models are not flexible enough for the modern world. They encourage people to cling fiercely to entitlements their nations cannot afford. And far from breeding a confident, progressive outlook, they breed a reactionary fear of the future that comes in left- and right-wing varieties - a defensiveness, a tendency to lash out ferociously at anybody who proposes fundamental reform or at any group, like immigrants, that laters the fabric of life.
This is the chief problem of the welfare state, which has nothing to do with the success or efficiency of any individual program. The liberal project of the postwar era has bred a stultifying conservatism, a fear of dynamic flexibility, a greater concern for gaurding what exists than for creating waht doesn't"
I might add that Brooks is an American conservative.
The French really want to stick to their 35 hour week. Last year, a book by a employee in Franc'e state owned electric company, EDF, wrote a book on how to spend the entire day ( 7 hrs) without working and cheat you boos. This book was a bestseller there!!!! These people have problems.
Having lived in both the US and Europe, I really do notice the difference. The quality of life in Europe is much much better and I certainly do lead a fuller life here. Yes, American society is certainly more dynamic - but there are loads of problems associated with it.
In short - no system works perfectly. Is it possible to find a good balance between the European model and the American one? The Canadian model is a model with such a compromise - with its own share of problems.
Monday, May 30, 2005
Coincidence? An underlying force that drove me to read Tales of Protection after My Name is Red?
I actually bought My Name is Red when I had to while away time at Oslo - I had already bought Tales of Protection by then.... I was waiting to finish Namesake (by Jhumpa Lahiri) before I started reading Tales of Protection. I instead ended up reading My Name is Red first!!!!
The book is set in the late 16th century in Istanbul and is a story where all the major players are miniaturists (artists who paint miniature style). The book is a murder mystery - one of the minaturists is killed in the first chapter of the book and the rest of the book tries to get the reader to identify who the murderer is - in its own unique style. The story is told in different people's (or things) viewpoint - with the chapter heading like "I am a corpse" or "I am a dog speaking" giving you an idea as to who's viewpoint it is.
The book is to miniature painiting what Dr Faustus (by Thomas Mann) is to western classical music. Through the story you are explained the various intricacies of the miniature painting, the idea of style or the lack of it and their hatred for western stylle painting (they call it Venetian style here) where people are potrayed as is!!!
Readers who enjoyed Name of the Rose (by Umberto Eco) will certainly dig this one. This is much better than the Name of the Rose.
The novel is based on a fascination in the parallels between seemingly disparate lives. A Norwegian billionare collects and researches coincidences in the world. Based on such coincidences he proposes the existence of some profound something - something that has not been found or recognized as yet. How does a collection of seemingly random events always end up following a mathematical pattern - a coin toss for example??? He dies and leaves his grand niece with all his collected research.
3 'stories' follow the initial the initial contemplation of these questions. There are some elements and coincidences linking these 3 different stories - first of a Swedish lighhouse keeper, a Renaissance nobleman and his servant Fiorello and finally a story from the past of the millionare himself around the time of the second world war.
The book is certainly not a fast read and must be read with concentration. More than reading, I think I spent more time on reflection. The book is profound. I would love to go back and re-read this one again. See if I look at things differently.
Oh.. and by the way - for me that something which has not been found or recognized as yet.. is my idea of GOD - the unexplained force!!!
Read the book!!! Not recommended for those who like to read pacy novels like the Da Vinci Code.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
After breakfast, properly clothed in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt I began my walk to Taormina. After 5 kms I hit the trail going up the hill. The first few minutes were fine, until I hit the bushes and saw... What was that? A snake? I saw it again - it was like a lizard - coloured green and red. It moved like lighting. (Something like an Aranai, as we call it in Tamil).
Those of you who know me well can predict what happened!!! I did not wait to think. I ran up the hill as fast as my legs could take me. By the time I reached the top, I was out of breath, completely drenced and had dropped my bottle of water somewhere along the way. I crawled my way to the nearest shop and bought myself water and chilled out for nearly half an hour.
On my way back down, what do you think I would have preferred? Taking the cab back down or brave the walk?
I WALKED!!! Rather, I ran down the hill in 5 mins flat - figured my chances were better with the reptiles than in a cab!!!!!
A colleague of mine, my advisor, a professor from Mexico and myself went up to Taormina from Giardini di Naxos for dinner on the 16th of May during our conference there. After a very hearty meal (and quite a few beers and a couple of bottles of wine, I might add) we hired a cab back to Naxos Beach Resort where we were staying. As soon as we were seated, the cab driver zipped off. He went at nearlt 150 km/hr on a winding road down to Naxos (Taormina is on a hill). All of us were shocked at the speed (not exactly at the speed, rather where he decided to speed). I was sitting up front and turned back to see my advisor. At that instant we all started laughing. The driver, thinking that we were having fun, went even faster!!!!
Luckily for us, we hit traffic (1 slow car in a narrow street is traffic) as we reached the bottom of the hill into Naxos. We relaxed and started talking about the conference, when suddenly we felt accelaration. I turned up front and saw that the "safety" car in front of us was no more and our friend was speeding along the backstreets of Naxos at 170 km/hr!!!!! This was when I came up with the title of this post. It certainly felt more exciting than sitting in a roller coaster - but hell it was certainly more dangerous. We were again laughing, but that was nervous laughter. All of us breathed a collective sigh of relief as we got off the cab at the hotel.
I don't think I will ever forget that moment. These guys play Need for Speed for real in their back streets. No wonder F1 is like religion there.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
A moot point is does an Indian coach have to be Indian? Mohinder Amarnath and a few others thought so... but after the success of John Wright there were many more who thought that the nationality of the coach is of no consequence. I agree. Cricket has become so competitive and professional that the goal is excellence - irrespective of where you are getting the help from.
But I believe we must move away from having national teams to just teams. The coach, in my opinion, is a very important cog in the cricket team. John Wright proved how the fortunes of the team can change when coached right. (John Bracewell is showing how bad a team can perform if it does not have the right coach) So is an Indian teach coached by a non-Indian a truly Indian team? No.. certainly not. Add to it, a South African trainer and an Australian psychologist!!!!
Cricket, I think, has started to transcend national borders in search of excellence and we must bow to it and accept teams without a nationalist connotation where players can easily move about between teams. Brett Lee, for one, would sure welcome that.
Friday, May 20, 2005
I watched the movie with a virgin (qualify it with a Star Wars in front if you will) and he was totally blown away. The special effects of the movie is amazing - propably the best we have feasted our eyes on as yet.
As always, MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!!!
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
A german friend, Christoph, made a comment that in the old days, in Europe, anything round and the size of an apple was called an apple. Hence in most European languages the name for an orange has something to do with an apple from China. E.g. it is Applesin in Norwegian!!!!
Expanding on this topic further I was telling them about the names of the orange(/lime) family in tamil and when I told them that Grapefruit is called Bamblimas in tamil - Michael, a french friend, said that they call grapefruit Pamplemousse in French; which is very close to the Tamil word. I was of the opinion that the French word was influenced by Tamil - through Pondicherry - as Bamblimas means big and fat and is a very suitable name for this fruit which is the biggest and fattest of the family!!
Strange!! Enof said.
Monday, May 02, 2005
I always thought of myself as an engineer first even though beautiful equations do give me goosebumps. I propably would like to model myself on Mike - Mike Kesler - the CEO of Kesler Engineering where I worked under him for a couple of years. He is revered among scientists and engineers - in industry and academia. He was not fond of the mental masturbation that scientists indulged in unless it could be used in industry.
I am presently developing an energy integration methodology for process plants that is based on thermodynamics where I need to be a little bit of both. Am I an engineer or a scientist or rather am I an engineer and a scientist??
PS: By scientists I refer to people involved in basic research rather than engineers who are involved in applied research
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Even though I have lived alone long enough to not mind it, I have a nagging feeling that these few months living alone will not be the same. I will certainly miss Arthi and more importantly I will miss the bulge of Arthi's stomach that is Kuttime.
As Appa says, life is all about sacrifices. I guess the important thing is making the ones that count rather than counting the ones you make.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Saturday, April 16, 2005
The movie is shot in black and white and is full of dead pan humor. It tells us the tale of two 14 year olds alone at home for a day with a 16 year old girl and a pizza delivery guy thrown into the mix. The director uses a lot of fade outs and fade ins initially to potray trivial incidents. As the movie progresses the film take on a deeper undertone that shows loneliness of kids, effect of divorce on children, yearnings in live, complexity of teenage love - all dealt with humor. There is no scene in th emovie that makes you feel bad for the kid whoose parents are going though divorce - but he adequately conveys the torment the kid goes through. That in itself is an achievement.
Quite a good movie - I would give it 4 out of 5.
Arthi liked 5x2 more than this one - but it was the other way for me. In a seemingly inconsequential story line, the director has dealt with some complex issues.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Marions parents, she says, at the start of the movie (at the end of their relationship) hardly talk to each other any more. Gilles asks her if they still live together. She says that they live together under the same roof because of their marriage but do not talk with each other. All this talk after Marion and Gillian have filed their divorce papers.
A later scene shows Marion's parents shouting at each other during her child birth and a later scene shows them dancing in love with each other during her wedding.
In constast, there are hardly any scenes that show Gilles and Marion fight, though th eunderlying tension between them is potrayed. Yet this young couple file for divorce while the parents stick it through!!!!!
Thursday, April 14, 2005
The film shows 5 vignettes of a couple (2) in various stages of the life together - from the time they get together to their divorce and a last fling. Only, the story is told backwards - with Italian love songs interspersed between. There are huge gaps in the story that the diretor leaves unresolved and lets the viewer's imagination make it up. Watching the movie makes you feel like a voyeur prying into another's life - you want to see and know more about them, but there is something in the back of you head telling you that you already know too much. I will not go into the 5 scenes in the couple's live - the movie is all about it. Watch out for the expressions and nuances of the couple. They tell a story in themselves. The movie, I feel, is a commentary on teh fleeting nature of human relationships.
Overall the movie was good - propably a 3.5 stars out of 5. The performances of the leads Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Stephane Freiss is great.
Telling a story backwards is not new - Momento and Irreversible have done it before. Flashback is something our Indian directors have used all along to tell their story and Mani Ratnam has used it wonderfully well in Alai Payuthe and Ayutha Ezhuthu. I assume it will not be long before he experiments with this narrative style as well.
For all the innovativeness in this new narrative technique of telling a story backward - you have to let go of the rewind button and let the movie play forwards. What would be interesting is if we jumble up the sequence i.e. bring in he fast forward button in play in addition to the rewind. Would such a movie make any sense at all? Has it been done before?
Sending out an email to my Malayali friends wishing them on teh occasion of Vishu got me thinking.. Are we Tamilians unimaginative, or rather, were our forefathers unimginative? Most Indian states (and hence langauges) have special word for their New Year - Malayalis have their Vishu, Andhrites and Kannadigas have Ugadhi, Maharashtrians their Gudi Padwa? In Tamil it is plain - "Tamil Putthandu" that translates as Tamil New Year - nothing special or fancy!!!
I think our forefathers got it right - spot on! For them, as it must be to us (but is not), it was just another day - and all it did signify was the repetition of a counting system. The tradition of looking at the mirror first thing in the morning, eating the sweet/sour/bitter chutney are all traditions so full of symbolism that they had to be invented later - similar to the New Year's eve/day celebrations the world over celebrating the birth of a new year in the Georgian calendar.
Each year, in the Tamil calender, has a name (the year dawned is called Parthiba) and the names also follow a 60 year cycle ( or 5 Jupiter years). If you went through all year names in your life - you celebrate your Sashiabthapoorthi!!!! Thus, rather than have the year as a constant (not changing with time) or monotonic (constantly increasing), the Tamil calendar made the years cyclic. The Tamil calendar stops there - unlike the mayan calendar that has 394 year cycles. Mayans were afraid of starting over, or in other words they were afraid of zero (as starting over meant you started at nothing) and did not want to face the unkown danger of starting a new calendar cycle. The Tamils on the other hand, celebrated the starting of a new calendar cycle with their Sashiapthapoorthi!
What a difference understanding nothing makes!!!!
Thursday, April 07, 2005
...My paintings reveal what the mind, not the eye, sees. But painting, as you know quite well, is a feast for the eyes. If you combine these two thoughts, my world will emerge. That is:
ALIF: Painting brings to life what the mind sees, as a feast for the eyes.
LAM: What the eye sees in the world enters the painting to the degree that it serves the mind.
MIM: Consequently, beauty is the eye discovering in our world what the mind already knows.
I beleive one can take the thrid point (MIM), quote it out of context and it will still be valid. Whether it be a painting, a poem, an equation (at least for me) or what have you - beauty is discovering what the mind already knows. Is that why I find this beautiful??!!!
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
I'll upload a few where also this eve and write some blogs about our trip too.
Just that I have so much to write on and so little time to do it in. I actually have a list (somewhere) on topics to blog on. Hopefully I will get to it soon.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Anyways, Arthi had her ultrasound checkup today and based on the Kuttime's measurement and the placenta, the nurse as given the tentative date of delivery to be the 1st of Sept '05.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
I was immediately transported to the Cross maidan in Mumbai today. As you walk across the footpath there, you have kids playing cricket in all corners of the field with the elegant Victoria Terminus (or CST as it is uninspiringly called now) as the backdrop. It is a more urban setting, but nontheless, equally awe inspiring. I always made it a point to gawk for quite a while and soak in the atmoshpere when I passed there.
Which do I like better - Ranheim with the magnificent fjord setting or Cross Maidan with the elegant Raj-period urban setting? It is like choosing between a Monet and a Matisse or between an Adirsam and an Apple pie.
I'd always rather have both!!!
Friday, April 01, 2005
This whole life changing experience thing is a cliché used many a time before me in this context. But does this make our lives just a repetition of what others have been through?
Borges says, no story is new - it is just presented in a new way. But that is not the case with our lives. The reason why most of the written descriptions of our lives reads as clichés is that man has not perfected the art of translating feeling to spoken words. The feeling or emotion is individual/personal, whereas the written work is common/public.
The same is true of thought. We do not think or feel in a particular language. It is only when we try to communicate our thoughts or feelings that words come into the frame.
But when what Arthi had announced finally sunk in, after penetrating the mist in my groggy head, oddly the first thought that came to me was that we would not be able to go on our vacation as we had planned (and saved for). Fortunately enough, these thoughs were quickly pushed aside (not out) by a surging feeling of elation and excitement.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Looking at it another one - we could propably say that fear excites. I am sure there is some biological explanation for this - but being one from the I-hate-biology camp, this is what I gather from my experiences and musing about them.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
By the first break of my first lecture I felt beaten - the entire class was silent even to simple Yes or No questions. I figured it one of the problems could be that I was lecturing in English rather than in Norwegian. At the end of the lecture though, one of the students came up and asked a few questions. He cautioned me not to expect too much response from the students as he said "We Norwegians are quiet learners - no one will speak up in class".
The entire semester went by without incident - mainly because no one spoke in class. I considered that I had done a good enough job as no one slept in class - and for a class of 60+ students, that is a big thing!!!!
And suddenly, out of the blue, one of my students from fall just stopped by my office today. He had a few questions - particularly with a mnemonic I gave them to remember the different energy functions and its cononical variables. He said that he found that very useful in other courses - and wanted to understand how it works in more detail.
I am satisfied - if I could make a difference in just one student's attitute towards thermo - so be it. In my world, ONE is much much gerater than zero!!!!
Monday, March 07, 2005
Sunday, March 06, 2005
What really captured my attention was him mentioning the huge cooperation we have with African countries. Thinking about it, it make much sense - Africa is rich in natural resources and India is rich in human resources. A PERFECT MATCH!! Further, with Indian companies gaining economic clout, they can bring in investment to Africa too.
ONGC have signed an oil agreement with Sudan recently (a purely economic one according to Mr. Gogna). But this has not gone down well with the powers that be in Washington. They percieve it as Indian support to a goverment promoting genocide. India, in its quest for its ever increasing energy supplies, is willing to turn a blind eye towards morals and is filling the coffers of the Sudanese goverment - Washington claims.
Another example of American hypocrisy???? It sure is, but it certainly gives some food for thought. Is India right in supporting curropt and unjust governments in order to satisfy its eeergy needs? What are its other options? Must India take the moral high road to development?
I believe that India can do away with supporting such regimes - provided we get enough support from the developed countries. Key items to address would be:
1. Support for accelerated research in alternative energy resouces
2. Promote investment (through incentives ??) in renewable energy - the indian goverment should open up the energy sector
3. Develop better and layered public transport system - the standard of living of Indian public varies greatly and so does their preference of transport. Various alternatives of public transport are required to suit the needs of different people.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Friday, March 04, 2005
I propably started off on the wrong note (or gear). To make things clear - I respect Narain and his accomplisments - being the first Indian to race F1 is no mean accomplishment. I dig the F1 (as my wife will readily attest) , love my country and show a great sense of pride in being an Indian.
Narain has helped put India on the F1 map and has shown the world another facet of India - an India that has gone from being a land of snake charmers and elephants to the land of IT-itis and the back office of the world. Yes, this is definitely a good thing.
I confess to following the F1 grapevine this season as Narain is in it, rather than sticking to just watching the races as I did earlier. What I fail to understand is why Narain has to be so overly patriotic and appear as if he is doing it for the country, topping it off (quite literally) with a tricolor helmet. I, for one, am against overt nationalism - particularly in sports. It is the last place one needs to show patriotism.
We are who we are, at least in part, because of our motherland. It is there for all to see - no point in the patriotism-in-your-face attitude; just makes one lose sight of the big picture. What?
The Australian Grand Prix starts tomorrow and I will be closely following Narain's lap times. It will be a great achievement, given his lack of clocked time, if he completes the race on Sunday, even as one of the last few.
Good luck mate and er... Jai Hind!!