Monday, May 30, 2005


After reading My Name is Red where miniaturists decry Venitian style painting, I read Tales of Protection where there is a story in which a painter explains in painstaking detail on how to paint Venetian style.

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!!!!

Recent reads... My Name is Red

Before Tales of Protection, I read My Name is Red by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. Another great book from an author who many people believe will be a Nobel laurate one day.

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.

My recent reads - Tales of Protection

I just finished Tales of Protection by Norwegian author Erik Fosnes Hansen. An amazing, amazing book. The idea of the story (or stories) is original and he writes with a flair that is precise.

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

Sworn off cabs.... now what - reptiles?

Having sworn off cabs, I decided to hike to explore Taormina and the beaches around it on the 18th. Taormina is 8-9 kms from Naxos Beach Resort and is not a long walk at all. My advisor (a long distane runner) ran upto Taormina each day here was there and gave me directions for the walk. The only tricky part, he said, was the hike up the mountain along ungravlled paths. I assured him, and my colleague, that I could easily walk 8 kms and walking up a hill was certainly not a problem.

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!!!!!

What is equivalent to riding a roller coster but only more dangerous?

Sitting in the front seat of a taxi in Italy, or Taormina to be more precise.

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.

Forza Italia!!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Coach season

This month has seen a spate of new coaches being appointed to cricket teams - Mickey Arthur for South Africa, Greg Chappell for India and most likelt Tom Moody for Sri Lanka.

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.

St Peters square and the Vatican

The Vatican

Vatican across river Tiber

Angel on Pont Angel

Castel Angel

Friday, May 20, 2005

Another view of Fountain of 4 rivers

Bernini's Fountain of 4 rivers

Trevi fountain - another take

The Trevi fountain

Spanish steps in Rome

Isobella again

The stunning cove of Isobella

The Greek theatre in Taormina

Quaint house in Taormina

View of Mt Etna and Giardini di Naxos from the way up to Taormina

Giardini di Naxos

Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

I am relieved. Yes, you read it right... Relieved I am. Relieved that the saga has come to an end (or middle), relieved that Lucas this Episode did not go the way of Episode I and II and relieved that I can watch it many more times and still enjoy the experience. The movie is great - and has managed to tie the entire saga together coherently.

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.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Fruits.. what are they called?

Last evening I was out with a few friends from work for a couple of beers, and as it is wont to, the discussions took us to pretty wierd topics.

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

Engineer and scientist?????

I presently happen to straddle the worlds of engineers and scientists - it is exciting and exasperating at the same time. My supervisor is an engineer at heart - although a physics graduate with a PhD in Chemical Engineering, his many years of industrial experience have left him beliveing his gut feeling rather than equations is in huge favor of application oriented research. My co-supervisor is a scientist - Period. One who sees beauty in equations and believes that philosophy and science go hand-in-hand. He is a thermodynamicist - need I say more??

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