Monday, December 18, 2006

12 Days of Christmas for the Brown Folk

My friend Arvind sent me this video from You Tube. I find it amazing and very hilarious.

12 Days of Christmas for the Brown Folk

Apparently it is band and they have CD's and all. Here is their home page.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Damien Martyn: A Salute

Damien Martyn belongs to a vanishing breed of batsmen who grace the cricket field. His retirement leaves the mantle of that breed entirely to VVS Laxman, the last of those artistry batsmen who are a sheer delight to watch. However much I admire Sachin Tendulkar, I can't put him in the same category of these two batsmen. Other players that belong to this category during the period i have watched cricket (post 1980) are Mohd. Azharuddin, Mark Waugh. Earlier era gave us among others, GR Viswanath.

To be so talented, as Damien was, and sit out for 6 years during the prime of your physical fitness due to a so called rash shot (that is claimed to have to have led to the defeat) and make an amazing comeback, is really a legend in the making. To top it all, just when you have an opportunity to make amends to the bad form in front of the home crowd, with the Aussie team well placed in the series, Damien decided that he should call it a day.

I am more than impressed with his actions. More than anything else, in these days of media hyped recalls of retired greats, the manner with which CA and others responded to it is simply amazing.

Goodbye and Goodluck, Damien. Have a great life.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What happens in between?

Yesterday, when Amrapali and myself were walking out of St. Charles Hospital here in Port Jefferson, Long Island, we saw a very old lady walking towards the hospital. She saw us and said

" You two look so happy
And I am glad to see that"

Though we weren't sure how to respond to that, we mumbled a thank you.

After a few steps, we met another lady, who probably is the old lady's daughter, told us

"When you are above 90, you can talk to just about anybody. Isn't it?"

The event really made me think. We keep talking when we are kids and if it is easy to talk to just about anybody when you are very old, what happens in between?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Quintessential Rajnikanth

I found this speech by Rajni in You Tube. You can see how restless he looks. Whenever he speaks he always tries to capture the microphone, there is lot of restlessness. Make sure you notice his face when he repeats Amitabh Bachchan's name. Later when he says "Indha Rajnikanth endha moolainga?". There is a sense of conviction that I feel whenever I hear him speak.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ph.D Thesis Report

There is this brief report in today's The Hindu buried under TamilNadu/Coimbatore section that caught my eye. This report says that Bharathiar University is going to make the status of the evaluation of the Ph.D thesis available online.

As somebody who has seen from close quarters how people keep waiting for report, I am glad that somebody felt the need to atleast find a way to monitor and know the status. I also abhor the practice of sending the thesis to a 'Foreign' referee and getting an approval from him/her. I don't see why we need to do that, unless ofcourse, that person has been a collaborator.

In India you will have to submit the thesis(the final bound version), wait for the thesis report and then have your defence. When I defended my thesis recently, here in US, I gave a final (there is never a final one, is there?) draft in a manila folder to each of my committee two weeks before the defence and a submitted a copy to the graduate school a week after the defence. End of story. All my committee members weren't my collaborators, but they were on the committee to evaluate my thesis proposal.

I think the time frame between submission and defence, in Indian institutes, should be reduced to as minimum as possible and a person should be able to leave the Institute/University for good.

Except for a few concerned ones, most advisors don't even care how long it takes.

Anyway, that is my opinion.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Harry Potter

I have been watching the harry potter movies again. There is this conversation between Prof. Dumbledore and Harry that is worth mentioning

DUMBLEDORE: "... Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor.

HARRY: Only because I asked it to.

DUMBLEDORE: "Exactly. Which makes you very different from Voldemort. It's not our abilities that show what we truly are, Harry. It's our choices."

Actually the character Harry is made in such a manner, it is very difficult to not to like him. He is sensitive. He never cribs and has no regrets in life, in spite of things having been so bad in his life, at least upto the time he enters Hogwarts. Even life in the school has not been easy for him, save for the two friends, Ron and Hermionne, with constant attention.

Before he and Ron enter the Chamber of Secrets, Moaning Myrtle says " Oh, Harry... if you die down there, you're welcome to share my toilet." Harry responds "Thanks, Myrtle".

Monday, August 28, 2006

August 28th

13 years and it doesn't change a thing.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ustad Bismillah Khan

Photo: From The Hindu

"How could I have slept in the cool comfort of the a/c when my neighbour Ramzan Ali poured buckets of water on his `tattar' [made of tin] for keeping the heat away in the summer," he asked.

The he referred above is Ustad Bismillah Khan, who moved on to an entirely different stage to play for the very same ganga-maiyya and baba vishwanath, that were so dear to him. The above quote sort of personifies both the person and his way of life. Many times we hear of great people who led a simple life, but rarely we get to see that in the way they look also. Ustad was one such person.

Long before I even knew what a shenai is and who is its ustad, I had a long love affair with the shenai music that preceded the beginning of any Doordarshan transmission. In early eighties, when I was in elementary school, there were no 24 hour TV channels and I was so crazy about TV. I would start watching a well 15-30 mintues even before the symbol accompanied by Ustads' shenai announced the beginning of the program.

Music has this enormous capability to drown you, but at the same time raise your spirits so much, you feel very much overwhelmed. That over whelming feeling is inexplicable. Ustads like Bismillah Khan gave them in plenty to whomever were fortunate enough to hear their music. After the death of MS, we have lost another of those pre-independence era grown stalwart.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Owning a Pet Dog

Recently my good friend Terrywhatlee had a post on Great Danes and it was only then I even came to know that Scooby-Doo is a Great Dane. Though I have been a great dog lover, never ever did I cared to know about the various breeds and things like that.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see for the first time in my life a Great Dane in person, while I was visiting Montauk Point, the eastern tip of Long Island. I wasn't sure whether it was Great Dane. I needed to know. My curiosity got the better of me and I walked towards the owner and asked him. He was polite and he said that it is indeed Great Dane. He also told me how friendly she is, especially how much she likes to spend time with children at home.

Since then I have been finding it very difficult to stop reading about Great Danes. Myself and Amrapali are very fond of dogs and plan to own one. Amrapali did have a dog as a kid, whereas I never had that opportunity.

It is quite expensive to own a dog. More than the money, it is more about responsibility of having a dog as a member of your home. Though the emotional reasons and the responsibilities of owning a dog is important, a good idea about the costs is also essential. There is no point in overlooking this fact. I found an article which gives an estimate of costs involved in having a dog. I am sure there are plenty of sources which have estimates. But this one is a good start.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Saif Ali Khan: A Revelation

I recently watched Dil Chata Hai. It is a very ordinary movie and was all hype. In fact my reason for wanting to see the movie was Saif Ali Khan.

If I have seen somebody grow up on screen as an actor it has to be Saif. I first got a glimpse of this change in him when I saw Parineeta (thanks to Priya and Arvind). It was one of those passionate love story, well made. Had good music too. Saif played a very well crafted role. Later I also saw Hum Tum, a role for which he got National Award.

Later I also watched him in Salaam Namaste and finally DCH.

Probably he is telling to himself in Rajni style (Baadsha) "Evalo paathirupom" (Have seen it all) and to come to think of it, he probably has. Son of Tiger Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore and early entry in to Hindi film industry. Falls in love with a much elder woman, marries her against all opposition, both from family and public, does really bad movies with even badly made roles, is a father of a daughter, gets divorce from his wife ...

He reminds me a lot of a room-mate of mine in his "har katein". May be I see this person in him. But then I do think Saif is one of the best in Hindi cinema. He makes Amir and Akshaye look mere actors in this movie.

But I should admit there was one particular scene in DCH that was really amazing. This is the scene where the train leaves with Preeti Zinta still on the platform. The look of her through the glass door of the train, says it all in that movie about the relationship that she is yearning for from Amir. It is impossible to love somebody and not show it off in some form or the other.

Friday, June 23, 2006

How things come to this point?

This morning as I was checking for the something at the website of Research Laboratories for Electronics I saw the news item that Rahul Sarpeshkar has been awarded a tenure. Though I was initially thinking about why the term 'awarded' is being used (after all he has earned it, didn't he?), I moved on to check his group page. I have known that he works on biology-electronics, but what I didn't know was that he was Carver Meads' student.

As somebody who has gone through graduate school to complete a Ph.D these things about being somebody's student and all, interests me a lot. Moreover, Carver Mead is somebody whom Iadmire a lot as a scientist. He is in that list that I have of people, who have greatly impacted me through their scientific contributions and innovators, which includes among others Robert Noyce, Richard Feynman, Don Knuth, CT Sah.

When I was doing my research to buy a digital SLR camera, I wanted to buy Sigma just because they had Foveon CMOS image sensors. Foveon is one of the many companies that Carver Mead had helped start or run through his scientific innovations. I didn't go for a Sigma for other reasons.

Now what does Carver Mead has to do with this post?

Actually it goes back to Rahul and I found in his Ph.D thesis, digging deep into which I found a person Sanjoy Mahajan, whose webpage has a lot of interesting stuff. Check the one image explanation of the war in Iraq there.

Most importantly check the physics teaching aid and related articles. Especially this one which talks about something that most Teaching Assistants in graduate schools might find very helpful.

My reason for the title of this post, is that how we start looking for something and finally due to this search and all those things, end up finally somewhere which we had no clue about in the first place.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Perhaps, it is someone else

Just finished watching the episode The Watchman of Malgudi Days. The title of this post is the last dialogue in this episode about a watchman who guards an old temple tank. The old watchman is reprimanded by the local judge after a spate of suicides. Later that night a girl wants to commit suicide after not getting a college scholarship which was her ticket to freedom from marriage and children. A prospective groom is coming to see her the next day. She says that she doesn't want to be a burden to her step mother, wants to become a doctor.

The watchman asks her to go home and live a happy life and bear kids for her husband. She rebuffs him as to what he knows about her misery or misery per se. He tells her of his losing almost his entire family, his wife and 7 daughters, save for the youngest daughter, to plague and says that she is too young to even understand misery.

He leaves her near the temple tank and goes to sleep. The next day morning, he notices only the letter near the steps. His friend tells him probably that girl left for home. He says that sometimes the body takes months to come up and feels that he couldn't save that particular girl from committing suicide.

Many years later a husband and wife and their three kids come to the temple and the old watchman, much older now, looks through his broken glass and identifies the woman as the same girl whom he had persuaded to go home that night. Even after knowing that it was the same watchman who had saved her, she fails to recognize him, prompting him to say "Perhaps, it is someone else".

A very poignant story that I have read/seen in recent times.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dolby Digital - India Link

These days I am reading a lot about AV Receivers, Speakers and various sound formats. The forum at Audioholics gives lot of valuable information. Apart from that I also checked the famed Dolby website and there I found an interesting link to India. Ray Dolby worked for two years as an UN advisor for the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO).

The demo file in Dolby website is amazing. After listening to that piece Amrapali said

Pyaas Kuchh Aur Bhii Bha.Dakaa Dii Jhalak Dikhalaake
Tujhako Paradaa Rukh\-E\-Roshan Se Hataanaa Hogaa

This is a Asha-Talat duet from Lala Rukh set to Kaifi Azmi's lyrics by Khaiyyam.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Spelling BEE

I am reminded of Ramesh Mahadevan's article where he lists the list of boring things that Desis do in US. I liked his comment on Spelling Bee.

Using spell check reminds me of another thing. While I was writing my Ph.D thesis, for which I used Latex, the day before I was to take the printouts to give my examination committee the copies, i wanted to do check the spelling and I, should positively admit stupidly and foolishly, said to my wife that I will read through the text in no time. Thanks to her counsel, i used the spell check of the emacs (one of the nice text editors on linux) and it took 1 hour to completely go through the entire document.

I wonder why somebody is not having a hand writing contest? I had tough time grading all the exam books of undergraduates, most of whose handwriting is pathetic to say the least.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Hindu and its irritating journalism

I recently came across a well articulated post about The Hindu at Prasanna Viswanathan's blog Benched @ Banglore. The statement about C Rajamohan couldn't be more right. I think one of the greatest contributions by N.Ram finally would be the to cause the shutting down of The Hindu. Its high brow journalism is sickening to say the least.

In today's Letters to the Editor, there is a letter by N. Damodaran, who has taken pains to read the opinion polls conducted by The Hindu and has come up a with simple statement that catches the very essence of absence of logic that The Hindu so gloatingly "finds" in its opinion polls.

The opinion polls are just Part 1 of the election results. Just wait for the elections to get over. There will be another 'analysis' of the results, how divisive forces have 'twisted' their mandate and the time is short for 'secular' minded parties to get together.

Recently they came up with an editorial about the impending electoral victory of the Left Front in West Bengal. I think the real revolution that is needed is to dislodge this government that has been in West Bengal for 30 years. I am sure every school teacher, governement official is a member of one of the left front parties and it is these people who are going to be poll personnel. Why should the left get irritated when the Election Commission decides a Five phase polling for WB? In fact it is the first time the EC has openly taken a stand to prevent the mal practices that have been part of the WB elections be it local, Assembly and Parliamentary. Maybe it is much worse than what is usually hyped, the Bihar elections.

That is enough left bashing for a post.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Moving Story

National Public Radio (NPR) has become such an integral part of my life, not a day goes by without me and Amrapali discussing about something that either of us have heard on NPR. Many times I just stay in the parking lot for the story to finish before I can get to home or office.

NPR brings to my attention stories that I would never find anywhere.

Try to listen to this moving story A year to life, a year to die and it is overwhelming to say the least. Grief is something that is very difficult to share. Grief stays forever no matter how old we get or how far away we are from the time of grief.

There is one line in this story that is really very touching

Eleven years and two children later, their life was all she had imagined. But it all changed in that last year. Stewart made this entry in his audio diary in February, 2003, shortly after receiving the diagnosis: "I don't feel any bitterness about why me getting a tumor," he said. "As I've gotten older you know and more people that bad things happen to. Gosh, it can't always be the other guy."

Thank you Rebecca and Stewart.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Andha Kaala Tiffin

I really love thattai, a savoury that also goes by the name 'Elladai". I in general love all these varieties that my paati used to call 'andha kaala tiffin'. For her 'idli' and 'dosai' didn't belong to that category. The ones that made to that list were among others, 'thavalai' dosai, 'thavalai' adai, 'kaara' adai, sevai. Since I left home for higher studies, i have been yearning for all these 'andha kaala tiffin'.

I am a reasonably good cook and I enjoy cooking, but I never had the motivation to learn it and make them.

When my wife Amrapali went to India last time, she learnt all these from my mother and now she makes all of them much to my delight and I can't have enough of them. In fact she learnt only those items that I like. A typical conversation between her and my mother would go like this.

Amma: Let us learn x today

Amrapali: Does Narasimhan like this?

Amma: Not much

Amrapali: Let us move on to the next one.

After six years in Pune and Kanpur and two more years in Stony Brook, finally I am having my thattais, adais etc..

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bumper Sticker

Saw a bumper sticker on a car that read

Politicians and Diapers have to be changed regularly for the same reason

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Siruvayadhu Sindhanaigal: Childhood Thoughts

Today I read the story "Muyal" by Badri Seshadri. It is not necessary that stories written in first person are always autobiographical, meaning they are true stories experieced by the author. But somehow, this story seems like an event happened in Badri's life. This story brought back memories of an event that took place in my life, when I was in class 4.

The dog was simply called as "vellai" meaning white. Having a pet dog was out of question in my home, so I had to be content with the fact that I can pet the dogs that grew in other people's home in the neighbourhood. Vellai grew up in the house of "Kayirkaara amma", who lived opposite to our home, separated by the main road on which the No.1 and 2 buses of vellore ply, apart from the moffusil buses. The entire family of kayirkara amma was involved in making ropes using coir. Many times i have been part of the kayir making exercise, by rotating the machine. Slowly I became very close to vellai and so did vellai to me. Then one day suddenly, the town panchayat officials decided to catch the stray dogs. If you had seen them catch dogs you would really feel very bad. I didn't know what to do and I still remember going to one of the person who seemed to be in charge almost in tears to let vellai off. I was very selfish to just ask for pardoning of vellai. Then he said that vellai doesn't have a license and he can't do anything. I asked how am i to get a license for vellai, he said that if I pay him some amount, he can give me the license that he has in his pocket. Kayirakara family wasn't the kind of family that had a pet dog with lots of care for the dog. The dog happened to grow in their home.

I went back to my home and asked amma to give me some money and let vellai get his license. Amma did give the money to me, knowing that I really liked the dog. I ran to that person and got that small tin sheet, with a number written in yellow background. Vellai, obviously not aware of all these things, was just loitering in front of their house inspite of me putting him inside so that he can evade the dog catchers. I tied it on his neck and sort of hid him in the house even though he had the license. He was saved that day, but the other dogs that were caught on that day came in my dreams for some days to come.

The year after, after I came back from a visit to Madras to my Uncle's place, I couldn't see vellai and the face of kayirkara amma was sunken. She told me that vellai was hit by the No. 1 bus that used to ply between Katpadi and Bagayam. All of a sudden a deep sense of sadness hit me. The bus that hit vellai while I was away in chennai was "Sri Krishna Bus Service".

I have had attachments to many other dogs subsequently, but never with the same amount of intensity as was with Vellai.

May be that explains why I cried uncontrollably while watching My Dog Skip.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Vadai and Doughnut

In today's episode of Engines of our ingenuity Prof. John Lienhard traces the history of Doughnut. While capturing its history, he mentions our Vadai as one of the fore runners of the modern day doughnut. It had never occured to me why there is a hole in the middle of vadai or for that matter in doughnut, but today I got a reasonable answer when he explained the origin of doughnut.

A problem with those otherwise delicious cakes was that their centers were seldom fully cooked. In 1847, Gregory punched out the center of a cake. Now all the dough lay near the cooked surface, and he got a far more uniformly cooked doughnut.

That makes lot of sense. There is also mention of poori in the episode. You can hear it here .