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Showing posts from 2015

spirituality

Xmas is around the corner and end of a long year which I am not sad to get rid of. We were wandering around a Xmas shop this weekend, lot of pretty ornaments to hang on the trees, greens, red and gold. There was a kid running around the boxes of ornaments, calling out to his mother every other second, squealing with delight of discovering so many things, a bundle of energy. I watched him trot around, he had some difficulty in walking, which he was oblivious of.  I had read somewhere that sometime seeing beauty brings you certain tinge of sadness too and it is due to the fact that you realize at the back of your mind that it is not permanent, not everlasting. I was thinking that this kid will grow up one day, the unbounded happiness will get mixed with expectations, pride, competition, jealousy, desire and all the other maladies which eats up the adult world. I distinctly remember the time when I thought none of those matters, all that the adults were talking about are exaggerations, a…

Bananafish and For Esme – Salinger stories

Came across short stories of J D Salinger. Read two stories so far – "For Esme – with Love and Squalor" and "A perfect day for Bananafish". It is part of Nine Stories, so few more of this kept for the weekend, like saving few more servings of a delicious food for later.
These stories had such a strange concoction that I ended up searching for the meaning of it. Why did Seymour Glass shoot himself, what finally prompted him? Why did Sergeant X feel sleepy finally after reading Esme’s letter? Turns out these stories have so much of symbolisms that each are like a crossword puzzle. Distaste towards materialism, failure to communicate, loss of innocence, loneliness – a whole lot of it is said in so few words, each sentence open for interpretation, containing back stories on motivations, philosophies and intentions.
Now that makes the readers think to find out why he said something in that particular manner and different people are reading different meanings to it. Foun…

Chekhov

I had stayed away from short stories – I felt those don’t treat the people, their lives in enough detail to paint the picture in mind and the endings are also inconclusive. But then read Alice Munro’s stories a few months back which changed the perspective. Recently bookmarked this page to read a short story a day. Came across Anton Chekhov’s story, The Huntsman. Russian authors are more familiar to us Keralites probably due to the communist link, we have a Russsian cultural center in Trivandrum and public library has Malayalam translations of scores of Russian books. I had read quite a few during school and since then. But I never came across Chekhov, maybe since he wrote stories and plays. His ability to paint a portrait of people and their worlds in few sentences is like some charcoal artists making a picture with few quick strokes. People in his stories don’t seem to be perfect, good and bad mixed in them, vain and profound alternatively.  Even though it has been more than 100 yea…

writing and reading

(1) My writing education – http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/my-writing-education-a-timeline?src=longreads.  An inspiring article – on role models, good teachers, goodness in people, hope and persistence. Coming across a role model like this, who is infallible, a perfect human being – that is so rare. Last week I happened to connect briefly with a blogger whom I was reading for more than 10 years – I was introduced to many interesting books based on his recommendations. One of which is still a hard nut to crack for me (A Thousand Plateaus – Deleuze and Guattari), but it is one of his lifetime favorites. For me it is like drinking green tea for the first time. So I asked him how he came to like it – he said parts of that book hit him like a train. I was fascinated by that – to be moved that much by a book. When I read some parts of this article, it reminded me of that phrase. What we’re doing in writing is not all that different from what we’ve been doing all our lives, i.e., usi…

disappointed

One of those days where disappointment hits hard When the clock that usually runs frantically, slows down Disappointed with futility of lot of endeavors How we convince ourselves that we are being useful How we convince others that what we are doing is important How we are all able to do more, but don’t   Disappointed in leaders who promise hope and bright future Talk a big game, higher purpose, incomprehensible philosophies Because that is what they were supposed to do To move people, bring about change Disappointed to give in naively, believe in new fads Disappointed in mediocrity, mine and others around In doing something only until the tension builds In doing something, only to honor the duty than because I believe Disappointed in the charades, even when everyone knows And plays along with it, not being able to change a thing None of this is important, in larger scheme of things Petty worries, irrelevant expectations, blown up only in mind Knowing all that, disappointed in not being able to …

life under yellow haze

Looking outside my window, I can see the tall building of Tata Steel. It is on the other side of a 4 line elevated highway, lined with footpath which looks pretty nice with some mosaic pattern. The stretch looks like a Hollywood set with façade buildings, looks unpopulated. But this is not what I saw for an hour drive through Kolkata. It is my first time here, was curious about Culcutta that I read about so much. Land of Tagore, Satyajit Ray, communism and literate intelligent people. But the drive through the city seemed to me like a horror show, like those Halloween rides in theme parks where you are taken inside through tunnels and suddenly zombie dummies jerk on to your path. Coming out of the airport, I took the pre-paid taxi – not the AC or private ones, but the one controlled by City Police. Yellow taxies here are all old ambassadors, axi drivers in tatters. For few minutes after coming out of the airport, I was trying to connect to a conference call – it kept saying all lines a…

drive

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After a long time, went for a long road trip – drove from TVM to Bangalore and back. We started through the back roads from TVM until we hit NH7, skipped NH47. Got lost a bit in between, ended up in few roads with grand canyons in them, but in between it was through real god’s own country and rural Tamilnadu.
There is a very real life, away from the glamour and glitter of the city, if you travel atleast 5 kilometers inwards from any main road. Like in the Pixar movie Cars, where they complain that the new highway that bypassed the small town took away the local business, but also robbed the travelers of magnificent countryside.



NH7 was beautiful too, very deserted. While reaching Bangalore, it said 1500 or so more kilometers to Varanasi. One day, in a distant future….


While returning took NH47 from NH7, but bypassing Nagercoil was also an experience. The kind of green hues by the side of that road might be hard to get even in “super vivid” mode of the camera.

morning walk

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I read a quote some time back that you should go for a walk especially if you are not feeling like it. It would put you in a better mood after that. That is true.
Very less crowd today. Usual gang that plays football is there – they are dedicated. Occasional photographers here and there. Kids come here with their telephoto lens and various outfits – I guess cover photos in Facebook must be craze these days, or are they shooting for marriage profile photos or personal profiles – in any case, I see some of those every day. No one walking backwards, no Yogis (it was late for that), no couples who look for a quiet place to sit and no dancers practicing in gazebo today. The snake that crossed my path two days and the raccoon who watched me intently until I passed – they have good cover these days with heavy underbush after the rains.

This is second day of Monsoon. Sky is neat blue though.

Heavy summer rains have brought on the greens early this time. Everything is washed clean and new sprout…

Machine Learning + Artificial Intelligence = Machine Intelligence

I was reading up on what is happening in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and listened to a few lectures/interviews. It looks like next few years will see a significant advance in these fields and it could bring disruption to lot of industries. Here is a pop science / layman version of what I understood. TL;DR version:- Research in something called Deep Learning has reached the tipping point where it is industrial strength in performance and it could be used for real world applications.3 things that are pushing it – cheap parallel computing (GPUs), big data (collected through search, images, posts etc), better algorithms (deep learning)Focus in not on the kind of AI seen in the likes of Terminator and by all accounts we are too far from it. While robotics is progressing, that is also not where AI is getting applied (to set our mental image right). But it is on developing intelligent machines doing specific functions (speech recognition,…

radiolab

I had been listening to radiolab (http://www.radiolab.org/series/podcasts/), a science podcast for more than 7 years, on and off. It is a show hosted not by scientists, but an odd combination of one guy interested in sound and music and a science correspondent – both radio hosts. They explain the subjects through a series of stories, choreographed using sounds. Subjects as varied as dreams, games, birds, ants, colors, gut bacteria, parallel universes, deception, neurological disorders, psychology, chimpanzees, bees, mosquitos, love, cosmology, translation, loops, memory – all handled in a delightful blend of stories, sound and music. Even if the subject seems as drab as sewage handling in New York City would be an interesting story in their hands. The youthful curiosity of Jad and playful good nature of Robert makes them such perfect hosts.
Listen to a couple of the shows till the end (I would recommend to start with any of these - Colors, Lost & Found, Space, Bliss, Emergence, Th…

Siddhartha - Herman Hesse

I was curious about this book since this was supposed to be a favorite of Vishal Sikka, he quoted from this couple of times before. It was an interesting read – but cannot say I understood much. It is a problem with such writing which borders on spiritual/philosophy – it is so vague that sometime I think whether the author is springing a trick to see how many people recognize that this is all made up. But then they may know something which cannot be put into words or as the book says wisdom that could not be taught.
Premise was interesting – a man called Siddhartha goes through a similar journey of discovery as the Gautama Buddha, in the same timeframe as Buddha. That premise allows to present an alternate version of the journey and a different perspective. It reminds of “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl, though drastically different circumstances. Few quotes I had noted down. Author talks about “Childlike person” to refer to us mere mortals. Siddhartha goes thr…

books to read

Read a short story by Alice Munro – “Night” (http://granta.com/night/). Chanced upon it from a tweet from someone. Name was somehow familiar, searched and found that she was the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 2013. Read few more of her stories from the New Yorker. I have a mental block when it comes to reading short stories – somehow I don’t like that it finishes too quickly and sometimes abruptly, not fully satisfying. These were good though. It kind of reminded me of why we read fiction – it gives comfort in knowing that there are other people who think similar thoughts, there are lives even in far off places and quite different circumstances, but quite human, like kindred spirits. That is one thing which is closed and sacred – other people’s thoughts. Apart from writers who risk baring it on paper for all the world to see, we have no way of knowing whether we are the only weird ones out there or the rest of world is also quite similar.

I was in the process of adding couple of …