Saturday, December 6

munich and then...

Few days ago, Spielberg's movie 'Munich' was on STAR TV. Its a fictional, I stress fictional here, about Israeli's response to the 1972 Munich Massacre. (The Munich massacre occurred during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually murdered by Black September, a militant group with ties to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization.) I mean, the response was real, but movie's depiction of the response is fictional. These were the movie-lines for the Gold Meir, who was the Israeli prime minister when the Massacre happened. Remember, this is fictional Golda Meir, taken from the script of the movie. You can get a soft copy, if you google it.

These people ... They're sworn to destroy us. Forget peace for now. We have to show them we're strong.
(a beat)
We have laws, we represent civilization. Some people say we can't afford to be civilized. I've always resisted such people.

There are no such people. They're not... recognizable. You tell me, what law protects people like these?
Today I'm hearing with new ears.
Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values. I have made a decision. The responsibility is entirely mine.

I can not stop but think these lines in light of the recent attacks in Mumbai. Similar thoughts can be heard every where in Television, Newspapers, Forums etc. Sure, Spielberg made sure that we see a vengeful Meir. But, many don't agree with such a depiction. Looking through Wikipedia, I hit a newspaper Haaretz's interview with Zvi Zamir, who was the head of Mossad, the Israeli spy agency at that time. He says,
"It is a disgrace that Spielberg compares Golda Meir to terrorist leaders in Lebanon. For quite a lengthy period Golda rejected our proposals - of the Mossad, Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet [security service] - for operations against terrorism in Europe. She hoped the Europeans would be vigilant and would take action themselves against Palestinian terrorism aimed at Israel. ... "

Zvi Zamir also tells incidents that he thinks exemplifies Golda Meir's character. Of course, it can be said Zvi is far from the truth just as Speilberg is. But there is one line of Zvi's interview, which I think we should think about in the light of Mumbai attacks.

I will say only that the whole issue of whom to strike at was given meticulous consideration and the probable consequences were evaluated. What guided us was [the need] to strike at the infrastructures of terrorism and at those who might attack Israelis in the future.
That is more insightful than the rhetoric of our politicians and the drama of 24-hour news channels.

Friday, November 7

disgusting science

A 60% real - 40% fictional conversation.

She: Why did you fall in love with me ?

He : If you think about it, it is all about survival. Human beings for the matter of the survival of their genes, need to find mates. Driven by such a survival instinct, they choose their mates, have kids, and pass on their genes. Did you know, scientists have found that the activity in brain when you fall in love, is similar to the activity of a person on Cocaine ?

She : Well, that sounds true - you laugh and cry without any reason. But my question is : Why did you choose me ? Why not some one else ?

He : Again, scientifically, there are many reasons - First, the sense of being physically attractive. We tend to think that by choosing attractive people, it can lead to a better chance of survival of our progeny. Studies have shown that one of the most common trait of attractiveness is symmetry.(Think: Survival) Second, there are other non-physical traits like kindness. We tend to see these traits, because, physical attractiveness may be faked. Any kind of difficult experience would make us more mean. Kindness is a trait that has a better chance of survival. Third, bandwidth of risk. Empirical studies have shown that we are likely to choose some one in a high-risk environment than in a low-risk environment. We tend to believe that some one with a higher bandwidth for risk has a better chance for survival.

She : Is this your idea of being romantic ? OK. I will humor you. There are scientific reasons for you falling in love with me. But, Why are you still stuck with me ?

He : Well, after making a choice, there is a need to stick together until our progeny is able to survive on its own. It is all hormones all the way from there.

She : You are disgusting.

He : No, science is disgusting.

Thursday, October 30


But the economics profession for the past thirty years instead focused on producing stochastic calculus porn to satisfy young men's urge for mathematical masturbation.

Wow! That is from here.

Saturday, October 25


I read a great quote today by Randall Jarrell,

"I think that one possible definition of our modern culture is that it is one in which
nine-tenths of our intellectuals can't read any poetry."

When I was in School, our teachers work hard to make sure that I rather read maths and science and not poetry. How un-interesting-ly young had I been !

Wednesday, October 8

big picture

If you are fan of photography, I am sure you already subscribed to the Big Picture web site. This recent installment of Yann Arthus-Bertrand's photographs are just breath taking.

Thursday, October 2

memory problem

A real conversation.

He : "You make me happy."

She : "Don't ever forget that. OK ?"

He : "If you can make me happy all the time, I don't have to 'remember' that. You know ?"

She : "Ah! Smart Ass!"

Saturday, September 13


You know, there are some days, when some one sends you a link to a blog, and you spend the whole day reading all the posts since its inception - spending 8 hours straight. Well, today is one such day for me and the blog is bhOndOO's life at IISc. bhOndOO is an research student "earning" his Ph.D in IISc, Bangalore, and the blog is all about his life. The posts - coffee with shami, mobile in the lab and jn tata and unix are just three of the many hilarious anectodes. Go, Read it.

Wednesday, September 10

gender differences and culture.

This is something I wrote to a friend just two weeks ago.

It is quite a common a site in India, especially in South India, to be hugging and holding hands in groups of men. The symbols, that would probably be indication of a Gay group in USA or Europe, is very common in India. I think, when we hang out together, it was no different from how girls hang out together. I mean, if a group of girls hug and hold hands togeather, it would NOT look lesbian in any part of the world. But a group of guys somehow become 'Gay' in the eyes of a Westernized observer.

This might also explain some characteristics of Indian Men, that most commonly observed among Gay men - certain likes, dislikes, behaviors. But a majority of them are heterosexual males. This also might explain certain tendencies - how men and women in India tend not be in extreme stereo types, but some where in the middle. In US, I saw these stereotypes very strong - like there is a stark difference between how a heterosexual man should behave; and any sign of a female sense within a man would be considered being 'gay' like watching romantic movies or listening melodramatic music. They call these chic movies and chic music. I was really surprised to see that how Men and Women are like from totally different planets there.(in US) And God help you if you are a transvestite living in US. (or for that matter any country in the world).

Here are a few quotes from an article in NY Times about this gender differences.
It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India’s or Zimbabwe’s than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France. The more Venus and Mars have equal rights and similar jobs, the more their personalities seem to diverge. ... The biggest changes recorded by the researchers involve the personalities of men, not women. Men in traditional agricultural societies and poorer countries seem more cautious and anxious, less assertive and less competitive than men in the most progressive and rich countries of Europe and North America.

Wednesday, September 3


Google Chrome is a new web browser released by Google. I might switch, if I could get zotero on it. Just try it!

Thursday, August 14


A few thoughts, I had written down from time to time. I have intentionally left out the context.

  • Just when you think you have a pretty good understanding of how things are, you suddenly realize (or made to realize) how fragile things are.
  • Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge". This quotation can be improved by appending "in bed"/"except in bed", as the case may be. (Derived from this comic.)
  • Revolutions are so natural. Proof: World sucks! Q.E.D.
  • We are inherently stupid. That is why it takes a lot of effort to be/appear smart.
  • But again, being smart makes you unhappy(or restless) most of the time.
  • All subjects, except sex, are dull until somebody makes them interesting. (I wrote it down once. Recently I found that Paul McHenry Roberts wrote it long before I thought of it)
  • And that somebody could be you. (follows the last line)
  • Fall in love, at least once. Fall in love, at least to fail.
  • Because, as Chuck Klostermann once said, "Meaningful failure trumps meaningless achievement every time."
  • I am ready for a meaningful failure.

Friday, May 2


The most difficult thing in being a parent: It is easier for the kid to "pretend to be" that to "really be".

I understood this just by observing a few parents(including mine) and kids(including me). And since I am not a parent, I don't know how it feels like to be one. But I believe, this is a serious impediment to understanding.

But you know what ? It is easier of the parent too, when the kid is sold to the idea of pretension.

Tuesday, April 1

productivity apps

Do you really wonder, how much time you spend each day browsing Wikipedia ? -or- Lolcats ? Do you want to control the time you spend at Orkut or Facebook ? Yes, you can. There is a Firefox plugin for you at 8AWeek. It adds a toolbar in firefox, with which you can configure which sites you want to restrict and the time you want to spend with restricted sites. And at the end of the day, it produces a graph something like this.

The ones in red color are my restricted sites. It also gives grades based on the how well you group your browsing, % Restricted, and Overtime. My grade report looks like this.

Nah, I am not really proud of that, but I get a feel about what kind of online grazing I do. Now, if you want to expand such an analysis to your desktop - Yes, there is an application for that too. Recuetime is desktop application, that keeps track of the time you spend on each desktop application. Unlike 8AWeek, you have to signup on their website. It gathers information and sends to servers, where you can analyze the your desktop habit stats. This is how my dashboard looks like.

Of course, there are a lot of options in RescueTime - such as rating your tags, setting up productivity goals, which I haven't explored. Still, I find the application very useful.

I can't say I am productive using these applications, but I can say they have changed the way I work. Now, I no longer wonder, where did all the time go. The answer is right there on these pretty bar charts.

Wednesday, February 27

zotero, a cool firefox plugin

If you do a lot of search, while gathering material for a particular topic, it would be better to do it as if you are writing a research paper on the topic. For that, I recommend this Firefox plugin : Zotero. Its really cool, and works with Flocktoo!

I recommend Flock too!

Thursday, February 21

terminology usage

Often, we come across situation we some terminology is blatantly misused, probably because of mis-understanding of the terminology. But sometimes, we come across creative use of certain terms. I was reading this report, an appending to the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident.

In spite of these variations from case to case, officials behaved as if they understood it, giving apparently logical arguments to each other often depending on the "success" of previous flights. For example. in determining if flight 51-L was safe to fly in the face of ring erosion in flight 51-C, it was noted that the erosion depth was only one-third of the radius. It had been noted in an experiment cutting the ring that cutting it as deep as one radius was necessary before the ring failed. Instead of being very concerned that variations of poorly understood conditions might reasonably create a deeper erosion this time, it was asserted, there was "a safety factor of three." This is a strange use of the engineer's term ,"safety factor." If a bridge is built to withstand a certain load without the beams permanently deforming, cracking, or breaking, it may be designed for the materials used to actually stand up under three times the load. This "safety factor" is to allow for uncertain excesses of load, or unknown extra loads, or weaknesses in the material that might have unexpected flaws, etc. If now the expected load comes on to the new bridge and a crack appears in a beam, this is a failure of the design. There was no safety factor at all; even though the bridge did not actually collapse because the crack went only one-third of the way through the beam. The O-rings of the Solid Rocket Boosters were not designed to erode. Erosion was a clue that something was wrong. Erosion was not something from which safety can be inferred.

Feynman calls this "fooling oneself while degrading standards". While Feynman ends the report by "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.", What were these officials actually fooled by ? I would say, a sense of unbridled optimism.

Wednesday, February 20

my origami boats

Well, You are in this really neat restaurant - one of those where the waiters wear uniforms and you have your water in glass(!) cup. Of course, You are hungry and need something fast. Naturally, for some reason, - may be, because the kitchen is as dimly lit as your table - the Chef takes way too much time to get your "Hyderabadi Prawn Biriyani" done. Now what do you do ? Apart from offering a Phillips energy-saving light bulb for the supposedly dimly lit restaurant's Kitchen, you can of course yell at the waiter three or four times. But this is not really going to make things better. Every one seem to expect this reaction, especially those restaurants, where it is a habit to serve you late. They have grown insulated to such yelling. I guess, may be, even dancing won't work there. So, my answer is Origami!

Yes, really. They have paper napkins on every table in such restaurants - at least in the restaurant I went to.(If its not there ask for a few paper napkins.) Do origami with paper napkins. Well, the only thing I know how to make out of a paper is the lame 'Origami Boat'. So, I start to make boats out of paper napkins, and place it every where on my table. (I was planning get down the floor, when the table fills up -or- Ask for more paper napkins from the next table). It worked! Probably the waiter was worried about cleaning the mess I am happily and willfully generating. I saw him head for the kitchen at my 4th boat. And Tada! There is my Biriyani. Try it(Of course, I didn't mean the biriyani. Not that I don't want you to have Biriyani) and let me know, if it works for you.