## Monday, December 1, 2014

### So Long 2014!

That’s it then. But before we bid you good bye this year, we thought we would write about something worthwhile. Since this blog mostly focuses on photography, poetry and general rantings, we thought we would write about all these three subjects in this post! Let us start with photography.

On this fine sultry day, let me show you what MICE is good for. Even those who suffer from the genetic disorder that makes their stomach upset at the mention of the word ‘Microsoft’ – so severely that they have to replace ‘s’ by ‘$’ in order to continue living in this world bombarded with MS softwares / products / services / news / ads – have to be aware that MICE is one piece of software that doesn’t have ‘s’ in its acronym. Even the hugely popular Photosynth ‘app’ now uses the advanced MICE stitching engine to generate panoramas. Moving on with the tutorial now, let us take this scene as an example. Do you see something wrong here? Yes, of course! There is that long antennae (outlined in red), dish & tank (blue) and the roof (green), which shouldn’t be there in the photo as they obstruct the view of the otherwise ‘pretty’ landscape in the background. In order to correct that we zoom in, and take shots of the scene from different angles while avoiding the problematic elements. In the above example, I took these 6 shots: 4 from left side of the tank and 2 from the right. (I didn’t have much room to move around so the roof couldn’t be avoided.) After that I let MICE do its magic on these 6 shots and generate this pretty landscape ‘panorama’. I leave the blank space at the bottom to stress that some parts of the scene may not be totally avoidable! But in most cases, it should be possible to crop sensibly and showcase what is important. Now let us talk about poetry. Poetry is an integral part of ‘Hasya Kavi Sammelan’ (for those who are not familiar with this Indian tradition, it is a grander version of ‘stand-up comedy shows’) and there are poets who recite as well as sing their creations. A decade or two ago, there used to be a great supply of audio cassettes of HKSs. One such cassette is owned by one of my uncles and I like to listen to it whenever I visit them in SDGH. During my last visit, we were listening to it and a suggestion cropped up to record and make a digital copy of the cassette. Somehow, making an audio CD was not feasible so we recorded 2 (out of 9) performances and we share one of them below. This is the last recital on that cassette by Prabha Thakur, which emphasizes the irony in our struggle to survive. The first two lines sum it up as follows: Our desires lead us throughout our lives as if enchanted by mirages, this madness is so strong that our hunger is never sated. For the first time we try to embed an audio on this blog via SoundCloud… let’s see how it goes (the usual Hindi text for the poem follows after that). भटकाती रहती हैं तृष्नाएँ जीवन की फिर भी हसरत बाँकी हद है पागलपन की सुख बोया दुःख काटा हर सौदे में घाटा सारा विष खुद पीकर मैंने अमृत बांटा अनजानी लगती है देहरी भी आँगन की फिर भी हसरत बाँकी हद है पागलपन की भटकाती रहती हैं ⋯ मन को समझाऊँ तो तन बागी हो जाएँ और तन सिंगारूँ तो मन बैरागी हो जाये आँखें ही बरसे तो कीमत क्या सावन की फिर भी हसरत बाँकी हद है पागलपन की भटकाती रहती हैं ⋯ जितना सुख सौरभ था किस्तों में दे डाला मुरझाईं जाती है रिश्तों की वरमाला अर्थहीन लगती हैं बातें अपनेपन की फिर भी हसरत बाँकी हद है पागलपन की भटकाती रहती हैं ⋯ – प्रभा ठाकुर Finally, we do a big fat quiz of the year… err… general rantings regarding the last year. As in that TV show, we will talk about things that made our anxieties bearable, weekends merry and kept us looking forward to the next week, month and year. 1. TV Shows: We followed a great number of British shows – 8o²10C, HIGNFY, MTW, NMTB, OC, QI, Sherlock, WILTY, ⋯ Apart from these, we also watched a Swedish show, few stand-up shows of various comedians like Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard, Trevor Noah, ⋯. We prefer these shows because their humour is subtle, deep, has a way with wordplay such that once you get used to it, everything else feels amateurish. 2. Movies: We tried watching some of the movies that made it to top of the ‘charts’ (and also some that did not) – From Up On Poppy Hill, Gravity, Guardians of the Galaxy, How to Train your Dragon 2, Interstellar, Transcendence, The Wind Rises, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Chennai Express, Highway, Queen, ⋯. We like these movies not just for the entertainment they provide but also for how they make you think with their portrayal of various aspects of life like dreams, emotions, relations, survival, technology and so on. 3. Music: Some of the songs we liked in no particular order – Hamdard & Banjaare ko ghar (Ek tha Villain), Main tenu samjhavan ki (Humpty Sharma ki dulhaniya), Sunona Sangemarmar (Youngistaan), Bang Bang & Meherbaan (Bang Bang), Tum Naraz Ho & Nadiya par par karke (Coke Studio), London thumakda (Queen), Kashmir to Kanyakumari (Chennai Express), Baby doll (Ragini MMS 2), Hangover (Kick), ⋯. We did not discover another A.R. Rahman in the Indian music industry this year but there were definitely many new Playback singers and some of them are truly brilliant. 4. Books: We read some old and new books this year like The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Half Girlfriend, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Nature’s Futures 1, The Devil and Miss Prym, Moving Day, ⋯ (in some order that you need to figure out). 5. Mangas: The major event in this year was the completion of ‘Naruto’ and what an end it was! (I’m not going to divulge anymore, you are welcome to discuss in the comments…) I also read the reboot of Rurouni Kenshin manga and watched its first live action movie, which is quite enjoyable. Though different from the original manga at significant story points, it doesn’t leave a sour taste in one’s brain as watching just the first 2 minutes of ‘Dragonball: Evolution’ does. For other ongoing manga, look at the relevant tab above. 6. Programming: MATLAB got on to a new start by updating its graphics engine ‘drastically’ and in the process broke almost all of my programs. I have restored all of them except Polorama Generator for which I have a different plan, like incorporating the Keystone Correction that I demoed here. Let’s see if PG v3 sees the light in the new year. That’s all for now. To all those souls who made this year enjoyable, Merry X-mas and a Happy New Year (in advance). Since this is a month full of festivities, Happy December ## Sunday, November 23, 2014 ### Too much… Too much of anything becomes too weird. So what if it is happiness. People’s portrayal of being ‘happy’ has gone overboard on FaceBook or so I feel. This feeling of mine has been more pronounced in the past 3-4 months. Has the world become such a happy place to live in all of a sudden? Are people competing against each other to express their happiness? Are people on FB proving they are higher on the HQ (Happiness Quotient) scale? I almost feel this trend becoming an obsessiveness of a particular kind. There are many types of disorders these people on FB are affected with. There is this community called ‘Check-outers’ who want us to know where all they check-in. They add pictures of every meal they eat, who are they with and where they are while at it. Food is something important for your survival, c’mon you don’t have to share it 7 times a day! A photo of cereal and milk in a beautiful porcelain bowl and writing something as funny as ‘For a hungry heart’ conveys more than necessary. We know for sure that you are definitely NOT telling us just the fact that you were hungry. You want us to see your new crockery or the NEW kitchen slab on which you have placed your bowl. There is another community called ‘New Parents’ who think that their children are the “cutest” or that they are the Adam & Eve of the 21st century. I know that you are excited; I also know that you stay in a far away country where people don’t talk much to each other and this is your medium to express how you feel about beings and things. But think of us – Are we interested to know when did your child wake up? Whether you slept for just 3 hours or 4 hours? Whether or not he/she is growing cuter by the day? How are you enjoying motherhood / fatherhood with every passing minute? And then there is this community called ‘Unsettlers’ who don’t know their next goal in life and who unsettle others who do. Let me make one for you if you will allow me but don’t spam my FB wall with your opinions / suggestions / questions / agendas from politics. You were born brilliant, finished your engineering at the age (may I call it tender) of 21, found a job at one of the well-known companies of the world while the world was still thinking what to do with their lives and now are married with the first child(ren) due. Now that doesn’t mean you have to talk about every speech our PM delivers. If that is what you were good at, you should have taken up creative writing or should have studied Journalism. Even if you’ve realized (late) this is your true calling, there are far better venues than FB to act as outlets for your editorial skills. Lastly, there is this huge community called ‘Digitally Smart Living Roamers’ of new DSLR owners who are trying to prove that travelling is the new fad of the town and by town I mean the world here. From pictures of your fourth visit to your small hometown to the first and the last visit to Antarctica, almost everything is up there. I know you like counting how many times you have been to a particular place but your photos betray you by looking the same as those you took in your last visit(s). The problem becomes worse when ‘DSLRs’ meet ‘New Parents’ and then I get to see your “cutest son on the planet”'s 3rd visit to his hometown. Let’s think about it, half of your friends on FB have interacted with you ≤3 times till date. Do you really think ‘they’ need to know all this? Recently FB showed me some updates from a ‘distant’ friend who was going to a Business trip to London. Happy news. Glad he shared it with us. But I don’t think what he “actually did” made any sense. Here are how those updates looked to me: Off to London. First international trip. My first visit to London. Feeling toooooooooooo excited. Thank you Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, Uncle, @Cloudy, @Shady, @T, @D, @H, blah blah. Dream come true. [18 old pictures attached, 4 of them are collages with don’t know how many pictures each. I have a brain with poor BS processing power.] My first business class flight. 600-seater. One stop in France, the fashion capital. Hooooooray!!! The lounge in France provided by ABX is simply awesome. I had an amazing English meal, followed by wine. Met this pretty lady at the bar. She was excited to see me. A photo of mine with the beautiful lady. Wish I can see her again. [4 pictures attached. Believe me, the lady looked more shocked than happy.] Watching the following movies on the video screen inside my business class seat no. ××π (flight no. ΩΓ-×××). The aircraft is 40,000 Km away from the ground. These business class seats are Wi-Fi enabled. The air-hostesses really seem to be taking care of me. But “one of them” seems to be more happy than the others. It’s an amazing feeling. [4 Pictures of the ground, 3 pictures of the airhostesses including the special someone and a selfie to add a cherry to the otherwise amazing blandness.] Yipeeee!! Reached the wonderful city of London. The real journey starts now. God – Keep me blessed. On my way to JW Marriot. It’s a */* star Hotel with the following amenities … [It was a 4 liner. TLDR] I will be staying here for the whole month. Reached the hotel. [20 pictures attached.] View from my room [24 pictures attached.] A perfect dinner on a perfect Business trip [4 pictures attached. 5th picture is of the empty plates.] Good morning Friends. Feels like I’m breathing in pure air. We breathe such polluted air in India. [What the hell?] First day to Office [2 pictures attached – one trying to wear a tie, another after wearing the tie.] On my way to office in Lamborghini ZZZ. In India, we just spend our time but out here, we live our time. That was it, it was time for me to stop checking any more of his messages. I feel sort of ridiculous now to have read all those messages and spent time scanning all his photo albums. This shows that beyond the last one, there is yet another community called ‘Passivists’ like me who actively follow FB posts and passively opine on the blogs. Jokes apart, I am happy to see people sharing their opinions, articles, music, reviews, etc. with the world. But I also feel that FB is definitely not a place to record the log of our life in full public view. Just my two cents on FB. And don’t get me started about Twitter ## Saturday, October 25, 2014 ### The Adventure of the Missing Charger I’m super excited as I try to write this post. I’ve finished reading some of Sherlock Holmes’ adventure cases/stories/mysteries and now wondering how did John Watson note down so many cases that Sherlock Holmes solved. Did SH have patience to narrate all the details covering all the incidents to his friend? Did someone as eccentric as Sherlock exist in Real life? All the Arthur Conan Doyle fans and would-be fans, here comes a disclaimer before hand: I have not solved any particular case, not like the title suggests. What then? Is she talking about a ‘Phone’ charger? Yes. Did she discover a lost phone charger in some intelligent way? No. I was searching for a phone charger for quite sometime. Parents had told me that they had left it in the room. I rummaged every nook and corner of the 200 sq.ft. room, also searching inside the wardrobe but in vain. One fine day when I lifted a cardigan from the same wardrobe it was lying underneath.. Hehe. After a long time, I’m reading a book (“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini was the last) that has made quite an impact on me – “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle. Everything about it is so profound that I’m struggling where to start. I will share a bunch of links with you in this post and I’ve enjoyed reading each one of them. The things which mesmerize me are what Conan Doyle has done through his writing, why/how are the fans in love with the fictional characters, who was that man like Sherlock Holmes in Real life, what is so beautiful about John and Sherlock’s relationship, reading and understanding the variety of cases that the book presents to you. Reading the book you will realize how analyzing simple things can solve much complicated questions. I wonder if Analytics had existed the time Conan Doyle wrote his books, he would have represented Sherlock as a consultant to the leading banks and powerhouses of the world. Both the Holmes brothers are intellectually captivating and in some of the cases, where both of them play a lead role, it becomes interesting to know that Mycroft has an even greater reasoning ability than Sherlock. I recall this: The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work. –Emile Zola Now let me write a bit about the BBC’s TV Series “Sherlock”, currently of 3 seasons with 3 episodes each where each episode is like a movie in itself. I don’t think there would be any more episodes coming before the end of 2015. I’m charmed by the screen appearance of Benedict Cumberbatch and his brilliant acting skills. ‘Why did you sleep most of the time watching the first series then?’, Superpartner would ask. There are primarily 2 reasons to that. One – I was working very hard in office and home those days, almost doing the work of 2 people at office. Two – I take some time to develop interest . I have recently started watching the episodes “again” on the large TV screen. Want to thank this man for lending me his book. You need to read this book for reasons infinite, let me cite a few anyways:- • The creative and imaginative capabilities of the human mind (I refer to the author here) • The cases and the setup which try telling you firstly about the Human Psychology and secondly about the world when the cases were compiled • Friendship of a “differently amazing” kind. You will cry, laugh and raise your eyebrows all at the same time when Sherlock meets Watson for the first time after he is labelled ‘dead’ by the world • An attempt towards understanding relationships – some are by birth – others by virtue – some are strange – others are weird – some are conditional – others are divine – some are bound – some know no bounds – ⋯ • Last but definitely not the least, “the” woman ## Thursday, October 2, 2014 ### Volume 10 As with the last two years, I have bought limited edition of Sketchbook’s latest volume this year too. It is volume 10 if you have been keeping count! Here are the cover pages: The second one is from the hardcover booklet which one gets with the limited edition volumes. It features many fun stuff celebrating a decade of Sketchbook including a long chapter about the cats! Another good news is that the scanlation of Volume 9 has started. That also with 3 chapters! Have a read ## Sunday, July 6, 2014 ### Travel to East Coast: A Psychedelic Experience The objective of this trip was to attend His Graduation ceremony, see him wear the hood and cap with our watery eyes. I wish to dedicate this post to Him, primarily because I am not good with anything else which I wished I was. If I were an artist, I would have gifted him a hand drawn painting. Had I known how to play an instrument, I would have composed something for him. Had I been a good singer or poet, would have sung or written verses for him. Unfortunately, I am none of the above and writing this post is the closest I can do to tell him that, ‘You did brilliant and should continue to’. Let me start reminiscing while you sit back and enjoy. Parents and I were coming out of JFK airport and were not expecting him there because the flight had landed early. To our surprise, we heard a voice and he was there to guide us. As expected of him, he had tracked the flight and had planned his trip accordingly. We were in the train from Jamaica Station (JS) to Stony Brook (SB) and were supposed to change our train at Huntington. I was thinking about my last trip and Mother was sitting next to me. I opened a small notebook from my bag, gifted to me by my father, one that has words in Tamil written on it. I showed mother that I had noted down the names of all the stations between Penn Station and SB last time when I was here, in fact had even memorized all of them. She was a little amazed and smiled at me saying I should start noting down things about this trip too. She gave me an apple to eat in the train. I knew I looked stupid eating it inside the train but was sort of emotionally touched by the food offered, so I continued to eat without reminding myself of the presence of others in the train. For the first time, I heard something which I thought was only specific to India and Indians and didn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Indians have the habit of shouting on a everyday basis. Their day starts with shouting on the auto and cab drivers, cooks and maids, carpenters and plumbers, the neighbour next door, the man in the car just ahead of them, mother’s brother’s son’s wife’s sister, the list is endless. Here, I heard some youngsters abusing an elderly man and they were using swear words. The arguments lasted for quite some time and I didn’t have the courage to look at them but was quite surprised that things like these happen in America too. We started our trip of the East Coast the very next day and the first place was Niagara. Niagara is beautiful. Parents have told me that He is allergic to water and they too encourage him to stay away from water. I remember when I mentioned Goa to them, their reaction was ‘There is water everywhere in that place’. The trip to Goa happened but we stayed away from water. I was sort of sure that he wouldn’t enter the cave on the way to Niagara because there is a waterfall over there. To my shock, he went inside the cave, that too on his own and without throwing any tantrums walked on the muddy, watery, uneven rocky patch of land, even clicked pictures while inside the cave. When he came out, I held out a small flower at him to which he said, ‘Did you pluck it by any chance?’ I was taken aback for a moment but I replied saying, ‘Yes… Sorry! ’. I used his camera throughout the trip because I forgot to carry mine. How stupid can one be; who forgets to carry a camera while going for a vacation. Whenever I lifted his camera in my hand, I heard his heart beat rise and he would give me tips on how to shoot the next picture. There were times when I actually told him, ‘I can handle it’ and giggled. His nervousness was at its peak when I said, ‘Will take a Panorama now’ to which he almost cringed, ‘My camera’s Panorama feature doesn’t work well. I get different types of error messages’. To his dismay, I shot a perfect Panorama then. But it didn’t work well once in a while after that. We enjoyed a bumpy yet happy ride to the next destination, Niagara Falls. We stood by the falls for a while, clicked pictures, saw tall buildings along the falls and He explained how we can take smooth shots of the flowing water. There was a Tribal show organized in the evening. The dancers at the show performed to many different themes. It was quite nice seeing them dance with all that energy and enthusiasm. They looked very colourful and bright, were wearing heavy costumes which were intricately designed. The effort was quite visible in the way they carried themselves and I made him shoot pictures during and after the show where I posed with one of the dancers as well. We stayed at a very nice place in the evening named Adam’s Mark Hotel. I stared at the moon, the water fountain, Church, buildings, etc. from the window of the hotel room while he was working on his laptop (Surface as he prefers to call it! ). The next day, after enjoying a ride in the bus we were at the Whirlpool State Park and there was an announcement by the Guide saying that it is one of the dangerous places and if one gets sucked in the rapids below, there would be no saving them. I am a little bit scared of heights. When I was young, the fear was a lot more intense. I’m trying to overcome the same by challenging myself to adventures involving heights. The whirls made inside water were almost like flowing lake of milk. I wonder what it would be like inside this flowing water. I wish to go for snorkelling some day and find out more about the aquatic life, then come back and share that experience here. While we were coming out of the State park, this guy spotted some red and pink bleeding hearts. You can guess what happened after that, we spent nearly 15 minutes shooting the bleeding hearts. He tested his Macro photography skills. Of late, he has become so infatuated with these flowers that they are his wallpapers on phone and laptops (Oops – Surface and Fujitsu). He is telling me that he wishes to take good colour prints of the same and hang them as wall paintings in his room. Enjoy this apt comic strip here (no offense intended). The next stop was the Old Fort of Niagara and you should see the pictures (if you have not done so) before reading this. The place was built in 17th century and has survived the battle of 1812. It has been controlled by French, British and Americans at different times. We clicked some ‘Classic’ pictures here. My definition of Classic is very much debatable. Anything which is old is Classic to me. There was a Musket show here and we saw some heavy Cannons too. I spotted a fat cat while exiting the fort. If you have read my posts, you would know that I like Cats very very much. Enjoy these snippets which he and I have shared from time to time. The next place we stopped at was the Corning Glass museum. The glass making demonstration was so fantastic that I started fantasizing a similar setup at home. Every time someone asked for a gift, I would start to run on my creative veins and would come out with a beautiful shape of glass. Out of the many interesting things, one which attracted quite a bit of attention was a periodic table all made of glass. After questioning each other on the Periodic table, both of us thought we had pretty much earned our Brownie points and so went ahead and had some chocolate mousse. Hehe… The place we stayed on the second day of the trip was called ‘Red Roof+’ and it was nice too. The room almost seemed like one on tree top. On our start next morning, we tried filling a crossword but in vain (he says he was not of help), solved some puzzles and read news about stuff which were highly irrelevant to us at that moment and there was a slim chance of them being of any use in our lives later. There was a curtain to my right in the bus and I used to pull it down or lift it up once in every while to click photographs of the scenery outside but was stared at questioningly every time I did that. I strongly feel he thinks that I am only fit for shooting random pictures and I seldom think of the composition or the settings or a story which are key to a good photograph. On the 3rd day when we started our trip to Washington and Philadelphia, we were at the Lincoln memorial in the morning and I was a little excited about the Capital city. I was taking a picture of Parents when a bunch of kids started to block my framed view and they were talking a little loud too. I blurted out, ‘Hey Kids’. The tone was not too harsh but He didn’t like the remark and apologized on my behalf to the children. I felt bad for a little while but then carried on with my photo shooting spree. The next destination “A Cruise ride in Washington” was a delightful experience. This was my second one. Last time, I had taken a ferry ride on the Hudson river. We looked at some of the national heritage sites and other ships which were / are used by the Presidents of America. There was a guy who was selling our pictures ($20 each!) at the end of the ride. Actually, he had clicked our pictures while we were about to board the ship. Obviously, we didn’t buy. The next destination was the National Air and Space museum. Please look at the photo album if you have not done so. There were man made models of aircrafts, planets, space crafts and much much more. We also went to other places in Washington like the White House, Washington Memorial and Capitol Hill. He spotted some ducks this time in a beautiful lake outside Capitol Hill. As expected, we spent some time identifying male ducks, female ducks, baby ducks, small ducks, large ducks, white/brown/grey ducks and so on and so forth while he shot some very nice pictures.

The last place before we returned to SB was the Liberty Hall in Philadelphia. We did listen to the Evening Bell here and found some well trained horses for rides with their masters. The complete trip was a lot of hop-on and hop-off but at no point was it strenuous. It always remained exciting and something more to look forward to. I enjoyed the 15 minutes to an hour breaks because they led to exploration, most of the times figuring out the best places to eat. We also found some nice Indian places on our trip, some Italian restaurants and Delis which made our lives comfortable. Let me recollect some of the best things I had during the trip and I recall Raspberry jam, Chocolate mousse, Pizza hut’s Garlic bread and cheese toasts, Malai-kheer at a Punjabi restaurant, Tapioca and Sweet potato chips. Mother’s hand made items were by no doubts the best of all.

We attended his Graduation ceremony and went to a lot of shopping malls in the remaining part of our stay. I Realized that father fancies watches a lot as he was trying to buy a high end one for himslef. He along with mother bought quite a bunch of them to be gifted to friends and family. There is already a post devoted to his Graduation so will refrain from writing anything more on that here. Might just wish to say that the band performance was exemplary and I almost cried. Yoooo, once more to my Superpartner.

## Sunday, June 1, 2014

On May 11 2009 (91st birthday of Feynman) I gave the ‘Oral Exam’ at YITP for being ‘advanced to PhD candidacy’. On May 12 2014 (no influential physicist I know was born or died) I defended my dissertation at YITP. A long, long walk finally got over. Thank you again to those who encouraged / listened / congratulated me before / during / after my defense. Also, let me express my deepest gratitude again to all those who appear in the ‘Acknowledgements’ of my dissertation!

Dissertation writing started in Feb after I returned back from my India trip. It more or less got over by mid-April with a dedication to ‘My Superpartner’ (as expected ) and ‘To Sir, with Gratitude’. This phrase would be understandable only to a selected few. I had wanted to write a post dedicated to him for a long time but then given my limited vocabulary of adjectives and worthy expressions, I couldn’t muster enough courage to pen something down. So a dedication in my dissertation felt like the most easiest (understandably, also the cheapest) way to skip writing anything and yet somehow show that I remember (to myself obviously)! But here I am trying to blog something about my graduation ceremony and it feels I should write a few sentences for him (whatever they may be) because if I don’t do it here and now, I won’t be able to do it any other day. As my mother says, “समय का चुका गोता खाता है (Missed moments lead to awkwardness)” so here it goes:

Brijendra Sharma – a teacher, mentor, guide who taught me the importance of Science & logical thinking and in the same breath, how to appreciate prose, poetry & other art-forms. He was the ideal person to showcase how humans can handle cognitive dissonance (won’t elaborate this fact here), which (at the very least) has taught me to learn both sides of a story (if possible) and  leave being judgmental to the rest of the human-folk. Although he tried to inculcate literary prowess in me, (as I said before) putting my thoughts into writing is not a cup of tea I want to hold for long. So let me end this paragraph here and say: Thank you very much, Sir.

Having finished my dissertation with an appendix containing updated Mathematica® code, I started preparing the presentation for my defense. As is well-known my codes have expiry dates so had to update it. OK, nobody updates one’s code just to copy it somewhere but I wanted to use it to generate something interesting for my defense. Well, for those who couldn’t attend my defense on May 12th, the PowerPoint presentation follows (enjoy the 12th slide!) after the opening talk I prepared (and I messed it up as you might have expected!):

Good Afternoon everyone.
Let me briefly tell you why I am giving you this talk today apart from the fact that this is my dissertation defense. My dissertation does not have the title you see on the slide here. It has more words and reads 'The Case of Extended Supersymmetry and A Study in Superspace'. If you are familiar with some classic detective literature, you would expect my dissertation to contain a novel and a short story and you would be right. The novel spans 3 chapters based on a handful of papers I wrote with my advisor Warren Siegel and one with Marcos Crichigno (who was Martin Roček's student). These papers involve the study of four-dimensional N=2 supersymmetric theories in projective superspace. As you might expect, given the time limit of less than an hour, it would be a bad idea to cover this novel so I have decided to tell you the short story instead contained in the last chapter of my dissertation. This story is based on a paper I wrote with Marcos and Christopher Herzog. It does not have superspace in it but it still has enough supersymmetry to be interesting. Let me be specific now and reveal that I will talk about 3D N=3 quiver Chern-Simons theories.

After this, we looked forward to the Graduation Hooding Ceremony. We as in me, my Superpartner and parents. But first we went on a 3 day tour of East coast. Here are some photos to confirm that.

Then came May 22nd with hoods and all:

If this photo is not enough, here is the

Full Album

## Sunday, May 4, 2014

### Spring Time

Spring – a time which reminds me of Serenity, brightness, colours and greenery – has set in. I have never experienced what it is like living in Spring though. Pictures tell me that it must feel really awesome, somewhere close to how a first love feels like, how the first drop of rain on your face feels like or how relishing the first mango of the season feels like. If I understand it right, the Spring months are April-June (3 months basically) and many flower festivals are organized during this time of the year.

Here are some of the pictures my Superpartner has taken during Spring. He takes out his camera at least a couple of times every Spring. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

While we are still in that Imaginative mood, let’s read some of these Great Shers.

हो सके तो दिल के आले में हमें रख लीजिये
काम आयेंगे अँधेरों में जलाने के लिये

Ho sake to dil ke aale mein humein rakh lijiye
Kaam aayenge andhere mein jalaane ke liye

If it's possible, keep me in your heart's shelf
May come handy as burning fuel in darkness

–डॉ. संतोष कुमार पांडेय (Dr. Santosh Kumar Pandey)

Because you are still reading this post, I would like you to watch this video on time zones.

Complex yet simple

It is complicated but you realize the need for complexity. You will also understand that there is no strict rule when it comes to time zones and theoretically, each one of us can have our own!

Happy Spring!

## Monday, April 21, 2014

### Cortana

I was once interested in Artificial Intelligence (enjoyed I, Robot) but then I never really understood how can you program a machine to ‘learn’ so the interest sort of faded away. Then I took a Neuroscience course a couple of years ago and coded (to get a first-hand feel, not that I invented it!) something called a Perceptron, which can be ‘taught’ to do some binary operations. So it rekindled my interest in AI, though I guess I’ll never code one myself as was shown in the recent movie ‘Transcendence’. (Watch it if you’re interested in the portrayal of humans’ collective dumbness in action!) These were slight brushes on my arms of AI over the years but one that hit me right in the face was Cortana, the digital personal assistant in Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview. Following the demo video (linked above), I also played around with setting reminders, searching directions, calling people, playing music and most importantly, asking ‘funny’ questions. (The success rate of my ‘accent’ getting recognized seems to be slightly more than 50%, but whatever is recognized is ~100% accurate.) Here are the answers I received from Cortana (you can figure out the questions or just peek!):

For more interesting questions and answers, watch this video:

Now you know what to avoid :)

I haven’t tried ‘people reminder’, which is supposed to be the unique feature of Cortana but I did try (actual need!) ‘place reminder’. Here’s the story: I forgot to buy sugar when I went for grocery shopping last week so I asked Cortana to remind me when I next go for shopping. She inquired where do I go for shopping and gave options: Waldbaum’s was the second option. I chose it and the reminder was set; note that she didn’t ask about the time! I was at Waldbaum’s yesterday and lo & behold I saw a message on my Phone reminding me to buy sugar! (Not that I was going to forget again but it’s nice to know ‘geo-fencing’ works!)

As I have mentioned already, I watched ‘Transcendence’ yesterday and Cortana correctly identified the nearest theatre when I asked it to find one in the morning. She also showed me the driving details. I then asked her if I can walk there to which she replied, ‘Sure… here is the walking route’ and opened up the Windows Maps app. It would be better if in the final version of WP8.1, one could choose Here Maps as the default maps app.

With such a technology in place, all you need to do is ‘ask the right questions’ and ‘ask them clearly’. It doesn’t sound quite right listening to

‘Sorry, I didn’t get that.’

## Monday, April 7, 2014

### First look at Shayari…

… in this year. I really liked some of the Shers that came up on Anubhuti couple of weeks back so tried translating the Ghazal named इरादों का”.

इरादों का बड़ा पक्का रहा हूँ
खुदा का नेक दिल बंदा रहा हूँ

Khuda ka nek dil banda raha hun

Have been strong willed forever
Have been good hearted forever

मेरे घर फूल बरसाओ बहारों
कि खारों से बहुत ऊबा रहा हूँ

Mere ghar phool barsaao bahaaron
Ki khaaron se bahut ooba raha hun

Shower flowers on my house, O Spring
As I have been bored of thorns forever

तिज़ारत दिल का वो करने लगे हैं
हिसाबे-प्यार में कच्चा रहा हूँ

Tizaarat dil ka woh karne lage hain
Hisaabe-pyaar mein kachha raha hun

While he has indulged in trading hearts
I’ve been a bad love-accountant forever

सज़ा दे दी मुझे मेरे खुदा ने
कि तेरे बाद भी जिन्दा रहा हूँ

Saza de di mujhe mere khuda ne
Ki tere baad bhi zinda raha hun

My God has given me this punishment
Even after you, I’ve been alive forever

कि रिश्तों में नहीं है बात अब वो
लगा यों बोझ मैं ढोता रहा हूँ

Ki rishton mein nahin hai baat ab woh
Laga yon bojh main dhota raha hun

Relationships aren’t what they used to be
I have felt dragging them along forever

बगावत कर ली जो मैंने ही घर से
दुखा के माँ का दिल रोता रहा हूँ

Bagaawat kar lee jo maine hi ghar se
Dukha ke Ma ka dil rota raha hun

It is true that I have rebelled against my home but
Breaking mother’s heart has left me in tears forever

कहा उसने तो मैंने जान दे दी
बहुत वादे का मैं पक्का रहा हूँ

Kaha usne to maine jaan de di
Bahut vaade ka main pakka raha hun

I gave away my life when he asked for it
Have stayed firm on my promises forever

फ़साने याद फिर आने लगे वो
मुसलसल रात भर रोता रहा हूँ

Fasaane yaad phir aane lage woh
Musalsal raat bhar rota raha hun

Have started reminiscing about the past stories
Have been weeping through the nights forever

अज़ब ही बात थी उसकी गली में
अभी तक मैं वहाँ जाता रहा हूँ

Ajab hi baat thi uski gali mein
Abhi tak main vahan jata raha hun

There is a strange thing about his street
I have been roaming around it forever

बहुत प्यारी लगी हमको जो चीज़ें
उन्हें पाने को मैं तरसा रहा हूँ

Bahut pyaari lagi humko jo cheejen
Unhen paane ko main tarsa raha hun

Those things that I loved the most
Have longed to obtain them forever

चरागाँ कर लिया हमने भी घर को
अँधेरों में बहुत घुटता रहा हूँ

Charaagaan kar liya humne bhi ghar ko
Andhere mein bahut ghutta raha hun

I too have brightened up my house now
Have suffocated in the darkness forever

–अमित दुबे (Amit Dubey)

Read more of his works here.

## Sunday, March 2, 2014

### What if…

… our Calendars looked different?

2014 seems to be flying and we are already past 2 months. One of my friends tells me that all her weekends till the end of April are planned to which I jokingly reply “well that is taking you closer to turning 30”. No more gossips now, here is something you should read first to understand what I’m going to talk about in this post.

Let’s say we had such a simple way to remember the calendar for 2014, then how many people would be celebrating their birthdays on the same date and month? Obvious are the birthdays from the 1st to the 28th of January but then any others? The answer is none!

I have made a sample Moses’ Calendar using Excel.

How many would have a difference by a day? The answer is again none! But there would be 28 cases where people would be celebrating their birthdays two days before their actual dates. The following table shows the pattern of absolute differences from 0–9 days:

This shows that the birthdays within 0–4 days of the ‘current’ dates constitute a total of 140 out of 365 (40%) days. We stop there because no one can celebrate 5 days before or after. But the important point is that it would simplify things – 4 weekends every month, the first day of every month starting with the same day, etc. There wouldn’t be a need for dividing by a 28/30/31, it would be always 28 and the ‘Year day’ (also a ‘Leap Day’ in the case of a leap year) could be made Universal Holiday(s)!

## Saturday, February 15, 2014

### Happy Valentine Week

Well, whatever! You can’t say I didn’t write anything ‘romantic’ on this blog. Here goes a paragraph which could be recited in ~1 minute (you’ve been warned):

Have you slept or are you pretending to sleep? Either way, let me ask you 'How do you do?' and either way I won't get an answer. Because in one case you can't answer and in another, you won't! So let me muse and you be my silent audience. Or to put it another way, you're my muse and I am musing about you. Isn't that a cliché? If not, it should be and if it is, I'm sorry… I don't want to be remembered as someone who used clichés to get his points across. But either way, it's a beautiful phrase, isn't it? Please don't tax yourself to agree. I know your answer. Just thinking about how we think alike makes me quiver with delight! Another cliché but worth it I think. I've been thinking a lot lately which is weird because such things don't mean much. I mean will we remember this conversation when you wake up or when I'm sober next day? Probably not, but still it feels nice to let it all out. You've been my muse and I had mused a lot about you. It wouldn't have been possible otherwise. Someone else wouldn't have cut it… Another cliché but then 'Someone else wouldn't have understood or fit or worked' sounds so dumb. You were a perfect fit, you understood and you worked to cut it just right! That was almost like these words falling in place one after another without much effort… That's almost like you! I remember you, my …

Ignoring the mumbo-jumbo above, this post is basically to point you to this folder, which contains photos from our Jan’14 tour of India. Wait, don’t yet go there to glance at the photos! You can enjoy them after you finish this para… A ‘heart-felt’ appeal: Do share your comments about these photos (both likes & dislikes) with us below or any other channel of communication you find yourself gravitating towards. It will help us improve our photographic vision & techniques so that next time you’ll have less crappy photos to wade through!

On the other hand, hope you enjoyed

VW

## Friday, January 31, 2014

### Paper…

Before writing or saying ‘Happy New Year’ becomes old news for this year, here is a post to wish you the same. So HNY to you!

Starting the quota of this year’s post on our first (wedding) anniversary (yes, it’s been a year!) seems like a good idea. It is also practical because we have been travelling in India this whole month and there’s been not much time to do anything ‘extra’. Now that we are about to get back to our usual routine at our usual places, we thank and pray to those who deserve it:

Could you guess how were these shots taken? If yes, good for you. Otherwise, have a look at the following shot:

As you know now, the setup for shooting these pictures is pretty simple. We had seen pictures of heart formed by shadow of a (wedding) ring placed vertically on the seam of an open book. We would like to think of the trick presented here as ‘Our Discovery’ because we have not seen such pictures before. If you disagree, then you can tag these as ‘Our Rediscovery’.