Thursday, December 31, 2015

So Long 2015!

New Year Resolutions (NYR) are for those indecisive baseless pots who forgot there was a year last year. So continuing our tradition from yesteryears, we instead focus on Last Year’s Accomplishments (LaYA). Together they make such a nice sonorous name: NYRLaYA (निर्लय), on which note we start with the beginning of time, beginning of 2015.

Jan – Frankly, just another month of another year. But the month starts with a partcular kind of excitement and hopes. 2015 was so for me as I got my resident visa in China. And for him, a visit to S. Korea participating in a winter school. We celebrated our Cotton anniversary with cotton candy in our hands and horrible winter rants. 

Busan in Jan

Feb – First hand experience of Chinese New Year: a year of Goat / Lamb / Ram / Sheep. I went to Taipei and we spent the long week enjoying the empty city. We made friends with the Domino’s pizza place to say the most.

CNY Celebrations in Feb   

Mar – I didn’t want to go to Taipei so often so we decided to meet at HKG Disneyland. That trip was an adventure in itself. Lots of work got done but time seemed scant in this month as I was getting used to the new country, trying to learn the new language, going around local places and trying to manage the everyday bread and butter. 

HKG Disneyland in Mar

Apr – We celebrated His birthday with a large cake and other bakery stuff. We did some touristy things in Taipei while he updated his MATLAB programs to new versions with resizeable GUIs and all that. Look at the relevant tabs above for details.

His B'day in Apr

May – Summer began and I continued to hop around Guangzhou exploring the city. Academically, His first paper of the year was put up on arXiv after a long delay. Others who heard them (He+3 collaborators) talk about it were more relieved than them I believe.

Watching artwork in May

Jun – A trip to Kuala Lumpur followed by a trip to India. We were exposed to a terrific weather and an equally terrific traffic in Bangalore where he attended Strings’15 Conference. One of his friends from Stony Brook, Marcos was attending the conference too and along with him, we took a trip to Hampi (read the trilogy here and peruse the album here). You should be able to read how the trip felt in Marcos’ own words someday on this blog. Till then, we move on to July.

Genting highlands in Jun

Jul – Good food, relaxation, meeting family & friends in Rajasthan is how July started and it ended up with lot of work at home and office.

Picture Perfect Peacock in Jul

Aug – While it was raining outside, I was making plans of learning and buying a piano. He went to Kyoto,  Japan for another workshop as you might remember.

Women in Yukatas in Aug

Sep – The third quarter is almost over (His one year in NTU too) and it was time for him to move to a new house. This house has 3 cafés just across the street and I wish he visits each one of them (which he is yet to do)!

A Café at NTU in Sep

Oct – A time for me to reflect back on memories, both sweet and sour, to look forward to festivals and more. I started learning Piano in this month and attended a Chinese wedding.

Chinese Wedding in Oct

Nov – I was working towards the end of year goals in office and my personal goal of learning the piano. I went for a Violin concert performed by school students. We took up a challenge to write 24 posts this year whose culmination you see today. He also attended many workshops this month, even travelling to Hsinchu for one.

Violin Concert in Nov

Dec – I grew old by a number, qualitatively every day but quantitatively on a specific day. I have been in Taipei for most of this month and we have been enjoying cakes every week because why not? Academically, He published 2 more papers on arXiv, one just today.

My B'day in Dec

Happy New Year, 2016!


Friday, December 25, 2015

Physics & Sketchbook

Symbols & Words

Wikipedian Definition

Objective & Subjective

Confusing Discussion

Science (⋯) & Art (Metaphors)

Kaku-esque Definition

3 images, 6(+2){+6} words to explain the idiom:

A picture is worth a thousand words

See you next week with our long-awaited and highly-anticipated (by whom?)

24th Post

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Search for Love

Last weekend, we were listening to songs sung by Arijit Singh on the Saavn app. I used to listen directly from the website before that. We came across a beautiful song never heard before, whose title read “Looking for love (मैं ढूंढने)”. The few Hindi lines of the song were amazing but the English lines (as if trying to translate them) were just the opposite. So we thought we would give it a go and have tried to translate those great lines. As usual, read the disclaimer in the relevant tab above!

मैं ढूंढने को ज़माने में जब वफ़ा निकला
पता चला के गलत लेके मैं पता निकला

Main dhoondhne ko zamaane mein jab vafa nikla
Pata chala ke galat leke main pata nikla

When I left in search for loyalty in the nation
It turned out I took wrong turns to my destination

मैं ढूंढने को उसके दिल में जो ख़ुदा निकला
पता चला के गलत लेके मैं पता निकला

Main dhoondhne ko uske dil mein jo khuda nikla
Pata chala ke galat leke main pata nikla

When I left in search for God almighty in her heart
It turned out I took wrong turns to reach my sweetheart

मैं ढूंढने को जो कभी जीने की वजाह निकला
पता चला के गलत लेके मैं पता निकला

Main dhoondhne ko jo kabhi jeene ki vajaah nikla
Pata chala ke galat leke main pata nikla

When I left for understanding the meaning of life
It turned out I took wrong turns to the school of life

And that is what love is all about…

While happiness is… Reading Sketchbook. Two new scanlated chapters of Sketchbook from Vol9 were released this week. Look at my favourite panels below.

Sketchbook_v09_ch129_110      Sketchbook_v09_ch129_111


And the world just looks like a better place with these people.

If you have any troubles understanding the above, comment on this post and you shall be laughed at. And then over the next few days, we may get around explaining them to you. The best part would be us laughing together, if you’re still around.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Error in Translation

I am not kidding… This is what the (Bing) Translator app showed on its live tile last week (3/12/15):

Get Off

What the actual hell? Who the hell… How the hell did this translation got through to unsuspecting users like me?

For those Hindi-illiterate readers out there, let me explain. The Hindi question shown above doesn’t mean the English question at all! Not in a million years textbooks! What it actually means is “Where do I get discounts/freedom...?” The correct translation to Hindi would be something like “मुझे उतरना कहाँ है?”

To make matters worse, if you enter the above English phrase (Where do I get off?) in the app itself or the website, the translation offered is much more horrible! It spits out this: “मैं कहाँ मिलता है?” which, to say the least, is not even grammatically correct! It literally translates to “Where is[sic] I got/found?” What the hell indeed!

Now, I can see some of you starting to take higher moral grounds and offering dishing out suggestions like, “Just Use Google”. To that I say, let’s give it a try and it gives a correct translation: “मैं कहां उतरूं?”!

To complete the story, let’s try the second half of the experiment:

Google: “Where do I get discounts?” → “मैं कहां से छूट मिलता है?”, which is bulls-hit.
Bing: “Where do I get discounts?” → “मैं छूट कहाँ मिलता है?”, which is slightly less so because it doesn’t add ‘से’, which makes the Google question ‘from where’ not just ‘where’!

But both are contextually and grammatically incorrect as they haven’t realized that the verb associated with ‘discount’ needs to be of a different form. They use all the ‘right’ words but eventually do not offer the correct translation, which is the phrase on the above photo: “मुझे छूट कहाँ (पर) मिलेगी?”. So the differences are:

मैं (I) → मुझे (~to Me)”;
मिलता है (wrong form of ‘get’) → मिलेगी (right form of ‘get’ for ‘discount’).

I see some of your twinkling smirks ready to suggest that Google is still better and to that I reply, I don’t care about any of these if they can’t even get the right verb-form which forms the basics of Hindi grammar.

Anyway, that’s too much knowledge sharing & ranting on my part so I leave you with an article about how are machine translations done.

Learning to Translate

Saturday, December 5, 2015

House Hunting

First things first. The answer to last time’s picture question is a ‘Vending Machine selling Books’ at Taipei’s High Speed Rail (HSR) station.

I’m going to complete my one year here in Guangzhou and my current house agreement is coming to an end. I never thought I had to change the house, well, in India, good tenants continue to stay forever. Literally forever! Sometimes for generations and the owners then have to pay an incentive to the tenants to make them vacate the house. Having come from such a background, I was amazed to hear my landlady informing me 1 month in advance that she would increase the rent by 10% and charge the brokerage fee again to renew the rental agreement. Wow! That came as a very unpleasant surprise.

As per my Indian standards, I considered the situation as an act of ‘Greed’. She hasn’t acknowledged my loyalty – keeping the house spic clean, paying the rent on time, keeping her well-informed of my vacations and other things. So, I set out, brave and unafraid of the world, trying to find a better place for myself. Two friends came to help (they are doing it till date!) and they have spent more hours than me trying to find the place. One-quarter of my friend’s phone book is filled with just the phone numbers of agents and landlords. I personally think that she has learnt the trick(s) of this trade and is now more than capable of starting a rental agency in Guangzhou.

I have learnt the hard way that ‘People in the housing industry are fake’. They quote lower rents on the websites to attract more phone calls. The pictures shown on the webpage and the actual place do not always match. A 2 bedroom place at a reasonable price should mean that someone is already living there but it’s not mentioned in the advertisement. When the landlord says, ‘I’m out of station and transfer a token advance money first’, it means the place exists only in a fictional world. When the agent tells you that he will show you 5 houses, most probably 3 out of 5 will be in the same building. Only in this world, can they have a washroom bang opposite to a kitchen, a kitchen set-up in an open balcony, a kitchen-cum-washroom. Reality strikes. I understand why my landlady thinks too high of her apartment.

I was reading an article a few weeks back on 10 things one should do if one likes travelling and one of the points was to live alone, live alone in a not so familiar country. I realize how I was taking so many things for granted back in India. I don’t know why they call India a poor country. I know there are those financial dimensions that they take into consideration. But I personally think an average person (middle class) lives much more comfortably there than in any other part of the world. Starting from the morning, we have a guy delivering milk to us everyday, a lady who comes to clean and dust our house, another one to cook, one more to wash our clothes and clean our utensils, a man delivering newspapers, a vendor coming to take our clothes for starch/ironing and then coming back to deliver it, come evening the same guy delivers milk again and a watchman blows his whistle throughout the night and stays up along with the stray dogs on the street to safeguard and protect us. I wonder how many people in the developed countries enjoy this kind of a luxury (ignoring the fact whether we really need it or not). It’s time people who enjoy these privileges start appreciating what they are receiving and respecting the people who put in a lot of effort to make it happen for them.

On that note, Enjoy Winters!

Swan on Coffee

Sunday, November 29, 2015


At this time of war, we need to come up with new solutions to maintain status quo. Not in the sense you’re thinking, but in the sense that there can be another post per another week.

But really! The weeks nowadays really seem to fly off. As they say, for a kid, a year could feel too long but for its grandparents, the same year may feel fleeting. The measure, of course, being the ratio of the years one has been alive on this miserable planet to this particularly sad, impressively sad & impeccably sad year, and nobody needs reminding that it is, 20, as you rightly recall, 15.

However, an unexpected drop of 4 chapters of Sketchbook has cheered me up incredibly this week! Here’s the start if you like. But these chapters were not done by the usual scanlator group named ‘Musashi Quality’ and as such the quality of this release is not quite ‘Musashi’. It leaves something to be desired… like complete sentences that make sense. Anyway, it is great nonetheless that someone (or some group) has taken it up and are doing their best with the scanlating job. A sample (LYHOL):


I was also reminded of a new acronym this week (which I had heard in one of the episodes of DG:MLiG earlier): WTF ⇒ With Tender Feelings. As anyone would agree, it is a great way to end my emails to my tenderly Superpartner. Smile

Just to make sure you understand that this is not a filler post, I will leave you with a question. Describe the purpose and origin of the following machine:

Guess What?


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brute Force

This is a declaration of war against time. We will reach 24 posts in this year no matter what! If you think why is that a big deal, you obviously haven’t spent much time here on our blog. Check the right sidebar and you will notice the total number of posts in any given year is a multiple of 12… (ignoring the issue of time zones, which makes some odd numbers appear), get it now? Another issue which tells us you have NOT spent much time here is the fact that you have not yet voted on the poll sitting right at your eye-level slightly to the right!

Now that we have gotten past that, let me get on to the agenda of this post: Brute Force Algorithm (BFA) to solve a Sudoku. Actually, Smart Brute Force Algorithm (SBFA). In fact, so smart that it is slightly better than this ‘official’ one here. But also so damn smart that it makes me look stupid by making me ask why didn’t I come up with it in the first place! OK, that’s all the smartass comments from me… let’s have some concrete discussions.

As you know, the ‘SuDoKu Solver’ tab exists above but till about a few weeks ago, the v6.9 that you could get from there had a BFA that took nearly 11 minutes to solve one of the “world’s hardest” Sudokus on my SP1:

Hard (655s)

This was because I was wading through all the possible values of a particular cell starting with the first empty cell in row 1 and then stepping through subsequent cells row-wise linearly. Now that I have updated SS to v7.0 with SBFA, it gets solved in about 1.5 minutes!

Hard (91s)

This is because now I (still) wade through all the possible values of a particular cell but starting with the one that has the least number of those values and then stepping through similar least-possible-values-possessing-cells. So the difference with previous algorithm is non-linearity! This is still the same effort as the ‘official’ one linked above… difference is that I figure out the possible values only once… then keep updating this 3d (cell) array at each recursive level whereas in the other code, this 3d array is constructed at each level. Sadly, the overhead of constructing it every time doesn’t quite catch up to keeping up-to-date a single array till very large number of recursions. I will give examples of both cases below.

So now, we basically forget the GUI and measure the time that only the bare-bones SBFA code takes. First, let’s take the “world’s hardest” Sudoku and compare against the ‘official’ solver:


See… Just 3.5s! Doubly faster than the other one… Yo Yoo Yooo!

But, and there’s always a but, SBFA is not all that great for Sudokus that can be solved logically! This is the second example:

Solving with Logic

Solving with SBFA and GUI onscreen

Solving with SBFA and GUI minimized

Logic needs 4.5s to solve this Sudoku but SBFA takes a whopping 2.5 minutes (with GUI onscreen) or 32s (with GUI minimized). Of course, you are more interested in running the bare-bones code and mine takes only 2.5s compared to just 1.5s by the ‘official’ solver. Sad smile

Solving with bare SBFA

But why would you run the bare-bones code and miss all this fun:

Brute Force vs. Logic

So go get the new, improved and smart solver! Smile

SS v7.0

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ad hoc-ish…

This post is about a number of things (they are not routine) that I got involved in of late. Let me tell beforehand what they are so that you may decide whether you want to continue reading the post or not. I attended a traditional cum western wedding in China. I have recently rented an imported second hand Piano (80’s Piano of Apollo) from Europe. We faced a Typhoon while I was in Taipei and when I came back to Guangzhou, there was another typhoon here.

With the above agenda in mind, let me write about the many unique elements of the wedding. The auspicious time of any wedding here is set to 4:30 in the morning. That means, the bride, groom and the immediate family members have a sleepless night on the day of the wedding. The groom starts from his home at around 2AM (which means he gets ready around midnight) while the bride and bridesmaids also try to look their best and wait. The groom arrives with his close family and friends and he is required to prove himself worthy of the bride! He is tested by bridesmaids and her family members on different parameters – health, wealth, education and talent after which he is allowed to meet his partner (who has already been given information about how they have tormented her would-be husband).

A bridesmaid sitting on the Groom's back

A few rituals take place at the auspicious time and the bride wears golden jewelry of specific kinds. The cutest among them is a necklace of Pig with a lot of piglets. This necklace is a wishful reminder of the fact that the marriage should lead to many beautiful children.

After some light breakfast, the bride and groom are led to the Reception hall where the non-immediate family members and friends also start gathering up. People gift lucky money to the couple (no gifts or other material items) and have their seats around round tables. These round tables are where the lunch is served later. I have told Him that we will have these round tables in our home some day. One doesn’t need to pass items from one corner of the table to the other, just rotate the table-top and they come to you.

In olden days, the women and men would be dressed in traditional red garments but these days, women dress in white gowns and men in suits. People willing to perform on the stage entertain rest of the guests. Special performers are hired to sing in different Chinese languages. The couple do the usual things – cutting the cake, giving a speech, having a drink from each other’s glasses, exchanging rings and sharing the long-awaited wedding kiss while the guests says ‘Ganbei’ (meaning ‘Cheers’).

Couple on the stage

Food on a round table

Food is an important part of the wedding and waiters start to serve various dishes as soon as the above described ceremony is over. Buffet system isn’t preferred here and people eat slowly while drinking and smoking, seems to be a part of the culture. I enjoyed the music, photo sessions and the celebration as a whole.

Now, let me show you the picture of my Piano. I have learnt to move my fingers on the keys and I can read the piano notes. I can also sing and play some nursery rhymes but that’s all that I can do at the moment. If you think that’s not much, then let me be specific and tell you that these rhymes are in Chinese Smile. I want to play ‘Tujhe dekha to ye...’ from my favorite movie DDLJ, sometime soon. That song was my inspiration to learn Piano.

Apollo Piano

I go back to Taipei now. We were at home on a Sunday and thought it was the usual rain that poured throughout the day but next day, when we went to office we realized it had been a typhoon and that the Mayor of the city had declared Monday a public holiday. I saw uprooted trees on the roads, leaves everywhere as if there was a ‘Fall’ in Taiwan. After working in a silent office with just a couple of other colleagues, I rushed back to NTU. We went to Longshan temple in Taipei on the last day of my trip and that’s the only new place that we went to. Below are some pictures from that visit:

In front of the temple


Dragon embellished pot

The big Golden pot    Long incense sticks in hand

Bright red candles

The temple from outside

That’s all for this post, wishing you all a Belated Happy Diwali.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Right, but Wrong!

One of my pastimes is reading comments on absolutely anything as long as there is even a slight hint of ‘bickering’ expected to erupt. That means I also read reviews of things which have ratings ranging from 1 to 5 (stars) fully populated, especially the bottom half because they are the more fun to read. These constitute what David Gorman likes to call “Found Poems” (more here) in his comedy show “Modern Life is Good…ish”. I’ll leave the poetry part to my blog’s later half and get on with one small review for now:

The donuts had the disgusting consistency of porous styrofoam, and were similarly flavorless. The syrup was fine. – An Amazon Review

Let us dissect the above review of Rasagullas on (ignoring articles, verbs, prepositions, etc.):

Donuts – They are not!

Disgusting – Wrong qualifier for what’s to follow…

Consistency – A very high-level word used by very high-level connoisseurs like me to describe what does not need a description.

Porous – Right he is for once in this sentence.

Styrofoam – He’s getting the hold of it.

Similarly – hmmm⋯mmm

Flavorless – Sort of right again, but then what else do you expect from ‘denatured’ protein extracted out of milk.

Syrup – Yes, it is there to take the ‘less’ out of the above word and add more of the remaining word.

Fine – Finally something positive but it should have been the only word in the review!

Let’s have some sweets and forget the above (no hard feelings [pun intended]) while reading some serious poetry:

सफर के साथ सफर के नए मसाइल थे
घरों का ज़िक्र तो रस्ते में छुट जाता था

Safar ke saath safar ke naye masaail the
Gharon ka zikr to raste mein chhut jaata tha

The journeys had their own new problems
Thoughts of home just forgotten on the way

वसीम बरेलवी (Waseem Barelvi)

Here’s the beautiful site, which hosts the full Ghazal containing the above Sher:


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Travelogue: Asia Pacific - Part 3

Let me start this post with a grand statement. Japan, the land of Manga & Anime (as far as I’m concerned), is where I was during early August and I didn’t enter even one manga store while I was there. Sad smile But I saw manga volumes even in convenience stores like Family Mart. Boy, are they popular there!

Anyway, I was visiting Dept. of Physics at Kyoto University for roughly a week, attending a 2-day conference and giving a talk. There were some interesting talks and I got some work done too. But that’s enough Physics for this blog… let’s get back to the theme of travelogue like the last few posts’ theme has been.

First of all, let me get this burden off my chest. Japanese people ARE ‘polite’. One ordinary sounding instance is that the shopkeepers speak all those flowery (sonorous) sentences / words ending with ‘-masu’ & ‘-sai’ even to foreigners who (most probably) have no idea what’s being said! And they do not just mumble the phrases as if performing a routine task but stress all the words clearly as if speaking to locals. I’d expect they would give themselves some slack in front of foreigners but they don’t. Another not-so-ordinary scene demonstrating ‘politeness’ is when a driver doesn’t honk at a tourist who’s standing in the middle of the road photographing an arch (torii)! He just waits there for 10-15s for the person to move without –did I say– honking… No, I don’t think I made myself clear: the driver turns the corner, stops and DOESN’T HONK at the tourist blocking the road and his way for 15s! Where the hell did you ever read or hear such a sentence?


Second of all, Kyoto is a clean and calm city. Even the busy portions of the city somehow felt calming. I felt as if there’s no background noise. What was I smoking there I don’t remember! About cleanliness, the stream near Philosopher’s Path is crystal clear and I’m not exaggerating. How is that humanly possible? Only the fish living in that stream make it muddy. Smile

Fish in clear water   Fish in muddy water

Third of all, Kathmandu may be a city full of temples but Kyoto isn’t slouching with their abundance of shrines either… and vending machines. I mean, come on… shrines are ok (great actually) but vending machines? Who decided that? Ok, our city is full of shrines and we’re very proud of that but let’s make it full of one more special thing so people can talk about it far and wide. Ya, let’s… Let’s install vending machines on every street. Huh? Vending machines? Ya, for drinks and stuff? Oh yes… I thought you said something else… Yes, vending machines. Because why not? And there you have it. My take at writing comedic dialogues. No wonder I didn’t get anywhere above 70% in English during my school days. Sad smile

At Hotel  Near Philosopher's Path  ICECREAM Vending Machine near PP

Fourth of all, ‘Kimono’s are helluva expensive! What people usually wear in daily life are called ‘Yukata’s. I bought one for my Superpartner. That set even has wooden sandals. Only thing missing was an wooden umbrella, which were also quite expensive so got a small ‘spreadable’ fan instead to ‘complete’ the set. Smile with tongue out

Women in Yukata

Fifth of all, Kyoto is a great place to indulge in photography:

Fox at Fushimi Inari Shrine   Torii entrance at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Main gate of Yasaka Shrine   Somewhere inside Ginkakuji Temple

Last but not the least of them all: Great bakery products (like Taipei). Tough to find vegetarian options in general (unlike Taipei but better than Busan). Buses have ‘change machines’ so you can pay exact fare without any worries (unlike Taipei)! Buses constantly display stops’ info in English (unlike scrolling texts in Taipei).

Panoramic Kyoto

Enjoy this album!