Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Best Hindi Song of 2010 - 3

Inflation Proof Product

Rupees flows like water (but sadly water doesn't flow here) in India and the only product I noticed which is inflation proof since my college days is HALLS MINT. Price is still 50 paise !!


"When life takes a toll
When soul needs a stroll

I think of Your power divine
That can bless this life of mine

For You are there in every sphere
In gloom, in joy, in sadness and cheer

In every single soul, rich or poor
You manifest everywhere

Thinking of You frees my mind
All basal desires are left behind

As I move to Your sphere
I can feel you close and near
You are my everything
For such bonds stay, even after life ends"

Quote of the Day

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."
-Dead Poet's Society

Monday, August 30, 2010

So that you will hear me

"So that you will hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.

Necklace, drunken bell
for your hands smooth as grapes.

And I watch my words from a long way off.
They are more yours than mine.
They climb on my old suffering like ivy.

It climbs the same way on damp walls.
You are to blame for this cruel sport.
They are fleeing from my dark lair.
You fill everything, you fill everything.

Before you they peopled the solitude that you occupy,
and they are more used to my sadness than you are.

Now I want them to say what I want to say to you
to make you hear as I want you to hear me.

The wind of anguish still hauls on them as usual.
Sometimes hurricanes of dreams still knock them over.
You listen to other voices in my painful voice.

Lament of old mouths, blood of old supplications.
Love me, companion. Don't forsake me. Follow me.
Follow me, companion, on this wave of anguish.

But my words become stained with your love.
You occupy everything, you occupy everything.

I am making them into an endless necklace
for your white hands, smooth as grapes."
-Pablo Neruda

Oxytocin fails 'trust elixir' test

Beware of Snake-oil salesmen:

"On the internet there are companies that sell oxytocin as a kind of truth elixir," says Mikolajczak. "They give the idea that oxytocin renders people completely naiïve: 'Give it to a business man and he'll buy your product; give it to a woman and she'll fall in love with you'. Our study shows exactly the opposite."

Peter Singer on Using Animals

How should we treat animals? Peter Singer, perhaps the best know living moral philosopher addresses this question in conversation with Nigel Warburton in this bonus episode - Listen to Peter Singer on Using Animals

Best Hindi Song of 2010 - 2


Quote of the Day

Love is no respecter of age or practicality
Neither morality: unabashed
She enters where she will
Unheeding that her immortal fires
Burn up human hearts...
-Phillip Pulfrey, from Beyond Me

Biological Urinal Block

After more than a decade went for a (lousy) movie here in India. What caught my attention (other than price of ticket and coffee) was... the urinal. Waterless urinals called Biological Urinal Block:

"1 - Safe, powerful enzymes break the bonds that shape the problem. Any stain, odour or blockage is made up of molecules joined together as complex chemicals. These chemicals are linked together by bonds (chemical chains). By careful selection and use of powerful enzymes to safely break these bonds, the chemicals no longer exist. The molecules do but individually they cause no further problems.

2 - Friendly bacteria then eat the remaining organic matter. Bacteria are able to digest molecules of organic matter such as waste in drains, or staining on fabrics, converting it into water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

3 - The problem has now gone. As there is no organic matter on which our special safe bacteria or other harmful germs can feed, they cannot survive. The problem is removed, not covered up as with many harsh chemical cleaners. It’s cured - naturally."

There cannot be better place to evaluate this block - 7 Theatres with capacity of 400 each, 2800 souls happily peeing per show but yet no stink.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Be it human or animal, touch is a life-giving thing. Has anyone ever had a stroke or a heart attack while cozied up with a pet? I doubt it."
-Robert Brault

A Breath of Heaven

"Every now and then,
when the world sits just right,
a gentle breath of heaven
fills my soul with delight..."-Hazelmarie ‘Mattie’ Elliott

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Best Hindi Song of 2010

The Illusion of Explanatory Depth

Another fancy term - euphemism for cognitive misers:

"The Illusion of Explanatory Depth is the observation that people often believe that they understand things better than they do. For example, if you ask people whether they can explain common household objects like zippers, they will say that they can, and then are surprised to discover that there are often big gaps in the explanations they try to generate.

Across a number of studies in this paper (most involving explanations of household objects), they found that when people think about objects specifically, they are better able to judge whether they understand how the object works than when they think about it abstractly. So, your belief about whether you can explain how a zipper works is better if you think specifically about whether you know how the parts of a zipper allow it to function than if you just think generally about whether you understand zippers.

The researchers used a procedure that generally makes people think either specifically about things or abstractly. To get them to think specifically, they asked people to describe how they perform common jobs like washing the dishes. To get them to think abstractly, they asked people to describe why they perform these jobs. Then, they had people rate how well they understood the policy positions of political candidates and how well that matched up with their actual ability to explain those positions.

People who were encouraged to think abstractly showed the Illusion of Explanatory Depth. They were far more confident in their ability to explain a candidate's position than they should have been given their actual ability to explain it. People who were encouraged to think specifically did not show a strong Illusion of Explanatory Depth."

One Week

It's become clear that I don't fit in here. First, I have realized it's impossible to live without my eyes. I am not sure if I tried or not but I don't want to and cannot. Secondly, people here have a very abstract concept of time. Nothing wrong with that but the simple fact is I cannot live in an abstract time zone - it drives me nuts. Lastly, this place hits right at my "idea of living" - calm and serene. Only way to achive it here is in an a/c room listening to the humming of the machine. One cannot do that for ever either.

One more week to go, it already feels like living in an alternative universe for eternity. I am trying to tune out all this and make this a learning experience but now in no mood to guage my success on this front.

Quote of the Day

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."-From the movie Annie

Ballade of Lost Objects

"Sticks and stones are hard on bones
Aimed with angry art,
Words can sting like anything
But silence breaks the heart."-Phyllis McGinley

Friday, August 27, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup is NOT the only devil

Very informative post, HFCS is only the part of the story - all varities of sugar are bad duh!! (Thanks):

"For people who are worried about their health or their children’s health — and who isn’t, these days — the data suggest that the best choice is to reduce intake of all sweeteners containing fructose. That includes not only the evil HFCS, but also natural cane sugar, molasses (which is just impure cane sugar), brown sugar (ditto) and honey. Even “unsweetened” (no added sugar) fruit juices need to be considered when limiting your family’s fructose intake.

Finally, the best nutritional advice is to eat everything in moderation — and that includes sweets. While a diet high in fructose may increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — maybe — a fructose-free diet is not guaranteed toprevent those diseases. Eat a variety of foods, including a small amount of sweets, get enough exercise, watch your (and your children’s) weight and see your doctor for regular health check-ups.

And stop worrying that HFCS is poisoning you and your children."

Envy vs Jealousy

From Andrew - obviously both are deplorable:

"What I find most annoying is...envy.
Have you ever spent an evening with the envious type? This is the guy or (or woman) who will bend your ear for hours speculating at great length about what a co-worker or neighbor is earning---usually with an undertone of resentment. Generally, the envious mind tends to focus on the material possessions of other people --- the exact amount of Pete's bonus, what Randy paid for his house, the cost of Gretchen's new phone, how Ron was able to afford his vacation to Italy etc. To these people there's no such thing as ability or hard work --- other people simply "gamed the system" or "figured out a wrinkle" that allowed them to get ahead. The envious man is the type that will literally froth at the mouth at the sight of a guy with an attractive woman. He'll get visibly angry and repeatedly point out that "he doesn't deserve her." In some instances, It will make him so upset, if he's had a few, he may even invent a fancied grievance and try and start a fight with a complete stranger.

As a society we've been led to believe that jealousy and envy are interchangeable. They're not. Jealousy actually serves an important social purpose. It typically involves an individual, a cherished relationship, and a fear that the relationship may be in danger. While there is certainly a small minority of "jealous types" who take this emotion to violent extremes and do great harm, by and large, some sociologists believe a certain amount of low-intensity jealousy is good for society as it helps maintain social stability.
Envy, on the other hand, is the irrational resentment of another because he or she possesses something you don't have and it can create all sorts of ugliness."

In this City

In the "Pandora Radio" episode of Freaknomics podcast, Dubner mentioned this song. Now that I am in the city where I became ...

Quote of the Day

"Without love, what are we worth? Eighty-nine cents! Eighty-nine cents worth of chemicals walking around lonely. "
-Laurence Marks, M*A*S*H

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why did the 2008 Financial Crisis Happen?

Nassem Taleb's insight - here:

Increase in hidden risks of low probability events (tail risks) across all aspects of economic life, not just banking; while tail risks are not possible to price, neither mathematically nor empirically. The same nonlinearity came from the increase in debt, operational leverage, and the use of complex derivatives.

Asymmetric and flawed incentives that favor risk hiding in the tails, two flaws in the compensation methods, based on cosmetic earnings not truly risk-adjusted ones a) asymmetric payoff: upside, never downside (free option); b) flawed frequency: annual compensation for risks that blow-up every few years, with absence of claw-back provisions.

Increased promotion of methods helping to hide of tail risks VaR and similar methods promoted tail risks. See my argument that information has harmful side effects as it does increase overconfidence and risk taking.

Increased role of tail events in economic life thanks to "complexification" by the internet and globalization, in addition to optimization of the systems.

Growing misunderstanding of tail risks Ironically while tail risks have increased, financial and economic theories that discount tail risks have been more vigorously promoted (while operators understood risks heuristically in the past3), particularly after the crash of 1987, after the "Nobel" for makers of "portfolio theory". Note the outrageous fact that the entire economics establishment missed the rise in these risks, without incurring subsequent problems in credibility.

For the First Time...

  • Fed stray dogs. Ironically they were scared (thanks to "quantitatively" different cognition) but I didn't have the heart to see them eat.
  • Saw quite a few pet stores.
  • Went to a "big" Indian mall. Yes, middle class here is trying to keep up to the Joneses.
  • Realized GDP doesn't reflect in the reading habits (duh!!)

And this can happen only in India - A road side cobbler asked me to pay later since I didn't have change. I am his first customer of the day and probably his breakfast money but yet he trusted a stranger...

Quote of the Day

"Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."
-Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Indian Resilience

"No foreigner can ever understand the extent to which an Indian is mentally prepared to accept the unacceptable."<br>
Being Indian by Pavan K. Varma

Feels Like Home

David Brooks on Metacognition Defict

Once again David Brooks is right but sadly it does feels like an understatement:

"Heroism exists not only on the battlefield or in public but also inside the head, in the ability to face unpleasant thoughts. In the mental sphere, this meant conquering mental laziness with arduous and sometimes numbingly boring lessons. It meant conquering frivolity by sitting through earnest sermons and speeches. It meant conquering self- approval by staring straight at what was painful.

To use a fancy word, there’s a metacognition deficit. Very few in public life habitually step back and think about the weakness in their own thinking and what they should do to compensate. A few people I interview do this regularly (in fact, Larry Summers is one). But it is rare. The rigors of combat discourage it.

Of the problems that afflict the country, this is the underlying one."

Under the Harvest Moon

"Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.
Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions."
-Carl Sandburg

Quote of the Day

"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth."
-Robert Southey

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tech Fact of the Day

Ubiquitous cell phones, internet, PC, TV et al is old news here. What got my attention here in India is most people have in their homes:
  • Water Purification System.
  • Battery powered UPS which looks likes a DVD player.
Both are essential and life line for our survival. I was amazed to find how people seamlessly adapted to these changes and most importantaly both of them doesn't cost much (even at Indian cost of living). I saw all this in small to mid size towns and yet to see Madras since I returned here few hours ago.

On Fear, Humiliation and Hope

Excerpt from The Geopolitics of Emotion by Dominique Moisi:

Fear, humiliation and hope can be seen as natural and vital ingredients in human beings as the three components of blood: red cells, white cells and plasma. We all require these three elements in order to live in a healthy manner. But health depends on the right balance among them. To have too much or too little of any of these three components is dangerous for the balance of body and for its long-term health. A balance of emotions is as vital to the "health of the world" as "balanced" blood to health of individuals.

For Once in my Life

An Entrapment

"My love, I have tried with all my being
to grasp a form comparable to thine own,
but nothing seems worthy;

I know now why Shakespeare could not
compare his love to a summer’s day.
It would be a crime to denounce the beauty
of such a creature as thee,
to simply cast away the precision
God had placed in forging you.
Each facet of your being
whether it physical or spiritual
is an ensnarement
from which there is no release.
But I do not wish release.
I wish to stay entrapped forever.
With you for all eternity.
Our hearts, always as one."
-Anthony Kolos

Moral Matrix

Jonathan Haidt was right. I feel like been transported into an alternative matrix here in India. The truth is I cannot think about any of this right now - pre-frontal cortex is already overloaded.  I am living in a slow motion, like a zombie like state. I am in the process of absorbing what I see and feel. I have to wait until I get back to reflect on all this.

Quote of the Day

"Can miles truly separate you from friends.... If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there?"
-Richard Bach

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."
-Mother Teresa

The Rose in the Deeps of his Heart

"All things uncomely and broken,
all things worn-out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway,
the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman,
splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms
a rose in the deeps of my heart.
The wrong of unshapely things
is a wrong too great to be told,
I hunger to build them anew
and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water,
remade, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms
a rose in the deeps of my heart."
-William Butler Yeats

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Satara - Cash Bonuses to Slow Birthrates

From NYT -  hope this works. I am in south now and population is in "control". UP and Bihar are human swamps. I have no clue how to fix it without going the China way. Actually, everyone knows the utopian panacea - increased literacy. It worked magic in southern India but spreading the literacy epidemic in UP and Bihar is similar to decimating the red/blue divide in the US.

"The program here in Satara is a pilot program — one of several initiatives across the country that have used a softer approach — trying to slow down population growth by challenging deeply ingrained rural customs. Experts say far too many rural women wed as teenagers, usually in arranged marriages, and then have babies in quick succession — a pattern that exacerbates poverty and spurs what demographers call “population momentum” by bunching children together. In Satara, local health officials have led campaigns to curb teenage weddings, as well as promoting the “honeymoon package” of cash bonuses and encouraging the use of contraceptives so that couples wait to start a family.
“This is how population stabilization will come,” said Rohini Lahane, an administrator in the district health office.

India averages about 2.6 children per family, far below what it was a half century ago, yet still above the rate of 2.1 that would stabilize the population. Many states with higher income and education levels are already near or below an average of two children per family. Yet the poorest and most populous states, notably Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, average almost four children per family and have some of the lowest levels of female literacy."

While at this, here is coginitive dissonance of Paul R. Ehrlich:

"When I wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, there were 3.5 billion people. Since then we've added another 2.8 billion - many more than the total population (2 billion) when I was born in 1932. If that's not a population explosion, what is? My basic claims (and those of the many scientific colleagues who reviewed my work) were that population growth was a major problem. Fifty-eight academies of science said that same thing in 1994, as did the world scientists' warning to humanity in the same year. My view has become depressingly mainline!!"

Tech Fact of the Day

In addtional to people and stray dogs, Windows 7 is ubiquitous here. Not much wireless here in Coimbatore so I am at the mercy of  "Net Cafe's". Since my last visit, the reality here is still the same but the virtual world has transformed into Paradise Pandora. People are hooked to cell phones. No kidding, its begining to look like host-parasite symbosis. Hope, it remains a symbosis.

Quote of the Day

"If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give."
-George MacDonald

Perfect Weather and Bold Puppies

Coimbatore is awesome, cool breeze 24x7 also sans the Madras traffic. But the stray puppies here are bold - so far I have seen 3 of them sleep right in the middle of the road!! Drives me nuts, wanted to pick them up and send them to a safe place. But I know if I start doing that I will end up doing that for rest of my life. I made a big mistake of not bringing a camera with me. Max will go crazy if he comes here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Not In Her Storm

"I see the clouds rolling in and oh how it looks like rain
And it is always I fight for the welcome change
When it rains it pours on this heart of mine
So, I take the storms I feel to her each time.

But I know she has lived under her own pouring rain
Yet under her water her heart still doesn't change
She can walk away from what hangs overhead
And, not in her storm, are words left unsaid.

Not in her storm have I ever felt alone
Her storm ends, so I, may find my way home
It's for me that she pushes away her own rain
So, that I may find comfort in calling her name.

She lives in this world for the sake of another's heart
God, how she eases the miles when worlds apart
And she never wanders when your world falls through
Not ever in her storm would she do this to you.

She has wings that I know not only I can see
Cause only an angel could find strength to carry me
It's the way that the eyes can surely view
How her heart's written so clearly in what an angel can do.

Not in her storm is her work ever done
And even in her storm she hands me the sun
When her world is dark - I always have light
And now how I hold the new color of night.

She takes then she gives to an unhappy face
So that many can find an awesome place
I have been able to love her more every day
And with her hand in mine the clouds roll away.

Not in any storm that I will ever live beneath
Could ever change what I hold here inside of me
Not in any of her storms have I lost my angels touch
To that angel out there, I love her so much."

Quote of the Day

"But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored and sorrows end."
-William Shakespeare

Ecological Fact of the Day

People to Plastic bags (100:1?) ratio is so high here in India its actually annoying. That's great ecologicial news for a booming GDP, in the mean time I will be treasuing my 2 plastic bags.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Quote of the Day

If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden.
-Claudia Ghandi

Wonders of Communication

There are ubiquitous cell phones, land lines, internet, chat, satellites hovering all over the planet but yet I cannot speak a single word to Max. Talk about irony...

In India

First thing my eyes see is a stray dog and my other eye. Weird, right? I am wide awake @ 2 am in the morning. Too early to see India and new addition in my family is still sleeping. Watching a kid sleep is one of the most wondeful thing in the world!! I guess, I am blessed to see my nephew for the first time in this posture. But no Max....

At Last

At last, when all the summer shine
That warmed life's early hours is past,
Your loving fingers seek for mine
And hold them close-at last-at last!

Not oft the robin comes to build
Its nest upon the leafless bough
By autumn robbed, by winter chilled,
But you, dear heart, you love me now.

Though there are shadows on my brow
And furrows on my cheek, in truth,
The marks where Time's remorseless plough
Broke up the blooming sward of Youth,

Though fled is every girlish grace
Might win or hold a lover's vow,
Despite my sad and faded face,
And darkened heart, you love me now!

I count no more my wasted tears;
They left no echo of their fall;
I mourn no more my lonesome years;
This blessed hour atones for all.

I fear not all that Time or Fate
May bring to burden heart or brow,
Strong in the love that came so late,
Our souls shall keep it always now!
-Elizabeth Akers Allen

Quote of the Day

"Can miles truly separate you from friends.... If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there?"

-Richard Bach

@ Frankfurt

Eating breakfast at 1 am is wacky but flying a WII relic is even wackier. Flying Lufthansa for the first time and this is the oldest flight I ever flew. Scary!!
Jet lagged cannot type more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Off to India

Day is finally here, leaving Max for 2 weeks after 3 years. He probably doesn't remember ever being alone and I promised myself never to leave him alone. But here I am breaking that promise. Only solace, its an obligation to meet the parents as well. I hope Max understands. Feels like I am leaving without my two eyes. I promise to be good and behave.

Quote of the Day

"Why does it take a minute to say hello and forever to say goodbye? "

I have seen enough but not enough

I have seen...
stray dogs 
parents grow older
old friends grow older
addition to the family
subtraction in the family
Indian GDP growing every minute
the hope in the slums
the flamboyant nouveau riches
the humility of ultra rich
old hangout places vanish 
my old India vanish
people, people, people everywhere
chaos , chaos and more chaos 
serenity in the chaos
all the possible paradoxes

but I want to see all this again and more through Max's eye. That's the reason I am leaving my two eyes behind.

Quote of the Day

"Don't be dismayed at goodbyes.  A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.  And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends. "

-Richard Bach

Chennai turns 371 on Sunday

Great timing!! A day after I land

From a tiny fishing village to a high-tech metropolis with major automobile units, a thriving IT industry and pride of place as the cultural capital of the South, its been a long and eventful journey for Chennai which turns 371 on Sunday.

A week-long birthday bash has been drawn up by various bodies, including Archaeological Survey of India, 
University of Madras, Chennai Museum and AnnaUniversity to mark 'Madras day' celebrations."

Friends Eternal

"You're a true friend, 
that I want you to know, 
Our love for each other 
has helped us to grow.
We've been through some tough times, 
but we've made it through, 
The only one I ever trusted was you.

You helped me through anger, 
you've chased away fears. 
You held me through sadness, 
and kissed away tears.

You stayed by my side 
when the world turned away. 
You helped me see joy 
when the skies were all gray.

You were the rainbow
at the end of the storm. 
You help me be different 
when I shouldn't conform. 

You held my hand 
when you knew we would fall. 
Every heartache, 
you saw me through it all.

I'm not sure 
I'm always the best friend to you, 
I know I'm not perfect, 
but this much is true.

When life gets you down, 
And there's nowhere to turn, 
I'll help you through and 
I'll share your concern.

I'll try my best to return every favor, 
When you're sure that you'll drown, 
then I'll be your lifesaver; 
Even if we both go down.

Whether we sink or swim 
doesn't matter at all, 
Just know that I'll be there
whenever you call.

I'll pull you out 
when life pulls you under. 
I'll be the sun 
when there's lightning and thunder.

And when it's all over, 
And we've fought every war, 
There's one thing I promise, 
Of this I am sure, 
When the time comes 
that we're put to our rest. 
Be sure that you know that, 
My friend, you're the best.

And if there is Heaven, 
then I know you'll be there, 
That if you die first 
then you'll hear every prayer.
And soon I'll join you, 
but just know until then. 
That I'll miss you each day 
'til I see you again.

At the end of the tunnel, 
you'll be my guiding light, 
You'll lead me to heaven, 
away from the night."

We'll be there together, 
and we'll never grow old. 
And we'll walk hand in hand 
On the streets paved of gold."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Lost" Auction

Auction site here

Reading List for India Trip

I have originally planned to take only Theory of Moral Sentiments. But now a day before departure, I lost my nerve and taking 2 more as backup. I am pretty convinced that TMS reading will be once again postponed.

  1. Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith
  2. Breakfast with Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day by Robert Rowland Smith
  3. The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World by Dominique Moisi

Sri Ranga Ranganathanin

Beautiful song pictured in my favorite temple in the world. 

Quote of the Day

"What greater thing is there for two human souls that to feel that they are joined... to strengthen each other... to be at one with each other in silent unspeakable memories."
-George Eliot

What I've been reading

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach. Deceived by the sub-title, I was expecting a philosophical journey into the mind of a lonely astronaut in space. I couldn't have been more wrong. It's one hilarious joy ride. Rocket science is not exactly rocket science but what's more difficult is emulating in space the "mundane" tasks we take it for granted here on earth. That's what this book is all about. We wouldn't read better book this year on how precious earth is and how gifted we are all to share this planet.
A word of caution before reading this book - please schedule your reading time before dining.

Astronaut Jim Lovell is telling Mission Control about an image he has captured on film - "a beautiful shot of a full Moon against the black sky and the strato formation of the clouds of the earth below," reads the mission transcript.
After a momentary silence, Lovell's crewmate Frank Borman presses the TALK button. "Borman's dumping urine. Urine in approximately one minute."
Two lines further along, we see Lovell saying, "What a sight to behold!" We don't know what he's referring to, but there's good chance it's not the moon. According to more than one astronaut memoir, one of the most beautiful sights in space is that of a sun-illumined flurry of flash-frozen waste-water droplets. Space doesn't just encompass the sublime and the ridiculous It erases the line between. 

Ode to Hope

Oceanic dawn
at the center
of my life.
Waves like grapes,
the sky's solitude,
you fill me
and flood
the complete sea,
the undimished sky,
and space,
seafoam's white
the orange earth,
the sun's
fiery waist
in agony,
so many
gifts and talents,
birds soaring into their dreams,
and the sea, the sea,
chorus of rich, resonant salt,
and meanwhile,
we men,
touch the water,
struggling and hoping,
we touch the sea

And the waves tell the firm coast;
"Everything will be fulfilled"

-Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Snakes are much better

World's most venomous poison doesn't exists in Snakes, its in people's tongue. These things people spit without heart and mind is the quintessential reason for pain in the world. Chaos begins in human tongue - the most dreadful thing in the world. May be that's the reason Max doesn't speak.

Wisdom takes back seat where poison prevails. We all know wisdom doesn't come with age it comes only with love and yes, without love any amount of knowledge is useless. Beautiful things in life are sometimes decimated by this poison. What hurts most is living to see tears in eyes of people we care. It becomes a moral obligation for one to protect the loved ones from being hurt. Patience and calmness are the only antidote. These are only two things which has the power to change the world. Loved ones are meant to be preserved, treasured even at the cost of ones life else there is no meaning or purpose to life. People horde and preserve diamonds, dollars et al - these are mere things but yet we have lockers, Swiss banks to safeguard them. Humans failed to create one to preserve the loved ones. I don't think we need to, locker in the heart is the safest place on earth to preserve them and absorb the their pain without getting them hurt. 

There is immense wisdom in what Confucius said - "When the Way prevails under the Heaven, then show yourself; when it does not prevail, then hide."

Quote of the Day

"He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot."
-Groucho Marx

WikiLeaks Servers

WikiLeaks site is hosted by Swedish internet provider PRQ. Sweden was seen as the ideal jurisdiction for WikiLeaks because of the country's stringent laws protecting whistle-blowers. The content is mirrored on several other web servers around the globe, and on peer-to-peer networks- where content is virtually impossible to censor. To protect the identity of its sources, it uses a computer network based on a system called Tor. Tor is a successor to Onion Routing, developed by US naval intelligence as a way for its field operatives to communicate anonymously over the internet. All messages in the network are encrypted, so covert communications cannot be distinguished from ordinary messages. "It's a delicious irony that a system first developed by the US government has now come back to haunt them".-Here

Quote of the Day

"Do you want to know the easiest way to fall in love? Just associate with all your pleasant experiences with someone, and disassociate from all the unpleasant ones."

- Richard Bandler

Gray wolves regain federal protections under Endangered Species Act

Excellent news via Mark Rowlands!!

One of the immediate impacts of the ruling is that the hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho, originally planned to begin this fall, will be canceled.

While this court ruling is a great win for wolves, many challenges remain. There will undoubtedly be some people who oppose this decision. Defenders will continue to work hard in all our efforts mentioned above to ensure the wolves have a lasting future in the region.
At a broader level, we also need a new approach to delisting endangered species so similar ill-advised decisions can be avoided in the future. Our wildlife’s survival cannot be left to the whim of short-term political goals."

Love and Death

"Shall we, too, rise forgetful from our sleep,

And shall my soul that lies within your hand
Remember nothing, as the blowing sand
Forgets the palm where long blue shadows creep
When winds along the darkened desert sweep?
Or would it still remember, tho' it spanned
A thousand heavens, while the planets fanned
The vacant ether with their voices deep?
Soul of my soul, no word shall be forgot,
Nor yet alone, beloved, shall we see
The desolation of extinguished suns,
Nor fear the void wherethro' our planet runs,
For still together shall we go and not
Fare forth alone to front eternity."

-Sara Teasdale

Monday, August 16, 2010

Stardust Universe

"This is the part where you will say nothing's wrong
I will remind you that you will be strong
We were born to struggle and to yearn
In a stardust covered universe
Where you will find troubles
But you will not be the first

As you travel the white line, stripping the gears
Eyes on the dashboard, hands on the wheel
Running away like you do
You've got to slow your engines
When God is in pursuit

Under a streetlight I call your name
It's only darkness, it's not that late
Now stop your sleeping, pull the blinds
And pour your future in this cup of mine "

Inception - I Wish...

Driving back home from the theatre after midnight, I cannot stop thinking all this could be a dream. My life, Max, the love, the fun, the chaos and every damn thing could be a dream. In the mean time, the ape inside was hatching a plan to dream inside a dream. But not sure how go about it, seemed inconceivable.
Max as usual made me feel like a rock star with his rocking welcome after reaching home. I still cannot stop thinking about the possible ubiquitous illusion. Even watching Max pee felt surreal. It was way past mid night and there was not a damn thing happening but I forced myself to be delusional. People do anything to get a good night sleep, thank goodness I am gifted when it comes to sleep. The moment the eyes close, I am into la-la land and there by flushing the plans of cascading dream. Next morning, I am glad there were no dreams (I am pretty sure of it though!!) since pursing on the cascading dream front is asking for one way ticket to Shutter Island.

If you are looking for "neuroscience of inception", I am no neuroscientist but I can assure you there is zilch. Best analogy I can think of is trying to master quantum physics before Newton was born. Neuroscience hasn't even scratched the surface; probably not even eligible to speculate on the science behind it. Nevertheless, for obvious reasons I wish I can do that once. I would do anything to spend few minutes to enter the consciousness of Max. It's one journey I have been longing to take. And Of-course I want to steal the "Idea of Max."

Some say, I see what I want to see in Max. May be it's true but yet what I see, feels real and is spectacular. So even if I see what I want to see and in that sense why don't I see the same in anyone else? Either: 

  • What I want to see and what he really is are in harmony 
  • Max knows what I want to see and shows me only that
  • Max is really what I see and I fell for it
  • Simply I see what I want to see in him
  • Something completely out of this league like Toxo!! 
Perhaps, I would never know the answer since the inception of "idea of inception" is long ways to go. So be it.

To answer my own question: Yes, Inception is much better (understatement) than Minority Report.

Freakonomics Trailer