Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Beginning of a Story

Zembla, Zenda, Xanadu
All our dream-worlds may come true.
Fairy lands are fearsome too.
As I wander far from view
Read, and bring me home to you.

- Rushdie, Haroun & The Sea of Stories

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Tribute to Athena

"Yet sometimes in the night watch, when the Galaxy unrolled its book across a moonless sky, I knew what we were about, and where Socrates was sending us. ... I would feel my soul climb love as a mountain, which at the foot has wide slopes ... but at the top one peak, to which if you go upward all paths lead; and beyond it, the blue ether where the world swims like a fish in its ocean, and the winged soul lies free. And thence returning, for a while I found nothing created I could not love: the comrade I had been angry with in the day, the [enemy] sitting in [their fort] ... Yet I was not drowsy, nor lost in dreams, but saw the night sparkle like a crystal, and every cony stirring, or the silent owl."

-- Mary Renault, "Last of the Wine"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Two facts dancing in my head right now

* Just 10 trading days represent 63 percent of the returns of the past 50 years
* The Insurance Industry is bigger than the Gambling industry.
The above two monographs tell me something about life in general (dont worry! you need not be aware of the subject to derive insight from both the above works just plain intuitiveness will work)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Another Book Extract

"... I sought chill comfort in an analogy .. that has been with me for years. It doesn't explain or justify. It just seems to remind me of how things are.

Picture a very swift torrent, a river rushing down between rocky walls. There is a long, shallow bar of sand and gravel that runs right down the middle of the river. It is under water. You are born and have to stand on that narrow, submerged bar, where everyone stands. The ones born before you, the ones older than you are, are upriver from you. The younger ones stand braced on the bar downriver. And the whole long bar is slowly moving down that river of time, washing away at the upstream end, and building up downstream.

Your time, the lives of all your contemporaries, schoolmates, your loves and your adversaries, is that part of the shifting bar on which you stand. And it is crowded at first. You can see the way it thins out, upstream from you. The old ones are washed away and their bodies go swiftly by, like logs in the current. Downstream where the younger ones stand thick, you can see them flounder, lose footing, wash away. Always there is more room where you stand, but always the swift water grows deeper, and you feel the shift of the sand and the gravel under your feet, as the river wears it away. Someone looking for a safer place can nudge you off balance, and you are gone. Someone who has stood beside you for a long time gives a forlorn cry and you reach to catch their hand, but the fingertips slide away, and they are gone. There are the sounds in the rocky gorge, the roar of the water, the shifting, gritty sound of sand and gravel underfoot, the forlorn cries of despair as the nearby ones, and the ones upstream, are taken by the current. Far downstream from you are the thin, startled cries of the ones who never got planted, never got set, never quite understood the message of the torrent. Some old ones who stand on a good place, well braced, understanding currents and balance, last a long time. A Churchill, fat cigar atilt, sourly amused at his own endurance, and, in the end, indifferent to rivers and the rage of waters."

-- John D. MacDonald, "Pale Grey for Guilt"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thought Du Jour

Werner von Braun died on Thursday, June 16, 1977. He was 65 years old. In his wallet was found a clipping, yellowed with age and barely readable for all the handling it had received in the end. It was from Pearl Buck:

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To them, a touch is a a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create - so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or building or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off from them. They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.
       -- Charles R. Pellegrino, "Chariots for Apollo"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Translation of Academic Speak to Plain Speak

The original reference was to the 1957 glossary but currently revised as follows:
Statement   Really means
It has long been known...   I haven't bothered to look up the reference.
It is thought that...   I think so.
It is generally thought that...   A couple of other people think so, too.
It is not unreasonable to assume...   If you believe this, you'll believe anything.
Of great theoretical importance...   I find it interesting.
Of great practical importance...   I can get some good mileage out of it.
Typical results are shown.   The best results are shown.
Three samples were chosen for further study.   The others didn't make sense, so we ignored them.
The second sample was not used.   I dropped it on the floor.
Results obtained with the second sample must be interpreted with caution.   I dropped it on the floor but managed to scoop most of it up.
Correct within an order of magnitude.   Incorrect.
Much additional work will be required.   This paper isn't very good, but neither is anyone else's.
These investigations yielded highly rewarding results.   My grant will be renewed.
This research was supported by a grant from...   I wonder if the taxpayers know they're paying for this?
A line of best fit was drawn using least-squares regression.   I drew it by hand.
A non-linear relationship was found.   I drew it by hand and I didn't use a ruler.
Stringent controls were implemented.   My advisor was watching.
I thank X for assistance with the experiments and Y for useful discussions on the interpretation of the data.   X did the experiment and Y explained it to me.






































The Theme of Personal Transformation: Part 2

My last post wasnt too helpful to anyone in driving the point I made to myself  but here's an excellent post that actually does drive it home well.

Another example from mythology for would help: In the Mahabharata,  when the Pandavas were in the forest , Hidimbi met Bhima and married him (yes! they fell in love). Now, the Rakshasas treated them as family and provided them with a nice,cushy lifestyle where they didnt need to do exerscise much to survive and thrive easily. Despite this comfort, Kunti says they gotta leave after like 6 months because the "environment" was way too numbing their senses to be useful after a while (she precisely was worried at the fact that her sons started to think the same way as the rakshasas). 

Moral: Change your environment when you see Hubris set in.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Soul of a Network

If you havent read The Soul of a New Machine, its a must read for everyone involved in the technology sector. Similar to that vein, I think I have a "shard" of the soul of a network in me.
I dont mourn but rejoice because I take it in the spirit of The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Some kill their love when they are young,

  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon
grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.

 The network thats laid to rest named after an anagram of the word "intel" as its first location of establishment was the Fairchild Semiconductor. As Mary Queen of Scots last phrase goes : En ma Fin gît mon Commencement ("In my end is my beginning"). 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


The rains sweeping in on a front of southwesterlies from the arabian sea in a burst. The inky clouds and thundering typhoons over the western ghats.

Enter September and the long sultry dry air takes a 180 degree turn to pull all those winds from the Himalayas across the plains and plateaus of India like a vivaldi piece slowly sucking themselves back to where they come from.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Classic Paper

Once in a while I get all nerdy and read some papers if only to see some wisdom in them will rub off me. Today's paper that gave me some deep insight (which happens only when comprehension driven research intersects that of utility driven) was this classic for which the author got a Nobel in Economics. Well Deserved! 

For those of you who skipped the paper it essentially boils down to the fact that best effort service is on average quite a bit less than the guaranteed service(the former optimizes the system while the latter is a local optimum for an individual). Basically helped me understand why certain companies were in business (like certified pre-owned market in cars..because otherwise even though there are buyers willing to buy and dealers willing to sell, the market does not clear.)