Monday, October 20, 2008

On Caffeine

Suppose you wanted to get a caffeine fix to get your day going, prolong it longer than you planned or just pep up your afternoon a bit, what do you do? Drink a cup of coffee or tea, may be some chocolate, and on really bad days may be an energy drink (think Red Bull in my case). Did you know that you could take a shower instead? Or in the winter, get your fix from your chap stick? I almost wish I was bold enough to try it!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A R Rahman ad jingles

In spending time with my feedreader this afternoon, I saw this, featuring a clip from the movie Slumdog Millionaire that apparently has music composed by my man ARR. It is the first I heard of this movie. I am way behind on my Rahman listening. I was stuck on Jaane tu ya jaane na for a long time. I have just moved on to Sakkarakatti, am yet to open my Ada CD (I know, Sakkarakatti jumped the line, but it was in Tamil, so that was inevitable). And it also got me thinking that I have not yielded to my Rahmania in a while. So, I spent some time that was to be used to finish a calculation googling around for A R Rahman ad jingles that I remembered from a long time ago. Find below a few for your amusement :

1. Garden Sarees

Featuring Lisa Ray and sounding so Rahman:

2. MRF tires

I actually did not realize this was Rahman until recently actually:

3. Premier

This one is sung by Sujatha, you know the one that sang “puthu vellai mazhai” in Roja:

4. Titan

And of course the famous one that has Rahman paraphrasing Mozart for Rajiv Menon:

And finally the bonus video of anyone that made it this far down the post, Baby Rahman on Surabhi

Trigger any nostalgic memories that you want to share? Pointers to any ads that I missed (I know the leo coffee one, but it featured in an earlier post), or trivia about the ads featured here would be great too!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Religion again

I do not know how I missed knowing about this guy for so long...this is fun!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Came across this joke recently. Should resonate with anyone that has TA'd a basic science course:

A college physics professor was explaining a concept to his class when a pre-med student interrupted him.

“Why do we have to learn this stuff?” he blurted out.

“To save lives,” the professor responded before continuing the lecture.

A few minutes later the student spoke up again. “Wait– how does physics save lives?”

The professor responded. “By keeping idiots out of medical school.”

Monday, September 8, 2008

LHC linking park

The Large Hadron Collider comes online on the 10th and there is little else that is the topic of conversation at any place where there are more than two physicists. Higgs or no Higgs? That is the first thing we will know. And supposedly a whole lot more.

As with all else in the world, LHC has been associated with theories that tell you that the world will end when we turn the machine on. You can find out about these concerns from the horse’s mouth here. And I also came across this refutation/explanation by Sunil Mukhi (via).

If you wanted to know more about the LHC, you could try this. Or at 8pm on the history channel tomorrow there is a show on the LHC that I must have received 10 emails telling me to watch. The host of the show talks about it over at Cosmic Variance.

Or, you could watch this video I found recently…LHC rap…pretty cool I thought it was…

Friday, September 5, 2008

On names

A short while ago I learned from Bongo what the name “thong” means in Australia and that got me thinking about names and how contextual they are and how they have evolved in my mind. Let me take food for example, Capsicum has been replaced by green peppers, red peppers etc, lady’s finger by Okra. And peppers no longer stands for the round black things you put in pongal or molagu rasam. I have to think hard to remember what I used to call an eggplant, the word Brinjal has totally dropped out of my mind.

There used to be a time when any piece of paper whose purpose was to clean I called a tissue. Now depending on the location in my house it is present in, it has a different name, and when somebody refers to a paper napkin as tissue, I cringe. I cannot bring myself to say the word “rubber” any more. I call it the eraser, even in my mind.

What is surprising about this whole thing to me is that within a relatively short time, under complete immersion (in that to everybody else in my environment that fat purple vegetable is an eggplant), with no conscious effort, our brain adjusts and rewires so that we start thinking that way too! Adaptability thy name is the human brain?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Reentry – 2 On Sabbaticals, superstitions and other things

It turns out I am superstitious. Before you yell at me and say “You are supposed to be a scientist damn it!”, let me explain. My poor little blog has been abandoned without any attention from me for more than two months. This is not the first such sabbatical I have taken from blogging. I have done this at various times in the past, because I fell in love with my brandy bottle, or with books or with some problem that was so all consuming that I had space in my mind for little else. And every time I come back from such a sabbatical I have a post that is so predictable that I might as well have used this to generate the post. Incidentally I tried and got this:

“Wholy smoke I just realised I have not updated this since they invented sliced bread... You would not believe how insane my life has become. Please don't abandon me!.

I am overwhelmed with sleeping my way to the top, commitments, just generally being asleep, dreaming and chancing to my employer, my day is full to overflowing from 4am to 11pm at which point I fall asleep on the couch. I am totally exhausted. but who cares.

I promise I will blog more regularly. Honestly! Don't hold your breath though, you're likely to turn blue..”

And then, I develop writer’s block and don’t blog regularly at all. And this latest sabbatical is the longest of them all. So, my superstition suggests that the fault lies in the nature of my “re-entry post”. So, this time my reentry should be different. No “Oh, I’ve been so busy”, and “Many post coming up” etc. This time, only action. First steps have been taken. Now all is going to be well from this time forward! [1]

[1] That is the comfort of a superstitious world view you know. You can make such outrageous statements and believe in it as well!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Reentry -1 Ode to my brother

Today is my brother’s birthday. He is a very special person to me. But, we are Indians and more than that, we are Tam Brams. So, to pick up the phone and say “I love you da” is completely unthinkable and totally unacceptable. So I am going to do something even more horrible. I am going to use this very public forum to express what should be some very private thoughts!

Dear AB baby [1],

Unlike you, I do not have any vivid memories of us together as children. If I try to think about it, I see a flash or two of unrelated things, when I was in sixth standard, you and I on our bicycles going to the shop near Adyar depot to buy a gift for our parents, and one of us (you or me?) falling of the bike at the signal, the time we went “hiking” in valparai and came back with leaches in our shoes….
I remember we fought like cats and dogs as long as we lived under the same roof. I remember thinking you were very different from me. I remember hating it when my friends would ooh and aah about how cute my brother is. But that’s it.

Today, I see that of all the people on earth, you are the one that is most similar to me. Given that we spent 24 hours of every day for 15-16 years together, I guess one should not be surprised. We have a special relationship. It is not like we tell each other everything. It is not like we do not get on each other’s nerves at all anymore. It is not like we are not sufficiently different from each other. We are, due to our respective unique experiences these last 10-15 years. But somehow, you are one of the few people in my world I can pick up the phone and call irrespective of how black a mood I am in. And that my dear, makes you one of my best friends. And my life would be that much bleaker if you were not in it.

So, the bottom line is I am glad our parents choose to put in the “effort” to make you and not just stop with me!

Happy Birthday!

[1] No, my brother is not Abhishek Bachchan, though he claims to look like a Hrithik Roshan, albeit with a Marathoner’s body, instead of the bench-press freak one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Must see

Absolutely, no holds bar must see...

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Happening

I watched M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening this weekend. I watched it on the top floor of a suburban shopping mall near where I live. I came out of the theatre, came to the ledge across from the concession stand and happened to look down. There was a clear drop to the basement, may be 80 feet. I wanted to throw myself down it. May be the movie is kind of like an Escher painting, and the people in it are killing themselves because they just watched the movie themselves. May be.

And I was expecting to like the movie. I am a simple minded person when it comes to movies. I am easily pleased. I liked Om Shanti Om, for crying out loud! And I like Mr. Shyamalan. I have not seen “Praying with Anger”, his first film. But I saw “Wide Awake”, a movie in the exact same format of the “Sixth Sense”, a kind of precursor to the things to come. Of course, like most of the rest of humanity, I watched and was blown away by the Sixth Sense. And then came “Unbreakable”. I liked the John Mclane styled Bruce Willis and the comic book styled message that Nature is usually such that it produces both extremes of any parameter space. Nothing to be blown way by, but I was happy.

Then came the Shyamalan movie that I like best, “Signs”. The thing in the movie about two possible world views, a) everything is just a sequence of random events versus b) everything is part of a grand preordained plan, resonated with me. And the way the dilemma was resolved for Mel Gibson was beautiful. I don’t agree with the conclusion, but I liked it. And of course Joaquin Phoenix and the little Ms Sunshine Abigail Breslin were so good in it.

And then started the plummet down. “The Village” was alright I think. I remember not being bored during the movie. But that’s about it. I can’t remember anything else, apart from facts like “The Happy Days”-kid-turned-director-of-beautiful-mind’s daughter was the heroine or some such trivia. Unmemorable but not bad, for my unsophisticated tastes. But Lady in the Water? What the heck was that about? It left me irritated. And now this, The Happening leaving me with the feeling that I should kill myself for having spent 7 dollars and 2 hours of my life on it. May be its time Mr. Shyamalan stopped making movies. Or may be its time I stopped watching them. May be.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hindi movie synopsis : Netflix IShtyle

I recently saw Sanjay Leela Bansali’s “Black” again as my mother had not seen it and I used it as a way to keep her engaged (do you know how hard a task that is? No no, not watching black but rather keeping my mother engaged. I don’t want to crib about it for if I start I cannot stop). I myself had actually seen the movie whenever it came out back in Florida, back in grad-school, back in a different place in life somehow. This was the synopsis that the netflix DVD sleeve carried (parenthetic comments are mine):

“Michelle McNally is a deaf and blind young girl who's trying to survive in an often harsh world while hoping to determine why she was dealt such a cruel hand (she was deaf and blind and did not yet know what words were, but yeah she was contemplating ). When jaded and stubborn teacher Debraj Sahai enters Michelle's life, it's for entirely selfish reasons on his part (huh?). Unexpectedly, however, the two end up forging a lasting bond, as Debraj works tirelessly to bring light and knowledge (can we get more bombastic) into Michelle's wounded but boundless heart.”

(and no mention of the one useful statement that could have been made – scene by scene line by line the screen adaptation of the Miracle Worker that came out in 1962 + SJB’s imagination leading to additions of a) the bull shit sign (if you do not remember what that was, you can watch it here, about 12 minutes into the video), b) Michele falling in love with Debraj c) life comes a full circle d) loads and loads of melodrama)

I just cannot help but say WTF? And this is pretty standard when they write synopsis for foreign movies. Don’t you think? Here are a couple of more examples that I found on the site while browsing for Hindi movies to rent for my mother. I am sure you know what the movies are:

  1. “In this drama based on a real-life incident, Roja (Madhoo), a girl from a small Indian village, meets and falls in love with computer expert Rishi (Arvind Swamy). Soon after they marry, Rishi and Roja travel to Kashmir and are kidnapped by terrorists en route. As the couple struggles to escape the terrorists' clutches, their love grows deeper. Rishi is then abducted and held for ransom by a group of militants seeking an independent Kashmir.”
  2. “Shahrukh Khan and Kajol sparkle in a film that redefined romance for young Indians. Raj (Khan) is blessed with charm, good looks and money, but when he meets Kajol on a European train, he's instantly smitten. She feels the same, but can they surmount the wishes of their respective families, who have already arranged their marriages … to different spouses?”

I think I almost found a new source of amusement! Or may be a job opportunity for a desi movie buff like me?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Frying our brains apparently

Unless cell phones emit some particular frequency that is in resonance with some crucial mode in the corn, I think this is BS. Do watch and tell me what you think. And if you google, there are a whole number of people doing this experiment apparently.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Proof of Life

The Meg-Ryan-her irrelevant husband guy-Russell-Crowe movie?

No no, proof of my life and the life of this blog.

So why this long holiday?

Too many people in the real life (mom visiting from India and complaining about everything, brother visiting my mom visiting from India and complaining about my mom complaining about everything). Plus many things happening physics wise.

When can a rejenuvation in terms of regular posts be expected?

Starting now (fingers crossed behind my back)

So, what else is up? Any "life universe and everything" realizations to be thrust on others who stumble here?

Well, now that the question has been asked, may be I will share just one (of the usual one an hour that I have). Do you, in your circle of friends, have this go-to person you call when you need to know where to find something, or how to get someplace? They have a near encyclopedic knowledge of what is where and where is better and so on. Well, in my circle of friends I am that person. Even if they have lived in that place longer, I usually end up knowing more. Now, why am I saying all this? I have lived in a couple of different places in the US since I have been here. And as I stated earlier I do know these places well as my friends will attest for you. Now, in the decade or so I have been in the US, I have never once been stopped to be asked for directions by anyone (only exception being on campus).

Then, I recently went back to Madras, a place I used to know like the back of my hand. But I found it so changed that I did not know up from down. Naturally, given my tendency, I was insecure like crazy. Still, I got stopped on the streets to be asked for directions to places that I had not ever heard of, at least half a dozen times.

So here is my realization together with its caveat. If this is not just an artifact of Madras having way more people than in the places in the US I have lived in, then this must be what people call belonging. What do you say?

Ok enough realizations, what about science posts?

Coming up shortly. Cross my heart and hope to die if I lie and so on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Picture speaks a thousand etc.

Is it all men or is it just all the men I know? They scrub dishes like they are rubbing their girlfriends' backs! If there are any men out there that want to rise up in defense of your kind either with a counter punch or with a refutation, now is the time...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Abandonment, letters and other things

This is really one of those “Random thoughts” posts that seem to show up on this blog with alarming frequency, but I am kind of tired of that title, hence the change. First up, abandonment. That is the sensation that my blog and feed reader would be feeling if they could. As the screenshot along side shows, I have been rather disconnected from my “cyberlife”. But that is because I have been reading! Not Attention-Deficit-Disorder-inducing blogs, but books and papers! It has been almost a year since I last read and I am having so much fun! First, I reread “Guns Germs and Steel”. Then, I read 15 papers that I had put together as essential reading for a new project that I have been meaning to get started for almost a year now. Now, I am reading “A Suitable Boy”, a book that has been on my reading list for a number of years now. This is fun!

And that leads me to the second random thought about letters. In the book, Mrs. Rupa Mehra is writing long letters on Inland letter sheets. I barely remember those now, though I recall that I used to write letters when I was in high school and the first couple of years in college. It used to be at that time that you opened your mailbox, or whatever was its equivalent (like the table on which all the residents’ letters were dumped on in the hostel), with anticipation of personal communication. Now I open my mailbox, with no feeling as I only get junk mail and a few bills that have not gone paperless yet. I personally do not feel any nostalgia for the written letter and am just as happy to receive long emails from long lost friends. But my thesis advisor, an old man that must have had more letter writing years than I have been alive, used to say that there is nothing like the written word on paper and he is never as happy with an email and he necessarily feels they are less meaningful. I put it down to conditioning. We are always reluctant to accept any change are n’t we? Times have changed. In my parents’ time, calligraphy and penmanship were considered invaluable skills and the ability to spell was important. But now, who cares as long as you know how to use the spell checker in your favorite word processing software?

Well, on that note I shall sign off with promise to return with more meaningful posts in the near future. Hope you are all having fun too!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Technology spoils us so!

I am not a hi-tech gadgets person by any stretch of anybody’s imagination. My laptop my baby is a doddering old man of 4 years. I have a cell phone that Cingular gave me free when I lost my phone last year, in spite of the fact that I was not eligible for an upgrade (and just in case you have not had experience dealing with Cingular this can only mean that they wanted to throw the phone away but gave it to me instead to save disposal costs). I just bought my first digital camera, the cheapest Nikon cool pix on the market, and that too largely because we had a gift card (from redeemed credit card points, not generous friends) that was about to expire and we just absolutely had to spend it. In spite of all of this, I had occasion recently to reflect on how my life has changed in the last 8 or 10 years when for the first time in a long time, I was at home but did not have internet access for a whole day. I felt like a hand and a leg had been cut off! So, I record here some tangential thoughts I had during my time of “extreme and unnatural duress”.

  1. Phone numbers : When I was in college I knew something like 25 phone numbers of the top of my head. Now, I hardly know my own, thanks to the fact that I have had a cell phone for a few years now and everyone I call is in my address book. My addiction to my address book and my speed dial has gotten to such an extent that I am consciously avoiding buying a Reliance phone card of my own and am using my brother’s so that at least I am guaranteed to remember his phone number! (if you did not know, the reliance phone card has the telephone number followed by a four digit pin as the access code. So every time I call my mother I necessarily dial my brother’s phone number. But fear not, the reliance access number is on speed dial and I sure as hell don’t know what that number is).
  2. Instant email replies : My laptop or my desk top is within sight from about 6 in the morning to about 8 at night and I check my email every hour or so when I take a break from whatever it is I am doing. At that time, all professional emails are replied to immediately, even if only as a placeholder to say a more detailed response follows in n hours or n days as the case may be. So on the rare occasion that I am actually too engrossed in reading something or in a calculation, to remember to check mail, people assume (depending on whether they like me or not, and I work with both categories of people) that I am either on the verge of death (giving rise to “Is everything ok?” emails) or that I am goofing off (leading to “Where the heck are you?” emails). When did it become that 24 hours as a turn around time for an email is considered as too much time?
  3. The Google addiction : This is the last but by no means the least on my list of technology induced changes in life. First, I stopped trying to remember or record in a bookmark web page URLs. You can always google them right? Then I stopped trying to use my library catalog to find papers or online resources, I always try google scholar first. Then I stopped going to online listings of restaurants or shops, Maps has it right? And the last straw in this sequence happened a few days ago. I wanted to know the definition of “nematic penetration depth”. So I asked google. And google books told me that it is on page 179 of a book that was sitting right there on my desk. Goes to show that if something happened to google I will have to spend a fair amount of time learning to live again!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back at my desk

After a week in the Big Easy. Decent conference as far as content goes. If I could broadly group my research interests into four categories, I learnt quite a bit on two of them and next to nothing on the other two. But as always, plenty of professional smooching with collaborators current and potential, prospective future bosses and of course getting caught up with tons of friends. But if you ask what the most abiding memory of the trip is going to be, it is in the following picture.
Long Islands to go!

More substantial posts later in the week.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Random thoughts on leap day

I just had to have a post dated February 29th, for who knows what would happen four years from now right? So, here are a few random thoughts in my head at this time.

1. I recently yielded to temptation and bought my first camera. Nothing fancy, just a point and shoot Nikon coolpix. The other day I took the following picture.

What a geek I have become! Multicolored pens arranged in a row at the edge of my desk. Not only that, I have become an organization freak, obsessively cross-referencing and filing my notes away for I am tired of reinventing the wheel every few days, just because I am not able to find notes or references.

2. I went to look at the site stats for this blog yesterday and found this.

An anomalous peak that screws the scale so much that it renders the rest of the landscape totally flat. The reason is that DP linked to my “Experimenting with” post. I write all these beautiful (even if I do say so myself) science posts that almost nobody reads and they link to the “freak of nature” ARR post :)). [*]

3. Speaking of science posts, a blogger that DP likes a lot has this cool post on caricatures of seminar speakers, do read if you have not already.

4. Also, blogging break coming up. I start traveling next week. Seminar in Boston, then onto New Orleans. None of the talks are written so I guess I will be married to win edt and powerpoint for the next few days.

[*] Aside for A, all other readers ignore: I know you did this. But why is there no hat tip acknowledgement? Feeling cowardly are we?:)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

From birds and fish to cells

A physicist’s view of collective transport in biological systems

Let me motivate what I want to say today with a couple of videos. First up, an amateur video of a flock of starlings in Scotland.

Or see this one, where the flock cohesively responds to a predator. A Starling is a small bird, shown in the picture alongside, about the size and shape of a “myna” if you are familiar with it. They fly in flocks that do amazing things as a collective entity as you just saw in the above example. Understanding how they do this is field of active research as indicated by this cover of the October issue of Physics Today. I will tell you a little bit about how they do that subsequently. But you might say to me, “They are birds, and they have brains, albeit “bird brains”, so they see, process that information somehow and do stuff. Why would a physicist concern herself with that?” So, to make my point even more clear, let me show you one more video.


This one is a microscopic movie of a bacterial swarm (obtained from here). Do you see the complex flow patterns they exhibit? These guys clearly do not have brains. It might be that this rich collective behavior originates in more chemistry than physics, but clearly not biology. And to make my point that it is indeed just physics, I ask you to look at this other video (obtained from here)

videoDo you see the similarity in the flow pattern to that seen in the bacteria? Can you guess what you are looking at? It is just a vibrated monolayer of some centimeter long metal rods! Whatever is going on here is clearly just physics. Moreover, one can mathematically represent the motion of the bacteria/birds and those of the rods by the same set of equations! What I want to do in the rest of this post is to give you a flavor of some of the physics behind these and other collective phenomena in biological systems.

When looking at fish schools or bird flocks, the first postulate that comes to mind is that the phenomenon is “follow the leader”, with one bird/fish doing its own thing, and the others following. But as stated above, the things that birds/fish do is “mathematically similar” to what the bacteria do. So “follow the leader” seems an unlikely scenario. The logical next question to ask would be, “What are the minimal rules that can give rise to this kind of behavior?” We have known the answer to this question for a while now [1]. The rules are the following – Each member of the flock does each of three things a) Alignment : Adjust my direction of motion so that I am going in the same direction as my neighbors, b) Velocity matching : I adjust my speed so that I am going with the same speed as my neighbors c) Cohesion : I try to keep the distance from my neighbors the same at all times. With these basic rules and simple boundary conditions for entities at the edge of the flock, like “If there is food, turn towards it” and “If there is danger, turn away from it”, most of the complex patterns exhibited by these groups of organisms can be reproduced!

But these are just rules. So, the next question to ask would be, “Can these rules come about from just physical interactions?” Let us ignore the boundary conditions associated with food/predator for the moment, they clearly are chemistry and other higher processes and focus on the bulk flocking rules. What is a unifying thing between the birds, the fish the bacteria and so on? What they are, are objects that have a non-spherical shape that actively move through a medium (air/water etc.). Now what does that mean? They exert a force on the medium [2]. The medium responds, i.e., the fact that my bird/fish/bacterium is pushing on the fluid induces a flow in the fluid itself. This response now propagates through the fluid. So, a bird/fish/bacterium that is elsewhere will feel this change in the fluid, in terms of the local flow field and pressure gradients. And it will adjust its own force on the fluid accordingly, and this whole things feeds back to the other entities in the flock. This phenomenon is called hydrodynamic interaction. And this is the dominant interaction that produces the three aspects of flocks that is listed in the previous paragraph!

Further, I want to make the case that this quest for minimal mechanisms for collective behavior is not just restricted to animal group behavior on the different scales encompassed from birds to bacteria. For this, see the famous video below.

This is a video of a neutrophil chasing a bacterium and then gobbling it, the immune system of your body at work. I know what you are thinking, “This is one cell chasing one bacterium and the primary thing at play here is chemotaxis, so what is collective about this?” The collective aspect lies in how the cell crawls, i.e., at the sub-cellular scale. The interplay between membrane fluctuations, the stresses in the actin-microtubule network that makes up the cytoskeleton of the cell, the interaction of this network stress with the medium that the cell is in and many other things go into understanding how the cell crawls. The mathematical paradigm and the physics aspects of this question are not so different from those one uses to address animal group behavior we considered earlier! But for now, this is just a teaser. A separate post on this to follow later.

[1] Actually the first instance in literature was in the context of an algorithm for computer graphics, available here.

[2] If we want to be careful, then clearly third law tells us that the swimmer must at least be a force dipole. Since there is no mathematics displayed here, I fudge this point.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Are you a Rahmaniac?

As regular readers of this blog would know, I am crazy about the music of A R Rahman [1]. A random phone conversation with a friend a few days ago revealed to me that I actually know too much trivia about the guy and his music. So, find below a few random facts from the early years of this musical superstar (early years being pre Rangeela and Bombay, after which he stopped being the exclusive property of us Tamil folks). Interspersed with these random facts are a few questions for you. If you can answer all of them, then you must be a fellow Rahmaniac as well! [2]

Let us start with a classic:

While you listen to it, let me tell you something about it. Legend has it that when Mani Ratnam first talked to Rahman about the possibility of them working together on Roja, this was the music that Rahman played for him, having composed this some time earlier.

Now to Question 1: Do you know the first movie that Rahman committed to as a music director?

Next, we all know that Rahman was doing ad jingles before he started his movie career. Here is an ad from his early days.

This was the first time Arvind Swamy was featured in a work that had music by ARR. Now Question 2: Can you name three other instances? Everybody can name two for sure. A not so helpful hint: The following song is one of the lesser known ones in a candidate for the third album, but I like it a lot. Do you?

Moving on, after very urban scores in Roja, his second tamil release Pudhiya Mugham, ARR came up with this album that was so ethnic Tamil that it surprised everyone. Here is one of the lesser known songs from this album. Question 3 : Can you name the album?

He has subsequently come up with a whole bunch of such songs of course; Karuthamma and Sangamam come to mind when thinking along these lines.

Next, here is one more lesser known song by my man. It is still on my all time favorite list after all these years.

Question 4 for you: Can you name the movie? Hint : The movie had Ajith in it and if I remember correctly, the thalai actually dies in the movie!

Finally, deviating from my early Rahman theme, this song, composed slightly later in his career is one of my really really favorite songs that somehow many people do not remember.

Do you think it is good? Question 5 for you: Can you name the movie? Hint : This album features one song in which Apache Indian is credited as co-composer, the video of which is below:

[1] Those reading by feed : a) This post is an anomaly. So feel free to ignore it. Also, there are music pieces embedded in the post that might not show up in your reader.

[1] Without the aid of google of course. With google, we are all experts in everything, are n’t we?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Admiration and Jealousy

My buddy K has been skiing every Saturday since the December holiday break. He has never set foot on a ski slope before that. So, how many days of skiing does that make? Six, may be seven days. He can now negotiate black diamond slopes with ease. I on the other hand will never volunteer for any activity that calls for me to reduce the amount of traction between my feet and the ground. So I take assorted reading material with me, ranging from papers I need to catch up with over coffee in the early afternoon to Time and Newsweek to browse with beer as the evening draws out, and sit at the bar in the ski lodge, warm and cozy, while K is out having his adventures.

I know what you are thinking. You are saying “Wait a minute, why are you telling me this? And in any case why go at all if you are not going to ski?” The answer to the first question is coming later on in the narrative. So, to the second question first. As with any experience, you relish it fully only when you have somebody to talk to about it. This process allows you to relive the experience when it is still fresh, and you embellish it by magnifying the best parts, fading out the not so good parts, thereby storing this polished version for later access in your long term memory banks. And K is not able to find a suitable skiing buddy. So he drags me along, so that when he takes a break, he will have somebody to narrate his adventures to and so that I can go “Aaha, Oho, Ahaahaa” like in the bru coffee advertisement from a long time ago.

Ok, so what is the problem? The problem is with me saying “Aaha, Oho, Ahaahaa”. As the first two paragraphs of this narrative indicate, clearly I understand the need people have to narrate their experience. Also clearly, by any objective standard, K is adding rapidly to his skill set and hence ought to be admired. But, I find myself not even a little bit interested or awed. So, I asked myself, why is that? And when I think about it, I might use the word “admire” easily, but it is an emotion that I rarely feel. And this leads to me to ask a broader question namely, what is admiration really? And the following is the answer I came up with.

There is no such thing as “objective” admiration. The only way we feel admiration is if we imagine ourselves doing the thing we admire, i.e., the quality or skill has to be part of our “ideal” self image. By way of illustration, let me mention a few mundane things. I know many women who admire other beautiful (or well dressed, well made up if you like) women. But, since beauty is not part of my self image, either real or ideal, it does not evoke the emotion in me. Surprisingly, I admire people who dance well (I am thinking Madhuri or Hrithik or from my real life, some of my friends). Apparently, in my ideal self image, I wish dancing is a skill I possess (I sure as hell don’t in reality)! And the connotation to self image need not be direct, could be subtle. For example, it turns out I admire Jason Bourne (I recently saw Bourne Ultimatum and hence the thought). But is it because I wish I could kick people’s ass? No, it is because that character displays amazing presence of mind, albeit in a physical sense. And I sure as hell have presence of mind high up on my list of virtues. And if the hypothesis in the first line of the previous paragraph is indeed right (and among what data I have, I am not able to come up with a contradiction), then Jealousy and admiration are just a hair’s breadth apart from each other. If I think “Wish I could do that too”, that is admiration and if I think “Wish I could do that instead of him/her”, that is jealousy! Do you think what I am saying here holds water?

Friday, February 1, 2008

On the Torus

What is it ?
In layman’s terms the inner tube of a tire or if you prefer, a doughnut or a vadai. Technically, it is the surface of revolution of a circle about a coplanar axis outside itself (to put that in context, a sphere is a surface of revolution of a circle about one of its diameters, i.e., a coplanar axis through its center).

Why am I talking about it?
I always thought that a torus is a strange object, almost like a mobius strip or something. Mathematically it is a weird compact manifold. And so I imagined that a torus is as likely to occur in nature as a cube. But then, I found out today that certain dumbbell shaped surfactants self assemble into nanoscale tori [1]! Further digging and googling told me something I should have known, that people who make Carbon nanotubes have actually seen Carbon nanorings that form at the same time, that are essentially tori.

What does this mean?
So, the above facts tell us that self assembly can lead to tori. If it is easy to form and stays stable, then more likely than not, we will find it in nature. And indeed we do. They call it (rather unimaginatively) the torovirus.

Goes to show that one has to modify and augment one’s intuition with each new fact learnt!

[1] A Primer on self assembly of surfactants available here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

On Religion

Here are a couple of things for your amusement.

1) First up, questions on Jesus Christ in the form of this lovely video by somegreybloke

You can find a whole bunch of videos by this guy here.

2) It would not be fair to leave the Hindus out would it ? So consider the following image

Does it offend you? Apparently it does for some people. And here is a whole website dedicated to such things. Do check it out. It is priceless I tell you, priceless.

Problems Problems

Apparently the state of Michigan will now issue drivers licenses only to permanent residents and citizens. How are the FOB desis that are going to come to Michigan from this time forward supposed to get groceries and make trips to Wal-mart or IKEA, especially in the winter? Or for that matter, rent a car to go from strange airports to whatever their travel destination is. I understand the need for increased security on the process of issuing state ID's, but for the life of me I can’t see how this is a reasonable rule and I am almost certain they will have to amend it real soon to take into account the needs of what must be a large number of people whose life this is going to mess up.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pop Quiz

Literally. Here is a song for your listening pleasure, flash back from the days of Superhit Muqabla and other such things. Question for you : Can you name the movie? No googling!

PS: There is an embedded music piece that may or may not show up in your feed.

PPS: comment moderation is turned on for a while so at least a couple of you can answer before they become visible. So please do, answer I mean.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Leave Letter


Curious Cat
42 Curiosity Lane
Utopia 666-1313


The few readers
The Old Curiosity Shop

Dear Sir/Ma’m

As I am suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder [1] and am overwhelmed by things in the real world, I am unable to update this blog with all the different things that cross my eye. I am hoping to recover during this week and be back shortly after that. Kindly treat my absence until that time as leave.

Thanking you,

Yours Sincerely,


[1] SAD is my excuse for low energy levels and me liking my Brandy bottle and my ceiling better than my books and my laptop

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Last night, I was reading this and this. I was confused. To briefly (and in an extremely oversimplified way) summarize, some people were saying women should play it safe and not do things like go out alone at night so as to reduce the possibililty of being subject to sexual assault. And others were saying, "You cannot say that because by inference this means that if you do fall victim to sexual assault, then you are partly or wholly to blame for this because you did not take the said precautions". I could see the point made by both sides and was not able to reconcile the different thoughts running through my head. Then, this morning I walked in to the department to find the following next to the elevator (Poor quality cell phone pics, sorry).

Does this mean the University is engaging in “blame the victim” game now? I am even more confused.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

List of lists

And some other things

  1. GreatBong, Who has had my eternal devotion to RTDM since he included Janeman in His movies of the year for 2006, has a new list for you to peruse. (guaranteed one more year of devotion by including GURU; I know, I know, gods do not care about such things). I still have not seen fifty percent of this list though.
  2. Staying on movies, I read B. Rangan’s list. Again, less than fifty percent recognition rate for me. Also, I am still holding a grudge against him for making me watch Aaja Nachle.
  3. On other things. Have you seen the list of 50 loathsome people of the year yet? Turned out I did not know quite a few of the people on the list…for example who-t-f is Sherri Shepherd ?? I had to google her to find out.
  4. Now on to other things, I came across this story [via] by Woody Allen and when I read it I kept hearing Woody Allen’s voice in my head, so I had to link to it here.
  5. And of course Happy new year and all that jazz to my readers that now include all of two people from my real world.