Saturday, December 25, 2010

What is this thing called love?

As always, I will treat this question with an analytical method - I never trust the books or the poems until it syncs with my own experience. Most folks know jack (or jill) about the trivial day to day stuff, so why should I assume they know better about love?

My personal answer is that it's a feeling with the following symptoms :

  • You can't stop thinking of someone.
  • The thought of that person makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.
  • You become vulnerable, placing your emotional well being upon their words or actions.
  • No matter how upset or angered you feel because of that person, you cannot ever be angered or upset at them.
  • You spend a huge number of "cycles" thinking of ways to make them happy or getting them closer to what they seek. The whole extra mile thing.
  • You know to what lengths you may go for them, and sometimes that surprises you.
  • You wake up nights, sit and just obsess over something they said, or wrote.
  • If it don't hurt (sometimes like crazy), it ain't love.
  • You wish, that whatever happens, they should never undergo the pain you do/did.

The only problem with this love thing, is that it's most likely to be asymmetrical....

One may believe that the one you love should love you back because "We're logically the best choice for each other." or one may believe that they should do so because -uh- "How can they not feel the relentless intense love of mine?".

But apparently it's not so simple...  (It's not so apparent to me, and it is simple to me, but well, I'm me!)

As far as I am concerned, love is a choice, a damn simple one, easier than doing twenty push ups (or even five).

Oh what a sticky web I wove, when I chose to feel this thing called love!

But it's damn well worth it...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

F*** humility

I'm just going to indulge my ego this post, (been letting it get atrophied lately) and list out all the things that I have done and some that I can do well. Goes without saying that Naren's list will overlap a lot with this... and exceed probably.

  • Shod a horse
  • Rode a horse bareback
  • Split Shale
  • Dressed stones
  • Felled trees, split wood
  • Sawed lumber by hand
  • Carried loads (Ask how heavy!)
  • Managed cows
  • Forded streams
  • Climbed trees (Think 50 feet+ above ground, with hatchet in hand, lopping leaves)
  • Blacksmith-ed
  • Cast concrete
  • Moved earth by hand
  • Plumbed water and sewage pipes, wired electrics
  • Built houses and wooden decks
  • Farmed vegetables
  • Run an ox plow
  • Got rid of decomposing ____  (don't ask what!)
  • Eaten cold
  • Worked wood
  • Worked metal
  • Worked rock
  • Cut grass on impossibly steep deadly slopes
  • Doused fires (big ones!)
  • Slept on a railway platform
  • Cared for someone sick, 24/7
  • Never broke
  • Crushed fear
  • Tamed anger
  • Found answers

This was all then... 

Since that time... done much more, but I'll skip it now, my ego has inflated to the recommended 999 PSI...

California, here I come

Every couple of years, some fork in the road appears in my life, and a lot of things change depending on my decision.

It's been the most consistent thing in my life, I've lived in .. lemme count ....
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 dwellings over the past 21 years! In 5 geographical locations.

I've had four or five distinct groups of people around me, all mutually exclusive. These aren't simply acquaintances, colleagues or classmates, but people who are connected to me beyond those labels. There are some exceptional individuals in each of these groups, and by exceptional , I'm not talking about wealth or position, but fundamental traits that are not commonly found easily among hoi polloi.

Now I've decided to work in California - new faces, new lifestyle, new everything! A new set of circles of people...

I don't know how far down the rabbit hole leads. But I'm taking the blue pill! It's always done wonders for me whenever I did.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bring it on...

Pain, disillusionment, inexperience, rejection, delusion, hopes dashed, expectations unmet, self-pity, hurt, self-infliction, masochism, predjudice, pigheadedness, myopia, heart-break, unfairness, unreasonableness, vulnerability, confusion, betrayal, limerence, immaturity, tunnel-vision, oneitis, fear, miscalculation, irrationality, imbalance, hideboundedness, prudishness, hesitation

That was that...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thought and creativity as an evolutionary process

I recall a conversation 7 years ago with a group of friends where we talked about where creativity sprung from. I stubbornly clung to the notion that creativity was due to randomness. "Try writing a program that produces unique non-repeating unpredictable output every time", I said, "Can you do that without a random number generator?". Seemed reasonable, but an incomplete explanation.

Today I realized, that in the universe, there isn't such a thing as creation. Something does come from practically nothing, under the right conditions.

Life, and the cosmos itself have come into being by the fundamental process of evolution (Read "Life of the cosmos" by Lee Smolin). Why should something like ideas also not?

My hypothesis is that the brain is a simulated arena of evolution - There exists a mechanism to choose a set of memes related to the task in hand, churn them in a maelstrom and provide selection pressures based on desired results, in order to make a thread of thought that dominates all the others.

People have this today with software, evolving code by mutation and "reproduction" to generate algorithms automatically.

Perhaps the range of ideas one can generate is limited by the breath of the "meme pool" from which one evolves thoughts. Which is why, maybe adding external input to the "working set" to stir things up a bit causes sudden flashes of "inspiration". And so too, this is an unconscious automated process, that happens without awareness or logical trains of thought, which are the methods of the conscious brain regions.

It might even be that all thinking is a continuous process of evolution, as thoughts float to the top of the ever varying meme ecosystem in the brain. This is somewhat related to Dennet's "multiple demons" model of consciousness where multiple independent processes within the brain wrest control of behavior in a sort of co-operative multitasking model.

Remember, you read it here first!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The tired man

The old Mustang skidded to a halt on the dusty road. Despite it's rusty, ill maintained exterior, the old V8 still breathed fire, and her owner, old Jones - brown as a nut, and twice as tough - still loved to floor it once in a while.

The border post ritual....
It happened every week - Jenkins, the official who was always on watch strutted towards the vehicle - "A'ight then, You headin' to Brownsville as usual eh?"

"As have been these past eight years, every week!"

"You know I'll be figurin' out your trick some day! There's gotta be a reason why you ride down to Mehico every week. Something fishy! Why don' you make it easy on me and tell me what in hell you upto? Do that and I won't arrest you." - He grinned.

"Maybe..." - Jones grinned back - He knew he would arrest him.

Jenkins went through all the the papers, meticulously. He could never shake off the thought that Jones was doing something not quite legal, but he was getting tired of the itch that he could never scratch.

He did the customary check by kicking at the boot - "Anyone in there?" - He knew there never was.

"We done here?" - Jones almost taunting.

"Yeah!" - Jenkins was grumpiness itself.

Jones set off with great gusto, spinning wheels, fishtailing left and right leaving Jenkins gasping in a cloud of dust.

"Old timer drives too darn fast! 'im and his mangy Mustang!" he muttered.

Week after week, month after month this went on. Jenkins retired, and others came after. Everyone tried their hardest to find the tiniest evidence of contraband.

"Business", Jones would say, when asked why he was zooming across the border. He certainly seemed to be doing good at that, his Mustang seemed to grow newer by the year, and once in a while he was spotted in a Firebird, still raising dust. 

Eventually they stopped checking, and Jones didn't even have to pull over, he was waved on.

Jenkins still woke up nights sometimes - feeling like he had forgotten something - and cursed Jones and his unholy Mustang.

Many years later they met in a bar in Houston. 

"Hey old timer! Mustang man!"

"Hey officer, how ya been doing? You look tired."

"I'm reaping the rewards of an 'onest career."

"I'm reapin' the rewards too, thanks to those border runs. not any more now though, can't say that I hated the drive though, except for the dust."

"Well, I'm out of the force now, and so by all that's holy in good gods heaven, tell me, old man!"

"Tell you what?"

"Aw, come off it, you know, and I know, you were upto no good, smuggling stuff during all those runs! Out with it!"

Jones grinned widely - "Tires - I sold tires"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dearest google (et al)

With utmost humility, and respect (and awe) I say unto you... (Microsoft, yahoo and others included)

Today I found 2 mails in my spam folder, that I do not classify as spam - Sure they are promotional mails, but I never said they were spam. This is not the first time this has happened. There have been a couple of times when some critical communications have ended up in my spam folder. I managed to get them, as I believe was clairvoyant then, and I had checked the spam folder on those days. Now my clairvoyance has dulled and I check my spam folder every other day. What's silly is that other mails from the same source have not been classified as spam, and the content of each of these mails is more or less uniform.

I know you guys believe in the awesomeness of math and all those fancy things, Bayesian filters and all, but surely you should take a lesson from evolution? It has done a real good job no?

I am talking about FALSE POSITIVES, my dear Sirs! It's OK to jump up startled when you see a rope or a vine and think it's a snake. It's deadly to miss a real snake? GEDDIT?

Your spam filters will never be perfect (There's some connection to the halting problem, Godel's theorem, P=NP, and entropy there, I'm just too lazy to explain it), so I will always see some spam in my inbox, that's part of samsaara.

What is stupid is to have something that can classify real mail as spam, especially if it happens to be one from a person who has sent me hundreds of mails, many of which I have starred, re-read, forwarded and so on. This is not an isolated case or issue with gmail in particular, hotmail, yahoo and so on do the same thing - The statement : "Please check your spam folder, I've definitely sent it" is heard quite often.

Big picture folks, big picture - don't get so caught up in your fancy math and cool algorithms when your fundamental assumptions as to what is acceptable behavior is BROKEN!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The fear of death, to the death of fear

Once upon a time, in a forest far far away, some people lived a strange somewhat magical life for a decade or so. Many events that occurred during this time were of a nature that cannot be explained or described to anyone. But those of us who were there (me included) know.

Other tales from that part of my life, are simple enough to be classified as "adventure", so here is one, possibly my biggest.

Date : During the year 1999 I think, the month of August
Time :  10 AM
Place : Supin(Tons) river valley, Hari-ki-dun route

I left home -or the little half constructed dwelling that we called home- to get to the nearest town, to buy some provisions. The weather had been drizzly and rainy for more than a month now, there was a putrescent odor that hung over the river bank, on account of the green (yet rotting) trees that had been swept up on the banks. Turbid water was churning under the bridge, hiding the truck sized boulders that were normally part of the "river bank" in the winter.

There was a kind of low pitched vibration in the ground itself, the effect of tonnes and tonnes of raging water, often rolling huge rocks downstream within the coffee colored depths.

The PWD chaps had started work on fixing the bridge, but no one was around. The bridge decking had been cleared of the tar/gravel mix, it was all corrugated sheet metal with bolts sticking out here and there. The "twisty" part in the middle was hard to navigate on the slick wet sheets. That was the reason the bridge was being refurbished. Hard to walk across a surface that wanted to be a mobius strip!

Made good time uphill, still never could beat Naren's record time of 28 minutes... Reached the village on the road - No point in waiting, so started walking down the road - Seemed like a routine trip, Hello!  guess again!

It wasn't long before the  "Commander" jeep came rattling and groaning along and a shout of "Oye Rokkkey!" brought it to a squeaky halt. I was in no mood to squeeze in next to the locals with their filthy, wet, smelly coats, so I clambered onto the roof, being careful to step only on the struts lest my feet go right through the canvas.

The trick to sitting on top of a badly suspended "jeep" on a rough and curvy mountain road is in pre-emption - You just can't hold on against the centrifugal force by brute strength for long... The smart way is to lean into the turns before the vehicle itself. With a little practice, you can balance without holding on much at all. Hard to explain, you had to be there!

The weather wasn't so bad, it was a bright gray sky, and rain seen only on the mountain tops. There were menacing dark grays over the ranges that the locals called "Parvatiya side". Far off place, off the regular track...

Jeep halts at the infamous "Manora Khad" stream, The damage it did every year put mankind to shame - This year there was no trace of a road for about 50 feet on either side of the stream.

The "bridge" was two tree trunks of pine, weak Pinus Roxburghii, green and heavy, sagging under its own weight. Not the tree I would ever rely on - How could we forget that gargantuan pine tree in the forest across our home (the biggest for miles and miles) which fell suddenly in the middle of the night in a mild storm?

Of the two tree trunks one sagged more than the other making progress very lopsided. We sidled along them, all the villagers went on fours, while I struggled to make it on two, with the occasional descent to a quadruped form.

On the other side, down the muddy road, shortcut across the forest department quarters, entered the repulsive town of "Thaatru bazaar", I've never ever felt at ease in that town, something about the place, the people that make me want to move on. That ugly diesel engined oil mill, the apathetic "Lalas" and bums hanging around, filth and decadence all around.

Luckily, jeeps a-plenty, so it was an in and outer, I ended up in the jeep with the "Gorkha" driver, an old man, entertaining chap who talked incessantly with great gusto. I remember that he was the guy, who once described to a jeep load of incredulous, but awed villagers,  how comet Hale-Bopp would wreak havoc on Jupiter and the civilizations that existed there. They seemed to share a mournful moment as they considered millions of beings being annihilated by a fireball.

Onward to "Mori", the next town, about 13 kilometers by road - Halfway, and reach the "Myangaad" stream - It had a bed that rivaled that of a river, and we had never seen it cause any trouble to the road embankments or bridge, in all the years we had lived there. But this year was a good year (not for the roses, but for the floods) and the road was impassable - and for the mountain drivers it takes a lot to call it impassable.

As usual there was another jeep across waiting to shuttle folks to the town, each jeep was stuck in its own zone with broken road on both ends - a sort of relay race with people and provisions.

It was around 2 in the afternoon by then, I finally got down at Mori, and went to the "Control" guy (Ration chap) and bought me some sugar.

Picked up some provisions from old "Mirchu Lala" and envelopes (they would play a key role later in this story).

Didn't waste much time, got a jeep back to Myangaad, but no jeep on the other side,Uh oh!

Trudge Trudge - Twenty five kilograms on the back - I weighed about 52 then.
Thinking... Challenge : how long can I keep from thinking of the load? When does the pain turn to numbness? Ooh what a lovely Rhododendron tree ... Hmmm.. that's a pretty nice log stuck in the river there, pity it's not 20 KM upstream, we could-a grabbed it... Looks like a "kail" (white pine) tree from here... Two feet thick - Plenty of board feet ... Love the feel of the frame saw through it ... all that resinous sawdust... the sweet smell. Oh well, plenty more wherever that came from...

Nine kilometers to go, weather is holding... muscles holding too, sort of... Its the shoulders - always the shoulders... The legs can always take it, the back won't complain until the morning, but the shoulders... Obsessing about shoulders for quite a distance... It's a matter of time before it becomes a dull ache and the body adapts to the load as the "default state". Glad I wore my "Hunter-sole" shoes, Chappals would have been awful considering all mud and gunk at every stream that crossed the road.

What was it with the waterworks this year? Where do these tiny brooks get enough water to mow down trees overnight? And yet, no trace of any of that water now! How come the trees that get washed down are so gigantic? Why should mud stink? Ah the pain....

Almost at Thaatru now, this is that one spot along the road where I can see "our mountain", yes that big fat stony mountain!
If you have never been to the Himalayas, you won't realize that a mountain is to a hill as a Baluchitherium is to a dormouse. When your range of vision and horizon is smaller than the mountain, then you got a "real live un".

Hoping I'll get one of those jeeps at least at Manora, it's almost 6 PM now and the darkness is creeping in. Thankfully the street is deserted in Thaatru, and I'm glad that there's not a soul there (not that there ever was anyone in that town with a soul anyway!)

I pass Myangaad , the stream has swelled enough to look dangerous, so quite a bit of sweaty brow to get across in the fading light, backpack and all. This time no heroics, I do it on all fours "like humans do".

There is a sprinkly, messy drizzle now, the most annoying kinda rain, what old Pradhan "Shankru" once termed "kabaadi baarish". It's more like the rain is condensing right out of the air and humidity is so high that earth and air are all soaked.

It is dark now, well past seven. Devoid of luggage, I could easily do a kilometer in 10 minutes - the power walk - but here I'm slowed to a crawl and I succumb frequently to the "Let me put this burden down for a minute or two" idea. Haven't eaten anything since morning, but hunger is something that I never usually feel intensely. Naren would have gone crazy with this hunger, but then he's done much further, much heavier load in much worse weather. Good to have a standard set high enough to make you not want to lax off. Someday he will write about his victories, I believe....

Now it's pitch darkness and rain, - a proper drenching rain, nice to have that sweat wash away. I'm distracting myself by counting my steps and thinking of things to do with those numbers - 59, ah the 5th and 6th digit of pi, 60 seconds in a minute, 61 thousand thundering typhoons (I make one up).
It never works, eventually you will focus on the part of your anatomy that pains the most and quiver with exertion. That succumbing to "rest stops" is more and more tempting, but I have to push on - Miles to go before I sleep and all that jazz. Good thing, that I didn't get a jacket, it would have been more misery.

I reach the stable area of the road, as good as it gets in those parts, "Bikne dhaar", Can spy a feeble light on the opposite mountain top, "Kalap" village - I count my blessings that I don't have to trudge uphill 10 kilometers like the folks from that village have to.

So far it was a gentle climb, but now it's a level road, I realize I will face another nemesis soon - the "downhill knee". It's all cool when your muscles have been working concentrically for hours, they can take it... When they switch to eccentric mode where you need to decelerate, that's when you will actually decide uphill is way better...

So I finally reach the village, in pitch dark - There are not many people who stay in this "village" - there are about six houses in all, and a tiny store with nothing much except matches and beedis. 

There was no way I would stay there at night. I know, when you go as a tourist you see the fun parts of the culture, you get taken in by the advertisement, you spend some time with the locals and think all is wonderful, but that whole illusion of "the innocent villager" is all crap.  It wasn't to do with safety, but more that I didn't want to associate with them.
Live long enough with them you realize they're amoral creatures, lying, cheating, stealing, anything to make a quick buck, or get the next drink. People are people! Everywhere!  When we lived there, we were aloof from all people, from those we had left behind and those that surrounded us sparsely.
(Same goes for gypsies - that's another story though)

The few who were bearable and some who weer our friends were because they were bucolic and pastoral in their lifestyle, or young children.

So I thought of borrowing some kerosene from someone decent, and making a "panja" firebrand (the kind that people in lynch mobs have in Bollywood).
One of the "friendly neighbourhood annoying boys" coerces a "master-ji" to help and douses my firebrand thing with kerosene, it's just jute burlap wrapped on a stick. I think I'm all set for the final 3 KM back home... Downhill on a "che-footi" (six foot) mule path, but doable. How wrong I was.....

I set off with a jaunty stride (I knew it would be murder on the knees soon, but wanted to get home STAT), the flame flared brightly in the rush of wind and I thought I could blitz through the forest path in 20 minutes flat.

Two hundred meters downhill the kerosene runs out and the torch does a "frap-fra-frap" kinda noise, i rub it in the ground to rid it of the carbon, but there is no kerosene soaked deep, and all I have is a bit of burning sack....on a stick. Damn that annoying kid and his stinginess with masterji's kerosene!!!

Now I am in a real hole! Going back uphill is out of the question, besides it's still pouring like mad and  the path is rocky and full of loose stones. Not navigable in the dark. By this time, it was past 9 PM, it had been almost 12 hours since I set out, and my body was shaking due to exertion, knees revolting and thighs cramping up. Pain was the default state now, I remembered no other state of being.

I just sat there in the rain for a few minutes, letting myself relax and enjoy the rain, neutrally. Then a bulb went off in my head  - more like a blazing arc light -


100 of them - pity I had to "combust" them, but there you go, between spending a soaked soggy painful night in the forest and burning paper - the choice was obvious.

The method : Light an envelope, in the flickering light, get my bearings and dash down 30- 40- 50 meters whatever possible. Light next envelope from previous one, matches were tricky in the rain with wet hands. Rinse, repeat.....

Some parts of the forest path were so familiar, that it was possible to creep along blindly.  I fell often, but my legs were so weak, they buckled as soon as I tripped - so I generally just ended up on my butt.
There I took rest - all this downhill sprinting and falling and stumbling, was making me wanna curl up and die... in a painful soggy grave of soggy leaves. But this was home ground, and the very trees were so much friendlier... They knew I'd make it, and seemed to tell me so.

After much stumbling and dashing and burning and sooty wet hands, the familiar roar of the river came as music to my ears.It was as if I had crossed level 99 of Super Mario or something. But there was the final catch....(two actually)

When I reached the bridge, THERE WAS NO DECKING!!! Yeah that's right, one girder on the left, and a railing, and one on the right, in between, 8 feet of deathly emptiness punctuated by a feeble steel flat.

At least the cables were there!!!

After this far, I didn't even stop, I started doing the side shimmy, alternately grabbing the rail in a death grip with each hand, Wet steel girders, wobbling away to glory, the cables themselves swaying, and the water seething below, malevolently inviting you into eternal embrace. Even in the darkest nights you can still see the froth and the flow and you dare not stare at the moving water, you get the illusion that you are moving backwards at tremendous speeds. Not good while doing a circus act without safety nets.... Not good at all...

I think the sweat that was pouring from my brow rivaled the rain falling on me! And I crept on, white knuckled....

At almost the middle, it took on a new level - there was no railing or girder either, only the cable for 10 feet or so - They had extricated the twisted damaged part of the deck frame and there was nothing except a gap...  void, nothingness, shoonya, vacuum - MUHAHAHAHAHA 
What now? No option but forwards!!

At that moment, When i finally let go the railing and grabbed the cable, something snapped in me, I stopped shaking, My tendons felt like steel and the weight on  my back felt like it wasn't there. My body had probably exhausted it's supply of adrenaline, so fear itself shutdown. I actually grinned at this point and clambered the cables, crawled along them like a reptile across the "INSTANT DEATH" zone. I did the second half of the bridge in record time,  as if it were a six lane Highway.

Soon as I was on terra firma, I was at the point of collapse, but just another 30 meters to home... Slowly trudged up the slope, went inside, changed, drank some sweet concoction . It was almost 11 PM
I had no energy to even speak in more than monosyllables and I slept for 16 hours straight...

All in all I walked about 27 kilometers in all, not a big distance on a regular day without luggage, but this was ... Well, with the weight in the rain and the darkness and all ... It was physically and mentally, the hardest thing I ever did.

So that, boys and girls, is how I made friends with the grim reaper.... and all he reaped was my fear of him....

Disclaimer : All events described above are highly accurate. Any deviation from truth is totally absent...

More is better

After millions of years of evolution of the brain, the world we perceive is much different subjectively, from the time when we lived in the savannah.

We now live in a world of concepts and makeshift semantics given to insignificant things. The cerebrum has found more complicated motivations and self-rewards for abstract connotations. We feel happy or sad because of some sounds uttered, simply because we choose its meaning. We go even further and make ourselves happy or sad based on our assessment of what people think, rather than say.

We go into the meta-questions and the meta-meta and so on. The brain thrives on building a meaning, a mirage...

But this is a cynical viewpoint. After all whether we like it or not, ones subjective reality is all that one can depend on, so whatever meaning we manufacture, it does exist. So make meaning a-plenty!!!

All this complexity leads to complex states in the brain - boredom, angst, love etc. etc.
Have you ever seen a bored cow? There is no such animal! The much touted "simple life" is pastoral - literally - in other words live like a cow.

But the fact is having more diverse states in the brain leads to a richer experience. More is better. If you want to simplify, then go ahead and slip into a coma! That's the perfect simplicity....

A friend of mine was sayin' the other day after listening to a speech by the Dalai Lama, about how duality is misrepresented.
For e.g. happiness and sadness are not opposites. Unlike physical attributes say heat and cold which are dual, emotions are not dual. You can have any combination of sadness and happiness, the intensity only limited by the refinement of your being. By which I mean, having a brain that needs the subtlest stimulus to feel intensely. Kind of like Brandon Fraser's first avatar in "Bedazzled" as the super-sensitive guy - who sings an ode to the dolphin: 
Swimming by the sandy shore, dancing up among the waves, dolphin, dolphin I adore everything you are. You're so much more than a fish to me, my playful friend beneath the sea. Eee ee eee ee ee ee ee e eee

Teeth on edge

There's a sensation, the kind you have when the lift begins it's downward journey, a curious feeling in the pit of the stomach. Sometimes it happens when I program, as some nifty piece of code falls into place as if I were a wizard and the code was my spell. Sometimes as I bank heavily or brake hard, down-shifting, while riding my motorbike.

Sometimes, this feeling comes for another deeper reason, it goes on forever, does not quite die down... It's like you have an itch that you can't scratch, A sense of urgency, but the necessity to wait. As if the person you were waiting to meet desperately got delayed by an hour. Like some other experiences in life that are not mentionable.
An electric buzz all over - sitting, standing or walking makes no difference. The impossibility of calming down. Banging the head on the wall doesn't work (trust me). Banging someone elses head, I've yet to attempt.

No use fighting it....

And though you fight to stay sane, your mind starts to quiver, for no living mortal can resist the lure of  the... Michael Jackson's Thriller (amended)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Master Lock

"No, I'm not hurt!.... I..."  - animated chatter from the other end of the phone.

"I didn't see anyone, but the lock was broken, I was aslee..." he interjected, to be cut off again.

"No, the paintings are safe, nothing was taken..." - more high pitched sounds from the receiver.

"Of course I'm sure! It's my apartment isn't it!!" - He banged down the receiver with disgust to have it ring again. The conversation continued along similar lines...

The building super, Mr. Wells, was looking at him with an amused expression on his face...

The short policeman cleared his throat and began - "Now then, let's go over this 'ere statement again! You said the main doors to the building were locked in the morning?"

"Yes.. it's electronic, you need the pass code to enter."

"So this 'ere burglar..."

Wells cut him off - "We don't know that he is a burglar, nothing was taken."

"Of course he was a burglar! Breaking and entering Mr Wells! Even if he didn't enter!! Now don't you be a-debating with a proper lawman like me. Plenty of 'em years I got, under this 'ere belt."

"And a lot more than that too, under that 'there' belt" - Wells thought...

"So bloke breaks the lock - and scoots off without taking anything... Here's what I say, he must have thought he had been heard, and took off!"

"I suppose so..." said Wells a bit wearily.

"Anyway, he knew the code, stands to reason it's an inside job!" - glaring suspiciously at Wells - "I'm off to the station now, I'll be seein' you again for inquiries!"
With an air of importance, the constable left.

Mr Marks was done with the interrogation over telephone. He came over to the hallway and said to Wells - "You think the thief will strike again?"

Wells was staring at the lock and seemed to ignore him.
"I see here you have the MisterLock 2000 bolt here" he said, rubbing his chin - "It's as easy as ABC to pick. I used to be a locksmith once" - he grinned.

"Tell you what, I'll send one of my old friends to fix this before nightfall, I'd advise you to listen to his recommendations - It may cost you pretty penny, but the thief will be thwarted if he returns. I'm off now."

Marks nodded - "Anything you say - Mr. Wells! See you around."

As Wells climbed down the stairs, he thought of his friend Bob and their days working together as locksmiths - Bob had never left the business, but he wasn't doing so well these days.

Inspector Moore was tired. He threw down the files on his desk with a slap.

The case was going nowhere...

Inspector Saunders strolled towards him - "Hi, old man! Looks like the cat dragged you in!"

"This case has got me beat... There's been a series of break-ins at the Holly-Oak apartment building, nothing ever stolen by the thief. No suspicious folks seen by any one around. Seven break-ins over the past three months"

Saunders frowned - "Means of break-in?"

"Very clean and professional, no damage or noise at all. Besides, the main doors are locked after six in the evening and residents can enter only after they enter a code into the door. All electronic thingamajigs, not possible to tamper with. Has to be an inside job."

"Did you run prints?"

"Of course, but we found no prints on any of the doors except those of the residents'."

"Well, if nothing was stolen, then it really doesn't matter - eh? Looks like the thief isn't really interested in stealing anything."

"I'm sick of it anyway, I'm leaving now! Case closed!" - He picked up the bunch of files and dumped them with relief into the bottom drawer of his desk.

Wells was whistling, as he pinned a notice in the lobby :

In view of the recent break-ins, the apartment council has decided that all residents shall replace their door locks by the fifteenth of the December. Please contact Mr Robert Smith of the W&S Lock works who is the approved contractor for this job, to schedule a time for replacement. Payments will be handled by the building super, Mr. Wells.

Wells figured in his head - 60 apartments at 100 pounds a piece - Wells chuckled. There wouldn't be any more break-ins needed.
A really nice Christmas present for Bob.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Story #2 : Adding insult to injury

"Major Banks! It is merely out of courtesy that you are allowed to be in this room now.. Please abstain from abusing that privilege with your inane remarks!" - General Cassidy spoke tonelessly and softly, but Banks was reduced to a quivering mass at these words.

"Oh! ignore the young whippersnapper, Bill... Let's look at how we can get out of this dire situation" - General Walters, in a blustery voice through his thick mustache.

"It is dire, Sir! Four of our men were taken out as they attempted to cross over to the enemies side. They were all sacrificed, and for what? We're still surrounded and we have not an inch of leeway to move in any direction" - Colonel Carruthers looked more like a pharmacist than a military man, Balding and slim, with wire-rimmed glasses and a toothbrush mustache. He had a perpetual expression of worry on his face.

Cassidy, almost mournfully - "I see no hope at all. We have only one option."

The three of them looked at each other, and then across the table at Captain Sergeyev, who remained inscrutable. 

He had built up an immense reputation over the years, so much so, that much higher ranking officers looked up to him as a keen strategist. Perhaps it was about his Russian roots and accent.

"Gentlemen! You have decided? Surrender is the only option, you feel?" - Sergeyev, very gravely.

Carruthers leaned over and whispered into General Cassidy's ear. The generals expression turned into one of visible pain. Walters was massaging his forehead, he seemed to have developed a headache.

"Yes, Nicolai... " - It seemed like Carruthers perpetual worry was justified.

"So, gentlemen! That's the third game that you have resigned! That will be three hundred dollars!" - Nicolai, with a wide grin.

They paid up in silence and continued to stare at the board.
Nicolai started towards the door, and suddenly stopped,  and turned back, still grinning. He approached the table, and picked up a knight from the generals side and placed it down again.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Material guy

This week was about material stuff, sometimes it brings more joy than people, especially when it's about building something.

Something exciting about buying hardware - with the plan to do something nice with it. There's no feeling like that of going to a hardware store with a list, and getting exactly what you need! This time it was bunches of stainless steel bolts and nuts in myriad sizes to replace every fastener I can on my bike.
Goodbye rust! Goodbye seized bolts! Goodbye ugliness!

Then three days ago, I looked at an old silencer lying around and I was tempted... I cut it apart and patched it back together with odds and ends from the junk I have at home. In the end the result looks pretty cool and that's amplified a hundred times because it's made by my very own hands, the hard way. Gonna sound sweet and perform even sweeter.I like that whole old school way of working... call it hacking... If it's good enough for Burt Munro, it's good enough for me.

For some reason, to me, simple stuff like bits of metal or wood are so much more valuable than stuff like gadgets, gold, precious stones or whatever. Especially wood! How undervalued a material it is, and lots of folks take it for granted, as if it were made on an assembly line!

They say "Only God can make a tree", but hypothetically, even God can't make a 2 foot wide naturally grown oak in less than a century. The piece of wood that shows up on this blogs title, is a very rare piece of Himalayan yew. Very few living souls have even seen a tree that's thicker than 6 inches - this piece is part of a 14 inch thick tree that washed down the river in a flood. Money can't buy this stuff!

So to all the folks who disrespect wood and waste it, GTFO this planet!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Short story #1

"I'm at my wits end here! I'm at the point where giving up on him seems like the easiest option..." said Sarah.

"No!" exclaimed Molly with her characteristic squeal... "Don't say that!! After all you've told me about him, all those fancy moves he knows, how could the situation be so awful?? Besides, you're forgetting that I haven't met him yet!!"

"Well, you are right..." agreed Sarah. "You know, 'perfect' was an adjective I've used to describe him often, but...".

"You mean like physically?" Molly interjected, with a giggle.

"There is that... " said Sarah thoughtfully, "those strong ankles of his... that broad back... the heights he takes me to...". She seemed to drift off, dreamy-eyed, and suddenly snapped back "Never mind that! That's not the point!".

Molly was grinning...

Sarah went on - "Anyway perfect or not,  he just won't make that final leap that I want him to! I've cajoled, bribed, scolded, even thrown a tantrum, but he just won't budge after a point. Stubborn as a mule! I've always known that he's taken after his mother. It would mean so much for my career and future, and he knows that for sure, but he won't do it!!".
Molly, impatiently - "OK, All right, I've heard all this from you all day, let's go meet him already. I've never ever met a stud like him, if what you've told me about him is true!! You know, those big soulful eyes,  how effortlessly he carries you, strong yet gentle..."

Now it was Molly getting all starry eyed. Sarah made a face at her - "Let's go!".

They walked across the grassy meadow, towards him. He was standing by a tree, quietly, as if lost in thought. At the sight of the two girls, he started a bit nervously and ambled towards them, with his brisk powerful gait.

"Well my mind is made up! It won't be him." said Sarah as he came up and stood beside them, "There's no way he's making first place this time, at the annual county equestrian show! He won't jump that final hurdle, and I can't make him. That's that!".

"Oh well there's always next year!" said Molly brightly, fishing out a large turnip from her bag, which he rapidly disposed off with his powerful bite.

"I suppose so..." conceded Sarah.

Who's right?

So person X, Y, Z and W have all given me mutually exclusive explanations for things. In their own way, each is quite acquainted with the problem domain in question. But the common factor is that none of them have anything to show for their apparent expertise - Never trust a poor fortune teller (or financial guru whose portfolio is different from what he suggests to you).

In the end seems like I have to simply pick one viewpoint and stick to it. So I'm picking mine, it's a nice one! If my nice little viewpoint is erroneous then the world sucks, and I shall initiate premature shutdown... so there!!!

Speaking of shutdown, I was reminded of a story by Hofstadter where a chappie discovers a theory that when processed by the brain, sets it into an infinite loop... Now if that could be induced by verbal communication, it would be a cool "evil-overlord" power to have.

In fact seems like the existing evil overlords do have some such power, enabling them to introduce powerful memes into the brains of hoi polloi.

Nuff said...

Of flutes and gear shifts

I have four flutes now, all different kinds :

  • Bansuri - traditional primitive bamboo flute that you blow through, seven finger holes.

  • Carnatic flute #1 - You blow sideways into it, it has seven finger holes.

  • German flute - A wooden one, blow straight, seven finger holes and one for the thumb.

  • Carnatic flute #2 - Sideways blown, six finger holes.

There are a few bikes I've ridden/ride with different gear shift and brake configurations:

  • My boisterous black beast - Right shift, First gear up, rest down.

  • My brothers - Left Shift, First down, rest up.

  • Jawa - Left shift, First up, rest down, clutch-less shifting.

The point is in both these cases, after a while the fingers and the feet start to "think" on their own and it doesn't matter which one I'm riding or playing, I can get comfy after a few KM / notes.

It wasn't easy in the beginning - For many months, I struggled to go from the Bansuri to the german flute, So too, for  many KM initially when I rode to Ladhak, on a bike with a different shift pattern from mine. Took many botched shifts and badly played tunes, before adapting to adaptation.

Now finally, I managed in the last few weeks, to adapt to one of the sideways flutes, and suddenly both are equally easy to play! Learn one, and get another learning free! Even though the same tune requires totally different finger movements to play on each one.

So it's all about delegating to the sub-conscious, as I feel I often do when solving programming stuff. Not always possible, but there are times, when I have solved things without a conscious process - I just knew the answer somehow.

Eventually, to be able to relegate most actions to the subconscious is my goal, whether it be martial arts, biking, "fluting" or even human interaction (thats the holy grail for me, I think some people have this gift).

Meanwhile, more confirmation today that my gut-feelings are accurate. Just need to point my gut in the right direction now, to find out what's what.Ha!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shakespeare reloaded etc.

The exercisers eternal question...

To do, or not to do – that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The stings and harrows of outrageous exertion,
Or to take arms against a sea of good intentions
And, by opposing, end them. To laze, to doze
No more!

Seriously, commitment isn't a joke. It's easy enough to commit to the simplest things in life - Bein' punctual, making that appointment, waking up with intent (where you wake up happily) and so on, but if you have trouble with that, don't write it off as "Oh! that's the way I am". It points to a dystrophy of the essential muscle called will.

Unless you can commit to the small things, you won't be able to hang on to your dreams - and trust me - Dreams take a long long time to come true. Don't expect to do pistol squats when Indian squats are hard! If you claim that the big dreams are more important, and to hell with the trivial, I question your humanity - Excellence at certain things is not an excuse for lack of fundamental good attributes.

Conversely, if you can deal with these simple things easily, it's not quite enough... you need to increase the load on your will, just like you do on your muscles. Give it bigger challenges, for bigger gains.

Eventually though, it boils down to whether you are content with yourself, and refuse to want to grow - It's a mixture of the pathetic sloth and lowering of self standards. And don't gimme any of that "I am content with myself!" crap. Animals are content, even to die on the chopping block.

Not wanting to know - That is the last frontier - The Last Frontier, Alistair MacLean


Saturday, November 20, 2010


Everything I done, written, said or thought may be totally wrong!!

Just sayin...


  • 2 minutes 48 seconds into a 3 minute plank.
  • The last 20 meters of a 10 km run.
  • The 34th push up.

You know the feeling - when it's almost done but not quite and the will aches more than the body.I'm no stranger to dealing with it! But there's another feeling, like when there's a stone in your shoe... You know it's simplest to take off the shoe, but sometimes the shoe is on another (persons) foot - mixing metaphors here - make of it what you can.

Sometimes things seem crystal clear and obvious, but only to me... And yet will be seen as trivial if described, until others discover them on their own. It's true - Everything is trivial in hindsight, and I carry that air of "This is trivial" into foresight too. A dangerous way to think perhaps, but hey, don't knock it till you've tried it. But some trivial things still seem hard in any "sight".

Complexity is my fetish, In my own way I believe I have simplified the way I am, but as if to compensate, I seek out complicated thoughts and situations. Life on Earth has a lot of artificial complexity, I want to discard the preconceived complexities and install my own. Whatever mess there is, it's my own mess inside my own head.

I realized I've always had Plan B (and C thru Z sometimes)! Consciously not often, but Plan A and B go parallely somehow and when A drops out, it's as if B were the main plan anyway. Gives the illusion that everything is going according to plan!

Meanwhile, we all know that faith can be the most strongest motivator, but also (obviously) - that it's the strength of faith, and not quite the "faithed" object, that makes things seem to happen. I'm "faithin'" away like nuts, but is the happening "thered" yet? (Verbing cools language...)

What's this thing about vision? I saw an ad on a hoarding (for eye donations):
  • I can hear what you hear..
  • I can feel what you feel...
  • I can taste what you taste....
  • I can smell what you smell.....
  • But I can't see what you see!

Funny innit? Vision needs a very finely oriented context in space, and not so easy to get anothers "viewpoint" so easily. That's why viewpoints are called that, very few share them!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Syaad Vaada and stuff

Here is a curious philosophy of the Jain philosophers which actually seems a bit Godelian...

They call it Syaad-Vaada ( "Perhaps - Exposition" literally )

The sevenfold predication goes as follows :

All affirmations are -

  • true in some sense

  • false in some sense

  • meaningless in some sense

  • true and false in some sense

  • true and meaningless in some sense

  • false and meaningless in some sense

  • true and false and meaningless in some sense

Interesting that someone from millennia ago thought of this. But this all possible combos of truth, false and meaningfulness is a bit tricky. Let's take an example statement and see if we can come up with senses for all the combinations

Lets say ..uh.. "India is a great country"

  • Definitely true in some sense - say culturally, but ignoring everything else

  • Definitely false in the sense of - quality of life, but ignoring everything else

  • Meaningless - perhaps after 100 years when the nation-state is an obsolete concept

  • True and false - nothing new here, everyone believes this

The other three viewpoints can be generated by choosing different meanings of "great" like "Ideal place to hunt vampires", or "The next hotbed of vice" or "Places where the speed limit is < 100 mph".

So there you have it... Truth and falsehood are very hazy terms bound by time and space.

There is a peculiar phenomenon in formal logic where if a statement and its negation are both proved true, then any statement is true within that system - thusly :

  • This chair is brown

  • This chair is not brown

  • Therefore, the moon is made of green cheese

Similar things happen if an irresistible force meets an immovable object or you connect the input and output of a perfect NOT gate!

What about when an irresistible object meets an immovable force? Uh... Well I'm trying to deal with that, I shall post the results soon...


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The spirit in the machine

I was talking to someone the other day - a right-brained individual - and she didn't quite accept my idea that inanimate objects like tools or machines are alive in a sense. "They're man-made!" she claimed...

When you use them long enough though, you realize that eventually they form an extension of your body and senses... and are as alive as a limb of yours.

Which motorbike rider does not "feel" the loss of traction when you overcook it on a bend? Which sawyer does not flinch when the saw teeth hit a nail embedded in a log? (and it's exactly the same jarring feeling that you get when you crunch down on a stone with your teeth). Valentino Rossi talks to his bike before a race... perhaps that's why his Yamaha overhauls Hondas which are much more powerful. Wacky, but true. Let he who can out-race Rossi question this!

Musicians should be in touch with this feeling often, as their instruments become directly wired to their mind as it were with the fingers just an intermediary.

Dawkins explains in "The extended phenotype" that the distinction of what a living organisms body is, is quite vague and blurred, shows examples of creatures whose body and environment are overlapped.

The feeling of embodied-ness because of direct physical connection by tissue is just one of the channels of sense. The other senses too do connect us to the world at different ranges and intensities. Is a network any less of a network because it's wireless? Mirror neurons produce in our brain the states of the those things we see in the world. An especially empathetic person will flinch even when shown cartoonish violence.

How far can this go?

If you attune your senses with practice, eventually you can no longer be hit by someone than you can punch your own face. I believe the most expert of martial artistes build this level of awareness - as if they are connected to the world they perceive.

V S Ramachandran describes a body-awareness experiment where a persons nose can be made to seem elongated a la Pinnocchio, and another where a person reacts neurologically as if s/he were actually struck by a hammer when it was just a table that was struck.

Perhaps an ultimate extension of this is what the Buddhist meant when he said to the hot-dog vendor : "Make me one with everything!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I've usually written for others to read, but this one is going to be obscure and vague.

So it's paid off this eve, and what they said was wasn't true - It ain't rocket science! How on earth could I have ever thought it was?

I ought to start realizin' that things are as easy as pie for me when I actually try it. All that scaremongering is for the breakfast flock. They can't fly high or dive deep into anything, so they believe everything's non-trivial.... Almost had me convinced of it! Oh the humanity!

Anyway now that I know I am master of all I attempt, I'll attempt masterfully - Gonna get do'n all that gotta get done. Long list, but ticking off like crazy.

I'm going to remind me of those times (and how many there are) when I said "I told you so" metaphorically to the world. I'm like Ric Flair when it comes to the battle against life and if I can't win by submission, a thumb in the eye will do nicely. Woooooo!

So by the power of grayskull ( or any other skull ) I DO have the power.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So here I am

Many a time I intended to blog, but never did it consistently - Shame, because I've a lot to say and what I've said is scattered all over in obscure unseen corners of the web.

In some ways my user name reflects who I am - "rep movsd" is a mnemonic representing an instruction that tells a microprocessor to shift a chunk of data from one place in memory to another. So that's kind of what I do, I (try to) shift information and knowledge and ideas across myself and people...

Now on to rambling and mumbling...

It's something strange that this year seemed to fly away really really fast. The past three months have been excruciatingly drawn out (I know why) , but the time before that seems to have flown. Time's a tricky thing, especially psychological time.

Convention! My pet peeve!

Yesterday, me and my bro were talking about some stuff related to vehicle top speeds and over the course of the discussion we realized that certain oft-repeated theories are actually totally wrong. It's just that they've been repeated so often by certain individuals of good standing that they have turned into gospel and no one questions them. For goodness sake though, it's not rocket science - Just simple physics. Question, I say! Question!

Debate and discussion is something I do a lot...
"The point is - " said Powell, with the patience of one explaining electronics to an idiot child... - Catch that Rabbit, Asimov

Often one needs to have "Powellian" patience to debate, but despite that some folks will debate like a toddler playing chess - At some point they ignore the rules and demand to be able to move the pieces any which way they want!
Give me a big enough syllogism, and I will prove the Earth! - Archimedes(remixed)

So it's a losing battle and I'm thinking maybe it's easier to debate on Facebook notes, where people will be articulate before they post, and the host of people reading that will pounce on any illogical viewpoint like a

Mumbling on...

Haven't worked out in a while - Since classes started, my "Convict conditioning" workouts have become quite infrequent, and there's been a lot of roamin' around, messing with the bike and stuff. Got to get back on the horse ASAP!

Anything that don't kill me makes me stronger - ergo something that makes me stronger makes me not die?

Affirming the consequent - ERROR!

More later...