I read this very interesting article in the New Scientist today. Netflix announced a 1 million USD award to a team of scientists and mathematicians to improve an algorithm to recommend movies to users based on their past preferences. What' more, the algorithm must improve the firm's algorithm by 10%. The team worked with 100 million ratings of 20000 movies given by half a million viewers - now, that's a huge dataset.
And the competition was on since 2006 and it was finally awarded last week!! Such things fascinate me... I wish I had known about this competition:)
September 25, 2009
What ails our country? Why do we eulogise the Gandhis so much? When will we get out of this mindset? If Rahul Gandhi travels by Shatabdi its news, if he stays at a Dalit woman's home in a remote village in UP, its headlines!! Surely everybody knows these to be stunts..., then why do we still glorify these acts?? Isn't it it shameful?
60+ years of Independent India and we are still so dependent on the Gandhis... Its almost as if we would collapse if that family decides to leave India. What's more appalling is that intelligent literate people are also getting taken by these publicity gestures... A politician today is therefore measured by these publicity stunts he is able to pull off, rather than any meaningful contribution to developing India.
I remember I was a kid of ~12 years when I used to see Indira Gandhi wear traditional clothes of the State she would visit and dance with the locals on TV. Everybody loved her, it didn't cut any ice with me then, I saw it as a gimmick. But I didn't expect her grandson to do the same thing 3 decades later... this family is taking our country for a ride. And what's with the media? Will they never grow up? To be fair to Rahul Gandhi, he probably stayed over at this Dalit woman's house as part of his UP tour to understand the problems of the common man but surely the media need not hound him and report his every move in the papers everyday! For God's sake, he is just a MP
September 23, 2009
Some weeks ago, there was a good article in the Times by Gurcharan Das. He had brought out the dilemma that most liberal Hindus face in India. I for one completely related with what he wrote. For the benefit of those who didn't read this column, I encourage you all to read the full column here. Secularism is such a maligned word that nobody wants to be on the wrong side of secularism. But aren't we missing out on being honest with our feelings and actually lead very hypocritic lives? Like Gurcharan Das says in his article, I am completely fine with people following the religion they were born into, and likewise I be given the freedom to choose to live like a Hindu. Things have gone to such an extreme today that sporting a tilak means you are branded as a fanatic or a saffron or a rabid Hindu. If Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Lokmanya Tilak were alive today and entered parliament, they would be called communal:-). Do you see what I mean??
Also, its important in our country for people to read the Mahabharatha / Ramayana instead of only being exposed to Western thinking and philosophy. I really enjoyed the part when he says his desire to read the Mahabharatha was a subject of ridicule at a party - such is today's society.
Apparently, his latest book, "The Difficulty of Being Good: on the Subtle Art of Dharma" is written after his academic holiday in Chicago spent pouring into the Mahabharatha. I will definitely like to read this book. Meanwhile he was interviewed when he was here by The Hindu and you can catch the interview here.
I am glad to see such people stand up and speak and put us liberal Hindus at ease:-)
September 22, 2009
Firstly, I am not an Art connoisseur by any stretch of imagination... I can barely appreciate Art that is not Abstract /Modern, though:-). Very surprisingly therefore, with time, we have picked up some lovely paintings for our home. Secondly, I don't enjoy wearing jewellery!! I must be quite in a minority and my husband is very lucky, I must say. However, I love to see the Lord in all grandeur with the finest jewellery that is done through an Art form called Tanjore painting.
I recently got one done of our favourite God and its so beautiful and lovely!! Jewels and gold truly befit the Divine. I really 'wonder' at my interest and love to see the Lord bedecked in the finest jewellery and costume, as I really don't fancy jewellery on humans!
September 19, 2009
I have always been exposed to environmental activism as part of my job and I have heard their arguments in meetings and through their articles/posts on the net. And still I was appalled and shocked at their levels of understanding of the very cause they appear to be championing last week when I met one such!! I wonder what spurs them on!! I mean, I really appreciate the genuiness in some and the audacity and ignorance in most. But wouldn't one think that its important to study the subject thoroughly before championing the cause?? But time and again, these activists never make much headway because of the lack of substantiation.
But I must acknowledge that activism does play a positive role in many fields and has brought about some semblance of accountability. But most environmental activists worth the name has still to achieve the kind of credibility that would make policy makers /scientists sit up and take stock of what is being said/ written. My Professor put it very nicely, "the day these so-called ecologists shift from a 'don't do ecology' to a 'do ecology' mindset, that's when they will have succeeded in their job". So true, if you really notice, all they talk about is what not to do, they offer no solutions to the problems and what can be done..
So, why don't they just get their act together?? And what motivates them?? Anybody cares to answer /comment??
September 10, 2009
Well, I know what you guys are thinking, "You too Brutus?" But, hang on, its sometimes nice to do things we usually don't. Let me explain. I just happened to get a call from a Dutch national in Chennai who wanted to celebrate 09/09/09 with a meditation, dedicating to Mother Earth by the beach, with a bonfire:). She arranged for a small portion of the beach to be cleaned up, collected wood, called up her friends and arranged for dinner, post meditation. So, there we were, a few of us, at the appointed time, 9 mins past 9 pm and we did a nice meditation called Aura meditation (mail me for more details) for about 20 minutes, with the sound of waves for company and a nice warm bonfire (not to mention some incense sticks that were thoughtfully lit). And just as we finished and opened our eyes, we had a breathtaking view of the moon rising from the sea!! Needless to say, we were all overjoyed and stayed back for some more time enjoying the lovely breeze and the moon, for company:). Made me realise I could do this more often with my friends:)
September 9, 2009
So much is being said /written in the media about Climate Change, I am sure we all have read atleast a dozen viewpoints. Climate change and its implications fascinates me and I work on this subject and so its a topic that I read about almost everyday. Yet, a recent article by Prof. Mike Hulme of Norwich, UK, gave me fresh insights to the whole gamut of Climate Change. He very nicely begins his article "Climate change is everywhere. Not only is the physical climate changing, but the idea of climate change is now active across the full range of human endeavours". You can read his full article here - highly recommend that you all read it!
Its really amazing how we, from scientists to laypersons blame everything to Climate Change. Its become the most convenient punching bag and gives us an escape route to explain phenomena that we don't understand:-). Climate changes have been happening right through civilizations but as the article says, what is important is to see how we can get creative in our ways to survive these changes.. Now, as you all know, climate change has far reaching implications - from the way we grow our food, our lifestyle, to other living beings on this planet.
Climate change being a reality, requires some of us to introspect, and study human civilizations of the past, use our creativity to come out with out-of-the-box ideas, rather than the usual run-of-the-mill suggestions. I am going to attempt this seriously!
September 7, 2009
The other day we were a motley group of people discussing on how everything is based on perception... "Its all about perception, end of day", declared one.. and he went on to share a joke that had all of us in splits.. here it goes.
There were four men and a woman bragging about how great their child was... how well respected they were in society. The first said, "my son is good, whenever he steps out of home, others address him as Hello father" - he is a priest in the local church. The second man says, "my son is better than that, when he steps out, people address him as Your Excellency or Your Grace" - he is a Bishop. The third said his son was better than the previous two, "when my son steps out, people address him as Your Eminence" - he is a Cardinal. The fourth man thought he had the last laugh and he said his son was obviously the best, "when he steps out, people address him as His Holiness" - he is the Pope. So, all four then turned their attention to the quiet lady with them and asked her if she had nothing to be proud about her children. She said, "well, I have a daughter who is 32-26-32 and when she steps out of home, people say Oh My God".
Howzzat! Isn't it very true that its all about perception indeed!
September 6, 2009
Lately, I have been doing some reading and synthesis in my mind.. We all have heard of the Mayan calendar mysteriously ending on 12/12/2012!! If you google these words, you'll hit all kinds of websites - from wiki to blogpages... So, go on and do some esoteric reading!! One site actually reiterates that the mayan calendar doesn't predict the end of the world but rather, signals the beginning of a new order..
Another story that's going around which is very interesting is the tilt our earth axis has, and apparently its currently very unstable and is likely to topple over! The result will be cataclysmic for sure, and what the scenario will be is anybody's guess. Lot of science fiction books and movies are currently underway on this topic. But what was a little spooky was some of the webpages project this to happen in 2012... Now, things are getting a little interesting, isn't it? Apparently, Nostradamus also refers to this year (2012) being catastrophic, oh yes! Nostradamus so very conveniently wrote in a vague manner that we can attribute every event to Nostradamus prophecy - well after the event occurred:-)
Science fiction is very interesting indeed to many of us - some say, the north will become the southpole and vice versa:-). Wow!! So, what happens to the land mass?? Will it follow the same route?? So, will Southern India become Northern India and so will the other countries and continents?? (On the flip side, what happens to our Vaasthu experts;-)).
Another theory says, the earth will start spinning in the opposite direction - clockwise direction!! So, will the Sun rise in the West after all?? Hahaha
Another theory says the toppling of the earth axis will have huge natural disasters like massive earthquakes and major tectonic plate shifts in the Earth and the current oil fields will get relocated to what we call South East Asia of today - apparently, Nostradamus has indicated some such thing too!! Ambani brothers, are you listening?
Wonder what Malthusians will say? "We told you so" :-)
September 3, 2009
An interesting Editorial in the New Scientist last month caught my eye!! The headline was "Time for an ethical weight loss pill". Oh yes, I sure could do with some help and that's the reason I read the article in full:-). Apparently we all have two kinds of fat -brown and white and if we can somehow trick the body and increase the brown fat vis a vis the white, we will become thin!! Sounds great? Read the full article here.
A second article in the latest issue of New Scientist talks of a gastric bypass surgery:-). Yeah, they actually staple the stomach and leave just the size of a walnut, for the food... Apparently, its more successful than we think and many are claiming amazing results from this procedure. While you can read about the article here, I will advise readers to use their discretion before going ahead with such procedures. Maybe, In India, we haven't mastered the art well, as I remember a disaster story of a guy who opted for such a surgery in Tamil Nadu and he died in less than four weeks post surgery.
Nonetheless, it is very interesting and amazing to note that man (woman) is quite desperate - will even go to the extent of tinkering wth his life surgically, but not take the safer course to weightloss through a combination of diet and exercise and discipline....
September 2, 2009
I would like to share with you all something very nice I heard from a friend - a couple of years ago!!
He asked a few of us "What are we paying for when we buy a glass - is it the glass or is it the empty space that the glass can hold"? This set us thinking... Indeed, what profound a question, isn't it? Then he explained that space is precious and priceless... He said, similarly, the more hollow and empty we were, the more priceless we are:-), in the sense, the lesser the thoughts and worries and doubts and conflicts we have in our mind, we become valuable. He then gave a brilliant example that struck me as so true.. He said, look at children who are three or less than three years of age. Don't you feel the divinity when you look at their eyes? When we nodded in affirmation, he explained that it was because their mind was empty (they were truly hollow and empty - like the meditations we do in the Art of Living)!! Brilliant isn't it?