Monday, March 31, 2008

Geekiest pickup line ...

... EVAR!! [must remember this one :) ]

P.S. Are you as amazed/awed/shocked by the video of this uncollapsable robot as I am?

Reminds me of the Hunter in HL2.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The fox in the field

Just saw this [via CNET]

View Larger Map

Basically, it was the resolution of Bug 347226.

Also, happy birthday N!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The extra "I" -- Really?

I woke this morning to info coming from various sources on the Indian Govt's new plans for improving university education in India.

1. Official GoI press release.
2. Business Standard, Rediff, and ToI links.

[Thanks to Yogesh, Rajat, and others from the ITBHU Alumni team for the links]

The part I am most interested in is [from the Official press release]
In addition, it is also proposed to convert the Institute of Technology of the Banaras Hindu University into an IIT. Admission to this Institute is already based on the IIT – Joint Entrance Examination.

Of course, there is the more important news of the setup of 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 14 "world class" universities, and 16 central univs, but after so many years of wondering why ITBHU has not become an IIT yet despite recommendations from so many committees [and being told that the reason is political, not merit based], this news has come as a welcome pleasant surprise.

However, it is also worth noting that this is election season, and promises are the dish du jour. I will hold my horses now, and wait for more concrete confirmation.

For more, I refer you to Abi's post on this.

[fingers crossed]

update: Keep watching the following link for up to date news on the ITBHU to IIT conversion.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Desi Jaguar, and Clean Water

Two interesting news items:
First, the Jaguar brand, which was British, and then American, is now owned by Tata Motors!! yay for desi entrepreneurs! [thought it will be interesting how the Tatas get this to make a profit.]
BTW, did you know that the real Jaguar kill its prey not by attacking the neck, but biting through the skull!! More on them here.

In other, and much more interesting news -- there is a new update in the effort to get fresh water. I saw this guy in the Colbert Report the other day, claiming to be able to filter any kind of water, but was not completely sure of the efficiency of the machine. And then I read this analysis on Wired today.
From the article:
-Vapor Compression Distillation is not new, doing it in such an incredibly efficient way such that it takes only 2% of the power of convention distillers- is new.-R&D World + Gizmodo commenter
-The are no filters to replace, no charcoal, no anything disposable (just distillation)- Colbert (+many)
-The Slingshot (as its called) can use half the waste heat (450 watts) from a sterling engine electrical generator (prototype also being designed by Kamen's company) to boil its water.- TED
-The heat put into the water is recovered with a "counter flow heat exchanger" and recycled to heat the next batch of water (that is part of the novel bit). TED+Gizmodo commenter
The most interesting comments I came across were to the effect that inventing something great is only half the problem. The other half is getting it to the people who need it in a way that works. Luckily, as Gizmodo commenter enginblue points out, if units came down to $1,000 each, this new wave of micro-lending could have people pooling money to purchase units for groups of entrepreneurs wanting to bring this to their village.

I, for one, hope this technology matures soon. A lot of arsenic-drinking Indian villagers will be very happy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Which part of "do not reply" do you not get?

As seen on /., the Washington Post has an interview with the owner of, where he tells about the variety of emails he gets due to people clicking reply to emails which are not meant to be replied to, and the companies concerned using as opposed to as the return address in their automated emails. He has started to post the interesting ones, and charges in donation-to-animal-care-charities to remove that data.

Interestingly enough, I get about one email a week at my animesh@gmail ID, meant for some other animesh. I have thus far received personal contact emails, company salary spreadsheets, bank account statements, college admission letters, and bio-data of girls whose brothers thought that this was the email address of the guy who they met with the other day. I wonder if it is the Animeshs who are giving the wrong ID, or junta who is not paying attention. In any case, I usually respond with a "sorry, wrong Animesh" and my website link. What would you do?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Holi-day in the sun

Yesterday, a bunch of us [some 25 people] celebrated holi at the beach.

We played with colors, sang holi songs, and ate samosa-chholey and laddoos ... it was a memorable one. We even made a new friend, who happened to be on the beach with his two cute little daughters, and wanted to play holi. There were also random people coming and saying - "you are celebrating the Indian festival of colors, can you please color us too ?"

The pics are here[Adarsh] and here[Arvind].

Fellow attendees, please chime in and let all know what happened :).

Holi thii!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Teaching, open source, and straight-talk

Now here is a video that shows how one should teach. I am talking about the MIT physics professor who does not hesitate to risk his life to show that "physics works". Would love to be a fraction of what this guy is.. someday.

In other news, check out this website [via Gizmo's newsletter] of the top 50 non-free softwares and their open source alternatives.

And finally, for those who did not have the time to see the full video of the speech I posted yesterday, here is a short summary, saying pretty much what I wanted to say. [alt link in case the video below does not load]

I loved Jon Stewart's last line: "At 11am on Tuesday Obama spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults."

Won't it be nice if someone talked to Indians about caste, religion, and region-based differences like this :).

Update: Apparently he wrote the speech himself, not his speechwriters! wow!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Some 'racy' talk

... and by that, I mean talk about race [what did you think? :)]

Coming to the point, of late there has been a lot of Obama-bashing, including the attempts to bring race into the contest. Tina Fey even did a "bitch is the new black" update on SNL a couple of weeks ago to support her lady, Mrs. Clinton. There were other charges on him, including the fact that his pastor is a crazy racist guy who once said "god damn america".

Well, I support Obama, and while perhaps I will dedicate a later post entirely to reasons for this, this post is dedicated to two vides which I personally enjoyed in this race-charged environment for the, well, race for the democratic party nomination.

First, Tracy Morgan of 30 Rock showed up on SNL to make his case:

Secondly, Barack Obama himself made a speech addressing all these issues:

I love how he did not do the usual political thing -- pass a summary judgement, and pretend to be all pure. He instead, did something new -- admitted to having all those ills being inside him too, just like all of us. I personally love how he is not afraid to acknowledge what is, and try to make it better. Now that, my friends, is change.

Anyways, 'nuf said, enjoy the videos.

Welcome to a fundamentalist India

Close on the heels of the cancellation of the award to M F Hussain, Taslima Nasreen will be leaving India.

Now, I must admit that I have not read her book, but if there is one thing I have learned from my stay here in the states, it is the importance of free speech. Sure, one might disagree with what someone says, but that should not mean violent response.

I wonder why we do not have laws in India against harassment, which can put these violent protesters behind bars. Or maybe someone should file a PIL to remove the term "secular" from the preamble.

Ah well, I will now stop my rant, and let my fundamentalist brothers and sisters rejoice in yet another "success" of theirs.

P.S. Taslimaji, please leave the country for a better place. There is no point living in a place where the govt cannot give you the feeling of safety. Hopefully this, in addition to the Sania Mirza not playing in Bangalore incident, will open some eyes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Painting the right wing

Sadly, a function to felicitate M F Hussain has been cancelled due to "protest" from a "Hindu" organization. A statement of victory is here.

Now, why was this protest/threat necessary? Apparently because Hussain's paintings are defamatory to Hindus. On that topic, the Indian Patriot has done an excellent rebuttal, with very interesting alternative interpretations. About time someone stood up to all this right-wing misinformation!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The fox, the cat, and the waterboard

3 things.

1. Check out Firefox 3 Beta 4. I especially like the super-fast gmail performance, and the history-oriented address box. Also, for those of you who had moved the "back" button using the toolbar customization, note that in this version, they have integrated the back and fwd buttons, and it is placed in the navbar by default.

2. Watch Simon's Cat. A very cute video.

3. [ref: Digg] Check out Taxi to the Dark Side. Also check out The Torture Question. Sad to see the country that claims to be the best nation in the world not quite behaving like it :-|.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

New acquisitions

The UIUC trip went well [two professors actually came to my talk, and asked questions too :) ]. Thanks a ton to S for hosting me.

This post is dedicated to my most recent "multipurpose" acquisitions -- something to help when when I go camping, and something to help me when I make presentations -- total care of work and play :).

Add this to my dear tablet [which, btw, is great for reviewing papers], and I am one happy geek :).

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Off to Illinois

There might a bit of a lull, as I will be in UIUC giving a talk. In case any of you are there, I would be happy to meet :).

Speaking of someone I would be happy to meet, how about someone who asks a question like this? :)

P.S. Yes, we can.

Friday, March 07, 2008

When adults take pride in kids' deaths

It is sad enough when a young man of 20 walks into a school and shoots its students, apparently as retribution against a military act which was a retribution against rockets which were ...

But it is truly hope-killing when the inhabitants of a city celebrate this act as "martyrdom".

Yes, I am talking about the recent shootings in Jerusalem.

for those who still haven't heard about it:
The attacker walked through the Mercaz Harav seminary's main gate Thursday night and entered the library, where witnesses said some 80 students were gathered. He opened fire with an assault rifle and a pistol, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. The gunman was shot and killed on the scene.

Israeli officials said the victims were between ages 15 and 19 except one, who was 26. They identified one of the victims as 16-year-old Avraham David Moses, an American citizen whose parents moved to Israel in the 1990s. The State Department confirmed an American was killed and another wounded in the attack, but gave no other details .

The attack came on the heels of an Israeli offensive on Gaza that Palestinian officials say killed more than 120. The campaign targeted militants who have been barraging southern Israel with rockets. Four Israelis have also been killed in fighting since last week.
The family of Alaa Abu Dheim, a 25-year-old from east Jerusalem, said he had carried out the attack on the seminary, a prestigious center of Jewish studies identified with the leadership of the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank.

They said he was not a member of a militant group and described him as intensely religious. He had planned to get married in the summer, the family said.

Abu Dheim had been transfixed in recent days by the news of bloodshed in Gaza, said his sister, Iman Abu Dheim.

"He told me he wasn't able to sleep because of the grief," she said.

Abu Dheim's family set up a mourning tent outside their home and hung green Hamas flags along with one yellow flag of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Family members said several relatives had already been taken for questioning by Israeli police.


Some Israeli lawmakers called for breaking off peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' moderate, West Bank-based government. But an Israeli official said the negotiations would continue.

Israel will push ahead with talks "so as not to punish moderate Palestinians for actions by people who are not just our enemies but theirs as well," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the government had yet to make an official announcement.

Perhaps the saddest part is the result of this:
Jewish seminarians gathered outside the library and screamed for revenge, shouting, "Death to Arabs," while in Hamas-controlled Gaza thousands of Palestinians celebrated in the streets.

gah! when will it stop!? I know there are no quick-fix solutions to so many years of animosity, but maybe a way out is to send kids to a different kind of Sunday school, one which teaches things like this.
In front of each child sits a little lamp shade.

"Remember how we talked about how religions are a lot like lamp shades?" she asks the group. "They may look different, they may be different colors or sit in different rooms, but they all have the light of God inside of them."

With hopes for a more peaceful world,
disgusted and outraged,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On turtles and turbines

Think of a tropical island paradise for endangered animals. The local govt tries best to keep it pristine, and the money mostly comes from tourism. All is well. Except that all this tourism needs energy --- energy which cannot be brought over wires to a remote island. The current solution --- diesel generators, fueled by oil tankers sailing into the islands port.

I guess you see the problem by now. The phrases "oil tanker" and "endangered animals" in the same paragraph :-|. And this is what the administration in the Galapagos islands is trying to solve. Their solution: Wind Energy [My fav kind of energy, right next to Solar].

Read this IEEE Spectrum article here [single page print version here]. And also check out the photo gallery. Someday I will have the time and money to visit this place... someday :).

I strongly recommend you read this. It is a very good mix of how alternate energy sources are important, and also how administrative problems need to be solved for real-world technical problems, not to mention the cool engineering where the turbines auto-adjust their blade angles to produce varying amounts of power for different loads.

Here's to a more windmill-filled future, esp in developing nations [Lok Sabha, are you listening?].

P.S. Check out this NYTimes article [ref: JD] on MSG-cousins in a whole bunch of common foods.
P.P.S. In the third edition of my monthly fast. So far, so good :).

Monday, March 03, 2008


Yup. 27 and going. :).

Last night, as is customary, I was bum-kicked, and applied cake over. There was also some cake-eating and dancing. Thanks to Adarsh, Joyita, Karthik, Kimish, Krishnakali, Neha, Pathik, Ram, and Rumi for showing up (and for the innovative gifts :P).

Thanks also to all those who have sent facebook wall posts, orkut scraps, IMs, emails, SMSs, eCards, phone calls, letters, greeting cards, pigeons etc. wishing me on this day :) [and will do, after seeing this post :)]. Thank you all!

As a gift for this day, I give you all, my readers, the picture of a certain female whose uber-pretty eyes truly get her the title of mriga-nayani (Doe-eyed).

[Another gift: Cool chemistry videos (ref: /.)]

So begins this year... an important one, for it will determine my future professional course [for those who don't know, I am finishing up my PhD this summer]. Wish me luck!

P.S. Congrats to Megan for finishing the LA Marathon yesterday. Welcome to the club!