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The Rough and The Smooth

Spring is here – which means there are leaves on trees, warmth in the sunshine and cricket in the weekends. Today’s storm, because of which all our matches were cancelled, is one of the minor inconveniences that come with this time of year. The philosophical person knows how to take the rough with the smooth. Other little nuisances include daylight savings (what’s the point of it anymore?), insects, and the new Batman vs Superman movie.

I awaited this movie with lively anticipation, and even went so far as to watch it on opening night. It was rotten disappointment. I have serious reservations about them trying to make this movie in Christopher Nolan’s image, trying to make the movie dark, and trying to portray deep philosophical truths. The Batman vs Superman fight is the stuff that dreams are made of, and of which reality fell short. Lex Luthor was trying to channel Heath Ledger’s Joker, which didn’t sit right with me. Wonder Woman, who is supposed to be a powerful Amazon from Greek myth, looked positively frail.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie wasn’t all bad. The action sequences, while sometimes wooden, were a lot of fun to watch. Ben Affleck isn’t terrible as Batman. And they did a good job of laying the ground work for future Justice League characters – Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Green Lantern. I’m looking forward to these movies, partially because of the sunny optimism of spring, and partially because I never learn. My favorite part of this movie is the Cold Stone ice cream promotion that has Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman inspired flavours, and the associated novelty rings.

In the past few days, I’ve had considerable exposure to the light of the yellow sun. Also, my heater broke this morning, suffusing my apartment with an invigorating cold. The resulting feeling of well being has made me unwilling to talk any further about the rough. I could gripe at considerable length, but I shall desist. Read on, my loyal band of merry readers, for the smooth.

Anna Karenina is one of those works of literature that any self respecting writer has read, or least claims to have read. It’s widely considered by the cognoscenti as among the greatest novels ever written. On the other hand, someone from my dim and distant past who had to read it for some kind of literature class – and who shall remain nameless because I can’t remember who it was – left me with the general impression that that the only way anyone would like this book is if they got Stockholm Syndrome from reading it. This sounded a lot like what I felt while reading Shakespeare in secondary school with his incomprehensible language and weird spelling. Even though four hundred years of experts have gone on about how great his writing is, I’ve always felt that his works were included in the syllabus only because gentler forms of corporal punishment, such as caning, are frowned upon.

What I’m trying to get at is that I finished reading the thing last night. It’s an enormous book, and certainly not a light read, but having started it, I felt honour bound to finish it. I quite liked the book, although there were parts where I wished Tolstoy would just get on with it. I was particularly struck by Anna’s situation towards the end of the book. It was outright painful to read about her deepening depression, the unhinged thinking and the emotional upheaval she found herself confronted with as the novel ground to its grim end. I’m glad I’ve finally made it through that book. It’s been weighing on my soul and placing unnecessary stress on my body that is accustomed to the standard 21 gram soul.

Let me explain: this a fun little artifact of sloppy science and crude measuring tools from about a century ago. Dr. Duncan Macdougall performed a series of experiments on terminal TB patients in the early 20th century. Since it was possible to predict the time of death in these patients a few hours in advance, he had them moved to an industrial scale in order to get accurate measurements of their weight before and after their passing.

“Suddenly, coincident with death, the beam end dropped with an audible stroke hitting against the lower limiting bar and remaining there with no rebound. The loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce.” – Dr. Duncan MacDougall

There is a New York Times article covering this in March 1907 (Soul Has Weight, Physician Thinks).

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Mark David: Eulogy

I’ve had excellent teachers all my life, but I can count on one hand the ones who have made a lasting impression. Mr. David – on my little list – is first among equals.

He was headmaster during my formative years at BSS Powai. It has been about fifteen years since my last conversation with him, and yet the memory of him is remarkably clear.

I remember a towering man, unflinching in principle and strong of character. A man of wisdom, kindness, and compassion. The pillar of strength around whom our school was built.

He would walk into a room and instantly command the attention of everyone in it without so much as uttering a word. He expected, and received, the very best of every teacher who worked for him, and every student who studied under him. He was tough; but he was fair.

I’m deeply saddened by news of his passing. It has left a hole that will not easily be filled.

Mark David

Photo Credit: Pratik Gupta on Facebook

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The Fat Masai In The Springtime

Today started off in much the same way that other days don’t. Gentle sunlight streamed in through my windows and prodded me into wakefulness from a restful slumber. A satisfied smile played on my face as I patted myself on the back for having the wisdom and foresight to turn off my alarm last night. A deep breath informed me that the flowers I’ve been noticing on the trees outside my window were still in full bloom. Once my ears were sufficiently roused, they detected the warbling of birds in the distance. God was comfortably in his heaven and all, was right with the world.

The weatherman on TV confirmed my assessment that spring was hitting it’s mid-season form. The days are getting longer, there are leaves and flowers and birds everywhere, and cloudy skies mean rain – not snow. Winter, contrary to what the Starks would have you believe, is over.

With spring comes a strange restlessness that makes me want to do more than just sit on my sofa and watch stuff on Netflix. I feel the desire to explore the world. To see new places and do new things. To go boldly forth where I haven’t gone before.  To satiate this, I decided to take a little tour of what Tracy Jordan has so affectionately termed the inter-web. It’s a lot like going back home after years, everything seems different but is all happily familiar.

I started off with the tried and tested places.

The Oatmeal:

TheOatmeal-TodayIllustrated

PhD Comics:

PhDComics-YouShouldBeWriting

Dilbert:

Dilbert-AlmostDone

With my mood now suitably lightened by this and the golden words of Wodehouse on Blandings, I decided to try Facebook. I don’t usually log into Facebook. The official party line is that if I log in, I end up wasting a lot of time. But that’s not true. I just never find anything of interest on my wall. I could spend – even waste – hours going through everything infesting my wall with a fine tooth comb, and not find anything even remotely interesting. Today however, I opened up the web page and, chewing an optimistic French Toast, logged in. So it was with a pleasantly surprised final gulp of my morning glass of milk that I stumbled upon this:

Psycho Jaws Predator TheGodfather FightClub TheShining PulpFiction

My next stop was YouTube. What can I say, YouTube gets me. It sees me for who I am and gives me exactly what I want in the recommendations. Right off the bat, it took me to these two trailers.

Welcome to me: Kristen Wiig

The Spy: Melissa McCarthy

Once I had finished laughing at these, I saw this. Pure gold.

Jimmy Fallon interviews Khaleesi (Kristen Wigg)

That’s when things started to go a little downhill.

Apparently there is a new Mission Impossible, a new Terminator, a new Mad Max, a new Ted, a new Fantastic Four, a new Avengers, a new Star Wars, a new Hitman, a new James Bond, a new Transporter, a new Paranormal activity, and get this, even a new Iron Sky. It’s all really nice to have so many familiar faces and themes and ideas being put into movies that we can all watch and enjoy, but at some point you have to ask yourself, isn’t that just, plain, lazy?

Look at Steve Carell. It’s not like he finished The Office and immediately went on to create a spin off called, The Apartment. He moved forward. He did Foxcatcher.

Steve Carell was awesome in this. I still feel he deserved an Oscar.

Speaking of combat sports, this is the Cinco De Mayo weekend, which means today is the day that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally face off. They were, of course, prudent in waiting until the 21st century so that fights like the Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle would be safely in the previous century. Still, considering it’s only 2015, I feel calling this the Fight of the Century is a tad premature.

MayweatherVsPacquiaoPoster

I’ve been looking forward to this fight for at least three years now, ever since I found out who both these remarkable athletes were. Will Mayweather make it to 48-0? Will he fight again in September to match Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0? Only time, and Google/Bing, will tell. I mean, I really want to watch this fight but there is no way I’m paying the $70 something they’re asking for on pay-per-view.

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Remember Remember…

Today is the 5th of November. A day that lives in infamy the world over, but for all the wrong reasons. The meaning of the Guy Fawkes mask has been twisted in our collective consciousness by the movie “V for Vendetta”, and then further mangled by such movements as Occupy Wall Street and the hacker collective, Anonymous.

I try each year, in vain, to correct this mistaken notion. This year, however, I’m better armed. I have found an article from cracked.com, a usually reliable source, that explains quite well to the uninitiated, the story of Guy Fawkes. I’ve naturally copied and pasted it below.

Here it is then…

Guy Fawkes

Misunderstood By:

Anarchists, 4Chan.

Despite anarchists’ general failure to unite long enough to make any meaningful progress against their ideological enemies (democracy, capitalism, communism and Internet forum moderationism), they do have a few running themes and symbols in common. One of the most prominent symbols is the 17th century English revolutionary, Guy Fawkes, whose famed exploit was his attempt to blow up Parliament in order to destabilize the British government.

The comparison is probably most recognizable to popular culture as the basis of the graphic novel/box office catastrophe V For Vendetta, in which a dude dresses up like Fawkes and brings down an evil dystopian theocracy. In recent years, through some bizarre online game of Chinese whispers, Fawkes has also come to somehow represent Internet teenagers’ struggle against Scientology.


Because hey, why not?

While anarchists may be right that Fawkes was the only person ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions, they’ve forgotten what those intentions were. Fawkes wasn’t trying to destroy an evil theocracy, he was trying to install one.


Fawkes’ face of freedom.

Fawkes was a fighter for Spain and the Catholic Church. His goal was to end the slightly more egalitarian Protestant revolution in England by restoring Catholic domination. If the Gunpowder Plot had actually succeeded, Britain would probably look less like an anarchist commune and more like the fascist police state Alan Moore warned us about.

Read more:  http://www.cracked.com/article_18606_8-historic-symbols-that-mean-opposite-what-you-think.html#ixzz3IAuOT4oL

Guy Fawkes day, through a strange and not quite completely understood concatenation of circumstances, has turned into a night of unfettered revelry. Effigies of the man are made and burned. There are fireworks. Spirits flow freely, and there is the occasional brawl. It’s kind of like Dusshera in a way.

This gross mis-use of symbolism is best understood through an analogy that my loyal band of merry readers will readily understand. What is being done with the Guy Fawkes mask is roughly equivalent to using this picture of Ravana,

Ravana

for real and fictional movements like Anna Hazare’s Lokpal Bill hunger strike, Anonymous India, and Occupy Dalal Street.

And now, my loyal band of merry readers – for I can think of no higher compliment to honour you with – in spite of a campaign of attrition through poor and infrequent writing that caused you to wither like the Jesuit fig tree; you are better informed.

<gasp> I just used a semi-colon!

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Dagian

When I was younger, the idea of waking up early in the morning was abhorrent to me. I fancied myself quite the night owl.

The poem (yikes!) below captures my erstwhile attitude towards the early morning quite well.

I woke up early one morning,
The earth lay cool and still
When suddenly a little bird
Perched on my window sill,
He sang a song so lovely
So carefree and so gay,
That slowly all my troubles
Began to slip away.
He sang of far off places
of laughter and of fun,
It seemed his very trilling,
brought up the morning sun.
I stirred beneath the covers
Crept quietly out of bed,
Gently shut the window
And crushed his (expletive)-ing head

I’m not a morning person
– Someone on the internet

This has changed in recent weeks. Dawn, not to be confused with sunrise has become one of my favourite times of the day. Something to do with the effects of age creeping up on you. Apparently teenagers and young adults are predisposed to energy surges late in the day. This happens with decreasing frequency as you get older.

It’s true! I read it on the internet…

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500px Denver Photo Walk

A photo walk is essentially a group of people walking around in a city and taking pictures of anything interesting they see. Everyone has fancy camera equipment. Everyone takes their time. Everyone there is an excellent and widely experienced photographer. A perfect situation for a newbie such as myself.

I usually do landscapes – mountains and deserts and canyons. A city is very different. At first, through sheer force of habit I focused on inanimate objects: buildings, lamp posts, cars and bikes. After a while, it dawned on me that the most interesting thing about a city is the people in it.

This is when the fun began. I pictured myself in my mind’s eye as a wildlife photographer. Only, instead of the Masai Mara, I was in Denver – and I was hunting game far deadlier and more interesting than the great beasts of the savannah.

I was watching people in their natural habitat, basking in the sun on a glorious Saturday afternoon.

This realization made me shed my inhibitions like a garment and I sallied forth with a spring in my step and a 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 lens in my fist. I ended up taking about a couple of hundred pictures, but only a select few will ever see the light of day.

Afternoon Smoke Fox Squirrel Yet Another Flower Picture Water Fountain Skeleton at Machete's Tequila + Taco

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Quantum Computer

Lockheed Martin announced last week that they were going to deploy their Quantum Computer for commercial and military applications. Quantum Computing is a fascinating application of the fact that data can be stored as qubits (not just as 0 and 1, but also as some combination of the two). Putting it in layman’s terms, this means that it can compute much faster than traditional transistor based computers. What does this mean for us?

Apple and Samsung churn out new phones every year that place great power in the palms of our hands – minus the responsibility. IBM gave us Watson that has the ability to understand human speech well enough to win Jeapordy. And now Lockheed Martin, has given us a Quantum Computer capable of incredible speeds.

I have known of only one other computer on this planet with this kind of ability – VIKI. HAL 9000 wasn’t technically on Earth.

VIKI started out as the best thing since aloo subji. Then she turned evil and the foundations of civilization quivered. It needed a square jawed, gun toting, Yippie ki-yay saying, John McClane wannabe to step in and fix things. I doubt we have anyone who still says Yippie Ki-yay. We are doomed to defeat and annihilation.