Thursday, May 31, 2007

Delirious late night rambling

You are neither rich because you deserve to be rich, nor are you poor because you deserve to be poor. So feel neither pride nor guilt, neither contempt nor envy at another man's plight, and that is the first step towards a happy life.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A doll and a damsel.

If you are a judgemental feminist, this post isn't for you!

I saw an old gentleman playing volleyball with his ghost in the sand volleyball courts, and the ghost was losing every point, so i thought i'd make it a fair game and asked the gentleman if i could join on the side of the ghost, to which he approved. Thus we began a fairly exhausting game of two-on-one volleyball. Quite early on, I decided the ghost would get his share in the game so I lofted a gentle first pass for him to boost. Blissfully unaware that his affections, quite naturally, would be with his own physical self, in spite of the thrashings he was receiving in the game, I waited, and waited in vain, for he failed to touch the ball. I dived forward to save the ball, and in the process abraded, mark my words, abraded not bruised, my knee. However, i was having so much fun playing the old gentleman, and being made to run around to stay in the game, that I ignored the blood gushing out of my knee, and felt pleased at the thought that i'd be quenching the thirst of the vermin of the earth, much as Shiva would've ignored the Ganges gushing out of his head and felt gratified at slaking the thirst of the vermin of the universe. So I battled on, until the old gentleman decided to retire for the day. Then i realised that the vermin might grow weak and inert, because of getting such easy access to food, and that this would be bad for their competitive and survival instincts, so with great reluctance, with the good intention of making the learn to survive in this cruel world, i decided to wash my wound. I went to the Sports Recreation Complex, which was a couple of minutes from the fields, to get first aid.

When i approached the help desk and asked if they had first aid, a pretty doll asked what happened. I showed her the eyesore and said it happened during volleyball. There was no change of the bored expression on her face but she urged me to go sit on the couch nearby when she would get go get the first aid kit. "But shouldn't i wash the wound with a little water first?" I asked, concerned by all the sand that was mixed with the blood. "Just sit." she ordered. I assumed she would get the water too and thought this very kind of her and happily smiled at her, while she held the same bored look. I thought then that the whole thing about smiling angels might be a rumour after all and persisted in my cheerful wait. She searched around for the peroxide, and she searched quite a while. Then she sent another pretty damsel on the errand of fetching it. As i watched that damsel disappear behind a bend, and turned, i saw this doll approaching me. I thought for a second she was coming simply to cheer up the poor wounded lamb, and was all set to pretend the unperturbed hero of yore, who might've lost an arm and a leg in battle but didn't flinch a muscle, for it was a matter of pride to shed blood in battle. I dare say volleyball with an old gentleman and his unfriendly ghost, is no less intense a battle, though the unknowing masses fail to acknowledge its significance in the annals of history.

She pulled out a long sheet, full of intimidating questions, and said, with you-know-what-expression, "While she goes to get the peroxide, lets start filling out this report. What is your name?". Frightened on seeing the number of questions on the form, I hastened to reply, "Miss, I'll fill it out for you." I thought it would please her, and i so dearly wanted to see how that pretty face would look when it smiled, but she said plainly, "Ok, fill out the first three rows for me very legibly please." I grabbed the pen and hastened to fill out my name and college ID, but i couldn't help smile at her delightfully accurate premonition that my handwriting would be similar to the lines traced out by the end of the stick that an aborigine holds while doing his native dance. Then the 'report' asked me for my address. This, if they really needed, can easily be obtained using my ID, and was a painfully redundant question. But i wrote out the address:

The first bedroom to your left, as you walk down the passage way from the hall.
8054 S Wellington Dr., #204

Then it went on to ask me my phone number. I scribbled. The very next question: "Sex". "Of course! That's why i gave you my number!" i wanted to write. Some more interrogation, and then i handed the form back to her. By now the damsel had arrived, gloves on both hands, a huge bottle in the left glove, and a crate of items on the right. I was taken aback by her luggage. I knew my sugar consumption was high, yet i never had worries about it. But this damsel forced me to take a second look at my wound to make sure that it hadn't, when i was blissfully unaware, aggravated to need an amputation of my leg. Having assured myself that it was just a bruise, i turned and looked at the doll as she asked, "What do you think of the wound?". I thought jolly well of it, for staying right there, and giving me the opportunity to talk to a doll and a damsel, but i didn't think she that was what she wanted to know so i enquired, "What do you mean?" "I mean, do you think its an abrasion?" I thought she could see it just as well as i could, and i'd already told her that it happened as i fell in the volleyball court, and wondered if she merely wanted to test my english for a second. Naturally, this surprised me and i raised my eyebrows a bit. "Well, it asks here!" she said, as if evading blame. I snatched the form and read 'Abrasion, fracture, bruise, sprain, laceration....." Remember my earlier watchful mention of the word 'abrasion' as opposed to 'bruise'? "An abrasion it is!" I said, amused at her complete refusal to think on her own and answer the questions. "Just wanted to make sure you know. I didn't know whether that's the word they called it." I wasn't sure who 'they' was and felt a trifle anxious that this 'they' , whoever 'they' were, shouldn't think it a 'bruise' and consider me a deceiving villain. Then she asked, "How did you hurt yourself?" I was awakened to the sad fact that she was yet another one of the unknowing masses who fail to recognise the significance of the battle i had been through, for i had told her at the outset how i bruised myself, and it hurt me that she could so easily forget the significance of that historical moment in time. So i replied dejectedly, "While playing volleyball." "Was it in the fields?" she asked. I stared at her dumbfounded. I came from outside the SRC, so i couldn't have been in the indoor courts, and i could hardly have been playing volleyball in my dingy research laboratory. "Yes!" I said, a trifled amused. "The sand volleyball courts right?" I was at a loss for words. I felt the way one feels when one's love kisses one and asks one " You love me right?", for it is very obvious, yet she gets a strange thrill from hearing you say it. This pause didn't escape notice and she blurted out, averting her eyes and pointing to the form, "Just wanted to make sure because they ask on here." "Yes," I said softly in much the same tone i would've assumed to re-iterate to my girl, "Yes dear, I love you very much." and smiled at this comic desire of hers to confirm the obvious. Meanwhile, the damsel was on her knees, with a sterile cloth soaked in peroxide. It really was quite a while now since i first rubbed knees with the ground, and i repented for having been silly enough to listen to the doll and not washed my wound. For i knew this meant that by now, those unfortunate vermin that managed to find my wound would be nearing that terrible phase of their life in which they would have for long lived the life of the indolent and indulgent rich, and will thus be extremely vulnerable when thrown into the fiercefully competitive world. This damsel meanwhile, brought the cloth towards my knee, and with much patience and caution dabbed all around the wound. At first i thought she was making sure she removed the sand around so that it wouldn't again go in when she'd rub over the wound. But she continued for what seemed like an eternity, to clean around the wound. Perhaps she was dissatisfied that my leg looked like a construction worker's because of all the dust and was making sure, with great care, that it looked neat. But when my legs were quite near shining, I became impatient, for my wound still needed attention. So i said with a pleasant smile,"Don't bother yourself miss, i'll attend to the wound myself." I quickly rubbed the wound clean with peroxide. Then put the band-aid on. I must have lost my head for a moment, because when i'd done putting the band-aid on I said, "Thank you girls for your help!" and they gave me that bored look. As i took leave, I thought i'd take the dirty sterile cloth and trash it, but i decided they needed a mental work out so i simply walked away, and they sat there pondering how to dispense with the the sterile cloth and the gloves. One said, lets put it in a zip-lock and then trash it. They search for the crate for it, but found nothing. The other opened her mouth to suggest something, but by then i made sure i was out of ear-shot.

Monday, May 28, 2007

How i discovered my debt

It was 12:30 in the night and i was half asleep. As i pulled the blanket over myself, i spotted a bed bug crouching in the wool, its heart leaping at the prospect of tasting my blood. I decided he had had his share of sin on the planet and looked around for a piece of paper. I found nothing save an envelope. Curiously, i'd opened the envelope but i'd not checked the contents. It was from ASU. I pulled out a sheet. It had something about paying bills online. Impatiently, i turned to the rear side of it. There was print there too. I was disappointed. I wanted to see the borrowed blood, my blood, smeared clearly against the paper's white. So i pulled out another and looked straight at the rear. It was white as snow and i smiled with satisfaction. Then i quietly used it to finish my good deed for the day. Just then, some strange impulse made me turn to the other side, and i saw that it was an unpaid bill for 220 dollars! Then i checked the due date, and it said 25th of May, the Friday that just passed. Now i have to pay it up with a late fee this coming week. Still i can't help but smile at the most curious way in which i stumbled upon this bill. Otherwise, its most likely i'd have trashed the whole envelope without a glance, and wouldn't have realised until the next bill came along, some four months from now, well into my fall semester, with a fine as severe as the due amount itself! I expect the bug was sent to heaven after all.

Friday, May 25, 2007

My generous advisor!

We were having the usual weekly group meeting. There is this senior Korean RA in our group who is about done with his PhD and graduating later this year. Our advisor was telling us of the need to send a white paper to Intel for a certain project that he plans to undertake. As he was saying this, the Koren student interrupted and asked quizzically, in his strong Korean accent, and broken English, "Intel wants white paper?" as if confounded by the thought that such a big company as Intel, which puts up so mighty and proud a face in the semiconductory industry, should, stealthily request A4 sheets from our generous advisor. Perhaps adding to his consternation was the prospect of joining that very company after his PhD. The professor realising as much hastened to clarify, "A white paper, Mr. X, is like a pre-proposal." "Ah," said the student, and the meeting continued.


If google is blackle

then if they were to come up with a black version of gmail they'd call it 'blackmail'? :)

Me me me!

I've never seen a review paper with less than 100 references. And i've never seen a review paper in which less than half the references are the author's publications. Its a corny modesty they pretend when they write their names as the first author in the first 50 references at the back but always write it as if it were someone else's name. For instance, i'd be writing the reference as K Sivaramakrishnan, Supernature, 1, 1 (2007). If ever the day comes when i'm asked to write a review, i shall be downright honest about it and i'll write:

Me, Supernature, 1, 1 (2007)
Me et Me, Superscience, 1, 1 (2007)
( I could've stopped with one 'Me', but what the hell, 'Me et Me' is still me! :D)

Is there such an experiment?

Is there an experiment, the outcome of which cannot be predicted by quantum mechanics? I'm not asking if the mathematical complexity of the problem is such that we haven't been able to solve it. I only ask if it poses an open challenge to the theory of quantum mechanics?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Horse around

The Engineering Research Centre is several limousines in length, with rooms standing close sentinel on either side, leaving just sufficient room for two goats to pass beside each with their bellies brushing as they walk past. Such being the case, a pin drop would amplify enough for you to think some lab window was broken, and one is thrilled at the prospect of excitement in an otherwise deathly quite building. There is one shock for which, however, i was little prepared as i took up my first and new desk in the building. I sensed vibrations on the floor, and i heard hoofs. First just one or two, and i was amused at the thought that some eccentric professor might've brought his pet horse along(its not such a wild idea in this 'free' country really). Then the sounds grew louder and louder until it seemed like a stampeding onslaught of the Persian cavalry, and i wondered what they wanted from my spartan lab office. Just as i shuddered and turned my head towards the door, a slyph-like woman in high heels passed by.

I've finally figured out why these PhDs are called Doctors. A doctor, according to my dictionary, is one who makes you wait so long before you can meet him, that you are cured by the time you enter, and you just pay him the fees, thank him, and walk out dumbstruck. It seems to me PhDs should be no different, at least judging by the amount of time i have to wait before i can meet my advisor because there is someone else in the room at my hour of appointment.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My wisecrack:

The higher the GPa, the higher the stiffness.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Coincidental discovery!

A friend of mine happened to post Excerpts from the Painted Veil which contains some very nice quotations. One such is this:

'When all things lasted so short a time and nothing mattered very much, it seemed pitiful that men, attaching an absurd importance to trivial objects, should make themselves and one another so unhappy.'

While i was reading Maugham's short stories over the weekend, i came across this:

'I permit myself a trite remark. It is strange that men, inhabitants for so short a while of an alien and inhuman world, should go out of their way to cause themselves so much unhappiness.'

I'm thrilled that through this queer co-incidence, where she happened to have given importance, too, to such a sentence as that and written it down for posterity, I have been able to perceive one of Maugham's most fundamental convictions, for why else would two such similar observations on the nature of mankind appear in his two pieces of work that are separated by almost six years?

Life is indeed beautiful!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hearken ye!