Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Conference, workshop and a rock show

I am currently in LA attending a workshop at IPAM. This is right after attending FOCS in Berkeley. FOCS was accompanied by a "Rock Show" organized by people from the Berkeley theory group. It is not everyday that you find your professors singing smells like teen spirit and cocaine (with the word cocaine of course replaced by the more appropriate caffeine). Here's a picture of Dick Karp dancing to Christos' tunes. Luca presents a more detailed account of the concert.

The drive to LA was exciting with the car rental running out of small cars and us "having to" to rent a convertible instead. We drove in the slightly cold weather with the top open for a while. I had to wear a jacket sitting in the back - but it was worth it! More from LA to follow soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Was Einstein the only scientist?

Berkeley has a huge bookstore called "Half-price books" which sells used books. I often go in there and browse through the popular-science section. Interestingly, about half of the section is filled with books about/by Einstein! Of course, Einstein was a great scientist and one can expect to find quite a few books - but the fact that Einstein dominates the section so much as to make books about every other scientist nonexistent was surprising. Exaggeration and overgeneralization based on the number of books yield the following conclusions:
  1. Mathematics is extremely unpopular and/or unscientific. The only books present in the section are books which brush up your formulae from high-school algebra.
  2. Chemistry does not exist.
  3. Genome, black-holes and relativity are the "really cool" things.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


पूछती है राह मुझसे,
यूॅ बढ़ा किस ओर चला है?
दूर तक फैला है बियाबॉ,
नापने कौनसा तू छोर चला है?

खेला करती ये मुझसे अक्सर,
दोराहों पर लाकर मुझे|
राह ही सवाल है, है यही जवाब भी,
मैं इसे बूझता हूॅ, या ये बूझती मुझे?

दूर तक दिखती लम्बी राह,
कभी अचानक पगडंडियों पे मुड़ जाया करती है|
किसी छोटे से गॉव में मुझे लाकर,
उसी में गुम जाया करती है|

पूछती है मुझसे मानो,
सोच ले क्या यहीं रुकेगा?
क्या यही पाने चला था,
या कुछ दूर और चलेगा?

चल रहा हूॅ संग उसीके,
रास्ता साथी मेरा है|
चाह है देखूॅ कि आगे,
किस मोड़ पर छिपा क्या है?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Durga Pooja

Went to Durga Pooja at Hayward today. Waded my way through a crowd of about 300 people, made some attempts at taking pictures and finally had a good lunch of the khichdi-bhog.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


I just discovered that my landlord Wayne Ferreira has been a well known tennis player! "Not many houses have an ATP ranked tennis player as landlord" - as a previous tenant puts it. This is what happens when you don't follow any sports.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rising from the grave

I took the previous move of the government to heart and promptly disappeared from blogosphere (Of course, in reality I was just being too lazy to post!) For the people who had lost touch - I had a nice summer in Berkeley and then enjoyed a one-month trip back to India. Am now back to yet another semester and am sitting on the "other side of the bench". I am also officially a PhD student now after having managed to pass my prelims last week.

Among other things, I watched "Lage Raho Munnabhai" recently. The movie struck me as delightfully creative. Of course there are exaggerations at times, but the presentation of Gandhi-ism in a very entertaining package of gandhigiri is quite remarkable. The ending, which again seems to call upon Gandhi to be the saviour of the nation is not as satisfying though. In a sense, depending on a man who basically taught independence of thought and action seems a contradiction. However, the movie is amazing in many ways. I am currently reading "We, the people" which presents a somewhat different take on things.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Indians are not to read blogs

The Indian government apparently decided to block access to, geocities and a few other domains. Since is still accesible, people can post blogs but not read them. Way to go!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Independence Day

Went to the (American) Independence Day celebrations at Oakland. It is more like a day long picnic with large number of people, food, music and fireworks. I ate the food and photographed the rest.

The man with the knives is a juggler who was eating an apple and juggling two knives at the same time!

Monday, June 19, 2006

To begin with...

A few shots around Berkeley. Yes, the person in the last pic is Pondy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sleeping since Seattle

It has been a long time since anything last appeared here - had been busy. But before getting busy I managed to take a trip to Seattle on the pretext of attending STOC (Symposium on Theory Of Computing). This picture essentially says what (other than buildings) Seattle is all about

I definitely recommend the EMP (Experience Music Project) to anyone planning to visit Seattle. It is sort of a museum about the music (rock-n-roll, rock, jazz) history of the northwest. We were lucky to also find a special exhibit there featuring comparisons of impressionist art with modern art and photographic works. Here are some stereotypical and other pictures of Seattle, though I guess there is a lot of room for improvement :-)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Big Sur

I celebrated the end of computer architecture hiking at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park about 150 miles (on road) to the south of Berkeley. The drive, with the ocean on one side of the road and hills on the other, is lovely. The hiking trails are even better.

The people...

the places...

and the end...

Friday, April 28, 2006

आग की भीख

A great poem by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and one of my favourites (out of the few that I have read). If you care to read this blog, chances are that I know you and in that case it is quite probable that I have shown you this poem already - but felt like posting about it anyway!

A friend, Sushobhan Avasthi, first showed me this poem about four years ago. Since then I have read this one may times and many others by Dinkar too. Talking about his style, a friend once commented - "It seems he even thinks in musical way!" Indeed, most of Dinkar's poetry has a strong musical quality to it. Another quality which contributes to the "flow" is a very clear-cut division of ideas into small "units" which somehow feel like beads on a string. This is best illustrated by contrasting the following excerpts from Dinkar and Dharmveer Bharti -

घास उड़ना चाहती है
और अकुलाती है,
मगर उसकी जड़ें धरती में
बेतरह गड़ी हुईं हैं।
इसलिए हवा के साथ
वह उड़ नहीं पाती है।

- दिनकर (कुंजी)

...... क्योंकि सपना है अभी भी -
इसलिए तलवार टूटे, अश्व घायल
कोहरे डूबी दिशायें,
कौन दुश्मन, कौन अपने लोग, सब कुछ धुंध-धूमिल,
किन्तु कायम युद्ध का संकल्प है अपना अभी भी
...... क्योंकि है सपना अभी भी!

- धर्मवीर भारती (क्योंकि)

For the curious, wikipedia has a small article on Dinkar here. For more of his poems, see this excellent collection by Jaya Jha . And finally, here's the poem I've been talking about...

आग की भीख

धुँधली हुई दिशाएँ, छाने लगा कुहासा,
कुचली हुई
शिखा से आने लगा धुआँसा।
कोई मुझे बता दे, क्या आज हो रहा है,
मुंह को छिपा तिमिर में क्यों तेज सो रहा है?
दाता पुकार मेरी, संदीप्ति को जिला दे,
बुझती हुई
शिखा को संजीवनी पिला दे।
प्यारे स्वदेश के हित अँगार माँगता हूँ।
चढ़ती जवानियों का श्रृंगार मांगता हूँ।

बेचैन हैं हवाएँ, सब ओर बेकली है,
कोई नहीं बताता, किश्ती किधर चली है?
मँझदार है, भँवर है या पास है किनारा?
यह नाश आ रहा है या सौभाग्य का सितारा?
आकाश पर
अनल से लिख दे अदृष्ट मेरा,
भगवान, इस तरी को भरमा न दे अँधेरा।
तमवेधिनी किरण का
संधान माँगता हूँ।
ध्रुव की कठिन घड़ी में, पहचान माँगता हूँ।

आगे पहाड़ को पा धारा रुकी हुई है,
केसरी की ग्रीवा झुकी हुई है,
रज का, बुझ डेर हो रहा है,
है रो रही जवानी, अँधेर हो रहा है!
निर्वाक है हिमालय, गंगा डरी हुई है,
निस्तब्धता निशा की दिन में भरी हुई है।
पंचास्यनाद भीषण, विकराल माँगता हूँ।
जड़ताविनाश को फिर भूचाल माँगता हूँ।

मन की बंधी उमंगें असहाय जल रही है,
अरमानआरज़ू की लाशें निकल रही हैं।
भीगीखुशी पलों में रातें गुज़ारते हैं,
सोती वसुन्धरा जब तुझको पुकारते हैं,
इनके लिये कहीं से निर्भीक तेज ला दे,
पिघले हुए
अनल का इनको अमृत पिला दे।
उन्माद, बेकली का उत्थान माँगता हूँ।
विस्फोट माँगता हूँ, तूफान माँगता हूँ।

आँसूभरे दृगों में चिनगारियाँ सजा दे,
मेरे शमशान में आ
श्रंगी जरा बजा दे।
फिर एक तीर सीनों के आरपार कर दे,
हिमशीत प्राण में फिर अंगार स्वच्छ भर दे।
आमर्ष को जगाने वाली शिखा नयी दे,
अनुभूतियाँ हृदय में दाता,
अनलमयी दे।
विष का सदा लहू में संचार माँगता हूँ।
बेचैन ज़िन्दगी का मैं प्यार माँगता हूँ।

ठहरी हुई तरी को ठोकर लगा चला दे,
जो राह हो हमारी उसपर दिया जला दे।
गति में प्रभंजनों का आवेग फिर सबल दे,
इस जाँच की घड़ी में निष्ठा कड़ी, अचल दे।
हम दे चुके लहु हैं, तू देवता
विभा दे,
अनलविशिख से आकाश जगमगा दे।
प्यारे स्वदेश के हित वरदान माँगता हूँ।
तेरी दया विपद् में भगवान माँगता हूँ।

- दिनकर

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Side effects of prolonged boredom a.k.a. computer architecture:

बेवजह देखता तू आसमॉं को क्यों खड़ा है?
सुबह हो जाए कल शायद, पर अॅंधेरा भी क्या बुरा है!

दिये मैं लौ अगर है बाकी तो अभी रात कहॉ,
जो मज़ा चलने में है, रुक जाने में वो बात कहॉं!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Holi hai!!

I know it's a little late to say that. But this refers to the Holi celebration at UC Berkeley today organized by the Indian Students' Association. The celebrations were postponed to today due to frequent rains in the past few weeks.

Feeling the effects of old age in grad life, devoid of company (I wish more C-BOT people were here) but still curious, I dragged my poor room-mate along to at least watch the event and take a few pictures. Though we didn't actually play, I managed a few snaps as people posed quite readily. My first attempt at photographing strangers was not so disastrous! :-)

Holi was being played with loud Hindi music and almost an equal amount of color and water as in India (i.e. if you did use color to play). Fooled around, clicked random shots and finally met with an interesting chap (last photo) who explained to us some connections between the Indian and Greek mythologies. Finally back home to a cup of homemade espresso - Mmm..!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fermat's Enigma

I just finished reading this book called "Fermat's Enigma" a couple of days ago. Authored by Simon Singh, the book tells the story of Fermat's last theorem and how it was finally proved. In case you do not already know (which might be unlikely), Fermat's last theorem states that the equation xn + yn = zn has no integer solutions for n > 2. It is a natural way to try and extend the Pythagoras' theorem but this has no solutions while the Pythagoras equation has an infinity of them. The theorem was stated by Pierre de Fermat in 1637 and proved by Andrew Wiles in 1994. The (famous) picture here shows Wiles announcing his proof at Cambridge.

The book itself is quite well written (one of the very few books I managed to almost finish in one sitting) and gives some interesting accounts of what went into the proof. It also tells stories about ancient Greek mathematics, few 17th and 18th century mathematicians and of course Andrew Wiles and his contemporaries. All this is intended for non-mathematical audience though. If you want to look at look at the mathematics Fermat's Last Theorem developed (i.e. the wrong proofs developed) read Paulo Ribenboim's "Fermat's Last Theorem for amateurs" or this link which also includes some ingredients of Wiles' proof.

It is interesting to realize the kind of gamble Wiles played. He set about proving the theorem in 1986 when it was realized that FLT would be implied by the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture (this was proved in Berkeley :-)). For the next seven years he worked in the attic of his home working with different techniques to prove the conjecture and announced a proof at Cambridge in 1993. It was later found to have a flaw which he corrected in 1994. Devoting a large part of his professional life to a single problem and working in secret all the time does require not only tenacity but also an amazing amount of self-confidence.

I wonder why although we say Indians are good mathematically, we hardly see examples of any great mathematics being done in India (ok - with the exception of the Primality testing algorithm). Is our education system geared towards a large number of "reasonably good" people rather than a few really good ones? Or are we afraid of the risks in focussing on one single thing and want to go for the low-hanging fruit? Ok.. enough of blabbering - go read the book!

Monday, March 27, 2006

आराम करो

To begin with, an appropriate post for a lazy morning of the spring break:

एक मित्र मिले, बोले, "लाला, तुम किस चक्की का खाते हो?
इस डेढ़ छँटाक के राशन में भी तोंद बढ़ाए जाते हो।
क्या रक्खा है माँस बढ़ाने में, मनहूस, अक्ल से काम करो।
संक्रान्ति-काल की बेला है, मर मिटो, जगत में नाम करो।"
हम बोले, "रहने दो लेक्चर, पुरुषों को मत बदनाम करो।
इस दौड़-धूप में क्या रक्खा, आराम करो, आराम करो।

आराम ज़िन्दगी की कुंजी, इससे न तपेदिक होती है।
आराम सुधा की एक बूंद, तन का दुबलापन खोती है।
आराम शब्द में 'राम' छिपा जो भव-बंधन को खोता है।
आराम शब्द का ज्ञाता तो विरला ही योगी होता है।
इसलिए तुम्हें समझाता हूँ, मेरे अनुभव से काम करो।
ये जीवन, यौवन क्षणभंगुर, आराम करो, आराम करो।

यदि करना ही कुछ पड़ जाए तो अधिक न तुम उत्पात करो।
अपने घर में बैठे-बैठे बस लंबी-लंबी बात करो।
करने-धरने में क्या रक्खा जो रक्खा बात बनाने में।
जो ओठ हिलाने में रस है, वह कभी न हाथ हिलाने में।
तुम मुझसे पूछो बतलाऊँ -- है मज़ा मूर्ख कहलाने में।
जीवन-जागृति में क्या रक्खा जो रक्खा है सो जाने में।

मैं यही सोचकर पास अक्ल के, कम ही जाया करता हूँ।
जो बुद्धिमान जन होते हैं, उनसे कतराया करता हूँ।
दीए जलने के पहले ही घर में आ जाया करता हूँ।
जो मिलता है, खा लेता हूँ, चुपके सो जाया करता हूँ।
मेरी गीता में लिखा हुआ -- सच्चे योगी जो होते हैं,
वे कम-से-कम बारह घंटे तो बेफ़िक्री से सोते हैं।

अदवायन खिंची खाट में जो पड़ते ही आनंद आता है।
वह सात स्वर्ग, अपवर्ग, मोक्ष से भी ऊँचा उठ जाता है।
जब 'सुख की नींद' कढ़ा तकिया, इस सर के नीचे आता है,
तो सच कहता हूँ इस सर में, इंजन जैसा लग जाता है।
मैं मेल ट्रेन हो जाता हूँ, बुद्धि भी फक-फक करती है।
भावों का रश हो जाता है, कविता सब उमड़ी पड़ती है।

मैं औरों की तो नहीं, बात पहले अपनी ही लेता हूँ।
मैं पड़ा खाट पर बूटों को ऊँटों की उपमा देता हूँ।
मैं खटरागी हूँ मुझको तो खटिया में गीत फूटते हैं।
छत की कड़ियाँ गिनते-गिनते छंदों के बंध टूटते हैं।
मैं इसीलिए तो कहता हूँ मेरे अनुभव से काम करो।
यह खाट बिछा लो आँगन में, लेटो, बैठो, आराम करो।

- गोपालप्रसाद व्यास