Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 12:08 AM
Monday, December 02, 2013
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 7:15 AM
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Sort of inspired from this :-)
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 10:58 PM
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Nevertheless, it is here, it is incredible and I haven't stopped smiling since morning. I was looking for an unsuspecting victim whom I could thwack with a snow ball from the back. I found one later in the day and he was not pleased. One off the bucket list though.
Snow is sort of fluffy which is surprising because I imagined it to be like grated ice not unlike the snow cones. Now I know why Robert Frost called it the "downy" flake.
I can't *wait* to build a snowman and have an actual snowball fight.
If you see someone near CMU jumping up and down and singing off key, it should probably be me.
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 10:45 PM
Sunday, November 10, 2013
I spent a considerable amount of my childhood at home alone. The story goes that my school started at 7 AM and it got over by 12:15 PM. This meant that my parents had to put me on the bus by 6 AM which also meant that they should be up by 5 AM. My mother thought it was too much of a bother for five hours of school which, in her opinion, was not teaching me anything. I bunked school at least 3 days a week. Both my parents worked and being a single kid, I pretty much spent all my time at home.
This was pre-internet and pre-exciting TV channels. We had cable TV (which was anyway introduced only in late 90's) but I somehow I never liked cartoons (I didn't understand the accent in which the characters talked ). My parents were voracious readers and read quite a bit in Tamil. No one was really interested in watching TV in my house and therefore, for the lack of better things to do, I started reading, crazily. My school had a wonderful library and I checked out tons of books every week whenever I went. I wheedled the librarian into giving me more books than it was normally allowed.
Madurai is not a big place. There weren't too many people who read, let alone children's books written by arcane authors. Only my grandfather read English books in the circle of people I knew . He harped on the classics of his times and snorted derisively at my taste. Due the distinct lack of a recommendation mechanism, I discovered all the books that I loved by myself and that helped me try out a lot of things before I started appreciating good writing. It was only after the Internet came about, I discovered how popular Enid Blyton, Herge(not technically an author), P.G.Wodehouse and my other favorite authors were among others who liked reading and I felt a strange kinship with the world.
Apart from the time I spent reading, I used to paint, collect stamps, sew clothes for my dolls and cook clandestinely because I was not allowed to switch on the stove. For some time, I was even interested in clay modeling. Basically, I learned to keep myself super occupied and when my parents came back home in the evening I had tons of stuff to tell them about the exciting happenings of my day, that was exciting even within the confines of my house. After the Internet came to my home in 12th grade, things changed massively- well, even with a dialup one could do so much. (I nostalgically observe a minute of silence for the creeps of AOL/Yahoo chatrooms at this point. A/S/L, anyone?)
Anyway, the point is I spent a very significant portion of my childhood, at home, alone. I loved it, though it (obviously) had major repercussions. Till date, I simply cannot work from desks and prefer to work in my nightclothes and from my bed because that is how I used to study or get any work done -by being a blob- as no one was around to chastise my weird ways. Things got slightly better after I lived in a dorm during undergrad and later, when I had room mates - but I used to love the all the little moments when I had the place I called home, to myself.
There is one particular reason why I love Calvin. Except for the figment of Calvin's imagination, Dad, Mom and the occasional kid he plays with, there aren't too many characters in his childhood. I resonate with this sentiment so much.
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 12:53 AM
Friday, November 01, 2013
This page is sort of addictive to flip through and see how many of the pictures I can relate to.
My favorites are
Nevertheless, here I am, almost as depicted in the picture, wise enough recognize the follies of my squandered youth. As JK Rowling says, I guess there is an expiry date to all the anger that you feel towards the world at large which is pretty much the underlying theme of undergrad days. These days I don't even pick up fights on Facebook. If that is any sign of maturity, I attribute it to the copious amount of character building that happened between January and up until I came here.
All this renders a zen like quality to my sleep deprived self that I have started finding happiness in
1) Nice sunny spots to work from
2) Daylight at home
3) Figuring out things on whiteboards
4) Better still -walls made of whiteboards which I accidentally found out in a building on my campus
5) Days without feeling a sleepy haze around my head
6) Being a blob on my bed on Saturdays
7) Remembering where I last left my spectacles (and keys, and ID card..)
and most important of all
which is all this blogging business is about.
Now, I really really have to do something about the homework.
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 8:15 AM
Thursday, October 10, 2013
They find out that people when asked, give 75% more donations than when they are not asked. Also, 30% of the people avoid the door where the solicitor is standing and choose the door where no one is standing when they see that the solicitor explicitly asks them for money. They do not avoid a door where there is a solicitor who does not explicitly ask for a donation.
So basically, the authors are list various reasons to figure out why people like to help others and how a verbal "ask" creates a feeling of empathy that makes people give money. But it looks like people go out of their way to avoid a situation where they will be asked for a donation. So it is not the act of giving that people avoid as much as the act of being asked. They still don't know why people do that.
All through the time I was put together the presentation, I was thinking how profound this concept was and that I was actually studying this with the academic rigor that was expected out of me.
I was also thinking about Portia's monologue in The Merchant of Venice, in which she implores Shylock to show mercy on Antonio
The quality of mercy is not strain'd? Academic literature thinks otherwise. :-)
However, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the kindness of people who never knew me when I sought their help. And somehow that makes me believe in the quality of mercy, more so now than ever.
P.S: I titled the presentation with the same title as this post..
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 8:24 AM
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
I find the American practice involved in writing out the homework very funny. For one, you can turn in homework by tearing the sheets from your notebook. Better, you can write in pencil- even in grad school.
I find this funny because we typically quit the pencil business at about fourth class. Starting to write with pens is a sort of coming of age ritual in India. The pencil hangover continues for a year or two, mainly as a back up to the "Hero Pens". The pencils are usually spotted as sidekicks nestled alongside an array consisting of a primary pen & back ups including a ball point pen. Ball point pens have always been looked down upon with an unjustified derision. The anti-ball point league comprising of admonishing mothers and caring fathers criticize that these pens encourage their offsprings to write fast and thereby symbolize their inattention to important stuff like handwriting. Work, like worship should be painstaking and it ain't work if not written with a well tempered Camelin ink pen.
The school days progress and before we know it, life thrusts us upon us, a geometry box. Multiple times during this phase, we fathom the use of the oddly shaped triangular things in the geometry boxes.
|Mysterious triangular component|
After this, science gets split into Botany, Zoology, Physics and Chemistry. Social becomes History and Geography. We start prefering bags that are more vertical than horizontal. Then comes the denouncement of lunch bag/box and the ubiquitous "snack boxes". As a direct result, all of us have had at least one instance of our tiffin boxes leaking their contents in our school bags. One can almost always catch a whiff of stale curry or curd when a friend opens his/her bag. Note that these are bygone days. Odor free school bags are marketing tag-lines for Tupperware "Executive lunchboxes".
After this phase, cometh the log books. We then start using the mysterious triangular objects in the geometry box, the way the Lord meant them to be used. This almost signs the end of school and perhaps the wisdom obtained from the swathe of colored pens we carry to our board exams, makes us feel enormously ready for the world.
Then, all of us enter an engineering college and acquire a drafter.
I remember these drafters distinctly because I had borrowed a discarded one from a senior and arrived to the Engineering Graphics class, quite pleased with myself, about the amount of money I had saved on the drafter. It so happened that the drafter had been discarded for a reason. The handle and pretty much anything that was supposed to move was rusted and jammed tight. I tried so hard to unscrew the rusty handle and irked everyone in the vicinity with my loud grunts. The professor was not pleased. The next day, in a sudden stroke of inspiration, I thought of pouring coconut oil over the screw hoping that it would lubricate the parts better. It did help me move the handle but I ended up having huge circles of oil stains all over my A2 sheet. It is a miracle I passed the subject.
Engineering education also ensures that we get to feel self important by using grown up instruments like "polar" and log graph sheets, "pro-circles", Z and star transform tables not to mention the multitude of HB pencils.
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 5:58 AM
Monday, September 02, 2013
This week's comic is particularly close to heart because it has taken up Bill Watterson's commencement address at Kenyon College and has converted the speech into a beautiful, poignant comic with Calvin and Hobbes evoked very subtly in all the boxes. For a person who can quote Calvin and Hobbes verbatim, it is a carnal sin when people attempt to create a modern day version. It sullies the collective wisdom of a five year old and his tiger and worse it makes Calvin to grow up. However, I was completely blown away by Zen Pencil's interpretation which while quoting Watterson, takes us through his life hinting Calvin all along but never saying so.
It is beautiful. Do check it out here. Do look out for the Dinosaur & the author's daughter holding up a gun. I definitely know the sheepish look.
There were two pieces so profound that it worth adding them here.
When people ask me why I didn't start my PhD right after college, I often wonder what I can tell them. How do I explain that these things cannot be planned. I cannot really explain why I like doing certain things in a certain way leveraging what I can do best instead of trying to be good at something I don't like but people expect me to be. I cannot explain how important it is for me to be excited about what I do and even now, I feel it is okay to go back and forth until I get it right.
Sometimes I don't even know who or what we are running up against. When I see some of my classmates from middle or high school on Facebook, I wonder why we all squabbled over who got the first rank or won a stupid Math quiz. Life averages us out eventually. Our definitions of happiness varies so much that it is stupid to make us all stick to arbitrary timelines and measure us all with the same success metric. After a point, the value of 12th standard marks, CTC, GRE/GMAT score diminishes to insignificance. At this point, I see people envying each other only on the quality of life apparent on their social media feed- the fun things that they get to do after work, the biking trips, exotic vacations and so forth (given the assumption that most people consider all work to be boring as everyone codes for someone else) - which is rather sad.
Ok, time to get back to work. Hope you enjoyed the comic as much as I did!
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 9:04 PM
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 8:42 PM
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
When I was at school, my father developed an ingenious, almost patentable way, to tamper proof my textbooks. First, he would place a cardboard sheet on top of my books, drill tiny holes along the edges and stitch the books with the cardboard. He would then append a layer of black calico on top of these sheets and let it dry for a day. The usual brown covers would go on top of this calico layer. Then came the labels after which my father would use transparent plastic covers as the final layer of protection. This was a back breaking job and my father would spend two three days on this while I waltzed in and out of the house supervising the operations with insightful remarks such as "Oh, not that green dinosaur label on my Maths book! I was saving it for Science".
Now, one would wonder why my father invested so much time on my books. I am sure much revered documents like the original copy of the Indian Constitution or why, even the Magna Carta would probably not have four layered covers. At this point, I need to elucidate my mother's beliefs on the Indian educational system. To keep it short, she didn't believe in it. This meant I occasionally popped in and out of school for writing a test or for a quiz or when I had to go to the library to check out my Enid Blytons for that week and that was it. I was at school hardly three times a week and I very rarely went to classes thanks to the quizzes. This methodology worked wonder on my social skills, of course, but I loved it when I was at school. My mother would rather have me at home reading a novel than go to school and be bored all day.
My school didn't mind my erratic attendance because my grades were always super good and frankly, they didn't have a choice as they couldn't really complain to my parents. I suppose it was better not having me around rather than getting caustic post cards from my mother pointing out flaws in their teaching methodology.
Tangents apart, this meant I never really attended any classes and learnt most of the stuff by myself. My mother coached me until 5th grade (to see that I was actually doing something) and my father had to help me a lot with Math well into my high school. This also meant I really had to read the textbooks myself, multiple times- not just the questions at the back of the lesson, but every word inside. As much as she did not believe in trivial things such as attendance, my mother used to go Nazi on me when it came to marks.
My mother would advise me to consider my books like yet another paperback and finish them in the summer holidays so that I had the entire year to goof around. Apparently, this is what they used to do when they were kids and which is apparently how my uncles aced everything they ever did. I used to point out the flaw in her otherwise impeccable logic that I was anyway planning to goof around all year and books were not going to stand in my way.
When the tests loomed before me, I had a ritual - For some unfathomable reason I would watch my books carefully for a week or two. I guess it was more to acclimatize my visual senses to the mere existence of these books. Two days before the test, after a lot of maternal insistence and revoked reading privileges, I would render a melancholic moan not unlike that of our friend Myrtle. I would sniff at the book suspiciously, look at the print size, admire at my father's neat stitches and then decide to take a break. Post the "break", I would potter around filling ink in my pens, getting my scented erasers out and arranging my pencil box.
At this point, my mother would have that vein throbbing dangerously on her forehead which would hurriedly drive me back to my desk. After opening the book to say, "Classification of animal kingdom", I would sigh and count the number of pages till the end, hold the pages between my thumb and forefinger to gauge the thickness and utter one more moan. This is when my mom would go bananas, snatch the book off my hand and throw it across the room telling me, not in subtle terms, what a waste of her time I was.
I would sullenly retrieve the book and read the damned chapter on how the members of Phylum Coelenterata procured food and reproduced. If all went well, the books would lose their plastic shield in a month and be reduced to the bare calico in 3 months. In three months, all my books looked uncannily like the book of judgement what with the gloomy black calico portending a year full of tests. Books before the tamper proof era had to be replaced three times in a year which is why this rigorous protection mechanism was established. One would ask why my books were not hard bound - that's because I refused to carry such heavy bound books to school, even for the meagre 2-3 times per week and my parents loved me so much that they had to invent a lighter weight option.
While at college, I would happily walk into Ukkadam shops with my syllabus book and get the cheap Prentice Hall (for sale only in the Indian subcontinent) books while my father paying happily for the books, like he always had. I never used xeroxes like my fellow CITians did because I needed those big prints on off-white sheets and the book had to feel voluminous enough in my hand. Spiral bound xeroxes with their deathly pallor and tiny prints put me off more than the drab VLSI content in them - not to mention the unpleasant feeling of spiral coil poking me at unexpected moments.
At college, I again had a ritual. I used to stack up all my books in a huge pile and beam at the prospect of knowledge I was to glean from them that semester. I would then read the preface scanning for signs of witty remarks. I would then put the book next to me on the bed and sleep partially on it for a week to get used to the feeling. In this period, they would serve as a laptop stand, you know, as a heat dissipating agent.
|One such stack in my final semester|
In short, when it comes to text books, I am a tough nut to crack. No one moans and groans like I do when it comes to reading books that are plain textbookish in their own old fashioned way. I relish interesting material, interactive lectures and witty books- stuff I can laugh at, like Tanenbaum's Operating Systems, Computer Networking and this other Electronics book. This is why, after a lot of failed attempts at conventional reading, I had to order a copy of what is called as "A cartoon guide to statistics". It is good they have a clientele like me who like to consume knowledge through pictures. Reminds me of the good old days of calico books and dangerously throbbing veins on my mother's forehead. This is also a good reason to completely switch to Coursera and Udacity which is probably the best kind of education I have had. Really, I had tears in my eyes after I watched classes from this Calculus class.
P.S: I started this out as a tribute to world book day but ended up meandering quite a bit and had to change the title :)
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 3:17 PM
Monday, March 04, 2013
Birthdays don't feel any different anymore, there are no milestones. I get to eat cake everyday :)
I hope I get to go by the year following the two principles.
Green knees and make life go "whaaat"
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 12:26 PM
Sunday, March 03, 2013
There are a thousand admirable things that makes him the man of action that he is- I have never seen someone so doggedly determined, so street smart and oh, so precocious, right from the first year of college. We spent hours lamenting incessantly about our circumstances- but he always pulled things together and gave hope to the rest of us in our gang, that things will eventually work out.
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 2:03 PM
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Today I watched this brilliant movie called Ferrari Ki Sawaari. The other Boman Irani movie I have seen before is "Well done Abba" which was again, amazing. As far Ferrari is concerned, the movie's story line was simple but hilarious. Every character was so accurately portrayed. The Mumbai that they showed in the movie looked so clean and beautiful unlike the Mumbai that I have seen. I want to gush about it more, but then it is around 1 am and my adjectives tend to be limited at this time of the day. I am kind of going through an epiphanic phase, lately. As I was watching the movie I found a bunch of pertinent takeaways that I thought would be worthy enough to jot down in this journal of mine.
- There are a lot of hardworking people who badly want a lot of things to go their way. It is important to acknowledge them while evaluating personal miseries
- There are a lot of unfair things that can happen to good people. The true meaning of growing up, so I am told, is to move on
- If someone gets something that we want so badly want means that they wanted it more and they worked harder than we did
- If certain things were meant to happen in a certain way, we cannot tweak them to suit our convenience
- There are good people in this world
Posted by Uttara Ananthakrishnan at 1:31 AM