Monday, July 30, 2012

Today I Found Out..

...about this ultra-cool website called, err, "Today I Found Out"! Seems legit. Spent a nice half an hour in a mild Antiquity haze browsing through Bell's "Ahoy hoy" and tongue twasters (quite correctly spelt, thank you) and the incredisad tale of a Japanese soldier who thought the second world war went up to 1974. Also, TA Edison apparently did not invent the word ``Hello''.

Dinosauric Trilobites

Saudi Arabia's Female Olympic Athletes Called 'Prostitutes'

'via Blog this'

I mean, seriously? Also, this and this.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gmail: How it all started!

One of the very first gmail invitations

This is a blog post that I had started writing quite a long while back, and had somehow inexplicably filed away under "drafts". The link above points to a cool post wayyy back in 2004, where someone proudly exclaims that s/he has been invited for a gmail account. The first reply lays out the advantages of the gmail interface, including the labeling-over-foldering technique and the view-mails-in-a-conversation-thread innovation. These are of course now considered kernel for any self-respecting mail service. In fact, I have for some time stopped making much distinction between Email and Gmail. I recall in those early days I had a primary rediffmail account, a secondary yahoo account, and multitudes of hotmail accounts. The latter I signed up for just to test out the Incredimail software (which, I must confess, I was rather surprised even existed anymore). Those were the heady days of pioneers, testing out different sorts of email providers, figuring out which one is the coolest. Then, one day, I got an invite to gmail from JC. Inertia-loving that I am, I ignored such an invitation, preferring to stay true and loyal to my beloved(!) rediffmail and yahoo mails than sell my soul to the, gmail. I liked google, don't get me wrong. I just did not quite understand how a search engine could deliver mail. Anyway, a few days later, JC and I were conversing over phone, and he inquired about the invitation. To which I promptly expressed my disdain, and explained that I had managed to delete that invitation. He persisted, in true spirit of the one he is named after, and sent me yet another invitation. You must understand, in those days, each gmail user had a limited stock of invitations they could send out. Sending two invitations to the same person was a luxury one could ill-afford. yet, JC was persistent, and managed to make try out gmail. That was around 2004-05.

Need I say more?

p.s. Just checked, and it seems that my old rediffmail account still exists!!!

Walking through the world, Toph-style!

How does a person, deprived of the sense we primarily use, make their way around the world? This is a video from three graduate students from the National Taiwan University of Arts. The blind girl is robbed of her handbag, and her guide dog runs off after the snatcher. The girl begins her search of the dog, and, in doing so, slowly uncovers the world around her. A simple, yet beautiful, short video.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Associations are a complicated thing. When someone is a very good friend, and you have spent the last five-six years with them, for them to suddenly go away takes away a part of you. It is even worse if it happens twice in quick succession, or, in my case, simultaneously. Either way, one adapts, as one must. That is one of the most enduring traits of humanity in general --- adaptability. Which is why  we survive, I reckon.

When I came to IMSc, I was going to be living outside home for the first time. They were exciting times; the thrill of finding new horizons and limits, and the satisfaction of being able to evolve as a human being outside one's zone of comfort. Except that, pretty soon, this too became my zone of comfort. And it happened because of the fantasticus folks I managed to entwine my life with. Two of them are now departing. The best memory I have with AV has to be in the first year, in the music room, during the November Chennai deluge, when he and JIS had that unforgettable impromptu extempore jam session : the first on violin and the second on guitar and violin, alternately. I don't really have a "best" memory with SP; there are too many brilliant ones to rank. But there is one gesture of his that will always stay with me : whenever I would get an absolute twacky idea, and would enthusiastically proclaim it and set about trying it, he would second it with an assuring and I-have-your-back-go-ahead thumbs-up! AV and SP, I'm going to miss you, amigos!

Monday, July 02, 2012

An Idle Mind is the Devil's Workshop

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

This I quote from Tim Kreider, essayist, columnist and cartoonist, makes a stirring case in this article. Another quote :

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. 

I used to believe, strongly, in what Kreider says here. Now I am no longer sure. Maybe its just a case of fatal "busyness".