Saturday, December 27, 2008

Food

I don't even remember when I started sitting in the kitchen watching my mom cook, and telling her about my day. I certainly never questioned if what we ate was healthy, whether we put too many spices or too few, were we getting enough protein etc. "It was home made food - it must be good" was my reasoning.

But the US changed all that. I met people from other cultures, who ate much unheathier "home made" food, and others who ate much healthier food. I started wondering why "we Indians" always overcook our vegetables. Why "we(I)" need so much salt, why I always want food with more ghee and more spices. I thought about eating less cooked veggies, less salt, more "lentils" ...

I worry so much more about food now than I ever did. I now wonder what the side-effect of all this worrying is. And thus the cycle of positive reinforcement begins?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Circles

I finally did this year what I spent days and days doing last year.

Looked at the prices of tickets to India. For different dates, different websites.
Wondered what could be, how I could be at home.
I searched, even though I knew I have a deadline, and I can't go home.
I searched, even though I knew all flights will be ridiculously expensive.
I searched, even though I knew it will not be practical for me to go to India for a few more months.

Its at times like these when I hate myself for being a practical person.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Carnegie Mellon Says

"We are very saddened by the news reports coming from Mumbai and hope that all is well with your family and friends. We are writing today to offer any assistance that Student Affairs may be able to provide.

Given the Thanksgiving break and limited resources on campus please feel free to contact ... (people and phone numbers)

I trust the support of friends here on campus or at home is a source of comfort and I encourage you to rely on others as needed. Again, our sympathies are with you and we welcome the opportunity to assist."

Its Thanksgiving, and still someone cared to arrange people to call, and mail people. :)

One More

Shooting on VT station. Running away from the sound of "firecrackers". Getting shot. The media making you stop so that they can get a shot of your bleeding hand, before letting you get to a hospital. Grenades on the road, grenades at the Taj. Being stuck in a hotel, knowing that there is firing going on on the other floor. Police dying. Smoke, fire. Mumbai burns again :(
1993, 2003, 2006, 2008.
Bangalore, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mumbai.
Whats happening to our country ? How do we fix this ?

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Fine Balance

I read A Fine Balance almost two months ago. But the book still haunts me. In the middle of a cup of coffee, I stop and wonder about Dina, and whether things could have been different with her. About whether, if she had pleaded to keep the tailor's machines, she would have been in her own house, she would have been happier.

When I am lying in bed, just about to fall asleep, I wonder about Om and Ishwar - how much they saw, how much they hoped. I wonder what they felt all that struggle was worth.

I think about the book, and feel miserable even now. Hurt for the characters, for their families, for the rest of our country, and I wish, like a small child, that things got better. The last time I connected so much with a book was Shantaram, but at least Shantaram was a happy book. It gave me things to think about, and also to hope for.

A fine balance, on the other hand, left me wanting. Wanting a parent to come and fix this world now. Wanting to not take responsibility for what I see in our world, yet left me knowing that I must - who will, if not us?

Highly highly recommended.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Microbe Hunters

Microbe Hunters is an awesome book ! It tells you about passion in research, about excitement, about success and failure. But more importantly, it talks about scientists - the methodical ones, doing their slow experiments, verifying each step 10 times to remove all doubts, and never jumping to the wrong conclusions, and the other type - the passionate type, who jumps to conclusions, believes in intuition, and putting an idea in the scientific community, waiting for others to build on it, and actually prove the result.

Microbe Hunters gave me hope. Hope that different kinds of people can succeed at the same thing. Hope that if you keep pushing at the rock, it will move - one inch at a time. And it showed me a completely new way to think and write about research. After all, isn't it about the people as much as about the scientific method?

It is an old old book - it was written way back in 1926, and its supposed to have the racist undertones of its times. But its such a beautiful book, so passionate, and exciting, that how does it matter, that 80 years ago, the author thought the white man was supreme ?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

5 years

A really long time, but not enough to stop missing someone. But then again, an entire life isn't enough, is it?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Networking with CTOs @ Grace Hopper

One of the events that I attended today at Grace Hopper was networking with CTOs for students. 15 minutes spent with one CTO and 6 students, 4 such meetings, and some networking over lunch. Some of the really cool people I met :

1. Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox
2. Rebecca Parsons, Thoughtworks
3. Per-Kristian (Kris) Halvorsen, Intuit
4. Greg Papadopoulous, Sun Microsystems
5. Nan Mattai, Rockwell Collins Engineering & Technology
6. Dan Reed, Microsoft

In 2006, I read and got really inspired by this article, and I was so excited to meet Sophie, that I stood in line 30 minutes in advance, to make sure I could find seating on her table. And I wasn't disappointed at all. Sophie was very relaxed, confident, and very much the image of an extremely successful woman. She even has a style statement ! (plain suits and silk scarves) One of the big messages I got from Sophie was to dream big, and talk to people about your dreams. Very often, I don't like sharing what I want to try because I am scared that it will fail, but her point that only when you tell people what you are doing, will they offer to help you, really hit home. She had told her interviewer in her first interview at Xerox that her goal was to be the CTO of Xerox, and that really impressed me a lot.

She also talked about working on a single project for 5-6 years to build your credibility as a technical person(depth), and then once you start advancing in your career, making lateral moves to ensure you have breadth across a wide spectrum of technology, that will help you advance further up the ladder.

Nan Mattai also talked about the importance of having credibility as a technical person, before aiming to be a technical leader, and about the importance of mentors. She didn't have the "ambition" to be a CTO before starting work, and she said it was all about working hard, and having fun, and not worrying too much about the big picture, and where you are going :) It was an interesting contrast for sure.

Rebecca Parsons was focused on the technological challenges, and keeping up with mega-trends in the industry, so your company doesn't get "surprised" by new innovations in the world.

Greg was the typical "successful silicon valley" person. Relaxed, tanned, "fun-loving", the "I don't know why/how am I so rich/successful" type of person. But that was true of all 3 male CTOs. The whole "its no big deal", "I just had kept having fun and suddenly I was successful" was what all three of them emphasized (and it was also something neither of the women mentioned).

All the CTOs I met talked about having courage, the ability to handle failure, dreaming big, perseverance, etc. However, all three women treated their position with "respect". Rebecca focused on technical challenges, Nan talked about how her success was unexpected, and Sophie of course spoke about ambition, but they all acknowledged all the work that they did to get where they were. The emphasis on the journey was present throughout, and completely missing from the stories of the men. It made me wonder why.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

India Trip - Home

How do you write about being at home after a year? Having the good tea that Jisha makes, or talking to mom face-to-face, eating some absolutely brilliant food, till you are completely full, but still want some more? Spending time at home, just being with mom is the most relaxing thing ever !

But besides that my stay at home also had a lot of fun ! I met Aniket who came to meet me, even though he was in India for such a short time as well, and Kuldeep, who stayed over for a night as well, and it felt great meeting them after such a long time. Kuldeep and I went to the airport to receive Tejaswi, and we sat outside discussing economics and gas prices, and friends, and computer science while we waited for the flight to arrive. Finally, Neela visited me as well, and it felt awesome talking to her after so long ! And she got me some really pretty earrings as well. :)

That one week was a lot of fun - from shopping for skirts, to eating sizzlers with my family at Cream Centre and icecream at Naturals, and the Chronicles of Narnia, and meeting Raj Massi, and watching Kanyadaan, and eating at the Vile Parle khaau galli, and Red Light, and the Chinese dinner, and Antimony, and walking along the Queen's necklace, and shopping for paintings and meeting Dr Jehangir, and going to Shoppers Stop and RAIT, and the mango juice and the pav bhaji and dahi chaat at Sadguru. Its a blur of memories, one better than the other. My favorite one would be being at the airport though, and grinning, and then grinning some more - so happy to be back home :) Thinking of that moment still makes me smile.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Jisha's Visit

Jisha visited me in Pittsburgh over the weekend, and we had awesome fun ! The first day she slept for 18 hours(with a short break in between for cake) before I finally woke her up :P, and we went for a nice lunch at Bravo, followed by the movie Hancock and some shopping at the Waterfront. I got my 2 new kadhais from Visionart Italian to remember her birthday by :), and we ended the day with some foosball, and a tour of CMU.

The next day was fun at Kennywood ! All the water rides, the rollercoaster (Phantom's revenge), and all the kids rides, and after that exhausting day, we met the LTI gang later that evening as well. On Saturday, we lazed around at home, and went to downtown, Station Square, and up the Mohanagela incline to Mount Washington for dinner in the evening. The view was awesome, but the weather there was really chilly, and I learned a new song in the bar we passed on the way :D

By the time we got back, it was 12 am, and we sat and watched the video show that keeps projecting on the front entrance of the Carnegie Natural History Museum in the night. We then went to CMU where I fell asleep in the RI, while Sivaraman and Jisha played foosball, pool and video games for many many hours. It was a short, but awesome fun trip, and I already miss her.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

White Water Rafting

I went for a white water rafting trip on Sunday with a bunch of CMU students, and it was soo much fun. We were around 80 people in our morning group, and 7 of us were in one raft - Dan, Beena, Sivaraman, Ali, Ravi, Harsha, and me.

The trip started on a very scary note when Ali fell in the water right at the very start, and thanks to the flow of the water and our own inexperience at controlling the raft, we couldn't stop our raft, and Ali was floating in the water for almost 3-5 minutes before he was rescued by some other boat. Beena fell in a couple of times as well, and on our first major rapid, we got stuck on a rock ! We bounced around on the raft, trying to dislodge ourselves, and when we finally managed, the guide on top of the rock felt we didn't have enough control, so asked us to just sit in the center of the boat and not navigate the rapid at all. We got better though, and soon did our first rapid without losing anybody or getting stuck !

The fun began right after lunch though, when at the biggest rapid of them all, we got stuck (again!) on a BIG rock, and this time we had to either manage to get ourselves to go against the strong current of the water, and go down and hit many more rocks and potentially hurt ourselves badly. Eventually, we figured that the water was only till about waist level, and in spite of the gushing currents, we could get out, and drag our boat back against the current. We tried. And we didn't lose our boat :) But that was all. Just when I thought we would manage it ourselves, the rafting dudes came and helped us get back our raft, and that was the end of our heroic efforts :P

After that debacle, we managed to navigate one rapid really well, and to commemorate that, the kayak people who were supposed to be leading us suggested that we jump into the calm water. We had life jackets on, so there was no danger of sinking, or so he said. I thought I would never fall in the water, cause I would always play it safe, and this is a safe opportunity to create a memory and I jumped. The water was cold, and deep, and I kept freaking out that the life jacket is not strong enough, so I kept thrashing about incessantly. I wanted to get back on the raft, but it turns out that getting back is not that easy :P, and I ended up being dragged up into the raft by Dan (who was the only one who could climb back without help), but I got a cut on my lip for that :(

And at the very next rapid, we got stuck for a second, and I had a 5 foot fall into the water !! Very scary stuff ! I hit the water, come back out, only to see the raft swoosh by my head, merely a couple of inches away... I just started getting thankful that it didn't hit me when I saw another raft coming my way, and then another ! After 3 lucky misses, I realized I needed to start floating ! I had to float for a couple of minutes in the rapid, feeling those rocks hit my back, and trying to "relax, and keep my feet and head out of the water", till I eventually caught up with the raft, and was pulled back up by Dan.

And at the next rapid, we got stuck some more, and this time, we all got off to push the boat, except that I got stuck holding onto the boat, while it floated towards me. I had to hold on for dear life, cause if I had let go, I would have been pushed into the water, under the boat (and did I mention it was very shallow water , and being under the raft would have meant hitting many many many rocks really hard?) After a couple of minutes, I was again dragged into the raft again, and I decided to play it oh-so-safe from now on.

Turned out that was the end of the rafting trip, and I didn't have to play so-safe after all :) It was soo much awesome fun - the adrenaline, the screaming, and shouting and rowing and falling, and dragging. Too much !

To end the exciting day, I added some more excitement to my life, by forgetting my phone on the bus. And the next day, I had to make 50 calls, and then Sivaraman and I had to go all the way to South Side to get it back. End of excitement :) For the day.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

India Trip - Travel

The last time I traveled by Rajdhani was when I came back home for a weekend between my travel from Delhi to Bangalore in 2007. When I had fussed about which things I could carry, and which I would have to throw away, had borrowed Akshat's big roll-on bag to put all my stuff (which I still have btw), when I couldn't decide whether to be happy or sad or hopeful, when I waited at Delhi station listening to details of a job offer, wondering if I should tell P now that I won't be taking it, or wait and mail him an official mail later ...

That was then though, and this was now. I still had a big heavy suitcase, but it was filled with gifts, not my own random stuff, and this time mom was with me. The train travel, listening to mom chat up with strangers, waiting at Delhi station for our next train, looking at the stalls for books and snacks to buy (only this time, I wasn't the kid who thought the snacks on the station are awesome, or the variety in the bookstore mindboggling) - it was all very nostalgic. And before I knew it, we were in Panipat. With Mummy and Daddy fussing over us, asking about food and chai, mom getting fussy about not making Mummy(my naani) do any work.

The first day, we visited a couple of aunts, and somewhere along the way, jet-lag caught up, and I fell asleep in the middle of a conversation. The second day, Jisha reached as well, and I went to the station to pick her up, and we all went for lunch to Veena massi's house, where she fed us infinite quantities of food - including (but not limited to) paneer, dal, roti, noodles, rice, fruit salad, samosa, chat, dhokla, ras-malai, tea, biscuits, namkeen and a bunch of things that I have now forgotten.

The next day we traveled to Yamunanagar, and met that really really nice bank-manager, who my mom gifted "US chocolates" to cause he was just so nice. We also went to Papa's ex-college, where we met some of his ex-students (who are lecturers now), and talked about missing him and his "discipline" and his advice, and told some random stories about days gone by. On our way back, we stopped over at Karnal, and met my aunt, and 2 baby cousins, and some relatives who I have never met before ! They were all quite nice actually, and all of them ensured that they fed us a LOT. Finally, we reached back to Panipat, and visited another aunt (Bobby massi) who was nice enough to not insist that we eat some more :)

Day 4 was a trip to my last aunt in Panipat whom we hadn't visited, and from there we went to Delhi, and met my cousin Tinni who has just got married. We heard about her new family, and her husband Micky, who I didn't get to meet sadly :(, but the rest of the meeting was so much fun. Some more of my cousins were there, and a couple of aunts as well, and the whole house was full of laughter! Later that evening, I met Akshat and Vimmi, and went for more food :P Akshat of course hasn't changed at all, and that brought on more nostalgia about Delhi :)

Day 5 was spent relaxing in Delhi, and talking to my aunt, and then traveling to Gwalior to meet more relatives :) Day 6 and 7 were spent in Gwalior, where we met my buas, and more cousins, and even a niece who might be named Kriti ! I met all these cute kids, who practiced mehndi on my hands, and we sat and watched Babu bhaiya's wedding video, and went to see Gwalior fort, and had roadside food !

Day 8 was back to Mumbai, end of the hectic week, back home, with a couple of kilos added thanks to North Indian hospitality :(, and with plans to spend the rest of the holiday relaxing at home :) I met soo many people, whom I hadn't met for such a long time, and they were all so nice, and so much fun ! I hope I get to do this again very very soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Atalanta

From your reading pleasure, I give you Atalanta, from http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/1421/FreeToBe.html#Atalanta, copied wholly from the source :)

Once upon a time, not long ago, there lived a princess named Atalanta, who could run as fast as the wind. She was so bright, and so clever, and could build things and fix things so wonderfully that many young men wished to marry her. "What shall I do?" said Atalanta's father, who was a powerful king. "So many young men want to marry you, and I don't know how to choose."

"You don't have to choose, father," said Atalanta. "I will choose. And I'm not sure that I will choose to marry anyone at all."

"Of course you will," said the king. "Everybody gets married. It's what people do."

"As for me," Atalanta told him, "I intend to go out and see the world. When I come home, perhaps I will marry, and perhaps I will not."

The king did not like this at all. He was a very ordinary king: powerful, and used to having his way. So he told Atalanta, "I have decided how to choose the young man you will marry. I will hold a great race, and the winner, the swiftest and fleetest young man of all, will win the right to marry you."

Now, Atalanta was a clever girl, as well as a swift runner, so she told her father, "Very well then, let there be a race. But you must let me run in it too. And if I am not the winner, I will accept the wishes of the young man who is. If I am the winner, I will choose for myself what I will do."

The king agreed to this. He would have his way, marry off his daughter, and enjoy a fine day of racing, as well. So he called his messengers together, and directed them to travel far and wide to announce the race with its wonderful prize: the chance to marry the bright Atalanta.

Meanwhile, Atalanta herself was preparing for the race. Each day at dawn, she went to the field in secret, until she could run the course in just three minutes, more quickly than anyone had ever run it before.

As the day of the race grew near, young men began to crowd into the town. Each was sure he could win the prize, the except for one. That was young John, who lived in the town. He knew Atalanta well, for he saw her day be day as she bought nails and wood to make a pigeon house, or sat reading a book in the gardens, or chose parts for her telescope, or laughed with her friends. Young John say the princess only from a distance, but he understood how bright and clever she was. He wished very much to race with her; to win and to earn the right to talk with her, and become her friend. "For surely," he said to himself, "it is not right for Atalanta's father to give her away to the winner of the race. Atalanta herself must choose whom she wants to marry, or whether she wishes to marry at all. Still, if I could only win the race, I would be free to speak to her, and to ask for her friendship!"

Each evening, after his studies of the stars and the seas, John went to the field in secret and practiced running across it. Night after night, he raced as fast as the wind across the twilight field, until he could cross it in three minutes, more quickly, he thought, than anyone had run across it before.

At last, the day of the race arrived. Trumpets sounded, and the young men gathered along the edge of the field, along with Atalanta herself, the prize that they sought. The king and his friends sat in soft chairs, and the townspeople stood along the course of the race. The king rose to address them all. "Good day!" he said to the crowds. "Good luck!" he said to the young men. To Atalanta, he said "Goodbye. I must tell you farewell, for tomorrow, you will be married."

"I am not too sure of that, father" Atalanta answered, and she went to stand in line with the young men. "Not one of them," she said to herself, "can win the race, for I will run as fast as the wind, and leave them all behind."

And now, a bugle sounded, and the runners were off!

The crowds cheered as the young men and Atalanta began to race across the field. At first, they ran as a group, but Atalanta soon pulled ahead, with three of the young men close after her. As they neared the half-way point, one of them put on a great burst of speed and seemed to pull ahead for an instant, but then gasped, and fell back. Atalanta shot on! Soon, another young man, tense with the effort, drew near to Atalanta. He reached out as if to touch her sleeve, stumbled for an instant, and lost speed. Atalanta smiled as she ran on. "I have almost won!" she thought. Just then another young man drew near to her. This was young John, running like the wind, as steadily and as swiftly as Atalanta herself. Atlanta felt his closeness, and in a sudden burst, she dashed ahead. But young John didn't give up. "Nothing at all," thought he, "will keep me from winning my chance to speak with Atalanta," and on he ran, swift as the wind, until he ran as her equal, side by side with her, toward the golden ribbon that marked the race's end. Atalanta was aware of him, and she raced even faster. But young John was a strong match for her. Smiling with the pleasure of the race, Atalanta and young John reached the finish line together, and together they broke through the golden ribbon that marked it!

Trumpets blew! The crowd shouted and leaped about! The king rose. "Who is this young man?" he asked.

"I am young John from the town," young John answered.

"Very well, young John," said the king, as John and Atalanta stood before him. "You have not won the race, but you have come closer to winning than any man here. And so I give you the prize that was promised: the right to marry my daughter."

Young John smiled at Atalanta, and she smiled back. "Thank you, sir," said John to the king, "but I could not possibly marry your daughter unless she wished to marry me. I have run this race for the chance to talk with Atalanta."

Atalanta laughed with pleasure. "And I," she said to John, "could not possibly marry you before I've gone out to see the world. But I would like nothing better than to spend the afternoon with you." And she held out her hand to young John, who took it. Then the two of them sat and talked on the grassy field. Atalanta told John about her telescopes and her pigeons, and John told Atalanta about his globes and his geography studies. At the end of the day, they were friends.

The next day, John set off by ship to discover new lands, and Atalanta set off on horseback to visit great cities. The king stayed home and thought about how the world was changing. When he was young, daughters always wanted to get married. But now Atalanta is still off in the world, visiting towns and cities, and John is still sailing the seas. Perhaps someday they'll be married, and perhaps they will not. In any case, it is certain they are both living happily ever after.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

20 years

Thats how long it took Richard Lenski and his students and colleagues to come up with a result.
But what a result !
http://scienceblogs.com/loom/2008/06/02/a_new_step_in_evolution.php

Floatin

I'm learning how to swim. It's all really exciting right now - shopping for the costume, floating and gliding in the water, swallowing a lot of chlorine water, the shower, and the roaming around with wet frizzy hair ...
It was my second day at the locker today and someone took my towel !! I also learned that there are dryers to dry your swimsuit, so you don't have to carry your wet swimsuit through the day :P
Starting lessons was almost the scariest thing I have done ever, and now that the first step is done, I am soooo excited !

Friday, June 13, 2008

Its Friday the 13th

And its raining in Pittsburgh, and there's thunder and lightning. I LOVE this sound of thunder, the patter of raindrops, and I hope this goes on all month :)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Holi


CMU finally got warm enough to play Holi only in April, and that’s what we did the day after my birthday! There was color and cold water and lots of shouting and laughing and uncontrollable giggling! And later, we had to get semi-cleaned in the CMU bathroom, so that we looked presentable enough to get on the bus, without being thrown out by the driver! As I passed by some kids sitting in the sun outside NSH, one of them turned to their mom and said “mom, more colored people!” – it was really funny.

I met Sundarmurthy uncle and Radhika aunty and Aishwarya later that day. I was still pink from holi, and Radhika aunty thought I was allergic to pollen. :) They took me to their friend’s place, and we all had a late lunch together. Even though I met them after 10 years, it seemed like only yesterday that I was at their place, having fun – they haven’t changed a bit, except for Aishu of course, who has become all big now :)
Radhika aunty got me a lot of food – biscuits and chips and chakli, and for the next 3 weeks, I gorged on nice Indian food here. I felt really nice meeting them after so long!

Birthday


My birthday this year was the most work I have done ever on my birthday! I cooked for 14 people on Thursday night, on the eve of my birthday, and preparations started a week in advance. Cleaned the house, went to the Strip District to buy vegetables in bulk, planned the menu (rajma, peas pulao, mixed vegetable raita and cauliflower vegetable) etc. We ate chips and chocolates and played Wolf Wolf, and it was a whole lot of fun! I don’t think I will ever forget trying to convince Alankrita that I am the doctor and Ali is the wolf! My friends had got 2 cakes, and I got smeared with cake at midnight as expected. Everyone left by 1:30am, and by the time I cleaned up the kitchen and slept, it was already 4am.
The next morning started early again with cleaning the house and more cooking for lunch for 8 of my LTI friends! They had the sweetest, cutest, nicest surprise for me – they had made me the most awesome video wishing me happy birthday, and my advisor Eric was also in it! And even though I managed not to break out in happy tears as expected, I was speechless for quite a while after that.

Later that evening, we went to the CMU spring carnival and Sivaraman and I went on a couple of rides. One of them went round and round vertically, so we were upside down for quite some time, and although it was really exciting, I felt giddy for quite some time after that. And listening to Sameer describe the kidneys resting on the lungs while we were upside down made me decide not to go on these rides again. A sign of old age and maturity and all that for sure. :D

I also got two dozen roses later that day, and I spent a happy hour, decorating them in a vase, and posing for photographs with them. I’m still reading the books I got – ‘Remember Me?’, ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’, and ‘The Blank Slate’. It was a happy happy birthday, and may I have many more :D

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

I celebrated my 25th on Friday. A quarter century done. Lists of "Things I will do before 25" left incomplete. Lists of "Things I would never ever do" done ;) People hurt, people loved, places seen, places missed. The idealism is going, the cynic is setting in. The lesson to accept certain inalienable truths is being learned.

Nostalgia is setting in, but the excitement is starting as well... Here's to the beginning of the rest of my life - may it be interesting times indeed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Surprise

Sometimes you think you cannot understand a person/concept more. She's my mom, I know everything about her ! I invented this algorithm, and worked on it for 10 years, how could I not understand all the finer points? And then you get surprised :) And its such an awesome surprise, to know that no matter how deep you go, there is still more depth. Some mystery is unveiled, but only to remind you that there are many more to come - the layers remain.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen ever ! The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the water was still, there was a cool breeze, the people were beautiful !


We stayed at the W hotel, (thanks to Google), the most gorgeous hotel I have seen ever ! Colorful bedspreads, a view of the pool, the sofa right next to the window, and of course, the super-posh lounge downstairs. My visit started with a quick visit to Chinatown with Aditi, Kalifa, and Allison. Chinatown is the quintessential touristy place, 2$ San Francisco tshirts, Chinese good-luck charms, and a "last day of Bush" countdown timer ! We got back just in time for the Google reception - a nice dinner, and interesting conversations with some fascinating people from all over the country.


The next day was the trip to Google itself. The highlight of the day was the icecream social, where Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with a few directors "dropped by to say a hi". I also attended a talk by Peter Norvig which was pretty cooL as well. The Google campus itself is very impressive, surprisingly large, and all the stories about "too many cafes" is completely true. The one we went to had 200 options for food - there was nothing that I could think of which I didn't see - from Indian to Chinese to Sushi to Pizza and fruits and icecream and milk + cornflakes, and yogurt and beef and duck and salads and many many more things. The size and variety were mind-boggling !

I met up with Sumanth and visited the Golden Gate bridge, and Sausalito - one of the most beautiful places I have seen in the US so far. It was so peaceful, and calm and quiet, with pretty boats, and a view of the SF skyline, and so romantic ! I also went for some dinner cruise (courtesy Google), which was surprisingly not that impressive - dinner on a boat, which roams around downtown so you can see the night skyline just sounds much more romantic/impressive than it actually is. Later that night, Vijay and I hit some nightclub, and had a lot of fun ! And then drove from SF to Sunnyvale at 3am, while I tried so hard not to fall asleep, so that Vijay would have company while driving.

Vijay showed me around Stanford - the driveway with the palm trees, the "tall observatory", the church, the lake, and of course the CS building. Stanford is such a beautiful university ! And he also took me to the chaat place - where I had decent chaat for the first time in the US - I was soo happy ! I miss that place now :(

I totally need to go back to San Fransisco ASAP !

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Seattle Trip

Some trips are just so much fun, so much fun, so much fun, that when you get back home, all you want to do is go back. Seattle at Spring Break was that kind of a trip for me, mostly because of Sapna.

I landed in Seattle on the 12th, Sapna came to the airport to pick me up, and the 45 minute drive to her house disappeared while we chatted about everything and nothing. Her house is beautiful, very elegant, very subtly decorated. Sappo had made dal and roti and beans ki subji, an awesome meal that ended with some great chai !! We then went to the Snoqualmie Falls, which were so powerful, and magnificent, somehow, man-made buildings don't compare ! There was a boardwalk where you could stand and look at the falls, but like most other people, we jumped over it, onto the rocks below, and viewed the waterfall, right from the shore. We sat there on the rocks for sometime, feeling the tiny droplets of water, hearing the roar of the waterfall, feeling the stress go away !



Later in the evening we went to Whole Foods, which was fun, cause I hadn't been to a whole foods before - the variety of food there was mindboggling ! And the day just got better when Sapna cooked pav-bhaji for dinner !! :)

On Friday, Sapna, Eakta, Sujatha and I roamed around in Seattle, from the beach to Pyke Place Market to the (closed) Space Needle and Experience Music Project, and the tourist train through Downtown. Pyke Place Market was really interesting, with weird jewelery shops, and Magician Stores, and exotic clothes, and the first Starbucks. We ended the day with an awesome dinner that was easily the best Indian Restaurant I have seen in the US so far!

The next day we went on a LONG drive along with Aabhas and Eakta to see Mount St Helen, but alas ! it was closed, since it was still "winter" in Seattle, and the only open viewpoint required us to trek for 3 miles through 2 feet of snow. We instead went to the visitors center, and looked at a movie about its history, and saw the small exhibit there, and walked around on the trail through the marshes. On our way back, we visited the State Capitol in Olympia, and had an Indian Chinese dinner, that included vegetable manchurian, spicy garlic noodles, soup !! And as if that wasn't enough food, we went to CanAm to get Tandoori Pizza !!

Seattle is beautiful even in winter, and I can see how it would be even more gorgeous in summer, and I hope to go back there soon !

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Grad Cohort

I visited Seattle in Spring Break, to attend the Grad Cohort 2008, organized by the CRA-W. There were a bunch of talks, a LOT of networking, and some good food as well :)

The Bell Harbor Conference Center was right at the Waterfront, with some beautiful views of the water, the Marriott was nice, but not great (my first stay in a good hotel though), and the evening reception was awesome fun ! (100 women dancing, Baileys+Cream and some margaritas added to the fun)

And a lot of interesting people, with a lot of interesting conversations - CS, culture, life and all.

The Seven Sins of Memory

The seven sins that rule my life. The other sins ? I forget :)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

My Cookie

I decorated this cookie at the 'Yahoo! Make you own Smiley' TG yesterday.
I'm the red chick petting my blue snake.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why I don't watch TV anymore

Hmmm.... maybe 3.5 years of no TV is why I don't feel any guilt for putting on weight, or not doing my eyebrows or not having perfectly shaped nails?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I Heart Overcoming Bias

I tend to have a lot of arguments which end with a disagreement of the definition of the word itself. God, morality, goals, rationality, feminism - words seem to mean different things to different people.

And then overcoming bias comes up this. And I will never argue the same way again.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Who am I ? Random Nonsensical Rant

What would make more sense than to dedicate our lives to finding our true nature? But what if we don't have a true nature ? We have optimization functions : Self-gratification (local optimization), v/s Making the world a better place (global optimization); we have cost functions, and we certainly have priors. The problem is the problem is not time invariant. It changes, we change, as we speak, as we think.

While I sit and read blogs, while I sit and wonder how can Bayes not be the right answer, I change. Each person we meet, we see. The woman in the bus with the funky purple hat "imported from India", the old lady with her red lipstick, the people standing with "No War" signs on the streets, or the ones who clean the streets of garbage without being paid to.

People I never speak to challenge my understanding of the world, question what 5 years of my life are worth, remind me of the always ignored, but still always present optimization function, in a world with no feedback, in a world with no evaluation metric, with multiple realities, and multiple belief systems, and 6 billion people, most of whom believe they are the most important person in the world.

And yet we all do it, we all optimize over an undefined function. And turns out that the people unaware of doing it are the happiest of them all. Ignorance really is bliss, if happiness is what u want.

And so it seems who you are is all about your loss function. And then I wonder why I am taking the optimization class, when really what I need is decision theory.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Serendipity

Today I was looking for "good Indian Tea" in the Indian Store, and didn't find any of the 4 possibilities that I was looking for. :( But while I was looking, I found "Bombay Sandwich Spread" - authentic mild green chutney for sandwiches. I almost cried.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Would you?

So you go to a large art installation called the Mattress Factory. And on the second floor, the lights are dim. Extremely dim, so you can barely make out where the wall is and where is the entrance.

You enter a dark corridor. Pitch dark. 100% blind dark. You look back, but the door with the faint lights seems to have disappeared. You put your hands in the front, and find a railing. Turns out you are in a narrow corridor. You walk forward, holding on to the railing with one hand, and feeling for objects in the front with the other. And then the railing ends. And you find yourself in an enclosed balcony-like area, dark, empty, and you can hear your own echo.

And you can see what the artist wants you to see.
Empty darkness.
Echoing silences.

Would you switch on your phone light to see what the artist didn't want you to see ?

I would.
I did.
Its not worth it.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Woman in Red

Two Girls ask "What do you wear that makes you powerful?" You can see the answers here. My favorite ones?

In the turquoise top, anything can happen.

Everybody needs a red purse... something that they can take with them every day to help, you know, just touch and give you confidence.

This outfit just does so much for me because at this point in my life I’m so proud of myself because it took so much for me to get here... It’s definitely my power uniform. (This was a doctor's coat)

So as you see right now I’m in bright red... I want people to pay attention to me and if you are wearing red people look at you. (Young woman, sexy red dress)

The outfit I wore today I think of as the incognito outfit.

Everything about me just me makes me feel powerful 'cause I'm a strong person. When I was younger I got teased for being dark skinned. Now there's nothing you can tell me, I just know I look good

I want to dress like this everyday. I feel empowered, I feel intelligent, I feel important…I’m ready to go to work

You have to have a red lipstick attitude.

Hey I still have got something going here folks… the red's just not for show, I've got some red inside. (Old lady, red jacket)

It turns out for me, feeling sexy makes me powerful. Low-cut top, jeans, and heels it would be. I'm sure that should tell me something, but I'm not quite sure what.

History Summarized

Margaret Morrison is my favorite building in CMU. Here's some pictures of one of the walls of the building.

1918

1937


1938

1946

1948


The begin of feminism? The pressure of feminism ?
1974


The hope?
1976

1999



2000 and a few others

Thursday, January 03, 2008

MindChange

online chin-scratching club Edge have asked their annual question. This year's it's "What have you changed your mind about?"

http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/01/changing_minds.html

I resolve to think about this, and add what did I change my mind about to this post in the next 1 week.

Update :
As I do every year, in 2007 I again changed my mind about who I am.

It turns out I am not as selfish as I had imagined, not as nice as I had thought, not as rational. I saw my biases, didn't like all of them, found my honest-self, the one who I thought didn't exist outside of my best-self. I changed my mind about how important it is to look good, I finally made my semi-peace with my body.

I also changed my mind about how much math I was capable of knowing, how much I surprise myself, and the irony of having multiple personalities in my own head also struck me as funny ( a part of me anyways). In 2007, I started labeling all my desires with their origins, most of which were people. And started labeling(naming?) all the people who live in me.

There are too many voices in my head, and its hard to follow 1 path when the decision is being made by a committee, but unfortunately I like all of me too much to throw any one voice out.

Its a New Year

But its certainly not happy, not after this.