Monday, January 25, 2010

More theories, it all HAS to add up

A myth tells of how Pelops overcame the king and won the hand of his daughter Hippodamia so that he could become king, with the help of Poseidon, his old lover. Another myth tells of the hero Hercules, or Herakles, who won a race at Olympia and then decreed that the race should be re-enacted every four years. Some people state that the Greeks believed that the gods enjoyed watching sporting events. These games also served as a way to ready men for battle with skills like running, wrestling, throwing the javelin for accuracy, and throwing the discus for distance.

The idea to revive the Olympic Games as an international competition came to Pierre de Coubertin, a French pedagogue and historian, in 1889 and he spent the following five years organizing an international meeting of athletes and sports enthusiasts that might make it happen. His reasons for this are not entirely clear (well, they are. But just like Dan Brown fudges facts, I want to too. So, play along). What's notable is that the first modern Olympic Games were held only 2 years after the proposals for them were approved in 1894.

Speaking of the French, the Algiers' crises of 1958 brought about the collapse of the Fourth Republic. The new Fifth Republic gave a 7 year term to the President until, in 2000, a referendum reduced it to 5 years. Whether it was coincidence or fate, or clever plotting, the course had been set.

The French revolution has been said to inspire the have been inspired by the American revolution. George Washington took office as the first President of the US in 1889, and the country has had elections at 4 year intervals since then. In keeping with the pattern, the latest President took office in 2009. The elections for this were held in 2008.

(I admit, this one is really wild) 
The number 116 is a noncototient. While the number 116! + 1 is prime. A significance, not to be forgotten (since we talked about the French), is that the Hundred Years War between France and England lasted 116 years. 116 is also the fire emergency number in Peru.
How is all this related you ask. Let me explain. 116 years after the first Modern Olympic games (whose original intention was to help atheletes prepare for battle) proposed by a Frenchman, the French and the American democracies (probably the oldest modern democracies) will go into elections to elect a new head of state. In 2012. 116, a number who the South American people of Peru associate with emergency, links these events.

(And like Dan Brown and other conspiracy theorists, crazy madcap idea comes right here ---->) I have lived in France and America for education. More proof of why I MUST (LOL) have something to do with this, can be found right in this post.

Sigh, I'm so full of myself. I love it. :P I guess I should think more about work now. Till later!

PS: Many sentences lifted as-is straight from Wikipedia. And I have used "artistic freedom" to freely (and wrongly) interpret stuff I want to, so that it fits my "theory". :D

Thursday, January 21, 2010

French Buses...

.. are not unlike those in Gainesville.

The one you should have caught is always on time (or even before time) while the one you ending travelling in is always 5 to 10 minutes late. Add the fact that the bus is every 20 or 40 minutes only, and you have a pretty sorry picture about your punctuality.

Which gets me to think about buses in India (since you always MUST compare it with stuff in India. It's a rule. Somewhere it has surely been written down). Pune has a bad bus system. I stopped using buses the minute I got my driver's license. And when I couldn't use the car/bike I use the rickshaws. The rickshaws aren't cheap (any more). And compared to the buses, absolutely not.

If I really think back hard and try to remember waiting for the bus, heck, I did actually spend 10-15 minutes at the bus stop every time. I used to have a class at 5 (p.m... I was/am sane) and I always left at around 4-ish. Distance to travel = 10 km. Actual time taken on bicycle = 40 minutes, car = 25 minutes (traffic, you see). So, there you go. It was as bad there as it is here.

But, I still crib about the buses here. Mumbai is another matter. It is so huge, that you must compare only cities like San Francisco, New York, Paris, London etc and their transport systems. So, I must basically learn to cut this place some slack. Or, buy a motorcycle and/or a car.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


"... winning gold medals at the math olympiad was just a dangling carrot to get you all motivated. Winning medals there is not a true measure of success of this program. We will know whether our experiment was truly successful after, say, 10 years. Let us meet in 2012. I predict that each of you will have done something truly great. That will be the true measure of success for this program." -- Prof. P.
Well, it's not an exact quote, but it sums up what P meant in 2002. So, the date 1st June 2012 draws closer, just 29 months and few days away. At 6 pm, we are scheduled to meet in Pune. The golden medal guy has promised that, as always, he will be 5 minutes late. Among things changed, some are on their way to getting married already. Some have shifted fields. Mathematics no longer takes up a chunk of our lives. Some don't need it altogether. But the prediction says that we will still have benefited from the program, and I generally agree with it.

I am scheduled to graduate with a PhD in August 2012. A couple of others might graduate in 2012 too.

Sometime around 3000 BC (well, historians aren't quite sure about the exact date), the Mayans invented a calendar, that had a last date. Theories suggest that this corresponds to 21 December, 2012. For proof, refer to the movie that goes by the same title.

The book "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco writes about a fictitious conspiracy theory that 3 editors are working on that intends to be "the mother of all theories" and that ties in all myths and legends and reveals a greater Plan. In it, a "normal" character chides one of the leads about such theories saying, that you can choose any number, and any fact, and assign it a greater meaning. Making a conspiracy theory is quite easy and you can make it personal by (forcibly) relating it to events in your life. Maybe I should make a movie based on the above lines, make myself the lead character, and show how I was destined to be the saviour.... or the first one to go in the apocalypse.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Year End Wrap up

As is the tradition everywhere online, the end of the year and the beginning of a new one prompts everyone to re-evaluate their life, the year and comment on how good/bad it was and how it ended. And now, me too.

2009 was a year where things I never imagined happened. I performed on stage as a part of UF's best and most well-known improvisation troupe. I acted... and played a role in a tv show! Of course, I finished up my thesis in UF and got my MS in Mech. Engineering. I knew I would go for a PhD, but I mostly aimed at doing it in the US. UFL was the back-up option.

Spring semester got me my first legit paper publication (ASME!!). I finally decided to break out of my safety net and plunged into improv comedy, something I had been fascinated about but never believed I could do. (I sang Soulja Boy and cracked a Pirate Ship joke, made up on the spot, in my first show!) I camped at and hiked the Smoky Mountains, something that I had promised myself more than a year and half ago. I did at 9 mile run at a pace of 10 minutes per mile and raised a little more than $350 for a charity organisation, Gators for ASHA.

Sometime in February, I decided to finally apply to "that dream research institute", somewhere in France, called INRIA Sophia Antipolis. I'd sent a few emails to the professor there and it seemed to be going on the right track. But mentally, I don't think I was prepared to make the big leap to France. Spring semester chugged along. I had long chats with many people. Sorted out some issues. By the end of it, I knew that the choices for my future plans lay in Stonybrook (New York), UFL or to wait for the decision from INRIA.

At the end of my Bachelors degree, I was eager to get out of Pune. No jobs seemed interesting enough and promise of "good" research while doing my master's felt quite attractive. And so I was glad to go to UF. Just the same way, right around my thesis defense, I started feeling the same feeling. To get out of Gainesville. Most friends were graduating and moving out too and the monotony of research (or rather, the lack of my interest in research) was getting me. I was tired about worrying about funding and doing jobs in restaurants and just wanted to focus on research work and fun. But I did not want to leave Gainesville for Stonybrook. And so I rejected the Stonybrook offer and decided that INRIA was the best option and if not that, then I would continue in Gainesville.

I had also figured out that INRIA is in the French Riviera... there were no further convincing arguments needed :P. I was sold. The 2 months after graduation, in Gainesville, were some of the most amazing. I acted in and assisted for a TV show called Oppie's Friend Gene. I've always wanted to see how movies and TV shows get made. The TSF guys never seemed unprofessional to me. I had great movie and fun sessions at home and at friends' places. I bonded with people and made new friends in the last 30 days in Gainesville. Who would have thought that would happen! The Smoky Mountain trip happened. I finally saw the Newnan's lake! 
(Whats at Newnan's lake? -- Nothing. We were told that it is a sorta Gainesville, tradition to take your boat there in summer and fish. We didn't have a boat, but I wanted to see this lake. Its a hell lot bigger than Wauberg and there are bigger gators -- we saw a couple of them.)

I came back to India. Leaving Gainesville was difficult. Especially since I don't know when and if I will return to the US. Thats a lot of friends and memories to leave behind. I wonder how people can move so easily between places. I spent the two months in India doing nothing. I got back to being the guy I was before - lazy, not doing anything and complaining (a bit) about stuff. Was this is reverse-home-sickness / reverse-culture-shock that everyone warns you about?... I don't know.

From September, I have been in France. It is nothing like I expected. It's been really difficult moving around and getting stuff done since I don't know the language. I could probably write posts about how to get things done, and what goes wrong when you try to do something. Maybe sometime later. I have met so many people from so many countries. I was once at this party where 10 of us at the table were from 10 different countries. Until now, among all continents, only Australia has not been represented at the parties I have been to.

Living in France, I have become even more used to being silent, and to listen more. I generally am surrounded by French speakers and most of the time I'm silent, trying to decipher their sentences. I've become even more dependent on the internet. At the end of this year, I was forced (by chance, bureaucracy and miscommunication) to end up with no cell phone or no internet for almost 15 days. It was tough, but refreshing.
I used couchsurfing to meet up with some people in Rome for Christmas, and had an amazing trip in Rome. Imagine spending 5 days with people you have never met, have no idea how they look and some of whom you have communicated only by email a few times. I'm definitely couchsurfing soon. And, oh yes... definitely visit Rome. It is a city one must see.

For New Years' Eve, I was contacted by an Italian couple (through couchsurfing again!) who were visiting the area. My flat-mate and some friends were debating about having a party at our place, and we decided to invite the Italians over. At midnight all of us walked over by the beach, to the city centre. We saw some fireworks, had champagne and chatted in a bar.

2010 already feels like future. It doesn't seem like now. It feels like time is zooming by. It should slow down.. I want to use my student discounts for longer. :)
To more blogs, more adventures and great research work... cheers!