Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Read. Write. Watch

I got a sense that Salman Rushdie has a rollicking time writing his novels. While reading 'Shalimar the Clown' and 'Midnight's Children', I could feel him having a sly grin on his face, as he makes the stories jump through various hoops. One review blurb for "Shalimar.." says that it is Tarantino-esque ... and I guess I completely agree with that.

Also, I read news (rumours?) that 'Midnight's Children' is being adapted into a movie. Awesome! A much better movie to look out for than a potential Shantaram adaptation. I guess I'm "getting the hots" for books based on "magical realism". I just finished Yann Martel's "Life of Pi" a few minutes ago (literally, not more than 20 mins) and I am still stunned... in a good way. (I guess I should re-read these books and improve my vocabulary.) You know how there are movies where one scene, or a couple of lines just change the way you see the whole thing (Bruce Willis checking out that stain on his shirt in Sixth Sense)? Or which drive home the point of the movie (Camera panning to the corridor while De Niro talks on the phone in Taxi Driver).

"Life of Pi" has two such sentences. I didn't notice the first... or rather, didn't think too much about it. The second one (which occurs almost at the end) bothered me. And it was one of the reasons I looked to Wikipedia, and then when it hit me, it hit me hard (and now I'm writing this).

Moral of the above 3 paragraphs - read all the three books mentioned. Right now. (Though, you could go after you finish reading up my post. Thanks.)

Pradeep has commented quite a few times about my writing having changed. I felt I knew what he meant, but couldn't pinpoint it. But one of things I did notice was that my posts have become exclusively about me. (Narcissist alert!) Everything I have written about here recently is solely about what I saw, what I thought and so on. I guess I would explain that by saying that I don't feel "right" in saying how things should be, and how people should behave. I only want to lay out my experiences and thought processes.
On the other hand, when I try to write the funnies, I go for the hyperbole. I've realised that sarcasm doesn't work on the internet. Not for me.  (Thank you TSF for teaching me that.) It's seems a smart-assed, I'm-too-good-for-you attitude when read and is quite off-putting. And then the commenters promptly descend into name-calling and fighting with the post author and each other. (Goodwin's law!)

How come no one has realised yet that Indian movies are overly long and that the editors and script writers are highly unused? I get the TV channel "Zing" here, which goes extreme lengths to show only the bad-ness of 80's and 90's cinema. Every movie then was a series of sketches. The details varied. A set of sketches was separated from the others by a song. For example:

Bad guys are introduced doing something bad, abrupt cut, hero / heroine is introduced. Each separately. One gets a song. Sometimes the hero gets fight sequence to show his bad-assness. . Random beats in this segment are punctuated by bad guy doing more bad-assery. Finally, once the girl has finally fallen in love with guy, the bad guy does something to directly affect good guy. Good guy pissed. Revenge time. Big fight sequence. Good guy wins.

Even the new Hindi films, although closer to the 2 hour mark, are filled with such sketches and still feel overly long. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Aluminium reflects light. Especially when it is IR.

IR cameras go crazy. They detect markers everywhere. "I don't know what all to track!", they seem to scream. A4 sheets of white paper help somewhat. Not much though. A piece of paper, torn from your notebook, stuck on the offending portion of aluminium does marginally better. It works not because it doesn't reflect, but because it "reflects" it in some other direction. Thank those imperfect sticky tapes and bad planning that prevent the paper from forming a flat surface.

"Aha!", you say. "Black is black because it doesn't reflect. Hence! Therefore! Cover with black." Sadly, a robotics lab is not the art department. Paper, is white, and meant to be stuff on which research descriptions and equations ought to be printed. The spare black trash bag is used to test the hypothesis. It's glossy. It reflects. Less. But not zero reflection.

Next brain wave - "glossy" was the problem. See discarded packaging boxes lying around. Pick up one box, go ninja on them. (Ninjas are Japanese. Do they practice origami when dealing with paper? If so, they are in trouble. Origami involves only folding paper, no tearing. Hence, to be safe --->) Go Samurai on them. (Shit! They are Japanese too. But at least we know they carry swords. OK, back to science.) Cover reflecty surfaces with 'packaging boxes paper'. Success!

Moral learnt: Visible color black means visible light is not reflected. Also, since it is infrared light, you must revise your entire notion of reflection of light. Remember the goddamn physics you learnt, fool.

Many days later, figuring out what to replace your crude packaging paper with, to make it more professional and tidy, gives you headaches. Black cloth seems to be a good bet. Dommage! C'est marche pas.  :(
If cloth won't work, what will? In the back of the mind, here is what goes on: The paper was sorta rough and thick. The cloth was sorta silky smooth and thin. Hmm, a pattern, Watson! Probably thick/ big sheet of chart paper will work.

Notice a shadow on the screen as seen in one of the cameras. A piece of foam is causing it. Aha! Is it causing a shadow (i.e blocking something), or is it genuinely absorbing the IR light? Move it over to cover that aluminium portion right next to IR emittors, and see how it performs when it receives a full blast of infrared love. It's. Still. Black! ZING! A clothed version of Eureka Eureka!

Research. It's not always about math equations and cool code.