Thursday, October 31, 2013


A friend complained this blog is brains, maybe, where is the brawn. Here it goes.

I spent the past few weeks clearing Redwood growth, widening a horse path, and resetting the wood steps in off-the-grid Boulder Creek, CA, in preparation for the winter rains to come.  And of course chopping wood. When I was little, in weekends, my father needed to cut down trees. Mostly for fuel. I was not allowed to swing the axe, but I got to fantasize, seize a feel, handle lesser jobs, and sweat through the day. It was tough work, almost always you got splinters,  scrapped arms and sore hands, but when the day was done and the wood was split and stacked, secure from the elements, you washed the mud off your body and ate plain rice and raw mangos, with some satisfaction.

Returning to NY

After a few weeks hiatus, I returned to NYC. When I landed, I didnt want a taxi ride, I took the bus. A 3.5 yr German Boy seated next to me kept speaking about one wasser or the other (bottle, the marshes of NJ) and I left with  a "SpaƟ haben in NY", everyone should feel at home here. There is a moment when the bus emerges from the tunnel and cruises the canyons of Manhattan and I was reminded,  this land is my land and this land is your land. Also, I took the subway (local of course) and you see people in grey and black clothes moving frantically, but just being, not "changing the world", and that is the point. When I finally emerged to walk on the streets, I was reminded of the moment when you plug the veins from a beating heart into a silent one, the blood rushes in, and the beat goes down the vein from one and another, and the two hearts beat, in loud thumps. That is how one feels, walking on the sidewalks, with the many beats of heels and hearts. This is NY, it is Halloween, and this evening, the city will throw a party and a parade. 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Thanks to Karmakar

A student asked for a personal, academic story blog:

Long time ago, I had to travel from Mumbai, India to NY, US for my graduate study. It was 80's in India, pre-IT boom, pre-web, and the country was yet to go through a payment crisis and economic liberalization. I didnt have the money to buy a flight ticket.   I found a foundation that gave travel grants and applied. I had to appear for an interview. During the interview, they asked me, what do you want to work on? I said, Algorithms. They asked me to name an algorithm.  I said, Karmakar's algorithm for LP. I didnt know Karmakar or LP or that algorithm (it took a while for that to filter into undergrad conscious in India those days), but it was in my gestalt, and at that moment, I didnt think of dynamic programming or bin packing or quick sort. The gestalt paid off, I got the grant, flew from BOM to JFK, and entered a world of three caps letters. 

Life is gestalt or nothing.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Federal Govt Shutdown, Fallout in Details

Fallouts look one way at high level --- 800k federal employees at home, without work or pay --- and quite different at detailed level --- the employees cant pay their mortgage, childrens school fees, insurance costs, even if they cover food and emergencies. The fallout is deeper and broader because it trickles down and seeps across worlds. In academia, I know many students who work on govt grants and a third into the semester, they cant work on the grants anymore or get paid, and what happens to their tuition, health benefits, .....