Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wish fulfilled

Hurray!!! It finally happened. And I am thrilled.

I pulled the fire alarm.

I was on the phone talking about Windows Power Shell with a friend. It was about 4PM and my roommates were away. Omkara, Guru and Woh Lamhe songs were playing in background when I smelled something burning. My immediate reaction was "Now, what did I leave in the stove?" When I realized that it wasn't coming from my house, I stopped winamp and could hear a fire alarm from a neighbor's house. After waiting 2-3 minutes, I noticed that the entire corridor was getting foggy. That was when I decided to pull the alarm.

Here, the main alarms (for the entire building) have a plastic safety cover. I just opened the cover to pull the fire alarm, and it immediately went off. I was initially confused that the alarm went off by just opening the safety cover. Then I realized that it was just an indicator for an open safety cover. Finally, I pulled the alarm inside and then, just like that, the alarms all over the building went off.

I nervously exited the building, hoping I had done the correct thing. Slowly, one by one, people started coming out and many themselves were mentioning the smell from the 2nd floor. I relaxed, called up few people to brag about my achievement while fire-fighters (Ladder 19) came and did their job. It was hardly 15 minutes before everything was over and we could get back inside.

I went to the second floor and a police officer was waiting there. I told him I pulled the alarm and he said I did the right thing by doing so. Someone from my adjacent apartment had left something on the stove.

I had been waiting to do something like this for about 2.5 years. I am very happy that I finally got to do it.
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Monday, November 27, 2006

The Cook Islands

As I had wanted to, this season, I cut down on the repeats of FRIENDS, Raymond and Seinfeld. Only few of the shows I had wanted to watch were good (LOST was the biggest disappointment though with just 5-6 episodes which weren't that good anyways). My initial and the only favorite had been Studio 60.

Thanks to ABC, most free-to-air channels (read: NBC and CBS) decided to go online with the latest episodes of their popular shows. I should say that among them, CBS' "inner tube" is simply the best. Because a) all the episodes of the shows are available, and b) you can even skip the ads if you are clever enough. Anyways, the whole point is that I happened to catch the latest Survivor from CBS and it just blew me away.

I had seen the show before, when the now-in-jail "Rich" manipulated his way to become the first Survivor. Not that I understood much then, but I liked the show. Since then, I hadn't quite been able to catch the show until now. I would say that it has been worth the wait.

I cannot say much about this season without giving away some spoilers, but trust me, if you even remotely like any reality game shows, you MUST watch Survivor this season. The twists in the game and some of the characters this time are simply too good to miss. After all, if you are free enough to read through something like this, then you surely are free enough to watch the initial episodes at least. And why not when
you can catch all the episodes online that too without any ads.

Why am I recommending it so much? Because, unfortunately, I don't have anyone else to do some "Survivor Talk". So, in case you do end up liking the show, do let me know.

PS: To skip ads in CBS inner tube, first use real player codec and once the video starts in the inner tube, transfer it to play in your computer's real player. Then you can skip the ads.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mera Name Is Bakwaas

Now, why can't people come up with good names for movies? In case you haven't noticed, the names of most of the recent Hindi and Tamil movies are as uninspiring and meaningless as it can be.

At least most Tamil films now have Tamil titles. (Doesn't help much though, with names like Achcho, E and KD). The situation is worse in Bollywood with even the B-C-grade films opting for an English title. What do you feel about "Mr.100% - The Real Player"? (With the current sequel syndrome in Bollywood, its sequel will probably be called "Miss.100% - Windows Media Player". I know it wasn't funny - wasn't supposed to be coz remember, the names are uninspiring and meaningless.)

Also, I hate the "tags" for the movie name. If you do not know what the "tags" are, they are an alternative longer name for the movie or in many cases, the meaning of the movie name. However, since the movie names are by themselves terrible, the tags end up highlighting how bad the movie name actually is. Consider the previous example "Mr.100% - The Real Player". Which do you think is worse here - the name or the tag?

I know all you Bollywood lovers are now ready to attack me with how I have just picked one C-grade movie to generalize a false allegation. Before you do so, which of the following do you seriously think can pass as names for Hindi films:

1. Lady Chatterjee
2. Kya Love Story Hai
Jaadu Sa Chal Gaya
4. Chalta Hai Yaar
Aisa Kyon Hota Hai
6. Mr. Khujli
Good Boy Bad Boy
8. Mobile Phone
9. Fashion
10. Hot Money

Unfortunately, all these are really names for upcoming Hindi movies. Most of them are in fact A-Grade multi-starrers !! I wonder how the actors agreed to the movie names.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How much gore can u take?

Generally the movies I recommend to my friends get "two thumbs way down".

(In case you didn't know, "two thumbs way up" is the most over-used catchphrase by reviewers of bad English flicks. "Among the top 10 movies of this or any year" and "A definite must-see" are the other favorites.)

This time, I thought I was in safe territory with "SAW". I had already seen it a long time back and I had loved movie then. The reason I wanted to see it the second time was mainly because the recently released "SAW3" supposedly fills in the gaps in the original.

After seeing the movie again (it was quite enjoyable the second time too although I noticed more plot holes this time around), I was expecting my friends to be as impressed by the movie as I was after my first viewing.

Unfortunately, the unanimous reaction from my friends was on the lines of why I subjected them to a big gore fest!! While I was going "wHaT??", they were happily confirming that "I-have-a-weird-taste-for-movies" / "I-have-a-taste-for-weird-movies" / "I-have-a-weird-taste-for-weird-movies".

In my defense, these guys have dismissed "Fight Club" (annoying), "Pulp Fiction" (gibberish) and "Adaptation" (boring). And yes, they are THE target audience for unadulterated trash such as "Accepted".

However, the point here is that the reason they didn't like "SAW" was because it was gory. If the movie is really so, I must be a sadist psycho for I didn't even have to close my eyes throughout (I did flinch few times though). In order to convince myself that I am not a psycho, I started thinking of movies that I thought were gory.

The goriest movie I have ever seen is certainly "The Devil's Rejects". Hollywood must have ran into acute fake blood shortage after this movie was made. I can count with a single hand, the scenes I didn't have to close my eyes during this movie.

"Hills have eyes" would be a distant second followed by "Dawn of the dead" and "Resident Evil". I enjoyed "Dawn of the dead" while "Resident Evil" wasn't too bad. "SAW2" was a bit gory but it would be way down in the list. I like watching slasher flicks. Although they tend to have several over-the-top blood spurting scenes, I don't think they can be classified gory.

I haven't seen "Hostel" yet. I doubt if that or its upcoming sequel will beat "Devil's..." Either way I am not interested. My next gory choice would definitely be "SAW 3".
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sanskrit and NLP

Although I wasn't intending to, one of my friend's friend claimed that Sanskrit was object oriented while I said that its regular grammar is what makes it more interesting for computer scientists. I ended up digging out quite some information on the topic.

It turns out, the whole interest in Sanskrit first started when a NASA researcher, Rick Briggs, published a paper "Knowledge Representation in Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence" in the AI Magazine in 1985. The paper proposes that natural languages could also be used for knowledge representation. It details how Sanskrit is ideally suited for the job due to its regular, unambiguous grammar. You can read the entire contents of the paper here:

The part about Sanskrit being OO is also probably true. Prof M A Lakshmi Thathachar (then Director of Academy of Sanskrit Research) says so in a '03 article in the GoodNewsIndia magazine. He says that:
"Words in Sanskrit are instances of pre-defined classes, a concept that drives object oriented programming [OOP] today. For example, in English 'cow' is a just a sound assigned to mean a particular animal. But if you drill down the word 'gau' --Sanskrit for 'cow'-- you will arrive at a broad class 'gam' which means 'to move. From these derive 'gamanam', 'gatih' etc which are variations of 'movement'. All words have this OOP approach, except that defined classes in Sanskrit are so exhaustive that they cover the material and abstract --indeed cosmic-- experiences known to man. So in Sanskrit the connection is more than etymological."
Although not entirely convincing, it is quite interesting. The complete article can be read here:

Another interesting aspect about Sanskrit seems to be that Panini formalized the entire Sanskrit's grammar in his own BNF-like form using meta-rules, transformations, and recursion with just 4000 sutras (rules). All this was way back in 400 - 200 B.C. while the well-known BNF was developed sometime in 1958-60. Details here:

Looks like Sanskrit has the ideal grammar structures suited for machine representation of knowledge. However, it hasn't been shown yet that Sanskrit is object oriented.

Whatever be the case, I am just happy and proud that I got to learn not only Sanskrit (in my school days) but also about BNF and Machine Learning so that I can appreciate it all !!
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