Me Mining Koal

I’m going to take a hiatus for a while. It was a surprise that I could be back this early, but since I’m here, I’m working on something
that will replace (hopefully) our backend at Sig9. I call it Koal, and it’s an XML-cacheing, DB-based, Content Management System. At least, it will
be when it finally makes it’s way into Sig9’s backend. Currently, we use Drupal, a system while being
customisable, is not enough (or maybe suitable) for our needs. We could hack Drupal’s code directly, but somehow most of us prefer to do it from the bottom-up.
So bye-bye for a while, kitten. I’ll be back<g>

Feynman

Notice the spelling. F-e-y-n-m-a-n. Sort of like superman and spiderman, Feynman is an ordinary
mortal who tells us what being a scientist is all about. I’m quoting “The Pleasure of Finding Things out” Page 2, “The Beauty of a Flower”:

I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree very well. He’ll hold up a flower
and say, “Look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree, I think. And he says – “you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is,
but you as a scientist, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.” And I think that he’s kind of funny. First of all, the beauty that he sees
is available to other people too. […] At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I can imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions
inside which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just the beauty at this dimension of one centimeter, there is also a beauty at a smaller dimension, the inner structure. Also the processes,
the fact that the colors in the flower evolved in the order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting – it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question:
Does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which shows that a science knowledge only adds to the excitement
and mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds; I don’t understand how it subtracts.

I’ll let that passage speak for itself. Richard P. Feynman thinks about the world around him. And in doing that, he makes
us recognize lots of things that we see daily, but we don’t notice. The book is a gem – a collection of the most sense-making
stuff I’ve read in a year, and I’ll recommend it to anyone.

Walking Away

Going away. For a week.

Taking a lot of books with me, the most interesting could be Richard Feymann’s ‘The Pleasure of Finding Things out.’
I have a feeling Vivek would really enjoyed this book. In our recent Goliath vs Goliath battle (the post about it mysteriously vanished from Sig9)
he told me a lot about this. Also, Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos,’ and more than a bundle of Science Fiction books will keep me sated.

Yesterday I read Nancy Kress’ ‘Probability Sun’ and ‘Beggars in Spain.’ Probability Sun was a true to heart Scifi novel, even if it
overemphasized the obscure science a bit. It’s dangerous (in ways both good and bad) to read books like that because you get your imagination reved up
but what you think possible might actually be laughable. The plot deals predictably with an Intergalactic War, but the characters are real and pointed and
not all of them are genuises, and this gives this book a nice aura. Beggars in Spain ranks among the best books I’ve read this year. It takes the philosophy of
Ayn Rand and asks some pointed questions about it. Of course, in the book, Objectivism is refered to as Yagaiism, but I couldn’t find
any tangible difference. There are some questions I have to ask too: What do you do with people who genuinely can’t help themselves. I might offend many
Objectivist scholars because just asking that question would mean that I haven’t understood the philosophy. But I’m not ashamed.

I think that’s what’s called the pleasure of finding things out.

Of Music

Suman came over today, and he brought me a CD which had a lot of old, and new, Malayalam and Tamil songs.
I had (consciously or not) lost touch with music from both these languages for over a year now, and it was
nice to see some old songs bringing some good memories back. (Yes, I am 100 years old<g>)

But seriously, for the last two years or so, South Indian Music had a leg in this boat and the next one, but I’m
glad that it has finally found out a means to bring them along. “Secret of Success” in the film Boys is a serious
contender to any English or Hindi Rock. Part of the reason might be that it is partly sung by Lucky Ali –
nevertheless, it is a nice pat-in-the-back for something that I adore – fusion. It’s something we Indians are very
good at. I heard a Punjabi rap mix of Eminem the other day 😉

Permalink

Travel

Have to go to Chenganoor tomorrow. The ‘have to’ implies that I’m not really willing to go. I’d rather
sit in front of the box and program than go to my mother’s place and attend a wedding between people I’ve
never really known. But it’s part of the big O [Obligation ;-)] and I really don’t have a choice. Especially
when you were enjoying me so much 😉 Not to worry, I’ll return in a week. My email address won’t send out
a vacation message during that time, but you know where I am. No, there is no way you can reach me.

The Silver Lining? I get to finish a couple of chapters of my ongoing fantasy novel. And I get to sleep. A lot.

Hunter

Ladies and Gentlemen, today I dedicated my time to ze bookhunt. I had two authors in mind: George Gilder, who wrote the wonderful Telecosm which I chanced upon a few weeks back but couldn’t finish and a prequel Microcosm which I’m told is even more spine-thrilling. Both are non-fiction works by an author who I’d like to club (along with Carl Sagan and Ayn Rand) as Thinkers. The other, a science-fiction author, Greg Bear. It seems my writing resembles his’, or so I’ve been told.

I live in a city that sports many book stores and libraries. Eloor Lending Library, right down the road from Spencer perhaps has the most extensive fiction collection in the city. It is costly, but for a book-lover like me, it is worth every rupee I pay (which is 10% of the sticker price for every book. Hint: Old books costs less.) On the downside, it is about as disorganized as my study table. It (hold your breath) doesn’t have a computer! The Librarians are about as clueless as they come, and they stared at me like I was from Mars when I spelt out Gilder’s name. I searched, in vain among the non-fiction section there, and having rooted out my patience, I went over to the The British Library. As does happen to me often, I’d forgotten my card <g> and so I decided to wrangle out a few hundred and buy the book. Unfortunately, the selections available are the of the pulpy variety, both at DC Books and at Continental where I spent many a fruitless hour searching.

Well, not exactly. I bought a copy of Digit, took 8 books from Eloor, and bought Cosmos by Carl Sagan and a Camus book from Continental.

Ze bookhunt was successful, yes.