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Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

Martin Gardner, R.I.P.

Posted by anandrr on May 23, 2010

When we were little, perhaps 9 or 10, our dad would bring home old issues of Scientific American from the large library at his work. I believe the driving reason for this was the Mathematical Games column in each issue. I eagerly devoured each of them, and when Dad took back the issue waited eagerly for him to come home that evening with the next issue. That column opened up a whole new world of maths and thinking. It also led to a lifelong love with maths, numbers and a lifelong preference for logical and analytical deduction. I don’t remember enough of his writing, and perhaps I will now go and rediscover it, but they clearly made a much bigger impact on me than the other books that we had at home or the similarly themed columns in Science Today, the other magazine we got at home.

Mathematical Games had other indirect impacts on me. Sometimes he had guest columnists, two of them have remained with me through the years: Raymond Smullyan and Douglas Hofstadter. Raymond Smullyan’s columns led me later to read his books starting with What is the Name of this Book, where he used mathematical and logical puzzles as a starting point to talking about and proving Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem. For a young teenager, this was heady stuff. Douglas Hofstadter renamed the column Metamagical Themas, and used them as a starting point to explore the themes of recursion, logic and eventually Artificial Intelligence. Between the three of them they were part of the life experiences that trained me so I could get into the Maths Olympiad, and also prepared me for my eventual career in computers. Under slightly different circumstances I would have ended up entirely with a life in mathematics.

Martin Gardner died yesterday. Thanks Martin, and most of all, thanks Appa.


Posted in Nostalgia, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: The Sun is Brahman

Posted by anandrr on January 23, 2009

Solar heating, then and now

Solar heating, then and now

One of my fondest memories is from a summer when I was but a stripling of  10 or 11. We lived in Ulsoor (spelled Halasuru these days, I’ve noticed), back then it felt like it was very far away from the city centre, how things change. The corporation would supply water at least once a day, perhaps a couple times a day, this continues to be a luxury in Bangalore. It is up to the people to figure out how to store the water for as long as they need it. I am not entirely sure how or why this is a good idea, if people are going to store all the water they will need and then some, surely it is more efficient to just keep the taps on, but I’m surely missing something. But to get back to my story, we lived in a house built before I was born so of course it lacked “modern” infrastructure like overhead tanks and pumps to fill them up. The result was that the time that the water flowed through the taps was precious and enough water had to be collected in sufficiently large containers and so on so as to last the entire day.

Now, the year I am referring to, perhaps this was one of those years that the monsoons had failed, for whatever reason the Bangalore corporation decided that summer that they would cut back on the frequency of water supply. My dad in his infinite wisdom obtained a couple large black drums that would be filled with water so it could be used later in a last-resort situation. These were sufficiently large drums that once they were filled at the tap in our “yard”, they were heavy enough that they would have to be left there and not moved anywhere. And so they would sit there in the Indian summer and bake all day. It must have helped that they were black, so any sun rays getting anywhere in their vicinity had no choice but to heat the water within the drums. It didn’t take my brother and me long to discover that a drum filled with cold water in the morning had very warm and toasty water in the evening. After a summer day filled with playing cricket or running around in the dusty streets, we could think only of taking the very warm water and enjoying lingering baths in them. The fact that the water appeared to have heated itself must have added a surreptitious dimension to the situation, here we were able to take a hot water bath in the summer with apparently no adult help required in turning on the water heater or anything, just transport the water into the house, and you were good to go. Bangalore’s weather demanded that you use the water as soon as possible, any delay beyond twilight meant that the water would cool quickly even in the summer, if I had known Newton’s Law of Cooling back then I might even have found a way to intellectualize the bathing experience. The bathing situation was of course curiously dichotomous: as kids we were excited by the prospect of “stealing” hot water from what had been mere cold water in the morning and the prospect of getting to use it all for a bath seemed curiously exciting, our parents were probably quite pleased they’d found a way for the kids to get the grime off their bodies so willingly in the evening. It didn’t make sense but there it was.

All of which came back to me as I stood under the shower spewing forth scalding hot water at me from our newly installed solar water heater. There turns out to be a certain joy in knowing that the only conventional energy involved in bringing you your hot water is the motor that pumped the water up to the tank. The utter simplicity of the system is beguiling, no conversion of light to electricity or turning turbines involved here, just the sun heating water in tubes and letting the laws of physics do the rest. Beautiful!

Having lived so long in a city and area where sunlight and natural light are at a premium, the first thing I noticed on my return to India was how much free A-grade sunlight we had pouring over us every day and how little energy the average Indian gets by way of electricity. Unlike the Bay Area sun, temperamental and unreliable, the Bangalore sun is always on yet temperate. (Cue joke about Superman going from the red sun of Bangalore to the yellow sun of the Bay Area). And yet, our ability to use sunlight and sun-heat to do any thing more than heat water in a manner that is economically viable is severely limited by the technologies available. It’s a little frustrating, but also somewhat hopeful, after all the day that we learn to tap the sun, that’s the day we truly attain energy-moksha.

Posted in Nostalgia, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Merry Christmas

Posted by anandrr on December 29, 2008

Ammupatti is all busy writing about Christmas cheer. So in a rare bit of media empire friendliness (this being the season and all), here’s my bit to spread the cheer. Stephen Colbert has written a new Christmas song. I tried as hard as I could, but I can’t get it to embed, damn you WordPress, damn you to hell!

If you’re like me, you’ve already downloaded the track when Itunes released it as their free single of the week earlier this week. If you’re not a cheapskate like me, you downloaded it last month when they released the entire album.

Posted in Media, Nostalgia, Showbiz, Timeout, TV | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: Name That Band

Posted by anandrr on December 26, 2008

Identify the rock bands?

Identify the rock bands?

Remember some 2-3 years ago this picture was making the rounds and it had some 100 rock bands cleverly hidden in it, and you had to identify all of them to prove your rock cred and all along you thought it was just some elaborate joke being played by Virgin and damned if you were going to get sucked in but you had to because otherwise your music cred was entirely at stake? And  you were walking around saying Radiohead was the greatest and you just knew somewhere in there was a guy with a radio for a head but damned if you could find it and this was only going to make you look worse than you already did.

I finally got around to listening to the latest Girl Talk yesterday. Oh it was downloaded the day of release for free and everything, but we clean forgot about it until we were reminded yesterday. And such joy. Easily among the top albums of the year. And non-stop entertainment as you try to name that band and song. Perfect!

Posted in Nostalgia, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: I Want my MTV

Posted by anandrr on December 12, 2008

All this talk about the first video on MTV reminded me of 1986, back when DD would show us a heavily edited 30 minute versions of the Grammys, Oscars etc. I remember back then, sitting in front of our new colour TV watching the Grammys, all agape as Dire Straits came on with their Money For Nothing video. The animation blew my mind. (The music was wonderful also, but the music I already knew). Looking back at it now…

Posted in Nostalgia, Showbiz, TV | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: India’s Bruce Springsteen

Posted by anandrr on December 5, 2008

I ran into this quite by accident. Is it me or wasn’t there an old Rishi Kapoor song, Rishi Kapoor at a traffic intersection, decked out in red, yellow and green lights making a complete ass of himself or am I completely misremembering a traumatic incident of my childhood? I was searching Youtube for this comedic gem and ended with nothing to show. Instead, let’s all doff our hats to the serendipitous wonders of the tubes, I ran into Mithun showing us how it’s done. The easily excitable aunties in the audience are so enthralled by his moves, it’s all they can do to remain seated! And that shrieking girl, oh precious.

Since I never write about anything until I’ve researched the shit out of it, I just now spent some time on the Wikipedia page for Disco Dancer (while you’re on the Wikipedia page, check out the “Cliche Dialogues” section, especially the, “He’s got guitar phobia. A guitar killed his mother,” priceless! One imagines an army of guitars descending on the guitar phobic, one also imagines a staunch 2nd Amendment defender claiming, “Guitars don’t kill people, People kill people.” One wonders if the purists booed when the guitar killers went suddenly from using acoustic to electric. Sellouts! But enough, back to the res), and what should I find but that the movie was made in 1982. Per the same Wikipedia, Bruce made Dancing in the Dark in 1984. Who copied whom? Does Courteney Cox owe her career to Mithun and Bappi L? We need answers!

To close out this discussion, I’m thinking it would have been cool if MTV India (or Channel V) had launched with this song:

I’m guessing they didn’t. However, for your viewing pleasure here is the original any way:

You’re making the first ever music video, and this is the best you can do? You’re changing the way the world experiences music and you have a little girl turning the dials on a washing machine? WTF? Seriously, WTF?

Posted in Culture, Films, Nostalgia, Showbiz, TV, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Seductive San Francisco I

Posted by anandrr on November 25, 2008

It was the best November day ever, unfortunately all I had was a dinky phone

It was the best November day ever, unfortunately all I had was a dinky phone

Posted in Bertie Heads to the Photo Shop, Nostalgia, Outdoor Stuff, Shutterbug, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: Bong Hits Edition

Posted by anandrr on November 7, 2008

We’re reminded of when we were kids and our school in which had started just that year (Go NPS!) had to come up with names for the four houses. Those were simple times with simple teachers apparently so when it came time to choose the names they went with simple Red House, Blue House, Green House and Yellow House. It was a letdown of sorts but with appropriately themed paraphernalia we were quite willing to root for our color and did it enthusiastically and vociferously. We have to believe that the theming had something to do with it, we could tell our red themed compatriots from a distance, and knew to boo when the blue fellows had their turn up at the starting line. (Today of course, NPS seems to have gotten a lot more sophisticated and has real historical names of mighty significance for its houses.) Why are we reminded of this? We’re watching the NKP Salve Trophy on the TV. It features 3 cricket teams from India, chosen by a nameless face in the sky. The teams are India Red, India Blue and India Green. So already it’s looking weak. Why not just choose the three strongest state teams? Then, the teams are chosen completely randomly, so what’s in it for me to root for one team over another? Finally, here’s the India Blue uniform:

© The Hindu

India Blue: Image © The Hindu

That’s not so bad, nice and bluey. So what does India Red look like?
India Red

India Red: Image © The Hindu

That’s right. Mostly blue. But if you’re thinking that’s bad, wait till you see India Green. Check out the guy in bright yellow:
© The Hindu

India Green (and Blue): © The Hindu

Posted in Cricket, Nostalgia, Showbiz, Sports, TV | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: Pearls Before Swine

Posted by anandrr on October 17, 2008

A colleague recently told me he was visiting Madikeri for the Puja vacation. That immediately reminded me of the song from Mutthina Hara. The Madikeri Sipyee one, the one with the indecipherable Kodava words. And I just spent the last half hour searching Youtube but damned if I can find the song. All the other fine songs from the movie seem to be on there, but this particular one: no dice. So instead, here for your cringing pleasure is another song from 1990, and I hate to say it, at the time I thought it was good. We were all young once, alas.

Posted in Culture, Films, Kannada, Media, Nostalgia, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Flashback Friday: He Forgot Poland

Posted by anandrr on October 3, 2008

We’re reminded today that barely four years ago, Bush told us at one of the “debates” that he would use the Dred Scott decision as a litmus test when thinking about his Supreme Court picks. Naturally liberals were surprised, it was nice and all that Bush had finally decided that Dred Scott was decided wrongly, here was something on which they could finally agree with their President. But 150 years after the case was decided and overturned by Constitutional amendment, and Civil Wars fought over it, he had decided that views on Dred Scott would be a litmus test? WTF? Had he just heard somebody say Dred Scott in the hallway and latched on to it? There was no way an ignoramus like Bush even knew what Dred Scott was all about. Then the mists cleared and it turned out that liberals were the only ones puzzled. Conservatives had heard him loud and clear: He would appoint judges who would overturn Roe v Wade.

So it was rather surprising that when Sarah Palin was asked a similar question, the only case she could think of was Roe v Wade. Is she so unschooled in right wing evangelical dog-whistles that she didn’t know that the right phrase to use is Dred Scott? Weird.

Posted in Media, Nostalgia, Politics, TV, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »