We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

My video cover song - I love you - Movie Bodyguard ...

Recording a video while singing a song, while playing guitar needs extreme co-ordination on so many fronts. I hope to improve on the required skills in coming time with better recording equipment and other stuff. 

So this is my first attempt to have video cover song -----I love you from the movie Bodyguard (2011).

I like the high pitch in this song ...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How do you handle betrayals from close friends ...?

How do you handle betrayals? Specifically when it happens through a close friend whom you trusted badly.

Being socially well versed could be a tough job if you are a serious PhD candidate as most of the times you are in a lab working on your experiments and research. Then you happen to meet somebody whom you think is your best friend. You feel happy. But then you realize the relationship is not good, because you are only investing it in from your side and the other party is just taking advantage of you. If the other party is much younger than you, you also tend to have parental feeling of love towards it, and you tend to ignore the non-investment from the other party saying ah its just a kid. But then suddenly one day you get a big jolt that oh, the other party simply took advantage of you and fooled you for your kindness.

So as a scientist how do you handle such situations? As a rational person you are aware of what is happening, but when the other party does not stop its low behavior it becomes difficult to accept the fact thinking, where is the morality and ethics? and how in the first place you allowed your self to be fooled in this manner even though you knew the signals, but you ignored them willfully?

As a scientist you can look at it as a failed experiment in which you put all your efforts knowing things are not going good, but hoping some day they will miraculously turn out to be good. You try to learn from the situations and move on, but if you are an idealist, who thinks an idea world should not behave in this way, if you were so genuine, then it becomes too difficult to understand how the other party could be so bad? I mean how could people be so bad where they just take things without any kind of empathy and compassion.

So to understand this question you start learning how people behave by studying psychology and you come across this notorious class of people called "narcissist socio-path", who seem friendly, agreeable, trustworthy, but who would lack any kind of emotions, regret, guilt towards the wrong doing they have done after taking advantage of others kindness. So you now understand technically and rationally there are these kind of weird bad people and you were unlucky (you do not believe in luck still) to meet such a person. But still your mind refuses to accept the fact that you were hurt so badly.

So you continue with new experiments to train your mind to come out of this shadow of darkness to find new goals, new ambitions to overcome the sadness of the betrayal. You train it daily that success is the best revenge, so you should be successful even more successful than ever, and only that can heal it. You train it saying, this is better for me, because it has taught me so many valuable lessons in terms of how to identify good people from bad people so early in my life, that it will not be difficult to identify them in future, and this is a blessing in disguise for the fact that this saves you from lot of difficult experiences in future due to this experience.

So you try to train your mind with all the willpower of your never die attitude and positivity, but still when you are not watching your mind, it sleeps into that other aspect where it hurts. The challenge is to keep watching it so that your rational always.

I think this is when you become a monk , when your feelings are immortal :-)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How do people buy art? .. A conversation with a Painter

I am kind of in artistic mode these days, where I am trying to see if I can combine my artistic inclinations with Technical skills.

There are two projects that I am doing which are related to Arts. One is creating a photo-book of my journeys across the world, and the other is a 3D hologram kind of reflection on a trapezoidal structure to show 3D holographic videos.

How do people buy art? This is something I have been thinking quite seriously for some time, after having been exposed to an Artist friend's exhibition in California, during my internship at Oracle Labs.

Today, I was passing by on my routine weekend cycling routine in Amsterdam's city center, and I happened to notice this young guy selling his water-color paintings on a busy street junction. I like artists and I respect them for their creativity, as I feel one of them some times. I had actually bought two small sized post-card sized paintings from him for 5 Euro each 1 month back.

So I was curious to see him at the same location again. Last time I could not speak with him, so this time I decided to have a talk with him about certain ideas I had in my mind about how he can sell more paintings, and see what would be his reaction like.

Luckily he remembered me. I suggested him why he doesn't offer his paintings as a crowd-funded project, to sell it to people directly. We discussed the merits of the idea and he really got excited at it. He was very happy to receive various of my suggestions.

Then I asked him, some questions about how people buy art and what are his observations? He said, he perfectly knows how to sell his pictures based on his observations, when they would get sold, out of different visitors who would actually buy the paintings, how to judge their moods, how to arrange his paintings for different visitors from different countries, such as people from Germany would be interested in details, while Italians would be interested in sunny paintings. He told me interesting aspect of how buying is influenced by the weather and the biology of people. The weather aspect was repeated, as I had heard the same aspect in buying from another art gallery owner that I met 2 weeks back.

People usually come in waves to buy paintings. There are moments when he has no visitor, and then there are periods when his place is full of them. They would buy when they are on a full stomach, after having fed food after roaming around in Amsterdam and having stored memories. That is the reason a painting such as a bicycle on Amsterdam Canal's bridge, which according to him is a cliche, sells the most, and he arranges it such that it attracts immediate attention. He paints the same cycle in different colors in different portraits to people a choice to buy.

Or he arranges a colorful painting in a corner that is visible from far distance, so that people can see it. People never buy out of rational thought, they buy on their impulses, their emotions, and could be manipulated if you present them what they need. He is from Russia, but could understand many languages, so he could understand what they spoke, to judge their mood. In a country like Europe, with so many cultures, this is a must skill.

Weather has a huge role to play. When its sunny, people are cheerful, so he keeps sunny paintings, and people buy them happily. Dutch people are usually very thrifty and do not like to buy things. They are very conservative with their money.

It was an interesting conversation and I learned a great deal of stuff from him. I will see him again some time on my routine biking travels, and would see, if he came up with some new ideas on the basis of my suggestions.

Technology and art could blend together well. A prime example of this is Apple and the legacy Steve Jobs left behind. The original Apple founders had the talent of artistic flavor and Engineering marvel. The result is beautifully designed Apple products. And as I observe many new products, most people are understanding the emphasis of creating a beautifully designed product. Because beauty is what attracts people, and then the actually functionality of the product is provided by the dirty work of Engineer.

Long live the symphony of the two talents.

Monday, June 8, 2015

kids, zoos, moms, Internet

Yes, the title is a bit weird.

I visited Melbourne Zoo today. I have not visited any zoo since I was a kid, so while deciding what to see in Melbourne City, I decided to pay a quick visit to its zoo.

I spent like 3 hours in zoo. The most common thing around me during this time was kids. They were every where with mostly accompanied by their moms. Moms were trying to teach kids what each animal was, where it was located in its enclosure (since mostly these animals try to hide in some remote corner away from public eye). It was fun to watch them.

Was I excited. Not really. Why? Well, I think because as adults we tend to watch a lot of Discovery, National Geography, where animals are show cased in plenty, so their attraction does not stay that strong. You see them in enclosure and you think..... whatever.

But, yes, for kids its a best experience as they are yet learning and their cognitive abilities get better by being in physical presence of these animals than just seeing them on TVs. So Zoos still have their place in the modern society. The question is, will their place be ever replaced totally by the advent of the information age, where every thing is available on the finger tips using Internet and related technologies for e.g. such as virtual reality? Zoos have to keep on re-inventing themselves to draw bigger crowds, they have to keep on making themselves attractive so that parents want to bring their kids.

Or was I being too nerd? Have I lost my ability to enjoy simple things, because I try to reason behind why this thing is happening the way it is happening? I think yes. 

Human driven and self driving carI s

I am in Melbourne, Australia to present my research paper. This is the top-most conference in data management. The paper presentation went very well. After the conference usually I spend couple of days doing local sight-seeing.

I drove from Melbourne to Sydney after the conference was over. Its a distance of around 900 km. I was seeking an adventure and decided to drive down than flying as that would give a perspective of Australian landscape, culture, driving habits, roads etc. Road trips teach a lot of about the country,
as that forces you to interact with locals and gives an impression about the overall culture.

Driving itself was a lot stressful in the beginning as I was not in my best shape due to lack of proper sleep, and on top of that constant rains that made road visibility very poor. Also I was not much confident of driving alone in a new country, in new conditions. So the initial 2 hours were a lot stressful. But as the rains vanished and I got used to the driving it started getting better. But the initial feeling was quite stressful. Suddenly you realize that you are responsible for extreme precaution as a slight mistake can cost you a severe accident and your life. Having that kind of responsibility while surrounded by zooming cars, and pouring rain could be immensely stressful.

While driving I was constantly appreciating the advent and prospect of self driving cars. A lot of daily stress in human life arrives from driving. Since the person has to take care to not to make any mistake. What if this exercise is made enjoyable and relaxing where a machine is able to take care of all the necessary precautions etc to make sure you are being driven safely. I think when the self driving cars, or cars that have abilities to correct or warn driver of possible accidents becomes common place, quality of human life will change for ever. These kind of technologies are already present in expensive cars, but yet to appear in cheaper ones.

I constantly felt how great it would have been had my car had all the safety mechanisms to warn me in case there was a possibility of accident. My stress would be much less. Also I realized, I take decisions during driving such as which routes to take, which exit to follow, how much speed-limit to follow by watching the road signs. If sensors could replace me, they should be also be able to do the same. The only problem that remains is the exceptional conditions when human intelligence can take judgement.

My journey went on fine after I got used to the driving and after some power naps by resting by road side stops. But, the thought of having a self driven car taking me from point A to point B was much pleasurable considering the amount of stress driving could involve some times. The time could be better spend in more constructive things, to make some things more better. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A beautiful mind ....John Nash rest in peace

Dr. John Nash. the genius mathematician and the Economist Nobel laureate and the father of Nash Equilibrium died May 23rd 2015 in a car crash along with his wife at the age of 86. 

When I read this news today in Economist. I could not believe what I was reading. So I went to check other news papers and felt in a state of shock. 

The story of the movie, "A beautiful mind" which portrays Nash's journey, has been part of my life as a PhD student for a long time. I used to watch this movie for some special scenes frequently to get inspired as an early PhD student. It kept me motivated. 

The most important coincidence is I got the original book "A beautiful mind" on which the movie is based last week from my institute's library and have been reading it since last 4 days. This is the reason the news of Nash's death comes as a even a bigger shock. The book portrays the different facets of the early young Nash, and gives a detailed insight into the fiercely competitive world of mathematical research as it happens in MIT, Harvard, Princeton etc. It tells the fierce devotion of a strong and beautiful wife towards his genius husband. It gives a glimpse into the dark side of a genius, and his passage into the world of madness at the age of 35. 

Nash's 27 page PhD thesis which he wrote in 2 years at Princeton changed the way Game theory is treated in the actual practical world, and many of the today's economic models such as airline ticket auctioning system are based on Nash equilibrium, which states that maximum gains could be obtained in a game if everybody play's for a common interest such that nobody loses. This kind of thinking was revolutionary when it was proposed, since, till then in a game, there were either winners or losers. 

Mr. Nash you left a legacy behind you and will be remembered for your pioneering work. Thank you for inspiring me through your journey as a graduate student. 

I feel a lot sad today. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Career growth .... Politics vs Computer Science

With the infusion of Delhi assembly elections there is tremendous energy in the Indian political scene. Formation of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has revitalized the Indian politics to the extent people have lost the cynicism that was present for a long time, and look forward towards new changes. 

A lot of party hopping is seen happening amongst the three party candidates, namely Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and AAP. With such party hopping comes the question of whether these party hoppers are opportunists who change parties for reasons such as they being not given ticket to contest from a certain constituency? There is a lot of question in media about the morale of such people, where they suddenly change parties which they earlier were in opposition with. 

Leaving aside all the aspects of morality and related things, a good question to ask is, what is it to be a politician, and what does it hold for a person in politics as a career. Lets compare politics as a career with say, private sector careers such as an IT professional. Switching jobs and moving to a different company is a very common practice in IT profession. It is considered essential for a person's career growth to have a diverse experience form different companies. It is a different question some times some people make some of these jobs look like a permanent job for the life time, where once they start in a company, they finally retire from the same company. No, we do not want to look at such professionals in here. 

So if IT professionals change their jobs so many times, why would it be considered immoral when a politician changes it? Well, now lets look back to what options usually a budding politician has? There are very few options in terms of established major parties, where a politicians would change to. Such parties usually have old established politicians, so breaking the ceiling here could be a challenging task. The other option is start your own party, which is very much like start your own startup and grow it up. But as we know most startups fail, and a very few succeed to out grow. So it is considered wise to join an established party and grow there as long as it gives sufficient opportunities. But how many such opportunities exist? Because usually elections occur once in around 4 years, when there occurs major disruption. So the growth is very slow here compared to growth lets say in other professions. So politicians are actually at a disadvantage in terms of growth of careers. 

Why do IT professionals change jobs? Many times its because of better salaries, better working environment, skill improvement, etc. Reasons are plenty. The aspect of loyalty to an employer is not a big issue here, because the skills needed for the job has nothing to do with loyalty most of the times. Forget for time being the concepts of competitor products intellectual property rights etc, where you can not join a competitor company due to infringement of intellectual property rights. On the contrast most political parties have some core philosophies of their own, they have their own ideology to which people in the party should stick to. This is precisely the reason when politicians switch parties questions are raised about how suddenly a person can change his own ideologies because that indicates the person in the first place did not believe in them truly, because ideologies can not be changed so easily.

Well, this is the reason hardly few politicians change their parties and stick to the one they started with. But with the dynamism we are seeing in Indian politics after introduction of AAP, we need to be able to also consider how this kind of thinking could be challenged which would make politics more of a skill based field, where people could compete based on certain things the way, IT professionals compete. I think that will bring the best out of politics, and it would also make it more competitive and more appealing to make drastic changes in the way societies are made to observe the impact a party should create, for the welfare of its people. 

Its a good thought. Some kind of disruption in the way politics occur at present, to how it should happen in future. Lets hope it happens for the best. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Crowd intelligence vs Expert intelligence

Out of my recent travels with my brother in a rented car arrived lot of scenic photographs. At least for last 4-5 years, I have not done so much extensive outdoor travel that I did in last 1 month. A friend suggested to put these photos on www.500px.com than flickr, so I tried it. 

(The link for photographs is here) www.flickr.com/mrunalg

500px is a market place for photographers where fellow photographers decide on the quality of photographs by rating it, and the algorithms decide whether a photograph is worthy enough to be moved up in the ranks so that after a while it could be put on the stock photography market place to sell. This model is more like the Reality TV show setup, where audience decides whether a particular singer is good and vote for him. More votes decides the champion along with a few other factors. 
So 500px essentially brings this aspect of reality TV kind of voting in the online photography world to decide the best photographs. 

I decided to test their algorithms and how good the overall setup is, so I experimented by putting in different kinds of photographs hoping to see how they get rated etc. I was quite disappointed with the overall results at how even the best of the photographs might not appeal to crowd. And how the entire logic works on how well you connected are, how many people in your network view the photographs etc. So the crux to mention is, the popularity has nothing to do with the quality of the photo. I have had similar problems with the occasional viewing of the reality show setups where many times the singers I feel are great, never win. So that made me think would the setup be good if only experts were judging the photographs?

I submitted some of the photos to high quality stock photography sites such as www.shutterclock.com. These photos were out right rejected saying they lack correct exposure, lack of focus, noise, lens artifacts etc. 

I then thought of another process to review the submitted material the way it occurs in the academic publishing world where peer reviewing is the norm to get research published. Depending on the quality of the conference / journal you are trying to publish in the reviews could get so nasty and critical that many times one feels like giving up. Writing is a very interpretation oriented skill. People look at it from their own biases, expectations etc. So chances of getting an article in, in a top publication through reviewers is even more tough. 

So now we have seen the two extreme sides of getting your work to the forefront. Crowd intelligence vs Expert intelligence. And both have its drawbacks and advantages. 

The most interesting question in this aspect then becomes how to combine the two in a kind of hybrid way so that the best of both the world could be obtained. And this is a tough question. The beauty of Internet is it has democratized the way information gets accessed. So now crowds can have their say in choosing the outstanding work unlike the earlier times, when only a few elite experts were allowed to do that. But there should also be a way to let the two modes integrate, so that we see the best possible outcome, because some times crowds might not be able to judge perfectly, and some times, the experts might be too harsh. 

Balance is the crux of everything and it needs to be present in the world of Technology too. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Safe cars and safe roads ....

The era of self driving cars is here. Google is testing its completely autonomous cars on Californian roads. Tesla just launched Model-D which has auto-pilot type features, which allow almost semi-autonomous driving of the car. 

While riding on my trip to Lake Tahoe on free-way I was thinking about the issues such as road safety, traffic sense etc in the context of American Free-way traffic. And how does the rule change when the other parts of the world such as Indian Express-ways are concerned. 

Safety is a matter of following the discipline and rules so that people driving cars follow a common protocol. Riding on an American free-way could be tiresome in the beginning as one has to keep a tab on many things such as the lane in which one is driving, traffic speed-limits, exits, the road directions, the roads, GPS guidance, etc. Since lane changes happen at a speed-of upto 60 miles per hour, if proper precaution is not taken crashes are imminent. Yet, with experience people get better at driving safely and overall the driving safety is at its highest. 

Self driving cars thus have an interesting existing framework of rules and protocols, in terms of the existing infrastructure on which their sole navigation depends heavily. Making them work correctly (at least on free-ways) depends on what happens when these protocols are broken and how to take those decisions. 

Even before self driving cars could be on road I think these kind of features should already enhance the safety on roads. For e.g. most accident happen due to human errors. Such as a person mistakenly takes a sudden turn, brakes, changes lane, or mis-judges other cars reaction etc. If all cars on roads follow a common protocol and talk through sensors, then the element of human error is removed, which makes driving much safer. I think many of the expensive cars at present do have most of these technologies where the car takes control of the situation if human error is sensed. For e.g. it would be wise to have a feature which disables a sudden lane change in the sense a crash with another vehicle is imminent. Here car is acting like a guardian when the human driving it has committed a mistake. 

Now, moving to the context of driving in other countries like India. As Indians get more prosperous they will drive more and spend more time on road. Safety becomes a prominent concern here. However, the situation in the Indian context is very difficult to handle due to the lack of common standards that everybody should follow as many times the drivers riding drive completely recklessly, risking everybody's life. This happens as the driving license obtaining rules etc are not strictly enforced. With the rise of newly build expressways the fatal crashes where people die are also on rise. This makes the situation extremely complicated, because no matter how safe your own car might be, chances are you might be at the mercy of another person bad driving habit. There was an episode in the TV series Satymev Jayate about fatality of Indian roads, which prominently mentions related issues. 

Making driving a safe experience is thus a herculean task depending on the context. Self driving cars even though they might arrive in developed countries, will be completely useless in emerging nations such as India, due to the mix of driving conditions and the lack of a coherent standard. So what is the best way to ensure increased safety on the Indian roads? Follow the rules and make obtaining the driving license a rigorous exercise, and not based on the ability to bribe a certain official, because the implications for the society as a whole are huge. Corruption thus plays a huge role in the advancement of the societies, and will play its role in ensuring safety on the Indian roads too.