Tuesday, December 27, 2005

For engineering students in Pune University - read this.

This is another meta-post. If you are an engineering student, especially EE or CS, in my alma mater - the AISSMS's College of Engineering or any other engineering school in Pune University for that matter - this is some stuff that you should definitely read while you are in school - an essay by Paul Graham. In fact, you should probably spend time reading all of his essays!
This is stuff that very few profs will tell you.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Hamming on research

Richard Hamming of Bell labs on 'You and your research'. Must read for anyone contemplating a life invested in solving research problems.

....
Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions:
  1. What are the most important problems in your field?

  2. Are you working on one of them?

  3. Why not?
...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

photography and quality - my thoughts and a discussion with a friend.

This is from a discussion I had with a friend on Orkut. I thought it would be worthwhile to put it here - summarizes my involvement in the visual arts. A slightly longish read!

Me:
I am also trying to find a theoretical answer to the question 'how does one produce a great image as opposed to a mediocre image in any situation' - a theoretical answer that can be easily translated to practice. I'm looking for other sources of research/places where people have tried to solve this problem and will probably meet up some people in
FTII about this.

I'd definitely like to meet up with anyone who has insights on quality in photography ... subjective quality vs object quality split (zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance aficionados ?) .... or if you believe in it, the 18 per cent gray in between :) The people I've met so far shrug it off with a 'cannot be captured in a set of prescriptions' attitude ... however what would be interesting is having a very large set of -observations-, and not prescriptions about quality images. It would be a good exercise to create an inference engine for the analysis and determination of 'great' images ... at the very very least ... improving one's own art.

what say?

friend:
It’s true that Photography is an art which can not be injected by others into someone.

About your question, I think that though it’s an art, there is a science and it has its limitations, so to get a exceptional image at any given time, one need to make available all the ingredients in perfect quantity (i.e. light, distance, hardware, state of mind etc.)

"Zen and art of motorcycle maintenance" ;I disagree to it to some extent because of which I left the book in between, but it does make an impact on one's thought process.

The one perfect sentence you made is, we need observations, it’s very correct.

Paradox - but in my sole opinion, I prefer to learn and get the things by my intuition and by own way. This way all what I have learn I can get it into the picture 100%

me:

One need not agree or disagree with the book... I know a lot of people (almost 3/4ths of everyone I know) who gave up half way.

The book does have some interesting insights (interesting to me because ... they are provocative, relevant, indicative of possibility, encapsulate interesting concepts about quality and provide alternatives to existing concepts (well... my gestalts) of quality) and at the very least, it tries to address the important issue of trying to define quality.)

The style in which it has been written will turn a lot of people off. But I would suggest that they hang on (if 'quality' is relevant to them) and read through to the end. And re-read it again a few times.

As I said, it has been said by many that 'art' cannot be injected into a person. The same has been said for innovation and creativity. The support for this is tenuous. The fact that we do not understand how something works is not enough reason for one to believe that it does not work. And there is evidence to the contrary as well, Edward de Bono in 'Serious Creativity' and G.Altschuller in TRIZ http://www.altshuller.ru/world/eng/e-books.asp
.

What I am attempting is not, 'How to become Ansel Adams++',
:-)


but a personal inquiry into the analysis and synthesis of quality images.

anyone around with a similar itch?

>>>> .... so to get a exceptional image at any given time, one need to make available all the ingredients in perfect quantity (i.e. light, distance, hardware, state of mind etc.) ....

Agree with you there, but the etc. in the end is what needs to be expanded on a lot if we want to understand -what- is it that makes up good images. (how else would one improve - after a point?) Some of it is covered in 'art appreciation' courses if one is studying the fine arts. But the synthesis of good images is much more difficult than the analysis(which itself isn't a solved problem in the world yet).

friend:
Not for the sake of debate...but just a thought...

Edward de Bono thinks that Creativity or LATERAL THINKING can be acquired and it’s not born, it can be achieved through some procedures which can be defined and generalized. - its kind of defining success/talent...do he/one really think that one can follow a recipe/steps of a successful person to become another successful person...or rather can someone define such recipe?

quality is a relative term, you are talking abt the improvement in the image quality after a certain point, that certain point is very relative, it can differ from person to person, because of which i said you can not write down it as a formula, it can not be captured, it can be felt but can not be documented.

If something can be defined it can be achieved also, then it will be redundant, and i guess something which is redundant is not quality its quantity

i will not talk abt the book, u may think me as john or chris :)

Me:
>>>>>quality is a relative term,
let's say it is ... to top it, let us say that it is subjective as well. MMM.... why is it that -everyone- I meet can distinguish between an Ansel Adams photograph and my photograph :)

>>>>>you are talking abt the improvement in the image quality after a certain point, that certain point is very relative, it can differ from person to person,


What I really am concerning myself with is how to -push- that point to its limit. I am not content with saying that it is relative. For starters, having enough of a 'concept' vocabulary to be able to analyze an image into a 100 or so factors that have a relative value towards contributing to the end effect that the photograph is trying to achieve. (that may incidentally not even be what the photographer saw/wanted to show, because of his lack of awareness of those factors)


>>>>>>because of which i said you can not write down it as a formula, it can not be captured, it can be felt but can not be documented.


one of the oft attributed purposes of art itself is to not only document what is felt, but to use expressive powers of words and images to enable others to feel it too. some people leave it to circumstance. others try to understand and improve. analysis is a tool for improvement. not a formula.

An interesting study of what 'art' is, the purpose of 'art' in a persons life, and in world could be seen in 'The Romantic Manifesto' by Ayn Rand. Again, I'm not endorsing her views, or even concurring, but 2001 ways of seeing an elephant gives even a blind man (me) a clearer picture.
Another instance - analysis shows that a key reason why Ansel Adams' photographs are impressive is because
of their sheer tonal range. This gave a lot of people an understanding of what 'tonal range' is and a method to capture that tonal range. It gave them the zone system.
It helps in pushing the point where analysis contributes to the synthesis of good images further.

>>>>>>If something can be defined it can be achieved also, then it will be redundant, and i guess something which is redundant is not quality its quantity


This is how I used to feel as well.
However, the premise for this is, again - tenuous.
I may define something, as a first step to achieving something. that does not make the achievement redundant.
Furthermore, the fact that something can be achieved does not make the achievement redundant.
Because, art is more than math.
A photograph is more than a concept. It can engage the senses. (And then the mind as well.)
There is a very real joy in -defining- what is good.
There is a greater joy in -helping others see- it.
There is joy in -bringing- it to reality.
There is a joy in -seeing- good things come to reality.
There is an even greater joy in helping -other- people bring good things into reality.

The definition of a method to see and show the world in more, interesting and better ways, does not imply that we will have 'imitation photography'.
(imitation could be considered a bad thing - because it does not create value other than by enabling more people to
experience a part of it).
One may say that if everybody creates amazing photos,
A situation where we have 100 people taking good photographs could probably be considered better than one where we have 100 people taking less-than-what-they-could-have photographs.
A photograph can be seen as a concept vehicle. It is the duty of an artist to ensure that it is an -effective- vehicle. This can be achieved.


>>>>>>>>Edward de Bono thinks that Creativity or LATERAL THINKING can be acquired and it’s not born,
it can be achieved through some procedures which can be defined and generalized. -
its kind of defining success/talent...
do he/one really think that one can follow a recipe/steps of a successful person to become another
successful person...or rather can someone define such recipe?

One of the key elements of being creative in any sense is the ability to spot the non-obvious.
it -is- possible to be 'successful' at developing that specific ability.
it is difficult to have a universal definition for things like 'success for a person in life'. ('the categorical imperative' of Immanuel Kant)
that goes into studies of ethics and philosophy.
The analysis of quality in art is possible and has been done for ages.
It is the subject of an entire field called aesthetics.
What I am searching for is the contribution of aesthetic analysis to the synthesis of good photographs.

If anyone is interested in the relationship of ideas related to music, math and art - G.E.B. (Goedel, Escher, Bach) The Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter is an intriguing (and information-density-rich) book.

A lot of people are good but they do not understand why.
Some people try to and can understand why and how.
People who want to be good may not attain immortality because of that understanding.
That is not enough reason to stop trying to understand the why and how.

The point, of course, is not to argue for arguments' sake but to improve and to actively search for means of improvement.

:)

my 2 cents
Aalhad
Friend:
I am getting an exponential learning curve here. Thanks Allahad

(A photograph can be seen as a concept vehicle. It is the duty of an artist to ensure that it is an -effective- vehicle. This can be achieved.)

I was thinking as you are interested in taking and enjoying and taking photographs by yourself, but what I can infer from your post (correct me if I am wrong) is that you are more social and interested in making others to enjoy the photographs.

For me, I don’t do it for the sake of people; I enjoy the snaps that I take full stop. I don’t take snaps so that people will enjoy it, the people come in the end, and I m sure that if I enjoy my photograph then everybody on this earth will enjoy watching it.

(One of the key elements of being creative in any sense is the ability to spot the non-obvious it -is- possible to be 'successful' at developing that specific ability.)

The one that you think is developing the ability, I call it as finding it within yourself, unfolding it, its there if you can find it, but if its not there for you then you may want to but you can not have it. (This might go towards the concept of finding the ONE – Matrix)

(The analysis of quality in art is possible and has been done for ages.
It is the subject of an entire field called aesthetics.What I am searching for is the contribution of aesthetic analysis to the synthesis of good photographs.)

Photograph or any art is the feeling its not a tool or a body, one need to feel it to enjoy it, Enjoy the beautiful painting rather than debating and finding out why the Mona Lisa is smiling?. When I listen to music (flute/sitar/tabla) I want to close my eyes and want to feel it, I don’t want go into the technicalities of it.

Don’t you think that going into “WHY” will fade out the joy of “FEEL”.

The snaps taken by you at are marvelous, I don’t have words. ?
Especially Butterfly street 2 Green Leaf 3 The B/W photo of the lady.
Please let me know which Camera you have used for the same.


Me:
Thanks for the the comments!

((I was thinking as you are interested in taking and enjoying and taking photographs by yourself, but what I can infer from your post (correct me if I am wrong) is that you are more social and interested in making others to enjoy the photographs.)

Actually, contrary to popular feeling, aesthetics is not governed by emotion or enjoyment - but more on this in another post. :) And I am -very- interested in the improvement of my ability to create good photographs. I am also interested in helping other people to do the same.

((For me, I don’t do it for the sake of people; I enjoy the snaps that I take full stop. I don’t take snaps so that people will enjoy it, the people come in the end, and I m sure that if I enjoy my photograph then everybody on this earth will enjoy watching it.))
That is okay ... and a good thing. One must not be driven by popular taste. Also, if I enjoy watching my own creation, that does not automatically mean that others will enjoy it either. The aesthetic value of a photograph can be evaluated independent of whether one enjoys it or not.


Aalhad finding omega 3/27/2005 7:48 AM
((The one that you think is developing the ability, I call it as finding it within yourself, unfolding it, its there if you can find it, ... (This might go towards the concept of finding the ONE – Matrix)))

Who is to say ... whether you are the one or not :)



((but if its not there for you then you may want to but you can not have it.))
Although if one were to believe the Patanjali (morpheus?) yoga sutras ... we are all 'one' ;-)
It is good to free oneself from the matrix and help others free themselves from the matrix if you can. Let's build a Nebuchadnezzar. :)

It is perhaps good to be open to all methods - 'rational' (within the purview of human reason) or 'mystic' (those that require experience outside the rational framework)
but, call it whatever you will ... developing your creative ability, 'finding' yourself ... searching for the 'one' ... leaving it to chance or circumstance is, simply put -- not being responsible for ones improvement.


Aalhad does understanding detract from 'feel' ...? 3/27/2005 8:56 AM
((Photograph or any art is the feeling its not a tool or a body, one need to feel it to enjoy it, Enjoy the beautiful painting rather than debating and finding out why the Mona Lisa is smiling?. When I listen to music (flute/sitar/tabla) I want to close my eyes and want to feel it, I don’t want go into the technicalities of it.))

There is a distinction between allowing a work art to affect one's senses, evaluating the aesthetic quality of a work art and improving the process by which art is created. All of them may be enjoyed.

((Don’t you think that going into “WHY” will fade out the joy of “FEEL”.))

According to my experience, going into the 'why' -enhances- the 'feel' ... for example, it is difficult to appreciate classical music unless one can understand and appreciate its complex meaning and beauty. It may be possible to just listen to it, devoid of meaning ... but it is then reduced to a mere 'tickling' of the eardrum ... which becomes less pleasurable with the repetition and the passage of time. One of the reasons why, imho, popular music exists and fades away for a relative lack of meaning. Meaning is very relevant to quality of art.
When listening to a great classical artist, especially, hindustani classical, there is a lot that goes into making you feel what you feel. If one wants to really appreciate it, it helps if there is a resonance between the artists state of mind and the 'shrotas' state of mind with respect to the understanding of the language of music. It helps communication of the state of 'feeling' easier. This understanding may be obtained by inheritance, circumstance (association with a guru) (in either of these, you need not be aware of it, and can afford to just 'feel' the effect of the artist communicating in the language you 'know') or by focused learning and perseverance (which may be directed towards creating circumstances where one can learn, i.e. from a guru). continued ...


Aalhad 3/27/2005 9:13 AM
... one commentator on indian classical music goes on to say that ... the degree to which a person can enjoy a performance of classical music is limited by
a.) the extent to which the artists understanding of the 'sva' or the 'self' and the world has been developed
b.) the extent to which the shrotas understanding of the 'sva' or the 'self' and the world has been developed
c.) the extent to which these two resonate.
d.) live performances are all the more enjoyable, because the physical presence facilitates this resonance to a great degree. Which is another reason why purists only enjoy live performances ... and great artists decide what to perform or at least how ... on the basis of this resonance present in a given set of circumstances with a given audience.
The understanding of the meaning of one's self is so important that it is the 'sva' in 'svara' and 'svara' actually means ... the shining forth or the putting forth of the essence of ones self ... (interesting thought on etymology...'sva' = self + 'ra' = to put forth or to present.)
(a few more things worth thinking over ...
a.) most great hindustani classical masters are also people who have a deep understanding of the self, the world and the human psyche ... they are very close to being spiritual masters.
b.) not too many people find it easy to be in a state where they can understand or appreciate classical music. )
I've concluded that cognition and understanding are inseparable from art, and this should probably hold true for photography as well ...


Aalhad glad you liked the photos .. 3/27/2005 9:43 AM
Thanks! I'm glad that you like the photographs!

(The snaps taken by you at are marvelous, I don’t have words. ?)

marvellous -is- a word ? :)
(a word that says more about what you felt than about the photograph though)
To critique a photograph, and discuss how it could have been improved and learn lessons for further experiments, a study of aesthetics is helpful.


(Especially Butterfly street 2 Green Leaf 3 The B/W photo of the lady.

Please let me know which Camera you have used for the same)
I use a Kodak DX6490 advanced-point-and-shoot with a 6.3mm to 63mm (38mm to 380mm equivalent Schneider Kreuznach Variogon zoom) and am trying to create a budget for a EOS 350D or a EOS20D or otherwise a D70)
www.treklens.com/members/aalhad has the exif info for each photo as well.

This thread is digressing too far from the 'photography course..' topic. Maybe we could move it to another post ?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

more snaps of the kata r 103

Some more shots of the R103. Okay, I forgot to mention the price - it is slightly pricey - around $170 on Amazon (including shipping within the US) ... so that translates to roughly 7650 INR.

But for equipment that it houses, 170USD is okay for shock and weather protection. It is -definitely- worth it. Posted by Picasa

caring for your EOS 350D / Rebel XT

Still haven't bought a bag for your camera?
Want a -really- good way to protect your investment?
Get a Kata R-103.
I have it since October 2005. I've travelled through south india for 11 days - in 'sleeper class' train compartments, crowded streets, trekked through the jungle surrounding the periyar lake with the following stuff in this bag -
Canon EOS 350D, a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, a Canon 75-300mm telephoto lens, a Tamron 18-200mm lens, Canon Speedlite 580EX flash, 4 rechargable 2500 milli-amp-hour NiMH AA cells, Nokia cell phone charger, NiMH battery charger, an IBM T42p Thinkpad laptop, laptop charger, my ebook and music library on a spool of 10 DVDs, a charger for the Canon camera NB2LH battery, a Sony portable Discman, an Apple iPod nano 4G (there were 9 more people in our gang, so we needed multiple music playing devices), a portable travelpod for the smaller Kodak DX6490, a larger Hansa tripod for the 350D, Apple earbuds, Shure e3c canalphones, Shure e2c canalphones, a full set of sleeves for the e2c and the e3c, cables for hooking the ipod to the laptop, a 25-in-1 memory card reader, a Nokia 6600 cellphone for continuous bluetooth->GPRS connectivity on my laptop, a kensington laptop cable lock, ethernet cables, a couple of paperbacks and a bunch of other small knickknacks like chewing gum and mints ..... so, the bag although devoid of all the equipment in this snapshot, has much more room than you can see!

The bag is made from military standard nylon that is ACTUALLY dust resistant! I've lugged it through a jungle - and not a speck of dust on it yet. It seems to be very shock resistant - Kata should know this kinda stuff well - they make bulletproof vests and other such equipment for the Israeli army!!!

The ergonomics is superb for a person who is 170-180 cms in height. It has full 5 point adjustment, external straps for lashing up tripods to the backpack shell, a really comfortable shoulder 'wrap' underneath the shoulder straps.

The bag is the most ruggedly built bag I have ever seen - perhaps with the exception of the Lowepro Dryzone (but who needs something that -heavy- unless one is going kayaking with camera equipment and there is a danger of submersion.) The Kata R-103 comes with a all weather raincoat that is reflective on one side for sun protection and is black on the other for the rains.

I managed to lose one half of the waist strap as it came off the sliplock when I took it off - so I wrote them asking about what I should do next. I expected a mail giving the part number and a URL where I could order it online. But guess what - I received an email from them within half an hour asking me for my shipping address and phone number - saying that a replacement waist strap would be on the way immediately the next day. Thank you Bellina Israel - Kata should be proud of people like you!

This is some of the best customer service I have seen yet.

I haven't been paid by anyone to write this. This backpack is just a showcase of very good design and engineering. And if Kata is listed on your local stock exchange - you should go and buy some stock. I would. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 17, 2005

Impressions of Austin

Okay ... long time no post. :)
It is October. 2005. I'm in USA for a month. Austin, TX. Should be back home in a week or so from now.

Austin is not a very large city - seems small compared to Atlanta, GA - that I visited in the year 2000. Wide open spaces and temperatures ranging from 10 degrees celsius to 42 degrees celsius in a single day. Very, very unpredictable weather - we had a summer, a winter and rains all in a couple of days - however all extremes within Pune limits. So wasn't much of a problem.

The thing that struck me first was ... how little of a change the US has seen since the year 2000.
Malls ... roads, shops ... hell even Walmart is the same as it was 5 years ago. After seeing this, I find it easy to appreciate the -phenomenal- rate at which India is moving ahead.

A very old lady - probably in her eighties came over to me in H.E.B (a grocery store) and asked me - why is it that Indians are taking away their jobs - and if it was really true that China will be surpassing the US in every by 2015!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

a first look at the 350D + Canon EF-S kit lens

Got the 350D+ Kit lens from jj mehta (run by a nice chap - kartik mehta) in mumbai.
47k for the body+kit lens+2year Canon India warranty, and 5.9k for a Sandisk Extreme III IGB CF card.

Also am getting a Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens tomorrow. (-the- BEST glass you can get for the price of 5k. period.)

First few observations:
The sensor gives amazingly crisp and silky smooth image texture as compared to anything else I've ever seen yet.
The kit lens is a huge let-down .... since I'm coming from the Schneider Kreuznach Variogon on the Kodak 6490 - believe me ... I just realized that the 6490 cost breakup is like 25k = 20k for the 38-380mm lens and around 5k for the body+sensor+other electronics. (now the 6490 costs around 18k)

The kit lens is a Canon 18-55mm EF-S II f/3.5 - f/5.6. This lens does not allow enough light for good indoor photos in low light as compared to the Schneider Variogon on the kodak. I can open up the Variogon up to f/2.8 even at - say - 200mm - which is really fast i.e. it allows in more light and thus allows me to afford a shorter shutter speed (i.e. crisp - shake free photos) compared to what the Canon kit lens allows me to do. So --- I'm returning the kit lens (which costs 4.5k) and will probably go in for a Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-f/6.3 lens .... I still haven't decided on this yet - but the kit lens sure does disappoint me.

Shooting with a dSLR is -very- different from a compact point-and-shoot-zoom-with-creative-controls camera.
The most prominent issues that a compact point-and-shoot user will face -
a.) no LCD screen based composition
b.) no great kit lens - and this is a -big- drawback if you are used to a compact with a very good lens - say, like the kodak DX6490.
c.) a different weight distribution in a different shape hinders blur and shake free shooting in low light (again, this is probably very lens dependent)
e.) the AF system on the Canon 350D is pretty useless when shooting a subject more than 5 meters away in the dark, outside, with just street lighting to go with.
(the flash fires a series of very fast strobes as an AF assist beam - NO INFRARED BEAM as in the kodak) This is awful, but can be rectified with the Canon Speedlite flash unit that has an IR AF assist beam

I have a very good friend in mumbai who is a pro photographer, -AND- uses a kit lens (!!!) with a 300D .... so, it is probably a bit subjective and it depends on what you are used to ... eventually the creative faculties will adapt to the equipment (happened with the kodak for me - the slow autofocus and lack of aperture settings beyond f/8 ... the really noisy sensor that forced me to never shoot at anything other than ISO 80 for anything I wanted to print).

So ... I've bought the Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime - which should effectively solve the low light shooting issue. And am looking for a cost effective solution to the tele-zoom issue (got spoilt by composition choices that the 38-380mm zoom on the kodak offers :) find it difficult to use my feet as a zoom now. ) The problem is .... glass is -VERY- expensive - if it is any good. And glass prices don't come down :( like the camera body prices do. A good quality lens that I'm looking at buying right now (maybe not so right now ... :) )is a Canon 70-200/f 2.8 IS USM L lens ... and it comes with a price tag of 78k INR!!!!!!!!!! Meanwhile the Tamron 18-200/f3.5-f6.3 will have to do @ 18k ... although it is not as fast - but at least it will give me something closer to the Schneider Kreuznach Variogon 38-380/f2.8-f5.6

My recommendation- if you are planning to buy a dSLR ..... buy the glass first. Buy the best glass you can afford. This could be repeated -n- times - a good digital body with the cheapest available glass ( the kit lens in this case) is like having a Bose home theater attached to a local made 14" monochrome monitor and a really crummy pair of cheaply made car speakers salvaged from the local junk yard.
Well, not that bad, but if you are on a 'Pune, India' kinda salary and are spending a bomb on a dSLR system, first save up for and buy the glass ... and then save up for the body (which will decrease in price then)

What makes moving to a dSLR worth ... is, of course ... the quality of the finished product :)

Once you see what a -good- lens can do, there's no coming back :)) be warned - read this -

Monday, June 20, 2005

what should a personal website be like ...

Here is an interesting form I found ...
topology.org - ak's personal web site
What are the different forms that a personal website can and should take is a question that probably every person who has a personal website has faced at one point of time or the other. (Of course, not everyone would choose to think about it too much). The other questions that this raises is, why is it that one should have a personal website. For me, I want to have a publicly visible representation of my thoughts, ideas, and activities to enable collaboration and participation in mutually beneficial transactions with and affecting as large a subset of the human population as possible.

Something to think about during this week .... how to structure http://www.sarafs.com/aal ... how to create a structure like a wiki that would ensure that the site stays in sync with atomspace. hmmm ...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

tools - what's your notepad ... misc tips

Tip #305 - Best of VIM Tips (VIM's best Features) : vim online
If you aren't a Vim power user yet ... :)
I've moved back and forth between Emacs and Vim since 1995 and I've grown to like both of them

Check this out as well - a vim configuration to make vim into an even powerful editor that looks lesser like vi ...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Want to make your pages as responsive as Gmail?

The answer, if you haven't already read about it, is AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript XMLHttpRequests ....
ONLamp.com: A Simpler Ajax Path

Go google out some more ... if time permits, will post a tute on this.
Am thinking of ways of incorporating this into my site design.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A man wanting to read a book is not just a man - but a soul reaching out to seek the infinite.

Why should a person read
Simply put - to transcend the immediate limitations of human senses and perception in order to experience this world in as rich, diverse and interesting a manner as possible.

I have had various discussions and arguments with some of my friends who maintain that it is better to just live life as one sees it around oneself instead of qualifying that experience by perceptions one acquires from reading books. My answer to that has been -- books give me a glimpse of a much larger subset of the world that I may then -choose- to experience, they help me transcend the boundaries of my immediate surroundings and circumstances - for example, give me a controllable environment where I can choose to talk with J.Krishnamurthi and Mahatma Gandhi instead of being in a group of people living around where I live, where the subjects of discussion are usually limited to local politics and gossip. (And it is more difficult for me to control my atomspace location than my mindspace or bitspace location.)

(peronal opinion)
And I believe that not using the power of the written word to control how one 'programs' oneself is being an ultra-luddite. :)

(impersonal opinion! :-)) An answer to 'should one read' can be found by trying to understand what the purpose of one's life is. There are phases in a lifetime, when it is -very- relevant to have access to written literature and a person should read. As to 'should one read a lot', that should be decided by what is 'necessary'. How to decide what is 'necessary' requires an inquiry into what is 'good' and 'bad'. However, if one aims to see further, standing on the shoulders of many giants helps. How much one can read depends on the efficiency and effectiveness of the persons 'comprehension apparatus'.

On invention and being a generalist+specialist ...

I discovered a book on invention (quite by accident) on a site called http://www.books24x7.com, which I have access to, by letting IBM Software Labs fund me right now. It is about an inventive method of problem solving called TRIZ.

Some of the conclusions drawn in the book align with my world view. One such conclusion:
You have a better chance of creating technically valuable inventions, if you have combed deeply through the problem and solution spaces of many, diverse fields.

'TRIZ', classifies problems into 5 categories on the basis of their technical invention value
as decided by their problem domain and the required solution domain -
  • a.) a problem of a specific field in an industry solved by knowledge from that field itself.
-for example, requiring knowledge of compiler design to solve a problem in compiler construction
  • b.) a problem of a specific field in an industry solved by applying knowledge of another field in the same industry -
-for example, requiring knowledge of compiler optimization to solve a problem in Operating System design.
  • c.) a problem of a field solved by knowledge from another field
-for example, requiring knowledge of mechanical gear design to solve a problem of compiler construction
  • d.) a problem of a field solved by advancement of science in a related field.
-for example, a problem of compiler construction, requiring an advancement of the state of the art of mathematical theory.
  • e.) a problem of a field requiring advancement of science in an unrelated field
-for example, an improvement in the interface of an Instant Messaging system that requires an advancement in economic theory.

Friday, June 10, 2005

now studying ...

What am I doing right now?
I am currently a student of financial analysis, ethics, aesthetics, French and photography.
Currently reading about - the use of CSS in web design.
Beginning exploration of human computer interaction, social networks and social network analysis.

Why am I doing these things?
  • Financial Analysis - for an understanding of the 'economic behavior' of people, societies and organizations.
  • French - (and other languages, and etymology) to satisfy curiosity about how languages used by humans to program others are - and have evolved.
  • Photography - for an understanding of how a visual medium may 'program' a human being.
  • Aesthetics - for a deeper understanding of the theory of a visual programming language like photography, painting or architecture.
  • Ethics - for an exploration of how have various people tried to answer the question of 'what is good and what is bad' - interest derived from all the above.
  • CSS - for this is something that I have missed out by being away from web programming for 5 years.
  • HCI - for this is the face of technology visible to the world at large. If, and wherever, I can improve it, I must.
  • Social Networking - to try applying ideas obtained from all the above fields and things studied earlier to a field of active research.

Each of these give me specific and general insights related to what I do everyday.
I hope to share as many of these as I can.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

caught in the blogosphere

blogs look like a natural cross between instant messaging and the world wide web. like giving some sort of persistent medium to IMers, or rather creating a medium that lies between 'maintaining a web site' and 'chatting on IM systems' on the persistence, responsiveness, 'informalness' scales. this seems to be now the method of choice for expression on the web. this has been happening over the last couple of years, and for old-timers who have been away from active participation in the online community, browsing http://www.technorati.com gives a feeling that one is falling behind :-)

Saturday, February 05, 2005