On Physics and Hinduism

Image courtesy, Be good stewards of mother earth.
Image courtesy, Be good stewards of mother earth.

At the entrance to the Centre for European Nuclear Research (CERN) stands a 2 metre tall statue of the Hindu deity, Nataraja (see above). To the unaware, it looks like something out of place: something that does not belong in one of the world’s largest scientific research institutions. But it is only one instance of the compatibility between physics and Hinduism.

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The soft bigotry of low expectations

I will throw this out there, so never blame me if it seems sudden or unplanned. As I sit here at my desk, a strange mass of words comes to me: the soft bigotry of low expectations.

What does it mean? Often, what we hear in our minds is nothing more than what we have once heard aurally. I set out to find the origin of this — almost weird — phrase, and I managed to track it down to a little speech that the former U.S. president, George W. Bush, had delivered at a National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) convention.

So what did Mr Bush — or his speechwriter — mean by this? He was speaking in reference to the education system and these words gave rise to several opinions, all based on similar lines.

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Air pollution

On one of my recent travels, as I was driving over lush, green mountains I happened to spot a pillar of thick smoke rising in the distance. On approaching it I was horrified to find a line of bushes on fire.

It was clearly a raging fire that had died down by the time I came near it, but one look at it would make anybody guilty of even driving a car. The pollution, the black soot, the suffocating heat — they were all sickening.

And behind the orange flames and heat waves rising from the ground on a gloomy, 18°C morning, I spotted the worst of the lot: forest rangers.

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Thoughts on Minimalism as a lifestyle

Minimalism is a big word. And it is not what you think it means.

A lot of people I know have caught onto minimalism from my religious adaptation of the philosophy how much ever they may want to deny where it stems from.

Minimalism is not about having little; minimalist design is not about having only what is necessary. Quite the contrary: minimalism is about having lots but presented with careful thought so it does not appear overwhelming. Minimalism is serving you ample food while not making you feel overfed.

To all those who follow a minimalist principle, the least I can do is urge you to read Edward de Bono’s book, “Simplicity”.

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Inheriting a new typewriter

Although in one of my earlier articles (published in a magazine elsewhere) I voiced my opinion on how we rightly ought to attribute the fall of handwriting to the typewriter, my own love for these machines — a somewhat dangerously crazy urge to collect them — has never dwindled. I spoke about this too, earlier, where I had put in this photograph of my manual Olympia typewriter:

Well, the great news is, I recently inherited, so to speak, a 62-year-old Royal Quiet Deluxe (or de luxe, if you want to be picky), which my granduncle, Venkataram, (that is right: by count, I would be Venkatram IV in our family, but why would I call myself that?) had used in his time. In all possibility, since he was a scientist, this machine spewed out some nice research papers in the 50s – 80s.

He went on to be chronicled in the World Who’s Who for his contribution to botany (for those of you who are unaware, that is a definitive biographical reference of everybody who made important contributions to mankind, such as scientific development etc.), so, yes, this typewriter has quite a history.

I decided to share some photographs of this new addition to my typewriter collection. (All photos were taken with my GALAXY Note 3 because my dSLR was otherwise occupied.) Here are about eight photographs or so:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sure hope you liked it. When I have time, I will probably try to make a couple of photographs with my dSLR as well, just to satisfy my curiosity of how much better I can make it turn out, because my phone has continuously impressed me with its capabilities.

Also, here is a remarkable stream of golden light I saw streaming through one of the windows at home this evening:

All this reminds me of Bobby Darin’s “Beautiful things”. If you have not listened to it, you probably should.

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Mobile photography, part 3: my return to mobile photography

My joy knows no bounds today because my camera phone (whose wrecked lens glass I wrote about a week or so ago) was finally repaired. Samsung’s customer service was a tad slow in mailing the part (“We don’t get many with that phone here” the man at the service desk told me) but once it arrived, fixing it was easy and lasted as long as a stroll around the nearby bookstore.

The daredevil that I am, I made my first (somewhat) proper photograph as I waited at a traffic signal on the way back:

The weather was gloomy so I cautiously decided to stay at home, but a little later into the evening, as the weather got brighter (or at least as bright as it could just before the sun set), I went for a pretty long walk and made several more photographs.

 

 

First of all, I was just glad to have a working camera. But just as important was making sure it worked perfectly, just as well as — if not better than — before it cracked. The exposure, focus and the whole shebang was spot on, and I was in a race against time to make photographs before darkness set in and noise conquered my screen.

 

In pitch darkness: this is no dSLR, but you cannot deny it is very impressive

 

In case you are looking for part one and two of this collection of short reports on mobile photography (and if you want to see more photographs), you will not find them labelled as parts but as Mobile photography and dedicated cameras: where do they lie? and More indulgence in mobile photography.

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Android KitKat, roadside fires and other random thoughts

I cannot complain about today, or yesterday, for that matter, even if I saw a couple of exhibitions of carelessness. On my usual cycling circuit I noticed (apart from other struggling cyclists) this fancy little fire:

The Earth isn't yours to wreck
The Earth isn’t yours to wreck

What you see here was actually part of a larger fire lit next to an open coconut farm with dried hay and a pub some 200 metres away. Adds up?

And since I had stopped to shoot this, and since I had already breathed in some smoke, I decided to keep doing that while I made this fun shot of a bus passing by (and that photo you see at the beginning of this article too).

Two things struck me: firstly, I was able to accurately capture my artistic intent; and, secondly, phone cameras making terrible night pictures has now risen to plain bad ones. Although that random cheap phone probably still shoots terribly in low light, which is something manufacturers should think about: make better low-priced phones at least this year. A lot of talented photographers out there cannot probably afford iPhones and Note 3s and One Xs.

Materialistically speaking, just a few hours earlier, I had been quite overjoyed when I received a 360MB OTA update on my Note 3. I had no reason to suspect it was anything other than KitKat (Android 4.4.2) arriving:

It took a while, but it soon turned out that I was right.

Screenshot_2014-01-31-22-46-16 Screenshot_2014-01-31-22-46-35

I think the newest edition just makes me repeat myself: everything is faster, and this time around, I actually mean fast enough for anybody to notice. The camera lag that came like a bane with my Note 3 is almost gone. I’m thoroughly enjoying the dedicated camera lock screen short cut as well.

It has been a day and the phone is still snappy as ever. The next most noticeable feature is that the new font is already here, bundled with 4.4.2 (and thankfully not modded by Samsung).

Screenshot_2014-02-01-07-43-48

What you might not notice from the picture above is that there is also the white status bar icon set now by default — something I would force onto my older phones after rooting them.

If you see the screenshot in my Google+ update above, you will notice a flurry of colours with no theme. That was Android with an overlay of TouchWhiz. Else, it was blue; but the white is much better looking now. I only hope app developers will adhere to the new aesthetic and make their apps’ status bar icons white as well (I’m talking about you, TrustGo).

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Swiping left brings Google Now, saying OK, Google works like a charm as well. [Update: Several more people than usual expressed a desire to find out about the wallpaper I'm using here. It's a photograph I made very recently with my phone (so that it would be easy to set it up as a wallpaper and all) which means you can have it if you like. Simply right- or ctrl-click and save image as... .]

Unfortunately, Samsung seems adamant about swapping their bulky icons for KitKat-style slick ones, so that leaves rooting as the only option, which means I’ll be putting it off until we find a way to root without tripping the Knox eFuse. You will never know when you might need it.

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But let us look at the brighter parts. Samsung has been nice enough to adopt the beautiful full-screen layout for music album artwork on the lock screen, bringing more of KitKat’s design ideology. (In the picture below, you can also see the camera quick access I spoke of earlier.)

It is interesting that Samsung brought in more of KitKat this time round than it brought in JellyBean in its 4.3 update to my older first generation Note. Perhaps Google and Samsung are growing fond of each other after their recent handshake?

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There are other more technical changes, and some user-friendly ones such as an access to default apps management just underneath the regular apps management section of the Note 3’s four-page encyclopedic settings area. Some also complained that third party cases (even with chips inside them) no longer work because Samsung’s own protection enabled metal contacts are missing.

I agree that that was bad marketing on Samsung (or carelessness for not providing support — which is worse?) but I shelled out a little extra to own an original windowed flip case, meaning mine works just fine. But I do hope the others get an update soon.

Oh well, this has been a regular all-encompassing musing from yours truly. Until next time, kEeP L3E7 5PEeK1ng.

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