Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Next stop: Mumbai!!

A very thrilling India-Pakistan semifinal that absolutely lived up to its enormous pre-game hype. So much so that even ESPN's main page was forced to take notice of this puny sport I love and cherish. This is a fairly long piece, but very insightful and manages to capture the essence of cricket and its place in India very accurately.

I stayed up all night to watch this (let me remind you that a one-day game lasts ~9 hours) and this picture summarizes all the emotions and thrill:

Lanka calling [source:]

Friday night, co-hosts Sri Lanka and India will battle it out in Mumbai. I cannot wait. I am sure a billion plus Indians will agree with me as well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Open your aural doors

I slothed for ten whole days. Consequently, I am out of fresh ideas to write about. I magically expect the floodgates of inspiration to be flung open once I start my final quarter here at UCLA tomorrow.

In the meantime, to keep my post count high enough, I am posting this classic Doors song:

Look at Morrison. Such bravado. Such pizzazz.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On the road - 10 part 2: Sunday in SF, Monday in the bratmobile

(Part 1 is here.)

I've been to San Francisco quite a few times before, and almost every time I've been bested by the notoriously capricious northern California weather. The first time I went to see the bridge, it was covered in plumes of dense fog. The second time was marginally better, but it was still raining and very cold. So I wasn't too surprised when the forecast for Sunday was rain and more rain. (Not just normal rain, if this hoax viral text message was to be believed. A very vile radioactive rain noxious enough to make you bald and give you nasty burns unless you exercised prudence by investing in raincoats and umbrellas. Ha. The perverted basement dwellers must have had a field day coming up with this hoax).

But my friend BS and I were both armed with some very hi-tech imaging gadgetry and were willing to take a chance. So out we went, with my cousin's freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to keep us some much needed company. We ambled along on the 101 North and hey what do we have here? His highness, the Sun king. The rain had decided to take the day off. After a nice couple hours, we arrived at the bridge.

Since the weather was so nice, we were able to take hundreds of pictures from all sorts of great vista points. Here are some good ones that I picked out at first glance (I think I still need to work on them a little bit before making prints or anything like that):

On the road - 10: I rode in a car on the road for a road trip

Jack Kerouac's On the road is one of my favorite books of all time. The basic premise of the novel is that a thinly fictionalized version of Kerouac and his merry band of lovable misfits romp around the continental United States, soaking in the American-ness of everything on their long drives. More than anything, the book is about the atmosphere and manic energy of these youthful people for whom the world is endless and possibilities infinite.

Many a times, I too have fantasized about going on a super long road trip with friends. The chief motivation behind such a project is not necessarily the places we could visit, but more about the act of driving itself. There is something about the idea of driving 8-9 hours in a stretch with a few friends - the music you play and sing along to, the inside jokes that are relevant only for the duration of the drive, the vistas that zoom by at enormous speeds and so on.

So when an old high school friend of mine from Minnesota (let's call him GW) said he was going to be in Cupertino for a couple days, I grabbed the opportunity with all four limbs. I recruited another friend (let's call him BS) for the project.

We came up with a pretty simple three-day plan: leave LA Saturday morning, see GW in San Jose that afternoon and spend the night at my aunt's house. For Sunday, we wanted to spend a couple quality hours taking pictures of the scenery in San Francisco, before heading off to Sacramento for the night. That way we would leave Sactown on Monday morning and be back in LA at a reasonable hour.

All in all, this ended up being a very entertaining and thoroughly satisfying 1290 miles.

We left LA at 7 in the morning after loading up our friendly bratmobile:

The bratmobile resting on the 5 freeway[pic by me]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Russia's greatest love machine

Hey all, just got back from an exhilarating road trip to Northern California. Took tons of pictures in San Francisco, and on the 5 south. Also got to see Apple, Google and Facebook headquarters. So cool! Will have selected pictures and a good-sized post about the trip tomorrow after I get a good night's sleep.

But in the meanwhile, enjoy this off-beat song by a little known (at least in the US - they were massive in Europe and South Asia) 70's group Boney M

I want to highlight these particular verses from the song:

Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on

Damn. Despite the dangers of meeting an ungainly and unseemly end, I would not mind being Russia's greatest love machine.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

San Francisco doesn't like missiles

Currently on a road trip of sorts through Northern California with an old buddy. We made a quick stop at San Francisco en route to Sacramento. 
From the Golden Gate bridge:

Yes, the good folks in charge of the bridge would like you to refrain from launching your very own Tomahawk missile. Good day.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The trainwreck ends

Hoo boy. The thing that captivated us so mightily for much of last week is finally and mercifully coming to an end. Hopefully. Alexandra Wallace, youtube uploader extraordinaire has issued a very contrite sounding comprehensive statement declaring that she will no longer be attending the university, UCLA's student newspaper Daily Bruin reports.

The exit is to the left of the stage, my friend. Interestingly, she calls the disastrous video a humorous attempt. A humorous attempt at what, exactly? If that was funny, I guess I spent 21 years of my life completely in the dark about the meaning of that good word. Though let me add (as emphatically I can) that the fact she got death threats is distinctly not cool. At all. People who did this are morons. And they need help.

Great to know the tireless truthseekers and muckrakers at the Bruin are spending their finals time covering this hot topic.

That will be all. Too much has been made of this issue (I am guilty of this as well - after all, it does garner a ton of hits for my blog), but it's time to focus on more meaningful things in life. Like college hoops. Or spring break.

And let us also do all that we can to help the victims in Japan. Donate!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The antithesis of music

According to facebook, a total of 1,900,411 people have shared it. The event based on it has 291,277 confirmed attending guests. Its youtube view count is a staggering 9,568,832. And this is the official version alone. There are countless other clones cluttering up youtube.

People have reported its strangely addicting qualities. Its effects, although not fully understood now (science may have to advance another hundred years before we can examine this question), are may very well rip a giant hole in the space-time continuum. 

"It" is a dungpile masquerading as a bona fide song. Say Hello (or more accurately, Boooo) to Rebecca Black's "Friday".

My roommate (and my fellow comic strip artist over at On Bogosity,our webcomic) is a gentle soul and tried to rationalize her journey into the abyss of horror as a smart parody of Justin Bieber and other teen singers. Quit it dude. Even you have the full license to unleash your anger at this travesty of everything that is pleasant on this good earth.

Her work is such a monumental atrocity to our hearing faculties that I wouldn't be surprised if, a decade from now, the toddlers of today decide to become ENT doctors just so they can fix the incurable damage caused by it.

Plug your ears with cotton and be ready to take the plunge:

"Where is your music video, eh ace? After all, you are so eager to bash her", one might say. But you see mi amiga/o, that's the point. I am prudent enough to realize my limitations. I wish well for my fellow human beings, sojourners on this bewildering journey we call life. Which is why the world will never hear me record anything of any kind. So long.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And thus descended the trolls

In his farewell speech, President Eisenhower spoke of a military-industrial complex, a shapeless entity that he thought would come to dominate the political field in coming years. I am going to talk about a controversy complex, a vibrant, often creative side industry that merrily springs up around a major controversy, and disappears almost immediately afterwords - like an ephemeral moment of joy.

Like vultures feasting on a carcass, trolls, hackers, and general internet lowlifes have gleefully descended on the facebook page of our dear chancellor. Taking full advantage of the anarchy and reigning chaos, these greedy opportunists have swamped the wall with senseless rants, (hopefully) intentional bad grammar, and quasi-existential non sequiturs.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the finest specimen, the sultan of trolldom:
At least he is honest about his, ahem, movie choices

In such a perfidious and noxious environment, can the Emperor Palpatine stay behind?

Come to the dark side

And very recently, some fellow called Charles Edward Shumar IV (and nowwwwww presenting, his royal highness) has been posting this verbose message on every single post: ( I suspect he is using a bot)

Oh for the days when I went to UCLA and cell phones were just a tech-geek's fevered dream. Now, is there any chance at all Ms. Wallace knew what she was doing and is angling to get a reality show? Or an invite from Charlie Sheen to be one of his new "goddesses" over at Sober Valley Lodge?

Well played, "entrepreneurs" of this dubious side industry.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Update on the Asians in library rant

Wow. This issue has taken on some epic proportions. When I first found out about the Youtube rant by a female UCLA student yesterday, I thought it would be contained within UCLA. But this morning, I woke up to posts about this incident plastered all over the internet, in places as diverse and distinct as twitter feeds, news blogs and message boards. Even the tabloids took a stab at it. To my utter amazement, she even made it across the pond, where the Daily Mail wrote up a blurb about it. Move over, Charlie Sheen.

Meanwhile at UCLA, hundreds of students clogged up chancellor Gene Block's official facebook page with comments and long-winded opinion pages. Although many comments got pretty out of hand and some students took the opportunity to troll around and have some perverse fun, most were pretty much on track.

After hours of waiting, the good chancellor finally released an official statement about the incident, both via an email and through his facebook page:

To the Campus Community:
I am appalled by the thoughtless and hurtful comments of a UCLA student posted on YouTube. Like many of you, I recoil when someone invokes the right of free expression to demean other individuals or groups.
This one act certainly does not represent the views of our UCLA community. Our community is built on mutual respect and civility, and we are committed to fostering an environment that values and supports every member of the community. It is most unfortunate that a single clip on the Internet undermines that environment by expressing hurtful and shameful ideas about others in our community. I believe that speech that expresses intolerance toward any group of people on the basis of race or gender, or sexual, religious or cultural identity is indefensible and has no place at UCLA.
Let this incident serve as a reminder of our collective responsibility to confront hateful and ignorant speech and to uphold UCLA’s core values of respect and integrity.
Gene D. Block

A very eloquent, appropriate and tactful message by the Chancellor. 

Some enterprising soul has capitalized this opportunity to sell t-shirts. The website claims it will donate all profits to the tsunami victims in Japan.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Asians in the library? How dare they!

A remarkable youtube video has been circulating today, and it has kicked up a veritable shitstorm. The video features a female UCLA student ranting about how "hordes of Asians" living and studying around her need to learn "American manners" like how to fend for themselves and how not to talk loudly in the library. Among other things, she mentions how she is tired of seeing families of these students flock to their apartments every weekend to cook, wash clothes and help around. Yes, how unusual of families to want to visit their kids?

But that's not her main offense. Midway through the rant, she starts complaining about how these hordes have no respect for proper library etiquette. She does a crude imitation of a generic "Asian" accent.
The original copy of the video got deleted but by now there are duplicate copies floating around:

Naturally, the enraged mobs are out on the streets vilifying her as a racist. I don't know if this is necessarily racist (IMO, the word racist/racism - both of which carry very heavy connotations, are woefully overused and abused in our society), but it is bewilderingly crude, offensive and ignorant.

Too much to ask: a faint damnation of finals week

Finals week oh finals week
You make us so weak with your heartless streak
Is it too much to ask to spare us once?

End of every quarter
A span that is ten weeks long
You are here before too long
Flashing in front our eyes without fail
Your remarkable periodicity makes me frail
Is it too much to ask to spare us once?

End of every quarter
Undergrads crowd libraries 
To worship your many vagaries
In quiet desperation we persevere
Always hoping you won't be too severe
Is it too much to ask to spare us once?

And although there is light at the end of this plight
We wait in the dark too damn long
Is it too much to ask to spare us just once?

Pardon my contorted plan to make the verses rhyme. There is only so much time to goof around.

Saturday song

As we all prepare to plunge an hour ahead, enjoy this killer of a song by Arcade Fire:

Trust me, you will doing yourself a solid favor by listening to it. Guaranteed to take you through all your terrifyingly arduous finals (even the gorier ones).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

It's Friday night so treat yourself... this great jazz piece, the concluding track on John Coltrane's magnum opus A love supreme.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The curious malady of the modern novel

I am currently reading Snow , by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. Written in 2002, it paints a very nuanced and detailed picture of modern Turkey and its problems, particularly the schism between conservative Muslims and the more western-learning republicans. The ostensible plot is this: Ka, a minor Turkish poet, returns from a 12-year exile in Germany to Istanbul and sets off to the border town of Kars to cover the alarming rise of suicide rates among young women. These women had recently been condemned by various outlets (government officials, school officials, family, media etc.) because they heeded the call of conservative Muslims and began wearing head scarves. I won't go into too much detail about the story because that's not what I want to discuss here.

Snow has flashes of utter, overwhelming brilliance, which are unfortunately punctuated by periods of unbearable stupor. And this seems to plague a lot of modern/postmodern novels. The authors tend to get tangled up in their own web of symbolism, meta-narratives, and abstractions. They lose focus and as result, the novel tends to lag. Now I don't mean the novel lacks "excitement" or a "binding plot." I have read plenty of things where nothing seems to happen for long stretches of time (Lampedusa's Leopard comes to mind) but still manage to provide a very enjoyable reading experience.

Haruki Murakami's Wind-up bird chronicle, a 600-something page behemoth is a classic example of this. A very mundane event opens this long, twisted, exhilarating novel: the protagonist Toru and his wife Kumiko become concerned when their cat disappears. As Toru begins the search for this cat, bizarre things start happening in his life. The rest of the plot is too convoluted for me to describe here, but suffice it to say it includes weird dream sequences, a mysterious mother-son duo who claims to cure people of unspecified problems by touching them, a gruesome detour into the forgotten Russo-Japanese conflict along the Manchukuo border right before WWII started (a man gets skinned alive), and a disturbingly blase 16-year old who works in a dreary factory and spends her free time thinking the duck people talk to her.

There are parts where the novel becomes very frustrating. It just bogs down. It's like Murakami got himself stuck in a quagmire and had to figure his way out. Emotionally draining novel. I think Murakami could have slashed 150 pages easily and still conveyed the same message and tone.

At the same time, I can't stop reading post-modern stuff. The flashes of brilliance abso-frickin-lutely make it worth reading the whole novel. They are so good at giving a glimpse into the complex thought process of their respective authors that they more than make up for the dreadful lags in the middle.

UG Sports - 14: Cricket world cup round up

Boy oh boy. What a world England's been having. Normally, watching England play is like watching paint dry - dull, boring and cliched. But something has happened to the team this world cup. Maybe it's the fresh, sparkling Indian water they are drinking.

First came their thrilling match against India. The harsh lights of Bangalore, a rabidly partisan home crowd, and a century by Sachin Tendulkar - perfect recipe for a disaster of colossal proportions. And yet, the English fought back in style. The target was seemingly unreachable - 338. But Andrew Strauss played a captain's knock and England made it....just. They tied. A last ball tie. That night, hospitals across India and England were flooded with cardio patients, I bet.
Whew, that was a close game []

Next they played their cross-channel rivals, Ireland. The Irish are newbies to cricket and on an island obsessed with rugby, cricketers usually get second billing, if at all. An easy match practice for England, right? Wrong. England chose the wrong day to take it easy. They amassed 327 runs and took the rest of the day off. Minnows Ireland were floundering at 115-5 when a flamboyantly pink-haired Kevin O'Brien decided to take matters into his own hands. A frighteningly powerful pair of arms, those. Clearly thinking this was just another net practice session, KO clobbered every English bowler all across the park with utter ruthlessness and dangerous ease. He scored his half century in just 20 balls and his century in 50. And just like that, the Irish engineered one of the greatest upsets of cricket. As England were left cursing "Oh Brien", the handful of Irish fans who dared to attend the match went wild. Accolades poured in from the home island, congratulating the team. KO has arrived.

Showed those pesky English a thing or two, didn't we?[]

You'd think a team beaten that badly would be demoralized and deflated like a day-old balloon. Judging by their performance against formidable South Africa, England is an exception. Although South Africa got them out cheaply for just 171 runs, England's bowlers won them yet another thriller. The proteas were in a very commanding position at 123-3, but over the next few overs, their middle order collapsed like the financial markets of 2008. James Anderson and Stuart Broad went on a rampage, a venture in which they were ably supported by slower bowlers like Swann. In the end, South Africa fell short by 6 runs. Hats off to these resilient English.

Yeah that's the way home, buddy. []

That's it for this week. More next week.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

And of course Henry the Horse dances the waltz!

One of the loopiest and certainly one of the most delightful songs ever:

Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite by the Beatles (from Sgt. Pepper's lonely hearts club band)

The story goes that Lennon spotted an old poster advertising a circus act featuring Mr. Kite and that every act/person/animal featured in the song was taken straight from this poster. Also, the zany sound effects in the middle of the song were supposedly created after the producer instructed the technicians to chop up the physical audio tape into pieces, throw them in the air, and randomly re-join them. As with all Beatles stories, one can't be too sure about the absolute veracity of this one. Very interesting, nonetheless.

What is Harvard afraid of? Bad weather, it seems

Look, it is no secret to anyone in the game that medical schools sometimes behave like a whimsical child who arbitrarily changes his ice-cream preferences every five minutes inside a Baskin Robbins. A school might, for example, take months to process your  application but process someone else's application with weeks. You may get rejected without any rhyme or reason while your cat may get in with a shitty interview.

In any case, my friend (and loyal reader! Let's call her DL) told me how she emailed a certain school in Bahstun (hint: its name starts with the letter "H" and rhymes with "Arvard") last month just to check up on them and be like, "Oh hey, what's up? Looked at my stuff yet?"

Check out what this school sent her back:
Thank you for your e-mail and your interest the MD Program at Harvard Medical School. The school is closed due to a weather related emergency. We will answer your e-mail as promptly as possible upon our return on 3/3/11.

Seems like they were shoveling snow for a month. Poor sods.

BTW, thanks DL!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wishes for the day

Eh I am kinda tired right now and I have to wake up early tomorrow morning to go work in lab. So here we go:

  • I want to follow American Idol again. I hear it's getting quite good. "Nail biter", "Surprisingly good", and "really good" are words that I have heard being used to described it so far and I am a sucker for such descriptors.

  • I want to hear back from medical schools already. You are very annoyingly coy medical schools. Time to get it done. Don't waffle around, alright? I am tired of obsessively checking my emails every 30 seconds. 

  • I want to be a freshman again. Life was very uncomplicated then. Plus dining halls have very delicious desserts.

  • I want the weekend to be here already.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My day in pictures

This was my breakfast:
The most important meal of the day done right

For lunch, I had the fine gourmet cuisine served by the experts at Panda Express. As is customary, I got a fortune cookie with a little nugget of wisdom:

Damn right I am!

This came in the mail for me (and don't you dare go OMG CDs are so archaic):
The best of Judas Priest
And finally, I made me some mighty delicious dinner:

Who needs moms when I can cook so fine?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Coming to a street corner near you, a drug called Charlie Sheen!

Oh boy. Charlie Sheen is at it again. He gave a couple interviews, to TMZ and ABC, talking about the current mess he is in.

Take a look at what he said:
“I am on a drug — it’s called Charlie Sheen,” he told ABC. “It’s not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body,” he said, adding, “Too much?”


“You borrow my brain for five seconds, you’d be like, ‘Dude, can’t handle it, unplug this bastard,’ ” he said, adding that his brain “fires in a way that is — I don’t know, maybe not from this particular terrestrial realm.”
That's right folks. Charlie's brain is so powerful because it is an alien brain.

Between him and Gaddafi, the news cycle has been terribly busy. 


I was goofing around on the internet and somehow ended up in the dark, murky world of ultra-technical quantum mechanics/particle physics/mathematics articles on wikipedia.

The article was called Renormalization Group. Don't ask me what it means because I clearly have NO FRICKIN' CLUE. This ain't Kansas anymore.

These technical articles are usually accompanied by an endless stream of very intimidating equations that are just packed with symbols and arcane operations. But something caught my eye. Well, take a look at it:

For any positive Λ′ less than Λ, define SΛ′ (a functional over field configurations φ whose Fourier transform has momentum support within p^2 \leq \Lambda'^2) as
\exp\left(-S_{\Lambda'}[\phi]\right)\ \stackrel{\mathrm{def}}{=}\  \int_{\Lambda'  \leq p \leq \Lambda} \mathcal{D}\phi   \exp\left[-S_\Lambda[\phi]\right].
Z=\int_{p^2\leq \Lambda'^2}\mathcal{D}\phi \exp\left[-S_{\Lambda'}[\phi]\right].
Obviously, the obviousness of Z is obvious...

Duhhhhh, right? I mean how can you not know what Z is? Quite obviously, Z equals all that. Looks like someone chewed up a bunch of variables and puked them out.