Sunday, December 26, 2010


In just a few hours I shall be on an airplane to India.

I have realized how little I need to exist. It is usually just my computer (and hopefully an Internet connection) and some clothing and food. My camera is also nice to have around. I have also realized that these are all luxuries to some people, so I am grateful. But in comparison to the materialistic extravagance of other people, I live a moderately austere existence... happily, in fact.

I came to these thoughts while "packing" for India, and once I had picked out a few shirts, packed up my computer and camera and comb and toothbrush... I was done. I needed nothing else. I won't have access to anything in India - and I don't need anything else. It's amazing that all I need to go traveling across the world (whether it's walking or flying) can fit easily into a backpack... and hopefully I find some food and water along the way if I'm backpacking through Europe.

Why am I thinking of materialism? I watched Fight Club recently... and among the interesting dialogue was a line that noted how mankind is a shopping subculture. Everyone is trying to get you to buy thing after thing... when all you really need can fit into a backpack. I also watched Up in the Air some time ago, and far from being deterred from George Clooney's character's philosophy, I was intrigued. Such freedom lies in carrying your life upon your back... you can see the world! And someday, perhaps the universe (as Ender did in the Ender series).

I developed a taste for travel after going to Berkeley. I had not really traveled on my own before and when I finally did, it kindled a taste for seeing the rest of the world, too. Well, I am going to India... to visit, mostly. The world is a beautiful place... I should like to see it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Laptop

I got a new laptop! I paid a good amount of money for it, but I think it was worth it. It is such a sweet machine.

Intel Core i7-720QM (1.6 GHz quad-core with hyperthreading and Turbo Boost up to 2.8 GHz)
nVidia GeForce GT 330M with 1 GB dedicated graphics memory
16'' widescreen
DVD RW optical drive
Dolby Advanced Audio harman/kardon speakers
Windows 7 Home Premium
500 GB HDD, 7200 RPM
Integrated number pad, webcam/microphone, touch media buttons
5-in-1 Media Card Reader, 3 USB, 1 SATA, 1 HDMI, 1 VGA
Synaptics Touchpad with all kinds of functions

For those that are less technically inclined: the laptop has one of Intel's fastest processors for laptops without costing a fortune (and it'll be faster if I add more RAM - it'll take up to 8 GB), one of the market's best graphics cards, and the best speakers I've ever heard on a laptop. In short, I am pleased.

Seriously, though... that Core i7 is a monster. I can't make its processor consumption jump above 30%.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

3:20 AM

I'm not sure what to do right now. It's 3:18 AM and I have a flight to catch at 8, which means I should be at the airport latest 7:15.

If I sleep for 2 hours, I'll be incredibly tired when I wake up at 5:30 AM. I might be too groggy to function.

On the other hand, if I don't sleep... I'll have pulled an all nighter. AFTER finals. WITHOUT anything due the next day.

And that's just lame.

Lame vs. Tired...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life in a Day

"Life in a Day" is a project by Kevin Macdonald, in which the millions of YouTube viewers filmed some aspect of their lives for the 24 hours of July 24, 2010. Kevin and his team will edit these thousands of pieces of raw footage into a feature film documentary, to premiere at Sundance 2011.

I participated! Here is the link to my channel on YouTube where you can find the videos. There are seven, each starting with "Life in a Day".

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Sometimes I think I am influenced incredibly by strange dichotomies.

I love technology. There is no denying this. Gadgets and computers are the wonders of human civilization, evidence that mankind can reason so deeply and leap forward unimaginably to accomplish great feats. But I also love the methods of old. There is no denying this, either. Paper, ink, wood houses, books, fire lamps, horses... simply hold a beautiful fascination for me that digital things and technological marvels cannot. Imagine the poetic appeal of correspondence by letters: sitting at a writing-desk, burning an oil lamp, writing with a fountain pen a letter to a distant correspondent, knowing it would be weeks before a response was received, and yet calmly patient. Such letters span years... and letters of famous men have been published. Sending an email or IM and receiving an instantaneous response, quick quick quick, everything blazing by, even if it is at your fingertips... just doesn't hold the same magic.

I love science. The power of analysis! The great accomplishment of mankind, the ability to reason and understand the natural world with only logic to guide us! Even better, math... the purest of all sciences, based not on experiment, as all other natural sciences are, but on the full force of the human imagination. The sciences are as pure and crisp and black and white as one needs them to be. It is solid, it is clean, it is the most structured way to understand the universe. And yet... I love art, specifically music. Born into a musical family, my heart and mind pulse with melodies and rhythm, an internal fire that fuels my soul. Distinctions can be minutely subtle, blending, moving freely and colorfully. No science can describe what the mind experiences when it hears music. For aestheticism is not a science... and I know that I appreciate beauty, natural beauty of water and forests and landscapes, and musical beauty of a spiritual and cosmic quality.

In each, one can see the Scientist, or Analyst; or the Poet, or Romantic.

As a final thought... great moments arise when the two forces experience synergy. For beauty is inherent in the most elegant and practical and simple proofs, the charm and cleanliness of a solution. And mathematical precision and symmetry lends immaculate beauty to any art or music piece. Perhaps, then, the ruling power is Beauty... beauty in analysis of the universe, beauty in coloring it expressively.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I'm ready for some adventure

I want to take off somewhere, see the world, leave things behind, if only for a short while.

I want to travel, view the vistas of centuries old and those untouched by man.

I want an experience like I've never experienced before... I want to DO something.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dream, Part 3

Fox has a show called Lie to Me. It's an awesome show, about a man who, based on microexpressions that last for a fraction of a second, and other psychological techniques, can tell if someone is lying or not, or in general their emotions. It doesn't look like it has a lot of viewers, but I have high hopes for its survival. I really like the opening theme song, a modified version of "Brand New Day" by Ryan Star. It starts with the word "dream".

Lie to Me opening theme:

- - - - - - -
Chorus from "Brand New Day" by Ryan Star

Send me a sign
Turn back the clock
Give me some time
I need to break out
And make a new name
Let's open our eyes
To the brand new day
It's a brand new day

Dream, Part 2

In junior year of high school, I took a class called 3D Modeling and Animation. One of the programs we learned to use was free, called Blender 3D. I still use it because it's very useful. We also learned to use iClone, another modeling software, and CrazyTalk, a program that animates pictures to talk.
Someone named Tom Jantol made a well-known CrazyTalk montage using the following poem ("I Am"). We were supposed to create something similar. I made a video using Wesnoth pictures and John Keats's sonnet, "The Human Seasons". My teacher, Mizzy, sent it to Tom, and Mizzy passed along his response to me. I've grown very attached to both poems.

Blender 3D:
Battle for Wesnoth:
"I Am":
Tom's video using "I Am":
"The Human Seasons":
My video using "The Human Seasons":

I included the poems and Tom's response.

- - - - - - -
"Written in Northampton County Asylum", by John Clare

I am! yet what I am who cares, or knows?
My friends forsake me like a memory lost.
I am the self-consumer of my woes;
They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,
Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.
And yet I am—I live—though I am toss'd

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dream,
Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,
But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem
And all that 's dear. Even those I loved the best
Are strange—nay, they are stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod—
For scenes where woman never smiled or wept—
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,—
The grass below; above, the vaulted sky.

- - - - - - -
"The Human Seasons", by John Keats

Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
Spring's honey'd cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness—to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.

- - - - - - -
Tom's response:

Dream, Part 1

I wrote this on my dorm's lounge's chalkboard one day as I stared out the window, in early May, before dead week. The next day our health worker, who lived on our floor, came looking for the person who wrote it because she thought the author sounded lonely. I took a picture of it. Later, a friend from Dil Se asked me for it, since I had written "apparently I write emo poetry" as my status.

- - - - - - -

I dream...
eyes wide open
thinking, feeling,
where all the other eyes are

I am alone
wind whips around me
people wander around me
neither touch me
everlasting, observing

lightning flashes
buildings topple
birds scream
I wait, watching

sitting in the shade
a leaf floats gently down
touches water
ripples travel, then still

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book the First

In about a week, I will be finished with finals and finished with my freshman year of college. College, the best four years of a person's life, in which personal and mental growth is unbridled and infinite. College, the land of dreams and the land of opportunity, the hallowed halls of learning. Thus ends the first book in the four-part saga of me at college.

For that's what it should be. A saga, a legend. Even if I am the only one who ever wishes to sing my tale, these years, and years to come, must be epic, on the grandest of scales. These finishes must be climactic, lightning flashes, thunder claps, fireworks burst all around my head in a whirlwind of glory, and the 1812 Overture playing throughout.

Do I have any regrets? Perhaps. Perhaps I should have studied more and socialized less. Or perhaps I should have studied less and socialized more. Perhaps I should have focused less on my flaws and walked the streets of Berkeley more confidently. Or perhaps I should have focused more on my flaws and observed why my flaws effect people to behave towards me as they do. Perhaps I should have focused more on forging unbreakable bonds between people. Or perhaps I should have worried less about making them.

Do I have contentment? Absolutely. I walked into Berkeley and into a sea of vibrancy such that I had never seen before, in environment, in academics, in personalities, and in thought. I joined Dil Se and discovered Indian people, the next generation, united in singing and music, and I broadened the scope of my skill. I discovered great friendship, great closeness, of a magnitude previously unknown to me. I refined my philosophies and trained my mind; I pondered and pursued and talked and traveled. I was responsible for myself and relished the freedom, the exhilaration of being solely in control of many aspects of my life. My world blossomed with a kind of harmony I dreamed of, a beautiful symmetry and order within the blissful chaos.

Here, poised precariously as I am on the threshold of the end of my first year and the beginning of the next - which will bring greater knowledge, a summer unlike any I've seen yet, new faces, and new knowledge - I pause, briefly, to think, consider, breathe, take in my surroundings.

That, friends, is freshman year.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Notebook (of Physics)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I sat through half of yet another pointless lecture and went upstairs to LeConte Hall's 3rd floor, to the Physics and Astronomy Library, and wrote this in my notebook:

"Today, March 18, begins a new era in Physics 7B. For, having reached the end of my metaphorical rope, unable to give the lecture any more slack, I abandon my futile attempts to extract meaning from the rambling sludge that currently qualifies lecture. From this point on, notes shall consist of those taken by me, from the Giancoli textbook, which for all its failings, doubtless accomplishes the task of teaching me physics more completely than the pathetic attempt that is now foisted upon me. It is only in the darkest depths of despair that I should resort to such a flagrant flouting of authority, and out of necessity I proceed to do just this. In doing so I establish and exercise my right as a student to learn."

Thanks, Katy Pedelty, for telling me to blog this. It was a good idea.

-Riju Dasgupta, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Missed Midterm

On Friday, March 12, 2010, I missed my midterm for South Asian C142 / Religious Studies C166, "India's Great Epics", about the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It was supposed to have been from 11 to 12.

I woke up at 12:12 and ran in the rain to my professor's office, who was busy and told me to come back in 20 minutes. I sat outside. I told him, simply, that I missed the midterm because my alarm did not go off. Miraculously, he believed me...

"I'm going to believe you," he said, "and let you take the exam right now. Do you want to do that?"

In his benevolence, he not only believed me but let me take it right there and then. Which I did. It remains to be seen whether I do well on it or not.

I am eternally grateful for the favor he has done for me. It was a harrowing experience and I hope it does not happen again.

Friday, February 19, 2010


This hasn't been a good week.

I took a Linguistics midterm on Tuesday. I did fairly well on it, and though I know the average score, it doesn't really matter because this class has no curve. All it tells me is that my score is nothing out of the ordinary. His extra credit was based on current events, which I am unfortunately quite ignorant of. His first question was, "Who is the Secretary of State? What happened to a close relative?" The answer, as I now know, is Hillary Clinton, and her husband had a heart attack last week (I knew this, just didn't make the connection). On the test, I took a stab and wrote Condoleezza Rice. He wrote, in the red pen he was grading with: "Where have you been for the past year?"

I took a Math midterm on Wednesday. The class period is 1 hour long, meaning we have approximately 45 minutes to take the test. There were 4 problems with subparts, and the test was fairly long for the time given, but in retrospect, we had 12.5 minutes a problem which is perfectly doable if you know exactly what you're doing, but not otherwise. I got above the average but below 1 standard deviation, far below my normal standards. The average itself was low, since we all got owned on the test anyway. I was most dejected. It is not hopeless, but poor scores can get anyone down.

To top it off, I recently learned that one of my favorite comic book characters, Asterix, has been commissioned to continue to be created after the second author's death (one author is already dead). Asterix has been declining in quality for some time and will no doubt continue to fall in quality, which is an incredible shame because Asterix is one of the most popular characters in all of comic history (outside of the US, which is shockingly ignorant of many things) and his adventures were full of wit, satire, and comedy. This is quite worse than Asterix dying or being discontinued, because it means that he will die from the public mind slowly.

What would you rather be? A candle, burning slowly and without respect for a long time until you run out of fuel? Or a firework, lasting mere seconds but dazzling the minds of all who see you?

Hot water and cold water both have their uses. Hot water is bliss as soup or hot chocolate on a wintry day, while iced drinks are just as pleasurable in sweltering summertime.

It's lukewarm water that no one likes, lukewarm water that does no good and tastes bad.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ends and Beginnings

I fly to Berkeley tomorrow, not to see Southern California again for nine more weeks.

Winter break has been great. It was moderately productive - I obtained a driver's permit, practiced a little music, watched some good movies (including The Shawshank Redemption) and read (most of) a good book (Ender in Exile), cleaned and organized my room, hung out with old friends, and visited North.

There were things left undone, undoubtedly, but life is given meaning by the purposes we are driven to, and what is left to do is all we are ever truly concerned with. This idle month, a winter without school hanging over my head, has given me calmness and contentedness, relaxation in the house and city I call home, with the people I've known for many years.

And yet. As my time in the swathes of Torrance wanes, I grow ever impatient for my return. For, knowing that I must return in just a few days, to start anew, is it not reasonable to admit a desire to begin? It is like the last minutes for the impatient driver waiting on the last, lagging passenger to exit the house so that the six-hour road trip may commence.

I didn't really like Up immediately after I first saw it, but in the hours afterwards, as I thought about it, I realized it had a message for me. The movie was released around the end of high school, on the threshold of a new beginning. I find it increasingly difficult to discard anything that might one day hold memories, if merely for the pleasure that looking back on them will one day bring. But I watched, entranced, during that pivotal scene when Carl's wife encourages him to appreciate the adventure, and to have a new one, freeing him to leave long-lost memories behind and travel towards what is new and important. And I thought, will I ever have the courage to leave everything behind, and begin a new life, as he did?

"I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain." --Red, from The Shawshank Redemption

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Haircuts, Girl-Approved or Otherwise

I'll explain this picture soon.
Does anyone remember Doug from the 90's? I used to watch that.

There was a show in which Doug needed a haircut, and Skeeter (his blue, literally blue, friend), said, "I heard you're getting your ears lowered," and Doug looked in a shop window and imagined his ears literally sinking down his head. It was just something I remembered.

Anyway, I got a haircut today (January 8). There's this Chinese woman in "La Belle Beauty Salon" on 182nd, before Crenshaw, headed east, who has cut my hair several times for a couple years now. (I hope she's Chinese. I don't know her name, so this is my best guess.)

Haircuts have always been a sort of tension point for me, because they always made me irritated. I have to sit still and move my head as convenient for the person cutting my hair (whether my mom or otherwise), and I can't see anything because my glasses have to be off, and I can't really think or concentrate about anything else because, well, there's someone with scissors near your head.

So after I was too old to have my mom cut my hair, we went to Supercuts or some other haircut place for a basic trim. Once again, not pleasant experiences for me. Then one day we found this little place on 182nd and at first I was predisposed to not go in there since it said "Beauty Salon", but there was a sign that said "$8 Men's Haircuts" so I couldn't argue with that and I had to go in. Interestingly, though the water she (the middle-aged Chinese woman whose shop it was) sprayed on my head was cold, the final result was something that I liked, meaning that I didn't think I looked stupid. It was cheaper, the woman was nice, and she cut it so that I wasn't ashamed. I've gone back there ever since.

The sole exception for the past couple of years was October 23, 2009, when a shop near campus in Berkeley was set up for a week to promote the AXE Hair Crisis Relief Center. As their promotion, they were having a Cal Guys Special, that is, Cal guys get a free AXE-girl-approved haircut.

Hey, I'm an Indian college student. Sue me.

The waiting list turned out to be really long, it took two or four hours, enough time for me to wander around Berkeley for a while. The experience was in fact quite pleasant - I told them I wanted a trim, and the AXE girls washed and shampooed my hair and then she chatted with me while she cut my hair. I had caught them at nearly 5 PM on the very last day, meaning I was among the last 20 guys of probably hundreds whose hair they cut that week. Afterwards, they gave me free samples of some AXE hair product, gave me a sticker of girl-approval (which you see above), and bid me good evening.

* * *

I, a male, am writing about my hair. Which is not even particularly striking.

Clearly, I need better things to do with my vacation.

Luckily, exciting things may be happening to me as I start my second semester at Berkeley.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Television - That 70's Show, Lost, Lie to Me, The Big Bang Theory

I've been trying out new TV shows lately.

Until nearly mid-high school, I didn't watch much other than Nickelodeon and Disney Channel (and Boomerang), since I was young, naive, and unwilling to watch TV that was more than slightly risque. Sometime around junior year, I stopped watching TV on the actual TV set entirely, due to homework and the ever-present Indian soap opera... and just because the shows on Nick and Disney Channel were beginning to bore me. I would, of course, hear tell of various shows, but since I didn't watch any of them, my joining in would be of, shall we say, limited scope.

Sometime around senior year, I discovered That 70's Show on YouTube, and every episode of all eight seasons was there. This became my TV replacement for a while. I watched all (200) of the episodes, in order (several times), and found that jokes would often reference events in earlier episodes, which made watching them all the more enjoyable. So that's what I did for a while... watch That 70's Show in order for several months. I'd watch it generally at my desk in my room while I was eating, or at 2 AM when I had homework to do and no motivation to do it.

When I went to Berkeley, my roommate told me about Lost, and said I would probably enjoy the show, since it was complex, many-layered, and intellectual. So I gave it a shot, and it was pretty interesting. It's still interesting at the end of Season 2; however, a few people have told me that the show becomes stupid B.S. after the third season or so... it'll be a shame if and when that happens, but until then, it will provide entertainment while I watch the episodes in order.

Watching TV shows online is great. They're there, complete, in order, in high quality; you can pause and replay and watch at your own leisure and pace, whether it's one episode spread out over several days or whether you watch an entire season in a weekend. What is there not to like about this situation?

Ninjavideo offers many contemporary popular shows online in high-quality DivX. I watch Lost here, and I've also gotten hooked on a new show called Lie to Me, a very interesting crime drama about the Lightman Group, an organization that makes use of facial expressions, psychology, and body language to determine concealed feelings and deception. I also considered giving Fringe a shot, but I haven't watched any episodes yet. Since Lie to Me won't be back until April, I started watching The Big Bang Theory, a show which I was recommended to like and which is popular these days.

True, it's a pretty funny show, with good (and scientifically accurate) dialogue, comic interplay between characters, and decent one-liners. I'm interested in spite of the ridiculous nerd-geek stereotypes - that is, after all, what makes the show funny. However, as I watch, I feel sometimes as if I'm watching myself... it's almost as if the characters say out loud what goes through my head. I've long since learned not to do that, and benefited from it. Of course I don't conjure particle physics out of my head (and wouldn't even if I knew it), but the principle is the same. Some differences between BBT and shows like Lost and Lie to Me is time (BBT is a half hour show) and type (BBT is a sitcom, the other two are dramas). Although BBT is full of science and other intellectual jargon, I'd still consider it less intelligent than the more complex and involved hour long dramas... as it should be.

Of course, I wonder if I should really get back into watching TV, because in two weeks I'll be back at Berkeley working and studying... I doubt that I will have the time to watch all these shows AND attempt to make connections at Berkeley AND do homework AND sleep, all at once.

This post ended up being much longer than I intended it to be. I should really work on that conciseness thing Mrs. Stover was telling me about.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I was looking at an apple the other day and I wondered something I don't have the answer to.

Is an apple alive or dead?

Obviously, it's alive when it's on the tree. Does it die as soon as it's picked, or does it take a while? Or is it not dead at all? If it's alive, then consider that we're eating a still-living organism. What about leaves? We've all seen dead leaves. Of course, leaves don't die as soon as they are picked from a tree. Or do they?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Regarding Janus, Blogs, and Clocks

It's January 1. Happy New Year!

January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gateways and doors. He has two heads, that look in opposite directions: one head looks back on 2009, and the other head looks forward to 2010. It's a fitting name for the first month of the year.

Things I Did For New Year's:
∙I created a new Word file for my Journal, which was getting unwieldy.
∙I created folder #09 for the next three months of my Camera Pictures folder.
∙I opened my Amazing Trivia Facts Page-A-Day 2010 Calendar. (There are 250 million bubbles in the average champagne bottle.)
∙I opened my Fractal Universe 2010 Calendar.
∙I fixed my sofa cover, which was sagging.
∙I shaved.
∙I began a plan to reorganize my hard drive, into something more intuitive.


∙I wrote this first post in my blog, which had existed, postless, for quite some time.

Since we're on the subject of time, here is a picture of my cuckoo clock.

It's mechanical (all moving parts, no electricity) and old-fashioned - just my kind of clock. Although my atomic clock is the complete opposite end of the spectrum, and that's my kind of clock too.

I guess my taste in timepieces says a lot about me.

I hope to post something here at least once a week. Although I might post more often during this winter break when I have far less to do.