Everybody spoke of Convolutional Neural Networks. I was impressed. I have some rudimentary experience with deep learning, though my layers were only five-deep. These candidates had done so much more. So I asked them about the perceptron. I was disillusioned after the first few explanations. Then there was big-data, everywhere. Very few people did not look confused when I asked them about how they had chosen to initialize K-means. A lot of people told me about scipy’s k-means and k-means++ routines. There were many with strong programming backgrounds, but very few possessed mathematical intuition about the algorithms they worked with.

Still, the confidence they display is impressive.

I make a poor job candidate. I have very little to talk about, because I am comfortable speaking about only things I have done well by my standards. I shy away from buzzwords on my resume. I can’t describe myself as a ‘passionate go-getter who works well as a part of a team or alone’ or as a ‘generalist data-scientist rock-star who excels at shipping great products on time’. I leave the ‘career objective’ section blank on job sites and don’t have that on the resume. I don’t give myself more than average on most questionnaires for rating yourself. My hobbies have little to do with open-source projects on GitHub. I am introverted, shy, and not comfortable with speaking to strangers. Pimping my work is something I despise having to do. Come to think, I am surprised I can make a living in today’s world.

I happened upon The Once and Future King at our local bookstore. I had heard of it, had heard it was to do with Arthur and Merlin, and remembered that it had been recommended by friends in the writing circle. So I picked it up and settled down for a read.

The first book was a pleasure. It reminded me of my own childhood, not because of the quests or the forests, but because of the sheer simplicity of Wart’s life and the complexity of everything else surrounding him. There is Kay, quick to resent and to be jealous, though a decent chap when he wasn’t busy bullying. There is the stigma around Wart’s parentage, that he accepts but does not completely understand. There is Merlyn, living backwards, discussing the Boer War, and his clever owl, Archimedes. There are the ants, there are the fish, there are the geese, there are the falcons, and there is the wise badger with his thesis.

The second book strayed down darker paths. It made me resentful. My childhood had not been perfect, but compared to what had followed, it had been heaven. I had wanted Wart’s teenage years to be happier, and the rest of his life to be made of beauty and joy. That didn’t happen, and I felt cheated. Surely, at least on the pages of a book, a child begotten of misfortune could come to happiness?

The books after that were as expected. There could hardly be a happily forever ending after everything that had transpired. The wizard and the wart had wanted to harness might for the sake of the right. It had backfired on them. The tutor and the pupil had not accounted for the average human. They had their ideas, and there had been everyone else in their world. Arthur eventually thinks upon where it went wrong, and comes up with the idea of justice and civil law. It is too late for him, though. So one lies trapped in a cave for centuries while the other lies awake at night betrayed and awaiting betrayal, haunted by babies in the water. They meet their fates with equanimity, but that doesn’t make it more pleasant.

Perhaps it was for the best that I hadn’t read the books when I had been a child. I might have been disillusioned. Perhaps I should have read them earlier, for I might have learned to be more resilient and to not seek fortuity in the world’s embrace.

It is a new year. Flowers are blooming and they say it is spring come early. I need to hunt down some documents and fill some forms. Paper work. I have been putting that on the back-burner for two months now.

We have had a difficult month at work. Legions of executives and journalists had descended upon our little workplace, demanding to see more and more. We were six and we were an over-worked six. Others at work were sympathetic and did their best to ease our burden, but there was very little that they could do. We are done with all that now. The last two days have been for celebration. Yesterday, we attended a ‘victory’ party of sorts, at our director’s house in one of the quainter suburbs of the city.

I had volunteered to drive, since I did not want to indulge too much. I had expected it to be a quiet night. My coworkers are sensible and reserved. So I was rather taken aback to see the exuberant celebration. It was a very well-deserved night after the work, I should say, though I was surprised.

Stories came up. Some were pleasant, some were warming, and some were comical. Yet others were stories of adventure, or of romance. Then it was my turn. They were curious and I was unwilling. The moment skittered away, thankfully, for what I could have shared but mere trivia, all life pared away in the telling leaving behind the stereotype? Some lessons are learned early.

Perhaps, one day, we”ll craft the unsaid and write our lives out on neat, white pages.

There are two kinds of courage.

Circumstantial. I think this is the only kind I have been capable of. When the circumstances dictate failure without courage, I have been capable of courage.

Then there is the Assange kind of courage. This courage is not born of desperation or need. It is not born of circumstances. We might or might not approve of his acts, but nobody can deny that he possesses an eldritch sort of courage. I am reminded of the disciples, and of their courage spurred on by their belief in Christ. Assange does not have the safety prop of religion.

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Celebrating Christmas away from family (of blood or of heart) has been an educational experience.

I had my heart set upon a crib (a nativity scene as they commonly refer to it).

We procrastinated until yesterday. In the rain, on Christmas Eve, we drove around the Bay Area, first to St. Joseph’s Cathedral, then to a Catholic store to purchase the figurines for a crib (we got Jesus, Mary, Joseph and three Kings wise), and then to Home Depot for a Christmas tree and a wreath.

We spent our evening cleaning up the living room and decorating, well unto the late hours of the night. It was hard work. At the end, though, it was a beautiful sight. It bore the stamp of home. It was warm, comfy and the air smelled of candles and eggnog. There was music, thanks to the wonderful classical channel.

Today was spent trying to make Malabar Biriyani (and ending up with an interesting dish that bore little resemblance to the Biriyani I remember). We went out and purchased plum cake, but sadly it did not measure up to the rich Christmas cakes I remember from my childhood.

I look forward to the next Christmas.

I haven’t been able to write in the last few days. I had planned to initially write about a topic I had been contemplating for a while, but I am tired today. Instead, I will write reviews for the two events I had attended this week.

Peter Jackson has written fan-fiction almost worse than any of the offerings on fanfiction.net, with his latest Hobbit. I had been aghast when I had watched the previous film. Thankfully, that had prepared me for this one. He has managed to outdo Rajnikanth, in the realm of fantasy.

I got what I had expected – Galadriel-Gandalf romance (no, really), creepy Galadriel (that truly was scary), orcs with backstory (Tamil film script adapted?), mad Thorin (mad Thorin is mad), recursive Sauron (there is a Sauron inside a Sauron inside a Sauron inside a Sauron).

I got things I hadn’t expected – puppet Wraiths dangling before recursive Sauron, Elrond in scarlet (long, long ago, before he had been Elrond, he had been a Queen of the Desert), sand worms (why not throw Dune into it as well?), cool Saruman (dapper with his staff, really).

Lord of the Rings had excellent acting. This didn’t, except for Freeman who did a remarkable Bilbo.

Thranduil was worth the ticket, and the rest of it, because he is just so cool. Legolas takes down oliphaunts, skates down on a shield over men and orcs, rides horses backwards, rides bats and trolls (while killing them), shoots arrows from a besieged tower, and does a lot of other cool stuff throughout, but his father comes on an elk and steals the glory. On an elk. Anybody on an elk should have looked ridiculous. He doesn’t. How does he even?

I was sorry to see the Dwarf-Elf romance (again). Why? Why? I can forgive Galadriel/Gandalf, but not this.

I hope the Tolkien estate won’t let Jackson play with the Silmarillion. I shudder to think what he might make of that.

There was more gore in this film than the others, I think.

There is a prolonged fight sequence between Thorin and the orc with the backstory. It doesn’t hold a candle to the fight sequences in LOTR.

The best part was when Bilbo reached the Shire, at the end of his adventure. The verdant greenery, the cleanliness and the wholesome feel of the place was a refreshing change after the grim, dirty environs of Laketown, orc strongholds and the dark halls of the Lonely Mountain.

Cate Blanchett can still scare the life out of people all these years later. She shouted the halls down in Elizabeth. She has only improved with time. Poor Sauron.

~~~

I had been planning to go to the San Francisco Symphony on Thursday. Commuter traffic and a mishap ensured that I didn’t. I made it today. Oh, dear Lord, was it ever worth braving the traffic!

Handel’s Saul is my favourite of his sacred works. His Messiah is, however, remarkable on its own merits. And today, when we rose as one for the magnificent Hallelujah chorus, it struck me hard why it is so revered.

Enjoyment of the music is secular, perhaps, but the spirituality of it pervades the entire composition. This is sacred music, composed by a man who believed (if not in the liturgy, in the morals of the religion). It is music as glorious as this that lulls me into wishing fiercely that the God this was composed for existed. It is all grand, and it is all grandly wrong.

I have an aversion towards sopranos, but today’s soprano had a voice to rival an angel’s. So pure, so heavenly.

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~~~

Among my acquaintances is a lovely person full of virtues, except for this unfortunate tendency towards raving – the good becomes splendid and the bad becomes good when she speaks of it. We tease her about it. She huffs and raves on. I suppose we’d all like to be as positive and upbeat as she is, someday.

One of her latest raves to a mutual friend was about her ex, and how he is doing splendidly well, and how he she thinks all of that is due to her involvement. Now this is very likely to be true. She is possessed of so many virtues that anyone would be improved by being in her company.

“He is now thinking seriously of doing GATE. He will do research after that and become a professor! If I hadn’t been there, he’d have just continued being the lazy bugger he had been until then!” she said.

Our friend was content to let it be. Then Rave starts the preach, “Unlike you, I put the welfare of my partner about mine and try to help them reach their destiny.”

“Destiny?”

“It was my ex’s destiny to teach!” Rave explains. “You see, you are too involved in your own goals to actually set them aside for your partner. So your future partner isn’t going to reach the best place he can. This is why you can’t attract good men!”

Pat comes the answer, “If we are comparing exes, mine is a roboticist that makes self-driving cars.”

Rave puts two and two together, is utterly shaken, and says goodbye.

~~~

This is a world where sexuality is such a mess. It needn’t be so complicated. It needn’t be a place where tolerance means that you get to ask inane questions as ‘Are you sure it isn’t a passing phase?’, ‘You just haven’t met the right man yet.’, and ‘Lucky you! You get double the opportunities.’

‘Double the opportunities’ is what bothers me the most, because of the sheer falseness of it.

Let us think through this: Be there 100 people in a town: 50 men and 50 women. All are unattached and looking for partners. Someone who is attracted to both sexes walk into the town. Their opportunities are restricted to the 50 of the opposite sex until they have some indication that someone of the same sex is interested.

There are other matters. Homosexuals prefer homosexuals for long-term attachments, because in today’s society chances are that someone attracted to both sexes would leave behind a partner of the same sex for a partner of the opposite sex (due to the rewards – marriage, recognition, privileges, progeny, social mobility).

A man can be in college and want to fuck the Hollywood actress of the moment. That doesn’t translate to opportunity most of the time, unless you skew the odds in your favour through dubious or unacceptable means. Women in India can be (and are) attracted to their cricketeers and film stars (and politicians), and almost all of that does not translate to opportunity. Attraction and opportunity are not the same.

The double opportunity theory is wrong (though it would be nice if it wasn’t).

~~~

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