Saturday, February 26, 2005


It has been ages since I read any poetry. I cannot remember most poems I studied at school, except for a few that are etched in my mind.

One is Shelley's Ozymandias, where the pedestal of that colossal wreck proclaims: "Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair." Another is Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (much of the Bard's plays is blank verse), taught to us wonderfully by Mrs Rani Chandran. It is after Brutus justifies Caesar's assassination to the people, when someone in the mob cries, "Let him be Caesar!"

Prophet GibranNow, thanks to my uncle here, I started Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. And I am hooked...

Excerpts from "On Giving:"

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Caught Napping

Nap PhotoOur project team was chasing a deadline for a demo with our main customer. The work hours turned irregular. Sometimes when I was very sleepy, I would feel too lazy to walk back to the hostel (or dorm as they call it here) and would fall into slumber on my chair itself.

Picture courtesy of my project-mates, PM and Rajat.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Wodehouse Effect

Valentine's Day (as far as I am concerned) is less a celebration of the antics of the Winged Archer, than it is in memoriam one of my favourite authors, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. For it was on this day, thirty winters back, that the Perveyor of Delight left this world. And left us an enchanting world of erudite butlers and half-crazy earls with their much-despised second sons.

There is Lord Emsworth who prefers pottering about in his garden to attending to his duties as the Master of Castle Blandings. When he is not thus pottering about, he dotes on his prize sow: watching her during day-time, and listening to her breathe in the nights (since it is too dark to watch).

The most famous of his characters is the duo of Jeeves (the omniscient valet: "gentleman's personal gentleman") and his aunt-fearing employer Bertie Wooster, on whom Ogden Nash has written a joyful poem.

But my personal favourite is Rupert Psmith (P silent as in pthiasis, ptarmigan and pterodactyl) the monocle-wearing socialist Cambridge graduate. I have read Psmith Journalist a trillion times.

Wodehouse made woolen-headed half-wits like Wooster and Emsworth heroes. O master, can you please work the same magic with me...

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Judgment Day

For a couple of days I have been pre-occupied by the 360-degree evaluation. In this, we are judged not by the conventional exams, but by the feedback from peers, project stakeholders and professors. This is how the system works:

1. There are 20 of us scholars (yes, scholars [fanfare]) at the PDC. Each of us is given 20 forms to fill in, one for each scholar.

2. These forms have sections on the skills acquired through the various course work we took up. Plus one section on Team and Leadership skills. We have to rate each person on a scale of 5 on different aspects of the skill, giving elaboratory comments. So you can't get back at your PHB team-lead just by saying "This friend of mine is a #$%& dunderhead with IQ less than that of a dead dodo," but must support with substantial evidence indicating how it is indeed so.

3. We then send these filled-up forms to our professor, who would edit the feedback to ensure anonymity. (And to delete flames, if any...) So our carefully constructed feedback in step 2 might be bowdlerised to "Must practise Mensa puzzles twice a day..."

4. Our professor would then send the distilled comments to us. Look Momma, my grade sheet!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A Spot of Mystery

Is there a difference between "standing erect" and "standing straight?" There is, if you are at the Mystery Spot.

Located in the redwood forests near Santa Cruz (around an hour's drive from here), is a place where the gravity seems to go bonkers. Where balls roll "up-slope," a swinging pendulum comes to rest at an angle to the vertical, where you can climb up walls... Some of my classmates had been there last week and brought back strange tales. Intrigued by them, we (Gaurav, Rajkumar and I) set out in a friend's car.

Mystery Spot PhotosThe gravity exhibits the mysterious behaviour on a hill within a diameter of 150 feet. A guide conducted us to the boundary where lay a level I-shaped platform, one end within the spot and one without. Standing on the outer part, I looked down upon Gaurav who was standing opposite to me at the other end. Exchanging positions, now Gaurav stood taller!

We then walked up an incline to the hill-top where stood a ramshackle wooden house. Outside the house, the guide placed a plank and rolled a ball down; the ball slowed down and faithfully climbed up towards its master... Meanwhile, I was beginning to feel something dragging me towards one side; this sensation grew stronger when I stepped into the house. And all of us were standing at an angle, as was a suspended metallic bob! I found it difficult to walk easily and felt a lot heavier than I am. As Sherlock Holmes would have put it, strange things were afoot...

The guide then did some more experiments with us. In the end, all this left me thinking: True, the house was tilted and this could create a certain amount of optical illusion; but not enough to explain the slanting people, the crazy ball and the giddy feeling.

Mystery indeed...

(Click on the thumb-nail picture for photos.)