Doctor Jedi’s Blog
Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light.

Mar
09

Wow, one year this time around … What a co incidence that i logged on after a long time on the anniversary of my last post. 

So for those who occasionally keep visiting, i say hello again …

 

let it be known far and wide that i am still alive and kicking … Enjoying new experiences, some not as much …

 

Hopefully this will spur me on to post more regularly 

 

 

 

 

Mar
09

So, its been another six months with no posts here. But what an eventful six months these have been.
Cant put down the details here, but rest assured that I have not been whiling away my time.

Life moves fast, too fast at times and the speed is complicated by feelings of detachment or even apathy towards the happenings.

Been to the mother ship, my father had bilateral TKRs. Eventful. Realised that even though operative care in the developing world is fast catching up with the developed, the post operative care lags by millenia. The concept of post operative pain relief is non existent pretty much.  That was an interesting three weeks. Thank Providence/God (choose your poison) that he is all good now and walks pretty much normal …

The past six months have also seen me and a group of residents of the area I live in engage in a battle with the beaurocracy and repeatedly get blocked inspite of overwhelming democratic support. Weber called beaurocracy the backbone of modern civilisation, perhaps even the raison d‘être of civilisation. I dont say that this is untrue, but that which lives by beaurocracy, shall also die by beaurocracy. God save these beaurocratic souls, they get so many evil vibes day in and day out thanks to a total depersonalisation of their decisions. Protocols and guidelines gallore with nary a thought spared for the poor homo sapiens at the other end of their decisions. Perhaps, they should create a new subspecies for this kind of people. Homo sapiens beaurocratalis! Hah! But it aint over until its over. Watch this space.

Its moving time too. Having lived in around 10 different cities in the last 1o years, its time to move again. And this time, its time to move continents too. God knows how I will ever settle down. The wanterlust shows no signs of dying out. At all. So come the end of this month, I will pack up my bags (already in progress actually), load them up on a plane and fly fly away little birdie. Exciting times ahead. Anticipation mixed with apprehension. Call it Anticihension if you will. Arent we in a creative mood today.

Also discovered reddit.com , online entertainment gallore.

On that note, I will wind up here and go surf reddit.

 

 

Sep
20

Hello,

Another three month hiatus, though having said that, atleast its only half of what it was the last time.

Am I busy, or is it general burnout. I mean, I have been putting up stuff on the blog for more than a couple of years now, but my input has been tailing off of late. I guess time will tell …

What do i write about today though …

There is so much and yet so little.

I ll muse about some books then.

I have been reading Godel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstaeder.

I have been reading it on the commute, ever since I stopped driving to work. Paradoxically, it does cost more, but gives me time to read … stuff that I wouldnt do while sitting at home.So I decided to park my  car for now, and take the tube to go to work. If I may digress a little, how utterly crappy is it that in the “Green” city of London, it costs more to use the public transport than to use the car to commute to work. In this day and age when petrol prices top a quid per litre and then some.  Boris Johnson – u listening … though even if someone did pay heed to my rant, they would probably up the price of petrol rather than reduce the exorbitant price one has to pay to use public transport over here. Bah. I mean, if I were to compare it to Rome, its a pittance compared to what we have to pay here.
Oh well … such is life … digression over.

Back to GEB.

Well, its a funny sort of book. It is supposed to be about consciousness and artifical intelligence and how self awareness arises out of self reference a la Godels theorum etc but takes a very roundabout way to get to its core premise. However, I find a lot of pleasure following the author on this meandering path as  he  explores similarities between different disciplines.  The author writes these entertaining dialogues between Achilles and the Tortoise to paraphrase the upcoming technical discussion in the next chapter.  These dialogues form linguistic parallels to the logical/mathematical discussions that follow.

In a way, I resent not having read this book while I was in my teens. It has the potential of being paradigm shifting in a way …

On the downside, I was pondering the other day … how does reading this book and knowing about Godels theorum and Cantorian diagonals make me a better person. Or a better doctor at that. What is the value addition that this book brings to my life as opposed to say having spent the same amount of time listening to Radio 4 while driving to work …

 

Questions gallore …

 

 

 

Jun
25

Hello world, Its been more than six months since I posted anything here. And yet it feels like yesterday.

Time passes in a relative way,though 0ne second at a time. I wonder if anyones done any work on the rate of time passage. It sets itself up in a recursive loop since time generally is a universal denominator in all equations used to determine rates of passage.

I am finding it difficult to write much in this post. It feels as if the writing gears in my head are all clogged up. I plan on using this disjointed post to gently shake them free.

*shake shake shake shake shake*

That didnot feel very gentle though.

Its raining outside again.

It seems as if the weather gods have got a malfunctioning GPS. This is monsoon time in bombay – not in London. (with apologies to my 2 week old self who put this up on facebook as his status)

I need to go out and do some grocery shopping. Else the wife will kill me.

I am sick.

Manflu.

Man-flu is a very british term. Never heard it being used before. It encompasses the malaise of flu and the clinginess to mothers/girlfriends/wives that develops in men when they are down with flu. I like the description. Man flu.

Feed a cold and starve a fever – I was told that the hunger pangs that one feels when having flu are due to the fact that swallowed snot irritates the lining of the stomach. Who knows if that is true or not, but does sound plausible.

I am also due to start a staycation. Thats when u have time off, but no money to go anywhere on a holiday. So thats me … on a staycation.

Lots of plans to accomplish goals on this staycation. Only time will tell what I manage to accomplish.

I need to buy a phone though.

I need to do a lot of paperwork.

Some books to read. ( Hofstaders GEB, Gibbons Decline n fall of the roman empire – into its third year now)

Some TV to watch.

Oh – that reminds me…I bought a TV. For the first time in eight years … I have let Rupert Murdoch into my living room. I still have my misgivings,but atleast I have a happy wife.

I feel tired. I am sick (vide supra).

Until we meet again.

Dr. Jedi.

Dec
13

Nadir Shah, the emperor of Persia invaded India in the 18th century. And amongst the booty he captured from the dredges of the Mughal Empire was the famous diamond, the Kohinoor( the largest diamond in the world until they found the Imperial star of Africa).Apparently, the name Koh-i-noor was given to the diamond by Nadir Shah for when he saw it, he exclaimed “Koh-i-noor”. ( meaning mountain of light, Koh implying mountain and Noor implying light). The stone was captured from Nadir Shah by some Afghan King and Maharaja Ranjit Singhof the Punabi fame got possesion of the stone when he conquered Kabul.

As such things tend to happen, after the Maharaja passed away, none of his progeny (legal or illegal) could fill his shoes and the Khalsa Raj went through around 3 to 4 Maharajas before the British took advantage of the situation and declared war. The first and the second Anglo Sikh wars followed and after the second one, the Kohinoor amongst other things was taken as bounty by Lord Dalhousie following the fall of Lahore. The infant Maharaja ( Duleep Singh) was sort of adopted by Queen Victoria and was raised up in London.

The diamond supposedly has a curse attached to it.

“He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all
its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.”

The men who possessed it and wore it, lost their kingdoms and left no heirs to carry on their name. This is the supposed reason why the Kohinoor adorned the Queen Mothers crown and not the Queens. Apparently, the reigning monarch of the erstwhile empire and the current head of the Commonwealth of Nations have never had the diamond in their adornments. It is always worn by the wife of the male heir to the throne ( Kate Middleton presumably)

But why, you might wonder, have I started on this story.

It owes its genesis to a play on words really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a picture of Canary Wharf in London located in the Isle of Dogs part of the Tower Hamlets borough.  Since the 1800s, this area had been home to one of the busiest ports in the world supplying the imperial city with trade and sustenance from the distant corners of the Empire. With the decline of maritime trade, the area declined and the docks were finally closed in 1980.An alternative financial hub was planned here to promote the redevelopment of the area.  These buildings today house the European headquarters of most of the Banks in the world.

On a dark night, whenever I look upon this scene, it brings the word “Kohinoor” into my mind. True to the description, these skyscrapers do look like a mountain of light against the dark sky.

I dont know whether my readers would agree with this or not, but the kind of financial services catered to by these banks also carry a curse with them. They turn out to be not so good for the cities that house them (from certain perspectives). On the one hand, they attract money and talent from around the world. On the other, they promote immigration and cause political headaches for the ruling elite every time the stormy cycles of boom and burst rock the economic boat. The economic effects of these services also tend to price the local population out of these cities leaving immigrants to cater to the regular jobs. A scenario not appreciated by those to the right of the political spectrum. All big cities that are financial hubs have similar problems of mass immigration and widespread income disparity. Bombay, London, NYC are the three that I have experienced first hand. Apparently Shanghai and Tokyo have the same issues as well.

Is there a moral to this story. Probably not. We do need some kind of financial services, given that money is the lubricant that greases the wheels of any functioning economy. And what we cannot change, we have to learn to endure.

And appreciate the beauty of these mountains of light.

Nov
07

One of my enduring memories from childhood reading is a passage from Richard Feynmanns book “Surely you must be joking Mr. Feynmann”.  In one chapter, he describes how he “speaks Italian” and “Chinese”—inventing completely made-up but accurate sounding languages. And to his immense amusement(and mine), even native speakers of these languages would more often than not fall into his trap, asking him if he came from some other province of italy where they spoke with a different accent

It has always been a source of wonder for me how a collection of sounds/marks on paper that seem meaningless to those not schooled in that particular language can become the medium for communication amongst those who speak/read these languages. As a corollary, I had always wondered how english/punjabi/hindi would sound to me if I was not well versed in these tounges.

Well … this guy solved my problem …

An italian rock artist performs a meaningless song that imitates the memes and sounds of the English language.

Enjoy

 

 

Nov
05

A celebration of self delusion. Thats what I am. I think the concept of identity is the biggest self delusion that mankind suffers from.

Let me elaborate … and for the more “pragmatic” minded of my readers, I d recommend you stop reading right now.

Human beings are elaborate machines designed to battle the second law of thermodynamics. We are open thermodynamical systems that take in solar energy and use it to reverse the entropy arrow in our physiological systems. Of course, no body can do this for ever, so our elaborate DNA coded machines gradually wear out and we grow old and die. But in the 7-9 decades that most of us live, we are constantly taking outside energy and materials and using them to repair and replace that what constitutes us.  Our skin renews itself totally in around 2-4 weeks and the same is true for all the other parts of the body as well. So what constitutes me today, will definitely not be in me in a years time.

On a mental plane, the beliefs, memories and attitudes that define my personality are constantly changing as well. And the best bit is that even the individual is not constantly aware of these changes in real time. They become apparent only on introspection or when challenged by a situation where in the response of the individual is different from the one he/she had expected.

Similarly, our thought process evolve in time. My  views on any given topic might be very different to what they were ten years ago.

So what is this “me” that I look at in the mirror every morning. This “me” that those around me know and cherish/ hate or re indifferent to.

Pondering time

Oct
19

This happened a few days ago.

As I sat in the coffee room munching on my lunch and browsing on my i phone ( did I ever mention that I love it … and I fully retract the disparaging posts that I had written about it a year or so ago), a colleague was peeking over my shoulder trying to see what I was reading.

When he finally figured out that I was reading an op ed on the New York Times ( did I ever mention that I love it and I can only re iterate what I have written about a lot of times), he addressed me in a disparaging tone and said ” America!! … why do you find what is happening in America interesting”.

To which I replied … we are all americans by proxy. Without voting rights though. What is happening in america today will affect all of us tomorrow. And although we cannot influence what happens there, but there is no harm in being well informed.

He disagreed with me. I guess the vehemence of the disagreement with this statement will be directly proportional to the clout that ones nation holds on the world stage. ( This person was spanish, proudly so.)

When I mentioned the recent strikes and walkouts by public sector workers in Spain that happened a few days ago and their connection to the sub prime crisis in the US mortgage sector, he did begin to see reason. And soooort of agreed with what I was saying,

But its true, isnt it. We are all americans by proxy although without voting rights.

If I were a social scientist, I would do some research on this topic. I would pick up people at random and see what effect do decisions taken in Washington and Wall Street affect their lives as compared to the decisions taken in their national or provincial capitals. I am pretty sure the results would back what I just suggested.

The developed world thought they could get richer by buying each others houses at progressively higher prices, and the rest of the world is paying for that  folly. I am sure that they are suffering as well, but us lesser mortals share in their suffering without sharing their guilt.

Two years.It is amazing how two years can change the psychology of a nation. From the heady days of Obamas campaign and victory, we now have the debacle that is the mid term elections hanging over the Democratic party. The Democrats are well on their way to lose both the houses. The Republicans spurred on by the enthusiasm of the Tea Party are making gains in seats that were historically Democrat held. After losing Ted Kennedys senate seat in Mass., the Democrats are now en route to losing Obamas seat in Illinois too. The left thinks that Obama’s reforms did not go far enough. The right has an avowed agenda to reverse or starve his reforms on healthcare … a route they think leads to socialist excesses. It seems that walking the middle path has not served Obama at all. A recent in a comment in an interview sums it all.” I would rather be a good one term president rather than a mediocre two term president”.

On the other side of the pond, in my adopted homeland, the winds of change are blowing … and are they blowing hard or what. Every day brings news of some new cuts. The pensionable age is up, benefits are cut, qunagos are abolished, people laid off. The irony of the situation is that the bankers are still being paid their bonuses. I think its the best time to be in banking. You do a good job, you are rewarded. You do a bad job. Yor are rewarded. Its a win win situation all around. You just CANNOT get it wrong. Even the state owned banks are raking it in. Their losses in the crash are set against their taxes and they have saved 19 billion pounds in taxes (according to yesterdays news). And the EU political masters are already scrambling to try and cap the bonuses for this christmas. As much as our political masters are in awe of Big Finance, in this day and age the news of billion pound bonuses is not going to sit well with the electorate at all.

France on the other hand is boiling over. The retirement age has been upped by two years and suddenly the whole country is up in arms. People are hoarding fuel. Flights are being cancelled and there is uproar all around. The French are indeed past masters at civic unrest. The French Revolution giving us modern democracy and all that.  It will be interesting to see what happens there next.

Germany is having a dialogue on multi multiculturalism. The Chancellor has declared it a failed experiment. Actually most of mainland Europe is facing a resurgence of right wing ideology. Be it the Dutch, the Swiss, the French or the Italians. And its not only directed at Islam, the recent mass deportation of the Roma from France courtesy Sarkozy being a  case in point.

And that brings me back to my motherland. The commonwealth games are finally over. And now the actual show will start. The Games are over. Let the Games begin. Suresh Kalmadi, the doyen of Indian Sport ( Sarcasm alert) is pointing fingers at Sheila Dixit and Sheila Dixit is reciprocating in kind. The Congress Party leadership is trying hard to prevent them washing their dirty linen in public.  Millions of dollars of public money has been siphoned off into private hands. Oh well … it can only be good for the economy.

And it goes on and on.

In the meantime, on a more personal front. I celebrated my 1020th birthday. (counting to the base 3). I thought is was my 100th, until my brother pointed out an obvious mistake in calculation. And I realised that I was a lot older, but none the wiser.

Isnt it funny that the whole basis of our numerical system is biology based. If we had 3 digits per hand, we would be counting to the base 6. We hardly ever think about these things given that the individual experience only builds up on a foundation of what the sum total of our culture and species has experienced in the past. Pythagoras made a huge leap for mankind by discovering his theorem millennia ago, yet today it is one of the first tenets of mathematics taught to toddlers in school.

We take a lot for granted when we build up on the experiences of those who have come before us. And most of the times, this saves us time and effort. But it wouldnt harm much to reflect on all that we take for granted …

On that note, I will now take your leave.

Doctorjedi.

 

Oct
04

When we had finished our walking tour of ancient Rome, we decided to grab a bite to eat at Travestere.  Its the trans tiberian part of Rome. I mentioned it in my previous post on the Eternal City. Its the Rome where the Romans Roam. Haha. The tourist to native ratio is much smaller than the rest of the City.

As we were making our way down to the area, guided by a trusty map that our concierge had kindly given us, I found us walking along this large tract of grassy land. A few pillars/ruins dotted its vista but it was largely empty. I had plotted a route that would take us to Travestere via the Circus Maximus, but to my great disappointment, I could see no signs of that great monument any where. A monument that at the height of its glory could seat a quarter of a million people. More than a a quarter of romes population could be squeezed into this stadium. I was asking people around me for directions to this place, and yet as most of them were as clueless as I was.

We kept on walking and I struggled with the map looking at street names around me to try and figure out where the circus maximus was situated. It was with a sense of disappointment that I finally realised that the grassy tract that we were walking by was all that remained of the Circus Maximus. Apparently, given its proximity to the residential areas of Rome, its materials were the first ones that were used for the rebuilding of the city during the Renaissance.

This incident made me think of the DIKW heirarchy. For those not in the know, it stands for the  Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom hierarcy. It describes the way any information processing system builds up self awareness from the raw bits of information (data) it gleans from its surroundings.

The data was what the sense organs were supplying my brain, the information ( a grassy tract of land) was what I gleaned from the data given my previous experience looking at similar grassy pieces of land. The Knowledge (that it was actually the site of Circo Maximo) was derived by correlating the information from the map and that from my surroundings and the lack of any big imposing structure around that place. And the wisdom shall follow. It started there and then with the realisation that all things, no matter how imposing or wondrous shall eventually come to an end … nothing survives the ravages of time. It is continuing with introspection and hopefully will continue to grow as time goes by. Inspite of its epithet “the eternal city”, Rome actually can force you to confront your own mortality in a very effective way.

The sceptic in me tells me that one need not go to Rome to realise all this. Most of what we see around is perishable. And most human habitation especially in cities based close to rivers/oceans can be traced back to millenia. The difference again, I feel lies in the information/knowledge that we have about Roman History. Its all very well sitting in your home and imagining how that place must have been a thousand years ago, or will be a thousand years hence, but the easily available history regarding the Roman Kingdom/Republic and the Empire just hammer the task home more effectively. The ancient ruins provide a fitting backdrop such musings as well.

A visit to the Basilica of San Clemente illustrates this point further. ( I wrote about this in an earlier post as well). The ruins of what are thought to be an ancient Roman mint have been excavated underneath this structure( like visiting the vaults of Fort Knox  two thousand years in the future). The walls were caving in and the damp was everywhere ( One of the ancient roman aqueducts that used to supply the place had burst and flooded the place and the excavators had to drain a  lot of water away). The awe and wonder of the place was not in the data and the information that it was a damp old place, but the knowledge that it was what remained of an old and important structure.

While on the topic, let me re-iterate how much I have enjoyed reading “The decline and the fall of the roman empire”. I recently finished the chapters that chronicle the rise of Christianity during and after the reign of Constantine and his son Constantanus.Even more interesting was the chapter on Julian, the last Pagan Emperor of Rome. Educated at Athens while in exile ( he was constantines nephew and Constantanus had his entire family murdered after the death of Constantine to prevent any rival claimants to the throne, but Julian was spared as he was only a boy of 5 when this happened-so it was not only the Mughals who engaged in fratricide eh), he was the extinction burst in a way for the pagan, polytheistic religion that had preceded Christianity. But even this man was bought to his knees by a needless war with the Persian empire and died on the retreat from a disastrous battle leaving Rome in the hands of the Christians again. The book makes the point that while most of what Constantine built has perished, it his one act of supporting the Christian religion via the edict of Milan that still affects our lives today. While some say that his conversion was a decision based on faith and conviction, others say it was a purely pragmatic decision, in order to better control his subjects and empire.

Issac Asimov is supposed to have based his Foundation series of novels on the Decline and the Fall of the Roman Empire. He just substituted the setting of historical truth with a science fictional future.  Reading both these works of fiction provides the realisation that Religion is a tool used by the political elite to subjugate the wider masses. A truth evident in the theocracies of the Middle east and the continuous attempts of the religious right to subvert any liberal agenda anywhere in the world.

Apparently in the latter part of the book, Gibbon also describes the rise of Islam and the conquest of the eastern roman empire by the Arabs ( Istanbul is the modern name of Constantinople – the city founded by Constantine to be the new capital of the Roman Empire). I am well and truly looking foward to reading that part.

Its been some time since I blogged, but life keeps one busy. I had actually started this post a couple of weeks ago, but only got the time to finish it today.

“Such is life, so full of care, that we have no time to stand and stare eh.”

Wordsworth wrote this in the last century, and it still rings true.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Keep coming back my dear regular readers ( now up to 10, i am happy to report).

Daswidania.

Sep
07

Today, I decided to take remedial action and recover some of the Joie de verve that I felt was lacking from my existence of late. Came back home from what will hopefully be my last night shift for 10 days or so and rather than just crash and go head low supine(aka sleep), I decided to shake up some of the dormant neurons that have been snoring away in my head of late.

Watched some TED videos, something that never fails to get the juices flowing.Its one of the ways in which the mind and the curiosity is satiated, by listening to and musing over these amazing things that other people are doing every day. This guy never fails to amaze/amuse me … I dunno whether I have posted this here before or not, but repetition is not always bad eh ..

I wanted to mention this video because of another reason as well.

I had a chance conversation  with a jamaican lady serving me lunch in the hospital cafeteria during the weekend ( u guessed it, I was at work). The lady standing in front of  me in the queue had managed to knock over a tray of fruit on the display and I was helping her collect up all the scattered fruit when the serving lady started singing hallelujah and sort of swaying with the tune. When I stood up and she started serving me, she asked me if I was a Muslim ( a question I have been asked quite often given my brown skin … apparently people are unaware of a billion pagans that happen to have various shades of brown skin eh), When I replied in the negative, she changed her line of questioning and asked me if I believed in God. When I replied in the negative again, her entire demeanour changed.She had a look of shocked disbelief in her eyes, and with a tremble in her voice, she grabbed my hand and said ” how can you not believe in God brother, what with the job you do, you are the instrument of his miracles every day”. I was a taken aback by this show of emotion and merely smiled and shook my head because her conviction and manner actually made me feel a bit guilty inside my head.As if I were doing something wrong and was responsible for her distress.Much as I wanted to defend myself, I felt that my quasi rational arguments would not stand a chance against her feverent belief.

I kept thinking about this incident through out the day.I guess, in a meta-philosophical sense, a belief in God and a belief in aethism, irrespective of what Richard Dawkins might have to say ( ref his book ” The God Delusion”), are the same. Both are not based on any material evidence and yet people go to extremes trying to promote and rationalise both of these viewpoints.

Coming back to the video,A.J. Jacob (the guy in the video) mentions something he calls Agnostic Reverence. Where in you are undecided on the existence of a Divine being, but you do have a reverence for the Creation and the Universe around. I think that sums up my stand on this whole question quite well. But obviously, it was a concept too elaborate to sum up to the lady serving the food given the shortage of time. There were other people waiting in line behind me and I had to get back to theatres and restart work.

Fast fowarding to the present again (or the near past)

I decided to have some breakfast before I finally dozed off and found some Pitta and Sambar in the fridge. And I kid you not that my wife makes the best sambar in the world. The flavour is just sublime and though I was too lazy to heat it up and thus magnify the flavour, it did hit the spot. As I was munching on this gastronomical delight, I started wondering about all this food that we eat and yet know nothing about. To expound on this a bit, let me indulge in a bit of a digression yet again …

In my part of the world, the carbohydrate accompaniment to every meal is what is referred to as the chappati. Unfortunately for me, my wife hails from a part of the world where rice is the major source of carbs in every meal.And to top that, we live in a country where potatoes fulfill the said role. So needless to say, I find it hard to satiate my cravings for unleavened  bread.

The Pitta came as a life saver as it is easily stored in the fridge and can be heated up quickly in a toaster or on an open flame. And much more importantly, it can be easily purchased at the friendly neighbourhood corner shop. So munching on this pitta moistened with the flavoursome sambar, I started wondering about the origins of this treat.

Enter the saviour. The proclaimed patron helper saint of all the curious. Wikipedia. And I spent the rest of the morning reading about sambars and pittas and chappatis and what not. And I was surprised by what I did not know. Apparently, the world pitta is the ancient aramic word for bread. Aramic being the language that Jesus preached in. The spoken languange of Palestine around the time when Jesus was born. It is by and large a dead language now, but apparently, the masses of some  Eastern Orthodox Church denominitions are still said in Aramic.

Thats all I ask from providence ( having just announced my agnostism, I would be loathe to invoke the heavenly father now wouldnt I).

Give us this day, O Providence, our daily Pitta,(and a smattering of Sambar).

Deliver us from evil,

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom

,and the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever.

Amen.