This blog has come to a slow, but sure state of just continuing to exist, without growth. Over the past few years, I have grown more reticent about sharing the details of my personal life. This might change, but until it does, please be patient =)

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Shashi Tharoor is a Candidate from Trivandrum

Shashi Tharoor is contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from Trivandrum, representing the Indian National Congress.

I wish him luck, though I may not see eye to eye with the Congress party’s policies, attitude, and approach, I do see the merit in being represented by someone who is knowledgeable, and prepared to take politics to a higher plane. I am glad and proud that my constituency has a fighting chance to be represented by a person who once was in the running to be the Secretary General of the UN.

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Star Rating System for Songs

Been working on a paper this weekend, listening to music. Random old crappy songs keep popping up, distracting me. I need a consistent system for rating songs on a 1-5 scale. This corresponds to the “stars” that you see in most music players that support star ratings. Thought I would write what I wrote down on a notepad here, so I can refer to it later.

So far, the rating I assign to songs has been pretty random. The finger trembles and the brain does a “wait, wait, are you sure?” before I give something five stars. The brain also can’t decide if something is two, three or four stars.

The goals of the system are three – assigning a rating for songs should be quick process, the ratings must be independent of the mood I am in when I rate a song the first time, and songs that I don’t want to hear again must be clearly identifiable.

0 stars – Songs that have not been rated yet
Listed here for the sake of completeness

1 star – Songs that I do not like, and don’t want to listen to, again.
I hate deleting informartion, files. So these are songs that will stick around – the 7th song in a 7 song album that saves the album from being incomplete, for example. Or maybe popular songs that someone else might like. But, as far as I am concerned, I couldn’t care less about these songs.

2 stars – Songs that I might want to listen to again, sometime in the future, but not because I like them. Bhaja Govindam, for example, or, say, some songs by Björk. I really don’t think I will want to listen to it, but its not a song I never want to listen to again. 2 star-songs can move up the ladder later depending on how it “grows” on me.

3 stars – I like the song. I don’t get the urge to skip the song every time it plays.

4 stars – I love the song.

5 stars – Absolute all time favourite song. I can listen to these any time, any day and not be irritated. List of songs I would take with me to a desert island – that kind of thing.

Note to self – Directions for rating songs:

  1. Listen to the song
  2. If you just cannot listen to all of it, and won’t miss it for sure, it’s a 1-star song.
  3. At the end of the song, if you can’t make up your mind whether you like it, and might want to listen to it again, pick 2-stars
  4. If you like the song, 3-stars
  5. If the song has 3 stars and you think it should get more ear time, give it 4-stars
  6. If the song is an all time favorite, 5-stars. Brand new songs never get 5 stars. If it is a brand new song you absolutely love, give it 4 stars and leave it at that. If it deserves 5 stars, you will know it when, even after a month, you love it as much as you did the first time you heard it
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No Fallout3 for India

In the Fallout games, survivors of the apocalypse use ‘brahmin’ – two-headed cows mutated by radiation – as pack animals.

Rumor: Brahmin is why Fallout 3 won’t be heading to India. Couldn’t they have found a better name for the cows, I wonder.

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List of 34 links to download free e-Books

Ultimate list to download free e-Books |

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Voting Patterns in 2008 compared to Cotton Production Patterns in 1860

The top map is voting patterns in this 2008 election– the bottom map is cotton production in 1860…

Pin the Tail » Patterns, Land Use.

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Orson Scott Card on the Ender’s Game’s Reviews at Amazon

Orson Scott Card, on reviews of his book Ender’s Game, on Amazon.

To quote him:

First, I’m embarrassed, as the author, that I have to give a rating in “stars” in order to comment here. But since I do have to do so, I’m not about to bring down the average by rating my own book any less than five .

I have often wondered if writers ever read reviews of their books at, apparently some do, and some actually respond.

What I also found amusing is 51 out of 52 people say they found that review (which is just Orson Scott Card’s comment on his style, and what people had to say about it) useful. How did it help them in choosing the book, I wonder. Perhaps, like me, they thought it was neat that an author cared enough to read the reviews and write a response. Perhaps, they wanted everyone to see he had responded and said they found the “review” useful.

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Tool to Generate List of Acronyms in MS Word

Acronyms Master is a tool for MS Word that can create a table of Acronyms, optionally with their “discovered” definitions/expansions at the end of the the document. No, sorry, the table can’t be anywhere except at the end of the document. However, if all you want is a list of the acronyms/abbreviations in a document, it is the perfect tool. Saved me a minor headache, and I hope it comes in handy for those who are dealing with their thesis/dissertation/papers/documentation etc.

Edit: The tool is not free. The first time you use it, it’s free, and then you have to purchase it. I remember it as being free for personal use, but now it’s not. Something else might suit you better if you are looking for free software.

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Breeding Pictures – Genetic Algorithms Can be Fun :)

PicBreeder is an ongoing effort at UCF (where I study/work) to create images using Genetic Algorithms. It is a community-based website where you can create an account and breed your pictures. I saw Mutating Pictures doing the rounds, and thought of how PicBreeder deserves some attention too. For one, you have more options for fun at PicBreeder, and you can turn a Butterfly into a Bat!

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Creating and Patenting Life Forms

Craig Venter, the guy who paid to sequence the genome, is at it again. This time, a team of 20 scientists including a Nobel Laureate have created an artificial chromosome from first principles, using artificial chemicals. They intend to introduce this into the cell of a bacterium on whose genetic makeup the whole thing was based off. The cell will be taken over, and a new species will be created. Technically.

As a post script the article mentions that Venter’s lab is filing for a patent for the newly created life form. Patents never seemed like too good an idea to me. Patenting a life form seems downright ridiculous, and very dangerous.

Cool stuff, and I would cheer the Venter Lab on, if not for the patent, and the unbridled, bombastic script that issues from them, a sample of which follows:

“We are not afraid to take on things that are important just because they stimulate thinking,” he said. “We are dealing in big ideas. We are trying to create a new value system for life. When dealing at this scale, you can’t expect everybody to be happy.”

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