Countdown to Extinction

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2, 2010 by Glorfindel

And so begins my last week in these United States – a culmination of 6 years of Grad & Advanced Grad School. 15 months ago, I expressed a good deal of grief on leaving Cambridge, and 2 years before that, Fellow Blogger mourned my exit from Cornland (caution: link highly sentimental). The essential goodbyes have been said, extraneous apparel have been dumped in the nearest recycling bin, the Last Lunches have been cooked, and most heartbreaking of all, the lease has been broken.

The last 3 years have taught me a valuable lesson, or rather, reinforced it: nostalgia is one hell of a vindictive bitch. No matter how much I crib and whine about life in a town/lab (one being interchangeable with the other) or about the general suckiness of the past present, the present past always attains a sunsettish glow in hindsight. Gone are the travails and frustrating troughs of grad school; vanished are the uncertainties of the postdoc; smoothed are the ubiquitous fluctuations of life with a mean field approximation. Although the immediate future encompasses everything that I have worked for since birth, inertia and the comfortable rut of the routine seductively beckon like sirens.

Ironically enough, the job I’m about to leave is intricately tied up with a boss I hate to desert. 2 years ago, I congratulated her on securing this professorship little realising that I would end up working for her. My gut told me that we would hit it off and that the experience would be enjoyable. Score oesophagus. Why? Very few people share my at-times morbid sense of humour or perennial foreboding of doom laced with dollops of pessimism. She is now one of the few females whom I’m quite fond of apart from A., A., A., and shall we say M. and E. too. Note to the doubt-ridden: yes, these people exist and no, not all of them are my mom and aunt. Through A., the rigours of Young Facultydom have revealed themselves to me in glorious technicolour, Hi-Def and Dolby-Supported Stereo, which makes me feel ridiculously guilty for all the complaints I had against my old advisor. With her help, I was able to revolutionise my PPT skills and morph from a sleep-inducing, stage-fearing geek into a veritable dynamo albeit with dying batteries. She exposed the beauty in extracurricular activities such as trekking, spelunking, rapelling and white-water rafting. In all fairness, the latter sentence was utter bullshit. Anyway, every meeting of late has been punctuated with a profound sense of sadness on my part. We start talking about slides and end up cataloging the end of days. I’m pretty much of a douchebag to most folks but in this one circumstance, I genuinely wish her well and am quite depressed that I won’t get to see her win the Nobel in Chemical Engineering Physics.

Like, duh!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2010 by thetobacconist

Being ‘nice’ to everyone, is evolutionarily, emotionally and every f#cking *ally retarded. From now a strict policy of reciprocation will be followed.

A Tale of Two Passages to India

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2010 by Glorfindel

As some might be aware, I shall soon be deserting this country in its hour of need in search of warmer climes, sooty atmospheres and the concomitant grayer pastures. It’s surprising how much junk can accumulate in one’s personal wardrobe after 6 long years of grad school and post-grad school. Well, the actual quantity of things might be a tad overstated but nevertheless it still is a pain to lug them across one ocean and 2 continents. A few books that have faithfully followed me from India to Urbana to Boston to Boulder constitute the heaviest portion of my entourage – 25 kg at the last estimation, sufficient to pass off as a hobbit version of myself. Considerable wrangling wrought a $1279 ticket for my journey, and it seems as though Mini-Me will drill a hole worth  half as much in my green stash – proportional to the weight difference, apparently – to achieve homeward boundedness. That is when I spotted this POTUS-sized opportunity. Barrick O’Bama will be travelling to India next week with a large contingent of vestigial personalities and equipment. Given all the useful research that I’ve done for him, the substantial taxes that I’ve shelled out due to my privileged position in the social hierarchy and the fact that he will be fortunate enough to be my (temporary) boss in a month’s time, Air Force One should reserve a corner for my box of tomes. It really is a benign request. The Secret Service is welcome to sample the spicier books in my collection. Besides, the only explosive material there is a yellow chemical reaction engineering text. I’m sure the White House Chief of Staff is competent enough to arrange a handover to the postal authorities at Bombay and ensure that the box reaches my mom in Hyderabad…possibly with an Obaman scrawl on the outside for posterity and potential eBay value.

Totally Useless Calculation #1

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 by thetobacconist

I noticed some friends are taking up compound surnames when they get married. At the very least, they are giving their kids compound surnames. If this phenomenon were to continue, in a few generations we are bound to have kids with ridiculously long, compounded surnames. And in a moment of absolute joblessness, I decided to do some ‘research’ into the longest surname we can concoct.

Turns out there is no reliable online resource for Indian surnames. There is a collection here ( of 1979 surnames, but it is by no means complete. I randomly checked for a few common surnames (e.g Ahuja, Vazirani, Shastry) and they were absent in this list. There exist other resources on some Wikis. Lets say this were off by a factor of 10 (which is a conservative estimate), we have approximately 20,000 unique surnames in India.

So how many generations before we get to a kid with a 20k surname?

My calculations say 15 generations of compounding.

We can get there in ~500 years!!! We’ll need to keep track of people and their surnames and only approve of marriage if their respective surnames have a trivially small mutual information. What fun!!!

Or we could just toss a coin, and give the kid just one surname.

Just saying.

(P.S: Turns out there is a book with a comprehensive list: . It has ~440 pages. Say 400 of those have names, at 20 names a page we get 8000 surnames. Lop off a couple of generations there!!! We can get to it in 13! ~400 years! Yaaay!)

Day Zero

Posted in Uncategorized on October 25, 2010 by thetobacconist

And so it begins. I am going to give this another try.

Doctor’s Orders

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2010 by Glorfindel

A highly un-manic Saturday is in progress. While plotting stuff in MATLAB to the accompaniment of heavy metal blasting in the office may be exciting at times, the only thing I’m looking forward to is cooking a mixture of bhindi and tempeh this evening while simultaneously watching Fringe and The Office. And all this while some football team is playing some other squad on campus replete with the legally sanctioned quota of messy tailgates. Speaking of tailgates, which other civilisation would take the trouble of neatly arranging Port-a-potties on the previous day so as to satisfy legions of beer-laden fans?

Now just in case the avid reader is feeling as jobless as self, he/she/it is welcome to perform social service for my sake. Here’s the deal: the New York Times has this vocabulary-related blog called Schott’s Vocab. Every weekend, he posts a competition that prompts creative replies from readers. This week’s test is to define the term-du-jour, “Middle Class”. On Monday, he highlights 8 entries that are particularly inspired and have garnered the highest number of recommendations from visitors to the blog. So your task, if you choose to live, is to click this link, look for my entries (4 so far posted under my real name) and vote for them until your ravenous appetite has been sated. If the quality of my submissions dazzles you, great; if not, then you should still vote for them and tolerate a diseased conscience. I can live with that. Oh, and repeat this algorithm on a weekly basis.

Back in Black and Orange You Glad?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2010 by Glorfindel

This blog has fallen into disrepair and is probably a haunt for spy/malware and other such evil entities from the Land of Mordor. I have therefore taken it upon myself to infuse some life into Frodo’s arm that was pierced by the Ringwraith’s knife on Weathertop. As can probably be deduced from my latest avatar, an LOTR phase is being entertained at the moment. Besides, Glorfindel is probably the coolest elf name in existence so stuff it, Legolas. After dabbling with a twisted version of my real name for a while, I have decided to return to anonymity as far as my online presence is concerned. Of course, this so-called anonymity is an open secret – much like Israel’s nuclear stockpile – since the 3 people who read this blog are well aware of my true identity. Be that as it may, a lot has happened since my last post during the Century of the Fruitbat. A LOT.

The need to re-blog has arisen out of a general sense of boredom and the inescapable fact that all soliloquies and intra-cranial conversations are ultimately tiring, not to mention scary to passers-by. I would like to organise my thoughts and put them down somewhere for posterity and for the amusement of Trantorians once they re-establish the Imperium and re-colonise the Earth. With this jolly thought and the formidable motto, “I think, therefore I am of the greatest honour”, welcome to the Third Age.