Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Next Generation Web

Today I came across a paper which said:

Despite the fact that we already see the approach of the 'social network fatigue' syndrome it seems to me that the social aspect of media generation and consumption on the web will grow. The key push for this development will be the wish of humans to share experiences in a globalized and nomadic world, where the trace replaces the tag. The most valuable experience challenges our assumptions and perspectives and ultimately alters our understanding of information and thereby our own internal model of the world. In this sense, challenge is indeed the challenge we face for information systems. Current systems utilize similitude as selector of new experience. ‘If you liked that then you’ll like this’. However the more profound and hence lasting experiences are the unexpected ones that are at once accessible and confrontational. It is easy to be either, but being both is a demanding challenge. So far we have little capability in marshaling such experience for users but in 2020 this will be different.

Given the above perspective and coupled with newer conceptual technologies like Web 3.0 coming up already, the next generation multi-way dynamic and participation based WWW would be interesting.

I envision a Web where our interests, social interactions and our communication dynamics are taken into account to satisfy our media consumption, media participation and media generation needs better in a more systematic manner.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I-Day Celebration

Aug 15 morning, at the Indian Students' Association I-Day celebration, courtesy: Sashi.

I-day night dance party at Neha's place, courtesy: Divakar.

For the first time, I became a part of the Independence Day celebration after coming to US - right from attending flag hoisting, to singing the national anthem, to wearing Indian clothes, to having a "desi" dance party at a friend's place! It was great fun after a long time. We played Hindi numbers, played cards, imitated each other's dancing styles and pulled each other's legs!

Nevertheless, there is a more serious and profound thought associated with the celebration. The question is, how much can you do staying thousands of miles away from your country? Has the importance of Independence Day reduced to just feeling a little Indian?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Three Year-long Journey

"The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different."

It is completion of three years in US today, a totally different place, country and culture; in ASU, an endeavor to do something more with life; and in PhD, a desire to excel and make a difference to the rest of the world. As I look back, time seems to have just drifted so fast; however, each day has been different; and I have had the opportunity to gather a wide spectrum of variegated experiences, both professional and personal, sweet and bitter, which have been a great learning, preparing for the life in the coming future.

I find this quote so apt in describing the journey of our lives; when I came here, I was so excited about this whole new experience, apart from thoughts of finally being able to do what I wanted to do, and everything else. Each dawn it was something new, and I have come a long, really long way. I don't repent anything, I don't want to go back and change any bit of it. For, at the end of the day, it has been a learning of life; things you don't imbibe in formative education. And I want to gather that learning in the same manner as it has been, had I had the chance to go back and change anything.

There have been several changes about me. How I look at life, how I look into my future, how I judge relationships and how to be responsible for myself. Precisely maturity has crept in wide and deep; which has been for the better I strongly believe! Growing up has been a wonderful journey in the past three years here.

There were so many things which I was inquisitive about three years back, which I was skeptical about. I have answers to many of them now. I know where I am going to be in the next five years, a thought which used to be a question then. And still there are some questions which spring up every now and then and sweep my entire thought process. However, life is about getting more questions and the quest for their answers in the way, isn't it? And therein lies the role of the hidden future, a future which is obliged to be different from today - a hope that is always alive, in some remote corner of our mind.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

*Today* and Some Bits

Today is one of those numerous days that made me feel like a real PhD student! Some of the highlights are here!
  • I had the longest meeting of my life - lingering for three hours. This was with my advisor to discuss the paper we are submitting tomorrow.
  • I needed to call home today, but since I had too many changes to make to my paper and so little time, I called them to just literally say "I am fine" , "Hope you all are doing good" and "I need to hang up, have loads of work"; that was a mere couple of minutes talk. Note, I never talk home this less; it is always at least 20 minutes.
  • I had terrible headache since morning, so ended up buying coffee with a Columbian shot (!) to make it as strong as possible.
  • I am stuck at the lab all night likely, note, today is a Sunday and that too, this is summer time!
All said and done, hope my paper turns up good. After all, it is going to be held in Barcelona, Spain, and I need to get there, apart from satiating all the PhD desires! Rest for next time: I have another deadline on Wednesday! Whee, I am loving this life, no pun intended!

On a different note, please read about Quarter-life crisis (QLC) on Wiki. If you are in the twenties, you will find tremendous ways to connect to the feeling. At least I did, so did some of my friends whom I asked.

Some of the ways (refer to the above link) I feel I suffer from QLC: tendency to hold an opinion about everything on Earth, I can talk on anything under the Sun; the realm of personal relationships, I am not happy about some of the ways things have worked out in the past; stress, oh well, it is a part of life when you are building up your coming future; desire to have children, I love kids; nostalgia, I am suffering from it tremendously these days; and re-evaluation of past life, it is always a great feeling and learning to retrospect and reflect on things that have happened, nonetheless I am happy about how life has been, despite all the bad times and the intermittent good times, well, don't they say, "Joy and woe are woven fine" (William Blake).

And some of the ways I don't think I suffer from QLC are: I am not confused, in fact I am never confused about anything, I always knew "which is which"; I am not unhappy with my job, in fact I am pretty happy with it; I don't feel that everyone else around me is doing better, yeah, I sometimes think I have sort of a superiority complex; and I don't suffer from insecurity about future plans, of present accomplishments or of the near future, I always knew what I wanted to do in life, ever since I was in 4th grade.

Note, this is not about self-analysis or anything of that sort; remember we were talking about QLC! So, check out what you think about yourself!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Slavery, Resilience. Then?

Man is a slave of circumstances, of habits.

I hail from a place in India where it pours very heavily; we almost have four to five months of real monsoon. Then, when I used to be there, I was accustomed to playing in the rain, going round the city with raincoats, umbrellas, riding rickshaws with water-proof curtains or even running across huge puddles of rainwater in front of our house. Rains used to be a part and parcel of life and so were out lifestyles; be it buying shoes especially for rainy days, be it getting dressed like that, or be it carrying an umbrella or raincoat while going out, if you guess it is going to rain that day. There were no surprises; we even knew which places to avoid, in case it rains too bad and areas get flooded.

Now the other aspect: power-cuts, for heaven's sake, we used to have plenty of them in Agartala - everyday for at least an hour, at an uninformed time. It used to be a part and parcel of life, too sarcastically, and reading in candle light or kerosene lamps used to be common long back, till things graduated to an alternative emergency electricity line. Preparations would go on since evening itself for the power-cuts, like keeping that part of the evening free and finishing off important things earlier or possibly later.

Life changed radically once I moved here. No rains (thanks to Arizona) and then the technology-slaved lifestyle in US, made me lame to handling situations like rains and powercuts. I was coming back with a big basket of laundered clothes today when unconsciously I stepped into a puddle of water and almost slipped. I realized I am wearing flip flops which have completely flat and smooth bases, a complete no-no for rains, as Mom used to say in India. Alas, the lifestyle here made me forget that!

And surprisingly, when I was driving to a grocery store later in the evening after the rain stopped, I passed between two intersections which were completely dark, jet black, and a poor traffic police guy was standing (with still little drops of rain pouring) and controlling the traffic. The irony being, certain places in Arizona, not being accustomed to such heavy rains, went almost crazy when some electrical equipment failed to operate and deliver electricity! And icing on the cake, even the traffic lights weren't working due to this power-cut! And trust me, unlike the rickshaws in Tripura which can operate on a flickering kerosene flame, driving without traffic lights working freaked me out totally. It was like putting yourself "out there," for some accident to occur!

This is all aside the ordeal the people living in that area were going through. This place is close to ASU campus, so quite a few students live there. Life is so much poised on this so called blissful technology that you cannot possibly cook anything (which means you starve unless thriving on already cooked food), can't get hot water (which means cannot shower), stay in the dark (which means no AC, no sleep) etc etc. Life just comes to a standstill, and especially if it persists for hours together.

I was just wondering at how we become accustomed to our situations, to our ambience and turn into slaves of technology. Only three years back, rains or powercuts per se, used to be no big deal at all. And now life just stops. A complete stop.

Man has this amazing capability to be resilient to whatever situation he or she is in. There is an inherent ability to adjust to the surroundings, to the situation, many be given sometime. Eventually everything gets leveled, we are the slaves of our own lives, of our own circumstances. Still, at the end of the day, knowing all of it, why do we panic when things are not our way? Where does that bliss of tremendous resilience go away all of a sudden?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

All About Me

October, 2007 (Courtesy: Arvind, ISA Freshers')

February, 2008 (Courtesy: Rahul's Tempe visit)

July, 2008 (Courtesy: Deepak's Arizona Trip)

Me sometime back, a few months; a re-collection. The first pic goes back to the time of last year's ISA (Indian Students' Association) Freshers. There was a drama simulating the life of Indian graduate students at ASU, and I was playing the role of an administrative staff. The second pic is taken by my friend, Rahul, when he visited Tempe (and subsequent Grand Canyon and Las Vegas) last February. The third pic is the most recent, and courtesy taken by my friend Deepak when he was making a trip to Arizona last month. It is taken in a nice Mexican restaurant in Sedona, and I am cherishing a heavenly glass of Margarita!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I learned a few lessons

Life teaches so many lessons. Some of them aren't the ones you read in secondary school, or the ones that your parents would teach you or even the ones your friends could tell you. These are the lessons you learn from life's variegated experiences. And I have jotted down a few of them here.

Don't be foolishly romantic. Love exists, but preserve it for someone who deserves it. It doesn't mean that you hate others, or be mean to them, but yeah indifference is the best emotion you could deliver, when you aren't sure about any other!

Set a goal in life: a short-term one, and a long-term one. These could be something about your professional career or could be simply your alter-interest. But do have them with you, round the clock. They let you cling to something and something to look forward to. The short-term goal keeps you on your toes. And the long-term goals, which could be pretty high level, or very generic, keep you motivated and cater to keeping you overflowing with aspirations.

Realize you aren't the perfect human being, but strive towards being so. Craft the principles, ideas and thoughts which you think could make your life more perfect, which could be for optimizing any self-set motive.

Live life everyday: which also doesn't mean don't think about tomorrow. But yeah brooding over the past is the last thing in life. It leaves us morose, affects our day-to-day lives and disturbs our mental agility.

Be adaptive to your surroundings; keep all the five senses open to what you can be a part of, and what you could be aloof from. A wide heart and open mind often makes life easier.

And finally I would like to say, sometimes hope could kill people. Because at times, it does not come as a boon - rather it leaves us alone in never-ending roads of optimism where no positive ray of light ever gets to sway the golden grounds. We keep expecting things to go our way, things to revert back to the state where we left off, or to reach the disposition wherein we felt the most contented. Nevertheless life is sometimes a brutal reality: hope does not always come very handy.

I learned it is best to tide over the past; to start looking forward to things which have a meaning in the days to come. And also to live life at its best at this moment: pensive yet pragmatic, fancied yet the realist. To hope for things in the future, not the past and should the future not cull out the way we wished it to, never ever say "I wish, I hope." Rather, tell unto yourself "I would, I can tackle the ordeal."

Always rely on yourself for all the needed strength in the world: there is no magic wand or a Alladin's lamp to set things right in life. You are the architect of your tomorrow. And past is not going to help you do so; neither are the false hopes going to come to your beck and call. It's all about you; tomorrow as it stands right there, so close, so merry, so rosy, yet needs one extra thing for everything to materialize, and that is you yourself, ready to embrace life as it comes.


On a more casual and comic note, Kartik pointed out the other day that some of the most frequently used tags in my blog are: academics, happiness, research and random. So he made a sentence out of it (remember the Make Sentences thing we used to do in primary school!). And here it goes:

Searching random happiness in academic research.

Ironically or coincidentally I would agree anyday, that this is really what I have been doing the past three years! And I am happy and proud to be doing so :)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A little piece of good news!

Just to share this piece of good news with all my readers! I got a scholarship acceptance for the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing (2008) which is in Keystone, Colorado (90 minutes drive from Denver, CO). I will be traveling there and presenting the technical poster which was accepted there earlier.

I am extremely passionate about encouraging ambitious young women pursuing wonderful careers and I find this conference to be a great budding ground promoting this. A related blog post about my thoughts on this issue and the conference can be found here.

Apart from everything else, I would get an opportunity to explore a new state Colorado which is supposedly among the most beautiful states in the country!

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Motivation Factor

What do you do when you start getting disillusioned about life and the goals you had crafted for yourself? How do you tackle this situation when the primary motivating factor in life stops delivering its rejuvenating sap in your day-to-day little happenings?

I have been struggling enough of late, primarily due to de-motivation. Not because my PhD is not going great, in fact, it is very good I guess (so do several other people think); but it has been something else. I guess, on one hand it is the emotional turmoil which has created a mess, and on the other, it is the constancy of a research career, a degree you are pursuing which is crunching a fat slice of the ripe time of your life, along with ripping thick flesh of your efforts everyday. I don't mind indulging into an ambitious endeavor as that, but sometime, it has to reflect to me in some manner, why I am doing all this; why I have let go several nice things when I made the choices; and why I am in a position today when I feel I don't have anything to look forward to tomorrow.

This is not a depressing blog; I am not moaning over the melancholic life, nor am I re-iterating the bad experiences of the past. It is a piece of writing which should enable me re-think; re-think why I chose the path I did, three years back or may be even more. What the goals in the long run are. How is it going to make the lives of others different tomorrow. And when I run these questions in my mind, it feels like I am back on my track: the much larger than life picture I need to paint, eventually!

Life has its ups and downs. There are days when everything looks so perfect; and then there are times when nothing seems right. This truth is so cliched, but hardly ever we realize it when it is the most necessary. We brood over the past. We curse what has happened and what went wrong. It is difficult to forget certain happenings or people; difficult to put apart certain things which you could have worked out but did not really happen. But life is about looking forward, living each day full to the brim. Because what is past will never come back. It is just there. While, the motivations, they help us move forward in life. So the wise is who can weigh the motivations over past worries. He or she is then the winner, the winner of life at its best!

I would like to conclude by saying:
"There is just one life for each of us: our own." - Euripides.

PS: Please pray (if you are a theist) or wish (if you are an atheist) that my aunt who is ailing with cancer in its secondary stage, gets fine. I just got to know about this tonight and haven't been feeling great all the more. She has been a wonderful person in my life and I hope life doesn't take its toll on her this way.