Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Day of School!

Following excerpt of Finding Nemo is from IMSDb.


First day of school! First day of school! Wake up, wake up! C'mon,
first day of school!


I don't wanna go to school. Five more minutes.


Not you, dad. Me!



Get up, get up! It's time for school! It's time for school!
It's time for school! It's time for school! Oh boy! Oh boy!


All right, I'm up.


Oh boy--whoa!



First day of school!


[gasps] Nemo, don't move! Don't move! You'll never get out of there yourself.
I'll do it. All right, where's the break? You feel a break?


Sometimes you can't tell 'cause fluid is rushing to the area. Now, any rushing


Are you woozy?


How many stripes do I have?

I'm fine.

Answer the stripe question!



No! See, something's wrong with you. I have one, two, three--that's all I have? Oh, you're okay. How's the lucky fin?


Let's see.


Are you sure you wanna go to school this year? 'Cause there's no problem if
you don't. You can wait 5 or 6 years.

Come on, dad. It's time for school.

Ah-ah-ah! Forgot to brush.


Do you want this anemone to sting you?



Okay, I'm done.

You missed a spot.


There. Ha ha! Right there. And here and here and here!


All right, we're excited. First day of school, here we go. We're ready to learn, to get some knowledge. Now, what's the one thing we have to remember
about the ocean?

It's not safe.


That's my boy. So, first we check to see that the coast is clear. We go out and back in. And then we go out, and back in. And then one more time--out and
back in. And sometimes, if you wanna do it four times--


All right. Come on, boy.

-- Arkajit

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Dorm Key with a Thousand and One Uses

You know that golden-colored key they give you when you check into your dorm? The one that's supposed to open your door? Well that's not all that it's useful for. Here are just a few of the things I can think of using it as:
  1. Scissors: great for cutting through tape to open packages.
  2. Screw-driver: doesn't work too well, but can be an ok replacement when you don't have one.
  3. Nail-filer: does a pretty good job
  4. Pendulum Bob: performance improves if placed on end of a lanyard
  5. Fake Wand: same comment as above
  6. Playing Darts
  7. Playing Horseshoes
  8. Playing Spoons
  9. A Musical Instrument
  10. Bottle/Can Opener
  11. More...
So that's not quite a 1001 uses, but I'm sure you can think of some more. =)

-- Arkajit

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Potter Era

So, this post has been a long time coming.

On a late night jaunt along the Charles River (yeah, so I may have forgot to mention that I'm at MIT now =P), I couldn't help but thinking that if I had Harry's Firebolt and I went flying over the Charles it would look exactly like the scene from the Order of the Phoenix movie where the Advance Guard is flying Harry across the Thames River. Of course that naturally led me to think of the logical counterpart of the much more difficult escape from Privet Drive in Book 7. Well now I was clearly in a Harry Potter mood (then again I always do have a few brain cycles committed to charting future HP possibilities) and I just had to write this entry with my thoughts on Deathly Hallows and the entire Potter Era. So from the very beginning...

When I woke up on a dull, gray Tuesday, our story starts. I was not yet 11 and I was at Stanford for CTY. As I walked through the campus, I saw people dressed in the strangest robes of the most shocking colors conversing in hushed voices: "You-Know-What is here at last!". Owls were flying in broad daylight. As a mere Muggle, I could not understand the clamor over the release of a new book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But that night I returned to my dorm to find an unflinching tabby cat with square green markings around its eyes and a copy of Goblet of Fire waiting for me in a bundle by my doorstep.

I picked up the first three books to start reading them in order and I instantly fell in love with the black-haired, bespectacled boy (say that ten times fast, Fred) with the lightning bolt scar on his forehead. His story became my story. His joys my joys. His sorrows my sorrows. I most definitely grew up and learned many of my life lessons with Harry (and Ron and Hermione). Just to name a few...
  1. How to choose your friends: carefully, especially beware blonde-haired sons of Death Eaters.
  2. What to do when you're in a new place: try new things, like Quidditch!
  3. Best way to make new friends: save them from a mountain troll.
  4. How to deal with other people when they hate you, for example when you are widely suspected to be the Heir of Slytherin, or of cheating to enter the Triwizard Tournament illegally, or of lying about the return of a certain Dark Lord, etc...
  5. How to cope with a troubled family life like say if your parents were murdered by the most evil sorcerer of all time, your godfather was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years, and your aunt and uncle force you to live in a cupboard under the stairs for 10 years of your life.
  6. How to take an insane courseload: borrow a Time Turner! (Thanks Hermione.)
  7. How to get a detention: Tell your hooked-nose, greasy-haired potions master -- "There's no need to call me, sir, Professor." Or better yet, call him a coward and he might even throw in a Levicorpus for free.
  8. How to get lost: Follow Neville and/or keep walking up the 142 staircases that keep moving and changing.
  9. How to get unlost: Borrow the Marauder's Map. (Thanks Moony, Padfoot and Prongs. No thanks to Wormtail.)
  10. How to get whatever you need: Concentrating hard on what you need, walk three times back and forth past the blank stretch of wall opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy on the seventh floor.
  11. How to figure out girls: err, scratch that, they're mental (Seriously, Hermione, listen to Ron for once. You should write that book on how they think =P)
So, I guess I didn't get to do a Deathly Hallows analysis. That'll have to wait for another post so I can do it full justice.

-- Arkajit

Monday, August 06, 2007

Harry Potter Magic Meets Science

First, Invisibility Cloaks, now Wingardium Leviosa, what next? :) Check out this article:

Levitation has been elevated from being pure science fiction to science fact, according to a study reported today by physicists.

Beijing saleswoman demonstrates toy which levitates by magnetic force; Physicists have 'solved' mystery of levitation
In theory the discovery could be used to levitate a person

In earlier work the same team of theoretical physicists showed that invisibility cloaks are feasible.

Now, in another report that sounds like it comes out of the pages of a Harry Potter book, the University of St Andrews team has created an 'incredible levitation effects' by engineering the force of nature which normally causes objects to stick together.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I See Dead People

No, really I do! Or maybe I've just been seeing Haley Joel Osment a lot. Seriously, I can't believe it. In the past couple of weeks, by some odd twist of chance, I've happened across his three major hit movies. And I saw them in reverse chronological order (of when they were released), I might add: A.I. (2001), Pay It Forward (2000), and The Sixth Sense (1999). Regardless, they're still 6-8 years old which just shows how up-to-date I am on current movies.

But wow, the boy can act! Every one of these performances was absolutely spectacular. His vivid character portrayals even made me stick with an otherwise excruciatingly long, surreal A.I. for the full 146 minutes (wow was that really how long it was -- it felt like 180 at least, even longer than Lord of the Rings). His role as David, the "Mecha" robot child that can love, in A.I. was the first one I saw him in. It was certainly a moving portrayal -- David's innocence and naivete was a refreshing contrast especially against the snarky character of Jake Thomas, his organic brother (who I shall always remember as Lizzie McGuire's little brother). Besides, it's a space-age Pinocchio, and that certainly has its appeal as well. Osment's acting made David, as a robot, appear more human than many of the "real" humans in the movie, especially Brendan Gleeson's (of Harry Potter Mad-Eye Moody fame) crazy character at the inhumane flesh fair. And unlike in the other two movies, Osment is really the sole leading actor in this film -- there is no main old actor counterpart. Perhaps because of this prolonged focus, Osment's acting was even more remarkable in that he was able to pull the movie along with him.

While I loved his character in A.I., my personal favorite was his role as Trevor McKinney in Pay It Forward. Here he is complemented by the duo of Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. But Osment is not one to be overshadowed and again delivers an extraordinary performance that makes him stand out. The concept behind the movie is quite intriguing in its own right. Trevor's 'pay it forward' concept puts an enormous faith in human goodness. He pays a complete stranger a favor and then instead of asking him to pay it back, asks him to pay it forward to three other people. And voila, we get a branching effect, (one could call it a 'favor tree' with 3^n 'favor leaves' at depth n). Osment perfectly captures the essence of his character again -- the shy, deeply emotional and intelligent boy. Osment really speaks to the audience with his eyes and his facial expressions. And the ending, well let's just say it's tragic and you have to see it for yourself *tear*.

That brings us to the final movie I watched, his breakthrough movie, The Sixth Sense. Though attentive movie-goers would have remembered Osment from his brief appearance as Tom Hank's son in Forrest Gump, this was the movie that first brought him to widespread recognition. And what a complex character Osment takes on in this movie! His interactions with Bruce Willis' character are really the center-piece of the movie. Osment's character speaks candidly and openly which is heartening when artifice and artificiality is the norm. The things that I loved about his performance in Pay It Forward - his facial expressions, his way of speaking to the audience with his eyes - drew me to his character again. Of course, the "I see dead people" line has become a cult favorite. But the scene I liked the most is when Osment and Willis are talking in the hallway of his school. Osment speaks with almost disturbing clarity, "You ever feel the prickly things on the back of your neck?...And the tiny hairs on your arm, you know when they stand up?". That scene epitomizes for me what makes his acting so great. It was well-deserving of the Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The movie is truly driven by the human emotions and superb acting of Osment and Willis. But "Tommy Tammisimo sucked big time".

Well, I'm certainly looking forward to his future movies and to see how he matures as an actor. :)

-- Arkajit

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Google's New Clothes

Google has gotten a new look! The change is in the search results as shown below:

I never thought it particularly needed one. Thankfully the classic home page remains pristine and uncluttered as ever. But in the results page, the links to other types of search such as image search, have been moved into the sidebar rather than being in a row at the top. Facebook also went with a sidebar when it changed its layout a couple of weeks ago. My feelings about the change are conflicted. I'm not too crazy about the new design. The original format already had the PPC ads along the right. But now with the added links on the right, the actual space for search results seems more confined. I guess this does start the results a little higher on the pager. And there are some cool new features, though. There's the related searches links on the left. And if you scroll down to the bottom of the results...

... links to a few blog posts! Google Blog Search integrated into the main search! Though, I think they could put these somewhere nearer to the top instead of having us scroll down to the bottom for it. So at least, there are some redeeming qualities of the new layout. And I'll probably get used to it before long.

-- Arkajit

Friday, April 20, 2007

CPW Day 3 & Pictures

Ok, so I was going to wrap-up Saturday. But then I realized that it was mostly centered around dorm surfing. So I settled for a picture-oriented entry instead with pictures from the entire weekend.
I guess I had a bit of an obsession with the abstract sculpture and architecture at MIT :) I also had fun trying to find cool new angles and places to take pictures of buildings from. The rest of these pictures are in my facebook photo album.

And then there was Battle of the Bands on Saturday evening which was pretty awesome. I was right up in the front during Ben and Marilee's performance. So that means I had the speakers blaring about two feet away from me. During the "You Can't Get What You Want" song, I joined in the crowd with singing the chorus and swaying my hands from side to side. It was lucky that they chose that Rolling Stones song, since the only other song by them that I had heard was Satisfaction. The only bummer was that Tim the Beaver did not go crowd surfing and I did not have my camera on me :(

Oh also, Matt proposed finding anagrams of the name of Ben's band, The Red Decade. So the best I could come up on my own was "The Cared Deed". And then I ran it through an anagram machine like Ben suggested. Nothing too much better except for "Dated Cheered" which was pretty good. Another one that actually made sense was "The Dead Creed"; that one has more possible interpretations which I shall leave as an exercise for the reader. The full list of anagrams is here.

Sunday was the departure day, so there was only really time to do some breakfast-hopping through several of the dorms and spend the last of my TechCash at LaVerde's. I also swung by the Coop to get one of those drawstring backpacks :)

Well, ok, I think that wraps up CPW!

Monday, April 16, 2007

CPW Day 2

I guess the day-by-day blogging thing kind of stopped after day 1 :) So this will have to be a recap. Ok, the weather was definitely MUCH better on Friday (and esp. on Saturday)! Nice cool, breezy winds, partly cloudy, sun would peek through at times. (I did not mean to just sound like a weather reporter.)

First, let me fill in a few of the gaps in Thursday that I was too tired at the time to write about. After meeting up with my host at tEp in the morning, he showed me his room which was very cool. He showed me the laser light show in his room, playing it to the song "Such Great Heights" by the Postal Service. There was also a hanging couch and beds hanging from the ceiling. The people were amazingly friendly too :)

Ok, in the afternoon, I hopped through a tour of the Stata Center, grabbed a pizza from the cafe there, then swung through a panel on housing and dining. The gaps and interstices of time were filled with meeting and talking with people :) Then I had dinner at McCormick dining hall while being serenaded by the MIT/Wellesley Toons. There was a math mixer that disintegrated into hangman and math joke session when a group of us ended up in the wrong room.

The main event was the icebreaker and cpw fair at night. Half-way through the intro, the Logs storm the stage and start singing like I said in my last post. During one of the songs, a couple of them were rotating their hands like a windmill and I've since been trying to replicate that with partial success :)

Friday started with a morning trek down the Harvard bridge from tEp back to campus, minus the hail this time :) The day was spent mostly in the anticipation of the meet the bloggers event in the evening. But I still got in another panel, a couple of open houses, a class, and watching a pick-up game of ultimate. This is around the time when my cell phone batteries finally gave up the ghost and I had to recharge. And then to meeting all the awesome bloggers and having some ice cream to top :) A couple of them were a bit unrecognizable from their pictures, but it was nice to finally talk with them in person.

Then the night ended with tangerine tours which unfortunately got aborted before the final destination. But not before climbing several hundred stairs (hands to the outside! aye, aye Jack!), crawling into unimaginably small recesses, and going through 'hell', i.e. the underground steam chambers.

Ok, Saturday next!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

CPW Day 1: Or Bloody Hail!

Wow! Walking all across Cambridge and Boston in often severe rain and sometimes sleet/hail = interesting , shocking experience!

First casualty is when I'm walking back across the Harvard Bridge over the Charles River and I get caught in a hail storm (or at least it felt pretty bad too me, though others assure me its worse in the winter). My umbrella is useless in the fierce wind and it is promptly destroyed. For the rest of the trek, I'm peppered with surprisingly sharp little bits of hail :( Second casualty is when I buy a replacement umbrella. After several battles in which I try to prevent it from being dismantled by the wind as well, I acquire several more nicks and cuts - from the umbrella this time. At this time, I decide umbrellas are clearly not working. So eventually I get a raincoat. Lesson Learned: Raincoat (w/ hood) > Umbrella given fierce winds.

The weather glitch aside, a pretty fun day, running around, going on tours, watching panel discussions, fairs and so on. The Logs sang a few (awesome!) songs for us. And the highlight of the fair was re-enacting the lightsaber duel from Episode I: A Phantom Menace with duct-tape swords! But my sword movements were completely Empire Strikes Back Luke Skywalker :) Oh, and apparently I have some skill with throwing a soccer ball through a high target :)

Some picture(s) from when I actually remembered I have a camera:

The famous police-car in its new residence in Bldg. 32:

Well certainly an exciting day, but more to come yet! And somehow I'm not yet sleepy, but I'll try to get a few hours now.

-- Arkajit

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fool's From Google

Now presenting the latest Google product... Gmail Paper!

"Everyone loves Gmail. But not everyone loves email, or the digital era. What ever happened to stamps, filing cabinets, and the mailman? Well, you asked for it, and it’s here. We’re bringing it back."

"For every Gmail Paper we produce, the environment gets incrementally healthier."

"Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe" - straight out of LOTR when Gandalf says this to Frodo regarding the ring! :)

Haha, not a bad one as far as April Fool's jokes go! The Weasley twins would be proud! Happy Birthday to Fred and George!

-- Arkajit

Friday, March 30, 2007

Analysis of Deathly Hallows Cover

You know, I knew I was forgetting something. I have been remiss. How could I have forgotten to mark such a momentous milestone event as the release of the cover for Deathly Hallows? (All these images are from Mugglenet and the Leaky Cauldron).

Here is the full version with the back-cover where you can even see Voldemort. In a word, ominous!

And here is the UK children's cover.

And for sake of completeness, here is the UK Adult's cover.

So time for speculations and a comparative analysis.

US Edition: (The best one of the lot in my opinion)

First impression is that this is the FINAL confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. Just hope it doesn't end like The Final Problem with Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls.

Following up on my theory that the Deathly Hallows is the name of a place, the background coliseum like arena seems to be it. In the full view of the cover we can see what look like stage curtains so this leads me to believe that it is an amphitheater of sorts. And Harry and Voldemort are merely players on a stage, perhaps on the hallowed battlegrounds of magical battles fought long ago, perhaps even as far back as the Hogwarts' Founders era. Further, Harry is raising his hand up in the air as if he is about to call a superior power to his aid.

*Begin parenthetical Star Wars references*
(Go Harry! Voldemort is just a big ugly walking carpet with scales instead of fur! No offense, Chewie - you're far more likeable than Voldemort.).

Noticeably absent in this picture is any other source of help:

No Ron (Han is frozen in carbonite!),
No Hermione (Leia has been captured by Jabba the Hutt!),
No Ginny (Luke, find a romantic interest you must! On this the analogy depends.)

Luke - I mean Harry - you must face Darth Vader - I mean Voldemort - alone. (No, Harry. I am your father! Don't listen to him Harry! Vader - ahem Voldemort - murdered your father!)
*End parenthetical Star Wars references*

And notice what seem like wooden ruins in the foreground. And are those shadows in the background? - perhaps shadows of hooded Death Eaters waiting silently on Voldemort's orders. Or are they the silhouettes of grave-markers, magical heroes who've died waging the eternal battle between good and evil on this hallowed ground? And aren't Harry and Voldemort gazing off to an external point not visible to us? Voldemort's outstretched hand seems like an attempt to stop whatever Harry is attempting to do. As a final note, Harry doesn't appear to have aged that much, so it looks like the plot-line will stay within the timeframe of a year or so.

UK Children's Edition:

What on earth is this travesty? Sorry, when did the target demographic become 8 year olds? About the only potential clues are what the other horcruxes might be. Most of it seems like buried treasure. Not nearly as emotionally captivating as the US edition cover. The only sad part is that it only shows the trio on the horcrux hunt. That probably means no Ginny ::sobs:: (Harry, you dunderhead! Have you forgotten that "the power the dark lord knows not" is love?!)

UK Adult's Edition:

Pretty straightforward and banal, yes? It's Slytherin's locket, the next horcrux Harry will probably destroy. Where is the emotion, where is the drama? ::yawn::

Verdict: Mary GrandPre has made a completely awesome cover once again! Poor UK children :(

And, though I'm now "deathly" scared for Harry, I really hope he survives. Or if he doesn't, we'll have to take comfort in what a wise man (Dumbledore) once said: "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure". On second thoughts, Harry's mind definitely does not qualify!

Ok, all my thoughts on the cover for now.

-- Arkajit

P.S. A peeve (No not Peeves the Poltergeist!): You have failed me for the last time, Admiral Digg! A mere 368 Diggs for the cover art release? What?!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Top 1000 Books

There was recently compiled list of the top 1000 books in library's worldwide as of 2005.

My Favorite Fun Facts:

* The Lord of the Rings: #8, yes!!!! (what were the AP English test-makers saying about not being of sufficient "literary merit"?)

* Sherlock Holmes: top mystery novel at #192

* If all the Harry Potter books were counted together, they'd be #5 on the list :) But here's the individual break-down:
#220: Philosopher's Stone (a.k.a. Sorcerer's Stone)
#263: Chamber of Secrets
#304: Prisoner of Azkaban
#350: Goblet of Fire
#529: Order of the Phoenix

This was the updated list through 2005, so that probably explains the absence of Half-Blood Prince which came out in the second half of 2005. The 2006 data is not yet available.

* Shakespeare: 37 works in the top 1000, but not counting sonnets, he only wrote about 38 plays! So he's got almost a 100% conversion if it's all plays.

* Austen's Pride and Prejudice is #32 (beat out Tolstoy's Anna Karenina at #67, ha ha :P)

* Gardner's Art Through the Ages made it at #287 - That makes me feel better about having to carry that huge book for Art History :). But it's been great so far (through Baroque Art).

One unfortunate bias is that about 3/4 of all the books were written in English, so many great translated works missed the cut.

List is sorted by tags at del.ic.ious. And more fun facts are also here - go forth and find them.

-- Arkajit

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Page count for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is .... (dramatic silence) ... 784! Yay! It's slightly longer than Goblet of Fire and shorter than Order of the Phoenix. But it could have been longer... nonetheless, can't wait.

-- Arkajit

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Veronica Mars

Last Tuesday, I just turned the TV on to check what was on and, I stumbled across the latest episode of Veronica Mars. I had heard a lot of good comments about the show from friends and I thought I'd see what it was about.

Anyway, an hour later, I was completely confused but, nonetheless, highly intrigued. As an antidote to my confusion, I started trying to catch up on the first two seasons of the show. It's absolutely amazing! Being an avid mystery fan, I was drawn in by the tight script and the intricate plot lines. I was surprised that the writers could fit in so many side-trails and clues to have a mystery per episode. I'm about half-way through Season 1 now, and I can truly say that the overarching murder mystery for the season keeps the suspense building. And I just love the many levels of characterization and the carefully chosen setting. When I'm watching the show, I can feel the setting and the characters come alive with the multi-tiered descriptions and portrayals. The high school/college setting just makes the story that much more dynamic for me.

Here's hoping that the show is picked up for a few more seasons at least :)

-- Arkajit

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Disclosing Web Vulnerabilities

Today, I was reading this article by Scott Berinato from a link I followed off Slashdot, and I was reminded of some of my own experiences with disclosing web vulnerabilities.

Recently, as I've begun to be introduced to the topic of computer security, I've started to notice vulnerabilities more frequently in my daily online experience. Indeed, I find it quite exciting when I find actual examples of the security concepts or potential vulnerabilities I've read about. It makes the concepts that much more real for me.

That said, I can still relate to the feeling of uncertainty involved with discovering and reporting security vulnerabilities. In trying to be helpful in reporting the vulnerability in an application to the author, am I in danger of being suspected of hacking? Is it then worth the risk and hassle of legal entanglements?

The last paragraph of Berinato's article was particularly ominous:

A gray pall, a palpable chilling effect has settled over the security research community. Many, like Meunier, have decided that the discovery and disclosure game is not worth the risk. The net effect of this is fewer people with good intentions willing to cast a necessary critical eye on software vulnerabilities. That leaves the malicious ones, unconcerned by the legal or social implications of what they do, as the dominant demographic still looking for Web vulnerabilities.

That is truly a scary thought as the potential implications are a decline in the security of the Internet and a loss of faith in its realibility.

-- Arkajit

Friday, January 05, 2007


Cool Game of the Week: Winterbells !!!!

A friend recently showed me this awesome game and, I've been playing on and off since Tuesday to reach the target score of 1 billion points. I'm happy to say that I've finally surpassed that target and as you can see in the screenshot above, my current high score is over 87 billion!

The rules of the game are simple. You are a white bunny. Click to jump and then use the mouse to control where the bunny falls. Along the way jump on bells to keep going up. First bell gets you ten points. The nth bell you hit gives you 10*n points. So the point values increase by ten for each successive bell. And as you progress higher up into the sky, the bells get smaller in size and are more sparsely located in the sky making touching the bells that much more difficult. Along the way there are bonuses, flying birds! If you touch the birds, you double your score!! Object of the game is to get as many points as you can before you fall (game over).

Since I've started playing the game, I've come to realize that Winterbells is more than just a game - it's a metaphor for life! As you continue to climb up the sky, the stakes get higher. Each successive bell is a new harder challenge or obstacle that you have to surmount. Gravity is your archenemy: It tries to pull you down and thwart your success! And the birds are like the lucky breaks and fortuitous occurences in life. Sometimes the bird might be on the opposite side of the screen and you may have to take a risk by trying to reach it. Such is life :-)

Anways, give the game a try and see how high you can go!

Warning: Accompanying background music could be hypnotizing and prolonged exposure to the game could result in dreaming that you are the rabbit in Winterbells jumping from bell to bell! (I speak from experience ;P) Studies are currently being done to see if counting bells is more effective than counting sheep for falling asleep. Enjoy!

-- Arkajit