Lights will guide you home…

I clicked this one while coming back from work, there is an underpass going below the expressway.

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Recommended by algorithms !

While I was thinking about the post title( binging vs recommended by the algorithms) I realized that there is a page on whether it’s binging or bingeing [0]. And thankfully Microsoft bing did not become popular enough to be used as a verb.

This morning while commuting I was wondering about what David Foster Wallace [1] said in one of his videos to have empathy for fellow beings. So here I was on my daily metro ride observing people, having resisted the urge to take out my phone or the novel. Most of my fellow beings were lost in their phone – remember how we used to say lost in thought. Now our phone is our thought, an extension of our thoughts, made possible by data churning machine learning algorithms. The algorithms learn about us, categorically places us in sets and subsets, and then do their recommendations. Hmm, let’s see an Indian who lives in Singapore, so facebook ad settings should be likes Chinese, Indian, Buddhism philosophy. Go have a look at your Facebook ad preferences and prepare to be astounded by the amount of data FB has on you. The image below is my ad preferences :

cd

But without digressing coming back to diurnal ride ceremony, there was a lady worried if his son was a street singer or a street busker. Another one was lost in mobile game Contra. Some were glued to whatever Netflix/Amazon Prime/ (or the chinese equivalent of NetFlix – https://www.iqiyi.com/ ) series they swear by.

By the way if you are recommending a series, it means the machine learning algorithm match was a success. It successfully interpreted your preferences.

This is how a typical Recommendation enginethis looks for a layman.[2] [3]. Probably I might cover it on my tech blog https://medium.com/@arunabh010

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Other day I was lamenting how previously we were warned of the perils of TV – the idiot box. But now talk to any of your friends, and conversation inadvertently ends up talking about the latest shows. It’s our daily prayer on the altar of our digital gods ( American Gods fans?) and us paying obeisance. And like a clockwork ask anyone, ya post work we end up watching Netflix. “Ya man have to watch something while having dinner “.

Exempli Gratia:

  • Sacred Games 2 isn’t as good as season 1 yaar!
  • The new season for mind hunters is out.
  • We watched stranger things together.

But then this word of mouth still counts as a human-based recommendation engine, right? Now Netflix needs to somehow track these conversations and make an algorithm for “word-of-mouth” publicity. Huh (I need to see if this thing exists or not) Ahh it does welcome home Alexa and Google Assistant [4]

It’s like the whole generation (including me mea culpa !) has been bogged down by this phenomenon. And business-wise all the cable tv companies( those still in existenence) are still wondering whether they should have distributed “Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen”[5] to their execs when the time was right.

 

References

[0] Binging vs Bingeing https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/qa-binging-or-bingeing/

[1] This is water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI

[2] Netflix recommendation engine https://uxplanet.org/netflix-binging-on-the-algorithm-a3a74a6c1f59

[3] https://www.kaggle.com/laowingkin/netflix-movie-recommendation

[4] Alexa based marketing https://hbr.org/2018/05/marketing-in-the-age-of-alexa

[5] Disruptive Innovation http://claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/

 

 

Book Review-“Neverwhere”


It had been a long long time since I dwelled into good old fantasy fiction, filled with mystery and magic where surreal worlds met. Like Hogwarts meeting the real London, or Shire meeting Mount Doom. I asked one, my friend, to gift me  “Neverwhere” as a birthday present. Having read celestial bodies, I was in the fast reading-zone, in the flow and delved right into it like a hungry reader. And once you start it, Neverwhere grips you and it is simply unputdownable.

Neverwhere is set in London, and it revolves around upper and lower London. Lower London being the Neverwhere. Our protagonist – Richard meets by deus ex machina, Lady Door, he helps her and falls deep into the lower London. A world which is filled with dangers at every step, and runs parallel in kind of alternate old dimension to our modern London. Now our Lady Door is being pursued by killers – Mr. Croupe & Mr. Vandemar. Neil Gaiman paints the picture of a weak hero, and strong villain duo, who have been assassins for centuries now.
““There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; second, Mr. Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr. Vandemar’s eyes are brown; third, while Mr. Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelry; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.”

Neverwhere was a companion novelization written by Neil Gaiman. The novel was a great success while the television adaption was not so well received. It follows the journey of Richard and Door through the dark and dangerous London. They are helped by Marquis De Carabas and Hunter while being chased by Croup & Vandemar. I love the way Gaiman builds up the anxiety arousing universe and yet charming. The reader is drawn into this universe like a fly to an incandescent bulb.

I won’t be going into details of the plot, but once you are done with the book you have BBC Tv series waiting for you. (Update: it’s not good, I fast-forwarded through it. Pheww. Unless you want to see how bad television shows were in 1996.)

 

And now I wonder which should be my next Neil Gaiman’s book?

 

 

Book review : “Celestial Bodies”

Truth be told I picked this up at an airport bookstore, overpowered by the confirmation bias –  “A Booker prize winner!! Whoa!!”

( Take one look at my bookshelf and you would know that why confirmation bias is a bias ! There are at least 3-4 booker prize winners waiting for their turn to be acknowledged, or scrolled past their first few chapters, forever looming in the limbo like Leonardo did in Inception.)

Yet this one I finished, and that too within 3-4 weeks. So yay ! The-one-which-escaped-the-limbo and lived upto it’s bias. Congratulations Jokha Alharti for writing this gem.
Celestial Bodies has an interesting, intricate and intelligent plot set in a village in Al-Awafi, Oman, and it oscillates timelessly between three generations of a merchant family. Primarily focused on three sisters and their life and their marriage. The book is been intricately written memoir from viewpoint of various characters, and it bounds you to the story like a fluidly flowing sitcom plot. Few episodes and you feel for the characters- Mayya, Asma and Khawla.
It was my first book from Gulf ( you can count close neighbor Turkey if you include Orhan Pamuk’s writings) and the reason why it became more interesting like a documentary drama running on NatGeo, telling about the life in a Oman village, the culture the people, how they evolved through last few decades. The whole narrative weaves an intricate carpet of emotions from a first-person and third person’s viewpoint. Although in the beginning, the non-linear literary locus of characters is a bit difficult to follow(and that’s where readers leave seemingly difficult bookers may be ?) the story grows over you slowly- layers upon layers – like a rich caramel cake of alphabets.
Try it and you will not be disappointed if you love good old fiction with experimental storylines and peek into the world of Gulf across three family generations.img_3563

Feline nocturne🐱

Every time he crossed neighbor’s threshold, there was this old cat lying there supine, half asleep, half awake. Dozing in and out of this world and cat’s dream world. Seeing her asleep cozily on her smooth mat, bought a certain calm and quietude to his heart. And three little ceramic ducks, led by the duck with a broken beak were the constant in cat’s life, like the Trinity guarding her.

Sometime when he woke up at wee hours of the morning, the cat would be up, for she was a diurnal sleeper and a nocturnal creature. She would calmly cry, probably for the food or making conversation with the ceramic ducks. The one with broken beak always had the best stories of its adventure, one time when he swam across Malacca straits, and another time when he got into a fight with monitor lizard at Pulau Bin. They never grew tired of these repetitive stories. And when the cat cried at those hours, it was joined by a background band of chirping crickets, and together they tried to wove a sad opera, lamenting love lost together. Chopin would have felt challenged probably?

May the wind under your wings …

I came across this quote from one of the Instagram pages that Mehak shared. It reminds me that I need to watch LOTR again on Netflix, (since I do not have the book anywhere). Also, the cafe where JRR Tolkien used to write, wasn’t it named after some eagle?  Yes, it was. ‘Eagle and the child’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_and_Child

Without further ado, the quote, ponder on the quote while I will go and grab my Chinese year special breakfast downstairs. My favorite kaya butter and Kopi C, it’s a bit strange that I have stuck to the same breakfast for 6+ years now. Singapore does that to you, you get used to things, and things will not change drastically. Probably if there was a site like Moody’s which can rate country based on their entropy, Singapore would be one with the lowest entropy.

Image result for tolkien wind under your wings

Oh Istanbul !!

When we booked tickets to Istanbul, I knew something magical was brewing for times to come up. The magic that promised of oriental charms and sights, of a cultural trip different from anything I have experienced yet, of delicacies, of sumptuous buffets and mezze, of dope coffee and cay. And of course of baklava.

I was in class 9th when one of my cousins visiting from the USA, bought baklava while at transit in Istanbul. My sweet tooth knew this will be one of the choicest sweets from outside India, I would be relishing in years to come.

For our first two days, we booked a hotel in the heart of Istanbul, in Fatih, Literally 5 minutes walk from Sultanahmet – the blue mosque. Slowly we fought 12 hrs flight and time zone difference, and undefeated loitered around the area. We found rasta bazaar, which was a miniature version of Grand Bazaar, we saw tourists thronging benches between Hagia Sophia and the blue mosque. There was a seller selling roasted chestnuts and corn, we opted for former and were not disappointed.

chestnuts

Albeit to our surprise, coming from the tropical island, we underestimated the weather and had to venture out to buy jacket/sweatshirts. We got 2-way ticket to Aksaray and were promptly guided to a nearby mall by locals. It was pleasant to be outside the tourist district, and have a feel of local life in Istanbul. We ended up buying some fresh fruits (cherries and almonds). After an hour or two, we hired a cab back to our hotel, too tired to walk back to the tram station (T1 line, as its popularly called there).

Next day we had time till lunch to explore Istanbul, before catching a flight to Capadoccia. I entrusted my confidence with “the Museum of Turkish and Islamic art “. We two were the first ones to get into the museum at 9 am and had the whole lobby and all the antiquities exclusive to us. We admired begone era of Turkey, its journey, meandering through its corridors of past. I was pleasantly surprised to see Prophet Mohammed relics in the museum. We ended with a vista greeting us with the view of Sultanahmet. Of course, photography ensued.

Thus we ended our first leg of Istanbul visit.

After flying out from istanbul on Turkish airlines, and catching this amazing pic of Bosphorous Striats dividing Asia and European part.

For next 6 days we would be visting rest of Turkey. On our 6th day, we caught a flight from Izmir to Istanbul. This time we were staying in the modern corner of Istanbul, 5 mins walk from Taksim Square in chic Ramada hotel. Most of the group was tired from the journey and slept off after lunch. But sleep eluded me, and I ventured out to find famed Galata Tower. I queried at the reception desk, and the receptionist said something called “Istiklal Street”. I could not found Istiklal Street somehow on google maps and ended up doing a 2 km walk across the Bosphorus to Galatasaray. When I took the climb up from the main street, the presence of touristy shops on both side signaled the approach of Galata Tower. And few steps down the cobbled pathway, there it stood – the Galata Tower adorned with a long serpentine queue of tourists vouching for a 360-degree view of Istanbul. I took some obligatory pics from the camera, and walked away from it, happy to have discovered it on my own, and now sleepy from waking up early to catch that Izmir-Istanbul flight. I took a cab back to the hotel, and saving myself extended meter costs thanks to google maps when the aged driver almost took a wrong turn to get some more Lira.

Awakening?

Often at times when I read through my old blog posts, I wonder if I was the one who wrote it. It’s like some other person in some other domain came up with these wonderful words. Probably that’s how dark ages felt to Medici family. Humans would have felt, it seems that we know all this maths and algebra and architecture, but it’s just that we have forgotten it while evolution.

I still have those emails coming from my publisher, thought a lot less frequent now. Previously it was a lady named Ada, and now it seems she is gone and replaced by Hannah. Still, it feels like another era, another planet.

Life these days is most entrenched in writing, writing code, not these words, which are feral and wild. Strange it may sound, but one kind of writing feeds the heart, and while writing code, umm, feeds the wallet. Probably it all boils down to linguistics, it is the medium through which we express ourselves, be it the logical thinking part of the brain while writing codes or the calm, artistic part which probably is active right now.

I slept off earlier last night around 9pm, probably from swimming fatigue and making up for lost sleep. I woke up around midnight, only to realize that my fatigued legs have healed, and I dreamed how sleeping cleanses up the body or something. More on this later, till I finish up researching what happens when we sleep, physiologically and psychologically.

Among other things, I joined Toastmasters 1.5yrs back. Its fun and confidence boosting, to prepare speeches and deliver it in front of a willing audience. And those shiny velvety best speaker, best evaluator ribbons are sure fab. But probably instaGen would be happy if someone would come up with instaCertificates, there that’s the next big thing.

Awards and trophies, as instaCertificate – we make socially acceptable, smartphone supported. Get all the social validation and ego boost you want and crave for. Our product will help you get all the likes and comments you want, and be Kim or Ronaldo for a day.  I am resisting the hashtags, I think WordPress does not support them(yet?)

best

Until next time.

 

Musings

On his diurnal morning pilgrimage to work, sometimes his eyes were wide awake to register happenings around. Today was this day.

There was a girl with coffee, spilled coffee on her snow-white sneakers, which were current haute couture of this generation.

She tried to erase the coffee marks using a tissue, for what were white sneakers sans their white glow?

He sat surrounded by daily commuters, mostly engaged religiously to their smart phone screen, among the cacophony of apps and data. A bright shaft of sun illuminated their plebian shenanigans, revolting against their machine, and trying it’s best to get their attention off their artificial lighting, and all it got was squinted eyelids in response.

Michael Chabon had been his constant companion for almost two weeks now. The book, though short like a novella, was ” a natural exuberance and extravagance of Chabon’s writing is matched by his dazzling wit”, as Sunday Telegraph has noted.

It provided a certain solace and nutrition to his senses starved of prose & verse, but abound with automation tools and career/soul searching

The metro moved through the stark contrasting world on either side, as seen through its windows. Greens of Dover juxtaposed to cemented high rises, on opposite windows.

They descended at Buona Vista. A diffident Chinese teen, adjusted his coiffure subconsciously, while passing by cute European teenagers. For such was Singapore, a complex amalgam of countries and continents, merging in this giant 740 square kilometer cauldron of dreams, identities and life.

“One north “, the automated voice announced.

And thus began his work day.

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