On short stories and their magnetic properties

Two days back, after replenishing all sorts of entertainment, viz. Netflix (finished Heist, Never have I ever), XBOX (AC4 Black flag), getting bored of all the Zuckerberg’s digital toys, I ended up with a book, Fifty short stories.

50 Greatest Short Stories by Terry O'Brien

 

Now having been studying ICSE boards in India, I was exposed to a myriad of good literature since class 7th. We had the English literature book called Figments of imagination, and which had all the best short stories. The last leaf, Maupassant’s the Diamond Necklace, Chekhov’s The bet, Wilde’s the model millionaire. As one friend recently tweeted me about the rocking horse winner, these short stories take us back into descriptive prose, where one drowns in the surroundings, painting that vivid imagery as if under hypnotism of words.
I remember feverishly finishing all of the short stories from Arthur Conan Doyle, and O’Henry. I purchased Guy De Maupassant’s :” The Dark Side: Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. It was a collection of 31 supernatural short stories and quite intriguing to a teenage mind.

I finished one called “The Blind Man” yesterday, and another called the Fly. Both were pretty intense and now I am looking forward to other ones. Probably as a tribute to these authors, I will paste their pictures here or not.

But do tell me about your favourite short stories ?

Links

figments of imagination.png

Economic impact of 70-90nm virus

Initially I thought about writing about my work from home crib. But I will delve into more serious stuff, so I will skip that part. But this blog is more about the broad economic impact and the links where you can get all the finer details. Last time around 2008 I wrote about then banking crisis https://arunabhmishra.wordpress.com/2008/04/12/banks-sub-prime-crisis/

See for yourself, the slides have been taken from CRISIL research [1] 

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While this COVID situation was still starting, I got this answer on Quora, thanks to CRISIL’s detailed report. https://www.quora.com/How-does-the-Coronavirus-affect-India/answer/Arunabh-4

Below I have attached how following indices have fared in last six months 

  • GOLD
  • India : BSE SENSEX
  • Bitcoin : BTC/USD 
  • USA : NASDAQ 
GOLD price
India SENSEX
Bitcoin price

NASDAQ

It is not a detailed quaterly update by your mutual fund, but if you are interested this one gives a quite good feedback on SE Asia and India’s macroeconomic outlook. 

I have been also following what Raghuram Rajan, has been saying about the COVID-19 impact.

 

References 

  1. CRISIL report https://www.crisil.com/en/home/our-analysis/views-and-commentaries/2020/04/covid-19-impact-on-economy-corporate-revenue-and-profitability.html 

A 70-90nm virus

In Singapore, it all started in January last week. We started getting reports from China that a mysterious virus is wreaking havoc. The epicenter was a city called Wuhan, which to my surprise had a population of 12 million people.
Sitting in Singapore, and reading through Chinese news sites and Hongkong’s SCMP news, it all felt too bad to be true. There were reports of incoming flights from Wuhan, China, and folks being quarantined for 14 days. A friend of mine from Beijing lamented that she had to be under 14 days quarantine in Beijing, and now another 14days in Singapore. When I discussed this with my family and friends from India, they blamed it as Chinese propaganda and dismissed it. Little did we all know that this would go down as a major event that would change the way we lived and perceived one another. Today after three months, almost all of humanity has been affected by this calamity and now we are seeing level 2 and level 3 effects. In India, the poor are now fighting for food. In Singapore, from a meager 7 cases on Jan 28th to 17,548 cases as of now.

28th Jan : First day of the mask

It was in February when Singapore declared that DORSCON level orange was declared. Traveling daily to work on a crowded MRT was a nightmare for me. Blame it a bit on OCDish behavior, I stopped touching the doorknobs, etc and started having my lunch indoors, which my wife prepared. This pic was on 28th January, when I managed to grab surgical masks at a local fairprice supermarket.

 

Local supermarket the day DORSCON orange was declared

Things started moving toward getting necessary rations, and food supply diminishing. We promptly collected food supply for a few weeks and ordered reusable masks. In Feb, I felt 2-3 weeks of sore throat and prayed / meditated that it wasn’t COVID. By March first week, I have been working from home. 

Now this Monday, I have been working from home for almost a month now, and concurrently managing MBA applications, thankfully which kept me busy all through Feb-march- April period. Today while reading a short stories book, after giving up on Netflix and  playing assassin creed on XBOX, that I thought of writing this.

En route work in the busy MRT, 16th March 2020

Anti-Heisenberg Principle of mind 🤔

While meditating yesterday, I came to a realization which I will call as anti-Heisenberg Principle of Meditation.

While you are meditating, your mind will be playing tricks with you. Probably you will end up rummaging through your memories or your diurnal activities. Most of the meditation techniques that I know about, ask you to focus on your breathing since it is the easiest universal thing for anyone.

I realized the moment you start focussing on your mind, observing it as an outsider, observing it’s monkey chatter is going in there, it becomes still and placed. Like mimosa (touch me not). Hence the name anti-Heisenberg, for as per Heisenberg Principle, the moment you try to measure the mass or velocity of moving particle, you have disturbed the particle by observing it. But in our case (or maybe in my case), the moment you observe the mind, it stops all the chatter and becomes calm and reposed.

Book Review – The Gone World

the gone world

“The totality of human endeavor is nothing when set against the stars.”
― Tom Sweterlitsch

Frankly, I picked this one up after watching ‘Tenet’ trailer, someone on Reddit mentioned that Tenet is loosely based on this one. Although now I realized it’s Neill Blomkamp – District 9, Elysium director – is making a movie out of this novel. Also, it has been a while since I read a good sci-fi! I have been delving into fiction and the magical world of Neil Gaiman mostly. Or writing them essays for the last two months or so.
The novel centers around Shannon Moss, who is an investigating agent for NCIS. The navy research wing has advanced engineering and few selected agents can travel through time. They do so only for the most complex of cases. Shannon is investigating a homicide, which turns out to be one of the links of the long chain of criminal activity. But the thread that ties the whole story is how each IFT (Inadmissible Future Trajectory) and present world of the year 1997 (called Terra Firma ) has been spun together to weave a complex and twisty timeline.

The book stands true to its review – “I promise you have never read a story like this.” and “True detective meets Inception”. Often at times though it felt a bit gruesome when murder scenes were being described. But once you get over those, the book is one you would be talking about and probably recommending it, vehemently, to your fellow book readers. Yes, I did already 😉

As with all-time travel movies or books, the moment it ends you want to reread it and see if every jigsaw falls into its place, so probably I would read it again soon. (Or just wait for M. to finish it and then we can discuss it).

In an interview, the author, Tom Sweterlitsch,  mentioned that

“Brandt and Lomonaco, the scientists in the gone world who are credited with the creation of the time travel engine. Dr. Brandt, in real life, is my father-in-law, a brilliant theoretical physicist who was a pioneer in quantum computing and quantum cryptography for the Department of Defense. His longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Lomonaco, is a mathematician specializing in Knot Theory.”

Also, the novel has a fair bit of horror elements. Tom did mention those. The genre is called Lovecraftian Horror.

when I started The Gone World. My first conception of the book was “NCIS plus Battlestar Galactica plus time travel.” The horror elements came a little later, though I think horror is a natural outgrowth of the things I was writing about.

For the interested, the actual links for time travel and quantum related terminology are in the references.

The book stands true to its review – “I promise you have never read a story like this.” and “True detective meets Inception”. Often at times though it felt a bit gruesome when murder scenes were being described. But once you get over those, the book is one you would be talking about and probably recommending it, vehemently, to your fellow book readers. Yes, I did already 😉

As with all-time travel movies or books, the moment it ends you want to reread it and see if every jigsaw falls into its place, so probably I would read it again soon. (Or just wait for M. to finish it and then we can discuss it).

But prepare to be awed by time-traveling agent and anti-heroes trying to save the earth from its future demise, characters strong-headed yet delusional, and elements of intense science fiction. I was blown away by the plot, and how simple yet efficiently the premise of time travel was explained. I would say this one is my favorite sci-fi novel now, (truth be told I haven’t read a lot – time machine, War of the worlds, 20000 leagues under the sea). Now that I googled, I gotta read 1984, Neuromancer, Fahrenheit 451, Asimov’s or The Martian (I was browsing at a bookstore at NUS, selling it for only $5 ) Pheww or I can just read the Nebula award winners.

References 

  1. Time Travel Terminologies
    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_foam
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect
    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Brandt
  2. https://medium.com/adjacent-possible/q-a-with-tom-sweterlitsch-author-of-the-gone-world-69f8bd4f34e0
  3. NCIS
    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Criminal_Investigative_Service
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovecraftian_horror

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

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