Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dear readers,

This is the cake we (me & my sister) got for our father's birthday.

Here is a rant against Monginis - We went to the outlet near Panchasheel Housing complex, Birati. I haven't met a bunch of more rude shopkeepers in recent times. Firstly, they had all the cakes decorated with Christmas stuff. Most of the decorative stuff, including the text were moulded with plastic and was replaceable. These guys were so rude that they were not ready to replace the markers themselves, nor were they ready to write the text on top of the cake. Bottomline, we got the cake from somewhere else.

Here's wishing my father a happy, healthy birthday.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Dairy Milk that I couldn't eat

Dear readers,

I decided to take a spoon of Chyawanprash everyday for its claimed health benefits. The medium sized Dabur's product is worth 125/-. I paid the shopkeeper two 100/- notes but he couldn't manage to get a 5/- change that he had to pay me back. To spare him from the trouble I decided to take a 5/- Dairy Milk bar.

If you had read the first line of this entry, you would know that I also needed a spoon. I rode to the nearest utensil shop and bought a steel spoon worth 15/-. To my dismay, even this shopkeeper did not have 5/- change for the two 10/- notes I had given him. I recounted the incident at the last shop to affirm that I really did not have 5/- change with me. He thought about it for a while and said "Chalo, chocolate hi de do. Aap bhi khush, hum bhi khush, bachhey bhi khush." (Okay, you can give me the chocolate. You'll be happy, so would I and so will be the kids.)

Chocolates are the new currency.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Random tests.

Hello [Hello] [Hello] {simulates an echo}
This is Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Playing live in Bangalore (November Reign)

Dear readers,

It has been a nice month for me. Our manager Anirban "Kaké" Ghoshal has almost kept the whole band busy. We had shows every weekend. Most of the shows were in pubs and close spaces except one open air show. You learn a lot of practical things from all these shows. Open stages are more fun to play. However, in most cases, you might get a monitor mix that you will never be completely happy with. What I have learned so far is to trust the other band members - that they will play their parts to the best of their abilities and to play my part to the best of mine. This invariably means that you do the shows with some gut intuition.

I really want to get some exposure in playing open air shows. It is a different set of ballgame altogether. That being said, I am looking forward to playing our songs in front of an younger audience -school children.

Sagarneel Biswas has been tracking us from venue to venue. You can find some really good snaps of the band if you click on the image below. Do check out his other works as well.

My PhD defense has been fixed on 8th December. I am not so well prepared, especially considering the fact that my external is IIT Kanpur's Prof. C. S. Upadhyay and he had sent a 4 page set of 39 questions as reviewer's comments.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gigs and problems

Dear readers,

We kind of played quite a few gigs this month. These are like practice sessions, but with an audience. I am also a bit more alert than I would normally be in a practice session. There are good venues that have transparent payment structures (e.g. The Kyra Theater) and there are venues that exploit the band (wouldn't name any). Nonetheless, we played for the sake of people who came to watch us - and let me tell you, it is worth the crap the venue or the organisers or the scenario throw at you.

Some of the most useful comments came from Ananth Menon, the guitarist of Galeej Gurus. We (more specifically, I) will have to surely look at these things and work everything out.

Our setup has increased its size by about 30%. Transportation is a problem. Previously, we could lug our instruments on our shoulders and go for a gig. It is not the same anymore. Last time while getting back from HRC, we had to split our luggage in order to reach back conveniently and still not pay too much on transportation.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

My first Agatha Christie novel

Dear readers,

It would be weird to state that of all the innumerable books that I have ever read till date, not one was an Agatha Christie work. That being said, I made my debut with a novel that had a nice ring to its name - Five Little Pigs. In hindsight, I believe my decision to pick this novel off the bookstore shelves might have been subconsciously influenced by my familiarity with the Holmes' story - Five Orange Pips.

Now I know why people who love deduction based detective works swear by her name. The pacing is impeccable. It is my personal opinion that the pacing of the events is far superior than any of the Holmes' stories. Again, we must remember, she was perfecting a genre that was invented by Arthur Conan Doyle.

I could care less of the ending. The novel had double denouncements - the first one directing Poirot to a wrong deduction. While the ending is not exactly an icing on the cake, I take this as a property of this particular novel.

I am certainly looking forward to another work by her. Dame Christie can surely hold my attention (and billions of others' as well).


For those who have read the book - I am surprised that all the 'pigs' ignored the existence of Miss Lemerchant as a 4 year old kid. One of them - Governess Williams even says that there were 4 ladies in the house, thus omitting Miss Lemerchant altogether.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The average day of an unemployed youth.

  1. Wake up
  2. If IST > 1130 hours goto step 10
  3. Make breakfast
  4. Eat breakfast
  5. Go online
  6. Check mail
  7. Take a nap
  8. Wake up
  9. Check mail + search contacts + try to send an application
  10. If (IST > 1500 hours) && (no_of_people=2) goto step 13
  11. Make lunch
  12. Goto step 14
  13. Order lunch
  14. Eat lunch
  15. Check mail + search contacts + try to send an application
  16. Watch cartoons
  17. Take a nap
  18. Wake up
  19. If home_supplies > threshold goto step 21
  20. Visit nearby grocery stores
  21. Refill supplies
  22. Take a nap
  23. Wake up when someone arrives
  24. Check mail
  25. Fiddle online
  26. If !(desire_to_cook) goto step 29
  27. Make dinner
  28. Goto step 30
  29. Order dinner
  30. Eat dinner
  31. Check mail
  32. Watch cartoons
  33. Go offline
  34. Sleep
  35. Goto step 1

Dear readers,

My average day is more or less based on the aforementioned algorithm. In the wildest scenario, there maybe a 20% deviation.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Two Books

Dear readers,

Day before yesterday, I paid a visit to Blossoms Book Shop in Bangalore. I was looking for either of the three books -
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
Oranges are not the only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson
Collected Short Stories by Roald Dahl.

It was strange that I couldn't get either of them, considering the fact that their collection is pretty extensive. Instead I ended up buying Anne Rice's Violin and Joe Sacco's Palestine. Basically, both of them were picked via a blind plunge.


Friday, September 23, 2011

I threw the Yellow Spray Paint away

"Eventually you fall asleep. And when you wake up, it's true.
You are part of a brand new world."
- Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

It has been a week less than two months that I have left Kharagpur. It has been a huge shift from the hectic schedule I had been surviving with in the last six months of my Ph.D. Nowadays, I do nothing.

Kafka on the Shore is a strange book. I am not trying to review anything, but just to be clear, it is a strange book. I am unsure of its meaning, lost in its allegories and metaphors. The story seems to be non-existent. Still it feels so good after finishing the book. Leaves a nice after-taste, a satisfying sense of umami.

Ph.D. life was much more organised. It was anchored, too. Thus resisting any free body motion of my thoughts or actions. The implications were calculated, the directions were computed and the journey was constructed. What happens now is a different question.

Two strange parallel lives lead their individual ways only to satiate the drive of emotions and prejudices. One does not know of the other. One does not come to know of the other even in the denouncement. Yet, they are related. They could be two bodies shared by the same soul. When the purpose of one is over, the soul fragment abandons the body. It's all a theory. The hypothesis holds true until a counter-evidence comes along. Science has always advanced from counter-evidences.

Little did I know of, what had I got myself into when I joined the doctoral program. Things you take for granted no more remains so once they become the essence of your identity. After that, you fight for it. Even if that means sleepless nights without proper food. I have an unfinished business that when completed at the right time will close the entrance forever. What's opened has to be shut. The time hasn't come yet.

I wait patiently.

Kafka on the Shore is a strange book. You might like it. You may not. The book exists along with millions and millions of other books. You may want to walk into it, try to perturb the lives of the characters. To them you are just a ghost staring in their direction. They have grown used to such lost souls. Occasionally, they might release a sigh of sympathy. You may never notice.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leaving Kharagpur with the biggest uncertainty of my life

Dear readers,

Tomorrow I will be leaving KGP with one of the biggest uncertainties of my life. While I pack my belongings that I have accumulate over the last 9 years, I feel marginally sad. I realise that I have become institutionalised.

Right now, I am no more a student. On 28th evening, I ceased to be so. I am still a doctoral candidate. This will remain so until I defend my thesis and get my doctorate.

Right now, I am jobless. I will have to find a suitable job that will give me a decent work-life balance.

Right now, I am waiting.

Right now, I am excited to meet my future self.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The bad policies of Cafe Coffee Day

Dear readers,

It so happens that there exists a CCD in the campus of IIT Kharagpur and I have been regularly visiting there since April 2010. Over a period of one year I have observed their customer policies and realised that CCD still banks on cookie cutter management strategies that fail to engage the majority of the crowds over here. For a coffee shop / brand, this is the perfect breeding ground for loyal customers who will graduate and spend their time (and money) on the more expensive retail outlets outside the confinements of this campus. This is not the case.

An important thing to understand is that CCD doesn't operate as a franchise. Instead the outlets are company owned, company operated businesses on leased / rented grounds. This also means that the management and customer relationship decisions are fairly universal and are at the very least under the same larger umbrella of policies.

1. Pushing of unnecessary food items - While this is effective for first time customers, people who have been regular at any food joint have usually very specific demands. For examples if you take object X from the  menu for a continuous span of days, they'll blatantly tell it on your face that the stock of X is over. This is to push you into buying object Y or Z. You may argue if such a statement is genuine or not. Let me cite a specific thing to strengthen my case.
Sometimes we used to ask when will object X be in stock. One of the employees says, Wednesday. Sure enough, you get it on Wednesday. On Thursday the same employee says that the object X is no more in stock. On Friday some other employee comes along and gives X. Stock of CCD, IIT Kharagpur usually arrives fortnightly. Hence an object cannot magically disappear or reappear in this fashion. Such instances have occurred multiple times in the last one year.

2. Loud unnecessary music - This prohibits conversation. Period. CCD (or at least the one in the campus) is not a place where you can have a decent conversation without increasing the average decibel of your vocal throw. This is exactly opposite to their motto "a lot can happen over coffee". The choice of songs is questionable.

3. CCD has a tie up with 9XM (some stupid channel) - Either the top management has thought that such brainless programming will be the new taste of the youth or the fellows at 9XM thinks that they are hip and cool. Well they are also dumb. You can judge it yourself by staring at that channel for an hour. But I doubt if your instantaneous intelligence level after an hour long exposure to 9XM will allow to to judge anything.

4. They push the customers away - This scenario occurs in two cases. The first is when there is a huge rush. Instead of customer satisfaction, they focus more on serving as many people as possible. Hence, a decent length conversation is virtually impossible. This can still be excused as they are trying to do business. However the worse is when there is a change in shift. They have a sales entry log or something. A person P at the counter registers some order and say the customer places more order after the person P's shift is over. They ask you to clear the bills stating unless this is done, person Q cannot take in the newer order. This usually happens during afternoon times.


Disclaimer : This is a third party observation and the report is based on my sole judgement. If you have any objections, please contact me. This is not a legal grievance. As such this is not a defamation of a person living or dead. I have been granted the right by the Constitution of India to express my opinion on a corporate entity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thesis update: Gearing up for submission

Dear readers,

As pressure mounds up and I am left in a crunch of deadlines, things have started falling into place like a jigsaw puzzle. As you might have noticed that the thesis update section that used to gobble up 60% op the header space has been reduced. The thesis (document) is ready for submission. However, before submission, there are a lot of protocols I have to adhere to and a lot of paperwork I have to take care of.

Here is a list of what I'll have to do. There may be more I am unaware of. I will update this list as and when information is available to me.

15: Meet the DSC members with the notice and a draft copy of synopsis.
18: Submit a copy of the notice in the office so that an office order can be issued. (Might have to shift this to 18th. Edit: it has been shifted)
18: Get the clearance form. Submit in the Hall Office for clearance.
19: Collect from hall office. Submit in the Dept. Office for clearance.
19: Give a mock presentation to my guide. Deferred.
20: Take printout of evaluation sheet.
20: Call the off-dept DSC member and intimidate him about the synopsis. My guide will take care of this.
20: Fill all necessary details in Research Scholar Information System* (RIS).
20: Give presentation and note all comments.
21: Fill all details of evaluation and prospective examiners (to be filled by the guide) into RIS.
21: Take a printout and submit in office along with a printed and CD copy of synopsis.
21: Get certificates from guide for inclusion in the thesis.
21: Give it for paperback binding.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stay secured

Dear <a particular person>,

Here is a list of things you might consider doing to stay onto secured systems and protect your data.

0. Shrink the Win 7 partition by at least 20 GB
Open Control Panel-> Administrative Tools-> Computer Management-> Disk Management. Right-click on the Win 7 partition and select Shrink Volume.

1. Switch over to some Linux system
I would suggest Kubuntu. Download the ISO, burn it (or alternately create a bootable USB) and install it in the HDD by choosing the empty space you generated from Step 0.

You will be on a malware free system at this point without loosing any data. Also, you can access the Win 7 NTFS partition natively from Kubuntu.

Also learn how to install packages from terminal. It is easy and fast.

2. Start by cleaning up Gmail account
2.a. In FWD/POP settings, see if there is a forwarding address defined. If there is one, remove it. I would even suggest that you enable IMAP and POP and use a client like Thunderbird (since you are on an open network unlike me) but this is optional. The detail instructions to configure Thunderbird can be found here.
2.b. Go to Chat settings and select "Never save chat history" and "Only allow people that I've explicitly approved to chat with me and see when I'm online."
2.c. Double check the filter page to ensure that there is no auto forwarding of mails going on.
2.d. Check the Accounts preference and ensure "Grant access to your account" is turned off. And now change your password. Use a scheme like [base pass + first 3 letters of the site] or a variant so that you never forget your password and password on each site stays unique. Make the base password as complex as possible with Caps, Numbers, Special chars, etc. Check the password recovery options and make sure that no unwarranted email-ids and phone numbers exist. Since your other email accounts are not secured yet, remove the email-id. This is temporary. Once you have cleaned your other mail account, reset this.
2.e. Finally go to the general tab and set "Always use https" in Browser connection settings.

3. Clean your FB account
3.a. Go to Privacy settings-> Custom-> Customize settings and make the section "Things others share" and contact info as restrictive as possible.
3.b. Go to Application list and remove all the bogus apps. There will be a button Back to App privacy on top. Go there and Edit settings on "Info accessible through your friends". Uncheck all options.
3.b. Go to Account settings-> Cross check the Mobile and Notifications tab to ensure that all mails are routed to the secured Gmail id created in step 2 and no other mobile is mapped to the account. Now click on the settings tab and set the primary email to the secured mail id. Cross check so that there are no linked accounts and finally when you are sure, change the password using the scheme described above. Click on Account security and enable Secure Browsing (https) and Notifications.

A note of caution: FB chat is very insecure as they have a lot of public handles in the javascript code. [javascript:Chat.openTab(uid);] is one of them. You're better off with mail, Gtalk (Install Pidgin on Kubuntu to use Gtalk).

I guess this will occupy you for the night. I will expand the list a bit more when you are done with this.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

DP Listener Demographics

Dear readers,

Not so surprisingly
Mostly office going males and some office going females, young public. Strangely, some tween girls, too.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Issues with Go Daddy

Dear readers,

Last few days have been really tough on me. While I have to take care of the technicalities and back-ends of the band, my PhD synopsis is getting closer with not much progress there. On 30th we geared up and ironed out all technicalities to promote our singles. And just in the nick of time, on 1st July, Go Daddy, our host provider for the last three years screws us up. The site goes unresponsive.

On 30th, while we were preparing a mailer, Ghoshal-da, our manager found out that he was not able to access the website. There were trailing folder names that did not existed. e.g., that was automatically put in by the host (load balancing? - someone knowledgeable may help me out). The issue was not that big since throughout my debugging session I did not see any of this.

I started noticing significant problems on 1st. The FTP connection kept dropping off every now and then. And I kept seeing first hand of what Ghoshal-da had reported earlier. I start reducing the load from the website - as much as possible. Our website is heavy on PHP and fetches content from other places like blogger, twitter, soundcloud, etc. We still pushed through with the plans and made the songs public.

I also wrote this to Sudipto and Ghoshal-da -

Our hosting space on Go Daddy expires in October. Personally, I have started to dislike Go Daddy for many reasons.

Even mild traffic on our website screws up the load times as we have seen in the last few days. In the last one day we have seen 150 page hits. I have written about this to Go Daddy customer care.

The FTP connection of late falls off due to no reason when I use a third-party (reliable) FTP clients. In the last two days I was forced to use their own FTP interface.

While there is still time till October, I want us to shift to some other reputable server after that.

Now, I must mention that the maximum traffic we get may be of the order of 300 people on such days. Usually its not more than 3-5 visits per day. Paltry, huh! Not for Go Daddy. Their rattling grandfather's clock era hardware cannot even support such small spikes. So, they punish us (not the human, intentional one) which may be described better by the mail I wrote to their customer support.

My site is hosted on your servers (Linux, Economy). Even with very less traffic like that of occasional 150 (peak) people visiting our site, our site is terribly, terribly slow. The server response time is really horrible. It often results in 502 and once or twice has even resulted in 404!

Please look into the matter and fix this issue.

They were taking too long to reply. So I tried using an intermediate cache from CloudFlare. Of course this meant that I configure my domain to point at their nameservers - which I did. I tried switching to their 4GH plan, too, but sadly they don't support auto-migration from legacy systems to new system. Around 6.30 PM IST, when we had almost decided to shift our host, Go Daddy support team writes me back

It appears that at this time, your domain is pointed to another hosting provider. (Of course, I had it set to a cloud based cache, which at least let the visitor look at a broken site rather than blank screen). If you are having issues with your hosting account, you will want to contact your hosting provider. (That was you, but you you would of course not know)

However, if you would like to use your GoDaddy hosting account, you will need to update your nameservers. As your domain is not registered through us (Thankfully, that's why it was still working), you will need to contact your registrar for directions on how to modify your nameservers. Please point your domain to the following nameservers so that it resolves to the hosting that you have with us.

At this point I was so frustrated that I started taking backups of everything that was on the server. So I posted this on our twitter :!/darkprojectband/status/87137689903697920

Our hosting provider is not supporting us! While we migrate, for listening and for HQ copy.

I called up Sudipto and we made all the arrangements to migrate to a new hosting provider. The only problem was that I did not have an alternate in my mind. So, I sought for help on Facebook. Here's the conversation I had with my friends.

We decided to go with HostGator. Provisionally, for a month. By midnight we had completely migrated.

Go Daddy must go. Their shared hosting is not recommended. Not by me, not by any of my friends, not by the experts.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Things to do, PhD.

I have quite a few things to do.
a) Proofread the thesis. Everyday, I see a new error.
b) Slash the size of the synopsis in half. DONE.
c) Start with the presentation.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our double A-sides.

Dear readers,

Here are the two songs we will be releasing as double A-sides.

Tale of the Liars


Our soundcloud profile : darkproject


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mix it till you puke

Dear readers,

This is a live blog update on mixing a song that is codenamed "Indian".
Edit: This song got its release name - Tale of the Liars.

Step 0: Record and fix any problems.
In the tracks we had, I noticed that there was no sense of space in many places, especially the verses, bridge and solo. This fixture was easy. Overlaying tracks with feedback and swell based guitar layers helps. The stereo swell/flange/delay effects consume the space but the main guitar doesn't allow this guitar to be prominent unless someone is listening deliberately to peel off the layers of production.

The heavy riffs were played sloppily at places in the original recording. Matching patches is a difficult task. Although the equipment is the same, the sound card and A/D converter is not. The trick is to get an approximately identical sound and then use a gentle multiband compression to iron out any differences.

Step 1: Export all chunks as consolidated stems.
It is far easier to work with consolidated stems than a jigsaw puzzle of multiple tracks that look like patchwork. Most big-shot engineers have assistants and interns who do this for them. REAPER has an option to export to stems. Some sections can be easily exported in that fashion. For the rest, it is an act of mute/solo and export as a render. At this point the folder has 392 files and working with such humongous data is inhumane. The task is relatively simple but is time consuming.

Set the output to 0 db or to a level below that so that individual tracks don't clip. Export each instrument/layer/stem individually as mono (preferably, wherever possible) or stereo files (where inevitable) so that when time aligned, they will play in perfect sync. Also, the number of files and tracks will decrease. When in doubt whether to print the effects or not into the stems, repeat the process twice - once with the FX and once with FX bypassed.

After the process is over, I am left with 28 tracks in 28 files, 2 of which are "doubt prints" with FX. This is a far better number than 392. It's manageable, its comprehensive and above all - it's filtered knowledge, not noise laden information.

Step 2: Import all chunks and clean up.
Most tracks will have long stretches of silences. These must be cleaned to reduce hard disk usage. Also grouping the members makes track management easier. For this project I have grouped them as the people who played them. Also, I made three aux tracks related to ambiance - a long plate, a short plate and a BPM synced delay. The master track also has a visualization insert - Voxengo SPAN. This one is an indispensable tool.

This step is also the very starting point of mixing.

Step 3: Get the drum, bass and vocals balance.
This is a preliminary approach. The levels will no doubt change, the EQs will get tweaked but the first thing is to get the drum balanced and then feed in the bass. Then I like to bring in the vocals. The guitars often work around this space.

What eventually happens is that I get a relative tonality of elements in the mix that work together, but in the end the levels are all over the place. However, as a whole, the drum and bass still stand well (maybe a bit buried or a bit OTT) in the mix. Earlier, I used to mix the instrumental and bring in the vocals. In this approach, the vocals feel like an outside element. In the current approach of building the tonal instrumentation around vocals, the instruments can be tamed. Trust me when I say this, taming instrument is a far better idea than taming and killing the vibe of the vocals.

The BPM synced delay (earlier step) is engaged to create a sense of open space in the solos and an interesting slap-feedback effect in a particular section of the background vocals.

Step 4: Do nothing.
At this point the vibe of the song starts to build and you'll have a fair a idea what is working and what is not. Time to give the song few good listens and make mental notes. It is better not to touch anything. A fresh set of ears is needed to move forward. Also, time to grab a CD for referencing.

There are few specific things I have to address in the mix I am working. Certain volume of an instrument fits well in a section while it sounds so OTT in another. Time for splicing and creating approximately (minor difference) identical lanes. This is not the time for automation and riding the faders.

Step 5: Mix, re-mix, mix at lower volumes, mix loud, re-mix at lower volumes.
This is the main time to follow the vibe and guts. Pull out anything, absolutely anything out of your arsenal. But remember one rule. No automation, no riding the fader. If I start riding the faders now, I'll be in a mess of a situation with tons of automation lanes and there will be nothing left that can be called as "fine tuning". So far the general mix sounds how I approximately wanted it to be. There are a few places I want the vocals to be a bit louder than other places, but that is reserved for a later time.

Occasionally mixing quite is something I do post step 4. This is something that I picked up from Andy Wallace. It helps your ears judge relative volumes better. However, one must also have fresh ears before attempting to move from louder to quieter volumes.

Step 6: Shape up the track using references.
There are two references. One is human (band/client,etc.) the other is the reference CD you chose. In my case, since my bandmates are the ones who'll co-approve the track, I send a streak of mixes with minor modifications, ride the fader and adjust the mix to the comments they send me as feedback. Also, constant referencing with the recorded material (CD) keeps the overall tonality in check. It took me 3 versions to get to a point where nothing major can be done (unless you take a 180 degree turn and undo the whole mix - in that case go back to step 2).

At this point the overall tonality is established and a coherent song is obtained. The volume will be low (since it is unmastered and you don't want clipping).

A small trick that I picked up from George Martin's interview - when the system is overloaded, it is better to bounce stems and relieve the system off its complexity. That's how The Beatles got such textured multi-layered sound on 4 track recording machines. The same applies when the FX overloads.

Step 7: Prepare for mastering.
Leave some decent headroom and make sure that the mix is not tamed with some brickwall limiter. Charles Dye and Brad Blackwood have some wonderful tips to share.

Since we cannot afford a mastering engineer (ME), I have to "master" it (if it can be called mastering). I like to keep a replay gain of -5 to -6 dB with peak just falling short of 1.0000 (float). The modern records have an RG of around -10 to -14 dB. These are fatigue inducing and will kill the eardrums, not to mention the dynamics and transients. My advice is to take it to a genuine ME. A good ME can do wonders with a well mixed track.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Progress on Thesis / Update 6

Dear readers,

The first draft looks promising. However, on close scrutiny, we have found a key analysis missing. Although it's a small portion but an important one nonetheless. I'll probably lock myself up in the coming two days.

Update: (14:18) - Finished two tables. Need to extract graphs. Also need to do a comparison of the coalescence modes.

Update: (21:26) - Finished generating data. Need to plot these things on graph(s).


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flowchart of the program I use in my PhD work

This is 2011 C.E., Saturday, 11th June of the Gregorian calender, 2352 hours IST (GMT+0550).
I have finished writing the first draft of my PhD thesis.

Figure B.1: Flowchart describing an overview of the solution procedure.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Minor update on PhD work

Dear readers,

As a whole documentation is the most tiring and frustrating experience. Since sections of my thesis were written at different times and with different targets in mind, there is a lot of discrepancy and non-uniformity. Polishing everything to a coherent whole is the final job. The direct contributory chapter - Results and Discussions - was the first piece that I sat down to revise yesterday. I am doing three things simultaneously.
  1. revision, copy-edits and spelling checks to eradicate errors.
  2. extracting important deductions and numbering them for the Conclusions chapter
  3. typesetting the document to avoid a bad visual experience.

So far I have finished 2 of 4 sections in this chapter.

There is also a conflicting symbol which denotes two important parameters. The symbol for one of them must be replaced with a unique one.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Editing is tedious

Dear readers,

Editing is a tedious job. The tediousness of this process is compounded manyfold if the document is written by someone else. And, I have only gone through one section so far through a document I have written myself!!! The idea is to scan through the Results and Discussion chapter and extract conclusions. In the process, I will also check the coherency and accuracy of the interpretation.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Our new band bio.

"A project aimed at the formation of the band" - Dark Project was always subscripted with this tagline in it's inception years (2002-2005); the years when Sauvik and Sudipto graduated from school and ventured out to discover their interest in making music. In 2005, the tagline lost the value because the project reached it's completion. A band was formed with 5 people in it. Meanwhile, the song, 'Walking Again' had gained quite a bit of a listener base.

Dark Project is an English band that composes music that can be classified as an approximate blend of Alternative and Progressive Rock. However, the band doesn't believe in this distinction while creating any of their stuff. The band found it's ground in the year 2007, when they came out with their first offering in the form of a 9 song album titled Chaos Sessions. It was aptly dedicated to the chaotic noises the band produced while jamming and making this record in the hostel corridors of Patel Hall of Residence, IIT Kharagpur. The band had already garnered interest and had started playing live.

Dark Project became one of the highest played Indian bands on CBS's in the year 2007-08. 'Cover Up', '50 ML', 'Mother' and 'Caterpillar/Butterfly' were notable numbers from Chaos Session that found an appreciator in the audience because of their thematic approach to each of the songs. The limited print of Chaos Sessions was sold off in months time. Also at this time, the band was struggling with the geographical boundaries as the band got split between Kolkata and Bangalore.

Amidst all the adversity, they did not want to stop the production mill and Dark Project came out with their second full length album titled as Liberty & Entropy in the year 2009. The plans were certainly bigger this time. The album was released on iTunes, Amazon and CD baby for the international audience and was available via VPP to the Indian audiences. The packaging of the album was an eye opener for many - something which was not done by any other band in India in the past. The single 'Streak Of Coldness' got played on multiple radio stations in India. The album was eventually reviewed by the Rolling Stone Magazine, Rock Street Journal, IndiarockMp3, Indiescion, etc. who published their polarising views about it.

The band played quite a few shows in the whole process and was also a part of the Pub Rock Fest in the year 2009 conducted by RSJ. Later in the year, Sudipto had to fly out of the country for his work commitments and the band decided to go on a hiatus. For the past 3 months, the band has been working to prepare themselves for another album cycle. Their geographical boundaries are sorted out after a long wait of 5 years as 4 of it's members are based out of a Bangalore now and Sauvik is planning to join in soon.

The story narrated above has more to it than just the words - Dark Project is not just a band, it's a relationship that has survived, struggled and bruised through the odds. While some of us who know the band might get a little swayed by the individual careers that the band members have under them, music is still the one thing that each and everyone of the band members consider as their thing to happiness in life. Even with a limited English music listener base in the country, Dark Project wants to inspire people through their work as they prepare themselves up for a comeback that only reads - Follow your dreams, no matter how bad the situations get, feel the 'Magic' that happens because of it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Progress on Thesis / Update 5

Dear readers,

Nothing troubles me much more than a badly typeset document. My thesis is in that state at this point. $\LaTeX$ makes it bearable but still equations are all over the place. Today I was forced to replace this eyesore

with this

Blogger compression is not that good. I can see the compression artifacts here. The original is a vector image so I am not worried about scaling.

What's left?
The entire Conclusions chapter with
a) Summary of results
b) Scope of future work
An appendix (Appendix B) outlining the various parts of the code and a flowchart (optional).
List of notations and symbols in the frontmatter.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

On other's opinions of your artistic work

Dear readers,

Please stop taking in others opinions. I know you did not ask for it. Everybody loves some control and would love to see their influence reflected in someone else's work. When you ask people for opinions, they have an illusion that you are inviting them to be a part of the creation process and would love to impose their point of views on this. You gave them a song to listen. If they hated it, they can go back and listen to a downloaded crappy mp3 of their favourite artist. I would be more than happy to see that.

A fictional anecdote: A man walks into an exhibition and looks at a picture. He complains. "Dammit! There is too much blue and no red in this picture. Too much blue hurts my eyes. Doctor asked me not to look at blue. What crap is this? The artist couldn't even paint one smooth brushstroke. What a non-realistic depiction of a scene. What are these swirling vortices? I have never seen one like that in real life. This is shit, absolute shit." I am sorry. Van Gogh did not ask Mr. Complaint Box before he sat down to paint The Starry Night.

Steven Wilson puts up a question, "So I’m asking myself: Are these really reviews or just an endless noise of opinions—and is there a difference?"

So I thought about it. And then I realized! Oh! How much I would love a homogenised world. One rule and one dictum to bind every existential being and every creative output that has ever been regurgitated out of that mortal being's guts - dreaming this world up as fragments of an anthropocentric illusion, as if his creation would be perfect and immortal. But then it would be such a boring place. I do understand somewhere that tendency to homogenise is hard-wired in our genes and every Mr. Complaint Box's protein molecules synthesised by that gene could do with some less amount of blue in Van Gogh's Starry Nights.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Wrapping up the analysis

...and the first draft of my Results and Discussion chapter.

Dear readers,

I will take a break. There are specific areas in the thesis that require some major textual additions.

a) Yesterday's lecture gave me some important insight into other works in my field. Need to expand the Literature Review section with the newer details.
b) Write an objective. This would be my primary goal at this point of time. A rough sketch was written in the registration seminar report. The version in the thesis must be solid.
c) Future scope of work has to be written by me. My guide says he will sit down with me while jotting down Conclusion chapter.
d) Another appendix describing the salient features of the in-house code that was developed.

On another note, the promotion ready copy of DP's Magic was sent to the other guys.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Writing an analysis for the section

Dear readers,

I have been caught up in the last few weeks with the results. Now that I have my data, as well as the plots, it is time to write an analysis which can explain the plots that I have. Today's work would be just that.

Update : Just attended a seminar by Prof. C.S. Upadhyay. I'll need to do a lot of reading. Especially certain papers in my field and justify the existence of my work. At least I can say that the justification will not be that difficult. It is like finding a chair to sit on amidst this whole universe of work.

Update @ 14:00 : Post lunch, I have done only stupid things. I should get back to work. So far I have written only two paragraphs.

Update @ 15:15 : Processed and scrambled all the seven figures onto a $\LaTeX$ document and wrote all the captions. Writing interpretations and deduction is the toughest job of all.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It is already June and...

Dear readers,

It is already June and I am knee deep in work. They say that the last few hundred meters of a summit are the hardest. For me it feels like a new mountain altogether. The damping formulation has driven me to my wits end. I hope nobody takes this up without proper background and time.

While plotting I found quite a lot of discrepancies in the plots. Hence I am back to square 2. Thankfully, it is not square 1 since I had split the program into individual subprograms. Fixing the plots also doesn't help much. Somehow my task is to get the six results onto graphs. And I must do this today

Update 15:53 - So far I have been able to get only 2 plots ready and a sectional plot of one of them. Analysis will be tough. The average shape looks promising but I have to work with very small amount of damping. As a consequence, getting awesome separation is near impossible. It is as if one corner of a parallelogram bed-sheet is pinned and you have to align two adjacent edges to a rectangular bed when you know very well that it can't be done.

Update 17:00 - 3 plots out of 6 possible essential plots + 1 subplot. Need a break. Should resume this in an hour.

Update 20:00 - All 7 plots are done. Tomorrow I must write the interpretation of these plots and other results pertaining to the plot.


Monday, May 30, 2011

2 more days of isolation

...until I finish all the cases. This is the only site I will visit.

Update (30/5, 11:13): run-time error M6110: MATH - floating-point error: stack overflow Seems like there is no direct way out. I will have to split the program.

Update (30/5, 12:52): Devised a bypass for the stack overflow problem. This is not robust at all. Need to get some outputs quick before the internal heap allocation algorithm behaves like crazy.

Update (30/5, 14:22): Had food. Getting ready with pen and paper. Need to jot down all cases I have to run.

Update (30/5, 15:26): Took almost an hour but I have raw data of all the four essential cases. Will compare them and run two more additional cases if things appear fine.

Update (30/5, 15:47): Finished all essential and additional cases. Need some sleep. Will return to the problem as soon as I regain consciousness.

Update (30/5, 18:11): Working on the appendix - two methods to analyze dynamic systems, Have already written one of the methods.

Update(31/5, 12:04): Finished the Appendix (both sections).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Further micro-level completion plans

Dear readers/myself,

Today's job.
a) Complete the four schematics.
b) Run at least 4-5 cases.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

2 days of isolation

I'll give myself two days of isolation - no phones, no connection, no internet ^except this blog , no distraction - just lab, food and night sleep. And skim through the code to see what in the fucking segment is going so wrong. After many futile half-hearted attempts, this appears to be the only way out.

Update (26/5, 13:19): I have obtained a decent bifurcation width for second order cases. The undamped values appear fine but the damped values are off.

Update (26/5, 13:29): Although it is not mentioned anywhere but are these values to be computed using largest possible bifurcation? Each order has two roots and there are two roots in each order. Also at higher orders, the offset errors will diminish.

Update (26/5, 13:52): Test plot looks great. The damped values are still a bit off.

Update (26/5, 14:42): Detected a small error in coding. This factor has very little contribution to the overall effects. The damped values are still off. Must check original formulation by Deolasi.

Update (26/5, 16:00): No sign of improvement. No sign of my guide either. Nothing will work out unless I meet him.

Update (27/5, 10:30): Met my guide. He is fine with whatever results I am obtaining as long as it is legit. Getting back to writing a few crucial pages about the general nature of instability.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Working for Dark Project

Dear readers,

While I have been encountering failures after failures for my thesis, things are looking up bright for the work going on for my band, DP.

Yesterday, I sent across a non-automated mixdown of our forthcoming single that made most people happy. Let me shed some light on the thing. For the last one week I have been trying hard to mix the track. I don't use the best gear in the world but I know my gear and their fallacies fairly well - a knowledge indispensable to the mixing engineer. I have been trying hard to implement Michael H. Brauer's ABCD technique using plugins. Sadly I landed up with two versions of crap. Even a frequency analyzer *showed* me how off I was. The low end was suppressed to the point that the mix started sounding tinny. I would have pushed forward even more had I not come across a statement by MHB himself about using his ABCD trick for mixing in-the-box - "For those who think it can be done, do it. But I'm telling you, I've tried what mike is talking about and it works in only one application but not in combination. I'm not going to get into a debate on this issue. As some of the other guys are realizing,my complete multibuss concept was designed to work in the analog world. The feel that i'm looking for get's blurred and the tones get distorted when in the box. Because it is necessary to fully combine the techniques of multibuss compression, parallel compression and the use of send/return compression, the routing in the digital domain causes issues that ADC can't compensate for and causes undesirable results. Meaning it ain't f*cking musical."

I have my share of methods - things that are time tested and work wonders (provided you have well recorded tracks to begin with). This time I used Anesthetize by Porcupine Tree as a frequency and leveling benchmark even if these songs couldn't be more apart stylistically. Also for the first time, I have mixed using REAPER as my primary DAW.

On another side, I have to re-design the official website, too. Yesterday, I submitted a prototype skin to Sudipto. He liked it. The biggest hurdle will be to author the media player. I have my eye on the flowplayer. However, reconstructing the skin will be a difficult job to do. The artwork for the album cycle needs to be as organic as the music itself. In short, I will have to meticulously hand draw them.

I should take a break for a few hours and get back to my PhD problem - one that's giving me the most amount of headaches.


P.S. Thanks to Steven Wilson and the journalists who interviewed him and put his mind out in the public.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Failures of the n-th order.

Dear readers,

I have been facing failures of the n-th order. The mixes I make are pathetic. The speakers I have are inaccurate and the output doesn't translate well to other systems.

Also, recently caught a bug in the program. Sets me back by a week or so. Here I am, trying to come up with a feasible completion strategy.


Monday, May 9, 2011

In Bangalore

Dear readers,

I have safely reached Bangalore today. HWH-YPR Duronto ran pretty well and reached before time - something unimaginable in India. Today is a day of rest, to get rid of the buzz that arises due to imbalance in ampullary cupula - lack of proprioception.

There is also a herculean task of setting up Sudipto's computer with all the necessary software for recording.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

List of things to carry to Bangalore.

  1. Instruments/Equipments
    1. Guitar+Picks+Extra Strings
    2. POD+Controller
    3. Pedals
    4. Cables
    5. Netbook (charged) (+charger)
    6. Backup DVDs 
    7. Phone (charged) (+charger)
  2. Softwares
    1. REAPER
    2. ezDrummer
    3. Waves Plugin
    4. Amplitube / Ampeg VST
    5. Voxengo SPAN, Overtone EQ, Saturator
    6. Nuendo (as a backup)
    7. Production audio tracks
  3. Clothes
    1. 2x Trousers (+Tech Market)
    2. 1x Cargo track.
    3. 5x Tee
    4. Bermudas
    5. Towel
    6. Wash clothes.
  4. Get books from Mehta + Firoze

        Not a very productive day on my part, but....

        ... got a lot of things straightened out with my guide. Now all I need is a micro strategy and a list of possible cases to iterate on. That should do the job. I only have four more days to finish this part before leaving for the recording session.

        Monday, May 2, 2011

        The problem with damping

        To myself,

        The code from the Deolasi formulation is now yielding some results. However the accuracy is doubtful. I have a fair idea that Udar's results might be erroneous. At best, I was able to match only sections. This is especially true if a second order method is used. While dealing with combination resonance frequencies of higher modes, the onset and width of the first-order method correspond to what's reported by Udar and Datta.

        Also, the values match when the damping parameter, $\zeta=0.005$, instead of $\zeta=0.05$.

        Need to have a talk with my guide.


        Tuesday, April 26, 2011

        My thoughts on REAPER (DAW)

        Dear readers,

        Few months ago, I was looking for a new Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Back then I was using Nuendo 4. I was unable to rapidly scribble ideas and jot down even simple takes without waiting for the system to load everything.

        I was first introduced to REAPER in January 2009 when we were tracking our second full-length. Rahul, the resident engineer in the studio used REAPER to track all the takes. I did not pay much attention to the DAW. Eventually the rest was recorded in my room on Nuendo 4 and finally the projects were mixed in Nuendo. Nuendo is still a good software for doing organised project but is a songwriter's nightmare.

        REAPER is an acronym for Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording. That should explain what I was looking for in the first place. This seems like godsend for any writer who wants to rapidly prototype a song.
        • The loading time is ultra fast compared to any DAW I have used before.
        • There is no distinction among tracks. Any track/channel can hold any data - Audio/MIDI/Group/FX - and send/receive stream from anywhere! This actually helps when you want to swap sections and experiment with a different FX chain.
        • The way REAPER handles "takes" is amazing. I wish Nuendo had this.
        • The export stem feature in render. This is especially helpful if you are working across a geographical barrier or jump from one DAW to another.

        Things that work in favour of the rapid prototyping philosophy are the same ones that kill it for people who have used analog mixers (unless they adopt).
        • The traditional DAWs like Cubase, Sonar, etc. focus on replicating behaviour of analog machines. They have dedicated Audio/MIDI/Group/FX strips. Traditional engineers often expect that in a DAW.
        • Solo "punch in" and solo "punch out" is not available. One must punch through a zone. This means that both punch in/out are (de)/activated simultaneously.
        I have not used REAPER for any full fledged project. I prefer using a very handful (10-15) of third-party, VST plugins as opposed to a whole library of them. So I wouldn't be missing on anything if I jumped to REAPER from Nuendo. 


        Monday, April 25, 2011

        A follow-up to "chaiwala" on Midnapore/Kharagpur local train.

        Dear readers,

        A small follow-up to the discussion presented in
        How much does a "chaiwala" on Midnapore/Kharagpur local train make? -
        Apparently one of my friends had this (or a similar one) discussion with some of his friends. He did point out the following things.
        1. The license is usually not held by the vendor but by brokers who lease out the license. This is certainly illegal. However, on Indian local trains, not every thing you observe respects the laws of the system. This is even more true for areas less prone to vandalism and terrorism. Where there is danger lurking behind civilian backs, the government sure tightens the "fuzzyness" of the bendable laws. Midnapore/Kharagpur line is a very safe zone and hence, nobody cares.
        2. To allow the "fuzziness" of bendable laws, the vendor pays a significant amount to policemen and authorities as bribe.
        3. A person feeds at least 4-5 people in his family with this income.

        While I do agree with propositions 1 and 2, I must point out that the original analysis sliced the calculated income by half. The causes were not explicitly mentioned. We can include these expenses into the sliced half. Proposition 3 pushes my argument even further. A comparison still stands because I know of many fellow scholars who support an entire family with the stipend they get.


        Monday, April 18, 2011

        A small show

        Dear readers,

        This show was supposed to be a 6 song setlist to be played during the inter-hall competition. Arnab [Basak] had picked up drums in 30 days from scratch. Somehow, the show did not happen. We had to do something to save his spirits. Hence, a single song was chosen for an open mic show.

        As the crowd thinned out like hair on an old man head and only 10-15 people stayed back, we played this -


        Wednesday, April 13, 2011

        Damping and my Thesis

        Dear Readers,

        It maybe observed that the progress on my thesis has been damped by the factor of damping I am supposed to introduce into the formulation. After two days of procrastination, I am with pen and paper, working through every bit of what I intend to do. This current approach is the first of the two damped structure formulation that I am supposed to do.

        $ [\hat{C}] = 2[\bar{\zeta}] [\bar{\Lambda}]$ injected into Nayfeh's MMS.


        Thursday, April 7, 2011

        One quote block and one blocked code.

        Dear readers,
        Here is a monologue to ponder upon...

        [A student approaches Lee; both bow]
        Lee: Kick me.
        [Student looks confused]
        Lee: Kick me.
        [Student attempts kick]
        Lee: What was that? An Exhibition? We need emotional content. Now try again!
        [Student tries again]
        Lee: I said "emotional content." Not anger! Now try again!
        [Student tries again and succeeds]
        Lee: That's it! How did it feel?
        [Student thinks; Lee smacks his head]
        Lee: Don't think. FEEL. It's like a finger pointing at the moon.
        [Looks at student who is looking at the finger; smacks student again]
        Lee: Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!
        [Student bows; Lee smacks him again]
        Lee: Never take your eyes off your opponent... even when you're bowing!
        [Student bows again this time keeping his eyes on Lee]
        Lee: That's better.
        [student walks away; opening credits begin]

        P.S. : Just finished layerwise analysis for free vibration and critical load cases. There is one subcase remaining. If I face singularities, I will omit the case altogether.


        Tuesday, April 5, 2011

        Iterating layerwise cases to Incubus' Adolescents

        Dear readers,

        Liked the new Incubus single - Adolescents. I wish there is something edgy in the album.

        Also, finished iterating first and second batch of the layerwise cases. They took about 3 straight hours to complete since this particular iteration is simpler and faster. The more complex iterations are yet to come.

        For 2 tables I had to do 88 cases+iterations.


        Monday, April 4, 2011

        Proposed plan towards completion of my thesis

        Dear readers / myself,

        This is a draft, nonetheless, an important one. The one that will help me break the vicious cycle of the Kharagpur academia and launch me out of this orbit into an outer trajectory. But first I must access my status and put down critical commentary on the state of my thesis, like a check-list perhaps, ticking down every bit as and when they are closed.

        There are two fundamental flaws with the thesis that may attract severe reviewers' criticism - one qualitative and one quantitative.
        a) Qualitative - The explanation provided rarely touches upon the physics of the system. Also, most of the outcomes have been stated like observations rather than legitimate explanations. Not many of these can be fixed but I can make an assessment of the situation and work on these shortcomings. I must do this when I am off the computer and hence I need a hard copy of the entire thesis in its current state - or at the very least the results and discussions section.
        b) Quantitative - Earlier, I had decided that putting a layerwise analysis would complete the work. However, many reviewers have pointed out that damping is an important part of the analysis. Hence, putting down a damping parameter is very very important. No matter how short the treatment may be, it cannot be ignored.

        About the work left in general, it all boils down to sensible, chosen iterations. Although, logically, the damping effect must preceed the layerwise damage analysis, I do not have a formulation at hand that can address this issue. Hence, I will have to work these topics in reverse order.

        For damping cases -
        1) See Ravi Kumar's thesis for damping cases in follower forces. What parameters did he take into account?
        2) See Udar's thesis for damping cases in parametric resonance. What are the cases he had iterated for?

        For the layerwise analysis I am on my own. I had taken specific cases for free vibration and buckling problems, for the parametric resonance problems and for the follower force problems. I will be advisible to write all viable cases on a piece of paper.

        Beyond this there are three more important sections - The "objective of present work" section which must succeed the literature review. Then there is a conclusion which is a mandatory section by any standards. Finally, a "future scope of work" that must close the body of the written text. Without the objective and future scope, the institute will not even let the thesis pass through the general scrutiny phase.


        Progress on Thesis : Update 4 / Plan

        Dear readers / myself,

        At this point I have to make a realistic estimate of my work and work according to plan, else things will start falling apart.

        There are two sections that my guide will help me write and I should not be bothered about these sections at all right now.
        Chapter 2 : Literature Review's Objective of the present work
        Chapter 6 : Conclusion (including future scope)

        Today, after a fruitful discussion with guide, I could establish two specific areas that I needed to work on so that my thesis scan all the areas that an examiner would pay attention to. Both belong to Chapter 5 : Result and Discussion.

        a) A significant chunk of study must be devoted to effects of layerwise damage in
        free vibration and buckling, parametric resonance characteristics and follower force flutter characteristics.

        b) A short treatise on the effect of damping on such a system is important. Most reviewers have pointed out the importance of damping in these systems. Damping studies can be done in parametric systems and nonconservative systems.

        What appears to be short isn't really short. I need to make a huge commitment.


        Friday, April 1, 2011

        More observations on my photography skills.

        Dear readers,

        I couldn't help but loathe myself. Yesterday, the light was low and I tried capturing a few shots on 100 ISO film. I can predict that they will be some of the worst images I have captured on my camera.

        The lens I have has a different alignment than the prism/viewfinder combo. Effectively, light travels different distances when it passes via the lens+mirror+prism to my eye and to the film via the lens. This effectively alters the plane of focus. I have observed that whenever I have left the aperture wide open to f/1.7, this problem is totally visible in the output. If I shoot a portrait and focus on the eyes, the result is always a sharp focus on the ears instead. With smaller aperture, the depth of field increases and this error remains hidden. In the last reel I tried not to use any aperture greater than f/2.8 (or less than f/8 to avoid heavy diffraction). Yesterday, I was faced with the daunting task of taking photographs in lighting conditions that ranged from EV 5 to EV 1. For 100 ISO film that boils down to a set of settings - 1/4s+f/2.8 for EV 5 and 4s+f/2.8 for EV 1.

        Whenever there was some "action", all I got was lighting conditions of EV 1 or 2, as if these guys preferred it in the dark. This is exactly why I need to use two bodies - one with 400 and the other with a 100 ISO films.

        I am not ruling out the possibility that there is a high chance that I was not creative enough to squeeze some interesting shots in those strange lighting conditions.


        (5 new) Views of Blogspot

        Dear readers,

        Blogspot unveiled 5 new designs for their blogs. Flipcard, Mosaic, Sidebar, Snapshot and Timeslide. I found most of them to be eye-candy and not much utilitarian. The only sensible one is probably Sidebar. However, none of them incorporate external html snippets due to which the javascript engine that displays LaTeX here is not invoked at all.

        I would still suggest to stick to the same old, same old.


        Wednesday, March 30, 2011

        Vivitar 3000s + Fujifilm 200 + 50mm f/1.7 (March '11)

        Dear readers,
        Here are select shots of the last reel.

        Kharagpur railway station and the array of light.

        The (vibrant) colours of Kharagpur Golbazaar on a lazy Sunday.

        The small boy I was referring to a few posts ago.

        Transformers / Bumblebee.

        Mehta and Firoze. Love the lights.

        The surreal imagery of Central Library, IIT Kharagpur.


        Monday, March 28, 2011

        Is Mainland China (buffet) worth the price?

        Location : South City, Kolkata, India.
        Food : Lunch Buffet.
        Cost : 550 + 12.25% VAT

        Dear readers,

        What I felt was that the food was way average than many cheap (and cult) places I had the privilege of eating. I must point out that what we had was not chinese. Psedo-chinese or maybe Sino-Indian will be a more apt description. There were four things that I really liked - the dimsums, the chicken wing starter, the fish salad and the pastry. On the other hand, I hated the chicken preparation that was provided as a part of the main course. The ice cream had icicles in them. Any Amul ice cream will pawn that ice candy.

        However, I am not aware of the quality of their à la carte but hands down the table d'hôte was totally forgettable. May I suggest a Nepali-Tibetan lady who sells momos and thukpa in Prince Anwar Shah road - about 500m from the aforementioned place.

        If you have been to Mainland China and had à la carte, please do comment on the quality of the food.


        Wednesday, March 23, 2011

        Framing a canvas in tech-market, Kharagpur.

        Dear readers,

        Purnima binders in tech market, Kharagpur is not a very good place to have a canvas framed. I am not so happy with the results. While the front looks good, I must mention that the framer uses techniques that are good for framing photographs and cheap prints. Spare the canvas.


        How much does a "chaiwala" on Midnapore/Kharagpur local train make?

        Dear readers,

        This was an interesting question proposed by a "god" fearing man in his mid 30s on the same train. The question was directed at his fellow passenger. The hawker/vendor in question was a man in his 20s selling liquor tea (black tea) with some spices and lemon.

        His steel pot could hold roughly 350 cups of tea which he refills at least thrice a day. To make one such pot of tea, he requires about 850 gm of sugar and 50 gm of cheap CTC tea. These items cost about INR 50. The costly item is the masala or the spice which is a strange mixture of salt and assorted "stuff". This masala is made by the vendor himself and apparently costs about INR 80 / kg. However he can barely finish 100 gm of it per day. That brings his daily investment down to INR 8. Then there are the lemons which during the most expensive times of the year will not cost more than INR 1 per piece and he uses some 25 of them a day. Along with this we must also include an overhead of INR 50 which goes into the serving cups, license and miscellany. His total investment never exceeds INR 235 for the whole day. His three pots of tea sells for INR 3 per cup and comes out to be INR 3150 per day which is roughly about INR 2875 profit /day. For 30 days it comes out to be INR 86250!!!!

        These guys earn way more than me and my kin - a PhD student. Our government as well as egoistic professors of our institute are not competent enough to understand the financial hardships we have to go through.

        Well, the estimate was a bit blown up. Realistically these chaiwalas make about half of that. This is usually attributed to occasional poor sales and a huge unpredictability factor. However, at a realistic earning of INR 40000 per month, the conclusion is still valid - that these guys earn way more than me and my kin.


        Edit : There is a small follow-up presented here :

        Sunday, March 13, 2011

        Khayali pulao / whacko virtual plans

        Dear readers,

        (The railway info is valid only till June 29th, 2011).

        This is the fastest train to Kathgodam from Kolkata - Assuming, we leave early morning on a Wednesday from Kharagpur, we should be in Kolkata station by the time the train leaves and Kathgodam by the next day (Thursday). If we take an equivalent return, this is the train to catch - It leaves on Thursday. However, 6 days is not sufficient. A 7 days itinerary is minimum while an 8-9 days one is optimal.

        Jeroen has a very detailed post about this route

        And so has paddy


        ...and here is a sample itinerary to visualize. Most information is at least 2 years old.

        1a. Kathgodam - Bageshwar (160 kms/5-6 hrs). On a jeep/car/SUV. Trip should be 200-250/- per head for a shared one. LB=[Lunch Break]
        1b. Bageshwar - Song (40 kms/1 hr). On a jeep. Jeroen advises to leave after noon.
        1c. Song - Loharkhet (2 kms). Start of the trek to reach a KVMN trekkers hut.
        Note: Certain jeeps go till Song/Loharkhet from Kathgodam. ON[=Overnight]

        2a. Loharkhet - Dhakuri (11 kms). Arguably one of the most difficult parts of the trip. LB @ local dhabas.
        2b. Dhakuri - Khati (8 kms). Downhill. ON

        3a. Khati - Dwali (14 kms). LB.
        3b. Dwali - Phurkia (5 kms) ON.

        4a. Phurkia - Zero Point (7 kms). Leave early at 5.00 or even earlier. Else clouds and fog will ruin the experience. This is a must. [Early breakfast on packed food]
        4b. Zero Point - Phurkia (5 kms). LB @ local dhaba
        4c. Phurkia - Dwali. ON.

        or 4d. Dwali - Zilla Parishad GH (5 kms). ON
        and 5a. Zilla Parishad - Kafni.

        5a. Dwali - Kafni (9 kms). Leave early to beat the clouds and fog. Early breakfast on packed food.
        5b. Kafni - Dwali. LB/ON.

        6a. Dwali - Khati. LB.
        6b. Khati - Dhakuri. This is tough. ON.

        7a. Dhakuri - Song. LB.
        7b. Song - Bageshwar.
        7c or 8. Bagheshwar - Kathgodam. Train on same day. This is one alternative -

        Rough expense is Rs 3000 per person + 1500 overhead and train.




        Notes on accommodation - Sleeping bag is a must. KVMN may not have empty rooms and will prefer bureaucrats and foreigners.


        Friday, March 11, 2011

        Wisdom words (this post needs tags)

        Dear readers,

        Here's a bunch of wisdom paragraphs.


        A thin framing with double Masonite board is less intrusive on a pre-primed canvas. Pre-primed canvases are closely knit and are so well stretched that they can be hung on their own weight. I have specifically asked for a thinner frame with no gloss at all. The binder specifically said that a double Masonite layer would be more durable. Also since the painting is an acrylic one, the paint itself acts as a varnish and a glass/protection is not needed.

        I have an idea for a two part piece. The ideas are so far doodles and sketches on my trusty sketchbook. There are segments that I haven't decided yet, but still...

        A cycle trip to Midnapore eco-park. Firoze is not yet accustomed to joyrides. I could understand that. His GSI field trips are anything but joyrides. But he disagrees. And I disagree, too.

        Anyway, today I was using my film camera like a digicam. Shame on me! What about framing the shots? What about judging lights? Never again. Spontaneity comes from understanding and practice. This was like a dude who has just learned G, D, C chords and is trying to do a jazz improvisation. I have also switched to 100 ISO films. This is like stringing the guitar with higher gauge strings. The playing is a bit difficult but the tone is fabulous.


        Speaking of guitar strings and re-stringing - I have come across too many people who use floating bridge guitars like Kahlers and Floyd Roses. Most musicians don't even bother to look into the mechanics of these bridges. It is simply based on obtaining an equilibrium of forces using the support springs and the tension of the strings in their resting positions. Today I met another ('another', not 'an') engineering ('engineering', not 'arts') student who had no clue about how to balance his Floyd Rose. As a result, the tune kept falling midway through the song. The singer, who is a close friend of mine, got progressively more and more irritated, which I believe is a completely natural reaction on her part. Ignorance is forgivable. Unwillingness to learn is not. Year after year these players avoid even knowing the system, forget about the act of even tuning or balancing them.

        In case these dummies ever read this, here is a simple video to get started. Please note the word 'started'. Fine tuning is a different ball game altogether. It takes about 2-3 hours and upward to perfectly restring, re-calibrate and intonate a floating bridge.

        Then they can move into intonation, truss rods, etc., etc. Knowledge is limitless. Unwillingness to learn is unforgivable.


        Few days ago, I had written about solving the sudoku. I have scooped out the deterministic part and gave it it's own subroutine. (Not sharing that code. The change is a very minor one). The first part of attempting an ND solver is to write a code that will check the consistency of a given grid. It must be efficient. This consistency check will occur after the grid has already gone through at least one round of deterministic elimination/substitution. I am still out of ideas as to how to check if a grid is consistent, i.e., has the potential to converge.



        Wednesday, March 9, 2011

        Working with acrylic on canvas

        Medium : Camel Series 1 & 2 Artists' Acrylic colours
        Base : Pre-primed canvas

        Dear readers,

        Few problems that I have noted so far that could just be the limitations of the medium
        1. On an unprepared surface, a thin, unsettled film can wear off easily.
        2. A rough canvas attracts loads of dirt and graphite dust and is difficult to clean with an eraser.

        Edit : 1. The partial wear offs can be used as textures. 2. Acrylic gesso can mend these areas but since I did not have that, I had to do with a large tube of titanium white.

        Monday, March 7, 2011

        A small boy and a slightly grown up girl.

        Dear readers,

        Something funny happened today. Of late, I carry my camera wherever I go and snap a couple of shots. Not all of them are quality ones but I try my best to follow the advice of the people who love the 35mm format. So, while I was shooting my friends crossing a road segment on a cycle, a boy came up to us. He was pretty shy. Firoze managed to persuade him in order to pose for a snap. When I had taken the photograph, he quickly rushed towards me. My friends laughed really hard at the scene while I was still trying to guess the cause of hilarity. That's when I realised that the kid wanted to see how the photograph had turned out. He was expecting a digital image pop up on an LCD but the film camera disappointed him.

        Tonight I also met a girl carrying around a Kodak 35mm point and shoot. I'd guess it was a variant of Kodak VR35 or S Series (some wide angle variant). I should have asked her where she gets her film processed and printed since I have been disappointed on many occasions.


        Saturday, March 5, 2011

        Discovering a new ice-cream

        Dear readers,

        The last two years belonged to Amul Swirl Chocolate. Due to inflation and increasing market prices, Amul decided to keep the price same, reduce the quantity and rebrand it as Amul Sundae.

        Two days ago, partly due to absence of Amul products in my local shop**, I chanced upon an awesome substitute. This one is a take on choco-bar genre by Mother Dairy and is called Chillz Chocolate Treat
        Here is the instruction from an official mother dairy document, pp. 45 -

        Chillz Chocolate Treat:
        Total weight: 68.3gm.
        Centre filling weight [Hard chocolate; interior]: 8gm
        Wheat crispy weight [Embedded in topping]: 2.5gm. (should be 2gm)
        Toping weight [Thin solid chocolate layer; exterior]: 10.5gm.(should be 12gm).
        Stick weight: 1.1gm.
        Wrapper weight: 1.4gm.
        Chocolate ice cream weight [Between the two chocolate layers]: 41.2gm


        **Amul executives, if you are reading this, please note that distributors in Kharagpur are doing a lousy job.

        Friday, March 4, 2011

        Dear readers,

        Kharagpur will get hotter in week to come. It is early March and there is a mild heat wave in the air. We are inching closer to Venusian atmosphere. CO2 anyone?


        Thursday, March 3, 2011

        System crash

        Dear readers,

        The computers around me are failing. Perhaps it is a sheer coincidence but it will be a heavy blow to my PhD work. My data/docs are kept in the following places
        1. My Desktop
        2. My Netbook (+synced to an NTFS partition in the same drive)
        3. My primary workstation
        4. An USB that I use to sync.
        No. 1 is showing signs of aging while 3 has already started giving warnings. Backing up is essential.


        My observations on my photographic skills.

        Dear readers,

        Let's face it. I am a horrible low light photographer. I have absolutely no clue about the exposure values that low light photography demands. Nonetheless, I am adamant about not using a light meter.

        First things first, here are the photographs.

        Film Scans : Feb 2011

        What's worse is that I am moving into 100 ISO films and low light photography will be even more difficult. One good thing about this set of photographs is that the ratio of good exposures to bad exposures are really high. 3 shots among them were bracketed and the output is excellent. I have also tried restricting myself to minimal amount of post-processing.

        There are three things that seem problematic. Firstly, the handling of the negative by the lab is really poor. There are unnecessary scratches. Secondly, I have not yet optimised the scan procedure for negatives. There are some shots which have somewhat tinted colours after post processing. Wherever possible, I have sacrified accuracy for dramatisation of the content. Thirdly, the grains in underexposed shots are so distracting.

        I need to study and experiment a lot if I ever want to get good at this.


        Wednesday, March 2, 2011

        Recieved Feb '11 C41 processed Roll

        Dear readers,

        Also sliced it. The continuous power interruption prevented me from getting any scans. On first look, the general exposures are fine. Low light exposures seemed underexposed. Some of them seemed even unusable.


        Tuesday, March 1, 2011

        Carl Sagan's Cosmos

        Dear readers,

        So far I have gone through the first 10 chapters/episodes of Carl Sagan's Cosmos : A Personal Voyage. There are three more episodes left and an interview with Ted Turner. I will update this entry once I have seen all of the episodes.

        After watching through the episodes, I have developed a deep sense of respect for this man. It is unfortunate that he is not alive today. What is remarkable about him is his understanding of natural systems and moreover the way he delivers it to the audience. I was also unaware of many facts.

        The first two episodes were mere introductions and may be a bit trivial for most science students, yet they are essential. The depths and insights into the history, methodologies and scientific speculation of many subjects are well dealt with. The cosmological part was a bit out of my known territory. I grasped whatever I could from them. Some preliminary background study is definitely necessary to fully understand these topics.

        The strangest part that shocked me was "The Ionian tales". I wasn't aware of the fact that it was the Pythagorean school and their political stronghold that resulted in the coma of observation and reasoning. These are fundamentals of science. Yet, what they had developed, the abstract and mathematical school of thought, is today a vital tool for the investigation of the same. The influence of Pythagorean school drove Europe into Middle ages and also helped shape the modern school of understanding. How paradoxical!

        In the true spirit of science, Carl Sagan updates us of developments and modifications to the information presented in the series. This is available in the Collector's Edition which was released 10 years after the original production.


        Edit (5th March, 2011) : Now that I have seen all the episodes, I must point out that the last episode "Who Speaks for the Earth?" is one of the fundamental Human question raised - an anthropocentric one in a non-centric universe.

        P.S. Carl Sagan is one man worth looking up to.