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.