Space Travel vs Saving Terra

TLDR; Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson provides valuable perspective on how difficult it is for us to colonize other planets

Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut and I know many others who did. It’s not surprising in the least then, that Elon Musk is so revered & Jeff Bezos wants his lasting legacy to be space & not the everything store.

I’ve read my share of space operas that fetishize space travel and have multi-planetary protagonists & plotlines. There’s hard sci-fi like Tau Zero or more recently Project Hail Mary & there’s a tonne of other themes sociology (The Hainish Cycle), war (Starship Troopers, The Forever War, Ender’s Saga), politics (Dune), colonization (JEM) and much more.

I got started with Aurora expect it to be more of the same, except it wasn’t.

Aurora has its share of problems – character development is not ideal, there are verbose, somewhat technical descriptions that appear in places where they shouldn’t, the plot meanders unpredictably and there is a disconcerting lack of closure at the end of the book.

But what Aurora does unequivocally through it’s eminently credible narrative is explaining how difficult & improbable terraforming a Class M planet is.

If you feel at home on planet Earth, that is because you’ve evolved to survive it over 3 billion years. Life as we know it on this planet is delicate. It takes just a minor imbalance in the composition of our atmosphere to precipitate climate change at a scale that could displace billions of us and wipe out life at a grand scale.

Our chances of surviving and thriving post a nuclear holocaust or equivalent dystopia most definitely surpass our odds at being able to travel to a Class M planet and set ourselves up to survive there for any meaningful period of time.

Our only hope is to make things work at home, on the one planet whose resources we’ve evolved to exploit successfully.

Whether your idol is Elon Musk or Greta Thunberg, I would advocate Aurora as essential reading to build much needed perspective on how difficult it will be for us to become a truly multi-planetary species and the importance of respecting and preserving what we’ve got.

Maps & Mondrian

Kiddo is obsessed with art & painting and she learnt about the simple use of primary colours – Rothko and Mondrian in school today.

I have a naive child-like love for Mondrian. Even if you don’t know who Mondrian is you will have seen his highly recognizable work.

Piet Mondrian abstract painting Tableau I, from 1921
Tableau 1 – Courtesy: Wikimedia
Piet Mondrian abstract painting Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930
Composition II – Courtesy: Wikimedia

I also recently encountered this wonderful piece of work which you can buy from Amazon which sets up the world map in a wonderful nod to Mondrian. The artist Michael Tompsett does some amazing map work and you can see his work here:

This picture really bothered me and it took me a while to place a finger on it.

Mondrian allows for THREE primary colours to be used whereas the Four Colour Theorem suggests that this might not be possible for all maps.

Indeed careful observation suggests that many liberties have been taken with the world map to make this work.

Paying homage to Piet Mondrian & Michael Tompsett then is this 4 colour version of the map of mainland India by yours truly. Some day I hope to write code to do this correctly and elegantly but this is all I have for now.

Doors to Eclectic Musical Rabbit Holes

I’ve listened to more music over 2020 than perhaps any prior year, largely to focus during WFH.

Shazam has been integral to my music discovery process. I’ve discovered innumerable new & interesting songs over the years via Shazam.

I signed up for Youtube premium so kiddo wouldn’t have to watch ads & to listen to content with the screen off but Youtube Music has been an unexpected bonus.

I haven’t used Spotify recently but Youtube Music Radio is phenomenal in taking you down the rabbit hole given a song as a starting point. When you’re in the zone you don’t want to be having to skip music & purely on this metric Youtube Music is excellent.

So without further ado presenting some Doors to Eclectic Musical Rabbit Holes.

  1. Stairway to Heaven – Simone Kopmajer

Sometime in 2016; IFC, Hong Kong

This was one of my first Shazams waiting for a seat at Crystal Jade in Hong Kong. There was a nice record store right next to it back when there were record stores.

What Youtube Radio gets you: soulful acoustic rock covers and of course lots of Simone Kopmajer drifts towards classic rock after a while

2. Haryanvi 1 (?) – Anil Yadav

04 Dec 2018, morning; 91Springboard, Nehru Place, New Delhi

I’d be the first one in at 91springboard each morning and the place would be empty, coffee machine yet to be refilled and janitorial staff engaged in sundry cleaning tasks. One of these folks loved playing loud music on his phone as he went about his work & this was one of his favourites. He would also sing along for good measure.

What Youtube Radio gets you: peppy Haryanvi, Bhojpuri numbers gradually gravitating towards Bollywood

3. Toyota n’til Magdi – Karpe

20Sep2020; Home

Picked up from Young Wallander

What Youtube Radio gets you: Scandi Hip Hop – lots & lots of it – the genre is deep & never-ending with no drift

4. Hocus Pocus – Focus

15Jun2014, Hong Kong

Probably deserves it’s own blogpost. Picked up the song watching Robocop (2014), likely not Shazamed but discovered via Reddit. Thijs Van Leer has mad talent & brings a certain maniacal energy – see the next 20 seconds of this reaction video. My go-to song to beat procrastination & high burn sprint tasks.

This scene from the movie that features the song is worth watching as much for the philosophy of man+machine consciousness as it is for the music.

What Youtube Radio gets you: Lots of Focus, Instrumental Prog and such landing firmly inside Prog proper after 2 hours or so

5. Sirata – Habib Koite

19Jan2020, Chennai

I heard this during SaaSBoomi 2019 at Novotel or at the event venue could have been lobby, elevator or cloak room music

What Youtube Radio gets you: Slow, Melodic West African music – don’t know enough to judge drift – yet to explore fully

6. Old Thing Back (feat. Ja Rule & Ralph Tresvant)

12Jan21, Aer Four Seasons, Mumbai

After watching Unsolved a while back I binged on both Biggie & Tupac for a while so I was peripherally familiar with Want that Old Thing Back. Lyrics are as NSFW as they get, but the sax solo that periodically creeps in is just sublime.

What Youtube Radio gets you: Reserving comments as I’m yet to fully explore or characterise

7. Greetings – Joni Haastrup

11Mar20, WeWork SFO

WeWork loved blasting Joni for some reason and he kept me going through jet-lag & worse in the days, weeks & months that have followed since.

What Youtube Radio gets you: If you’re uninitiated in 70s Nigerian Afrofunk this is the place to start. Excellent music for complex tasks that need sustained medium burn effort like responding to questionnaires.

8. Kaval Sviri – The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir

Sometime in 2018; Home

Picked this up watching the preview for Gaga: Five Foot Two – it sounded hauntingly similar to Making of a Cyborg, which I learnt later was inspired by Kaval Sviri.

Youtube Radio gets you: Bulgarian (possibly Romanian?) Folk with lots of acapella – lots of depth in this genre and goes on for a long time without drift

Do inauspicious days influence child birth date selection?

Part 0 | Part 1 | Part 2

We stir the data-pile a bit more this time around. We start with the question – does a certain portion of the population avoid inauspicious days through appropriately chosen C-Section slots?

I did some digging and it’s pretty hard to map out all the inauspicious times over 2012-15. In any case we don’t have time stamps just birth dates. So the two possible things we could check for are whether certain:

  • dates (such as the 13th)
  • days (such as Tuesday)

are being materially under-represented.

Dates & Months


Every date on average should see ~0.27% (1/365) of births for the year. Each number denotes deviation from average in basis points. i.e for instance Jan 1 sees 0.29% more births i.e more than double what is to be expected.


a. 1 & 2nd Jan seem vastly over-represented – I first considered dropping 01Jan presuming this was owing to typos in the original data but it doesn’t seem to be the case

b. There is material relative under-representation of the 13th vs the 12th and the 14th – except for the month of October in almost every month fewer children were born on the 13th vs the 12th or the 14th

c. Apr, May and Jun are under-represented – this is presumably owing to parents “blue-shirting” their kids and securing admissions in Noida and Gurgaon unwilling to let their children “waste” a year risking Delhi school admissions – these children would then not apply to Delhi schools this year biasing the dataset.

Days of the Week:



Surprisingly good old fashioned sanity seems to prevail here – no one wants to hit an understaffed hospital on a Saturday or a Sunday if they an avoid it. Instead there is a spill-over effect into the front half of the following week and to some extent Thu & Fri.

The anticipated Tuesday drop is non-existent.

What Amit & Pooja decide to call their kids (Part 2) (Delhi Schools – 3/n)

Story so far: Part 0Part 1

Getting straight to it:

Girls vs Women

  • 8% of girls in the 2013-15 cohort have their name starting with AA
  • ~25% of all girls have a name starting with the letter A
  • SA continues to be the perennial favourite (5.5% in the 2013-15 cohort and 5.2% with the mums)
  • Names starting with NE and SH have dropped the most in popularity

Boys vs Men

  • 5.6% of boysin the 2013-15 cohort have their name starting with AA
  • ~20% of all boys have a name that starting with the letter A
  • VI continues to remain the perennial favourite (5.3% and 5.5%) – that said Vijay & Vikram have given way to Vihaan & Vivaan
  • Names starting with RA and SU have seen a steep drop in popularity

Girls’ Names – First & Second Letters

Mums’ Names – First & Second Letters

Girls vs Mums
Girls vs Mums (Blue = More common in Girls, Red = More common in mums)

Boys’ Names – First & Second Letter

Dads’ Names – First & Second Letters

Boys vs Dads (Blue = More common in boys, Red = More common in dads)


This tweet from @feelwelcome feels appropriate:


More when I find the time….

What Amit and Pooja decide to call their kids (Delhi Schools – 2/n)

Story so far: Part 1

A recent article about Indo Anglians was doing the rounds on my FB feed. This piece, in turn, references an older piece about First World Yoga Names. I needed little else to be inspired to poke around with the DoE dataset which lists roughly 78,000 unique individuals of the 2013-2015 year of birth cohort (I could tell you how many boys and girls but that’s a topic for a whole other post in itself) and roughly 2x that number of parents, all residents of NCR.

This allows one to explore the drift in popularity of first names a single generation.

I start by presenting the most popular first names in the parents cohort in descending order of frequency:


A little more than 2.5% of the nearly 80k adult men in the dataset were named Amit with Deepak coming in at a distant second.



Neha leads but doesn’t dominate quite the way Amit does with the men followed by Pooja, Priyanka, Jyoti and Preeti


Right, so what do Amit and Pooja name their kids then? Do the girls get named Kaira, Shyra and Shanaya as the article purports? And do the boys end up being Adi, Sid and Kabir?


The winner by a mile here is some variation of Aaradhya/Aradhya/Aradya followed by Aadhya/Aadya. Taimur and Misha might be paparazzi favourites today but before them came Aaradhya Bachchan to inspire thousands of young parents. IMO the rest of the list is not as FWGN as you’d expect but I leave it to your judgement.



Without a doubt Aarav is the Amit of this generation. Also note the dominance of “VI” names which I hope to explore further in a subsequent post.


That’s all for today folks. More when I find the time…


Delhi Schools – 1/n

It’s admission season here in Delhi and kiddo is in the fray. The DOE does a pretty neat job of putting up registered applicants school wise here which is great if you’re querying by school but sucks if you’re querying by student name. I wrote a little scraper + data reorganizer for my personal use last weekend.

I’ve tried wrapping it into a Google site here for anyone who is looking to get a summary of points across schools for their ward:

I am not the front end guru so pardon the poor quality of the site. Please feel free to share with anyone who is looking to get a points summary for their kid.

Also to follow when I get the time: some interesting data visualizations.


Using Chinese Remainder Theorem IRL

In 1999 I had the privilege of attending the KRMO (Karnataka Regional Maths Olympiad) camp at IISc. While it didn’t do much to improve my math capabilities, it taught me a lot about how to preserve self-esteem when in the presence of materially smarter, sharper & more capable folks.

One of the quaint bits of math that I did learn was the Chinese Remainder Theorem and true to its name it has remained in the recesses of my brain since unused as yet another thing I learnt in school which I would never use.

Until today.

Earlier today I uploaded a large number of files into Google Drive in batches of 300 or so, a process that took close to an hour. When the upload was done Google helpfully let me know that some uploads in my last batch had failed.

Further Google Drive has some “helpful features” in that:

a. It creates duplicates of files when you re-upload without checking for conflicts

b. It doesn’t tell you the number of files that exist in a folder

I needed a quick way of figuring out how many files I was missing. Since only the last batch failed it was between 0 and 300.

Exasperated I listed contents and started counting the number of files manually. Not surprisingly I quickly lost count. I switched to grid mode and scrolled right down when I saw this:


I stretched out the window and saw this:


I had an epiphany – this was a job for CRT.

I quickly wrote down the number of files in the last row for different column sizes like this:

Number of Columns   Number of Files displayed in last row
7                   6
6                   2
5                   4
4                   2
3                   2

The number of files in the last row of each grid represents the remainder when N, the number of files in the folder, is divided by the number of columns being displayed. The question for CRT is to compute the total number of files N in the folder based on these remainders. This looks almost impossible to someone who hasn’t seen CRT at work.

After a few minutes of googling I found the method for reconstructing N here:

Click to access chinese_remainder.pdf

The math works out like so:

  1. Drop the 6 column case because we need co-prime divisors
  2. Compute the product of the co-prime divisors = z
  3. Compute z1..z4 as z/m1…z/m4
  4. Compute multiplicative inverse modulos y1..y4 (this takes a slight amount of effort)
  5. Compute SumProduct of Remainders, Divisor Products and MIMs
  6. Compute remainder R as the SumProduct modulo z


CRT now tells us that N must be of the form k*z + R where k is an integer > 0

k=1 =>  420+314 =  714
k=2 =>  840+314 = 1154
k=3 => 1260+314 = 1574
k=4 => 1680+314 = 1994

I was looking to upload 1579 files and I had transferred at least 1200 until the last batch so 1574 was the number I was after. I was missing just 5 files.

Of course, this hardly solves the problem – I still need to find those 5 and re-upload them. 😐

Poetry and Progeny

In terms of firsts, the earliest memory I have of a book that I self-read is this combo of “Whiskers for a Cat and Bilderoo is coming”. When I extend the same question to poetry there is nothing that comes to mind.

Until today.

Thanks to kiddo I rediscovered Eleanor Farjeon and Cats which we read and re-read until one of us had had enough. The poem evokes strong, and very likely false, childhood memories of the stale wooden scent of classroom 2B, my grandpa’s deep voice and my desire to own a cat as a child.

Still trundling through this reverie I stumbled upon this meta gem:

I’ll tell you, shall I, something I remember?
Something that still means a great deal to me.
It was long ago.

A dusty road in summer I remember,
A mountain, and an old house, and a tree
That stood, you know,

Behind the house. An old woman I remember
In a red shawl with a grey cat on her knee
Humming under a tree.

She seemed the oldest thing I can remember.
But then perhaps I was not more than three.
It was long ago.

I dragged on the dusty road, and I remember
How the old woman looked over the fence at me
And seemed to know

How it felt to be three, and called out, I remember
‘Do you like bilberries and cream for tea?’
I went under the tree.

And while she hummed, and the cat purred, I remember
How she filled a saucer with berries and cream for me
So long ago.

Such berries and such cream as I remember
I never had seen before, and never see
Today, you know.

And that is almost all I can remember,
The house, the mountain, the gray cat on her knee,
Her red shawl, and the tree,

And the taste of the berries, the feel of the sun I remember,
And the smell of everything that used to be
So long ago,

Till the heat on the road outside again I remember
And how the long dusty road seemed to have for me
No end, you know.

That is the farthest thing I can remember.
It won’t mean much to you. It does to me.
Then I grew up, you see. 


Of course we had to finish with:

Five minutes, five minutes more, please!
Let me stay five minutes more!
Can’t I just finish the castle
I’m building here on the floor?
Can’t I just finish the story
I’m reading here in my book?
Can’t I just finish this bead-chain —
It almost is finished, look!
Can’t I just finish this game, please?
When a game’s once begun
It’s a pity never to find out
Whether you’ve lost or won.
Can’t I just stay five minutes?
Well, can’t I just stay just four?
Three minutes, then? two minutes?
Can’t I stay one minute more? 

As we reluctantly wound up for the evening I had to but wonder if kiddo would one day find a lost part of themselves while attempting to similarly educate a greener, and perhaps artificial, mind.

IIMA 2006 – 10y Reunion


An earlier version of this piece appeared in the IIMA Alumnus Feb 2017 issue.

In Robert Pirsig’s seminal work, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a student of the protagonist Phaedrus who is looking to write a five hundred word essay on the United States, finds herself at a loss for words, not knowing where to begin.

Trying to describe the Batch of 2006’s 10 year reunion weekend in a short passage, I’d like to think, is a similarly challenging task. After a considerable amount of time has been spent mulling over where to begin, it is very tempting to reduce the narrative to a mundane assortment of objective facts and the lowest common denominator of shared experience. I hope what follows does more than just that.
The new campus is a fantastic piece of architecture. Its stoic grey walls, while paying homage to Louis Kahn’s vision, have a character of their own. Twin ponds 20161217_213516-01.jpegof water lilies, surrounded by flocks of noisy pigeons welcomed us to the IMDC. These exquisite flowers came to life at dusk and were in full bloom at midnight which seemed like an appropriate metaphor for the nature and intensity of our own conversations and activities. Yet, unlike the pigeons, we chose not to congregate around these blooming flowers. For the heart longed for a joy and vivaciousness that only red can engender.

Some proponents of field theory would like to believe that us humans are devoid of an independent personality, but rather, that we can only find meaning in the context of our environment. The close to hundred of us who arrived on campus, brought with us a decade of calluses, battleworn from our careers and weighed down by the responsibilities that time and age have bestowed upon us. Fortunately, we found all manner of ways to moult and rediscover our younger selves, as we were, in simpler, and perhaps only in hindsight, happier, times. For some it was just being able to meet long-lost friends, while others found their salvation on the cricket ground. Yet others resorted to the familiar taste of Rambhai’s chai or the lunch thali at Agashiye to rekindle old memories. As night fell, stronger restoratives were employed to keep open the doors of perception, helping us maintain peak performance be it at the ramp or the poker table. Few, however, would disagree that any of these experiences would have held as much meaning outside the confines of those magic red bricks, the late night dew and chilly winds of LKP or the characteristic musty odour of CRs 3 through 6. At no time was this more apparent than when the clock struck midnight, when, irrespective of where we had been until then, we found ourselves migrating slowly in groups towards the old campus under the pretext of an after-dinner chai at CT, and staying back for hours at end to stroll through campus making sure the present generation of PGP1s were adequately focused on academics.

Going back at this point to the story of the young student struggling to write her essay, her professor Phaedrus, suggests that she try narrowing down her focus at first to just the city, then to a street, to a building and finally to a single brick, at which point she suddenly experiences a deluge of literary and creative output which leads her to fill many pages talking about just that brick. Perhaps there is more here then, than just a trick to get over writer’s block.


On the final day, as we bade each other our final goodbyes, there was unanimous agreement that the reunion had turned out better than our wildest expectations. A spartan affair, bereft of holiday destinations, celebrity appearances or pro shows, managed on a meager budget by a handful of enthusiastic folks. Perhaps all that was needed to infuse the weekend with meaning, fulfillment and happiness, was the people and the red bricks. A decade into our post IIMA lives, that does leave one wondering, as to how many of us have identified similar cornerstones to anchor the lives we were returning to and to make them more meaningful.

In closing, I’d like to thank those who were instrumental in making this experience truly special – the Alumni Office and the organizing committee, Director Nanda and Prof Basant for taking the time to speak with us, our friend and batchmate, Prof Amit Karna, who we are fortunate and proud to call one of our own, Prof Handa for the lovely mementos, Poza, Anu, Rejoy, Paldy, Mansur for the memories and the entertainment and finally Tahseen and DD, without whose tireless efforts in marshaling the batch into turning up in significant numbers and coordinating and managing payments and expenses this reunion would not have been such a resounding success.