Anindya Das

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever," said Gandhi, and there is no one I know who lived that way as much as Anindya Das. He died last week in Pondicherry. 

Anindya had been playing basketball with some kids when he collapsed on the court. He was dead by the time he got medical attention.  Anindya left behind a career in academia (he used to teach computer science at OU and UWO in London, Ontario) but decided that he could have a more sane and fulfilling life in Pondicherry.  He found a job there in a small technology company. The company, happy no doubt at getting an overqualified friendly and competent person for cheap, allowed him to build his work hours around Anindya's volunteer hours at the Aurobindo Ashram school. He taught the kids there math and volleyball and basketball.  That's where he was when he died.

Maybe because he listened so well, he picked up languages very easily. He was a Bengali who grew up in Orissa, so that got him two languages. Hindi, of course, and English. His sister lived in the former French colony of Pondicherry, so French and Tamil too. He perfected his French in France and Quebec, and picked up Arabic and Spanish along the way.  Probably a few more that I don't know about.

I am glad that our kids got to see their Uncle Andy when we went to India last summer. We'd taken a bus from Chennai to Pondicherry and he met us at the bus station. He took us swimming in the Bay of Bengal, off to dinner at a local hangout and then bought the kids ice cream. He's enriched my life immensely, but I can not help wishing, rather selfishly, that he could have been around a couple more decades -- the kids could have gotten to balance the charms of an unhurried, minutely examined, life with whatever rat race they are in.

Things I learned today

One of my young colleagues keeps a blog where she jots down research ideas (it seems to not be public, but her public blog is here). I think that's a very cool idea and thought I'd try it for a day but with a slightly different spin.  So, I decided to keep track of the things that I did not know on Wednesday but learned on Thursday.  Here's a partial list (not including things that involve other people, for privacy reasons).

(8.15am) In a Linux script, to run two processes, wait for them to finish before starting to do something else:
./ train -ldm &
./ valid -ldm &
How could I not have known this earlier? Still, better late than never. This will cut the time needed to do some data mining work I am doing in half; I should be able to check the results of the trained algorithm after lunch instead of waiting till tomorrow.

(9.02am) Austromigration is when birds migrate within the Southern Hemisphere. There are birds in South America, that migrate within the continent i.e., they fly North for the winter!

(9.20am) One way to track the location of small birds is to attach sensors to them. GPS chips are too big and too expensive, so one device works by simply recording the time of sunrise and sunset.  How is this enough? The time in between, solar noon, tells you the longitude.  The length of day can tell you what the latitude is, although the accuracy of the latitude varies through the year (less accurate around an equinox).

(9.45am) Cornell University and the Audubon society run a citizen-bird-reporting app called ebirds which is similar to the mPING application that we created.  Birders love the ebirds app because it allows them to keep personal records, but Cornell can QC the data and provide it for scientific studies. Might be a way to validate bird density estimates from radar ...

(10.35am) People take drills way too seriously. We had an "active shooter" drill at work. This is better than a fire drill because you can simply shut the door of your office and keep working. No big deal. But then, the drill was followed by a "hot wash" where the police officer said he was impressed that the place became a ghost town. Fine. Can we get back to work now? Nope, some one had a question. And more questions. People!

(11.00am) Google Reader is being decommissioned in July.  Oh no! How am I going to keep up with my RSS feeds?

(1.15pm) Just because I think the ground clutter case was from KGYX doesn't mean it isn't really from KRLX. It might be better to more careful about such things before wasting 2 hours on debugging something that is actually working correctly.

(2.00pm) On the other hand, the process of debugging a non-problem actually led to several neat ideas that do improve the clustering algorithm (once I try it on the actual problem case). So maybe it's a good thing to be sloppy once in a while. I still have to figure out why it is not working though.
 (2.40pm) If a few storms are embedded in clutter, using a height-based attribute and expanding to cover the whole cluster will lead to the NN being poorly trained. Said clutter will never be removed. (sorry)

(4.00pm) When smoothing per-capita county data, a population-density-based filter size might work better.

(4.20pm) NDVI from MODIS before and after severe weather events is a good way to determine damage paths of weather events.

(10.30pm) Feedly is a worthy replacement for Google Reader.  Although I am not a fan of the wide open spaces, I will probably get used to it.

(11.00 pm) 2NT showing the minors is a wonderful preemptive overcall of a strong NT. (sorry)

(11.55pm) Jim Crow laws were actually a major economic drain on the south. "A total of four restrooms had to be constructed and maintained at significant expense in any public establishment that bothered to provide any for colored people: one for white men, one for white women, one for colored men and one for colored women."  That is from Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth of Other Suns".

Monopoly deadlock

The daughter's friend was over for a sleepover and the two girls were playing monopoly when they ran into an insoluble problem.

First, the friend rolled the dice and had to go to jail, so she had to skip a turn. Then, S2 rolled the dice and also had to go to jail, meaning she too had to skip a turn.

What's the way out?