Monday, February 27, 2006

It's been a while, so let's ramble

Almost a month since I posted. What kept me at bay? Quite a lot of things.

First off, a rant (skip please) : I am now extremely irritated at not having a laptop for the past 6 weeks. So I'm not able to listen to music or plug in my guitar or watch a video or do some quick calculation or communicate with friends/family or ... virtually everything gets difficult without a computer. To make matters worse, professors assume that everyone of us has access to a computer despite the fact that there are hardly any public-access computing clusters at IUB. The only place is the library with its 4-odd Sun Microsystems consoles, inaccessible after 11:30 pm.

The big problem is not being able to study properly. Homeworks, notes, slides, everything is online. Important communication is via email or the course forums. There have been instances when I have almost missed homework deadlines or quizzes due to lack of information. Let's hope I get my poor laptop back.

Enough rambling (way to begin a post, yeah!).

The good thing is that I am regaining my love for the Keyboard - piano to be specific. It's a great feeling to have 88 ivory/black keys at your disposal. It's the same 88 notes but your fingers can make it sound however you like it. It's amazing. I am now perfecting the first movement of Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven, Op 27, #2) and am learning Etude in E major (Chopin, Op 10, #3) which I can barely play past the first 5 seconds as of now. It's not a piece one would begin playing with (it's an etude after all, has 3 separate melodies played by, well, two hands... it might take me like a year to get right!) But I really like it so why not. That said, I am getting increasingly worse at playing guitar. There has been no progress during the past 2 weeks that I have played with my band, and I have gotten even sloppier than I already was. Sad.

Next up - I'm back to my horrendous reading appetite. That's right, after a long break (of course because of lack of books themselves) Ich bin back in business, having checked out 22 books from the library as of now (and paid 10 Euro in late fines for having forgotten their due dates)... It's amazing. Everything from History of the Ancient World to Artificial Intelligence to Genetic Programming to Independent Component Analysis to Guy de Maupassant Collected Works to Undiscovered Chekhov... PARADISE! In fact learning new stuff is so cool, just last Wednesday I was reading about the 3x+1 problem in one of the books and next day I go to my Symbolic Software lab class and bang - the same problem appears as one of the parts of that week's assignment!

Also, I will probably re-start my techno-music show this Sunday on campus radio IWAVE. Am pretty excited since I've gathered a few amazing lounge/techno tracks. One of which that I especially like is a lounge/tech remix of Mozart's Symphony #40 (that guy composed freakin 50 symphonies?! No wonder he was Beethoven's teacher).

Talking of music, my band (Casey, Steffen, Iza and me) is scaling new heights with quiet a few covers we've been practising or plan to. Our repertoire currently is (the only two perfected songs are the ones starred) -

Alanis Morisette - Uninvited
Incubus - 11 am*
Incubus - The Warmth*
Incubus - Just a phase
Audioslave - Like a stone
Vertical Horizon - On the sea
Muse - Time is running out - watch video here - nice song.

... and more being added. Pretty soon we'll be able to just pick up any song and play it. (And yeah we play a lot of Incubus).

But coming back to sad news, I was not able to make my deadline to complete the AudioPrint project. Which means nil chances of submitting somewhere. Oh well. Maybe next year. But I have at least some interesting results - one of which is being able to segment an audio file into musically (or at least energetically) meaningful sections. But more info on that later (when I actually have concrete results rather than bump-ins).

With that I guess this post comes to an end. I got a quiz in less than 2 hours from now. It's about two-port theory and non-linear analysis, if anyone is interested (sounds formidable but that's how most of EECS is... simple concepts with big big names). Bbye to whoever visits this hut, apart from people looking for "FlyAKiteOSX" :-\ from one of my wayyy old posts (I know you are out there).........

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Act II

So the spring semester has already started. The second sixth of my undergraduate education...

It is sometimes hard to believe how relative time is. And how relative what you learn can be. I learnt more in the last two years of high school than I probably did in all the 10 previous years. After having complete the first semester of my first year in college, I feel the same way again. And it's not only academics.

To start with, I started living in a country and culture totally different from the one I grew up in. The transition was not easy (as if it ought to be!). There were things to worry about and hurdles to cross before I landed up here, and thankfully, with the help of everyone around me, I did end up in the middle of Europe at this wonderful place in Germany that we call IUB. At times, it can be an ass of a place to study at, while other times you sit down and marvel at the picturesque campus and the world class facilities, not to mention the rigorous (too rigorous?) course curriculum. And then there was coping with continental food. I think I did okay in coping with it, and Aramark, the catering company, did an ok job of creating a menu with at least some items in it that I could consider edible. (Not including days when they only serve five different dishes of beef and pork so you have to survive on cheese sandwiches).

Then there was this interesting experience of me running for the student government, getting into a draw with another candidate, publicizing myself and ending up being tried at the student court for violating no-publicity rules. The whole incident was more fun than tragic, as the election committee itself said it was ok while the court said it was not! I missed the opportunity to be among the ten parliamentarians - something that I am now glad of, because I wouldn't have had the time that the job requires. But it was still an opportunity that I missed, along with another big one - the opportunity to represent my university in the European semifinals for the ACM international collegiate programming competition. Due to some error in the online judging system, I ended with no accepted submissions despite having solved five of the seven problems. I was rank two in the local final, but ranks 1, 3 and 4 were selected to represent IUB at Stockholm. I cried that evening. I still remember the Professor applauding when I said "five" - and my name goes up on the board, below the top ranker. Then they check the online page and it says zero. I exclaim - "But I have all the solutions here on my computer."

"That, of course, doesn't mean anything!" -Professor
I did not have an account on the CLAMV (IUB's computing platform) because my lab course hadn't started then. I was asked to use my laptop while everyone else was on the computing cluster. Could that be it? I don't know. In retrospect, it doesn't even matter.

Yes. Nothing matters. While material things like the two incidents described above can appear important at a fleeting glance, what's more important is that you learn from your experiences. Certainly my whining about it is not going to help me, but not whining about it might.

There were opportunities that I grabbed. Like getting a job in a lab, DJ'ing for my own radio show, performing Incubus live before an audience of hundreds, visiting the US, or learning to play the piano.

The roster of experiences doesn't end there. Perhaps the most important of those is having matured mentally and emotionally. I found myself caught in a mire, a hurricane of emotions, at the center of which I stood. I faked calmness. To tell yourself "it's okay" when it's definitely "not okay" means two things - you are either weak and are taking the easier way out, or inhumanely strong to be able to take it all within yourself. Which of these I am, I don't know. But I sure know that I am standing.

I am standing here - before all of the people I know. Hollow from the inside, but still standing. Standing at what Shakespeare would call "The Stage." I'm playing my part; whether I choose to play Antonio with his inexplicable sadness or Gratiano with his nonsensical, yet jubilant behaviour; that remains to be seen.

But one thing I do know. That I have to stay up. I have to keep standing while the show goes on. It has to. This time not for myself, but for the audience that stands before me...