Monday, November 17, 2008

Arts vs Sciences

I was talking to a friend recently, and he was saying how all those aesthetic subjects he learnt at school were completely useless. He went on to say that 'Arts' isn't as important and useful as Science or Math. His objection to aesthetics was that there wasn't any particular form - Art, Music, Dancing, Literature - that he wasn't really good at. So he says he was quite fed up at school being forced to learn useless things.

I for one disagree. For several reasons.

Firstly, you cannot compare two subjects and say which is more important. That's just like saying a doctor is more important than a plumber. Each subject is important and interesting - yes to different people - but just because something does not appeal to YOU doesnt mean it wont appeal to ME either. It's perfectly fine to say you absolutely HATE Eng.Lit or Math or Music - but that doesn't make it less important. Most troubles in this world are made by and because of people who think their point of view is the ONLY point of view.

Secondly, Art is just as useful and important as Science. Artistic endeavour is I believe essential to decent human society. You can learn how to build chip sets and rockets and robots from Sceince, but Art can show you how to share and appreciate someone else's dream. And Art is powerful. People cry reading Captain Corelli's Mandolin or English Patient or watching PS I love you or City of angels. People laugh and break into song during Sound of Music or Mamma Mia!. Art does that. People do NOT laugh/cry/dance when they buy a iPhone/laptop/flat screen tv. (If they do, there's something seriously wrong with them).
And I can truly say that even Famous Five has taught me quite a lot! Such as having the pluck to do what you think is right if nothing else. :)

Thirdly, why do we need to draw a thick yellow line separating Arts and Sciences anyway? Anyone who loves programming knows that there is a certain art of programming and there is a certain artistic beauty in an elegantly coded program. And what about Science fiction? And I'm not talking about those soft popular SciFi either. I'm talking about Rendezvous with Rama and 2001 and Excession. I remember reading Excession and being fascinated by how Ian Banks illustrates the idea of dimensions.

I'm sure we all have pet subjects and hate subjects. If I could, I would've skipped Social studies and Commerce & accounting all together. Not to mention System analysis & design and Comp.Sys.Architecture. Ugh. But those subjects are VERY important subjects. For example, what would we do without Commerce? Not a lot I'll tell you.
But just because you have no talent for something, and you have no taste for something doesn't mean it's a load of crap.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I want a new phone! Any ideas?

Its been 2 years since I got a new phone. Technically I didn't even pay for it so this is going to be my first. This is my current phone on the top left. A Motorola L6. At the time it cost only 13,500 and it came with its software cd with this Multimedia centre thing that lets you make ringtones from mp3s ..which was cool.
Its still functioning right as rain but I think its time to let go..*sigh

Now I want something that's got some cool music apps and a good radio..oh and at least 2M camera? And possibly 3G (though why I need this I cant imagine) and of course bluetooth. And be small and light - basically fit into my jean pocket. And have smooth soft curvy sort of design...I hate phones that look like boxes. ew. And it shouldn't break when fallen from a high altitude. Such as few feet. (I ALWAYS drop my phone at fit-on rooms in clothes shops. Shop assistants frequently pick up the pieces that land out of the fit on and wait for me to re-emerge)

Oh and I dont want an iPhone or a phone resembling a PDA. Why?
1) Not crazy enough to spend that much on a phone.
2) I don't need to watch movies from a miniature screen. I have a perfectly good home theatre thing at home.
3) Can't be bothered to look after it properly.

I really don't need a lot of things from a phone..I mean I don't want to have an embedded washing machine. Or a super mini micro wave that responds to a shortcut key.

Oh and the price (money money money..always comes down to it init)
Anything less than or equal to 40k is OK.

Any tips? Anyone?

Oh and I've been looking at some phones out there and the nokia 3600, 5610 & 5320 seems appealing. But have to look at other types too.. nokia's gps based map thing seem cool! Especially if you go abroad ( in Lanka of course you don't need it. You can just stand and look flustered while a hoard of 3 wheeler guys will descend on you and start offering to take you to Timbaktoo even). Ha ha.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Presenting my first paper at IITC

Last Wednesday I got to present my paper titled 'Morpholocal Parser for Sinhala verbs' at IITC, BMICH. It was based on my undergrad thesis... which I realized I'd almost forgotton about on the morning of the presentation. I was of course too lazy to go through it during the weekend and couldn't go through the slides on Monday coz Ugly Betty was on and they were showing the trial. So its not like its my fault is it?

Aaanyway I was originally planning to go to office and leave for bmich by 12 but I had this panic attack that I didnt remember anything I was gonna talk about so I decided to take the whole day off :( And spent till like 11.20 poring over the slides at home.

So to cut a long stressful story short I went there by 12.15 but spent 15 more minutes trying to find 'Commitee Room A'. Those people at the front sent me a regular 'Parangiya Kotte giya vage' tour around the darned bmich. At noon in Colombo this sort of excursion can make you really annoyed. And all this in a sari!!#$??##

My presentation was under 'Localization and Local Language Processing Applications' and was to be the last of the session which was about at 3pm. After that Black Magic thingie they served for lunch I was pretty de-stressed and relaxed so the presentation went OK.

Here's the abstract of my paper if you're interested:
"This paper presents a morphological parser capable of analyzing and generating Sinhala verbs. Morphological analysis and generation plays a vital role in many applications related to natural language processing, such as spell checkers, grammar checkers, intelligent information retrieval, machine translation and other complex applications. The parser consists of a lexicon of more than 400 verb stems and handles 45 inflectional rules for each stem. Analyses produces the verb stem together with its feature tags depicting verb class, person, number, tense, gender, mood, voice, etc. The parser is modelled in the framework of two level morphology model using Xerox finite state morphology tools. To our knowledge, this is the first such parser for Sinhala verbs.

Keywords: Morphology, Natural Language Processing, Parsing, Sinhala


I was dissapointed with the turnout though. Maybe because it was the last day of the conference..But it was nice to be told that your research was interesting and that people were impressed! which I was told by 2 total strangers during tea :) Since your collegues would say this to you anyway coz they're just being nice it was good to hear it from strangers :D

But the nicest part came while I was on my way back to the office to catch my transport... Several of my friends texted me to tell me that they had watched the whole thing on internet (UCSC tv)! Too bad I didn't know about that before..Hmm on second thought better that I didn't know..Would've freaked out probably!