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A picture is worth 772 words February 9, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in CMU, life, weird.
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The picture that you see at the top this of page ( and appears in full in the thumbnail below ) was shot on Sunday, Dec 18th, 2005 in my lab here at CMU. I often sit in my lab ( thumbnail above ) which doors closed, tubelights off and the table lamp on. My officemates are often away and certainly so during weekends. I remember as I sat down with the table lamp on, the reflection of the yellow light cast an interesting pattern on the book shelf that contains more books on topics other than my broad area of research ( Statistical NLP ). And that was a time when I carried my camera with my pretty much most of the time and this picture came out quite well.

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Here is a note on the books that appear in the picture :

There is the book by the one of American experts on the sub-continent Stanley Wolpert “India” printed in the 60s. Read most of it.

“Cultural literacy” is a book on American culture that the author thought “every American should know to function in contemporary society”. I bought the book for $1 and haven’t read it yet.

Modern Times : Is a comprehensive overview of world history, a book that I took on my travel to India two days after the picture was shot. When Rajaram asked me to lend him this book, after a whole lot of fuss I gave him while telling him that I was meaning to give him the book anyway. I later recanted my statement. And recanted again. And again. I don’t remember what my last position ( or his last opinion ) was. :-).

Albert Einstein : A book on his life and times. Not read yet.

Piece work : A book by Pete Hamill about “Men and Women, Fools and Heroes, Lost Cities, Vanished Friends, Small Pleasures, Large Calamities, and How the Weather Was.” I read one of the essays sitting on my luggage at the Pittsburgh bus station ( Dec 20th ) waiting for my bus to NYC. And read a few other essays on the upper berth of the train from Bombay to Udupi – Dec 25th.

The original image

Switching to the end, the well-known Freedom at midnight, on the birth of India. American Mind about the birth and values of America. The somewhat unclear title is “Our times” – a set of essays which are in fact articles from American newspapers from the 60s on. Next two books are on Computer Science and Natural Langauge Processing. “Dancing naked in the mind field” is a book by a Nobel Physicist about the joys of physics.

The only book whose title you can’t see – is a book containing essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I remember reading his essays on compensation, friendship and self-reliance ( brilliant of them all ) in 1996 when I came across some of his quotes. I picked that up but haven’t read much since.

“Thinking economically” – a book on economics in everyday life. “The Tipping Point” – I now think it is over-rated. I bought it on June 1st, 2005 for a reason – I consider that in some sense one of the tipping points in my life. “Bridges to infinity” is a book on the beauty of mathematics.

The book in the middle “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” is weird. And its presence among the many other book an irony in itself !!

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Now this is the best part. I would love to get a picture of that shelf as it looks now, but since I dont have a camera, I will write this anyway.

“India” and “Cultural Literacy” are in the same relative position – next to each other. More surprisingly, “The Tipping Point” , “Bridges to infinity” and “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” are next to one another. After about an year and 2 months, they are still there. In this period, I have been coming to the lab 9.5 out of 10 days (!!), have bought so many books that went into this shelf and so many that I had to move home because of lack of space. Inspite of it all, these 5 books are right there, where they had been over an year ago. Something surreal about it !

The more weird part – When I shot the picture, I never thought it would be sitting in my blog up here. Nor did I think that I would write a 772 word long half- pointless post about it.

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