Thu, 28th Apr '11, 10:45 pm::

I've been working on a really neat problem this week for KType - how to compare phrases and find the best matching ones. If a user types "wnv u wnt", I want to autosuggest "whenever you want." Every computer and phone has spell-check to fix spellings but there is no established algorithm to convert abbreviated speech into regular English, especially for multi-word phrases. Certainly some words are easy to guess like wnv = whenever but what should "smtg" be? Something? Smoothing? Smothering? Smelting? Well that depends on a lot of factors like the popularity of the word, the subject matter, the words that come before, and most importantly the actual context. "I wnt to tl u smtg" most probably means "I want to tell you something."

I've been reading up on algorithms like Bitap, Levenshtein, Bloom filter all day and haven't come across any algorithm that I can directly use. Looks like I'll have to figure this problem out on my own. Fun times!

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Of dreams and nightmaresWed, 20th Apr '11, 11:35 pm::

I've always had a love-hate relationship with sleep. While I never have a problem falling asleep and seldom wake up in the middle of the night for any reason, I rarely shut my eyes and just wake up 6-8 hours later. Between the time I fall asleep and wake up are hours and hours of dreams and nightmares that keep me engaged each night. I'm planning on staying up late tonight to "reset" my dream/nightmare cycle. I can recollect most of my dreams every morning if I want but usually avoid doing so.

Many of my dreams have recurring themes. One common dream I have is finding entirely new rooms and sections of my own house or my parent's house. A recurring nightmare I have is realizing I have a final exam today for a class I have somehow signed up for but never attended or studied for. My dreams are often surreal and geography agnostic - I could be in SeaWorld, Orlando and walk up to the street vendor in Kolkata for a quick snack. My nightmares are a cross between 24 and Everybody Loves Raymond - a ticking time-bomb of social awkwardness.

I have always had dreams and have failed to explain the cause despite my meticulous attempts to analyze my diet, exercise-level, moods, entertainment, stress, or health. I love finding patterns but I can't seem to find any with respect to my sleep cycles and dreams. What I do know for certain is that if I sleep less, I can't seem to recall my nightmares. This makes me a little tired physically but mentally I feel a lot more refreshed than if I sleep 7-8 hours and have 3 hours of nightmares. So every few days, I stay up late to try and reset the cycle so I can get more dreams and fewer nightmares. If I sleep more than 7 hours, I am guaranteed to have a bunch of nightmares that will affect my mood for the rest of the day.

In order to prevent or minimize the negative effect from nightmares, I used to control my dreams, but I stopped doing that because it was extremely exhausting and no different from being awake for many hours every night watching foreign films without subtitles. I've tried "planning" as I fall asleep - planning everything from my next day's todo list to life goals and dreams. I've tried meditating and clearing my mind as I fall asleep. None of these have any effect on the onslaught of dreams and nightmares each night. While one might say these nightmares are a result of suppressed emotions, repressed memories, or personal anxiety, I would disagree with that because (a) I live a pretty drama-free life with barely any social or interpersonal conflicts (b) I've had both vivid dreams and nightmares since I was a carefree kid, and (c) my dreams often segue to nightmares and vice versa so it's not a well-defined condition like after-effects of PTSD.

As a result of these dreams and nightmares, I like to stay up late and sleep fewer hours. But all is not lost. There are fun things I can do as I fall asleep. I can transition into a wake-initiated lucid dream as I slowly fall asleep and make myself hear any music or sounds I want. It's like the world's largest iPod library in my own head. I just think of a song and I can hear the entire orchestra with all the small, distinct notes playing clearly in surround sound. Or I can think of a voice and converse with anyone I want, just like in real life. Sometimes, I can even make myself "see" anything I want with my eyes closed. I only do these things as I'm slowly falling asleep. If I'm already asleep and realize that I am in a dream-state, I choose not to control it because it is exhausting like I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

When I'm not actively dreaming but still lazy enough to not get out of bed, I do a lot of problem solving in my sleep and love it. Often I will get stuck on a computer project during the day and find the most optimal solution during my sleep. I don't think I "dream" the solution but rather think of many different solutions in a relaxed state, devoting a larger part of my active concentration to solving the problem instead of sensing environment, taste, sounds, or sights. I would love to be able to get into this state more often, though not at the cost of peaceful sleep.

Sometimes when I've had just the right amount of wine, I go to bed and wake up feeling refreshed 8 hours later without any dreams. I'm sure I still dream but as long as I don't remember dreaming when I wake up, I'm happy. I just hate feeling tired every morning because I was writing, directing, and acting in a live-action movie in my head for the past few hours. Here's hoping for a dream-free night!

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Sun, 10th Apr '11, 4:20 pm::

My friend Arthur and his girlfriend are visiting us from New Jersey this weekend and we've been doing a lot of sightseeing with them. We went to the Harry Potter Theme Park at Universal Studios on Friday and visited the new Salvador Dali Museum yesterday. We also went to an equestrian competition in Tampa yesterday evening at the Raymond James Stadium. We're on our way to get some yummy Mexican food before we hit the beach. They're flying back home tomorrow and then it's life back to normal for all of us.

Juliet and I were both pretty disappointed by the new Dali Museum. Architecturally it is a very interesting building design but the entire experience felt hollow and extravagantly commercialized. Walking through the old museum, I always felt like I was getting an opportunity to see a private collection of invaluable art, something I would never get a chance to see anywhere else. The new museum felt like the Disneyfication of Dali's entire portfolio with a Cafe Gala ready to serve you sandwiches and gift shop selling overpriced jewelry by designers who had nothing to do with Dali. The layout of the art gallery itself was very unimpressive, just two large rooms with Dali's artwork splattered all over with no running theme or logical organization. I love Dali's artwork but I was thoroughly disappointed by the complete lack of warmth in the museum design. Instead of Dali, if this this museum housed modern art or Ikea furniture samples, I would have loved it.

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Mon, 4th Apr '11, 12:10 am::

We just got back from a mini-vacation at a remote log-cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. Here are some photos from our trip. A few weeks ago I booked a log-cabin called Dances with Wolves so Juliet and I could have one final vacation before she starts working in May.

It was a beautiful cabin and even though the weather got a bit cold and foggy, we had a great time. We took our puppies with us and took them on walks every day. On Saturday we stopped by a hidden waterfall and spent hours looking for gems and gold rocks in the water. No luck for now but there's always next time. We cooked all of our meals at the cabin and just relaxed in the jacuzzi all day. I'm pretty sure we'll be making the drive up to Smoky Mountains many more times in the future.

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