Loved the Rosie Project

I finished the Rosie Project last night. It was 10.44 PM when I got up from the yellow Ikea reading chair. I had begun the read at 4.30 AM after downloading it on Borrow Box using my local Darebin library membership. I had chosen to download the e-AudioBook version of the book. At the back of my mind was the project – stuff my brain with specific diction – which I researched and did not follow up. This was a project to extend my diction in many different directions. I can Speak English in a few differed ways – multiple Indian ways, but also can do a smattering of Japanese-English, Singlish. Listening to an eAudio book would insert a substantial amount of audio content into my brain – and would be stored there till I accessed it. This book would no doubt be spoken of in the Melbourne-Educated voice. This is a form of hybrid intonation that would contain both the Urban-metropolitan Australian nuances, plus the standard university educated minimisation of local intonations. This voice would be fitting in to a standard-english mode stripped off the colloquial local and socialised intonations. Not posh – just stripped back and pickled. With delicious overtones of the American ‘a’ intoned sporadically for effect, and the conscious attempt at the rounded ‘o’ to denote every so often – responding to the need to have a confusing impact upon the listener.

The usage of the word ‘bastard’ is a case in example. It can be deployed in multiple ways. Its a great word that can be used as a ‘boy hug’ – “you bastard” slowly issuing from the mouth of a colleague is a great way to say “I fucking love you mate”. The ‘a’ in affection is rounded – the flattened ‘a’ in this word would confuse the listener: is this is a quote from a film? For effect the ‘b’ can be used as a projectile, with popping lips.

I am Soumitri of South Indian Extraction, height 167 and BMI 23.7. Average on all scores and statistically normal. No special distinguishing features. Balding, occasionally vegetarian, non-smoker, monogamous, Sporadic quantified-selfer, User of multiple scheduling apps (desultorily). Intellectually I am prone to binge projects – learn hebrew (not all that well), run (reasonably well – though not pushing the limit, desultory). I checked a few times, doing a mental assessment, to see if I figured on the Autism scale. I am hopeless in social gatherings. I can get worked up after social events. I like to work alone. I do not want to play the academic grants game. I would rather do interesting research that is not beholden to money making. Am I like Don (the main chracter in the book). There is a lot to like in Don.


Very early into the reading of the book (I should have said into the listening) I had an impulse that I have had often with authors – my particular and very special favourites being Andrea Camilleri and Shane Maloney. I would love to have coffee with this author. I stopped the audio just as Don was putting the lobster into the freezer. I went and had a look at Graeme Simsion. Then I had a read of a few reviews. There was a lot to like (“Warm-hearted and perfectly pitched, with profound themes that are worn lightly, this very enjoyable read promises to put Don Tillman on the comic literary map somewhere between Mr Pooter and Adrian Mole. Through his battles to understand and empathise with other humans, Don teaches us to see the funny side of our own often incomprehensible behaviour – and to embrace the differently abled.”) and not like (“The Rosie Project is 1930s screwball comedy updated for 2013.”) in the reviews.

I am prone to preferring the notion of affection in my engagement with literary charatecres of this genre.

I loved the book. I cried at many points. I stayed with the book. I stand with the voice of the narrator. I finished the book in a day.

If you want your treat in audio this is a gorgeous morsel.

I am next going to have a look at/ a listen of:

“The Rosie Effect – the book’s sequel, released last September, about the birth of the professor’s child with Rosie – was recently named by Bill Gates as one of his five favourite reads of 2014.”

Ray Matthews, 75, runs 75 marathons in 75 days.

So I am a failure. My app says I have to run 10.5 kms today. It’s 8 AM and I am off to work. Have not run yet. But now that I am thoroughly shamed -I aim to do better and run this evening:

Adorables or Deplorables?

I listened to NPR politics (yes a fan) podcast on my way to work today. Clinton’s use of the phrase – Basket of Deplorables was discussed and that it was now viral as #basketofdeplorables. What prompted this post was a comment by @domenicoNPR that he had posted a basket of puppies as #basketofadorables. So I headed off to twitter to check this out. I saw the basket of puppies – but then I came across a conspiracy theory that twitter was forcefully converting #basketofdeplorables into #basketofadorables – but isn’t this just autocorrect? Just saying.

#nprpolitics @samsanders

The other issue was the discussion around the #plebiscite. I have been tracking on this – and its already begun the polarisation and the hate speech – and then the phrases and contexts got conflated. #basketofdeplorables?

Signing off with a #basketofadorables

Cool Things in Dangerous Places

Today I encountered a description of this company – that is a business but with an engaging story of social innovation.


This is someone who uses the flipflops and lives to write about them.

It is a vetrepreneurial company formed by 2 Army Rangers and a designer with the intention of helping to build a no-bullshit sustainable economy in Afghanistan. CFF reckons that one way to contribute to stability on the ground there is with a robust economy and gainfully employed Afghans. That effort has gone sideways for a number of reasons but should hopefully begin again in the near future with the deployment of Expeditionary Production Facilities. Is it a quixotic mission? Probably, but that doesn’t make it any less worth supporting.  The entire CFF crew is as passionate about their “business not bullets” ethos as they are about helping veterans. To describe them as merely patriotic would be to damn them with faint praise.

I love my CFF AK47s and I wasn’t kidding when I said I was about to buy my 4th pair – I already have one pair for myself and I’ve purchased one each for Household-6 and my spawn. Are they pricey? Yes, certainly, especially when compared to cheap ass Walmart flip flops or other flimsy sandals. Personally I think they’re worth it, and certainly not just because the long term goal will contribute to a less Taliban- and drug-centric Afghanistan. Combat Flip Flops are a long lasting, well built lifestyle brand that happen to have a great underlying mission.

Even if they are bad for fighting and worse for running.

Read more:

This is the founder doing a TED Talk.

The language on their site is full of great phrases:

Business, not bullets!

The Peacemaker Bangle and Coinwrap are sent to us straight from artisans in Laos – and they’re made from bombs. Each bracelet sold clears 3 square meters of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) from a region rocked by long-term war – saving lives and providing economic opportunity.

And then:


We do this because it’s our job to show others what’s possible, then encourage them to join us.

Take a look and pass the word on.

Design in the West Coast

I am currently doing a study of design in the US through a research field trip. My area of focus is entered around the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The East was simply breathtaking


This region has not occupied my interest in nearly 26 years – to be precise since 1991 when I worked in the design studios at Hitachi in Kokubunji in Tokyo, Japan. Its safe to say the years preceding and following my stint at Hitachi were filled with a deep passion for Japanese aesthetic production – from Literature, Cinema, Poetry, art and Design. I had encountered Penny Sparke’s Japanese Design in the 1980s, and I have had no reason to go back to that work in the past 3 decades. I was to changed quite significantly by my Japan exposure, and my deep immersion into the Japanese Design Ecosystem provided me with access to a practice that provided an alternative narrative to the functional-utilitarian discourse I was inculcated in at Design School in the early 1980s. I arrived in Japan with all my senses open and suspended – with an excessive passion for Kurosawa, Kawabata and Ozu. It was a territory I was owning for myself. It helped that I was surrounded by others equally passionate in the material culture of Japan. Japan however is not important in this post. What is significant is that the project to undertake an immersion and a scholarship of the material culture of a people changed both my approach to valuing design and to the ‘good looking’ in design. This immersion was a precursor to my engagement with design in Asia and to the diversity of contextual constructions of design.

That Old (Traditional) view of American Design

Before I had begun my preoccupation with the East I was fortunate to be exposed extensively to American designers and design projects. An exposure that lasted till the late 1980s. This exposure was the stuff of lore – Wright, Herman Miller, Saarinen, Eames and Propst. I even sat behind Paolo Soleri at a concert in Ahmedabad.

The bridge between matter and spirit is matter becoming spirit.

I knew people who had worked with Fuller and Kahn. I was of course of the generation of the 80s – The Whole Earth Catalog occupied us, I can recite verbatim from Fuller:

I have foreseen for one-third of a century, that the opportunity existed for a new professional architectural scientist to seize the initiative, independent of client prerogatives, in dealing anticipatory with the external organics of industrial man.

I have loved my well thumbed copy of Wholly Round by Rasa Gustaitis, and Cosmic Fishing by Applewhite. We were at this time taking the Stewart Brand Whole Earth Catalog to heart – and were focussed upon solving the worlds problems – in geodesic ways. I have built a few three frequency domes in my life, built solar cookers and have re-paired windmills. The repair opportunity arose as I was in conversation with Marjorie Sykes at Rasulia, the Quaker Farm I was volunteering at, and going on about VITA and the appropriate tech movement.

My continuing pursuit of american production was to be in the field of alternative education. Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society), Rules for Radicals (Saul Alinsky), John Holt, Neil Postman (Teaching as a subversive activity) and John Seeley Brown (Learning in the Digital Age) guided me as I developed my teaching practice.

American Design meant something completely different then. I had potentially been distancing myself from the designer who suffered from hubris – external organics of industrial man – and has shifted to a contemplative, and collaborative mode. Being immersed in the context and listening deeply to the words – and keeping what I was hearing local, pertinent to the context of the speaker, is giving me new insights.

Soon after I wrote the above line I was to spend time with a university science and technology academic. I heard a position articulated – that science in a famous university would produce the solution for a sustainable planet – and had a momentary exposure to the hubristic voice.

Design in the West Coast

So it is only this year that I have begun a program to research contemporary Design in the US of A. In the first instance I am looking closely at Design in the West Coast.I have begun to read Barry Katz’s book Make it now and am now gaining an appreciation of design in the west coast. A lot of what I have been hearing in my interviews, Stanford is an amazing laboratory of innovation, is now making sense.

My interest in Design in the West Coast is in three parts. My Research looks at:

  1. Contemporary crafts and art production. I have a set of links to Pinterest Boards to Furniture Designer-Makers listed at the end of this post.
  2. The history and development of contemporary design in the bay area.
  3. Design Institutions and Educational ecosystems.
  4. Entrepreneurship ecosystems in Design

This is the first in a series on Design in the West Coast.

The research program will produce some artefacts that I will post here: a narrative, some drawings, enumerations and a glossary.

Further Readings

Pinterest Boards: Sam Malouf, George nakashima

Barry Katz, Make it New (Book), Link.

Richard Florida, America’s Leading Design Cities, Link.

Nathan Shedroff & Christopher Noessel, Make It So, Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction, Link.

Cosmic Fishing, by E.J. Applewhite, LinkThis is a wondefull book about E.J Applewhite’s collaboration with Buckminster Fuller on Bucky’s epic “Synergetics” Applewhite writes about the process of intimately working with Fuller….the quirks,calamities, frustrations and ecstacies. I have bought it for friends as it is a good, concise guide to Bucky’s principles and way of thinking. As in “Synergetics” Applewhite gets to the basics. As he would say, “He confronts Fuller with himself” Applewhite shows himself to be a elegant writer and dry wit. I can see why he complimented Bucky so well.

Wholly Round by Rasa Gustaitis

The text of the Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth is available, for those wishing to download the PDF, here.

John Seeley Brown’s text (PDF) Learning in the Digital Age here.

So I learnt Hebrew over the weekend

I am a recent listener to Tim Ferriss’ pod casts. In fact I heard my first Ferriss podcast last week. One of the things that Ferriss is famous for is “How to learn a language in an hour”. You can read about that in this article.

Coincidently a few things were happening in my life at about this time:

  1. I had updated my linkedIn profile and removed all references to the languages I spoke. ( I used to list 9 in that profile, but then I also listed my main occupation as Basket Ball Manager then.)
  2. I had recently spent some intensive-time (10 days, all day) with an Israeli academic-friend from a few decades ago. And had realised that I was collaborating with or was in the vicinity of 4 Hebrew speakers.

Somehow the two facts collided and I found myself setting a challenge to myself on Friday night that I would learn Hebrew by Sunday night. Its 8 PM on Sunday and I have learnt Hebrew! Here is what I have learnt:

  1. I know the Hebrew Alphabet, and can read simple words.
  2. I have a vocabulary of 200+words.
  3. I can pronounce ‘kh’ reasonably well.
  4. I am learning some of the words to 23 hebrew songs.

In short Tim Ferriss is right. The language deconstruction does take very little time, and the memorising of alphabets, words and phrases can be equally quickly accomplished.

Here is what I did.

First I set up the goal to learn the alphabet, a mistake in my Japanese language learning which I need to rectify. This is relatively easy – I used the online platform Memrise and found a Hebrew course on it. I have used Memrise in the past to learn Bahasa and its a brilliant way to just memorise a list of alphabets, words, or phrases.

I then looked at Youtube to find a bunch of video toturials. For this I went back to Innovative Language and their 101 series: Learn Hebrew with Hebrew Pod 101. They have a great set for vocabulary – which I used to get some words into my head. They also have an alphabet series – which I aim to get to when I feel the need to polish my alphabet learning.

Finally the most useful resource – which I completely plundered to get a lot of Hebrew learning happening was this site: (TMH). The things I did on this site:

  1. I looked at the Tim Ferriss-like breakdown of Hebrew. Brilliant. Take a look here. I read this out into my phone, ripped the recording to mp3 and put in into my iTunes to listen to.
  2. I listened to the AlefBet song repeatedly (till the house banned me from playing it aloud). Memorising the names of the alphabets was quite quick, and I lay in bed this morning reviewing it in my mind.
  3. I went into Memrise and memorised the alphabet forms. The started doing simple words.
  4. I began listening to the 23 songs in the TMH site. I spent 2 hours doing this. These sounds are embedded in my brain. I plan to go to the TMH site and scan the lyrics on screen as I listen to the songs – sometime in the future.
  5. I played the 100 words on TMH – so I am familiar with the sounds. Will go and put this into my memory later, in the future. Will do the same with Phrases, Verbs and other bits on this site.

Then I went looking for Apps – so I can have a learn+quiz format to keep learning.

  1. I found this brilliant app by RBBell – to learn the alphabet. You can all his other apps here. By 6 PM today I had a B+ in the hebrew alphabet. You learn the alphabet and then you test yourself and you can keep repeating this cycle till you get perfection.
  2. Another App I downloaded (iTunes) is Nemo Hebrew. This is for words. I am yet to play with this.

Last words from Ferriss:

In all cases, treat language as sport.

Learn the rules first, determine if it’s worth the investment of time (will you, at best, become mediocre?), then focus on the training. Picking your target is often more important than your method.