florence nightingale: an inspiration for art

In my last post, I shared with you this painting of mine and said that it took shape by itself as I let my hand move any which ways it felt like.

Its a rather unusual shape for a tree, isn’t it? As it took shape, I realized it was a sub-conscious inspiration from Florence Nightingale.

How so?

Florence Nightingale was one of the pioneers of Data Visualization – of presenting statistics as images to make a point emphatically. She collected meticulous data on the cause of soldiers’ death during the Crimean War and created this visualization below. This was way back in 1854! Blue indicates death due to preventable causes, mainly lack of hygiene. Red indicates death due to wounds in war. Black indicates other causes such as accidents.


This image taken from GuideStar International’s Blog.

Thus via this data visualization she clearly showed that the majority of the deaths that were occurring seemingly due to war were actually totally preventable by practice of better hygiene. This made a persuasive impact on the British government of that time. It laid the foundation of incorporating hygiene as an intrinsic policy in hospitals. Here is a lovely short video on this topic, which tells us more about this somewhat less known aspect of Florence Nightingale.

http://www.open.edu/openlearn/body-mind/health/health-sciences/the-joy-stats-the-lady-data-visualisation

The painting above was made during the days when I was a student of Data Visualization at the university. Regarded as a classic and pioneering example of the efficacy of data visualization, this image of Florence Nightingale’s work came up often in stuff that I read and talks that I attended. Not surprising that it meandered into a painting one day.

So what is the point of this post? It is this.

The way art takes shape when I just let it flow – at times it feels divine. The myriad ways in which what I see and encounter in life has an impact on me is fascinating. The impact is many a times not in a manner and direction that one would conventionally expect. That itself makes life so much more richer.

~ vani murarka

The Vocal Tribe Of Trees

When I paint or draw I mostly just let my hand move any which way it wishes to go. It is a discovery for me to see what is emerging. That is what happened with this painting too.

Once this painting was done, it seemed to me as if the tree, as a representative of the World-Wide Tribe of Trees is calling out and saying, “Hear me too! Hear me too!”

Trees are very very vocal. Only, their language is the language of silence.

Sitting quietly beside trees, one can’t miss their banter. Listening to them intently and softly with your eyes, is so so … There. There is no word for it. 🙂

I love listening to trees. It nourishes my soul.

Listening to the language of trees takes me to a different world. A world that is also very real and exists everywhere; outside me and inside me. A world which in its silence, holds profound comfort and wisdom.

Listen, listen, O World. Listen to The Trees!

~ vani murarka

a gift to myself

There is a beautiful green meadow. Lush green rolling hills.

A mountain stream is gurgling by. Crystal clear water. Interspersed here and there are stones on which the water rises and falls and makes beautiful music. The water is so lovingly sharp to touch and elixir to the throat.

I am dancing, roaming on those hills, wearing a beautiful, very generously frilly white dress with large purple flowers.

My arms are spread out, head raised. I fill my lungs and my being with the air that is alive. The breeze caresses my cheek, then runs away, like a rabbit. Then it gets naughty. Entering my dress from underneath, it fluffs up my dress and tickles my legs. I laugh out loud and push my dress down and then dance around.

There, near the stream are soft yellow flowers. I sit beside them and gaze for long at the texture of their petals, caressing them with my eyes. The wind is playing music too. The clouds embrace the top of the hills.

I lie on my back and look at the blue ceiling above. Infinite in expanse. Infinite in depth. Two small bird friends fly by chattering, high up above.

My body is on the grass, my heart is in the sky and I am in every fiber of the hills, every blade of grass, the earth, the water, the stones, the flowers, the clouds, the birds, the air, the infinite expanse – dancing and invisible.

~ vani murarka

Of Languages, Animals and the Kitchen

a light-hearted take on the visual character of programming languages …

One of the things that I like about computer programming is to simply just look at the code. To see just what it looks like visually …

a light-hearted take on the visual character of programming languages …

One of the things that I like about computer programming is to simply just look at the code. To see just what it looks like visually. No, I am not talking of software visualization, though I enjoy that too.

When I started programming, every once in a while I used to pause and just see the code, simply for its visual appeal. It was text composed of the same characters that I had learnt since childhood, but looked so different. I did not think of it like that then. Now while writing, I realize that that might be one of the logical sources of my fascination.

As I discovered programming I wanted to share this wonderful new discovery with others in my life. When I showed my working program to them, I used to want to show the code too. It was so amazing! See, this is what results in this kind of a screen and functionality. It was like seeing the beautiful intricate inner arteries of a body. What an incredible transformation if you considered what the source and result looked like.

It took no time to notice that people were not interested in inner arteries. The text was too weird to them and they failed to see the fascinating visual beauty of the code. Possibly, seeing the same characters they knew for years looking so foreign was too unsettling. After all, it is not like seeing Spanish for example. The same letters but the words do not make sense. Yet, the words still look like words and the sentences still look like sentences. That is not how it is when looking at a computer program code.

The way different programming languages look visually, makes me liken them to animals. Their visual look itself lends a character to them and evokes a certain kind of unique feeling-environment when working in a particular programming language.

In my first job in the computing world, my first project assignment was as a maintenance and documentation person in a COBOL project. I spent the whole day looking at screens that looked like this.

cobol
COBOL code sample. Image source: Jeff Whelpley’s Tech Blog

The whole screen almost completely filled with text. Everything in caps. Aligned vertically. There was no color-coding in those days. Bright green screen, white text, that’s it. It looked so different from C/C++, which was the main language I had learnt in training.

As I looked at the COBOL screen day after day it seemed like an elephant to me. The heavy (caps) text vertically aligned seemed like the thick legs of the elephant. It seemed so excessively verbose too. The whole program felt visually heavy, like an elephant.

Looking at C instead was such a stark contrast. So breezy and airy with lots and lots of “whitespace”. The “{“s and “;”s here and there looked like beautiful feathers. The indentations of “if-else”s, “for”s and “while”s seemed like dance steps. C/C++ looked like a peacock to me.

c code
C code sample. This code is a token in honor of Dennis Ritchie, the father of the C programming language, written upon his death. Sorry, I lost the image source!

Good old Assembly Language looks like a snake with its narrow vertical structure. Just the long long list of opcodes and operands. And just as tricky as a cobra mind you!

assembly language code
Assembly Language code sample. Image source: here

These days all my programming time is spent working in Javascript. So what does Javascript look like to me?

Well when one first starts with Javascript one uses it to do nifty little things on a webpage. Invariably the Javascript code is mixed with HTML. That frankly does not look anything elegant to me. COBOL, even with its heavy look had its own kind of elegance to it. If I had to choose an animal for a code file comprising of Javascript and HTML mixed together, I would choose an ostrich. But come on, an ostrich is appealing. I find nothing aesthetically appealing about Javascript mixed with HTML (or PHP mixed with HTML for that matter). It looks like a cluttered unkempt kitchen to me!

The HTML tags (or XML tags, or SVG tags, for that matter) look like ugly kitchen jars (the kind that I would never buy if I saw them at Ikea) and the rest of the code is all other kitchen stuff strewn all about. Utensils, vegetable peelings, cleaning rags, what have you.

Yes when one is doing somewhat more hard-core Javascript programming one creates code files that are only Javascript. That is beautiful. More so when rendered with the beautiful color coding of Sublime Text. This, here, I would say, looks like a gorgeous parakeet.

javascript code sample
Javascript code sample from my computer.

That is why I would any day generate SVG via D3, rather than write SVG itself!

~ vani murarka

Love is like Water

Love is like water.

Water might be cascading down like a waterfall, or it might be in the form of robust waves of the ocean. It might be flowing as a gently gurgling stream. It may be calm and placid in a lake or swimming pool. Water may be flowing under the ground. You may get just a hint of it, as dew drops on the morning grass.

When Love is heady, passionate, it is like the waves of the ocean. The over-flowing Love of a mother, where she herself is overwhelmed by the intensity and force of Love that she feels – it is like water is falling down rapidly from the mountains. When it is the quiet implicit Love of a father or a reticent mate or even of someone close who may seem unloving, it is like water flowing underground. The Love of a friend, the lighthearted laughter and companionship it brings, feels like dew drops on the morning grass. The calm, still, placid water in a lake or swimming pool feels like the calm Love of a saint for all.

The water in all cases is the same. The Love in all cases is the same.

Water takes on the color of its receptacle. In a red bowl it looks like red water. It feels romantic. In a blue bowl, water looks blue. It feels like the Love of a father, mother, mentor or guide. In a green bowl, water looks green. It feels like the Loving companionship of a friend.

But the water is neither red, nor blue, nor green. It is the same water.

The Love in a romantic relationship, amongst friends, between a teacher and a student, between a parent and child – is not different. It is simply Love. There are no different kinds of Love.

The receptacles (the relationships) are different.

What gives comfort when you look at it is the water, not the receptacle.

~ vani murarka