Gang of 6...

This blog belongs to 6 ex COE students of NSIT... Though, now, we are all in separate places, studying or working, we hope to remain in touch with each other lest we forget the great time we had back in college. This blog is an attempt to achieve the same. Here's to us...!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Friends, Indians, countrymen...

... lend me your tired eyes. Long overdue, I confess.

Life has been quite a roller-coaster for me here in the US. From the studies at Columbia, to keeping up with the pace of New York City. It has really been a wild ride and I've cherished every moment of it! Not only have I enjoyed my time here, I feel like I've grown tremendously as a person, in a relatively short period, may I add. My outlook on life has changed (that is a dramatic statement, but I feel it!). I've learned lessons that I will never forget, and that will hopefully help me be more successful as an individual.

Never before had I truly realized the importance of optimism. And the value of THIS moment - NOW! So much can be accomplished in a very short period of time if one is truly positive and enthusiastic. Hot-dog vendors, construction workers, taxi drivers, investment bankers, traders... all have something common among them. A positive outlook. Passion. No regrets. No complaints. Everybody takes pride in his/her work. As a result, the job is done and it's done well. Not a moment is lost. There is time for work and there is time for fun - the two are rarely mixed (not that work cannot be fun!). I'm reminded of the verse in the Geeta where Bhagwaan talks about the two paths to Him - one is the path taken by asetics. The other is the path taken by men-of-action. Of the two, he says, the latter is superior. Live in the moment and give it your all, he says, that is your duty, it is not for you to worry about the consequences thereon. It's strange how people in the West seem to be leading their lives based on this philosophy, and how we in the East have never been further from it.

Now is when I'm also realizing the importance of this "golden" period of our lives. This is when we can take risks, this is when we can truly live it up! This is our youth, and its not coming back! This is it gentlemen, make the most of this moment, seize the day, carpe diem!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Truly Rats Galore...

Many a times I have been asked for the reason behind the name of our blog ( in fact I started up another blog with a name in the same vein ), and whenever I explained the reason, the reactions I received from the incredulous to the amused to the downright irritated. And I was always like.. ok.. whatever... !

Anyways, so the reason this thought popped up in my head, yet again, and is fast becoming an obnoxious little blog post is the spate of 'RAT'ty things happening of late. The movie Jane Tu... Ya Jane Na (which is not a bad movie by the way), the dead rat in my auxiliary bedroom, the movie Ratatouille are all having a very Rat-ish effect on me. Whatever that means.. Blah...!

Waise, Ratatouille is a cool movie...!! First and foremost, it is set in France, in Paris...! Secondly it has a rat as the lead. Thirdly, the awesome animation. Fourth, the love angle and lastly (and quite importantly) the delicious looking food ...! This movie is a must watch, if you have missed out. (Though this review(-ish) is kinda late in the day, but still).

Talking of nice, off-beat movies, one must not miss Juno as well. It is well, different, and cool, and fresh, and nice, and... you get the point. Juno is Good. Period. Watch it.

All for today, gotta go back to my usual slumber and recharge myself for the god-awful week at work coming up...!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Hello world :)

Long time since I last wrote anything non-technical (well, you haven't seen them, otherwise you might have some complaints about my technical writings also :) Things have changed with my writing style maybe. Like, I can't be bothered to write complete sentences, have been thinking in these staccato clauses for some time now. Must be a hangover from all the Facebook and GTalk status msg updates that I have been making. Have to consciously make the effort to add the 'I's and 'you's. Hopefully people would be able to look past these flaws...
OK, so now I have to think about what to write about. Considering it's been an year (or more?) since my last blog-post, this is not an easy choice to make. Mmm. So I am France right now (hopefully that doesn't come as a surprise to anyone :), on internship at Xerox Research Centre in Europe (XRCE), in Grenoble. It's 11:30pm, and I should probably go to sleep early if I want to wake up refreshed and ready for work from 9 onwards. OK, who am I kidding - I am in all likelihood going to be up till 2, and sleepwalk my way around at office in the usual :) Can't help it - these are the perks that come from the supervisor being on holiday.
I don't know about everyone else, if you guys have managed to get any better idea of where your life is headed. Mine is still kinda up for grabs. I alternately switch between dreams of a life in research, and a career in something management-ish. The lack of passion for either is telling...or maybe I should call it equal passion for both ;) And the last year at Stanford hasn't helped much either way. I have alternately sucked (admittedly, earlier in the course) and excelled (when I was wise enough to work with project partners who were better than me :) at the technical courses here. And I did like the two management-ish courses I took. I am actually continuing working on one during the summer - one of my professors from (don't laugh) 'Business Management for Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists' is coordinating a collaborative book on case studies in the emerging energy sector, along with other alums from the course.
So, besides the obvious reasons (it's in France for 12 weeks, they say you can't work more than 35 hours per week in the contract...grab on and don't let go idiot!) I like to think that I was being a bit proactive, and gauging whether I can handle research in a real industrial lab. Ok, as real as they get outside the US (for some reason, call it Protestant work ethic or what-have-you, the magnitude of research results from the US simply swamp the rest of the world...but you knew that already)
Among the other things I had planned to do this summer - complete a course in Statistics and Probability by myself, read a book on preparing for Case Interviews along with a Stanford friend in NY, practice and get better at swimming, travel all over Europe and so on. Of course, plans have changed a bit since I got over my initial naivete regarding my work here (it's a whole second course in Machine Learning, a course I majorly bombed in the first quarter..and I end up at work from 9 to 6:30 generally). And of course, have not all of you heard me(at least on GTalk :) crib about the money they are paying me ( = zilch). Well, Europe is a lot more expensive than the US, and the falling dollar isn't helping. Hehe, the prices for things here must sound astronomical for you ppl in India - like, a most ordinary meal cannot be had for less than 5 euros. Bye bye , travel plans. Ok, not nearly so...I am trying to convince myself that I am not going to get this chance again anytime soon, so I might as well get ready to blow up my savings from the States. Haven't planned anything major - but watch this space, travelogs from Paris and Amsterdam might be in the offing.And instead of swimming, I am going to try to pick up tennis instead. The other interns in the student residence where Xerox has put me up are making full use of the dozen or so tennis courts right outside our place. I am planning to buy a racquet and join them in whacking the ball, starting tomorrow.
And surprise of surprises, I am actually sort of liking the work at XRCE. Now that I have had some exposure to all the math involved in data mining algos etc at Stanford, things actually manage to make some sense some of the time :) I am finding it quite interesting to read up papers, tutorials etc on some obscure algo, and understand enough to implement a prototype, try an iterative approach over some data-sets, sit and discuss ideas with my supervisor, attend talks and seminars at the centre and so on. Sure beats software development anyway :) The pity is that any longterm career in research would involve getting a PhD, something I am not prepared to get into yet. Well, hopefully by the end of the internship I would have learned enough about research areas that pique me to keep me on track for a short-term job (2-3 years) in some company's data analysis division or somesuch after the Masters. And then..let's see, perhaps I would know enough then to decide...
Though, chief among the lessons I thought I'd have learned by now, I realize that it is ok to be uncertain about the future. Rather than doing all things possible to make the future secure (get an engineering degree, focus on safe careers like software engineering, ...the list goes on), I now know that it is important to seize the opportunities one gets today. Learn all you can, experience different things..while you can. Like a friend back at Stanford told me: Paise kamaane ke liye to poori zindagi baaki hai...
Ok, that's enough for now. I think I will try a stream-of-consciousness style next time. And maybe even get sentimental about the old days :D

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ahh.. Slides...

So, slideshare seems to have taken my office by storm. It seems as if now everybody is making slides & uploading them in the hope of their being adjudged the World's Best Slideshow. Well, no, I am not going to end up making one (that doesn't stop me from dreaming though). This post is firstly to say that hey Akash, well done, and secondly to give you a link to a very good slideshow indeed. Check it out here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The new Bangalore international airport

In recent months, this airport has resulted in numerous heated discussions in Bangalore. You would hear things like this, its 60 km away (for Bangalore 60 Km is a lot!), it takes 3 hours to reach there, traveling to the new airport itself is very expensive, the old airport was just fine, we don't need a this new airport etc etc.

Obviously I was dreading traveling to this airport. On Friday my flight to Delhi was at 5pm, since it takes an eternity to reach the airport I started at 2:15 pm. The travel options include taking a taxi/auto directly to the airport, or using the Airport bus service. Taxi costs something like 600 bucks so I decided to take a bus. But the bus frequency near my house was 1 hr so I took an auto and reached Hebbal in 15 min, the point where all bus routes converge. I got a bus in a couple of minutes. I have to say the bus was really nice, it was a Volvo AC bus, it had enough space to keep passenger luggage, and the ride was really comfortable. Hebbal is considered city outskirts, there was not much traffic from Hebbal to the airport and I reached the airport by 3:05. Not bad at all!

The airport is a collection of buildings in the middle of nowhere, vast tracts of land surround it. I went in the departure terminal, it is a huge hall with checkin counters of all the airlines present neatly in one line at the back of the hall. Indigo airlines is in one corner, with 4-5 counters available there were hardly any people waiting in queue. So it took me just a couple of minutes to check in. After checking in I was directed to the 1st level, yes 1st level!, for security check. I was really dreading this part, because at the old airport it used to take an eternity for security check to complete. Here I was through in a couple of minutes!. I checked the time, it was 3:15! I had left home just an hour earlier. This was impossible with the old airport.

My flight was at 5 pm, I had quite a bit of waiting to do. I entered the airport lounge with this thought, and to my complete surprise it was practically another shopping mall (obviously with ridiculously high prices :) and minus the couples). I had read that there was free wireless internet for the passengers, so I took out my laptop and tried to connect. I got a webpage asking me to enter a passoword, which I can obtain by SMSing to 56677. I tried SMSing a few times, but all I got was 'Service is currently unavailable'. I switched off the lappy and got on the phone. Called a friend, made a call to home as well. Then loitered around for a bit. Somehow the clock ticked 4:30, and finally I heard the boarding announcement. Flight on time!! A near impossibility on friday with the old airport! The flight was boring as usual, it landed Delhi around 7:45. Entering the Delhi airport I realized that Bangalore is finally better than Delhi in something :).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Citius, Altius, Fortius

My first encounter with these 3 words was in class 10 or so, which is quite unbefitting even for an amateur quizzer. For almost all the guys in my school-friend circle, the trio was associated with the olympics, but for me, it will always be the ESPN school quiz hosted by Harsha Bhogale. If you don't know what I am talking about, look here & here.

Though I never managed to end up in the quiz, in any capacity, be it participant or the audience , and certainly not as the quiz master (heck, I didn't even try...), the quiz still held some charm upon me. Throughout my middle & high school days I was in what I have been told as the 'elite set', the group of nerds who did well (academically) at school, who were expected to crack the JEEs and the PMTs, the guys who would win all the quizzes and prizes to boot, the ones who would land up a majority of the coveted school appointments and the jerks who would never be looked at by girls even for the first time. But I was always among the lesser known among the set, not with the teachers, but definitely with the fairer sex. I was an amateur quizzer at best, never applied for any school appointment (that I was made one is a completely different story), did not manage to crack the JEE (ho.. hum..), but was completely at peace to be in this group. And most importantly, that is what my parents desired. Damn, I am on JEE & parents again.. digression.. digression..

Yes, I was just trying to from this picture in your mind, of the kind of guy I was in school, and the kind of people I used to roam around with. And quizzing was a big part of all our lives. For Bong, Shape & Sen it meant infinite legalized bunks, innumerable prizes and an equal number of looks of envy from the likes of me. Whereas for me (& others I can't name for the fear of incurring their wrath) it meant just taking part in such quizzes (to make up the numbers, it seemed), watching the big guys invariably walk off with the glorious prizes (irrespective of what they got, it did seem glorious in all that colorful cellophane). So I just used to relive my quizzing fantasies watching show upon show of the ESPN quiz.

Yesterday, I was suddenly reminded of this long-forgotten phase of my life, when I came upon a mail that wordlessly reflected my opinions on the Beijing Olympics. It is not an opinion about the Olympics in particular, instead it sums up my attitude towards the Chinese way of getting things done, the Chinese political scenario, the complete lack of democracy & freedom that we in India take for granted. (Oh, how I miss those heated discussions we used to have in college, & of course aboard the 764 guys... !!) How I got to rambling on upon my school days from that mail was through the subject of the mail & that of my post : Citius, Altius, Fortius.

PS : Did anyone manage to catch the olympic torch relay in person... ?

Too much free time on my hands

In yet another attempt to make my weekends meaningful, I found myself on a page full of personality tests (Don't even ask me how I landed up there, that is something that I could probably write an entire post upon). From the very serious to the pure pranks, from the most insipid to the most cranky, these tests do have a lot of variety, which is something that Ekta Kapoor could learn. What devilish serials her factory churns out. But, again, that is fodder for some other debate. But, yeah, in the end these "persoanlity" tests did give me a few laughs (with the inevitable self-introspection phases thrown in their midst). I suggest you to try out some of these. They were fun...

I am nerdier than 95% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out! says I'm a Slightly Dorky Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

You are .ogg Even though many people consider you cool and happening, a lot still find that you're a bit too weird to hang out with.
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Extroversion |||||||||||||||||| 53%
Emotional Stability |||||||||||| 36%
Orderliness |||||||||||| 40%
Altruism |||||||||||||||||||||||| 73%
Inquisitiveness ||||||||||||||||||||| 70%

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I seriously have too much free time on my hands. I should do something meaningful for a change. History walk anyone??