Monday prank

I just sent this message to many of my friends and got hilarious replies: “Hi. Myself and my parents invite you to share the happiness of the occasion of my engagement. Due to an unavoidable situation in my family, I am being engaged on the 31 st of november at <location>. Sorry for the short notice. Couldn’t help it.”

So many people don’t realise that November has only thirty days!

Statistically, 92 of the 124 people didn’t realise this simple fact. That means around three-fourths of my friends are too busy or sleeping at work 🙂 And the rest have no work to do!

Taking my ethnicity for a run: Am I Indian, Tamil or even human?

At least once during my daily commute to work, I find someone staring at me like I was an alien. Alien on the bus, no sir.  I’m just another human being. I’m certainly not responsible for the way I look. Last week, my trainer asked me if I knew Tamil and where I was from. I went, Oh God, not again! I told her I was from place xyz and she was surprised that I was actually from near her native place. And that very evening, one fellow was asking me for directions in a funny language that vaguely resembled English. When I replied in Tamil, he was surprised and asked “Tamil theriyuma!?”.

This is not the first time people have posed that query to me, and it certainly won’t be the last. At least these people think I am human! People almost always view me as an outsider. When I strike up a conversation with someone the first think they ask me is if I know Tamil. I’m lost for words. How can I converse freely in Tamil with you, sir, if I don’t know Tamil? Something is wrong with me, or the world around me.

I realise it is not my mistake that my ethnicity is often being questioned this way. In my first year at college, the chemistry teacher pointed to me and asked (yes, once again) “Do you know Tamil?” while she was beginning  to demonstrate the experiment. This happened even when I got into another school. It’s got nothing to do with my colour or countenance. It is, I think, the images of Tamils in the minds of people that I do not fit.

In restaurants or shops, waiters and salesmen address me often in Hindi or English and rarely in Tamil. I’ve been asked if I’m Keralite, Kashmiri, a Sethji (you know, those people who lend money to poor blokes) and even if I am Canadian or Australian. Is it because I fit the stereotypes of people from these regions in their minds? I might never know.

GATE 2010: The Number of the Beast

I’ve never fared well in exams which have negative marking in all my life. I almost always tend to forget the fact, or I get a rush of blood to the head. And I end up screwing up. Royally. I normally tend to lose 10-20% of the marks I score on correct answers this way, but the JEE 2006 Chemistry was a different story altogether – lost almost half the marks I scored. I missed the boat by a whisker back then.

Forward to 2010, Valentine’s Day: I’m sitting at 9 am in an exam hall for GATE 2010, and had answered all the questions I knew by 10.45 whereabouts. Of the questions I had attended till then, all but one were correct. Almost all were 1 markers, but positives! I was later annoyed when I learnt that I had missed a simple limits based question, the lack of a calculator on hand hit me hard. (I don’t tend to use calculators much, even in some mental-calculations-unfriendly exams.)

I awoke to the fact that regardless of whenever you finish your exam, you’ve to sit in the hall for the whole duration. Anna University does a good job at this one, they leave you out anytime after 45 minutes elapse. That might be the only good thing they’ve done.

Now I didn’t want to disturb the other candidates by singing, nor did I want to annoy someone by staring at what they were doing. So I had two options: sleep or work out the other questions.

Sleep was impossible at that time (Normally I’d be seeing cartoons or reading a novel at that time Sundays), so I started a statistical analysis of my progress till then, and thought it had been a pretty good job. It had been, indeed. Until in a moment of madness I started to put pencil to paper rather vigorously, attending questions I could not even answer in my dreams!

Later, I would realize this was a big mistake, a real big one. Of the questions I answered in this fit of madness, all but one were wrong. So I went on to loose a massive portion of my hard earned marks to the negative marking jinx that has been trailing me since I left school.

And the results which came out today made me wonder about why I’m afflicted with this attend-it-all syndrome: 46 marks out of a possible 100, a countrywide rank of 943 of 100,000 odd people, and a normalized score of 666 on 1000. The Number of  the Beast. My favourite Iron Maiden song. OK, not my favourite, but No.4 🙂 Anything but jaw-dropping.

I’ve almost lost a good opportunity to get into a nice post graduate course. I wouldn’t have normally settled for anything less, but this time I ardently hope I get what I want. For once in my life.

You can find the GATE 2010 CS Question Paper here: GATE_2010 Question_Paper

Life is all about faith and hope. Faith in a higher power, and hope of a better tomorrow keeps us going. And I have faith and hope.

A poem I wrote

Strawberries for a Sweetheart


The moment I knew I was in love,

I walked over a long rugged hill,

To find you waiting at a window sill,

Restless as on fire, peaceful as a dove.

 

You’ll never know I loved you how,

It is a smile from a veil,

That seems so unreal.

Only to your love does my ego bow.

 

From a field I plucked ripe strawberries,

Stored them in the chamber of my heart,

‘Twas for you that I sent them fast.

 

I loaded them up in a fleet of ferries,

That has become a dying art,

But I don’t know why they were lost.

 

This one was inspired by someone who shall go unnamed, and it is dedicated to her.

Wise and not so wise cracks

I’m quite notorious for my wisecracks or mokkais among my friends. Last week I had the chance to unleash some of my custom, spur of the moment mokkais. Here you go:

During the India – Sri Lanka final:

Me: Can you name Thilan Kandamby’s brother?

My brother : ?!?!?!

Me: Thilan Kaanadha Amby. கண்ட அம்பி x காணாத அம்பி

(Note: Kanda and Kaanadha are opposites in Tamil for have seen and unseen :P)

After Federer lost (Aargh….):

Why didn’t Federer win what would have been his 16th grand slam?

He did not come to Tamil Nadu to seek blessings after his marriage. People here bless: “பதினாறு பெற்று பெருவாழ்வு வாழ்க.” (Literally means: Get 16 and live a glorious life). Come here Fedex. You can get No. 16 and more!

On the college bus, listening to உன்னைப்போல் ஒருவன் songs:

Kamal’s next movies:

Unnaipol oru VAN

Unnaipol oru BUS

Unnaipol oru CAR

Unnaipol oru TRAIN

Unnaipol oru LORRY and so on…

An old one from Instincts 2008:

While checking the mike before the light music contest, someone : “check, check, check”

Me: “Come on man! Don’t you know chess, so many checks and no checkmate yet!”

Guys around me: “Why blood, same blood!”

I can predict the comments now: ஒரு நாளுக்கு நாலு மொக்க போட்டா நாலு பேரு காதுல ரத்தம் வரும்னா அந்த மொக்கய போடாமலே இருக்கலாம்

When open is not open, and reviving a hard disk

I was doing some work on OpenOffice.org when I saw the term Microsoft Office Open XML(OOXML) on a site and was duly shocked at this openness, then it struck me that I had heard someone talk about this format(at a FOSS event in college) and Microsoft’s attempt to get it ratified as an ISO standard. I wondered if they had managed to buy people out, and unsurprisingly they had. I don’t have anything against the corporation, they develop some good looking (don’t get me started on the performance) software and good hardware. What I don’t believe in is the abuse of their position as an established and respected company. If you want your format to become the industry standard so badly, try to make it better than the current benchmark, which still is the Open Document Format. I do not see any advantage of OOXML over ODF, be it file compression, compatibility, uniform implementation etc. The previous document format, .doc was fine, but was not compressed enough.

If Microsoft was so particular on using an Open format, they could have adopted ODF. Why can’t you? Star Office is commercial, and uses ODF, so there’s no stopping Microsoft from using it. The only advantage of OOXML is that it is supported by the office suite with largest user base, Microsoft Office. The argument no longer holds water, since Office 2007 supports ODF from Service Pack 2 onwards. This unethical buying of approval is what makes me dislike MS. I still respect Bill Gates as a messiah of the personal computing revolution, but I am no longer reliant on MS software. I have the freedom of choice courtesy Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Guido van Roosum and numerous other people who have made the world of open source heaven.

A rather interesting thing happened this week. A friend’s external hard disk had gone berserk and wouldn’t open in XP or Ubuntu. Saravanan(A genius, an RHCE and a linux freak/geek all rolled into one person! ) and myself helped him out, but it didn’t work out. So I got his hard disk home yesterday and set down to work. I booted up my favoured OS, Fedora 11 and it detected the disk but did not display the contents. So I got into a virtual terminal and force mounted it and voila, everything was normal. I copied all data to my hard disk, formatted the external drive and then copied back all the data. It worked fine on Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, XP, Vista and Seven. This is another advantage of using open source software such as Fedora. It helps you solve others’ PC troubles and yours too!

I went to a research conference Dhi Yantra 2009(means Intellectual Machine in Sanskrit) which focuses on High Performance Computing and Human Brain Modeling(I’m more interested in the former). Today was the first of the three days. It was an illuminating experience listening to people like Dr. Murali Murugavel from from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and several other WARFT alumni and research trainees. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions which are to concentrate on supercomputing. Dr. Rupak Biswas, who is Acting Chief, Supercomputing Division, NASA Ames Research Center; Dr. Rajesh Kasturirangan, Associate Professor, National Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore and Research Scientist, MIT, Boston and a few others will deliver their keynote lectures over the weekend.

The Ashes test seems to be going Australia’s way after a long partnership between Katich and Ponting. I wonder why Harmy is not playing, he could have changed the course of this game. If Aussie selectors were fools in dropping the crazy diamond Symonds, their English counterparts are fools on a higher plane. Here’s hoping England get back into this game, and have a nice weekend ahead!

Back to college in an eventful week.

It’s been quite a while since I have had the time to update my blog. The past week has been a pretty interesting one for me.

College kicked off last Monday for the new semester, and we had some fairly decent subjects and staff. I’m taking a C# course as an elective, and it sucks big time. I guess C and Python would be my favorites while I might do some coding using C++ and Java.  The labs we have this semester (only 2) are fun, what we call Jolly Labs, where you do something useful for half an hour and talk away the remainder of the time.

I finally got my Ubuntu One account, and immediately chose the 2GB free plan. I would evaluate it, and then when it is mature enough and distro-independent I’ll upgrade to a paid plan. I’ve also joined up with Saravanan to do something about Linux, and I’m learning something from him.

A few(very few, seventeen) of my classmates have chosen Natural Language Processing as an elective this semester, and we hear that no one else has chosen it for the past few years. I guess they saw the large syllabus and backed off, but they missed a lot. It is a very interesting area, and I just love it.

Seshadri finally came to college this Monday after a week’s holiday and he looks awkward without his spectacles. Guess it’ll take some time to get used to the sight if him without spectacles, but I’d have to stop poking fun at his eyesight. He’s a fine fellow, and a good friend. It’s great to see him back again.

Mozilla Firefox 3.5 was launched and it hits the competition for a sixer with the revamped and new features. It renders almost every page flawlessly, and a page I designed using CSS 3 worked only on Firefox versions 2 and above. TraceMonkey is real good, considering the speed at which I could use Google Docs. Firefox matched Google Chrome while typing text real fast, and beat it while opening and saving files. The most important feature I’d have loved to be in the specifications for HTML 5 is built into this version – open video and audio using Ogg Vorbis and Theora codecs. For more on my experiences with Firefox, look here: http://bit.ly/shiretoko_week

I had some trouble setting up a Drupal site on my local PC, but upgrading from 6.12 to 6.13 fixed it. I could not go past the database configuration page in 6.12, but after downloading 6.13 last night I created a small site in no time. I also learnt to back up and transfer a Drupal site to another host using a module. I must learn to do it manually by this month-end.

I’m looking forward to the Ashes and hope for a series like 2005, which is the best Ashes series I’ve seen. The first Test starts today, and I’ve bunked a few hours to catch the action. And I’m going to report on a couple of days at World Cricket Watch, my first matchday reports. The first Sri Lanka – Pakistan test surprised me. I was in class talking with my friends when the match would end, and how much Yousuf would score, but when I saw an update on my phone, SL had won! Now that is test cricket! Given a Test like this, and who wants T20?

Meanwhile in the cyberspace, rumours about a Google OS have finally become reality, according to a post in the official Google blog by Sundar Pitchai. I don’t see the need for another OS, whatever Google says about it. I think they’d better adopt a community project like Fedora and optimize it for whatever purpose they see fit.

Tata DOCOMO have launched their GSM services in my city, and I got a card. The voice quality is very good, but I’ll wait till enough people choose the network to see the quality. The GPRS charges are on the higher side compared to CellOne, and anyway I won’t be using DOCOMO regularly. It has the same status as my Reliance GSM connection, which I use sparingly.

That’s it for now, I’ll write more on all these matters as the events unfold.