Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Two Times of Indias

Can somebody explain how on earth is it that two guys living in the same building, albeit on different floors, get two different versions of the Times of India?
The TOI dated 22nd February, 2008 or rather the one I got has the headlines 'US Shoots Down Rogue Satellite' & 'Suspects use RTI to prove innocence'. Whereas another edition of the same newspaper, with the same date has a graphic of the spy satellite shooting and a headline that reads 'Icons a drag, say IPL bidders'. And that's not all, although most pages are identical, there are occasional differences in the inner pages with different stories featuring in different editions. And surprisingly this isn't the first time it has happened.
Now how did that happen?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The long dark exam time of the engineering soul

I have a paper tomorrow (actually, today) at 1600 hrs. It's 0230 hrs and I'm still trying to get my concepts about the subject cleared. I've already referred three textbooks (or "reference" books) and haven't found a proper explanation. The only guy who could probably explain it all to me is mostly fast asleep. Hence I'm online, rummaging through IEEE papers (thank you dear college for providing us with this facility) trying to find the answer. Maybe I'll find the answer somewhere.
But one thing is for sure. t < 24 hours before the exam is not exactly the best time to get your concepts cleared. This has to be done well in advance. For which, the textbook has to be opened well in advance. Which I never do and I don't think I ever will.
Aniket, my son, when will you learn?

(P.S: The hot topic for tonight's search is a certain compression algorithm called the Lempel Ziv algorithm. If you are reading this and its not yet 1600 hrs and you know something about it, call me up for God's sake!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Old Memories

Thanks to my Dad being in the Army I did quite a bit of moving around in my childhood. I was born in Uttaranchal and have since lived in Kashmir, Punjab, UP, Assam & Maharashtra. Unfortunately for me I was too young to have detailed memories of my time in these places except for the last two. And while I enjoyed my days in Maharashtra, I'll never forget the two years I spent in Dinjan, Assam.
Dinjan is a small village which comes on the state highway joining Tinsukia & Dibrugarh. As a village, Dinjan is very tiny. It basically consists of just one street called Tinali - that's all. There's nothing more to it. Fortunately, the army cantonment that we lived in was much bigger. And by much bigger I mean an area much smaller than Pune Cantonment. I'm telling you, it's a totally different scale for big and small out there.
I loved everything about Dinjan. I still remember the first time I arrived in Assam. It was so green! The endless greenery was really soothing to the eyes! And later, when it got dark, I could see literally hundreds of fireflies roaming around in the endless tea-gardens. No place could have made a better first impression!
Since it was so far east, Dinjan had really early mornings. I still remember getting up at around 5 to play cricket during the holidays. And the rain was terribly heavy. You had to spend entire days at home during the rains. There was a small river which used to flow near our place. During summers it used to dry out completely but as soon as the monsoon arrived the water would be almost chest high! The older guys used to cross the river and go to the other side at times, but being a kid, I was never allowed to do so (However, I did cross it once and it gave me an unbelievable high).
For a small place, there was a lot happening in Dinjan. There was an Army Aviation base nearby and once they had caught a leopard there. I still remember going all the way there just to see a leopard. But I remember the base for a lot more than that - it was also the place where I got a chance to sit inside a helicopter. And what a great thrill that was! There was also a small tent nearby which used to house a few soldiers who would stand guard against any possible attacks by the ULFA - a terrorist organisation that was known to create nuisance in those parts. And the fact was that our's was the first house after the tent. So if the soldiers ever lost to the ULFA, we would be the immediate next targets! Believe me, that gave me a lot of sleepless nights. Fortunately the ULFA never attacked (or rather the soldiers always won - thats what I believed) and hence I was able to live there peacefully. And yes there was another reason for sleepless nights - the sound of laughing hyenas in the background. It was pretty loud and took some time adjusting to.
One of the best things about Dinjan was it's movie theatre - Jhankaar. That was where I saw the hits of the 90s. I remember going to Jhankaar almost all the time, after all the ticket cost a mere 7 bucks and the seats were good too. And right in front of Jhankaar was a real-life steam locomotive engine, I think it was called Puffing Billy or something like that. It was really an ancient relic - it was made in 1934 if my memory serves me right. I spent quite a few afternoons playing around on the engine, laughing, singing and shouting. Unfortunately I have since forgotten all those songs.
I used to love my school a lot too. Army School, Dinjan. I still remember our motto - Truth is God. Like all things there, even the school was pretty small and had classes from Nursery to Std VII only. We had a nice ground and I that was the place where I first started playing cricket regularly. So I can actually say that my cricket originated on the village greens and not in the side-alleys of a crowded city. I was the captain of my class team back in those days and was a pretty handy all-rounder. However the star of my team was a guy called Ravi Kumar Sahar. He was a fast bowler and believe me, bowling overarm and that too fast at that age ( I was 8) was quite an achievement! I also remember scoring my first goal there, football was pretty big too in our school. Other sports I played included Kabaddi (which I sucked at) and a lot of Chungi. Now that was a very interesting sport and was quite a craze back then. The Chungi consisted of a number of rubber rings tied together. The rubber rings being the cross-sections of the cycle tyre tube - a commodity which was easily available. And the sport consisted of kicking the Chungi into the air using your foot - the one who does it the maximum number of times won. There were quite a few Chungi champs in our school. I've seen guys kicking it 500+ times. I would have loved to say that I was amongst them but the fact was that I sucked at it. My personal best was a measly 84 and that put me in the category of total losers. The Chungi champs were the real stars back then, we all used to look up to them and used to dream of equaling their feats some day. However, the school administration was strictly against Chungi and later actually banned it in school. We even heard stories from our teachers about how some kid died thanks to a cancer which he contracted by playing Chungi excessively and how Chungi was the root of all evil. But that somehow never stopped us. I guess there was a rebel in me even back then. I remember taking on the school authorities even back then, and that too over the slightest of matters. And I must say I did make a difference, after all it's hard to ignore the class topper - which I was back then.
And another great skill came to the fore in Dinjan - I became known as a quizzer. I had taken part in quizzes in Nashik before that, at the tender age of 7. But it was in Dinjan that I became really famous as a quizzer. We used to have school assemblies every morning in which somebody would come and ask GK questions. The questions were divided into 2 groups - Std I to IV and Std V to VII. And despite being in Std IV, I used to answer all the questions which even the older guys couldn't answer. In fact it soon became so common that the quizmaster would really feel great if I missed one of his questions and would actually boast about it for days after that. All that really made me a star and the teachers were very proud of me!
I also had great friends in Dinjan. Me, Samarth, Anand, Venkat & Aniruddha used to hang out all day, doing lots of crazy stuff. Dinjan was also the place where I had my first big crush and that made it all the more special. I happened to meet all these guys a few years after we left Dinjan and all of us had fond memories of Dinjan. And I also met my ex-crush on Orkut and it felt really nice when she actually remembered me :).
I felt really bad the day I left Dinjan. Not that it was a surprise, I had known that the day would come for a very long time. But the mere thought of leaving all my friends, the lovely school, the great hangouts and all the greenery made me feel really sad. And that summer's day in 1998, a small, cute and very teary eyed boy made a promise to himself - that one day he would return to Dinjan and relive his childhood memories. And some day, I intend to do just that.

P.S. : The reason why I was reminded of my Dinjan days was Shamanth's recent post made from Dibrugarh. That guy's really enjoying himself!

Monday, February 11, 2008

A warm welcome...

... to my classmate Ashish into the wide world of blogging. Like in everything he does, Ashish seeks perfection in blogging too. So he spent the last few days in figuring out how the whole thing works and finally he's started blogging here.
And for those of you who know Ashish as merely the E & TC topper, there's much more to him than that. He is a really good poet and has published a book of his poems. His latest poem is one of his best and one of my favourites. Carry on Ashish!

Grindhouse & Aleatory - the quizzing sunday.

Yesterday was a thoroughly enjoyable affair. It started off with me getting up late and arriving late for my own quiz. So late in fact that Sneha, Yasho, Harish and a few participants were already there, not to mention the ever-reliable Ramanand. The only solace I had was the fact that Gadre arrived after me.
Both me and Gadre had been looking forward to this quiz since ages. We had been setting questions for it last September I guess, even before we started working on Chakravyuh. What had started off then as a general college quiz eventually become a sports open quiz. Not that we mind, since it gave both of us a genuine excuse to surf all our favourite sporting sites. The most surprising thing about the creation of the quiz was that we were never found slacking. Everything was done on schedule and the questions were ready well before schedule. I guess this shows that when you really love something a lot, you don't need extra encouragement to do a good job. This reaffirmed the notion that setting quizzes is a lot more fun that just attending them, something I learned when we were working on Chakravyuh. It is also the best way to increase your knowledge and thus become a better quizzer. Hopefully I'll learn from all this and start conducting quizzes regularly at the BC.
Coming back to the quizzing sunday. The elims turned out to be very easy, maybe a bit easier than we thought. Strangely, all the top-scoring teams missed out on the sitters that we had put in to make the quiz more junta-friendly (namely Zidane & Hamilton). All the good teams qualified for the finals with the only surprise being the non-qualification of Rohit & Rohit, considering the fact that they were school quiz champs and all. Sports quizzes have always been places where college students met open teams on an equal footing. Even that proved to be true as three of the six finalists turned out to be college teams.
The finals followed, starting with 'Nutmegged' which was Gadre's quiz. The questions were really good and I guess well liked by the participants as well as there were very few 'Aw come on!'s during the quiz. The surprise package turned out to be the team of Yash Marathe & Keyur as they took an early lead beating other experienced teams. After that were the fake trailers and then my feature which modesty forbids me from commenting on (actually, screw modesty, I think it was good). A few of my questions went unanswered. Believe me, as a quizmaster, no feeling can match the feeling you get when one of your questions goes unanswered and then, like a magician, when you finally reveal the answer you get lots of applause along with Ooohs and Aaahs from the audience. I shall forever cherish these moments!
The early leaders, Yash & Keyur ended up winning the quiz comfortably beating the likes of Harish, Samrat & Anand (who gave some amazing answers). The best thing was that all the BCQC folks loudly clapped for these young guys and greatly encouraged them throughout the quiz. The BCQC folks always encourage newbies a lot and this quiz was no different. Lets hope we hear more of them in the future, especially Yash.
Then came Aleatory - the afternoon quiz conducted by Salil & Anna. My partner for the quiz was BCQC's new signing for this season - Venkat. I must say that I really underestimated Venkat's quizzing abilities, he seemed to be too funny a guy to be really good at serious quizzing. In fact, before we started I didn't even expect to qualify. But as soon as the elims began, we were on a roll. No question seemed to be too hard for us and the few we couldn't answer directly, we got by good old detective work (and I mean working out from the clues). So from being possible non-qualifiers, we actually ended up topping the elims! And that meant beating teams like Samrat & Meghshyam, Anand & Vibhendu, Aditya & Niranjan & Sumant & Rishi. Anand congratulated me on stage after topping the elims and that felt really great! However, like all good things our time had to end. We had an average finals and ended up finishing 4th, with Venkat giving a few great answers. But I must say I thoroughly enjoyed my first BCQC Open finals since last May. It was definitely worth the wait though.
So this means I've made a good start to the quizzing season. Let's hope it continues in the Cricinfo Cricket Quiz & the AFMC Sports Quiz. And yes, before I end, a special mention - Thank You Sneha for coming to the quiz. It meant a lot to me. And I know that you were very bored but thanks for staying awake throughout. Love you lots!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Last week: Took part in an unknown quiz at VIT. Won't bother repeating how terrible the quiz was. Got first prize - 100 bucks. I know this sucks, but I don't mind - it was my first quizzing bounty for this season. And coming in February, it's about time too!

Today (6th Feb): Semifinals & hopefully finals of the quiz at PVG's COET. Elims were terrible so not expecting too much from the main quiz. Apparently the semis is another written affair so might as well call them round 2 of the elims. Didn't have any great expectations from the quiz or the college for that matter. My brother has told me stories of how people from this college when asked about their college's name say COET very quickly so that it sounds like COEP. You losers!
This will be followed by the quiz at SCMHRD (or Scumhard to make it easy) which I shall be conducting. Let's hope that goes well.

10th Feb: The big one. Grindhouse - the open sports quiz. A unique quizzing double feature conducted by me & Aditya Gadre (some call it the Khazu/Zizou double feature). What I like most about the quiz is the fact that I come on for the second half of the double feature. Which means that I emulate the great man, Quentin Tarantino himself. Have been working on this quiz for quite a while and think it might turn out pretty good. Followed by Salil & Anna's Aleatory which promises to be good too.

Ah! So many quizzes! It can't get better than this!

Update: Won the PVG quiz! Even the SCMHRD quiz went well. Didn't go to college at all. What a day!