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Too early for tomorrow... our pet project

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I am home...

Ah! Finally I find time for another post. I have been back in Howrah a week after what I must describe as the toughest 4 months of my life. 4 months during which my routine was ...sleep-eat-class-assignments-eat-assignments-eat-assignments-sleep... And what would I not give for a peaceful night of sleep then. I had nightmares all night of I not finishing an assignment, of an instructor failing me, and then there would be a segmentation fault and I would wake up with a jerk.

I have been making up and sleeping a lot this last week. But work has already piled up and I must go back to it soon.

Until next time, good bye.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obamaniac

The CWG scams disappeared from the front pages of the newspapers, so did the Adarsh scam. Why? Because Barrack Obama had come to India. The minutest details of his daily activities had to be featured in the front page of every newspaper... and there can be only one front page for a newspaper (if you do not consider the latest gimmick of selling out the front page for full page ads). God!!!

Even the death of Sidhdhartha Shankar Ray could only find the bottom most column of the Kolkata edition of The Times of India.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kudos to The Indian Express

I have been skeptical about the materials that appear in the print and visual media since long. Regular followers of yours sincerely will have noticed that. The point that I always tried to drill home is the media criticises all, but who criticises the media? Well, the unfortunate answer is that the general Indian public is so overwhelmed with the gimmicks that the media come up with that they will believe anything presented to them, and there is none to find faults with them. Taking advantage of this, the media now manufacture breaking news to increase their TRP.

I was very happy that The Indian Express reported on the drama being manufactured by news channels on the Delhi Floods. Please read it, it's kind of hilarious.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Udaan

They were running a free show of Udaan at the Dogra Hall yesterday. I took it as a welcome break from the strangling schedule here.

The theme was very contemporary: boy wants to do something while the father wants him to do something else. Add to it that the father is a psycho who keeps beating his children and marrying every time his wife dies.

The director does an excellent work mostly, except at the end. The ending could be better. If the solution is to run away from home, he could have done it a lot earlier: why wait so long?

The music was good and the background songs were well placed. The acting skills of all the actors deserve special mention.

It was a good experience which refreshed my mind.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

P ≠ NP

While we carry on with our daily chores, one of the biggest breakthroughs in the realm of theoretical computer science may have just been made.

Vinay Deolalikar of HP Research Labs, Palo Alto has just released a paper to his fellow researchers claiming to have proved that P ≠ NP. This was something that has been baffling the greatest computer scientists of the day. Everyone sort of knew that the result was this, but, somehow, the proof had been eluding them. Such was the craze that there's a $1M prize money for the proof. Now the paper will be scanned from jacket to jacket under the eyes of uber-math geeks. (To get the feel of the uber-math geek thing, see this.) And if the approach turns out to be genuine, quite a few text books will have to be written.

The most important thing is that the gentleman at the centre of all this is an Indian.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

If I have been away from my blog for a little over two weeks it's because I have not had much time to think beyond eating, sleeping and solving assignments, the last forming a major part of the daily chores.

The professors keep setting assignments and we are expected to find time to do them. And, mind you, they are not routine assignments: each one of them is enough to fry your circuitry for good. Lectures are neither long nor too many. But self-study and assignments form a major part of the goings-on. And as a result we spend most of the day in the lab: be it weekday or weekend, night or day.

However, you keep liking the things because the environment keeps you going. You always want to utilise the resources being provided to you to the fullest. And that is why there is no reason to complain.

Until next when I find time, have a good time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Bicycle Thief

I had heard about Vittoria de Sica's The Bicycle Thief long back but had never had the opportunity to watch it until recently. And I soon enough realised why this film is so widely acclaimed.

The film is based in the post World War Italy when jobs were hard to come by, when women in Italy fetched water in buckets from a common tap, when unemployment reigned. The protagonist (Ricci) gets a job but must have a bicycle to execute it. Things get complex when the bicycle is stolen and he and his kid (Bruno) go trying to find it.

The film does not tell. It does not preach. It shows. And that is what the visual medium of entertainment is supposed to do, isn't it? And there is not much to wonder why Satyajit Ray was inspired by it. How easily the director shows the realities of life without any extra effort or spending of extra frames for these. We learn so much but yet never feel that the film is deviating.

It is no wonder that this finds mention in all lists of must watch films. Go and watch it somewhere. You will never regret it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

I have come across Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken innumerable times during my school days. And I distinctly remember our teachers explaining how relevant this piece of poetry would become in our lives. We did appreciate its implications, but then it was only in a theoretical sense.

Times when the poem could have assumed practical significance include the moments to decide whether to take up science, commerce or humanities; or whether to take up engineering or something else. I say that they were moments because these decisions were sort of automatic backed by a lot of peer pressure and parental expectations. And, hence, this poem did not look so imposing back then.

Now, when most peers are going for jobs and my parents are not deciding for me, I just let go a lucrative job and opted for higher education. Suddenly Frost is ringing louder than ever in my ears. No doubt "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, / I took the one less traveled by,..." but will "...that has made all the difference" be in a positive sense is to be seen :"...Somewhere ages and ages hence...".

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Religion in the Harry Potter series

As I was reading the books in the Harry Potter series, one factor kept nagging me from time to time: the lack of direct reference to any religious beliefs.

However, they do celebrate Christmas (they have gifts and special dinner) and Halloween. But the church services, including the regular Sunday services are missing. Neither is there any reference to Santa Claus. This is unlike the other British authors I have read. The only time a church is mentioned is in the last book when Harry visits Godric's Hollow. Of course, when the Room of Requirements transforms into the place where people hide their things, it is compared to a cathedral.

Christian names are abundant throughout. And Harry has a godfather (Sirius Black), and is a godfather to Teddy Lupin. A godfather is a Jewish/Christian concept.

There is no direct reference to any god or almighty anywhere who the magical people worship or look up to. There is this wizard called Merlin who recurs but is surely not a god. Neither is it mentioned if Voldemort wanted to be god-like. He was more interested in the Ministry and forming a new world through his faulty ideals.

It will be wrong to suppose that they are pagan as no such proof exists either.

Perhaps Rowling anticipated objections to a witch-craft laden theme from the religious sectors and so carefully steered clear of offending (through the slightest allusion) anyone. Presence of witches/wizards in a church might be enough to cause widespread agitation. The stance of the barbaric medieval church towards witchcraft was enough of a deterrence. (Though it is mentioned in the series that the church burnt all the wrong people and the actual witches/wizards managed to escape using magic, what else?)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Revelations

As I glanced through today's TOI, I found several articles worth sharing with the people who do not take the TOI (or who take but don't read it).

The subject of this article has been going for a while at Esplanade. (Of course TOI reached about a year late and is now claiming credits.) The Grand hotel blocked off a stretch of the road for the vehicles of it's guests only. As it is, the footpath along the stretch is at the blessed mercy of the hawkers. So, the pedestrians often have to get on to the road. And if the pedestrians happen to venture into the Grand Hotel's cordoned off area, they are summarily shoved off by the security personnel. Serves them right that the KMC is imposing a fine on them.

This article substantiates my last post. It is only a matter of time before the government gives in to the demands of the transport operators and increases the fares. (All ironies intended in the italicised 'gives in' in both posts).

This is a follow up of this. (Note the wrong spelling of Fr. Siby in both articles. The print media has a knack for getting the spellings of places and people wrong, while the audio visual media almost always gets the pronunciation wrong. And they are arrogant enough not to correct them. Of course way back when I was in class 7 I thought it was Fr. C.B., short for some unpronounceable south Indian name. But then I was 12 years old and was surely not a journalist). The students of DBL who were oppressed under the rule of Fr. Siby Joseph Vadakel (he was vice-principal there for some time) will be the happiest if the haughty and arrogant brat of a priest is brought to book and taught a lesson for once. But, I feel sorry for those students of DBL who became a victim of Fr. Siby's whims and whose lives were shattered forever. But the media do not consider DBL worthy of news space as it is unlikely to increase circulation/TRP (why! one had called it Don Bosco Bally!) It is only when the sons of influential people get affected that it becomes worth a mention. (The students of DBL love to believe that Fr. Siby was packed off to a centre at Azimganj, where there was no toilet and he had had to poo in the open, after his unpopular stint at DBL)

This has caused great delight to me. Perhaps now BCCI will stop over-commercialisation of cricket and let the game be at peace and be enjoyed for just the incidents on field.

Note this. And I quote: '(PM) Says Reforms Need Of The Hour As Govt Can't Resort To Populist Steps'. Excellent Mr. Prime Minister, you have come to terms with reality (conveniently forgetting the socialist principles of the nation). But, I must say you are being a ruddy two faced son of a she-dog (the word starts with b and rhymes with rich) in saying so. You forget all about reforms and not taking populist steps when you woo the minorities, SCs, STs, and OBCs, don't you Mr. Prime Minister? They must be doled out sops regularly and their quotas increased so that they suck up to you (and your Madam) during the elections, must they not be Mr. Prime Minister?

And finally this. Jug Suraiya writes sense more often than not. He correctly highlights the importance of the knowledge of English from a global perspective. The opposition of English by the likes of Mulayam Singh accusing it of being a colonial hangover reeks of political self-centralism. I was impressed to learn that Mayawati supports the knowledge of English. (Jug Suraiya is a more reliable source for such information than the other blessed people who write in the TOI). Whether the support is to counter Mulayam Singh, I do not know. Whatever be the reasons, the end justifies the means (in this case at least).

O no, not again.

The Central Government has hiked the price of petrol once again. And I guess that a bus fare hike is in the offing in Kolkata. The process is simple: every time there is a hike in the prices of the fuels, the transport unions (leftists through necessity of survival) call a transport strike and soon the government gives in to their demands and increases the bus fares. The commuters do not have a union (they prefer the secret ballot than brandishing their political affiliations in public) and hence there is hardly any protest.

The government must think of alternative methods of running the public transport before the situation spirals out of control. It cannot go on increasing the fares while the spending capability of the common man does not improve. While CNG and LPG as media to power the transport are available, there has been very few takers for them. However, as these too are non-renewable, research has to be undertaken in long-haul solar powered, battery powered, nuclear powered vehicles.

As a temporary measure to check the burden on the common man, the government must ear-mark two categories of petroleum product users: one essential and the other luxury. The public transport, cooking gas and kerosene dispensed through the fair price shops must fall in the first category. These users must be provided the daily doses of fuel at a subsidised price. The second category must comprise the shopping malls (running gen-sets), private vehicles, airlines, etcetera which may obtain the fuels at a premium. This will ensure that only the people who can afford to are made to pay higher (and also might bring down the pollution level).

Yes, there may be pilferage on a large scale. But, a government is supposed to prevent malpractices: tamper-proof locks may be fitted on petrol tanks, fuel-cards may be issued to ration fuels.

The means are present. The will is missing.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Harry Potter and his reader from Belur.

I just finished reading the Harry Potter series of books, including a non-authentic but convincing copy of the fifth book. (All pdf ebooks obtained for gratis).

Even a year ago, I was strongly against the idea of reading these books. I never thought that I could comprehend the idea of magical fairy tales. Wand waving and incantations never really got to me. However, I had watched 2 of the 6 films that have been made based on the series: one at school and the other with friends at Nandan.

Shortly after the release of the 6th film (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), my friends forced me to agree to watch it. We decided on a budget hall. But the hall was a disappointment. The projector was out of focus, the projector bulb dim. The sound was more that of a rowdy crowd. I understood neither head nor tail of the film. That's when I decided that I am not watching any Harry Potter film until I have read the books. As soon as I reached home, I downloaded the entire series via bit-torrent and started reading it. As I began reading and had done the first few pages, I realised that this was no joke. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. As if the wizards had cast a spell on me. I could not leave it. However, academic engagements delayed the process and it took me almost a year to complete the series. Now I crave for more. I await Rowling's next books as much as I await Dan Brown's next books.

I strongly recommend the series for children and adults alike. (Just look out for the wrong copy of the 5th book)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

SLUG seminar on 30-03-'10

The initiators of the SLUG in our college are going to pass out soon. And we have to do something to ensure that it does not die a natural death. Towards this end, we have planned a series of seminars to filter out some really enthusiastic and interested students who can carry it forward.

The first of the seminars was organised on the 30th of March, 2010. The agenda was:
  • Ubuntu 9.10 installation
  • Intro to FOSS
  • Post installation configuration
  • Venue: IT Gallery
We didn't have much time to publicise the event this time. But the turn out was quite encouraging. Manash Pal (4th year CSE) and Sandipan Das (2nd year CSE) took us through the process of installing Ubuntu 9.10 on a machine. Following our instructions, a lady from first year IT had brought in her laptop and installed it on spot. This was very encouraging. Manash took us through the concepts of partitioning, the system requirements, and other essentials.

We had decided on a bit of pipelining. While the new setup was on on the Dell Optiplex, we switched the projector cord to the Acer laptop with Fedora 10 where Arijeet Mukherjee (3rd year CSE) presented a lively piece on introduction to FOSS. This enlightened the uninitiated on what we are on about. This was followed by Truth Happens to a thunderous applause.

By the time Arijeet had finished, the installation had been completed on the Dell Optiplex. Shinjan came into the scene with his take on post installation configuration. He demonstrated how to set up the network, where to find which package, how to install new packages by the Synaptic Package Manager, the command line and the Ubuntu Software Centre.

At last, we divulged the purpose of the seminar. And when we asked how many would be interested to carry the SLUG forward, at least 5 hands (all belonging to different people) went up. That was quite encouraging as when we had started, we were only 2 of us.

The complete set of pictures from my cam are here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reservation- once again

There was a widely circulated mail during the time that Arjun Singh brought in reservation in Central Education Institutes for the OBCs. Now that there are talks for religion based reservations in jobs, it is apt that I share that mail with everyone. The words in the mail had been attributed to the Wipro Chairman Mr. Azim Premji. I doubt its authenticity. So , I quote only the words, because they are unfailingly catchy.


I think we should have job reservations in all the fields. I completely
support the PM and all the politicians for promoting this. Let's start the
reservation with our cricket team. We should have 10 percent reservation for Muslims. 30 percent for OBC, SC/ST like that. Cricket rules should be
modified accordingly. The boundary circle should be reduced for an SC/ST player. The four hit by an OBC player should be considered as a six and a six hit by an OBC player should be counted as 8 runs. An OBC player scoring 60 runs should be declared as a century.

We should influence ICC and make rules so that the pace bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar should not bowl fast balls to our OBC player. Bowlers should bowl maximum speed of 80 kilometer per hour to an OBC player. Any delivery above this speed should be made illegal.

Also we should have reservation in Olympics. In the 100 meters race, an OBC player should be given a gold medal if he runs 80 meters.

There can be reservation in Government jobs also. Let's recruit SC/ST and OBC pilots for aircraft which are carrying the ministers and politicians (that can really help the country...). Ensure that only SC/ST and OBC doctors do the operations for the ministers and other politicians. (Another way of saving the country...)
Let's be creative and think of ways and means to guide INDIA forward...
Lets show the world that INDIA is a GREAT country. Let's be proud of being an INDIAN...

May the good breed of politicians like ARJUN SINGH long live...



Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trip to মান্দারমনি, an experience to live with.

The trip to মান্দারমনি with Sarbartha and Shinjan was my first without my parents. We had taken ample precautions so that the things fell in place naturally. And some of them, I now feel, were unnecessary. We could have easily got seats on the bus from Esplanade on spot. We didn't have to get them reserved 2 days before hand. In the process, we had to shell out quite a bit extra. (Thank the gods that the CSTC is ancient enough not to do return reservations from Kolkata). Then, we could easily have got to মান্দারমনি from চালখোলা without having had a car booked to carry us. There is a good trekker service running there. However, we didn't do very bad for our first time.

The first thing that strikes one on the 14 km drive from চালখোলা to মান্দারমনি is the stark low socio-economic condition. Hardly any brick house is to be noticed. Ramshackle mud houses peep out from behind trees. And through them, along the patched metalled road drive the upper class snobs in the latest fancy cars. I was prepared for the last part of our drive along the beach itself. The compact sand of the beach makes allowances for such practices. However, one must keep along the track followed by the locals to escape getting one's car stuck.

Along the beach, the only brick houses were the hotels and resorts. The locals all dwelt in mud houses. On the one hand we had the 7 star resorts and on the other the houses of the poorest of the poor. Sharp contrast at its prominence. It is evident that developmental activities have steered clear of this part of the state. A perfect breeding ground for Maoists, mind you. And the locals live for the day when the road will be completed, and the electricity lines will go live. (Ah! yes, there is no electric supply yet. Either you depend on solar power, or generator power. The fans work only when the latter is functioning).

The one thing that will shoot you through the head (and also the pocket) is the high cost of the place. The lowest room rates is ~500 INR. And you can expect no more than the lowest services for this. The meal charges at our hotel was a whooping 80 INR. (But I must mention that the food cooked was extremely palatable and hygienic). You can get cheaper meals at the shanties along the beach. But I will not vouch for the hygiene maintained.

Sometimes, you may feel that you are the only person on the spot. Such is the desolation. When we jumped into the sea at 7:30 in the morning, we were the only 3 persons who did so. There was not a living soul along the shore. Only the shanty keepers went about their chores far away along the edge of the beach. I just wondered if we were too early or were the only people around.

Every shanty keeper that we cared to stop by tried to push sell chilled beer to us. And indeed, booze was freely flowing all along the beach. Men and women of all ages got drunk with ease.

If you just want to while away your time on holiday by walking along the beach thrice a day, then you may visit the place any time. But if you want your tour to be productive, do visit during the full moon. I have never seen the sea clean sweep out of sight during low tide as it did here. It surely went back by more than a kilometre. And, what an experience it was to walk over the sea bed. I can hardly describe. Sea-organisms of all kinds were swept in durng high tide, but they failed to move back during low tide. As a result they lay on the virgin beach. I had never seen star fish, jelly fish, sea-cucumbers, sponges, live oysters and slugs all lying on the beach. And there were fish-spawn scuttling about in the small puddles made by the tides. We actually walked along a strip of land jutting into the sea over a colony of red crabs. And there was sea behind us. We were approaching the local delta when we decided that things were getting pretty dangerous with our feet sinking in the loose sand. If we got burried in the sea bed, there would be no one to even call back home and say so. So we returned, with a lifetime experience.

We also tried a bit of beach football and beach volley, but the wind was so strong that we were soon running all over the place to catch the ball. And finally when Sarbartha further twisted his already twisted knee, we gave up.

The one thing that strikes a cord with every heart is that the place has not yet been touched by the vice of commercialisation. The shanty keepers have set up their shanties only to eke out a living. They are willing to open up and have a chat when approached. The people are willing to help you out when you ask. You don't have to be on the look out for conmen waiting to dupe you at the first chance. As the place develops, there will surely be better facilities. But then, we do know what may become of a commercialised place.

A few tips for those planning a trip to মান্দারমনি:
  • You don't need to get seats reserved on the bus. There are too many buses leaving Esplanade.
  • You don't need to ask the hotelier to arrange to pick you up from চালখোলা, there is a good trekker service between কাঁথি and মান্দারমনি via চালখোলা.
  • You may carry as much breakfast material as you can to avoid steep food bills.
  • Do visit during full moons.
  • Don't ask the hotelier to drop you at চালখোলা for your return journey. Just hop into a trekker along the beach. চালখোলা is only 15 INR and কাঁথি only 20 INR.
(Ah! I happen to have just written my longest blog entry.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Phir Mile Sur reeks of commercialisation

There was this excellent classic called Mile Sur Mera Tumhara produced by Doordarshan in the '80s. I grew up watching it on the national television. It still warms my heart to watch it. We played a game of identifying the language that a line is being sung in. It still is a testimony to national integration.

This Republic Day, the Times of India group produced a video which they call Phir Mile Sur. This new video comes no where near the original version. The original video featured people from all walks of life and from all regions of India. The current video highlights only Bollywood stars. This one is a cheap commercial project. What is Salman Khan, who has successfully killed black bucks, overrun people in a drunken state, doing in it? Where are the great leaders like Dr. Kalam, Sachin Tendulkar?

And they could not find any better persons than Prosenjit and Rituparna to lip-sync the Bangla part! I thank the gods that West Bengal is not known for its forgettable movies. What more? The people who matter a bit, like Baichung Bhutia, Abhinav Bindra, the armed forces, are pushed to the end more like an afterthought.

This article in the Hindustan Times aptly summarises the reactions. (However it must also be noted that The Hindustan Times has its interests going against The Times of India.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Campussing Nama

I got through the Cognizant campus recruitment drive at our college yesterday. But, strangely, I don't feel, in the least, elated. Probably because there were candidates more deserving than me who didn't get through. And some, who cannot say what subjects they had in the last semester, or what was his elective subject, got through. And, I got through with this lot!

I guess, it depends on one's luck. And I was lucky yesterday. The companies do not come to take the best: they come to fish a few students. And in the net get caught both small and big fries: while some are left to cry, but none to hear.

What pained me even more was the wild celebrations of some who got through in the very presence of the lot who didn't get through. There were singing and dancing, and in their midst were people secretly crying, thinking all was lost. And who were celebrating the most? Those who did not deserve to get through at all.

What has man come to? No feelings for one's friends? Lord, make me a wolf in the next birth: at least I will be one of a decent pack.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Young adventurers

People do not realise that their everyday life is an adventure. A fisherman does not realise that his life is full of adventures. But when we, lay men, hear that he spends days on end in the high seas, braving the wind, the storm, we feel 'how adventurous!' A miner perils his life everyday but he may not realise it.

Are we very different? I get a bus/auto to Bally Ghat everyday, hang from an overcrowded train, get off at Ultodanga, hang from an over-crowded bus to get to Beliaghata. The return journey is no more sweeter.

The journey of adventure reached its zenith yesterday. I boarded a bus from Beliaghata at 5:14. There was no way I could catch the 5:17 train from Sealdah. I hoped to catch the 5:30 Naihati local to Dum Dum from where I could get the 5:53 train to Bally Ghat. I reached Sealdah at 5:32. I could see the tail lights of the departing train blinking in the distance.

Then there were two options. I could get the 5:36 galloping Krishnanagar City local to Dum Dum and still hope to catch the 5:53 train, or wait for the next train from Sealdah which left at 6:10. I chose the former. The 5:36 train left at 5:39. I reached Dum Dum at 5:55. I could see the tail lights of the departing 5:53 train blinking in the distance.

I chose to go to Chiria More from where I could get a bus to Belur Math. I reached Chiria More in no time. But when I was still to cross the road, a Belur Math SBSTC bus whizzed past along the other side of the road. The next bus arrived in 10 minutes (the only lucky part in this story). And when the bus was cruising along Vivekananda Setu, guess what happened. The 6:10 train from Sealdah came charging along the bridge, overtook the bus and disappeared. The only consolation was I was in the same bus that I would have boarded had I alighted from the 6:10 local at Bally Ghat.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A writer's work stolen?

Those of you who have read Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat will definitely agree that it was a wonderful book. It had a unique, never before told, story. It took on an aspect of Indian education that should have been taken on a lot earlier. It had the sense of humour like nothing else before it. And it had the elements of humanism at the right places.

It's not the mettle of Bollywood director/producers like Vidu Vinod Chopra or Rajkumar Hirani to come up with such wonderful story lines. And take my word for it.

I have not seen 3 Idiots, but from what I gather from various sources, including CB's blog entry: http://www.chetanbhagat.com/blog/general/a-book-a-film-and-the-truth , what the film makers have done is utterly shameful. What they forgot was perhaps that FPS has a million readers worldwide.

One may think of business interests. But to give up all ethics in the process! It is not done.

Chetan Bhagat is a famous writer. So if he cries foul, people will listen. But there must be thousands of other lesser known writers who are being tricked by the Bollywood fraudsters every year. What about them?

The public should boycott 3 Idiots in order to teach them a lesson. And if they are doing all these for awards, then it is utterly disgusting and reeks of selfish Satanism.

What the...

If this article in Wednesday's The Times of India is true, then what are we coming to? Catch the article here.