Saturday, December 31, 2005

Book Tag - Books I read this year.

I am not sure whats this tagging business all about but from some digging it seems that once I am tagged I am supposed to write about what books I read this year and tag three more people. I anyways wanted to write such a blog but was procratinating it.

Diwaker Tagged me so here it goes.

1. Siddhartha - Herman Hesse - (previous review) - One of the best books I have read this year. For one it was just 80 pages, and two it was simple and direct. The story is about Siddhartha(Not Gautam Buddha) who wanders in the forest in seek of truth. As a priest's son, as an ascetic, as Buddha's discipile he feels incomplete and finally decids to live the Material life as a merchants advisior and in love with Kamala. Still unsatisfied he finaly learns something else thats the climax. The sentence that hit me the most was - 'I can Think, I can Wait, I can Fast'

2. Ukridge - PG Wodehouse - My First PG Wodehouse. Ramesh Mamji gifted me this book when I was coming to America. I usually dont read such fiction (In fact I did not use to read much but have started to cultivate this habit from this year itself.) but the PG Wodehouse is just amazing. An exceptional book for light reading. Ukridge, considers himself as the next Bill Gates, and tries innumerous ideas to become rich. Alas! he does not become rich but finds something thats the climax.

3. Conversations with God (Part I) - Neale Donald Walsch - An amazing view of the world. Arun Raghuraman suggested me to read this book and I read it during my ITC stint. He in his platfrom cant be contradicted easily. The book is about God talking to him and answering the eternal questions. The ideas do get repeated a lot and it seems more targetted towards the American souls, nevertheless a must read.

4. Ramayana - C Rajagopalachari - As the author himself claims, Ramayana for growing up children. He has beautifully written it without and pompous words or even any strong interpretations of events. Sometimes writes in too many superlatives but a refreshing book. Specially as it is very easy to read.

5. Right Ho! Jeeves - PG Wodehouse - Typically PG Wodehouse again.

I think I am too late to tag, but anyways will tag Nanda, Bhatti and Pango.

A journey into the US - Yosemite - 21st - 24th Dec

Right now writing about the complete trip seems so huge a task - so many events to write about, so many moments that needs mention in the blog. All that with a want to make it as short as possible. But as every long journey starts with a first step so be with this blog.

The Explorers

So finally - Nitin - Phantom, Bhatele - Hatele, Ankit, Himanshu(Replacement for Yash till San Francisco) and I started for the journey on 21st Dec. I and nitin were registered drivers for the car - Chrysler Sebring Sedan. A standard luxary car. We were to drop Himanshu and pick Yash from San Francisco. I had boasted that I can drive for long time so was given the steering from the start. Before going into the 'gory' details as himanshu puts it, lemme first write the the moments that shall remain eternal.

1. 21st Dec - 28th Dec: Covering a total distance of ~1700 miles - more than the distance from Delhi to Kanyakumari was a feat very few people would think to undertake back in India. I dont usually give it to the Americams but the system of freeways and highways, and the quality of roads in America demands appreciation.

2. 23rd Dec - 3:00pm: The highpoint of the journey was when we lost our way in Yosemite trying to follow the trail to the Yosemite falls and ended waking up and down on rocks meant for water in rainy season. Thick forests on both sides made it immpossible to conquer the slopes, but our leader Ankit was motivated enough to overcome any hard knocks. Finally after a detour of 2 hours we found the trail but then it was too late to go to the top of the Yosemite Falls. The mighty falls, 6th highest in the world with the height of around 2500 feets shall call us again.

3. 23rd Dec - 8:00 pm: Two more things were added to my First Time list - Ice Skating and Corss-Country Skiing. After coming from the trek to Yosemite Falls, Ice skating was just the perfect thing to do. The feeling of floating freely on ice is something that cant be expressed with words. Beautiful girls with perfect figures dancing on ice as if they were born for this noble task. The background score of 'Hallelaiuh' giving it the romantic feel . Cool misty atmosphere, with the thrill of doing something for the first time - I mean Ice Skating. Ah! the thought itself makes me dreamy (It feels so feminine to write all this but I have to do justice to the ambiance, and show that IITians can also respond well to nature)

4. 24th Dec: Though I have done downhill Skiing in Auli, never had a chance to do cross-country. Its more or less similar but there are basic differences. Cross country, as the name suggests, is meant for longer distances. Downhill has both toes and ankles locked, but cross country has ankles free for easier traversing uphill. It was good, but for fun lovers i think downhill will be more interesting. More over the snow was hard and crystallike - so it made it more difficult to learn and much more painful to fall. An interesting thing happened here - When Bhatele was given his ski shoes, gods curse the attendant, she gave him a blue ones. Blue color! Doesnt she know that Bhatele does not like them! naah! He wanted some different color but was shy to ask for them. So the conversation went -
Someone else - "he needs some different color shoes do you have them?"
Theresa - "sorry we dont have pink?"
Theresa - "Do you really want some different color?"
Bhatele - "umm, unn, uhh! yesh i dont like blue, you have any other? I want purple" Yippie!
Every one - "Yippie" Bhatele got his colors.
Later she was the one who have us an hours lesson.

View From Badger Pass

5. 25th Dec: Mariposa Grove - the place of 2000 year old trees (yeah its not 200 years). Known as giant sequoia trees - they grow taller the first 300 hundred years and then keep on adding bulk to them. Most probably the trees were around 200 ft (wikipedia says 200-300 feet) and had a diameter of 15 feets. Thats like 4 Hall 1 rooms put together at the base and 15-20 rooms on the top of it. We had no plans of going there but we met some Americans on our way and they suggested us the place. God bless them.

The Americans who helped us.

21st Dec 2005 - Wednesday
10:00 am: started our jounrey from San Diego with me Driving.
1:00 pm: crossed Los Angles and stopped for lunch at Taco Bell.
5:00 pm: stopped for Evening Snacks at McDonalds - around 300 miles from San Diego. Changed driving seats. Nitin took over from me (though I did not want to switch ;-))
8:00 pm: finding our way through San Jose, missing exits and turns, we had to drop Himanshu there.
9:30 pm: 500 miles away from home we stayed at Yash's sisters place. A massive and well kept house. Very friendly and caring hosts. Good food. Good company. What else does one need.

22nd Dec 2005 - Thursday
10:00 am: Left for Stanford to meet Mridul, Harsh and Sidc. Though Yash was not legally allowed to drive he took on the drivers seat. Stanford was beautiful. We did not see much of it but the feel was good.
12:00 pm: Doing brunch at Quiznos we headed for Yosemite, another 300 miles from San Francisco. I took on ther drivers seat.
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm: Inching forward in the heavy San Francisco Traffic.
3:00 pm: around 150 miles from San Fransico we stopped for coffee. Yash also found a friend at a Asian Egg Roll Outlet. Pathetic Rolls indeed. Nitin came on the drivers seat.
7:00 pm: We reached Yosemite. A single breath of fresh air was enogh to wash away any dirt of the cities. Sporadic snow made it more touching.

23rd Dec 2005 - Friday
10:00 am: Good morning Yosemite
12:00 pm: On our hike to Yosemite Falls. Though we were not able to reach the top of the falls because of the detour we took, the view of falls from mid way was enchanting enough. I wonder when will I have the next chance to reach the top. Anyone ready to join me again?
5:30 pm: Back from the Hike. Lunch at Food Court.
7:00 pm: Ice Skating amongst beutiful girls at Curry Village (the place where we stayed in Heated Camps)
10:00 pm: Exhausted from the day - retirement time, saw a movie - Gol Maal on Yash's desktop oh! people call it a Laptop but its Dell you see!.
12:00 pm: Sweet Dreams.

24th Dec 2005 - Saturday
8:00 am: Had to get up early for Cross Country Skiing.
11:00 am: Started our drive to Badger Pass 30 miles from Curry Village.
12:00 am: We were on our skis trying to balance and move.
1:15 am: Theresa gave us the Skiing lessons.
5:00 pm: Drive back to Curry Village with Dal Chawal at Food Court. Well they dont call it that - its called lentil soup without salt, and rice to be taken seperately, having Amru food for 5 days makes you innovative enough to find something close to indian food. Yash and I enjoyed it to the fullest.
8:00 pm: '29' session (thank god they dont call it '69' ;-))- Both the Lucknow wasis were together - Ankit and Yash and I was team with Bhatele initially and later on Nitin. We lost Bad time - The game went on till 1 am over few sips of alcoholic beverages and the final difference was of 21 points with Yash and Ankit having 6 Red Hearts.
1:00 pm: Retreat


IBM Thinkpad R52

Logically, this blog should be an extension of the previous one about my journey but I had decided that the first blog I wrtie on my new Laptop - IBM ThinkPad R52 - will be about the laptop itself. It all started with a casual discussion with phantom when I was defending the fact that I done need a laptop right now, I won the talk but he won the final battle. I ended up buying one within 10 days of the discussion. All that I have analyzed below are not first hand experience but based on the research on the net.

I had a faint idea in my mind regarding my needs. In reality money was not a constrain but I did not want to go above $1200. My roommates had bought Dell Laptops for around $800 but that didnt impress me much. I wanted something stable, something that I can bestow my trust upon given my carelessness attitude ( at times ;-) ). There was not much variation in the processor speeds available in the market under $1.2k. It ranged from low end celerons around 1.6Ghz to newer 1.86Ghz Intel Pentium M centrinos. The RAM was usually 256 MB but some also offered upto 512 MB. 1 GB was the best of the lots. On the lower side HDD was 40GB with 4200 RPM disk speed and higher ends towards 100GB with fastest speed as 7200 RPM. Other things that was considered were screen size (12" - 15.4"), weight (4lb - 6lb - see I have already started talking in American unit system), frills like number of USB port, firewire, DVD writer, good quality speakers, egronomics of keyboard, mouse etc. All in all, given the best of all these a laptop would cost around $1.6k which meant there had to be a compromise somewhere.

Either I could have gone for a Dell with low egronomic qualities and low sturdyness but higs frills and good HDD or there were other companies like Toshiba, HP that could have been considered but for me stablity was the prime issue which I did not want to compromise. So the contest was between IBM and Apple. Both are reputed for their performance and stability. Apple is surely good but... So I finally decided to stick with IBM Thinkpads.

Now with ThinkPads there are three series - T R and Z. Z is the latest one more of the multimedia kind of PC with high degree of frills. T series are the flagship product with T43 being the latest kid on the block but EXPENSIVE. The R series offered the same performance as the T series but did not have the same body material so were heavier. The same configuration T series was expensive by around $300 dollars. I wanted to go for T43 but at a price of $1400 it was well above my limit. So finally I got a great deal with 1.86Ghz Pentium M centrino, 1 GB RAM, 14" screen, CD writer - DVD reader, IBM trust and stability. The downside 40GB HDD (4200 RPM) and weight of 6lbs. But at a price of $999 I dont even call it a compromise :-).

The first looks are in accord with the speculations. A complete black body giving it a corporate look, the IBM trademark red colored mouse pointer, special lights on the top of the monitor for ease in typing in lowlight conditions. Yes its heavy but that not a problem for me. (I hope!). Right now the 4200 RPM does not seems to slow down the performance but the systems virgin right now so my fingers are crossed on that. The keyboard is definately better than Dell. It feels sturdy but only timetest will bring out the reality. Finally, it is surely the best buy if thousand dollars is all you can spend. Maybe still the best even if you have a few hundred more than that.

More after using it for a while.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Journey is about to begin.

In few hours bhatele will arrive in San Diego, and probably that will mark the start of my first journey in America.

The Journey:
San Diego - San Francisco (1 day) - Yosemite (3 days)- Las Vegas (3 days)- San deigo - Mexico(1 day maybe) - San diego.

This journey is special as it has many 'Firsts'. Its the first:
1. Road-Trip by car - have done motor-bike, cycle trips before . Estimated distance ~1500 miles ( 2400 Kms)
2. Journey In America - Right now for me America is equivalent to San Diego.
3. Journey with Nitin Gupta, Yash Kapoor, Abhinav Bhatele - Yes we have been together for many years but never went out for a trip.
4. Time will be using my new Nikon FM 10.
5. Time will be driving in America - yeah even after I failed in the test, the rules allow me to drive.
6. Time I am writing a blog before the start of an Event. :-)

Any ways, we will be having laptops and hope that I will be able to write few blogs during the trip. So be ready to check out the snaps. BTW :- just for info the complere trip is organized by the renowned AIR - Nitin Gupta.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Eak Quarter Khatm aur mein fail ho gaya :-)

Again its been a week that my first quarter at UCSD came to an end and I have not written anything about it. Sob Sob!

Yes I failed in one of the exams still I am happy. I have to be. :-)

I had taken up just two courses in this quarter. My advisor told me to take one as two will be heavy on me along with research work, but I insisted and took a basic course on Image Processing. The endsems were just not like the ones I gave back at IIT. The modus operandi was same but personal emotions were quite different than any of the IIT endsems. For the first time I felt what it is to be prepared before the endsem. Having missed just 3 classes that also of the basic course I did not rush to Mayank Prakash Gupta to know what the course is, I did not rush to Zia to find the notes and book, and I did not rush to Mridulto help me clear my concepts. I was all set, all by myself. First time!. I never give any comments on how was the exam, so as usuall - 'Ho gaya bas'.

Anyways, I also had a third exam - 'Behind the wheels driving test' - for california driving licence on 9th Dec. On 8th evening after the end of the second exam, Himanshu and Nitin as my mentors and tutors for American Rules and Regulations, helped me to practice. I had to hire a car and luckily (or unluckily) got two upgrades from the car I had originally booked - from compact car to a standard one - Kia Optima.

First time drove an automatic transmission car. No clutches, no manual gears, just use accelerator and zooooom goes the car. Good power, low engine sound. All in all it was an easy drive. And fast.

All was set, with full knowledge of the rules I went for the test the next day. All my concentration on moving my neck to check traffics from all the sides at intersections and turning as the rule demamded. At the end of the test the examiner says. "I am sorry you will have to retake the test"! Reason: Overspeeding - I was driving at 35mph on a street that was marked 25mph. As Nitin said: 'Jwaan khuun hai, ab teez nahi chalayega to kab chalayega'!. Have a retest in Jan. :-)

Friday, December 02, 2005


* 1/3rd of NASA scientists are Indians
* There are over 5000 Indo-American professors in American colleges.
* More than 30,000 Indian doctors in America
* GE has set up its second largest R&D centre in India with 1,000 PhDs.
* 50 p.c. Fortune 500 companies outsource work to India .
* Among the only three nations to build supercomputers.
* Among the only six to launch satellites.
* Over 35 p.c. Silicon Valley start-ups are by Indians.
* The largest English-speaking technical manpower.
Let’s look at manufacturing and trade:
* NSE and BSE rank No. 3 and 5 respectively, in the number of trades worldwide.
* The largest cotton yarn exporter, largest manufacturer of motorcycles and two-wheelers.
* Lowest-cost producer of steel, aluminium, cement, CDs.
* Pharma is the next IT in the making. We are 4th largest.

India is an idea whose time has come. It has all the ingredients of a global brand waiting to be communicated, first to the internal audience and then to the world. The key is that we have to start and this is the time for it. We cannot wait for the perfect moment, there will never be one.

(The writer is Chairman, The Aditya Birla Group)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

At the back of a food carton.

"Do Square. Not round. You dont get four corners of hot 'n' juicy goodness with round. A square hamburger, made fresh to order, always has the edge. After all, not cutting corners is doing what tastes right."

Yeah. As if.

but not bad on second thoughts.

First Bike Trip in Uncle Sam's Country

"Procrastination is the rool of all futility"
-Nikhil Rasiwasia

I still rememer the moment when I decided to write about the first camping trip in US (for records it was with nitin, himanshu and 'Guest' KT from India in Anza Borrego desert 70 miles east of SanDiego). But I came back, I procrastinated, It lost its charm.

Same seems to be happening with the few adventurous hours I had this Sunday. The fun of writing allready seems to have diminished, but its never to late. So sunday (27/12) marked the end of my Unplanned Thanksgiving Celebration. Though overbogged with academic stuff and having dwindling intentions, I finally decided to make it. ( partly because it was My and Panju's plan and I did not want to spoil it at the very first go). It was expected that 6 of us will be there, but expectations are just expectations. For this instance only 4 made it - I, Panju, Diwaker and Sachin and I think this is the optimum number for a bike trip. Nitin and Nikhil(K2) prefered the dreamland.

Start/ Starting at 8:00 in the morning (too early by my standards and too late by panju's) the journey till Solana Beach (~12 miles) was to be covered in one hour and some mins. The route was soft with one long downhill slope near Torry Pines (which obviously implies lot of hardword the way back). We went nonstop with constant 'intimidating' overtakes by aged americans, at their age I would probably prefer to go a bit slower but these ppl are born cycling. In an enroute discussion with Diwaker I felt that it would be good to challenge them to a sleeping competition! what say?. Anyways, so we finally did not stop at Solana Beach but went three more miles cus in Panju's words 'yaar mein thaka nahi abhi tak', yeah! ask us and especially Sachin.

Having breakfast at Cafe Enchinitas(where my dish was served in two parts with an interval of 10 mins, so when you order something you dont know the contents of, and neither your mates, you only realize that the first part was to be eated with the second when you just finished the first part and second arrived, Confused eh! So was I :). We took a U trun and again a nonstop biking till the dreaded upslope. It reminded me of the emotions I went through the Cycling trip in Spiti Valley. Ofcourse there's no comparison between the two, but it was fun reliving the experience. /End

Btw that bike trip did seemed to have cost be a bit - I found my axles and peddles wobbling yesterday night, seems that the bottom bracket is faulty. Just asked one of the shopkeepers and his reply was 'twenty five dollars for the part and twenty five for the labor, plus taxes extra'(and its california). No I wont tell how much did I pay for this beauty, but if you guess its less than the total above, I wont be amused.