Friday, December 31, 2004

Vacation time


It's been a fun vacation time, yet I've still been really busy. Moral of the story: Vacations and calendars don't mix.

Long story short: Arrival – Cousin’s wedding – Get back – Stay at family friends’ place – Go to different cousin’s place – Family Lunches and Dinners – Own friends – Shimla – More friends – New Year’s Eve.

The wedding was really fun, just as weddings always are. The get back part was tough for two reasons: Dial-up and stupid old TV. It’s an ancient TV –good for all the saas-bahu crap for Mom to watch, but devoid of the frequency ranges for the following channels: Star World, Zee English, HBO, ZMZ, [V] and National Geographic.

One thing I really hate about vacation breaks is the “Family Lunches and dinners”. That’s when they take me out for family get-togethers with little-known “family friends”. It’s really very awkward:

Uncleji: Aao beta, aur batao tumhari engineering kaisi chal rahi hai?
Me: (not recognizing uncle and faking a smile): Haan ji, uncle, theek thaak hai.
Auntiji: Arey, beta, bahut kamzor ho gaye ho?
Me: (surreptitiously look down and find “kamzor” belly still staring right back): Kya karen aunty, Madras ka khana!
Auntiji: (to all around) Haan, bechara beta! Tsk tsk tsk!
Mom: Nahin, kamzor nahin, “theek” ho raha hai!
Auntiji: Nahin, nahin kaisi baat kar rahi hai?
Me: (fuming inside and wanting to throttle both the ladies, hoping Aunty has a son): Aur aunty, bhaiya kya kar rahe hain?

Also, in the face of the so-called MMS scandal, the IIT-DPSRKP connection inevitably kept coming up:

Auntiji: Arey, tum to IIT se pehle DPS RK Puram mein the na?
Me: (Nod)
Auntiji: Tsk tsk tsk. Aajkal ke bachche!

I especially hate the future career plan thingie at such parties:

Uncleji: Aur beta, aage ke bare mein kuchh socha?
Me: Haan uncle, waise to ... (interrupted)
Uncleji: Who sab to theek hai lekin ... (half an hour later) Garble Farble Warble!

There should be a law or something!

The Shimla trip was a welcome change after this drab period of forced politeness in the face of criminal stupidity. But also slightly disappointing. You see, it traditionally snows (don’t ask me how, it just does) in Shimla on Christmas day each year. It’s been this way for the last fifteen years or so, except maybe once about three years ago. And I haven’t seen snow since I was a little kid (I thought never, but my parents have a picture of me playing in the snow from a time I can’t recall). Seeing snow after staying in Madras would be so cool (no pun intended). Or so I thought. I stayed there till the 29th. No snow :-(. At all. Also, I first heard about the tsunami in Shimla on TV. Such depressing news.

Since then, I’ve been back, met my own friends, and had a good time. Oh yes, all that in two days. And with a flight leaving on the 3rd, this is the first time I get to be not on the train on New Year’s Eve. I was hoping it’d be fun as well.

Only now, I’m stuck here in my room with nothing to do, while Mom watches SRK serenading with assorted babes on Sony. And occasionally surfs the news channel that shows what they’re doing in Goa. Worst of all, those still in the hostel are having a better time.

Wish you all a happy new year.

Friday, November 19, 2004


I turned twenty-one today. That means I'm free to get drunk anywhere except hometown Delhi. It also means I am an eligible bachelor now.

Not that it feels very different. As a friend's dad put it when we excited on approaching adulthood at eighteen, "So what's the big deal - it's not like you'll grow antennas behind your ears!"

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Ek Anek

Long time no blog. With Shaastra and the quizzes coming on every alternate week, and litsoc several times between that, it's a wonder I've had enough time to breathe properly. And every time I sit down and try to blog, I get a too-much-information-oh-what-to-write writer's block. So, I've decided. I'll fill up on the juicy Shaastra tidbits later.

For now, it only makes sense to go here and feel really really nostalgic for a while.

Quiz again tomorrow. Bah!

Friday, September 17, 2004

Requiem for email

There was a time when the "experts"at the DCF decided that the only way to get more people to use the department email was to make the systems so slow that it would be excruciatingly painful to access any outside email providers, and additionally to ban the use of any URLs with the mention of 'mail' within. It was even suspected that they were going through our files. The metaphorical criticism below was written at the time. It's been part of my .project file on the EE server ever since, even after we finally got web access in our rooms.

At the time, the department's computer facility had only 300 MHz Celerons running a very unstable RedHat Linux 9.0, and an old version of the Netscape browser (before Firefox came out).

It's 9:30 in the morning and our hero is busy on his terminal, staring emptily and gloomily at a screen, which is staring back equally emptily at him, and even more gloomily. He waves his head from side to side, trying to focus on the monitor, which slowly produces a yellow flower and a blue login prompt after much effort, as if quarrelling with the processor about whether to start RedHot (Donot touch) Linux 8.0. Tired by its relentless effort, it then proceeds to blank the screen a few times while intermittenly showing the login prompt, attempting to discourage the user from going any further. But our hero, filled with a relentless valour, is completely nonplussed. He merely rubs his eyes, yawns, and types in his username and password. Lo and behold, the monitor blanks out again, and reappears only with WindowMaker loaded and done. A clean velvet desktop greets our hero.

Our hero erupts in a flurry of clicks, swashbuckling and neatly moving from menu to menu to lay that final click on Netscape. The menu blinks a few times and then disappears, only to leave behind the cheerful velvet background and a feeling of nothingness. Meanwhile, our hero rests. He talks to his neighbour, another knight drawn upon the same path. They talk of the old free times, of the new evil that has barred their freedom. Soon they turn to feast their eyes on a nearby classmate, who is struggling herself to boot another of those hideous beasts our hero is so determined to conquer. Our hero's friend excuses himself and turns to courteously offer the lady his services, while our hero remains firm in his singleminded devotion on his quest.

At length, the Netscape window flashes before our hero's eyes. Its many eyes gleam and glow. Arrows fly right, left and round. A fireworks display to the right catches our hero's eye. Knowing that touching it will load the slowest website in the world, he avoids contact and carefully types into box in the middle. Alas! Little does our hero know that the doors to communication have been shut by the evil empire; the drawbridge is broken; a moat surrounds our hero. He is trapped! But what is that?? Our hero spots a sign on the wall. It laughs at his misery. Access Denied. Please contact your service provider. A sign follows, but our hero knows that it belongs to no one. Such anonymous insults are characteristic of the cowardly enemy. Desperate, he kills Netscape and summons Opera. He spends that duration thinking out his strategy and alternative routes. Opera appears after a good deal of time, simple yet stylish, ready to help our hero. She leads him straightaway into her own portals, but fumbles on the way and falls headlong into the enemy's abyss. The banners with the insulting signs raise their heads again. Carefully, our hero leads Opera through the right proxy, which he identifies by only its number. He succeeds but finds that it is being carefully secured by evil as a temporary means of communication before his dark reign obscures one and all.

The gate is small and too many are scurrying out, frantically calling out to everyone they know that they must change their identities or be wiped out under the oncoming curtains of darkness. The mad rush has choked the gate and reduced everyone's speeds. Our hero is suffering yet. Inspite of Opera, he is seeing such speeds as 33B/s, speeds which had once haunted him in his nightmares. He remembers the days of his hometown, which inspite of having woebegone dialup, would not choke him like the iron hand of the enemy was now. Frustrated but not yet beyond patience, he waits and waits: Opera will soon load his post and provide him a messenger. His hope is fulfilled in time, and he sets out to write a message to all his beloved ones: I am behind the Iron Curtain now. Hope is vanquished. We are seeking foreign help but not much is forthcoming. Even they can only do so much. The enemy is ruthless. He is punishing the mere mention of the word 'post'. He is keeping all resources in his own mighty arm. Communication has suffered grievously. I am forced in changing my identity. Henceforth, I shall be known as ...

Just as our hero touches the Send button, a loud beep sounds. It is the sound of alarm, of destruction and death of all that had not already been saved. An empty and gloomy screen again stares, but at our hero's flushed and angry face. Alas! Opera is dead. RedHot Linux could not tolerate the slightest touch. The dam of his patience has held so far. But now the water has gone too high. He hits the beast in front of him in its blue elliptical eye. With a last low growl, the beast succumbs and lies dead in front of our hero.

I have a long life ahead, our hero tells himself. Maybe the evil empire shall disintegrate one day, and we shall see the sunlight. He decides to go back to his own castle, and play with the tamed beast there. That one is so much better. I will continue to fight, he thinks, I will use my own beast as a platform to defeat these lumbering thugs here. Maybe a few scrolls of knowledge will help. Maybe an informal organisation with others on the same quest. With a last ray of faint hope in his heart, our hero leaves to ride his steed, Hercules, and return to the confines of his castle to think.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

How It Began

A lot of posts have had this title. But this one is different. This is about It.

In the beginning, there was Nothing. Oops, sorry, not even Nothing with an uppercase ‘N’. Let me start again.

In the beginning, there was nothing. Then God said “Let there be Light!”. And there was Light. Then God looked around and saw a lot of Empty Space and set about creating Creation. And so, the twin crafts of Engineering and Interior Designing were born. And God, donning the cap of Engineer, started the work of creation. To help with the interior designing, he created Angels.

It took several million combinations before he got things right. He was a downright sloppy engineer. At the end of the sixth day, one of Angels noticed something amiss. When he spoke, God confessed – “Yeah I know, the Light period actually lasts only half the time I intended it to!”
Angel: “So what are you gonna do now?”
God: “Well, I’m too tired now, and besides tomorrow’s Sunday. I’ll just call it a day.”

This was when God created Man – in his own likeness – another downright sloppy engineer. This is an explanation of why men run to fix plumbing jobs whenever they get a chance, and in all probability, end up messing the water pipe worse than before. It also gives me a good excuse for shoddy work.

The Angels, tired with His antics, told God that the ribs inside Adam didn’t confirm to Feng-Shui. So God took out one of the ribs, putting in a wall hanging instead, and made Eve. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out very well because the Snake coaxed them into believing that Adam had constipation and should eat fresh fruit to get rid of it. This fruit was from the Tree of Knowledge, and gave Man the intelligence to rise from sloppy engineerdom to not-so-sloppy inventordom. God was enraged because all this while he had thought the apple tree was just another Feng-Shui artifact planted by the Angels from the interior designing department, and threw everybody out of the Garden.

Several million years later – after the pyramids were built, but before cellphones with cameras made their appearance – Thomas Alva Edison realized that God had been sloppy and day really lasted only for half a day. So, he tried several thousand different combinations again.

Thus was made the bulb – a modern engineering marvel!

The moral of the story is that mythological chronicles are long and pointless, and culminate anticlimactically, or leave behind more than enough room for sequels.

For example, this story ends with a bulb, but talks about camera cellphones.

Read the Silmarillion or any of the Wheel of Time books for further insight.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Occupational Hazard

It is commonly believed that the only occupational hazards that engineers face is cramped posteriors from sitting all day and cockeyed expression from staring at the screen for too long. There have been reports of computer-induced sterility, brains exploding because of too many Eurekas, and health problems amongst overworked programmers with 70% coffee in their blood instead of water, but those are either just rumours or extreme cases.

Most people neglect to realize the fact that an engineer's life-cycle nudges him slowly to abstain from social life outside his friends' circle, which commonly includes other engineers. As a result, jokes like the following become very popular:
Engg 1: "And when I turned it around, it was only a burnt capacitor!"
Engg's friends: "ha ha ha"
Engg 2: "And then I realized it wasn't even a capacitor, it was just a burn!"
Engg's friends: "HA HA HA HA HA"
Nearby people: Gurgle! Gurgle! Choke! Puke!

The nearby people call these "PJs" and shun the people who make them, causing immense happiness to the Goddess of Engineering, thus making engineers bond together even better. Soon the circle expands in circumference, and others start excommunicating engineers with non-engineer friends. And so it goes on ...

So, I was chatting with a friend from school the other day, who had just returned from abroad, a foretelling I had received from some (engg) friends there. We discussed the Indian victory over Sri Lanka, school nostalgia, my internship, lab reports, then I made a joke. I could detect a slight difficulty in the conversation here. It turned out she was an ornithologist.

While on ornithology, imagine a herd of noisy ravens in a tree and a gunshot nearby. Now imagine how the crows would respond to this. A similar sound went through my head when I found out her occupation.

Needless to say, we haven’t talked ever since.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Oye India!

Finally! It had to happen sooner or later, but it may not have been so spectacular. Totally tension-building, edge-of-the-seat, nailbiting, dinner-without-thought-for-food game. Excitement to the last ball. Boundary or not. Wicket or dot. Skipper shaping field before the last ball. Zaheer wiping sweat on his sleeve. Batsman nervously licking his lips. He bowls - a delivery on the onside. For a moment, time stands still as the ball zooms towards the batsman, bat ready in hand, aiming for the boundary. Suddenly, he cuts his bat towards the ball.

And then India won!

That's when I realized I was having delicious mom-made shahi paneer. It's never felt this good in the mouth before.

5 more days before I leave for IITM again. Time to savour the good things in life - TV, AC, midnight raid-able refrigerator and mom's cooking.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

The Aarghthooey conspiracy

Long ago before time began
When God's nose with influenza ran
He snoze an awful sneeze that day
And today we-of this universe-still pay ...
For, on that unfortunate date
Was twisted the Universe's fate

Get the entire scoop at

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Inspiration (or How it began)

One of the most difficult things to come by in a situation like mine is inspiration. I am currently lying at home, wallowing in an absolutely tension-free environment – a nirvana disquieted mainly by rumblings of the stomach, only to be instantly satisfied by mom’s cuisine; noises from the TV or AC or the odd phone call; and the bed creaking beneath oneself more and more as one’s “health” enhances. Lack of inspiration results in lack of evidence for the same – hence no blogging.

In such paradise, the occasional inspiration one comes across can only be while recounting earlier experiences and contrasting the mad rush of “normal” life with one’s pleasantly serene surroundings. What one therefore needs is a diversion, if you could call something causing one to break away from eating, sleeping and watching TV a diversion.

To break the monotony of sedative life, I decided to read a few books. This also meant a trip to the bookshop, which in turn implied getting off the bed. And with the hot Delhi Sun outside, it was an admittedly difficult thing to do. But sometimes, you have to do what you have to do. So after weeks of symbiosis with my Kurlon mattress, I had to bid it goodbye, with only my ancient buttmarks left as a token of appreciation. A few hours later, it was done. I now had the first two parts of the Wheel of Time, Dune, Mein Kampf, Contact, Airport and a GRE guide to act as diversions.

The other books were really interesting, but the book that gave me the most inspiration was Mein Kampf. It talks about Hitler’s struggle – his childhood, his notions about polity and society, and more stuff that I haven’t read about yet.

Don’t write me off as a Nazi just yet. The most important realisation was yet to come. That dawned upon me as soon as I had reached page 237 and felt annoyed at having been duped. Mein Kampf is full of high sounding but meaningless propaganda which makes very very boring reading. No wonder Hitler wasn’t taken seriously at the beginning of the World War. The leaders must’ve read the book and just thrown it away asking for a good cup of tea or some cheese.

If this guy could write this unreadable crap and sell six million copies of it, then I too can write a blog full of crap and not feel bad about it. It was the best inspiration I’ve had in years.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Down Memory Lane (or How it began)

I remember that my school was one of the best ones around. Everyone said so. That’s because it “produced” so many engineers and doctors that the principal could boast about later. I also remember that four out of every five people were two couples (It would be difficult otherwise – two and a half pairs?). School was such a great place. The classrooms and the front seats, the teachers and the exams, the playfields and the bruised noses – well, it was not all so good.

Every fifth guy out of school was an engineer. The other four were the pairs and went separate ways later. But that is a different story.

Absolute slosh

I’ve decided to write a post which makes absolutely no sense
whatsoever. The story below was originally meant to be a birthday card
but was reused.

Once upon a time long long ago, in a galaxy far far away, there lived
the race of the Bloobloogobbs on their home planet Blooplanet-III. They
were the most primitive and most peaceful intelligent species to ever
have existed. This of course had partly to do with the fact that their
tools were blunt stones which couldn't possibly have scratched the soft
underside of the Swarm Blooflallows that they hunted for food. In fact,
the Swarm Blooflallows, which were then a significantly more
intelligent race then, took pity on the Bloobloogobbs and decided to
kill their useless and more senile members and leave them for the
Bloobloogobbs. This also took care of the problem of old age homes in
their civilisation, since building old age homes when you have four
legs and no arms is a difficult task inspite of brains and the
Blooflallows were not particularly proficient in it.

The Bloobloogobbs were undoubtedly very pleased with their hunt
everyday, and made small chants in a nonexistent language, which they
didn't know didn't exist, or they couldn't have made them at all. In
their nonexistent language, the only word which had one fixed meaning
was "Bloobloogobb" which meant "dead Swarm Blooflallow" because they
thought that it described them best.

It was on a warm summer afternoon one day when after a tiresome hunt
and a good catch, several citizens of Bloobloogobb society were
returning back to their camp, when all of sudden one of them tripped on
a letter with funny letters scribbled on it.

This is described by most Historians as a turning point in their
history, since the profoundness of the letter left so many of them so
shocked that over the next few months, they developed a language,
better tools, writing, and laser-guided lock-on movement-following
rocket-propelled weapons. With these, they killed all the younger Swarm
Blooflallows who madly and uselessly ran for their lives, and left only
the useless and more senile ones who quietly stood there and did
nothing. So finally everyone lived happily ever after, especially the
useless and more senile Swarm Blooflallows, who discovered that their
life expectancy was otherwise infinite. Therefore, some other
Historians maintain that this was a turning point in Blooflallowian
lifestyle rather than Bloobloogobbian.

It was, however, discovered several centuries later by young and
promising Bloobloogobbian engineers that contents of the
aforementioned letter were to the effect - "Enjoy my next post which is
so full of slosh that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, even in
non-existent languages.” Since they agreed with their government on the
fact that it was indeed a useless thing to get so excited over, they
reverted back to their primitive lifestyle.

Historians describe this as another turning point in their history
because following this, they promptly starved to death since there were
no young Swarm Blooflallows left to aid them in their otherwise
ineffective hunting.

Hmmm, the title does seem to correlate a bit with the story. And I put in the word engineer in the sixth para somewhere.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Eureka Effect

We engineers are a simple folk. We believe everything existing exists for a reason, no matter how complex. For example, the three successive e-words in the last sentence. These exist because, well, I put them there. Of course, the reason could have involved random variables, keyboard layouts, divine intervention or accidents, but some engineer would have guessed it anyway. It is this characteristic of the engineer that causes the Eureka Effect.

Try the following: Find an engineer and walk with him. Make small talk. You’ll observe that every five minutes or so, the engineer will suddenly realize something around him and will feel the need to blurt it out.
“Look, the spelling on that billboard is wrong!”
“Ever wonder how the cheese mixes with the popcorn?”
“No, it’s not gonna rain – that’s cumulus cloud, not nimbus!”
“If only I had a long enough lever…”
“Garble Farble Warble”
Of course, it takes an engineer to notice this as a process and not just an annoying habit. And another engineer to name it after. Archimedes must be turning in his grave.

The Eureka effect works in the exact same way as another famous phenomenon, the Axe Effect, only in the opposite direction.

Anyone who exhibits the Eureka Effect 5-6 times in a half hour can be labelled an engineer. The number of Eurekas grows proportionally with the engineerdom of the subject.

Yes, that was a Eureka.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Why me blogi?

I’m an engineer. Or at least I’m on my way to becoming one. Engineers shun nature. Nature bothers them. Which is why we have bridges where nature intended water, cellphones with cameras when nature thought privacy was a good idea and computers instead of brains.

I’ve often noticed that as the volume of stuff on the internet keeps on increasing, the amount of pretentious garbage dressed as ‘cool stuff’ decreases while that of unadulterated crap increases. It’s nature. And this is just an attempt to go along with nature for a time instead of against it (I can do that when the time comes). Why have a real page with real information on it when you can get away with writing slosh and then claiming it too?

To summarise, engineers shun nature. It’s their nature.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

First post

I've never been a believer in blogging. But lemme just try it out for once.