9.24.2008

College: First impressions!

After a long period of almost five months of holidays during which I dreamt of spending my time usefully, but ended up doing nothing at all, college has begun. For those who didnt know/care, I'll be doing my B.Tech in Applied Electronics at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum (better known as CET). Considering the fact that we are in a country which churns (yes, churns is the word) out engineering graduates year after year, and in a state which, if you double the number of colleges, would produce more engineering graduates than the whole of the US, I'm just a tiny speck.

But I'm proud to say I'm one of the people who chose this because I liked it and hence wanted to do the course, other than just going with the flow or succumbing to parental pressure or doing it just for a job. I had always had an inclination for the engineering world from my younger days, and today I'm happy to say I'm doing a subject I would love to do. And it was the icing on the cake when one of our professors told us (who had taught in many top colleges in the state) that though we might not be the best engineering college in the state (we're considered to be the second best), as far as our department was concerned, one could safely say it was the best in the state.

I have had many 'first day's till now. Three to be precise :) One was the admission day, when we were told that it would be another two weeks till college would start; the second was last Friday, when we had an orientation seminar, got our timetable and stuff; but the third and true first day was the day after my birthday - Monday, the 22nd. Managed to get a seat in the crowded 'M' route bus which then wound its way through snarling city traffic till it traversed the thirteen odd kilometres from my stop to the college. A senior chettan tickled me for a few minutes asking me about my spectacles, why I was wearing one with a red leg.. then demanding that I talk in C++ for five minutes, asking me what I knew about logic-gates etc etc.. could be called ragging :D Well I reached the huge, green, campus around nine o'clock.. proceeded to our rooms (after a seminar), and settled down to our classes.


As far as my class was concerned, there were a few guys and gals whom I knew, so making friends was not a problem at all.. Around sixty people in all, and something like twenty-plus of them girls :p Classes were of one hour duration, with a lunch break after three hours in the morning... Sorely, no other break between periods. After all those lazy, idle hours spent at home, the body was having a tough job sitting and being forced to concentrate. Something was being done to curb ragging in the college and it was omnipresent. A bus 'exlcusively' for freshers, teaching staff hanging about near the first years' classes to pinch off any ambitious senior with an intent of ragging.. there are rumours that the whole 'ragging' phenomenon will begin in full blow after two weeks, but no one knows the truth. Anyway. it would have been nice if there was ragging (IN THE ORIGINAL SENSE of the term) - as in a casual but interesting way of seniors introducing themselves and also getting to know the newcomers - so we missed the part where we would get to know some of our seniors; but I'm not asking for anything here, let me put that clear! (just in case anyone is reading this ;) So nowadays the 'moving-about' around the campus is limited, and in groups (there's safety in numbers :)...

Well in a nutshell, college life has begun.. as everyone says, the most memorable four years of one's life.. well that also means my internet activity is bound to decrease in frquency and duration.. :D Right now I'm happy I've got into a reasonably good college and am doing a good course too.. so it's just a matter of a bit of time before I become a real part of CET and enjoy my next four years in its beautiful campus.

9.21.2008

Seventeen plus plus

[Note: Blog on autopilot... I am not responsible for anything untoward which it posts while I'm asleep.]

The blogowner turns eighteen this moment. He's happy. In fact, he's so thrilled. Even ecstatic. um.. wait he's asleep.

The bike awaits his touch.. the politicians have one more guy to depend upon for their survival in the battlefield.. oh and he can watch anything he wants ;) [but dont quote me on that!]

Damn... I screwed up a perfectly respectable post.. hm, that's why I let him do all the writing. It's better when a real person writes stuff.. instead of a blogger-Bot coded in Python.



Time to stop my stupid automated gibberish and wish him a happy birthday.

Signed,
The Blawg

9.16.2008

From a fascinated kid to a ferroequinologist

People acknowledge that I'm a normal person on first glance and first conversation. By and by the talk drifts to what I do, and finally to my passions and hobbies.

Someone: So Sriram, what are your interests?
Me: uh.. you know, books, music, computers, linux..
Someone: Ah.. geek eh?
Me: Well if you think so.. :D
Someone: And what else man?
Me: And.. trains.
Someone: Er.. what did you say? I thought you said "trains"
Me: Ye got me right. I did say trains :)

By this confirmation of the whole matter from my own lips, the person mentioned above begins to seriously doubt my sanity. That is one of the reasons I chose to write this post. Instead of blabbering about my craze for trains, or to answer 'what is railfanning' and 'why do you have such a lot of people in your friends list who talk weird stuff like WDP4, WAG9 etc with you'. No people, I am no secret agent :D

All of us have loved train journeys as kids. A lot of us do so even now. The scenery outside the window, the cool breeze rushing through your hair as you stand at the door watching the world go by... As any kid would, I was fascinated by the whole thing... the huge brown "engine", the long array of "bogies", the rhythmic clickety-clack from the wheels, etc. We travelled a lot when I was small. Many a times my dad or mom would take me to the end of the train to show me how the locomotive was being attached to the rake. (No, mom and dad were NOT railfans... they were just usual people :D ). Later, I observed what caused the clickety-clack, why the signal always was red and my train was going past it without stoppping, etc. There was also this book "The train: how it works" which my uncle bought for me at some point of time when I was still a kid, from that I learnt how the whole thing worked (obviously).

At almost every journey, I used to watch the locos(please, it's not an "engine".. the engine is within the locomotive). The locos were the very epitome of power, the sounds emanating from within only highlighted the power of the beast. (Yes, those were the days Kerala was un-electrified and diesel locos ruled the rails).

It was in early 2004 that the biggest step happened. I had chickenpox, was confined to bed. In the initial days, though I was strong enough to walk about. I searched on the internet for stuff relating to Indian Railways, just by serenendipity. I then stumbled on a site, which led me to the biggest base of Indian Railfans - IRFCA.org the Indian Railway fan club. Imagine my joy at realising that I was not the only one, and that there were thousands of people in the country who felt the same and knew cartloads more things that I did. Then there was no stopping... seriously, that site is a real good one even for non-railfans. Then I moved on to railway photography, snapping a ripping WAP5 or a screaming WDG4 as it roared past with the force of something beyond imagination...

In the US, railfanning ("trainspotting" as it is called there) is a rather recognised hobby. In India it's rare. I love bikes, cars, jet planes... but most of all trains. So much that my love for locomotives (especially diesel locos) influence my taste in other vehicles also :) I'd rather own and ride a Royal Enfield Bullet than suck off some Pulsar's ass. No offfence, but the Bullet SOUNDS better, and gives you the impression of the POWER that's in it. It's the same with diesel locomotives. They give you the right impression of the power that's within them - listen to the heavy-metal chugging of a WDM2, or the jet-plane-like revving of a WDP4 and you'll see what I mean. Today, I can identify a loco from its number or from its horn. My house is like one and a half kms from the Trivandrum-Quilon mainline and I can hear the horns during most of the day or even the chugging of the diesels when the loco pilot clears the speed restrictions and lets the beast rip through the night, throttle wide open. And thanks to me, my sister is already a railfan :)

I guess it's time to wind up 'cos I'm boring you already.. Its a big relief to have written this post, for I can always point people to this one when the inevitable question is asked :D And of course I'm not the only one. Besides the 5000+ people in IRFCA, a couple of bloggers in my blogroll list are also IRFCAns - Shanx, Vrij, Ranga, Macabreday, Naren.. Their recent blogs might not give it away but dig their archives and you'll find compromising material ;) Oh, and coming back to the title, I guess the word ferroquinologist would make sense by now. (google it if you want, but try to work it out yourself!)

In short, people like cars and bikes. What's wrong in liking something a hundred times more powerful and a lot more times bigger?

9.07.2008

Die Geschichte bis jetzt...

I finally decided to.. er.. clean my room. Really, I mean it. I should have been in College these days, but as luck would have it (or in the way of life, rather) - classes have been postponed to start only on the 19th of September. Four months ago, it was the time of the boards and the entrance exams. During such laborious times of my life, my faithful room bent space around it so that it could hold more than its volume. It did the job pretty well, but it can't for long..


For the past four months precisely, this was one 'job' I kept putting off till eternity. I mean, there's absolutely no need to clean my room. I have argued a lot in that respect and since my points are clear and logical, my folks don't usually win the argument.


1. Only I use (most of) my room.
2. Besides my things, only two almirahs are used by others.
3. To use the almirah, the only requirement is that the pathway to it should be clean. That is satisfied.
4. My room is a separate siding(a loop line), through which people need not pass in order to get anywhere else.
5. Therefore, point #1 rings true.
6. I know where exactly everything is, where anything was, and I have the absolute guarantee that it will continue to stay there until disturbed by an external force. My room is the only place in my house where Newton's first law still holds true.
7. I hereby prove that there is absolutely NO NEED WHATSOEVER to clean my room.
--------- quod erat demonstrandum ------------

But then at the end of the day, it's the persuasion that gets on your nerves until you decide to do the damn thing yourself. But it's no easy task.

The whole thing has to be planned out, and one has to think logically, in terms of layers. One layer currently covers the floor. A second layer occupies it here and there. The third layer temporarily holds things like dust and people walking in the room, and the fourth layer is one onto which things fall when you drop them. The biggest challenge is the book-rack in the corner. To clear that you need to put it on the floor. But the floor is already loaded. So another layer is added. Once the shelf is clean, you need to figure out what to put in there. But as it always turns out, the things you decide to put in there are miles below, in the first layer kissing the floor. You need a lot of planning and a lot of resistance to dust to get the dirty job done.

I looked almost similar to g-man in his Osama-ish pic while he was cleaning his room months back. One heave brought down all the preparation material of yore (Objective books, Physics, Chem, maths today magazines and a couple of other odds and ends) in a huge show of smoke. (My neighbour swears to have seen a mushroom cloud, but I'm sure he was exaggerating). God, looking at those things was akin to moving a dear one's belongings after he is no more or something. My heart ached to see such material having been of not much use to me. After all, I had counted on acing the AIEEE so much :( So much so that I even kept a copy of an India Today issue featuring an "India's best colleges" article somewhere under my desk, to take it out "for inspiration" whenever I got bored on studying for the entrance exams long back. I took out that mag for one last time, and tore it into pieces.

Countless sheaves of paper, notebooks, all scrawled with Physics, calculus, chemical equations, or arbit calculations went the same way - torn, disfigured, and into the dustbin. The feeling was horrible. I was so crestfallen by the way something, someone up in the control-panels of life had screwed up somethnig I was looking forward to. Everyone, almost all of my friends in my little circle had gone elsewhere and I was left to rot in this same old city for the next four years of my life. True, I had got into a good college right now, but I couldn't simply ignore the fact that it was something above that which I was aiming for. All the extra work, all the time I put in was simply wasted.. thrown out the open window into the gloomy, rainy afternoon.

I have finished stage-one of the cleaning. The bookshelf is clean, with just the dictionaries, a few of my school books which I dont wanna part with, and a couple of blank papers. Everything else - entrance notes, objective books, tuition study-material have been dumped into a big cardboard box. I don't want them now. Or again. Hell, I dont want to look at it again. College starts two weeks from now and I know what I want to do and where I want to be. Four years ahead, I want to look back and smile.. and to give my past mistakes the finger..

Right now, it's a new beginning. A new page in the book of life... once or twice I received a bolt from the blue. It ends there.

I will not let life surprise me again.

9.03.2008

hmph... Education!

Being a jobless(for now) brother at home doesn't guarantee you exclusive rights to the computer, the internet or the license to do anything you want. As a result, one fine morning I found myself nodding in acceptance to mum's order to teach my sister whatever she needed to learn for the next day's exams. This wasn't as difficult as it may seem, as she is only in the fifth standard.
We had breakfast together and proceeded upstairs to her room. I committed a particularly dangerous act by thinking of starting off the day with whatever she thought was difficult... Hindi. Little did I know that I was at the deep end of the pool. 

When I was in school, we started off Hindi in third standard, beginning with the alphabet.. then to simple words for pen, cat, cloud, etc. After that came simple sentences - Hindi equivalents of "What's your name?", "This is a boy..." ."Look at this family. How many people are there?" and moving on to grammar. It seems they have done away with the last two steps. In other words, after the alphabet and words, the books jump directly to something of the level of a Bachelor's degree in Hindi or something.

The teachers are least bothered. After a lot of coaxing and sly prompting, my sister revealed that her Hindi teacher wasnt really teaching them much. It seemed her teacher just explained the whole point of the lessons in one go and only took the trouble to point out the meaning of simple words that the students knew otherwise too. No explanation of grammar. None of why this is suffixed with "oonga" and not "tha". All this was revealed rather hesitantly, as she belongs to a quite well known school in the city and is, obviously, rather proud of her breed.

I was furious. It was because of those lazy teachers and the idiotic syllabus-setters and the even more moronic book-choosers that my eyes were popping out trying to explain stuff that I stopped studying years ago(and I really didnt like it, frankly!). I just know my way around in Hindi - basic stuff... and my knowledge beyond that is so poor that I want subtitles for Hindi movies :D Pathetic, yeah I know. Well atleast I'm okay in English. Thank God the international language isn't Zulu or something (no offence meant to anyone *whew*)... 

I have talked so little Hindi that I remember almost all the long sentences I have spoken in my life! One of them is particularly interesting.. it happened in the October of 2006 in Delhi, during the Aerospace Olympiad - Chandigarh trip:  Vice Principal and six of us standing near a chaayakkada(tea shop), where really nice smelling tea was being served piping hot... I found it too hot to taste, so I wanted one more glass to ..er.. is there a word for the process of "transferring the tea from one glass to the other (preferably held at a higher position than the cup into which the tea is to be transferred next), cyclically" ? If there is, please let me know for it was my lack of knowledge of the Hindi equivalent for it, that prompted my next (I think longest ever) continuous sentence:

"Bhaisaab, ye chaai buhat garam hai.. isko yehi(making the cooling action with my hand) karne ke liye, ek aur glass chahiye"
*applause*
Well I spent around two or three minutes making up that sentence, and it paid off.. the good man handed me another glass without as much as a glance in my direction. Boy I felt so insanely proud of myself :)

I was, I think with that happening in mind that I must have ventured foolishly to teach my sister Hindi. The rest is rather obvious... halfway through a particularly torturous poem I told her to learn it herself.

Righto, coming back to the original point (dont ask me what now), none of the kids in her class know how to speak Hindi. They mug up meanings(in Hindi), mug up bizzare-sounding question-and-answers. Someone up in the book-selection and syllabus dept. of their school got it all horribly wrong. It doesn't end with Hindi though. She was trying to mug up "What is force? Force is something that can cause, or tend to cause; stop or tend to stop motion" last year, without understanding a bit of it. Being physics, I was enthusiastic to tell her in simple words what the heck it all meant. But you can't always blame the teachers. Why the hell would a fourth standard, nine year old kid need to learn the formal definition of force? The Indian education system is soooo f!!ked up. 

I'm just waiting to see in which year they are taught the Special Theory of Relativity or numerical calculations based on Integral Calculus... oh wait, I havent checked her present textbook yet.

9.01.2008

Lorem ipsum and other stuff

I hope the new template looks good... spent all the time from morning till afternoon looking for a suitable one. The main requirement was a wide template. Pages and pages of mindless surfing, testing around 20 odd ones on the blog and hours later, I finally settled on a rather inadequate prototype of the one you see now. The rest of the time was spent in the XML column and in photoshop (as much as I admire Gimp, I hate its multiple-window interface). And the end result looks satisfying.

Damn, 150 MB eaten out of my broadband transfer... on the very first day of the month :(

On the other side of the things, it looks like college will start soon. Soon as in very soon :) I'll thankfully be doing my B.Tech in something related to computers and digital circuits... Applied Electronics in the College of Engineering, Trivandrum(CET) beckons. I screwed up my AIEEE, and this is the next best college I can get into. Thank God for not springing up yet another unpleasant surprise on me again :|

Finally four months of vacation are drawing to a close.. I haven't done anything really worthwhile (see earlier post for a detailed rant!)  Thought I'd start learning PHP, a few days ago.. and that language is awesome. It forms the basis of all the 'working' things you see on the web (ok, besides HTML and Javascript).

This isn't a regular post, anyway... but do chip in with your comments about the template --> what you like about it and what sucks.

In true sync with Kerala's weather, it's started raining heavily for apparently no reason at all. Whatever. I miss the chilly, rainy morning rides to school. Almost everyone in my circle of friends is scattered all over the country. I miss the songs we sang together, the countless lunch breaks that turned into heated discussions on technology, international politics, girls in that-other-school and what not., "Dont Panic" messages being flashed around to alarmed backbenchers during Chemistry classes. I miss the phone calls calling me for tech support, city bus rides with G while listening to anything from Rahman to Rammstein... Damn, I miss my school life a lot :(

On an angrier note, boy I was damn surprised to see that some dude actually's got a site something-to-chew-on.com. And some other inhuman creatures seem to have started blogs with the same name. DAMN IT! I'll sue you people! Wait till I *&#$(* @#$*&#$(%*@ #$(@

Think I'll hit the publish button now.