Cricket and tennis are two of my most favorite sports and each has its own charm and finesse that enchants the viewers. Cricket has started to become a game that is totally partial to the batsmen and that does take a lot out of the beauty. Cricket is supposed to be an even game between the bat and the ball it is no longer so and very recently money has started to take more importance than bat and ball or the pride of playing for the country and performing well. Of course it is always great to watch a Tendulkar or a Dravid or sometimes Sehwag or Yuvraj when they’re tearing the leather ball to pieces, but to watch it in every cricket match, it is boring. Great cricket is played only when there is an even contest between bat and ball or when the ball is slightly more dominant. It is a treat to watch a Dale Steyn charging in and testing the batsmen thoroughly and at the same time batsmen fighting to stay alive and at the same time score. When scores above 400 are becoming chaseable, it does say something about what cricket nowadays has for the bowlers. Budding youngsters will no longer want to become a bowler! Pity that Cricket is on a decline imo until something is done to get the focus back on good cricket instead of the goddamn money.

Tennis meanwhile is infinitely better, with two players matching their skills, athleticism and durability against each other. Pistol Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and of course my dear friend Venkatakrishnan were those who made me take a good look at Tennis and boy didn’t I fall in love with that game since then! Watching Federer’s wizardry, Nadal’s endless energy and never-stopping legs that help him reach unreachable balls and make winners out of impossible situations, unbelievable winners and angles from outside the court, wow this is a wonderful game, a treat to the eyes when the two players playing are good and evenly matched. It is also a game which requires focus on every single point of every game as that could be the difference in the final score. I thoroughly enjoy gasping for breath during tennis matches seeing impossibly good play. So any day, any time, I will always choose to watch a good tennis match than a good cricket match except maybe when Tendulkar’s playing 😉

I have been GNU/Linux user for the past couple of years and when I look back to see how much it has progressed, I can only gape in awe. I use Ubuntu in my laptop and Debian elsewhere and am familiar with these distros ( I badly want to try RedHat-based distros too! ), still when I came across this page http://bit.ly/6DUUBk which shows the wide range of nice software tools available for Ubuntu 9.10, I was surprised I didn’t know about most of the stuff though I have used Ubuntu for a long time, that too now I was using the latest Ubuntu Karmic Koala. I realized yet again of how little I knew though I often thought too much of myself.

Whatever software is there for the Windows platform, there are abundant equivalents that are at least as good in FLOSS and GNU/Linux world. There are also software for doing things which are impossible in a Windows environment which is GNU ecosystem’s niche. So am really glad that I got into FLOSS ecosystem and without doubt am benefiting hugely from its tremendous growth.

I have always had a strong sense of belief that when persons of diverse interests and expertise join and share, we can create a very strong ecosystem where there is nothing impossible. Still, God-knows-why, I did nothing about it. So suddenly when a couple of my friends from ECE asked me about learning Linux, it made me delve deeper and I had my Eureka! moment, feeling exactly as Archimedes would have. I thought, why not have a ‘Learning Club’, albeit an informal but thoroughly useful one with a few interested guys teeing off? So from the day this brand-new year was born, we (a few interested persons) decided to join and share our knowledge and learn? The benefit was going to be mutual and synergistic as each one of us brought something exciting to the plate. We decided to meet sometime everyday and discuss about virtually anything and everything and make ourself even more geekier.

For instance, most of these guys who use VLC, never knew it can be used to convert videos and audio to various formats. Ravi Teja gave a wonderful explanation on why a Hard Disk can have only 4 primary partitions. I had known vaguely the same thing, but his explanation made it even more clear though the answer was a Google search away.

Hoping to continue this initiative for a long time to empower a lot more friends and hand it over as a legacy to my juniors at college!

A mass-recruiting top services company visited our campus for recruitment in the first week of December. There were about 500-600 students hoping to make it to the list of selected candidates and there were many friends of mine among them. Of course, since myself alongwith 10 other fellow students had already got a dream job, we weren’t allowed to attend the recruitment drive and we were to help organizing things during the 2 days of the recruitment drive. On the first day, multiple sessions of Aptitude test were scheduled and I volunteered as an invigilator in one of the halls. With so many nervous fellow students around, the tension was starting to get to me. Once the written test was over, the students were starting to be called for interview in groups in our Men’s Hostel where I reside. So I was there helping when my classmate friends were preparing and writing the tests. We, the volunteers had a hectic time with a lot of running to do and at the same time we had to assess the nature of each of the 18 interview panels and send students accordingly as it was a make or break situation for all of them. I had a lot of students requesting me to send them to ‘technical’,’non-technical’,’HR’,’puzzle’ panels and the interviews were getting completed too fast and we couldn’t do much choosing. I sent a lot of students to panels they would’ve wanted to avoid, hoping that they’d make it through and get selected. My legs were aching so much out of non-stop running and at one point the pain became so unbearable that it didn’t make any difference if I was standing, sitting or lying down. I learnt valuable things in handling such situations so new to me and I have to admit that it was the excitement that kept me going despite the physical pain.

I had to don other roles as well, helping students with their preparation and giving them confidence. There was one of my friend, who incidentally happened to be the placement representative and one of the better performers in the college, who was in some dazed unprepared state before the interview that I had to stay with her, give her confidence, help her in filling the employment application form and all the stuff when she was literally shivering. Once she was done with her interview, she was sporting an attractive smile that conveyed to all that she had done very well. She conveyed her happiness and gratitude to me, but I politely reminded her that she deserved it and I just helped her get her focus. I was so happy that I contributed invaluably to someone’s life. Moments like these make me feel happy and proud throughout my life. One other good thing that happened was that I, a normally quiet person who likes to keep a low profile, got to interact with a lot of wonderful guys who were my fellow volunteers. These were sufficient for me to cherish those couple of days. 2 days went in a whiff and when the results were announced at the K.S. Auditorium on the second day at about 8 PM, I drowned in a feeling of extreme happiness arising out of happiness for my friends and my peers who had secured their jobs. I even doubt if I had felt even some percentage of the same happiness when I got selected for a job in a dream company. Anyways congratulations and my best wishes for all those who performed well, got selected and made my day!

This year on November 15, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar completes his 20th year in international cricket. What an incredible achievement that is. Tendulkar has always been the lone cricketer whom I loved so much as any other Indian does and he was one of the main reasons I started loving cricket more everyday. The man is such a complete human on and off the field that he seems to have a divine aura surrounding him. Of course comparisons with Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting and of course the Don himself will always be there, but none of them have even come close to experiencing the pressure and the weight of expectations that Tendulkar has had to face and succeed all these 20+ years. To have come through all such things and still have all the great cricketing records in his name, man he is the modern-day cricketing God! I am 21 years old now and this guy has been playing cricket successfully for 20 years! What a man!

Sachin Tendulkar

There is not a single eyesore when watching Tendulkar play – the divine straight drive, mesmerizing dance down the track to the spinners to hit a six, the delicate sweep and a unique paddle sweep, the brutally punishing upper-cut, inimitably perfect backfoot cover and square drive, natural flick shot, damaging hook and pull shot, the brand new reverse-sweep and scoop shots – you name any shot, this man plays it perfectly. All these years, he has grown and matured with the game, adapting himself to a variety of roles and challenges and performed outstandingly at each of them.

Enough of praising this man for whom any quantity of praise will always be insufficient. Let me quote my favorite innings that this man has played – a few of which I couldn’t watch.
1. Chennai test century against Pakistan braving a career-threatening back spasms taking India to the threshold of victory before others blew it.
2. 1998 Australian tour to India where he single-handedly took on and demolished the Aussie bowlers, particularly Shane Warne, pulling him for 4s and 6s from the rough – a territory where no one had ever dared to be in and the memorable twin “Desert Storm” innings which ensured that India made it to the finals of the tri-nation Sharjah cup and won it. After this tour, Shane Warne was no longer invincible and he started having nightmares of Tendulkar.
3. Century against Kenya in the 99 World cup a day after losing his father. He didn’t quit the tournament when he could have easily done so. He came back a day after the bereavement and hit a century and dedicated it to his father! That was very emotional and touching.
4. Brutal innings against Pakistan in the all-important 2003 World Cup encounter and I can still remember Tendulkar upper-cutting the then fastest bowler Shoaib Akthar for a six over backward point. That was quite an emphatic innings and statement made to the opposition after living in anticipation and pressure regarding that match for over a year.
5. Tendulkar has always been blamed for not winning enough matches for India, but he did single-handedly take India to an emphatic victory in the finals of the 2007-08 VB series with match-winning knocks. That was wonderful achievement for the man who has always reserved his best for the best team in the world.
6. A patient and composed century against England at Chennai took India to a victory that seemed impossible when 3 innings of the test were over with 4 sessions to play and 280 runs to win. Sehwag blasted the hapless English attack on the final session of the penultimate day to allow India a really good chance at chasing down. Still on the fifth day even though there was continuous progress in the score, wickets too were falling. At the fall of the fourth wicket, Yuvraj Singh, still sadly not a settled Test batsman came to the crease. Tendulkar shepherded him in the initial stages that Yuvraj, once settled, tore apart the attack and paved way for the improbable Indian victory with Sachin who scored the winning runs and reached his century at the same time with a boundary. Tendulkar was emotional about the victory and dedicated his match-winning knock to the victims and survivors of the gory 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, his home.
7. For a man who possesses such a silken cover drive, not to play that shot throughout a marathon innings of 241 not out is a great achievement. Tendulkar realized that he was getting dismissed playing the cover drive too often and totally cut out that shot, not even playing that shot once during a wonderful innings.
8. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, Tendulkar’s recent sublime 175 against the Australians chasing an impossible 350 which almost won the match for India reminded me a lot of the Tendulkar of old. It was such an enlightening experience watching that knock but as always Indian team failed miserably to cross the last hurdle, losing the match and breaking Tendulkar’s heart yet again.
9. Tendulkar has always played very well against the Kiwis – his first-ever double ton was against them. His highest score – highest by an Indian, 186 not out and the 160 odd not out he scored during India’s recent tour to New Zealand are fresh in memory for their exuberance and flair.

The list is endless and could go on and on, but I have to stop. Some unforgettable memories etched in mind are – the picture of Tendulkar pulling Shane Warne from the rough for a 6, uppercutting Shoaib Akthar for a six, the divine straight drive that shows up when in full flow, the hook against Andy Caddick in 2003 WC for a six, the cheeky uppercut over the slip cordon against the Aussie quicks. I have grown up with cricket and Tendulkar all my life and I can’t imagine cricket without this great man who still is as enthusiastic, passionate and energetic as he was at 16 and definitely he has a lot more years of cricket left and I am awaiting all wonderful innings eagerly. Hats off!

It’s been 6 months since I got recruited for a job, but a dear friend was so low on confidence and struggling with herself mentally, trying to get recruited. Since the initial companies visiting her college were high-profile and were interested in recruiting the creamiest of the creamy, she didn’t make it in any recruitment. She started losing hope and confidence and it was having a strong negative impact on her and her performance as the number of companies she attended kept on increasing. Adding to her misery was the fact that she didn’t clear the initial written round in any of the recruitment drives she attended. I know about her inside out and did keep insisting that it was only a matter of time till she will break through the barriers and get recruited, considering the talent she has, though she has done far too little justice to it.

At last the first breakthrough came when a IT giant came to her college for recruiting students for internships, she cleared 2 rounds of written tests – one on quantitative aptitude and another on technical areas, though she did with some malpractices she managed to get away with. That gave her a lot of confidence and made her feel a bit better though she was still scared and sulking about her job prospects.

During the time of my birthday a leading IT services company visited her college for mass recruitment and she easily made it. It was a cakewalk for her and we both were really really relieved!

So much the pressure of getting a job in the time of recession and post-recession that even skilled and talented students are pushed to the limits and how many still make it from the brink depends on a lot of other uncontrollable factors. All the best to all my peer students to complete their course and get a good job.

I had attended the campus recruitment of a very famous, popular and powerful company – the dream company of many and got selected for a job with an equal combination of luck and skill. About 10 days back, the recruitment was confirmed and all the students who were selected for recruitment were given their offer letters. That really was a moment of intense elation and pride. I was already very proud of the fact that I was the first person in the college to be selected for recruitment – my name was read first while reading the list of selected candidates! and seeing the offer letter was really a dream come true for me. I am really really hoping that my near and dear friends too get recruited asap so that we can share our happiness and live the rest of our college life in a memorable way. All the best to all my peers!

Since this is vacation time and with me staying back at the hostel, naturally I started watching a lot of movies, so much that at one point of time I was starting to get fed up. A couple of days back, there was a pleasant change to that monotony. I ended up watching 3 movies without any overambitious, over fictitious, super heroism or violence or erotica or scandals. They were just simple normal pleasant and enjoyable movies. In fact there was a lot of good humour in those movies than I imagined. Maybe some time later, I will try to put up the list of movies that I watched during this vacation 🙂

Today the results of my 7th semester exams were out. I hadn’t done a single exam well and obviously it showed in my results. My score ended up 8.29, pushing my CGPA from 9.10 to a tantalizing 8.99. Abhilaash as usual the topper by far at 9.71. I know I am deteriorating with my academic performances, but results such as these show that I can’t mug up and write pages and pages of bull-shit just to score marks. Most of the subjects seem to have such content since 5th semester and hence I’m consistently scoring below 9. I sincerely hope to change this trend and if possible score a perfect 10 in the final semester and give a chance for my CGPA to go beyond 9 again and gain a semblance of respectability

Honeywell-Nobel Foundation initiative has been doing the wonderful job of taking Nobel laureates to educational institutions and making them address students to inspire them to great great heights in their lives. As a part of that initiative, Dr. Eric Cornell, 2001 Physics Nobel Laureate visited TCE on 23,24 September 2009 and I was privileged to attend his talk on Bose-Einstein condensation which fetched him the Nobel Prize. It was during this session that I was inspired by English and hence the previous post.

Dr. Eric Cornell
Dr. Eric Cornell

Dr. Cornell’s talk wasn’t in Greek and Latin as I had feared it would be, it was far more understandable though I would have been unable to appreciate fully what he explained, only due to my lack of much knowledge in that domain. He was very down-to-earth, very friendly and very funny too. I enjoyed his sense of humour very much. Even for the n00bs who knew very little about the subject, he explained simply and clearly without confusing or overwhelming the listeners. Such a wonderful skill that is.

He then started talking about the Bose-Einstein condensation and the interesting story behind it – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyendra_Nath_Bose. It was so inspirational and I felt so proud that an Indian in 1920s had done so much of path-breaking work that even Einstein acknowledged and contributed to! Hats off!

Though Bose-Einstein condensation existed as a theoretical principle, no practical proof/samples were possible to create in about 60-70 odd years. In the 1980s there were some efforts to obtain the Bose-Einstein condensate which continued into the 1990s when Dr. Cornell and his colleague Dr. Karl Wiemann started working in the same direction. They were trying to cool down the atoms to a very low low temperature (in the order of nano kelvin) that the atomic motion will cease and they would form a condensate where each atom becomes indistinguishable and the group of atoms behave as one and exist as a single wave.

They used laser cooling (A technique that won its creators the Nobel prize) to bombard the Rubidium atoms from 6 directions so that they would slow down and stop at some point, where they will just fall down under gravity. As the motion of the atoms cease, the temperature will drop drastically. But if the falling atoms get to touch the container which is at room temperature, they will be boiled to a very high temperature and start moving again which will counteract the cooling. So they applied a concave magnetic field inside which the atoms fall into and stay put. Rubidium was chosen as it has one valence electron and it simplified a lot of things. This laser cooling cooled the gas atoms to a very low temperature but that was still too high for the Bose-Einstein condensation to happen. So they used one more cooling technique called ‘Evaporation cooling’ technique-the oldest known cooling technique known to man.

What they did was to compress and expand the magnetic field periodically so that the atoms with energy started moving and bounced out of the concave field, thereby lowering the temperature of the remaining atoms as atoms with temperature higher than the average temperature bounced out. Simple to hear but difficult to understand and implement.:-). The great man talked about how his colleagues and his students helped him with the experiment and narrated the difficult times they had in the beginning when there were no takers/funds for their work and also the wake-up call they received from competing efforts which propelled them to achieve the goal even faster.

When they achieved the goal of creating a sample of Bose-Einstein condensate, they had a peculiar problem of being unable to capture images with any available equipment. So they used some techniques and somehow were able to film the shadow of the Bose-Einstein condensate. But there was a problem with this setup too that whenever they took snaps, the temperature raise caused from the camera destroyed the condensate and they had to create it again for further work. Wow! Physics was getting biiiiiiiig at the smallest level! I was awestruck and gaped for breath at what I was seeing/listening to. So much of tireless work for a Nobel prize and even more for the advancement of science. Hats off to such people.

For more in-depth and better description and details here are some authoritative links – http://www.physics.otago.ac.nz/research/jackdodd/resources/exp_aspects.html and http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000/bec/index.html (Colorado University is where this exciting discovery happened and there are explanations from the laureates themselves). Going through these resources is by far better than reading my description of what I thought I had heard and understood. There are a lot of images/diagrams to give a better understanding of the concept and the work that was done.

Then Dr. Cornell talked about superfluidity which is a continuation of his pioneering work about atoms and the vortices, I couldn’t grasp/understand much of it though it sounded interesting despite my ignorance.

The whole talk was videocast over the internet and in the other auditorium where students and staff from other colleges were listening to. He enthusiastically and patiently answered the questions from the audience that were present there and the audience on the internet.

The thing that made this man even more special is that he had his left arm amputated to avoid the spread of flesh-eating bacteria which had affected him. After the amputation and rest, he is back to work as usual and is doing great work and guiding a lot of pioneering work done by his students. The next day he spoke a few words to all the college students who had assembled in the Open-air auditorium to see him. Then he climbed down the stage and wanted to be amidst us, the students and took all their greetings. We all gave him a standing ovation for all his work and his contribution to humanity and Science. I broke down emotionally as I was overwhelmed by such a situation and it’s a great great privilege to have Dr. Cornell at our college and listen to him.

I am so privileged, lucky to have got such a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to listen to Nobel Laureate. My grateful thanks to all those who gave me this chance – my college, Honeywell and the great man himself for consenting to visit and give a lecture. Hats off again!

Update: The video of the lecture is now available at http://honeywellscience.com.