Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grassroutes 2009 Summer Edition

Sunday, March 29, 2009 0
This winter some my friends from the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and myself went on a road trip to the Nilgiris (read more about it here). 

Now you can too. 

And not only to the Nilgiris to understand the plight of the tribals, danger to the animals and discover different viewpoints belonging to the scientists and the environmentalists. You can also go to Pochampally to witness a dying industry or to Eastern India to see a group of committed medicos dedicating themselves to rural India. And some more too.

Grassroutes, a roadtrip for social change, an initiative of Yofa is coming up with its Summer Edition. Applications have started pouring in and from what it looks like , its going to be very competitive. I suggest all of you to go for it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

APOGEE Digest 1

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APOGEE, BITS Pilani's tech festival ended today.

Being a blogger I always get jacked on campus. Everytime I have an interesting conversation with another person the first thing they ask me is "So you are probably going to blog about this aren't you?"

And my answer often pisses them off too. "Yes".

The build up to the fest and then finally the fest itself was an exciting experience. Anyone who knows me to a decent extent also knows that I am not one to brag about BITSian events, but this APOGEE was different.

I have so many posts lined up for this APOGEE, but for now I thought instead of sitting down and writing all of them one by one, a digest should suffice. The only order the following list shall follow is the order in which my brain spits it out.

The list of speakers for this years APOGEE was phenomenal, it was awesomely awesome. There was Jimbo Wales, John C Mather, Stephen Wolfram , Dilip Chabbria and a long list of others (For the complete list head over here).

Dilip Chabbria's lecture was like a management class. The fundas he presented were quite similar to those I've read in Seth Godin's Purple Cow however Chabbria is quite monotonous, to the extent that he at times even bores himself by his speech. I don't know if that's just how he is or if he was too tired. His catalogue though was the highlight of his talk. It was the sort of stuff that would make backpackers want to get a permanent high paying job.

Jimmy Wales delivered a talk on Wikipedia/Wikia. The man knows how to keep an audience engrossed. He also now knows that a village in Rajasthan has the highest number of Gults in the state.

From what I hear and see on the merit certificates, APOGEE is now the only 2nd technical festival in this country to be ISO certified.

Tanks rested in our gymkhana.

It was a green fest.

Something I wouldn't exactly endorse, but even then, find me a tech fest in India sporting a laser show!

John C Mather's talk was really well received, Cremo on the other hand provided fodder for gossip.

As far as the Quizzes go, almost all the quizzes went down to the final question if not a tie breaker. After a good year in the quizzing circuit outside home turf, it was nice to finally win one of the big 4 quizzes at BITS Pilani, Overhead Transmission on a tie breaker. I had a killer team. Also it was quite a relief to finally get done with the hazaar academic quizzes and instead have one consolidated Science Quiz.

Samanth Subramanian is an excellent quizmaster.

But my favourite moment this APOGEE was one in which I wasn't on stage. King Diamond being crowned the new Brain of BITS, beating an equally deserving Piyush from BITS Dubai.

APOGEE has become BIG. It's heartening to see the fest really living up to its true potential. With sponsorship sky rocketing and good publicity and so many things to look forward to, these 5 days kept me (or anyone else for that matter) quite occupied. However, its important to fully exploit this thrust in the coming festivals. To try and diffreentiate from other festivals, to offer something more to the people who travel on the awful Haryana roads to come to this Oasis.

APOGEE ended today.

[All pics courtesy Jeffrey Jose]
Update: Do check out his flickr stream for more pics

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Are our bowlers slackers?

Thursday, March 19, 2009 3
After watching the India New Zealand clash where India started off quite spectacularly before Vettori did his bit, I couldn't help but get a sense of deja vu. A similar situation had arisen during the Asia Cup in 1999 where we had Pakistan struggling at 20 something for 5 and ultimately let them reach 170 odd. It was partly due to the heroics of Moin and partly due to our boys slacking. 

It would make for an interesting analysis to see how does India fare in general after getting to a vantage point with a good start.

The sample space could be all those matches where India has managed to get at least 5 wickets within a span of 100 runs and seeing the % increase in score hence.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reading the fine print

Saturday, March 14, 2009 1

Stories of an over stressed techie resorting to murder of his 4 day old daughter have surfaced the internet.

The horrific act was committed by S.Niranjan Kumar( or J.Niranjan Kumar as the Hindu claims), who says that wasn’t ready to have child yet and felt that no one, his wife nor either of their parents understood how he felt. He wanted to spend more time with his wife and fearing that the baby would take up too much of their time, dumped her in a well. This was after he told his wife to get an abortion done and she refused to do so.

However, this post is about something else that I noticed.

On 13th March Indian Express first publishes this. A day later they publish this. The second story (which doesn't make a reference to the earlier story at all) claims of him getting a gold medal while at BITS Pilani. Indian Express even went on to pinpoint that he received a gold medal in Mechanical Engineering while at BITS.

Being a BITSian still on campus, I rushed to the faculty division where on the walls is a huge board with the names of all toppers engraved on it. It has information of toppers from 60s onwards. I saw three columns there: Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

Clearly, it makes no mention of branches. BITS Pilani doesn’t award degree wise gold medals. The medals are for the topper of a particular batch, irrespective of their degree. And neither can I spot Niranjan’s name anywhere.

Expected better journalistic effort from the Indian Express.

Furthermore there is ambiguity as far as the age of Niranjan and his wife is concerned. HT claims he’s 28, Indian Express says he is 30 (and she is 25) in one article and says he is 28 in the other. And Telegraph suffices with the mean of the two and sticks to 29 (and claims the wife’s age to be 22).

Apart from all this, even when it comes to the actual story, one doesn't know what to believe. Indian Express writes this

Not being able to come to terms with the reality of a child, Niranjan refused to meet Sangeetha in the months before the delivery, even feigning an official trip to China to avoid visiting Chennai to see her, said her relatives. He never called, never mailed — communication was restricted to infrequent chats.

And the Telegraph reports this in their coverage:

Fed up, Sangeetha moved to her parents’ home in Chennai seven months ago. But Niranjankumar kept up the pressure, urging her through emails to abort the baby. He is also alleged to have demanded Rs 5 lakh in extra dowry.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What happened to the Indian numbering system?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 0
ET had a post reporting that IIM Lucknow would be hiking their fees for their 2 years program. It wasn't very surprising given bigger brothers Calcutta and Ahmedabad hiked theirs in recent times.
What was surprising though, was this:
At present, IIM-L charges Rs.500,000 for the two-year programme and that is comparatively lower than the other IIMs in Kolkata, Bangalore and Ahmedabad.

While the fee at IIM-Calcullta and Bangalore is Rs.900,000, IIM Ahmedabad charges Rs.1.1 million for the two-year programme. 

Rs 1.1 Million? Since when did we start following the American number system. The news item has been compiled by IANS which claims to report about Indian matters in an unbiased manner, but clearly there seems to be something wrong with this form of presentation.

It doesn't make Indian education look economically cheaper than their American counterparts. Now "IIM Ahmedabad charges USD 22,000 for the two-year programme." on the other hand drives the point (though I can already see you economists raise an eyebrow since the conversion made no use of the PPP) but despite that it comes out to be much cheaper when you look at it from a ROI point of view. 

Monday, March 09, 2009

Diversification of Quizzing

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After returning from the NSIT quiz (about which I have blogged here ), I came across Ankur's post where he presented his case:

Iv’ve noticed one thing about ‘general’ quizzes in general: they go into excruciating details of lots of things ranging from literature, movies, music, pop culture, history, mythology and whatnot - but computers and technology is something which gets just a passing mention at best or nothing at all at worst.

He further cites an example saying,

Even at Mahaquizzer there are hardly any questions on tech. (Asking who’s the founder of Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg - in a quiz of Mahaquizzer’s level where the other questions are so good is laughable. And not many were aware of this!).

And finally comes around to make his point. 

Does computers and technology deserve to be treated as a pariah in quizzes. Most definitely not! Given its ubiquity in the current century it deserves more coverage in quizzes. Given the granularity of trivia asked in other topics, technology deserves at least some mention.

But the point I am trying to address is a much larger one. And Skimpy nails it in this post of his:

Different quizmasters have different interests. However, there are a few things that a large number of quizmasters are interested in, and these form a dominant portion of most quizzes. There is some sort of a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop at play here.

And if you don’t share these “special interests”, then your average performance automatically gets capped.

Of course, this doesn’t apply in case you force yourself to develop new interests just for the sake of quizzing, but that, I think, defeats the whole purpose

Not getting what I'm hinting at? Try to go back and recollect the number of times Asterix was the answer to a Long Visual Connect.

But I digress, what I mean to say that though most quizzes claim to be a "general" quiz. There is nothing "general" about them. Somehow it's just assumed that every quizzer just has to be well versed with "certain" topics. After having interacted with a lot of people I realised that some of my friends didn't fare that well (some even disliked) in a quiz because they found it catered only to an audience with a niche set of interests and that bringing somethng new to the table wasn't rewarding enough. 

At BITS, I know people who have a huge knowledge base in a lot of interesting topics however I also know that they can never qualify for a quiz for their knowledge will never be tested. I suppose that's the reason while BITS does exceedingly well in Entertainment, we get pwned in Business Quizzing. At the same time quizzing in other topics isn't really encouraged either.

I always used to think that Business Quizzing was useless and that there were no "fundas" to be cracked there since you either knew the answer of not. But then can't the same be said about H2G2 or The Watchmen?  And as I spend more and more time reading for the Crucible finals, I realise the questions can be quite workoutable in Biz Quizzes also.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Is Hugh Macleod's Twitter account hacked?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 1
...or atleast that what it looks like.

As I am writing this post, Me along with some 14000 other people are being bombarded with back to back messages from Hugh Macleod, more popularly known as Gaping Void.

The spamming started at approx 3.20 PM IST and ceases to stop. All the tweets start off with a "Hi! My name is Hugh MacLeod, I make a living selling ads on my blog"

Here's a screenshot of the page


While majority of tweets focus on him living off the ads on his blog, there are the occasional tweets addressing a different topic

In the past there were instances of Britney, Obama and few other high profile tweeters whose accounts were hacked, so is this yet another case?

Times of India screws up their Headline: says Mani Ratnam is coming to BITS Pilani Goa Campus

Waves is BITS Pilani Goa Campus' (BPGC) annual cultural festival and after a fairly decent Quark (Tech Fest), which saw Abdul Kalam inaugurating the event, we have BITSian alumnus and famous movie director Mani Ratnam coming to BPGC for Waves.

Wait a second. Mani Ratnam? 

Well, there you have it. Times Of India messed up their headline. The Goa edition of the daily says "Mani Ratnam to open cultural fest at BITS Pilani". You can check out their news item here (which strangely hasn't been edited yet).   

The alumnus in question is actually Mani Shankar who... well isn't in the same league as Mani Ratnam as far as cinema is concerned but has had big success in the ad world/music videos. 

I don't understand what the copywriters and journos at ToI are upto, but this is just too unprofessional. Worst still, I don't see any amends nor apologies etc.

Earlier, Mani Shankar had come to BITS Pilani for Oasis back in 2006.

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