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Incomplete, me!

Once, I went to an office to sign up for my paperwork due for an employment. Being in USA, I like the way they present the tax forms upfront, so we know that we are part of something bigger and tax is being paid directly, there is nothing illegal about the job offer, etc.  This happiness is short-lived by the amount of confusion innate in any Government forms. And after multiple questions, filling up portion of the forms and going back and forth, I made a friend out of the front desk clerk. Then comes the part which asks for my status in the country. I say without any expression, but surety to know the answer “I am an alien”. That lady held my hand in a semi-sympathizing manner. I was startled, for a moment, because I never expected such a reaction. The movie “Independence Day” (US American English movie) came to mind. I did not dwell myself too much into the implications of the movie, in this context, for I have a job at hand. A job to complete. As I continued, more spaces stood out blank “says aliens to read instructions”, I read out. This time the lady had come to terms with my kind of reading. So, we were back to the content, directly.

Sometimes, in life, when confused, I feel that I live to fill up the blanks in the forms presented at various stages of my life. Except for the space for family, parents, I used to wonder all the humongous amount of information that we had to put into paper to get various benefits from the Government, or even in the case of employment. This continues into online applications, tax filing and almost every place I end up being me. And then this funny incident happened.

In my last visit to the health services I was told there was nothing to do, except the chores. The freedom of the country, I am in, gives the practitioner a complete picture of my previous medical cases. Only, whatever I chose to reveal in the beginning, of course. This is a routine in USA, where you are asked the history of your health, about your parent’s health, so the complete case history is at the fingertips of the doc. This time I only had to verbally fill the form that they had in their system. It is mandatory for them to remind me of all the background I had. Especially allergy and surgery. I have been asked in India, my home country, too, about allergy to medicines. This may be standard across the board. However, surgery was something new. So, I am told ” You had no major surgeries except removal of wisdom tooth”. I ask back, curious to know if it is really that important ” Is it a real surgery?”. Doc replies ” Yes! because they gave you anaesthesia, opened your body and a part of your body is removed “.  I retorted “I am incomplete!”. She in a surprise said “I have never heard someone say like that”.

That realization that I had left something of my body back from where I came from, I had lost it to the modern medicine. A part of my body is removed, therefore I am incomplete. Nevertheless, it helps fill the form, where there is space to fill up with any surgeries I had.  Cynically, I had lost something to gain something. And the insight struck that I do not have to be confused enough to do something to fill up some random blank space in some equally arbitrary event in this life.

 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Cockroach Approach

For the Cockroach Theory you should be checking the video below.

Otherwise read on for the Cockroach Approach

cockroach free images എന്നതിനുള്ള ചിത്രം

Cockroach approach is an existing time tested socially relevant, culturally insensitive and popular way to find the best and leave the rest.

In my +2 (Indian System-  that is 12th grade elsewhere- approximately) in all the Kerala state run schools we had this biology experiment as final laboratory examination question. I have see my sister’s great lament in verses on death of a cockroach she killed. She never became a surgeon. I heard from an American friend that they had rats to dissect for exam. That is more cruel than a “lesser” creature such as the cockroach. While some may also go to the extent to idolize and sanctify the creation. Near immortality of cockroach is very well depicted in the movie Wall E (Trailer below)

Cockroach is apparently the only creature that can survive even nuclear disasters, it is said that cockroach can decide when it wishes to die. Just like Bheeshma from Mahabhaaratha.

The question to address is why ? Why we were told to dissect a cockroach ?

This was one main reason why I changed my syllabus to CBSE from Kerala State Board since there is no dissection in CBSE. So much for ahimsa. On enquiry, I get this cockroach approach to education. This applies to all competitive fields in life too. The reasoning is that among all the student who dissect a cockroach there may arise one or two doctors/surgeons who may in future help serve humanity by saving human lives. For this reason, endless number of cockroaches were caught, fed, petted and brought to lab to score marks and get cremated. No activist will mourn over a killed cockroach. Because they are available in plenty. No shortage at all. This is what happens to all the equally educated/skilled students. There are so many of them. Why should anyone care about them. If they wish they can find their means to make sense of their life. The cockroach approach teaches the students these two important lessons. Quality and greatness can be sparked by working out in large numbers, here large number of student perform the same procedure, from where two great sparks may lead to produce two great doctors. This is exactly what I heard about the Chinese badminton team. Since there are so many players, the best among them. If you see the list on the BWF world ranking. You can easily find many Chinese players. It would be very easy for them to win many more matches than a lone wolf from another nation, since they may have faced tough competition in the Chinese national and local matches itself. Similar is the case in many other sports. Quality comes out from large numbers. The famed Edison is said to have discovered umpteen ways not to make an electric bulb before he did make a working one. Numbers play a major role. This is also illustrated in the book Outliers in terms of 10,000 hours rule for mastery. Hence, we can safely assume, that cockroach approach helps humanity to excel. Nevertheless, the cockroaches need to find elevation in being petted before dissection, before salvation by death.

 

Updates:

I found some interesting cockroach approaches which are somewhat different from what is written above.

Analogy of approaching (attacking) a cockroach 

When a real cockroach approached 

How to Invest like  a cockroach

Cockroach portfolio in Investments

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2016 in Lesson, Uncategorized

 

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Climate Change movie

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/before-the-flood/videos/watch-before-the-flood-for-free-everywhere/embed/

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Conversations in the USA and discovering some freedom

This post is about what I experienced in the USA through interactions of people. I have met people from many different places here. And life is dynamic. I believe this is more so because of the state of studies that I am in where I have had some full time experience in India and then came back.
There is a sense of freedom. I heard  this from a young mother. She said that kids are free when they feel secure with the person they are with. The kids are otherwise very well behaved in front of everyone else. But, as they be with their mother alone. Then the hell breaks lose. This is said to be due to their sense of freedom. This is one thing that I , may be like many, feel here.
The best time of life is when one graduates and gets a job. Here, the most luckiest person is formed, who earns, learns life and enjoys freedom to do what they wish. This has happened to me twice. And I am waiting for a third one. However, even before that I felt the sense of freedom. This is somewhat odd. The way I feel looking at the leaf in the breeze, in rain, and feel timeless. That moment is priceless. That is made possible by this new found liberty. I am surprised and wondered how it can happen, when I am in a university studying for another degree.
My best guess is that this can be the result of knowing that there is an end to the program, not too soon. I earn part time, and live on what I earn. And also I do not have anyone to convince around. I can wear what I like and behave the way I am. I am answerable to myself, my studies and health are my responsibilities. There is no one to judge. And the better portion of it is that even at the part time work even though I am subservient in my student employment, I have the freedom to quit any time, and find some other similar job. And keep pursuing my academic interests. Converting time into money is made possible and made available to students in the USA. Even though I am a student and the work can be loaded on me, I am treated at par with any employee. I am treated equal, irrespective of my social status of being a student. Irrespective of my earning potential. And the demeanor does not change with my race or age or color or even the accent. This is great. I am not judged. And then I am free.
I am trying to figure out why I feel free. And what freedom means.
At the same time. Though I stay with folks from my native state, speak the same language and sometimes cook and eat the traditional dishes. They , I feel make their conduct not too different from what they were. In fact, many times I have felt that people from my place are extremely helpful and hold to their own mannerisms. This magically changes when they speak to someone who is not from my place. Strange people exist. This is especially true when the person at the other end is a fresh student , without any prior experience in industry from India. They have started their real freedom by being free with me!
This led me to answer the question, when do people grow up? I realized that this new belief regarding age came up. Age is in mind. Age is reflected in how one takes care of another person, people around us. This includes how we handle ourselves with positive impacts on people with us. This include how we care about others. This includes how one’s self is effecting the others by the least.
The freedom in the USA allows anyone to talk to anyone. This is directly related to the other person’s body language. And in general , I feel it is easy for people to start conversation in the USA because there is no discrimination. This is in contrast with people and conversations in India, where, in Tamil Nadu you hear being referred to as “Antha Payyan” (அந்த பய்யந்) in dialogues of elderly, “Sir” because of office staff and beggars, “da / de” (டா/டே)”by friends and people of similar age, and by name when an acquaintance girl addresses you in office, “Uncle” by small children, “Anna (brother)”(அன்னா)  by youngsters. I was not too older than 26 when I had the completed the collection of these titles.
And there was this personal joke, where , unlike the old system of giving the title of “Sir” , reserved for by the monarchy of some small country near the arctic, we as individuals rose to that level of royal heights to call everyone by “Sir/Madam”. In fact, in Chennai, I was advised to call the bus conductors as “Sir/Madam” to show respect. This has its own benefits. By the way , who does not like praise. That freedom from these tags and labels is broken when I enter the circle of natives (people from my place) in the USA. Again, I wonder why even younger people call me “Eda” in the USA, but never in India. But outside that, in the USA, I am treated as equal. At maximum the way people address diverge into “Dude” and in the boyish craziness “Hey Man!” no more than that. This was an interesting development. Thanks to my practice of calling people with the postfix “ji” to show respect. This is a versatile discovery from Hindi language. Where anything with “ji” is with respect. This wonderful because it works with names, can be added easily to any Indian name and applies equally well to any gender and any age. But, I had to stick with the “Sir” for a few old bosses. They may not respond to name +”ji” extension in a place , which is not mainly Hindi speaking. And this occasionally breaks out and comes to the tongue in the name +”Sir” form or even better just plainly reverent “Sir” sometimes in the USA. It is unfortunate and hard to throw that away.
As conversations are made simpler with a “Hi/Hey/Hello” instead of a formal way to grab another person’s attention and kick start any conversation – official or casual. It frees the mind to focus on the content than the intricacies of level of honor/respect in the words used. For this is a rule of emphasis in German , Telugu, Hindi and Tamil and many other languages.
Explanation of the titles, of respect, used in India to an American (USA) colleague, made me re-think what exactly each of these stood for. And why I used it ! And so , here is the blog post ,so that, may be one day; when I forget these usages, I can refer to this back then.
 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in travel

 

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“So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love”: Book Review

Background

My previous reads were “Biography of Steve Jobs: Walter Issacson“, ” Notes on Startups: Peter Thiel“, “Siddhartha : Herman Hesse”  and I can only wonder how this book connects with those.

I came across the author Cal Newport due to the Happy Schools Blog. This book arrives in style, for  a job hunter in USA. Yes, I am searching for positions in electrical engineering as I am approaching end of my studies.

Here is the talk by the author :-


In ” Notes on Startups: Peter Thiel”  the author argues that we have to provide something 10 times better than what is available to be a good start up. In Cal Newport‘s “ So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love“. This book tries to come up and blast it on the face as to ‘why passion is not what you are looking for. You are looking for expertise in the beginning of your career’.

As an engineer with some awesome experience in my field, I can say that I have met a couple of people who said the same. They never wrote a book or go to MIT. Great People. Here, was this great retired man who was called back to help serve the company and help the new fellows to catch up with the technologies. I have asked him if he had any passion for the things that he did and if there is any tips and tricks of career life that I can use. He said ” It is good to have your own ideas and developing knowledge to implement it. Even more important is to flow with the crowd till the time is reached; the time when you are confident and knowledgeable enough to have a separate direction of commute than the general flow.” And then the bus had arrived and those were probably the last words I heard from him. Since I left the company- for higher pursuits. The book reinforces this thought.

There was this amazing scientist, who was also called back from retirement the same way as the former. I had breakfast with this man very often when I was working there. I remember that I posed him the question ” Did you have any particular interest or great passion for what you are currently doing, when you were my age”. He replied ” Not really, I got the job, I learned the job. Now, I know some things, with which I can help new people”

And then I talked to a colleague in university very recently, asked him why he changed majors and what his interest is. He said ” I do not have any specific area of interest, But , I am not proud of it. I know jobs are in the computer science area, the number of jobs in software is more than electrical engineering. So I am where I am.” The last I heard from him he had an internship in this super big company in USA.

Very recently, I was speaking to a friend, he was really interested in this wonderful research and was in the process of starting his research. He has not started any job application and he is OK with that. I have this another friends who went from Bachelors to PhD straight and says ” I do what I do , what I like, what is interesting, I keep doing it, Job will come”.

In the beginning, I had this biased understanding of what these people told. It was naive of me in the thought process. Everyone has some attraction to say some colors, some food, some topics, some places. This could be yellow, pasta, history of Incas, Egypt for some. This could be anything. The rational mind of mine tries to normalize the bias whereby this is diluted to any color, veg.food, history, World. This rationality and dilution is for the world to see. This is a form of outlook, self-created outlook, banishing the old preferences and making life simpler. Categorization and division was a tool to tackle odd chunks of data, information or knowledge. This is never diluted, because it becomes hard to grasp. My understanding is that this is not representation of real world. It is not like there are land animals and water animals, there are amphibians. Elephant which swims is not amphibious. That sounds like blasphemy to categorical knowledge. 🙂

 

The book 

As per the book , there are only two kinds of people.

Passionate people and Craftsmen (people who work to achieve their greatness). Also, the book says that ‘passion is rare’.

I got this question from an interview 2 days back ” How much interest , do you have in the work or job description?”

I was lost for words since I was reading the book. I cannot say “I am a passionate worker”. I cannot claim that I am an expert , due to modesty and truth. I cannot suggest that I am a hardworker who  is a go-getter. Because, I am not there to be a self-proclaimed worker who is not interested in the subject , who can master any subject by hardwork, I am not  a machine. I see the blurring of the categories? There is a mix. This is not mutually exclusive, this is my understanding. If I am interested in something, it does not mean I will forget everything and focus only on that. If I am an expert in data entry ( actually I am !) and burrito making (too) that does not mean I am passionate about these. The point is, there are things that people do out of need and circumstances. This makes them experts of the field, in my case burrito making , I can do it blind-folded, I can do it in sleep, you can wake me up at 3 in the morning and I can make burrito. This by no logic means that I am passionate about it.

Passion is  a thing arousing enthusiasm. Work is generally perceived as a bad thing. Increasingly, I hear that job is the worst thing that you can get, who does not like freedom. Don’t  we all trade our freedom with someone else’s freedom !. I mean free as being free to do anything with the time they could have probably invested that in. Then we come to selectivity of fields in which one wants to work. some people like being mathematician, while some do music. There is math in music and music in math. There are people in the interdisciplinary-gray-blurred-line who work here. World is not a number of countries, each with boundaries and armies on either side. This is because everything is depended on everything else. Not just globalization/localization there is glocalization.  This is depicted by mentioning Alan Lightman who wrote Einstein’s Dreams  who made a career in combo of math and culture.

The religion of logic says : choose a field, focus, work hard – you become an expert.

How to choose a field ? – by gut feeling, and elimination process of uninteresting stuff can help shortlist the field.

There are many venues to connect with interest. It is easy to find that out, with what you do in your spare time.

I cannot do something which is not interesting or satisfying me. This can be termed passion. And then I go on to learn how to do these things, if I do not know how to, I learn. This is what Cal says as passion is side effect of mastery. You can start doing things you do not like, to test how broad you are in the mind. See for yourself, where , unintentionally we put limits for ourselves.

 

The Case of Incremental Improvement.

I got bowled over in one of my classes since I was to give a presentation on a new idea. I had this vision of myself as a visionary, going to change the world. After the presentation, I came to terms with what I have heard years back ” There is more than enough of technology available, your phone has tonnes of features, how much of the features do you use or know how to use ?”  This was before the advent of android!

I see myself as learning how to do stuff with existing technologies. Necessities will always push up the technologies to be innovated. That said. The knowledge of existing technologies would bring in the required mastery and formulating the exact requirements for improvement . In this sense, like  a big project, steps follow a waterfall model, the goal of which is a moving target, the field of which is the area of interest. Improvements happen in agile fashion. Continuous improvement! In the religion of science, this is a scientific improvement called innovation/invention(sometimes). In the religion of life , this is self-improvement and sharpening your saw (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey). Improve yourself, so that you can grab the opportunity as it comes, because you are prepared. I would combine Cal‘s mention of ‘exploring the adjacent possible’ with ‘little bets’ with incremental improvement. This is because on a personal side, when you make innovations, improvements these carry the risk of going beyond the comfort zone, this opens venues for exploratory work.

Key Take-aways

All said, with my opinions and Cal‘s opinions (what he calls ‘rules’). I would say I have to work get some career capital (that is expertise) so that I can create opportunities and may be ones that Peter mentions in Notes on Startups.

“Creating a research bible”:(here bible only means another book)

Cal gives good tips on how to go about research. He is a research professor going about his research. It makes sense to follow this path if you have not discovered your own. This involves

summarize a research paper  that you think is relevant for your work

keeping  a timesheet/schedule/calendar

maintain a research note for brainstorming ideas

do practice beyond the practice that we do that can be tagged as “productivity – oriented”. This involves

  • stretching one’s self beyond comfort zone.
  • read tough papers.
  • keep improving.
  • track your work , to see the improvement.

References

This includes provocative title such as “my job went to India“! Jobs are going everywhere.I have read that USA thrives on creating ideas. When new ideas stops getting generated USA job market is not going to be the same. Because this is were the ideas get exported and get adopted by the globe. The title could have been re-thought !

When it comes to bananas, the dwellers in USA get it from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and other places. When it is jeans, it comes from Bangladesh and Vietnam. Belts comes from Thailand and China. Now, please do not tell that all these jobs went elsewhere. It was the market and policies of trade that led to this.

 

The references in the book that I would like to refer are as follows.  T

 

Writing Style

The style is lucid and easy to follow. The emotions are kept at neutral while the facts and references are cited. This is a good way to write making it an easy read. The book tries to number the ideas (written as ‘Rules’ in the book). This can be  a drawback to people who dislike rule book. But the count is very less, and it is manageable.

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Posted by on October 1, 2016 in Book Review

 

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Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the FutureZero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews
I came across this book accidentally. My lab mate had this book on his table for a long time. I see it sometimes on this desk , even now. I am not sure if it is an illusion. What captured my attention was the cover. The design of the cover than the name.

And the cover designer did a wonderful job in that. In the beginning of the book , the author says that incremental efforts and improvements do not help build a lasting company. The competition builds up as more imitators join the crowd and therefore, a start up should have some product/solution that is atleast ten times better than that provided in the market. This makes the company unique and sell-able.

It is exciting to think about this, if one forgets about the government and public policies and the types of market. I still do not get how can a whole crowd be so patriotic. The American-ism of the book is indisputable, and the love for the country is too evident. How does every US American book get that same?

I am not sure if that will happen with any other country. For my knowledge is limited. I know the affinity for languages and cultures are high in India. And even then when it comes to political decisions and the Government or Nation, it is best not spoken / mentioned in any literature.

By being a technical start-up conglomerate. USA can proudly showcase the technical talents. But how that is analogous to the rock music in USA may not be understood for the broader audience (for which the book was definitely not written) is a question the author should ask. It is nice to be local, but was that rock music and pencil sketched necessary. It kind of deviates the seriousness of a nicely written beginning and is a distraction best avoided. As a result, I could read the first three quarters way faster than the end of the book.

I do not know if it is to fill pages or lack of more cases like Tesla, Solyndra et al that the book mentions that made the passage go into such extent as to bring in mythology .

And also to write

“Every king was a living god.

Every god a murdered king.

Every king is just a scapegoat who has managed to delay his own execution.”

after elucidating examples such as Apple founder.

Overall a nice book. Worth reading especially the first half. It is a simple english book and the name of Peter Thiel and Bio to sell the book off. Not to undermine the effort, it is a very well written book for a content targeted for start up and easy to handle at 195 pages.

 

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Posted by on September 10, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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My experience at the Orientation week, UB

It is one year since. This will happen one year hence. I have been lucky to have met the director of a- IIT, thanks to my previous job at CDAC, who is also UB alumni.

The name of UB spreads far and wide. How does one use it. It is not too sure in the beginning. Especially during the orientation week at UB. There is lot of fun and activities going around. Tonnes of people come to UB, esp. North Campus, and it reminds one of how empty the universities such as University of Calicut and CUSAT are. The crowd resembles that of any shopping mall. And people are pretty serious about shopping for courses.

It is so true, that even Open MOOCs like CourseEra are now paid services

Earlier what read as “My courses ” under dropdown on top right corner, now read “My purchases ”

Mypurchases

That is all right as a business model , if you are sure that you are providing services that are needed and has a market. The way of Apple and Steve J of customers not knowing what they want is limited in the educational business model. This is because of the direct link between job market and the student’s (customer) requirement.

There are a few who want to ride their own horses and make their own way. They eventually drop out of college. It was also interesting to note that an IT service provider for K12 schools came up with data analysis that predict the success of a student by analysing data on the collected database. This works best with right feedbacks and control. Great to know this !

Back to UB, this semester, I believe to see the same kind of eager crowd. Sometimes uncertain, sometimes over-confident. Free of prejudices and focus span all these groups, irrespective of the background. They all have this brightness in their face, to achieve. It is importance to keep up the face throughout this short battle of a foreign study. Whatever the reason of arrival, higher studies, better opportunities, international exposure to work and lifestyle.

I have met and talked to people from Canada, USA, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Brazil, Argentina,Spain, Germany,  Italy, Greece,Bulgaria,Turkey, Morroco, Angola, Nigeria, Gabon, Tunisia, Kenya, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Srilanka, Burma, Thailand, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia,Singapore, Vietnam, S.Korea in UB. It is a great international exposure.

Events (Regular)

The best way to meet all these internationals is at International Tea Time. Make sure to keep checking

This is always kept updated. So it is beneficial to get all the benefits

During orientation it is about meeting new people, remembering names and attaching it to faces. Talking about different cultures and more essentially finding people who are taking the courses that you are interested in. I have participated in some Focus group study about orientation in UB. The officials were full of praise on how organised the Graduate Indian Students’ Association(GISA) is.  This is unlike many other nationals is what I learned. As an Indian there is this auto-tuning towards the languages you are interested in , be it Telugu , Tamil or Hindi. Then there is another group formed based on the language. I find , from this that it was so natural to have the states in India formed based on language.  Then, there is this massive orientation schedule.

Here are things to do:

  • Maintain a calendar.
  • Feed in all the sessions you need to attend = priority 1, getting a UB card – gives you access to libraries  ( Capen and Lockwood in North campus, Abbott in S. Campus) .
  • Get appointments with professors and talk to them about your areas of interest and possible research
  • Attend your department orientation – very important – to get information from professors present there
  • Go through the course offerings throughly

Talk to senior students . ( In UB ” senior ” refers to final  year bachelor’s student. the sequence is freshman – 1st yr, sophomore – 2nd yr, junior – 3rd yr, senior – 4th yr). So , I meant senior as in Indian context, those who came early to UB and are already pursued some of the courses that you want to attend. See also other department offerings. Also, see for dependencies,e.g. pre-requisite courses for the spring or next fall may be offered this fall semester.

  • Food– Feed in all the free food sessions – so you pack less food to university

When I came in there were Bagels and Coffee for the incoming students along with fruits. I did not know how to eat a Bagel or spread what seemed like cream ( cream cheese) on it.

  • Water– Bring an empty bottle /mug

UB has plenty of water fountains, it may be difficult in the beginning to drink from a water foundation , the american student way, which evolves into american way. There are water fountains everywhere in the US. If you prefer water cans, then go to

 

UB student union is the most happening place, with piano and food court with all kinds of food and coffee shops . This place is always bustling with activity , especially during orientation week.

  • Locate oven in the buildings of interest.

Oven Locations:

  • Knox hall – ground
  • Student Union – 2nd floor near intercultural diversity centre
  • Davis hall – near the elevator (lifts are called as elevator)
  • Furnas hall – if you have access to CBE dept. lounge there are 4 ovens there.
  • Friends’ lab – if you know any friend who works in a lab as PhD or MS student then chances are there will be oven in their lab. Mostly, a refrigerator and coffee maker. But be assured that there is no guarantee on the food kept in the fridge.

 

Clubs:

UB has many clubs. You get to enroll in their mailing list by visiting their respective online presence or going to the Students’ Association Office, 3rd floor, Student Union. You can also run for the office or e-board positions of interesting clubs. Eventhough you are a new student.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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One Year in USA and studies

Today marks my one year in USA. A different country, but not too different now. Thanks to the summer extension. It is not too different.

This one year and its realization has strengthened the motivation to come here, to learn and to experience, the most sought after environment of the world. The melting pot may still be hot but what kept the momentum going is the abundance of natives, Indian Indians here. So, there is this common connect, stories of the past, glorified for the present, at occasions not so welcoming for a story but passes without a pause to occupy the same. This is wonderful where we discover the art of telling stories. Pieces of life bottled and well rounded to present to native speakers in native tongue. This is cool. Besides, there is this awe-some stories of the other land presented to the native native, US Americans and other internationals who came here to Buffalo, to study and to achieve their goals. This is fun.

Let me now focus on Buffalo for the time. I joined University at Buffalo one year back for Masters in electrical engineering. And there were too many things to think about in the first few weeks.

Regarding courses, I did not know much on how to choose. I had a very broad general idea, whereas in the offering there were so many special courses available. So, I had to attend all the interesting classes, schedule myself in Google Calendar and try and attend atleast  one of the possible two classes for sampling it and talking to professors. Some professors were crude, some odd, some smart, some great, some eloquent, some very helpful.  I had no clue about the scheme of Individual Problem/Study/Project. This is a 3 credit alternative to a course. This helps to work in the lab of the professor on some topic and get closer to the subject and possible reference and thesis option from professor.

It was tough to keep up with the events in the campus. There were so many that I had to put that up in calendar and choose wisely to get the most out of each. There were lot of free food especially pizza, which back home is considered to be kinda food for rich. but essentially junk. For a vegetarian you always get Cheese Pizza if your stars are not in great position. Week-ful of pizza and events makes one tired, the focus may even shift away from the job at hand , which is course selection and professor interaction , than free stuff and part time on campus employment.

The primary aim of part time on campus employment is to get some money in exchange of time, this is not going to give any thing great other than first hand experience in customer service, food preparation and a bunch of good friends to work with and talk with that alleviates the work load in the form of friendly conversations. There is this chicken an egg problem to be solved. To get a job, you need SSN , some jobs ask for NY state license. But to get SSN you need job. So it is natural to go to the easiest method to get SSN , job and money. That was Campus Dining job at the time of my orientation. There were more than 100 people waiting to get a job. The managers here are great in satisfying the crowd who came seeking job. They are very helpful and understanding. This helps in getting along with unfamiliar environment. In fact, in UB Campus dining there is a referral program that existing employees can refer new employees to get referral bonus. My friend had declined for he did not want that that bonus. I do not know why. Then there is this option of UB bullseye career services which posts many campus jobs. Also, talking to people in different offices helps to start useful conversations.

As an average Indian, I went for the budget options of Lycamobile $29 for mobile. Had the handset from home. Went to the local credit union for banking. Relied on the roommates for wholesaling shopping prices and stuck with cooking to reduce the cost of living. On top of this I needed a laptop. I would suggest bringing the laptop , whatever condition it is in, to be used for atleast the bare necessities of checking the  courses and email-ing the professors, because the library facilities would be crowded. The mobile has a small screen to accommodate such comforts.

Before long, I was grinding for the assignments and part time jobs and the household work. This in the beginning was the usual student stuff , that resembled that of a typical Indian student in India. But, here the addition is part time job, the compromise of which can be calculated in dollars. Even if you are not used to quick arithmetic of USD to INR conversion, money is money. It can push you, pull you and break you, if you are not careful. The focus on studies was built by studying with friends and maintaining a calendar. This gives some kind of focus which is incrementally refined till all the exams appear to collapse it. This happens just after the week-long break that can break you for another two weeks if the break is not properly utilized.

Slowly, it dawned upon me that people do not meaning anything more than “Hi” when they say “Hi”, ” How is it going?”, “What’s Up?”, ” How are you doing today?”, “How are you?”. The person who starts this esp US Americans, will be gone a mile as you try to answer/ reply. That was strange. Outright crazy. But in time I came to terms with it.

Regarding Electrical Engineering. We were given option to take two courses outside the department. Tempting courses are available all across the departments, ranging from Introduction to VLSI , Robotic Algorithms, Computer Architecture – CS department; High Performance Computing – Physics Dept.,  BioMEMS fabrication lab – BME dept., Six Sigma – IE dept. this will enable you to apply for UB TCIE internship in summer.

VLSI guys that I know went for:

Analog electronics,Introduction to VLSI, Analog IC Layout – 3 subject to learn Cadence Virtuoso; Embedded systems – experience ARM Cortex M3, VHDL,  Computer Architecture – Basys 2 and Verilog; Digital Communication System design – gives Mentor Graphics tools and teaches Verilog . Dr. Albert Titus has Analog and VLSI lab in BME dept.

DSP specialists get to learn 3 courses from the great Dr. Adly Fam, with many options to take Individual study with him. There is application of DSP in Power electronics courses too.

This fall 2016 there is Quantum mechanics for engineers which seems to be a great course.

last fall there was this awesome course on fundamentals of solid state devices a prerequisite for magnetic materials for this fall. This is not for the light-hearted in math.

MEMS lovers go for – MEMS, BioMEMS and lab on a chip, Wearable and implantable systems, RF1 and RF2 – not for the light – hearted. Optofluidics – which has a project. Microfabrication lab – an awesome lab facility you can see from outside in Davis hall and from inside if you taken the course.

Photonic and Optics group is very strong in UB. With many nice professors and courses of variety. There is plenty to discuss among Non- linear optics, Optofluidics, Photonic devices, nanophotonics, photonics lab, consumer optoelectronics and lasers.

With all these great courses, it is common for students to audit some courses to learn the stuff but not to earn credit. That said, any course you take more than 4 courses (12 credits) is free. you do not have to pay. I personally know a person who took 6 courses in final semester. This is a good strategy. Like Football formation you have to split the 10 courses (30 credits required for MS) into some format. 4-4-2 is a no-brainer; 5-4-1 and 4-5-1 is to save money from a course. Applying for reduced course load is permitted, but only once in the complete program, where international student can take minimum of 3 courses in a semester. People use it in different ways :- 4-3-3 , 3-4-3. People who want to finish fast take 5-5, bang for bucks and save almost 6k$. Another option is to get a Co-Op in third semester. This depends on your job application. And then the lesser pursued path is 4-3+thesis-thesis . A thesis credit could range from 1-6 , people use it wisely.

Ideally by end of Fall you have good projects and some GPA in hand which enable one to apply for summer internship. Application of which starts from fall. This may be seemingly too long , but no. And people who did not get internship here went to India and did Internship. People went home just to be home. Also, people achieved fall internship in the second fall, but you need to manage your courses accordingly.

 

(May be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Kabali da

Three words

Kabali da!

Kabali is the Tanglish spelling for Kapali a.k.a Kapaleeshwaran a.k.a God Siva. It is like a planned name for the movie for Rajni. The discovery says that many Rajni movie have the names of God Siva. Kapalam means head. What does Kabali mean?

There have been plenty of jokes through ICU and Troll Malayalam saying. Kali + Bahubali = Kabali . The film Kabali failed to overtake Bahubali in its first day collection. There are always exceptions. And even as fans, me or you do not get paid a paisa for praising, promoting or seeing the movie. It is all about being in the general social flow with a level of happiness, a bit high.

Neruppu da!

Neruppu is again interpreted as a spark that can ignite, a seed of fire and many a time fire itself.

Magizhchi! (no da)

My understanding of the term was rebuilt after watching this movie. Being a speaker of a mix of languages, with interest in some many languages my mind works to try and figure out  a meaning for a word without referring to the dictionary. The meaning for the word ‘Magizhchi’ was understood as something that keeps you engaged on which you find engagement. Mostly, some movies or sports to which one is glued is a matter of Magizhchi. The film rebuilt the definition to include happiness and joy in the process of engaged mesmerism.

 

The trailer of this film is a great work. It shows simple, neat , budget, rajni for the masses with definitely some transitional narration of new and old days of the main character

 

It was sure as the teaser was released that the film is going to make tonnes of profit, since the expenses are less. I did not know why there is no entertainment tax on the film. Some light on that is here.

The power of fans is evident in the success of the film, the economical success. As a movie the film does justice to the story. But I had my expectations which were not met. I especially did not like the audio only (climax?) at the end leaving a shot of surprise and open guesses. Also, gunshots in this film are to the most part real and not super extra ordinary. There is not much of a dance or song as in proper song. Unlike the film Madras  which gave an anthem to Chennai. Even the song Neruppu da fails to be an anthem or a motivational jig.But that is expected due to the absence of superstar A.R.Rahman as composer. This is not a big budget movie if you remove Thalaivar.

What we look forward to in the movie is nothing but Thalaiva. He rocks. He is Classy. He steals each frame, and the frame wants to focus on him. There is more of film in Rajni than Rajni in the film. You will be eager to watch his steps, what dialog comes next, what heroism is forthcoming and to what extent the reality will be disoriented. Rajni takes up the gun. But when he literally does, it is not the villain of Enthiran. When they show romance, it is not the romantic hero of Sivaji. It is unique, in itself it is Kabali da!

The film gives an idea that the story will be about a sweet and pleasant ( and of course easy) revenge for the situation of the hero. Typical Rajni film where he suffered to rise and act the hero. But the film is based on the soil and ground that the only issue remains on unexplained gang activities and what a truthful underground gang in Malaysia would do. It is not clear from the movie. But it is ok.

We do not expect detailed explanation on many things. Even if we are not the true fan to go for first day first show, nor would we waste food and resources on idolizing the superstar, nor would we give ourself to the crazy frenzy, but we would like to be in vogue, in current trends, to know what it is like to be, and be faithful netizens with supportive and meaningless tweets and posts and reviews and shout outs of Neruppu da. It may not be much. This is definite advertisement. It is more about knowing living and being the social update such as Pokemon and likewise.

Kabali as a movie helps reveal the little explored acting side ( than super-herosim) of Rajni. This may be a trendsetter and wake up call for hundred other directors including those of Salman Khan ( who shot Ek Tha Tiger which shames Spiderman’s Train stopping scene, all of which will give a salute to Chiranjeevi’s train stopping scene). It is not that super heroism did not begin with Rajni. Rajni just took it to break previous records. I would say it is good that Rajni was told to take off his cooling glasses and give a real expression which his face really does. With the heroine doing good acting, probably acting took the main stage alongwith the story in this film. There are some memorable scenes and it does not include the Rajni walk, Rajni gunshots or Rajni fights. This is great to be pulled off in this way and still get a great success story. I expected a more momentous and exciting journey from Malaysia to India. I expected more fight and more dialogue. Because on any day we can have more of Rajni.

What does it take to create overnight success like that of Kabali. Learn from what John Hanke the creator of Pokemon Go said: 20 years. 20 years back yes Arunachalam was released. Imagine how many people have had their food for their toil by working in this Rajni film. And then how many Tamils of Malaysia would be happy to have a Malaysian Tamil film. And how many Tamils will be happy about an International Tamil Film and How many Indians would be happy about an old man entertaining the whole of the world ?That exactly is the redefinition of super heroism.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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In the currents of Pokemon

The last I checked I am unable to get my Pokemon Trainer Club account to authenticate me into the Pokemon Go app. It is july 15, 2016 evening in USA. By night I can imagine how many souls will be roaming the streets to de-bug and catch the pokemons. I played it with my friend yesterday for two hours into the night. University at Buffalo, north campus was much infested by Pokemon trainers as the pokemons themselves. We could catch some understanding smiles at the supermarket sometime back, and here in the campus we were getting tips on the go. We were new to it, but cracked open 2 levels in 2 hours. We were catching pokeballs and pokemon left , right and center, thanks to the good network that he has and the car. Yes! we used the car.

I grew up playing single player games in multiplayer mode. Like me and my sister used to play age of empires together ( single player in the PC) but multi-player in real. This was more fun than the lone wolf regime. Once I had played FIFA football single player with me and 2 other friends. This was the time when gaming centers were popular as the internet swept through India. So, we three boys were sitting at a PC. My friends wanted to play FIFA and one of them took his pocket money of 20 Rupees ( which will pay for one hour of gaming). We got the FIFA running. There was a steering wheel bang in the middle of the PC. That would give shooting and left and right movement. if what I remember is true, I was at the arrow keys and the funding sponsor took the advanced controls of dribbling, juggling and shooting. That was some crazy fun.

We had organized playing of Farmville when it was integrated and very popular in Facebook. Me and my extended family would plan to do Co-ops and grow the required plants in a scheduled manner. This was physically over 700kms away in radius and completely done online and very efficiently. I remember those days where we had a scheduled harvest and I was jobless guy doing the harvest and fertilizing. There were professionals with job doing it with me. I never felt I was wasting resources or time. In fact, it was a learning experience about team spirit and agriculture.

And here I am 10+ years after what happened at a memorable time, in a different country playing with an equally old friend getting tips from some random undergrads in school on Pokemon and being childishly happy about it.

My phone with Android 4.2 Jelly bean does not support Pokemon Go.  I tried some APK files but to no success. So I was satisfying the curiosity by playing Ingress. A pretty neat game due to its simplicity. It draws directly on the two party system of USA. This game from Niantic was supposedly popular and I could feel it by playing it and seeing the intel map worldwide. That was really awesome. But then there is no fun if you cannot get to a team, organize, plan and schedule your movements. It is really massively online gaming that requires a team or team support. There is no real point in doing it alone. Because the portals captured and control areas created on day 1 would be broken that day itself without proper support.

The good thing about Pokemon Go is that you can do it alone for some levels and still be happy about your Pokedex (collection of pokemons). In this process of leveling up it is quite natural that you would team up with some people that you meet on the road. by level 5 , I believe there is access to gym. And the choice here is, to join one of the three factions, unlike Ingress where it is two. It is yellow , blue and red here compared to green and blue in Ingress. If you do not have a good internet connectivity or phone that does not support the games or features then you will be like me, trying to connect to every available free wi-fi. It is still possible to work within this limits. But in ingress, I found this very limiting, because we need to capture area. While in pokemon we can still be happy about a little weedle or rattata that always appears on your doorstep. Pokemon is more about being happy about what you have, while Ingress makes you greedy to go about and capture like (some country) which wants it influence over larger and larger area, fire something and destroy enemy resonators. The ingress fans who dislike pokemons are either not having the app supported in their devices, hatred due to unavailability, or they are acting like grown ups who are like the accountant in the little prince.

There are crazy people everywhere, in both the games. But what is the character of the players. Consider you are using the latest of technologies. Camera, augmented reality, signal processing, networking technology, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, MEMS sensors, gyros, and adaptive light sensitive displays just to have fun. It better be good enough to promote good character. Pokemon though meant to fight in the gym and win battles are not that violent enough to destroy or make enemy or degrade the morale of co-players. In that sense I appreciate pokemon a lot. As I write this I am starting to like Pokemons more and more. As a child I used to watch the pokemon series in the TV. Though I would not understand many things that they said, it was fun to watch. I was called “Pokk mon” ( “Gone son!” in malayalam) by my mom. It was fun. Then as I landed in USA I was playing Pokemon training cards of which I had to learn everything from my nephew. From him I learned that the world is richer because there are more pokemons than just kanto ones. Again 9 months hence I am into gaming with Pokemons. Thanks to my friend who has a spare phone, I ditched ingress from my own phone , and started on pokemon in this spare phone which supports the app. Now! that I have the power, I can make a choice.

This leads me to the thought that occurred when I quit watching formula one. But for now, for  a few more days the Pokemon is not going anywhere.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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