National Geographic Photo of the Day

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Once in 783 years - so I was told.....

When the weekend began, I got this SMS from a few of my friends, it went something like:

"This is the only month (May 2009) where we have 5 Saturdays and Sundays. This happens once in 783 years. So friends, do enjoy yourselves cos you are fortunate to get this extra weekend in your lifetime. Gudnite"

This got me thinking in terms of "Davy Jones could spend one day ashore for every ten years on the high seas" (Pirates' fans may pick up the reference). So how did I spend the extra weekend that I was so fortunate to receive? Well, I slept at about 4am on Saturday morning and got up around 11.30am. Had to change a few hard drives, fix a PC. Then ran off to our very own MCG (no not that one, I meant the Manthope Colony Ground ;-) ), for 2-3 hours of cricket with a bunch of friends. Had got myself a new bat (after my old one was broken by a friend), which incidentally proved rather useful - sixes and fours flew all over the ground and my buddies were wondering - "What's up with him? Is he drunk? He doesn't bat this well."

The New bat above and the old one below (yes I'm a BDManiac)

Came back around 6.30 with a friend on his bike (fearing for my life, the way he rides). Thankful to reach home with all limbs attached, I threw my shirt off washed myself, dried and fell asleep on the couch only to have my Mum wake me up at 9pm. Had dinner, followed by the usual round of "What use are you around the house?" talks by the good doctor, my most honourable Dad. Downloaded a few comics and got back up to date on Batman, the Transformers, War Machine, Thor, Iron Man and what not. Yes, I'm a bit of a comic buff, but I only follow certain series.

Coming to Day 2 of my most wonderful EXTRA weekend, the day started off with Mr. Cactus waking me at 7am. Thought "what the hell?" and went right back to bed. Woken up again by Mum at 9am, she told me to get ready quick, apparently we were going out. So I did.

Went over to Apollo Hospitals first and waited for my Dad to complete his rounds. Meanwhile I saw the Chairman arrive in his most awesome car - a Bentley Continental model. Certainly a car that I can never afford in my life, with the car being priced at merely (for some people) Rs 2 crore. Oh well, I'll stick with my BMW M3 quest.....

Coming back to the issue at hand, left Apollo and went to a relative's place. After an hour there we split and had lunch at the Radha Regent, formerly Radha Park Inn. They have a nice buffet spread for the price (Rs. 4xx per person, not sure about the xx) though it doesn't match the Park Sheraton's buffet at The Residence, or Taj Coromandel's Matchpoint (now Anise), and I make the most of the dessert section each time I visit :D.

Post-lunch, we went over to a pet store to get two big 10kg bags of Pedigree (Chicken and Milk, and Meat and Rice flavours) Dog Food for Mr. Cactus. He was most delighted at what he found inside the car when we got back. Mum gave him a fistful of the food and he was content (momentarily) before he went back into the kitchen and sniffed around the place where the bags are usually stationed.

Following this, I browsed through the news on a few different sites, went over my usual ton of RSS feeds, listened to Linkin Park's "New Divide" and hopped into an online game of Team Fortress 2 (I bought the Orange Box back when it released). The game went on till dinner and after some time spent filling out a few forms for some application or other I got back to playing TF2. And now here I sit writing this article at 2.30a.m.

Check out this funny little video. You'll get the humour in it if you're a TF2 player or you know the various classes in the game.

Most wonderful way to waste my time even when I knew that this was in a way an extra day wouldn't you think?? Nope, wrong.

Cos it isn't anything special at all. The idiots who passed on the message never looked up the facts and most people I later informed of an error never realised it. The fact is that when it comes to 5 weekends in one month, atleast one month in every year has such a combination. Pick up the calendar and take a look at August 2009, January 2010, May 2010 etc. It happens more than once each year, not once in every 783 years.

People really should check the accuracy of the crap they forward, atleast for the sake of NOT looking like idiots. I bet a number of people who passed on the above forward will be doing this once they realise that they've been royally had!! -

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Alpha is Up and Running

Like the title implies, Wolfram Alpha is now up. Go take a look at this wonderful search engine...... oops "Computational Knowledge Engine" as the creators call it.

Search for Chennai and it will show you details about Chennai's population and a map of India with Chennai marked on it. Search for chocolate mousse (the next bit is gonna scare the weight watchers among us ;-) ) and you'll get all the details on its nutritional value.

The above displays the way one can integrate {(square root of x) multiplied by cos x}.

Enter "US Dollar to Indian Rupee" and it'll show you not just the present conversion rate, but this year's maximum and minimum as well as a graph describing the fluctuation in rates over the past year. Enter any mathematical formula, anything right from Taylor's Series to something as simple as 10^sin(x) and you'll get your answer along with a diagrammatic representation.

The musically inclined like me (yes, I play the keyboard/piano) can search for scales (for example C#minor) and get the scale graphically represented on a piano's keys along with the sound for the scale being played and the notes written below.

I tried searching for GPS and I was able to obtain altitude, azimuth, velocity, orbital period, inclination and a skymap showing the relative positions of the GPS satellites from Chennai. Pretty awesome.

I wouldn't really say "Watch out Google" , yet. But this does have potential.

All the data is presented on a single page, and its all very neatly organised and laid out.
Be sure to give this tool a spin, its great fun and quite useful for scientific studies too.

Friday, May 22, 2009

College Chronicles - Part 4

Its been about two weeks since my 4th sem exams came to an end. I suppose its time to look back upon the semester gone by.

This sem was supposed to be the time to relax - as a friend of mine put it - "We'd be having more free hours than classes". Boy, was he (the little guy in the middle with glasses ) wrong.
And how wrong. Things went wrong even before reopening day. Initially reopening was scheduled for December, giving us something like 4 days of vacation (why did they even call it a vacation) before college began for the 4th sem. Lo and behold it poured forth from the sky and one of our exams was postponed to a much later date, leading to a delayed opening in January. Then we had a week or so off for our department's international level conference TIMA followed by Madras Institute of Technology campus' Silver Jubilee celebration (another 4-5 days). Besides that, we had a gala time during the weeks that the government decided to declare holidays here in Tamil Nadu "in protest against the Sri Lankan Government's handling of the Tamil issue." They started calling it Ceylon jubilee, LOL.

Right before the reopening we were shit-scared of the results, cos the kinda feedback we'd given to some professor, we'd expected half the class to fail. Thankfully, most of us passed, though the grades were noticeably lower.

There was one saving grace however, in the form of MITAFEST - 2009. I was on the writing team for the event's website. Gave me a chance to write my heart out, and almost all the stuff under the Events section (among some others) is what I had written. The website is still up at The event itself was something else!!! Celebrities were popping in and out of college (who cares!), people with faces painted, quizzers and orators, fashionistas, dancers, singers and gamers - whatever your forte, you had a stage to showcase your talent. To top it all off, highlights included the concerts by Anuradha Sriram and Karthik with renowned instrumentalists accompanying them on stage (I procured the videos via a friend). The atmosphere was saturated with excitement.

We had some fun in the Transducers Lab too, even took time out between experiments to catch some snaps.

The little guy with big brains, Mr Sundaram, kept up his routine act of writing "Today Aps Class" this semester too.

Remba padicha idhaan aagum (study too much and this is what happens) --->

You start seeing rhombuses and geometric shapes where you never thought you would before.

Once all this was over, our HOD left no stone unturned in ensuring we knew the urgency of the situation, that we were short of time. Alas our skulls were too thick for this vital piece of information to permeate, though this was on expected lines :D . So we ended up having classes even on Saturdays - and full days at that. Every free period was taken, we were so busy we didn't have the time to scratch our arses. Lab tests and assessment dates overlapped and intertwined. Projects found their way from the "We'll definitely do it" to the "trash the idea" bin. Industrial visits were canceled too.

Now the general student population had a hard time in our department this semester, but our representative was a day-scholar Jayaram a.k.a Baja. I pity the tough time he had. The professors grilled him for free periods like lions fighting for their share of the kill. No one would let go of their piece of the pie, so poor Baja was caught in the crossfire. I suppose he got depressed and did this to his hair (yeah, he's the one in the center with the strange haircut).

I'm just kidding though, he and our girls rep Karpaga did a marvellous job arranging classes and even a guest lecture in the midst of the shitstorm.

On a personal note, I hit a rather quirky odometer reading in my Accent. 34567 , refer the photo for proof ----> .

The sem dragged on, and the portions piled up after each assessment. The erstwhile rumours kept us supplied with enough gossip, especially bits of paper like this one below.

When asked to confirm above mentioned and other worthwhile rumours, most people shied away. Some said "no, nothing of that sort", others would go "oh, really!!". Still some important people like the Professor below would say "No, Comment".

The exams were soon looming over us, and all other thoughts were left behind. While some of my classmates were cooped up and performing the ancient art of "combined studies", I spent time alone in the evenings (when I was free from the arduous task of wasting time) in the below room (no that's not my room). It was once my cousin's room, and you guessed it right, he was an Aishwarya Rai oops Aishwarya Bachchan fanatic. Just click play and it will loop the slideshow. No wonder I studied so slowly this time around.......

Some people were studying really hard as evidenced by the following pictures. Our ex-rep and "project boy" Vigneshwaran takes a nap with his book still open, while the Dragon (yeah right, a.k.a Sardarji) Praveen wakes up from his reverie on a table to find the camera in his face.

And so began the torture. From April 27th to May 11th, sleep was a scarce commodity, atleast for me. You may observe the below photograph, it shows you my best friend and saviour during this period (Gave me wings alright).

This picture on the right was one of those moments of nostalgia I had on the morning / night / midnight / unearthly hour before an exam (try guessing what subject from the picture). This little cup was something which I had used long long long ago when I was in Kindergarten. The big mug you see in the background is full of another of my saviours - coffee. Coffee and Red Bull kept me awake the whole night sometimes. With not an ounce of sleep in my body. Surprisingly, I wrote my exams pretty well even with the abject lack of sleep, neither did it affect my drive to college each day before the test. Rather brash on my part you say? Brash??? No, no, no, not at all. "Suicidal" would have been the right word. :D

In the midst of these god-forsaken exams, my house was full of relatives too, what with there being a close relative's marriage in Chennai. Had a nice time, though I ended up studying only right before each exam day cos of the above mentioned marriage.

Thus passed the wonderful, glorious, god-given opportunity to prove my mettle (yeah, everyone's a critic) and now beyond me stands a month's worth of holidays.

This sem there was a personal milestone for me - I turned 20 this March, now no longer a teenager, so took a trip down to Le Royal Meridien to celebrate. Here's a snap of the cake (this was one AWESOME cake).

A few upgrades to the PC, plenty of sleep, a number of IPL matches, and a cheesecake later, here I am concluding this long long article, reminiscing upon the sem just past.

<---- A well earned (says me) break at the Taj, Mount Road after the exams.

Yours Truly,
The Lone Wolf

Cheesecake capers

I've always had a sweet tooth, and whenever I go to a buffet, the space for my entree (North American usage strictly) is usually reserved for the dessert section. Of late, I've been trying my hand at cooking a little bit, with my mum's help and under her supervision of course. She's really really good at cooking, and tries out whatever they show on television. Feeling the need to excel at least at making what I love to gulp down, I decided to focus upon the sweet stuff.

Among my adventures (the initial attempt at chocolate mousse was of course a misadventure - a tad too much butter) are various types of chocolate pudding, chocolate cake, the aforementioned mousse (though made properly later), white sauce (I know this one ain't sweet but it did taste damn good).

The latest one, a few days back, was a three layer cheesecake. This was based on a recipe I'd seen on a TV channel. The top layer in their version was a jelly-like layer which made use of egg-whites for added flavour. I swapped this layer out for another one. Read on for details.


  • Paneer (Cottage Cheese)
  • Two Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Gelatin (No, I don't mean the stuff you use to blow things up)
  • Butter
  • Condensed milk (I used MilkMaid)
  • A big pack or two of Marie biscuits
  • Custard powder and Caramel

A springform pan would be of very good use in this venture as well as for a number of other desserts. It'll help cakes come out with smooth and proper edges. Of course you could improvise without one too (I did). Anyway, on to the main event.

The base
Break and powder a large number of marie biscuits using a mixer. This is then heated in a pan with 4 tablespoons of butter. Smear some butter on d bottom of the vessel (read: springform pan) you'll be using to .... let's say "assemble" the cheesecake. After mixing the butter and biscuit powder well (while heating), it is made into a layer on the base of this vessel. Press this powder down gently but firmly till it becomes thick and you can be sure that the next layer won't drip down through it. Put the springform pan in the freezer for 15-20min to let it set.

The Madness in the middle
The middle layer has to be the thickest - its gonna be real cheesy, and in a good way mind you.

First take some gelatin powder(not the usual jelly powder). Melt around 2 tablespoons of it by double boiling in water in a pan and let the resulting liquid cool.
Break 2 eggs and keep the egg yellow aside. Some of you pure vegetarians might be doing it without the eggs, If you do, please do tell me how it goes.
400g of sugar is powdered using the mixer.

Again 400g of paneer is taken. Use a mixer to crush/cut this up into smaller pieces. To the paneer in the mixer, 400g of condensed milk is added.
Add the powdered sugar in its entirety. Add the egg yellow too. Pour in the liquid gelatin. Now mix this gradually but well in the mixer till it becomes a sort of paste.

Take the pan you had earlier put in the freezer out and pour this cheesy paste onto the set layer of biscuit. Mmmmmm Mmmmmmm.... Put this back in the freezer for around half an hour.
Remember, until now, the pan you're using must be able to hold everything layer by layer, the height must be sufficient.

You can stop at this itself if you want just a cheesecake and you're not really interested in what goes above it. But having another layer on top gives it a more complex look.

On top of what you have (which should have been set by now):

  • Option 1 (as in the original recipe on TV): Consider this - Take orange juice or mango juice mixed with the white of egg (which was set aside earlier). Then add gelatin to it. Mix well. Now pour it onto the middle layer and let it set again in the freezer.

  • Option 2: You can innovate/improvise the way you wish. How about adding a layer of thick chocolate pudding and let it set (yeah, use a wee bit of gelatin to help it along) . Or you could prepare some caramel custard n use that for a top layer (like I did).

I'll say this again, its very handy to have a springform pan in which to set the entire thing layer by layer, since you can just remove the sides of the pan once you're done setting the layers. Not absolutely necessary though.

After the thing is relatively stable, shift it out of the freezer and into the fridge. Let it stay there for a few hours before you cut it and taste the goodness. Feedback on how the recipe tasted is welcome, but I know I won't be getting any as always. Below is a picture of my creation, you can clearly see the layers. This of course, was the last remaining piece. So i took a picture of it before feasting upon this cheesy delight.

Still if someone manages to make it and taste it (apart from me), I'll be pleased. Though some might be averse to the slightly powdery biscuit layer, I just loved the whole cheesecake!!!

Further adventures beckon me, albeit the delay I ascribe to the scarcity of whipped cream or heavy whipping cream in our beloved India. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE YOU COULD GET IT!!!???!?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Anti - Incumbency? Yeah Right!!

The much hyped anti-incumbency factor comes to naught today, as the results pour in from India's general election. Saffron is sure taking a beating, what with the BJP's candidates falling like flies. They stuck to their guns on Hindutva, claiming that they would certainly build the Ram temple at Ayodhya if they came to power. Instead of focusing on development and the ailing economy, the NDA espoused the cause of bringing back money stashed in Swiss bank accounts (oh, like you guys never had any).

There have been major upsets though, certain prominent candidates like the Congress' Chidambaram is trailing to the AIADMK's Raja, E.V.K.S Elangovan faces certain defeat, Lalu Prasad lost in Pataliputra (and won in Saran constituency) and Ram Vilas Paswan has lost. The BJP's Varun Gandhi however, seems to have benefited from the ruckus he stirred up in Pilibhit, he's leading there by a huge margin.

UPDATE: Since the article was first written, Chidambaram was first declared defeated by AIADMK's Raja Kannappan by a margin of 3000 votes. Then after a recount was requested he mysteriously became the winner in his constituency. These results were rather suspect. So the AIADMK candidate filed a complaint on the basis of "irregularities in counting". The result though is unlikely to change.

A small mention about an independent candidate of interest to younger voters - Sarathbabu. He hasn't managed to brew up too many votes, he's certainly not even the 2nd candidate on the board. He was MTV Youth icon, a man who came from a life of abject poverty, studied in BITS Pilani and IIM-A, and chose to set up his own business rather than accept a high paying corporate job. I'll put up an update about his actual number of votes when the results become official. Still, full marks for his noble intentions, just that being an independent candidate and hoping that voters favour good education and common sense won't really work, atleast not in India.

Then there's Shashi Tharoor, former Under-Secretary-Generalof the UN, a very well-educated and widely respected, well-spoken man. He was on the Indian National Congress' ticket and he's won a resounding victory by a huge margin of 100,000 votes. I liked him better when he wasn't into politics but good for him, and I hope he lives up to the electorate's expectations.

The DMK has swept Tamil Nadu though there have been allegations that they had government employees cast a few votes for them under the names of those who hadn't turned up. That turned into a big fight in Triplicane between the DMK and the AIADMK. But the Congress has failed to live up to its expectations in Tamil Nadu, losing as I mentioned earlier, even important seats like that of Elangovan. This of course, will put the bargaining chips in the hands of the DMK, who'll shamelessly push for more posts in the Union Cabinet for every single relative our TN Chief Minister has. All 7 seats in Delhi went to the Congress.

The Left has some introspection to do too, facing its worst tally in West Bengal in 40 years and having the Congress roll over them in Kerala. So much for their "for the people" image, all they kept doing was block any measure that was pro-reform and go behind whatever China said. Sharpen the sickle boys, sharpen it sharpen it. You'll need a new hammer too, how about a Chinese-made one, they're pretty cheap.

Now, don't forget this election had a whole host of TV channels giving different outcomes, but it looks like CNN-IBN's predictions came true, while NDTV's pre-counting predictions and analysis pretty much fell flat on its face. Bad luck NDTV :D

On a national scale, the UPA alliance is ahead in 247 constituencies with the Congress by itself leading in 198 seats. The ruling Front is just short of a little over 20 seats for the magic figure of 272 in the 543-member Lok Sabha. A Congress spokesperson has announced that their present Prime Minister will definitely be Dr. Manmohan Singh, and Rahul Gandhi will be their PM candidate for the future. If Dr. Singh remains PM, it will be the first time in Indian history since Jawaharlal Nehru that a Prime Minister continues ruling for the next 5 years.

The younger politicians have done pretty well - Rahul Gandhi, Omar Abdullah, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot being examples. Rahul's hectic campaigning has certainly been a decisive factor in this winning vote. It looks like he might even be the recipient of a cabinet post. For those of you interested in knowing how the cricketers in the mix have done off their cricket pitch, the BJP's Kirti Azad and Navjot Singh Sidhu, and Congress' Azharuddin are winning, while the BJP's Chetan Chauhan was clean bowled, losing to the Congress by a huge margin in his constituency.

The NDA needs to do more than divide people along religious lines, or play the politics of caste and creed. The Indian voter isn't an idiot (atleast not complete idiots) to be lured by stuff like Ram temples, or bringing black money back to the country (atleast not coming from politicians who no doubt have plenty of it). The politics of hate aren't garnering the BJP any big number of votes. On the same topic, the Lankan issue didn't take much of a centre stage either, with the PMK losing even what little it had, ending up with just 1 seat - that of Anbumani Ramadoss.
{ UPDATE: As of 7.43P.M. on the 15th, the PMK has lost even that 1 seat i.e. they've been given the thumbs down for ALL 7 SEATS they contested for. :D }

The third, fourth, fifth, sixth - don't know how many of these fronts are there but they don't seem to have any backbone ;-) - have had a bit of cold water poured on their fiery words, giving a rather poor showing when it came to the vote count.

Talking about votes, the voter turnout this time was around 60% overall, something like a 2% increase compared to 2004's election. The rural areas had a much higher voter turnout. Take Tamil Nadu for example, had a voting percentage of 72.46% overall but Chennai's constituencies had around 63% ( an unbelievable 20% increase from 2004 !!!! ). But Chennai's voters showed how its done, putting their money where their mouth is.

Mumbai was as usual "all talk, no action". After all the big words said, speeches given, rallies on the streets and so-called anger at leaders' inaction and inappropriate actions after the Mumbai terror attacks, the turnout was a mere 41.28%. This means (yes, I tried some crazy calculations) that about 22% of voters will actually decide who becomes the ruling party in the state. What a democratic show Mumbai, you have absolutely no right to complain about the leaders you get. Sit tight and frequent your nightclubs, enjoy the booze and hotels and the pace of the city, just don't do your duty when it comes to showing the world the true nature of its biggest democracy. As for the idiots who have nothing better to do than beat up people who aren't from Maharashtra a.k.a Raj Thackeray's MNS --- well F-U, cos they got not a single seat.

Anyway, lets all hope this government can do something better this time around rather than just throw up a new proposal for reservations for various so-called backward castes at every stage of life. Results in-detail can be obtained at this address -

Update: Lalu has now conceded (after his party got merely 4 seats) that not contesting in alliance with the Congress was his greatest mistake.

As of 00:03hrs Indian Time on the 18th of May, these were the numbers :

CONG + 261
BJP + 159
LEFT + 24

BSP 20
SP 23
RJD + 4

BJD 13

JD(S) 3
OTH 11

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spaghetti Central, and could it be F1's Final Lap???

Of late the world of F1 has had several controversies - ranging from spying to Mclaren's lie-gate to the new diffusers on the cars and even Max Mosley's Nazi-style sexcapade scandal - in recent times.

However, now an even greater threat looms over the sport, something that may bring an end to F1 as we know it. The sport's governing body, the FIA had decided to impose a new budget cap of $40mn (yes, that's a bit tight in F1 terms) on the teams' spending (apart from the drivers' salaries and travel expenses). This would level the playing field and help smaller teams like Brawn GP, Williams, Torro Rosso, Force India, and perhaps newer entries next year, to compete with the fully-loaded ones like Ferrari and McLaren. Teams could still opt out of the cap though, but they'd face restrictions like a ban on in-season testing.

FOTA [Formula One Teams' Association] has hence been demanding that a different solution be arrived at, not a budget cap. Max Mosley, the FIA president, has been sticking to his guns on the issue though, even going to the extent of saying that Ferrari (who protested) could "leave Formula One if they wanted to".

Well, now it looks like that's exactly what could happen. Ferrari, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull have issued an ultimatum to the FIA saying that if the budget cap persists next year, then they WILL LEAVE F1 AT THE END OF the 2009 season. Here's Ferrari's statement in full:

"The Board of Directors examined developments related to recent decisions taken by the FIA during an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on 29 April 2009. Although this meeting was originally called only to examine a disciplinary matter, the decisions taken mean that, for the first time ever in Formula One, the 2010 season will see the introduction of two different sets of regulations based on arbitrary technical rules and economic parameters.

"The Board considers that if this is the regulatory framework for Formula One in the future, then the reasons underlying Ferrari's uninterrupted participation in the World Championship over the last 60 years – the only constructor to have taken part ever since its inception in 1950 – would come to a close.

"The Board also expressed its disappointment about the methods adopted by the FIA in taking decisions of such a serious nature and its refusal to effectively reach an understanding with constructors and teams.

"The rules of governance that have contributed to the development of Formula One over the last 25 years have been disregarded, as have the binding contractual obligations between Ferrari and the FIA itself regarding the stability of the regulations.

"The same rules for all teams, stability of regulations, the continuity of the FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) endeavours to methodically and progressively reduce costs, and governance of Formula One are the priorities for the future.

"If these indispensable principles are not respected and if the regulations adopted for 2010 will not change, then Ferrari does not intend to enter its cars in the next Formula One World Championship.

"Ferrari trusts that its many fans worldwide will understand that this difficult decision is coherent with the Scuderia's approach to motorsport and to Formula One in particular, always seeking to promote its sporting and technical values.

"The Chairman of the Board of Directors was mandated to evaluate the most suitable ways and methods to protect the company's interests"

The commercial rights holder of F1, Bernie Ecclestone, however is trying to broker a sort of "peace treaty" between the teams and the FIA. "The key to F1 is Ferrari," Ecclestone said. "They have been there for 60 years. They are partners of ours. They are the people we need to take into consideration. At the moment everyone is hanging on to their apron strings. Sort that out and we will be OK." Thanks to his efforts, FOTA representatives will be meeting with Max Mosley (picture right) in London on Friday in an effort to thrash out some sort of compromise. Ferrari could quite easily survive selling their cars without an F1 team to raise their prestige, but if Ferrari and the other big names go, then F1 will collapse like a pack of cards, the sport will never be the same again.

Ferrari meanwhile, have been showing every race that they're getting back to their spaghetti roots. The last race was filled with aweful decisions starting with their once again overconfident move of not sending Raikkonen out for another qualifying run, eventually failing to qualify for Q2. They sat tight and comfy while the rest of the field overtook them and the Finn ended up at the 16th grid position after qualifying while Button once again had pole. Kimi didn't finish the race either due to some technical issue with his car that saw him retiring early.

Add to that the crappy way in which Felipe Massa had his car filled with less petrol than needed. The team then informed him of the blunder via his radio, asking him to conserve fuel else he wouldn't finish the race. Massa was furious and asked his engineer over the same channel "What Can I DO??" after being repeatedly asked to save fuel. Thanks to the way Ferrari screwed up, Massa dropped down from 4th to 6th and just about managed to finish. He didn't have enough gas in the tank to even get back to the pits. Well Massa has come full circle - from driving away with the fuel hose still attached to having too little fuel filled. Perhaps Ferrari is just trying hard to not make the same mistakes twice, but make new ones each race. Let's see what they come up with at Monte Carlo.

All they need to do is look down the pit lane and learn how its done from Brawn GP.

The Science of Search - the new kid on the block

For those of us born into the information age, "search" has been synonymous with Google. The company hasn't really been around for eternity though, it was established as a private firm only in 1998, after Larry Page and Sergei Brin started it as students in 1996 at Stanford University. Since then, Google has diversified into advertising, e-mail, SMS alerts, online office suites - you name it. Such is its dominance that Google has 73% of market share in search engines, followed by Yahoo at around 16% and then MSN's Live at about 6%.

Last year in July, there was another search engine that claimed to be "better than Google" and "having the most number of indexed pages". It was christened "Cuil" (pronounced Cool), and started by former employees of Google. Unlike many other search engines however, they clearly stated that they would not store any data regarding user activity, or IP addresses of the people who were using their product. Their home page certainly looks cool (forgive the pun) but the problem with them was that they focused more on the quantity of results rather than the relevance. Searches would frequently throw up much less relevant results than what Google would give us. The site had less than 0.02% of market share and it's virtually flat-lined.

But wait, lo and behold, there's a new kid on the block. In the form of a British Physicist's project by the name of "Wolfram Alpha". Strictly speaking, this isn't a search engine per se. What it is is an 'answer engine' or 'computational knowledge engine' as the creator puts it. Where Google returns a list o pages relevant to the search phrase, Alpha strives to solve the problem and present you with an exact answer to your query. Hence while Google will not comment on the reliability of the information that its results refer you to, Alpha makes some judgement calls on the quality of the sources, it supposedly cites academic documents and sources for each result. Stephen Wolfram has announced that this product will be released to the public on May 15th and going officially live on 18th. Mind you, he's already said that its "far from finished".

Wolfram Alpha is built on Wolfram's earlier flagship product, Mathematica, which encompasses computer algebra, symbolic and numerical computation, visualization, and statistics capabilities. The trick with Alpha is knowing how to enter the data so as to get the best possible result. Entering "how much did titanic earn at the box office" would give you a list of results on Google, but what Alpha would do is tell you that the answer is approximately $1.8 bn, according to so-in-so sources.

Obviously, there are also problems associated with this engine, namely that it focusses on raw data more and that its strength lies in Mathematical and scientific calculations and queries rather than entertainment and sports related stuff. WolframAlpha is the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram, 49, a physics prodigy who earned a Caltech Ph.D. at age 20 and won a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" at 21. He has employed a number of experts to go over the data and hence "curate" it for the search engine to make better decisions. Apparently the product can even tell you the number of people in the US with a particular name. It remains to be seen whether this idea will even dent Google's share, though Google seems to be completely dismissive of the idea.

Google, meanwhile, has announced "Google Squared", a service that - similar to Alpha - will produce charts and graphs of the data you asked for.

The San Francisco Chronicle described the feature in a bit more detail:

[Google Squared] compiles details from several Web pages and organizes them into a table on a single page, with multiple columns like a spread sheet. A search for “small dogs,” for instance, returns a list of breeds, an accompanying image and a brief description, plus the average height and weight of each breed.

It is to be released as a Google Labs Feature sometime around the launch date of Wolfram Alpha. By the looks of it, Google will be steamrolling these guys too, what with Wikia Search ( a 'crowdsourcing' search tool ) already having gone the way of the Dodo. Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales announced the end of the Wikia Search project earlier this year, saying it was no longer viable (he pulled the plug when it came to finances - maybe he needed the money for another expensive dinner with a few bottles of wine at a Florida steakhouse ;-) ).

With the hunger for data, the thirst for knowledge being an omnipresent characteristic of the human race, search engines will always flourish, though one of them will still lead the pack for a long time to come.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

CSK's whistling video

Many of you would have seen the (rather lame IMO) theme song of the Chennai Superkings on TV - the one that goes "Chennai, Chennai Superkings.... namba yellow jersey...".

The thing is there's another MUCH BETTER theme song called Whistle Podu that some of you wouldn't have taken a look at yet. It's full of player's whistling the way Chennaiites do. Yes that includes Mathew Hayden, Suresh Raina and many more CSK players.

The most funny part of it is Parthiv Patel saying "Chennai super kings ku veeeesul pOdu." Had me rolling in laughter. From the look on Parthiv Patel's face, another second into the video and he would have been in splits himself.

Below you'll find the shorter version which focuses on the players whistling.

The next video is the entire video for the song (though you get a clearer view of the players whistling from the previous clip). Shows a large number of people from all around Chennai whistling.

Enjoy the winning streak CSK's having right now. God knows which team will end it finally.

Upgrades :D

My exams are just behind me and I've been busy doing some modifications to one of my PCs.

I'd had a friend send me an Xbox 360 controller, so I'm using it now with the PC (automatically detected and configured itself under Vista) for most of my games.

But first, I took apart the computer, removed the various PCI, PCIe and other cards, and gave it a full dusting down. Initially with a brush, and then with a vacuum cleaner (who'd have thought a dust storm could ever come out of a PC).

I had also bought two sticks of DDR2 RAM from OCZ. 4gb of 800mhz RAM in total.
Threw out my older RAM (actually I merely put it away in a cupboard). And stuck in these beauties. My older RAM was only 2gb 667Mhz (which might surprise some of you who really know me well).

With these inside my gaming rig, I've overclocked it with a 1:1 FSB:RAM ratio upto 3.6Ghz (35% overclocked) from an initial 2.66Ghz on the processor and 900mhz on the DDR2 RAM. Those massive heatspreaders do their job really well and really help the RAM to maintain a proper temperature. Besides this there's a 10% overclock on the GPU's core, All this, mind you is merely on stock air cooling. I won't be running it at this setting 24x7 though. I'm going to set it down a few notches to a modest 24% overclock of 3.3ghz (which is itself pretty good if you ask me). This is because I leave the computer on the whole day for downloading something or the other.

Changing jumper settings (above you see me clearing the bios), setting and resetting bios options, and popping the cmos battery in and out became somewhat part of my routine for a whole day, overclocking sure ain't easy till you get a stable overclock.

Talking about cooling, here's another thing I threw into the case ----> a new 120mm Blue LED fan. There was already a huge intake LED-lit fan at the front of the case (a Coolermaster Ammo), and another blue LED 80mm fan at the back. So I replaced the 80mm fan with the new 120mm, and fixed the 80mm fan in another position (not on a standard mounting point), below the DVD-RW drive. Effectively, this creates a push-pull sort of arrangement for airflow, and my temperatures are 3-4 Degree Centigrade lower than before, even at an overclocked setting. The end result is some really cool LED lighting which goes well with LED backlit (and colour changeable) Saitek Eclipse 2 keyboard and my blue LED lit Razer Diamondback Plasma Limited Edition Mouse. The image above shows you one side of the computer case with the blue light coming out of both the grilles at the side as well as out the back. The picture from a camera doesn't do the setup justice, you have to see it with your own eyes.

I'm planning to solder together an array of Blue LEDs to add to the lighting (the world is not enough for me), maybe I'll do it soon and take the power off the PSU's 5v or 12v rail.

Last but most certainly NOT the least, here's the new LG 42inch Jazz LCD we got. The purchase was made after a great deal of looking and trying out sets from Samsung, Sony and LG at their respective showrooms - I couldn't something like this to my parents, so I tagged along despite my exams. This is a full HD TV capable of 1080p. Colours are quite rich, two slide-out subwoofers are provided, the USB port can play any DivX movies or mp3s or picture slideshows, and the blacks are very deep. There's absolutely no ghosting and HDMI input sources bring out the best the set has to offer. So I've been using it with my laptop for HD movies via HDMI and with the above described desktop for gaming in full HD. Play in HD once and you'll never want to go back to your run-of-the-mill LCD monitors ever again (leave alone CRT).

With almost two months of holidays ahead, the fun has just begun for me!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hail Hayden the Hurricane, someone slap Sreesanth

In Thursday's awesome match at the IPL, Mathew Hayden showed us once again why he's the holder of the Orange cap. The way he sent the ball flying to the boundary, the way he stepped to the pitch of the delivery and smashed a six, the way he effortlessly did it with just one hand (on a few occasions), the finesse, the raw power, coupled with the complete lack of any sort of aggression. Such a wonderful batsman, without him Chennai Super Kings wouldn't have won most of their matches. Only one word can describe this force of nature...... AWESOME!!

For a long time I felt some sort of sympathy for the fool who got slapped last season of the IPL. After that slap, his career pretty much went off the cliff, with him being dropped from most of the team selections. Yes, I'm talking about Sreesanth. Later this season, he's been getting hit left, right and center to the boundary and all over the ground. But I've begun to really hate him. The way he acts is as if he's Brett Lee or Shane Warne with a ton of wickets to his name. He forgets that he's been hit for 23 in a single over in one match. Besides that his antics, his hair, his attitude...... ughhhh...!!!

Hayden took his deliveries and converted them beautifully to sixes and fours. Wonderful way to show him who's boss. Hayden later fell to a catch off Sreesanth's bowling (after 3 sixes in just that over). To which the pacer added some choice comments in Hayden's face. Really, Sreesanth, do you not have some shame?? Didn't this guy just belt you all over the ground? Didn't you get his wicket after all that? What right do you have to speak when this veteran of International cricket has just done that to you?

Someone give this guy his slap,
then the photographers can have their snap;

A few words at the batsman and he thinks he has style,
A slap will set right his silly smile.
Then he'll bawl like a spoilt brat;
But it'll sure put a stop to his unrefined chat.
The next time the little boy loses his cool,
who will harken to this hapless fool??

His actions are just "chettathanam" (to put it in his own mothertongue Malayalam - "uncouth behaviour unbecoming of an educated person"). Perhaps he should learn to bowl properly, to walk the walk before he talks the talk. I believe what he does with all the opposing team players he gets out is he goes up to them, hurls a few abuses and says "Yeah, yeah, give it to me!! Slap me if you can!". Most likely, it was just that Bhajji obliged last season (Moral of the Story: If you want something hard enough, you'll get it ;-) ). Someone, please slap him again. Do the IPL a service, just give him a tight slap, let's all see the real crybaby he is.

Hayden, meanwhile, kept his cool throughout the brief "encounter". Later he did comment on the face-off between the two. "Yeah, I think he is a particularly over-rated bowler. And so he was a great target for us to go at. He always loses his cool under pressure and I think it was a good example of that (in the match)," he said. Hayden, however, refused to reveal what words Sreesanth had hurled at him. "You don't want to know. It's just so meaningless. Mate ... I am a Test veteran and a One-Day International veteran, I have got nothing to answer to him that's for certain," said Hayden. Well said and completely true.

The Fake IPL Player on his blog has rightly referred to Sreesanth as Appam Ch*tiya. I suppose someone will oblige our pacer from Kerala with his just desserts - a tight one across the face - if he doesn't mend his overtly aggressive ways soon.

Till then, let us all watch in awe as Mathew Hayden walks down the crease to smash the ball out of the ground. All Hail Hayden!

A New Subscription Option

I've added a new method to get updates on this blog as and when the articles come up. This way you'll get the blog titles VIA SMS MESSAGES, so that you'll know when there's something new on the blog.

Yeah, you read that right, via SMS. You can subscribe using this link here or using the link in the left sidebar of the blog. Please note that subscribing is COMPLETELY FREE, you'll not be charged a single cent/paisa for the service. All you have to do is enter your mobile number on the page that opens up and enter the verification code (that Google will send to your phone) onto the appropriate dialog box on the PC. After that, the PC and Internet connection aren't required to get updates, they'll automatically land up on your mobile phone.

And subscribing to this will in no way make your number prone to receiving ads and stuff, absolutely no ads will be sent, so do subscribe.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Got myself a new phone - N79

Around the second week of March, I got myself a new mobile phone. My old Sony Ericsson K750i was getting a bit........... old. So I decided to go in for a change.

After considering everything from an iPhone (yuck....) to the Nokia 5800 to the C905 to the N85, I made up my mind and bought an N79. Fit my needs perfectly and had a large list of features for the Rs. 19800 asking price. I bought it at the Wavetel showroom in Kodambakkam.

Here's the device description straight from Nokia's website:
"The Nokia N79 is a GSM/WCDMA dual-mode multimedia computer supporting WCDMA/HSDPA, EGSM, and WLAN. Change the Xpress-on smart covers that automatically change the theme when attached. Use the Nokia N79 to connect to mobile broadband using WLAN or HSDPA (3.5G). Find directions and locations with the integrated A-GPS and included maps. Take photos with a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with a dual LED flash and automatic location tagging of images and videos. Enjoy videos, music, and graphics on the 2.4” QVGA display with orientation sensor. Additional features include UPnP, Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR, and USB 2.0 High-Speed. "

The battery is pretty good for moderate use. It'll last about 3 days.
However if you have plenty of apps like Phone Guard, Voice recorders, scheduled sms tools etc running in the background and if you use the camera, wifi and GPS a lot, ten you might have to charge everyday. The interchangeable back cover is a gimmick but a really cool one, because the phone's theme will automatically change with the colour of the cover that you use. And you'll get a free N-gage game unlock coupon with it too.

I wrote a review of the phone, after using it over the past two months, at a website called reviewstream. The link is available in the "My Reviews section in the left sidebar of the blog". Or just click this. Do read it and if you liked the review, give me a vote for the review at the bottom of that reviewstream page.

Do note that any further reviews of anything (not just cell phones) that I write will show up in the "My reviews" section in the left sidebar. They're not ads :-), they're stuff I sit and write.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Live sports updates - Football and F1

Stuck in a hostel and you mates aren't too amenable about changing to ESPN? Caught up somewhere else where you can't watch the race live but you've got a net connection?

For those who fall in the above category, I've recently added some Live score RSS feeds on this website.

The TOP OF THE LEFT SIDEBAR on this page has a live feed of Formula Races as they happen.
The BOTTOM of the left sidebar on this page has live football/soccer scores for matches happening in the EPL, UEFA Champions League, and Spanish League.

There's also the IPL Points table up top of the page. No live scores for that one though, because I sincerely think all the "excitement" in this season is pure hogwash. So many seats are empty in the stadiums over in South Africa each match.

Below, I've listed a few sites on which you can get live Lap-by-lap commentary during F1 races.

ESPN's Petronas Race Centre

Official Formula 1 website (you'll have to register for this one, but it's free)

The next F1 GP is of course, at Catalunya, Spain on the weekend of 8-10th May.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Vodafone's Race to Dubai Contest - TN excluded

Vodafone launched an F1 oriented contest this F1 season, wherein Vodafone subscribers compete for a ticket to each weekend's Grand Prix with the grand prize winner winning a trip to Dubai's F1 GP.

All one has to do is pickup a Vodafone number and send an SMS with the word RACE to a certain number. I'd tried it twice because the number was toll-free only to get a reply saying something like "Sorry the contest is not open for your circle".

Found this bit of crap on the Vodafone India site later though:
"All valid Vodafone Subscribers* (except the Subscribers from Vodafone Essar’s Chennai and Tamil Nadu Telecom Service Area) shall be entitled to participate in the Competition."

What are we people in Tamil Nadu to you then Vodafone? Invalid customers? Crackheads who don't watch any F1 Races?

Friday, May 1, 2009

A bit busy again.... Exams

I'll get back to posting a lot again in a week or two. I'm reeeeeeeeeaaaalllly busy right now with my semester exams.

Looking forward to getting back to blogging my brains out soon!!!

Note: This just means I won't be making a daily update for the next 9 days. But the updates will still come once in 2-3 days. So keep a watch.

When I return to blogging after this short period, I'll be writing a big article about a little piece of paper that caused me a lot of misery a year or so ago. It'll be a nice read, I assure you.