National Geographic Photo of the Day

Monday, March 15, 2010

Obtained Dhoni's autograph!

With all the IPL Fever going around! Look who's autograph I got a few days ago!! :D

It was on a flight to Bombay, Jet Airways, he was in the seat in front of my father. That's my dad's ticket he's autographed. Dhoni was on the way to the IPL opening ceremony.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Does the Schu still fit?

Yes, I've used the headline before, but this time he's back for certain. With a German team and a German team-mate to boot, not to mention Ross Brawn. Still has his red helmet though. With F1 season starting, my blog's Formula 1 score widget will once again have enough work on its hands.

I'm talking about seven-time Formula One Championship winner Michael Schumacher. Members of the Royal family of Bahrain, Sheikhs, photographers, fans all queued up at a Mercedes Benz dealrship in Bahrain to get a glimpse of the supremely confident driver who, this time around, wasn't packing just a better record than his fellow competitors, but also a number of years over the others. Having been away from the track for quite a while, Schumacher's return was least expected after his neck injury ruled out his plans to make a comeback for Ferrari. But the said injury was no match for the man and his drive to succeed, though he angered the Tifosi no end with his return with Mercedes. An irate Montezemolo even felt the need to take a not-so-subtle jab at Schumacher for this decision.

The Bahrain GP is merely a day away, and excitement is mounting with fans expecting a lot from him. The German daily Bild had "Schumiverse" splashed on the front page. They even went so far as to change the German flag to a Mercedes version :P . The man himself believes that the first race won't end in a win for them:

Mark Webber seems to concur with those views too. Webber thinks he won't be able to dominate the track with 60-70 second victories like in the past. But that's a given considering the drastic change in rules over the years. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

In Friday's practice session, Schumi was third fastest, half a second behind his fellow German racer Nico Rosberg. Whether he can better that come Sunday or whether he'll make a fool of himself remains to be seen. As far as records go, he has no equal among the current lineup of F1 drivers. However, this lineup is stronger than most that he has faced. Cars from other teams are more or less equal to the task. All said and done, he hasn't come back to the sport for something as simple as money. He's back for the love of competition, and no one can doubt what Schumacher can achieve with his tireless will to win.

Alain Prost, Niki Lauda and Nigel Mansell have made successful comebacks before. There's no reason Schumi can't. I'm praying it rains soon on some F1 circuit this season just so we can see if Schumi is still the Rain-meister.

Today's qualifying will be more or less an indicator as to whether the "Schu still fits" ;)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Now THIS is news....

Any talk about a 1 crore + salary in India inevitably brings up the image of an IIM Graduate with a few years of work experience. Here, however, is one young researcher who wasn't an IITian or anything but scaled great heights with some excellent support from his university which many of us in government colleges can only dream of (what with most of our proposals meeting with a tepid response). Apparently, this guy also had a GRE score of 1540, but chose to do his research at SRM instead of leaving for the states. His list of achievements is impressive (read: IEEE papers presented at several conferences in different countries) and stuff like this should make front page news, but it probably never will.

Here's the report from DNA:


R Shivaraman, 24, a research scholar with SRM University, has landed a Rs1.4-crore-a-year job with an American firm for his work in increasing the capacity of computer hard drives. He holds a joint patent with another Indian for the innovation, that enables a hard drive to store 30 terabyte as against the current 500 gigabyte.

Shivaraman, who works at the Nanotechnology Research Centre of SRM, used to earn Rs12,000 per month before he was signed up by US-based Seagate Technologies as an associate scientist.

He will work on developing ultra high-density storage devices for magnetic recording after he takes up his new assignment in December. He is currently working to complete his PhD here.

His mentor and director of the Nanotechnology Research Centre, C Gopalakrishnan, said Shivaraman had been working on the development of new generation storage devices with far higher storage capacity than available today.

Gopalakrishnan said Shivaraman’s research would help Seagate Technologies use polymer templated technology to increase hard disc capacity.

“I dedicate the honour to SRM University which encouraged me at every stage since my journey in nanotechnology began six years ago. I will come back and associate with SRM,” Shivaraman said. He has sought a two-year assignment with Seagate.

Shivaraman was also invited to the IEEE International Magnetics Summer School in Nanjing University, China, in September 2009. The Chinese sent the invitation after his presentations at the 10th International Magnetics Conference in the US in May 2009. He has presented several papers in Egypt, Australia, US and Spain.

There's hope yet for engineers in this world where everyone wants to be a manager :P

Friday, March 5, 2010

Team Fortress 2 - A game for the ages...

My favourite game from the recent past is Team Fortress 2 (for the PC). 2 or 3 years ago, I got this gem of a game as a gift from a cousin as part of Orange Box. I’ve been hooked to it since. Having been used to Counter Strike’s fast paced and serious shooting action, TF2 was a refreshing (and much needed in my opinion) change. The strength of the game obviously lies in its classes.

The Spy’s knife, ability to disguise and cloak are all typical characteristics you’d associate with the “spy” moniker and TF2 does not give any huge advantage to its use either since the spy’s disguise fails when he’s shot a bit by an enemy and he’s revealed to the opposition once he uses the knife to backstab. Making him French was a touch of class. The Soldier has that perfect “American Sarge” look to him and the Minigun-wielding Heavy being Russian (not to mention a bit of a dunce) adds to the character. Every class has a perfect foil, a complete enemy. For instance, the Engineer might appear all powerful – what with his Sentry Guns and teleporters. But, the Spy is the answer to dominating the Engineers. No class can thus claim to be superior. The Scout’s speed balances out his relative lack of firepower. I liked it a lot that Valve spent the time hyping each class, making them correspond to different regions of the World (eg. The Aussie Sniper, the German Medic, Scottish Demoman), giving them intro videos (and they still keep it coming).

Even though the Pyro was a bit less powerful initially, the addition of the Backburner by Valve fixed it. It’s great that Valve keeps supporting the game all through the last 2 years with new updates that give the game new life and players the zeal to give new additions a go. Every advantage they give to one class is countered by another update to the other classes (the Razorback served as a defence for the sniper for instance). The Medic’s role is highly important in the battle too, with his few seconds of invulnerability for him and a comrade being able to break the deadlock in the face of an almost perfect defence. I’ve enjoyed that ability countless times while playing as a Heavy. Even as recent as this month the Soldier vs Demoman duel (along with the recent comics by Valve) on TF2 made me WANT to play the game for more than just stats. Adding an unlock to whichever class won the duel made it even sweeter.

The graphics are great even two years on, and it doesn’t take a very high-end rig to run it. The cartoony effect is not at all overdone, and it helps that every class is visually distinct from every other one even from a distance. I’ve also noticed how the Heavy smiling more as he racks up more kills. Everything is pretty easy to see and you don’t need to memorize the maps to know where the control points are or intel is. The sound is simply awesome too, with automatic cries from each character like “Fire, Fire, Fire”, “Here I come”, “God save the Queen”, “Hey Look at me ma!”, “We must stop little baby” and “KABOOM” adding to the hilarity. The sound of silly stuff happening like the Scout’s ball going Bonk on someone’s head and hitting people with the baseball bat are all so well done. Body part labeling after your character dies, using piss to put out a fire, the good looking critical hit and “Bonk” animations all add to the lolz

While in CS and other Multiplayer-oriented FPSes I usually felt frustration at dying repeatedly sometimes, here things like getting points for Revenge made it all the more fun, getting stabbed in the back is more hilarious than annoying. The addition of bases into which you can go to get away from the fast paced action and resupply quickly is also quite nice. The ability to send quick tips like “Spy” or “Thanks” to a teammate using just 2 keys from the keyboard without having a headset to communicate with has also helped me greatly.

Here's a video that runs through all the cast intros from TF2:

I love games like Halo and MGS4, but the thing is this game has always had me going back to it no matter how many times I decide “Alright I’ll go try some other game for a while”. It’s a game that one can play both competitively as well as just pick up and play for the fun of it. Every time I play, there’s some new and funny event I experience that I can't wait to tell my fellow gamers. After the endless hours spent sniping from the balcony on 2Fort, frantic overtime runs and the many days of standing next to the cart with a medic in support, I can confidently say this is the most I’ve enjoyed any game and the longest that joy has lasted.