Monday, November 13, 2006

Moving on..

I've graduated.. So.. Now what?

So now, I work for EMC Corporation. (For the uninitiated, EMC, a Massachussets based company, is the world leader in Information Infrastructure)

It has been close to three months now.. I have been settling down nicely at work (or so I think) and I hope to blog once in a while about random topics.

Now, I might talk about the storage industry, or the weather, or space, or sports, or movies, or music, or philosophy, or "how-dumb-is-that?", or "Wow-check-that-out" or "That-is-sooo-cool"... basically anything under the sun. However, please note that all opinions/'facts'/suggestions/criticism are mine and do NOT reflect the views of EMC in any way/form.

This disclaimer is probably totally unnecessary, for it would take a person with an incredibly low IQ to think that I, a lowly software engineer might represent the views of a mighty 11 billion dollar company. But I do not wish to be sued or fired. (Btw, for the record, it would take someone with a considerably lower IQ than an 'incredibly low IQ' to sue ME..)

So how have the first few days of professional life been?

In one word.. GREAT!!! In a bigger word.. WONDERFUL!!!

Some random facts about my first three months here..

- All new hires at EMC have a mentor assigned to them, to help them familiarize themselves with the environment and to basically help them settle down. "What question is this damned guy going to ask me now?" is probably the first thought that comes into my mentor's head when he sights me for the first time on any given day. :D.. (Of course I'm only kidding.. If I dared to make the statement 'I have been settling down nicely at work'.. it's only because he was around to help.. But I do ask more questions than a normal guy would.. (sheepish))

- If you count the number of cups of coffee I've had.. well.. let's just say you'd still be counting. If you're still wondering... Of course, it's free.. We have five varieties, but I only like one.

- Coming to furniture, I have a huge desk, a large white board and two chairs with one of them being comfy enough to curl up and have an afternoon nap.

- Getting yourself to work between 8 and 10 am can be a difficult task especially if you're the kind who asks only one question during a discussion at school about what class to take... i.e. Does it meet in the afternoons? This is probably the only area in which school scores over work.

- Where does work score over school? Well for starters.. there's the money.. secondly.. there's the money again.. thirdly.. there's the money factor once more.. ;-)

Signing off.. Please remember..

In this blog it's just going be ME talking off the top of my hat.. No EMC.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Non-Proliferation Treaty or NonPerformance Treaty?

All views expressed in this post are those of the author. The author is only excercising his right of speech. This is not an attempt to defame/belittle countries/people. And err.. (in case there is any doubt).. by author, I mean... ME. You are most welcome to point out any flaws in my thinking. But I only ask that you do it politely. Thank you.

I was having breakfast at the dining hall last week when something on television caught my interest. There was talk of Iran's Uranium enrichment plan and how they were going against the International Community by manufacturing pure Uranium that could be used(hypothetically) to produce nuclear weapons. This TV news snippet brought back memories of a conversation I had with my Dad when I was in seventh grade.

Me: Dad, what is NPT?.. It's all over the papers, magazines and there was even a question on a quiz in school about it.

Dad: NPT stands for Non-proliferation treaty.. (sarcastically) You would know that yourself if you do not restrict yourself to only the sports page.

Me(spare the lecture look): Ok..Ok.. but what does the treaty say?

Dad: Basically the US wants India to keep away from nuclear arms research/development and testing.

Me: But America has nuclear arms!!!!?

Dad: Yes they do....

The rest of the conversation is immaterial. Though this exchange occurred ages ago, I still remember thinking of the absurdity of a nation in possession of nuclear arms trying to convince a second nation not to indulge in producing nuclear weapons. I just assumed I was too young to understand all the issues involved and promptly forgot all about it.

However, the whole concept of NPT sounds just as absurd to me today. Imagine a few select countries (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) the so called "Nuclear weapon states" (NWS) using a possible nuclear catastrophe as a ploy to demand that all other nations do not possess or develop nuclear weapons of their own.

The fact that 183 countries have signed the treaty makes it downright weird. You would think that they would have at the very least, demanded some actual disarmament from the NWS, before becoming a party to the treaty. Though it has been close to 50 years since the treaty came into being, there has been no serious disarmament activity from the NWS.

And what is more.. There has been talk of America imposing possible sanctions on Iran for breaching the treaty. They could have just said..

"We don't want nuclear weapon development in the middle east, which is brimming with terrorists, and risk nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands only to be used against us. So, as the most powerful country in the world, we are going to throw our weight around and ensure that Iran does not produce enriched uranium that may be used for nuclear weapon development."

But to say....

"You are not sticking to the treaty".

"You are endangering the International Community"

...after openly disobeying/ignoring Article VI of the NPT which essentially calls for progressive disarmament from the United States and the other NWS, is a parody of sorts.

Today, the five 'PERMANENT' members of the security council come together in Moscow to discuss sanctions proposed by the United States, to deter Iran from continuing their enrichment process. Please note that these are the only countries in the world that are 'ALLOWED' to possess nuclear weapons according to the 'NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY".

If the United Nations has the power to recommend economic sanctions on the nations that fail to adhere to the NPT, then why haven't any sanctions been imposed on the Nuclear Weapon States('the PERMANENT members') who have so cunningly postponed any actual disarmament for over 10 years now. And would those sanctions help? Would sanctions on the most powerful nations in the world affect them significantly enough? Probably not.

This post is NOT a call for all nations of the world to start nuclear arms production. It is just a call for nations to withdraw from the NPT which has failed miserably to bring about disarmament, the sole aim behind the treaty. (Not that I expect any country presidents to read this.. Just attribute this sentence to one of my fits of megalomania.. ).

For the NPT (or any other disarmament treaty for that matter) to be successful, we need to start with the Nuclear weapon states. Not the rest of the world EXCEPT the NWS. In simple terms, the problem here is nuclear weapons and obviously the best way to solve a problem is the source of the problem, namely the NWS. What is the point in getting a treaty signed by every single country that does NOT possess a nuclear weapon if the ultimate goal is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth?

If the NWS and other nuclear states(Israel and India) want to pursue disarmament with honorable intentions, they must realize that they will have to start with themselves. They brought this menace into the world and it is they who must take the responsibility of getting rid of the menace. Not by threatening/browbeating other nations into not producing nuclear weapons but by approaching the non-trivial problem of 'disarming' themselves seriously and taking concrete steps that would make the goal of 'disarmament' achievable in real-time.

For more on Nuclear Disarmament click here.

Today happens to be my Dad's birthday.. Well Dad.. Think of this post as an elaborate means of letting you know that I'm in touch with world affairs.. ;-) Happy Birthday!! I love you!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Rang De Basanti - A few reflections

It has been more than a month since Rang De Basanti has hit the screens and I assumed (wrongly as the first comment indicates) that this disclaimer was unnecessary. So here goes.. Those of you who haven't seen the movie yet, please be forewarned that this post, though not a review of the movie, does contain some spoilers.

Without doubt Rang De Basanti is a pleasant watch. There are a lot of fun-filled moments interspersed with some absorbing and thought-provoking ones. Since we went in a gang of 14 to watch the movie, I didn't get much of a chance to reflect after the movie ended. The other day however, I was listening to the 'Rang de basanti' soundtrack and it triggered a few reflections that I would like to share.

In the recent past and the not so recent past, several movies, the most prominent of which are "Gentleman", "Indian" (Hindusthani), "Mudhalvan", "Ramana" and "Anniyan" portray violence of some sort as a means of doing away with corruption. Not just violence but 'Glamorous violence' in which 'heroes' accept credit for gruesome killings as if they were being offered the bharat ratna award. While this glorified violence is stylish to watch, does it make any sense?

Rang De Basanti draws a parallel between pre-independence revolutionaries who sacrificed their lives in the freedom struggle and five youngsters who fight corruption after experiencing a mental awakening brought about by the untimely demise of a good friend. In the movie, five perfectly normal college students turn killers, which of course means that they weren't normal in the first place. It takes a lot for a stable human being to turn into a killer. A LOT.

If the movie makers are suggesting that we follow in the footsteps of the revolutionaries in our fight against corruption, they're wrong. In fact history suggests otherwise. It is common knowledge that our Independence was won through the non-violent MASS MOVEMENT rather than the scattered bursts of attacks by the revolutionaries. Keeping this in mind, the protest that Ajay Rathod's mother leads makes much more sense than the assassination of the Defense minister. The resulting lathi charge (I doubt if it would have happened in real life) would have made big headlines and garnered sympathy from all sections of society.

Anyways, coming to the issue of corruption itself..

So long as there is evil in the world (And I believe this will always be the case) corruption will exist in some form or the other. The question that begs to be answered is.. Why is corruption prevalent to such a large degree in our country?

Personally, I feel that a lack of deterrent is the main reason for this all-pervasive corruption in India. If people are caught for a misdemeanor they would much rather pay 50 Rupees to a policeman than 500 Rupees to the government. What do they care about where the money goes? Ditto for the policeman who would rather take 50 Rupees from the law-breaker than write out a ticket that would ensure that the 500 Rupees reaches the government. This is where the deterrent comes in. If the cost of 'attempting to bribe' is very high.. MUCH HIGHER than the 450 Rs that might be saved, most people wouldn't attempt to bribe. Obviously I wouldn't try to bribe customs if I KNOW that the minimum penalty would be a term in jail. Also, the bribe taker would think twice if his pension or job were at stake. With high cost deterrents in place the briber and the bribe seeker would be shit scared of each other even assuming the absence of all other witnesses.

I do believe we are making progress, albeit slowly. For instance when I turned 18, I wanted a driving license. Only, it was inconvenient for me to take the driving test because I was studying in Chennai at the time. Paying a few hundred bucks to a driving school did the trick. Note that I hadn't taken a single class from the driving school. The license arrived in my absence and my Dad signed for it! However, the very next year when my sister needed a license, even the driving school from which she had taken lessons for months could not get her a license without her taking both the written and driving exam. The cost of issuing a license without a record of an exam has gone up. Deterrents have been put in place.

I'm confident corruption will decrease gradually. Only, given the extreme differences between the rich and the poor and the high illiteracy levels in our country, it is going to be an agonizingly slow process. I don't see any shortcuts.. :-(. No amount of killing (glamorous or otherwise) is going to help.

If you ask me, Rang De Basanti may have been entertaining, may have resulted in an adrenaline rush and may have had some touching moments. But does it pass on a meaningful message for the general public? NO. Period.

*Today happens to be the birthday of a very close friend of mine..

Happy Birthday Murali!!! Thanks for all those great times we had*

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Jupiter String Quartet Concert

I am about as far from being a musical instrument enthusiast as Proxima Centauri is from the earth. In fact banging my big toe against the leg of a piano (and almost fracturing it in the process) has been my most intimate encounter with an instrument of any kind. By a quirk of fate, a professor of a friend of mine living in Babcock (Let's call her M) gave her two tickets to a string quartet concert. Note that she wasn't any great fan of musical instruments either. Since the tickets were 27 bucks apiece and both of us are not the type to spend that kind of money on concerts, we thought we would make best use of this opportunity.

We find our way to the Theatre and to our delight our seats were front-row center stage seats. Congratulating myself for having brought my camera along I think I'm going to get some great pictures. The stage was set up and the program was about to start. After looking all around and seeing that no one had bought a camera along, I very hesitantly took a picture of the stage after turning the flash off. That was the only picture I got that night, because the very next minute an announcement was made about "photography of any kind" being prohibited.

I was initially worried about displaying my abysmal ignorance of music to M but much to my delight I found that I might even be considered a musical maestro when compared to her. The names 'Mozart' and 'Beethoven' on the agenda did not strike a chord in her head. Not even after I hinted 'Moonlight Sonata'. Chuckling in glee I relaxed while she looked at me with great respect not knowing how little I knew myself.

The artistes walk in and there is a pin-drop silence. The kind of silence that produces a dull ringing noise in your ears. It was hard to believe that a crowd of several hundred could be that silent. After a bow, the artistes take their respective seats and begin the first piece. It was a Mozart composition. After concentrating intensely for 20 minutes, I find my eyes begin to close. But I control myself. "Nirmal", I tell myself.. "this is going to be your first and last concert. Enjoy it to the fullest." All of a sudden, everyone in the audience started clapping and that was when we realized that the piece had ended. The second piece by one Frenchman "Henri Dutilleux" was a little better in that it didn't put me to sleep. But perhaps that was because I had stopped focussing on the music itself and had immersed myself in observing the movements and funny expressions made by the artistes.

Strangely, unlike Hollywood movies, this concert had an intermission. We do not know what the elite audience discussed about the performance of the artistes during the break but some excerpts of the conversation between M and me follow:

M: So.. what did you think?
Me: Hmm.. It was a different experience.. I kinda dozed off for a few minutes during the first piece though. Did you like it?
M: Oh.. yeah.. It was interesting.. Did you notice the strange facial expressions the artistes were making.
Me: Yeah.. I could hardly prevent myself from laughing. I got used to it after some time though. M(pssst): The guy in the middle was cute na..
Me(sarcastically): Oh really..
M: Yes.. And I liked the way he made way for the girl before leaving.
Me: I would do that too..
M: hehe haha.. hoo hoo..
Me (ominously): Are you saying I wouldn't?
M: Well.. let's put it this way.. I would have believed you if you hadn't let the door bang into my face on our way in.
Me (sheepishly): Oh that.. it was a genuine mistake.. I forgot you were coming in after me.
M (sarcastically): Well given the fact that I didn't go ahead of you and the fact that we came together I must have been behind you right?
Me (grumbling): Well.. I must've been thinking of something else.. Never mind.. Did you notice the girl at the extreme right?
M (suspiciously): Yes.. she was cute.. and her dress was awesome too.. what about her?
Me (softly): Did you notice how her calf muscles moved while she was playing?
M: No.. I had better things to do..
Me: Like watch the guy in the center I presume.
M (haughtily) : Exactly..

... and so the conversation went.. Not exactly a discussion of the remarkable performance we had just witnessed. The intermission was longer than we expected and we cracked jokes in Hindi about the artistes having dinner.

Soon afterwards the troupe entered and began playing the last piece of the day. It was a piece by 'Beethoven' and having read some very inspiring anecdotes about him, I resolved to listen carefully to this final composition. In fact I sshhhhhed 'M' and said very importantly "Beethoven", "Beethoven" like he was my good old friend. Luckily for me the composition was truly wonderful. Something that even amateurs could enjoy. The climax of the piece was especially breathtaking with the artistes reaching a crescendo of sorts.

All in all a memorable evening...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

My vacation

Now that I am done with cribbing, let us move on to happier things. This past winter break was one of the most pleasant vacations I have ever had. Loads of travelling, loads of good food, loads of shopping, loads of movies, loads of get-togethers. In fact the only thing missing in that list is probably 'loads of sleeping' but then one can't get loads of everything and still get the sleep one wants... ;-). I wonder why my sis finds this so hard to understand.. grr.

Some pictures follow..

I took this picture of Downtown Washington DC standing right in the middle of the road after the pedestrian signal had changed. Luckily, I wasn't arrested.. I was honked at a couple of times though..

The Capitol Building

The White House was the least impressive of all the architecture in DC. I wasn't even tempted to take a peek inside though they were allowing visitors on the day we were there.

The Lincoln Memorial

The Washington Monument

Both the Lincoln Memorial and the Washinton monument were breathtakingly beautiful.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Blog updates

1) Atleast for this semester this blog will be more of a tool to keep in touch with friends than to entertain readers. I guess I am chasing away readers by saying this but it can't be helped. For now it will have to be this or nothing.

2) In case you haven't noticed, the christmas tree has been edited out of the background image to improve readability. Thank you Camphor, for photoshopping the image! :-).

3) I was listed under the humor category on Indibloggers. I have reverted back to the personal category because that is what this blog is and will be. (Having a single digit rank on the Humor bloglist was kinda tempting a couple of months back.. hehe)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A damn shame

I don't normally crib much on my blog and it is unfortunate that my first post of this calendar year should be a criticism of practices, specifically university practices and even more specifically, departmental practices.

The best thing about America is freedom. Freedom to do whatever you want to without caring much about what the people around you think. Freedom to tell your prof that you want to visit your girlfriend instead of lying about being sick and visiting her anyway. Freedom to tell your boss that you can't make it at the time he proposed because you've committed yourself to some other task however trivial it may be. Freedom to wear a daring dress and not get ogled at. Freedom to wear a cap similar to Jughead's and not get weird looks.

I have experienced this freedom to the fullest for over one and a half years now and it just about made up for being so far from home. For the first time when I least expected it, I found opposition and surprisingly it was from my own department. All for a course I was interested in doing. To cut a long story short.. I wanted to do a 3 credit course well suited to my field of research offered by the Electrical and Computer Engineering(ECE) department. This course was open to all graduate students. Seeing no problem I proceeded to register for the course but when I confirmed with my department I was told that I could take the course but would not get any credits for it. I was stupefied. Why the hell would I want to take a semester long course without receiving any credit for it? I was still not mad though. I just assumed there must be a logical reason for their opposition.

It was only later that the true reasons behind this opposition were brought to my attention and it makes me see RED. It appears that at the end of every year the Dean of the University gets a detailed statistical analysis of registration trends. Funds are allocated to a department based on the number of students registering for courses within that department. This makes sense alright but not at the cost of not letting a student do what he/she wants to do, especially if the course is interdisciplinary. The fact that I was refused credits because my department wants me to be in the "Computer Science" section of the pie-chart presented to the Dean and not in the "ECE" section is irritating to say the least.

I AM NOT A NUMBER NOR DO I WANT TO BE ONE. I am human and I don't care if I exist on their pie charts or not. All I know is- I haven't been able to do what I want to. Clearly departmental politics in some form or the other are omnipresent.