No rest for the wicked

Fore-inserted afterthought: While I was simply planning to write about the odd hours that I’ve been subject to in my B-school experience, the flow of writing led to me to rant continuously and make this whole post into a B-school rant as such.

Hah. Gotcha! I made that preamble before I even started writing the post. But enough trolling. Let me start my awesome discourse.

B-schools suck. There is no other easy way to put it. There is also no better way to put it. Although, I have been exposed to more cultural difference here than I have been anywhere in my entire life, I really don’t care much for it. Also, it has given me even greater insight into how stupid Amits really are and how people perceive the south. I wouldn’t say they are wrong as much as they are utterly, totally, completely ignorant of anything south of MP. But that’s them and it’s better not to change it or Twitter may become boring again (KRK, nee thala da).

There is a stark contrast when you come from engineering into MBA. Unless of course, you’ve studied in one of those unheard of colleges spread all over the north like the vultures that feast on a carcass till the bones are the only things left. That was actually a very clever analogy. I’m sure you appreciated it. Anyway, back to the point. I observe things a lot. And then I note it down in my blog. I don’t know why. Writing is a neurosis. I’ve been exposed to too much Tolkien and Vyasa. Also, I digress.

Anyway, my experience has been more unique than most MBA students. I have moved from a 10 day stint in one of the top 10 colleges in India to an year outside the country in a (literal) desert. Of course, I’m sitting in an AC with very fast internet but unless you give me a chance to travel back in time and take a photo with Schrodinger, I’d prefer being home. Home is where the filter coffee is, after all. All this, of course (again), is besides the point. I should really edit my thoughts when I write them down.

So, I’ve moved on. Back in India, the college was filled with these over enthusiastic bundles of energy. Any question in class, any comment from a teacher, any group activity had like a 1000 people to volunteer for it. It was so different from engineering where anyone hardly ever volunteered to work on something. I mean, there was enough brain damage just attending college in those days. My surprise of course, was short lived. I found a like minded group that partied hard, didn’t volunteer to take on more work and was, generally, my type. Except they talked. A lot.

The phrase “Man is a social animal” cannot be applied to Amits. Why? Because Aristotle definitely set reasonable bounds to how much talking a human needed to do in a day to satisfy his .. er, needs (for want of a better word). Amits transcend that limit .. and then they transcend it a little more .. and a little more. You get the point. They talk a lot.

In one of my crazier thought experiments, I tried surmising how it would be to let two Amits in the same room and leave them there for a fortnight. According to my back of the envelope calculations, the energy required for them to talk as much as they usually do would completely sap them of energy and leave them skeletons .. that will still keep talking. So I put in a few more variables. What if they had food supply and water and oxygen etc? Then I realised the room would become a nuclear reactor with the amount of energy they expel while talking. So I extended the thought experiment a little more .. What if we could somehow harness this energy? Would it satisfy the power requirements of India? Then … my download finished. I’d have been a very successful academician if this stupid internet didn’t exist.

But back to the point. The like minded Amits I found here are pretty awesome and I’m slowly growing to like their company. Although their ignorance of computers seems almost too bad to be true, I’ve found that there does exist such a thing. Even the cleverest Amit here couldn’t understand my point when I told him why Windows is better than Mac is almost every which way. So I’ve come to regard them as Indian version of Americans – they talk, eat and burp. And they use macs. They also party hard. So yes, there is something in common.

The worst part about MBA though, is the insane workload. I took the time to draw a graph and show how it progresses.

But I’d just make calluses on my finger tips if I started talking about it. Suffice it to say that in my entire 4 years of engineering, including the penultimate disaster of a semester, I did not have HALF as much work as I have in one week over here. Of course, if I was in EEE, that’d be a different thing entirely.

As the workload and the environment have taught me, living in AC really makes you forget the time .. even though you have windows. I have now done every single possible combination of routines that even a junkie would find mildly disturbing. Wake up at night and stay up till morning? Done. Stay awake for almost 48 hours continuously and then sleep for only 6? Done. Start hallucinating due to lack of sleep and still keep on working to meet deadlines? Done. The one thing that helped though was the AC. I could not have done even half this much work if I was back in India trudging around in that soul sucking heat.

I’m also fighting a personal war with my net administrator here who has taken it upon himself to block every single site of use inside the Academic block and torrents inside the hostel. Thankfully, oppressing authority is not a new thing and I have found quite a few workarounds of my own in a few minutes of web searching. Suffice it to say, as long as connection to the internet exists, freedom will as well.

There you have it. I’m far far away from home, I’m working my ass off in some course I do not foresee myself liking any time in the near future and I haven’t had thayir saadam with aavakai urgaa or filter coffee in 4 months. Oh well. Since I’ve joined the course, I might as well see it to its (bitter?) end. As a wise man once said, “Life is too short for regrets”.

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An Ode to the Heat

Titular disclaimer: This is NOT an ode! I just put that there to make at least the title look poetic. Yes, I’m very insecure about being incorrect.

I remember learning way back in 6th standard about longitudes and latitudes and how the sun’s rays make sure that most of India remains hot through the millennia. Of course, heat is a relative thing. A guy from Russia would find the Delhi winter relatively warm, if you get my drift. Of course, a Russian living in India only means that their spambot has been perfected and is safely tucked away and they can enjoy the money it generates.

I’ve lived for nearly 12 years in Chennai and I can honestly say I hate the weather. My excessive sweating is compounded by the almost 100% humidity near the beach. But many people have waxed lyrical (and quite eloquently) on the subject of the perennial heat in Chennai. Everyone now takes the heat to be commonplace and doesn’t bother either deriding the city or wasting their time worrying about such petty things as sweating excessively while there is hot filter coffee to be had *slurp*

All this, of course, is 20 days past in my case. I got admission into a college in Ghaziabad, near Delhi. Since my dad lives here, I thought I might as well come a little early. I was warned about the raw heat here but being a fellow from one of the most scorched cities in India, I threw caution to the wind. How much worse can it get? Now, to get a true gauge of my utter and complete stupidity, consider this – I lived in Delhi from 93-98. Even though I was a kid, my parents had a fair idea of what the Delhi summer was like and gave me fair warning. Heeding such advice, of course, is hardly worthy of a true buffoon like myself so I went ahead and opted to stay with my dad for a few days before I went to college. In retrospect, that was the worst part of my plan.

Now, the minute I arrived here, I understood the true meaning of what heat meant. Chennai, being near the beach does not have such extreme temperatures as Delhi does. This place is an absolute furnace, I assure you. The newspapers are shouting that this is the worst summer yet. You’d better believe it. Like any sensible person, I went ahead and sat in the AC for the 5 days before my college was supposed to start giving no heed to such psychological concepts as acclimatization and all that.

I’ll now describe how hot Ghaziabad is, metaphorically. Imagine taking a lake filled with lava and surrounded by brimstone. Now, further imagine you are in the middle of the lake on a small island with the lava licking at your feet and you holding a ring with some strange inscriptions on it while you get visions of an eye staring at you. Oh wait, cut that last part. Visual stimulus done? Now, imagine the effing heat where you’re standing. Yeah, you’re close to what I was feeling. For 10 whole days, I was mucking about in that insane heat with only a spare cooler for any comfort. Yes, I made friends and all that shit but seriously, the heat here is more of a deterrent to the entire cognitive process of a normal human being.

Of course, I’m back in the AC now. Cooling off all the heat and all yo *bling jewellery and nigga hand signs* . But most important of all, I’m home. Why is that important? Because now I can get my daily dose of filter coffee. All is well that ends well.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

So, there I was, sitting around, not knowing what to do after a recent bout of mugging up and vomiting (read – exams) when I thought I’d get back to my usual stuff and game a little. Although I have enough games in my hard disk to last a whole year in college and enough processor power to run most of them simultaneously, I have never been into gaming much.

Yes, my laptop is very powerful and I will boast as much as I want until some acquaintance of mine buys one to trounce it 😛

So, anyway, I looked through the selection and thought I’d divert a little from the FPS craze I was feeling and go for a very very very highly acclaimed and highly recommended game.

Yes, my first action adventure game in sometime. Batman: Arkham Asylum is a VERY good game. It may sound a little prejudiced on my part considering I’m a big fan of the Batman franchise as such (particularly after seeing the recent efforts by Christopher Nolan to bring it to the silver screen) but trust me, the game is actually pretty brilliant.

Au contraire to what I do with most FPS games, I have not the patience to either fight every mini boss battle a million times in order to win them nor sate my curiosity until I play hard enough to clear levels to let the story progress, that I play the game in the highest difficulty (Not a very concise sentence I know, but it should make perfect sense).

So what did I do? I played it in the easiest difficulty. That’s not to say I didn’t attempt the highest difficulty but since my mouse maneuverability is still in its infancy, I thought the better of it.

The game was, as I keep repeating, bahut awesome. As with all games, it had flaws. But that makes it a fun package (as most people keep saying for some reason).

Gameplay: Epic. No other word. Proper slightly super-human skills in the martial arts, use of batarangs, bat claws and all other apparel the batman usually takes with him on his nightly charades were an integral part of the game. The protagonist sprite felt, moved, looked and spoke like the Batman that I have come to associate with from comics and movies hereunto. I found the unlimited batarangs a little ridiculous but then, it makes the game a little more fun. The soft landing from any height thanks to his piezo electric cape makes the game a little more easy leading to lesser deaths.

What I did NOT like about the gameplay was the utter lack of perception of edges by the AI. What do I mean by that? In most games of this genre, when you reach the edge of say, a platform you’re standing on, the character does not walk into the void beyond if you keep pressing forward. He’d rather do nothing (most games), hang on a ledge (pop) or look down and show the player what’s below (assassin’s creed). In Batman: AA, the character just walks off a ledge. Of course, considering you have the bat claw and the cape to stop you from dying through such unfortunate mishaps and later feel stupid about it, its not that big a deal but I hated it.

The nice touches like the detective mode – in which he can follow trails using DNA data, chemical composition of the atmosphere (to its finest detail, down to the molecular orbital diagram of ethanol, which is admittedly not very tough to find online), fingerprint analysis and other things make the gameplay an awesome experience.

What I missed though was seeing bones broken when you hit the villains in the detective mode but I guess the new Mortal Kombat trailers have made me a spoilt kid 😀

Graphics: I’ve taken a healthy interest in graphics considering I’ve been studying video compression and OpenGL for some time now. The game uses the Unreal engine from what the credits show. The graphics are not extra ordinary. Some cases, they are downright cartoonish. The characters themselves seem well made but the environment, although rich in detail and very interactive in certain cases, does not have the feel of the other recent games I’ve played. As in, I can’t say its bad .. But I feel its definitely lacking in some way.

What really hit me about the graphics was the lighting. It was absolutely like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was, to be quite honest, very surreal but also looked very good..

See what I mean? I can assure you the light falling on these guys has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the lighting in the room. But, grant me this … It looks terrific.

I’m guessing though that the graphics requirements are quite minimal. I was able to run this and AC: Brotherhood simultaneously without loading the processor too much. I’m not able to express how stunned I was when I noticed that it hardly took any power from my CPU – which is important considering some games take a lot of my CPU power (at ~14 GHz, that’s a LOT of clock cycles).

Story: The highlight of ANY media in the batman franchise – movies, cartoons, comics etc is the story. For people like me, its the cinching factor. I mean .. You can have a lot of villains and a fair amount of fighting but when it comes to story, whether it be in movie or comic, I like to see something good.

Batman: AA does not disappoint. Although, I’d read the whole Knightfall series a mere five days before I started the game, I found the story as good as any comic. Though not as epic in scale as most comics are wont to do, it was still very good. The whole story is, as happens often, based on Jokers masterminded scheme to take over the Arkham Asylum. I will tell you no more.

The story was lacking at certain points though. But then, my expectations are high … I mean, it’s BATMAN!! 😀

Consensus: MUST PLAY!

PS: PLAY THE GAME AS SOON AS YOU FRICKIN CAN!

PPS: Batman Arkham City is due to be out soon. Trailer? Check this out.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

So, I finally convinced myself that FPS games aren’t all that bad after watching the whole frickin hostel going at it in multiplayer on Call of Duty 6.

To be honest, I’ve never been good with games that require the mouse. On a joystick, after a point of playing, it becomes flesh memory to press the right buttons. My mind says things like “kill that guy” and my hand will press the appropriate buttons. On a mouse, it’s a right pain trying desperately to keep the sensitivity at just the right level, A bigger pain is finding the right surface (book, piece of wooden plank, mouse pad, whatever) to keep the mouse on so that it doesn’t act weirdly.

But I can manage playing with a mouse specifically because using a mouse is something we all do day in and day out through our lives (right?). So, there I was, one hostel hunt for games later, sitting in my room with COD 4, 5, 6 and 7 all loaded and ready to install. I thought I’d start with 4 cos it was the game that started the epic-ness in the whole series.

I started the game in Veteran mode which the game very clearly told me I “will not survive”. How true it was. But first the game:

The game is addictive … And I mean addictive as bloody hell. In veteran mode, after Act 1, every checkpoint took me a minimum of 5 tries to cross. Around the end of Act 2, I was stuck in a VERY tight spot. As in, my tries had exceeded 20 or so and I still was nowhere close to having a clue as to how to cross that stage. So I thought I’d see how the people with COD clans fare in that level and gave it to a pro. He tried the first 2 times and couldn’t get through after which he pressed “Restart Level”. It reset the game back by some 18 checkpoints 😐 and frustrated me as hell when I tried to cross the first 4 of those.

So I took the cowardly path out and restarted the game in “Recruit” mode (read: supremely easy). Then, I got bored running through the same levels (albeit as considerably faster pace) and resorted to cheats *hangs head in shame*

I finished the game today evening. I can honestly tell you I LOVED the game.

I’m not a big fan of FPS .. I mean beyond CS, this is the first game that has captured my attention (No, I’ve never played Half Life 2). But I will tell you this – the game is bloody BRILLIANT. I hated Crysis 1 because there was too much story. I have a love/hate relationship with games like CS and Rainbow 6 because they have too less (Rainbow 6 is actually a Tom Clancy game but I still found it lacking back when it released). COD 4 gave me a perfect blend. The story was simple but provided solid gameplay hours (multiplied many folds considering I was playing in Veteran).

Halfway through the game, you keep switching between playing as Sargent Paul Jackson of the US Marine Corps and ‘Soap’ Mactavish of SAS \m/ . Then you switch to Captain Price of the SAS for a brief period of time. The story follows the accession to power of Khaled Al-Asad who kills some random president and takes power and then detonates a nuke (sadly killing Paul Jackson). The rest of the team trace him, his partners and Imran Zakhaev and kill/execute all of them.

What truly blew me away was this one particular mission when you don the role of Captain Price and move through tall grass in camouflage suits. It was TERRIFIC to say the least. I could not, at times, figure out where the other guy was before I spotted something that looked like a slightly taller strand of grass holding a camouflaged sniper rifle.

Consensus: MUST-PLAY. Epic Game. So awesome I read up on the history of CoD games here

PS: Started playing CoD 5 now – seems kinda drab after CoD4 but you’ll never know until you finish it 😉

Aaaand we’re back!

The title is inspired from the message gtalk gives once it connects back online. Considering I have enough experience on the connectivity issue, I have by hearted most of the error messages Google Chrome gives.

Anyway, things have changed around me. There is the new playtoy, the work concerning college clubs, the new semester, the awesome new year 😀 .. and a lot more.

So what do you do when you are bored and you know a lot about the internet? You create 4 or 5 posts, tag them separately and post links on all major social media sites. Then, watch as the views per day for your blog rises like hell. I guess I shall start with the playtoy.

Aaaand we’re back!

The title is inspired from the message gtalk gives once it connects back online. Considering I have enough experience on the connectivity issue, I have by hearted most of the error messages Google Chrome gives.

Anyway, things have changed around me. There is the new playtoy, the work concerning college clubs, the new semester, the awesome new year 😀 .. and a lot more.

So what do you do when you are bored and you know a lot about the internet? You create 4 or 5 posts, tag them separately and post links on all major social media sites. Then, watch as the views per day for your blog rises like hell. I guess I shall start with the playtoy.

Post A Week!

So, WordPress here thought it’d be fun to introduce some new agenda of PostAWeek to help increase their blog posts, page views, ad views, revenue and all that shit. Oh, btw, it’s also an awesomesauce idea.

I guess I’ll sign up for it since I post once in 2 weeks already 😛 … Next post is not due for sometime though 😛

The #WikiLeaks Furore

When you are an avid Twitter user, you realise that within seconds of anything happening anywhere across the globe, you are appraised of the event – possibly with photos and a good footage – provided you “follow” the right people, of course. Twitter is very very powerful in that aspect. So powerful, in fact, that the top brass of the company don’t even have a goal as to what the site intends to be.

But, if you’re an avid Twitter user, much like any source of information that is user controlled and free, it tends to be misleading. There are many instances of this happening. The most recent that comes to mind, though, is the WikiLeaks drama that has been escalated from a small regular incident of the freedom of press being violated into an international drama involving most of Europe, the inevitable US of A and the Interpol (?)

So, what is all the furore about? Yours truly went investigating online yesterday out of pure boredom and found out many interesting facts.

WikiLeaks was a site founded by this fellow called Julian Assange – who has been in the news for the last few days without a break. It’s what they call a whistleblower site. The site believes in Right to Information for the common man and the Freedom of Press and did anything from shady deals to honest over the table payments to get their hands on classified documents which were not meant to be seen by the general public.

Now, the inherent problem with these sites that believe they serve a “higher cause” or the “greater good” is that they never realise the repercussions of their actions. So, instead of analysing whether the documents had information that nobody should EVER see, they leaked all of it – albeit in batches.

There are some people you can piss off and get away with, some people you should never piss off and then there is the US of A. An epitomisation of power gone wrong, in my opinion – I’m still surprised the country manages to hold together as a supposed “superpower”. So, the dudes in the government of USA were really pissed with documents reaching WikiLeaks and they couldn’t understand who the “mole” was in their organisation who had such top level clearance. They became even more pissed with the latest batch of documents which contained cables of diplomatic conversations. Now, talk all you want about freedom of press,but that is some serious shit to put out for the world to see and can lead to wars.

Since they were not sure they would succeed in finding the rat, they started using all their political clout against WikiLeaks, trying to heap allegations on the site and shut it down. They tried a variety of attacks ranging from “This is just wrong! Hmph!” to “Dude, seriously man, stop putting all our shit out for the world to see!”.

Most of the companies which were supporting WikiLeaks indirectly – Amazon.com was providing servers, EveryDNS was providing the … DNS; Visa, MasterCard and PayPal were allowing transactions online to the wikileaks website – started calling off their support. EveryDNS took down the DNS entry for the site. Amazon stopped providing servers to the site – thanks to this US Senator called Joe Lieberman. Visa, MasterCard and PayPal went ahead and cut off their ties with the site as well. This series of support-withdrawals led to a mass media coverage and outrage from every reporter worth his weight in paper or digital media.

But the site survived since there were still servers willing to support it and it didn’t matter any longer if it didn’t get a DNS (clarification – DNS is what your URL is called from the server side of things). At one point, Twitter had updates which gave IP addresses as to where the WikiLeaks site was located. I guess that was fine with the world since they now had something to protest about and also, their favourite whistleblower site was still up and running. Some people didn’t like it though.

Chief among them was a group of hackers called just “Anonymous” who presumably met on 4chan. Pissed over what these sites did to WikiLeaks by withdrawing support, they started organising DDoS attacks on the site servers. DDoS – Distributed Denial of Service attacks are simple to orchestrate but difficult to synchronise. The idea is that you simply overload the servers with so many simultaneous requests that it either shuts down or times out all other requests temporarily. This basically means the site is no longer usable. They became so audacious as to post when exactly they would attack. For instance, they took down the MasterCard site and then, about a few hours later, put up an update saying that the Visa site would be down in an hour. yours Truly checked a minute after the said hour and lo and behold, the site was down. They gave warnings of an attack on Amazon servers as well. But later on, they called it off citing that it was too huge right now and the attack would be done in future. Sweeeeet!

So, coming back to the site, it was up and running. Now, US of A was still perturbed because those Diplomatic cables were there for the world to see as were their dirty little secrets. So, instead of attacking the site, they went after Julian Assange, the founder. Out of nowhere, Assange gets a reward on his head because he is suspected in a case of rape. Now, here comes the best part – it seems the sex was consensual but once the condom broke, the woman wanted it to stop but Assange didn’t. I laughed so hard when I heard this 😀 .. pathetic, these allegations. Seriously, I thought the guys behind it would come up with something better. Now, the whole drama has become a cheap Bollywood movie and I hope TR becomes part of the judge panel 😀

t-rajendar

Man, does he crack me up! 😀

Anyway, to get back to the point, Julian Assange has been arrested and the whole of twitter is following his every move right now. The media, when misused, is the most dangerous weapon on the planet. But when misused over a certain extent, it starts to get boring. Whenever something new pops up, it splashes the headlines for a week and raises the TRP of all news channels. But it dies out as other things replace it. The social media, though, is where all news can be followed through every update. For example, the #wikileaks channel is buzzing with news and will still be, long after the news channels stop reporting on it and moving to something else.

Basically, I feel the purpose of Twitter is that the social media gets free rein – which is the best way to spread news anywhere on the planet.