My Easel

July 1, 2008

New Blog Alert

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 4:56 am

I now blog at Vignettinglife.com

I have moved to vignettinglife.com. Please update your feeds and subscriptions accordingly. See you there!

Image courtesy spiicytuna

 

Update: I now have my own homepage!

December 26, 2007

A Directorial Début

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 1:01 am

The annual VJTI Alumni Meet was held in the institute quadrangle on Sunday. What started as a typically stuffy event ended with a rather interesting twist.

The event began early in the evening with a special private function for the silver jubilee batch. As this ended, the main even, open to all alumni, began at about 6pm. It began as a formal affair, with dignitaries like K. Venkataramanan and Dr. Vijay Khole taking the stage along with the Director and the Alumni Committee chairman and vice-chairman. The speeches were informative, although a bit long-drawn from what I’m told- I spent a fair bit of time managing the back-end and could only make it to the quadrangle intermittently.

The subsequent entertainment programme proved to be a respite. It was well balanced with a number of talented performers in traditional as well as western acts. It was capped off with a brilliant performance by the band, that had amongst its executants present and past VJTI students. The finale stood out for having achieved something that I’m fairly certain is unprecedented:

Now, the director of the institute is not known to be impulsive and is reticent and reserved by all accounts. It is to the band’s credit and the committee’s gentle persuasion that this happened:

(The director is in white. The men in suits are the Alumni Committee members. Some of the band members are not visible.) If you can’t view the embedded video, click here.

December 17, 2007

BEST TV

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 1:49 am

I’m back!

Here’s an interesting thing I saw today. Something I didn’t know about although it has apparently been in the works for over a year now.

The other day, it was late in the evening and I was heading home from college. I was really tired that day and I knew trains would be really crowded at that time. I thought of taking a bus home when voilà- there it was- a tantalizingly empty bus that would take me right home. I decided to take the bus- not an easy choice mind you. A 40 minute train journey home translates to a 2 hour bus ride.

I noticed them as soon as I sat down. 2 TV screens at the front of the bus. Small but nice. And probably quite expensive- LCD TVs:

TV screens on local bus 2

TV screens on local bus 1

(click through and mouse over the photographs in my flickrstream)

These TVs primarily show advertisements- for current movies mostly. There were also intermittent messages about various routes that the buses ply on- these were too rapid to read and generally pointless.

The TVs are hooked up to the Wadala bus depot and are used primarily in buses that are on longer routes. Which explains why I’ve haven’t encountered them earlier even though I take about 3-4 buses daily- all on short routes.

Another thing I noticed was the presence of CCTV cameras at entrance and exit. The TV screens and CCTV cameras have both been installed by a company called EMNET. The bus operator, BEST intends to earn some revenue out of this arrangement. BEST is pretty ambitious about this project:

“All buses will be equipped with LCD display screens. Commuters will have the choice of viewing anything, right from news, music videos, advertisements to even cricket matches,” said Uttam Khobragade, general manager, BEST. The administration has targeted to install these systems in all of its 3,350 buses by late 2007.

What do you think?

October 23, 2007

An Arterial Conversation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 8:37 pm

I’ll skip the part where I apologize about the uncharacteristically long delay since my last post. With the term coming to a close and my exams around the corner, I probably won’t be able to post too often for the next few weeks either.

This appeared on the front page of the Times of India today. And this was a feature piece inside:

Two weeks ago- October 11th to be precise, I donated blood at a drive in my college. They coupled it with a free Thalassaemia checkup- something that is normally prohibitively expensive.

The drive was carried out by the Think Foundation in association with the State Blood Transfusion Council. It was managed by a group of doctors from KEM Hospital and by student volunteers.

Vinay Shetty, the Vice President of the Think Foundation, a non-government organization that organizes voluntary blood donation drives and helps create awareness about thalassaemia, oversaw the drive. I got the opportunity to have a long chat with him.

Mr Shetty happens to be an alumnus of my college. Mr Shetty has been involved blood donation drives ever since his college days. He organized his first drive at the age of 19 when he convinced his old high school to hold a blood donation drive on their grounds. The folks from the hospital who came to collect the blood came prepared with enough blood bags for just 50 people. They arrived to find a line with many times as many people waiting. They had to send someone back to the hospital to get more blood bags. Needless to say, at the end of the day the lady in charge was gushing with joy.

A few years ago, the person in charge of the blood bank at Breach Candy hospital noticed him- he had accompanied a number of donors to the hospital. He told her about his activities in blood donations. She asked him if he had ever heard of thalassaemia. When he responded in the negative, she directed him towards a society that works with people afflicted with the condition. Ever since, he has been working towards spreading awareness about the genetic blood disease. (In fact, when he came over to my college for the blood donation drive, he went from class to class delivering talks on both issues- blood donation as well as thalassaemia)

An issue he brought up during our conversation was platelet donation. This is something that isn’t very well known. I had never heard about this before, and from the look of things, neither had anybody else I spoke to about this later, save one individual. It is a life saving procedure that helps patients with problems that arise due to platelet dysfunctions and low platelet counts- basically helps people undergoing chemotherapy, those who have AIDS, aplastic anemia and a number of other diseases.

Though the actual donation takes more than an hour, one can donate again after as less as 3 days, unlike regular blood donations, which require a 90 day gap between consecutive donations.

To this end, the Think Foundation has helped establish the ‘Lifesavers’ Club‘, a joint collaboration with the State Blood Transfusion Council and Doctors For You, a group of doctors from KEM hospital.

Beyond his work with blood donation, thalassaemia awareness and platelet donation, Mr Shetty has also been involved in organizing inter-school chess championships and chess championships for the visually impaired. Does the Bournvita inter-school chess championship ring a bell? He’s the man behind it.

September 27, 2007

A Ton of Fun at the MUN

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 9:52 pm

I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. I haven’t had much free time on my hands so far and I don’t have much now either. An interesting incident will have to do for now. More elaborate posts at leisure.

Now these MUNs are pretty interesting events to attend or participate in. The link is fairly descriptive. Go through it if you have no idea what it is.

It should suffice to say that a fair bit of research is involved in preparing for a MUN. You do not want to be in situations like the one I’m about to describe:

I was at a MUN at some college. A friend of mine was assigned the country Israel. Now the agendas (topics to be discussed) of most MUNs are usually predecided. In the MUNs I’ve attended so far, it has been customary for delegates to begin with speeches that state the position of the country they represent on the topic at hand. Questions or comments by other delegates often follow the speech.

The topic for this MUN was essentially the Middle-East peace crisis. My friend delivers a pretty good speech on his country’s position. The floor is open to questions. The delegate of Lebanon stands up and asks him, somewhat sternly I might add, “What is your stand on the Sheba farms dispute?”

He looks at the Lebanon guy quizzically for a moment. It’s clear that he was taken off guard. Everybody’s waiting for what he has to say.

He tries to take the safe route: “We are neutral on that issue.”

Big mistake. At this point the Lebanon guy looks like he’s about to have an aneurysm: “You’re neutral on that issue?!! Your country has occupied out land… blah… blah… blah!!!!”

Mr Israel attempts a come-back at this point: He replies, with a very straight face, [sic] “Well, it’s not ours, but it’s not yours either naa.”

Needless to say, that golden statement just made everybody’s day.

In his defense, I must say that he was assigned his country on the day of the event and had earlier been given a different country. Circumstances did not permit him enough time to prepare. All things considered, I think his comeback was pretty good actually.

September 12, 2007

How have you been lately?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 8:13 pm

I’m known to use a lot of long-winded, verbose sentences in my writing, but even I found the response I gave when a friend asked me how I had been doing (or something to that effect) rather odd: Wrench In The Machine

Don’t ask! Got back from a MUN yesterday only to get an eye infection today when I’m supposed to submit a yet unprepared bio tomorrow for a bunch of interviews next week while simultaneously preparing a presentation for a TPP (Technical Paper Presentation) competition which is to be held at an undetermined time and to arrange for a quiz and another TPP competition, both of which are to be held at uncertain dates. I’m pretty sure I’m missing somethings here, but the meds I’m on don’t exactly facilitate good memory.

How have you been?

September 3, 2007

Of Exams, Monk, Birthdays and Shock and Awe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 1:20 am

My apologies for the recent hiatus. I’ve had my mid term exams this past week.
Everything is Great
The exams began in a rather interesting manner. Now during our mid-terms, we are given one hour long 30 mark papers with 3 questions to attempt out of a total of (usually) 4 or (less often) 5, each question being evaluated for 10 marks. On the first day, we had a paper with 10 questions for 100 marks. Very unexpected. The distribution of marks (number of marks to be alloted to each question) was not specified. So naturally, everyone starts complaining to the invigilator.

Well then the genius, assuming all this is a big mistake, takes back all the question papers. About five minutes in, the professor who teaches this subject and sets the papers, walks in and tells us to continue with the paper. We only have to attempt 8 questions she says. We get out papers back. At this point everyone is so stressed out, they barely read what’s being asked, they attempt whatever they think is simplest. Big mistake. Turns out, some of the answers are barely 4 lines long, some 4 pages. Of course, there’s no mark distribution, so no one can make proper choices.

At the end of it all, they collect our answer sheets on schedule. No extra time for all the extra questions. No extra time for the 5-10 minutes lost when they decided to take the question papers back at the beginning of the paper, only to have to return them soon after.

The professor promises to, and I quote, “take care” of the whole situation. We’ll be waiting eagerly, prof.

Needless to say, this was not a very pleasant beginning to the mid-terms. They didn’t end too well either. Diagrams for two questions were interchanged. The first two at that. After having spent a half hour trying to figure out why the values didn’t seem to fit, or why the two sides of the equation weren’t equal, I decided to move on. Very bad habit of mine. I really have to learn to give up sooner. Good grief, I can’t believe I just said that!

This professor promises restitution as well. What joy!

**************

More positive news, Monk‘s started again. This is the fifth season.

I just love this show. From the first episode I caught, it seems they’ll be digging a bit deeper into his psyche. Intriguing. This particular episode involved Trudy’s death. Touching.

The last couple of episodes of Boston Legal have been amazing. If James Spader wasn’t my favourite actor earlier, he certainly is now. Be warned though, I probably don’t have enough of a perspective. The only role I’ve seen him play is that of Alan Shore.

**************

Many thanks to Kushagra for a very memorable birthday treat this Saturday. A wonderful meal at Spaghetti Corner. Perfect way to recoup from a rather imperfect exam week. Made all the more enjoyable with a tad of beginners’ luck in my first game of bowling. I should do this more often really.

**************

I’ll end this post with a quote I found very memorable indeed:

Mindful that abroad people tend expect shock and awe when Yankees arrive on the scene, we shall leave you with two small, but lasting words.

Denny Crane … eh?

August 18, 2007

Stayin’ alive

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 1:22 am

I found these very touching videos through this blog, which in turn I found a couple of hours ago through someone else’s blog. The blog itself is highly recommended reading. It’s not often I ask you to read a blog without having followed it for a while, but the posts there, the first few ones at least, are captivating.

(For those who haven’t figured it out already, the title is from the song by the same name by the Bee Gees, again- highly recommended)

August 16, 2007

Google: 9 Notions of Innovation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 10:47 pm

I found this great podcast on iTunes U. This is Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Product and User Experience at Google, talking about what she calls the ‘9 Notions of Innovation’. I found a video on Youtube as well:

Here is a gist of the main talking points during the presentation:

  1. Ideas come from everywhere
    Google expects everyone to innovate, even the finance team
  2. Share everything you can
    Every idea, every project, every deadline — it’s all accessible to everyone on the intranet
  3. You’re brilliant, we’re hiring
    Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin approve hires. They favor intelligence over experience
  4. A license to pursue dreams
    Employees get a “free” day a week. Half of new launches come from this “20% time”
  5. Innovation, not instant perfection
    Google launches early and often in small beta tests, before releasing new features widely
  6. Don’t politic, use data
    Mayer discourages the use of “I like” in meetings, pushing staffers to use metrics
  7. Creativity loves restraint
    Give people a vision, rules about how to get there, and deadlines
  8. Worry about usage and users, not money
    Provide something simple to use and easy to love. The money will follow.
  9. Don’t kill projects — morph them
    There’s always a kernel of something good that can be salvaged

Anyone who knows me or has followed my blog (I’ve posted on life at Google earlier) will know just how much I respect the Google culture. I find it unsurprising that an entity that follows such a path towards innovation gains so much success and respect. My personal favourites are #2, 7 and 8. Although each point is one that I think should be followed everywhere, I see a particular need for these points to be highlighted amongst the people I work with, or don’t, or can’t. You get the idea. I wish this approach to innovation, and the Google philosophy, were more prevalent.

Here is the original stream. Click the play button below:

To attribute this as best I can: this cast is hosted by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.

August 9, 2007

K9 Express (part 2): Encounter of the first kind

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 12:48 am

A fair bit has been said in jest about animals that roam the halls of engineering colleges in Bombay. Here is proof. From my own class. No kidding. This dog strolls in during a lecture and decides to take a bit of a nap.

Well, the dog wasn’t alone. These guys didn’t mind taking 40 winks themselves:

Methinks this does not bode well for the professor. To be fair, it was the fag end of a very long day

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