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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Pasta Pomodoro - a new experience

Yesterday, we had gone to an Italian restaurant, Pasta Pomodoro. Both Susmita and I don't frequent Italian restaurants very much, primarily because the food is quite rich and also, we (I) are (am) not great fans of pasta. Anyway, I wanted to take Susmita out yesterday to a different cuisine after the classes. Susmita is leaving for Israel at the end of the week and so, it is only natural that she be given super-special treatment :).
Actually, I was visibly surprised by the quality of service and more by the quality of food. They were just superb. Before the waiter came to take the order, there was a manager who came and talked to us and made us feel "comfortable". We ordered 1 Rigatoni and a Penne Portebello, in addition to a starter dish of Bruschetta. The food was just sumptuous and we had a wonderful time. Also, the price was very reasonable :).
So, if you guys are in a mood to have something different from the usual fare of Indian/Chinese/Thai food, then this is a very good option indeed.
-- Thyaga
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Monday, January 30, 2006

New Cell Phone



Yesterday, we got new Cell Phones for ourselves. Our Cingular Wireless contract had expired and so, we were eligible for an upgrade. Since my Siemens cell phone was virtually non usable because a couple of buttons had fallen out of it, we decided to sign the new contract as soon it was possible and also get the new phones. As a result of this upgrade, we now have new Nokia Cell phones - Nokia 6102. We had to pay $29.99 in total for both the cell-phones - hopefully, they will be good.

-- Thyaga

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Google's 2004 Q4 Earnings tomorrow

Traditionally, I am not a person who monitors the stock market very extensively. Of course, I do hear on and off that a particular companies stock has gone up or gone down. That was my extent of interaction with the stock market.
However, in the current quarter at MBA school, I am taking this Investments course. In this, we are all given registration at a Portfolio simulation site - Stocktrak and we are each given $500,000 to start trading. Anyway, with that money, I have bought quite a number of stocks of my favorite company - Google. Tomorrow, Google will announce its 4th Qtr results of 2004 and if, I am lucky, then I shall make some money - however virtual it may be :).
To Google! :)
-- Thyaga
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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Saurav's chance of salvation

WILL HE OR WON'T HE ?

In a short while, the 2nd day's play of the 3rd test match between India and Pakistan at Karachi will begin. After all the action on the 1st day, it remains to be seen how the Indian batting line-up will survive the hostilities of the Pakistan bowling attack. Shoaib is just steaming up a few notches higher than he normally bowls, Asif is accurate, Razzaq is probing and so it will be a good test of nerves and attrition for the remaining Indian batsmen.
That brings me to one of the current overnight batsman - Saurav Ganguly. In the team for the 1-dayer announced yesterday, he does not figure in the 15. In other words, after this test, he will be heading home and probably, people will soon forget about him. Right now, he has the perfect platform to play an innings that people will remember for life - he has been India's most successful captain and he deserves to retire more gracefully. The past few months have been horrible for him and so, he would like to conjure up some magic to show that he still has something left in him to fight. But it won't be easy - the Pakistanis will give nothing away. This makes for some absorbing contest indeed. My money is on Saurav to go all out and play a terrific innings - but then, that may also be as a result of my bias for India. No matter what happens, it is going to be a terrific day of cricket - something, that we all have been waiting for in the last couple of weeks.
Let the action begin!
-- Thyaga

Bhupathi - the "Mixed Doubles Expert"

As the whole world was busy watching Roger Federer (or "Fed-ex" as he is popularly known in the circuit) winning his 7th Grand Slam singles title, there was one person who was also creating news but no one was actually watching. Mahesh Bhupathi of India and Martina Hingis from Switzerland, who was making a comeback of sorts to tennis, won the Mixed Doubles Finals. What is interesting here to note is Bhupathi's success in this form of the game and it is equally impressive to note, that he has been a "woman's man" - he has won the titles all with different partners as the list below shows:
 
1997: French Open mixed doubles with Rika Hiraki of Japan
1999: US Open mixed doubles with Ai Sugiyama of Japan
2002: Wimbledon mixed doubles with Elena Likhovtseva of Russia
2005: Wimbledon mixed doubles with Mary Pierce.
2005: US Open mixed doubles with Daniela Hantuchova.
2006: Australian Open mixed doubles with Martina Hingis.
 
Amazing eh?
 
-- Thyaga
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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Global Brands Rankings

Susmita was telling me about a course that she took on brands, patents and copyright. This led to a discussion on global brands and their net value in 2005. I found an excellent article that analyzes all the major brands and ranks them accordingly. No points for guessing what the source is - it is Businessweek.
 
Cheers,
Thyaga
 
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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Happy Republic Day



Today is the 26th of January - India's Republic Day. Happy Republic Day to India and all its citizens.

-- Thyaga

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

End of another boring Test match

The 2nd Test match between India and Pakistan at Faislabad met with the similar results as that of the 1st Test match at Lahore - a boring draw. Pitches in Pakistan this time have been just plain bad. It has been a nightmare for bowlers and a paradise for batsmen. Quality bowlers such as Harbhajan Singh, Shoaib Akhtar, Kumble have all struggled on the lifeless pitches - Harbhajan is yet to pick up a wicket in this series! On the other hand, the batsmen have just made merry and in all, we already have had 12 centuries in this series and that says quite a bit indeed of the state of pitches.
 
The caravan now shifts to Karachi for the 3rd Test match and all eyes naturally will be on the state of the pitch. I think, India will hold an advantage going into the 3rd Test because:
  1. Whenever Pakistan has posted a huge score, India has given a fitting riposte to that, thereby nullifying any advantage that Pakistan might have gained.
  2. Pakistan seamers were supposed to do more harm than the docile Indian seamers - however, Shoaib has yet to make any significant mark in this series. He has only 1 wicket to show and that too because Sachin decided to walk when he was actually not out! On the other hand, Indian seamers such as R.P.Singh and Zaheer Khan have bowled quite impressively and managed to trouble the Pakistan batsmen. Pathan has bowled well in patches though no where near to his best.

Hopefully, the 3rd Test match will bring up a result. Another draw such as the 1st two will take away all the excitement of an India-Pakistan Test encounter.

Cheers,

Thyaga

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Google Base - interesting feature

Today, I checked out Google Base, a beta feature of Google, which allows you to post/upload any content that you want. The idea is that Google is committed to organizing all the world's information. So, what if all the information comes to them - it makes their job easier. On the other hand, people who did not have places to put up the content or the visibility of their content now can ride the Google wave because it will be hosted and indexed by Google. A very smart move indeed. As a start, I placed a FREE primer course of Vitalect's Techniq Platform on the Google Base - let us see how that goes.
 
Boy! - the Google folks are just amazing. No wonder their stocks are soaring.
 
Check it out.
 
-- Thyaga
 

Directing a movie at age 10!

Think back a bit in time and think what you were doing when you were 10 years of age? - completing homeworks, watching cartoons, playing games with friends and all the usual stuff that kids normally do. Now, how do you feel if I told you that there is a guy in India, who is just 10 years of age and is already directing a film. Surprised? - then read on. I guess, this is how geniuses are born. I would be very interested to see what kind of movie this turns out to be. Till that time, my awe for him will remain.
 
Chill for now!
--T
 
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Monday, January 23, 2006

Avoiding the 237 Freeway

The freeway 237 runs from Milpitas to Mountain View. Since my house is in Milpitas and office in Mountain View, it is natural that I take this freeway to come to office. However, there is always a bit of congestion at the entry point of 237 because of the 880, Zanker Road and North First Street merges. As a result of which, it takes me a good 10-15 mins to cross the clogged area and I reach office in around 20-25 mins. Susmita's office is also off the 237 highway and so, she also takes that.
   
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Today, Susmita and I took a different route. We took Tasman from our house (next block) and then I caught the 237 at North First Street, crossing the Cisco campus, thereby leaving the clogged area behind. Susmita took Tasman all the way to Great America Parkway to reach her Intel office. I reached my office in 16 minutes - which is a major improvement over the 20-25 minutes that it normally takes me. Hopefully our luck will hold for sometime - shall post if there is a change of opinion :).
 
Cheers,
Thyaga
 
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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Testing from Qumana

Hello Folks,
I am using the Qumana Blogging Tool for blogging. Hopefully, this will reach my Blog safely :). This seems to be a pretty cool tool - you can insert your Ad straight into the post from the AdGent Server.
Cheers,
Thyaga
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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cross-roads Series: Sameer Adhikari

The "Cross-roads" Series is a guest "blog" series. This will feature some of my friends talking about their various career decisions and why they took it.

Today, the guest "blogger" is Sameer Adhikari. Sameer studied with me at IIT, KGP from 1993-1997. In fact, he was my roomie for 1 semester at V.S. Hall of Residence. After that, he joined Hughes at Gurgaon and then went to Georgia Tech to pursue his Masters/PhD in Computer Science. Presently, he is working at Intel at Portland and apart from his work, he is an absolutely great runner, who is shooting for a sub 3:00 hour mark in his next marathon.

===
School after working for some time

The genesis of this article lies in a request that Thyaga made from the
people who had gone to school after working for some time. Let me
begin with a summary of my case. I spent a year working in the
industry after completing my Bachelor’s and before beginning my PhD.
The essential questions to answer are: why did I choose to go to
graduate school, and was the time spent worth it.

Let me begin with the why? Like most of the major decisions in my
life, I have no logical answer to give. There are pieces to the answer
that do not necessarily fit into a coherent whole.

The first piece is that in the seventh semester I had finally found a
Computer Science subject that held my interest: compilers. I spent the
Durga Pooja vacation at school implementing a compiler that was much
more advanced than was required for the software lab. Though even at
this point, the idea of pursuing a graduate degree was not in the
picture. As part of the electives I’d find other subjects that would
hold my interest. Was it the content of the subjects, or the teachers
who taught them the catalysts? I’ll never know for sure. I am
thankful that Computer Science became interesting.

The second piece is the final year project. I began with an advisor
who had no real interest in helping me with the project. He was busy
preparing for his departure from Tech. He raised the question about
why I was not pursuing a graduate degree. After contemplation I
reached the conclusion that a graduate degree might be a good idea.
By the time I made my decision it was too late to apply for the next
academic year. Hence, I’d end up a year late in graduate school. So,
even though the faculty member did not do his main job (my senior
project), he has had a major impact on my life. Talk about life’s
sense of humor.

The final piece was the year I spent working in the industry after
Tech. I had already reached the decision to go to graduate school
before starting work. But, the year did provide me with the motivation
to stay in school as long as possible. I realized that work and fun
were not synonymous for me. Work would always remain the means to
make life fun. It was obvious that graduate school was my way to have a
long vacation from work. My goal going into the program was not to do
the fastest and the most ground-breaking PhD ever in the history of
Computer Science. It was to spend as much time as I reasonably can in
school. Think of the goal in the following manner. If someone ever
enquires how long it took me to obtain the degree, the answer should
sound reasonable. My estimate was five and a half years; took me six
ultimately.

Next, was it worth it? Absolutely! Like the reasons for graduate
school, there are pieces that do not fit into a coherent whole.

The first piece is independence. You get to pursue a topic that
interests you. No one tells you what you should pursue. You get to
choose the manner in which you want to do your work. You can do
conceptual or experimental work. The time you want to work is again
your choice. Work mornings if you are a fowl or nights if you are an
owl. I used to get to school and spend an hour surfing the web. Then
I’d decide whether I feel like working or not. There have been weeks,
when I decided to start my weekend on a Wednesday morning. Lest I
convey the impression that one does not work, I’d like to state that
one does have to work hard to obtain a PhD. There are occasions
where months of work come to naught. Sometimes because someone
publishes about the idea you are pursuing just before you can. Other times
because you hit a wall after spending considerable effort on an issue.
Then the whole notion of making an original, however insignificant,
contribution to the ken of human knowledge does require some
intellectual effort. You do not ever get this independence at any
other situation in life.

The second piece is the chance to explore. Exploration is an essential
facet of the Doctorate degree. As a PhD student you have to explore
an area in depth to succeed in your research. You also get the time to
explore life, and I took full advantage. I got the time to read
extensively on anything and everything not related to the degree. I
probably didn’t learn much from the reading, but it was fun anyway. I
got the time to pursue long distance running; marathons specifically.
It is amazing what one learns when pushed beyond the limits of
endurance. I got the time to start skydiving. The adrenaline rush of
the first jump can never be matched by anything else. As humans are
not designed like birds, freefall is the closest one can come to
flying. I am confident that the spirit of exploration in face of
uncertainty, inherent in pursuing a PhD, that I’ll carry with me for
the rest of life.

The third piece is finding out how much money does it take to enjoy
life. The answer after six years of graduate school on an
assistantship is: not much. It is a big relief to have this knowledge.
Not that I want to decry the role of money in life. One does not ever
want to be stuck for the lack of money. Nor will I ever turn down an
offer to earn more. Living under constraints of an assistantship helps
distinguish between wants and necessities much more lucidly than
otherwise.

I have gone through the reasons that made me go to graduate school,
and the reasons that made the whole time worthwhile. I don’t know if
anyone can profit from my knowledge, but I do hope it helps. To
conclude I’d like to state that one does not have to spend six years in
graduate school. Every man has his own way of finding his truths;
graduate school was mine.

===

Farmer's Insurance - Good Customer Service

When I on the receiving end of bad customer service, I make it a point to bash the company/store either in private or to my wife or on my Blog :). For a change, I am blogging about some excellent customer service that I received recently from my car/home insurance agent/company - Farmer's Insurance.

The incident happened just before we left for India. Susmita's Audi was not starting up because the battery had completely died down. So, we called up Farmer's Roadside Assistance program to send in a mehcanic who could jump-start the car. While talking to the customer service agent, we received a rude shock when he said that the Audi did not have the Towing coverage as part of the insurance. The towing coverage was only there for my Mazda. I was very confident that it should have been there but then he could do only what was available on the computer screen in front of him.

Then it suddenly struck me that it was actually a folly of mine :). I rememberd that when I had put the Audi into the Farmer's insurance's coverage, I had told my agent (Joan Applebome) to have the similar coverage WITHOUT the towing because we had AAA membership at that time and so the towing would be covered by that. However, when our AAA membership expired, we did not renew it because we didn't feel the need to do so. But we forgot to put the towing coverage onto our Farmer's Insurance.

In any case, I decided to try my luck with my Farmer's agent. I explained to her the situation - she was very polite and she told me to pay the money to the towing company right now and then file for reimbursement. I did exactly that and then i forgot about it when I went for my vacation. After all, it was my fault (though I admit I never accepted that :)) and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Imagine my surprise when I came back from India. There was a mail from Farmer's agent saying that she had put in the towing coverage into the Audi's insurance at no extra cost. Then a few days later, Farmer's Insurance sent me a check for the $65 that I had filed for reimbursement. I was really thrilled and very impressed with their service.

Small things such as these are what hook on customers to some companies for life and make them loyal customers. I am sure that down the road there will some other insurance company which will offer me a better deal. But do you think I shall switch? - NO WAY :). That, my friend, as my marketing professors would explain, is the "LIFETIME VALUE" of a customer.

Cheers,
Thyaga

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Rise of the Chinese Brigage

If you thought that Chinese presence was there only in the manufacturing and low-cost textile business, think again. Yesterday, the best director award at the Golden Globes went to a Taiwanese born national Ang Lee for the movie Brokeback Mountain. That is really a remarkable achievement. To come to this country and to work hard and to make your presence felt and finally to win inspite of competition from great directors such as Spielberg and Peter Jackson must truly rank as a wonderful achievement.

My hearty congratulations to Ang Lee. Hopefully the movie will be good too :).

-- Thyaga

India - Pakistan 1st Test - a benign pitch!

Consider the stats first:

ONLY 8 batsmen got out in the Test match between both teams.
6 batsmen scored Test centuries.

That should give you an idea of the featherbed pitch on which the 1st test was played. The only reason why I would like to remember this test match is the manner in which the Indian team came out and gave a fitting riposte to Pakistan's mammoth score of 679/7 declared in the 1st innings. Virendra Sehwag's faster than run-a-ball 254 was probably the best part of the test match, around half of which was lost due to bad light and inclement weather.

Going into the second test match, India definitely has a few worries:

(1). Decide on the opening combination fast - Dravid opening the innings should be viewed a short-term solution. He should go back to his permanent slot of 1-down - you don't want to mess around with India's most reliable player over the past couple of years.

(2). Decide on the Ganguly conundrum fast - No one denies that Ganguly is a good player. But on current form, he probably does not deserve a chance in the team ahead of the other players such as Yuvraj and to a lesser extent, even Gambhir. Gambhir was dropped in this test so that Ganguly could play in the middle order and so Dravid took upon himself to open the innings. It worked fine in this test - but it is too risky to keep trying it again and again.

(3). I agree the pitch was just pathetic for bowling but that all the more stresses the importance of line and length. If the pitch is not doing much, then don't give away dollies to the batsmen - you are only making your task more difficult. Ajit Agarkar needs to prove that he deserves a place in the team - i am not sure that he does.

Hopefully, the next test match at Faislabad will be a more interesting one and will provide an equal and fascinating contest between the bat and the ball.

-- Thyaga

More on AdSense - an article

Yesterday, i had mentioned how I had monetized my Blog in my post. Today, my Boss sent me a link to an article which talks about exactly that. So, if you have time, then go through the article. You might get some ideas of your own :).

Best,
Thyaga

Monday, January 16, 2006

Monetizing my Blog

OK! - finally after a lot of pressure, I have decided to commercialize my Blog through AdSense, Google's Advertisement Delivery program :) - just kidding! I have been wanting to do this for a long time but for some reason or the other (read: procrastination), I have always delayed this. Finally, when we decided to put ads in one of our company's online offerings through AdSense, I decided that this was the best opportunity to learn about AdSense and to implement it. So, I make my Blog as the guinea pig for my experiment and I must say that I am quite happy with my effort - ha ha.

Now, that the initial pleansantaries are over - please do keep visiting my Blog and as they say in all websites, "please support our sponsors by clicking on the ads".

Touche!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Protecting your machine

With so much of spyware and malicious code on the Internet, it is imperative that one protects his/her machine. Of course, there are a bunch of tools out there and so, it is possible that one may get confused. Here is the configuration that I followed for protecting my laptop:

(1). Norton Anti-Virus - a no-brainer actually. It is important that all machines have some kind of anti-virus, which runs regularly. Of course, enable the LiveUpdate option to run everyday - this keeps track of the latest virus fixes.

(2). Turn on Windows Update - this feature is useful to have the latest patches and fixes that keep coming out from Microsoft.

(3). Zone Alarm - this is a nice utility that keeps track of all kinds of traffic going in and out of your computer. It keeps alerting you and you can decide whether you want to allow or disallow some traffic.

(4). Microsoft Spyware (beta1) - this is a good a tool to kill all the malicious code that is installed on your machine. Make it run everyday at some appropriate time and you will be good to go.

Be secure :)
--Thyaga

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Plug and Play for my Laptop

Finally, I managed to get my dream setup for the laptop - 2 mouse, 2 power adaptors ! - so, i don't need to keep carrying them with me in the laptop bag. So, i need to just plug it out in my home, put it into the bag and then at the office, again plug it in. The process is reversed in the evening :). I have been wanting to have this setup for a long time - finally, my time had come! Needless to say, I am enjoying my extra mobility.

Cheers,
Thyaga

Monday, January 09, 2006

Logo Problems for Dada?


I just noticed this - Saurav is seen in the above picture wearning the Nike gears (official gear sponsors) and an Adidas "monkey-cap". With so many controversies and problems surrounding him, this is the last thing that he wants.

-- Thyaga

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

India Diaries - New Year in Kolkata


It was great to celebrate New Year's in Kolkata this time. Sandeep had also come down from Delhi and so, the evening promised to be exciting. We first met up with Debasish at Barista and then headed for dinner along with Sandeep to Waldorf at Park Street (actually Little Russel Street). After dinner, it was time to hit the discotheque - Sandeep managed to sneak us all in into Someplace Else, the discotheque at the Park Hotel. We were also joined by Sharbonti, Sandeep's "just good friend" and Baija and his wife Somdutta. The band that was playing was good but I don't think, it was the best that i had heard. But then, who cared :-) - the idea was to rock and have fun.

We stayed on till clock struck 12 and then bid all of them good bye. When we came out, I was just shocked to see the streets still thronged with people - it was just an amazing sight. We managed to catch a cab somehow and we were home by 12:45. It was a pretty interesting New Year's that I spent and I shall cherish the memories for a long time. Here are some snaps from that evening - enjoy them.

Happy New Year to all !

-- Thyaga