Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some commonly heared conversations

As I was waiting for the tum-tum near my hostel, I overheard conversation between two parents who had come with their children for the IIT-JEE counseling. The conversation took place in Hindi, but for my benefit I'll present a translation.

Parent 1: Where are you from?

Parent 2: Kota.

Parent 1: Who has got selected to IIT?

Parent 2: My son.

Parent 1: What is his rank?

Parent 2: 540. What is your son's rank?

Parent 1: Some response that I cannot hear.

The conversation then moves on to what branch is to be selected, which IIT to go to, jobs etc. This has become a common feature, where relations are based on the foundation of something prestigious. The two parents who began to discuss stuff, came together only because their sons had a JEE rank to brag about.

Many times, discussion between two PhD scholars is also along similar lines. After the initial hi-hellos, come the patent questions- "How many publications do you have?" Followed by- "How many journal ones?", "What is the impact factor rating of the journal?" After these questions, each of them decide in their minds, what kind of relation should be maintained with the other. So, the quality of a PhD scholar is benchmarked by the number of publications he manages, rather than the quality of his work. What also happens is that this then leads to marking of the sincerity of the particular scholar.

People are making judgments on insufficient statistics. The basis of the relation is something which makes you feel either superior or inferior to that person. So, if you are superior, then you try to become the boss. If you are inferior you try to play second fiddle in the relation.
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Laptop blues

Finally, the verdict is out! My laptop has been reduced to a piece of junk, as the circuit on the motherboard that handles the power supply has blown off. Unless, I invest around 16k to get a new motherboard and get the laptop running. The person who repaired my computer suggested me otherwise. He says, instead of investing in a new motherboard, dispose this laptop off, and buy a new one.

What he doesn't understand, or probably the entire supply chain doesn't understand, is that I would need to invest more than Rs. 30k to get a laptop with performance specs that I already have. So, this means, I have to invest around double the motherboard cost to get a new laptop. And what will he pay me to dispose the old laptop? Only Rs 4k. It is simple economics. If you keep aside the uncertainty of the motherboard failing again, then investing Rs. 16k for the motherboard, is a much sensible investment compared to buying a new laptop. People do say that now the latest ones have come, they are at much cheaper price, etc. But then, the laptop was never bought with an intention to make money when I sell it. It was bought to augment my research and entertainment tool set.

Also, what sense does it make in buying a new laptop? What is this about the latest features? Over my existing laptop (configuration: 1 GB RAM, 1.6GHz AMD Turion X2 processor, 100 GB HDD, dual layer DVD drive) what is the value addition that the latest model would provide? A year's warranty instead of the 3 months that the motherboard replacement would give. What is it about the higher HDD capcity and say the latest processor? For the kind of work I do, I think this configuration would be way over the top.

After a lot of deliberations, I decided to repair my motherboard. But I am unhappy over one aspect of the design. The design of the motherboard is so integrated, that I have to replace the entire board, just because the power supply blew off. Why can't the design be modular. It would have been much easier for me to replace the burnt out part at a far lesser cost. But, companies have almost stopped thinking about the repair aspects of the product. For them, it is more profitable if someone junks away the old piece and buys a new one. Now-a-days, for all such companies, profit is first, shareholders are second and the customer is last. Integrated design may help in achieving material and cost savings, but why do they never factor in the possibility of failure? Engineers are taught this very aspect so that they can include safety features to avoid failure and easy replacement procedure after a failure has taken place. Engineers are now probably more driven by the principles of management and economic objectives rather than the principles of engineering.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

So much to write and so less written

With my laptop down for the past few days (rather considerable number of days), all activities requiring a computer have come to a halt. I come back to my room in the evening, take some rest, have dinner and then wonder, what to do now? I almost forgot what all can be done when you do not have a functioning PC. I could have taken to reading books, but I have read all the books that I have with me. With the hostel library opening only once a week, it was almost impossible to get books to read. Being a Ph.D. student, many may expect me to do technical reading. But, every person worth his degree, knows that technical reading can put you to sleep instantaneously.

So, what all is happening while my computer remains in coma? Amitabh Bachchan completed 50 days of blogging. He has been writing something for every single day! If he doesn't have the time to write or any matter to write, he just mentions that, but has not missed a single day of blogging. That is the difference between the life of a super-star and a grad student. He has something or the other happening in his life daily. If I were to blog daily, what would I say? Most of the writing would be-- went to the lab, read a few papers, did a derivation, came for lunch, slept, went back to the lab, surfed the net, had tea, came back in the evening, had dinner and then blogged. Once in around 6 months, I would write-- sir told me to write a paper, so now I am preparing for that. Probably I could write some nostalgic stuff or fiction, but then I am not too good at writing them.

Mumbai again went down the drains with the first spell of monsoons. And as it happens every year, citizens blamed the civic body, the civic body blamed the ferocious nature of the rains and the cycle continues. While the BMC, railways, MMRDA, MSRDC, etc. have done a shoddy job, it is a great effort by them that atleast most of the systems are functioning. Look at the citizens themselves. They do not bat an eye-lid before they throw trash on the streets or into the storm water drains. So, inspite of desilting, these drains remain clogged and hence cannot carry water at their rated capacity. Not all those who complained might have littered the street. It is a case where the majority has to suffer because of the foolish acts of a few. The BMC also said that it is ready to handle upto 50 mm per hour of rains, but above that there will be trouble solely because of the topography of Mumbai. The city received around 10% of its annual rains in 2 days. What can any civic body do in such a situation? To add to the fears of Mumbaikars, Sahara Samay, a useless news channel which has a sub-channel catering specifically to the city of Mumbai, call an astrologer who predicted that there would be three days (he actually gave the three dates too, though I don't remember them) in this season when Mumbai will see a 26 July 2005 like situation. Probably in its usual style, the channel must have sensationalised the event. The government of Maharashtra has sensibly decided to prosecute the channel under the Disaster Management Act.

The tri-series in Bangladesh is underway, but not many seem interested as the IPL has sucked out a lot of enthusiasm. People want to get back to life after IPL. But India did thrash Pakistan. It appeared as though the Indian batting line-up had not yet come out of the T20 mode. It was a run-fest by the Indian batsmen. The bowlers then did a fantastic job of shunting out the Pak batsmen for around 190 runs. Let's see what is in store during the further matches.

In the items under miscellaneous, my life is going on. Had a reunion of our undergrad batch. Around 10 of us got together for the reunion. Of these, one was married, another two were scheduled to get married. All of them are now working men. Of the entire group, I was the only student. It led me to some introspection. I should now be focussed on my PhD and get over with it as quickly as possible. But, it doesn't seem so right now. We are meeting again, at a friend's engagement, in the last week of June.
So much to write and so less writtenSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cruel Joke

Today, the Indian government announced a hike of Rs. 5/- in the prices of petrol. This is actually inadequate to compensate the oil marketing companies, but still needed to save them from bankruptcy. Reacting to this, the share market also tanked. I subscribe to the moneycontrol website's newsletter to track the share market and my dad's portfolio of investments. Dad being too reluctant to do some analysis, I atleast read through the day's happenings.

So, as a part of the newsletter deal, Moneycontrol also sends some promo offers. These offers, like most others, are worth neglecting as they are not meant for me and my dad would not even glance through them. On this very day, when the government announced a hike in fuel prices, Moneycontrol sends me a promo offer of the Honda Accord, which gives an opportunity to sign up for a test drive. The day when everybody is discussing fuel-efficient cars, I, PhD student (read below-poverty-line citizen) get an offer to ride a car considered to be amongst the luxuriant variants in the country.

Many may say that the newsletter is a mass-mail, so goes to everybody. But I had mentioned my occupation in the form which I filled when I signed up. So, shouldn't there be any intelligent system that directs specific promos to me? And on top of that, sending an offer that can lead somebody to buy a luxury car on the day of announcement of hike in petrol prices is even more laughable. Off-course, people who can afford the Honda Accord will not worry too much about such minuscule increase in fuel prices.
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