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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

5 topics I studied hard but never used


During school and college days, we have studied several subject deemed difficult. After spending sleepless nights understanding these subjects, we have managed to pass in corresponding subjects. What haunts me is that these things we studied are never ever applied in real life. Listing 10 such things here. Do read and share yours.

1.       Organic Chemistry- How benzene reacts with Chlorine and dozen other chemicals. My life wouldn’t have been any different if Benzene had refused to react with chlorine. A more useful topic would have been how managers and clients react when there’s a delay in project delivery.
2.       Differential Calculus – spent so much time understanding delta, theta and other components of differential calculus for nothing. I could learn more about life in few episodes of Prison Break serial
3.       Periodic Table – So many elements neatly assembled in periodic tables- don’t think I’ve touched more than a dozen of them by hand all my life. There’s lot of science behind why each element is placed where it is. But even if it was misplaced, do we care?
4.       Speed of light- What if it is little faster or slower than the designated 3 lakh kms per sec?
5.       Anatomy of a frog-ok, the frog has many ugly components inside and there’s a complex way these components work together. Never got to use this great knowledge. All the time I’m deep into how various software and hardware components work together to give an IT solution that will transform client’s business to new level.

I do not intend to make fun of these topics. But these are few of the topics we studied hard during school days to understand. We were evaluated against these knowledge- one who doesn’t understand the organic chemistry or differential calculus or anatomy is termed a poor student. Once out of college, unless you select a subject which uses them heavily, all these are never used again.

We study mechanical engineering, but rely on the mechanic boy at a roadside shop to fix our motorcycle. We study electronics, but can’t fix a simple equipment on our own.

On another thought, at that point of time we won’t know what share our career would take, so it may help to learn a bit of everything.

What do you think? What percentage of your school/college studies you’re applying in your daily life?

How to promote university twitter account?


You’re trying to promote your college/university on twitter? If most of the students are active online, this task is easier to do. However, if most your institute/university students/staff aren’t much exposed to online world, getting them to participate in social media activities can be a challenge.
Below are some activities that can be done within the university, to promote twitter account. A slightly different version of these activities should help promote university blog as well.
1.       Identify students/staff who are active on twitter
2.       Follow them, ask them to promote university account
3.       Follow eminent academicians and other key people in the community
4.       Conduct a twitter workshop for those interested in knowing more about twitter
5.       Put up couple of posters indicating twitter handle
6.       Get the principal/VC and other senior staff interested in twitter. This can be achieved by a one to one training and showing them examples of how others in sr management roles are using twitter
7.       While announcing key information, try to publish it first on twitter, then via traditional medium. This can get more people interested in twitter
8.       Organize tweetups by inviting popular tweeps in the locality-even if they’re not part of university
9.       Whenever an event happens at the college, try live tweeting.  Use the event to announce twitter activities
10.   While publishing alumni books, include twitter handles of outgoing students
11.   Exhibit how twitter can help in research
12.   Set up a team of enthusiasts who can operate college/university twitter account on their mobile.
13.   Respond to queries over twitter- particularly during admission season, exam time etc
14.   Keep track of twitter followers, traffic generated to college website/blog and other stats. Using this, real value add can be shown and management can be convinced to grant some funds to conduct online contests too
15.   Try mutual  association with other college/university twitter accounts. Promote each other.
16.   Try to debate on topics of community interest on twitter
17.   Put twitter feed on blog/website
18.   Show that parents can also keep track of college happenings on twitter
Do you think above tips are useful? Would you like to add anything?

Monday, February 27, 2012

5 star hotel treatments-Walkin vs drive-in


How star hotels treat visitors: Answer lot of questions if you walk-in, get lots of respect if you drive-in

Car Rental agency Avis has its counters in some 5-star hotels (Trident in Chennai, Oberoi in Bangalore etc). Whenever I go to collect a car or return a car, I get two different treatments.

I rent cars on self drive from Avis and I prefer to collect them from their garage- this is because of two reasons- one: they charge Rs 300 to deliver it to my place and it costs much less to reach their garage by bus/auto. Second, I get to see other cars they have parked all around.

When I walk in to The Oberoi in MG Road, I am stopped at the main gate. I am asked who am I and what business I have inside their hotel. I need to explain that I came to collect the car and need to go to Avis counter. Sometime they don’t believe, I need to call Avis and make them talk to security. Eventually I am allowed in, with every guard watching me like a suspect and ready to overpower me in case I show any sign of unusual behavior. Never mind, I collect the rented car and drive out.

After a day or two when I need to return the car, I drive in. This time no question is asked. They ask me to stop- put the mirror under the car and open the luggage space to check. I get a salute and am allowed to proceed with a wish “Have a nice day sir”. As I pass the portico, bell boy is ready to unload the luggage, valet parking guy is ready to collect the car and park it. But to their surprise, I don’t stop at the portico of the hotel and proceed towards Avis counter.

Am just sharing an experience. Not sure if I should criticize them, because they’ve been habituated to do the same.

Couple of years ago Leela Palace was in news for banning entry to cyclists.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cracker cases at Mahabs beach

We were at a resort near Mahabalipuram last week for a team outing. While walking around the campus, I found these...

These are apparently cases that housed cracker rockets, which would explode high up in the sky bursting into several colours.

They were of two sizes- a smaller sized one, more in number and a bigger sized one with fewer ones.
Surprisingly, I also found a live box- with caps sealed. Probably they were left on the beach for that night's use or were left unused the previous night.

Not sure how much these crackers cost. 20-25 thousand each box? About 100 units in above carton. If each one costs about 200 Rs, just a guess- whole box is worth about 20k. All for a few minutes of sparkle!

Related: Cracker wholesale prices * Mahabs sculptures * Hijackk bus, ECR * Alamparai fort, ECR * Marg Tapovan off ECRHygienic issues at Marina beach * Tata Venture Photos *

Saturday, February 25, 2012

You need Pilot License to drive Fluidic Verna

This is a A curious case of over enthusiastic advertisement.

Please be advised that DGCA may arrest you if you drive the new fluidic verna without a pilot license. This is because of Hyundai’s own admission in 2009 while campaigning for Verna that if it gets any better, one would need aviation license.

Ever since the Hyundai launched fluidic Verna I was searching for an image of their previous print advertisement- which used to be all around the newspapers during 2009. Finally managed to get a snapshot of this print ad and hence this post.

Have a look at the image below, which used to be Hyundai’s Ad for the ALL NEW VERNA during 2009.
So way back in 2009 Hyundai admitted that it is the best the car can get and if it gets any better, it will be like an airplane and customers will need Pilot license.

Now that a better version of Verna is on road, it is time to apply above rule. Hyundai should either admit that they lied to everyone way back in 2009 or accept that Fluidic Verna shouldn't be driven without pilot license.

Ok. By now you would have decided that I am stupid. I shouldn’t take a print ad literally.

But my point is this. Advertisers use all gimmicks to lure customers as if there’s no tomorrow and it is now or never. Have you ever seen any ad which says, “Don’t buy our product now, buy later”?. Don't get fooled by what manufacturers say. Research online and take your own informed decision. There's always a better version planned for future and deals and discount will be there in future also, as manufacturers won't plan to shut shop after selling their "Latest" products to you.
 
Image from http://buckleupnow.com

Your comments welcome. Similar: Resisting Diwali shopping temptations

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kaidala Chennakeshava temple tumkur

Kaidala is one of the few places to visit around Tumkur. The road to Kaidala was nice- snake like road adjoining a lake.

You'll like the Kaidala temple if you have some interest in sculptures. Otherwise you'll find it at part with any other temple. I do not have the relevant gyan to share on this topic, so just leaving you with some photos of the place.

 Another temple nearby- Gangadhareshewara temple. This was locked when we visited

Nearby: Madhugiri * Mandhara Giri * Sheebi * Huthridurga * Savanadurga *

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My new arsenal: Nikon d5100

I've finally bitten the bullet.

All these days I had a non DSLR camera. The Sony DSC H50 was by no means bad- I took several great shots with this, went to several trips and few countries with it and for past three and a half years, H50 did a great job as my primary camera. It was light, would easily fit into any bag, had excellent zoom that would put most of DSLRs to shame and took shots at par with DSLRs.

However I started realizing the shortcomings of the camera as I attended several events with fellow photographers and bloggers who had canons and nikons. I had been resisting the temptation of buying a DSLR since years, purely because I thought I can manage with my H50 and don't want all the burden that comes with a DSLR- heavy bag, expensive equipment, never ending spending on accessories and lens, risk of loss/damage and so on.

However, since mid 2011 I started seriously evaluating buying another camera. Options were unlimited with prices ranging from 30k to 5 lakh. I decided that I shouldn't spend more than 50k as I don't earn from photographs. Shortlisted on Nikon 3100, 5100 and Canon 600D. Many of my friends (Sankara, Deb, Mridula to name a few) had Canon but my comparison made me lean towards Nikon. Ram, Shande and few others confirmed that Nikon 5100 is a good model. 5100 didn't have a secondary display like D90, but I decided to live without that.

After zeroing in on 5100 I started searching for best deal. Got busy with few things and pushed the decision by couple of months. Then many of the sites- jjmehta, flipkart, Shetala cameras all showed that this model is out of stock. (Reportedly due to Thailand floods, not sure if it is true). Waited for another month or so and learnt that Shetala Cameras Chennai has a unit. Eventually gathered courage to part with 41k, went to the shop and picked up the unit.
Image from nikonrumors.com

Only have the standard 18-55 now. Next target of 55-300mm costs 25k, so that may have to wait for an year or so. I am trying to resist subsequent spending for now (camera bag, remote, accessories, second battery, lens, filters and so on)

Yet to explore the camera fully. Its high ISO sensitivity is the first thing I liked. (Rotating display is another) Below are two pics to help you understand the potential of high ISO sensitivity. The first picture is taken at 5.45AM at besant nagar beach, in normal mode, with flash. You can see the amount of darkness and how unclear the object is.

The second one is clicked with an ISO sensitivity of 6000, the highest possible in my camera, a minute later to above one. The difference is obvious- second picture looks so day like, eliminates any need for flash.

For day to day shots, the first few shots I tried, I felt my DSC H50 is at part with Nikon 5100. Below are two photos. The left side one is clicked by Sony DSC H50, while the right side one is clicked using 5100. DSC looks more colour rich.


DSLR gives extensive control to focus on specific objects, compared to a regular camera. I need to understand and use these features better.

Of course Nikon has lot of additional potentials and controls not available in Sony H50. I need to explore those features and start learning how to use them effectively. Since 18-55's zooming is limited, H50 will come handy in clicking far away objects.

Now that I have a DSLR, can I please please go back in time and re-visit all the places I've been to?

Will write a detailed review of the camera later, after using it for couple of months.

So from now, as an esteemed reader of my blog, you'll have the additional privilege of enjoying the photos taken from my d5100. Doesn't this also means I should start using heavy photographic jargons in my posts- f2.8, white balance, macro, aperture, shutter speed... :)

Also read: Panasonic FT3 review

Review: Toyota Etios G petrol

The first time I'd seen Etios was in a Toyota Road show in Chennai, called the Q-Revolution. [ Read details and pics here] That was about 2 years ago. Eventually the car was launched, received excellent response and recently I drove one for about 350 kms. This post is a quick review of the car, based on my 1 day usage.

I noticed that rental agency Avis purchased Etios and has made them available for self drive in select cities. Booked one for a day just to explore the vehicle. At close to 2900 Rs per day, it was relatively expensive to rent.
Couple of weeks ago I had driven a colleague's Etios Liva Diesel for a short distance in the campus. Liva had an inconvenient reverse gear- one should pull a ring up, then move the gear lever to extreme left and front (Similar to Verna's. Comparatively I feel Skoda's design is a bit better, where in one has to push the lever down and move to extreme left and front). When I took control of Etios, I was mentally prepared for this inconvenient reverse gear, but to my surprise, Etios' reverse gear was similar to other cars.

When I drove it home from Avis counter, the first few kms were not impressive. Steering felt too soft, like the one in Nissan Micra  However next morning car felt quite comfortable and satisfactory, after my hands and legs got used to Etios.

The one I drove was a petrol, G variant. It wasn't the top variant, hence many features were missing. No tachometer, no alloy wheels, no fog lamps etc. Inside is a bare minimum setup. Cost cutting is evident everywhere. Maruti WagonR's interiors look more pleasing to the eye.

Below is the comparison of Etios's interior, as I'd seen in the expo in 2010 and as it was in G variant. Sorry for inconsistent angles.

Below left: dashboard of actual Toyota Etios G. On the right: Etios dashboard in the concept car. Dashboard is moved to the centre- similar to Indica Vista, Tata Nano and Chevy Spark. This idea helps save money as common design can be used to left hand drive and right hand drive countries. 
Centre dashboard clears lot of space in front of driver, but I didn't find Etios speedo design very convenient to the eye. In a regular car, speedo needle extends throughout the dashboard (from centre to circumference). In Etios the needle is hidden. Only a small part is visible. So one has to locate this needle, then locate the number above it. I didn't find it too convenient.

How the Toyota etios feels to drive?
I seldom rent petrol cars. Hyundai getz was the only other petrol car I've rented till date. I am so used to diesel noise and in Etios petrol, I was expecting it to be super silent and smooth. However in terms of Engine noise I couldn't notice any substantial difference in Etios Petrol vs other diesel cars I've driven of late- Ford Fiesta, Tata Aria or Toyota Innova.

Etios petrol has 90 horses and was execting it to be faster than some of the diesel cars I'd driven (Fiesta and Swift) However after I crossed 140, car took forever to speed up and eventually I had to slow down. 69PS fiesta classic and 75 ps swift VDi would touch 160 without slightest hesitation. Etios has a designated top speed of 178 kmph.I suspect Avis might have fixed some speed governor to prevent their drivers from over-speeding. In terms of steering response and vehicle stability, Fiesta and Swift are way better.

In terms of fuel economy, I spent Rs 1870 worth petrol for 356 km drive. That is about 14.47 kmpl. This value may not be exact as fuel gauge indicator doesn't give precise reading of fuel consumed. It breaks fuel tank capacity into about 8 parts and shows one bar representing each part.

Overall Etios is a well priced car backed with Toyota brand name. Good value for money car. From a driver's perspective I find Fiesta and Swift better, but my experience and feedback is purely limited based on the car I drove. Etios petrol G is priced almost at par with Ford Figo Diesel titanium. So pricing, looks and toyota logo can influence decisions of many. More on Toyota Etios

Also read: Fiat Linea review * Ford Figo Review *

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Huthridurga near Magadi

Huthridurga is a small hillock off Magadi Kunigal Road. While searching for places around Tumkur, I came across this place. It seemed to be a potential trekking spot with a big rock and a temple on top of it- similar to Ramanagara, Parvathamalai etc. But internet had very little information on this place. I included it in our plan anyway, deciding to explore it on our own. We were driving from Kaidala (off Tumkur) and at a junction we asked a local about Huthridurga. Thankfully he knew about the place and guided us towards Kunigal road, asking us to take left after about 1 km.
 
We drove towards Tumkur, took left at the right place but even after driving several kms there was no sign of Huthridurga. We cross checked couple of times with locals and eventually reached a place called Santhe halli (Santhe means weekly bazaar). Another left turn here and we could begin our uphill drive towards Huthridurga. Road was narrow and took us till a village on the hill. Road ends here, reaching on top of Huthridurga required another hour or two of trekking both ways. We had Savanadurga as our target and climbing Huthridurga would make us miss Savanadurga, hence we abandoned plans of trekking till top and returned towards Magadi.
Hutridurga (or Huttaridurga also sometimes called as Doddabetta) is a place to visit if you have half a day to space while visiting Magadi

How to reach Hutridurga from Bangalore?
Drive towards Magadi, after crossing Magadi, look for a Y shaped intersection as shown in image below.

Drive on the left side (Kunigal Road) (Right will take you to Tumkur)
After few kms, you’ll find this arch on left (and a mobile tower on right)- take left turn here
Keep driving straight for 6-7kms. Cross check with locals once a while to ensure you’re heading right way. Reach Santhe Halli
As you near Santhehalli you’ll be able to see Huthridurga rock and temple.
At Santhehalli need to take a left turn (after you see a fair price shop on right side)
Drive uphill, park your vehicle near the village and trek (if you’re going in big vehicles or if there’re lot of vehicles (unlikely) then park it at the foot of the hill and trek up.

Nearby places: Savanadurga * Kaidala * Mandharagiri * Kanva reservoir *

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sheebi Narasimha temple, Tumkur


While I was searching for places around Tumkur, I came across this temple in Sheebi. It reportedly had some old age paintings on it. We’d left from Blr as early as 4 AM in the morning and reached Tumkur by about 5 ish. There was no sunlight yet, so we didn’t see a point in driving to Devarayana Durga or Mandaragiri that early. So decided to drive to Sheebi which is 25 kms from Tumkur. After driving 25kms there was no sign of any temple, so we stops at a tea shop to enquire. He pointed us to some lightings nearby. Apparently Sheebi Narasimha temple was celebrating its annual festival. “There was so much rush, it was difficult to go inside. You better park the car here and walk, else they’ll charge Rs 50 for car” tea shop owner advised.
 
We followed it. As we neared the temple the crowd was minimal. Roadside shops selling sweets, flowers, pooja items etc were just opening up, with many vendors still sleeping around their shops. I felt leaving the car alone at the roadside, so went back and drove it close to the temple. Temple would open at 6 AM and it was just that time.

There we no ancient paintings to be found. Temple hardly had anything unique. I asked an elderly man nearby- he said the temple has been renovated sometime back and there’s no such paintings. The various idols you see on top is what we have. He also told the history of the temple: “Long long ago when a gentleman was cooking food using a stone, he died bleeding blood. Local priest had a dream in which lord came and instructed him to construct a temple for him. When preist told there’s no source of water, god asked them to dig at a nearby place, wherein they found lot of water…”
We spent few more minutes around the temple premises and came back. 
Not a great place to visit and not worth travelling all the way. But we had nothing else to do at that time, so something is better than nothing.
 
How to go to Sheebi?:
Sheebi is 25 kms from Tumkur on Tumkur-Pune highway. Temple is very close to highway, but there’s no direct entrance from highway. Temple is slightly covered when viewed from highway. If you cruise you’ll definitely miss it. After driving for 25kms, when you get a flyover, do not go over it. Take left, take right under the flyover then left. Alternatively you can go straight on flyover, take u turn after driving for another 1 km. There’re couple of tea shops on the left side

Hijackk bus joyride on ECR

Chennai residents living around ECR would have seen an overly decorated red coloured bus moving slowly. If you’d like to know more about this bus, this post is for you.

Hijackk is a custom built open top bus, with dining tables and lighting all around. Hijackk is currently operated as a mobile restaurant wherein you have your dinner as the bus goes for a ride. Hijackk operates in few cities including Ahmadabad, Chennai, Rajkot and Surat.

We decided to try this bus for a team outing and went for a drive in Chennai’s east coast road. Ticket price was Rs 500 per person for veg dinner (printed price was Rs 775 though) Couple of preferences we had on date and time had to be dropped Tickets were door delivered

Interiors of Hijackk bus- good for a party on the move
What happens in a Hijackk bus ride?
Bus has limited number of seats (some 50 seats, lower and upper deck put together). Each of these seats is sold out for 500-700 Rs (500 for Veg, higher amount for non-veg, discounts may apply at time).

Every evening, bus goes for 2 rounds- one at 7 PM and another one at 9 PM, from Hot breads in ECR (about 1 km before tollgate) till Kovalam bypass and back. Dinner will be served on board and can be had as the bus moves.

What was good?
Worth a onetime try- different experience from having food in a stationary restaurant. You get to feel the breeze, view roadside from an elevated roof top, give a titanic pose on the deck, enjoy other road users look at you in envy, have some food and come back.
Signage can be touched by extending your had
What was not good?
·         Food is ordinary. Just not worth the ticket price. Food will be just an excuse-what you pay will be for the ride
·         One should watch out for overhead electric cables and low hanging tree branches. If you’re tall or if you’re standing on a stage/seat or if you’re extending your arm upwards, there’re high chance you’ll come into contact with these cables or trees. So watch out.
Overhead electric cables- watch out
·         Bus moves very slowly- may be 10-15 kms. Fine for sometime, but towards the end it gets boring
·         Half of the decorative lighting on the bus were not working
·         They use glass cups and breakable utensils. Since it is a moving bus, will be good idea to have plastic/fibre based utensils
On the roof of hijackk bus
·         Bus plies during night time. You can’t enjoy the scenic ECR. Couple of rounds during the day would have been nice
·         Some tables were not firm and used to shake a lot

Our journey started almost on time (10 minutes delay) During our journey, bus returned ahead of time, so it just stopped little ahead of end point for several minutes.  A little longer journey or stopping at a nice place would be nice. Some passengers preferred food to be served when the bus is stationary. As we came back, passengers ready to board for next round were waiting.

Hijackk has been operational for about 6-9 months as far as I can recall. It is worth a onetime visit, but won’t make you go again and again. Now that most of Chennaites would have explored it, will be nice if Hijackk operators reduce the fare and go for volume. Also bus needs periodic maintenance, which doesn’t seem to be happening.

Also read: Gurgaon-Jaipur by Bus * Be kind to bus drivers *

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mandharagiri (Basadi Betta) Tumkur photos

Regret sudden demise of Dr V S Acharya- a skilled doctor turned politician, who lived a clean life and was respected by friends and enemies alike. He had once commented on my blog

May his soul rest in peace.

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Mandharagiri or Basadi betta is a nice little rock with a jain temple on top. Located off Bangalore-Tumkur highway, this place is less frequented by visitors, compared to Devarayana Durga or other places around Tumkur.

I first read about Mandaragiri in Prashanth's blog and decided to visit it during a recent road trip.

What is there at Mandharagiri (Basadi betta), Tumkur?

Mandaragiri consists of a medium sized rock, with a Jain temple on top of it

The temple (Basadi) door was closed, so we couldn't go inside. It had heavily barbed wires on the outer wall
As we drove closer, the rock was visible from a distance and very inviting.

Little earlier to Basadi betta, a small memorial is being set up, with a statue of Chandraprabha theerthankara
 Above: a cow and tiger in harmony
 
Lake Maidala was visible from top of the rock. On the other side you can see Bangalore-Tumkur highway and railway track.
 Some art work on the rocks were interesting
Climbing all the way up and down was good exercise and time was well spent


How to reach Mandhara giri?
While driving towards Tumkur from Bengaluru, you need to take right turn some 10 kms before Tumkur. This right turn is couple of kms before the 3rd toll gate. A Kannada board exists to help you, else take help from locals.

Alternatively this place can also be reached while returning from Devarayana durga-but to take that road you'd need lot of help from locals.

Nearby: Sheebi Temple * Kaidala * Devarayana Durga * Madhugiri *