Thursday, February 26, 2009

Getting a tan at Bintan...

Bintan Island a small island in the Indian Ocean, one of many that make up Indonesia. Cheap, exotic, lots of water and located outside Singapore. More than enough reason for 8 of us jobless souls to choose Bintan Island for the weekend.

So we decided to set out in the morning (yes, we do see mornings sometimes :) ) of Saturday. It was a rush from NTU to catch the Ferry to Bintan from Tanah Merah terminal. The ferry ride in itself was beautiful and worth it. We had our own space on the open upper deck with the sea around us and wind in our faces, the smell of salty water combining with cigarette smoke from those around us. The 2 hours flew by in talk and smoke, and before we knew it, we were in Tanjung Pinang terminal in Bintan.

'Immigration' was not more than a girl in a cubicle stamping our passports without giving a second look. We got out quickly, where our transportation took us to Nostalgia Yasin Bungalow, our base and place of stay for the rest of the trip.

Nostalgia was a simply beautiful place. Placed right by the beach side, and right next to its sister resort Agro Bintan resort, Nostalgia gives one the full freedom to enjoy cheap accomodation rates and access to wonderful water sport activities from Agro at the same time. The bungalows were spacious too, and had a beautiful view to the sea.

After a heavy lunch (buurp) we immediately jumped into the water sports. A boat from Agro Bintan took us to a nearby island, where we went into the surrounding sea with our snorkels and lifejackets. The surrounding sea was comparitively shallow, and had a lot of coral reefs which were a beautiful sight to behold as we went snorkelling deeper into the sea, apart from occasionally spotting rare types of fishes and sea plants. The island itself was nothing much to explore except its jungles (which we dint dare delve further into). After rounds of beach volleyball and taking pics, after the sun had tanned us several shades darker, we decided to head back to Nostalgia.

In the evening we decided to explore the city of Tanjung Pinang. Unfortunately, it was'nt much of an exploration. After going through Ramayana Mall and Bintan Mall, we just drove along the busy streets. The streets, shops and general city structure reminded me greatly of India, especially Kerala.

We got back to have a 'high' dinner at Agro Bintan. Lost count of the orders(well who can count when you're flying sky high). That bill also went equally sky high, by the way. Walked (staggered) back to our resort and had a nice lie-down by the beach, before we retreated back to our 'bungalows'.

Sunday was also full of water sports. The 'Flying fish' and 'Banana boat' kept us roaring on the top of our lungs while we were pulled through water at super high speeds. Kayaking was also an adventure, especially when a few kayaks capsized and we had to push the kayaks all the way back and then it got tiring :). Few more rounds of beach volley. Then it was back to resort to freshen up before lunch. The lunch was truly a phenomenon. Indonesian seafood cuisine, not only does it taste good, they do know how to make it look that way. Coconut water was literally flowing over the place by the time we were done. I even found a satisfying vegetarian item called Cap-Cay(on left) which towards the end I realized was not exactly vegetarian :(.

Shopping at the souvenir shop was a marathon. Settling the bill was even worse. Ultimately we forced ourselves out of the shop with stuff worth a few million Indonesian Rupiah (the Rupiah is highly inflated, so u end up talking in millions most of the time). Finally it was time to bye bye. We settled the bills (which has still not settled into us yet) and went back to catch the ferry to Singapore.

2 days later, we settled the accounts. It took 3 hours, 20 phone calls, 3 excel sheets, 4 accountants and a lot of 'approximations' to do. After all, we're all Engineers. By the time we looked at the total amount though, a Doctor is who we needed. Well, so much for a 'cheap' holiday :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Naan Kada-fool ?

Ok, so I made one more mistake that was worth it. I watched it - the Bala film that everyone was apparently talking about. As expected, 'Naan Kadavul', the latest 'hot movie on the stands', was not upto my expectations (was that self-contradictory?). Plot? What plot? It was'nt exactly the kind of movie that leaves you with the satisfaction of having finished a book, or seeing an action movie in which the hero kills them all in the end and saves the heroine (pun intended, for those who have watched the movie)..

But all that said and done.. So what? If you're looking for change, I say go watch it ! Just make sure you dont come out shouting 'Kadavuleeeee' at the end of it :).

'Disturbing' is how Naren described it first to me. And that.. what I felt throughout the movie.. was the biggest enjoyment. The scenes with the beggars - the suffering of the poorest level of society - was truly path breaking, and what one should expect of a director who dares to explore. The new faces in the cast - the disabled, deformed, impoverished and I should say, scary new faces - they have really done it. Whether it came from the bottom of their heart because its what they live out or not, the beggars in the movie truly bring the emotions on. And let's not go back to the 'Slumdog millionaire' debate of denigrating India's status or anything now. Cos those guys deserve the kudos.

Ok, then what is 'Naan Kadavul' really about? Aghori Hindus? I dont really think so. The lead character comes out more as a madman to me than representative of a sect. (You should check out the loincloth scenes, they might actually leave u laughing in the most serious part of the movie). A confrontation with the 'Religion' question ? Not really.. As everyone else before him has done, Mr. Director is going around the question, rather. Safer option for him. Showing the plight of the poor? Sorry, this wasnt exactly a documentary. No wonder Arya himself had to stand on top of his head, figuring out what his role was all about :)

So NK is just about the scenes. A set of awesome scenes that unfortunately do not make up a whole. Beggar girl Puja's amazing performance. Arya's ganja puffs and occasional Blah-blahs in Hinskritamil (combo of all the languages as and when he chooses to) that are delivered as if to imply a deeper philosphical meaning attached to them. Ilayaraja's beautiful music, both foreground and background, that give a, shall we say, doomsday feel to the movie. And as I mentioned before, the well depicted plight of the underpriveleged, if you're not sick enough of seeing it already. And somehow all these are mixed up somehow in an unrealistic way to bring together a plot.

So after all that review, if you ask me "whats the point of watching the movie", I'll reply with a PJ. No point. A point is an intersection of 2 lines. NK is just a bunch of parallel lines that are never supposed to meet. But if u enjoy seeing the lines go to infinity, well watch on.. (Kadavuleee.. Kaapaathungo..:D )

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Brief History of Assignment-writing

After Hari Shankers release of the Bootstrap Video (worth a watch), I couldnt help but revive some of the old college memories again. An NITC version of how the Art of assignment writing has evolved through the ages.

Year : 1
Scenario : Any assignment

Anyone knows that the students are at their most dumbest studious best in the first year at college. Thats when the teachers scares of "No copying..." and "Plagiarisation will be severely punished" are at their most effective. The select brilliant few, who realise that assignments are just another useless routine in Engineering, wait for the remaining to toil it out and make their original copies.

Original copies are about 40-50 % of the total submitted. The remaining 50% even is well-modified by the poor copying soul who imagines what his life will be if a professor sits and compares his assignment to that of the class topper. Sometimes, grammatical mistakes are purposely introduced to make the paper look like a genuine copy (excuse the pun)

Year : 2
Scenario : ECT assignment 5

The whole class is dumbfounded on how to attack the assignment. Original copies are so far zero. The only hope is the God of S3 EEE, Sheddy (expanded as S.Kumar Reddy), who is rumoured to be the only one who understood Electric Circuit Theory after Einstein and Newton. The submission date is 24 hours away.

Unknown sources rumour that the God has come up with an original creation. Photostats are flying around B hostel, with a familiar neat and clear handwriting that could only belong to Him who hath understood all (in ECT). Soon a tree structure of copying is developed - the original, situated around the B-220 area, spreads its copies through multiple individuals, whose assignment copies (literally, copies) are then taken to rooms B-218, 312, 304, and and so on. Some of the copy centres are located in the common room, where 6 people at once can copy an assignment.

Next day : No one missed the submission. 67 guys submitted the exact same copy of Sheddy's assignments in their own handwritings, without understanding a shit in ECT. Abru, truly desperate, submitted a Xerox copy of the original Sheddy assignment and added his own name!

Result : The professor sure as hell found out. He knew where the original was, that sly fox. A mention was made in class, but the true revenge was taken in the Sessionals exam, when most of the questions came from the assignment mentioned.

65 guys failed the sessionals, with the class average 4 out of 20 (thats 20%). The only one (apart from Sheddy ofcourse) who managed to rummage a double digit figure was Naren (11 on 20). Myself hit rock bottom with life's worst performance ever : 2 on 20.

Year : 3
Scenario : Control systems assignment

The protocol of assignment copying has been established. The mechanism is now almost polished. Originals for the CS assignment come from 3 sources : E-hostel (where God resides), LH (where the second topper Donna resides), and one from anywhere in C tops or D bottoms.

My (and Donnas) job as Class Reps, meanwhile, is to extend the deadline by any means possible. Not so easy. Techniques ranging from Oscar award winning acting performances to short story telling has to be employed.

Next day : First 2 hours in S5 EEE class are exceptionally silent. All the students seem to be studiously taking down notes. Only a closer observation by a prof would reveal that the 'notes' were being taken down on sheets of A4 paper, and had the curious words 'Assignment' written on them . Luckily, the deadline is extended by a few hours (whew) to 5 pm. By 4 pm, the whole class is busy writing away whatever sheets they may find. Needless to say, there are a lot of submission entries at 5 pm.

No one missed the deadline, again.

Year : 4
Scenario : Instrumentation Systems (IS)

IS (no pun) was truly the most useless subject in EEE. The IS assignment deadline is on Friday, but not a soul is aware of it, including the (ahem) supposedly-well-informed Class Rep, yours truly.

9 am : News arrives from prof that the deadline is Friday(today) noon 3 pm. Number of original copies in EEE: One.

Technology is immediately put to use. The branch scanner, located in F-318 (Burghu's room), is used to scan Donna's original assignment onto F-Lan. Thereby, the procedure is simple. Download from Burghu's comp (which also stores other, ahem, interesting stuff). Copy onto A4 sheet. Meanwhile, my job is to inform the branch that an original has been scanned onto the LAN, and all students in S8-EEE are to immediately copy the assignment before 2.50 pm and submit to my room.

2.55 pm : There are 67 copies of the same assignment lying in my room.
3 pm : I rush. Assignment deadline is met.

No one missed the deadline. No one ever does. And yea, anyone mention the word Plagiarism ? Where would we 'Engineers' be without it ?

(PS : The 'GOD' of original sources, S. Kumar Reddy, went on to top the All-India GATE examination later that year. After helping 67 electrical engineers pass out of NITC, he is currently churning out assignment originals in IISc Bangalore. )

Friday, February 6, 2009

This Link had come some time ago on Wikipedia..

An appeal from Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales

Now thats some not so good news eh..