Friday, April 23, 2010

The BC (not the political one)

So, in spite of spending months telling myself that PST is the best course for me, I've finally filled the BC (Branch Change) form. With a CGPA of 8.33 (possibly rising to 8.5 after this sem) and a Department Rank of 3 (within PST), I've got some chances.

So, here's my order:
1. B.Tech Civil
2. B.Tech Chemical
3. B.Tech CSE
4. M.Tech IDD (Chemical + Hydrocarbon Engineering), called CHH
4. M.Tech IDD (CSE+IT)

Of these, I have just a faint chance of getting through to CHH. A lot of people in PP filled GPT/GT, the only UG-cum-PG courses offered by the ES Department.

I really don't care what I get, I'd still be happy to stay in Saharanpur and become a Polymer Technologist. If I do, somehow, get a BC, life will indeed change drastically. But change is natural.

By the way, the news is that IIT Mandi, currently free-loading at Roorkee, is shifting to a temporary campus with very poor infrastructure in July. They've also got a new logo, check it out:

Bhawan's Day and then the End (-sems)

The annual farewell event of the year - Manas (also called Bhawan's Day) - will be taking place today. It involves a cultural show, a farewell for the UG 4th years, PG 2nd years and the PhD scholars and presentations of certificates (lots of them) for every event imaginable (apart from Cognizance).

This time, the Director himself has consented to be the Chief Guest. There's also a photo-op for the various Councils and Teams: I've been invited on behalf of the Ren Team (which includes In-Depth). And for once, I'm NOT hosting the event, which means I can just sit back and watch.

And of course, there's a grand dinner tonight. Yuuummm!!

Sadly, there's just 10 days to go for the End-Term Exams. Already, we have an EC quiz on Monday and one quiz each from EE and MI on the 28th. Our HS course is far from complete, while PH and BT are done. So, the next week is going to be extremely crucial academically.

And after that, it's a week and a half of lazing around, going to Roorkee now and again to see our papers. I'm confident of passing in every subject, although I can't guess my grades just yet. But nonetheless, after three weeks, I'll be back home in Hyderabad.

I can't wait!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

End of Physics Practicals

Today,I had my Physics final practical exam.We were called in one by one and had to pick up any two sheets and choose one. I got B-H curve and Planck's Constant by Spectral Range method. Obviously, I took the latter.

While taking the readings was a piece of cake, as were the calculations, the readings turned out to be all wrong. So, naturally, I manipulated the graph, cooked up my own slope and even my own error! Before that though, I had my viva voce. It started off well, but when he asked me what would happen if Planck's constant became zero, well,I was doomed. I tried to use string theory but he cut me off,saying it wasn't at B.Tech level (I had it in 12th class),so then he gave me a few hints and we got to some answer.

The bottom line is that I got Beta 1. He did ask me my mid-term mark, I assume that's why he gave me that mark. If he checks my readings, I'll fail in the practicals. But, he won't!

Luckily, you-know-who didn't take our viva.Thank God for that!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Desert no more!

OK, here's some news:they've finally installed water-filter with out cooler. That means that we don't need to drink tap water anymore. It also means something else: we needn't walk down all the way to the first floor to get some water anymore.

It was always a big inconvenience, having to walk down so far (!!) and many, like me, took to drinking lots of water at the mess just to avoid having to fill water in the hostel.No more: we can get fresh, clean, COLD water just 5m from my room now.

Yes, my countrymen, a desert has just disappeared from Malviya Bhawan! Congratulations, environmentalists!

A Wattless Day

I have no idea which chor bazaar these transformers come from, but they are pretty regular at blowing up! That's what happened to us yesterday, when the transformer exploded at about 4:00 AM.

A generous mixture of extreme heat and mosquitoes ensured that 99% of the hostel was awake by 4:30 AM. While those who were desperate to get some sleep took their stuff to the terrace (where a strong breeze kept the heat and the mosquitoes away), those, like me, who couldn't fall back to sleep, just kept chatting for hours.

The electricity did not come back the entire day. It was only at 6:00 PM when it returned albeit by a generator. It was erratic: some phases kept going and there was heavy fluctuations. But the fans were working at the very least.

Finally, after a brief cut at 9:00 PM,full power was restored throughout the campus. We had a plan to boycott Tuesday's classes in case we had to spend another sleepless night, but that was not executed.

So, like how we began the academic year, the end was quite similar, with a protracted power cut. That's the way it is!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Major Conferences Coming Up

The next few days will be quite important as far as Indian foreign policy goes. It all begins (or already began, rather) with the International Summit on Nuclear Security in Washington, DC. The summit brings together 45 of the most powerful countries in the world (with Iran sadly excluded).

Interestingly, there's some doubt about the Summit's Agenda. Is it about the NPT? Then why are India and Pakistan (Israel refused to come) invited? Is it about nuclear weapons? Or is it about nuclear materials and how to keep them safe?

The US insists it's the last one, but some of their language has proven otherwise. Nonetheless, Indian PM Manmohan Singh is attending the Summit and will be holding talks with some of the most important Presidents and Prime Ministers in the world, both from the West and from India's extended neighbourhood beyond South Asia.

After the Summit, the PM will head to Brazil for a Summit of IBSA. This will be another useful engagement, manly because it can help India secure it's trade routes better and also reaffirm its call for UNSC expansion. IBSA will be followed by an all-important meeting of the BRIC Countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), which are the new leaders of the developing world. On the cards for discussion are topics such as the G20, reform of global financial institutions and... a discussion on Iran. This will be interesting, given the fact that all the countries have been insisting that no more sanctions be placed on Iran, which the US wants to do.

Later on, a meeting in Iran on the peaceful use of nuclear energy (basically meant to counter the US' Summit after Iran was not invited) is scheduled. India and China have accepted the invitation, although who will represent India is unknown. Later this year, there will a SAARC Summit in Thimpu, Bhutan, where the PM and his Pakistani counterpart are expected to meet and talk about... well, talking.

All-in-all, as India's prominence in the world grows, it's International engagement is also growing and, like in the days of Nehru, both the MEA and the PMO are taking part in this. The only sad part is that the latest round of Summits coincide with a Parliament Session. The PM will have to summarise his visit before Parliament but, as always, he won't be there to participate in discussions. However, as the Opposition plans to introduce a cut motion in the Financial BIll (virtually holding the Government by its throat), the PM and 'madam' might just need to focus on domestic politics sooner than later.

PIC: Dr. Manmohan Singh with his wife at an International event.

The Tradition Stands

It's April. That means a lot of things in India: cucumbers, extreme heat, summer vacations. Cross the last. It means, more than anything else, the season of entrance exams.

Every year, millions of students take the rigorous series of examinations: IITJEE, AIEEE, AIIMS, PMT, CLAT, CAT and whole host of alphabet-soup exams conducted at both the State and the Central levels.

These exams put a lot of unnecessary pressure on students, which leads to some disastrous consequences: after the results of every exam in India, some students commit suicide. Talent is not rewarded in fields other than sheer rote learning.

I'm no social scientists, but I'd like to describe the current system as the 'Trophy Child Syndrome.' Most parents have no idea themselves about the courses they want their kids to major in. They don't know what tests they're writing and how many of them, neither do they care all that much. What they do know is the marks, or rather the ranks, that their kids are getting. And they use that to, well, tell the neighbors and relatives! A long time ago, discussions in parties would be about health and local gossip; now, it's about how your child is doing in his/her studies.

The system is cruel to say the least (and it's not just India but also in other countries like China and South Korea) and robs a teenager of all pleasure in life. The pressure can be so extreme that kids turn into paper-problem solving machines. A majority of students will get into as top college with no intention of studying, because they have already used up all their academic passion just getting in and are, to put it frankly, sick and tired of it all.

But the reason that the system endures is:
  1. The culture. Parents insist that gong behind your interests (unless it's Maths and Science) is a recipe for poverty. Again, I refer to the trophy child syndrome. Parents find nothing wrong in exposing their children to unimaginable pressure because they think it's the only way to ensure they get a good job. The same parents actually pity their kids because they know that they are suffering yet they do nothing about it. And if the child does get into a top college, parents brag non-stop, calling everyone in the phone directory to tell them the news. Sadly, what the child wants is never taken into account.
  2. The lack of enough good colleges in India. Most Government colleges (baring the IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, AFMC and some others) are sub-standard, while private colleges are just profit-making corporations. This shortage is the Government's fault, both in resource-allocation as well as policy-making.
This year too, millions of students will write these standardized tests and many will kill themselves. But India will get nothing, just another generation of robots.

Up and Running Again

Last week, our Library's Central Server, which links it to the Mahatma Gandhi Central Library in Roorkee (which is the parent library to all Departmental Libraries at IITR), was back up and running after it crashed on March 22, 2010.

The results of the crash were entertaining: the strict librarians who normally collect every last penny for a late return were taking books which were as much as 2 weeks late without a fine!

Well, another piece of good news is that the Library is expanding vastly. New books from topics as vast as Financial Management to Polymer Blends to Advance C++ have just arrived and the library is a maze of new books. In fact, new books on JAVA Programming indicate that we are finally going to have EC-101B in the Saharanpur Campus (though God alone knows who's going to teach it).

So, with new books and the regular array of magazines and newspapers (along with a new recruit), the Sahranpur Campus Library is all set to get bigger and (hopefully) better. It'll never be like the Central Library but then again, anyone who needs books which can't be found here (highly unlikely) can always go there. The card is valid in all of IITR.

Coming Soon: End-Sem HELL!!

The schedule for the end-semester examination was put up a few days back on the notice board and, from the looks of it, it's going to be grueling. The exams start on May 3 - about 20 days from today - and go all the way to May 11, with just one gap in between.

And gap for what? BT-101 of all subjects! I mean, it's not a gap for Physics or Electrical Science or even MA-102: it's for Biotech, which takes no more than 3-4 hours to study!

So, how ready am I? Not at all, unless you count EC-101A. I have to admit, EC-101A is a huge - HUGE - improvement over EC-102. Here, I actually have a great chance of getting a good grade and I am definitely not looking at failing.

But the other subjects are difficult and will take quite a bit of hard work. That will start some time this week, but I also have a PH-101 Practical Test next week, another EE quiz and an MI Quiz, along with an EC practical test, coming up in the next 2-3 weeks.

These few weeks are going to be very challenging indeed!

Now, Taller than the Original

The new technical block - supposed to be a new Department - has now reached its third floor. Already, the interiors of the ground floor are being built. The building is now high enough to block sunlight from entering our classroom and the Computer Centre as well as the Physics Lab.

I can't wait for it to be completed!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

JEE: Another Year

IIT JEE 2010 was conducted yesterday in hundreds of centres across India and a few in other countries too. Like every year, the number of students writing the paper went up.

Admission this year will be, like the last, admissions will be to 15 IITs, IT-BHU and ISMU. There will be slightly more seats this year owing to the final phase of the OBC quota.

While I haven't seen the paper yet, I have heard of a few of its features: the vast number of subjective questions in particular. IITM decided to vastly expand the trade-off between purely objective and purely subjective questions that IITG introduced last year.

From what I've heard, the biggest problem with the paper was its length: after all, 30+18 subjective questions make no rapid-fire round. Then again, the economics of examination scale (if it's long for me, it's long for everyone) will always work to nullify this, which is why JEE is an exam that depends on conceptual understanding and nothing else.

For IITR Saharanpur Campus, JEE-10 will be a milestone because this batch will complete the PST course, bringing in all five years and paving the way for a new department. But what kind of kids will come in? Only time will tell.

For now, the battle isn't over. JEE is the first in a series of exams over the summer (we reported on this last year under the SC 24x7: The Final Summer series). So, as AIEEE approaches, good luck!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

JEE-2010 this Sunday

I designed this poster just for fun :)
Good luck to all. And because of JEE-10, we've already had two classes on Monday cancelled. All hail!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

And... we're back!

Alright, so that was the second Mid-term: a mostly-hellish flop show. It all started with the one subject that truly unifies all the years at IITR: MA-102. About half of the UG people at DPT wrote that exam and a similar figure came in from Roorkee. The subject, considered very hard, saw a new, MCQ-type of Quiz sheet which will definitely help people who are looking for every mark, but the subjective paper was confusing and difficult.

That was followed by MI-102, a very easy paper. Ever since the objective paper was abolished for our semester, it's been like a cakewalk. One person has to listen in class because, during the course of the lecture, the professor will gradually leak the paper. And then just commit a few to memory and it feels like heaven in the Exam Hall.

Then came EC-101A (C++ for the non-IITR people). A moderately hard paper, but not unsolvable. Some of the algorithms that people came up with were really good, while others were slow and inefficient. And one question was so deep and conceptual (relating to pointers and arrays) that just a handful got it right! Day 1 ended with HS-102, a boring subject that borders on the edge of madness but the questions are very predictable.

Day 2 wasn't all that good though: PH-101 was pretty bad because the paper was hard, but BT-101 was terribly easy, given the fact that 90% of the paper was a copy of the last semester's paper! And the exams ended with a huge flop: EE-101. Based on the solutions (now on Channel-i), I might get some 12-15 out of 40. Lol... I finished the paper in half and hour because I couldn't solve half the paper! I wrote loads and loads of crap for the unsolvable ones! Looks like I'm destined to get a low grade in this one. However, unlike EC-102 last time, I'm not afraid of failing.

Sadly, there's no rest for the weary. I have lab records to submit tomorrow, one EE quiz and two MI quizzes are on the cards, and an increasingly irritating bee/wasp problem is giving me a headache. The good news: just a little over a month left for the semester and the academic year to end!

PS: I'm currently designing a poster for JEE-'10, I'll upload it as soon as I finish.

A Good Move, if at all

The Pakistan National Assembly and Senate's Committee on Constitutional Reforms submitted its report last week and outlined a set of reforms under the banner of the 18th Constitutional Amendment that would firmly put the country (which has a pretty poor record of democracy) on a firm footing.

The recommendations include repeal of the 17th Amendment (introduced by former President General Mushraff to allow him to virtually usurp Parliament's powers), a great dilution of the Office of the President and diverting those powers to the Prime Minister and Parliament, increased autonomy to provinces by abolition of the Concurrent List, renaming the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) as Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa and thus abolishing an old colonial name, introducing two new fundamental rights (the Right to Information and the Right to Education) etc.

If the amendments, which are almost sure to be passed by Parliament given the CCR's composition, are actually followed suit, it would mean a far more prosperous and stable Pakistan. The problem, as always, lies in the implementation. For one, whether it's the President or PM in-charge, the military still has too much weight in matters of governance. A prime example was the recent talks in Washington, where the Army General rather than the civilian administration appeared to be in-charge.

Another problem is that most state governments in Pakistan tend to be irresponsible fiscally and politically. While decentralisation of powers is greatly desired, it should be done in a responsible manner. A set of guiding principles and laws for all states would be a good addition to the reforms package.

A great deal of hope lies in the CCR's report and, as lawmakers prepare to debate it, the future of a fragile nation in South Asia hangs in the balance. India has a big stake in this and much pay attention. A stable Pakistan is in our interest.

Fight Against the Terrorist Group

The cold-blooded murder of over 70 CRPF jawans in Chattisgarh's Dantewara District once again underscores the grave threat that India faces at the hands of the CPI (Maoist). The group, banned as a terrorist organization by the Union Government, continues to spread terror across the vast 'red corridor' of India.

The attack, coming after another attack in Orissa that killed over 14 policemen, is another indication as to how sophisticated and daring the rebels have become. They use some of the best guns available, meticulously plan their attacks and ensure that the people whom they dominate remain under that domination.

Our country is in a state of civil war. Let these lines not be taken lightly. It is time that the whole nation unites against the Maoist menace. Voices of so-called human rights activists, such as Arundhati Roy, deserve to be treated with contempt as they never condemn Maoist violence.

Operation Green Hunt, the joint operations aimed at 'liberating' Maoist-controlled areas must be taken to its logical conclusion and the writ of the Indian Constitution must prevail on every piece of Indian territory. And the whole country needs to come together to achieve that goal.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Decision Deserving Praise

This week, a Sessions Court in Haryana sentenced five people to death in a brutal incident of honour killing, which was undertaken on the 'orders' of an illegal, Taliban-style Khap Panchayat.

The Panchayat had concluded that a man and a woman, who had married within the same gotra (sub caste) should be killed for bringing disrepute to the community. They tried to flee in a bus but were caught by some of the girl's relatives. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were shot dead. This incident, one of many, was one of the most brutal incidents of honour killings in the notorious Northern planes.

The deceased boy's parents took the girl's relatives to court and fought the case with no help. It finally concluded with the historic judgment. Shockingly, all five sentenced to death are relatives of the girl.

The decision by the Sessions court, hailed by several NGOs, marks the strongest answer yet against the khap panchayats, which regularly make diktats that impinge on Fundamental Rights. State Governments pay lip service to these since many politicians are also involved in them.

However, the current ruling will go a long way in addressing this very serious problem. Thus, it deserve to be praised fully.

Mid-Term 2: The Big Battle

The week that I came back from the mid-term break, we had Tarang '10. It was a wild success but it also ate up a lot of our time. However, that was of little concern as the exams were far away. Two weeks later cam Cognizance Evolution'10, which was a big flop but also consumed a lot of time nonetheless.

And now, starting Monday, the second Mid-Term Examination will begin. Let me repeat my argument that a line has only one mid-point, so a semester should have only one "mid-term" exam. But who listens to me?

Let me admit, I am scared as hell. The only subject that I am relatively at ease with is EC-101A. MA-102 and EE-101 are exceptionally difficult subjects and require a lot of time to prepare for. MI-101 and BT-101 are totally rote subjects that eat up a lot of time. Luckily, the syllabus for MI is small this time (even Roorkee couldn't go very fast). ANd finally, PH-101, the most important subject of all, demands a lot of attention.

So much to do, so much to study, so little time!!! What should I do? Well, get off the Internet to start with! So, this is my last post before he mid-term. Whether it goes well or (more likely) not, I'll be back!