Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Microsoft interviews and Live Butterfly Exhibit

About 6-7 months back my interviews at Microsoft for internship wasn't much of a pleasurable experience, though I got through. I was open about the criticism and talked about it at length with my Recruiting Coordinator when she had come down to Pitt some time after my Google internship. She intently took lot of notes and said she shall see to it that this time (for full-time job interviews) skill-set to team matching is relevant.

Large Tiger From Seattle Trip and Live Butterfly Exhibit

So, around Mid-October, the time when interviewing activity was at its peak and all I did was give interviews and telephonic interviews had pretty much become an integral part of daily ritual... Everything is set and I'm about to board the plane to Seattle. As I step inside the plane, air hostess greeted me and my cell went off. Call from my travel agent from Microsoft... her opening statement was 'Dear Atul, your interview has been postponed'. W@F! Before I could react or actually swear, she added, 'As in, instead of 9am it will start at 12 pm'. ~~phew~~ I was so relieved, plus I would get extra 3hrs to rummage through those algos! I landed safely in Seattle, checked-in my hotel, took a nice refreshing shower, read some more algos, and crashed into the soft spongy bed covered in cleanest possible white sheets. I can't sleep well in soft bedding but I love them nonetheless. Everything was going smoothly, kinda too smoothly. Something is not right, my intuition nagged me!

Well past midnight, suddenly my body started itching... relieved that my intuition wasn't entirely amiss but with mounting irritation I got up and took a sponge bath with ice-cold water to placate the growing itch. Before crashing again I checked the sheets, never heard of ants in US but just to be sure... Lo and Behold! I was shocked! I was almost speechless. I saw a few bed-bugs out there! I was stunned. Quiet frankly, I had never seen those blood-sucking-bugs before! The fact that these have been sucking my blood for few hours and were bloody red by now, sent creeps through me!

I called the manager and he rushed in incessantly showering apologies. Instead of getting furious at him, I politely asked him to move me to better room. Having felt that something crept over my legs, I kept waking up with a jolt every few minutes for the next two hours. I know this sounds funny, but it actually happened! Damn! What a way to start interview day! I was a little apprehensive and my mood was pretty dull the morning I woke up. Seattle's eternal gloomy weather didn't help my mood. And the itch (which by the way lasted for well over a month!) only fueled my restlessness.

At Microsoft, I met my on-site coordinator and she told me where my first interviewer will be. He's from Filesystem-and-Storage team, she said. That did cheer me up a little but I was still apprehensive about the remaining 5-6 interviewers who would follow. But as the day unfolded, I was getting happier, because every other interviewer was from the same team! And I should say every one of them was impressive. By end of the day, I had already cooked up
dreams and fantasies about being part of this group!

I so throughly enjoyed the interviews and was so excited by end of the day, that when I met Buffy I was going on and on and on about how the interviews were, what each one of them asked, how impressive all the people I met were, and why I want to be part of this group and blah blah.

The next day, I met my old-time colleague and junior, Mahesh, aka VAM. He too had to hear some of the ramblings and so did Anna (aka Arun) on my way back to Pitt later that day. I told VAM that I had seen Live Butterfly Exhibit from a distance the last time I was in the town. This time I want to see it from inside. He confessed that he haven't a clue where such a thing is. But I was insistent that I indeed saw it for sure, so after some Google'ing we found it! Thanks to VAM! And while I took 300+ photos in just 2 hours, he was very patient even while his stomach was growling with hunger! He later dropped me to airport and my wonderful 3-days trip to Seattle came to an abrupt end!

Back home at Pitt, though, I was a little happier and energetic being than I was when I left for interviews.

As I just got over with my last exam today, I wanted to unwind. So I spent good part of 6+hrs on the harrowing task of swifting through 300+ photos, re-touching the odd 50 that I shortlisted and tagging each of the butterflies with correct name. I then
spent well over an hour cooking this post. If only I had more time and a tripod on that trip, I could have had better and many more photos.

Now, you deserve to see the beauties I clicked...

  1. Photos from Seattle Trip and Live Butterfly Exhibit
  2. Tropical Butterfly House at Pacific Science Center

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Interesting Mumma at the gym

Today while I was working out on cross-trainer at the gym, I saw an amazing feat... While I was drenched in sweat, a beautiful lady (maybe in her late twenties) walked in. She had a very cute baby strapped to her belly/chest. I was wondering what is this lady doing here. She cleaned the cross trainer besides me, set up the magazine on the display board and gleefully hopped on to it! Man, she wanted to workout!

From the corner of my eye I saw her reading the magazine, working on cross-trainer, taking care of her baby strapped on to her chest and also talking on phone to somebody. I wasn't eavesdropping, but I bet the mommy was talking to older of her kids who might be old enough to be away from her for a few minutes. I guess she was consoling her... "Honey, mumma will be back home soon :)"

I could not help but stare at her a few times, and also the cute little baby. I smiled to myself, wondering her resolve to take care of everything all at once. All I hope is she didn't think I was laughing at her. Because quiet contrary, I was in fact considering her in very high regards. I didn't know precisely how to react, but I did spend a few moments wondering about her. And how highly would the kid think of her mumma when he grows up to be a sensible person. Besides, maybe this is a gross generalization, but I think that women are a little more efficient at multi-tasking then men, at least it is true of most women I have observed in India.

Kudos to all you women juggling many things at a time!

---- edit----
A verdict from an experienced buddy of mine, W0lf (aka Anshuman), who commented on this post, reproducing here where it is more likely to be noticed, only because I second that opinion:

As a married man, I have to agree :-). The best women are definitely better than the best of men ;-).

Saturday, November 01, 2008

CMU ECE Hammerschlag Hall at night

CMU-ECE's sexy and breathtaking Hammerschlag Hall. See this beauty in higher resolution, full screen! To the right, taller building is Cathedral of Learning.

Hammerschlag Hall: Click the photo for hi-res version.

Technical Details

Exposure Time
1 sec.
Shutter priority
ISO Speed Ratings
Shutter speed
0.74 EV (APEX: 1, 1/1 sec.)
4.34 EV (f/4.5)
Exposure Bias
0.33 EV
Metering Mode
Focal Length
47.0 mm
Photo Credits: Self
Equipment: Canon EOS 30D + Tamron 18-200mm
Sunpak 4300 Tripod

Friday, October 31, 2008

Presenting you revamped homepage

'An interview a day keeps you HELL busy and drained'!
And this is far from exaggeration. The statement perfectly reflects my state a week ago for 3-4 weeks then! Anyway, the reason I'm posting is... Long Long ago at the bottom of this post I had promised that I'll revamp my homepage.
And here you go... I have delivered to that promise.

I have been working on this for quite some time, putting in an hour every time I wanted a break from regular routine. It's been a tough yet pleasurable job to make it reasonably presentable and put in the right stuff. There are a lot of sections that needs work and are still under development, but there are a lot of things that should interest you nonetheless.

For maximum viewing pleasure, you should experiment changing the theme, font, font-size, etc. with buttons on the right hand of the webpage, but for most of you default should look good enough. Fonts on my system are not perfect, so the default doesn't look sexy enough on mine.

I appreciate your feedback and criticism, so don't hesitate to share it over this post or personally. BTW, I'm looking for good and cheap linux-based hosting service, I'm open to good recommendations. Ones that I know are
  1. VPSLink http://vpslink.com/
  2. bluehost http://www.bluehost.com/

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Too much algos is bad

You know you have studied enough algorithms to touch your psyche from the deep when:

You are trying to get up in the morning and the first thing that runs through your mind is 'God! I can wake up in 5-P-3, or P(5,3) ways today!' :)
- or -
'I have to reach school in O(1) time today!
- or -
You draw Giant Eagle's map and apply TSP (Traveling Salesman Problem) on it before you go out to buy grocery!
- or -
Come up with an elaborate scheme to share books with friends so you all can study for interviews, without deadlocking!
- or -
You wonder: if I mask the last bit of third number on the number plate of fifth car, I'll have a perfect Fibonacci Series!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Happy Birthday Blog!

Happy Birthday... this time for my blog :) Yes, I haven't been celebrating my blog's birthday, this time I thought let me be a little considerate.

Blog has grown 4 years old as of 7th of October 2008. Here is _the_ very first test post, and this was the first actual entry I posted: The Village: Mr. M. Night. Looking up to blogging more intently in coming years.

P.S. Thanks for your wishes in advance :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Birthday Celebration in US

Reading the title of this post, you will react in one of the two ways, or even both:
0. Damn! I forgot to wish him? Many Many Happy returns of the day, Atul!
Response: Don't worry, it is never too late. And I'm not good with birthdates myself! So I understand your feelings :) Thanks for your be-lated wishes, in advance!

1. How old are you now?
Response: And to this I like to reply the way my Sensei, Master Meitatsu Yagi (i.e. my karate grand master), then 60+ yrs of age, used to reply: "I am n years YOUNG!" :)

As always, I usually am not very keen on celebrating my own birthdays. So, I did not do anything special on the birthday, but sit on my a$$ assaulting my keyboard.
But, the raccoons, i.e. friends from my department did come at the stroke of midnight with tons of enthusiasm, million dollar smiles and most important of all, a yummy chocolate cake!
Having fun! From My birthday in the year 2008

After extended photo session, I did the honors of cutting the cake. Then as a ritual, everybody put cake on my face, and then the legendary birthday bumps!

Do I look different? From My birthday in the year 2008

I would like to thank all of you who knowingly and unknowingly made me feel special, scrap'ed me on orkut, Wall'ed on FB, emailed me, sms'ed and called me up for a quick chat. Thanks everybody for your kinds words and wishes.

Compared to my first birthday here in US, this second birthday was much livelier. Have a peek at the album.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

System uptime!

Snapshot after a long time...
Do you see something...
Screw the wallpaper (well, not exactly, she's kinda beautiful!), but see the snapshot carefully, you see the system uptime!

System uptime is 13+ days, yes, T H I R T E E N days! 13 days without rebooting, that means! All I did when not is use was put her to sleep. Which means I didn't reboot her for about a month now! And she was still kicking a$$ ~~~touchwood~~~. The only reason I had to reboot her was I wanted to take system backup, else I could have easily touched the uptime to 30+ days :) Long live Debian/GNU Linux. Both these number are way below standard server uptimes, but pretty high for regular desktop OSes.

Can windoze beat that... esp. Vista... I don't have slightest doubt, it CAN'T! XP, maybe, but can't vouch on that. Even Mac doesn't beat it. At least the MacBook Pro I had at Google for 2 months, didn't survive more than 3 sleep-wakeup cycles! And Vista I doubt can do any better, because I know when Vish cries in pain every time he has to reboot his windoze because he installed/uninstalled something or wi-fi stopped working, or system just needs reboot because it got sluggish!

For the guys (and maybe even gals!) who are still drooling over the other beauty, here is the link for you, the beautiful Doutzen Kroes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Much awaited move to new apartment

Couple of last posts have been centered around my internship experience. And I bet you are tired hearing about it now. I have almost convinced everyone that I spent 3 months of my Summer'08 in Heaven... But remember that every coin has two sides :)

I have been wanting to post about my new place ever since I moved in here, only because, in retrospect, the old apartment was nothing short of a hell hole, lest to mention the horrified experiences I and Vish had with our 3rd roomie! And the first step into this new apartment induced very strong positive vibes to start my new kicka$$ semester of Fall 08.
My Desk: From New place Coronado Apts

So, Saturday, 2331 hrs I landed in Pittsburgh, heavy hearted from the sadness of leaving California. I have been very very excited to move into a new apartment since it is located in a nice locality, good land lord, good management, neat and clean. And the maintenance guy had promised everything would be just good. At close to 1 am as I entered the house... WOW! New floor carpet, and new paint, I take a quick peek into the bathroom: neat, clean and NO wooden flooring! Great! I ran to kitchen, and tears of happiness started rolling down my eyes: Gas operated cooking stove!

There are 2 other types of cooking stove that are more common here: the ones with heating coils, which are just BAD. But nothing sucks more than the second type, hot plate kinds. Which is what we had in our old hell-hole. There wasn't a day we didn't manage to burn food on that !$#ing cooking stove. And not to forget how difficult it is to clean it. And now here I am, staring at the good old LPG gas operated stove... I light all the four burners and me and my room mate stare at it as if in trance!
Blue Angel: From New place Coronado Apts

As Saggy commented...
I'm sure that when Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the mortals, he wasn't aware of the glee that it would bring to mankind!

It's been more than a month now and we are still more than enthusiastic about cooking every single day over those beautiful dancing blue flames. You probably can imagine how important it is to have a nice stove from the fact that I have been blabbering about it for almost most of this post!
And as Saggy again puts it, I think is might actually be TRUE:
I'm sure if someone asks me who my current 'flame' is, I'd answer "LPG-Blue".

Other good thing about new place is that it has ample of sunlight throughout the day in every single room, including bathroom, enough wind when you open the windows, and no trace of wind when you close the windows! No pesky little gaping holes around window frames to kill us during chilling winters! All in all, I've started liking this place very much. And so has my other 2 room mates. with whom I share the place. Another good thing is that me and Vish have managed to find a decent 3rd room mate, Madhav (Vish prefers calling him Rasiya and I call him Motu!), who is not a PITA like the previous a$$___e! Another plus about him is that, like us, he is C L E A N!

So here you go, have a look at the photos. They don't do justice, but will work for now.

The first weekend we moved into apartment, we had an impromptu dinner party, have a peek at the photos.
From An Evening in Coronado

A small, completely unrelated, news, I have updated some info on my homepage too. And I promise to put up a nice revamped version sometime soon.

See Also:
0. Move to New Place
1. An Evening in Coronado

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Some Wonderful Moments of a Noogler

Last day of my internship @ Google was a mixed bag feelings: the joy of having worked with a great team at a great company, sense of achieving something in 3 months, joy of graduating soon, and at the same time the sadness of missing all the good things (read food) I had, the volleyball games, new friends, cycling, gym, and what not.
From Some Moments at Google

There are a hundred things that I did apart from regular work, and missed out on at least a thousand other things. I have put up an album that captures some of wonderful moments spent at Google. Especially an introduction to most of my co-workers: Some Moments at Google.

Related links:
0 Noogler's Point of View
1 Last Week of Internship At Google

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wireless Internet everywhere for everyone

Free the Airwaves... This is a very exciting project Google is supporting!
If you have ever tuned an old idiot box (aka TV) you must have seen fuzzy static between channels... the unused spectrum, in technical terms. More than three quarters of these radio airwaves is unused! How about using it, using it well!

Google is supporting a project 'Free The Airwaves' that could offer a revolution in wireless services, including universal wireless Internet.
Man, Google really knows how to revolutionize things! I love the way they come up with amazing ideas!
You got to read this about page to find out more on this project. You can even support the cause by signing the petition.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Last Week of Internship at Google

Three months have breezed away since the day I came for internship and it feels as if it was just last week that I was packing towards becoming a Noogler!

I had wonderful 3 months during my stay in Calif and work at Google. Blessings from my lord and loved ones, Google, good work, brilliant co-workers and superiors, warmth of good old friends, support from my close ones, nice weather, some amazing and some bad trips, some new friends, the famous Google 15 (see the notes below),
volleyball games, and my Godfather's visit to me last week (though only for half an hour) is what I think have made past few weeks amongst the few pleasantly memorable days of my life. In retrospect, it seems difficult to pack so much action in just 3 months. And still there is a lingering feeling that I could have done and achieved much more.

I managed to go to only 2 of the Google picnics neither of which I talked about. Of the nicer ones that I recall, I missed the Great America Trip and the famous Summer Cruise. There were other numerous outings. But the 2 that I did attend were fun enough. You can see the photos here:
0. Google Intern Scavenger Hunt

1. Google Summer Picnic

(2. Read about Summer Intern Cruise on my friend Alex's blog).

The upcoming Fall 08 semester is going to be fun in its own right: the excitement of graduating, the pain of interviews, exultation of getting a decent full-time job offer, the feeling of leaving Alma mater, increasingly unsurmountable desire to visit India and hugging the loved ones tight (culminating in my planned trip immediately after the semester ends!), shifting to new (and a little better than my Fall 07) apartment, and the fear of unknown :)

All of my co-workers have been more than helpful, all my old colleagues exceedingly sweet towards me. This, I trust, is one of the reasons for the feeling of emptiness within while moving back to school. I want to thank all of you who, knowingly or unknowingly, made my stay in California and work environment at Google more than an enjoyable crusade. I trust I have made at least a few new friends worth keeping in touch with, some at professional and some at social levels. I wish they feel the same.

Note: The Google 15 is a (true) legend, it states that most
(if not all) of the Nooglers, i.e. new-Googlers, gain at least 15 pounds of weight during their initial days of hogging at wonderful healthy Google cuisines. And I'm a living proof of this legend.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Visiting the hell hole: Las Vegas

To begin with I was soooo excited about the Las Vegas Trip. In fact, all of us have been looking up to it since Pittsburgh. I have heard so much about this place that I wanted to know what the hullabaloo is all about. I swear, but, this place is nothing short of a hell hole! Just a few days before the trip, I had a strong intuition that I should not go to this trip, and I won't enjoy it. But commitment was already done, and arrangements made. I had to go against my intuition, someone that has never failed me.

I won't go into the details of WHY I didn't like the place. Boozing, promiscuity and gambling probably would top the list. Suffice to say that most of the world's black money flows in and out of here. All the vices culminate here, are born here, nurtured here that too !@$#ing OFFICIALLY! Everything that you wouldn't want your kid to do, or taste, is done here.

Trying to survive the 133F+ heat! From Las Vegas

Part of disappointment also came from the fact that no one wanted to play gambling and yet (some of group members) wanted to visit every @!$#ing casino! Damn, once you have seen one, they all look bloody same. The mercury was soaring 120F+ (50C+), and food wasn't good. Nothing, not a single thing was exciting on this trip. Even the extravagant hotels look the same after the first few.

Hotel Bellagio From Las Vegas

Hotel Luxor From Las Vegas
To quote Chief Navigator (aka Vikram): I personally believe that if the entire city of Las Vegas is shut down, then there will be a significant impact on global warming (IN A GOOD WAY!) What a waste creating a random city like that in the middle of the burning desert. That's why everyone must go to Vegas once in their lives and like it or hate it!

In Death Valley, detour on the wayFrom Las Vegas

If you don't like to booze, gamble and promiscuity turns you off, don't spend more than a night here. Spending the 4th July long weekend here was a criminal waste of precious time :( Hope you would be wiser.


0. My Picasa Album: http://picasaweb.google.com/princeatul/LasVegas

Weekend outing with Anna and Su

This weekend was a nice break for the regular (and kinda boring) routine of mine. Since that last Vegas trip I haven't been out of home for other than going to office. So I was all charged up when Anna (aka, n30bli7z, Arun) planned to visit me during his Usenix Security Conference 08.

He would spend the day at conference, and would pick me up late evenings at Google! Wow! I was feeling like a VIP, been a while I have had the luxury of someone picking me up :D The first evening we spent good part of 3 hours touring Google campus and he seemed even more excited than I was my first week! Since he is a coffee fanatic, he loved the espresso made from freshly ground coffee beans in the micro-kitchen. But the fun was yet to start... it started when Su (aka Suchi, Suchitra) was supposed to come down to Sunnyvale and I would get to meet her. Su is the girl Anna has chosen as his significant other! These kids have decided to marry this month when they go India. Up to this point I was starting to wonder if I'll ever meet Su before these kids marry. My oldest chuddy-buddy getting married, we both in the same country and I don't even get to see my bhabhi-to-be. But thank goodness!

Love Birds: Su and Anna, while under my interrogation about their love story

The 2 years of journey from knowing each other through this decision to unite, it wasn't easy for Anna and Su. Everything that could get in way, did. And worst of all, I wasn't with them to share those painful moments :( Probably GOD wanted them to endure the pain, alone... damn, I hate that thing. Good to know, though, that fate had already decided things for them: to consummate their relationship into a permanent knot.

I was soooooooo excited to see them together. Man that was enough to charge me up through the weekends. From there on, we spend the whole of Sat-Sun playing catch-up with and giving invitation to colleagues. Met my Surdy-Buddy(Harjeet), Spot Reduction(Sonyo), Rama Kini(Nevis colleague), and Anna's relatives. I had moved with my stuff to his hotel for 2 days and 2 nights! We also saw one hopelessly pathetic and sadistic movie: Kismet Konnection (I have recommended this movie as a special torture aid for POWs. But, Vidya Balan is looking amazing).

I have seen a lot of positive change in Anna, since Su has come in his life. I so so so want to write an account of their love story here, but I would leave that for Anna to fill in. I don't want to breach his privacy, as he puts it :) Putting the photo itself took a little convincing. BTW, Su has got one of the sweetest voices ever, plus she speaks my dialect of Bumbiya Hindi :D Anyone would feel at ease with her in first meeting! I can vouch for that!

I'll miss his wedding. I missed my another buddy (Shaw's) wedding too, this year. And not to forget my sweet cousin, Janu's wedding. I hate to miss celebrations with loved ones (read: I hate to miss seeing wonderful crowd at such functions :-P )

Anna, Su and Me, after hogging at subway.

Anyway, since I won't be there for the celebrations, you two kids, Anna and Su, have my heartiest blessings, Tathastu!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mocking the M$ Vista

M$ has spent $$$s of the tune of millions on this 'Windows Vista WOW' campaign. And see how beautifully someone counters them. I don't know the origins of the Apple Adv, nor if it is even authentic... but whoever did it, it's a master piece of mockery!

I have used Vista on my brother's new ThinkPad T61 (T43 rocks, though!) and MacBook Pro now for a while... and I was LMAO hard when I saw these!!!

Technically speaking, it is freaking true... Vista is a big time sucker. It is so slow, that it got on my nerves the first hour I used it. Even my bro, who is not tech-savvy, and hates Unix to the core, got freaked out the moment he started using Vista. And still curses me for giving him laptop with Vista :D What freaks the hell out of me even more is the fact that all the !@#$ing vendors give ONLY vista by default! They charge some $100 or so for XP! And Vista ain't any good to run on high end laptops. It's good only on THE HIGHEST end laptops. The eye candies Vista claims to provide is still inferior to what Mac does. The security BS that M$ keeps giving us, it's been there in every single Unix since ages: User Access Control, Firewalls, and what not.
Here's what comes to my mind:
Given enough time and money, eventually Microsoft will re-invent Unix!

But, here comes the killer... even Mac OS X isn't too great! :D Pretty bold statement huh!
What rocks is only pure good old Linux. I don't like the tabs and controls Mac provides, they are just not enough for me. Maybe I'll write some good posts to substantiate this. But, for one, things you can do from shell is not as seamless as you can do from Linux.
Ex. If I want to start gvim (i.e. graphical vim) in linux shell I just have to
$ gvim i_love_vim.txt # and the magic begins!

on Mac I have to
$ open /Applications/baah/Macgvim blah blah # forgot what I was supposed to do?
... which is better? Esp when you use something a hundreds of times a day!

There is no 'Run Command' kind of menu option, just the Finder (or whatever it's called). I do Alt-F2 and here pops the window on KDE for me to fire commands. Every 1 in 10 times I wake Mac Pro from sleep, it hangs on me. Every 4-5 hrs it hangs on my colleague, without putting it to sleep!
But yes, if you talk of fancy eye candies... [LU]nix is not there yet. And Mac beats the hell out of all the OSes. But !@#$ the graphics if you can't get any work done, efficiently (efficiently, here, is THE the key word!).

Mac fanatics and Vista fanatics (vista fanatics... well I'm sure they do exist.... in the figments of our wild imaginations) are gonna pounce on me now:) I believe Windozes are just not engineer's OSes. But I'm not interested in starting OS war, so I might not respond-to/delete flame comments :) Every one has her own needs, and chooses the OS that best suits her. I chose mine, and have never looked back ever since :) Good or bad, that's all relative. They are just conveniences... man-made illusions... only personal preference... there are no absolutes in life, except absolute bullsh!t ;-)

See also:
M$ IE Sucks
[1] Even the M$ IE 7 Sucks!
[2] M$'s Master piece of FUD!
[3] Fastest way to convert base of numbers
[4] My Love

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Noogler's point of view

Google'd In! Yes! That's the news this time! I'm a Noogler, that is what New Googlers (new joinees and interns) are called here at Google. Well, generally interning at Google is not that big a deal, because unlike all other companies, an internship at Google doesn't guarantee full-time position. It, nonetheless, is an exciting experience to work at Google. I'm working in a domain I haven't worked in before. Usually, at this point of my career, I would have gone for the domain I'm good at, to increase my depth. But I chose otherwise, for Google. I am eying this as an immense learning opportunity from my bright co-workers. Learning new things is always fun to me.

I'm sure you want to hear about Googleplex... so here it goes.. Everything (good) you heard about Googleplex is not only true, but exceedingly overwhelming! Everything out here is free: juices, snacks, sodas, gourmet breakfast/ lunch/dinner, sport activities, blah blah. The magnitude at which these things happen here routinely will definitely strike you. And will be a while before you can absorb all of it :) I haven't clicked any photos here (surprised???) but here's my desk:
My desk decorated with balloons and chocolates (eaten up!) to welcome me

I'm yet to hear from someone that [s]he doesn't like to work at Google! Whenever I see a Googler I envy her/him sooooo much... they always seem to be walking with an unknown bewitchment that no one can bereave them of : Pride-n-Joy of working at Google. People with pets, can get them to work into their cubicles, while they happily assault the keyboards, crunch numbers or even cook for Google. People even keep fishtanks. I can go ranting about goodies here, but people have already done a better job all over the web. But, it is not about facilities and perks that makes Google a great place to work at. Any company with enough money can do that. It is something more than that, something intangible that makes this place different. And the time I'm here, I am going to attempt to translate that feeling into words.

Google defies a lot of the conventional logic.
Amongst many, here are top 3 things that interest me about Google the most:
  1. One is their financial model... how does the company survive solely on it's Ad program! I personally think, Google can be credited for discovering the online ad market by itself! How does a company make money, own the largest fraction of PCs in the world, maintain, only God knows, how many data centers with unprecedented amount of cumulative storages and still give most of its services free of cost!
  2. This is something I admired from day one: I have used quiet a few Google services. Their design policy seems to be Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS), make it robust, and tailor the product for power users (just like my [v]im). Right from GMail to Gtalk to Online docs, etc. you will see this philosophy religiously followed. I still remember the days when people didn't use gtalk because it wasn't cool enough with all the stupid MSN's bells and whistles. It is so exciting to see that each product gains a important feature one at a time without affecting it's reliability. And now, I have difficulty finding a person without GMail/Gtalk id! Now that I'm here for a while, I might have a glimpse into their design world.
  3. Openness of culture here is stunningly amazing. TGIF is a weekly company-wide get-together chaired by Google founders Larry and Sergey. While every company announces it's products and successes, what is unique about TGIF @ Google is the Q&A session. The founders themselves answer a handful questions in the congregation of Googlers, and the rest are replied-to offline. Questions range from finance to product to interns asking founders to join them for soccer match in the field. There is NOT a question that goes unattended! Seriously, this is by far _the_ most effective way to curb rumours and nonsense back talking about the company. They handle even the most point-blank questions with grace. Such an openess can only be afforded at small startups, but Google has defied that logic, again!
Google has spoiled me in one respect. It is now difficult to find a company that can beat the work environment Googleplex (link2) provides! And not to forget the startup-like casual (yet purposeful and professional) environment.

Another interesting thing here is that my manager (Jim) is a very enthusiastic and sporty person. (That, while I reported to Raghu, was true at Nevis as well. How do you think I managed to work there for so long!) Jim shows me routes around on bike, comes down jogging to see my soccer matches, and plays Frisbee on the way to lunch! I have always believed that interaction should go beyond weekly statuses, goal settings, appraisals, meetings, etc. Eventually, what matters the most is the personal, social and professional network you build up on your journey. As Raghu puts it, 'Building The Old Boy Network'. And as I love to put it, people work AT the company FOR their managers! You will be surprised by what you can do with that network. Talk to Raghu and he will quote you many interesting stories (probably I should pursue him to pen it down on his blog).

Last but not the least, it is an honor to work at a place that has amassed feverishly enviable talents from around the globe. To name a very few...
Two of them (Ken and Vint) are Turing Award Winners. I have very little doubt that Google will be to the world what Bell Labs or Xerox PARC was half a century ago!

Aaah... this post has grown way beyond the size I had planned! I should stop now :) But as I said... there is more than material perks @ Google to keep me interested!

See Also:
0. Last Week of Internship at Google
1. Some Wonderful Moments of a Noogler

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Weekend getaway to Yosemite National Park

The Group, From Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, it was this weekend. Thanks to Madhav for planning out everything, and everyone who looked hard for a place to stay. Everything was flawless, until one the members had to back off just 6-7 hrs before we started off!!! This resulted into another one backing off. The head count reduced from 8 to 6, and all the plans seemed to go for a toss. Not to mention the additional $$$s we would have to shell for now unnecessary bookings.

After seemingly endless arguing, cursing, cribbing and yelling... we retired to bed. Thankfully we managed to get some sleep. Oblivious to the fact, we had more sh_t to tackle. We started off, happily, pulled over for a nice brunch at Subway. And the horror struck... One of the 2 cars won't start. Soon we realized that the battery has completely drained. F__k! We were kind of in middle of nowhere. Something is definitely !@#$ing wrong with this trip :( After endless calls to idiots (aka Enterprise Rentals), endless waiting, repeated explanations, hunting for replacement, we finally decided to swap the battery at our expense, after a technician jump-started the car. Damn! 3-4 precious hours of the trip lost. I was almost certain the trip would be a disastrous failure. Thank GOD, I was wrong :)
Beautiful butterfly From Yosemite National Park

The fun of trip was manifold: I was hitting car on American roads for the first time, we had a good Chief Navigator (aka Vikram), near flawless itinerary and despite of sh_t, everyone maintained their cool and were positive of having a good time.

This car sucked, though. From Yosemite National Park

Near endless driving for about 800+ miles a lot of which was on curvy roads across amidst the scenic Sierra Nevada Mountains, seeing all we had intended to... this trip, after all, was more than a success! The best part of the trip was hiking to the mouth of Vernal Falls. The near 1 hour hike and reaching the top was epitome of successful trip!

Mesmerizing Vernal Falls, From Yosemite National Park

Verdict: An amazing place to go, but go while there are waterfalls, which is during mid/late spring.

The whole album...

Photo credits: Atul Talesara (Self)
Equipment: Canon EOS 30D + Tamron 18-200mm

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Californication and Visit to Lake Tahoe

The day I landed in Calif was unexpectedly and uncomfortably hot. For the first 2 days since my arrival, the mercury levels refused to come down. Damn! I cursed the people who kept swearing by Calif's weather claiming it to be THE best. Weather back in my (???) Pittsburgh is far better, barring the freaking winters. But soon the third day heat levels eased down and the temperature through the day is very pleasant and a little chilly by the nights.

You guys must have already seen the photos of surroundings I live in and my experiments with photography. After office, we (as in roomies) occasionally swim, play lawn tennis, TT, and even sit on our lazy a$$es every once a while staring blankly at our TFTs. Some are permanently glued to phone, though. I barely get time to do anything besides regular job... so I'm struggling to find the most efficient way to commute to and from office, get work done fast so that I can pursue other activities. Everything, eventually is about time management.

Last weekend was my FIRST REAL outing after coming to States!
After hogging on Subs by the highway
From Lake Tahoe Set 1
The 7 of us set out to the destination Lake Tahoe. Some 5-6 hrs drive from our place. But only we know better :D None of us have actually driven on US roads, so Madhav was the bold a$$ to take the initiative to hit the rented SUV on Uncle Sam's roads. But braver are we, the people who sat in that SUV ;-) The best part of the trip, interestingly, was our GPS... since it was our first time driving around downtown, freeways and highways, GPS confused us a hell lot than it aided us :D We managed to miss every single turn the GPS instructed us to take, despite 7 bright CMU-ECE raccoons applying every conceivable logic on it :D Resulting in the most irritating 'recalculating route' message... It wasn't until the time to drive back home that we almost managed to drive to GPS' instructions :) But all in all, Madhav did drive very well, despite of being tired and fatigued.

We started very late from home, and hence ended up spending all the precious time traveling. Lake Tahoe, is really a very nice (and romantic) place. We barely get to see such vast expanse of
clear and clean water back home in India. I have never seen so many shades of blue and green in one single place :) We couldn't do much of any activities except for a stroll on a trekking trail.
Serene Lake Tahoe
From Lake Tahoe Set 1
I managed to shoot a little over 500 photos, not all of which are present in the album. There are over 200 or so in Ravi's camera! Will share once I get my hands on them.
Nature's perfection: She's hovering in mid-air against strong winds for a fish to come in her sight! On spotting one, she would dive with lightening speed, catching it almost every time she dived! It was fun watching this amazing little feat.
From Lake Tahoe Set 1

Verdict: A very nice place to explore, but don't go to Lake Tahoe in winters, it is all covered in snow. And start early so you get more time to explore the place. Do try your hand at water sports.

See the whole album Lake Tahoe set 1

Photo credits: Atul Talesara (Self)
Equipment: Canon EOS 30D + Tamron 18-200mm (wish I had a CPL filter)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lots of photos

Some photos, siting unshared for long time!
0. First Photos from my Canon EOS 30D
First Photos from my Canon EOS 30D

1. ECE Day 2008: Every year ECE organizes a BIG fun-n-fair to let the hungry and tired raccoons (aka ECE'ians!) eat and relax!
ECE Day 2008

Why raccoons? Here it goes from our department website:
Introducing the ECE Raccoon
The unofficial ECE Day mascot is the raccoon. The idea developed at a SAC meeting when discussing the defining characteristics of an ECE student's life. SAC members found that the raccoon best exemplified those characteristics since they, like ECE students, tend to be nocturnal and are always scrounging for free food. Raccoon eyes are indicative of the sleep deprivation that sometimes accompanies an ECE education.

--- edit some more photos 19-May 08 ---

2. Photos from plane
Photos from plane

3. Sunset, flowers mountains and much more
Sunset, flowers mountains and much more

4. Humming bird, bees and ducks
Humming bird, bees and ducks

5. Flowers, Squirrels and Leaves
Flowers, Squirrel and leaves