Once upon a time, when the death of a thespian caused an albeit short, but widespread rise of ManninaMakkalu-ism in Bengalooru, I was one of those who felt we really needed to stagger entry for residence into the City if anything good was to come of it. At the same time, I found this community on Orkut called “Bangalore’s Full! Go Home!”. As was expected, there were lashings at people from Bimaru states, and generally the North and Northeast and Northwest, but as I looked through the topics, I began getting offended. And it wasn’t just the language used.
I’m a Tamilian, but a true-blue Bangalorean all the same – I’ve lived here all my life, save holidays at Madras [I somehow never want to call it Chennai] and other places and my time at NITK, I’m darned PROUD of this city, I feel Bangies are truly the most cosmopolitan in India, I read and write Kannada, can’t say the same about my Tamil, I’m one of those few who listen to Kannada music [not many Kannadigas themselves boast of that] and heck, I’ve never liked any other city as much, and it’s not just ‘coz I live here.
Well, so it obviously put me off when there were lashings at what the Mannina Makkalu [Sons of the Soil] on the community called Kongas. [I thought that's just an offensive term for Tamizhan until I came across this.] All the while, I’d assumed it was Bangies [long-term residents] against the rest, but heck, these souls just went about lashing at anyone who spoke a language other than Kannada. [Aside: I thought the war was Long-Term Residents V/S Migrants, but, well, it turned out that it was just an awareness program that Kannada is spoken in Bangalore.]
Anyways, I attended a family celebration after a long, long while today, and it struck me we’re a large, large lot of Tam-Bangies who pass off as Kannadigas, and, face it, in essence, can be considered Kannadigas who speak fluent Tamil – we’d be at home anywhere from Gulbarga to Mysore, but will shriek after a day in Chennai or Madurai. Conversation at the gathering was largely in English, thanks to the large amount of Software Developers and wannabe developers present, and thanks to many intermarriages, people who didn’t quite know who the others were found it safer to start conversations in English than in Malayalam or Telugu or Kannada or Tamil.
I found it irresistably funny that a young cousin of mine who was at one time passionate about learning to read and write Tamil, for some reason talked only in Kannada. And no, it isn’t a heavily-accented Kannada, not even a hint of Tam in it. That’s not quite surprising; we all grew up with “Tamil at home, Kannada outside”, and learnt to read Kannada before a-z. But I can’t say much the same about my Kannada, my vocab isn’t anything great, and the accent has purists seething. Awesome, innit, when your cousins in TamizhNaad think you’re talking a foreign tongue when you say “Eppadi Irrukai, ‘Ka?”. The max I can claim is that I can read the board at the back of a bus AND get on to it as it is leaving. Anyway, this demeanor of my cousin surprised me, and we got talking about it. She said something about Being A Roman In Rome, and how the natives themselves were forgetting their language, and how it is upto us to rescue the language.
Gawd, the Mannina Makkalu don’t know what they’re alienating!
After months of hardwork to make NITK’s techfest, ENGINEER – bigger, better and more professional, Team Engineer is waiting for the actual event to take off on March 7th (and go on till 11th).
Bigger, with a resounding budget of around 20 lakhs. More events. Big sponsors.
Better, with higher quality questions. Better organization. And a variety of events – Something for everyone.
More professional with a suave and well-designed website, quality equipment and the like.
Thousands of meetings. Quite a few brilliant minds. Nightouts. And many more things. Hope it’ll be a success.
All signs point to it will – the online events have already taken off full swing, with around 300 teams trying out for Virtual Bounty, the online treasure hunt, and lots more giving Inscription, the online programming contest, a shot. Both were very well organized, with the only glitch in Bounty being that the net speed gave us kai.
The enthu has really gotten into most of us, with many of our batchmates trying out for one event or the other. They are also helped by the fact that Engineer ’07 has something for everybody. There are a whole slew of online events, including Online Math. The problems are beautiful, brought back memories of math in class XII, and they really make you use your long-rotting grey cells. Then there are business events this time ’round, like MockStock and EPitch, which we hear have received tremendous response from outstation teams.
The workshops are better-organized this time ’round, with one conducted by the Indian Underwater Robotics Society, and several Industry Interaction sessions by Accenture, IBM, Sun and Autodesk. With the aim of reaching out to the society, there are events for a socially-conscious engineer, like Shrishti, Winds of Change and Rural Innovators. There is technical informalz too, and Decathlon, which is in true spirit, a TEAM event.
And, and… we’re having the unveiling of the first 3-D mouse at Engi-07! The event is called Mushaca [Mooshaka - Sanskrit for mouse], where ideas on how to use such a mouse are invited. And what’s more, everyone gets a share of the prize money.
As we said before, there’s something fore everyone, and the complete list of events can be seen here.
Strikes us as surprising that a large number of people [ditchers!] are going home from March 7 to March 11. That’s supposed to be understandable: a large number of people stayed back for Inci this time, and they need to go back home for a longish break sometime, and Engi’s it. And anyway, the majority of the ditchers are freshies and sophomores, people who wouldn’t do anything much for Engineer anyway.
We beg to differ.
Being a freshie/sophomore does NOT disqualify you from enjoying a well-organized techfest.
At the risk of sounding preachy, we’ll say us Numbskulls have NEVER missed a single edition of Engineer, and what’s more, have enjoyed ‘em, even the one held when we were in first year. That one, we spent watching every single event there was, attending the videoconferences [Wanderlust got to ask Dr. Devi Shetty about what he's doing to prevent heart disease among the public], trying to win Virtual Bounty, coming awfully close and losing bigtime, a lot wiser on googling after that.
Tuna got to take part in Contraption in Engi ’06, what with burning matches from almost 50 boxes, didn’t win, blame it on the winds …]
We must admit we were still in awe of anyone who could make a boat that could actually cross the swimming pool without sinking, and those who made noisy cars that were remote-controlled, and basically of all junta who took techfests seriously, most of who consisted of the platoon who invaded IITM for Shaastra ’05.
But that was until Techfest ’06 at IITB.
The pair of us were complete noobs who had just chanced upon a problem statement on the Techfest ’06 site while arbit googling, and hitched on a third. As is usual with tech fests, the statement consisted of space travel, satellites and other words that put off most first-timers. Wanderlust wanted to take a tamer one, but Tuna believed this problem statement wasn’t as formidable as it seemed, and it was “crackable, they’re IITians, they wouldn’t set it otherwise”.
Then was a long period of shooting in the dark, and brainstorming. We also asked the Gods of electronic and mechanical engineering for direction, but all we got were jargon and taunts.
Which might have been a good thing: it helped us see the simplicity of the problem. The winter break was on, and after a million chat sessions and some serendipitous interjections by Wanderlust’s mum, we came something close to a solution – it was the Numbrella, a mega-sized umbrella with 7 folds as opposed to a normal umbrella that has 3 folds.
Started the implementation ten days before the contest. Got to know Mangalore’s Market like the backs of our hands. ‘Twas a painful few days when we were cutting and piecing together umbrella ribs armed only with snips, screwdrivers and hammers, and the very Guevaran fix-all – wire, with only The Beatles to soothe us.
The frame was all done, and all we needed was to stitch the cloth on to it. For all those ignorant ones, cloth is HEAVY. Full credit to Tuna for that – she made every single stitch on the Numbrella.
And then the people at the carpentry workshop, who gave us an elementary course in sawing and filing and finished the job that’d've otherwise taken us ages – we couldn’t have done it without you, sirs.
Mumbai. Lovely city. IITB. The campus in itself is a place worth visiting. After block timings at NITK, IITB seemed like heaven – we could roam around the campus at odd hours in the night, feeling perfectly safe. We discovered to our ire that our event was the last ever one to be held. We spent much of the four days there adding improvements to our design, improvising with rubberbands, and the numbrella getting crapped on by pigeons and crows. And also being asked how it was at Surat [aargh!], where is this NITK place [Suratkal, not Surat, Karnataka, next to Mangalore], where on earth is Mangalore, is it just Bangalore misspelled, or is that how it is locally known, but they thought that was Bengal-ooru or something….
And there was SO MUCH ELSE to do! Impromptu contests, exhibitions, other events to watch, meeting up with friends-of-friends, meeting relatives in Mumbai, exploring the city [post-midnight jaunts on local trains.. it doesn't feel post-midnight at all!]… phew! You needn’t be a participant to have fun there. Ah, and Aeon Flux premiered there, and we missed it thanks to our event being held the very next day, and our model not yet complete.
The event did finally take place after a long, long series of delays, and our hard work came to something, and we won the design prize. Whew!
Though we didn’t experience Techfest in its fullest, the experience has taught us a lot.
Explorative prototyping is not a joke, though for practical purposes you should assume it is one. Never ever discount any brainstorm you might have, for you never know, that might be the precursor to a great practical idea that is just what you’re looking for.
No idea is too meaningless, or too nonsensical to be considered seriously. Everything strikes as a fantastic idea, it is the engineer’s job to bring it down to earth.
Your implementation need not look like a slickchick device like GE’s [unless it's software], but it does matter that the idea behind it feels like one. And it also matters that you slog like a GE employee at realizing it.
Never be afraid to dream and visualize ahead. Feasiblity checks come much later in the game, as anyone who’s studied [or mugged] Software Engineering Principles would know.
And if you’re shying away from participating ‘coz you think you’re a noob, trust us, you’ll remain one.
For all the freshies and sophies who might come across this, first and second year doesn’t mean that you are incapable of handling the problem statements. Most of them are just testing your ability to bring ideas into reality. Well, there are some hardcore technicalities but there is nothing wrong in giving it a try. It’s also the time when you experiment with new people to work with, and trust us, that is absolutely essential to finally decide what sort of a person you would really like to work with, and who you would work with best.
You mightn’t win the first time you try out something, but that isn’t reason enough to lose heart and not try again. The experience in itself is one where you learn a lot more than from all that you’ve been doing till now in your engineering. The joy of seeing your model work is worth it all, and more.
Oh, and do read a lot of sci-fi, it does help when it comes to outrageous ideas.
And a tad more practical advice: The Mechie workshops at NITK absolutely rock. They really know stuff, and are a big help when it comes to projects and fests.
And all ye ditchers, you don’t know what you’re missing. And some of you, we suppose, never will.
See ya at Engineer ’07!
PS: TheG reminded us of our time at Techfest a while ago, and was surprised that none of us had blogged about one of the conversations we had, concerning a pistol, a shootout, elite Indian universities and Harry Potter. We must admit, that was one of the craziest conversations ever, where all the outrageous ideas the three of us had been gathering over the previous three months actually reached a new high, which we never believed possible. YouKnowWhat dude, you rock. *Chuckle*
It has been more than one-and-a-half years of us Numbskulls blogging – One year on Blogger, and the rest on WordPress. And hopefully, there are more to come. But let me not digress, and come to the point straight. Which is, WP Rocks. It really does.
I haven’t really given Blogger
Beta a try, and haven’t ventured into MovableType-based blogging sites like LiveJournal. That puts me in a position where I’m unqualified to comment on how WP is the best. I’ll just elaborate here on how WP is GOOD.
- Instant updates. Whatever change you make to your page, it is updated instantaneously as soon as you click “Update”. Not like Blogger where you have to wait till the whole page is republished.
- Cooler themes. They have a more professional, slicker look. And what’s more, you can make your own, apart from custom image headers. I agree, however, that blogger’s better in this respect: you can edit the HTML of the page. While you can just edit the css of a WP page. It’s easy to make your own theme. Just modify an existing theme, or write your own CSS. It’s not hard to implement your ideas, but you most definitely need a keen eye for what looks good online.
- SNAP Previews. You might have noticed this one. All you have to do is hover your mouse over any link on this page, and a preview of the page will appear in a bubble next to your mouse pointer.
- Sidebar Widgets. You can choose which ones to have on your page, and which ones to drop. So you can have a Flickr widget, one for de.li.cio.us, Meebo, Sonific Songkit [I'm yet to try them all out, but I promise I will in the near future]… the list goes on to include widgets that show your top posts, top clicks from your sites [the links people click most on your page], and your Blog Stats.
- BLOG STATS! Easily the best feature of WordPress. With blog stats, we know how many views we get every day, what links lead here, which links did people click to get here, what links people clicked on our blog, which posts were viewed by how many people, total views of each post, total number of views, how many incoming links we have and which sites link us up, how many people read our feeds everyday, what feedreader they use to do so.. But the bit we like best is the graph that shows how many views we got in the past thirty days. The most convenient one for Search Engine Optimization is the bit that shows you what search terms led people to your blog that day. Just going through that section is an ego-massage, take my word for it. Beats those hit-counter embeds available to put on your site any day – it doesn’t count your own visits to the blog.
- Talking of embeds, you just need to specify the URL of the YouTube/Google/SplashCast/DailyMotion video you want to embed on your post. You don’t need to modify the HTML of the page with the embed URL given in the YouTube/* page.
- WordPress lets you rate the links on your blogroll. This is supposed to help in Search Engine Optimization. And I believe it does.
- The Dashboard on login shows you the latest activity on your blog. Saves you the trouble of looking through different posts to monitor activity.
- In Blogger, the problem we faced was that comment notifications were sent only to a single email ID. We never got to know about new comments on the older posts. Here, comment notifications for a post are sent to its author. That’s a big help on a group blog.
- There is no separate comments page. Which saves a lot of pain, as you can comment on the post’s page itself. And you get the IP address of the commenter in your comment notification – no such things as anonymous comments anymore.
- Tagsurfer enables you to search for posts on the tags you write about, and also on any tag you want to search for. Friendsurfer helps you keep track of other WordPress blogs.
- Post Preview as I save the page, hosting of files upto 50 MB, and most importantly, PAGES. I can have multiple pages on the blog, apart from the blog itself.
- I can disallow comments and/or pings for individual posts, password-protect posts, and everytime someone links up a post of mine, I get a trackback, and it works the other way for other WP posts I link up.
- Most importantly, the user community is very, very active and there is always someone or the other who’s done the very same thing you’ve been planning to [for example, random header images] and are wondering how to go about it, and has blogged about it with detailed instructions on how to go about it.
Ah, if that didn’t make me sound like a WP evangelist… but then, that’s what happens when I’m talking to any blogger who’s on Blogger. I was initially quite skeptical about the move from Blogger to WordPress, but what cinched it in favor of WP was that we were one of the few able to blog even during that difficult time for Indian bloggers when the Government had banned blogs. And what further strengthened the resolve was my SEO blog getting thrown off the domain as it violated Terms of Service. Man, these guys really mean business!
PS: This page got its 10,000th hit a week ago. No, it isn’t indicative of much, except that there have been 10K pings to it. But, uh, er… YAY!