First Lego League

The first time I gave a thought to be a part of this event.

FLL is about encouraging kids in robot desing & programming in an interactive manner which would hook them to this. I managed to partner with another colleague of mine and we decided to coach a team. He as the main coach and me the assistant. We had to form a team of more than 3 and with some difficulties we managed to get 7kids. It was a tough challenge in terms of co-ordination since all stayed at different locations here in Bangalore. We did overcome the obstacle. There were some confusions also as to how the event would be conducted and who would organize this event. Finally, Techtronics took this up. The venue for the South Zone India contest was SAP Labs India office premises in Bangalore.
We managed to make a design which was definitely not the best but would perform the tasks. The theme of this year (2009) was “Smart Move“. Our robot was failing to do certain tasks like picking up the loops or the angle at which it was turning and moving. Sometimes the ultrasonic sensor used to give wrong readings. The touch sensor even with impact was moving forward and not stopping. There were many challenges like these.
The D-Day arrived and on arriving at the campus in the main cafeteria area, two mats were prepared and kept for the mission. Two teams would compete at a given time. 2mins30secs per team to complete the mission and win total of 400points. And best of 3 rounds. Our robot failed in round 1. The rules were strict and the kids got tensed when the robot did not perform the task. Round 2 & Round 3 we managed to get some points on the board.
We as coaches could sit in the room without giving any signals to the team.
The other activities included a technical presentation. Where the team has to talk about the design of the robot, do a run to explain the movement and also explain the programming.
The next was project presentation. Each team has to prepare a project, an idea on smart move. Identify a problem, interact with community and propose a solution. We identified our project as “smart movement of power”. The loss of power in transmission from the main station to the end consumers.
The last activity was a test of team work. Each team would be given a task to perform and they would judge the teamwork in this activity.
Firstly, our robot failed to do all the given tasks. Ultrasonic sensor failed and our angles measured and changed at the beginning of the day still made the robot go haywire.
In the technical presentation, the kids were caught when they were unable to explain about the switch based on rotation sensor. Rotation sensor would calculate the number of rotations the wheel of a particular motor makes. We could then write a logic based on this number.
In the project presentation everything went well till the time judges suddenly woke up the remaining kids and asked them to speak. We had divided the tasks among kids initially based on their strong points. Also, we had scaled down the broad area to specific issues at the end consumer level. It is not easy for school kids to come up with a solution to fix the problem of transmission over the thick insulated wires. Where in India there is 30% loss of power during between generation and consumption. Somehow the judges were not able to visualise this or what. We should have also had proposed how a smart move would result in lesser loss. Both sides are at fault but the way judges questioned the kids could have definitely been better. While everyone talks about transportation we wanted to do a certain deviation here. They were questioning like how a lawyer would in a court of law.
In the teamwork the kids did well. The task was to hold hands of opposite person. Two hands of one cannot hold two of same another person. They have to entangle and make a circle without breaking the hand lock. In the practise the kids made it, but in the final run they couldnt. They did talk well and tried to convince the judge but it was not convincing.
In the end we as a team could have done lots better. The kids should have practised harder, we should have regularly had sessions to assemble & program the robot rather than hold on till the end. But being first time we were also not clear and little relaxed.
Personally, I loved assembling, designing the robot. I was not very keen in programming. It does take lot of time. I would be willing to do the coach role again in years to come depending on other activities.

For photos click here.

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Nxt GenX

In changing times there are also changes in relation & marriage. It was not common but was happening for quite some time in urban & rural India just like in the Western world. The mix in a relation leading to marriage is good for the Indian community.
In past why marriages were allowed only within same community. One, the property and money would remain within the community. Two, the thought process and idea’s and rituals would remain the same and continue. Third, each community was performing one set of activity. A mix of farmer with a girl from brahmin would not happen as this would lead to change of profession & life for either one. Could one adapt to such a thing was a big question. Not only adapt it was also about what of the next generation. Any relation was always a focus on next generation rather than the current generation.
A mix in marriage was to be faced with stiff opposition sometimes meant death if marriage happened. Some who did marry migrated to other cities or countries to avoid facing harassment. In today’s world harassment still exists, opposition exists. But the acceptance level has changed for better. The opposition has reduced. Why? Atleast in urban places if one notices education has changed this. With people from different communities reaching similar levels of education, the behavior pattern has also changed. More time spent together brings forth a relation and some extends to marriage.
Is a mix of this kind good for people? Yes. Consider India as a whole there are people of different backgrounds, different practises, different rituals, different thought processes, different languages. When they come together new ideas are born. This is the new generation. 20 – 30years from now, we would find more & more of such a mixture and new ideas/ideals born out of this mix.
The formation of communities and society would undergo a change in times to come.

Puri Jagannath Temple

New Year holiday rush at the temple is really on a high. People throng the temple from near-by states. This makes me to stay away in the evenings and late mornings. But what I experienced over there will make me stay away from this temple for long time to come.
This temple for one encompasses within a big area (not as big as Madurai Meenakshi Temple). There are Gods from different parts of India for worshipping. The temple has a nice architecture though the surrounding areas are not appealing. Some steps to clean the area would be really good.
More than all this is what happens inside. I stand in a queue waiting for the darshan ticket Rs.25/-. Fortunately its early in the morning so there are not many people in the queue and no ones pushing around. While standing in the queue I notice a priest offering prayers to God. Once done he calls everyone passing by to get blessings of God. Fair enough. He asks them to also to namaskaram. When you do so, one can notice that there are certain notes of currency placed and priest wants you to notice the same and put some money.

After about 45mins the counter opens and tickets are sold for the second darshan in the morning. Then you move into another queue which is to go near God and offer prayers. This queue is currently stopped since there are people still inside from previous darshan. Some rush into the queue some like me are relaxed. One guy starts a conversation with me just to squeeze himself inside the queue instead of standing at the last. God only knows what hurry they got in life. After the conversation I tell him to go back since there are others standing behind and they have also waited quite long.

The best part is there are cops everywhere regulating the queue and maintaining order. Once you walking up the steps at the top end of each set of stairs there is a priest standing with a wooden stick in hand. He will tap you with that. Never get irritated with them. All they are tapping you is for you to place some money. If you give them money its like offering God. Sometimes the tap could be real hard also. Just ignore and continue walking. Close to where the Gods murthi’s the entire area is dark with very minimal lighting serving no purpose. And there is water all over and three big steps which you need to climb down and climb up later when coming out. With water, its slippery. In the dark you cannot see anything. I hold on to the sides of the door and get down. Others are busy pushing and rushing in. But, the interesting fact is no one ever falls down in all this.
Once inside the main sannidhi, one priest brings a plate of aarthi (burning camphor). He would bring it close to your face. Duck underneath and escape, dont take your hands out, and take the offering. Once you do that, you need to put some money on the plate.
Normal Hindu belief is any temple or sannidhi you need to go around atleast once clockwise. I also do the same. Its a 3 sided enclosure. You are standing at the fourth side. The space for doing this is very limited and you need to maintain queue. The moment you take a turn there are two priests pushing your head towards the wall of sannidhi and making you take blessing. Dont take this blessing. On top of the wall are placed notes of currencies and you have to definitely put some. At the second side there are no one. On the 3rd side there are 4 priests at two places, remember there were none on the 2nd. All of them try to take money out of you.
Once again never get irritated or argue with them. You cannot digest the insults from them. Try out your own means of getting away from them.
One advantage I had was I was single. Couples normally are weak links and easy to get money from. I ignored all the requests/tactics from priests and kept walking. I was successful in walking away without paying any money. These tactics also had a bad impression on me that I just walked out of the temple too deciding not to walk in again.

In all these I still feel and its true to large extent that Thanjavur Brihadeeshwar temple is the best, quite and serene place. You have lot of peace inside. Am still attached to this place and temple more than any other temples.

Life in Kolkata

On one side and mostly seen by all is the life on the pavement. There is a brighter side of life in Kolkata. There is actually a very big divide between the rich and the poor. But, how much ever rich they maybe, many still park their cars near the pavement restaurants and eat. College going kids, couples (married & un-married), rich, poor, middle class everyone would definitely stop by to eat at these pavement restaurants. This is in contrast to Bangalore where some section of people don’t consume food served in push-carts, except of course paani puris & similar kinds.
Culturally also Kolkata is far ahead maybe not as compared to Mumbai but definitely against other metro cities and Bangalore. The college kids and other sect of people have adopted to walking on roads hand in hand, hugging each other & beyond. Life keeps moving on, nobody bothers much about these activities. If you cant be part of it, try to be in future or just ignore it.
The fact also remains that they are intelligent people but their sheer laziness acts as a block except when they move to different city. This trait I have observed in some Malayalis also. Even the highly educated chews paan and spits it on the road, on pavements, on staircases. No discrimination here.
The people of Kolkata are very friendly. You ask them anything they would respond with correct information most times. They are very helpful and many prefer to communicate in English if you dont speak Bengali. Some trait which one would notice in Mumbaites and chennaites.

Kolkata life is a big contrast and on two extremes. Its interesting and exciting.

Accidents are made, they don’t happen

In most of my trips and regular riding I have witnessed many accidents that happen on the road. All it takes is a bit of patience. There is always a feeling of being in a hurry in everyone. Some could be genuine and some man-made.
Today, riding down from Chennai to Bangalore at Vellore, I was in the middle lane riding at about 90km/hr. On the right lane was a bus at 60km/hr and on the left an auto at about 40km/hr. It would take me about 2minutes to cross them and move to the left lane. From a distance I saw a BMW car (TN07AE1**8) ripping towards me at a good speed. Its very clear I cant move to either lanes as I would bang against the other two vehicles. The other option is to completely slow down and move behind one of them which would take 1minute. The driver of the BMW car could clearly see and should have been able to gauge the speed of mine. But he continued at the same and came right behind me and honked hard. It didnt have any impact on me since I had no option but to cross them. If the driver had been bit more careless he would have knocked me down and if he was careful he would have slowed down slightly before and not honked when there was no need for.
The second kind of people are those who cross from one side of the road to another side on cycles, 2-wheelers and other vehicles. The straight lane always gets preference is only in the books but never in reality. Even though they can see you coming at good speed they will still cross with least bit of concern. And after crossing they would slow down and stand watching. For what joy do they do this?
The third kind of people would turn into the main road even if you honk or flash light. They always feel that other vehicles should apply break or make adjustments accordingly.
You hit any of them the entire village would pounce on and beat you black and blue.
Men are no different from stray dogs which cross when they feel like or the cattle which sit in the middle of the road since it feels it wants to take rest.
The fourth kind of people those who think any paper, plastic cover, empty carton box, wrappers should not be inside the car. These are garbage and they should be disposed off immediately. So, when travelling in car or vans or buses or trucks they throw them out of the window. It doesnt matter to them if there are vehicles coming behind them. Its all the more danger for 2-wheelers if it lands on the face directly. If you question them they want to fight with you and not understand. If the educated do it, what can you expect from those who are not.
The fifth kind of people want to gargle water in their mouth and spit it from the window of their vehicle. They want to spit the paan and anything and everything.
The sixth kind of people want to overtake at any given point of time. The vehicles coming in opposite direction can slow down. The another sect in the same overtake at curves and bends. All it takes is few seconds or minutes but they cant wait. They would be late for the meeting, unmindful of never making it for meeting nor home. Like one sign board reads on the highway “BETTER BE LATE Mr. THAN BE Mr.LATE”. Who reads them?

What would bring sense into the educated people who drive/ride. If 10% of these people change, they could definitely influence other road users. This is a big challenge to bring about a change, and how to do it another big challenge. While we fight for so many things, the basic civic sense is missing.

Ayirathil Oruvan (Tamil) – Movie Review

First, kids below 10-12yrs of age? Parents, leave them home, don’t take them along to watch the movie. Are you heart patient or pregnant woman, refrain from watching this movie if you are faint hearted.
This movie is not for kids, heart patients & pregnant women. This should have been clearly published at the beginning when one buys the ticket and later at the counter.

A very detailed analysis has gone in before making of this movie. This movie does not have relevance to the incidents that happened centuries ago. Selvaraghavan should be credited for the efforts in making a historical movie combined with todays world, with a touch of romance, emotion, quarrels and glamour.

The Cholas vs Pandians. How Cholas protect a deity and Pandians want to get it from Cholas is a thin storyline. One has to cross 7 hurdles before they reach the Chola village. But how it has been shown to the viewers matters. A brief switch to flashback when the movie starts and then moving over to current state.

An archealogical research into finding the lost empire and what happens next forms rest of the movie.What happens when three people are stuck together in middle of nowhere without food, water & shelter is also shown well.

In current scenario, we are so much stuffed with commercial movies that one would wonder if this movie will go well with audience. It definitely would and there would be repetitive audience. The 2nd half of the movie draws ones attention and need to be watched carefully. If not, the review would definitely be bad.
Do not watch the movie like you would watch 3 Idiots, Kutty. If you are a person expecting movie of that kind then better stay away. This is not for you.

If you can relate the first scene and the last scene and connect it, there could be no sequel. Just going by the ending there could be a sequel. Whatever Selvaraghavan has clearly redefined non-commercial movie making.

Sherlock Holmes (English) – Movie Review

It was not a good experience watching the movie in Devi Bala. It was like watching the movie on television screen rather than a cinema hall screen.
The movie was Sherlock Holmes. There are some mistakes made in the movie. On the whole its an engrossing movie. Some dialogues are meant to tickle funny bones but unfortunately it fails to do so.
Some things remained like reading a book. Like, when Sherlock goes to explain each incident of death. Unless one follows it closely, its difficult to comprehend what he said.
Take your time and watch it. It didnt impress me like “Rock N Rolla” but its worth a watch.