ACM ICPC, Bangalore!

I just touched down in Trivandrum after my ACM ICPC, Regionals in Bangalore.  It’s been quite an experience.  To all those non-CS guys out there, ACM ICPC or the Association For Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Competition is the Olympics for programmers.  One of the toughest programming competitions in the world, we managed to qualify for the regionals for this year at Bangalore and Kanpur.  On the 18th morning, I reached the Amrita University campus in Bangalore early in the morning.  Chilled to the bone in the Bangalore weather, we checked into the rooms provided.  Soon, the other competitors filled in, from all over the country, I saw the largest collection of serious coders from India.  Some of these teams have been participating in the event for the last 2 or 3 years and we were certain that we would never crack the challenges.

ACM ICPC Regionals - Bangalore

Food was free and after quite a heavy breakfast, we proceeded to the practice sessions.  The practice sessions turned out to be a disaster with server issues delaying it almost 3 hours.  But we could feel the excitement in the room as impatient coders waited for the portal to open.  The portal was up at almost 12 in the afternoon and we managed to crack one of the two questions during the practice challenge.  All systems were go, for the event.  After the practice session we had yet another heavy meal and retired to our rooms.  I spent the afternoon watching a movie, while other teams were busy battling it out on CodeForces and revising algorithms.

Early in the morning of the contest day, we got dressed in the contest t-shirts and proceeded to the contest arena.  The atmosphere was quite different now, with some teams mumbling algorithms and tricks in their mind as they filed into their respective nodes.  We could see a couple of teams were quite nervous.  We were relaxed as this was our first attempt and we hadn’t done much of practice.  Anyways at 9:05 am, we received our question sets and we got lost trying to crack at least one question.  We are quite proud to say that we managed to crack one of the 11 questions with relative ease, and started working on another question, which we almost solved after considerable effort.  Our question worked well for the given test cases but went wrong with large test cases.  The solution wasn’t accepted by the system, we believe we cracked the problem.  A couple of teams were cracking away with easy, like a team from Dhaka, managing to crack almost 8 or 9 questions.  These guys had done their homework for at least an year before they turned up.

The contest ended at 2  and as I had prior commitments, I left the contest site.  Let me tell you this though, a serious coder needs to get into ACM ICPC.  Programming is not just learning to write code, it is about learning to write good code, solving tough questions that needs solving.  Anyone can learn to write code, but being a coder, is an altogether different thing.  Live to code.

Adios

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New found passion!

Namaskaaramundu machaane!

Been quite a while since I whipped something up to write on here.  So, here I am!  An interesting observation I made as I sat down to write this, is that I write most of my posts during my one month long sem-break.  Yup, I am taking my much awaited vacation in Trivandrum, Kerala, my current hometown.  My ‘current’ home-town I say because most of my family is here and I have been staying in this town since 2004.  It’s almost Christmas in God’s Own Country and I can feel it in the air.  Christmas in Chennai is a rather grey affair.  Here in Trivandrum, the countless bakeries have already started filling up with cakes and wine, the markets are flooded with christmas decorations and the TV channels have already showing teasers of Christmas movies and shows.  We Malayali’s are notorious for celebrating every festival you can throw at them and there is no religion that can stop us from doing it.  I’ve been eating Christmas cake and decorating Christmas trees, since I was a little boy!

Two days back I had done the unthinkable, go back to my old school to attend the alumni meet, and met quite a few of my old schoolmates.  I didn’t feel all that nostalgic though.  Anyways, it was a fun evening out.

Tomorrow I am all set to leave to Bangalore, to attend the ACM ICPC Regionals and to meet my beautiful girlfriend, who is probably the only reason why I am alive right now.  Though it sounds a little cheesy or lame or perhaps even out-rightly alien to some of you guys, I love my girlfriend.  Call me old school, I still believe in love.

Anyways, that aside, the last year was probably a turning point in my life.  Life turned into a big puddle of shit last year, and I was confused by it.  So confused that I made a lot of wrong decisions, put my trust in the wrong people one too many times, and ended up getting hurt.  I believe, Chennai will make me ready to tackle anything that is thrown at me in the future.  And a word of caution to all the so called ‘nice guys’ out there – Stop being a nice guy.  Do not trust so easily, evaluate every relationship routinely and clean them up just like how you clean up your Facebook friends list.

The last couple of months, I have been evaluating my life quite thoroughly, setting my priorities right.  Dissolving bonds, that were emotionally expensive to keep.  True, friendship it happens just like that when you least expect it but be warned, these so called true friendships usually end, the moment there is a conflict of interest arises, that is the way the world works now.  Get used to it.

Anyways, I am looking ahead into a wonderful new year.  An year where I will fight the vermin, that festered my mind for so long.  Things are definitely looking up.

Merry Christmas!

A scatterbrained 21 year old Engineering Student.

Hello there.  This post is a highly speculative narrative of future events.

Me

I am currently in my third year of my Computer Science Engineering course.  The lecturers have finally started showering us with veiled threats of joblessness.  So I sat there amidst dozens of 9 pointers and thought, “What the hell am I gonna do?”.  “I’m not that bad,  I will qualify for the placements mostly and I could get through most of the interviews if I try a bit.  I can communicate well, and I have a not so bad IQ, maybe that would be enough.  Well then I realized that it was me trying to reassure myself that life hadn’t completely gone down the drain.  And then I tried to convince myself that I would do fine by calculating my expected CGPA with straight 10’s for the remaining semesters.  I am sure most of you might have done that too.

And then another train of thought happened.  What do I do when I join a company.  How long would I be stuck in a cubicle?  Wouldn’t I be brain dead zombie after a while of that?  What the heck do I do?

I am a creative person.  I always am driven by the urge to create.  And most bosses aren’t too fancy of blokes like me.  We believe there is a better way to do stuff and sometimes we believe we know that.  Is that a crime?   Maybe I should build a startup, be my own boss?  Well I could try that, but I ain’t that rich and my ideas are too grand for ordinary human beings to understand.  Ok, I was just exaggerating that.  My ideas are a bit crazy most of the time.

Well I’m a good web developer, how about that?

That thought sounded interesting.  I love the web and networking.  Something that I picked up trying to convert an electronic education center into a lan party room for me and my friends when I was 12.  And I come up with brilliant ideas for web sites and apps, which haven’t until now seen the light of the day owing to financial restrictions.  But I still code well.  I am the best web designer in my department.  (I think so, isn’t that good enough?)  And I could always get better.  I could become a ninja web developer some day and maybe I will learn networking a bit more seriously, you know find a way to make the super-grid idea of mine a reality some day.  Some day I could be Tim and Mark put together.

And then it struck.  The college bell, I mean.    Class was over for the day.  Time to go home and code.

Something to my juniors:  Colleges in India are a joke.  Most of them would do better at creating cyborgs than educated men.  Education doesn’t ever begin with school and never ends in college.  (I made that up just now, I’m pretty deep at times.  #JK)  Crack that laptop open and study something good.  Read a book or two (hundred).

Ponmudi – The Golden Peak

I am spending my semester break out here in God’s Own Country, in my native town of Thiruvananthapuram.  I finally met The Curly Haired Girl after two long months and spend some time with her.  Went to Kovalam with her a few days back and had a really fun day.  Kovalam is one of those places I go to every time I come to Thiruvananthapuram.  After she went back to Bangalore, I’ve been left with nothing much to do.  Except for Ram, my usual gang of friends are busy with their exams.  So yesterday, I decided that I would go on a long overdue trip to Ponmudi.  Ram had been talking about that trip for ages.  So I rang him up early in the morning and made plans.

I was to meet him around 10 in the morning at his place, but the rains delayed the plans and I met him at 11.  After a quick stop at the petrol pump we rode on to Nedumangad.  The last time I’ve been to Nedumangad was almost 5 years ago.  We had a bit of traffic till Nedumangad, but it cleared up after that.  Our next checkpoint was Vithura a small town where we had our lunch.  After some ‘Avial’ and ‘Netholi Porichathu’, we were back on wheels driving through the country side.  Once you leave the city, all of Kerala feels the same.  It was a nostalgic ride as the countryside reminded me of my hometown in Adoor.   It reminded me of how I used to travel with my grandfather standing in front of his Chetak scooter to school.  Ah, memories!

We were soon driving parallel to the Kallar river.  We stopped after a while and climbed down to the river.  The river looked pristine, sparkling cold water flowing through a thousand boulders.  We had a small photo session climbing on those boulders.  Soon my phone’s battery died and we decided to get back on the road.  We drove non stop through rubber plantations and banana cultivation, soaking up the beauty of the villages.

We reached the bottom of the hills at around 1.  We could see our destinations towering over the clouds beckoning us with it’s misty mountain tops.  We slowed down and rode at a leisurely pace and soon we got to the first hairpin curve.  I guess I should have serviced my bike before I got on the trip, I had a bit of trouble climbing the first few hairpins before I got the knack of things.  The ride to Ponmudi has 22 hairpin curves.  After the first few, we were riding through thick forest.  Spotted a couple of monkeys on the trees and some very long centipedes.  The forests clear up towards the top and the landscape was now dotted by tea plants.  After the curves there was a check post were we had to pay a small entry fee to get to the top.  Another kilometer from the check post, we parked our bikes in the parking area and continued on foot to the top of the hills.  By the time we got to the top dense fog had covered the hills, we were a bit disappointed.  But thankfully the skies cleared up for a bit and we were mesmerized by the beauty of the green hills touched by clouds.  We had some snacks and took a dozen photos.  It was around 3 we started our descent.  A little down the road we stopped at the Amenity Center where we had a cup off bad coffee and continued on.  As soon as we entered the thick forests, it started pouring down heavily and we had no choice but to keep driving.  After wrapping up our electronics in plastic covers, we drove through the rain.  The rain kept pouring down relentlessly for about 10 kilometers of the ride.

We finally managed to find a small tea shop somewhere near Kallar.  We waited out the rain and drove home after a cup of (again) terrible tea.  Before long we were in the city and I had another 5 kilometers to go before I reached home and it had begun raining again.  I was almost frozen to my bike when I got home!

Anyways if you live in Trivandrum, you must definitely visit Ponmudi at least once.  It’s Trivandrum’s very own hill station!

Anyways there goes my travelogue! Arrivederci!

Coming Soon.

There’s news.  I am launching a new graphic design studio.  The portfolio site should be done in a couple of days.  Already working on a couple of volunteer projects.  Anyways life’s good.  On a 5 day long break from college.  Been spending most of the time with the launch.  In the works is a portal for film makers, a blog for coffee lovers and a new light weight WCMS.

A few days back I was just wondering why I never created anything.  I’ve always had brilliant ideas but has never been able to complete them.  Most, I’ve left in the middle and some I never started.  And there I sat thinking over a cup of coffee about what to do.  I was sad, frustrated and angry about my inability to create.  I felt impotent.  Yearning to create but never able to.  And then I just decided to do it.  And I wrote… <!doctype HTML>

And on a window of SublimeText2 in beautiful colors my website took shape.  With Dr. Dre and Tupac giving my ears company, I drew up the company website.  My emotions flowed into my code and my state of mind was captured in bottom: 0px; which was soon changed by $(‘#life’).css({“top”:”1%”});  

Life is just another program.  The most elegant program.  A self aware executable which self destructs after a time delay leaving behind a better clone running inside a virtual machine.  A million subroutines.  A million interactions.  Intelligent.  Beautiful.

Sounds pretty doesn’t it?

 

Chennai

Chennai

In the summer of 2011 I had finalized my plans to join SRM University in Chennai and began planning for my migration to Chennai. My mom who had lived in Chennai for a short while used to tell me about the intolerable climate and of the famous Marina beach. Whatever else I knew about Chennai was from the dozens of old Malayalam movies in which the hero goes to “Madurasi” in search of either a job or to become an actor. Then as usual began my online research into the city. Pretty much every blog or forum had pretty had the same thing to say. Of the rich culture and traditions off Chennai. And well, a couple of other things too, like the corrupt traffic police and the extreme climate and the garbage and stories of people answering nature’s call in public.

Then one fine morning I was off to Chennai with my grandfather. This was my first visit to Chennai. We stayed at a hotel in Egmore. But all my plans of exploring the city was scrapped as I had caught a bad case of food poisoning. That was my first “taste” of Chennai. I returned to Chennai soon after this time soaking in the ways of the old city and very careful about my choice of restaurants. I had my first day of college. Found new friends. Had sambar rice. Caught a bunch of diseases. Donated blood for the first time. Had my first solo trip to Bangalore.  Loved. Fought. Cried. Lived. And then stasis.

I still haven’t gotten used to this life. Chennai is still a strange foreign land. Oh, and I hate Sambar rice.

The Beginning.

As he sat down across the table from her at the coffee shop, he knew something was wrong.  Her eyebrows were squished up, a few lines on her forehead were visible.  Something that happened when she lied to him.  “Whats up?” He asked, not to break the silence but to study her more.  His eyes captured the twitch near her lips when she spoke.  This told him more; she was hiding something.  “Nothing, just too much to study.”  she said.  Her voice was loud in the beginning, and faded off.  This confirmed his idea.  She was going to lie to him.  The noise of clanging plates faded off.  He couldn’t hear the deafening noise of the vehicles outside.  His ears strained to catch the sound of her every breath.  A skill he had honed to perfection while working for the agency.  He could hear only her.  Her breath was heavy, yet controlled.  A bead of sweat appeared on her forehead and seemed to glide over her eyebrows.  His eyes studied her clothes.  She had dressed up well, maybe for a meeting she forgot to tell him.  Her shoes confirmed his doubts.  There was not much make up which told him she was meeting someone close.

“So where have you been all last week?”, he asked.  He enjoyed watching her squirm in discomfort as she lied to him.

“Been busy with exams and all that.”

“Oh.”,  He made his disbelief apparent.

She was silent.  Her eyes were fixed on her coffee .

He took his first sip of coffee.  The beans were local.  He couldn’t get a fix on the brand but he had definitely tasted it before.  He observed the elderly man sitting two tables away from him.  He had been in the war.  He noticed the scar of a bayonet injury through his shirt.  The waitress had been working since morning, he thought as he noticed the slight twitch in her eyes when she walked.

My friend had finished her coffee and was looking at me.  Her expressions had changed.

He was amused now, knowing that he had made a mistake.

“I have to tell you something…”, she said.  He sensed a tinge of fear in her voice.  Yes it was a confession.

“What”s up?”, he said trying to sound cheerful.  He couldn’t let her know that he could read her mind.

“I love you.”