Sunday, July 10, 2011


Looks like my blog starves all though autumn and spring fed only in summers and on certain occasions winter. Inspite of pretty habitué bloggers around, old habits have died hard. I remember mentioning once to Anush to write about travel experiences for sure. Since then, he has religiously followed that doing photo blog post with nice crispy and descriptive experiences. Its me , who didnt keep up though. So I thought lets give it a shot and write a couple lines about highlights of events since last year.

Lets rewind the reel and go a year back , this is the start of 2010 summer, with me starting second year at school but apprarently still immature teenager according to my friends. I remember Chadhs making the statement " Even your kids are going to tell you, daddy you are too immature ". Recently, Chatar said too: " If only you can make me realize once that I am not talking with a kid!" !!", now that was hilarious.

Summer 2010

Summers kicked off with me moving to Atlanta for an internship with CISCO after finishing first year at grad school. Summer brings back memories of amazing stay with an undergrad from GAtech Alain and lovely homely weekends with Neha di. Every now and then, we would visit Alain's brother's place. He was a news reader in CNN and I could literally sense it through his smooth talks, " Yeah ! these folks are different". He had a huge farmhouse all to himself with two dogs, a cat, four chicken and two horses. News readers are paid hell lot of money, it should definitely be considered for a profession given the ability. Working only 3-4 nights in a week left him ample time to spend with his animal folks. His small dwelling sat in middle of his property with a pretty rustic outlook. The main spotlight though was a creek flowing around the property. I remember myself and Alain playing frisbee standing with our feet half soaked in that Creek. The goal here was to throw frisbee just in the direction of creek and not hit the surrounding shrubs . After all, he was training me all this time, he being a pro ultimate frisbee player. For other evenings, we would just go to a grass lawns besides the lake nearby our place and play frisbee there. This was later replaced with tennis after the day when I was insisting Neha di to play with me. To avoid it, she rather handed over hers and jijus rackets for the summer. Now that both me and Alain were amateurs having never played tennis before, it was quite an achievement to get the right serve across, feeding power in to it was a far fetched aim then. This turned out to be real fun, a little bit challenging though.

Alain was also a very peculiar guy to speak of, pretty astute. He quickly finished up all his internship work in like two weeks and after that it was just Starcraft both at office and home. Some times I used to wonder if we all humans are virtual characters for him and he belonged to the starcraft world. Everyday he would tell me about his new strategies to construct a smarter army adjusting the proportions of offendors and defendors. There was like a planned scheme behind his every move. He sometimes looked so enchanted as if he couldnot realize surrealness of all of it.

And how can I forget Mrs Garcia, Alain's mother who came to stay with Alain from Florida for the summer. So yeah, we three people stayed together. Such a loving woman, she made me feel like I was her second son. Some times she would just read from her recipe book and cook vegetarian food for me. Now that was remarkable, how many people would do it. She would arrange breakfast table for us everyday with toasted bread, cheese and fruits. Then when we would come back, she had dinner ready most of the time for both of us, we would just eat the whole of it quickly and leave for playing. She would just come with us and walk around.

Friday afternoons were lunch outings for all of us interns, we would go for different cuisines every week with our two buddies from CISCO choice select. These guys ensured that our stay at CISCO remains wonderful. For other afternoons we five - me, Alain, Jeff, Alex and Jon would meet at cafeteria and eat together.

I dont remember how much work I used to get done on Fridays as I would just wait for the day to get over and Neha di to pick me up from home. Jiju had gone for an internship with Microsoft in Seattle, so it was just me and Neha di back in Atlanta. We were a great company together having pretty much similar tastes and interests. We both get super enthu when it comes to cooking and baking. Now that she got married to a guy from Uttar Pradesh, she learnt new cuisines of the region. Let me mention a couple I ate-

Farra - sort of an Indian version of momos/dumplings filled with crushed wet chana dal.
Vegetable rice cooked with lots of spices.
Aloo sabzi with rice where aloo were crushed uniformly in to a thick curry of tomatoes.

She had a good expertise in making guju dishes too now that my chachi is from there. She made toor dal once with sugar and kokam ( a sour spice like tamarind ) together with fried aloo, one of the best combinations I have ever eaten. Withal, she also learnt himachali food from her grandmother and once made a nice tomato onion sauce to eat with paranthe.

She also got me interested in salads which I hated most as lunch when I came to US. I couldn't imagine salad substituting for lunch , it seemed so bland to eat just raw leaves and veggies. But there is much more to it than I thought. Putting a dressing gives a nice flavor to it and adding croûtons & beans makes it pretty much filling with all carbs and proteins. I have seen people adding feta cheese to it too. Recently, Anush suggested some nicer additions to it. Raisins, walnuts, peaches and oranges gives it a sweet taste and the vineger balsmic dressing provides a pretty tangy taste to it. By the end of adding all these ingredients, blandness is pretty much gone.

Some week ends we would not try making Indian but other cuisines like Mexican enchilladas , Italian ravioli etc. On baking side, Neha di had a pretty nice recipe book as big as Bible. She would measure everything in perfect proportions as the book asked due to which everything would come out just impeccable. We tried brownies, banana bread, couple of different cakes and cupcakes.

She also got me interested in running and gymming, I reached to 4.3 miles in 40 minutes by end of summer. There were other gym classes she used to take in week days like aerobics, stair step dance. Seemingly a blend of gymming and choreo, it got me pretty interested, only that I had other interesting stuff with Alain for week days.

We would just sit silent at times enjoying each other's company not being bored at all. Sometimes it is just presence which matters. Staying there felt like back home, I used to sleep tight like a baby.

Autumn 2010

Fall came with an advent of another trip. Summer hang over mode switched to planning mode, Labor day was over the corner and friends were coming from all over - Seattle, Austin and Sunnyvale to COLORADO. A single video conference did all the planning and booking assignments. The pack of nine was all set to go for a blast.

We rented a big cozy bungalow for three dazz with a wooden terrace looking towards mountains. The next four days were crazy, moving around doing photo sessions and sky sports in the day and daru & dance party at night. Tequila pong made drinking so much fun with junta missing shots more and more as it went on. Gills belly dance sent us to fits of laughter making the shoots much more harder. Harsh's amazing sense of humour was an icing over top of it all.

We tried couple of sky sports during the trip. The first one we did was a sky roller coaster on the tip of mountain. It was a simple pendulum which involved a free fall in the start so that the slacked string is taut after which it started doing harmonic motion with half time of top of abyss. This was pretty adventrous atleast for the first time.

We did 2 inclined railways where one took us to and fro up down a small mountain. This one was pretty old from 19th century. There was river rafting going on in the river flowing down the mountain but we ditched it for other stuff. The second railway was pretty long curving around many mountains with pretty scenic views all the way . Not that you could visually identify that but supposedly three states were visible from top. The last day involved ziplining where they hang you through the hook to metal rope and you cross between mountains. Looking scary at first place but it was fun at end of the day! We had a huge stack of photos to summarize the whole trip ending up on face book as Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

The squawk of work brought me back from vacation mode. The semester turned out to be pretty heavy with bulky probability and hefty signals. Weekly probability home works took hours together but the group discussions made it fun at end of the day . I made friends with naga, suriya and good oldie home work partner niki was there as usual. Now that I think of it, she took courses with me every semester and we became good buddies at end of it all. Being an undergrad from Maryland, she had so many anecdotes from there. Everytime she used to open a page from her memory and narrate something. I dont know how far she reached by end of our masters though. She should definitely give a shot at writing a book "Stories from Maryland'.
Now that I was not a fresh kid out from bachelors, stuff needed to be pushed down on the research side too. It was more of writing job with its roots from previous "courses with Anush" semester . I did 2 course projects with him and an extension of his previous work for the third. Thanks to smart him, we were able to finish offf stuff on time and this semester was time for sending them to press plucking low hanging fruits. It was an awesome experience getting hands on nuances of tech writing from him. I doubt I can ever reach to his level though. He is amazing at communicating ideas across, words just flow so smoothly through him. I would pay anything to be like that, seriously!

Back home, I was (and am) renting a big ( and bigger one next autumn) apartment with three other guys. One of these guys has been Anush again with whom I have been sharing the room. That's how I came to know the other two. Living with them has turned out to be pretty interesting feeling back to hostel with regular bakar sessions only that contexts and contents are changed. Each one of the them have their own pecularities when it comes to bakar.
Curveh , the ghatti guy (read it as Marathi if not familiar) is a hilarious yet pose as a "serious" guy, he would pull your leg with out you even realizing it, some times even if I do, I would still pass as the whole process is so much fun.

As he tells us, when he was a kid, he was taught three principles he has based his life on:
1) Be yourself (imagine an expression of Yo! with it)
2) If you eat meat and flesh, angels will die in heaven.
3) Never ever watch Indian team playing cricket, they will loose

He has a set of 11 friends spread all around the world , everybody whom ke knows and become friends with got to have some kind of kinship with these eleven. He has convincing theories about every existing thing out there in the world. God knows how many of them are true but atleast I take them at face value. Hats off to his persuasion skills!!! His eating style is amazing too, would cook his Marathi dal once in a week and eat it every meal for a week and then cook the same dal again next week!

Invincible in racket sports, he always has great tips to give when he watches you play. According to Anush, he is the standard for maturity whenever I have to gauge myself.

Second comes the filmy gult guy named Manohar , he has watched all movies released in Telugu, Tamil, English and Hindi. He remembers each and every dialogue by heart and can pretty much act each of them if you ask him to. He follows all spicy TV serials and magazines, if you ever need to know whats going on in life of any celebrity, you are approaching the right person.

Then comes Anush Moorthy whom I am always confused with when it comes to name and initials. Now that we work in the same lab, stay at the same place and have same set of friends, I end up bearing him all the time. :D . He is a pseudo ghatti guy , a tamil brought up in Bombay but hates himself to be associated with Tamil community. That is one tool I can always pull his leg with if nothing comes in handy. If he were given the choice, he would definitely prefer to be one of northern kin, probaby Gujju!

However like me, he likes to propose stupid theories and we end up arguing and trying to make each other believe what we think. We literally start blabbering on any random topic and find logic in it, now I know why a normal human finds PhD junta beserk! :D Welcome to grad life! ;)
He tries hard to crack jokes but they end up being PJ's most of the time. Watching sitcoms all the time hasnt helped a bit but got him closer and closer to Hansa from Khicdi. Nowhere to run, he has accepted cracking PJ's as his talent now.

On a serious note, he is one of the few guys I have met who shares my " trying out" passion. There is so much to learn just from observing him, the most remarkable from those being his time management skills. He will pursue all his hobbies, work as much as all people together in the LIVE lab but still free all the time. I always stealthily watch if he has a time watch like Hermione enabling him to be a parallel processor.

Lastly, we have our pseudo room mate Praneeth Netrapalli, common friends with me, Moorthy and Manohar. Pretty savvy guy, an undergrad from IITB and two year employee at GoldmanSachs , he joined UT two years back with me. This guy has got a natural talent with jumping and climbing. If you watch him do that, you can definitely believe that we descended from apes and monkeys! He has been my tennis , swimming and bakar buddy all this spring.

Spring 2011

My inflexible sleeping patterns flash out more prominently after my India trips, jetlag doesnt feel like leaving me for 2-3 weeks or so. This time, it was aggravated by another time zone change from Central US to Pacific time zone during jetlag recovery time. I was travelling to San Francisco for a conference on Human Vision and Electronic Imaging .

I met Kalpana there, the old star student of our LIVE lab, as foddu as Moorthy. Yeah he is the standard of tech fodduness as Curveh is for maturity. So I got Kalpana's company all though conference and got tips about future directions of my research not that I could successfully come up with something using them as of yet.

Conference place was right across sea side with couple of restaurants where I would go for lunches and enjoy the scenic view. A cousin from Sunnyvale visited once for a night sight seeing of SF now that neither he nor me had time during the day. Yellow lighted red Golden gate rendered me speechless, all I could do was appreciate the beauty of the humungous structure. No wonder, it is counted in the list of best architectures done by humans. Hats off to the engineers and architects who worked on it! Now I have to visit his bro Brooklyn standing on the east coast next!

After a couple of photo clicks with it in the background we went to Pierre 39 to walk around. Driving on lombard street was another fun activity I kept in reserve for next time!

Spring semester was packed with so much activity since the advent of it. The important highlight though was car hunt now that I was supposed to go to Atlanta for another summer. Funding from CISCO for a year came in a package with another internship for the summer. I didnt want to rely on getting a nice room mate as Alain again who would drive me down to work every day and wait for me when I am late at time after discussions with my boss neither did I want Neha di to do the pick up chore every week end. So I decided lets have my own conveyance to move around. This hunt was not at all easy as it looked like, was equivalent to taking a three credit hour course at UT!

I choose not to take a new car, as if I could have afforded it. Looking for a second or third or fourth hand car meant checking a whole load of stuff - less than 80K miles on the car, Japanese brand to have lesser maintainence cost in long run, clean car fax with nothing fishy, asking a friend to accompany you for test drive, a mechanic check up if everything else looks good. Preferably car should be bought from couple/family, they being not as rash as us youngsters. Then on top of it all, it got to have a reasonable price in your range. If car satisfies all needed specs, the deal was pretty much gone in a snap of fingers, so you need to be pretty quick. This meant looking for cars on craiglist as frequently as checking face book! Hard ain't it ?

Guneet, Moorthy and kd.kichu helped me through it with their expert comments while also helping me with test drives. On one fine evening, Guneet companied me for a test drive of black accord 2003 coupe v6 . She called for Casey Eastberg's accord 2003 as the one I have been looking for and that was it! Everything just fell through. We loved the test drive with Casey's post beer hilarious talks, car fax also came out clean, mechanic gave a green flag, chotu agreed to help me with extra needed cash, Casey was fine with coming to bank to exchange hands over money, Moorthy and Guneet were ready to take out their whole evening to get "my precious " home, so we were all set and there she was, standing in the parking lot of Century Plaza. So much for the hunt and everything was done in a day!

On a sidenote, due to CISCO not doing well in spring quater, they didnt extend internship offers and internship was cancelled! :D This was hilarious, so much effort for the hunt and she will stay in Austin for the summer. That's not happening! I got super motivated to search for another intern and gave a couple of interviews. Sony one didnt turn out well. However, interview with RICOH went pretty decent and they asked for another one next week. Long procedure huh! but what could a poor guy do, no other option than to wait. Next week arrived, second one went fine too and then they asked for recommendations. After talking with my professor, I got good news of acceptance on my birthday. I was all set for an internship in Menlo Park!

Another ordeal now was learning to drive and that too before leaving Austin, Moorthy and Guneet took all the effort for that too. They would take me for evening drives and also teach me to parallel park with their 3 point algorithms. Stupid me still got the license after failing four times! These guys made fun of me making a profitable deal of learning from driving instructors itself by paying eleven dollars for three trials. I broke a couple of rules every time and then learnt that they pretty much exist! Supposedly, I scared all instructors one by one at the test facility, everytime a new one would come insecure but what could the poor guy do ?No option than taking my test! They had a sigh of relief when one of their kind was kind enough to pass me. Miss shukla was on the verge of getting a "BEWARE!! ANISH MITTAL got a driver license" printed in Daily Texan, it was only when I told her that I am moving to California, she decided otherwise.

On Sports side, I moved to more physcial ones. Being a part of badi-phile group, we were doing it like 3 times a week.Other days Praneeth and Curveh would teach me the nuances of Tennis. As and when I do these sports, it makes me realise that arm strength is what I am lacking for any power shots.

Tuesdays and Thursdays were swim evenings with Stuart and Laura. For some reason , stupid right leg didn't feel like moving and poor left had to do all the work. Now that swimming needs a proper rhythmic movement, I couldnt move much ahead just with my legs, arms always had to come for rescue. Also, breathing requires body to be near water surface which becomes difficult with skewed leg movements making free style all more difficult. Hence I thought it to be a better idea to try a buoy between legs and float on back so that no breathing is needed. Even with buoys, floating on back was an ordeal that time but as Laura and Anush said: "Dont worry too much about it, it will come", it eventually did.

Next, arms were supposed to do a cyclic pattern in back stroke which was also destablizing me at the moment and I ended up throwing water on myself. So I rather started moving both of them together like birds flutter their wings. It sort of worked. I could do a couple laps which was an achievement for the start. Then slowly and steadily, I tried taking out the buoy sitting in my groin and swim without that. Once that was done, I also started picking cyclic pattern of arms. Just the swift leg movement is all thats needed here!

On research side, the semester proved to be pretty eventful too, I was supposed to finish my master by this semester. I planned to extend one of the course projects I did with Anush and finished work off by march so that I get enough time for writing thesis. But while fine tuning the work, I came across an interesting finding which worked briliantly. This caused a sudden turn in events and I decided to put this as my thesis. With Anush's and Dr. Bovik's help, I was able to make it better from sample statistics based application to model based one. I had to do couple of night outs to finish the stuff off. However, the night outs were not intentional, it was the excitement at times which kept me awake. I turned in the master thesis on time and officially got MS graduated!