Friday, December 28, 2007

The Snowless Christmass...

I was hoping against all hope and logic that it would snow on Christmas day at least. If NY can have lots of it, we should also have at least a little :-). Well, not to mention, all hopes were dashed and I ended up watching Hindi movies I had been thinking of watching for quite a long time. Taare Zameen Par was another one of Aamir Khan gems but Om Shanti Om looked like Farah Khan should give up on movie direction. I mean there is a limit to stupidity one can bear. That movie was actually screened in a theater here and I am afraid to imagine what impression of Indian cinema did it cast on people. Anyways, to have some more fun, I switched to CNN and they were showing CNN Heroes that time. I was quite amazed to find that CNN actually knew that a world existed beyond US and middle east, even if just for a day.

This snowless Christmas was then compensated with a couple of trips to snow-clad Jura mountains on the Swiss-French border. And one thing you can always vouch for is the beauty Swiss mountains have. A couple of pics from the trip :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I got back from the university one day and found something unusual at home. As I opened my apartment door, a cat came running down and stared at me with her killer eyes! Now, none of my flatmates have a pet cat and that one also didn't have a band around her neck. For a moment, I was scared of my sudden encounter but thankfully, she decided to bid me goodbye and went outside. Quickly, I shut the door behind me!

Over with one problem, I saw another one. Well, not exactly a problem but a welcome finding that everything around the living area, kitchen, bathroom, etc. has been cleaned and properly arranged. I don't think the cat could have managed to do that. Not that my apartment was in a horrible shape when I left in the morning, but it was still a cat. My flatmates also were out of town with their families for holidays. Was it the Concierge and was he so annoyed to see the apartment that he decided to clean it himself? A remote possibility but it still gave me shivers when I thought about the prospect of receiving a bill and a hate mail from him. I kept my apartment very clean for the next 3-4 days just in case the Concierge or the cat or that kind soul of someone else decided to pay me a visit again. Then, a friend of mine told me that the cleaning was a service provided by the housing agency and I needn't worry anymore about it. Oh! How relieved I was!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

some politics at last...

After about 3 months of my stay here, I got my first political news! Well, not exactly something to cheer about but still its a deviation from the usual festive news that you hear all the time. One of the major political parties in Switzerland, UDC, pasted its posters all around showing three white sheep kicking a black one out of the country. The stated reason being the crimes committed by the black one. And they claimed that they have received a huge support from the people for this campaign. On top of this, they want Switzerland to pull out of a UN charter that lays down rules against racial discrimination. All this in a country which holds half the UN conferences! Having spent quite a bit of time here, I can surely say this is not the spirit of fun loving Swiss people and it is definitely not something funny. Obviously, it kicked a huge uproar against the party by the opposition as well as the common people from all backgrounds. Having myself seen the posters, I can say that not all people support this as you can see graffiti on these posters saying shame on UDC. Later, I learnt that the leader of this party is being tried for his racist campaign. Thats the way to go. Thumbs up from me!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

something in the air...

I woke up at morning and found something was not usual. The atmosphere was too quiet even for a Sunday morning. There was absolutely nobody on the streets and it looked like a war abandoned neighbourhood except that everything was in a nice shape.

It was the Swiss National Day, August 1. People celebrate this day as the day of independence of the country from Austrian rulers in 1291. Don't know if I missed something, there were no long speeches or display of military might. Anyways, you wouldn't expect these things in a country which is so much politically and socially stable, and perhaps more neutral than water when it comes to international policies. Swiss celebrate this day in their own style -- local music concerts, beer and breathtaking fireworks. Sometimes I wonder, what a swiss reddit would look like : music concert at ..., ... won in a boat race, new theatre in town, bike race at ..., gays and lesbians meet, festival at ..., etc.

Being a holiday with no plan, I headed for Ouchy, the lakeside for my usual read a book, enjoy the view and atmosphere kind of thing. Truely speaking, I was expecting some cultural events there but found none except for some extra beer stands. I spent the day reading. The crowd started gathering by the evening and it was about full show by the time the clock reached 7. The place was electric with a live band and overflowing beer. It was amazingly awesome when the fireworks started at 10 and it looked like a new year eve.
Boy, that was a celebration in style!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Homealone :(

Last week, both of my flatmates left as their terms at the university got over. And now I am lonely in my house for the next few days before somebody joins in. This situation has made me do unthinkable things at home like trying to read a French newspaper, experimenting with my cooking, looking at the rainbow for a long time (which is beautiful by the way, pic attached), buying a novel at Swiss prices, etc.

Leaving your accommodation here is not as easy as it sounds. Swiss people have microscopic eyes for cleanliness and they make sure you wipe off that tiny speck on your light switch or the windowpane before you leave. Its both funny and a little embarrassing that it reminds me of my IIT days in Delhi when we used to do exactly the reverse. Spend hours cleaning up our allotted rooms before moving in and leave the place like some hell had broken loose there. But the undergrad life at IIT was definitely a lot of fun and demanding at the same time. Still remember those slogging night-outs and infinite nescafe outings.

I hope this homealoness breaks soon and meanwhile I will keep finding new things to do.

Friday, July 27, 2007

PageRank in Flickr ?

I apologize for breaking the rules and making this post a bit geeky. I noticed the geotagging feature in Flickr and couldn't help writing about it. Ok, so lets quickly get to the point here.

I find the graph generated by geotagging quite similar to the web graph. To illustrate this analogy, lets take an example. Say, a person living in NY has geotagged her vacation photographs for Paris and Sydney. Consider the cities as nodes and draw the weight 1 edges NY->Paris and NY->Sydney. Accumulate these edges across users and construct the final graph that might look like the figure below.

The big circles correspond to big sites like Yahoo! with heavy inter-linkage between its sub-domains and main page. The analogy would be to consider a major tourist city like Paris with other smaller cities around it. Heavy inter-linkage with nodes around you means that people often visit nearby places to chill out for short durations. I guess it should be easy to identify such neighbourhoods based on their coordinates.

Now if a place is a major tourist attraction, it is bound to have a lot of incoming tourists from all over the world just like popular sites have lot of incoming links. The Page Rank algorithm should give us a nice ranking score for tourist destinations. Looking from a random surfer perspective, a person on a random world tour taking random tourist flights would be more likely to spend a large amount of time on highly popular places.

Further, if we know the attributes of a place like is it famous for beaches, mountains, city life, etc., these attributes could correspond to topics and we can generate topic sensitive rankings.
Well, it could be just a random thought of mine or it could be something. May be, its very trivial and/or they already do something like this. I have no idea. Sounds like fun to me. What say ?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Elephants on our roads!

Time and again someone asks me, "Do you have elephants roaming around on roads in New Delhi ?". And I give him/her a 10-15 min explanation on how India has changed over years and how elephants have disappeared from city roads and unfortunately, tigers from jungles. Well, at least elephants don't roam around freely on Delhi roads.

Apparently, this 18th century image of India (or New Delhi) has been created by some news channels here by showing such clips. They might just be showing the Republic Day Parade. I don't know. And if people are asking me, I think I should give them the right notion of a 21st century India. Afterwards, I wonder to myself. Sure, "India is poised" and economy is growing but do our cities even qualify for a world ranking of international cities.

Elephants might not be there anymore but has that made public transport any better now. Although Delhi roads are quite good, practically, except metro every other means of public transport sucks. Reckless driving by Blueline drivers has created hell on roads and their recent strike shows how much we depend on these cranky & unreliable buses. Auto-rickshaws fare no better. I think Government has taken a right step now by inviting private companies to run the buses.

Bangalore is a much touted IT city of India that people know here apart from Delhi. But according to my own observation, the road conditions and other public infrastructure are worse compared to other major Indian cities. The Bangalore shine has attracted brands like Google, MSR, Yahoo!, Amazon, etc. to open up offices there but the city needs a massive overhaul to keep the investment coming.

Infrastructure in Delhi has improved a lot over the last few years and further improvements are taking place thanks to the upcoming commonwealth games. Do we need such events in other cities also before our political leadership wakes up to the needs of an upcoming and modern society.