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‘Gravity’ film review

By on Nov 3, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

Gravity is the latest critically acclaimed film from Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron. With a minimal cast of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, both in the role of NASA astronauts, the film tells the story of a disaster in space where the two astronauts are left adrift in space after debris from a disintegrated satellite causes a chain reaction of collisions with other space satellites. Even though the plot might seem outlandish, it is in fact based in a scientific hypothesis (called Kessler Effect) which predicts such as situation can actually happen. When their space shuttle gets shredded by debris and communication satellites get taken down too, leaving no way of contacting Earth, the two astronauts have to use their own wits to survive as long as they can. Gravity is a film truly enjoyed in 3D, to capture the full effect of zero gravity so exquisitely captured in this film. The desolation and beauty of outer space is accentuated by the carefully-planned 3D shots and judicious use of dead silence in the soundtrack. The writers (Cuaron and his son) get the balance between the human aspect of the situation and the technical realities behind a story just right. I wouldn’t be surprised Gravity is a shoe-in for at least a couple of Oscars this year. Make no mistake: this is a serious film with slow plot development that might turn many moviegoers off. Yet, if you are willing to look past that, it’s a brilliant film about the brave men and women who risk their lives in outer space for broadening the horizons of human knowledge. Rating: 4 /...

Saying goodbye to gyaan.in

By on Oct 30, 2013 in Personal | 6 comments

Back in 2009 when I was on a gap year, I had a conversation with two friends from the quizzing circuit: Rishav Dey and Prateek Vijayavargia. We all felt that, at the time, while there were many resources in the form of quizzing blogs run by university quiz clubs, there wasn’t much in the form of discussion going on. This was back when Orkut, and not Facebook, was popular in India so there wasn’t even a pervasive social forum where these discussions could be held. Through this brainstorming, primarily driven by Rishav, the idea of starting a quizzing forum came about and we decided to call it “gyaan.in“. I registered the domain name on 26th January 2009 (it felt symbolic making the purchase on Republic Day), put up a joke landing page proclaiming “Never tickle a sleeping quizmaster” and that was that. But there was something about the idea that kept drawing us back to it. Behind-the-scenes, more people came on board as they found this idea fascinating too. A crucial role was played by Vishesh Kumar, who came up with the gyaan.in logo through a process of iteration. With the branding in place, it took many more months to bash out what gyaan.in would be about. This is what the team came up with when we launched gyaan.in on 20th July 2009: Nothing Official About It At gyaan.in we intend to extend informal interactions between members. For too long in the quizzing circle people have considered each other in a mildly to overtly hostile manner. Informal interactions – members getting to know each other as real people – instead of simply ‘competitors to defeat’ should make a nicer quizzing world. Don’t Be Evil An extension of point 1, at gyaan.in we intend to ensure that no sort of politicking kicks in. To maintain sanity (actually, to combat spam) we will have moderators on the forum but we do not intend to have any sort of ‘positions’. You – the user – have your say in matters and the community decides collectively on its future. What we will have, instead, are evangelists / moderators within the community to spread the word. If you’re interested in being more actively involved in organizational matters then please get in touch with us at contact [at] gyaan [dot] in. Quizzing, But Not For Points We do not intend to have a league table to keep track of who’s getting how many questions right on the gyaan.in forum or events. Partly this is intended to ensure that members who arrive late to the scene aren’t disadvantaged by early adopters who have had a head-start in answering questions. The main reason, however, is that we don’t want it to become Yet Another Place To Look At Other People As Competitors. IRL Once members get acquainted with each other on the Web, we would like to extend the interaction by holding ‘offline’ meets where you can get to converse with members IRL (‘in real life‘). Some of these meets could be where a small quiz is conducted, others could be simply informal meets. Quality Content Providing regular, quality content quizzes, articles, news, archives. Giving you a platform where you can share such resources easily – with our dedicated team of gyaan.in moderators providing editorial support. Content would cover oft-ignored topics in quizzing circles too such as technology and contemporary music. Promote Quizzing In Delhi, Especially In Schools Compared to other cities like Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Chennai, Mumbai etc Delhi is often considered to be ‘lagging behind’. While that isn’t entirely true, we do feel that a lot more can be done in encouraging schoolkids to take up quizzing. Our first focus would be to make significant progress on this front in Delhi. The only equivalent around at the time for discussions were quizzing groups on Yahoo! Groups, many of which are still around (but perhaps not that visited – I haven’t checked for a while). Anyway, the point being that Yahoo! Groups was a clunky forum software, and the communities involved more often than not had a competitive bent to them. The gyaan.in team wanted to avoid that: the idea was to have a “safe place” where quizzers could congregate online and share knowledge just for the fun of it, rather than for competitive reasons. There was palpable excitement in the air, driving even usually stoic Karmanya to claim a revolution had begun. *** Although the idea was to be a forum for any kind of quizzing, perhaps because of the fact that most of the moderators on the website were my friends from high school who’d only recently left school or were still at school, the discussions tended to focus around school quizzes. Over time, gyaan.in became the de facto forum for any kind of school quizzing related discussion in India. I’m not exaggerating here. Take a look at the visitor charts (split over StatCounter and Google Analytics)… Over its lifetime, gyaan.in had 0ver 100,000 unique visitors and over a one million pageviews from a community of just slightly over 1000 users. I’m not rounding out those figures for the sake of it, but that’s what it has actually worked out to! Since its very inception, gyaan.in’s community was highly engaged with more than a quarter of the community spending five minutes to more than an hour per day (at least 10% of the visitors) – stats...

2013 Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix

By on Oct 28, 2013 in Personal | 0 comments

Starting grid. Our seats were in the main grandstand upper tier, one of the best seats in the house! The grid girls all looked like clones of the same woman. The pit crew for Sahara Force India team reminded me of Stormtroopers. Sebastian Vettel pulls of theatrics at the end, spinning his car around on the racetrack. Podium finish with random Rajasthani dancers on the top floor. I felt bad for them since they (and the grid girls) don’t seem to have any ear protection. Didn’t wait around for the champagne finish to beat traffic I went with Aditya – his dad had “procured” tickets – to watch the 2013 India Grand Prix yesterday. His dad had good contacts with the organiser’s company, and our seats in the main grandstand right in front of the podium were possibly one of the best seats in the house. Aditya wasn’t particularly interested in attending in person even though he’s a Kimi Raikkonen fan, but was convinced by his dad to go along and see it in real life. This was my third Formula 1 race; the first two I attended were the Singapore and Malaysian Grand Prix. So I was somewhat aware what the experience is like, except it felt different this time because I was sitting in the grandstand. On both occasions earlier I had been in free seating grass areas or had walkabout passes. Viewing it from comfortable seats, with the starting grid right at the front, felt more sanitised but I actually got to see much more of the race than merely cars whizzing past obscured by some tall guy’s head – my default view on previous occasions. The impression that I got at the circuit was that most people who were in attendance had come with comped tickets. Perhaps the fact that Formula 1 as a sport doesn’t have much of a following in India, coupled with how far away the circuit is from Delhi – it took us approximately two hours to drive to Buddh International Circuit – makes it a tough sell. The overwhelming sentiment is “This is my first time here, and I only came for the experience…and I won’t pay to come here again.” Doesn’t sound like this race venue will survive for long, which is a shame because the race venue looks...

Code Wars 2013

By on Oct 26, 2013 in On A Whim | 14 comments

I think one of my biggest legacies in Delhi is that I have gotten a generation of kids into Douglas Adams. That’s 42 in binary, 42 times. I love this idea of sneaking it past the school! After watching ‘Gravity’ with the Code Warriors I went back to my school this week after two years to help out my erstwhile computer club, the Code Warriors, with our annual technology competition Code Wars. The 2013 edition saw participation from 30 schools with over 500 participants. The last one of these that I’d attended was Code Wars 2010, and I had no idea when this year’s event would be taking place. I only stumbled across it by accident on Wednesday this week (the event was on Thursday and Friday) when I saw a Facebook event for it, and got a message from our computer department’s head. Naturally, I signed on right away to help out! I came away very impressed by the quality of the show put on by both the Code Warriors team and the participants. The level of competition was excellent, and indeed, in the few events that I judged and/or conducted, it was often tough to make a decision. Kudos to the participants! What I truly enjoyed, though, was conducting the Senior Quiz finals. This has been my core event for years now, and my philosophy in designing it has always been to create questions where participants might just have the answers on the tip of their tongue – but need to go that extra mile to figure out what the answer is. And you can check out the different events for yourself by downloading the following below: Senior Quiz: Prelims (PDF, ~360 KB), Finals (PPTX, ~12.5 MB; I had to use an Office format as all audio-visual questions are embedded for playback in the presentation) Junior Quiz: Prelims (PDF, ~360 KB), Finals (PDF, ~1.25 MB) Crossword: Finals (opens in a new window) Many thanks to Raghav Gaur, Yash Goel, Tosshaan Thapar, Pulkit Jaiswal for helping out with making the Senior Quiz finals. (Those are the names I know contributed for sure, so in case I’ve missed any name out my apologies!) Raghav and Yash also get full credit for making the questions for the other events available for download here. It’s funny seeing how pervasive Douglas Adams is still in Delhi’s quizzing circles. I consider it my biggest legacy here, but at least I’ve influenced a fair few people into reading one of the amazing series’ of books ever. :D Do give me feedback on what you think about the...