Take Risks

Most of the time, life does not talk to you. It just sort of pushes you around. Each push is life saying, `Wake up. There’s something I want you to learn.’

If you’re the kind of person who has no guts, you just give up every time life pushes you. If you’re that kind of person, you’ll live all your life playing it safe, doing the right things, saving yourself for some event that never happens. Then, you die a boring old man. You’ll have lots of friends who really like you because you were such a nice hard-working guy. You spent a life playing it safe, doing the right things. But the truth is, you let life push you into submission. Deep down you were terrified of taking risks.

You really wanted to win, but the fear of losing was greater than the excitement of winning. Deep inside, you and only you will know you didn’t go for it. You chose to play it safe.

 -from the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad”

The epic transition

Blogging after a very very long time. And the reason is what this blog post is going to be about. My life has been going through a complicated phase, its the phase I have decided to call ‘The Epic Transition’. Transition, because you enter into the real world, become an independent with added responsibilities and no more you are a college-going student with a free soul. And its Epic, because it turns out to be the hardest phase of your life. Something which you can bear at most once and which will change so much in you that you’ll forget who you were before, and looking back would laugh upon the things you used to say once with certainty. You’ll realize that the things you thought to be right then were so wrong, and the promises you made to yourself were so impossible to achieve. You’ll come out of the dream world and step into the real world. Its like how Neo was rescued from the Matrix in the 1st part of the Matrix series. And just like in the movie, although it was the hardest part, painstakingly difficult to endure, but it was also necessary and it turns out the sooner you go through it, the better it is. It marks the end of your life as you used to see it, and compels you to create a new path for yourself. But as always, “the hardest part of ending is starting on again” – an except from the lyrics of one of my favorite Linkin Park song “Waiting for the End”.

The thing is, suddenly, everything that used to be so important to you would become meaningless. You’ll no longer enjoy watching movies alone, you’ll get bored with hanging out in malls and eating at dominos, activities which used to be fun would become so boring. I can’t say for sure if everyone goes through this with the same intensity, it could be even worse. Because for heaven’s sake, I still have my passion towards computers and like writing code. Others, they even lose their passion and that marks the biggest failure of their lives.

I’m not complaining. I think this is a chapter of life which had to open one day. It teaches you the things which no one ever told you before. It makes you do things which you didn’t had the guts to do before. But its like another big bang in your life, a new creation and a new beginning but what you make out of it and how it ends up is not totally in your control. At this point of your life, you’ll realize that situations have more control over you than you yourself do. You’ll be fighting them most of the time. Life becomes a struggle even though for others it would appear you are living a happy life. But you would know that the real Life has just began.

Welcome to the real world, Neo.

Now there’s only one way to survive – adapt yourself to the new rules, the games and the scenarios. The laws of nature have changed. The truth has become false and all old promises are broken. Its time to be practical and rational and do things the right way without being in the dream world. Its nasty, bad, unfair and greatly disappointing at times, but in the end if you survive, it will have it perks. That seems like a fair assumption, doesn’t it?

Note to myself – “Remember your goal. Do not stray away or procrastinate. Do not give up.”

Blogging resumes. Everything would be back to normal, but I’ve changed and my posts would reflect the same. Lets play this game, the practical way.

D. E. Shaw placement experience

Hello there, just 4 months ago I got a job in D.E. Shaw through campus placements in my college NIT Trichy. To help my juniors and students from other colleges as well,  I finally decided to write about my overall experience with the recruitment process of D. E. Shaw. But before that, lets tell you in brief about the company.

D. E. Shaw is an investment banking company which basically deals with investing other people’s money into right places to make more money out of it. It invests in a lot of places like share market, start ups, capital of other companies, so called “hedge fund”, etc. So in short, its a money-making machine. David E. Shaw worked at Morgan Stanley before leaving that job and founding the world’s biggest hedge fund company with total assets estimated at $30 Billion, almost same as Morgan Stanley now. Anyways, that’s enough history for you to know.

D. E. Shaw is basically a New York based company but has its offices all over the world, including Hyderabad, Mumbai and Gurgaon in India, but if you’re being recruited from India for a software job, you are most likely to get placed in Hyderabad. They’re known for their tough recruitment process and high pay all over the world. Though almost all of their work is related to finance and market, they’re doing a lot in Computer Science research also. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was a D. E. Shaw employee before he left and founded Amazon.com. In India, the D. E. Shaw’s main office is in Hyderabad and its fully related to Software Development and hence called “D. E. Shaw India Software Limited” (DESIS).

Now I will not bore you much and start with the process.

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The New Day

Changed the wordpress theme, lot needs to be done still.

Its the time of changes. And its going to begin soon!

Starting from my blog, my techclub delta to my life. I hope its a success.

Saw the blog of Sahil Ahuja. Had heard about him a lot before, but tonight I saw with my own eyes what things he has done for delta. I have never been to this link before on delta : http://delta.nitt.edu/doku/doku.php/delta/delta ( Only accessible from inside college ). Its like an abandoned place, but I discovered it somehow and there lies the work of the previous to previous year batch (sahil ahuja’s batch) work of delta cores. Its kind of remarkable, I mean those days everything was put up in place by those guys. Meetings were held on time, attendance of members were noted, those absent for two consecutive meetings were in danger to be chucked out, all the project works going on were tracked, lots of treats 🙂 and lots of classes. As a rough estimate, the work currently going on in delta is not even one-third of the work done during that batch.

There’s a lot to learn and lot to understand. Being a core member now,  I feel the responsibility of fixing things up. But its a long tiring time-consuming process and time I dont have. With the added pressure of fine tuning my algo skills, I have lots of work to do : mailing to profs inside and outside the country to make sure I have something to do in summer of 2010, then supervising the projects going on in delta especially working on the new college website, then my own research project on graph theory is underway and a paper needs to written for publication, finally I have to make sure I give enough time to SPOJ and Topcoder. Its difficult to be actively involved in delta during these tough times, but its only going to be harder the next semester. If I have to do something, I have to do it now and that is something I know for sure. Rest I am confused.

But hopefully, I will be a able to get a clearer look soon. Needs to clarify a lot of things, but can only concentrate when the work load lightens. Till then, have to work hard to keep pace with the ongoing things. I wish myself best of luck, hoping to write something back in my blog very soon.

The summer project experience

Finally finished the hectic summer project at ISI. To be frank, it was definitely a unique experience. Learned a hell lot of things. I started working about a month and a half back. My mam handed over to  me a paper at first. I read it, tried to understand it. Was succesful to some extent, but you can’t expect a second year computer enthusiast to understand fully 3 chinese scientists’ years of work in a fifteen page compressed document, full of notations and symbols I rarely saw before and concepts which I never heard of even in a single book I’ve read before. When nothing seemed to get in my mind, I chose the evergreen method of understanding concepts – try it and check it out. Took examples and applied what that document proposed and then tried to makeout something from the result. Surprisingly, it matched to what I expected and that was the beginning of learning up (read ‘mugging up’) of the concepts. Finally went to mam to see her after 2 days but got a shock when mam said to me – “Its been just 2 days and you finished it? You’re a genius.” I felt guilty, because only I and my partner sumit, knew how we studied that paper. I told myself, mugging up the concepts just won’t work! Later on, came another paper, and then another, one after the other and yet again. Read alteast 6-7 papers before I knew what exactly I was trying to do.  After knowing the problem statement, we started working upon the solution. All that hours of brainstorming and thinking process led to a solution to that problem. A logical solution, which seemed to be correct at first sight. I checked it and again , out of ecstacy that I got a solution to a research problem. But somehow, didn’t see a single flaw in it and so started to code it. Then came one of the biggest kela of my life. Coding in my project was a big part because an efficient implementation of an algorithm you thought for an NP class problem, takes a lot more of your brain. After writing the first 500 hundred lines, and ofcourse after removing the compilation errors, I executed it. And then came the most simple, impeccable and yet pristine output – “SEGMENTATION FAULT”. Thats it! Thats all for the 500 lines of code I wrote. Then came the horrific session of debugging, and after 8 hours, I was still at the same spot I was before. I was at the verge of chewing up my hair when I found that bug. The most stupid bug and yet difficult to spot by eyes. I used a “=” sign instead of a “==” sign in an ‘if’ condition. What the hell ! If you’re thinking this was the “kela” I was talking about you’re wrong. I fixed it, compiled and ran the code and the intermediate results came fine. So started coding further and finally my code finished at around 800 lines. Again few errors, wrong outputs, but luckily no ‘segmentation faults’, I was able to get the correct output. Tested it for a  few cases, answer ‘seemed’ to be correct. I couldn’t have ever known for sure about the answer because no one ever solved the problem with a proper algorithm before. There was no one to compare my results with and so did a hand-check and found it was correct. But couldn’t do a hand-check for graphs with hundreds of nodes. So just “assumed” the results are correct. More than 70% of the time I got for my summer project was over by now. Deadline was 10th July because that was the day I reserved my train. It was June end, when just by chance, I tested my code with a simple graph – which I just modified a little by adding 1 node at the center. For those who know, it was a “web” graph and I put a node at the center of it and connected it with surrounding nodes. I didnt know what class that graph belonged to, so named it the “bomb” graph. And to my horrid luck, it really came to be a bomb, infact an ATOMIC BOMB for my code. My code simply messed that simple graph. It made a junkyard out of it. It literally teared it, destroyed it, annihilated the graph. I was with my jaw down. Felt sad, everything’s over now. The entire algorithm is scrapped. Time’s almost up, and I’m again to square zero. But didn’t lose hope ( p.s. I have seen Shawshank Redemption ), and with my teammate started that thought process again but with little hope that we’ll able to finish it before deadline. But the next algorithm was an obvious algorithm. Almost similar to that I used for hand-checking. Not exactly a brute force, but like an optimised version of brute force. But it was polynomial time. What else can you expect for an NP-hard problem? It worked ! For almost every graph it did. But there was a forbidden graph for that code too – the “Bipartite Graph”. But excluding that  graph, the code was working fine on other graphs. Finally submitted it to mam. Just 5 days left and the entire report was left to be written. It took 3 days to write a 45 page report. 8th July, almost the end of the journey. I and my friends in Kolkata started planning about places to visit in the next 2 days. We made a list of places – Victoria memorial, Science Center, Park Street, etc. Then came the next “kela”. Mam showed us a website, about something called ISAAC 2009. It was an international conference in USA about graph algorithm. Mam wished to send our work to that conference. She told us to write a paper and gave us the format. If accepted, it’ll get published in LNCS journal. Now, that’s something cool. But then I came to know about the deadline – 15 July. Came back to reality from my day dreams and cancelled all the plans we made for the next 2 days. Just sat in room and wrote the paper. After 2 drafts and 3 reviews, mam accepted it at 10 July 6:00 pm, and my train was at 10:00 pm. I ran, took the bus to salt lake and reached there at 7:00 pm and then finished the packing and by 7:30 pm I was in a taxi heading towards the Howrah station. At 8:15 pm, I was there and straighforward went to a food stall. I didnt eat much, just 2 Chicken Pizzas, 1 Veg Pizza, 1 Cold Drink and then Lays and then coffee. I hadn’t eaten anything for past 2 days. The day mam told us about the paper, I didnt had the time to breathe. Forgot sleep, food, music, just remembered typing and thinking and typing and thinking. The best part, I had an AC coach reservation. Slept as soon as I entered the coach and woke up 1 hour before I was arriving at my homecity bhilai. So that was my Kolkata experience. Never realized when it was all over. In the last few days, time was going at jetflash speed. I never knew when hours were gone and I was still typing sitting at that position. My stomach surrendered, as it knew I wasn’t going to feed it no matter how much creepy sound it makes.  That was a summer project. But fruits of that hardship is yet to be recieved. Certificate is not with me as the Dean was absent the day we were going and the paper is yet to be accepted. I’m only hoping I get  my certificate and the paper gets published. Atleast that I deserve for that 45 days of toil. Now i’m sitting at home, in my comfy bed and writing this post. Life is all about working and then relaxing for me, enjoyment being implicit.

Top 10 Movies

Some of the best movies I’ve ever seen. To some extent I’ve sorted it according to my likings, but it was very difficult.

1) Artificial Intelligence (2001) : The Best Movie I saw yet. I simply like everything about it. The quest of a humanoid for becoming real, poor guy doesn’t know he’s already real.The movie tries to convey this : Its difficult to distinguish between a robot and a human, once they’ve attained the same intelligence as humans. Because then they can think, dream, talk, love, hate, cry & feel just like humans do and that makes them real, not necessarily a mixture of flesh and bones.

2) The Shawshank Redemption (1994) : A movie worth watching. Makes you realize one thing – No matter what happens, how worse your life is going, what problems you have, but NEVER EVER lose your HOPE. But don’t hope that someone will come and take your problems away. Only you can do that. The Anti-Problems formula : HOPE + HARDWORK = SUCCESS.

3) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) : A must watch. Makes you laugh, smile and wonder at the same time. It explains everything, from the Ultimate Question – “The Creation of the Universe” to the “Infinite Improbability Drive”. You’ll wonder what if things really happened the way like that. The movie starts with Earth destroyed in an instant, and ends up with a new “Backup” Earth. You can imagine the rest, just ” DONT PANIC ” 😉

4) The Last Samurai (2003) : The creation of Japan and the destruction of the Elite Samurai. Tom Cruise, a U.S. Soldier who was assigned to destroy the Samurai, finally ends up being one of them. A very beautiful story, and such a great plot. You’ll feel the movie is slow at the beginning but wait for the first few minutes and let Japan arrive. I became a fan of Tom Cruise from this movie, not MI.

5) A Beautiful Mind (2001) : Based on the real life of Professor John Nash – inventor of Game Theory and other theories that relates to the happenings of events in your daily life. He was suffering with a mental disease called schizophrenia. He has an imaginary world that is so real to him. The movie is true to the word, he really does have “A Beautiful Mind”. The life of a genius, struggling with a dangerous mental state. You can’t miss that.
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Blogging Resumes !

Back to blogging after a long time. And I hope I will maintain regular updates this time. My absence for almost past 4-5 months was due to many reasons including lack of time, lack of will or no internet availability.

So right now, my summer vacations are going, and instead of enjoying the holidays I am here screwing myself up in the Kolkata Heat. I’m working as an Intern in the ACMU (Advanced Computing and Microelectronics Unit) of ISI(Indian Statistical Institute), Kolkata. My mentor is Mrs. Susmita Sur-kolay, she’s a Associate Professor with her interests in Computational Biology, Graph Theory and VLSI. I’m doing research work in Interval Graphs, which is associated with Graph Theory but has many applications in Computational Biology. Its like a bridge between the 2.

At first, I thought the project was going to be interesting and challenging. The latter came to be true, but it’s damn boring as of now. While my other friends are doing mainly image processing projects (with lots to code), looks like I’ve got a theoretical one. There’s not much to code, only proofs and fundae to be derived. May be once we get some new algo, we’ll implement it, but only if we get it. Because things are going too slow as of now. Lots of work to be done, and not much time to give. I already have 1 more project pending to be done in this summer only. That one is also related to graph algorithms and computational biology, but the catch is the Parallel Implementation of it. Its quite challenging and the best part is, there’s more to code than to prove in it. Hope I’m able to finish both the projects in this vacation. I still have about 50 days before college starts. Hope that is sufficient.

A Brief History of Me ….

Well it all started on 27th Feb 1990 , with the death of Sir Nahum Norbert Glatzer.He was a noted American literary scholar, theologian, and editor.I’m sure not many of you have heard about him, but you can definitely find a lot of information about him on wikipedia.

So now the real part.Fortunately,his death day was a new beginning for someone.And that is me.Abhishek Shrivastava.People call me ‘abhi’, as this word is short, simple and ofcourse, cute.Below is my seal. Now people, thats an ‘official’ seal of mine.So dont try to play with it. 😉

I grew up in a small but neat town called ‘Bhilai’ near to the heart of India ,also famous as the ‘Steel City’ because of the presence of a massive steel giant of SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited) there.To know more about me in detail, you can always view my profile here or on orkut. Here’s the link http://www.orkut.com/Profile.aspx?uid=4660831068910288576

Ok , so continuing the story, It was in class 10, when I developed a sudden interest in programming though computers were already my passion a few years before that.But learning programming opened the gates for me to rule over the computers and make them do whatever I wanted.I started out with HTML and quickly advanced to C++, the god of all languages. The closer is came to C++, the more I admired it. But that wasn’t enough for me, so next came PHP & finally, JAVA.

As I said in “About Me” Section, my life has been full of ups and downs, and to tell you frankly , I’ve been enjoying it like a roller-coaster ride. Joining ECE branch of NIT-Trichy, was one of those experiments. Looks like it turned out well for me.

Here, I got a really good platform to put my skills to practice – The Delta Force. Its the “Official Webteam Of NITT”, responsible for developing the Main WebSite of NITT and Pragyan ( our official technical festival ), and moreover, the entire Intranet’s Student Services (College LAN) are in Delta’s hands. Its been such a phenomenon that the first thing a first year student does in a LAN-connected PC, is to open Firefox and type http://delta.nitt.edu. 🙂

Here in Delta, I met many responsible persons, those who actually made Delta such a big success among the students. You see, its not in every college in India where the official websites and intranet are entrusted upon just a group of regular students. So thats what made me feel special about joining NITT ! Its simply a haven for computer-enthusiasts, not to mention one among the top-10 institutes in the country.

NITT is simply the best choice I could have made during my time. Besides all this “technical stuff”, the campus life here is something which even the IITians strive for.

Friends + Freedom = Fun , and thats the Funda here !

The story will continue and is never-ending, but like any story, there’s a start and an end.

It has already started, but the ending of the NITT chapter of my life is yet 2.5 years away !! 🙂