Friday, February 18, 2011

Bali & Kuala lampur Trip - Top 10

Ever since Shyama & I had returned back from Bali, I wanted to write a travelogue on the memorable trip we had. We travelled for 9 days from Feb 6, 2011 to Feb 14, 2011 - we spent 3 days in Kuala Lampur, the City of Twin towers & 6 days in Bali, the land of exquisite temples, active volcanoes and picturesque beaches. Here is the list of the top 10 places we visited, rated purely based on the fun we had!

1. “The ‘Eiffel Tower’of Bali”: Pura Tanah Lot is by the far, the most magnificent temple I have seen! It is a sea temple situated on top of a rock, dedicated to the guardian spirits of the sea. The temple, by itself is guarded by poisonous snakes that inhabit the caves below. I could safely say, at the sun set, the Pura Tanah Lot temple surrounded by the ocean would form a wonderful background of one’s family picture!

2. “World's Largest Free-flight Walk-in Aviary’: The KL's Bird Park is a wonderful place to take one’s girl friend around! The unique feature of this place is that all the birds are let free in the aviary which resembles their natural habitat. Initially, when we entered the park, we were a little bit scared, as a few hungry birds were flying over our head vociferously. Soon, we started enjoying, when the feeding session started - we saw a hundreds of birds of various sizes feeding in front of us, at one foot distance apart. It's a lovely sight to see the hornbills flying freely from tree to tree & flamingos catching salmons skillfully in the pond.

3. ‘CafĂ© Cofee Day’in the middle of a forest: I read somewhere that “The best things in the life are all free and that includes your life”. What more could you ask far – five different flavors of unlimited tea & coffee served in a teak wood table/ chair on a hill slope, with a beautiful view of lush green forests of Kintamani - all for free! A slight drizzle made the place look even more romantic! We also got a chance to smell & touch “Luwak Kopi”, the worlds most expensive coffee, made out of (coffee bean) droppings of “Toddy cat”, an Asian Palm Civet that has the knack of eating the best coffee beans. No guess- We didn’t taste that for sure!

4. Oh yeah – We live to eat: Who said ‘we eat to live’? Once you get to taste the food @ Sao Nam restaurant, you would say ‘we live to eat’! When we were in KL, we heard about the award winning Vietnamese Restaurant - “Sao Nam” and we didn’t want to miss that! The food there was awesome and we thoroughly enjoyed it, especially “Mangosteen salad”, “Vietnamese Pancake” and “Vietnamese Vegetable Laksa”. I also carried back the menu card, which had the recipes for some of those award winning dishes, hoping that my wife would cook it for me someday!

5. “A Romantic Dinner’: I remember, a few months back, when I was talking to my friends on what a ‘romantic dinner’ is, each of them were saying different things - “Candle light”, “exotic food”, “beach”, “Sun set”, “light music”, “dance”, and so on., If I were to find a single spot in the world that would match all of their specifications, it would be “Jimbaran Bay” @ South Bali.

6. An eye on an active Volcano: On the very first day of our trip to Bali, we had planned to visit Mt. Batur Volcano, which is one of three volcanoes on Bali and it is Bali's only double caldera volcano. We went to a Volcano view restaurant - It was a thrilling experience to have one eye on the Mt Batur Volcano & the Batur Lake, and to have the other eye on the tasty dishes in the lunch buffet. We enjoyed eating roasted Banana fruit, Potato grills, Bali’s version of papads, salads & snake fruit.

7. Feeding the Sharks, hanging in the mid-sky: Walking through under-water tunnel watching huge sharks, turtles & rays and standing close to a tank full of piranhas feeding on small fishes, were really enjoyable. We also went to the top of the KL Tower & to the Sky Bridge connecting the world’s tallest twin tower. The twin towers were at its majestic best when the lights are ON.

8. A little Piece of Paradise: Green Garden Beach Resort is a wonderful place not just for the facilities it offered but also for the close-to-nature ambience and for the friendly staff – Henry & Adi remember the names & preferences of each of the inmates & they provide personal care. It is adjacent Tuban beach & at a walk-able distance to Kuta beach, a little away from the traffic yet accessible to the shops and restaurants. It is also an adults-only resort, which makes it a wonderful place for couples – the swimming pool & the min-garden is all yours, as there are no kids around that jump into the water & spoil the fun.

9. Water, Water & Water Everywhere: Bali is a land of beaches - from palm fringed white sand on the east coast to the lava coated, black sand beaches on the west coast. It has dramatic surf beaches of bukit, the aquamarine lagoons of Lembongan island and the sleepy coves in the north. We snorkeled at the Nusa Dua, sailed in a steam boat to the Turtle Island, walked along the shore @ Kuta beach, experienced Balinese massage @ Tuban Beach, watched the sun-set @ Legian beach, and enjoyed a sumptuous dinner in the sea shore @ Jimbaran Bay! Hmm…yeah – we were busy travelers!

10 a. Golden fish in the Sacred Pond: Tirta Empul is one of the oldest temples of Bali, which hosts a sacred pond that is filled by a holy spring from the underneath stream. It is guarded by a sacred eel and hundreds of huge golden fishes. On the way, we saw a royal cremation ceremony @ Ubud Palace that gave a stiff competition to the grandness of the Ex Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s adopted son’s marriage function. :)
10 b. 'The Ape Man': In the past, I had seen several monkeys in temples and hill stations, but it was a unique experience walking in the lush green Monkey Forests of Ubud, which also has old temple carvings & statues, huge banyan trees and a small pond that adds to the beauty of the forest.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Interview for HPS Honeywell Newsletter!

FullName: Karthik Giridharan
Nickname: Kart
DOB: March 27th, 1982
Areas of expertise: Application programming, Turbine control
Total Years of Experience: 7 years 4 months
No. of years in Honeywell: 7 years 4 months
Qualification: BE (ECE) at GCT, Coimbatore
Role @ HTS: Team lead for Turbine control

Interviewer: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - your education, interests, past work experiences?
Kart: I was born in Salem, Tamil Nadu and did my schooling there. I did my engineering degree at GCT, Coimbatore and got into Honeywell through campus recruitment.
As far as my hobbies, I like sports a lot, particularly cricket. I spend my weekends mostly at my sister’s house @ Koramangala, playing Wii game with my sister and brother-in-law. I also play chess, when ever I get time. Apart from sports, I like travelling a lot and I also write blogs whenever I get time

Interviewer: So, when you were at school, did you play all the time and ignored studies?
Kart: Ha Ha… during my school days, I was good at studies and for some reason, I used to be very particular about getting 1st rank– I would attribute that to my grand father, who used to sit beside me during exams and motivate me to study.

Interviewer: What would you say makes you uniquely qualified for your line of work?
Kart: Generally, my strength, if I have to pick one, is my ability to adapt and learn new things at a faster pace. I always like to take-up challenging roles and responsibilities, from which I derive a lot of satisfaction.
Although I am from electronics background, I used to participate and win a lot of algorithm and coding contests during my college days. Probably that helped me a lot during the initial days of my career.

Interviewer: What is a typical day at work like?
Kart: Of late, I start my day with a game of shuttle early in the morning but the difficult part is to wake my friends early in the morning and make them play. :-)
I start my office work by attending the stand up meeting- In Turbine Controller project we had been following this practise for last 2-3 years. Then I check mails and schedule/ attend technical discussions to address critical issues. After that, I take-up regular planned tasks. In the late evenings, I attend telecons with Ft Washington team.
Sometimes, if go home early, I cook and make my friends eat it. :-)

Interviewer: What Advice would you like to offer to people wanting to go into this field?
Kart: Focus on long term goals - We normally work towards meeting short term commitments and loose focus on our log term objectives. One’s day-today work, ideally, should also be aligned towards that. For instance, if one wants to become an expert in a particular area, one must set incremental goals towards achieving it – It could be as small as reading a new article on that technology everyday.

Interviewer: What difficulties do you face in your job as a Team lead?
Kart: Within HTS we now have cross development locations such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and Madurai. Managing cross location and cross functional work is quite challenging. Sometimes, it’s hard to know and understand the issues that the other locations are facing. I now understand what difficulties US or Australian teams would have faced when they were bringing up teams in Bangalore.

Interviewer: What does the future hold for you - any exciting plans, developments?
Kart: I love teaching and I would want to retire early and build a school. Even now, I teach children whenever I get an opportunity. I had taken classes in colleges such as CMRIT, Bangalore and GCT, Bangalore as part of community service programs. Even in Ft Washington, as a part of Honeywell community service program, I took up classes for US school children.

Interviewer: How hard is it to start a holiday?
Kart: I like un-planned adhoc bike trips over planned vacations – the uncertainty makes the trip even more interesting. When I used to stay with my school friends, at midnight, we used to drive all the way to airport or Hosur in bike, have a cup of tea and then come back. I enjoy riding bikes in the nights, when the roads are calm with lesser traffic. I have had several adhoc bike trips around Bangalore.

Interviewer: Tell us about your childhood, dreams disappointments?
Kart: When I was a kid, choosing the field of ‘Engineering’ was a simple and an obvious choice for me. I wasn’t so good at drawing, so it was easy for me to rule out the option of medicine and other biology related fields. I was good at Maths and logical reasoning and not so good at mugging-up things. I took up engineering course, thinking that Engineering is all about Maths and logical reasoning, so that I don’t have to mug up. But even in Engineering, I ended up mugging up quite a lot things to clear my exams. :-)

Interviewer: Who or What are the influences that inspire you the most in your work?
Kart: My grand father is a great source of inspiration for me. He reached one of the top positions in the Agriculture department (Joint Director), yet he was humble, honest and simple. I don’t think I am quite there yet and there’s a lot to learn from him.

Interviewer: In your experience, what is the best philosophy you have found to live by?
Kart: Steve Jobs quote from his speech to Stanford University students “Stay hungry, Stay foolish” inspires me a lot whenever I feel proud that I have achieved something, or when I feel down.

Interviewer: What is the one thing that your friends and colleagues might not know?
Kart: I am getting married soon! I waited this announcement for so long so that I could invite everyone through this newsletter. :-)
It’s an arranged marriage, but she was my junior in my college. She is also software engineer in an MNC in Bangalore with similar aspirations as that of mine, which is “to eat well and sleep well”. :-)

Rapid Fire
Role Model – My grandfather
What makes you happy – When I wake up in the morning and find out that it is a holiday.
What makes you upset – When Tendulkar gets out in the 90’s..
Your favourite Movie – Basic Instinct
Last read Novel - “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen – It is a girlish novel and my fiancĂ© had asked me to read it…so I have no other choice. :-) “Made in Japan” by Akio Morito (autobiography of founder of Sony) is one of the best books that I have read.
Your favourite sport – Cricket
Your hobbies – Sports, travelling, biking and writing blogs.
Most memorable moment in Life – I would like to pick two…
First, when I was selected by Honeywell during my third year of engineering – My last interview was over only at 12 midnight and I came to know about my candidature at night 1 O’ clock, when I was half asleep.
Second, when my nephew was born - It was a wonderful moment in my life.
Your message for our readers – Enjoy your life. Keep it simple. :-)

Note: The interview was also published in the Honeywell HPS Newsletter - HPS Happenings, which was released on Oct 29, 2010.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

US Top 10

I wanted to write this post for quite sometime - just to capture the 'moments of joy' during my 4 months stay in US & relive the experience by reading it again and again. :-) At last, I decided today is the day. Now the countdown begins...

1: 850 miles of driving to & fro Niagara, in a single day: (Feb 20, 2010 5 AM - Feb 21, 2010 2:30 AM)
It was nothing short of 'a dream come true' to drive all the way from Fort Washington to Niagara at a stetch, driving the car in 'cruise control', to watch the frozen Niagara lake & the semi-frozen falls & return back the same day. In fact, i didn't realize that I (& my car...which consume 40 gallons of gas!!!) had so much of stamina (?!), given that I woke-up at 3:30 AM in the morning to prepare Chapathi/Aloo with Anubhav/Pallavi & that I started driving cars in US only a few days back:-)). Without doubt it is the best moment of my US Trip.

2. Skiing in the Snow @ Spring Mountains: (Feb 12, 2010) - It was real fun to learn skiing- Thanks to Ed, who filled the boots of a trainer, and to try some of those stunts that i have seen only in the TV until then. If we were to play cricket, we would have easily formed a cricket team - We were 11 in number- Ed, Becky, Suresh, Arif, Badri, Padmini, Anubhav, Pallavi, Amit, Siva and I. We had good time while skiing & the best times were definitely when we watched others skii - we would have needed a three digit counter, if we had count the total number of times we fell down in the snow.

3. New year bash in Casablanca, Atlantic City: (Dec 31, 2009 - Jan 1, 2010) What more could I ask for a New Year Party? Electryfing crowd, dazzling dance hall with colorful lights & huge screens, amazing food, a VIP room in a 5 Star Casino Resort and more importanlty, my best friend Dilip & his friends around me!! Wow...that was the day!! I tried a lot of things that day - dancing ( it as 'shaking my legs' :-)), swimming in an indoor pool, experienced a high-end Spa, tried my luck gambling (& winning 5 dollars!!), ...

4. Teaching kids in Wissahickon middle school on Engineer's Day: (Feb 18, 2010 - 7:30 AM to 2 PM- back to back 5 classes) -
Team: Mike, Ed, Bob, Paul, Usha, David, Denise & Kart. It was wonderful experience to teach kids on how to construct batteries, small motors and a few cirucits on their own to demonstrate the power of Engineering & Science. I had a memorable day answering interesting and sometimes funny questions from the kids.

5. Different Cusines: I enjoyed trying different cusines, which includes Mexican (Tacobell, Baja Fresh), Arabian (Pita), Mangolaian (BD Chain), Japanese (Sushi), Malaysian (Rasa Sayang), Singaporian, Indian (Chettiand Restaurant, Palace of Asia), Thai, Chinese, Finesse (at Ollie's house), Italian & in a few English-American type restaurants such as IHOP, Burger King, MacD, Friendies, Subway, etc., during my stay in US and some were delicious and some were not so. The choice for vegeterians are limited but neverthless you could get a feel of it. I would want to write a separate review on different cusines some day.

6. Weekend trips: Except for the initial few weeks at the start of my US trip, I was a busy traveller. I had good time travelling to new places every weekend. Some of the memorable trips include - DC trip, NJ trip with my school friends, Pen's Cave, Poconos Mountains, Philly sight seeing, Delaware Shopping, New Hope Village, etc.,
7. Driving differnt cars & driving in the snow storm: I got a chance to drive a different car almost every two weeks, sometime every week. The cars that I drove include Chrysler, Ford Focus, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Nitro SUV, Kia Forte, Hundai Santa Fe SUV and a few more to come... It is real fun to drive in a snow clad road - the thrill of driving in the slippery roads is exhillarating. I grabbed the GPS from my school friend Suresh, after that it was all fun- Driving all the way, getting lost & then managing to come back home using GPS. It was so nice of Arif, Anubhav & Pallavi, who accompanied me during most of such adhoc trips.

8. Walking on top of a frozen lake: Walking on top of a frozen lake, in front of a secluded DC monument was a mind blowing experience. We didn't know the depth of the lake - it was already pretty dark, hardly any people around us, none of us know if the ice would crack & the last thing we wanted to do in the cold was to get drowned in a icy lake or pond. Amit was the one who started & soon, Shilpa, Badri, Padmini & I joined the party.

9. Free Books & Movies: The two things I would miss when I come back to India are - Free library and High speed broadband. Ever since I got my US DL, I became the member of a library - I read a few interesting books, not many as i hardly find time, such as 'Body for Life', 'The myth of multi-tasking', etc., and quite a few documentatry filims. I also enjoyed watching a few online movies from the net, when ever i get time, to keep myself refreshed in the midst of my busy office work.

10 a. Ice Fishing: It was something that i never heard of before until my visit to Poconos- people here drill holes in a frozen lake and catch fish using spinning rods in those holes. This would have been on the top of my list, had we caught at least a fish that day :-)

10 b. Watching ISS in the naked eye: I had a chance to watch International Space Station (ISS), the largest artificial satellite, in the naked eye - Thanks to Ben & Charlie. If anyone of you are intersted at 'sky watching', all you need to do is - to key- in the latitude & longitude in the site - to find out the exact time at which the ISS cross the horizon in your location.
A few of the other memorable moments include - 'watching Avatar movie in IMAX', parties in Best Western with Honeywell folks, standing before Best Buy at 2 AM on Thanks giving day, my Driving School experience, and the list continues.,
"Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter." is a quote from the poem 'Grecian Urn' by John Keats. Did I mean that sweeter melodies are still lying with me...:-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cracked Enigma!!

Hurray!! I cracked the Level 25 - Final Frontier of Enigma - A series of computer puzzles organized by IIT Karagpur.

Those who are interested @ taking this quiz, have a look at the webiste - Enigma

Answers are posted in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Silence of the Lambs - Movie Review

Kart's Rating - 4.5/5

Few weeks back, I watched the movie - 'The Silence of the Lambs', a horror/thriller movie, starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, for which they both won Oscar awards for their flawless acting. It is unlike other Tamil/Telugu/Hindi movies in more than one way - there is no hero and the villain is also not an important character in the movie - the villain 'Buffalo Bill' appears in the screen only for few minutes and that too at the fag end of the movie. The movie is well directed and you would find it very interesting till the very end.

The main cast is played by Jodie Foster, the heroine one would want to fall in love at first sight. :-) Her acting was mature and her facial expressions were near perfect. I liked her (acting) to such an extent that the first thing I did when I came to office the next day morning was - I typed 'Jodie Foster' in Google search toolbar. :-) She acted as a FBI Academy student and fitted that role perfectly.
Antony Hopkins acted as 'Hannibal Lecter', a brilliant forensic psychiatrist and a incarcerated serial murderer. His performance remains the shortest lead acting, Oscar-winning performance ever, as Hopkins is on screen for less than 17 minutes throughout the course of the film.

For those who wanna know more on this movie, I would advise them to spend 10-15 bucks, rent a DVD and enjoy watching the excellent movie.

For those who enjoy reading a book than watching a movie have a look at the novel - Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kart learns to Rock - My first date with Violin.

Ever since my sister started learning carnatic music (that was a decade ago), I wanted to learn a musical instrument - initially it was not because of my overwhelming interest in music but purely because I always wanted to set the parities straight with my sister, who was teasing me for my musical ignorance. Over the years that wish grew stronger and stronger and by the end of last year it was strong enough to seriously think about joining a music class.

Why not Vocal? That wouldn't have been a question in the first place, if you had got a chance to hear my voice before. I am a below average bathroom signer. By saying this I am not trying to be modest. :-)

Now came the tougher question - which instrument to learn - Veena, Keyboard, guitar, violin or drums?

Why not Veena? I am skeptical about learning Veena, as the world 'Veena' sounds feminine to me - may be because I started growing watching 'I-eat-curd-rice' girls playing Veena in Doordharshan or may be because my bed room had a photo of Goddess Saraswathi playing Veena.

Why not Keyboard? Keyboard is an easy instrument to learn. Even if you are a bad musician, the sound from keyboard won't make you look awfully bad. But it can generate only discrete frequencies unlike string instruments which can generate continuous frequencies. It might also be monotonous - especially after spending hours in office typing my computer keyboard.

Why not drums? I recently moved to an apartment and I wanted to stay there for some more time - so don't wanna risk being tagged as nuisance by my neighbors - learning drums can be pleasant feeling to you but not to those around you :-).

Now the real tussle was between learning Violin and guitar. Guitar always sounded a cool thing and I usually envisage it with rock stars. But, Violin is also an equally cool instrument. Then, I asked my friend, who though not a prodigy in the world of music has a profound interest in music, batted for Violin and suggested me to take it up. The icing on the cake was when my school mate gifted his violin to me, definitely not an euphemism for saying that I grabbed it from him. :-), which obviated the need for further analysis on choosing the instrument.

After zeroing in on the instrument, and after a month long search for a good music teacher, I joined kalanjali to learn carnatic violin by Jan first week.

My first day was cool and it lasted only for 30 minutes. I did pooja to Goddess Saraswathi's image @ Kalanjali- not because I am a theist but only because my master is... After completing the rituals, I struggled to play in my violin for the next 15 minutes. But not any more, after a week long practice and now my apartment mates have also started enjoying my experiments with violin, though they occasionally tease me for the odd sound it generates in between. :-)

Made in Japan - Book review

Kart's rating - 4/5

'Made in Japan' by Akio Morito is arguably one of the best books I have read so far. Yes - It's a book written by the co-founder of SONY, one of the most successful electronics companies in the modern world. It was not only a good book on management but also provided me deep insights on the world affairs and Japanese culture; As and when I read the book, I stood on the shoes of Morito and analyzed how I would have reacted to those situations - it really was an interesting exercise (though you could call it as childish exercise), which helped me to understand how good a manager he is/was.

At a quick glance, one might feel that he was flattering the Japanese - their culture, their management skills, their technology, their work quality, their working style, and what not.... Initially, I got an impression that he was biased and was trying to sell Japan to the rest of the world. But, in retrospect, I am tempted to second his view. Japan, like a Phoenix bird, rose from the shambles after the world war II. The kind of economic growth they had after world war II was really remarkable, given that they are /were neither blessed with rich mineral wealth like Russia or USA, nor oil/natural gas like the Arabian countries. They are just a small island, cursed with active volcanoes and deadly earth-quakes; It was terrible to know that many Japanese were unfortunate enough to see Tokyo rebuilt thrice after destruction - once after world war II and twice after earth quakes, which shook Japan in the last century.

I always believed that attitude determines everything - when Sony was founded by Akio Morito and Ibuka, two creative young and creative engineers, they had no positive atmosphere for starting a company. They found it very difficult even to get a decent work place and the basic raw materials to build their electronics product. But within few months after the world war, Sony and other Japanese were not worrying about the havoc caused during the world war but rather they were looking ahead.

In his book, Akio Morito has expressed a very strong view on almost everything. He openly criticized his fellow company mates, his competitors and infact some of his own decisions. His views on the world economy, the economic development across the world, the management strategies employed by the west vs Japan were all very informative. His decisions in tight situations were spot-on most of the times, though some of them were learning experiences.

In short, 'Made in Japan' was an interesting and informative read.

PS: I wrote a part of the review long back (4-5 months back) when I read the book. But, I didn't find time to continue it until now, so the blog might lack coherence.