Thursday, November 30, 2006

Trip to Cambridge

Last weekend was really fast and it was over well before I could realize it. The best part of the weekend was the trip to Cambridge.

Situated in east of England, Cambridge is an English university town and the administrative center of Cambridge shire county. From London it is close to 60 miles and it takes about an hour to reach the destination. Cambridge is situated near Silicon Fen, which is considered to be the heart of the high technology center. Cambridge is best known for its University, Cavendish Laboratory, King's college chapel, Cambridge University Library and Punting.

We started from London Liverpool Street on Sunday at about 8:50 AM to take the National Rail operated by ONE Network to Cambridge. Nonetheless after seeing the speeding National Rail trains in the Ilford station one of my wishes was to take this kind of train. The train started at the appointed time of 8:58 AM sharp cruising slowly and steadily towards its destination. The train was running at an average speed of 76 kms per hour and touching the peak speed of close to 120 KM per hour between certain stations.

The journey to Cambridge from London is absolutely amazing. If you are a nature lover, this is the journey one must take. Even in winter, Britain experiences rain that sometimes makes the geography of the land very beautiful. Right from the time one comes out of London; the greenery can be experienced all around which is absent in the main city. The train to Cambridge calls at Tottenham Hale, Waltham Cross, Chestnut, Broxbourne, Harlow Town, Bishops Stratford, Audley End and Cambridge town. The journey between Chestnut and Broxbourne is especially very good since the entire landscape is surrounded with plain grasslands. The surface is absolutely flat which makes the landscape extremely beautiful. Getting to see flat surfaces in India is actually a rarity. A few snaps were taken in train as well, will upload them soon on the blog.

We reached Cambridge at around 10:30 AM. The weather was good. Bright and a little sunny where the sun was trying to protrude out of the dark clouds. The temperature should be around 10-11 and not less than that. Thereafter from the station itself we took the hop on and hop off bus, which is really a good thing in Britain. This type of bus allows you to get down and see the place and then again get into the bus at a later point in time. A number of buses run throughout the day, which allows easy movement from one place to the other. As expected the bus was pretty much empty except for a few people.

Cambridge town reminds me of Manipal where I did my PGDM in TAPMI. Close to 22000 students study in the town of Cambridge in various colleges within the university. The University houses close to 31 colleges, which offer courses ranging from Arts to Science and Mathematics.

Our first destination in our journey was the Microsoft research center, which has been funded by Bill Gates for an estimated cost of close to £ 50 m. Next to the Microsoft R&D center is the Cavendish Laboratory. The Cavendish Laboratory has a major role in the Atomic Structure world. Most of the discoveries in the Atomic structure world have come from the Cavendish Laboratory. Some of the notable ones are Rutherford’s Alpha Scattering experiment, JJ Thomson discovery of electron, Niel Bohr’s calculation of radius of the atom, Bragg’s X Ray diffraction law. Cavendish Laboratory belongs to the Physics Department of the University of Cambridge. Its actually part of the Trinity College, which is one of the most well known colleges in the world. It was a dream come true for me when I looked at the place. Almost for 5 years we read continuously about Atomic Structure and all these people. Today I saw the place where they did all these experiments also.

Next destination was the American Cemetary, which consisted of a memorial for American soldiers who died in the Second World War. The area surrounding the cemetery is an awesome sight and was perhaps the true countryside feeling. Lush greenery spread all over with dried maple leaves on the ground. It was just an amazing sight and delight to the eyes. Probably only a poet can describe the nature better.

As we were coming back into the Cambridge City center we saw the express highway to London and Stansted. The cars were speeding at close to 100 mph. The next stop for us was punting on the river cam, which also provides the name to the town. It was afternoon by then we started seeing the colleges in the town like Kings College, St John’s College, Queens College and Trinity College. All of them stand tall with their historic buildings. All these colleges placed a very important role in the development of science and mathematics. Infact Trinity College boasts of close to 31 Nobel laureates including our very own Amartya Sen.

Next destination for us the Kings College backs. Kings college backs is akin to the backwaters of Kerala and reminds me of the holiday we spent there. In the Kings College backs only we had our very own Indian dish Lemon Rice prepared by Lakshmi. It was a good preparation and filled up the stomach very well.

Thereafter we just moved in the Cambridge high street and did a little bit of shopping and saw a roadside play also. I am not really sure what it is called as but on the first look it was really good and a different kind of an experience. Then we walked all along the high street seeing some T-Shirt shops and a very old church spotted by Uma Rani.

Our lunch was at a familiar space – Pizza Hut. It was quenching as well as filling for everyone. We moved on crossing the football ground to catch our bus which dropped us at the station.

We took the fast train to Kings Cross,which was a nonstop one and took just about 45 minutes to travel from Cambridge till London Kings Cross. The journey comes to an end.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Naveen Giles and myself in London

Last weekend was one of the greatest moments for me. On Saturday, I met Mr. Naveen Giles who is one of ace quizzers in the quizzing circuit and winner of some of the big names like CNBC Challenge and Brand Equity Quiz 2006.

What is exciting is the way I met him. We were introduced to each other via a common friend in his house at Liverpool street in London. Soon we were walking towards a restaurant to have dinner. While we were talking, both of us being avid quizzers ended up discussing about quizzes and other related stuff like blogging. After sometime he asked me as to what do I quiz on. Pat came the reply from my side saying that I am into punchlines and logos. Immedietely he responded saying that he is the defending champion of Brand Equity quiz. I was shocked for a moment. Shell-shocked.

I could not believe myself that I am talking with the winner of the brand equity quiz. Nation's biggest quizzing extravaganza. Winning brand equity quiz is every quizzer's ultimate aim.

Thereafter we had a long talk and he described his experience of quizzing and style of Derek o Brian which has got a mixed feedback amongst the quizzing fraternity. Both the quizzes, the Challenge on CNBC and the brand equity quiz are hosted by Derek O Brian. We also watched the recording of CNBC Challenge which was as exciting as the quiz in reality.

For people who are not from the quizzing bracket it would be tough to appreciate this news. But for me it was a delight. I always wanted to see a quizzing hero. I finally met him in London.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Zune - Microsoft's Latest Innovation

Zune is the latest or rather the first digital music player to be launched by Microsoft. Ofcourse Zune is also the latest one in the market amongst the music players available. Zune was launched on 14th Nov 2006 in Atlanta with a free TI concert.

The key feature of Zune is its large LCD display screen, which is close to 40 % bigger than a video ipod. This large screen makes sure that one even figures out the expressions of the people in the movie, which is not normally the case in iPod. Some of the reviews make it equivalent to a HDTV.

Coming to the user interface, its one of the sleekest in its class. With only one large center button, which can move in four different directions together with pressing straight down, anyone who knows how to use a web browser would find using Zune very easy. The menus have a sleek animation from one screen to the other that gives the Zune a really cool feeling.

One of the most striking features of Zune is its Wi-Fi functionality, which is one of the most unique features of a digital music player till date. Users can detect if there is any other Zune player in the vicinity till 50 m so that sharing of song files, albums and photos can be done. To prevent piracy and protection of copyrights, the transferred file can only be played three times, thereafter the file gets deleted.

With a matte finish, Zune spots a slippery look but actually is not. Outer shell of Zune is scratch free which makes it really good for tough usage. The scratching of screens was one of the major problems in iPod.

The sound quality of the device is 100 % connected to the headphones under usage and not really on the player itself. Better the headphones better will be the sound quality. This is really drawback for the player since iPod boasts of a superior sound quality because of the player and not really because of the headphones.

Similar to iTunes for iPod, Zune comes with Zune marketplace. It has been launched with over 2 million songs and offers 2 options for the enthusiasts: 99 cents for a single download or unlimited downloads for just 14.99. Zune will play and even share songs from other sources. The ability of Zune to fetch and album art for ripped and illegal music is nothing short of fantastic. Infact songs, which are purchased from iTunes music store, have something called, as DRM codes which does not allow them to be played on any player other than iPod.

One of the major disadvantages of Zune, which can make this product a miss in the market, is its inability to act as a memory stick or a removable hard drive. This is one of the major drawbacks keeping in mind the existing products in market all of which support the removable hard drive feature. This makes Zune useful only for listening to music and not for transferring word documents, excel files and zip files. iPod is very widely used as a storage device since it can store up to 60 GB of data.

Regarding appearance, Zune comes in three different colours – black, brown and white. Brown is catching up a lot and has maximum demand and bookings all across Wal-Mart and But one thing is sure looks wise, its difficult to mistake Zune for some other player.

Finally Zune with all these features turns out to be a value for money at just $ 250. Its one the premier players available in the market, and will hit the competition with a bang with its wifi feature and large display. Zune is more like a range for Microsoft with products like Zunephone and Zunegamer in the pipeline.

Try it. You will love it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Life shows its colour in all forms. Sometimes the colours reflect the brighter side, other times it reflects a gloomy side of life. Never one side of the life remains constant forever. It keeps on changing which makes the people to think negative and positive about life.

People say that change takes place because we cannot control everything happening around us. It’s really tough to ensure that everything around us remains in our control or moves according to our wills and wishes. But then sometimes things turn out to be so unfortunate that they breakdown the people who are in circumference of it.

Life definitely is not a Sunday. No day remains static in life. No day even repeats in life. Now these days the work environment is so dynamic that one never knows which trouble is he going to face next moment. Sometimes over a period of time these small troubles start causing what is called as Frustration.

Frustration is a feeling wherein one starts feeling bad about everything around him. It’s a condition, which forces a person to go into a state of disliking. Frustration leads to a whole lot of problems, which starts, from hating the people around you and ends at hating yourself.

Why do we need to think so much about our life? Can the life be left to itself?