Sunday, December 16, 2007

For Mom

Yeah, it's been a while since I've posted anything, it's been a trying time for me, working on my thesis. Anyway, I'm writing because it's my mom's birthday, and I suddenly remembered something she did for me that for some reason I'll never forget.

I was in third standard, and the school I was in was not really known for being very forgiving towards, um, rule-breakers. It was probably the second week of school, we had our new books, and like everybody else, they were covered in brown paper. The class teacher, however, makes up this rule that the brown paper must be the kind that has the shiny plastic on it, the supposedly water-proof kind. Unfortunately, it's also the expensive kind, and all my books are covered with the ordinary brown paper. My teacher gives us a warning, no, an ultimatum, that by the end of the week, we all had have the shiny plastic covers. I come home and tell my mom about it, she doesn't believe me. She thought that I was making a fuss for no reason, and that no teacher in her right mind would have such strange requirements (and she'd be right, too). The end of the week grew closer, and my books were still covered in the ordinary brown paper. That Thursday, I get pulled up in front of the class and made fun of, since my books apparently looked "shabby". I came home, and told mom about it, but she didn't believe me. I panicked, hid away and started crying. My dad wasn't at home (he was away on duty), and it was late, past the time all the shops closed when she found me crying my eyes out. She asked me what was wrong, and I told her. Then she did something I'll never forget. She found some plastic sheeting, which she cut, and folded to form covers for my books. The only stapler in the house was with my dad, who wasn't home, so she sewed the book covers in place with a needle and thread. She made sure I saw the books had a plastic cover before I went to bed, which was when I finally stopped crying.

Thanks, mom, I don't think I ever thanked you for that. And happy birthday! :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Overheating woes

Beast seemed to be getting a bit too slow for my liking, and I had this unused Athlon64 3800 CPU sitting around at school, so I thought I'd try it out. After swapping out the old A64 3000, I did some benchmarks compiling some code. The first time around, compile time dropped from 13 seconds to 10, but oddly, subsequent runs got slower and slower, it finally took 25 seconds to compile the same code before I got a kernel panic (Caps and Scroll lock blinking). Odd, I thought... why would a relatively small bump in CPU speed raise the temps so much? So I tried swapping back the old 3000 CPU, when I found the heatsink was so hot I couldn't hold on to it for more than a few seconds without letting go. Weird.

With the 3000 back in, I monitored temps and they were high but not dangerously so (55-60 C on load). I thought maybe the problem is improper heatsink grease application (my tube was almost empty), so I bought a tube of Arctic Silver 5 from NewEgg. While I was there, I blew some more cash and bought some extra RAM and, thinking the newer 90mm process would help, I bought an A64 X2 4200 (plus they are the last dual core CPUs my motherboard supports).

Turned out the X2 had the same problem, temps go all the way to 90 C (the thermal limit of the CPU) and I get random kernel panics. In desperation, I thought the MSI Neo4 motherboard wasn't sending the right Vcore to the CPU, searched forums, updated the BIOS... no good. Finally, when I was putting the 3000 CPU back in, I noticed I couldn't see the fins on the heatsink through the fan blades, so I unscrewed the fan from the heatsink. What I saw next almost made me sick:

Heatsink before cleaning

Three years of almost non-stop operation (save for the 1 month I went to India) and the fan had blown a huge layer of crud over the heatsink fins, completely covering them up, meaning zero airflow. Yikes!

I disassembled the heatsink (it's a fairly decent Kingwin all-copper heatsink. Nice and heavy!), used tweezers to remove the layers of dust bunnies, blew out as much dust as I could, then washed it in the sink. The result was a nice, shiny copper heatsink. This is what it looked like with everything but the fan back in place:

Heatsink after cleaning

After reassembling the whole thing, idle temps were around 33-35 (my room isn't air conditioned), on load it went up to maybe 48. Much better.

Makes me wonder... many people complain that when they buy a new computer, everything works well and things are fast. Then later, despite reinstalling operating systems and so on, things are unstable and prone to lock up. I wonder if accumulated dust may be the reason. Modern CPUs consume vast amounts of energy, all of which must be converted to heat. Without a good heatsink, CPUs are designed to throttle back their speed to protect themselves, and in extremes, shut off completely.

One way to detect such problems early on is to use hardware monitoring programs. Linux users can configure and set up lm_sensors (the sensors-config script makes this easy), then run monitoring progams like gkrellm or the GNOME sensors applet. Windows users can run SpeedFan or MBM5. Watch the CPU temps for signs of abnormal behavior, especially when on load.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rush Live at Red Rocks

I've been waiting for this for the last 8 years... and I finally saw Rush... live! Been waiting for tickets since way back when, but it was worth the wait, having bagged Row 17 at Red Rocks Amphitheater :-)

S. and I drove up there with two of his friends. They didn't have tickets, though, so they hiked up a nearby hillside to get a view of the stage. We went in about half an hour early (show was to start at 8:00). From the back, there are some phenomenal views of the surrounding hills. Here's one with a few happy campers getting a free Rush concert...

The view behind the amphitheater

This is what the stage looked like from above Row 99:
Stage from Row 99

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"Really, officer, I'm just drunk with joy!"

The stage before the show was covered up, and one of the mic stands had this mysterious sign in front that read "Big Al's Babes"...

Anyway, the show started promptly at 8:00 with a hilarious video featuring the band, and Geddy playing the role of a Scott! At 8:10, the band ran out and started the first set with Limelight.

Rush: Living in the Limelight
Playing Limelight

The pix aren't the best, but given the rules of the show were "no cameras" (I plead ignorance, it didn't say so on the ticket), I think these qualify as "fair use"

Turns out the sign covered up an array of toy dinosaurs, which were all over the Alex Lifeson's side of the stage. Geddy's bass amps this time around looked like three giant rotisserie machines; roadies dressed up as chefs would periodically check on the chickens during the show! Bit of a change from last tour's clothes dryers...

Next up were Digital Man followed by Entre Nous:
Entre Nous

Here's Lifeson playing the acoustic parts:
Entre Nous (acoustic)

Next up were Mission and Freewill, which was about when the crowd started to pick up some energy (and I got hoarse screaming "I WILL CHOOSE FREE WILL!!!")

Geddy then announced they'd be playing a few newer songs, and started with the awesome The Main Monkey Business from the new Snakes and Arrows. Also featured was a video of, well, monkeys :) Very well received by the crowd.

More songs from S&A and Vapour Trails followed: The Larger Bowl and Secret Touch. Then a real shocker: they played Circumstances from Hemispheres, never thought they'd play it live. Then yet another shocker: Between the Wheels, from Grace Under Pressure... it was about this time that, I'm not ashamed to say, I actually lost it and cried a bit. The set ended with Dreamline which was accompanied by a laser show that I just barely managed to catch:

Laser Show

All the newer songs seemed to be accompanied by BLINDING light shows, I would say they were on par with Pink Floyd's Division Bell tour.

Geddy then apologized that "due to our advanced years, we have to take a half-hour break". I, of course, didn't move an inch, to not lose my spot.

The second set started with a video, and went to Far Cry and Working Them Angels from S&A.

Working Them Angels

It was about this time that one of the bouncers told us that we couldn't have cameras in, and that we had to leave them in the car. S, bless his soul, took the fall for me and double-timed it to the car. He was back within the next two songs... I owe him so much.

Next up were Armor And Sword, Spindrift and The Way The Wind Blows from S&A. Then they went back to Signals and played Subdivisions, with Lifeson doing the "subdivisions" voice and Geddy working overtime playing both bass and keyboards. Then came yet another pair of unexpected tracks, Natural Science from Permanent Waves and Witch Hunt from Moving Pictures.

Then came the second instrumental from the new album, Malignant Narcissism, with the most scorching bassline EVER! The, the moment everyone was waiting for: Neil Peart's drum solo... except this time it was all new! That alone would make the concert DVD worth it. After thrashing the drums to near breaking point, Peart took a break as the Lifeson and Geddy continued with Hope.

Rush was never known for playing covers until Feedback, from which they played the old Eddie Cochran staple Summertime Blues. Then they let loose with The Spirit of Radio, and predictably, the crowd just went ballistic. There was a short South Park video, with Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny pretending to be Rush. Cartman (playing Geddy) starts singing "Modern day warrior, neat neat guy, floating down the river with a black guy...". The band then comes back on and shows them how it's REALLY done.

The encore started with One Little Victory, followed by Passage to Bangkok (with some hilarious videos in the background) and ended with a flawless rendition of YYZ.

The show wrapped up at 11:30, a solid three hours of music. Awesome. In case you didn't get the hint yet, go check the tour list, if they're playing anywhere near you, GO WATCH THE SHOW!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Barcelona Trip

I got to go to Barcelona for a few days this month, mostly to attend a conference on remote sensing (yawn...), but luckily, I got to spend a few extra days there. Surprisingly, I actually took pictures this time, so I'll put a few on here.

I went with my labmate, N. We stayed at a nice-ish hotel in a newer part of town called "Forum", which had a nice view of... well what I'll politely describe as a ghetto. Still, it was within walking distance of the conference.

Near the hotel was this shopping mall, where we went for lunch. There was this little sand sculpture exhibit in the middle, with models of various famous buildings in town.

The mall itself was kinda interesting, first off, even though nobody who worked there spoke any English, the music played was mostly 80s pop (think Cyndi Lauper). The only way to get drinking water was to buy (expensive) bottled water, water fountains and getting a glass of water with a meal seems to be unheard of. Lucky for me, my Spanish phrasebook helped me out of several situations. Oddly, the one guy at the mall who spoke English was from Pakistan!

All the places to see in Barcelona are quite far off, so we took the city bus to get to the more interesting spots. The hub of most activity is in Plaça de Catalunya, which is also the main bus stop and metro station.

From here, we walked through Las Ramblas, which is a street full of restaurants of all descriptions, with shacks on the street selling all sorts of trinkets. The most fun part, though, are the street performers, most of whom were human statues.

Atlas Shrugged?

In this case, Atlas actually did shrug.

Tree Man

The tree-woman, er, man, er... you figure it out.


I liked this guy the best, he'd sit motionless in his box, but occasionally turn and glare at someone walking by. Then there was this one time he stared right at me...


...and my camera had to go on the fritz. :-/ This is the best I could do with The Gimp.

Las Ramblas ends by the sea, at the monument to Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus

Nearby was the Museu Marítim de Barcelona, built into one of the ancient shipyards from which ships sailed to the Americas, and around the world. One of the more interesting exhibits was a full-scale replica of one of the early Spanish galley ships (think Ben Hur...).


We took one of the organized bus tours of the city, which made for some interesting photo ops, given that the buildings in the old town were just so... purdy!

Buildings from the bus - 1 Buildings from the bus - 2

One of the stops along the way was the famous Sagrada Família, which is the unfinished basilica designed by Gaudí, the architect responsible for much of Barcelona's unique buildings.

Sagrada Familia

The church has been under construction for over 100 years now. Apparently, this was by design, and the intended completion date is 2026. Interestingly, the sculptures on one side (the older face) depict one large scene, while the newer ones on the opposite side (depicting the crucifixion) are more like sculptures found on Indian temples, in that they tell a complete story rather than just one scene.

Sagrada Familia

Much of the insides were under construction, so there wasn't much to see. Next up on the bus tour was a ride to Tibidabo, one of the hills overlooking Barcelona. To get there, we had to board this quaint little tram, called Tramvia Blau.

Tramvia Blau

That took us half-way up the hill where there's a cable-driven tram up the steep hill face to get to the top. The paint-job is hard to miss... :-)


Right at the top, there's a small chapel, the Templo Expiatorio de Espana.

Templo Expiatorio de Espana

There are some spectacular views of Barcelona from up here, of the harbour and the rest of the city.

BCN from up high

One of the more unusual stops we made were to a science musem called Cosmocaixa (hey, the conference folks gave us free tickets!) This place was a lot like a scaled-up version of Vishweshwaraya museum in Bangalore, with the push-button experiments and everything :) I even got a pic with Einstein, wearing a T-shirt with the speed of light on it :)

With Einstein!

(I think I have Chandler's affliction - I absolutely cannot smile for a photo!)

The Bus tour hands out earphones you can use to listen to a commentary. Here's what happens to them:

Bus Stop

We also visited the aquarium, the zoo and wandered around a bit in the Parc de la Ciutadella. One of the park's prominent features is the Cascada, with a large waterfall.

The Cascada

The food was great, although I have a sinking feeling that we didn't really get to have many of the local dishes since we didn't really have any locals to help us. The best local dish I tried was Paella, although mine wasn't entirely authentic since it didn't have any seafood (I was playing it safe). Then there was Jamón ibérico, or Spanish cured ham, which on first sight looks, um, quite unappetizing. The taste, though, is quite amazing.

The ice-cream was really good as well... it's less sweet than American ice-cream, it's at just the right level of sugar. The flavours are quite varied too, with Hazelnut and Tiramisu being my favourites.

Well anyway, after all of that, I'm back in Fort Collins and back to the grind, screaming "it's too SOOON!" I must say, though, that I caught myself almost saying "Gracias" to the person at the local McDonalds...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Whats Your Web 2.0?

Vinit tagged me, well, a while back, so here's my rather terse reply:

Pretty much the only web2.0 sites I use are:

Bloglines, and GMail, on a daily basis
Google Maps, oh, maybe once a week. uh, not quite enough apparently :( But I suppose this would classify as "monthly".

I, well, don't tag anyone in particular. For reasons I'd rather not say. So if anyone wants to pick this one up, feel free.


  1. Link to the original post

  2. Create a list of Web 2.0 sites that you use Daily, Weekly and Monthly

  3. Tag a few more people in your buddylist

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Quarter Life Crisis?

I wonder if it's just normal that sometime in the mid-twenties, we all get so... numb. It's like the world's going by on fast-forward, and I'm standing and gawking at it, unable to do a thing. All around, people are going places, doing things, and I'm sort of wondering "how do I get a piece of that?"

In particular, I feel so disconnected with life as I knew it, just a few years ago. I don't do the same things I used to, don't listen to the same music, don't eat the same food. I don't know anybody now who I knew back then. The scary part is not that I don't know them or keep in touch, just that I don't feel the need to. Or to go back to the things that I used to be so passionate about. I wonder if this is normal, or just a byproduct of being caught up in a million things at once.

The odd thing about this post is that I thought of it while talking to a friend. Oh, the irony...

Edit: I just re-read that, and yes, I sound very selfish but I can't seem to help myself, these thoughts don't go away. :-(

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

English Resource

Here's a neat site for the grammatically challenged or for members of the Grammar Police in need of a little polishing.

Mistakes on this post may kindly be sent to /dev/null

Monday, April 23, 2007

The wait

You know there's something wrong when you wait all day for this:

to turn to this:


(twiddles thumbs)

Monday, March 26, 2007

There goes the neighbourhood

One half of me is completely outraged. The other half says "damn, 11 years too late!" Apparently, Josephs is going co-ed.

"Unfurl the flag of faith and toil" indeed... Oh well, at least the Christmas plays won't have some sheepish looking guy playing Mother Mary!

In other news, S. clued me in that Rush will be playing at Red Rocks, Denver in August!!! Preparing to spend the next few days trawling for the best possible tix. Imagine, Neil Peart playing O Baterista*... LIVE!!! I really hope they play Available Light too, unfortunately it's from the less popular Presto.

* props to anyone who can name the time Peart makes his only mistake in that blistering performance

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Clapton adventure

Proving that I can have at least a semblance of a life, I went to watch Eric Clapton play at the Pepsi Center, Denver :) S. told me about it way back in January, the day tickets went on sale. Stupidly, I waited for a day before trying to buy them. That, coupled with the quirky Ticketmaster website ended up with us having to hunt for an outlet to get our tickets. Just our luck then, that the guy at the counter turned out to be a real "duuuh" type, promised us almost front-row tickets, and then printed out something way in the back. Joy. Anyway, we took them since Clapton's so popular in the Denver area, he was sold out just a few hours after sales began :)

Fearing long queues, we left three hours early. An hour later, Denver's confusing roads got the better of S. and we spent a bit driving around in circles. We got to the venue to find a *huge* crowd, most of whom had more than a few streaks of white hair... sometimes it's good to feel young ;D S. bought a T-shirt, and I got both a tee and a hat.

The ticket said "No Cameras or Recorders", and I stupidly believed it. Everyone else though, had a camera and were clicking away. All I had was my cellphone's crummy VGA cam, so until I whack pix from someone else's blog, these will have to do.

Show started at 7:30, with Robert Cray opening. I'm really ashamed to say I didn't know who he was till last night, because damn he could play the blues!!! He sounded a bit like Marvin Gaye on one song, or so I thought.

After a short intermission, Slowhand himself came onstage and opened with a more rocksy Tell The Truth. I kept telling S. that the arena, the general stage layout, etc. kinda resembled Floyd's Pulse concert, right down to the little dance the backup singers did :) Clapton was joined onstage by Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks. Again, not having heard them before, I was just blown away by the awesome skill on display. Trucks played slide, while Doyle had more diverse roles.

That pic above is supposed to be of the second part of the set where the band did a sit down set of Driftin' Blues, Outside Woman Blues, Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out and Running On Faith. This was easily my favourite part of the main set.

As the last song of the main set, he played Layla which had the crowd going nuts... imagine a stadium full of 50+ folks screaming! The momentum carried on, and we had to yell and scream for almost five whole minutes before the band came back onstage and blew everyone away with a two-track encore with Cocaine and Crossroads :) Robert Cray joined in on Crossroads, where his powerful voice gave the song a new depth. Awesome stuff! S. and I kinda stumbled out, not wanting to believe it was really over.

My first concert here... and I loved every minute of it!

(in case you're wondering why I called it an adventure, it's coz of what happened on the way back home... but I'm not sure if S. would appreciate me writing about it here.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Going it alone

I'm taking a ride
With my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
He knows where he's taking me
Taking me where I want to be
I'm taking a ride
With my best friend

We're flying high
We're watching the world pass us by
Never want to come down
Never want to put my feet back down
On the ground

I'm taking a ride
With my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
Promises me I'm as safe as houses
As long as I remember who's wearing the trousers
I hope he never lets me down again

Never let me down...

Played with visions of struggling up a never-ending hill. Sisyphus has company...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sunday, January 07, 2007

PSB - Paninaro

After about 15 years, I finally see this again:

Instantly transported back to 5th standard, when I had this video tape recorded off French MTV. This was one of the songs on it. I really hope Youtube doesn't go through with deleting music videos. It's not like you can actually watch any on MTV or VH1, no, those are reserved for shows about music, not the music itself. Dopes.

See if you can spot this bit:
I don't like country and western. I don't like rock music, I don't like rockabilly or rock and roll particularly. I don't like much, really, do I? But what I do like, I love passionately.