A day in Baroda

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I have been thinking of visiting the Planetarium at Vadodar/Baroda for the past few weeks. I have either overslept or haven’t been in the mood over the past few Sundays. A power cut early today morning woke me up and didn’t allow me to sleep any longer.

I reached Baroda a little after mid-day. An amateur astronomer and friend, Manoj Pai from Ahmedabad, had advised me to walk it up from the railway station since it was only a kilometer away. As I walked down a road (I just chose one randomly), I spotted the grand building that was the M S University. It blew me away. No photograph I took did it any justice (a repeating theme on this trip). I did not take any. I had admired the buildings that stood on the grounds and then had totally forgotten the reason for my being there. I took a right turn and reached what was a bridge. A small bridge made grand by ornate Mughal (I think) guard rooms. Below the bridge was a canal, now transformed into a nullah, an open drainage stream. A bunch of steps ran down a steady slope. They widened a little at the bottom. My mind almost got into the mode of reprimanding India’s lack of concern/respect/preservation/conservation of these beautiful structures but stopped myself.

Crossing roads in Baroda is more tricky than in Bombay. Here, vehicles don’t slow down and the turns are graceful. Such was the chaos on the roads that I was surprised that they moved aside for a passing ambulance. I had a sumptuous meal at Aangan restaurant. Now full and armed with the location of the Planetarium, I went towards Sayaji Park.

[The original blog post contained photos that I am not sure if I have or not. Will try to locate and recover.]

Sankalp Bhoomi
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On my way back in the train I saw an awesome instrument – made of a brown coconut shell and a stick. It seemed like an instrument that Kirk Kittell purchased from India when he was here earlier this year. It made an awesome monotonous and lonely music.

The Gemenids

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

It’s stunning how two streaks across the sky can fill up your heart with so much joy! Standing in my balcony in the cold climes of Bharuch with mosquitoes buzzing around, that was what my heart felt – pure joy.

Every December, the asteroid 3200 Phaeton causes the Gemenids. The meteor shower this year was thought to have been spoilt by the Moon light. This did not deter me from going out into the balcony at 1130 PM and look out at the sky. The sky was clear, the light from Bharuch was slightly obstructive to the viewing, the brightly lighted industries in the west, did not help matters either. I was able to see Orion clearly, though.

As I stood there, brushing away mosquitoes on my neck and slightly shivering in the chilly December air, a meteor streaked right across the sky. It was the first meteor that I had spotted – ever, in my life! Another streaked past barely ten minutes later. Then, for a long time there was nothing.

As the clock creaked past, 0030, I went back to bed, slightly disappointed that I did not see (missed, rather?) any more but happy to have sighted a meteor shower.

Dam 999

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I wanted to write this before I became biased by any opinion and I doubted if my writing was coloured by said biased opinions. I watched Dam 999 today at FAME, Bharuch. I quite loved the film.

The story is dedicated to the 250,000 people who died in the Banqio Dam Disaster in 1975. The story apparently took 15 years before it came out from behind the Great Wall. I would thin that one incident would be sufficient to rethink dams and the way dry lands can be irrigated. It also is a story in anticipation on what politics between the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and political gains could potentially be disastorous for 3.5 million people living downstream of the Mullaperiyar Damin Kerala (note that the Wikipedia article seems more about the controversy than the Dam itself!).

I am not much of a film critic beyond saying whether saying I enjoyed the film or not.

#pincodegeo

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

During preparations of WikiConference India 2011, I had wanted to do an OpenStreetMap workshop. Lack of internet stopped us from doing it at the Conference venue as well.

After the Conference, I’m now trying to learn and edit OpenStreetMap myself. As I thought of basic things that could be mapped, I was reminded about my frustration of not being able to put a different (and correct) pin code for my locality in Google MapMaker. I have stopped editing Google MapMaker since there are a few issues there that are still not being sorted out. That’s a different blog post.

So, I started asking around on Twitter on whether there was a list of pincodes for all states of India. I found this from Gautam John via Sengupta who remembered that this data had been shared on a Googlegroup called Datameet.

:)

I have now uploaded the same onto Google Docs (thanks to Mehul Ved for reminding me this existed  ) where I have enabled public editing of this data so that we can geotag it (i.e. get latitude and longitude of the post office) and then perhaps even add it on the town/locality’s article on Wikipedia, where I hope the data will be useful.

Use this short link – http://goo.gl/c9ksz – to share the data set.

How this data can be edited and utilised is being discussed on a Google Group that I created for this purpose. Do join it if you like.

Google docs also allows you to download the data so that you can play with it as well in a format you like. Do play with it and let us know on the Google Group.

Rockstar – Review

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

This is the first movie review I am posting.

I really had only two options for a movie to watch and I chose Rockstar. The choice was quite easy since the other option was to watch the Adventures of Tintin (in Hindi). I am quite happy that I made this choice. Rockstar is a movie that plays with great character building, stunning visual scenery and awesome music. I like the open ended storyline and a back and forth narration.

Phobos-Grunt

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

Phobos-Grunt was to launch at the very early hours in the morning in India and hence I did not look up the time before the launch.

The first reminder on the upcoming launch came from Srinivas Laxman whom I rang up on Sunday. After exchanging notes on the recent visit of Yuri Gagarin’s daughter to Mumbai and the upcoming unveiling of the Gagarin bust at the Nehru Planetarium, Mumbai. Talk inevitably turned to the two Mars missions – the Mars Science Laboratory and Phobos-Grunt (I like the way Russians name their spacecraft!).  We recollected the link between Chandrayaan-II and Phobos-Grunt but were not too enthused by the early morning launch hour. Both share similar lander design and Phobos-Grunt was sort of a dry run for the Chandrayaan-II lander.

Early morning as I headed to work, Twitter was flooded with news about problems with Phobos-Grunt. The Phobos-Grunt was launched into its first orbit by the Russian Zenit rocket. Apparently an orbit boost maneuver which was to be performed was not performed. This was spotted by veteran Satellite watcher, Ted Molzcan who wrote about it. Russia confirmed that this was the case today morning after a lot of speculation on Twitter. First, it was predicted that they had 3 days to fix the problems on the spacecraft. As the day progressed, news came in that data indicated that the batteries on-board were recharging and hence they had about a 2 week period to be “saved”.  Interestingly, the story put out by ROSCOSMOS chief say that they expected this mission scenario during the planning stage and have a fix planned out.

Emily Lakdawala updated via Twitter and her Planetary Society blog while Anatoly Zak provided a more complete picture on his website. Emily’s blog provides a better picture of the confusion that prevailed among folks after there was no word from Russia’s space agency, ROSCOSMOS. If you, like me, are interested in the technical nitty gritties, do head on over to the discussions on NASASpaceflight.com Forums where this event is being discussed live with updates and translations.

This has been an interesting story to follow. It brings out the need for more information and the work of amateurs in the contribution – to help in such scenarios even while such installations such as the Deep Space Network’s of the various space agencies of the world exists. It is an interesting world that we live in.

How Google Reader’s change changed the way I share online?

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

Somehow, all the changes that Google is making to Gmail, Reader et all to make them all look similar has changed the way I use the internet. That’s a pretty powerful impact for one company to have.

I have now started reading blog posts and email on my mobile phone (a Nokia E63). Earlier, my mobile phone was used primarily for Facebook and Twitter and that too for looking up birthdays or to make status updates.

I have over the past two days set into motion a particularly set routine for doing things online. I use Google Reader on mobile (I really hate Google for killing off competition in the RSS readers market) and then star them if it is something I’d like to share. I then get home, open my laptop and use Google Reader’s Starred Item and share the items on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

I get many things from twitter. These get re-tweeted and shared into my bookmarks on Opera. When I get home these get shared via Google+ and Facebook as well.

I tried using something like delicious as well but that is definitely not something for me. I tried for sometime to look for nice alternatives to Google Reader, then decided to let others look and change how I used my mobile and my internet instead. These were easier than looking for a new alternative, switching stuff to that alternative and then using it. Too many things. Very little time.