Saturday, December 21, 2013

Short trip around Pune

We made a short trip last Sunday to the Lohgadh Boat Club. Nice place for 3-4 hour visit.

IMO the boating's a bit on the expensive side - we paid 1400 for a ride on the speed boat. No peddle boats available (my favorite kind). There's a restaurant providing a fantastic view of the sunset. The snacks we were served was pretty good, onion bhaji & omelette. There's also a random collection of animals (peacocks, ducks, cats, horse-ride) which would definitely excite the kids (me as well :). The 3 kids we had with us definitely enjoyed the visit.

The shortest road via Somatane Phata is not good, it took us hour and a half from Chinchwad. I recommend taking the road from Kamshet, which we took while coming back, and was much better.
Recommend stopping at Kinara Dhaba, Sunny Dhaba or Tony da Dhaba for dinner while returning via the old Mumbai-Pune Highway.
Some pics:
Couple of pet friendly featherless peacocks
Prachi, Aadit, Pooja & Avani in the speed boat

The Agarwals

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ravan Dahan

I have a vague memory of going to public grounds in Ambala, Haryana (that's where we lived when till I was 5) to witness Ravan Dahan on the eve of Dussehra. Mostly celebrated in this fashion in the North, in recent years Ravan Dahan has gained a steady popularity in Maharashtra as well.

I relived these memories on a chance visit to the Nav Maharashtra School Ground, Pimpri, 3 years ago:

View Larger Map

Now it has become an yearly ritual for me and family. The event is sponsored by Amar Moolchandani. Each year there is a bigger stage and a bigger set of random politicians being invited to the event by the sponsors. I think the stage had more than a 100 guests this year. Some snaps and videos:
Meghnath (in blue) & Ravan effigies. Fireworks in the backdrop
Garbha on Stage
The video of the main event (edited using Avidemux). To note: some of the frontbenchers realize that its not as cozy up close as they thought (1:48). In turn a burning Ravana decides to give a real close up view to the crowd as a small part of it files and lands among the frontbenchers (2:25).

Some tips if you are planning to attend:
  1. Ravan Dahan is done at 10 pm (very punctual)
  2. Its a 2-3 hour entertainment program culminating in Ravan Dahan with dance, garbha, fire shows by local & international artists. You can also see fancy fireworks through out the show. If you have time go early - around 7.30 pm. 
  3. There is seating arrangement and if you go early you can find chairs. Even later (we went at 8.30) you can hunt for vacant chairs and take a seat towards the back.
  4. Car parking, esp. if you go late, is a problem. The road going towards Pimple Saudagar is a good place to park your car and also avoid traffic when leaving. 
  5. In case you have reservations about the crowd - it's decent, lot of families, ladies and children.
  6. Wait for 15-20 minutes after the event so that getting out of there is a lot easier
  7. There are barricades to prevent people from going too close when the effigies are burned. However depending on the wind direction standing right up to the barricades is not advisable. Often burning ash floats over to the front of the crowd. Holding the chairs over your head (like an umbrella) can be used for protection :). Nothing serious though.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A days workout

Crisis compounded - Mom's not well, Avani's down with cold and her baby sitter is on leave for 5 days. So I decided to take a day off to look after the little devil. Realized its a tough job handling an infant for an entire day:

No. of squats done: 20-30
No. of back benders:  50-70
Weight training: 8 kg for 1 hour, through the day
Steps: 100
No. of songs sung & re-sung: 20
Courtesy here
And by the way this was not even her full day - I did not contribute in her daily ablutions, breakfast and dinner. Hats off to wifey and mom, and to ladies all around who balance roles as a mother and as a wife and sometimes also as an employee.
Courtesy here
As an engineer, I can think of some obvious optimizations for fellow fathers in case they are given a similar one-day assignment:
  1. Pick her favorite food. Since I don't feed her regularly, her lunch and evening snack was her favorite food so that eating stress is neutralized.
  2. Restrict her play area to avoid running after her and some of the heavy lifting.  
  3. It might be worth investing in the 15 minute stroll (maybe accompanied by song) if that makes her sleep - will give both of you much needed rest :)
  4. Do not plan to do any office work - most likely you will not get any free time to get involved in any other activity
  5. Pay attention to her and her surrounding - with an active baby around small crises occur with unnatural probabilities. So that glass of water on the table or that unattended plate of food may quickly turn into more cleaning work. Prevention is definitely better than cure
  6. Be extremely patient
Enjoy your day & relish these moments :)

Sibilant S

I am forever amused by the "Sibilant S" used to coax reluctant infant bladders. Not sure if this is an India-only tradition, but you can often witness anxious mothers, toddlers in tow, making a beeline to the bathroom throughout the day trying to avoid an "outside incident". And inside the bathroom its desperate pleas followed by veiled threats and intermittently the "Sibilant S" to let it go...though only occasionally successful.
Indoctrinated by years of practice what if they really made a sub conscious association - imagine a teacher trying to quieten a class room full of students shhhhh...
Courtesy here and edited by Paint.NET

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ek macchar aadmi ko...

I have a long running enmity with these blood suckers and am always on a lookout for methods to free my house of these parasites.
In my quest to find the ultimate antidote for this menace, I found this - a project by Intellectual Ventures Inc., funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A mosquito-zapping laser created by salvaging parts from consumer electronics. Do watch the video below:
Demonstration at ted talk by Nathan Myhrvold
Some other unconventional ways for wannabe mosquito terminators:
  1. Home made mosquito trap - I think this one is a hoax. Tried this at home. No. of mosquitoes trapped: 0
    Courtesy here
  2. Electric mosquito trap. I ordered one from wantrn. It does an OK job, but effective only in dark rooms that too when there is no one present in the room (make sure to do a Homenum Revelio before turning this on :). The build quality needs a lot of improvement, as does the service. The charger stopped working due to a loose contact within the first month.
    But, not to miss the joy of seeing a pile of corpses when you check the storage container after a few days. Mu ha ha ha...

  3. Heavy duty outdoor trap from megacatch. IMO this should be a must-have amenity in every society...look forward to mosquito free night strolls and gardens.
    Mega-Catch Ultra
And for those of you who came looking for the famous song in the title from the movie Yeshwant:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Blue Shirt

Wifey keeps complaining about my wardrobe, making (seemingly) wild allegations that all my shirts look alike. Most Monday mornings I face the daunting task of picking a shirt to begin the week with, while trying to desperately claw at the vague recollection of what I wore on Thursday, the previous week (Friday's are casual). Pooja's of no help as she revels in the vindication of her claim, reiterating that it does not matter what I wear, since every shirt looks the same. You know, I do want to get her checked.
Image courtesy here

There's limited choice when it comes to men's formals with the additional constraint of lighter shades due to my natural color - I got 33% of tall, dark & handsome (My marriage bio data says I am wheatish ;). And I love blues. My practical solution is to have uniforms in office. That way we all have 1 less thing to worry about and can focus on more pressing problems like what to pack for lunch?

Going through some team outing photos taken over 3 years, I realized a frequently repeated item - the black shirt in my profile photo...oh well

Friday, September 27, 2013

Kabhi Alvida na Kehna

Today I find myself humbled by the love and affection from a team that was a part of my professional and personal life for the last 6 and a half years. It is time to say good bye as I end an association that has pretty much defined me, made me what I am today. I thank you all for your undying support, commitment and affection. "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants [1]" -  what you see in me is a reflection of your hard work, dedication and excellence.
I leave with memories that I will always hold very close to my heart, in the hope of ever-lasting friendships and that our professional paths meet again.
Thank You Team Cover-All@Synechron Technologies
Looking forward to my next assignment at Synechron...

Some memories:
My wedding

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2011

Commercial Auto Party

Party at Sohos

Trek @ Dhak Bahiri

Party at Barbeque Nation

Party @ Hard Rock Cafe

Trek to Harishchandra Gadh

Holi @ Office in 2010

Holi in 2011

Trek to Kothaligadh

New Years @ Office

Trek to Rajgadh

Trek to Rajgadh again


Monday, September 23, 2013

Go phishing

Online lottery & phishing scams are on the rise in India. The phone revolution has led a growing number of users to utilize the internet for critical services like internet banking. However armed with inadequate knowledge of the internet people often end up being victims of online scams.

I recently received an interesting email spoofed from Surprisingly this got through gmail spam filters and reached my primary inbox:

Subject:  ICICI ALERT: Your Account is Temporarily Locked
Attn: Valued & Esteemed Customer,

Your ICICI Online Internet Banking Account has generated an error code (ICICI_ERROR-317FR) in our new secured and innovated database because it is not configured with our latest protection scheme (The ICICI 3D SECURED SYSTEM)
ICICI Bank has made second (The ICICI 3D SECURED SYSTEM) Authentication mandatory from 1st September, 2013
To Enroll into Our newly introduced security feature,The (3D SECURED SYSTEM) which works by placing a triple security on your account. Please Login and complete your enrollment process which is mandatory for all users. We look forward to giving our customers the best of our services not comparable to other banks.
The ICICI 3D Secured System is an innovated data migration process in which manual verification of login details is compulsory to activate you for the latest online banking security. To proceed, please follow the steps below:

1. Open The Attachment In This Mail Which Contains A Security Verification Page.
2. Carefully Confirm Your details and Get secured Instantly .
3. After Successful Verification, You Will Be Redirected To Our Disclaimer Page.
4. In two weeks from your receipt of this mail, You Will Receive A Manual Containing A Pin And How To Activate It.

Corporate Customers with Two or More USERS (The Enterer and APPROVER) are required to Fill this Form again with their APPROVER Details

Please Note your Error Code as it wil be needed when our customer care contacts you

Instruction on how to open the  file
After Successful Download of the attached file, right click on the file and view with your Browser
The form needs to be opened in a modern browser which has javascript enabled ( Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3, Safari 3, Opera 9)

If you are using Internet Explorer please allow ActiveX for scripts to perform all data
transfers securely.

All fields are important and must be filled correctly for secure submission

Thank you for your cooperation.


ICICI Bank Ltd.

Online Banking Security Unit
The email had 2 attachments: Personal USER.html & Corporate USER.html:
Corporate USER.html

Personal USER.html
Both files use javascript to hide & encrypt the source code:

On submit your information is sent to cleverly named domain:
Cleverly named because the starting part of the address is similar to what ICICI Bank uses on its internet banking website.
Inspect element in Chrome
Someone (Abhilash :P in the source code above) seems to have put a lot of effort in coding this. I informed ICICI about this email. I hope no one falls prey to this new scam.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pointers on creating a resume for Software Engineers

I finally got down to the not-so-fun task of updating my resume after a gap of more than 6 years - that is when I left my last job. Some pointers based on my personal experience:

  1. Keep it short. This is one constant irritant I have seen through a few hundred interviews taken through the last 6 years. Everyone loves talking about their project even if their contribution was 10 lines of code. Mention only significant projects, a short description and your role was on the project. Trust me, no one is interested in reading a 5 page discourse about your professional background. I cut down my long essay style resume to 2 pages. Resumes act as conversation starters - after that its really the interview that matters.
  2. Spelling & Grammar. Proof read it and proof read it again. If you do not have a strong command on language, get it verified by someone else. These mistakes may get your resume rejected even before reaching the technical team.
  3. Make it pretty. Format your resume properly. Do not use spaces or tabs for indentation. Use tables in word and once done, hide the borders. From the scores of people being considered for a position a prettier one is definitely going to register in the mind of the recruiter
  4. Know what you claim you know. No need to mention the gazillion technologies used on your project when you worked only on one of them. The interviewer has every right to question you on what you claimed to know on your resume. Clean it out and focus on your strengths.
  5. Use keywords. If you are applying for a java developer job that requires spring & hibernate knowledge (and you have relevant experience), mention it clearly in your skill or summary section. The first search recruiters run is through keywords. This ensures that your resume will at least show up in their search
  6. Include any awards and special recognition. This helps in creating a first impression on your interviewer
  7. Every certification is worth a mention. I am extremely skeptical about the true value of technology certifications, however given no standardization, many companies & recruiters look for people with standard industry certifications. So that SCJP you did 10 years ago might still be useful to get you noticed :)
  8. Convert to PDF - do not send out doc or docx files. Instead convert it to pdf so that it's cross platform compliant and will print exactly how it looks on your computer.

My experience@Passport Seva Kendra, Pune

I recently applied for Avani's passport on and have to say that the new system and process has come a long way from when I renewed my passport about a year back.
  1. You start by filling an online application on the website above
  2. Pay online and book an appointment. You do not need an appointment for minors. I had taken an appointment but had to cancel it and take a fresh printout of the receipt.
  3. Print your receipt (no need to print form) and carry self attested copies and originals of your documents. There is also a nice document advisor that gives a list of documents that are needed as proof
  4. The passport office in pune is locate here
  5. Do not forget any printouts. The only shops to take printouts opposite the passport office are notary offices who charge a bomb for a single printout. Even though I had a pdf on a USB drive, one guy asked for Rs 30 for printing my cancelled receipt. I did find a cyber cafe (a little down the road towards Ghorpadi) who was reasonable at Rs. 3/printout
  6. The document verification has been outsourced and you have to go through 4 levels (Foyer - where you are given a bar-coded folder, A, B, C) of verification to finish the process.
  7. Overall the process has been streamlined (I had spent 2 full days at the old office for my renewal), though the waiting times between subsequent levels needs to be reduced. I was in by 10 AM and out by 12.30 pm
  8. There is a photocopy machine inside the office that can be used to take copies
  9. The office has a decent waiting area, is air conditioned and clean. Rarely found luxuries in govt. offices across the country :)

Aye Hip hopper mujhe Pyar to Kar :)

Been listening to this in a loop since a couple of day: amazingly amusing one by Ishq Bector:

The Lyrics are really funny:

Naasta Taiyaar hai Sir
Aur Kuch Chahiye?
Bolu to mein~~

Yeah Just Give me Sum
[Hip hop hip hop]2
lets go

[Aye hip hopper
Mujhe pyaar to kar
Aye hip hopper]4
Just drop it gal

Mein pyaar ki dariya mein
Mein love ki duniya mein
Ek doopki lona sir

Aye hip hopper 2
Mujhe pyaar to kar
hhhip hopper

Kya tu bak rahi hai
Aise tak rahi hai
Khopdi Pak rahi hai

Ruk ruk ruk ruk ruk

Baqshish bhi diya
bonus bhi diya
Chahiye tujhko kya
Chal phut phut phut phut

Tere ghar mein bartan sartan Manjti hoon mein barabar

Tu kabhi to mere dil ke ghar mein poocha karde aakar
for more

Glad she thinkz shez hot like rekha
May be but shez not my flavor
Love in here is too much labour
Labour flavour
How can i start hip hopper
she is just a bai part time naukar

Just give me some hip hop
[Hip hop hip hop]2

[Aye hip hopper
Mujhe pyaar to kar
Aye hip hopper]4
Just drop it gal

Mein pyaar ki rikhsha ko
Mein love ki rikhsha ko
Ek mauka dona sir

Aye hip hopper
Mujhe pyaar to kar
Aye hip hopper

Sir lona phone

Meri gal frnd aa rahi hai
Tu kab ja rahi hai
Kyun sata rahi hai
ruk ruk ruk ruk ruk ruk

Ussko paata jo chale to hoga woh
socha na hoga jo
Phut phut phut phut phut

Tujhko har din khana wana mein khilati hoon paka kar
Aaj mere dil ke tave pe rootiya tu shek le aakar

There is no bai i know quite like her
if my gal find shez just strike her
but she is a pom

Just give me some hip hop
[Hip hop
hip hop]2

[Aye hip hopper
Mujhe pyaar to kar
Aye hip hopper]4
Just drop it gal

Mein pyaar ki basti mein
Mein love ki basti mein
thodi masti ho jaye sir

Aye hip hopper
Mujhe pyaar to kar
Aye hip hopper

Monday, September 9, 2013

Some of my favorite places to eat in and around Chinchwad

A short list of some of my favorite food joints in and around Chinchwad. These are mostly small places known only locally. I usually rate any food joint on taste, value-for-money, hygiene, service - in that order.

Vikas Lunch Home - Best fish joint in Pune!
Location: Close to the Nasik Phata ST Stop
This is hands down, the best fish joint in Pune. I have tried various other places on recommendation from friends, including Mahesh Lunch Home, Nisarg, but none of them comes even close! Vikas (the owner) serves only fried fish with a bowl of gravy - so you can go at it with chapati or rice. He gets fresh fish delivered in the evening, so dinner is better than lunch. However you have to follow a strict protocol to eat here:
  1. Call Vikas on his number +919850029980 - between 5.45 - 6.15 PM for dinner and between 10.30 to 11.15 AM for lunch. 
  2. Order exactly what you want to eat (for example - 2 surmai, 2 pomfret etc) and tell him what time you will be coming
  3. Arrive at the restaurant at the appointed time. In case you feel like eating more - check with him. Usually he will not accept orders if not previously booked on phone :)
The fish is served in smaller pieces due to which it gets cooked better. Hygiene is ok, not a family joint. I recommend ordering a take away.
Damages: Rs. 80/surmai, Rs 50/Bombil, Rs 120/Pompfret

Siva Snacks - South Indian fast food
Location: Next to Fatechand Jain School, Chinchwad
This joint serves by far the best idlis & medu wada I have eaten in Pune. The sambhar & coconut chutni is also pretty good. A tangy red chutni is available on demand. However, the place could do a lot better with more hygiene and better staff. The staff behavior can be a major turnoff.
Damages: Rs. 20/plate for idli (4) or medu vada (2)

Ruchira Snacks - Pohey, Idli, Misal, Vada Pav
Location: Chafekar Chowk, Chinchwad
Typical Maharashtrian snack joint, excellent food with very good hygiene standards. This is our current Sunday breakfast place. Definitely try the pohey here (only available in morning).
Damages: Rs. 20/plate for pohey or misal. Rs 10/vada pav

De dhakka - Misal
LocationPimpri Chinchwad Link Road
Frequently visited misal place. Good misal, bad hygiene.
Damages: Rs 30/plate + Rs 3/pav

Nevale Misal - Misal & Batata Bhaji
Location: Chinchwad Gaon
Spiciest misal (or any other food) I have ever eaten. Was a formerly (during college days) frequented joint. No longer have the stomach for the super hot rassa they serve. It has created a unique brand for itself, a real show me you are a real man place :). They also serve good Batata Bhaji in the evening. Hygiene definitely needs a lot of improvement
Damages: Approximately Rs 30/plate + Rs 3/pav

Chowpaty - Chaat & sandwiches
Location: Approximately close to Elpro, Chinchwad Gaon
One of the cleanest Chaat joints I have ever visited. SPDP is pretty good. Sandwiches are definitely above the average fare.
Damages: Rs 40/SPDP, Rs 20/Pani puri, Rs 40/club sandwich

Delhi Chaat - Chaat
Location: Next to Vasu Restaturant, Pradhikaran, Nigdi
I like the pani puri here. The alu tikki is as close to the original North Indian tikki you can get around here. Definitely way better than the crap they serve in Sai Chowk, Pimpri - famous for ragda pattis.
Damages: Rs 40 for dahi cholle tikki, Rs 20/Pani Puri

Checking BSNL Dataone Internet usage

After finding no working way of checking my BSNL Dataone internet usage, I decided to pay the BSNL office in Chinchwad a visit. The staff was helpful and quickly provided details on how to check my account. Ironically, when I asked them to verify my login details on their own website, they said they did not have internet access

From User Registration on this page, register using your customer id. 

How to change the headlamp of Ford Fiesta 2006 Model (Classic) - India

Disappointed a by the high cost of parts and labor at the Ford showroom we decided to replace the headlamp of my Ford Fiesta (2006 model, manufacturing year 2009) at home. Used this video as a starting point, however I found it incomplete, missing some very important details. Hence this post.
All credit to my father for executing this project and teaching me a valuable life hacker lesson. Thanks Dad!
My ride at Polo Ground, Mahabaleshwar
Below is a description of replacing the left hand side head lamp on my Ford Fiesta:
  1. Start off by opening the bonnet
  2. Unscrew the 5 screws marked in the image below (yellow & blue circles)
    Orientation Bonnet <==
  3. You will also need to remove the front grill. Unscrew the one marked in blue below:

  4. The front grill is attached to the bonnet with 3 clamps that need to be pressed and disengaged

  5. The next screw is difficult to reach. I think in the original video the mechanic talks about removing the bumper to get to this screw. However we could reach it with a short, broad, flat screw driver:
  6. Once this final screw is removed, the headlamp assembly will be lose and move in-place, though still not fully detached from the body. There is a parking light wire and a main headlamp wire that need to be detached. The parking light wire was particularly troublesome - probably due to a defective holder. It came off the light assembly with a gentle twist. The image below shows how to reach the parking light holder: 

  7. The entire assembly rests on a roller now and can be removed by sliding it outwards. Shown below is the roller and direction to slide it in (file fitting it back)
  8. Remove the rubber bush that covers the headlamp holder which reveals this. Unscrew the screw marked in yellow below and remove the metal clip holding the bulb in place. The metal clip is tricky to fit back and you may have to refer to this image below to see how it fits.
  9. Its a 12V, 75 Watt Lamp. Ford does not allow over the counter sale of parts in India. I got my lamp from local parts dealer for Rs.250 and had the same specifications/ratings as the original. Once you replace the lamp follow the steps in reverse order to fit the assembly back.
I am not sure if these are the steps as per the repair manual, but it is a fairly complicated process (esp. the screw under the grill & the head lamp holder metal clip) to do a simple replacement. I do wish they make it simpler. 

Overall the company policy of restricting over the counter sale of parts and also not providing a repair manual (though pretty useless, since the former is not available) is completely in favor of vehicle dealers rather than car owners. Ford and other manufacturers should learn something from the industry leader Maruti and start over the counter sale of parts.