More than a month has elapsed since I decided to undertake arguably the most drastic switch of my career thus far. Those readers connected to me through FB know already of my move to take up a position with Microsoft, Hyderabad, in the Bing group. The new job has felt like an entirely uncharted territory so far. I am no longer in the comforting cocoon of computer vision, and it has taken me a while to get used to that. After all, it’s something I had been immersed neck-deep in for over half a decade. Having said that, I am not at all averse to information retrieval or machine learning, and once I have learnt the ropes, I look forward to solving interesting problems therein.
Initially, I had confined my job search in Hyderabad to computer vision profiles. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have even applied to Microsoft at that stage, had it not been for the insistence of few ultra-zealous consultants. However, it soon dawned upon me that there were precious little vision-based opportunities in the city unless I was willing to take a considerable pay cut. Thankfully, things panned out favourably in the MS interviews, the first and only set of interviews I needed to give this time around.
The decision to switch was dictated by manifold reasons, the most compelling of which was an Ankylosing Spondylitis treatment I am undergoing in Hyderabad, entailing daily visits to the clinic for a few months. That was closely followed by the fact that Sejal and (to a slightly lesser extent) I had become sick and tired of Noida. Moreover, Hyderabad presented me with the opportunity to reunite with my little sister Ruchi, an MS-by-Research student at IIIT-H (Btw, it’s uncanny as to how much our paths have overlapped – including school, bachelors college, masters college, engineering branch, and most importantly, ideology).
As much as I look ahead to what Hyderabad and Microsoft have in store for me, this is an apt time to reflect on the 2+ year stint in Noida with Kritikal Secure Scan - an IIT-D incubated small (70-odd-employee) firm. Hands down, KSS’s was the best job profile I have ever had (MS included). I thoroughly relished devising algorithms for real-life computer vision problems. The balance between research/exploration and coding was spot on. To cap it all off, I got the opportunity to lead a team in exploring and implementing computer vision algorithms. The only down side was that owing to a lack of peers at my level in the organizational hierarchy, I couldn’t develop any friendships to write home about (though I got acquainted with some great blokes). I guess I was reluctant to get overly casual with my boss, and those who reported to me were no different :). From early indications, MS seems to offer a brighter scenario in that regard.
Despite having already devoted a good chunk of the post so far to ’why Hyderabad’, I’ve actually saved the best for the end: bridge - a captivating (mind) game of cards :). It’s been just a shade over two months in the city, and I have already played nearly as much bridge as I probably did in all my time in Noida! I reckon, this change of fortunes should be attributed to having a few Gujarati folks to hang out with. Over the years, I have denounced a couple of the typical Gujarati attributes (such as indiscriminate reverence of all things abroad), but I also value some (such as business enterprise and insights). May be, our preference to spend our leisure time playing is something I should add to the latter list :).
The thought for this post sprung to mind after a free-wheeling chat on India’s rapidly degenerating TV scene, with Arun and Darshan. Arun brought up what I deem to be among the most deplorable ads to have ever been aired on TV – the one of Fair and Lovely wherein it is projected that being dark-coloured is tantamount to being ugly, to the extent that it becomes a source of everyday embarrassment! In a nation/society getting increasingly vocal against racial profiling (look no further than the amply televised assaults on Indian students Down Under), I’d have expected rubbish like this to have met with a fierce furore. Instead, it’s got away utterly unscathed.
In defense of the ad-makers, they can’t be charged with sparking this phenomenon into existence. Color-based discrimination has been around for as long as I can remember. Beauty may be only skin-deep, but the coupling of color with it runs far deeper, inflicting profound social trauma on countless people. What baffles me more is the irony that many of the people who help perpetuate the Indian obsession with fairness are quite magnanimous in their appreciation of foreign black celebrities like Will Smith and Naomi Campbell!
This is one of the key considerations that prompted me to strive to use shared/mass transport as much as possible. If this cartoon struck a chord at all with you, you must check out these compelling slides.
I have always cherished watching expressive characters in the cricket field. Indeed, they play a critical part in making the game as thrilling a spectacle as it is. I, for one, used to watch Shane Warne bowl as much for his twirling skills as for his histrionics involving mostly the batsmen and sometimes even the umpires. Needless to say, he was among the most competitive players ever to have played cricket. Indian speedster Sreeshanth, in his shortish career so far, has shown a very keen desire to match him in that arena. In terms of sheer theatrics, he perhaps surpassed the Aussie legend when he broke into an inconceivable dancing spree mid pitch after smacking a six off Andre Nel.
All said and done, cricket is more about scoring runs and taking wickets than anything else. While skills are a must-have, the mental and behavioral aspects play no trivial role towards a player’s performance. Aggression has been much talked about in that respect, of late. Indians, led by Sreeshanth and Harbhajan, have been very liberal with their tongue in recent times, particularly against Australia. But, does blurting out ceaseless gibberish equate to aggression?
Being aggressive as a bowler is about the unflagging belief that I can get anyone out anywhere in any match situation. More so, it’s about being proactive wherein you create chances out of thin air as opposed to patiently waiting for them to come your way. The logic behind taking a (verbal) dig at the opposition batter is simply to aid this process of inducing reckless mistakes from him. I have a feeling that Sreeshath overlooks this fundamental objective altogether, leading him to behave like a toddler in the company of men. The way he carries on with his antics irritates the viewers more than the batsmen who, by now, have brushed him aside as a crackpot.
One quality I admire in all great competitors is the generosity to applaud a praiseworthy feat by an opponent. Sreeshath’s act of clapping in Symonds’ face after the latter returned to the dressing room following a combative knock is truly against the spirit of sports. He wasn’t even in the playing eleven in that match! Being a sportsman, the least you have got to be able to do is to respect the achievements of your counterparts. Sree has got this one miserably wrong as well. To my mind, this is the most disgraceful aspect of his play, much more lamentable than his endless, pointless chatter.
It was no coincidence that it was Sreeshanth who was at the receiving end of Harbhajan’s smack. Most of the cricketing fraternity opined that Sree “had it coming”. For his own good more than the team’s, I hope he takes a hard look at himself. Else, he is headed the Shoaib way – being preoccupied with cheesy tantrums and ending up with a career that promised more than it delivered.
PS: One of my favourite two-way sledges (in the clean category):
Glamorgan quickie Greg Thomas to Viv Richards in a county match, after beating his bat a couple of time: “It’s red, round and weighs about five ounces, in case you were wondering.”
King Viv, after thrashing the next delivery out of the ground, into a river: “Greg, you know what it looks like. Now go and find it.”
- Sejal: An EC engineer, currently employed with Wipro; born & brought up in Ahmedabad; details on her blog, and Facebook profile.
- Pulkit: A CS researcher, currently deriving wages from HP Labs; a native of Ahmedabad; more on his Facebook profile and here.
The ‘theme’ we followed:
Small is beautiful. Simple is sensible.
Wedding venue: Arya Samaj (Mandir), Ahmedabad. None of us expected such a spacious place for 2200 bucks [pundit/ritual material included]! Our first choice, though, was the Marriage Registrar’s office.
Spectators: Immediate relatives (around 20 from either side)
Events: Just the marriage ceremony with rituals, followed by lunch in a nearby restaurant [No reception, music night, etc.]
Exchange: After a number of requests/arguments, we managed to ensure minimal give-and-take of gold and gifts, but couldn’t avoid the exchange totally.
Why simple marriage?: Nah, there was no ulterior motive of saving up money for a grand honeymoon or something :).
- Expensive marriages have almost become a compulsion, due to the fear of what ‘people’ will think otherwise. We wanted to emphatically disobey this unwritten societal norm that pushes plenty of families onto hefty loans or the abandonment of a daughter’s education.
- Because the expense is predominantly shouldered by the girl parents, costly marriages (along with dowry) prompt parents to prefer a son over a daughter (whose birth is tantamount to decades of cost cutting).
- We wanted to steer clear of fire crackers [for the sake of asthma patients and scores of small kids who labour in the hazardous surrounds of cracker units], food wastage (which is enormous in marriages), and excesses such as decorative lighting.
- A guest list boasting 500+ invitees does NOT foster relationships. We’d rather invite friends/relatives home in separate clusters, for a meaningful interaction.
Getting the parents on board:
We kept reiterating how this was as an extraordinary opportunity to help correct a deep-rooted trend. Still, there remained resistance, as anticipated. But, with time, seeing that our resolve was unshakable, they increasingly softened their stance – so much so that they now brandish the marriage theme to their new acquaintances!. The key is strong-minded persistence: Don’t fall prey to momentary emotions, and stay committed to the right thing. Another crucial tip: don’t raise hell at the last minute, break the news early!
I and a couple of friends were engaged in what was intended to be nothing more than a chitchat when things stirred up. We were wondering away at some imminent wed locks when we digressed a shade onto the contentious dowry issue. We were ridiculing the outrageous amounts that some of our batch mates would receive, should they choose to accept. The last part of the previous statement is of interest here: Whether the dowry will be turned down or not, if offered. I always thought (naively, in hindsight) that all the people, as well-educated as I am, would not even contemplate accepting it. However, I was a bit taken aback when, one of my friends, the one who had forked this topic into discussion, said while he would never “ask for” any kinda dowry, he would have no issues in accepting it if the gal’s family made an offer!
One might be tempted into arguing that if I am given a ‘gift’, am I not well within my rights to accept it. The problem with this line of thought is that it looks at the receipt of dowry in isolation, devoid of the gender context. Gifts are acceptable when they are mutual. Dowry is always given by the bride’s family, never reciprocated. Moreover, though it is a voluntary act in cases like the aforementioned one, more often than not, there is some sort of coercion involved. Even in voluntary cases, there’s an issue. The moment it is known that you were open to dowry or you accepted it, many girl parents could find themselves revisiting their stance on the matter. Similarly, after seeing their peers take dowry, boy parents might also be emboldened to cash in on some cheap cash. What at first glance seems like a harmless acceptance of ‘gifts’ actually helps perpetuate a vicious cycle that forces women to lead the lives of second-class citizens.
To sum up, offered or not, dowry has no place in a fair society!
Problem 1: Given a set of 2D points, find an efficient way of computing the least area rectangle that encloses them.
One (probably good) way of approaching this to stamp down on the data size by first showing that the least-area enclosing rectangle of these points is the same as that of the convex hull of the points (For now, I have taken this for granted) and working only on the hull points thereafter.
But, this is just data reduction. How do we use these points to compute the rectangle? The approach I have successfully implemented is not as efficient as I would like it to be. I based my thing on parameterizing the min area rectangle by just the orientation parameter. This is because once the orientation is frozen, once can easily and uniquely determine the min area rectangle by computing minx, maxx, miny, maxy along that and its perpendicular direction. So, it boiled down to optimization in the angle space. Currently, I am using a brute force method but one can study the objective function and better the convergence. However, I have an inkling that there is a non-iterative, closed-form solution to this. To discuss about and arrive at that elegant solution, actually, is the motive of this post.
The second problem is similar but a little more complex. I will post my solution (again, suboptimal) once (and if) there is some interaction about the first one. I will leave you with the problem statement, nevertheless.
Problem 2: Given a set of 2D points, find, efficiently, the maximum area rectangle that is enclosed within their convex hull.
Any (Indian) kid in the street will tell you what length to bowl at the fag end of a one day innings. Full. Preferably, yorker length.
Yorkers, however, are not every bowler’s cup of tea. If you under pitch, you end up delivering a half volley which is easy meat for one and all. If you over pitch, it’s somewhat better. But with the bats becoming more powerful than ever, especially meaty at the bottom, low full tosses can also travel the distance (as shown by the likes of Abdul Razzak, M S Dhoni and Mark Boucher).
So you can’t rely solely on your length to restrain the batsman. Then, how about using an unfamiliar angle to accompany the fullish length? Very rarely in cricket, have we seen a right hand (fast) bowler bowling round the wicket to a right hand batsman. The predominant reason, I believe, is the fact that the bowl will invariably pitch outside the leg stump, resulting in virtually no chance of an lbw. But between overs 40 to 50, the emphasis is usually on saving runs, more than picking wickets and this tactic can turn out to be masterful in that.
The reason I say the above is that many sloggers like Razzak, Dhoni and Boucher favour the on side (esp. midwicket) for hitting their big shots so you play into their hands when you angle the ball into them. By coming around the wicket, the right arm bowler can bow full, a bit wide of the off stump and create a difficult angle for the on-side hitters (with the odd bouncer thrown in).
Having said what I have, this method is no panacea. Against players like Kallis, Michel Clarke and Jayewardene who hit inside out superbly, you may be better off over the wicket, spearing into their legs.