An excessively intense enthusiasm, interest, or desire to play with technology; a craze for technology
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Posting after a while now. So, after the euphoria of getting my thesis signed, I went off to Singapore and met my family, especially my one year old niece who I was seeing for the first time. I had an awesome time in Singapore. It was nice spending time with my parents and sister and also doing touristy things on the side. It was also my niece`s first birthday. That went really well also.
I am sitting in Tokyo Narita Airport right now, on a transit stopover on the way to New York, lasting a horrendous 12 hours. I got here at 7 am, when most things were closed. The place was quite desolate. Now, it`s about 10:30 am and there is a lot more activity around. Fortunately I found a computer offering free Internet access, and so here I am blogging, emailing and trying to chat with friends.
I am actually decently impressed with Narita. It`s huge and takes a while to get through. But it`s well built and gives a good first impression at least. There are also glimpses of the Japanese sense of esthetics. The jingle that precedes an announcement is soft and understated, yet beautiful. The lighting is soft. The duty free shops here sell the usual stuff -- alcohol (including Japanese sake), cigarettes, candy, various cosmetic items and plenty of items themed on Hello Kitty and other popular Japanese icons. Its a bit strange getting around though -- this is the first time Ive been in an airport for this long, where I am completely linguistically incompetent. I am not disguising my incompetence in any way -- I am still saying Thank you instead of Arigato Gozaimasu. Unsuprisingly, almost all the signs and pamphlets are in Japanese only. When there is English, its far from perfect although it does get the point across.
Will keep blogging if anything interesting happens in this fairly uneventful wait.
Oh my God!! My thesis was signed by my supervisor about half an hour ago. It's such a great feeling -- it's not even funny!!! I am actually done with MIT! I'll need to come in over the weekend and look at a few more things -- may be put in 2 hours more of work cleaning up various things and tying up loose ends. But other than that, I am actually free to go! My thesis required a lot of feverish typing at the end, to make it in time for today. By the end, I was just totally exhausted but really happy and relieved. It's always those little things that take just forever! In the end, the size of the thesis grew from 87 pages to 117 pages -- most of it being because of appendices and user study materials. But hey, in the end, it's all OVER!
Now I need to think of other logistical things to do, like pack up my stuff and gety my ass out of Boston. Until then, I'll just go and slack with a vengeance.
All right -- so the apartment application was approved with a couple caveats. The lower rent bid me and my broker made was not accepted, so we had to settle for what the landlord originally stipulated. Second, the landlord wanted to rent the house by Jan 15th. Oh well, I'll be paying rent for Jan 15-Jan 31, but not staying there. I think it's a small price to pay, esp considering I am paying very little to move to New York, in terms of relocation etc.
So, the apartment is a bit on the expensive side. All these years, I've been choosing crappy over fancy (exception: food), telling myself I'll live it up when I am no longer a student and have the means. Well, guess what? I am no longer a student, and I have the means! So, I am gladly going to take this apartment even though it's a bit on the expensive side, but still in my range.
I'll send my new address to friends and people who matter in a group email later. For obvious reasons, I don't want to post it here because someone could easily stalk me. So, a little more about the apartment: it's on the Upper East Side, very close to the edge of Yorkville. Lots of restaurants and little shops. Plenty of light in the apartment. Right across the street from me is a huge Blockbuster to feed any potential DVD addictions. Also, there is a yoga place right around the corner from me, which I should probably join. There are Starbucks and Barnes&Noble shops within two blocks from me, to reinforce the gentrification. Two blocks or so from the Guggenheim Museum and three blocks from Central Park. It is a great neighborhood, and I wanted a location where I could look forward to going home. Call me up if you're visiting Manhattan and need a place to crash. This offer is currently not open to homeless people who need a place to crash (read the Homeless in NYC blog, for example).
Blogging this from an Internet cafe in Times Square, New York. Yesterday was one hell of a hectic day. Wake up at 5:45 am, get on to Chinatown bus barely in time at 7:00 am, get to New York City at 11:30 am. After that I went to Manhattan Apartments, Inc. on 57th Street and met my agent. She was nice, a business-minded Polish woman. She had another associate show me about 15 apartments yesterday. Hopped frantically all over Manhattan. Some of the apartments at 49th and 51st were just crappy and going for outrageous rates just because of location. I really really liked some apartments we saw on the Upper East Side. In fact, we saw this REALLY sweet one -- mint renovated. Smelled new too! Finally we saw an apartment near Lincoln Center and Columbus Circle. Huuuge apartment, with loft space even! Unfortunately, there wasn't enough light in the apartment and it was a 5th floor walkup. Bad if friends and especially Appa and Ammai visit.
I took some time to think about my day when I visited Thangu Chitti and Chittappa at Manikantan Anna's placei n New Jersey. Was nice visiting there -- got to eat good food and caught up on my last couple of years with Thangu Chitti and Chittappa. Got a full night's sleep, after a while. Woke up, got back into the city and decided to give the Lincoln Center apartment another chance in the daylight. Was as I expected -- not too much light and bad esp if I planned to stay in for a bit on weekends. I felt much more at home in the Upper East Side apartment at Lex&86. So I decided to go for it. We (me and my broker) have made an offer to the landlord for $1600 a month, when the advertised price was $1650. We'll see if it gets approved. The neighborhood was really nice. A bazillion shops all around and right next to the 86th St subway stop, literally. All I have to do is hop on a downtown express subway and I am at 59th street and all the delights of Midtown in one stop. Timed the 'commute' today from 86th St to work, and it shouldn't take more than 20 mins. Very reasonable indeed! Most of all, the nighborhood felt homely (not in the American English sense, but in the British English sense). Anyway, keeping fingers crossed and chanting Aditya Hridayam frantically :)
Oh, and btw, I'll be commuting from 86th to 59th. 8+6 = 5+9 = 14; 1+4=5. Yay!
All right. Now I should figure out a way to get to Boston earlier than 8:00, since my business in New York is over. Will blog again from Boston.
Happy New Year again, this time in 2004. I am still getting used to the idea of writing '04 on everything. '03 was an intense, career-and-education focused year in retrospect. Worked my ass off through and through. Highlights of my year, in rough chronological order:
Became a proud uncle! My niece, Manasvini, was born on Feb 8, 2003. She's apparently a joyful bundle of mischief now. My only regret is that she was born 8 days after I returned from India to the U.S. for my last undergrad term at MIT. This has of course meant that I haven't seen the little sweetheart in person until now. All accounts I've heard of her are second hand, and they still fill me with delight. I cannot wait to see her in two weeks and be there for her first birthday.
Was visited by parents. My parents visited me at MIT for graduation. After almost a whole term of convincing my dad that the expense was worthwhile, it was just awesome to go pick up my parents at Logan airport. I've always been the baby of the household to my parents. They seemed quite impressed with how I was living life on my own. Most of my friends had gone away at that point, but Karolina was around. They met Karolina and I think things got off to a good start. Of course, this does not necessarily bode anything for the future, but anything is better than starting off a relationship with a dash of antagonism.
Got two bachelor's degrees from MIT. I am told this is a big achievement, but I felt little more than a happy relief at getting *something* back from four years of toil. Some of my joy was muted by the fact that I did not have assured M.Eng. funding at the time. The plan was to cobble something together.
Got M.Eng. funding. This was just cool. I was trying to cobble some funding together, networking desperately and praying. Then, all of a sudden, Rob writes to me saying that a funding contract had just been extended and that he'd give me RA funding for the fall. You can't imagine how cool that was. I was in the middle of my workday. I just whooped, got up and ran up and down the aisle in excitement. More relief and deep gratitude to whoever or whatever made it happen.
Celebrated a three-year anniversary with Karolina. Being in a relationship is hard, but it's also very rewarding. In three years you can really get close to a person and see how they think and work. Three years is really not that long, but Karolina and I have been inseparable since we started dating. We spend at least two or three hours together everyday, a situation which was helped in the first two years by hall-cest and this year, by my countless late nights spent tooling on 6.171 (see below). At the end of the day though, she's a wonderful lady to be with and celebrating with her after a whole summer of not seeing her was just cool.
Worked hard on my thesis. Learned J2ME programming and did work on a very interesting thesis, both from a usability and a systems point of view. I really like my thesis and wish I had the luxury of one more term to really polish it. Oh well... the intellectual property rights will still belong to me.
Worked hard on 6.171. Took 6.171, Philip Greenspun's web application class. Worked my ass off with two wonderful teammates, Lux and Sisi at Simmons, which became my third home, after Karolina's room and my own place. Our team got along really well -- in fact sometimes too well for the speed at which work was done. I am really in deep admiration of both Lux's and Sisi's capacity for hard work. In the end, we produced a site that made Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com, want to hire us. Our client from HP Labs was also suitably impressed. Most importantly, I got to play with the real guts of ASP.NET and motivated myself to do stuff that I was really capable of doing much earlier, but never got around to. It's the MIT maxim working its magic again -- "Put your mind to anything, and it becomes possible."
Landed a job. Yay -- not getting a job after graduation and then going back to India with mounds of personal debt and a not-too-favorable exchange rate was one of my biggest fears. I seemed to have done decently though, with 5 offers in total. I finally accepted an offer from Morgan Stanley, details of which appear in a previous post to this blog. I felt personally bad declining some of the other offers, because those companies really wanted me there too. However, I guess I learned a few new lessons. I used to dread the job search because of the fear I mention above. This year I decided to stop thinking about the outcome and simply put my best into every interview (subconsciously following 'Karmanyevaadhikaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana' -- You have ownership over your work but never over what fruit it bears). I took each interview as a technical chat and not as an evaluation of my essence. Of course, I am not saying every interview went well. Still, my recruiting this year was far more relaxed than other interviews I've had. After the offers started coming in, it was a time to reflect on what I really wanted to do with my life. All these career websites tell you to reflect deeply before you begin your job search. For me, I really did it only after I got a few offers. I think I learned a thing or two from this sort of thinking -- something I haven't done in a while because I've just been too busy. Karolina says that she doesn't know what she likes to do, because anything can become fun once you get into it. That statement has an element of truth to it, but I disagree -- the point is not to think whether you'll grow to like it. The point is to think whether your liking for any job can be sustainable -- if you can imagine yourself doing that year after year.
So that was my year. Work work and more work. Next year does not look too different. At least I have the consolation of getting paid enough to live like a real human being and reap the rewards of my hard work. Of course, I've to pay back MIT loans and save up for a lot of other stuff. I'm looking forward to it though. When I wrote to Dan Burns, my freshman advisor, telling him that I'll be moving to New York, he wrote back to me saying "Don't let your wonderful spirit die." I'll keep that in mind.
My New Year's celebration was random and delightful. I was sure I'd spend New Year's Eve alone, because there's absolutely nobody around here. I posted an ad to Craigslist, asking if anyone wanted to get together for a potluck. About 6 people replied and all of them petered out except one. Another girl responded to my ad, saying that she and her friends were doing something similar and that I was welcome to join. As it turned out, this girl hangs out a bit at EC and we know some of the same twinkies. For that coincidence alone I was invited. I also asked if I could bring along the solitary girl who confirmed she could attend my originally planned potluck. So, I cooked up a vaguely pav bhaji-esque stew, met a stranger and went to an apartment with 5 other strangers. And you know how it was? It was just delightful! Most of the people at the 'party' were Harvard students and we gelled well together. I was quite amazed what a good time I was having despite my extremely tenuous connection to this posse. It wasn't even a real party where people dance and look for easy sex -- we were just hanging out, eating, drinking, playing Taboo and watching Office Space (yet again!). Come midnight, we were on the roof of Harvard's Science Center, watching the pretty Boston skyline and fireworks exploding in the distance, over the Boston Harbor. How random is that? Not in all my four years have I made any friends from Harvard. Yet, by a random tenuous connection, I meet this group of really fun people, one of whom has access to the telescope on top of the Harvard Science Center! We came back, chilled out a bit more and then dispersed for the evening, happy and satisfied. I was so happy just having human contact, even with strangers, and it was surprising how fun hanging out with random strangers can be. Needless to say, we all became friends by the end of the night.
All right -- need to get back to thesis work before I go off apartment-hunting to New York tomorrow and the day after. Will post an update on the housing situation when I return.
Posting after a while. Been toiling hard on my thesis. It's in decent shape now pending a few final edits. It's 7 chapters long, and I've been working on it pretty much exclusively for 2 weeks straight. Wasn't sure I would be able to produce this much text in such a short time, but hey, MIT is all about testing your limits.
There's nobody here at MIT -- all my friends have left. I mean, with nobody around, there's the whole luxury of having just about every public space to yourself. But MIT is not about the buildings or the spaces -- it's about the people! It majorly sucks not having anyone to just talk to. So much so that I don't even know what I am doing for New Year's Eve yet. I had to resort to posting on Craigslist to get a bunch of people together to cook and hang out, but it looks like even that might not be happening. Sigh. I might write an article for the Tech about this.
Later this week, on Friday, I am going to New York to find an apartment to live. I have to prepare a set of documentation about my job and financial situation just in case I have to seal a deal this weekend. I'm seeing three brokers total over the course of Friday and Saturday. On Saturday night I return to Boston to resume work on implementing my thesis. Hopefully I'll have constructive criticisms from Rob by then about my first draft.
Anyway, that's about all for now. Happy new Year to all my readers.
Here is an email I sent out to some friends about new and exciting things on the job front:
> Hello friends,
> I have just accepted a job offer with Morgan Stanley's Information
> Technology Division. As several of you might know, this is my last term
> in school and I'll be graduating in Feb 2004. I will be starting work at
> Morgan Stanley's office in New York City in the beginning of February.
> This (fortunately) ends a job hunting run, which was taking significant
> amounts of time away from more immediate and important work, such as my
> Master's thesis.
> In many ways though, this is only the beginning of the story. I have to
> find an apartment and actually execute the move to New York City and
> thrive in a pretty intense workplace. You can expect my new contact info
> and such to arrive in your inboxes in a couple of months. Where time and
> geography permit, I'll say personal goodbyes before I move away.
Yeah. So I will be moving to New York City by end-January/early February and beginning work at Morgan Stanley. Technical folks at Wall Street firms tend to be very tight-lipped so as not to lose the edge to the competition. For example, all I can find about Morgan Stanley IT in the public press is that they are making a significant investment in Linux.
As a result of this policy, I suspect I'll be tight-lipped about my work at Morgan Stanley on this blog, lest I end up like Michael Hanscom, the unfortunate temp worker who got fired from Microsoft for posting potentially revealing information about Microsoft on his blog.
One small click for me, one giant leap into the blogging world for me. I've been meaning to start a blog for a really long time. For your viewing pleasure (or not), I welcome you to my personal blogspot on the Web.