Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

July 29, 2019

Our Trip to Dandeli

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 11:24 PM

Last weekend we booked an adventure tour to Dandeli and it was ‘interesting’ in the Chinese curse sense of the word. Normally when I blog about trips I tend to avoid posting about the bad parts of the trip in detail since we usually end up having a lot of fun and can ignore the bad parts. However in this case I will be posting all the ‘fun’ things that happened to us during the trip. This trip was booked through Thrillophilia for 7 people and was another bad experience with them. (I actually didn’t post about the last trip as I was annoyed enough by the trip to decide it was better to not write anything). The booking was done on-line and we got a confirmation email a day later with a map location for the resort. I did notice that the name of the venue wasn’t listed on the email (It only said ‘Dandeli tours’) but paid it no attention at the time.

We left from Bangalore around 11pm due to traffic and the drive was long… It took us ~14 hours to reach the location shared with us as it was raining and we couldn’t drive fast. When we finally reached the map location we found that the location shared was for Dewdrops adventure tours and they were quite helpful in trying to help us figure out where we were supposed to go. Since we didn’t know the name of the place we couldn’t get accurate directions. There was a number shared in the email and we finally managed to get through to it after multiple attempts as the connectivity was quite bad in the area. That’s when we figured out that our booking was for Panther and had to drive another 2 kms to get to the venue. After driving 14 hours to get to the place it was not a great start to the experience. Unfortunately things only got worse as we continued.

The last mile road to Panther was quite bad and our TT actually got stuck in the mud once while getting there. Thankfully our driver was quite good and we managed to get unstuck and arrived at the venue. At a first look the venue looked nice and we walked over to the reception to check in. When we tried to check in, Mr Veeresh, the person in charge tells us that we were booked for tents even though we had paid for 3 cottages at a twin sharing basis (with an extra bed in 1 cottage) and we had received the confirmation for the same. As per him they had gotten a request for tents and not rooms. After showing him the confirmation email he told us to hold on and disappeared for almost 30 mins. Finally he came back and gave 2 cottages on a 4 person sharing basis as that was the only option available. We didn’t want to take tents as it was raining quite heavily and wanted to avoid the joy of common showers/toilets. Since no other options were available we had to take the rooms offered and checked in. He did tell us that we should reach out to Thrillophilla for the refund (as the twin sharing rooms were more expensive).

Once we got the rooms, we dumped our luggage in there and since we had been travelling all night and had a very light breakfast we were all quite hungry and it was another 1 ½ hours before lunch would be served. So we walked over to the dining area and asked them for some snacks before lunch. We were told that they can’t serve us anything and we would have to wait till lunch was served. Even when we offered to pay they refused us point blank. With no other option we had to dig in to our snacks bag and try to survive on Chips/nuts etc.

We all freshened up and rested for a bit while we waited for lunch to be served. After lunch we decided to get in the water and Canoe in the Pool. So we all changed and walked over to the area. Thankfully the pool (?) was empty at the time and we got the entire place to ourselves. Jani refused to enter the water as she wasn’t comfortable with the other people staying at the place (more on this later) and the fact that the water was filthy.


Kayaking at the Venue


Kayaking at the Venue

The kayaking venue had algae floating it in and filled with frogs and other insects/creepy crawlers and it didn’t look like it had been cleaned this year. But since we weren’t planning on taking a dip in the water we got in the boats and fooled around in the water for a bit. But we couldn’t stay in there for long as the water was filthy and we didn’t want to risk an infection by staying in it longer than required. So we got out and decided to try out the rain shower. Unfortunately, the rain shower setup was taking the filthy water from the kayaking place and showering it on the people. The floor of the shower was caked in algae and I couldn’t stay in the water for long. So we immediately got out and decided to try out the pool which was a different setup and we hoped that it would be cleaner. We were disappointed when we reached the ‘Pool’. It wasn’t actually a pool, it was a big tub masquerading as a pool which had water which was so dirty with mud, dead insects, algae and filth in it. I don’t think it had been cleaned anytime in the near past. Since we had entered the water we needed to take a bath in Dettol (Thankfully we carried it with us) water to disinfect us after entering this unclean water.

By this time it was around 3:30-4pm and since the weather was amazing we decided to get some tea and just hang out. So we asked for tea and were told that nothing is available and tea will be only served at 5:30pm. Which is bizarre behavior, but with no other option we had to wait. When the tea was finally served it was served without any snacks as snacks are only served starting at 7:30pm. Is this a college canteen or PG accommodation we were staying at? I have travelled extensively and this is the first place where people are refusing to serve food even when you offer to pay for it when they have a working kitchen. In our last trip the place we stayed didn’t have an attached kitchen but they still served us tea and snacks when we asked.

So we had our tea without pakoda’s and then played a little carrom and badminton to kill time. We did manage to do the Zipline and Burma bridge and thankfully both were decent and nothing broke which was a pleasant surprise considering the state of the rest of the place..
By now we noticed that there appeared to be only three girls in the entire camp and the rest were a bunch of very rowdy guys who spent majority of the time drinking and creating a ruckus. As we didn’t want to interact with them and there weren’t any other options available to pass the time we retreated to the room and passed the time playing cards, and uno. Both were a lot of fun since we had a great group of people with us. If we had come here alone we wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all.


Group photo at the Room

Later in the evening a campfire was organized even though the wood was quite wet and it was a valiant effort. They also played some music so the bunch of us decided to turn the dining area into an impromptu dance floor. The dances were hilarious and no I am not going to share the videos that Jani took. After a while the other groups joined us in the dancing and that’s when we stopped for dinner as they were just weird. We had dinner and then headed back to the room and played some more cards and Jenga since we couldn’t step out to go somewhere else due to the constant rain.

It was Akanksha’s birthday so at midnight we cut a cupcake to celebrate the event. We couldn’t get a cake as it would have spoilt if we had carried it from home and there was no place near the venue to get it. After the cake cutting we walked around a bit inside the property but had to quickly comeback to the room as the guys I spoke about earlier started creepily staring at the girls.


Cupcake cutting at midnight

Next morning we (me and Jani) slept late while the rest of the group went for a Jungle safari. Apparently the drive was through some amazing scenery but they didn’t see any wild animals except the usual deer etc. Interestingly the only way to get to the jungle safari place was using your own vehicle. I was expecting the venue to provide transportation to the place but I guess that was too much hospitality to expect. After the safari we had breakfast and started the long drive back. We picked up a cake on the way and properly had the cake cutting. The cake was fine although the grated coconut on a black forest cake was a bit surprising. We reached home after about 12 hours of driving and by then all of us were exhausted and basically crashed.


Cake Cutting at Kamath

The over all trip was fun because we had a good group but the venue was not at all worth the money we spent on it and we were quite disappointed with our experience.

We have reached out to Thrillophilla and complained about the experience. They are looking into it and will get back to us once their investigation is complete. Depending on how that goes we will see if we want to ever book with them again as this was the 2nd or 3rd time with these guys with a bad experience everytime.
Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

July 25, 2019

Someone has made a Hurricane Proof House from Recycled Plastic

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:44 PM

Plastic is one of the most popular material for making things and is extremely popular. However there are some significant disadvantages of Plastic that are becoming more and more apparent due to the focus on environment and climate change. Some biggest disadvantages of Plastic are as follows

  • Durability: Plastic is light, mold able, sturdy, and can have countless forms, but one of the most known features is its durability. Plastic can survive for many centuries before nature is able to degrade it
  • Environmental Harm: Since Plastic takes a long time to degrade it continues to clog our waterways, oceans, forests, and other natural habitats. These are consumed by animals who mistake them for food and then die. Recently 9 deer were found dead in a famed park in western Japan after eating plastic bags
  • Choking Hazard: Plastic is one of the most popular building materials for small items. These toys and small plastic objects of many uses can easily get into children’s hands (especially babies and toddlers) that unknowingly put them in their mouth.

So what do we do about it? Banning it is not a great idea till we have replacement options available. For example plastic straws are banned in a lot of places but paper straws don’t last long enough to be useful.

A Canadian company called JD Composites has a potential solution to the problem. They have created a process where they took about 612,000 plastic bottles and shred them. The result is then melted and injected with gas to create a plastic based foam. This foam is them shaped into 5.9 inch thick panels which are then used in house construction. Based on the testing done at a certification facility these panels can withstand winds of over 300 miles per hour (hurricane strength) and as an added bonus they also provide better insulation. If the process becomes mainstream it will keep a large no of bottles (and plastic) out of landfills. While this is a positive step there are still a lot of certifications/studies etc that would need to be done on the process to ensure there are no unexpected side-affects from the process. We don’t want to be in a situation like we were with asbestos where we found out that it causes cancer a few decades after it was put in a large no of homes & offices as insulation.

A sample three bedroom home was created near the Meteghan River in Nova Scotia and is actually up for sale right now. If the builders are unable to find a buyer they are planning to list it on Airbnb and see if that creates enough buzz about the process for it to become mainstream. I hope that this process becomes mainstream quickly so that we can reduce the amount of crap we are putting in the garbage.

Source: This Hurricane Proof House Made From 612,000 Recycled Plastic Bottles Can Withstand 326 MPH Winds

– Suramya

July 22, 2019

Chandrayaan-2: ISRO spacecraft successfully achieves Geostationary Orbit

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 3:55 PM

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 completed the first stage of the Moon mission by successfully entering Geostationary Orbit at 181.65 km above sea level. This is an amazing achievement by ISRO and is a proud moment for India. After the last min abort of the previous launch attempt all eyes were on ISRO to make a successful launch in a extremely tight launch window of only a few minutes. ISRO Chief K Sivan, made the following statement after the launch

I’m extremely happy to announce that the GSLVMkIII-M1 successfully injected Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into Earth Orbit. It is the beginning of a historic journey of India towards moon and to land at a place near South Pole to carry out scientific experiments:

Now that the rocket has achieved Geo-Stationary orbit it will start orbit-raising operations followed by trans-lunar injection using its own power. Post that the rocket will head out to the Moon and below are the different phases of Chandrayaan 2’s journey:

  • July 22 to August 13: Chandrayaan 2 will orbit around the Earth in an elliptical path
  • August 13 to August 19: Course change to to establish into moon’s orbit
  • August 19: Enter Moon’s orbit
  • August 19 to Aug 31: Chandrayaan 2 will revolve in the Moon’s orbit
  • September 1: The Lander Vikram will detach from the Orbiter heading down to land near the South Pole of the Moon
  • ~September 7:Lander Vikram will make a soft landing in the south polar region of the moon
  • ~Landing + 4hours: Rover Pragyaan will roll out of the Lander Vikram and perform different tests on the Moon’s polar surface

@ISRO, a proud nation salutes you and here’s to the journey to new horizons.

BBC Coverage: Chandrayaan-2: India launches second Moon mission

Regards,

Suramya

July 17, 2019

Using Machine Learning To Automatically Translate Long-Lost Languages

Filed under: Computer Software,Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:25 PM

Machine Learning has become such a buzz word that any new product or research being released nowadays has to mention ML in it somewhere even though they have nothing to do with it. But this particular usecase is actually very interesting and I am looking forward to more advances in this front. Researchers Jiaming Luo and Regina Barzilay from MIT and Yuan Cao from Google’s AI lab in Mountain View, California have created a machine-learning system capable of deciphering lost languages.

Normally Machine translation programs work by mapping out how words in a given language are related to each other. This is done by processing large amounts of text in the language and creating vector maps on how often each word appears next to every other word for both source and target languages. Unfortunately, this requires a large dataset (text) in the language and that is not possible in case of lost languages, and that’s where the brilliance of this new technique comes in. Focusing on the fact that when languages evolve over time they can only change in certain ways (e.g. related words have the same order of characters etc) they came up with a ruleset for deciphering a language when the parent or child of the language being translated is known.

To test out their theory/process they tried it out with two lost languages, Linear B and Ugaritic. Linguists know that Linear B encodes an early version of ancient Greek and that Ugaritic, which was discovered in 1929, is an early form of Hebrew. After processing the system was able to correctly translate 67.3% of Linear B into their Greek equivalents which is a remarkable achievement and marks a first in the field.

There are still some restrictions with the new algorithm in that it doesn’t work if the progenitor language is not known. But work on the system is ongoing and who knows some new breakthrough might be just around the corner. Plus there is always a brute force approach where the system tries translating a given language using every possible language as the progenitor language. It would require a lot of compute and time but is something to look at as an option.

Well, this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

Source: Machine learning has been used to automatically translate long-lost languages

July 11, 2019

Yelagari Hills road trip

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 11:17 PM

This weekend we had planned to go for a Trek but as Jani had hurt her back we had a last min change of plans and instead went to Yelagiri hills. When I say last min, I do mean last min. We booked the stay about 10 hours before we left home. Since there were seven of us making the trip I wanted to rent a 7-8 seater car so that all of us can travel together, but since it was last min we were unable to find a car. Thankfully Shashank wanted to do a long bike ride so he and Shahrukh decided to make the trip on his bike and the rest of us took my car.

As usual we planned on leaving early from home to avoid the lovely Bangalore traffic. We had an early breakfast at home (Shahrukh & Jani made French toast) and we started at ~6:30am from home. The drive was quite nice and the company was better. The place we were staying at (Yelagiri Farm House) was ~150Kms from home and it took us about 3 ½ hours to make the drive with a single break for Tea/Coffee. The last stretch of the drive was though the hills and the views were amazing but since everyone except me was sleeping in the car they missed most of it. In a way that is good as most of them suffer from motion sickness and anything that avoids people throwing up in my car is good in my books. I had a blast singing while everyone was sleeping (Though I am not sure how they managed to sleep through my singing).

The Farm house was on a large property with nice big rooms. To give you an idea of the size all 7 of us could have comfortably stayed in 1 room. But we had multiple rooms so it was good. Once we reached the venue we just chilled and had our 2nd breakfast for the day. The weather was nice and cool so it was great sitting outside in the open relaxing.


Having the second breakfast of the day

After talking to the owners we found out that there were a few adventure camps near the farmhouse so after relaxing for a while we decided to check out the options. Shashank and Shahrukh explored and we found a nice place that had multiple options of games we could play. Since it was lunch time we had our lunch which was ok. The non-veg food was a lot better than the veg options as per the comments I heard during lunch but it still wasn’t bad. Post lunch we went to the Adventure camp and decided to do the Obstacle course, Artificial wall climbing and Zorbing.


Outside the Adventure Camp after lunch

The obstacle course was interesting and a few of the obstacles were a bit challenging but overall it was a lot of fun. The six of us attempted the course while Jani relaxed on the side and took pics. None of us fell so that was good and there was a lot of good natured ribbing going on when someone got stuck. One of the participant went into ‘pure survival mode’ when they got stuck but everyone made it through in one piece (and no I am not naming them).


Obstacle course at the Adventure Camp

The second activity we attempted was the climbing wall which was fairly challenging and only Bagri and Shashank made it to the top while a few of us remaining were close but didn’t make it to the top.


Artificial Climbing wall

The last activity we did was Zorbing. Usually this is done on a hill where you are rolled down a hill but over here the Zorb was floating in the water and all 6 of us got in at the same time. It’s a great place to be when you are with friends and we rolled around in abandon in the Zorb. Akanksha was elbowed in the face (by me. Sorry) and I had Shahrukh and Ayush both land on my back at the same time. If I start listing out all the other times folks fell on each other I will need a couple of pages. In all the 15 mins we spent in there was amazing and we were exhausted after we were done. Finally we had to head back as none of the other sports looked interesting (I did want to try the paintball but not everyone was interested so we left it.). Right outside the arena there were a lot of fresh fruit sellers and we ended up buying almost every single option available (except Jackfruit because it stinks).


Playing Frisbee

After we got back to the farmhouse, we spent a good amount of time playing in the field starting with Frisbee followed by cricket. Akanksha was given the woman of the match award for making the most runs in the first match. Once it got dark and we could hardly see the ball we retired to the room and switched to indoor games.
The first game we played was twister and it was a blast. Watching some of the positions people ended up in was hilarious (when it happened to others, not when you were in the position). We played a couple of rounds with Jani and a rotating set of people acting as a referee. It is a great party game but needs to be played with people who know each other quite well else it can get a bit awkward. After we were tired from Twister we switched to Jenga and it was fun as always. Some of the moves were brilliant and some were so bad that they should be admitted to the bad move hall of fame. Finally it was time to call it a day since all had been awake since early morning and I just crashed. I think Jani was talking to me when I dozed off.

Next day we woke up around 8, had breakfast where we made sandwiches and tried all the fruits we bought the previous day. This was followed by a few rounds of cricket and general fooling around.


Group Photo in front of the Farmhouse

Finally we had to leave because we didn’t want to be too late getting into Bangalore so with a heavy heart we started back. This time everyone in the car was awake for the hairpin turns that took us back to the plains and thankfully the anti-motionsickness tablets worked so that was great. The drive back was fairly uneventful, with one long stop for a tea break. We started off with just tea (juice for some) and then ended up making and having sandwiches from our stockpile. Thankfully we bought enough from the vendor that we didn’t get kicked out for having our own food.

The drive back took a bit longer thanks to the increased traffic but was manageable, at least till we entered Bangalore post which it was the standard disaster we call traffic management in Bangalore.

After we reached home, we chilled for a while and then everyone headed home ending an eventful trip. We had so much fun that we have already started talking about the next trip.

Well, this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

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