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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Catch the movie on the weekend Mr. Grad Student!

Well i realized an important thing that happened this last weekend. I decided against logic that I would go watch this movie - "Little Miss Sunshine" at the Memorial Auditorium on campus. And a couple of good things happened - but before that - why was going to the movie against logic? Well big story short - so much work, so little time - and why waste time on movie - catch some sleep instead! But I went anyway - and guess what happened - I met this nice person who works for Oracle...why is that important? Well coz i might be interning at Oracle and I might need to build a network there to get around - and also it helps to know people in the industry - and various other reasons - knowing people in the right place can be a real help. The other thing was that the movie was a good opportunity to provide myself a good distraction from the monotony that usually sets in when the quarter starts.

Another thing that I learnt all thanks to Leor was - how to start to build that network. So at the end of the movie i did not know how to politely ask her for her email so that I would know how to get in touch with her after tonight - so she very generously offered her business card to me and I was like - shit why didnt i ask her for that. So lesson - to build that network - ask politely for that business card - not "what is ur email address?".

Anyways, man that monotony has set in and am dead tired - its only Tuesday...:-)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Letter to Editor

Would you believe it, they published my letter to the editor in the Hindustan Times - that too Delhi Edition! On Sunday, 21st Jan, i read this wonderful arctile written by Neelesh Misra and Soma Wadha that India is really Shining. How the people in the villages now shop at shopping malls. And how the mobile phone has become a status symbol now even in the villages! And I couldnt help replying to both of them. And then they published it in the edit page. I was like...oh my God! Anyways, here is the part of the article by Neelesh:


And here is my detailed email:

Hi Neelesh.

Rahul Thathoo here, I am a Masters student in Computer Science at Stanford University. And even though I am the stereotypical Indian techie out here in the Silicon Valley, when, in our friends circles, we talk about the new India, the India in 2050, we see that India riding a wave of rural going global, the rural class breaking clear of the shackles of their "dehati" lifestyle - owing mostly to the agricultural economy doing better. IT and other knowledge based industries of course would help enable all that, but in the end it is the people in India's villages which have to see the benefits and that will come with them being able to have disposal income to do what the urban class has since long done, and for that - better retail channels, better infrastructure are extremely important.

Your article really makes one's heart fill up with joy and delight. I want my India to shine, I want my India to be that where the head is held high and the mind is without fear. And out leaders and business are also doing a good job of that - Azim Premji on campus did a marvelous job of letting people know that India has arrived - people mostly are caught up in the "China is happening" scene...he delivered an excellent lecture on how he went from selling vegetable oil to becoming one of the biggest IT companies of the world. And ditto with P. Chidambaram - when he was on campus.

Everytime one of my friends goes to India for vacation and comes back, he/she are really mesmerized by the fact that things move so fast in India and the difference is so noticeable - changes(all for the better) are really happening and now so many people want to move back to India, at least as compared to previously. I arrived here just 4 months back, ...blah blah (classified stuff)...all working to make products for the India market - why?? Because now every month the internet penetration is increasing so rapidly - we want to be the first on the block. Such a huge market to just go out there and conquer!

Anyways, these were my views, kindled by your article! Once again, good job Neelesh/Soma - would like to read more from you!


And they published a smaller version here:


Thanks Vir Sanghvi :-)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Welcome to Stanford!

So when a friend of mine wrote a blog on the kind of replies he had received to the emails he sent out applying for Research Assistantship in Stanford, I decided I would follow suit. In fact I decided to go a step further, write a couple of descriptions of the one on one interviews I had with some of the professors at Stanford, before I got my RAship. Here it is:

Thanks for your interest. I am curently on sabbatical in Singapore (until the end of 2007) and right now I am in Nepal on a climbing expedition. I will behappy to meetyou when I return to Stanford if you are still interested.

Thanks for your e-mail; I have already hired an RA for this year, so I don't have any other positions, unfortunately. Sorry. - "He gave me an RA in less than 2 months from this email"

Thank you for sending the information. Unfortunately, my computer is unable to open rar files, but I did look at your resume.

You certainly have had some experience in computational biology, but it wasn't clear whether you've had experience in machine learning or statistical methods. In any case, I have a fairly strict policy not to take students into my group until they have successfully completed at least one directly relevant course here at Stanford. Ideally, this would be my cs228 course (probabilistic graphical models - winter), but I may also accept cs229 (machine learning - fall), or my new cs279 course (biological networks - fall). I know you are not currently enrolled in cs279. Are you taking cs229 by any chance? If not, then I can only suggest that you take cs228 in winter, and then come and talk to me partway through the quarter about possible research opportunities in my group.

The TA-ship in Hindi is an unpaid position. You get school credit for taking Directed Reading in the SLP. It essentially involves doing HW correction, and the Hindi is quite basic. Usually, the terms don't work out for Masters students since they don't get paid, or get units. If you are still interested, you can email me and we can meet. Also, if you know anyone who might be interested in getting upto 12 units for the year towards their degree, you can get them to contact me - of course, they must know how to read and write Hindi.


One on one interaction with this guy in Dept of Communication:

Me: Sir I am from the MS program in the CS dept...
Prof: So???? (Face like freakin Hitler) This is the Communication Dept - i can see that u idiot - I have eyes!
Me: I know that sir, I was here to talk to you about research opportunities in the Facial Recognition of electorial college...
Prof: I have no money for CS Graduate students...(i thought he was about to take out a gun from under the table and shoot at me...)
Me: Thank you sir, and ran away from the building as if my ass was on fire...(This was, btw, my second day at Stanford - quite a welcome huh!)

With this guy in the Computational Mathematics Dept:

Me: Is Prof Darve (read like Kumble) in?
Office Manager: You mean Prof Darve(read like carve)?
Me: Yes
OM: Yes he is in...
I go in...
Me: No he is not there
OM: He must have gone to the toilet...
Me: (To myself): possibly a good omen!
Darve: we were supposed to meet at 3, you are 10 min early...
Me: I have a class at 3:15 sir
Darve: Anyways, come in - we have a project to build a car simulation, using OpenGL and Matlab to solve 2nd order differential equations - I want the students should in this course be able to make a car simulation game which they can race against each other at the end of the quarter - can you build it - I will pay u $13 an hour for it
Me: (To myself): I bet the slaves from Africa got paid better for their work - wtf - differential quations in matlab - with openGL porting - this will take about 6 months at the least - with 3 courses at hand...
Me: (To Darve): Of course sir, this can be done, so i will keep in touch with you, thank you!

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Hey! And today in India they are celebrating my birthday! Nice of those guys. And I am missing them. Here still one more day to go. But somehow I feel as if a part of me is missing. I get the feeling that I probably dont like it much here. Although I am getting the best that the US has to offer, I mean life in Northern CA and then life at Stanford and stuff...but seriously...something is missing. I think I miss family back home. But then I used to miss them when I was in Allahabad as well. But this is not that kind of missing, something else! Cant figure it out. This place is good, but its not home period.

Friday, January 05, 2007

How to Get into Stanford For Dummies - Part 2

So this post coming a long time after I had written the first post about the same topic but for students in 1st and 2nd year of college. Most because I was sucked into the academic system here in the duration of the quarter. But now I thought before the second quarter began, I should finish this up.

Now for me, while I was in college, the third year was easily the most demanding(read toughest) year of college. I had a not so easy 5th semester and a very tough 6th semester followed by an even tougher summer at IISc. And in the middle of the 5th and 6th semester, I had to prepare for the GRE which i ended up giving later than I would have thought - in March - but at least it was earlier than most people. That is one issue one must decide and commit to early on, when and where to give the GRE. The centres are booked tight in Aug/Sept/Nov, so one should ideally do away with the GRE while in the third year, which adds to the commotion for being a junior(junior in the US is a student in the 3rd year of engg). One mus also, at the start of the 3rd year try to look for a good internship. Mostly people I knew went abroad for an internship, I too tried my luck out there but I didnt get a favorable call. But instead I went to the best Database Systems Lab at IISc. Anyways, in the 3rd year grades usually show a down trend, dont be too preturbed by that, it is usually common to all but try to work an extra bit to keep them above a certain respectable level. You might have to give up on a bit of socializing. But whatever you do, dont lose your sense of humor!!

In the best case you should try to get a reco from your summer internship after the 3rd year. So you would have to work on that. In my case, I had an absolute disaster of a summer. Didnt do too well. So of course I didnt even ask for the reco as I knew that would play out against me in my application. That is one important point to keep in mind while approaching profs for recos. Get recos from profs who you know would give you a good reco. Moving on, into the 4th year, try to get a job first thing at the start of the placement season. Get this mental block over with, this would keep you and your folks at home in peace that at least there is a back up. Also, start looking at the universities that have are in the top 50 as far as your specialization is concerned. Pick a couple in the top 10, a couple in the middle and a few as a backup. You also need to start working on you statement of purpose. Ideally you should start with this process by August. Slowly and steadily, work toward finalizing your univesities, start working on your SOP, start writing your reco letters in case you are on good terms with your faculty and they ask you to, else in case your reco giver is far away, then you may want to get their reco beforehand(only for a paper application). For a non-paper application, it doesnt matter that much.

For Stanford, there are a couple of essays that they ask you to fill out, and the character limit is really low. So you really have to leave out the bullshit and stick to the core issues that make you a cut above the rest. Prepare one essay on how your undergrad embedded in you an urge to seek higher education in your field, and the prepare another essay on how you would add to the diversity of the class which you would attend at Stanford. All recos at Stanford are online, so you need to remind your reco givers to fill out those recos in time, especially if they are busy or are not in your undergrad college.

Once you are done with all that by Dec 1, just wait for the great email which should reach you in March, depending on your department. Some stats for this years CS Masters class, the CS dept is not really one of the biggest, but its not small either. This year they took in 130 MS students and around 45 PhD students. There are around 10 Masters students from India and 2 PhD students from India. Out of the 10, 1 is from IIT that too with 1 year work ex, and out of the PhDs, one is from IIT, with a Masters from Georgia Tech and the other is a Masters from IISc - incidently she worked with the same prof I interned with and with his reco she is not a Stanford CS Fellow! Man i should have got his reco!

All the best to you guys! In case of any questions or if there is anything you think I can do for you, let me know.