Tuesday Jul 28, 2009

Intellectual Dessert

"The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you're learning you're not old." - Rosalyn Yalow

One of my most enjoyable activity at Sun is to have "intellectual dessert". Intellectual Dessert is the name given to a series of regular talks and presentations in Sun on varied topics from experts in different fields. These talks provide opportunity for any Sun employee to interact with many smart people and know about work in other related areas. I have attended talks all the way from Rupert Sheldrake on his controversial morphic resonance theory, to talks by Turing award winners, like John McCarthy on the evolution of intelligence and Vinton Cerf on bit rot. Recently I enjoyed a talk by Nobel prize winner, Martin Perl on developing creativity in science.

I learnt recently that the talks at Palo Alto Research Center(PARC) is open to the public too. This is also a weekly forum with discussions on varied topics. The talk this Thursday is about the adventures of Cuil, a startup in the world of search engines. I plan to drive over to Palo Alto for my first visit to the PARC Forum.

Friday Mar 21, 2008

Mepco Schlenk College Visit and a Moral Dilemma

I went on a trip to India recently. During that time, I got a chance to visit the college where I studied for four years to get my engineering degree. My professors were thrilled to see me. It was nice to get introduced as one of their best students to my wife. I gave a lecture to the computer science engineering students about the concepts of open source and the mutual benefits involved. I talked about opensolaris and about some of the technologies that are present there. The students were interested to know about Sun as a company, the way projects work at Sun, and about the culture. Overall, it was a rewarding experience for everyone. 
Mepco Schlenk Visit - 2008

It has been more than 10 years since I last visited the place. There are lot of changes in the college since last time. There are lot more courses offered now and therefore many new buildings have sprung up. It is good to see the college growing in this way. I got to visit the new mathematics lab. This lab is very interesting. The lab contains many puzzles, analytical problems, and tools to solve them in a practical manner. The lab is a very good idea.

Mepco Schlenk Engineering College is also known for its very strict rules and for its severe punishments for breaking the rules. The rules of the college have gotten stricter, since the time I studied there. A more recent rule in the college hostels is, a girl can leave the college hostel to go out, if and only if, one of the girl's parent is physically present with the girl. The stated purpose of its rule is to prevent dating and for the girl's protection. This rule does not exist for the boys in the college hostels.

The effect of this rule is that girls cannot go to technical conferences or present papers outside the college campus, unless a parent comes over to the college to take them there. This rule is discriminative based on sex. It is very sad and I can understand the frustrations of the students.

I did get a chance to talk to the Principal of the college and give my feedback, but  I think there is very little chance of this changing anytime soon.  All this puts me in the horns of a moral dilemma. Should I support my alma mater, share my experiences and help the students studying there ? Wouldn't it indirectly endorse the rules of the college ? If I do not ever go there because I do not like certain rules of the college, then who loses ? What is lost ? How does the voice of dissent get heard ? I do not know the answers.

About

Augustus Franklin Diraviam works for the Solaris Cluster engineering group at Sun Microsystems. He lives in the San Francisco bay area.

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