Recent Travels – Everglades National Park

One of those long-standing items in the Florida travel wishlist finally happened a couple of weeks ago – largely to commemorate the PhD defense. The Everglades is perhaps best avoided during this time of the year. Insect bites and a lost-wallet episode aside, I had a pretty uneventful trip. Gators, crocodiles, panthers (they say!), hundreds of species of birds (I missed the lion’s share though!), lot of interesting (and sad) stories on the Burmese pythons in the park, the mangroves – all made for an interesting couple of days. Remind me to hit the park in the winters though!

Oh! And I highly recommend Hotel Redland at Homestead, FL for stay. Really interesting place at a decent distance from the park.

Some pictures:

20170609_112018

The Anhinga Trail. Gators, lots of them (none in this photo though)

20170609_113316

One of the most predominant sightings during the Anhinga Trail. Bites deadly.

20170609_125228

Stilt roots to support the tree as it grows both vertically and horizontally. How cool!

20170609_131736

Coot Bay

20170609_132758

Whitewater Bay

20170609_145909

Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout. Was supposed to find more than fish here.

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Travel

We all need a pick-me-up sometimes

So I got this wonderful update from one of the recent campaigns I was fortunate to be part of – something that has become very close to my heart. It concerns the lives of one of the most backward of regions (Elavanchery) in my home state (Kerala) – on an aspect that is very close to my heart owing to my past involvement and experiences (education). Everything about the intent and the expected outcomes of this was so beautiful that I remember getting sold into this by line 3 of the campaign brief. Now, I may have my biases considering that the person behind it has been someone I have admired for a while – from a distance, for various reasons. This woman (in her mid-20s) had quit her very comfortable desk job in one of the Big 4s in the consulting world because she “wanted to do things that she really wanted to do”. Things like this. Wow!

It’s almost an unexplainable feeling when some things (or people) turn out right – I guess this was one such moment. The update read as follows:

A big thank you to everyone who supported my small initiative to help the kids in my village.
Due to the amazing response, we exceeded the goal amount and were able to buy essentials for all the students in the school. 180 upper primary students and 230 lower primary students were given school bags, notebooks and other stationery.
The kids are really, really thrilled and send their love to each of you for your kind gesture 🙂
Thanks!
unnamed (1)unnamed (2)unnamed
What Athira and her parents are managing to do there is pretty amazing and I wish them all the luck in their endeavors. Just look at those smiles! 🙂 Best thing that happened this week, hands down. How’s everybody doing so far this year?

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, India, Miscellaneous, People

TRB 2017 on the horizon

By the time this is on air, we may have passed 2016 and let me just stop with how glad I am to see the back of it. 2017 comes with a lot of promises – graduation, employment, travel and let’s just stop short of saying that I’m really chuffed about it too. How was everyone’s 2016? Did you make any resolutions that you were able to keep at whole through the year? Do you believe in resolutions? Why so, if not? And finally, what are you looking for, in 2017? Let me know! 🙂

Anyways, first up in 2017 is the 96th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB 2017)- the yearly pilgrimage for every transportation enthusiast out there. This year, like the past years, I will be focussing my energies on the connected/autonomous events at TRB. TRB presents a logistical nightmare (the good kind) which makes it almost imperative to challenge the time manager in you to get the best out of the conference. Most of the “good stuff” on the AV/CV section is focussed around Monday and Tuesday, although I am already regretting that I shall miss event 868 on Wednesday afternoon as I am due to fly back to Tampa. There are also a few career events and other receptions in additions to the sessions that would feature in my plans. In addition to that, we (CUTR/USF) are also hosting out first ever TRB Reception & Alumni Reunion on Sunday (Jan 8) – something that I’m looking forward to, immensely.

Inline image 5

Once TRB is finished, my focus will go back to the dissertation and the final leap towards the graduation process. We are long overdue an update about my work here so I will be updating this space time and again with little tidbits on the dissertation and my overall findings as we move along this year. I am also in the job market for an industry position in the transportation planning/modeling realms, so that is an additional area of focus for the first part of 2017. Finally, I was catching up with the weather in D.C. with an eye on my baggage – doesn’t look for good reading especially since Florida kinda missed the winter this time.

capture

     So not looking forward to 16 degrees on Sunday! 😦

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Driverless, Transportation, Travel

Smart City Columbus Ohio

So, Columbus won the $50 million grant from USDOT Smart City Challenge. A city that proposed to bridge the gap between job accessibility, income disparities, and healthcare with the application of intelligent transportation systems (a much more sophisticated solution to tackle its problems in comparison to the other finalists), Columbus will now be getting a grand total of $140 million to herald a transportation-led revolution to bring positive changes into the city’s economy. Congratulations!

In the offing from a transportation systems point of view are AV fleets that would carry people into the various job zones, a multi-platform smartphone app for all their travel needs (including ride-sharing and ride-hailing services), more electric vehicles and charging stations and a plethora of tech services to aid the systems in place. What really stood out was the way in which Columbus convincingly built its story around its infant mortality rate and showed how the said grant would alleviate some of it – something which was not really the focus from its competitors, in hindsight. The USDOT also strongly urged the losing cities to focus on continuing their projects with the help of outside funding sources including philanthropists.

This is now a good time to go back to assess Tampa’s Smart City Proposal that was submitted in February 2016. I feel the city can take inspiration from the exercise to see what we had missed in our focus, and how we could positively contribute and impact on future exercises of such nature.

Leave a comment

Filed under Accessibility, America, Driverless, Mobility, Transportation

Gameday 1: England at the Euros

Gameday 1 of the English involvement at the Euros saw them square off with Russia at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, France. A lot had been written (as usual) about the team’s chances and one would feel gutted (with a tinge of optimism, still) as an England fan as to how things have turned out tonight.

Capture

[Source: The Guardian]

Roy Hodgson’s decision to go with a 4-3-3 leaving out Jamie Vardy did not really disappoint in terms of personnel on the field, but there were some very England-like errors during the game. Right after taking the lead, Roy took off Wayne Rooney. Now Wayne Rooney is the most polarizing English footballer there ever has been. In his new role at the center of the midfield, Rooney did not really disappoint, you know! He was conducting the play, pinging in some glorious passes into his much quick-footed forwards and getting the odd chance to go inside the opposition box himself.

Capture

Wayne Rooney – vs Russia, Euro 2016. Not bad reading. [Source: Squawka]

And with Rooney, you’d always get that extra bit when the team needs some sorting out in its defense as well. Moments when you have a precarious 1-0 lead, you simply do not find the sense in substituting the second best performer of the day (after the England goal scorer, Eric Dier). And fatigue wasn’t really an issue from what it looked to the naked eye. Anyway, that happened. And England put in Jack Wilshere in his place. There was an expectation that with the game becoming more and more open, England would being in Jamie Vardy to apply the brake on the renewed optimism that Russia seemed to have obtained from nowhere (seriously, they were diabolical for most parts of the game!)

Capture

Russia attacking to the RHS in the 2nd half. Marked difference from their approach in the first (where they attacked to the left), going by their heat map. [Source: Squawka]

What followed however was one more defensive substitution that took the sting out of this English team going forward. In came James Milner for Raheem Sterling, and Vardy – the toast of the Premier League – was still on the bench. What then followed close to the end of play was 10 seconds of madness at the end of which Leonid Slutsky‘s Russia had got what they wanted out of the game – an equalizing goal and a crucial one point. Considering how the Welsh have fared against Slovakia and the other result in Gameday 2 for England’s group, we may still not be completely immune from an embarrassing exit by Wednesday. This shouldn’t have happened. This England team, although having started much better than in their previous major tournaments is still win-less from the opening game of a European Championship. For a team that are touted by the bookmakers to be the fourth favorites to triumph in France (although there’s an interesting side-track to that), today’s 1 point might not please their chances of ending a 50 year drought one bit (although, as most of the English fans would like to think by now, their team was meant to bottle this one too). Let’s just hope things get better against Bale & Co.  

PS: A strong word of disappointment and anguish towards what happened inside the stadium post-match between the two sets of fans. While some of it is the fault of the English fans themselves (we are no saints either), questions really need to be asked about a few other aspects – France’s preparedness in terms of security, the Russian ultras (no need to say anything more!) and the World Cup of 2018 to be held in Russia. We surely don’t want to see incidents like these. And I hope everyone values their life over a game of football.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football, Opinion