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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Love and Laughter
As part of my "repeat song till everybody gets bored" regimen I am currently listening to "Ladki Kyon" from Hum Tum. The nice thing about the song is its conversational style. I remember seeing the director Kunal Kohli's interview before the movie released and he mentioned that he really enjoyed the conversations from Harry Met Sally and that was one of his key inspirations for making the movie.

While on the issue of Harry Met Sally, I must mention that I loved the movie - it had the exact proportion of mushy-ness to make it a romantic comedy as opposed to a chick-flick. Other romantic comedies that I have enjoyed for similar reasons include You've Got Mail, Notting Hill, One Fine Day and French Kiss. Though these movies don’t match up to Harry and Sally’s romance they all provide a good mix of wit, sarcasm and the blues.

Sadly, there seems to be a dearth of good romantic comedies off late. If Meg Ryan was the epitome of the quintessential ingredient in these movies, Kate Hudson seems to be the complete antithesis of the concept. For an actress of her caliber she has given three really bad romantic movies in the past two years - Alex and Emma, How to Loose a Guy in Ten Days and Raising Helen. Interestingly Alex and Emma comes from Rob Reiner, who was the same guy who gave us Harry Met Sally. To make matters worse Meg Ryan has gone onto make darker movies like In the Cut. Reminds me of the song from Black Eyed Peas - where is the love ???

Return of the Thing(s)

Some things that were (almost) regulars some time back have resurfaced:

1. Reading printed newspaper in the morning.
2. Watching movies using VCDs as opposed to DVDs.
3. Audio cassettes.
4. Paper based movie posters.
5. Phuchka, bhel puri, chicken roll.
6. The Marwari business class - in California if you are talking business class and Indian you almost certainly mean Gujratis. Barabazaar in Kolkata paints a very different image.
7. "Indian Chinese" food and No - the highly acclaimed Indian Chinese restaurant in LA doesn't do justice to this novel concept :)

It's these little things that make Kolkata trips so special (I am not saying you don't get these in other places but I somehow experience these only in Kol) ...

Monday, August 30, 2004

A Quote of Fresh Paint
Just wanted to post this one quote from the morning newspaper that I found really cool (I shall refrain from explaining the reasons). The quote is by Russian Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and goes - "You can have power over people as long as you don't take everything away from them. But when you've robbed the man of everything, he's no longer in your power".

Food for thought and thought before I take food.

... and then Bill was gone
I saw Bill getting Killed the third time, making it the only English film that I have seen in the theatres three times (as if that's a distinction). Caught an amazing sequence on one of the Hindi music channels. The clip showed the colorful Govinda wooing the leading lady Urmila with his "ball skills". He dribbles a football down a slopey field (why were they playing soccer on a hill is a question that still baffles me) and then makes a lengthy shot at the goal and Urmila runs forward and uses her buttock to redirect the ball to the goal. I am sure that there are more amusing sequences but this one is my current toast.

While on the issue of Hindi music channels, I saw this marriage song from some old movie starring the "dada of all dadas" Mithun-da and the now motherly Rati Agnihotri with a peppered hair Danny and Tanuja dancing. The song had a very catchy tune and I tried a good half day to trace its source - but all in vain. Considering I din't catch the name of the movie and that the words were beyond by knowledge of Hindi, I am left with nothing but the star cast and even though I tracked down a filmography of Rati Agihotri, she has done a zillion movies with Mithun and I sill haven't researched all of them. So if any generous and knowledgeable soul reading this entry knows anything that may sprinkle knowledge to my current ignorance, please inform me.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Changing glimpses
Lots seem to have changed in Kolkata since I left it for California and though I made a few trips back home, these changes still amuse me. Here are some of the things which were very different in "our times" (saying which I officially proclaim my generation's archaic status):

1. Love is in the air: There seems to be love everywhere. When I was growing up the only spot lover's could be seen in were movie theatres and the few solitary fast food shops (Wimpy's, Scoop etc.) but now you just have to walk out of the house to hear the love-birds chirp. There are people who can pass on as my kids who are masters of the dating game. Amazement and amusement!

2. Multi-plexes: Now this is a nation-wide change. I have been told that all the major metros now sport these complexes which have definitely enhanced the movie watching experience. For a film buff like me this is an absolutely welcome change and to be very honest I think the few that I have visited are comparable to their US counterparts. Another point worth mentioning is that multiplexes are finally putting an end to the age old "ticket blacking" phenomenon - Phew!

3. Fashion: Kolkattans seem to be so much more in the fashion game. I literally saw this girl who made every possible fashion statement I could think of - she had beads on her hair, a removable tattoo, short skirts, multi colored nails - Whoa! She literally embodied a palette of fashion and the picture din't look that pretty :(

4. Flyovers: We are fast going the Singapore way where we will have two parallel heights in the city, with flyovers looking down on us everywhere we go. I am sure that they will help in perforating the somewhat impervious traffic but as of now they often add to the woes.

I just read through this entry and realized that I sound quite like the guy who starts thinking of his home as an alien land in no time - nope! I still love Kolkata - love it with all its changes, loved it without them!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Vroooom!
Its been a while since I put up a movie review. Staying in India pretty much rules out watching English movies because the movies release here mostly with a phase lag and I have seen most of the films they are showing (Kill Bill2, Shrek2 etc). However, I am not complaining. It's an all together different experience to watch a Hindi movie in an absolute masala environment. I saw Fida and Dhoom over the past four days and found Dhoom to be the better of the two. We were seated just behind (and next to) a rowdy entourage which added to the whole novelty of the experience. As I mentioned - I liked Dhoom. It had nothing new (except for stunts that are definitely the best I have seen in a Hindi movie in the recent past) but the old wine was packaged really well and the gloss and glitz added made the drink refreshing. The movie was really fast paced and was reminiscent of Fast and Furious and Ocean's Eleven (I was surprised to see the production values drop in a Yash Chopra production when in the Casino sequence). The best thing about the movie was the camaraderie between Uday Chopra and Abhishek. I also liked the good girl gone wild Rimii Sen. Overall, if you are looking for good entertainment, this movie will not disappoint you.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Morning Musings

Little humid gems descend from the sky.
The birds flutter for a place to dry.

With sleepy eyes I stare
At the transparent paint
Creating images on my window.
Each image is unique,
Transient,
Deep.
I see the water seep.
Reveries when I am not asleep.

The yellow cab zooms by
Splashing past the puddle.
The street kids huddle.
Laughter,
Glee,
A moment of joyous spree.
A throng makes harmony under a solitary tree.

The little humid gems continue to fall.
I wake up, time for these thoughts to stall!

Calcutta Times
I am paying special attention this trip to observe the differences and changes that exist between San Diego and Kolkata and no - I am not trying to be one of those US returned Indian's who find the whole system flawed and express complete dismay at how they ever survived in India - to me this whole process is more a sociological exercise where I am not classifying the differences as good or bad but am merely trying to spot them.

It's the driving that caught my attention today. The cab drivers in this city have one of the most amazing sense of precision. Not once, nor twice but at least 5 times during my one hr cab ride(s) today the driver stopped a few meager inches prior to hitting an object and none of these stops were sudden, they were calculated to the precision. The multitudes of cars and people on the road left little option but to bring out the "survival of the fittest" spirit to the forefront. To make the best of the squeezed gaps in the lanes, the cab drivers are forced to use any form of space. Impressive (though a little scary).

I also spent a good one hour in Kolkata's acclaimed College Street book area this morning. For people who haven't been to this place, try visualizing a one mile stretch of road that has pretty much every book you can imagine and in prices you can't imagine. I stood in queues, made sweet talk with small vendors and gaped at the perfect functioning of a system of finding books where people rely on positioning and memory rather than databases and other technology. Impressive!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Too Faaaaast too furious
I shall now touch a very touchy issue for several Indians who shift to the US - the accent issue. While in school I have oft ridiculed people who come back from US with an accent that puts Americans too shame (I think the term is embarrassment), all within 3 months of their visit. It would shock and amuse me to find people climb such levels of pretence, but having spent almost three years in US now, I guess I have a better understanding of the issue (or so I would claim).

It is true, irrespective of what people say, that the average Indian has to change his way of speaking to be completely understood and you can't blame the situation. Innumerable re-runs of FRIENDS and Everybody Loves Raymond and the spree of Hollywood blockbusters make it easier for us to get accustomed to the American accent (this is also the reason why it is a lot more difficult for us to get the Brit accent). However, the Americans have not been exposed to our English and it is highly probable that you will be greeted with a few "I didn't get you" or "Can you repeat/spell that please?" during your initial conversations.

A very amusing phenomenon that I find interesting is the "initial accent" several Indians adopt to get complete acceptance - this can be imagined as the training set for the algorithm of adaptation - what follows is English that has an uncanny resemblance with anything Greek. I have seen several people try different things with their normal words with the assumption that it will westernize the language but the end result is often a gloomy hoch poch of several ingredients that confounds the listener. It is then that you learn the Golden rules - (i) all things with that you pronounce as "U" almost always becomes "aaa" e.g. fast, last, bath, ask etc. soon transform too faaast, laaaaast et al, (ii) when in doubt spell out and if possible use American states to exemplify to the listener e.g. Abhay is "A as in Arizona, B as in Boston, H as in Houston ...". Having mastered these basics the Indians head for the finer aspects where "zed" become "zee" and "zero" becomes "O" etc.

Having done these basics, the average Indian feels equipped to get larger social acceptance and transforms to the more confident socialite but often this leads to a larger problem of social acceptance. Irrespective of what you say when speaking to Americans, if you use these rules with your fellow room-mates, you run the risk of being termed as the "shallow show off". To top it, when you come back home and try the accent on your Indian friends, you are likely to raise the eyebrows of people, who would squeamishly smirk and term you the pretentious NRI. You are trapped, you have to juggle between two sets of pronunciations, vocabulary (my friend received considerable flak for calling a toilet a restroom when in India) and all things English. I don't now what the solution is - I don't care what the solution is - the whole thing provides me food for thought - and that's all I care!

The blog returns
It's 4.30 in the morning and I am still jostling with a jet lag. The interesting thing being that I am sleeping less but not feeling that sleepy for the rest of the day - that will surely change in a day or two.

It feels great to be back home in the heart of Kolkata. Its hot, damp, crowded and a truck load of fun. I can write down pages on the changes I have seen in the city (and probably will do so in the coming days) but the city has still maintaine its warmth (and thank GOD for that)!

Went and saw the heist flick Fida and that wasn't too bad. They are releasing Dhoom, touted as one of India's first on-the-road movie (ala Fast and Furious), and moi shall probably go for that with a friend this weekend.

Shall try to sleep now - I better try!

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Three day hiatus
Well i am planning to be on a vacation starting tomorrow. So this blog shall be out of service (or updates) for the next three days. Please visit after three days for all the spice, news and gossip :)

Friday, August 20, 2004

Tall, Dark and Handsome ... and now richer too
Yahoo has an article that discusses some research which shows that taller and "better looking people" make more money than their average short counterparts!!! Wow! that must have been some research - you walk into a room and some professors quickly classify you as good, bad or ugly and then add salt to your woes to tell you that you are poor too. Just for the statistics minded, every inch of height apparently earns an extra $789/year. So if you are 5 ft tall, you have all the more reasons now to look up to your 6 ft colleague. The numbers become more interesting when it comes to looks. The "better looking" group makes an extra 3-8% a year in comparison to their average counterparts. So the next time you work hard for your entrance exam, don't forget the beauty parlor down the alley!

Love's labor lost
Had to share this really cool thing. Subs informed us abt a web service that deals with rejection i.e. you can send an e-mail to anyname@that-service.com and you will be sent a rejection letter. I am not giving away the name of the service lest that prevents people from shying away potential stalkers. Apparently this facility is used famously by a bunch of women to fool the luring eye. So we sent a mail to this service and here is the reply we recived. Once again I am leaving out parts of the mail to maintain anonymity of the service.

The subject was : Nice to hear from you

Ha ha, just kidding. Actually, this is a rejection letter. The person who gave
you this email address does not want to have anything to do with you.

This is probably bad news, and many people cope with bad news in phases:
denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Let us help you through
these:

"It must be a mistake": Nope. You got an address in the form
anyname@--------.net or anyname@------.com, right? Well, all we here at
---------.net do is send rejection notices. If you got this email address, it
wasn't an accident. No, you've definitely been rejected.


The mail had a lot more information but that somes it up. Hilarious to say the least !!!!

Games people play
Stayed up pretty late last night watching the repeat telecast of the Olympics. I realized that there are events where I have a very minimal knowledge i.e. without the judges, I can't figure out much. e.g. Gymnastics and diving. All I understand in gymnastics is that one shouldn't stumble and shouldn't move on landing. With diving, my knowledge begins and stars with the notion that its a bad thing tosplash too much water. These are terrible ways of understanding these events :) but I am aware of others who use similar yardsticks; the argument being, stupidity if repeated by many, becomes a convention :) and it feels better being termed conventional as opposed to stupid.

While on gymnastics, I was totally taken aback by Svetlana Khorkina's feel for the game. In an interview she mentioned that she wanted to win the gold as much as she wanted to mother a child. Wow! However, she placed second and looked quite dejected.

I am personally enjoying the swimming events the most. It seems to have quite a bevy of stars, and well, its easy to understand. I have to confess though that they have started putting question marks on my understanding with all the rules about turning over (reference to the drama of Aaron Peirsol's medal) but still it's refreshing to watch. That makes me feel like washing up before breakfast!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The million dollar question(s)
While on the topic of searches, Google finally went for trade this morning and rose by a considerable chunk to end the day at above $100 (it started at $85). I read that the two founders made around $40 million each by selling small parts of their holdings and mind you this is real money we are talking abt. Wow! Could you imagine 10 years back if someone told you that the web would be so big that you will need a multi-billion dollar search engine to help you around it? Man! Do you think the guys who came up with the idea of a telephone directory made a billion? A little inquisitiveness can take you a long way. So keep asking the questions ...

While on the topic of millionaires, I have to share this trivia about John Carpenter, the first guy to win $1 million on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. For his final question he used the "Phone-A-Friend" option to call up his dad, not for help, but to let him know that he is all set to be a millionaire. That's style!

Search on
I just started wondering what I would do if Google started charging for searches, even if its a meagre amount, say 1 cent for every 10 searches, On an average day I use Google at least 15-25 times. This would translate to about $8 a year, an amount I wouldn't mind paying. I am also quite sure that if such a situation ever arises they would have some feature for unlimited searches for an annual fee too.

In my opinion several people will still continue to use Google, for the simple reason that it is one of the rare cases where the second best is miles away in competition (I personally feel Yahoo holds that spot). Microsoft has successfully used to this idea to thwart the plethora of Open Source OSs (I won't even get into the academic discussion of which is better, I am talking solely from a usability point of view). If you are considerably better than your closest competitor you can charge money and still get away with it on the web. Sadly, other services like e-mail etc have not managed to do that because most services are comparable and companies would run the risk of loosing their loyalists to others (remember usamail) by making them spend the bucks.

The interesting thing with search however is that its a web based service. So you don't have to be completely loyal to it, unlike your OS. So if a search service starts asking for money, people will always try first with the free service(s) and if unsatisfied, will revert back to the paid service. I am trying to think in how many of my daily searches I actually need (use) the true power of Google and I don't have a defnitive answer. Anyways!

No Nonsense
Well, once again Larry has given me something to think about. On knowing that I was majorly into anagram solving these days, Larry had suggested "cryptograms" to me. Cryptograms are words where every alphabet in the word is replaced by another one (a direct one-to-one mapping). So "blog" can be a cryptogram for "felt" (b=f, l=e, o=l, g=t). By this logic any four letter word with unique letters will qualify as a solution to the problem.

Anyway, Larry had given me the cryptogram BEBOPBOP. I have to confess that my skills with this were far inferior to my anagram solving abilities (and I am not saying that's great either:)) So, on my surrender, Larry gave me the answer - NONSENSE, which now explains the title of this entry :)

Well, now coming to the beauty of the answer: BEBOPBOP makes us pronounce it as Bee-Bop-Bop. So we try to find a word that has a repeated sound twice in succession at its end and that's where we fail. In all my years of using the word nonsense, and in participating in several activities that classify as nonsense, I never realized that the word has NSE NSE repeated twice. I asked four other people this evening and none of them had noticed it either. This sure is no no nse nse. Hola!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Random notes
Well, my speculations were right it seems. Bubin just informed me that the Indian media has pretty much touched upon every aspect associated with Rajyavardhan Rathore, interviewing him, his parents, his colleagues, his neighbors etc. etc. Bubin even jested that now the channels have to really do something out of the hat to bring a new interview (I shall no even get into Bubin's suggestion). On the web front Rediff seems to be winning the race with interviews of the man himself, his mom, wife and coach, and I am pretty sure that this is just the beginning.

On a personal front, I unearthed an old classic from the film Jeene Ki Raah called Ek Banjara Gaye and put it in my repeat music list. Then went on to get a fair amount of work done with PlanetLab. Have a meeting in the afternoon! Gotta get back to work. More later, alligator!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Oft repeated
I just realized a strange phenomenon that has happened in the past as well. The case in question being repeat telecasts on TV. I was watching the women's team gymnastics, knowing that Romania had won and USA placed second. Yet, while watching, I was hoping that the USA team wins. Strange but true and this has happened in the past as well - I feel the excitement during the repeat telecast of the Natwest final which India clinched and still feel a little scared. I wonder if I am strange or if this is feeling is commonplace.

On the topic of replays, I remember a joke by Alonzo Bodden (who I thought should have won Last Comic Standing) - "men forget, that's why we invented action-replay to watch what we just saw" :)

Its all a game
My apartment mate just won a Sony PlayStation 2. So the ambiance is almost festive in the house. Sadly, I have never been a part of the gaming frenzy. Largely because of inability to master any of them. My gaming resume boasts of Minesweeper, Solitaire and the customary Prince of Persia. Ooops! Almost forgot Pacman! That's it! The moment I saw good ol' Dhaji spend a day trying to master Age Of Empire, I knew my limited skills are indeed limited. Neither do I have the ability nor the patience to play these games. So when Sid spends long nights trying to be a Jedi in Star Wars, I sit and watch Conan crack some joke on Late Night! Ahem.

TOI has crossed all levels of crass-dom. I am quoting 5 articles from the TOI front page:

"A spray to boost the female libido", "Porn as measure of freedom", "Pamela doesn't want Lee to steal her thunder", "Liz launches invisible lingerie", "Paris Hilton bares it all".

What? That's it - this is going to be my last article criticizing what used to be a premier "news" paper. I am not objecting to these articles. The colorful TOI supplement used to be quite a thrill for us in my undergrad days, but I refuse to accept that these articles deserve a spot in the front page of the site.

But then who cares and more importantly, why care ?

Shot sighted
Normally I try to provide a link to any news article I mention but it is no difficult job now to get information on Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's silver medal winning performance. Every newspaper in the country will splash its pages in the coming days with information on this story. They will start with several "exclusive interviews" with the man himself and then interview everybody associated with him (starting from family and ending with distant neighbors). All I can say is - way to go man! Kudos.

Spent the whole morning waiting in queues (needed to get some work done for my car) and shopping. Awfully tired right now! Shall write more in the evening but for now shall leave with this interesting site on word trivia that I have been going through for the past few days (my personal favorite is this section on misspellings).

Titan vs Titan
So Alien and Predator have taken the battle to the big screen. Superman and Batman are planning to join forces in an upcoming venture. That makes me wonder which other characters are worth putting together on screen to either join forces or battle it out for supremacy. Tons of ideas are flowing and moi shall make this the first installment:

1. Poirot and Holmes: This has to be an awesome combination. Just the visual itself is dipped in charisma. However, I don't want them to join forces. They should both try to outwit each other. For an adventure so challenging Moriarty has to be brought back too, but not as the main culprit - more of a sinister cameo.

2. Garfield and Jerry: Tom makes Jerry run around and we have all seen that at some level Jerry enjoys this excitement. I am extremely curious to know how Garfield will take to this skillful rodent and whether Jerry will enjoy the benefits of sloth.

3. Stanley Ipkiss and the Ace Ventura: Two of the wildest characters to have ever hit silver screen. The masked Ipkiss and the hold-no-bar Ventura will be the craziest combination of physical comedy that I can think of. To top it all we get twice as much of Jim Carrey and I will not complain to that.

4. Catherine Tramell and Meredith Johnson: Aha! This one's the pick of the lot! The smooth talking leg splitting Tramell from Basic Instinct and the no nonsense Johnson from Disclosure battling out for the ultimate femme fatale title. Needless to say Michael Douglas has to be involved. Just the thought of seeing Stone and Moore on screen together will be worth every dollar of the ticket.

Enough, no more. Tis not so sweet now as it was before.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Rambling

A thousand pleas to the deafened ear,
A thousand cries galore,
A thousand promises for a fresh new start,
All makes the heart turn sore ...

Alas! The wrong's been done now.
Alas! I didn't atone.
Alas! The past is a memory now.
Alas! All alone!

A thousand dreams that once looked real
Mock me in my sleep.
A fact that I thought was a passing phase
Doth slowly start to seep.

There's more to write, so much more
But the memories give the blue
Alas! I thought it was all a dream.
Alas! I know it's true.

A Desi Inspiration
While India sits anxiously for the Pillai's and George's to get it a medal in the Olympics, they should also keep a prayer for Mohini Bhardwaj, a gymnast of partial Indian origin, who is a part of the US Olympics team. You can check out her profile here.

Even though I am excited by her genealogy, its her struggle which I find admirable. The girl is 25, an age that is considered prehistoric in the world of competitive gymnastics. Yet she has worked hard to make it to the team to realize her dreams, proving my long standing assertion that you keep achieving till the day you feel you can . Moreover, she has really worked hard to support herself (at one point she survived solely on power-bars because she couldn't afford any other food). I wish her efforts pay off. Way to go!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Two Bad
Saw two bad movies over the weekend and with all due apologies to Pummy it is now review time. The first movie is the battle of the titans - AVP aka Alien Vs Predator. From what I remember (this is sarcasm coz the fact is that I distinctly remember) both these characters had performed monstrous atrocities in their original movies but in this installment of the saga, one of them almost turns good (I shall not give the spoiler as to who that was). The movie, though bad, had this one line which I can't help but reproduce:

"The gun is like a condom, I'd rather have one and not need it than need it and not have one."

The second movie we watched is Tarzan. A bad Hindi movie - I won't say anything else. Bad movie!

Where's the spice?
First of all a happy Independence Day to any Indian reading this. Hola time!

Secondly, Pummy wanted me to put more spice in my blog because she wants things other than reviews, news or word games. Apparently sex scandals suited her taste fine but currently I am as away from such libidinous news as Ashish Nehra is to his maiden test century :( All my supply of spice comes from TOI front pages - the last few days having seen articles on Dusky Indian women, Asian women with famous scandals (courtesy the much publicized Faria Alam affair) and discussions on porn vs erotica. Man! I have expressed by utter disapproval of the way TOI is becoming a trash paper and these articles just go on to strengthen that belief.

Incidentally, I saw Alien Vs Predator last night but to honor Pummy's request shall refrain from putting up the review now.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

"It's deja vu all over again"
The title is one of my favorite quotes from the king of quotes Yogi Berra. The man made some remarkable near-tautological quotes, some of which can be checked out here.

Anyway the reason for the quote is an almost state of being lost and confused I am currently in - I think the reason is sleepiness. Hmmm! That implies it is time to take a shower.

Friday Night Blues II
Part of my Friday night movie watching blah blah blah - yada yada yada - saw Hyderabad Blues II. The sequel to Nagesh Kukunoor's sleeper hit H Blues. The critics didn't seem to like the movie but I personally enjoyed it. It wasn't great (I think the original itself wasn't great but novel) but definitely watchable. Some of the lines were quite witty and the movie does justice to the notion of a sequel. The acting and production values, given the relatively low budget, weren't extraordinary but some of the moments (like the wife breaking down in the end) was very well acted. Kukunoor excels more in the role of a writer than as a director or actor. Most of the characters from the first one are back and if you liked the first one you will at least not hate this one. I would say a 2.5/5 (don't take my scores too seriously coz moi no critic for sure). Good night!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Word for word
Had another talk with Larry on my present obsession with word trivia. Larry suggested these two really cool anagrams (the coolness will automatically unravel after solving them) - canoe and esoteric.

Also figured out that the so called raccoonnookkeeper entry I made a few days back, claiming it to have the longest chain of consecutive pairs, might not be a completely recognized word - using the same logic one source claimed that flooddoorroommeeting does better. Blah!

BTW, another old trivia that came up in my meeting with Larry is that Mozambique is the only country with all the vowels in its name. So much for trivia!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

A Matter Well Left
13th August is World Left Hander's Day. TOI has this article on left handers with an interesting set of trivia (like sinistrophobia is the fear of being left handed) and lists some famous left handers. However, surprisingly they have picture of Gandhiji (because he was left handed) where he is shown writing with his right hand !!!! Maybe I missed the irony. Anyway I Googled for "Right Hander's Day" and apparently there is no such day but they had posts of people complaining against this discrimination.

40+ and going on
Pummy recommended me a bunch of Hindi tracks. I haven't got through the whole list because I am completely smitten by the two tracks Jana Jane Wala and Kahon Na Kaho from the film Murder. The songs are really good and I am probably listening to them after everybody has heard them but I am really taken aback by the numbers. The singer, Amir Jamal, has a very different voice (kind of resembles Strings) and I have listened to the songs consecutively at least 40 times each (with everybody else around me complaining!). So in case you haven't yet heard them give them a try.

Also probably had my longest messenger chat in the past two years, lasting almost 5 hrs. I realized that the whole beauty of doing computer science is that you can work on communication and communicate at the same time. Hola! or should I say Yahoo!

Copy and Paste
Discovered this pretty neat site which has a collection of some songs that Anu Malik has been "inspired by". The nice thing is that the site has small clips of most of the original and copied versions so that you can judge for yourself whether to hand down the baton of plagiarism. My personal favorite was the song "Sun sun sun barsaat ke dhun" from the movie Sir. Not only did they just lift the tune of the song directly they stole the lyrics as well. You have to listen to it to believe. Ctr+C.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Raga Man
The title of this entry is an anagram of Anagram. The reason behind the cryptic heading is that I spent a fair amount of time on anagrams today. Also read up a little bit on anagrams - a PhD always builds aptitude for research :) Re-discovered this site in the process which is a comprehensive collection of all things cool on the topic.

Spent a certain amount of time figuring out complete words that lead to other complete words themselves. Discovered - preserve (perverse), propose (opposer) and the likes. Interesting!!

While on the topic of word trivia remembered Larry mentioning that the longest chain of consecutive pairs of letters can be found in - "raccoonnookkeeper". Larry seriously has a vast range of things he is well read on. A perfect idol!

The winner takes it all
The Olympics are here. I did not follow the last Olympic very diligently but boy I used to be a Olympic enthusiast when I was growing up. My father fed me with a generous dose of Sportstars and Sportsworlds, that taught me enough to love the event whole heartedly. I am trying to think of all the people I think of when I think Olympics and lots of the names evade me, appearing only as news flashes, nevertheless I shall try:

1. Carl Lewis - used to admire him. I remember him coming down to India (and doing dismally). Moi was the only guy in my friend group to support him over Ben Johnson. 9 gold medals - need I say more. Din't he once start singing also - if I remember correctly he was quite popular in Japan.

2. Nadia Comaneci - I actually didn't see here perform but heard and read so much about her that I associate the games with her in a big way. Moreover, DD had a TV series that chronicled her career. Perfect 10 et al.

3. Kristin Otto - now I did see this one. The 1988 games - this East German became the Mark Spitz of female swimming by winning 6 gold medals (4 individual). It's a pity we forget legends so soon.

4. Miloslav Mecir - this one is a difficult one as not too many people remember him. He used to be a bearded tennis player who won the men's singles gold in 1988, the same year when another favorite of mine, Steffi Graf won the only Golden Grand Slam (the 4 Grand Slams and the Olympic gold in the same year).

5. Sergei Bubka - I remember this pole vaulter created a World Record for breaking the maximum number of World Records (talk abt innovation). He used to organize events for himself just to outdo his previous records. I remember he wasn't much of a performer in the Olympics though. He won the gold but came nowhere close to the standards he had set for the event himself.

6. Jackie Joyner - brought back glamour and charisma to women's sprint events in a big way. Set the standards for the athletes to come. Great sports personality.

Time to eat!

The source of all junk
I just checked the various ways in which people have been reaching this humble blog zone and noticed that some of the google searches that led to this page are simply hilarious. Here are some of my favs:

1. "From our records we understand that you are inquiring about a new profession": I remember making this entry during my obsessed days with spam but never did I imagine people searching for this phrase. I have no clue why someone would have tried that query. Interestingly, in spite of the zillion spams we receive with this content, mine is the only web page that answered the query http://www.google.com/search?q=%22From+our+records+we+understand%22+that+you+are+inquiring+about+a+new+profession&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8.

2. girlfriend hindi film review lesbian razdan scene: Wow! Someone was really very specific in their needs. They wanted a scene from the movie but also wanted a review. This is an aesthetic pervert I would say. I remember writing more of sociological entry on this topic but then those words did creep up and if you are searching for such specific details - my page is your abode buddy! Interestingly, the query no longer returns my page.

3. There were other stray queries too like "jay leno matrix skit shaking hands" and "dhoom dhoom tata young music charts" that led to this page but those are not as amusing as the above two. There are tonsa others to report - I shall save them for later, alligator.

The New Whacko Jacko
Subs insisted (I have to vehemently defend my stance here) that I watch 5 minutes of Outback Jack, one of the zillion reality shows where a bevy of beauties vie for some cool dude's attention - the guy in question being Outback Jack, who from my limited viewership was a confirmed "luvah". So Subs and I switched channels to watch this hilarious rip roaring comedy (unintentional yet funny) in between the finals of Last Comic Standing. In the words of Subs - the show brings down the IQ of a person by 2 points for every second of viewing. I saw the show for around 3 minutes (by Subs logic I am as smart as a calculator right now) and there were two women who were pretending to be really concerned about Jack's choice - I dunno what happened but seeing the dude (he doesn't even have a shirt) I feel bad for the girl who would get Jack in a box.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Dot to dot
Suddenly remembered the dot-to-dot drawing books I loved as a kid. You know the ones where you connect dots and hola! you have Little Bo Peep sitting pretty. Isn't it funny how simple things give you excitement that is unfathomable when you grow up :( The dot-to-dot also made me remember a game a friend of mine and I used to play, connecting stray words like:

Dot - full stop - stop - start - race - rat - brat - boy - girl - man - male - hotmail - dot.com - dot!

Reminds me of a certain thing Bubin mentioned some time back with his own sweet explanation. According to him we remember nursery rhymes and songs from our childhood and can recite them at the drop of a hat because no one forced us to learn these things (come to think of it my mom actually forced me to learn a few of them) -it's this absence of compulsion which makes you truly enjoy things. Is it? I remember reading in Feynman's book that he performed best when he worked for fun. Its been a while since I did things just for the fun of it. Hmmm!

More on the engineers
... and now I have touched on my favorite issue - that of Indian engineers. I can sit and rant about them for ages (and have done so in the past). My somewhat lackadaisical attitude towards my fraternity has often led to people engaging in lengthy discussions with me. However, being part of them I am justified in being critical or at least, if I may dare say, qualified enough to do so.

The one thing that has started worrying me abt engineering jobs is the multitude in which we appear. We are everywhere. What does that do to individuality? I have seen talented folks and abecedarians do the same thing. I term this as intellectual socialism - the smart become dumber and the dumb get elevated - the end results is a hodgepodge - you have no idea where the path being treaded is heading towards. Its convoluted to say the least but often not in the exciting "puzzly" fashion.

Lest I sound like a detractor of the profession let me clarify that engineering does provide a very good average pay. It still has a fair amount of challenge and often you might get to see your work in the form of reality - but the question to wonder/ponder is - is that all you dream of? Or is there a desire to truly make a difference? The difference which only you could make. Time to take a break from early morning blues ... shall return in a more lively mood hopefully for later posts :)

Monday, August 09, 2004

Quick News
NY Times has this interesting article on how they are planning to make a car that can "emote". The car can apparently laugh, cry or even get angry at other cars. Talk about Car-isma.

One in a crowd?
I have been complaining to people about the abundance of engineers in today's society. There are literally a zillion of us and I feel the numbers are increasing every day. My father was/is highly respected by his friends because he was an engineer (they had to work hard and be engineers to prove their adept mental aptitude). As a matter of fact I have been told that one of the attributes of my then hippie-looking dad that appealed to my mom's romantic frenzies was his qualification. But those days are gone - now you have to be fairly dumb to not be an engineer if your parents have the resources, and those resources are not very demanding either. There are like a million seats in the engineering colleges in India (add to these the NIITs and Aptechs) and you have an engineer in every door.

What prompted me to write this entry is a mail sent by good ol' Ronny Dam. Mr. Dam, a journalist with a rich source of oft amusing information, appalled me with the fact that the MSN matrimonial site alone boasts of 1.3 million engineers in its database!!!! Do you see what I see? First of all there are more than 1.3 million engineers in that one database alone and secondly none of these people have managed to find a partner for themselves. They have not been able to sell themselves using their qualifications. And how can they? All the girls who were willing to be wooed by engineers have already found them and they didn't even have to search around. They were probably sitting in the house below theirs, or maybe they were inside the cab the girl took on her way to work (yeah! we can drive cabs too) or maybe they were, they were, they were ... Somewhere, it doesn't even matter coz they are everywhere. This is scaryyyyy! Who let these engineers out - who who who?

Some music I am listening to
People knowing me will know that I have what is oft termed as a slightly annoying habit of listening to the same song a zillion times in succession. Of late this habit has taken a modified shape where I listen to a group of songs repeatedly instead of the one song (that's what I call diversification). Some of the songs that have constituted this group for me over the past week include:

1. Jesus Walks - Kanye West - an excellent number with excellent production values
2. "Quiero - How Much I Love You" - a half Hindi/half English number by the group Viva for the movie Rakht
3. O Soniya - a peppy Punjabi number from Mujhse Shaadi Karoge - not a great number but I still have put it in my "replay list"
4. U n' I - Rishi Rich - a half English/half Punjabi number from Rishi Rich of Boom fame. The number reminds me of an old friend :) - my method of combating sentimentality is over indulgence

If you share my taste in music (which most people find cacophonous) you can try these out.

Pop goes the weasel
Even though I have been a strong proponent of Google, the toolbar of the search giant is loosing its fizzle. I guess this had to be the case. Every time a service extends its reach to be significantly larger than its competitors, people tend to show more interest in finding a work-around to the idea (take IE for example; my take is that had IE not been so popular, people would not have found so many bugs with it). So the moment I realized that Google toolbar was becoming the standard solution to pop-up blocking, I knew that the ingenious pop-up providers will find a way around the clutches of Google. So now several sites I visit come up with incessant pop-ups that Google fail to prevent (TOI is the best example of this). Interestingly, the in-built pop-up blocker of Firefox and even Avant do a much better job on this issue. Moreover, SP2 is supposed to add pop-up blocking to IE. I just feel that Google toolbar is loosing one of its strengths, even though it has enough remaining to be a great install.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

A Truck Load of Stereotypes
Man, I am watching American Desi for the second time right now and it seems so painful for now (I remember not minding it the first time around). Now, I know of a bunch of people who admire this movie but as of now I am getting really bugged by the plethora of stereotypes in the movie - they have touched on almost everything I could think of - there is the Sardarji with an accent so pronounced that it's not even Indian, the Tamilian with the accent too, the doting mom, the protective aunt, the geeky cousin - I feel bad they have left out the apparently omniscient Bengali :( Anyway need to call home now. More criticism later.

And the winner is ...
Subs just sent me the link to this article on popularity of programming languages. Well the top three rankers are Java, C and C++ - as I would have expected and the surprise (or maybe the term should be major) gainer is PHP.

My take though is that the mechanism used for calculating these ratings is not the best (it relies on Google and Yahoo search engines). To judge the strength of programming languages it is imperative that actual programmers be queried. Nevertheless, I feel that the results are truly representative of the current programming scenario, though I am curious to know the reason for the sudden drop in the popularity of Java this year (I would call this an anomaly). Also I think the ratings for languages with ratings below A do not necessarily make much sense as their %s are small and a small deviation could have brought about a significant change in popularity. Personally, I was surprised to find Prolog and Ada in the top 20. A good read!

Solitude, depression and a movie
The day went by in a fairly depressing fashion. No reasons for the gloomy ambiance though - I just feel low. There is a sense of vagueness in the air and the mind has been flooded with questions which arise at moments of idleness. I guess this period of pathos will continue for a while till I figure out the cause and remedy. Anyway, one buddy I can count on in these times of need is the AMC 12 theatres next to my house where I go and entertain myself to a movie to forget the worries of the moment. Tonight's movie was Michael Mann's critically acclaimed Collateral.

I rally enjoyed the movie though I can see why some people (including the ones who accompanied me) might not enjoy it that much. The movie is not an action adventure but a psychological thriller and if you go to the theatres expecting that you will not be disappointed. What I really liked about the movie is that the tension is interspersed with moments of calm (including a soothing background score) and it is this juxtaposition that brings about a great sense of excitement. Performance wise Tom Cruise is delectable in a negative character and suits the role to the T. However, as the critics have raved, Jamie Fox is the surprise package. Fox delivers a really ordinary character (I liked the way they avoided the character from becoming an absolute underdog) with extraordinary panache. Overall a 3.5/5 but mind you if you are expecting an-on-the-edge-of-the-seat thriller alone, you might be slightly disappointed.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

When there was no URL left
At times you see art imitating life but today I saw my blog try to justify its name. Since morning the URL refused to let me log in and even though blogspot kept sending me links which would apparently activate the account, nothing happened. So for a short time today there "no URL left" called "no-url-left". Irony? Or is it sheer internet malfunctioning? Anyway, today was a day well spent between work and play (literally - I went bowling today) and I have no desire/enthusiasm/energy to write now. It must however be mentioned that interestingly I scored 114 in both the games (which is better than mediocre but not good enough to be termed good)! Eh- kya "bowl"ta tu (cheesy but irresistible to me right now :))

Friday, August 06, 2004

It's time to atone
I got some good feedback on the disappointing numbers I commented on last night. Both the feedbacks pointed out one common factor - the phenomenon of the blog becoming more news and less views. Contemplating on the issue made me realize that if people have to read news they probably have better sources and having realized the truth of the matter (at this point I make this issue sound really grave) I shall work hard (as hard as I can in the ten minutes I spend on writing this blog every day) to amend the situation :)

An interesting discussion with a friend on the issue of blogs come to mind. We were discussing the issue of why people read blogs that have no general information but are more like a single individual's web diary. I personally read one such blog and my stance was that it is almost a harmless form of near-voyeuristic feeling. I guess you follow the life of a person without being intrusive and at some level you compare it with yours; that might be a whole load of BS-like philosophy but that was my stance. However, I personally often enquire about the happenings of friends of mine, who I have lost touch with, via others (without being keen enough to contact them directly). Blogs provide an unintrusive simple solution to this problem. While on this issue I still haven't figured out an answer to why people would chronicle their personal daily incidents out in the web for all and sundry, except for the sheer joy of being read! Blah! Enough on blogs and their meaningful existence.

It's time to atone
I got some good feedback on the disappointing numbers I commented on last night. Both the feedbacks pointed out one common factor - the phenomenon of the blog becoming more news and less views. Contemplating on the issue made me realize that if people have to read news they probably have better sources and having realized the truth of the matter (at this point I make this issue sound really grave) I shall work hard (as hard as I can in the ten minutes I spend on writing this blog every day) to amend the situation :)

An interesting discussion with a friend on the issue of blogs come to mind. We were discussing the issue of why people read blogs that have no general information but are more like a single individual's web diary. I personally read one such blog and my stance was that it is almost a harmless form of near-voyeuristic feeling. I guess you follow the life of a person without being intrusive and at some level you compare it with yours; that might be a whole load of BS-like philosophy but that was my stance. However, I personally often enquire about the happenings of friends of mine, who I have lost touch with, via others (without being keen enough to contact them directly). Blogs provide an unintrusive simple solution to this problem. While on this issue I still haven't figured out an answer to why people would chronicle their personal daily incidents out in the web for all and sundry, except for the sheer joy of being read! Blah! Enough on blogs and their meaningful existence.

Ratings drop

I suddenly see a ratings drop in the viewership (or is the term readership) of my blog - from an average of around 15 views/day witnessed last week, this week sees a drop to an avg of around 12. Like every major news agency I am deeply worried by the plummeting numbers - what could the possible reasons be? Was it the lack of spicy links to BS TOI articles (talking of which you should check this out), or is it because I have been stuffing too many film reviews (talking of which I plan to watch two movies over the weekend) or maybe it is the lack of voyeuristic insight to my daily actions? Whatever it is - I have sent the reporters to work and they are supposed to return back with matter worth the print space. Till then keep reading.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Tech bits
Two articles from BBC that caught my attention:

1. The makers of Viagra are going after spammers for a bunch of reasons (read here). I think that this is a big step coz unless organized bodies take up the battle against spam we are going to keep getting those zillion meaningless offers.

2. BBC also has this neat article on how Indian Call Centers are failing to retain young employees (is that a surprise?) and are turning to the older strata of the population.

Another interesting article from a different read, talks of this really cool jacket (article has photo) that is equipped with an mp3-player and head phones et al. Cool!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Web Bazaar
Some recent articles that I have read pointed out some interesting differences between normal markets and the web-based markets. Here are some things that I found interesting:

  • Unlike normal retail based stores web stores can't possibly keep increasing their audience base by opening news shops i.e. If Walmart opens a new shop they get immediate new customers but how does eBay emulate this concept?

  • With web based advertising people can find out exactly how many times their ads are being watched and make decisions accordingly. TV or newspaper based ads can only approximate this but with the web this is going to be really precise. So in the long run this can affect the "ad targets" if they are not performing as well.


  • More on this topic to follow soon.

    Tuesday, August 03, 2004

    Yet Another Movie
    Mujshe Shaadi Karoge! Saw it, didn't despise it, didn't love it, laughed with it at times, love at it at times - so you decide whether you want to watch this movie. The film borrows its basic plot from Anger Management and Meet The Parents, adds a Matrix like action sequence, sprinkles it with a general dose of songs and dances and finally presents a truck load of cameos from the cricketing world. A typical David Dhawan escapist fare. You might hate it later but you wouldn't mind sitting through it while it lasts.

    I feel this blog is becoming more of a movie review zone. However, I believe that film reviews will be more useful than my general views on nothing. Nothing more to be said for now.

    Stray reads
    A bunch of things that caught my attention from my early morning news read:

    1. A few weeks back I put up a list of mainstream English movies in which Indians appeared, claiming that Indian portrayals have been highly typecasted. TOI today has this article claiming that Indians have been making it big in English movies for long. I don't agree with the list - Jungle Book 2, Foreign Body and East is East are definitely not mainstream movies and I don't think anybody remembers Kabir Bedi's character in Octopussy etc. I will agree that Star Trek and LXG are mainstream movies but will stick to my opinion that Indians have failed to hit it big time in Hollywood.

    2. NY Times reports of a new reality show on UPN called the "Player" where the objective is to break someone's heart before they break yours. Reality TV surprises me with every passing day coz just when I think they can't get any more ludicrous, the levels of travesty reach new dizzying peaks to prove me wrong.

    3. NY Times also reports that Lycos is being bought over for appx $100 million, which is less than 1% the price at which was formerly bought. Well, well! The times have changed.

    ON a non news note I watched M. Shyamalan's interview on Howard Stern last night and was quite impressed by the guy's ability to keep a calm amidst what could have been termed as slightly offensive statements. Moreover, he appeared to be quite different from the reclusive image the media associates with him. I guess I was reading the wrong "Signs"!

    Monday, August 02, 2004

    The "Maverick"
    Saw an interesting interview of Mark Cuban (internet tycoon, sports enthusiast and now reality TV celebrity) on CNBC's McEnroe (incidentally, the show is quite impressive with greats guests and McEnroe's very "non-talk-show-ish" persona). One line that really caught my attention was - "Always look out for the sucker in the table, coz if you can't see the one it must be you". This one probably sounds like a cool line but I found its implications quite profound. Hmmm!

    Movies of the season
    Well! I have oft repeated that this has been a fairly disappointing summer in terms of blockbusters. Most movies have failed to deliver what I expected from them. So I thought of compiling a list of movies I liked and what I would term as my summer picks (the summer is still not over with Collateral and the Princess Diaries sequel readying for release).

    1. Kill Bill 2 (this one actually released a little before summer): Simply awesome. Tarantino is a genius. Nothing more has to be said. Simply whoa! material.

    2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: My fav summer movie. The director added a lot of his personal touch to the movie and really captured a unique mood. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

    3. Shrek 2: Probably the biggest summer earner (unless Spidey spins some crazy web). Very intelligent. Had some really witty moments - moments where you feel that you are the only one who got the joke. Moreover, I admired the fact that the movie's humor appealed to both children and the grown ups.

    4. Dodgeball: I was wondering whether to put this one above Spidey 2 or not. The fact is that I think I enjoyed Spidey more when I saw it but given a chance to watch one of these movies again, given my slightly gloomy disposition, I think I might settle for this one first.

    5. Spider Man 2: One of the rare cases where the sequel totally out does the predecessor. I did not enjoy the first one but the second one managed to entertain me totally. Cool action, nice characters, wry humor - everything I look forward in a summer blockbuster. I am sure you have already watched it but in case you haven't - you should.

    Sunday, August 01, 2004

    The Village Story
    I finally managed to see The Village, after canceling my plans twice and after being offered terrible show timings from the local theatre. This was definitely the weakest one from the house of Shyamalan. The movie was neither scary nor spooky. Moreover, the whole premise, though novel, seemed highly flimsy. There were some good moments, but not enough to salvage my opinion about the movie. Moreover, the shocker ending, which has become a trademark of Shyamalan, though surprising, didn't add much to the movie's appeal. Overall a 2.25/5 I would say. People watching the movie should also watch out for Shyamalan's Hitchcock-ish cameo (which I found innovative). Nah! Unless Harold and Kumar does something awesome, this will be a fairly disappointing movie weekend for me :(

    One, two ... computers are what you do
    CNN had this article that talks about computers and toddlers. I was appalled/amused to find that there are sites and software aimed at people between 2-3. I barely knew the alphabets when I was 2. Man, technology Is reaching out to people.

    I caught a bit of the India vs. Sri Lanka Asia Cup final before dozing off. We lost and till the point I saw the match, the outcome appeared to be the same too. Hmmm! I seriously feel that we should start playing both Kumble and Bhajji and ensure that Zaheer is fully fit and Nehra knows how to bowl straight. But all this is coming from a guy who spent less time in the batting or bowling crease compared to the time he spent in critiquing the game - so I am one of those idiots whose opinion should not matter. So you can shun it at your own free will.

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