Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Journey of my Tux - part I

Regular readers, don't get the wrong idea. This post is not about a Tuxedo. This is the journey of a different kind of Tux - Tux the penguin on my desktop. In a rare departure from non-technical topics, the software guy in me has woken up on a weekend and prompted me to type a slightly techie topic.

Ever since I started using computers, MS Windows based desktops have been around. The nerdy command line was fast losing favor among the fast increasing computer user base. Thus as I was familiarizing myself with computers I found myself at the beginning of a war of words between the command line nerds and the newbie mouse button mashers. A little over a decade later, GUI based OSes have taken over the world.

Over the years I have started to see MS Windows as an OS that is designed to suck out any ounce of available performance from your computer and make the snail proud of its speed. No matter how good the hardware is, every new version seems to require better hardware to deliver about the same apparent performance as its previous version. Of course my claim is debatable and MS loyalists will be quick to point out several arguments and baseline test results against my argument. This argument and then the additional costs of security with Windows have led me to look at other options for my home PC.

Thus over the years I always have had a dual boot on my home desktop with some or other flavor of Linux as the other OS. Unix and Linux are favorites among the aforementioned command line nerds. They will point out quotes like "Unix is simple. It just takes a genius to understand its simplicity". Its this kind of trash talk during college days that prompted the wannabe nerd in me to install my first Linux OS, even as I was still figuring out the difference between DEL and SHIFT+DEL on Windows.

The first install of Red Hat Linux (RHL) was full of problems. My video card wasn't really supported and my 17 inch monitor considered too large. After several reboots, and hours of browsing through hardware manuals and manually entering settings such has supported video modes, horizontal sync frequency etc... I finally got it working. To my disappointment after installing Linux and login I couldn't do much more than say playing Tetris or learning shell programming. Doing anything useful such as checking mail, browsing internet, editing documents took a lot of work. Most configuration was not obvious. Open source applications were there but they left a lot desired as compared to the Windows counterparts. Besides most popular PC games (with exception of Quake II) only worked on Windows. So with computer games as my prime hobby most of computer time was spent gaming on the Windows machine.

An interesting thing about Linux is that a lot of software is built to not just work via command line, but be even efficient about it. The most famous is perhaps the cryptic but quite efficient vi. Of course after all these years I still haven't figured out vi and still end up spending more time if I edit using vi then any other GUI based editor. The one command line tool, I liked though was a media player  (sorry guys can't remember the name) that could be started via command line and run completely in the background with a nice playlist of file locations and shuffle mode (long before iPod shuffle popularized that way of playing music). In a time when the popular Windows media player or Winamp tended to hog the minuscule 32 Mb ram, a command line player that didn't slow down the computer was a pleasant surprise.

Over the next few years I tried a few other flavors of Linux as well. The noteworthy one was SUSE because of a much user friendly install than RHL. Of course RHL also improved a lot and became a lot  more user friendly with every version and I had gotten comfortable with the apps packaged with RHL. So RHL continued to be the favored Linux. Win 98 the dominant OS then was full of crashes, the famous  blue screen and very vulnerable to viruses and trojans. Linux on the other hand almost never crashed. There number of known viruses was almost ZERO. So basically I felt quite secure as I worked with the Tux.

College ended and I joined my first big job. I moved out of my home town and bid good bye to my dearest PC. For the next few years I didn't really have my own PC to screw with and thus came a long break in my journey with the Tux. A journey where I did learn to find my way around a Linux command shell. I had learned the value of patience when trouble shooting seemingly silliest of issues. I hadn't turned into a command line nerd, but had certainly gained some comfort with the keyboard. These linux /unix skills worked as a pretty neat side effect later in my job as a software engineer. Guess the journey with Tux had its benefits after all.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twitterati: 3 Paces of Dwarf-man

This is my third story in the Twitterati series. As usual format of this fiction is thus. I create a post with a bunch of imaginary tweets (or conversation) from characters in a story. The story itself would be loosely based (i.e. I have taken a lot of creative liberty to twist the tale) on some myth or legend. There are some obvious anachronisms here such as twitter and mobile connectivity.

Today's tale is a spoof of one myth that I first read in an Amar Chitra Katha comic written by the one and only Anant Pai. For the uninitiated he is better known as Uncle Pai to couple of generations who grew up visualizing myths and history through his comics long before Television started creating series about popular myth and historic characters. Thus I would like to dedicate this post to Uncle Pai. May his soul rest in peace.

Once upon a time there was a Demon king - @GreatBaLee. He rose from the underworld, conquered the Earth and most of Heaven. @ThunderLord managed to save his throne and escape with some Apsaras on his elephant. As the tale begins, @GreatBaLee has decided to perform the Horse Sacrifice - the ultimate sacrifice performed by a King to announce his reign. 

@GreatBaLee
Come on Guru. I could just attack @ThunderLord and dethrone him... Nearly did that last time until he pulled out some special trick.

@ThankGodItsFriday
Trust me ... Horse Sacrifice will be great. It will establish your rule in a blood less way.

@GreatBaLee
Whatever you say.

@ThankGodItsFriday
Muhahahaa... @GreatBaLee seems to have bought the horse sacrifice idea. This will be fun to watch as @ThunderLord hides behing his Apsaras. Can't wait to see @ThunderLord's pride bite the dust. A direct war would have been just too honorable for that egotist.

In the mean time somewhere near @WishNo's abode.
@ThunderLord
That smart ass @ThankGodItsFriday knows I have no army left, so he wants to humiliate me by having me loose whatever is left of my kingdom to the horse sacrifice... @WishNo that demon king is your devotee. Do something.

@WishNo
Do you mind ... I was just about to have an intimate moment with my wife ...
Alright what do you mean by "do something". When he attacked the first time you were to busy with clubbing with ladies ... err ahem (with a naughty smile) .. I mean Apsaras.

@ThunderLord
Hey .. I was Not clubbing !! .Just watching the dance program of the Apsaras. You know a King's got to promote Art. Besides he attacked on a Friday night. Even a King is allowed to relax a little on Friday. He must have got this idea from his guru that weasel @ThankGodItsFriday.

@WishNo
Yeah right ... Art.. huh !! Think everyone knows that you are interested in the artists more than their art.... Nevermind.. remind me why should I get rid of @GreatBaLee.

@ThunderLord
I don't have much of a problem with @GreatBaLee. He is a good guy. But come on!!! .. he represents the underworld ... You can imagine how powerful his kinsmen would be if they didn't fear us.

@WishNo
Admit it. You are jealous of @GreatBaLee and are afraid that the Apsaras will flip for him if you loose.

@ThunderLord
... Mmmm.... Mmmm .... Alright Alright. I am jealous. Just get rid of him.

@WishNo
I am not really keen doing this ... but I think I'll try out a new super hero persona I have been working on... The pint sized, non violent super-hero Dwarf-Man.

@ThunderLord
Whatever .. just get rid of @GreatBaLee.

On the day of the horse sacrifice, @WishNo appears in @GreatBaLee court in his super hero get up.
@Dwarf-Man is a literally a dwarf. A frail, bald Monk, dressed in saffron, holding a little umbrella.

@DwarfMan
Oh @GreatBaLee I hear you are very generous. Won't you give some alms to this poor monk.

@GreatBaLee
Sure. The @GreatBaLee philanthropic foundation will be happy to help. Guru @ThankGodItsFriday would you mind getting the cheque book and I'll sign over a 10000 swarna mudras to this little monk.

@DwarfMan
I don't want your money. I just want 3 paces of land.

@ThankGodItsFriday
Its a trap. @GreatBaLee just kick him out. He is an evil gnome sent by @ThunderLord.

@GreatBaLee
No can do @ThankGodItsFriday. I have given my word... When it comes to philanthropy I don't go back on my word. @DwarfMan Don't think of me as mocking you ... but you are so small, 3 paces of land with the size of your foot .... that's like nothing.. Are you sure ? I could just sign over a handsome amount in cheque.

@DwarfMan
I don't believe in the banking industry. Just let me measure my 3 paces of land and I'll be off.

@ThankGodItsFriday
@GreatBaLee I am telling you, this is some devious scheme from that @ThunderLord. Kick him out.

@GreatBaLee
That old man @ThankGodItsFriday is nuts. @DwarfMan please go ahead with your measurements.

@DwarfMan
 By the power of @WishNo

@DwarfMan Raises his umbrella like He-Man's sword and calls upon his super power and grows to a massive size. In his first stride he steps on all heaven, in his next stride he covers all Earth. He is ready to put his third stride, but nowhere to place it.

@DwarfMan
@GreatBaLee - I told you 3 paces are enough. Now where do I put my third step.

@ThankGodItsFriday
Told you that its a trap. You moron @GreatBaLee now your generosity has cost us everything we conquered.

@GreatBaLee
Ohh s**t .... s**t ... S**T !!! .. should have listened @ThankGodItsFriday.
Still I am a man of my word. All I have left is me, so you can place your third step on my head.
PS - I know @DwarfMan is really @WishNo ....Don't forget I am a devotee

@DwarfMan
Yeah @GreatBaLee I know you are my devotee... But @ThunderLord is among my kinsmen. You know the deal - family comes first. I'll just push you back in your underworld, you can stay there for an eternity.

@ThunderLord
Hey Apsaras ... Lets party, Open the bar. I am back in business. @WishNo you rock !.
Lets do an Apsara calendar... Get ready in your best swimwear.

@WishNo
Spoken too soon @ThunderLord. @GreatBaaLee - Figure this, since you have been a good guy I'll grant you a boon. Once every year you can come back to Earth and there will be a party all over the streets that night. There will be fireworks, people will rejoice and light lamps....Nobody will remember @ThunderLord then.

From that year on, the return of @GreatBaLee is celebrated on the third day of the "Festival of Lights". It sure is a party worth watching. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Twitterati: Mark and Die

My first attempt at fiction was well received. Due to the roaring success (yippie .. 5 people commented back), I have decided to continue with the series. Today's tale is again loosely based on a myth and is anachronistic with tweets.

Once upon a time a sage named @MrikCan'tDo was unable to have children. He prayed the great @LordOfDance and his prayer was powerful enough to penetrate @LordOfDance's trance.

@MrikCan'tDo
Oh Lord... looks like my little soldiers aren't marching far enough ... please help.

@LordOfDance
Ha Ha ...Even your name says Mrik Can't do :P .... But you have come to the right place.. I shall help you with your "Do". Would you like a child prodigy set to die at 16 or a long lived psycotic retard.

@MrikCan'tDo
Oh tough choice .... well i have grown old trying, so no point looking after a retard for rest of my life...
Guess child prodigy is good ... .but seriously 16 .... Certainly you can give him more life..

@LordOfDance
What more life ... do you think you are bargaining at a merchandise store ? ....but I like you so here take this

@LordOfDance hands over a large stone structure to @MrikCan'tDo. 

@LordOfDance
Take my Mojo and place in your home. Your soldiers will not just march ...they will waltz their way to the destination....
And regards the death at 16 ... there is not much I can do ... you know I got contracts with @Death and his DeathSquad .....
But make sure that the kid prays my Mojo everyday and may be that is something i'll think about...
Also you can't tell the kid about his fate until his 16 birthday. If you do ... @Death might even hunt him down earlier.

That night @MrikCan'tDo sure had a good time. And yes his little boys did do the Waltz.
9 months later his wife delivered a healthy looking baby boy.
@MrikCan'tDo
At last Mrik "Can" Do .... Oh but what about the 16 year clause ... how can i tell the boy without breaking the contract.... Oh brilliant ... I'll name him @Mark16AndDie .. genius .... He is a child prodigy surely he'll figure out his own name.

16 years pass in no time. @Mark16AndDie is recognized everywhere as a child prodigy. He has just returned home after submitting his dissertation for PhD in Theology and Religious studies

@Mark16AndDie
Mom, Dad I am back. My dissertation has been approved and now i am Doctor Mark16AndDie.

@MrikCan'tDo
Yeah.. Yeah welcome. So happy to hear that Son. Also Happy Birthday.
Wait before I call for a party .. Have you been Praying @LordOfDance and and bowing before his Mojo everyday ?

@Mark16AndDie
Of course Dad.. What kind of theological student would I be, if I didn't pray to the lord himself.
I turn 16 today and one question has always haunted me.. All my friends had names with just alphabetic characters. Why does mine have numbers in it? why 16 ?

@MrikCan'tDo
I thought a genius like you would have figured out by now. Your name is a puzzle you moron.

@Mark16AndDie
Aah !! No wonder then that all these years my name has puzzled me ... why didn't you tell me it was really a puzzle.
Mark 16 ... Today is my 16 th birthday ...WTF ... am I going to die today...
Why didn't you tell me when I was 5.... I could have taken up molecular biology ... You know by know I could have perfected human cloning ........Damn .. what am I going to do ...? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ?????
Oh wait where is that Mojo ... may be Theology and a little surround sound is all I need...

@Mark16AndDie sets up an surround sound system around his room and connects it to a mic attached near his mouth. He places the Mojo in center of the room, hugs it and starts chanting the lords name with all his strength.... The neighborhood is blown by the volume output.
Minutes later @Death's Squad members arrive in their gothic costumes.

@DeathSquad-M1
S**t !! That is some loud output...I can't take this ....ouch my ear drums hurt....gotta go

@Death
You morons, you couldn't just pick up one kid. Nevermind I will take my new Limited Edition Royal Enfield Classic Bull for a spin.

@Death manages to break through the sound barrier on his bull and into @Mark16AndDie's room. @Death throws his lasso of Death around @Mark16AndDie and tries dragging him away. The hug around the Mojo is so tight that @Death also starts detaching the Mojo from its place.

@LordOfDance
Who dares put the lasso of Death around my Mojo.

@Death
Hey how did you get here. And oh ... remember our contract. Its 16 years and its time to collect my debt ... ahem ...I mean the kids body and soul.

@LordOfDance
Hmm.... Good thing then that I read Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice...
You can only take your pound of flesh ... no blood can be spilled...
Oh sorry wrong story. The contract states only the kids body. There is no mention of my Mojo... You are trying to take my mojo too ... That makes the contract null and void .... Eat this you blood thirsty Shylock .... ahem ...i mean @Death

@MrikCan'tDo
Aaha ... the daily prayer works...

@Death
Damn Shakespeare ..... @DrawingSecret where is Shakespear's life contract. Get the lawyers... I am going after him

@LordOfDance
Wow .... I beat @Death at his own contracts ... Muha ha ha.... @Mark16AndDie .... from today you shall be called @Undead
 ....Wait sorry that one has an unearthly feel. how about @DeathVictor you like it ?..
And yes now with the contract annulled ... you can live much longer ...
Talk to @WishNo. Think he has a job for you

@Mark16AndDie indeed lived on to achieve greater things under his new identity of @DeathVictor. However he is still best known around the world for his devotion to the @LordOfDance and defeating @Death



Thursday, September 06, 2012

Twitterati : One Word

I have been writing posts on this blog for a while and most of my posts are dependent on my own experiences. I have never really tried doing fiction. This post is my first attempt at writing any form of fiction. I recognize that today we are in an age of online social media so I thought why not use some of these ideas to come up with fiction.

The format of this fiction is thus. I create a post with a bunch of imaginary tweets from characters in a story. The story itself would be loosely based (i.e. I have taken a lot of creative liberty to twist the tale) on some myth or legend. The obvious anachronism here is that twitter and mobile connectivity that backs the tweets were not present in the era of the original  story or myth.

Once up a time there was a young kid called @OneWord with a dream to become the greatest archer. He followed his dream to the famous city of Elephantville with an aim of enrolling himself as disciple of the great coach @CoachDrone

@OneWord
Yo Elephantville !!
@OneWord
Looking forward to meeting with @CoachDrone

Several hours later @OneWord finally met up with and was rejected as a pupil by @CoachDrone.

@CoachDrone
Love Elephantville sports academy policies. Rejected a poor sob from "The Jungle" ... bad lineage. Muhahaaha

@OneWord
Reservation sucks. Bloody elitists and nepotists of Elephantville.

@OneWord
On second thoughts @CoachDrone is certainly an inspiring figure. Just bought a life size statute of him from the merchandise shop. Can't wait to install it in my backyard.

A few years passed. @CoachDrone is now teaching the princes of Elephantville.

@CoachDrone
Wow.. a class full of princes... can't wait to look at my pay check.

@CoachDrone
These princes lack the concentration and skill to be great archers, except for @AreJune.
Will have to make do with what I have.

A few more years have passed. @AreJune is famed beyond Elephantville for his prowess as an archer. @CoachDrone is being considered the greatest coach ever. One dark moonless night they are camping in "The Jungle" after a long practice session. Every one hears the loud bark of a wild dog.

@CoachDrone
Eeesh! The dog ... Can't even enjoy a nice scotch in the quiet.

@AreJune
The Jungle sucks. Would have loved to boogie on the dance floor. Miss you Elephantville.
Damn .. hate that dog. Some body please shoot him.

All the twitterati hate the dog but no one is really interested in doing anything.

@OneWord
That dog's bark will destroy @CoachDrone's statue. Got to muzzle it.

A few minutes later everything goes quite. Everyone sleeps well. Next morning the princes find a dead dog with an arrow in its mouth. 

@AreJune
No pool of blood. Shot in pitch dark. Wow! what a marksman. . Damn @CoachDrone ... when will you teach me this.

@AreJune
Ohh crap!! I am no longer number one. @CoachDrone do something.

@CoachDrone
Wow! Shooting by the sound .. the Bat technique. Did not know proponents of this existed.
Oh crap! now @AreJune will start bothering me for this.

@OneWord
Last nights dog kill seems to have gathered quite a crowd. Should have cleaned up the mess last night.
Oh .. @CoachDrone is there in the crowd. Gotta thank him for inspiring me.

@CoachDone
Looks like that poor sob from "The Jungle" has learned archery after all... I have competition as a coach. That too in this jungle .... :(

@CoachDrone learns of @OneWord's practice schedule with his own statue as inspiration. @OneWord regards @CoachDrone as his coach. @CoachDrone is flattered at first but then realizes that someone has bettered his own pupils and that too without a real coach...

@CoachDrone
Ouch ! This is embarrassing. My own statue seems to be a better coach than the real me. Got to stop the word of this getting around.

@AreJune
Seems @CoachDrone isn't as know it all as we thought him to be.

@CoachDrone
My statute or me in person .. its the same thing. This is a copy right violation.  Screw you @OneWord. Time to pay up for using my name.

@CoachDrone demands @OneWord's right hand thumb as a fee for using his name and threatens a lawsuit in ElephantVille.

@CoachDrone
@OneWord is just a fraud. @AreJune is my best pupil.

@OneWord
Damn you ElephantVille copyright laws. Can't afford lawyers or lawsuit. Guess thumb was a lucky escape.

@AreJune
Yippie!! @CoachDrone rocks. I am number one again.

@OneWord
Ouch that missing thumb hurts. Thank god that touch mobiles can be used with just one finger.
Angry birds here I come.

Not much is known of @OneWord since. Occasional tweets about his prowess with Angry Birds are seen. Rumor has it that he is practicing archery with his remaining fingers and the left hand with a hope to participate in Elephantville games. Guess he does not know about the rampant nepotism there preventing  participation of outsiders. The Elephantville games itself are a matter of another story. No happy ending here but hopefully more stories to come. 

That's all for today's post. Hopefully I will have more creative epiphanies to do a bunch more posts in this series. Till then watch this space.

Finally acknowledgements and disclaimers.
- I would like to acknowledge that the idea of this series is inspired by a series posted a few years ago by blogger Crystal Blur. The content here though is 100% original.
- Disclaimer - All characters in this work are purely fictional and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental. Of course the story is loosely based on a mythological tale that I heard as a bed time story, so please do not read too much into it. It is certainly not accurate and I have taken some creative liberties with intent to poke some humor into the myth. Laugh if you feel like it or criticize if you don't like it but please leave comments.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wild by nature

For a number of years now I have found the advertisements for Men's deodorants to be amusing. This, not because they are intended to be amusing, but its amusing to see the way they market the effect that the smell of the deo has on the libido of women. Now whether or not smell of men's deo affects a woman's libido is questionable - perhaps even a matter of debate and discussion in certain circles. However an interesting incident happened last week that had me nearly go ROFL.

I use a desk at home while working. My mom has placed a small flowerpot (with some plastic flowers of course) on that desk so as to lend some sense of aesthetics on an otherwise messy desk. As usual in the evening I was working on my laptop as. I saw what looked like an insect not normally seen inside the house (i.e. not the kind of bugs that pest control covers - ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes, flies). It flew around those fake flowers for some time and then jumped into one of those as if they were real flowers with nectar. I was a little surprised but figured that the insect would soon figure out that there is no nectar and fly away so I continued working.

A few hours later, just out of curiosity I went near the flower pot and to my surprise the little fella was still there. I quickly got my camera to click the below picture. I was wondering as to why the insect was still sitting inside that flower. I tried to shake it off but it wouldn't budge. Most regular pests would have run / flown for their life in such encounter with humans, but not this one.
Now... those who have bothered reading this far are confused if there was any connection at all with my first para about deo advts and this insect ..... Wait for it ... Please !!!.  
Wild by nature
After I had snapped this picture, I saw my brother's deo spray bottle lying beside the flower pot. Instantly I had a theory to justify this unusual behavior.
Usually my brother sprays the deo and leaves the bottle right beside the flower pot. So I am sure some of the deo also falls on the flowers. Then of course deos must be using some chemicals that  that have odor similar to some flowers. So I figured the insect must have been fooled into thinking that those are real flowers. My bro then suggested that it was too embarrassed to come out, lest the other insects mocked it for falling for this human trickery and so it just stayed there.
We were both having a laugh about this when I noticed that the deodorant brand was "Wild stone" and they had an advt some time back which ended with the tag line "Wild stone .. wild by nature"

Can't say if the deo really fires up a woman's libido, but it certainly seems to attract organisms which are "Wild by Nature".


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Versatile Vicious ?

Years ago in my early days as a computer games enthusiast - I picked a gamer nickname (*) Vishius that was spelled like my own name and pronounced like the English word vicious. It sounded perfect for multiplayer games (although my awful performance online gaming  would have perhaps deserved the nickname chicken).

Later I started to blog about interesting thing about my life and experiences and thus was born this blog (*). Here I tried to live up to the meaning of my gamer nickname by posting stories about people I knew. I suspect though, that I haven't really succeeded at being vicious, cause surprisingly  my fan (yippie! I have fans) base increased (mostly by me forwarding blog links to friends at every possible opportunity). My gamer tag continues as my pen name Vishius (*).

Years later now I am led to believe by fellow blogger A.M (was she freaking nuts!!!) that I have expanded my armory of topics by nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award. I did some introspection (i.e. if you choose believe me) and yes indeed it appears to be true. So thank you A.M (1). I am however not sure if I can accept it. Mostly because I don't think I can fulfill the 3 rules listed below.

If you choose to accept this award, these are the 3 simple rules to follow:
1. Thank the person who gave you this award and link back to their blog.
2. Nominate 15 Bloggers for this award, and notify them about the nomination.
3. Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.

Having already thanked A.M to fulfill rule number (1)  now on to number (3). ... Wait I already started that (see the * sign planted at various points in this post). So here are the remaining 4 things
(*) I love trekking.
(*) I am discovering the world and photography through my travels.
(*) I am a self proclaimed computer nerd (you already know that if you read Nerdvana)
(*) In a complete antithesis to my hobbies I am a sloth (lazy trekker - go figure that)

Phew ... that took a lot of energy and I am tired.... time to go to sleep.
Wait my readers can count and I haven't tagged 15  bloggers (2) to pass on this chain of blogging aka Versatile Blogger Award.
This reminds me of those spam mailers about forwarding the mail to all friend or face bad luck ... Nevertheless here goes the list (I am going to be choosy with who is tagged so the possibility of spam blogging is nullified)

  1. http://aditimitra.wordpress.com/ - Technically I am just circling around by nominating the very person who nominated me. But the rules don't say anything against that and I would have nominated this particular blog anyways. (psst... A.M. I personally think you deserve the nomination more due to this blog)
  2. http://ode-to-the-heart.blogspot.in/ - Damn .. A.M already tagged him. But a very wide choice of poems, songs, etc lying there. So worth tagging him again.
  3. http://3-rd-dimension.blogspot.in/ Technically tagging same blogger again (again no rule against that). The choice of topics and photos to go with those makes this one worth the nomination.
  4. http://dirtscapes.blogspot.in/ - Has ability to inject humour in almost any topic he writes about. Hope to get him out of his slumber to write again.
  5. http://kavisionz.wordpress.com - Unique combination of poetry and pictures to go with it. I don't necessarily understand the poetry, but the the pictures are beautiful and the topics are interesting.
  6. http://atreyarocks.blogspot.in/ - A natural story teller. His blogs can be lengthy but mostly worth the read.
  7. http://spinningawheel.blogspot.in/ - Short blogs (perhaps he should be tweeting). I do not always get them. However there is always a thought provoking one that comes by and again the range of topics of is great.
  8. http://www.whatay.com/ - Think we have the celebrity in the list.  This blogger has a significant fan following (gauging by the number of comments) and like dirtscapes can effortlessly inject humour into writings.
  9. http://afteradayswork.blogspot.in - World from the point of view of a software professional. 

That is all ... I could only come up with 9 blogs that I want to nominate. There are a bunch of other blogs that I do follow but then they aren't quite versatile yet or don't post often enough. Also I am sure I'll come across more blogs in future .. so leaving this section as a work in progress.

As I sign off I ask myself if my blog posts have been versatile enough and hence the title.

Keep Blogging
Vishius

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nerdvana

I first heard the term Nerdvana while watching the series Big Bang Theory. I thought the term as an interesting play on words which writers of that particular episode coined. It turns out thought that this word has an actual meaning as per Urban Dictionary. Now with enough links for introduction of the title - on to what really got me to write this article.

I was having a chat with a friend of mine and somehow the chat turned to cooking and I boasted about my acute sense of smell with food. I can often tell the name of the recipe being cooked in my Mom's kitchen just by smelling it from the living room. I know a lot of foodies probably have this acute sense of smell but I don't see many boasting about it like a super power so guess I can still brag. ... Sorry for the drift - back to the chat. Then I mentioned I'd probably guess what's cooking in my friends kitchen if only the cell phones could transmit the smell. Voila! I thought I had just discovered what human sense will the Tele-communication industry engage (read exploit) next.

The Telecommunication industry has now been present for more than 150 years and so far they have only managed to engage two senses (audio and video) out of available 5 and already I hear people talking about spending an increasing amount of time connecting with friends, relatives, colleagues, clients through gizmos (computers, cell phones etc) than face to face in person. To the point that for some computer nerds like me that percentage of time spent on gizmos may actually be higher than time spent time spent otherwise. A few months of working from home can do that to you. To quote a la Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory - "Although my work is going on very well with I do miss the warmth of human companionship"
There is of course my family which is with me everyday in person, but I guess you get the drift. Now come to think of it all forms of social contact somehow seems to involve food. Why else do we have so many names for the simple act of consuming a meal and accompanying beverages - dinner, breakfast, lunch, high tea, brunch, supper , cocktails and what not ... Each of the words means more than just consuming food. There is even a social protocol on what you are supposed to wear (ever heard of dinner jacket, cocktail dress). Of course on the rare occasion that someone bothers inviting me all I really hear is food. My point though is food (beverages included) is an inseparable part of social contact. It is perhaps also the reason why I miss the warmth of human companionship. You know home food is good .. but eating outside adds that variety to the menu of life. Ok readers .. sorry for the drift to food... coming back to human companionship.

As per my point above real life human companionship involves food. A social networking site  (or for that matter even email) presents vicarious pleasure of hanging out with friends. Phone calls and video chat personalize the experience. In both cases though, there is something missing. Lets say you have a friend who is living in a distant land and its that friend's birthday. In today's telecom, you can see the cake, talk about it but you can't smell it, touch it or taste it. Should I say you can have the cake but you can't eat it .. Evidently there is some time before devices can help you attain Nerdvana.

Thus I would argue that Nerdvana is essentially science fiction ... just like Nirvana is religious fiction. However I feel,  and science fiction artists (authors, movie makers et al)  might agree, that perhaps humans would reach Nerdvana before Nirvana. If of course Science and Religion converge first then Nerdvana would perhaps be the same as Nirvana ....
Thanks to science fiction though, we already have a few versions of Nerdvana as possible references. Whether it is Star Trek's Holodeck or The Matrix or even Robocop (remember the Robot body with a human brain).  While the latter two give more importance to the human brain, I think the true Nerdvana would be something that allows virtual presence like holodeck.

This brings me to my voila feeling about the sense of smell .. or put simply odour. I think like audio and video, the possibility of dumbing down odour to a finite set of codes exists and is quite high ...  To think about it most languages are covered in 8 bits .  Most colours are covered in 24 bits. Then of course there is the problem of sensing and recreating (and of course transmitting it). To that problem I say this - recreating odour is really down to certain chemicals.
e.g. most alcoholic beverages have the characteristic smell of Ethyl Alchohol or preserved food often get their smell from esters and so on. The point is it sounds plausible to me that the next sense catered to by Telcom Industry will be odour. May be a bunch of scientists might even get their PhDs along the way. But I count on them for making that possible.

For sake of argument, some might say "Touch" might have a better chance given the advancement of touch devices, but mind you the skin is a much bigger organ and engaging the sense of touch is not merely catering to touch from the finger .... pun intended.
Then how about taste ... oh how I wish .. yeah the coffee making machine has been around for at least a decade but we are still far away from Star Trek's Replicator. Of course taste cannot be complete without smell ain't it ... till then "Live long and Prosper" or may be "Freeze long enough and wake up @ Nerdvana"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Future of Work is here

Aeons ago (circa 2005) 3G was still just a concept, smart phones and tablet PCs like iphone and iPad were science fiction and broadband internet was a pricey reality. In those days (like today) every one got up early in the morning and commuted to work every day. Then followed the usual daily grind with the coffee to keep you awake through the day and then the commute back was unwelcome reality. Working from home or Telecommuting was a seldom encouraged option and stuff only meant for extra-ordinary circumstances. Most bosses would equate "working from home" to slacking at company cost.

In those days, I happened to be working at a client location in the US. The client - a reputed financial institution was experimenting with a concept they called "Future of Work". The guinea pigs of this experiment were a section of employees in the IT department of the company. I was in this batch of guinea pigs.

So what is Future of Work (FoW)?
The experiment was basically a specially designed workplace in a separate building and all of us who were part of this experiment were to be moved to that building. Each employee was given a laptop. Remember this was aeons ago in Computing terms... only people on the move (like sales) or senior managers were provided with company laptops. So for a ordinary software developer .. that too contractor, getting a company laptop was a big deal. Employees also got a blackberry. Again in those days having a blackberry attached to your belt was a corporate style statement which said - "I am important to the company". As a contractor I had to make do with only a laptop.
That was not all we were given a guided tour to the new working place. The new workplace was a fully WiFi enabled building. Most existing desktop computers then could connect to a network only using CAT5 cables so WiFi in the building could well be deemed as unnecessary cost. Each floor was a large open area with several rows of open desks instead of cubicles. The desks were spacious and each desk had a monitor, a phone and a laptop docking station. The obvious missing thing was a cabinet. We were told that we won't have fixed workstations but could occupy any available empty desk.

Days before the move we were handed the detailed briefing documents. Each of us would have a wifi enabled laptop (with VPN connectivty software), an extra set of laptop batteries, a land-line code and a land-line number. Besides employees would also have their blackberry. We were supposed to carry these devices with us like schoolbags. There were assigned cabinets for us and a few fixed corners of the floor where these cabinets should be put away at the end of the day. Remember none of us had fixed desks.
Each day when we entered the work area, we had a short drill. Locate an empty desk of interest, and dock the laptop. Punch the land-line code into the phone and it would immediately become our own personalized land-line with a fixed extension. Then for those of us who chose to leave any papers or stuff in the cabinet, we had to drag the cabinet to this desk. That's it.
Of course given WiFi, we could stay connected from the coffee break out rooms, meeting rooms or even corridors.

It was a paradigm shift in terms of a start of day drill. It felt as if we were all nomads and each day we were to pitch our tent so we could spend time in office.
The most interesting part was that the total number of desks were sufficient for only like 80% (may be even less) of the total staff assigned in that building. The theory (or so I heard) of the management was that on any given day about 20 % of the staff is not at desk due to leaves, work from home, meetings etc. This may have been supported by statistical data but seemed logical. Thus the company could potentially save about 20 % on recurring real estate and related costs. Of course if even 90% of staff did actually turn up to work place on a given day, there would be a serious space crunch. They even had a solution to avoid this problem. The company would pay for the broadband bills of employees so that they could be connected to the company network (via VPN over broadband). This meant that unlike past, bosses wouldn't mind if you were not in office - as long as you were reachable via email and phone and the work was getting done.

Now this being a new concept some people were not quite happy with it. A few days into this concept the early starters would show up and occupy their favorite desks and had converted those into fixed desks like the old days. So for some employees it didn't really matter that the company was experimenting with a new concept. They just wanted to continue with their old style of work. But there were others like me for whom this concept suited perfectly.

Lazy as I was, I would never wake up in time to start work at the 9 (official start time). In fact I would get up at about the time the office was supposed to start.
With FoW I wouldn't bother dashing to office in a hurry. Instead, I would camly open the laptop while still curled up in my bed, and connect to the office network. A quick check on emails and urgent issues and responses as needed were enough to give my boss the impression that I was already busy with work. Since there were no fixed desks, I figured if anybody wanted to meet me in person they wouldn't know where to find me and if I wasn't seen they would probably think that I was sitting in some distant corner of the floor. After my morning routines I would dash to office at about 10 - 10.30 am (or at the time of start of the first in-person meeting). Sometimes meetings were a boring affair where I was only present to provide input on a certain aspect and rest was just jibber-jabber. I would then multi task on my WiFi connected laptop and get some other work done.
After all daily meetings were done, I would leave office at about the time as the early starters (people who started office before 9) were leaving office. The idea was to avoid traffic of the late evening. I would reach home and finish off the day by responding to the last few emails of the day via VPN.
Often I would feel a little too lazy (i.e when there were no in person meetings in the day) and would just stay back home the whole day.

The flexibility that this FoW provided was like stuff of dreams for me then. That of course reflected in my next appraisal where the client had rated me highly and I got an improved overall performance rating. I was of completely surprised when it happened. While I think my room mates (who knew my real FoW drill) thought I was turning into a slacker, it actually had worked wonders for my performance. In retrospect, I believe without worries about work day and flexibility of both time and place of work, I could do the heads down work from a place of my comfort (home) at a time of my choice. Naturally when I did sit down to work, I could get more work done in same time as past.

Like all good things there was a flip side to this as well. Bad weather was no longer a reason to stay away from work. As long as there was electric power supply and internet at home I was expected to be able to get the job done.
Often during "production issues" I ended up working at weird hours of the night (not to mention while still curled up inside the blanket). In other words the laptop was always perched somewhere nearby my pillow. The distinction between work place and home, which I had always maintained quite religiously was getting blurred. All said and done, I thought it was a very interesting concept and really the Future of Work. In a few months, I moved on to another client and this experiment did not continue for me.

6 years later, now 3G is a reality, tablet PCs and smart phones are now everyday devices that even kids can use. Broadband prices have remained stable and speeds have gone up. WiFi is common not only in office buildings but also other commercial establishments (e.g. Airports, coffee shops). In short high speed internet connectivity can be achieved from virtually anywhere in urban regions. Networking socially has become an on-line affair in form of modern social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Technology companies are now comfortable with a flexi-work ethic. In my last job as a pre-sales consultant, armed with a laptop, vpn connectivity software and USB data card, I could work not just from home, but literally anywhere.

This whole transformation makes me excited about the technology improvements that are to come. Being a technology enthusiast and believer in efficiency of machines, I dare to say the following. Fuel costs are rising and so are urban populations. Cities are expanding and pretty soon everyday travel to and fro from work will seem like an expensive (both on the wallet and mind) and avoidable drill in favor of using that travel time more constructively. This has already happened in large cities like Mumbai. Thus people will prefer "Working from home" over office, traveling only when the job requires face to face interactions. Perhaps even face to face interactions will move to use video conferencing. Thus what was seen as an experimental style of working a few years ago is getting wider acceptance and might soon become a reality. In that sense, the Future of work is here !!............isn't it ?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Attraction of Cacophony

I happened to watch the movie Rockstar last week. While the reviews for the movie have been in extremes, I was quite positive about this movie and it lived up to my expectations .... The sound track was quite apt and somewhere in the middle I found myself head banging to the tune of "Sadda Haq" ....The immediate next moment I was full of nostalgia ....  Suddenly I felt like life had rewound more than a decade to college days....Having momentarily relived that moment, I think it is perhaps apt to pen down that memory.

The source of this memory is the RAIT (my college) festival called "Akarshan" (means Attraction in Hindi).
My first memory of this festival is during my "FE" days. It was the second semester - usually full of a lot of events and among them was the indoor festival Akarshan. A few hand made posters adorned the walls announcing the festival and inviting budding singers/ musicians or for that matter anybody even willing to try their skills (or lack of it) was welcome.

One fine evening I heard sound of music (mostly drums and guitar) emanating from the basement. I followed the sound into the SUC (student union council) room. The room was full of budding singers and a few musicians willing to play the available instruments (keyboard, drums, guitar and I think there was a tabla).
The beauty of this festival was it didn't matter whether you were trained to sing, had raw talent or a bathroom singer (yours truely). There were no real selections or restrictions for the performance. All you had to do was pick a song of your choice, sing it in and hope that you synchronize with the instruments.

In some time, I too got a chance to make an attempt. Till that bathroom melody (read cacophony) was my specialty and I'd even memorized a few songs entirely.
Thus I tried singing one of those songs. Couple of attempts and the musicians (who if I may mention, were already tired of putting up with other bad singers for hours) gave me a look indicative of "please synchronize" with the music. One helpful senior took me aside and attempted to give me a crash course into the concept of notes and pitch etc ... obviously falling on deaf ears. A realization soon dawned that evening when I taped myself and played it back. I was downright cacophonous to my own ears. Still I was happy that other FEs and my friends had gone ahead and tried their voice and were scheduled to sing on the big day.

A few days passed and the big day arrived. It was a Friday and by mid day, most lecturers were pretty lax. The stage was laid out. Right at the entrance of the college building was an open area from where one could look straight up to the roof. On four sides of this area were stair cases and walkways leading to the various labs and classrooms. The stage was laid out in such a way that anybody could view it from the stair cases or railings of the walkways. I looked at the stage and the area around it and wondered how the whole bunch of students ( I guess all 4 yrs of Engg accounted nearly a 1000) were going to fit in that stage.
Nevertheless the excitement was sinking in.

By 3pm, most lectures had either finished or called of lectures. Some of the older Professors were seen rushing out in hurry. A look at them and it felt like they were fleeing away from inevitable disaster. The seniors were seen scavenging for old notebooks, journals and any useless paper that they could lay their hands on. The paper was swiftly torn to shreds. I was wondering what was going on. An hour passed by and I realized how the whole bunch of students managed to watch the show. Every inch of the railing had some one leaning on it. Every stair had some one standing on it. Benches were pulled outside classrooms to make up seats. In short within a span of an hour, the whole college building was converted into a mini-stadium with stage at its center.

As the orchestra and host of the day were still checking the instruments, the crowd started shouting "Start the F***ing music". The sheer reverberations of so many abuses demanding music made the place seem like hell rather than a college. No wonder those older profs had run away. It would take a strong heart and some serious talent to silence this raging crowd. The next few hours were a generous mix of soulful music and heavy metal, melody and cacophony, Indian and western.

Every singer was greeted with a bunch of paper balls aimed at his mouth as soon as he opened it to sing. If the announcement said that the singer was an FE, then the wrath was even worse, as a bunch of abuses tried to silence him/her (mostly him - engg college has few girls and even fewer girls who dare to sing). Even the abuses were hurled in unison and there was a certain tune to Ma********* ... Bhe**********. The orchestra should be appreciated, as despite the frenzy around them, they supported even the most cacophonous singers who dared to sing.
Quite a few singers were pretty good and every good singer was soon enough met with a sing along from the crowd. The better singers were appreciated with "Once more".

Standing there among the crowd gave a feeling of being in a mini concert. I wasn't into Rock music at that point of time but this yearly concert served as my initiation into the world of rock. Soon enough I could rattle out a few names from my mouth. Likes of Eagles, Pink Floyd, Bryan Adams, Metallica, Nirvana, Def Leopard (to name a few) were among the favorites. I learned to let loose by head banging and swaying arms to soulful tunes. Any singers who sang some of those songs well were highly appreciated. Some even earned bows from the whole crowd and thus this little concert even had a fair share of local celebrities. I remember one fellow blogger (writes a blog by name Dirtscapes) was renowned for his rendition of the Eagles classic "Hotel California".

As I end this little blog post I would like to mention a particular memory. I was an SE (second year engineering), and during this festival one FE had sung A.R.Rehman's hit "Aye Ajnabee" so well that he not only became a local celebrity (earned bows and once mores) but was one rare FE to have been known by seniors by his real name (Vishal) instead of the collective name FE. That was a rare feat. But as bad luck would have it, he soon suffered a terminal illness. I don't when exactly but at one point of time this guy was in need of an operation and we learned that the family couldn't afford it. A fund was started by students and every one was putting their hard earned pocket money into a little box. All people knew was their beloved singer was in need of it. I don't think the money eventually helped and left the whole college mourning the loss of a rare singer. Incidentally I share my first name with this fellow and even though I did not know him personally, I would like to dedicate this post to him ... Simply for those 5 minutes when he managed to give the whole crowd a soulful experience with his singing abilities. May his soul rest in peace.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Picking up the RAIT attitude

I watched the bollywood hit movie 3 Idiots (again) recently. The movie is about life in the Engineering campus. Being an engineer myself, I ended up relating a lot to the movie and some of its scenes. It inspired the writer in me to start typing a few memories from that life and in the process try and relive the nostalgia.

I passed H.S.C with flying colors (or so I thought) ... but soon enough I realized that my colors weren't flying high enough to land me into the top colleges of Bombay. So I took a tour of New Bombay (or Navi Mumbai as it is called now) the adjacent city to short list alternatives. A look at the vast RAIT campus (the D.Y.Patil campus) in Nerul and I was sold. Soon enough I'd secured admission into this college through the centralized admission system and here I was staring at the notice board in the college trying to figure out how my next four years were going to be. The college for First Year Engineering (F.E as we would be known for the rest of the year) hadn't started yet. I was there just to pay the fees.

Naive and idiotic as I was, I had traveled there all alone. After I was done with the formalities, I was looking for the canteen so that I could have a beverage to quench my thirst. RAIT then was notorious for "ragging" but I did not know that.
As I was wandering about clueless on the ground floor looking for canteen, I saw a friendly looking person with a book in hand. I figured it was good to ask for directions (rookie mistake no 1... never ask a senior for directions on day one). I think the book was really a decoy so that the spotter could trap gullible juniors like me.

This senior politely asked me if I was an FE. I did not understand the significance of this word yet. He even politely explained to me the meaning and then I said yes. Then instead of guiding me to the canteen (thankfully he did not - I learned later that canteen = hell for FEs) he took me to his classroom.

There I was in an FE's nightmare (if not hell). A classroom comprising of about 20 odd Second year (SE) boys spending their free lecture. I was the source of their entertainment. Now the whole infamy of the word ragging dawned upon me. The next one hour was spent with various connotations of the F*** word and S** words being hurled at me. If I thought something was a joke and opened my mouth to smile I was to flush my smile (can't describe the meaning .. but it sort of equates to flushing after shit in the potty). One of the early scenes of the movie 3 idiots shows a bunch of juniors being "ragged" by a bunch of seniors with a customary salute ("Jahapanah tussi great ... tofah kabool karo"). I was also taught a similar (less vulgar) salute (aka RAIT salute). Towards the end of the hour a few girls entered the classroom. I was thanking God for getting me out of this nightmare ... but I was wrong. The Nightmare just got worse for this shy guy (yours truely) cause I used to be a shy guy in front of girls. There was this bold female standing before me. One of the SEs behind me dared me to propose to her. As I was standing tongue tied in front of this female, she instantly pointed to huge Macho guy (for those who know me as a lean guy now, I was a bag of bones then weighing just about 50 Kgs). She mentioned that he was her boyfriend and if I dared say anything he would beat the crap out of me.
The next few moments seemed like an eternity and I was nearly sweating trying to figure out what to say. Finally the SEs decided to pity the nice guy in me. One senior walked with me out of the campus (lest some other SE catches me again).

The long 1.5 hr journey back home was a thought provoking one. I was feeling humiliated and questioning my decision to enter this college. Then I  thought,what the hell .. all they did was challenge me to open my mouth and hurled a few abusive words for being silent and shy. The one hour was an eye opener to the challenges of the real world. I was no longer in my neighborhood - the protected kid of protective parents. For my life hereon I would always be on my own in the world. Yes, the parents and well wishers would be there if I needed their help. However I would have to shape my life hereon. There dawned the my first lesson of Engineering - "Be Shameless" (which also loosely translated to be bold, give up your inhibitions etc).

A few days later I returned for the beginning of the first semester. I saw whole army of rats (read as FE). We had strength in numbers. But at the first sight of a cat (reads as SEs and any other seniors), the rats would disperse and hide in their rat holes (FE classroom). There my "be shameless" attitude became my boon. Thanks to my previous brush with seniors I was no longer afraid to hangout outside the classroom. The rest of the FEs were always hiding inside the classroom till evening and then run home. The very seniors who had been a part of my nightmare were now quite chatty with me (to be precise they wanted to sell their FE text books to the new batch). Among my batch mates, I was seen as a bold (aah .. a new meaning of shameless) FE as I would talk to the seniors.

I was even responsible for introducing a few FEs to SEs willing to sell books without first ragging the junior. I even learned (albiet not at my own expense) why the canteen was treated like an FEs hell. I ventured into canteen at lunch time. The canteen was inside the basement, with dull lighting. It seemed like dark dungeon. The smoke and steam from kitchen made it look like the dungeon's furnace. The place was certainly a little more than warm. There was a whole bunch of seniors (like an army of cats) busy with their stuff ...smoking, writing journals, discussing sports, discussing college politics, discussing their subjects, banging benches and also having food. Any single FE caught there would then serve as a source of entertainment for seniors for rest of the day. If one group had to leave the canteen, the FE would simply be passed around to the next group and so on. In that sense, for an FE, the canteen was really hell. Thankfully my previous acquaintances (nightmare) with some of the seniors meant that they
were now quite friendly with me. So if any unknown senior would serve thoughts of messing with me, these friendly guys would come to my rescue.

Over the next month I had metamorphosed, from a shy guy who cared about a lot of things people said to or about him, to somebody who didn't give a damn about things people said about him. I learned to "be myself" and be proud about being that self. This next month was also the month where most FEs dreaded the seniors. All of us in FE did not have our names ... we just had one collective name "FE". If a senior shouted across the floor "Aye FE" it meant run for your life. Of course my early brush with seniors meant that I was unafraid of the seniors or ragging. Towards the end of the month, was the grand FE nite - party thrown by the seniors to all FEs. It was the informal welcome from all seniors to juniors and and end of the period of dreading the seniors. From now on no senior would attempt to trouble this batch of juniors. This was kicked off by some seniors doing the RAIT salute in front of juniors.

Of course the word ragging took a new meaning for us for the next four years. We learned (as Viru Sahasrabuddhe from 3 idiots would say) that "life is a race". Every one in the college would be there ragging us (so to speak). There were the boring lectures where some bad lecturers threatened us into attending lectures with "attendance norms". There were the lab assistants who would make faces at us as they handed out old and crappy lab equipment for the practicals as if they were handing out their life savings. Then there were the term work Submissions at end of each sem, where each of bold and dauntless students were reduced to mowing like cows in the hope that our Term work would be accepted and we would be cleared without the ignominy of KT (aka Allowed to Keep Terms - which I'll explain in my next RAIT blog). That one hour of ragging was nothing compared to the torture that the college staff would put us through over the next four years. To say the least, the very seniors whom we avoided for the first month, were to become our saviors over the next couple of years. They would provide us tips and tricks (besides books, journals and notes) to help tide through the term work submissions and exams.

Its has been more than a decade since my FE status.Almost a decade now since I left my college, I don't remember much of what was taught in my curriculum...The extra curricular stuff though (including that little one hour nightmare) did prepare me for my life thereafter and so far. Alongside the "be shameless" and "be myself", I learned several small lessons over the next fours years that I collectively call the "RAIT attitude" (pronounced Right attitude).

Attention around ragging by both college and law enforcement has increased and they are rather strict. In most colleges FE students need not hide like rats. But I ask, has the ragging really stopped.... I mean the students may have stopped ragging their fellow students. The real ragging by the system and enforcers continues in the name of exams, term work and syllabus. The emphasis is still on theory and mugging than on creativity, innovation and learning.
Signing off this one - hoping that future RAIT students learn a little more than just the RAIT attitude.


PS : For a more funnier account of Joys of being and FE click this link from another fellow RAITian who writes the blog named Dirtscapes
I also thank him for inspiring this blog and in general indirectly influencing my writing style.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Watch out Monginis

In a departure from my usual ramblings, today I am attempting to write a report. Before I begin, I should thank (or curse) two of my regular blog fans for literally forcing me in to writing this one..

Last week I was happened to visit a community fun fair where one of my blog fans (aka Narad) and his better half (more importantly the better half) had invited me.... It was a rare public appearance by your truly in capacity as a famous blogger. So what if my fan list is smaller than the number of fingers on my hand - one of my articles was published recently in Mumbai DNA's print edition. I think that qualifies me as famous (wonder what DNA was thinking when they published me ... but who cares .. I am in the newspaper)...

Now that I have been my boastful self for a paragraph, it is time to shift focus to Mrs Narad's culinary treats. The inside story is that Narad was often found sneaking into bakeries to gorge some Muffins.. That sparked Mrs. Narad into considering an expansion of her then limited Culinary skills to add muffins to the list. Months later, I found myself as an observant (read greedy) bystander at her cake and muffin stall in the fun fair.

After spending time attempting to ogle around in the crowd, I realized that there was nothing much other than food to spark my interest. At dusk bucket loads of muffins arrived with Mrs Narad, her family and my other blog fan (Mitra - who was hired as photographer). At first look, I was a little overwhelmed by sheer number of bakery products (both in number and variety). Not to mention, I was also skeptical about the possibility of a sell out. For a change my skepticism would have sweet rewards. I mean if Mrs. Narad failed to sell the muffins, I as a friend would have to step in to help avoid wastage. (In essence I was hoping for a free take out order).

Apparently a whole weekend of hard work had gone into preparatory work and now was the time for the acid test ... or should I say taste bud test. The first few minutes went by hoping for customers to show up... Having a few friendly customers drop by helped. A few of muffins left the store and soon enough caught the eye of the kids. Mrs. Narad seemed to know how to make the package attractive to the customers that matter. So not only were they baked well to taste and texture, they were neatly boxed up and appropriate creamy and colorful toppings added to catch the eye of any wandering kids. Soon enough we saw a crowd of kids around the store. All busy staring and choosing what the wanted to eat. So kids who had now developed a craving for muffins were seen coming back to give in to their temptations.

The interesting thing about having a kid fan base is that they have an amazing power of influence Of course with their power of influence they were back with their parents which meant that customer base had now doubled itself. In all the frenzy that followed, I noticed one 6 yr old who kept coming to the stall despite repeated attempts of grandpa, to advertise that muffins aren't quite healthy. (sure Grandpa so much sugar ... so many extra calories). But the bundle of energy that they are, kids don't really need bother about the guilt that we grown ups have after consuming those calories. Persistence payed off, and grandpa caved in to her demands after 3 attempts to draw her attention elsewhere.

That gesture said several things to me ... For one, Narad & co had figure how to woo their customers. More importantly, it meant that my free take out was not going to be there. I quickly turned around to the customer side of the stall and paid for a banana muffin (yes ... the cheapskate me had to pay ), lest they run out of the good stuff before I get a good bite. Sure enough the muffin was worth every penny.Thus Narad & co was the first stall to wind up for the day .. alas they were sold out !!!. I would like add a little futuristic prediction here. In years to come if and when Mrs. Narad gets tired of her software career & economics permitting, baking certainly seems to be an tasty venture. Only time will tell if I am right, till then Watch out Monginis..

If you are still reading this its probably a few hundred words already and I know a picture is apparently worth a thousand words. So here are the links to the photo blog from Mitra
Mesmerizing Muffin Madness -I.
Mesmerizing Muffin Madness -II

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dumb-a-dumb

All my blog fans might look at the title and think what a dumb title. Yes unlike most of my posts, not much thought has been given to the title. The title is merely a word play on the actual subject of the post - the movie Damadam.
While I usually don't write about movies (except for one article four years ago about a changing Bollywood), I do watch a lot of movies in 3 different languages. Movies are merely a way of quick entertainment and I prefer not to spend time thinking or writing about them. So what happened today to get me to write about movies... Nothing special. Thanks to some utter dumb-witted sibling banter and useless show of bravado - I ended up in the movie theater to watch this movie.
The ordeal that followed, ensured that this movie got its own share of fame on my blog.

Rewind a few weeks:
Me and my bro - two couch potatoes are in front of the idiot box and a promo of this movie shows up. Some banter ensues around the worst movies each of has endured and in trying to prove the ability to take on more crap we end up agreeing (in fact challenging each other) to a Ghatiya Film festival (GFF).
(For my non Indian readers - Ghatiya is hindi for "lousy")
The promo in question was none other than "Damadam".

So what is a Ghatiya Film festival. Take the usually entertaining Movie Hall visit to the next level by planning a series of "badly rated" new releases and watch them week after week. Being a fairly regular weekend movie goer means that GFF can happen simply because one drops by the movie theater by force of habit and watches any of the available flicks (ratings don't matter). In the words of Mogambo ka bhatija - the great Gogo - "Aaye hain - kuch na kuch dekh ke jayenge".

This was of course the first time we actually agreed deliberately to a GFF.
It wasn't hard to plan one as there are a bunch of lowly rated flicks releasing this time of the year. Of course Damadam (long before it was released or rated) made it to the list simply because it was a Himesh Reshmiya (HR) movie.

After postponing the start of this festival for various reasons like vacation outing, diwali, cleaning day (I think the real reason was both me and my bro were simply afraid to take up the challenge), we finally agreed to start of the GFF - thanks mainly to the release of Damadam. Minutes before leaving for the movie both of us were showing signs of weakness. The stakes were high - one who goes through the whole GFF whilst retaining sanity and consciousness wins the title of "Connoisseur of Crap". So acceptance of defeat meant that I lost claim to title and of course the bro gets the bragging rights which by the way - is a huge thing in sibling banter. Guess same thought was going through bro's mind as well.

Minutes later there we were at the theater, entering a dark near empty movie hall - wondering if we were the only 2 people who turned up for the movie. After taking seats we looked around (and heaved a sigh of relief) to note that we were not the only people in the hall. I had spent some time without pulling my hair. Then I looked at my watch. To my dismay what felt like at least half an hour in perceived time, was only 7 minutes on the watch. Suddenly Einstein's special theory of relativity had a new meaning. I am not sure if traveling at near velocity of light slows down time (as postulated by the great physicist). Watching HR certainly does.

After about 15 minutes in the movie (which seemed like an eternity), the only silver lining in the movie happened. Enter the boss's hot sister (Sonal Sehgal).
The rest of the movie was made more bearable thanks to that female who kept flashing her beautiful smile ever so often (and of course looked sexy in mini skirts). Despite that the torture, of watching HR display his ever so blank expression for pretty much all emotions and a drab script was so immense that I kept pulling my hair and staring at the watch. I even offered to my bro that we call it a draw and walk out at intermission (with both still in contention for the title).

Dumb pride can be a suicidal and we both proved exactly that to each other when we both returned in the hall after intermission with a bucket of pop corn and couple of cold soft drinks. I was returning with a mild headache - but the title contention meant we both dared to continue. The popcorn and soft drink gradually helped in drawing my attention away from the head ache and made the movie more bearable. A few more songs and several badly emoted scenes later the story went through a few minor twists and turns. The ending was with a song that censor board should perhaps adopt as an anthem (it has wordings like "no kissing noo kissing - only seeing .. only seeing").

On hind sight, I think the story was a little like one of those "ordinary" man Amol Palekar / Farooq Sheikh romantic comedies of the late seventies and early eighties. The comparison though is an insult to those movies (which I consider amongst some of the best comedies of bollywood). Over the years, I have seen my fair share of bad movies but this one challenges the worst of those movies.
When we both eventually walked out happy that we were both conscious and sane, we agreed that we both stood at same level with respect to the title contention. Perhaps we should not bother continuing with the GFF and hopefully Dumb-a-dumb has bestowed some common sense. Guess we'll really only know when we engage in our round of sibling banter.

To end this post - I would just like to say this - in the interest of the benefit of brave man kind who choose to watch "Dumb-a-dumb" - "You have been warned"

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mumbaikar - Uncomfortably Numb ?

Last few months I have found myself avoiding trying to write new posts on this blog, not only because I have been busy but also because of lack anything creative to write about.

Once again bomb blasts happened in Mumbai about a month ago. Yet the very next day, people were back on the roads, braving the heavy rains, crowded trains and their own fears. We Mumbaikars seem to have gotten so used to these things that our reactions to some of these events are bordering on the numbness. Politicians and Journalists are quick to attach adjectives such as bravery, resilience and like to the Mumbaikar. Is it really resilience or bravery? In the daily struggle to earn an honest living and support the family, an average Mumbaikar is just too pre-occupied in his/ her own daily routine and struggles, to be too worried about these external threats. The worries of rising prices, rents, monthly bills, water cuts, bad traffic and so on are just so overwhelming that there is little time left to worry about terrorist threats. All that we do is heave a sigh of relief knowing that self and near and dear ones are alive and kicking after that bomb blast.
This is numbness to the situation - no doubt. It however is an "Uncomfortable Numbness". To quote the protagonist common man from the movie "Wednesday" - "We are resilient by force and not by choice". The title of this article had struck me the very next day after the blasts but what am I going to write about this topic was my question.

My question answered itself today. We are not completely numb, we do feel the pinch of everything.
It is just that with 61yrs of being a part of a Democratic Republic, we have simply seem to have lost the hope that democracy offers. Not because democracy is hopeless, but because the corruption in this democracy has systematically destroyed all hope. Every time I go out to vote, I have to make a choice amongst several unworthy and corrupt candidates who just have promises. For too long has the government has enjoyed lack of accountability. This hopelessness has given rise to our numbness. This numbness has become our defense mechanism for protecting self from the troubles, we seem powerless to fight. I often find myself as a part of agitated debates and always the frustrations and hopelessness returned.

A few days ago I heard the news of one man demanding the end of Corruption. Anna Hazare and demands for Lokpal bill need no introduction. To be frank, I doubted this man's resolve and credibility when he first voiced his demands some months ago. However this time he backed his demands with a hunger strike and the resolve that has been equated (by media) with the famous Mahatma.
What has followed over the next few days has been unprecedented in the history of Free India.
His movement against corruption has captured the imagination of the old and the young alike. Again I am not reporting anything different from what the news channels are reporting. In fact my own numbness meant that I was conveniently ignoring the happenings around me and getting busy with my life. Living in a quite neighbourhood certainly helps.

Today though something different happened. On my way back home I noticed a crowd of familiar faces - friends and neighbours along with their families, taking to the streets with candles in hand and being vocal in their support to Anna's cause. These are not people swayed by a glib politician's eloquence. These are not people paid to form a crowd at a political rally. These are not people fanatic about cricket or religion. These are the same well educated, numb office goers who till yesterday formed a part of those inconsequential rants and arguments.
As I took the opportunity to take a few pictures, I could see those playful kids who cannot even spell corruption, cheerfully lead the way. The crowd ranged from 4 yr old toddlers to 70 year old grey hair.

This movement is a democratic movement in real sense of the term - "of the people, by the people, for the people", unlike the government which remains so only in the text books. Practically its full of corrupt politicians. It is thus not surprising at all that when the cause is so noble, the very politicians who are supposed to be representatives of the people, have stayed away from the cause. The opposition politicians who are usually very quick to point finger on the government on seemingly trivial issues are now simply mum. Perhaps standing for the cause is a suicide for the corrupt politician. Perhaps the corrupt politician is just waiting for the movement to die its natural death. Perhaps they are all conspiring to strike back at the people. Only time will tell.

For now this movement has given me and every Indian a new hope. I just hope that this movement gives its ultimate outcome, not the just the lokpal bill but the end of corruption. I hope that this movement does not die a premature death. I hope that the politicians wake up from filling their coffers and get on with the job they were chosen for - public service. I hope that for the sake of the 4 yr old holding the tri-colour, this movement means that he can grow up to earn an honest living in an honest country. I hope that the 70 yr old lives to see his 4 yr old grand kid become an honest youth driving the country.
I have nothing more to write for now - but just end this blog with the words "Hope is everlasting" and a few pictures from my neighbourhood which inspired this article.

Vande Mataram and Jai Hind.



Sunday, August 07, 2011

Travails of the Chromatically challenged

A large number (read as 2) of my blog fans have noticed that I have not been writing for a while. I wasn't aware that people can actually miss my online presence, but with two fans personally pointing that out to me, I am sure that my whole fan club is craving for more (and even if they are not .. I am still writing this post). Let me just say here that I have been too busy lately. Also I have not had any epiphanies of creativity to prompt me too start typing vigorously. However there is this one post that has been in my mind for a while so I think its time for me break my silence over this topic.

Humans have a very perceptive eyesight in that we can distinguish several colours unlike many animals who mostly see monochromatic shades. Thus when we see things around us we see several colours and have come up with several words to describe them. There probably are hundred or more words in our vocabulary just to name the colours. Then there are those of us who cannot describe so many colours, not because we lack the vocabulary, but simply because we lack the ability to attach a specific word to the colour that we see. I am not entirely sure if there is a word to describe this scenario. So I have come up the the phrase "Chromatically Challenged".

At the risk of sounding a sexist, I am going to put the claim that most men are chromatically challenged (at least I am one). I am not putting a percentage here as I do not have a scientific study to prove that. The rest of this article is purely a aggregation of my observations and experiences in this matter. Those who agree with me read on to find points to support this argument. Those who don't, read on and I hope by the end of the article you will agree with me.

A few years ago I used to travel quite regularly between Mumbai and Pune. Often a female friend of mine would be there in the bus and we ended up chatting about several useless topics. One of my first discussions around colours was with her. Somewhere within one such discussion I pointed out that most guys were not capable of describing more than 24 colours. She suddenly became defensive about guys and argued that they could do better.So we decided to start counting the colours that I could describe. The next half an hour was spent with me trying hard to go up to 25. She ensured that she threw enough names of colours to help me get to that point, however a lot of names almost fell on deaf ears as I couldn't distinguish the colours. I think eventually I stopped around 22 (and may I point that I tried very hard to go beyond that number). Ever since I have presented this argument to several guys and almost always my point has been validated.

Exercise:
I have been thinking about making my articles more interactive so I think it is now time to give an exercise to my readers. Please try naming the colours you can recognize. There are two simple rules here if you know a word as a color but you can't name it when you see it then it does not count. This rule is specifically for those intellectuals who think it is their duty to expand their vocabulary but by virtue of being chromatically challenged cannot use that expanded vocabulary to good effect. There is another rule - use of words light and dark prefixed to colors don't count as new colour names (go polish your vocabulary in this case).

Now time for exercise results :
  1. If you are a guy and scored more than 24 :
    You are artistically oriented (e.g. you like painting and thus know your colours), or the knowledge of additional colours has been enforced upon you by the significant women in your life (wife / girlfriend and in some cases mother, sister). In case of the enforced knowledge it could also be the case where you are in a profession which requires the knowledge of colours (e.g. you sell women's clothing). If you are the former than its time to consider giving up your well paying desk job (I don't think any real artists read my blog) and moving to become what you really dream of. Don't blame me though if you end up becoming broke. That will most likely happen as you would realize that your feeling of being artistic was also enforced upon you.
  2. If you are a guy and scored less than 24:
    Its perfectly normal. After all you are the subject of this blog.
  3. If you are a girl and scored more than 24:
    Don't worry its perfectly normal. It is your duty to teach the significant men (son, husband, brother) in your life to break the barrier.
  4. If you are a girl and scored less than 24:
    I didn't actually think that this category was practically possible. However since its a logical possibility I have to write something here. Either you are a girl who is in early stages of learning English (in which case you are really category 3 but only need to add a few words to your vocabulary to move there) or you are hypothetical.
Now comes the part when I did deeper into travails of the category 2 - aka the Chromatically Challenged aka men.

To start with I postulate that when it comes to colours it is the men who are the weaker sex.
Imagine when it comes to formal office clothes what are the options that we men have ?.
Full Shirt, pant, tie and sometimes the suit / blazer to make it very formal. Again the range of colours that is most popular here is very short- blue, black, white, brown, gray. When it comes to shirts they variety of colours can be expanded a little with entries like green,cream, yellow, orange , red etc. There are very few patterns and colours available really. It is almost as if the fashion world somehow conspired to give all men a uniform look. I know men in Uniform are supposed to look smart. However, compare that with females they simply have too many options not just in colours, but also in the variety of dresses that are acceptable in formals. In fact in India apart from generally accepted western formals, a whole lot of Indian traditional wear are also accepted as formals (e.g. Sarees, punjabi suits). Not the same case with men. The moment one of us men decides to walk in to office in an Indian traditional formal wear (like Kurta) it better be some festive occasion or you are going to get asked to explain your "informal" dressing.Of course since this article is about colours, the type of dressing is not quite the point, but you get the drift.

Coming back to the choice of colours (rather the lack of it), for a chromatically challenged individual though it is not that bad. It makes life so much easier when it comes to selecting the colours on anything (not just clothes, but accessories, electronics, cars etc). Imagine a person who can barely count more than a dozen colours having to make choice of one of 99 colours If you are a man its probably hard to believe that any product can have a choice of those many colours -so check this site from TVS Scooty. So in general we men are happy with our limited choices in colours but the problem starts when we have to go shopping with women.
Since I have sighted the Scooty as an example, imagine a guy shopping for his little sister so she can have a cool ride to her college. She pulls up the colour chart and picks 3 colours from that - Ruby, Toreador red and Rouge Babylone. Now perhaps women see them as 3 colours, but for us guys they are all red. So the little sister here is putting dear bro in a fix by giving him 3 choices - A - Red, B - Red,C- Red. Now when bro picks A, the next question will go something like why not B or C. Poor bro is now having justify why he picked A against B and C while in his mind he thinking "inny mini myna moe... whatever, lets just make the payment and take it home".

I know by now some of the ladies reading this article are thinking, "hang on - my husband / boy friend knows colours well. He always helps me in shopping with distinctive opinions on each choice". Lady don't be fooled. He is likely a very smooth lair. He must have also told you that he loves you like hell and you are the most beautiful woman and blah blah .
For the rest of the ladies its either shopping with your other female friends or having to one out of below possibilities (when shopping with your beloved)
  • a quick and decisive choice with no justification (because the guy is just busy with some gadget or wants to get home to catch the cricket match).
  • an eternity of confused indecision (case in point the choices between A,B,C above).
  • (can't think of other possibilities really ... guys enlighten me by putting some comments)
I think I have been rambling along, to the point of this article now becoming a bore. So I think I should end this article now, but as I do it, I will leave a cheat sheet of how chromatically challenged see some colours.
In the below list are the names for colours that are clearly seen by chromatically challenged individuals.
White, Black, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink , Orange, Violet, Gold, Silver, Gray, Brown, Indigo, Cream.
Yeah if you were counting that's just about 15 colours. Most other colours can simply be described by prefixing the above with the words "light" or "dark" or by denying that they are even colours. Men reading this blog you may stop here.
For the women who are still reading, here is a list of colours that you know and men don't (the words in brackets indicate how most men would describe those colours). Please spare us by not trying to teach us that difference between the 15 colours above and the rest. We are happy to use the words in brackets.
  1. Mauve (light violet)
  2. Lilac (light violet)
  3. Lavender (violet)
  4. Magenta (dark pink)
  5. Peach (that's a fruit not a colour... ok if you insist it is light orange).
  6. lime (light green)
  7. purple (indigo)
  8. Navy blue (dark blue)
  9. Aqua (other name for water .. .oh wait that's light blue)
  10. Sky (Sky is blue .. my teacher taught me that)
  11. Cyan (light blue)
  12. Mint (light green)
  13. Olive (that's a fruit not a colour)
  14. Tan (light brown)
  15. Beige (light brown)
  16. Maroon (dark red)
  17. Ruby (is a precious stone)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spock's tricorder

Star Trek fans can relate with both the tricorder and Mr. Spock. So imagine an episode from the series  - Spock lands on an alien planet. He draws out his tricorder and starts scanning the atmosphere around him. He hears a noise and learns the its a native life form attempting to communicate with him. He uses his universal translator to understand the alien and communicate back. As he is about to bid adieu he gets a call from Captain Kirk inquiring about his findings. 15 years ago  this was science fiction.

Fast forward into today. Imagine yourself flying (should I say beaming) to China on a business trip. You land at the city of Shanghai. Unable to comprehend Chinese, you draw your mobile phone. You open the translator application on phone and speak English into the phone which in turn translates it into Chinese so the cab driver can take you to the right destination. On your way you scan the surrounding with your reality browser application and get instant information about the various places that you see.
Just as you get off from the cab you get a call from your boss to check if you have reached the venue of your conference.

If we ignore the hole that international roaming and 3g data connectivity creates into our pockets, the situation of Spock and my imaginary visit to China ain't too different. Today's mobile phone is no different from Spock's tricorder. Technology is changing our life even as I use my tricorder to write this log. Pity voice to text isn't quite working on my mobile (tricorder) yet. Else I could have simply dictated this blog. Guess this tricorder still has a few functions desired, but we are getting there.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Android geekdom

I got hold of an android  phone a few weeks ago. Since then I spend more time online using my phone as if it were a pc. My dear home desktop must be craving for some attention. But I guess it will have to wait its turn as for now I am preferring my phone for anything remotely connected with communication. Besides this post is dedicated to android phone and how it appeals to the geek inside me.

Soon after me buying this phone , my office lunch group was planning an outing. On the pen-ultimate day came the requirement that we needed to colate everyone's phone numbers. Suddenly I woke up from my hibernation and mentioned that i had all phone numbers on my phone book and volunteered to mail everyone the same.

Now all i had to do was open outlook on my work desktop and type in all names and numbers and send. That of course is not quite as geeky as i would like. So i decided that i will use my android effectively. First task was to transfer contacts online without typing them. So In absence of a much desired 3g connection I used my GPRS internet to sync my contacts to Google addressbook. Next I realised that our corporate intranet had blocked gmail access from inside the firm's network. So even though All contacts were online I could not access them. Give up and type ..? No way! not when I am so close.

A little thought and I realised that iGoogle has a contacts gadget. So I imported the same on my igoogle page. Luckily this gadget was not blocked. So i picked all contacts of my interest and exported as csv. Now with those open on my desktop it was a mere copy paste send routine. The sweet accomplishment was that my goal was achieved without typing a single letter on my keyboard.

So now its time to blog this. So here I am typing this on the blogger app on my latest android phone, which uses my home wifi network to go online. Geeky and loving it.