Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Morning C&H

Mathe-Magic, it is
All copyrights for the comic strip acknowledged.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What a fragrance!

I recently got drunk (hic!) for a few moments by the heady fragrance of the Sampigé flower (Sampangi Poo in Tamil, Champaka in Hindi) that just filled the road in a market that I pass by. Maybe there was a basketful of those flowers that just landed in from any of the villages around. No other flower comes close to having your head whirr with such a strong fragrance and the aroma wafts for a fair distance.

Jasmine (malligé, malligai, Chameli) is also aromatic, but is relatively muted, but can knock you out from close quarters. :) It is a therapy, walking through the flower market in any city and you can always see bees buzzing around the aromatic flowers. You should see the way the jasmine flowers (buds) are twined together in Madurai, a city famous for its jasmine as much as its temples. Beautiful!!! And the flower vendors count it by the number of buds twined and not by hand-lengths as is usual with flowers. So many variants, for this beauty in white, Madurai Malli, Mysoora Malligé and so on.

Another flower that can give the Sampigé, a close run for its scent, is the Thalé Hoo (aka Kédigé, Thaazham Poo, Ketaki/Kewra). Unfortunately, I have not seen it (or smelt it) for a long, long time. Very, very distinct fragrance which cannot be missed and those large pods. This is the famous flower which is condemned to non-worship in temples in Hindu mythology (Shiva Puránam), along with Brahma for untruthfulness.

Aromas and memories. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Images, courtesy of Wikipedia and University of Graz, Austria

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Those Wordpress snowflakes!

What is it with that slow shower of snowflakes on some Wordpress blogs? Most of the Wordpress blogs I saunter into, have those floaters and it is really distracting. :-(

Reminds me of a TV ad somewhere, where an insect crawls across the TV screen slowly while the ad is on (the insect crawling is a part of the ad itself), but you can get fooled into thinking that it is a real insect that is walking on your TV screen. I would be very tempted to brush it off with my hand or swat it whenever I see that. Aargh!!!

Mmm...  And not to mention that the snow-flakes widget is also a CPU hog. :-(

Monday, December 21, 2009

2012 - A first-feel (non) review

Watched the cataclysmic 2012 at last, in a theater yesterday. This is not a critical review, but a first-feel (non) review of what the movie was. I believe that to write a proper review of some movies, you may have to see the movie twice. First time, make no judgement, sink-in and let your senses take over. Smile, chuckle, laugh, shed a tear, cry, be shocked,  stunned, surprised, shriek, watch with your mouth agape or grab your seat, sometimes sleep :) or whatever it is, let it go. Never even think of reviewing it as it plays. You could look out for critique aspects the next time you see it. :)

Ignore the Physics mumbo-jumbo of a massive neutrino storm from the sun's solar flares boiling the earth's crust and causing reactions all over and changing the spin, the magnetic poles and the world's map once it all subsides. The story line is simple, the world ends in 2012 and a race is on to save a sample of the humans, their art, along with flora/fauna which is a parallel to the Biblical Noah's Ark, in a current day scenario. There are quite a few holes in the movie, which I won't pick on.

The special effects are awesome and jaw dropping, almost plunging you into those ravines that get created by the 10+ on Richter scale earthquakes, the volcanic rocks and flames coming at you, the dust plumes from the extempore volcanoes, the crashing/sinking skylines and ships, the towering tsunamis and the gigantic arks (ships) that get constructed somewhere in the Himalayan ravines to survive out the  doomsday. Character definition is just about okay in this movie, and there are the good vs. not so good clashes, family values, greed, ethics etc, but the soaring canvas of destruction overshadows everything. CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is here to stay and I cannot recollect any scene in this movie in which the CGI was cheesy or tacked.

I was riveted to the seat when the hero drives his limo to the airport with his family to fly out amidst all the crumbling chaos, when the mini plane takes off with the earth caving in right behind, the plane getting away amidst a shower of volcanic mayhem at Yellowstone or when the Antonov cargo plane pulls itself off the remnants of a runway at Vegas to go to China and the surprise when they run out of fuel and prepare for a water landing. The other 'awe' moments are when the plane crash-lands on a glacier (the only 'humor' portion of the movie, 15 seconds maybe, comes where when the Bentley in which all the folks are seated inside the plane, refuses to start as the plane hurtles down the glacier with its cargo gates open for the car to spin out), when the arks are first shown in perspective for size (reminded of the old sci-fi movies where there are Star Wars type starship docks on a colossal mother-ship) and when a giant tsunami gushes into the Himalayan valley pounding the monastery on top of a hill (nay, mountain) into non-existence.

In essence, this is a movie made for the big screen and I don't think looking at it in the small screen can do justice (unless you have a big LCD with 5.1 surround and a Blu-ray disc). Also don't wear your critic's hat, but enjoy it for the sheer wizardry of how movie-making has changed with CGI and its thrills.

Monday Morning C&H

All copyrights for the comic strip acknowledged.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh, these IVRs

What is it with the Interactive Voice Response systems of some of our telecom providers? I shunted my mobile from postpaid to prepaid and there was an outstanding amount on my postpaid. The folks that be, at the Airtel customer center, told me that I would have the bill for the outstanding amount sent to me and I could then pay it. That was in early November and till now nothing has come.

Tried to call up the customer service to get details and boy!, there is no way to easily reach a human. Twice got cut after circling around all the options, pressing 9, # etc in my quest to get a live person.
Latched on to a human after playing with a revenue option (recharge or something like that and pressing invalid keys). If a tech-savvy person like me :-) has to hunt to get a human, how would the multitude do?

Read somewhere that there is a site (for US folks) where there is an exhaustive list of procedures for entities like these, (phone providers, banks, insurance agencies etc) by punching in the appropriate keys on an IVRS to reach a service representative as fast as possible bypassing those "Press Blah for Blah" messages.

We may need to go that way given the mushrooming of IVRSs in our system which are not friendly at all. But the saving grace was that the person who handled my request was polite and directed me appropriately. Mmm...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Of colors, palettes, tones, shades, hues and what I see

Have you ever faced any of these?
  • Getting into arguments about what color a certain thing is
  • Have a strict list of preferred colors to use every time and you seem to always prefer only certain colors.
  • Terrorized by crayons with different shades of colors.
  • Your dress selection is sometimes looked at as a bit odd or a tad drab or consistent. :-)
  • Avoiding the Chemistry lab like plague especially when you have to do titrations for chemical reactions and pH measurements via color strips or identify those wonderful color combination names that the scientists come up with, to detect if a trace of x or y compound is present.
  • In Electronics, you do not want to use the multi-color LEDs which can blink different colors and shades.
  • Certain shades of color in flowers, leaves and  trees categorized as beautiful by others, do not seem so to you. They just look like anything else.
I have faced almost all of the above and that qualifies me as a candidate with "color deficient eyesight" or "color-blindness". No "tch tch tch" sentiments over that. Almost 7-12% of the world population could be potentially color-blind according to rough estimates and especially men are more at risk (Women-0.05% chance). :-) [Ah! now you ladies understand, there could be one more reason why men keep off the dress selection regimen; the multitude of hues and shades and colors you see and discuss may make little sense to them, but they just shake their heads and nod. Went for a quick mission last Saturday, and there it was, all the color combos of red, green, orange and yellow left only to imagination, and I sauntered off to the handbags section which had the drab colors of leaf green (or was it?) and black. :-)]

The sad truth dawned a few years back when I got shortlisted for some applications programming position at BEL after acing the entrance test and an interview. During the medical test, after a battery of the usual height, weight, blood and X-ray tests, the doctor at BEL gave me a book (the Ishihara Test for color-blindness), which consists of colored plates) to look at, which had lots of colored bubbles, and then tell him what numbers or lines I could see or trace out. For a few plates, I could see things clearly, for a few, nothing and for 1 or 2 got it wrong. The doctor dropped the bomb, "You are color-blind and have a red-green deficiency and hence you fail the medical test". Retried the test again and tried squinting, tilting heads, changing the plane at which I saw the plates and other gimmicks, but a problem is a problem. I was disappointed that for an applications programmer who was going to do RDBMS programming or data management, color knowledge was a key criteria to get in. It was good providence in a way that I didn't get in there as I wouldn't be what I am now. (-:

Even before this, I had difficulty in color identification between shades of green, orange and yellow, mild reds, shades of green and brown and self-attributed it to an under-developed knowledge of names of colors, but alas! it wasn't. It doesn't bother me anymore, now that I am aware of what I cannot do and should not do. I still have a problem with those blessed multi-color LEDs however. No clue, whether it is glowing red, yellow, orange or green. They all look almost yellow (or bright green, I am confused) to me. :-) Red looks like darker variant, but I would still be confused what is glowing. I have to look for additional cues.

For starters, color-blindness is not a disease. It is a deficiency. There is no cure for it (no amount of eating orange carrots would cure this, but those carrots are still good for your eyes, Vitamin A, you see) and is 99.99% hereditary. It is not true that those who suffer from color-blindness cannot see colors at all and see the world only in shades of black, white and gray. It is the most irritating perception about color-blind folks. Color-blind people can see colors, but the separation of certain sets of colors or shades is not possible. I can clearly see red, green, blue, yellow, orange and identify them, but give me one of those mixed shades where the green is closer to yellow or a shade of brown or some mix of those overlaps, I blink and fall flat. Blue and related shades are easier to identify. I still have no clue of how to identify a color as either Prussian Blue, Violet, Purple, Indigo, Aquamarine Blue, Magenta, Pink, Sky Blue or the other zillion variants as I don't know how to narrow it down. I have the most common form of color-blindness, the red-green deficiency, which probably afflicts 95-99% of the color-blind folks.

This deficiency doesn't disqualify me from doing a majority of jobs though a few would automatically be closed. I cannot be a train engineer (train drivers are called so, and one of the goals of my childhood was to be one, :( and mind it, it is not easy to become one, and it is a high paying job in India), or a pilot, or a doctor (maybe) or join the military signal corps or any industry like paints that places a premium on the need for color identification / knowledge.

One of the things I don't do is to give children any advice on colors. I have been laughed at multiple times and it is fun for them to see me struggle with placing colors as they doodle and paint. My counsel stops on the pencil outline. On signal lights, when I say that the green looks to me like a jaded or dirty white, the others say "what white, it is green!". One good thing with signals is that the position of each of the lights is always constant, red on the top, amber (yellow) in the middle and green at the bottom or if they put it sideways, it would be left to right, red to green. If there was only one single light which changed colors for everything, then I'd have had the time of my life, especially with the hues of red and amber. In railway signals in India, interestingly red and green are inverted from their road counterparts; the red light is at the bottom and green on the top. But from a distance, it is all the same to me, red or green. (-:

So what else?
  • You can go to this site [Ishihara Test for color-blindness] for looking at some of the test plates to diagnose color-blindness.
  • There is also this site, [Color Vision Testing] which has a different set of plates for diagnosing color-blindness and which also has a few Ishihara plates as well.
  • Don't brood, if you diagnose yourself to be color-deficient. Welcome to the exclusive club! Hey, You may be one of them who can look through enemy lines, as color-blind people can see through camouflage that cannot be seen by people with normal vision. :-)
  • And last of all, if not the least, read the wonderful Wikipedia entry, [Color Blindness] for reference.
Even if you aren't color-blind, you can always know about it, its symptoms, understand and empathize (not sympathize!) with those who might have a color deficiency, especially kids. 

Have a lovely colorful day!!!

Image courtesy Wikipedia on the topic of Rainbows.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Musings - Road Sense

A reference to a Readers Digest article translated into Tamil in got me moving on this post to rant.

All the strain of driving in Bengaluru's increasingly chaotic roads is getting on my nerves.

Do people applying for a Learners Licence in India know the "Rules of the road" clearly? Or for that matter, do the "Bhadralok" who drive the motorized genies on the roads (and that includes me as well)?

By Rules of the road, I mean
  • Traffic Signals and their meaning
  • Common and not-so common road signs
  • Lane Discipline-Line colors, meaning
  • Hand signals and Turn signals - When and how of using?
  • Safe driving - Usage of seat belts, Speed Limits, When to honk or not, hill driving
  • Drunken driving and penalties
  • Parking rules
  • Respecting emergency vehicles (ambulances, police vehicles)
  • Respecting school vehicles/buses
  • Zebra/Pedestrian crossings
  • Your rights as a vehicle owner
My experience is that no info on this is available in the Regional Transport Office (RTO) at Bengaluru nor in any of the so called driving schools. I don't think it is any different in other places. In Bengaluru, they point to some photocopier shop outside the RTO which has 3 pages of a printed booklet containing some common signs, some rules and in essence the info that you need to pass the written test.

If this is all the people need to know before getting a licence, no wonder our road sense is as bad as what it is!!!

Where will people get the idea of what the rules of the road are? A good place to start road discipline is in schools. Let us have a subject that covers this and make it engaging and not drab.

At least can't we (the RTO) come up with a "Rules of the Road" booklet as in the US and charge for it (Even 50/100 bucks is okay for that) But it should give a clear idea of what is expected of you as a driver (2 wheeler, 4 wheeler, commercial driver etc).

Keep the entrance test difficult. Test the driver properly. Let the traffic police enforce the rules strictly and maybe let them start with standardizing the road signs. I see sub-text written inside a "No stopping/parking" sign. How the hell can a driver see what is that? And allowing non-standard sized signs even though there are rules in the Indian Road Congress bible (only that it may have references to archaic rules dating from the British times).

Use common sense rules. The traffic police put a 20 kmph speed limit sign on a stretch of a National Highway, of all things, in a village near my house and caught vehicles exceeding that limit with a speed gun. Have those folks driven at 20 kmph to feel what it is, and that too on a clear stretch of a highway? Even a cycle can go faster. Now, I notice that the sign is missing.)

Look at the following booklet of what the road rules are in California, for example. It is so damn detailed and expects you to know the same clearly to pass the written test there. The driving test is even more difficult there. You make one small miss and there goes your chance for a license. You've to retry after a fortnight or so.

India needs a different type of this book given the wild types of traffic, but it is not an impossible task.

When will we ever reach that maturity? When will we ever attain moksha in road-sense and not moksha by being run over or bumped by wayward drivers? If we start the due-diligence and implementation now, maybe 10 years from now, we may see some real improvement. Else, we churn forever in chaos. Until then, let us drive sane and safe.

I sincerely feel we have had too much of freedom and it is being abused to the hilt. No easy solutions, but that is huge rant for some other day. :-(


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blah blah blah

I am not a conversationalist. You talk 100 words at me and I reply back in maybe 5 or less, sometimes in mono-syllables. I hopelessly go out of topics to discuss when in a crowd or a group. My brain is tuned to listen, listen and listen more. If I blabber, it is either when I have a fever, or it is travel time (the excitement peaks and I talk nonsense, it seems! and I am asked to shut-up and give a helping hand), or when I don't relate much to the topic being discussed, but asked for my views :-)

Some people are a mirror opposite of what I am. They can keep a conversation going no end, talk on everything under the sun, sometimes very witty as well. Envy those folks for that. :)

Went on Sunday to visit my cousin's farm beyond Kolar for a function at his place. Took my parents along and also my aunt (mom's elder sister) and her son. The trip took around 2.5 hours each way.

The chatter started once I picked my aunt up on the way, between her and my mom. Picked up momentum as we moved towards the grid-locked Old Madras Road with all kinds of construction happening around that place. The dialogue continued all the way till we reached the farm, save around a 10 minute break for breakfast. The return trip was no different. Started off once we moved out of the farm-house and ran in a non-stop fashion till it was time to drop my aunt off.

The chat (almost everything in Kannada) covered topics about relatives and their brood, bouquets for some and brickbats for some, their childhood (aunt was born in Kolar, my mom in Mandya, facts I never knew), their parents (long stories), people they knew from childhood, the never ending stream of people at their childhood home, places visited long back, those who are no more and those are still hanging in, memories of their sisters and brothers, bright times, sad times, neighbors, luck, Gautama Buddha, the changed cityscape, weather in Bengaluru/Singapore!, topics on TV these days, their temple (non) visits and their commercialization, health and a few more. All this even when both of them are regularly in touch.

All the while, I was keeping myself occupied at the wheel with my listening antennae up. The three gents in the car talked maybe a total of 15 minutes throughout the entire to and fro journey!

Women and their small talk!!! Mmm... :-)

All copyrights for the image acknowledged.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My state, almost

This is what my state looks like, a lot of times. Starting my PowerPoint in a few moments from now. Let the creativity flow!!!  :-(

Mmm... Two C&H strips posted in a row. :-)

All copyrights for the comic acknowledged.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Morning C&H

Click on image for a larger view.

All copyrights acknowledged for the comic

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nandha Laala - நந்த லாலா

One of the most evocative pieces of short poetry from Subramanya Bharathi and also which is very famous.

Today being Bharathi's birth anniversary (he was born Dec 11, 1882), this is a tribute piece from me to him.

This song comes as a part of Bharathi's collection of worship songs on Krishna who is referred to as "Nandha Laala" here. The original raagam on which Bharathi set this song is Yadhukula Kaambodhi with Aadhi Thaalam. Don't ask me about the raagas, but it is more for a classical music-lover's consumption.

தோத்திரப் பாடல்கள் - நந்த லாலா

காக்கைச் சிறகினிலே நந்த லாலா! - நின்றன்
கரியநிறந் தோன்று தையே, நந்த லாலா!

பார்க்கும் மரங்க ளெல்லாம் நந்த லாலா! - நின்றன்
பச்சை நிறந் தோன்று தையே, நந்த லாலா!

கேட்கு மொலியி லெல்லாம் நந்த லாலா! - நின்றன்
கீத மிசைக்குதடா, நந்த லாலா!

தீக்குள் விரலை வைத்தால் நந்த லாலா! - நின்னைத்
தீண்டு மின்பந் தோன்றுதடா, நந்த லாலா!

The image above is courtesy a dear blogger friend Srivats and he owns all the rights and shows a sunset in Bali. I have picked this image because I feel that a sunset evokes the closest feelings to what the poem conveys in its last stanza with the fiery sun setting into the cool ocean and hence a suitable metaphor.

Here is the English translation to my best effort. The song is very evocative in Tamil.

In a crow's plumes, Nandha Laala!
Appears thy ebony hue, Nandha Laala!

In trees beheld, Nandha Laala!
Blends thy green tint, Nandha Laala!

In sounds heeded, Nandha Laala!
Resonates thy melody, Nandha Laala!

In flames fingered, Nandha Laala!
Feels thy caress, Nandha Laala!

There are multiple raagas in which this song has been sung and one version was sung by K J Yesudas in the Tamil movie 'Yezhaavadhu Manidhan' (Meaning "7th person", released in 1982 and composed by L Vaidyanathan, the brother of the famed violinist L Subramanian), probably one of the only two movies in Tamil where all the songs are Bharathi's songs (the other being the biographical Bharathi movie which came in 2000).

Click on the Play button to hear the song sung by K J Yesudas with a lilting melody. (At times, you may need to press the Play button twice to start the song play)

I have been searching for a rendition of this song with visuals when it used to be aired by Doordarshan a long time back. The raagam used was not any of the ones I have heard singers singing this song (Unnikrishnan, Bombay Sisters, Bombay Jayashree, Sujatha, Rajkumar Bharathi (great-grandson of Bharathi). The song used to start at a high pitch and sustains throughout and at the end, the visuals are something like what is above. I don't know who sung it (a female voice), but that version had such as mesmerizing effect on me that time stood still and tears would well-up in my eyes. Another Bharathi song that used to get played along with that, with soft visuals was "Kaani Nilam Vaendum". Hope I chance upon those again sometime from some kind soul to whom I would really be indebted. There are only weak references to it on a Google scan.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Whither Mechanical Watches?

Sometimes a thing you are used to slowly vanishes right before your eyes. One such thing that I see is the wind-up manual mechanical wristwatch where you have to wind it every 2 or 3 days for the watch to keep functioning. It consisted of a spring mechanism which unwound slowly as time passed by driving the cogs and its intricate system of gears to move time. When you open the back of those watches, everything looked so delicate inside and you could see a swinging mechanism which controlled the system of gears that controlled the hands of the watch. I don't even see those type of manual watches these days, all being replaced by quartz movements and run using small batteries.

The beautiful aspect about the manual watches was that it seemed as if they had a heart. Keep the watch close to your ear and you could hear it tick-tocking away. The tick-tock would never stop until the spring unwound itself fully. If you were not getting sleep, keep one close to your ear and you will be lulled to sleep with those constant ticks. :-) No such pleasure on our digital or the quartz oscillator based watches. They are as silent as the moon. My first watch was my father's wind-up from HMT and it served a long time and used during exams as a faithful time-keeper.

The bigger cousin of the manual watch, the wind-up alarm clock is also on its way out. I see only quartz versions of the same these days. Those clocks had 2 keys for winding, one for the clock and one for the alarm. The Trriiiinnnnngggggg of those alarm clocks could wake up even a sleeping Kumbhakarna and you had to hit the push-button on its head for the alarm to stop or the alarm would ring until the alarm spring unwound itself fully. And the wonderful "tick-tock" heart-beat sound the clocks made which was audible clearly!!!. Some of the clocks had a small dial inside the main one for the seconds hand in addition to the alarm hand which used to rotate like a hamster on a treadmill. Those clocks could almost be used as a metronome if the house was a bit silent. I loved the ticking sound and the feedback when the keys were wound.

And the grand-daddy wall clocks which had a long pendulum swaying with their majestic tick-tocks and some of them having chimes at the hour and having a similar winding mechanism as the wind-up alarm clock. They were lovely with lots of woodwork, typically oak. Nowadays you find them only in antique shops and typically priced out of reach. :-(

Not to say that you don't get pure mechanical watches these days, but it has become almost elitist. Maybe Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan can afford those Swiss made beauties which still have hand wound mechanisms, but for the rest of us, the generalia, the cheap quartz oscillators will keep time, having edged out the manual movements over the course of years.

I have a Casio ProTrek watch now with a bevy of features like altimeter, barometer, tide level, moon phase, a compass with all the other things expected of an electronic watch like a chronograph, multi-city time etc and with a solar based rechargeable battery system on the dial. Still I have a very special place in my heart for those old "tick-tocks with a heart" which were my first exposure to chasing time and have stood by me through thick and thin and for the memories.

All images on this page are courtesy of Wikipedia and copyright rests with its owners.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The ending of a mega-soap serial

Half an hour of my weekday night has been reclaimed!!! [Sigh of relief] Don't ask me what I'll do with the reclamation. I will waste it on something useless, :-) and if I don't, it will be not on a serial again.

I did infer some rules of mega serials in an earlier post (TV Soap Inferences) about Kolangal, the only soap/mega-serial that I watched with any degree of regularity. That serial went down last week on Friday with its guns on blanks, after a run of 6+ years and is off the air from this week. It has been a 'bullet shower' over the preceding few episodes, that would have put a Clint Eastwood western to shame. For a prime time TV show, the antagonist supremo lets loose his revolver, kills an activist (who was the only redeeming part of the serial) in cold blood, poisons his own PA, slaps a kidnapped woman, hijacks a court judge, kills his own mother by mistake, attempts suicide and lands up as an invalid.What a bloodbath! and there is no warning at the start, about the trauma it can cause to people, especially kids. I thought that the serial was going to conclude towards the end of November given the pace of bloodletting, but some last minute twists by our beloved director added a life of 1 more week to the same to add loads of sentiments and tears before the final episode.

RIP Kolangal. Hopefully the concluded serial hasn't gone into hibernation to come back as a sequel to finish the unfinished or untold threads and to add to my sufferance. :-)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Running low ...

From morning, all of a sudden, my brain is working only at maybe 1/4th of what it can and 1/2 of what it does usually. There is an emptiness which I cannot quantize or characterize and nor do I want to because I could end up melancholic, lots of cris-crossing thoughts, sunk motivation and energy levels down. Is it bad weather? Not really. But it is not a good start to this week, anyway.

Last week, had action at work. Was active and found it really challenging to keep up with the amount of diverse, maddeningly long discussions, but time really well spent. Some actions heaped on me as well. :)

Mmm. Let me get my moorings. Have to immerse into work to get out of this rut. First, a cuppa Cappucino or a shot of Espresso to kick me out of this stupid stupor.

Monday morning C&H

Is this what they call LM*O? :-) :-) :-)
Smile, Laugh and enjoy a wonderful week ahead.

All copyrights for the comic strip acknowledged.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Collector Of Small Things

Forget what the some of the anthropologists have to say about gender roles like 'hunter-gatherer', with the males being hunters and the females being gatherers and yada yada yada which was maybe true once upon a time. But whatever be it, the female of the species do have a mothering instinct that is rare in the males and they can immediately smell it out if something is amiss. :-D

Anyway, noticed that I do have a lot of the gathering and accumulation characteristics, mostly what can be categorized eventually as junk (by those who don't understand it :-D). Old papers, notepads with notes taken eons ago, photocopies, unnecessary bills/receipts, old tickets, pens with no caps, used refills, manuals for things long gone bad, books, bags and not to mention an array of electronics spares which are almost never used, wires, cables, non-working items, boxes, nuts, bolts, drill bits, screwdrivers etc which are squirreled away and intended to be taken out on a rainy day which may or may never come. :-) The word "useless item" never appears in the vocabulary of a species like me. :-D

Not an easy thing for me to throw anything off just like that. I save and guard things like the worker ants in "A Bug's Life". A lot of brooding happens before a decision to throw certain things out, if any. When a cleanup and dump happens at home, it happens in my absence. I get to review only a few items before they hit garbage. I audit and cleanup my collection(s) once in a while and do it with immense glee as I immerse myself in that with all the material strewn around rankling everyone as it takes hours for this exercise to complete :-)

Guess that all these have crossed over to the software side as well. On an inventory of the software on my laptop, here is what I found installed additional to the standard software, and that is not required for my work.

Web Browsers - Opera 10, Safari, Google Chrome, Iron, Mozilla Firefox
Mail and Messenger Clients - Yahoo! Zimbra, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype
Audio/Video/Images Management - VLC Media Player, MP3Tag, Kate's Video Joiner, Videopad Video Editor, Bink and Smacker Video Tools, Audacity, Paint.NET, IrfanView, Picasa, DVD Styler, Movica, GIMP
Indexing and Web tools - Google Desktop, uTorrent, Free Download Manager, Privoxy
Editors/IDEs - Gvim, Notepad++, NetBeans
PDF Management - PDF-Xchange PDF Viewer, Ghostscript, PDFill
PC/Desktop Management - Sysinternals Suite (Microsoft), FreeCommander, VirtuaWin
Emulators and Virtual Machines - Cygwin, Sun VirtualBox (with Solaris 10 VM), VMWare Player with 2 VMs (Ubuntu/Fedora Linux)
Transliterators - NHM Writer, Baraha Unicode
Other Tools and utilities - RocketDock, 7-zip, TrueCrypt, XMind, JetStart, Direct Folders, MagicDisk, TeraCopy

Not that I don't use the above, I use at least half of them regularly and are in fact lifesavers (Hurray! to all those open sourcers and freeware folks) All the tools are useful in one way or the other. There are tons of other app installers which get installed and then are removed, but stay in my downloads directory or in a backup portable hard-drive for a potential reuse.

And on mails, used to subscribe to umpteen journals and could not cope up with the deluge of newsletters every day of the week. Accumulation inevitably happened and my Inbox(es) swelled mad (peaked at close to 2000+ Unread status with another 500 unread, but with read status :-)), but I have a policy of not deleting any mail before reading. And so, I just moved the mails off to a sub-folder every now and then on a guilt of having a cluttered Inbox and there they sat, for the all important <Enter> on the mail and a roll of my eyes over it and a hit on the <Del> key or the appropriate mouse clicks for their 'vimochanam' (redemption) from their trapped lives. Used to religiously move mails into appropriate folders once I read them, but laziness has gotten the better of me and they all stay in a single folder. Personal email account mails do get sorted into folders still. Some traits remain.

Guess learned habits die hard and wired behavioral habits die harder!!! Mmm... Let me go and see Linda Goodman and see if I can blame it on my sun-sign. :-) :-)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Wah! Technology

I had been to the railway station last Saturday to drop off relatives heading to Mumbai.

Being of an earlier generation, they weren't any enthused by the need to be clutching a cell phone everywhere and the myriad options it has (I had resisted the cell phone mania for a longgg time, but eventually succumbed and now a virtual slave to it). Their children are in the US and settled in well. I made sure that they were settled in their seats and waved them bye. The train was to reach Mumbai on Sunday afternoon around 3:00 PM. The ticket examiner had told that the train would by-pass Pune because of some bridge damage/collapse and the delay into Mumbai may be of the order of 2 hours or so

Copyright of image acknowledged to its author

At around 11:00 PM on Sunday night, got a frantic call from their daughter stating that her parents are not reachable at their home number at Mumbai and their neighbor had said that they hadn't come yet. Scrambled, widely awake, logged in and looked at the helpdesk number for Indian Railways (IR) and dialed there. Damn the IVR system, there is no easy way to personally reach somebody to talk to to get an update. Then remembered that Indian Railways had a feature called "Track your train" / "Spot your train" which tells all info about the train in motion including stations passed and the time of arrival and departure at each station. Tracked the train and figured that the train had reached Mumbai only at 10:30 PM and as we were dialing the US to inform their daughter, she called in and informed that her parents had reached home just then!

A few minutes of confusion, then desperation, then relief and eventually settled down again for the night. How reliant have we become on technology! A cell phone is a necessity especially for aged folks, to be at least reachable. I am optimistic about India in spite of our slow pace of progress. Thanks to technologists at IR for that feature which was very useful for that night (I think TCS writes and maintains the software). I love trains and especially the engines (my personal delight). The only problem I have with our trains are the toilets. Otherwise, every journey is an experience.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ilaiyaraaja in Balki's Paa

Ilaiyaraaja reuses tunes from his Southern films in his Hindi ones, at least those for Balki (a.k.a. Balakrishnan, the director of Paa) . Was jumping around on TV yesterday and noticed that Paa's (Amitabh, Abhishek, Vidya Balan) premiere was happening and the theme music sounded very familiar and after some degree of firing of synapses in my neurons, figured that it came in from Baalu Mahendra's "Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam" where it comes as the interlude in the "Kaattu Vazhi" song. (Never mind that the film flopped, but had gems in, "Andha Naal Nyabagam" (so soothing) and "Kiliththattu Kiliththattu" (energetic)). The "Gumm Summ Gumm" song in Paa is a take on "Thumbi Vaa" from his music in Balu Mahendraa's Malayalam film Olangal. The tune is very familiar in Tamil, but I can't figure it out. "Hichki Hichki", the "Udi Udi" song and its variations are derivations, but I cannot place it, where. "Halke Se Bole" is a short song based on "Putham Pudhu Kaalai" from "Alaigal Oivadhillai".

Cheeni Kum (also from Balki) reused some beautiful music from his older films (Jaane Dó Na - Jothéyali Jothé Jothéyali (Geetha, Kannada), Baaté Hawaayein - Kuzhaloodhum Kannanukku (Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu, Tamil), Sooni Sooni - Mandram Vandha (Mouna Raagam, Tamil)) The Hindi versions do sound as nice as the originals with a contemporary touch.

I somehow feel that Ilaiyaraaja hasn't been honoured enough for his contribution to Indian music and cinema. From his humble beginning to the heights that he has reached, he deserves much more appreciation outside Tamil Nadu for what he has done. He is my favorite music director of all times, the Raja of melodies, though I am not as rabid as some of his online fans for putting down other music directors. IMO, he deserves a Bharat Ratna. Hopefully the folks that be recognize and honour this gem with a gem of an honour and appreciate people in their hey day as opposed to be awarded at the end of their lives. I am just surprised that the Government of India hasn't recognized him with a Padma Shri or a Padma Bhushan or a Padma Vibhushan so far.

Have a great weekend.