I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Saturday, July 29, 2006

What a review

After pointing out a terrible review in my previous post, let me give you something brilliant to read.

That review of Omkara was also meant to chastise the film and the actors. It however read more like a schoolboy rant. To see how a negative review should be written, read By the Seven Green Moons of Gongle.
"In my religion we have a term for it: 'bulldada.' Bulldada means that the object in question was created in all sincerity as its creator's very best effort to do something truly good, yet because of an inherent judgmental flaw deep within the artist's nature it miscarries so wildly that it becomes transcendent in a whole new way. It tips the scales in such a strange direction that they fly up and strike you a bloody gash upon the brow. You can't fake bulldada -- it can be created only out of a heartbreaking ineptitude which reveals at once all the tragic flaws of human nature.

Science fiction itself is a hotbed of hackery and wrong conceptions -- possibly because it seems so easy to write. Any would-be author with a drum to beat can brew up a domed city or alien world to promote a personal socio-political fetish. I have read novels by one-time authors for or against any number of political, religious, social, moral and ethical systems from socialism to the fluoridation of water. There is no mystery here -- it's just poor writing by mediocre thinkers. Galaxy 666 is different."
And then,
"I have been shopping used book stores for decades, and as a matter of habit invariably check under "T" just in case. I used to see it a lot -- too much in fact. Half a dozen at a time. But then I was more the connoisseur. I had mastered the art of judging a book by its cover and knew what to expect from a book with a wonderful abstract/surrealist John Powers painting on the cover; a psychedelic photo on a Tower or Belmont book; or one of the funky photos of a space-suited G.I. Joe which sometimes appear on a Curtis book with its little red Ben Franklin logo. I never could tell what to think of Galaxy 666."
Ken deVries has ripped the book apart so badly, that my heart aches just to read it once. Anyone has a copy?

Omkara Review

I still haven't seen the movie so I can't comment on it yet*.

However, I must point out a few sentences in Aditya Sinha's review of the movie in Hindustan Times, Delhi today.

"You'd think Hindi heartland gangland violence will definitely be more interesting that the Venetian-Turkish wars Shakespeare set his play in." also means I have no idea of that war, and I need to look cool and informed nevertheless.

"So if the violence sucks, how's the sex? Given that Othello revolves around Iago poisoning Othello's mind with suspicions of Desdemona's adultery, there ought to be a fair amount of it." also means I went in expecting a skin-flick. The last movie on adultery I remember had Mallika Sherawat and Emraan Hashmi.

"What's worth the price of admission is Bipasha Basu.... Not only is she a pure animal, but she is also an underrated actor. She's so naughty, you want to go back to the HT gym, get a toned body, beat the hell out of John Abraham and then... spank her." Means let me slip in my adolescent fantasy here. Am sure that the editor will remove it before it goes to print. Otherwise I am in trouble with John Abraham and my mother.

"Kareena seems suited for the role - she doesn't look fat and old like Preity Zinta, and looks marginally less demented than Esha Deol - but she cannot emote." means since I can't sound clever about anyone's acting (even someone as bad as Kareena), let me at least take digs at Preity Zinta and Esha Deol. Controversial is better than clever.

Nothing more to say. It's been that kind of a day.

*Actually, that is not reason enough for me.

Advice for IITians*

Read How to use Google to get a girl and get laid?

Also, read what it really does to Damien Mulley.

* Used as a generic terms for engineers, nerds, most MBAs etc.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Brad Pitt...

...looks like me.

Or at least is the celebrity with the best match to my face (54 % and all), according to Face Recognition here.

Now, the Girl likes him and since she reads this, I have to say I am happy. Inward though, I am kind of confused.

By the way, the other celebs I resemble are Won Bin, Matt le Blanc and Sugar Ray Robinson.

Update: the Saint points us to another website of similar use. I tried to find out whether Brad Pitt still looks like me. Unfortunately, it kept on asking me to enable javascripts at which point I became tired and didn't follow through.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Zidane's clarification

""I would just like to say to the public that I'm very sorry they had to see such a thing. I've never done it before and it will never happen again."

Television replays showed the horse Materazzi being unruly in the parade ring the match, ultimately throwing O'Neill tweaking Zidane's nipple. The conditional jockey Zidane turned around, before lowering the butt of his helmet bald head, as hard as a helmet, into the horse's nose Materazzi's chest.

Zidane said, "I landed on my feet, but a bit awkwardly for my knee and I was a little bit angry then, but I've never done anything like this before and I'm glad to say the horse is OK after it", referring to Materazzi as a horse.

Italian media has said that Materazzi does have some horse like qualities, but have asked Zidane how he got to know?

Definition of Prayer...

is here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Do you dig?

"Does to dig mean 'to like', 'to understand' or 'to appreciate'?"
"Well, you know music. It's like the quarter-note in music. You know... the note between C and C-sharp, with its own identity. Its own sound. Because you can't call it C or C-sharp....Dig is like that. Dig means dig."
"....You mean that dig not only means that I understand, but that I am a special sort of person who understands in his own special way."
"Yeah, exactly. I dig."

More here.

What not to do with a Tam-Brahm Part 2

Do not challenge him in matters Bhindi. Gaurav writes that
"Bhindi has a crunchier and understated appeal. It is more like a targeted attack, with only a few select tastebuds getting any preferential treatment, but that itself is enough to invoke images of paradise."
That's besides the point.

Bhindi irrespective of taste, mode of preparation and visual appeal, is a religion for Tam Brahms. For the benefit of Tams and Mallus reading the blog, I must say that I am not talking of the dot in the middle of a woman's forehead. That's a bindi. (You think that caveat was unnecessary. Read this and this). That is also a matter of religion, visual appeal and mode of preparation. However, most people I know do not lick it off foreheads.

Okay, let's get back to bhindis (sorry for the previous line). Millions of tiny Tam-Brahms drink Farex and eat Bhindis when they are born. So that they can turn into Ramanujam, who ate bhindis on his way to Cambridge (he died soon after). Ramanujam's friend, Hardy, gave Bhindi's their English name. No, not Lady's finger, which was coined by Angulimal and Siddhartha. But Okra. Which was a mathematical symbol in Tamil translated phonetically into English.

Incidentally, while turning into Ramanujams, the tiny Tam-Brahms outgrow Farex but stick to Bhindi. Farex turns into curd-rice, which is more amenable to becoming a ball via a couple of deft wrist-flicks, which can be then thrown into the mouth with alarming inaccuracy.

I was well aware of misfortunes suffered by fellow-travellers on a Tam-Brahm's table, but had no clue about Bhindilove when I challenged one sprightly middle-aged man in Dubai last to last year. He was talking about Ramanujam and Okra, when I said that I don't like the Bhindi dish that he made. He was stunned, but quickly resumed his composure and said that if I didn't like it he will eat it all. Which suited the other two souls in the room quite well.

However, one of the other being a son of a Navy man who likes a good fight, put forth a challenge.


Which is like showing a bull to a red rag. Except the other way round. The red rag accepted and promptly went into his closet. He came back a minute later with two P.G. Wodehouse short story collections and a bib. Adjusting the second on his torso and keeping one of the former on his hand, he set out with gusto.

I believe at the end of forty-five minutes and sixty-five pages (Farex, Curd-rice balls and Bhindi make for better reading speed as well), the entire 560 568 grams had passed through the gullet. We lost the bet.

Since then the gullet has invited us to his house for bhindi sessions many a times. We have refused since we can't hold back our challenges when confronted by okra that can't be eaten by us. Let this serve as a warning for all of you, who have been invited thus.

If you don't believe the extent of passion, read this.
"Normally, vendakkai is a gooey-gooey kind of vegetable which can be expressed admirably in Tamil, "vazhavazha kozhakozha". When housewives made a vegetable from vendakkai and chepankizhangu, it reached the zenith of "vazhavazha kozhakozha". The vendakkai sambar, of course, was an exception and went well with rice and idlis. But vendkakkai and curds, as mentioned by my cousin? It vaguely brought back memories of a long forgotten taste. Then suddenly I got it. Was he referring to vendakkai vadhakki pachadi?...I, certainly would not mind larger helpings."


Update: A friend points out that I make it seem that 8 grams of bhindi (out of 568) was left behind. I apologise for the mistake. The error is unintentional and has been rectified.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Even Hell's fury shouldn't be this bad

  1. Put up a huge billboard next to Steven's office telling everyone what a lying, cheatin, scumbag he is. Pay for the billboard using Steven's money.
  2. Hand out the entire wine collection that Steven has built over the years to hard-working landscapers in the neighbourhood.
  3. Hand out flyers saying Lost Dog, with Steven's photo, all over NYC.
  4. Waive A-Rod and Pujols off the fantasy baseball team and signed up players from the disabled list. Ouch!
  5. Kill Steven's 38-year old teddy bear in Reservoir Dog fashion.
  6. Pawn the engagement ring and get clothes, Pilates sessions, male masseuse and a 40" flat screen TV.
  7. Take the entire porn collection and send it across to the parents with a note, "Am storing this for a while. Feel free to watch at leisure." No, wait. Add a naked Polaroid of Steven tied to four bedposts.
This is what Emily, Steven's wife, did when she found out that Steven was cheating on him. I don't have anything to add. (Hat tip: Milo)

Update: There's no truth in this world. (Hat-tip: Sashi)

US learning to play by world's rules

If the basketball team can, then is it too wishful to think that the country can?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What's so great about blogs?

Hugh MacLeod has more cartoons here. Plus, he is a kind, generous soul who doesn't believe in making money from art, as long as he sells wine.

The following cartoon obviously reminds us of the much ado about nothing. (Amit, I have replaced Seth Godin by your name)
And this one is about many of us.
Plus, you can get them on your visiting cards.

Headlines Today

I am in a lazy mood today. Hence, I will aggregate.

First Google News gives Jai Arjun Singh a headline of his own. Look under entertainment.
Then, I figure out that sleeping with women makes men dull, a finding which is sure to give proponents of same-sex sleep a fillip.

Then, while searching for a news story on middle finger, I found out that four-year olds are not what they used to be when I was a four-year old. I still haven't found the story about the Delhi Police's obsession with middle fingers.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna ** 1/2

There's some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that Karan Johar is growing up finally and thankfully, to show that he doesn't need to kill Shah Rukh Khan without giving him the girl.

The bad news is that he decides to kill Amitabh Bachchan merely eighty-three minutes into the movie. And in a film where the rest of the actors act like themselves (think Abhiskek Bachchan do a Dhai Akshar Prem Ke), we needed Amitabh till the end.The story revolves around two married couples, Dev Saran-Maya Talwar and Rhea Saran-Rishi Talwar. Sorry, make this Dev-Rhea and Maya-Rishi. The senior partner in each one of them (Shah Rukh Khan playing Dev Saran and Rani Mukherjee playing Maya Talwar) start falling in love with each other. Then, the couples fall into a web of lies and half-truths. Reminds you of Closer? No, not quite. As here, Amitabh Bachchan saves the day, using sophisticated weapon made of corny language.

Also, in Closer, the web was spun deftly by interesting characters (a stripper using a faux name, a writer writing obituaries for a living), living a life which was dangerous, violent and malicious.

Here, we have an injured retired football player and a woman who can't bear a child running around a few trees. The woman, Maya Talwar, is as big a cliche as any in Indian cinema.

The character is symptomatic of what is wrong with the movie. Karan Johar over his last two films, is trying to find India in New York and has turned the art into an assembly line production. While on the outside, these Indians are rich, urbane and designer-clad and speak in a modern diction, they have not been able to find a modern idiom of their own. Their values stay comfortably in the 1980s. They espouse respect for hoary traditions.
Hence, while Rishi (Abhishek) has no issues in referring to his father, Samarjit Singh Talwar, as Sam, he would listen when Sam tells him, "Saccha pyaar tyaag mein vishvaas zaroor karta hai, par pati-patni ka pyaar sachai ke liye tyaaga nahin ja sakta." (While true love believes in sacrifice, a husband and wife can't sacrifice their love for truth). Thus, he would go into the bad, bad world of people being true to their emotions to save his ill-fated marriage. And, he succeeds.

Similarly, after Rhea (Preity Zinta) walks out on her husband and does a dance called "Where's the party?" with Rishi, she soon realises her folly. Not because she wonders why she is doing a dance surrounded by extras, instead of drinking her sorrows away or doing a cathartic strip dance. But because she wants her husband back, so that she can throw herself into his arms and cry.

Scene after scene unfolds in a setting borrowed from American sitcoms and end with Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi or Silsila. Where the film could have been the breakthrough "in which Karan grows up" film, it doesn't even try*.

Instead, what we are left with is a rehashed story which doesn't live upto its promotion. Or probably does, since Preity Zinta is appearing in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi as part of the promotion.

The music is refreshing, though. Mitwa is probably going to end up as the "Kajra Re" of this year. Plus, Arjun Rampal, in a cameo, has the best dialogue of the film, "Don't be a football of other's opinion". Watch it if you must find out how New York looks like through the eyes of Karan Johar. Watch it if you have to see a movie that everyone else will see (which will happen inevitably).

Otherwise, read the reviews and hire out a copy of Closer.

Incidentally, since in case you want to read some speculation about the film, you can go here.

* I am not saying that Karan wanted to try. He probably is satisfied with making a lot of money, getting a few Filmfare awards.

Images from Wikipedia and Vluvshahrukh.com

Update: Sorry to do this, dear readers, but the review is a work of fiction. I have not seen the movie, nor intend to, at least till the reviews convince me.

2nd Update:Pratyush points out this IMDB thread which says that the movie is based on We Don't Live Here Anymore. Who knows? In any case, films on unfaithful couples has been made umpteen times.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Another Newspaper Find

In case you are feeling hungry or if you want to harass your wife, think of some better means.

Plus, remember Patna Daily? Well, it can't even hold a candle to this.
...It was revealed that even in his state of ill-health, the two love birds did not stop their amorous act as they were even making love in the presence of the man...
After this incident, Small Talks learnt that a few days later, the husband of the adulterous woman gave up the ghost.

And this.
According to the story, the woman had told the husband there that the prophet allegedly tricked her into having carnal knowledge with her.

And this.
It is indeed different strokes for different folks as this man who hails from the riverine area of Rivers State is at the moment passing through excruciating pain for daring to eat the forbidden fruit. Small Talks was told that for the past two weeks, this man has been in pain as a result of his manhood which has refused to shrink since after he slept with his estrange wife.

Especially the last one. Oh, how I thank Google News.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Still banned

We are still banned. For we continue to terrorise. For those who came late, we are here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bloggers Against Censorship

As we try to find more information on which blogs were banned and why, I am rallying around the icons (From Pratyush). Feel free to use it on your side-bars or wherever else they would look prominent.

Also, for those readers who are surprised that Dhoomketu suddenly turned national, well, he didn't. Firstly, the current cause is censorship in India (hence the flag). Secondly, Pratyush gave me the icons!!

More detailed thoughts on censorship and whether this is only a technical glitch or censorship later.

An open letter in support of DOT

Dear Dot,
Your name is kind of small. However, your powers are large and I write this as a humble citizen of the great country you rule. Please, if I make any mistakes in this mail, don't send me to Andaman & Nicobar. That kind of thing hasn't been done in some years now.

Firstly, let me thank you for the opportunity to write a letter that I can't see after I write. I am a little old-fashioned you see. Remember those days when we used to write on paper and put it in an envelope, put some stamps and then put it into a letter box. I definitely remember those mails. Now, when I write this story on Blogger.com and can't see the same letter on Blogspot.com, I will get the same nostalgic feeling. Will forever remain in debt, or at least till your obviously well-intentioned ban on Blogspot remains.

I know some stupid detractors will talk about Bloglines and other aggregators. Let me assure you that those are new-fangled words that you need not worry about. In any case, you can ban them whenever you want. I know you have the power. You are He-man. You don't need any reasons. You are far more powerful than the Arjun Singh himself. You are mighty.

Secondly, I must also thank you for ignoring Livejournal and Wordpress. Those are second-rate platforms and I am happy that by banning Blogspot you have clearly showed that those other two platforms don't matter. Somewhere, Larry Page and Sergey Brin would be smiling a lot. Many, many thank yous from their side. May your sons get Google stock at a discount. The only crib I have is that you have also banned Geocities. It tells me that like the best of us, you are getting old. Geocities is so 1990s that it makes Madhuri Dikshit look young and virginal. I hope you will realise that. After all, not a single word of protest has been heard on Geocities block.

Thirdly, thanks for getting us to meet our brother bloggers from Iran, Pakistan and China. They have been facing Dots in their country for sometime now and have had to think creatively on various ways to make things interesting (After all, what fun will you have if I don't think of resisting?). Now, we can join them as well. Thank you again. You have driven the peace process forward in a way no bus or Prime Minister can do. You are more man than Musharraf himself.

Fourthly and lastly, you have shown Shivam Vij his place and made Falstaff meet Geocities. (Sorry!) We have tried for long to do both, but haven't been able to ignore the man or make Falstaff read any frivolous Geocities site. You have not only managed that, but even had lunch in between. Forever in debt.

I must also say that you have done all of this in the most nonchalant manner possible. Quite possibly, you haven't even told anyone why you want anything to be banned. Hence, your minions are phishing for excuses. Guessing rather badly at that.

Since the last time Ganguly hit an offspinner for a six over covers, such classy nonchalance hasn't been seen in India. And we all know how long back that was. Plus, you have gladdened the hearts of us Bongs by refusing to make off-hand comments (when you can swat the ball away for four instead). As Dravid said, "On off-hand, there is Dot God, then there's Ganguly).

I would keep on looking forward to more such entertainment. Blogspot is just a start. Go on get Google. Get Yahoo. Get Orkut (where Indian culture gets abused in the worst form possible). In fact, get back at all of us. Have you heard of the brazen folks at Wikipedia. No, no, taking printouts every hour and burning them won't do. Save it for Guy Montag. You go ahead and ban. For you can.
Yours truly,

Digg the story, please. And to work around the ban, go here or here. To follow the facts found till now, either go here or here.

Update 1: Greatbong learns similar lessons.

Censorship against Blogspot

If you are reading this and in India, you are lucky.

For certain Indian ISPs have blocked access to Blogspot.

Those wanting to find out what happened, have been banging their heads against the Orwellian labyrinths to get some information on this. So far, not much luck, though rude behaviour has been encountered.

This reminds us of a similar incident of the past. "What has happened now (the blocking of the entire Yahoogroups) was the result of incompetent persons handling technology." This from a former Director General of Police. Not from us bloggers.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Geek Goddess

Yes, not Greek Goddess.

In B-schools, men from IIT or Infosys were stunned by the number of women around. Other less gifted souls (from second-rate institutes like Delhi University) however, complained about the unhealthy sex-ratio (which ranges from 8% women in certain years to an astounding 20% in a freak year). I was one of those less gifted souls.

Now, I figured out what we needed to do. Get our batchmates to pose as Ursula Andress. Or Dimple Kapadia. Not being able to see women, around them, dressed as Mallika Sherawat in Murder or Urmila in Rangeela is exactly why women don't join B-schools. All we need to do get more women to dress in a way which appeals to stereotypes in a man's brain. Why didn't some smart MBA think of this?

Anyway, now we can at least learn for Women in Australian Tech companies. They are posing in a calendar in various screen-goddesses poses.

They say that they’re doing this to:
  • Smash through the perception of the geeky technologist
  • Generate media sensation to put a spotlight in the industry and increase national interest and awareness
  • Raise awareness of the diversity of Women in IT...
If it's on 22nd floor, clearly their strategy's working.

Image from ITGoddess.info.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Two men I admire and one man I admire most

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died

- Don McLean in American Pie.

Three cities. Three quizzers. All leaving their towns.

I met the last amongst them in Pune for a quiz that he organised. I had obviously heard of him earlier. Agreed with some of what he had to say. Disagreed on some. Read a particularly poignant piece on Brutus Dravid. Figured out that sometimes we were saying the same thing.

Anyway, we won the quiz. It was fun. Then, we went to eat steaks. Then, we started having occasional conversations. On wrestling. Great Khali. On other monsters. On fallacies. On quizzing. Borrowing from My Best Friend's Wedding, "There might not be Greek myth, there might not be art, by God there'll be quizzing."

Now, he's leaving. I knew him for too short a time to really know.

The second man I met in Madras. I used to have long hair then. We were in the middle of a purple reign, having not lost a single college quiz in a six months. As you can see, my life does revolve around that sport. We had gone down to IIT-Madras to reign over that part of town. I was met by this quizard who seemed to know more than I. How was that possible*?

Grudging resentment (the man knew about the lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in 16th century Iran) soon turned to grudging respect (the man knew his cricket) to admiration (the man can write about movies). However, all that was in the future. Back then in the sleepy hamlet of Madras, it was against him that we had our greatest moment. It was the IIT Madras/ Chennai AV Quiz Finals. We had four questions to go and were tied for second place with another team, eight marks behind the other team. We asked the joint second team for a friendly tie so that we can split the prize money*. They refused.

We decided to win. The last four questions were swatted out with aplomb and adrenalin (including identifying John Wilkes Booth as an actor, connecting a old black and white picture of a man to a photo of city lights taken from a high place (Mullholand Drive!) and two more). There were high-fives, there was inspired guesswork. There was of course a tie for the first prize. Which we won (courtesy Peggy Guggenheim, who was identified from the sneak peak of the canals behind her. I had been to Venice three months back!). He came up and congratulated us.

Since then, I have congratulated him many times since he has made winning a certainty. Now, he's leaving.

The third man is a close friend. Wish I could have spent more time with him now that he's going. Actually, that would have probably driven us to boredom or conflict. We are quite different. However, when I get into a deep introspective mood, he understands.

I had seen him first on a U-special to DU, where he used to write lyrics and poetry in his notebook and read it out to IP Girls. This habit used to make him quite popular. Then, we started landing up in the same quizzes in South Campus. Sometimes, we used to share the bus ride. Sometimes, we would start talking about Marcus Aurelius (actually, only he did) and writing a novel (again actually, only he really did). We would also discuss women, like other 18-year olds.

Since then, we have done treks, long road journeys, late night parties and early morning breakfasts at Madras Hotel. We have been the first to touch the Iron Pillar (next to Qutub) in the new millenium. We have collected hundred and twenty-seven grey stones in Alang (they did look colourful then). We have drunk the night away in Cafe Mondegar and left the bebinca in the taxi on the way back. We have met Bebinca at Baroda at 4 am. We have thought about our thirtieth birthdays and how we will meet in New York (or was it Amsterdam). On one famous birthday, we have scarred a waitress at Pizza Hut (again, only he did). We have said Happy New Year to each other first. We have never made resolutions. We have eaten vegetable sheek kababs in CP before going to watch 'Ek aur ek gyaraah'. We have taken on the prince of Walkaner in one famous assault when all we wanted was tea. We have sung American Pie in front of Toto's along with complete strangers for all eight and a half minutes. We have basked in the applause of autowallahs after that. We have loved, lost, kept secrets, confided. "LSR mein to tera hamesha hi katta hai" is the motto. (In LSR, yours always gets cut)

Sunday, we will see each other at the farewell party. There will be others. So, I don't know how much we'll talk. Then, he'll leave but in many ways (especially those narrow ones in Nizamuddin and Jangpura), he will stay with me.

* We're silly, competitive and broke then. While we continue to feel the same way (except for the broke part), we have gone through such a huge number of losses since then that it doesn't hurt any more. We have become Colin Montgomerie.

Mumbai Help

I am safe. I was watching Superman returning when the blasts happened, which is not so good to watch, especially if you see bad news on sms. Managed to reach my parents after trying for 30 minutes. Hence, if you are panicking, don't. Instead come over to Mumbai Help and leave your number.

We will get you connected, as soon as we can.

I am at Mumbai Help tonight. See you tomorrow.

Update: I have made the post sticky till Friday so that you can read and head over to Mumbai Help. Regular blogging below.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sauna Index compared to Streets

Like the Big Mac Index run by The Economist, friend Thiru has a Sauna index. The details are sketchy, hence we would not be able to share exact results at the moment, but the theory goes like this:
  1. The quality of saunas are correlated* to the health, wealth and freedom in a country. This is kind of obvious as Scandinavian countries where saunas originated, don't do too badly on Human Development Index and other indicators. There are notable exceptions like US, which stink when it comes to saunas, but those anomalies will be corrected soon, according to the theory. China obviously needs to pull up its socks a little and not call sauna "the mulberry takes". Also, who has heard of great sauna experiences in sub-Saharan Africa? At least Thiru has not.
  2. While Thiru appreciates spas as well, which includes therapeutic baths and massages, he thinks of them as too niche (a fillet mignon compared to the Big Mac). Saunas are more accessible and thus can be used as an index.
  3. The quality is measured by a secret algorithm which has amongst other factors, temperature, service, thickness of the towels, floor cleanliness and the looks of the attendant at the reception. There is also a mystery X factor that nobody knows about. The quality needs a sign of approval by Thiru. Hence, he or his trusted have to have undergone the sauna experience themselves.
However, this is not about the theory itself. This is about a conversation I had with Thiru on reaching Hong Kong. This was for a mad one day conference where we didn't have enough time to sample the city**. We had taken the Airport Train to the city. 10 minutes into the ride.

"I wish I had more time. First time in Hong Kong. I want to walk the streets. See the people."
"I wish I had time to go to a spa."
"What? One day and you want to waste it on a spa? Kerala Ayurvedic is there, no?"
"Ya, but every spa is different. I would love to get a sauna and a massage." (Secretly thinks of his spreadsheet on the sauna index)
"Can't believe. You would actually not want to walk about, feeling the place. What about the people? How will you get to know people?"
"One day isn't enough. For that I need at least a few months. I will read The Economist instead."

And the man actually did read The Economist in the sauna in the little time that we had. Plus, he got a massage. Scott Adams didn't have that good a time though.

* Correlation and not causality
** Don't worry, Mr. D, Maverick, Anand and Gogo (in case any of you is reading this). Food was done justice to. Bratwurst and other German barbecued meats for breakfast, and a great Thai meal at Soho (one of the best squid dishes I ever had - charcoal grilled squids with lemon butter).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

55 Ways to have fun with google - 1

From Lessig's blog, I found 55 ways to have fun with google. It's downloadable here under a creative commons license.

Over the next 137 days, I will pick up one way a day and have fun with it on this blog.

Today, it's the day for egosurfing. While I have occasionally done searches on people's names, I have never added a "is" to the end of the name. Doing so does throw up good descriptions of people.

Let's see how some denizens of my current blogroll 'are' according to Google.

Maverick is a Model-View-Controller (aka "Model 2") framework for web publishing using Java and J2EE.
Maverick is relaxing in a hot bath when Cooper walks in with his gun.
Maverick is a tactical, air-to-surface guided missile designed for close air support, interdiction and defense suppression mission.

Mr. D
Mr D is Going to Hell After Laughing at 'Puppets Who Kill'
Mr. D is a librarian
Mr. D is a @$$hole
Mr. D is a thirty-five year old man who has a recent onset of neck and right arm pain

Anand is Nutek CEO
Anand is a committed artist
Anand is CEO of Goetze
Anand is one of only four players in history to break the 2800 mark

Falstaff is crucial in softening his character a bit
Falstaff is the ideal setting for a truly memorable private event
Falstaff is a natural coward

Invisible Man (since there's only one Invizible)
Invisible Man is a Negro novel -- what white man could ever have written it?
Invisible Man is a megalomaniac and a mass murderer

Beatzo is a chuth . he seduced me into going with him to National Market where he spent some 500 bucks
Beatzo is to be taken none too lightly on comics and just about anything lese
Beatzo is no less anonymous than I am

Patrix is an international Intellectual Property Case Management Software
Patrix is secured in the implant and the ball matrix is polymerized
Patrix is pregnant

Arzan is busy with his next show and he’s experimenting with bronze
Arzan is Tigranocerta
Arzan is the first to get this right

Pratyush (Sportolysis)
Pratyush is left alone and sad
Pratyush is the son of Rekha and Jayasimha. Buddiga of Colorado Springs
Pratyush is a banker and has a gorgeous wife, Antara

Amit** (India Uncut)
AMIT is the world's leading supporter of religious Zionist education
Amit is a very handsome man and a natural born actor
Amit is Southern now

Update: Using a similar technique, someone has found that Barcelona is the best club in the world. (Hat-tip: Pratyush) Some mistakes I have found. For instance, it has been proved earlier that beer is better than tea.

* Results of "Anand is" are either about Vishy Anand or about CEOs. At least we now know that Anand's going to rise pretty high in life.
**Actually 'Amit' is, like 'Anand' also too common, but unfortunately, "Amit Varma is" quite boring leads to boring results all pertaining to the man himself.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Be Zidane for a day

Since even people without any love for football and people with immense love have said enough about the glorious headbutt, there's only one thing to be done. Feel it yourself.

Blasts in Bombay and a few things I learnt today

Kudos to the people who could not have done better. For example, the traffic policemen who made sure that the traffic kept on moving. I learnt that efficiency and empathy can be balanced well by police as well. I also learnt that:
  1. Commercial spirit is alive and well. The newspapers and tabloids will come tomorrow. Thus, it's time to rant about TV. Close ups of the dead bodies, which should be captured and pasted all over Rajdeep Sardesai's house were not the only distasteful sight on TV. Advertisements for houses (Flats at Bhiwadi, Lucknow etc. from Mtech developers, thank you, on IndiaTV), underwear (Dollarclub Innerwear on Aajtak) and education institutes (Coaching classes on Zee News) proved that whatever happens in this world, the commercial spirit will not flag.
  2. Where there's a WiLL (wireless in local loop), there's no way you will get through. Reliance network proved impossible to penetrate. While Hutch and Airtel gave adequate challenges in getting through to people, difficult to get into but always possible in the end, it seemed like a couple of bomb blasts happened in the heart of the Reliance CDMA network. Wonder what Sehwag ki Maa would have said about this?
  3. It is okay to talk in a movie hall in certain circumstances. People can crane their necks and perk up their ears for breaking news, forgetting the action on screen. If the movie is ordinary*, this becomes even easier. However, next time, some of you should think twice before asking for the score. That word is not on. No, not even on Reliance CDMA.
  4. People will search for angles on days of disaster. Suddenly, my sitemeter shot up because people were searching for "Bombay vs Delhi". I still don't know why.
* People did not think twice about walking out of Superman ten minutes into the movie. Yes, I know that Superman is not particularly captivating. However, don't think the first ten minutes are that big a letdown. Why? I stayed on till the interval. Incidentally, Superman is a boring movie, but Brandon Routh did exactly as I expected. He smiles like Superman. Hell, he even smiles like Clark Kent.

Five ways to answer that call

On the way to office in my pool car, a friend got a call from ABN-Amro trying to sell him a credit card. He politely said no and kept the phone down. Everything as usual.

However, we were bored. We were stuck on JJ flyover. Hence, we decided to call the caller back and give some other numbers that they should call.

Between multiple pauses (silences) and verbal pauses (um, ahhh, ohhh, ummm), they managed to get over the shock and take down the number.

"Oh, sir, are you really sure?" was the comment that was oft-repeated. That resulted in this:

5 Ways to answer the call

Assume that the initial conversation went like this:
"Hello, is this Mr. Dhoomketu?"
"Yes, it is."
"I am calling from ABN Amro Bank...."

Now, you have the following options to answer that call:
1) General Knowledge test: "What is that bank? What's the headqquarter? What are their total assets? What's their rank in the league table? Who's the CEO? Who was the guy who almost brought down Barings? Do you know him personally? Was your bank involved?"

2) Personal inquiry: "I am interested in your offer. Can you tell me your name? What are the working hours like? I have heard that sometimes these are not the right kind of jobs? Do you work there because you haven't been lucky enough to clear a few entrance exams?"

3) Counter-proposal: "Kitna banate ho beta/ beti? (How much do you make, son/ daughter?) What does your father do? How old are you? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Bura nahi maananaa , itanaa to poochhanaa hi padataa hai ke ladke kaa khaandaan kyaa hai uske lachhchhan kaise hai, kamaataa kitnaa hai (Don't feel bad, son, but have to ask about the guy's family, his traits, how much does he earn.)?"

4) Crib: "You know what happened last time I had a credit card. Have you read the 20 sneaky credit card tricks? How many of you does your company allow? Plus, what about your discriminatory practices?"

What is the fifth way? In fact, what are the other ways? You tell me.

Update: Arnold (via mail) gives a suggestion:
60 - "Listen dear, you've asked me so many questions and I've answered them. Now can I please ask you just one question?"
25 - "Uhh.. (Holy shit!, this certainly ain't in the script! How is my 2-bit brain supposed to come up with a reply by itself?) Yeah, sure"

60 - "What's your cup size, dear?"
Falstaff (who has to go one many better, thinks of 10 different ways and actually takes my case in only a few of them:
1) The come-on: "What's your name? Oooh, that's such a strong, masculine name. So, tell me, what colour underwear are you wearing?"
5) The manic-depressive approach: "What's the point of a credit card? What's the point of anything? My life is meaningless. I'm going to throw myself out of my 22nd floor window now. Goodbye."
The Pankaj Mishra approach: "How can you offer me a credit card at a time like this? Don't you know that the average Indian still earns barely a dollar a day and that we haven't moved at all on the Human Development Index? Don't you realise that communal tensions are on the rise and any day now the communists are going to be voted to power? The faster you credit card companies stop believing your own myths, and offering these western temptations to consumers, the better it'll be."

Telemarketers, I am waiting for that call now.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Icons and Underwear

This one's for Neha.
One of my winning entries in the World Boxer Championships that Mr. D and I are competing in. This and Homer Simpson as Cupid are my two winning entries.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bipasha Black Beauty

Needhi Gill has sent a legal notice to Bipasha Basu for maligning her. Needhi's acting in a movie called "Bipasha Black Beauty".

Bipasha had responded sharply against the movie, "I think they are making a mockery of my name. I have a beautiful name. This is a C-grade film with a C-grade actress in it and hope it is not based on my life. As for my life, I don't think it's worth making a film on."

However, the movie apparently is not connected to Bipasha's life in any way. It's an absolutely novel story of a girl who wants to become an actress. It just happens to star a John Abraham lookalike opposite the lead actress.

Needhi says that "Bipasha should have instead clarified with the producer or the director before commenting on the film". Needhi's lawyer said, "Bipasha is a common name, just like Ram, Shyam, Mohan, Suresh, Ganesh. Coincidentally her name is similar. So what?"

I believe the girl. This movie isn't about Bipasha Basu, just like Gavaskar wasn't about Sunil Gavaskar (Sorry!) Border wasn't about Allan Border.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Jose +10

Yesterday, the Girl got me a gift. Thank you, girl.

The photo's small and blurry, but the poster isn't. Plus, there's Kaka, Zico (yes!), Platini and Kevin Kuryani (who?) in the same pic.
By the way, in case you want to see the full version of the ad (check out the Robben and Kaka showing the way). Also, here are a few behind-the scenes videos for download. You can see a few of them at You Tube as well. The Ecuador Blog asks a pertinent question - "Who would have won?"

Update: Zigzackly points us to a high-resolution image here. For translation of the video, go here (thanks Sinfully Pinstripe).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mickey Mantle's Mickey

Inspite of growing up in India, not knowing what baseball is, "first base, second base, third base, home run" euphemism was often used during school and college. Especially in the company of girls as it was assumed that girls are even further removed from baseball than boys.

I got reminded of this when I read about Mantle's mickey and its tales. (Warning: Who knows what's suitable at your workplace?)

Update: Friend S reminds me of the Dinesh suiting ad where friend Sunny had hit it out of the park. Apparently, schoolkids in Bombay imitated Sunny's home run, give or take a few blondes, after that.

Linky Pinky Ponkey

While the Invizible Man makes a pithy comment on comments on posts, and while Teng tells me that I am playing to the gallery, which I am, Mumbai Mirror decides to link me on Blogger's Park.

I would have kept quiet (yes, right!) but it's kind of ironic that they link to a post pointing out panic in the press. And actually attributed a comment by Bombay Addict to me (well actually to my blogpost).

Regular blogging resumes when I get over this new found fame.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Three things for Nirula's

Yeh daulat bhi lelo, yeh shoharat bhi lelo
Bhale cheen lo, mujhse meri jawani
Magar mujhko lautado bachpan ka saawan
Woh kagaz ki kashti, woh nutty-buddy
Woh lime-ice, woh non-veg thali.

(Take my wealth, take away my fame
Even, snatch away, my youth from me.
But do return to me - the rains from my childhood
That paper boat, that nutty-buddy
that lime-ice, that non-veg thali)

A pre-emptive poem (with due apologies to Jagjit Singh), in case the new owners decide to change the menu. Instead, if they want to revive the taste of lime ice, I am all for it.

Friends have always raved about the hot chocolate fudge, the flagship dish of Nirula's. For me, it doesn't really work. The chocolate sauce is an overkill as it coats everything instead of finding their own niches, the nuts can't hold their own and the ice-cream is too unidimensional. Plus, ever since they started serving it in plastic or paper glasses, the dish has lost its visual appeal. There was something about the glass mugs which made me look at it as I had my lime-ice.

Lime ice on the other hand, till it became soda with ice cream flakes, was this simple yet classic mixture of lime syrup, soda and ice cream. It was some parts regular vanila ice-cream, some part a frothy mixture of ice-cream, syrup and soda and some parts intense lime flavour. Many surprises within the reassuringly small taste range. Plus, it was intensely cold, not like the quickly lukewarm hot chocolate fudge.

Do notice the it 'was'. Now, in order to increase the margins on the soda, Nirula's has increased the soda and unfortunately reduced the ice cream scoops and far more tragically, cut down on lime syrup. If you order one of these sodas today, you will find a taste robbed clean by a strong astringent. I hope new management brings in the old lime-ice.

The second thing I would urge the new management to do is retain the nutty-buddy as-is. I haven't met such a creation anywhere in the world and amongst all the ice-cream I have eaten, this has been the third favourite option. It's hard on outside, it's creamy inside. That's pretty consistent with many good things in life. For more, you would need to eat it. Hopefully, I will get the same consistency when I go there next.

For more, Rashmi Bansal has a post on Nirula's.
As one kid puts it,"Nirula is the place where you go when you can't agree on where to go...". Another was more blunt and said,"It's the place where fat Punjabi aunties in polyster suits go to pig out". But of course, that would describe just about any fast food restaurant in Delhi!

The third thing I must urge the new management to do is prohibit polyester suits. Firstly, they don't breathe well in Delhi summers. Secondly, often the colours clash with the 21 flavours of ice-cream. Can be avoided.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Panic Press

Today, almost 50% of my colleagues have not turned up at work, either because they got stuck and had to go back. Or because, yesterday they had a tough time getting back and decided to chill today. Or because they panicked.

Headlines like "Rains kill 24, life hit in flooded Mumbai" help in creating the panic. Shameless the headline is. Go read the article.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Anger, disbelief and denial

As I have stated in a Metblog post, one of the shocking parts of the Wilson College controversy is the way in which the college authorities have rubbished the complaint. Even the police has said that there's some prima facie evidence, but the college has been unrepentant.

However, I should probably not be so shocked. Sexual harassment is a reality in many Indian colleges. Professors who indulge in it are often brazen enough to think that they can get away with it. College authorities will often choose not to react - "It can't happen in my college", "Probably something harmless got misinterpreted" are common reactions.

This is obviously not different from an Indian family. Just read the following lines from a synopsis of a research study:

  • 54% of the survivors had told someone about the abuse compared to 36% who did not.
  • Most of those who disclosed did so voluntarily. In a few cases, the abuse was discovered by an older person. 30% told a friend, 26% told their mothers, 12% told a sister, 9% told both parents. Only 2% had been to a therapist or counselor.
  • The main reasons given for not telling anyone about the abuse were: wanting to forget it happened (23%), fear of what people would think of them (14%), self-blame for the abuse (11%), and not having anyone to trust (11%). Only 3% did not tell because the abuser had threatened them. Only 1% did not tell because they were bribed by the abuser.
  • The overwhelming responses to disclosure of abuse by the victims were: anger at the perpetrator, disbelief in the victim, and denial. The actions that followed most often did not involve confrontation of perpetrator.
Now, see the reaction of the Vice Principal of Wilson College, "The students involved are not even from our college. They are fabricating stories about a man who has worked here for 27 years. Every lady professor here can vouch for his integrity... The administration stands firmly by Athawle and the allegations are totally false." Anger at the perpetrator, disbelief at the victim and denial in three quick sentences.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A problem that my father won't comprehend

Situation 1
Let's say, someone messages you, "Are you okay? Have you recovered from your post-Holland funk? Or are you whining like A, who broke up?"

You want to write back, "Dude, Brazil will make up for it. Plus, I'm not even close to A." The second statement is like a pun, as
a) You are not close to A. He is, but, a casual acquaintance. Only, he doesn't think so and insists on whining to you at times.
b) You are not even close to whining. You still think Brazil will win, remember. (How you were wrong? and How geriatrics like C.A. Parreira should stop coaching Brazil?)

You are not sure that the close to A will be noticed clearly. Hence, you want to emphasise it.

Situation 2
You want to send a reminder to your accountant about three things, a) you need some tax-planning advice, b) you need to talk about the latest form (can he fill it for you?) and c) you want to find which team is he betting on?

You call him. He doesn't pick up. You sms him. Somehow you stick to the 160-character limit and write all of the above down.
Now, you do want to tell him the last bit is the most important. However, you don't want to add more characters "like most importantly" as it means sending two messages instead of one and you hate it. Plus, "like most importantly" is not emphasis. That is the use of plain boring extra words. Is there, someway, you can emphasise the last part?

Obviously quotes won't do in this case. They are just plain silly. It's as silly as showing "quotes" through your curled fingers. Nor, will other punctuation marks [like square brackets]. You can write in CAPS. However, neither do you want to make your pun obvious, nor do you want to shout at the accountant. You crave subtle emphasis.

To be precise, what you are really looking for is the italic. Invented in 1490s in Italy, the use of the italic was to conserve space and fit in more letters into the same page. This is similar to the situation 2, where you wanted bang for 160 characters. Now, of course, the italic is used to emphasise without distracting the eyeballs too much (like bold does).

If you could write, "Dude, Brazil will make up for it. Plus, I'm not even close to A", it will make your point. If you could write, "Hi, a) I need some tax-planning advice, b) I need to talk about the latest form (can you fill it for me?) and c) I want to find which team are you betting on", it will make your life simpler and effective.

However, your cellphone doesn't give you italics. It gives you 1.2 Megapixel camera, with some fancy frames to frame the picture in. It gives you a fancy graphic equaliser with your MP3 player. It gives you currency converter and world clock and ability to write memos. It gives you Bluetooth and GPRS and Infrared, which is way too much connectivity for an android, leave alone poets.
It gives you thirty-three color schemes and forty-five ring tones and a big display. In fact, even sms-ing isn't left vanilla. They add twenty smileys to reduce your hassle of typing a colon, a hyphen and a bracket to show you are happy. The mobile phone gives you everything you want and more, but doesn't give you italics.

It's like the designer stopped and said, "Wait a minute, will you? Now that I have added the Portfolio Manager, I really can't think of anything else the user won't need. Let's go play Pong". Or probably they did the beta testing survey amongst engineers (and other species of people who don't use italics) when designing the product. Whatever the reason, not giving italics (and bold) is the biggest travesty since Nokia took out Snake from it's new generation phones. Aldo Manutius would not have approved.

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