August 31, 2004

Currently reading...

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's a Pulitzer prize winning collection of short stories [9 stories in total]. I've reached till the 7th one.

In other news, I've finally upgraded to a higher bandwidth connection. I just got too tired of the long delays...

August 30, 2004

Gmail invites

"Thanks for using Gmail and helping us improve the service. We're ready to expand our test to a few more users, and because you've been a trusted early tester of Gmail, we're looking for your help. Please invite a few more people who you think would like Gmail and could help us make it even better."

After a month-long dry spell, finally some more invites, . I got 6 invites total today. I've promised three of them to people on my college's Yahoo! Group. The remaining three are up for grabs. I don't expect them to remain with me for long though.

August 29, 2004

Another project update

I've finally done some serious coding today. Finished a module of the project [the RSS parser], the most difficult part. The rest of the modules are not that tough, but they are going to be time consuming.

I don't dislike Java anymore. I appreciate that it is a good enough tool to develop software. It's important that I know how to use it, especially in team-oriented projects. But it's still not fun. I'd use Python for my personal projects [if I have any].

The main reason I don't hate Java anymore is because of Eclipse. It's an open source development platform [read IDE] for Java, and everybody who's coding in Java should use it. It takes care of the more mundane tasks which I hate.

Currently listening...

Howard Shore's The Fields of the Pelennor. It's from the excellent Return of the King soundtrack. Read a review here. I could not find an audio clip online, which is too bad. I've already got a couple of friends hooked on this music, after playing it for them at my home.

Google logos

Check out the Google logos for the Athens Olympics.

August 27, 2004

Asinine

This article is stupid. I thought it was a satire site at first. But it actually seems to be a serious paper.

Update: It is a prank. It is usually difficult to tell, considering the general stupidity of people.

Tricks of Trade

The things you need to know. Every profession has it's own unique ones. Read the original story.

August 26, 2004

Firefox

I've written about this before. Many times. But I gotta do more Firefox advocacy. I hate watching people using IE and thinking that it's the only browser around. Especially when there is such a great alternative present.

What's so great about Firefox? It's fast and simple. It's standards compliant. Has a simple interface that does not try to pack too much features in like Opera. It has tabbed browsing, no need to keep many windows open. It blocks popups by default.

But these are just the starters. The great thing about Firefox is the open architecture it's built on. The philosophy is to build a great browser, with minimal features, and to enable people to customize what else they many with the use of Extensions. The Extensions are the life-blood of Firefox.

I have so many Extensions working away right now that I are indispensable. I cannot browser without them. Just consider these:

  • Adblock - Blocks any image ads you see.
  • All-in-One Gestures - Mouse gestures [you'll take some time to learn them, but they are really useful].
  • Web Developer - The best, especially when I'm fine-tuning my template.
  • Googlebar - A Google toolbar [better than the IE version].
  • Conquery - Query various websites [Amzon, IMDb, Wikipedia, etc.]
  • Sage - A lite-weight RSS & Atom reader
  • GMail Notifier - Integrates my GMail a/c with Firefox.

And that's just listing the most useful ones. You can customize Firefox to "fit like a glove".

Google recommends it, if that makes any difference to people who have not yet been convinced. See this, & this, & this. Also, there's speculation that Google is considering releasing a "Google Browser" based on Firefox.

Of course this is just all pro-Firefox stuff. I can write tons more anti-IE. But I'd rather not. Instead just read this if you care.

Whoa, this was supposed to be a short post. Guess I got carried away. And I've probably already posted most of this earlier. No more promotional posts for some time now.

Best Laid Plans

I got The Best Laid Plans by Sidney Sheldon from a friend. I've never read anything by Sheldon and nor was I planning to. But as I had nothing else to read, i took it.

I can honestly say that I'm not really impressed with this book. It was a fun read, but it's not something that I want to re-read. The book is predictable; it's about a woman who vows to get revenge on the man who hurt her, with political/power games thrown in. The story has promise, but fails to deliver. I could see the end coming from a mile away, too predictable. And the plot moves along too easily, people fall in love easily, they get manipulated easily.

Actually, I'm being way too harsh here. The book is fun to read. Just not good enough to warrant a purchase. Well, it seems that I am growing as a reader. A couple of years ago, I liked everything I read. But my taste has improved now. I can even point out an odd literary mistake here and there. Just hope that I don't end up a miserable critic.

August 24, 2004

Some Psychoanalyzing

The last few days have been busy. But I still had enough time to keep analysing myself. This is what I do for fun, or when I don't get sleep.

I think that I think in a different way from most people. That's because everyone else seems to be thinking the exact opposite of what I think. But I guess that's what everyone feels like, except the shallowest of people.

Also nearly everyone seems to agree that rational thought is important. I believe that I don't think rationally. To think rationally, you have to... I don't know, think of the facts or something. Use logic. But I don't do that, at least for most cases. I usually arrive at conclusions instantaneously, but take a long time to express them. It's as if I already know the answer, but can't remember it. It takes some time for it to sink in.

I need to use an example for this. Consider chess. I've seen people think over an move for 15-20 minutes. They go over all possible things they can think of. Some formulate different strategies, analysing the risk of each move. Most of them have a plan. But I usually just stare at a chess board, and think of individual moves. I keep looking at the board till I can almost see what I want to do. If there's some thought involved here, it's subconscious. Playing WEBoggle is also the same thing.

Of course I'm not making much sense here. If I read over this post, it will somewhat seem like something I feel like sometimes. But not exactly.

August 21, 2004

Blogging update

Today was a long day. After finally getting tired of Java around noon, I decided to do some Python. I liked the results, so I decided to create another blog for my coding activities. So, without much ado, unveiling Twisted Code.

Also tweaked the templates for both the blogs a little. And I'm going to sign my posts with Ankit Solanki from now on, instead of Ulysses. I like using Ulysses as my nick, but people were getting confused and asking me who this Ulysses guy is.

Update: I've deleted Twisted Code. It didn't fit in with this blog.

Project update

After much procrastination, I've finally started some work on the project. And I've realised one thing, I don't like Java. Programming in C/C++ was fun. The little I've tried of Python & Perl was also fun. But Java's no fun.

Even the most rudimentary task is made too formal in Java. You have to enjoy programming to get this, but in Java, the syntax gets in the way. C/C++ is an ugly beast, but it is captivating nonetheless. Python has a beautiful syntax, I keep wanting to switch from Java to Python for my project [but I can't, I am supposed to code in Java]. Perl is also an ugly brute. I don't like it very much, but I get that you can almost write poetry with Perl. It's syntax is flexible enough for anything. But Java is just plain boring. It seems to be "planned by committee" or something.

Writing code in Java is not that difficult. It's just tiresome. Hence the delay in starting to code. Many people like the language, so I won't start keep bashing it over here. But it's not for me. The only situation I'd willingly program in Java from now on is when I get paid for it.

I want people to read these two essays from Paul Graham's site. The first is about his own initial feel for Java. The second is almost funny. It lists different programming languages, and what they are designed to "fix".

And just for reference sake, I'm starting out with reading XML - DOM tutorial for Java from Sun's site.

August 20, 2004

WEBoggle

WEBoggle is a word game played online, and is insanely addictive. I've spent hours already playing it, even though I suck at it. Try it.

August 18, 2004

Beautiful ads

Who said advertisements can't be artistic? I want to show you two car commercials that are works of beauty.

The first is the Honda "Cog" commercial for the Honda Accord. Look at it, it's two minutes of absolute wonder. It's made with almost no effects, everything is real. It was in two 1 minute scenes. I hear they took hundreds of takes just to get it right. Here's the link for the clip from the official site. And here's one that's much better quality.

The second commercial, Illusions, is for some Audi car. It is also great, though very short. You'll love it if you like optical illusions, or are familiar with the works of M. C. Escher. Here's the link to download.

August 17, 2004

Political Philosophy

According to this quiz, I'm a Libertarian. This is pretty much what I expected.

Libertarians support a great deal of liberty and freedom of choice in both personal and economic matters. They believe government's only purpose is to protect people from coercion and violence. They value individual responsibility, and they tolerate economic and social diversity.

The dot indicaes my point-of-view. Take the Quiz now and find out where you fit on the political map.

Blogger Navbar

Today was great. I decided that I've posted enough stuff to merit adding Google Site Search to my blog. I went to their site, customized the required code. I started to edit my template when I saw there was a new Blogger feature, the Navbar.

The Blogger NavBar is a navigation bar and toolbar with a form that allows people to search just your weblog using Google's SiteSearch and gives you the ability to check out what's happening on other recently published blogs with one click. This bar replaces the advertisements that used to be displayed at the top of some blogs.

This is great. No more ads. And built-in Google search for my blog. Also, my page looks much better now too.

August 16, 2004

Links

Two links for today. First, Vedic Mathematics gets some attention finally. Second, a list of 100 science fiction books, described as "must-read". We'll have to see about that...

Shopping

I detest shopping. Absolutely hate to go out to but stuff. I beg, borrow & steal to get out of the most mundane shopping. The latest was getting a friend to buy my stationery for me [Sohel: Thanks for the file]. There's no knowing how much lower I can fall.

There are two exceptions to this though. One's buying computer stuff, and the other's buying books. I don't trust anyone else to buy anything computer related for me, and I love books more than I hate shopping. This means that when it's time to buy books, or anything for my PC, I try to get somebody to come with me. But if I cannot convince anyone to come, I suck it up & go alone.

Today I went to Lamington Road and bought a new keyboard. Left home at 8:00 and went there direct from college. Reached home at 20:00. Damn that traffic. Still my only regret was not getting anything to read for the way.

August 15, 2004

Keyboard trouble

My keyboard has died on me. I'm typing this using XP's On-Screen Keyboard [arggh]. I'm totally bored, I finished all my writing work and had planned to spend today starting to code my project. That'll have to wait for another day now.

I was playing Minesweeper for the past hour or so. I improved on all my best times...

Beginner: 5 seconds
Intermediate: 75 seconds
Expert: 253 seconds

GMail Notifier

The perfect extension if you use Firefox [which sadly few people use] and GMail [which few people get to use]. So, very few people should want it, but it's great for those few. Install now.

August 13, 2004

The Prodigal Daughter

The Past
I got a book by Jeffrey Archer, The Prodigal Daughter. I knew who Jeffery Archer was, as he was making news around that time for being in prison or something. I started reading it, and loved it. This was a real page turner, I almost finished it in one go [with many small pauses].

Then I thought of reading more by Archer, so I went and got a few books. The next book I read was Sons of Fortune, which I really liked also. Then I started reading First Among Equals, but couldn't get past the first few pages. A political book here and there is nice, but I couldn't bear to keep reading politics. I still have not again started reading it.

The Present
Picked up the Prodigal Daughter by random a couple of days ago, and started reading. I really like this book. It's fun to read, and has a really quick pace for a drama. And I really like the character of Florentyna Kane; I like all characters who go after what they want as hard as they can.

The story continues from another Archer novel, Kane & Abel [which I've not read]. It's basically about a woman who is intelligent and fiercely determined. She wants to be the President of the United States, and there are basically three things that stand in her way - being an immigrant's daughter, being a woman, and being extremely rich. You get to read about almost her entire life, it's almost like a fictional biography. You've got to read the story, so I won't spoil much of it here.

Reading it the second time was as good as reading it the first time. This book is something that I'd recommend to anyone.

The Future
Archer is a really good story-teller. I want to read more of his books, but am put off by too much politics. So lets see.

August 12, 2004

Zizou stops playing internationally

It's sad news, even for someone who watcher football only occasionally. [link]

Stuff

I've been busy for the last few days writing assignments. And when I'm not writing, I've been reading Jeffery Archer's The Prodigal Daughter [again]. Almost 2/3 finished right now.

My posts have become somewhat less frequent for the last few weeks. It's due to my college. I'm at the "middle" period, where most bloggers give up. They start enthusiastically, lose momentum and stop posting. I don't think that will happen to me, as this is probably the only creative outlet I have left.

In other news, my sister gave me a great bookmark. There's a man who paints bookmarks during book sales at Sunderbahi Hall. I didn't believe that it was hand-painted at first, it looks so great. Will try to scan it and post when I get a chance. It's sad that I got something this beautiful for only Rs. 20. And I googled his name [V. Nadkarni], not a single hit... He probably just loves books, and does this as a hobby.

In in still more news, I found out that Indian Express provides RSS feeds at it's site. Then them out.

August 10, 2004

Just stupid...

Get a load of this... People who pay for their tickets to watch the Olympics will be booted out of the stadiums if caught consuming a product that competes with a sponsor. So, if you choose to drink Pepsi, you'll be asked to leave; as the Coke is a sponsor. Check out some news articles here & here. Even the athletes are being asked not to brand themselves with competiting products.

This is just stupid, or I should say asinine [a word I'm beginning to use more often, now that I visit Fark often]. What next, people at home will not be able to change channels during commercials to "protect" the sponsors?

August 08, 2004

On writing

People write in different ways. I don't consider my self a good writer, but I have my own particular way. And this applies while programming as well, writing code and writing plain English are both the same to me.

I usually sit blank for a minute or two before starting to write. And I usually don't spontaneously start writing on a topic. I normally think about what I'm writing first, go over what I want to write. I basically form the whole structure in my head. Then I start typing. And as I'm typing, I'm blanked out... I almost never read what I'm writing on the screen, until I finish [thank god for spell-checks]. People who have seen me programming at college will testify, it's nearly impossible to get my attention once I'm typing something.

The exception to this when I'm linking to stuff; I never think a lot about those posts.

Is this weird or do many people write in a similar manner?

August 07, 2004

The Fool's World Map

I've always been annoyed by people's lack of geographical knowledge. Is it too hard to have a general idea about the world we live in? Enter the Fool's World Map, courtesy Zen-Style.

It is a project showing the way fools around the world imagine it. And if you see it and still don't get what the hell this is about, then you are a fool. No question about it. The map is updated according to the user's comments. Have a look.

The Suspension

Lets start from the beginning. Wednesday I bunked college 'coz it was raining too much. Then I heard that nobody's going to go on Thursday, as ABVP had called a strike for some reason. I said cool, another free day. A few people went, but nobody attended any lectures.

Then on Friday, on going to college I heard that people were furious about our mass bunk. By 12:00 pm, there was a rumour going around that we were going to be suspended for 5 days! I've don't remember seeing my class so happy. 5 days of not coming to college officially :-).

But the clamour died down. We heard that the Principal was reconsidering. And finally there was no suspension. Damn. Just to show my disappointment, I left during the break...

August 05, 2004

How to be Creative

Read this great post over at gapingvoid.com. Here are a few points in short:

1. Ignore everybody.
2. Creativity is its own reward.
3. Put the hours in.
4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being "discovered" by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.
5. You are responsible for your own experience.

Read it. And there seems to be a healthy discussion going on there on the same topic. Nice.

More Bushwhacking

CIA Asks Bush to Discontinue Blog. [link] [courtesy The Onion]

Update: And now the link to the "fake" blog.

Rains

It's been pouring over here in Mumbai for the last 10 days. Non stop. Not that I'm complaining, I've had a nice vacation from college the last few days. Tuesday was the last day I went to college, and that also for only a few hours. Go once tomorrow, and it's the weekend again. It's nice and cozy over here right now, with almost nothing to do. I've got to enjoy the idle life as much as I can right now, no knowing when I'll have this much free time next. The only regret is that I don't have a new book to read at present. Time to watch LOTR again...

Currently listening...

Like a Stone by Audioslave

In your house
I long to be...
Room by room... patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone
I'll wait for you there
Alone

August 03, 2004

Currently reading...

It's time to learn Java right now. I know the basics, and so I'm just skipping through various books till I get to the advanced part. And I'm not referring to a single book, there are three.

First of all, there's Thinking in Java. This is the best introductory Java book I know, and it's free. Download it from here. A must read, if you want to learn Java.

Then there's Java 2: The Complete Reference, which is a giant book. Got it from a friend for a few days, and read a few chapters. It is good, but not as good as Thinking in Java. It is more detailed tough.

Then there's Core Java 2, Volume II: Advanced Features, which I took from my college library today. Seems good right now.

Oh, and I finished reading the transcripts of all the Angel episodes, even the fifth season. Love that show. But I have too much free time, it seems...

August 01, 2004

More Hitchhiking

I've written about the movie adaptation of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy before. Now it's time for some linky goodness.

First of all, there's the small teaser that's been doing the rounds of the Internet for a while. Download it, in any format you like:

Quicktime
AVI in DivX format
Real Media

I'd recommend downloading the Quicktime version, saving Real Media is a pain, and there's something weird going on with the DivX file. It didn't play for me, but hey, whatever works for you.

Then there's a behind the scenes clip of Marvin. He looks a lot different from what I imagined though. It's in Quicktime, get it from here.

How fast do you read?

Apparently, I read at around 250 words/minute. Check your speed.