February 28, 2005

Stats

stats

Ohh… Exponential growth.

Google’s suddenly taken an interest in my blog, and now above 70% of my visitors are people who search Google for really obscure things. Really really weird things. Having ‘Twisted’ in your title does that.

Can’t give much detailed stats, stupid Sitemeter only shows information of the last 100 visitors.

February 27, 2005

Bushisms

Here goes, I just can’t resist…

  • “Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.”

  • “[It’s] time for the human race to enter the solar system.”

  • “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.”

  • “Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?”

  • “But I also made it clear to (Vladimir Putin) that it’s important to think beyond the old days of when we had the concept that if we blew each other up, the world would be safe.”

  • “I do not believe we’ve put a guilty… I mean innocent person to death in the state of Texas.”

  • “I think we agree, the past is over.”

  • “People make suggestions on what to say all the time. I’ll give you an example; I don’t read what’s handed to me. People say, ‘Here, here’s your speech, or here’s an idea for a speech.’ They’re changed. Trust me.”

  • “The senator has got to understand if he’s going to have…he can’t have it both ways. He can’t take the high horse and then claim the low road.”

  • “If you’re sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign.”

  • “When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was Us vs. Them, and it was clear who Them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they’re there.”

  • “We must all hear the universal call to like your neighbour just like you like to be liked yourself.”

  • “I think anybody who doesn’t think I’m smart enough to handle the job is underestimating.”

  • “For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It’s just unacceptable. And we’re going to do something about it.”

  • “It’s very important for folks to understand that when there’s more trade, there’s more commerce.”

  • “We’re concerned about AIDS inside our white house — make no mistake about it.”

  • “I’m hopeful. I know there is a lot of ambition in Washington, obviously. But I hope the ambitious realize that they are more likely to succeed with success as opposed to failure.”

  • “I have a different vision of leadership. A leadership is someone who brings people together.”

  • “In my sentences I go where no man has gone before.”

  • “I know that human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”

  • “I think we ought to raise the age at which juveniles can have a gun.”

February 26, 2005

Trailers

The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy movie’s trailer is finally out. This is one of the most amazing trailers I’ve seen. OK, not so amazing, but I can’t help over-hyping the movie while I’m at it. H2G2 is probably first book series I love that I’ve read before watching the movie. Read the Potter books after watching the first movie, same with LoTR.

Sin City is frikking amazing. If you’ve not seen the trailer yet, stop whatever you’re doing and look it over right now. If the movie is as good as the trailer, then it’ll be definitely on my favourite list. Any movie that has Robert Rodriguez directing, with Tarantino as a ‘guest’ director is bound to rock. I’m only concerned about a couple of the actors — who I know can’t act at all.

A Scanner Darkly is yet another Philip K. Dick book turned into movie. I’ve not read a single book of his yet, can’t find any of them at all. And can’t afford buying stuff off Amazon of course. Turning its head on the recent animated movies, it looks to be animated in an almost 2-D style, and seems to hand-drawn. But the teaser is great, never seen such fluid (natural) animation.

Then there are some other movies that should be good — The Jacket, Kingdom of Heaven, Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, et cetera. I’ve mentioned the last two before. Not sure about the first two, download the trailers and judge for yourself.

And here are some trailers of Kubrick movies — 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lolita, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange.

Of course, I get almost all of my links from the Movie-List Trailer forum. Almost visit it daily.

February 25, 2005

Getting a little lukewarm

OK, starting with movies. First off, saw The Incredibles the other day; and am kicking myself for not seeing it on the big screen. Unlike most, I don’t look down on animation, its as good an art form as any other. This this movie is just too good. Unlike most animated films, this is not only for children — which is a promising sign. And graphics-wise, it looks to be the best animated film so far. Would not recommend anyone to miss this.

Then there was Pulp Fiction, which for some reason seemed even more funny. I’ve got a theory on Tarantino, he’s daring audiences to laugh at wtf is going on the screen. It looks cool, the acting’s superb. Technically, the movie probably is flawless. But the script is the one thing that stands out, its just so perfectly intertwined (kinda like Magnolia on a small scale).

And I finally got around to seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey yesterday. To be honest, the movie was a bit of a let-down. Probably should not have read too much on Kubrick online before seeing this one. Also, the plot is not as revolutionary now as it probably was back then — too many short-stories & TV shows have ripped-off the same theme. I distinctly remember seeing one episode of The Outer Limits which was almost the same as the movie (this is also a great show).

For those who are not familiar, this is an unique movie. A throwback to the days of the silent film, there is almost no dialogue. The first 20 minutes or so are totally silent — so is the end. And the music used is just superb, better than any dialogue can be.

I really appreciated the small touches off the film, the attention to detail that Kubrick pays. But the psychedelic ending turned me off.

Now coming on to books. I got The Last Don from a friend some time back. I hadn’t read any Mario Puzo, just seen the Godfather movies. The book is great fun — full of sleaze, scandal, corruption, et cetera… The standard criminal thriller. But like the Godfather movies, the book is more about family. And full of little moral dilemmas. I repeat, great fun.

And It Could Happen to You, which was OK. Its like one of those depressingly optimistic ‘life is beautiful’ books, but not so depressing. The story was predictable as usual, but I really liked the book’s description of small town life. Also, the initial character build-up was cool.

February 23, 2005

Tech help?

You know what’s annoying about most people? Once they find out you are good at tech stuff, they just expect you to solve all their problems.

I get that most people are totally out of their depth dealing with computers. I really really love solving people’s tech problems for them, its one of the few things I’m good at. But there are times I get really frustrated with some people, arrogant even. And I hate feeling arrogant.

Plus I’m an egoist, I rarely ask people for help. I can only ask those people I respect/like to help me at something. So I can never understand people I don’t know asking me for help.

I’m thinking whatever I write, its gonna come out offensive in this case. This has been probably the hardest post to articulate till date. Hope I don’t piss too many people off…

February 22, 2005

Everybody runs

I’m in really bad physical shape right now. The reason being I sit in front of my PC for too long each day. And since we all grew up around here, no one plays any physical sports at all — no cricket, no volleyball, no badminton.

So I decided to go jogging/running in the mornings a month ago. The only time that I really did go was last Monday. I’m posting this here so that I’ll be embarrassed enough to go regularly. I still take what I post over here seriously… and haven’t deleted anything to date;even though some of the stuff I’ve written makes me cringe.

February 21, 2005

I’ve been lazy

OK, February is officially the month where I’ve had the highest number of visitors so far and where my posting frequency has been at its lowest. That’s because of two reasons — I’ve gotten a lot of good books to read, and I’ve also been really lazy.

I’ve not even started work on any of the three projects that I probably have to complete by the end of March. But it seems that this week I won’t have to go to college at all. All the sports activities & such means there are few lectures. Hope its so. Also, first week of March has my college’s ‘cultural & technical’ fest, which again means a week off.

Its time to finally do something now. May even finally try & revamp my template if I get around to it.

And in the miscellaneous section, I’m gonna take a Sify connection from next month. Its half the price of my current connection, and the same speed. And there will even be people sharing stuff on the LAN.

Also, SciTE rocks! The MSN Messenger Beta does not.

February 20, 2005

Hardware update

Finally got around to buying a new drive. Got a CD-RW/DVD combo, as well they’re really cheap now. Bought a Lite-On drive, as I’ve resolved to not touch anything Samsung now, and as Lite-On is considered to be the best one around. I’m not the person who can remember the exact specs of 10 different products & make an informed choice.

February 18, 2005

Hocus Pocus

Vonnegut is at his cynical best here. If you are in anyway dissatisfied with the world, get a copy of any Vonnegut book and chances are, you’ll read what you’ve been feeling all along, written with such a wicked sense of humour that you’ll actually feel a little better. DNA & Vonnegut are gonna be my security blanket from now on.

OK, Hocus Pocus is about Eugene Debs Hartke, named by his socialist grandfather after Eugene Victor Debs, on whose gravestone is written:

“While there is a lower class I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

The book was written somewhere around 1990, and is set in periods ranging from 2001 to the 1940’s. Its written in an autobiographical sense, Eugene Debs is telling us of his life in first-person. And what a life it is, from being in the army in the Vietnam war to being a teacher for ‘learning-impaired’ students to teaching in prison, remaining a constant womaniser throughout.

This is the first book I’ve read where the editor’s note is actually useful — and funny.

“…Whatever the reason, he wrote this book in pencil from brown wrapping paper to the backs of business cards. The unconventional lines separating passages within chapters indicate where one scrap ended and another began. The shorter the passage, the smaller the scrap…”

Actually that’s by Vonnegut, who’s writing as if he’s the editor of a book published by Eugene Debs. Took me some time to figure that out.

I can’t really describe this book. Anyone I know who’s interested is welcome to borrow this and find out for themselves. I’ll just resort of an old standby when I can’t come up with ‘penetrating insights’, just open a page and quote whatever’s written to give a sense of the book. So here goes, from page 240:

The Vietnam War could not have gone on as long as it did, certainly, if it hadn’t been human nature to regard persons 1 didn’t know and didn’t care to know, even if they were in agony, as insignificant. A few human beings have struggled against this most natural of tendencies, and have expressed pity for unhappy strangers. But, as History shows, as History yells: “They have never been numerous!”


Another flaw in human character is that everyone wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.


And the worst flaw is that we’re just plain dumb. Admit it!
You think Auschwitz was intelligent?

Oh, and I promise to write about something other than books next time.

February 15, 2005

Reviews…

OK, here goes in the order I read them:

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli: This is one book that took me a really long time to read — as I had resolved to read it a chapter at a time and only when commuting. The Prince is Machiavelli’s (in)famous ode to power — and the different ways to acquire it. Just lookup Machiavellian in some dictionary, and you’ll understand the reaction people had to this work.

You see, the most revolutionary thing Machiavelli said was that there is no place for ethics & morals in politics — and the world’s never come to grips with that even if we keep seeing countless examples of the same principle. I mostly agree with him; if power is your goal, following what he wrote is the best route.

The text is somewhat filled of contradictions — it is not a proper research text or such, just a desperate man trying to speak his mind. And he was desperate, read his biography if you can. I’ve never been a big history buff, as I can’t usually remember specifics of things. But this book is a must read — unless you are too quick to judge.

Girl With Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier: Simple, small and beautiful. Really amazing, if you are into this sort of thing. Loved the way most of the scenes were described — almost makes me feel like I was there.

Actually, there is not much of a story in the traditional sense, but just worth reading for the sheer wonder of the narrative. Or maybe its because I’ve just not read something like this before… Of course its fiction, but I’d rather like something like this to be fact.

As the Crow Flies by Jeffery Archer: Another Archer epic. No politics in this one (thank god). I really like Archer’s style of writing, but for me his books are more like one-off reads — not something I’ll be willing to read over and over again. I’ve not re-read a single book of his yet, but I can imagine that would be quite boring.

Allright, the story of this book follows the standard Archer vein — a kid (Charlie Trumper) starts off as a hawker (really), goes off to the military, fights a war, builds an empire, makes enemies in the process… You get the drift, there is nothing subtle here. Nevertheless, the story is really gripping — and I especially liked the way the narrative shifts in this one.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: As I said, I’d put off reading this one for a long time. But I finally got annoyed of people asking me what I thought of the book. You know, I’ve kind of built up a reputation recently of being well-read (don’t know where people get these ideas…).

Actually, there is nothing I can add about this one that hasn’t been said a hundred times before. I liked the book, and won’t say that it got undeserved fame. More like there are a lot of other books that deserve to be as famous, and the fact that one can never predict these things. It is definitely a quick read, and quite un-putdownable (is that a word?). Next up: read books by Umberto Eco and then actually compare this stuff, instead of just repeating what I’ve been hearing.

Actually, for me any book that gets non-readers to start reading is worth celebrating. Out of the millions that pick up this one just for the fad, many will keep reading other stuff too. Hear hear.

Next up: Hocus Pocus, It Could Happen to You (no idea what this one is gonna be like), Crime & Punishment.

February 14, 2005

Blogger comments — revisited

Blogger’s updated it’s built-in commenting system. They fixed one problem I had with it — people don’t have to click 3 times just to post a comment. Anyone, whether they have a Blogger a/c or not, can post comments quickly now.

Three problems still remain: the posting interface does not seem to be skinnable. After someone carefully designs their blog, you don’t expect the whole theme to change just for posting a comment. Also, one annoying thing about Blogger comments is if you delete some comment, you get a message ‘This comment has been deleted by the Administrator’ in its space. That’s just wrong. And finally, they should provide a feed for comments also. Pretty rudimentary, I’d think.

So, I’m not gonna switch from Haloscan just yet. That, and the fact I can’t export my past comments to the new system anyway.

February 11, 2005

Books!

I’ve learned one thing — if you keep lending people books, they are gonna be more willing to let you borrow stuff too. Right now, 9 of my books are doing the rounds, but the payoff is that I’ve got 3 new books with me.

Got Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier and It Could Happen To You by Isla Dewar from one friend, and Archer’s As The Crow Flies from another. Read one, am a third through another. Will do a combined review later. Will also probably get The Da Vinci Code later on. It’s a book I’ve been putting off for a long while… I’ve finally said to hell with it all, and let me form my own opinion.

And more good news — I was at a wedding today from which I sneaked out early (I hate weddings). Had to get off at Fountain and change a bus, but I though I’m here so lets just look around for some time (at the books, of course). I’m way into the conserving mood right now, didn’t even go to the Strand sale. But I spotted Mr. Vonnegut’s Hocus Pocus on the street, and could not resist buying it. His books are so hard to find — only book I’ve ever seen is Slaughter-house V. Even found Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, but resisted buying it… I’ve wanted that book for over a year now.

On Fiction

I recently saw a movie, Alex & Emma, the sort of movie which is fun to see once. It’s about a writer, Alex, who can’t start writing his next novel. He is in debt, and needs to finish it in a month or so. He hires a stenographer, Emma, to dictate his novel to.

The fun part of the movie was to see (even if it was not real) an author creating his book — in this case entirely out of his personal experiences. The one moment in the movie I really liked was near the start, when Alex is describing the fictional (made up) setting of the book. He mentions that the place was discovered by some real-life explorer — to which Emma replies something like this: ‘You can’t do that. You’re taking a real-life person and making him discover a made-up place. There should be a rule against that or something.’ I’ve not had as big a laugh for a while.

Most of the people I know don’t get fiction. How can you spend so much time reading books people ask me. Fiction is not turning your back on reality, and not wishful thinking. Its just a way of expression, and at times a way to lose yourself. Religion and fiction are the same as far as I can tell — both immerse you into worlds other than the one you are in. (As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side.) But with religion, you get to pretend what you are imagining is real, far more unhealthy IMO.

Don’t start getting psychological on me — if everyone went around with their eyes wide open seeing everything that’s in front of them — why, we’d all be crazy then.

Ok, that turned out to be way off the mark… But I like the paragraph, so I’ll let it stay. Just a summation — people not getting why I like to read are OK, the peolpe who ask me are not.

February 10, 2005

Newspapers

I’ve not sat down and read a newspaper for the last 1 month. The most I’ve done is skim the headlines, or read an odd article here and there. Don’t know what’s the cause of this, the poor quality of newspapers or the fact that I get most of the news I want online.

As the Times of India is the only paper I’ve read regularly, I can’t say much about any others. But the Times has steadily lost its quality. It feels more like an ad campaign than a newspaper. The editorials are the only place where you get some real content to dig into — and most of them feel to have been written hurriedly. And enough with splashing stories filled with every little detail of some obscure celebrity’s life already.

I don’t read local news, and Indian politics bore me. So pretty much what’s left for me to read is the international news & sports. International news is mostly always off agency like the Associated Press or Reuters — which you end up reading before the paper publishes it if you ever keep a look on Google News. Sports news are additives — you enjoy them along with the other stuff. You don’t read a paper just to get the latest in sports. I’m forgetting business news — which I get enough of already by my dad keeping CNBC tuned on at all possible times.

There are some really good writers on the Times — Jug Suraiya for instance, especially when he writes serious. But I’m thinking of dropping it in favour of some other paper (and about time). Gotta decide between the Indian Express, the Hindu & the Asian Age. Only the Indian Express has a tolerable site — Asian Age won’t even load using Firefox, while The Hindu is filled with Java applets.

February 09, 2005

Magnolia

Magnolia’s gone right to the top of the list of movies I like. And I’ll tell you why — it’s the most amazingly imaginative movie I’ve seen. It tells the story of 10 odd people during one incredible (and yet somehow believable) day — people who are strangely connected to each other. And to top it all off, there is really some great acting in this one.

You’ll need to see the movie as I can’t even begin to describe it. There are so many characters — the two quiz kids (young and old), the show’s host, his daughter, the policeman, the show’s producer, his nurse, his son… Can’t remember any names, have just seen the movie once you see. Most could be the subject of a full feature-length movie.

The theme throughout the movie is of strange occurrences, and whether they are really coincidences or there is something ‘larger’ at play. The introductory narrative is fun, and sets the tone for the rest of the movie — which is a thing of sheer beauty if anyone asks me. All the varying parallel threads of the story keep coming together and splitting up, in a vague sort of dance that makes you want to try and guess what the next connection’s gonna be, what the next twist’s gonna be. I almost want someone to make a graph of all these interactions, it’s gonna be fun to watch.

The movie’s end will really really surprise you — and surely will annoy a lot of people. Actually the whole movie will probably piss off a lot of people. But hey, no one is gonna remain indifferent to this movie, which is probably the highest praise I can heap on it.

And some obligatory quotes:

Claudia Gator: I’ll tell you everything, and you tell me everything, and maybe we can get through all the piss and shit and lies that kill other people.

Jim Kurring: Let me tell you something, this is not an easy job. I get a call on the radio, dispatch, it’s bad news. And it stinks. But this is my job and I love it. Because I want to do well - in this life and in this world, I want to do well. And I want to help people. And I might get twenty bad calls a day. But one time I can help someone and make a save - correct a wrong or right a situation - then I’m a happy cop. And as we move through this life we should try and do good. Do good… And if we can do that, and not hurt anyone else, well… then…

Narrator: There are stories of coincidence and chance, of intersections and strange things told, and which is which and nobody knows; and we generally say, “Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn’t believe it.”

Jimmy Gator: The book says, we might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.

February 06, 2005

Projects

As I said, I have to complete 3 projects this semester. I’ve decided on two of them, and should start working on them from tomorrow onwards.

The first one, for DBMS, is a sort of note-taking tool which uses tags for management. I’ve gotten to really like tagging, and I want to try out figuring how something like del.icio.us works. I’ll be writing the core API in Jython (probably), and should be able to give it a nice GUI by the end.

Another one is a password management utility for my Software Engineering class. It’s gonna be really irritating documenting each and every little change I make, and to whip up fake reports and stuff to show I ‘analysed & designed’ stuff.

The last thing I have to do is a small e-commerce app… Got a few ideas, but any suggestions are welcome.

February 05, 2005

On Mobiles.

I don’t have a mobile. Lots of people have asked me why I don’t just buy one; and there is a good reason for that — I don’t like mobiles.

I think mobiles are really useful, but personally don’t feel a need to use one. Almost every person I know carries a mobile, so it won’t make much of a difference in emergencies whether I have one or not. Also, the idea of being on call 24 hours a day is not pleasant. I don’t keep my IM’s on for the same reason.

A phone call is disruptive. People can just mail me anything they need to mention — or wait till I reach a landline. Also, I don’t work at all, so there is no case of any loss of productivity.

I also find people talking on mobiles annoying — especially friends talking when we’re out somewhere. You’d think people would pay more attention to the person they are with at the present.

One thing I seem to have observed is that people used to mobiles come to depend upon them. They lose their independence somewhat — switch of their mobiles and they’ll feel a sort of anxiety about being disconnected. Also, they lose a little imagination — they call and confirm every little detail of any plan.

And don’t get me started with ringtones and such… About the only use I could put a mobile to at present is using it as a sort of PDA.

OK, that was a little too disorganized even coming from me. But seriously, I don’t hate mobiles. I’m rather indifferent to them most of the time. I’ll probably buy one as soon as I start working. And my not loving mobiles worries me a little. I don’t ever want to be a technophobe — which is probably inevitable as Douglas Adams once wrote something to the effect that the older you get, the worse you feel about technology.

February 03, 2005

Weather?

Looking at something like the above image is kinda scary. It’s a view of the fog/smog spread over northern India. Something as huge as this cannot be without consequence — airports frequently close in northern India during Winter due to low visibility. Not to mention what happens to the millions of people who have to breathe this stuff (not that I’m much better off).

As nearly everyone will attest, the weather everywhere has been kinda freaky lately. I’m not one to cry wolf at every instance and blame global warming for all the world’s weather problems in addition to the poor quality of shows on TV at present, my waking up late the other day, and Dubya’s re-election… you get the drift. There have been people who’ve speculated whether the recent tsunami was caused in part by global warming — they are loons.

But you can’t deny that we humans (as insignificant as we may be) have some effect on the place we live on. And that’s where it gets tricky — how much of the mess is due to us, and whether it is harmful and such. Good luck to the people who try to solve this one.

Of course by the time we figure out what the hell is going on, it will be too late to correct our mistakes (if any). So the best thing an individual can do is try not to screw up nature too much, and hope for the best.

For a high resolution version of the image, go to NASA’s Earth Observatory site.

February 01, 2005

College

College’s started in full flow right around now. The sixth semester is a whopper — 6 subjects all of which are huge. The fact is, the sixth semester is the most crammed one in semester in engineering. Just check the subjects I have:

  1. Digital Signal Processing: Almost purely mathematics, so it’ll be almost purely guesswork for me. My math skills suck.

  2. Internet Technology & Applications: I like this subject — the syllabus is too huge to humanly cover in 6 months. Ergo, the exams should be easy. And most of what is asked will be general knowledge stuff, which is always fun.

  3. Database Systems: As interesting as the above. Again, I know the basics, so should be in the clear.

  4. System Software & Operating Systems: Another fun subject, but I can bear only so much of fun.

  5. Software Engineering: A totally theory subject — often referred to as a cram-through subject. Could be intrusting and useful, but I don’t have the time.

  6. Object Oriented Analysis & Design: A mix of theory & practical stuff. These last two subjects are almost the same. I can’t bear when people keep repeating that there should be a proper ‘process’ in developing an software app. Do writers or painters have to deal with a ‘process’?

On top of that, I have 3 projects. Now projects are the stuff I take seriously — nothing else matters. Hence the constant rambling on in this post. I think I like being busy, but I’ve never really been busy before.

Actually expect an increase in the posting frequency here — when there’s work to be done, the mind is bound to wander.