June 27, 2006

Apt.

It’s raining, I’m bored and have no idea what to do next.

Can any image be more apt?

New Books this June

Had placed two major orders this month.

At Sify:

At Fabmall:

Fabmall was the winner in this round. It’s not as cheap as Sify, but has a better range of books. Service seems better. The books’ status was updated often, and accurately.

Plus I got 10% cashback from Fabmall as I paid via HDFC. So it works out to around the same price-wise.

OK, back to reading.

Tata Indicom saga…

I’ve been tired of Sify for a while, so when I got a call from a Tata Indicom representative advertising their ‘broadband’ connections, I decided to switch. Ongoing post, will keep updating as new info comes in.

June 20th:
The guy came over, we chatted for a while. I’m getting a one month 64kbps package for Rs. 700, including installation charges. Will try it for a month, if it’s not any good I can always switch back.

I hate paying by cheques (that’s the right spelling, right?). And why the hell did he ask for a copy of my phone/electricity bill as proof of residence? I can see I live here for himself. Plus the idiot could not believe I didn’t have a cell phone. Seriously.

Was promised the connection within 5 days. Right.

June 22nd:
My Sify package expired. Got a call asking for renewal. Told them I’m going to be out of town for a month, don’t need the net.

Will surf via proxy connections from friends. Not the best way to surf, but the only other alternative is MTNL dial-up, i.e. there’s no other alternative.

June 26th:
Am getting tired of using proxies, still no Tata Indicom connection. Got another call from Sify asking whether I want to renew my package, again told them off. Called the Tata Indicom guy (TIG from now on), he said that it’d be there by the ’morrow.

June 27th:
Nothing. Called TIG, said it’ll be done by today evening. Will see.

Evening 18:30:
I was willing to let the experiment continue for a few more days, but my folks here got pissed. After a couple of rounds screaming on the phone, we’ve decided that Tata is not worth the wait. Luckily, they didn’t deposit the cheque yet, so I’ve just blocked it’s payment. Will keep using Sify until something saner comes along (Airtel’s not available here, MTNL’s plans suck).

June 24, 2006

Sight

Huh. My eyesight has improved. Didn’’t know that it could. Updated my glasses, and presto: less headaches.

Was thinking of getting contact lenses, but have put that off for now. Lets see whether my vision keeps on spontaneously improving.

June 18, 2006

Annoyances part 2: Customer Support and Plain English

Customer support sucks. It’s the mythical universal constant: no matter which company you’re talking to, or how, customer support just plain sucks. It does not matter whether you’re using chat, email or the phone. I haven’t had a pleasant experience yet.

I hate PR-speak and false politeness. Here’s something managers don’t get: when I’m using customer support, I’m already a customer! You don’t need to advertise any more. Get it? The only result more whining will give you is that I’ll be too annoyed to use your shop again.

Here’s a recent transcript of a chat I’ve had with a Sify representative. Actually, this is one of my best experiences. Judge for yourselves how bad the really bad chats have been. BTW, CSR=Customer Support Rep.

CSR: Chat request accepted:
CSR: Good Evening
Me: Hi
CSR: How may i assist you?
Me: About my order: big damn number
CSR: Please be online
Me: I had sent an enquiry earlier too, enquiry numbner: slightly smaller number
… time passes …
Me: Hello?
… more time passes …
CSR: Please stay online
… even more time passes …
CSR: Thanks for being online
CSR: You have placed an order for “DARKNESS THAT COMES BEFORE”
Me: Ya
Me: When is that book going to be delivered?
CSR: Your order is in process and the same will be delivered to you at the earliest
… wtf? …
Me: Can you give me an estimate of how long it will take?
Me: Some definate date… will it take a week, a month?
… a lot of time passes …
CSR: It will be deliver to the recipient by next week
Me: OK Thanks for the info.

Notice the stock phrases used. All right, you probably won’t notice. I’ve chatted with Sify enough times to know that every rep. uses the same phrases. Each and every damn time. Seems they hire people who can’t type, or don’t trust enough to type well. There’re probably some scripts running to handle common replies.

Notice the nonsensical sentences. “Your order is in process and the same will be delivered to you at the earliest” WTF! I knew that. “It will be deliver to the recipient by next week”: I can’t even begin to describe just how wrong that sentence is. I give up.

This was one of my best chats ever. The others made me want to physically hurt someone. Please, just reply to me in plain English. Don’t use the third-person point-of-view. Even bots talk better than this.

Of course, I can always be happy that I didn’t have to face this.

June 16, 2006

Annoyances part 1: Stickers

This post shall, I think, be a series on some little annoyances that really piss me off. ’Tis the little things in life, as they say, that get you in the end.

One thing that bugs me a lot—and I’m sure that I’ll be looking like a real book nerd now, but I don’t care—is book sellers putting little stickers on books I buy. You know, to show the price or put a barcode or just for proclaiming the company name. Idiots.

Putting up a sticker with your own barcode and ISBN over where the book already has it’s barcode, and the same ISBN printed, is just stupid. And when there’s a whole set of stickers on the back of a book showing which distributor bought it, which seller sold it and every stop the book’s been to in between, I get mad enough to almost put off buying a book I want.

I hate those things. I tried to remove a few once: it left such a sticky mess on the back of a great book that it felt weird holding the book to read. Dust and all sorts of unsavoury stuff set up home on the residue.

A good book is a work of art, and most people just don’t get this. And putting a sticker on the front cover is an even greater sin.

I was browsing through the Oxford book store yesterday—just browsing, had not money to buy anything—and I came across a gorgeous copy of Arthur and George. Just look at it:

Great cover, excellent quality paper and binding. Cool typography. But of course they could not sell that. They had a huge sticker proclaiming some discount applied up front, around ¼ the size of the book. Hideous.

I may be a pedant, and this rant is without a doubt pointless, but I just can’t stand such things.

Bluebird

Woke up today, and decided to watch some television for a change. Well, I got lucky and got a chance to see one of the most beautiful movies ever made.

Bluebird is the first Dutch movie I’ve seen, and if it’s in any way representative of Dutch cinema, then we’re all missing out. Just watch it.

This is the reason I love Zee Studio. It keeps showing such nice little movies, while the other channels compete to show the Next Big Thing.

June 14, 2006

Quotes

Here’s my new email sig:

“There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.”—Bertrand Russell

I’ve yet to read any of his books, but I seem to keep quoting him at every oppurtunity. About time I should rectify that…

Of course, my old sig was:

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”—Groucho Marx

Damn, that quote still makes me laugh.

Oh, and I came upon this Vonnegut gem via chromatius

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”—Kurt Vonnegut

Tags:

June 12, 2006

American Gods

Imagine that all the gods that people have ever believed in are real. Gods live, die and do whatever the hell it is that gods do. Now imagine what happens to gods of immigrant people, who bring their own beliefs and gods along with them to their new homes. What happens to gods when people stop believing in them? How do they cope with change? What happens when new and old gods make war on each other?

American Gods asks all these questions and more. We follow an ex-con named Shadow through all this bizarre-ness. The book is a psychedelic road-trip, a grim horror/love story and a history lesson all in one.

Neil Gaiman seems like a specialist of this mixed-genrè. Will have to read more of his books.

June 09, 2006

Miscellanea

Installed the latest CVS version of Emacs via EmacsW32. It rocks… Cleartype is working properly as well. Just need to get spell-check working now.

Ordered a few more books, from Fabmall this time. I’m burning through all the Indian online-shopping sites… Will see how this one fares.

Work may not start on 15th June after all. It’s all very confusing. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The World Cup’s starting. Am even thinking of watching a few games… Football is better than most other sports: at least I can conjure-up a slight interest.

Am thinking of getting contact lenses. Have got bored wearing specs for so long, and I think lenses provide a better field-of-vision.

co.mments is quite useful. Do give it a try.

I’ve only just discovered the joys of Firefox Bookmark keywords. No more mouse!

Slashdot re-designs. I quite like the look: ’tis a mixture of the old and the new.

Next up in the reading list: The Demolished Man, Shantaram and The Historian.

The Indian stock market is going haywire. I don’t follow stocks: financial stuff just does not hold my attention. Even so, I can see that things are going amiss. Here’s a sparkline for the last month’s activity:

12,514 BSE Sensex Sparkline 9,810

OK, I confess, I just added the stock part to insert the fancy graphic. Was bored you see…

June 08, 2006

A Song of Ice and Fire

Wow. Just wow. I’m stunned, turned into a blabbering idiot when it comes to describing these books. I’m just gonna say that George R. R. Martin’s series is as good as Tolkien’s.

Read the first three books. A Game of Thrones introduces us to these wonderful characters. A Clash of Kings goes farther, shows conflict, with five contenders battling it out for a single throne. Often with words instead of swords. A Storm of Swords goes even farther, I wouldn’t have believed it. You see betrayal and death, previously villainous characters turn sympathetic. Out heroes are scattered and clueless.

OK, I shouldn’t have tried to describe the first three books in a paragraph. Can’t be done.

A Feast for Crows is the next book: ’twas published last year. But the paperback’s only going to be out near September-end. Damn, I can’t wait. Must resist Googling for spoilers.

A Dance with Dragons is the fifth book, should be out February 2007.

June 03, 2006

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones cover

Damn! I’m not going to be around here for long, gotta run and start reading book two…

A Game of Thrones is a book for SFF lovers. If your only complaint about LotR was that it was too short, drop whatever you’re doing and pick up this masterpiece. Fly, you fools! Winter is coming.

June 01, 2006

Finiš

It’s done. Over. Finiš.

The curtain closes. One door’s closed, the other’s about to open.

This just in: the final chapter’s read, the season’s ended. The next-in-the-series is about to be released.

The bell’s rung. Checkered flags have been waved.

This is the pause before the plunge. The storm’s calm prelude. The hurricane’s eye. Or was it the tiger’s?

The fat lady’s sung. The milk’s been spill’d.

The eddies are in the space time continuum.

There are snakes on the motherfuckin’ plane.