Monday, December 31, 2007

A madman's dream - khawaab deewane ka

Happy New Year! Happy New Year!! Happy New Year!!!

Is it? Really? Why?

What's so wonderful and unique about a year change? It's just a unit of time, isn't it? Seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, and years. So? What's so bloody fantastic about changing a year that you have to go all out and spend a lot of money, drink like crazy and wish each other like idiots, "Happy New Year, Bill!", "Happy New Year, James!".

This world is a funny place. Not funny as in "ha, ha", but funny as in weird! Very weird! There are people who go crazy celebrating the change of a year, and there are people who wouldn't know what bird you mean if you say "Near Year's Eve". There are places where a man may be killed for a 100 dollars and there are places where it wouldn't buy a cup of coffee. There are people who devote all their lives saving the rain forests and there are people who pride themselves on buying genuine crocodile purses and suitcases. There are children who don't have a regular source of food and there are people who need to take pills to digest all that they eat...

You know as well as I do that I can go on and on, there is no limit of such contradictions in this world. You don't even have to look hard.

The question is how to make sense out of this madhouse? And more importantly, what is my place in all this shambles? Am I being callous when I ignore the sad pleadings of the tragic, miserable, needy situations in the world? Or I am being stupid by thinking about such things and wasting my chance, one chance, at living? There must be a balance somewhere, there must be some method to this madness? Is there?

I don't know!

That's my honest answer. I simply don't know. But then that gives rise to the next question - I don't know but what should I do about it? One extreme path leads to the mountains in search of "the Truth" and the other extreme leads to the concrete jungles made by humanity to enjoy this life in the pursuit of happiness in endless cocktail parties and meaningless festivals. Again, is there a balance, a middle path somewhere?

I don't know!

I'd like to quote from Faani Badauni's ghazal once again:

एक मुअम्मा है, समझने का ना समझाने का,
ज़ीन्दगी काहे को है, ख्वाब है दीवाने का.

Ek mu_amma hai, samajh_ne ka naa sam_jhaane ka,
zindagi kaahe ko hai, khwaab hai deewane.

[It is a riddle, neither to be understood nor to be explained.
Don't call it life, it is the dream of a madman!]

My interpretation, (not very insightful), is that a dream has no logical or rational flow, nor any basis for things that happen there. And a mad person's thoughts are also like that, with no logic, no rationale, no sense. So when you combine the two and talk about the dream dreamt by a madman, you are talking about something that'd defy the "sensible" completely, something impossible to understand, something beyond our powers of comprehension and imagination.

I'll continue to try and find my place in this infinite the meantime I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to add your own questions, comments, answers, opinions. I'd really welcome a chance to discuss this.

P.S. Wishing you all a Very Happy New Year! :-)

Thought of the day - 31st Dec 2007

Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.
- Mario Fernandez

A Very Happy New Year to everybody!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

O des se aane waale bata

I sometimes wonder on that one point on which everybody and their dog has given an answer - what is it that separates us from the animals? Makes Man a superior species. At this moment, I'd say it's music and poetry.

I have posted about this song before, today I found the lyrics on another blog. Now I am looking for the soundtrack, to download of buy. The blogger has written his own comments on the song/ghazal and they are exactly my sentiments so I am not going to say any more. If you can read Hindi and like poetry, go read this post.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thought of the day - 28th Dec 2007

“One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.”
- Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thought of the day - 27th Dec 2007

Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day. -Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More books for me

Last night just before going to bed, I decided I need some more books. Well, that's always true all of the time, at least in my life. No matter how many books I have I want more books. That's one of the shortcomings of not settling down in one country that I can't build a personal library. But this time it's different I "need" more books. Having just recently finished Asimov's crappy story collection "I, Robot" I have nothing to read that I would want to pick up just for the sake of reading rather than as a necessity on the way to the crapper.

So, having the vast resources of the internet at my disposal I searched ebay for A. A. Fair. That being the famous pen name of E. S. Gardner. More people know him as Gardner because he wrote the famous Perry Mason series under that name. But he wrote another series "Cool & Lam" as A. A. Fair. Quite a small series and very rare to find those books. They were so hard to find, in fact, that I bought even the ones that were in such bad shape that they were missing last few pages. But I still bought them and read them.

It's a nice little setting of a young, very charming and inherently good boy, private detective Donald Lam, in partnership with a cool-minded, heavyset, aggressive woman Bertha Cool. They get cases and he solves them with his brilliant, brainy yet unorthodox and highly dangerous approach while Bertha mostly takes care of the business end of the

So, ebay being what it is, I found not one or two but about 15 of these rare beauties and immediately bought the ones I could. Read or unread alike. Glad to see they include the ones I had read but did not have the last pages for (in one case, half the book was missing :) ). So, that's my Christmas present to myself. Other than the flying alarm clock, of course. And the locklite keyhole light. Those are necessities. ;-)

I, Robot

Okay, so I finally finished Asimov's crappy story collection "I, Robot". And since you guys are all agog to hear my views on it, here it goes.

To be honest, the story collection was not that horrible, it just didn't have the same grip that keeps me hooked to Heinlein's work. To start with I had thought it to be a novel and since it had the same title and Will Smith's photo on the cover with the words "Now a Will Smith starrer movie...", I had assumed, with sufficient evidence, that it would be the same story as the movie. "I, Robot" the movie I had loved. Well, both assumptions proved wrong. It was a story collection and not a novel, I hate it when that happens. And it had nothing whatsoever in common with the movie other than the title and Will Smith's face on the cover. I really hate it when that happens. Other than that also, none of the stories justify the title, at all!

Moving on from the title and movie, the stories themselves are okay, just okay. I place Asimov as a contemporary of Heinlein and expect about the same quality if not that astonishing mind-whirling magic from him. I was bitterly disappointed.

To talk about the content of the stories, the narration device is weak and makes you wonder if it would lose anything at all if the narration device was neatly cut out of the picture. The answer is no, it would not miss anything. The stories themselves are not much more than simple puzzles all based around, you guessed it, robots. Asimov keeps harping on the Three Laws of Robotics so much that it becomes annoying.

The last story "The evitable conflict" sucks the most, and I seriously wondered if it would lose any real content if 80% of the story was removed! It wouldn't. The story will still make as much sense.

After I picked up "I, Robot" in the library, and before going to the check out counter, I went to the help desk and asked the lady to search for any other Heinlein books in the library system. She searched and I found that I have read all of the Heinlein books that are available in this or any other libraries in the state. Great. The lady helpfully pointed me to a book that tells you which other authors write like a particular author.

"Oh, I know that!", I said with more than a little smugness in my face, and held up I, Robot, "This guy writes like him!". After reading "I, Robot" I will have to say, "I stand corrected!".

Don't read it unless you are a big fan of Asimov and like anything he writes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thought of the day - 21st Dec 2007

If you don't make mistakes, you're not working on hard enough problems. And that's a big mistake. - Frank Wilczek (1951 - )

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thought of the day 20th Dec 2007

Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price.
- Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thought of the day - 19th Dec 2007

And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thought of the day - 18th Dec 2007

To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.
- Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881), Sybil, 1845

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Oscar Wilde has a famous quote, "I am not young enough to know everything!" that fits perfectly with my current mindset. Current, not as in these days but more like "these years". I used to know all the answers, I used to know all the secrets to the universe and then....then the answers changed, opinions reversed, beliefs altered beyond recognition...but now, now I don't know what I believe and what I know, if anything.

Let's start with religion. I was raised a Hindu, so I believed in the Gods, omnipresent, omnipotent and above all benevolent. Then somewhere in my teens, I started developing doubts, doubts introduced into my brain by my studies that involved science. The mythological stories that seemed like the gospel truth before(literal metaphor, if there is such a thing), started to look like ridiculous fairy tales in view of my knowledge of science, limited though it was. This was followed by a period when I completely denied the existence of God as a fantasy created by Man. This, in turn, was followed by many other, shorter, more volatile periods of beliefs - a malvolent God, an indifferent God, no God just Nature, and many others. At the time of going to press it's all up in the air and I could not tell you which one I really believe even if you hung me over Grand Canyon by a thin thread and threatened to let go!

That is just one area, then there are others, many areas where my beliefs have been shaken by time, and it comes not from not knowing but from knowing too much (or at learning and reading too much) and based on that, being able to reason against myself. If you were to debate with me on this topic, I could provide arguments, at length, supporting or denying any of the abovementioned theories. Yet, that doesn't get me anywhere. And "faith" which seems to be the answer for majority of the populace just earns my contempt and pity, nothing more.

For another example, take patriotism. I used to be so much in favor of that, jan_ni janm_bhoomishch swargadapi gareeyasi (Sanskrit, meaning: mother and motherland are higher than the heaven itself), while I still concur with the part about mother, I am not sure about the part about Motherland, you can read my views on that in my post about patriotism.

I am a tester, a tester's creed is "Take all statements that seem true and question them!". I apply that to everything. There are many other topics where I have more questions than answers. Regular readers of my blog would know that, but I have more questions than I put on my blog even. There are a lot of quotations that mention the same kind of thing, that the more a man learns the more he learns about how little he knows. socrates even went so far as to say "All I know is I know nothing.". Still it can be quite frustrating at times to be so confused about everything that you don't know what you believe.

At times like this the quote from Lazarus Long (character by Robert Heinlein), "I have no beliefs. Beliefs get in the way of learning." is quite comforting. I do find that not having beliefs helps you keep an open mind and that's the only way to learn something new.

I would love to hear from others who have gone through or are going through this same kind of thing.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wonderful blues

This morning I was thinking, aimlessly, and recalled a couple of sher's from Ghalib's ghazal:

कोई दीन गर जिंदगानी और है,
अपने दील में हमने ठानी और है,

आतीश-ए-दोज़ख में वो गर्मी कहाँ,
सोज़-ए-ग़म-हा-ए नीहानी और है.

Koi din gar zindagaani aur hai,
Apne dil meiN hamne thaani aur hai,

Aatish-e-dozakh meiN wo garmi kahaN,
Soz-e-gham-haa-e niha-nee aur hai.

[In simple words,
If I have a few more days to live,
I have some different plans in my heart.

The fires of Hell don't have that heat,
which I feel in the heat of unknown sorrows. ]

And I thought it's so wonderful to have poetry and songs to fall back on when you think life is not going as it should or when you are sad, actually the right word would be melancholy, even without a reason. This second sher used to be one of my favorites during a period of my life when I was not happy with my daily routine, my work and the overall direction of my career. Not so now, but I still think it's a beautiful sher!

Thought of the day - 14th Dec 2007

Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance.
- Samuel Johnson

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thought of the day - 13th Dec 2007

"If thou thinkest twice before thou speakest once, thou wilt speak twice the better for it."
— William Penn, Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania (1644-1718)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thought of the day - 12th Dec 2007

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Be outspoken

Be outspokenSo you loaned your car to the friend in need. Today they returned it, and as soon as you get in the car you notice it's not very clean, or maybe the fuel gauge needle is almost touching Empty. The first thing you think is "What a prat!". Then later you get a call from that same prat and he/she apologizes, "I am sorry about the condition of the car, I was running very late and didn't have time to refuel/wash....I'd like to pay you for the next refueling/carwash..." and you say, "Oh, it's alright! Don't worry about it!"And you know what, it is alright, you don't feel that angry any more, you understand they were running late, and they are a friend, after all...this is a minor thing. The flow of thoughts suddenly becomes more positive and the fuming rage is gone. It wasn't about the money, it was about consideration, now that you know they were not being an incosiderate ass, everything's alright!
Has this ever happened to you?
I'd say if you are the "prat" in a situation like this (and there are about 20 million of those situations), then don't let your friend assume that you were pressed for time or anything, tell them! with a few simple words you can take a stress off the relationship.
That's all I had to say!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thought of the day - 10th Dec 2007

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, ‘Always do what you are afraid to do.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thought of the day - 7th Dec 2007

There is no such thing as luck. There is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.
- Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thought of the day - 6th Dec 2007

Don't ever become a pessimist... a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.
- Robert A. Heinlein

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thought of the day - 5th Dec 2007

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
- Gloria Steinem (American Writer and Activist. b.1935)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Thought of the day - 4th Dec 2007

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit.”
 - Conrad Hilton (American Hotelier, 1887-1979)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hilarious Essays


The made me laugh till I was breathless, I hope they'll make you smile too.

The following quotes were accounts of history written by kids in their essays. What grade do you think they earned for writing statements like these? Oh, weeping for the future of humanity…

“The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn’t have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a female moth.”

“Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name. Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.”

“In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits, and threw the java.”

“Eventually, the Romans conquered the Greeks. History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long.”

“Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out: ‘Tee hee, Brutus.’”

“Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his subjects by playing the fiddle to them.”

“Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was canonized by Bernard Shaw. Finally Magna Carta provided that no man should be hanged twice for the same offense.”

“In midevil times most people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the futile ages was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verses and also wrote literature.”

“Another story was William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son’s head.”

“It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented removable type and the Bible. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes and started smoking. And Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100 foot clipper.”

“The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Romeo’s last wish was to be laid by Juliet.”

“Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.”

“During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe.”

“Later, the Pilgrims crossed the ocean, and this was called Pilgrim’s Progress. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all this.”

“One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without stamps. Finally the colonists won the War and no longer had to pay for taxis. Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing two cats backwards and declared, “A horse divided against itself cannot stand.” Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.”

“Soon the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.”

“Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Precedent. His mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation. Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltaire invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy.”

“Gravity was invented by Issac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.”

“Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Bach was the most famous composer in the world and so was Handel. Handel was half German half Italian and half English. He was very large.”

“Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.”

“The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened and catapulted into Napoleon. Napoleon wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn’t have any children.”

“The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West.”

“Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. She was a moral woman who practiced virtue. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.”

“The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men.”

“Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis. Charles Darwin was a natureist who wrote the Organ of the Species. Madman Curie discovered radio. And Karl Marx became one of the Marx brothers.”

“The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by an anahist, ushered in a new error in human history.”

[Source: unknown]

Thought of the day - 30th Nov 2007

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’”
- C. S. Lewis

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A random sher

चाँद सा मीसरा अकेला है मेरे कागज़ पर,
छत पे आ जाओ मेरा शेर मुकम्मल कर दो.

Chaand sa misra akela hai mere kaagaz par,
chhat pe aa jao mera sher mukammal kar do.

I know I am reusing the title but that's exactly what I am doing - posting a random sher. I was listening to the recording of a nashisht (a recital of Urdu poetry) from the time when I was in India, in my friend's village. This sher was quoted in that.

Let me see if I can explain this beautiful thing in English.

A "sher" is a couplet, 2 lines that need to say something meaningful, and a "misra" is one line, so a complete sher needs to have 2 "misra"s. In Indian poetry beauty of a girl is often compared to the beauty of the Moon. So, this sher says, "This single line is lonely on my paper like Moon in the sky. If you come out on the roof my sher will be complete!" Of course, it's about a million times more beautiful in original.

Let's draw swords!

Alright, I'll just come out and say it, "My name is Sunil Goswami and I am a gymphobic.".

Well, it's not like I see a gym sign and run screaming, but I didn't coin the term. I do find gyms quite boring though. I have tried to join a gym and work out regularly quite a few times but never could keep it up. But just like everyone else I also need to keep in shape, (now don't tell me round is a shape, that joke's old now). I recently came across a newspaper article (I must explain before my regular readers accuse me of reading a newspaper, that I was using that as a tablecloth to eat on), "Fun ways for gym-phobics to keep fit", I decided to make that my lunch-time reading. The article was true to its title and there were indeed some half-dozen ways listed to stay fit without going to the gym. The first one that caught my eye (I tend to read an article from the middle) was "Fencing".

The first image that came to my mind was from one of those mythological/medieval Indian movies where the hero is like an Indian Robin Hood fighting the authority, and finale is somewhere like the top of a palace gate, the evil king and the hero fighting the last fight, swords gleaming in the sun, the sound of metal upon metal adding excitment to the action...

The images that followed were not less glamourous at all - James Bond in "Die Another Day", "Mask of Zorro" and a few others.

So, me being a child of the information age and a firm believer in the power of the Internet, I started to research the thing before making a decision.

My research started from YouTube, where I checked out not only the James Bond scene but also some footage of real life fencing. In movies everything is glamorous. But even the RL fencing looked quite interesting. So, next stop was Google Maps where I stuck my post code in and searched for fencing clubs. Luckily, there were a few fencing clubs around my area and I picked one which was the nearest.

Well, long story short (too late!), I have started to fence. So far, I have attended only 3 classes but it's such a fantastic sport. Maybe it's just me but it feels so glamourous. My club provides the whole kit (to use), until you are committed enough to buy your own. There's no time limit or pressure on you to invest a lot of money in it.

Okay, so the story starts with dressing. I had been told on the phone to dress up in loose tracksuit bottoms and trainer shoes. On top of that you wear a shoulder guard, a heavy, thick jacket, a glove in your fencing hand, and don't forget the mask that hides Rosamund Pike's lovely features and you can't tell she's a girl until she takes it off. Then you are ready to pick up the sword, it's called foil, and...oh wait, first you have to ask someone to zip you up. Yes, the jacket zips up in the back, that's why it's necessary to make friends in the club if you are going fencing. Well, so far I have never had to ask, people are so very nice they offer help even before I can bring myself to ask someone.

How cold did you say it is outside? Zero? Minus one? Minus two? well, not inside our club hall. You will see everybody sweating, excuse me, perspiring, even though the heat is turned off. It's not just all those heavy clothes, it's also the physical exercise, the excitement, the rush of adrenalin.

I am a newbie, completely unskilled, clumsy, slow and on top of that I have no stamina to stay in for long. And yet, nobody minds practicing with me. Even people with years of experience agreed to fence with me and some actually asked themselves. As I said, I am new and know nothing but still when I fight, the grip of that metal rod gives me confidence, and I feel all excited. The cling-clang of sword against sword is such a headrush!

Well, that's enough babbling for one post. Rest assured that I'll be writing about it again. I love fencing. (Hmmmm, I wonder if they make bumper stickers for that!). If you can, do try it. It's amazing!

Thought of the day - 28th Nov 2007

It's hard to take over the world when you sleep 20 hours a day.
- Darby Conley, Get Fuzzy, 06-07-04

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thought of the day - 27th Nov 2007

"Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger (1947-)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thought of the day - 26th Nov 2007

The price of greatness is responsibility.
- Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thought of the day - 22nd Nov 2007

Who is wise? He that learns from every One.
Who is powerful? He that governs his Passions.
Who is rich? He that is content.
Who is that? Nobody.

- Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Borrowing Sorrow

The following 3 links are from a blog I read regularly. It is not an attempt on my part to try and convince you that my way of avoiding news is the right way. It's just that I was impressed by the way this author has detailed his journey into depression and the recovery process. It's a nice case in point to see how much grief we borrow from outside, without any need for it. And since it outlines the path to recovery with well-written comments, I think you'll find it worthwhile to read these 3 posts.

Thought of the day - 21st Nov 2007

"The starting point of achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desires produce weak results, just as a small amount of fire produces a small amount of heat."
-Napoleon Hill

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thought of the day - 20th Nov 2007

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
-Sir Winston Churchill

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thought of the day - 19th Nov 2007

Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.

-The notebook of Lazarus Long, (Character by Robert Heinlein)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thought of the day - 16th Nov 2007

"The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that's the day you start to the top."
- O J Simpson

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just my luck

Those 3 words I am extremely scared of! Just today at work I was trying to trace the power cord of a monitor so I could move it and the cord disappeared somewhere between the desks. I sighed looking at a prospect of wasted time and chasing the elusive cable under desks. But just as I was about to say "Just my luck" I stopped mid-way through and muttered something about "Murphy" and let it go. A minute later I found the other end of the cord easily, it had just turned a loop and came up instead of disappearing in a maze of cables below the desk. I was careful to remember to say, "Now, that's my luck!".

Too small? Trivial? Pointless? Am I trying to fill space on my blog? Not at all! Every time you talk to yourself, you are listening. No, it's not a puzzle nor a play on words. Your subconscious is always receiving whatever you are transmitting, if you say, even think, negative things like "Just my luck!" or "What an Idiot I am!", your subconscious will try to make it a reality. Every word, every thought, every notion, is received and recorded. The more frequent a thought is, the more the chances of it becoming a reality.

That's just the simple fact that positive thinking is based on. The better your thoughts, the better your life. It's that simple! That's why I always watch my words and you should too! Believe me, it's done wonders for me and it's one very effective life-changing technique.

Thought of the day - 15th Nov 2007

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.
- George Orwell (1903 - 1950), "Animal Farm"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thought of the day - 14th Nov 2007

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900 - 1944)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thought of the day - 13th Nov 2007

It's long one but do read it to the end. It made a great impact on me and I am sure it'll make sense to you.
After reading this and a couple more quotes from this character, I am thinking of watching this TV series!

“A couple of hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin shared with the world the secret of his success. Never leave that till tomorrow, he said, which you can do today. This is the man who discovered electricity. You think more people would listen to what he had to say. I don't know why we put things off, but if I had to guess, I'd have to say it has a lot to do with fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, sometimes the fear is just of making a decision, because what if you're wrong? What if you're making a mistake you can't undo? The early bird catches the worm. A stitch in time saves nine. He who hesitates is lost. We can't pretend we hadn't been told. We've all heard the proverbs, heard the philosophers, heard our grandparents warning us about wasted time, heard the damn poets urging us to seize the day. Still sometimes we have to see for ourselves. We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep today's possibility under tomorrow's rug until we can't anymore. Until we finally understand for ourselves what Benjamin Franklin really meant. That knowing is better than wondering, that waking is better than sleeping, and even the biggest failure, even the worst, beat the hell out of never trying.”

- Meredith Grey (American Fictional character, played by actress Ellen Pompeo on the TV series Grey's Anatomy )

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thought of the day - 12th Nov 2007

Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.
- John Dewey (1859-1952)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rules to live by

I have read those rules before and now I read them again on Kitten's blog, they make excellent sense. You should go and read them too. And if you have not done so from the link on my blog, you should really go and check her blog, she has some very nice posts.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thought of the day - 9th Nov 2007

There are two things to aim at in life; first to get what you want, and after that to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind has achieved the second.
- Logan Pearsall Smith

Make sure you try to achieve the second one this weekend! :-)

A Very Happy and Prosperous Diwali to all my readers. (Or the ones who know what it is. :-))

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Quiz 3 - Whew! This is good to know!

You Passed 8th Grade Science

Congratulations, you got 7/8 correct!

Quiz 2 - I knew this already

You Are Destined to Rule the World

You have the makings of a very evil dictator...
Which is both kind of cool and kind of scary!
Will you rule the world? Maybe. Maybe not.
But at least you know that you could.

My quiz results on grammar

You Scored an A

You got 10/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.

Thought of the day - 8th Nov 2007

The only difference between a rut and a grave... is in their dimensions.
- Ellen Glasglow

Thought of the day - 8th Nov 2007

The only difference between a rut and a grave... is in their dimensions.
- Ellen Glasglow

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thought of the day - 7th Nov 2007

“Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.”
- Dale Carnegie (American lecturer, author, 1888-1955)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Calvin and Hobbes Quotes

Some very funny Calvin & Hobbes quotes are here.

Thought of the day - 6th Nov 07

I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.
- Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Thought of the day - 5th Nov 2007

Treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.
- Quentin Crisp

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Truth be told

Why? why do parents ruin their kids' life, or try, by teaching them things they can't use in life. For example, how many parents try to teach their children to "Always tell the truth!" It's good to always tell the truth, and it's bad to tell a lie - just like that, in black and white.

Why? Why do we do it? When we know perfectly well, that we don't tell the truth all the time ourselves. Do we? If you say you do, that's just another lie.

There is a character named Yudhishthir in Indian (Hindu) mythology, who is reported to be always truthful. Always. But even he, in the mega-war of Mahabharatha had to lie once to gain a strategic advantage. Then there is Lord Krishna who had no such reputation and used anything he could to his advantage. Truth, half-truths, white lies, a blend of truth and lie, he used what he could, based on the situation. But he advocated to his followers, "Do as I say, not as I do!". Fair enough!

There is a book called the Bhagvadgita that is Lord Krishna's discourse in the battleground and provides a kind of code of conduct for the perfect man. It's an excellent book, has been quoted extensively, the principles and ideas are so great that they form a path to enlightenment. Yet, this book, leaves room for 6 occasions to lie. Yes, there are 6 occasions when you may lie without committing a sin.

Still, we want our kids to supersede all of the legendary characters throughout history and be a saint to end all saints. And do they? No! Almost all children learn to lie by the time they learn to speak, if not before.

So what is it that we are gaining by trying to teach them to do something that we ourselves have not been able to do, nobody ever has been able to do, and is not a really prudent course of action in today's society anyway.

So, to recap, parents teach their children something that is impossible and at the same time not useful.

Will it not be more useful, maybe not idealistic but useful, to teach them the difference between truth and different kind of lies? Actually, I wouldn't mind teaching my kids (if and when...) how to lie successfully! It's a skill like other skills and comes in handy. There are a few professions that require good liars (I bet you can name a few), but in today's society, almost all professions need that as an auxilary skill.

Indiscriminate, unnecessary, constant lying will of course be impractical and stupid but the same goes for trying to tell the truth all the time.

In conclusion: There are sooktis (two-liners) in Sanskrit on such topics, one of them says, "If you have to choose between true words and kind words, be kind!"

On my blog, I welcome comments, discussion, debate, even healthy criticism. For this post though, I'd put the same restriction that Christ used, "He who has never told a lie in his life, be the first to say that I am talking through my hat!".

Cheers! :-)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thought of the day - 2nd Nov 2007

I never learned from a man who agreed with me.
- Robert Heinlein

Read my new blog at

Advertising in different cultures

I have just been commenting on Robi's blog. A post he had about Indian ads. I ended up saying a few things that I had once planned to use for a post of my own. If you like you can check his post and my comments here.

Also pasting it here so my readers can read it without jumping around.

Hi Robi,
First of all thanks for your comment on my blog.
This is what I had come to say when I saw this post. Struck me as quite interesting. I live in the UK so I don't get to see any Indian ads these days. Both the videos you have posted were hilarious; the first one I didn't watch after 59 seconds, it was kinda distasteful.
On the whole, I think, it is part of a copywriter's basic education to "know his audience" which would mean cultuaralizing (making my own word here for your concept) the ad campaign. I have lived in the US and seen their ad's, now I live in the UK and watch their ads, and of course, I have lived in India the most and seen a whole lot of their ads. I'd rank them, on the basis of personal preference, India then UK then US.
They are ALL tailored to their culture. If you ask me, American ads, 95% of them are just yak-yak, only words, either from an on-screen character (a celeb if possible), or voice over on images of the product or something like that. British ads have a strong weirdness factor in them, do something absurd on screen then relate it to the product with words.
Indian ads cover a lot of ground in variety and creativity. You can watch an ad for all of 59 seconds and not know what it is all about and then just see the name of the product in the last second and you are forced to nod and admit that it "makes sense".
I have been always interested in ads, they are quite fascinating in their novel, creative ways. I miss that living in a western country, here there is too much repetition of the same ads. In India, several new ads are released every week, (I am talking about TV spots), and it's fun to watch the new ones. Believe it or not quite a few ads earn their place in water-cooler chats and such.
So, coming back to your point, I think ads are already tailored to their target cultures - Americans want information as much as possible; if you convince an American with features and benefit you can force him/her to pick up the phone and order the item right away. Hence, the yak-yak ads.
British are nice, polite people with their straightforward mindset, genteel and gentle, always trying to act prim and proper. Hence the weirdness, once you got their attention with the absurd visual, feed them the information needed to make them buy.
Indian, it's simple, so many types of people, so many sub-cultures, so many mindsets, hence, so many styles of ads.
Well, that's my 2 bits, take it or leave it. :-)
Nice post, I think I am going to read some more of your posts. You have an interesting way of picking up on things and I like that.

Thought of the day - 1st Nov 2007

Never hesitate to steal a good idea


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Little mistakes

"I never make little mistakes...only big ones!"

I am reading this book by Heinlein called "I will fear no evil". While this is the work of a master, the book itself is quite slow and uneventful; no chases, no persecution by authorities, no narrow escapes, nothing that makes me finish a Heinlein book at break-neck speed. This one I have been wading through for weeks.

However, I admire Heinlein not only for his stories, but his ideas, his philosophy, his revolutionary not-always-right-but-quite-challenging concepts. And this one caught my attention and I thought of course, that makes sense. If you are making big mistakes then you are taking big risks and ask any Wall Street financial analyst you have to take big risks in order to reap big rewards.

Oh, I can add another one to it, "If you are not failing sometimes, then you are not taking enough risks." Taking risks, as I might have said before, is an essential part of success, indeed a part of life itself. Think about it, anything you ever did, from learning to ride a bike to proposing to that wonderful, beautiful girl, anything worthwhile came with a risk.

Yes, it's scary; yes, it's dangerous, but as the man said, "Sure the game is rigged, but if you don't play, you can't win!"

Hehe...guess who said that, Robert Heinlein! :-)

Thought of the day - 30th Oct 2007

Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.
-Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

Monday, October 29, 2007

A random sher

Kabhi hamse kabhi ghairon se shana_saa_i hai,
Baat kehne ki nahiN tu bhi toh har_jaa_i hai.

Some shers are so beautiful, they are worth mentioning even without any thoughts attached to them.

This one means -
Sometimes you are friendly with me and sometimes with others,
It is not mentionable but you too are fickle.

But of course, it's more beautiful in the original Urdu. :-)

Thought of the day - 29th Oct 2007

Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become.
- Jim Rohn

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Beauty is a sham!

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”, we have all been hearing it since ages, haven’t we? I have too, but then I ask myself, “If beauty is in the eyes of the beholder then what the hell are all those beauty contests for?”
I used to watch as many of the beauty contests as I could. I still wouldn’t mind watching if I knew beforehand of the schedule. But I wouldn’t because I don’t read, watch or listen to the news.
There have been times when the judges have selected a beauty queen and I have said, “Well-deserved!” (Like Sushmita Sen winning Miss Universe), but there have always been times, when I have screamed, “Are you bloody kidding me!?” (No, I don’t say “bloody” that’s more of a British word and I have recently moved to Britain, but the word I was going to use is not so nice. Anyway…)
So you can say that since my idea of beauty differs from those judges, it really is in the eyes of the beholder. Are you sure?
There are common ideas of beauty, as a group of people or society at large would agree to what is beautiful and what not. That same group of people might agree on a 100 people and yet may have dissent about others.
Or, you could meet a girl you don’t find attractive at all but who is somebody’s girlfriend or somebody’s wife, the apple of their eye, the prized possession or whatever..(ack! The inscription on the knife in my back reads “Women’s Lib”). And you do see the kind of guys or girls who look to you like nobody can find them beautiful by any stretch of imagination and yet….for example I think Julia Roberts is ugly, but her fans would want to kill me a slow and painful death just for saying that. There is a quote that I read recently, it says “ the right light, from the right point of view, in the right situation, everything is beautiful…”, something like that.
So what’s the deal here? Is it in the eyes of the beholder or is it something that can be defined?
I have been thinking about it lately, quite a lot, and I have come to the conclusion that leaving apart the extreme cases of individual preferences beauty is largely defined by society. Beauty is what a certain ratio of the population may possess. It has to be a group not so small that almost nobody has it, but it has to be something that not everybody has it. Let me take an example.
Big breasts are considered sexy and something to have, so much so that surgery and money come into play. But if all the women in the world had big breasts, it wouldn’t be sexy. If only a few hundred women in the world had big breasts, it wouldn’t be sexy. It’s something that’s possible to see in a man’s lifetime, but something that’s not common - that’s beauty!
I will take two examples to illustrate my point.
My friend N in Germany, has a preference of brunettes, dark-haired girls. I can’t understand why because I think blondes are so sexy! But, he argues, Germany is full of blondes, brunettes he doesn’t see so often. On the other hand, India is full of brunettes almost exclusively, and blondes….not really. Hence my fascination.
Second point is from a story I read in high school - Country of the Blind. Don’t ask me who wrote it, I am too old to remember that now. One peculiar thing that I never forget about that story is that the hero, who is the only person with eyes and a stranger in that land, falls in love with a pretty girl who is considered ugly in that society. The barometer of beauty in that land of the blind is skin. Yes, the smoother the skin of the girl, the more beautiful she is considered. I don’t remember the story in its entirety and I doubt that it has any statistics but I will give you even odds that smooth skin was something not every girl had in that country.
Beauty, as per my arguments, is nothing more than a statistically selected group of features, a standard defined by the society and thus, is completely worthless!
So, do you agree or do you want to cross swords with me on this one?

Thought of the day - 26th Oct 2007

If all of life and everything in it is fleeting and constantly changing, why do we cling so desperately to the idea of permanence? Can love and passion be denied out of fear that they might fade? Life without daring, without the risk of failure, is only existence and to exist is not to live!

Thought of the day - 25th Oct 2007

Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.
- Ovid (43 BC - 17 AD)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Thought of the day - 24th Oct 2007

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
- Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California fires

Raging fires are destroying homes in California, USA. I have no comments other than to express a deep sadness and sympathy for the thousands of people who are going to lose their homes in this tragic disaster. I am relieved though that despite the size of the disaster the loss of life is not great. I hope it stays that way.

Thought of the day - 23rd Oct 2007

“Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.”
- Aristotle (Ancient Greek Philosopher, Scientist and Physician, 384 BC-322 BC)

Monday, October 22, 2007

HTC TYTN 2/Vario III/HTC P4550 review

HTC TYTN 2/Vario III/HTC P4550 review

I should actually call this review First Impressions because I have not yet fully explored this wonderful device, but I know I am too lazy to write second impressions so, let it be.

Background - Every reviewer writes from previous experience, they compare their previous phones or similar phones with the item under review. I am going to do the same, only my previous phone is a little different. I have a QTEK 9000 also known as i-mate Jasjar, quite a hefty 250gms mammoth with 3.6" VGA screen., opens like a laptop with a full QWERTY backlit keyboard. Before this I had i-mate K-Jam which was more like TYTN2 in shape with a slide-out keyboard. That said let's delve into the Vario III.

Design - Compared to my QTEK 9000 (will call it Q9 from now on), the V3 (Vario III, of course) is smaller and lighter, seemed disappointingly tiny when I unboxed it and I had to remind myself that the Q9 (which has been called Brick and Laptop by my colleagues in the past) was not my favorite for its size. I had had to settle for the size because of the advantages it had to offer, the main one being the A2DP profile that I was crazy for at the time (A2DP=Advanced Audio Distribution Profile - lets you listen to music over bluetooth). V3 is lighter, smaller, slimmer, prettier and the Q9 poses no challenge in that area to V3.

Usability: Comparing them calmly the Q9 still has those advantages, it is big and heavy but the 3.6 inch VGA screen is beautiful to watch, not just for video but also text, the V3 visibly lacks it and I felt it in every application, TomTom, SMS text, even handwriting recognition.
Same goes for the keyboard, Q9's bigger keyboard is definitely better for typing. Having said that, I had to admit that the V3's keyboard is as good as could be given the size and other features of the device. The design and keyboard layout has been improved considerably since K-Jam and it doesn't take much practice to start typing on this little keyboard. The Function and Capslock lights are a great addition and very practical to use.
The tilting screen which has attracted and fascinated most users and reviewers is a great party gimmick but hardly worth more than that. But one place where I have to admit it's usefulness is when you want to watch a video or MMS placing the phone on a tabletop. Otherwise it hampers typing, covers the soft keys on the slide-out keyboard and the top row of keys doesn't benefit from it either. But I still love it, esp. the fact that it can be adjusted to any angle up to almost 45.

The V3 has a very solid feel to it and its slim shape is good to hold in the hand and comfortable to slide in the pants pocket. One thing that was missing in the Q9 was its one hand operation without opening the keyboard. It has very few keys for that. K-Jam was better, Vario III is the best. There are a multitude of keys on the front and around the sides of the phone that let you do a lot of things without having to open the keyboard or pull out the stylus. The best of all being the 5 way block that you can use to move around or select items. The 3-way jog-dial on the left is a welcome addition that I had been missing since my Sony Ericsson P910i. That was 5-way but 3-way is good enough here.

The keyboard slides under to the right as opposed to K-Jam and other devices that open to the left and that I don't like. In time, I'll get used to it, but I still don't like it. They should have asked me first.

While on the subject of usability, thank God they got rid of the telescopic stylus. My K-Jam's stylus had lost the will to telescope in the last months and that was a chore to pull it open by hand. This one is slim and fragile-looking but quite usable and accurate. The right-bottom slide hole for the sylus is a big inconvenience esp. when you have the keyboard out and you realize that you are right-handed.

The SIM-card slot is behind the screen when you pull out the keyboard, which is not commentworthy but I am glad the SIM compartment is quite solidly built into the body with a lockable cover over it.

There is a cover over the GPS external antenna hole but no cover or recession for the camera lens. Why is common sense so uncommon? Now I have to be careful where I place this beautiful piece of art for the next one year.

Ok, let's talk about specific features now.

GPS: Of course, that's the ultimate gimmick of all so we'll talk about it first. There are other devices in the market that have built-in GPS receiver but if this is not the best, there can be none better. I was using an external bluetooth GPS reciver with my Q9 and TomTom as the s/w. I am still using TomTom Navigator 6 with V3's built-in GPS and the differences are noticeable. One thing, let me get it out of my system, the text looks crap compared to Q9's VGA screen. Other than that it's as wonderful as an obedient,beautiful wife.

GPS Setup. Once I figured out that TomTom takes some time to find the built-in receiver, it was all good. TomTom takes about 10 seconds. And after that in 10 seconds or less you get the first fix. It picks up satellite even from indoors if you have a window open. With my external GPS I had to take it to the window and then it took about 1 minute or more to get the first fix. This little guy is amazing.

Oh, one thing where my external GPS was quite unusable. If you started moving before turning the receiver on it took forever to get a fix, sometimes I simply had to pull over if I really needed directions. With the V3, no problem. 10 seconds.

Using the GPS. Fantastic! I used to have about 50-100 yards lag when using the external GPS. Now, it's so real-time like there's a camera focused on my car. You can see the street on your left when the map shows you passing that street. It's really great for people like me who get confused in the English roundabouts. Now, I don't have to count the yards to the exit, I can see my real time location on the screen and see which exit the GPS lady means when she says,"..take the 5th exit". I'd buy it just for the GPS if for nothing else.

Camera: Haven't used it much yet but it's 3MP and lives up to it. No cellphone camera with or without flash took good pictures in low-light and night and I don't expect any different from V3, though I haven't tried it yet. One thing that I have tried and noticed is the autofocus. Usually autofocus means there's no zoom, in this one it really does focus, when you press the shutter halfway you can see the focus moving and it works great. No mirror for self-portrait, very bad. You can take your own picture from the front camera but that's just VGA so, mirror was needed. Anyway, spilt milk.

Media player. The performance is great. Windows Media player works fine. But of course, you'll download other programs to play more formats on it. Oh yes, the performance is really great. My Q9 had 520 processor while this little guy has only 400, but the performance is noticeably better. It must be because of the double RAM and ROM.

The Home screen and the related features, like finger scrolling and panning are very useful and impressive.

Windows Mobile 6 maybe the latest word from God (or Bill Gates, same difference, isn't it?), but I don't like it. So far, I have found one application, very very useful one that lets you use your camera phone as a webcam on the computer, and it runs on my Q9 with WM5 and doesn't run on V3. So, until people start developing apps for WM6, I am going to keep on hating it.

Battery - I can't really talk about battery life. For a new phone you have to fully discharge and recharge the battery at least 3-4 times to get its full potential and I have done that only once yet. I am expecting that I'll have to charge it every night with a fair amount of usage and I am ok with it. Considering that I have access to computers everywhere and it can charge from USB port, it's not a big issue anyway.

Storage - I won't give figures but on my Vario III plenty of memory is free even on the device. Must be because T-Mobile got stingy with applications. I didn't even get the World Card Mobile that I was looking forward to. On the card side, it supports the microSDHC (HC=High Capacity) cards, so far as I know, it's the only piece to support the HC part, and I bought a cheap 6GB card for it from and you can too. 6gig is quite enough to live in and I am happy about it. The access performance is very fast, on the phone and on the desktop over the cable.

Connectivity - It boasts of many options for connectivity, 3G, HSDPA,HSUPA, EDGE, GPRS, Bluetooth, (no IR though), quad-band GSM and it delivers on all of them. I have very sucky T-Mobile signal where I work but it still lets me access email etc. over GPRS so that's fine. With T-Mobile's web n walk package, it's a really fun phone to own.

Bluetooth - I can see a very clear and definite improvement over my Q9 while listening to music over bluetooth with my Sony Ericsson wireless earphones.

Oh well, it's a herculean task trying to describe all the features of this pocket pc and their impact on one's life, but at least I tried.

Maybe some other time I'll talk about the applications I am installing on it. But of course, Google maps was the first thing I downloaded. :-)

Thought of the day - 22nd Oct 2007

Normal is not something to aspire to, it's something to get away from.
- Jodie Foster (1962 - )

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thought of the day - 19th Oct 2007

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
- Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thought of the day - 18 Oct 2007

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.
-Anne Frank (1929 - 1945), Diary of a Young Girl, 1952


Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thought of the day - 17th Oct 2007

My wish is to ride the tempest, tame the waves, kill the sharks. I will not resign myself...
- Trieu Thi Trinh

If you want to know who this person was, check here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pencilled Memories

Ok, I am at work. I pick up a pencil from the desk. Now, I am a software tester and my work consists of a glorious routine where I log out and log in to many computers, and so it happens that as I am waiting for the machine to come up again, I pick up this pencil and I have time to pick up a sharpner to sharpen the pencil. But then I realize I will have to stand up and walk up to the trash bin to actually sharpen a pencil that I don't need. So, like the lazyass that I am I put down the pencil.

But it reminds me of desk sharpners that have a bin to collect the peelings. That in turn, reminds me of battery-operated sharpners that I have always been fascinated by. That reminds me of the first and last battery-operated pencil sharpner that I bought. More than 2 years ago, when I was going to appear for my CSTE exams. (Just a geeky certification exam for software QA professionals).

Those exams are subjective as well as objective, and writing long answers in pencil means the need to sharpen them between answers. So, smart as I am, I bought that automatic sharpner to gain an edge. My girlfriend, who was supporting me in my mission, had an even better idea, she suggested that I take 20 pencils, all pre-sharpned and use them.

So, that's what I did. (Who can say no to a girl who gets hold of an idea?). Even though I looked like a freak with a pencil-fetish, carrying a pencil box choke-full of sharpened pencils, I did gain at least 20 minutes on the others who had to stop every few minutes to sharpen pencils (with manual sharpners), and 20 minutes for me means 20 more minutes for me to think up fancy crap to please the examiners.

The moral? "God is in the details!". Little things make for big differences!

Thought of the day - 16th Oct 2007

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy
- Norman Vincent Peale (1898 - 1993)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thought of the day - 15th Oct 2007

We owe something to extravagance, for thrift and adventure seldom go hand in hand.
- Jennie Jerome Churchill (1854 - 1921)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thought of the day - 12th October 2007

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
- Cecil Beaton (English Photographer and Fashion designer, 1904-1980)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How popular are you?

This first made me laugh but as I read through the FAQ and other pages, I seriously admire these guys. Fantastic idea. Check it out here:
The Popularity Dialer .

Too bad they are only in the US. I could have used some help to boost my popularity.

Good work, guys!

Thought of the day - 11th Oct 2007

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
- Harry S. Truman (US President)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New desire - New Excitement

I don't think I'll ever cease to be excited about these little toys that I keep falling in love with.

This is HTC's new poster child - TYTN 2, code name - Kaiser. I have already ordered it and can't wait till tomorrow to have it in my hand. That way I am still like a child with a new toy. :-) May that never change! Amen!

I would write about its features, but it has tons of them and I have tons of work to get on with. So maybe later after I have checked it out myself.

Thought of the day - 10th Oct 2007

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
- Gloria Steinem quotes (American Writer and Activist. b.1935)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Thought of the day - 9th Oct 2007

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
- Sidney J. Harris

Monday, October 08, 2007

Thought of the day - 8th Oct 2007

Experience is not what happens to a man.  It is what a man does with what happens to him.

- Aldous Leonard Huxley, Texts and Pretexts, 1932

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Stop waiting

....if I sleep now, I'll have 5 hours of sleep.....if I fall asleep now, I will still have 4 hours of sleep....if I could fall asleep now, I'll have 3 hours of sleep...

Have you had nights like that? I have! You desperately want to sleep and yet for some reason, being too excited, too worried, sometimes too tired, to sleep. Or maybe not tired enough, not sleepy enough, not relaxed enough. You try and try but it doesn't work, you just lie there waiting..and wishing...

There's a parallel to that in life. We are always waiting for something that's just around the corner and is going to make our lives so much happier. Or happy.

Once I turn sixteen...once this pay raise kicks in...when I have that new phone...after I receive my new, fast PC...when we go on that vacation...once I reach India...

Funny enough most of these things that we wait and wish for do come true, okay, not all of them, but quite a lot. Surprisingly though, they do not bring the everlasting joy that they seemed to represent. What happened? There are many reasons. Sometimes our expectations were so high that the actual event could not fulfill them. Sometimes, the thing, the event, the person is very very good, but still we miss something in him/her/it, but mostly, by the time we get that wish, we already have a few more that we want to come true.

Long time back I read a quote that stayed in my mind, "We never live, but kill time in the hope of living.".

This hope of living stays alive but usually stays a hope and nothing more...

To add another quote, "Death is more universal than life; everybody dies, but not everybody lives."

So what is the solution? Well, I am no expert in the art of living but I definitely am a student and most things in my philosopy come back to the same principle, "Live in the moment". Don't stop wishing, wanting, creating, getting, but don't make life wait on your wishes. If you look in this moment, you will find a lot to be happy about. Once you learn to squeeze the joy out of every moment, you'll be surprised to realize how little it takes to make you really happy. Sometimes, after I finish a meal I sit there with the rest of the Diet Coke in my glass and sip it slowly, watching TV and as I sit back enjoying the perfectly chilled Coke with 2 ice cubes, my feet up on a chair...I feel, "This is life!". None of these things are extraordinary and yet, that's how little it takes to be happy if you want to be.

I'll end with Leo Tolstoy's famous quote, "If you want to be happy, be!".

Thought of the day - 5th Oct 2007

"Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember"

- Seneca (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

Thought of the day - 4th Oct 2007

"What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well."

 - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
(French Pilot, Writer and Author of 'The Little Prince', 1900-1944)

Thought of the day - 3rd Oct 2007

      Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new
      roads armed with nothing but their own vision.
    - Rick Mears

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thought of the day - 2nd Oct 2007

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

 - Howard Thurman

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thought of the day - 25th Sept 2007

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself,
but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Roman Emperor, A.D . 161-180 (121 AD - 180 AD)

Monday, September 24, 2007

We are all myrtyrs

जब दर्द नहीं था सीने में,
तब ख़ाक मज़ा था जीने में,
अब के शायद हम भी रोयें,
सावन के महीने में.

[Jab Dard nahin tha seene meiN,
Tab khaak maza tha jeene meiN,
Ab ke shaayad ham bhi royeiN,
Saawan ke maheene meiN. ]

Literally translated it means:
When there was no pain in the heart,
There was no fun in living,
Maybe this year I will also cry,
In the month of rain.

Yes, yes, rain is not a month, I know, but that's how the song is worded. Actually the word "Saawan" is the name of a lunar month and it coincides with July-August, bringing rain. Unlike western culture, rain is considered a romantic and welcome thing in Indian culture. So, rain reminds one of his/her mate and that in some situations brings sorrow. But this poet is actually looking forward to that seasonbecause now there is pain in his heart. Makes sense? No!

Even though, like a normal person, I have been in and out of love for like a million times, childhood crushes, teenage crushes, love affairs et. al. (I wonder if it can be called a love-affair if the girl doesn't know that you have a pair of binoculars trained on her window?), yet, there was a period in my life when I had none of these. Listening to a sad song on the radio, I realized that even the most recent romantic loss was not so recent that I could think of it with any sorrow. To my surprise, I found myself missing that feeling of missing someone. Not having someone to miss was also an emptyness just as much as not having someone to love. Idiotic, right?

Well, not really, otherwise old Bill wouldn't have said, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!"

Pain and sorrow are as much part of our build-up as happiness. To tell you the truth most people feel safer and more secure in sorrow than in happiness. How many people do you know who are always happy and never complain about anything in their life? I don't know any. Including myself.

Of course, there is always something to complain about. Most of the pain or problems are real but some are imaginary also. But we really don't want to do away with all problems. What we want most, even more than solutions, is for the world (meaning our friends and loved ones and any strangers we meet) to recognize these problems and admire our strength and courage to continue living under such hardships.

Hari Shankar Parsai has written a short story about two very close friends, who share a room, and one night start talking about their horrible lives, they are really in bad shape, and struggling through life with each other's support. But when they start comparing misfortunes, it ends up in a bad fight. According to each one, he only has his sorrow, nothing else left in his life and the other one is trying to take that away from him.

I have done that myself, not written a short story but comparing of misfortunes and troubles. I have stopped doing that now, at least consciously.

But that positive thinking apart, there are things in life that make you sad. Real problems, real losses that can't be helped. Think about it, a dark room, and you, alone with your thoughts, thinking about that one thing that made you sad, perhaps shedding a well-deserved, I can't say that all sorrow is bad. It is what makes us human!

That's just my opinion and I ain't no enlightened soul. What do you think? Maybe I am talking through my hat?

Thought of the day - 24th Sept 2007

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
- Albert Einstein

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Book Review - Starman Jones

Ok, I admit it, I am addicted to Heinlein's writing. He is the only one who can get me to read regularly no matter how many other things I am busy in. I tried to kick this addiction, did not buy or read any Heinlein books in August, but then I did not read much of anything else either. I started having withdrawal symptoms and even thought about re-reading the Heinlein books I already have. Finally, I gave in.

So I have recently finished Starman Jones and after you finish a great book you miss it, and talking about it is one way to deal with that.

To be honest, the title of the book sounded very boring to me, I bought it only because it's a Heinlein book. Still, the title is completely apt, the story revolves around a boy who, in the course of the story, becomes a man (get your mind out of the gutter!) and a star.

Like an expert storyteller RAH (Robert A. Heinlein, spelling his name is not very typing-friendly), plays with the details, hiding some, describing some. He doesn't mention the actual age of this boy anywhere, other than that he is a minor. So, oldest would be 17. The time is in the future when intersteller travel has been invented and there are spaceships that can travel to other universes. Again, enough technical details are provided to make the story plausible, without going into too much intricate, and boring, details.

There are guilds for all glamorous, profitable professions, where you have to be either born into the profession or enter by nomination by a member. Such is the case for astrogators. Our hero, Max Jones, had an uncle who was an astrogator and he himself is fascinated by it. His mother marries a man whom Max dislikes intensely, and they don't get along at all. So, like a teenager with more emotions and less planning, he leaves home in the middle of the night, to go to Earthport.

On the way, he meets a stranger Sam, who becomes his friend and stays in the role throughout. He is a character who is older, and very different from Max.

The story goes through many predictable and unpredictable twists, some of them are very unlikely but again, Heinlein's screenplay always sticks to common sense and makes the unlikely possible, plausible and almost inevitable. Max progresses up through the ranks as the story goes on and like a good book, the further it goes, the more interesting it becomes.

Of course, I can't say what happens in the end, but I do want to say that Heinlein has a knack for the perfect climax. Well, most of the time. This one is also perfect. Heinlein creates a good mix of dreams and reality in his climax which makes it both fantastic and yet believable.

Heinlein also has a very sound grip on human psychology including the mindset of kids. The way he describes or rather portrays the frustration of a teen who is faced by an adult that he cannot overrule, knowing you are right and not be able to shove it in the face of an adult, it reminds me of very real feelings from my own teenage.

There is a romantic angle in the story and again Heinlein keeps it real without making it dull like an art film.

The bonus in Heinlein's books is that you just don't read a story, you evaluate morals, you think about soceity, everything is connected to you and your world and that's what make it hard to put down his books or forget about them after you have finished them.

In Starman Jones, Heinlein has expertly brought up the issue of rules and customs. It is not always possible or human to stick by all rules, and yet, if you start breaking rules where do you stop? Through the hero's struggle Heinlein makes his standpoint clear.

A very readable book, not very thick, but very un-put-down-able!

Thought of the day - 20th Sept 2007

The fragrance has to leave the flower in order to please the fragrance not the thorn.
- Sunil Goswami

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thought of the day - 19th Sept 2007

"Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more;
Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours"
- Swedish Proverb

Movie Review - Partner

My review of the latest movie I watched called Partner.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thought of the day - 18th Sept 2007

"Losing doesn't eat at me the way it used to. I just get ready for the next play, the next game, the next season."
 - Troy Aikman

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thought of the day - 17th Sept 2007

Every dream is a delusion until you prove it with your own sweat and blood!
- Sunil Goswami

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thought of the day - 12th Sept 2007

"Wisdom without kindness and knowledge without sobriety are useless."
- The Fire from within, Carlos Castaneda

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who will cry when you die?

मुट्ठियों में ख़ाक लेकर दोस्त आये वक़्त-ए-दफ्न,
ज़ीन्दगी भर की मुहब्बत का सीला देने लगे.

[Mut_thiyoN meiN khaak lekar dost aaye waqt-e-dafn,
zindagi bhar ki muhabbat ka sila dene lage. ]

Let me see how well I can translate it.

At the time of burial my friends came up with dirt in their fists,
and started to pay me back for a lifetime of love.

Sad and cynical though it may sound but that is the reality. This is all that is left at the end - a handful of people with a handful of dirt.

In India, and I think this is common in other countries too, there are two major events in a person's life when his friends, relatives and acquaintances gather around him - wedding and funeral. Having made no plans for marriage, that leaves one for me. (Hey, hey, I said I have no plans! I might get married, I might not. But I am not planning for either. Jeez! You sound like my mother!). Well, so anyway, the whole issue of who will cry when I die. Not who will come to my funeral but who will feel sad, how many people will shed a tear for the departure of one Sunil Goswami?

Why do I care?

There is a saying in Hindi - "Aap mare jag parlay", when you are dead the world has eneded! As far as I am concerned the caring is not for the actual moment when I die and people hear of it, but for now, I need to count that number now and see what value, if any, I am adding to the world. How many lives have I changed? How many smiles would not be there without me? How many moments I have made easier for others? Those questions need to be answered now! And the answer to those questions will lead to the answer to the main question.

I have always had delusions of grandeur (every dream is a delusion until you prove it with your own sweat and blood), and if you ask me, I'd like the newsreaders to cry when they announce my death. Oh yes, it'll be a big enough news item to feature in the international news!

So, as I was saying, this one seemingly frivolous and idle question can prove to be a good barometer to measure the "success" of your life.

But that's just my take on it, what do you think?

Thought of the day - 11th Sept 2007

 "Impossible is a word humans use too often."
--- Seven of Nine in StarTrek Voyager

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Movie Review - Transformers

Another one of my watch-the-first-part-before-watching-the-sequel efforts.

The movie - seems to be a bit of a stretch to call it a movie it's more like a comic book on celluloid. And when you have said that, you have said everything. There is no maturity in the treatment of the topic. The invasion of aliens has been done to death in many forms and if skillfully done there is potential to make about 100 more movies on this topic, good movies I mean. This one hangs together with gum and rubber bands.

The hero character is kind of weird, they want him to be an innocent guy, but he's too slick for that even though he looks like a doofus. He talks more like a used-car salesman than a teenage student. There are big gaping holes in the logic, all through the movie.

When you make a science fiction movie, you show technology that has not been invented yet. Since it's not been invented you can't explain how it works, because so far, it doesn't. Those areas are supposed to be missing in such a movie and that's understandable. But, on the whole, a broad, general understanding of the main technology is provided and everything else is kept on a consistent level with that theory. Otherwise it's just a truckload of hooey, black-magic and woodoo. Well, that's what we have here. I don't expect logic and common sense from all movies, definitely not from Bollywood movies, but in science movies I expect to see logic.

All the usual sci-fi movie stereotypes are there - the nervous genius nobody person, the omniscient hacker, the hate-able bureaucrat, the underdog our hero, the innocent unknowing parents, the government authority figures, mention of the US president, and lots of computers, all are present. And none manage to impress.

Dialog is ok in some places and completely loses touch in most places. The lines are good, and delivered well, but somehow you get the impression of having wandered on to a movie set. Until you can create that semblance of reality in the viewer's mind, you can't inspire awe at the strange and extraordinary happenings.

Being a comic book screenplay the end is not hard to guess. When you have something as powerful as a cube that creates universes as the object of hunt, you kind of guess, that it's going to be destroyed in the end. And when you learn there's sacrifice involved in destroying it, then you are 101% sure that it's going to be destroyed.

Oh, just to quote a logic flaw to show what I mean - the hero is running clutching the all powerful cube to his chest, he stumbles, falls, the cube touches the road, enormous energy flows out, through the road to other things, cell-towers shake, building sway, electronic equipment goes wild, people are shaken up. But when the guy is carrying it in his arms, with no insulation or anything, NOTHING happens to him, no positive effect, no negative effect. Just no effect. What the hell!

Considering the screenplay and direction it's overly long and tedious. The few attempts at comedy are pathetic. Romance fails to grip. Action sequences have been ruined by the technology-oriented camera work where you are not supposed to guess what the hell is going on, or who is winning. Full of sci-fi movie cliches and quite predictable flow.

Conclusion: If you are over 12, don't watch it. I had acquired both Transformers 1 and 2, but after watching 1, I am not wasting time on 2. I might re-run the Back to The Future trilogy instead!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Movie Review - My Super Ex-girlfriend

Well, there's nothing in the movie that is not already described in the title. The movie is a complete bust.

Man meets supergirl (g-girl in this story) and then they break-up and she makes his life hell. What part of this do you not get from the title?

I knew it but still decided to watch it expecting a light, amusing if not entertaining, romantic comedy. Nope, not so. The movie is a long and arduous series of cliches. I am not a fan of Uma Thurman but even if I were this movie wouldn't do anything for me, she's been projected in a very boring image even in her G-girl avatar. There are no characters that earn your respect in the whole movie. Dialogs are seriously lame.

In a movie of this kind the suspense of how it'll end usually keeps you watching. Not in this one, you can see it coming miles away. After 15 minutes even a child of 10 years can tell you what the end will be. And that is the point, 15 minutes in, when I'd have left had I been watching it in the theater. Even on DVD it was a waste of time. There are a couple of twists but very minor and not enough to keep the viewer happy.

Actors have done their part well considering the overall pathetic quality of screenplay and direction. I doubt if Ivan Reitman will be using this movie as a boost for any of this future projects. The story, screenplay and direction is not enough to keep a 5-year old entertained. I watched it in many pieces, just to see it through so I can throw away the disk afterwards. At times I played it in the background while I worked on something else, so pathetically it lacks in appeal.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents' worth. You should leave a comment if you liked it. I am curious to see if anyone liked it at all. The only other person I have talked to so far walked out at about 20 minutes in. So do let me know what you thought of it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thought of the day - 7th Sept 2007

"There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem."
    - Harold Stephens

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Movie review - Bourne Ultimatum

Usually from a sequel viewers expect the same kind of movie as the preceding ones and based on that Bourne Ultimatum will not disappoint the fans. The movie has been made very well and directed skillfully keeping alive the momentum from the last 2 movies.

I had not seen any of the first ones (Bourne Identity & Bourne Supremacy) so I first watched those before watching this. I was right. The continuity is maintained in terms of characters and plot line. Action, of course, is the backbone of this series and it's been provided in abundance. The exotic locations, fast moving story line, chases, fights, gunfire the whole gamut of action is present throughout the movie.

There is one thing that I hate in the new technology action movies, the use of camera angles. As an admirer of unarmed, close-range combat skills I like to watch the fight and not the weird camera angles like some kid with slithering pants is holding the camera where one shot is straight and the next goes towards the roof as the kid uses his other hand to pull up his pants. Skillful use of camera and expert editing is all part of the movie-making technique but when the director/editor start trying to show off their skill by obscuring the place of action from the frame, that's too much for me. I want to see what's going on, where did the karate chop land, not watch the hero's knee while I hear the sound of the chop. This movie suffers from that problem throughout. There are quite a few close-range hand-to-hand fights but all ruined by this kind of handling.

I think the end should have had one more scene but if I talk about what I'd have liked to see that'd give away the ending and that's a crime. In fact, I can't talk more about the movie without talking about the plot, so I'll conclude here.

On the whole a good, watchable movie for the fans of actions movies.

What I AM reading

At the moment, I am reading this famous book by Robert Monroe called "Journeys Out of the Body". How is it?

1. Fascinating.!
2. Terrifying!

Yes, I know the two emotions don't really go hand in hand but that is because of the topic that he has written on. Being brought up in the open-minded Hindu culture (open minded not as in more tolerant than other religions but in the fact that Hindu mythology accepts the free movement of spirit independent of the body, before and after death, unlike some other religions that proclaim a kind of "safe storage" period after death), I am more readily willing (redundant on purpose) to accept Monroe's experiences at face value.

The topic itself is fascinating and terrifying, and Monroe's candid, matter-of-fact kind of reporting keeps both the emotions intact without losing anything in translation.

I am still reading it, as I am fascinated by the unexplored powers of the mind and some day I might gather enough courage to try it myself. Then I will write about my own experiences.

Thought of the day - 6th Sept 2007

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
    - Winston Churchill

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thought of the day - 5th Sept 2007

There is in the worst of fortune the best of chances for a happy change.
    - Euripides

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thought of the day - 4th Sept 2007

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
- Albert Einstein

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