Better Blogging. Now.

I have been blogging for quite a while now, and although today is not any specific day like “exactly-two-years-ago” or anything, it struck me how far it has come, and how much further I’d like to go.

Now, a long time ago I stumbled upon sites like BlogBloke with expert advises on blogging and the like, but somehow never really paid much attention to it.

When I logged in this afternoon however, it suddenly stuck me how lame the whole thing really looks.
I mean come on, a terrible looking design template, less-than-creative URL (that’s my name there), minimalist stats tracking and comment control, and no RSS…it really doesn’t get much dumber than this.

With this in mind, I’d like to take a deep breath, and announce that effective immediately I’m putting all my current blogging activities on hold and working full time over this holiday season on getting my blog back on track and in better shape.

I’m thinking maybe I’ll switch platforms, to something with better control (and a much nicer custom template!) or maybe even go pro on an owned domain; with my very own CMS and all the fireworks.

Whatever I do, I just wanted to let you guys know that I haven’t quit, so just in case you come back a month later and still find this post on top, you know I’m still working on it!

Very Punny

"What should I write" I was thinking all night, when suddenly, it dawned on me!

(p.s. This was my quickest post ever; usually I spend hours, sometimes days thinking on a post. This one happened in less than 3minutes...hurray for anti-boredom!)

Getting "Bushed"

I guess it’s been all over the news more times than necessary that the outgoing US President George Bush was thrown a pair of shoes at during a press conference in Iraq. In case you missed the news, here’s a link.

Now, putting the serious and insulting nature of the issue aside, I’d like to take this as an opportunity to introduce a new phrase into English; and I really hope this catches on.

I mean after all, not so long ago, when J.K. Rowling introduced us to the world of Magic and Muggles, hey the Oxford English dictionary brought that out and officially introduced the word in 2003!

So here’s my contribution to the world of words in our beloved language:

Bushed [bůshΔ] (verb):
The act of throwing footwear at a person, either individually or in a group, with the intention of insulting or otherwise humiliating the person; see also Getting-[v]: being a victim of such an act; [v]-ing: throwing footwear, esp. as a form of occur disrespect and the highest level of insult towards the subject.

Here’s a few examples:

When the burglar broke into the barn, he took off after the boys bushed him with leather boots.
The local judge ordered the shoplifter to be tarred, feathered and bushed.
“If you do that again, I’ll bush you in front of the entire village” threatened the town Elder.

Although I must say, something like “The president was bushed” does sound a tad bit too insulting. But I guess that’s the way a language grows :D

The Blame Game

(Technically, this post should’ve actually been on Broken Fishtank which is the usual place I write stuff like this, but I just did a post there yesterday and I don’t want it to sink to second place already.

This is going to be a long post; and a serious one. If you’re busy now, please come back and read it later. But I do implore you to not skip paragraphs)

I’m probably the last guy on the planet to write on the recent Mumbai attacks, nearly two weeks after the whole thing was over; but in a way it got me thinking about a lot of stuff we seem to take for granted…including who we routinely blame for it.

First off, the politicians who are a bunch of idiots and we all know this. In fact, we know better because we’re the ones who put them up there in the first place, so in a way, we’re to blame for it.

And who can forget the “Deccan Mujahideen” who supposedly claimed responsibility for the attack…and then the media went into overdrive with home-grown terror.
Until someone was intelligent enough to expose this as a bad joke by some prankster, every news channel in India (and even CNN, but I don’t count that) was sure it was the Deccan Mujahideen based on one pathetic Email anyone could have sent.

Because Muslims were the bad guys. Muslims were the terrorists. Muslims were the people who like to blow up stuff.

Quickly, give me a no-hard-feelings answer: what’s the first image to pop into your head when you hear the word “terrorist”?

If you get an Osama-bin-Laden-look-alike with a turban, a long beard, wearing a robe, you’ve hit home base – along with a million others.

Now here’s where it starts getting confusing, because if you look at the one picture of the terrorist we’ve seen far too times on TV, there was no turban, the guy was wearing a black tee, cargo jeans and (gasp!) no beard. And then you have this other report that the terrorists apparently had stashed up 3days worth of food; chicken and liquor!

The chicken part, I buy, but alcohol?
I’m no expert but I’m guessing you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure who the only terrorists who don’t drink by principle – as opposed to not drink before an attack – are!

Now I’m not denying or alleging anything, but for all we know, they could have been college-dropouts or unemployed graduates taking out their frustration to the world…and the fact remains that no one still knows who the attackers were or where they came from or what they wanted (despite what you see on TV) but what makes me mad is that we’re quick to again blame the Muslims for it.

And again, why?
Because hey, if it’s not them, who else could it be?

In fact, a while ago during another bombing, an Indian news-magazine ran a story with the racist headline: “All Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim”.
Note here how the LTTE, The Naxalites, the IRA of Ireland and the FARC of South America all suddenly cease to become terrorist organizations just because apparently in someone’s mind; only Muslims do all the dirty work; with the dislodging clause that, “well, maybe not all of them though”

And thus, effectively alienate part of society by calling them the bad guys, throwing the blame on them and view them with suspicion at every turn in society.

No, it does NOT feel nice to be looked at as part of the problem and a potential terrorist when you have nothing to do with it.

In short: terrorists are our common enemies…and you can’t fight them by blaming a community or a country or a religion for it and alienating them.
Regardless of whether they are “jihadists” – that’s the usual term; or RSS extremists – we’ve seen this in the Melagon attacks; or by the United States – which pokes into Iraq, Afghanistan and pretty much the rest of the world; call a terrorist a terrorist.

And unite to fight them.

“Dude, you on a diet or something?”

…my roomie asked eyeing me, as I skipped the section with the full-cream yogurt and reached out to the one marked “0.1% fat”.

I scowled back at him. I don’t know why but most people I know have only two kinds of food habits.
a) eat like there’s no tomorrow (“dude, this is the age to eat”)
b) go on a diet and cut out on pretty much all the good stuff. (“I’m dieting”)

My biggest problem is convincing people that you don’t have to be ‘on a diet’ to make sensible choices when it comes to food.
Sensible choices, for me includes choosing whole wheat over white bread, light cheese, trimming the fat on the chicken, using the oven instead of the deep fryer and yes, picking 0.1% fat over full-cream yougurt.
And no I am not on a diet.

In fact I’m nowhere close to a diet – I live on chicken 2 to 3 days a week, ice-creams (inspite of the snow outside!), munch on Pringles and have a Twix every once in a while.

Which is exactly why I’d want to eat more sensibly.
Because the kind of activities I do on a day-to-day basis hardly justifies my food-ability. And I’m guessing most people reading this aren’t exactly Rambo look-alikes either so it’s not just me who has to worry about going through the day on a chair getting up only in case of necessities.

In a way I’m angry at people who don’t care about their food habits unless something happens. For these people a ‘food habit’ pretty much means whatever they can find and are allowed to eat where they live. I know a lot of my friends who have deep-fried delicacies almost everyday because “this is what you get here dude”.

No its, not! And and no points for guessing the side effects. True, when you’re living alone, (and on a tight budget) healthy eating’s not always an option but hey, we can try, right?

Remember; a ‘diet’ is what you routinely eat, not what you go on for a month – and having the right attitude makes a good diet; One of these days I really got to talk to these guys, after all…

“Hey, I’m still talking to you”
I blinked as I snapped back to reality. I was still reaching out for that yogurt and there were other people starting to stare at us.

I just looked back at him and smiled. There isn’t much you can say sometimes.

NFS: Undercover

(I know a lot of people reading this probably aren’t gaming fans, but NFS is one of my weak spots, and when EA Games came out with the latest installation of the series last Thursday, I knew I had to do a post on it)

Need for Speed: Undercover hit the streets last week on the 18th of November and it got me excited.

Historically, the Need for Speed series has always been the hallmark of EA Games ever since the first installation came out way back in 1995…and one of my favorite games of all times.
Back in my school days, I remember trying to tweak my ancient Pentium II machine to get it to run NFS: High Stakes on it.
While I was at college, we’d huddle around at best buddies’ places for one-on-one, all night long tournaments of NFS: Hot Pursuit2 and sneak into computer labs for illegal versions of NFS:SE.
When I finally (saved enough and) got my own laptop a couple of years ago, one of the first things I did was get Underground2.

But after all this, I’m upset that EA disappoints us this time with a game that’s both boring and technically flawed. I haven’t tried it out myself, but every single review I’ve read unanimously agrees that Undercover has serious flaws that let the frame rates get out of whack and cause graphics to jump at you.
Also, the AI is supposed to be so dumb you can win each game the first time round. And after ultra-realistic modeling and physics in Carbon and Pro-street, this game apparently has laughably poor detail and animation.
The game also contains a video-based storyline that features a half-naked woman smoking a cigarette and telling you what to do…which is simply not my idea of a good game play.
All in all, in one sentence the reviews simply read: “Whatever you do, please don’t buy this game”

Hope the guys at EA are listening – and come up with a better and more stable Undercover2 fast. Because at the it’s-not-worth-it-now price of over €60, this is one game I’m not gonna buy in a hurry.

Troubles on a Thursday

Today was one of those days when everything seems to go wrong:

For starters, those new shoes I bought the other day – I just realized they’re one size too small…while I was half way to work. That means I had to sit through the entire day with sore toes before walking (ouch!) home. And having skipped the weather forecast, I didn’t take my umbrella so I had to walk (ouch!) in the rain. Apparently new shoes don’t like rain either.

At work, I nearly lost my head over a dumb argument with a stupid manager who had no idea what I was talking about. Took me over 2hours and ton of Email to get him to see the light.

And at the end of the day, I forgot to leave my backpack in my locker at work, so I had to come straight home carrying a 5pound laptop instead of heading over to the zeil for dinner like I had originally planned to.

Oh and there’s at least another 4 items in my inbox that demand my “immediate action” (whatever the hell that means) as soon as I get in tomorrow morning.

It is exactly at times like these when I think about all those people out there who don’t have a place to come home to; shoes to wear; managers to cuss or a job to crib about.

…and realize life, just can’t get any better than this!

Wedded flabs

Actually I don’t think I’m the first person to write on this; quite a while back ela wrote this post on how people tend to put on the pounds after they get married, but I only got to find out how true this is when I was in Chennai a couple of weeks ago for my best friend’s wedding.

Almost every one of my friends who got married have put on like a ton or something…and the worst part was that no one had the slightest remorse about looking like a hot air balloon!

A friend of mine (who, incidentally, is also a dad now congratulations!) shrugged it off with a, “Dude, I’m married, this stuff is normal after you get married…you’ll see”.

No I do
not see.
And I honestly don’t think there is anything ‘normal’ about inflating yourself just because you’re walking the path of bliss, and don’t have to worry about looks anymore.

Although I guess, the “look-good-feel-good” theory probably doesn’t apply here. Most newly-weds are happy with the…you know, and also the good food that comes along; with loving care too, I might add.
But I’m thinking it’s not just the food that’s causing all this. Because in spite of their high-fat, high-meat-content food, most Europeans seem to live healthier lifestyles because they do something about it. I mean, my boss is over 40 and she goes rock climbing. Most of our guys on the other hand, prefer to come home to coffee and hot samosas instead.

All fun things said and done, here’s a serious fact:
Asians (and Africans too, but I’m guessing not too many people from the Dark Continent are reading this) are more susceptible to diabetes than say, the white folks…because for something to do with genetics and stuff.
And I’m not messing you; this is a medical fact for real.

Also, I don’t know about the numbers but more and more people are starting to suffer from heart disease and diabetes than just one generation ago; and this has nothing to do with genetics. Its all to do with what we eat; how much we eat; and what we do about it.

Married or not. :)

Pulling the plug...

...on Chennai's most popular Mall, Spencer Plaza!

Even though the city is now coming up with more hip places to 'hang out', my personal favorite will always be Spencer Plaza; for the shear variety you find...from the ultra high-end speciality audio studios and fashion outlets to the tiny side stores in the aisles where you pick tees for a hundred rupees (not to mention Samosas and chai) and everything in between!

That's why I make it a point to go there every time I'm in Chennai. Other places like CitiCenter and all look really aloof with their extravagant architecture and terribly expensive fashion outlets with prices that rival their European counterparts...and I really wonder who actually shops there.

Which is why I was more than a little annoyed to find out that the government is stupidly cutting power supply to the mall everyday between 6 and 9pm everyday in order to meet demands. EVERYDAY!

Actually something like this has been apparently going on for quite a while now; ever since this summer when record power shortages forced offices to send employees home early, industries to cut back on production and households to forgo electricity for upto 8hrs a day. Of course, such "load shedding" is common in India during the peak summer months, but is usually limited to an hour's supply of domestic power with little or no impact on commercial establishments.

But when you have this trend falling through all the way into winter and having to force major retail chains to close their outlets at malls during the busiest hours on a know there is something seriously wrong with the city.

I mean, stopping commercial establishments from doing business at the best time of the day is honestly the stupidest thing I can think of...with or without any power shortage. 
A friend of mine recently wrote this post on India being a developing country; but the way things are now, whatever is the reverse of development is what is going on right now.

I sincerely hope the guys sitting up there in Parliament haven't traded their brains for baloney sandwiches yet; but in case they have, I have news for them:
The rest of us down here are ashamed of you!

Government under-sight may have caused it, but cutting down on progress is not a solution or even a workaround. 
It is plain stupidity.

A wishlist

Here’s a quick question:
What do you get your best friend on his wedding day when you know he already owns a lot of the stuff you can think of and is not interested in most of everything else?

Turns out it’s a lot more difficult to get people gifts…especially for good friends when you want to get them something special and not the same as that dumb watch you got for Bob from finance.
After we realized that three days of international e-brainstorming (on IM from across 3 countries) didn’t help, we had to settle for a gift voucher from a retail outlet.

That’s when I decided to put together this list to make things easier for people (if any) who are willing to get something for me anytime soon. So without further ado, here’s my wishlist:

  1. A PSP:
    Yup, I’ve been eyeing one for nearly a year now, and almost bought one on my last trip to Dubai. But somehow this has been evading me since, and I don’t see shore anytime soon.

  2. A cat:
    Or maybe a kitten. With a bell and a little blue ribbon on top. Most people don’t know this, but I absolutely love cats. Wonder if there’s a gift-a-cat store nearby?

  3. LEGO Mindstorms:
    Yes, the big daddy of the LEGO – complete with sensors and programmable controllers. I’m a gadget freak and can spend years with this thing…and I’ll be honest here: I can’t afford it, so I hope someone else can.

  4. The New Macbook:
    (This may be an overkill, but I sure hope it works :D)
    I wrote that I’m in love with it here, and gosh does love hurt. My poor wallet too.

  5. Tissot Touch.
    I really don’t mean to advertise, but it is an awesome watch. A study showed that most men love watches that do more than tell time; and with something that gives you a barometer, altimeter, chonograph and thermometer at a touch, I’m no exception.

  6. A pair of Nike AirMax.
    At over $200, this is one shoe I’m not planning on buying anytime soon. But doesn’t mean anyone else shouldn’t either so just for the record, I wear a size 8.Now that’s really money under your feet.

  7. A Large FatBoy:
    Not only are bean bags a barrel of fun, but they also seem to be the best things to curl on with a book and a steaming cup. Even without a book or coffee, I’d love to snuggle up against one. Too bad they’re too bulky to transport.

  8. Harman/Kardon iPod dock:
    Yeah I know its probably gonna look terrible against my tiny 8GB Nano, but doesn’t cost to dream does it?

So there you have it, a list of stuff which I am sure
a) I’m not gonna buy and
b) no one else is gonna get me either
So in all respects, this is the world’s most-impractical-list-of-things-to-buy.

But I guess once in a while we are all entitled to a healthy dose of madness, aren’t we?


I recently came to realize that we have another tenant living at our place – a lonely old man who lives in a one-room apartment down in the basement.

Now, being one of only 3people who live here (this is not an apartment, its just one huge house where the owners stay in one portion and sub-let the other two to us and another couple) I was genuinely astounded to find that out – because the guy must at least a good seventy five and lives alone with a bicycle.

Yes, with a bicycle.
And one of the reasons I’ve never seen him before is because he doesn’t get out much and no one comes to see him.

It makes me re-think on all the times I’ve felt alone like when my roomie goes on vacation and stuff and realize, “God, its good to have people – friends and family – who love and care about you!”.

I guess it’s another one of those small things we all take for granted.
There is a lot in life we should be thankful for.

The New Macbook...

...and I'm so in love with it!

A few days back on the 14th of October, Apple unveiled their latest new product to hit the market – the ‘new’ Macbook.

I’m not sure why I’m paranoid enough to do a post on every single product they come up with, but I guess it has to do with the fact that Apple just keeps doing things in a completely different way…and the macbook is one thing that’s caught my attention for a real long time.

In case you’re wondering what this is all about, I strongly suggest you see the video on it.

It still uses the same (old?) Mac OS-X leopard and runs on Intel Core2Duo, but I guess the most beautiful changes you on it are in the looks and what it’s made of; literally!

The first thing that’s completely different about it from everything else is that it moves away from Apple’s signature white (or black) polycarbonate body to precision machine-cut aluminum.

What really blew my mind is the fact that they decided to manufacture the whole body as a single piece – as opposed to virtually every other notebook on the planet (that I figure uses at least a couple of dozen parts for the main body); and the only way they could do that was to machine the whole thing from a solid block of aluminum!
Yes, every new Macbook out there comes from a separate, single, solid block of aluminum. Wonder what they do with all the little pieces?

The next thing big thing is the all-glass-and-LED screen that extends all the way to the edges. I guess glass and LED are the best things that go with shiny metal, and the new macbook beautifully eliminates the frame around the screen; lending a seamless appearance to the screen.

The new trackpad (also made of glass) eliminates the click-button…and instead the whole thing is clickable anywhere you want – you can even configure a “right-click-zone” anyplace on it in case you need one (remember, macs don’t require a right-click by default).
The trackpad also features the famous multi-touch as used on the iPhones and earlier generation Macbook-Pros.

Other interesting features noteworthy are the tiny row of green LEDs on the side that indicate battery status and the invisible sleep indicator light (that’s made by shaving off the side of the aluminum from the inside and perforating microscopic holes into the surface, so you only see the light when its on)

All said and done at the end of the day however and jumping back to reality, this thing is priced at over €1,500…and that’s WAY off my budget for a long time!
Guess the only place I’m gonna see it is at the nearest Apple store.


I originally intended this to be sort of a sequel to my last post on Online living because I later realized there was so much I didn’t do it much justice – and as some people pointed out; maybe there is more to life than the internet.

But brings us to another point: overload of the stuff we love and hold on to everyday.

Apart from my work Email and office phone (which keep me busy nearly the entire day five days a week) I also have 3 other personal Email accounts which demand checking a few times a day. And then there is orkut – the single biggest service I use on the internet next only to google search.
To complicate things, I recently discovered a whole lot of my high-school buddies on facebook and joined in. And then there is Linked-In to keep in touch with old colleagues from work who neither fit in orkut or facebook.

And this does not even take into account the free sign-up offers I turn down everyday from places named Hi5, friendster, WAYN, Shelfari, RupeeMail, Yaari… and this list gets long.

 Add to this is the sweet chaos of blogging and checking out the regular blogs I read, joining in the discussion forum I comment on regularly (which I will not mention here) and a crazy service called My Blog Log – which I have no idea why the devil I signed up for.

Picasa and Flickr where I stash my pix online.

And then there is twitter; which I don’t use all that much either and just signed up because it felt like a good idea at the time (and because the guys from CommonCraft did a great marketing job with Twitter in Plain English!)

 It suddenly dawned on me that I have way too many things to keep track of online. Maybe it is time to switch all things off for a while and stay disconnected from all things electronic.


And when that day comes; I’ll do another post on it ;-)

Online Living

A friend of mine recently lamented on how she nearly quit blogging because she thought she “ran out of stuff to say to the world” and I disagree.

I, for one, feel lost without access to the online stuff I love and cherish; which for the most part include Email, chat, blogging, socializing on orkut (and Facebook too, now that I’ve discovered it!), participating on discussion forums, scribbling nonsense on twitter and writing comments on YouTube videos – all of which are stuff you want to say to the people who care to listen.

And in doing so, I guess we sometimes tend to forget how much of our lives is really out there in the unknown, at the whim of anyone who chooses to use it.

Friendly comments and tags aside, I’ve had my share of abuse too. I’ve had spammers trash my blog, received rude comments on everything from blog comments to news articles and video reviews; I even had unknown people question my faith.
And in having all this; we sometimes tend to get emotional over the content we sometimes need to deal with. I once blew my top over a nut who argued over the existence of God and it took me a couple of cups of tea to calm down.

YouTube’s “report abuse” section has some helpful advice though. They say you need to realize there’s life beyond the internet, and move on. And if that doesn’t help, to try staying away from the computer for a while.

In short, realize that your life online is pretty much the same as in real life – from the friends to foes, there’s plenty of people; thoughts and opinions. And yours doesn’t always go with everyone. But that doesn’t mean you have to be mum about it.
Because there really is so much to say.

Trust me.


This morning a colleague of mine took a wrong short cut thru the woods on his way to work and ended up hopelessly lost on the Autobahn; finally requiring a couple of police officers to pick him up and drop him off at the office with a friendly warning.

While we were joking about it a few hours later, it reminded me of the first time I got lost: in second grade on the busy streets of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
And now that I think about it, kinda strikes me weird because there really were a million things that could have gone wrong that night and it was nothing short of a miracle that I made it home.

I was just your regular second grade, smart alec, know-it-all kid who one day decided to walk home from school because my dad was held up at a meeting and couldn’t make it on time to pick me up from school like he did everyday.
Needless to say, within no time I was lost, and I knew it.
Now this was way before mobile phones (we didn’t even have a phone at home!) and all I knew was to keep walking.
I guess it was purely in the Plan of The Creator that I accidentally stumbled upon a garage where at that exact time, the guy who ran the restaurant across the street from my house, chose to come to fix his car.

He recognized me as ‘that kid from our street’ and borrowed another car to drive me two blocks to my home; and offered me dinner while we waited for mom and dad (who were of course, freaking out from searching all over town and finally came back home hopeless, to call the police!)
Needless to say, that night I didn’t feel a thing; and so, went to sleep and went back to school the next day.

17 years later, the memories of that night, haunt me to this day.
There is a lot in life we take for granted.

5 reasons why I don’t do Linux

…or FreeBSD or MacX Leopard or Solaris, and stick to plain old windows.

1. Too much effort
True, Windows is not the most straightforward operating system in the world, but at least it’s the most familiar one in the world. Click a file to select. Double click to open. Right-click to modify. How much simpler can it get?
Compare this with everything else. You need to mount drives before you can use them (and dismount them afterwards), manually install applications, change settings for pretty much everything and in short, have an idea of how the whole thing actually works before you can do something on it.

2. Too much geek talk
Normally, you don’t hear too many people talking about modifying binary keys on the Windows Registry…and that’s about as geeky as it gets.
For Linux users, the day routinely involves tweaking the Kernel, swapping drives, compiling programs, or simply doing itsy-bitsy things to make your machine a tad bit leaner and faster.

3. Too many versions
For 7yrs, Windows xp was just one thing. And now you have Vista. And even though they do come in lots of flavors, the basic package is pretty much the same thing; give or take a few additional features. Nothing more, nothing less.

Linux, on the other hand, comes in so many distributions, its easy to get lost in there. You have popular commercial versions such as SUSE and Red Hat, you have ‘community’ versions like Ubuntu and Fedora; and then you have those little versions someone decided to make for themselves…like Arch Linux. To top things, with a little know-how, you can make your own distro…sometimes small enough to fit on a USB stick. Why would anyone wanna do that is beyond me. I prefer to take my entire notebook along, not just the operating system.

4. Apply the Applications
I’m sorry to say this, but when you take the list of applications in the world available for windows, and compare it with everything else; things just don’t add up. Now you can scream all you want on how popular software is always available for Mac and Linux, but its usually more difficult to find unless its in your job to do so.
The rest of us happy-go-lucky computer users prefer to walk into a store and walk out with the DVD, without having to ask too many questions on compatibility and whatever.

5. Getting the job done.
For people like me, at the end of the day it’s all about how much I get done “on” my computer and not “for” my computer.

Tweaking system settings for the hell of it is fun when that’s all you have to do. But when you’re at work and running multiple server-side production environments, an interface monitor and an Email client, the last thing you'd care about is how much processing your workstation is using and how you can tweak the whatever to speed it up. Nor do you care to compile and manually install that tiny little file-zip application.

You need something that’s easy, and doesn’t demand learning the operating core to get your job done. And that’s what windows gives me.

After all, it’s the applications that run on it that I’m interested in.

Boy, I know I made some enemies up there…to all the penguin fans reading this; sorry you guys. But I couldn’t help myself :)

New Delhi and the bombs

Shortly after 6:30pm IST, a series of 5 bombs rocked the Indian capital of New Delhi, killing around 2 dozen people and wounding around a hundred others.

On behalf of everyone here, we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones…for no fault of theirs. And at the same time, curse the wrecked freaks who caused this; killing innocent people in their mindless wake.

And it makes me angry thinking about it. This is not the first time this has happened, and probably is not the last. So in between when it happened for the first time and now; what has changed and what hasn’t?

As ever, the President, Prime Minister, Other Ministers, and all the guys up in Parliament, issued their standard statement expressing their “deepest concerns” and “appeal for calm and peace”.

On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea. Keep calm. And let the authorities do their job.

But as history bears witness, this does not really happen. What does happen is a series of routine tasks:

1)       The police ‘investigates’ and makes random arrests around the city of ‘suspects’…as if terrorists just hang around waiting for the police to grab them.

2)       Security gets ‘beefed up’ (whatever the hell that means) around airports, train stations and other ‘strategic locations’…as if terrorists are stupid enough to attack the most obvious places just hours after a major attack.

3)       Barricades are put up, and a major part of the public that had nothing to do with this is agonized by not being able to visit their loved ones in hospital or move away from hot spots.

4)       News channels, magazines and news sites go into overdrive on how to deal with the menace.

5)       The government reiterates its commitment to fighting violent attacks and acts of terror.

6)       The opposition party organizes rallies on how the current administration is doing such a sloppy job.

7)       Two weeks later, everyone forgets the whole thing. And life goes on as usual.

As usual of course, except for those who lost their loved ones in the attack. And then those ‘suspects’ who were rounded up just to make the police look good, and languish in dungeons with no charges laid against them.

Conveniently forget; is sadly what our country seems to do best.

Chrome comes to Google!

Yup, it’s finally here! The long awaited browser from the most popular name on the internet – Google, with the launch of its fabled ‘Chrome’ web browser.

And like most internet junkies, I scrambled to be among the first to download and use it – and I have one thing to say about it:

It’s brilliant!
Not beautiful – there’s no eye-catching colors, fancy design or anything, but it’s just brilliant.

And although people who are used to Safari’s fluid interface may not be too thrilled with the bare-minimalist design, most of the common folks who’ve been stuck with Microsoft IE might choose to move, thanks to automatic import of bookmarks, favorites and all your settings right from your old browser into Chrome.

And that’s not all; there are several features that are leap years ahead of anything on Mozilla Firefox, Safari and (is it even worth mentioning?) IE. For instance, the tabs automatically open with your most recently visited pages, and you can just click on where you want to go. Searches are direct from the address bar, and Chrome automatically gives spelling suggestions for misspelt words – pretty much like Google itself.

There are also nifty well-thought features like the status bar that automatically disappears after loading, downloads that are tied to the page itself without launching a separate pop-up and so on.

You can also do a lot of extras – like dragging out tabs to make them into a separate window or joining multiple windows into one single window, right-click a phrase and search for it and so on.

Of course, it’s only beta, and there’s bound to be improvements; as well as bugs in the current version. Right now, I’m just trying this out and am really excited…and now that I read back what I’ve written, it almost sounds like a promotion campaign for Chrome.

But I really think this is one download that’s worth trying out. And let me know what’s your take on it.

The CEO’s Ticket

If Corporate Politics and Mismanagement were an Olympic sport, I guess this incident would probably take the Gold this year.

Some CEO’s stupid e-ticket inadvertently got voided when it was not supposed to and needed to be re-issued manually. Now, things like this happen all the time due to system glitches (this is the part where the guy at the check-in counter gives you a blank look and tells you have to wait for a while because of some ‘computer error’), but anyway, stuff like this happen all the time in a normal working day, to normal folks worldwide.

Unfortunately for us, this time, it had to be a CEO.
As usual, the half the management jumped us and drove us crazy to resolve the issue, but then I wonder:

Do CEOs stand in line at those obnoxious check-in queues and get told, “Sorry mac, but your ticket’s no good” like the rest of us?
What do they do then; call up the office and ask to waitlisted on the next available plane…and then sit at a waiting lounge for their name to be called?
Do they then call up their other CEO buddies and play online Monopoly or something?

Its all good for the imagination, but I’m willing to bet none of the above happened and Mr. CEO probably didn’t even have an idea that something was wrong with his ticket. If anything, he was probably just informed of a ‘small mishap on the system’.

Which means my entire week-long data analysis of what exactly happened to his ticket and the technical reasons for the untimely void, is worth nothing.

The max that can happen is that it ends up as a report on his desk, waiting to be tossed in the trash along with yesterday’s newspaper when Mr. CEO comes back from his trip!


This may not be a topic that’s discussed all that often but, even though almost everyone I know spends a good part of their day looking at a computer; not many people I know can touch-type.

Doing a random you-don’t-know-I’m-doing-this-survey at work the other day, I found most of my colleagues – all of them skilled programmers – hopelessly poking at the keyboard with their forefingers while concentrating on what they are writing. Some of the more experienced people used up to two fingers per hand but that was it.
In fact, the only people I really did see touch-type (at a remarkable speed too, I must add) were the secretaries.

I don’t know why this really bothers me enough to do a post on it, but it kind of reflects on the skill-set we take pride in not having. I mean, even though we no longer concerned about handwriting (I mean, the only times I seem to hold a pen anymore are only to sign something), in a world where the only difference between someone crossing their “f”s and dotting their “i”s depends on the font used, the least we can do is take a little more concern in how we run our fingers on the one surface that’s become the standard means of getting the message across…from Email to fax, printed letters, IMs, social networking and of course, blogging!

Chennai Chronicles

Yup, I’m back!
And boy, are vacations good; we really should have more of these in a year.

Coming to terms with the updates, I’m back at work again, from a long (and thoroughly deserved) vacation in Dubai/Chennai/Cuddalore. And having lived away from home for a while it almost felt weird, because there was a lot about Chennai I really couldn’t place. So, I present my take, on my city.

Chennai on…EVERYTHING.

…eating out:
Bad. Because most ‘normal’ restaurants (the ones that are usually named with a something Bhavan) are so crowded you get the service of a refugee camp, so you end up at the more up-town places throwing away good money on the dumb extras like plush seating and the flower pots.

…the little things that matter:
Like eating hot bajjis at a roadside tea-shop under a tree while sheltering from the rain. Some things just can’t get any better than this, even in Europe!

…internet connectivity:
Totally sucks.
I complain that my PCI here isn’t fast enough… at 2Mbps, what I have on wireless here is faster than most cable broadband setups in Chennai. And we call ourselves the IT hub of the planet.

I think the nicest thing about Chennai.
Everyone’s ready to help a lost guy, give directions, buy train tickets for the ladies, and is willing to share, even with perfect strangers. I once met a guy at a bus-stop who spontaneously starting speaking about how he got late because he had to pay the electricity bill and missed his bus! Its really amazing how much people talk to someone they don’t even know!

…hassle-free shopping:
Or rather the lack of it.
I can’t remember the last time I walked into a store and was by myself. Even the most hip outlets in Chennai hire people who nag you crazy about your size, color, material of choice before you come to a conclusion. And when you tell them you’re “just looking” it translates into a sorry-I’m-not-here-to-buy statement and you don’t get any service anyway.

…the weather:
Whoever thinks Chennai is too hot obviously never lived in the Middle-East. Just a day in Dubai was enough to nearly give me a heat stroke and I think Chennai is okay. Maybe a bit warm but okay. If you think Chennai is bad, please take a trip to somewhere really hot.

Shocking. Every single day had a power outage lasting an hour exactly. So it wasn’t much of an outage as it was a serious shortage of electricity. Wonder where all our tax-payers’ money went?

Every major area has at least one under construction now; places like T-Nagar have two, heck even the airport has one right over it!
Now that’s what I call progress. Not long before we have a city that’s zipping way overhead!

As in small change. I hate 500 rupee bills. Everyone in Chennai gives you a dirty look if you ask change for a 500…unless you make a purchase of over 350. Sometimes I wonder why can’t they come up with a 200 rupee bill instead?

May not totally sum up the city, but if you’ve been away from it for a while, kinda sums up what you feel about it; or at least, what I did.

We'll be right three weeks

I'm sorry if you've been coming here for the past while, expecting something new and went back disappointed; I'm on vacation now and trying to stay as far away from computers as I can.
I must say, for a guy who works, loves and lives online this is quite a change, but I'm getting to enjoy my-found freedom now.

I am currently working on different ideas in my head, I'll be back online in the third week of July and promise something worthwhile then.

“Smokers are brainless idiots!”

I’m sorry if you’re smoker and just read this, but I’m not taking it back. This is exactly how I feel about every single person who lights up a cigarette during the course of his day.
Brainless idiots.
So there!

Now, I don’t want to go into all the already-well-published details on the why’s and how’s of smoking being bad and all that – I guess anyone with the intelligence of a humming bird knows that smoking kills. But that’s not my problem.

My problem is, people’s attitude towards smoking and smokers.
Despite it being the most universal of ‘undesirable’ habits (of course in my book, alcoholism, drug abuse and indiscriminate sexual behavior also top the lists but I guess different cultures have different levels of tolerances towards these), I count around 65% of young people here in Hessen with a cigarette in hand and not a care in the world.

And, no one’s saying much either. Last October, Germany passed a law making it a crime to smoke in public buildings – such as restaurants, hotel lobbies and offices. But while anti-smoking advocates were high-fiving each other, the lobbyists made sure that what made the final bill was the word “public buildings” and not “public” – which meant that you could smoke anywhere as long as you weren’t inside anyplace.

And that makes me mad because what this shows is tolerance towards this despicable habit. I don’t know about most other people but I have zero-tolerance towards anyone who smokes.
I yank cigarettes out of my friends’ hands and crush them underfoot.
I make rude remarks at smokers at restaurants.
When in a group, I refuse to pay for anyone’s cigarettes.

And I guess everyone needs to do their part.
Maybe by hanging a board at the door that says, “Smokers and dogs not welcome here”, you’re not helping the guy quit; but at least by letting them know we don’t like it, and maybe, just maybe it might make a difference.

And for all the smokers reading this; I’ve just two words to say to you:
Go quit.

Because the rest of us think you’re brainless idiots!

Generation 'Why'

Note: This is going to be a controversial issue, so if you don’t like controversies, you’re probably not going to like this. Just a disclaimer before we start.

I don’t watch MTV all that often (heck I don’t even watch much TV anymore but that’s a different story) but being one of only 3 English channels my run-down satellite receiver picks – the rest being in Deutsch, Italiano, Francias and Espanol – I am forced to watch it, especially after a hard day’s work when you don’t feel like touching a computer again.

And apparently MTV wants us to believe that there are only three things worth living for:
The opposite sex.
And more sex.

I don’t mean to advertise, but here’s a list of some popular programs you find…and an explanation of what they’re all about:

1. Next
Five guys competing for one girl (or the other way around) trying to win their hearts (or in any case money – a dollar for every minute you last on the date) before their prospective date ditches them and calls for “next”.

2. Date my Mom
Simply put, this is the most disgusting show I’ve ever seen. Guy wants girl, so he tries to ‘size her up’ by dating her mom to get a feel for what the girl would be like. If he’s lucky, he strikes two.

3. Parental Control
The guy’s folks don’t like his girlfriend (or the other way around with girl’s folks hating her boyfriend) so they decide to ‘find’ someone better and set them up on a date. Two dates later, the guy chooses if he wants to a) switch girls or b) keep his girl or c) ditch them all.

4. A shot at love
This show takes gross to a whole new sick height. Without going into the details, I’d just like to mention that in this show, the term “couple” does not necessarily mean people of the opposite gender…or just ‘two’ people. I leave the rest to your imagination.

5. Flavor of Love
Flavor of sensuality is more like it. This is another sick show where girls attend a ‘school’ where they ‘learn’ the tricks of the trade. You get it, right?

I’ll stop it now.
Reading back at the stuff I’ve written above; it almost sounds like porn. And I really wonder because all this isn’t stuff you get off dirty DVDs; they show this on prime time television all hours of the day (of course after eleven it gets worse…I don’t even wanna write about it)

Which brings me to an important question. Why is all of this happening?
The answer I got was simple: Why not?

Because when you remove the limitations set by God or by society or even by yourself; you don’t even have to answer that question anymore…you don’t have to ask, ‘why’? You just do it.
This is the future:
Generation ‘Why Not’

And it doesn’t look pretty.

The things you hear...

Overhead at my office recently:

"Oh, no I don't need to know any of that. You see, I'm a manager."

Of men and women

In today’s world of miniaturization and micro-everything, men are the real experts:
While women still lug around 5 pound hand bags containing “stuff they need”, men manage to fit everything they’ll ever need into a wallet some 30 times smaller.

Women on the other hand, are the masters of multitasking. Our guy still has trouble reading the newspaper while watching the ball game. The secretary at my office however, can reply to Email when on the phone, holding the person in person in front of her while handing me the forms and still managing to smile at the boss who just entered – all at the same time!

A walk in the woods

Even though I currently live in a quiet suburb at the edge of a large woods, I never really bothered to walk through it; either because its been too cold or I’ve been too lazy for a long while now.
Anyway, late this afternoon, I was on my way home from the mosque and decided to take the uncharted route (literally!) home, by cutting straight through the woods.

I did not regret my decision.
Slowly strolling through a peaceful forest, with a soft breeze gently rustling your hair amid dense green vegetation, watching squirrels run up the trees – and watch you from behind the branches; and seeing the rays of the afternoon sunshine from a beautiful spring day filter through the tall trees above, the fresh scent of pine, the feel of crisp leaves and twigs snapping underfoot while listening to the birds chirping above…

It has to be one of the most beautiful experiences in the world.

Manage-mental Issues

I don’t usually talk about my work life, but the past couple of days were a roller coaster ride that so rocked the management – something that went live the day before brought half the system down and we for the life of it couldn’t figure out what the heck was going wrong.

The entire corporation met to discuss this in endless meetings and I had the privilege of being in one such meeting with the top of the top management. The following are excerpts from that meeting.

(The statements in quotes were made by one of the morons managers. The italics are my thoughts at the time.)

“We need to fix this as soon as possible”
Tell me something I don’t know!

“I’m starting to lose my patience here with this problem”
You moron, I lost sleep last night, had to skip lunch and breaking my skull over this, you think I’m having fun here?

“The way I see it, there are two things that could have gone wrong”
The way you see it? Dude, when was the last time you looked at code. There’s a zillion things that can go wrong.

“You guys go ahead with your work, we’ll take care of the management issues”
So why the heck’d you bring me to this meeting? This isn’t exactly a technical discussion.

To another person on a call:
“Don’t worry; we have our people working on this as we speak”
No you’re not! I’m right here - listening to this stupid call.

“Do you require our assistance here any longer”
Any longer? Since when did you help us with to begin with? And what are you gonna do, compile a couple of programs for us? Maybe load a library?

“If we have to work over the weekend, then we will work over the weekend”
We? You mean “I” am going to work over the weekend. You’re probably gonna be sitting home watching TV asking me for a status every half hour.

Now, everybody has told me top managers are a waste of time, but after that call, I was convinced! How do these guys run the business without a clue of what’s going on!


In his own inimitable way, Charlie Brown once said to Snoopy:
“When a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it still make a sound”

Now unlike Snoopy, I’m guessing most of us never really give it much thought, but when I equated this with problems in our own lives, I found myself in a bit of a sticky situation:

Is it still a bug in my program when no one knows there’s a bug in my program?

Do I still owe Bob the €15 if he doesn’t remember I owe him money?

Do I still have to be in office at 9 o clock when no one will see there at 9 o clock?
The list goes on.

And unfortunately, I’m not too sure we answer ‘yes’ all the time. I don’t wanna go into deeper philosophical or moral consequences of the answers, but I’d just like to say that sometimes, there’s more to it.

After all, that tree did make a crash, whether you heard it or not!

Apple TV

Yup, I’m back again with another round of Apple-bashing…and this time, it’s the not-so-hyped-up AppleTV.

I 'm not sure why this caught my attention, but I guess there were two main reasons:
a) I’ve heard about it but wasn’t sure what it was and
b) because of the recent price slash Apple made

For the uninitiated, AppleTV is a device that allows you to seamlessly connect your existing tv to the internet and take advantage of Apple’s Online store to purchase or rent movies, tv shows, podcasts, even music, and play them out on your very own big screen. Watch what you want to from the comfort of your couch: the wide world of online content was no longer tied to your PC or the 3” screen of your iPod.

At least, that was the idea.

I think the biggest flaw developers failed to overlook is the fact that apart from bringing online content onto a TV screen (which is quite readily available on your PC without all this); it doesn’t do much else….at least, not enough to justify its €229 (slashed from € 299) price tag.

To top things off, you are paying for the broadband separately. Remember, the AppleTV is just hardware – to get it to work, you’d also have to subscribe to high-speed broadband.
Of course, this may not be a huge problem for most people, but the idea of needing something additional just to get something else to work is annoying me.
I mean, I have wireless broadband that gives me 5gigs a month…which is okay for most of my needs but why would I wanna get something that eats up my bandwidth AND needs my credit card to work too? Which brings me to my other point:

Apart from the videos on YouTube, there isn’t much you could see for free. And even though movie rentals are priced quite sensibly, no one really wants to swipe their credit cards every time they wanna watch TV.

And judging by the way the sales figures are looking, I’m not wrong. So while this might have been a good idea in theory, bringing online content on TV is an idea that just doesn’t seem to ‘click’ with the customers.

Boot me up, faster

I don’t hear many people complaining about this, but to this day, computers take up way too much time to boot up and become ready for working on.

I remember how things were over 10 years ago when my dad got us our first computer back in 1997, with probably the first Pentium processor ever made and less memory than my phone has today.
And I remember timing it: it took 2min and 32sec to boot up Windows98 at the time.

Over a decade later, my Core2Duo powered workstation supposedly clocks at over 2Ghz, has 2gigs of memory and all the fireworks. But still takes it over a minute to boot into the OS, setup everything and in short, become useful.

Leaving aside all the facts and jargon about all the advancements in computing technology, memory management and the boot sequence; for the average guy on the street who doesn’t give a hoot about all this, it’s still a long shot.

Once when I was showing off my new laptop, my brother (who’s not too much into technology) remarked,
”Yeah I’m sure its got the fastest processor on the market, but can’t this stupid thing turn itself on any faster than that? When are they gonna make ‘em like a TV so you can just pop it on and get to it right away?”

And coming to think about it, I don’t think that was ever on any manufacturer’s mind. True, you have blazing graphics, real surround sound and enormous number-crunching capabilities. But a computer that just boots instantly?
We are still waiting...

World Autism Day

Today on the second of April, just a day after fooling the wits out of everyone, the world unites together to create awareness on Autism.

News channels here have been going into overdrive, bringing stories upon success stories from families who are coping with children with this condition.

Even though I personally do not know anyone with this condition, I would like to take a moment to pause, and spread this concern.
Autism has no known medical cause, can affect children in one of several bizarre ways, and so far, does not have a proven medical or therapeutic cure. But recent advances in therapy can assist in rehabilitating the person, and help them lead a better, if not complete life.

But one thing still bothers me…most of those ‘success’ stories on TV were from the United States. And as long as everyone knows the kid is autistic and is getting help, things are okay.

But what about the millions of others with this condition, who need help just as bad; but have no access to proper facilities? Have no money? Are stuck in a war zone?
CNN does not cover that.
Guess it’s up to each one of us to take this up and give a hand to those who we might know with this condition.

God save us all!

Calling all "bimbos"

Yes, you heard right…and don’t be offended by the choice of words here. That is exactly what a new website is calling for – to compete for the world’s hottest ‘bimbo’.

For those of you who came in late, I’m talking about the latest addictions to spring up on the net, this time with a sizable amount of protest against it: the Miss Bimbo contest.

Created by two London-based entrepreneurs, the game encourages young girls to select an avatar, accessorize them with sexy outfits and crash diets to compete against other real people to be crowned the world’s hottest bimbo.
And if you thought that was crazy; check out some of the details: you not only select outfits and stuff (most of which by the way are some forms of lingerie), you also get to give your avatar breast implants and face-lifts; even hook up with a billionaire.

And why is everyone complaining? Because apparently the site attracts a lot of nine-year olds. And it’s only okay to think this is alright if you’re over 18.

Which makes me wonder on where their moral standards are headed…
Is this game okay for ‘above 18s’
…to think appearances, sexuality and money are the only things in life that matter?
…to worship celebrities and their less-than-pathetic lifestyles just because they’re famous?
…for craving to be famous and loved to be more important than anything else?

Its funny you know…when religion said the same thing about modesty, the world called us backward.
When TV soaps and magazines are full of glamour and sex; that’s liberation.
Yet when some poor weirdo on the internet tries to cash in on this, all of a sudden it becomes offensive.

I don’t blame them; I blame the culture that feeds this trash… and sets a double standard later.


I guess everyone with a finger on the tech side of things would have heard of Apple’s newest toy in the lineup of lean, mean workplace machines – the MacBook Air.
(In case you haven’t, check out the video ad here)

At less than quarter of an inch high at its thinnest and weighing just under 3lbs, this is by far the lightest and thinnest notebook on the planet!

But while the folks at Apple boast at how their marvelous creation still manages to have a 13.3 inch screen, a full-sized, backlit(!), qwerty keyboard, gesture based track-pad (like the one found on the iPhone), built-in video camera and the works, I for one, still find some of the basics missing.

For starters, this only comes with an 1.8”, 80GB hard drive, same as the one found on an iPod. And by any standard, 80gigs won’t get you too far these days. And if you thought that was bad, get a load of the biggest blow to computing: no optical drive!
For the life of it, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to buy a notebook you can’t put a DVD in.
Of course, you do have the option of buying a separately sold wireless disk drive and transfer files to the notebook via wireless or Bluetooth, but not something everyone’s gonna be happy about.

Made me wonder on what kind of audiences exactly are they hoping to cash in on anyway. You can rule out average users – at $1,800, I guess it’s not something a college student is looking for.
No drive means no video games, no movies and not much else. There goes the second huge chunk of the market.
And with a sluggish 4,500rpm 80GB drive clocking at a miserable 1.8Ghz, performance users can look the other way.
Which leaves us with only one thing left: business users. You know, those serious-looking, time-zone hopping executives whose only excuse for even touching a computer are presentations, spreadsheets and nothing much else other than looking important and carrying the fancied gizmo around.
These bad boys can have a field day with this. The rest of us can go spend our money on something useful!

Scum of the cyberworld

I don’t usually get all personal and paranoid over some moron who’s lost his way in the world; but earlier this evening I (my blog to be exact) was attacked by a worthless, low-life scum who chose my blog to voice his pathetic opinion of the world.

Later when I was cleaning up the mess he left; it suddenly dawned on me as so how easy it is for anyone to get away with anything online!
You don’t need an identity, an address or even a name – just as long as you have a wee bit of skill and some creativity, the world is your canvas. Whether you want to create a masterpiece or mess up someone else’s using your graffiti is just a matter of choice.

And that’s a scary thought. But we’re not gonna take this lying down. Scum, you’ve just been tagged-out!

The Apple of my eye

Okay, I will shamelessly admit it:

Less than a year after writing about why I absolutely hate the iPod and everything around it (read the original post here), I became a proud owner of the shiny little player from Apple last week.

Don’t hate me just yet; I guess we are all infallible to human error.

Yes it sings, it swings, and burns a hole through your wallet. But what caught my attention is the sheer marketing brilliance the iPod really is. Actually I learned a lot about marketing from having an iPod than what I thought I knew.

For starters, I guess everyone who’s ever heard of it also knows about the iTunes bundle that the pod can’t do without. Not only is iTunes able to seamlessly connect to the online store for purchase of legal music (which, by the way, is a marketing brilliance on its own) it also allows you to subscribe to Podcasts, TV shows, Audiobooks and even Games right from the store.

Now here’s the real catch:
No matter who owns it, the podcast can only sync through your iTunes account. Games only get into the ‘Games’ folder if purchased off iTunes Store.
And even ID3 Tags can be automatically updated, but only via the store.

Of course, there’s always a way to work around it; for instance 3rd party games can be shoved into your pod via the notes folder using a hack, but then most people wouldn’t wanna do that.
And you can always update ID3 manually, but that kinda takes away the convenience of automatic update.

I take back everything I said against it.
With the product running into the 6th generation and beating Microsoft’s Zune hands down, love it or leave it, this is one pod that’s here to stay.


This is again something a lot of us don’t usually think about a lot, so I decided to put it down in black and white.

Last night, after simply wandering all over downtown Constablerwache just for a heck of it and having an amazing dinner, I curled up in my easy chair with a steaming cup warming my hands watching reruns of Die Hard. And I realized, God, I have a good life!

Actually just yesterday, I was watching a special on CNN on how Congo’s “Tin soldiers” slave through the nation’s mines, barely clothed, digging with their bare hands and carrying sacks of the ore through a dense forest…just for food.
Yup, you read right, these guys don’t even get paid – they literally work in return for food. The only other option is to go hungry.

And when you connect the two sides together, it doesn’t even seem to make sense anymore. I mean, on one hand you have us guys cribbin about how work’s so lousy, the boss so mean, and not getting paid enough when we have enough money to…well not needing to care about going hungry for even one meal!!
On the other hand you have people like the ones you see on tv, working maybe ten times as hard as you or me and still having to wonder where lunch is gonna come from.

Unfortunately a lot of us don’t realize it but we are a very fortunate lot. And being so, means social obligations to people around us. Help for a needy, food for the poor, clothing for the less fortunate.

We have a lot to be thankful for.

T is for Torture

Let’s suspend the fun stuff for a bit and talk something serious.
I guess most of us don’t think about stuff like this quite often and I’ll have to admit, what really got me going was while I was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and got to the part where Hermione gets crucioed by Bellatrix. That kind of spooked the daylights out of me, so I started to wonder on the real-life implications and applications of torture and brutal interrogation techniques.

I didn’t have to look too far.
All you have to do is spell it out on Google, YouTube or any major portal and there you have it: hundreds of thousands of first-person accounts, pictures and videos of people – in many cases innocent civilians – being tortured on the pretext of accusations; and in many cases confessing to a crime they did not commit.
And if you think I’m stretching this issue, check it out for yourself. A UN report once openly claimed that almost as many as 2 % of the entire population on earth has at one point been a victim of torture.

What really hits me hard is that several governments accept this as a form of maintaining security. The now famous Taser (which was in the news recently) is one such device United States law enforcement would swear by, maintaining that they wouldn’t have been able to capture a lot of crooks without it.

And you don’t even have to imagine what goes on inside war-zones.
While Israel approved of using ‘mild pressure’ on detainees, more infamous places like Guantanamo Bay have CIA approved ‘techniques’ to interrogate POW – many of whom have been detained without specific reason. Without going into the specifics of the horrors recounted by them and others like the fortunate ones to make out of Abu Ghraib, I’d just like to mention: this isn’t just about them.

This is about every single one of us. Every one of us rational, free thinking, citizen needs to stand up and shout it out loud…coz it might not be long before we wake up one morning and find a guy pointing a wand at you and say “Cruicio”.

Happy New Year?

A few years back, former first lady of the United States , Hillary Rodham Clinton signed off her greetings with a “Happy New Year?” and for once, I’d like to agree with her.
Yes, it is a whole year that has gone by and all that, but formalities aside, what’s so happy about the new year anyway?

People in Iraq don’t have much to celebrate; just more bombs and killings to follow..
Come to think of it, people in Lebanon , Palestine , Somalia , Kashmir and lots of other places don’t have much to celebrate either.
So why celebrate a new year anyway?

Astronomically it doesn’t make much sense; its just the earth making a revolution of the sun (from where, there are no markers in space!)…
Job-wise it makes little sense; we’ll still be stuck with the same problems at office in spite of the greetings you get…
Theologically it makes no sense; most major religions of the world happen to have their own calendars and festivals (none of which fall on Jan 1st)…
Academically it makes no sense; the new ‘Academic’ year starts somewhere in April…
Financially it makes no sense; the new ‘Financial’ year starts on 1st May…

So who’s New Year is this anyway?
The only people for whom this makes sense is the marketers who promote their products with a New Year tag, discounts and gifts – and with good reason too. New Year purchases increase revenue by over 200% in the 2-3 weeks that precede it. That’s some sale!

For the rest of us, New Year is just an excuse to go empty our pockets.