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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Transition

So the transition period to college has begun. But before I tell you about that, here are some updates:
  • Saw 'Darwaaza Band Rakho' with Mom n Dad at Waves. Good comedy movie, except that it lacked humor.
  • Dad pointed out an article in a magazine which had some of the letters Einstein wrote to his son. In one, Einstein had mentioned the importance of brushing your teeth twice a day. It appears that fathertellingsontobrushtwicedaily is a very old and common phenomenon.
  • I've been having more and more instances of phonesia: you know, when you call someone and forget who you called, the moment they pick-up. It's so embarrassing.
  • Rita aunty gifted me a very sexy watch as a present before I go. It makes my old Timex Flix look like a complete joke.
  • I turn on the T.V. and I see a guy with a round face, beard and cap, singing in a high pitch. Then I change the channel and I see him dancing with Akshaye Khanna and Katrina Kaif. I change channels again, and there he is with a different song but same tune. Yes, I am truly fed up with Himesh Reshammiya and his all-sound-alike songs.
Anyways, I have begun shopping for clothes and stuff to take to Duke. I hate shopping. Really. It's sooo tiring and pointless. I would have ordered everything online if only I could some how try out the sizes sitting at home. How can girls love shopping?
I have already had my fair share of problems in my 'transition phase'. Have still not received the book "My Sister's Keepers" which is part of this year's summer reading program. A discussion will be held on the book, among the freshmen, when we arrive. For some reason, the book seems to have gone 'out of stock' simultaneously from all the bookstores in Delhi and NCR.
Also, I still don't know who my roommate is, which is really important so that we can get in touch and decide who will bring what appliance.

So here I am, bored and hoping to get things sorted out soon.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

DO NOT READ THIS POST

Haven't updated my blog in a while, cause there just hasn't been to much to say. See, this is the point where a boring life starts losing its charm. Geez, in 12th I would have killed for some free time. We would wait so desperately for vacations, and when vacations would come, there would always be stuff lagging over from school that we had to complete. And now? Now, I'm just desperate for college to start. The fact that these vacations were extremely long probably just contributed to the boredom: in India the academic year ends early and starts early; in America, they end late and start late. Since I'm going from India to America, my vacation this year started earlier (I also didn't have to give all the engineering competition exams like my classmates) and will end late. And I haven't really done anything productive since the end of March apart from publishing the school's fat annual magazine and watching movies that I missed out upon over the past two years.

Btw, I saw 'Golmaal' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' yesterday. And Pirates of the Caribbean sucked big time. Whenever I take Mom n Dad for some English movie, the movie turns out to be really pathetic. And now they either think I have really bad taste or that English movies are horrible by nature :P . I am also updating my phone directory before I leave. That basically means calling everybody up (everybody!) and asking them things like their postal address, email ids, messenger ids, Birthday, etc. So if you know me, and I still haven't called you, please email me these details at ankit.webmaster@gmail.com .

By now you're probably wondering why I told you not to read this posting... I mean, its just a stupid, not-at-all-interesting waste of time! I agree and that's why I told you not to read it dumbo.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Nostalgia

All of my RKP friends have already left Delhi for their colleges. :(

Had a talk with Abhinav Sinha two days ago on the phone. (I was with Abhinav in DPS Patna till 10th, after which he left for Goa with his Mom.) Now, he's in NIT Trichy, Tamil Nadu studying computer engineering. He seemed pretty frustrated with the food there -- breakfast is bread, butter and sambhar-vada; or bread, jam and sambhar-vada; while lunch consists of rice, dal, rasam (type of thin dal), and one boiled-type vegetable. Basically, he misses north Indian food. Poor him. He also seemed pretty disappointed with the south-indian girls -- according to him, most of the girls there know no Hindi and have mushtashes! :P . Girls also seemed to be weighing down Aneesh's mind the other day: I asked him before he left for college, what he was most anxious about, expecting some reply about missing his family or friends. Instead he answered, "yaar, i wonder what the sex ratio in class will be like -- after all, in BITS Pilani, there are only two girls' hostels and ten boys' hostels!"
LOL!

Now that EVERYONE's gone or joined college, I've really started to miss my good friends. Really badly :(( Wonder how I'll survive in Duke...there I'll miss my parents too! Feeling lonely at home, I called up some hostlers including Afzal, Vinit, Aparajit. Vinit's joining electronics at NSIT, and will reach Delhi by the 1st of August, while Afzal's dropping and taking coaching here in Delhi at Kalusarai. I talked to Dad today, and decided that I'll try to get everything out of the way by the 10th, so I can meet all those who are in Delhi (those who've joined DU, and those who're dropping a year and are @ Kalusarai) before I leave.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

BLOG FOR SALE! and other tid-bits of the day

  • Technocrati measures my blog to be worth $1,129.08 !!! (See Sidebar) Now I know my blog is really priceless, but I'm ready to sell it for half that price. Eager webmasters, contact me at ankit.webmaster@gmail.com, and we'll work the transaction details out. :-)
  • Second day driving class. Still controlling only accelerator and steering but now on the main roads.
  • Wrote a 'keep up the great work' kinda e-mail to Professor Timothy Tailor, the lecturer of the recorded Teaching Company economics lectures I'm listening to. Got a polite thank you reply from him where he also explained some differences I might find between recorded lectures and an actual economics lecture in college.
  • Today, while playing badminton at Aneesh's house, I found out why it makes sense to play football in the rain, but not badminton. It's cause in football, you have to look down at the ball, while in badminton you look up at the shuttle and drops start falling into your eyes. While playing I licked the raindrops off my lips.
  • "Hey Aneesh, how come rain tastes salty?"
    "Rain doesn't taste salty, sweat does."
    "Oh."


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Khera School of Motor Driving

Ohk, so after 2 months of not being able to decide whether to learn how to drive in India or not, I decided to go ahead with it anyway. Dad had recommended to go to America and learn left hand driving instead of first learning right-hand drive and trying to switch. According to him, switching driving sides involves a bit of un-learing which can sometimes be painful. But a few days ago, I thought, what the heck?, and called up Khera driving school to fix an appointment.
Today, was my first class. The trainer came in a run-down Santro whose dash-board was cracked, had no wipers and one window failed to close after I'd opened it. Connected to the clutch and brake pedals were rods which ended in another clucth and brake in front of the trainer's seat, next to the driver's. Thus, the trainer could control the brake and clutch as well. Today, when the trainer came it started raining. No, raining would be an understatement; it started pouring. Now the car had no wipers, so we had to wait for the rain to lighten a bit. But I finally got to drive within the colony after an hour's wait. Today, I just had to control the accelerator and steering; the trainer took care of the braking and gear switching.

A terrible thing happened today when I was learning how to drive. Some girls' college in my colony had just dispersed. Not to mention that it was still slightly raining. I almost ran the car up a tree when I started looking out the window once! Girls should be banned from the road when boys are learning how to drive. Especially girls in the rain. I mean, I wouldn't want this to happen to me:


Monday, July 24, 2006

Net Humor

MTNL Delhi lifted the ban yesterday and now I can access my blog via http://heyankit.blogspot.com instead of through some foreign proxy. Aneesh informed me though that Sify still hasn't lifted the ban and he still has to visit my site via http://heyankit.tk or http://ankit.speaksup.com

Anyways, I came across this really funny video by google on how Boing Boing (the world's most popular blog) got blocked in many countries:
(Click on image above; video will open in new window)


----
And here are two really really humorous (must must see) videos, in which an Alaskan senator explains what the internet is. As a fellow member of BloggersCollective puts it: "Wait till you hear the great senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, head of the Senate Commerce Committee, a position in which he regulates e-commerce [and the net] in the US, explain the internet to you...You could just search for Ted Stevens on youtube and find atleast 4 different clips about Ted's interpretation of the internet. We don't need to be ashamed of our Laloos, Yechuris and other assortment of dingleberries." The TWO videos:


(Click on images above; videos will open in new windows)


Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Big Fight

Day-before-yesterday, that is on Friday, I went to attend "The Big Fight". The Big Fight is this another famous talkshow hosted on NDTV in which the three participants stand on one end while the host (currently Vikram Chandra; see pic) sits at a table in another corner. The participants called are often those who hold contradictory views on the same topic, often resulting in a heated debate. The role of the host is to ask provocative questions and cause the heated debate. After the debate, the audience gets 15 minutes to ask questions to the panelists.
Today's topic was "Should the government censor the internet?"
On the panel were:
1. Jayanti Natrajan (congress Spokeswoman),
2. Sidharth Luthra (a supreme court advocate specializing in cyber law; he fought the Bazee-MMS case)
3. Paranjay Guha Thukrata, Director School of Convergence
Then joining via satellite (there was a large LCD TV where we could see
them) were:
4. Principal, Modern School, Barakhamba Road
5. Mr Deepak Maheswari, Director, ISPAI (Internet Service Providers'
Association of India)

First Vikram Chandra asked the panelists their views on the blog
blockage and later the topic shifted to general internet censorship.
Jayanti Natrajan made some outragous comments like:
"Bloggers should exercise Self-Control" and "The government only meant
to block out 17 harmful site, not tons of regular sites".

Toward the end, Mrs. Natrajan created a hulaaboo about having to go
quickly as her flight was in 1.5 hours and she still hadn't done her
"homework" (her terminology). As a result, the audience was only given
10 minutes to put forward their question and I only got one chance to
ask something, so I asked what I thought important then,

(I quoted her comments mentioned above) "Maam, you mentioned that
bloggers should exercise self-control and that the government only
meant to block out harmful sites; yet the only four blogspot sites on
the list were: princesskimberly, a teenager's defunt diary from 2004,
not harmful and non political; commonfolkcommonsense.blogspot.com a
japanese site; and two anti-leftist (exposingtheleft and pajamaeditors)
American sites. How are these blogging sites a threat to Indian
National Security? Why were they banned?"

Mrs Natrajan answers, "(nervous laugh) The internet is a new medium of communication and as with every new medium, there may be mistakes, but I was saying that we
need to sensor the internet from harmful things against national
security or child pornography...." and blah blah blah. (note: this has not been quoted verbmatim, instead, this is as close to her answer as I can remember)

The show was aired on NDTV 24X7 yesterday, at 8:00pm


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Face the Music



Prateek Josheph from NDTV Audience Cell called me a few days ago asking if I could coordinate ten to fifteen people to participate in the audience in a episode of the NDTV talkshow, Face the Music.
The show was held day before yesterday in Laxmi Studio, FilmCity, Noida. I was only able to get about 9 people though, since the hostlers were either not in Delhi, or those who had joined DU had to attend classes; so Aneesh and Golu went along; Rishabh also came with two cousins; there was also Sid (Ed-Board) and his friend; and Akash Bansal (who's back for the summer from Duke). I forgot to take my camera, so I got those pics of the people who came from the net (for future reference purposes).
Having decided that we would take the bus, Aneesh, Golu and I left at 2:45pm (we were told to reach by 4:30). At the bus stop however, we took an auto instead (don't know what came over us then -- an auto to Noida cost us three times the bus fare for three people!) As a result, we reached Laxmi Studio by 3:30.

With one hour to spare, feeling vella, and nothing to do, the three of us wandered around to nearby APEEJAY Public School.
Aneesh (to the guard): Bhaiya, school dekhna hai aur teachers se milna hai.
Guard: Aap kaun hai?
Aneesh: Hum Passouts hain.
Guard (disbelievingly): Kab pass kiye the?
Me (seeing Aneesh stumble): 2003
Guard: High School yaa Inter?
Me: Class 12
Guard: 4th saturdays ko aayiga; us din Parents Teacher's Interaction hota hai.

...and so on with guards of different buildings like IndianExpress, till we had exhausted our one hour.

Now Laxmi Studios is owned by T-Series. And the owner of T-Series insures that you understand that he is a religious person. When you first enter the Studio, you see a huge (HUGE!!!) bronze statue of the Hindu god Shiva, which is twice as tall as the four-floor studio complex. Next to it there are three large temples of other Hindu gods. And just in case we hadn't got the idea, when we entered the building there were another 6 three-feet tall god statues in one corner; not to mention numerous portraits of gods. I really have nothing against theism, but this is seriously overkill.

'Face the Music' is hosted by the famous newspaper reporter, Vir Sanghvi (that's the guy in black in the above hodgepodge of pictures). The studio consisted of a half-wood-half-glass red-and-silver semicircular stage and black chairs to seat about a hundred people. Silver cage-like tubes ran from the stage to the sealing giving the stage a unique look.
Vir Sanghvi introduced the first guest,

She is to politics, what Vyajanti Mala is to glamour.
And she is to glamour what Chidambharam is to boredom,
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, Spokesperson for the congress, Mrs. Jayanti Natrajan.

Clap clap, clap clap, clap (somebody from behind would give us the que to clap by starting the clapping).
And after a ten-minute talk with Mrs. Natrajan (she's the lady in the black-and-white pic above) on how she joined politics, death of Rajiv Gandhi, and so on, there was a short break.

Then came the second celebrity of the day. Lola Kutty (the Channel [V] VJ; Lola Kutty, "beauty on duty"; her real name's Anuradha Menon; she's the one with the flowers on her hair, and yes, she actually came looking like that to the studio). So in comes Kutty and the first thing she does is sing a rap which would put Eminem's Real Slim Shady to shame:

May I harv yorr adinshen, please. May I harv yorr adinshen please! I ahm Lola Kutty, And yes, I ahm the real Kuddy. And you other Lola Kuddies arr jusd eemitatin', So won'd the real Lola Kuddy, Please Stahnd Ub, Please Stahnd Up!

Now, when a new celeb comes, the one already on stage stays put. So now we had two celebs and a host there. Mr. Sanghvi didn't manage to get much out of Ms Kutty, because of the way she would fake her accent (Lola Kutty purposely fakes a comical accent, like the one when she sang The Real Lola Kutty, in all of her Channel [V] shows, and she maintained this accent throughout the program). So after a small talk with Kutty, Mr. Sanghvi invited the third guest of the day, Mrs Zila Khan, a very famous (apparently, I had never heard of her) Sufi Singer (she's the one in the last pic above). And after a talk with Mrs Khan on how she inherited the Sufi tradition of her father, she performed a song on stage. The song was nice, but Mrs. Khan had a tendency to over-express; she would raise her hands clenching a fist when she sung certain parts, and at the end make comments like, "oh, this is the kind of music that inspires the fire in you (clenching fists and grinning) eeeeh" (or something along those lines).

The show ended with the rock band (Adveda was the name, I think), which would drum in the filler music in the show, performed some English song.

After the show, Aneesh, Golu, Rishabh (his cousins left separately), and Akash, walked down to sector-18 Centerstage Mall, where we sat down at McDonalds and I asked Akash some questions about what to take to Duke.
Now since we had come by auto, instead of the bus as planned, and since we had not planned on eating, only 300 bucks remained between Aneesh, Golu and Me.
The facts were simple: either we eat and go back to Delhi by bus, or we go back by auto.
The case too, was an open-and-shut one:
We ate.
We also went back by bus. After waiting for half-an-hour at an overcrowded bus stop,
number 323, Daula Kuan-Noida, arrived. The bus was cramped (understatement) -- no matter how hard you tried to stand separately, you were in constant body contact with at least four people. The height of the bus was also an inch shorter than me, so I had to constantly keep my neck bent an inch. We reached home safetly though, at about nine.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

PLEASE PARTICIPATE

FIRST OF ALL, as a blog reader, and a believer in "freedom of expression" please go to the following CNN site and sign the campaign against this arbitrary ban: http://clients.ibnlive.com/features/blogger/index.php

Also, NDTV is holding 'The Big Fight' tomorrow (friday) on the blocked blogs at 2:30pm at NDTV Studios, Archana Complex, Greater Kailash Part-1. To participate and reserve a seat for yourself contact, Prateek Joseph, NDTV Audience Cell at 011-41735106, 9818822252.

So far I have confirmation of 3 Right to Information requests (RTIs) having been filed to the DoT about the blocked blogs. Also, Kajal Basu, a fellow member of Bloggers Collective, has contacted her lawyer and plans to go ahead with the Public Interest Litigation (PIL). "Add your voice to the PIL, contact Arjun at 09911126913 or mail him with your ideas at g_arjun1@yahoo.com."


Lifting the Ban(?) and those that will Remain Blocked.

It's official. The government only ordered the ISPs to block 17 specific sites. The ISPs screwed up and blocked entire domains; probably because that's the easiest and least resource-consuming way to ban sites. Here is DoT's directive (click on image for larger view):



Reports on rediff (link) suggest that Amitabh Singhal, a spokesperson for the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), said that the ban should be lifted in 48 hours:

"An advisory is being sent from ISPAI to member ISPs saying they should configure their Domain Name Servers (DNS) in such a way that they block only the sub-domains DoT wants blocked...The advisory is a result of a meeting held on Wednesday between executive members of ISPAI, representatives of DoT and the Department of Information Technology. "We expect the problem to be resolved within 48 hours," said Singhal.


However, things may not be as simple as they seem. Quoting from Economic Times (today, front page, Delhi Edition, article "All but 17 blogs to be back":

But other blogs may stay blocked if the service provider does not have the monitoring mechanism for selective blockage at sub-domain level.


I don't know which incompetent ISP will fall into that category, but I'm not going to start counting my chickens before they hatch. Anyways, even if the blanket ban is lifted and only certain sites are blocked, in a democracy, a government should explain why it's blocking even those sites. Among the list of sites to be blocked submitted by DoT are four blogspot blogs:

http://exposingtheleft.blogspot.com [access this site from India HERE]
http://commonfolkcommonsense.blogspot.com [access this site from India HERE]
http://pajamaeditors.blogspot.com [access this site from India HERE]
http://princesskimberly.blogspot.com [access this site from India HERE]

Even blocking these sites dosen't make any sense. For example, 'PrincessKimberly' is a defunct blog which has only 2 posts from 2004. Quotes from PrincessKimberly:

"...The 2nd 1/2 of my spring break was a lot of fun...Went to Galveston to the beach and rode the ferry. ...I went back to Arlington on Sunday to eat dinner w/ Melbany.. IHOP.. yummy! :) Made it to class this week.. 2 days in a row. Go Kim! Anyway.. Nothing exciting happening now. I just got done kicking Stopher's ass at Solitaire Showdown. But when do I not? :)...
...I spent the majority of my night w/ Aaron watching "Harry Potter, Chamber of Secrets". Great movie I must say!..."


I don't know about you, but I fail to visualize little princess kimberly holding a threat to national security; neither do I know how Exposing the Left, an American Site, is a threat to India. In fact, CommonSenseCommonFolk is a Japanese site! (Go to the sites for yourself from the links above, and decide for yourself how dangerous they are).

Somebody knock some sense into the govt.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fighting the Block

Reports suggest that the government issued orders to the ISPs to block only four selective *.blogspot.com domains. The ISPs though, blocked the entire IP address on which all blogspot blogs are stored, possibly because this is the easiest way of blocking sites and much less resource consuming than the packet ban which would enable specific sub-domains to be blocked.

Anyways, the media has given some attention to the issue. Hindustan Times, Delhi published a front-page article and devoted the entire page 11 to the ban. On TV, NDTV and CNN-IBN have been running small reports from time to time.

Today, I along with a handful of bloggers, met at the India Habitat Center on Lodi Road to meet up with a reporter from NDTV and express our opinions. Soon, CNN-IBN had arrived on the spot too, and so had BBC radio. I was the only student there (rest were all working in the computer science field and blogged as a hobby). We now have confirmation of three RTIs filed with the Dept. of Telecommunication. Our opinions should be aired tonight between 8pm-10pm on NDTV and CNN-IBN.

Meanwhile, Prateek Joseph, some other reporter from NDTV, called up with an invitation to the famous NDTV show, The Big Fight on Saturday. The topic for the program is "Has UPA's foreign policy failed?". He also asked if I could get some people for "Face the Music" with Vir Sangvi tomorrow. More on that after I've seen the show.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bloggers Blocked?


THIS REALLY PISSES ME OFF. THE FACT THAT I CHOSE TO TYPE IN CAPSLOCK PROBABLY HINTS MY CURRENT MOOD.

APPARENTLY, UNDER A DIRECTION FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TELECOMMUNICATION (DoT), ACCESS TO ALL blogspot.com BLOGS (that includes this one) HAVE BEEN BLOCKED BY VARIOUS ISPS (INCLUDING MTNL) FROM ALL OVER INDIA. BASICALLY, THE GOVT HAS BLOCKED INDIANS FROM ACCESSING ALL *.blogspot.com ADDRESSES. (SOURCES SAY ALL GEOCITIES.COM SITES HAVE BEEN BLOCKED TOO) WHAT THE F*CK HAPPENED TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH? I DIDN'T KNOW THAT THE SEVEN RIGHTS WERE JUST SOME BULLSHIT HYPE! I MEAN BLOCKING ALL BLOGS? I CAN ONLY HOPE THAT SOMEBODY BANGS THE GOVT OFFICIAL WHO DID THIS ON THE HEAD, AND BRINGS HIM TO HIS SENSES SOON. Someone suggested that the govt took this brainless step as the Mumbai blast terrorists had used websites to communicate. That's probably as appropriate a step as cutting out the city's water supply under the alibi that the terrorists drunk tap water. Besides, what use is cutting out only blogspot and geocities ids; they'll just use some other site. And why all blogspot/typepad/geocities sites? That's not national security; that's National Stupidity. Quoting from Rediff's article linked below,

"Under the Information Technology Act, 2000, a body called the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN)...also oversees Internet censorship under a clause that seeks to ensure 'balanced flow of information.' ...sites may be blocked within the provisions of the Fundamental Right to free speech and expression, granted in India's Constitution," said cyber-law expert Praveen Dalal, adding, "If, however, the blocking is arbitrary, unreasonable and unfair, it would be in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India."

I certainly believe the blocking is arbitrary, unreasonable and unfair, to say the least.

MEANWHILE, IF YOU ARE IN INDIA AND NEED TO ACCESS A BLOGSPOT BLOG (INCLUDING MINE), READ ON. A SITE inblogs.net ACTS AS A PROXY SERVER DEROUTING TO THE BLOG SO YOU CAN ACCESS IT FROM THERE. BASICALLY INSTEAD OF TYPING something.blogspot.com TYPE inblogs.net/something.
AFTER THE BLOCK PLACED ON INDIAN BLOGS, THERE'S BEEN A SUDDEN SOAR OF TRAFFIC TO PKBLOGS, RESULTING IN PKBLOGS SLOWING DOWN SOMETIMES. IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO ACCESS A BLOG VIA PK BLOGS, ACCESS THE BLOGS BY GOING TO EITHER ninjaproxy.com OR hidemyass.com AND THEN TYPING THE ENTIRE OLD ADDRESS THERE

EG. IF U ARE IN INDIA AND WANT TO GO TO http://heyankit.blogspot.com TRY TYPING http://inblogs.net/heyankit INSTEAD.

For more info,

1) READ THE OFFICIAL NEWS REPORT FROM REDIFF HERE, FROM ECONOMIC TIMES HERE, AND HINDUSTAN TIMES HERE.

2) Try visiting the google group BloggersCollective where this problem is being discussed here: http://groups.google.com/group/BloggersCollective?lnk=oa

3) Read a detailed article with useful links, like the lists of blocked domains and the ISPs that seem to have blocked them: http://www.withinandwithout.com/?p=854


Monday, July 17, 2006

Bulletin

  • Things seem to be better after that low weather there.
  • Got more books: 'A Matter of Honour' by Jeffery Archer; the last two Artemis Fowl; 'Seawitch' by Alisair Maclean; and 'Freakonomics'.
  • Chances are, one of Shoaib's classmate in Amity might be Hemant Chug (doesn't ring a bell? how about MMS?)
  • I really suggest all of you to watch this really cool clip (click HERE). It's about a desi guy, Kripal, staying abroad, whose dog gets kicked by some foreign girl.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

!!!TURBULENCE!!!

On the 14th, that is the day before yesterday, I was supposed to go for a movie with Aparajit and Aneesh, one last time before Appa was to leave for Patna today. And, though Appa is to join Amity Biotech, he would come to Delhi back on the 21st of August, a day after I leave for America. Unfortunately, in comes an aunty, to our house at 11am, to talk to Mo -- and while aunty talked to Mom, I was supposed to stick around at home with her son. Aunty left at 6pm! I will not elaborate my feelings then, but to cut a long story short, I could not go. I had hoped I would be able to meet him yesterday.

Yesterday=Saturday. Saturday=Dad stays at home.
Dad stays at home=Dad wants to spend weekends with me (listening to recorded economics lectures, academic discussions and "quality family time") before I go in a month.
Dad stays at home+Dad wants to spend time with me=I stay at home.
I stay at home => I can't go out with Appa for the day.

Basically, Dad and I got into a little (understatement) quarrel over me going out. And after a heated "discussion" we went into Hmph mode. Hmph mode as in "Hmph! I'm not going to talk to you" mode. We finally reached some sort of a patch-up in hte evening. As a result, a routine now has been set-up for the weekdays which I'm supposed to follow (don't dare ask about the week-ends!).
Get-up at 6:45am. 7-9 with Dad before he leaves for office. Now between 10-3 I have to study Maths for 2 hours and something else (which will be decided in the 7-9 period) for 1 hour. 3-5 free time/blogging time. 5-7:30 go out to play. 7:30-11 with Dad. (No more late night surfing/chatting for me :( )
Poor Afzal called me up at my home number right in the midst of our discussion. Unfortunately for him, my parents picked up, and assuming he was also part of our plan to go out, gave him a "stern", "why are you troubling Ankit" warning (they appologized to him later).
Ultimately, I did go to meet Appa yesterday evening for two hours (he was staying at Aneesh's). The only good that did come out of yesterday was perhaps that Appa said he would try to come to Delhi by the 10th or 15th of August so that he could meet be before I leave.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

The McCafferty Series

[In the photo (L to R) on my desk: 'Sloppy Firsts' by Megan McCafferty, 'Second Helpings' by Megan McCafferty, 'Charmed Thirds' by Megan McCafferty, and 'How Opal Mehta got Kissed, got Wild, and got a Life' by Kaavya Viswanathan]

Just received the three Megan McCafferty novels in the mail from Amazon.com .
When the Opal Mehta book became controversial two months ago, I was filled with a sense of curiosity as to exactly how much similarity there was between the Kaavya Viswanathan's Opal Mehta book and 'Sloppy Firsts' and 'Charmed Seconds', the two books by McCafferty from which Viswanathan is said to have "borrowed" some sentences. So first, I went out on a treasure hunt looking for any Opal Mehta copies that might still be lying on shelves somewhere or on the net. In my anxiety to get the book, and rightly so before it was called back by the publishers, I ended up with two copies of the book. (So if any one of you want a like-brand-new copy of Opal Mehta, no longer available in the market, contact me, and I'd readily sell a copy at an exorbitant price ;-) ). Then, I ordered Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings from Amazon, since they didn't seem to be available in India. In the process, my eyes landed on Charmed Thirds, the newest McCafferty book, and I got a copy of that as well.

I still have to read the McCafferty series before I can comment on textual similarities with Viswanathan's book. But I did see another similarity the moment I saw the books: the girls. All covers of McCafferty's novel sport a girl's legs/thighs or in case of 'Second Helpings', the body upto the lips; but NEVER shows the complete face. The Indian Time-Warner edition of Opal Mehta, which I have, too shows a girl up to the lips (not whole face) on the cover and a girl's legs on the back cover (see pics on left).

A lot has already been said on Kaavya's acts of plagiarism, and I won't belabor the point. I will add one comment though: as it appears from newspaper reports, no whole sentence exactly matches between Kaavya's and Megan's work, only certain paragraphing constructions and vocabulary are similar. Just goes to show you how stringent intellectual copyright laws and their implimentation are in some parts of the world as against India. One such example:

From page 7 of McCafferty'’s first novel: “Bridget is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend. But that was before Bridget'’s braces came off and her boyfriend Burke got on, before Hope and I met in our seventh-grade honors classes.

From page 14 of Viswanathan'’s novel: “Priscilla was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend. We had first bonded over our mutual fascination with the abacus in a playgroup for gifted kids. But that was before freshman year, when Priscilla'’s glasses came off, and the first in a long string of boyfriends got on.”

(from The Harvard Crimson, full article and more examples HERE)
Generally, when Dad ordered my SAT books from Amazon.com, he would opt for the faster (and more expensive) shipping methods. However, this time, since there was no great urgency for the McCafferty books, I opted for the slowest method of international shipping (which cost me $22 anyways). That was over two months ago. And I got the books today. Now I know what a wise decision it had been to get the SAT books via Express delivery.

[Those who want to read more on the Viswanathan controversy, search it up on google, or go NYTimes, Newshour, Harvard Crimson or Another Blog's Post]


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A little bit of Superman

I am currently very frustrated with my course selection for Duke. As it turns out, I will not be needing to take any Chem since I shall receive credit for it from my CBSE marks. As a result, now I don't know what to take instead: the higher courses have basic courses as prerequisites, timings of some basic courses are simply clashing with others, and the remaining have been filled by senior students. Compound that with the fact that registration has to be done at 10pm tonight.

So I decided to take my frustration out by bitching about the Man Of Steel. I saw 'Superman Returns' the day it came out, and though some of my friends seemed to like it, I'm going to take a stand and say I didn't.

The biggest disappointment of the movie was probably the villain, Lex Luthor, played by Kevin Spacey. Spacey acts as a half-jokey, half-evil character, who looks more comical than wicked, leaving us completely bewildered as to whether one aught to take him seriously or not. (Take a good look at Luthor and his goofy gang in the pic on the right. How villainous do they really look?) His evil plan too is a complete joke: Luthor plans to drop some crystals from Superman's home planet into the ocean to create a complete new continent that would submerge America. He would then sell this new land at exorbitant prices. As Anthony Lane, in his review for The New Yorker (link), comments:

Picture my disappointment as I realized that, for all the pizzazz of Superman Returns, its global weapon of choice would not be terrorism, or nuclear piracy, or dirty bombs. It would be real estate. What does Warner Bros. have in mind for the next installment? Superman overhauls corporate pension plans? Luthor screws Medicare?

I mean, *why* should any country listen to Lex Luthor when he tries to sell a land illegally created and occupied only by him? Wouldn't some country rather just send an army and some B-52s to acquire the land instead? The comeuppance Lex receives for his deeds at the end is also a total gag: he, along with his girlfriend, get trapped on an island with no fuel in the helicopter and only coconuts for food. Compare this villain with Dr. Oc. from Spiderman 2 or the villains of X-Men 3: The Last Stand, and well, you just don't have a very attractive villain.

Now about Superman. "Any guy, provided that he looks like a black-haired Adonis, can play the superhero. So the real deal here is to find someone who can play Clark Kent" (Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, link). And this is precisely where Brandon Routh fails. Clark spends more than half of the movie trying to entice already-engaged Lois Lane, ultimately realizing there's just *no* hope. As it turns out, Superman, not Lois Lane's fiance, is the father of her son (Superman had sex with Lois Lane in Superman II, released in 1980). When Superman finds this out at the end though, he just kisses Lois and his son goodbye!

The Superman-saves-Boeing747-LoisLane-and-SpaceShuttle-simultaneously is probably the only real jaw-dropping scene. Basically, if you've seen the trailer of Superman Returns, you've seen all that is worth seeing. And,

if Superman is such a paragon, how come he wants to save a species so universally dumb that not a single member of it recognizes him when he puts on a pair of glasses? (Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, link)


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Recylotronics

It's not till you start throwing something away that you realize its value.
With our old AIWA deck falling apart, Dad decided to get a new music system. Not having had a good experience with AIWA it was quickly determined that we would go only for Sony (we had bought the AIWA system before the AIWA company was bought over by Sony). Mom then raised the possibility of exchanging our AIWA deck for a discount. Suddenly, I found my eyes filling with tears for our deceased deck (note: slight exaggeration).

So I decided to try to put the deck to some good use. First, I went over what was wrong with the old system: Chews up cassettes, CD changer not revolving, no DVD/MP3 capabilities, and radio not working since we left the antenna back in Patna when we moved. A small screw driver and two hours of time proved to be enough to fix the CD changer. An old wire cut, slit and slightly modified proved to work decently enough as an antenna. Cassettes though, still don't work, and MP3s don't play. Since most of our songs are mp3s, we went ahead and bought a touch-screen Sony AZ deck which can read mp3s right off a pen-drive and can be connected to a computer through a USB wire.

As for the old AIWA system, I convinced my parents not to sell it, and moved it into my room. With the proper wire from Pallika bazaar, I connected its auxillary input to the PC in my room and presto: 1500W speakers for my computer! The picture on the left shows the set-up. Since the deck's radio now works, I have started listening to FM a lot (I am thoroughly bored with the MTech/7Heaven developers ad on radio, and if you agree please drop a comment). The wire you see hanging on the wall is the new antenna for the radio.

Now this is recycling!


Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Pre-Departure Orientation

Attended USEFI's Pre-departure Orientation for students going to America this year (for those who have no idea, USEFI stands for United States' Education Foundation in India). This was definitely USEFI's best organized program so far and they served tea and lunch too :-) The fact that this time they charged everybody 150 bucks might have had something to do with that though...
The program was held not at USEFI's building but at the American Center on Kasturva Gandhi Marg. The first thing that hit me when I reached the building at eight-thirty in the morning was the long line. See, these guys have got to show they're an American establishment and that they're really tight on security. So outside the main boundary wall, you wait in a line, till a guy scans you with a hand held metal detector. Then you are allowed to enter the outer gate, where you wait in another line to enter the building. When you enter the building door, first a guard has you deposit your cell-phone; then you pass through one of those standing metal detectors and again, a guy runs over you with a hand-held metal detector. Meanwhile, if you have a bag or a purse, you are made to pass that through one of those X-Ray baggage checkers like you see at the airports. Gee, no wonder the line was so long. [All those who've read my previous post on 'Getting the American Visa' will sense a sense of deja-vu (you can read that incident HERE).] You might be wondering by now whether the American Center is like some second high-security home of the US Ambassador. No, it's actually more like a library and some auditoriums.

Once we were in, everyone was handed (A) A sheet containing the day's schedule; (B) The list of all the participants for the program (about 150), along with the university they were going to and their e-mail ids; (C) A thin booklet, 'The Student's Guide to Traveling Overseas' by American Express; and (D) a 120 page book titled ' USEFI - Pre Departure Orientation Booklet containing useful information on Educational, Social and Cultural Life in the USA'.
The book was very very detailed and definitely contained useful info covering everything from airport formalities, VISA, course credits and TAs to local slang, amount to tip waiters, personal hygiene, dating and sex. An example of one of the less (or more, depending on perspective) useful tips (page 62):

Patting a woman on her rear end is not appropriate, and will likely get your face slapped.

OR,
Never show your fist with the middle finger extended. This is an insult.


In the auditorium, I, Prerna Sekri (Yale) and two other dipsites, going to Drexel, took seats together. Once everyone had settled down, the first session began. On the stage sat the panel: a group of four Indians who are currently studying in America and two American girls who are doing their intern at USEFI. During the first half hour they talked about what to take, airport check-ins, what to do on the plane, port of entry, why not to carry pirated CDs, and so on. Then we had tea break outside the audi. The sponsors of the program (American Express, Centurion Bank of Punjab, two international cell phone companies, and ISE Cards) had counters, where the counter-people were giving the students critical information like why American Express Travelers Cheques are the best travelers cheques out there. They would hand out brochures, request you to fill your contact info, and hand you a free pen or bag marked Centurion Bank of Punjab or something like that.

After Tea, the same panel returned, this time discussing academic topics like Honor Code and Plagiarism in the US, course registration and syllabuses. However at the start of the session, Luna Das (one of the familiar faces from USEFI), announced that there was going to be a favorite recipe competition. Everybody was handed a sheet and was told to write down their favorite recipe and hand them in to her. After the academic-discussion session, she would announce the best recipes which would get prizes. The whole point of the exercise, according to her, was to emphasize that in the US, we students may need to cook sometimes. Unfortunately, since Ms. Das had specifically mentioned that no recipes for Maggi or omelets would be accepted (the two things I can cook really well), I did not really give an entry. Maybe I should listen to Mom more often, who has been frequently telling me for the past month to learn how to cook. First prize went to 'Baigan ka Bharta'. The recipe went something like this:
1. Baigan (according to number of people) 2. oil (a few tsp) 3. Onions (no mention of quantity) 4. salt (to taste) and some more things I don't remember, followed by equally abstruse instructions. And so, one by one, 5 people came on stage and read their artistic recipes out loud.
After 'My favorite Recipe', each sponsor was given ten minutes to make a presentation. So somebody from American Express came and showed us Powerpoint slides on how to use travelers' cheques (a useful presentation, I must say), a guy from Centurion Bank came and talked about different methods of transferring/carrying money internationally (another useful presentation) and another person came from Matrix mobile services and boasted about how Matrix mobile services were the cheapest (a not so useful presentation). Then we had lunch. I had assumed lunch meant buffet. I was wrong. It meant Nathu's packed packets - one nan, a tiny tiny bowl of rice, dal, and curry (missing sabzi if you ask me). When everybody was seated again in the audi, we were handed out a quiz: 4-page printouts of MCQs on USA and India. Luna Das announced not to cheat by discussing questions with the ones next to you. I don't know how many people heard her though, for when the prizes were announced, all three went to three kids sitting next to each other in the fourth row.

There was another session, where the panelists spoke on the culture life in the USA (dating, racism, etc) followed by the Grand Finale, a short play enacted by the same panelists about adjusting to life in America.

The whole program lasted a little less then seven hours and though it was 3:40 in the afternoon by the time I stepped out, the program proved to be very informative (and humorous).


Apart from the Pre-Departure Orientation

1. Abhinav forgot (forgot!) to meet me yesterday. Either he's forgetful, or I'm not memorable enough. I couldn't reach him when I called him up in the day (after USEFI's thing) and when I finally reached him in the night, he seemed extremely grieved at this mistake and promised to make up for it by coming over to my house today morning - despite the fact that he had his train for Trichi today at 1 pm (he's joining NIT Trichi). Nevertheless, he kept his promise and dropped by at nine. He still has the same old accent and the askew corner front tooth. He's grown slightly plump too. We talked about life in general and how scattered our once close-knit DPS Patna gang has become, with everybody going off to different places. We talked about how, in Patna, we would spend spend two to three hours on the phone each day, planning what to study that day and discussing what we had already read. At times, one of us would call up the other, "hey, don't start history yet -- there's this really cool movie on HBO which I'm watching. why don't you watch it too." One day before the science exam (10th boards), "Do you realize we still haven't done the CBSE sample papers? Let's do it now." And we would do the whole paper over the phone. Tends to bring nostalgia for the old times. Waaaaaaah. I miss DPSP. And I'll miss RKP too, esp the hostel.

2. Attended Priyanka's Sis's marriage. Was at her home yesterday evening. Other dipsites were there too. Among those who I knew (and who knew me), included Dhruv Khattar, Aditi Mishra, Rahat Sud and Nikhil Dua. I say 'and who knew me' for there were other faintly familiar faces from school who I didn't really know.


Mixed Reactions

(note: the following post refers to the blog's old ocean template)

Oh K, so this is my blog's new ocean design. I like it: it's calm, serene and professional.

But it has definately provoked many mixed reactions:

your new template is............is......is.........is............shit.

Your new template looks pretty much plain. Although it gives one a sense of calmness and coolness, yet it somehow it lacks the sense of excitement which drives one to read on. I am not criticizing! It is just my own personal opinion.

your blog looks awesome, much better that previous one

it's nice. but it's girlish. but it's nice. [by a girl]

it's good. but the previous one was not bad either. this one just might not suit the humor of your blog.

i like the new design more... very peppy. it's kinda cooling considering delhi weather.


Thanks for the critisism people, and please do leave some comments, especially covering things like,
>Looks - Doesn't suit the humor of your blog. Or, No I like it. It's cooool.
>Jokes - I liked the funtoosh random joke. What happened to that. Or, No I'm glad you removed it.
>Change - I like change. Keep changing your templates for variety. Or, Hell no, you force us to read your blog and keep changing designs so we have to adjust our eyes every time! Who do you think you are?!!

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