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Thursday, June 29, 2006

500 hits and more

The Site's Counter's crossed 500 and I'm having a really good time. Two completely unrelated statements of course (well, not necessarily, but they are). And by the way, its 500 not counting my visits for the counter excludes my IP addresses.
Kkrish, by the way, is a terrible movie. Only the last half-hour is bearable. In fact, it is not till 2.5 hours have passed that Kkrish gets a mask. And it is not till he gets his mask that we are introduced to evil Naseeruddin Shah's evilish plan. And logically, it is not till we see the evilish plan that Kkrish begins with all the action and chasses the bad guy, Shah. Till then all Kkrish does is dress like tarzan and serenade Priyanka Chopra. So we have a superman who dresses like Tarzan, jumps like Neo, falls in love like Shah Rukh Khan, and and dances like Shahid Kapoor. Oh, by the way, Kkrish's father, Rohit (from Koi Mil Gaya) is alive; so we basically have a double role by Hritik Roshan. Superman is to be released tomorrow. I hope we don't meet Lex Luthor at the end of the movie.
Mahendra mama & family (mami, Sinni and Golu) are here. Nikku didi has come too. We went to Metropolitan, Gurgaon today (Mohan bhaiya from IIT D and Sohan bhaiya came along too) . The usual food court and bowling at amoeba were in order. But is was pretty late by the time we went for bowling and amoeba was about to close in half an hour, so we all bowled in separate alleys. Once amoeba had closed and we had been shooed out of the parlour, I saw the amoeba guys proceed to play their own round of bowling :-(. Anyways, we're back now, its late and time to sleep.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

DIPS Diary 05-06

So, it's finally out. The diary has turned out very well, and as always, is very professionally done. Many agree that it is atleast ten times better than last year's (you can learn more about last year's DIPS Diary and see a cover shot HERE). However, as always the magazine has its ups and downs. And though we, in the Ed-Board, selected and edited the content, and designed many pages with the printers, a lot was beyond our control -- for a lot had to be approved. In fact, quite a number of the pages we had designed were later changed (esp. the page backgrounds for the first few sections). This year Udita Ma'am and Atika Ma'am were placed teacher-in-charge of the magazine as Ms. Mamta Sharma had to go to Germany in between.

The Pros:
Professionally done. Thick, Glossy Pages. Great content.
Since this year, for the first time, we had a separate magazine for 11th and 12th, the literature is definately more mature. (Do take time out to read the literature section guys).
The Music Section is also very well done with its royal black background superimposed with band pictures. On a lighter note, in an interview with the band Parikrama (pg. 119), Kriti (co-editor) asks, "Do you have any message for the readers of the DIPS Diary?". Parikrama replies,

Use your phones for 'communication' purposes only.

He He (snicker).
The Class photos also look great over the green-red background. For the first time this year, we had class photos of the 12thies and 11thies (lucky class 11!)
The Horroscope is humorous, and so is our Vice-Principal's (Deepa Raghavan Maam's) write-up on SUPWs.

The Cons: Though many people liked the cover, I believe I've seen better covers. Every year the school magazine comes out with dumb covers. Now I know why. It's because many good ones never get approved. So who approves the cover? Well, who else but our own H'onourable Principal Dr. (Mrs.) Shyama Chona (don't forget: Awarded Padamshiri by the President). On a side note, it's not-so-surprising that I forget Lata Mangeshkar got a Padamshiri, but fail to forget that our principal (honorable and Dr. and Mrs.) got one and that too by the President (ooooh! - as if somebody else awards Padamshiris too).
This year over 20 covers were rejected, red ones and blue ones, good ones and very good ones, ones with ambigrambs (that read DIPS DIARY both right-side-up and up-side-down) and ones without. Let's look at some of those rejected (click on the images for a larger view):

All of the above covers were to be printed with metallic colors (do click on the covers for a good look, esp. the 3rd and 4th ones with the film strips - and see the photos in the film strips).

And what's the obsession with 'the cutting edge'? Last year we had the magazine title as 'Life at the cutting edge'. This year we were specifically told (by you know who) to title it, 'Life at the Winning Edge'. As you can see the final product has a shittier message, 'Cutting Edge to the Winning Edge'. Geez. Who thinks of these stuff? As Arjun Davar (a photo editor) once pointed out:
Next we'll have the Grinding Edge, then Chopping Edge, and maybe Shredding Edge and so on. And in the last year, we can write, 'Any fruit salad made?!!'

OKAY, so enough bitching about the cover (it's not that bad anyways).
Earlier today, when I showed the magazine to a friend's mother she first reacted, "Why is there so much of Madam Chona?" And I replied, "Well, we do have to get the magazine approved, you know..."
In the first 19 pages of the magazine, our principal appears 21 times, out of which 3 photographs are solo and 2 are a page big. One one page about her there is a balloon like you see in those advertising brochures:
Total Awards Till Date 100which is really funny if you ask me because in last year's Dips Diary (page 3, edition 1, Interview with Principal) Ma'am said that she had received 192 awards already by last year. And now she has 100?

The Editors Speak pages (with the editors' words) and the head boys/girls messages have been cut down. Traditionally, the 4 editors got two pages and the four head boys/girls got another two. This year, both had been shortened to fit one page each (eg. one page for all 4 editors). And I found that pretty irritating since pages were incresed to include more and more staff and an entire section on the Principal. Right now, I can think of at least ten completely useless pages (including pages 115, 116, 117 and the last page) that could be cut down instead of Editors Speak.
When the Principal was proofreading the HOD's page, she was like, 'why not get write-ups about this teacher and that teacher'. As a result, 5 random teachers have 500 words of praise each about them. There should be one on Hussain Sir :-(

Chandini's Map of the school has not been included, and so have not two awesome posters by the students. With so many pages added on the staff and teachers (all at the last moment by our principal) the diary looks more like a staff brochure. And many backgrounds have been changed from the colors the Ed-Board consented on, to dull whitish ones.

Don't get me wrong, I love the DIPS Diary. (I helped make it after all). The quality of articles and content truly make this one of the best Dips Diaries. But I believe some things could have been better. If only the school gave the Ed-Board more freedom...

Anyways, the magazine is great, and thanks to the Ed-Board, esp. Sneha, Kriti, Pushpanjali and Suprateek for that. Atika Ma'am too has been a great help throughout. Chandini for the Music Section (well done!) and Siddharth for his wit.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Shadii?!! (and I'm not even 18 yet!)

Dad, Mom and I went to this Hidesign showroom in south-ex for Mom wanted to buy a purse. Mom went over rows and rows of purses, rejecting each one with things like, 'not this kind of strap', or 'doesn't have a mobile pocket', or 'too many compartments'...
After half-an-hour, we still hadn't come up with anything and Dad turned to me and snickered, "agar mom kabhi tumhare liye isi tarah ladki dhoondegi naa, to tu to harhamesha ke liye unmarried rah jayega."


Saturday, June 24, 2006

the AIIMS WAR ZONE

Went to AIIMS EMERGENCY WARD today, and unfortunately NO, the patient was not me (laugh all you want at that joke, for that's the first and last piece of humor you'll find in this article).

Boy, the place is a war zone -- or at least like one of those medical centers on the front during a war. People, sick people, bullet shot people, almost dead people, and dead people - all on those movable hospital beds - being carried around in a overcrowded hall. Doctors and attendants running from pillar to post, from patient to patient.
As I was about to enter AIIMS, a peon roughly pushed me away from the door, while another guy in a lab coat rushed a 20-something person on a hospital bed through the Emergency door. The patient's hand was hanging from the side, his mouth wide open. As the bed crossed the door, the nurse standing nearby muttered to the guard, "he's gone".

The first room I entered was crowded, to say the least. Dozens of people hogging over a desk behind which stood two doctors. The patient with me described his symptoms to one of them. The doctor pointed down the hall to Medical Emergency (there's also surgical emergency, and another emergency whose name I forget). An Emergency Clinic is not like one of those usual hospital wings with rooms for every patient -- it's one hall with glass partitions at places. One hall, so the Medical Officer and his team can rush from person to person, case to case, examining them all. The patients were put on a hospital bed and aligned in rows in the room. When our turn came, the patient with me described his symptoms as headache, nausea and sudden blurred vision. The doctor first measured blood pressure: 150/120, quite high. Then we were told to get a CAT scan done, confirming that the doctor had in mind the same disease that I had feared for the patient, long before we had come -- brain tumor. Fortunately, with the CT scan done, tumor was put out of question and the culprit was identified as simply high blood pressure. Yet for confirmation the neuromedics doctor called the neurosurgeon. While we waited for him to appear I saw a doctor pushing an old granny on a bed across the ward towards the HDU center in one corner (in the HDU center, they had set-ups like the ICU where they can closely monitor the patients). Walking along side the granny, was presumably the granny's daughter (40s) and the granddaughter (12-13 years old). Suddenly, the 40-something lady yells, "She's turned blue! Woh gayi!" The doctor, as if shot with a dosage of adrenalin, gives a cry and runs with the bed into the HDU center. What happened to the granny, I do not know, but I later saw the 40-something lady desperately crying.

The neurosurgeon came, and he quickly dispelled a burst nerve. So all doctors agreed that blood pressure was the only logical answer. My patient was discharged and given some anti-hypertension medicines. Had any test turned out positive, the patient with me would have been removed from the Emergency Ward and hospitalized into one of the usual rooms upstairs.

According to wikipedia (link), AIIMS treats an astounding 1.58 million patients a year. The government spends over 500 crore rupees an annum on this single hospital. As a result, millions are given the best treatment facilitates at a minimal cost.

May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Mission Impossible 3

Ankita had described MI3 as fun and funny. And it was just that. Except that Mission Impossible movies are not supposed to be funny.
It had been near 20 days since the movie had been released, and worried that the movie would soon be taken down from the halls, I finally went to see the film today with Aneesh. The movie is great for all its action, but it does have it's down side. The story complexity in the MI movies has been decreasing with each movie: MI had a very complicated storyline with crosses, double-crosses and triple-crosses; MI2 had a pretty straight-forward storyline; and MI3 didn't have any storyline. Agent Ethan Hunt raises a hue and cry over his wife and some weapon called the 'Rabbit's Foot', but we never even come to know what the Rabbit's Foot actually is. Also when a car explodes behind Cruise (seen in trailer as well; pic on left, trailer HERE), he gets thrown to the side. And no matter how cute an agent's wife is, she'll never be allowed in any Top Secret US facillity or building as Ethan Hunt's wife is at the end.
However the movie gives you exactly what it promises: two hours of pure mindless, mind-blowing action. (see trailer HERE, watch movie HERE).


Chandigarh

20th:
OK, so with Appa coming down with a migraine the plan of going to Mussoorie (with Appa, Omar n Ajit) fell to pieces, and so I tagged along with Dad n Mom to Chandigarh where Dad had some meeting. We reached there on the 20th night and checked in to the Union Territory Guest House (Chandigarh is a UT cause Punjab n Haryana keep arguing over who owns it).

21st Morning:
Now lucky Dad got to attend his meeting in some fancy conference room with important people. I, on the other hand got to go shopping with Mom. We went to the sector-17 market, which basically turned out like Patna's Maurya Lok (no fancy mall here), and shop for shoes and salwaar-kameez. Why, why, why do women always need more shoes? Anyways, I had my iPod with me -- so I plugged my ears with those little white earphones, randomly nodding every now and then as Mom pointed out clothes she liked. Of course, she immediately figured out I was hardly paying attention and stopped asking me for suggestions. The shop walas on the other hand, would get infuriated, wondering what I was doing in their shop - listening to music and snoozing on one of their couches (this was especially a problem when Mom walked off to another corner of the shop and the shop guy had no idea who I was with).

21st Afternoon:
So after five hours of shopping in Chandigarh for stuff we could get in Delhi, we had lunch and rendezvoused with Dad. It was finally time to go sightseeing. Unfortunately, it didn't take long to figure out that there isn't too much to see in Chandigarh. We first saw the rose garden that did not have any roses in the summer. Then we saw the Museum of Evolution of Life, which fortunately was open in the summer and turned out to be slightly interesting. The Museum was divided into 3 sections - the first contained unrealistically colorful paintings of exotic birds, all painted by some Jasbir Singh (or some name like that); the second section was a dome with large wall portraits of different stages of evolution of life on the earth; and the third section had life models of dinosaurs and humans during evolution.
On the way we saw a double-decker bus (like those New York tourist shuttles) cheerfully painted 'Hop-On-Hop-Off tourist coach'. So we hopped on hoping that the bus would show us some good places in Chandigarh. Now in a tourist bus, the driver/conductor/guide is supposed to tell the tourists, "hey, this is this place, and that is that place" - but no, why should Chandigarh tourism give you that luxury? So the bus basically drives around the city like any other bus, stopping at times for people to get on and off, and drives back to the starting point. Tour over, and we had no clue as to what we had seen in the past hour. (Once the bus even came to a point where the driver said we would stop for a five minute break, but it was not till Dad asked that we found out that the place was Punjab University, where Manmohan Singh had studied.) I was so bored by then that when our car driver stopped at the Rock Garden, I urged him to drive on -- later I found out that that's the only place worth seeing in Chandigarh.

22nd:
This day was definitely more eventful. We went to Anantpur Sahib where we saw three Gurudwaras and a 300 crore project by the Punjab govt to make a museum-cum-heritage complex on Sikh history. Then we proceeded 125 kms off, to the Bhakra Nangal Dam, India's first multipurpose hydro project built under the guidance of Nehru (then leaders from over nine countries came to see the Dam). The Dam itself is three times the height of the Qutub Minar and the falling crystal blue water created quite a scene. Cameras are not allowed due to security reasons, but not only did I manage to sneak a camera in, I also took a photo of one of the smaller dams (I could not take a pic of the main dam due to tighter security but its pic is available online HERE).

22nd Evening (4 pm):
So we came back to the guest house from Bhakra Nangal, switched cars, and left for Delhi. On the way, we met a traffic jam apparently caused by gaon ke sardarjis who had parked tractors across the road and were complaining that they weren't getting electricity. Soon the local DIG and SDO came (in that order) to clear up the jam. When Dad saw the SDO, he started explaining to me the dynamics of the SDO's and the daroga's work. A chalak daroga would convince the gaon walas to clearup, then later lodge an FIR against them, while a good SDO had to time his appearance perfectly - if he comes too soon, the infuriated sardarjis would refuse to move; if he comes too late, the situation may get out of hand. Once the jam cleared, our driver, irritated by the hour delay, turned on the car's siren and the red beacon light on top wailing through the crowd at full speed.
We finally stopped at a place to eat. I did not eat then but my hunger quickly returned when I saw a Baskin Robbins counter along the highway from where I got a Brownie-a-la-mode ice-cream for a hundred bucks (remember my previous comment about naming over-priced items?)
It was not till I finally heard Simran's voice on the car FM that I knew we were near Delhi. We reached home at 11:30 pm.


Monday, June 19, 2006

the BOOKBAG

OK, so I managed to squeeze in all the classes I wanted.

See in Duke you have to decide your classes quite early. For me, that means NOW. Now, that is, at least for the first semester.

Though the actual registration for courses begins on 12th July at 12pm EST US time (2am IST), the classes fill up so quickly, that a one minute delay in selecting a class that day may devoid you of that class for the entire semester. So before the 26th of this month, you can go online to the Duke site and stuff your courses into what they call, 'the bookbag'. And the instant registration opens that fateful day in July, you hit submit, and the site will attempt to register the courses in your bookbag for you. If, unfortunately, a course in your bookbag is no longer available, all is not lost - you have a secondary bookbag with your second most desired courses. Pick a course from that then.

Anyways, so I have successfully planned my bookbag (with a little help from Dad and Mili). Now Engineering requirements dictate me to take one Chem and one Engineering (EGR53), so those are decided. I took one Econ so that I can switch from Engineering to Econ if I desire later. And there's also a Math course and EGR10 (which is only a half credit and a complete joke). Now I sat down with the aim of trying to get classes on the East Campus (near the freshman dorms) and trying to get all classes in the morning (guess a bit of high-school kid is still in me). What I ended up instead is with 12 of 13 classes on West and classes way into the afternoon.
My current bookbag looks like this:
(Click on image for larger view)
Very packed Mondays and Fridays as you can see.
Anyways, so I won't be sleeping that morning on the 12th of July, waiting for that fateful |Submit| button to appear.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

FIFA World Cup 2006


The World Cup is here, and everybody seems to be cashing in with ads like that of IBM's Lenovo sporting Ronaldiniho or Maruti Swift playing ball (it's slogan? Wanna Play?!).
It would have seem inappropriate if this blog didn't follow suit. Hence the World Cup logo.

Anyways, the Italy vs. USA match was just drawn 1-1. And though wild things are known to happen with Italy around, this game definitely got out of hand. With everybody pushing and shoving and kicking like kids fighting over a birthday toy, the referee started distributing colorful cards like confetti. The game saw one goal by Italy, another own goal by Italy, 37 fouls, 18 shots, 16 off-sides (almost all by Italy), 3 Yellow Cards, 3 Red Cards, 1 American bleeding in the face (McBride, seen in photo, hit by De Rossi, resulted in De Rossi's red card), and finally ending with just 9 American Players vs. 10 Italians. Wewf! However, the commentators believe that apart from De Rossi's red card, the other two were way too harsh on the referee's part.

Oh, and speaking about football, Sid mailed me the other day with this really hilarious NIKE ad that was telecast during EURO 2004. Watch the clip HERE. (Do See It)
When you've seen that watch another funny clip on the football fever HERE.

Hey people, be sure to check out the World Cup Special Links on the side. I thought they were pretty cool.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Honor Among Thieves

Finally finished the damn novel by Jeffrey Archer. Had started it at 1 AM in the night. Minus a short 7-hour nap in between, it took me a good 6.5 hours to complete; that too, when I speed-read during the last few chapters.

The book turned out to be an average Jeffrey Archer, and there were certain elements which appeared unconvincing such as, why a Yale professor, who had only done classroom teaching for the CIA so far, was suddenly sent on one of CIA's most critical missions in Iraq without any field training. The first half of the story was definitely more intriguing than the latter.

Having read eight out of twelve Archer novels, I see his books falling into five categories:
1) The Linear Plot: These include the likes of Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less; and Shall We Tell the President?, both books following a straight-forward and very simple plot of the protagonist(s) going after the villain. It is often Archer's writing style and not the plot that lend these books its vibrance.
False Impression also falls into this category but is a bit more convoluted, yet failing to excite.
2) The Duo Plot: Kane and Abel, Sons of Fortune. Two people, when their lives cross. Moderate level of complexity, typical Jeffrey Archer novels, giving a sense of deja-vu once you've read even one.
3) Spy Game: The Eleventh Commandment, Honor Among Thieves. High number of crosses and double-crosses, rendering a high level of intricacy often making the storyline a bit too complicated.
4) A class apart: As The Crow Flies is definitely Archer's Best. The story is gripping, and the writing style is one I've never experienced before. You start reading from the hero's (Charlie's) point of view for a few years, say 1900-1919, then from his girlfriend's point of view from 1918-1921, then from his rival's point of view from 1920-1925, and so on finally ending 70 years and 740 pages later, again from Charlie's point-of-view. Each time you switch perspective, a few years, like 1920-1921, are repeated so though Charlie's rival may seem like a bad guy from Charlie's side, he actually seems not-so-bad when you see the same incidents through the his own point of view.
5) This Category includes The Prodigal Daughter, First Among Equals, A Matter of Honor, and The Fourth Estate: books that I so far haven't read.

His Prison Diaries (read all three), and Short Stories (read only few) of course fall into different genres and I'm not too fond of either.

Oh, by the way, it just started raining outside, and boy it's raining. Dad commented a few days back that the biggest difference he saw between Patna and Delhi was the weather, Delhi being visited by frequent cloudbursts and rainstorms. Having lived in Delhi for the past two years, I assured Dad that wasn't the case. However, the sudden increase in the number of storms in the past month has put my argument on the back foot.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Happy BDay Siddharth Malhotra

Oh, I am extremely sorry Sid. Happy Birthday to you too.
(His birthday was yesterday, along with Sneha's)


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy Bday Sneha

Sneha's Birthday Today.

And don't ask me why I still haven't slept: it's cause I was watching the Brazil versus Croatia FIFA worldcup match; and though Brazil won 1-0, the game was a very very interesting one, with the teams playing slowly and carefully, constantly making multiple complicated passes.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

shahi-gulz-pulz-e-sadhasdjk-dinner

Dinner at The Taj today. With Rajender uncle (n aunty) who had come from America. Not too much to say except the food was good as usual. We first had coffee in the lounge. I had a caremelocapechino, which was basically a normal caramel coffee except for the price, of course, at two hundred a cup. Then, we had dinner at the 'Haveli' as Taj likes to call their overpriced restaurant. I noticed that the men in suits took the order, and the men in sherwani served them. Dad and Mom had veg thalis, which I must say looked exceptionally tempting, served in an unusual silver plate. Uncle, Aunty n I had Lamb-Raan and Chicken. I fail to understand why hotels like these often love to complicate their menu, just to make dinner sound exotic. I mean instead of calling mixed vegetables as 'mixed-vegetables' they'll call it 'subz-e-gulastan' or some shitty half-urdu-half-hindi-no-english word. Note: the no-english part is important as it helps to confuse the foreigners. Then below the bombastic word will be an equally garbled explanation: 'cauliflower, beans and tomato tossed in robust garlic sauce'. It's not till you receive your order that you realize you basically have, well, mixed vegetables. So our golustian-kebabs turned out to be shami kebabs and our _________ (fill in with some sexy name) chicken was basically butter chicken. I guess these names are just to make it easier for your conscience to shed money on dishes which you might have otherwise avoided. I mean, come on, half-a-grand for baigan-aloo sounds a bit steep, but if you're talking about shahi-ringna-bataka-nu-shaak, well that's a different story.
But big names aside, the food was delicious. And as we feasted, a guy danced on a 3-meter-by-3-meter, 3-inch-high platform in one corner. Now this is the weird part. So we have a guy wearing a golden bird suit: a golden loongi on his lower half and a golden top which covered all except his nipples. Very unusual. Then from about waist length were tied wings with their other ends tied at the wrists, so when he spread his arms out wide, the golden wing spread like one of those Chinese paper fans. And he danced to some nutty tune which was interspersed with Ohm Shanti-hi, Shanti-hi, Shanti...
After the birdie performed his little dance, he was off, only to return fifteen minutes later now dressed as peacock. This time when he spread his hands, (you guessed it!) a peacock wing - complete with feathers - spread out. I managed to get a shot of peacock-man with my mobile phone camera. But as you can see, it's not a very good camera (VGA).
After our meal, we went upstairs to Uncle's room. The first thing I noticed was that Taj has replaced their usual CRT TVs in their rooms with 37 inch widescreen LG LCD televisions. Good idea, unfortunately, cable, here in India, is not designed for widescreen TVs. Conventional TVs (and normal computer monitors) have a length to breath ration of 4:3, for which cable shows are designed. When you view that on a widescreen (16:9 or 5.33:3) you either get a horizontally -stretched picture, or a picture with one inch of its top and bottom cut off. And sure enough, when I ran the TV, the pictures were stretched.Rest of the room pretty much was the same from the last time I entered a Taj room (a month ago, to meet another uncle) -- centralized control for lights, AC and power blinds; 4 phones (one at table, one bedside, one toilet, one fax machine - all connected to the same phone line); 3 inch matchsticks; candy bar, etc, etc. In fact they still hadn't fixed the fire plan: on backside of the main door in every room is a fire exit plan. Below the diagram is written "In case of fire, exit using the fire exits shown, or sound the alarms marked on the map". Unfortunately, though fire exits are clearly marked on the map, no alarms are marked.

So that's all folks, tonight's story, now its off to sleep for me.


Happy BDay Nimmi

Namrata's Birthday today.

And by the way, the second Artemis Fowl is much better.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Women

I am always surprised how for women, shopping is often the objective, and not the process leading to the objective.

Another One:


Artemis Fowl

Just finished the first of Artemis Fowl, which I had started an hour after breakfast. Have started the second one. The first book was OK -- definitely NOT the oh-so-amazing-i-would-die-without-book some fans claim it to be. Like Eragon, John Grishams and the later hefty editions of Harry Potter, you are compelled to read on just to know what ultimately happens at the end -- NOT due to an interest in the plot. And frankly, such books give me more of a headache and less of a feeling of satisfaction of having completed a good novel. Oh and sorry for all you John Grisham fans out there, I hate his books -- they are slow and lackluster. Of course, a good critic wouldn't generalize the comment for all Grishams after having read only one, but what can I say - I am not a very good critic. Either that, or the John Grisham I read was so terrible that though I rarely leave a half-read book, I had to leave that one in the middle. And I am pretty confident it was the latter reason. By the way, the Grisham that I half-read is considered to be one of his best. Wonder what his worst are like...
Why can't these authors learn from the likes of Dan Brown and Jeffrey Archer?

I am continuing with the second Artemis Fowl, hoping it is more involving. All authors have their good and bad books, and I'm hoping Artemis Fowl and the Artic Incident is better than its prequel. Talking about an author's good and bad books, I still remember the first Alistair Maclean I read, 'The Golden Rendezvous' was so compelling, I read on and on in the bathroom, during the middle of the night, and god knows where else, till the story ended. (It took me so long cause I could only read ten pages at a time as I had to hide from Dad who wanted me to study something else.) And another Maclean which I read (something about a plane crashing in the artic) was so boring that I felt like trashing the book after a hundred pages -- the only fact that prevented me from doing so was that it belonged to the school's library.

Wishing me luck for the second Fowl...
-Ankit


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Happy B'Day Dad!


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Gathering Reading Material

I have been very vella over the past few days (and you can see that from the fact that I actually wrote 200 words on IE 7). So I decided to go get some good books, for I don't know when next I'll have so much spare reading time. I remembered some very very big book shop I once saw from the car, but neither Dad nor I could recollect the exact location. So acting on a hunch we went to South-Ex. Ultimately we couldn't find the shop we were looking for and ended up driving to Dad's favourite bookshop, Teksons. We also saw The Bookworm on the way but that was on the opposite side of the road. Anyways, we had stopped in Reebok on the way to buy Dad a pair of sneakers, and as a result it was already eight when we reached Teksons and the shop was on the verge of closing for the day. Reluctantly, we turned around and started to leave when Dad saw a sign for Midland bookstore. Though Midland looks tiny from the outside it is actually of a pretty decent size, for the shop continues into the basement.

I had left home with the aim of buying books of new authors this time, authors apart from Robin Cook, Sidney Sheldon, Alistair Maclean and Archer, in an attempt to widen my reading base. So when I entered Midland I straight-away lunged for the fiction shelf and picked up a Jeffrey Archer (Honor Among Thieves), an Alistair Maclean (Fear is the Key) and the sixth Harry Potter (yes, I still haven't read it). Feeling guilty though, I decided to buy something else too and upon Dad's suggestion bought Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead'. And on the way out I also spotted the Artemis Fowl series and bought the first two (four Artemis Fowls have been published so far and I plan to buy the other two if I like these). Dad, on the other hand, got 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail', 'Blink - The Power of thinking without thinking' and 'How to Read a Book'. I found the title of the last book slightly self-contradictory to its format of a book, for if one doesn't know how to read a book how is he supposed to read that one?
Anyways these nine books should be enough to keep me busy for the next week.
And if anyone knows the name of that very very very big book shop I saw somewhere in Delhi (sorry, I don't have any more details) please tell me.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Documenting 9/11

The following is a documentary on how the 9/11 may have been an act of the U.S. Government. I know the idea sounds wacky, but unfortunately, it doesn't sound so wacky once you've seen this clip.
Click HERE to view.
This is really a great documentary on 9/11 comparable perhaps only to Farenheight 9/11.


Media Polls

Sometimes, I'm surprised at the absurdity of news channel polls. A few minutes ago Times Now showed a thirty minute video on how Germany was the world favorite for this year's world cup. It showed a clip of the coach of Germany expressing his confidence in the team. Then it showed Germans and German fans praising the team. And after all this German glorification Times Now holds an SMS poll: Do you think Germany will win this year's world cup? And ten minutes later, when the results come out, an enthusiastic newsreader reads: "See, even the public agrees with us; they believe Germany will win this year's world cup!"
On another note, I've been seeing a number of Mission Impossible 3 trailers. Of course, since the movie released today in India, that should not be astonishing. What is surprising though, is that none of these trailers are by Paramount Pictures. One is by DHL, "DHL celebrates MI3"; one is by some clothing company, "Get into style with MI3"; and one is by Nokia.


Microsoft Updates: IE 7

All you Microsoft critics out there, face it: Microsoft has been successful in making its applications the de-facto standard for much day-to-day work. Not that I disagree with the critics; they are very much justified in calling Microsoft the copycat it is. First came the concept of the Graphical User Interface and the option of a mouse, which the Microsoft conveniently ripped off from Apple's Macintosh. After that came the concept of web browsers. Netscape was unarguably the King in browsing history. King, that is, until Windows 95 Second Edition came out. Windows conveniently started bundling Internet Explorer with Windows 95. And not-so-surprisingly, the looks and buttons of IE looked a lot like Netscape. Overcome with nostalgia, some people continued using Netscape for a few years. But soon, no one bothered to load a second browser when one already existed, and Netscape gradually faded from our memories. Then came Sun's Java. Microsoft started packaging Internet Explorer with Microsoft Virtual Machine, a pretty good replica of the existing Java. Sun Microsystems filed a case against Microsoft and unlike previous battles with Apple and Netscape, Microsoft lost this one to Sun; hence now we're back to downloading Sun Java separately for Internet Explorer.

And then came Firefox. Firefox is a free open-source browser. Meaning, the code of which is freely available on the net. If you have some contributions to make you can add/modify the code and submit it to them. If Mozilla likes it, they'll implement it. In fact, this was how Firefox was created in the first place, with the help of developers around the world, sitting at home. As a result Firefox became a very simple, easy-to-use, no-strings-attached, user-oriented browser. (Some of its concepts, like tabbed browsing, already existed though, in browsers like Opera.) Apparently, Firefox became very popular in a very short span of time. And Microsoft, good as it is in copying, has now implemented Firefox's design in its new Internet Explorer, version 7.
The Older IE 6:
Firefox:
The New IE7 (beta 2):
(The Pros:) In IE7, Microsoft has done away with the BIG buttons and needless toolbars replacing them with more subtle smaller (and fewer) buttons to maximize the page-view window. Now, like Firefox, we just have a back, forward, stop and refresh button along with the address bar in the same line. IE has even copied the idea of having a search bar next to the address bar. Unfortunately, since IE is NOT open-source, not too many different search plugins exist and, unlike Firefox, I have not been able to find search plugins for ebay.in (not ebay.com), download.com, dictionary.com, thesaurus.com , answers.com, images.google.com , etc, etc. Like Firefox (again!), IE 7 supports tabbed browsing and live feeds.
(The Cons:) Microsoft has removed the menu bar (file, edit, view...) from the default layout. Though you can enable this back, it appears below the standard toolbar (back, forward, stop), a positioning I find very awkward. Also, back and forward are on one side of the address bar, stop and refresh are on the other. Unfortunately for Mr. Gates, it is going to take more than just copying Firefox to make me switch to IE.
Currently, Microsoft has only released the beta 2 version of IE7 which can be downloaded HERE. Firefox, as usual, is available HERE.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Smile Plz


Send this to a friend, click on the white email VV icon below


MaleRestrooms.com - The Problems of Public Bathrooms

Simply Hilarious
And when you're done with that: femalerestrooms.com


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Big Red Button

These are by far the best sites ever

This one is sure to drive you bonkers:
http://img252.echo.cx/img252/8159/006wo.swf

And if thats not enough, do see this, it's beautiful once you actually get to view the page.
http://home.comcast.net/~wolfand


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Essex Farms

Went to Essex Farms (for the first time) today. Rishabh, Sidharth, Shashank, Kritika, Ankur, n Priyanka came too. For 150 rupees you get to play all the screen arcade video games you want plus one game of bowling. All the screen arcade video games sucked. Bowling was fun though. Though the last and only time I had bowled was at a friend's Bday party in America in grade 3, I was actually leading the score till about middle of the game today. Then my luck started wearing off and I finished fourth.
Was feeling thirsty. Went to the snack counter there. Asked for Coke. Counterman said the 300 ml Coke was for 20 rupees. I told him that a 300ml bottle has printed MRP at Rs 10. He said that they didn't serve it in a bottle. So I paid the money, and he proceeded to take out a bottle, empty it into a plastic glass and hand the glass over. (note: interesting as this may seem, what he did was perfectly legal. Though you may never charge more than the printed Maximum Retail Price for something, you may charge for the service, say pouring it out in a glass).
Played pool too. I played exceptionally well for somebody who hardly plays pool (won one out of three games against Ankur and Kritika). The fact that those too were amateurs too might have had something to do with it though.


Getting the American Visa : Part 2

OK. So yesterday I went and picked up my passport from the VFS Center in Nehru Place. Apparently, the embassy has outsourced the collection of applications and passport delivery portion of the VISA application procedure to a private company VFS or 'Visa Facilitation Service'. When I told Dad the following details, he aptly described the quality of VFS's service as 'American Style, Indian maintenance'.
When you open their website (www.vfs-usa.co.in) with Internet Explorer (I currently use version 7), IE says, "There is a problem with this website's security certificate. The security certificate presented by this website has expired or is not yet valid." When you call the VFS center while they make you hold, a prerecorded message says "to track your passport status, you can also message US VISA [passport number] to 7333. Try doing so and you will receive an error message, 'this facility is not available'.

You can collect your passport between 2-4 pm from the VFS center the day they receive it from the embassy (which prints your visa on it and sends it to them). If you don't collect it that very day, they courier it to you. So basically, if you don't want to leave your precious passport in the hands of some courier company, you'll end up calling VFS quite frequently.

Also, VFS charges, at the time you apply for your visa, Rs. 281, for delivering your VISA. However, till a few days back, should you decide to pick up your VISA in person, instead of refunding the delivery charge, they charged a further 56 rupees!!! And we thought that the school bookshop wali aunty was the biggest looteri aunty there is!!

As I was saying, I went there yesterday. At the gate they give you a token and ask you to submit your mobile phone if you're carrying one (for security reasons i guess; but why they take away your phone and not check you for guns or knives beats me, as they do not use a metal detector, nor do they bother to frisk you). The center is basically a room about 24 by 24 feet with chairs lined in rows like a conference hall facing six counters. An electronic display board in one corner is supposed to display the token numbers (note the word 'supposed'). As you've probably figured out, it wasn't working. So, the girl from the counter screamed out the next token number. Unfortunately, she was sitting behind a completely glassed counter and we had to strain our ears hearing her. Fortunately, a guy was standing at the center of the room who would hear her and relay the number by shouting it out. Unfortunately he would disappear from time to time or start flirting with a co-worker, so we would have to strain our ears anyways. And when my token number came (no, I did not hear it called, I went and stood at the counter in advance), I picked up my passport, and well, left.


Monday, June 05, 2006

The F Word Explained

Do you use the F-word frequently? No need to be ashamed! Be Proud! See the magic of the word for yourself.
NOTE: This dumb clip goes on showing the word 'LOADING' even after the movie has loaded. So just wait for 2-4 minutes for it to load and then click on the play arrow even if the word 'LOADING' is still visible. And turn your speakers on.







See this clip and others HERE


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ha!


Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Have completed about ten missions of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Apparently, this is the third part of the GTA trilogy. And it is the most interesting game I have ever played after Max Payne 2. Carl Johnson (CJ) is the game's protagonist who has been released from jail after 5 years. His Grove City home looks like a typical run-down south city full of punks, gangs, guns, drugs and corruption. The game is very detailed (the cars you drive have 10 radio stations with no repeats). As a result the game comes only on DVD and takes about 5GB on your hard disk. Anyways, you basically have to help CJ's gang get on the top of the San Andreas neighborhood. You do this by butchering (yes, literally butchering) the enemy, buying all property around town, etc, etc. Meanwhile, you can go to the gym, gain some muscle; steal a taxi and make money driving people around; make girlfriends and take them out on a date; or pick up a prostitute.
There are so many things to do that the game may take months to complete (no exaggeration)!
Quoting from gamespy:
"Maybe it's a simple drive-by, or a bank robbery, or an assassination mission. Maybe you need to snipe ten gang members on a rooftop, kill their leader, and chase the final gang member down by boat. Or maybe you need to steal a motorcycle, chase down a helicopter along the freeway, and shoot it down with a missile launcher while being chased by an entire police department." Yup, that's the game. (Read full review with a few screenshots HERE.)
There is also the report of a modification that makes the game extremely explicit (you get to have sex with your girlfriend). This mod has placed the game's creators, Rockstar Games, under great heat. More about the mod HERE and HERE.


Saw XXX2

Saw XXX2: State of the Union from one of the DVDs. Terrible movie. Saying anything about it will be a waste of my time and yours. Basically, the US Head of Security comes up with a plot to kill the president (the plot requires secretly transporting tanks and helicopters via an aircraft carrier and then killing the president with a pistol). The director NSA and another security guy have no idea who to go to so they pick up this punk from jail who crashes out of jail full of patriotism, scoops up a dozen more punks, who then together fight their way through tanks, choppers and tons of troops and save the President from being shot by his own armed personnel. Whoopee! Van Diesel (from XXX 1) was so much better than Ice Cube who looks more like a household sweetie in this movie.


DVD Plays

Took a look at the DVDs Aamir left behind a couple of days ago. Gotta return them by the 6th. Would have made a copy; unfortunately, I don't have a DVD writer, just a combo drive (you know, DVD reader n CD writer). So here I have in front of me, National Treasure, Aviator, Alexander, Troy, XXX2, Transporter 2, The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, Million Dollar Baby, Matrix, Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions, The Godfather, The Godfather 2, The Godfather 3 and Constantine. Wewf! So much to see, so little time.

I just finished watching Ocean's Eleven. Definitely a much better movie than its sequel (which the entire hostel saw in Priya when it was released; probably because there were not too many great movies viewing then). In Ocean's Eleven at least the gang comes up with an elaborate plan to rob a high security casino in Las Vegas and actually carries it out. In Ocean's Twelve, they just get trapped in prison, get out with the help of contacts, find out the position of a priceless gold egg through another contact, and steal the egg, which was conveniently being transported via backpack without any high-tech security (the entire gang simply had to switch bags). Ocean's Twelve then ends with the sweet n sexy cop AKA Catherine Zeta Jones joining the thieves for a gamble. Of course Ocean's Eleven is not that amazing either; it just outshines its sequel. In fact if you want to watch a good thief movie just go see Entrapment again: at least that has more Catherine Zeta Jones.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Getting the American VISA

Yup I got it.
Interesting experience though.
The interview appointment letter clearly states "not to appear for your VISA interview more than 15 minutes prior to the appointment time". If I had listened though, I may not have gotten my VISA today. Fortunately, I'm not a very good listener.

I was called at 11:30 am. I arrived at ten. I was interviewed at one-thirty pm.
Dad's IAS batchmate's son, Tushar (IIT Guwahati, going to Minnesota), had his visa- appointment today at eleven. Apparently he had warned my dad that the embassy is unable to abide by the interview timings so if you appear at the time stated, those before you would still be waiting and you would have to stand in line anyway. So I went early.

The first thing that hits you when you appear at the embassy gate is the long line. (Guess bureaucracy transcends boundaries) You have to wait outside in a line for pre-screening. Though Mili had warned me earlier to wear cotton (thanks anyway Mili), fortunately today morning it had rained and the was no sun.

Next to the line was a 14" TV attached to a pole where they were showing still images of airplanes and "Enjoy your visit to the USA" type messages scrolling in dumb word-art. Meanwhile, a small speaker sang, 'America, America god shed thy grace on thee....And crown thy hood with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea' in the most terrible tune I've ever heard.
To get an idea of what it sounded like, picture this: a forty-year-old man, who has just realized that he is about to be run over by a forty-wheel-truck is screeching 'America, America' when somewhere in the background a lady goes 'Oh Yeah America!'. Yup, that would be an accurate representation of what it sounded like. This song was interspersed with bulletins on how to properly have your fingerprint taken and the important forms you must have. During the bulletin the speaker attached to the TV spoke in English while a separate speaker gave the Hindi translation simultaneously. The result? If you are standing between the speaker and the TV, you comprehend neither.

Behind me was this guy who was going for some work. He asked me which university I was going to. I replied Duke, wondering if he had heard about it (Duke famous though it is in America, is not too heard of internationally). He replied, "Congrats, great university! Oh and unfortunately, one of their sports teams is currently caught in some rape case". Yup, he knew Duke, a bit too well for my liking.

So at the end of the line were four counters (mind you, I am still outside the building). I reach a counter where I show all my paperwork and they staple my DS forms and I-20 to the back cover of my passport! Why couldn't they just clip it instead of making a pin mark on my brand new passport? :(

Once you are inside they pass you through a metal detector, then scan you with a hand held metal detector (why?) and then frisk you (jeez!). And by the way, this was the second time: I had to pass through a similar security check before I stood in the first line outside. Then I got to stand in another line (lucky me!) to have my fingerprinting done. Basically, you're just supposed to place your two index fingers one by one on a glass scanner and presto! However, the machine kept failing to read my fingers (dumb machine or smart fingers, I do not know) and I had to repeat the procedure thrice.

Then I got to stand in another line (yippee). This was the line which took you to the interviewers (consuls as they called them). I had expected there to be proper cubicles for the interviews, but nope, why waste room and furniture when you can just have plain counters? There were three lines, one for priority (I don't know what makes you eligible for that), one for the non-English, Hindi or Punjabi speakers, and one general very long line. I got to choose the very long line.

There were six counters operating then and things moved pretty quickly for an hour or so. But at twelve o'clock three counters closed (closed as in blinds fell) and their consuls went off for lunch. That's when things became slow...real slow. One of the open counters started catering to the priority line and one to the non-English line leaving only one measly counter for the long line. And at one o'clock, with the return of the lunching consuls, it was meal-time for the other three consuls. Again, just one counter for the line I was in. Not that I was complaining...I was happy that the first counter was only handling priority; the old lady there was really cranky. She once picked up somebody's application, pointed to a box with a frail, trembling finger and screamed something like 'why isn't this filled?' In fact, I was happy to see that the lady handling my line was the same woman who had held the VISA-info session at USEFI a few days back, for she had seemed to be good-natured then.

I finally reached her and handed over my forms and passport. She gave one look at my I-20, and said, 'Oh Duke, Why Duke?' While I answered, she crossed some things on my DS forms, entered my name on the computer and then suddenly made a face that appeared too confused for my taste. Fortunately, it turned out that was because she had just realized that I had previously stayed in the USA. I explained to her that I was a dependent while my father completed his PhD from Yale and she returned to her previous smile saying, 'Your visa has been granted, your passport shall be mailed to you'.

So I had to wait till one-thirty for my 30-second appointment at eleven-thirty. But then, who's complaining?

And thanks to Tushar, for if he hadn't warned me to come early and I had actually reached at 11:30, perhaps I would not have been able to arrive at the interview counter by four pm and then the embassy would have postponed my interview for the next day.

Dad, Mom and I ate at McDonald's in Connaught Place after that where I waited in another long line at the counter and wondered if we really spend a big chunk of our life waiting in line?!!


Thursday, June 01, 2006

VISA Preparations

Preparing for my Visa interview tomorrow. Its at 11:30 am. Arranging all my financial documents, etc, etc, together. Gotta go now. More tomorrow.


CD Burning

OK, today Sana Macha n Aamir Ayub came from the hostel to copy CDs (again!). I ended up like copying a dozen CDs which took quite some time. Not that I mind of course, I ended up with tons of DVDs to watch and a thousand more mp3s too. Oh, and I got Max Payne 2 (yeah, ill play it again, its such an addicting game) and GTA San Andreas.


Gmail Sucks



Whats with Gmail these days?
It is so damn slow!!!
And I'm not able to send e-mails too. It gives some shitty 'cant reach gmail' message.

and chat seems to be giving problems too.

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