Monday, April 30, 2007

Remembering someone

Spent the better part of the day in a knowledge-sharing session with
an ex-contractor who is visiting from another state. This guys gets
calls about every hour on his cellphone. He speaks on the phone in
Telugu. Obviously his wife.

That makes me longingly remember somebody else who might have given
me similar calls every hour. But then I've been remembering her every
minute all day, every single minute! Have no idea what I'll retain
from this knowledge-sharing session. :)

PS: Incidentally, this is my first blog post via email, using my
BlackBerry Pearl. Hope this works right.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Timing of Love

When we think 'compatibility' in a relationship, we usually think in terms of similar or complementary personal characters in two people. I am beginning to think that compatibility is more a function of time than of personal characteristics.

Timing is a major factor in a relationship, yet it is the least understood and gets the least attention. Two people can be totally different in character, preferences, etc. Yet, if they consistently have similar or complementary feelings at the same times, they can easily tide over other differences and enjoy a steady, compatible relationship.

This might well be the secret of those people who seem to be so different and yet get along so well in their relationships. In the same vein, lack of timing might be a major cause of angst and incompatibility between two people who may be very similar to each other, be very much in love, with potential for a great relationship, that is never fulfilled.

What is the use of feeling great yearning and tenderness for each other, but at totally different times? It is relatively better to not feel anything at all, cuz a lot of pain and agony would be avoided.

Blessed are they who are lucky enough to have the timing right... even if it is in death.

Shilpa Shetty & Richard Gere kissing controversy!

In February this year, when I was in India, Shilpa Shetty was constantly in the news. I was pretty surprised. I had been under the impression that she had already faded off into Bollywood history. Apparently not.

Soon after the racial controversy surrounding her participation in a UK reality TV show named Celebrity Big Brother, she seemed to have gained popularity and support from everybody on all sides of the world. All of a sudden, she was appearing everywhere - in the news, on Page 3 items, and at public functions, as well as being considered for a whole new set of roles in both Indian and Western movies! And then I read somewhere that she was in contention with none other than Aishwarya Rai for a movie named Unveiled, whose story revolved around a muslim women who has two husbands and a lover. It seemed like this was definitely the second coming of Shilpa Shetty. (BTW, Mallika Sherawat eventually landed that juicy role in Unveiled).

Things seemed to simmer down a little bit for Shilpa, but barely for a few weeks. Come April, as temperatures start to rise, she is hot in the news again. This time because of the Richard Gere kissing controversy! You can read the low-down on the controversy at that Wikipedia link. However, in this age of online videos, we don't want to just read about controversial events, we want to watch them. I have not been able to find a video of the "obscene kisses". If readers come across any such videos, please leave a comment and let us know. (Update on 3-May-2007: The video is available on YouTube; scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch it). Meanwhile, I did the next best thing I could - I looked for photos of the incident and gathered them together into a sequence which might give us a clue as to what might have happened. Before I say anything more, just take a look at the sequence of photos for yourself. Please excuse the low quality and uneven sizes of the photos. I had to cull them from diverse sources.

Now, to the untrained Western eyes, these might look like the dashing white gentleman dipping and kissing the pretty oriental lady in the exotic saree. But even a child in India knows the truth... having grown up watching attempted rape scenes in numerous "wholesome, family" Indian movies, where the villain goes at the heroine as if kissing her is his one and only objective, like his very life depends on it, like kissing her is the raison d'etre for his very birth!

Don't the photos above seem to depict a man forcing himself on a woman? It is quite obvious that Shilpa Shetty was trying to keep up a sportive and brave appearance, despite her discomfort. She is even reported to have said that Richard Gere's stunt was a 'too much'. I don't understand why people have been protesting against her, burning her effigies, threatening to boycott her movies and serving a warrant on her. It is not always possible for a woman (or even a man) to defend herself when unexpectedly pounced upon. Another example of this is when Adrien Brody won the Best Actor Oscar award in 2003, and he celebrated by pouncing on his award presenter Halle Berry for a long kiss right there on the stage. There was not much Halle Berry could do to resist or escape that kiss.

I don't think that people should be harassed or arrested or punished for kissing in public. I don't think that kissing in public is obscene. But I also don't think that Richard Gere can pass off his actions as something 'fun' or 'no big deal'. What most probably happened is this: Richard Gere found himself on stage with this pretty actress looking all dolled up and exotic. She might have looked slightly retarded with that big-mouthed grin, but her tall, lithe sleeveless-blouse-and-saree-clad-body sure looked squeeze-worthy. And he seized the opportunity, using the excuse of demonstrating Aids-safe kisses on hands and cheeks, to get exactly that - a solid tight squeeze!

Richard must consider himself lucky that he is only being accused of obscenity. If Shilpa had not turned her face away and if he had ended up kissing her lips, he might have been facing charges of attempted rape in the land of Indian movies! Heh-heh!

Update on 4-May-2007: Of course, it wasn't gonna take too much time before the video would become available on YouTube. See below. Doesn't look so bad actually. And she does say soon after the kiss, "This was too much"!

Height of tech incompatibility!

All of us have been frustrated at one time or the other by so many different charging cables and plugs for the different varieties of cellphones. Why couldn't all the cellphone companies have come up with a standard cable-and-plug combo to charge any and every cellphone? Is it really necessary to ship a separate charger (or two, if you count the car charger) with every single cell phone? It's ridiculous and such a waste!

As technology advances and big companies consolidate, the companies usually try to build their own universe of products, accessories and software. They jealously guard these from becoming interoperable with other company's products. These days, with DRM technologies, they are even trying to limit music and video to play within the borders of their own hardware and software. Such tactics are invariably driven by the management and marketing types who think it helps them make more money. They don't realize what the engineers, who have been at the forefront of technologies which have resulted in huge economic gains, have always known: easy interoperability is the real way to make your products popular, capture a big chunk of the market and rake in all that money!

Recently we came across what I consider to the be the height of incompatibility among tech devices, and which can't be explained even by the above theory of dumb managers and marketers: we discovered that the charging cables for the Thinkpad T42 model and T60 model laptops are incompatible! Yes, we couldn't use the T42's cable to charge a T60!! How the hell did that happen?

Seinfeld Drinking Game

Here's something for people who are fans of the popular Seinfeld TV show and who also like to drink (guilty as charged!): Seinfeld Drinking Game!

This will ensure that you are drunk by half-time of the episode.

Lest that site or the page becomes unavailable on some future date, here's a copy-paste of the content (it is not my intention to infringe on copyright):

Here are the drink amounts for each of the following events:
- Bass line plays - 1 drink
- Kramer busts through the door - 2 drinks
- Elaine pushes someone - 1 drink
- Elaine says "shut up" - 2 drinks
- Bob Sacemento is mentioned (obviously by Kramer) - 3 drinks
- Jerry or George gets dumped by his girlfriend - 2 drinks
- Jerry does stand-up - 1 drink
- Someone has coffee - 1 drink
- Someone calls a line correctly - everyone else drinks 2
- Someone calls a line incorrectly - person drinks 2
- A comment is made about George's baldness - drink as much as possible, pour rest of beer on head
- Mr./Mrs. Seinfeld/Kastanza makes an appearance - 1 drink
- Mr./Mrs. Bennis/Kramer makes an appearance - 3 drinks
- Someone drinks alcohol - finish beer
- One of the characters gets laid - 1 drink for each character (e.g.-Jerry sleeps with Elaine - 2 drinks)
- A celebrity appears - 2 drinks
- The Newmen/Seinfeld confrontation - Everyone must say "hello Newmen" and drink 2
- Soup Nazi says "No soup for you!" - Everyone yells with him and takes 3 drinks

Make up some of your own rules....just make sure you get really drunk!

Sudha is online!

Sudha and Taranga were two most popular Kannada magazines when I was growing up in 80's Bangalore. I don't know how popular they are now. I wouldn't be surprised if their sales have been adversely affected by the preference for everything English among the general Indian population these days, influenced for the most part by the ever-popular English medium education.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Sudha magazine is also available online! Although that link will take you to the homepage of the magazine, you will have to use the "Direct Access Click here" link on the homepage, to actually peruse the magazine.

I checked out every page of the latest edition online, although I did not read every page fully. It is nice to know that the basic format of the magazine has not changed in 20+ years. It has all the sections which made it a holistic family magazine - a cover page article on a topic of general interest, other assorted articles and stories, humorous articles, ongoing fiction series, interesting photos (including the customary fully-clothed 'girlie' picture), entertainment "news", interesting news bits from around the world, seasonal recipes, reader-submitted poem, reader-submitted questions, a kids' section, a jokes page, and even a comics page with... get this, Phantom comics series!

It was very pleasant to read this magazine first thing on a Sunday morning, just like I would have done all those years ago when I was a school kid and read my uncles' copy in my grandmother's house.

The homepage of the magazine invites us to "access the TRIAL version of your favorite magazine sudha and its Supplements now for FREE." That might give you the impression that you need a subscription to access the full magazine and archives. However, that is not the case. I was able to access all the pages of the latest edition as well as the archives by using the "Direct Access" link. I hope they always keep this available online.

The archives page indicates that the online edition was started in March 2006. However, the oldest three archives dated March 16th, June 29th and July 27th 2006 don't load. Looks like those were sporadic first attempts. However, since September 2006 onwards, there are regular weekly editions available online. I am gonna access each one of them just to read the Phantom comics! Woo-hoo!

Be warned though, the interface is very old and clunky. The homepage even says, "Site best viewed in IE 5.5"! 5.5, for god's sake! That version of IE was outdated even before March 2006, when Sudha seems to have attempted to go online! Anyway, if you have problems loading the online magazine, just close the browser, re-open it and try again.

If you use the 'Next" link on the top right corner of the magazine page to go to the next page, you might come across some blank pages with the message "Page not available at this time". Don't worry. A page with content has not gone missing. It seems to be just a blank page that's interspersed among the content pages for some strange reason. Possible bug in the system. However, if you come across two or more blank pages in a rows, you need to close and reopen your browser.

Once you get past that bad interface, it is the same old Sudha magazine. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Free Long-distance Business Calls using Google Maps

Did you know that you can make free* long distance phone calls to businesses using Google Maps? This works in the US, for all businesses which are listed with phone numbers on Google Maps.

All you have to do is search for the business in Google Maps. The results will show the phone number of the business and a call link. Click on that link, enter your phone number and enjoy the free call!

Here's a more detailed step-by-step instructions:
  1. Go to

  2. click on the Find businesses link at the top of the page.

  3. Enter the name of the business in the first data entry box and the location of the business in the second box. Click Search Businesses button.

  4. If the business is available in Google Maps along with the phone number, you will see the name, address and phone number of the business in the Search Results column on the left.

  5. Next to the business's phone number is a link which says call. Just click on this link, enter your phone number and click on the Connect for free button.

That's it! You will be connected to the business for free!

*Free means you will not be charged for the long distance call. However, if you use a cellphone, you will incur the cost of the minutes you spend on the call.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Worst-est Thing!

The worst-est thing that could happen after defeat, is to continue to live. Death is the best defeat one can hope for. Only few are fortunate enough to have it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Google's 411 rocks!

I tried Google's 411 service yesterday, and was mighty impressed. Just dialled 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411), and I was connected to the business I wanted to talk to in around a minute. The system understood my responses the first time, every time! It was my best encounter to date with voice recognition software.

My past experiences with voice recognition response systems have sucked a lot. I have been much frustrated, yelling the same thing over and over into the phone before giving up with disgust. So, it was a pleasant change to use Google's system. And the fact that I don't have to pay for the 411 service (directory assistance number in the US & Canada, for those of you who don't know what that is) ever again, makes it even sweeter!

Normally, the 411 service costs $1.28 over a landline and $1.57 over the cellphone. And, I read today that 411 is a $8 billion market in the US! Now, Google is offering this service for FREE (regular phone call costs apply, of course).

This service is highly recommended! Be warned though, Google says this service is still in the experimental stage and may not always be available.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Anti-Accident Prone

I have always believed that I am anti-accident prone. I don't usually have accidents. On the very rare occasions when I do, I escape with less damage than most other people in similar situations.

Imagine being the driver of that wreck you see in the picture, and imagine coming out of it literally unscathed except for a couple of very tiny cuts on the face. Imagine fishing out small pieces of glass from the inner corner of your eyes, next morning, after two showers, and yet there being no damage to the eyes whatsoever!

We were driving to the Grand Canyon, on the night of March 31st, 2007. About 30 miles out of Flagstaff on State Route 180 West, at 10:15 PM, we collided with an elk. It was a big deer, taller than my car. It was half in my lane when I noticed it. It was walking onto the road from the dark woods. It was too late to brake and stop. So, I swung left trying to avoid it. The poor animal decided to charge straight ahead, intending to get across the road before I reached it. It never had a chance. It hit the right side of the front of my car, swung over the hood and crashed into my windshield. It's head and torso hitting my side (driver's side) of the windshield, with enough impact to dent the top of my car roof! Thankfully, the elk seemed to be a female with no antlers. If it had antlers, they would have come straight through my windshield and gone through my head killing me at once!

I was too much in a shock to stop immediately after the impact. I drove forward about 50 meters or so, and then pulled over to the side. I asked my roommate, who was in the passenger seat, if she was okay. She was literally untouched. She appeared to be shocked and scared, but otherwise physically quite fine.

There was no cell phone signal where we had the accident. So, we could not call for help. We decided to drive back to Flagstaff. We turned the car around, expecting to see the dead elk on the road. But it was nowhere to be seen. It had probably moved off into the woods... probably to die a painful death. I feel great sorrow for it.

We drove for 45 minutes or more, in under 40 F, sometimes under 35 F temperature. We got a motel room in Flagstaff, called my insurance, who recorded a claim over the phone and went to sleep. The insurance person who took my claim said I don't have to notify the police as nobody was injured... except for the elk and my car.

If only it had been a rental car, instead of my own... I could have chalked all this off as an adventure in the past and moved on with life. But now, I have to deal with a wrecked car. The car is sitting in the collision center right now, awaiting inspection by the insurance people. I will keep this blog updated on what happens next.

Meanwhile, I feel very lucky and thankful to be alive and well. I realize how fragile and unpredictable life is. Makes me think that there is no time to be wasted in not doing what my heart wants to do.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bollywood Dance goes 'Underground' in America?

Today, Yahoo! announced their latest initiative: Underground.

I checked out the website and was surprised to see a link at the bottom which read, "Bollywood". Getting very curious, I clicked on the link to discover that Bollywood dance competition for college students in America is considered to be part of the 'underground' scene here!