Friday, December 30, 2011

Binary Countdown - 2

I like the way the new year is coming in this time. Having the new year start in the middle of the week usually leaves me sort of discombobulated. It neither puts me in the proper holiday mood nor does it feel like much of a change which I suppose moving into a new year should be. The way 2012 is planning to start, though, is the ideal way. It feels good to kick back and say TGIF, you get the weekend to highlight the holiday and on Monday morning your new year can start, prim and proper.

In case you have missed my count-down to the big day, it started with “Places I want to see” on Monday, “Things I want to do” on Tuesday, “People I want to meet” on Wednesday and “Professions I could have been in” yesterday. Now it’s today … errr, I mean Friday, we are 2 days away and keeping to the theme of this series, I have a list of two. Two events to be more precise.
  • The return of Microsoft – Am I nuts or did you miss Microsoft’s demise? Neither, though you could make a case out for the former. I am not talking Microsoft as in Microsoft Windows 7 or Office. Rather I am talking about Microsoft Windows Mobile! MS, I feel, got caught out first by Apple and then by Google in the hand-held device space and has perpetually been nowhere to be found. Perpetually, that is, since the whole touchy-feely devices started flooding the market place. It’s been a good 4 or 5 years now since Apple, a so far non-phone player, hit the collective consciousness with the iPhone. This was followed by yet another so far non-phone player in Google flooding the market with their 'free' Android OS. And while these new kids on the block were out not only making hay but also effectively making their own sun-shine, MS was nowhere to be seen. And to think that MS was the only one among the big three software giants with a full blown presence in the area of handheld devices before the game was changed and they were left out! Recently however MS has been making all the right noises. The marriage with Nokia looks to be shaping up well (The Lumia phones look awesome. Don’t know how they perform though) and from all the scuttlebutt going around, Windows Phone 8 is shaping up to be a cracker. Here is hoping that the mobile market grows from a two-horse race to a three-horse race. Are you thinking why I am interested in this? Well, I am always in the market for a phone and the more I have to look at and decide between, the merrier. :) All the Android phones are starting to look like, well, Androids, there is anyway just one iPhone so it will look and feel like it always has even though it can talk back to me now, Symbian is dead (though I really like the N8 and E7), MeeGo was supposedly brilliant but was a still born baby, RIM is on life support and Java based OS’es have gone the way of the dinosaur. So that leaves MS as the remaining player who I can look up to, to inject the much needed differentiation in a space that is increasingly looking the same whichever way you turn.
  • The US presidential elections – Yep, it’s a strange one for someone in India to be looking forward to, what with all the drama that Indian politics is capable of throwing up (and is indeed doing so right now!). But of late I have been fascinated by the whole process the Americans follow to elect their president. It all seems complicated and downright unnecessary but whom am I to complain. At the heart of it all is their two-party system consisting of the democrats and republicans and come election time, each party will have one elected representative trying to claim the White House for his (or her) own use. The democrats are going with their incumbent, so no sweat for them I guess. The thing that is holding my interest right now is what they call the nomination process to pick a candidate to represent the Republican Party. This process, which involves quite a few ‘debates’ between the hopefuls apart from the traditional campaigning seems like a great system. Given the televised nature of the debates, these essentially provide the presidential hopefuls a platform to reach a national audience from which to hawk their agenda much before they are actually in the fray for the top spot. At least on paper, this seems like a better system than that followed by our politicians which essentially consists of ceaselessly campaigning. Anyway, the main reason for following the US presidential elections is because whether I like it or not, the fortunes of our economy and the company I work in are closely tied to the fortunes of the US market and by extension, to the ideologies, compulsions, whims and fancies of those who make the governing policies for that market.

 Two days to go and that’s my binary list that I am looking forward to which I hope will keep me engrossed well into 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

No Bucket-List. Only Countdown - 3

I am changing my usual style today and starting off with my list. Today’s is going to be about ‘The Three Alternate Professions’ I usually see myself in. The boring background stuff will come later, if I feel up to it. ;)
  • Racer – I love the idea of bikes and cars and speed, I speed unnecessarily on public roads and I claim to be good at it. Of course no one else has endorsed me but when you are as good as I am, you don’t need endorsement! Anyway, given this love for speed, it’s no wonder that I see myself strapped to a speeding missile with steering control and mixing it with the likes of Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen on a regular basis. But alas, as they say, all good things must come to an end and so it is with me when I have to wake up.
  • Dancer – Remember dancing to music when you were a kid? Yep, I am referring to that un-synchronized movement of your hands and legs and out-of-rhythm shaking of the hips that we all did at one time or the other when we were still young enough to not care about it. Right from those days I have known two things – I can follow a rhythm and someone has to choreograph my dance always, even the aforementioned un-coordinated movement. So it’s pretty easy to imagine myself as ‘Mr. Twinkle Toes’. But make no mistake; it’s Mr. Twinkle Toes the back-up dancer and not Mr. Twinkle Toes the choreographer.
  • Food Taster and Critic – I consider myself a foodie in the sense that I like anything that is labeled ‘food’. From high-brow to road-side and everything in between is a favorite. A couple of things stand in the way of me actually realizing this dream of being a FTC. My taste cognizance begins and ends with heat and spice, so I will probably miss out on all the subtle flavours (that’s what they call ‘bland food’ these days) and the fact that I am a vegetarian and am a teetotaler means that the piece of the ‘global-food-spread’ pie that I can dig into is comparatively small. But I have never let these facts get in the way of a good, mouth-watering imagination :)
So those are the three other avatars that I see myself. My main, and real, avatar is that of a ‘software professional’, which is a better way of saying that I write code for a living. Of course, I didn't set out to write code from the beginning. As I was growing up, there were the regulars like becoming a Pilot or a Doctor. After school, I did my undergraduate course in mechanical engineering. And yet here I am, 11 years after finishing college, pounding on keyboards and dealing with languages, syntaxes, bits, bytes and character-sets. “How come?” you may ask. It’s simple really. After 2 years of kindergarten, 5 years of junior school, 5 years of high school, 2 years of junior college and 4 years of undergraduate college (for a total of 18 years of 'sit-on-your-arse-and-study' kind of formal education) I was ready to stop studying and start earning. I took the first job that came my way and haven't looked back ever since. :)

If you have been following my posts these last few days, you would have noticed that this is not a “Bucket List”. No wishes here. I was going through the news-paper this morning and everybody and their uncle was on about either “2011 - The year that was” or “2012 – What to expect” or some similar thing. So the wise one and I decided that we will leave the wishing to the ones who do it so well – on nationally circulated news papers no less – and stick to general count-down lists to ring in the new year. That's why the foray into my imagination today. That being said, we are almost on the verge of tripping into the next year. Three more days to go.

Bucket-List Countdown - 4

Another new day and here I am to make a few more additions to my growing wish list. I have taken to calling this my “Bucket List” but given the rate at which I am adding to it, looks like I will be left holding an overflowing bucket by the time I am ready to kick the bucket. So I am thinking (Yes, I tend to do that. Sometimes) that maybe I should cut back on the wishing and hoping and wanting so that I don’t put too much pressure on myself. But ‘kya karen, control nahi hota’!! So this is the compromise I have worked out between me and myself. I will give in to the temptation today and get done with it. ‘Kal kya hoga, kise pata’! ;)

Today’s list is more of a Guest List rather than a Wish List. It is about folks I would love to meet. But it’s a slightly different kind of love I am talking about. Screaming their names to get their attention, hankering after their autographs and fawning over them don’t really figure in my plans. Rather what I would love to do is to have a one-on-one with them so that I get answers to a few interesting questions that I have.  So without further ado, I give you...
  • Michael Schumacher – Given that my Formula-1 fandom began and ended with this guy, it should come as no surprise that he is the one I would love to get some answers from. The way I see it in my head, it would be a series of “What were you thinking” questions. Like “What were you thinking when you went straight into Damon in ’94 and repeated the same with JV in ’97? Couldn't you try something else?” ;) Or like “What were you thinking when you let Rubens through in the last second? That dude isn't worth the trouble!” ;) He he, if I get to meet him, I know it would be fun.
  • The entire set of folks who fall under the category ‘Indian Politicians’ – Agreed that this is not a single person. But I really couldn't pick one, so I thought I would conduct an open house with all of them in one place. And once there, I think the things I want to ask them are pretty obvious. Like “Why don’t you guys grow up and start acting like grown-ups?” Or like “How heck do you plan to carry all that money with you once you die?” Or like “So when do you plan to stop acting like divas and start acting as public servants?” Or… well, there are probably thousands of questions I can put forth. But considering that they will all be under a single roof, I think realistically my expectations should be that they will be trying to shout each other down and taking the furniture apart to throw at each other and the open house would have to be ‘adjourned’ keeping in mind the safety of all concerned!
  • Barack Obama – Yep, the current president of the USA. The same one who is, depending on who you talk to, the first Muslim, non-American to become president. I have just one question to you sir. Nobel Peace Prize! Why? How? OK, that’s two questions. Sue me.
and finally
  • God – This is the big one. My very own ‘Interview with God’. Of course this pre-supposes that God is a person, which according to a lot of faiths around the world, is the first mistake I could make. Well, since I am the one meeting with him, I can imagine him to be whatever I want him to be. Wait, I seem to be very sure that God is a ‘Him’ and not a ‘Her’! Hmm. Well, for the sake of convenience and expediency, let me just imagine a ‘Him’. A ‘Her’ would only result in me doing a lot of flirting and not enough talking. So what would I ask God? There are a quite a few but I guess I will start with “Having made man-kind, was it so hard to put some sense into them?” and wing it from there.

Well that’s all. With 4 more days to go for the dawn of the new year, this here is my list of 4 that I would like to meet and chat-up. Here’s to the hope that at least one of these happens.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bucket-List Countdown - 5

My previous list covered the 6 places I want to visit before it is too late to do the visiting. However, visiting places can be just that – visiting. You get on a bus/train/car/flight, travel for how-ever-long and reach the place. You see the sights, eat the food, soak in the atmosphere and you come back the same way you got there. It is just a visit, even though the place you have visited is on that “must visit” list of yours. For getting an absolute high, though, you need to not just visit but do something; something adventurous that you don’t / can’t / won’t do as part of your normal day-to-day life. Of course you can do weed or some of its more sophisticated relatives and get high, but that’s not what I am talking about. Neither am I talking about any procreational activities though I do realize that either of those can also definitely fall under the “adventurous activities you don’t / can’t / won’t do as part of your normal day-to-day life” category for some! ;)

With that mandatory clarification out of the way, let me now get to my list of To-Do activities. The “Bucket-List” grows! 
  • My first experience of watching any kind of skating were the old broadcasts on TV about the winter Olympics and the ice-skating championships which the channel used to show as time and space fillers between regular programs way back when … I don’t exactly remember when but it was way back. What arrested my attention were the grace, the ease and the fluidity with which they were gliding and I have wanted to be able to do that ever since. I have tried my hand at skating a few times and having ended all those attempts rather abruptly after landing heavily on my bum I am still waiting to show off my grace and fluidity. With wheels, without wheels, wheels in two rows, wheels in a single row, blades, skiis, ice, snow, tarmac, it doesn’t matter how I skate and where I skate on, as long as I can. So on the list goes skating.
  • What do Sly Stallone, James Franco, Tom Cruise and Hrithik Roshan have in common, apart from being good-looking actors? I can hear the ladies say “Does anything else matter?” but I am not a lady so I guess I am looking for some other common factor. To figure out this ‘other’ trait they share, try Cliffhanger, 127 Hours, Mission Impossible 2 and Lakshya and you will know what I am getting at. These guys made climbing mountains with nothing more that rope and pitons look easy. Do I hear you say, “It’s the movies, stupid.”? Well, I know it’s the movies and I know mountaineering is not a walk in the park, but hey if it can make me feel like Sly Cruise, I am all for it. :). Add mountaineering / rock climbing to the list.
  • Next up is something that thousands of ordinary folks seem to be doing, in ever increasing numbers, each year. In fact my sister has done it last year and my best friend from college has done it and continues to do it every year. And this has sort of piqued my interest. A marathon, the full enchilada, is a 42.195 Kms long running race. Yikees!! The thought of that distance itself is scary, so I wonder what it is about running a marathon that is pulling in so many people away from the cushy comforts of their couches, into their running shoes and onto the roads. I would like to find that out, first hand. On it goes then to my list.
  • If the challenge of lasting the distance is the marathon’s attraction, then power, torque, the smell of rubber and gas, the feeling of literally controlling your life with your hands as well as the feeling of being absolutely out of control are the attractions (fatal at times) of motor racing (specifically of the two-wheeled variety). Ever since I have been on vehicle without training wheels, I have raced and sped. And have fallen and been bruised, broken, scratched and mended. And have gotten back on the vehicle to resume the speeding and racing. Of course, all the speeding and racing is of the “traffic light GP” variety on public roads where the sheer volume of every day traffic and crowd means that all my racing happens at 50 Kmph! I would have actually been an amateur racer on two wheels if not for a conservative and “safety-first” mindset – my parents’ and mine. But all the same, it’s on my list because I would love to put my leg over a crotch rocket and let loose on a closed circuit where the only other traffic are fellow racers. No speed limits, no signals, no bull-s***. If not anything else, I will at least know whether I would have made it in that life had I chosen differently.
  • The last on my current list of things to do is the one that scares me the most. But I am also super excited about it because I, for whatever reason, feel that I can actually do it. Am not sure how to explain that contradiction but then that’s not what I am trying to do here. I love being in water. Linda Goodman offers an explanation for that by saying that I am a fixed water sign, whatever that is supposed to mean. However the slight hitch is that I don’t know how to swim. My standard answer when anyone asks me about my prowess is water is to say that I swim like a rock! I usually stand on the shallow side of a swimming pool splashing around. On a recent holiday, though, I broke from convention and signed up for a snorkeling session in the sea. The taste of the underwater world (apart from the sea water that is) that I got during that time has got me salivating at the prospect of deep sea diving. Lots of colorful corals, lots of colorful fish and me in full scuba gear lazily floating among it all – bliss. :) 
So there it is. It’s now 5 days to go before the 12 takes over and this is going to be a list of my top 5 things to do in life, again in no particular order.

Bucket-List Countdown - 6

It’s nearing the end of the year and we, the smart one and I, are pretty much glued to our work laptops these days even when we are at home. For her this is an annual thing, what with this being the busiest time of the year for her company. For me, well, what else am I supposed to be doing when she is other-wise occupied? ;) Anyway, we were both busy being busy when she suddenly goes, "You know, there are only 6 more posts to go for me to reach 100 posts". Took me a couple of seconds to realize she was talking about her blog. It took her the same couple of seconds to come up with "You know, there are 6 more days left in this year, the two hours left in 'today' included". As I started the process of processing that apparently independent piece of information she was busy bridging the two observations and said , "You know, we should write something on the 6 remaining days". And that’s how this idea came about of a count-down, "Bucket-list" style.

So my list starts with the 6 places, in no particular order, I would absolutely love to visit before global warming, nuclear war and the Mayan calendar conspire to deny me the opportunity.
  • Taj Mahal - Been there already, but I would love to go back with the smart one and hopefully on a day when the usually maddening crowds take a break from being maddening crowds. Why? I am a romantic at heart. That’s why. :)
  • Petra - Have seen this only in movies. Notably in Indiana Jones and in Transformers and not so notably in a handful of Indian movies and have been in awe. A voice in my head keeps telling me that what I see on the big screen is all there is to see in Petra and a visit would actually be a letdown. But if I am hearing voices in my head, I am probably too far gone to actually listen to them, even when they make sense. :)
  • Pyramids - The Egyptian Pyramids are another place of supposed mystique. Having heard and read all those stories about secret passages, dead souls waiting to be revived, ancient calendars, aliens, yada yada yada who wouldn't want to check the place out? And after watching "Despicable Me", I am going there armed with a safety pin to find out if the pyramids are all that they are made out to be or if it’s just a load of hot air.
  • Marrakech – I am not sure what there is to this place except for maybe centuries of history but a couple of years back my previous company had organized a get together in this place and I didn't get to go. Apart from having heap-loads of history, I heard that it was a great place for relaxing and shopping (not sure how those two go hand-in-hand but stranger things have happened!). Marrakech, in Morocco, has been stuck in my head ever since.
  • Grand Canyon – A freak of nature, if I can call it that. The vital stats - 446 Kms long, 29 Kms wide (at the max), 1.8 Kms deep (at the max) - themselves are staggering. Add to that the beautiful but bleak and desolate landscape usually shown in pictures and it is nothing if not intriguing. I would love to fly the entire length and breadth of it in a chopper. (Reminder to self: Wake up and count the money!)
  • The Polar Ice Caps – Yep. Both would be great, one of the two will do nicely enough. I know I can't stand the cold, I know there isn't much in terms of sight-seeing. I also know that in the Himalayas during a mini (the teeny-weeny side of mini actually) snow storm I strangely felt at peace in the white surroundings. Guess I am just looking for something like that, magnified a whole lot more.
There you go! The places I would absolutely love to visit. Of course there are a lot more but when I got down to listing them, these were the toppers. I can only hope that someday I have enough time and enough resources to actually do the visiting.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kolaveri about Kolaveri...

You know what they say about opinions. Opinions are like the "waste disposal orifices of the homo spaiens"; Everybody has one and they all stink. They don't say it exactly in those words but I try to maintain some parliamentary decency in the language of my posts while trying to convey the whole meaning of what they say. The bottom-line is that opinions stink no matter who is expressing them. And opinions cannot be right or wrong. They are just opinions. Before someone tries to point out the obvious to me, it is not lost on me that this is my opinion and the same rules apply. With that out of the way here are my two 'stinking' cents.

The first time I heard the term "viral" was in connection with some infection I was down with as a kid and was made to swallow gaudily colorful tablets which looked like Cadbury's Gems (for the americanised reader, think M&M's) but tasted like concentrated bitter gourd. The next time I paid attention to that term was quite a few years down the line. I had been introduced to computers by that time and computers with "viral" infections were all the rage ... I mean, they were in the news and classrooms a lot. I was initially confused and later amused at the use of a biological term to describe the fate that had befallen a demonstrably non-biological entity. That was a good 10 years or so back. Fast forward to today and virus infected computers have become so much a part of our regular lives and lexicon that the usage hardly causes a pause. Now, suddenly out of the blue (if you are color-blind, just take my word for it!) we start hearing the word "viral" being associated with a whole different type of entity. One that has no connection whatsoever to biological life forms or even to physical forms. Videos, songs, fashion, games, trends ... you name it and it has probably gone "viral". If we take into consideration what happened in Egypt and in other parts of the middle east a little while ago, you could probably say a revolution went "viral" too! I guess the use of the term in this context is because of the way something spreads across a huge set of people across geographies via the internet which is similar to the way a virus spreads in the body and between bodies via a carrier.

There is one charecteristic which is common to the things that go viral on the net. A huge volume of people seem to like it (not the FB variety of like, though given how 'FB'ised people are becoming that day isn't too far). Why they like it, on the other hand, is not so easy to discern. "Why this kolaveri di" is a case in point. It is supposed to be the first song from south of India that went viral, not just in India but around the world and that is good news (I guess!). Why it went viral worldwide ... now that is something I cannot start to figure out. It is not an outright tamil song. Neither is it an english song. The makers call the language 'Tanglish' which I think is their convenient way of saying all of this - "The song has a few tamil words and made up slang interspersed among a lot a english words used with a total disregard for the grammer of either language, all of which are pronounced with a funny accent" - in a single word. The singer is not a regular singer. Having said all that, do I like the song? Oh yes. Why? Because I found it to be extremely funny. It has got references to things like "soup boys" and "soup song" and "bouvu" which I have no clue about but what the heck. You can figure out the meaning for these based on the context of the song. As it says - "empty life-u, girl-u come-u, life reverse gear-u". Indeed!! :) Others might have found it funny too and yet others might have connected with the theme of heartbreak that the song tries to portray.

However, and this is me finally getting to the point about opinions, people seem to have a problem just accepting that this song is popular. There are some (like this person) who take the song title too literally (Why this murderous rage, girl) and argue that in a case of heartbreak, the murderous rage is usually exhibited by the guy and so the song and its title are not representative. For these folks who can't seem to enjoy something just because it is, without going into the various existing or non-existing pros, cons, whys and whynots, all I can say is "Wake up and smell the coffee" (if you are Kesha, you should smell your bottle of Jack). Then there is the other type (like this person), who don the mantle of the purist. They diss and dismiss it as not even being a song. For these folks there is nothing I can say. I will just keep laughing at their opinions because they exemplify what I said about opinions in the beginning.