Friday 1 October 2010

London, baby!

[Title link]

Amidst downing the occasional drink on a very firmly un-occasional basis (in the presence of superiors, no less!), I had an inkling that this trip to London was going to be very different from my previous wide-eyed jaunt as a wee lad of 12 summers past. This feeling was strengthened by an alcohol-induced clearheadedness, which I had to fight a little bit to catch my first glimpse of the London Eye as we swooped down to land. And the minute we settled into the hotel, I was convinced: this *was* different already - I most definitely did NOT stay in a matchbox the last time, and my family's luggage could co-exist with us harmoniously in the same hotel-room.

But there was more to come. Keeping aside minor trifles such as work, there was a lot more to be done. I was older and had done most of the touristy stuff already 15 years ago - now was the time for adventure, the off-beat, the road less taken! So with a heart resolved against going to the Big Ben, I set out towards London Bridge (which was, disappointingly contrary to some expectations, NOT falling down) to meet a few friends for a drink. I had no idea then, of how regular a feature of the Londoner's life that was - drinking, that is, not setting out towards London Bridge.

The Bridge was about 4 km away from the hotel we were staying in, and I bravely decided to hoof it. The brilliant weather of a London summer evening, combined with the stunningly detailed architecture of even the most mundane residential and commercial establishments, did their part in endangering my life every step of the way. So awestruck was I by my surroundings, I rarely ever stopped gawking up at the buildings and the skies! A decidedly modern city in a developed country, yet so mindful and proud of its long and varied history. Nearly every step of the way had a delightful snippet of historical trivia, which completely won over the quiz geek in me.

And that quiz geek ruled dominant for most of the weekends - the Saturday-Sunday trips consisted primarily of one to the Royal Observatory as Greenwich (home of GMT, where everybody steps on the Prime Meridian), Bletchley Park (site of the World War II code-breaking efforts and workplace of Alan Turing, the Father of Computing), and a host of museums! Of course, such elitist snob activities were reserved for only when the sun was up. Dusk and beyond only saw vicarious pleasures, whether it was watching Sallu become cool again, a campy 3D horror flick, adding a notch in the gun of trivial pursuits, or just plain stumbling back into the digs after more than a few rounds of 'experimental indulgence' at a host of the local establishments.

There was the occasional day-time fun as well - London certainly knows how to manage party events. A long week-end saw the Notting Hill Carnival, and my last weekend there was the Thames Festival - both primarily open-air parades of the various cultures that make up London. The former was firmly Caribbean in nature, while the latter delved well into the realms of downright freaky, with samba dancers, zombies, pirates, giant flamingoes, dinosaurs, and robots as well! After capping off my last weekend on-site with a fireworks display of sheer brilliance, it was time to wrap up as many loose ends as possible in the remaining couple of days, down a few bagels at the Heathrow airport while waiting for the darned delayed flight to show up, pick up the customary 2 litres (and a couple of fridge magnets to prove I don't have a one-track mind!) at the duty-free stores and head back home.

If I do get an opportunity to return to the (in my humble opinion) best example of urban planning in the world, I will "mind the gap" this time.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Lalit Modi's colourfully dopey past

Conspiracy to traffic cocaine: Charged [screenshot], and indicted [screenshot].

How many Lalit Kumar Modis from New Delhi would have gone to Duke University in the mid-80s?

Oh the irony, having the misdemeanours of your youth exposed by the same company you've - a quarter of a century later - struck a hojillion-dollar with.

Friday 9 April 2010

Step away from my tomayto/tomahto

The Word of Mouth blog over at The Guardian is running an analysis piece into Tesco's claims of a "super tomato". Specifically, Tesco says that the new breed's non-leak nature will revolutionise the world of sandwiches - by retaining the bread slices' pristine firmness.

As the in-(my)-house expert on making sandwiches with tomatoes in them, allow me to pass profound comment on this new fruit-vegetable-bastard-child:

A little bit of background might be useful here.

Being too cheap and lazy to hire a cook, the domestic arrangement for sustenance translates into me being the maker of morning meals, better known as the Breakfast Bandit. This worked for me, what with my prior expertise in obscure cuisines such as instant noodles (no, I am not a brand slave - I will not call it 'Maggi', even though that's all we use) and Marie-biscuits-with-cheese-and-ketchup.

However, the combination of a sudden interest in fitness and one-too-many listenings to Sir Mix-A-Lot hammered home the reality that all items mentioned above had to be abandoned in favour of what society at large considers 'healthier' alternatives. Simplicity, taste and cost were still pretty high on the list of priorities, which ruled out karela juice and assorted 'organic' produce.

After a few false starts (warning to reader(s): 'dinner leftovers' as a suggestion for breakfast to the ol' ball-and-chain might get you slapped. Or kicked in unpretty places. I'm not saying this happened. Just a warning.), we finally zero'ed in on a solution towards the end of 2009, which is still going strong: Tomato slices on toasted bread-and-butter with the occasional embellishment in the form of cheese spread or chutney. In short, tomato sandwiches.

Now let's look at the role of tomatoes on sandwiches.

Tomatoes aren't meant to have a 'taste' - they're basically water and random red pulp, that is ideal for absorbing anything. The purpose of a tomato on a sandwich is not to impart flavour - the humble tomato slice is a medium for masala, a carrier of condiments, a purveyor of pepper-salt. It is the perfect seasoning delivery mechanism.

Juiciness is, ergo, a necessary property of the tomato, as part of its duties as a seasoning delivery mechanism. But I wouldn't stop here. In fact, I even assert that LEAKINESS is an integral part of a tomato in its role as a slice on bread! In fairness to the article, I do mean toasted bread here, but who in their right mind makes a sandwich without toasting the bread first? I scoff in their general direction.

A reasonably toasted slice of bread should be browned. Toasted bread, however, has this weird property wherein it gets harder with time, if left in dry company. This results in some not-infrequent teeth-gnashing and quite a bit of cursing when attempting to consume such a (shoddily prepared) sandwich.

In summary, the perfect tomato sandwich consists of well-toasted slices of bread, on which the tomato slices have been placed. The requisite seasoning is then sprinkled, sprayed, spritzed or slathered atop these valuable vegetable vehicles (fruit, technically, but that destroys my alliteration, so…). The leakiness of the tomatoes then, over time, ensures that the flavours of the seasoning are well-distributed across the surface of the bread, while still managing to concentrate the total awesomeness of the sandwich right at the centre. This would not be possible if the tomatoes were not leaky.

TL;DR version: Non-leaky tomatoes => non-awesome sandwiches

Consequently, Tesco's tomatoes can, IMHO, go jump their genetically modified (my baseless accusation, not The Guardian's), non-leaky selves off their shelves and onto sandwich Luddites' bread-slices all they want - as long as they stay away from mine.

Note: This does not absolve tomatoes of their two other key requirements.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Horrendous privacy fail had a really popular iPhone app that let users send pics of themselves to other users via their servers. Except these pics were supposedly made 'private' by the following genius algorithm:
  1. Save image in a URL thusly:[arbit 5 characters]
  2. Don't tell anybody else about it
So basically, anyone could just go to any random[5 chars] and chances were pretty good that you'd end up seeing a photo someone sent to someone else. Which was thought to be private, hence was pretty much uninhibited.

Folks on Reddit found this out, and quickly whipped up a script that scraped all the images off that site, and found out one more really interesting thing - the site stored the users' real name along with the pics. This spurred on the hundreds of thousands of jobless intarwebs folks to neatly cross-reference these names with profile pages on Facebook and Myspace. So now junta could, if they were so inclined to (and many were), put a face to the dirtybits in the photos.

Moral of the story: If you don't want your pictures of a 'questionable' nature ending up in undesirable places, do not send them across the Internet. If you must, then verify a few hundred times that it is truly private, then ask your friendly TRUSTY neighbourhood geek to do the same. Then think again a few hundred times if you truly wouldn't mind if the picture(s) ended up in places you didn't really intend it to. After all this, consider the downside of that scenario happening. If you (think you can) can live with it, or shrug it off, or ride it out, then go ahead and hit 'Send'. If you think it won't really matter some time in the future, you are being stupid. At best.

Friday 26 February 2010

His Noodly Appendage is acknowledged

This is awesome. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can rejoice - Pastafarianism has officially been recognised as a religion.

Sample these two screenshots of my thwarted attempts to read about certain subject matter. Focus on the "Target group" heading.

Eminent wootage.

More of the same

India is now on the "trading naughty list" for government-mandated use of open source software.

From the report (scroll to the end):
The industry is also concerned about moves by the government to consider mandating the use of open source software and software of only domestic origin. Though such policies have not yet been implemented, IIPA and BSA urge that this area be carefully monitored.
We like capitalism. But only if it works in our favour.

Friday 19 February 2010

Thursday 28 January 2010

Reality Distortion Tautology

When Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, they held a company-wide town hall meeting, which saw this gem of an exchange:
Someone from the audience asked whether Apple was concerned about cannibalization of business from the iPod with the introduction of the iPhone, and Steve answered that if there's going to be cannibalization of Apple, they want it to be by Apple.
Tell us this, oh Lord Steve (albeit 2.5 years later): How would it be cannibalization, if it were by some other company?

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Notes on the Chennai Open 2010 visit

(Yes, most of these are sweeping generalisations from a limited set of data points. Sue me.)

  • The impossibly obtuse, grumpy and obnoxious folks over at the Hotel New Woodlands had 'lost' our reservation. This meant heading towards the extortionate "deluxe" rooms of Hotel Palm Grove, where the 'bellhops' expect to be tipped for any number of activities ranging from acknowledging your existence, looking at you, and horror of horrors, even smiling at you! One of them who accompanied us till our room after forcibly yanking the Strolley out of my hands refused to leave till explicitly asked to GTFO. Later, yet another helpful soul would expect a palm-greasing for having performed the incredibly complicated and delicate manoeuvre of folding the hotel bill receipt and handing it over from across the counter. Steadfast resoluteness in not responding to such evolved signalling mechanisms would result in a stream of glares and dirty looks from bellchaps unfamiliar with the "Sticks and stones..." axiom.
  • The most benevolent auto-rickshaw drivers felt that the 1.5 jiggabillion light years (JBLY) of distance between Palm Grove and the SDAT Tennis Stadium in Nungambakkam could be, with some effort, traversed for a measly 40 cowrie shells (CS), down from 60 CS for us unwashed masses. After marvelling at the generosity that enabled such fantastic discounts, said unwashed masses (who hailed from lands where rates on lowly clones of similar vehicles ranged from 5 to 7 CS per JBLY) undertook the decidedly arduous journey on foot, which took an excruciatingly long 8-10 hojillion millenia (HJM). (Pedants who insist on standardised measures can refer to end of the post for a conversion table.)
  • Nothing can quite rival the resolution of the human eye. No amount of pictures or videos or HDTV viewing will quite match up to the awesomeness of watching a game court-side. Also, no Charu Sharma. Almost. He did some post-game chats which were thankfully barely audible due to the spectators.
  • Indian tennis spectators are hooligans in general, and downright boorish when Indians are playing. The number of kids squawking and random dudes hollering mid-rally and at the ball-toss was staggering. Seldom have I wanted to strangle children so much.
  • The ballboys (some of them qualified as ball-mamajis - absolutely no trace of ballgirls) were singularly the least enthusiastic people around the stadium. Easily the laziest ever set of ballfolk in the ATP tour, they waited for the players to knock over the stray balls to them! The listless shuffling around was embarassing - I have seen (and been) bored backrow students during "Thought For The Day" and "Param Pita Ko Karo Pranam" recitals in school morning assembly sessions more alert than this bunch of stragglers.
  • The linespeople had collectively decided to share about 40% of their workload with the Chair Umpire, who had a LOT of over-ruling and covering up for late calls to do.
  • I am not too sure what happens at other ATP events, but the scheduling for this one was beyond terrible. The entire stadium, including television and media crews, seemed to wrap up and go home after the Devvarman-Sanam Singh duo were ousted in the first doubles semi-final (which itself saw - surprisingly - poorer attendance than the singles semis), resulting in an eeriely deserted atmosphere for the second semi. Much pomp and circumstance marked Marin Cilic prevailing over Stanislas Wawrinka in the final, following which Granollers-Ventura were left to savour their victory over Lu-Tipsarevic in relative anonymity. Santiago Ventura sent down a couple of unreturnable serves. Ace Ventura jokes were made. Loudly.
  • Dudi Sela - Best. Name. Evar. For cheering, that is. What A Dudi, Sindbad the Sela, international best-Sela, four of us yelling out a syllable at a time, Sela Sela How You Said It To Me, Pothy's Pattu Sela, Kannagi Sela. All this and more.
  • Janko Tipsarevic seems to be the new most popular tennis chap in Chennai, going by the number of yells of "Come On Janko!" and "Go Tipsy!". Helps that he is tres cool.
  • Sanam Singh might be next in line for Great Indian Tennis Hope.
  • Cricket-type armchair criticism in tennis matches trumps bawling babies as single biggest annoyance.
  • Players' Box seats are next best seat in the house, after Chair Umpire Chair.
  • Limiting daily ticket sales to one per head to folks spending upwards of two hours in queues, after doling out truckloads of donor/sponsor/corporate passes that never get used, is Not Cool™. Claiming a sell-out crowd then, with swathes of empty seats starkly visible, is just plain disingenuous and dishonest.
  • Pondicherry is great this time of year. French Quarter - good. Beaches - better. Dolphins - best!

** Conversion Table for Units **
1 JBLY = 1 kilometre
1 HJM = 1 minute
1 CS = 1 INR or Re.1