Oasis at MJR Janaki – and hailstones!

MJR Janaki College is just on the other side of the bridge near Malar from here, so I just walked up this morning. Pipe and Danny landed up there by bike. Pipe won Shipwreck (1st), daamn good he was with Bipasha Basu and all and then Pipe and I went and won second on the quiz. We would have gone for more events but we didn’t know there were any. Foolishness.

Anyway, the interesting part. After a while there were hailstones! Thumbnail diameter rocks of ice raining down along with water. I’ve never seen hailstones in Madras before, it was pretty cool. Unfortunately, the rain didn’t last very long and when it had passed we ended up with hot and humid weather with a light drizzle. Let me tell you that this is like being steam-cooked. It was horrible. Anyway, I reached home by dodging puddles of water and staring at that old bridge. The old bridge they should make that a pedestrian bridge, just make it safe and stuff and keep the style. It looks really nice.

End latest update.

India, Twenty20 and my friends

Twenty20 World CupSo the Indian team won the Twenty20 World Cup. I missed most of the match because I’m not into cricket much. I did see the last few balls though, and it seems like it ended rather nicely. People got what they paid for and stuff, if they went to actually watch the match. To quote what I saw that day as I set the page on auto-reload:

19.3 overs – WICKET – Misbah-ul-Haq c Santh b J Sharma 43 – Pkn 152
The floodlights come on. Misbah tries an unorthodox Ashraful-style flick over fine leg – and is caught by our old friend Sree Santh at fine leg! INDIA HAVE WON BY FIVE RUNS – what a finish!

19.2 overs – Pkn 152-9
A low full-toss – and Misbah’s clubbed it over long-on for six! Six now needed off four balls.

19.1 overs – Pkn 146-9
A priceless dot ball as Misbah goes down on one knee but makes no contact. 12 needed off five balls.

Apparently, this victory has spawned a bunch of jokes, some of which are good, one of which I remember. Pipe told me this one:
– “Knock Knock”
– “Who’s there?”
– “Misbah.”
– “Misbah who?”
– “Misbah five runs.”
Ha ha ha, probably one of the best knock-knock jokes I’ve heard in a while.

Then there was Danny’s smart-ass remark on the train the day after the Twenty20 World Cup final. “Kalam should be happy. India are the World Champions in 2020.” Yeah, he’s a smart-ass.

Misbah five runs…[chuckle]

Monthly link post

For things that I can’t seem to describe properly enough. Here’s just the links:

  • ingimp is a modified version of GIMP that you can use to send usability data. Just download it and use it like you would use the GIMP, it’s the same program after all…nearly.
  • An Offline Wikipedia. You’ll need to download the Wikipedia archive which is a couple of GB in size without the images. It’s useful for when other people claim funny things and you can’t correct them because they don’t understand you. For stuff like “you can’t use a normal parabolic dish for mobile phone signal, you need to optimise it for that wavelength”.
  • Motion, a motion-detecting program, useful with a camera that can output video directly to your computer. Like this guy did.
  • Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen: An interesting martial art from Indonesia (sort of). One particular part of it (Kun Tao) focusses almost entirely on defense and some schools actually have an entire belt ranking system for just that.
  • Do we need an Open Source Hardware Licence: Completely unrelated talk here, go check out the OpenSPARC project. Sun released the specifications and source to its UltraSPARC T2 as soon as it was released. Parts were under NDA, but I think they’ll be freer later. The licence used is the GPL 2.0, though they seem open to the GPL 3.0 as of now.
  • Ubuntu Hardware Compatibility List: A nice database to which you can submit reviews on how your hardware works under Ubuntu and check other people’s reviews to see if it’s worth buying the piece.
  • A CC Science Fiction book. Have a look see.Ventus, published by Tor (the same guys who published JOR’s works) is somewhat about ecology. That’s what interested me.

EDIT: And also because I forgot it, the Peru meteor incident. Did someone say ‘Andromeda Strain’?

Tarmon Gaidon came too fast – Jordan is dead

Robert Jordan - Photo by Jeanne Collins We knew it was coming, last year he disclosed that he had amyloidosis. Sure, he has that little rebuke to those of us who’d probably say, “But he said 4 years!” in the middle of that letter but I’ll go ahead and think it anyway. Apparently, amyloidosis is a really rare disease. It’s awfully unlucky that he should’ve gotten it. Rest in peace, J.O.R.

The Wheel of Time is probably my favourite long fantasy series, even though it seemed to be winding down a bit near the end. The climactic battles at the end weren’t so much fun as they were before and there seemed to be a lot of whining and a lot of annoying bits where the Aes Sedai just act like little kids. On the whole though, I’m happy I started reading it (my uncle let me borrow a whole bunch of the books in the series and I filled in the rest by borrowing from Nerus) and I wish he’d kept up the pace that he had in the beginning. Those first few books were fascinating and filled with story, lots of it while the later ones seemed to focus on minutiae. It didn’t seem like they were going to end. Now it looks like they won’t.

Or more likely, the publishers will hire someone to ghostwrite the last section of the book. Though personally I would love it if everything were left open-ended, this isn’t the way I wanted it to go. If RJ had said, “I’m not going to write an ending book. Enough for me.” and left it at that it would be fine. After all there are just too many plot threads to close up. No ending could possibly be satisfactory, there’s just too much to do. Atleast one thing is for certain, we won’t see a Rand Matrim Aybara going to school in a separate One Age Later epilogue added to the rest of the book, unless the ghostwriter is some kind of a misanthropist who secretly dislikes Robert Jordan but admires the Perrin Aybara character. In any case, most of the significant plot details will live on after him because he spoke about them with his family.

Wheel of Time is all the Robert Jordan I’ll ever read, probably. I’m not a big fan of the Conan series so I shan’t be reading all of them that he wrote, and he wrote lots. There’s something to the Wheel of Time, it seems so internally consistent and has some nice references to other things outside. The best part is wondering about the pasts of each of the characters though RJ seems to put a lot of trouble into describing those things in such a way as to leave few doubts. In fact, one slashdot member commented on how he goes into so much detail describing the trees in the forest that you can’t have a clear picture of the forest in the end. Ah well, it’s his book, not mine.

Imagine if the whole series were 6 books, that would’ve been so awesome. I wonder why it was so long. I tried reading the whole series again because by the time I got to 11 I’d forgotten what had happened before and I was surprised at how much I was skipping, there are whole chapters which are just boring. The most horrible thing about the later books is how they ignored the Big Two and instead focussing on fringe characters. I don’t know. I’m confused. I guess I have mixed feelings about the series.

For Marc: Remember what you said Vijayalayan said? Well, uh…

Cartoon Propaganda – The Truth Behind Those Lovable Characters

Slap a Jap??!Yes, Bugs Bunny is racist, and not just the quiet racist type, he’s violently racist and likes blowing up “slant eyes“. Maybe we should let the dead past bury its dead, and allow our childhood favourites to exist in their own happy innocent bubble, or maybe not. I liked Bugs, goddammit, he was a bunny and that makes all the difference. You can’t make Bugs Bunny a racist and not kill off the cartoon childhood of any person. Hey, we know that you were at war and stuff. We know you had to make them out to be stupid and you had to use stereotypes to promote support but why the hell did you have to drag this guy into it. He was supposed to be a practical joker, not some replacement G.I. Joe. And then there’s the retarded SNAFU cartoons with evil spy women with microphones on their breasts. And surely during this time of war you would want to unite your population, yes? No. Because, hey! The blacks are all lazy and big-lipped. They like wearing bones through their noses and they beat on drums and throw spears at the nice white people. They also beg for money to buy war bonds with. The Japanese have an equally bad time, but I can’t say it as well as the guy who wrote the article can. Heck, they get beaten up by Popeye and compared to dogs. But then, here in India, we’re no strangers to that are we? Treating people like dogs, not getting beaten by Popeye.

A quote from the Head Injury Theater article Nazi Nipples is GO:

It sucks to be black in old cartoons. It sucks to be Japanese because you’ll be short, need glasses, and a lot of orthodontic work. Germany has bad leaders. Wait a second. Why is it that in these cartoons they depict the Japanese as being evil down to the last man, while when it comes to Germany they only depict the country’s leaders as being goofy morons? Is it because you couldn’t demonize people of Germanic descent because that would include a large chunk of America’s population?

Ha ha, nice question at the end.

Phone-to-Phone Mobile Connectivity

Remember the time you had a friend sitting in the car going in front of you and you wanted to tell him that you wanted them to stop to decide where to eat? Of course you do. Well, then you also remember you couldn’t make the call to him even though he was just some ten metres away from you because you didn’t have a signal to your local tower. That sounded weird, and you grumbled at the funniness of not being able to call someone who was so close by. That problem may be a thing of the past. The idea that you had all that while, that you told everyone about, someone else actually implemented it.

And who else could it be but the Swedes. They’ve gone and made this: TerraNet’s 1km range peer-to-peer mobile system. Nice chaps.

Live Forever – Learn Sanskrit

Some time ago, I clicked a random ad on a site because it had a funny title proclaiming that the author of a certain book knew how to live for ever or for thousands of years. The name of the book is “Bible of the undying”, but letting his creative juices flow, the author named the web page on which he plugs the book, “Bile of the undying”. The latter sounds like some B movie about zombies, but hey he didn’t say you wouldn’t have a fascination for brains, did he?

Now naturally, seeing as he can live forever, Dr. Barrie wants you to buy his book, so that he won’t live forever starving. We present to you, from the author of The Egyptian Mystical Box, “Bible of the Undying“. There is atleast one man who has succeeded at this but he isn’t willing to share, so you’ll have to count on Dr. Barrie.

Fundamentalist Church Compels Polygamy – Expels Young Boys

Well well well, look at this. Apparently, to reach their idea of a heaven a man must have atleast three wives. Their former ‘prophet’, Rulon Jeffs had some 75 wives and some 65 children. Apparently he convinced them that they were preserving the ‘bloodline’ of Jesus Christ, whatever that is. Very nice. His son, the current ‘prophet’, Warren Jeffs, married all except two of his father’s wives, and probably suffers from some variant of the Oedipus complex. This fellow was on the Top Ten Most Wanted list that the FBI released in 2006 because he’s committed sex crimes like sleeping with a minor and shit like that and he’s now in custody. Good for them.

Sadly, when one man’s got three wives, there are not enough wives to go around, so you have to ensure there are 1/3rd as many guys as girls. This is easily handled, find an excuse to get rid of the boy kids. Sure you don’t kill them or anything but you send them off with nothing but the clothes on their back. Let them fend for themselves, after all, you need that third wife. Luckily there are nicer people in this world, and they’ve helped these guys get a home and get jobs. Ah America, what contrasts!

Here’s the story where I noticed this: Boys Cast Out by Polygamists Find Help – New York Times. You know, the New York Times, that’s the way a news website should be: clean and easy to read, and a button to click to make it all appear on a single page. Kudos to them!

At the end of that story you’ll see a little bit about a guy named Marc who was thrown out of his house because he drove to another town to watch a movie. His father’s four wives were also ‘re-assigned’. Re-assigned?!! What the hell?

Rant – Over-religious people, government workers in India

Over-religious people, or people who are ostentatiously pious, are a royal pain. Unfortunately the large number of Indians can be safely labelled to be so. It’s a what-will-people-think pious, one is religious because one must be atleast as religious as the other family, a kind of pseudo-spiritual keeping up with the Joneses. Naturally I have no problem whatsoever when said people stick to their own houses/mansions/beach houses and do whatever they want there but why oh why must they walk all over the roads? Why must they make life so miserable for the rest of us?

This brings me to another big difference between these over-religious people and a-religious people. A-religious people don’t make life hard for religious people, we don’t play loud songs in temples/mosques/churches, we don’t sing and dance in the streets, we don’t light loud firecrackers, we don’t break melons in the street, we don’t get violent frequently, we don’t have ‘religious sentiments’ which are an arbitrarily defined term used to hold everyone hostage to said over-religious person.

This: Hindus upset over ban on holy dot at certain places of work. Listen, I want to go to work not wearing a shirt. It is my religious sentiment that I should be completely naked (I am a gaiaist, you see, and we worship the natural order) and you know about religious sentiments, don’t you? The sad part is, ‘religious sentiments’ only apply to mainstream religion. Minorities like us are hated and despised, but then, that’s what all religion is about, no? A chosen people, and a lesser unchosen people.

Now, one more thing. These are government workers, those diligent hardworking ants who ensure that the government is running perfectly efficiently and who make sure there is no flaw anywhere in the system. They don’t take bribes, they work their entire quota of the day, they don’t slack off during work hours and are renowned for being good at their job.* Now when something so trivial as this comes up, they’re all there, ready, energetic, shouting slogans, talking about religious sentiments. Now why do I call that trivial? One reason: Their preventing my nudity, the purest form of human existence, is not only morally indefensible it is also a violation of my religious sentiments in a much harsher way than a trivial dot. And yet, so many of these people will also be against me. Hypocrites.

I’m not done yet, no I’m not. They blocked a perfectly good road because of the Velankanni festival thing. They didn’t even do it well. Horrible planning, let me tell you. You don’t block a wide road, park all the buses on it and redirect traffic into tiny lanes. How did that strike them?! Must be all the faith in the words of elders.

That brings me to another thing: Remember when they told you, “Always respect your elders.”? Remember when they made it clear that anything someone old does must automatically be right? Remember the whole bullshit about the guru-sishya, do not question the guru because he knows all thing? Well, that’s crap. Respect is earned, it isn’t some function of age. You can have a smart young man, you can have a stupid old man. Now see, this probably arose from a misunderstanding of “Respect your elders.” It probably started out meaning that you should acknowledge that people older than you have had more experience at life than you and so you must factor that into account, which is okay. But it’s gotten bad. Very bad. Old people aren’t gods. In fact, chances are they’re senile.

That reminds me of a story someone in my class told me, it goes like this: (it’s in a blockquote, but it’s a paraphrase/translation of an old folk tale)

Once there was an old and wise priest and he lived in a house with his disciples. He had a little cat. The priest’s disciples learnt the mantras and chants from the priest. They learnt how to do the puja and stuff like that by copying what he did. Now the problem with the priest’s cat was it was frisky and the priest, knowing this, used to tie the cat up in a corner when he started his puja. One day, the priest died and it was time for the disciples to take his place. They imitated whatever he did in the hope of emulating him. They arranged the ingredients and fire the same way and chanted identically. Then one of them remembered that the priest always tied the cat in the corner. They didn’t know why, but since the priest did it, they copied it and tied the cat in the corner whenever they did their puja business. After a while the cat died, and they had no cat left to tie. Then they went out, bought a cat and tied it in the corner whenever they did their puja.

The story has much more impact when told by the original people in the original language (Tamil), but I think you get the idea. Nice story, personally I think it’s bloody brilliant and maybe I’ll give it it’s own post later :)

*If they’re Osipych, I’m Zapoikin, ha ha.

Post-apocalyptic art

I have a fascination for it, and stuff that’s similar to it. Ruins of cities, civilisations which leave little trace, all these are intriguing and I love artists who paint those scenarios. Sometimes I look at that art and I can build a whole story for myself out of just that one picture, because there can be so much meaning in just that 1200×800 piece. It’s like a book, only richer and more different at the same time. The story isn’t set in stone, it can be what I like. I can extrapolate beyond the boundaries of the painting and put anything there that catches my fancy or that fits my latest story.

Sadly it’s all in the head. I wish I could paint like them or write nice accompanying stories, but all I can do is imagine. Ah well, that’s fun enough for me. :) Ah, nearly forgot what set me off: Vitaly S Alexius’ art. I found that while wandering through the internet and some of the stuff there is mind-blowingly lovely.

In any case, while I’m on this topic I might as well mention one of my favourite comics (the theme itself is enough :) ),
Gone with the Blastwave. Love that comic. And while I’m on comics about post-apocalyptic worlds I might as well mention: Post Nuke Comic.

PS: Anyone know who drew this piece?

Ladies on the step