Jul 22, 2018

Pencil, pen, keyboard

Pencil, pen, keyboard- I always felt I am very inefficient at using them. After my 12th, I learned to type, even passing a 40 wpm exam. However, the standard PC keyboard's arrangement is different from the typewriter (the layers are flatter) and hence I was never able to translate that learning into the digital domain. I am a two-three finger touch typist now but obviously could do better.

Same with pens - my handwriting varies with the nature of the pen, paper, and I suspect, even purpose of writing.

I have recently found myself using pencils a lot more than I used to. (We have purchased so many pencils for CTQ and Thinq2win that the house, bag, and notebooks are infested by them). I think my ineffectiveness with pencils is the least worrisome. It is like humming a tune poorly or dressing badly. Done in the safety of the house,  you have nothing to prove and nothing to be ashamed of.

"Varumayin Niram Sivappu" - a Kamal film

"Varumayin Niram Sivappu" (or 'the colour of poverty is red') is a Tamil film by K. Balachander featuring Kamalahassan and Sridevi (it was also made in Telugu and remade in Hindi). Like films such as Mere Apne, the story is about the urban educated unemployed. Irrespective of what we think of our past,  current, and future  professional prospects, I think anyone reading this has never been in a desperate situation with regards to unemployment. These films serve as a document that such a period existed, and quite likely, still exists for people outside our sphere of social connection.

Kamalahassan's character, born to a well to do musician, is unable to reconcile his principles (inspired by the poet-freedom fighter Bharatiyar) with the moralities of most jobs. Poverty is a consequence but as in most KB films, there is a clever way of depicting this world. Like a scene where the lead and his friends pretend to have an elaborate meal behind closed doors so that Sridevi, waiting outside the house for them to finish, thinks they have something to eat.

Finally, the lead finds a job he is happy with - being a barber. It could have been treated as a comic situation but poverty, while being occasionally comic, is not a subject for slapstick. The colour is red, but sometimes, it can be light.

"I, Claudius"

Did you know a lame, partly deaf, stuttering man was once Emperor of the Romans? 'I, Claudius" is a British TV series from the point of view of Claudius, who probably survived routine purges because people thought he was literally an idiot.

In reality, he wasn't. The series, with a cast of some very good British actors, begins from the reign of Augustus and reaches Nero (Christ is born along the way). In between, you get an interesting lesson in Roman history of the Empire at its peak: peak of intrigue, decadence, and power. Most fascinating is the character of Livia, Augustus' wife, who outlived many a plot, and whose sole aim in life was to end up a Goddess.

As Obelix might have put it, these Romans were crazy.

A Persuasive Paragraph to Pardon a Pig

(written on a prompt on a writing group - "convince me that this pig deserves to live")

Winston Churchill once said: "Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Only pigs treat you as equals."

So my friend, there's not much that separates you and me. Don't go by the exterior (yours, not mine). We all know the filth you are capable of wallowing in. Perhaps it is a sign of my much-acclaimed intelligence that I refuse to hide it under cloth and cover, polish and perfume, bath and beautician.

Philosophy comes as naturally to us pigs as pork. Keep me on the other side of your plate and we can write a best-selling self-help book together. I even have a title: "Bringing home the bacon".

Shall we shake hands and oink the agreeement?

Oct 29, 2016

"Mere piiche maa hai"

In an interesting gesture, Indian cricketers are wearing jerseys with names of their mother instead of where their first/last name would be. Not sure whose idea it was, but since Star, both the sponsor of the Indian team and the sportscaster for the series, has used this in their promotions, it's clearly a PR/marketing choice.

Call me cynical, but I thought this was a fairly hollow gesture. Not so much because it's obviously driven by a PR objective (which seems to have worked well - fair amount of online chatter and coverage), but because it doesn't feel very authentic. None of these players, from what I know, have been associated with this line of thinking before, and it's not associated with the brands of the BCCI, the game of cricket, or Star. And assuming it's a one-off gesture, this is going to be ultimately meaningless.

Compare this with:

* Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali who has adopted his mother's name in his own

* The Pink days at the SCG to raise awareness about Breast Cancer by the McGrath foundation (because of a deep connection with Glenn McGrath)

For this gesture feel 'authentic', it ought to be * reflected in everything the brands behind this do from here on (including supporting women's cricket?). I'm sceptical. Will this just be one piece of trivia for a future cricket quiz, or can one expect more meaningful outcomes along with a PR success?

Oct 19, 2016

Cynics and dreamers - the aisle seat is for neither.

Apropos this Economist article.

I used to prefer aisle seats on domestic flights until I realised one day, I'm going to end up murdering people sitting in the middle/window seats who want to get into the aisle as soon as the plane has landed so that they can stand uncomfortably on the toes of mental midgets like themselves. Have had quite a few if-looks-could-kills and actual arguments.

So looks like the cynics should prefer the window seats, and are better off dreaming about a future where everyone remains calmly seated as the plan comes to a halt instead of wanting to instantly eject out of their seats (which I would gladly help them accomplish while in the air, if I could).

"Cat Pictures Please"

Here's the winner of the 2016 Hugo for Best Short Story. In keeping with the flavour of the season, it features an AI. It's pretty good.

Sep 25, 2016

It's been 2 years since the Mars Orbiter Mission (also known as 'Mangalyaan' when it's at home, sipping tomato juice) officially began its orbit around the Red Planet. They hoped it would be there for six months - another 18 months and it seems to be doing just fine.

I wrote this piece for Architectural Digest last year about MOM on its first orbital anniversary. Here's to MOM painting the town red for some more time.

Sep 22, 2016

Chrome Fume

The biggest personal productivity boost in recent times has come by unchecking a single checkbox: the one that says 'enable hardware acceleration' in Chrome's settings (on Win 10). I haven't quite figured out why this option had caused such a slow down, but apparently, it's something to do with the display drivers.

I've often had to wait for as much as 10-15 mins after the laptop resumes from sleep for Chrome to come back to life.

For once, a silver bullet.