Thursday, December 22, 2005


Mary's boy child Jesus Christ,
was born on Christmas Day,
And Man will live for ever more,
because of Christmas Day!

To say that I'm not a very religious person would be an understatement. In fact, if not for my Mom who has made my habit of going to Church every Sunday a regimen after much gentle coaxing in the form of ear-pulling, I might almost be an agnost. For eleven months of the year that is. Then the Christmas season comes around and it err.. does things to me. Things that my Mom would have never imagined possible. I clean up my room. I don't have as much of a problem getting up in the morning. I smile a lot more than I usually do. I greet people I've never met... and the list goes on.

Of all the fond memories that Christmas brings to my mind, decorations are the most striking. Every year my sis and I ask Dad for money to buy decorations. We normally get what we want. After all Christmas decorations are a far nobler cause than chocolates. After much haggling we decide on what to buy. "Shopper boy" (yours truly) is dispatched with disdain to do the actual purchasing and we then get down to the task of putting the decorations up. This is where the fun starts.

Obviously one can't start hanging things randomly all over the place. So we sit around and brainstorm on possible arrangements. Now this is not as easy as you guys might think. If I want the Christmas tree in one corner of the room, it would turn out that Nish would want it in any corner but that corner. If Nish wants the "Merry Christmas" sign on the wall facing the main door and the "Happy New Year" sign on the wall parallel to the door, I want just the opposite. If I want a diamond steamer arrangement across the ceiling, Nish wants a rectangular one. If Nish wanted to twirl the streamers before putting them up, I would want them straight. I must reluctantly state here that she gets her way most of the time except when she loses her temper and lets out a piercing scream, in which case Mom comes over and settles the issue in my favor to punish her for screaming. (*rubbing hands in glee*)

Of course some ridiculous proposals are vetoed at the very start by mom and dad.. like my proposition that we put up the longest hanging we had in the middle of the room where it would hit the heads of everyone taller than 5 feet. (All I wanted was to stand under the hanging and jump up and touch it with my head *hurt look*). Or the one where I thought that the TV and the refrigerator could do with some decoration. That proposal didn’t last long either.

The actual menial job of "putting up" everything, I'm ashamed to say was done by my sister. My role was restricted to holding the stool on which she was standing. Now before you begin to ridicule me, I would like to explain the logic behind this. Both of us had not grown to our full height then and quite often the height of one stool was insufficient. So we ended up putting one stool or chair on top of another which resulted in a highly unstable setup. Before your scorn for me intensifies, let me draw your attention to two facts. 1) I weighed more than my sis. 2) I was stronger. From 1) and 2) it follows that it would be safer for both of us if the lighter person got on to the "contraption" and the stronger person held it to prevent it from toppling over. I don't know if this logic appeals to you, but thankfully it did to my sister and she dutifully climbed up whenever needed.

Setting up the crib is perhaps the most herculean task of all. Work on this starts over two weeks before Christmas when we spread mustard seeds on soaked cotton. The figures of the Holy Family, shepherds, magi and animals are placed among the greenery after the seeds have sprouted and reached a size of about three inches. After midnight mass on Christmas eve, the 'baby Jesus' doll is placed in the center and our Christmas kicks off!

One last thing.. I NEED a break.. from studies, from work and most of all from computers of any kind. So I am now taking off for a vacation.. NO Internet, NO emails, NO chatting, NO online gaming. I'm off to gallivant around the country with my sis.. Take care everybody..

I wish you a Merry Christmas;
I wish you a Merry Christmas;
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Good tidings I bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring me a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring me a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring me a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer

I won't go until I get some;
I won't go until I get some;
I won't go until I get some, so bring some out here

I wish you a Merry Christmas;
I wish you a Merry Christmas;
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005


"The discovery of two large pieces of the Titanic's hull on the ocean floor indicates the fabled luxury liner sank faster than previously thought, researchers said Monday."... is the gist of an article that appeared on a few days ago. 5th December 2005 to be exact.

You can find the original article on CNN here..

Close to a hundred years after the tragedy, the Titanic still fascinates..

A tentative timeline for future findings about the Titanic and their corresponding news clippings follow:

April 18th, 2055
Scientists discovered yesterday that the iceberg that struck the Titanic was actually not an iceberg but a meteor that crashed into the earth around 1000 years ago. Matter embedded in the hull tells researchers that this meteor was made of a strange element that has not been discovered yet. The porous nature of this element enabled the meteor to float. There is an on-going search for a suitable name for the element. Unfortunately, though 'titanium' is the most logical name, it already exists. Most scientists are currently leaning towards 'titanicium'.

September 7th, 2082
Recent studies of depressions on the ocean floor have refuted previous claims made in 2005 that the Titanic split into two before sinking. The size of the depression indicates clearly that the Titanic was still in one piece at the time of impact. This of course means that she sank much slower than she was thought to have in 2005. However, the reason for the existence of the two large pieces remains unknown. A twenty member research group, funded by a twenty million dollar grant from the National Science foundation (NSF), has been formed to determine the reason for the split and the possible time-period of its occurrence.

October 11th, 2091
The members of the research group sanctioned to investigate the reasons behind the split hull of the Titanic nine years ago, are said to be divided in their interpretation of what exactly happened.The first group proposes the 'Earthquake theory' which claims that the split was a result of an undersea earthquake that occurred in the vicinity in the 1940s. From the surrounding damage and effect, seismologists estimate the earthquake in question to have been atleast 8.1 in magnitude on the Richter scale. The second group proposes the 'Blue Whale theory', which claims that a blue whale pair migrating south to mate and have babies in the warmer water collided head on with the wreck of the Titanic and caused the split. 'Two distinctive dents' are quoted as proof of this occurence. The sharp edges around the dents, seem to indicate that the collision occurred relatively recently, probably sometime in the 1980s. An additional one million dollars have been sanctioned to resolve this issue and bring to light the actual happenings.

November 14, 2093
Late last afternoon, markings on the hull revealed that the name of the Titanic was not really Titanic but "Some-very-very-very-long-name-like-this". The markings are too faint to be sure of the name. It is thus surmised that the popular name Titanic reflects the size of its name and not the actual size of the ship. This discovery resolved long-standing doubts in the minds of scientists about the authenticity of the 'largest-ship' claim. These doubts have been lingering ever since intense underwater research seemed to indicate that the hull did not seem to be big enough for such a claim, even if the two pieces were put together.

July 8th, 2094
John Cameron, grandson of James Cameron has announced plans for "Titanic II" scheduled to be released in the summer of 2097 exactly one hundred years after "Titanic" hit the screens. This movie will take into account recent findings since the original movie was released. In addition it will be by far the most expensive movie ever made. This time the ship itself will not cost as much since it will be smaller. However, 'titanicium', the element the meteorite was made of is considerably more expensive than ice and so will cost a mammoth one billion dollars. In order to increase the footage of this extravagant meteorite set, the movie will include a scene in which 'Leonardo di Caprio' and 'Kate Winslet' look alikes make out in a cave on the huge meteor. This is already hyped as the major attraction of the movie. Something to watch out for!! Speculation is mounting on whether the much acclaimed sketching scene of Kate Winslet in the nude will be reproduced in this version of the movie. Only time will tell. Keep your fingers crossed.

The movie will also talk of the split of the Titanic after its sinking where 'Rachel Weisz' and 'Brendon Fraser' look alikes will take on the roles of 'researchers', who during an intense making out session, chance upon the true reason behind the splitting of the hull of the Titanic. There has already been a lot of controversy over which theory will be used. At the current time, it is rumored that John(to his credit) favors the 'Earthquake theory' over the 'Blue Whale theory'. However, it is almost certain that the ending will be finalized only after the concerned research group submits its report in late 2096.

And I thought I had nothing worthwhile to do.. :D

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Big Apple

I just love it up the Empire State Building. Makes me feel like I rule the world. (Though I played no direct part in it's construction.. err.. no indirect part either I think, but wouldn't be able to tell for sure.. :D) Getting up there is very easy. Just follow the simple steps outlined below...

  1. Stand in a queue to enter the building. This queue is the fastest moving. Thankfully so, because you might just add to the architectural beauty of New York by freezing into ice-men/ice-women if the wait were even a wee bit longer.

  2. Stand in a queue to clear security. Remember to hold your pants up while removing your belt. Also, note that you will be asked to turn on your laptop to confirm that it is not a bomb. This step kind of puzzles me. What if turning it on sets off the bomb or better still triggers a timing mechanism? DO NOT turn it on if it IS a bomb. Or atleast make sure I'm not in the vicinity before doing so.

  3. Stand in a queue for purchasing the ticket. Shell out 14 dollars.

  4. Stand in a queue for the elevator to the 80th floor. This queue moves at an agonizingly slow pace which is surprising given the fact that everyone in the huge building is packed into the elevator at one go. Atleast, that is the impression I got when I had to stand with my face pressed into the back of this enormous man and my hands and legs stretched out at unnatural angles. To it's credit the elevator was fast else I might have died of suffocation.

  5. Stand in a queue to have your picture taken in front of a picture of the Empire State Building. I wonder if they realise this could be done anywhere.. in India, on a ship or on the moon dammit.

  6. Stand in a queue for an elevator from the 80th to the 86th floor. Get crushed again.

  7. This is it! Step out for a view from 1050 feet above ground level!
Yes, it was worth it but only just. Something has to be done about all that waiting time.

New York during the Day.

New York during twilight.

New York in the night. (Taken on an earlier trip.. I'm really proud of this pic)

This is the pic I was talking about.. in front of the picture of Empire State.. lol.

Times Square!

A trip to New York never fails to bring back memories of good old India. The same old dirty streets of Chennai, the same bumper-to-bumper traffic of Bangalore and more people than you would find around Charminar in Hyderabad. Random incidents:
  • I walk upto a guy and ask him directions to a certain parking garage. He looks at me scornfully and turns away to attend to something else leaving me wondering if I'd said something wrong.

  • A guy bangs into my friend and then glares at him as if it were all his fault! Contrast this with an incident near my university where I was looking over my shoulder and collided with this girl so hard that she fell down. Even as I helped her up, SHE was apologising profusely though it was clearly MY fault!!!

  • We had a rushed dinner in a Punjabi Dhaba that reminded me of the numerous 'fast food' centers in Chennai. And err.. the restroom was messier than the ones that could be found in the bus stand and railway stations back home.
It's amazing how bad incidents can make you nostalgic. (sigh)

This last picture is for Silverine, the girl whose dreams I'm haunting in my nice new crew cut.. hehe. Please note that if you look carefully enough, you should be able to see my scalp. That's short enough don't you think?... :p

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Vingt faits aléatoires sur moi

NO! There are no prizes for guessing what that means..

I was flattered into doing this tag when Neeta said "It'll be fun to know stuff about ya". (I know.. Flattering me is easier than tying your shoelaces.. there's one fact for you.. ;-)). She was right about it not being a tough task. Having lived for over twenty years now, it wasn't all that difficult to come up with a measly twenty facts. Of course, the facts would be more random if I jotted down my observations over a long period of time. However, I have tried to avoid stating obvious facts about myself like "I love driving", "Yes Minister is my favorite book" or "I love travelling". Here goes..

1. I like to think most people are good at heart by the simple logic that if there were more bad people in this world than good people, the world would have been destroyed long long ago..

2. I think anti-viruses are a pain in the.. err... I just format my system once in a while..

3. I will eat fruits only if there is someone around to peel the skin off for me and cut them into little pieces that will comfortably fit in my mouth. Bananas and seedless grapes are the only exception. Mom, I miss you.. sob..

4. Trust is important for me. I cannot emphasize just how much.. I hate it when people ask me for something and then keep pestering me about it. They should trust me to get things done. I also dislike it when people mistake my intentions. Either TRUST me or just stop talking to me.

5. The hair on my head is denser than the Amazon Rain forest. My hair has another peculiar quality. It represents the perpendiculars to all possible tangents that can be drawn to the surface of my head. (For the non-mathematically inclined- My hair POKES). Hence the nick name 'Porcupine'. You definitely do NOT want to run your hand through my hair. Several people have had to pay for their affection by going around with bandaged palms for a whole month.

6. No one has beaten me yet in scrabble.. :p

7. I like being alone sometimes and don't understand why people find this more difficult to understand than even the most complicated physics theorems.

8. If I talk pleasantly to you all the time you're probably mistaken in assuming that I'm a great friend of yours. If on the other hand I argue a lot with you and keep making suggestions for your betterment then I probably care for you a lot more than I could ever put into words.

9. I have never had a crush on a celebrity. Only on real people I happen to meet. Or atleast talk to.. ;-).

10. I need two pillows to sleep. One for my head and one to hug. (Though one will probably suffice after I get married... ;-)).

11. I mess up my desk pretty often but I can't bring myself to make a mess of my bed.

12. I tend to get attached a tad too easily.

13. I speak at a speed comparable to the good old Concorde of the yesteryears.. I have to make it a point to slow down when compering so people can actually catch atleast 50% of what I'm saying.

14. I can be a bundle of contradictions sometimes. For instance, I want a wife who would make me coffee every morning, pack a nice lunch for me and return home before I do in the evening to welcome me. Yeah.. Who doesn't? The problem is I also want someone who can kid me around, fight with me and take sarcastic digs at me. There's your contradiction for you.. :D

15. I find it very hard to say NO.

16. I love having a lot of credit cards in my wallet, though I don't have the heart to use them very often. I've got some beautiful designs. One of my university, one of a lightning strike and a transparent one.

17. I dislike most computer games. Real time strategy games are an exception though. I once played Age of Empires for over 20 hours at a stretch! But those days are gone.. sigh.

18. The last time I watched television for more than a few hours at a stretch was during the first innings of the World cup 2003 finals. TV has been a strict no-no since then.

19. I have spent more time collecting/downloading songs than actually listening to them.

20. I normally like to plan well in advance but find some on-the-spur-of-the-moment decisions adventurous. We discussed going to New York over a late dinner today and we're leaving in 4 hours from now! I better catch some shut eye now...

But before that.. I've got some unfinished business to attend to.. (laughs devilishly). I regret not tagging anyone the last two times. This is where I get back at my previous taggers.

I hereby declare..



Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Why did I come to the United States?

In all honesty, the answer to that question must be..


All I know is: ever since I was a small kid, I had wanted to come here. I consider myself logical in most respects, but in this case I must admit that logic has very little to do with it.

I did not come here to obtain a first class education in my field of study. I did not come here with the intention of expanding my knowledge by putting to good use the technology at hand. I did not come here because of a lack of work/study opportunities back home. I did not come here because there were no institutions of higher learning back home in India that were worthy of me. I did not come here because of the much acclaimed work environment.

I came here because, I was naive enough to fool myself into believing that it would be a whole new world. Oh.. it's a whole new world alright. Only, I do the same things here that I did back home.. lol.

- I still study at the last minute.

- I still spend hours before the computer. (outside of classes/work)

- I still drive anytime I get a chance.

- I still accept any invitation to play games, irrespective of my workload.

- I still to listen to Hindi/Tamil music and watch Hindi/Tamil movies.

- I still dress like I used to. (No cargos and the like)

- I still have more Indian friends than American ones.

And most importantly,


I guess I always will.... :-).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It's a small small world!

A few weeks ago, someone mailed me out of the blue and said.. "You mentioned something about National Public School, Bangalore in one of your posts. Did you study in the Indiranagar branch? I don't remember you, but I am 23 and I studied there from 1986-2000."

I replied saying that I was indeed from the same branch and that I studied there from 1986-1994, but that I didn't recollect her either. We then exchanged a couple of mails about our teachers and classmates and concluded from their names that we only studied in the same section in the first standard! Since we had never known each other in school, the emails died down soon. But I was left wondering about my really close friends back then.

Although most events and people so far back in the past are hazy memories, I never could forget this girl who used to sit next to me in the fifth standard. The reason being that I used to make her cry almost every single day with some prank or the other. I would place my pencil box on her seat when she stood up to answer a question. I would imitate her voice. I would steal her pencils, rubbers and sharpeners. I must also mention here, the competition we had on who could write in a "smaller" print.. lol. You would need a microscope to read what we had written.

So I decided to try and look her up on Names Database. And *surprise* *surprise* it worked. I found the matching first and last name! I crossed my fingers and dashed away a quick message. A few days later.. I get an email that started.. "Hi Leon, This is the same stupid girl who used to sit next to you in fifth standard..." That made my day.. :-)

Of course, I don't expect to be in touch for very long. She studied with me 11 years back.. So what? We have gone our different ways since. No friends in common, no events in common, no classes in common, no job in common. We have probably grown up very different from what we were. She is as good as a stranger now. In fact, if I happened to meet her, I wouldn't have anything to say!

But that still doesn't take away the thrill of having communicated in some way with someone you never in your wildest dreams imagined you would ever talk to or hear of again...

To think my blogging triggered this.. :D.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Yours truly in a tux.. :D

I just got back from our Diwali function.. It was AWESOME!!! As promised.. here are a couple of pictures of me in a suit.. (sob.. I've lost my anonymity totally now.. :D).

ALL of us!

A picture of me after the event..

I haven't got a chance to look at all the pictures.. will post more later!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pennies - A royal pain

If you are new to America, the first thing that catches your attention when you are visiting a friend's house is a mountain of ancient coins. It could be anywhere, though more often than not in a prominent location in the living room. In a cover or in a bowl. Your curiosity is aroused. As you move in for a closer look, wondering if your friends are hardcore numismatists or have struck treasure of some kind, you see "1 cent" written boldly across the centre of a coin in the pile and realisation strikes.. Pennies!

Before we move on let me tell you what I think of pennies.

I THINK PENNIES ARE A ROYAL PAIN IN THE ..... In keeping with the tradition of this blog, I will steer clear from profanity and resist my urge to use an expletive here. But you get my point. Quite literally, in fact. I should know. Everyday, I squirm around in my chair cursing the ten odd pennies I've forgotten to remove from my wallet the previous night. Every night I find a new hole in my pant pockets courtesy the same pennies, that I had moved from my wallet to my pockets after violent protests from my err.. behind. Now don't get me wrong. I am not a coward who shirks at the very mention of pain or discomfort. I would gladly go through a lot of pain for a worthy cause but for something I consider to rank among the top 10 of all useless things in the world.. I REFUSE.

America is supposed to be the richest country in the world. Looking at the number of pennies being passed around, you would think she is a nation of beggars. Quite frankly, even beggars would have no use for pennies and I'm sure they have their own unusable collections of pennies stashed away. The onus is on the word "unusable". If all the unused pennies in America were melted we would have enough metal to lay a railway track from Los Angeles to New York.

At the current exchange rate, 1 cent would translate to ~40 paise. For ~2 cents in India, you could get ONE banana. In the US however for 2 cents you would get ZERO bananas. In fact, zero of everything. You would need ~20 cents to buy a banana. And I really can't think of anything much cheaper than that. I'm sure you will agree with me that any sane person would prefer to pay in a higher currency than carry around 20 coins. Lest there be any doubt, let me also state that I am as sane as my next door neighbor(Who is quite sane, let me assure you). So the coins in my wallet/pocket are dumped on my desk. I pay for a banana or anything else for that matter in a higher currency say quarters or dollars. What do I get in return? More pennies!!! grrrr... The height of the mountain on my desk is still rising. I'm afraid it will touch the ceiling before I graduate.

In the highly unlikely event that an American Senator or Congressman reads this post and decides to do something drastic like propose a bill abolishing pennies, he couldn't. Why couldn't he? Because of the abominable practice of pricing items in the following fashion:
Gas (1 gallon): 1$ 99c or after the recent increase 2$ 47c
Milk (1 gallon): 1$ 59c
Bananas (1 pound): 59c
Tomatoes (1 pound): 99c
Items on restaurant menu: 2$ 99c to 19$ 99c (but not a single round figure)

Note that every transaction REQUIRES that you get 'useless' pennies back. Do marketers seriously think that consumers are fooled by this "psychological pricing" gimmick? Do they really think that people would think of a 9$ 99c purchase costing them in the range of 9$ and not 10$. And by any chance do such people exist? If so, in which country? I would like to settle there and replace Bill Gates as the richest man in the world.

I thank the stars for the widespread use of credit/debit cards, for in their absence, utter chaos would reign in the United States; caused not by hurricanes "Rita" or "Katrina" but the force generated by continuously passing pennies back and forth.

What prompted this post:A few months ago, a friend of mine, Sunil, left UNH to study at a university in Florida. He left me some stuff that he thought I could use. I was rummaging through them today and found this polythene bag filled with pennies!!! With friends like him, who needs enemies?

If any resident of America reading this post would like to claim that she/he has never been in possession of more than a hundred pennies at some point in time, please post a comment with your contact information. I would like to set up an appointment with you for I have never had the privilege of meeting an insane person.

I'm attaching a picture of the pile of pennies on my desk for added emphasis...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bhangra... and me!

Preparations are in full swing for Diwali. Yup you heard right.. Diwali may be long gone for the rest of the world but it isn't over yet for UNH. A couple of days ago yours truly was asked to participate in a Bhangra dance. Yours truly very enthusiastically reported for a practice session. It must be noted that I have not done much dancing in the last 10 years except for swinging my arms and legs like a madman at a few dance parties. Much to my dismay I discovered that Bhangra required feats of a greater magnitude.

Firstly, it was expected that I would get my hands and legs to move simultaneously. I tackled this problem very intelligently using the divide and conquer method. I first got my leg movement right. Then I got my hand movement right. Finally, I tried to put both together. "Tried" is right, because I couldn't. When my legs moved, my hands would be paralysed and vice versa. It was downright frustrating.

On top of that, I was expected to get my shoulders to shake. However hard I tried, my shoulders remained rigid and unmoving and only my hips would shake. I guess I've seen too many of those tamil songs. Imagine concentrating hard to move your shoulder muscles and your hips shaking instead. After giving serious thought to the matter, I tried to consciously move my hips to see if my shoulders would move but they didn't. More frustration.

After the one and a half hour practice session, I was offered feedback from several members of the audience(participants in other dances). Comments ranged from "It would look as if we were short of people, if the compere had to step on stage to perform" to "Perhaps you would be more suited to a break dance or a tamil folk dance."

I sat pondering over the hidden comments for some time and then decided to gracefully withdraw from the dance and stick to compering, administrative tasks and a skit. The sigh of relief that emanated from the gathering could probably have been heard as far as India.

All's well that ends well.. :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A new look

Exams were announced today for two of the three courses I'm taking this semester, 'Distributed Operating Systems' and 'Interactive Data Visualization'. Almost immediately, I inexplicably developed a passion for CSS and HTML, both of which would at best fetch me zero points on the above mentioned exams. Hence this 'new' look.

I have deviated from a rule of thumb I normally follow very strictly, "black text on a white background". But I thought a change would help, just as moving furniture around your room once in a while makes you feel good. The Christmas season is fast approaching and I would like to keep this background until after Christmas. But go ahead and yell at me if the background sucks so I know that a change to a more subtle background is called for.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I bought a car!!!

Yup.. A "Volkswagen Passat". It's been about three weeks now... Seven silly things I did after I bought my car..

  1. Went round and round the parking lot 10 times before having the heart to park.
  2. Purposely missed an exit, drove 10 miles to the next exit and payed a damned toll in between.
  3. Drove through campus playing hindi/tamil music at a volume that almost shattered the windows AND my ear drums, getting dirty looks from all and sundry. (I didn't give a damn though.. )
  4. Drove 5 miles to 'Dunkin donuts' for hot chocolate, three days in one week at 3 am in the morning.
  5. Spent most of last month's pay cheque on gas. (sigh)
  6. Drove to the dining hall, downtown store and church all of which are not more than 500 metres from my dorm.
  7. Took a cloth and wiped the dust off my car.. (This takes the cake for being the most unusual thing I've ever done.. It is so unlike me to do something like that.. hehe)
Pics follow..

Right now, I'm thinking of a name to christen my car with... ;-)

Friday, November 04, 2005

The London 'tube'

I was doing some research for my graphics project when I came across something interesting. A map of the London underground also called 'the tube'...

Now that you've seen the picture and are wondering at it's significance, let me tell you that it was designed in 1931 by 'Harry Beck' who first realized that "when you are underground it doesn't matter where you are." He proceeded to distort the scale and in doing so created an entirely new London totally different from the disorderly geography of the city above. If the tunnels were modeled geographically, this is how the map would look..

The 'tube map' has since been copied widely by all major cities in the world in maps of their respective undergrounds. Until 1931 however, all maps were geographic and confused the users to no end. No wonder they lapped up the 'tube map' when it was released.. lol..

I was just wondering about how things that were previously unknown seem so perfectly obvious to us.. so much so that we fail to value the creative efforts of our predeccessors.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The title of my blog..

When I first started blogging, there were mixed reactions about the title of my blog. Some thought I couldn't come up with anything else. Others thought I was trying to be pompous. A few credited me with a little more 'thinking' and asked me what my title meant. Their questions ranged from "respect to whom or what?" to "why greatest possible"? "with respect" would do if you want to be polite and courteous and state that you respect the views of your readers.

Though politeness and courtesy are important to me, they are NOT the reason behind this title.

To cut a long story short, the title has been picked from the "Yes Minister" series which I talked about here and here. However, I am not yet willing to spell out the context in which the phrase has been used.. After all, I have waited four months hoping that someone as great a fan of that book as I, would come by and spot that term immediately.. I can wait a little longer. A 50$ prize to the first person who discovers the context.. And I'm not KIDDING. :D

Clue 1: I guess I WAS trying to be a little pompous.. ;-)

Clue 2: The underlying theme of most of my posts (atleast until date)..

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


It's Diwali today and having said all I had to say on the subject in a previous post I have nothing to say.. :-(

So I'm redirecting you to Out of thin "smoke"

I know.. I know.. I should have waited until Diwali to post that. Don't rub it in.

I can safely say "Happy Diwali" (Happy Deepavali to some) now! And yes.. I missed being blasted out of bed for a second consecutive year.. (sigh)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Guide to the Successful Completion Of Your Engineering Project

For quite some time now, I have been badgered with innumerable comments from engineering students back home about the hardships faced while venturing to complete their final semester project required for graduation. I have faithfully preserved every mention of this subject, added my own personal experiences to this amazingly huge collection of anecdotes and have come up with a list of FAQs that I'm sure will be of great sevice to the miserable engineering students of Tamil Nadu.

This guide is presented with the best intentions at heart. It does not guarantee a high score or even a passing grade in your project. The author is not liable for any injury (mental or physical) that may result from the application of the ideas outlined in this post.


Q) When does the torture start?

A) Early in the fourth year, when you are asked present your staff with a title for the project you will be pursuing in your final semester and state where or with whom you will be doing it.

Q) Isn't that an easy task?

A) It should be.. but for several conditions imposed by the department.
- The project must not be done at some project consultancy
- You will have normal classes for three days of the week and can only work for 2 days on your project in any organisation that you choose.

Q) Those conditions don't seem too bad..

A) Indeed? Please note that two days a week for one semester is about a month and a half in real time and that, every company representative will argue, is how long it will take you to get acquainted with the location of the restroom and the canteen on the premises. Which company do you think will take you on those terms?

Q) So if a company won't take us and we can't buy a project, how do we present a project title?

A) Hah! Now you get to the point. There are two ways to approach this problem
1) You can request your father's friend's friend's friend's grandfather's friend who owns a company to kindly give you a project, which they will do out of pity 90 % of the time.
2) You can go ahead and buy one and then tell a blatant lie that you didn't buy it.
The first is demeaning sometimes and the second one is dishonest. Being a man of self respect and a true Gandhian I decided on a third approach; "To think one up", which by the way is the easiest way to go about picking a topic.

Q) What if I'm not smart enough to think of one that would satisfy them?

A) Relax.. That's what I'm here for. The day before the title is due, run through the 10-step "Project title generating process" that I have come up with:

Step 1: Think of several complicated terms in your field of study. Write them all down and then pick the one that is most impressive to look at.

Step 2: Try to find a term synonymous to the term you first picked. Don't worry, it's not very hard. Strangely, almost all fields of study have several terms to mean the same thing.

Step 3: Now join the words you picked with a conjunction or preposition of some kind. If you did a good job of picking synonyms "AND" should work. If you didn't, don't fret; one of the others will fit perfectly fine.

Step 4:
Find a word synonymous to the word 'project' since that is what we are talking about. Some examples are "strategy", "proposal", "scheme", "operation", "applications", "setup", "program". These six words should do for almost every field of study.

Step 5: Append the word obtained in step 4 to the term obtained in step 3.

Step 6: Think of a complicated word/term outside your field of study. The onus is on the word "OUTSIDE". This is important to widen the scope of your project so that you cannot be pinned down at a later date.

Step 7: Find some word/term that is currently "HOT" in your field of study. This will raise considerable interest in your project and give you the status of a person performing groundbreaking research. For example at the time of my project title submission some hot topics included "Wireless", "Security", "Bluetooth", "Virtual Private Networks", "Quality-of-service".

Step 8: Pick a word that is synonymous to "implementation", "experiment", or "evaluation". This step is of utmost importance. Pick "implementation" only if you plan to actually work hard and come up with something that does something. Pick "experiment" if you plan to do something but don't know what. And finally, pick "evaluation" if you plan to do nothing at all.

Step 9: Combine the terms obtained in steps 5, 6, 7 and 8 suitably in a way that makes sense. Though this may appear hard to do at first, I'm sure you will find that the words fit together quite easily.

Step 10: As a final test, count the number of words in the resulting term and ensure the number is greater than or equal to 10. This ensures that the reader will not grasp the title on the first reading. Note that people are always impressed with things that they cannot grasp. So your title will make a favourable first impression. If your term passes this test..

VOILA.. you have your TITLE.

The title I came up with using the above 10-step process is presented below:

"Data Warehousing and Data Mining Applications to Electrical Power System Security Assessment"

I picked "security" because it seemed to bring awe into the eyes of listeners. I could practically see people imagining viruses floating around in space when I mentioned the term. And of course I picked "assessment" which is a synonym of "evaluation" because I planned to absolutely nothing.

Q) Whew.. that seems like a complicated process?

A) Believe me.. It isn't.. Atleast to me, it seems infinitely more appealing than roaming the streets begging for projects from companies or shelling out hard cash to buy one. In any case a project team consists of three members, so you should be done in no time at all if you put your heads together.

Q) Okay.. So I've submitted the title.. What do I do next?

A) Absolutely nothing of course unless you were foolish enough to pick "implementation", "experiment" or something similar for your title.

Q) So I do nothing.. What happens next?

A) Nothing much until the start of the next semester. At the very beginning of the final semester however, we will have what is called a "zeroeth review"

Q) And pray what might that be?

A) Exactly what it says.. "Zeroeth review".. A review where you present "Zero" things. Just make sure you have the title with you on a flashy powerpoint slide instead of a piece of paper.

Q) Then what?

A) Do nothing again.. until the the day before the first review?

Q) Say, how many reviews will we have?

A) If you don't count the zeroeth, three in all.. first, second and final? The first review is the hardest to get through. Once you manage that, it should be plain sailing.

Q) What happens on the day before the first review?

A) You get together with your project-mates and prepare a power point presentation.

Q) Isn't that difficult to do without having done any work on the project?

A) Not very. Start by thinking up a block diagram with atleast 10 blocks, that suits your project title. It need not make sense. Just make sure that the three of you are in consensus about what the block diagram means. Then go ahead and allocate a slide for each of the blocks on the block diagram. There.. you already have over 10 slides. Then of course, there are slides that the staff make mandatory. These include a "title" slide (yes.. again), a "Project goal" slide (explain the terms in your title here), a "project requirements" slide (Include all software/hardware that you have ever heard of. This may not all fit on a single slide, which is better for us. Put the remaining information on a different slide(s)). Also, we have the "Project Strengths" and the "Project weaknesses" slide. It really helps to use big words like "reliable", "stable" and "efficient" for strengths. Make sure you include "difficult to implement" or "expensive to implement" as one of the weaknesses. That gives you an excuse for the absence of an implementation. The "Future Enhancements" slide is a full toss. Hit it for a six by conjuring up all sorts of enhancements that might only be possible in the year 3000. After all they didn't mention how far in the future the enhancements had to be made did they? Finally don't forget the 'thank you" slide. Though it my seem trivial, note that it would add to the slide count. You should have atleast 20 slides if you followed the instructions above which will do for a decent 15 minute presentation if you don't rush through.

Q) Hmm... Seems manageable. But I guess the second and final reviews are going be tougher?

A) No, you're wrong. Like I said before the first review is the hardest. Keep in mind that you already have a presentation in your hands. All you have to do is shuffle a few slides here and there for the second review and you are through. I have actually seen the exactly same presentations for the first and second reviews.

Q) (hopefully) Will it be the same for the third review too?

A) Well.. Almost. You will have to have some sort of a results slide here. Now.. don't panic. All you have to do is use a variation of the "Thinking up" process that we used for the title. Just make sure that there are plenty of tables and graphs.

Q) And we are done? Woweee!

A) Wait a minute.. There's something else that could cause you a lot of trouble if you are not
careful. The PROJECT DOCUMENTATION. Several things to remember while preparing your documentation.
1) It should be atleast 100 pages in length. Though that seems to be a lot, in this Internet age, it is not. Browse for related stuff but don't make the mistake of copying and pasting. Change the tense of every sentence you are 'borrowing'. If the "borrowed" literature is in the present tense make it past and vice versa.
2) Go to the library for once and add all the books related (even remotely) to your project to the references section. Note that you NOT lying here. After all, you HAVE referred each book for the author, title and year of publication.
3) Invariably your project guide will try to interfere with the documentation process by offering weird suggestions. Just nod your head and ignore them. If not, you will have a document that has the font "Courier" for the headings, "Times New Roman" for text and a variety of font sizes from 8 to 40.
4) As a final test, make sure the Table of contents (TOC) is formatted exactly as your guide wants it. He/she will almost certainly mistakenly assume that everything outlined in the TOC is actually present in the document.

Q) Cool.. thanks.. Any other suggestions?

A) Don't go to get your documentation signed until the very last day specified. Else your document may be scrutinized and you will be ordered to make some corrections. On the last day there's nothing much they can do except sign. Once they sign, you are all set to make your project demo before an external examiner.

Q) DEMO.. (shudder) how are we going to do that?

A) C'mon, whether or not your demo works you're going to get 99 if not 100. So I'm not going to waste my time answering that question just to save you a single mark. I really ought to get going. I have to run through my title generating process to whip up a project title for my graphics course. Over and out.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Fun in the mountains..

I organized a social to the White Mountains this past weekend, for the students living in my dorm. For those who don't already know (most of you probably fall in that category), the White Mountains of New Hampshire are ancient mountains that were formed before the Himalayas, Alps or the Rockies. We were supposed to drive up Mt. Washington, where the fastest wind ever had been recorded (231 mph), but weather played spoilsport and we ended up going to a different spot - Frankonia Notch. I hadn't been there before and didn't know what to expect. I was in for a pleasant surprise though.

We were 16 in four cars. The drive up there was amusing especially since one of my friends took it upon her to overtake me and display signs when she passed me. Imagine my consternation when she passes with one of the others in her car holding a piece of paper to the window that read "Loser Leon". Of course I retaliated by overtaking her with the sign "Eat my dust" put up on a window. The rest of the journey went by with both of us writing silly notes. Pretty kiddish I know.. But what the heck.. we all need to chill once in a while... ;-).

When we arrrived at our destination, a 'free' presentation on the mountains was just beginning. Like all 'free' stuff, it was substandard and the only phrase that remains in my head is "FOUR HUNDRED MILLION YEARS AGO". They must have repeated that phrase at least four hundred million times in that presentation.. damn I just can't get it out of my head.

Then the actual fun began. We went on a two mile hike called the "Flume Gorge". It was an amazing hike through the mountains. We passed mountain rivers and waterfalls all in the middle of a scintillating display of trees colored every shade from green to orange to red. (The much talked about "fall colors" that people from all over the world come to check out). Pics follow..

Btw, I forgot to mention that it was pouring cats and dogs all through the hike.. lol.

Winter is fast approaching. This is probably the last trip for this year.. :-(. There's a good side though.. With the lack of opportunity to roam around, I will probably settle down and get some work done.. :D

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Playing chess?.. No spectators please..

When I play a chess game, I hate having people sitting around and watching. Because the inevitable always happens. It would be my turn to move.. and then this happens.. ALWAYS..

Spectator 1 : You are taking so long to move..
Me (thinking) : Who asked you to stand around watching me play. Don't you have anything better to do?
Spectator 2 : You could checkmate him in 6 moves..
Me (thinking) : Oh yeah.. if my opponent forfeits all the five chances he has in between.. even my baby niece could do it.
Spectator 3 (to my opponent, smiling) : I know your plan
Me (find what I overlooked after checking board and think) : Great.. Now I don't even know if I can take credit for winning. I might have missed that if not for Mr. Bigmouth.
Spectator 4 : Your end game is not very good
Me (thinking) : Thank you for telling me something I already know.

On top of all this, you have spectators who smile smugly when you make a move, like they've spotted your mistake. You have others who nod their head and say approvingly "good move, the best you could have made". Do they really expect me to believe they are qualified enough to talk about an unconditional 'best' move from among thousands? And then, there are still others who want to discuss what they, their parents and their grandparents would have done in the given situation. If you give them a chance they would even go so far as to discuss what Vishwanathan Anand would have done in the circumstances..


Another random question that has never ceased to puzzle me? How come most girls don't play chess? After all it is not a physically demanding game...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


This is a sound that has shattered glass, bent metal, drilled holes in walls, displaced heavy furniture like sofas and tables, forced every animal in the vicinity of it's occurence to bury their heads in the nearest water source, increased my Dad's blood pressure and given my Mom numerous headaches. It is also the sound of my sister screaming, the sound that has been haunting me for 22 years of my life.

My little sister made her entrance into this world of ours on October 11th 1983 with the sole aim of hogging the limelight from the deserving me. After 1 year, 1 month and 4 days of sheer bliss a little imp crept in and my life was never the same again. (sigh)

After my mom returned from the hospital, I went to take a look at this sibling of mine who had dared to keep my mom away from me for two whole days. I was all set to wage a full war to win back what was rightfully mine. But, observing that she couldn't even stand on her own two legs (I had learnt to, a couple of weeks back) and being a fair man(err.. baby) who fought only his equals, I let her off with a menacing look that was intended as a warning. But she proceeded to flaunt my warning for the next 2 years and clung to Mom, crying whenever she was put down even if it were only for a few moments.

But that was only the beginning. You will understand what I meant about 'hogging the limelight' when you read this incident about my admission to Kindergarten.

I was supposed to meet the principal before being admitted to the school in question. For whatever reason(that I can't fathom till date) my Dad decided to take my sister along with us. During the meeting I was asked this phenomenally difficult question. "What is your name?". While I was thinking hard trying to come up with the best possible answer my sister yells out "Leon Nirmal Francis". I get mad. Did she really think I did not know the answer to that one. I was just debating on "Leon" or "Nirmal" or "Leon Nirmal". I was certainly not intending to give out "Francis". If she was too young to understand the finer issues of life like privacy she should have just shut up. Thank goodness the Principal was able to see through my elaborate thinking process, else I might have been denied admission and this blog would have never happened.

In addition to hogging the limelight by fascinating visitors with her gift of the gab, she also took advantage of my niceness(ahem..;-)). Whenever she got into the mood for eating a dairy milk chocolate she would come to me and ask me to go to the store and buy one for both of us.
Nish: Nimu.. I just have to have a Cadburys bar now
Me: So get it yourself
Nish: But my hair is all messy and I have to get changed. You can go as you are.
Me: No way.. I told you last time that I would never do it again..
Nish: Please
Me: No
Nish: Please, please, please..
Me: No means No.

My sister leaves. I heave a sigh of relief. Exactly half an hour later I go the shop and get her the chocolate. I have wasted 30 minutes fighting with my conscience and mind you the devil in me always wins. My sis takes the chocolate with a thank you and a smile that I suspect is a smirk. AND THIS HAPPENS EVERY WEEK. grrrr...

My sister's enormous fear of cockroaches has bothered me to no end. A random incident for emphasis follows:
I get up in the middle of the night for a drink of water. I see 'something' wrapped up on our swing in the living room. My curiosity was aroused and I bend forward to peer and see if it was really what I thought it was- "A human being"(Looking back I think it was very brave of me). At that very instant the 'something' opened it's eyes and let out a classic scream that served three purposes 1. Woke everyone in the household. 2. Confirmed the identity of the 'something' in the swing. 3. Left me without my sense of hearing for the next couple of days. The investigation that followed revealed that after sighting a cockroach in her room, my sister had preferred to sleep on the swing since it did not touch the floor. I was promptly displaced from my bed and sent to sleep in my sister's room. Feeling especially malevolent, I could not resist talking about the increasing number of flying cockroaches in my room.

I could forgive my sister everything but for the fact that she took a dislike to almost every girl that I liked. Imagine the following scenario when I come back home after meeting up with a girl I happen to like..
Me: (with stars in my eyes) Isn't that girl wonderful?
Nish: hah! what taste you have in girls..
Me: What was wrong with her?
Nish: I found her real boring when you got her home earlier this week.
Me: What do you mean boring?
Nish: Let me put it this way.. She talks about the weather beautifully.
Me: Now.. you aren't being fair. She doesn't know you well enough to talk about personal things.
Nish: Yes.. but did she have to nod her head to everything I say
Me: (nastily) Everyone would nod their head to everything you say hoping you'd just shut up.
Nish: (patronizingly) now, don't get upset. She's ok.. but not your type.
Me: How the hell do you know who's my type and who's not?
Nish: (more patronizingly) I know, that's all
Me: Give me a logical reason
Nish: (even more patronizingly) you wouldn't understand
Me: (jumping up and down) I WOULD. I DARE YOU TO TELL ME
Nish: Nimu.. you're such a baby.. Why don't YOU give me a logical reason for liking her?
Me: err.. she's a nice girl
Nish: why do you think she's nice
Me: err.. she talks well
Nish: why do you say she talks well? Did she give you a detailed weather forecast too?
Me: No dammit, we discussed culture and politics.
Nish: Those are big topics indeed. I'm willing to give her the benefit of doubt and accept that she did talk about those subjects.
Me: (Beaming)
Nish: (continues..) But given the fact that you don't know a damn thing about both those topics, wouldn't you agree she's not your type?
Me: (Grit my teeth and count slowly upto 100 wishing murder wasn't a crime in India)

After illustrating the numerous ways in which my sis irritates me it's only fair that I gloat a little about about how I get back at her. Consider a typical conversation between us:
Nish: And there was this guy I met in that college fest.
Me: Mmmm
Nish: He was so interesting. Unlike most other guys i've met.
Nish: Didn't keep trying to fall over his feet doing me favors
Nish: We talked about a lot of stuff. He knows so much. He's like a walking encyclopedia. Imagine me not feeling bored after talking to a guy for 2 whole hours.
Me: Mmmm
Nish: He seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. He said I talked well and that I should go the debate competition next week.
Me: Mmmm
Nish: What do you think?
Me: Mmmm
Nish: well.. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Me: Mmmm
Me: (looking at her with a jolt) huh?
Nish: You weren't listening to a word I said
Me: I was. You were talking about some guy err.. in some college fest.. err no in some debate competition (stare stupidly at her)
Nish: I'm never going to tell you anything again.
Me: I wish
My sis Walks away with a look that would've killed everyone except me(I've developed a kind of immunity over the years).

Looking back, I must say that I've taken my sister for granted. I'm sorry Nish, for all the times I've neglected you for other (ahem).. girls, for all the times I've made you play second fiddle to my computer, for all the times the book I was reading was too important for me to stop and listen to you, for all the times I've leaked out your secrets, for all the times I have ridiculed your driving and finally for all the times I've asked you to stop yelling.

Because right now sitting miles and miles away from you, that 'Screeeeeeeeeech..' is the sound of music. MANY MANY HAPPY RETURNS OF THE DAY!! I LOVE YOU!

Now.. before you start floating among the clouds, there's something you must know.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Tagged again!

*Personal Post Disclaimer*

There are some people in this world who just beg for punishment. Silverine is one of them. After reading my ramblings on "Books" I can't figure for the life of me, how she dared to tag me for a second time. This is a 'Seven thing' tag.. Read ahead and you will know what I mean..

Seven things you plan to do before you die
Assumption: I live to be atleast 60.

1. see the world
2. get married and have 5 kids (wife permitting.. lol)
3. write a book
4. Be the CEO of a company
5. own a BMW AND a Mercedes
6. drive 10 000 000 miles (lol)
7. fly an aeroplane (and buy one.. ;-))

Seven things you can do!!

1. Read like I used to
2. Play Badminton, squash, tennis, chess
3. Stay at home in the weekends and blog!!
4. Spend more time keeping in touch with friends back home
5. Play "Age of Empires"
6. Enjoy both solitude and community
7. Watch 'Friends'.

Seven things you can't do!!!

1. Cook
2. swim.. :-(
3. Say No to people.. (I really have to learn to do this fast)
4. sit simply in one place
5. talk to people who say things they don't mean
6. be away from my computer for more than a day
7. sit on the floor with my legs crossed

Seven things that attract you to the opposite sex!!

1. Intelligent/frank conversation
2. humor
3. How much the person in question likes me
4. looks
5. calmness and poise
6. Walk
7. Good dressing sense

Seven things you say most!!!

1. Hi
2. Damn
3. Are you kidding me?
4. Sure
5. Poda/podi
6. cool/chill
7. see you later

Seven celebrity crushes!

Believe me when I say celebrity crushes are not my thing. I have crushes on real people. And when I don't have a crush on anyone, I just conjure up some imaginary character that I fancy, to dream about. So I'll just mention those that I think are attractive...

1. Jennifer Aniston
2. Meg Ryan
3. Catherine Zeta Jones
4. Kajol
5. Renée Zellweger
6. Rachel Weisz
7. Trisha

It took quite a bit of thinking to come up with answers to some of these questions. But I know a little more about myself now. I guess I should take the time to introspect more often. :-)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


During the weekend of 3rd September, I set out on my longest drive ever to visit my 'little' sister who most people consider to be my grandmother. I was driving from Durham, NH to Toledo, Ohio. A 13 hour drive according to Mapquest!

I passed very close to Niagara Falls on the way to my sister's place and decided on the spur of the moment that I would take her to Niagara. So after spending a day catching up with the happenings in her life and doing some basic shopping, we started for Niagara on Sunday morning. It was a real fun trip that I do not have words to describe. Take a look at the pictures I've embedded below.

Here's the car I was driving..

I got home on Monday night. I had driven exactly 2511 miles. 4017 kms ie. I feel great.

Today is my birthday.. Happy Birthday to me.. I love ME. :-)

Monday, August 29, 2005

To blog or not to blog...

The last ten days have been so busy that I seriously doubt if I can do justice to my blogging!! And by the way, classes only began TODAY! [sigh]. Several things that kept me busy during the last couple of weeks include undergoing training that my position as Assistant Manager of Babcock Hall demands and meeting deadlines for my job at the InterOperability Laboratory (IOL).

Moving on to happier things. Durham, NH looks positively ALIVE. The bustle of activity that the beginning of the year brings, is a welcome change from the haunting quietness of the summer. The roads are packed and traffic has actually been brought to a halt in a few places. And the best part is I keep running into friends on the roads. :-).

A new year also means new students. Relatively few Indians arrived at UNH this year. But enough to substantially increase the size of our cricket teams. :p. Answering the 1034589 quesstions that the newcomers ask is another major reason for my slapdash blogging. But given the fact that I still hold the record for asking the most number of questions(last year), ie 24000008900080, I guess I shouldn't be complaining.

I did notice a trend in the questions the newcomers are asking this year. Instead of "What courses should I take?", "Which prof is easy on grades?", they ask "What laptop should I buy?", "Which cell phone plan should I opt for?", "When are the swing dancing classes?", "Will you teach me tennis?". God help them!!!

I guess this post is special in a way. It's my shortest post.. :D.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

If books could talk...

*Personal post disclaimer*
This post should probably be read only by my friends and those who want to know me better. It is as factual as can be and is about ME alone. I have been book tagged by Silverine and Prasanna
and thought I would recant my reading history exactly as it happened.

I embarked on my long reading journey on an extremely boring evening during a visit to my uncle's place in Cochin when I was 5 years old. My dad took a Tinkle that was lying around and slowly taught me to read. I haven't looked back since. We had a great library at National Public School in Bangalore and were encouraged to read from a very early age. Sometime during first grade I went beyond comics and got a Famous Five home. I then pestered my parents to get me one for my birthday which they did. The first book I ever owned is thus "Five on a secret trail" by Enid Blyton purchased for a pricy 30 Rs. Then began the craze.. I wolfed up all the Enid Blyton's I could come across. My favorites at the time included "The Faraway tree", "St. Clare's" and "Malory Towers" (sheepish).

Before long I graduated to Hardy Boys, Nancy Drews and The three investigators and I'm not exaggerating when I say I've probably read everyone of them. The next five years saw a lot of variety in my reading. I basically went berserk. I JUST HAD to read ANY printed matter be it classics like Oliver Twist, Vanity Fair, Wuthering Heights, David Copperfield or religious books like the Bible, the Ramayana or the Mahabharatha. There was a time when I was a member of five lending libraries!! I wouldn't go out when my friends called me to play cricket. Books were essential side dishes while eating. The huge pile of books on the dining table irritated my mom to no end. Things went so bad that my Dad was forced to impose a rule that allowed me to read non-academic books only during weekends. I still remember reading under a night lamp until my eyes ached.

Sometime in 7th grade, desperate to keep me away from the stack of James Hadley Chases' we had in our house my Dad introduced me to Erle Stanley Gardner, Alistair Maclean, Desmond Bagley, Jeffery Archer, Robert Ludlum, Dick Francis and Frederick Forsyth. Unfortunately for him however, I'd already managed to sneakily get my hands on a few Sidney Sheldons. In fact Sidney Sheldon contributed more to my sexual education than did my ninth grade biology class or mainstream television. lol.

But all good things must come to an end. Computers have changed my reading habits.. :-(. I still read a lot but nothing like before. This post is getting nostalgic isn't it? Coming back to the questions I'm supposed to answer..

Total number of books I own? It goes without saying that I own enough books to open a small library. Long long ago my sister and I even numbered our books in some complicated x.y.z format hoping to start one. I forget what those variables stood for though.

The last book I read is technically Reader's Digest, but if that doesn't count then it would be "Digital Fortress" by Dan Brown which I read sometime back. And no it wasn't that great. Talking of Dan Brown, I thought "Angels and Demons" was better than "The Da Vinci Code". Both were fast paced no doubt but the former is factually more correct and as a Christian I believe I'm qualified to make that statement.

Books that have significantly influenced me:

1) The Complete Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.
- Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay
I've already talked about this book in my first post. So let me just insert a little something from the book.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: I must express in the strongest possible terms my profound opposition to the newly instituted practice which imposes severe and intolerable restrictions on the ingress and egress of senior members of the hierarchy and will, in all probability, should the current deplorable innovation be perpetuated, precipitate a progressive constriction of the channels of communication, culminating in a condition of organisational atrophy and administrative paralysis which will render effectively impossible the coherent and co-ordinated discharge of the function of government within Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Jim Hacker: You mean you've lost your key?

Everytime I read this, I'm ROTFL.

2) Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Whoever said this book was for girls. If there was ever a book that could send goosebumps through me then this is it. I read an abridged version of this book when I was on vacation in Madurai during my 5th grade. Over the next 5 years I read the book atleast twenty five times in three other versions. Wonderful dreams I had.. :D. Darcy and Elizabeth.. *sigh*. I've kind of grown out of it now, though it still brings back fond memories.

3) The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexander Dumas
Hail.. Here is D'Artagnan ready to duel with Athos, Porthos and Aramis anytime!! Sword fights rock. Gun fights suck.. :D.

4) The Golden Rendezvous - Alistair Maclean
My father suggested reading him when I was in my 7th standard referring to his english as Queen's english. Rightly so, for Alistair Maclean has taught me more english words than the Barrons. But more than the vocabulary, it is his usage that is most striking. I'm kind of proud of my english but everytime I read one of his books, I'm humbled.
The Golden rendezvous has just about the right amount of romance embedded into the thrilling-as-usual plot which is my main reason for picking it out from all the others.

Other must reads by the same author..
- Fear is the key (An amazing thriller set on an oil rig. The starting is out of the world. Read the first 10 pages and you will be hooked)
- Where eagles dare ( Bluffing at it's very best)
- The Last Frontier (Set in war torn Hungary. A tale of treachery and deception)
- The Guns of Navarone ( A world war II book. Heroism exemplified)
- The Golden Gate ( An audacious kidnapping of the President of the United States on the world famous golden gate bridge in San Francisco. Do read his description of the Golden gate on the first page of chapter 3 (pg 28 in my book). Especially those of you who have been disappointed in love.. lol )
- Goodbye California ( Kidnapping + earthquakes + impending large scale destruction )
- The Satan Bug ( Biochemical warfare )
- Ice Station Zebra ( Set in a submarine deep under the sea ).

5) PG Wodehouses'
Try as I might, I couldn't single out a book by this author. However the entire Blandings Castle series come right at the top.

6) Tintin, Asterix and Archies..
For the innumerable hours of laughter they have provided me over the years, they deserve a mention.

I guess I have rambled on for long enough. Silverine and Prasanna will never make the mistake of tagging me again. :D. Right? Hey.. are you guys still there.. Hey!!?? You asked for it remember?

PS: This day last year, I left India for the US. It's been an eventful year with several ups and downs. Fortunately there have been more 'ups' of late.

PPS: Today also happens to be the 25th wedding anniversary of my parents and both my sister and I are in the United States. That's life for you.. :-(.
Anyway Happy Silver Anniversary Mom and Dad. Thanks for being the 'bestest' parents in the whole world. I love you.. :-)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cricket Anyone?

There are times when I wish I was back in India. One of those times is when we guys at UNH get together to play cricket. Now believe me, I don’t have anything against these guys or the game itself. I just have a problem with the concessions we have to make to get a good game going. In my never ending quest for comments I present the game of cricket as played at UNH-Durham,NH,USA in what I perceive to be the most popular format in the blogosphere... the FAQ format. For those of you who are not familiar with the term- FAQs are a set of the 'stupidest' questions that can be asked about a given topic, that beg for a corresponding set of equally stupid answers.

UNH Cricket FAQ...

Q) How is the game of cricket played at UNH different from the traditional game played in India?
A) Are you dumb or what? The answer to that one question would obviate the need to ask any other question and would cover the entire post. Didn't you hear me say that this post is designed to be in the FAQ format? Please reframe your question.

Q) Err.. I suppose there are eleven members in a team like in India?
A) You supposed wrong. There will be a mammoth figure of exactly 3 players in each team. No more no less. It is indeed a temptation to bring in members of the fair sex to join in to make the numbers more attractive but be warned that this could result in a fate worse than death.

Q) How so?
A) Well it's a 10 step process.

1. They(the fair sex of course, in case you were wondering) insist on holding the bat like they hold their teddy bear.
You show them how to hold the bat.
They ask you why everything must be done your way.
4. You tell them it's not your way but THE way.
5. They want to know why your way is THE way.
6. You tell them that it's your way BECAUSE it's THE way and not vice-versa.
7. They want to know why IT is THE way.
You pass out.
You come around and see that they are still caressing the bat.
10. You wish you were back home in India watching a mega serial on Sun TV, which you will of course agree is a fate worse than death.

Q) Of course, of course.. My sympathies.. How do you manage to cover the whole ground with just three people?
A) Simple. We don't. We cover one fourth of the ground instead. This has an unfortunate side effect however. The high incompetence level of our batsmen ensures that we end up spending exactly 99.99 % of the total game time collecting the ball from the remaining three fourths of the ground.

Q) Say.. you've changed the number of players and the shape and size of the playing ground? Do you still play cricket with a bat and a ball?
A) Of course you dummy. How else would you play cricket? I'm pleased however that you seem to be getting the hang of this FAQ thing. The questions are getting stupider and stupider..

Q) How is the wicket there? Do people normally opt to bat or bowl?
A) Ah.. the pitch.. the precious 22 yards between the stumps. It's fine... But what does that have to do with your other question about batting and bowling?

Q) I just wanted to know if the wicket there was favorable for batting first or bowling first.
A) Always remember the most strictly followed commandment in UNH, my friend.. The person winning the toss shall always bat first even if God comes down from the heavens and states explicitly that the team batting first will make exactly zero runs.

Q) Are there any differences between the ball you use and the one used in India?
A) Good question. Indeed there is. In India you use a cricket ball. Here however, you would use a tennis ball wrapped in white duct tape to make it look like a cricket ball. Apart from appearance, this modified ball has several additional characteristics that make it special.

1. It is slippery enough to guarantee a minimum of 3 wides in an over. This is invaluable in ensuring that every team puts up a double digit total. The slippery nature of the ball is also the main reason behind the phenomenally high ratio of catches dropped to catches taken.. ie infinity.
2. It allows the bowler to bowl a spweam ball. For the uninitiated, this is a ball that spins, swings and seams at the same time. Spweam balls have resulted in entire games where batsmen have not connected with the ball even once and has caused several long lasting injuries to wicketkeepers who have been foolish enough to try to collect these balls.
3. The softness of the ball guarantees that it goes no further than the length of the bat if at all the batsman does connect with the ball. Note that this makes it extremely difficult to score a run off the bat. Rest assured therefore that all runs scored are wides.

Q) Wow.. is the bat different too?
A) Fortunately not.. Two cricket crazy fools actually bought two heavy bats from half-way across the world. These are the same fools who failed to get their toothbrushes. Maybe they thought they could brush with their bats.

Q) What about the stumps?
A) We have very rigid rules for stumps here. The only permissible stump will be a 3 dimensional trash can about 1.5 metres tall and atleast 10 inches broader than the biggest guy playing in the game.

Q) Why that strange rule?
A) This is the one rule that ensures that no one person stands forever in front of the wicket. It is most critical to the game because the probability of someone getting out by any means other than being bowled is precisely P = 0.0000000000003483. The non-existence of this rule would therefore mean that I would still be on the cricket ground playing last week's match instead of sharing my experiences with you. Don't you dare sigh wistfully now...

Q) I wasn't sighing..(sheepishly).. I remember reading recently that there were eleven ways to dismiss a batsman. Is this true?
A) Indeed it is. I guess we both got it from Niyantha's post where a typical chennai auto driver enlightens him about the eleven possible dismissals.

Q) Why then is that probability figure so high.. err.. i mean low?
A) Ah.. The answer to that question follows logically from my previous rantings. But let me spell it out for your obviously dense mind by taking each of the remaining 10 dismissals in turn..

1. Stumped:
I'm sure you will agree that a wicketkeeper who is unable to catch the ball is about as certain of making a stumping as I am of making a million dollars by tomorrow. Add to this what I mentioned of a spweam ball and a wicketkeeper and you will understand why a stumping will never happen.
2. Run-out: Who in his right mind would run in the first place if the ball doesn't go farther than the length of the bat? Btw.. in case you were wondering, the length of a bat is approximately 3 feet or 1 meter.
3. Caught: Does the phrase "ratio of catches dropped" ring a bell?
4. LBW:
Who would decide on the LBW? the bowler? the batsman? Or perhaps you are suggesting that we reduce our very large team size of 3 to 2 and dedicate two umpires to make such decisions?
5. Hit-wicket:
This dismissal is the reason for the non-zero nature of the above-mentioned probability figure. Note also that the critical rule about the size and shape of the stumps is the reason for the relatively large value of P. With normal sized stumps, hit-wickets would be rarer still and P would be more like.. 0.00000000000000000000111.
6. Handling the ball: The ball evokes such terror among us that we would rather man-handle a modern day chennai girl and risk a possible(inevitable?) cheek-slipper collision.
7. Obstructing the field: With only two members on the field other than the bowler, there doesn't seem much chance of this happening.. does there?
8. Hitting the ball twice:
hahahahaha... hahahahaha.. That's right.. join me on the floor and laugh. Connecting once is hard enough.. TWICE?... it wouldn't happen even by mistake.. More rolling.. More laughing..
9. Retired out: You've got to be kidding. These guys wouldn't retire on breaking their leg even if Catherine Zeta Jones or Trisha offered to dress their wound. And no, an offer of a strip show from them wouldn't do the trick either.
10. Timed out: Time out a batsman if you want to take a premature trip to heaven or hell(as is your wont) after being shot on the spot by the player in question. All of us are quite content here on our beloved earth. Thank you.

Phew.. that was a pretty verbose answer.. Hope it was satisfactory.

Q) It was.. Is the ground you play in free always?
A) In the event that it is not, all we have to do is take a trip to the tennis courts.

Q) Is that allowed?

A) Of course it is. Except for a sign that says "Only tennis should be played in these courts" there is nothing that stops us from playing.

Q) But what about the sign?
A) What about it? (puzzled) You ARE Indian aren't you. Since when has it become Indian policy to do as signboards say? We take great pride in our heritage and will not think of doing what our ancestors have never done.

Q) One final question.. Any tips for a newcomer interested in joining you guys for a game of cricket?
(Thoughtfully) Well.. it is most important for him to stay put in front of the trash can even if the ball is coming towards a very err.. sensitive part of his anatomy. The ball is not hard enough to do any permanent damage anyway. Also, emphasize the fact that reaching out for a wide ball is a cardinal sin and will be punished with a loud wailing noise from his team mates, that will come back to haunt him for the rest of his life. And yeah.. ask him to beware of the spweam ball.. (chuckling).