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)