Monday, December 31, 2007

Ice skating is fun


Especially if you can do it without falling !! Unfortunately, not falling even once doesn't go well with others, more so, if they keep falling all the time :)


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Observations at work


Some observations I have made in the past few months while working as a GA at the library:

1. Patrons, especially students, prefer dropping the books in the "Book Return" box rather than handing them over to a real person when the books are late / overdue. They also don't like admitting / asking for help if they have forgotten their account passwords - even if it means they have to come to the library every 2 weeks to renew their books.

2. While using the online catalog to place holds / request books, patrons tend to request several books simultaneously, i.e., they don't visit the library catalog everyday but when they do, they place requests in bulk. They pick up books in bulk too.

3. Not everyone wants to ask for help when they have misplaced / lost something - even if it is valuable but replaceable !!

My inferences: It is always better to ask the students if they know (and inform them anyways) about available resources. Many of them are probably too shy to ask for help. Of course, greeting them with a "Hello" and smile helps !!

Having met quite a number of students (under-graduate and graduate), I would give myself a overall "B+" or an "A-" when it comes to how well-informed I was about the Engineering library resources and how well I utilized them. Of course, after having started working here, (I would like to believe that) my grades have improved to an "A" :)
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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wassup Google?


I use Google a lot. And I have also read many recent articles that have criticized its search results and how several other search engines produce better results. I think I have stumbled on something (from my own website) that supports these claims.

Now, most of my web pages are static. I don't update a lot of content in my site apart from my blogs, and even those aren't updated that frequently (50 posts in 2 years!!). I have had my website for few years now, so I guess it is alright for Google to give my pages a good ranking.

However, I have noticed that Google returns my blog pages (in the top 15 results!!) for a lot many keyword combinations that actually have little relevance to my blog posts except that those words are in there in the text.

Examples - Keywords & Google Results*:
"flight from cincinnati to mumbai" - 2nd result
"delta jfk to mumbai flight, laptop" - 5th result
"i hate my classmate" - 3rd result
"rights of ration card holders" - 10th result
"Five Point Someone + online reading" - 15th result

And these aren't some random examples. These are search terms that were REALLY used by some users who were directed to my site via Google. (I got that from the referring url info.)

If you take a look at my posts that were retrieved by Google (just click on the links above), you will agree that most of my posts had no relevance to the search target. I mean, why would someone who searches "flight from cincinnati to mumbai" in Google be interested in my post about the problems I once had during my travel from mumbai to cincinnati. Isn't he more likely looking for purchasing tickets for a cincinnati - mumbai flight? Im sure that there is no arguing on the issue that the users weren't looking for my posts because... well, they visited my site for 0:00 secs - that confirms it, right? I am pretty sure there are 1000s of sites (if not more) with better relevance to these search terms than mine. And what bugs me most is that these relevant pages are ranked so low that they go completely missed. I certainly wouldn't want that happening to me when I google something.

This raises a lot of interesting questions.

Is this some basic flaw in the page ranking algorithm? Or is it just another temporary thing that Google will be fixing by the time you read this post? (I am not sure about this being a temporary thing though, since about a month back, googling "pulp fiction dream wallpaper" returned this post as the first result and even now, it is the 3rd result !!)

This doesn't seem to be the case with Ask or other search engines. Try "flight from cincinnati to mumbai" in Ask.com - the results are a lot saner. Since only blogger pages seem to come on top in these Google results, is Google is giving undue importance to Blogger? If so, does it mean that if you have a website with a good page ranking, you can create a blog (in Blogger), add posts with titles on popular search terms and have your blog posts return in the top 10 - 15 results?

I am sure that would have some serious implications, especially if you have ads on your blog!! May be I should subscribe to Google adSense :)

Is Google listening?

*Note: Google results for the keywords as of Dec 16, 2007, 12:06PM EST.


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Blue Umbrella


After waiting long enough, finally, I managed to see the movie recently and it didn't disappoint a bit. One of the best children's movies I have seen lately although classifying it as a movie for kids would be really unfair unless you would do the same to a "Ratatouille" or a "Finding Nemo".

A certain must see.
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

CS GSA Website


Started using PHP for developing the CS GSA website. It was quite a bit of fun actually. I also managed to make a template in blogger that would be consistent with the rest of the site. Hopefully, it will all be worth the effort.
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cut-Outs, Caste And Cine Stars


The book by Vaasanthi, takes a look at the "Dravidian" politics in Tamil Nadu starting from the beginning, right from EVR, until the DMK sweep in 2004.

Although the politics in Tamil Nadu, by itself, makes for an interesting discussion, the subject really is a bit complex to bring out in paper. I think the book succeeds in bringing out the "psyche" of the "tamil" people which may be completely baffling for a stranger, considering the fact that the politics in Tamil Nadu is riddled with paradoxes and controversies (sample this: how can you explain millions of people accepting a Karnataka born brahmin woman, or, for that matter a Sri-Lankan born Malayalee as the head of a party whose ideologies stand for "anti-brahminism" and "Tamil-ness"?)

The author tries to keep things simple by maintaining a non-conversational tone throughout the book. She tries to present facts rather than take a stand which works to the favor of the book.

However, I do have a few reservations about the book. I would have preferred a more chronological approach rather than the back-again, forward-again, time traveling that happens a lot which is confusing in several places. Also, even though the book tries hard to remain neutral, a slight pro-Karunanidhi, or rather, an anti-Jayalathitha vibe comes out at the end, thanks mainly to the several personal quotes of Karunanidhi that are reproduced, through which he tries to justify himself.

The author is an ex-editor of the tamil edition of "India today" and that not only adds her a lot of credibility but also seems to have helped her in getting most of inside information that she dishes out. Her several personal encounters, experiences and anecdotes act as the spices in this delicious curry of tamil politics that the author has served, and although the final dish may not have you licking your fingers, it certainly fills the stomach.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has watched and liked "Iruvar". The book is almost a paper version of the movie, with a prequel (about EVR, Annadurai, and the rise of DK) and a sequel (with Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha). In fact, the book even references the movie once while talking about Karunanidhi protesting against "Hindi" on railway tracks !!
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Piled Higher & Deeper


PS: Attended a talk on "Procrastination" by "Dr." Jorge Cham of PhD comics (phdcomics.com). The talk was just as I expected - funny and interesting.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Pulp Fiction - Not a dream


The alarm is ringing again. It is the cell phone alarm. As I turn it off, I notice that I have 1 voice mail and 17 missed calls. "All from him". I listen to the voice mail, it is very brief. It says, "Come quick, it is time". I look at the last time of the call, it was 25 minutes back. "Why does he have to leave the phone in silent mode? So what if he works at a library".
---
I am jogging on the road, listening to a song when he rushes past me. He is wearing a suit, and is sweating like a pig. He goes a few steps ahead of me and turns back and looks at me for a second. His face is vaguely familiar to me but I am not able to recall him. He is still sprinting when it strikes me where I must have seen him.
---
I know I have to clean the mess before anyone finds out. But I also have to copy the CD before he comes back. I increase my pace, all the while thinking why I chose not to live any closer to the college. I subconsciously start checking to see if I have the three important things with me. My wallet... it is there, my house key... it is there, the cell phone... the cell phone... the cell phone is not there. I start panicking as I know where I dropped it.
---
I knock on the door, this time a little harder. "What is going on? Why is it taking so long?". I decide to check the back entrance. I try to go around the house, but there is a fence blocking my way. I check to see if no one is looking and jump the fence. I land on something slippery, cannot hold my feet and fall hard on the floor. "THUD". I pick myself up, my clothes are ruined - Shit- and I have scratched my right elbow pretty bad. I try walking towards the bench and it feels like my left knee is on fire. I try to sit down on the ground, and just as I bend down, something whizzes past my head.
---
The damn CD is stuck. "Why wouldn't it come out?". I look at my wallpaper - a picture of Garfield smiling with Murphy's law written in the bottom. I restart my computer and this time it takes a longer time to boot up. My hands are shaking while I type and I have to enter the password twice before I am able to login. "Now, if only the CD would read. Or eject". The computer hangs again and this time, I have lost it. I press the "Eject" button on the CD drive pretty hard. I can see the drive trying to read the CD while I press the button again. That is when I hear that sound again, this time, a bit louder.
---
"Today is going to be one of those days, yet again", "Why did the coffee have to spill all over the carpet? Especially when I spent half the day yesterday to clean it", "Now this would take another hour or so to clean". I go to the bathroom and wash my hands. "I must not sit at home all day playing the stupid game", I mutter to myself. "Remember what he said?", "Forget Second Life and start playing the real game". I hear the beep. It must have finished downloading the songs. I wonder where my socks are.
---
What did he drop on the ground? I pick it up and I know what it is. "What was he thinking?" Now I look around to see if anyone else is watching. "Nope". Just as I put it in my jacket, I realize that I must have left my keys in the house. "I hope he went home", I think to myself.
---
"What am I going to do?, It wasn't my idea in the first place. But what will I tell him? I hope he doesn't realize it". Then, I cry out loud, "If only this damn thing will load faster".
---
And then, I wake up.

(See comments for the conclusion)
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Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Random Jail


This problem is pretty interesting.

There are "n" people locked up in a room and they have to find a person that links them together. No, I didn't think of this after watching SAW2, but from a friend's post.
(See here: http://sdilips.blogspot.com/2007/11/random-jail.html )

Given the theory of 6 degrees of separation, the solution probably exists. Let us assume that it does and that there is one person "X" who links them all. What would be the best strategy for the "prisoners" ?

This is what I came up with:

Edit: To follow the remainder of the post, you need to know that "6 degrees of separation" is the hypothesis that any two people in the world are connected by just 6 other people (i.e., anyone in the world is my friend's friend's friend's friend's friend's friend's friend). See Wikipedia for a bit more info.

Now, "X" is at most 3 hops from everyone, or he is closer to some of them while farther away from the others. So, the worst case is probably either of the 2 scenarios:
1. "X" is 3 hops from each of the "n" prisoners
2. "X" is 1 hop from some "A" but 5 hops away from the remaining "n-1" prisoners

The obvious way to solve the problem would be going 1 hop at a time. At each round, everyone makes a list of places they have been associated with (like school, college, work place, vacations, etc) and then looks at everyone else's list to see if they can make a "connection" with one of places in the other's list. If they can make a "connection", then they write a list of possible people associated with that connection and again compare the lists for a match.

An important thing to be noted here is the way we define a "connection". Since we are assuming that the prisoners are capable of solving the problem, it means that they KNOW the intermediate hops - at least sub-consciously. Hence, when they establish a connection between two places, their mind might automatically skip a few hops in the chain.

The fact that there are 'n' prisoners, I think, simplifies the problem in a way. Because:
1. There are probably multiple paths between the prisoners and hence more than one way to reach the solution.
2. The "n" prisoners can work in a distributed manner (in groups) and perform inter-group comparisons if there is a match within their group, and constantly reshuffle the groups.

There is also the case of false positives to be discussed. There may be matches (apart from"X") among pairs of prisoners or even "n-1" out of "n" but not all of them. This could certainly complicate things. However, testing false +ves is probably simpler than expected. Let "Y" be the person common to the prisoners "A" and "B". Now, everyone else tries to establish a connection to "Y", which would be easier than establishing connections to either "A" or "B", since all the information about "Y" is limited to that obtained from "A" and "B" (which is expected to get lesser and lesser as the number of hops between "Y" and "A" or "B" increases), and this limited information about "Y" must be sufficient to form that chain for the remaining "n-2" people if "Y" is "X". (This is true because we are given that everyone in "n" will be able to make a connection to "X".) If none of the "n-2" people are able to make a connection to "Y" using the limited information about "Y" obtained from "A" and "B", clearly, "Y" != "X". A minor point to be noted is that if there is a match between "A" and "B", every person in that path must be tested for "X" - not just "Y".

Of course, if "X" is just one hop away (as in SAW2 or as in the post), the problem must be solvable in minutes. (Heck, they do it even without any strategy in SAW2 within few hours!!).

Unless of course, the connection between the prisoners is not a person but is actually a "thing". I bet it would be a lot harder for them to discover that they all secretly like "KANK", in which case, I would rather they go the SAW2 way than get out of the room ever :) .
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Manorama Six Feet Under


Recently saw the Hindi movie "Manorama Six Feet Under" and was just blown away. No, I am not saying that the movie is a classic. The movie is just about good does not even come close to being great. The pacing is slow, there are a couple of unwanted sequences and the climax is a bit rushed with quite a few believable liberties thrown in the script. In fact, although the director does have a few aces up his sleeve in the end, some of the major twists in the plot are pretty obvious for Agatha Christie fans.

Nevertheless, it is the excitement of finally watching a well made film noir in Hindi that prompted this post. I haven't seen Polanski's "Chinatown" to comment on the similarities ("Manorama" is supposedly based on it). However, "Manorama" reminded me a lot of the anti-Bush "Silver City", which was also a slow paced film noir set in a small town. The plots have a lot in common - the political angle, the characterization of the leads and the thugs, the double-crosses and even the murders (I even remember a scene in "Silver City" with some kind of chase and fight sequence on the streets where a procession / celebration is going on). But, while "Silver City" showed potential without any results and remained just an attempt at being true its genre, "Manorama" succeeds big time.

This film was very well acted and the dialogues were very real and funny (although I missed a couple of lines the first time), but, it is the cinematography and editing that impressed me the most. Not that I know a lot about any of these departments, but, I did notice that the scenes had consistently long takes (but not too long to be noticeable) and had a good mix of wide, low angle and reflection shots that maintained the noir feel.

All in all, a very nice movie that is part of the new and changing Bollywood. With "Johnny Gaddar" and now "Manorama" giving a new life to thrillers in Hindi, I wonder what "The Fraud" and "The Mugger" have to say !!
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Friday, November 09, 2007

Gloomy days ahead


Looks like the break might just break my plans.

Hope Not !!
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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Randy Pausch


Happened to watch Pausch's "last" lecture ("Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams") and I should say I was deeply moved. It is not so difficult to recognize a good teacher when you see one, and you could tell with your eyes closed that he definitely is good (if not great).

Apart from his academic contributions to Computer Science and the "Alice" project which he claims is his "legacy", what really made me like him was how brave he was to do what he did.

I really hope he gets to have "fun" everyday.

I am not sure about others, but, good teachers live forever.

PS: You can watch his "last public lecture" here: http://www.cmu.edu/homepage/multimedia/randy-pausch-lecture.shtml
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Friday, October 26, 2007

Online TV shows


:( news: CBS finally woke up to the fact that ads in their innertube can be skipped by using a real player. Now they have changed it to a flash player and I had to bear the ads to watch survivor repeats !!

:| news: NBC have placed "The Office" episodes online. That's great but just like cbs' innertube, you have watch the ads EVERYTIME before / after you watch a segment. That is big pain if you want to rewind to the funny parts of the show !! Kudos to the abc team though for a much better interface. There, once you watch the ads, the segments get merged and hence, you will watch an ad only once to watch scenes from a segment any number of times!! (If you didn't get it, try it :P )
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Reading List Updates


Finally managed to finish "The Chamber". It was just about okay. I couldn't really empathize with many of the characters and I guess it made the book seem really long. Either that, or the book really was long.

Funnily enough, the book I read right after that was "The Stranger" by Albert Camus. I really like it when I read with no expectations and the book turns out to be great. However, that happens rarely only since most books I read are recommendations from others or from yours truly :). This one was thanks to D who had this book but hadn't read it. (I would guess that the odds of him reading the book are 1:10 if not lower).

I also managed to finish the "Rising Sun" from my list. That was a pretty good thriller and surprisingly, I managed to finish it in less than a couple of days. (That is a very short time considering the fact that I am overloaded with work!!) Must try and catch the movie sometime. Anyways, might add Crichton's other works to my list soon.

Now I am reading an awesome book on Tamil Nadu Politics, "Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars". I am about 70 pages into the book and it is pretty damn good. And I picked this one from random list of LOC Call numbers. Guess I got lucky again!!
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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pushing Daisies


The one new show I have liked the most this season is "Pushing Daisies" (not that I have been seeing too many new ones).

"Daisies" is about a man who can bring the dead back to life with his touch. However, as expected, there is a catch - actually there are two catches. One, if he touches that person ever again, he/she will die forever. And two, if he brings someone alive, an innocent person will have to die instead.

The pilot episode had the unique mix of humor and innocence that is essential for a story using magical realism. The episode was very well shot and had a "if-Tim-Burton-was-happy" feel to it (or may be I still have a "Big Fish" hangover). The story was very "fairy tale"-ish with unexpected twists and interesting characters.

I hope the show lives up to its promise and that they don't stretch it unnecessarily.

Considering how, many of my favorite shows don't survive long, I probably just jinxed this one. But then even if I did, this show can always bring itself to life with its own magical touch !!
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Friday, September 21, 2007

Reading List


I don't usually leave books half-way through, but in the last month, I have been hopping through quite a lot of them (list below). Planning to finish them off one by one.

1. The Chamber - John Grisham
2. Sherlock Holmes : The Complete Novels and Stories Volume II - Arthur Conan Doyle
3. Rising Sun - Michael Crichton
4. Indian Summers - John Wright
5. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"The Blue Umbrella" blues


Not a surprise. As I had predicted, the one film I was eager to see, didn't do so well at the box-office. In fact, saying that the movie "didn't do well" is putting it very mildly. The movie didn't get a release in even a single screen in Chennai!!

Needless to say, I haven't seen the movie yet. Hopefully, it will be out in dvds soon.

PS : I have already read the book now. So much for the dilemma.
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Monday, August 06, 2007

To read or not to read


I am in a big dilemma.

It has always been more fun reading the book than watching a movie based on it. Very few movies have been as much fun ("LOTR trilogy" and "The Namesake") .

Now, should I read the book before or after watching the movie?

When you watch a movie after reading its source, knowing the story (and the ending) in advance does take away some fun and excitement. (Although I wouldn't say this is the reason why I didn't like any of the Harry Potter movies. They were simply bad.)

On the other hand, reading the book afterwards limits your imagination (especially if the movie turns out to be good!!). Although I read "The Namesake" before watching the movie, Tabu was my Ashima throughout since I knew by then that she was playing the role. Also sometimes, the movie is so good that you don't feel like reading the book - a reason why I haven't read "Thank You for Smoking" or "The Devil wears Prada".

I should also confess that I prefer watching the movie if the book has a lot of action sequences (e.g.: "The Bourne" series and some Tom Clancy/Grisham novels).

So, may be it all depends on the genre. May be Harry Potter books have too many necessary details for a 3 hour film. May be LOTR works either ways because of a predictable ending and very few plot twists.

Never mind the bigger picture. I now have a copy of "The Blue Umbrella" and am also eagerly waiting to watch the movie. Should I read the book before watching the movie or not?

It is a children's book - so probably it is "okay" to read first. But, if the story is anything like the movie "Halo" (the one where a cute puppy goes missing - not sure if it is a book) then it would have a special charm the first time which would certainly be missing during subsequent viewings.

May be I should just read the book first to find out how Vishal has done it this time (his Maqbool and Omkara were mind-blowing adaptations). Even Ruskin Bond has liked the way the book has been made. May be I should just watch the movie and then read the book and then watch the movie again.

Any suggestions ??

PS: Just realized, too many peut-etre s !!

Edit 1: Halo is a 1997 movie by Santosh Sivan. Doesn't seem to be adapted from any book. It is certainly worth a watch. See more details here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0295294/
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Can't hardly wait


Going back home this week. (I mean "HOME").

Already, I have a long list of things to do and a longer list of people to meet. I wonder why I committed to working from there.

This time may not be as much fun though, as Ravi won't be there all the time. Now I need a "bakra" to scold, tease and trouble. (Any volunteers??). Minor consolations: Ill be there for "Avani Avittam" (and also for the college alumni meeting).

I hope things get calmer and cooler over here by the time I come back.

PS:
The movie I am most eager to watch in theatres there is "The Blue Umbrella". I saw "Maqbool" very recently and now Vishal is certainly among my favorite bollywood directors. Although I am pretty sure the movie will flop, I know it will be good.
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Deathly Hallows


No spoilers ahead :)

I was very happy after finishing the book, not because of the ending, but, simply coz the book neatly tied up (almost) everything and is certainly the best book of the series in terms of taking the story forward and giving it an exciting end. After 2 super duds ("Phoenix" and "Prince" - which I still feel should have been compressed into one) this one lives up to the expectations. The book is another 760 pager, but unlike previous bulky ones (4, 5, and 6) it is completely racy.

Of course, there are plot holes here and there, some subplots don’t get a closure, unnecessary characters abound and the epilogue is a huge disappointment. But overall the book is satisfying.

And to those with weak hearts: there are deaths - painful deaths, and not just 2 as Rowling claimed. Actually, 2 2 many more than just 2. So if you cried when Sirius died then you better be prepared right from the start.
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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pottermania


I am not 100% sure if I will have the new book on Saturday. Anyhow, I have started reading "The Order of the Phoenix" and "The Half Blood Prince" as preparation. (Btw, I am not interested in watching the new movie as I have been getting mixed reviews.)

Three big questions that I guess is on everyone's mind:
1. Will Harry survive?
2. Will Dumbledore make a come back like Gandalf? (I hope not !!)
3. Which two characters are going to be killed?

I just hope the book doesn't disappoint and that I find answers to these questions by reading the book and not from one of the several psychos I know ;) .

My three choices for the last word of the book: "lived", "harry/potter" and "wizard". ("scar" was one of my original choices which has now been officially ruled out).
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Something good. Finally.


Since I couldn't find anything worth watching on TV this season, I decided to watch instead few TV series that I have been missing. Somehow, I managed to catch the complete season (and in some cases, several seasons) of 3 of them. They are:

Prison Break - Season 1:
Good, but not good enough to make me stick around for future seasons. Season 2 was given the skip.

24 - Season 1:
Certainly better than Prison Break, but too many tiresome (and slightly illogical) subplots and a pretty lame ending that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. However, Seasons 3 and 5 have been given a "must-see" recommendation from a "not-so-reliable" source. Still haven't decided but might give it another try.

The Office (US) - Seasons 1, 2, and 3:
My roommate hates "The Office" now. He had a real tough time over the past two weeks. I watched it in my laptop (with headphones) and kept cracking up every second, and he had to endure my laughter track (minus the jokes). Btw, if you haven't already, you should watch the "webisodes" too (but in order). I can probably go on a big rant about my favorite characters and episodes - that would only be another of "The Office" ke side effects.

Next on my list is certainly "Arrested Development". Haven't been able to get the complete season 1 episodes though.

Also, haven't seen any movies lately. Since "Sivaji", I have only seen "Ratatouille", "1408", and the good-but-overrated "Mozhi". May be will switch to the big screen for a while.
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The jinx continues ...


Traveling alone in the US is jinxed for me.

My very first solo trip in the US was anything but smooth. I had been in the US for about 4 months, and traveling alone to Detroit (via Greyhound) didn't seem like a big deal. Little did I know that my 5 hour trip to Detroit will eventually take 34 painful hours. A snow storm started just before the bus was about to leave Cincinnati. We were then re-routed to Columbus (as other interstates were closed) and everyone was forced to spend the night in the Greyhound station in Columbus. The station was totally crowded as many other buses too had been routed to Columbus. Although it was the 23rd of December, there was no Christmas cheer going around. Everyone looked grumpy and angry for being forced to stay in the bus station with no idea when the buses would start. Whenever the Greyhound staff weren't being customer friendly, there were quite a few outbursts that bordered on getting out of control. I got really scared and spent the entire night sitting awake in the dark, inside the bus, holding on to my luggage. I didn't have a cell-phone, my cash and my calling-card were running out, and I had to survive on the leftovers from the vending machine which was empty in an hour (no other Veggie food was available). We were constantly told not to leave the station as the buses might start anytime. The buses started the next afternoon, we got lost on our way to Detroit as the driver didn't know the directions and with some passengers help, the bus finally made it to Detroit - 30 hours late!!

And now, to the latest of my jinxed trips.

I was flying to NJ by Delta. The flight was on a Saturday morning at 9:15. It was a direct flight to Newark and I was to reach NJ by 11:15AM. I was at the airport by 7:00 and was at the gate by 8:00. However, boarding didn't start until 9:00, and then, an announcement was made that the flight was delayed till 9:30 as a crew member was missing. The flight kept getting delayed from 9:30 to 9:45, 10:00, 10:15 and 10:30 and they still couldn't find the crew member. Around 10:45, they announced that the flight was canceled because the missing crew member was the pilot. Grrrrrrrr. Immediately there was chaos and a big rush to get into the next Newark flight. The next flight was at 1PM but I couldn't get a confirmed ticket in it. I was placed 4th on the waiting list and had to wait 2 more hours at another gate with not much to do. The other flight too got delayed but eventually took off at 1:45 along with everyone and the 3 people ahead of me in the waiting list. I was then booked on the next flight to Newark which was on the next day at 3PM. I had spent more than 7 hours at the airport waiting for my flight only to be asked to return the next day. GRRRRRRRR.

I wish it had ended there. The next day, I was sitting in the same gate area at 2PM. It was 2:45, the same delta agent came to the desk, picked up the mic and said "Sorry for the delay, we are missing a crew member and will begin boarding as soon the crew member arrives." Another terrifying 25 minutes later, the crew member (yeah, the pilot) arrived and the boarding began at 3:30. After going through the security instructions, just when the plane was about to take off, we were asked to deplane as the take off was delayed because of "bad weather" at the Newark airport. I got off the plane, called my brother and told him that the flight was delayed again. He checked the weather and told me that the weather was perfectly fine at the Newark airport. I went to the delta agent and told him about the weather and asked him if the flight was going to be canceled. He went to ask another agent who then told me that the reason for delay was not weather but some "air traffic" issues. Another painful hour or so later, we were asked to board the plane and the flight finally took off.

PS1: I still had another mis-adventure to face at the Newark airport to collect my checked baggage. I waited for about 30 minutes at the baggage claim but my suitcase didn't come through. Hoping that it had arrived earlier (since I had checked it on the previous day itself) I went to the delta office. The person there, verified my information and told me that my luggage had been sent to Louisiana. After 20 minutes of doing God knows what, she realized that she had entered my baggage code wrong. My baggage had made the flight I couldn't, and had been waiting for me at the Newark airport !!

PS2: If you have any patience left, you can read another such instance here. Curiously, that was a Delta flight too.
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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Conditions


Conditions - A Play in Three Acts by William J. Hackenbrook.

I was checking out Moneychangers by Hailey in the library and this was right next to it on the shelf. Out of curiosity, I checked out this one too and was greatly surprised at how hilarious the play was. The 90 odd pages had me in splits for the most part and I really enjoyed the Wodehouse/Crazy Mohan -ish script. It has been a long time since I had read a play and all other good ones I can think of are from my 9th/10th std English textbook. Let me know if you know any good ones.
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Friday, June 01, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend - Universal Studios


This Memorial day weekend, I had been to the Grand Canyon, Vegas and LA with my friends. The trip was really great and had loads of fun.

In case you decide to go to the Universal Studios in LA, here are some tips for you:
  1. Get the Head-Of-The-Line (HOTL) pass. It is really worth it. Also, order your tickets in advance and try to bargain with the Studios people. We got a discount and paid only about $25 more than the usual price (against almost double the price!!). With the HOTL pass, we didn't have to wait for more than 4-5 minutes for any ride. We were able to cover all the rides comfortably (without rushing) in just 6.5 hours (11:00am - 5:30pm). And this was on a Sunday of a Memorial day weekend !!
  2. If you bought the HOTL pass online, make sure you get a hang-on-the-neck id card from the Guest Relations office immediately after you enter the Studios. Otherwise, you will have to keep the print out safely and show it before entering every ride which is a big pain. You lose the printout, and you are done !!
  3. Finish the tram Tram Ride first. Get the first coach if possible - seeing the guide talk in person is certainly better than watching him on a TV screen. Both, extreme right and the extreme left seats are the best although you won't miss much otherwise either.
  4. Some shows start only at specific times (like WaterWorld, Animal Stars, Fear Factor). Keep track of the show timings and catch these accordingly. We mixed our rides and shows such that we didn't have to wait for long. However, remember that these shows will be crowded and except in Water World, there weren't any seat reservation for the HOTL pass. So, a last minute entry may not get you any good seats.
  5. In the Jurassic Park ride, try to get the rightmost seat. Go for the front seats in Back To Future ride. The other seats are good too but I thought these were a bit more fun. Also, wearing slippers for the Mummy ride makes it a bit more interesting [;)]
  6. Have fun but take care of your belongings. We lost our digital camera (more like someone stole it) and we also lost all the photos (the only sore point of my trip [:(]). You certainly wouldn't enjoy that.
  7. Let me know if any of these tips were useful for you !!
PS:
Against better judgment (and friends' reviews), caught Shrek3 on its opening weekend [:(].
Need I say more ?!!
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More Doodles and Ramblings













These are the two doodles that I did over the past 2.5 months. All I can say is that they aren't completely random. Try figuring out !!

Other news:

* Bad TV days !! Survivor ended on not-so-happy note and Studio 60 has been cancelled.

* Saw the latest Ocean's 13 trailer on TV. The way George Cloony replies to Al Pacino reminds me of Vijaykanth delivering a "punch" dialogue. I can't seem to think of anything else whenever the trailer is on. Is it just me?

* Finished 'A stone for Danny Fisher'. Was good !!

* Research going on okay. Hoping for some +ve results soon. The French class is a real life saver. Because of the class, I am up early and get to spend more time in the office than usual. Not to mention that the class is very interesting. Might take up the next course in Fall if the same teacher offers the class.

* Summer releases on the back burner. More interested in finishing the Blue-White-Red trilogy than Spidey/Shrek/POTC.

* Looking forward to the Memorial day weekend !!
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Saturday, April 14, 2007

I want one ...


Knut.

The latest German celebrity reminds me a LOT of Jingli. See Knut in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZLKb_5S21E









Now, can someone fund my trip to the Berlin zoo? ;)

Want more Knut? Knut's blog is here: http://blog.rbb-online.de/roller/knut/
Unfortunately, its in German :(
The pictures and videos are awesome though.

On a entirely different note, I finally managed to finish the very boring "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time". Now, 'll have to be doubly suspicious about books recommended by Ravi.

PS: Thanks a lot, S-S-Y!!
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Friday, April 13, 2007

Not again !!


*Survivor Fiji spoilers *

This had to happen. I probably jinxed her. Why else will a very strong player like Michelle (in a reasonably "safe" alliance) get voted off, that too, immediately after I write a post supporting her? She certainly didn't deserve to go. Although the "twist" by itself was acceptable, Jeff's questions in the tribal council were totally unfair.

I just hope that my other favorites hang around a lot longer.

*Edit*

Btw, if you are mad about Michelle getting the boot, here's something to laugh about.

What did Boo tell Earl after he finds out about Michelle ?

Boo: Knock, Knock.
Earl: Who's there?
Boo: Boo
Earl: Boo who?
Boo: Don't cry !!!

PS: The joke is old but seemed appropriate here.
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Monday, April 09, 2007

Survivor Fiji


Yes, I am following Survivor Fiji. It has started getting interesting only after re-shuffling of the teams (Ep#6). The last episode (Ep#8) was certainly the most entertaining this season, and it does look as if the real games are just about to start. However, I just discovered a new reason for me to follow the show and find out who gets the million bucks this time.

Minor spoiler(s) alert !!

My favorites were actually Yau-Man and Earl. But now, I have added one more to the list. Its Michelle. And its not just because she is smart and likable. I just found out that she is actually a student of UC studying in DAAP!!!

I never go through the contestants' profiles but when I was trying to watch that last episode online, I guess I clicked on Michelle's profile by mistake. And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we both study at the same University. She has always been likable and in last episode, she did come out as "survivor-smart". Now, with some additional brownie points, she joins my favorites list (ahead of Earl and at par with Yau-Man).

Btw, if you are NOT watching the show, you probably should. It is bound to get a LOT more interesting, especially, if the other "immunity" idol gets discovered. And as I mentioned before in my Cook Islands post, you can still manage to watch all the episodes from cbs without any ads.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

j'apprends le fran├žais


More French might follow if I really end up taking the course.
Till then, au revoir.
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Monday, March 05, 2007

Year 2046


Since I had bunked my last class, I understood very little today. So, after a long time, I started doodling in class. Before doodling, I always come up with a theme. This time, it was one of my favorite movies - 2046.



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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Navbar problems


Yeah, you can see it. I made my own template in blogger to match my web site's look. Faced a couple of problems while doing so.

1. Blogger doesn't allow their new "layout" style for blogs published using FTP (or SFTP).
I didn't know this until I finished working on my template. Since I had spent a couple of hours on the new template, I decided it is OKAY to publish in a blogger account. The blog address is now: http://ranganablog.blogspot.com/

2. All blogs using the new "layout" style and not published using FTP necessarily have the NavBar on the top. There is no way to turn this feature off. And it was pretty annoying as it was completely spoiling my template :( However, I accidentally figured out how to turn this feature off.

To turn off the NavBar in "non-FTP" blogs using the new "layout" templates:
0. Yeah, step 0 is to save your "layout" template in case you customized it.
1. Now, publish your blog using FTP after switching to a "classic" template.
2. Go to templates page and turn off the NavBar option.
3. Verify that your blog (still in "classic" template) doesn't show the NavBar.
4. Switch publishing back to a blogger account and upgrade your template to "layout" style.

And, voila... your "layout" style blog doesn't have the NavBar. If you now go and check the NavBar options in Page Elements (under Template), you will see that none of the options is checked.

I guess this is a minor bug that will probably be fixed soon. Till then, I am happy my blog doesn't have the ugly NavBar on top.

Do let me know if you think this looks better.

PS: I have uploaded my reading list and the coding problems using this template too. Have a look if you have time.
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Good, Bad and Ugly


The Good :

1. Research going much better. I had to re-read tens of papers just to catch up but now it's getting back to normal.

2. Finally finished "The Fountain Head". I suppose all "fat" books are worth the effort. In this case, the effort was minimal.

3. Moviez worth the time - Thank you for smoking, Rosemary's baby, Client, The Cider house rules and Donnie Darko.
Watched Donnie Darko twice. Finally managed to come up with my own theory which turns out isn't even close to the popular notion. Ill probably post my theory sometime.

4. Tendulkar's Century and man-of-the-match award
It has been a long time though. Hope the form remains through the world cup.

5. Shilpa Shetty wins Celebrity Big Brother.
I started following the show only after the controversy started. Anyone who followed the show will agree that she behaved pretty well. Watching the "bullying episodes" in you tube was pretty disturbing. If you think she wasn't all that good, you should have seen the desi version Big Boss. Seems Rahul Roy outdid others in lying and scheming.

The Bad :

1. Loads of TA work.
Grading 50+ students for a grad course isn't the best job around. It has made my cell phone a voicemail box since I am in the office all the time. (I don't get signal in there)

2. Night at the Museum.
Wonder why I subjected myself to this. After a long time, I slept during a movie in theater. This one made me doze off after the initial 10 minutes itself. I also wonder why "mugger" likes it so much.

3. Serena is back?
I was rooting for Clijsters, Hingis, Sharapova and Serena - in that order. Although I have never been a big fan of Serena, her recent lack of form (and my meeting her during the Cincinnati Open) got her some brownie points. Now I wonder if she is really back.

The Ugly :

1. Heavy snow, cold winter after a pretty warm January.

2.
Its Federer again.
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Monday, January 08, 2007

Catching DL5948


My return trip to US was really eventful. My travel itinerary was Chennai - Mumbai - New York - Cincinnati. (The Mumbai - JFK part was a direct flight via London.) Here is what happened.

Chapter 1 : Heed the omens !!

I should have known that my return trip wasn't going to be smooth at all.

First I learnt that my Air India's Chennai-Mumbai flight timings were changed and that my Mumbai-JFK flight would leave before I reached Mumbai. After about 7 visits to the Air India office in Chennai, I finally had my Chennai - Mumbai travel changed to an Indian Airlines flight.

My Chennai-Mumbai travel was uneventful. Or, so I thought. Immediately after getting down at Mumbai airport, I realized that I had lost my key chain. This was a big deal because:
a) It was a gift and I liked it very much,
b) Already many of my friends had tried to take it. Kannu vaichttanga paavinga :-(
What was really annoying about the whole thing was that I knew that it was under my seat (14A) in the flight but I couldn't get it back.

Chapter 2 : Setup for the finale

After waiting for 45 minutes in the Mumbai Domestic airport, I finally got the shuttle to transfer to the International airport. I couldn't locate any cart to carry my two big suitcases. I had to pull them along, though the baggage screening to the Air India check-in counter.

At the Air India check-in counter, I learnt that my Mumbai-JFK flight had been delayed by 24 hours (Yes, it was delayed - not cancelled !!). I was given food and accommodation at The Orchid - a nearby hotel where I wasted the next 24 hours. The most annoying thing at the hotel was that the Internet wasn't free and they were charging the usual 5-star hotel rates for everything (which is 500+ bucks for 30 continuous minutes of Internet). Finally, I had my JFK - Cincinnati flight reconfirmed and finally boarded the Mumbai-JFK flight the next day.

Chapter 3 : DL4958 to Cincinnati

I have deliberately skipped the details in many places till now. The reason being that the 30 minutes of my catching the New York-Cincinnati flight was the most eventful part of my two day long journey.

Although it was supposed to be a direct flight from Mumbai to JFK, for some reason, they made us all get down at London and re-board the same flight. This ensured that my transit time at New York to catch my Cincinnati flight was cut down from 21/2 to 11/2 hours.

I knew that I would have to hurry if I wanted to catch my flight to Cincinnati. Since I was seated near the exit, once we landed at JFK, I rushed out and ran to immigration counter. Thankfully, the queue there was non-existent.

After getting my I94 card, I was at the baggage claim area by 4:20PM and my Cincinnati flight was to leave only at 5:38PM. I was confident that I will be able to make it. All I had to do after collecting my luggage was get past Customs, drop the two suitcases & get my boarding pass from the Transit Counter, proceed to the required Gate.

My luggage came through the baggage claim only at 5:00 PM.

I didn't have any problem at customs and went straight to the Transit desk. Although I begged my way to the front of the queue, the person who was being serviced took few more minutes. When my turn did come, I was told:

"Oh, you have only 30 minutes to catch the flight. Sorry, we can not accept your baggage. If you still want to try, you have go to the main Delta check-in counter in Terminal 3. You will have to take these two suitcases with you. I don't think, you will be able to make it but if you want to try, take the AirTran."

I decided to give a try. I ran dragging the two suitcases (22 odd Kgs, each) towards the AirTran. I couldn't even use a cart to carry the suitcases because I had to pass through escalators and stairs. My winter jacket made me highly uncomfortable and my personal bag with the laptop seemed heavier than ever. At the AirTran, there were two tracks and no directions as to which one goes to Terminal 3. I took the first one that arrived, which stopped next at Terminal 5 and 6 - clearly the opposite direction. I got down, took the next AirTran in the correct direction and reached Terminal 3.

I forgot. While I was dragging the suitcases towards the AirTran, the zip in my personal bag gave away and my used set of socks fell out. I didn't realize it until someone was shouting and I turned back. I had to do a 360 with the suitcases (they are not very easy to drag along), go back, pick up my socks, stuff them in another part of the bag and resume my run to the AirTran.

Having arrived at Terminal 3, I went to the Delta domestic check-in only to find a long line of people. And it was 5:15PM. I went directly to the front of the queue, begged the people in front again saying my flight was in 20 minutes and got my turn immediately. The lady at the counter refused to give me a boarding pass since there wasn't enough time. I finally managed to convince her as my luggage was already checked in till Cincinnati, and the next flight to Cincinnati was only on the next day.

After getting my boarding pass, I was asked to drop off my two suitcases at the security. Only, I entered the wrong security queue with the suitcases. When I pushed past people to the front to the security queue, I was told that the suitcases were to be dropped off at the adjacent security counter. I had to go back with the suitcases, drop them off at the adjacent counter and come back to this same queue for security check. Since I had pushed my way into the front to the queue twice, the security check in-charge wasn't happy. I was to go through the random extra security screening.

I was made to sit while they went through my dirty socks, laptop, shoes, jacket and everything. Finally when they gave me the green signal to proceed, it was 5:30 and I still had to get to Gate 25. I ran with all the remaining energy I had, pushing past people, continuously shouting "excuse me"s and "sorry"s. I made it to the gate at 5:34 and the status of DL4958 on the screen was still "Boarding".

I showed my boarding pass to the lady in-charge and said "Cincinnati". She replied "I am sorry Sir, the boarding is closed."

I tried convincing her but to no use. Finally, I was asked to go to Gate 24 to get myself in the next flight.

I was on my way to gate 24 when I heard someone calling. I turned back to see the same lady calling in my direction. I ran back to the gate, she hurriedly tore my boarding pass and asked me to run. I heard her voice trailing off "The captain came back to collect some papers, run to the flight before him..." The passage was long and empty and I kept running. I ran past someone in uniform whom I hoped was the Captain. I could see the passage end in the runway and I saw about 4 - 5 planes in the runway. When I reached the end of the passage, I could see a plane taking off on my right. I asked the man nearby: "Cincinnati flight. Delta 4958.." and he pointed at the flight that was moving away for take off.

I was standing at the runway, completely exhausted, and I had finally missed my flight.

I couldn't stand any longer, was about to drop down on the ground when the uniformed man I had passed came past me and asked "Cincinnati?" I nodded. He pointed at another plane a little away on my left and said "Go".

By the time I reached the plane, they had opened the door and placed the steps for me to climb in. I entered the planed, found the first two seats empty and just fell down at the seats. I was immediately given two bottles of water, some orange juice, a pillow and some magazines. Then the captain (the man in the uniform) came to me and said "Don't worry, you made it." I looked at my watch and it was 5:38PM.

Chapter 4 : Post-scripts

PS 1: As an anti-climax, the flight finally took off at 7:14PM. There were too many flights for take off and we were stuck in the runway till then.

PS 2: Neither of my luggages turned up at Cincinnati. I just confirmed that one has reached Cincinnati while the other is now in Atlanta, on its way home.
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