Monday, July 30, 2007

Cold Feet on Mournday Morning

Washing my socks is something that I forget most weekends. But the stink was so potent last night that I had no choice but to give a quick wash to a pair, hoping that they would be dry by morning.

No such luck. I'm wearing wet socks to office today...and this isn't the first time.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Booked my e-rail ticket through the Net for the first time.

Phoenix Mars Mission


Video: phoenix mars mission

Space Shuttle Status Report

Our Nearest Galaxy

Banks & I don't mix

Mantu & I had to needlessly visit Standard Chartered Bank (Main Branch) today. I was immensely annoyed by my latest credit card statement reflecting a minimum due amount far more than the one I was expecting. My belligerence couldn't be contained and today was the best opportunity I had, I figured, to launch an all-out assault.

The visit proved to be fruitful and the anomaly was settled even before I could lodge a complaint. However, I've learned a few facts about paying your credit card dues:
  • Banks dissuade cash deposits. They'll even charge you extra to drive home the message.
  • Credit your deposit to the loan number, not the card number; if your statement carries one.
  • Don't bite more than you can chew. Don't go for too many cards.

HDFC Bank's Bill Payment facility is like a thick-skinned ass that just won't listen. After being bugged continually for months, I had finally acquiesced to avail the facility to take care of my Hutch phone bills. I regret the decision.

When the bank had failed to pay my bill last month even by the penultimate due date, I called up their support desk. The personnel was apparently clueless about the facility and gave me the impression that the bill pay facility would have to be manually triggered each time the customer intended to make a payment...no automated facility here! What the heck is the use of such a facility, I protested. The meek fellow at the other end was apparently feeling the heat as I relentless questioned him on the issue. I let him off the hook and resigned.

I paid the bill the usual way via my mobile that night. The next monthly bill was a shocker. I came to know that my bill amount was paid twice, once by me and once again by my bank owing to the Bill Payment facility!

Why didn't HDFC Bank intimate me about the payment it was making on my behalf? I just might as well embrace the fact that banks and I don't mix.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Can you imagine a bunch of computer professionals not having the collective knowledge to expand AT&T?

I can...now!

Why Send Anything Into Space?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tea

Tried drinking tea for the first (and possibly the last) time this year.
My opinion remains unchanged: it's one of the most disgusting beverages I've ever tasted.
MT walks so fast, you can feel the air gushing in to fill the partial vacuum she leaves behind!

Delta Rocket

Search For Extraterrestrial Life


Video: Extra Terrestrial Life

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mutation?

I wonder why Sebastian has gone mute ever since he returned from the US. Nothing worth writing home about?

When Luck Favours...Needlessly

I had to suffer the ignominy of giving a written test in office.
I topped.

Now if only Lady Luck would help me get lucky with other ladies!

Tutankhamen Enigma

NASA Astronaut Training

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Out of all the web-based video hosting services I've tried so far, Jumpcut has the best video quality.

Engagement Reassigned!

Switching from a Vostro to an Inspiron.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Engaged!

Just got engaged to my very first computer: a Dell laptop. I would have much liked to be wedded to my Dell before my departure for Kolkata...but that was not to be. We are now to settle on an auspicious date post my return to Bangalore. The finalization will happen real soon. I don't like her geeky name and have settled on an alternative: Andromeda!

I'm already dreaming of Andromeda. She'll be assembled in Malaysia and routed via Mumbai.

Powerless

Spent a sleepless night spurning the advances of an army of mosquitoes. There was no power and thus the mosquito repellent couldn't be pressed into service.

Electricity was restored at 1100 hrs this morning.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rain

It's been years (until now) since I got thoroughly drenched in the rain. It was fun.

Each time it rains, the JP Nagar transformer powering our locality goes up in smokes. Tonight was no exception.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

To choose between:
  • AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual Core
  • Intel Core 2 Duo
That is the question.

DB India Replies

I received a very annoying call last week from a call center employee on behalf of Deutche Bank asking me to go for a credit card. Now I'm normally very cordial and politely refuse such offers, but the DB call was different.

Not only did the caller lack telephone etiquettes (that's the least you can expect from people who are becoming the bane of professional profiling), she even had the cheek to turn confrontational when I pointed out something that refuted a very false claim of hers.

I was taken aback by her sharp retaliation and had to revert to the DB support people complaining about the incident and seeking corrective action against the erring employee. Emails shuttled between the two sides over the past few days in which DB was always very apologetic over the unfortunate incident.

The episode concluded today when a sales manager from the bank called me to personally offer his regrets for the incident and even thanked me for bringing it to light and helping correct a flaw. I appreciated the call and hung up.

Good work, DB!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's exactly 2 years since I went on to...

Be a Tiger. I've only managed meek meows till now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Brakes...

Screeeeeeech!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Applying the brakes...yet again

One of my resolutions for the current year was to reduce the frequency of posts in my blog. I was doing fine until April. The old affliction surfaced once again after that and I was back to my usual blabbery self. Mantu's buying the laptop aggravated the situation beyond comprehension.

I think I've already blogged more than I had spoken during all my years as a school goer! It's time for me to retard once again. I must get a life and stop the running commentary. Nobody listens anyway!

News from the disaster zone

The gang is here.
Our new home is ready to explode.
I already dislike the noise.

Houston, we have a problem.

There isn't enough space!

My personal belongings are floating around in public domain with no hopes of tracing them when required, the toilet was apparently used by dinosaurs with no etiquettes even in post-liberalized India, my clothes are strewn across like fresh refugees with nowhere to go - the luckier ones having already stuffed the tiny wardrobe, the trousers hang heavily from the door hanger like topless corpses and most of my books have been banished beyond immediate reach. To top it all, Manilal and Santosh are yet to arrive!

Correction: Houston, we have a severe problem. There isn't any space!
Shifted

Saturday, July 14, 2007

4 BITians come together...again!

Mantu, Manilal, Santosh and I are shifting next door tomorrow, swapping places with our current neighbors who'll switch to ours. Santosh and Manilal will be my new additional roommates. I've never had more than one roommate at a time, except for a month-long stay with Sittu and Prats. So this'll be a first.

I would have rather stayed here since I'm not too fond of all the chit-chat and crap-talk that invariably happen when too many people stay together. In fact, I had previously turned down the proposal to shift. But since the request came my way yet again, I acquiesced - knowing full well I was giving up my beloved seclusion for a lot of stray guests/noise dwelling around me.

I just hope the rue won't be immediate or unbearable. But I'll be happy to regain Santosh as my roommate...for the 3rd time!

Astronomers need your help

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey is enlisting help from volunteers to categorize galaxies. Register here. It's fun.

Friday, July 13, 2007

July 2007 Sky from NASA

The most annoying noise in the world

It emanates from my kitchen.

It happens when a bowl or plate kept in the sink gradually accumulates water from the drops that keep leaking in through the tap.

It sounds like this:

PLOP
.
PLOP
.
PLOP
.
PLOP
.
PLOP
.
PLOP
.
PLOP
.
.
.

It drives me insane.

I'm forced to remedy this oft-repeated domestic disaster by moving the erring utensil from underneath the tap. Tightening the tap never helped much.

I've finally hit upon a permanent solution to the problem: I'll cut off water supply to my home.
I've removed the MediaMaster widget from my blog. It wasn't serving any purpose.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Gordon rises from the ashes

I'm uploading a track from the recently lacerated Dexter Gordon folder. I was tempted to upload the entire album and create a playlist for your listening pleasure. But the bitrate was very high (320kbps) and most of the other tracks have a good deal of dissonance to dissuade any further listening.

I'm using the services of a newly launched site called MediaMaster. Though their concept behind the site isn't a novelty, I like the clean interface and also the fact that some Indians were involved in the development team. Though I'm highly skeptical of their long-term sustenance, I wish them all the best in their endeavor.

I'm placing the widget (temporarily, I guess) at the bottom of the sidebar. Click on Library and choose the Dexter Gordon playlist.

I have already discovered a few problems in using the widget. The entire track is buffered into memory before playing begins. This can be a serious problem when the track is long and/or has a high bitrate. So you can have lunch while the widget buffers Gordon! A more serious affliction is that once you choose to play a track in a list, you can't skip to some other track randomly. Progress is strictly sequential. Very strange.

I may add more tracks later if it's worth the effort. So keep looking!

Lunch & Greenhouse

Having lunch with a vegetarian friend, I discussed how non-vegetarians actually contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Seeing my colleague stumped, I went on to explain the concept of methane emission by cattle (30% of which are in India, thus causing a severe ecological imbalance) which significantly contributes to global warming and even harming the ozone layer (combining with which breaks it down to carbon dioxide and water). Consuming cattle thus obliquely helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, since the Great Barrier Beef (thanks to the bovine being elevated to holy status by the Hindu religion) stock is nowhere near depletion (it's actually burgeoning), it's a shame that cows are now a critical environmental hazard. No one is interested in checking their growth and few are willing to eat them. To make matters worse, the GoI not-very-recently danced to the populist tune to appease the masses and banned slaughter houses for cows in India. So even when they are of absolutely no use to people (like in old age), we can't terminate them. The useless methane production continues unabated.

I'm not advocating non-vegetarianism over vegetarianism in any way. I'm only saying that there could be a positive side-effect to consuming meat, lame though the excuse may be. BTW, while discussing the issue with my friend, I misquoting the proportion of cattle in India. It was way off the mark, though I now stand corrected.

Coming back to my workstation for some intellectual fodder (Yahoo! News), I came across this article that was very relevant to the issue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Travel Back in Space & Time


The Harvard College Observatory contains more than 500,000 (+-100,000) images constituting humanity's only record of a century's worth of sky. Besides being 25 % of the world’s total of astronomical photographic plates, this is the only collection that covers both hemispheres.

For the last few months, volunteers from Observatory Hill and the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, have been setting the stage for a mammoth attempt to bring the entire collection into the digital age. The result, if money can be found, will be more than just an archive. Digitized with a custom-crafted scanner already in operation, the searchable online atlas will ultimately show any spot in the heavens as it appeared from the late 19th century to the mid-1980s — an astronomical Wayback Machine.

It was on Observatory Hill in 1850 that the first picture of a star — Vega in the constellation Lyra — was captured by what was then one of the two most powerful telescopes on Earth: the Great Refractor, with its 20-foot-long mahogany veneer tube outfitted with a lens 15 inches across.

As important as the plates are the metadata, detailed notes handwritten in logbooks and sometimes on the plates themselves. 80,000 photographs of the pages have been taken, which are slowly being transcribed in India.

I remember observing and reading about Vega (since it was so special) as a child, although I was always confused (I still am) between it and Lyra regarding which was the star and which the constellation. Vega is surrounded by gas and dust and possibly even a planet. It's a very bright star and can be easily spotted in the Northern Hemisphere. I must admit, thought, that I may not be able to recognize the star or constellation without a sky chart now.

I also don't remember why Vega aroused so much interest in astronomical journals besides being surrounded by a haze that possible harbored a planet. I'm sure there was something more that I'm missing.

Addendum: The above post was greatly edited and abridged from a NYTimes article. Only the last two paragraphs were entirely mine. I would have loved to add a hyperlink to the original article had NYTimes not been so volatile with its article-specific URL before slipping it into its archive within a week.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dawn prepares for the asteroids

Power Crisis!

My first watch - battery is dead. I've got to replace it though I won't be wearing the watch anytime soon.

My second watch - battery is dead. I'm yet to wear the watch...although I've owned it for over a year.

My digital diary - batteries are dead. Though I've owned extra batteries for over a year, I'm too lazy to replace the dead ones.

My portable CD player - battery seems to be dead. This is very strange since I don't feel I've used my NiMH enough to exhaust it.

My lost mobile - I hope the battery is dead. But I know it isn't. The battery life was awesome.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Saxophone screws Saxophone

Recording multiple sessions on an MP3 CD can be very unpredictable. I burned a few Boots Randolph tracks and it ended up screwing a Dexter Gordon folder, more specifically - the mp3 file extension for all the Gordon tracks.

My CD player now skips the corrupted folder and the only way to play the tampered files is to copy them to my hard disk and renaming them with the .mp3 extension.

Weird.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

BIT students make distinct racing car

Sahara Samay reports:

The engineering students of BIT, Mesra have made a racing car which has a distinct quality, a reverse gear.

Talking to Sahara Samay, one of the students, who was the part of the project, told that the racing cars all over the world have bike engine and therefore don't possess reverse gear. He further told that they first searched and then used a car engine in their racing car that provides it the reverse gear.

The Jharkhand Industry and Forest Minister, Sudhir Kumar Mahto, while showering lavish praise on the brainy students said that not only the state, the entire country should be proud of them. He told how these students approached him and when he heard their project, he immediately announced financial help of Rs 13 lakhs as asked by them. The car has been made at the cost Rs 25 lakh.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kennedy Space Center Commemorates 45 Years of Spaceflight History



PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies skills, because that challenge is one that we're willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one we intend to win and the others too."

NEIL ARMSTRONG: "Contact light…Tranquility base here, the Eagle has landed. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

NARRATOR: "Nine, eight, seven, six, green board, five, four, three, two, one, engine start and liftoff of the Delta two rocket carrying the Spirit from Earth to planet Mars."

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: "The space program in general and the Shuttle Program in particular gone a long way to help our country to recapture its spirit of vitality and confidence. The pioneer spirit still flourishes in America." "In the future as in the past, our freedom, independence and national well-being will be tied to new achievements, new discoveries and pushing back new frontiers. We must look aggressively to the future by demonstrating the potential of the shuttle and establishing a more permanent presence in space."

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: "Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey. May God bless."

Taj & The Number Game

What's with the Vote for Taj frenzy sweeping across the nation? Turn on the TV to be coaxed into voting for the Taj. Read the newspaper to realize what a heinous crime it is if you fail to vote for the Taj. Wireless carriers have jumped into the fray and offer you a convenient way of voting for and only for the Taj. Indian web sites have come up with countdown clocks and voting buttons to help you cast your precious vote for the Taj. Chain mails from fellow Indians beg you to do the same and make India proud.

Should the Taj earn a spot on a new list of the Seven Wonders of the World? Should it be solely because the Taj is in India and I'm an Indian? Whatever happened to meritocracy? If voting is supposed to be impartial to be considered judicious, why should my nationalist sentiments be continually fanned? Why should mobile service providers make it so convenient for me to vote only for the Taj? Why should FM lend its voice to the rising monotone?

Our brothers from populous China are equally worked up ever since rumor had it that the Great Wall of China may not make the cut. Media channels there have been similarly hogged by pleas to make the Great Wall stand tall and proud. Talk of two ancient civilizations that are now reduced to being 3rd world nations desperate to scavenge any pride that comes their way! Desperation has now hit a new high, it would seem!

If this is the mindset used while casting votes, the Seven Wonders of the World might as well be rechristened the Seven Wonders of the Most Sexually Active Nations of the World! I wish we could learn a few things from the US. Though the Americans have been amongst the most prolific voters, the Statue of Liberty is hardly in contention, it is learnt. Of course, I feel the Taj Mahal is far more deserving of a vote than the lady with the torch.

By the way, did you know that you can cast your vote multiple times? Too good to be true, isn't it? So if you're indeed a true patriot and wanna contribute to swelling national pride, go ahead and vote for the Taj as many times as you can. This is probably the best way you can do your motherland proud!

My favorite pick: The Great Pyramid of Giza. I will, however, refrain from casting my vote for the most deserving Seven. The whole exercise looks utterly silly and meaningless. And it helps that I'm no patriot.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Obituary


Boots Randolph breathed his last yesterday due to a cerebral hemorrhage he suffered on June 25.

For many years as a kid, I mistook his Nashville influenced (mostly country) music for jazz! In fact, I got interested in jazz probably because I was so much in love with his music. I even considered the saxophone as the greatest musical instrument because of him...an opinion that hasn't changed to this day. I wanted to learn to play the saxophone just like him.

It's a great coincidence that I decided to hunt yet again for his recordings on YouTube (previous attempts were disappointing) and embed a video in my blog the very day he was to bid us his final adieu.

You'll always be remembered, Boots!
Met Abhishek in the cafeteria for the last time before he was to depart for his evening train to Gurgaon. He was a great pal.
My pulse count has shot up to 108. My days are numbered!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Boots Randolph


Boots Randolph (I believe he's the greatest saxophonist in the world) was hospitalized in critical condition last week in Nashville. I hope he has a speedy recovery.

Pink Panther


If you are not familiar with this theme, you must be deaf! Dad owned the LP but gave it up after his turntable was stolen. I was too young then to recollect anything. I just wish I could recreate his lost archive.

A dedication from NASA

Atlantis Mission, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Whitest White

Simplicity rocks! I'm returning to an old favorite color schema.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Watch Out!

When was the last time I wore a watch? I guess it was almost 2 years ago, during my initial days in my current firm. Work necessitated buying a mobile...which came with its inbuilt timepiece. Since then, I've never really had to wear a watch. Actually, I never liked strapping the stupid contraption around my wrist. What was the great urgency anyway!

My current watch ran out of battery recently and I noticed it only when the hour it showed looked rather odd. My watch is rare in its characteristic of not having a seconds arm, and so a malfunction isn't readily visible. I actually loathe watches with a full-dial seconds arm. Why do people need it other than to indicate if the machine is still working? And they you really need it, can't they come up with a mini dial?

I've never worn my other watch and its battery ran out a long while ago. Hey, that reminds me of something. Even my digital diary is powerless since long and I need to salvage a few phone numbers before I lose them forever.