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Journal: Best laid plans of mice, eh ?

Journal by Gopal.V

When shakespeare said Best laid plans of mice and men I don't think he realized that a few centuries later someone in a movie would say -

Slartibartfast: The best laid plans of mice, eh ?
Arthur: I think it goes "best laid plans of mice and men"..
Slartibartfast: I don't men had anything to do about it

If there's one joke worth seeing in the movie it was this. Unless you consider the part where Arthur walks into the shower and finds Trillian. Of course, the first thing trillian says is Can you hand me a towel ? - for which Arthur is well prepared (h2g2: Towel).

I mean how many times in life are you going to walk in a pretty girl (pretty, not sexy hot) bathing and expect her to ask YOU for a towel. But it does prove one thing - know where your towel is.

And the Book UI just rocks !. You have to see how the menu works like a unfolding ladder. The twin tone thumb logo is just too cool for words - somehow it reminded me of the NASA logo. And the part of the book which explains about vogons is amazing, I've never actually pictured how the triplicate and the lost in peat part works - nor the grandmother and bug blatter beast in the background. It's like those old disney movies where goof learns dancing from a book. The same blueprint background with alice blue lines. The part about the hyperspace, the respectable physicists living below the party floor. It JUST ROCKS !!.

The rest I've got to say is less than complementary. Zaphod has only one head.. trillian is not even faintly arabic .. marvin looks like a stupid kid. Marvin's voice is good, but the point about marvin was that he was a supremely capable robot who was wasted. Always thought of Ford as an actor wannabe - good looking, smooth talking ... in short so NOT Mos Def. Maybe Chris Tucker could've pulled it off.

The part about trillian wanting to go madagascar, the heart of gold being a sphere (it was oblong, never a sphere). Zaphod knows about magrathea and Deep Thought before they reach there. Sort of writes over the hidden compulsions joke that Douglas had worked so hard on. And Deep Thought was in a room with a deep male bass voice, not a BBC announcer female voice.

The Pan Galactic gargle blaster was murdered ... being served in tiny cocktail glasses. I always imagined a long island iced tea approach to it - so much so that you can't finish one easily. The towel was also grossly misused, with the part about running under laser gunfire with a wet towel. The vogon spaceships weren't yellow enough. And here's the Killer

* Arthur gets a cup of brown liquid like team
Arthur: Ugh !
Trillian: I should've said it resembles tea.

Totally destroyed that joke. Of course it wouldn't have carried well into the film - but at least the Share and enjoy could've made it a lot more fun.

Also some random stuff like the citrus juicer on a cap - who the hell thought of that. Zaphod signing the destruction of earth, with no mention of Gag Halfrunt.. ZB could've been persuaded to destroy Earth. Not Loves and Kisses approach. And why the hell did they fill out a form to save Trillian, why not take the usual rush in and get captured approach.

There were some reedeming points as well. For example, the ayers rock being painted red by a guy or the John Malkovich wiping his glasses and how the eyes are only painted on (wow !!). A space ship escape pod which looked like a Mini complete with windshield wipers. Vogons actually smashing jewelled crabs and sitting on gazelles with broken backs. The Idea swatter field protecting vogosphere was a very original idea (*smack*, ouch..) . The portal which Arthur fails to jump through (typical british indecision joke) makes more sense than just leaving him to guard the tunnel. But I always imagined Slartibartfast as a nordic dude rather than as a muttering briton - who messes up the Are you happy ?. No, that's where it all breaks down by repeating it in a monotone rather than true misery.

Lastly, why the hell did the dolphins come back ?. I thought they were missing in Earth Mk II totally ?.

All in all, I'm glad I saw it .. but I can almost hear Douglas Adams saying Bet you miss me now ! .

User Journal

Journal: Engineer Think - phenomenon

Journal by Gopal.V
Very recently I read a small quote about how educational discipline makes people think differently.

Physicists see equations as a reflection of reality.
Engineers see reality as a reflection of equations.
Mathematicians haven't made the connection.

It somehow struck me as being coincidental that I always thought of range of a projectile as an equation rather than the equation belonging to the range of the projectile. In fact the equation is an approximate prediction minus all the effects of wind, friction and totally ignoring bernoulli's principle. In other words I had just realized that I am an engineer.

A couple of years ago I wrote a rather controversial (well, at least for the people who read it) commentary about Engineers in general called Now, that's odd. According to most people who read it, it sort of describes me - not a generic engineer. Read it, if you are not my parents, sisters or co-workers. And weep.

Anyway, one thing is true - Engineers usually have lots of solutions in search of a problem. For example, I want to do something with FireFox - but I have no problems with the way it works right now. We're all full of solutions, we just need somebody's problems.

Cue the engineer, physicist, and mathematician jokes.

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal: Wardrobe Malfunction: a traveller's tale

Journal by Gopal.V

Do you pack your bags ?. I sure as hell don't. I just push in an extra jeans, a couple of tees and a toothbrush into a backpack and I'm done. For this particular reason, I maintain a small wardrobe at my grandparent's and at my parent's. Technically I could show up at Cochin with just a toothbrush and have everything I need. Considering how many times I've forgotten a toothbrush while visiting shows how much care I put into packing.

To put things in context, I showed up in Delhi on friday night with my backpack. Unpacking, I realized that gee toto, I don't think we're in kansas anymore. I barely had anything to wear at night, only one change of tee shirt, an ironed full-shirt, two polyester pants and the clothes I was wearing. On the other hand, I did have my toothbrush, charger, USB hdd, a simputer, mp3 player and 4 AAA batteries. I'd have felt naked without those - clothes or no clothes.

The long and short of it is that I showed up on the second day of FreeDel wearing a tucked in white shirt and blue jeans. I'm not that conscious of my clothes, but when everyone around asks Gopal !!.. ironed and tucked in ?. What happened ? - you can't ignore it that easily. Anyway Yahoo came to the rescue with a T-shirt - so I looked even more corporate but at least nobody was saying anything.

On top of all this, my talk was post lunch. I was talking compilers while half the audience just sat there gaping. But I didn't actually go there to just talk - my other hidden agenda was also satisfied. I can now put faces on all those nicks on IRC - OldMonk, BigBeard, shaitaan, viyyer. Cool customers all, especially OldMonk (he doesn't drink now, but he is called OldMonk for a reason). I crashed at BigBeard's place and had discussions about all sorts of stuff. I even got a bunch of them hooked on Coupling.

Another person I met, but didn't really talk to was Anjuta. A quiet woman who barely spoke. But we made fun of Naba with stuff like : What's the name of your next project ? ...

All in all, one weekend I won't forget ... There is nothing dry about ILUG-D, humour notwithstanding !!

User Journal

Journal: Here today, gone tomorrow

Journal by Gopal.V
As one generation moves slowly into adulthood, another one is sneaking back into the dust from whence it came. Last few years have not been kind on my family - a few deaths couldn't be said as unexpected. But on this thurdsay, my grandfather's younger brother suddenly decided to bid us goodbye - breathtakingly suddenly.

My first encounter with death was the death of my great grand father. We sort of shared a special connection, I was the first great-grandson he ever had. He was a teacher by profession and a perfectionist - one thing he never demanded from me. He'd initiated me into writing and always maintained that none of his had ever gone wrong - even when I was a failure in all eyes but his. He died one fine day in 1992, I didn't even reach cochin in time for his cremation. His arm-chair still remains, for me to sit on as the eldest of the family once more - in a few decades maybe.

Next to vanish was my great grandmother. I always remember her as being always hunched back, sharp tongue and amazingly intelligent. The sort of wispy woman who seems to walk around purely on the basis of will alone. Her death was the first time I realized what death was - she's not coming back. Walking into a courtyard seeing my uncles cut out her golden bangles before cremation was almost carved into my memory.

A few years later, my paternal grandmother makes a distinguished exit from the world. She was one of the strongest women I have known - mentally. Our family is blessed with women who have been known to step up to challenge and take it head on. Anyway, she had pretty much brought me up since I was 3 and I didn't know what to say when she died. I couldn't even cry. I understood why and hows of her death - but still couldn't believe that someone like her could be replaced. She is mourned - but I remember her for what she made out of me. I still carry her fire and brimstone, though my sister carries the most of it - the cold determination which make any parent cringe or any child obey.

For the next few years, I never even thought about Death. You are young, in your teens and just getting to terms with yourself, hardly any time to philosophize about Death. Then I got a job, became a responsible Son and just lived from day to day, never thinking about what I did the next day, nor rememeber what I did the previous.

2004 April, I fly home to celeberate Vishu. Of all the people I meet on my usual rounds, only one has changed beyond recognition. My mother's aunt was unexpectly bald and eyebrows greying. She was under chemotherapy. As I bid goodbye to her, I told her that I'll be back for Onam.. and she sort of non-comittedly said that "I don't know.. I just don't know". July third week, the unthinkable happened - I got news in Hyderabad that she had just died at around 2 PM that day. I jump on Bangalore bus at around 5:30, reaching there in the morning - the next bus to Cochin at 12:20 and reaching there at 3 AM. I was utterly shocked by the suddeness of the death, I had seen her happily making pookalams the previous Onam, looking at her grandchildren and playing with them. And a year down the line, she's just gone. She was in a lot of pain from the cancer that death was probably a merciful release - but I cannot still deal with the fact that someone could just disappear like that.

And then came another death, but that was almost expected. She was 91 years old and has been blind for 20 years now. She was lingering on just due to a sort of desire to stay alive - I wouldn't call it will. Anyway, that didn't shock me.

But the latest one has shocked me, mainly because of my memories of this particular person. I remember seeing him hold a flowerpot in his hand and light it or a rocket launched by holding it. Never a man to shy away from any risk. We always went around to him, because he always had lemonade in his fridge. A literary master, who spent his time tutoring students in malayalam. The sort of guy who sits in a chair and talks mainly. Unlike my grandfather who was constantly walking and still at the age of 74 prefers to stand rather than sit.

All this made me wonder about how I will die. I spent my last night (no.. no.. not in that sense.. AAAAH !) dreaming of being chased and killed in around 23 different ways. But at least I didn't just give up and die - at least in the dream. It is quite interesting when you realize how being poked in your left belly by a pickpocket you chased feels like - in a dream. It's no less painful nor is it foolish when you think of what you had to give up in the chase for 397 Rs in cash and a company ID card. But I must live, because - and here I quote ..

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

The grim reaper takes no prisoners - or at least we hope he treats the dead with more respect. The circle of life continues - a new generation has entered and it's exit left for the older. All world's a stage and all that - let me play my role till the fat lady sings.

User Journal

Journal: ComputerScience2003 : The Next Generation

Journal by Gopal.V
Two years out of college and I've not really left it behind. I'm still pretty much the same - unshaven, wrinkled shirts, jeans, late mornings and hanging out after. I'm still so much in college, except that I get paid every month and I get an exam once a month or so. But the life of some of my classmates on the other hand has changed dramatically.

A bunch of them got married and now two baby girls to show for that. And then we had this poll which said "who would be the first Daddy in our class", as all of those who are married/engaged are girls. There are two types of guys who get married young - the kind that rides mom's apron strings and the kind who are in a hurry to make it official. Most mothers want to get a girl to look after her boy, as if twenty odd guys aren't capable of looking after themselves (maybe they do have a point, but I'll be dead and buried before I admit it on the record). If you can't trust your mother to pick shirts for you, would you trust her to pick a wife ?.

Russell Peters: I know she's a little big for you right now, but you'll grow into her.

Jokes aside, I have almost always hated my mother's picks on shirts - while she has loved (or at least had the decency to pretend) that she liked my picks. I'm not too creative, I just pick a blue saree with florals - not much could go wrong that way.

You know what the problem is ?. I have too many cousins sisters. Before you laugh out loud, let me explain. In my world view from the times I was knee high to almost everything around, girls have been something that incessantly makes noises, bites or kicks you if you sleep late in the morning. Eighteen odd years later, my newest cousins - they still have the habit of punching me in the face, sometime around 9 in the morning.

Anyway, I do respect and care for girls - but I'm permanently in Big Brother mode. Most single children and even those who have a sibling have no idea how strong this compulsion is. This makes me do a bunch of stupid things, which is usually interpreted by girls as coming onto them - which leads to very uncomfortable and difficult situations.

Life isn't so bad - I get free coffee, bandwidth and wrist pain for doing almost nothing but sit around and code. It's something I already do for free, it does feel cheapened when you get paid for it. You can't put a price tag on satisfaction, like that eight-ball in the corner pocket.

User Journal

Journal: Reductio Ad Absurdum

Journal by Gopal.V
Take a basic premise. Follow down the straight and narrow path it leads. Reach a dead end and prove that the guy who thought of the premise was just plain wrong. If you ever thought that this was for just your high school math class, you thought wrong. Reduction Ad Absurdum works very well with rational people with strong opinions. Literally twisting their opinions to make them defend a logically irrational position is almost too easy often. Consider the following short skit.

The story is a true one. And by true I mean, I watched it on TV. And By TV I mean, that it was a cartoon show that was rated MA due to explicit content - South Park episode Christian Rock Hard from Season 7.

Stan, Kyle and Kenny are trying to get their parents to give them 300 $ to buy CDs for inspiration. Kenny says that they can download songs off the internet for free. Before they can even finish downloading the music, FBI come through the window and arrest them. They are shown how horrible their acts of piracy are.

* they are standing in front of a huge white mansion, near a heated swimming pool where a guy's sitting with his head in between his hands...

FBI: You see that ?.. That is metallica's drummer's house
Kyle: what's wrong with him
FBI: He wanted a gold plated floating mini bar, but he can't have it for a few more months because of kids like you downloading music off the internet.

....
FBI: That is Britney Spear's private jet. That's a GulfStream 3, she wanted a GulfStream 4. This one doesn't even have a remote for the 3-D surround DVD player entertainment center.

...
FBI: Here we see Mister P playing with his little kid. Next week's that kid's birthday, all he has ever wanted is an island paradise in french polynesia.
Kyle: He'll get it , won't he ?
FBI: No... he won't get it till christmas
Kids: NOO.. we didn't really know
FBI: That is the folly of man. These stars are forever fated to live a life of only semi-luxury, due to kids like you downloading music off the internet.

Anyway the guys (their band Moop) end up striking, refusing to play till the downloading stops. Various artists like Metallica and Courtney Love join Moop - in the meantime Cartman's rival band (carefully designed to dupe the Christian pious public with Rock songs with lots of 'jesus' in it) sell a million records. Stan realizes that he is missing the point about the strike and calls it off saying.

Stan: don't you guys see .. we've forgotten what we did all this for - The Music. Moop is not about just money anymore, we're about music. Who's with me ?.
Artists: naah.. we're just about the money.

Satire works better than the naked truth. It points out what isn't said. But it is sad that those who pick it up, already know what you were talking about. It's a sort of we know too acknowledgement, not communication in true form. But you can't say it isn't funny :)

User Journal

Journal: Tom Holt and Terry Pratchet

Journal by Gopal.V

Reading is one my favourite things to do - ever since being forced to lie in my bed for a summer when my family was having a serial attack of Chicken Pox. It started with me - so I was pushed to a room and lying there thinking of castles, woods and running animals, listening to the kids play cricked in my backyard. Then my sister caught it, then the rest of the crowd dropped pretty quickly. So there I was, perfectly healthy and cleansed of all filth I've been feeding myself, thanks to a strict diet of rice with curd,chopped carrots and beetroots mixed with a little lime juice and absolutely no salt.

Anyway, we didn't have cable TV at that time and the thing we did have was a 3x5 foot shelf full of books - from a couple of decaying P.G Wodehouse from the 1940's to Mahabharata in 10 volumes. I got reading and by the end of the summer my brain was exploding with shakespearian prose, wodehousian puns mixed with a greek rendition of mahabharata with the sounds of brass hitting steel.

The defining nature of good fiction is this - The good won, the wicked was punished and everyone else lived happily ever after - it makes you want the underdog to win, the goliath to fall and the boy to get the girl. The Hero despite his failings wins and you feel that you can do the same.

In my list of authors to worship, I've put Douglas Adams on top, Wodehouse a rung below and Frank Herbert on a totally different ladder at the top. I mean anyone who could think of Aorist Rods or Agrajag is someone to worship on a pedastal - Wodehouse wrote too much to actually provide such distilled jokes.

Now I've put two more authors on my list - Tom Holt and Terry Pratchett to the list. Tom Holt is a little bit more sedate of the two, but his Grail Blazers is about Knights who deliver pizzas or the Mirrors 3.1 used by the evil queen which gets hacked by humans and such higher level paradoxes which are funny in their own right. Terry Pratchett is funnier closer up - here's a quote:-

One reason for the bustle was that over large parts of the continent other people preferred to make money without working at all, and since the Disc had yet to develop a music recording industry they were forced to fall back on older, more traditional forms of banditry.

These guys are amazingly hilarious - especially when read in the light of two candles on a dark night after your UPS has run down its battery. What's even more interesting is that these guys actually make some sense - like Douglas Adams did.

You should not use magic because you can't .. you should not magic because you can.

Denying a temptation is the most powerful thing any man can do. Ever seen what a pretty girl does when you actively ignore her ?. First she ignores you, then she tries to get your attention and then finally she'll confront you. Anyway - there's no other way to get them to talk to you first ;)

Anyway - I read, and I read those books last week and I like them - which is what I said about in so many sentences.

By the way, I suggest you read Saki's Shock Tactics or Jerome K Jerome's Three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog). I think the latter as one of the best book with the most stories in it. Never has digressions taken such a wild ride - I admire Douglas Adams for his digressions, but it can't be said enough that Jerome K Jerome invented that, pretty much from scratch.

That trout lay shattered into a thousand fragments -
I say a thousand, but they may have only been nine hundred.
I did not count them.

Mark Twain's quotes and Oscar Wilde's Model Millionaire are all treasured peices in my memory. All of these are works of art beyond the words they are written - they are more than just sum of the words they are written in. The underlying joke is already in our heads, they just tickle it to make us laugh. That is what makes these the Gods of English literature - they play to the gallery and not to the front row.

User Journal

Journal: Count the legs and divide by two

Journal by Gopal.V
I've been watching some episodes of The Coupling, and all I can say is Wow !. These guys are the ultimate sit-com I've ever seen - Subtle and funny. The kind of show you could watch with a six year old and the kid wouldn't understand anything, while you'll be on the floor rolling. It is all about context and referential humor. For example one swallow doesn't make a summer can mean a couple of things.

Also it sticks to my favourite character types - fumbling hero, sure and confident heroine, the strange side-kick and a attention-drawing companion. In H2G2 - Arthur, Trillian, Ford and Zaphod. Here it is Steve, Susan, Jeff and Patrick in those roles. The mix is almost too rich till you add two crazy women to compensate for the guys.

The comedy is unfortunately very surreal - you can't quote it without explaining the context which sort of destroys the joke. The story proceeds from all direction and sort of joins up by the end of the episode. Adult themes are rampant including political jokes : what revolution ?. you guys are in power now. We're the rebels now. and lots more jokes which the British-illiterate won't get.

To top it all off - the show actually has no sex. No, nude women or even semi-nude ones. Just suggestions - like a bunch of remotes with no batteries.

Susan: oh, the batteries must have run out.
* Steve looks inside the remotes
Steve: they appear to have also climbed out.
Susan: hold on a tick, I think I know where I put them
* Susan goes into the bedroom

Now think about it - were they in her alarm clock or her flash light ?. You see the subtlety in the word-play ?. Some stuff is unimitably funny. Here's steve trying to pass off some porno as just being erotica (as in having a plot that cannot be expressed in diagrams).

Jill: Do these movies have plots too ?.
Steve: They are mostly mood peices.
Susan: expressionistic ?
Steve: yes.. yes
Jeff: at the top of their voices
Steve: Jeff, you can stop helping now.

I am pretty sure that if Douglas Adams mixed sex into his books (other than the part about "Thor and Trillian up in the bedroom" , which thor promptly explains as "I was weighing her, flying is a tricky business"). And made a screen play out of it for TV, this is pretty much what you get. It's got the word play, the personalities and just a hint of reality to make it appeal to the loser in us (really, I like Jeff).

All in all, I suggest you read the title again and think what I was talking about.

User Journal

Journal: Placebos work too !!

Journal by Gopal.V
I am currently reading a lot of evolutionary science from Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene and A Devil's Chaplain. I have much to agree with most of what he says, especially this - science brings to you the awe of knowledge about how something as blunt, cruel and wasteful as natural selection can produce a work of art like the cheetah or the gazelle.

Even more wonderful are his disagreements with Stephen J Gould about what progressive evolution means. Evolution in itself has no purpose - except when dealing with arms race between two evolving species. This is a faux-purpose, which is indirectly influenced by the success of these against each other. Eyes vs Camofluage is the topic of the book Seven Deadly Colors.

Now, where do I disagree. There's a brave man called John Diamond who died of cancer - he wrote "Even cowards get cancer" about how he resisted the whiles of alternative medicine. But what Dawkins fails to see is the power of the placebo - why homeopathy cures people, or why crystals cure cardiac arrythmia. It's been technically proven that placebos work.

Or on the topic of GM seeds. The point where I draw the line at GM is when the companies operate their production from opaque laboratories. I wouldn't mind if I could get and understand the mutations in the GM rice. But until the companies come out into the open and don't club their own employees into acceptance of ethcially unacceptable risks - I'll continue to oppose them very much. Dawkins is not being very pragmatic when he assumes the corporate world speaks the truth - he's too deep into academia to assume that someone would lie about this.

All in all Evolution is a beautiful concept in biology - so sad that I learnt about it after school. I could have made life interesting for my teachers.

User Journal

Journal: Every Saint has a past, and every sinner a future

Journal by Gopal.V
Every Saint has a past and every Sinner a future

I read the above off the cover of a book - it sounded interesting. I've been walking around in Landmark book store for two nights now. You can't just walk around for 5 odd hours in a book store without accidentally buying a book. In fact, I bought a couple.

I bought the Seven Deadly Colours (ISBN0743259394) and started reading it on Sunday night. The essential magic number of 7 seems to appear out of nowhere a lot of times. 7 Days in a week, 7 Deadly sins, 7 visible colours and 7 distinct musical notes. Anyway the book is about the way colour works in an evolutionary system - about how the eye is just dazzled and cheated by colors. An evolutionary arms race between the eye and colours in nature - from the camflouage of the tiger, to the mimicry of warning colors of the mayfly moth,. the blue tree frogs illusions versus the development of the kestrel's UV vision or the movement detecting eyes of a bush baby. The essential fact being that colour is as much of an evolutionary weapon as the eye is - it is not always sexual selection (selecting the flamboyant male for the reason that he survived inspite of the flamboyance) that guides colors in nature.

I also bought another scientific book - Lucifer's Legacy. This book deals with the essential assymmetry of nature. Why are people left-handed or right-handed. It is interesting to note that the angel of death is always at the left of God - and the word sinister actually means left handed.

Anyway more interesting are the books I didn't buy (for obvious lack of need and cash). Tom Holt's Paint The Dragon . It reminded me of a simpsons episode All Singing, All Dancing when Homer brings home a Clint Eastwood movie - Paint your Dragon with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin in a musical comedy !. Anyway, the second book was Snow White and the Seven Samurai - a reference to the classical film Seven Samurai (seven again !) . Anyway it was about human hackers messing with the wicked queen's mirror network (Mirrors 3.1).

Thus on the seventh day, he rested. And read a good book.

User Journal

Journal: God's Own Country - In July !!

Journal by Gopal.V

I visited home (Kerala) last week for about 4 days . I got there by a night bus which takes me into the heart of cochin , cutting via the beautiful nilgiris (in the early hours of morning). After waking up as it neared Cochin,I was surprised to see no buses or road blocks these road hogs cause. The private buses in Cochin were on strike.

'T was a dark and gloomy rainy day in cochin. All my cousins were either falling ill, already sick or recovering from viral fever (otherwise known as asian flu). I tried to use the two wheeler for transport around cochin - an idiot with a cycle made me brake hard. I skid nearly four feet and did a tire burning 180 on the main road.

To get away from all this, I started for Trivandrum - my hometown of sorts. Trivandrum central was a mess - full of slushy mud and dark. But at least it was dark at nine in the night. I did sleep really well that night, what with all the travel. Woke up and realized that my college is barricaded by police with water canons and tear gas shells. There's a student riot about the fees charged by colleges owned by private proprietors. There are good things about kerala model socialism - it just concentrated on food and education. Violent and semi-violent protest is just one of the side effects of a strong college union with connections to those in power. The engineering education costs something around 10,000 INR per year - while 6 years back it had cost just over 2000. Anyway, so I come home and watch TV.

Anyway, all in all that visit was about watching TV , away from my cousins so as to not catch the flu. Sadly rain in kerala is nice when you don't have to go out. It's almost like a kodak moment, watching the drops flow down the roof tiles onto the courtyard in the centre of the house .. with nearly 8 cousins sitting around eating dried mango peel and talking about random stuff , playing board games , just being a kid.

I still hope and dream for that nostalgic utopia of childhood.

United States

Journal: The third horseman of the apocalypse - a monday war rant

Journal by Gopal.V
Ever since the Bush regime started it's war on terror , especially since he has hoodwinked an entire nation (well, at least a majority) into believing that Iraq was about terrorism - america has drawn criticism from it's allies and enemies both. Let me call your attention to the most insightful novel I've ever read - Dune.

Let me repeat - that is a work of pure fiction. But it is very scary to imagine the forces in play there. The Lansraad in Dune is a conclave of the great houses - sort of like our UN assemblies. The essential purpose of the Lansraad is to ensure that the emperor cannot cut out a single great house from that herd and hunt them down with his sardaukar. Essentially a bi-polar world of a single mighty emperor versus a bunch of loosely confederated countries.

Now reflect on the current world. Bush is the emperor - with his army. Every world leader must live in fear that any day they can come knocking on his door - to dispose of a dictator, implement democracy or just to free the people. The noble intentions rarely pan out and often come with a hidden agenda (Iraq was about oil and especially it being traded with Euros ). The benifits seem almost incidental , even accidental.

As a world citizen, it saddens me to see a country which has always carried the stick for the world use it so mercilessly. Removing a dictator is not always in the best interests of democracy, especially if the army stays back to protect. This ranks of neo-colonialism - after all the British did us Indians a favour by uniting us, but did that mainly by pillaging and ruling justly.

The double standards that current America shows in terms of the rest of the world is amazingly stupid and short sighted. For a country living pretty much completely on a credit economy - it is either planning to go bankrupt or do what all those liberated russian sattelites did (devalue currency, pay back debts and get out). Desperate measures are called for, which seems to be what the leaders are doing. Just like the worksman who has pawned his tools on friday, america is going through the rich for the weekend period of it's life. Come monday, he's starving and worse for the weekend. Like all those wierdos on the street, let me say this - The end is coming. After all you can't bully everyone all the time, they'll just wait till you are down and kick you hard.

The standard reply I get from an american when I express this opinion is :- if everyone hates america so much, why do they queue up for a visa before you could say Apu Nahasapeemapetilon ?. My rhetoric question is - Would you rather be the guy getting beat or the one the one with the big stick ? . Most people I know wouldn't take a chance with the former. The I'm with the winning side attitude is so common with the spineless worker of this world. Add another layer to the foren-returnee wedding cake and you have an answer.

Lastly, let me quote a very notorious person's opinion about mass manipulation.

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

Please look around and tell me I'm wrong about all this. I don't want it to be this way - but I'm not good at these self delusions.

C'est la vie *sigh*.

User Journal

Journal: APC for PHP5 !!

Journal by Gopal.V
If my dear reader would go through apc notice - you'll notice that the following lines are of interest.

PHP5 support and major features by:
Arun C. Murthy
Gopal Vijayaraghavan
Rasmus Lerdorf

It's a pleasure to be mentioned in the same list as Rasmus. More interestingly it was part of my day job (eventhough I slack off during the day). So in effect I was paid to write open source !.

All in all, a very productive two week's of hard work !.

User Journal

Journal: Simpsons overload - maximum Homerdrive !!

Journal by Gopal.V
Ever since saturday night, I've been watching Simpsons - mainly seasons 9 and 10. It is really funny how those guys manage to twist seemingly normal behavior. For example take the following conversation.

Homer: Hey, that's super. See you later.
Lisa: Dad, don't you remember? It's our special Saturday.
Marge: You agreed to spend one Saturday a month doing something
with the kids.
Homer: Ohhh. [slaps forehead]
.....
Homer: Okay, Bart, it's your turn to pick, where are we headed?
Bowling? Demolition derby? P. J. O'Harrigan's?
Bart: Hysterical, but I traded my turn to Lisa for her dessert.
Homer: D'oh! But we did a Lisa thing last month -- [notices
Marge glaring at him, and changes to a happier tone of
voice] -- and I'm glad we did. But now I think we should
do something that normal people would like.
Lisa: Why do you assume that I won't pick something fun? Let's
see ... [leafs through newspaper] Oh, this looks very
educational.
Homer: [groans]
.....
Homer: [to Bart] This is all your fault for trading away your
turn. Just for that, no dessert tonight.
Bart: [to Lisa] Trade you my next turn for your dessert.
Lisa: Deal.
Homer: D'oh!

These guys are just amazing. Also they get all kinds of people to do voices for them. For example , in the episode with the superbowl - they had Rupert Murdoch and Dolly Parton give voice as themselves.

Truly amazing stuff. Stuff like in the episode with the Bi-Mon Sci-Fi Con , you can find kids wearing Futurama tshirts, the police box from Doctor Who - even Tom Baker (the ever loved doctor). Not to mention the favourite - Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) actually endorsing Sprint over AT & T on stage with light saber instead of a laser pointer (oh, how the mighty have fallen, that..). To top it off we see Mark Hammil sing Luke, be a jedi tonight in a top hat (with a light saber instead of the typical vaudeville walking stick).

Simpsons used to air at 5:30 pm every day - which meant that I only got a sparing dose of the cynical satire and that too only on days when I got home on 5. But seeing two or three a day has really kicked it up into high gear. The part that is very interesting about the stories is that half the humor is referential - same things we see in real life , but only from a different perspective.

If Douglas Adams had lived, I think he'd have enjoyed Simpsons. Call it wishful thinking, but I think he himself would have worked on a H2G2 spoof episode with Matt Groening. Even I can imagine how that would go - but I like to be surprised.

Simpsons is the best cartoon series for adults that I've EVER seen.

User Journal

Journal: Whiskey Tango Fox - I mean, seriously !! 1

Journal by Gopal.V
Unless you are a Nato radio operator or someone who reads slashdot a lot, you won't realize what Whiskey, Tango and Fox have in common. But it is an acronym gone bad - WTF.

Now that WTF is common parlance, everyone uses them - though they'd still write $#!@%& for some other profanity. This is the bad thing about Euphemisms.

In this politically correct world , euphemisms take up around half of my entire vocabulary. Anybody who has seen an Austin Powers movie must have heard the term Shag or those who watched Friends (ever so carefully) must have heard Tush at least once.

Euphemisms don't really make offensive words less offensive - they also try to make fun of the other guy's ignorance in another way (In-duh-vidual ?). They remind me of these old people talking stuff spelled out - let's give the B-A-B-Y a bath (ha, back to our acrony expansion thingy). Anyway, they're not better or worse than the original words.

Whatever !

PS: I was seeing Friends (re-re-re run) last night and there was Chandler getting a new bracelet from Joey.
Joey: "You just watch what this does to your sex life"
Chandler: "It'll slow me down for the first couple of days, then I'll get used to the extra weight"

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