Monthly Archives: January 2006

The iceberg

Ta-da! I have finally gone and done it. There is now a Geekfest section on this blog. It can also be found by clicking on the link of the same name at the top-right corner of this page. While this is probably of little consequence to most of you, it has been a long-pending plan in my head, so yay for me. And Prerona, this one’s for you too!

To get the section started, I have included the expand/collapse script that I’d written for the TsunamiHelp blog, more than a year ago, which has since been used on a number of other collaborative blogs. This script works only on Blogger/Blogspot blogs. It allows a blog to display just the start of a post and hide the rest behind a link that the reader can click on, expand and read. Most importantly, it does this at the template-level, so there’s no need to edit each post. A nice little solution that makes life easier for all. To put it in a much simpler, non-tech manner, it turns your blog post into an iceberg and sincerely hopes that the reader will not be the Titanic. Cool, no? Um, time to make myself scarce now, I think.

All questions, suggestions and complaints are best brought up in the comment space of the script page itself. Any other general nonsense can continue here, as always. Hope you like!

Photoblog : Circle of light

The circle of light
The circle of light
Transept of Memorial Hall
Harvard University Campus
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Memorial Hall is one of my favorite buildings on Harvard campus. It is a gorgeous looking structure built in Ruskinian-Gothic style, with an imposing tower that looks beautiful by day and mysteriously eerie by night. And it is old, like a lot of things in Boston are. Old being a very relative-to-rest-of-USA thing, of course. But a touristy tour around town will lead to the guide (yes, that would be me) pointing out things and remarking — Looky at that li’l school right there? Yeah yeah, that black gate. That’s Haah-vad. The oldest university in the country. Or .. See that stretch of green? Bawst’n Caw-mun. Oldest cattle-grazing ground in the country. What’s that? No no, the cows will come back in summer. No really. I promise. Anyway, soon it drives people up the wall, leading to situations like this — a visiting friend and talented wiseass, pointed to a squirrel in the Harvard Yard and curiously asked if it was the oldest squirrel in the country. No, we replied. But his great-grandpa was. Died in the Civil War, he did, we said, nodding solemnly. They built a memorial for him too. And then we pointed to Memorial Hall.

Memorial Hall was built between 1865 and 1878, to honor the Harvardians who had fallen while fighting for the Union in the American Civil War. (What? You thought I was kidding about the squirrel?) The interior of the hall has a marble-floored transept with walnut paneling, large stained glass windows featuring the work of several prominent artists, and a sixty-foot-high, Gothic-style vaulted ceiling, with metal chandeliers. Yep, this is a picture of one of them, taken from directly below it.

Memorial Hall is also home to Sanders Theatre — originally a commencement hall, that has since played host to a number of notable figures like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King in the past and the Ig Nobels in the present. And then of course, there is Annenberg Hall, one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring spaces on Harvard campus. Sorta reminds you of the main hall at Hogwarts, only Annenberg Hall is real and infinitely more impressive!

Okie, enough yak yak. Enjoy the linkfest. And look ma, no flowers!

A bit of this and a bit of that

*emerges again out of her rabbit hole, cautiously checking for stray missiles* Anybody there still reading this blog? *tiptoes around the landmines carefully* Ding dong? Helloooooo? Ah, there you are. Goodie!

Phew! We’ve had a controversial and busy few days, haven’t we? I know, I know. This is what happens when we start taking things too seriously. This blog is supposed to be nonsensical. But silly me. I had to go and develop a sense of righteousness and what not. Indignation, that never surfaced when I inflicted Vikram Bhatt movies upon myself, had to suddenly show its ugly face now. Bah! And see what happened? Yeah, much messiness. But not to worry. We are quick to realize the folly of our ways. We have been suitably chastised, written ‘must remain frivolous’ a thousand times on our blackboard, stood and sulked in the corner for a good three hours and now we have returned with a promise to not go on those trips again. Heh. Yeah right. Well, at least not unless we’re really inspired.

So, important things first. Thank you all very much for voting for this blog. Twice. Fushtofall, we are glad you liked our design. Secondofall, being placed third in IndiBlog of the Year behind India Uncut and GreatBong is a huge honor and it only gives us more reason to continue the pointless drivel that is traditionally expected of us. Yesh, next time any of you complain about the crap I write, I’m gonna turn around and say it’s all your fault. Yes, you, you and you. (Random person from audience cowers in fright, pitifully howling — Me? What did I do? Not my fault! I didn’t even vote for you! Second random person in audience makes a hurried exit muttering — Oh crap! Who squealed? Damn, it was supposed to be a secret ballot!)

So there. But seriously, regardless of the saas-bahu drama that unfolded, you have my heartfelt gratitude for your vote of confidence. And my promise of not generating Balakrishna look-alike kids holds too.

Moving on to more entertaining things. A conversation with a friend led to some .. um .. let’s call it .. creativity for now. And, as is the case with all things bright and beautiful, I naturally had to share. Of course, said friend has chosen to remain anonymous so as to not suffer the consequences of such brilliance being associated with him. But he is very much amongst us. So beware!

He: <something silly>
Me: You’re nuts. Completely paagal!
Me: <as an afterthought> You know, the dad of a seagull family?
He: Hm?
Me: He’d be paagal too! Pa-gull that is.
He: LOL! Ugh. That was just sad.
Me: Hah! You’re just jealous cos you couldn’t come up with something like that.
He: Oh yeah? What would you call a royal seagull?
Me: King-fisher? (Which I thought was a good one! Seagulls eat fish, no?)
He: No. Regal!
Me: Gah. What would you call a seagull that stars in a mega-fantasy trilogy?
He: Huh?
Me: Smeagol!
He: Heh. And what would you call a miserly seagull?
Me: Um ..
He: Frugal!
Me: Uff. What do you call a geriatric seagull?
He: Uh?
Me: Hangal !
He: Ouch! And what profession would a Chinese seagull choose?
Me: Er ..
He: Legal!
Me: Ooh I like! What would a Punjabi seagull say to another?
He: Eh?
Me: Sea-gull hai? Koi nahin!

The conversation then led to the country with the most seagulls being Portugal, and artsy movie maker seagull from Bollywood being Shyam Benegal, amongst other inanities. Yes, much pain. See, aren’t you glad we are back with regular programming? Heh heh. That’s what I thought.

A disappointment

For those of you who voted in the IndiBloggies, you’ve probably heard of the repoll in the Best Design category. Some of you might have followed the discussion on the IndiBloggies website, so you know what this is about. But for the rest of you, here’s a recap.

Last week, nominations were announced in multiple categories including Best Designed IndiBlog. This blog also made it to the list. Much happiness. A couple of blogs in the first stage of nominations used non-original designs. After receiving negative feedback on their inclusion, the organizers eventually withdrew them from the list and the contest went to the polls. And then they had a change of mind. Thus the repoll.

The organizers, by way of an explanation, claim that it does not matter where a blogger got their design from. Created, inspired, lifted, mutilated – it doesn’t really matter. If it looks good, it qualifies. They go on to add that in honoring a ‘borrowed’ design, they actually mean to honor the ORIGINAL designer, not the person lifting it. And lastly, they add, since templates are part of the ‘blogging phenomenon’ and ‘most blog-wares provide starter templates’, a blog using someone else’s design should still be eligible.

Here’s what we say — Sure. Using someone’s design that has been made public domain (in the form of a theme/template) is most certainly not unethical. I wouldn’t call it plagiarism. But entering a DESIGN contest using someone ELSE’S design IS. If, by honoring a blog that has re-used someone else’s design they are really honoring the original designer, then THAT designer’s name should be on the list, not the person borrowing it, yes? If a piece of writing is a writer’s intellectual property then the same is true of a designer and their design. A designer, by making their design available for public consumption may have waived their intellectual property rights to USE the design, but it doesn’t mean they have allowed you to ENTER A CONTEST with that design.

The organizers also claim that 99% of the blogosphere uses borrowed templates, and only 1% showcases original design and thus it was unfair to narrow the playing field to that 1%. While firstly, I doubt the credibility of that statistic, even if that were true, then why SHOULDN’T that 1% be honored? It is the DESIGN category, for crying out loud! Let’s take a different example. Say 2% of the blogs in the blogosphere are Telugu Indic Blogs. Still only those 2% qualify for the Telugu Indic Blog award, yes? So why should things be any different in Best Design? It is NOT an award for content. It is an award for aesthetics, colors, navigation and user interface. Not how cleverly you can borrow and customize someone else’s creativity.

Anyhoo, this is my take on the situation — it is evident that this award does not respect originality and thus fails the very concepts it sets out to honor. For those of you who voted and are willing to vote again, please do so. For those of you who are sick of the whole affair and don’t wish to vote again, I feel your pain.

Either way, the outcome doesn’t matter anymore.

Predictions, predilections, elections

This post is a sham. It may be wrapped in the guise of a warm-and-fuzzy childhood tale, but at the heart of it all, it’s just shameless self-promotion. As discerning readers you have probably come to expect that from this blog anyway, but once in a while, we like to state the obvious.

My mom takes her astrology very seriously. She’s drawn up jaatakams and janm-kundlis of mine from the day I howled my way into the universe. This is how I think the story happened — It was a dark and stormy night, many many moons ago. Barely a few days after a certain kid we all know was dropped on her head, a nervous mom stumbled her way over to the family astrologer, cloaked in a black shawl. Darting indoors, she presented the freak-kid in question to the kindly bespectacled astrologer, a Mr X Y Z Krishnamurthy, who peered at it suspiciously. You sure this is what the hospital handed over to you? he asked. Yes, I’m positive, she said. Okay, he sighed. Sit down. I’ll see what I can do.

Charts were drawn, planets were nudged around and a couple of lunar ecplises were forced in. And finally a game plan was created. She will be a lawyer, he announced, his voice echoing suitably for effect. The clouds thundered ominously and prophetically. And a satisfied mom went home, dreaming visions of her dotty on the bench. No not the techie consultant kind, the weird wig kind.

The years passed and a harassed mommy went through yetanudder day of dotty-dear refusing to do as she was told and counter-arguing everything. The whole lawyer thing wasn’t apparently working out like planned. Checking the fine-print in the astrologer contract, she saw to her relief that there was a money-back guarantee. Aha! she said, and promptly appeared at the astrologer’s doorstep. After some machinations, a dinosaur egg was hatched.

One summer evening, I had just returned home after playing hopscotch — a pigtailed kid, clueless about the things life had in store for her. I met Krishnamurthy uncle today, said mom. He says you will be a big celebrity one day! Images of being a famous-yet-mysterious, Zorro-type persona rushed into my ten-year old head. Really?, I asked eagerly. Yes, your horoscope is identical to N T Rama Rao, said mom excitedly. A pink splotch of strawberry Complan remains on the kitchen wall today, bearing testament to my visceral reaction at that moment. My head swam with kaleidoscopic visions of red pants, shiny shirts, industrial strength make-up and glued-on wigs. (What’s with the recurring wig theme, anyway?) You mean I will raise my thick eyebrows menacingly while thrusting my hips at Sridevi and Jayaprada?, I asked nervously. No silly, said mom dismissively. You will become a famous politician one day.

Heavy-duty words that followed me for life. Hounded by them, I became a geeky engineer instead. I avoided bright lights and never wore cheap makeup or glitter. I went into denial each time I aced a civics test or recited the preamble to the Constitution of India by-heart. And bushy eyebrows still freak me out.

But all that is a-changing today. This drama-queen is asking for your votes and becoming the very actor-turned-politican she loathed to be. And unabashedly so. Much joy. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this blog has been nominated at the IndiBloggies in two categories — IndiBlog of the year and Best Designed IndiBlog. Ahem. Cool, no? Yes we are in some august company, and it is only January. Yeah okay, enough with the banal puns. Now pliss to be the nice readers that you are and head over to the IndiBloggies site and do the needful.

Of course, regardless of who you choose, I will continue to torment you with my nonsense, surreptitiously packaging it in a wispy cloud template so you never see it coming. But if you do vote for this madhouse, you shall have my eternal thanks and all associated niceties. What? You want more? Oh fine, I’ll try not to generate kids that end up looking like Balakrishna. No wait. I can’t promise that. I’ll have to check with Krishnamurthy uncle first.