Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Monday, February 27, 2006

Movie Review: The Chronicles of Narnia

Stunning visuals? Check. Endearing characters? Check. Magical land whose discovery is the dream of every little boy and girl? Check. Morality play between good and evil? Check.

In spite of all these things, there is a certain je ne se quoi whose absence stands in the way of considering Chronicles a must-watch movie. The presence of the lion, majestic though he is, somehow doesn't fit in that well with the rest of the characters. I also feel that the movie would have been better served if the witch's character had been played by someone like Glenn Close (a la Cruella de Ville). In the final reckoning, the movie neither belongs to the LOTR genre (although the witch's minions remind one of orcs -- especially in the scene in which the lion is 'sacrificed') nor is it an out-and-out children's fairy tale.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Microsoft Certified Child Prodigy

There's a news item in today's The Hindu about a child prodigy who became a Microsoft Certified Professional when he was only ten. Leaving aside the fact that he has gone over to the dark side, I consider this remark of his more dangerous:
So where does he see himself in a few decades? "In the presidential seat. Because I am inspired by President Kalam's journey from Ramanathapuram to the Raisina Hills," he says even before the question is completed.
Folks like these who have such an overweening ambition (especially one involving a 'prize' that depends more on other people's goodwill and your equations with them than on your own inherent abilities) usually leave behind in their wake quite a few bodies with knives sticking out of their backs. Moreover, going by Kalam's track record, even an honest and dedicated non-politician occupying the highest office doesn't seem to have made any difference to the way the country has been governed (let's face it: what has Kalam really achieved as President, other than scaring the bejesus out of school kids with his creepy smile?), so it is hard to treat such an ambition on a par with, say, inventing a cure for AIDS or finding an alternative fuel to petroleum.

Quote of the day

"How can anyone wake up in the morning next to a woman whose face is like a donkey?"
-- Mohamed Al Fayed on Camilla Parker-Bowles

Friday, February 24, 2006


I wanted to check out how Amarok handles audio CDs, and gave Something Like Human a whirl. After playing my regular favorites like Bad Day, Down and Innocent, my eyes fell upon Hemorrhage. Though a part of me wanted to eject the CD, I went ahead and played the song anyway, and boy, did it bring back some memories. This song used to be something of an anthem for me; there was a period when I listened to it practically every day. Funny thing is, it wasn't even pleasant listening (great though the song is); it felt like undergoing a very painful experience which, for some strange reason, I wanted to inflict on myself
Over and over and over again...
Don't fall away
And leave me to myself
Don't fall away
Anyway, coming back to the present, listening to the song now feels good; though a bittersweet feeling lingers, I am now able to enjoy the song for its own sake.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Plato said that?

Your intrepid host functions as the coordinator of his alumni group in his spare time, in which capacity he received an email on behalf of a newly floated political party called bharatudaymission.org. The email asked me to spread the word among the group members about the need to bring probity into Indian politics, halt the degeneration, and so on.

Nothing wrong with this, except that the email contained a quote, purportedly from Plato, that went something like this: "Those who condemn politics to be the last resort of a scoundrel are bound to be ruled by scoundrels".

Wait a minute. Ignoring the fact that the original quote referred to patriotism, and not to politics, unless Plato had mastered time travel in addition to being a great philosopher, I very much doubt that he uttered these words.

Update: Two seconds after posting this, I found the actual quote: "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." Well, at least it got the spirit right.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Labour liberalisation

If someone were to ask me to summarise, within 30 words, what's wrong with world trade today, I doubt that I can do it better than this:
So long as some people's pocket change can feed other people's families for a week, labour will seek and deserve all the freedom of movement that capital has been granted.


Zee English are going to broadcast the final episode of Friends this Sunday. I have said nasty things about Friends, especially the later seasons, and I stand by that, but I can't help feeling quite a bit sad. All said and done, it was a great show and it will definitely be painful to say goodbye. It's not even the case that the ending is a and-they-lived-happily-ever-after one, like that of a good movie; we have the characters saying goodbye to each other and to their favourite haunts as well.

I haven't decided yet whether to even watch it; what with Sunday afternoon not being my favorite time of the week, I don't think I'd want to ruin it even more.

Update: Went ahead and watched it anyway. Wasn't so bad, after all; at least Ross and Rachel get back together.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Quote of the day

Q. What is the nature of Scottish involvement in world politics ?
A. We supply the whisky to every G8 conference.

(from a post in the RI forum)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Official Confirmation

...that the Euro may have had -- and continue to have -- a bearing on the American designs for the Middle East.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Celebrity Cameo Design Pattern

Milk a sitcom for some more rating points

Also Known As
Don't-they-have-any-shame-whatsoever Pattern

  1. A show has been on the air for longer than anybody would have wished, and the writers have long since run out of good storylines. But the channel does not want to risk taking it off the air and replacing it with something unproven, thereby losing its primetime spot.
  2. The lead actors are beginning to have weight problems.
  3. Things are not so hunky dory since the sickeningly cute child star hit puberty and looks plain sickening, instead.
Typically applies to sitcoms where each episode is self-contained, thereby affording easy entry and exit of, say, one of the main character's childhood friends or estranged sister.

  1. The show in question loses even more credibility
  2. The actors are richer by another million dollars
Known Uses
Brad Pitt in Friends; George Clooney in Friends; Christina Applegate in -- where else -- Friends.

Related Patterns
Air-cuts-from-old-episodes-as-flashbacks Pattern

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Non-alignment and Quining

'Non-alignment is not an empty slogan' is an empty slogan.

Manmohan Singh's personal integrity may be beyond reproach, but his political integrity has been pretty much shot to pieces.

I think there is a lesson here: Both our President and Prime Minister have impeccable characters, yet their honesty has had practically no influence on the government's actions. Probably indicates a) the depths to which politics has sunk in our country and b) that nice guys have no place in politics.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Confessions of a leecher

I downloaded the first CD in Mandriva 2006 via BitTorrent a couple of days ago, and, being a bit impatient, I terminated Azureus before the share ratio turned green. I also deleted the .iso file after writing it to the CD.

I am downloading CD #2 as I type this, and seeing the aborted upload in the lower pane, I decided to soothe my conscience and put up the ISO file again for upload. Only problem is, running mkisofs on the CD contents produces a .iso file alright, but this file is not identical to the original one, as evidenced by the MD5 checksums. I am therefore hesitant to put this up in case it is an invalid file and my karma goes south.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Movie Review: Fun with Dick and Jane

Trust Jim Carrey to carry the entire movie by himself, never mind that the storyline is pretty silly and requires a firm suspension of disbelief.

The best scenes in the movie are those in which Carrey and Tia Leone bumble their way into perfecting a career as holdup artists ("Mercedes, off"? LOL!). [Update: How did I miss the R Kelly 'I believe I can fly' elevator scene?)

The climax is torturous; I still haven't fully convinced myself that Carrey & Co really pull anything over the evil CEO (speaking of Alec Baldwin, I wonder why he said yes to such a nothing role).

Two-and-a-half stars out of five.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Let me get this straight...

Iran should not acquire nuclear weapons because Sunni nations cannot tolerate this and would also try to get nukes, leading to a new arms race, while the fact that Israel (whom they hate with far greater intensity) has had nukes for God-knows-how-long has not prompted them to do so.

Give me a break.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Staying on the topic of anonymity

... here is a way to conceal your identity effectively:
  1. Install Privoxy and Tor.

  2. Log in to yahoo.co.ar (yes, Argentina) and create an email address for yourself (with, of course, a handle that doesn't reflect your real name). [*]

  3. If you want to enjoy the benefits of a Gmail account while retaining your anonymity, proceed to Step 4. Otherwise go ahead and put your Yahoo account to good (anonymous) use.

  4. Assuming that you have a Gmail account with invites to spare, send an invite to the yahoo.co.ar email address created in step 2. If you do not have a Gmail account, wheedle one from a friend or an acquaintance. We are basically establishing plausible deniability; in the event that the Yahoo email address is traced back to you, you can always claim that you sent the invite via Gmail Swap.

  5. Use this invite to create a valid Gmail account, again with an untraceable handle.

  6. If you are really paranoid, proceed to Step 7. If not, use this Gmail address to post anonymously to your heart's content.

  7. Repeat steps 2 to 5 by creating a chain of shell Gmail/Yahoo accounts. Visit the Mongolian, Tadjik and Burkina Faso versions of Yahoo. Be creative.
[*] Yahoo currently permits you to create an email account without specifying another existing and valid email address. If this policy ever changes, replace Yahoo with some other free email service that doesn't impose such a restriction. The idea is not to leave any trace or log of your real email/IP address anywhere in the 'system'.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On the Joys of Posting Anonymously

Today I posted anonymously to a discussion forum. Nothing inflammatory (it was a technical discussion), but man, it felt good for whatever reason (probably the same one that prompted Calvin to play low volume Muzak as a form of protest against his parents). Different kicks for different folks, I guess.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance and You

I periodically receive letters from CRY asking for support. The fine print in all these letters say that CRY does not ask for cash donations; then why do they only contain different options for support, i.e. support one child for a year, three children for a year, etc. which of course entail monetary contributions?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

He's not the one who needs help, actually

Hamas and the ANC

Bill Kirkman has this to say about Hamas' election victory:
... South Africa, where those fighting apartheid concluded that they could not successfully do so by democratic means, because the processes of democracy -- notably the vote -- were denied to them. Hence the African National Congress's (ANC) use of violence. The dramatic change in the political scene in the early 1990s led, of course, to victory by the ANC in the 1994 election. That changed the situation. Violence was no longer appropriate for people who had acquired the responsibility of government.
It's apples and oranges. When ANC won the election, it won complete control. In the case of Hamas, when Israel still controls the West Bank (and withholds tax receipts to boot), it's only responsibility; there is no -- or rather limited -- power to go with it.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Rigorous Intuition

There's no question about it: Jeff Wells' blog is the scariest thing I have ever read on the Internet. I have been spending the last two weeks reading all the archive posts; it was almost like reading a crime novel, the only difference being that this is real life we are talking about.

Some of the comments left in the blog and the associated discussion forum seem to be pure evil, purportedly containing triggering signals that push abuse victims over the edge and bring out their alters. Not since I spent a late night watching The Blair Witch Project alone after eating something dodgy have I been this spooked; I think I'll get over this soon, but for the time being I have taken to ensuring that there is at least one other light on somewhere else when I switch off the light and leave my den.


Passing reference to Abramovich here in connection with nefarious things like drug trafficking and international terrorism.

SeaMonkey 1.0

The more things change, the more they remain the same. There is practically no difference between SeaMonkey and Firefox, except for the animated image at the top right of the browser and a different way of setting options.

Alright, there is one difference: I'm not able to access Gmail, either directly or from the notifier extension.