Sunday, April 30, 2006

It's official thinks that the Robert Fisk articles blog that I maintain is a phlog. I posted some more articles there today, and was prompted with captchas every time. Going to email them about it.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Arundhati Roy Interview

There is an interview with Arundhati Roy in today's The Hindu. It's about the Narmada issue, but she makes some great points in general:
(A country) cannot be run like (a corporation). All policy cannot be guided by commercial interests and motivated by profit. Citizens are not employees to be hired and fired, governments are not employers. Newspapers and TV channels are not supposed to be boardroom bulletins. Signing over resources like forests and rivers and minerals to giant corporations in the name of `efficiency' and GDP growth only increases the efficiency of terrible exploitation of the majority and the indecent accumulation of wealth by a minority -- leading to the yawning divide between the rich and the poor and the kind of social conflict we're seeing.
You cannot say I'm taking away the livelihood of 200,000 to enhance the livelihood of two million. Imagine what would happen if the government were to take the wealth of 200,000 of India's richest people and redistribute it amongst two million of India's poorest? We would hear a lot about socialist appropriation and the death of democracy. Why should taking from the rich be called appropriation and taking from the poor be called development?
You go girl.

Geekiest ad ever

(From Slashdot)

Friday, April 28, 2006

The simple pleasures

No, I'm not talking about smelling a rose, walking barefoot on grass, or any such touchy-feely crap. I am talking about starting a game of GNOME Nibbles from level 15, eating the dots one by one, running low on snake lives, wondering whether you can win (and by winning I mean surviving level 15), surviving some close calls with the insidiously designed obstacles, hoping that each dot you eat will be the last one so that you can graduate to the next level and claim 'victory', and finally throwing up your arms in relief as you are informed that you have made it...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

And the hits keep coming

Given that Karunakaran has floated a party called Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) and is also its head, wouldn't that make him a you-know-what?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mine All Mine

When you listen to a song after a gap of more than fifteen years, two things happen: a) you rediscover the smoothness of the music and the fantastic guitar riff and b) realise that there are things in the song that you didn't even pay much attention to earlier, like the Hey! This is mine! in the middle that you now belt out lustily along with good old Sammy Hagar.

I have listened to it six times already, and I predict that the song will lose all its appeal by some time around 10 PM tomorrow :-)

Movie Review: After the Sunset

I hate Salma Hayek. I hate her affected mannerisms, I hate the fact that she cannot a) act her way out of a paper bag and b) appear in a single scene without showing at least 43.65% of her total skin surface area.

I don't hate Pierce Brosnan; in fact, I consider him the best 007 of all. But he is a pale shadow of his usual charming and dapper self in this movie. Speaking of shadows, couldn't he have at least gotten a shave or two, at least for some of the scenes?

I like Woody Harrelson. Though his role doesn't allow him to be as cocky as he would prefer to be, he does turn in a pretty decent performance.

Did I like the movie? Well, not really. For one thing, it really wanders all over the place -- there is this comic scene when Brosnan and Harrelson go fishing that, though quite funny in itself, doesn't really sit well with the rest of the movie, there are some gratuitous shots of Ms Hayek's butt, some supposedly tender romantic exchanges between Brosnan and Hayek, some not-so-tender 'romantic' exchanges between Brosnan and Harrelson, a few poorly executed action sequences and a completely unbelievable diamond heist scene at the end.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


This has never happened to me before: three great reads one after the other: John Katzenbach's The Madman's Tale: A Novel, Elmore Leonard's Pagan Babies and John Sandford's Certain Prey.

I might as well put my reading on hold, as the law of averages will make sure that I end up with crap for at least the next six months.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

WTF of the day

Unintentional humour from
I rather liked the way we Brits did things in so haphazard a way. Churchill lies under a simple stone in Blaydon in Oxfordshire. Our poets cluster together in Westminster Abbey. Under the nave are the remains of Isaac Newton. "Mortals rejoice that there has existed so great an ornament of the human race," it says in Latin above his grave. Three miles away, the Iron Duke commands heaven alone in his black iron catafalque in Saint Paul's. My favourite epitaph remains that of Dean Swift - he wrote it himself, again in Latin - in Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, the translation of which I owe to reader Stephen Williams:

Sorry - full article not yet available. Please try again soon.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Movie Review: Doom

You walk up to the attendant, hand your tickets to him and enter the theatre. There's no one inside. You take your seat and remark about this fact to your buddy. The man in the projection room comes out of his slumber on hearing this and realises that the no-show he was hoping for will not happen, after all, and reluctantly starts the movie.

To be fair, eight more people joined us a bit later, though this was reduced to six after a couple left in disgust after a particularly hideous alien closeup.

OK, now for the movie review: take four parts Aliens, one part Dawn of the Dead, add a dash of lousy acting, a hint of even lousier dialogue, a spoonful of shameless-recourse-to-first-person-shooting-perspective from the video game that inspired this whole thing, allow it to boil in its own juices for ninety minutes or so, and what do you end up with? An eminently forgettable Saturday evening.

Never let a good deed go unpunished

You try to do your bit for society, and all you get is a captcha?

Longtime readers of this blog may know that I maintain an RSS feed for the articles at It's part of the bad-karma-reduction deal that I have going with the Big Man in the Sky.

Anyway, there has not been any new articles posted there for more than three months. The site's owner finally got around to updating it today, and I had a lot of catching up to do: 24 articles, to be exact.

No problem. I quickly got into zombie automaton mode, and began posting the links one by one. Only problem was, this behaviour triggered the bot-sniffers at, and the &*%$ started prompting me with captchas.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Some more on Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves

Chapter 7 is devoted to the author's publishing experiences. We learn that Sex, Drugs... was rejected by Atria books, Warner Books, Newmarket Press, Thames & Hudson, Pelican Publishing, Red Wheel-Weiser-Conari Press, Coffee House Press, Verso, Rutgers University Press, Adams Media, Princeton University Press, Kensington Publishing Group, Prometheus Books, McGraw-Hill, Chronicle Books, Andrew McMeel Publishing, Simon & Schuster, Johns Hopkins University Press, Berkeley Books, HarperCollins, University of Chicago Press, Vintage, MIT Press, BenBella Books, NYU Press, Knopf, Beacon Press, Soho Press, Routledge, Workman Publishing, Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, Harcourt and Tarcher/Penguin.

Now he tells us.

And no, I don't buy the argument that other great books have been rejected by unwitting publishers; there is no way this book can even be mentioned in the same paragraph as War and Peace or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Thumbs up to the Amazon reviewer 'No thanks' for going against the grain and telling it like it is, when all the other reviewers (lemmings) gave this book five stars.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Intelligent Voter

With election season upon us, I thought I would say something about the Indian voter and how "intelligent" he is. You see things like
The majority of Indian voters may be illiterate, but they cannot be fooled that easily. They know how to send a signal to their political masters, by voting for some party but stopping short of giving it an absolute majority, in effect sending a message that they are putting the party on notice...
When I go to the polling booth, I have a pretty clear (mostly binary) choice: vote for Party A, or Party B, and so on. There is no way in hell for me to coordinate my vote with the millions of other voters so that we turn in an "intelligent" vote.

It could be possible that intelligence is displayed unwittingly due to statistical effects, but this makes the voter no more intelligent than ants in a colony. But I am not inclined to trust this analogy too far, as the ants' behaviour is something that evolved over a much longer time period and is honed by things like survival, foraging for food, etc. Thinking about whom you are going to vote for once in five years is simply not on the same level.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Know Your English

Question: What is the meaning of 'what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander'?

Question: What is the difference between 'semblance' and 'resemblance'?
q=semblance and

Question: What is the meaning of 'nuts and bolts'?

That wasn't really that hard, was it? Does it need a postcard to The Hindu, the anxious wait to see if your question is considered for publication, and finally the joy of seeing it in print? Unless, of course, that's the whole point, and improving your English is only a secondary goal.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Movie Review: Underworld: Evolution

Underworld: Evolution is easily the worst movie I have seen this year. There are still nearly nine months to go in 2006, but something tells me that this one is still going to be at the top of the list, come December.

Blood, disgusting creatures, blood, confusing story, blood, lots of noise, blood...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves

I waited more than a month for Fabmall to import this book for me, and the wait has simply not been worth it.

The book seems more like someone took Pickover's blog posts over the course of a year and printed them out. I have read 126 pages, and the single overriding theme of the book -- till now, at least -- is that people have weird experiences and see weird stuff because of a) consuming psychedelic drugs like DMT or b) being afflicted with certain brain syndromes. A typical quote:
Why do drugs and brain syndromes continually bring us back to elves that also appear to permeate the folklore of many cultures?
Well, let's see, could it be because
  1. All humans are pretty much identical in terms of the way their brain functions

  2. People over the millennia have been getting stoned using the same sh*t and therefore have the same experiences which have been passed down as folklore?
And what's with the cheap, titillating title?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Movie Review: Zathura

Question: You are standing on the porch, gravity holding you firmly down, your house is floating in outer space, and you send a gob of spit out of your mouth. What happens?

Reasonable answer: The spit falls, depending on the effort you put into it, one to three feet away from your feet, after describing a parabolic trajectory.

The Zathura answer: Your gob of spit joins the ranks of objects floating weightlessly on an infinite zero-gravity orbit.

Zathura is still a fun movie, if you overlook such defiance of physics and the whiny little younger brother. I was quite surprised at how the story was spun in such an engaging manner given the severe limitations vis-a-vis location.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Confirm via HTTP GET (sort of)

There was a recent discussion about this in JoS. The problem is that users simply click on a hyperlink in an email message, and their subscription is automatically confirmed, their membership is automatically activated, and so on.

The implications of doing things this way was brought home to me rather unexpectedly recently. I received an email from Yahoo Groups about approving a membership request, but the person making the request didn't actually want to apply for membership: they were simply trying to get in touch with an existing member. I dutifully forwarded this message to the entire group, leaving the acceptance/rejection mechanism in place. To be fair, these are mailto: links, but I think this still qualifies as a vulnerability, since the email address is a specially constructed one that triggers the required action when a message is sent to it.

You want a movie-plot threat?

How about this? Make Bush President-for-life.

Cause terror? Check. Make the American people notice? Check. Inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy? Check. Change the political landscape, or the culture? Double check (why does life always have to be about either/or choices? Think out of the box, people).