March 31, 2006

What OS are you?

Sorry Saif... I saw it on your blog and I couldnt help but try out the dumb quiz for myself.... And I like the results... So, here they are:

For those who know me, I'm sure you're wondering if I can actually come out of my 'shell' anymore.. but come some way, it makes sense. I am a very private person and you can get to 'know' me only if I want you to. Hehe.. Without further ado, if you want to take this test, here's where you go:

Have fun!

March 29, 2006

The 'out-of-school-early' feeling :)

Have you ever had that feeling? That feeling when you were in 7th grade and the teacher walked in just before lunch and told you - "Afternoon periods (yes, back in India we didnt call them 'classes') have been canceled because of rain" -- That feeling of euphoria? Yes, it was a measly 3 hours.. but it was also those amazing 3 hours which you could mindlessly spend on whatever you wanted with no questions asked... No Geography or homework... Just the India-Pakistan match on TV accompanied by Patti's steaming pakoras...

The walk to the busstop in the slush wasnt icky.. It was the way home and to freedom... The dark clouds, the smell of rain-in-the-mud (manvasanai - one of my favorite smells), , the swishing of new raincoats, the humid breeze-- aah pure heaven! When you went home, you were given the quizzical why-arent-you-in-school look by Amma while you launched into an explanation about what History Miss told you about the cyclonic storm, even while turning on the TV surfing channels for the match.

As you snuggle under warm sheets, the aroma of steaming pakoras fills the air and you ask fondly - "Patti.. Chai..". As India starts the first 15 overs, the first batch of pakoras and a nice, hot cup of chai await you. Just the way you imagined... The perfect rainy day!

March 26, 2006

My Madras University

I was just registering for a course here at UC this quarter and my mind inadvertantly went back to those good old days in Madras University when we used to have a month's 'study holiday' before semester exams. I have nooo idea how many of you are even familiar with Madras University or the way they used to conduct examinations n stuff... But I can proudly tell you that I belonged to the last batch of Madras University (Its now become Anna University and I dont think its any different in the way it functions... )

Study hols were that period of life in which I couldnt explain my natural tendencies towards many things. I mean everyone knew that studying was the last thing on our minds... We had 30 days to study 5 units from 6 subjects, a total of 30 units... which we could do leisurely at a unit a day... Now come on... who'd wanna do as less a unit a day.. there was no challenge in that... You might as well make it 2 units a day and enjoy the 15 days you saved... Sadly, our parents neither bought our theories nor agreed with them. I am more a 'book' person than a 'TV' person... So i found it really hard to explain why I had to see 'Kyunki Saas...' when I hated soaps, or 'Khana Khazana' when I didnt know 3/4ths the ingredients Sanjeev Kapoor was using... Practically everything on TV from 'Small Wonder' to 'Annamalai' became a must-watch. And then were these perfunctory hours you had to spend in your room, pretending to study while I secretly laughed over a copy of 'Archie' obviously open inside my textbook (My visits to my lending library reached peaks my parents were unaware of!) The textbooks we used, were something we never bought at all... Most of the time it was this cheap 24paise Adyar-Xerox copy which you could hardly read from.. To accompany them were these horrendous green/pink 2-mark question books, which we saved for the bus journey the morning of the exam and... how can I forget the Question-Bank... The most effective method of study to date has been to make a list of the 12-mark questions they asked year after year n study the most common ones.. Had never failed me in my 4 yrs of engineering!

And then all sorts of classmates landing up on your doorstep the night before the exam, "Andha notesa oru 15 minutes eduthutu polama? Inime thaan padikave aarambikanam" -- (Can i please borrow those notes for 15 minutes? Have t start studying after that)

And how can I forget the phone calls?? My parents being aware of what branch my friends belonged to would obviously frown upon me if I spoke an hour to Gayathiri ("She's in Civil..what can you possibly discuss??") or Naresh ("I'm sure he'd have finished 2 subjects by now"). This was unfortunately true... Naresh had this knack of 'tensing' people up by the amount of study he did. To match his pace, I would need 400 hours in a day.. Luckily for me, other people's studying didnt bother me one bit... But then that meant I had to play counseler to sooo many of my friends who called up all nervous, "Did you know he's done 3 units in 'Numerical Methods'? And thats only our 4th exam!"

And ofcourse you treated yourself if you met a target you never thought you'd do.. For me, it was giving myself a TV program, or an hour more of sleep or an extra phone call! I'm a total night-person and I can't dream of getting up early.. I mean study hols were especially bad... I would rather stay up to the hours some of my friends got up at rather than do it their way.. Hehe..

The day of the exam itself... For most people, it was the D-day where one expunged everything from memory to the paper... For me, it was an intermediary act. I had to sleep after an exam to get the contents of that exam out before I could absorb material for the next one!

My most memorable exam to date has been my DSP exam. The invigilator was this guy who we called 'Isku'(roughly a play on the hindi word 'Ishq') coz his initials were I.S.K n he thot he was just tooo good..and he as usual hated me for no known reason.. He gave us our answerbooks. (I was soo dumb that I didnt know that these answer booklets were standard and each had 21 sheets n all) In mine, the first page was 80% torn... and I happily ripped it right off n started using it as a rough-sheet to do my calculations! With 30 minutes left in the exam, Isku moved up in front of me n saw this piece of paper sticking out from under my exam-pad. He grabbed it and his eyes literally gleamed as he screamed "I have found the secret to your intelligence -- You are copying!" I was confused for a microsecond -- I mean that would be the secret to my marks if anything... how could it be the key to my intelligence?? Undeterred I kept writing as he went to fetch the college dean.. My close friend, Kavi was sitting to my right and kept shooting furtive glances at me. I heard Isku in the corridor and knew there was more to come. Damn! He walked up to me still with that gleam and the dean at his heels. The dean thankfully knew of my actual 'intelligence' n found it hard to believe that this sheet I had matched the exact cut of paper in the front page and that the math scribbled there was exactly to the questions in the paper... He reprimanded me for my stupidity in tearing the page off and attached it back with his endorsement.. And I couldnt help but steal a glance at Isku... He was quite crushed.. :)

When I compare all that to this plagiarism stuff that we hear all about in the US n everything, I sort of miss Madras University... The movies... the arattai... the spoon-feeding (My patti used to maintain a desk-service during exams.. everything reached me at where I 'studied' n was taken from where I left them)... those bus journies on exam-day, and ofcourse the semester holidays! Here, I actually had a quarter where I took just 3 classes and the finals of all of them fell on the same day... I mean how horrible can your luck get? In some way, I'm in a sort of limbo now... hose Madras Univ days are never gonna come back.. nor are the 3-exam days... I am as of now stuck with a whole lot of research and a bit of scattered course work to do... Enough illusioning I guess.. Quarter begins Monday...

March 17, 2006

Nailbiters Inc.

Ok... I admit... I have a huuuge problem with biting my nails. And I take solace in the fact that I know I am not alone in this. Indeed I found a community called, 'Nailbiters Unanonymous' in Orkut of which I am a proud member of! Well.. I have nooooooooooo idea when this began or why its lasted for most of my 24 years.. i just know that i dont realise its happening and many people get disgusted by me! And no, I DONT eat my nails... I just bite them off...

I think I picked it up from one of my older cousins and to date I havent forgiven him for it. And I donno if he's gotten rid of it, but I havent. To me, the habit is analogous to someone who is smoking/drinking, only less harmful and all those lectures about 'determination', 'self-control' that I give my nicotine addicted buds gets thrown on my face when they ask me to give up nailbiting! Consequently ofcourse I secretly dislike most women with long, well-manicured perfect nails which they actually find time to paint accordingly and flaunt, while my own poor ones are soo stunted that they dont wanna grow.

I do lose hope on them when I do my hardest and dont bite them for 3-4 days and still see no appreciable change in length. I think my nails are for all practical purposes afraid to grow. They just know that I couldnt have given up the habit and force me to relapse into the phase! If they grow, I'd probably not bite them off... But they just dont give me an incentive to STOP! Only once in my life, just before I started college, back in India, I grew a will of steel and stopped biting them through the entire summer. And they actually grew and just before my first day, i got them manicured and there I was, the proud babe with beautifully shaped natural nails. Indeed it was an experience by itself, learning to pick stuff and handle them and everything without chipping or bending your nails and all. And I was the proud owner for about a year from September, when college started to next September, when we had our III sem final practical exams. For then came Mr.X into the picture. Mr X was our external examiner for our Electrical Machines lab. And he was a killer at the questions. And he chose just one student per batch, the one the professor chose to make bakra, in my case bakri of. I was the 'chosen one'. Having completed my experiment in an hour(the exams last for 3), I was deposited over to Mr X for viva-voce. And then it began. As of then, kaun banega crorepati was big. And Mr X gave me 3 lifelines to answer my viva.
1. I could ask my professor
2. I could ask a friend
3. I could go to the library and refer a book
I heard all this in disbelief, positive that this was his idea of a joke. But as it happened, it wasn't! When I got stuck in question no 4, he offered for me to use a lifeline.. and one of my lifelines just died when my prof who obviously had no clue about the answer to the question, decided to become self-righteous and yell, saying -"Jayalakshmi, how dare you ask me the answer to a question during an examination?" And so it went... And without knowing what was happening, my fingers flew into my mouth and I didnt know it... I didnt taste the nailpolish... Nothing... 2 hours... 20 questions later, 10 of my fingernails were back where they'd begun a year ago!

Soo tragic! And its not like I got a 100 in the exam either.. I had to be content with a 98! And you know whats the worst part? If I see Mr X again(if I recognize him that is), I can't even scratch him to diffuse my anger... And then I told myself that to play the veena (which I became really good at), one should have short nails (but not nonexistant ones!! :( ) Now... there are no nails and there is no veena!

March 16, 2006


Ah well, its that time of the year where if you are smart, you have mailed in your tax returns for the year and probably have a hefty bank balance from a return check and are smug in your smartness... and if you are not, like me, no matter how easy the government makes the whole process, making it online and everything, the process remains a process.. something I dont want to do unless absolutely forced to. For one, I dont understand how I am an engineer... I mean, I am supposed to be good at Math... But if you wanna see me confounded, taxes can accomplish it in no time! The icing in my cake of woe is that dad's an accountant!!!!

Here at UC, one has to undergo the pain of going to the ISSO (the Godforsaken place is based at one corner of the campus where most muggings take place!) and pay 2 bucks for the password that authorizes you to login into the online portal. I havent yet figured out if the password that they give us is individually linked to each one of us or if it is just a way of making fast money. A couple of my friends argued that there was no way it could be linked and that we all should probably share the same password... And me being me, I played on that 1 single element of doubt and made us procure individual passwords... And what do I get for all that??? After all the long deciphering of all the commerce and tax-related nomenclature, I am entitled to a return of a lousy 22 bucks! Of which I lost 2 bucks undergoing the whole rigamarole! Life's just unfair! I dont think it would have made any difference in my life not procuring those 22 bucks... But this is the price i have to pay(read get) to remain legal out here in the US...

I sure hope the rest of you got a hell lot of money through the returns... that way if you treated me, I wouldnt end up feeling so bad after all... And I am not put out of my misery yet... I have yet to file my stupid state taxes... Better get started on that.... Ciao!

March 15, 2006


Warning: The following blog is sprayed with a lot of Orkut jargon. If you don't know about it, you soon will!

Ok... How many of you have never heard of Orkut or are not members of it??? If you haven't heard of it or are not a part of it, I suggest you skip this blog and keep your beautifully unpolluted brain the way its meant to be... Coz If you read further, you might be tempted to join and once you're in, its going to take very long to get it out of your system. Its a complete waste of time and unless you are completely lukha, you will probably not have time for it and will be sneaking in every break you have to see who 'scrapped' you.

Well for the honorary members of Orkut, 'scrapping' is but, a way of life... When people meet one another in the hallways of school, they call out saying, "Hey there... I scrapped you today" because stating what they 'scrapped' would ofcourse make no sense and would be a crime against society. Indeed I was soo into this whole thing that I got pissed with a friend when he deleted a 'scrap' he'd written in my scrapbook in front of me. And he bought out a valid point. We met everyday and spent all the time we could together and yet that scrap was soo important to me because it bought down the number of my 1000 odd scraps by 1! Crazy!

To talk about the pros of the whole Orkut experience, well, I did find a lot of my schoolmates who to me were for all practical purposes nonexistent after school and I didn't have an inkling of what they were upto... And it was good to get back in touch with them and scrap them once in a while for an update. Its a pretty neat thing once you know how to restrict the unknown people from entering your 'Friends List' n all... There are 'communities' which you can join which helps other people identify your interests and the ones with common interests tend to come close (personally, I haven't become close to anyone in any community that I have joined.. And that's saying something considering I have 50+ communities). And for people with the concept that time is knuts (read Harry Potter) Orkut is the one boon that they have wanted. One finds himself endlessly scourging the site for goodlooking women most of the time and otherwise just looking mindlessly at the photo albums of everyone on his list. Its another of those things which you can do forever and then wonder what the hell happened in the past umpteen hours!

To talk about the cons, well, I am sure that the Orkut people thought they were very smart in restricting the joining to 'By Invitation Only'. Little did they know that the world was an intricate matrix, all innately linked somewhere and all it needed was a center stem to sprout and grow. On the last count, Orkut had a whopping 14,231,910 members!!!! That's more than the population of entire London!! Forget the factor that you can join by invitation only. You can practically bet that about a 100 people you know are members out there and everyone wants an extra friend in his list and if he hasn't sent you an invite already, all you need to do is mention it! So, you join... And you put up a display picture. Well, if you are unfortunate enough to put a pretty picture, you are deluged by friend requests... some genuine and some definitely from creepy people... Having had a bad experience through a similar process, I can tell you its not a good idea to 'add' anyone no matter how nice they seem unless you can relate to them somewhere, somehow through someone! I guess I'm one of those people who seemingly frown upon an internet romance. And indeed I do! How can you know you 'love' someone without ever seeing them for what they are?!?!?!?

And then ofcourse is the (in)famous Orkut donut! Just when you wanted to see what testimonial that hot guy wrote you, Orkut flashes that famously cute message about how Orkut ain't gonna get any donut. Like you care! You want your testimonial! And Orkut tends to frustrate people a bit with its immensely slow processing. I must mention that out here in the US its phenomenally faster than when I was back in India... but hey, its picking up out there too!

At the end of the day, I must say as long as you control orkut and not the other way around, you're good. You can use it constructively to get to know people of similar interest, to get back in touch with old buddies and drop a line with the ones you haven't seen in a while (much better than adding them on messenger - unless you talk to them a lot or taking the pains to remember email IDs), etc.

When do you know you're hooked and you HAVE to get it out of your system?

1. You take pictures exclusively to make more interesting 'display images'
2. You yell "hey I scrapped and you haven't replied" to a friend when you meet instead of the normal - "hey, whassup" routine...
3. "Did you change your hairstyle?" -- when your only frame of reference is the display image you saw!
4. "I can't believe he has 15 more friends than I do!" - Hell-lo.. Grow up... Its on Orkut - not for real- as if you could count that anyways!

If you see symptoms like those above, dude, you are done for and better out than in... Get out of it and get on with LIFE!

March 14, 2006


“Harry checked the 3” screen on his tiny pocket device once more. No, there was definitely no movement inside the room. Perhaps this was the right time to make a move. He whipped out another gadget shaped like a pen. The instrument remained silent. This meant that there was no door alarm in operation.”

No, you haven’t read any fragment from J.K.Rowling’s latest Harry Potter book. This is the technological era and nothing but everything is possible here. Welcome to the real world of sensors, cameras, surveillance units and a gazillion other things which could fit into the size of your palm…as long as you pay for it. But nowadays, different companies and technological giants are falling over one another to give the common man his dose of technology at prices that do not burn a hole in his pocket! For instance, you could purchase a simple surveillance camera for a little over $40. For the technology geek, this must be the Utopia people once spoke about. Everything is possible at not-so-exorbitant costs and it feels like living a dream.

Not surprisingly, as much as we have advanced in technology, the levels of our privacy have taken a mighty dip. Everything everywhere is taped. You always knew that stores like Wal-Mart needed electronic surveillance cameras because they were huge and the staff couldn’t possibly check all corners of the store. At least that’s normal. But you can bet your last dime that the quaint little Bishop Street CafĂ© that you so serenely sip coffee in is also bugged. Where ever you go in public, you better watch out. The road, the banks, the stores, the offices, the schools, maybe even the washroom of the restroom is bugged! You need to watch your step for certain. And this is just the surveillance bit that I am talking about. I haven’t even started on what you cute little laptop can do if forced to. Any chat conversation, URL’s that you may have visited, your email accounts, why, even your system can be hacked by someone who probably doesn’t even know you but is out for some fun! Who ever heard of a non-living thing having a cold, no… that’s not what it’s called… a virus? If that’s not enough, you virus scanner may actually carry spy ware itself.

We obviously cannot resort to the good old days of calculators and typewriters because we have been spoiled rotten by our technological friends… so much that they form a major chunk of our lives and we literally wouldn’t have a thing to do in the weekends without our weekends-free cell phone schemes! And the Internet certainly ranks as one of the best discoveries of the past century which makes it just a one-click issue to say, find the meaning of a word your English whiz-friend used. Just tap a query in Google! And it’s definitely made the world a much smaller place and reduced the cost of so many things. With stuff like VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), International calls have been made almost as cheap as local calls… what more could we ask for???

As much as technology is absolutely necessary and shows the level of development of this modern world, I think it should be embraced as a whole community according to the utility. As a commoner, most of us are unaware of the actual advancement that’s going on, on the other side and we certainly aren’t going to use it right away till some good-old friend brags about its pros to us. But we might as well be aware… who knows maybe the next dance party you attend might be taped live and transmitted across the Internet live for millions to see. I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in such a situation, would you??

March 13, 2006


This is going to be one of those never ending posts with part 1s to God-knows-how-many. Anyone who knows me is going to tell you that I am this Harry Potter maniac and that once I get into any conversation about Harry Potter, little can divert my attention or make me talk about anything else! Indeed, I have made my friends see the 4th movie (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) TWICE... An achievement in itself! And these are the kind of people who couldnt probably spell 'Voldemort' if asked to, having never read any book!

It would have to be second year of college, when the books made great headlines, back in India having been a raving success all over Europe. Me n my friend, Harini, in fact spoke about getting our hands on the first book and seeing what all the fuss was about... Harini was one person who shared my neverending enthusiasm on books and we had a lot of common book interest. She got to it first and after the first book, she said -'Its childish n a lot of fantasy. but I'm hooked.' That was enough inspiration for me to grab the book and dive into it. My parents will tell you I develop deafness and become mentally challenged when I have a book in my hands.. Agreeably, my response time is muuuch higher and I dont hear 99% of the stuff being said around me. Indeed, if I had that amount of concentration where I should have had, I'd have a PhD degree in whatever I wanted!

Okay, not digressing too much, I read the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and it wasn't phenomenal.. it was childish... It was fantasy.. but it was also fun and page-turning. I was never bored and that for me qualifies as a decent read. In quick succession, Harini n I devoured books 2 (Chamber of Secrets) and 3 (Prizoner of Azkaban). Book 3 was the 'turning point' in my HP experience. I mean Book 2 was good... but book 3 was phenomenal and awesome and I realized that in a week's time, I had turned from Harry Potter newbie to a moderate-knowledge state... And I was addicted. Book 4 (Goblet of Fire) followed soon after. I think this was my least favorite in the series before the 6th came... By now I was a self-proclaimed Harry Potter guru (I believe I am to date!) Around this time, the movies had started coming in India and ofcourse I was there in the theatre when they released. The first movie was a cute adaptation and the characters were so cutely in adherence to the book that I ignored some subtle changes from the book. Then came movie 2, a year later and still there was no disappointment... They had done it well...except that it was sooo dark that it seemed they had saved money on lights!!

Then came Book 5(Order of the Phoenix) I remember how eagerly I awaited this book.. And I got my first copy... an illegal one.. online, the night before it released. And the maniac that I was, I sat n read the whole humongous 790 odd page book in 6 continuous hours -- glued to the computer screen - all night long. The next morning, I was soooo exhausted and had to bear the brunt of my parents screaming at me for being so 'weird' for sitting up the night and reading a 'damn book'! But I was content.. I had read it! And the world was only then arising to the book... For the first time, I was ahead in the race of the contenders for Harry Potter wisdom... How did it matter that Amma n Appa were not-too-pleased with me? It didnt... They would be fine eventually! After all, I am their daughter!! Armed with such powerful knowledge, I turned my thoughts to the book as such... There were mixed emotions.. Some will tell you it was the best of the series and some will say the exact opposite. To me, it was high up there... A definite improvement over Goblet.. maybe not as slick as Prisoner... coz it was about double the size... but a sure-shot page turner with a very few pages that were slow... All in all, to me, it was a winner.

To down my enthusiasm, came movie 3. I think the casters had not read the book or were blind or both. I mean, Sirius Black was supposed to be HANDSOME! And I almost wept when I saw that they had chosen Gary Oldman for him.. I mean Gary had his days but he looked just short of revolting as Sirius in the movie. To make things worse, Remus Lupin was a disappointment as well. David Thewlis was hardly what it was to be a Defense Against the Dar Arts teacher.. It sapped my entire spirit as I saw the movie. To make matters worse, they had deviated bigtime from the book (and I frown upon such things!!) The only thing I appreciated greatly in the movie were the sets and the way the time-turner thingie had been taken.. The hippogriff was good too I suppose... Good job..

The biggest disappointment in my Harry Potter love story was yet to come... And I waited 7 whole months since the day it was announced that the Book 6(Half-Blood Prince) was going to be released on July 16th! I think that was Harry's birthday, supposedly... Well, I had pre-ordered the book... unfortunately not from Amazon. So while people all around me read it, I had to wait for my stupid copy to arrive or my roomie to finish reading it... The latter happened first and I greatly appreciate her for not having revealed the plot to me.. But when I read it, I thought it was some kind of cruel joke that J.K.Rowling had played on the whole community... How could Dumbledore die????? And indeed, I got a spoof version (anyone who wants it, please post a comment and I'll be happy to oblige by sending it to u) But God... what happened!!! The book was soooooooooo disappointing.. Boo Hoo!!!! And now I dont even know if I wanna read the 7th one.. I mean, I would be doing myself injustice if I denied me of the book and why should I? I guess we're all going to have to brave it in style!!

Go HARRY!!!!!!!!!!!



This is an image I picked off the web.. My 'Best time' to date on the expert level remains to be 112 seconds

I have an oncampus job like most desi people at UC and well, as it happens, I spend about 3 hrs out of the 4 I work per day just staring at the computer and running out of sites to look at. I mean I have my quota of mail checking and now with the gmail chat thingie, I dont even have to sit n download some junk for the messengers and can happily chat with most people who r just as addicted as me... However, I do get bored of emails in no time... and seriously I donno how many people can actually be like me in this world... be absolutely content doing nothing in life but playing Minesweeper hours on the end....

Call it stupid/childish/jobless, whatever.. nothing's managed to put my mind in a kind of blank trance the way minesweeper does.. For those who don't understand the game, it may sound dumb.. just clicking away and flagging the mines... And it may seem like people like me don't even think before we 'reveal' an area surrounding mine.. But believe me, it takes weeks of staunch 'practice' and devotion to master it and once you do, you're hooked.. The 'best time' fever catches up and before you know it, you are clicking away to glory and anyone who comes in your path as you subconsciously concentrate and try to uncover those 99 mines is the 'villain of the day', because Minesweeper is that kind of an awesome game where you minimize, you're doomed!

You would expect that if someother window were active, the time should stop going up so you can be 'clever' and figure out where to click while the innocent game awaits for you to get it reactivate...but damn the game... unless the window is actually minimized, the time counts against you and you are done for! I have been sooo addicted to this game that I think its more of a 'mind-sweeper' than what its called and after scourging the net for different versions of the game I have reached the conclusion that the original is the best and I just can't get enough of it. Indeed there's this gloat of glee everytime you just finish the stupid game and thats like the one factor that can make you stop playing... well, for the next 5 minutes atleast!

But I have a word of caution for all you mine-sweeping maniacs... Ergonomically, its one of the worst games you could've chosen for addiction (unless u chose 'Pie Bill Gates' or something similar as you passion - they have pretty much the same detrimental effect) In sometime (I have taken about 3 months to fully appreciate it) your wrist starts giving you this annoying nagging pain that is more muscular than anything else... You find yourself rubbing your wrist more often than not and cursing it for your deterioration in speed at the clicking thing and you see that you can never match the speeds you once had when you hadnt mastered the game!

Moral of the story: Give your poor wrist a break... And dont blame it when it aches as you click away for research work... And hel-lo, there are other games in the world.. I'll talk about that soon.. I'm a gaming freak with more than one addiction... we'll get to that...