Tuesday, December 1, 2009

R.I.P Nobbie — Will Miss You

You were timid but yet a feisty little thing...will miss you terribly, li'l one.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Graffiti on a Ten Rupee Note

My WordWeb defines 'graffiti' as "a rude decoration inscribed on rocks or walls" and the Merriam-Webster has it down as "usually unauthorised writing or drawing on a public surface."

These definitions are archaic, I think. Graffiti can be authorised — like the Wall Project by the BMC in Bombay, which you can read about on the Indian Express and DNA website. Graffiti can also be considered an alternate art form, a tool to express one's views in a visual way, on a completely different canvas. Idea-Smithy has photographed some of their graffiti along the Mahim–Matunga railway station wall.

The graffiti I came across was orchestrated on a 'different' canvas alright. A currency note. And it was rude. Not very, actually. Since we live in a city where we hear far worse words than "Motu, Gandu, Saala". I do not think the Books o' Law have anything on the act of writing on Indian currency notes. So there. Graffiti in its various forms. This one, on a ten rupee note. The Father of our Nation still manages to hold that smile while staring at those words..

Andheri East: Chakala — A Jungle Gym

A long time ago I had posted something about the pathetic state of the road at Chakala, just off the highway in Andheri East. In that post, I had shown images of the road opposite the Guru Nanak Petrol Pump. That time the construction work for the metro was yet in its initial stages. Later on that work spread across the breadth of the road and now large dugouts and pillars have replaced what you see here. Last year, it was possible to walk to work, there was a pavement.

Notice that a year ago, one could just look down the road and see people standing outside the Maharaja Restaurant at the end of the road.

As the construction work expanded, even the pavement started being eaten up. So much so that today there is practically no pavement and pillars appear to have cropped up outside some of the buildings.

Now it is not possible to do that any more. A metal scaffolding has been built on the very stretch I took a picture of. Honestly, looking at the old pictures, it feels so weird now. I had to weave through one corner of the scaffolding to get to the other side of it and walk towards the highway. When you walk through the 'jungle gym', you do it single file.

These photos were taken from this 'other side', which is nearer to the flyover and highway.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kala Ghoda Festival 2009: Mini Version

Paid a visit. Finally took some photographs of the place. They are a little shaky because I had my son in one hand and I was working the camera with the other. And daylight was slowly fading. That did not help me one bit. I got myself a nice t-shirt from the NGO stand called Jungle Lore. This time we did not pick anything from WSD. We are full up with their stuff already.
The trees above house some huge fruit bats. They must easily span almost two feet -- tip to tip. The bats were busy pushing each other off their perches, using their hooked claws to clamber along branches and nibble on the berries growing on the peepal tree. Yes, I spent a great deal of time watching them. I have never done this before and one has to find interesting pass times when the better half decides to spend more time at the handicraft stands!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

American Tourister - Surviving in Mumbai: The Ad

This ad shows how crowded the Mumbai suburban trains can get. This is a humourous take on the city's transport network so do not go about thinking that you will get your luggage thrown out for you when you get off at your station. Assuming that you actually get off at the right station, that is.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Books on Birds in Mumbai

Got me self four books on birds. Here you see three simply because I forgot to photograph it. It is a coffee table book so it would not have fitted into this any which way. The funny thing is that I have owned these books for ages. The latest acquisition was the one, "Birds of Mumbai" by Sanjay Monga. The others are a couple of years old.
I got the "Birds of Sanjay Gandhi National Park" booklet from a BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) stall at a Kala Ghoda festival. The "Birds from my Window" is something I picked up years ago from Crosswords. Recently I pulled this book out and started reading it. I realised that all the books I have on birds are on the same topic but still so very different.

Birds from my Window: It is a first person account of all the birds the author has spotted from his window. Even the dull, monotone sketches are a bit of a dampner, the stories are very descriptive on avian behaviour.

Birds of Sanjay Gandhi National Park: This is something every bird enthusiast must have in his or her possession. It is fairly technical and has a detailed listing of all the birds and their characteristics, along with a list of common species that are to be found in that area. Even though it is detailed, this is probably good for those who have some birding experience and tramp about the park with a guide or group.

Birds of Mumbai: I hit upon this jackpot when I was at the Strand Bookstall. I could not decide between another bird book and one on butterflies. But eventually, this book by Sanjay Monga won me over. It has segregated areas of Mumbai into habitats like urban, forest, grassland, etc. Each area has a list of birds that one may come across, with a brief description — and an illustration!

This is what I love. Sanjay Monga teamed up with a J.J. School of Arts student, who has a great job of painting each and every bird that has been listed in the book. The rarer birds are not accompanied with an illustrations but that's ok. This book has helped me identify quite a few birds from the 'Urban Areas' section. If you are new to bird watching, pick 'Birds of Mumbai' by Sanjay Monga.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How to Make a Paper Balloon (Water Bomb)

I learned how to make one when I was in school and if you ask me to make one now, I doubt if I will be able to remember how I used to do it. So I did a little searching and found lots of resources. One even expected me to sign up for their pro membership to view larger images of the steps! Forget it.
Thanks to WikiHow.com, I will be able to pass on valuable information to my son and the legacy will live on. Bombs away!!!

P.S.: Oh, if you want your project to sound less devious or destructive, you may want to refer to it as an 'Origami Balloon.'

Monday, September 14, 2009

Finally Overcame the 'Block'

I finally had a story idea and found a bit of time to post my thoughts about the English Premier League on Bleacher Report. I have not written anything seriously — from scratch — in quite a while...so this to me, is a bit of a rusty effort.
Read more @ The Bleacher Report: Manchester City Is Now in Third Place

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Human Calendar

I came across this Human Calendar on blog called Dorset Hill Beads I visited recently. I found it really cool and wanted to share it with you. It is really fun to look at and the entire range of photographs of the human calendar. Do visit the website and take a look.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mr. Mulliner (Hard Cover - 1947)

Look at what I found at a roadside bookstall in Mumbai's Fort area. Two hardcover P.G. Wodehouse books that were owned by someone way back in 1947!! Click on the pictures to take a closer look.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Metronome Software for PCs and Mobile Phones: Guitar Guide II

 Is there a metronome software for the mobile phone? You bet there is! I found one for Windows-based computers and smartphones based on the Symbian Series 60 3rd Edition. I have also listed a whole bunch of equivalents for the Mac OS, Linux and Windows Mobile phones too. I hope this is useful to you and makes learning the guitar more convenient to you. All the software, save one, are free.

Guitar Guides, Videos and Metronome Software for Beginners - I

There are innumerable guides available online for beginners already. All those websites are written by someone who is already proficient with the instrument. This one, however, is written by a noob — a beginner.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Andheri's Ups and Downs

Chakala road

Welcome to the suburb of Andheri East,
Which is part of my daily Bump 'n' Grind,
Where the roads are a Treat and the traffic a Beast,
With authorities saying, "Bear with it. Please don't mind."

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Vole Came Visiting The Bit Bucket

Microsoft Blog Visit

Someone from The Vole came a-visiting my blog. At least that is what StatCounter seemed to suggest. Take a look at the screenshot on the left. There is no Country flag, no entry or exit URL, operating system details or browser type.

This is how a regular visit shows up in StatCounter.
StatCount Log

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Homeless World Cup: Calling All Film Makers

I had joined a group on Facebook called "Homeless World Cup". I received a message about HWC looking out for film makers to make a short film on the Homeless World Cup 2009 in Milan. For the benefit of those who are not on Facebook, here is a copy of the shout out to those who are interested in making a short clip for a good cause. This is being done along with Nike. (The announcement is in two languages -- just in case...)

About the Homeless World Cup
"The Homeless World Cup is an annual, international football tournament, uniting national teams of people who are homeless and excluded to represent their country and change their lives for the better. The Homeless World Cup Foundation supports grass roots football projects in over 60 nations working with over 30,000 homeless and excluded people throughout the year.

Over 70 percent of players significantly change their lives by coming off drugs and alcohol, moving into homes, training, jobs, repairing relationships, becoming football players and coaches.

The 7th Homeless World Cup in Milan, Italy, September 2009, is sure to be a passionate affair."

The Search for a Film Maker — A Collaboration with Nike
"The Homeless World Cup is very happy to announce a fantastic collaboration with Nike to search for the film maker to create the Milan 2009 Homeless World Cup short film. Maybe you would like to do it, or know someone who would? It would be great if you can spread the word!

Thanks and hope to see you in Milan :-)

Calling All Film Makers

“Spiritus Concordia Victoria.”

Nike and The Homeless World Cup are offering a $50,000 fund to produce a short film (5 minutes, no more than 10 minutes) capturing the Spirit, Unity, Victory of The Milan 2009 Homeless World Cup. This is from 6-13 September 2009 at Arena Civica, Sempione Park, at the heart of one of the most football-crazed cities in the world. The film may be used for broadcast, digital channels and public screenings. Submit your treatment (using the mandatory entry form at www.homelessworldcup.org/milanfilm) to Milanfilm@homelessworldcup.org by midnight GMT, 31 July 2009 for a chance to win the opportunity.

We’re looking for a film that will bring those who don’t know about the Homeless World Cup immediately into the energy, action and force of change. In telling the story of the Homeless World Cup we want you to capture the real issues and real changes in a fun, energetic way. As they step away, people should feel the truth of this quote from a Homeless World Cup player, “We destroyed the stereotype. We were cool.”

Nike and Homeless World Cup will judge the submissions based on creativity, storytelling inventiveness, as well as, practicality, sensitivity and timing. The judges’ decisions shall be final.

Submissions should include outline script, storyboard, music suggestions, requirements for access to Homeless World Cup teams and players, access to the event itself, travel arrangements, timing, examples of previous work and filmmaking team bios. Submissions must include the official entry form, or they will not be considered.

The film and b-roll will remain the property of the filmmakers while Nike and the Homeless World Cup will retain the rights to use the film across all media in perpetuity.

The finished film must be delivered in English 30 days following the Milan 2009 Homeless World Cup Final Championship match.

For the official Entry Form and Rules, Terms and Conditions go to www.homelessworldcup.org/milanfilm

Indicazioni per la partecipazione al concorso

“Spiritus Concordia Victoria.”

Rivolto a tutti I cineamatori. Nike e Homeless World Cup offrono un premio di $50,000 per la produzione di un cortometraggio (5 minuti, non più lungo di 10 minuti) che catturi lo Spirito, l’unità, la Vittoria dell’edizione Milano 2009 Homeless World Cup. Questa edizione si terrà dal 6-13 Settembre 2009 all’Arena Civica, all’interno del parco Sempione, nel cuore di una delle città più famose nel mondo del calcio. Il corto potrà essere utilizzato per essere trasmesso su reti pubbliche o canali digitali. Invia la tua iscrizione e il tuo soggetto (usa il modulo di iscrizione che si trova su www.homelessworldcup.org/milanfilm) a Milanfilm@homelessworldcup.org entro la mezzanotte GMT, del 31 luglio 2009 per avere un’opportunità di vincere il premio.

La Homeless World Cup è un torneo di calcio internazionale di fama mondiale che offre alle persone senza dimora l’opportunità di cambiare vita. I giocatori indossano la divisa della loro nazione, sono fieri di questa opportunità e più del 70% cambiano radicalmente vita uscendo dalla loro dipendenza da droga o alcool, trovando una vera casa, trovando un impiego, concludendo gli studi o diventando allenatori, giocatori di calcio o leader nelle loro comunità o imprenditori sociali. Grazie alla Homeless World Cup sono stati creati dei progetti sociali sportivi in ben più di 70 paesi che operano con più di 100.000 giocatori dalla prima edizione Graz 2003 Homeless World Cup.

Fondata dal famoso imprenditore sociale Mel Young, I suoi partner sostenitori comprendono UEFA, Nike, Vodafone Foundation, Inter FC, FIFA, Eric Cantona come ambasciatore sociale e giocatori internazionali come Didier Drogba, Rio Ferdinand, Marcel Desailly e Emmanuel Petit.

Siamo alla ricerca di un cortometraggio che trasmetta immediatamente ad uno spettatore che non conosce la Homeless World Cup la sua energia e la sua forza di cambiamento. Nel raccontare la storia della Homeless World Cup vogliamo che si catturino i problemi reali e I cambiamenti effettivi in un modo divertente ed energetico. Dopo la visione di questo cortometraggio lo spettatore dovrebbe comprendere appieno la citazione di un giocatore della Homeless World Cup “Abbiamo distrutto lo stereotipo. Siamo stati grandi.”

Nike e Homeless World Cup giudicheranno I soggetti basandosi sulla creatività, inventiva nel raccontare la storia, praticità, sensibilità e tempismo. La decisione dei giudici sarà quella finale.

I partecipanti dovranno inviare il soggetto, la storyboard, suggerimenti musicali, requisiti per la partecipazione alla Homeless World Cup di squadre e giocatori, accesso all’evento stesso, pianificazione di viaggio, tempi, esempi di lavori passati e biografie della squadra produttrice. L’iscrizione dovrà comprendere il modulo ufficiale di partecipazione al concorso, altrimenti non verranno presi in considerazione.

Il corto e il materiale extra rimarranno di proprietà dei produttori mentre Nike e la Homeless World Cup avranno il diritto di utilizzare il corto su tutti i mezzi senza alcun limite.

Il cortometraggio è da consegnare in Inglese 30 giorni dopo la finale del torneo Milano 2009 Homeless World Cup.

Per il modulo ufficiale, il regolamento e le condizioni, andate su www.homelessworldcup.org/milanfilm "

Source: Facebook
Website: http://www.homelessworldcup.org/

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Weird Housekeeping Company Names

Offices in corporate parks usually subscribe to housekeeping services. One of them employs an agency called "Chaka Chak." I found this name to be quite amusing and even said so over a chuckle. My colleague came up with an even better "brand" that he had spotted earlier — AssPee Enterprises!
Now why would someone call their company AssPee?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Change a Two Column Blog to Three Column: Dummies Style

Update [16-Jun-2012]: Surprisingly, people still visit this post. From the time I posted this 2-to-3 column experience of mine Blogger has gone through a sea of change. All of what I have documented below might not be applicable anymore if you are already on the new Blogger. At most this could probably serve as a basic guide or informative piece. Any which ways, thanks for dropping in!

I have wanted to change my two column blog to a three column one for a long time now. I had opted for the Rounders 2 column template and very soon realised I was not using 'page real estate' very well. The post column was too narrow for my liking. Long posts tend to make the blog look like an unending strip of toilet paper. There are many free three column templates available but I wanted to try to fiddle with the code and change it to a three column format. After a couple of tries I knew I was not doing something right. The rounded corners in the layout added to my woes because increasing the column width meant changing the URL from where the image of the rounded corners could be loaded. Somehow the workarounds didn't work very well with me either.
I decided to ditch the Rounders template altogether and go for a different three column one. I wasn't able to complete those step-by-step code tweaks that I found on other blogs. Many left comments that the instructions helped them. But I never ended up being one of them.

Change Template, Lose Gadgets
I was about to switch to a new three column template one day when I was warned that all gadgets will be lost with the template change. Woh!! That is something I did not want to happen. My blog is not some Web 2.0 site with any fancy elements but I had put in a lot of time and effort in trying out gadgets, tweaking stuff and had just about got around to adding AdSense banners. So I was not going to lose my gadgets so easily.
Weeks went by and I kept wondering if there was a way to change to a three column layout and keep my gadgets intact.I know there are ways to back up the gadgets from Blogger by looking the particular tag. It's all good. But it was not fool proof for me and searching for the xml tags left me with dry eyes. Plus, some gadgets like Blogger Profile are not backed up. You need to add them once again.

That's when it came to me...I could use my test blog to hold my gadgets! This would mean minimal code-digging. Some might say this method is too cumbersome but it beats deciphering code and looking for XML tags till you start seeing double. The most that you will have to do is copy-paste.

So this is what you can do:
  1. Back up your blog.
  2. Create a Test Blog (Had created one thanks to Marco's idea, when he started his blog.)
  3. Choose a suitable 3 column template. (I loaded many templates on the test page before deciding on the current one.)
  4. Replicate the gadgets that I had created in the Live Blog into the Test Blog. How?
    Open each Gadget one at a time...
    If it has code (like ads, visitor map, etc.) - copy, paste the code into the Test Blog gadget. Give it a title, just so you know at a glance, what the gadget is about.
    If it is not code, simply copy the settings into the gadget in the Test Blog. It could be a Link List, Blogger Profile or an AdSense item.
  5. Copy-paste the Live Blog title and line.
  6. Recheck to confirm you have copied all the gadgets.
Additional Tips:
  • Don't forget to copy the blog title and description.
  • Copying your 'site counter' code into the Test Blog will cause the count to increase (since your visits to the Test Blog will also be included). Either create a blocking cookie on the site counter's website for the Test Blog or keep the code in Notepad for later. Just keep an empty gadget with a 'Stat Counter' title, so you don't forget to add the code when the three column blog goes live.
  • Make sure only you have access to your Test Blog. This can be done from the blog 'Dashboard', under Settings> Permissions.

  • After copying one gadget save the layout and view the blog.
  • Use dummy text and post a few entries into the Test Blog. (Use Lorem Ipsum for dummy text.)
  • If need be take a screenshot of the Live Blog as reference later on.
Final Migration
  1. Download the full Test Blog template from Layout> Edit HTML> Download Full Template.
  2. In the Live Blog, upload this new template.
  3. Confirm the changes. (including the warning about losing your gadgets).
  4. View your blog. Now move the gadgets around to fill the additional column.
I did face two issues after using this method to migrate to a three column template.
  1. Code Swap!
    Even after copy-pasting code into the right gadgets, the HTML ended up being swapped around. For example, my Site Stat code was under the Adbrite ad gadget. The Adbrite ad code was in another gadget...and so on. Very weird indeed. I had to use Notepad as a buffer to juggle the code back into the right place. Or I could have just changed the gadget titles! (I just thought of it. Sheesh.)
  2. Invisible Ad Elements
    Two gadgets that are related to Google Ads have stopped functioning. They do not appear. The footer ad is generated through code that I manually copy-pasted. The second 'island ad' is in the third column, which is a simple AdSense gadget — no code. I have tried troubleshooting in different browsers, gone through the step-by-step guide on the AdSense page, and even mailed AdSense support. Nothing has helped. The fight continues...

Finally figured out what was happening, while tinkering around the layout settings. The AdSense units were not appearing because AdSense policies restrict you to a total of 3 units per page. I had set ads to appear after every post and there were units on the right plus there was one in the footer. I disabled ads within posts and the missing ad units came back.

Additional Tweaks (with Code)
You must have noticed I have further tweaked this three column blog. These tweaks involved meddling with code — which is why I am not including them here. Will do in another blog where I will give credit to all those bloggers whose valuable tips have helped me out and made understand 'blogger code' better. Some tips worked like a charm while others took more time (like creating a new gadget 'island' element in the layout). These tweaks include,
- Hiding the blog search bar at the top.
- Adding a gadget element under the header (so that I can add another AdSense gadget)
- Adding a gadget element in the right column.

This I will leave for another blog post. For now, I hope this guide is simple enough and works for you. Do leave your suggestions, if you have any...for me as well as for others who visit this page.

Some super blogs that I always refer to:
Peter Chen's Blogger Tips and Tricks
Pocket's Blog Bulk

Monday, March 9, 2009

Miniature Toys: They are So Cool

The three of us — my wife, my son and I — went dining over the weekend to a place in Colaba we frequent. Food-Inn is also popular amongst foreigners because it is clean, reasonable, serves non-vegetarian food, gives good service, does not rush you through your drink/snack/meal and is open till midnight.
In the middle of dinner my son (who is just a year old) decided to turn around and stick his straw into a lady's blonde hair. Thankfully she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him (it helps to be cute some times). She was an elderly woman and she said something to my son in Italian or maybe French, I do not know. A minute later she turned around again and rattled a little plastic capsule to get my son's attention. He was now busy scratching the sofa's backrest and sucking on the straw at the same time. The gentleman she was with asked her to rattle it again. There was a tiny car inside the capsule and she wanted my son to have it. That was really nice of her. At first my son just gaped (this he gets from me), then looked away shyly. Finally he accepted her gift, we said our thank you's and they left the restaurant...smiling at us as they walked away.
That was really nice of them. Did I say that already? Who does that sort of thing anyway? Quite frankly, I was a little embarrassed at first. We give our boy a straw so he stays occupied. I did not expect him to run it into somebody's hair!

Anyway...that little car reminded me of the Easter chocolates a very good Berlin friend gave me years ago. Thanks Ms. D!! They were köstlich! One of them, in particular, was this huge chocolate Easter Egg. Beneath all that chocolate was a plastic eggshell and inside the eggshell were pieces of plastic (like a jigsaw puzzle), stickers and a tiny guide all neatly folded up. It was the coolest thing I ever got from someone.

With the help of the instructions I placed the stickers on the pieces of plastic and went on to put them together. Soon I had a little musketeer pointing his sword or "foil" at me. It even moves! There is a little roller that fits inside him which works with the arm piece (consists of the connector, sword and the hand) to make the sword arm move up and down. How cool is that? Below is a slideshow of how the musketeer was put together. The stickers are already on because I already did this years ago. I will upload a video of the little musketeer brandishing his sword as soon as I finish encoding it.

My Berlin friend just told me the Easter Egg chocolate is called Überraschungsei. This is the English version of the Wikipedia page — Kinder Surprise. "Kinder" is German for "children".
Take a look at Kinder Hobby — it is a collector's website of all the Überraschungsei he/she owns!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Election Day Caution

I was out and about this morning, finishing up with some bank work. Took my camera along for the first time. I came across this message board outside Not Just Jazz by the Bay at Churchgate. It's on the elections because they are a month away. I would like to know who thinks up the lines for this message board — some of them are really nice. Someone once told me it was Nana Chudasama who contributed to the messages but I have no idea how true that is.

Monday, February 23, 2009

An Eye for an Eye: Is It Really Worth It?

Human rights groups have been investigating the Gaza attacks for violations of international law. There is no doubt that the Hamas has intentionally fired its Qassam rockets at civilian areas. However, Israel regularly asserts its stand of 'targeted attacks' on Hamas areas. What I fail to understand is that how can anybody claim to know exactly where the Hamas is hiding and isolate them through the use of 'shrapnel bombs'? Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. How 'sophisticated' or should I say 'accurate' is the Israel weaponry?

According to Amnesty, studies reveal the Israeli forces used 'unfair' weapons. By 'unfair', they refer to weapons that cause harm to civilian population as well. White Phosphorus (WP) bombs, tank shells, anti-tank Hellfire missiles (popularly known as 'fire-and-forget' missiles, fired from unmanned aircrafts) and shrapnel bombs were used to target 'Hamas supporters'.

One does not really need to explain what shrapnel bombs are all about...but just in case you think the 'pipe bomb' is a home-made explosive used by small time terrorists/criminals...you are mistaken. These insidious devices have been part of military warfare since the Chinese created gunpowder. In the Gaza conflict, Israel used U.S.-supplied munitions to drop bombs that exploded in air blanketing an area with sharp-edged metal objects. White phosphorus, on the other hand, is supposed to play the part of a 'white blanket.' The thick white smoke is supposed to cloud enemy fire and obfuscate infantry movements. However, its secondary characteristics seem to be more preferred. Used from the days of the Vietnam war (or should I say, Police Action?) the WP bomb is capable of burning and smoking till the end, poisonous and can cause second/third degree burns. Apart from the burns, the body may absorb Phosphorus leading to organ damage or failure.

Most of the victims have been civilians including working men, women and children. According to Amnesty International the ammunition is U.S. made. This is because of a "10-year agreement to 2017, the USA is due to provide $30 billion in military aid to Israel, a 25% increase compared to the period preceding the Bush administration."
Effectively — "paid for with U.S. taxpayers’ money."
The Hamas is reportedly to have used or assembled ammunition components made abroad and within Israeli areas.

I have been sporadically reading about the Israel-Palestine conflict...I own a 'journalistic comic' called Palestine by Joe Sacco — that book opened my eyes to see a side of armed conflict that is so influenced and dominated by "popular" Western media. I do not know the answer to this conflict. I do not know who is right and who is wrong...I don't think many scholars can claim to do so either...
But I do know that if there is one way to resolve this conflict, it will have to be through adjustment, lots of it. Everyone wants their kids to see a better tomorrow but we all know that the compromise will alienate a whole bunch of people who will continue to be disgruntled for the rest of their lives and fill future generations with the same sense of suspicion and hatred. After all, the compromise will not bring justice to the ones who lost their loved ones in the blink of an eye.

What is amazing is the uncanny ability for a conflict-torn area to procure weapons to carry out large-scale destruction under the pretext of protecting its own land. (If Africa is considered for a moment, you only need to watch Lord of War to get a basic idea.) How effective is a "neutral" organisation like the U.N. in ensuring that neither side is able to source weapons? At the end of the day does it always depend on the veto power? And what are the vested interests of all the nations that covertly support and fund the conflict?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oodles of Noodles — Freestyle

This was cooked up late last month. It does not contain any meat (yes, I agree...there should have been some) but it is loaded with lots of yum vegetables and loads of mushrooms.

If you think the pictures are not good enough then blame the photographer for doing a lousy job!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Incredible India! The 'Postcard' Commercial

It is time for yet another TV ad. I think it has become a game for me. I try to find advertisements that really interest me — probably has to do with the crappy show airing at that time. This one is an ad promoting Indian tourism. Now, there is another advertisement I just love and it's on Madhya Pradesh. It is not in English, not an easy job for me to translate the recital (to me it was like almost folkish rap) but it was brilliant. A domestic tourism ad that was innovative, fun to watch and easy to remember.
This ad which is part of the Incredible India! campaign is apparently made by Nirvana Films. It features a foreigner who is trying to think of how to put down everything he has experienced while travelling across the sub-continent onto a postcard. Watch the video to see what he wrote and why.

Finally Spotted Some Birds in Mumbai

By "birds" I do not mean to say there aren't any pigeons (rock pigeons, to be precise), crows (the house crow and common raven) or sparrows (which includes the house and tree sparrows) in the city.
I attended an induction program today — held by the company I joined recently. While eating lunch on the open air terrace, I found myself peering into a pipal tree...which is when I noticed some movement. After focusing a little more I realized it wasn't a leaf! It was a Coppersmith! A former colleague had told me about them, I had read about the bird and even looked at a few pictures but never have I ever spotted one!

Pretty soon, I was able to spot two more coppersmiths (adult barbets) swaying on the branches of the tree. I was so excited! As usual I did not have my camera with me. I kept looking at him, consciously trying to etch his image into my mind...suddenly I noticed someone else on a lower branch. It was a bulbul! A red-vented bulbul, I am sure! He had his wings spread out, quivering them...as if to attract a mate's attention. I noticed another little chap nearby. This was a lucky sighting for me! Add to that the fact that I was able to even name them!
I wish I had my camera...instead I have to rely on somebody else's photographs...but thanks to these websites we can learn about these beautiful winged creatures.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What Would Play in your Porsche 911 Turbo?

This morning, while on my way to the pediatrician, my taxi slowed up against a shiny red Porsche 911 Turbo (probably 2008-edition because an official showroom now exists in this city).
Thankfully, it was not chauffeur-driven. I did not get a clear look at the man behind the wheel but the music he was playing reached my ears..."What's love got to do, got to do with it? What's love but a second hand emotion..."

Since I happen to be a citizen of a 'developing nation' who has watched too many of them cheesy Hollywood flicks, the song and the car just did not go together? "...know what I'm sayin'?"
I would listen to something more spirited. I like Tina's songs but it just felt so weird, coming out of a Porsche Turbo...know what I'm sayin'?
What would your playlist be if you were behind the wheel of a red Porsche 911 Turbo?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Paperweight

My very own paperweight. :)

Discovery Ad: I Love the World

I just love this ad! I had to put this up to forget about them thieving taxi drivers.

Need the lyrics? Here they are on Wiki.

Public Taxis at Mumbai's Domestic Airport — A Nightmare

On the 9th of January the BPCL, Oil India and IOC workers called off their strike. Only HPCL was functioning — that too as long as their reserves lasted. Cars that ran on petrol/diesel/CNG were left stranded. By late afternoon on the 9th the strike was called off and petrol pumps started providing fuel as and when they received their supply from the oil tankers. The trucker strike was still on.
I had to be at the domestic airport by 2330 that day to receive my wife and 1 year old son. I rely on Mumbai's public transport and for travelling to and from the airport I make use of the yellow-black Fiat taxis. So I was glad the strike had been called off.
But I have to admit that the choice (of using a public taxi to the airport) has always been a reluctant one. The autorickshaw and the taxi drivers are known to ask for more money to take you home (sometimes they do it even after depositing you to the airport!). They know we need them because the airport is not connected to the city's railway station and even if it was, luggage does not allow us to do so. The auto and taxi guys reason that they have to wait in line for up to 8 hours in order to get a passenger.
I find that strange — if I knew I would have wait for 8 hours at the airport, I would rather make that money through multiple rides around the city.
Ever since private cabs like Meru, Mega Cabs and Gold Cabs have entered the scene the regular Mumbai taxis have taken a bit of a beating at the airport, I think. This is because they offer a comfortable ride, air conditioned, a slightly higher rate and — get this — no bickering over the final fare.
Just because there were very few of these private cabbies trickling into the domestic airport (due to the fuel shortage — most run on CNG), the regular taxi drivers were taking their chances. Now, regular taxis in Mumbai are A.C. and non-A.C. — I have never really had the need to use the A.C. one (cool cab). But that night both the types were charging the same rate! They were quoting anything between 400 to 550 Rupees to get me home! Their reasons? "Strike is on. Midnight rate. Noone else will take you. You will end up going round in circles."
The cheek!!
Most of the people waited in a line for the private taxis — including foreigners. That was a painful wait but it was worth it. I would not give a Mumbai cabbie the chance to gloat. There was no consideration — a late night flight, a baby and woman, with 2 large bags. Cut throat highway robbery.
I waited in queue and finally reached home at 2 a.m. How much did I pay? Rs. 323 — that is what the meter displayed and that is what I paid.

For basic citywide travel the public taxis are fine — there are good cabbies and there are bad ones...but the ones at the airport are the worst of the lot. I would never trust any of them — even if they said "by meter" — because when you reach home, they demand more money.
You may have to pay a little more for the private taxi but I think it is worth it.
If ever you find yourself fighting over taxi fare with a Mumbai cabbie — either look for a police constable nearby or order him to drive you to the nearest Police Station to settle the fare. The public taxi guys need to be taught a lesson for harassing citizens. They forget that they will also be at the mercy of the system at the end of the day.

Update: Now the domestic airport in Mumbai has finally opened the counter for pre-paid taxis (regular and A.C. tax – cool cab). But you cannot book and pay for a private AC taxi. (You can do so now. That too before you step out of the airport. But there are times when you have to wait in a long queue. If you are already well-versed with the city's taxi system and the drivers that accompany them, then it is quicker to just step out and book a Cool Cab or regular yellow&black.) 

I also realised that the counter charges a little more than what one would normally pay according to the meter. I guess the airport wants to make a commission at our cost.
I took a cab without waiting in the line inside the airport. The line is long, there is a single counter and when you have spent the whole day hopping airports and watching conveyor belts, waiting is something that requires immense patience. The downside of not waiting in the queue was that at the exit point, I was asked for the pre-paid receipt. After some wrangling, the taxi driver convinced the guy. I guess the guy at the exit was not interested in holding things up. I had to pay hundred more rupees than what I would normally pay for the same distance. Too tired to argue and was late in the night.

These pre-paid taxis will NOT do multiple drops. A lady offered to drop me along the way, I was told by the taxi driver to pay for another taxi ride. This taxi line is the same place where even the private cabbies would stop. This created a lot of friction between the local taxis/AC taxis with the private cabbies. (Now, they have been designated separate areas – city's local cabs and cool cabs on one side while the private taxis pull into the parking stations outside the departure exit as and when they get a call (at their main parking lot) that there has been a booking.

I wanted to know if it is still possible to get a private cabbie. So that you don't have to stand in queue in the pre-paid taxi line and also pay by the meter. Today, I found out how one can do just that. Mega Cabs has a separate hotline for this kind of requirement. Once you reach the domestic airport (I am assuming this works the same way for the international. Try it out and leave a comment), call +91 9004000197/198 and ask for a pickup from the airport. You will be given a cabbie number and will be picked up in about 5-10 minutes. This is what I was told a while back. Will try it out tonight. (If I remember correctly, Mega Cabs has stopped doing this and takes bookings directly within the arrival terminal, at the private prepaid taxi counter. Plus, there are multiple choices today.)

If you have similar experiences and have tried another cabbie service. Do leave a comment so others can know about it too.


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