Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mummy bhook lagi!!

"Bas do minute!!"

There was this hilarious post on RSC by some Ajay Joshi which I just can't not post here!!

4 simple steps to cook noodles

Step 1: boil one cup of water

Step 2: as soon as ganguly goes for batting, put the noodles in the boiled water and put the tastemaker.

Step 3: stir till ganguly is on the field.

Step 4: As soon as ganguly is back in the pavilion, your noodles r ready to eat.

To this one Arjun Pandit replied with...

Laxman has just walked out and would be joining us soon. So could you double the quanity?

My apologies to non-indians here.. I know you have absolutely no idea what this post or its title meant, but forgive me... its a long story...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Too much pressure.

Didn't have time to post anything over last few days. And even though that hasn't changed, the pressure has been steadily mounting due to anonymous and not-so-anonymous comments demanding new posts... here you are Vasudhanonymous... :)

Science first... have been spending quite a lot of time sifting through articles on wikipedia, Slashdot and Nature lately. Found an article about Sonoluminescence in March 3, 2005 issue of Nature. And even though I seem to have heard about this before, I had no idea (and going by the fact that the results appear in such a recent issue of Nature, chances are no one else had any idea either! :) ) that the temperature within the bubble can reach 15000K!!! Thats like a mini-Sun inside a tiny bubble! Some background for I-won't-click-on-any-link type people..... sonoluminescence means the process of light (visible light!!) resulting from rapid collapse of gas bubbles inside liquid (can be water!) when sound is passed through the liquid.. the gas bubbles collapse under the high pressure corresponding to the pressure crest of the soundwaves and this collapse is so rapid that the energy trapped can not escape quickly enough resulting in extremely high temperatures (AND light!). The current article reports a temperature of 15000 Kelvin!.. AND they have detected plasma (ionized gas) inside the bubbles.

Talking about too much pressure, whatever happened at Chinnaswamy? It was a great match but the 5th day was horrible for any Indian fan. The first thing that comes to your mind when you listen to a team member saying, "Our strategy tomorrow will depend on whether Sehwag gets out before lunch or not." or something to that effect and when you actually see it happening out there is the one-man-army comments that described Indian cricket team for most of the 90s. Granted, Sehwag typically scores at a much faster rate than anyone else in this team but does that mean that the others are completely incapable of playing the sort of game that would've kept Pakistanis from being completely aggressive so early in the day? Dravid, Sachin and Gambhir ensured that Inzamam knew about India's decision of not going for victory much before lunch. What are the chances that a team can survive 2.5 sessions of play on a 5th day pitch with 7 close-in fielders consistently breathing down the batsmen's neck? That they survived till only about 6-7 overs before close is amazing and probably means the pitch wasn't as bad as a typical 5th day pitch in India which makes the excessive defensive strategy look even more stupid.

Anyway, it was a memorable series. Sehwag came into his own and the same people who have been screaming hoarse about his technique not being suitable for an opener's role are now saying things like, "his technique itsn't bad, its just different from what people normally do.". He is an amazing player, probably the most dangerous batsmen in world cricket today along with Gilchrist. The good thing is that he has arrived on the scence just in time for people like me who'd have completely lost interest in cricket with Sachin's decline. Sachin still has some years and most likely some breathtaking innings in him but not many. And as good as Dravid is, he alone is probably not enough to convince me that spending 100-200 dollars for any cricket series is such a good idea. Add Sehwag to the mix and the idea doesn't sound too bad any longer.

Another thing that I'll remember about this series will probably be Inzamam's reaffirmation of his status (in my eyes, new status) as a high-class batsman. There was a time when I never considered him one of the best batsmen of our times but he has performed so well over last few seasons, ans specially against India, that I have to admit that he is special.

Then there was Steve Bucknor and his stupid antics in Kolkata. Coinciding as it did with a resurgence of Sachin, I doubt I will EVER forget that episode. Speaking of which, Sachin seems to be getting the touch back. He still looks mortal at the beginning of his innings but after a while gains the touch and will probably start playing some great innings - not just big innings - very soon... Bangalore notwithstanding. Anyway, I don't think he was at fault at Bangalore (or for the go-slow in Mohali). It seemed a team management decision.

Which brings me to Ganguly. What an absolutely unbelievably horrible nightmare the series turned out to be for him! He looked so bad that it would be a disservice not just to the team and the fans but most of all to him to allow him to continue to be in the team unless he gets his confidence back. Low-scoring streaks are one thing (Sachin has been through them.. Laxman, except a sprinkling of 50s here and there, is currently going through one), but the manner in which was dismissed throughout the series shows what a travesty of a batsman he has become. He might still have a few gutsy knocks in him, but to show that he'll have to go back to domestics, get some form back and his replacement (Kaif/Mongia/Badani? NOT Yuvraj!! Not unless he takes PS101.. Playing Spinners 101 that is...) will have to do extremely badly.

Friday, March 25, 2005

What the #$*! do we know?

I hope whoever holds the copyright to the name of this documentary/movie doesn't sue me, but, really.. what the #$*! do we know???

New Scientist is running a story about 13 things that do not make sense. As the name suggests, it talks about 13 problems that remain unexplained/unsolved by science today and that have the potential of changing our whole worldview by possibly requiring our current concepts of nature to be modified (or even rewritten!). Things like placebo effect, Homeopathy's theory of infinitesimals, Dark matter, Dark energy, possible time dependence of the fine-structure constant, the Pioneer anomaly, the WOW signal etc are discussed in this fairly interesting article.

Thats not all! More interestingly, current issue of Science - one of the two most highly reputed journals in all sciences (except computer science, I believe) - has an exciting article about researchers finding some soft tissue inside the fossil of the thigh bone of a T-Rex! Which essentially means that there are some remnants of blood vessels/muscles etc still in there! They have evidence of some protein still left intact in the tissue (thats all fine, but what about DNA???? :))) ). Can't post the article here obviously, but here is the corresponding news article on Scientific American.

That quite interesting (Jurassic Park! Jurassic Park!!!!) but, amazingly, thats not why I started this post. There's something EVEN more exciting! Nature - the other of the two most highly reputed journals in all sciences - has an article in its current issue about indications of non-DNA (possibly RNA) full-genome back-up copy/copies in a plant species (Arabidopsis thaliana) leading to non-Mendelian inheritance patterns! Again, can't post the pdf here, so look at this news piece. For those who have no idea what I am talking about, in layman-ese it means that chances are that our assumption that in almost all organisms the DNA genome is the only method of storing information that needs to be passed from generation to generation might well be wrong. A backup copy of full genome that nobody ever thought of, let alone observed!! WOW!!!

Really, what the #$*! do we know?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

40 50 minutes with Ghose

Vivek, our in-house (in-blog?) IFS officer has posted an incredibly detailed account of his UPSC interview taken by Ms. Arundhati Ghose and her panel of interviewers. Its a fascinating read. Read it here.

He is making incredible progress in every manner. IFS, a sci-fi chapter, a world-famous author as a fan of his blog and a future celebrity as his fan... what more can he possibly want from life? :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Beyond Period Epics and Martial Arts

Chinese movies that are popular here are almost always either period epics or martial art movies or, very often, a combination of both. Or at least the movies that I have seen have mostly been such. Hero, House of Flying Daggers, To Live (all Zhang Yimou), Farewell My Concubine, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon etc all belong to those genres. Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern about which I had made a post once, is different in the sense that calling it "period epic" doesnt seem quite right becasue it is more like a period drama. The only two movies that I have seen and remember right now which are more modern, present day movies are Infernal Affairs and Chunking Express.

Infernal Affairs is an edge-of-the-seat cop drama. Its extremely well made and is now being remade in Hollywood by none other than Martin Scorsese. It will be called The Departed. With such brilliant material and cast (Leonardo di Caprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson), I don't think he can go wrong. Even though it is not the sort of subject that can get him that elusive oscar, I am sure it will be his highest grossing movie by a big margin.

Chunking Express is the movie that inspired this post. I saw it two weeks ago, and really liked it. Its a romantic drama of sorts, but really different from most such movies that you might have seen. Probably the most artistic, the most stylish love story (stories actually... it has two separate love stories) I have ever seen. Its the story of two Hong Kong cops, who have both been recently dumped by their respective girlfriends and how they end up getting together with two new girls over a period of a few days ( a few hours in one case..). The second story is so..... I don't know.. I guess cute is the only word that comes to mind.. :) The girl in that story is played by Wong Faye, who won quite a few popular actress awards for this movie. She was already a popular singer in China when Wong Kar Wai gave her this part - her acting debut. She happens to be quite a celebrity there. Even though she herself isnt as good looking as, say, Zhang Ziyi, her character in this movie is absolutely refreshing... absolutely amazingly different. cute is the word again. :) Quentin Tarantino said that he doesn't know anyone who has seen this movie and doesn't have a crush on her. Right you are Quentin!

Wong Faye
(no idea about copyright!!)

Friday, March 18, 2005

While on trailers..

Some of the big/most awaited movies of the year have still to come up with trailers. Harry Potter 4 is still a few days from its first trailer even though the principal shooting has just finished. And I still don't know what is the status of Jarhead. I still have to see an online trailer of Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle even though it has been playing in Japan for more than a few months now. Then there is The Chronicles of Narnia which is being hyped to be the next LOTR (which reminds me of King Kong.)

King Kong is fast approaching end of shooting but no teaser trailer in sight yet. However, the video blog of the movie is probably the best movie site I have seen in a long time. Not because it has flashy flash introduction of the movie or such, but because those production diaries are a godsend for anyone who loves movies but hasn't seen much behind-the-scenes footage except what ends up in the extended DVDs of famous movies. The online posting of daily production diaries is a revolutionary idea. (I should probably have made a complete post about it). I had my doubts about the idea of Peter Jackson following up LOTR series with a remake of King Kong, but these diaries have got me so excited about this movie that for me its probably the most anticipated movie of the year now.

Which brings me back to the movies whose trailers have caught my eye over last few days/months. I can't comment on Star Wars 3 as I have not seen the last two movies, though anything with Natalie Portman can't be too bad. :)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is another. Even though its trailers might not seem great to people who haven't read the book, they are EXACTLY what they should be for fans of the book. War of the Worlds is probably going to be one of the two top movies of the summer (the other being, inevitably, Star Wars) and its trailers are looking great. The other big summer movie, Batman Begins, is also highly anticipated though I personally don't know much about the franchise and the trailer is of the kind that can easily be a sign of either a great movie or a disappointing one. Pixar's next, Cars, had a teaser (not very exciting teaser though.. but then that was exactly what I thought when I first saw the first teaser of The Incredibles... so...) released with the release of The Incredibles but it has probably been shifted to 2006 now. Zathura seems so much like Jumanji, that they probably should've named it Jumanji-2. Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven and Michael Bay's The Island are all going to be either very good or very disappointing.

There are some movies, however, that have made me highly excited simply because of their trailers. These are not the movies that I knew earlier about. But the trailers are truely great and give you the sense that they might be some of the best movies of the year. Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger come together in Ron Howard's Cinderella Man and if the trailer is anything to go by, this is going to be another great addition to Crowe's already stupendous resume. Downfall was nominated for this year's best foreign language film oscar (and lost to The Sea Inside) so it is not technically a 2005 movie, but in all likelihood most people are going to watch it sometime this year so I guess it belongs here. The trailer quote's The Hollywood Reporter reviewer as saying that it is "one of the best war movies ever made" and going by what I saw in the trailer, it very well might be. Old Boy is a South Korean action-adventure revenge drama that looks extremely good. I don't know when it will come to Rochester, but the trailer has got me excited enough to go for it whenever it does.

An exciting WOTW trailer

The first teaser trailer and the superbowl tv-spot of Spielberg's War of the Worlds were good but the second teaser trailer now online is really exciting. Even though it will probably be just another special effects laden alien movie, Spielberg will most likely ensure there are enough edge-of-the-seat moments to make it memorable. At least this new trailer seems to promise that much.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

RIP Bansi.

Mathur gave me the tragic news that Rohit Bansal, my wingmate at IIT, is no more. He died in a road accident in Pune yesterday. For anyone knowing how the life in a hostel is, it should be clear why this is a paticularly devastating news for me. Wingmates are the closest thing to a family that you have while in hostel. So, even though Bansi wasn't a close friend of mine, his demise is one of the saddest things that have happened to me. I hate to think about what his family is going through at the moment.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Fluttering Flies of a Spotless Sight!

I am not crazy! And in all likelihood I am not going blind either. Its a relief because I had seriously begun to consider going to an eye-specialist and/or a mental hospital regarding what I have been calling "transparent patterns in front of my eyes" since my childhood. Well, actually I haven't been calling them anything at all. Not very frequently anyway. I don't remember talking to many people about this thing even though I have always seen these patterns in front of my eyes and must've spent a million hours following them. One reason was that I always assumed that it must happen with everyone. The other was that I was probably afraid that if it doesn't happen with everyone then I might sound pretty crazy trying to explain what I was seeing. No, actually it was just the former, not latter. :) Because I never realized how difficult it would be to try to make the other person understand what I was seeing if he/she has never seen them. I remember telling about them to some friend of mine at IIT. That was probably the first time I told about them to someone and even though I don't remember his reaction exactly, I know that he was finding it difficult to understand.

Khair, this thing came up again a few days ago when me and NS were sitting at home doing nothing at all. So, we started talking about random things and suddenly one of the patterns caught my eye. So, I ended up asking him if he also sees similar patterns. He doesn't. Whats more, he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. At first he thought I was just talking about the retinal image of anything that you see, which takes some time to vanish and might appear as a transparent "ghost" image when you close your eyes. Trouble is, I can see these patterns all the time. No need to close your eyes or go to a dark room. Also, the patterns move around with the eyeball making them VERRY difficult to settle down in one place. The clincher argument differentiating these patterns from any retinal image was that the patterns are not "rigid" i.e. they move relative to each other as well!! This got me thinking. Is this thing bad? Should I worry about it at all? At this point I knew two people who didn't have a clue what I was talking about and none who did. So, I decided to try someone else. Someone else called Rashmi Tyagi urf Indu urf my dear sis. Same result. So, I got the answer. I SHOULD worry about this. Three out of three is statistically significant enough.

Yet, it made sense to put Google on work at the problem before spending my not-so-hard-earned dollars on consulting someone who might end up laughing and saying, "That happens with 99.99999% people. You probably found the only three people in the whole world who don't see them." Turns out that this is a not-too-uncommon condition called muscae volantes (which is Latin for "fluttering flies", hence the title :) ), or more commonly (and VERY appropriately), Floaters. The corresponding article on wikipedia actually described it extremely well. Like it says, "The temptation to try to look directly at them is almost irresistable. However, attempts to shift the gaze toward them are frustrated, because the floaters follow the motion of the eye, and remain to the side of the direction of gaze." That is SO true!! :)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

King of all tyros

I still remember the day (and I make sure that Mathur doesn't forget it either) when I played probably my only game of cricket in my 4 year-stay at IITB. If not the only game, it was the first game there at any rate. The team was chasing a reasonably steep score and I was sent as an opener (as everyone, including myself, expected me to get out after one, maybe two, balls. So, the equation won't change much and the harm I could do to my team would be minimized). It turned out that most of my teammate went back trying to score quickly and I, for some weird reason, was still out there. Slowly, I got into my groove (the one which I have never gotten into since then... :) ) and started hitting some booming strokes. Whats more, some of those strokes were hit on Mathur's bowling who happened to be an inter-IIT team bowler. (THAT'S why I don't let him forget it!! :D ) . Anyway, we won in the end with the general opinion being that I was the man of the match (even though Abhishek Mishra - a good friend of mine - scored probably just as much as I did and was batting with me at the end) .

So, why did I suddenly come up with this story today? Because something similar (though probably on a MUCH smaller scale) happened today. People from one of the clusters here decided to go for bowling today. Now, normally I am not too much of a "playing" sort but it seemed a good idea to go with my labmates just to meet other people of the cluster. Needless to say, I had NEVER been to a bowling alley in my life before, let alone bowl myself. So, what happened? I came back with a trophy, of course! :) Our team was the best out of the six teams there. And I scored a cool 112 out of our team's winning score of about 430. :) The hand has started to ache though and I probably won't be able to type much over next few days.. :( But what the heck, I can bask in the glory for now!

King of all tyros!! :)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

What is a movie trailer?

The "standard repository of all the knowledge and wisdom in the universe" aka Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has something to say about movie trailers. See another fun trailer of the movie here.

back to normal

spending 24 hour with a blogger-gone-cuckoo was a torture to the soul. The only respite on a no-food-no-water-no-blog-mahashivratri-day came from some good music (non-rahman for a change). RV recommended Morning Raga for the carnatic classical music lover in me. And even though one can't help but notice the pretty average sound quality (maybe its just on musicindiaonline, though I think I didn't quite like the instrumental arrangements too), some of the songs were superb. specially the one that RV had recommended (Mahaganapatim 1 - by Bombay Jayashree of Vaseegara/Zara Zara fame).

Back in India, rain gods saved Pakistan some serious 2nd-day blushes. Though, by the end of the day Veeru Dada had already done enough to make them dread day 3.

Chalo. just one century each by veeru, dravid, sachin and laxman (and maybe a fifty by saurav). main zyaada naheen maangtaa!!!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Blogger the bugger!

Blogger has been playing stupid little games today. Not only it has made me post the same post thrice (and maybe this one too!), its not even allowing me to delete any of those. As of now, blogger tells me that my blog does not have any copy of that post when the actually there are three of them!! :(

Template change!

So, the Harry Potterization of my blog is proceeding at a fast clip. As you can see, like any other self-proclaimed HP fanatic with onlinepresence, my page also has the countdown ticker on it! :)

Hail JKR! :)

HBP covered!

The cover arts of three editions of Half Blood Prince have been released! See the US edition cover here, the UK children's edition cover here and the UK adult edition cover here. All courtesy Mugglenet. Now why is "Advanced Potion Making" such an important book? hmmmm........ interesting....

Also, it is now confirmed that there's going to be a new Minister of Magic. Not surprising at all!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sky or Ocean?

Just saw today's APOD. It is a panoramic view from the top of Mt. Everest. The explanation accompanying the pic says that the local name of Everest - Sagarmatha - actually means "forehead of the sky" in Nepalese language. Does anyone know if this is right? Because in Hindi "Sagarmatha" would mean "forehead of the ocean/sea". I think it is unlikely that "Sagar" means sky in nepalese when it actually means ocean/sea in hindi.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Truth!

As you already know, I decided to show Satya to my labmates in our march movie show. I was pretty apprehensive initially. I didn't know whether they'll like it or not. So I gave them three options. Satya, Iruvar and Maqbool. Told them a little about all the three movies. ZL thought Iruvar is the best option because its DVD cover picture seemed the most cheerful (AND having Aishwarya Rai on the DVD cover doesn't hurt either!). But, as expected, no consensus was reached. So, finally, I had to do what I didn't want to do. Use my discretion. And I chose Satya.

Before the movie started, I warned them about some things that they might find too unusual in the movie. For example, the more "dramatic" performances than similar movies of hollywood. Also, the song and dance sequences. What I forgot to warn them about was the length of the movie. So, the most common comment at the end of the movie was "wow! that was a pretty lengthy movie!". That can never be a good sign. So, I thought that probably I made a mistake in selecting Satya. However, since then I have heard some complements about the movie from them. So, it wasn't a bad choice after all.

My advisor thought the movie was good (and even asked me to select another indian movie when I get my turn next) and thought provoking. I prodded him by asking, "didn't you think it was too slow?". But he came up with a gem of an answer to that. He said, "It probably was. But that probably made it better. There are a lot of times when I feel that a movie might've been much better had the makers spent more time developing the plot. So, fast is not necessarily good. For example, Godfather was slower than an average movie, but it was that much better because of that." THAT made me happy. :) Then another labmate told me that initially he didn't think the movie would be as involving as it later turned out to be. So, that reassures me a little. The next movie (whenever my turn comes... in a few months) will probably be Roja or Kannathil Muthamittal. Or maybe Iruvar. Lagaan goes out the window because of the length. They'll probably kill me if I tell them that I planning to show them a nearly-four-hour movie. Maqbool will not be a good choice now that they have seen Satya. They are very similar in genre and feel.

Even on this occasion, Roja was my first choice but I couldn't find an english-subtitled DVD in time. I hope I can find it before the next turn.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

How to make a FOY!

So.. What is a FOY? Read this and try to see if you can figure out by the time the story ends.

To huaa yoon ki on this tuesday we had our lab movie night. So, we were watching Satya. Close to the end of the movie, there was a scene where the subtitle didn't have the best possible translation so that most of the people actually laughed at the scene. I thought this calls for a longer translation, so I started explaining. I said, "The subtitle wasn't really good there. What he really wanted to say was..." and continued speaking for some time. Everybody was looking at me and listening attentively. I noticed that the looks on the faces of my audience (that consisted of two Americans, two Puerto Ricans, one Russian and one Chinese) were both attentive and confused. Then I looked at my advisor who was sitting right next to me. His look was more confused than attentive. In fact, I realized it was almost completely confused. Which made me slightly more attentive, which made me realize that I was actually speaking in HINDI!!!! :)

God, that was hilarious!!! And embarassing. Everybody suddenly exploded with laughter. I had no idea at what point I had switched from english to hindi without even realizing it. Then they told me that the only part they understood was "What he really wanted to say was..." :)

So, again.. what does FOY mean? "fool of yourself" of course... what else...