Archive for January, 2008

A discriminating age

January 27, 2008

A feature of life in the post vacation period is that when I finally get home there is usually a pile of unopened post waiting for me. This is not often very exciting. I hardly ever get any interesting letters. The only people who send me letters are either trying to sell me something, or trying to make me pay for something; I usually only receive interesting correspondence, from real people, by email.

Last Sunday evening was no exception. I arrived home and eventually got round to skimming through week’s post; The usual stuff, a gas bill from an electricity company and an electricity bill from British Gas, who for some reason had used an envelope with bilingual English and Welsh wording; and half a dozen direct marketing envelopes destined for the bin.

But wait!…. What’s this? A direct marketing offer from….The Oldie magazine.

I get a lot of subscription offers from magazines. This is because I sometimes take up free offers and then cancel once the free issues have arrived. I am obviously held in their Customer Relationship Management and Campaign Management systems as a hot lead, but difficult to convert.

But…. The Oldie?!… The clue is in the name. Surely I’m not old enough to read that, despite the claim in the letter that “It’s about attitude not age”. The Oldie was a magazine founded by a grumpy older person who was fed up with “being inundated by a mass of celebrity- and ‘yoof’ obsessed features”….

I can’t be part of that demographic…. Their customer segmentation model must be wrong. I’ve just finished my 12 month free offer from Vanity Fair (didn’t renew with a paid subscription, I thought it was rubbish…. full of celebrities and handbag adverts with just a few good articles now and then).

That’s what happens when you let computers apply marketing rules. No empathy.It never used to be like that.


Hail Lorry Sona

January 23, 2008

Sona means gold.One of my tution mate was this Sona, whose ancestors have migrated from Rajasthan to CBE. She looked gorgeous when she wore that……

Hell…No.. Am not gonna rant about that Sona.

Tamil movie lyricists have had a fancy towards this particular name.(and so do they have for “Senorita”).This name has been quite popular in tamil filmdom right from the 1980’s.

Do you remember this musical from KB in which the bell bottom wearing UNs(UN – Uchcha Natsathiram,Ulaga Nayagan) were shown merrily singing and dancing in ‘ingapore? Though the movie has a crappy story it has awesome songs composed by the legend. Clever..Clever..I am talking about “Ninaithale Inikkum”. The heroines name in the movie is Sona.That is Sona#1 for you.

Then came Manisha “Sona” Koirala in Indian. Tell me about it…Amazing song with an awesome picturization…That is Sona#2 for you.

Circa 1998…Ooty – Ajith – Jo. Wow… Sona#3.Jeeva’s photography has taken the movie (and the songs) into new heights.Though the entire nation was crazy about this song,I’d prefer “Nilavai kondu vaa” . No..Not for Simrans hiponomics. But for that “Kakkai Siraginile… Nandalala” interlude played in Sitar(Sitar???I guess..)

Ladies and gentlemen…after making yout to wait for 10 long years, we produly announce the arrival of “Lorry Sona“…

Er..who??? Lorry what???Is this Sona’s new avtar?? Sona v2.0???

For the un-initiated,try to grab some (sound) bytes from the following link…

(Search for”Nakka Mukka”)

This Sona really rocks…Hail Lorry Sona

Making the write noises

January 21, 2008

My handwriting is dreadful. It was never good, but it’s definitely getting worse with age. Originally I didn’t think that this would matter, because according to technology experts a few years ago, we would all be speaking to our computers by now and text would appear on the screen… no one would need to write anything by hand.

This has not happened. The current generation of voice to text software is pretty good, but not infallible. So you have to check carefully what has been dictated. In fact technology has advanced enough to allow us to use handwriting on screen instead. Which wasn’t what I expected. Most of the time the computer can not read my handwriting either unless I write slowly and carefully in primary school characters.

So one has to make illegible notes for himself in his notebook,to type legible notes for other people on his keyboard and to use his voice when interacting with people, animals and parking ticket payment machines.

I think it is about time that technology moved on.

Matchboxes and our Thalaivar

January 18, 2008

Last week sometime, I read that advances in computer modelling of nanotechnology wires (very, very small wires) mean that within ten years we are likely to have supercomputers the size of matchboxes.Part of me immediately wanted to know what size of matchbox.

Do they mean those small ones branded as “Rettai kiLi”(the proprietor might be a benami for Madam J) or the big boxes manufactured by “WITCO” exclusively for making the flower vases(with the help of tips from Mangaiyar malar,aval vikatan and so on and so forth) or those wax based ones, or those smaller, squarer boxes?…

…But it doesn’t matter. If supercomputers get that small, we are bound to put them down somewhere and lose them.A matchbox is smaller than a mobile phone… and people are always losing those.

I found one down the back of the seat in a taxi last week (a mobile phone, not a supercomputer… or a matchbox). The taxi driver tried to pretend it was his “spare” one which he had lent to the last passenger “because he wanted to make a call and asked me if I had a spare phone”… As if… (when was the last time you thought of asking a taxi driver if he had a spare phone for passengers to use on the off chance). Really the driver was worried that I was going to be a good samaritan and return it to the owner, when he just wanted to sell it for a few pounds.

So imagine what would happen if we had pockets full of teeny, weeny supercomputers. The back of your sofa would be like a data centre and you would be forever looking for somewhere to recharge your processing power. But actually, that is what will happen. Computers keep getting smaller and more powerful. The manufacturers will keep finding ways to make them appealing as lifestyle accessories. And suckers like me will keep wanting them.

I already carry around in my pocket at least 1,000 times more processing power than was used in the lunar module that carried astronauts to the surface of the moon. In fact, at home we have an unremarkable washing machine which has more computing power than a lunar module.

The important thing is that science keeps finding the solution to the next problem. In this case the ability to predict the way in which miniscule wires will fold when twisted, which allows accurate modelling of the tiniest of molecular scale microchips… It is the ingenuity of scientists which deserves respect, not the size of the computer.

Now that our thalaivar donning the role of a scientist in the so called epic of this decade, what would his character be called?? Any takers for Asok?? (the recently reincarnated intern)

What am I upto??

January 17, 2008

Apart from shuttling between G and P in firstscot rail and being a nice host to my alien visitors what am I upto these days??

1) The Mahabharata : a shortened modern prose version of the Indian epic – Narayan, R. K. – London : Heinemann, 1978 .
2) Snakes and ladders : glimpses of modern India . Mehta, Gita – London : Vintage, 1998
3) India after Gandhi : the history of the world’s largest democracy – Guha, Ramachandra – London : Macmillan, 2007

1) Rome Season 2 (“Heroes of the Republic”,”Philippi”)
2) Adrenaline pumping Chinese action movies(House of Flying Daggers,Curse of the Golden Flower)

I’ll tell you what…I am also trying to figure out various ways and means of tackling those relatives back at India who tend to ask “Ippo ange enna time??” type of questions, once in every 40 seconds in a 5 minutes conversation .

Alien visitors

January 15, 2008

I’m in the garden on a comparatively bright,clear Sunday afternoon. Totally sober. I see a UFO in the North Perthshire sky!

It is a long cigar-shaped silver object, high in the sky, barely moving (I don’t know what we will say instead of cigar-shaped when everybody stops smoking(courtesy Dr.Vijay and Dr.Anbumani) and no one remembers cigars… courgette-shaped perhaps?).

All the roomies see it too. We observe it through binoculars, the zoom lens on My borrowed camera (see picture below) and T’s astronomy-for-beginners-telescope. The telescope is a disappointment… the only thing I have ever seen through it was he moon, and that was upside down.

(Picture copyright belongs to no piracy please)

We speculate on the UFO. It is probably an alien expeditionary force on a mission to seek out  intelligent life…They will be disappointed. As they scan the Scottish countryside they will only see people shopping,mowing the lawn and tending the smoky plumes of a thousand barbecues.The aliens will conclude that this is a primitive hunter-gatherer society where we worship at sooty altars with charred meat offerings. They will quickly move on to more interesting planets where advanced multi-brained creatures are already beyond the reality TV stage and have invented cold fusion and ion drives.

I wave at the aliens in a forlorn attempt to initiate First Contact, thereby securing my place in history… They do not notice me.

After 30 minutes we all get bored with squinting into the bright sky as the alien
craft gets smaller and higher, turning in slow circles over heads. We go back to our primitive tasks and mankind’s opportunity to end our 4 billion year solitude slips away.

I explore alternative theories. Perhaps it was not aliens. Perhaps it was a sinister unmanned surveillance  dirigible being tested by secret establishment forces in the Ministry of Defence controlled airspace that stretches high above my garden.

In the evening I investigate options to insure myself against abduction by aliens. If I don’t turn up on my g-mail one day, you will know what has happened.

Easily forgotten

January 11, 2008

A slice of life from First ScotRail last night.

Several seats behind me there was a harassed mother on her own with a small, howling toddler. A very loud, small, howling toddler. The experienced parents in the carriage thought “that child is very tired, I bet she falls asleep in the next 15 minutes”. The smartly dressed business woman in the seat behind me muttered and fumed about the noise, between her mobile phone calls. Eventually she could stand it no longer,irritated and stood up.  

She said something to the fraught and embarrassed mother, who apologised and carried the screaming, struggling child beyond the partition door at the end of the carriage.The business woman continued her phone calls in peace… 20 minutes later the child was fast asleep, and her exhausted mother returned to her seat. 

90 minutes later the smart business woman was chatting to her travelling companion, clearly a work colleague. “So, have you got any children?” He asked in a small talk fashion. “No, I haven’t” she said sadly and sincerely, “but I wish I had.”