Author: Rishi

About Rishi

Rishi lives in California.

Chetan's Hello

One night at a call center is finally a film called Hello. It’s an amazing feat for an author who started off only a few years back and one who writes just like you and me.

The Indian literati are pissed off with this and are calling names on Chetan’s work. I wouldn’t second them on being pissed off (jealous anyone?) but for sure, you would find loads of grammatical mistakes and not-so-correct statements in his works. I read “One night..” in one night. What I didn’t read were the utter useless side stories he filled in between (which were jerky, long and out of context).

I am not in the least surprised about his story being made into a movie. Thing is, all his works correspond to the Bollywood way of making films: a love story, some utter sexual crap (which is not in the least sensuous) and some damn bloody action. Combined with it is a number of characters with the lead being played by multiple people. That makes sure that a novice reader doesn’t have to concentrate on being with a single player – ease of switching.

I would never read his novels again for I hate watching movies with plots of the ’90s and special effects in the 2000’s. Disorientation at it’s best.

Have You Been AmWaylaid?

This has been going on for a lot of days in Bangalore (and most other parts of the country). People, part of the Quixar/Amway family, would be around you in a mall, book store, super market or any heck place. It starts like this; they’d come up to you asking about something as general as an ATM around the place or may be a comment on the book you’re looking at.

The conversation begins with a hand shake, where do you work, what do you do (information gathering on whether you have enough money and enough will to earn more) and how long you’ve been around. Different people have different approaches, but the end goal is just one. To get you to a meeting with a lot of other potential candidates who can be sold Amway kits (or products) and made members out of. Those guys would then go about direct-selling among their friends/relations and strain their good will. Amway is generally seen as an untrustworthy brand in India, and these tactics to get people to start working for them makes it more so.

Another attempt to cook me in was that I got a call from a guy who claimed to have gotten my number from an old-time colleague. That guy talked me into it saying that they were going to open up a new e-business company and needed some technical help. “What kind of e-business?” I asked. “We’re doing a start up, so come over and have a look.” Turns out the e-business was yet another Amway shop with not a bit of technicality involved. Just another duped Sunday for me.

The last shot in my arm leaves me bleeding with this post. Mrs. Pande decides that she should get a personal consulting session from a skin specialist doctor who met her at the footsteps of yet another mall. The doctor turns in at our place, sweet talks all over. Skins get looked at, charts get drawn. And what have you! “Artistry has the best cleanser and toner that you should definitely try,” goes the doctor. Now that someone is inside our house, I can’t be rude – and for all the information that the so-called-Amway-doctor has been feeding us with for the last two hours wasn’t all that bad either. I figured it out quickly that she is yet another trapped direct seller in the Amgang and posed as a doctor to get started.

Finally buying off a few products from the Amdoctor, I tell my wife about the whole thing and clear out the clouds. She realizes the truth, but takes solace in the fact that a lot of information and a few bottles of cleansers/toners ain’t bad after all.

Damn.

Update (27 Sep ’08 12:44pm): Video – Amway/Quixtar Scam / Amway/Quixtar Scam (Part 2)

Lowmus – Play songs to your audio (music) system

Screen shot: Amarok XUL Remote + Winamp Edcast Plugin
Screen shot: Amarok XUL Remote + Winamp Edcast Plugin

Objective:
I wanted to play music from my laptop to my music system. So, if I fire up Amarok (or Winamp, in case it’s my wife), and I play a song – that should start playing onto my music system.

The best way to achieve it was to connect a low end machine on the network and connect the Audio out from the sound card of that machine into the music system’s Auxiliary port. Hurdles were the software to make it work seamlessly. Follow on…

Requirements:
Apart from a low end system, you also need the perfect OS, which expands to openSUSE. Perfecto.

  • an old system (can be as old as a Pentium 100 Mhz, with some 128MB RAM to spare)
    • this old system would be connected to the Auxiliary input of your music system
  • an openSUSE 10.3 CD (KDE) – Gawd, I love the lizards..
  • a laptop running any Linux or Win*****

After I got 10.3 SUSE running on the host, I connected lowmus (that’s the name I gave to my Pentium 2 166 Mhz with 256 MB RAM) to my old Panasonic audio system (a really old model) and did this:

  • sudo zypper in fluxbox icecast amarok

The next thing to do was login locally to the box (lowmus) and select fluxbox as my default window manager. I configured fluxbox to run amarok and icecast at startup. Essentially, this:

  • mkdir -p ~/.icecast/log/
  • cp /usr/share/icecast/doc/icecast_minimal.xml.dist ~/.icecast/icecast_minimal.xml
  • # changed password on line 24 onwards in ~/.icecast/icecast_minimal.xml
  • # changed logdir to ~/.icecast/log on line 134 onwards in ~/.icecast/icecast_minimal.xml
  • # changed user and group on line 183 onwards in ~/.icecast/icecast_minimal.xml
  • # edited ~/.fluxbox/startup to add these lines:
    • /usr/bin/icecast -c /home/$USERNAME/.icecast/icecast_minimal.xml &
      /opt/kde3/bin/amarok &
  • Used icecast plugin for Winamp on the laptop to stream video to lowmus
  • Configure icecast plugin to stream as Ogg and give the host IP of lowmus along with the passwords you had set above
  • Make sure to configure Amarok on the remote host (lowmus) to play a local stream
    • Fire up amarok on lowmus
    • Click on Playlist > Add Stream > enter [http://localhost:8000/stream.ogg
    • The stream.ogg is the mount point you configured in your Winamp plugin (edcast) or Amarok plugin
    • Hear the sound of music already? (if your player on laptop is playing music)
  • If you play Amarok on your lappy, there are loads of plugins available for icecasting music to lowmus
  • The only other thing you need on your laptop is the Amarok XUL remote
    • Make sure to do a sudo zypper python-qt on your remote host (lowmus)
    • Amarok XUL remote should be installed by doing Amarok > Tools > Script Manager > Install Script > (select the xul-remote-tgz file) and click ok! (do that on lowmus)
    • Configure the script to have the localhost’s IP and a port (preferable 8888) – click Run!
    • Fire up firefox on your laptop and connect to the IP above, like 192.168.1.4:8888
    • It would automatically install Amarok Remote plugin for firefox
    • Go to Tools > Amarok remote on Firefox (laptop) and click on Configure
    • Give your host (lowmus) IP a username (given in a step above) and password – port=8888
    • After you connect, you see Amarok’s playlist on your laptop from the remote host
    • You can increase/decrease volume using amarok remote and change to a different song on the playlist on the remote host (if you have enlisted those)

Play along!

Essentials

My favorite task as a teenager: cut CDs that had all the essential software I would ever need. Titling them as Essentials, I’d be ready lest somebody needed a piece. Exactly 10 years ago. The hobby soon curled up as a small business where we would burn SparcCDs containing all essential freeware programs and sell them. End: some 4 years back.

Today, the only essential software I need is a command prompt with wget. Of course, then I would get the following:

  • openSUSE 11.0
  • Firefox 3.0
    • TabMixPlus  / Live HTTP Headers / Vimperator
    • FoxyProxy / User Agent Switcher / del.icou.us bookmarker
  • Thunderbird 2.0
    • Lightning / Threadkey / SwitchProxy
    • QuoteCollapse / Mailbox Alert / XNote
  • PIdgin
    • Conversation Colors / Guifications / History / Log Reader
    • Psychic Mode / Nicksaid / Mystatusbox
      • zypper
        • konsole
          • screen
        • kbluetooth
      • klipper
        • xrandr
      • amarok

Very soon, they’ll be in your essentials list.

Congress Is Out

Update (Feb 12, 2009): This turned out to be false. Congress came in for another 5 year tenure, and in the best interest of the country. I eat my words here. Owwm jaum naum.

Congratulations Mr. Singh! You’re in for another 8 or so months, only. Thanks for pushing the nuclear deal through though. It’s some good combination of great co-incidences that things are wholesomely moving in the favour of Indian masses.

The deal done, so will be the Government. There are a hundred other things to worry about and the BJP will take advantage of these. The Left is out of way and hence there will be some major decisions taken in the next few months. There would be a great deal of movement in the upper crust of legislature – both in terms of humans and work. None of that can still save the Government in the next general elections. Nothing can save the Congress now.

Winners of today were to lose the final game. Whoever drives the car before coming to the dead end is a bad driver. Never mind who drove it all the way. The next best thing to happen for India is that we replace Congress (C) with BJP (B) into power and install an AC circuit in the Lok Sabha to keep on going from C to B to C to B until we get something apart from the evil L (Left). The advantages are obvious, C strives until B comes up and B strives until C comes up. You get delivery and they get 5 (sic) years of money.

Thank you Mr. Bush – you’ve been doing the wrong things at the wrong times for the wrong people. Just that all of it has turned out right at the far end.

Shaho Ka Shah Tu

Am referring to the brilliant song by Mr. Rahman. He does it always, so no surprises there. As much as Jodha and Akbar were nuked at the box office, this song cleared all the smoke there.

Khwaja Mere Khwaja (read this excellent review) has got some really wonderful music and taking into consideration that A. R. Rahman used only his voice in the song, there’s something about it. Do listen to the song once (if you can understand Urdu/Hindi).

I say “listen”, because the choreography has ruined the song. That is exactly the reason why Akbar was defeated for the first time after his death. I don’t know sh** about dancing, but whatever the cinematographer or choreographer wanted to convey was not put through. People were laughing (especially at how Akbar – Hrithik starts to dance in the end). It’s a good ham watch I dare say.

Jodha could not visit Rajasthan, as the idea did not go down well with the people there. History has always been a controversy here, so Rajasthan was no show.

Frisky

Quite a while back, both Soni and I were getting back home from a dining out. Just as I took the final turn towards home, Soni shrieked out seeing a kitten on the road – which would have been under our vehicle if it weren’t for the alert. That 20cm/10cm thing was drinking water from a pothole on the road. Taking pity, we picked her up and carried back home.

I am not very keen on cats around. After a sip of water and milk with lots of cuddling around, I sternly ordered for its removal. Emotions ran high. Much debate later, I filled in for the kitten’s mother who would be searching for her and it would be really necessary to put her right back in where she came from.

The three of us went back around the corner of the road – all quiet with nobody around. An apartment stands right across the road where Frisky was found (the kitten got a name by then). Pushing Frisky behind the gates of the apartment, we started walking back. A “meow” from her felt like ‘thanks’ to me. As we turned heads to acknowledge, there was shock and terror!

Two dogs rushing towards Frisky from far across while the ignorant thing was wandering out of the gate. A rush of adrenalin got Soni all the power to reach Frisky before those dogs. Street dogs are pretty infamous for what they’ve done often in Bangalore, and this would have been yet another slaughter. Those dogs had surrounded a Soni with Frisky while I rushed to pick up a stone and hurl at those bast****. I hit one, and the cowards they are, both of them ran. But they kept on howling as every other dog of the area got on track. Thus began my first real life Super Mario reach-home-safe-with-the-kitten stage. I picked up as many stones as possible and Soni kept Frisky cuddled up in her arms.

Barking dogs were all around us. I kept on sermonizing, “Don’t run, keep walking straight. Don’t look them in the eye, look straight.” Until that day, dogs were my favorite animals. Status change – not anymore, and my hate for them increased with every dog crossed. The final stage arrived. A big beast ahead had gathered all the courage and grouped two more of its kind, waiting for us to come up. I had only a few stones and if I missed, they would pounce on us and the pack would have a Frisky meal.

Life is a game. All games have special powers. Ours arrived in the form of two men who realized what we were doing. They ran behind the dogs, distracted them and broke the pack. I took a shot at one of these dogs and hit (generally I couldn’t have)! That was it, the squeal was music to our ears and a psychological nuclear attack on every other dog around. The track was all clear and I used a loud “Thank you!” for the special powers.

Always remember, dogs are strong only in packs. When you see a pack, stay clear or try and break it (if you can). Also, there is no way you should stare at a dog unknown to you. They really hate it. Friendly or known dogs will never look in your eye though.

Frisky was home. The rest of the night went by in a lot of cuddling. She peculiarly ran all around the house and followed Soni everywhere. Though I felt for her, I still couldn’t get my acceptance levels up for cats. So I wanted to fix it somewhere. I took out an old TV carton and put Frisky into it. She did meow for a while, but would have gone to sleep later.

Next day, there was a lot of research done on what cats like, dislike and how to groom them etc. But I, researched for just one thing, an animal shelter. I found out one (further ahead from Mekhri Circle) and called them up. They asked how old the kitten was. Disregarding the questionnaire, I convinced them that she was supposed to be with them and not with me.

Back at home, Frisky was being dried up in the sun. Apparently, Soni thought that the little one was very dirty, so bathed her. Pretty well done, but Frisky wasn’t pleased – no meowing or eating anything. Especially, if it came from Soni. As I put my head into the TV carton, a meow came out. Soni shrieked with joy and laughed heartily. We enjoyed the anger we saw and I was quite amazed to see such reactions.

Cats do not like to be washed up often. For that matter, both dogs and cats are given a bath at most once a week.

Frisky had quickly become a pet. Soni had made up her mind to keep her in. It wasn’t to be – and though there was a lot of resistance in the air, we drove to the shelter and let Frisky join a lot of other cats. Once inside her new home, she quickly forgot about us and got engaged with the others. Once again, emotions ran high and Soni kept on cuddling with Frisky in her thoughts. It was a nice experience, especially the running behind I saw on a night and then the “not-talking-to-you” the next morning (because of that water drill)!

Shame On The Streets

Stop. Look. Get emotionally robbed. Go.

If you have ever stopped at a traffic signal (anywhere in India), you have witnessed an industry that has grown by leaps and bounds. Begging at traffic signals is increasing every day. Here are the facts:

  • They play with your emotions and earn money. Don’t be fooled by the old age or the new born babies. It’s all set up and none of it is ever genuine. An excellent movie on this was made in 2007.
  • You earn hard money – and you convert it into black money by giving out 5 Rupees a day.
  • You are not helping – but encouraging mafia to “cut more hands / chop off more legs” of kidnapped children and helpless men/women.
  • This is not personal – it’s a national shame that people beg on the streets.
  • A show on BBC (on everyday lives of Mumbai’s eunuchs) interviewed a eunuch begging on a traffic signal. When a man in a car offered work to the eunuch (that was on camera), the eunuch hurled some abuses (live on camera).
  • Most of the beggars out there are making money anywhere between Rs. 50 to Rs. 1000 a day.
  • India Today covered a story in the last week of January 2008 on begging. The numbers and facts there are not in the least shocking.
  • Update – Begging is an industry which has an annual turnover close to Rs. 180 crore in Mumbai alone. The article from India today has the data. Who’s the beggar?

You can help by discouraging people when they give out money to beggars. Even a single coin lost to them will promote begging. Begging is a combination of multiple evils – inflicted injuries, black and easy money, kidnappings, child stealing and child labour.

Write We Do

Soni just got me to install a blog for her. She was using mash, but as the product is no longer actively up, she was forced to move elsewhere. I set up an MT installation here for her.

It’s interesting to see what people write when they start off. First there’s apprehension on who would read it and how’d they react. And then there’s a choice of subjects that are on offer. Personal life is always on top, though it manifests into different streams. Like Soni talks about history, but she does that by writing about her own grandfather – who was a famous personality in Varanasi. This is some important information that was missing from the Internet. Although for personal reasons, she did add some value by providing an important missing link that might turn out useful to relate facts and answer queries about people.

For all that matters, my job is done. Her blog is setup and she has been introduced to the internets in her own personal way.

On a separate note, I really liked MT (and some obvious advantages over WP – got out of it as soon as it was deployed). But I feel comfortable with WP now, and having configured it to fine levels – it would be rather hard to migrate now. Just in case someone were going to start off a new “their own” blog, use MT than WP.