Friday, December 30, 2005

Trading favors - Steal a seat.

So last night, the steward at this restaurant we frequent, came up to our table. After hemming and hawing some, he said he'd 'undercharged' us in error the last time, and the difference had been taken out of his paycheck. 'No obligation, though' - he said. This apparently happened a month ago. Anyways, no worries, it was no big deal for us - we settled.

We planned to go to the tavern attached to this place afterward, but getting a table was usually a problem. It was always crowded, and on a weekend - a place to sit was impossible at 11pm. I thought, having accepted our steward's 'you don't have to' request, why not have him help us out?

He was quick indeed. Our steward hurried us in the tavern, where he blatantly placed a 'reserved' sign on a table where a group had just sat down. He yanked them all out saying that table was reserved and they'd have to wait outside. They protested rightfully, but our man stood firm. We got that table... yuk! yuk! Heehaw.

They left with dark looks in our direction. If this had happened to me, I'd have been mad as hell and would have created a scene. But I'm a hypocrite sometimes... ;).

No one was waiting for us by the parking lot afterward .... =).

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Feel philanthropic toward your school?

An alumni survey sent to me triggered this thought. How many solicitations for funds do alumni get from their schools? I get about two a year from Syracuse University, and I really thought my school was fabulously wealthy with a giant endowment. Now a lot of people know what I thought of my time at SU. There's not a chance in hell that I'd contribute a dime to that institution. Several friends also thought the same about their colleges - they recall tuition increases, and hard times.

Maybe a degree from SU's Newhouse School opens doors for me professionally, but I had strong reservations on how the system worked back then. For me, graduation was something to get done with, and the happy stuff started after then.

The threshold of all good things to come was when I moved to Williamstown, MA early in 1999. Syracuse was to quickly become a memory. Heck, even the winters in Billsville felt better - the snow felt 'cultural', unlike the white stuff in Siber-cuse. The happy times continue.... =)

How to spot fake/colored contacts

Often wonder why people wear these so obviously fake looking colored contact lenses. Surefire giveaways are:

- Glassy stare.
- Pupils never dilate or contract. It's odd when someone's eyes have the same pupil size in a dark as in a well lit place. Look at the closest cat's eyes - at night and during the day. See what I mean?
- Can see original eye color behind contact lens, when the lens shifts. This has a two-color weirdo effect.
- Eye color obviously does not match. 'Sayyy, are you wearing colored contacts?'
- Different eye colors seen when one lens falls off. This is real scary.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

When the world's on vacation...

It's a little hard to come to work in a half-empty office. Everyone seems to have gone on vacation... the usual Dec 25 - Jan 1 week every year.

Pluses:

Plenty of parking spots free.
Can go home at a decent hour. Not much happening anyway.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

New Year's Eve in the past

As New Year's Eve approaches, I always seem to not have a plan of action. Most years it ends up being a ton of fun, but there have been several colorless years.

Among the colossally boring ones:

'97: The most dreary ever. Two friends and I watching TV at home. 3 single guys, at home in a fun city.... watching tv? That could not be beat by anyone else. Two complete bores - my friends, and a completely annoyed me. No ideas. They didn't want to go out. No nothing. I fell asleep head of midnight.

'95: Some clueless friends and I driving around in a goddamned car doing nothing else. The hour struck and no one had a suggestion. Again, no ideas. How did I end up with these jokers? I missed going someplace else.

'98: Second boring year in a row! People I didn't want to be with and I in a snowbound house. Not one with any sense of fun or excitement. Again I was amazed at how I ended up there at all.

This year, I was thinking someplace tropical.... an island - Sri Lanka? 2 days ahead of a possible departure, still ain't sure. =) True to form.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is Christmas cool?

First off let me state I have nothing against the festival, and I'm well informed on all things Biblical - likely more than most of the faithful.

Was looking at some pictures online. This is about the hordes of people, especially in India that prance around in Santa caps and outfits during Christmas. I've always found this strange every year.

:) I don't believe these Santa adopter folks have any clue about Christmas or its origins, but they certainly are in it for the 'cool' factor. In offices, one sees full throated carol singing with 'elves' in red and white caps. None of them of any Christian denomination. Ok, now that can be charming, but it's mostly irritating, given the lack of knowledge on the event. Also, all the references to snow, sleighs, fireplaces, reindeer seems completely out of place in a totally tropical clime, especially with fake fur caps on.

When they sing about Yuletide, Rudolph, Santa Claus, The Holy Ghost .... at the least, I think, these enthusiasts should know what these terms are. Else they look like wannabe cool ... clowns.

As pointed out often, Christmas in the United States is now an openly commercial affair. The most common pre-Christmas greeting is 'Have you got your shopping done?' , and you wish each other 'Happy Holidays', talk about sales, and the season's must have gifts. There's not really any Christ left in Christmas.

Actually the army of elves mentioned earlier aren't really doing anything different. It's all the same in effect. =) This sure is humbug.

License plates in France. Rental Cars.

So this is how they issue vehicle license plates in France, and the system is about to change. Chanced upon this article - real interesting.

'In France, your number plate ends with the two digits of the administrative district, or d├ępartement, where you live.'
'If you hire a car in France, be aware that everybody else can see that fact and assume you are a hopeless foreigner because your licence number ends with 60. For tax reasons, the big hire companies register their cars in the d├ępartement where it is cheapest to do so - the Oise - le 60.'

A little different than in the United States, eh? For rental cars, time was when the rental company's name and logo would be displayed on the car. They changed that when many drivers said they didn't want to be seen as driving a rental car. Human nature. Sure, you want people to think that fancy rental SUV or convertible is yours.

But it's good to pretend it's a rental if you rent:
  • A Hummer (are these rented out all?). You'd get nasty stares and gestures these days....no kidding. Yell back - 'It's a rental!'
  • A Hyundai Accent, Kia Sephia or any Korean make. Then you could say your own car's a fancy SUV/convertible. Say it often to your passengers and whoever sees you getting in/out the car.
  • A Dodge Magnum. Looks like a hearse. Alternatively, pretend to be a hearse driver to get with it and play the part.
Be warned it's a dead giveaway for a rental if you get a new Pontiac Bonneville/Grand Am/Sunfire (all discontinued from '06), any GM tank - Impala or similar, Chevy Cavalier/Malibu, or Dodge Stratus. Even easier to spot with out of state license plates. =)
Is this important to know? No.

Mare Tranquillitatis

The Sea of Tranquillity. Though not exactly appropriate to what I'm about to write on.... it'll do.

I happened to go home yesterday, mid-morning, after an all-nighter at work. I liked the feel of my apartment in the daytime - 'twas quiet, loads of sunshine lit the place up, and nice cool weather made it feel just right.

Very peaceful. Tranquil. Isn't that one of the best sounding words in the English language?

Anyway, it was nice to watch Yes Prime Minister on dvd as I lay on the couch. Dozed off a bit soon after - was immediately transported faraway by myriad dreams, the kind that start immediately when you get intense sleep.

The doorbell never rang even once, none of the usual idiots at the door that ask about neighbors/do vacuum demos/are on the wrong floor but ring the bell anyway...

Good zzzzz..... why wake up when you can sleep on? I heard kids yelling down in the lawn, the dog (the one friendly with kids, but chased them) woofing... peace no more. Back to work.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Forcing reservations ('affirmative action') on corporate hiring.

So in India, the government proposes to reserve employment in the private sector as well?
There goes the pvt sector, reverse brain drain, foreign investment, employment opportunities - out the country.

What happens when the best qualified people are denied an opportunity in industry, much like in education, and the public ( government run) sector? The country gets second rate talent, second rate qualifications, incompetence, and the reversal of all the positive economic indices of the past decade.

The creme de la creme will likely go where they'll be employed on merit - meaning out the country. Some will leave (again) to for the same reason they left the country in the first place. They left India because opportunities in higher education were denied to them, and they were accepted in the United States. They come back after years there, and this happens at the employment level. Why bother?

Why is India such a hot business and investment destination? Because of its educated workforce. So when you compromise and take in people that aren't as qualified or competent, business goes elsewhere.

Of course the single celled organisms in Parliament, and in political parties will not understand that. Even if these jokers did, they'd not care - why care about the country when there's votes to be had? For shame.

On a happier/lighter and selfish note, now this is something that makes me feel good. =) I have the mini, not the nano.
RIP, iPod Mini? No way, fans say

Friday, December 16, 2005

A few drinks = healthy

Getting a few drinks or more is a good thing! This was proved when my medical check test results showed a low heart rate (46/min), below normal glucose (dunno if this is good), and all else peachy.

Awesome... knew Messrs Jack Daniels, Cap'n Morgan, and Smirnoff were my friends.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

'I wanna be a teacher and be Mother Teresa jr' - oh, please!

I wonder:

- Why do all girls in the United States say 'I want to be a teacher and help kids with special needs', when asked about career plans? Most gals in school and college have this same answer, like it's the correct thing to say.
Seems like such a canned response, and I've heard it ever so often in the past decade. Right from when I was teaching undergrads at SU, through last month in SF. It's always about working with kids or special needs children everytime. I don't recall anyone saying 'I wanna be a physician/architect/researcher'.

- Is it just me or does anyone else dislike watching videos online? Newsfeeds on the net, or attachments of videos sent on email. I rarely do - they take too much time, and you have to sit through an ad often. Cnn.com has too many 'Watch' news items, when I'd rather read about them. I recall these videos were all once 'premium content' , and you had to pay for them.

- About this couple sitting next to me yesterday afternoon. The young man was whining about hard-hearted she'd become, and how she'd changed to become an uncaring person. It was all said well within earshot. The woman didn't seem to react much - she didn't seem moved at all. I was thinking - Get a hint, she's about to dump you. Such behavior is usually a pointer to this next step.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Prez accepts - faulty intelligence, non-existent WMD in Iraq.

So El Presidente accepts that going to war with Iraq was wrong, at last! But I'll agree getting rid of Saddam/Uday/Qusay and the other thugs was good, regardless of the interference.

MSNBC: Bush - 'Right Decision' - Defends Iraq War.
CNN: Bush: 'I am Responsible' - President Bush today accepted responsibility for going to war in Iraq based on faulty intelligence.
New York Times: 'Bush Defends Iraq Strategy on Eve of Parliamentary Elections' -
President Bush said the U.S. campaign would lead to "total victory" over the forces of tyranny and terrorism.

Sound different, what?


Winter - weather

~$%^&*#@! - why the heck is Cnn.com down? My daily fix in tabbed links. This most unusual. Suppose I'm the last to know about some breaking news, suppose I'm left out of something?! What school shooting, what execution, what White House crooked expose happened that I was out of the know?

Now's the best time of the year - the colder the better. However, it ain't no winter yet for me. Did it get canceled? Comparing it to MA where it's 9 degrees now. In Syracuse, almost a decade ago we had this snow emergency, during what I believe were the gloomiest days in my mostly sunny lifetime. There was snow in places I lived after, like Williamstown - but that was nice 'cultural' snow, compared to lousy lake-effect, and nor'easters.

Nothing like a good ol' weather discussion. I could go on and on... somehow I rarely meet the kind that's interested.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Smiles or laughs guaranteed

Well, I find these worthy. Was thinking of fun things to read:

  • MAD magazine movie satire.
  • Hindi movie lines (dialogs) - surefire... predictable and unintentionally funny
  • Hindi movie reviews online
  • Get well soon messages from fans to actors.
  • Times of India online - again unintentionally funny writing.
  • English tag lines under Hindi movie names. 'Lucky - no time for love' ??
  • Calvin n' Hobbes collections
  • New apartment descriptions in builder brochures. 'Happy Meadows - a blend of 7 star luxury with convivial lavish landscaping under an azure sky...' =)
  • New apartment complex names - 'Fortaleeza', 'Sophronia'... What the heck do these mean?
  • Roadside misspelled signs and banners.
  • Classifed ads in the newspaper.
  • Matrimonial ads. 'Eastern values with western outlook' - what, like Marco Polo?
  • Online dating profiles. Standard disclaimer starts with - 'I never thought I'd have an online profile/I can't believe I'm doing this...' So why are you online?
  • Apartment or club entrance signs. 'Do not commit nuisance','By order - no visitor parking'
  • Stickers or labels on autorickshaws or taxis. '2000 cc Benz', 'Hai, Lavanya', 'Volvo jet', 'BMW'
  • Resumes that have passport #s, father's name, and the same canned objective on them.
  • Hindi movie ads in the papers for obvious flops. 'The no. 1 smash hit -2nd housefull week' (on day 7)', 'Housefull! - Call now for tickets'.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The 35th

SRT got that overrated 35th test century after two score months of trying to go up from 34. Is there a more single minded cricketer? Never, no way. Well, maybe no other non-India player. Single minded for records, never mind helping the national team win. He may have tried, but never has Tendulkar ever done India any good in a must win 'need you to score' situation, and won India the game. And I'm not talking 100 run margins, and 10 wkt wins. It's about clutch situations. Everyone knows that. When Brian Lara scores, he does when WI needs him to, and he scores big. See his numerous giant centuries...

Neal n'Nikki - excuse me while I grab a barf bag -

One look at Tanisha and this obvious wannabe cool "movie", and any rational person would cross it out the list of what to see any weekend. Yuck.

My criterion for any movie, even a usual lousy Bollywood kitsch piece - at the least - is that the actors gotta be lookers. If you ain't good lookin' then you have bhai log backing you, or have producer godfathers. If you're plain ugly like this "actress", then the financiers WANT a loss on the books obviously. Cos, cos you just cannot look like this, make faces and pretend to have top billing. That goes for the III tier actor - Uday Chopra, in this movie. Need I say more? No.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Is everyone and his brother an MBA or in Page 3?

This is something that one notices in India - any city, and I used to wonder about it. There's a load of MBAs around, and schools on every corner that offer them. People that work the phones are 'MBA's, customer support rookies, telesales folks, door-to-door salesmen - everyone seems to have an 'MBA'. Now an article today in the Times made me recall the vast management pool that this country has.

Subroto Bagchi of Mindtree had a column in the business section that was right on the mark. He spoke of management institutes on every street, and the suckers that paid a ton of money to get in and acquire an MBA. It's a money making racket. He mentioned the eagerness of parents and wards that knew of these no-name schools' records, but still pretended that in time they'd be labels. There are third tier corner institutes with 'US affiliations', and poorly equipped degree shops where students had not a hope in hell of employment once they graduated.

It's incredulous that these MBAs that I've encountered usually can't hold a conversation in passable English, have little or no analytical skills, but use a fair amount of marketing or finance jargon when they speak. They're all unanimous in wanting 'MBA kind of jobs' at the recruiting table. In time they submit, and end up at hotel reception desks, call centers, water purifier salesmen and the like. Nothing wrong in these professions, but they are certainly not why you acquire an management degree.

Why bother? The degree is cheapened when hundreds of incompetent shops churn out thousands of graduates. There are full page ads by several of the larger institutes in the papers. If you gotta invite prospects in, you can't be much of a business school.There's got to be more scrutiny by student prospects of such institutes, and they should look to either get into a recognized good school, or not get an MBA.

Page 3 'celebs'

Plenty of unknowns being passed off as celebrities in the Times' page 3 section. Names dropped like we should know who they are already! LOL. Plus unknown regulars that show up repeatedly in these pages, like they had photographer on call for a fee. Too many names, too many onboard. Comical.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gates and Murphy show

Watched the NDTV 'Bill and Infosys' show compered by Prannoy Roy last night - nice to see. Lots of fawning over Gates and NarayanaMurphy. I really think the latter needs a new pair of glasses.

Roy seemed to ask questions very deferentially, and what was with the 'Mr Gates' and 'Mr N'? He could have used first names. The audience asked some canned questions, but they were there just to see Bill and NM.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Me, my record, my place in the team - what game?

I do not understand, I fail to understand - why do they play a meaningless game that just can't have a result? This is unique to cricket - where the match goes on even where there is not a chance of any team winning. This is among the reasons why it makes no sense to people from non-cricketing countries.

However, given that players (esp from India) always play for their own records - this is perfect. And look what happened in that quest - the India batsmen nearly all tumbled by noon! No wait, this national team also has assisted other teams in setting records such as most runs conceded in the shortest time, and most wickets to fall in a session like today, losing a game in a session, jackpot bonanza returns for betters etc... so that's ok.

In the past they have also encouraged complete unknowns from opposing teams, by letting them become stars overnight. Their first big century, first 10 wkt haul... all that.

Good things that happened:
- SRT didn't get his meaningless 35th century. That would have been ridiculous in a dead game - not that his overrated status isn't anyway. He did get a century - # of balls faced for his piddling 22 (126). Neat.
- Selfish Sourav got 5 runs, good for 5 more games with the team. The story of his 'comeback' was plain comedy.

Regardless, nothing is going to happen at the end of day's play. Why did they start at all?

Game time - After 3 days of no play?

So they're playing the first SL test after 3 days of no activity cos of the rain. Let's guess the reasons why -

- Tendulkar can get his overrated 35th century in 2 days of batting practise. When else does he score anyway - certainly not at clutch situations. Now's the time - SRT! Then ToI and Rediff can go gaga with a 10 slide paranoma about the 'little master' or' Bradman's successor', and how Lara is the lesser of the two. Eww.

- Selfish Sourav can come bat his way back into the team. Now's the time again - ain't no 'gotta win' situation is there?

Or SL could win in two days (ya never know)... and crow will be served.

However winning a game these days isn't just about the better team, is it? It's about external conditions - weather, 'betsmen' etc. I mean, come on... we just witnessed a tied 1-day series between the top two result arranging teams in cricket.

The friendly puppy

So, met this woman and her dog that was being walked down by the apartment healthclub last night. The dog - a german shepherd - was being led back n'forth on the lawn, she was quiet and alert looking. The place was well lit, with little kids playing in the area by the swings and slides, or just plain running around.

So I asked about the dog, petted it - seemed real friendly. Heard she had a great temperament etc. Noticing the kids around, I asked how it was with children. Was told she was excellent with kids, and was even friendlier with them. Nice. I moved on.

*Growlll.. rawrr!* Just turned around then incredulously .... to see the dog snarling and chasing two kids across the lawn. They were running for their lives - think they got a nip and some scratches. Haw! Oops...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Feminism on Indian TV - sham-time

In Pune, watched this 'town hall' like show on NDTV.... some repetitive feminist posturing. I mean, they've been discussing this, the same issues forever with no change nor progress. Same old, same old.... how they've been shown in cinema, on television.... what's gotta be done. The same script since like '92 on TV, or was it '92?

Anyhoo, the same people - grand olde dames, overweight society dowagers, over-the-hill actresses, bimbettes, and an everyman audience that wants to just be seen on TV (hence the idiot questions). They talk and talk, and go round in circles - nothing ever happens after. They'll do this again every quarter on tv, pick up on any irrelevant news item that 'threatens the presentation of the sacred feminine'. This, by the most privileged section of Indian society, the one that's least affected by the subject matter.

The tubby presenter-moderator Barkha 'Horsie Amanpour' Dutt continues to not let anyone finish a sentence, and also poses leading questions. The society dames will make it a shouting match, and go home in a Merc or so. Like they care about the really downtrodden. They'll do nothing. Really? Do you think?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Fri night, nay Sat am 1230....

Got home from work at 2a.How do you end a conversation?

There's a fair bit to do on Sat - home.

What's this - comeback season?

John McEnroe - 2006
Martina Hingis - 2006
Jennifer Capriati - 2006
Steffi Graf - WTT/2005
Sania Mirza.... no, wait a minute... she was just doing some media. Oops.

Who's next..... Vijay Amritraj?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What's overrated?

Amitabh 'all over the place' Bachchan

Sachin 'never delivers when needed' Tendulkar

Bangalore

The Fear of God

Singapore executes Australian drug runner - good show! You go, SIN!

Putting the fear of god in criminals is important - no mercy ever. One hanging, and the rest will think twice before doing something crooked.

F'rinstance, Delhi's creep-thugs need the same deterrent. Line up all the captured SOBs, and have 'em all shot in one day. Have the victims and families watch. Then watch the crime graph fall. Fewer assaults, kidnappings and suchlike....

Previous entries at http://vcat13.tripod.com/Journal.html

What runs in my mind -

'Mike Wazowski'
'Who's a batty?' (sic)
'Carlotti and friend'