29 January 2010

iPad - iDoomed ?

Amidst all the hype and hoopla about Apple's latest creation (Boy, one should have seen the frenzy and hype in the internet prior to the release), there is something that is niggling in the back of one's mind.

Whenever Steve Jobs takes the stage, there is an air of confidence, a self control that is present while the product is being presented. In fact, if you see the iPhone keynote, and compare it with the iPad keynote, you can make out quite a lot of differences. The body language, the superlatives (well, it is not that an apple keynote is bereft of adjectives), and many more little things.

Further, Steve J himself goes on record saying this is the ultimate thing that he has created.

Well, it is quite simple. When you want to get eyeballs to your creation, as Apple has always been to doing, we should let the creation attract all the eyeballs and not your words.

Somehow, this time around, it is the words that attract the eyeballs and not the creation.

Secondly, when a product is launched on stage, you would expect it to be available immediately, so that the initial hype can be capitalized. That, unfortunately enough, is not the case with the iPad.

While iPad would definitely kill Kindle, I think this would, in all probability, follow the same course as Apple previous attempts at a pad -- the Newton.


Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:43 AM 0 comments

28 January 2010

Bliss

An empty winding road in the hills. Fog and mist shrouded morning. You are on a bicycle pedaling away slowly, whistling to yourself and listening to all the birds around you.

And then on an impulse, you switch on your music player. A slight drizzle begins.

As if by magic, this song comes on in your player.





Forget the video. Close your eyes and just listen to the song alone. The wonderful guitar, the amazing drums, a musical arrangement which I think has no equal. Heck, just listen to the manner in which the song opens. And yes, above all, the magical voice of S.P.Balasubramaniam.

For that instant, you are transported to heaven. Straight away.

Who else can do this, other than king Illayaraja ?

Shyam

PS: I may not be doing justice to the way I felt when I heard this song, or the situation in which I heard the song. But then again, somethings are meant to be felt and not explained.

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 8:34 AM 0 comments

16 January 2010

Aayirathil Oruvan -- Review

What happens when the past meets the present ? More so, what happens when the people from the past are still alive ? What happens when a present day man interacts with the people of the past ?

All these questions are answered rather intelligently in Selvaraghavan's latest movie, Aayirathil Oruvan.

The story is rather simple. A team of archeologists set out to find the path, and the last settlement of last emperor of Chola kingdom, when they fled their native Thanjavur.

Leading the team is Reema Sen, with Andrea, whose father had disappeared after finding out the location, and Karthi Sivakumar.

They need to pass through the seas and animal infested jungles before they arrive at the city.

What happens after they reach the city ?

While the ending of the movie may suggest a sequel, a careful analysis of the movie actually suggests that a sequel may not be in place. Centuries ago, the child of the king was taken away to a safe place to save him from marauding invaders. Cut to the present, the movie comes to a close with pretty much the same situation. It is quite possible that the director seems to suggest that this cycle will keep repeating itself.

The director has paid excellent attention to details, including the use of language, costumes and such.

All the actors have put in excellent performances.

The director could have spent some money in polishing the special effects (that ugly looking camel).

The camera work is of top order.

All in all, a movie that is definitely worth watching, and the one that pushes the envelope of tamil movie making.

Shyam

PS: A lot of situations need careful inference and deduction in the movie. That might prove to be the downfall of this movie at the box office, or may guarantee repeat audience.

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 3:54 PM 1 comments

Sherlock Holmes -- Review

A very average movie about Sherlock Holmes and his antics.

Guy Ritchie attempts a cinematic take on the fabled Sherlock Holmes and his friend, Dr.Watson.

While too much of internet ink has been spilled on the movie and its merits/de-merits, what is rather puzzling is the use of shades by Sherlock Holmes. They were not invented in the time of Sherlock Holmes.

The movie gives ample scope for a sequels and more.

Watch the movie carefully to learn the sequence of events that unfold.

The one aspect of the movie that was rather expected, given Guy Ritchie's direction was the in-place hilarious one-liners, that both Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson deliver.


Both Jude Law and Robert Downey.Jr. give rather adequate performances as Dr.Watson and Sherlock Holmes, respectively.


All in all, a rather tolerable movie, worth a visit to the theater.

Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 12:31 AM 1 comments

Devi Theater Complex -- Chennai

A few years ago, Devi Theater complex was the "in place" in Chennai.

Then they fell into a rut. The complex became more of a seedy joint, with all kinds of movies and such.

A year or so ago, they woke up to the fact that Sathyam Cinemas had re=invented themselves and were now a major force to reckon with, in Chennai.

Re-modeling efforts followed and today, they are a name to reckon with.

However, all said and done, they are still nowhere close to providing the same experience that Sathyam Cinemas does.

Firstly, the seats are rather badly positioned. You can see the head of person in the row in front of you, jutting into the movie.

Secondly, the snacks are way too expensive. Sathyam Cinemas provides a litre of coke for 65 Rs. Devi Cinemas provides you 650ml of pepsi (kids drink, more like horse's piss) for 65 Rs.

It is still hard to match the experience that Sathyam Cinemas provide for a movie goer.

The least they can do is to reduce the price of the movie tickets.


Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 12:23 AM 0 comments

13 January 2010

Unbelieveable

I was pinching myself in disbelief after reading this article.


25 MB a month for 10 USD ?? I pay 2 USD for the same data access here in India, and the speed is no slouch, considering the percentage of users that have a "feature" phone.

Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 9:06 AM 0 comments

08 January 2010

Puzzling - Rather ironical

Isn't is rather puzzling, or rather, ironical that a India Symposium is being held in Zurich ?

How are the international attendees supposed to know the ground realities when all they do is sit in plush air-conditioned rooms, sipping something ?

The best place to hold an India Symposium is India, dammit. Wake up, you moronic organizers.


Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:26 AM 0 comments

07 January 2010

Kodaikanal to Munnar -- On a Bicycle !!

If you ask most people who live away, or even in Kodaikanal, they would tell you that the way to get to Munnar, is to get to Palani, or to Theni.

However, unknown to many, there are numerous jeep paths in and around Kodaikanal that would get you to Munnar. One such road is the now closed to all kinds of activity -- Escape Road.

A few months ago, I came to know of the fact that I would have ample free time on my hands for the New Year. Aimless browsing gave me this link, an Australian (I think), who had bicycled his way from Kodaikanal to Munnar.

I thought I shall more or less try out the same. Here's a blow-by-blow account.

Day 0: In which I get my bicycle ready.

I cycled over from my house to Balaji Cycles in Saidapet, Chennai. I trust them with my cycle, a modest, or in words of other "cyclists", a lowly Hero Thunder Racer. Later in the trip, I would learn that this thing can really fly, and helped me cover around 30+ kilometers, across the mountains, in around 75 and odd minutes.

I spent sometime preparing a seat post, made out of steel (the rest of the bicycle is aluminum, which makes it feather light) and fixed it on to the bicycle. All gears were checked and found to be in proper condition.

I had a ticket for Kodaikanal with KPN travels. I cycled over to their parcel office in Gunidy to dispatch the cycle, only to be told that they have no service to Kodaikanal, and I can put the cycle on top of the bus in which I am supposed to travel.

I then cycled over to Koyambedu, and parked the cycle there. Later in the night, I put it on top of the bus and tied it up with their ropes.

Day 1: In which I laze around and take loads of pictures.

I arrived at Kodaikanal and went straight to Greenland Youth Hostel. There was a motley crew that was attempting a trek to Munnar, albeit through a different path. I met with their guide Babu. I tried picking his brain to get some tips. I then learnt about the fact that the jungle routes are more or less closed to all kinds of traffic. He advised me to take the observatory route along the roads, and promised me that the views are quite good even through that side. He advised me to get to a village called Kilavarai(also called Kalvarai by the locals) for the night, stay there, cross the hills and get to a village called Koviloor the next day, and from there on, to Top Station and Munnar.

After a quick bath, I repacked my bag and gave some of my luggage for safe keeping with the kind folks at Greenland Youth Hostel. I cycled over to the market and got myself a nice cloth rope. A cloth rope is, on any day, a better alternative to nylon ropes. A cloth rope would tighten up over time and make sure my bag is safe. I got some packets of date fruits (it would come in handy the second day) and some sweet bread. (Milka wonder cake !!)

I then started cycling towards the observatory road. It was quite steep, but not anything difficult. Once I crossed the observatory, I continued cycling towards the Governor's view point. As soon as you cross the observatory cycle for around two kilometers, and look for a road that turns right and goes towards a village called "Poomparai". When in doubt, ask for a Klavarai village. Turn right at this road.



You would need to cross a road like that. The next few hours were spent in cycling slowly, trying to drink in the views and spending as much time as possible, in taking some pictures. (It is a different matter that I suck in photography, but hey, the camera is mine and I had all the time in the world).

After about two hours, I reached the village of Poomparai, and had lunch. A simple meal of rice and vegetables. Boy, it tasted awesome. You will pass a temple like the one that you see here.



Poomparai village was quite beautiful with all the mist that was shrouding it. I was rather unhappy as there was too much mist and I could not take some more pictures as I would have liked to. I guess I would have spent an hour or so here, just watching the mist flow by.



I then started cycling towards the next village, Kaunji. I had to pass another village called Poondi, before I can get to Klavarai.

Since I was in no hurry, I was doing it in a relaxed manner.



Kaunji Village.

At around 4PM in the evening, after cycling for about 5 hours, I reached Klavarai village, a distance of around 40 kilometers. I was told that options to stay for the night were quite limited and hence, I should get back to a village called Poondi.

In Poondi village, there is a farmstay. However, since I was on a budget, I made some inquiries, and found a small hotel guy, who agreed to provide me with a bed and blanket for 200Rs. I would have to share the bathroom. I was quite okay with the arrangement. After all, I just wanted a bed, blanket, and a roof over my head to sleep for the night.

I parked my bicycle and walked around poondi village, taking some pictures.





I came back, and had a nice cold bath. I then had something to eat, and decided to get to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a long day.

Day 2: Lots of pushing and learning that my bicycle can really fly.

The idea was to get to Top Station and stay there for the day. I had a lot of time on my hands and wanted to relax on the entire trip. I started from Poondi village and my route was Nattampatti-Klavarai-The Jeep path-Koviloor-Top Station. I passed by some nice fields and birds.





I then reached the Nattampatti Village. As you reach the village, the road forks. Take the left fork. After you take the left fork, you would get to a bridge that is under construction. It seems that in monsoon, Klavarai village gets cut off from rest of Kodaikanal. You would cross this stream on which a bridge is being built.




A few hours of cycling got me to Klavari. Once you enter Klavarai, you would see a fork. A road to your left that is uphill and a road to your right that is downhill. Take the road to your left. After around 300mts or so, you would see a steep uphill path on your left. It seems that the recent November rains had destroyed the entire jeep path. The locals told me to be prepared to push my cycle till the end of the jeep path, a good 15+ kilometers. The locals also told me that it takes around three hours for them to get to Koviloor by walk. I estimated that since I stop frequently for pictures, it would take me around 5 hours. Once you start the jeep path, you need to hoist the cycle over your head and cross the path as it is extremely slushy and there is path just for one person to walk over. As soon as you start uphill, you reach a fork, where you take the right fork.



Over the next few hours, I would learn the difficulty involved in pushing the cycle over steep uphill slopes, and the difficulty involved in controlling your body and the cycle when you are negotiating a downhill slope.



However, the stunning views compensated for all the hard work that was needed.





I passed a few locals who told me that this path is soon (in the next three or four years) becoming a highway. They needed it badly as it would give them faster access to the towns, so that they can sell their agricultural produce. I then crossed over the border into Kerala. For the next few hours, I had no human contact. I was alone, enjoying the wind and the stunning views that I was able to get from the place.

After around three hours of pushing and pulling the cycle, I reached a jeep track. I cycled a bit and then found that the path was too steep, and my brakes were unable to control the cycle. Out of the 15+ kilometers for which I pushed the cycle, a better cycle (read with disc brakes) would have cut the pushing effort to 10 kilometers.

I reached Koviloor village at around 3.00PM. I had enough time to get to Top Station, as it was just 9 kilometers away. I was a bit hungry too, as I was unable to get anything for lunch. All that I had was some date fruits and some sweet bread. I was anticipating a nice bath and a large meal.

At around 4.00PM, I reached Top Station. It was covered in nice mist. And then disaster struck.

It was 31st December evening, New Year's evening. For some strange reason, there was no accommodation. I was told to get to Munnar, since the previous village, Koviloor, does not have any places to stay.

I weighed my options here. I can put my cycle onto a jeep and reach Munnar, or I can fight, and pedal my way to Munnar. I chose the latter.

I put my camera safely into its bag and vowed never to open it till I reach Munnar. I secured the bag and jumped onto my cycle.

For the next 75 or so minutes, I pedaled as hard as I could. The only target was to reach Munnar, around 35 or so kilometers away. The roads were quite good, but winding, and had enough ups and downs.

Luckily, the bicycle responded nicely. At around 5.15PM, I was steaming into Munnar town, totally drenched in sweat, and extremely hungry.


Day 3: I packed off my cycle on KPN parcel service. I had enough fun for the New Year.


Shyam

PS: The rest of the pictures are up here.

PPS: The route in a nutshell: Kodaikanal-Observatory Road-Poomparai Village-Kaunji Village-Poondi Village-Klavarai Village-Jeep Path-Koviloor Village-Top Station-Munnar, totaling a distance of approximately 120kms.

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:25 AM 19 comments

06 January 2010

Further proof that Avatar is all about CGI




This is ample proof that the movie Avatar is all about spectacular graphics, and less of a story.

Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 9:10 AM 0 comments

05 January 2010

This day that age

There was a chill in the January air when the boy stepped out of the bus in Koramangala, Bangalore. The forum mall that exists today was not even planned at that time. He began a short walk towards the fifth block area, where his seniors from college lived. They had agreed to have him for a brief period of time, before he found out a place for himself.

Just a few days ago, there was a wild party in his University hostel welcoming the new decade. It was the last day of the year and the last examination. He did not even concentrate on the examination. Universities are fun. The moment you score well in one semester's examinations, it was taken granted that you would score again and again. It was that way. It was fun. He heaved a bit, not because of the chill. Those memories would remain just that, memories. Over the next few years, many such moments would come back to him. Heck, even today, he speaks paeans about his hostel life.

It did not matter much to him that he had a job in his hometown. He had left that to come over to Bangalore for a new job, in what proved to be a rather fruitful move. He wanted to see the world and understand what it was going to offer him. He was, in effect, trying to extend the new found freedom that he had tasted in his hostel for the few years before he came over for a job.

He took a bus to get to Indra Nagar, the location of his job. The inner ring road connecting Koramangala to Domlur was under construction, and bus traffic was not allowed on that road. It was restricted to personal vehicles.

He was given a rather cordial welcome in his new office. He was their 300th recruit, trainee or otherwise. The new job seemed loads of fun, for it seemed to be an extension of his hostel life.

For the next nine months, he was drowned in his new job. For some strange reason, the company where he worked was trying out some uncharted territory, and he was only happy to be a part of it.

Nine months later, things subsided and he resumed his normal life, visiting friends, an occasional run in the inner ring road, visits to gym, to near by places, and of course his hometown once a while.

Visits to San Diego followed and along the way, he picked up a Master's degree from Indian Institute of Science, ran a few marathons, bicycled his way to many a place and of course, motor-biked his way to many places too.

Eight year later, while in Mexico, in a fit of nostalgia, he quits his job, and decides to get back to his hometown.

Yes, Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a full decade since the boy, yours truly, started his career. It has been a rocking roller coaster ride.

Here's to raising a toast to the next decade, a decade in which I hope to get that elusive killer app finished, sell it to someone and make boatloads of money, and retire away to the mountains.

Shyam

PS: Quite fittingly, since a good part of the "wild life" was spent in Bangalore, the "other half" is from there.

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 3:07 PM 4 comments

Brothers and Sisters of Kerala

Firstly, Apologies to Swami Vivekananda for the title.

Now, my dear brothers and sisters of Kerala, we all know that the name of your state is inspired from coconut. Further, we also know your affinity for all products that are based on coconut. Fair enough. Oh yeah, sometimes, the food preparation based on coconuts rocks big time too, not to mention toddy. And yes, your state is the only place I think of whenever I think vacation.

But, what is rather unsettling is that horrible stench that emanates from each and everyone of you. You see all you folks have the habit of washing your hair everyday morning and coating it liberally with coconut oil. Over time, your hair gives out a rather horrible stench that sometimes gives the coovum, the holy garbage collector river of Madras, a horrible complex.

Please remember that there is something in this world called Shampoo, or if you are so very fond of natural products, shikakai herbs. Please use them once in a while to wash your hair.

For the love of Mary, please do something about it.

Shyam

PS: I was struggling hard to contain my puke as I am typing out this post. Such is that horrible stench.

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 2:59 PM 1 comments

New Year Resolution

There are resolutions for the New Year, and there are resolutions. The only resolution that I am going to make is that, for the Marathon season 2010 (which starts August 2010 and ends February 2011), I plan to run atleast one marathon with a sub 4.30 hour timing.

Oh yes, I do plan to run my allocated quota of five marathons atleast this year (Hyderabad, Bangalore, Singapore, Bombay and Auroville).

Let's see how that goes.

Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 2:57 PM 2 comments