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It’s another year

What’s the big deal about birthdays, anyway?! Well, they keep coming every year. And to make things more mundane, they keep falling on the same date every year. But somehow, they just stand out for me. Birthdays are fun – gives you a reason to kick someone in their butt, to put cake on one’s face, go out and party. And what stand out to me are gifts and surprises. It’s not about the material value of it (of course, I wouldn’t decline if someone decides to gift me a car, bleh), but what it means to me.

Come third of January, I will be a year older and hypocritically wiser. This year, I really hope that you would join hands with me in order to fight a cause. We could help bring clean water to underprevileged people. How? There’s an organisation called charity: water, and they work on bringing clean water to remote areas that lack them. You can check this out to see how they operate, and they promise to spend all their funds on water development. I believe it’s a cause worth fighting for. If you share my thought, please pitch into my campaign to support bringing clean drinking water to Cambodia here.

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The donations are made in USD, and you could make however small a contribution you wish. I opened the campaign with the first donation, and you could top it up!

And finally, as promised in the campaign I will send each one of you a thank-you postcard! When was the last time you had one in your mailbox? ūüôā

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It has been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog. A lot of things have happened in my life in the past months. I progressed well with my research. I made it to quite a few conferences. I learnt french (lots of expressions included). I became a youtube junkie and then weaned off it. I lost my best friend. I started watching a lot of news, Indian news especially (and wikipedia to cover up for my lapses in history). I got married. I got doing long distance with my wife (previously fianc√©e, and pre-previously girlfriend). I got tickets made to get back home. I’m counting down.

But this blog post isn’t about my recent life history. I’m posting this online, to tell that I have been posting a lot of letters and postcards lately. Whom to, you might ask. Well about half of them flow in to my love. The rest to absolute strangers spread across the world. It’s made possible through this platform called postcrossing. Nick first told me about it, and it was just amazing!

Here’s a brief of how it works: you ask them for a random address in the globe – they give you one with a postcard reference number – you pick a postcard, a stamp, pen down whatever you like and post it – the recipient upon receipt of the postcard registers the postcard – two happy people with random stats on their profiles. But the cooler part is the moment your postcard gets delivered, you get sent one from another random person across. It sometimes really lights me up in the evening when I open the postbox to find letters/postcards from someone other than my bank, caf or the prefecture.

Go on, go ahead and try it. Tongue-fu lady, a gentle reminder to you too. And thanks for reminding me to write. ūüôā Happy postcrossing!

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Unlike’ly

Facebook has a like button. The like button is rampant, and gives you the possiblity of liking pretty much anything, from someone’s wedded life to possibly thier terminal cancer diagnosis. And once you like something, much unlike you’d expect, it gives you an option of “unliking” the same thing.

So I wonder, what it is to unlike something. It is pretty much unlike any other form of un- based negation: you can undress someone who is dress, someone unwell can recover and become well; some stuff that were once a luxury and unnecessary have now become necessary; and many went from being employed to the un-prefixed version of it when recession hit them.

But to “unlike” something is to redefine English, unlike any other common misplaced word. It’s so commonplace that we don’t even realise that instead of saying, “I don’t like this anymore,” we decide to “unlike this.” Also, you can “unlike” something you once liked but just don’t appreciate anymore without necessarily disliking it. Too much for your liking? Go find something unlike this then.

P.S.: I do strongly support Krish Ashok’s suggestions to Indianise the Like button, unlike Grammar Nazis who believe in changing Aashai mugam to Aasai mugam.

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The new face of spam

Here’s how Wikipedia defines spam:

Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately.

And here’s how wigs&muscles defines spam:

A misunderstood evil.

In case you didn’t get the huge hyperlink, please read the post here:¬†http://wigsandmuscles.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/spam-a-misunderstood-evil/

Now that, in my books is one way of spam. “How?” you might think. Well what is that Nigerian prince or those estranged widows from Ivory coast going to do with all the money they have? Not to mention all those ways by which you can grow your penis longer than the Great Wall of China. Anyway, here is the essence of this post: with evolving technology comes evolving spam. Some, due to creeping around technology, but most due to our sheer brilliant ignorance. And we, as Indians I think very proudly go on with it (count me in, count me in!). Digress not.

So, spam. The¬†inspiration to this post came up when I saw the fifth post on facebook in which people mentioned they wished to stay connected “privately” with their friends and family. In fact looking at that I remembered there are a number of letters I am to send all my close friends and family with whom I do intend to stay connected at many levels. Focus, focus. I second College Humor’s take on the issue, very nicely put: facebook laws for idiots.

So we were talking about ignorance. We often do things out of ignorance, and spread spam without even attempting to understand if it is actually true: be it promoting Child Line India to be a waste food collecting gang; or like all those doctors who are waiting for our likes and shares to save little children’s lives; or delivering justice to people who committed big crimes. The reason doesn’t matter, it probably gives us a sense of accomplishment in saying “I did my share to help some random person.” And computers are just the perfect tools for spreading them, as would SMBC agree with me.

These are, I am sure, the new kind of spam. Spam, to me, is any unsolicited useless piece of information that gives you no earthly pleasure. Since our inboxes are well filtered by our email service providers, spam has also probably evolved: to eat into our ignorance. I wonder what the spam of the future is going to be (thinking along with my extinct buddy):

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I have a problem. I get distracted easily. Very easily. And my attention span is becoming shorter than that of a goldfish. Speaking of goldfish, it seems it isn’t true that their memory lasts only five seconds – ask wikipedia. Speaking of wikipedia, it’s amazing how they run that website without advertisements, and how something free could have so much of reliable content. Speaking of content, if only their contribution system was more user-friendly and didn’t look like a geeky computer programming page, I would have also contributed. But yeah, I shouldn’t talk about giving reasons – I’m just lazy. And now I’m wondering how my line of thought is drifting so fast! Much like how Sheldon Cooper explains his train of thoughts. And then how he dreams of trains in the episode “The Herb Garden Germination” (The Big Bang Theory s04e20):

Sheldon: I’ve been thinking about Dr. Green’s efforts to make science palatable for the masses.
Leonard: What about it?
Sheldon: Nothing. I’ve just been thinking about it. Now I’m thinking about fractal equations. Now I’m thinking about the origins of the phrase ‘train of thought’. Now I’m thinking about trains.
Sheldon: Now I’m thinking about Jello. . . . Oh! Back to trains. Whoo whooooo!

So you see my point? I get distracted quite easily. In fact, I drift away while talking, which would be much seconded by my dear friends. I do, however, in most cases, come back to where I broke off. So why this article: distraction is probably what keeps my mind running! So here’s a nicer example of what pushed me into facebook in the middle of a working Friday. Okay, don’t laugh at me saying who works on a Friday in France – I’ve had my bad experiences, but here’s what happened this Friday:

It all started when a friend of mine asked me if I had access to a scientific article. This one, to be precise:

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Well, we didn’t have access. So I thought I’d ask some friends of mine who might perhaps. My trusted Trio – well, the three people I keep bothering every second day with some favour or another – one from a cold Sweden, and a couple of Etas-Uni-ers. And they didn’t either. I could have closed the story then, but never give up, right? So I looked at the article again, and noticed that the authors are from Cornell. Wondering whether the University might have subscription, I went into facebook to look for any friends I might have at the Unviersity – none presently there. But then I thought while I’m at it, I might as well see what’s happening on facebook. And then stumbled upon this picture on facebook:

Icky nonsenseYes, it’s one of those pictures that you cannot un-see once you’ve seen. And my friend is good at making sure he hits as many people as possible with such¬†atrocities. And to add to the distraction, I had to see a comment about how that resembles someone who’s eaten too much of noodles. So that got me reminded of the movie se7en – and the first crime in it – murder for the sin of gluttony. And then a few more videos on the movie, how Kevin Spacey surrenders, and gets shot by Pitt, and a couple of other youtube videos on Spacey – and then I remembered electrophoresis. Got back. Ah work, if only you would accommodate all this loss of focus!

P.S.: This blog post took over an hour to type – it included a skype talk in the middle, some motivation from friend to¬†complete a blog post saying that it isn’t energy consuming, and 30-40 mins of wikipedia, google, and wikipedia on google. I think it’s time I call it a night. Before it hits morning. Sigh!

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Yes, I know a lot of friends who read the Times of India for entertainment. My good friend Mashank Shasaldan in fact gains kicks out of finding the creepiest articles, invariably lascivious in nature, and pings me on Gtalk going “dude, check this out.”

The news did catch my eye today, for one, Ajmal Kasab was hanged today. I’m sure you can read enough in the blogsphere about what his emotions were before he was hung, but I sought for the more traditional news channel, and bumped into this article¬†on how secretively he was finished. They’re sending letters by courier to his family. Seriously?! I wonder what the letter would say:

Dear Smt. & Shri. Kasab Sr.,

Your son Ajmal was caught four years ago for killing a lot of innocent civilans, and setting a few buildings on fire. Justice has been served. He has been hanged until death today, in secrecy. FYI.

Regards,

Secret Justice system of India.

But what was more interesting was the comments that followed, a few of which were very carefully penned, empathising with the families of all those lives he is said to have claimed. But before I could read a couple of them, my attention was attracted towards big badges that TOI gives its dear readers. There are influencers, word smiths, networkers, movie buffs, etc., a detailed wooing elaborated right on their website:

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So without wasting more time into even trying to understand what each of those “rewards” mean, I am going straight to the skewed comment that caught my stray eye. I saw Mr. I am Nobody from the United States Of INDIA (yes mind the upper-case emphasis to patriotism). He quite represents the quintessential abusive anti-islamic¬†commentator, if I may. I’m positive that he would answer any question of mine with his sentence beginning with the clause “I can able to”, but I’m not going to judge him either. So here’s one of his eye-candy comments:

From what Indiatimes suggests, his comment has an ‘influence’ value of 7 on a scale of <unknown>, and he is a “wordsmith”, and has a network badge because he has 76 “followers”. God save him. Even if it be Allah. Because what I see from his posts is that he is anti-islamic, rather quite baseless, and what got me laughing was when I scrolled over one of these badges for an explanation:

That thing’s (I’m sorry Mr. Nobody, I can’t imagine you are human anymore) name in this page is “Pedophile Mohammed” – yes, spelt correctly. I can understand you can’t screen each comment ToI, but you have to get your things in place. And this definitely isn’t the first article I’ve seen where the comments section flow in with abuses. Please put in a screening filter mechanism before comments are so highly propagated, or fucking close the comments section. Sigh!

Anyway, this wasn’t what got me blogging after nearly two years of silence. There’ve been a lot of factors – a change in my lifestyle, thinking, etc., that’s gotten me to write again.

And before I finish, it’s Nick‘s birthday. And one thing I know that he enjoys is writing. The guy has a passion for it. Nick, I’m dedicating (not this post – it’s an excuse for something not even remotely readable) “my return to writing” to you. Happy birthday dude! I hope you have a great year ahead!

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