Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Qtrax - Update (Don't bother)

Looks like I got excited 'bout Qtrax very early. With reports from the blogosphere not very encouraging and Wired giving it a miss. I tried to download the player but keep getting 'page not found', so won't bother with it till encouraging reports come up.

So, for now it is back to hoping for a really free music downloading source. Till then check out Lifehacker's list on ways to download and listen to music on the web (free of course).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Qtrax - 25 Million songs for free download

Starting tonight, Qtrax is putting up 25 million songs for listening and downloading for free. This is an ad-supported site with a peer-to-peer network for downloading music.

This is great news for music lovers like me. I just hope that this doesn't go the Spiral Frog way where the music is only available for downloads in the US.

In other music download news - Amazon music is considering going worldwide with their DRM free sales of music online.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Happy Republic Day, Happy Australia Day

From Australia Day website:

The tradition of noticing 26 January began early in the nineteenth century with Sydney almanacs referring to First Landing Day or Foundation Day. That was the day in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove.

From Indian Government website on Republic Day:

It was on 26th of January 1950 that the constitution of India came into force and India finally enjoyed the true spirit of freedom. More than on a political level, the day has emotional significance for Indians. Attached to the day is the recognition that we live in a sovereign, secular, and democratic nation that breathes on the principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.

Today, I have double the cause for celebration. A proud son of two mothers, I am a citizen both of India and Australia. Overseas Citizenship of India has recognised its global citizens and gives opportunity and the privilege for expat Indians to enjoy the benefits of being an Indian citizen as well.

As if on cue, I got my OCI passport yesterday along with a sticker on my Australian passport with validity date of LIFELONG.

Have fun on your holiday and enjoy the benefits of living in a free world.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What a win for cricket!!!

After India's performance and its luck with umpiring in this series, I wasn't really sure of what would go down in Perth. Given the WACA's history and Australian team's aggressiveness I imagined Perth would be a draw rather than India's win. If India did win, then may be it would be a tight call.

But, no.

India won the series like champions of the game. When I used to watch Billiards and Snooker matches I used to think that I could hit the shots that the pros could, but there was one difference, the pros could do it repeatedly. So, when Ishant Sharma, R P Singh and Irfan Pathan bowled ball after ball with great accuracy and correct line and length they did show real skill in bowling.

That 19 year old Ishant Sharma would trouble a quality batsman like Ponting was not just amusing, but real treat to watch.

What would be memorable is R P Singh's hanging on to the batting along with Laxman to give just that little bit extra runs to India during their second innings. Kudos to Mitchell Johnson who made Indian bowling look stupid along with his adventurous shots, that stuff is what makes champions champions.

At the start of the game, the odds for India's win was $8, something I wouldn't really worry about. If I did bet on India, they might not have won, effectively, I made them win.

Picture courtesy: Cricinfo.com

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nobody remains a virgin...

Quite F***ing true.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Monkey walks a robot

Scientists in Duke university USA connected a monkey's brain to a robot in Kyoto, Japan. The monkey's thoughts made the robot walk.

Read all about it here.

Live in Fear, die anyway

According to a New York Time article, American's are probably worrying themselves to death. The cause of worry? Terrorism!

But worrying about terrorism could be taking a toll on the hearts of millions of Americans. The evidence, published last week in the Archives of General Psychiatry, comes from researchers who began tracking the health of a representative sample of more than 2,700 Americans before September 2001. After the attacks of Sept. 11, the scientists monitored people’s fears of terrorism over the next several years and found that the most fearful people were three to five times more likely than the rest to receive diagnoses of new cardiovascular ailments.

Living away from India and getting the news that there has been a terrorist attack in Mumbai or Hyderabad worries me a lot. I make frantic calls to friends and family to make sure they are okay. But the response to any of this call is a very casual, "Don't worry about it.".

Major shopping centres and tourist places do have mandatory security checks in Hyderabad and no Hyderabadi would blink before letting someone else grope you for possible bombs. In effect, they just grin and bear it.

But the wonderful thing about all this is, there is no fear or worry that they might be attacked. I am no psychologist or a social-worker to find out whether people really are afraid, but one look at the way people congregate at various exhibitions and no one in the family raises any concerns about security when planning to go anywhere, it is evident that the attitude is definitely positive.

Be resignation to fate about death ('When your time comes, you go') or the immense and pervasive faith ('God will do right'), Indians are definitely better off in this area. They might not be enjoying the benefits or comforts of a first world country, they are not hindered by first world fears.

Monday, January 14, 2008

My India trip - part 1

I just returned from a seven week relaxing trip to India. The trip was for a very personal reason and also for a bit of travelling on the side. The spirit of the people there and the ubiquitous positivity of the people amazes me still. The happiness factor is definitely very high there. Mix this with the available food options, family gatherings, cheap travel with hundreds of worthy destinations and a very good weather make me kick myself why I don't live there.

Of all the things you love about India its traffic is certainly not one of them. There were times where I longed to stay back and continue my life there, but once I hit the road, I am too glad that I don't live there any more.

Whinging and bad-mouthing apart. There are quite a few changes that I noticed that the government is working on to tackle the various issues. And I cannot help but wonder that if India has come this far despite the lax policies and omnipresent corruption, what where would the country be if things were a bit better much earlier when development started accelerating.

So there are now footbridges on major roads in Hyderabad (which, sadly was prompted by the death of 2 school girls) and plans are being laid for metro underground rail, which will take another 5 to 10 years by the time they are fully operational. The traffic issue will get worse before it starts looking up.

Public servants who sweep the roads have been given longer brooms so that they don't have to bend when doing their job. I always notice this because I cringe at the thought of them bending and doing their jobs with small brooms, but now am happy for them. It took so many decades for this change to come, probably no one ever protested enough. Not all municipalities have this though. One can still find some cringe worthy scenes of old ladies hunched up amid the dirt.

While my flight was taking off from Hyderabad, all the street lights looked very hazy through the flight windows. I was wondering why. Only later did I realise that the smoke and dust make them look that way. Why has no one thought about paving the roads so that there is less dust and dirt on the roads is another multi-decade question.

Will write more about my India trip later.

The reason I went to India was to get married. The wedding was in typical Bengali style with styrofoam crowns and conch shells blaring. I am now a honorary Bengali.
The wedding followed by a honeymoon trip to Goa and Hampi, both places being very relaxing and wonderful places to visit.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Title Change

Not to focus only on Australia and India, I have now changed the title to make my blog more generic. I don't know if anyone reads this blog, but since I have written about cricket, the traffic has been constant.

Unrational? Yes. It may not be a word, but I will use it, just to show case my quirky way of writing sometimes.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Taare Zameen Par - Stars on the ground

Okay, the cheesy translation(which is, due to an some inspiration by my local DVD guy who wants to translate every movie title) aside, the movie TZP itself is a star in its own and all other rights.

When the rate of sub-standard movies coming out of Bollywood is faster than the birth of potholes on Indian roads, we have a winner. Taare Zameen Par, I am sure wasn't made to be part of the race.

There are a few times when a very new artist out performs senior players in the industry. 'Sixth Sense' is one example of this. Lux New Face Award in Filmfare awards is not. TZP is another example.

When every new movie that is made in Hindi has to have a romantic angle to it and very subtle points are exaggerated with emotional music, a song and liberal use of glycerine on the heroine's eyes, TZP managed it with great acting and minimal music. The point in the movie where the shishya (pupil) outperforms the guru (teacher) is true not just in the story but evident even in the acting. Aamir Khan's direction, of course played a huge part in production of this gem of a movie.

Ishant Avasthi is a dyslexic kid stuck in the race for perfection on report cards. A race set by parents and schools, but the participants never realised they were running in. So, when he cannot pass exams due to his inability of spelling and reading he is despised for his inabilities by his teachers and parents. This, by the way is nothing new for any kid in India, where he/she is judged solely on their report cards and nothing else.

His condition, dyslexia, is discovered by his teacher Ram Nikumbh (Aamir Khan), who takes upon himself to improve Ishant's condition by teaching him. I thought this was another example of Bollywood excessiveness until I found out there is a pretty good reason for this.

As pointed out earlier, the entire movie rests only on great artistic skills of Darsheel Safary, the young artist who outperforms Aamir Khan not just in the story but in real life. When Darsheel weeps on the screen out of sadness, it radiates. "Fully grown men wail", was one observation noted in the cinema by a friend, I don't consider myself fully grown (not mentally at least), so I did not wail, but I was moved enough.

There is very good use of animation in this movie. Of all the children's movies that Bollywood doesn't make, one would think that animation is not part of their forte. But the few times that it does come up in TZP, we know that there is real promise in that direction. Whether directors or big studios would make some good children's movies is another question.

So, when you want a respite from all the stupid comedies and over-acting from old actors, a breather from the item numbers and a break from over use of glycerine on thick make up of heroines, watch Taare Zameen Par for some very genuine acting and a heart-touching story. I would translate the title as "A Star from Bollywood".