Reloaded

Backlog again. Sorry. I saw The Matrix Reloaded a week or more ago, but I’ve been to lazy to write about it until now.

Wellllllllllllll.

I’m not as disappointed as most of the other people on the ‘Net are, but I’m still disappointed. I didn’t find as much fault with it as Iambe did. She hated the soundtrack, and said that Reloaded abandoned the cool, anti-authoritarian message of The Matrix for a ‘You can’t understand anything because everything is beyond your control’ message.

I liked the soundtrack. And personally, the philosophy didn’t seem all that different.

What did disappoint me was the way the stories were mixed and matched. If they’d stuck with one plot element, the movie would have been much better. The renegade Agent Smiths and autonomous programs within the Matrix were a brilliant concept. I wish they’d been explored to the end instead of that diversion into the Architect and the iterations of the Matrix, instead of leaving two storylines to be tied up in Revolutions. Yes, Revolutions had better tie up the storylines properly, or I will be very upset. So, I suspect, will thousands of other geeks, who will all rampage on the streets, thirsty for the blood of the Wachowski brothers. It won’t be pretty.

Another disappointment was the lack of originality. The renegade programs were the one original idea in the movie, and like I said, they weren’t explored fully enough. As for style, it was good, but it just couldn’t live up to the first movie. Then again, what can live up to the promise of the first movie? 🙂 Still, the Zion docks looked like a plaigarisation of Star Trek’s Space Dock. More seriously, the entire movie somehow reminded me a lot of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. You haven’t read it? Shame on you.

Still, there was one thing about Reloaded that makes up for all the disappointment.

After seeing the Freeway scene, my mum now wants to learn to drive a motorcycle before she’s fifty. ’tis a consummation to be devoutly wished for.

The Joy of X II

My determination to wait for the paperback edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is weakening as Pottermania is engulfing the city, yea, even the entire globe. There is the minor point that I don’t have the seven hundred rupees I need to buy the hardback edition, but it’s only a minor point. There are ways around it. I could mug somebody. Or rob a bank. After all, it’s only a matter of time before the ‘Net is overflowing with spoilers to OotP, and I doubt I can successfully avoid spoilers for six months.

What does this have to do with the title? Yes. Sorry. I’ve realised something this week.

The Harry Potter mythos and the X-Men mythos are very similar.

The background running through both of them is the same. Here is a group of people. They have powers granted to them. They use extremely cool technology- sufficiently advanced magic, to quote Terry Pratchett. Powers denied to normal people. Even so, everything’s not hunky dory.

The X-Men- mutants- have to hide and conceal their powers. The world isn’t ready for them, or ready to trust them. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, they have to deal with people out to kill them, robots out to kill them, and enemies like themselves- other mutants.

Sound familiar? In the Harry Potter mythos, the witches and wizards have to hide themselves to prevent nonmagical people- Muggles- freaking out. They use very cool magical spells- sufficiently advanced technology, to quote Arthur C Clarke. They have magical powers that Muggles don’t, but everything’s not hunky-dory with them either. They also have to deal with enemies within their own ranks. Lord Voldemort, anybody?

The characters correspond, too. Remove all the hair, and Albus Dumbledore is Professor X. Hagrid is Beast. I fancy Professor McGonagall as Storm, and Sirius Black has shades of The Amazing Nightcrawler. Harry Potter himself, for some reason reminds me of Rogue.

Voldemort, though, doesn’t seem to me to be a Magneto. If one goes by the movie depictions, Magneto would correspond more closely to Severus Snape. Voldemort would be somebody a lot more obsessed and evil. Apocalypse or Bolivar Trask, maybe.

But there’s one more similarity. The most important one. The core theme, which coincidentally is also the core theme of Spider-man and a lot of the Terry Pratchett books. Choice.

It’s not fun being a mutant or a wizard. You’ve got powers, but what do you do with them. Serve evil? Fight evil? Be the good guy? Be the bad guy? You never asked for your powers, magical or mutant, but you’re responsible for them.

And in the end, it comes down to choice. When you’re on the crux, the saddle point, Do you use your powers or not? What are you going to use them for?

This is the question. And her’s yet another linkup.

It’s my question too. What use should I put my (albeit limited) powers- taking an interest in everything around me, seeing the connections between things, an imagination that works 24×7 and then puts in some overtime- to? Should I study like mad these next six months and get into an IIM? Should I come up with a CS project that’s brilliant and beautiful? Should I come up with an idea and dive into entrepreneurship? Should I just give up?

Oh, and here’s another linkup.

It’s not just my choice. It’s India’s too.

India the nation is also on the crux. It’s on a million of them, actually. It’s got powers- educated people, people with a talent for making money. Oh, and as India Today pointed out, it’s got jugaad- the ability to do things and make stuff work better and cheaper than anywhere else in the world.

So, what will India do? Use it’s powers? Give up? Another rhetorical question like the ones above. Let time tell.

Aadisht’s Day Out

Still backlogging. Two days behind now. Yes, this is about Tuesday.

All right. It rained, as I said earlier, and made driving a pleasure. After my lesson, I come back and have my bath. While I’m doing that, Ishaan, TK, and Vijay bang on the bathroom door, and tell me I’m going to India Habitat Centre for lunch.

Lunch was fantastic. Beautiful weather at IHC, and there were lots of people there. Ishaan, kMac, TK, Vijay, Adi, Sabina, Naomi, Gursimran, Nez, Mrinalini, and some dames from the commerce section whose names, alas, I no longer recall. As was to be expected, the conversation sparkled, and this week, several more people will become Dubyaphiles.

It was fun, yeah.

After meeting my junior batch, I was inspired to take up a similar project for my own batch. So I reached home, and called up about thirty people, and suggested that we meet at the Basant Lok Barista between half past five and half past eight. Everybody agreed that it was a wonderful idea.

There was only one problem, though. Nobody actually showed up. Well, Ankur did, but he came to the new one instead of the old one, and when he eventually did come to the old one he didn’t recognise me.

So that’s the situation. I spent two hours waiting for people to show up, but they didn’t. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that I am inexperienced with social situations, and am unable to convince people that meeting me and each other is a good thing. And it is a good thing- people like Surbhi and Goofy do it properly- I just need practice at it.

The second is that I have taken Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s advice about living in the moment to extremes. I assume that because I am spontaneous enough to go to IHC for lunch at five minute’s notice, other people will be spontaneous enough to come to Barista at half an hour’s notice. Unfortunately, this is not actually the case.

So, I now have to teach myself social graces, and teach the people around me how to be spontaneous.

That evening wasn’t a total washout, though. I didn’t meet any of the people from my batch whom I had called. But I did meet Shruti Chauhan, who I hadn’t called. She was there on her own accord. After spotting each other, making a few observation passes, and goggling; we realised that we were, in fact, Aadisht and ShrutiC, and I managed to get in some catching up after all. So that was also fun.

Thus finishes the Fillet.

Rain

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

It rained!

Today (okay, yesterday) at nine in the morning, Delhi was graced with a pre-monsoonal shower.

I like pre-monsoonal showers. It’s the sort of rain that behaves itself. It does its work within half an hour or an hour at most, brings out the smell of the wet earth, makes the leaves all shiny, and then packs up an leaves, having performed service.

After a sweltering Tuesday, the rain brought in good weather. There was this wonderful cool breeze in the morning, I didn’t sweat a bit when I went for my final driving lesson, and the weather at lunchtime was delightful. A bit humid as the day wore on, but those are the breaks.

This Fillet’s a little short, so I’ll include an update of my mental status- I’ve just read the Vasant Parag, I’m senti, and I’ve just listened to Yaaron to amplify my sentiapa. I’m now playing Duur, and I’ve loaded a playlist that I created especially for times like this. The weird thing, though, is that Turn the Page is also running through my head.

Yaaron’s a song about what you had. Turn the Page would be about how to deal with losing it. Or getting it back.

I’m rambling and blathering. I ought to sleep.

Shoes

Finally, but finally, I bought my shoes yesterday. Strictly speaking, two days ago.

I am now the proud possessor of a pair of bright blue Adidas sneakers, which I bought at the Basant Lok outlet for no more than 1199 rupees. I am very happy now. Adidas makes cheaper and more comfortable sneakers than everyone else, and the pampering I received at the outlet was amazing. The people there groveled at my feet, urged me to make myself comfortable, showered me with advice, ran around and tripped over themselves fetching shoes, and even tied my shoelaces. They didn’t peel me grapes, but you can’t have everything, and you really can’t have grapes in this sort of weather.

Anyway, I no longer need to wear floaters in the summer, so the disconcerting blotches on my feet should disappear now. And this particular pair is half a size big, so there’s no fear of it pinching any time soon.

You must be asking yourself- do shoes deserve a Fillet all to themselves? Yes, they do. They make me happy.

Coffee Bars II

As I mentioned in W-Fillet #54: The Joy of X, I realised something the other day about coffee bars.

Of the three coffee bar chains in Delhi- Barista, Cafe Coffee Day, and Qwiky’s- all my coffee bar memories seem to be centered around Barista. I’ve been to Cafe Coffee Day and Qwiky’s, but never on a momentous or significant occasion. For those, it’s always been Barista.

Some of the most important times I’ve been in a Barista?

  • The Basant Lok one, after Founder’s Day 2000. With Ishaan and Rishi and Madhav and kMac and the Big E, feeling as if I’d been run over by a rusty road roller. Drowning my sorrows in chocolate excess.
  • Just before second year started, saying my goodbyes to Mansha at the IIT Gate one. Then, three days later, going there again with my folks and seeing that the dog Nidhi had made out of orange Post-It notes was still up there.
  • Meeting Anahat after almost two years at Basant Lok on the day of Fete 2001. And yeah, Pooja and Aruna were there too- only two of the three musketeers, with Dolan away in Iowa. And yes, that was the night Vik came up with ‘Tabhi toh yeh itna patla hai’. I remember now feeling strangely melancholy about the effort everybody there was making to talk to everyone else.
  • The summer after that had a much happier Barista outing. Me, Baldy, Tusi, Machhi, and Chutney landed up at the IIT Gate one and I kicked arse in Pictionary. What was much more fun was running into Mriduben and Adi out there.
  • Last winter, trying the new flavours with Shiven and Manasvini at the really tiny one in Ansal Plaza, discovering how delightful the Latte Bianco is, and discussing the projects I would be taking up the next semester.

There’ve been no Barista moments in these vacations. Soon, though.

Speaking in Tongues

Another one from the backlog.

The day Ishaan reached Delhi, I received an urgent call from him. He urged me to come over and save him from Zubin, who was intent on violating his modesty (such as it is).

I reached Ishaan’s hosue, and persuaded Zubin to cease and desist, after which Ishaan asked me to help with another problem- a mysterious virus that had afflicted his desktop PC.

Ishaan was trying to cancel his MSN (ISP, not Messenger) service. However, whenever he opened the homepage, the virus would begin to fill the username textbox with random words, preventing him from doing anything worthwhile.

I got down to work.

First, we checked the list of startup programs in msconfig. There were three programs that looked suspicious. We surfed over to Google to check up on them.

Then, the Google search box started filling up with random words.

Damn. Damn damn.

We tried again. This time, deft mousework, and skillful use of the delete key assured that we were able to submit a coherent search query.

All the three programs checked out as harmless, though.

Hmm.

Then, we hit Ctrl-Alt-Del, and scanned the process list for suspicious running programs (this was WinXP). Again, there were three or four suspicious programs.

We Googled the first three, and they checked out clean.

Then we Googled the last- sapisvr.exe- and that checked out clean too. Perplexing.

But wait. The fourth search result caught my eye. I followed the link.

Guess what?

sapisvr.exe is the Windows XP speech recognition server. Ishaan’s mic was on, and sapisvr was running. And given that Ishaan talks at 500 words per minute, and at a volume exceeded only by combat aircraft taking off, sapisvr obligingly filled up all texboxes it could find with, well, text.

After that, it was a simple matter to disable sapisvr, and Ishaan was eventually able to unsubscribe.

The search result, by the way- available over here, is quite interesting. It’s from a Phillipines magazine. Catholicism and Windows XP are both widespread in the Phillipines. As a result, people there who suffer from the same problem, rather than blaming a virus, fear that their PC has been possessed by the devil.

Which, actually, is not that far from the truth. After all, WinXP is a Microsoft product.

Jobs for the Boys

I had joined ILUG (India Linux Users Group) Delhi last year. This has finally paid off with a hard, show-me-the-money type of benefit.

This placement agency found my profile listed on the ILUG-Del website and gave me a call. They wanted me to go to Bangalore and take up a job in storage area network architecture. Alas, I had to disillusion them and inform them that I’m still a year away from completing my bachelors, have no industry experience to speak of, and have only the faintest inkling of what storage area networks are. At least I can console myself that I know that SANs exist, while most of my batch doesn’t.

For those of you who are interested in this, or know somebody else who might be, here are the details.

The openings are at Network Appliances, Aarohi Communications, EMC, and Network Associates. All the openings involve storage technology, and they’re all based in Bangalore.

If you’re interested, contact the placement firm (GARRISON India) at garrisonindia at yahoo dot com, or garrisonindia at hotmail dot com. Their phone numbers are Delhi- two_two_four_zero_one_five_three_zero, and Delhi- nine_eight_one_eight_three_five_three_nine_three_seven.

My Favourite Libertarian

This guy called Sauvik Chakraverti used to have a regular column in the Economic Times a couple of years ago. He was quite refreshing- his suggestions had a touch of insanity- the sort that might actually work, and you’d like to see it tried out. Right now, the only bloke the ET has who makes suggestions as radical as Sauvik Chakraverti is Abheek Barman, who wants income tax to be abolished so that we can concentrate on the more important things of life- which according to him are watching the Powerpuff Girls defend the Earth from giant mutant broccoli from outer space. I’m serious. He wrote that in his column. But anyway, coming back to Sauvik Chakraverti.

Apart from regularly roasting all Indian governments, whether Central, state, or municipal for building houses instead of roads, he would frequently suggest putting zero customs duty on secondhand cars, so that autorickshawalas could drive cheap taxicabs instead of autorickshaws. This way, you’d create wealth for the cabbies, and make Indian traffic less messy and more productive.

The good news is that Sauvik was back, if only in a cameo. Today’s lead editorial in the Times Of India was by him. Here’s the link.

Quite a thoughtful and well-written article. Do read it.

The Joy of X

This is a bit overdue. My apologies, I don’t seem to be able to write on time these days. There’s a pileup of Fillets now, so I’ll try to be regular.

Anyway, I saw X2 with Shiven last Saturday.

Getting the X2 tickets was an experience in itself. As I mentioned in an earlier Fillet, I had tried for tickets at Priya, but found that they weren’t playing X2. The next day I went to PVR-Anupam.

Or rather, I tried to go to Anupam. I caught a Saket bus, but alas, it was one of those Saket buses which don’t pass PVR, but zip by it in a parallel lane. I was feeling slightly tired, so I didn’t really notice this until I reached Dr. Ambedkar Nagar, where I disembarked in some haste.

So. I thought I would walk to PVR. After all, how far could it be? It was a simple matter of walking about two kilometres across Pushp Vihar.

Actually, it wasn’t suite so simple.

See, Pushp Vihar is one of those government colonies that’s divided up into sectors and flats, all of which look exactly alike. This gives it a certain fractal nature. And like other fractals, Pushp Vihar also seems to have the property that though it has a finite and bounded area, any path through that area will turn out to be infinite.

I walked and walked and walked, and Pushp Vihar seemed never to end. Fortunately, there was no blazing sunshine that particular day, but it was hot. Quite hot. And eventually, Pushp Vihar did come to an end, and I broke on to the Saket Road at long last.

After that, it was a much more pleasant walk underneath shadier trees through Saket, and I reached Anupam eventually. Once there, I immediately headed for Nirula’s and free water. After getting water inside me, I got the tickets, and then proceeded to hang. With myself. Yes, that’s pathetic. Thank you. I’m waiting for y’all to give me a call so we can go out together.

Cafe Coffee Day, in conjunction with Levi’s has introduced this coffee called 6 inches below. It looks very interesting- it’s got the works, all arranged in layers, and is supposed to be a culinary expression of a tank top, a navel, and low rise jeans (ahem). Alas, I couldn’t afford it, so I settled for the Frozen Eskimo.

Speaking of coffee bars, I’ve realised something that should be saved for another Fillet. Remind me to write about it sometime.

Coming on to the whole point of the fillet- the movie- me and Shiven both reached Anupam the next day without any bothersome diversions. Shiven, I was pleased to note, is even skinnier than I am right now.

And the movie? Sorry, I’ll come to that.

Yeah. The movie was very cool. If you hate the very idea of comic book movies, it’s not going to change your mind, but if you’re open to an arbit action movie with lots of action, great FX, and a storyline that doesn’t take itself to seriously, X2 is good, yes.

I’m an X-Men fan otherwise, and I loved how they treated the ensemble cast. Each of the mutants gets just enough treatment to develop his or her character, without any one character getting more or less attention. Even so, Nightcrawler was soooooooo cool. Arnab‘s right, though, the hairstyles are hideous.

And what is up with Jean Grey dying!

Oops. Sorry for the spoiler.