Monday, September 24, 2007

Thuggees: A Murderous Cult that has shamed India

India has forever been known as a Nation of Peace and Spirituality. Although there have been gruesome rulers, they have been few and far between and were usually foreign forces. Indigenously, the people of India were always hard-working and peace loving. However, it’s sad to know that the very apt word for a gang of hoodlums (goondas, rowdies etc.) comes to the English language from India.
The word I'm talking about is "Thugs", and it’s derived from the name given to a murderous gang that operated throughout the Indian sub-continent in the 19th century called "Thuggees".
The sanskrit word "thag" means "thief or robber".
They were a composite mixture of Muslims and Hindus. Their origin is unknown. They were fervent worshippers of the blood-thirsty Goddess Kali and they killed by strangulation only.

They operated in gangs. Their modus operandi was simple but meticulously detailed. They would meet wayward travelers during a journey. They would gain their confidence and continue with them in their journey.
When the opportunity arises, they would kill off the travelers quietly in dark corners and bury the bodies with pickaxes, thus leaving no evidence of their crime.
The Thuggees were a thorn in the British flesh in the 19th century, by the end of which, it was officially recognized that the last of the Thuggees had been killed.
Views are divided about the motive of such a Nation-wide Syndicate of crime. Most historians agree it was merely for the monetary goals (most Thuggees recruits were very poor people), some feel it was an association striving for national freedom by frustrating and terrorizing the British. Although there're no specific sources to support this theory, there're none to disprove it either.
The Thuggees are a favorite motif for many film-makers looking for a ruthless and cruel antagonist, and feature in lots of films and TV series, the most famous of them being the Steven Spielberg movie -"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (Amrish Puri is the Thuggee).

Sewhag Out As India Bat First

Sewhag was unavailable to play on the final of the tense Final of the Twenty20 World Cup against Pakistan, due to the groin injury he was suffering from in the last match. He is replaced by Yousuf Pathan, younger brother of all-rounder Irfan Pathan. He is an all-rounder himself- a batsman and an off spin bowler. But he hasn't had any international experience till now. How he will fill the shoes of India's batting star Sewhag remains to be seen.
The whole of India prays that this aint a blow to India.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tic Tac Toe Extreme: Great Time Pass

I know how boring all the classes are in college. I know sleep is fast becoming your best friend as chats are banned when the lecture is going on.

So why not try this new game to while away the time. It's quietly done and its quite fun. And the lecturer would think you're taking notes dutifully. This is nothing like any other game of its kind. Its sheer excitement! Here's how you play it.

First of all to play this game, you must have some basic knowledge of the all-time classic Tic-Tac-Toe

Right! Now for the game I've invented (along with Prasanna Kumar) we've dubbed it Tic-Tac-Toe Extreme:

  • Must be played 4X4 square (unlike the 3X3 of the usual TTT).

  • The first player to get 3 in a row LOSES.

  • Can be played on a 5X5 board up to a maximum of 4 players.

  • All other rules are just the same- you can LOSE with a 3 in any direction- vertical, horizontal or diagonal.

We tried it out ourselves and with test subjects of various ages (from 5-21) and they all found it an engrossing pastime (although one does get desperate if he/she keeps losing).

Advantages over all other such pastimes:

  • Very little writing to be done on paper- so the lecturer won't know what you're doing (you can easily do while he ain't looking)

  • Definite result every time and no undue advantage for the one who starts the game.

  • Multi-Player Mode.

So enjoy folks!

Alarming Fall of Girls Population in Tamil Nadu: It's time to pack up guys

The alarming fall of the sex-ratio in Tamil Nadu has raised serious doubts over the implementation of the Law which demands the gender of the baby to be not revealed from the scan results in labs.
The sex-ratio according to recent survey results show that in most regions, the number is close to only 900, and going well below that mark in some other regions.

Reports reveal that the situation is now far worse than 4 years ago (And we say India is moving forward! Bah! Humbug!). Such an anomalous decrease is usually attributed to the selective abortion of the female foetal child, after deducing the sex of the unborn child. This despicable practise that is made convenient through this technological advancement, has propped up its ugly head once again.

Strict legislation and stricter administration can a long way in ensuring equanimity in our State. Also, it is clear that all the talk about women emancipation is just crap. When it comes to critical decisions, our society falls back to derogatory traditional practises!

Umbertovian Similarities: Coincidence or Cosmic Connection?

Amazing similarities have been observed between the only assassinated King of Italy and his doppelganger (complete look-alike) the owner of a restaurant. Both met on July 28th 1900 at the latter’s restaurant near Milan.

· Both were named Umberto.
· Same birthday (14th March 1844)
· Both had married women of the same name Margherita and on the same day- April 22nd 1868.
· Both had a son of the same name Vittorio.
· Both had received awards for bravery in 1866 and 1870 at the same ceremonies.
· The day of the King Umberto’s coronation was the day the other Umberto had opened his restaurant.

The King decided to give his double an award the following day. But, on that day, he learnt that the other Umberto had died in a shooting accident. The very next moment, while he mourned the death, the King was assassinated!!

Coincidence or Cosmic Connection? You tell me...
But if you ask me- I'd say "What an incredible world!" :-)

An India-Pakistan Final on the cards

After a dramatic clash at Durban which has now become a venue of perennial heartbreaks for the home team (South Africa), the Indians now face a Himalayan task of defeating the resurgent Aussies.
After their loss to Zimbabwe (which might be attributed to complacency), and the subsequent loss to Pakistan, the Kangaroos, on Thursday, decimated the Sri Lankans on a seamer-friendly wicket and went on to brutally bludgeon their opponents of the T20 World Cup. It was a massive statement that would have made the other teams shake in fear, if not for the euphoria of qualifying.

India must be feeling swell after such a win, but the Men In Blue must work on a strategy meticulously to overthrow the Order of the Golden Yellow, who are not feeling all too well in this format. Although Hayden has been his best in the last few matches, he hasn't been his imperious self when faced with quality bowling. And India have Harbhajan, his old tormentor, in peak form. Their duels on the field during the Aussie tour of India in 2001 are the stuff of legend. Needless to say we can expect the piece de resistance from these two.
Man to man, although India doesn't look an equal to Australia, (without Sachin, Saurav, Dravid and Zaheer) the brevity of this format minimizes such differences. If the Indians can eliminate the ridiculous number of wides and play professional cricket (like they did last match), it would be time for the Australians to pray for miracles.

The other semi-final involves two teams who seem to be equals in most respects. New Zealand and Pakistan have so many things in common. They have the big hitters (Oram, Styris, Afridi), the crafty batsmen (McCullum, Mcmillan, Shoaib Malik, Misbah Ul-Haq), the fiery pacers-(Bond, Asif) and spinners (Afridi, Vettori). And they always have been inconsistent in the World Tournaments. Pakistan failed miserably in the ‘99 final while New Zealand has a history of failing in the Big games.
And looking at the recent form of both teams, we can expect a tight match. But, I will still go with Pakistan. They have defeated New Zealand in all the World Cup encounters up to date.

So it does look like its going to be "The Mother of All Finals". An India-Pakistan clash in a major tournament has taken about 30 yrs in the coming and the fate of it materializing is in the hands of the two resurgent teams under two young responsible captains-Dhoni and Malik.

Having Constipation Trouble? Here's a simple solution

Well, maybe many of us don't have it. Or maybe some of us really don't say it out. Or maybe it's a non-existent problem, talked about only in the medical sidelines, or in a rare once-in-a-blue-moon technical paper.
Whatever it is, we shall never know the truth about the exact numbers. Whether you have it or not- this simple routine in the morning will surely be of immense use to you, and for all those who do have it- follow this and feel the immediate improvement.

1. In the morning, immediately after brushing teeth, drink 6 tumblers of water. If not possible to drink at a stretch, aid the process by drinking one tumbler after another interspersed with walking. But 6 tumblers must be drunk. A tumbler is about 180 ml (the Slice mini of our college is about 200 ml).
2. Take a brisk walk for five minutes punctuated by deep breaths involving contraction and expansion of the stomach muscles.

And that's all. Constipation would be miles away from you by now.
Effects seen within 3 days at the maximum. You will do well to make it a routine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

GRE: Dispelling Myths

I've been seriously mobbed with questions from friends about the GRE, ranging from how to crack the RC (Reading Comprehension) Section to "Whats to be done on Test Day" questions.

And they all think GRE is something beyond their reach, something equal to the IIT or CAT. The recent spree of low scores from their friends, whom they believed were worth more, has no doubt fuelled this notion.

Honestly speaking, the GRE is pretty much simpler than all our college exams, and if you know the right techniques, its as simple as our 1st Sem English Exam.

I speak as a guy who prepared not more than 15 days, with only about a week of full-fledged preparation, and scored 1420 (Verbal-630 and Quants-790). And believe me, its got nothing to do with innate ability. (In fact, with just innate ability you wont go far in any test)

In this article I shall dispel the myths and ridiculous notions circulating within student circles and lead you on the pathway to true success (by whatever yardstick you measure your success) in GRE.

  • Each and every study material has its own approach, although the most popular are Barron's and Lyceum Word Clusters (Mama Easy). The important thing is to focus on the approach given in the study aid and master it, instead of trying to learn from each and every literary work ever compiled regarding the GRE. Thats ridiculous. (More on study materials later in this article)

  • Equally ridiculous is the idea of students looking up Orkut, Hi5 and blogs for updates on "latest" GRE questions that contain every question complete with all the answer choices. Crazy ain't it? If you ever thought any student could remember more than a few questions (and all 4 answer choices) after the grueling test, you've never grown up. Why anybody with some common sense would know all these questions are DAMN FAKE, and are as useful as a solitary wicket in an abandoned match.

Wake up guys- would you be so paranoiac as to look up horoscopes for predicting your score? Reading those questions amounts to that. There're some good sites that do post useful content (questions worthy of reading), but its really unnecessary to go through them for an exam of GRE's level (not so damn tough). Imagine trying work out every possible combination for addition of two numbers?? You just gotta have the basic idea.

  • I know innumerable friends of mine who have literally MUGGED UP Barron's and Word Clusters and still botched their GRE and thereby their beloved MS plans. Their scores cannot even be mentioned here. They're at Rock Bottom (no I aint talkin about The Rock's finishing move). And yeah- they could give the meaning of every word you could ask. So what does really guarantee success?

Here's the secret to GRE success right out of the horse's mouth (the golden rules):

First of all- take a few tests (Barron's CD is best for such diagnostic tests) and mark down your problem areas, whether it be vocabulary (the lack of it) or Reading Comprehension or sentence completion, essays, etc. Be true to yourself and mark them down. I've listed down below ways to tackle them. You don't need fancy material or read out-of-the-world questions (that's what you get in those damn sites), but only good old principles and their simple implementation. Just tackle these problems- and you're through.

  1. Reading Comprehension (The Perennial Terror): This has been an age old problem with all test takers, so I noticed. And they're at a loss as to how to eliminate this. The problem arises from the fact that most engineering students are NOT regular book readers (No! Not even the syllabus books :-D ). Thereby most of them are slow readers. And even then they cannot grasp the important points soon enough.

There're many ways to solve this, but the best way I found is:

Just read the whole passage (repeat read not skim) word by word. Make sure you have read each and every word without skipping anything. Try to grasp the basic outline or idea being discussed, and remember some of the stand-out names of persons, places etc of the passage. Take about 3-4 mins for every first question of the passage (including time to read the passage). Take about 45 secs for each following question. With practise you should be able to identify critical points in a passage and grasp them faster.

I know the above method will just not work for you, initially (because you're a slow reader silly). But trust me- its the best there is. Just practise as much as you can. Because once you've mastered this, however long the passage is thou shall feel no pressure at all.

Remember, it's just a matter of tackling the problems. You don't need magic, rather you need logic.

More on the next episode...

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Hot Hand For All You Elvises Out There

One Ring To Play Them All
It's the stuff of rock 'n' roll fantasy: a ring that gives its wearer the power to morph the sound of an electric guitar at will. A technology called Hot Hand aims to create a scenario where the movements of the ring are tracked and the sounds varied accordingly. It’s the I-Phone of the guitar world.

Among the volume effects possible with Hot Hand is the use of a slow attack envelope to simulate the sound of a bowed instrument such as a violin. Other volume control effects include tremolo, or amplitude modulation. Ordinarily, tremolo is controlled by a low-frequency oscillator, but in Hot Hand it is controlled by waving the fingers, hand, wrist or forearm.
With volume changes one can do wonders by just hitting a chord and then raising one’s hand to make it stronger, and produce tremolo effects whose speed is controlled by the hand position. Even the wah-wah effects can be minutely modified with this Ring, to a surreal level.

The new wah-wah effects combine both low-pass and band-pass filters and what is called multi-peak filters, which are like two or more wah-wahs moving in sequence against each other.
Hot Hand is likely to be popular among adventurous players looking for unique ways to manipulate the sound of their guitar or produce new sounds altogether. It may not appeal as much to live performers, especially guitarists who don't move around much on stage and as such it’s a gift to all the budding Elvis Priesleys.

The technology pairs an automotive airbag accelerometer with an audio processor to achieve this Hot Hand.
Devised by Analog Devices Inc. spin-off Source Audio LLC, Hot Hand puts an ADI accelerometer chip in a ring that guitarists place on a finger of their plucking hand. The movements of the ring are tracked by feeding the wired control signals into a box that houses an ADI-customized SigmaDSP—a 56bit audio processor with 24bit ADCs and DACs, and a 100dB dynamic range. Two foot pedals control on/off and cycling through user-defined presets.
The company Source Audio hopes to demonstrate the prototype flanger and phaser capabilities at the National Association of Music Merchants show on July 14-16 in Austin, Texas. Be there to witness this new phenomenon.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Le Disko in MotoRazr Ad

In case you're wondering what that funky number in the new MotoRazr Ad depicting a duel of the Razrs between a guy and a girl at a railway station (much like a real sword fight, a la Matrix style), the track is "Le Disko" from the Album "We Are Pilots". The band is "Shiny Toy Guns". Its a snazzy rock single, with a heavy (but not heady) dose of the electric guitar.

Rapidshare Free Download Le Disko by Shiny Toy Guns
Rapidshare Free Download Le Disko by Shiny Toy Guns Lyrics

Note: Tinyurl is just a masked version of Rapidshare links. Its perfectly safe. It will redirect you to the rapidshare link in a moment.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

September 2: The Curious Case of the lost Days

1752 became a standout year in history when the United Kingdom decided to adopt the Gregorian Calendar (as the Julian Calendar was found to be inaccurate) in all its colonies, as a direct consequence of the Calendar Act of 1750. So the day following Wednesday September 2nd 1752 was Thursday September 14th 1752.

(If u wanna check, try looking up

Here's a screen shot of the page.

Not surprisingly, people went on strike demanding the "lost' days of their life. Come to think of it- people may have had deadlines for various jobs, and they would all be haywire now. Besides, what about all the engagements scheduled during the days swallowed? There may have been marriages, court trials, elections, harvests and what not planned on those days? While there's no evidence as to whether the government gave prior warning about this enactment (when I say prior, in this case, it must have been at least 6 months), it went a long way into ensuring the Tax payment was not compromised (Typical Government Stuff I guess!).

In the words of wiki:

The Kingdom of Great Britain and thereby the rest of the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 under the provisions of the Calendar Act 1750; by which time it was necessary to correct by eleven days (Wednesday, September 2, 1752 being followed by Thursday, September 14, 1752) to account for February 29, 1700 (Julian).

Whoa! All this hullabaloo for just ONE (1) day??


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Warney's 50: Not the final say, yet food for thought!

The cat is out of the bag! Shane Warne's 50 greatest cricketers (A preview of the site, so that you know its not spam)

Well, looking at it from the outset, you find the names you'd see in any contemporary list, (albeit in a quirky order that wouldn't please many critics or the statisticians) but there are surprises, actually many, in store.

Sachin is at the top, pipping Lara by a tiny margin, which Warne seems to say "makes a lot of difference". No surprises there, as Warne has always held Sachin in high esteem. And the list has all the usual suspects, viz. Curtly, Waqar, Wasim, Border, Mcgrath, The Waugh Brothers, "Tubby" Taylor, Dravid, Kumble etc.

But, the inclusion of certain unknown figures while overlooking some celebrated giants has raised a furore among the critics. Also, the placing awarded to some players gives room for debate. Warney's 50 and 49 are two first-class cricketers, who have never played a single test. Some notable exclusions are Inzamam and Ganguly.

Well, first of all- I'm not going to go over the greatness of each player and his placing. Most of them are household names and the exact placing of each of them is subject one's own perspective. But, the one thing which we find weird is Steve Waugh's place- 26th place? Behind Darren Lehmann, and a few other blokes he captained?? Tim May, an off-spinner of mediocre talent who vanished into obscurity (honestly, how many times have you seen him bowl) with Warne's rise is at 31st place ahead of Waqar, Kapil, Donald.

Many reasons can be attributed to Waugh's placing- and they're widely discussed in the following article in the Age (A preview of the site, so that you know its not spam)

I would also like to add my points to the theory posited in the Age. Steve, although considered as a great, fighting batsman (NOBODY, NOT EVEN WARNEY DENIES THAT) was not the best of captains even in Australia. He's got the longest streak of victories in Tests as a captain, but Warne says that he was handed a wonderful team by Taylor (his predecessor). Besides, he wasn't a brave captain at any point of time in his career, unlike the present skipper Ponting (which has earned Ponting his nickname "Punter"). He wasn't able to stop batting assaults even though he had the best of bowlers at his disposal- The Kolkata Turnaround, Sachin's masterpieces at Sharjah, Aravinda's onslaught in the '96 WC final, the list is endless.

He was pretty tentative, and always played by the same strategy. And he was successful even in that one minded approach because he had people who always baled him out. How many times had Bevan saved the day? If not for Warne's bowling in the semi-finals of the '99 WC, his own pompous boast to Gibbs about the dropped catch would've been laughed upon.

But, on the contrary, Stephen Fleming, with his motley group of bits-and-pieces cricketers has been able to produce more than creditable performances for quite a long time. And he took up the mantle when he was very young for the job, unlike Waugh. Martin Crowe, considered one of the great thinking captains for his daring moves (like bringing on a spinner in the 2nd over of the innings), especially in the '92 WC gets to 22nd place (and that's surely for his captaincy).

For so many of us who believe Steve was great, Warne has given us food for thought. In fact, the whole list, however quirky it is, has so much scope to be analysed on various perspectives. Apart from those included for personal reasons (like Tim May, Merv Hughes etc.) the rest of the lot and their respective placings need to interpreted correctly.

Warne's views are not to be lightly taken. He's someone known to frank, and sometimes telling bitter truths without mincing words. (Remember the time he spoke of coaches as being unnecessary?). So if you thought this was just for getting back into the limelight, think again.

Warne isn't the final say, but he opens up angles for narrow-minded cricket fans (like us Indians), and self-proclaimed experts of the game, for rigorous analysis.

October Sky: An Inspiring Real Life Experience

When it was announced this movie was gonna be screened in college, my first thoughts were-"October Sky? Never heard of it. Is this some sort of advertisement feature?(Remember the Gandhi play last year?) Or is this some landmark movie with amazing performances from great stars? Or does this movie have a plot closely related to college students like us?
Well, the first possibility was turned down once I found that this was a 1999 film. The 2nd possibility too was off- coz we would've surely heard bout it if it had been a watershed.
Actually, it turned out to be a simple feel-good movie (much like our very own "Chennai 600028"), with an inspiring plot.

The movie is an adaptation of the Book Rocket Boys by NASA scientist Homer Hickam. The book is his auto-biography, and so the moment I looked it up in wiki, I knew the basic plot of the movie.
I felt there'd nothing new to watch and learn from the movie. But, then again, a rating of 93% in Rotten Tomatoes (if u don't know what that site is ) tickled my curiousity. I had to watch this one! So I was at the screening hall well in time, found a nice spot and spent some time watching the "birds" until it started.

Not as predictable as it seems
The movie starts off in 1957, with the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik and Homer Hickam (played by Jake Gyllenhaal, an average school going guy in a town called Coalwood is fascinated by the sight of it streaking through the sky. He is determined to create a rocket, but he must make sacrifices (like giving up his social life to get assistance from school weirdo Quentin), face challenges (He ain't in a town where rocket equipment are dime a dozen, and his dad's attitude doesn't help) and work harder than ever (His math is bad, and as his mentor Miss Riley says "You can't just dream your way into making a rocket Homer!"). We expect the "hero" (as we say in India) to do all this by the end of the movie, and the movie lives upto its reviews (that its very predictable).

But, its only as much predictable as this. There're twists and turns that catch you napping so often, that you begin to think whether these things ever really happened. One example is Ms.Riley's Hogdkin's disease. The fact that these things are true to the hilt and the vital fact that Homer doesn't know a thing about rockets when he sets out to make one reminds us of the old saying "Where there's a will, there's a way".

Balanced casting
The film's characters are well made, but I felt the whole movie is centred around Homer, paying less attention to the other Rocket Boys (so much so that one of them- O'Dell, almost goes unnoticed, except when discussing his late dad). Almost everybody else gets his/her share of our attention and empathy. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead for the first time, and he does a great job of it, although I felt he smiled unnecessarily sometimes.
The town thrives on the production and employment offered by the eponymous coal-mine. Homer's dad John is The Top Guy of the mine, and he prides himself on his work. This type of negative character is often found in such movies, playing the natural deterrent- that seemingly inexorable force which the protagonist must overcome in his goal to do something hitherto unheard of. A perfect foil to his character is Homer's mom. She loves her family very much and holds it from breaking apart when the rift between Homer and his dad widens. She can't tolerate her husband's unfair treating of Homer, and finally dares a face-off with John, thereby changing him for good.

Short and sweet
Altogether, the movie does nothing in excess- there're no sentimental melodrama, nor an overdose of happiness at the end. Its all very subtle and understated and thats where the movie is different, where it earned its rating. Homer doesn't get too depressed when he has to suspend his research on rockets and goto the mine, nor does he go over the moon when he wins the most coveted prize at the National Science Fair. In fact, he doesn't know that the man awarding him is the famous scientist Werner von Braun whom he admires.

The whole movie has all sorts of moments- moments for the slight grins and chuckles and for the tear out of the corner of the eye. It is a very balanced feel-good movie that leaves you feeling the same way you started, only a bit more inspired, a bit more happy.
I say inspiring, becoz I could identify myself as the main protagonist, and could empathise with him. In fact, I'm in a situation very much like him, and the way he approached it makes me feel-"If he can, why can't I?"

Final Verdict: Recommended, especially if you are a student.