An interesting day with checking out new blogs, and browser shortfalls...
I saw this link for the blog instapundit.com somewhere and clicked on it.
The site had a now common 'support this site' link; via paypal and amazon.
This was the first time I was visiting instapundit, and had never left any kind of details related to me anytime before
I was psyched to see the message - 'Hi Arun Bhat, donate via Amazon.....' and wondered how this guy extracted any info on me anytime before
Naturally, as I would always do, I open the page source
I see the page is reading cookies that were set by Amazon
I open the security(IE), see if I can configure something. You can only enable or disable cookies. Netscape had a system where you could allow only those cookies that send info back to the server that sets it(Not Amazon's cookies getting read by instapundit). There was no such option here. So I think of switching my browser(once again) to Mozilla but even they don't support this config.
I think of downloading Netscape 7. But decide otherwise because it is not worth the effort. What if N7 also does not have the support? Besides, netscape is no longer in my list of usable browsers. I held on to N4.7 for a long time after the world had accepted IE. But after N6.0, no netscape for me. And anyway I am not loosing anything major with this setup(Not necessarily true, if some stupid website happens to store your credit card num or password as a cookie readable by any one...)
So the much talked about second part of the trilogy is out. Eager as I was to see it, I did. And I came out not very impressed.
The movie starts with the past - an absolutely splendid picturization of Gandalf's conflict with the giant in the abyss of the mines of Moria. The small one minute sequence is good enough to blow you off the seat and you will be totally impressed, and will be looking forward to many more such scenes to come in the movie. But unfortunately the movie does not live upto its fame. Although it is a good movie and a nice entertainer to watch(especially if you have read the book), it does not seem to have the glory that it has been bathed with in the movie reviews. The battle of the Helm's Deep is big and extravagant but fails to make a distinct mark. And so are many more scenes. But you will definitely notice some great landscapes of Newzealand shown all along the movie. In the characters, Gollum has been well made but Ents are not. Orcs have come out well but Elves don't make any impact(Should it not have been the other way round?). Gandalf and Shadofax are impressive. The people of Rohan, and many others can pass as characters of any other movie.
The movie is worth a watch for people who have read LOTR. If you don't know LOTR means Lord Of the Rings, or if you haven't bothered to get hold of the book, it is a good idea not to watch the movie too. Especially so because you might get lost and confused in many occasions.
Looking around on the net about war(s), I found a step by step, briefly written chronology of vietnam war. Interestingly, even though it is a neutral reporting of events of a war that lasted for more than a decade, most of the story turns out to be a obvious description of brutalities and inhuman acts of a rogue nation that had no business in a remote, poor country. Also interesting is United States' deployment of CHEMICAL WEAPONS against the Vietnamese, probably the only nation in the world to use chemical weapons against another country(and only nation to insanely use nuclear weapons). But at the end, it was victory to the brave and united forces of Vietnam against the 'unwilling but forced to fight' military of US. Here is the page.
Anything that is worth appreciating must be appreciated.
And this one goes to Maruti, and its service network.
It happened one day when I was travelling somewhere far south, and was returning to Bangalore. We still had 350kms to cover when an old minor problem resurfaced. While it should not have caused any major problem for us for a short distance, we had to get it repaired as early as possible. And we had just left a big town behind us a few kilometers before. We had to decide whether to go back 5kms to the town or continue on the road till we find the next town around 60kms away. We decided on the later since it was not a major fault. So we continued on the road, hoping to find a Maruti Service Center somewhere. And surprise! We had to travel hardly 2 minutes and there was a Maruti Authorized server center. I silently patted myself for having decided to buy a Maruti make. Infact, one big criteria while I was looking for a car was that it must be a Maruti other than M800. And that sure was a good idea.
Our experience in the service station was also pretty good. People there were very friendly and helpful. As soon as we drove in, we were given a warm welcome, and someone offered us coffee. And it so turned out that they were running a free check-up camp and we were offered the same. But we obviously declined since we had a long way to travel. As soon as they were briefed about the problem, a couple of people jumped into the car and started working on it. Within 10 minutes, we had the car back in shape and ready to go. Add to that, they did not even take any money for that! When we asked how much is the bill, all that we were told was "It's fine sir, that was only a small job". I must say that was really nice of them. I have seen this attitude with Maruti service stations before, but rarely anywhere else. Thanks you Maruti, for all that! I wish I could mention the name of that service station here but unfortunately, I don't remember it.
The funny and foolish attempts of Americans to try to remove 'french' from french fries and many more silly acts is now an old joke that has been laughed at many times over. Thoughtless and shortsighted as ever, Americans don't seem to realize that any retribution from the French is going to hurt their brands much more badly. Kamat made a list of some French and British brands, in case you want to boycott them, though he did not get all the brands and the associated countries right. I am trying to continue on that thread to list the American brands(in case you want to boycott them).
Coca Cola, Pepsi
CNN(long since I have stopped watching it. I want real news you see, not something tweeked)
General Motors. They sell cars with Opel and Chevrolet brand names in India; Ford
HP, Dell, IBM, Intel, Apple, Sun Microsystems
Pizza hut, McDonalds, KFC
Citibank, American Express
MTV, HBO, ESPN
Proctor & Gamble
Taking another look at the list, I realized that each of them can be easily reaplaced by an Indian or Asian brands without any kind of inconvenience, except for the soft drink brands. And it could be a bit difficult but possible, to replace Microsoft with a Linux vendor. Personally, the only brand that I find tough to get rid of is - you can't easily guess it - HBO!
Around a month back, I went on a driving trip to the hilly regions of far southern states. I started writing a trip report on the journey a few days back. It so turned out that I ended up writing a lot about recollections of road rage. Here is that portion of the report.
Roads and driving in TamilNadu:
A full big chapter is worth writing about the roads of TamilNadu and traveling in the state in general.
.....having chosen to go via Ooty in TamilNadu, we started around 8 in the morning. The drive till the Kerala border was smooth and the road was good. As soon as we crossed the border into TamilNadu we were stopped at a checkpost. While we assumed that it is just a forest checkpost or something of that kind we get to see all around south India, it turned out it was a tollbooth. And when we asked what is the toll for, we were told that it is for using the road. But on our journey forth, we realized that the road was practically non-existent. Probably the roads were last repaired decades ago. It was impossible to travel anywhere beyond 15 to 20kms per hour. I don't remember seeing roads so horrible anywhere else. At least elsewhere, I am sure a government's conscience would hurt for charging a steep Rs.20 toll for such awful roads. The patches on the road are not just pot-holes, they are better described as crevasses or abysses. The road slowed down our speed to extremely low levels and threw away our plans out of gear. Later on in the journey, we figured out that it is a practice of TamilNadu government to put toll stations whereever possible and extort money from tourists. Come to think of it, in the 50km stretch from Palani to Kodaikanal, we were stopped three times and had to pay Rs. 50 in all, simply to pass through. It is understood if they had built excellent roads and in turn, expect people to pay for them. But for the condition of the roads where they collect toll, it is probably more reasonable for the state government to pay the travelers for servicing the shocks of the vehicle for the damages it may have to take. At one point while we were traveling near Salem, there was a series of road-humps on the highway which made us slow down. At that point 2 people from a nearby shelter ran to us and demanded to pay toll of Rs.15 and handed over the receipt to us. As usual, when we asked why, we were told it is for crossing the bridge. But there was no bridge around(!) and on pressing again, they showed a small bridge at a distance and that was it! Besides all this, every now and then, or almost at every town, you will see police checkposts! These check posts will have no cops or anyone monitoring the traffic or travelers, but will have some permanently installed barricades left to rust by themselves. All that seems to be achieved by these barricades is to reduce the road to a single lane and irritate an already annoyed traveler.
Even besides the toll, traveling in the state is definitely no pleasing experience. While roads are in a really sorry state in the hilly regions and would be probably demanding even on a Toyota LandCruiser, the planes do have some excellent roads. You would be surprised at how good are some of the state highways. But the road sense is so awful that you can hardly drive fast even on the best roads. There is little respect for the rules. Biggest problem that you face is small vehicles traveling in the wrong side of the road that force you to break down from speeds of 80kph to under 20kph. Often, while stopping, transport vehicles(like buses) take up the entire left lane instead of using the shoulder and have little care for other travelers. Even bullock carts carelessly take up the entire left lane, many times leaving little option for you but to follow them! Sometimes you wish you would be more happier driving those carts than a car. Another problem is that you often get stuck with the road passing in the middle of the towns. While it is normally tolerable, the unusual frequency with which you encounter these towns does not make things any easy.
Honking is one of the banes of the road. While in rest of the country(or at least where I live), honking is just an accepted phenomenon, here it is mandatory. You will never get your share of the road unless you keep honking. And honking does not mean a gentle request to make way, but you have to keep incessantly pressing the button until the other person can no longer tolerate and let go. Normally as a practice, I rarely honk unless there is absolute necessity. But after learning my lessons in tough way, I learned to drive with one thumb always ready to honk. Surprisingly, you can distinctly notice that as you approach nearer to Karnataka border, you will no longer need to do this and driving will be once again normal, and like a breeze. If you ever plan to drive into this part of the world, my first suggestion is to get the shrillest and loudest possible horns installed in the vehicle, so that you can safely make it back home.
It appears that most people in the state are also English challenged. Very often you don't get to see road-signs in English and you will be left to experiment when the road takes diversions. People are friendly and help you when asked, but not always can you find someone who can understand what you are speaking. But unusually, while most of the directions and other road-signs written in Tamil, you frequently encounter a signboard written in English that reads - 'long live diving classical Tamizh'. While I have absolutely no idea what it means, I was amused by it the first time when I saw that. What surprised me is why something that probably has to do with Tamil is written in English, while important road-signs and directions were written in Tamil! While we were left clueless what it means, as we started encountering the board very often, it soon became like a joke for us(Look there you see it again! Long live...).
In essence, one has to be careful while planning a drive thru the state. It is best to do enough homework to get maps and be clear about the routes so you don't have to keep wondering where to go each time the road forks out. Also assume lot of buffer time as you may not be able to travel at a planned speed most of the times. With that, if you have unlimited patience, you should be able to enjoy the trip without much problems...
Kerala's Tea estates have eaten up large areas of the forest in the western ghats in the state. Around the hill station of Munnar, you drive for miles and miles in any direction and you are guaranteed to be surrounded with tea plantations. You will be amazed at the amount of labour that has gone into building these plantations(and also into destroying the forest). At some point we got so sick of seeing these tea plantations that we coined the term 'tea sickness'. But Google tells me the word has already been used!
But I have to admit that neatly trimmed tea plants spread like a lawn all over the hills does look beautiful.
This is about how people may end up harming themselves due to spam.
Long time ago, I had purchased some VCDs at rediff, and hence had registered with them. And hence they had my email id. A month or so ago, I received an email from them about some improvements they have done in their shopping site, blah blahs, and info and prices on some of the goods they have for sale on their site. Since this was not a regular mail, I just ignored the mail, hoping that it never happens again. Today, I found one more email from them and decided it is time to hit the unsubscribe button. As usual, I scroll to the bottom of the html page in the mail looking for the unsubscribe button and found the message below:
You have received this mail from rediff.com because you indicated that you would like to receive special offers. If you do not wish to receive any more of such offers, click on the 'preferences' link on the left hand side of this page. Go to 'interests' section deselect the topic on which you do not wish to receive mails from us.
A couple of points to note:
Now, I don't think I am foolish enough to have subscribed to some stupid newsletter from a shopping site. Besides, while registering, I am usually alert to un-tick any pre-ticked newsletters, as I am used to this dirty practice followed by a lot of websites. So it basically means I have been added to a list without my consent, and then it is blamed on me for subscribing.
But let's give them a chance, and let me assume that it was my ignorence. So I just have to unsubscribe, by going to the "'preferences' link on the left hand side of the page" and I will be relieved. But it so turned out the page neither has a left hand side, nor any preferences link!!!! Just to make sure I did not miss anything, I even ran a search, in vain. Now, this is really not acceptable.
By this time, I had had enough. I filtered off rediff from my mailbox. And I have decided never to shop with rediff anymore, so I don't have any furthur trouble from them.
Finally, what did they achieve by sending some unsolicited email? First thing, they lost an existing customer. So far I had no problems or whatsoever with rediff shopping site, and would not mind buying from them if I happened to come across somthing interesting. But now, I am not going to be contributing anything to their coffers. Besides, since I have blocked them out, they can't reach me anymore even if they have something really important to say. And then they get some bad publicity here. So much for sending unsolicited emails.
It is high time retailers on the internet stop asking customers to register before buying something. That idea has already gone old fashioned. You can only loose customers by doing so, not gain them. If I am asked to fill up a long boring form just to buy a book or a VCD or some flowers, it is more likely that I'll go the next shop to make my purchase.
One of the toughest subjects to photograph are birds. Being very small, one has to go very close to them to shoot them, and they are too shy to let anyone come near them. The long powerful lenses that can provide good magnification are prohibitively expensive for an amateur. My first ever attempt to shoot a bird took me nearly 45 minutes. But these two birds were very friendly and readily agreed to model for me.
Do you have any idea what birds are these?
Update(6th March): They are barn swallows(thanks to bngbirds)
I had no intentions or plans of writing about cricket in this world cup season, it is not really something I am crazy about, and since everything that could be written would have been written already. All that besides the fact that the whole thing was sickeningly overpublicized. Now there is some change, and I am making one mention about the game. Nope, it is not the winning streak of the Indian team that made any difference. It is just that one fab match! And you know I don't have to say more :)
PS: Hopefully there won't be anymore cricketing stuff here, lest the Indian win the world cup when one more exception may be made. :)