Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Innovative, Labnol-esque Calendar

Just received a most thoughtful and innovative New Year's gift from Amit (better known as Labnol) - a calendar!

Cover page of Amit's Calendar
As you can expect, unlike normal calendars, something from Amit (he personally designed every page of it) has to be innovative and it starts with the envelope which it came in - it has this QR code along with Amit's address. Use a QR/Bar Code scanner if you have one (easily available in the Android Marketplace, in case you're using an Android device) to read what it says:)

The QR code on the envelope
The most interesting part of the calendar is that it doesn't have any months, 'days' or year on it! Yes, it's just 16 pages with numbers 1-31 on either sides which makes it an eternal calendar! And there's more, every page has the 'Date' or number on it and along with that there's a couple of tech tips:) Each page has tips on any particular topic, e.g. RSS, Fax & Snail Mail, Wolfram Alpha etc.

Page 1, with tips on 'Connecting with your loved ones'

Page 8, with tips on  'Music Online'

Thank you very much for the wonderful gift Amit! And it is now enjoying pride of place on my office desk:)

P.S: The QR code says "Digital Inspiration wishes you a very happy and productive 2011."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movies Roundup 2010

It's time again for end of year stock taking and making meaningless lists. So, like last year, I am going to round up this year in terms of my favourite movies and also some useless statistics about movies watched and missed. You can use this as a meme and come up with your 'Movies Roundup 2010' posts, will be interesting to share notes. Here's my Hindi & English Top 5, in reverse order.


One of the best Indian dark comedies in a long, long time. Though other movies have been made in the past on the issue of sensationalistic journalism (e.g. Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani) Peepli Live had a certain edge over them because of the strong realistic, yet sarcastic overtones and also the extremely authentic rustic setting and backdrop. Each character had an honest, earthy feel to them. Personally the ending was very ironic as Natha was shown inconspicuously breaking stones along the same road where the mall was where we were watching the movie. It's a well deserved entry to the Oscars and here's wishing Anusha, Aamir and the gang all the very best!

This is a tie for the 5th spot as I just couldn't not mention both of these movies. Karthik Calling Karthik (KCK) is one of the most experimental movies I have come across of late. To be honest my expectations from this Farhan venture was slightly more than what it ended up being, but just for the sheer thrill, entertainment and the 'hatke' factor I had to include it in the list. Also, this movie changed my adverse attitude towards Deepika and converted me to a fan! Stylish, edgy and new-age, KCK joins Peepli Live for the 5th spot.

After the captivating 'Black' and the thoroughly depressing 'Saawariya' the audience wasn't sure what to expect from this Sanjay Leela Bhansali magnum opus. It's safe to say this Hrithik Roshan, Aishwariya Rai Bachchan starrer didn't leave too many people disappointed. With the usual SLB grandeur and extravagance Guzaarish is a treat for the eyes, more so with an absolutely stunning lead pair. Not a big Aishwariya fan, but must admit she looked gorgeous all through. The story in fact was quite thin and it's to the team's credit that they managed to put together something so captivating on this plot. The music was perhaps below SLB's usual, but hummable nevertheless. The lyrics of 'Sau Gram Zindagi' has to be some of the most innovative lines of the year. And finally, Suhel Seth provided some unintentional comic relief at the end of the movie.

3. Robot 

The truth in the now-famous description of Rajni "he is a force of nature. If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth." from 'Slate' can be properly appreciated only after watching 'Robot'. All those Rajni jokes pale in comparison to what the man does on screen in this movie. The term 'suspension of disbelief' comes to life from Act 1, Scene 1. If a movie is to be solely judged on the amount of entertainment it provides there really is nothing that could come close to 'Robot' this year. I don't know who Chuck Norris is, never seen any of his movies, but I can safely say that he can't be more than a side character is a Rajni joke. Here's to many more of Rajni entertainers in the coming years. At 61, he's not getting any older.

From a purely objective movie review perspective have to keep this at No. 2. One of the high points of the year, and I am not restricting the scope of this statement to just movies. Enough said. God bless Sir.

Not only the best movie of the year but by far the most under rated one as well! It's a matter of honour that I happen to share my last name with the director who after 'Khosla Ka Ghosla' and 'Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye' seems to be on the 'up and to the right' curve that sales people have come to worship! Three separate stories, each strong, dark and extremely poignant weaved together in a seamless fashion, LSD is not just experimental cinema for the heck of being different but is one of the best portrayals of today's society. It was not just the handheld camera style of photography but also the splendid performances which gave the movie a feel of watching real life events through the CCTV cameras set up in places unknown to the actors. Take a bow Mr. Banerjee.

And that's the Bollywood list for 2010. Although I have already listed 6 movies in my Top 5, there's one movie which deserves a special mention, having lost out narrowly but being the sweetest surprise element of the year, YRF's 'Band Baajaa Baraat'.


It's always a difficult task to select a Hollywood animation movie in the annual top 5 because almost all of them are impeccable in their production, story and presentation. However over the years they have reached stage where they can compete against the the 'normal' movies purely on the merit of their plots and stories, without the superb technical advantages to fall back on. So, starting off the English list will be this movie about a crook who wants to be the biggest criminal in the world and plans to steal the moon and how he ends up being a Superdad. Can make even the most macho among us go 'awww'.

First things first, Guy Ritchie's maverick, action hero Sherlock Holmes is very different from Conan Doyle's suave, intellectual resident of Baker Street. Far from suave, this Holmes is at times a bumbling sleuth. But when the time comes he keeps the reputation of the master detective intact. A gripping, fast paced movie based on a story not written by Doyle, this is pure edge-of-your-seat entertainment.  Very ably supported by a more conformist Dr. Watson, this movie gave a fantastic start to my tinsel year. Looking forward to more from this stable.

Claim to fame - the movie to have been on Twitter's 'Trending Topics' for the longest period of time in history. Albeit a short history. Inception falls under that category of films which are more of a cult than a cinematic production. The 'dream-within-dream-within-dream' concept took everyone by surprise and generated tremendous interest in the works of Freud and other dream merchants. However, since this came a good ten years after the Matrix trilogy you will be pardoned for having a faint sense of deja vu, though by no way does that indicate this was a work of plagiarism. A fantastic concept, presented in a lavish, riveting manner. Inception is one movie you don't want to miss, if for nothing else but to be a part of discussions when movies of 2010 are discussed, ever.

The  2nd animation movie to make it to the 'Top 5' and one that actually came quite close to being the 'Movie of the Year' for me. There's something about this franchise which tugs at your heartstrings and this one carried the tradition forward. If you have ever been a kid (he he) then there's no way you cannot connect with the movie and the characters. Plus the sinister angle brought in this third installment adds a different layer to the movie. You will be rooting for Woody and friends, cringing at the thought of them being victims to the evil toys and feeling nice and light at the end of it all. Just how films are supposed to be!

As I mentioned in my tweet review, I maybe a little biased towards the movie as it deals with a subject too close to my livelihood, one that I am discussing with friends and colleagues all the time and reading hundreds and thousands of news feeds on. I don't know the exact proportion of fact and fiction in the movie but am aware that the flavour of the birth of the greatest social network in the world has been retained and to say that it's fascinating is an understatement. I am a huge fan of the social medium and am proud to be one of the early adopters of most of these applications. The creativity, innovation, greed, ambition and vision shown in the movie makes for a most enriching watch. Brilliant performances by almost everyone and a superb, subtle ending makes it the Movie of the Year for me.

Finally, here's a look at all the movie I have watched this year, and some stats. Was a great year movie wise and looking forward to an even better 2011.

Being a bit statistically inclined, I have kept some notes of the movies that I have seen in theaters since 2007, and the summary would be as follows:

Year        Movies Seen      H:E              Top Rating (on 10)        Avg Rating

2007               32                     22:10                      9.0                                5.78
2008               30                    23:7                        8.5                                6.35
2009               24                    18:6                        9.0                                 6.85
2010               25                    16:9                         8.5                                6.62

Monday, December 27, 2010

Times Of Turncoat

One of my favourite sources of entertainment every day is going through the country's largest English daily - The Times of India. There are 2 ways this entertainment takes place - (a) stumbling across atrocious and frequent spelling, grammar and factual errors and (b) spotting the news articles from the midst of the paid pieces.

This morning (27-Dec-2010) has been particularly fulfilling on both fronts.

Yesterday (26-Dec-2010) TOI (Gurgaon edition) carried an article on the Tau Devi Lal Stadium being rented out for a New Years bash and how this is criminal on so many counts. With quotes such as "To use a cricket ground for a dance party is a matter of shame for the government. We suspect that money has played a role in such wrongdoing" from an INLD leader. Producing a scanned copy of the article below (please click on the photo for better viewing).

TOI article, 26-Dec-2010

This morning when I opened the paper I was amused to see another article, carrying the same picture as y'day proudly mentioning 'Tau Devi Lal to host Asia's largest New Year Party'. The tone all upbeat and positive. The article goes on mention how this will help Gurgaon's district administration's revenues and also make Gurgaon a popular destination for entertainment. It specifically mentions how "the necessary precautions have been taken to maintain the ground and specifically the pitch..." Again, producing a scanned image of the article below.

TOI article, 27-Dec-2010
Well done TOI, true to your style!

P.S: This was an example of type (b) entertainment as I mentioned early in the post. Here's a look at type (a), again from today's newspaper (27-Dec-2010). There's this article about 'German bakeries' in India. The summary paragraph at the beginning talks of, among other things, how "...a lot of people, including perhaps the terrorists who planted a bomb in the Pune cafe last week, think so...". It really is too trivial that the Pune blast at German bakery took place on 13-Feb-2010, or ~10 months back and not exactly 'last week'. Oh, the hazards of copying and then pasting old articles.

TOI article, 27-Dec-2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Did You Search For In 2010?

For the past 5 years or so Google has come up with it's annual Zeitgeist, at a global and also national level for different countries (e.g India). The Zeitgeist is the list of the most searched terms of that year. Of late this has been getting a lot of media coverage as well with television channels having dedicated programs discussing what the country has been looking for

In fact this year Facebook & Twitter with their large repository of data also came up with the most commonly used words in status updates and tweets. All making for a most interesting read.

Earlier this year in February I had come up with a list of the most 'hatke' or 'different' keywords people have searched for to reach my blog. In fact the post became quite popular and encourage me to continue blogging a little more regularly than the 2-3 posts a year I was doing before that. So, at the end of the year I decided to announce my own little Zeitgeist results, in 2 categories - (a) most popular keywords searched to reach my blog and (b) most 'interesting' keywords search to reach my blog.

I must say there has been a large dip in the 'interesting' category since my February post, and most queries can more or less be tracked down to the post which triggered them and also the rationale behind those searched. However, I did manage to come up with the 10 'wackiest' queries that got some traffic to my blog. So, without much further ado, here are the 'Mind At Work' Zeitgeist results.

Top Queries for 'Mind At Work'

1. Kingdom of Dreams Gurgaon Review (related post)

2. Johari Window Test (related post)

3. Reverse Image Search Engine (related post)

4. May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss Review (related post)

6. Abbey Road Gurgaon (related post)

7. Android Market (related post)

8. Puzzles (related post 1, post 2)

9. Pista House Haleem Recipe (related post)

10. Biryani Gurgaon (related post 1, post 2)

And now coming to the more popular awards - the 'hatke' queries Zeitgeist.

These keywords brought me visitors to the blog, so a big thanks to whoever searched on them. And a quick note behind your thought process will be most appreciated:) [unedited, uncensored data. Could be NSFW]

'Hatke' 'Mind At Work' Awards

1. best fake nickname for a god

[Suhel speak: God's on an espionage mission, eh?]

2. bulging tummy in girls

[SS: Not a pretty sight. Stop searching, immediately]

3. how to deal with a 69 year old male that is not happy about being given a surprise birthday party

[SS: someone's gonna get hurt real bad]

4. night rate of a cheerleader in delhi or gurgaon

[SS: T20 or ODI?]

5. prabhu chawala character traits

[SS: After that Rajnikanth editorial should you really bother?]

6. should i be working at 69 years old

[SS: I for sure hope I will not]

7. software engineer tummy

[SS: Mostly empty. Or so I'm told]

8. things u can do with rs 100 in kolkata

[SS: A little more than what you can do with Rs. 5000 in Mumbai]

9. what is it like to work for guidebook?

[SS: Much like an NGO I will assume]

10. wear glasses"" or ""wearing glasses"" or ""wearing my glasses"" or ""wear her glasses"" or ""wearing her glasses"" or ""wear contacts"" or ""wearing contacts"" or ""wearing my contacts"" or ""wearing her contacts"" or ""wearing contact"" or ""wearing my contact"" or ""wearing her contact""

[SS: Contact your ophthalmologist. If you could read that, that is]

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Fresh Outlook At Restaurant Advertising

Most Indian newspapers nowadays are thicker than a Vikarm Seth novel, and on weekends two Seth novels put together. And it's not as if a lot has started happening off late which never did in the past, it's the ad money. Ads are here, there, everywhere. And then there are the local leaflets and pamphlets that are added to the tomes. Usually these pamphlets die a lonely, isolated, inconspicuous death in the store rooms or below the almirahs but there are always exceptions. This post is about one such.

You'll find the two sides of one such pamphlet which caught my attention as it slipped from the main paper as I was heading for the washroom. It's one of smartest pieces of newspaper advertisements I have ever come across. And though I am yet to visit the restaurant (Kitchen Inbox), I will recommend it for the sheer creativity. (click on the pictures for a larger size image)


It's just slightly ironic that these guys haven't put a website or email address to find them on the net:)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Rang De - Helps You Help

We often feel like 'doing our bit' every now and then, but don't know how to make an impact with our limited means. It's usually then that the urge to contribute dies a silent death not because of a lack of intent but limited means of causing an impact. For example, we all know that India is a country of a billion people and if all of us contribute Re. 1 there will be a Rs. 100,00,00,000 fund. The problem is that Re. 1 by itself won't do anything unless we can come up with a system of collecting all the coins, accumulating them in a central place and then deploying the funds to someone or some organisation with genuine needs.

This is the issue that Rang De has decided to solve.

The idea is exactly the same as the collecting Re. 1 coins from many and distributing it to the worthy. Or micro-credit in the truest sense of the term.

Here the minimum amount or denomination is Rs. 100 and all you require to get started is an email address, a bank account/credit card and a wish to make a difference, however small or big, to an entrepreneur. Once you've signed up there's a large number of small entrepreneurs to choose from a variety of sectors or categories. You get to see the following for every entrepreneur:

(1) Name, business, photo (2) Total requirement, loan raised, remaining requirement & (3) Investment required by date.

Usually these are in a few thousands, and is a great example of how small investments of even a few hundreds of rupees can help build someone's dream of setting up their own business.

I would like to thank my friend Abhishek Paul, who introduced me to this wonderful organisation, by sending me a gift voucher. I invested my voucher in a business close to my heart - Fish farming! I am glad to have made a difference to the life of Ghanashyam Behara of Orissa, and hope his fish business will get the rest of the required amount soon and he can start off his venture.

This is a sincere request to everyone to have a look at the site and maybe contribute to some venture they believe in. And please do spread the word, Rang De can do with any help we can bring!

Disclaimer: I am not associated with the organisation in any capacity besides having made a small contribution to a venture as mentioned in the article.