July 31, 2006

Aside

One of the funnier sides of the recent blog ban is that it has given a bit of a glimpse into possible numbers related to bloggers in India. From the numbers on BloggersCollective, which I guess is the largest number of Indian bloggers/blog readers from India assembled in once place, we have more hype than actual numbers to back it up when it comes to participation.

At the last count there were 432 members in the group and if we were to invoke the 1% rule and extrapolate the audience possible, the number would be 39600 (99*400) who contribute to the process strictly within the Indian context. I'm not taking the other 32 into account because a lot of the bloggers become part of the 39K number due to their participation on other blogs and also there is no way to account for Indians who read blogs from India while being abroad.

Attribute an average of 3 page views per user to that number and you'd still get figure of only 120,000 per day, which across 432 blogs is a very low number. Low enough maybe to start a whispering society, but not large enough constitute a readily marketable or easily targeted demographic. Please don't tell me that such a number has been quite effective, as shown by the banned blogs episode; effectiveness and scale are two different things. Besides, a lot of the bloggers are media people, which certainly did help in getting good enough traction on the mainstream media.

Another contentious point is that blogging by itself does not do much. It does well only when it is sold as part of something more easily recognised, like how Indiatimes does it with 'News Blogs' on timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Does that mean blogging in India is no great shakes? Right now, I think the answer is 'yes' and I don't think it will take off at a major level till the vernacular crowd moves in and that is a different story in itself.

Meanwhile, NDTV.com launches its blogging service, replete with avenues for cross domain scripting attacks and numerous other holes. A ten minute inspection of it already has shown ways to steal posts from other people, requiring almost no technical knowledge, making our gaffes look pre-pubescent in an instant. C'est la vie, I guess.

The First Week

Day one: Well, I am experiencing significant withdrawal symptoms. All of a sudden, there is no third window to alt+tab to. But the thinking has slowed down, emails and issues are being tracked better, but no significant bumps in productivity yet.

Day two: It feels like a million voices, all shrieking at the same time, have been silenced. There is a huge void, a deafening silence. I can think of at least four things I could have written about, but would not have written about. I do not know anymore what's the latest list of top ten things that are being consumed at any time by a million RSS aggregators.

I think I have observed it earlier, but I hardly know the domain names or the layout/design of most websites that I read with the RSS aggregator anymore. I can, sometimes, identify by the style of writing who the author is, but most times I just cannot. It seems to be a case of consuming information without the personal context, which is exactly opposite of what blogging is meant to about. It is raw, it is ugly, but it is all about data and the connections they make to each other.

My fingers are very thankful about this hiatus. I am sure they must have been sick of me going through the 300 plus list, clicking and clacking away one feed at a time. But I have not managed to switch yet.

I've managed to miss the new Netscape.com being hacked. I am being unfaithful to my hiatus here, though I did not reach there via the aggregator.

Interestingly, due to searches for nude pictures of various Bollywood actresses and prostitutes in Noida (?!!), traffic keeps coming in, thus proving that with popular enough content, websites don't really die in this age of Google and a multitude of other crawlers who keep revisiting your brain dump. Which begs the question, would it really be a violation of the ToS of Adsense if you create your own content (bona fide) across a vast variety of topics and leave it as it is, earning you dough for doing nothing at all in your old age?

Another interesting observation is about social interaction. I did not know when someone called up yesterday and asked "did you not read my post?" what the post was all about. The thoughts are no longer about what another blogger is thinking/writing/doing and other online things. Life in real life is considerably slower and you get a lot less of interesting things to read/do.

That said, on a blank browser, it is hard to find interesting things to do. Without the delicious 'popular' list and the other feeds I track, there is hardly anything to read other than boring media websites. The future probably belongs to the aggregator, but certainly not only to the aggregator.

Day three: Not good at all. I am tempted to fire up everything again.

Day Four: I am not as bothered by not reading blogs and writing them as much as the weird manner in which I seem to work. Miles and miles of improvement possible here. It would be nice to blame the blogs for your crap, but the problem is deeper and wider than that.

Day Five: I have run out of observations, sue me.

Day Six: I am kind of getting used to this, but it still does take a bit of an effort to keep myself from clicking on the GreatNews icon. But I guess the main theory still holds that for people who can multitask well, the extra reading only adds to your capabilities. But that has the downside of making you feel like you've accomplished something even when you are struggling with your other tasks. In other words, isolate different tasks, compartmentalise time and activity, tweak and optimise individually and the the whole will follow the parts.

Is time for an update?

July 25, 2006

Pause

I am considering a mini break from keeping alive the blogs that I run. The office one has been more or less dormant for a while and the Wordpress.com one has not been updated since my return from the vacation. It does help that I don't have much of an audience here, so I can start/stop according to my whims and fancies, but this time it is not about the blogging habit, but about getting the time management and priorities in life right.

The vacation was the first step in setting right a lot things that have been wrong in my life. I am not overweight, but I am certainly not the right weight either. I don't eat right (being fixed now), I don't sleep right and don't get any exercise at all (as demonstrated amply by a running out of breath after playing football with the kids near home for 15 minutes) and I have not been able to find any time to do any amount of serious writing or reading. I am also considering shutting down the desktop aggregator for a week while I sort my life out.

You can run with an existing model, with minor tweaks here and there for only so long. At some point, the patching and rejigging (which progressively keeps taking up more and more time for negligble results) becomes unsustainable and then it is a good idea to junk it all, start from the basics and build from the ground up all over again. And I am at that point where if I don't fix the problems (the number is too high to be solved a couple at a time) right now, I'll be playing catch up for the rest of my life, which is an unacceptable situation.

So this would probably the last transmission for a while now. I would, of course, be available on email and IM. Cya'll in a bit.

p.s: This has nothing to do with my dwindling traffic, Honest. ;-)

July 24, 2006

Switch

After a couple of days of swimming in a pool of illogical rage, today, the waters have finally calmed down and I think I can just about see my usual somewhat likeable self in the reflective surfaces. One of the rather detestable byproduct of having to manage more than just yourself is that you can't just pull a glum look and expect the world to just fuck off or do whatever it deems fit. Mix that with a semblance of signs of maturity and you stop believing that the world will end the morning after and that life's not really worth it every time something does not go according to plan or if a lot of things don't go according to plan. If you persist enough, things do somewhat even out in the long run.

Yet another awful result of the 'growing up' is that you lose space for everything - to make major changes, to eke out major chunks of time from regular, boring stuff. It then becomes a matter of minor tweaks, little adjustments, take a bit from here, add a bit there, regress, test again and go back to the drawing board every time it does not work as intended. It is tedious and frustrating for the naturally impatient like me and to add to the mess, episodes like the rage one throws a spanner and the entire toolbox into the works. But yeah, it is a learning process and fun at times too.

July 21, 2006

The Return

There are more than a couple of questions I need answers for. They were quite on the lines of what I said I had expected to find, waiting for me, back here when I would get back from my mini-vacation. I am not sure if I had accounted for all the specifics or even prepared for it, but it certainly is no sideshow in the relentless move ahead. I think it was at her place that I read, You have to keep moving, to keep from falling…, and I could not agree more with the statement and its relevance to my  situation.

If it were not for the days firmly notched on the calendar, I would have had a hard time believing that it was only last week that I took my much-needed vacation. Things have been that hectic, though I am glad that it is quite enjoyable too. Guess it is just one of those days where you look for inspiration, direction, a helping hand or a sympathetic touch and are unable to find anything in the vicinity.

Evenings these days, with its cloudy skies and the anticipation of the onset of autumn, are a treat for the eyes. It is so wide, open and rich with possibilities that you can't but want to believe that there is still so much more in life to be experienced and lived. It is not like the present is a facade, but you can't always keep smiling or hold back the odd tear. It is not dishonesty, but is not quite the whole truth either.

In the night that eventually follows, sometimes you just have to reach deep within yourself and find a place of warmth to see yourself through, till daylight breaks in through the half-drawn blinds with the promise of a new day. It would have been wonderful if the cycles were not that predictable, but it does aid in the survival of the self. And sometimes that is often a small mercy we are just not thankful enough for, after all that we manage to put ourselves through.

Switch flips back on

As the greater mortals decide among themselves and pass the buck on for the outage and bring back light into the lives of about 180 bloggers and readers out here, we now pay homage to the expired windfall that manifested in the form of three days of increased productivity.

In other news, Google's servers hosting blogspot blogs get tickled by a nano level slashdotting from newly unshackled desktop aggregators from India and lets out a faint giggle. All is well now in India's blog gol (or gaol?) as non-existent love lives and litter habits of urban pets get an outlet all over again.

Except for a certain third eye who takes oodles of umbrage over his name being misspelt in the contributions thread and threatens to get all of Bloggers Collective banned with his new super powers that extracts secret documents out of deep, dark orifices of the Indian Government.

p.s: suggested garnishing include plenty of pinches of salt and good humour for intended intake.

July 17, 2006

Hold

I am back, but caught in a deluge of email, humidity and other vaguess. Meanwhile, the photos are up here.

July 12, 2006

Eventually

I have said "it is okay" so many times in my life, but I never thought that they day would come when I would say the same to my own mother, even though I'd forgiven everyone here a long time ago. I had not realized that it was important to say as much, in as many words, and having seen the reaction, now I know better. In that simple act of admission I have managed to, without really intending to, resuscitate a life that's been overturned and turned painfully bitter much more than mine has ever been. At their age, they certainly don't deserve any of it. I think I've finally achieved the only thing that I ever wanted to do here. I am happy.

July 11, 2006

Sand in my feet


Generation Gap
Originally uploaded by codelust.
The early morning at the beach was a sight and experience that I have always loved from my school going days and today I got to revisit it, with the parents very much in tow, leading to the odd situation where I, who has not been there much in the past six years, was explaining to them how the whole set up functioned.

The beach in question, Shanghumugham, was pretty much been eaten up by the sea, as it almost always is during the season of incessant rains and sadly, there was not much of the earlier sandy expanse left for me to walk on. That was no deterrent for the desperate fishermen who would venture out into the sea, late in the night, to set their net that would be dragged out in the morning to the shore.

During the vacations, when we were in school, we would go early in the morning to the same beach on our bicycles, fool around a bit in the water and then watch the fishermen do their backbreaking and dangerous job. They would start from two different ends of the beach and start dragging in the net from the sea. After what took more than a couple of hours, the last crucial part of the net would finally make it to the shore and the surprise would come to and end as to whether the catch was any good at all.

It takes around 20 of these men to pull off the entire operation and it is crucial for them to get a good catch every time to make all the effort any good in terms of money and their livelihood. The fish thus caught is mostly sold off to street side vendors who would sell them in different locations in the city with a bit of a mark up.


fishermen
Originally uploaded by codelust.
The problem with retailing fish for anyone is that the damn thing, as you can guess, is a perishable commodity. By late evening almost all of them are desperate to sell off their wares, as in the morning after it would be only fit for the dustbins. It used to be a worst-kept secret to buy fish from these ladies only late in the evening to get any ridiculous price that you could quote.

I can only guess that the margins in it are too low for them to do anything much with the trade other than to barely sustain themselves and their families. And on days like today, when, after the hours of struggle, all they end up with is a catch that even the street vendors would not feel too enthused to buy from them. It is a real hard knock life these guys live. For the effort they put into living each day of their lives, what they get in return is almost nothing. They live the same struggle through generations and a lucky few manage to escape from its clutches, but most largely live and die in the same manner – from one generation to the next.

Not that my heart bleeds for them or something, but it does show up a weird set of contrasts – my reality of double digit increment percentages, fancy cell phones and eating out practically every night and their reality of just endless hardships. Some twains just don’t meet and I feel somewhat awful in admitting my selfishness that I am glad it is so.

July 10, 2006

Day One

Expectations - a million different things have been said about them and even then I am not sure if we have said enough yet. I had built this trip up on so many different things and so many different levels and now that it has finally begun it certainly does not feel like much. How funny it is that I expected it to radically change things for me in more than one way and now I sit here, in the same house where I’d lived for 21 years, watching the World Cup final and writing on my laptop as if this was the way it has always been.

Everyone told me the city had changed so dramatically that I would not be able to recognize it. But, other than marginally wider roads, a lot more of mid-sized shops and a lot of IT-fuelled new money, there is not a lot that I have not seen before. On my way home from the airport and the subsequent outing later in the day, I could still see a lot of the same old shops I used to frequent. Yes, they are a lot spiffier now, but spiffy does not necessarily equate to new and I have not been to any of the famed ‘malls’ and I am not sure if I’d seen any in the first place.

But the air here is awesome. It is only when you come to a place like this you realize that respiration, in a place like Delhi, is a distinctly masochistic experience, where you learn to get used to the slow suffocation that is passed off for breathing and make it a part of your life. The traffic is also considerably lovelier and it does feel somewhat like driving around in your living room. Though, after the average 70 kilometer per hour insanity called driving in Delhi, life behind the wheel here certainly does have a slow motion-like quality to it.

The first thing I did after coming home (interestingly, after jumping over the compound wall) was to run around like a happy puppy going into all the rooms, followed by the backside of the kitchen and the terrace. And the funny thing, you know, in everything I’ve seen here again – roads, places and the house – is that they all look smaller to me. I do not know what to make of it, I am sure there are more than a couple of interesting explanations for it, but it certainly does feel like a small pond. I have always known it was a small town, but now it looks scaled down by a factor of one. Weird.

July 07, 2006

Excerpt

In the morning mist, on the third day after his arrival, it drizzled for the first time in many months in the little town. It was not unlike the region to have a few drops do more than just moisten the dry and mostly brittle ground underneath their feet. If anything, it was a bit late, but not by much – just like his lumbering presence that came into view a few feet away from the flowers and their seller – the unpredictable arrival of an expected guest.

Though, it needs to be said, he was anything but expected there. His arrival was announced in advance only to the old caretaker who now had a definite purpose to his regular scurrying around. With age advancing rapidly on him, the caretaker could only do the cleaning, dusting and stocking up on provisions and firewood at a slow clip. But his pace and gusto was anything but slow in scrambling together the stories of other visitors - regular, irregular and long dead – to be narrated by the fireside, on those long, quiet nights.

On mornings like that, the internal silent debate invariably shifts towards the necessity of any kind of protection against the elements. Not that it acted as a major deterrent against the walk through the milky whiteness of the early morning in the hills, but, significantly enough, it could make or break the desire to extend it, by another couple of hours or a few more miles. The right decision could make the difference between being drenched in a storm of absolute satisfaction, derived from the stunning desolateness of a distant hillside bathed in a shade of moisture-laden vibrant green and having to rush back to the cottage, having taken on board enough droplets to lay to waste any possibility of the desired recuperation.

On the third, in following the end-game of another such debate, he emerged into his usual point of insertion into the town’s market. And as all rural markets go, this one also did not have much more than the hopes and sales of its sellers resting above and underneath temporary flimsy structures. Over the past three days, he had become less of an oddity for the townsfolk. They guessed, intelligently and predictably, thanks to the regular stream of the cottage’s visitors, him to be another of its dwellers, there for a couple of days, a week or a month at the most; for, other than its desolateness, the town had little to offer, to both visitors and its inhabitants.

July 04, 2006

Some Loves

In the past couple of months, ever since the 'no-laptop-at-home-on-weekdays' policy came into being, my interest in reading has somewhat picked up a bit again. One of the major casualties of being able to access constantly updated information online and on-screen is that these days I can seldom bring myself to make time for things like books and movies. Both require patience and a degree of comfort (or discomfort) that grows with each passing frame and page, which is hard to acquire and maintain, just the same way relationships work out. Sometimes it is beautiful, sometimes it is just not meant to be, no matter how hard you try.

In that time period, I have finally managed to finish off Cat and Mouse by Gunter Grass, over a year after it was gifted to me, Pankaj Mishra's Butter chicken in Ludhiana and now I am spending some quality time with Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. Reading Grass is a bit like dating someone who is from a foreign country with the help of an interpreter. The translation is never THAT perfect and the idiosyncrasies of Grass' writing only serve to make things even difficult. This, incidentally, was not the first time I had given Grass a try. All previous attempts always ended with the second or third reference to Mhalke's bobbing adam's apple, which is constantly obsessed over in the book. All said and done, it was a relationship that promised a lot, with large dollops of childhood innocence added in, but it also fails to deliver at the same time.

After Grass, Pankaj Mishra and his travels all over India would have to rate as a classic rebound scenario. Reading him again, after my last shot with him in The Romantics, only serves to bring forth a mental grimace that only the constant presence of the most depressive of lovers can bring forth. The gusto which with he travels all over the country, in an excruciating attempt to find faults and snigger at everything, would make even Julian Barnes bitching about having a bad hair day in England look like Mother Teresa at her gentlest best. But at Rs 35, even if it was a copy phased out from the DPS R K Puram library, it was one of the better books stacked up at PVR Saket. After all, it did cost much lesser than a packet of Classic Milds cigarettes. Though, in retrospect, I have to say the cancer sticks would have been a better waste of money.

Woolf is the archetypical difficult relationship that you love to be in. You can't really figure out whether it is prose or poetry, since it looks like a bit of both and delving deep into her and her words is a process that takes dedicated time and effort. She does not give in easily, sending you off on tangential wild goose chases and an awkward writing style, which structures sentences in a manner that would make what's written inaccessible or incomprehensible for a fairly large percentage of the population. Which begs the question, why would anyone write something that difficult? Is it like a first line of defence or is the author being knowingly obstinate? Regardless, the book has a really delicious opening line "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself..." that got me to ignore the obstinacy and solider on. I might fall in love with it, but I won't count on it.

In its opening 20 minutes, Sideways makes you feel as if you are watching a low budget, badly scripted, badly shot and badly acted movie. In other words, a relationship that is way too wrong and way too common to have any chances of survival. Then it gradually grows, like the theme of wine that runs throughout the movie, on you. Though I will clarify that I am not a winehead to make any claims of 'knowing' my wine. I will also admit that the lead character, Miles, with his failed writing attempts, marriage and negativity reminded me quite a bit about myself and don't get me started on Virginia Madsen. I could have loved the movie for her alone.

So, the big day has drawn quite close and, rather predictably, I have nether done any of the shopping nor have I figured out for sure what I am going to do there for seven days, other than fending off the "son, it's time" comments from the world+dog there. That said, I am getting a day of extensive pampering, with a full body massage and whatnot for myself there. I should not be online most of the time, though I would try and blog it extensively when I get the time. Hopefully, I should have some pictures too up. Even if nothing happens, I would just love to curl up for days on end and watch the rain fall through the windows and do nothing else but eat good food, write and relax, just like the old days. But it won't quite be the same. Some loves are just like that. They happen only once to you.