August 29, 2006

Percentages

When do you know for sure that enough is enough? It is applicable in both cases - good and bad. If you go by a purely numerical definition, good or bad enough could probably be defined as anything that is 'x' units above the halfway point. That way, if you spend even 49% of your time in a particular situation in a good way (and 51% of the time in a bad way), you would still end up with two additional units of bad. Would that mean it would be a good idea to cut your losses, ditch the situation and move on ahead? Of course not.

The problem with people and relationships is that you can't ever really quantify either. A fair number of people exist in situations where 90% of the time spent is practically living hell for them; but the other 10% is, according to them, absolute heaven, which redeems the otherwise lousy situation. Naturally, in such circumstances, the good is given a higher weightage than the bad. Is that a smart idea? Well, I don't know. Whatever that rocks your boat, as they say, even if I may not agree with it. Moreover, factors such as practical considerations, only serve to muddy the waters further.

The question actually covers a whole lot of things other than just relationships. For example, you know you are putting on weight, but you are not overweight yet. So you get a particular weight in mind that would quantify the state of being overweight or a state of lurching rapidly towards it. But where exactly is that point? Is that point somewhere you can easily climb down from, like a minor flirtation over the lower limit or is it the minimum possible gap towards the upper limit, from where the climb down is a long way off, but not quite over the upper limit?

These are interesting questions to ponder, but very real ones too. People face it every day and deal with it using different methods. Some morbidly overweigh the little good and sign up for a lifetime of unbearable suffering, others make well-judged and sensible decisions that hover around the 50-50 level, which is more or less failsafe, while other idiots like me look for the 90% good and 10% bad to make the call that it is actually enough. Strangely, it is probably the 90% good rule that is the most prejudicial, especially if the other party has the lousy fortune to present the bad 10% up front first.

August 27, 2006

Reasons

I think it is about time I gave up on the ‘have no time for this’ excuse and wade out into the open with the possible real reasons as to why I have been blogging lesser and lesser these days. First on the list would be the fact that my blog is awfully boring. I mean, there are only so many ways in which you can put forth the same crap again and again, and when you yourself have trouble reading all that you’ve written, it is a fairly good indication that it has become somewhat more than unbearable.

The second reason is, no matter how much I would want to deny it, that the loss of anonymity has taken a bit of a toll. In the early days, only a couple of close friends knew about the blog, which later grew to include a lot of friends. These days almost everyone knows - including a lot of people at work – about the who, the what and the where. By nature, I am a bit of a private person and these days I don’t get any time to be that. If I have to pretend to be nice and write about how lovely the weather is when it is not exactly beating down with niceness out there, then there really would be no point to this.

Then there is also the fact that I am a bit bored and disappointed with the entire blogging circus, especially in the Indian context. There are a couple of reasons I could come up with as to why it is so, but I can’t put my finger on the real big issue that could be the reason. Quite a bit of it is the inflated participation numbers. There are un-conferences and whatnot going on these days about it, but it does lack the personal touch of the early days. There is just no warmth, but a lot of vain posturing and turf wars over almost everything. Maybe it is also the fact that I find the other side – of facilitating conversations and making the business case for it – more exciting than the conversations themselves now.

These days, every time I sit down to write, my mind just blocks the thoughts out. As an old habit and as something I used to like doing, I do want to write; but, as something that involves going out into the open with what I feel and think, I don’t feel like doing it anymore. At a personal level too I’ve become more guarded, a lot less expectant and generally a whole lot less willing to put a lot on the line. It is not the most brilliant state of mind to be in, but it is not all that bad either.

In general, I think the truth is that I’ve been yearning better company, better conversations and better ways to spend my time. It is true that I have very little of it with me these days and I can’t honestly complain much about it because I quite like it this way and I am treated quite well too. But that does encroach on my personal time. As a person who used to lavish a lot of that on friends and close ones, it is a bit of a struggle now to do that any day or even as infrequently as once a week. That said, the realizations it has led to has been quite intriguing.

The thing is, a lot of the interactions you have on a daily basis arise out of necessities. In regular, mundane life, that could be having polite conversations with people from the milkman to the cabbie, not because it is absolutely necessary (you won’t exactly stop getting any milk or be left unable to hire a cab if you don’t do all those), but because it makes things easier for a variety of reasons; some of which makes things easier for you, while the others make it easier for the other party.

In personal life too, things tend to be the same. It is not that you’d exactly stop being alive if you were to suddenly stop being nice and caring on a superficial level. Most of the people you know and interact with often, would gladly give up stopping by you if you were to guarantee them safe passage in terms of what they desire from you. It is quite the same if the roles are reversed too. How often do you say “that’s so awful” to someone else almost out of an impulse than because you actually feel that is awful? By the same turn, how often do you count on hearing the same from others? Of course, you can accuse me of extreme cynicism, but I don’t think you can accuse me of being not right.

But what’s blogging got to do with any of this? Beats me. But the strange thing is that after what I guess must be a couple of hundred words, I still have not mentioned important things that have happened to me recently, like developments at work, an excellent trip to Bombay and even the fact that I went to work and back on a bike after almost a year and how overwhelming an experience it was. Instead, I am putting up a smokescreen to pretend that I am saying something useful or important, while all that I am doing is to try and bore you to death to see if you ‘really’ want to hear what I want to say?

So, what if a voice stands up and say ‘yes’? That would be quite an interesting turn of events, for I have no clue what I would do in that case. See, I guess what I am getting at is that I am quite a boring person who pretends to be more interesting or intriguing than what I really am. Of course, none of the older imagery regarding myself has been accidental. I’ve played, more than willingly, to the gallery and contributed to the situation in huge parts. I guess I am asking to be left alone, but it is hugely interesting that anyone should ask for precisely that on a blog.

August 26, 2006

Bloggitus Interruptus

Honestly, I can't pick between Bombay and Delhi, both seem awfully bad at the same time, though the familiarity of Delhi is always something to look forward to, while the eateries (they almost always do good food in the seaside town as a rule and the decor does not smack of cheapness under the covers) are a pleasure in Bombay.

To cut a long story short, it was three days of not much else but a lot a lot hard work, heavy eating and heavy drinking in Bombay. Now that I am back here, it is time for the follow up, I guess blogging would be one of the parties to suffer immediately as a result, if it has not already. And I've finally gotten an invite at Vox, and it rocks too.

August 18, 2006

Inconsequential

I do not know what is more scary, that you have settled into a risk-free rhythm with yourself without any effort or that with each passing day more of the frivolous aims and targets disappear one-by-one? Maybe these are the essential rites of passage, before you take the final steps into the hallowed portals of definite adulthood, that the lack of any real expectations fail to do much more than amuse you, when you can spare the time for it.

There are places where things used to be kept, which now gawk back empty at me and I am baffled once again, for I can't remember what used to be kept there. There are faint echoes of familiar laughter and memories that streak away like shadows flying from light. To strike up a marginal flame, to aid the vision and warmth, I feign curiosity. I feign a genuine inclination towards learning. But I already know how the story goes and all the lessons that are to come. I am such a fake and an excellent one at that.

I could almost say I am married. To predictability and a lack of surprise. The crimes I accuse others of, are the crimes that I too specialise in. I look into your blindness with my darkened soul and float in and out like the tide, soaking up everything, yet retaining nothing and stay un-retained in everything. It is fearful to contemplate that this sentence might be for a lifetime, for a singular count of the ghastly crime of being born.

I look into the eyes of complete strangers, wondering, hoping, that you are one of them, but they never look back, so would you. If your lips were to break, even into the hint of a smile, I could genuinely laugh back, even at the risk of being mocked again, but they never smile, so would you. I plan and I plot, as I walk and I drive around that curve, of the things I could say and the things we could do. But you were never where I was and will never be where I could be.

August 15, 2006

Sail

It so happens once probably in everyone's life that you tug really hard at the rudder and hoist the sails in a direction much removed from the one where the usual winds happen to pass by. I have gradually been spending lesser and lesser time under the temporary shelter lent by the awning of youthful exuberance. I am not sure if it was intentional or if it all happened by chance, but the days of endless revelry, reckless love and pining over all things strange have all but disappeared. For better, than for worse, it is finally a good time to chart a new course and look for destinations new, without actually going anywhere.

The Upgrade That Was Not

Hell has frozen over! Blogger is rolling out a new backend. On second thoughts, it is only getting a bit chilly out here, but it certainly ain't cool enough for things to freeze over. At least not yet. Apparently, the greatest of the changes is in a place where the end user, like you and me, don't see much of. Blogger is going off the static publishing set up (one where it would pick up content from its database and spit out static HTML and XML files based on the templates and settings you had specified) and moving to a new set up where all the content is served dynamically (the way in which Wordpress blogs functions now).

The immediate change you'll get to see is a top bar, quite similar to wordpress.com once again, that will show you as logged in and also display other useful information, if you are logged in. Behind the scenes, and I am guessing here, the entire operation would now move to an application server (probably the same server that handles the posting/editing backend) from the old set up which was probably serving a directory of files based on the host header. The other significant change is the authentication part, for which you can now use your Google account (for new blogs, not for existing blogs) or your old Blogger account. The logic there is quite mixed up and needs a lot of work.

That said, the new beta is a complete dud compared to Wordpress.com. The interface is still the dated, clunky one and true to the beta label, some of the stuff is broken, like the new WYSIWYG layout editor that was spewing out Ajax debug information on to my screen when it was not functioning as intended. Access control is nice, but I did not see the option for controlling access per post and determining access on the blog level is not a fun thing to do.

The good points? Well, the archive links are laid out much better now and there are Atom feeds for posts and comments (per post too) now. There is also something called "labels", which looks like a bastard child that resulted from a love making session between tags and categories. Pretty nice, but once again it is something they should have had yesterday.

But someone really has to get some new default templates into the system pretty soon. I am sick of seeing the same 10 all over the place. And the upgrade itself is symptomatic of how Google treats Blogger, more like a stepchild than as a product that deserves a whole lot more of attention and resources allocated to it. Yeah, I know, it is not easy to roll out features for a framework that supports a huge number of users, compared to something like wordpress.com that is new and had a clean sheet of paper to start with. But it can't be that difficult either. After all, it is all just a data, pulled in and out of database servers and presented on web servers.

August 14, 2006

Lovely Writer

Thanks to Chris, I stumbled upon Windows Live Writer. Till date, I've used a variety of blogging clients like wbloggar, ecto, Performancing for Firefox (the current one) and almost everything else that supports the Metaweblog API. And I have to say I am quite impressed. The only weak point I can see is that it does not allow easy Technorati tagging like how Performancing does. Now, for the positives:

  • WYSISWYG authoring with non-MS Office mangled HTML source.
  • "Web Preview" that allows you to see the post within your blog's layout without having to publish it.
  • Multiple account support (meaning that you can post to Blogger, Wordpress, Windows Live Spaces etc).
  • Spell check (ahem, one feature that's badly needed for most bloggers).
  • SDK to integrate other services (that should take care of my tagging complaint).
  • Support for RSD, Metaweblog API and Movable Type API (in layman lingo that means it would support most of the blogging services out of the box without forcing you to wade into the ugly tech details).
  • Absolutely spanking support for embedding images.

So the verdict for now is that it is really a non-Microsoft product in terms of being usable and irritation factor. There are downsides like being based on .Net and a standalone application. But for most Average Joes, this would really be a great addition to the regular blogging toolbox.

p.s: The spell checker does not have the word 'blogging' in its default dictionary. Now, that's really hilarious.

Update: Tim Heuer, as promised, has made the Flickr and Tagging plugins.

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August 10, 2006

Satisfy Me!

When you start a new business in an already crowded market place do make sure you get one thing right - go out of your way to satisfy your initial set of customers and treat them like you'd treat the most valuable person in your life. This holds true even more in the food industry where established tastes and loyalties are hard to switch and you get more or less only one go at getting them to move.

Yesterday night, I wanted to order out from a new joint in Saket, called The Blue Tandoor, because I was more or less sick of the existing joints there. There are more than enough eateries out there, mostly around the PVR Anupam area, but almost all of them follow the cost saving approach to cooking non vegetarian food, which uses the base marinated meat that's given the final treatment/masala/garnishing according to the order.

The only other joints in the vicinity, who do it differently are Cafe Rendezvous and Swagat in Malviya Nagar and neither specialise in doing Mughlai. So, at least in theory, they do have a window of opportunity in serving to a niche within the food spectrum that has a ready and massive audience in the area they are located in. But they botched it up and in a terrible way.

Firstly, their menu card did not have the minimum order figure listed anywhere. Second, it was priced too high, at Rs 500. When your price point of your main dishes is at an average of Rs 250, it would be hard to top that figure. And most people who use home delivery don't often order three course meals, thus making the "sir, please get a starter or a dessert" line a non-starter.

I spent five minutes with them ordering what I wanted to order, after which the chap told me that it fell short of the Rs 500 mark, following which placed the order with my regular chap who was only too glad to serve me, and even better they call up the day after asking if there were any problems with delivery and quality. Five minutes after I placed the other order, the chap called me back clarifying that the manager had said they would serve me. Nice, but it was too late by then.

I have seen this across Delhi, that new joints or even older ones, don't value their new customers. Most times, going out of your way just once for a new customer could win him/her for you for a long time. And good service also works to get you brownie points in terms of peer-to-peer reviews. One satisfied customer often leads to many more from the same segment. Just one among the many points that's lost on them.

August 07, 2006

Company

On the daily late evening drive back home there is often not a lot to lift my eyes and thoughts away from whatever that is occupying it at that point. On most days it is mostly all about nasty traffic and roads, messed up by both the weather and the never ending construction and the exceptionally brilliant evening skies on those days when I can manage to drag myself out of the office before sundown. On the odd occasion, when the traffic holds up for long enough, I get to see a couple or two, sometimes in a car, or like today, on a motorcycle zip by and I wonder what is it that they really feel?

Sometimes it is very evident, like it was day-before-yesterday night, on the table adjacent to ours where there were two couples with expressions on their faces that ranged from indifference to regret. Then there are the happy ones, at least they appear to be so, and you wonder if they are one of those couples who appear to be shipshape on the surface and in quite a bit of a mess underneath. But appearances were not what I was getting at here, it is more about that empty feeling that often greets you when get home, park the car, pick up the bag and walk in and there is actually nobody home.

The strange thing is that I am not depressed or down in the dumps about it. I don't have the time for any of that and honestly I am quite happy with where I am and what I do; but I do crave for company that I like every now and then. The world+dog, of course, has the age-old quick fix solution for it: Get Married Like Now! I really don't have anything against it either, but really, I can't look at a person and decide in five minutes, or even five months, if she is the right one. More so because I am completely anal about a couple of things that makes my pool of possible/probable options even more miniscule/non-existent.

A major issue is that I've pretty much crossed the part where I could change myself to fit into a relationship. I've put in a lot of effort to get to where I am and I would, probably never, throw away all that in the name of love or things similar to it. Speaking of which even romance or its embryonic stage - attraction - is something that I've not known in a long time. Relationships are mostly a practical arrangement, but for even that you need to give people and circumstances a chance and enough time. I have neither to give right now. And after three major relationships and a handful of flings in six years, curiosity and intrigue does fade a fair bit.

Strangely, I don't want to be with anyone to get hot steaming food when I come home or get my clothes washed. I manage the former quite well by myself and money does afford good part time domestic help who do their part in keeping the place clean. That said, I do genuinely regret not getting enough time to spend at home. The empty feeling notwithstanding, I love the familiar smell that it greets me with when I open the door and turn on the lights. Then over to the fridge freshly stocked over the weekend, the tiny kitchen and later on to the low bed, the triumvirate of pillows and the television that sits now on the wardrobe.

It is really not that bad and life is good, but who said you can't ever ask for even more?

Oh, just shove it, really

Because I am number one, very old and very naked too. No other Indian blogger, (and I stress NO OTHER), features on the first page of results for Google search for "looking for females in bangalore for fun with cell numbers", "Nude deepa sahi" and "prostitutes in noida film city". Which other Indian blogger can claim to have done such a lot of invaluable service to the Indian bloggogol? I repeat, like dear Mr Leghorn would have said, I am the nakedest, oldest and number onest. Now that the point is clear, old, loud and very naked, feel free to get on with your respective blogging lives.

p.s: for my honest (cross my evil dark heart) take on this and background information do read this. For I know (because I am the oldest, nakedest and number onest Indian blogger) that all of you clothed, younger and non-number one bloggers have too much of time on your hands. Please to be clicking the Google ads on your way out too and help this naked emperor get some clothes. Please, purty please?

August 01, 2006

Afraid


Threesome
Originally uploaded by codelust.
"If you have an infant and the baby has gas, burping the baby is being a good parent. But when you have a 10-year-old who has metaphoric gas, you don't have to burp him. You have to let him sit with it, try to figure out what to do about it. He then learns to tolerate moderate amounts of difficulty, and it's not the end of the world."
-- From A Nation of Wimps.

Almost a month ago I ran into my niece again after seeing her for the first time when she was some seven months old. It is scary to be around the little children of today, for they are anything but children as we know them. They are almost born competitive straight out of the box and have feelings, needs and reactions that are quite different from what we used to have as kids. It must be so very difficult to be one of them these days.

I think we are gradually forgetting that it is okay to be not okay all the time. Somehow we have to project an attitude/image of invincibility and ruthlessness even when we don't quite feel like it. In the process, we often forget that we are human after all and that the same is the case for people around us. Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, step back and count the good things, including whatever bits of sanity left, we have in life.

We don't need to be scared, at least not all the time.

Enough

I think a week's worth of self-inflicted torture should be good enough punishment. Don't you agree?

Hello, world. Again.