Google PlusFacebookTwitter

Sleep-drunkenness

By on Jul 29, 2010 in Personal | 7 comments

After an initial two weeks of confusion in my body clock (and waking up at 11pm to eat ‘breakfast’), you might find this hard to believe that I wake up these days at 5am without fail. Except when I totally don’t (like this one day when I woke up at 6am instead). This is, I’ve been told by my mom, a ‘considerable improvement’. Four days ago I went to sleep at 3am but woke up at the now-reasonable time of 5am. By the time it was evening I had drunk two large Café Americanos to keep myself awake. The caffeine rush didn’t allow me to go to sleep despite the fact that I was close to passing out, a feeling akin to being stuck in limbo. Not willing to procrastinate I went apeshit crazy coming up with concepts for future works of fiction on this blog, such as The Slightly Greasy Dosa of Bangalore – an upcoming novel featuring Robert Langdon, and a sociopolitical campaign tentatively titled The Disloyal Subjects of Chetan ‘Underscore’ Bhagat. I spammed my friends with text messages detailing plans for both projects before dropping-dead asleep. I call this state sleep-drunkenness – and it’s a state of mine that university friends will be familiar with too. There was this one time when we had submit a general electronic assignment and a programming assignment within two days of each other – apart from all the copyediting that I needed to do for a new issue of the student newspaper. I had been working for about 36 hours without sleep, propping myself up with regular “double shot espresso without sugar quick!” at Starbucks. That’s when the fun started. (Pardon me for any gaps in the narrative that follows. It has been pieced together from what friends told me later.) Breakfast and lunch were activities that I had skipped on the day that I staggered into our programming lab at 9pm, ostensibly to complete my assignment. I sat there for quarter of an hour absolutely quiet and doing nothing, then finished a pack of Doritos – as I apparently told others from my course who were present – “for dinner”. I then proceeded to search online for pictures of cows listening to music with headphones. You’ll be (dis)pleased to know that such a picture, in fact, does exist. My rationale for this act was that I “needed inspiration for a publicity poster that I was working on for The Stag“. My friends agreed that the publicity poster was indeed funny when I went around showing it to them – and then chorused “Go home and sleep Ankur!” Reluctantly, I decided to heed their advice. The story isn’t over yet! While I was walking back to my room from the lab I sent a text message to random people in my phonebook saying that I had seen… …a man riding a motorcycle who had a backpack in the shape of a cellphone – the old kinda cellphone that used to have an antenna stub sticking out; moreover, the whole cellphone-shaped backpack was covered in shiny tin-foil. Too little sleep and too much caffeine in results in extremely weird behaviour, and I end up doing this more often that you thin. (I admit this isn’t the weirdest text message. That honour goes to a message I sent once, again to many people in my phonebook, asking where the nearest nuclear bomb shelter was from Guildford.) **** In the lead-up to our end of the year exams, I spent most of my time in the library catching up on the all lectures I did not attend, and the ones that I did attend but did not pay attention too. Students from our course used to camp in the library – some actually sleeping and showering in the there rather than going back home to sleep. I was lucky that my house wasn’t that far away from the library, so I could pop back for a nap. I didn’t get to sleep much in those weeks either – say, 1-2 two hours at max as I slaved away fuelled by chips, pizza, Oreos, and Red Bull (“They’re like cocaine, only they taste like fruit that someone sat on.”). I had to stay awake. I drank about four cans of Red Bull (80mg of caffeine per can) to keep awake until 4am, followed by another can (80mg) in the morning and a shot of Lucozade Alert Plus (120mg of caffeine in a small 60mL shot). In a surprising display of honesty of what its energy drink tastes like, Lucozade made an ad for this product (almost) comparing it to a potion made of “monkey anus glands, male lizard balls, earthworms, and spit”. With almost 500mg of caffeine ingested in a short span of 7-8 hours coursing through my bloodstream every day, I used to be so wired that a friend actually looked up ‘lethal caffeine dosage’ in medical journals. (Result – doctors know what the limit is for rats, but not for humans.) My heart is super-strong. :D It did not give out nor I did not otherwise drop dead from drinking too much Red...

Open letter to Whoever-The-Fuck-Created-This-HSBC-Ad

By on Jul 7, 2010 in Uncategorized | 18 comments

Dear HSBC, Here is an advertisement your bank released in today’s edition of HT Business. I found this ad perplexing at multiple levels, and wanted to have a chat with you about it. Let’s start with the sardar wearing a kilt. Groan stereotype groan. With a bar on top telling you the location, I feel it wasn’t necessary. Not everyone in Scotland wears a kilt. What really baffles me is the heading: Living below the equator doesn’t mean you won’t be recognized above it. Newsflash, dear HSBC – no part of India is “below the equator”, definitely no part of India where non-kilt-wearing Punjab da puttars live. You, HSBC, started off as Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and are now headquartered in London. None of the cities – Hong Kong, Shanghai, London – are “below the equator” either, so you can’t weasel out using that excuse. For an ad marketing premium banking services to a geographically displaced traveller (probably people you refer to internally in the bank as “high-value customers”, as if they are some sort expensive cattle to be reined in within a ranch), [start sarcasm] this ad inspires great confidence in you bank’s capabilities [end sarcasm]. Do you know how intelligent you come off as in this ad, HSBC? You sound as if a bunch of hillbilly rednecks who “dun ‘now no thang ’bout this geology thang”. What’s that I hear you say, HSBC? Your employees didn’t make this ad? You hired an ad agency to do it? Well then, surely somebody in your company would have at least looked at an ad you were going to spend millions funding, right? Right? It would have worked in Australia. It would have worked in South Africa. India? I think not. Until the next time then, HSBC, or perhaps, never… Love and kisses, Ankur x PS – It would be so fucking ironic, dear HSBC, if my blog started showing ads from your bank around this blog post. You may have a laugh about that at my expense. kthxbai. Update: Someone from an IP address belonging to ‘HSBC Bank Plc, London’ has been reading this page for over six hours today. Maybe they’d want to fill out the butthurt report...

India.

By on Jun 25, 2010 in Personal | 12 comments

My first year at University of Surrey is over, and I’m back from the UK to India. Feels good to be back. :) Yes, there’s that niggling issue of the weather in New Delhi being a bitch. When in Guildford I thought that that was hot; obviously, I had forgotten how sweltering Delhi heat can be. Temperature outside is hovering around 42°C right now. When I landed at Delhi airport, it felt like coming to a new country. Not because Delhi airport had changed radically during the period I wasn’t here (it had already been improved since the ‘old’ days), but because I had arrived with a net value of zero Indian currency in my wallet, an O2 SIM card with hardly any balance left on it to make or receive calls, a NatWest debit card (with which when I tried to withdraw cash, the ATM cheerily printed off a receipt saying “Your cash has been dispensed – Amount Rs sorry, unable to dispense cash”), and dragging a heavy piece of luggage. Off-topic: In case you haven’t seen the ad above, watch it (this is valid both for Indian and non-Indian visitors). For once, the Indian government has made an advertisement that is actually engaging, peppy and would make people want to come to India rather than a soporific ‘documentary’ featuring random shots of elephants, coastlines, and temples. Kudos to whichever ad agency that made this commercial. I finally did make it home and spent the first few minutes writhing on the floor in agony – trying to cool myself down using the floor. I almost instantly regretted that decision. As it turns out, in my absence a colony of ants had taken up residence in my room. Jumped onto my bed with a sharp yelp and have been trying to sort out my sleep cycle since. My sleep schedule over the last two weeks had been fucked because of irregularities caused by exam prep anyway, so right now my body clock is totally confused. I feel hungry / sleepy sometimes according to BST, sometimes according to IST, and sometimes according to whatever timezone one of those tiny Pacific Ocean islands have. I sleep in short naps throughout the day, rather than at any particular time. Not much has changed since I was last here. I even got a duplicate SIM for old cellphone number here. People have been calling up to ‘reassure’ me that the temperatures have been this high only for ‘the past few days’, which isn’t reassuring at all. Here’s hoping that regression toward the mean results in slightly more bearable days ahead. There’s so much to catch up with! Met Amrit, Karmanya, and Prateek today, ostensibly as an impromptu meeting to discuss the “future of gyaan.in” but we ending up chatting more about colleges they’re heading off to, reminiscing old times, and just generally catching up with what’s been happening over the past few months. We had positive feedback to gyaan.in’s first quiz held recently, and one of the things that we did discuss talking about gyaan.in was about holding another quiz in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for that! Leaving after my first year was quite an emotional roller-coaster for me. You see, I’m going to do my second academic year on a study exchange at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Our university has exchange agreements with universities in the US, Australia, Europe, Asia – NTU being one of them. I’d have loved to apply for European universities too, but you need to know the language of the partner country. The application process for my study exchange has been long-drawn because you need to get nominated by your home institution first after seeking approval of personal tutor, exchange coordinator, director of undergraduate studies, dean of faculty (these people need to believe that you’re academically good before they back the nomination with university approval); then fill out dozens of forms from the home university’s as well as the partner university’s international relations office; go back and forth seeking more approvals. It’s a lot of paperwork with a bit of anxiety thrown in because I as an applicant and the university need to ensure that the module that I will be studying at the partner institution is compatible. Things are notably easier if you go on an exchange just for one semester, but when you go for a whole year it’s “a lot more complicated”, apparently. Over the past nine months, I have made some great friends in the UK – people working at MAD TV and The Stag, people on my course, people whom I know through the Students’ Union, people from work at SCEPTrE, people from the university in general. I’ve enjoyed some good times over the past months, and it makes me sad that I won’t be in university proper for the next two years (second year in Singapore, third year in industrial placement). By that time, many of these people whom I have become acquainted with would have graduated and moved on to other things. I had only started to my journey on becoming truly close friends with some people – especially with those on my course as we sat down for all-nighters in the library preparing for exams. At the same time, I’m excited about future prospects! I’ll be continuing with my electronics and computer engineering pathway in NTU, and the course...

IPL, YouTube, and Cricket in UK

By on Apr 24, 2010 in On A Whim | 4 comments

So, the Indian Premier League 2010 extravaganza is finally coming to an end tomorrow. Nothing really causes as much upheaval among the masses in India as cricket does. This year, it has resulted in a minister in the Indian government having to resign, income tax raids, and the head honcho of the IPL potentially getting sacked too. Over the past weeks, the amount of space Indian media devoted to this event has been staggering – as always. Let’s take a few steps back, for the sake of my UK visitors. IPL is a Twenty20 cricket tournament held annually in India, run somewhat along the lines of EPL. Privately-owned teams consisting of players from most of the cricket playing nations are signed on to these teams and knockout type sporting event proceeds. Why do I bother to explain this? Because I’ve realized in my stay here that nobody really gives a shit about cricket in UK. You see, cricket in UK is a bit like hockey in India, i.e., nobody really gives a shit because everyone is busy following a more popular sport (cricket in India, football in UK.) Here’s the typical demographic of sports fans in UK: Posh chaps, Barmy Army members, and Indians follow/play cricket. Cricket fans in UK are, as a rule, fucking annoying. Consider, for instance, this chap who write in The Stag on our university’s cricket team’s ‘achievements’. This involved crashing out in the first stage of a tournament – and still having the balls to write an annoying article where he changed the nicknames of his players every. fucking. time. I was so fucking annoyed copy-editing this article that if I ever meet this guy, I’ll beat him to death with a spoon. Everybody follows soccer football. Goes without saying. Hooligans who can afford to buy match tickets are often posh chavs. Any visitor of YouTube would at least heard of IPL though, thanks to the loud flashing ads. If you’ve been unlucky enough you’d even have been bombarded with this video-as-an-ad the moment you opened YouTube’s frontpage. Take a moment to see this video I’m talking about. Jai Ho is a song that has captured a niche similar to that of All The Young Dudes in semi-urban Hollywood movie trailers. You know, ever have those days when you really wanted to make an ad that said ‘India’ but couldn’t figure out what to put as the soundtrack? Why, just use Jai Ho! Also, going by this video, IPL is the bastard child of a one-stand between cricket and dance reality shows. I’m not a follower of cricket. Never bothered that much about IPL when I was in India. However, when you’re so many miles/mules away from home, nostalgia draws you towards clinging on to whatever you can get. Such as (sometimes) watching IPL matches being live streamed on YouTube. For most normal videos, YouTube automatically adjusts video quality according to connection speed. Naturally, having oodles of bandwidth here I expected to get a high quality stream. What do I actually get? A rectangular box filled with pixellated mess whenever any sort of action is happening on-screen. You can vaguely make out that a colourful blob is moving from one end of the screen to another, but precisely what’s happening is unclear. High speed broadband isn’t that common in India, so a lower quality stream for slower connections is fine, but if you want to attract viewers overseas you need a decent, viewable broadcast! YouTube has a lot to prove, since this is the first time it’s live streaming any sporting event – that too with an event on the scale of IPL (duration, money involved, audience, et al). You’d think that with so much riding on this, YouTube would hire competent editors to see the webcast goes smoothly. Unfortunately, ‘competent editors’ is one of other items on their budget that faced cutbacks. I mean, look at the video below. What they’ve done is they’ve taken standard 4:3 aspect ratio video and squashed it into a widescreen 16:9 format. Listen r-tards, squashing the bejaysus out of a (pixellated) 4:3 video into widescreen doesn’t automatically make it better quality. Nobody at YouTube HQ seems to’ve bothered to notice and rectify this either. So far, watching IPL on YouTube has been like watching six hours of a Pac-Man game video interspersed with obnoxious ads. Maybe switching the camera angle will help? I thought that this would show the same match from a different angle – that would indeed be neat, but instead it turns out to be a ‘fun feed’. Blinking arrows on the streaming page exhort you to view this ‘fun feed’. Intrigued, I clicked on a ‘fun feed’ video. This is so much phun. You have to see this video! From what I gather, these ‘fun feed’ videos are supposed to be a recap of ‘fun’ moments from a particular cricket match. Going through some of the videos at random, I’d say that if these are the best moments of the match, then I feel sorry for the viewers. What you get is a poor quality video: poor quality because it mostly consists crowds not doing the Mexican wave (or pretty much anything); poor quality in the technical sense because you can ratchet it all the way up to 720p HD on and still get the same blurry pixellated mess that you get at...

The Mott The Hoople monopoly

By on Apr 5, 2010 in Reviews | 3 comments

I went back to the ‘flea pit’ at the start of this week to watch Shutter Island. I have resigned by now to the fact that there won’t be an intermission, so grudgingly stock up on snacks and drinks accordingly. To prepare fully, I’ve even bookmarked runpee.com on my cellphone. (It tells you the most ‘optimum moments’ to run and pee during a film, in case nature calls. Gives you a summary of what you’ll miss at that point.) Odeon has recently started offering candy floss too, and it reminded me of childhood days. It all began with the customary advertisement overload of course. This Nissan ‘giant paintball’ commercial stood out from the rest. Not as good as this other commercial from Nissan, which might possibly be the best car commercial ever. ;) That was followed by trailers for upcoming films. I had a moment of enlightenment during that. You know how James Brown‘s I Feel Good has to be used in a montage sequence in any movie billed as a family movie? When the trailer for Cemetery Junction was shown, I couldn’t help but notice how Mott The Hoople‘s All The Young Dudes is almost always used in any movie trailer that is a) set in rural/semi-suburban areas b) quite probably an indie movie c) ultimately, has a feel-good plot. Do moviemakers get a discount coupon if they agree to use the same song for trailers multiple times? Gritty reboots seem to be the order of the day. Who knew that a bumbling fool à la Robin Hood would get a gritty reboot too, with hotheaded Russell Crowe portraying the lead? I mean, come on. This feels more like Gladiator (and the story too) rather than a legend Mel Brooks could have even thought of lampooning. The movie will be exciting though – with Ridley Scott directing! One of my greatest dreads when I go to the cinema is encountering tall people. I hate having to spend close to two hours craning my neck to see past the tall dude in the seat in front of me. Another of my greatest dreads is that people in neighbouring seats will be of the variety which can’t stop talking. The gods were particularly cruel to me that, for I had a tall bloke with spiky hair blocking my vision. What took the biscuit as far as annoying neighbours go was an annoying group that was sitting a few seats away. There was one guy in this group who was translating the whole frikkin’ movie from English to Arabic (or some similar language), loudly at that. Really, they should’ve stayed at home and caught the DVD (with Arabic subtitles) when it was released. My rating of Shutter Island: 8.5 / 10 Directed by: Martin Scorsese Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer Studio: Paramount Pictures Reviews of Shutter Island have universally been saying that while it’s a good movie, it’s not a great movie – coming from Martin Scorsese. This ‘lazy’ story is being attributed to Martin Scorsese. While agree with the diagnosis, I don’t agree with the verdict that it makes the movie worse. Why does every suspense need to be in-your-face with tightly shot action sequences? Shutter Island works and needs that slow pacing because it’s a psychological thriller. After watching the movie, I read Dennis Lehane’s novel version on which the movie is based. Turns out that the movie is an exact reproduction of the novel – down to every line of dialogue. Some changes have been made in the [spoiler] hallucinations that Leonardo DiCaprio has, but apart from that it sticks faithfully to its source material. In that situation, it’s a case of you like the plot – or you don’t. Nothing to do with how Martin Scorsese has done or not. And boy what a psychological thriller it is! Shutter Island may not reach the iconic levels that Fight Club did, but if you enjoyed watching Fight Club, you’ll surely find this a good movie too. Related articles by Zemanta Pickles at the picture show? (cnn.com) The Latest Robin Hood Trailer: No Longer Just Gladiator II! (nymag.com) Shutter Island Review...