Hallam Foe

First saw it couple of years back. Was sifting through my movie archive last week when I saw it and decided to watch it again.

Hallam Foe is a teenager in rural Scotland who mostly spends his time in a treehouse snooping around with his binoculars and chronicling things he sees in a secret diary. He’s been distraught since his mother’s death, who he was really close to, and keeps a wide variety of her things in the treehouse. He suspects his young step mother who used to be his father’s secretary of plotting to drown his mother. He accuses her of the same and ends up having an argument and decides to run away from home.

He lands up in London where he comes across a woman who looks like a younger version of his mother and follows her around. She turns out to be working at a Hotel and he approaches her for a job, ending up as a kitchen porter in the same hotel and ends up in some embarrassing misadventures. Watch the film for more.

Hallam Foe is a little weird but has some endearing qualities which help you get past the rest. All in all, quite a refreshing watch.

Ride to Nandi Hill

112 km 05:56 18.9km/h pace

My first century ride! Rode in a group of 5 in an odd combination of hybrids, MTBs and even a single speed. Things went well till we reached the base, got a little difficult the first few kms into the climb and the final few kms even saw me taking a walk on really steep gradients.

Tried to not go too fast downhill as there was a crazy guy on a Honda CBR continuously going up and down, still managed it in about 12-13 mins apart from a break when we had to stop to help one of the guys who had a fall after hitting the side wall.

After reaching the base and on the way back to the highway, a long stretch with a slight downhill lighted up my eyes. Went into sprint mode and reached 56.1 kmph, beating the old max speed of 49.6 kmph easily. Speed really reduced in the final 20 kms as I began to feel the noon sun sapping away my energy. Reached home in the afternoon, tired but accomplished :)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Toru Okada loses his job. Then his cat. Then his wife.

What follows is a most bizarre journey.

He meets two psychic sisters, who help him in his search. Inexplicably grows a blue patch on his face. Befriends a high school student who’s part time job is to observe men’s hair patterns. Decides to hangout in a well and gets trapped inside for days. Meets a WW2 veteran who recalls his tortuous and bizarre experiences as a young Japanese officer in Manchukuo who becomes a PoW in a Russian slave labour camp. Meets another WW2 survivor who ‘cures’ people and her son who stopped speaking at the age of 6, inspite of being capable of doing so.

Amazing, mind blowing book with such a wide scope that when you finish reading it you feel you’ve come a long way from where you began.

PS :
A friend borrowed my original copy for a trip abroad when I was midway through, never to return it. I ended up buying another copy after quite a bit of waiting. This was my third Murakami book, following ‘Kafka on the shore’ and ‘South of the border, west of the sun’ chronologically, and I recently finished my first collection of short stories by the same author – ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’, another great read. Bought ‘Norwegian Wood’ recently, should be starting it soon.

Auto generated Dan Brown plot

Waspy McWasp, the ruggedly handsome, world renowned Harvard professor of Useless Crapology is summoned to Europe to analyze the mysterious murder of a famous scientist of some sort . While there, he discovers evidence of the unimaginable – the definitive and substantial proof of the tooth fairy. He must work with Elizabeth, the extremely beautiful and intelligent cryptographer, in order to beat the clock and unlock the mystery.

Waspy McWasp’s worst fears are confirmed when he discovers that a crazy desert raider has been murdering innocent victims, including a bunch of cute penguins. He and Elizabeth must rush against the clock, and use their knowledge of obscure art, ambiguous history, impossible computer science theory, and inaccurate theology, as their investigation takes them through the mysterious streets of Madrid. They encounter further difficulties when their efforts are thwarted by the President of the United States who has his own plan for solving the mystery and unlocking the secrets of the tooth fairy.

Waspy McWasp and Elizabeth put their fate into the hands of the director of the NSA who actually turns out to be the one who planned and orchestrated the entire devious plot. As they expose the treacherous director of the NSA they must also face the truth that the tooth fairy was just a fabrication, and does not really exist. When the director of the NSA is finally exposed, he tries to escape, but tragically dies engulfed in infernal flames, as Waspy McWasp and Elizabeth look on. With his last breath, the director of the NSA explains that his motives were actually good, but got corrupted and twisted by evil ambition. Putting the entire fiasco behind them, Waspy McWasp and Elizabeth kiss in a very romantic and awkward kind of way.

credits : http://www.columbia.edu/~ip71/fun/danbrown.html

How have you changed

From choc’s blog :

***15 YEARS AGO (1995)****
1) How old were you? 12
2) Who were you dating? Nobody
3) Where did you work? Was in school, class 6
4) Where did you live? Kanpur
5) Where did you hang out? Around school campus and in my neighbourhood playing cricket,football with the kids
6) Did you wear contacts and/or glasses? No
7) Who were your best friends? Shadab, Abdul, Kushagra, Varun, Brijendra
8) How many tattoos did you have? None
9) How many piercings did you have? None. I remember they tried to pierce my ears when I was a kid. But don’t see any marks…guess I screamed and ran away!
10) What kind of car did you drive? none.
11) Had you been to a real party? Birthday parties!
12) Had you had your heart broken? No.
13) Were you Single/taken/Married/Divorced? Single.
14) Any kids? None

***10 YEARS AGO (2000)***
1) How old were you? 17
2) Who were you dating? No
3) Where did you work? In school, class 11
4) Where did you live? Kanpur
5) Where did you hang out? Various popular joints around Kanpur
6) Did you wear contacts and/or glasses? No
7) Who were your best friends?
Abdul, Kushagra, Fahad, Nikhil
8) How many tattoos did you have? None
9) How many piercings did you have? None
10) What car did you drive? None
11) Had your heart broke? No
12) Were you Single/Taken/Married/Divorced? Single
13) Any Kids? None

***5 YEARS AGO (2005)***
1) How old were you? 22
2) Who were you dating? Nobody.
3) Where did you work? In college. Started working late in the year.
4) Where did you live? Bangalore
5) Where did you hang out? Restaurants, multiplexes, malls
6) Did you wear contacts and/or glasses? No
7) Who were your best friends? Shantanu, Shekhar, Kousthub, Priyanka
8) How many tattoos did you have? None
9) How many piercings did you have? none.
10) What car did you drive? none
11) Had your heart broken? no
12) Were you Single/Taken/Married/Divorced? Single.
13) Any Kids?

****TODAY (2010)****
1) Age? 26
2) Where do you work? Brighter India Foundation
3) Where do you live? Bangalore
5) Who are your closest friends? Shantanu, Abhi, Arvind
6) Do you talk to your old friends? Yes, occasionally
7) How many piercings do you have? none.
8) How many tattoos? none
9) What kind of car do you have? none
10) Had your heart been broken? yes
11) How many kids? none
12) Do you wear contacts and/or glasses? none
13) Are you Single/Taken/Married/Divorced? single!

Guns, Germs and Steel

The expanded title reads :
Guns, Germs and Steel : A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years
And it could not be more correct. In less than 500 pages, the author takes you on a whirlwind tour of how civilization emerged in all continents, and how the local geography, flora and fauna affected the development of complex societies throughout the world.

It examines various historic events, figures out the causes behind them and then tries to perform a scientific analysis of the origin of those causes.

It starts with the main factor behind origin of civilizations – food production. It examines how food production independently arose in different regions at different times. It then examines how and why it spread quickly across the vast continent of Eurasia and resulted in development of complex societies, but spread much slowly in the Americas and Africa, hence resulting in slower development.

Having food production as the foundation of development, it examines how some societies developed diseases (germs), and some did not, and how something as simple as germs resulted in wipe out of entire native populations, with the rapid European conquest of the Americas and Australia while resulting in a failure of colonization of Africa till much later. It digs deep o find out why such germs developed only in certain societies and not in others.

It also examines in detail the entire chain of evolution of civilization, starting from a tribe, leading on to a chiefdom, then a kingdom and finally becoming a nation state. It identifies how civilizations evolve from an egalitarian model into a kleptocracy with multiple class divisions as the population increases.

This is only a small snapshot of the book’s scope, it goes much deeper and wider to compile nearly entire history of human civilizations and how and why some of them succeeded while others failed. It goes behind the science of it all to explain how and why history unfolded the way they did, completely changing the study of history to be a scientific subject rather than one of humanities.

The author Jared Diamond is a maverick academic. He started his career in the biological sciences, becoming the Professor of Physiology at UCLA med school in 1966. He then switched to ecology and evolutionary biology, gaining fame for his explorations of remote parts of New Guinea in late 1970s. He then developed a third career in environmental history, becoming Professor of Geography and Environmental sciences at UCLA.

World Ex Day

Is it for real?
Just got this on email :

11th January is officially world ex day.
All you do is just call your ex and say “happy ex day” just to show you are over him/her or maybe not. And it’s not just about your ex relationships but it also could be about your ex colleague, ex client, ex coach, ex best friend blah blah blah.
Join it on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=213157523909 and be the first to spread the word.

Is Delhi actually that dangerous?

Original article here –

Conventional wisdom holds that Delhi is a riddled with crime. Our neighbors and coworkers assured us that Delhi was a haven of danger. Criminals lurked around every corner, they declared; we were taking our life into our hands every time we rode in an auto, walked through the Old City, or generally left our house after sundown.

But after eighteen months in the city, during which our only brush with crime was four scary six-year-olds, our question is this: why isn’t there more crime in Delhi?

The demographics and economics of Delhi suggest that the city should be a warzone. The city skews young and male: 55% of Delhi is male, as compared to 52% across India and a global average of slightly more than 50%; and over 53% of the city is under the age of 25, compared to about 33% in New York City. Poor young males in America turn to sex and violence to vent their energy and aggression, but Delhi is such a conservative culture that it’s very hard for young men to engage in the former. The city’s economic gulf is incredibly wide and incredibly visible, like Ferraris-driving-past-pavement-dwellers visible. And the hardships of the city — heat, cold, traffic, pollution, water shortages, high population density, insults and indignities — are overwhelming even to people who can afford to overcome them.

Most cities would be torn apart by these social forces. But not Delhi.

The statistics reflect our observations. We don’t argue with reports that show Delhi to be India’s “crime capital“. But while Delhi may be dangerous by Indian standards, it’s positively tranquil as compared to American cities. The Delhi region had 495 murders in 2007, or 2.95 murders for every 100,000 people by the National Crime Records Bureau’s population estimates. In that same year, however, New York City had 5.94 murders per 100,000 people — and that was a year that New York City was named the safest big city in the United States. There’s a similar story for rape in 2007: 3.57 per 100,000 in New Delhi, 10.48 per 100,000 in New York.

It’s fair to assume that a lot of crime goes unreported in Delhi. But it’s hard to imagine that three murders for every 100,000 people go unreported, or seven rapes for every 100,000 people. Which means, from our limited and admittedly amateur statistical analysis, that while Delhi has all of the demographics to make it a warzone, it has none of the actual crime.

It’s clear even from the newspapers that Delhi’s day-to-day dangers are nowhere near the level of even the safest American cities.The papers report every crime as if it heralds the end of days, but the fact that simple robberies make the news as often as they do suggests that bigger crimes are not occurring at a comparable rate. “Rs 1 lakh stolen from Punjab trader on bus,” shouts one headline for a seven-paragraph article — a petty crime that, while unfortunate for the victim, wouldn’t garner even a sentence in an American paper because so many bigger crimes would elbow it out of the way.

We just can’t understand why Delhi’s so safe. Not only do we not understand why angry young men haven’t taken full control of the city, we can’t even understand what keeps the grizzled old parking attendants from stealing the cars to which they’re entrusted. In places like Defense Colony Market, rich businessmen routinely hand the keys to their million-rupee cars to a parking attendant with the accompanying promise of a ten-rupee tip. How could these poor men, when faced with such a quick ticket to easy street, not take advantage of it?

Never mind what Delhi’s apocalyptic news media says. The real question is this: what’s keeping a city of poor, jealous, sexually-frustrated young men from unleashing their aggressions and turning Delhi into Gotham City?

Stephen Fry In America

“Stephen Fry in America” is a 6 episode video documentary on the travels of Stephen Fry across all 50 states of the USA. For those who need an introduction, Stephen Fry is arguably the wittiest British TV presenter/comedian.

In this travelogue, he showcases many historic and culturally significant places and events. Ranging from the hotel where the World Bank was formed to the place where Ben and Jerry’s was founded, the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans to traditional Halloween celebration by witches in Salem, seeking the roots of Jazz music in southern Mississippi to advent of new genre bands in Seattle, its a very extensive study of the country as a whole.
And it also goes beyond all this to show how immensely scenic and beautiful the American countryside really is.

A must see for anyone planning to visit the country, or even a citizen as its vast scope covers places many would not have seen or even heard of.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Excerpt from back cover :

“What do a dead cat, a computer whiz-kid, an Electric Monk who believes the world is pink, quantum mechanics, a Chronologist over 200 years old, Samuel Taylor Coleridge(poet), and pizza have in common?”


Douglas Adams is truly like no other. His combination of creative imagination and rib tickling humour is unparalleled. It starts a bit slowly, making you wonder whether all that promised on the back cover is actually in there…but by the time you finish, all that is delivered and more.
Its my serious advice that unless you want to make a giggling fool of yourself, do not read this book in a public place!