The Vision

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
He woke up screaming.

He'd had a vision, and somehow he was sure that it would come true. The world was going to end. In less than three hours.

He had to tell someone. They had to try to stop it. He ran out into the street, and tried to grab the arm of someone who was passing by. But his arms refused to react. He tried to shout, but no voice came from his throat. He tried to write on the ground with a piece of chalk, but his arms wouldn't move. It was as if the universe didn't want him to interfere. He walked around the town trying to talk to people, to warn them. They stared at him, but never reacted, never interrupted what they were doing.

Time passed, but he couldn't seem to do anything to prevent the doom that he was certain was coming. Every minute, he grew more desperate.

He came to an open space where a crowd had gathered. A man was holding a gun to another, and shouting something about avenging the death of a loved one.

He wanted to jump in the middle of the crowd and make them listen. The world was going to end! Couldn't they feel it? But he couldn't even move anymore. He could only watch. He watched like everyone else, as the man with the gun shouted. He watched as he pulled the trigger. He watched as the bullet struck, and the victim fell to the ground. He was sure, like he knew everyone else in the crowd was sure, that the man deserved it.

The world started to grow dark. This was it, he knew. And he'd been unable to stop it. It was noon, but the sky had turned gray. Even the sun seemed no brighter than a dim lamp. It wasn't just becoming dark, he realized. The world was turning black. All the colors were fading away into nothingness. And just like in his vision, the message appeared in the sky. Glowing white letters on black. In a language known to no one. Two words that meant the end of the world, the end of life, the end of everything.

"Okay," I said, shaking him by the shoulder. "You can get up now. It's over."


I pointed at the screen, which now said The End in large bold letters.

"Oh. Good. Hope you enjoyed it.

"It was nice. You should have watched."

"What's to watch? If the bad guy kills the good guy's girlfriend in the beginning of the movie, then in the end, the good guy must kill the bad guy. In between, you throw in a few songs, some fight scenes, and you have a three hour Hindi movie."

"Okay, so it was predictable. But it was still a nice movie. They made it pretty well. And there was some good acting."

"If you say so."

"You know towards the end, in the crowd surrounding the good guy and the bad guy, there was this man..."

"What about him?"

"I don't know. He didn't seem part of the movie. It was almost as if... as if he was more real than the other characters."

"More real? Like he was about to jump out of the screen?"

I grinned even though that's exactly what I'd thought. Hearing the words said out loud made the idea seem absurd. "Nah," I replied. "He was probably an extra who was trying to get noticed."

On the screen, the The End sign slowly faded away.

New Look: Ice Mountain

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
As you might have noticed, I've made another update to the template of this blog. This is my fifth Blogger template, the third one for the new Blogger, and the third update on this blog. The image in the background is that of a glacier in Greenland. I got it from Wikimedia Commons. Image manipulation was done using The GIMP as usual.

One of the other templates I created, works on the new Blogger and can be downloaded for free, at City in Paint. It's based on an OSWD design, though I made some minor modifications to the look, and some major modifications to the HTML to get it to work with Blogger.

I'll be offering this one for download too, once I complete a few finishing touches.

Do let me know what you think about the new look. I'm hoping the (mostly) white background and the bigger text makes it easier on your eyes. The blog should look okay on Firefox, Opera, and IE 6 and 7. If you're among the less than 1% of readers who use a version of IE older than 6, then you might see some weird JavaScript errors. But those are from Blogger, and I can't really do much about them. Of course, if you are still using that ancient browser, you should really consider getting Firefox.

Bad Solution (55)

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: , ,
It was a big asteroid. "Ten percent chance of hitting Earth," they said. "Expected angle of impact is enough to wipe out a country."

"We'll use Nuclear weapons!"

They aimed. They fired. They miscalculated.

The asteroid deflected in the wrong direction, hit Earth head-on, and wiped out all life. Except the cockroaches, of course.

Animal Rights or Science?

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
Is it acceptable to take animal life or cause harm or pain to an animal, in the interests of science?

This isn't a new question, and it's not one that both sides are going to agree on in the near future, if ever. Me, I'm all for science. But I'm not happy with animal rights being violated either. (For the record, I eat meat but don't think I'm a hypocrite for being against fur.)

Still, how can you make a decision?

Take for example this story. Scientists are apparently trying to figure out how some animals grow back body parts, so that the same technique can be used with humans. If they figure this out, there's no end to the benefits for medicine. 50,000 people lose a body part to amputation every year in the US alone. If scientists can make the technology work, all these people could have their fingers, hands, arms, and legs back in a matter of weeks or months.

So that's a good thing, right?

Not for the animals that have the regenerative abilities.

Take for example Salamanders. These animals can apparently grow back an arm if it gets severed. How often must scientists make cuts in a salamander's body to find out what chemicals, enzymes or glands are involved in the regrowth? How often does someone cut off a Salamander's body part to observe what happens?

Scientists have got far enough to grow extra arms on salamanders. Does the salamander feel any pain when it is cut, or when it has an extra arm coming out of where there should only be a simple rib? Unless the researchers are extremely careful with anesthetics, there's probably a lot of pain involved for the poor creature. Does the salamander know about the value of the sacrifice it is making? Surely not.

A hundred years from now, the number of people who will have benefited from regenerative technologies will probably be close to one billion. There will still be those who demand that researchers stop testing revolutionary medicine on animals. They will still be right. But so will the scientists.

V-Day or D-Day?

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: , ,
He walks like a king through his house. He is master of his domain. He can eat what he wants, drink what he wants, and he can turn on the television and watch whatever he wants. He smiles to himself.

"By the power of Grayskull!" he shouts. "I... Have... The Power!"

He hears the car in the driveway. His wife is back from shopping. He sighs.

It was nice while it lasted.

We may be called the stronger sex, but really, if there is anything a man is scared of, it's his woman. And if he's not, then he's just ignorant. I'm not kidding.

Men don't understand women. Men don't understand what women want. And men can't live without women. It's a recipe for disaster, I tell you.

And to ensure that men continue to fear women till the end of eternity, there is this annual ritual they've come up with. It's the most evil of all rituals, and has its origins in medieval times.

It's called Valentine's day.

You're laughing.

Tell me, irrespective of whether he's single or not, which man has it easy on Valentine's day?

On Valentine's day, a single guy has to tell some girl that he's interested in her. If he doesn't, then he will be pitied. And the male ego doesn't deal very well with pity. If he does decide to make his feelings known, his fear is that she will say "No". Which is what usually happens, of course. However there is sometimes the unfortunate case where the girl says "Yes".

If a guy is not single on Valentine's day, though, then he's in really big trouble, because he has to do something on the special day.

For two weeks before the fourteenth of February every year, the media is full of advertisements for Valentine's Special gifts and experiences. A guy may decide that he's not going to give in to the intense commercialization of the day, and he's not actually going to get her anything. If you know such a man, pray for him.

If he does decide to get something though, he has to figure out what to get her.
If he gets her a bouquet of roses, she's angry because that woman at work whom she hates, got two from her boyfriend.
If he gets her a box of chocolates, he's in trouble, because her friend got chocolates and flowers.
If he gets her chocolates and flowers, he's cheap, because a girl she knows also got a watch. And a stuffed toy.
If he gets her multiple gifts, he doesn't really love her, because he can't take the time to take her out.
If he takes her out to a restaurant, he should have taken her out to a restaurant in a five-star hotel.
If he takes her out to a restaurant in a five-star hotel, he should have taken her to a resort outside city limits.
To actually survive Valentine's day, the guy must pick his woman up from work, fly her to Europe, have dinner on the beach with a live band playing, and give her a diamond ring.

But then the guy is done for. Because next year, he'll have to top even that. And unless flights to the moon are available, he'll hear the words "You've changed."

KGAF Winners Announced

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
The winners of the Kala Ghoda Art Festival literature contests were announced over the weekend. I never submitted anything because the one idea I had, didn't sound interesting enough by the time I wrote half of it. (Actually it was supposed to be five different ideas but I could only think up the first two, and I only wrote half of the first one)

The scores, finalists and winners of the various contests can be found at the following links:

Flash Fiction - Scores, Finalists, Winners

Graphic Flash - Scores, Finalists, Winners

SMS Poetry - Scores, Finalists, Winners

Poetry Slam - Scores, Finalists. (See announcement for winners)

So do head there and take a look.

I'm not too much of a poetry buff but I really liked the SMS Poetry first prize winner.

Among the Graphic Flash entries my favourite was entry # 335 (which tied for second place) followed by 461 (which ended up first).

I've only read the Flash Fiction finalists, and my favourites among them were 168, 239, 243, and 323. None of them won, though. So if you liked a story that didn't make it to the finals, do leave a comment here.

Making Money is Hard Work

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
There are a number of people out there who have quit their day jobs to maintain their web-sites full-time. This includes bloggers, like Jason Kottke of, Matthew Pullerits of CyberWyre, Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration and popular web-comic writer Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary.

If someone with the security of a permanent job decides to quit, how do they expect to earn enough? Well, common sources of revenue include advertising, referrals, merchandising and in some cases from donations by fans. Of course, to be able to convert blogging into a full-time career, you need to be popular. And if you intend to depend on advertising or referrals to make money, the design of your page is very important. Amit Agarwal has a number of articles which show you how to optimize a blog for advertising, using real blogs as examples.

Blogging for a living sounds like such a nice job. No commutation, working from home, and no boss!

Well, it's not that easy. If you work for yourself, you do your own taxes, don't have health benefits, and taking a vacation directly impacts your income! And blogging isn't really an easy job. As Amit Agarwal mentioned recently, he spends 10-12 hours a day on his blog. And if you take into account the fact that he blogs 7 days a week, that works out to between 70 and 84 hours a week! That's as much as I spend in my job during the most hectic of projects!

Like I said - making money seems to be a lot of hard work. So it's back to searching for that dream alternative career for me. The one where I work maybe an hour a day and still earn enough to retire at 40.

Loony tunes

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
Kusum Rohra has sifted through and collected around fifty of the funniest posts in the blogosphere in the second edition of the annual Loony Mela. So do head to her blog and check them out.

Yes, it will probably take a while to read all of them. Just imagine how much time must have gone into the selection process!

Gender Questions: Celestial Conversations - XXVII

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: , , , ,
First: Celestial Conversation
Previous: Merry Christmas: Celestial Conversations - XXVI
Me: Hi!
God: Hello.
Me: You busy?
God: No, I'm relaxing today. Just finished painting my nails.
Me: Painting your nails?
God: Yes. Why, is there a problem?
Me: Not really, but polishing nails just seems like a girly thing to do.
God: So?
Me: You're a guy!
God: Whatever gave you that idea?
Me: What?
God: I'm one hundred percent female.
Me: Really?
God: Why is that coming as a surprise?
Me: Well, most major religions believe You are male.
God: Is that true?
Me: I'm pretty sure it is.
God: Well that will just not do! Why should religions make any guesses about my gender at all? I'm going to see if something can be done about this.

[God has logged out]

Grievance room in Heaven:
Little Girl: God?
God: Yes?
Little Girl: Most major religions think I'm male! (starts crying)
God: What? Whatever gave you that idea?
Little Girl: A man told me while I was chatting on the internet.
God: Were you logged in as Me again?
Little Girl: (nods between sobs)
God: (thinking to himself) Why don't people get their own logins? (to the girl) That's okay. I'm sure the man didn't know what he was talking about.
Next: Of Campaigns: Celestial Conversations - XXVIII

Freedom, If...

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
Amit Varma writes that there's a new newspaper out. It's called Mint and the bit he loves about it, is
finally, India has a newspaper that explicitly supports the values of freedom, in all its forms, that I hold so dear.

And this newspaper that "explicitly supports the values of freedom", gives you "free" access to all content on its website, as long as you give up the following information
  • Your first name
  • Your last name
  • Email address
  • Gender
  • Country
  • City
  • Year of Birth
  • Educational Background
  • Occupation
  • Whether you "currently subscribe to print newspaper" (Whatever that means)

In addition to this, it also requests you for your
  • Mobile Number
  • Industry
  • Household Income Range

The reason they ask for all this information is
Registering with us signifies your complete agreement with our terms and conditions. [Emphasis mine]

These terms and conditions, or terms of use, never actually show up during the registration process, by the way.

The "Registration-required" debate, when it comes to news sites, has been going on for years now. As Adrian Holovaty says in a post on the subject , the news sites seem to be saying
The benefit of registration is that you get the content.

One of the articles that Amit's linked, is titled "What you can expect from Mint." You need to register to read that article too, of course.
So in the case of Mint, the benefit of registration is that you get to find out what kind of content you can expect.

For a website that Google doesn't even know about yet (screenshot for the sake of posterity), I think they're approaching this the wrong way.

So basically, if ever I decide that I really want to read something they have there, I'm going to use Bugmenot. Otherwise I'll probably Google for the info and get it from somewhere else.

Borat and Tourism

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
This is why I should blog about my opinions on stuff.

When I learnt that the Kazakhstan government was protesting against Sacha Baron Cohen's depiction of Kazakhstan in the movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, I thought they were ignoring the potential of making it the tourism campaign of the century.

What I felt they should have done, was build a fake village on the outskirts of Astana their capital, and call it "Home of Borat" or something. A tour would then take people through this fake village as well as actual tourist-worthy locations.

It's all worked out well, though. Borat has triggered a tourism boom in Kazakhstan. And realising the benefits, their government is now changing its stance. A popular Kazakh newspaper has dubbed the movie "The best film of the year"!

Well if they do implement my idea, I want royalties.

Googlebomb Defused

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
Until a few days ago, if you'd Googled for "failure" or "miserable failure", the first result you got would have been the US president's page on the White House website. This was accomplished by a technique called Googlebombing, and was acknowledged by Google as being a vulnerability in their search system. They also did not manually filter these results out in the interest of maintaining the objectivity of their search service.

A few days ago though, Google put in place a change that gets around Googlebombing.
By improving our analysis of the link structure of the web, Google has begun minimizing the impact of many Googlebombs

Searching for a Googlebombed term now gets you information about Googlebombing instead. Read this post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog for more details.

Happy Republic Day

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
Hope you all did something nice today. The only thing I did, was forget that it was my aunt's birthday.

I came across an interesting post from the Telegraph, by a Briton who lives in India, about the difference between the ways India, the US and UK each handle terrorism. Irrespective of whether you agree with the article about whether India's position on terrorism is by design, it should make at least make you think, "Yeah, that's my India".

A quote from the piece -
To my mind, however, the single biggest thing Britain and America could learn from India about terrorism is to be considerably more resilient and defiant about it.

When the bombers strike Bombay or New Delhi or Varanasi - as they have with devastating effect in the last 18 months, killing nearly 300 people - India doesn't flinch.

Jai Hind.

KGAF 2007 - Contests

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
Once more an entire month has gone by without new posts on this blog. To those of you who still read this blog, I apologize for the delay. I'd blame it on lack of time and writer's block, but that won't really make up for the lack of posts, will it?
Anyway. On with the post.

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is back this year, and Caferati is hosting some contests again, just like last time. I hope to participate in the Flash Fiction contest this year too, though I don't really have any realistic expectation of winning, or even making the shortlist. I want to write at least one story, if not two, if for no other reason than to have something to post on this blog.

The Graphic Flash (flash fiction in a graphic format) and Poetry Slam contests both sound really interesting. Do check them out.

And if you're cell-phone happy, you might want to try SMS Poetry.

The deadline for all the contests, is Feb 4 2007, so get off that block right now. (And if you do, let me know how you did it!)