Being social: Celestial Conversations - #32

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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First: Celestial Conversation
Previous: What the Devil: Celestial Conversations - #31
Me: Hi!
God: Hello.
Me: So, did You have any luck on Twitter?
God: Yes, a few people finally started following me. So they are all now My prophets.
Me: That's great to hear.
God: I think it was Luci's doing. He promised people a seat in the house where a retired colonel lives.
Me: Retired colonel?
God: Yes, he said that My first 1000 followers will have a seat reserved right next to Heaven. There's only one house next to Our place. A retired colonel lives there. Grumpy old man. Not sure why people would be interested in living with him.
Me: Right. Well, Your new prophets must be happy.
God: I have no idea. They mostly won't speak to Me.
Me: Oh?
God: Yes. Instead, one guy wanted to confess to Me. What do I look like? A priest?
Me: So no one is speaking to You?
God: One guy did, but only to tell Me he thought I am a fake.
Me: So what did You do?
God: Damned him to Hell.
Me: Ah. Anyway, about Your prophets, what do You expect them to do?
God: Spread My word, of course!
Me: What word is that?
God: What do you mean by What word?
Me: I mean, if they go out and spread your word, what is it that they should be saying?
God: Whatever they want, as long as it's My word they're spreading.
Me: But You must have a message for the world.
God: What, like SMS?
Me: Not exactly.
God: I don't have a mobile phone. Do you think getting one will help?
Me: No, I don't think it will help. Unless You are interested in getting a lot of credit cards, personal loans or life insurance.
God: Life insurance? For Me?
Me: I think You need to come up with a message that You want Your prophets to spread.
God: But I don't have any message.
Me: Well, come up with one.
God: Like what?
Me: I don't know, something You want people to know.
God: Are you sure?
Me: Yes.
God: So you want Me to tell My prophets to go and tell people things like "There's a sale at Reebok"?
Me: Uh, not exactly.
God: Then?
Me: I can't make up Your messages for You!
God: Why not?
Me: Because then it wouldn't be The Word of God. It would be The Word of Me!
God: Well you're the one who wants Me come up with a message in the first place.
Me: So You don't have any message for the world?
God: No.
Me: And You want Your prophets to spread what?
God: My word.
Me: Okay. I'm glad we got that cleared up.
God: Good. Now I must go and set up a Facebook account.
Me: Right. Facebook has more followers than Buddha.
God: What? I didn't even know Buddha had any followers! I asked him for help setting up a Twitter account, and he said he didn't bother with such futile activity. The liar. I'm going to kill him!
Me: I told You before, it's not that kind of follower.
God: I'm logging off. I have some business to take care of.

What the Devil: Celestial Conversations - #31

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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First: Celestial Conversation
Previous: Of Online Identities: Celestial Conversations - #30
Me: Hello?
Devil: Hello.
Me: You!
Devil: Yes, me. The one and only.
Me: What are you doing here? I didn't even say your name this time.
Devil: Don't you know the date today?
Me: What, the 9th of September?
Devil: The 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year of the millennium. And it's 9'o'clock by the way.
Me: I thought that only worked with 6.
Devil: 9 is just 6 upside down.
Me: So what, you're going to be good today?
Devil: Damn, you're smart. I was hoping no one would realize this.
Me: What, you're actually being good?
Devil: Don't have much of a choice. Mathematics is one area I have no control over.
Me: Really?
Devil: Yeah. But I once hypnotized God into forgetting about the number Seven.
Me: What?
Devil: Yeah. So when he counted, eight came after six. I got Him to count His fingers, and He ended up thinking He suddenly had eleven fingers on His hands! It drove Him crazy!
Me: I'm sure it did. So what good things are you planning to do?
Devil: Well, for one, I'm going to try to get God more followers on Twitter.
Me: Ah! That would be interesting. So what is your strategy going to be?
Devil: Well, for one, we have to beat the skepticism. People don't believe He's God, so they won't follow him. That's actually my fault. Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. My guys have done a LOT to get that to work. Now, for one day, I need to get around exactly those problems.
Me: So how do you fix the skepticism?
Devil: I tried getting Him a Verified Account.
Me: But isn't that manually screened? You need to convince the guys who run the site, that it actually is God's account.
Devil: Yes, I did figure that out. And yet, I had convinced the guy who was screening this case.
Me: So, what happened?
Devil: Uh, it's embarrassing. Rookie mistake, really. I tried to get him to sell me his soul to me.
Me: Ah.
Devil: You have no idea how big the urge was. And I haven't done that in years! Not with the overcrowding in hell and stuff.
Me: So, no verified account then?
Devil: Nope.
Me: Any other good deeds you intend to spectacularly fail at?
Devil: There are a couple. One is ending poverty. And the other is fixing global warming.
Me: You don't think small, do you?
Devil: Comes with the territory. You don't get known as God's greatest adversary, getting cats stuck in trees.
Me: Right.
Devil: I've done that too, of course.
Me: Cats in trees?
Devil: Yes, cats are inherently evil, so it makes it more fun. Plus, you tie up a bunch of hard-working firefighters in a futile exercise. The cat's going to jump down on its own anyway.
Me: So if you're being good today, what's God doing?
Devil: Trying to be evil.
Me: What?
Devil: Well, God's not very used to the whole Evil thing of course, so I started him off small.
Me: Like what?
Devil: I've asked him to memorize the lyrics to some songs with adult lyrics.
Me: Oh.
Devil: Don't worry. I started him easy. He'll start with Black-Eyed-Peas' "My Humps". He'll probably not even understand what they mean. Then we'll move him on to Lil Kim's "Download", before we get to the heavier stuff.
Me: Ouch.
Devil: Oh, you haven't heard the best part yet. At the end of the day, He's supposed to do a concert of the dirtiest songs in front of everyone in Heaven and Hell!
Me: That does sound evil. Poor Him.
Devil: Oh, it will be a blast.
Me: Well, I guess you have work to do.
Devil: Yes, I better get back to it.
Me: Bye, then.
Devil: Tada!

Next: Being social: Celestial Conversations - #32

Of Online Identities: Celestial Conversations - #30

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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First: Celestial Conversation
Previous: Miracles and Failure: Celestial Conversations - XXIX
Me: Hey, God.
God: Hello. You've changed the numbering scheme?
Me: Yes, I thought XXX in the title would attract the wrong kind of search traffic.
God: No traffic is bad traffic, I always say. And I am God, so I know of such things.
Me: So what are You up to?
God: Oh, I've spent the last couple of days on Twitter.
Me: Ah, how come?
God: Well, the first day was spent trying to find a username that wasn't already taken. There are a LOT of impostors there. I tried "God", "GodHimself", "TheRealGod", "IAmGod", "G_O_D", "Gawd" and a few hundred others.
Me: Yes, a lot of people like to speak on Your behalf.
God: One would think that they'd at least ask Me if I approve.
Me: Well Twitterers aren't the only ones saying things on Your behalf without Your approval, You know.
God: What do you mean?
Me: A little something called religion.
God: Oh. That.
Me: Yes. So, did you finally find a username?
God: I almost didn't. Then I had a brainwave.
Me: What?
God: I chose NotDevil.
Me: "NotDevil"? That's your username?
God: You try searching for a username with my name that's not taken. This was the best I could do.
Me: Well, ok. If You say so. But why Twitter?
God: I heard it was a great place to get followers.
Me: I'm not sure they meant that kind of follower.
God: Nonsense. What other kind of follower can there be? In any case, it doesn't work. I've been on this stupid site for a whole day, and no one is following Me.
Me: Ok.
God: I search for Myself in Twitter, and the thing is, a million people are talking to Me, thanking me, or just taking My name, but they are all ignoring me!
Me: Well, they don't really know that you're not an impostor.
God: That's true. For a while there, a couple of hundred poor women signed up as my followers, but they disappeared a little while later.
Me: Couple of hundred poor women? How do you know they were poor?
God: Their pictures proved they couldn't afford any clothes.
Me: Right. So, what have else You been doing on Twitter?
God: I've been replying to people.
Me: Replying?
God: For example, someone said "Thank God." So I replied, "You're welcome."
Me: Ah.
God: One person finally followed Me, so I made him My prophet.
Me: You did?
God: Yes, but it didn't work. He's too lazy. He's not even trying to speak to me. So I made a deal with Luci. He's going to Hell.
Me: Ah.
God: In any case, I must get back to Twitter.
Me: Why?
God: There are a number of people who keep saying I don't exist. I need to have a word with them.
Me: Right. All the best.
God: Thank you. Hey, are you on twitter?
Me: Why?
God: You should follow Me.
Me: Would you look at the time? Gotta go. Bye!

Next: What the Devil: Celestial Conversations - #31

Miracles and Failure: Celestial Conversations - XXIX

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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First: Celestial Conversation
Previous: Of Campaigns: Celestial Conversations - XXVIII
Me: Hey God!
God: Hello.
Me: So how did the elections go? Did You win?
God: Don't even ask!
Me: Why, what happened?
God: They disqualified Me!
Me: What?
God: Yes. For demanding votes in the name of religion!
Me: Oh.
God: I told them I was demanding votes in the name of Me. But they didn't listen!
Me: Maybe You should have joined some party. You could have demanded votes in the name of anything then.
God: I tried that. But they all rejected My application.
Me: How come?
God: They said I was too old. My joining would increase the average age of party members.
Me: Ah. So what have You been doing since then?
God: I've been trying to arrange miracles. You know. Build support at the grass-root level.
Me: I thought You said You couldn't do that kind of thing because of the laws of physics.
God: True, but there was no harm in trying.
Me: What sort of miracles?
God: I've been trying to make it rain fish, or at least tadpoles.
Me: Where did You try this?
God: In South India. The fishermen have been having trouble because of all the military presence. But the stupid miracle didn't work.
Me: Was the miracle supposed to be limited to a specific place?
God: Yes, but now that you mention it, I've never been good with geography.
Me: So it could have rained fish in, say, Japan?
God: Possible. But how does that matter?
God: Oh, nothing. Just curious. Anyway, All The Best.
God: Thanks. Bye, then.
Me: Bye.

Next: Of Online Identities: Celestial Conversations - #30


on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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Mom: Hi, Son.
Son: Hey Mom, Hey Dad.
Dad: Son, we wanted to talk to you about something.
Son: Sure, Dad.
Dad: You turn 21 tomorrow.
Son: Yes! My friends and I have a great day planned.
Dad: That's great. See, we thought this is a good opportunity to tell you the truth about something.
Son: Oh, okay. What is it?
Dad: You know how we told you that you were adopted?
Son: Yes, of course. I'm really glad that you let me know right from the beginning. It could have been quite stressful if I'd found out late."
Dad: Yes, it's about that -
Son: What, you know who my biological parents are?
Dad: Actually, the thing is, when we told you that you were adopted, we weren't telling the complete truth.
Son: What? I don't understand.
Mom: See, you're not really adopted.
Son: What? I don't get it. Why are you saying this?
Dad: We thought you're old enough to understand now.
Son: No, I mean... I don't understand. How can I not be adopted?
Dad: That's easy, son. Your mom really is your biological mother.
Son: No! I mean... If I was not adopted, then why would you tell me I was?
Dad: Oh, your mother always wanted to adopt.
Son: Hunh?
Mom: Yes, we had even got in touch with an adoption agency. And then we found out that I was pregnant.
Son: But...
Mom: It was a tough time for us, son. So we decided to pretend that we'd adopted you. And suddenly everything was perfect.
Son: Perfect?
Dad: Yes. And now that you're old enough, we thought it was important that you know the truth.
Son: I'm really not adopted?
Dad: No, son. You're not.
Son: But...
Mom: It's okay, son. We love you just the same.
Son: But this doesn't make any sense!
Dad: It's really very simple, Son. We are really your biological parents.
Son: But -
Dad: Now enough chit-chat. You've got a busy day tomorrow. So get into bed and get a good night's sleep. Good night.
Mom: Good night, dear. We love you.

Of Campaigns: Celestial Conversations - XXVIII

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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First: Celestial Conversation
Previous: Gender Questions: Celestial Conversations - XXVII
Me: Hello?
God: Hello.
Me: Hi God! How have You been doing?
God: Fine, I guess. Been a little busy lately. Lots of things going on.
Me: Like what?
God: Well, for one thing, there was this Pink Underwear Campaign recently.
Me: What, You helped organize it?!
God: Oh, no! Not at all. But some of Us in Heaven contributed.
Me: Wow, like who?
God: Oh, Mother Teresa, Florence Nightingale, Gandhi, St Peter, Aishwarya Rai...
Me: Aishwarya Rai? But she's not dead yet!
God: Oh, she was just visiting.
Me: So she knows about You?
God: Of course not. We pretended to be an old age home.
Me: But didn't she recognize anyone?
God: Not really. She thought we were having a fancy dress party.
Me: Ah.
God: Yes.
Me: So, she and the others contributed pink underwear to the campaign?
God: Pink and other colors. Gandhi contributed two in fluorescent green.
Me: Fluorescent green?
God: Yes. He got them in the '90s. But the biggest contribution was from Florence Nightingale.
Me: Really?
God: Yes. Forty three thousand eight hundred and seventy nine pairs of underwear in all shades of pink, and *a-hem* all kinds of styles. It was like a museum of lingerie in the twentieth century. The sight was enough to make even Me blush.
Me: Where'd she get so many?
God: They were all her own. She gave up doing her laundry when she died. She just gets new ones every time. And she hates throwing anything away.
Me: Oh.
God: Yes. It took days to get the stuff packed, and putting the stamps on was a torture. After it was all over, the girls went out and got drunk at a local pub, and the guys stayed in and played Monopoly.
Me: Right.
God: But the thing that's been keeping Me busiest recently is the elections.
Me: The elections? Are You in India now?
God: Yes. I thought I'd try to get elected.
Me: You're getting into politics?!
God: Yes. The competition are all corrupt. I think I have a good chance.
Me: Well, all the best!
God: Thanks. I'll sign off now. I need to work on my manifesto.
Me: Bye then.
God: Bye.

Next: Miracles and Failure: Celestial Conversations - XXIX

The Geek In Me

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
I'm making yet another attempt to climb back on to the social bandwagon, and this time it's by rejuvenating my technology oriented blog. So if you are interested in geeky stuff, you might want to head to Geek Whorled. I intend to write there about programming (Java, OpenGL, GTK, Python, etc), gadgets that interest me or that I own (including doing product reviews), Linux, and anything that I feel is too geeky for this blog.

If I can keep the tempo up, I also hope to post more on this blog as a side-effect.

The Power Of The Pink Chaddi

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
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The Pink Chaddi Campaign is probably the most amazing use of humour (and love, supposedly) that I have ever seen. The Alternative Law Forum, under the guise of the "Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women", have come up with the unique idea of sending thousands of 'pink chaddis' (though they later clarified that they no longer 'colour-discriminate') to Pramod Muthalik, the infamous perpetrator of supposedly Indian culture-prescribed violence against women in a pub in Mangalore. The one statement from the man that really stood out for me was
If they had to oppose something, they could have talked it out with us.

Apparently, he thinks indulging in violence is acceptable, but in a non-violent campaign is not.

In any case, the support for the campaign has been so great that they collected more than 19,000 'chaddis' within a week, and started requesting people to send their packages directly.

I think with a little more organization and some sponsorship (like maybe from Kohinoor, Archies/Hallmark and VIP/Jockey), this could become the standard response to any party or group that indulges in activities that "don't reflect Indian culture".

What say?

My City Is Under Attack

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
As I write this, it's been more than 18 hours since the first of the terror strikes was reported in South Mumbai. The news channels won't report anything else, some of the presenters have been awake all night reporting on events as they emerge, and it seems to me like the whole city must be glued to their television sets waiting for all this to end.

I slept at around 2:00am last night, refusing to continue watching the news, expecting that things would be more or less resolved by the time I woke up. Even the news of top cops losing their lives, only made me believe that everything that needed to be done was being done. I resolved to not let the terror get to me, as that seemed like conceding defeat to the terrorists. And yet, I woke at 7:30am (an event in itself), and without bothering to brush my teeth, walked into the living room and turned the TV on.

If I were to track my mood since then, I'd say that I started the day simply assimilating all the information that all the different news channels beamed at me, still hopeful that things would end 'soon'. Seeing the Taj Mahal Hotel burning, was the first shock. The second shock was when I heard that the college classmate of an acquaintance died in the firing at Cafe Leopold. It always makes more of an impact when you feel you are connected to someone who was affected. It could so easily have been you.

Then there were the photographs of the terrorists themselves. They could easily pass off as visitors of the hotels and restaurants they have terrorized, if not for the weapons they carried.

A doctor from inside the Taj call up a news channel and said she was in a group of around 35 people, and that there was one person whom she was trying to take care of, who had been shot in the abdomen, and had been bleeding all night. She was speaking very calmly and tried to highlight the fact that the man urgently needed medical attention. In a second call from her a while later, she seemed extremely distraught. This while some people seemed to be leaving the Taj and were carried away in ambulances and BEST buses. The news presenters are tired and desperate for good news. Every assault by the army is termed the "final leg of the assault on the terrorists".

My father then told me that his cousin apparently visited Cafe Leopold almost every Wednesday, last night being an exception. She and her mother who lives in a building close to Nariman House are both safe.

Hours went by, and very little seemed to change. The hope I initially had, was replaced with fear, fear turned to sorrow, and sorrow turned to despair. Stop attacking my city, a part of me screams. End this insanity now.

And I'm dozens of kilometers away from where the main action is still on. Even 3-4 kilometers away from the Marriot in Juhu - the closest place to here where firing took place. This is the first time that I'm actually in Mumbai when terror has stuck here. All the other times, I was either in Chennai or in the US. And yet, a terror attack that has lasted for so long, can hardly compare with bomb blasts that are over in a short span of time. There is going to be a difference in the psychological impact of events that last an hour, versus events that last a whole day.

I thank all the soldiers, firemen and police personnel that have been involved in trying to end this stand-off, and hope that it all gets over soon.

Ubuntu On My Desktop

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani

I've been using Ubuntu Hardy Heron Desktop Linux (8.04) since April, when I got myself a new desktop PC. There was no way I was going to inflict Vista on my new hardware, and I'd really liked the ease of using Ubuntu Server Edition the one year before that, at work. The configuration of my custom-built PC is -

My choice of an ATI-based graphics card was based on the fact that ATI seems to be a lot more dedicated to developing open-source drivers than nVidia. They've released their GPU specs, which means anyone can write their own drivers without hacking or reverse-engineering the proprietary binaries, and without worrying that their driver will stop working with the next batch of the chip because some behaviour changed. This means that while currently nVidia has the best support, the future will favour ATI. It was definitely a gamble, but picking a manufacturer that supports Open Source, felt right.

Installing Ubuntu is a breeze. I had downloaded the ISO for the 64-bit version, from the Ubuntu site and burnt it a CD. I booted off this CD, and except for selecting the language, timezone, and partition sizes (which I like to customize), just sat back and watched Ubuntu install itself - in under 20 minutes. And at the end of the installation, I had everything - display, sound, internet, music and video players, cd-burning tools, internet tools, a BitTorrent client, Office software, and even games (including Sudoku). When I tried to install Windows XP on the same machine in dual-boot mode, just getting the OS installed took more than 40 minutes. Then I had to install the motherboard drivers, the display drivers, and the monitor drivers. I only wanted XP to play my copy of Need for Speed Underground 2, but if I had wanted to use XP for normal purposes, I would have spent the next few hours installing Norton 360, MS Office, and some internet tools. Talk about a waste of time!

The only things I changed after installing Ubuntu, were
  • Used 'Restricted' (meaning closed-source) drivers from ATI, which work a lot better than the open-source ones at this time
  • Installed the msttcorefonts package, which contains some Microsoft developed true-type fonts, including the ubiquitous Verdana
  • Turned on Desktop Effects (Compiz Fusion)
  • Installed the compizconfig-settings-manager package to customize the Compiz settings to my liking

The fonts and drivers are not installed by default, for legal reasons. Closed-source drivers and fonts must be selected by the user specifically. Compiz Fusion - a compositing window manager that makes Vista's Aero obsolete - is still not as stable on large number of machines, and won't work on many embedded graphics card so for simplicity, it's turned off until you specifically turn it on. See this Compiz Fusion demo and find out why Linux users are so thrilled. And before you ask - No, you can't get this working on Windows.

I'm a complete geek, but one thing I noticed about Ubuntu is the fact that - as advertised - it just works. It'll be a lot easier for you to teach your grandparents to use Ubuntu, than to use Vista. Desktop Linux is definitely here to stay.

The latest version of Ubuntu - Intrepid Ibex (8.10) - will be out in 3 days. So head to the Ubuntu site and try it for yourself.

Note: Here are some good articles if you've never setup a dual-boot system before -
How to dual-boot Vista with Linux (Vista installed first) -- the step-by-step guide with screenshots
How to dual boot Windows XP and Linux (XP installed first) -- the step-by-step guide with screenshots