Saturday, October 11, 2008

Doodles & The Subconscious

I have been doing it for as long as I can remember. As a kid, it was mostly the margins of The Hindu. Notebooks were spared, as they were frequently examined at school.

Now my notepads, printouts, meeting minutes are full of it : Solid Os, Ds , circles, landscapes, textures, cartoons, geometry shapes and irregular forms.

Give me a pencil and a piece of paper and there is more than a 90% chance, you will find it. And it's all driven by my subconscious.

Honestly, I have no clue as to what I am doing when I am doing it or what I end up doing. Something that seems to start small at the margins, ends up taking up the whole page, time permitting.

Anytime is a good time, especially phone conversations, lecture sessions, meetings or idle time at the workstation.

Doodles, as the world calls them, is defined by Wikipedia as a type of sketch, an unfocused drawing made while a person's attention is otherwise occupied. They are simple drawings which can have a meaning, a shape or just irregular forms.

This somehow seems to explain my fascination for the abstract & the surreal. If you look at Jackson Pollack or Wassily Kandinsky or other abstract artists, their paintings are doodles at heart, subconsciously spontaneous, albeit at a much grander scale. Everything is fluid, non-representational, open to interpretation, with no visual reference to the real world...qualities I love in any art form.

Now the question that pops up is do they have meaning, can their interpretations reveal the subconscious. Pundits seem to think so, studying them with same fervor as handwriting analysis or dream interpretation.

There is a lot of literature on Doodle interpretations with location on the page consistently suggested as the most significant aspect of understanding a doodle.

Now it feels like doodles are a part of my identity, as unique as myself. As long as my teammates don't take offense to my doodling in meetings, my subconscious will keep firing away.

Friday, April 25, 2008

IMDb 250, my new quest

What do the following have in common Casablanca, Pulp Fiction, Cidade de Deus, Shichinin no samurai, Alien, Blade Runner, Star Wars, 2001:A space odyssey, Ying xiong, The Shawshank Redemption ...

These with 250 others make the current IMDb Top 250 and are heralded as the best in cinematic experience.

Most of these ushered in a new era of technical innovations with visionary narratives, futuristic concepts and above all redefined the art of story telling as never seen or done before. So great was their influence, now deemed cult classics, they spawned a whole new breed of literature, video games, merchandise, television series and sequels.

So what elevates these movies into a league of their own, IMHO, is predominately the concept/script. No wonder most of these are adaptations of literature - be fiction, non-fiction or comic books. Having visionaries like Spielberg, Kubrick, Wachowski bros, Tarantino, Hitchcock, Lucas, Pixar studios spearheading these doesn't hurt either.

I appreciate good cinema. It fuels your imagination and serves as an escape to a virtual world. And while you are there, you can make your own rules, live your dreams, experience a gamut of emotions and do whatever your free will desires. The story lines will truly astound and amaze you, rattle your notions of what, why and how of life, form and matter, question your beliefs and understanding of things and lead you into the unknown abyss. ...And it's this expanding of mind's horizons that is the most gratifying aspect of this whole experience.

Now...take an educated guess as to how many you would have already watched...70%? 60%?. I, for one, consider myself a movie buff, and my viewership is at 80 movies, a dismal 30%. Surprised? ..Well, I was.

Some of those on the list are at least a couple of decades old. So unless you go out of your way to watch never will. And when you watch them, you have to be cognizant of the era they were made in and what it would have meant...undoubtedly true pioneers of the art form.

So, if you have a taste for good cinema, watch these and be in awe of the vastness & boundlessness of human creativity and potential.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Wii experience

To break the 'lull' surrounding 3 months of my inactivity, lets start with the blast i have been having playing the Wii. I have never been a serious gamer and gaming consoles have always ranked low on my wish list. But the Wii changed all that in an instant - zap!

I almost bought a PS3, partly for its next-gen blu-ray player. When the Wii was launched last November, the whole internet was abuzz with its distinguishing, motion sensing wireless controller.

Some of my colleagues who are early game adopters were all praise for it. Did a couple of back and forths, as i always do, and was ready to jump on the Wii bandwagon.

...and after that determination can you guess how long it was before i could wrap my hands around a Wii - 3 whole kidding.

Countless late night trips, early morning calls and frustration ended when a Best Buy store 45 mins away had 10 in stock. My excitement was that of a one year old who had just received his favorite long.

With the Wii, its a whole new world. Everyone who picks it up is an instant expert. It's as close to having pure fun as it gets...hours of addictive play and tons of simple pleasurable joy.

Along with the bundled Wii Sports, I have been playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy and my only complaint - 24hrs in a day are sufficient no more !

Nintendo's vision of reaching out to once disinterested gamers is all but accomplished and a whole year after its release, you still see people complaining about not being able to find the Wii - a true testament to its reach and popularity.

Such is the power of an idea.. a 'revolution' in the true sense of the word.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Kino Na Tabi

At lunch time, we have the habit of watching a TV series episode on one of the projector room big screens. We usually get a carry-out from some food joint and lock ourselves up for the next hour.

When we finished the second season of The Office, my friend popped-in a (Japanese) anime, Kino No Tabi , supposedly to act as a filler before we could find something else.

But after watching just two episodes I was hooked. I have never watched anime before and I am impressed, to say the very least.

Kino Na Tabi(Kino's Journey) is a deep, thoughtful, character driven anime. It is the story of a girl named Kino who travels the world with her talking motorad Hermes.

In the series, we come across countries with some very strange customs and traditions. As we watch each country through Kino's eyes, no viewpoints are forced on us. The information is there for each one of us to interpret and assimilate.

It just tells you the story without necessarily giving you all the answers...very very thought provoking!

"The world is not beautiful; Therefore, it is." rings deeply in my heart.

The sky is boundless, because it's the mirror of my soul.It changes colors everyday, as if it's reflecting my heart.

Sooo poetic and sooo surreal...

Words can't do this beautiful anime enough justice. Watch it and get a whole new perspective on life.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

July 4 Roap Trip

I am a long drive freak - Big Time. Going places is something that really excites me and if its a road trip, helluva lot better. Be driver or passenger, I am always ready to hop on.

So when plans for this July 4th were up in the air we decided to take 2 days off before or after and cover the Midwestern US.

After a lot of brain storming, this is how the trip was like. The best part is the trip is a LOOP.

As I already said, I LOVE road trips and here are the Top 5 by distance not counting the one I just had. Any place I stopped as part of site-seeing or visiting friends is mentioned. If I made berth just to rest, its not in there.

Dallas,TX - Colorado Springs, CO - Denver, CO - Dallas, TX
1,677 mi – About 1 day 3 hours

Dallas, TX - Cleveland, OH
1,181 mi – About 18 hours 11 mins

Dallas,TX - Memphis,TN - Nashville, TN - Greensboro, NC
1,127 mi – About 17 hours 19 mins

Phoenix,AZ - Las Vegas, NV - Grand Canyon, AZ - Phoenix, AZ
805 mi – About 13 hours 28 mins

Cleveland,OH - Louisville,KY - Cleveland,OH
697 mi – About 11 hours 14 mins

I have done so many other 300-600 mile trips, I cannot even start counting. I intend to undertake many more of these as time goes by.

Before I take leave, I should say Cloud Gate-Chicago , F1 Race Track-Indianapolis and Elevator System in the Gateway arch-St Louis were really marvelous and deserve a special mention.

Must See !

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Who Owns The Strip

In Vegas, the house always wins.

Many of the largest hotel, casino and resort properties are located on The Strip - MGM Grand, Caesar's Palace, Bellagio, Paris, Luxor, Newyork-Newyork, Excalibur.

It is more than likely that your squandered money goes to fill the pockets of just two.

Wondering how?

You will be surprised to know that despite so many different casinos and varied building themes, most of The Strip is owned by just two companies - MGM Mirage and Harrah's Entertainment.

Harrah's is in fact also the largest gaming company in the world followed by MGM Mirage.

Here is an image from Wikipedia edited to contain what these two big guys own on The Strip.

BTW in my case, the house did not always win. In Atlantic City, I won $900 on slot machines. Sweet huh!

However in Vegas I lost around 200 bucks at the end of a 2 day gambling frenzy.

So when you go to Vegas next time, you will know who is exactly taking your money.

Cruelty and Kitchen

With the International Whaling Commission(IWC) annual meeting underway last month, questions about whaling and animal rights in general surfaced again. Whale meat is a picky issue and demonstrates the schism that exists in todays world.

If you are meat eating or just don't care, you might be inclined to think what's all this fuss about. Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion, a different outlook towards life and I respect that. Be what suits you best.

This article on BBC explores how culture, religion and customs influence what's acceptable and what's not as food and how we have evolved to be so different from each other. The original article is embedded in an iframe here.

I know its kinda hard to read it here, but my site template seems to be restricting the width of the iframe window.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

So what is your friend browsing

Curiosity is a good thing. It makes a creature question the how,why and what of its surroundings and as a result increases awareness and understanding.

So how many times have you wondered what your friend sitting across the couch(or in his room) is doing with his head buried in his laptop.

This is intended to be just an experiment and not invade some else's personal space. I wanted to prove to myself that this is something simple to accomplish. Organizations do this all the time but they have more resources, equipment and money.

So I embarked on my research and a possible implementation.

I figured that a network protocol analyzer and a little tweaking on the router should do it for me. And the right software turned out to be Wireshark (formerly known as Ethereal). The best part is Wireshark is free.

The fundamental thing that needs to happen to capture packets that are not addressed to your NIC is to run it in promiscuous mode or monitor mode. And not all cards support this feature. Luckily my LAN Adapter supported promiscuous mode.

When I put my NIC into promiscuous mode, I wasn't seeing any packets not addressed to me. Strange I thought.

Researched again and found out all routers are by default switched. What that means is to improve network efficiency(prevent collisions), the router sends only the traffic that is addressed to you on your CAT5 cable. So the router also acts as a filter and to be able to do anything, you will have to capture traffic before it passes to your router( between your cable modem and router )

I then thought"How about my wireless network. By its very nature, it should be amenable to promiscuous capture."

Tried that and no luck there as well since my Wireless NIC did not support promiscuous mode.

Hmm... so much for my sniffing experiment. But I was adamant to get this thing working.

Again researched...and the answer turned out to be the good old Ethernet Hub.

Hubs were the norm once upon a time when switches were still expensive. A Hub is basically a repeater and any packet entering any port is broadcast out on every other port (every port other than the port of entry).

"Thats it !. That's what I need to get going."

Turned out, not an easy thing to find a hub these days. No one sells them anymore. Circuitcity, Microcenter, Staples, Compusa, Frys,,, Amazon(new ones) no where.
At last I found one at BestBuy - Dynex 4 port Hub.

Armed with the hub, I started tweaking my home network again.The key is to plug your hub between the cable modem and the router. And run the LAN cable from one of the ports on the hub to your laptop.

..and viola ! It worked like a charm. The software was capturing all sorts of traffic(URLs) on the network.

Now, I was the God of my home network. I was seeing everything my friends were browsing. So much for their corner seat...

A few hours into the experiment, the network started showing sluggishness because of collision problems. Since hubs are unsophisticated broadcast devices,only one device can successfully transmit at a time and each host remains responsible for collision detection and retransmission. So I had to take the hub out.

In the end, I was happy to achieve what I set out to do and learnt a lot about networks and networking equipment in the process.

May my curiosity rest in peace now, until something else awakens it... AGAIN.