Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beauty or Brains?

I think Fiat Linea has the best looking grill I have ever seen on a car. I say that because I have never seen the Aston Martin DB9. The Linea is unquestionably the best looking automobile in India today. And that is why I will never buy it. Let me explain.

Look at this. This is the Yamaha YZF R15. A thoroughbred racetrack motorbike.

It looks staggering from every angle.

Except this.

If you look at it carefully, you will notice that under those huge fairings is a really skinny rear tyre. And it is such a bloody eyesore. You will also notice, if you have even the most rudimentary sense of aesthetics, that it looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger sitting atop a telegraph post.

That's what you would think. But therein lies the rub. That is no ordinary tyre. It is a bespoke MRF medium-soft compound tyre which is finely tuned along with the chassis and the rear suspension package to provide optimum grip and traction under all riding conditions. But more importantly - and here is where it gets interesting - it is evidence that somewhere, in the boardroom of a huge bureaucratic multinational organisation, the engineering department managed to convince the marketing and advertising departments. Which means there is a very good reason why the bike looks like a famished Somalian goat from behind. Something about that tyre was so phenomenally good that a bunch of overpaid corporate fat-cats sat quietly and listened to an engineer.

It is a fact that functional things seldom look good. Have you ever seen a beautiful turret drill? Or an exquisite parachute harness? See, that's the point. You wouldn't marry a woman because she has a purse that has 28 secret compartments? Fair enough. But if you suffer a puncture in the middle of the night on a deserted highway and you desperately need a puncture kit and possibly even two sets of spare tyres, wheel rims, the tools to change the tyres and maybe even a can of petrol... remember it is not her nice legs that will come to your rescue. Then you'll wish you hadn't made fun of the purse.

So guys, the choice is yours - Not having to wait for 6 hours for the highway tow truck to show up? Or nice legs?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Try this

Try this -

Seach for "famous mexican porn star with fat ass" on and click on images on the search results screen. See what website comes up first.

Honestly, this wasn't my idea! That sitemeter thingy showed me that someone from new york had arrived at my website from looking for just that.

If you don't believe me, here is a screenshot.

Ha ha ha!

Guess who is the latest celebrity in town!

Read the newspaper, you morons. See today's edition of The Hindu - Education Plus. Check out Education Industry's newest pin-up boy.

Maybe I should wear sunglasses and a false beard, to avoid getting mobbed. OK, queue up for autographs...

Maybe when all this nonsense is over, I will quietly retire to the countryside, far away from the intruding public eye.

Maybe I should drink less coffee.

OK now don't show up with a pin at a hot-air balloon festival. Keep your comments to yourselves.

(OK I was kidding. I love fan mail.)

If you lived in Orissa between 2004 and 2006, don't ever go there again.

You will be disappointed.

Oriya girls are very pretty, of course. But I wouldn't go out with one for the same reason that you wouldn't eat dinner off a hospital floor. Of course the floor is sterlised and germ-free, but as a choice of cutlery it somehow seems inappropriate.

I was in Bhubaneswar last weekend. I was expecting it to be a pleasant trip down memory lane, but it turned out to be the most depressing time I've had in the recent past. (If you can't type the word "depressed" on your mobile phone in less than 2 seconds without looking at the screen, call me. I would love to see a relic the giant wheel of evolution left in its wake. Really, turn the dictionary mode on and try it - it’s like punching in a Morse code! "going" too, for that matter)

I never thought I'd say this, but for the first time since I set foot in Bhubaneswar in mid '04, I didn't feel at home there. But then, I never thought I would say Wyk! Mag die duiwel jou haal!, but I just did.

The roads are now mirror smooth and a mile wide. Not at all as I remember having left it 3 years ago. The airport lobby looks more like an airport lobby than a medieval poultry farm. New malls have sprung up where there was once barren land. When the landscape of the city changes, something happens to it. It loses its personality. Bhubaneswar isn't the quaint little town I once knew. Instead it had become a bustling city astir with activity.

As I was being driven around in this suddenly-unfamiliar city, I could see disconnected fragments from the past. An old restaurant here, a familiar banyan tree there. It was a ghost town. Maybe change isn’t always a good thing. The medieval poultry farm was cramped and dirty, but it had a charm that a thousand mass-produced Coffee Day outlets cannot match. Bhubaneswar didn't have malls or multi-storied car parks, but then it wasn't run-of-the-mill. I sort of liked the narrow streets, come to think of it. Orissa isn't a place you go to armed with a briefcase and a Wi-fi phone. No. You go to Orissa when you have a couple of months to spare and spend the time in a hazy mix of motorcycling and drugs.

But it was heartening to see that some things have not changed yet. Locals are still astounded by the sheer complexity of an escalator. You still get Ghuguni at 5 AM for 5 bucks a plate. You can still get a tolah for 5 bucks. (Yes, I checked. Although it used to be Rs.3 in '06, I remember. That's a CAGR of 29.1%, which is still higher than the inflation of most other essential commodities.)

My reluctance to make fun of all things Oriya is matched only by the ease with which I know I can. I don't want to talk about it. It was really sad to see that Bhubaneswar had all the symptoms of a city which had succumbed to ambition. I decided that I will never go there again. I love Bhubaneswar too much to see it decay into prosperity.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Genesis of a Revolution

A most worrying thing happened  last week. I told a colleague at work that my motorcycle wouldn't start because the decompressor was jammed open and there was no compression in the cylinder. He advised me to "shut down" the ignition and reboot the motorcycle. And laughed out loud. I don't know what I found more distressing - his absolute lack of knowledge of mechanical components or his shockingly tasteless sense of humour. Now, I can tolerate most things, but I am really impatient with imbeciles. I could sense a Ctrl+Alt+Delete joke coming on, so I promptly pretended to get a telephone call and sneaked away.

I believe that the quality of humour prevalent in a given population is one of the important indicators of its average intelligence. I firmly believe that we as a race are falling in a downward spiral of diminishing creativity and unless something drastic is done to improve the situation, we would all soon be flopping about, guffawing uncontrollably at Youtube videos of dogs running in circles.

Intelligence levels are falling at an alarming rate. Let me remind you here that IQ is not a measure of absolute intelligence. It is only a measure of how intelligent you are compared to the rest of the population. If you plot the intelligence of an amoeba population on a normal graph, half of them would have an IQ of more than 100.

Deteriorating standards of humour is not the only alarming trend, though. What is more worrying is the dwindling number of scientific innovations. With over 2 million engineers graduating every year, you would think at least a few hundred would display some ingenuity and create something useful; but No. The level of common sense is appalling. I mean we are a country of 2 billion people, and yet look at the engineering progress we have made since the medieval times.

I am not a nerd, but I am proud of what engineers have done for mankind. And it pains me to see that the brightest young engineering students end up in software companies with their heads shoved up a computer's backside. The problem is super-specialisation. I mean, it is comforting to know that if my mobile phone has a defect in its 137th microchip circuit, there are 10 million engineers who are willing to kill each other to repair it for 50p. But the same engineers would be clueless if circuit #140 failed. Why? I know insects that are more skilled than that. The problem is that we have too many engineering colleges and not much engineering being taught. The best engineers and innovators never had any formal education. Look at Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and Colin Chapman. They had nothing more than an old shed, a few worn out tools and the glistening Spirit of Innovation, against which all the deemed Universities with all their shiny yellow buses seem shallow and hypocritical.

The problem is that that mirror of our society - that Facekut thing, shows a bleak and gloomy image filled with catatonic cows grazing on a toxic wasteland. The problem is dozens of incompetent morons on 97.3 FM radio with a collective IQ of 48, who talk non-stop for hours on end and yet say nothing. Those blithering idiots. And they seem to have the whole world wrapped around their fingers. They are seen by impressionable little children as cool and admirable. Those RJs are what is wrong with the world. The problem is, which screams "Create a blog - its Free!" - Yes. That is what we need. More and more idiots creating blogs because its free. "Go and throw up over the Mona Lisa - It's Free!!" Reality shows are the problem. How ordinary does your life have to be before you start watching glimpses from others lives for your own entertainment, and discuss it with neighbours for the next 12 hours? The problem is that "single, available male from Delhi" on Facekut called "loverboy4u" whose only brush with literature is a pathetic excuse for a sentence, which is just a few concrete nouns shabbily strung together with words like “dude” and “cool”

If that Facekut thing holds so much sway over such a huge majority of the youth, it also has a moral responsibility to stop being a mirror and start acting like a beacon. It owes that to the society. And I don't see that happening, ever.

So, what is the solution? Is it more rigorous education, better colleges and infrastructure? No. It is far too expensive and not much fun. Besides, it will be eagerly taken up and managed by the same imbeciles who caused the problem in the first place.

But don't worry. I have been giving the matter some thought and as always, I have a solution. Indeed, the conclusion is inescapable if you look past the symptoms and focus on what the problem really is. The problem isn't a scarcity of technological innovation or a lack of greens in the diet. Those are merely the symptoms. The problem fundamentally is a lack of imagination.

And how do you cure a lack of imagination?

Slow down. Read what follows syllable by syllable.

Listen to me very carefully. Shoot the grumpy old Thermodynamics professor in the face. Legalise marijuana. And take the insane more seriously. Remember that insanity is only a statistical parameter, and all real progress depends on the minority opinion. Listen to the minority opinion. It is probably the smartest thing you will ever do.

A little imagination and a thimbleful of Cannabis can change the world.

Think about it. Imagination is the only thing you truly possess. It is your only hope, only salvation. If you don't have imagination you are no different from cattle. If you don't have imagination, you don't have anything. The first man who was willing to undertake a voyage "around" the world, relied on nothing more than mere suspicion that the world may not be flat as everyone else believed, and his own undying belief that the earth was round... I mean, what evidence did he have in the 15th century that corroborated that the earth was round? None. So his adventure was based on a wild, risky plan. He had the nerve to do something wild and achieve something extraordinary. He knew he might fall off the edge of the earth if he was wrong and the rest of the world was right. But if there was a risk, he was willing to take it. If he had to be laughed at, or die for attempting something that stupid, then so be it. That was the price he was prepared to pay for his conviction. What we need today is that scientific curiosity. What we need are people who would be willing to trade all they have for one moment of revelation. We need people who would rather be laughed at for defending their "fantastic" ideas than spend their lives wondering about what might have been. The educational system should reward inquisitiveness as opposed to mere rote. The education system we have now rewards the ones who can imitate best. But what good is imitation if we aspire to move forward? Curiosity should be incentivised. Knowledge should not be a means to a better or richer life. It should be a reward in itself.

History textbooks should carry historians' opinions, not politicians'. Science textbooks should come with a very visible disclaimer that all of science is merely based on our interpretation of observable facts, and it may or may not give the complete picture. And that there lies an implicit assumption that the scientific process can explain the world. And that need not be true. The Universe might work just as well based on the rules of Peruvian Voodoo. Scientific rules exist only until proven otherwise. Give in the reins. It's time to be bold and declare our ignorance. There is nothing shameful in a search to find the truth, inspite of our very human limitations. And nothing is more dignified.


Just when I was thinking of hanging up my gloves and taking a long break from blogging, DP went and did this. Then Adamsballs decided to step back into the ring. All the ingredients necessary to spark off yet another bout of creative diarrhoea are now present. Except Time. That bitch. It's a bit like assembling dynamite on a rainy day. You know you can blow up the Parliament if only it stopped raining. If only someone held the umbrella while we rigged the explosive. What we need are matches that are not soggy. What we a plan.

What worries me is that I sound like such a regular guy at times.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

On Piercings

A friend of mine announced yesterday that she wanted to get her eyebrow pierced. Now let me tell you at the outset that I have body piercings. I'm not going to tell you where, but its quite easy to guess if I told you that when I was born my parents took a long look at me and decided that almost everything was quite alright anatomically, but what I really needed was to have my ears stapled.  

Honestly, I don't really understand the concept of body piercings. In my opinion, the whole idea is quite Neanderthal. I mean, piercings were quite necessary if your name was "Ug" and your idea of state-of-the-art technology was a wooden disc. Because then you would be sufficiently indistinguishable from your evolutionary predecessors, which would justifiably necessitate a marking of some kind on your body that would help identify you as a different species so that you don't accidently mate with an orangutan. Piercings were therefore microevolutionary catalysts that ensured progressive advancement in the gene pool.

But this is the 21st century, we now have that Facekut thing for gene pool refinement, and I don't see why we should not discontinue the ghastly practice of punching holes in one's body and dangling bits of metal from them.

I was 15 before I realised that the whole piercing thing had a sexual undercurrent to it. But it took me even longer to figure out what the deal with tongue piercings is. You can imagine my shock when I finally connected the dots!

Of all the things that make me think Evolution was one big practical joke....