Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sidney Lumet Binge

I need to go on a Sidney Lumet binge. I just saw him get the honorary Oscar. I had seen so many of his movies but did not know that he had directed them: Network, Dog Day Afternoon. Power, 12 Angry Men, Q & A, Guilty As Sin, Murder On The Orient Express, Child's Play. Here are the ones I had always wanted to see but did not know they were Lumet's: Serpico, The Verdict, All the King's Men. And now here are the ones that I just found out about: The Group, The Hill, Bye Bye Braverman, The Anderson Tapes, The Wiz.

It is unbelievable to me that he has never won an academy award before. I have to agree with NY Times that this is a gross oversight. Well, it's not like they have not done this with other people. They did that to Al Pacino. He got nominated 7 times before he finally won for his brilliant and earth-shattering performance in Scent Of A Woman. But what about Bob Hope? What about Scorcese? I hope that oversight is corrected today when he wins for The Aviator. I know I wanted Eastwood to win, but I could not believe that Scorcese has not won before. How could he be passed over for Raging Bull? Taxi Driver? I think Eastwood can easily forego this one. So, I would officially like to change my vote to Martin Scorcese for Best Director. (I know it does not matter, but I was right about The Incredibles!! )

Back to Chris Rock. I got to say I am not really enjoying him as the host. i miss Whoopi, Billy and Robin.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Marriage Works ?

I forgot to post this earlier (well, not really but I guess procrastination is kind of like forgetting right?) but I saw an interesting billboard on the Metro station on Saturday when I was out in D.C. It said, plainly, "Marriage Works". Of course, you might be amused by that, what with the divorce rates going through the roof. And I am not saying I was not.

I see this as false advertising in any country. I would have been much happier if they had said "Marriage can work". Sorry to be nit-picky, but I think a message telling people that marriage is something that you need to work on every day, rather than pre-packaged utopian bliss, should prove to spread more awareness (if that was your purpose in the first place).

What? Just because I am not married, I am not qualified to give marital advice?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Grill From Ipanema

Mirna invited all of us for a brunch out in Washington, DC on Saturday. It was sort of a farewell gathering as she will be going back to Brazil on Friday. The venue was a cozy little Brazilian restaurant called "The Grill From Ipanema". For all you non-jazz fans, that name is a take on the famous bossa nova song "The Girl From Ipanema" (my favorite version is the most famous one, the one performed by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto. Here is the original Brazilian version.)

Let me see if I can remember who all were there that I know: My advisor, of course, and her husband Steve. Okan and David. And Mirna, of course. I also got to know Okan's roommate, Tikir, a little better. He is a very nice guy and very fun to talk to. Also met David's girlfriend Hwa (sp?).

We ordered from the brunch menu. The food was pretty good and so was the service. I got the "Frango Ao Molho Branco" - which, as Mirna told me, literally means, "Chicken and White Sauce". Systran says it means "Chicken The White Gravy". Close enough. It was not cheap though. $17.99 for each entreé, not including the gratuities and taxes. I guess it is to be expected when you are eating in Adams Morgan. Anyway, we got our choice of drinks and I ordered iced tea again without asking whether it was sweetened or not. Had to drink unsweetened iced tea for the rest of the afternoon. The irony was that they had free refills too.

The conversation was fun. At one point we were talking about programming languages, since Bonnie is teaching a class in Java this semester but her real allegiance certainly lies with Lisp. David and I (the resident pythonistas) were chatting up python every chance we could get. It is nice to have a fellow python lover in the research group, I must say.

I also talked with Okan and Tikir about the similarities and differences between the education systems of India and Turkey. Turns out they are not all that different. Other topics in the conversation included airline-bashing (domestic and international) and neighborly relations (or the lack thereof) between India-Pakistan and Turkey-Greece.

We also had our choice of dessert included in the price of the brunch. Well, it was not really much of a choice. There were just 3 items on the menu: Fried Banana, Rice Pudding and Guava Paté with Cheese. Okan, Tikir and I ordered one of each and shared. The rice pudding tasted very simiar to the Indian version.

After the meal, Bonnie and Steve left. The rest of us walked back to the Metro station. David, Hwa and I headed back East. Okan, Tikir and Mirna headed off the to zoo to see the new baby cheetahs.

Mirna said that she is looking forward to going back but in 2 weeks she will be missing the US too much. Well, that never happens to me. When I go to India, I wish i could stay in India forever. May be my threshold is just higher :-)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Did you ever own one of the top 100 gadgets?

Mobile PC Magazine has come out with a list of the 100 best gadgets of all time. It is a pretty well-thought out list, paying tribute not just to trend-setting successes like the Sony Mavica digital camera, but also gadgets that might have failed in their specific incarnations but created a niche, like the Casio Cassopeia E-10. Of course the life-altering culture-forming ones are there in good numbers (in chronological order):

1. Abacus (190 AD)
2. Telephone (1876)
3. Master Lock Padlock (1924)
4. Schick Electric Razor (1931)
5. Zippo Windproof Lighter (1932)
6. Accusplit Memory Stopwatch (1972)
7. Rubik's Cube (1974)
8. Motorola Bravo Numeric Pager (1986)
9. The Car Alarm Key Fob (somewhere in the 1990s)

Here are some that I actually owned (or currently own):

1. HP-35 Scientific Calculator (1972)
2. Sony Walkmans (1979)
3. Nintendo Game Boy (1989) [a.k.a "The Big Fridge"]
4. Apple iPod (2001)

What about the number 1 gadget? I am proud to say that the number 1 gadget of all time is an Apple Powerbook. No, not the one I currently have but a model made almost 15 years ago !! Amazing or what ?!!

What about you? Did you ever own any of these?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Oscar Fever

The Academy Awards are next Sunday and I am actually excited because this time Chris Rock is hosting. I was actually pretty surprised when I first heard this news. I didn't think Rock was the kind of host the Academy will be comfortable with. His humor is rowdy and incisive but not in a Robin Williams kind of way. I love Rock's stand up. His 2004 show on HBO was, as Montgomery Burns would say, "Excellent" ! But I am apprehensive about this. Not for Rock. Oh, i am sure he can handle anything they throw at him. I am just worried about all the people he will "make fun of" (euphemism alert!). In a way, he has already started.

Anyway, the point of this post was to talk about old man Oscar. First of all, I am very excited that work from India has been nominated. "Little Terrorist", directed by Ashvin Kumar. is a story about "crossing boundaries". A Pakistani boy crosses the border after his ball and ends up in a minefield. He is given shelter by an orthodox Hindu Brahmin and the story is about their relationship. And don't forget, this is a short (15 minutes). I would be interested to see how he is able to develop and portray the relationship in that short a time period. Definitely must-see.

Now, as far as the main awards go, Here's who I hope will win. The ones I think I will probably lose on are marked with an asterisk(*):
  1. Best Actor*: Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby. I was kind of surprised to see that Paul Giamatti's brilliant performance in Sideways went unnoticed.
  2. Best Actress*: Hillary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. I have heard that Annette Benning might actually win this for Being Julia but since I did not see that one, I can't say.
  3. Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church for Sideways. One of the most brilliant portrayals of a loser in a long long time.
  4. Best Supporting Actress*: Virginia Madsen for Sideways.
  5. Best Animated Feature Film: The Incredibles. Oh please please please!! I guess since Shark Tale was one of the 3 animated feature films. they had to nominate it as well. What a stinker that one was! Yes, I could have just not seen it but I was on a plane ... what is your excuse? Shrek 2 is definitely a contender.
  6. Best Movie: Well, this is a tough one. I can't make up my mind actually. Million Dollar Baby was awesome. Sideways was original and laugh-out-loud funny. Aviator was a Scorcese. Ray is a memoriam to a legend and the finest acting from Jamie Foxx. Hotel Rwanda is supposed to be excellent too. So, I have pretty much no idea what is going to happen. (Well, a small part of me roots for Sideways. Flawless, funny comedies come few and far between.)
Anyway, all will be resolved on 27th February. Enjoy !

Nostalgia [Ignorable Rant]

Just “talked” to an old friend. Nostalgia has struck him and he wants to renew his relationships with everyone from our class in college. For this noble purpose, he has initiated a chain mail with an attached Excel spreadsheet (What were you thinking, Guriqbal?). You get the email, you download the spreadsheet, you fill in all the details about what you have been doing for the last 5 years of your life and of course, you are encouraged to fill in the details of everyone you know of and what they have been doing, attach the spreadsheet and send it out again.

This is all fine and dandy. Catching up with friends. I did a bit of that when I went to India this this past December. I have no problems with the idea but you know there are always some people that really you don't want to hear from and of course, they always write back. Anyway, long story short ... I am not really fond of the idea but I can live through it.

Here's the interesting part: now he wants me to write a “sentimental and heart-warming” note to everyone saying how they should participate in this chain mail, because I was the “creative” one in the class. if you are laughing right now and saying to yourself, “Yeah, right ! Like Nitin's going to do that !”, you are dead on. Having to hear from people you don't want to hear from is one thing, but initiating contact ?! Never in a million years !! Sorry, Guriqbal.

Anyway, I think that is enough ranting for today. (Or is it?)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Eric Idle

Just saw Eric Idle on The Daily Show. Since it is a half hour show, he was only on for about 8 minutes but he was hilarious as usual. Apparently, Monty Python's Spamalot is coming to Broadway. Some good names are in the cast- David Hyde Pierce (Niles to you Frasier fans), Tim Curry and Hank Azaria. When Jon asked him who's directing, Idle replied with a straight face, "Some guy called MIke Nichols. We were looking for someone famous but he is who we could get. Diane Sawyer recommended him actually". I don't quite get the Sawyer reference but then I never got all the python jokes either. Anyway, he also quipped - "The show is absolutely dreadful. Don't go ... unless you like comedy".

Idle also has new book out. It is called "The Greedy Bastard Diary - A Comic Book Tour of America". Should be fun. A bit of googling also let me to this very very funny song (Warning: You should be over 18 and should dislike FCC very much).

I never could understand why Eric Idle was on this extremely mediocre sitcom-like-thing on American television. I acknowledge that mediocrity is synonymous with American sitcoms*, but Eric Idle? Come on !

*Disclaimer: Since The Daily Show is not a sitcom, the above comments have no bearing on it whatsoever and it remains, as always, a very funny show.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Apple Mail or Thunderbird

Had a discussion with Matt and Christof today about using Thunderbird as opposed to Apple's I have been using Thundebird for about a year and a half (I think since version 0.5 came out). It has worked wonderfully but lately I have been witnessing a slowdown with the campus IMAP server. First of all, it takes a long time to send an email and even if it does, I would really like the annoying dialog box to go away. I think Mail handles that more elegantly, with a little notification swirly thing on top of the window pane. Plus the "Abort" button in Mail responds much more quickly than its counterpart in Thunderbird. Also, Mail integrates with the System Address Book very nicely.

I am certainly not saying that Apple's Mail is a better product than Thunderbird. For one thing, Mail does not have the capability to save searches as virtual folders like Thunderbird - something I sorely miss (Mail in Tiger will certainly have this feature, I am assured). The other thing that I did not like about Mail was that it was too unobtrusive about new mail notifications. Thunderbird's icon in the dock used to jump up and down merrily whenever I got new mail. Mail quietly updates a red count on the dock icon without any effective notification (yes, I did use the sounds and they are not effective .. get with it !). So I searched the cool macosxhints site for a solution and Voila .... Mail.appetizer ... adds a "notification" preference pane to the Mail preferences and gives a nice floating , transparent and resizable window on the desktop telling me who the mail is from, the subject and a small summary. Cool stuff !! So, I guess that issue is addressed.

Have been using Mail for about a week now and seems to work fine. Will update if I decided to revert to Thunderbird.

[composed and posted with

Fabulous Photo Blog

Matt just told me that Gaja (his wife) has a photo blog up. I checked it out and it is absolutely stunning. She seems to be a natural behind the camera. Added the RSS feed to my reader and looking forward to the next posts.

Matt said she is using, a free service run by someone in Baltimore. That's a great idea, I think. Also, they use MovableType as the backend. I kind of prefer LiveJournal but I guess for now I am happy with Blogger.

The Bits Of My Life

Attended a very cool talk today by Jim Gemmell, as part of the Seminar series organized by the Human Computer Interaction group at the department. A very ambitious project - MyLifeBits, that lets you "capture" everything (almost) in your life and organize it for you to use later. The guy behind ( and the guinea pig) it is the legendary Gordon Bell and Jim said that they are digitizing almost every aspect of Gordon's life and capturing it for their software - phone calls are recorded, books/papers/old photos are scanned. The backend is a complex SQL database.

The demo was pretty cool. Actually what got me drooling is this (read more here). It is a "passive" capture device and has some pretty cool features.

Over all, I am not sure how useful this would be (as Doug said, the searches in the software - the most powerful part - depend on the metadata being there in the database. What if I have no metadata about an item?) but it certainly is cool.

I guess I should get back to work now :-)

Testing Ecto

Hmm ... I have been de-blogged for too long. I need to get back in the game, man ! I think I am going to buy Ecto. I have used it before and it is very cool and very very convenient. And, of course, one of my favorite blogs shares my opinion. May be then I will not take this long between posts .... may be.