A long time ago.

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Light sabers

In a galaxy far, far away.

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DO or DO NOT. There is no TRY.

Darth Vader

No, I'm your father.


You don't know the power of the dark side.

The Force Awakens


X-Wing Fighter

Long live the Rebel Alliance.

December 26, 2015

'High' in the sky

As I sit down to write this blog, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has already grossed 1 billion dollars worldwide. It's one of those things a fan-boy always feels proud of. It's like a victory for the home-team. The movie's going to smash plenty of records. I can bet my life on it.

Star Wars is a phenomenon. Quote. Unquote. On a galactic scale. No one in his right mind can deny this. One movie, 38 years ago, redefined movie-watching experience for generations to come. Together with its sequels and prequels, it set the platinum standard for what an addictive loyalty to a cinematic franchise looks like. It generated awe-inspiring, fan-frenzied ripples through popular consciousness on a mind-boggling scale. We still haven't got over the high. It spawned a generation of Star Wars junkies like me. Star Wars video games, novels, comics, animated series and a smorgasbord of movie memorabilia shove and jostle for space on the neural shelves of our attention-banks.

Ten years have passed since Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and we are still in need of the occasional fix like recovering drug-addicts. We don't mind more of those needles up our veins.

Speaking of fixes and needles, allow me to give you a few faint clues of how far the Star Wars culture has gone up my nose. I have a R2-D2 pen-stand sitting on my computer table right now. When I was in school and college, I collected all the Star Wars posters I could lay my hands on. There are two strung up on my bedroom even as I speak. Three or four Darth Vader and Storm Trooper masks are shoved away at the back of my cupboard. And you just have to step by my place to have a peek-a-boo at my light saber collection. I have fourteen of them. Yes. You read correct. Fourteen. Yes, yes, I know the judging looks on those faces of yours right now. Big-time nerd. Bigger-time fan. Guilty as charged.

If my mom hadn't convinced me to give away a sizable chunk of my Star Wars toys and action-figures, I would have needed every millimeter of our store-room to stash them. Moms can get pretty convincing. Especially when the subject of kicking me out of my house in order to make room for my stuff comes up. It essentially strips down to bare-bones existence. An existential crisis. It's either them or me. And I get to live through the horror of choosing which childhood treasures to keep and which to throw away. Jeez. Gives me the heebie jeebies even to think about it.

And then there was the day my first girlfriend asked me if Chewbacca was some special-flavored chewing gum. The world looked bleak. This relationship was going to be a bumpy ride.
Kisne kaha mohabbat asaan hota hai,haan?
Mohabbat vi Star Wars ki tarah hota hai.
Har mor asaan nahin hota, har mor pe khushiyaan nahin hoti.
Image is under Creative Commons license. Original pic and its usage terms can be found here.

Once in school, I participated in a fest where I was supposed to pen a movie-review. I poured my love out for the original Star Wars trilogy in a starstruck drool-fest overflowing with sentiment and emotion. It was a day unlike any other. I had entered an altered state. The word-limit was 500. I think I went well over 2000. My pen was scribbling so fast I wonder how it didn't burn smoking holes into the paper. It was like writing a darned love-letter. An honest confession of the purest emotions clogging my soul and choking my heart with unstoppable rapture. When I was finished, I revised the stuff, giving myself a moment to marvel at the glory of my creation. I didn't win any prize. The flair of my pen went unsung and unrewarded, but that's okay. Were it up to me, I'd have stopped at nothing short of awarding myself a Nobel for that review. It was pure poetry.

I had written it all!

A hero's journey from being a bored farm-boy to being the 'chosen one'. The David Vs Goliath struggle of Luke Skywalker pitted against the Empire. The dash of danger and romance which the wild pair of Hans Solo and Leia brought into the mix. The comic relief and 'Aww!So cute!' camaraderie of R2-D2 and C-3PO. The shocking father-son reveal at the end of Episode V. Darth Vader's story- falling to darkness and then redemption in his dying moments. Heroes snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by standing on the shoulders of great sacrifices. The sheer enormity and the magnificence of the universe which the movies spanned. All the super-cool props- the guns, the space-ships, the light sabers (the last item never fails to make my drool-meter hit the sky)! The majesty of space which provided the backdrop to this epic drama. It was like the finest creative minds had come together to cherry-pick the best bits of the greatest stories and then combine them into a grand, jaw-dropping space-fantasy. And last, but not the least, Yoda.
Last, but not the least, be mentioned, I shall.
Image is under Creative Commons license. Original pic and usage terms can be found here.

When I was a kid, I wanted to go dressed to all fancy-dress competitions as Yoda. I had the light saber. I had the robes. But the tricky part was always the mask itself. My mom had tried (and failed on a galactic scale) on multiple occasions to make a Yoda mask for me with the pointy ears and stuff. But I always managed to end up looking like a dork with a bright green cauliflower on his head. The Force failed her each time. Mom often asked me why I didn't want to go as Obi-Wan in stead. No need for a crazy mask whose elaborate manufacturing would drive her to tears. A mere beard would suffice.

But where was the fun in that? By the second go, I had a pretty good idea that mom was going to make a mess of the mask every time, with perfect consistency. Which basically meant that I could guilt-trip her into giving me other goodies later on. The eight second long diabolical laugh track of Emperor Palpatine goes here. I make the bad guys of Star Wars lore feel proud. Smirk.

Speaking of goodies, when I came across the Indiblogger HP Star Wars topic, the fan-boy in me just couldn't resist. I have gone through the unboxing videos of HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook. And I was like...well...

Image is under Creative Commons license. Original pic and its usage terms can be found here.

It starts right from the packaging. Two boxes, one inside the other, both with magnetic clasps. The smaller one even has a "You don't know the power of the dark side" message inscribed within. The foam inserts protecting the notebook are shaped like Imperial Star-fighters! Sweet! The Force is strong with this one! The touch-pad has got the X-wing targeting system of Luke's Death Star trench run etched on it. To top it all, there are those Aurebesh font glyphs on the notebook hinge and beside the track-pad.

Aurebesh font was something which sprung out of the Star Wars movies but which later took on a life of its own. Techies have actually come up with real, authentic computer True Type fonts based on Aurebesh. This particular special edition laptop has an Aurebesh system font installed too.

Honestly speaking, HP and Disney's painstaking attention to detail felt like an elixir of sorts to an ardent devotee's soul. I'm sold on the distressed texture on the lid, the touted 'battle-worn' look of the X-Wing Star Fighter Guidance system. And there is that eerie red keyboard back-lighting. The whole package is smart and aesthetic. And sinister.

I know I sound like a fawning dork. But my geek-bone can't help getting tickled. There is this steady stream of cute little innovation-candies which this laptop keeps dropping on my senses. When the laptop boots up, you'll see that they even made the Recycle Bin look like the Death Star. When you empty it, the icon shifts to a half-finished Death Star 2. Neat. Not to forget, you can replace all the system sounds with Star Wars sounds- the zing of a light saber, the binary music of R2-D2's voice, Darth Vader's labored breathing and a plethora of other tunes and tones.

Don't leave your seats just yet. It's Christmas and Santa has more goodies in store! This Windows 10, 6th Gen Core i5 beauty packs a ton of Star Wars screen-savers, wallpapers and concept art. Then there is the first Marvel Star Wars comic book - a neighbors' envy, collector's pride kind of thing. Belonged to the 70's. And to provide the icing on the cake, there are behind-the-scene photos, storyboards and book excerpts. The whole constellation of digital memorabilia which this 15.6 inch screen laptop packs is enough to give me a nerd boner. Nirvana for Star Wars junkies.

Plus, most importantly, this laptop is a gaming rig. It comes packed with a decent amount of RAM and a NVIDIA GeForce 940M GPU. It's going to be a blast playing Star Wars Battlefront, Just Cause and Call of Duty: Black Ops.

I'm sounding as if a Scooby snack has just been offered to Scooby-doo, ain't I? When I set my eyes on that beauty of a lappie for the first time, the Scooby-Doo in me had his eyebrows hitting the roof and eyes dancing with anticipation! Add to that his pink tongue, moving up down in see-saw fashion and spreading raindrops of drool all around, and voila!
Geek-gasm achieved.

There are a couple strands more of sentiment tethering me to this Star Wars laptop. I have a nice and comfortable history with HP. The laptop on which I'm blogging right now belongs to HP. My first netbook was from the HP stables too. Good times and fond memories, both of them. I had purchased HP stereo headsets to go with the laptop. Music, movies, chatting: the headset-lappie combo kept me company through both fun times and lonely hours.

Thinking of fun times, I have a dream, you know. To have a Star Wars themed bedroom. The wall behind my bed would be completely covered with a Star Wars wallpaper. Just on the opposite wall, there would be three light sabers hanging, of different colors. I might start with red, blue and green. I will change the color combination every month. Underneath them would be my study-table. I would be going for one with a futuristic look. There would be a life-size Darth Vader model in one corner of the room and a Storm Trooper model in the opposite corner. The pillow cases would have Star Wars quotes on them. The bed sheets would be space-blue colored. And a X-Wing Star Fighter model hanging over the bed. Nerd heaven accomplished. To quote Howard from The Big Bang Theory, I'll have achieved 'Nerdvana'. A big part of my childhood, with me, in my room, in exactly the way I want it. But it looks like a distant dream sitting here in India. Star Wars stuff are not that easily available down here.

Maybe, one day. Sigh. A man can only dream.

As of now, all I can do to give myself a fix is book a couple of tickets for The Force Awakens. So, hasta la vista, friends and bloggers. Do leave a comment if you need a review delivered to your inbox. And in keeping with the theme of the contest, I gave my blog a Star Wars twist. I had been wanting to redesign my blog since ages, but the Force wasn't with me. To put it simply, I was feeling too lazy. I am very thankful to HP and Indiblogger. They gave a lazy-bone like me something priceless. Motivation. It took me around two days of continuous tinkering with HTML, CSS, Javascript and jQuery to bring the blog to its present shape. Do tell me what you think about it, okay? Do check out the Star Wars Social Icons cluster. And do definitely check out the Recent Posts section. There is some animation stuff out there which you might find interesting! Good day to you! Peace out!
                      May the force be with you.

Image is under Creative Commons license. Original pic and usage terms can be found here.

January 31, 2015

From a pimple, with love

This letter was written from the trenches of a war which was fought between some brave pimples and a highly efficient, highly effective skin-care product. The pimples lost the war and its last days, as witnessed by a corporal in the pimple army, are captured in this letter,addressed to the corporal's fiancee.

Dear Zita,
I miss you. I don't even know if I'll ever get to see you again. It's been five days since I last caught a glimpse of your lovely redness. You were looking stunning as always. Resplendent, glistening, perched on our host's forehead like a bindi. The way your curves mesmerized me and every hot-blooded, sebum-charged male acne  around me...ah, te amo, I can struggle and struggle endlessly, but I'll never come close to describing it.

But now I'm worried sick because I cannot see you anymore. Earlier, you and I ruled our host's face like royalty. I occupied my throne atop her nose-tip.  And princess, you used to look down from your seat on her forehead, gazing at me, none other than me, coyly, affection bursting at your seams. You and your smile showered radiance upon me like a million falling stars.

Now things have changed. They changed the moment our host (I think her name is Sanjana) decided to wage war upon us. She unleashed hell upon us, Zita. Garnier Pure Active Neem Face Wash. Every word in that long name makes me toss and turn in my sleep. I have seen horrible things in the last couple of days, my love. All my brothers dying on me one by one. Just a few moments before, my best friend breathed his last in my arms. It was mind-numbing, Zita. All the dead cells and bacteria wrenched out from his once proud and healthy body, he was a pale shadow of his former, youthful self as he sputtered his final goodbye. His last few hours were a testimony of pain. His body had become nothing but a cage, with every cell screaming in agony, waiting, craving for release. I don't think I can ever blot out that vision of horror from my brain.

Something tells me I'm going to meet a similar fate. Soon. As I see my last days approaching, my mind keeps going back to the happy ones which are behind us now. I think about how our pimple community spent their days on Sanjana's face amidst peace and prosperity. I think about our glorious days when we played havoc with her sense of self-worth. The crippling blows which we dealt to her confidence, the way we shook up her courage to face the world-those were our days in the sun! Remember the parties we had to celebrate whenever she cringed on seeing her acne-dotted face in the mirror? I remember all too well how your sparkled and glistened whenever she sweated profusely last summer. All the frustration you caused, the way you lowered her morale, the inspirational style in which you made her feel "less"-all your inimitable qualities just made me love you more and more. Remember the poem I made to tell you I love you? I still have it with me. I read it often these days. It's comforting, especially because I've lost sight of you now.

You, beloved, make my heart leap and boast,
Because of the way you unnerve our host.
'Coz of you, she can't look people in the eye,
'Coz of you, her confidence has bid her a good-bye.
She tried to hide us with hair and make-up,
Yet, she and her bf went through a break-up.
You made her the target of her friends' taunt,
'Coz of you, her beauty she couldn't flaunt.
You made her shy-you made her avoid school,
Oh my princess, oh my queen, you rock, you rule!
She dreams of becoming a model, you're ruining it,
Thanks to you, her soul is being sucked out, bit by bit.
You, my love, I will forever and ever cherish,
My devotion to you can never perish.

Sigh! Te amo, even your memories make me high!

You know, before this war began, I often used to leaf through the pages of our history books detailing the achievements of our forefathers. I always used to feel humbled by what they had accomplished.  Some of our forefathers had managed to ruin interviews and job applications because of the blow they had dealt to their host's self-image. Some had managed to instill a deep sense of social phobia in teenagers. The pesky teens had become more withdrawn and secluded because of us. Zita, as much as I felt proud of these achievements of our ancestors, I couldn't help feeling a little unworthy. After all, what had I achieved? What had I done to 'make it large'? I have always been a modest-sized pimple. True, I enjoyed a strategic position. The nose-tip. Sure, I was a freaking embarrassment to her. But that's all I had to boast about! Then one day I chanced upon a couple of lines from a book Sanjana was reading. And they changed my life. I committed the lines to memory.

I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough..

Such profound lines! Described my situation so perfectly. The book was 'The Notebook' by Nicholas Sparks. Loving you has been the greatest accomplishment of my life, te amo. I watched a lot of my near and dear ones die in the last few days. The space around me, once teeming with vitality and zest of a million bacteria, has become nothing more than a barren wasteland of normal and healthy skin cells. All the horrors I witnessed because of Garnier Neem Face Wash have filled my mind with nothing but unceasing visions of intolerable sorrow and crippling anxiety. In these dark moments, it is only your love which keeps the flame of courage alive in me.

As our numbers dwindle, I cannot help but marvel at our foe's ingenious war strategy. How systematically it has wiped us all out! It's not even a war anymore, Zita! It's genocide! We have nothing to fight back with. All our defenses have been neutralized, all our survival techniques invalidated. Our intelligence team had gathered a lot of info about our enemy, hoping that we would be able to figure a way out of this carnage. But even our best brains put together couldn't really do much, except watch helplessly as more and more of our numbers got slaughtered. All the same, I am sending whatever we know to you. I have not seen you for some time and my I clutch my heart fearing if the foe has got to you too. But I'll hold onto my hope and assume that you're still alive and well. You're just hiding till the storm blows over. I am sending you all the intel I have. Maybe, just maybe, you and your colony will succeed where we have failed and have a chance at making it out of this alive.
Our enemy in its decorated battle uniform

Below is the full inventory of the enemy arsenal:
Water, coco-betaine, PEG-8, sodium laureth sulphate, PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate, sodium chloride, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, tea tree leaf oil, zinc gluconate, sodium glycolate, melia azadirachta leaf extract, tetrasodium EDTA, menthol, sodium benzoate, salicylic acid, CI 19140, CI 42090, linalool, benzyl salicylate, fragrance

Do you remember the war Sanjana waged on us last summer with another face wash, Zita? That time, we had sent the enemy fleeing with their tails between their legs. We could do this because we had turned their weapons right back on them! The previous face wash contained skin pore-clogging ingredients. Humans have a term for these substances. They call them 'comedogenic'. As a matter of fact, several face-washes meant for acne-prone skin have the same drawback. Thanks to the comedogenic ingredients, the skin-pores closed, our numbers multiplied and we grew from strength to strength. That was one of the brightest victories of our times, princess! That stupid girl used a face-wash which aggravated her pimple problems in stead of reducing them. I fondly remember the ball dance we had to celebrate that sweet victory. You, precious, were looking ravishing.

Now when Sanjana started using Garnier Neem Face Wash, our intel showed that Garnier Neem Face Wash had a comedogenic ingredient too-sodium laureth sulphate. Our hopes soared. Another easy victory in our grasp! 

How mistaken we were! Sodium laureth sulphate is only mildly comedogenic. Our numbers wouldn't be receiving any boost because of it.

Tea tree leaf oil
Watch out for their heavy artillery, love. The enemy decimated us with tea tree leaf oil. Tea tree leaf oil is the stuff our nightmares are made of. In 5% concentration, this is fatal to our kind. When I was in the crib, my mom used to scare me to sleep with threats of throwing me into a pool of 5% tea tree leaf oil. Shudders!

The enemy then bombarded us with Salicylic Acid! Salicylic Acid, for heaven's sake! It's plague, pestilence, famine and war combined, Zita! Untold numbers of our kind have succumbed to its wrath ever since the blasted humans discovered that this is our Kryptonite. Blackheads, whiteheads-all perished. The blasted thing didn't even allow those poor souls to leave any of their traces behind. It faded all their dark marks, the last remains of their legacy.
Neem leaf extract (also called melia azadirachta leaf extract)  then eat up our food and ration, Zita! All the bacteria, all the germs, the Stapphylococci family- the neem extract wipes them all out. They rob us of our means of sustenance. How long can we wage a war on empty stomachs?

After mercilessly mowing our battalions down, the enemy sends in the cleanup crew- Zinc Glycolate and Sodium Gluconate. The former makes the environment inhospitable for us by balancing the oil and clearing our host's skin. The latter fades the remnant dark pimple marks by peeling the skin cells.

How can an enemy so clinically wipe us all out?!?!! My interest piqued, I was forced to conduct further research into the company in which our enemy was born. Garnier is a part of a super-large company of the humans called L'Oreal. The first Garnier product, a hair tonic, was made by Alfred Garnier in human year 1904. Garnier is committed to making products with natural ingredients. The L'Oreal Group took over Garnier in human year 1965.

When people still used soap on their hair, Garnier came out with its 1904 hair-tonic. When humans didn't have any inkling of sun-care items, Garnier was one of its earliest producers in the 1930s. Garnier was also the first to come up with a permanent home hair color in 1960. Today Garnier is the No.1 brand in Europe using natural ingredients.

Now you see what we are up against, Zita? We are up against a company with this kind of illustrious history and rich background. Garnier is fully into research. Research for its products goes through four stages at one of L'Oreal's research centers. Garnier conducts clinical studies and consumer studies before releasing the product, as well as surveys afterward.

 Zita, this is probably my last letter to you. Heaven knows how much I love you. My dying wish is just that this letter finds you safe and sound. And if, god forbid, you have already been snatched away from this world, I pray that we meet again in our next life. I finish this letter with tears and blood that drips from my heart. I know there will be a tomorrow as long as I have your love with me today.

                                                                                                                                          Yours love pie,

P.S. This post is written as part of an  Indiblogger contest. Please do visit the following links:  

June 6, 2014

Hooked to technology, hooked to the T100

I will be honest. I LOVE technology. I wish I could spell the last sentence out in some beautiful font like Lucida Calligraphy, with some zany color effects, maybe add some glitter to the text, throw in some razzmatazz, just to  emphasize that point. Gadgets don't replace women, but they come pretty close. If gadgets were babes, I would probably remain a bachelor throughout eternity.

No, seriously, I would.

My fascination with technology could be traced back to the point in history when I dismantled my dad's favorite watch with unimaginable proficiency and somehow never managed to put it back. I did the next best thing which any innocent-looking-mischievous-as-hell-5-year old would do. I just put together the casing of the watch- hands, face everything where it should be, blissfully threw away all the inside parts and left it where I found it. My dad had no clue. Parents seldom do. All he knew was that one fine day his watch had stopped working and HMT workmanship was solely to blame for it.  

Yes, HMT watches. They don't make them anymore.Sigh!

What transpired between the watch repairman and my dad is another story I don't want to go too deep into. You see, I didn't just stop at putting the casing back. To make the hollow watch feel the right weight, I filled the inside with chewing gum. The watch repairman lacked the intellectual finesse needed to appreciate my originality. I hear he chucked the watch straight at my dad's face with the annoyance of a constipated patient who has reached a record 5-day long dry spell at the loo. The rest of the story was concluded between my dad's hands and my cheeks. Redness, soreness, a throbbing pain in the jaw, tears...all those occupied the rolling credits at the end of that comedy-of-errors of an episode.

But all of us have had such proud, glowing moments in our past, haven't we? The real question is- did I learn my lesson that day? Did that day mark the end of my glorious days of pulling apart stuff never to put them back together again? Was my spirit of scientific inquiry forever dashed, destroyed and crushed, nipped in the bud before it could blossom into its true potential?

You wish! You see- I think all of us get born with an itch. The itch might be to travel, play music, party hard, drink harder, do drugs, earn a freaking load of money, collect stamps, collect coins, collect antiques, go shopping, have a string of flings with the opposite gender- whatever it may be- but there is always an itch. Some deep dissatisfaction, some deep drive. With some people, the itch goes a little too deep. My itch is to splurge on gadgets. I will admit it. I don't need half of them. Hell, maybe I don't need any of them. Tell me, what purpose do two android phones, one desktop, one 18'' laptop, one netbook, two android tablets, a wireless mouse and keyboard set, a wired mouse and keyboard set, two PC cameras, half a dozen headphones and microphones serve? Didn't catch all the gadgets I just mentioned? Wait, I will go slow. So yes, over a period of time, I have used and thrown away-
  • TWO android phones
  • TWO android tablets
  • ONE fully assembled desktop
  • ONE 10'' netbook
  • TWO PC cameras
  • HALF A DOZEN headphones and microphones
  • TWO speaker sets
And that's not the end of it. Those were just end-user devices. My cupboard used to be a filled-to-the-brim-store-house of internal PC and laptop components. RAM modules, graphics cards, PCI cards, get the picture.

I don't invest in technology because I need it. It's just that technology excites me. I don't buy stuff to show off. I hate showing off. But what does happen is that I quickly grow tired of things. Once I've seen the limits to which I can push my device, my curiosity in it starts diminishing. The device just can't crank up enough juice to fire the novelty-craving hotspots of my brain. Nothing new takes place when I push the same old buttons anymore.The pace at which I lose interest in my technological possessions is at par with the pace at which Arnab Goswami interrupts his talk-show participants. Coincidentally, it is the same pace at which newer, fresher and more innovative products are arriving at the market. So what is a guy to do if he has this deep-rooted desire to get a taste of all kinds of hardware and software platforms he can lay his hands on? With a plethora of online buying options- Flipkart, eBay, Olx, Quickr- first hand, second hand, n-th hand, it doesn't matter, it's so easy to lay one's hands on gadgets and gizmos these days, without always burning a golf-course sized hole in your pocket.

Interestingly, each of my gadget purchases has a story surrounding it. I was working in Pune when I purchased by first netbook, the HP Mini. I had applied for a transfer to my hometown, but it got rejected. Heartbroken, I ended up buying the netbook to keep myself distracted. It was a cute piece of hardware. I don't have it now with me anymore but I do remember how everyone (especially the chicks)  never failed to mention how cute and pretty it looked. I used to cringe at the adjectives 'cute' and 'pretty'. A guy doesn't want his hardware to be called 'cute'. He wants 'sleek', 'stylish', 'powerful'. Macho adjectives for a masculine machine. But, well, I guess I can laugh about all that now. I miss that cute piece of machinery these days. It's Intel Atom processor was not a powerhouse like my current AMD A10, but hey, you can't forget the first piece of machinery you buy out of your own pocket. Ever!

My first tablet, I bought when I didn't win an IndiBlogger contest. I had really put my heart and soul into that post, and badly wanted to win. The entry was very much appreciated but it didn't make it to the winning slot. After losing that time, for a long while, I thought I could never win a blogging contest, or any creative writing contest for that matter. It was then that I purchased an i-Ball tablet as a consolation prize for myself. Of course, later I won short-story contests elsewhere, I got published, got my friends to read my books, basked in my five-minutes of fame. But losing that IndiBlogger contest was a low-point of my life. The topic and the post were really close to my heart. Maybe that's why, I still haven't discarded the i-Ball tablet, even though it has stopped working. Angry Birds, Angry Birds Rio, Hero of Sparta, Temple Run, Assassin's Creed- those were the games I and my brother played endlessly on that device. In retrospect, that's what I think ruined the tablet. But hey, who can resist playing touch-based, G-Sensor games like the ones I mentioned, till he/she has cracked every level (and by extension, the touch screen response)?

There is a story behind every gadget I own or owned at a point of time. Those can run into dozens of blog posts. For the moment, let's go back to where we started on this one. I mentioned the spirit of scientific inquiry, right? The curiosity to look under the hood. The irrational desire to pull things apart just to have a peek at what lies inside. Nope. It never left me. Whenever any of my devices malfunctioned, software-wise, hardware-wise, the Do-It-Yourself engine kick-started within me and prodded me to fix it on my own. Sometimes I feel that there is an obsessive, compulsive need in me to see my devices falter and create problems. For then I know that I have an excuse for getting my tool set out, pry open the screws, and see what's going inside the case of the gizmo. And so, I pulled apart two of my tablets, my netbook, my laptop, my desktop, pretty much every device I own. I even pulled apart the DVD drives, hard drives, optical mouse, keyboards- you name it, I've probably disassembled it and stared at with a sense of wonder, a wave of gizmogasm washing over me. Once my graphics card went bust. On closer examination I noticed the capacitors had exploded. I ordered new capacitors online and soldered them on to my graphics card. And voila! It worked. (sheepishly) I was pretty sure it wouldn't. I had even purchased a spare graphics card, just in case. But as it turns out, soldering can fix almost any of your hardware problems. Another time, I took out the rare earth magnet of my busted hard drive and have been using that magnet to stick notes on my steel cupboard ever since. What all these years of tinkering with electronics have taught me- with the right set of tools, and the internet (bold, italics, underline the word 'internet'), you can fix virtually anything. Of course, you also need to be a geek, follow The Big Bang Theory religiously, be a comics lover, discuss superhero movies as if the characters existed right next-door, go to watch Iron Man/Captain America: The Winter Soldier for the plot's sake and not Robert Downey Jr./Scarlett Johannson, etcetra etcetra. But don't worry, being a geek is not rocket-science.

The Big Bang Theory brought geekdom into fashion.

When I learned of a contest which IndiBlogger is hosting in association with Asus, I hope you understand now why I thought I should give it a shot. The topic held an inevitable appeal to the geek inside me.
What keeps you hooked on to technology even
when you're on the move?
Is it playing your favourite games,
talking to friends, catching up on some work you love doing?
Write a blog post on the things that you think
will keep you hooked to a
"Transformed" T100 when you're on the move.

There is an engaging story behind Asus. Four computer engineers from Acer, T.H.Tung, Ted Hsu, Wayne Hsieh and M.T. Liao, established that company in 1989 in Taipei. T.H.Tung was just 29 when he founded AsusTek Computer Inc. with his friends. He grew up in the countryside, where daily survival was in continuous friction with lack of material necessities. The valley his family lived in didn't receive television signals and so whenever Taiwan sports teams made it to any world series, his family would drive up the mountain, firecrackers in hand, to the home of a farmer, whose TV was in working condition. The little joys were celebrated with as much fanfare as their meager resources allowed. I started this post with my history of a watch, and interestingly, Tung's father was a watchmaker. It was his father who sparked his interest in books and literature. The young Tung would save the meager earnings from his selling ices after school or firecrackers and use them to rent and buy books and comics.

From such humble beginnings, T.H. Tung and his three friends managed to establish the world's biggest motherboard company. Asus's rise to prominence happened in a dramatic fashion. In the beginning, Intel supplied its processors to Taiwanese companies at least six months after it had supplied the same to IBM, virtually demolishing any competition from Taiwan manufacturers. So, Tung's company was forced to create a motherboard for an Intel 486 processor, without actually having access to the processor. When they approached Intel for a processor for testing their motherboard, Intel themselves were in a fix over their homegrown motherboard. Asus successfully troubleshooted the problem. Not only that, Intel discovered that Asus's motherboard worked smooth as butter with the 486. That was the turning point in Asus's history. From then on, Intel supplied its prototypes to Asus ahead of any competitor.

Speaking of staying ahead of its competition, Asus actually pioneered the 'netbook' revolution with its Eee product family much ahead of its rivals HP and Dell. It was only when Asus netbooks were selling like hot-cakes did HP and Dell take notice and joined the fray of producing Intel Atom based 10" low cost laptops. Asus was sensitive to the fact that kids and moms needed a spare laptop in the family to check mails, surf the web and do other light tasks but were understandably reluctant to invest in a full-fledged, costly model with features they didn't need. The netbook concept created that sweet-spot in the personal computing market which could cater to the above need and therein was its brilliance.

Eee stands for: "Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play." 

From a company with such an illustrious history, it is quite natural to have high expectations from its latest offering, the Transformer T100. It's a laptop-tablet hybrid which runs on Windows 8.1. It's a 2-in-1 device which can function as a tablet as well as a full-fledged laptop when you attach the keyboard to the slate. I haven't got my hands dirty with the product yet. But from what I read and heard so far, a few highlights of the machine immediately tickled the geek-bone in me.

  • 11 hours battery life -(Phew!)
Asus obviously built the T100 with flexibility and portability in mind. T100 is packed with features which makes this machine a conqueror in the mobility arena. 11 hours of battery life is a mind-blowing performance perk! A few reports I've read even suggest that the battery lasted up to 13 hours on light usage (meaning watching movies or listening to music with Wi-fi off). Compare this to an iPad Mini which gives 10 hours. Dell's Miix is a rival to T100 and it can squeeze out just 8 hours. Asus simply blows the competition out of the water in this area. And this is not the only killer stroke in T100's mobility arsenal. Wait for the next....

  • Mini-USB charger -(Bye bye, cumbersome adapters!)
The T100 uses a mini-USB port for charging. This means you can use your phone charger to juice up the T100 battery. For someone on the move, this is a god-send. He doesn't have to bother about a separate adapter anymore. One charger would suffice for both his phone and tablet. Plus, the mini-USB port is an industry standard. This means you're not tied down to an Asus-specific adapter for charging your device. I am totally sold on this idea.

  • Full-sized USB 3.0 port
A full-sized USB port, that too a 3.0 one, is an icing-on-the-cake feature as far as tablets are concerned. Very few tablets put this kind of a dish on the table. I can name only a few like the Toshiba Thrive, Acer Iconia and Microsoft Surface. The tablets which I've used come with a mini-USB port and you need a rather uncomfortable USB cable to connect a USB device to the tablet. A USB cable mars the tablet experience in a big way. Imagine your pen drive or internet dongle hanging via a cable from your tablet as you're trying to surf the web or read something on it. Trust me, you're bound to notice the weight of your flash drive or dongle as it does its floppy web-slinging from your tablet. It's very, very distracting. Unwieldy, awkward, clumsy - you'll die to label the experience with all these adjectives. For a person who intends to use his tablet often on his travels, a full-sized USB 3.0 port is kind of a deal-sealer because there is a high chance he will be accessing the net through a dongle while on the move. For the T100, this is another ace in the hole.
  • Hinge attachment to the keyboard
 The T100 is a hybrid tablet-laptop. It's also called a 'convertible' in some circles. Tablets, on their own, are not really meant for any full-blown work. They handle web surfing, movies, music, light games pretty well, but when you need to edit a document or spreadsheet on the move, a tablet simply won't cut it. Typing for long on a touchscreen keypad (no matter how responsive) is a pain. (I find even chatting on a tablet a pain.) Hybrids like the T100 come with a keyboard dock so that you can fuse the slate with a keyboard and 'mouse-click' and 'key-type' away at your heart's content. The Asus device comes with a metal hinge dock which securely fastens the keyboard to the slate. You see there is a reason why metal hinges are more secure than magnetic clasps which a lot of other hybrids employ. Magnetic clasps don't have the required strength to make you feel safe when you have the laptop open on your lap and you're traveling in a bus or car. Any bump can easily dislodge the slate from the keyboard. A lot of tablets provide the Bluetooth keyboard option with which you don't actually even have to have a physical connection between the tablet and the keyboard. But even this kind of design fails the situation test I described above. He can keep the keyboard on his lap but he has nothing to rest the tablet against. Asus very clearly points out that the T100 is targeted to the traveling worker, and in this respect, a metal hinge locking system is indeed a far superior option to a magnetic or wireless one. 
If you're hooked to technology even while on the move, there is a pretty solid reason you'd want your keyboard to be hooked to your tablet the Asus T100 style.

    • Specs (stuff which makes T100 a decent laptop besides a fantastic tablet)
    1. 10.1 inch screen
    2. A sharp 1920 x 1200-pixel display
    3. IPS display which means wide viewing angle. Laptops generally don't boast of this feature
    4. Gorilla Glass screen
    5. 2GB of RAM
    6.  Bay Trail 1.3 GHz Quad Core Intel Atom processor - Some folks say this gives equivalent performance to last generation i3 processors. Of all the reports I've heard or read, no one said that the T100 feels slow. It packs a solid performance and is rock-steady when you need it to be.
    7. Stereo sound
    8. Windows 8.1 - This is the full-version we're talking about. Not the stripped down RT version which peers of T100 like Microsoft Surface 2 and Lenovo Yoga 11 ship with. With Windows 8.1, you get full access to the Windows 8 apps ecosystem. The RT version severely limits you in this area. And speaking of Surface 2 and Yoga 11, they both cost a bomb in comparison to the T100. Surface 2 doesn't even come with a keyboard. You've to purchase that as an extra.
    9. Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 
    Points 6 and 7 alone cause a value addition of about 10K INR to the device.  Remember that, the T100 was designed for people who need to work while on the go. The Office and Student suite go a long way in furthering that aim.
    • Light on your hand
    Hardly 1 Kg. One of the lightest laptops out there. It's form factor is similar to an iPad, although maybe just slightly thicker. This means you won't have any problem in tucking away this piece of machinery anywhere.
    • Light on your pocket
    The 32 GB version costs around 28.5K INR as of the date of this post. I talked about comparable models earlier, right? Like the Lenovo Yoga 11? That costs 32.7K INR. Surface 2 costs even 10K more. Asus strongly focuses on building products which meet one's budget and T100 is no exception. Reviews everywhere peg this product as excellent value-for-money. And trust me, I've been through the alternatives. 

    The Transformer T100 packs the choicest pick of features in the most affordable pricing. I know 'choicest pick of features' may be a personal taste issue, but I am not that liberal at attaching the 'value for money' tag to electronic products. However, this time the T100 doesn't leave me with much to fuss about. Maybe when I get a raise or a promotion or a new job, I would seriously consider gifting myself this piece of wizardry.

    November 8, 2013

    Platinum day of magic

    You might wonder what imagination is capable of. What it could mean to let the mind roam about unimpeded throughout the universe of possibilities and impossibilities. No shackles of reality to tie us down, no limiting laws of time and space to constrain us. Unbounded, unfettered, unshackled, unchained. The fringes of our minds hammering against the curtain of reality, willing it to bulge and spread out. After all, the feathers in our wings grow tired in the suffocating confines of life's nest. And this is why, people invented magic.

    I am a magician. You will scoff at it, I know. I would have scoffed at such ridiculous claims made by another. But the universe doesn't care what you believe. You can believe whatever lies you want to. And since I am a magician, I think the truth is overrated. I am the devil. An accomplished sinner. I manufacture altered realities. I twist the logic of fates and destinies. I create chaos out of order and meaninglessness out of purpose. And by extension, lies out of truths.

    Ah, and now you must be getting restless. Wasn't this supposed to be about the Platinum Day of Love? Where you could have sat back, relaxed and enjoyed a warm tale of lovers celebrating the innocence and purity of a delightful sojourn into love. But you know nothing is really innocent and pure, right? Which is why we need magic. To set things right. To fashion worlds and circumstances where happy endings stay forever.

    The story begins on a starry night. We are lying on wet sand, you and I. Holding hands, gazing at the glittering stars in the sky. The lulling sound of sea waves nuzzles into our eardrums. I hear you snort. So much talk on imagination and I come up with the most trite and hackneyed of settings. But you have to grant me some liberties. It's what magicians do. They show you something mundane and ordinary. Like a hat or wand or a box. And then proceed to craft something incredible out of it.

    "Has it ever occurred to you that the stars could just be an illusion?" you ask me, without taking your eyes off the sparkling sky.

    "Uh-huh?" I say, lifting an eyebrow.

    "Some of these stars died millions of years ago. And yet they are bright and alive in our skies." You turn and smile at me. "Illusion."

    "Just like love," I say, my fingers gripping the crevices between your fingers more firmly.

    You frown and say, "What?"

    "Look around you. Love between two people fades. And yet they cling on to each other out of a misplaced sense of loyalty."

    "Maybe the loyalty isn't as misplaced as you think." There is a faint indignation creeping into your voice. And funnily enough, it turns me on.

    "Of course not." My lips curve rightward into a smirk.

    You shake your head affectionately, a smile parting your face. "You're a piece of work, you know that?"

    "That's general knowledge. Now close your eyes."

    "What? Why?"

    "Just close your eyes."

    "Hell, no! You aren't pulling that trick on me again. Last time you stole a kiss."

    I smile. I fancy it would be an indulgent smile. Like a father smiles when he sees his kid trying in vain to guess the ending of a bed-time story.

    "All right, don't close your eyes. Look around you."

    And you look. It's no longer night. Someone has magically snapped it away with the flick of a celestial switch. The sun is bright and strong. And that's not even the most wonderful thing. All around you the sand has changed. No longer the dull, listless yellow. But vibrant red. As if on cue, the sea has changed its hue too. It is turquoise now and alongside it, the sand's redness dazzles in a startling contrast.

    You're dazed. Your wide eyes have become shiny black bubbles of bafflement. I start grinning.

    "Red sand beach. Maui. Welcome to Hawaii," I say with relish.

    Confusion and surprise cling to your eyes and face as you open your mouth to speak.


    I'm smug. "I told you I'm a magician."  
    You don't reply. And stoop to collect some of the red sand in your palms. When you stand up straight again, we are no longer in Hawaii.

    All around us now are blue and white bumpy pyramids reaching into the clouds. Snow-capped mountains piercing through white mounds of cotton candy. And before us we are beholding the most amazing sunrise ever. The bright globe rising in the center and spreading its soft and warm rays all around. And on both sides of it, like arms, two golden-yellow, thin and never-ending paint-strokes over the mountainous horizon in the east. The paint-strokes fade upwards into a dazzling, serene blue of the sky.


    "Time to get high," I laugh. "8848 meters above sea-level."

    Your eyes seem to have got wider with bewilderment, if that is even possible. "You m-mean we are at-"

    "Mount Everest at your service, your Highness. And that's our sun rising in China." 

    The sand slips between your fingers. The snow starts melting where the sand falls. We watch as the red of the sand melts in a miniature pool. With the snow all around, it looks like a drop of blood on a white satin sheet.

    "How are we even breathing at this altitude?" Your voice is all skepticism and awe.

    "Or freezing to death for that matter. Or not having our lungs blow up from edema," I reply.

    I love playing the smart Alec  I feast on opportunities of pointing out things missed by others. It's a vice I will carry to my grave. "We are in a protective cocoon. Invisible. There. Stretch your hand. You'll feel your fingers squeak against its fabric."

    You do as told. Gingerly with your right hand first. And then getting bolder, you start probing with both hands.

    I can hear your heart-beat getting wilder. I can see the blood rush into your face. Your breath gets tangled in your throat.

    I can sense all this. And more, if I try. At my best, I can hear all your thoughts so loud that they will feel like hurricanes roaring on my eardrums. But I don't. That's the thing about magic. It's so easy to be tempted, to lose control. It's an effort not to breach another person's rights.

    I shuffle backwards a few steps, till I can feel the fabric of the cocoon against my back. It's reassuring. We'll need it even more at our next stop.

    Our cocoon shoots upwards, carrying its human payload with it. The snow below it violently sprays outwards, as if hurled by a tempest. And we are airborne. Zooming out from earth's atmosphere, into our solar system and then blasting through hyperspace, hurtling at ten million times the speed of light. The distance of 1400 light years is covered in a matter of twelve eye-blinks.

    "Where are we now?" Fear makes you clutch my arm. And your face still carries the ceaseless wonder of a child.

    "We were talking about dead stars, remember? So I thought why don't we focus on something brighter instead?  Like the birth of one."

    In front of us, a huge dark mass of gas and dust swirls in space. Like a menacing cloud of locusts. Somewhere nearby another star explodes, and a shock wave travels through the cloud. Massive jets of purple and pink, orange and green gases erupt from it and torpedo outwards at speeds of 1 million kilometers per hour.

    You shield your dumbstruck eyes as the blazing gases streams collide with the objects surrounding the cloud, causing them to dazzle with a blinding glow.

    The cloud begins to shrink and divide into even smaller swirling clouds. We watch the center of the cloud getting hotter and hotter until it ignites with a terrifying ferocity and a new star is born.
    Of course, these events take place over millions of years. But for a magician, time and space really don't mean much. I can hook up the universe to serve as a super-gigantic projector for time-lapse photography, where a million years compress into a tiny second.

    "Where exactly are we?" you whisper, incredulous.

    "Southern constellation of Vela, 1400 light years from Earth," I say in the same tone as I had announced the Red Sand Beach in Hawaii.

    You blink your eyes. Once. Twice. "This is just i-n-c-r-e-d-i-"

    But you never get the chance to finish. I slip a Platinum love band with pave set diamonds on your finger. The male of that pair of bands glimmers on my right index finger.


    Your eyebrows furrow. "What's this for?"

    I give my shit-eating smirk. "At the risk of sounding corny, you're the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. And I don't think, any metal can do justice to everlasting love than platinum."

    Your eyes twinkle with naughty humor. You put your hands on your hips, challenging me. "Oh yeah? Could you please tell me why, Mr. Magician?"

    I roll my eyes. I can ramble on and on about how platinum is naturally white so will not cast any color into a diamond or that it will never fade or tarnish or the fact that it is hypoallergenic, so it is ideal for your sensitive skin. I can point out that platinum is 30 times more rare than gold. That it is exclusive, a statement of individuality and desired by those in the know. Platinum's durability and resistance mean your jewelry will last for a lifetime of wear. Platinum does not wear away so it holds precious stones securely.

    But I don't. Because you already know all that. And even more because- although you don't show it, I can sense a discomfort within you.

    "What's the matter?" I ask, my eyebrows stitched together in concern; my smirk has vanished and my lips have compressed into a thin serious line.

    "Nothing." You turn away, refusing to meet my eye.

    But I already know what you're thinking.

    "You don't believe in everlasting love, do you?"

    You sigh. "I wish I could. But no. I sincerely doubt it."

    "Any particular reason?" I ask, but I am already unraveling and untangling your neurons and neural pathways, scanning your memory archives, watching your hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex light up, as images from the past play in your mind.

    I know half the story even before you begin to explain it.

    "I have a cousin. Very pretty, very good in studies. People used to fall all over her. Love caught her young. Despite her parents' protests, she married an unemployed guy while she was still in her teens. Had a baby before twenty. But her husband was still unemployed. And unfortunately, he passed away. Leaving her with their son."

    I flinch a bit. I know what is about to come.

    "Her in-laws, insensitive louts, drove her and her kid out of their home. And thus at twenty, she was left to fend for herself and her baby."

    You stop for a moment. I can see your eyes getting teary and even deeper, the pain receptors in your brain lighting up like bonfires.

    I let my fingers brush against yours. You don't seem to notice though. Your eyes remain sad and far as you resume speaking.

    "Ten years passed. She was earning enough in her job. But she was lonely. My dad and a couple of other relatives decided to get her remarried. And you can imagine the type of prospects which arrived. Forty year olds with bulging pot-bellies, social rejects who couldn't lay their hands on a firsthand bride. And none of them wanted anything to have to do with the kid. Five years have gone by. And we are still searching for a suitable groom. And you know what pains us the most? It's that she has lost all hope. Of ever being happy again. She has resigned herself to her loneliness. She loved someone with all her heart and this is how fate rewarded her. So when people give me that bullshit about everlasting love, you know why I tend to be a little skeptical."

    You meet my gaze now. Searching my eyes for something.

    "Look at the diamonds," I simply say.

    "Excuse me?"

    "I said look at the diamonds on your band. Look closely."

    You look at me in a funny sort of a way and then focus on the diamonds set in your love band.

    I smile inwardly as your expression changes. From annoyance to surprise and finally elation.

    I know what you see. Inside the beautiful, shimmery faces of the diamonds, the most wonderful scenes are playing out. Your cousin is giving birth to a baby girl. The father is all smiles as he holds his child. And then he carefully hands the little bundle of joy to a fifteen year old boy. The boy is your cousin's son. He has a new father who loves him and  now also a baby sister to play with.

    I can see the boy's affectionate smile reflect in your eyes when you say, "Is t-this....real?"

    "As real as you and me."

    "But h-how?"

    "Everlasting love," I smile and say.


    "The father. He lived in the same neighborhood your cousin grew up in. Loved her since childhood. But by the time he mustered enough courage to tell your cousin's dad about his desire to marry her, she was already married. Heartbroken, he left the city to get over her."

    "But then how did all this happen?" you ask, staring astounded at the diamonds and then staring at me.

    "I went back in time, hon. Cast an astral projection of myself five years back into our timeline. I sought him out and explained to him the situation. He works in the railways. On hearing what I had to say, he immediately boarded the next train to his city. After getting off at the station, he headed straight to your cousin's father. He told him he was willing to take responsibility of the mother as well as the kid. And the rest, as they say, is his and her story."

    "YOU MEAN YOU CAN DO ALL THAT? ALTER TIME STREAMS?" You are now a perfect picture of amazement and flabbergasted fascination.

    It's my turn to look away and avoid your gaze. "At a price, yes."

    "What price?" you ask, half apprehending, half anticipating the answer.

    "Magic is not infinite. It has its limitations. Every feat I pull off subtracts a certain amount of time from my life."

    "How much did all of what you did today cost you?" The concern in your tone becomes palpable.

    "Seven years."

    I lie. It cost me fifteen. But you don't need to know that.

    After all, the very mention of your name makes a smile break free on my face. Quick-witted, silver-tongued, tempestuous - dutiful daughter, doting friend, with eyes the color of smoldering charcoal. My love.

    "Take it back," you snap, as I knew you would. "Take all of it back."

    "I can't."


    "Rewriting on the fabric of reality too many times will cause its cohesiveness to break. And if that happens, even I don't know what will be the consequences."

    I lie again, of course. I can take it all back. But what's fifteen years compared to your happiness?

    "I don't want to lose you so fast." Your worry creeps into your gut and ties knots there. I can feel all of it. I can feel all of it as if it is happening to me.

    "I'll be fine," I reply.

    But my voice breaks in the middle, and the next thing I know, you are right next to me and your arms are awkwardly wrapped around me and you are kissing my forehead, my cheeks, my lips.

    “Oh sweetheart, I am so happy, yet so scared…”

    I breathe in as deeply as I dare. Your familiar, beloved scent eases the ache in my head and the dryness of my throat. I run my fingers through your silky hair, savoring your nearness. You are my platinum. As long as you are with me, I can get through anything. Even this.

     P.S. This post is written as an entry for Indiblogger Platinum Day Of Love Contest organised by and Please do visit their wonderful site Platinum Day Of Love. The site will make you fall in love with platinum if you aren't already. :)