Monday, March 23, 2009

Google Voice

Google has surprised me again. When it acquired GrandCentral last year, the 'googlised' version of GrandCentral was awaited with bated breath. Though Google took its time to launch its own voice service - Google Voice, the wait has been well worth it. Like any other service offered by Google, Google Voice is free!

What is Google Voice?

Google Voice (GV) is a voice service from Google which provides you with a phone number. When people call that number, it will forward the call to any number of your phones thereby allowing you to provide ONE phone number which you can access from anywhere (work, home, away, anywhere etc). The GV number doesn't correspond to only one particular phone. Hence, GV liberates phone numbers from phones. It considers them as separate entities.

Google Voice will record your voice mails like emails, once again for free, and store them for you to access online or via phone(s).

Using GV you can make calls for real cheap rates (cheaper than Skype).

One of the many cool things about GV
  • Voicemail can be converted into text using speech recognition software. Voice messages can now be both read and heard! The accuracy of transcription is, obviously, not hundred percent (it is approx 80% accurate it seems). It does the job.
  • You can 'switch' handsets midway during a call. For e.g. you are speaking to someone at home in your landline and are about to head out. You can press * and switch the call to your cell phone.
  • When you receive a call in GV, you can opt to have the following options: Press 1 to receive a call, Press 2 to send it to Voice mail, Press 3 to listen on voice mail, Press 4 to accept and record a call. I like option 3. While you are listening to caller leaving a voice message, if you change your mind and decide to talk to the caller, you can pick up the call by pressing *. Option 4 is kind of scary. You can record whole call or a part of a call and record it in GV Inbox. I realise you can do this in a normal cell phone perhaps not with the ease and in a frequent basis (and without worrying about the size of recording) as in GV. You can't talk sh*t from now on. Every single convo will be recorded! :D I love this. On other thought, is it legal to record a conversation? Privacy?
  • GV collects voice messages, text messages, recorded conversations (remember!) and stores them like email in GV Inbox. It is easier for you to find/store in a single repository. Plus, you can store them forever!
References: I heard this from a mate who knows someone with a GV#. I also read this from here, here and here.

The Google revolution

GV is Google's answer to Skype's domination. However Google has taken the interface from PC-only based interface to connecting via phone. GV is a competition not just for Skype, but to telephone companies worldwide.

In GMail, Google innovatively combined email, Instant Messaging and VoIP. With GV, it takes the next step to integrate email, VoIP, IM, SMS and phone communication. The 'integration' concept has been quite active for some time - thanks to IT. The great aspect of this is Google's unique ability to offer the niche products/solutions to the average consumer at no cost. I think we are in the threshold of something big here. This could change radically change the way we view telephony.

I badly want to give this a try. We'll be having it "in a matter of weeks".

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Return to motherland

Besant Avenue, Madras
(Thanks Traces)

In the last ten years of living outside India, I've returned to motherland only once. The 3-week India visit in 2003 involved helter-skelter trips to Trichy and other places, purchasing random things for random people, handing over trivial things to relatives so distant that they had to be reminded how I am supposedly related to them (yes! this person actually asked me to explain it again) and the remaining minuscule time I had was spent recovering from fever and catching up with few of my school mates. The trip, to put it very mildly, was a waste.

We have decided our next India trip is going to be in Jan '10. I am excited about this. I am resolute in making this trip memorable. While going to work today, daydreaming went into overdrive as I thought of things I want to do in Singara Chennai next January.

This list comprises of variety of things which reflects and relives my time in Madras. They are mostly chinna chinna aasaigal. I want to do all of them, time permitting. Most of the things in the list are obvious, some of them err, yeah - you decide.

a. The Hindu & Filter Coffee - The Hindu was the first thing that arrives at our house everyday. The moment I hear the 'dupp' - the sound of the newspaper hitting our door step (the paper guy chucks the newspaper you see), coffee is prepared and the morning paper-reading ritual starts. My Dad, being an early riser, has the honour of reading it first. The Hindu played an inseparable part in my life while growing up. My dad has a strong allegiance to this venerable newspaper. Sitting on vaasa padi (door steps), sipping hot coffee and reading Hindu so satisfying compared to reading online Hindu over a bowl of cold corn flakes. Plan: Read Hindu and drink lots of filter coffee.

b. Madras music season - Dec to Jan is the Margazhi maasam music season. I learnt Carnatic music (vocal) briefly when I was a kid. I was stupid, foolish and naive to discontinue the music classes. Learning Carnatic music did not appeal to me then. I sang for a while till people appreciated me, persisted with attending the classes for almost a year due to constant goading from my mum and finally due to the pressure of CBSE syllabus combined with the eagerness to play street cricket after school - I stopped attending music lessons. Had I been a bit more assiduous and listened to my mum (underline), I would've been able to pick out raagas and would be able to contribute when conversation veer into realm of Carnatic music. Hmm...its never too late to begin any thing in life.

Over the last few years, I've developed a renewed penchant for Carnatic music. I hope to catch a Sudha Ragunathan/Unnikrishnan/Sanjay Subramanian/Nithyashree concert at the Music Academy. I've been to the concerts of the above mentioned artistes when I was a kid. But neither I had the interest nor did I have the true appreciation for Carnatic music then. This time I am ready to immerse myself fully in Carnatic music bliss. I really want to see Kadri Gopalnath perform. A much better deal would be a jugalbandhi with Mandolin Srinivas, Sivamani and other percussionists. Ideal Plan: Attend kacheri at Music Academy with mum, have lunch at New Woodlands and back for kacheri again.

c. Talk to the old kids - Time is flying. Years seem to race past us quicker than ever before. Old people are getting... older. Last year was quite bad for our family. The head count of septuagenarians and octogenarians took a hit. 2009 barely started, two seniors of our family received the ultimate ticket. Being away from India, I never got the chance to have talk at length to most of the elder group. I intend to engage in good conversation with elder group in the family (basically mum's parents, my parent's mamas/mamis/chithapas/peripas etc). I enjoy talking to old people. They are insightful, witty, have an awesome sense of humour and are surprisingly very enthusiastic. I had a great time talking to my mum's uncle and his wife in 2003.

IMHO, from my observation in few families, I believe the current generation don't really listen to older people. They perceive them to be always out of touch or sometimes even immature in their views and opinion. I believe old people, if you actually listen to them closely, say lot of sensible things which are timeless in their application. At least it'll help you not to repeat the time-old mistakes which have committed repeatedly by every generation. I plan to write more about this sometime. Plan: Talk to the perusus. I am considering a interview sort-a thing with a mixture of fun and probing questions (e.g. marriage, love, profession, attitude, ethics, society, first crush etc). Perhaps even video tape it. That'll be fun. What would be your questions? Give me three will be credited for it.

d. Street cricket. Look here.

e. Theosophical society - Take a early morning walk in the Theosophical society. Ts is the haven for early morning walkers/joggers. The serene surrounding of Ts gives you solitude feeling. Lush green surroundings, away from the hustle and bustle of city - its a perfect start to the day. I think we can go to the old Adyar broken bridge from Ts (this is location of the first fight scene between Madhavan and Surya in Aaiydha Ezhuthu).

f. Gangotree and Karpagambal Mess - Have breakfast at Karpagambal Mess (Idli-Sambhar, badham Halwa and degree Coffee) and evening tiffin at Gangotree (near Chola Shereton). Full stop.

g. Bike with/in Splendor.

h. Celebrate Pongal - How to do it my way? I've covered it here.


It was my first time ever
And I'll never forget
I'd do it again
Without a single regret.
The sky was dark
The moon was high
We were all alone
Just She and I
Her hair was soft
Her eyes was blue
I knew just what
She wanted to do
Her skin was so soft
Her eyes was blue
I just knew what
She wanted to do
Her skin was so soft
Her legs was so fine
I ran my fingers
Down her spine
I didnt know how
But I tried my best
I started by placing
My hands on her breast
I remember my fear
My fast beating heart
But slowly she spread
Her legs apart
And when I did it
I felt no shame
All at once
The white stuff came
At last it finished
It's all over now
My first time ever
At milking a cow...

Author: unknown

Karandhufy - Children and young adults hear lots of advice from elders. The most popular advice is to study well. It'll go along lines of "padikalena appram maadu dhaan meikanum. So mariyadhaiya utkaarndhu padi". I can say I've fared reasonably well in studies. However, whenever I heard the previous quote, I've always wondered how maadu meikardhu feels like. Parents threaten us but they never give us the opportunity to have a shot at this. Before you thuppify and say unnaku vera edhuvumey thonaliyaa, no I dont want to maadu mechufy. But I always wanted karandhufy a maadu (milk a cow). Back in the days, my great-grandparents had a cow; my grand parents - both in dad & mom's side - had a cow before they migrated to city. So this is not a new thing in the family. It, LOL, runs in the blood. I want to have a go at it.

Also, karundhufying is not an easy task. It is a knack it seems. Some people call it an art - I am not sure about that. Well, one of our distant relatives (whom we may visit) has a maadu, I guess the paalkaran in me will be unleashed there. We live in interesting times.

To be continued...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Life goes on...

This post is for a friend who is experiencing that drowning feeling and having a torrid time. I have not experienced my friend's situation before - I shudder about the prospect of it. This is an attempt to give some advice, guidance (which my friend asked for) and to put things in perspective. This is free advice. If you think whatever I've written below is rubbish, you may be right!

Falling in, IMHO the L-word is too early and premature to use here. Its actually the wrong word.

Start again, when a person you (strongly) like rejects you it is depressing. You feel hollow, helpless and the rejection rankle you and it takes a while to get over it. Agreed. When the Significant Someone (SS) rejects you, it hits the sensitive corner present in every human called feelings. It hits you hard. Lot harder than you imagined. Ego takes a big hit. Rejection is an emotional blow which floors any person. Few people get up straightaway, most people take some time and the remaining gets identified as direct descendants of Devdas (Is there a female version of Devdas?).

People who are into this lauve business will get rejected or will reject a few before they find their real SS. Not all people are lucky to live happily-ever-after with the first person they like . Its like hitting bulls eye in your first shot without any practise (amazing skill or fluke).

We face rejection all the time in different forms and from various sources. From your best friend - to your boss- to your milkman- to your cat, everybody rejects you at some point. Yeah Yeah these 'rejections' are not the same as SS rejecting you. Its vastly different. But what to do? You cannot change or influence a person's mind. You never know what is going on in a person's mind. Human mind is fickle hence completely unpredictable. Love is complex. When you put these two elements (mysterious working of the mind & Love) together, you have an equation the solution for which is best determined by someone a bit higher than us. In Aaitha Ezhuthu (Yuva), Surya defines this equation very simply- its all hormonal based. I agree with that.

Look, I understand the 'attraction' that I think you have developed is something more than just 'looks'. I respect that. It happens. Remember, just because the other person rejected you doesn't mean you are bad or inferior. Please do not feel that way. It is dangerous as it'll have serious impact on your psyche, and most importantly, your self esteem. Its just that their expectations that he/she has for their ideal SS is different, or worse, they probably don't know what they want/expect; in your case, its probably continually changing as your SS walks through experiences in his/her life.

My friend, you have to move on from this. I know it'll be hard. Repeating your words: its like a scar on the body, it may heal but its still there. True! Take your time. Time is a healer. Life, they say, is a great teacher. I am sure you have learnt/are learning valuable lessons and this has helped you to better understand yourself. It'll be very unfair - both on yourself and for people close to you - if you don't come out of this because you deserve to be better. Liking/loving/crush is all part of life. Only a part. We land into problems when we think it is life. I know you understand this. You are smart enough not keep brooding about this. I am confident you will move on. You have to. You will. You will emerge as a better and stronger person.

Life teaches many things. This aspect of life is definitely not 'one-hit, you miss' kinda thing. There will be lots of 'meetings' later on. You know that. Forrest Gump said "Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get" - so god-damn right. [However later in the same movie, he said "I am not a smart man, but I know what love is". What can I say?! (I included this because I know you'll counter argue the previous quote. Shut up! Don't say anything :D)]

Who knows, years down the line when you are happily married and have four kids, you sit back and introspect you may feel it was good that this was not meant to be.

Life moves on, I am sure you will too.

Hope this helps. All the best!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Moments in NYC


Wadya looking at?!

I couldn't find the name of the photographer to give credit.


Did you yawn when you saw the first pic?

Monday, March 2, 2009


Ganesh's tattoo

It is common knowledge that Sachin Tendulkar has a huge fan following all over the world. There are different types of ST-fans. I quantify the continuum of ST fan to:

just another fan -> 'i-like-Sachin-of-the-old-nowadays-he's-not-that-aggressive-yaaar' fan -> dedicated 'haan-i-remember-all-his-innings' fan -> a serious & passionate fan -> Tendulkar zealot -> Fanatic (e.g. ones who like to use their blood to write letters to ST)

Except the Fanatic, I know people who fit into the other mentioned categories.

I belong to the 4th category. Anyone who have followed SRT's career closely, understands - to a certain extent - the evolution of ST's batsmanship over the years and admires the way ST plays the game will fall into that category. The defining characteristics of a 'serious & passionate fan' are:

  1. Watches every ST innings. If there is no live telecast in cable, resorts to live video streaming. No live video streaming as well? Cricinfo to the rescue. He will be glued to the text commentary and would squirm in his seat whenever there is long pauses between updates. (God Bless all those souls who stream India matches live online for guys rock!).
  2. When Sachin plays, nobody says a word in the house. No one should ask the score. No questions about Sachin. "Yenna, Sachin out-aaa?" (Is Sachin out?) is the most provocative question to this ST fan. Once a friend asked me that, I followed up with a barrage of words that would make some sailors feel shy.
  3. Superstitions: When Sachin is batting: person A (if present) has to sit on the blue stool, person B always sits on the ground, the blinds are half shut, cell phone is in silent mode and the irritating kid from the neighbours is not let into the house.
  4. Some of us have the 'intellectual' ability to predict how ST will do on the day. From the colour of his gloves, the stripes in his shoes, colour of the grip, the way he looks (i.e. shaven/unshaven, haircut (it's stupid I know!) )...the intuitive mind of this ST fan observes everything and passes a prediction. It is right, most of the times.
  5. The heart rate is high during these crucial moments of ST's innings: the first ten deliveries of innings, the first few deliveries after lunch/tea/drinks break, vulnerable sixties and nervous nineties.
  6. Strongly believes that LBW should removed from the rule book. ST has had more than his share of shocking decisions esp the LBW's. It makes sense that it should be banned.
  7. The least favourite last name is Bucknor. Cricket's Morgan Freeman is a good umpire. Unfortunately his decision making seems to err whenever he umpires ST. The name Steve Bucknor has appeared in the black books of any ST fan numerous times. Thank God he is retiring. Good bye Steve!
Over the last few days, a good friend of mine, Ganesh, has made a transition from a serious & passionate ST fan to a Tendulkar Zealot. How? Why? You may ask. Here is the story.

26th February 2009. It was the eve of Twenty20 game between India and NZ. G was walking past the hotel where the Indian cricket team was staying in Wellington. By sheer coincidence he met Sachin Tendulkar in the lobby entrance of the hotel car park. G could not believe his luck. He got Sachin's autograph. He wanted a pic with Sachin but his wretched camera wouldn't work. G requested Sachin to sign his arm and told him that he'll get it tattooed. Sachin gave a quizzical look, smiled and signed his arm. Having Sachin Tendulkar's autograph tattooed had been G's long-time dream.

Ganesh after meeting ST
1st March 2009. Basin Reserve, Wellington. The Indian cricket team is due to arrive at 1330hrs for the practice session. G was among the hoard of fans waiting for the Indian team bus. ST stepped out of the bus. "Sachhiiiiiiinnnn", fans roared. Sachin, with a smile on his face, recognised G in the crowd. G was over the moon. He was initially speechless for two reasons. Firstly, Sachin r-e- m-e-m-b-e- r- e-d him. Sachin, a huge celebrity, meets so many fans everyday. To him G is just another fan. Still, Sachin recalled. Secondly, G got Tendulkar's autograph tattooed the previous day.

"Yes I did". G proudly flashed his tattoo. Sachin gave a hearty laugh and proceeded on. G was overjoyed. Not just because Sachin recognised him and saw his tattoo, but he believed he had done something very special. He believed that the tattoo is the symbol for the admiration he has on Sachin Tendulkar. With the tattoo, he felt he'd made a transformation into the next level in the continuum of Sachin Tendulkar fan.

G's tattoo attracted attention from many people. During the practise session, G was interviewed by Times Now. You may see him on TV or his story published in the papers. G met Sachin later and took few photos with him.

Ganesh with Sachin

Today, G transformed from a true ST fan to something very special - a Tendulkar Zealot. For a very brief moment, Ganesh became Sachinesh.

Good on you mate!


Update 1: Feel free to leave a comment/message to G. He checks this blog regularly. Cheers!

Update 2: Press photo of G and the tattoo. Look at him...he's beaming with pride. LOL.

Update 3: Here is an article by Indian Express which mentions Ganesh's tattoo.