Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Answers (or more Questions) in Genesis

 

I am watching the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on youtube now. Ken Ham supports Creationism from the Bible, and Bill Nye, the Science guy believes in Evolution.

 

According to Ken Ham, there are two kinds of Science ! Historical Science and Observational Science. So what is Historical , cannot be observed. And what is observed, is not historical !

 

Here are my favourite slides:

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Well, I have a very strong point against Genesis here. I am a Hindu. And we have our own version of Genesis. And….our version is veerrryy different from the Genesis.

 

So now, which version is correct ?

Once you go down that way, it leads to debates between religions.

I find a much better and plausible answer in science.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Best Private Bus Journey–Orange Tours , Hyderabad–Bangalore


I recently had to go to Hyderabad on very short notice, had only hours ahead to prepare. And what better place to book bus tickets for long distance journeys in India ? Online of course.
Now I was new to Hyderabad, and heard about the ridiculous rates the auto drivers charge in the city. I wanted a bus service which would start and drop at places I already knew in both cities, Hyderabad and Bangalore. And when I entered my query, the online booking system gave me results for services by Orange Tours and travels. It was a leeeettle pricier than the competition, but I booked it anyway.
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One of my best travel decisions. If every service from Orange is on par with what I experienced, then they are the best private bus service providers in the country, hands down.
I was travelling with my wife, and had a load of luggage on the way back. We decided to board the bus from Kondapur and alight on old airport road in Bangalore.
SMS Alerts: In addition to the SMS alert we received from the ticketing website, we received an SMS from Orange tours, with the registration number of the bus, and the phone number of the 2nd driver.
“- Orange Travels - Your journey details: BusNo: KA01AB4978, ServiceNo: OTT39, SeatNo:A1A2, CRO No: 9640650729.Track YourBus at http://goo.gl/VyWwx
The link points to yourbus.in, showing real-time location of the bus.
We also got subsequent alerts when the bus arrived at each stop.
“YourBus (OTT39) left Miyapur at 9:08 pm approx. It is running as per schedule.Track YourBus at http://goo.gl/VyWwx
With these many free alerts, Orange makes sure you cannot miss their bus because you did not know the timings.
Service: The staff of the bus were extremely courteous, all dressed in uniforms. They also spoke multiple languages, and verified the identity of the travellers at each stop.
While loading luggage into the bus, they put a baggage tags on each piece of luggage, handing us the counter slip with the same numbers. Thus ensuring we don’t leave with someone else’s luggage. Awesome ! Although I have not lost luggage on buses, I have heard instances of luggage getting stolen.
The Bus: The bus itself was a Mercedes Benz air conditioned 49 seater. There was a running Orange color theme throughout, and bus itself was clean and dry.
They provided water ,biscuits, and blankets, and for the first time in my life, the blankets on the bus was sealed in plastic cover. The sticker on top said the blanket was dry cleaned specially for that one journey ! I am allergic to dust, and normally carry my own blankets and avoid any provided on the bus. But the dry cleaned blankets they provided on Orange didn’t cause any allergic reaction in me.
Punctuality: The bus was punctual, it started and arrived at destination at the times they had advertised on their website. I had no problems making the last mile journey from the drop point to home.

Awesome service. Ill be sticking to this service whenever I can.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Drishyam – Family story turned Intelligent thriller

 

Yesterday I watched what they were calling the best Malayalam movie of 2013, and for once, the rumours were true. It is a wonderful movie, one where the script is the true winner. And backed up by an excellent, but not that expensive cast, and excellent cinematography, its nice to see why the movie garnered so much praise. When I left for the movie yesterday, the plot of the movie was already on Wikipedia, but someone has removed the crucial last bit now, removing the clincher climax.

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The movie depicts how a simple four member low income family from a village in Thodupuzha is faced with a potentially disastrous event, and how they overcome it and stay together and fight the police and law order as a whole, coming out clean on the other end. In the process, they face questions, violence and doubts from the cops, neighbours and society; they lie to everyone, because in this case, the truth would not set them free.  It is after a loong time that I found myself, along with the audience, rooting for the murderers, praying that the police are unable to solve the crime. More ethical points of right and wrong, and truth and lies are dismissed off quickly, because for the family, their family honour is their greatest wealth, which they will protect till the end.

MohanLal plays Georgekutty, a honest ,hard working and self made man. Having only a 4th standard education, and born an orphan, he works in his fields and his local cable television company to earn for his simple family. He believes in hard work, and saving everything, despises any unwanted spending. He loves watching movies, and has learned a lot of ‘life learning’ watching movies of all languages. When confronted with any difficult situation, he recalls from a movie he watched how to solve it. But at the end of the day, his world is limited to his family, he does not want anything more, and is happy providing for them. And his family, may make fun of his stinginess, but love and respect him equally.

Into this small world comes in trouble , Georgekutty’s teenaged daughter gets photographed in the bathroom at a nature camp by a hidden cell phone. The culprit, Varun is the son of police inspector general Geetha Prabhakar ,Varun is accidentally killed by Rani and her daughter when he comes to blackmail them. They hide his body in a compost pit, which is witnessed by Anu. Rani tells Georgekutty about the incident and he devises a way to save his family from the law. He slowly prepares an elaborate and water tight alibi for the entire family, and prepares the family to face any kind of aftermath that may arrived at their door step any moment. He tells them how the police will try to break apart their alibi , try to submit them to confessing the crime, but how these can be overcome if they are well prepared. He then goes around the city, making acquaintances out of strangers, so that they remember his family in case the police question them as well. Just as he predicts, the cops are able to trace Varun’s SIM card, and the cops come chasing the family because an officer saw George driving off in Varun’s car to dispose it off.

In a way, the story is a fight between two families. On one side is George and his family, who live through hard work and sincerity. On the other side is Varun’s family, who are much more well to do and powerful, because Geetha is the IG of police. They start searching for their missing son, and will stop at nothing to get their son back, even when they know Varun has been a bad child. For a mother, her child is the biggest thing in her life. We see how Geetha, first driven by love of her son, and then the mind of a police officer, systematically try to break down George and his family. She is able to make out how George got an alibi for this family, but has no proof which could stand in court. So she orders third degree, that George and family be beaten and tortured to get the truth out of them. Of course, George has thought of that too, and has the media ready to focus on their family after they are beaten up by the cops.

The biggest evidence in the alleged murder is the dead body of Varun, which the police are unable to trace. And without solid proof ,and media coverage, the police has no way to framing the family. The case of the missing Varun goes unsolved, and George is able to save his family. All the officers involved in the investigation are transferred, after media reveals the illegal way the family was treated with violence.

In the final moments of the movie, George still has to go the police to sign the remand register. Because, he still is a suspect. The new SI taunts him ,in his newly built police station, reminding George that he is still not free. It is then revealed that George has hid Varun’s dead body in the foundations of the police station itself, thus sealing the only evidence, and the entire case, in a way it can never be resolved.

What stood out:

  • Story. And Screenplay. It was amazing. The director could have got any actor to play the role of the patriarch Georgekutty. Because the character is convincing and solid. i am not a MohanLal fan, so I will not say that he brought in anything special to the role. The character had to look simple, but possess a mastermind.
  • Editing, music. The first half of the movie has familiar naadan sounds and sights, and casual editing of the country side. Just before the interval, the theme changes to mystery & suspense. Not haunting, the background sounds was just enough to hold the audience at the edge of their seats, when every twist was revealed.

What did not:

  • Sexist dialogues. Barely 30 minutes into the movie, there is lot of sexist dialogues, and double meaning talk. For a movie projected and marketed as a family entertainer, these could have been avoided. Due to the awesome reviews of the movie, there were a lot of families lining up for the movie, and this is going to be a sour point. Just MHO.
  • Violent. Again, IMHO, the scenes where the family is interrogated and tortured could have been torn down. But by the end of that scene, the audience is definitely angry with the police for mistreatment.

 

Awesome story. Good movie. Must watch.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Three Action Movies I ended 2013 with

 

Work has been hectic, but I did take a well deserved off in the last week of 2013. Got to catch three action movies on DVD torrent. They were the usual Hollywood action movies with bomb blasts, guns blazing, and high tempo music.

Act of Valor : This movie was released in 2012, but funny thing, I didn't see any marketing trailers to promote it. It could very well be the best action movie from 2012, a high octane action movie about the US Special Forces (SEALS), and a their fictional pursuit of a terrorist and smuggler. It depicts modern warfare, the age of calculated attacks and zero risks. And if the action and weapons displayed here is real, man, the US Army has gone light years ahead of the rest of the world. They have used real Army SEALs for the action scenes, real people who have been trained and seen action. Frankly, the guys can’t act. But you don’t need actors to aim and shoot weapons and go into tactical formations.

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My favourite action sequence is the first one, the rescue mission in the middle of a Mexican rain forest. The last time I saw such an engaging sequence was in the Bruce Willis movie Tears of the Sun. A 7 member SEAL team HALO drop into the jungle to rescue a kidnapped CIA Official. The way they stalk and follow the enemy, the long distance weapons they use, there is also a remote controlled reconnaissance glider, the hovercrafts the second team uses to arrive….mind-blowing ! The extract is done with zero causalities, and Columbian cartel has no idea how hit them. Man, one view and I can safely say, the Indian army has light-years to travel to reach this kind of sophistication.

Captain PhillipsPaul Greengrass’s 2013 movie about the MAERSK Alabama hijacking by Somalian pirates started creating Oscar buzz on release. Now I am not a big fan of Paul’s shaky drunken camera-man style cinematography, it was controlled in the Bourne series movies he directed, but got worse with GreenZone. But anyway, the DVD rip on torrent was of high quality and good sound as well, so ..here goes.

Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, the captain of the merchant ship Alabama, which gets hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The screenplay is tight, the acting top notch. We get to see that the life of pirates and the ship crew are worlds apart. The pirates are driven by poverty to steal, their living conditions pitiable, but all of them surprisingly speak very good English ! Phillips tries to evade, but then gives up when the pirates board, and uses his training to keep the crew safe and the ship unusable. After a lot of cat and mouse games between the pirates and the crew, the pirates are able to take Phillips hostage and escape in a life boat. They plan to hold him ransom for money, not contend with the money Phillips was offering them to walk away.

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The ship’s call for help is answered by big brother US Navy, who promptly dispatch a SEAL team to use any means to control the situation. From this point onwards, we know for sure the pirates will be caught/killed, yet it was interesting to see Phillips trying to negotiate and talk his life out of the pirates.

The best scene is undoubtedly the one towards the end, when Phillips is rescued and being treated for trauma on the US destroyer. Tom brilliantly portrays how  the captain is shaken and affected to the core by they ordeal, he wants to cry out his pains, and laugh out of gratitude at the same time, yet he tries to remain composed because he is the captain after all.

Elysium :   Jason Bourne is back, but this time in the future. Elysium is the next of Neil Blomkap’s movie about a dystopian and ravaged future earth, and the story of one man who wants to bring down the corrupted politics. Matt Damon is one of my favourite actors, few people can pull off a action sequence as convincing as him. Matt plays Max, who always questioned the divide between rich and poor, was once a criminal, but now is a reformed wage worker at a robot factory. In 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a huge and luxurious Stanford torus-style space station called Elysium, and the poor who live on an overpopulated, devastated Earth. While residents on Earth are policed by ruthless robots, Elysium's citizens live in comfort and regularly use bed-sized medical devices called Med-Bays to keep them free of disease and injury. An accident at the plant exposes Max to a lethal dose of radiation, giving him only five days to live.

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Max, knowing his only chance for survival is a Med-Bay, seeks help from notorious smuggler to reach Elysium, and is pursued by Kruger, a sleeper agent played by Sharlto Copey. Max is weak from the radiation poisoning, so he is outfitted with an exoskeleton which gives him superhuman strength. What begins with a manhunt on earth , ends with a one on one showdown on Elysium between Kruger and Max.

Amazing. That’s my word for the special affects. Simply Amazing. Everything from the rich affluent lifestyle depicted on Elysium, to the futuristic weapons depicted, to the exoskeleton powering both the leads, this could very well be the action movie of 2013.

But I hated the ending. Why did Max have to die ? I hate movies which depict a messiah. They could have very well found a way to keep him alive, this is the future, after all. Max went on the fight to save himself, but ended up saving everyone stuck on earth. Also, what about the future from then on ? Can’t the Elysium mainframe be reset to how it was and go back ? Won’t the powers think of something ?

I am not saying anything about Jodie Foster, cause I think her role was wasted in the movie. She did not bring anything new to the table, anybody could have played a female dictator like she did.

Friday, January 3, 2014

An Uncommon Life Of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

 

In the wintry lanes of Bara Mohalla in Hisar, Haryana, a few of the older bystanders still remember the day Gita Devi and Govind Ram were blessed with the arrival of their first-born. Which Govind Ram, they first ask, before answering with a sly rhetorical question that tells you they know why you're here: "Woh Jindal colony wale? (The one from Jindal colony?)" The boy was born on Janmashtami on August 16, 1968. His grandparents had decided to call him Krishna. Now, 45 years later, the world knows him as Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi and architect of a hitherto unthinkable political revolution that does not derive its power from religion, caste, class or cadre.

The Kejriwals lived on the outskirts of Hisar in a colony meant for employees of Jindal Strips where his father worked as an electrical engineer. Their house was a simple, cluttered quarter. The only vehicle the family owned was a scooter.

Kejriwal says he only has a foggy recollection of his childhood. But cousins who spent lazy summer vacations with him and classmates at Hisar's Campus School, where he went after studying in English-medium missionary institutions in Sonepat and Ghaziabad, distinctly remember his attributes and idiosyncrasies. Kejriwal was often found sitting quietly in the classroom, a frail boy with a scrubbed-clean face and thickly combed hair. He was not outdoorsy, preferring chess and books to cricket and football. He was handy with a pencil and sketchbook though, and until he was about 11, could draw anything he saw: Trees, buildings, animals, the objects in a room.

With his cousins-there would be nine or ten of them running around his maternal home in Bara Mohalla every summer holidays-he was just one of the members of the merry band, rather than the leader of men he now is. Back then, the spiritual boss of the little gang was his cousin Kusum Goyal, now a chartered accountant in Delhi's Paschim Vihar. Their games included the indigenous favourites Oonch Neech and Vish Amrit that were a staple of all middle-class Indian children until the technology boom of the 2000s. "Arvind was neither quiet nor hyperactive, as some children are today," Goyal tells India Today. "We were all mischievous but smart enough not to draw enough attention to get into trouble with the grown-ups."

Kejriwal was raised as a religious child. Regular trips to church at school in Sonepat and Ghaziabad made a deep impact on him. At home, he heard discourses on Hindu moral teachings. He prayed in the morning, before he went to bed at night, and sometimes during the day if he found the time.

Even as a young teenager, he would sometimes display a sense of responsibility and righteousness that took those around him by surprise. Friends speak of an incident when he had been selected to represent his school in a debate but got high fever the night before the competition. No one expected him to turn up the next day but he reached the venue riding pillion on his father's scooter wrapped in blankets, determined to not let the school down. When his younger sister Ranjana took ill the night before a Class VIII exam, unable to study, he stayed up all night reading textbooks to her so she could revise without having to concentrate too hard. Ranjana, 41, a doctor, now lives in Haridwar where she works for bhel. His brother, Manoj, 38, is a software engineer with ibm in Pune.

Among his teachers, Kejriwal best remembers 'Mrs Chopra', who taught biology at Campus School and would sometimes sit with him after class to discuss his future plans. She pushed him into public speaking and cast him in a play when he was in Class X. Kejriwal went on to become the governor of the Hindi drama society in his final year at iit, Kharagpur, and, perhaps more importantly, can now infuse energy into any crowd with his fiery, off-the-cuff speeches.

It was only when he left home as a mechanical engineering student that Kejriwal's political opinions began to take form, along with the emergence of his irregular affinity towards working for those less fortunate than him.

Namit Arora, a batchmate at iit who lived with Kejriwal at the Nehru Hall hostel for four years, describes him as "articulate, self-confident, and with a quiet intensity about himâ?. Another batchmate, George Lobo, who now lives in the US, says that while the rest of them were busy planning careers overseas, Kejriwal would always talk about doing something that would change India.

His early influences were V.P. Singh, whose honesty in the Bofors scam as defence minister and whose efforts for social justice by implementing reservation on the basis of the Mandal Commission report as prime minister inspired a young Kejriwal. Lobo says that Kejriwal was strongly opposed to bjp for the Ram Mandir movement, which culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. "He was a bright student with a world of opportunities in front of him. How many of us dedicate our lives to the nation when we have a lucrative career in front of us?" Lobo asks. "I'm making good money here in the US and Arvind was ten times smarter than me."

Kejriwal's family remembers that he returned to Hisar from iit after his final year with just the clothes he was wearing and the residue of the money left from what he had set aside for his return journey. Everything else he owned, he had given to charity.

But the real turning point in his life was when he went to meet Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata after resigning from Tata Steel in Jamshedpur. They wouldn't transfer him to their social work department since he'd been hired as an engineer. "Kolkata is very close to Jamshedpur. I'd heard of Mother Teresa, so I thought I'd go meet her. There was a long queue at the Missionaries of Charity. When my number came, Mother Teresa kissed my hand and I expressed my wish to work with her. It was a divine moment for me. She asked me to go and work at her Kalighat Ashram. I was there for two months," Kejriwal tells India Today.

He appeared for the civil services exam, got selected for Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in his first attempt, and decided to give it another shot because he thought he'd be able to do more for the people as an IAS officer. When he got IRS again on his second attempt, he decided to settle for it. It was during his training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration in Mussoorie in 1993 that Kejriwal met Sunita, a fellow IRS officer. He got to know her better during the 62-week induction programme for revenue service officers at the National Academy for Direct Taxes in Nagpur. "We admired each other. She's a very shy person, a very decent person. One day, I just knocked on her door and asked her: 'Will you marry me?' And that was it," Kejriwal was quoted as saying in his biography put together by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation, which gave him an award for Emerging Leadership in 2005. They were married in 1994 before they got their first postings in New Delhi.

Kejriwal and Sunita first moved into a government flat in Kalkaji, where they simply threw a couple of mattresses on the floor to serve as a living room. When they moved to Kaushambi in East Delhi a year later, they bought a cane sofa. It can still be spotted during TV interviews, lying in the drawing room as their most elaborate piece of furniture.

While at the Income Tax Department in Delhi, where he occupied offices at Mayur Bhawan, Vikas Bhawan D Block, and at the main C.R. Building as joint commissioner, Kejriwal was frustrated by how little he was being able to do for people. He started an NGO, Parivartan, with Rs 50,000 donated by his brother Manoj and another Rs 50,000 given by a maternal uncle. They targeted his own IT department, which had no idea that the man putting pressure on them for honest tax assessments and swift reimbursement was their own officer.

But Kejriwal felt his NGO's impact was limited. For how long, for how many days, how many doors would he have to knock to help more people deal with larger problems. "Our hopes rose when Right to Information (RTI) came," says Kejriwal. "But later I felt the RTI was an incomplete tool. What can we do even if get the information if no one gets sent to jail? We felt there is a need to change the way politics is done in our country. We started the Jan Lokpal movement and later formed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)." The rest, as they say, is history in the making.

On December 23, when he announced that aap was ready to form the government in Delhi, Kejriwal took a few minutes to meditate before he met his colleagues. He was dressed in his trademark grey trousers, a navy blue sweater, and a muffler wrapped around his neck. He then sat in a blue WagonR, donated to AAP by one of his supporters, to drive to Raj Niwas. The only car his family owns is an old Alto registered in Sunita's name. Their children, daughter Harshita, 17, and son Pulkit, 12, though seemingly unaffected by their father's newfound status, are extremely proud of him. Pulkit had told Mail Today last year that "Papa mein bahut dum hai (Dad has a lot of guts)".

Eight years ago, Kejriwal had been travelling to Jodhpur with his cousin Kusum and her husband Kailash when the conversation veered around their children. Kusum said she was worried about the future of her son and daughter, who are a few years older than Pulkit and Harshita. Kejriwal told her: "Agar tu aur main apne bachchon ki chinta karne lage, toh desh ka kya hoga?" (If people like us, who are fortunate, start worrying about the future of our children, what will happen to the rest of the country?")

It is perhaps this spirit that has taken Kejriwal where he is today: The spearhead of a possible political uprising.