Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Cold Winter Day

Yesterday (the day after Thanksgiving - the so called "Black Friday" discount day in the retail world), I had a chance to take my camera out. With the winters just around the corner, it was a bit cold and windy (but pleasant and sunny none the less), and I was trying my hand to shoot some pics with the new camera - my intention was to get a handle over its features as quickly as possible. I managed to take some shots - and a few of them were taken in black and white to give that "cold winter effect". Here's a link to the slideshow for the rest of the pics: Flickr Slide Show

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My First Date with the Nikon D90

I had a blog post of an almost similar name a couple of years back - when I had got Canon A570IS. And after months of research and reading online articles, watching videos, I finally ended up ordering Nikon D90 with 18-105mm VR kit lens. It arrived this Tuesday, and I was SUPER excited - so excited that I left office a couple of hours earlier than usual :)

I would have loved to have shot an unboxing video (but, I was TOO impatient- just grabbed a knife and opened the box the instant I got home). I had also ordered some additional accessories (that included a Dolica Proline tripod). So, the first thing I do is to setup the camera on the tripod and shoot with a reasonably long exposure (30s). Thankfully, it was dark outside. And I liked the result :)

For the past 2 days, I have been reading about the features of the camera - in fact, had bought a book by David Busch specifically for that.

I guess I'll be using my Flickr account big time now.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cooking and Me

Today's hot topic - my cooking. As Agila pointed out, I should blog about it. Good idea!!!

I was never into cooking. Even as a kid, I seldom watched how my mom made those delicious dishes. Until recently, I didn't even know how to boil an egg. The only thing I was able to make was tea. My parents' friends used to praise my "tea preparing skills" like anything (my mom taught me that way back when I was in 9th grade). Otherwise, I was utterly useless in the kitchen. And to be very frank, I never had to worry about it at all. Once I left home for college, thanks to the hostel food and cafeteria, my hunger problems were taken care of - well not exactly the way I would have preferred (implying the food was just horrible). But I survived those 4 years. Then when I started working, office cafeteria didn't make me feel the need to bring cooked food from home.

Living in Pune also had its advantages from the food front. Why would I want to learn to cook when there were numerous eating joints throughout the city. With all types of cuisines imaginable, I enjoyed my stay in Pune.

Now, when I am in US, the regular home made Indian food seem to be a delicacy. Before leaving India, my mom tried to give me a crash course in cooking, but failed miserably (she teaches well, but me being me, had other things in mind at that time).

And yesterday, with a bit of imagination, I tried to make something from what was available in the refrigerator - potatoes and peas (with tomatoes and onions), and some assorted spices. And to me surprise, it actually turned out to be delicious (well, there was no one else to vouch for that). But all in all, I was happy. Now I can experiment with other things. And I realized, that cooking can be fun :)

May be a blog on "Abhishek's own recipes" some day, eh? :D

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Chicago

The hibernation ends (yet again)... Yes, just 1 post in the past 6 months!!! Well, I didn't have much to write about recently, other than the fact that I have been on the move since May. But, now that I am settled at one place for quite some time, I thought of picking up this whatever little habit of blogging I had earlier.

Sitting at home after an usual day at work wasn't that common when I was in India - I generally came back home late. Here, its different. Its almost winters now - yes, I mean "almost", as most of my informants have warned me about how harsh winters are usually here. With DST off, things get dark a bit too early. 5 0clock, and its dark outside. And not to mention the constant roar of the wind which I am able to hear outside my apartment window.

I remember, when I landed in Chicago on 15th August, I loved the weather here. It was warm and sunny, and I could see the daylight till late 8.30s. And I made full use of that opportunity to visit some of the most famous places in Chicago - the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planterium, the Science and Industry Museum to name a few. Millennium Park and Lake Michigan are just a mile walk from where I stay, so I used to visit those places frequently. And there was the Chicago Jazz Festival which 1 of my friends dragged me to.

One thing I like about this place is how much information is accessible anytime you want. My earliest friend in Chicago was in fact - google maps. From locating the nearest Walmart store, to exploring the various bus and train routes of CTA, it was really the most useful tool I found during my initial days here.

Now, that the winter sets in, it is getting difficult to get out of the house. But I am enjoying the cold chill - reminds me of the times I spent in north India.

Well, thats a lot of updates I seem to have given. But that pretty much sums up what I have been doing these days.

I leave you with a glimpse of some of the places I have been talking about...


Check out my flickr stream here...

Friday, July 03, 2009

My Driving Dilemma

Driving can be fun, that is, when you know driving, and when you don't have to constantly apply brakes. Alas, thats not the condition in most parts of India, and to be specific, in Calcutta (aka Kolkata, as some people would prefer to call the city of joy).

I recently shifted to Calcutta, and one of the primary concerns after landing here was the dilemma if whether I would be able to drive. As with most of the cities, people drive their cars in a general direction (is there something called LANES?). Yes, and thats where the problem starts. Bus stop to pick up passengers on the fast lane. Rickshaws (both cycle as well as hand pulled) also prefer to drive on the right lane. And thats just the beginning.

Then there are the infamous yellow Ambassador taxis, which don't follow any traffic rules, but expect you to be a law-abiding citizen (ever seen one of those without a sign of "obey traffic rules" on its back?). And their numbers are in 100s and 1000s. If you manage to look at the streets here, you'll only see the yellow color everywhere. (There have been a couple of times when I just managed to escape from being hit by a taxi while overtaking me from the left).

Yes, thats pretty much it. You get the picture, right? So, I was a bit too scared to take my car out on the roads in the beginning (and, sometime, I am still). But, you get used to it. You get used to the buzzing city, the city full of lights and life. And that's what makes this city one of the best cities in India (at least when you are not driving :P ).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

GeekTool ~ A Way to Make Your Desktop More Useful

There are various ways to make your computer desktop more useful. People use widgets to display various details directly on their desktops. I had heard about something called "GeekTool" a long time back, but hadn't actually bothered to have a look at it. Yesterday, while browsing, I came across a series of screenshots flaunting the use of Geektool. I got curious and started exploring. And, I liked it.

Geektool is a utility for your Mac which allows you to post results of various terminal commands (Unix commands). This can vary from simple date and time commands, to other system commands like top, ps. And, the outputs can be displayed in various fonts and colors, thus blending with your wallpapers. Try it out.


You can get various scripts for your Geektool by just searching about it on Google.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Languages!!! Languages!!!


Learning languages can be fun (as if knowing how to read, write and speak in 3 languages wasn't fun enough!!!). Yes, for Indians, we are generally comfortable in communicating in 3 languages (generally) - English, Hindi (our national language) and our mother tongue (and we tend to create a new language by concocting the three languages most of the times). But, some people (including a good friend of mine) have a flair for learning new languages. Unfortunately for me, whatever I have learnt in my first 5 years of life has been permanently stored in my memory, and any new language I learn is automatically purged after a few years of inactivity.

I have traveled a lot since I was a kid, been to almost all the states in India, so have been exposed to a number of languages. But, somehow, I never made a conscious effort to learn that region's language. So, I was stuck speaking in Bengali at home, Hindi with friends and English at school. In my school life, I had French and Sanskrit as a part of the curriculum, and, I think I managed to get good scores in those subjects quite well, but actually didn't get a chance to converse in those languages. So, after a few years, the only things I remembered were a few unrelated words.

I stayed in Kerala for more than 2 years, but somehow, managed to be just fine by not learning Malayalam - English was fine enough :). Then, when I moved to Pune, haven't even made any effort to learn Marathi, even though it has been about 7 years here.

But now, I realize that learning languages can be fun. Other than knowing the various ways in which you can communicate to the residents of the place, it helps you to understand that region's culture even more. For example, currently, I have started learning German, and other than learning about the language, I am also becoming aware of their culture and lifestyle.

So how do I rate the languages I know (refer the picture at the starting of the post)?

1. English - 6th box
2. Bengali - 5th box
3. Hindi - 6th box
4. Sanskrit - 5th box
5. French - 5th box
6. German - somewhere in between 3rd and 4th :)
7. All other languages = prelinguistic :P

The ultimate level of perfection? Profanity, of course :)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Embedding Images in HTML

I noticed that the my new Blogger theme had loads of links to external images, which forced the user to wait for a considerable time before he/she can see the full page. And sometimes, a few of the images would not show up at all (again, those little idiosyncrasies of the browsers). I was looking for a way to embed the images in an encoded format, directly into the HTML of the theme. After googling on it, I found a nice site which will create a Base64 encoding of any image I provide, which I can then add to my theme.

The general way to add an encoded byte stream instead of the URL in CSS:

div.image {
width:884px;
height:181px;
background-image:url(data:image/jpeg;base64,/9j/4AAQSkZJRgABAgAAZABkAAD...);
}

It took me considerable time to actually replace some 20 odd pngs and jpegs with weird series of characters (not to mention, it makes the theme code even more unreadable, but I managed to add comments wherever possible). I was happy with the result, as the updated theme loaded just fine in Safari 4 beta and Firefox 3 in Mac, Firefox 3.1 beta in Windows, Mobile Browser in S60 3rd Editon (Nokia E51), and Opera Mini browser. But, IE 6 couldn't process the encoded characters and display a picture. Haven't tried it IE7, so I would be really gratefully if someone is able to post a comment on how this blog looks using IE7 (or any other browser I haven't tried). If there are problems with many browsers, I might shift back to my previous url-linked-images version of the theme.

Update: Searching on the net provided some solutions to make IE display Base 64 encoded images, which requires a bit of PHP coding. Now I need to learn that, so I'll try to get this thing fixed as soon I have some time. My verdict? Why doesn't Microsoft's browser support something which is unanimously supported by all other browsers across all platforms? I would have completely ignored IE, but most of people still use IE, whether they like it or not :(

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Cross Browser Issues

Lately, I have been tweaking my blog with lots of new widgets (if you navigate along the sidebar, you'll see what I mean). This mainly includes getting some code snippets (javascript mainly) and modifying the XML template of the theme. But, its really frustrating to get complete different results when I view this in different browsers. I predominantly use Safari Beta 4, and most of the widgets work fine. But when I open the same page in Firefox 3, a few them stop working completely. Take for example, the flash widget for displaying the label cloud (source: roytanck.com). The labels show just fine in Safari in Mac, and IE6 in Windows. But when it comes to Firefox, based on the version of the browser I am using, it behaves differently. Like, for example, in Firefox 3.1 beta 3, I need to specifically click the start button to start running the script, and in Firefox 3.0.8 for Mac, it doesn't work at all!!!

Again, while composing a blog in the Blogger editor, things work just fine in Firefox. But when it comes to Safari, if I paste some lines from somewhere into the text area, instead of landing where it should land in normal world, it somehow manages to paste itself outside it, no matter what I do.

So, currently, I am trying to find out the best browser to use in various scenarios. So, if you see some weird results while viewing this site, you can try switching the browser for some time :P

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day

This is what I got through mail from a friend of mine, and, believe me, I couldn't stop laughing :D


Update: One of my friends actually didn't realize that there is no F13 key. He just didn't press it when he read the poster because he didn't agree to the first paragraph!!! :D

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Blog v2.0

I changed the look of my blog completely today. Yes, as it is quite obvious, the theme is completely redesigned - had to do some HTML coding to tweak an existing theme to make it more functional. And of course, the address of my blog!! Yes, yesterday, I bought a domain (I was in fact a bit surprised to find this domain name actually available, so without thinking twice, bought it).

It has been almost 3 years now since I started blogging here. Now when I read through my earlier posts, I find them quite amusing. Yes, 3 years is a long time. But here I am, posting another post on my good old blog :) . It will be quite interesting to see this post another 3 years down the line (maybe a new design will be due by then? Or maybe I'll have my own website hosted with this URL?)

Btw, to comment on this blog, you just need to click on the bubble near the title of the post. :)

Update: Do you see that cute little "AB" icon in the address bar of the browser? That is also a new addition :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Earth Hour

Yesterday, at 8.30 PM in the evening, we switched off the lights for an hour for the "Earth Hour". I have been getting mails, not only from my friends, but also from my company, reminding me about the importance.

When I first heard about this a month back (I suppose ), I laughed it off. I mean, what were these people who decided to start this even thought of achieving by switching off lights for an hour? I kept getting more and more mails about this event. I was amused at the same time - we anyways have a 2 plus hours load shedding every day - so is it a double "Earth Hour" every day? :)

The main difference I find here is "choice" - if i switch off all the lights voluntarily, instead of forcefully every day, it symbolizes how much we are concerned about the current environmental condition. If we can stop what we are doing, and participate in this event, it should serve as an eye-opener for all the world leaders out there who have the power to make a change.

So there I was, coming back home, and I chose to use the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Let us hope that something is done to ameliorate the current situation.

Update: A few cities in Maharashtra (for example, my friend's home town) have a daily load shedding at that time, so she didn't have to take an extra effort in switching off lights and fans :P

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Internet and Me

We have come a long way. I remember the first day I connected to the internet (was it 2002? Yes) using a dialup modem I just installed. The series of weird dialing tones you got when you pressed the connect button - and voila!!! You are connected. Dialups were so costly those days, had to keep a track of my internet usage (@56kbps :D ). I remember the first mail account I created - it was hotmail - and I still log into the mailbox every once in a while (not to mention the number of times it got deactivated coz of non-usage).


That was how I looked at internet some 8 years back - have a mailbox to receive and send mails - the only way to connect to friends. And then there was Yahoo chat. All my friends used that. And of course, Google was still there. Our online presence was limited to mails chats.

I guess, for me, it was Google's new services in 2005 which started changing how people used the web. Gmail came, with it came an integrated chat client. With the same google account, you could now use Picasa to share pics with friends (I remember the pain in attaching all the pics in mail and sending it to friends earlier), social networking revolution with the introduction of Orkut, blogs, YouTube etc etc.

I have noticed a shift in the trend from those early days of my internet usage. I used to write mails to friends, share pics with them. But now, its more about broadcasting "whats on your mind" to all the people you know at the same time (and sometimes, to people you haven't even met before) - thats what the social networking sites do. It all about "publishing" your thoughts. I hardly use my personal mailbox to send message to a friends asking how is he/she doing - now I just post a message on his online scrapbook/wall, open for anyone else to read!! With online services dedicated in broadcasting what you are doing (Twitter), to sharing interesting links online (Digg/ Delicious), to sharing your musical tastes (LastFM), we have a lot of services online these days to help you have your presence in the Internet. Everything seems to be shifting towards social networking.

Now, you are connected to the internet as soon as you start your computer, see which friends are online, and what are they doing these days. Truly, the Internet has brought the world a lot closer :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

About This and That..

As the title says, I am in that "random" mood again, it seems. Another uneventful day in office has made me really tired, and so after an one hour nap in the evening, I decided to just update my blog. Yes, today's Friday, and I don't seem have much plans tonight.

I have been reading and smiling at the articles about the latest AIG bonus fiasco, and the hum-drum its causing across America - my take? Those idiots deserve to be treated like that (90% tax?? Ha ha :) )

For the last few days, I have been absorbed with the new Facebook home page - which, after giving an initial scornful look, I seem to like it. I mean, seriously, what's with this "what's in your mind" stuff? I liked "Abhishek is ..." better. But as they say, you get used to the change. But now, I am addicted to the new layout. The best part? I can comment on anything!!! And I just love people replying to those comments, and some of them are really witty replies :). Wonder, how come I didn't miss this feature before?

Listening to trance again - my current favorite being "Metaphorique" by Cape Town - truly mesmerizing :)

Decided to learn German, so, without thinking twice (after hearing about a good institute), enrolled for the weekend session. They are supposed to start tomorrow, so excited about it too :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Welcome 2009!!

2009 is here, and January is almost over. And, it had been an eventful month so far - Mr Obama becoming the president of United States (and that makes him, unarguably, the most powerful man on earth). Also in the news had been the popularity of our very own Mumbaikars in the British movie "Slumdog Millionaire", and our beloved Mr Rahman for weaving his melodious magic, yet again. I haven't had a chance to watch the movie though, but that's the first thing on my list for this weekend.

Other events which had created headlines, especially in India, is our PM's surgery, which kept him away from the 60th Republic Day festivities. The argument with Pakistan regarding the Mumbai attack continues, with its incessant denials of having any part to play in that event - phew!!! 

The economy is still in bad state, with the unemployment rate increasing (and with the recent announcements of over 70k layoffs across various companies, things seriously look a bit too gloomy). UK has finally announced that it is in recession.

The announcement of the Padma awards have, as usual, created a bit of a news (atleast in my opinion). Conferring the award to our golden boy (in Olympics that is) was expected. And so was the list of filmstars (Akshay Kumar, Ash - which makes her the 4th Bachchan to get it). But did someone forget about the other medal winners at the Olympics.

So, it has indeed been a month of events. Hopefully, things will improve soon (from the financial point atleast).

And yes, this is my 2nd post for this year, and coincidently, it marks my 50th post on my blog (hurrays)!!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tweeting Away on Twitter

Yup, you have guessed right - I am lately bitten by the Twitter bug... If you don't know what I am talking about, feel free to go to my Twitter profile. Its fun, and unlike other social networking sites (aka Facebook/Orkut etc etc), this just needs one single piece of info - what you are currently doing... Also known as "micro-blogging" - it allows you to post anything within the 140 word limit - so that others can follow your tweets. 

So what are waiting for?