Saturday, November 23, 2013

150 PLACES TO VISIT IN MAHARASHTRA - ON A GOOGLE EARTH FILE

Short version: I love travel. Here's the Google Earth file. Enjoy. Share this post.

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Long version:

So, there comes the time in every person's life where he's bitten by the travel bug.

In Mumbai, where I stay, people have the common lament that:
1. Travel is expensive
2. There's nowhere worth visiting nearby except the same ol' hill stations which are now commercialized.

I beg to differ. Maharashtra is home to some spectacular places - beaches, hill stations, treks, caves and many more. Now, I'm not a veteran traveler - indeed, the bug's bitten me only recently - but even in my short travel time, I'm astounded by the amount this state has to offer.

Self and wife went to Malshej Ghat - gorgeous greenery. We went to Malvan - stunning beaches. Heck, you can even just roam around Mumbai's forts and old city and discover amazing stuff on a weekend.

Add this to my love for Google Earth - which I believe is one of the finest programs ever. So what I did was very simple - I spent a lot of time mapping out various places that I'd like to visit in Maharashtra. And put placemarkers for them, and classified them.

Over 150 places in Maharashtra. Get off yer ass and go!

Places categorized!

And I'd like to share that file with you.

Download it from here (it's a 16 KB direct download).
Open it with Google Earth. And voila! Enjoy!

There are over 150 places, but a few disclaimers:
1. It's not comprehensive. I went through about 20 lists - from trekking websites to Wikipedia, but could have missed something out. Lemme know what these are, and I'll add them in (and update)
2. Some places are repeated. For eg: The same places might be in 'treks' and in 'forts'. And some forts might not be in 'fort' because it's in 'treks'. Kindly adjust.

Well, there you go. Don't ever complain that there are no places to visit near Mumbai or Pune. For cheap buses, check out the MSRTC website.

Well, enjoy :D

And yes - spread the word across people from Mumbai. More people need to get off their arses and go out rather than vegetate home on weekends ;)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

THE CRICKET KWEEZZZ

I once did a cricket quiz for @kweezzz. Kinda proud of the questions. Have a look?

01) Who has the highest score on first class debut?
Hint: He was padded up when Sachin and Kambli put on their 664 run stand

Amol Muzamdar

02) Which English cricketer played for a (now) EPL club?

Denis Compton

03) If Rahul Dravid had scored 5 more runs in the Lord's Test against England in 1996, what first would have been created?

Hint: The first was finally performed by Pakistan v South Africa in 1997

Two debutants scoring a century in the same innings. Lord's 1996: Ganguly 131, Dravid 95 | Rawalpindi: Mahmood 128, Naqvi 115

04) In 1789, a cricket 'tour' was supposed to happen between two nations. Why didn't it?

Hint: One of the countries wasn't a future Test playing nation

English cricketers' tour of France. Cancelled due to French Revolution

05) In 1900, which bowler dismissed WG Grace, taking his only first class wicket?

Arthur Conan Doyle

06) In Dec 2001, A denied B a major record in Test cricket. In Jan 2002, B denied A the ODI version of the record. Identify A & B.

Hint: Bowling record. Many Zimbabweans were harmed in the making of both.

A - Chaminda Vaas, B - Muralitharan. Vaas took the last wicket when Murali was on 9/51, and Murali took 2 wickets when Vaas was on 8/19

07) Martin Guptill has 7. Fred Titmus had 6. What am I talking about?

Toes. Martin Guptill lost 3 toes in a forklift accident, Titmus lost 4 in a boating one.

08) In 2009, Noor Ali of Afghanistan achieved something that only 3 others have before him - Arthur Morris, Nari Contractor, Aamer Malik. What?

Hint: In Test cricket, only Yasir Hamid and Lawrence Rowe have achieved this.

Century in each innings of the game.

09) Connect: Charles Bannerman, Geoffrey Boycott, Adam Gilchrist

Faced the first ball of each international format - Test, ODI, T20Is respectively.

10) Alec and George Hearne, Eng v SA, 1892. Ed and Dominick Joyce, Eng v Ire, 2006. Connect.

Only instance of brothers on opposing sides in Test and ODI cricket respectively

11) Who was the last cricketer to score a double century in his last Test innings?

Jason Gillespie.

BQ) FC cricket. Who sent away all his fielders, wicketkeeper included, leaving only himself, the two batsmen and the 2 umpires. Then he recalled just one fielder, placed him near the stumps. When asked why, he replied, "I've troubled the umpires enough, this guy's going to pick up the bails". True to form, he clean bowled the batsman, the fielder picked up the bails and handed them to the umpire. Who was this bowler?

Bart King, widely regarded as USA's best ever cricketer.

12) Ranjitsinjhi, Deodar, Nayadu, Merchant, Hazare are the only cricketers to be ___________ ?

Commemmorated on Indian postage stamps.

13) The question I asked Steven and got it featured! When was the last time that whites were worn in an ODI?

Hint: A near-emulation of Kapil Dev-Eddie Hemmings.

Zimbabwe v India, December 2001

14) Sunil and Rohan Gavaskar are the only father-son pair to do what?

Take a wicket off their first over in ODIs.

15) Which is the only cricket ground in the world that was built over a water body? Hint: 12th and 13th men

Basin Reserve

Thursday, September 12, 2013

THE WEDDING CHRONICLES, PART 3

I really wanted to post the day after the wedding, but that never happened for a variety of reasons - including being inundated with relatives and ferrying off to various temples. I apologize to any of you who were waiting for an update here before taking stock-market decisions.

Well, it's been close to two months now after the wedding. Now, I really don't want to bore you with the usual jazz of how things have changed, but what else is one to do with a post-wedding post? I can't randomly go off and talk about the Mike Mangini vs Portnoy era of Dream Theater, neither can I segue into a critical analysis of the best packaged chaas available in the market. So post-wedding stuff it will have to be. 

But I'll keep it bulleted because bullet points, for some reason, have this psychological ability to make a huge wad of text look less daunting than it actually is.

1. If anyone tells you life before and after marriage is the same - they're lying. A lot has changed, things feel different, you feel the need to make an Excel file for accounts and you suddenly realise that you need to take permission to buy your next pair of headphones.

2. We went to Bali for our vacation and what an amazing trip it was. I'll put up a separate post on that later. We had a ton of fun - beaches, scuba diving, SO MUCH SEAFOOD ZOMG, more beaches, greenery... It's an absolute paradise and if you're planning to go, I'll be more than happy to help you plan your trip (in exchange for 'he's such a nice boy, he deserves a new pair of headphones' prods to the wife)

3. When you're married, your house ceases to be one large laundry pile where you come back to pass out every day. Suddenly things find themselves into cupboards, photos go from being digital to framed on walls, a hibiscus will find its way in, and even if the only thing you watch on it is FRIENDS off a pen drive, you will have a TV. 

4. You will now be the target of 'be decent. You're married now' ridicule from friends when you attempt to do something vulgar such as read Playboy or watch Virat Kohli.

5. I wanted to call the house router 'Husband and Wifi' but that was overruled in favour of 'IP Gangnam Style'. It's hard not to be attracted to someone who can fit a technology term into pop culture and make it funny.

6. We have promised each other that there will be one weekend trip per month. We've been to Malshej Ghat thus far. Let's see how this pans out. 

7. Apparently, I am allowed to buy new headphones only if I hit 75 kg, or the dollar hits ₹45. We all know which of this is more likely, so does anyone have Raghuram Rajan's phone number? (Also, my keyboard has a rupee symbol thing. I wrote this point just to show that off)

Yeah, that's largely about it. More later. Including Bali.

Friday, July 12, 2013

THE WEDDING CHRONICLES, PART TWO

So, how much has changed since I last posted?

To be honest, not much. The date is getting closer, more people who I don't know but I must pretend I do are being spoken to, and so much  money is being wasted you would think my family was effluent (hehe).

Now, from my limited exposure to wedding-based Punjabi music videos (face it man, we all had a crush on Malaika Arora in that video), it pretty much seems that the groom is the cynosure of all eyes, and my reticent silent-corner-seeking self was dreading the prospect of the whole wedding shindig for just this.

Fortunately, it turns out that the groom is never in the aforementioned cynosure. This is due to a variety of reasons including the fact that a TamBrahm wedding is largely never about the bride and the groom. It's actually all about the clothes. In fact, it's quite okay if the groom doesn't show up as long as well-laundered apparel does. 

Secondly, as you saunter around the TamBrahm universe, which is a fate I wouldn't bestow upon even Steve  Bucknor after the Sydney Test of 2008, you realise that it is rife with hypocrisy. For instance - on one hand, they admonish you for indecent clothing when you walk around home with shorts, but seem to have no issue asking you to bare your chest in front of an auditorium of 500 strangers.

Today is apparently my last day as a bachelor (technically engaged tomorrow night. I think. I don't keep up too well with these things, I just go along) and have had no time to do any bachelorry things (however, I did sneak out to have a vada and lime juice. Don't tell parents).

It's frustrating being a non-practicing engineer while meeting random people. For instance - my brother and I are at many times dragged from our reveries to be introduced to many people. Now, I - with all due modesty - happen to work for the biggest and best advertising agency in the world. The brother - with all due respect to him (he's cut out for WAY better things than software) works in a not-exactly-top-level software company. Conversations with random strangers (RSs) typically go like this:

RS: So what do you do?
Me: I work for an advertising agency. Ogilvy and Mather.
RS: Oh... Hmm... Ok. Did you see Australia batting? Hmm. Ok. Nice. And you? What do you do?
Bro: I work for US Tech.
RS: OHWOWISTHATTRUEJIZZIHAVEANUNMARRIEDDAUGHTERAREYOUINTERESTEDTELLMORETELLMORE

Bro and Me: #facepalm

Also, way too many people are given respect for nothing more than their ability to have sired a very large number of people. Reverence is always to be given and never questioned. Where's all that scientific temper that we speak of? ;-)

In the middle of all this, the brother and I have managed to sneak in time to practice a few songs. Those of you who are coming for the reception and are sticking around at the end - we promise you some interesting stuff. 

So anyhow, I've got a whole lot of ceremonies to look forward (?) to. I'm writing this blogpost in blatant defiance of orders that I've been given by my aunt ("Don't work at a computer - go straight to sleep"). The next time I write a post, I will be in some stage of matrimony. 

Wish me luck (for surviving the aforementioned ceremonies more than anything else!)




Sunday, July 07, 2013

THE WEDDING CHRONICLES - PART ONE

I guess there are few better ways to restart a blog whose posting strategy is Afridiesque in its consistency, than to talk about the single most important event of one's life. But let me for a moment not talk about the time I got my Grado SR325 headphones, and talk about something else which a few of you are privy to.

I speak, of course - of the fact that I'm going to get hitched. On 14 July 2013, Divya and I are going to be one. One in the way Lennon and McCartney were (without the fallout). One in the way two amoebae fuse (without the grossness). And one in the way HTC's latest phone is (without the useless Beats Audio).

It's been three years since we started going out - a term appropriate for India where parents get scandalized if an unmarried couple were to be seen in the same Cooperative Housing Society.

And now, after many anxious moments - it's finally happening. Whee!

I started off the journey telling my parents that I was landing up on Monday, totally intending to surprise them as I'm actually reaching Kochi on Sunday. Alas, that idea backfired as they got wind of what I was up to and  the only surprise for them was the fact that I've actually managed to gain more weight than was thought to be humanly possible.

So here I am in Tripunithura. Houses here are quite massive. Granted, that is also partially because the region is not the most flourishing of real estate markets. Neither is there an IT park in the near vicinity, the types of which have been responsible for many youngsters gravitating to the area, followed by fashionable establishments. The upshot of all this essentially being - you could buy a bungalow in Tripunithura for the price of a, say, closet in suburban Mumbai.

Tripunithura is also quite unlikely to immediately top any lists of 'happening party destinations' in India. I'd like to use the term 'charming' to refer to it, but flocking off to temples at every possible occasion and the absence of sustenance of the more protein-enriched variety (if you know what I mean) really doesn't meet my idea of 'charm'. As a kid, I've never really looked forward to my bi-annual sojourn to this sleepy little place, having to pass time by playing Scrabble against myself, and re-re-re-re-re-re-reading my latest stash of Archie comics.

Nevertheless, it's where the nucleus of the whole wedding preparation is going to happen. And one thing about this whole shindig is that I've been very removed from all the action. The last time I met my parents, they had no idea I was even seriously seeing someone and they were constantly raising the "we're getting old now..." statement. A while longer and things would have possibly reached the comfortable forget-Tambrahm-just-get-anybody-and-we'll-get-you-married-off stage.

So since I've been away from all this, and the fact that Ogilvy and my freelance work keep me wonderfully busy, I haven't had much time to contemplate or look out of the window with a cup of tea going "Gawrsh, I'm gonna be married in a month!". The most I did was download a countdown timer app on my phone.

Perhaps this insulation was a good thing? Cold feet, jitters, butterflies, and all those things which your Facebook friends believe you should have, never really came. I've been quite clinical about the whole thing - having planned everything from the honeymoon to house-shifting in Excel. Now some of you might say that this Steve Waughian ice-cool nature was a good thing. Others might call me a killjoy, not giving in to the emotions of a momentous event.

But tell you what, I'm quietly thrilled. And not just because that app is telling me I have only 6 days to go.

A lot of fun events have been planned over the next couple of weeks, which I'll attempt to list down over here. From my mom's attempts to get me to shave my French beard off, to my brother's excitement at adding 15 devices to the home Wifi router (serious) - there's a lot of hilarity to be had here.

I've just spent my last weekend as a bachelor.

Oh, and if you haven't seen our 'story' yet, please to click here :)

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

REVIEW: SIGNATURE ACOUSTICS C12

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Pristine Note, them purveyors of audio awesomeness in India, had come up with their own earphones! They're called the Signature Acoustics C12, and although there's a bit of scope for improvement, it's a wonderful start, and hopefully, this will be the first of many excellent audio products to bear the 'Made in India' tag.

The box is pretty straightforward. None of that ruddy hyperbole that seems to be plaguing the growing consumer audio market (OMG WE USE THE GR8EST MAGNETS THAT REPRODUCE SOUND SO SEXILY THAT RAINBOW COLOURED CATS WILL START FALLING OUT OF THE SKY OMG OMG).


 Inside the packaging, the big surprise was a brass storage box! This was quite interesting!



 While this was a nice touch, and the interiors were of high quality, there were two problems:

1. It's too heavy to practically cart around. You could, but... It's still quite heavy.
2. You know that spine-tingling feeling you get when you run nails down a blackboard? That happens every time you open and close the lid. Yow.

In any case, the guys who've reviewed this before me, like the box but again the practical concerns of carting around a heavy box was too much to discard. So the company has told me that they're coming up with a semi-hard leather case.

Tech2 summed it up brilliantly in their review of these earphones: The polished brass case is as gorgeous as it is impractical.

Now, on to the earphones themselves. They're gorgeous to look at! The body is made entirely of wood.



 They look fairly solidly constructed. I had some concerns about whether the cables would pop out of the earphones, but they didn't. Quite nicely done. The cable is of VERY high quality, I must say. It looks and feels premium and I don't see any wear happening with even gym-level use for a few years.

Now, on to the major question - how do they sound?

Well, I have mixed opinions here. While there's no denying that the sound is excellent - Signature Acoustics have done a superb job here - it's not a sound signature I'm particularly fond of. It's a very 'laidback', relaxed sound with a lot of emphasis on bass. The mids (vocals, rhythm guitars) are very well defined. The highs - treble - however, was very underwhelming. This was deliberately done by the company, to make their earphones less fatiguing. Fair enough, but I'm a guy who likes to hear each string being strung, if you know what I mean. Here, the treble comes off as a little 'muddy', for lack of another term. 'Rolled off', I believe, is the term audiophiles use.

So I tried this with all sorts of music. I listened to it with two sources:
1. My Sony Xperia S phone, which is a decent music player.
2. My computer, which has a USB AudioEngine D1 DAC and Schiit Asgard headphone amplifier.

Rock and metal being primarily what I listen to, were less than exciting on first listen. But I must put a huge disclaimer here: My primary headphones are the Grado SR325, which is VERY treble-heavy. So I'm used to a 'brighter' sound signature. So the C12s at first felt like they were being slightly 'suppressed'. The mids were lovely - but the overpowering bass meant that I needed to fiddle around with the EQ settings - and got a comfortable listen out of it. The vocals are very upfront - I believe audiophiles call this 'forward', so this will be very well suited for vocal-heavy music like pop, Bollywood, R&B and stuff.

Noticing the emphasis on bass, I guessed these would be great for trance / hip-hop. I'm not much of a fan of this genre, so I tried the only song that I'm a fan of - Sandstorm by Darude. And it kicked butt! These earphones, with their emphasised bass, can drum some serious bass into your heads. And since there are a lot of people out there seeking great bass in their earphones, I can readily recommend this to them.

Just to clarify - just because they're bass-heavy doesn't mean the bass is muddy like in many low-end earphones. You can still hear the basswork on a bass guitar, for instance - however, it's not as tight as I'd like it to be, but from a earphone in this price range, it performs as expected.

I tried some Carnatic (Nagumomu, from the Mallu movie Chitram), some random Bollywood songs I knew, and some fusion (Indian Ocean, Agam). The earphones performed well with Bollywood, but again, I couldn't help but feel some 'sharpness' was missing.

While they're a pair of earphones that are quite dependent on the source (I doubt a Lava phone is going to help you get audiophile-level sound), they don't benefit too much from amplification (which is unsurprising - most IEMs in this price range are meant to be efficient enough to be driven by even a phone).

For the sake of showing off, here's the C12 with my Audioengine DAC and Schiit amplifier.

















Price: The price it's going for right now is INR 2700. Which makes it a very worthy competitor to others in that price range - such as the Sennheiser CX270 and Klipsch S3.

The only other earphones I had on me at the time of review were the Brainwavz M2, which are 3750. It would be unfair to compare the two, of course - since the price range is different, so I'll refrain from doing that.

So, bottom line. Would I recommend these earphones?

It depends on the type of music you like and how you like to listen to it. If you're seeking intense amount of clarity and treble, then stay away from this. You'll be disappointed.

But if you're a basshead, want lots of thump, or place emphasis on vocals - then by all means try it out. It's an excellent earphone for the price. To make your decision easier, Signature Acoustics offers a trial period of ten days during which time you can try it out. If you don't like 'em, you can return 'em. I think that's immensely sporting of them.

And in any case, if you do end up buying them, fiddle around with your EQ settings, either on your computer or phone or player until you find what you like.

If you're interested, you can buy them from here.

And if you need more opinions on the C12, here are a few:

Tech2, Digit Forums, On another blog.

In any case, this is a superb start to indigenous earphones. I hope there will be many more such products to come out of the Pristine Note stable. By the way, check out the site, they have some kickass products in there. You can buy the products from their retail site, ProAudioHome.

=

Later edit:

Signature Acoustics contacted me and told me that due to the feedback received about the brass box, they've made it limited. Otherwise, the default will be these lovely cases. And they are probably the best-looking bundled cases I've ever seen for earphones!




Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Thanks, 2012!

The temptation to call anything 'crazy' is quite prevalent in this era where hyperbole is considered normalspeak. I myself was accused by one of India's top bloggers for labeling everything 'epic'. So it's at the risk of sounding passe, at the risk of echoing everyone who clinked glasses together last night said: It was a crazy year.

Yes, 2012 was probably the best year I've ever had, for a variety of reasons.

The career move: For one, after three immensely awesome years at Windchimes, I moved to Ogilvy, for an awesome role. Essentially, if you're getting spammed with a new Twitter promotion or an app on Facebook, you'll know who to blame.

The incessant cartooning: As many of my poor followers on Twitter would know, I churned out a few cartoons this year. Some have been hits, some have been misses. I was privileged to do stuff for many people - Sportskeeda, Pagalguy, MTV, NH7, Niti Central (I never thought I could to political toons!), Sify, Cricinfo, CrazyEngineers, Ultimate Guitar... Heck, I even did some comics for Karnivool.
I'll be the first to admit I have a long way to go (especially in terms of art!) and have just been immensely lucky with some of the stuff I do. I actually counted how much I've done, and that's... 709 comics/bylines/articles over the year. That stuns me myself :D
Thank you to everyone who's clicked a link I've put out. I hope to be as prolific in 2013... Well, with a little more quality, perhaps ;-)

The gadget acquisition: One of the resolutions of the last year was to not buy gadgets. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Good one. I bought a Wacom tablet (well, the excuse there was - it's for professional reasons. So...), an iPad 3 and a lovely Xperia S phone. And a Logitech G300 mouse. And a Casio Edifice. And an Asus Xonar Essense ST sound card. And a Sony digital camera (since I sold my DSLR). The worst purchase of the year was an electric toothbrush. Never making that mistake again.

Failed project of the year: As usual, #Project72. Maybe this year... Sigh.

Experiment of the year: Stand-up comedy. It started when Apurv, the man who really started my cartooning career, asked me to do a small set on BSchool humour at the All-India Pagalguy meet. What happened was a pretty well-received set, and I was spurred on to try more. Some went well (like the sets at IIMK, GIM and a few open-mics) but some were incredible duds (like a couple of shows at The Comedy Store, Mumbai where I tried getting my guitar on stage - those were just total bombs and I apologize sincerely if you were at the shows).
But I've got some good feedback from friends, audiences and comics, and hope to do better in 2013. For starters, there are a few shows lined up in January in BSchools. Let's see what this year holds.
Having spent 4 years making presentations to marketing managers, I'm no stranger to getting up and spouting foolish things to an audience hoping they'll like the stuff.

The show of the year: I missed Karnivool last year thanks to a surgery. This year, when I got to see them at NH7, I was fighting back quite a few tears. It was a fucking dream come true. Now if someone would just get Rush or Dream Theater down...

The people who made 2012: To all my editors. I'm sorry I bug you and your finance teams so much. Thank you for all the work you let me do. The usual gang, really. H, M, S and of course, her :)
A special mention to the Indian National Congress. Thanks to you guys, I must have drawn half of those cartoons. I owe my new phone, a few LIC premiums, turtle food and stuff to you. Thank you!

Thanks, 2012. You've been quite good to me. I hope you've given your successors instructions to carry on the good work.