On Physics and Hinduism

Image courtesy, Be good stewards of mother earth.
Image courtesy, Be good stewards of mother earth.

At the entrance to the Centre for European Nuclear Research (CERN) stands a 2 metre tall statue of the Hindu deity, Nataraja (see above). To the unaware, it looks like something out of place: something that does not belong in one of the world’s largest scientific research institutions. But it is only one instance of the compatibility between physics and Hinduism.

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Launching Physics Capsule, the online magazine

Long back I was part of an online science update project called The Scientific Papers. Those of you who have followed me there know it ran pretty successfully for three years before I decided to shut it down. Until now, my only presence online has been here, on my personal website; but starting June the 24th, that is about to change.

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Blookist — not just another blogging platform

Visit Blookist and the most inspiring part of their website is in an obscure place — the address bar. “You don’t need an excuse to be creative”, it reads. Still in beta, Blookist is a new kind of publishing platform. That was how its co-founder and CEO, Adrian Zuzic, described it to me when he got in touch recently, asking if I would be interested in reviewing their startup.

Blookist is the content-appreciative publishing platform we had all been waiting for.

At first, I was confessedly disinterested: was this just another Obtvse, another Svbtle, or another Ghost? At a time when blogging platforms seem to be cropping up at every nook and cranny, why did I have to pay any attention to Blookist? Was this another ambitious platform started with enthusiasm that would lose direction halfway through?

As I looked around, however, it was hard for me not to realise this was not a blogging platform; it was something more, something unique, and, most importantly, something promising. I signed up for free immediately and over the next couple of days began to explore this further. It had caught my attention. Continue reading

Tissot Classic: watch connoisseurs’s Dream

As a watch connoisseur, a Tissot simply had to be part of my collection. This was especially after my older Tissot ran out of style with its spin bezel. There were a lot of choices to make among the company’s legendary catalogue, but few caught my eye as swiftly or as effectively as the Classic.

It is an unassuming piece with some impressive fitting and bold crocodile leather. Its stitch runs along the perimeter of its leather strap ending in a steel buckle with neatly folded stitches securing its lug ends.

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Social media etiquette: 15 rules for the modern gentleman

They say, in the real world, chivalry is dead; on the interwebs, especially social media etiquette, never existed. The present state of technology — and social interactions through it — is a little like when civilisations themselves began: there was no rule that prevented you from shouting, tugging hair, or eating off somebody else’s deer carcass. As man grew, so did unanimously approved methods of social interaction.

Present-day rules of etiquette have grown to be as complex as passing port wine compulsorily to your left and pouring a glass to the person on your right. This is a carryover from the days when such a practice allowed men at dining tables to keep their right hands free in case they had to draw out their swords. And if these habits have lived until today, when nobody carries a penknife, let alone a sword, why should similar rules of interaction die out with the advent of technology?

Another point of debate is that no such rules of etiquette have been formulated for interactions online or via technological media such as text messages. This perhaps happened largely because over half of all rules — especially every single one meant for the dining table — are no good for socialising online. And the few that do carry over from the offline world to the internet are underrated, overlooked or simply ignored.

Yet, such rules exist; and it is, perhaps, just a matter of reminding people about it. If so, this article may serve as a sweet rememberancer. If not, this article may serve as a timely guideline for the future.

 Rule #1 

Think before your say — there’s no going back

The most important social media etiquette is something that is more dangerous than in real life. It is to be aware of what you say. This can be an actual video conversation, or a simple comment left on websites or your social network. Many a time, you have no option to revert or delete, let alone deny. Unless you are really slow or boast an IQ of 10, you already know that all your comments are public — if they are not, then there is no use making them. The point, therefore, is that once you say something, it is more or less etched in html writing. Offline, you can say something and get away with it. If you deny it long enough, you can convince the world — including yourself — that you never said it; but once you leave a comment, it is there for the whole world to see. The next time you say something, think it through and tone down the harshness.

 Rule #2 

Calling isn’t dead yet. Neither is the post office.

An increasing number of people are using social media — including Twitter and Facebook —  to let their kith and kin know stuff. This includes invitations to birthday parties, funerals, marriages and vacations. And lately even what was on the breakfast menu and the fact that they are down with a bout of cough. The point in question? Nobody cares. As for the people who do care, you would be better off letting them know over the phone or by sending an invitation card the old fashioned way. Social media has its limits and one of the biggest is that it is very impersonal. So save it for public announcements or invites targeted for anybody you might have unintentionally forgotten to invite via phone or letter. And this is how far it has already gone:

its-terrifying
Image courtesy: Lamebook

 Rule #3 

Correct spelling and grammar never killed anybody

Nowadays, there is an unchecked increase of LOLs, TMIs, YOLOs, LMGTFYs and other masses of seemingly random letters put together in ways that nobody can pronounce. While all this may make you appear tech-savvy before older generations in your family, it also gives people an impression that you have turned off your brain. Besides, people who LOL a lot to crude YOLO jokes that often provide TMI or those who write NTS about a fake PSA or something they OH so they have a trump card to PWN somebody later, cannot spell or understand standard English — or French, German, Chinese, Greek or Latin for that matter. Get the point?

Ask yourself, if there was no such thing as the internet, would you stand up on a dais and shout this out loud, on a microphone, to the public?

Read this article by the University Navigator for a more serious look at this topic. So the next time you write something somewhere online or as a text message, remember, using correct grammar and spelling never killed anybody. On the contrary, pointless abbreviation-rich lingo can make you a magnet repelling smarter people.

 Rule #4 

#TooMany #Hashtags #AreACauseOf #Headaches

Internet Relay Chats (or IRCs) first introduced hashtags which Twitter would soon popularise. Hashtags are simply words or phrases prefixed by the hash or pound sign, #. Hashtags are used to categorise a tweet, status update or chat message thereby making it easier to group messages on similar topics. For instance somebody may write a condolence to all victims of the Hurricane Sandy and tag it #Sandy. Further, a BBC news article may be published and then shared through Twitter with the tag #Sandy. And that evening a CNN broadcast may use the #Sandy tag to gather messages to display on TV. So, days hence, if somebody were to search for #Sandy, they would get a list of all tweets tagged Sandy. Of course, this can also be done for satirical effect. But too much hashtagging not only defeats the purpose, it can be hard enough on the eyes to help you lose followers thanks to your lousy social media etiquette.

Image courtesy: Hashtags.org

 Rule #5 

Forum discipline: every man to his own thread

There was a time before Facebook when forums were the town centres of the Internet. While they are not falling down any slope just yet, they do not occupy as much time in people’s lives as a social network. This sometimes means trolls love forums. The number one discipline tip to remember on forums — apart from obvious ones like do not comment unless you have something to add to the discussion, do not create new topics which are not visibly open for discussion, do not comment cheeky rants — is, quite simply, do not piggyback one somebody else’s question. If you have something to say or ask and somebody has said something similar or asked a similar question, do not ask your question on their discussion thread; if your question is similar, but genuinely different in spirit, then create your own thread and start a new discussion.

 Rule #6 

500 friends don’t make you a celebrity

One concept of Facebook that sounds hollow — disregarding the subscription process it borrowed from Twitter/Google+ — is that of requesting friendship with somebody and getting an acceptance or rejection in return. This leads many people, new to Facebook or otherwise, to send of a few dozen friend requests to people they knew back in the Jurassic period, or — worse yet — to people they met five minutes ago.

Too many Facebook friends
Image courtesy: Mashable

These are not your friends but for namesake. Here is a quick test I designed: remember those 495 friends you have on Facebook? Name them all. The truth, of course, is that there is something between a complete stranger and a friend: an acquaintance. And the chances are, 470 of those people are your acquaintances, ten of them are family and the other fifteen your actual friends. So the next time you want to fire off a friend request to that person you spoke to on the bus back home, stop and think about it again. And if you have befriended (the word isn’t friended as some say) your lab partner from fifteen years ago and you no longer care what biscuits he had with his tea, it’s time to (what Facebook calls) unfriend him.

 Rule #7 

Consistency is the key

Some people seem to get bouts of social media adrenaline that leads them to share rapidly, post after post in quick succession, twelve status updates, eighteen Instagram photographs and twenty-five tweets all in the span of an hour. And then they disappear from the face of the internet for a day or two. While that sounds extreme, that is precisely how it looks to the people you are sharing stuff with. They streams get flooded with your updates, your tweets and your photographs to the point of their becoming frustrated, and your appearing like an irritating toddler who refuses to climb off their back. If you cannot consistently come online, schedule your witty updates; thank you.

 Rule #8 

Know what not to share

Here I have another quick test. Use this if you are thinking of sharing something on the internet. Ask yourself, if there was no such thing as the internet, would you stand up on a dais and shout this out loud, on a microphone, to the public? If you would, then share it; if you would not, that is a sure sign that you probably should not publish that online either. someecards.com - I put more thought into what I write in tweets than what I write in holiday cards.

 Rule #9 

Understand tagging rights

Almost all social networks allow tagging friends (or sometimes complete strangers) in photographs you upload. Understand that tagging rights are reserved. When you signed up for that favourite social network of yours, that terms of use you accepted without reading, most likely advised you to get a person’s permission before tagging them in a picture. Although a recent court ruling allows people to tag you without permission, remember that legality and basic decency are two entirely different things.

 Rule #10 

Think before you re-tweet

Sometimes headlines are pretty misleading. They scream “Read me, I’m interesting”, and all they turn out to say is, “thanks for reading me: you just got fooled”. The next time you spot something on Twitter — and you will be surprised how many do this — actually click the link and read the article before re-tweeting. It may not exactly mirror your views, and if people see you recommending that (which is what a re-tweet suggests in the first place) your own stance may be mistaken, sometimes with dastardly side effects.

 Rule #11 

Never hijack hashtags

A common marketing technique, and a rather cheap one at that,  is what is now commonly called hashtag highjacking. It is quite a simple process: check which hashtag is trending on a social network and force that into your update, so people checking that hashtag or following it will be tricked into reading your article or visiting your product. It will work at first, but it will backfire on the long run. People may go from blocking you on that particular social network to blocking your website on their browser permanently. Here is an example. As I write this article, Leroy Jetson is trending on Twitter. (Yes, it is Elroy Jetson, but the Leroy joke stems from a TNT NBA slip of the tongue. You should watch that, it’s hilarious.) Anyway, I might tweet “Leroy Jetson’s 15 rules of social media etiquette” just to garner attention — or so I would think at first.

 Rule #12 

Bad news: likes, +1s, favourites are not condolences

A common habit I have seen on many social media networks is voting up bad news. While bad news is a relative term and the real problem lies with networks only providing a positive vote button, liking, pluss-ing, favourit-ing sacking, illness and deaths still shows you enjoyed it, not that you mean to pass condolences. If you truly have to say something, unlike in an active discussion where “Yeah, you’re right” comments rarely help, in such cases as deaths and the like, even a quick “RIP” or “So-and-so will be missed” will mean a lot. And surely a lot more than a like or a +1 would.

Doing it all it wrong, big time: Good intentions, but no different from hitting +1 on a news about Madiba’s passing.
Image courtesy: This tweet by @FarrukhHussaini

 Rule #13 

Spoiler? NSFW? Always provide warnings

Sometimes people may be in a working environment where even attempting to access certain links may be frowned upon. Other times, people may just not want to access certain links. Further, say you want to review a film, you ought to be kind enough to warn people if you will be giving away major plot points.

A simple Spoiler warning or an NSFW head to your social update will go a long way in saving your followers either embarrassment or frustration or both. For instance, this post below is interesting and funny, and that link provided may give me more such memes, but since the poster has been kind enough to make an NSFW mention, I’ll think twice about visiting it, or perhaps I will not visit it at all. This is always better than clicking on it for a nasty surprise.

 Rule #14 

Keep that geolocation in check

Many people have the habit of tagging every cafe, landmark and city they visit. Sometimes they visit a place just to tag themselves with it. And there is no(t too much of a) problem with that, except that sometimes these smart people also make it a point to mention who they are with. It is courtesy to ask whoever accompanied you whether you can tag them or not. Often, they do not check into a place because of a reason, and tagging them straight away is invasion of privacy. No written laws exist against this, not even in usage terms for websites, but once again, decency above law.

 Rule #15 

Say no to vaguebooking

Vaguebooking is a term that first came off Facebook, but is no longer limited to that network. It is on Twitter, I have spotted it on Twitter, and, if I was on Facebook, I could have named that as well. I am yet to find it on Google+, thankfully, but where ever you find it, it is just as irritating as anywhere else. What is vaguebooking? Updating vague statuses to gain attention. Like little kids.

Image courtesy: Lamebook again.

Well, that’s what you get for vaguebooking.

Your turn

Serial entrepreneur, Ilya Pozin, came out with his 12-step checklist to make sure your social media interactions are, to state it very simply, decent. Here are five I liked and strongly support:

  1. Will I offend anyone with this content? If so, who? Does it matter?
  2. Did I spell check?
  3. Is this appropriate for a social portal, or would it best be communicated in some other way?
  4. How many times have I already posted something today?
  5. Is this reactive communication or is it well thought-out?

You can read the entire list of 12 steps on his article on Forbes. Then also share with me what your thoughts are. Do you already follow the fifteen points I have mentioned? Do you disagree with some, or do you have even more rules that your have set yourself to follow? Share it with the world And remember, chivalry isn’t dead. It just followed wherever being ladylike went. That was a friendly jab and meant no harm. At all.

 Cover image: Flickr/Jason A. Howie  VHBsign

Remember Bunbury? My single-panel comic returns in 2014

You might remember Bunbury, the single-panel comic I had started back when I first laid my hands on my first generation Galaxy Note. Over time, I began to work less on it, but now with my Note 3, I have found I can do a lot more, and after drawing a couple of caricatures (you can see it in my Google+ album) I quickly decided to start it again.

Objective

Every comic has an objective, and Bunbury’s is summed up nicely in its banner:

Bunbury_new_3

Style

My earlier style was an off-the-hand scribble with a single colour, the VHBelvadi.com red that you may already be familiar with.

Further, I used to use a triangle for a nose, as a minimalist indication of the direction that face was turning in, and kept surrounding artwork to a minimum.

The old style

While I am by no means stepping over the limit now, the new style I have defined is fuller, more colourful and uses a shading ideology to differentiate it rather than bodily features or character styles, the latter which will vary based on the panel and topic as is necessary.

bunbury_eg

Visit Bunbury

Well, what are you waiting for? I have taken down all except two of the older comics (just so there is some standing that Bunbury was started over a year or two ago) and I have added a couple of new ones. The new banner is as under, a slight re-working of the previous to make it bolder while retaining the same style and symbolism.

bunbury_banner

Clearly, the collection is growing, but it will amass more panels so keep visiting. In fact, start right away, why don’t you?

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Featherwave goodies: The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks and new opening credits

2013 has been a good year for my short films. A lot of finalisation of Telltale was complete and that book was closed. Then my friend, Raghul, and I, under the Featherwave banner successfully produced our latest, and arguably best, work till date, The Abel Photographer.

New opening credits

Starting 2014, the second year for our planned Featherwave project/s, we welcome two new members on-board our small team. With The Abel Photographer, although the house debuted with its first short film, the opening credits were never judiciously worked on.

As a necessity, the same sequence was re-worked maintaining a similar idea but with very subtle enhancements. What lies beneath this video represent Raghul’s and my beliefs and approach to making a film.

It has been lengthened from 7s to 10s, includes a brief new soundtrack while maintaining the same geometry as the first sequence. This will be our permanent opening credit henceforth. It is very simple, so it does not fight with the film itself for more attention.

Update #1: corrected opening credit sequence

After I put up this credits sequence, I got a few emails from my readers. Thanks to some of their patience, I was able to point out the problem, which was one of two things: some of you only saw a black video, while most others found the title disturbingly invisible around the edges.

The second problem was because the video was getting sized wrongly on some browsers, mostly due to caching. It is very likely that you experienced one of these problems, and now that it has been rectified, I request that you spare another 10 seconds and appreciate it in its actual form.

NB This is in 3.2 kbps, our films will use a higher 5kbps version. (Why? Too huge to upload; bear with me).

On behalf of Raghul too, I thank you very much!

Update #2: the spirit behind this video

I was fighting against myself to speak nothing of this, but when over ten to twelve readers asked me the same (or a similar) question, I thought I would add it in here. The question, paraphrased, was an interesting one: what does the sequence represent? or, as one reader asked me, what was your thought-process while imagining this credit sequence?

Firstly, interesting and well-put. Secondly, the answer itself: if you observe the video rather than watch it, you notice three stages of development; under other circumstances, I would have chosen to represent this physically using several characteristics, but this time I decided to throw all the responsibility on a single property: colour.

The video goes from near-grey scale to blue to orange-yellow. It is merely a representation of what we believe in behind the scenes, the yin and yang, that a film must contain the good and the bad, the dark and the bright, the greedy and the generous, the horror and the joy, the question and the realisation; and a grey area between it all where the viewer stands, deciding the meaning for themselves.

While this is what intended/worked with, like all of Featherwave’s productions, this one, too, is open to your interpretation.

The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks

We have, lined up, an abstract-drama production to be filmed in early 2014. As most of our other works are doing their rounds, we’d like to give out the four soundtracks from The Abel Photographer short film to end 2013 and start the coming year afresh.

Abel’s theme

Abel is a fictional photographer in the film. A very famous, almost legendary figure, the entire story begins with Adam discovering one of Abel’s lost works. This is the late Abel’s theme.

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Adam’s theme

Adam Weathers, the main character in the film, is a photographer in professional capacity, who soon learns that he has a very long way to go after a realisation comes over him in the film.

Actor Raghul Selvam (Telltale) takes on the role of Adam Weathers. This is his theme.

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Fermez les yeux: the Judgement day theme

Abel’s lost photograph discovered by Adam is popularly known as Judgement Day. This piece, following the photograph, is stormy, inspiring and structurally complex to abstractly represent the picture itself.

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Les poèmes sans parole: realisation

This is a minimalist theme that reflects Adam’s realisation; it makes him stop, think and understand much better exactly what it was he was trying so hard to do. The piece ends on a ringing note summing up the entire production of The Abel Photographer.

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We hope you enjoyed whatever bit of our work you saw, heard or watched. It has been a long time since I replied to some of your requests both through this website and elsewhere who so our film, who expressed their wish to listen purely to the music. You can download that as well:


From Raghul Selvam,

Actor and co-founder of Featherwave

Fresh off the closed tab where I saw Featherwave’s new opening credit, and I must say it’s simple and yet appealing. I keep getting reminded of the niche that our films are creating. This just makes me more excited about our future projects. The way we shoot and work together, is on a different level. Starting from the very less use of words on-set and the understanding between me and V.H. Belvadi is uncanny!

I am always the lazy one, trying to push the film faster and to get over with it as soon as possible. But V.H. is a perfectionist. He will get what he needs out of the shot in a very subtle way, as in, he knows how to get work done out of people. And I hope that will be helpful with the addition of the two new members of our production in Origami! I have no words or expectations as to where we might go ahead or how big this “Featherwave” will become. I, for one, am an optimistic, and I don’t think we would stop churning out films until our house turns into a big production house. I think V.H shares the same enthusiasm in films as much as I do. And I know he won’t stop short of my expectations.

I have heard a lot of short films do not care about documentations in India, and one of the new recruits was elated that she had to sign for a film, which meant legal rights and et al!

My efforts and intentions are big for Featherwave, and I hope V.H. Belvadi shares my thoughts. After all, we do share a lot in common!


And back to me for a few closing words:

There is a lot of truth in what Raghul says — we have good communication and understanding, and that goes a long way in making a film. And there is some lie — he is not as lazy as he thinks he is, although, yes, he does try to finish a film as quickly as he can and I can only attribute it to an enthusiasm we share to watch our finished work as soon as we can!

We intend to grow big, no doubt, but that can only be achieved by keeping up all we have so far and adding to it. Introducing two new members to the team is just a start. They are the many faces of Featherwave.

2014 promises to be a good year for Featherwave, and I for one hope that this is just a start of a successful journey for our humble four-man team.

And, if you have not seen it yet, do not miss the trailer for The Abel Photographer:

Have a great year ahead and join us for more short film fun!

VHBsign