Category: Misc. (page 1 of 15)

Times New Roman is not as bad as you think it is

I have, of late, grown a fondness towards Times New Roman. Perhaps it is the bibliophile in me — although a lot of imprints these days too are letting go of the Times family for preppier alternatives like Garamond and Palatino.

Contrary to popular belief, Times New Roman is not a classical typeface like, say, the very Swiss, very classic Helvetica — another personal favorite of mine — or even the slightly more modern Helvetica Neue or its grandfather, Akzidenz Grotesk.

But to truly appreciate Times New Roman (TNR henceforth for simplicity) we will have to understand a little bit about its history, and that story begins in the 1930s.

Read more →

December 21, 2012: Is the world really going to end?


How the phrase “Ha ha!” originated

[dropcap1]W[/dropcap1]E HAVE USED the phrase so often that it is quite clichéd; and yet hardly any funny quip goes by without receiving a “Ha ha!” (Or several “Ha has” if you will.)

How many times have we really wondered where that expression came from, or why we use it? It was one of the seemingly trivial questions I often asked myself but never quite got around to finding a convincing answer. I still have not, to be frank, but in this article I intend to explain an extremely plausible reason.

[notice type=”red”]All opinions expressed in this article, including, but not limited to, theories, explorations and opinions, are the author’s own and are neither affiliated with any external sources nor are derivatives of other sources. For more questions, contact the author directly.[/notice]

Does the expression — by which, naturally, I mean the written one — have its origins in the sound of common human laughter (the one that goes “Ha ha ha ha…,) or does it stem from something more obscure? I would vouch partly for both, but mostly for the latter. Besides the reason I do think is right, is  lot more interesting :-)

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The various versions of “Ha ha!”

While “Ha ha!” may be the most recognisable onomatopoeia, there are several other versions that point to the same sound of (human) laughter. And many of these vary by less than the width of a hair.

Besides “Ha ha!” we have “Ah-ha ha!” or “Hah hah!” or “Ah hah!” or “Ha hah!” and so on. Besides this lot are words imitating a more muffled/unsure laughter, such as “He he!” or “Huh!” or even a laugh as quick as the quip itself, “Ha!”

The reason I mentioned these, it is worth knowing, is because they all have a pattern: more obviously, they are almost all doublets in syllable and word; and, understandably, all exclamations. But on the more inconspicuous side, these are all combinations with an and an a. 

The is the easiest sound to produce from the vocal cord (although some find it rather tricky at certain placements) and the a is the commonest vowel by preference. (Not by spelling, mind you: that crown belongs to the vowel e.)

In other words, when one laughs — a natural laughter being both unexpected and unplanned — the simplest and most preferred syllable comes out in repetition. But, while this may well be why “Ha ha!” (we will just refer to all versions using this single term) is an onomatopoeia, could the real origins on paper be the result of something else entirely?


Ha-ha in an English garden

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A bit about gardening

For any of us familiar with gardening (either because we have done it, or have read about it extensively) we will be familiar with the term ha-ha  in a completely different light.

I do not quite remember where I first read it, but the earliest I remember it is from my first reading of Mansfield Park in school, back in grade 7. There is a beautiful paragraph that goes thus:


“Prohibited! nonsense! I certainly can get out that way, and I will. Mr. Rushworth will be here in a moment you know—we shall not be out of sight.”

“Or if we are, Miss Price will be so good as to tell him, that he will find us near that knoll, the grove of oak on the knoll.”

Fanny, feeling all this to be wrong, could not help making an effort to prevent it. “You will hurt yourself, Miss Bertram,” she cried, “you will certainly hurt yourself against those spikes—you will tear your gown—you will be in danger of slipping into the ha-ha. You had better not go.”

Her cousin was safe on the other side, while these words were spoken, and smiling with all the good-humour of success, she said, “Thank you, my dear Fanny, but I and my gown are alive and well, and so good bye.”


(from Mansfield Park by Jane Austin)


Searching for those lines and typing them from my copy of the novel was testing, but those lines just want to make me read it all over again. What a beautiful work!

Haha is a French term meaning ‘a sunken fence.’ Now typical European estate owners believed in having an unobstructed view of their large lands. But stray (and tended) cattle were a great problem. So, while on the one hand they had to stop the cattle — and they could use a fence or compound wall — on the other hand, they hated to see these structures spoil the beauty of the estate.
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Structure of a ha-haHa-ha is a term in garden design that refers to a trench, one side of which is concealed from view, designed to allow an unobstructed view from a garden, pleasure ground, or park, while maintaining a physical barrier in one direction, usually to keep livestock out that are kept on an expansive estate or parcel.


As a solution to this problem gardeners often resorted to building dry moats with one perpendicular wall and one sloping wall so that the walls kept the cattle off the fields (they could not possibly cross it) and the ha-ha was hidden from sight when the land was viewed in-panorama.

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Quebec and the Rapa Nui

My favourite tribes have always been the Rapa Nui of Easter Island (their birdman cult, in particular) and those clumsily large island heads still fascinate me, but what I found interesting to note was that the Rapa Nui word for mouth is haha. That is some food for thought!

In French-speaking Quebec is a place called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! and the origin of this weird name is interesting as well. The more general meaning of the French word haha happens to be ‘a path with an abrupt end,’ and many believe that Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!’s  Lake Témiscouata is the Ha-ha the name refers to.

(My pity goes to every noble citizen of Saint-Lou… who has to write that long name every time he posts a letter.)

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In Conclusion

So as we take a look at all these pieces of information, we find ourselves coming round in a circle. There is the ha-ha in a garden, so called because a ‘Ha!’ is the first word you would say should you slip into one of them (or, to be more considerate, if you found one of them blocking your path.) Alternative expressions etymologists suggest are ‘Ah hah!’ or ‘Hah hah!’ — both of which we have previously covered as alternatives to the more standard “Ha ha!”

The idea of circling around is simply that it is certainly possible that the ha-ha got its name from the “Ha ha!” for this reason, because the expression would naturally predate the gardening technique known earliest since around the 18th century, or even various French toponyms, known earliest since 1686.

However, since modern English (whose written words and spellings were only established with Johnson’s, A Dictionary of the English Language, in 1755) came much later, it would be better, technically speaking, to presume the establishment of the phrase “Ha ha!” at a point in time after the mid 1700s, which would mean garden ha-has were in existence well over 150 years by then.

However, the entire issue is far from settled and — apart from the word’s origin being not half as funny as what the word itself stands for — perhaps this is one piece of history with no definite proof, but several plausible conjectures and what we believe in will have to be a matter of opinion to some extent.

So what do you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

[hr_top] [hr_padding] [notice type=”green”]Cover photo courtesy: Flickr/Swami Stream[/notice]

7 Principles of minimalism in web design (Infographic)

HERE’S MY LATEST infographic detailing 7 principles commonly followed in minimalist web designs. For the most part, these 7 principles may be applied to offline work too.

This time I stuck to a more serious tone, but not one that would sound all that lacking in lightness. More updates soon; until then do send me your thoughts!

Telltale Pre-production Day 2: Screenplay Finalisation and Music Composition

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Update: Now you can listen to a quick preview of one of the Telltale background scores!

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This is part two of the reports on my second short film, ‘Telltale,’ inspired by Poe’s ‘The Telltale Heart.’ Follow the link at the end to read the next/previous reports.

TODAY WE ENTER the final day of pre-production. With Raghul returning to shoot and the Telltale filming beginning tomorrow, I have taken it upon myself to have one last look at the script, and finalise that and the music composition (lietmotif only) for the film. Besides that, you can read more about test shots and sample editing below.

The screenplay

The screenplay I wrote for Telltale is actually one of my older older works — to some extent a spec script — that I merely tightened and shortened specifically for this project. The story is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart, a ghostly, horror-tale of how a murderer bends under the strain of his guilt and confesses to his crime before the police. For various reasons I have not adapted this work but written a story based on the same lines and hence given credit (which Poe rightly deserves) in the manner you have seen.

The script is highly symbolic, not pictorially, but more in terms of what the viewer hears, what the viewer sees and what the viewer assumes. This is where I was hesitant to tread on shaky grounds. While viewers of my last film caught onto the story with ease and caught on rightly (although I did get inputs of some who had not quite got the point) this time Telltale goes ahead to expect more on the viewers part.

I would hate to reveal the plot points right away, but I can state freely that the film relies heavily on good direction, camera movement, editing and — believe it or not– music. There were times when I thought I was putting too much strain on myself considering there is no assistant director, no specific cameraman, no separate editor or music composer; this was what happened with my previous film too, but since that panned our beautifully, I figured I would give this a go. Personally, I love music composition, so that is not a problem, and, although it would certainly help to have a hand on-board as crew, that is a little far of right now.

[pullquote_l]What came to me as a revelation was the use of rhythm in developing an overall structure in music. I just thought it was very interesting… How do you write a 30-second piece? Everything is extremely compressed.

— Phillip Glass


And this all adds up to clarify my original point: the screenplay this time has so many subtleties that I am sure not one viewer will get every single one of them. But that is where the fun lies, in everybody getting parts and in viewers getting together to add up their bits and pieces to paint a larger picture. Well, so much for the screenplay!

Voice, dialogue and editing

Annoy Me was a silent film that fared just as I had expected. But it is quite obvious not everybody has the class (yes, class,) or taste for silent films because they are so used to being spoon-fed that they hate to use their lovely little brains for an instant. I, for one, am against such straight-from-the-reel-into-my-head filmmaking; that is the rock bottom of filmmaking. In this regard I made certain that my screenplay got just the right amount of dialogue which viewers can hear while none of it gives away the plot straightforwardly. The point was to get the balance between telling and showing just right, and after several revisions I believe I have got it quite well.

The dialogues for Telltale will be voiced over the entire film, not as narrative but as —

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the protagonist reading his confession from a different timeline!

Anyway, there is no lip-syncing, and no trouble of on-location recording which, on the one hand, means the shooting becomes a tad easier, but on the other, means that the editing becomes a lot difficult what with multiple layers of sound (up to five) that need to be handled this time. (In contrast, Annoy Me had only two layers.)

I have also decided to try out a little colour-correction magic and fast paced editing in a couple of areas (mostly because it is a necessity, not just a vague fancy of mine.) If all goes well, the editing should stand out on its own, if not the direction and acting will surely keep the film together.

A few test shots I took turned out to be excellent, leaving very little work to be done on my side of the camera which means I can concentrate entirely on my actor. The digital editing also turned out fairly quicker this time as when compared to my last project (although I have not yet cut shots or combined them.) Either way, I have made sure that there is very little to mess up that cannot be undone at some point of time in the future!


Theme music and background score

THIS IS ARGUABLY the most awaited part for most of my readers on this website. As for others too, it may just prove to be very interesting!

The reason I say this is because of the emails I received over the weekend, after I had written my report of the first day of pre-production. I had not publicly written such reports for my last film so it was, understandably, a welcome piece of writing for most of you; especially to the ones who were interested in knowing what went on behind the scenes of my first film. While the emails consisted of things from screenplay queries to thoughts about the location, it was evident that almost all letters enquired of the music. If you will recall, I had released the theme score last time and it had received many positive thoughts.

For Telltale, however, I have decided not to release the music (it is meant to be a surprise) but, after giving some consideration to the matter, I have decided to release the notes of the leitmotif (see picture above!) If you cannot comprehend it, ask a friend who can and I am sure they will be more than happy to help you make sense of these weird markings.

Another interesting feature this time (except for the conjunction music which I will write only after the editing) is that there are two four-minute pieces of music (separate exclusive background score,) which means, on reel (and that is just a metaphor,) the music is actually longer than the visual. Needless to say, some of the music will be cut out and only that which is necessary to bring out the emotion will go on as part of the film (with repetitions, even more music will get cut out than you might imagine at first!) So I will certainly promise to release the entire soundtrack after the film is released.

So the big question is, what to expect from the music? In short it is semi-minimalist and semi heavy-bass so I would perhaps say, think Phillip Glass meets Hans Zimmer. But rest assured, the music is going to suit the film and its atmosphere just as well as the teaser poster (although it is till full MIDI.) I am also contemplating releasing a part of the background music (not the theme music, mind you!) here just to give you a taste of it. Let us see what time has in store…

On behalf of Raghul Selvam, I feel I must thank you for staying with us through pre-production and wish us luck as we head for the actual, powered-up filming come weather-friendly tomorrow!

Read the report of pre-production Day 1 (Location Scouting)

Telltale Pre-production Day 1: Location Scouting & Poster Release

YESTERDAY WAS DAY one of pre-production for my upcoming short film, Telltale. The story is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-tale Heart. It is the story of one man’s guilt and how it comes back to haunt him, but let us keep summaries and plot points for another day.

At regular intervals I will be posting updates here, small reports, on how our film is coming out, based on schedule, well ahead or a little late. Either way, I intend to make sure you get the news and stay with us right from pre-production (today) through production up to post-production!

Today my actor, Raghul Selvam — who you will know from Annoy Me — and I, went scouting for a suitable location for Telltale. Unfortunately, I did not find a place that translated exactly from my thoughts, but who does? The point of directing a film is to make it look on screen just like you thought about it in your head, and I am quite pleased with the outcome of Annoy Me.

With Telltale I decided to push the bar for myself: this time it is going to be different, not surreal but not simple either; not fast but not slow either; not straightforward but not conspicuous either; and lastly, definitely not entirely silent.

The point is to work smarter this time, building on all that I have learned in my previous venture; if my last film was good, to make this better; if people thought about my last film, to make them think harder about this one.

Lastly, I hope to make it through the end meticulously this time, get the shots near perfect and make my actor perform a hundred takes if necessary. After all, that is film psychology: the actor (and editor and cinematographer and best boy and musician — if they are part of the crew) want to give you their best performance; and you, as director, ought to direct them in the right path, help them give their best performance, bring out the best in them, and make the atmosphere comfortable for them to perform freely. Then again, this is probably only three-quarters of the way, the other quarter has to be filled in by the actors themselves.

Without further delay, here are the two locations I have finalised. There are a number of scattered spots around these locations where filming will take place, but these are the areas as you see them on the maps below.

Location 1: RR Nagar, Mysore, Karnataka, IndiaLocation 2: State Highway 33 - Mananthavadi Road, KA, India


ABOVE YOU SEE the teaser poster for Telltale. The poster was designed by me and is symbolic to the concept behind the film which will perhaps be apparent only after the film itself is released. Until then it would have served its purpose an fulfilled my intentions if it arouses curiosity in you!

It has already been released on Google+ and Raghul Selvam, who is in charge of online publicity on Facebook, will be releasing it there soon, so all of you on Facebook and not on Google+ will have to wait a few more days!

[NB The theme soundtrack for Telltale will not be pre-released. It will be first previewed only with the film itself.]

[hr_padding] Read the report of pre-production Day 2 (Screenplay and Music)

From Love to Bingo in 873 photographs: Getty Images

Patient research work involving more than 5 thousand photographs resulted in a minute-long film that AlmapBBDO created to advertise Getty Images, the world leading image database for creating and distributing visual contents. The film is surprising when showing 873 images in 15 images per second, sufficient speed to transform the series into a video that, without any text, tells a beautiful story. All photos, without any exceptions, are from the Getty Images archives.

[blockquote]The concept [is that] anybody is capable of telling any story they want only using their [Getty Images] archives[/blockquote]

Copywriter Sophie Schoenburg and art director Marcus Kotlhar worked 6 months researching images, improving the script and building each scene so they would not only be understood, but would also touch viewers. Sometimes, for example, a scene would look perfect on paper, but the images chosen to depict it were not sufficient or did not perfectly match up to offer the right movement and sense. And hence the research had to be restarted. The film was directed by Cisma, via Paranoid BR, along with Marcos Kotlhar, the art director at the agency.

For this creation team, the purpose was to adhere to the concept that Getty Images has so many images that anybody is capable of telling any story they want by only using their archives. In the film “Do amor ao Bingo em 873 images,” [From love to Bingo in 873 images], a storyteller in the corner of the screen describes the images used. The Getty Images logo appears at the end of the story, but the storyteller continues to turn until reaching the exact number of images in the Getty Images archive.

Credits — Film

Advertiser: Getty Images
Title: From love to bingo in 873 images
Product: Getty Images
General Creative Director: Marcello Serpa, Luiz Sanches
Creative Director: André Kassu, Marcos Medeiros, Renato Simões
Art Director: Marcos Kotlhar
Copywriter: Sophie Schoenburg
Producer: Paranoid BR
Executive producer: Egisto Betti
Direction: Cisma, Marcos Kotlhar
Animation: Split Filmes, Marcos Kotlhar
Rtvc: Vera Jacinto, Gabriel Dagostini, Diego Villas Bôas
Soundtrack / Voice-Over Artist: Kito Siqueira
Editor / Assembler: Marcos Kotlhar, Jonas Brandão
Finishing Editor: Split Filmes
Service: Cristina Chacon, Marina Leal
Media: Paulo Camossa Jr
Approval: Renata Simões

What is mondegreen?

Mondegreen – /m?n’d?-gr?n’/ n. A series of words that result from the mishearing or misinterpretation of a statement.

I have shifted through many blogs in the past, gaining an equally huge number of readers each time. This made me realize that what I post here is far more important in reaching a large audience than any advertising gimmick. Mondegreen is my personal blog and will stay so for a long time to come. Read more →

5 Types of Spam Comments you should be aware of (Infographic)

After a brief research into the subject and after considering various common complaints received from around the Web, we have boiled spam comments down to five major types. All spams can be classified into these five types ((As of the time of creating this infographic.)).

We certainly hope you enjoy what we have for you here!

Google+ vs Facebook: 10 reasons why Google+ is far better

As PCWorld rightly pointed sometime out last year, the comparison of Google+ vs Facebook (which the masses generally draw) is an uneven one. Google+ is a far bigger picture for Google than one might imagine: my own way of putting it, as I have said to many of my acquaintances, is that Google is on its way to becoming a Skynet, although in a good way as things now stand.


This is part 1 of a 4-part article series on Google+. Read the others here:

For Google as a corporation, the Google+ Project is a landmark venture where they aim to bring together all their products, most of them the best in their niche, to make each thrive on the other and deliver an infinitely better user experience, centering on a users–you guessed it–Google+ profile.

Therefore a better way to put the tie would be, Google versus Facebook. Google+ simply isn’t one product anymore. In my opinion, it is quite ready to take on the Google Search robe as the corporation’s face on the Web. And the project has seamlessly integrated all Google products to such an extent, Google+, with respect to a given user, is really all of Google.

So let us see ten unique places I have spotted, over my stay on Google+ (and since I bid goodbye to Facebook quite a while ago,) where Google fares better enough than Facebook to convince anybody to switching to it. Personally, though, I recommend people not to switch: right now, only select people who share posts worth others’ while are populating Google+ ((Statistics show 1. most of these are male 2. most are professionally oriented people 3. the users appear to have unanimously maintained a formal ambience around Google+ 4. there is less than even a fraction of the nonsense, cat jokes floating around on Facebook. If asked to put it bluntly, I think I would say, “Google+ is the Facebook for matured people.”))and we do not want this becoming just another Facebook.

Without further ado, let us go through the ten key aspects I have in mind.

1. Google retains your privacy

I recall somebody once saying Zuckerberg (deserves a bravery award because he) values his privacy more than yours.

Facebook has a habit of compulsorily requiring you to make certain sensitive data of yours publicly visible. Google+ has no such strings attached. In fact, all Google requires you to adhere to strictly is that you do not pose as somebody you are not. Understandably, going against this rule will get you banned from all Google products, but I think it is a good thing considering that it will filter out those characteristic Facebook posters (who were probably once characteristic MySpace posters) who waste your time, right at the start.

In short, though, Google+ is designed to allow you to retain absolute control of your privacy at every point of usage, with both specific settings and general preferences.

2. You can say bye with a snap of your finger

No, really. If you have ever tried deleting your Facebook account, you will know exactly what  mean. It is impossible to fully delete your posts and updates. And pictures. And notes. And sensitive/embarrassing talk if any.

On Google+ you can use their Data Liberation tool to download all your data, pack up and leave Google+ without a public trace. And when I say all, I mean absolutely everything: your videos, Picasa web albums, shares/updates, contacts and anything else you can think of.

If you have not done it already, I strongly urge you to try deleting your Facebook account. Do not worry accidentally deleting it; you cannot delete in even on purpose.

3.  Better group activities

If there is one Google+ feature (apart from photo sharing) that beats every other social network hands down, it has to be Hangouts.

Have you seen what Google did with that poor web camera you get fit into your laptop? I have been invited to roughly thirty hangouts so far (not public hangouts, specific invite-only hangouts) and the interaction is just perfect. I will not be surprised if Facebook comes up with a counterpart, but given the present assets, it would not be hard to guess whose would be better–and who has a head start?

4. Professional setting on Google+

If LinkedIn spelled formal and professional social networking up to this point, I am beginning to feel Google+ will take over now.

Your profile on Google+ is slick, smooth, minimalist and you are in enough control to take out specific things and entirely hide unnecessary stuff. This, coupled with the fact that Google+ has a smaller user base of select individuals, makes way for recognition, good business exposure, personal/freelance popularity and so on.

If you have not begun to do so already, I recommend you harness the true power of Google+ in this regard.

5. Integration within the Web

Some may consider this to be the most important point so far, but I think fifth is where it should stand: but, yes, it is both important and vital.

When I was invited to try Google+ before it was released to the public, I had already begun using Google’s black bar on top without realising others I knew did not really have it on their accounts! The bar was a tad different then, but the concept remained quite the same even after development: to make your network accessible from any Google product at any time.

The way I see it, this would be over half our time on the Web. Consider Google Search, Picasa, Google+, Analytics, GMail, YouTube and any of the several other Google products you can think of. The slim black bar lets you connect to most of these–with specific focus on Google+–from any other product website.

6. Better network management

One thing I used to despise on Facebook was the way people there had (and probably still have) hundreds of so-called friends. If you  cannot recount the name of every single one of them, you might as well not add them. Friend requests and status updates were making and breaking jobs and relations–too much hold for a robotic binary programme, don’t you think?

On Google+ you can neatly organise your network into any number of categories, call it anything you want and share specifically, without wasting the precious time of those who do not give a damn about that particular update of yours.

This also nullifies my previous question, just in case you are still wondering. Google’s Circles is arguably their finest concept, mirroring daily life: how we make different circles of friends, meet and talk and share differently with each of them and so on. And Google+ allows you to bring that priceless habit onto your second life on the Web.

It adheres to the age old formula: replicate real life for the best results!

7. Better (best?) mobile application

Whether it be iPhone or Android or any other second-tier mobile OS, you have a Google+ application that stamps the rest to the ground.

Unfortunately, I got my Google+ Android app only a week before its public release and I did not have enough special time to appreciate its numerous, rich features fully. Over time, however, there are some things you will notice ((I only speak for Android phones, because I have never used Google+ on any other OS and have little intentions of doing so in the future)).

Given that Android is also a Google product, the commenting, updating and other such features subtly integrate themselves into the design of the OS and make accessing Google+ a breeze unlike Facebook’s app, or instance, which requires you to access the homescreen repeatedly, for a lot of reasons.

8. Easy to search within Google+

Google’s third much hyped feature is Sparks. I hardly took notice of it before public release–and I doubt anybody else did–but the true power of Sparks became apparent only much later when a good lot of content had been shared. It was like a small, but equally intense, Google Search stitched into Google+ that allowed you to search your network with great ease.

While it is clear that Google’s previous stand as a search engine played a major role in this, what is more important is that this feature, which seems all so obvious now, had been overlooked in every other social network prior to Google+; and in my opinion, none–even if they do appear at a later point of time–will be in a position to beat Google’s Sparks simply because of Google’s leverage in the searching world online.

9. Better photo sharing and tagging

It is by no means an overstatement to say Google+ is the new photographer’s paradise. There was (still is) 500px, Flickr and so on, but Google’s policy, Picasa integration, tagging technology, viewing–and the elephantine photographer count that exists here–seems to have beat them all in one sweep.

I know many photographers who are leaving other sites slowly but confidently to back-file their entire work to Google+. As for tagging people, when I was on Facebook, many months ago, I kept stressing on a particular clause in their terms of use that said nobody could tag a user without their consent. But (rather intelligently) Facebook made no attempt to stop such tagging and it annoyed me severely. On Google+, however, tagging a person notifies them and the tag appears only if they concur. So that is bidding goodbye to childish tagging in unrelated and/or compromising photographs that Facebook came to be known for even if not quite publicly.

10. Google listens to you

That is right. Google values user feedback more than any other multinational corporation I have come across.

Know that little grey box that says Send Feedback on the bottom right? It is quite generally known that the only people who value feedback enough to actually change their site are those who run personal websites, blogs and such. But Google has taken things in good spirit, and that feedback form is actually more advanced than it seems at first.

You are allowed to highlight parts of the page where you plan to give suggestions, point out to errors etc. as well as black out any personal information you wish to keep hidden. Then you type in your suggestion and send it to Google.

Will anything happen? Trust me, they actually listen to you. As I said before, this might not exactly be what one would expect from a company the size of Google but there have been suggestions I have myself made and a number of them I have seconded or chipped into and these have actually been adopted as changes in Google+

It is fun to see your suggestion has been valued and things have been changed for the better. This also keeps with Google’s open-source spirit and makes the network one that is run by its users rather than an unseen body. Good uses people have been making of the feedback box is requesting for slight alterations to the existing Google+ terms of usage and there have been multiple records where Google has brought out changes.

This flexibility is by far the best reason–from a user satisfaction standpoint–to switch to Google+ and dump Facebook for good.

I am not in any way associated with Google or Facebook, and this review has been from a neutral standpoint. Clearly, I state that the scale tips in favour of Google as my list clarifies!

Before you leave, do not forget to join me on Google+ and circle too!

Hello, World?

The keynote article on the re-opening of v2.0 in association with StudioPress. Now based on Genesis, the improved website has functionality rarely ever seen before, from subtle tweaks to open additions coded to craft a website readers would love to engage themselves with, contributors would dream of writing for! Read more →

The Theremin

Divinity, untouched

I watch Castle and occasionally Bones or maybe Dexter. But, to me, none of these shows will be as uniquely supreme as the mother of all whodunits (as I like to call it) Midsomer Murders.

For a long time now, Celia Sheen’s theme music for the show, played on an almost unheard of music instrument, the Theremin, has been my phone ringtone. It is eerie and aptly suited for the classy, sophisticated television show I call my favourite. The film-length show on TV will never be the same now that (a) Barnaby has left and (b) Celia Sheen just passed away a couple of days ago.

It is like a small piece of the show lost, although the slot will always be well worth watching — it has been so for 14 years now! And Ms Sheen has played for the entire 14-year period. As a little tribute to her, I wrote this short piece on her instrument. But first, let us watch her play.


What is the Theremin?

You might have a question now: in the video, what on earth is Celia playing on? There are no keys, no strings, nothing physical to touch! The truth is, the music that she is creating, she is doing so by touching nothing. And that is the Theremin.

The oldest electric music instrument ever made was by Russian inventor, Leon Theremin. Named after him, this beautiful instrument is easy to learn but difficult to master. (It is from what they say of the violin, difficult to learn and difficult to master.)

The theremin works with two antennae, exchanging electric signals constantly. Depending on where we keep our hand in the empty space between them, the electric signals reaching the receiver from the transmitter keeps varying. This creates a sound signal (on conversion to a loudspeaker) which comes out as that haunting tune characteristic to the Theremin.

More: play one yourself?

The Theremin consists of the parts shown on the left. (Courtesy, Robert Moog’s kit.)

You can spot the antennae on the right (vertical steel rod) and left (horizontal rod at bottom.)

The diagonal space between this is where the exchange of signals keeps taking place and (you might want to go over the video again) this is where the player moves around their hand very artistically, creating the sounds that we are now quite familiar with.

In use since its invention in 1919, this instrument has featured in famous films like The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Ten Commandments, Ed Wood and Spellbound. And, of course, shows like Midsomer Murders.

So much for my short introduction to the Theremin. I hope it stays with you!

And if you have not watched Midsomer Murders, do yourself a favour and watch it today.

Read more on Wikipedia.

Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

A long thirst well quenched!

On 11/11/11 Tintin released here in India and I soon realised there was hardly any movie I had waited so eagerly to watch, ever. I first came across Tintin as a kid of very few years of age and—like so many others around the globe—found it impossible to leave the fandom. A few years later, I wished I could watch Tintin on the silver screen. This was in the last millenium. Today, that wish came true!

Now this is not a review or a critique, merely my thoughts on the Spielberg-Jackson venture which few, if any, expected to be bad. First things first: I shall try to go in order.

The characters have eyes!

Alright I had noticed this in the trailers. Something had seemed wrong. A while later when I took out one of my Tintin cartoons from my collection, I realised that Herge drew the characters with mere dots for eyes.

Tintin happens to be blue-eyed. While this does not spoil anything and while Jackson was right in deciding to go for stop-motion animation as opposed to a live action film, what disappointed me was that all the pivotal characters were not present.

To be precise, Prof Calculus is absent

That is right. Cuffbert Calculus is absent. What was Spielberg thinking? Perhaps, now that I look back at the film, I see Calculus would have hardly fit in; but Steven Moffat is one of those writer-geniuses who I’m sure could have worked out a plot to fit Calculus into it.

Snowy was entirely animated and some actors (Craig and Serkis) happen to play two characters and the entire thing comes out flawlessly. I could not think of a better substitute for Bell to play Tintin.

To me, Jamie Bell was an unheard of actor. I never knew him before The Eagle. I later recognised him in Jumper when I watched it a second time on television; then in the more recent Jane Eyre. In fact, I had no idea the boy was in King Kong (2005) either! Well, I will not say much now except that Man on a Ledge is a film I await.

Andy Serkis’ accent, Thomson and Thompson

Now Serkis’ accent (for Capn Haddock) was as new as actress Kim Stengel, who plays the Captain’s favourite, Bianca Castafiore. I have heard to (got accustomed to) Haddock’s voice in the animated films and the rolling of the R’s in the films seemed a tad difficult to put up with, but the smooth performance by a man whose face is, unfortunately, often hidden from the camera (Remember Gollum?) made it truly likeable.

That said, Moffat’s mixing up Herge’s three stories (The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure) was brilliant. It was nice that, while I could identify almost all bits and pieces from the three stories, I was waiting to see where he has deviated from one to add stuff from another.

British comedians Simon Pegg and Nick Frost make a remarkable detective duo. Although I did feel they had put on a little weight from the comics to films, they were quite the lovable characters Herge meant them to be.

The Original Comics

Perhaps it was right then, as Herge put it, that Spielberg alone could bring Tintin to the screen while doing justice to the original comic works. This was back in the 1980s when Speilberg was to have met the Belgian writer but could not as he passed away just that week. Herge’s widow gave Speilberg the rights and over two decades later the director seems to have put it to good use. At least I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What I wish to see are few: the opening train sequence from the animated films and the Tintin theme music from those shows seemed to have become the norm among all Tintin fans and I expected to see that in the film; but, like Ccalculus, perhaps we will have to wait for a second part. Or perhaps, unlike the Professor, these will never come?

Time will tell. In the meanwhile, perhaps I will go again the coming week! All in all, the characters got a whole new dimension of theirs (no pun intended) and it was a pleasure to watch. I only hope Peter Jackson will not delay too much in bringing out the sequel.

And I hope it releases first here. Again.

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What are you waiting for?

Answer me this

That looped statistical mathematics question only smart people seem to figure out

I have spotted this question around the internet more than a few times now and have seen my bearable share of wrong answers/explanations, so I decided to provide my version of (what I reckon is) the correct answer.

First of all, here is the question:

If you randomly picked an answer to this question, of the four choices below, what are the chances of your answer being correct?

  1. 25%
  2. 75%
  3. 50%
  4. 25%

I shall give you some time to figure out the answer yourself before you go ahead and read my answer.

The Explanation

Now any maths/physics student (or somebody better) will, in a general case of four options provide you the answer 25%. Now I do not refer to this question, but to any such question with four options, of which only one is absolutely correct.

The case here too is the same. The chance of you picking the right answer is 25% except that there is a catch right after this. The option 25% appears twice. This means that the chance of you picking the right answer (i.e. 25%) is two of four. Having just doubled, the correct answer would be 50% and not 25%.

And now the real fun starts: if 50% is indeed the correct answer (i.e. option 2) then the chances of you picking that would again come back down to 25% since 50%, as an option, only appears one of four times. And with that we are back in square one.

The logic keeps swaying between either answer.

[P.S. You might feel tempted to cover up by saying that the chance of it being either 50% or 25% is itself 75% (i.e. either 25% or 50% or 25% of the four options, at any given point of time.) So could the (non-time-specific) answer, that has the most chance of getting you points to this question, indeed be 75%? Think about it.]


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