RIP IK Gujral

IK Gujral, a former Indian politician who served as the 12th Prime Minister of India from April 1997 to March 1998. He was 92. Gujral, who headed a rickety coalition government in the late 1990s, died on Friday after a brief illness. Gujral, 92, breathed his last at 3.27 pm in a private hospital after a multi-organ failure. He was admitted to the hospital on November 19 with a lung infection, family sources said. The former prime minister, who was ventilator support, had been unwell for sometime. He was on dialysis for over a year and suffered a serious chest infection some days ago. He will be cremated in nearby Delhi on Saturday.

In the tumultuous days of June 1975, he was Minister of Information and Broadcasting. On 12 June 1975, the Allahabad High Courtgave a verdict that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used unfair means in elections of 1971 and termed her election null and void. Later, Gujral was appointed Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union as the Indian envoy to Moscow. He became minister of external affairs in the VP Singh-led National Front government in 1989. As the External Affairs Minister he handled the fallout of the Kuwait crisis following Iraqi invasion that displaced thousands of Indians. Gujral had a second stint as external affairs minister in the United Front government under HD Deve Gowda, whom he later replaced as prime minister after the Congress withdrew support in the summer of 1997.

Inder Kumar Gujral (04 December 1919 – 30 November 2012)

Rejected Bond Titles Twitter Hastag

I was having a little fun today joining in on the hashtag fun for Rejected Bond movie titles. Here are ones I came up with so far!

  • From Russia with Mail Order Brides and vodka
  • Dr. Perhaps if you says please with sugar on top
  • You only live once but a near death experience can make it seem like it’s two lives
  • Octomom
  • The Spy who Cuddled with me
  • On her Majesty’s Wifi Service
  • A View To Akhil
  • Diet Another Day
  • Dye Another Day, I don’t Have Any Grey Yet!

RIP Zig Ziglar

A person who’s image I see at work every single day since July, has passed away yesterday. Zig Ziglar, American author, salesman, and motivational speaker – and someone’s whose image & quotes are on the wall in the training room at my office and in some of my training slides – and who had been suffering from pneumonia, died at a hospital in the Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas. He was 86 years old.

Born Hilary Hinton Ziglar in Coffee County, Alabama to parents John Silas Ziglar and Viola Ziglar, Zig served in the U.S. Navy during World War II (circa 1943 to 1945). Ziglar later worked as a salesman in a succession of companies. In 1968 he became a vice president and training director for the Automotive Performance company, moving to Dallas, Texas. As of 2010, Ziglar still traveled around taking part in motivational seminars, despite a fall down a flight of stairs in 2007 that left him with short-term memory problems.

Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar (November 6, 1926 – November 28, 2012)

There are 6 people whose images and a quote each are on the training room wall. 2 are Indians – the other 4 are Ziglar, William Arthur Ward, Peter Drucker & Steve Jobs. The 4 Americans are now all dead, which means the 2 Indians better be careful!

Applying For A Credit Card

I’m going to be applying for a credit card soon. For the very first time. At the age of 36. I have always been anti-credit card for most of my life. My policy was “if I don’t have the money, don’t spend it!” It seemed to be the wisest thing to do at the time. However, I am finding that it’s difficult to go along without a credit card as the months go by. There’s just so much stuff that I feel that I need it for and can use it for and not having one is a pain in the ass. Coming up in February it will be time to renew my website’s server space (well, if the world survives the 21st of December, 2012 that is) and the only way to do so is to pay for it with a credit card. The past 6 times I have”borrowed” my father’s credit card and then immediately paid it off using my cheque book as I didn’t want any issues coming against that amount. It’s not much, it’s less than $44 or less than Rs.2,400 or thereabouts.

For the past 6 years that’s the only time I have used a credit card. Once a year! Now I could have used a credit card many times but not having one, I make do with my debit card or through cash or netbanking. But not having a credit card is a hindrance. For instance, my server space provider being an American company, only accepts payments through CC or Paypal. I need a CC to create a Paypal. Also, for getting paid for online work, for anything that I would like to freelance for and that is outside of India, Paypal is the preferred method of payment. I have lost many such opportunities just because I didn’t have a Paypal account. Damn! That is so annoying. Plus if I want to buy a new laptop or something like that I would need an EMI against the amount of the system – but they only accept EMI on credit cards! See my point?

So I am applying for a credit card soon to solve my problems. I just hope I don’t create new ones by overusing on it. But I can’t see myself going for long without one. I just need to get my PAN card in order and once that is done, I will apply for one. Standard Chartered, ICICI or HDFC. One or the other. I need one.

Dracula : Prince Of Darkness

Dracula : Prince Of Darkness is the second sequel to 1958’s Dracula or Horror Of Dracula. Makes me think these guys should have been more careful when naming the films. The 1966 film sees Christopher Lee returns as the Count and once again it’s helmed by director Terence Fisher for Hammer Studios. However we do not have Peter Cushing returning as Van Helsing. Hammer’s scream queen Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer & Charles Tingwell costar in the film.

The movie starts off with a reminder of how Van Helsing killed Dracula by forcing him into the sun’s rays. All that is left of the Count are his ashes and his ring. 10 years later four English tourists, the Kents, are warned to not go near the castle by Father Sandor – who has just returned from stopping some locals from staking a dead young girl on the fear that she was a vampire. The Kents head on to Carlsbad but are dumped in fear by their coachman right near the castle, as it is almost dark. A driverless horse carriage approaches them and leads them to the castle, where they find a dinner table set for them. A butler, Klove, explains that his master, the late Count Dracula, ordered that the castle should always be ready to welcome strangers. After dinner the Kents settle in their rooms.

In the night, seeing Klove dragging a coffin, Alan decides to investigate and follows him, only to be killed. Alan’s blood  is drained into the coffin holding Dracula’s ashes and the vampire lord is resurrected. Klove entices Alan’s wife Helen to the crypt where she becomes Dracula’s first victim. The next morning Alan’s younger brother Charles & his young bride Diana can’t find Alan or Helen and to pacify a frightened Diana, Charles takes her to a hut outside the castle and returns to search for his brother & sister-in-law. Klove approaches Diana and tricks her into following him back to the castle; only it is Helen, now a vampire, that awaits her. She is stopped from biting Diana but an enraged Dracula who wants the young Diana for himself. Menwhile, Charles finds his dismembered brother’s remains and distraught, he walks in to find Dracula about to bite his wife. Charles fights with Dracula but is no match until he sees that Helen has been burnt by Diana’s cross. Charles uses a makeshift cross to ward off Dracula and takes Diana away with him.

They escape the castle in a carriage, but lose control on the steep roads. The carriage crashes and Diana is unconscious. Charles carries her for several hours through the woods until they are rescued by Father Sandor, who takes them to his abbey. While waiting for Diana to awaken, Sandor tells Charles about Dracula. Klove later arrives at the abbey, carrying two coffins with Dracula & Helen in them and is refuses entry by the monks. However Ludwig, a patient at the abbey, who is controlled by Dracula and invites the vampire inside. Helen convinces Diana to open the window for her, claiming that Dracula is controlling her. Diana does, and Helen bites her arm only for Dracula to drag Helen. Charles bursts into the room and drives the vampires out while Sandor sterilises the bite on Helen with the heat from an oil lamp. Helen is captured and staked by Charles but Ludwig again helps Dracula to get to Helen and the Count is able to escape with her in the carriage.

Charles & Sandor follow him to the castle and kill Klove with a shot and Dracula’s coffin is thrown onto the icy moat and Charles attempts to stake the vampire but is beaten back. Shots fired by Sandor break the ice and the vampire sinks into the freezing waters as the movie ends. 6.5 outta 10 for me! Dracula never talks in this movie, just hisses and groans.

My Star Trek Journey

My love affair with Star Trek is more recent when compared to my love affair with Science Fiction movies & tv series in general. The first scifi series that I honestly recollect loving was the original Battlestar Galactica. This was first shown on Kuwait television in 1980 and perhaps the following year they showed Galactica 1980 (which was the spin off show of BSG). I must have watched reruns of it during 1981-83.

However I do remember seeing some of the TOS era episodes during my childhood but I can’t recollect them much. I remember during a summer holidays visit to India they were showing some of the episodes and I remember hearing about Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest during those years. Also I remember watching some of the Motion Picture (1979) during my childhood years, perhaps at the age of 9 or 10 in India – I vaguely remember my relatives being also interested due to former Miss India & Miss Universe the late Persis Khambata starring in the movie. So I know I saw it but can’t recollect much of it from that time. It would be 1988 or so when I first remember watching something Star Trek related – I remember selecting The Search for Spock from one of the two video lending libraries my family & I used to have membership at and I watched it on the VHS tape. I was 12. Cable tv was launched in India 3 years later and I got it at home another 12 months later but there was no Star Trek.

It would be 1995, aged 19 when I finally started watching Star Trek regularly. Star tv started showing TNG from the very first episode for the first time in India. I started watching from episode 2 and was hooked. Picard, Riker, Troi, Crusher, Data, LaForge & Worf were the characters that fueled my passion for all things Scifi & Star Trek in general. It became an obsession and I watched as many episodes & the reruns as much as I could. In 2001 Hallmark started showing Voyager and I started watching that – from episode 1 of season 1 all the way to the last episode of season 7 – missing just a few here or there. Just after that show ended it’s original run on Hallmark, Star World picked up seasons 1 & 2 of Enterprise and I was a regular viewer of that too. But I would miss the 3rd & 4th seasons of Enterprise on tv – because they didn’t show it. And then for a couple of years no Star Trek at all. In 2007-2008 I started trying to watch Voyager episodes online but they were sporadic since I had a very slow internet connection. 2009 all that changed. I got all 7 seasons of Voyager and watched them at a stretch. As soon as that ended I started watching DS9 too and finally Enterprise, TOS and TNG. I finished watching TOS on Jan 2011 and TNG was the last in Dec 2011. Of these I have seen most of Voyager 3 times, TNG twice and seasons 1 & 2 of Enterprise twice as well.

Somewhere during all of this I became a Trekkie. I’d have to guess and say it was probably in 1995-96 that I became an ardent fan and immersed myself in the Trek universe. It was hard – no internet at home – in fact I only took a net connection at home in 2006! But since then it’s been Trek online as well. Long may I continue to be a Trekkie.

The Confession – John Grisham

I read a lot of John Grisham novels. This is the latest one that I have read. Bought 4 weeks ago, I read it slowly and took my time. It’s 2010’s The Confession which is about a young man false accused of raping and killing his high school classmate. Nicole Yarber went missing in 1998 a teenage girl and high school student in Slone, Texas. Under duress Donte gives a fake confession, which is all the cops seem to need to put him away. A false eye witness by Nicole’s on & off jealous boyfriend is another nail in the coffin for Drumm. The actual killer, a serial rapist and multiple offender for other crimes, Travis Boyette watches by as the young African-American man, Donte Drumm, is picked up by the cops and interrogated harshly.

Boyette had raped Nicole multiple times, killed her and buried her in Missouri. Donte’s lawyer Robbie Flak fights hard for his client but Donte is convicted and sentenced to death. He has been on death row for nine years when the story takes place. While Drumm serves his prison sentence, Flak fights his case while Black Americans protest his false conviction, creating a law and order situation. While the years passed Boyette develops a tumour in his brain that seems to be inoperable and his health falters. He approaches Kansas priest Reverend Keith Schroeder and confesses his sin. Boyette says that he doesn’t want to come clean to the public but he doesn’t want an innocent man to get killed for his crime. It takes a lot of convincing but Schroeder takes the dying man takes him to Slone.

Despite their adventure and Boyette speaking to tv journalists and declaring himself as the real killer, the execution proceeds on and Drumm is executed by lethal injection. Boyette then reveals the resting place of Nikki and DNA samples show signs of rape and assault on her body. She finally comes home and is given a proper burial as does Donte, where at the funeral his lawyer is able to announce the proof of his innocence. In the aftermath, it turns out that Travis’s tumor is not malignant and the cane is there for protection in his half-way house. His seizures however, and intense headaches, are real. He evades the cops and goes back to finding a victim to rape – but he is beaten by a rescuer and arrested. Keith takes some flack for taking Boyette to Texas and he and his his wife leave Kansas for Texas where he takes up a position in a church there.

Really good novel, drags in some places especially when the riots and fights in Slone are described but otherwise I recommend that you pick it up and have a good read.

The Brides Of Dracula

The Brides Of Dracula (1960) comes as a sequel to the 1958 Hammer Horror classic The Horror Of Dracula. Directed by Terence Fisher. It stars Peter Cushing as Van Helsing; Yvonne Monlaur as Marianne Danielle; AndrĂ©e Melly as her roommate, Gina; Marie Devereux; David Peel as Baron Meinster, a disciple of Count Dracula; and Martita Hunt as his mother. I honestly do not know why this movie was called “The Brides Of Dracula” and given the tag line “the most evil, blood-lusting Dracula of all” – Dracula doesn’t even feature in this movie at all! He is mentioned twice in the movie and that’s it! And the women aren’t his brides either – they aren’t anyone’s brides.

The movie starts off a while after Dracula’s death in the first movie. Marianne Danielle, a young French teacher from Paris on her way to a school in Transylvania is abandoned in a small village by her coach driver. At an in she meets Baroness Meinster and despite warnings of the inn keepers, she accepts her invitation to stay at her castle. There at night, Marianne see the young Baron who is tied at the ankle with an iron chain – she is told that the Baroness’s son is insane and is kept tied for his own safety. However later she sneaks past to meet him and he convinces her that he is sane and kept locked up as his mother wanted to usurp his lands. Marianne helps him break free and the Baron intimidates his mother to submission. Later, the servant Greta (who has taken care of the Baron since he was a baby) goes into hysterics. She forces Marianne to look at the Baroness’ body, and the puncture marks in her throat. Marianne flees into the night. She is found, exhausted, by Dr. Van Helsing the following morning. She doesn’t remember all that has happened, nor is she familiar when asked with the words “undead” or “vampirism.” He escorts her to the school where she’s to be employed.

Van Helsing goes back to the village and finds a young girl that has been murdered; it is the Baron who has feed on her. The local priest Father Stepnik has suspicions about the castle and the Baroness and her son and had called Van Helsing to the village. That night, Baron Meinster’s first victim rises from her grave, aided by Greta, as witnessed by Van Helsing and the priest. The newly vampirized village girl flees while Greta tries to hold off the two men. Van Helsing goes to the castle and discovers the Baroness, now risen as a vampire herself, as well as the Baron. After a brief scuffle, the Baron flees, abandoning his mother who, in her undead state, is full of self-loathing and guilt. After sunrise the next morning, Van Helsing “releases” her with a wooden stake. The Baron meanwhile goes to see Marianne at the school house and asks her to marry him, which she agrees to. Her jealous roommate however becomes the next victim, when she is visited by the Baron who bites her and turns her into a vampire.

Gina’s coffin is kept in a stable and she wakes up (after the locks on the coffin, kept there at Van Helsing’s requests, falls off as if by magic) and tries to seduce Marianne, while a vampire bat kills the stablekeeper who was outside the stable at the time. As Gina tells Marianne that they can both love the Baron, Van Helsing comes in and saves Marianne from being bitten by Gina. Finding out that the Baron is in an old wind mill, he rushes to confront the vampire. Van Helsing is attacked by Gina and the village girl but are repelled by his cross; however Greta who is still human jumps him and takes the cross away. She however falls down and dies (in a bizarre for no reason scene) and Van Helsing comes down. The Baron then attacks him  subdue Van Helsing and bites him, inflicting him with vampirism before leaving. When Van Helsing wakes, he realizes what has happened. He heats a metal tool in a brazier until it is red-hot, then cauterizes his throat wound and pours holy water on it to purify it; the wounds immediately disappear – all the while being watched by the two brides, the female vampires – why the heck did they not attack him??? Anyways, Baron Meinster brings Marianne to the mill and tells Van Helsing that he is going to turn her into a vampire.Van Helsing however uses his flask of holy water and throws holy water into the Baron’s face, which sears him like acid. The Baron knocks down hot burning coals as he heads outside, which causes a fire in the old mill and presumably the two female vampires are killed in it. While the Baron flees outside, Van Helsing takes Marianne up into the mill, then out via the huge sails, which he moves to form the shadow a gigantic cross. The shadows falls on Baron Meinster, who is killed by it. Helsing goes to ground level to make sure he’s dead then comforts Marianne as the mill burns. Meinster’s vampire brides (presumably) die in the fire.

I like the look of the film and some of it is quite good. However there are some totally derived moments like the death scene, the bad acting from the school mistress and the stupid death of Greta. Even Cushing falls and fights with the Baron in a funny manner. Still 7 outta 10!

Lyrical Inspiration

Hanging onto promises and songs of yesterday (line from Here I Go Again by Whitesnake).

Think about that line, think about it really hard. It’s a description about a lot of us. It certainly is a fine description of what I have been doing on a daily basis for many, many years. You do the best that you can, you hope for the best results in return. You go with the good intentions of doing well on a day to day basis and keep your fingers crossed that the shit don’t hit the fan and that stuff doesn’t fall down on you. After all what we can hope is to do the best of our abilities.

So we go by our day and do what we can and then come back home and we do the stuff that we like & love. We listen to music – and the best songs that stay with us are the songs that we have been listening to for a few years. The songs of yesterday. The classic rock songs, the power ballads, the arena rocker – big riffs, guitar solos, drum fills, bass lines and keyboard melodies. The songs that mean the most to us. The ones that we start smiling and fist pumping as soon as the first riffs are heard. And we are happy and filled with hope for tomorrow.

And we go about our jobs the next day, face the challenges and then come back home. And then there’s more music. Hanging onto promises and songs of yesterday – perfectly fits my life!

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The Old Man & The Morning

The old man woke up early just as the first rays of light hit his city. These days sleep wasn’t a good friend to him at all despite his advanced years. He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling for a good 5 minutes. For a while he thought about going back to sleep but he knew that it would be in vain. Slowly he pulled himself from his bed and headed to the bathroom. He took his time and washed his face and brushed his teeth. He would then walk slowly past the sleeping form of his wife on their bed and go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. While the water boiled he stared at the outside world through the kitchen window. A baby cried and was quickly pacified by it’s mother. Instinctively the old man thought back to the years he spent as a young child with his own mother. His mother who passed away a few decades ago and all that remained of her was an old photo.

He took his cup of tea and made his way to the living room where he laid the cup down on the dining table and then went to get the newspaper. Not that he would later recollect much of what he read in the news but it was a sheer force of habit of reading the newspaper along with the day’s first cup of tea – a habit formed when he was in his 20s and  50 years later he was unable to change it. So he sipped his tea; strong, no milk and with very little sugar and he read the papers. He spent a good hour going through the various articles. A war here, an accident there, someone calling out for a ruling head of state to resign – pretty much an normal day of news. He closely watched the obituaries for any news on people he knew and of his age passing away. There were none but he always thought when his day would come and how it would be to read his own obituary. As always, the mere thought of it made his chuckle.

He then put the paper aside, pushed his now empty tea cup to the middle of the table and stared at the outside world from his living room window. He thought of the years when he was full of youth, vigour and worked hard to make his way up the ladder. He thought of all the success he had. He wished in his mind if only he could relive those days. He remember better days, the birth of his children, the achievements and the accolades. He thought of a time when he had it all and now he felt that he had very little. He once had money to spare and now he found it tough to get by. And that’s why at his age he still worked. He knew what some people thought but he pushed the thoughts away from his mind. Isn’t it hard to keep at it after all these years? It didn’t matter. He still had to fight on. There were bills to pay. He wouldn’t give up now.

Just before it was time for him to wash his cup of tea and then take his bath, the old man let his mind drift back to those glory days of his and smiled. He could almost grab onto it. He wished for it again. If he could only stay back and day dream. However his wife would be waking up any minute now. And so the old man picked up his cup and went to wash it. Another day is just beginning.

My Music @ Play

Does anyone still have music cassettes anymore? I can’t find a single cassette anywhere in my belongings as I remember chucking out all my old tapes, the last batch being sold to scrap collectors back in September of 2011 (which was just about 20-30 tapes). I used to have a huge and I mean huge music cassette collection. No idea on the actual numbers as I also had mixed tapes a plenty. I filled a huge shelf and two cupboards with my tapes, in alphabetical order (as much as I could). During the move from our old house  to the apartment back in 2006, I had discarded several tapes into an old box and given it to a guy who collects scraps of stuff and sells them at really low prices. I did feel funny throwing them out; if it wasn’t for the move and the lack of space in the new place, I might have had those tapes forever!

Around 2004 I started buying more cds and that has become a big collection in it’s own right – however I now face the same issue with the cds that I once faced with the tapes. If I buy a cd, I rip the songs into mp3 format and burn them onto my laptop and save another copy into an external hard drive that I maintain just for music. All the cds are collecting dust, most of them that I have bought since September 2006 have never even been played – not even once!!!! Rip and play as mp3s on my computer? yes many times over. So now I have a steel cupboard with the bottom big shelf filled with cds collecting dust and just taking up space. I dunno what I will do with them. Do I sell them and create some space for books and  other stuff? I will think about what to do with it next year when I do my annual cleaning in January.

Meanwhile my mp3 collection is now 62 gb strong. I have stopped getting new music for a while; got a bunch of stuff that I need to listen to and review first. 62 gb is not bad, not bad at all.

Arsenal 2 Montpellier 0

Arsenal reached the Champions League knockout stage for a 13th consecutive season as they outclassed Montpellier and Schalke beat Olympiakos. The Gunners struggled for momentum in a disappointing first half that saw Laurent Koscielny head against the bar. But they improved after the break and Jack Wilshere scored his first goal since returning from injury with a chipped finish from close range. Lukas Podolski sealed the win with a stunning volley as Montpellier faded. It was an unstoppable strike that will be replayed many times over – a fitting way to secure a place in the last 16.

Schalke’s home victory over Olympiakos keeps the Germans top of Group B on 11 points, one clear of Arsenal with one game left. Olympiakos, who host Arsenal on 4 December, are third on six points and will drop into the Europa League, while Montpellier remain bottom with just one point from five matches. But in the early stages Arsenal struggled to impose themselves or establish rhythm, misplacing a number of passes. They looked nervous at the back and after Thomas Vermaelen was easily beaten by Remy Cabella on the right, Wojciech Szczesny flapped at Geoffrey Jourdren’s cross from the left. Arsenal almost took the lead when Koscielny rattled the woodwork with a thumping header from Vermaelen’s left-wing centre, but that was their only chance of note in the opening half hour.

Wenger’s side came out for the second half with more urgency and their reward soon arrived. Vermaelen crossed from the left for Giroud to cushion a header into the path of Wilshere, and the 20-year-old dinked a neat finish over Jourdren for his first goal since November 2010. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain worked his way in from the right and fed Podolski on the edge of the box. The German found Giroud and then met his lofted return pass with a stunning volley past Jourdren.