500 bucks…………. Are you game?

Samsung Galaxy S4 is the unbeatable smart phone in the market. Or so they say…Not sure? OK! Let’s play a game.
You are blindfolded, and given S4 and S3 in your hands… Go ahead and pick S4. Can you do it?

If you are the design junkie you are going to be disappointed. Slimmer? Yes. But otherwise S4 is a carbon copy of its predecessor: the same chassis with the same old volume and power buttons. They also weigh exactly the same despite S4′s slightly thinner design. The backplate is fortunately less flimsy, so you won’t have panic attacks worrying you might break it.

S3 vs. S4

But let’s not judge a book by its cover. S4 has caught up with it’s rival HTC One with its very own Infrared Blaster, a sensor above the screen that can be used for remote control of TVs and other consumer equipment via Samsung’s WatchON app. S4 also has a humidity sensor in addition to thermometer. However you can say goodbye to your good old radio channel: S4 lacks FM sensors, a disappointment for the old souls.
S4 has stepped up its game with 2 mega pixel front camera, and 13 mega pixel rear camera. But what makes it great for capturing the picture perfect memories is the Dual Camera Record, allowing both camera’s to record simultaneously- an innovation not seen previously. The Sound and Shot feature lets you record sound while capturing pictures, making S4 the forerunner in multitasking.
Like Xperia Z and Lumia, Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with wireless charging- though the feature is still new to the world of smart phones. But on the downside S4 does not have USB interface.

The one thing distinctly different about S4 is its higher RAM- almost double that of S3, but possesses the same internal storage and card storage memory. Though the gadget comes with 16 GB memory printed on its handset, what the manufacturers have forgotten to mention is that only half of it is user accessible, and this has upset many Android fans.

A slightly better resolution, camera quality, CPU speed and onscreen keyboard design is going to be insufficient to please the smartphone maniacs who have got used to expecting a lot from Samsung and its peers. Moreover S4 seems to do little more than add a higher price tag for last years S3. For all its worth the smartphone-under-scrutiny costs more that 550 USD. There is no other reason not to have it. Are you game?

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Practice Makes Perfect - even for Roger Federer

Some geniuses are born. Some geniuses are made. Other geniuses just need a little bit of practice.

Roger Federer, although contrary to popular belief, admitted that he fell into the third category. Federer had a shocking third round defeat to Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the Madrid Open last week. His fans in Madrid would have found that defeat oddly surprising since Federer won the same tournament last year, and was defending the title this year. But the past is past, and Federer did say that the reason for his poor show was a lack of practice.

 

Roger Federer at Rome 2013

But losing in the third round may not always be a bad thing for champions like Federer. The early loss in Madrid gave Federer time to recover. He arrived at Rome a couple of days earlier and took time to do the thing he missed out on in Madrid - practice. Of course, he also had a little extra time in his bag which he spent valuably in an interview. Here is what he had to say:

“I’ve been practising well and I’m really hungry and motivated to play again. I hope I can play a good tournament here. That’s really important for me. But first things first, I want to start well.”

And start well he did. Federer crushed Italian wild card entry Polito Starace 6-1 6-2 in his first match in Rome. Quite clearly Roger has been practising hard in between the two tournaments. Federer would be rather pleased with this start because like everyone knows, a good start makes for a good finish. A good finish would be the only thing running through Federer’s mind right now. He has come to Rome 13 times but he has never lifted the trophy here. Not once. That should make the champion a little more desperate this week. He wouldn’t want to miss clipping any more feathers onto his hat.

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Anonymous

Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face……well, with the craze of the confessions going on now, this statement is proving itself. A new idea started by an IIT and duplicated by the rest of the student world, it has spread like wild fire. Thanks to the one “free” platform of opportunity we all share to make ourselves “virtually” the best – Facebook. All those long forgotten incidents, tiny little embarrassments of people, all those memories of friends  you dint even know existed behind the layers of your own memories come out rushing when you see the “#143” and the confession that follows.

Anonymous

There is an unknown bit of yourself that comes out and overrules your conscience which is talking about ethics, courage and suggesting proper conversation instead of posting a confession. your love to a friend, hatred for her boyfriend, anger towards a professor, nostalgia for old times, vengeance for  a classmate, a desire to rub your success in someone’s face, all of it comes out.

A sense of relief or satisfaction follows the post when you imagine the other person’s reaction. They would either read it and leave it at that (which according to me is less fun but the only thing to do) or they would post something else that sets off the chain again.

All the subsided, forgotten emotions and of course the ones with the this-is-like-Christmas-early-attitude,the pranksters have found their place.

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Conditions Apply

Buy one get one free! 80% discounts on all apparels! Just 30 paise per minute for all STD calls! Sale here sale there, sale sale everywhere!! In the adrenaline rush that we get at the sight of these posters and news, we tend not to notice the tiny little asterisk mark on top, which is virtually invisible compared to the huge font, saying “SALE”.  The adrenaline rush is later replaced by a sudden increase in heart beat and blood pressure when we see the bill.

Conditions Apply

The discount is available only to members, and only if you buy a blue shirt along with a pink one from the same lousy brand. 30 paise per call is only if you pay an initial tariff of 50 bucks and another 60 bucks to avail the offer and if you are still left with any top up balance in your phone or a bit of cash in the pocket, which seems to have a hole in it inspite of sales, then, you can get to use the offer you paid for. The high heeled leather boots which you thought came at a very cheap price, and also look super cool with your skirt, disappoint you with tiny little tags that say “not water proof”. They tend to make you walk at snail pace and somehow all this comes to your notice only after you bragged to the whole world about how amazing a deal you got at your new favorite store!

For all guys who have wondered why girls are so crazy about hitting the store on the first day of sale, this is the reason. With time the stock loses its charm to impress. To be more precise, with every shopaholic entering the store the probability of you benefiting from the sale reduces proportional to the cash in her wallet.

Sale or stale? Discount or does it really count? Free or you just can’t see?

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Hinduism: A Way of Life.

An introduction to Hinduism. Though it seems ideal, this is how it is believed to once have been.

Religion is a way of life. A simple statement, but one who’s value has been lost in today’s world. What do you mean when you say that a religion is a way of life? it means that by following its path, you raise yourself above your circumstances and fears, and discover what is truly important and to dedicate yourself to this goal.
Hinduism has no creator, and was named centuries after people practiced it. One of the core principles behind Hinduism is renunciation, or sanyasa. Contrary to common belief, it does not refer to living in the wild, considering wine, women, wealth and comfort as sin. It focuses on raising the mind from these pleasures, to partake of them without becoming their slave, to clear the mind’s eye from the fog of the senses. Hermits in India have left the comfort of home for the bare earth and frugal life of the mountains, but only because they saw true peace can only come from within. Those hermits who actually managed to conquer desire were respected, and when they requested food from any house, it was given with respect and honor, because they played the most important part of all in society: of teaching the world the essence of life. The holy scriptures known as the Bhagavat Gita, and the Upanishads are said to contain their wisdom. However, not anyone who seeks their secrets finds them.

Hinduism: A Way of Life

There is a caste system in India; this is true. It divided people into the Brahmanas, the Khatriyas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Contrary to popular belief, it was not meant to divide based on birth. It was to divide them based on their understanding of wisdom.
The Brahmans, who have imbibed knowledge the most, were meant to teach, and guide others along the path. It is said that true Brahmans were so learned, that they managed to surpass the greatest fear of them all: the fear of death. They embraced death as they would embrace their God. The word Brahman is said to also mean ‘the one god’. When one conquers the senses, and thus gains true knowledge, he commands the respect of god himself. This is portrayed in many Hindu stories.
The Kshatriya are ones who have not reached the learning of Brahmans, but have adequate learning to rule and take care of his subjects, who has lost the hold of selfishness.
The Vaishyas are merchants, traders and artisans, who have gained freedom from greed and desire, to trade fairly, and desires to raise himself to a Kshatriya or a Brahman not for riches, but for enlightenment, a state of knowing. The meaning behind this statement is not easy to grasp.
Finally, a Shudra is one who is still clouded by his existance, senses and desires. It is said that the first man, Manu decreed that Shudras should not read the Bhagavat Geetha or the Upanishads. This is because they simply would not grasp their true meaning, and might misguide others. This system might seem rather ideal, but it lasted for a period known in Hindu mythology as the Satya Yuga, or the golden age. It was also predicted that it would one day end, going on to the Treta Yuga, the Dwapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga, when greed, desire suspicion and hate would cloud the inner eye. The Yugas are cyclic, However, and it is believed that the Satya Yuga will once more return.
Hindus do not, again contrary to common belief, worship many Gods. They worship the one God through his many forms. The requirements of so many forms? There are numerous stories behind these forms, for they show how a God, or anyone for that matter cannot remain static. When creating, God is the kind and selfless Vishnu, while sustaining, the wise teacher Brahma, and while destroying the embodiment of fury and remorseless Shiva. They did not see the forms of these Deities as they did now, but saw the qualities within them. Imagine a stern teacher giving birth to a child, while death taught a student the secret of life, and a loving mother dragging her child beyond this life. That ought to give you a picture of what I mean.

Hinduism does not force its followers to simply follow a god, or a brahmin. There are countless stories where a mere mortal abuses the Gods when he feels he has erred, an example being the dialogue by Daksha Prajapati, the father of Sati, the first birth of the Goddess Parvati, Shiva’s wife. Dakha held a large Yajna, a grand ritual of offerings. When Daksha arrived, all except for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva rose out of respect for him. These three Gods are hierarchically superior to Daksha, yet he fumed at the sight of his son-in-law sitting, and let flow a string of abuses: poiler; mental dwarf; a refuge of the refuse, destitute and poor; boorish demigod; monkey’s eyes; a Sudra unfit to learn Vedas; a crematorium-dweller; wearer of a garland of skulls and bones; sloven. Sure, not quite the sort of abuses you expect today, however they are truly insulting. Shiva, the destroyer remained calm, showing meagre respect towards his father-in-law, but holds his words, valuing their worth.
Hindus do not believe in a seperate creation of the universe. Not only do the legends describe Vishnu as taking forms of a fish, a tortise, an animal, a midget, human beings, and finally as a Divine, the stories are meant to guide people in values, and not to be taken at face value.
Hindus do not worship Idols. Similar to the worship of many Gods, idols are meant to act as a medium, though even many followers have lost awareness of this fact. There have been many incidents in history where true devotees have expressed their regret in giving a form to god, for it limits perception. However, just as one may not be able to sprint without first learning to crawl and then walk, (I say may not, because I do not want to be bombarded by examples proving the contrary), one may have to pray using an idol before recognizing that existence itself is but a part of God. One does not simply jump from being a Sudra to a Brahman.
Hinduism happens to be one of the most tolerant religions in the world as well, conceding that the path to salvation or enlightenment is not single. It tells its followers to remember their successes, their failures, their joys and sorrows, and even their sins, but not to be clouded by them. It tells followers that penance is not punishment, but a way of life that leads to greater fulfillment. It does not force devotees to go to temples, but advises them that the true temple is always within and around them, in not just things, but in actions and intentions as well. It tells them to do their duty, no matter how unpleasant, and expect no rewards, a perfect formula for inner peace.
There are depictions in Hindu mythology referring to asuras, or deamons and their vanquishing. These depictions represent desire and other negative influences, and how righteousness always triumphs, and were not meant to promote wars, or other negative inferences.
Hinduism denies women rights: another misconception. Did you know that during a fire ritual, the constant utterance of the word ‘Swaha’ calls upon Agni(the Lord of fire)’s wife? Not only this, almost all the major Gods are said to be invoked through their wives. Women have been portrayed in many stories as besting men, whether it be in intellect, or in the art of war. Women have become rulers as well. Hinduism as a religion has always encouraged equality beyond gender or race.
I know this seems pretty ideal, but this was the true vision, and as I initially stated, it is a way of life, connected to everything around you, and not something to be pushed off as simply one aspect of what you are.

.

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The Kims’ Plaything

After the latest series of altercations in the Korean peninsula, North Korea is teetering on the brink of all-out warfare, conventional and nuclear. With the cessation of communication over the 38th Parallel, Pyongyang has gone a step forward than the usual saber-rattling of missile and nuclear tests in what is widely assumed to be a show of power by new premier, Kim Jong-un.

One of the most isolated countries in the world, North Korea was born out of the aftermath of Japan’s surrender in World War II. Like its Southern cousin, it was also one of territories Japan had annexed in its belligerent expansionist years. The Korean peninsula was divided into two; South Korea belonged to the Americans while the Soviet Union controlled the North.

Kim Jong Un

Kim Il-sung, the ‘Eternal President’ of North Korea was the proponent of major, sweeping land reforms which dispossessed most of the landlords and bought them on equal footing with the peasant class. Much of the landed classes fled to the South where they were offered positions in the government. After much chaos in the scramble for government positions, the Soviets departed in 1948.

On 25th June 1950, upon Kim Il-sung’s orders, North Korea crossed the 38th parallel; setting motion a series of events which would later be known as the Korean War. The conflict forced the intervention of United Nations and China, the latter having an underequipped army. Armistice was achieved 37 months later after a military stalemate. The Korean War was perhaps one of the most pivotal moments in the Cold War which defined the latter half of the 20th century.

What followed the war was a period of mutual uneasiness, several disparate incidents have occurred over the years, some with the potential to escalate into a conflict. But by then, the hostility had delved into the economic sphere. North Korea had achieved greater economic growth in 1960’s and the North Korean GDP per capita was equal to the South as late as 1976. By the late 80’s though, South Korea had transitioned into a liberal democracy; a transmutation catalyzed by 1988 Olympic Games at Seoul. Its economy waltzed past its neighbor in the north in 90’s. North Korea was economically hamstrung by famines and earthquakes not long after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was perhaps a death blow to the communist country which has now become a fossilized relic of the Cold War era.

A decade into the 21st century raises many questions on the viability of North Korea. What would happen if the flow of aid is blocked? What would happen if its nuclear armory is ransacked? More pertinently, who is in control right now?

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Revisiting A Forgotten Universe

There comes a point of time in the life cycle of any person or concept when it is clutched tightly by the grubby hands of self-doubt and consequently finds itself stranded in an identity crisis. A decade ago, Cartoon Network had been thriving under the very same mask - Quietly experimenting and rehashing it’s programs to fit itself into the lives of a newer, younger generation of people. However, what it has effectively done is alienate it’s older fanbase and administer a weirder grade of programming for the newer ones.

Let’s have a look at a few of the current set of programs :

The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange :

What began as a web series is now mainstay on regular programming. The show follows the surreal adventures of Orange his fruit companions : Pear, Passion Fruit, Midget Apple, Marshmallow, and Grandpa Lemon. The supermarket where the show has it’s main setting is named after the cybernym of the creator of the show - Dane Boedigheimer.

 

 

Regular Show

Surreal being the theme of the channel, the Regular Show gives credence to the same. The show revolves around an anthropomorphic raccoon and blue, respectively,  Rigby and Mordecai, both employees at a local theme park, and their various attempts at slacking off from work. Later in the series, they befriend an intern named Thomas and help him adjust to life at the theme park.

 

 

Secret Mountain Fort Awesome

As the name would indicate, this particular show would’ve been best kept a secret. By far, the worst of the bunch has been heavily panned by critics ever since it’s inception. The show involves five monsters, called “Disgustoids”, who are unleashed into the earth through a freak magic portal. The bulk of the story contains their vain attempts toward finding a way for peaceful coexistence with humans.

 

Adventure Time

The one outlier in a sea of mediocrity. Adventure Time is the one series that has precisely tapped it’s potential in terms of experimental beauty and imagination. Created by Pendleton Ward and set in post-apocalyptic world, albeit subtle hints are made towards the same, the main protagonists of the show are Finn the Human and his best friend Jake, a talking dog with a multitude of magical prowess, including the ability to shape shift at will. Together, they set out on their adventures interacting with all the mystical forces and events in the Land Of Ooo.

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The Magical World of Calvin and Hobbes

<h1>“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…lets go exploring”</h1>

What followed this touching epigraph of Calvin and Hobbes will perhaps never reach the same heights of the comic’s unique amalgamation of fantasy and socio-political commentary. As Charles Solomon so succinctly describes the terminal strip, “Calvin and Hobbes put aside their conflicts and rode their sled into a snowy forest. They left behind a hole in the comics page that no strip has been able to fill.”

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes, an extremely successful comic strip ran for ten years during the late 80’s to the early 90’s. Featuring an unnaturally inquisitive boy and his pet tiger in suburban America, the strip exponentially grew in popularity and was syndicated in 250 newspapers (2400 newspapers as of 2010).

Calvin, whose name was derived from 16th century theologian, is a six-year old with an extremely vivid imagination whose constant mischief and tomfoolery earns him a negative perception by almost everyone. Weak in academics but blessed with acute sense of irony and a wide vocabulary, Calvin unsurprisingly imagines his class as a prison or a setting for a space battle; with his teachers and his classmates as the antagonists. A minor misanthrope, he limits his interactions to his parents and Susie Derkins, he says, “I wish I had more friends, but people are such jerks.” Most of his interactions take place with Hobbes, his anthromorphic pet tiger.

Like Calvin, Hobbes’ name is also derived from Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher. He is Calvin’s stuffed tiger and best friend. While Calvin considers him as a live, anthromorphic tiger that has the ability to converse; to others, he little more than a stuffed toy animal. This raises pertinent questions about Calvin’s reality. Hobbes’ sage remarks serve as a perfect foil to Calvin’s impulsive attitude. On a similar vein, he serves as the author Bill Watterson’s view on the topic; while Calvin echoes the sentiments of modern America. Conversely, he is depicted to have weak mathematical ability as he cannot perform simple arithmetic operations.

The comic strip essentially entails the Calvin and Hobbes reaction to various day-to-day occurrences. Both the title characters subtly criticize and comment on most of society’s inclinations.  While some strips depict his conversations with his parents, others show his colorful imagination at work. On occasion, a dose of physical humor is added to the strip. The cardboard box is a major element in the strip, it serves as a location for meetings of G.R.O.S.S. ( Get Rid of Slimy Girls), a club which consists of only Calvin and Hobbes; it also acts as a desk when Calvin attempts to sell one of his peculiar services.  He also builds spastic snowmen that which subsequently tails off to a commentary on art and its perceived lack of originality. He also invents a new game which is appropriately named ‘Calvinball’, a play which rates wit and creativity higher than athletic skill or stamina.

With such unprecedented characters, cartoonist Bill Watterson was able to conjure up an immensely entertaining and thought-provoking set of comic strips that has captivated people across all ages.

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Appreciating Carnatic music

I’ll start off by saying that I’m not crazy about music. Music is not my heart and soul. I’m just another guy who plugs in his earphones whenever I’m travelling, bored out of my mind, or can’t get a song out of my head. I can’t even claim to be a Carnatic music buff. The 5000 songs in my iPod would beg to differ. But Being from Chennai, the Carnatic music capital, I was exposed to a lot of Carnatic music from a young age.

Carnatic Singers

I would be dragged to concerts where I would either fall asleep, or watch the funny hand gestures made by the singer. I found it very difficult to understand how people could enjoy music that seemed to have no impact on the listener. My father always used to tell me that it takes time, and a lot of hours of listening, to appreciate Carnatic music. It didn’t make sense to me how effort can help you appreciate a form of music. A few years on, I think I understand.

Carnatic music is one of the most organised and complex forms of music, which is why it is so difficult to appreciate at first. Any song you hear is set to a specific tune or ‘ragam’, and each ragam has a unique set of notes or ‘swaras’. The number of ragams present today is uncountable. Since there are only twelve notes, the number of ragams containing all the notes are limited (72), and this number can be calculated by basic mathematics. All other ragams are based on these 72 ragams.

The beat of the song is characterized by the ‘thalam’. Again, the number of thalams present are many. The 4 basic thalams are in multiples of 3, 4, 5 and 7. The beat of any song, western or classical, from any part of the world, can be classified in this thalam system.

This is just scratching the surface, and there are many more concepts and intricacies in Carnatic music. I’ll leave it to the reader to explore.

Carnatic Music

A concert typically consists of a main performer (a singer), a violin, and a mridangam along with a ghatam or kanjeera (the drum instruments). Concerts cannot be rehearsed as such, and they are an expression of creativity of the singer and the supporting instruments. This is one of the highlights of Carnatic music, where nothing is fixed and all the performers are free to express themselves. It is an uninhibited form of music. Therefore, the rapport between the singer and the supporting performers is important. The duels between different instruments and/or the singer are fun to watch, for the slightly trained ear.

There are many people who appreciate Carnatic music at their first concert, but this requires a high level of temperament for music. For the rest of us, understanding the intricacies of Carnatic music keeps us interested, and eventually, we really start to enjoy it.

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More Concerned Than Usual

Over the past two decades there has been a rather irking surge in the amount of paranoia that often pervades around parents. This sociological paradigm has given birth to a plethora of phenomena, the most apparent of which being helicopter parenting. Of late, however, the paranoia has been seething it’s way into human relationships. In particular, we have an unwelcome and quite toxic concoction of intimacy and schizophrenia.

As Woody Allen says in Annie Hall,

“Love fades”

More Concerned than Usual

A profusion of research and every day observations have accentuated this quote to something of an axiom for almost all fledgling relationships. This, of course, is coupled with today’s involvement of technology. If we were to rewind the clock by about 30 years, most human interactions would involve an introduction, either by themselves or a friend, and the consequent procedure of acquainting themselves and getting to know each other better. Everything else, would go on from there. On a very simple analysis of today’s social intricacies, there’s a middle phase of nonsensical text messaging that plays a massive role in making plans and the like.
As rapid and astonishing is the growth of modern technology, so is the briskness in which certain unofficial, yet glaringly important rules, for texting are created. “Would replying to Susan immediately after receiving her text make me seem too needy?” Or “Is it rude if I just wait a little and finish my work, then reply to Robert?”. A more heart-wrenching instance would be when the same Robert failed to receive a reply from Susan, yet she was reblogging posts on tumblr. Should he text her again? Is it right that he gets slightly perturbed?

The intense over-analysis of things on such a microscopic scale has left people being in a perpetual state of concern than what it is usual.

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