Friday, June 29, 2007

Transition woes once again

Yahoo recently bought Flickr, another site that manages online photo sharing, and offers many more features. When I learnt of the acquisition, I wondered why did Yahoo buy it, when they already have their own utility. I guess it is all about brand equity; they wanted to get the entire user base of Flickr (which was much more than that of Yahoo Photos), but apparently these business stratagems are not my cup of tea :-)

I do not upload photos frequently on the net. But, for last many years, I have been using yahoo photos to share pictures with friends. I found it quite easy to use, including uploading, organizing and sharing. It is simple to use, and quite sufficient in features for amateurs like me.

So why am I thinking of it at all ?

A couple of days back, I logged onto Yahoo Photos (after a considerable time), and I must admit that I was not really surprised to see that Yahoo has planned to shut down Photos. They have provided an option to the existing users, to migrate their photos to one of their affiliates - Flickr, Snapfish, Kodak Gallery, Photobucket and Shutterfly. I was not familiar with the last two names, and of the first three, Flickr appeared best to me [see - brand name at work!]. So, I selected Flickr, and I was informed that my photos are queued for migration, which may take some time. Meanwhile, I started browsing through the "help", when I learnt the disadvantages. Since I signed up for "free" account [one can sign up for the "privilege" account for a fee of $25 per year], I was limited to:
- uploading 100 MB worth of photos in a month
- displaying a maximum of 200 photos at any given time
- having three sets at maximum [sets are equivalent to albums in Yahoo Photos]
- if the account remains inactive for 90 days, it will be deleted
Now, 100 MB p.m. limit doesn't really bother me, since I haven't used that much of space in last four years on Yahoo. A limit on number of photos displayed is somewhat irksome, but not big trouble for me [though I found that there were users which were really irritated by both of these]. But I find it difficult to comply with the last two - I am rather organized, and like to file all my photos in folders, so I had 10 albums for 250 photos. Also, activity on my photo folders is little, and it is not rare for it to remain completely idle for three months.
I learnt of the limitations after I had requested my photos to be migrated. At that time, I recollected that Yahoo Photos also allowed me to download my photos back to my disk. So I went back there, but my account was locked for migration. And now, my photos have all been moved to Flickr, and Yahoo folder deleted.
Flickr is "happy to inform" me that I can get around the above limits by paying the membership fee. I do not mind paying for a service, but on the other hand, I am not willing to pay for a service which many providers are giving free of cost. So, I decided to migrate my photos to picasaweb, since that is an excellent service, and provided by Google, and does not impose such limits [It does limit the maximum space available, but that is around 3 GB, which is more than sufficient for me.] Now comes the biggest hitch - I cannot download my photos from Flickr back to my disk! I scanned all I could, but found no way to do this!

In conclusion:
1. If anyone is aware how can I download my photos from Flickr, please tell me about it.
2. If you are migrating your photos from Yahoo, please evaluate your options carefully.
3. In case you are using Yahoo Photos, but are not aware of it yet, they propose to delete all non-migrated accounts after Sept 20.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Life of Pi

The last two weeks have been really hectic. Not only could I not visit my 'regular read' blogs, I could also not put down my impressions of 'The Life of Pi', as I had been intending to do, all this while. Last weekend, I could just manage a post on 'A Rive Sutra'. And since then, I haven't had time to give even a thought to the blogworld. In face it seems a long time since I read it, and by now my impressions of the book have been overshadowed by a myriad things. So, this "review" is going to be rather abstract.

I liked the book, though I did not "love" it [as did the people who suggested this to me ... sorry folks!] One of the reasons is that I am not much into "animal stories" - I prefer to read fiction that is founded in human character, emotions and relationships. Tales of sorrow, tales of triumphs, but that have human interaction. 'The life of Pi', for most part, describes the adventures of Pi in the open seas, when he has no-one for company save a few animals, and how he deals with them. How he manages the tiger was interesting, but the way animals attack each other was rather gory. In fact, the extensive details (of how the hyena eats the zebra alive, and how Pi catches and eats turtles and fishes, etc) were somewhat repulsive to a hard-core vegetarian like me. Then, the adventure in the carnivorous forest was not only difficult to believe, but also didn't seem relevant to the story, in my opinion.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A River Sutra - Gita Mehta

This is a collection of interconnected stories, about the life and beliefs of people living on, or travelling on a pilgrimage along, the banks of the holy river Narmada.

The narrator is an old man, who has no family to speak of, and who intends to spend the sunset years of his life in 'vanprastha' [According to Hindu mythology, the life of a human being is divided into four phases, in the last of which a (wo)man retires to the forests, away from the worldly things, after fulfilling all the responsibilities.] So, the narrator, who has spend his working years in civil services, takes up the position of the supervisor of a small govt guest house, situated on the banks of Narmada, amongst hills and forests, isolated from the rest of the civilization.

Here, he interacts with the tribals, who attribute supernatural powers to the river, which is worshipped as a goddess. He meets other people in the area, who also believe Narmada to be sacred, capable of purifying sins by just looking at it [apart from having special powers to cure any kind of madness!]. Myths, beliefs, stories are aplenty, as is the beauty of the place. He comes in contact with different people here, and all of them have a story to tell; and the river, Narmada, plays an integral part in their stories and their lives. As a whole, they bring forth the picture of a culture that exists in the interiors of our country, where people have a peaceful life, untouched by the fast pace of urban life that we are a part of.

The stories are beautifully crafted, lucid and believable (for most part), and spiritual. The flow is good, but the pace is slow, perhaps befitting the laidback life in those regions. You can imagine the serenity of the environs, almost feel the cool and fresh air on the banks of the river .... In all, a good companion on a hot, lazy, summer day ...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On a reading spree - On the Beach

The extreme temperatures during the days, as well as nights, kept me inside over the weekend. Further, heat and a slight quirk of health kept me mostly in bed. So, I went on to a reading spree, and cleared up a part of my to-read list :-)

I read 'A River Sutra' by Gita Mehta, that my brother had gifted me last week. I had started it the last week itself, as it was indicated as a collection of stories )though interlinked), rather than a novel. If I start reading a novel, I find it difficult to put it down, making it hard to go the office the next day. I finished it late night on Friday. On Saturday, I picked up 'The Life of Pi' that I started reading a month or two back, but put it down somewhere in between, and could not start again. Another late night ensued. On Sunday afternoon, having nothing else to do, I opened 'On the Beach' by Nevil Shute, and didn't do anything else till I finished it in the evening. And yes, that night we went to dinner at a friend's place - yet another late night, and I was no good for anything on Monday ;-)

Of the three books that I read, I first want to write about the one that had the greatest impact on me - On the Beach [The world after nuclear war]. One of the editorial reviews described it as 'the most shocking fiction in recent years'. I quite agree with the assessment - it left me somewhat shaken too. As indicated by the tagline of the title, the story is set in the context of the aftermath of a nuclear war. A nuclear war takes place, arising out of selfishness and misunderstanding, destroying all life in the northern hemisphere. The novel does not describe the nuclear war itself, but starts about two years after the war is over, in the southern parts of Australia, as the last of the humanity waits for the approaching death, as radioactive particles are propelled to their part of the world by elements of nature.

Lieutenant Commander Peter Holmes, of Australian Navy, has not had an assignment for close to a year, and is asked to join as the liasion officer of a US submarine docked in Australia. Almost all the ships and airplanes that are left, are out of commission due to lack of fuel. The submarine runs on nuclear fuel, and is in the charge of Commander Dwight Towers. Although it is known that there is no possibility of life anywhere else, the submarine is sent on a fact-finding mission, first to north of Australia, and later to the USA. As Holmes prepares to leave for a long journey to USA, he tries to prepare his wife for what to do for herself and their little daughter, in case he is not able to return before (or ever) the deathly winds reach them. When the submarine is in USA, it reaches a port town, which is (or rather was) the home of one of the men - against the Commander's orders, he escapes from the sub, chosing to die in his home in a few days, rather than few weeks later in the alien lands of Australia. Moments and incidents like these, are rather heart-rending. The book beautifully describes the psychology of people under such unavoidable cicumstances - some people are in the denial mode, some are at peace with the fate, others chose to make the best of whatever time they have left. As months change to weeks, and to days, as towns fall one after another, helpless people ["innocent victims of an accidental war" as described by another review] continue to work and live as normal, planning for the coming years, even though they are aware that this is not going to materialize. People do not panic and rush south, knowing that they cannot escape the fate - they chose to die peacefully in their homes, terminating the agony of radiation sickness with cyanide. But even though they have accepted their fate, they cannot but help ask, why did it have to happen.

Perhaps all of us understand the futility of wars, but they keep on happening, on different scales of magnitude. This book was perhaps an extrapolation in extreme, of the desctruction resulting from avoidable conflicts, but given the times we live in, this might just actually happen.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Saaye mei.n Dhoop - IV

This is my final post on the collection of Ghazals by Dushyant Kumar.
Earlier posts : here, here and here.

In earlier posts, I had selected few ashar that I really loved, from ghazals. I am rounding off the series with two (almost complete) ghazals, each and every sher of which is a true gem!

Mat kaho aakaash mei.n kohra ghana hai
Yeh kisii ki vyaktigat aalochana hai

Raqt varsho.n se naso.n mei.n khaulta hai
Aap kahte hai.n kshanik uttejana hai

Dosto.n! Ab manch par suvidha nahi.n hai
Aajkal nepathya mei.n sambhaavana hai

Do not complain about the dense fog in the sky
It might be construed as a personal criticism of someone

For years, blood has been boiling in the veins
And you call it a momentary excitement

Friends! there is no place available on the stage
There are possibilities in backstage these days

*** *** ***

Ho gayee hai piir parvat sii pighalnii chaahiye
Is himalaya se koii ganga nikalnii chaahiye

Aaj yeh diivaar pardo.n kii tarah hilne lagii
Shart lekin thii ki yeh buniyaad hilnii chaahiye

Har sadak par, har galii mei.n, har nagar, har gaanv mei.n
Haath lehraate hue har laash chalnii chaahiye

Sirf hangama khaDa karna mera maksad nahi.n
Merii koshish hai ki yeh soorat badalnii chaahiye

Mere siine mei.n nahi.n to tere siine mei.n sahii
Ho kahi.n bhi aag, lekin aag jalnii chaahiye

The pain has become mountainous, now it should melt away
Now, a Ganga must emerge from this Himalaya

Today this wall shakes like a curtain
But the condition was to move the very foundation

On every road, on every street, in every town and village
Every corpse should walk waving their hands

My aim is not just to create a disturbance
The whole purpose is to bring about a change

If it is not in my chest, let it be in yours
Wherever the fire is, this fire should keep burning

The imagination and the play of words in the first sher leave me speechless - marvelling at thoughts of the poet. Himalayas - not just the tallest mountains in the world, they protect the Asian subcontinent from harsh northern winds, and are therefore crucial to life here. They are considered sacred by the Hindus, as is Ganga - the most sacred river that emerges from this mountain ranges - and believed to absolve one of all one's since by a single bath in the river!

Another thing that struck me was the comparison of a human being - indifferent to his surroundings, and apathetic to misery around him - to a corpse. This is not unusual, but still the context in which it was used impressed on me - a human being who has no 'chetna' [conciousness/awareness] is no better to the society than a corpse.

And, as rightly suggested by Adi, I must include a reference to where it all started from - how did I get introduced to 'Saye mein dhoop' ...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Farewell Song

This is a short poem I wrote for the farewell of a colleague. For those who missed it earlier, here is the context.

We've been used to seeing him around, forever
Never thought we'll have to see him leave
Not just days, but years to remember
That it's a thing of past, is hard to believe

From noon to night, him you can catch
Doing the rounds with the dreaded list in hand
His passion for "rightness" is hard to match
In "healthy discussion" with him you can hours spend

A great sense of humor, a deadpan wit
He'll not let you get bored the slightest bit
He has driven a car with open driver's door
We heard no-one can beat him on dance floor
On these things and more, we shall dwell
Long after we've wished him a fond farewell