Monday, September 30, 2013

I am not paying your bills

Of late, there have been multiple instances wherein some unknown people are adding my mobile number/email IDs to their telephone numbers. Not sure if anyone is trying to have some fun or is this a conspirary against me or pure accident or it is a sign of getting popular...
Some examples:
1. Idea eBill from Abhishek Bachchan, meant for Vikram Budhathoki lands in my mailbox

2. Airtel no 7006040095 belonging to Kutch Vino
3. Reliance subscriber with number 9936069090 's bill continues to land in my mail box. My reply stating I don't own this number got no reply

Once incident might have been flagged as accidental, but as there's been many of them, thought of sharing with you.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Are blogrolls still relevant?

During the early years of blogging, Blogroll was a cool thing. (it is a list of links to other blogs, usually placed somewhere on the sidebar of the blog)

Being on someone's blog roll was a proud factor and exchanging links by adding each other to the blog roll was a common practice. Many bloggers used to maintain a list of blogs they liked in their sidebar, with the idea that readers would click on some of these once done reading the blog article.

But I feel blogrolls are loosing their relevance now.

Earlier, people used to go looking for content- search, subscribe etc. But now that is no longer the case. People want contents to come to them. If one has 20 minutes to spare, he/she is more likely to scroll through facebook wall for latest contents, than browse through web to figure out what's interesting.

This implies that likes and shares on facebook carry more value, traffic than a link on blogroll (Except for Google PR purposes). My observation says that people landing at this blog from someone else's blog roll or people clicking on blog roll section of this blog is very low a number.

Lot of blogs in my blogroll were inactive. Blog roll also eats up lots of real estate, delays page loading. Most of the modern templates, if you've noticed, do not really focus on blog rolls, but only social media links/sharing utilities.

All these has forced me to re-look at blog roll arrangement. I have removed it from sidebar to a separate page. But this is only to solicit ideas

What are your thoughts?
  • Do you feel blogrolls are still relevant?
  • Do you see lots of value in blog roll or do you prefer people liking and sharing on social network instead?
  • Are you getting traffic from blog rolls on which you're listed or do your readers navigate away by clicking on blog rolls?
  • If your blog was listed in my blogroll and if I move it to a page, is that fine with you or you prefer it to be there on the sidebar? 
Other similar topics: Is blogging still relevant? *

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Smiling Ostriches in Berlin zoo

Don't have much text, just sharing few photos of Ostrich birds, clicked in Berlin zoo area. They seemed to be very happy and smiling, lazing around and smiling at the visitors. 

 I waited for several minutes hoping that it may open its mouth, but it didn't.
Also see- Red Ibis at Berlin Zoo * Penguins * Zeebras *

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Counting millions- site stats

Million is a magical number.

According to site meter tracker which tracks the visits to this blog, my blog has recently crossed 1 million visits and 2 million page views, since the code was installed inside the blog, which was several months after the blog was created.

While I celebrate the milestone, I thank each one of you for your support and encouragement over past several years, which has ensured that I'd never loose focus from blogging and kept writing despite of work load, laziness or other distractions.

However, the average visitor count has come down drastically. Once upon a time, it was hovering around 700 visitors and 1000 page views per day, now down to 300 level. I attribute this fall mainly to people spending more and more time on facebook & twitter and probably information overload on the net.
Other recent achievements:

#9th top travel blogger in India honor
Happy to inform you that portal has recognized my blog as one of the top travel blogs in India. I was ranked at #9 out of 41 travel blogs. Fellow blogger, Mridula Dwivedi gets the crown title honor of being ranked at #1

Many other well known fellow bloggers have been featured in the list and it feels like a family.

Few months earlier had ranked my blog among top 5 travel blogs in India for 2013. [Details here].

Navilaadavaru Kannada movie by Giriraj, now on Youtube

Navilaadavaru is an interesting Kannada movie, made within a very low budget of Rs 35000. This movie was made few years ago by one of my former classmate and friend BM Giriraj. Back then he was an upcoming director and took it as a challenge to make his own movie with very limited funding he had. Reportedly entire movie is made using still camera. To read more about what went into the making of the movie, read this former Bangalore Mirror article.

Making the movie is not the end of it. Distributing it and making it come on screen in theater was another challenge. It required the team to be part of producer's guild and other formalities which would cost more than the cost of the film itself. Because of these hurdles, Navilaadavaru couldn't go public and was telecasted only through private screenings. As I live in Chennai, I couldn't make it to any of the screenings so far, due to one reason or the other.

Finally the movie has been uploaded to youtube, in 4 parts and I managed to watch it today.

Sharing the videos below, so that you can enjoy the movie too. Navilaadavaru is a story about terrorism and how young minds get influenced into it.

Navilaadavaru- Kannada Movie on youtube- Part 1

Navilaadavaru- Kannada Movie on youtube- Part 2

Navilaadavaru- Kannada Movie on youtube-Part 3

Navilaadavaru- Kannada Movie on youtube-Part 4

Directed By: Giriraj B M
Music : Ashley-Abhilash
Editor: K M Prakash
Lead Actress Sakina's voice has been donated by Supreetha Bhat
Duration: 75 mins

While you enjoy above movie, Director BM Giriraj's next movie, Jatta is all set to get released, I wish him and his movie all the success. You can connect with him here  Another good review of the movie, with newspaper articles related to it can be found here

Sponsored video- In a football dreamland

This is a sponsored post, but all thoughts are my own and links are nofollowed.

Football is an interesting game and Barcelona in Spain is a nice city. For a moment let us assume that Barcelona is an island, an island full of football stadiums, teams and of course, football players and fans. With exclusive and tempting deals from Qatar Airways to fly in, enjoy the game and come back, it is an opportunity not to be missed.

What would you do if you had an opportunity to spend few weeks in such an island?

The fictitious island will be in the shape similar to that of FCB’s Badge. Visa on arrival is a great thing to have and if you can convince the immigration official that you’re a football fan, Visa on Arrival for you! And it is a bonus when immigration desk is occasionally manned by legendary football players.

Once into the island, my immediate objective will be to pick up some cool football merchandise- T shirts, jerseys, caps, shoes and so on. They are available in the land of FCB, at cheapest rates in the world, probably supplied from Tirupur, India.

That done, a city tour of land of FCB would help me understand its geography and location well- where stadiums are located, the beaches and so on. In all probability I would bump into several likeminded folks and make lots of new friends.

FCB has over 44 million fans on facebook and 10 million+ on twitter. I am sure most of them would be in the island cheering their players and enjoying the game. I would try getting in touch with some of the players and request for an interview, so that my readers can get to know about the player and the game much better, from the mouth of the legends.  I understand it will be tough for players to entertain every fan’s wish list, but I am sure they’re very accommodative.

What is the point flying into a football island if there’s no match watching involved? I would not miss a single match during my stay. Exploring legendary stadiums, such as  Camp Nou, when it is empty is an experience on its own. I would love taking a helicopter shot if possible. The umpteen number of coloured empty seats make for brilliant photograph and so is the scene of thousands of fans cheering from those seats when a match is in progress.

Situation permitting, I might as well form a group with fellow fans and play a game or two near the beach. All in all, a life time experience worth cherishing.

Recently I learnt that Qatar Airways has taken up sponsorship of Barcelona Football Club (FCB). Together, they make one great team that unites the world. Below:  A photo I had clicked during my Qatar Airways flight from Copenhagen to Doha last month 
This post has been sponsored by Qatar Airways, but all thoughts are my own, including the last photo used 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Zeebras at Berlin Zoological Garden

Zeebras at Berlin Zoo

These striped animals were lazing around in considerable numbers in Berlin zoo, in large open areas

Notice the large open areas- If they're serious, they can easily jump the namesake barricade. But they won't and nor do people dare to go closer
Another thing to be noted was a house like structure found in the premise of every animal. It looked as if they're given a house of their own. May be they are trained to go inside and rest if it rains. You can see the grass (their food) near the house. I couldn't go inside and check if it had bedroom, bathroom and other facilities. It sure seem to have a balcony!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hanging streetlights and signals in Copenhagen

While we're familiar with electric poles or signal poles, many cities in Europe adopt a hanging model for street lights and signal lights.

A bunch of wires (about 5 of them, including one conducting electricity), tied to nearby buildings hold the lamp in its position. There's no need to erect electric poles by the roadside and that saves lot of road space. Also avoids risk of some drunk driver ramming his car to the lamp post.
A street lamp hanging from wires in middle of the road
The street lamp shown above costs DKK 1800 or close to 20k INR. Below image helps get a bigger picture of how wires hold street lamps and signal posts in position

Above: A building  & street near Copenhagen Central, notice the hanging signal and street lights
Below: Closeup of hanging Signal. Looks easily detachable.
All building owners provide hooks from their walls to which these ropes can be fixed. I was thinking how foolproof and safe this mechanism is. It looks like they are. Since there're 4-5 wires, it is unlikely that all of them would snap at once. Even if one or two fail, remaining 3-4 would be able to hold the lamp in its position, till it is fixed.

What if the live wire carrying current to the lamp/signal snaps? Probably they have an auto cut off mechanism to prevent mishap. Couldn't locate any news of accidents caused by streetlights, so probably the system is fail safe.

Another thought to ponder was that will these survive heavy winds? Their design being round, offer much less resistance to wind.

Neighboring Malmo also has hanging streetlights, but I found it less common compared to Copenhagen

However, in Berlin we didn't find any hanging signals or streetlights. Berlin seem to use traditional lamp post based lights

 Now with above streets as reference, the messy street of Thailand look hopeless, with India being no better.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Penguin at Berlin Zoo

I hadn't seen a Penguin live so far and wasn't expecting to see one in Europe. However, being able to see one in Berlin zoo was a surprise.

Two photos below for you. Note the id tag pinned to its fin.

The area where I found it was pretty normal, not the icy location which is normal habitat for Penguins. Also this one had a pinkish neck, not the yellow ones we're familiar with

I was tempted to pat them, but resisted the temptation.

Also see: Red Ibis at Berlin Zoo

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Book Review- Never Mind Yaar by Mathur K

Never Mind Yaar is a ficton that covers college life, Mumbai and of course young romance.

Story revolves around the life of 3 girls and a boy who've joined Mumbai's prestigious college, Gyan Shakti. The 3 girls, namely Binaifer Desai, Lauella D'Costa and Shalini Dayal, from different backgrounds (Parsi, Christian and Hindu), become friends on day 1 of the college and continue to be so till the end. Within few days Shalini seemed to developed likings for a guy named Bhagu in their class and the other two girls take as their life's mission to unite these 2 (Shalini and Bhagu).

Bhagu's character begins as normal but soon turns heroic. He is hailed for his debating skills, and his courage to take on the canteen wala chacha, who's been making money compromising on quality and quantity of food served. Chacha is apparently leader of a slum and was mixing water to milk and cold drinks to make more money. Bhagu's signature campaign against the canteen's poor state of affairs gets him beaten by Goondas, but post recovery, makes him a hero.

Meanwhile Bhagu's love affair with Shalini continues. Shalini's grand mother in Jaipur has found her a perfect match and no one dares oppose the granny. Shalini prefers to elope with Bhagu and get married, since her parents and grand ma would not even consider a poor jobless student as a groom over other rich prospects they have shortlisted, but Bhagu wishes to get introduced to the family and marry her with the blessings of her parents. Their secret love affair is not yet known to family members and their disconnect on the way forward creates a gap. Bhagu gets fully involved with a upcoming political party and has less and less time to worry about marriage.

Story happens in 1990s and adopts the then real life events like Mumbai serial blasts, communal riots nicely.

Author explains in clear details, the mind set of young minds, dilemma over crucial decisions like love and wedding and so on.

The most interesting part of the book is in the end. Did Shalini and Bhagu escape and marry? Was Shalini forced to forget Bhagu and marry someone else or did some magic happen to unite them? Do read the book to find out, because my revealing the end would spoil all the fun.

Never Mind Yaar is written by K Mathur, a New Zealand based author K. Mathur. This being her first book, it is a very good attempt with nice narratives, detailing and characterization. Apart from the story, getting to know some debating tips & styles is a bonus.

Another thing to be noted about the book is that many of author's friends seemed to have pitched in to help. Cover design and other art work seems to have helping hands of friends.

However, I couldn't find enough justification to the title. Author says 'Never Mind Yaar' is an attitude. However, in the story, students did revolt against the pathetic canteen, Bhagu & Shalini did contiune with their romance till the very end, they do deal with other challenges.

  • Title: Never Mind Yaar
  • Author: K Mathur
  • Publishers: Southpac
  • Genre: Fiction
  • ISBN 978-0-473-17480-4
  • Pages: 220
  • MRP:  Rs 350 (my review copy had no price information, but quoted Rs 350+ shipping)
Know more about the book at

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Other book reviews:
Chakra * When the signal turns Red * She's a jolly good fellow Fate, Fraud and Friday Wedding *  I am Number 4 *  It happened in India * Raga Chintamani * 2 States by Chetan Bhagat* Not a penny more, not a penny less * Zero percentile -Neeraj Chibba* Colours of life by Ravi Sidula * The 3 mistakes of my life by CB * Bala Takes the Plunge-Melvin Durai * The Incredible Banker * Songbird on my shoulder * 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Skywatch Friday-Berlin sky

Few more skywatch clicks
A sky-scrapper in Berlin
 Sky at Holocaust Memorial
View from the top of Victory Column
 Sunrise pics from the bus on a highway

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: Budget Hotel Messe, Berlin, Germany

Hotel Messe was the first accommodation we spotted after getting down from the Bus at Berlin ZOB am Funkturm. We'd no prior reservations and were hopping that hotels or hostels will have a room available for us. It wasn't going to be.

We reached there at 6.45 AM and asked hotel staff, if they have a room available and what is the rent. We were promptly shown a display which says office timing is 7.30 AM to 10 PM. None of our questions were entertained and we had to come back empty handed.

We went there in the evening, after failing to find a place in any hotels/hostels in the central Berlin area. This time we were offered a room, A 3 bed one, the last one available, for 60 Euros. We didn't have too many choices at that stage, so we took it. (The cheapest hostels cost 20 Euros per person onwards, so 60 Euros for 2 people wasn't a too expensive deal)

The room was large and decent. Bathrooms were OK. From our window we could see Berlin International Convention Centre (ICC). This is like Chennai Trade Centre or Pragathi Maidan New Delhi- all major events like exhibitions would happen here. Hence the area itself is known as Messe and the hotels and railway stations are also named same way.

Messe in German means fair. (Hannover Messe or Hannover Fair is world famous).  This hotel is located in the outskirts of Berlin town, closer to International Convention centre, hence the name Messe.

Below: Left: Bathroom, right: view from our room- Berlin ICC and a signal tower.
Hotel provides free wi-fi. The previous evening we were told breakfast is not included in our rates, how ever next day we were allowed to have breakfast- little bread and juice is what we could eat among various items.

Hotel offers basic accommodation and they accept card. We were fairly tired and slept well. A train station in neighborhood didn't really cause any trouble (or we didn't notice it)

Below: Berlin International Convention Centre

Messe Nord ICC train station is walkable from the hotel. From here, we can go to Berlin central or other places by train. Even Berlin Zoo and tiergarden are closer (though we took a longer path). Interstate highway also is close by and so is inter city bus stand.

Within walkable distance from the hotel is a nice park. Good place for early morning walk.

Ibis hotel is another option nearby, but is on the expensive side. A few hostels and other options do exist, if you can manage to explore on your own.

No complaints and I would recommend this hotel, if you're arriving in Berlin by Bus or want a peaceful place and don't mind staying a bit far from city centre. If there're any major events happening, the hotel is likely to be running full.

Similar- Copenhagen-Berlin by Bus * Yellow Trams of Berlin * Berlin TV Tower

Yellow Trams in Berlin and Indira Gandhi street

On our second day in Berlin, we had little time to spare and no specific destination in mind. We decided to try a ride the the tram.

The bright yellow coloured trams look brilliant and we got into a tram from Alexandra Plaza, with no specific destination in mind. Our 19 Euro 2 day ticket covered all these rides.

We eventually got down at a place called Indira Gandhi Strabe (Indira Gandhi Street). It was a surprise, as I wasn't expecting this. I got down at this station and explored a bit around, but couldn't find any specific mention of India or Indira Gandhi.

Later, read in Wikipedia that this road used to be called Lichtenberger Way and in 1983, during the visit of then Indian Prime Minister, Mrs India Gandhi, drove through this read in an open vehicle and pressed for more economic co-operation between India and Germany. The road was renamed in her name, post her visit, sometime in November 1985. No other memorials or remembrance of that exists, even few buildings I saw displayed some other name.
After spending few minutes at Indira Gandhi street, we took a tram back to Alexandra Plaza. It looked like residential suburbes without any specific attractions
Also see; Berlin TV Tower * Copenhagen-Berlin in Bus * Belleuve Presidential Palace * Trams in Kolkata

Book Review: Chakra-Chronicles of the witch way by Ritu Lalit

This post is about the recent book I finished reading, titled Chakra- Chronicles of witch way, written by Ritu Lalit.

This book is a fiction based on the idea of witchcraft and the likes. If you like Harry potter or books like Tantra  by Adi, you'll like this book

Key Information:
Title: Chakra- Chronicles of witch way
Autor: Ritu Lalit
Pages: 319
Publisher: Author's Empire Publications, Delhi
MRP: Rs 245.

Story revolves around the concept of supernatural powers, and struggle to maintain peace and control among communities having these supernatural powers. Japas and Japnis are believed to be one such key community, living normally among other citizens, trying to live in peace, but series of events force them to go back to their witchy ways, due to enemies who can't be handled in normal way.

Book begins with a Japa guru sensing trouble, beginning a homa (fire ritual) in the presence of other leaders and the ritual accidentally triggering a fight among participants, after a heated argument and distrust. It wasn't clear which era the story happens- like few centuries in the past or future. But the mention of cars and guns and phone confirmed that story is happening in current times.

Then the story shifts to Delhi, couple of school kids playing a prank of Donkey ride and a series of events unfolding after that.

Parineeta (or Nita) is the key character. She has chosen not to use her witchy skills and is living a normal life running a detective agency for a living and takes care of two kids, her brother's children, after his brother and his wife were killed in suspicious manner. Series of events unfold to make her aware of the danger posed to her and her loved ones and the only way to fight back and save the life of hers and her loved ones is to go back to her roots- use the techniques and strengths of supernatural powers. Their enemies are no idiots, who're trying to gain control by killing anyone who's a possible threat to their supremacy. Nita and her nieces are clearly on their target list. With disappearance of Roma, Deep and Sami, their holiday plans at Nainital is put to rest and a series of discoveries and adventure unfolds. Jorawar and Sikka are the other key Japs guiding and helping Nita in the fight. briefing her on her past, the current intel on Japs and their enemies and providing logistics support.

The novel takes us all over North India- Delhi, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Mumbai, Odissa and so on

The book uses lots of new terms- Bhoomers, Kundalini, Chakra, Pax, Pallavs, Manan, Varunis etc. These are explained on their first occurrence and readers need to memorize them in order to grasp full sense of the story, as the novel unfolds. If you're regular reader of similar stories, it may be easier to you. Adding these key terms as an appendix at the end would have helped some readers.

I couldn't understand the logic of Mickey saying he's saved up an amount of Rs 3,41,00,000. Anyways, that doesn't harm the story. In the end the good wins over evil and peace is restored. To know how, read the novel.

Overall book makes an interesting read if you like this genre. Ritu Lalit has given us a well woven novel taking care of several intricate details on the subject. Once begun, it is difficult for readers to keep the book away unfinished. Definitely a sequel material.

You can stay connected with the novel and its author at its facebook page

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thattekere lake on Banngerghatta Road, Bengaluru

Short break from series of Europe posts.

As we were scanning for places to visit around Bangalore, we came across Thattekere.

Thatte means plate in Kannada. May be the lake got its name from its shape, which was near round.

Thattekere is a small lake on the outskirts of Bangalore, on Bannerghatta road, some 38 kms from city. Thattekere has a big lake, few watch towers, a temple and lots of birds.

We visited there fairly early in the morning on a Sunday morning in September, after exploring Bilikal Rangaswamy betta one more time. It was bad time to spot birds, due to cloudy skies. I couldn't manage any decent photo of birds, though we did spot many birds, large and small. The entrance to the area was closed for vehicles, so we explored the area on foot. Lots of electric fencing hinted at possibility of wild animals-mainly elephants.

Should visit this spot again, may be on a dry day. It is an ideal half day visit, can be an extension to Bannerghatta national park visit. There's a bus stop right in front of Thattekere entrance, so personal vehicle is not a must. No basic amenities or restaurants available anywhere nearby. There seems to be a forest department guesthouse here near the temple, which was a small building and had a vehicle in front of it- not sure if it is open to public

Monday, September 09, 2013

Oops missile fired accidentally from Danish warship (F352)

What you’re seeing in the picture is that of a Danish warship, code named F352 and full name HDMS Peder Skram. Once fully functional serving Danish Navy, F352 was decommissioned in 1990, after 25 years in service. Today it is retired and serves as a museum in Copenhagen, Denmark

The above introduction is not really exciting. The interesting part is below.

On September 6, 1982, the above mentioned ship, F352 was carrying live missiles, McDonnell Douglas made Harpoon missiles. And a missile went off just like that, cruised few kms in air, hit a row of empty (luckily) cottages in a island resort nearby. The cottages and several property in the area were  burnt to ashes. But no human beings died in the misfire. Ship also had few other missiles, but fortunately, they didn't follow the rogue missile and stayed put in their silos.

Next day morning country woke up to the news of their own warship firing a missile at them. Below is an image of newspaper report, 31 years ago, next day after the accident. Click to enlarge
Image sourced from Google News Repository

Since then, the ship F352 is nicknamed "Oops Ship" and the missile, "Oops Missile" (locally known as Hovsa Missil, Hovsa being danish equivalent of Oops!). A series of investigations couldn't really prove the exact cause and all accused were let off, with missile company paying a compensation to Danish govt.
I am trying to think what would have happened, if a similar incident were to ever happen in India..

Central intelligence: We warned state govt that missile would go off
State intelligence: We never received any specific information.. they didn’t tell us when and where it will go off
Central Govt: This is an opposition conspiracy to defame our government
Opposition: Prime minister and defense minister should resign to prevent these accidents in future
Defense minister: We don’t know why it went off. Terrorism can't be ruled out.
Home minister: This is a minor incident. More people die in Sivakasi (TN) every year in cracker related fire and accidents
Some idiot MP: Missiles are meant to go off… People should watch out and shouldn’t come in its way
Some other sidekick: From now on all missile remote controls should be given to 'Madam'  and only after her permission missiles should be fired
Prime Minister:  I am honest and I wasn't aware that missiles can go off

Also see: Other Copenhagen Posts