Sunday, December 30, 2007

How To: Prep Your Blog For Sponsored Posting !!

This post is part of the mini series about Sponsored Posts. The first post in this series was just an Introduction to sponsored posting. Now here are few things you need to work on, for prepping your blog for sponsored posting.

There are quite a few Paid Blogging Networks like PayPerPost, ReviewMe, SponsoredReviews, Blogsvertise, Blogitive, Smorty, BloggingAds etc. Each service has its own rules and criteria for membership, but there are a few common factors that will help you with all the paid to blog networks;

1. Blog Design- The paid to blog networks send out manual reviewers to inspect your site (not bots) before approval, so when a reviewer visits your site you need to make sure you have a good home page with a professional looking template. Also you need to take some time off to set up your sidebar, feeds, stat displays etc. to make the blog look complete. The trick is to fill up your blog with enough stuff like widgets, plugins etc and still manage to keep it presentable.

2. Post Count - The networks specify a minimum number of original posts you need to make before your blog can be approved, like PayPerPost requires you to have at least 20 original posts in the last 90 days, or a SponsoredReviews approval requires a minimum of 10 posts. A few networks also have a time factor, ie they might require a blog to be online for at least 3 months before it can be inducted. When you start working on these factors, just don't make junk posts hoping to make the cut quickly, that will actually spoil your chances. So just be more regular with posting, but don't force anything.

3. Create Original Content - If you are planning to increase your post count by posting articles copied from other blogs, you should understand that it is not going to work. The networks insist that the blog content should be original, they'll use services like Copyscape to detect copied content. Copyscape is a service that lets the user compare a particular site's content with the whole web and then displays pages with identical content, so there is no way you can get away with unoriginal content and moreover it is totally unethical to steal someone else's articles.

4. Page Rank - The big daddy of the web - Google assigns a rank to each site on a scale of 0-10, 10 being the best possible rank. The Page Rank is usually used as an index to determine the worthiness of a site or a blog, and generally if you have a higher page rank you can command a higher price for your work. The PR updates usually happen once in three months, the last update was around the last week of October 2007, so you've got all the time till the next update to improve your PR, so buck up .. And when it comes to improving PR, just two words - Get Backlinks !!

5. Alexa, Technorati Rankings - Alexa,Technorati have a huge index of blogs and work as a search engine for blogs, and the rankings you have on these services are also used as a measure of your blog's worthiness. These services aren't just blog indexes, like with Technorati you could vote for your favorite blogs, and similarly you could be favorited by others and the Technorati ranking depends on the number of votes you recieve. About Alexa, the index credits you with points for all traffic to your site on browsers with a Alexa Toolbar installed. The Alexa principle isn't really impartial, cos' readers of tech blogs are more likely to have Alexa Toolbar installed, so tech blogs have a edge in Alexa, but still the Alexa Rankings are considered by many networks. So you should try and work on both Technorati and Alexa rankings. More on this later ..

6. Traffic - Though i've put this last in my list, it is this factor that matters the most, all the other factors like PR, other rankings can be manipulated to an extent, but you can never fake up traffic. A blog's popularity is truly determined by the number of readers, or the number of people it can reach. There are a lot of ways you could do this, the best ( and the easiest ) way is through Social Bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Mixx, Sphinn, Delicious etc. But then the whole traffic factor can be summed up in one phrase - Content Is King !! So if you create quality content, you're assured real good traffic with very little effort.

The title might suggest i'm only discussing ways to prepare for sponsored postings, but even if you don't have any plans for sponsored posts on your blog anytime soon, you could use these suggestions work to improve your blog ( really?)


Saturday, December 29, 2007

So Close To Joining The Sponsored Posts Bandwagon

If you've been talking to me about my blogging plans in recent times, you must've surely heard me discuss Sponsored posting. And now i'm pretty close to starting sponsored posting on my blog. Read on ..

What are Sponsored Posts ?

Advertisers have found that the best way to advertise on the net is through blogs, when they place ads using ad networks like Adwords or Bidvertiser, the quality of visitors who enter their links cannot be monitored, and a major percentage of the visitors they get are just curious clickers, who will never even bother reading their content. But when the advertisers advertise through blogs, they are assured quality traffic. This is because the when the blog visitors hear about a offer from a blogger they know personally or whose work they read regularly they trust the offer. So these visitors are sure to browse your offers and even participate in deals they are interested in. But then as a blogger you should be careful about the offers you suggest to your readers. And so you just cannot post about absolutely crappy offers just cos' it pays you.

So in a nutshell, you get opportunities, or offers to blog about a particular service or a firm, and you get paid for the review post you write in your blog. The concept like i said is that your blog readers will follow the links and check out the advertiser's services, offers etc.

How much do they pay ?

As a newbie the posts you make won't earn you much. The payout usually starts from $5 and can go on till maybe $1000 for a single post, the money is sent to your Paypal account or some services even have the option of payment by Cheque, the payouts are usually prompt if you follow the rules of the services. And later as you climb the blogger ladder you could get paid insane amounts for your posts like i said. And the for the few people who say crap like 'earning money online is impossible, you'll only get fooled', you can always look away or don't even bother taking your head out from inside the donkey's ass, but i'll suggest you try and move out of the dark ages mindset that's still stuck on you. No offence !!

Tip: Try and start with PayPerPost, they give a start up opportunity worth $20 for blogs that are approved by their service. So with just your start up post about PPP you could earn $20.

How do you start making Sponsored Posts ?

You could go about announcing on the web along with your mail id, that you're open for Sponsored Posts, and then wait for offers at your inbox forever, but if you want offers real soon, you could go ahead and join services like PayPerPost, Smorty, Blogsvertise ReviewMe etc which will help you interact with advertisers.

Now getting accepted into these services is another thing, else anyone can start a blog and then start writing Sponsored Posts, right ? Yep, thats true, everyone can write sponsored posts, but you cannot start right away. You need to work on the blog for a few months to qualify for these services. These services select blogs on different criteria, which could be based on Page Rank, Alexa Ranking, Technorati Ranking, Traffic etc. So you need to work on improving these factors, which could take anything between 3 months and 1000000 years. My point is : if you really work hard with proper research, you could be ready for sponsored posts in 3 months, else you could be getting ready forever.

And by my estimates i'll be ready for Sponsored Posting by the next Page Rank Update. Which could be in another 2 months.

I'll try and post more about this later, i'm going to try and present all the information one would require to start Sponsored Posts. Or you could always look up for info yourself, that way you'll benefit more..


Ride To Thiruthani - Trip Log !!

Not much time has passed since our last ride to Pondy, remember me writing in that trip log that we might do another ride in the week ? But then the plans didn't go right, and we were really stuck cos' Baga and Kicha weren't ready for another ride so soon and the plan never really took off after that. But Vijay and Me decided to go ahead and ride out on our own. Now, we're really sorry for leaving out the rest of the gang on this ride, but then had we waited for more riders we surely would have screwed this up. Cos this was really planned last minute,infact we made this plan only a few hours before we actually started.

Now, to the ride log. Started off by 2, met up with Vivek at Hot Puffs, Taylor's Road - he was letting me borrow his cam for the day. Filled up fuel for 100 bucks and took the usual college route to reach the highway, we also needed to disconnect the speedometer cable, cos there was no way we could explain the extra 160 Kms that came up on the trip meter in a single day, BTW did i mention we were riding Vijay's Caliber. This was our first ride on the NH 205 (Chennai - Anantpur highway) and we were not sure about the kind of roads we could expect, crossed city limits after Thiruninravur, open roads - so we immediately started upping the revs, only to brake hard at the first corner - Damn, Cattle!! When we learnt the road was a National Highway, we naturally assumed it was a highway for automobiles, but only later did we realise the highway actually was for cows, goats, buffaloes and dogs in the area and in the little space that was left behind the vehicles had to squeeze in. Seriously, the road was so full of cattle, that we had to battle(rhyme?) our way through. I had to concentrate hard to dodge all the non-homo sapien traffic that i even forgot about other vehicles ( there wasn't any traffic really ), i was also trying to take corners hard, but i was largely unsuccessful cos everytime i took a corner there would usually be a buffalo herd in my path, if not that the road would be screwed up. Made our first stop, and started clicking away immediately, only later we found that we drained the batteries, so no cam for the most of the remaining part of the ride. Vijay started riding from here and i was more than happy to ride pillion, next stop was after 30 Kms at the college i studied (?) in the first semester - LCR Engineering College. We really needed to take some pics of this architectural marvel(trust me!), and then the 'Low Battery' warning came on, we knew we were screwed, no more pics for us. Thiruthani was only 20 Kms from here, reached the outskirts of the place in no time, but we had to find our way through the town to get to the temple.

The Roads,

The fcuking cattle traffic on the highway,

For those of you who do not know about the temple i'm talking about here, check this. We had to ride up a small hillock to reach the temple, then there was this sudden drop in temperature and the view from here was really awesome, we really missed our camera now. Went on to the temple, nothing much to say here. Just the usual stuff (crap?). Got out of the place in less than 10 mins. Decided to roll the bike down in neutral (i know this is really risky, but i was extra careful.. So chill). We ate at a hotel, also fueled up for 50 bucks. It was around 5pm when we started riding back to Chennai. Back to the highway(?).

The same corner in 3 different avatars,

Misc. Pics,

This time on the ride back the road seemed to have gotten better, Vijay says it was cos we had a target now - home, but i think it was the absence of cattle on the road. Kept the throttle pinned at 6k rpm all the time, we needed to ride hard to try and reach Chennai before if got really dark, cos' night riding on these highways would be a real pain. Made a stop after 30 Kms, it was Vijay's turn to ride now cos' it was getting pretty dark. He was getting used to the roads and was cornering real hard, also his night riding skills are way better than mine, so we were done with the remaining distance in no time. Got back into the city at 6.30,reached home by 7 pm. So in 5 hours we had ridden around 160 Kms, we spent 100 bucks each for fuel and food, pretty nice ride experience.

I'll be posting the pics later in the day,i should find a mini-USB cable first.

Speaking of USB's, i bought a 4 USB hub yesterday, paid 60 bucks for that, now i don't have to crawl behind my CPU everytime i need to connect a USB device. yay !!

P.S: Also check the trip log on Vijay's Blog.



Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated - 27/12/2007 !!

The political situation in Pakistan worsened even further with today's public assassination of former Prime minister of Pakistan and the PPP Party leader Benazir Bhutto, the unfortunate incident happened as she was leaving a election rally in Rawalpindi at around 6.00 PM local time. The actual details of today's incident are not known yet, but for now the reports suggest that she was shot at a close range with a AK-47 rifle, and later the attacker blew himself up. It is not clear whether the shots or the bomb blast caused the death of Bhutto. Also initial estimates suggest that the total number of dead maybe around 20. The whole incident can be seen as a serious security lapse as the attacker(s) was(were) able to get so close to Bhutto's vehicle with a rifle and a explosive vest, this after the previous attempt on her life on the day she returned to Pakistan on October 18th. More than 130 people were killed in that attack but Benazir managed to escape unhurt.

Pics from her last ever Political Rally in Rawalpindi; minutes before she was gunned down.

Image Courtesy: Getty Images & Telegraph

Now, there might be a lot of different views on her ideology and her political moves, but her intentions cannot be questioned by anyone. She was a crusader for the people of Pakistan in their fight against dictatorship and she was leading the opposition in their bid to dethrone Musharaff in the General elections. But, then there have been a lot of rumors about her secret coalition with Musharaff et. al, but still she at least gave the people the hope of a free Pakistan(though, only in her speeches ). The shocking way her life came to an end makes you think whether this is the end of all hope for Peace and Democracy in Pakistan. The whole country is in a state of turmoil, and her supporters are resorting to protests all over the country. Well, Musharaff declared a emergency in November when there was no justified need for it, not the situation in Pakistan surely warrants a Emergency status. Riots are breaking out in many parts of the country with the PPP party claiming that President Musharaff was behind the attack.

A pic of the blast.

Image Courtesy: Getty Images

With today's events the fate of the general elections slated for January 8th looks very bleak. It is mostly expected that the elections will be postponed till the present situation gets resolved or at least brought under control.

A few tidbits about Benazir Bhutto.

She was born in Karachi on 21st June 1953.

Bhutto was the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former president and prime minister of Pakistan, who was hanged in 1979 for the murder of a political opponent.

Her brother, Murtaza, was killed along with six others in a 1996 shootout with police at his home. Another brother, Shahnawaz, died mysteriously in France in 1985.

Benazir Bhutto earned degrees from Radcliffe College and Oxford University and received an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1989.

She is survived by her husband Asif Ali Zardari, two daughters and a son.

May her soul rest in peace ..


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dec 26 - Today is Boxing Day - So, How Many People Did You Knockout ?

Dec 26 is Boxing Day, it is celebrated in UK, Canada, NZ and Australia and a few other Commonwealth member countries. Now the first thought that springs up in anyone's mind when asked about the origins of the celebration would be that, it could be something related to boxing - the combat sport ( at least i thought so ). I then decided to look up the origins of the celebrations, and i was suprised to find it had nothing to do with fist-fights at all. Boxing was infact is a celebration related to Christmas.

Back in the middle ages, on the day after Christmas people gave out gifts to the poor or the lower classes in the society, Or the employers gave their employees presents for working for them through the year. And these presents are usually given out in boxes, hence the term ' Boxing Day'. Most countries declare a public holiday on Dec 26, and if Boxing Day happens to fall on a Sunday, the public holiday is observed on Monday, to make sure everyone gets a day off from work to spend time with the family.

Boxing Day in Sport.

The Boxing Day Test match begins on the 26th at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia, and the Australian Cricket team plays the National team touring Australia that summer. The first Boxing Day test was played in 1950 at the MCG, and ever since then the BDT has been an annual event, but between 1953-67 the BDT moved away from Melbourne, also at times the Australian team played on Boxing day in other nations. However in 1980 the MCG and the Australian team secured the rights to hold the BDT every year.

This summer in the 2007-08 season it is the Indian Cricket Team on tour playing under Anil Kumble, We know how the ACT has been on a roll for the last 7 years or so, and how they have been topping the ICC Test rankings, with a very comfortable lead, very few teams have been able to challenge them, forget defeating them. So India had to start with the aim of challenging them first, and then maybe could think about defeating the Australians, and they did just that today in the BDT.

At the end of the first day the after choosing to bat first the Australians are tottering at 337/9 riding on Kumble's 35th 5-wicket haul in tests( they still managed a pretty good run rate though). But still the job isn't done, the Indians have just created a opportunity, they need to work real hard for a win from here, cos' the Australians aren't going to give in so easily. But, India has its task cut out though, they have to play positive, sensible cricket for the next 4 days, that is 12 more sessions of play. They couldn't have asked for a better situation, a win here in the first test would boost the morale of the Indians for the rest of the series.

Trivia: The Australians have won every single Boxing Day match for the last 8 years, ie since 1999, and it was the Indians who started off this winning streak in 1999, so will it be them to end it ?

This series promises to provide awesome entertainment to all Cricket fans and been hyped to a huge level by both the Australian and Indian media, and the start has been well worthy of all the attention it has been getting. Too bad we don't get the match on TV because of the sic CAS, the govt. is robbing us fans of this treat.

Though if you have a fast Broadband connection, you can catch the action live on the net. Check this post on Vijay's blog for details about the live web streaming of the Ind-Aus match. For the unfortunate few like me, who do not have a sufficiently fast connection, there is always Cricinfo.



'Generic Host Process for Win32 Services' Error Fix

I installed Windows Xp Professional SP 2 on my PC today, and again encountered the Generic Host Process for Win32 Services error. Windows Xp with Sp2 leads to this error, and Microsoft themselves have released a hotfix for resolving this error. But the MS fix does not seem to work most of them time, so i was looking for other ways to resolve this. That is when i found this information, but i had to toil hard to get this fix, as it was hidden behind pages of crappy useless solutions.

I'm putting it up here in the hope that, it'll be useful to someone ..

When you encounter this error - Generic Host Processes for Win32 Services has encountered a problem and needs to close.

Here is the solution;

1. Go to Start/Run and enter regedit.exe to open the registry editor.

2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\NetBT\Parameters.

3. In the right-hand side, double-click on TransportBindName - delete the existing value and give it an empty value. That will close port 445.

4. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\OLE and change the value of EnableDCOM from Y to the value N - that will close port 135.

Now reboot the computer and the error will be history, i don't really the tech stuff behind this registry edit. But as far as i know this closes certain ports (port 445 and 135 ) which are not used by the PC and thus removes the error.



Monday, December 24, 2007

Successful Ride To Pondicherry - 23/12/2007

The title says 'successful' cos we've had one unsuccessful ride already. This infact was the second time we're riding to Pondicherry. Last time around there were only four of us, and its was the biggest turnaround experience for us. The rain was coming down hard in the morning, and just like true bikers we didn't let the rain deter us and decided to go ahead with the ride. And then the rain stopped altogether after we got out of chennai and the ride turned out to be one of the best rides ever. Only to be replaced by yesterday's ride. Read on...

Meanwhile, some pics from the previous ride - 21/6/2007

We were really excited about the ride after the wonderful time we had on the last one. And this time Vijay and Srikanth did not want to miss out so we were 6 riders in all, on three bikes - a Cbz, Libero and a Dio(Mine). We were really hesitant to take the Dio for the ride, but we were left with no other choice cos' of a few last minute drop outs, but in the end it turned out to be really good.

Started the day at 6 am, a lot earlier than we usually start - but it was well worth it, cos' surprisingly there was a dense fog cover at that time. Vijay and Srikanth came over on time and we were off to Kaks's place exactly at 6. The city roads with zero traffic the fog really got things going and we were even more excited. We wanted to get to the highway before the fog could clear up. Met up with others at Kaks's place and we were off by 6.45 and we were expecting the fog to clear up anytime now, and we lost all hopes of riding through the fog. But then mom nature had other plans, the fog waited for us till we filled fuel, had breakfast and then rode through the city traffic, and then when we finally got there it was there waiting for us with her arms outstretched andit looked as if the fog had become more intense. We're not used to seeing anything even remotely similar to this in Chennai, the visiblity was hardly 100m and we could feel the fog coming at us while we rode through it. The roads looked like they were out of a dream sequence in a Tamil movie . And we were enjoying every moment of it.

And mom nature decided to let us enjoy a little longer infact a lot longer than expected. The fog did not clear up even after 10 am, it was as if we had earned all the good climate after a taxing semester at college, and i guess the fog was nature's christmas present for us and all other Anna University students in chennai, i guess not , but it feels good to think of it that way. But then finally the fog lifted at around 10.30 and then sun came out to greet us, just imagine the sun comes out at 10.30 and it wasn't a rainy day. There aren't many days like this, and we were really lucky to pick one such day for our ride. We were cruising along at speeds of 60-65 Kmph, at that speed we could easily take our eyes off the road and enjoy the ride, thats one thing we don't get to do when we're tearing down the highway at 90 Kmph.

Reached pondy at around 11.45 am and went straight to the restaurant where we ate last time. We were in no mood to look around for other places to eat. Went over to the beach immediately after that, and had a nice time taking pics, throwing rocks into the sea ( the usual ), and then Sunil, my classmate from college came over with his bro to help us with the routes, initially we were planning to go boating. but then decided against it cos' we had to ride for another 10 kms to reach that place, and we weren't ready to spend a lot of money on boating crap. Decided to hit the nearby park and after a 30 min break we were all off on the ride back home.

Ripped our bikes to the hilt till the outskirts of pondy and we made the distance in good time, then it was fuel time. The fuel price in pondy was just 41 bucks, a whole 6.5 bucks cheaper than chennai. It felt really good to fill up at those prices. Started riding in formation at a steady 65 Kmph. Decided to go off road, so we just took a road and started following it, the road reduced to a mud track and then ended completely, it was beach sand after that, we weren't sure whether the scoot could make it, but then the Dio simply exceeded expectations and crossed the sand stretch without even a whimper.

Too bad we couldn't get the bikes to the shore, cos there were thorny bushes all around, we decided not to risk it, so we ditched the bikes and headed out to the beach. Had a lot of fun clicking pics (again), trying to get interesting pics, then i came up with the idea of writing my blog name on sand and taking a picture with it. But then i had little success cos' my blog has a really long winding name, but Baga,Vijay and Srikanth got great pics for their respective blogs. Started riding back towards Chennai, but not for long,we were stopped cos; the Tn CM's convoy was coming behind us, and they had to clear the road for the CM to pass. Damn wish i had such a wonderful life, thats the best anyone could ask for, the whole of ECR without a single traffic, after about 10 mins the convoy finally crossed us and we even tried to take a video of the passing convoy.

We then realised we just just opposite the Alamparai fort, so we decided to ride in 3 Kms to take a look at the 'Fort'. It was getting really late, but we decided to go ahead and just drop in, we don't do these rides everyday, right ? When we reached we saw no fort, but just a few ruins, we knew the fort was in ruins, but expected something a little better. Looked around for a while, took a few pics as evidence of us being there and we started off, by now it was really late and we had to get on our headlights, so we had to ride back 100 Kms to chennai on the ECR in the dark, this was something that we always wanted to avoid. The ECR isn't all that safe for night riding cos' staying on the road itself becomes difficult with the headlamp glare from the oncoming cars, the only respite was the reflective strips which really helped us find the road. After a few kms of hard spirited riding, we decided to slow down cos' it was getting too risky, and the last thing we wanted was a accident. Rode back all the way till chennai at a very sedate pace, it was 8.30 by the time we reached the outskirts of the city. Rode to Kaks's place to pick up the various stuff we had left there and we finally split at 9.30, 15 hours after meeting up at the same place. We had ridden over 350 Kms in those 15 hours. Reached home at 9.45 pm after dropping Vijay at his place.

Overall; it was one of the best rides ever for me, the fog in the morning and the night ride on the way back was really interesting. It was also a very safe ride, and had no reckless riding from anyone, we were really intent on keeping this ride accident free . The other guys who missed out on this ride have a lot of reason to repent, cos' the whole ride experience was just rocking. This was so much fun, that we decided to ride again this Thursday. Plans are still on, but look very promising as of now.

Thats pretty much all for now, hopefully i'll be posting another trip log in 2 more days.

Forgive me for the long narrative, i just wanted to archive every little part of the ride, and this is just the shortened version with a lot of details left out. No way i could sit and write a comprehensive log, it would take me a whole day and no one'll be reading it ever. So i guess this will more than do for now, i'll surely to make my trips logs brief in the future.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

22/12/2007 - Tidbits

Everything is finally planned and ready, our Pondy trip is on. Also there is something really special about tomorrow, the date Dec 23. Exactly one has has passed since my ride to Ooty-Bangalore starting on 23rd Dec 2006. That was my first biking trip, the first time i did more than 100 Kms on a bike, and straightaway it was a 1300 Km trip for me. I think every biking enthusiast will remember his first ride forever, and as a one year anniversary gift to myself i'm getting to ride to Pondy with my friends tomorrow.

I really hope the ride goes as planned without any hitches, we definitely don't want something like this to happen. I'll be posting a detailed trip log as soon as i get back tomorrow, and with my new found interest in blogging, i find the trip log part equally interesting as the ride . And we'll try to get some good quality pics this time around.

For now the plans are ;

Meetup at Karthik's place at 6.30 am.

Riders: Vijay, Balakrishnan, Krishna Prasad, Karthikeyan, Vamsi,Srikanth and Me

Rides: HH Cbz, Yamaha Libero, Honda Activa, Honda Dio

Angel, Srini and GSK had to drop out at the last moment due to various reasons, too bad they'll not be able to join us on this ride. Maybe next time around we'll have a bigger number on our ride.

Also tomorrow is the counting day in Gujarat, i wish i could stay at home and watch the drama unfold on TV. Poll results are always fun. I really wish NM would lose, but i know that is highly unlikely. And by the time we get back tomorrow the fate of Gujarat for the next 5 years will be known.

Also watched the movie ' Good Night and Good Luck' today. Pretty good.

Plot - The movie is set in the 1950's and follows the clash between a CBS reporter Edward.R.Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy over the Senator's anti-communalist actions, one of the very first incidences of media dissent against the government, it might be common right now for the news channels to take on the govt. but this story is about the guy who started it all. Pretty good movie. Starring David Strathairn and George Clooney. Worth watching ..


Friday, December 21, 2007

The Deadly East Coast Road - But, We Don't Really Have Much Choice..

Anyone who is into biking in Chennai would obviously know what the ECR is. For the uninitiated i'm talking about the East Coast Road which connects Chennai to Cuddalore through Pondicherry. This is 'the' place for any biker who wants to ride, cos' all the other highways out of Chennai the NH 45 (towards Tindivanam), NH 4 (towards Bangalore) and the NH 5 (towards Vijayawada) are just plain 4-laned motorways without any spirit whatsoever. But the ECR definitely has a certain magic feel, Now some stats; the road is 166 Km long in its first phase from Chennai to Cuddalore, and is a part of a larger road project, a proposed road along the coast upto Kanyakumari, a total distance of 737 Km from Chennai.

Now that the ECR is the most preferred choice for any Chennaite who wants to take a ride, this has increased traffic multi fold over the years, and the 2-laned road is not able to sustain the sudden spurt in traffic, as a result every year there is a increasing number of fatal accidents on the ECR. Even we were forced to learn the hard way, after this happened,but that incident has not kept us away from the ECR, but it has definitely made us more conscious of the risks involved in riding on the ECR, and on our rides after that, safety has been given the top priority.

Here are some reasons why i think the ECR has so many accidents every year,

1. The road is 2-laned and without a median, so vehicles use the opposite lane for overtaking and this isn't exactly safe even in daylight, and in the nights there is the glare from the oncoming vehicles which greatly reduce visiblity. Most accidents happen this way.

2. Drunk driving - The Chennai police are claiming to have greatly reduced the incidences of drunk driving on the ECR, but still a few offenders go undetected, also there are a lot of farmhouses along the beaches which host night parties, and with such a large number of people attending these parties, there is no way you can monitor them all. Also these road leads to Pondy, which is the booze hub of TN, but the checking on the TN-Pondy border is pretty intense, so that makes it a little better.

3. The ECR has very straight roads till a few kms after Mahabalipuram, after which the roads start getting twisty, now on these 2-laned roads that have a lot of blind spots around bends, riding on the opposite lane gets really dangerous, but no one hesitates to use the opposite lane for overtaking ever, even though know they're taking a great risk and also putting the oncoming vehicles in great danger.

4. The number of inexperienced riders on the ECR is on the rise, the driving test system for obtaining a license is a farce, so just about anybody can get a license these days, and almost everyone with a ride decides to take a ride down the ECR. But then riding on highways isn't anyway similar to riding inside the city, you need a different set of skills to ride on the highways, but no one realises this till the time they crash (even we were on this list, check this) and have to learn it the hard way(just like us).

5. There are a lot of small villages and fishing hamlets along the road, and a good highway is supposed to bypass these human settlements and provide a path around these small villages, or at least over bridges need to be built for minor traffic across the road. You'll always be surprised by a small bullock cart on the side of the road, or a moped darting across the road from nowhere, so you need to be on the watch all the time. And in the nights this gets even worse, though the reflector strips provide some relief to the vehicles, but you still will be shocked by a group of people deciding to cross the road right under your nose. Can't do anything about them really ..

But, even in spite of all this the number of vehicles using the ECR continue to rise, thats cos' as i said we people don't really have much choice.

And we're planning a ride to Pondicherry this Sunday, that prompted me to write this post now.

A few ride related links
Motorcycle Accident Prevention Tips
Motorcycle Group Riding Tips


21/12/2007 - Tidbits

This day is worth blogging about for two reasons, first i had a chance to use a I-phone for the first time ever ( it rocks !!) and after that had a small g2g with my school mates, caught up with each other after a long long time.

The I-phone was Vivek's, he had his phone shipped to him from a cousin in the US. And after so much delay the package finally arrived yesterday. So i went over with Vijay and Baga to take a look at the most hyped gadget of this year. It pretty much lived upto our expectations. Some points i want to make,

  • The I-phone looks slim but it actually is pretty heavy, a lot heavier than any other i've used ever.
  • The screen is bigger than i visualised and it looks real good ( the brightness is good, and the screen looks very rich ), again better than anything i've seen.
  • The internet experience is absolutely fab, the phone has a Safari browser, the wi-fi connection was pretty slow at his place, but the browsing experience was a lot better than i expected. ( even checked out how this blog looked on a I-phone, it was awesome).
  • The audio quality is pretty good, just like the I-pods, but the I-phone has a different 35mm jack, so you cannot use your other normal headphones.
  • The interface, camera, text entry were pretty ok, but i was expecting it to be even better than this.
Conclusion: This is surely 'the' gadget to own, i would go ahead and buy one right now esp. for its internet browsing experience, if only i had the money.. hmm..

But then there is a chance that i'll get to use the I-phone for a week, that is if India manages to at least draw the test series with Australia, i'll get to have the phone for 10 full days, a small bet between us, i really hope he'll honor the agreement if i manage to win.

Next up, the g2g - there were 8 of us in all; Vijay, Baga, Kaks, Kicha, Angel, Srini, Arvind and Me. Of this lot i'm meeting Srini and Arvind after a pretty long time, it was very nice catching up with them today. We met up at 5.30 at the new park opposite Thiru.Vi.Ka park, and had a real nice time. And then we also spoke a lot about our plans for the Sunday ride to pondy, everything is almost finalised, and around 10 of us will be riding to Pondy.this Sunday.

Had something to eat nearby, Baga wanted to go for some movie then, but no one was really intent on going for a night show, and we were saving up cash for the ride too, so we all went to Crescent park to just hang out there, we took turns are riding each other's bikes, lotsa discussion about nothing at all, the usual stuff. We finally split up at 7.45.

It was a pretty good day today, and hopefully the ride on Sunday will go without any problems, we don't want anything like this happening.

Thats pretty much all, signing off now ..



Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Take On Reservation !!

The purpose of this post is to archive my views on reservation. I've wanted to rant out about this for long, now finally i sit down and actually do it.I'm actually for reservation, which you might think is unusual as most students(generally) are found to be against reservation policies ,this is cos' i have a different definition for it.

Now by reservation i'm speaking about reservation everywhere, not just OBC reservation, women's reservation,Disabled reservation, ( or the rumoured reservation policy in my college - 100% reservation - Dumbfucks for the Lecturer jobs ) but the whole concept of setting aside a part of opportunity exclusively for a certain section of the society be it OBC or Women or whatever.

Now, the reason i think reservation is fine, is cos' according to me the whole purpose of reservation is to set right imbalances in the society ( whether the reservation policies help in reducing this imbalance is a topic for some other day ). No society has a equal share of power. So when all the constituents of a society are given the same treatment, the strong generally take advantage and make life difficult for the weak.When this strong - weak imbalance continues over a long period of time, the imbalance tends to settle down, and there is no way proper justice can be done to the weak through a normal course.

So, the actual intended purpose of reservation is to make sure no section of the society is trampled down, and denied the right to equal opportunity. So according to me we should have reservation for the underrepresented, and try and create a balance wherever there is an imbalance.

But the problem really is, we just have caste-based reservation or gender based reservation. Though both these are extremely important, cos' major imbalances are present only with these two - caste and gender. But the caste and gender based reservation policies are always hugely politicised, and in the process the actual purpose of the reservation itself is lost, these days caste based reservation policies are made to gain casteist votes and that sucks. So in theory reservation is supposed to do social justice to the weaker sections of the society, and i support that. Thats pretty much all, but all the present government policies are no way going to help in any way.

So in case you choose to support or oppose reservation you need to make your stand clear - you could either be someone who supports reservation, but is sick of the politics around it, or you could be totally against reservation.

Another argument the anti-reservation crowd bring up is - The reservation theory actually amplifies the notion of caste in a society, cos' it constantly reminds people about their caste. So we actually are reinforcing the idea of caste when we say we are trying to eliminate the caste discrimination system.

Sometime even after the imbalance between the two groups is actually removed, the government continues to have policies to support those who were weak earlier. This creates a reverse discrimination situation. So the government should have a proper setup in place to monitor the social situation and change reservation policies accordingly, and the policy making should be independent and vote bank advantages should not be considered, also we could chart out a action plan to phase out reservations by some time, cos with an end in sight, the policies will start being more efficient as they'll start working towards a goal instead of going on aimlessly.

More later ..

Also i guess we could use this place to discuss your views on reservation too . Please post a comment with your POV, and hopefully we can have a interesting and healthy exchange of ideas ..


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hitmen Of The Roads

It was a regular Monday morning, i was riding to college, and i was unusually well on time,so i decided to cruise at a very sedate 50 Kmph, with no major traffic ahead of me, i immediately knew it was one of my luckier days, and i nicely settled down expecting an uneventful ride to college as usual, but God had other plans. That was when i saw him, he was about 100 meters ahead and hadn't noticed me yet, but there was no way i could miss him, i didn't remember seeing him before today, so he was new.But I knew he was waiting for me, and by reflex i quickly scanned the road ahead looking for any detours i could take to possibly avoid him, but then today there was none, damn..

But then even if i had a chance to avoid this one, there would always be another guy waiting for me on another road,they seem to be everywhere these days and they have gotten pretty organized, it looks like I'm on top of their hit list and every single member of their clan is on a high priority mission to get me. So by avoiding him i was only delaying the inevitable.This time I decided to take my chances and have a go at him, though deep down in my heart i was wishing there would be some way out of all this, maybe i could negotiate a truce with their leader, i could even pay them off, maybe then they will stop bothering me.

But now coming back to the present, he was just 50 meters away now, and he still hadn't noticed me (or at least he was pretending to look in the other direction). Then he turned to look at me, now i could feel his cold eyes settling on me, i've never felt so naked ever and i knew he was going to get me this time. Damn, i must've gotten away whilst I had the chance. As i got closer i could notice a gleam in his eyes, but he did not look at me directly, so i guess he was very well trained for missions like these, the plan was timed to perfection and it suddenly occurred to me that his presence there on my regular route to college at the exact time could not be just a coincidence. Damn, how could I be so stupid to get suckered into something like this, I should have taken the day off, and I must've never left the house. Or i could've even risen in time to catch my college bus and escaped. Damn the bloody alarm.I could try explaining that it was the alarm's fault that i was riding to college, maybe then he would let me go.

Then i came to my senses, what was i thinking, there was no way i could talk my way out of this, the only chance for me to get out of this was by staying confident and use my riding skills to my advantage, i took a deep breath and held my line firmly and was prepared for the challenge, he was just 25 metres at this point, this time the gleam in his eyes was replaced by surprise and even a hint of fear, but i was not going to fall for his little trick now. I knew he was waiting there all along, so the surprise was all fake, and the fear - I'm sure the only one who is scared right now is Me. But he hadn't made his move yet, maybe my lucky charm was still working, maybe i was not the target this time around, It was the guy behind me, Wow !! That was close .. ****, that was the exact moment he made his move, when i was least expecting it, he jumped across and stopped in the middle of the road, i had rehearsed my reaction many times in my mind, I checked my rear view mirror to check for traffic behind me, and then i swerved to the left, but he jumped back on my line again, he wasn't going to make it easy for me, i jammed my brakes and this time leaned to the right and avoided him by inches, I had finally done it. I had gotten away from him, I had beaten him, i was free and more importantly I was alive. Now that i was past him there was no way he could get me, i took the chance to scream back at him " Not today ******** ! Today is my lucky day'. He still was trying his' i'm not part of that gang' act with me, he still acted as if i surprised him there, but i'm not going to fall for his trick, not now not ever.

Yep, if you didn't already realize, all this was about the random guy choosing to cross the road just below the nose of your bike, i'm sure all motorists have their share of experiences with him. These jaywalkers are every riders nightmare, but then we all have gotten used to these stuff, almost every single rider has gained the skill to dodge these guys in their daily commute. Life just goes on ...


Friday, December 14, 2007

Remakes Can Never Recreate The Magic Of The Original - Billa 2007

After all the hype Ajith's Billa finally released today. After watching the trailer, i was really expecting the movie to be real good. I had tickets for Saturday morning, but i couldn't wait till then, so i went ahead paid 100 bucks for a evening show today. But i was very disappointed with the movie, cos it totally sucked, at least according to me.

The only good part about the movie is Ajith, almost everything else is so out of place, however hard you try to ignore the flaws, you just can't get past them. The direction is so amateurish, Vishnuvardhan needs to watch a lot of other movies in the genre, before setting out to make big budget movies like this. I've never seen such stupid cops in any other movie till date. The bad guys escape from the cops at will, the cops always reach the spot where the gang deals are happening at the time of the exchange,but all they do is point their guns and watch, order the bad guys to surrender, and the bad guys always outrun the cops in the ensuing chase. Drug consignments are handed out in a attache case in the middle of a beach, weapons that would fit in a sack, are delivered in a huge container trailer, with the weapons mounted on the walls as if it were a exhibition of some sort. If the director had enough brains he would've understood that gangs no longer deal with a few packets of drugs, but they handle drug consignments in tonnes, and there are always better places to handover drugs than a beach or a warehouse. I could go on endlessly like this and point out so many other foolish goofs , but i guess this will suffice for now. This movie completely insults the viewers intelligence, and generally movies in this genre leave you bewildered with the fast pace and the slick thinking, atleast the few good movies i've watched, or at the bare minimum they manage to convince me.

One last dialogue from the movie (i couldn't resist)- after looking for evidence at the dead police chief's house, a officer takes his walkie talkie, and in a fake macho voice says ' Standby unit, lets go !' in the stupidest possible way. Now what does that fcuking mean, do they expect the audience to appreciate the english dialogues even if they mean shit ?

Also there is one other reason why this movie could be good - Nayantara. We see her in a heavily glamorized and sometimes to the extent of obscene avatar. I was told yesterday that there was not a single scene without Nayantara exposing her cleavage, but i counted two scenes where she actually covers up ( around 2 % of her total onscreen time ), even then it was cos' she was in a fencing suit and had no other choice,but if there was a fencing suit with a dropping neckline somewhere in the world, then i guess we would've seen her cleavage in that scene too(too bad they don't make fencing suits like that). We even get to see her in a bikini in a scene that was created just for her to show her tits, and the scene obviously has no relation to the movie whatsoever, i think the director intentionally decided to buy her clothes two sizes too small, and we all know how voluptuous she is, so we see a ample portion of her 'whatever' spilling out all the time.

It is so obvious that the movie is big budget, but all of it has been totally wasted with a sick screenplay and third rate direction. What is the point in all the grandeur when it makes no sense anyway. The director tries to make the movie look very chic and western, but just having skin show, south east asian extras, sleek black sedans,italian suits does not make a movie western.

And today i realised the reason Rajnikanth is liked so much by his fans, i would rate Rajni's Billa more than this movie, even with all the grandeur this movie just cannot hold your attention. While with the original Billa, though the movie is outdated, it still stands out for Rajni's performance, he manages to convince the audience with his acting and screen presence, which unfortunately is missing in Ajith's Billa.

So i guess the magic of the classics can never be recreated by the remakes, however good, modern the remakes turn out to be, the classic movies still rule.



Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cashback - Movie Opinion

First the facts, there are two films by this name, both directed by Sean Ellis, the first one was a 18 min short film and the next one a full feature length movie. The short film made in 2004 was nominated for the Academy Award in Live Action category in 2006, and the full length movie was released soon after that. The full length film contains the short film within its running time, So all that the director did was, just adding a Scene 1 and Scene 3 around the already filmed Scene 2 from his acclaimed short film.

The protagonist of this movie is Ben Willis - played by Sean Biggerstaff ( who is better known for playing Oliver Wood in the Harry Potter movies). Ben is a student at the art college, the movie starts off with his break up with his girl friend Suzie, after the breakup however Ben develops insomnia, and he discovers he has a additional 8 hours at his disposal each day. So he gets a night job at the local supermarket to earn some money while helping him take his mind off his breakup. Here we get to see how he manages time in his very own way. Ben imagines the world to be paused between seconds,like a movie in pause mode, and in those frozen moments he just admires the beauty of everything around him. He is also greatly inspired by the female body. His respect for the female body started at a very young age, from the time when a Swedish female boarder at his house found it very un-Swedish to cover her up when she walked back from the shower. Ever since then Ben is fascinated by the female body, however the admiration that he has is out of respect for the pure female self rather than just attraction. We get to see glimpses of his childhood, the flashback scenes are seamlessly integrated with the present, mostly the transition just happens with the camera simply panning across a room.

Ben starts using the women customers of the supermarket to help him improve his artistic skills. In those frozen moments he imagines himself undressing them and admiring their beauty. Also the supermarket is filled with many other colorful characters, like fellow salesmen Barry and Matt who have their own way of managing time in the workplace, by playing stupid pranks on co-workers and the customers. Here Ben meets Sharon Pintey the checkout girl (played by Emilia Fox), and falls for her. After which he starts living a pretty normal life. After which the story further takes a small twist, and the two get together in the end predictably.

The narrative is pretty slow throughout, and the camera work is pretty lazy. But it all adds up to the feel of the movie. In the end you'll find that you were not distracted or bored anytime in between, cos' usually such slow screenplay will never hold your attention for so long. The soundtrack adds value to the movie, the score is heavy compared to very little happening on-screen , this amplifies the mood of certain scenes. Overall the movie is quite good - nice cast, good acting, interesting characters and a soothing screenplay.

The film sure has a lot of nudity, here nudity is used to relate to beauty rather than to titillate the audience, the movie balances itself gently on the line between sensual, artistic and erotic.

But i would suggest that if you do watch this film, watch it without any expectations whatsoever. Cos' this is the kind of film that might appeal to each one differently. I could somehow relate to the characters and the story and hence i found this very interesting. But i can tell you this will certainly be better than so many other run-of-the-mill movies that we are exposed to.


Cashback on IMDb


Monday, December 3, 2007

Why Would Anyone Be So Foolish ?

There has been a flurry of scraps on my Orkut profile since yesterday evening. The text of all which are the same.


I really don't understand what is on the mind of those people who actually forward such messages to everyone on their list. Seriously are the out of their mind ? How could someone be so foolish and actually think this is for real ?

Are people so desperate to 'Save' their Orkut account ? Just a few seconds of using that teeny weeny brain of yours would tell you this is just spam.

First of all why would Orkut shutdown ? Orkut is owned by Google, right ? Would Google just pull down their social networking site just like that ? On the contrary, Orkut is trying to expand, sites like Facebook are doing far better, also there is a huge competition in the social networking niche. So there is no damn chance that Orkut will ever ever close down.

Also even if Orkut was deleting accounts of spammers why would they resort to something as foolish like sending chain scraps. So what if bots and spammers send this scrap around to retain their accounts ? It still wouldn't serve the purpose, right ? It is true that Orkut is facing a crunch because of the huge number of spammers and fake accounts, in fact the Orkut developers are working to prevent spammers. Some of you might have noticed that Orkut has recently removed the option of sending group messages to members of a community. Thats is how we remove spammers, not by sending chain scraps. Also asking members to pay 10$ per month for using Orkut, thats a joke. No sane person would pay 10 $ for that crap, there are other better sites, right ?

Its not just this particular spam that prompted me to write this post , there a lot of such other spams messages going around. All of which can be identified as spam the first time you notice it.

So before forwarding such scraps, maybe you should think for a sec, you'll be doing the web a world of good, also you could prevent embarrassing yourself.

You should also look up the disclaimer from Orkut.

Update - 12/12/2007: There is this new spam scrap surfacing, supposedly a response to the previous scrap.

If you are still able to access your account it means that your account is made permanent. Your response has been great. Thank you for your support. If you wish to keep your account free forward this to all your friends. If u dont send you will be asked to pay to use your account. The amount details are as follows
1 month - 10$
3 months - 25$
8 months - 50$
- Orkut Officials.

I got nothing to say about the text, just the spam content. But then look at how the spammer has made up the price details. So a 3 month plan saves you 5$ over a one month plan, and a 8 month plan, will save you 30$ ( wow!). Also i don't understand the logic behind a 8 month plan, i can understand why they offer monthly and quarterly plans, but why would they offer 8 month plans. Any explanations for that ? Anyone ?

And then just see who's signed the scrap - Orkut Officials . I guess this issue has gotten really serious, it has moved on from Diana - the saviour of Orkut accounts, to Orkut Officials. But thankfully even these new people incharge seem to be very helpful. See how they send a scrap around to save us our money.

Keep the good work going guys ! What would we all do without people like you.



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