Archive for the 'r' Category

21
Sep
12

Commuting

Since buying the motorbike, I’ve been commuting on the thing for about a month now. Ever since I got the thing, and a while before, I’ve been reading up on everything I could do to it and how it works.Most online resources are brimming with people who take motorcycling as a hobby. They’re all about waving at other riders and have ridiculously spotless bikes. The resources were useful though, and I’ve figured out how to take the thing apart and mess around with it. And it still works!

I always thought people were overreacting when they moaned about the traffic here. I was so, so wrong. So wrong I could have been a woman walking out of a kitchen.

Other than the occasional glimmer of hope in the form of a bus driver waving you ahead or a car giving way, it’s full of people outright trying to murder you. Cars honking at you when you’re trying to maintain a following distance, people merging into you and the worst of the lot, random vehicles leaning on their horns the moment a light turns green. I mean, what do they hope to accomplish? Is everyone under the impression that the horn is some magical device that’s going to blast all the other cars out of your way and rain down naked women(or men) on your laps while you’re at it?

If it is, mine’s definitely not working right.

Other people actually look surprised when you’re considerate towards em. Pedestrians smile! I’m like, what? And oh God, the motorcyclists.

How does everyone do this? Do you just gradually give into the madness and join in it?

14
Apr
12

On Newspapers

You can't get a newspaper up there, but you _can_ get 3G.

I know I lead a fairly comfortable life. I mean, I’m not living out of a thatched hut somewhere in the hills, foraging for food. It’s not like I live in Kandy. For Sri Lanka, I know I lead an above average lifestyle in terms of creature comforts. Mostly in the form of how much technology I consume, like the internet and various gadgets. As such, I might have a very skewed view of how people expect their content delivered.

In the course of my average day, I come across plenty of newspapers, of all sorts. Top uses for them include:

  • Lying around in piles waiting for the bothal-kaaraya to come carry them off
  • Wrapping my lunch packets
  • Impromptu table-mat
  • I frequently use little strips to pad the extra space between the pump nozzle and the bicycle wheel’s valve

A long time ago I used to actually read the things. They carried the news, and cartoons. The news seemed to come from a different perspective on each paper, the cartoons were mostly the same. After a while I got used to getting my cartoons off the internet, so I just stopped reading the newspaper. Now, I just wonder why we waste a colossal amount of resources on publishing what is essentially an archaic form of communication. Sure, it gets you the news, but it reeks of slapping a jet engine in a horse drawn carriage.

So many wasted trees. The Sunday papers weigh in at about a kilo but most are half full of advertising supplements. It’s like you’re paying to see advertising. Personally, I just occasionally go over the local news websites, and stick to Twitter for the important stuff. Mostly because the local news sites are terrible, causing me palpitations to just look at them. Fair enough that most people wouldn’t know how to even use the internet, but come one, I know a lot of you internet dwellers still buy the thing.

In an ideal world, everyone would know how to get what they want through electronic means. No distributing piles of flattened tree-pulp around like it’s the year 200. No more gallons of ink used and discarded in the space of a day. You could probably have Holi every day and not use up as much dye as it takes to print the Daily Mirror each day.

Once the sinhalese/tamil newspapers figure out Unicode, and the people finally decide to embrace technology that’s been around for two decades now, maybe we’ll finally see the physical newspaper die off, and another little bit of Old Media disappear along with it.

Oh, and Happy New Year, to whoever celebrates it. Thanks for the sweet meats.

19
Jan
12

Telephone

I switched back to a Dialog connection in the middle of last year. Ever since I switched, I’ve been getting callers looking for a certain army captain. I even got a call from the ex-servicemen’s association asking if I was showing up for one of their dinners or something.

Over the new year, I got a bunch of texts wishing me(Captain [censored]), a happy new year, from (all kinds of people). There were even a message from some Major who was in the UK at the moment.

This still happens, occasionally. Someone calls, asks if I am not the esteemed captain, confirms my number, and hangs up after apologizing.

The story doesn’t quite end there, though. I also get calls for a “Mr. Jayasekera”. Or something. I once got three calls from the same number, a secretary, convinced that she had dialed the wrong number, kept calling and finding me on the other end. I politely told her “No, this isn’t he. Alright.”, “No, you just called me five seconds ago.” and “No. Yes. Me again. Sorry”. I could practically hear her blushing her way through it.

Then there are the calls from what sounds like a carpenter’s workshop. A voice asks for Mr. J, straining to be heard over the occasional burst of a power saw, timing sentences to make the hammer in the background fall into place where the silences would be.

I’d be interested in knowing how this number had such an illustrious journey through two owners. Maybe it’s some elaborate prank that someone’e pulling on me, the punchline of which is still being worked up to. Hmm.

08
Jan
12

I’m running out of titles

Seriously. How do you guys keep pushing out post after post topped with such great hits such as “Abans Massage Chair: A Review” and ” “(you know who you are)?

Just got back from Retractive, a concert of retro music(allegedly) at the Warehouse Project in Maradana. The warehouse project seems pretty interesting - http://www.warehouseproject.lk/. Copy sounds very hipster-ish but they seem to be doing some good work with the local kids. LEARN, a project to teach the local kids english and things is also run out of the warehouse, you can contact Ruwan from Beyondborders for more info or to volunteer. Or Mel from the warehouse project. I think.

But anyway,

The music was meh-ish. The artists were just… alright. I can’t complain since my musical abilities only extend as far as awkwardly tapping my feet in tune(hopefully) to the beat. It wasn’t particularly retro either, but again, I’m not complaining since it was the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls and Sting. If that’s retro, then I’m far older than I consider myself to be.

We left the premises around 9:30, meandered for a while and ended up playing foosball. An hour later I was in Pettah waiting for a bus again. Time was about 11pm, on a Saturday. Prime time for drunk dudes to do the four-legged walk home. After getting off the bus that brought me there, I passed behind a pair of old men sitting on the curb, wearing their sarongs in what I shall just call a “screw decency, and anyone who happens to walk in front of us” fashion. They were debating the pros and cons of walking home to where they live in Maharagama. I did not inquire about public transport and availability.

Past the CTB stand, and into the whatchamacallit road to see if there were any buses in there. The one leading to the Gunasinghepura stand and the gas works. I’ve never actually seen anything like a gas works in that area, though. Granted, in my mind a gas-works would be a giant steam-punk-esque structure billowing steam from various tubes and crevices.

Near the public toilets, off in the shadows I saw a bunch of young gentlemen who I can describe only as brown skin-heads. Nose rings, large tattoos, bugger-off face, sleeveless tshirts, shiny denims and more cigarettes than you can shake an excise duty officer at. A little past the brain trust, a young lady sidles up to me and asks “ayye, kohomada?” (or “how you doin’?”). I say “uh, hondai” (or, “eiiiiieeeeeiiiiii”), freeze for a bit and walk faster towards the buses, staring straight ahead.

Finally I spot a bus just pulling out of the gas-works area, a 1. Bus route no. 1 is the Colombo-Kandy bus, a matter of great pride to anyone living along the Kandy road. We have the number one bus! Probably the first bus route to exist! Take that, Highlevel road. We had buses when you were still whipping cows along the cobbled mess you called a highway. Probably.

So I get in and sit down. Eventually all the seats are taken, and the bus sets off. A dude starts singing some sinhalese song. I don’t know what. Sue me. Something about fair skin and “meeting you, my dear, where the flowers bloom”. Definite Retroactive material.  I get off the bus a few stops before my house, to grab dinner. Afterwards I look around for a three wheeler, see one parked nearby and head towards it. I ask the dude if he’s up for a fare. A voice from the back says, sleepily, “and who the hell are you?”. This is when I notice that there is someone sitting, or lying, in the back seat. The driver tells him to bugger off, shoos him away and tells me he’s sorry for the degenerates.

The starter handle hasn’t even dropped yet and the driver starts telling me about how drug addicts, like the one who was occupying his back seat earlier, are a terrible drain on society. He says they consume narcotics all day and wander around at night, demanding free transport. Apparently the few police officers he’s mentioned it to don’t do anything. “What families, children for those fellows”, says he, “all they do is steal anything they can get and buy more drugs. Am I supposed to do a 200 rupee fare for free? They are trying to dress us(or, ung apiwa andanda hadanawa)”. I go “huh” at the appropriate breaks in the speech. I hazarded a “yeah, totally” at one point but then he went “ah? ahhhh?” and I just went “uh, yeah”, and he continued with the local crime report.

Four minutes later I was unlocking the front door.

It’s just. Interesting living here.

I’ve gotten very self-conscious of what I put up here, all of a sudden. I feel like I’m being compared with all the bloggers who write well, and can’t help but feel a slight tinge of guilt, since I’m likely to feel like a slap to the face with a gym sock after reading some of the content out there, locally.

21
Nov
11

On Smartphones

I don’t have  a very long history with smartphones. Through most of my life I was either too impoverished to afford one or too disinterested in them to choose one over a conventional phone. When I got old enough to want a phone, I was in school and had no means of getting one. So I steadfastly maintained that I didn’t need one. Till my brother offered me the one he was using, which I greedily salivated at with the enthusiasm of cat in a washing machine clutching at a proffered limb.

After that(a Samsung X100), it was a string of regular phones till early this year when my Sony G705 was replaced by a Nokia E71, a real live smartphone. Although by then it was well past its prime and got paper balls thrown at it with accompaniments of “stop drooling on your lunch you senile old man!” by the other, more powerful smartphones.

It had an OS that could actually run full applications. I felt like I was creating world peace every time it synced with my Google account in the background. Symbian was old and creaking, but it was still an actual smartphone OS. It was a mini computer, complete with an accessible filesystem, applications and all the little things that made it feel like one. A mini computer from 2004, but still, a computer.

A few months ago I was thinking of getting a smartphone. I was hell-bent on Windows Phone, because it looked pretty and, I thought, wasn’t as restrictive as iOS. I got my hands on an iPod touch for work stuff. A few weeks later I was wondering what the definition of a smartphone was.

After learning that Windows Phone was just as restrictive, if not more so, than iOS, my dreams of mobile computing lay shattered, in ruins, in a pile next to my dreams of becoming a professional foot-model. The most important thing about these phones that I missed was file system access. How can you call a device smart if it can’t download and store a random file off the internet? Even my router gives me basic access to its folder structure. I mean, my old Sony Ericsson dumbphone let me see what was on my memory card. Windows and iOS, while very pretty, felt so very wrong. They do their thing very well, but that thing isn’t exactly full-featured computing. That thing could better be described as a thing that-

Anyway, a few weeks ago I got myself a Galaxy S. Running Android. Only a few months ago I would have balked at it as a badly hacked together linux window manager, but honestly, I’ve been enjoying it far more than I should be. It just feels right. It lets me do things like unmounting the cache partition and re-mounting it somewhere else with more space, and installing different kernels(after making a backup to a PC on the network, of course), just for the heck of it. Most of all, it feels like a computer.

I can see why a lot people would prefer other OS’s. They’re more phone/internet-device-thingy than full fledged computers, and they set the bar on what things should be designed like. But for myself, I prefer Android, with its frustrating UI issues and downright retarded battery life*. It’s not a phone’s fault batteries are evolving at the same pace as women’s collective ability to drive. It’s just a matter of time till they figure out a way to run phones off people’s fat. But then again, I don’t see a sudden upturn in the graph for female F1 drivers either(Though this might be a good thing). One can hope.

 

True story.

 

* Managing about a day’s use now but it’s hard to track with my current sleep cycles which fluctuate like a dog’s opinion of you when you step on his tail(whinewhine it hurts! I hate you whine grin lick lick wag tail, anyone?).

** Christmas is coming up!

*** Watched Mulan. For the first time. Totally crushing on a cartoon character.

12
Oct
11

Weddings in Sri Lanka

I just got back from a trip to the ancient city of Anuradhapura, home to many leftovers from ancient civilizations, sacred temples and mediocre chinese food. This has nothing to do with this post, but I just thought I’d get it out there. Expect a post about it on Sinhalayatravels, soon. It’s still in the atelier(*cough*cough*), but should be done soonish.

—————————

Weddings in Sri Lanka are insane. Actually, weddings anywhere are pretty insane. I was recently asked by a friend to come take some candid pics at his brother’s wedding (I’m not too sure why, since he’d just end up with a bunch of macro shots of the wedding car’s brand badge and some pictures of the sunset), and went over to take a look. This was a standard catholic wedding, in a church. By that I mean a bunch of people dressed in clothes more suited to the inside of the ice truck killer’s chariot than a church that turns into a convection oven in the daytime.

I don’t know why people do this to themselves. And they looked at me funny when I turned up in a shirt and slacks. Hey, be thankful I was wearing a shirt. There are between two and three million things that can be improved about weddings. A few:

First up, we have the whole wedding. Why do we have weddings, again? Specifically christian weddings with a priest and hours of standing around in a church. I don’t think God really cares if we hold a gigantic ceremony to get married. “Dear lord, here we are. We’re getting married.” is, essentially, the message. He will not smite your marriage and make your offspring have six eyes, alcohol addiction and a tail if you don’t detain people in a sauna for an hour. Neither will He benevolently smile upon your union and make sure your path is paved with rainbows, unicorns and floor tiles of angel’s feathers just because you rented out St. Peter’s Basilica for your special day.

And a generic sermon, of course. One can’t forget the sermon. A wedding connoisseur could probably predict every turn of topic the sermon will take, since it’s usually the same “Let us hope this couple stays together like this forever and ever and may they always remember that it takes [generic good qualities] to make a marriage work. Illness, divorce rates, society changing etc.”. The only thing missing is a sacrificial goat.

Just get a priest to do the paperwork or something. It could be condensed to be seated, walk down aisle, recite recite, sign sign, witness witness, ring ring, booyah. Stomped out in ten minutes. Then throw a limbo party. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine such perfection. Have it at the park, have it at the beach, have it on top of a mountain. Wherever. Dress for the occasion. You don’t want the Royal Wedding. Neither do the people attending. You don’t have to invite all fifty thousand relatives from all corners of the globe, because, well, it’s your wedding. You decide who you want to witness it, and I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be forced to memorize a bunch of names I’m not likely to use again for decades. At least for the simple fact that it takes less effort to plan the seating arrangements that way. You know nothing ensures a healthy marriage better than a seating plan that doesn’t eat up the pre-wedding preparations. Epic seating plans are the tops.

In Sri Lanka, you go to church for the wedding, sweat it out through the ceremony, go over to a hotel for the reception(thankfully air conditioned) and then have  a “homecoming” which usually happens a few days later, after the couple get back from their honeymoon. Would you want your family and friends congratulating you on a honeymoon well done? Imagine someone effectively patting you on the back and saying “Atta boy Somapala, hope you put your back into it!” when they shake your hand.

It’s hard to break tradition, and kids usually want to make their parents happy. So we have ridiculously large weddings which cost a lot more than they should. Some people actually take out loans for a wedding! It’s the grown up equivalent of borrowing money off your parents to ask a girl out, except the bank doesn’t forget about it after a while. We must. see. reason. This cannot continue.

Please, please make your weddings more pleasant for people attending.

18
Sep
11

The Private Bus: A Layman’s Guide

I’ve been taking the bus for a long time now. Over the years, you tend to pick up little things about bus etiquette and how not to get wet when it rains and you’re hanging off the foot-board. I thought I’d share some of the wisdom I’ve acquired.

Hailing a bus – Sri Lankan private buses come in many varieties. There are buses which seem to stop at every bus stop there is, and everywhere in between, and then there are buses which like to pretend all passengers can magically teleport themselves inside the bus if it passes near them. You have to aim for the middle-ground buses. These can be fairly easy to flag down, but if you’re by yourself,be prepared for a brisk sprint.

Entering a bus – Now, what is important is how fast that you are moving. If you and the bus are standing still, you sho- oh come on, we both know that’s never going to happen. So, assuming you’re jogging along the bus, try to equalize your velocities. Your chances of looking ridiculous are directly proportional to your relative velocity. And, well, your ability to leap gracefully. You need to judge the point when the bus is moving slowest. This will take a few tries. When you sense it, jump on. Choice of door depends on personal preference. Some prefer the front, some prefer… Nevermind.

Moving on,

Navigating the insides of a bus – Since you’re on a bus, I’m going to go and assume you’re given to flights of lunacy. We can’t have those on the bus. Only the conductor is allowed to do so. You get in, sit down, and shut up. If you don’t carry exact change, have a strange haircut or look at the conductor funny, be prepared to feel an effect equivalent to six mother-in-laws complaining about how you could never live up to their husbands and how you’re too impotent to know how to count change. Logic, logic cannot survive in such harsh climates.

Exiting a bus – This is an extremely important aspect of any bus journey. Many are the technical aspects of the perfect exit, one that takes a lifetime to refine, which, if you’re like most people and do not posses masochistic tendencies, you’ll want to avoid. But, you do wish to live long enough to outgrow the bus, so read carefully. If you are a) pregnant, b) have a heart condition or similar, c) are shorter than Himal, or d) sane, avoid exiting the bus while it is moving. Real life is not Speed. If you must, then head towards the exit closest to you. Avoid the front exit if you wish to disembark while the craft is turning, as you will have a quick meeting with the front wheel, and then drop in for a surprise visit to the deity or gatekeeper to paradise of your choice. If you lean that way. Otherwise you have the far less glamorous option of The End. Once you’ve positioned yourself on the bottom of the footboard, again, try to sense when the bus is at its slowest. Leap. Like a paratrooper, you must be prepared to land running, on your feet, soldier! Tripping up will cost you, at the least, your dignity.

If you’ve managed to complete all the above without bodily harm, congratulations. Give yourself a pat on the back. Then punch yourself in the face. Preparation for the next 154 you have to take.

—————

Additionally, the disparity between men and women on a bus is just odd. How often do you see women getting onto a moving bus, or exiting one? What gives, womenfolk? Ask your menfolk how to use the commenting system if you need assistance. Recipes are not welcome.

14
Sep
11

I’m alive, I’m alive

So,

I’m still alive and well, just in case you were wondering. Yes, you, reader. I’ve noticed the drop in hits. You think you can just not read this blog? Oh yeah? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! This blog will come knock down your front door, throw your cat in the pool, burn your library and mix up the labels on your carefully arranged dvd collection!

Hmph. Try not reading now, punk.

Anyway. How have you been? I’ve been good, thanks. I know, I know, I haven’t really updated much. But that’s hardly reason enough to not come visit any more, is it? But I digress. I’ve had yet another change in lifestyle recently. I quit work. I now work from home(kinda) and hence, am insanely bored a lot of the time due to not having co-workers to throw stationery at.

I am also missing my daily exercise routine of hanging on to overhead handlebars on buses. It was grueling. So I’ve decided do get a bicycle to ride around when it gets too stuffy at home. Plus I’m almost certain I can beat any of those kids who race down the lane in their shiny new bikes. In related news, I also plan to get myself a motorbike. I’m quite clueless as to what to look for in this regard, though. I’m more lost than a woman in, well, anywhere.

By far the best thing about working from home is that the dress code consists of whatever I’m wearing when I get out of bed. Speaking of clothing, I went to Dili’s recently, at Bambalapitiya. Surprisingly, they had just the type of jeans I was looking for, and it was cheap. I’d follow dili’s if they were on twitter. They also have quite nice salespeople.

Me: *wandering around while waiting around for cousin to get back from the fit-on room*
Attendant: “All of those are newly arrived, sir”
Me: “Heh, I haven’t been here in months so it all looks new to me”
Attendant: “No… Sir… I mean they’re the latest trends, in accordance with the season”
Me: “Ohhhhhh, okay… *awkwardly look away* *mumble* *mumble*”

So, other than people thinking I can tell the difference in styles of clothing more accurately than to within 30 years, I’m still me. Hopefully with more time to read all your posts and things and grace your posts with my valuable comments.

Edit: Dilly’s. I’m stupid.

14
Jul
11

Online Transactions in Sri Lanka

Last week or so, I felt like going to see X-Men: First Class. Straightforward enough goal, yes? One that many before me, and many after me, will think up and act on. Where it gets tricky is when I decided to get the tickets online because getting them by physically standing in line was next to impossible what with the movie attracting more people than a petrol dansala which also served betel leaves. E-commerce is supposed to make things easier for people, right? Apparently someone forgot to tell local businesses that you’re not supposed to make the customer want to tear his hair out, knit a rope with it and strangle whoever made the site.

Since I’m too scared of real credit cards, my (soon to be ex) bank of choice offered a web-card. It’s a kind of debit card that can be used for online transactions. I needed to get some money into this so that I could book the tickets using the card, from the EAP website. This involves me using Sampath Bank’s “Sampathnet”, a service best described as a fruit cake, aged a few decades so that a metal spear couldn’t penetrate it.

Sampathnet makes you reset your password every 70 days. Now this is a good thing, as it makes your account more secure. They also have a log-on password, and an additional transaction password. This too, is fine with me. Of course, forgetting the transaction password after changing it twice is not okay. So I looked around for a “Forgot Password” button so that I could quickly reset it and be on my way to transfer money into the card, and use said card to buy tickets.

Apparently there is no system to reset your password and have it mailed to you. Oh well, I thought to myself. They must take our security very seriously. So I called them up and asked how I could go about changing my password. Apparently I have to download a form, fill it out, and deliver the form to the nearest brick and mortar branch. That’s a little extreme, I thought, as I asked him how long it would to process.

I was given a glimmer of hope when the rep said that I could tell the bank to mark it as “urgent” if I needed it quickly. On further inquiry, I discovered the bank’s idea of urgent isn’t quite the same as that of, you know, the english language. If Sampath Bank threw a party, the definition of “urgent” would be a potted plant in the corner which everyone was throwing up into.

After telling him that two weeks was quite a long time to re-set a password, I am told that there was a backlog of requests to change passwords and that they were working through it. I don’t understand. I just…

What kind of set up do they have exactly? Is it one dude curating a room full of abacuses(abacii?)? Maybe a kid had come through and thrown all the ones marked “Passwords” into random sequences. I just don’t get what’s so hard about changing passwords for a bank. If it was Moses re-writing the Ten Commandments, sure, it’d take a while to re-write data, get approval from superiors etc. A bank is supposed to be more efficient.

*interlude*

So that evening, disgruntled, I use my brother’s credit card to buy tickets off the EAPmovies.com website. The site itself is pretty mundane, but looks functional. An inspection of the source would make anyone in the business of websites claw their eyes out, but I digress.

I try to register. The validation script wouldn’t let me. I try again. “Enter username and password”. I did. Still nothing. So I manually pull up firebug, and unlink the validation script on the page. I’m in!

Selecting a theatre, movie and number of tickets was not unpleasant. Then I got to the payment screen.

Ah, my old nemesis.

The first try got me a “Transaction failed” message and dumped me unceremoniously onto a 404 error on back on the eapmovies site. This was with an HSBC card, and their payment gateway was powered by HSBC. More gnashing of teeth. Much more.

I tried again, this time using a card from a different bank. Lo and behold, it worked. Finally, I was mailed the details of my tickets. Finally.

 

***

 

I don’t know how you guys have it, but I’m not too impressed by the efforts of local enterprises in making use of the internet. It’s a start, but it’s a start like an infant learning to crawl before walking. And crawling through the painstakingly built model railroads of its siblings and in the process mauling them.

 

29
Jun
11

Guess the Quote!

Good evening ladies and gentlemen!

In today’s show of Guess Who Said It, we offer up a little morsel of a quote sure to warm the cockles of your heart with laughter. It was uttered last saturday when we were standing by the railway tracks at Marine Drive, just enjoying the damp rocks and the salt spray coating everything.

Today’s quote:

I’ll show you my shrimp! *menacing hand gestures*

So, ladies and gentlemen, can you guess who? The suspects offered up are, in no particular order,

  • @himalkk
  • @himalkk
  • @himalkk
  • A nearby humpback whale boasting to its partner about how many sea-creatures it can filter
  • A door to door seafood salesman
  • @himalkk
Take your pick folks! One lucky winner will get the opportunity to spend an evening with the man(or whale) himself, the owner of the quote.





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