Brea Bosworth

I first saw Kate Bosworth play a rather subdued Lois Lane in Superman Returns. She was a brunette in the movie, as Lois Lane ought to have been. So while the face registered, I couldn’t think of herself as anything other than a brunette.

A year later I started watching Heroes. The third season of Heroes introduced a character called Daphne Millbrook, played by a person called Brea Grant. Brea is blond in the series and her face seemed very familiar, though I couldn’t pinpoint who exactly she looked like.

Brea Grant, a.k.a. Daphne Millbrook in Heroes
Brea Grant, a.k.a. Daphne Millbrook in Heroes

Then I watched 21, the movie about counting cards at Blackjack. The character of Jill Taylor was again that familiar face. I figured that this was Brea Grant, albeit looking somewhat older. As the credits rolled, though, I realized the reason for the familiarity. This was Kate Bosworth in a blond avataar.

Kate Bosworth in 21
Kate Bosworth in 21

What do you think? Do they look similar?

The Extra Outlook

A somewhat techie article after a long time, prompted no doubt by my travails at my last client! Read on if:

  1. You are in consulting
  2. Your firm uses Microsoft Outlook
  3. Your client uses Microsoft Outlook
  4. You want to connect to two Exchange Server instances at the same time

Of course, you could read on even if none of the above applies to you.

The reasons why #4 is difficult in the above are:

  1. You attach an Exchange Server to a profile
  2. Only one Exchange Server can be attached to a profile
  3. Only one profile can be opened at one point of time in Microsoft Outlook

So only one inbox can be open at one time.

Luckily the solution for this is very simple and straightforward. And you have Hammer of God’s ExtraOutlook to thank for this. Here is what you will do:

  1. Download ExtraOutlook
  2. Extract the file from the Zip archive and either add the directory to your path or note the directory
  3. Let’s say that your Exchange Servers are attached to different profiles called “My Own Company”, “My First Client”, “My Second Client” and so on. For each client create a batch file (a file with an extension .bat) with the following content
    ExtraOutlook.exe "C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12OUTLOOK.EXE" /profile "My Own Company"
    Replace the part after /profile with the names of the profiles that you have. The above will work if the directory with ExtraOutlook is in your path. If it isn’t, create a batch file in the following manner:
    <Path to ExtraOutlook>ExtraOutlook.exe "C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12OUTLOOK.EXE" /profile "My Own Company"
    You will have one such batch file for each instance that you want to run.
  4. Close all open instances of Outlook
  5. Double click the batch file to launch whichever instance of Outlook you want to connect to.

You could use some variants of the above setup too. E.g. I haven’t created batch files for my default profile. That way if I launch Outlook by itself, I get connected to my company’s Exchange Server.

Good luck!

Paul Zoolander McCartney

Remember the laugh riot Zoolander? Remember how Derek Zoolander had those patented looks? Blue Steel, Ferrari, La Tigre and Magnum?

Derek Zoolander's La Tigre, essentially the same as Blue Steel, Ferrari and the revolutionary Magnum
Derek Zoolander's Blue Steel, essentially the same as Ferrari, La Tigre and the revolutionary Magnum

I caught this movie quite a few years after its release, so when Starbucks signed up Sir Paul McCartney, the look was still fresh in my mind. And here is what I spotted at a Starbucks outlet:

Sir Paul McCartney, looking suspiciously like Derek Zoolander
Sir Paul McCartney, looking suspiciously like Derek Zoolander

Everybody reminds somebody of someone else, but this resemblance was spooky. What do you think?

I am a Frying Pan

Back in the day when I was doing my technology baccalaureate (Okay, I am showing off – I mean BTech) there was a team among my batchmates that was working on developing a text to speech generator in 1998. The concept certainly sounded both good and novel, till I graduated and was introduced to BonziBUDDY in 2000. At that point my friends’ idea only felt good, not novel. Also fascinating were concepts like voice recognition software and speech processors, which essentially worked the opposite route.

The trouble with speech processors is that they have a fairly complex problem to solve. Even for a single language like English there are so many different pronunciations and accents that they can drive you crazy. I have already documented “schedule” being pronounced as “shedyule” and “skejyule”. In addition I learnt the hard way that the Brit / Indian pronunciation of geyser is actually offensive in the US. Firstly you are supposed to say “hot water spring”, and if you say “geyser” you are not supposed to pronounce it as “geezer”, but “guyzer”. Forget the difference in British and American pronunciations – each country where English is spoken you have multiple pronunciations and accents. Followers of cricket will chuckle at the recollection of Geoffrey Boycott, a staunch Brit saying rubbish (“roobish”), cricket (“crickit”) and wicket (“wickit”). And when you go to a country like India the pronunciations and accents can have you in splits. Just imagine a simple line, “Will you have some food?” being said by a stereotypical Bengali, South Indian and North Indian:

Bengali: Ooill you hab some phood?
South Indian: Vill you haoow some foodda?
North Indian: (Forget it – they would bypass English and ask you the same question in Hindi)

(Apologies if the above offends you, but I know of several people in each of the buckets above who speak in this manner)

Which is why I find it really amusing to see the ubiquity of automated voice based response systems provided by different companies. There are so many reasons why it is not a good idea to let loose a half-baked speech processing software on an unsuspecting audience that it makes you wonder about the people in charge. One of the funniest commercials highlighting this was an ad for a Kyocera phone:

Another is the more recent Mac vs. PC ad from Apple:

Some speech recognition software is heuristic in nature, however, and that helps improve the process. But whatever be the case, my luck with automated speech processing has been disastrous to say the least. Most of the time I end up hating an automated speech processing-based response system within 30 seconds of my encounter. Here are some snapshots from different telephone calls. A lot of these come down to the fact that I have a tough time doing the American accent sub-consciously and I avoid doing it consciously.

System: Please say what you would like to do?
Me: Talk to a representative
System: Okay, so you want to go to a mail order pharmacy. Is that correct?


I have a subscription for Vonage Visual Voicemail. It tries to transcribe a voice message to text and sends me an email. In some cases it butchers a message left by an American, but that is nothing compared to the hideous mockery that takes place with some messages left by Tanuka’s Indian friends. The messages are in English and have the sporadic Indian interjections:

  • A devastating massacre:
    Date : May 19 2009 03:41:12 PM
    From : 1408xxxxxxx
    To : Sayontan Sinha (1408yyyyyyy)
    "Hey, hi Tanuka. This is (??) here. We are leaving in another 10 minutes because (Mojin Paki Pasbi?) and Toni Pasbi will go to library and return it. I just wanted to... that mushroom dried scar is simply rich of that side(??) get the door speaker I wanted badly. Okay when you return just give a call. Bye. "
    --- Brought to you by Vonage ---
  • Or an abject surrender:
    Date : May 07 2009 10:49:32 AM
    From : 1408xxxxxxx
    To : Sayontan Sinha (1408yyyyyyy)
    We're sorry. We were unable to transcribe this message. You will not be charged for this message. Please listen to your voicemail.
    --- Brought to you by Vonage ---


And the piece de resistance:

System: Before we start, can you please say your first name?
Me: Sayontan
System: You said Frying Pan. Is that correct?

A Unique Journey

These days more than 95% of my travel between places more than 200 km (125 miles) apart is by flight. The remaining 5% is covered by car in the US and mostly by train in India. Growing up in India, though, the de facto mode of travel used to be a train. Most of my journeys were between my city of residence Hyderabad and my native town Kandi in Murshidabad, West Bengal, around 240 km from Calcutta (Kolkata).

Now, whatever the Communist Party of India (Marxist) might claim, West Bengal is indeed one of the most backward states in India with extremely poor infrastructure. Kandi has neither any access to trains nor a state-run bus connecting it from Kolkata. If you want to travel between Kandi and Kolkata you have 3 options:

  1. A direct bus run by a private operator up to Kolkata
  2. A long-distance cab
  3. A bus to Salar or Katwa or Berhampore, and then a train to Kolkata

My story begins in March 1988, when I was 9 years old. My maternal grandfather had passed away in February and my mother and brother Koke (who is 5 years younger than me) had gone to Kandi from Hyderabad for the last rites. I traveled there a couple of weeks later with my father, because of the exams that I needed to take at school in Hyderabad. Those days it was customary for me to fall sick during the last leg of my trip to Kolkata. Typically I would suffer from high fever and extreme nausea. This trip was no exception.

Anyway, given that the travel time from Kandi to Kolkata was in excess of 6 hours excluding journey breaks, things had to be timed to perfection. This invariably meant taking a bus from Kandi at around 4:00 in the night, then reaching Salar, then taking the train from there. The lag between the bus and the train was typically around 30 minutes. If your bus got delayed you ran the risk of missing the train, which would have a cascading effect since you could potentially miss the big train from Kolkata to Hyderabad.

Traveling on this trip was my family and my uncle Bablu kaku. As luck would have it, our bus to Salar got delayed. This left us with a margin of around 10 minutes to get the train. My father put me on the train with the luggage and went to fetch my mother and Koke. They had gone to get tickets. The trains plying between two towns in Bengal normally comprised of general unreserved coaches only. This meant that there would be no inspection of tickets on the train. There could be an inspection at the other end of the line, but such inspections happened only at the exit point of the station and we would be remaining within the station. In the off-chance that there is an inspection, we normally traveled with tickets.

However, given the extremely narrow margin there was no time to get tickets. Instead my father had to ensure that my mother and brother boarded. Within a minute of his leaving, though, the train started to move. Even at a young age I was termed calm and collected. So I went to the door of the coach. As the train picked up speed I desperately waited for my parents to show up. Then they came.

My father running with my brother in his arms and my mother close behind. They ran harder while I waited at the door. My father managed to get one hand on one handle of the door. My mother raised her hand to grab the other handle. And slipped. In her tumble she took down my father and brother as well. All three fell on the train platform and rolled towards the now fast moving train. This time I freaked out. And then a miracle happened. I had forgotten that my uncle was also in the coach. He was watching the action unfold from the posterior door. Sensing that something dangerous might happen he jumped out at the right moment and pushed away my parents and brother from the edge of the platform.

Nevertheless I had a full-blown panic attack, aggravated by the fact that I couldn’t see anything happening at the station beyond a point. The sad part is that the hand-brakes that exist in every compartment of a train in India failed to work in this case. After the panic subsided I started thinking. It would make sense for me to get off at a station en route to Kolkata. That way I could wait for my family. Going all the way to Kolkata wouldn’t help since it is much easier to get lost in a station as big as Howrah. Getting off the train at a small station wouldn’t help, too, since trains tended to stop for shorter periods at smaller stations. Then the answer came – Katwa. A slightly larger station, but nowhere as messed up as Kolkata.

It would be a grave omission to not mention my co-passengers, who were extremely supportive during the trip. One of them tried his best to stop the train by pulling the hand-brake. All of them kept telling me that everything would be alright and agreed with my plan to disembark at Katwa.

When the train reached Katwa there was an announcement on the PA system at the station calling out my name and asking me to get off the train. Obviously I had thought of the same thing as my father. About an hour later my parents, brother and uncle came in the next train and picked me up from Katwa. They were largely unhurt. We didn’t miss our connection in Kolkata. All was well.

Warren Anderson

August 2002 - New York, USA Warren Anderson, former manager of Union Carbide in India, at his door in Bridgehampton, Long Island, New York. ©Shannon Sweeney/Daily Mirror, Image courtesy Greenpeace
August 2002 - New York, USA Warren Anderson, former manager of Union Carbide in India, at his door in Bridgehampton, Long Island, New York. ©Shannon Sweeney/Daily Mirror, Image courtesy Greenpeace

Name: Warren Anderson

Born: 1921

Claim to Shame: CEO of Union Carbide at the time of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, 3rd December 1984

Early Life: Not much information about Warren is in the public domain apart from the fact that he was born to Swedish immigrants in Brooklyn, studied at the Naval Pre-Flight School at UNC, Chapel Hill and played American Football.

The Undisputed Facts:
On 3rd December 1984 at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, water entered the E-610 tank containing deadly Methyl Isocyanate (formula: CH3CNO, a.k.a. MIC) gas. The resulting chemical reaction caused temperatures in the tank to soar to 200oC and as a result the tank exploded. This released 42 metric tonnes of toxic gases into the air, exposing around 500,000 people to the poison. In the coming few weeks around 8000 people died due to the gas. Several others were mortally affected and even today there are more than 120,000 people suffering from the effects. To throw in some statistics:

Initial deaths: 8,000
Total No. of deaths: 20,000
Current Mortality rate: 1 death per day due to aftereffects

The Disputed Facts:
It is difficult to be objective regarding an event of this magnitude, particularly because there are two very distinct sides to the story – one presented by the Indian authorities and the other presented by the corporate at Union Carbide. In the eventual analysis, though, the short straw was drawn by the victims and their next of kin.

I have tried to look at literature covering all aspects:

Union Carbide’s official coverage begins with some potentially contentious statements:

In the wake of the gas release, Union Carbide Corporation, and then chairman Warren Anderson, worked diligently to provide aid to the victims and set up a process to resolve their claims.

The Bhopal plant was owned and operated by Union Carbide India, Limited (UCIL), an Indian company in which Union Carbide Corporation held just over half the stock.

The Official Statement by Union Carbide

So UCC was the controlling company for UCIL and yet didn’t own the Bhopal plant? Intriguing. Also, laughable in itself is the assertion that Warren Anderson worked diligently to provide aid to the victims, while he actually retired from UCC in 1986 and has been a fugitive from justice all these days. The statement continues to chronicle the cause of the disaster:

Shortly after the gas release, Union Carbide launched an aggressive effort to identify the cause. Engineering consulting firm, Arthur D. Little, Inc., conducted a thorough investigation. Its conclusion: The gas leak could only have been caused by deliberate sabotage. Someone purposely put water in the gas storage tank, and this caused a massive chemical reaction. Process safety systems had been put in place that would have kept the water from entering into the tank by accident.

The Official Statement by Union Carbide

There are several lacunae in the statement above:

  • The Arthur D. Little (ADL) report and the Black Box book, both cite that sabotage was at the root of the disaster, however there are no efforts on display to bring the saboteurs to justice. The book actually insinuates that a worker called Mohan Lal Verma was the culprit, but fails to provide any conclusive proof, instead relying on Verma’s preemptive defence to hint at his being guilty. UCC insists that the Indian Government is well aware of who the culprit is, yet wants to make UCC the scapegoat.
  • The safety systems were far from adequate
    • Toxic MIC was used where not necessary
    • Chemicals were stored in large tanks instead of small ones
    • Plant maintenance was poor and safety standards were not adhered to – Several security hazards were detected in UCC’s plants in the US. These were rectified in the US, but the same modifications were not done in India. UCC disputes this.
    • There is documented evidence to show that UCC consciously used unproven technology to save $37.68 per day. The safety hazards were written off as an acceptable “business risk”. Note that UCC justifies the technology in its FAQ section.

Regarding the response to the incident, UCC states:

The settlement award was much larger than any previous damage award in India, and was $120 million more than plaintiffs’ lawyers had told U.S. courts was fair. The settlement was reached after the Supreme Court of India reviewed all U.S. and Indian court filings, applicable law and relevant facts, and an assessment of the victims’ needs. In its opinion, the Court said that compensation levels under the settlement were far greater than would normally be payable under Indian law. By November 1990, the Reserve Bank of India reported that the settlement fund, with interest, was approximately twice what was estimated to be needed to compensate the victims.

The Incident, Response, and Settlement, official UCC document

This part is really sickening and the Indian Government has an equal share of the blame, if not more. The average payout for the survivors is 5.7 cents per day. The lumpsum settlement figures were Rs. 25,000 for injury and Rs. 62,000 for a death. Even if these figures were not in Rs but in US $ they would have been abysmal. Contrast this with the lawsuit against the tobacco industry where the tobacco giants had to cough up US $246 billion. Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

The sad thing about people defending UCC is that they know that UCC needs to be apportioned a big chunk of the blame. The Black Box of Bhopal cites several instances as a small footnote after launching into an elaborate justification about how UCC was being victimised:

  1. Inability of scientists to find a viable process for manufacturing alpha-naphthol
  2. Safety guards were lowered or made non-existent after October 1984 for conversion of MIC to Carbaryl
  3. Nonfunctioning safety-related equipment amplified the magnitude of the problem. The equipment was apparently not repaired in anticipation of the closure of the plant
  4. The MIC tanks were filled beyond recommended levels
  5. The workers were untrained in emergency procedures

UCC also insists that it has done the site cleanup along with UCIL and states that as far back as 1998 a study conducted by the Madhya Pradesh government conducted a study of drinking water in the vicinity indicated pollutants that could get added to the water due to improper drainage systems. And in November 2008 the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a dismissal of pollution claims. Here is hoping that UCC’s current owner Dow Chemical actually does the cleanup.

UCC’s whole pitch makes it sound like the Indian Government is the main culprit and is trying to make it a scapegoat. But the fact is that several independent bodies like Greenpeace and Amnesty International have been lobbying actively against it without any pressure from India.

The curious case of Warren Anderson:
On 7th December 1984 Warren Anderson traveled to Bhopal. He was promptly arrested, though later released on bail. And his response? He jumped bail and fled to the US on a chartered plane and never returned to India. Note that UCC claims that he was initially placed under house arrest, then urged by Indian authorities to leave the country. Anderson subsequently avoided trial and extradition of all forms.

India never pushed very strongly for the extradition of Anderson. This was particularly disgusting, considering that he has been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter. After Anderson jumped bail he retired in 1986, and when he failed to show up as the defendant at a court hearing in 1992 for culpable homicide, he was declared a fugitive from justice. According to Greenpeace:

He has never appeared in court to face charges for crimes in Bhopal or even to explain why his company did not apply the same safety standards at its plant in India that it operated at a sister plant in the US state of West Virginia.

The main reason attributed to a lack of extradition was due to vested interests of the Indian Government, which wanted to encourage foreign investment in the country. That is why neither the Indian government nor the US government pursued the extradition actively, claiming that he went missing, whereas The Mirror, a UK-based newspaper smoked him out in a matter of weeks in 2002 and Greenpeace followed up quickly. Nothing has been done since then to bring him to justice. Even according to the former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee there was no point in pursuing an extradition against him so late in the game, because of his advanced age and the fact that the crime was almost 20 years at the time. Contrast this with the handling of Kenneth Lay in the Enron case, where the US government was unwilling to agree to an abatement even after Lay’s death. In the same case Jeffrey Skilling got handed a 24 year sentence. In other words, a corporate scandal that causes monetary loss to people gets you a bigger punishment than an act of corporate negligence that manages to kill several thousand people.

The Indian Government, Dow Chemicals and the US Government, all have a hand in aggravating this situation. The Indian Government has been instrumental in slowing down investigation, displaying a lack of transparency and delaying the disbursement of funds to the affected people.

Dow is notorious for its poor environmental track record. For the largest chemical manufacturing company in the world, it has done little to clean up after its act (Source: Greenpeace). More bald has been its complete refusal to be associated with the Bhopal disaster after the acquisition of UCC. Dow claims that all that had to be done has been done by UCC and that there are no liabilities on its side.

The US Government has been complicit in not going through with the extradition. The request was with it since 1992, yet 17 years since then nothing has happened.

Warren Anderson currently lives a life of luxury at the Hamptons, NY, while the people whose lives his company was responsible for savaging still fight for justice. All in all the indifference towards the people of Bhopal reeks of the power of money. A cruel but fitting sentence would be for Anderson not to be arrested, but to spend his last days at the site of the disaster doing community service in the midst of the people his company affected. If, as UCC claims, the site is clean, then he shouldn’t be having any objections towards this arrangement.

Update, 20th May 2009:
I came across this very interesting article regarding Warren Anderson’s attempts to disappear into oblivion.

Sketch Me Up

I was looking for Photoshop-free options to create pencil sketches from photos. Photoshop and most other tools apply desaturation filters to different extents to create these effects. These are a couple of nice online tools that I found:

Let me know how you like them

Poor Research

It so happened that during my fourth year at IIT there was an ODI series between Australia and Zimbabwe – a classic case of ruthless extermination, if there was one. In the second match of the series at Harare on 23rd October, 1999, with Damien Fleming bowling to David Mutendra (the No. 11 batsman), Steve Waugh decided to try his mental disintegration and packed the slip cordon with 9 fielders (the maximum possible):

Fleming With Nine Slips
Australia vs Zimbabwe - 9 slips (If you know the source let me know)

This was the first and to date only time that such a field setting has been employed in ODI cricket. On the day after this match I recall the Times of India reporting this incident and stating:

Such a tactic had been used earlier in a test by Greg Chappell against New Zealand. At that time the bowler was Dennis Lillee and the batsman was not a tailender, but the top order batsman Glenn Turner.

This tidbit became a rage with trivia buffs and people would ask you to identify the batsman and the bowler from this picture:

Lillee With Nine Slips
Australia vs New Zealand- 9 slips (Source: Wisden Asia Cricket, July 2003)

The answer, as I always knew, was Glenn Turner and Dennis Lillee. Then I started subscribing to Wisden Asia Cricket in April 2003. The July issue of the magazine had the above picture and the following story as recollected by Lillee himself:

Australia were playing New Zealand in the second test at Auckland in 1977. We were heading for an easy win with more than two days to spare. It was the centenary year and Greg Chappell was about to bring out his book, ‘The 100th Summer’. He had a photographer standing by for the right opportunity, and when their No. 11, Peter Petherick the offspinner, came out, Chappell called all the guys in. I ended up bowling to nine slips, but it was a pretty poor ball. As you can see, Marshy [Rod Marsh] had to go down the leg side to collect. I was trying too hard I suppose. Petherick wasn’t the greatest batsman in the world, but I didn’t get him out for a while that day.

So the answer should have been Dennis Lillee bowling to Peter Petherick! I realized almost four years late that TOI had been misleading.

I have seen several instances where newspapers (and reputed journalists) get their facts wrong. The Times of India is notorious for this. I recently read the film reviewer Nikhat Kazmi claiming that Slumdog Millionnaire was set to become the 4th highest grossing movie of all time worldwide, while the truth is that it was/is nowhere in the top 100.

Indian journalists are notoriously lax in their research, perhaps taking Indian readers for granted. Maybe that is why plagiarists run amok in the Bollywood music industry, because if the journalists did their homework properly and branded every plagiarist a cheat, things would be so much better.

Who Died and Put You in Charge? (Part II)

In continuance of my previous “Who Died …” post, here are a few more gaffes

  • Sehwag Ki Ma (Sehwag’s Mother)
    Reliance was in the process of rolling out its mobile service in India roughly the same time as the 2003 Cricket World Cup. They had Virendra Sehwag as their brand ambassador. The ad went something like this: Sehwag isn’t batting very well and his fans are getting quite frustrated. A father and son among the spectators are pretty tense about the match. Then suddenly the father’s phone rings. The father says, “Sehwag ki Ma?” He then thinks what he should do. The son seizes the phone and runs into the field and lobs the phone to Sehwag. Sehwag’s mom tells him, “Viru beta, kar lo duniya mutthi mein” (Conquer the world). Sehwag blasts the next ball for a six.

    The ad was so *wrong* at so many levels. Why would Sehwag’s mother call up some random stranger (unless of course …)? Secondly, how would the stranger know straightaway that this was Sehwag’s mother (unless of course …)? Thirdly Sehwag’s form was an absolute disaster during the World Cup. He hardly made any noteworthy score apart from the finals. People began commenting “Sehwag apni ma ke phone ka intezaar kar raha hai” (Sehwag is waiting for his mother to call him) just to highlight how awful it was. Reliance probably realized how corny the ad sounded and changed the dialogue to “Sehwag ki Ma ka phone?”. Not that it made much of a difference.

    BTW, if you were wondering about the “unless of course …”, of course I mean “They were probably family friends”, or “Sehwag might have given the phone to them for safekeeping”, unless of course …

  • Kabhi mobile, kabhi computer (Sometimes a mobile, sometimes a computer)
  • At roughly the same time as Sehwag’s mother, Reliance hit upon another catchphrase – “Kabhi mobile, kabhi computer”, to highlight the fact that the phone was capable of a lot more than just making calls. This was actually a pretty good line. However, as is bound to happen with new technology, the phones faced teething problems. One of the problems was that they would overheat quite alarmingly. So the users started saying, “Kabhi mobile, kabhi toaster” (Sometimes a mobile, sometimes a toaster)

  • The Official Drink of the 1996 World Cup
    In the stakes for big advertising Coke managed to become the sponsor for the 1996 Cricket World Cup. They came up with the rather innocuous line, “The Official Drink of the 1996 World Cup”. Pepsi, though, smelt blood and went rather aggressively after Coke, marketing their drink with “Nothing Official About it!”. With its impressive array of brand ambassadors Pepsi won hands down. It took Coke a few years to recover from this and only with later ads of Thums Up and Sprite were they able to make fun of Pepsi to any extent whatsoever.

  • The Planning Commission’s map of India
    A few years back the Planning Commission of India released the Five Year Plan (I don’t recall if it was the 10th plan, starting 2002 or the 11th plan, starting 2007) with a map of India on the cover. The map showed a truncated Kashmir, which is in contradiction to India’s official stance of showing the disputed parts as Indian territory. This was really weird given that the Planning Commission botched this up. Wonder what they were smoking …

  • House numbers in Hyderabad
    The powers that be decided several years back that postal addresses in Hyderabad would be so weird that it would be futile to attempt to figure them out. So you have a house with address 7-1-40/B/1, Ameerpet or 16-3-41-1/C, Domalguda. It might have been okay if Ameerpet or Domalguda were small areas, but no – no locality is small enough. Plus most roads don’t have a name or number. Good luck finding that address.

  • Zzyzx and This
    During a trip from the Bay Area to Las Vegas we noticed a city named Zzyzx. The name wasn’t unfamiliar, since I used to watch Kyle XY. But it felt weird to actually see a city with this name. Well, there are grandiose reasons why you would want to name a city something such as this. Apparently the founders wanted this to be the lexicographically greatest city in the World. Fair enough. But then why would you like to have a city called D***o? Imagine saying, “Tremors measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale were felt in D***o today” or “Hi, I am Dick. And I work for D***o Construction Company” or “There was large-scale loss of wildlife in a raging bushfire in the region around D***o today”.