Protos' Musings

"In the long run men hit only what they aim at" — Thoreau

Setting up my Linux box and Ruby on Rails development environment

with one comment

Again, due to the email friendliness of Posterous, have posted it over there: http://protoiyer.posterous.com/setting-up-my-linux-box-and-ruby-on-rails-dev

If at all you want to add comments, kindly do it over there on Posterous. Thanks.

Written by Proto

May 16, 2011 at 02:23 hrs

Ten Years of Professional Programming

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Due to the email friendliness of Posterous, have posted it over there: http://protoiyer.posterous.com/

Written by Proto

February 11, 2011 at 17:43 hrs

What fate awaits Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple? The redux.

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It was with a sad heart that I wrote a couple of years ago about the fate awaiting Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Over the last couple of days, things have taken a decisive turn with the Honourable High Court of Kerala directing the State Government to take immediate steps to form a trust or similar entity to take over control of the temple.

After reading about the judgement, I understood that the current Maharaja or any of the future Maharajas are not supposed to be in charge of running the show in the temple, and in fact, the Royal Family of Travancore cannot even lay claim to the temple. Though this might be true, one cannot escape but feeling sad at the turn of events, and realizing that the soul of the temple might be undergoing metamorphosis in way that may or may not turn out to be for the good — and that may not be case would be a travesty!

This temple is special (to me and many others) and one of the reasons why it is special has everything to do with the notion that the temple belongs to the Travancore Royal Family. This family has a proud and longstanding tradition of being the custodians of the temple and of course, for taking fantastic care of the temple, barring any allegations of misconduct that might have cropped up in recent years.

It is one of those rare temples that I have been to where you actually feel bhakthi, and where, going to the temple is as a joyful process in itself (as you have to wear a mundu [veshti] and neriyal [uthareeyam/shawl], as opposed to zipping in and out of the temple in either the corporate attire or Jeans and T-shirt or God forbid, shorts, on the way to work or cinema or shopping or whatever). Of course, admittedly even this has got diluted over the last 10 years as you can now get a mundu for darshan if you pay a small charge, not to mention the always crowded hallways and long queues for darshan that I get to see most of the time in recent years.

If you grew up in modern — and dare I say, mostly — commercialized big city environments, you might miss out on the gist of what I am driving at here, and I can even see many having this to say about the whole post: “that is just being nostalgic, and sentiments have no place in business or law or whatever, stupid!”.

At this moment, I can’t help but feel a tad angry — how the minorities are allowed to run their religious institutions as per their culture or heritage or manner (and I have nothing against it) but when it comes to Hindus, the Government has to take care of the temples — directly or indirectly. Of course, there must have been some logic behind the idea when it was formed, and though I can understand how it can be useful for many temples that can’t sustain without that aid and care, I fail to see how and why for a temple like Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which has a long history of being well maintained and provided for by the Royal Family, this would be necessary.

May be what we need is some mechanism to have checks and balances – as one of the issues at hand is that there are allegations that the Maharaja is perhaps not doing his best. But I am not sure how this can be reliably implemented.

The most regrettable part of this whole series is how this whole saga might have been kicked off because of petty personal ego clashes – there were a set of people who had [or is it have?] the privilege of having the darshan before the ordinary guys (like me) could go in, and may be some of them were offended by some act of another group or of temple employees. The rest, as they say, is turning out to be history! I don’t know how many people noticed that though it has been almost two decades since the last Maharaja passed away, it is only in the last 4-5 years this issue of who is in charge of the temple or whether the Government should take over the temple has become important.

May Papps (as me and my friends refer to Him fondly) continue to bless us all and ensure better sense prevails, and let us pray that He allows all the great minds involved in this story to come together to find a solution in a way that leaves the soul of the temple untouched. And, if there has been some bad practices — like crap commercialization –introduced in the temple during the last 10-15 years, it can and should be rolled back.

PS: I left my native Trivandrum for my graduation studies in 1995, after spending my first 17 years there and so I am speaking more from my heart than head. Though I visit Trivandrum for a few days every year, I understand it isn’t the same as staying in a place to talk with any authority about the events unfolding.

PS2: I am writing this post after about 18 months, and it took such an extraordinary judgement to wake me out of the slumber. Though I am sad that I neglected this blog for so long, I have been having some interesting learnings and conversations over on Twitter. I hope I get to write more posts more frequently going forward.

Written by Proto

February 2, 2011 at 13:58 hrs

Posted in Random Ramblings, tvm

Malayalam music reality shows on TV

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You might have read my previous posts about the Malayalam reality show – Idea Star Singer (ISS) on Asianet. However I had missed out following or even being aware of another great reality show on Malayalam TV – Super Star Global (SSG) on Amrita TV.

I was introduced to SSG by Preethi (my wife; thanks, dear!) yesterday when she played the awesome rendition of the great Hindi movie song “Kuhu kuhu” [1957!] by the eventual winner Roopa Revathi on an episode from last year. It just blew me away, and so did her medley, not to mention her other efforts!

I am once again thankful to God for having made me someone who can naturally follow both Tamil and Malayalam, and with training — thanks to Kerala schools where you have to learn three languages and Dakshin Bharath Hindi Prachar Sabha — Hindi as well. Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi industries are lucky to have witnessed some of the highest quality film songs made in the last fifty years in India. I would rate the songs in Tamil and Malayalam of the last 30 years even higher than that of Hindi, thanks to men of such calibre like Ilayaraja, Ravindran, Johnson, Yesudas, SPB, Janaki, Chithra and Rahman.

Then I stumbled upon this wonderful wrap-up of these two reality shows by Balaji Srinivasan in this blog post. Nothing much is left for me to say. I hope you would get to enjoy a few hours of high quality music. A quick and dirty way to listen to Roopa’s songs are by visiting the audio page on her alternate site (strange a person having two sites whose address differ literally by a dot!).

The only problem I have now is to convince Airtel Digital TV to start transmitting Amrita TV. If that happens, it would be great to immerse myself in music between 8 and 10pm whenever time permits.

Oh, yes, thanks to Balaji, got to read this great piece on Roger Federer by the NYT as well. The happiness I derived from music and reading today was moving enough to inspire me to write something on this blog after a few extremely hectic weeks. I do hope I get to experience more such days, thanks to perhaps the most useful invention of the last century — internet. It would be great to hear your comments.

Update: A comprehensive dissection of Roopa’s SSG 2008 performance is available over at Subash’s blog.

Written by Proto

July 11, 2009 at 02:25 hrs

Idea Star Singer 2008 draws to a close – Vivek the deserving winner

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The Mega Finals of the best music reality show I have seen so far – Idea Star Singer on Asianet 2008 – was held at the Chandrashekaran Nair Stadium yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed the singing by the six contestants who made it to the finals. I thought, in the end, the two candidates who walked away the awesome winner’s price (for male and female categories) throughly deserved it — Vivek for his brilliance and Sonia for her consistency and awesome rendition of Paadi thodiyiletho (another gem by the late great Raveendran maashu).

I saw someone comparing Vivek with the maestro KJY, after the former sang the latter’s classic song – Harimuraleeravam from Aaram Thampuran, and cribbing that he didn’t sing it as well as KJY [comments section of this youtube page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2duvfWk-7A]. I think that is grossly unfair to both of them. One was, and perhaps still is, at the pinnacle of his powers when he sung that and the other is just starting his journey as a singer of repute.

Vivek was my favorite contestant ever since I saw his performance during the audition round (way back in May 2008 :) and I am happy he emerged the deserving winner. My pick of  the best by Vivek would include Parayaan maranna, Kattile paazhmulam, Sumuhoorthamaay, Oru kadalaay and Harimuraleeravam. My appreciation so far (though I haven’t wrote much for a couple of months now thanks to Twitter, but that is another story for another day) of Idea Star Singer here: http://www.google.com/search?q=”idea+star+singer”+Vivek+OR+Vivekanand+site:protoiyer.wordpress.com. The best source to watch all the Idea Star Singer videos would be: http://www.youtube.com/user/amidalastarsinger.

The only thing that struck me as odd was that the price given to the last three contestants was below par compared to what the winners made. Also, I thought Prasobh was better than Rahul.  Looking forward to ISS 2009 that starts in a couple of weeks from now.

Written by Proto

April 27, 2009 at 00:00 hrs

Posted in music, Random Ramblings

Boxing Day at Sydney and the flight back home

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Boxing Day was the last full day at Sydney. We spent the Christmas Day in the room and did the packing bit, since the local people advised us that nothing would be open that day. So, of the two days available, only the Boxing Day was available for us for sight seeing.

Sridhar was yet to visit any beach in Sydney, and I too wanted to visit the famous Bondi Beach (Sydney’s most famous beach; there are lots of great beaches in and around Sydney). We also wanted to visit the Aquarium. Then there was the small matter of watching Sydney turn into an Asian city for a day – a rare opportunity to watch road side shops and roads thickly crowded with people who are out to get stuff at a very cheap price.

On Boxing Day most of the big shops provide huge discounts (sort of clearance sale, but only for a day) and there will be lots of roadside makeshift shops selling all kinds of stuff. We spent the morning wandering around the streets of Sydney and visiting the two famous shopping malls/shops – the Myers and David Jones. It was as good or as bad as (depending on your perspective) like our Saravana Stores in T.Nagar that day! The shops were teeming with people in a way I have never seen in Sydney before. Some of the shops even had long queues outside.

From there we went to the Sydney Aquarium that is just down the Market Street on the Darling Harbour, and about 3 minute walk from our office. Since Bondi was in the back of the mind, we didn’t spend as much time at the Aquarium as we would have liked to, but still managed to clock a decent three hours. It is a pretty good aquarium (and since I haven’t been to any other foreign aquariums, it is the best I have seen so far). What struck me wherever I go in Australia has been the importance they provide for accessibility to physically challenged people (which also helps the kids’ pram and so there were lots and lots of families out there with really small kids).

It was close to 1500 hrs by the time we managed to hit the Indian Food Court in The Galleries Victoria and we were both tired and extremely hungry. After having our lunch, we set off to the Circular Quay one last time, to catch the Bondi Bendy Pre-Pay. Bondi turned out to be a beautiful, albeit, crowded beach (thanks to the Boxing Day being a holiday and the season being the start of the summer). We stayed there for about three hours and took hundreds of pictures. I even managed to inspire myself to walk up the slope to take what I would rate as one of the better pix I have taken so far – the view of the entire beach. This is the only pix that I have uploaded at the actual size of 3456×2592 pixels or 9 mega pixels. You can download that pix to see it in full size (using Download button/menu in that pix’s page). Of course, there are far better pix of Bondi out there on the web.

Thus ended a rather memorable day – my last – at Sydney. The next day, we left by the noon flight to Singapore and from there to Chennai. We had a four hour break at Singapore and spent the first three and a half hours doing mostly window shopping and eating dosa. I watched Kungu Panda and Finding Nemo in the flight (and a bit of Subramaniapuram). Watching Finding Nemo again was interesting since I had completely forgotten that the story involves Sydney in a big way. I had seen the movie once about four years back, but then Sydney was just like any other city in some foreign land, and so it never registered in my brain. It was fun to watch the fish herd turn into the shape of Opera House on hearing the word “Sydney” or seeing the view of the Sydney Harbour in many of the shots.

We had a minor scare when we turned up at the Sats counter in Terminal 1. The guy who was sitting there gave us a piece of his mind for turning up so late for the flight (it was 2030 and the flight was at 2105). We were first told we won’t be able to get into the flight. I was genuinely surprised since at a place like Sydney I saw a lady who was at the security check at 1130 hrs to catch the 1130 flight out to some Asian country. So I was wondering what he was harping about.

The guy spoke on the phone with (apparently) the Indian Airlines authorities and then told us that we are lucky and we can catch the flight still, We were then asked whether we were ready to fly without the checked-in baggage. When asked what would happen to the baggage, he told us that it might reach Chennai in a day or two, but nothing can be guaranteed as to whether and when it would come. We had no option but to reply yes, we would love to fly out and reach home.

Another phone call ensued and lasted for about five minutes, after which we were told the baggage too is coming with us. We were given the boarding pass and were advised to not to turn up late for a transit flight. He saw us off asking us to rush to the designated gate to catch our flight. I only remember running madly for the next five minutes or so to reach the gate, and just avoiding running into a kid at a slope. She appeared out of nowhere and was running at top speed up the slope (and I was going down and had to veer out of her way).

The security check in happened at that gate, and we were welcomed by a team of Indians (Indian Airlines staff?) and they asked told us to relax and take it easy, and that the flight is still on the ground only and so we were not going to miss it. I finished the check puffing and panting and collected my hand luggage and stepped into the other side. Any idea what I saw there? About 75 Indians sitting there to travel in the same flight, and no one (including the staff) was worried that it was 2050 hrs and the flight was at 2105 :). I think if the Sats guy had seen the crowd sitting casually there, he would have had a heart-attack!

I reached home that night by midnight, and it felt good to realize that I won’t have to eat bread (or Kellogs) for breakfast from now on :). Thus ended a rather memorable 3 months period in my life.

Here are the links to the pix:

Boxing Day at Sydney

Sydney Aquarium

Bondi Beach

At the Singapore airport

Written by Proto

January 14, 2009 at 15:36 hrs

Raveendran Maashu – a redux

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Looks like this is the redux season on my blog. As I wrote twice almost three years back, no music director has managed to strike a chord with me as much as the late legend Raveendran Maashu (Maashu, for the uninitiated, is Malayalam for Sir). When I was at Sydney, with no access to any Malayalam channels, I used to listen to a couple of CDs from my Malayalam songs collection from the 80s through 00s, and most of the songs I took with me were the ones from the stupendously successful and enormously talented Raveendran – Yesudas team. I am thankful I took them with me, though I didn’t take even a single movie or any other songs collection. I was happy listening to those songs almost daily!

Today I was watching Vivekanand’s latest performance in the Idea Star Singer competition – the “otta kambi naadam” song from the movie Thenum Vayambum (1981), originally sung by the incomparable Yesudas [go listen to it even if you don’t understand Malalyalam or music :)], a song so beautiful that it made Sharreth, one of my other favorite music directors, who is a judge in the show, remark “it should have been ‘oru laksham kambi naadam’..that is how majestically Yesudas has rendered this song.”. For the uninitiated, the opening three words of the original song lyric means “the sound of a solitary string [of a music instrument]” and Sharreth said “it should have been ‘the sound of a million strings’..that is how well Yesudas has rendered this song”.

Though Vivekanand had a bad day today, I still believe he is (going to be) the Star Singer 2008. Just listen to these four great songs from the previous rounds, and I hope you too would agree that this is one enormously talented lad. At least Ramesh had to change his opinion after allowing himself to be swept away by the beauty of Vivek’s rendition of the song “oru kadalaay”. I think he did a slightly better job than the original, thanks to his rich voice. Here is the playlist with his entire performance so far, and I find myself playing songs from this list, at least once a week, for a few weeks now. You too might find it a nice way to spend an hour or so :).

As I was listening to Sharreth’s comments, I thought I will search for some more info about Raveendran maashu. It was then that I stumbled across this Wikipedia entry on Raveendran maashu and this blog from Nikhil Venugopal, who seems to know music and loves music far better/more than me, where he has three great posts on (including an interview with) Raveendran maashu. The only drawback (a drawback if you can’t read Malayalam) is that it is in Malayalam, though the first post about Raveendran is in English.

I am not well versed in Carnatic music (I don’t know the raagas in spite of learning Carnatic for two or three years in my childhood days, though I think I can discern great music from merely good or average music from downright bad music or noise), I found the posts both interesting and nostalgic.

It took me back to my childhood days when I used to tune into the cinema songs hour(s) in Vividh Bharathi and All India Radio (Trivandrum station), perhaps just like so many other people in my native (and perhaps around India) at that time — mid and late 80s and early 90s. Television was just making an appearance and even if it had, it was certainly not 24*7 and there was just one channel – Doordarshan (Indian National Channel run by the Government). So the radio was a far more important and influential medium than it is today.

Anyway, I hope you like Nikhil’s posts. I really don’t know why we don’t have a 5 CD or 10 CD pack of his songs yet (or is it already out in Kerala already?). He deserves a HMV-SaReGaMa Legends collection or something equivalent.

Finally, to really understand who or what Sharreth is and why I like him, listen to these three samples, and yes, all are his own compositions. If you are going to listen to just one of them, let it be this duet with Unnikrishnan. Here is the search list of songs available in You Tube sung by Sharreth if you want to listen to more.

Oh, yes, lest I forget, Raveendran maashu had this to say about Sharreth in 1994:

Q: Does any of the new generation music directors give you hope?

A [Raveendran Maashu]: Sharreth. There is music in his songs. He understands music. We should encourage and congratulate him.

I hope Sharreth would give us scores (or hundreds) of beautiful songs in the future. Malayalam music industry hasn’t been too supportive of Sharreth in the past, and I hope that would change for the better. May Kerala not join the rest of the country in giving the cold shoulder to shudha-sangeetham (pure music) in mainstream cinema music. I hope Kerala continues to encourage more and more youngsters to learn the basics of music before dreaming big and high.

I have my hopes set high after listening to this today – the Classical music round from last year’s Idea Star Singer, sung by Thushar. I don’t think any of the reality music shows in either Tamil or Hindi has anything like this (perhaps I am wrong here, but I wouldn’t mind knowing about another show that is in the same class) or where the contestants are of this class or this versatile. Don’t forget to listen to the judge’s comments too. Kerala is blessed to have given birth to so many world class talented souls — Yesudas, Raveendran, Chithra, Sujatha, Unnikrishnan, Johnson, Ousepachan and Sharreth to name just a few (and not including any of the music directors from the previous generation).

Written by Proto

January 11, 2009 at 01:08 hrs

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