gasp! I need some air, and was searching for it at - of all places- on google, semi-geek that I am, when I came across this website. Not quite what I was looking for, but refreshing nevertheless.

Monday, August 30, 2004

RNC Alert!

The above pictures, in brief, show my adventures yesterday. Supposedly, 250,000 people gathered together in protest. Myself, completely politically unaware, and completely in love with NYC and everything that goes on here. Kanishka managed an anti-war T'Shirt from Snigdha, and I wore one with "Asha for education" - given the number of people, anything written on a white tee looked like a protest.

So, there you go. The only thing of note that happened was a papier-mache dragon catching fire, and that happened right in front of us. The CNN picture is much better than mine, because once the people started running, Kanishka and I made our quick getaway. There's a slim possibility that the crowd thought we were leading the diversion when the fire happened, as we were the first ones to run from 7th to 6th across 33rd(?), and our T'shirts looked like they did.

The march was supposed to assemble at Union Square, so we headed there from midtown. The Secret Service and other officers (who looked like MIB extras) scared us off from midtown. Union Square looked pretty much what it looks like on a weekend - the farmer's market was replaced by poster-touting youngsters. I really liked the business mind of the locals - they had anti-bush T'shirts and buttons and playing cards for sale. Some even had pro-bush versions of the same, just in case you are from the other side. When it comes to making money, you can't afford a political standing. Starbucks and the MTA had booming business.

These are from this morning, around 8:30, from my 28th and 7th subway stop. Haven't seen this many cops in one place before. Anyone dare to crack a cop joke? Or try crossing the street when the light goes red?

Friday, August 27, 2004

Search for the perfect Bed (a.k.a Bed and Futon Buying Guide, Manhattan)

Today, I'm going to tell you the story of the search for the ultimate bed. In other words, what I have been doing for the last few weeks, in an attempt to find a queen sized solution for my twin size issue.
So, as always, I'll save you thr trouble of tiring out your fingers in rampant googling, and your feet in trampling all over the City. Oh - this pertains mostly to people in NYC. Sorry, all you guys in all the remote corners of the US. Then again, I'm not sorry at all - I'm sure you are paying less rent/mortgage for your 4-bedroom mansion than I'm paying for my measly 12'x10' space in Chelsea.
First, the criteria:
Material:Hard solid wood, not faux wood, not veneer.
Headboard:Yes, preferably curved to allow ergonomic bedtime reading posture.
Footboard:Preferably not - since this makes the room seem smaller. Open spaces!
Base:Platform, with wooden slats, eventually upgraded to tatami mats.
Height:Just enough to have some degree of under-bed storage.
Shape:Clear, crisp lines on a simple, minimalist frame.

Second, the platform bed websites, with my preferences mentioned.
Located, surprisingly, in Salt Lake City, Utah! Furniture designs are noce and contemporary, but you are looking at a moderate shipping charge, and all that shipping delay. Horizon and Virginia are winning designs.
Located at 30th and Madison, among other places, this is the ideal place to splurge on furniture for that "urban" look. The Solid & Basic bed I liked was among the cheapest items in the store, at $650. A basic small table costs upwards of $450. Their Furnish software makes it a breeze to plan your room(s) with their furniture.
Located just a few blocks from the BO Concept store, this is a more traditional look at upscale furniture. Everything is still in the scale of thousands, not hundreds. Not as tech-savvy as the BO Concept.
At 113 University Pl., this seems to be a popular place to check out bargain-priced futons and beds. Have not been to this place yet - shall let you know once I do.
As you can see, now we are drifting into futons. Has a huge collection of them, and the prices look reasonable. I have no idea where they are located, but shipping is free.
Ah - the so-called Zen bed. This has become almost a dream bed for me - have been eyeing this for a good couple of years. It's expensive, and does not have any storage space. But it's pretty!
Completely unrelated, Hong Kong-based website - but it has a lot of tips about mattresses and futons. Worth a look-see.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Java and Rocket Science

Yup - you guessed it. It's Friday again, which means my sanity is coming to a dismal end. So here's my personal way to vent it out.

Had an interview in the morning, and then came to work to find the same insanity in the air as always - people twiddling their thumbs and making money, some more than the rest, people throwing darts on the magnetic dartboard and missing the entire board, people listening to songs played through the tiny wimpy speakers of their sad computers.

So, now that I was in the interview mood, I asked myself - what would I ask someone on a Java interview? How about - "Launch a missile to the moon, in 3 lines of Java code"? In case you are wondering, here's the answer:
MissileLaunchingSystem myMLS = new MissileLaunchingSystem();
myMLS.setDestination (Destination.MOON);
Note that you should use Destination.MOON instead of giving your own destination, because it's always better to use Java constants from the packaged classes than create your own. Also, the coordinates of the moon may be changed in future versions of Java, and this way you avoid having to rewrite your code every time that happens.

Of course, the import statements have been left out ("as an exercise to the reader"). We had a small discussion on this - I feel it should be a part of the javax.* package, since it's more of an extension of the Java language than something that's an integral part of it. So it should probably be javax.astronomy.RocketScience.*, or something like that.

Now, you should note that this code is not very good - it does not handle the exceptions properly. Here's a better way to handle the exceptions:

try {
.... {code as above}
} catch (NoMoreMissilesException e) {
System.err.println ("Sorry - no more missiles - please buy some more");
} catch (IllegalLaunchDestinationException e) {
System.err.println ("Sorry - destination not allowed!");
} catch (Throwable th) {
System.err.println ("Launch failed: exception in launching missile!");
The code is considerably longer, but then the user has a better clue as to why the missile was not launched. In case of time sensitive execution like this, it's very important to inform the user about the state of the launch, and the reasons as to why it failed. After all, this is not Citigroup's SDLC process for mundane finance work - THIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE!!

If you ever come across an easier way to launch missiles, remember where you read about it first!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

All work and no play

I spent the evening studying at my favorite Barnes and Noble, and came home all charged up for new knowledge (!). My internet connection was down for the last few days - the modem is in the room of my apartment-neighbor, who is happily backpacking around Europe. So I took the brute force approach - caught hold of his apartment-mate as she was leaving for dinner, got into his apartment, and rebooted the whole house - i.e. shut off the mains, counted till forever, and put everything back on. Voila! My internet works again. Thanks for advanced idiot-proof self-starting cable modems and routers.

So - going by the new trend I've adopted of writing down all the cool (not!) places I've been today:
Sybase FAQ:
sybPerl FAQ:
Java FAQ: project:
Java FAQs and tutorials:

Monday, August 09, 2004

Coney Island and Kayaking

Met up with Savinder Dhaliwal last Friday- after a long 6 years since we left Kharagpur. Kanishka and Krishna had also come over, and we all paid our respective 10 bucks to Lowes 42nd street, in return for a show of The Manchurian Candidate. Plans for dinner went through the roof when the movie ended at 1:30 in the morning.

Saturday was extremely bright and sunny, and it looked like a shameful waste to sit at home and do nothing, or the next best thing to nothing, watch movies. So off I went to Coney Island. Never been there before. Definitely an interesting place to visit. Though I can not speak of the beach in superlatives, the permanent fair and rides are definitely eye-catching. This happened to be one of those times when the circus show was running, and I had a nice time watching the Indie-movie equivalent of the circus domain. Topped off with some good fish and chips from Nathans.

Sunday was earmarked for kayaking in NJ. Started the day healthy with a fresh-squeezed vegetable and fruit juice mix, and took the Suburban bus to Kingston. Hit Nassau Street for breakfast at Zorba's Grill, relaxed a bit, and finally landed up at Princeton Canoe and Kayak Rental around 3 in the afternoon. This was a rather nice first experience on Kayaks, and it was really a pleasure to see how spontaneously these things handled to our actions. Downstream was a breeze, upstream nearly so as well - you don't get an exercise unless you really want to. Definitely a nice way to relax and unwind on a fair weather weekend.

Friday, August 06, 2004

A new concept: share the knowledge

Krishna and Kanishka came up with a novel idea. It's like this - I spend most of my days on the web, surfing around (much like a crawler, but of flesh and blood composition) to websites old and new, and picking up some bits and pieces of knowledge I never thought I would use. So, it's probably a good idea to summarize all I learnt today and put it up right here, with a few references, so I can come back and pick it up from where I dropped off.

So what did I learn recently? Let me see.


Yesterday I spent a lot of time reading up on car sharing and station cars. Two concepts that are developing in urban areas, and replacing the need for every family to own a car of their own. Zipcar is a major player in this game in the US. The idea is the similar to a database threadpool for my servers - applied to cars. Instead of a car belonging to a family, and being used only once a week, the car belongs to a pool of cars, and people pay for its use as and when required. Read up on Google to learn more on it. Pretty cool, except that ZipCar charges $12 to $16 an hour, not quite as cheap as I would like it to be.

Also on recently aquired knowledge - this awesome website to find the perfect headset: I found this to be way better, and way easier to narrow down by my criteria, than most other websites (such as, which had a lesser selection). allows you to filter by brand, price range, usage (consumer/professional), design (over the ear? ear bud?), compatibility (cell/computer/etc), sound mode (mono/stereo), power handling (!), and keywords. I really liked the stereo headsets, but chose the Etymotic headset for myself (no, this is not stereo, even though it shows up as one) - I am rather pleased with my ER-6 earbud headphones, so thought I'd give this a try. Received it this morning, and am loving it so far.

Then I went into some gaming, and found this. Real Arcade, though blocked by office proxy servers, is guaranteed to provide you with hours of entertainment with the huge number of games it presents. Most games have a 60 min playtime for free, from what I could see, and then it's time to hand out the money. I recommend Atomic Pongling.