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The past 3 years are definitely my most cherished. I have been, for a while now, searching for the reason. Then suddenly, like Michael Jackson’s father, it hit me! It was because of ‘the brotherhood’: the symbiotic, invisible entity that kept a few of us at “Flat No.2” running on “crazy_godmode ON” for the past 3 years and is still continuing to.All the madness, the insanity that constituted our day, everyday for those 3 years, made “Flat no.2” transform into “Makkanville” – a home for the mentally unchallenged, creatively eclectic and ingenious, psychotically friendly, suicidally instinctive, constantly high even without a single drop of alcohol or drugs,  & of course completely MAK! (No, only the privileged few know what ‘MAK’ means, so if you don’t and want to  – you need to qualify through a few tests or otherwise I could, but then I will have to shoot you. heh :P)

The very description of the orkut community – an outcome of that very instinct – reads:

“22 years of each of our lives we have tread through different roads culminating in an exquisite tapestry of events, which in the words of lesser theist mortals is described as providence. The world taught us to think demanding our silent and obedient consent.

But now we sought to end that silence.”

And ‘end’, we did. We were so loud that we are pretty sure the rest of the families and other bachelors who stayed in the adjacent flats were deaf. :D

I was discussing the current state of makkanville with mr. neo ‘kuttominium’ kurian (yes, as destructive as a uranium bomb), recently. We are both not in India now, and came to the same conclusion about Makkanville – it was paradise… a para-dise. a home away from home.  Even Prony agrees! In all the chaos and disorder, there was real life. Not a moment of stillness or dullness.

Almost every thought was followed by action – no matter what time of the day / night – hunger, gaming, discussions, movies, photography sessions, bike/car drives through the city or even across state for happily missing the train! :D. Act-on-instinct was a part of the makkan culture. And also extremely similar tastes in music, movies, games It was what really bonded us as really fast friends than just being roommates working in the IT sector. Our interests were all varied with some overlap – just enough that every one remained an individual, yet didn’t live oblivious of the others living in the same home.

Gaming and movies was the first to catch on. Killer CS gaming rounds followed by Tekkan massacres and Gears of War DMs and Guitar Hero and Kratos mania! Movies – English, Old comedy mallu was available on tap. Those night long discussions sometimes went from deeply spiritual topics to absolutely silly ones where each of laughed our head off to no ends. Usually after such discussions, someone (:D) would get hungry and the entire group would get to the bikes and the car .. in 5 minutes we’ll  be hogging off to glory at paramount or empire. (the 2 restaurants that remain open till 3-4AM in the morning.). Some may ask – why can’t these people just cook something rather than going out at night? – well, beyond the fact that all of us love to ride bikes, cooking has been a ‘special, highly restricted” procedure at Makkanville. Cooking rice and a curry could never have taken more time. 4-5 hours. Don’t ask further. Click here to know. Oh the birthday parties – we make sure the person celebrating his birthday wishes that he were never born, atleast on that day. The ‘brutal’ (:P) beating has been a trademark procedure (patent pending :D). Then there were the photography sessions. My goodness. Most start with the simplest click – probably a watch kept at an angle in a particular lighting. From there, it would start. Maybe for the next 5 hours or till the batteries last. Tech was always available. A quad core comp w/ ati4870 & 22″ LCD monitor, 5 laptops, x360, ps2, over 15 games, dSLRs, a HD handycam, and people who knew how exactly to use it. Time would just while away with each one getting the rest to learn something from him. And all this was so indirect, so without an intent to learn, but just to enjoy the time. Oh wow… what a time!

A few memorable incidents would be:

1.) That silly april fool trick that backfired!

2.) Mr. StapleCropofSrilanka messing up the train timings to getting us to rev up those bikes across the blore-cochin route!

3.) All the birthday ‘bashes’.

4.) Kuttominium and Gefa discussing the fish and ball story (KaPra and I were the witness to that, UltraPJ filled yet spectacular, 1 hour discussion.)

5.) Kuttominium, Gefa, Abhyen, KaPra & I on CS servers… with nade deaths!

6.) Cleaning up the mutant-testing lab… ahem, in other homes – it would be called…. no, you guessed it wrong,… its the kitchen! :D

7.) Late night bike ride to Bang 4 (when I had just got my bike).

8.) KaPra’s movie shooting and the death of Kuttominium! (in the movie!)

9.) “Veedu Aveshyam Kidu Chanda” and all the likes!

10.) Playing on one song over n over n over again…. :P Talk about overkill… ;)

11.) Gefa’s downloading sprees.

12.) KaPra’s movie rendering mania on his ol’ PC.

13.) Double Kill on the pressure cooker.

14.) Final cooking attempt

15.) Kuttominium’s Car tricks and the moonwalk. =)

There are many many more….

It was where life was truly celebrated throughout the year, at least for those of us who were a part of makkanville. It was madness.. but that kept us human.

Cheers to all the makkans – Ashu, Abhyen, Kuttominium, KaPra, Gefa, StapleCrop_Rubber, Porny, Arin, Faul, Kolla & Codey (There are some who are non-residents, to them too- you know who you are!).

“We are the Lords of all creation!”

\m/!

KK ;)

Well, this is not, by definition, an ‘ode’.

I miss my old friend. Here is why.

I met him when I was in 3rd or 4th. I don’t exactly recollect. I remember he didn’t seem to like me at first instant. He was moving from his old place, so his folks asked me n my folks if we could help him get settled down in a new place – my place actually. I still remember the tears in his eyes when he knew that he would’ve to leave from his old home. He reluctantly moved along with me. We reached home late that night. He wouldn’t get in, we were surprised at first. But then he eventually did come into the living room. He ate well and I spent sometime with him sitting on the porch outside until it was 11pm or so.

For the next 4 years he spent his time with us. He was my best friend during that period.

He died of a snake bit, and died on the way to the vet-hospital. Right in front my eyes. Bleeding from his mouth. My first pet. A doberman.

I have two pet dogs now, but I, still am, reminded of those times.

Dogs ARE man’s best friend.And I miss him.

:(.

-neo.

I have kept aside 2 other entries to write this one. This one is pretty serious and may be helpful to a lot of people minus the uber tech-minded. I can easily list a dozen who would find this useful. Anyways, never know how many more. This one about is protecting our identity on the net. Writing it in the wake of an incident/conundrum that my friend was caught up in.

A few years ago, identity stealing on the net wasn’t as rampant – at least it was not as devastating as it is now.That statement shouldn’t be misunderstood or undermined – I meant it wasn’t as important because of the purpose and the kind of information that was put up which also has a lot to do with our age. Its a lot different now. Social networks are key in helping us develop contacts over the net, maintain relations with people we can call up every other day or mail lengthy stories – there are many people we would like to keep in touch with, yet this is as direct we can get with them, many like to share their information online – pictures, videos, news etc. Orkut, Facebook, Twitter: how we communicate with others has changed in way we couldn’t imagine. With the ease of keeping all our friends and colleagues updated, comes a huge problem of identity theft. It is not because of ‘hackers’ that it happens – more often due to our mistakes- rather – due to what we overlook.  We tend to overlook the importance of information that we put online – birthdays (coming to US, I realize that birthdays can be ‘confidential’ information.), work place, where we live, phone numbers, sometimes tons of personal pictures left open for the millions of the networks users to see – or will be exaggerating if I say -‘exploit’? My father is an avid user of technology, but has always remain wary of using his credit card on the net. In fact, if I am right he has used it less than 5 times.

Staying off these networks are not really an option for us, these days – at least for those my age – where the entire group of friends are spread around the world – due to work, study – whatever the reason. So how do we use these sensibly and safely? Point is – the framework to protect our identity, atleast within the boundaries of the network, exists. Many aren’t aware, but most aren’t bothered. It is shocking that most don’t take a little time off to secure their profiles on Orkut and Facebook, many aren’t aware of the people following them on Twitter(unless you are a public figure!). Most aren’t aware of how pervasive these platforms are. These have become a part of our lives and it is just as important to be careful using these as we are with our Social Security Numbers or securing our home. These sites are our identity in the virtual universe, though it maybe not be held in a court of law(I am not sure), but it has its impact within the society. Of course, how secure can we keep it, well there are limits.

My friend found out about a fake profile of hers when it popped up in her ‘Suggestions’ list on Facebook. Shocked and Depressed would be an understatement to express the feeling. That fake profile contained every bit of her information that would be usually found on Facebook – work location, city and the display picture. Facebook may – rather should accept our request to ban the profile. But it doesn’t really stop the person from making another profile. It is scary, a purpose unknown – but definitely not in best interests. Its scary especially because anyone can do it and that someone has done it. The latter part gets more emphasis.

It is a Matrix in a way. We are all plugged in. We all have our own ‘digital self’. We are all dependent on it as much as the ‘machines’ are dependent on us to survive – no users, no social networks or many users – more popularity. Get the drift? Similarly, getting ‘killed in the matrix’ can get you ‘killed in the real world’. Though, probably, not literally.

So how? How do we protect our identities from the ‘Agents’?

The most important point is that we need to be aware that we are responsible for our profiles and everything that goes with it. Security of information starts with us.

Next would be to understand the framework – the privacy settings available on sites like Orkut, Facebook & Twitter.

Third, unless you are the kind who wants to make all your information public or treat every ‘friend’ you add, or every (specific case: ) facebook application to be reliable as trustworthy – be careful who gets to know what info about you.

Many of us may think – ‘Yes, we all know this. What is your point?’ – well, what I am saying is, maybe I am paranoid about my identity on the net, but I prefer that people I don’t know don’t get to know me more than I want them to. Also, many know about this – but are too lazy to use it. Keep things on a need-to-know basis. But it helps. Yes, I do have to put ‘faith’ in the Orkut and Facebook team that they adhere to their policies, but beyond that – I want to be in control. Again, I agree – the limitation being that – someone who knows me outside of a social network creates a profile in my name – well, I really can’t stop that. All I am talking about here is privacy from strangers.

Here are a few tips:

For Orkut:

Information visibility can be controlled ‘Profile Settings’. Access to Photo Albums, Scrap book, getting requests can be controlled in the ‘Privacy tab’ in ‘Settings’. Now 99% of you may know this and 99% of you may use it as well. Photo Tagging can be disabled. Albums can be given access on a per-person or group basis. These can make the person visiting your profile see only that which he/she should see. Orkut is not as good as Facebook when it comes to information hiding, but its simpler and more straightforward.

For Facebook:

-Use the ‘Limited Profile’ feature. I hear that many newly created profiles don’t have that facility. Just make a list – in the ‘Friends’ window. Add people to this limited profile who needn’t be knowing everything about you, but still need to communicate with you – like your office colleague may not need to know about your personal blog page – so he/she can be pushed into a list in which your blog page isn’t shown. Another list in which some people get to see some set of photo albums whereas the rest of them don’t see it at all. Facebook is highly flexible with respect to protecting every bit of your information. Just needs to be tuned to your needs. Oh, yes, after adding people to a particular list, head to the ‘Privacy’ settings under the Settings button. Then to ‘Profile’. There – you can setting to ‘Custom’ where you get an option of ‘Except these people’ – where you can type in the list-name and save the setting. Well, try it out. Leave a comment if you can’t figure out how to use it, sure can help.

-Another setting thats hidden away is in the ‘Search’ option under ‘Privacy’. Here you can change settings to suit your need so that you aren’t searched for, by just about anyone on facebook. Also – the reduce the info shown when your profile shows up.

-This one – ‘News Feed and Wall’ – under that – there is another one called ‘Facebook Ads’ which may use some of your profile information (pictures, application use, interests) to create custom ads for showing to your friends. Its not really a loop hole in privacy per se, but again, you can opt out of it.

-Under ‘Applications’ (still within ‘Privacy’) – there are set of controls for information being passed on to ‘Applications’ (like Mafia wars, what is your personality type?, etc..) – best to uncheck all, imo. (But check  – ‘Don’t allow … to view membership … Facebook connect’, the ‘Beacon sites…’).

Tweaking these settings can really shut you out from any stranger trying to view into your profile.

To end, I remember, my friend from coll – a comp wiz and a master at explaining technology as he took a seminar on ‘Computer Security & Hacking’ when we were all in the 1st year, telling me – “There is no perfect security system, otherthan, probably, enclosing yourself and the computer inside a radiation proof room, then seal it around and then sink yourself to the greatest depths of the ocean. Even then computer security may not be at a 100%!”. We can only keep improving, but there is no real end to it all.

Hope this has been of some help and consciousness raising to a few. Some of you may not have used these features. Some may know better. Comments welcome.

-neo.

Like Calvin says: ‘I am simple man with complex tastes’ …

Like V, in V for Vendetta says: ‘ Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.’

Like Ironman says: ‘Yeah, I am not a soldier… I am an army’

A unique mix of eclectic tastes and worldviews which give my life consistency and a broad outlook to accept that others are equally unique.

On a path that reveals itself bit by bit…

For previous blogs: http://unreal1ty.blogspot.com

That’s it.

neo.

Who Am I?

Hume's philosophy says I am just a figment of imagination.

Physics demonstrates that I am, like everyone else, made of star dust.

Biology explains that I am, like everyone else, a product of evolution by natural selection.

Neuroscience clarifies that I, like everyone else, have no free will.

Reality, almost, threatens that I, like everyone else, occupies an almost negligible portion of time & space.

Whatever may be the case, where ever it may lead me to, I am on a journey, as should you, to find out more about the world and universe(s?) I live in and love so dearly for all I have. After all, we have this one life.

The World Through My Eyes

Milky Way Eruption

Bellevue by night

Chihuly Glass and Garden

View from Pike

Waterfront reflections

Seattle

Cookie

Cookie

At Palouse

At Palouse

More Photos

Rabble in a Box

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