Sunday, October 31, 2004

Blogger Lies

I wonder which retard programmed this Blogger software. For the last two months, the number of posts on my blog has remained unchanged, while I merrily add posts. For some reason, I am very pissed about it. And my unhappiness only grows every time I see that counter. I guess its because every time I post something new, it stays the same. As if telling me that my posts are worthless, and hence not worth counting. True, but depressing.

I am feeling like a piece of shit for another reason. I have now been to the DMV twice in a week, and haven't managed to even take the instruction permit exam, let alone pass it. The first time, I dick-headedly chose to visit the only DMV that actually doesn't issue new permits. When I found out, I felt like setting myself on fire. Especially because I had to make the trip using Rhode Island's lame ass public transportation - the bus. Huge disappointment. But apparently, it was just the beginning of my troubles.

The next time, my friend actually managed to locate a DMV office that is closer, and that actually issues new permits. I made sure I had all the documents that were listed on their ass faced website. Signature ID (passport), age ID (passport, again) proof of residence (credit card statements) etc. We made our way hopefully to that shit hole office at 7 in the morning, and waited outside for for an hour, in line with a bunch of people who seemed to be even bigger losers than myself. Wierd.

Finally, the doors opened and we all filed in like lost sheep. After some aimless wandering, I got as far as the counter where I was supposed to get my documents examined. The written test was only minutes away. Then, this lady who looked over my stuff told me I should get an accreditation letter from the University. This was to make sure I was still enrolled in the U. I looked at her incredulously for a moment. I tried to explain to her that I had all the documents that were listed on the DMV's website, and that this requirement was nowhere listed. She gave me a look that left me in no doubt as to what she thought of me. I see losers like you every day. Get the fuck out of here. She adjusted her composure, and said, somewhat daintily that she couldn't help me any more, since I didn't have the letter. I felt like holding her head by the hair, and banging it over the counter. But all I did was to put on my best look of exasperation, and walk away.

No prizes for guessing how hopeful I am of ever getting an instruction permit, leave alone a driving licence.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Ray Charles, anime and endorsement

As the title indicates, I will talk about Ray Charles, anime and endorsement. I am so creative.

As I mentioned some posts ago, I have been listening to significant amounts of soul/funk. Ray was in the news recently (what with his death, and the biopic). It only seemed appropriate that I check out his music. And boy, was that a good thing to do. Current faves: I can't stop loving you, Georgia on my mind, You don't know me and What'd I say.

Speaking of Ray, I recently saw my first anime movie - Metropolis, and the soundtrack features I can't stop loving you. The movie itself wasn't very good. I was disappointed with the cliched turns of plot, in spite of the fact that the creators were working with the rather more flexible medium of animation. But it had its good moments. Like the ending. Which is when Ray's song plays. I was surprised at how much more effective a song becomes when put in context. Now, everytime I listen to that song (which is quite often), I am reminded of the scene from the movie. It definitely sounds better and bigger now, than when I first heard it, before I saw this movie...

Coming to the final topic of this blog, I am soon going to announce my (very influential) endorsement for a Presidential candidate. Tough choice... stay tuned.

Also, my favoritest blog, the northlondonhippy blog, is a nominee for BOB (Best Of Blogs) - a contest conducted by Deutsche Welle. Please visit his blog, and vote for the hippy when it comes time to do so! Peace.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Blogs of interest

Of course I often click the Next Blog button. If you don't know what I am talking about, look at the top right corner for the nicely placed button that takes you to the next random blog. The number of blogs, styles, content all made me stand back and think about the whole idea of blogging. Anyway, I found some interesting blogs.

My favorite blog is easily the northlondonhippy's blog. Mr. Hippy actually put up his car as a giveaway, to promote his blog. I am sure he was high on his 'shrooms when he thought up this idea. Unfortunately for me, I live on the other side of the Atlantic.

Bill O'Reilly's in deep shit

Mr. No-Spin-Zone has been accused by FOX producer Andrea Mackris of sexual harassment. Among other things, O'Reilly called her up, and talked about sliding a falafel up her pussy, while they showered together! What a kinky motherfucker. Hilarious! Get the complete transcript of the suit filed against O'Reilly at the Smoking Gun. Actually, the allegations are sensational in many ways. O'Reilly claims that liberal radio show host Al Franken is set for some big comeuppance for taking on FOX (courtesy head honcho Roger Ailes). O'Reilly also ridicules Tom Brokaw, talks about his sexual prowess, and even does it with a vibrator, while on the phone with Mackris.

Surprisingly, none of the major media outlets covered this potentially explosive story. Not even the New York Times, which is regularly bashed by O'Reilly on his Factor and other shows. The Washington Post did cover it, although in a half-assed way. I would love to see if Bill still has the balls to dish morality lessons to everyone aound him. I sense him going down, and I love it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

True grit

The LA Times profiles Thomas van Orden, a homeless lawyer, who saves money by eating on alternate days, and has currently sued the State of Texas for breaching the First Amendment, which requires separation of Church and State. His allegation: a granite monument that stands outside the Texas Capitol in Austin, TX violates the said Amendment. Inscribed on the monument are the American Eagle, the Flag, and... the Ten Commandments! For over forty years, this granite slab went unnoticed. And then, along came van Orden.

His story is quite interesting. He is so broke for cash, that he doesn't know if he will be able to get to the Supreme Court in Washington to argue his case! Of course, even if he does that, he thinks he will probably sleep on the streets in Washington before arguing one of the most important cases in judicial history. The article is here.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Meeting with Agent Starling

My much awaited meeting with Agent Starling was totally anti-climactic. I was almost disappointed. I was expecting to meet with some obnoxious bureau agent, who I could direct my outrage at. Instead, I met a polite, gracious woman, who was almost apologetic about the whole issue. She looked like an ordinary government official. No Agent Smith sunglasses for her. I guess its a good thing it turned out to be her... She actually encouraged me to consider a career in the FBI! But I am not an American citizen. Do I want to be one? I don't know. Its off topic anyway.

It began with me giving her my `background'. It was really unnecessary, because the FBI can obtain all this information from the SEVIS database into which all of it is already entered. It was more of a `co-operation' thing. The human touch. Anyway, she also got my current residential address and my cellphone number. Will they tap my phone? I don't know. Should I have not given it to her? I don't really see how that would have helped, because its no big deal for the FBI to get my number. Not giving it to her would only have raised suspicions. I then showed her the pictures I had clicked in Boston. I gave her the purpose of my visit (the concert).

Apparently, she is on the JTTF - Joint Terrorism Task Force, around the Providence area. That is how the `suspicious activity' report filed in Boston worked its way to her. Clicking pictures in the train station is classified by the intelligence agencies as possible `pre-operation surveillance'. In effect, our meeting was (in her words,) to establish that this report was `unfounded'. At first, I was surprised she found out my office location, knowing just my name - but I figured all she would need to do is a Google Search. Indeed, Ms Starling admitted to as much! Ahh, the wonders of modern technology... I also told her that I distinctly remembered having seen someone else clicking snaps at the same time I was. She was apologetic when she heard that no one stopped him for questioning.

I asked her if there were any statutes that governed our meeting. She didn't know if there were any. It was her job to do `this kind of stuff'. I also wanted to know what would happen with all the information she just got. She said she would file a report with the agency saying she met the `suspect' (that's me), and found no sign of any unlawful activity or intent. The filed report is of course going to be permanent. Any other agent who will pull up a list for suspicious activities of the kind I just mentioned, will also see my report. I was worried about being flagged at airports and other places. Agent Starling assured me that wouldn't happen. I only have her word for it.

And that was it. It was over. She wished me a nice day, and left.

Updates on the Big Brother Incident

Apparently, I am not the only person of color being persecuted for clicking pictures in the land of the free. Agent Starling's (I love that pseudonym. Don't you?) visit to my office did generate some interest from other graduate students in the Brown CS Dept. One of them told me about Ian Spears, some guy in the Seattle area, who was pulled up for clicking pictures of a local tourist spot for one of his photography assignments. An account of his run in with the law is here and his blog is here.

Oh, and yeah, I am meeting with Agent Starling today afternoon. I can't wait to see how the inquisition goes. I have a few questions of my own for her...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Reach of Big Brother

Well, well, well... I am back. With a bang, too! The most unimaginable thing happened, and is still happening, over this last week. Let me get right into it.

So, I go to Boston last week for this Pearl Jam Concert. I arrive at Boston's South Station, and I start clicking snaps around the station with my new Kodak digital camera as soon as I get there. I manage to click about 5 snaps, when I am stopped by this burly guy in a suit. Too bad I don't click his snap. Big guy asks me why I am clicking snaps of the train station. I ask him what business it is of his. Then he tells me he is from the Justice Department! Sure enough, he shows me his credentials too, and they seem okay.

Justice Dept dude asks me where I am from, and what I am doing in Boston. He tells me that security people in stations get nervous when they see people taking pictures around the station, especially after the Madrid bomb blasts. That seems reasonable, except that I also see another guy - a white guy, standing nearby, clicking snaps, and no one is saying anything to him. I begin to see the light. Realizing that I am not in a real position to argue, I slip my camera into the backpack, and leave the scene.

I think about it later, just curse myself for being of colored skin, forget about it, and go on with life. Until today. I come into my office in the afternoon, and I see a note stuck on my computer: There is a number on it that I have to call at the earliest. Mind you, at the time I see the note, I make no connection with the Boston incident of the previous week. Curious, I call the number. The call connects, and I hear a voice at the other end say: "FBI Office, please wait". I almost shit in my pants when I hear that. I then look again at the note in my hand, and turn it around. Its a visiting card - FBI Special Agent Ms. Clarice Starling (I had to choose some name...)! I am freakin' out.

Agent Starling comes on line at the other end. At the time, I am thinking - what did I do wrong? I am mentally checking off things I could be apprehended for - Flying lessons? No. Preaching radical fundamentalist Islam? No. Deriding the President? Wishing he were ousted? Well, yeah... but who isn't? As I am groping for a reason, Special Agent Starling politely asks me if I had been to South Station the previous week... and then, suddenly it is clear! I almost relax. I tell her that I was indeed in Boston the previous week. I acknowledge having clicked pictures there. Ms Starling wants to `talk to me about it'. I groan inwardly. Whatever for? I ask her so. She says `the matter worked up to her', and so she has to `follow through with it'. She apologizes for bothering me, and says the meeting won't take more than 10 minutes. Its not like I have a choice, do I? So, I set up a time to meet with her later this week.

The incriminating pictures of the station, and a few more, are here:
Boston Pictures