The Word of Shay.'s avatar

The Word of Shay.

State of the Shay, 2013.

Last year, on December 31st, I posted a State of the Shay, 2012 post, which was a pretty simple overview of the good things and the bad things that marked the 2013th year of the common era (think about it.) As planned, this is the equivalent post for this year.

How did 2013 go? Unlike last year, I believe the answer is broadly simpler and more positive. Real progress in my interpersonal relationships was made, and I grew, both intellectually and emotionally, at a rate significantly higher than before.

This time last year, I commented on the Delhi rapes and the Sandy Hook massacre. Indian attitudes towards the role of women in society have not yet caught up with Western attitudes, but the outcry over the rapes showed rapidly changing public opinion. On Sandy Hook, this year has only served to exacerbate my negativity. No significant new gun control laws have come into force.

All sorts of major events, both positive and negative, occurred this year. January marked French intervention in Mali, which successfully controlled the Islamist insurgency. We grew ears on mice, worried about North Korea and worried about our own government spying on us.

The events which tarnished 2013 were not out of the ordinary. Terrorism and insurgencies are a continuing problem that we’re going to have to learn to deal with. I do not yet know if we will succeed. The positive events, on the other hand, were rather unusual in their greater long-term benefits as opposed to short-term ones.

Growing ears on mice and the creation of embryonic stem cells through cloning will not immediately solve the problems caused by immune rejection of transplanted organs, nor will they end the need for transplants. Over time, however, these are major scientific breakthroughs which will shape medicine this century. I predict that in forty years, Biology students will remember this year.

On a personal level, the year has see even greater change. I began the year lonely, and I end it quite the opposite. I began the year confident of my self and my abilities, and I end it quite unsure. I began the year bored with the repetition of daily life, and I end it enjoying the benefits of student choice.

In January, I continued my streak of being quite good at passing exams. I consolidated my love of TV’s Community, and became part of a Tumblr fandom for the first time. I continued to play Minecraft, with Ultra Hardcore becoming a somewhat irregular feature of my Friday nights.

On February 7th, the fourth season of Community aired on NBC. Perhaps I am far too attached to my television, but the show’s return really was the only good thing which occurred in February. February is usually my darkest month, and the world of Greendale gave me some joy where the world provided none.

March, as usual, provided some relief. Winter was, after all, ending. I made a new friend in my German exchange student, Christian. I rediscovered SimCity, which was an experience in itself. SimCity taught me that some things deserve to be left in the past, lest their modern adaptations prove damaging to peoples’ memories of old brilliance.

In April, the greatest peacetime Prime Minister died. Lady Thatcher was a true inspiration to me, both politically and personally. The simple daughter of a merchant, she believed in opportunity and in progress. It is thanks to the policies of her government that we managed such growth in the early noughties.

My birthday is in May, so I have a sweet spot for that month. I remember exams dominating my life once again. School ended and I experience the joys of study leave. Exams weren’t really a problem, and I do not remember being particularly stressed in all areas except Food Technology. There, I felt as if I would fail. The new Daft Punk album came out, which was nice (even if it wasn’t as good as Discovery.) With school ending, I saw some people for the last time. On the whole, they weren’t people I particularly cared for.

I went to a party in June, and there began the next stage of my life. It became clear to me the friends in my life were true friends; the doubt of their loyalty and propensity to care faded. I then went on holiday to the United States, where I met cousins I had never met before. I was refreshed and ready to take the world on again.

July was a month of personal transformation. For the first time in my life, I was host to a German-speaking teenage boy much like myself (but equally completely different.) I also went to my year 11 prom, where I saw all my classmates looking fabulous. The good times kept going, especially when I went to Germany right at the end.

Before August, I had never spent more than a week in a foreign country without my parents. I spent three weeks in Germany eating, drinking and learning the German language. I also received my results from the exams in May and June, and found out I’d received 11 A*s and 1 B grade at GCSE. This was incredibly pleasing.

School began again in September, but a different kind of school. Sixth Form was not an especially huge shock to my system, but it was so refreshing to see so many new faces around school. I made tonnes of new friends, and began to only study the things I like. I also met a certain special someone.

October was a month of slow advancement. The changes of September continued. The person I met in September became an ever more important part of my life. School went on. Life went on. I computerised my school notes, waving goodbye to the inefficiencies of pen and paper for all my courses except Maths.

Honestly, there was one, incredibly sad event which cast a long shadow over November. Some people aren’t necessarily your best friends, but their presence and their company, however rare, has a positive influence on your life to an extent disproportional to their relationship with you. The loss of such people is difficult to imagine for a reasonably privileged person such as myself.

This December was uneventful, except for the Sixth Form Social which occurred near its climax. At the Social, I made a decision about the special person in my life which I hope will have a huge effect on our continued relationship into 2014. I should think it is a good decision, and I hope she shall agree.

The year was generally unremarkable. Life did change in a way I did not expect, and I am yet again a different person in December than I was in January. I have hopes and desires for this year, but it is equally possible that by December, my best friends will have changed and the special person in my life will have disappeared. The Akshay of December 31 2013 does not, however, wish this so.

My resolutions for the coming year are simple:

  • Perform well in all exams I will be sitting.
  • Form an exquisite and long-lasting relationship with the special person.
  • Get into shape.
  • Learn to reduce the peaks and troughs in self-esteem.
Spotify

Higher - Free

I absolutely adore this song

HP Chromebook 11 “Made with Google” - the Word of Shay review

2008 gave birth to two independent revolutions in computing: apps, pioneered by Apple’s iPhone, and HTML5, which provided the tools for rich webapps allowing one to move all one’s computing to the browser. Google has bet its future on both of these revolutions through the app-targeting Android and the webapp-targeting Chrome OS.

Whilst the age of apps is now thoroughly underway, the same isn’t true for HTML5 (and therefore webapps.) The HP Chromebook 11 is, like all Chromebooks, thoroughly reliant on HTML5 in order to function. Whilst the quality of webapps has improved since the first Chromebooks, they still struggle to match the quality of native apps such as those on an Android tablet.

Chromebooks face another challenge to their adoption: the industry shift away from netbooks towards tablets. iPad and other tablets such as Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire have mostly ended the mid-2000s growth of netbooks, and has killed Asus’ Eee PC. 

In light of these two handicaps, one might have thought the HP Chromebook 11 was dead on arrival. No apps, no touch screen, and no Windows make this device seem dated. In contrast, this machine offers the portability of a tablet with the functionality of a laptop makes for an essential device for web addicts like myself.

At first glance, the Chromebook looks as if Apple had decided to base the MacBook Air design on the old white MacBook rather than on the MacBook Pro. Thinner than a retina MacBook Pro, it’s silent too, because of its fanless ARM processor.

The white design appeals to me in the same way the white MacBook did because it oozes simplicity in the Jony Ive-sense of the word. The design aids functionality instead of hindering as the designs of similarly priced netbooks (or even competing Chromebooks) often do.

Sound quality is not up to a true audiophile’s standard, but then neither is the sound quality of any laptop. It is, however, notably better than the Samsung Chromebook’s tinny output, and the speakers are cleverly hidden underneath the keyboard. 

The 11” display is an IPS display, which means the perception of quality is not affected for 176 degrees. Colours appear clearer and blacks are truer too, and the display generally looks fantastic (whilst, of course, not being anywhere near the levels achieved by the retina MacBook Pro.)

The device weighs just 1.04kg (2.2 pounds), which is about 40g fewer than the 11” MacBook Air. Moving from a 13” white MacBook, the weight difference is almost an entire kilogram. Suffice to say, I could take it anywhere.

The thing which, to me, makes a Chromebook appealing is actually one of the more mundane things to find in a personal computer. It’s the keyboard. A full sized chiclet keyboard made with the quality one’d expect from Apple is not to be taken lightly; it makes for a compelling case for a Chromebook. 

With this device in tow, you can forget silly keyboard docks and Touch Covers. The keyboard has excellent traction and has almost transition period when switching from another laptop. Furthermore, the Chromebook has an idyllically sized touchpad. It doesn’t suck, like it seems the touchpad of every OEM except for Apple sucks. Indeed, it supports and excels at two-finger scrolling, two-finger right-clicking and back/forward gestures.

On to the software aspect, I’ve found it quite difficult to find use cases I can’t manage with the Chromebook. Documents are perfectly manageable in Google Drive, not to mention the availability of Apple’s quite effective iWork in the Cloud. 

Skype remains a glaring omission. Google’s attempts to push Hangouts may not have totally failed, but they have failed to displace Skype as the go-to videochatting service. Skype have promised a webapp in the form of Microsoft’s Outlook.com, but apparently it’ll work via Silverlight, which Chrome OS does not support.

Complex Word documents are another issue. Edexcel, a British exam board, provides mark schemes for its exam papers in Word format (instead of PDF, for some reason), and neither Google Drive nor Quickoffice can effectively format the document, especially with mathematical symbols present.

Other than those two issues, most things possible on a Mac have been possible on a Chromebook. Printing would have been an issue had it not been possible for a Raspberry Pi to be used as a Google Cloud Print server. Printing relatively basic documents now works completely fine. Evernote has a surprisingly nice webapp.

The ARM processor which allows a fanless design does hold the Chromebook back, unfortunately. Whilst powerful enough to do almost anything on its own, multitasking is difficult. Playing Spotify or Google Play Music works to an acceptable degree, but random frames of music are skipped. Ironically, I suspect that Spotify has better performance than Google Play Music.

I started this review by talking about the success of the “App revolution” vs the “Web revolution.” I don’t think the HP Chromebook 11 will significantly challenge the developing hegemony of smartphones and tablets, but I don’t think the two revolutions overlap in their use cases either. Having a Chromebook does not eliminate the need for a Nexus 7 and vice versa. 

Instead, it’s my belief that Chromebooks and tablets will, instead of cannibalising each other, become increasingly deadly to the traditional PC market. Chromebooks in conjunction with tablets are far superior to traditional PCs and laptops in almost all usage cases, and are becoming better by the day.

For these reasons, the HP Chromebook 11 is yet another pebble in the long road to the mobilisation of personal computing. Yet Google and HP have managed to make more than just a cheap bargain basement product; the Chromebook 11 is a capable, beautiful and most importantly functional device.

Spotify

22

Men are allowed to like this song

wilwheaton
wilwheaton:

BLOG: I should have come up with a better title than MMMMMARRAAAHHH.View Post

wilwheaton:

BLOG: I should have come up with a better title than MMMMMARRAAAHHH.

View Post

Irrelevant thoughts on Egypt.

I believe in democracy. Really, I do. Democracy is one of those things to which I believe every society is entitled, regardless of history or other societal factors which may be cause for concern. I began with that in order to truly illustrate how displeased I was with Mr. Mohammed Morsi’s victory in the Egyptian presidential election of 2012, and how pleased I was to hear of his ouster. 

My view is generally the one shared by the majority of protesters in Egypt. Democracy is not enough. Democracy can, and has, lead to a tyranny of the majority with the effect of oppressing the minority. One therefore requires checks and balances in the system.

Furthermore, I believe that a constitution with a religious ethos is a bad constitution. Moreover, theocracy of even the most limited kind is bad. Yet, the Egyptian constitution which was recently suspended forbade insulting the Prophet, and required the press not “contradict the principles on which society is based,” a carefully coded reference to sharia law. 

Discrimination based on gender was effectively decriminalised under the new constitution, and the main source of legislation openly being described as “the principles of Islamic law” mean the Egyptian constitution was a theocratic one showing that Egypt’s 2012 election had voted against democracy and in favour of Iranian-style “democracy” with a hint of Allah. 

The disgruntled liberal secularists thankfully disliked the constitution too, and the Army stepped in on their behalf. A bad day for democracy? The contrary. Morsi’s rule and constitution threatened to set Egypt on a one-way course to Iran-ville. There is no such thing as a moderate and tolerant theocracy. Eventually, they all turn extremist. 

I am a bit disappointed to learn that Adly Mansour is aiming straight for elections, because I believe a constitution should be drafted and approved first, preferably by plebiscite. A secular constitution not too far from Turkey’s, which is race, gender and faith blind. A constitution in which the higher deities are not invited.

Nevertheless, fresh elections are another chance for the Egyptian people to choose the correct choice. For that, I am pleased.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Spoilers (duh). 

I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind today on Netflix. I decided to watch it because of this Polyphonic Spree song “Light & Day” which isn’t actually in the movie, but is in the soundtrack. Oh well, I’m glad I watched it because I have a new favourite rom-com.

Strictly speaking calling Eternal Sunshine a rom-com is a bit of a stretch. Sure, it’s got the “boy meets girl” element and there are moments which made me laugh (Jim Carrey… he’s my lobster), but it’s more of a really dramatic science fiction film with elements of psychological thriller. 

Still, I’m including it as a rom-com because the film has just so much heart. And it does a fantastic job handling the rom, even if the com part was probably unintended. Until now, my favourite rom-com had always been (since ‘09, of course) (500) Days of Summer but I honestly think Eternal Sunshine has knocked it off the top of my list.

The two films actually have quite a bit in common. Both are told in a nonlinear style, so as to deliberately annoy those unfamiliar with indie flicks. Both feature a male protagonist (from whose perspective the story is told) who is brooding and “lacking something.”

Then, the two films diverge. Eternal Sunshine knocks down the “manic pixie dream girl” trope which Zooey Deschanel has become known for playing. Clementine, played by Kate Winslet (whom I don’t like in anything but this and Titanic), breaks down the MPDG trope eloquently with “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.” 

The two films end with completely different messages, too. In Eternal Sunshine, Clem and Joel get back together after accepting the other’s critiques of them as flaws they can move past. In (500), the film ends with Jess  Summer talking to Tom about how she’s discovered all the feelings she wasn’t sure about with Tom. 

One of the reasons I particularly like Eternal Sunshine is the awesome ensemble cast, whose role is expanded upon through the film. Elijah Wood, everybody’s favourite Hobbit, appears as Patrick, who unethically uses his knowledge to seduce Clementine. Mark Ruffalo, of Hulk-y fame, has a profound but somewhat disappointingly lacking role. Kirsten Dunst’s affair with her boss is the catalyst for Clem and Joel’s realisation they’ve already met. (500) is an especially indie film, so an A-list cast is obviously difficult, and Tom’s sister was charming. Nonetheless, I do feel Eternal Sunshine handles the supporting cast better. 

Somehow, this piece has turned from a review/critique of Eternal Sunshine into a comparison with (500). I’ve got to be perfectly clear that both movies deserve a place in my “if you love this you’re probably awesome” list, and that anybody who liked (500) will freaking dig Eternal Sunshine. Although, since it came out in 2004, they’ve probably already seen it.

9/10 would recommend. 

(PS. Jim Carrey really shows that he can do dramatic roles that are light on humour. I wish he wasn’t typecast as the “comedy guy” so we could see this side of him. Perhaps he’ll show his dramatic side in Kick-Ass 2, although I somewhat doubt it.) 

Yes, I have a working blog now!

(And I plan on using it like a blog.) 

You mightn’t know this, but I’ve actually had a Tumblr account in some shape or form since 2010. Heck, even I didn’t know that during some phases. I never really used my Tumblr account because I was probably a bit too immature to blog regularly and I was a highly opinionated jump-to-conclusions douchebag. 

This did change in late 2011, when my friends started to get into Tumblr and specifically the fandom-side of the site. Frankly, I don’t get BBC’s Sherlock. It’s not one of the shows I really dig. To an extent, I think Tumblr’s made me feel this way regarding Sherlock, but that’s another blog post.

Anyway, I started getting tonnes and tonnes of Sherlock animated GIFs all over my Tumblr dashboard. This quickly expanded to include Harry Potter, Supernatural and other assorted pieces of media. 

This is pretty much where whatever blog I had, and it was not a very good one at any case, died. As in, it stopped being about long walls of text and started being about photosets and GIFs. I kept the same “blog” URL and became a fandomer (this only accelerated when I found the extensive Community fandom, and got really, really, really into that show.)

I’ve subsequently been in a really irritating no-man’s land regarding blogs. I’ve had essentially no idea where to put what. But today, I’m “launching” (nobody cares, so a launch is definitely hyperbole) the Word of Shay again as a blog full of blog posts, as opposed to GIFs.

I’ll end up posting here purely according to my own discretion. This means one oughtn’t get angry if I don’t post on regular schedules. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, if you exist!

fuckyeahitsshay

Recommendations

the-j-dizzle:

I thought I’d make a long list of shows stuff I absolutely recommend. They’re categorised, and listed in descending order from most loved to least loved, although I love them all. If bold, stop what you’re doing and start watching/doing them. This list isn’t conclusive, and is constantly being updated.

Sitcoms

  • Community
  • Scrubs
  • Cougar Town
  • Friends
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • New Girl
  • Happy Endings
  • South Park
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Family Guy
  • 30 Rock
  • The Big Bang Theory (up to season 3)
  • The Office (UK)
  • Modern Family
  • Party Down
  • Arrested Development
  • American Dad
  • Fawlty Towers
  • Spaced
  • Fresh Prince of Bel Air
  • The Simpsons

Drama shows

  • Firefly
  • Chuck
  • Veronica Mars
  • Silent Witness (forensics yo)
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Nashville (idk but my friend likes it)
  • Breaking Bad
  • Elementary

Video games

  • Minecraft
  • SimCity (2013)
  • SimCity 4
  • The Sims 3 (+expansions)
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  • Pokemon (any version)
  • Portal (+sequel)
  • Feed the Beast (minecraft mod)
  • Civilization V
  • FTL
  • BioShock (and probably Infinite assuming reviewers aren’t suddenly dumb)
  • Super Mario Bros. (any version)
  • Railroad Tycoon
  • Any kind of tycoon game, even goddamn Cinema Tycoon

As you can see, I like comedies a lot. They make me feel happy. This list is TBD as time passes.

fuckyeahitsshay

About Me.

the-j-dizzle:

image

Last day of mandatory schooling, I’m the Asian guy on the left.

Hey. My name’s Akshay Bilolikar and I inevitably sound arrogant when I try to describe myself. See? I did it again. I’m 16, I’m British, English, Indian, European, Asian and more importantly, just another human being.

I live in a relatively wealthy small town in the “heart” of England which makes my life both dull and incredibly privileged. My political views are, as any good political view should be, derived rationally from real life observations across the years. 

I like normal things:

  • Films
  • Sitcoms (Community, Scrubs, Cougar Town etc.)
  • Music
  • Procreation and related activities
  • Apple products
  • Books
  • Cartoons (Futurama, Clone High anyone?)

I like nerdy things:

  • Minecraft
  • SimCity (4) and the Sims (1,2&3)
  • Star Trek (only since recently)
  • Algebra
  • Chemistry
  • History
  • Statistics
  • Politics & Economics
  • Debate
  • Philosophy & Ethics
  • (Editing) Wikipedia

I dislike certain things too, sadly:

  • Internet Explorer (I even banned it from blog until recently)
  • Adobe Flash (Please. Stop. Crashing.)
  • Smokers who smoke around me
  • Peer pressure
  • The 2012 Spiderman film reboot (I miss Tobey Maguire, that’s all.)
  • 3D films.
  • The Star Wars prequel trilogy

I just like liking things, y’know?

(I have a more Tumblr-like blog over at the-j-dizzle.