Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Christmas Eve Chocolate Cake

In all the three years I've been writing on this blog, I don't think there's ever been a post quite like this — dedicated entirely to the preparation of a chocolate cake. So why now all of a sudden you ask? Because I made one today!

Pardon me fellow chefs if this cake isn't as good looking as it's supposed to be, the only prior cooking experience I have is making scrambled eggs. Anyway it tastes real nice, and that's all I care about. With that said, let's get on with the cake-making. If you haven't made a cake before, read and learn.

The Preparation

I bought this box of "Pillsbury Rich Chocolate Cake Mix" from Food World the other day (life is simple when you don't have to worry about the ingredients that go into making a cake, let alone their proportions). And yes, you obviously need a baking pan. You could use a big rectangular one, but then you'd have to spend time cutting it up into pieces once it's done. The simpler option would be to use a cup cake pan like the one I used. That way you don't have to worry about people looking strangely at all those irregularly sized/shaped pieces.

Mixing it Up

Add 2 eggs, 1/4 cup refined oil and 3/4 cup water to the cake mix and stir the mixture till you get a smooth batter. The mixer helps in the "smooth" department.

And it's Bake Time!

Grease the pan with butter and pour the batter into it. Bake in an oven at 170 degrees for 25-30 minutes and you're done. It really is that simple!

The Edibility Test

Like they say, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating". That's Karthik an hour ago with one of my cup cakes to go with that big mug of tea. Tea and chocolate cake is probably the weirdest combination ever, but who cares as long as he liked the cake! Oh and he's watching Die Hard in case you were wondering.

It's past 2am now (makes the latest XKCD so relavant), so Merry Christmas everyone and have a great day!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"The Outer Darkness" wins a Cacoward!

December 10 was Doom's 14th Anniversary (coincidently, it was also the day Led Zeppelin performed their first full concert in decades!), and to mark this occasion, every year Doomworld.com comes out with the "Cacowards" — to recognise the best maps released that year and the people who made them.

I'm very happy to announce that this year, my level for The Ultimate Doom "The Outer Darkness" has been picked as one of the 10 Best Levels of 2007!!

The relevant links are below —
Must thank Karthik for telling me about this, otherwise I wouldn't have even known! I don't frequent Doomworld like I used to, mostly because I hardly play Doom any more. Or any other game for that matter. And Karthik, thanks for that post on your site too. You mentioned it before I even got around to making a post here!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Photography Updates

The entire photography section is now up at VarunAbhiram.com! There are close to 50 photos in all over there now, the rest I thought weren't good enough to upload. If you think I missed out on some good ones, do let me know and I'll upload them.

Next I'll be adding content to the Digital Art section. Lots of stuff to add there as well. How would you prefer the updates — batchwise or do I just add everything at once?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Feed Me Three!

After Toby (Feed Me) and Karthik (Feed Me Too) added RSS feeds to their sites, it was only a matter of time till I added one to VarunAbhiram.com. Yesterday I was bored doing absolutely nothing all day, so I ended up adding it! Look for the little orange RSS icon in the navigation on the left.

Karthik's post has a detailed write-up of what RSS is and how to go about adding a feed to your website, so I won't repeat all that here again. If you'd like to subscribe to the RSS feed at VarunAbhiram.com, or this blog for that matter, use an aggregator like Google Reader. All you need to do is to add your subscription (Eg: http://varunabhiram.com/rss is the subscription link for VarunAbhiram.com) there.

With this, I think I've added all the features I can think of to the site. Now all that remains is updating the content — that's one area I've been neglecting for a long time.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Grunge Series

Not one, not two, but three new wallpapers to make up for the lack of updates all this while. Hope you like them. I call this the Grunge series —


Made this around a month ago, but never got around to posting it because of continuous exams at college. This wallpaper is heavily inspired from the beautiful artwork in the Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral 11-wallpaper pack. Blended together two shots I took of a dead bird, and then heavily edited it to bring out the colours and textures. Not exactly an ideal subject to make a wallpaper of I know, which is why I went in for a more abstract arrangement of images — easier on the eyes when you can't make out what is what.

Destroyed City

Ah this is my favourite of the lot. My dad had been to New York City a while ago, and I used one of the photos he took there as a base to make this. Why didn't I use an image of Hyderabad you ask? Well, the city is already damaged by developments, so much so that you can't make it look any more destroyed than it already is. This base image was just perfect for the wallpaper, and that's the sole reason I used it. I do NOT hate NYC or something in case you were wondering. Heck how can I hate the place when I've never even been there.


Made this one today morning. I know it looks like a single photo, but it's actually three different images superimposed on each other, each one with a different layer/blending style. I don't really know what that is, but I think it's either the seeds or the withered flower of a plant. I really like the perspective on this image. The curve from under the title is what adds interest to main subject I think. I set one of the layer modes to "Burn" which is what makes it look like it's smouldering. And I have no idea how the smoke showed up, there's nothing in the original! Oh well, it adds to the overall effect, so I'm not complaining.

I'd love to hear what you guys have to say about these wallpapers, so comment away!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

10 Videos

I've come across several fun/interesting videos on YouTube the past few weeks, never got around to posting them because I've been busy with stuff at college. The end of the semester is sadly always like this. Just tests, tests and more tests that keep you from doing anything else.

Anyway in a way it's a good thing, because now I get to make a whole post with just the videos! They would have otherwise ended up as footnotes, footnotes you'd probably not even notice. So here are Varun's Top 10 Recently Watched Videos, ranked in reverse chronological order. "Top 10" lists are always more fun than plain bulleted ones, aren't they?

10. If You Come Today — South Indian English Video
I'm sure most of you would have already seen this by now. If you haven't, you should.

9. Tale of Rock
A very well made 3D animated short film by Stevo Payne and John Godwin. It's funny too.

8. System of a Down - Chop Suey
A 2 year old kid rocking out to this SOAD song!

7. Pentagram - Electric
Indian rock band Pentagram's latest released video. Groovy.

6. Orestes — Piano Cover
I always thought Maynard's voice was unimitable. But this guy is just amazing.

5. Mel Blanc on David Letterman
Mel Blanc is the voice of classic cartoon cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and hundreds of others. Wonder how he remembers what his actual voice sounds like.

4. Content-Aware Image Resizing
A new technique of image resizing that keeps the important features of the image undistorted.

3. 300 — Speed Painting and Animation
I don't think I will ever have the patience to do something like this.

2. Linkin Park Parody

One of my friends had added this video to his favourite videos list on Orkut. I can see why.

1. Portal
And I thought people ran out of ideas for video games.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Milla Jovovich : Resident Evil

Karthik finished a drawing of Milla Jovovich ('Alice' from Resident Evil) today. As with many of his recent drawings, he was going to edit/colour it in Photoshop. I had never digitally coloured an image before, so I thought it'd be fun to give it a try. I grabbed myself a copy of the original scan and both of us started working on our own digitally edited versions of the drawing!

On the left is the original scan, and on the right is what it looked like after I edited it in Paint Shop Pro. Boosted the contrast of the image while retaining all the details. Then I started colouring it using the air brush. The colouring is pretty basic, no fancy layers for the shadows/highlights and all. Once I finished colouring it, I added the splats and the text. This is the end result —

And you're probably wondering what Karthik's version looks like, so here it is —

EDIT [ 14 Oct ] : Removed the stain from Milla's arm. And changed the flat background into a gradient. I think it looks better this way.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

VarunAbhiram.com Goes Live!

After almost a month of coding and designing, I'm proud to announce that VarunAbhiram.com is finally online!

Coming up for a design for this site was tough! I hadn't done any serious web designing in years, so my designing skills were a little rusty. Sure I designed the Ciencia site some months ago, but that was a very minimalistic design. The Ciencia banner was just a cropped version of my Blur wallpaper (colorised to blue), and other than that there wasn't much to look at. Unless you're the kind of person who finds diagonal lines on a blue gradient fascinating.

Also, because this is my own personal website and not something I was making for someone else, I wanted it to look as good as possible. I ended up making several designs before I got something I was satisfied with. If you noticed, the current design has a v6.0 mentioned in the banner. These are the other five unfinished/discarded designs -

Obviously the current design is the best of them all. I almost went ahead with design #5, before I realised that a white design is not ideal for a site that has a lot of images (especially dark ones). I needed a design with muted colours, something that doesn't interfere with/take focus away from the photos and artwork. And a plain grey theme did just that. Maybe it's a little dark (it looks even darker in IE), but I prefer it that way. You'd expect a design like this to take not more than an hour or two to convert from image to HTML, but this design took me around six hours to do! Aligning the diagonal lines across multiple cells and making sure the page looks the same in all browsers was a major pain. Anyway it turned out just the way I wanted it to, so I'm not complaining.


Karthik — Him I need to thank the most for teaching me the PHP/MySQL stuff to code this site. No way I could make a site like this using plain HTML. Took me about 3 weeks or more to finish programming all my pages, but now that I'm done with it, making updates/maintaining the site is as simple as can be! All I have to do is insert one row into the database and all the pages where the changes have to be reflected get updated automatically. Oh and I don't have to bother about making thumbnails for my images either. PHP does it all for me!

Shashank for helping me out with the navigation javascript so that it works properly in all browsers. Firebug (the addon that integrates itself with Firefox) was extremely useful in identifying the problem.

Poornaa and Pratyusha for pointing out bugs with the Prev/Next links in my image gallery. Clicking previous took you to the next image in the gallery and vice versa. How come nobody else spotted this?

Random Trivia

Total unique visitors so far 217

Number of Page Views 1280

The first five people to leave comments on the site
#1 Poornaa (Lady Gardener 2)
#2 Nilesh (Looking at my Glasses?)
#3 Aasritha (Explosion)
#4 Suresh (10:27pm)
#5 Rajeev (Lady Gardener 2)

Okay so that about wraps up this update. Go ahead, visit VarunAbhiram.com and let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Weekly Traffic

I happened to log in to Statcounter.com yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised (ok, shocked!) to see the Weekly Stats. This is what it looks like —

Look at the graph on Thursday, the day I released The Outer Darkness. I don't think I've ever got that many hits in a day before! I guess I should release Doom levels more often.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Outer Darkness

Now here's something you haven't seen in centuries. A Doom update! And an important one at that — it's a new map release!!

This level was originally made for a project called The Ninth Gate that I was working on with Pablo Dictter, Tobias Münch, Damian Lee and Karthik. The idea was to make a set of levels inspired by Episode 4 of The Ultimate Doom — basically maps with lots of wood/marble in them. We never got around to finishing it though (blame real life and laziness), so we have now decided to release the finished levels individually.

Most of this level was made during 2001-03 with DoomCAD (yes!), so the architecture is pretty simple, though detailed. The exit area was made with Doom Builder. No new graphics, except a titlepic. The level music is from Duke Nukem 3D, the other tracks were composed by Damian Lee (originally for The Ninth Gate). It plays on E4M1, and you need a limit-removing port like ZDoom to play it. Oh and since most of you, dear readers, are non-Doomers and will probably never play this, I'm going to be a little generous with the screenshots so that you can at least see what it looks like —

Download (380 KB)
If you're having problems with the above link, try here.


  • Pablo Dictter and Karthik - Thanks a lot guys for the feedback and for playtesting this level on the lower skills.
  • Doug "Opulent" Merrill - It was awesome to see somebody other than me playing this on UV. The demos were mighty useful. Thanks!
  • Damian Lee - The music tracks rule! Especially the endgame MIDI.
  • Joel Murdoch - For no particular reason. You can stop coughing now BTW.
Related Links

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Made a wallpaper after ages. It's the kind of wallpaper that nobody will particularly take notice of, unless you tell them something like "Hey see this wallpaper? My friend made it!". I guess that's because it's not as striking as some of my previous work like The Frog or Pill, but nevertheless, I like it.

These are the base images I used — a shot of the underside of a CD and a shot of the money plant in my balcony.

And this is the final result —

And yeah, Karthik, I did make a wide version for you.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Varun In hydroGen

The June issue of hydroGen, the Hyderabad youth magazine, has a mention of me and my blog (yes, this blog). Check it out —

Those aren't my exact words, but who cares. Off to read the magazine now and see what it's all about (I've never read any of the previous issues).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Ain't Jobless Any More

Wipro conducted campus recruitments at our college on the 26th - a total of 85 people were selected from our batch, and I'm one of them!

There were three rounds in the selection process. The first was a written test which had three sections - Verbal, Analytical (Quant+Reasoning) and Technical. The technical section was damn tough (wanted to post some questions here, unfortunately my brain only remembers this one question about BIOS Shadowing). The other sections were very easy. Then there was a technical interview. Was pretty nervous about this round after I heard they grill you left, right and centre in all the subjects that evaporated out of your head soon after you wrote the exam. But thankfully I was interviewed by this guy who asked me the simplest questions imaginable. I managed to take a peek at his Interview Assessment form - one of the comments said "Very good in OS and programming languages". And the only OS-related question he asked me was "What is a deadlock?". And when I started my explanation along the 'circular wait' lines, he asked me to explain taking only two processes!

Okay so after the technical interview, we had to fill up this huge application form and then go for the HR interview. The HR round didn't start off so well (partly because I was asked questions about the Pre-Placement presentation, which I didn't bother paying attention to), but once they started asking me questions about my hobbies and all, it was fine. It was around 4:15pm by the time I finished all my rounds of interview. Then it was a super long wait till 11:15pm when the results were announced.

(L-R) Ravi, Varun, Me. Pic courtesy Yugs.
Time: 10pm

The seven hours in between were such a drag - nothing to do but sit/stand around and make idle conversation. Finally when the HR guy came out with the list of selected candidates, there was anxiety written all over people's faces (that anxiety turned into joy when they heard their names called out, of course). Reached home at 00:15am that day - I've never been in college that long before!

Since then, days have been passing by with me doing absolutely nothing all day. Oh well, I guess that makes me a jobless person with a job...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nine Inch Nails - "Right Where it Belongs"

Made a new video today! A music video for NIN's "Right Where it Belongs". Check out the video at Youtube here —

The video is made from random clips I shot with my digicam. Might not do the song justice, but it was fun making it!

Here's the list of locations seen in the video —

  • Vishveshwara Museum, Bangalore
  • Ooty (and enroute to Ooty)
  • Ooty Hotel
  • Chamundeswari Temple, Mysore
  • Home (broken bulb through magnifying glass and ants)
  • Allepey Backwaters
  • Tank Bund, Hyderabad (Buddha Statue)
  • Rock show at Rock Heights, Shilparamam
Comments welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Semester exams are over and I'm finally jobless again! Okay not really, this break is going to be more of a long study session than anything else. If I don't start my CAT preparation soon, I might as well forget about writing the exam in November. We also have some on-campus recruitments the next couple of weeks, so yeah, busy times ahead.

Rajeev wanted me to make a good post, so I'm going to try doing that by putting together all the random stuff that comes to my mind right now. Randomness is good, right?

10,000+ Visitors

If you look at the little counter at the bottom of this page, you'll notice it has crossed 10,000! That works out to what? 20 visits per day? Considering how infrequent my posts are, that's really good. Wondering where all the visits come from? Well, according to Statcounter, a lot of the hits are from people who get here by searching for phrases like "lip twitching", "why is my lip twitching", "upper lip twitch" and the sort. People's lips actually twitch? Weird. Welcome to India seems to be a popular song. A lot of people get to my post searching for that song. Then of course, there's my nanoaudience (which most probably includes you) who take the time to read and comment on my posts. Thanks! I wouldn't be writing if I didn't have readers.

CNN-IBN "Rising India" Photo Contest

The results of the CNN-IBN "Rising India" Photo Contest was out recently. Watch the video here.

Obviously I didn't win, otherwise I would have posted sooner. The contest was open for months, so they got loads of entries. Unfortunately, the whole contest was by judged by just one person (ace photographer Raghu Rai) which isn't a good thing. Photography is very subjective, after all. Besides, Raghu Rai seemed pretty clueless about the theme which was "Photographs that best define why we love India". I don't quite see how the winning photos fit that theme, but like I said, photography is subjective.

Videos on Youtube

I always thought Indians were clueless about composition. These two videos prove me wrong.

"Tales of Mere Existence - Procastination" by Lev Yilmaz - Pratyusha pointed me to this. Hilarious!

"Le Petit Bonhomme en Mousse" - Way better than any puppet show I've ever seen.

"Drawing a Perfect Circle" by Alexander Overwijk - Would have been a useful skill back in school (remember the time you used to draw loads of circumcircles, incircles and excircles?)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Flyer in a Newspaper

Been a while since I made a jobless post, so here's one. Found this flyer in yesterday's Deccan Chronicle

Now if only my English was that good.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

One Way Out

Ciencia went great this year, was way bigger and better than last time. I wanted to make a post about it, but I had no photos with me (I was too busy to be unofficial official photographer this year you see) and a post without pics is boring. I did manage to get a few from here and there, you'll find them posted down below.

First let's talk about something important - remember the flash game One Way Out I talked about in my last post? We could only accomodate 70 people in the lab where we conducted the event. But the people who played the game apparently enjoyed it and told others about it, and then the others who didn't get to play the game wanted to play it. And since we couldn't resist keeping our eager fans waiting (I'm hyping this really well, no?), we decided to make some minor tweaks to the game for general 'home' playing, and as a result, it's now available for download!

One Way Out (FULL Version)
Filesize: 44MB
Details: Contains menu music and all the video questions. If you have a decent enough net connection, this is the version you should download.

One Way Out (LITE Version)
Filesize: 2.2MB
Details: No menu music. No videos included (answers to those questions are provided in a separate text file though). If you're just curious to see what the game is all about, then this version is for you.

Now that we're done with that, let's take a look at some pictures -

(L-R) Som, Me, Pavan

March 7, the day before the fest. We had to stay back at college (it's a spooky place at night!) to get everything ready for the next day. We finished all the work, but then we realised we didn't take any photos of ourselves at work. So we decided to fake it and take photos of each other. Som unfortunately couldn't pretend at all. The pic of me is perfect, but the Google page gives it away. Pavan was really on the phone with someone. Not sure who.

(L-R) Lekha, Me, Pandu, Pavan, Dinesh, Som, Harini

That's us sitting on the dais after the fest, for lack of a better place to sit. I have no idea what Lekha was trying to do with the glass.

That's almost the entire organising committee of Ciencia '07. If you're looking for me in the pic, I'm the guy with his head sticking out between the Principal and the Dean. If you're not from CVR and don't know either the Principal or the Dean, then I can't help you. Search, search!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hallowed Be Thy Name

I don't enjoy metal, but for some reason I'm addicted to this song. In fact I'm listening to it as I type this post. I had this song lying on my hard drive for ages, but I only listened to it properly the other day, when somebody told me it's supposed to be the greatest metal song of all time! Well I don't listen to a lot of metal so I can't say if it's really that good, but nevertheless I like it a lot! Out of the various versions/covers, I think this version by Iron Maiden is the best -

I've been uninspired to write lately. Ok, I've been uninspired to do a lot of things lately. I can't even remember the last time I posted a new photo on my gallery. Or the last time I made a post here. It's not just me, I don't see many of my blogger friends updating their blogs often either. Some sort of endemic creative block perhaps? For me, I know that's not the case. It's just that my creative outlets have been elsewhere the past month and a half.

We have our college annual technical festival, Ciencia, coming up soon (8 and 9 March). I didn't want to make the poster this time, so I helped out with the official site instead. Most of the content and design is mine, the funky schedule and route map was done by Abhilash. Don't know where his creativity was bottled up before. I'm also working with a couple of guys on one of the other events we're having this year called One Way Out - it's a fun game where you have to answer a series of questions/puzzles correctly to find your way out. Make a mistake along the way and you'll find yourself exploring dead end paths. I love the way it's progressing. Shashank has been a fantastic asset to the team, he's coded everything using Actionscript (and he didn't know Actionscripting at all before this!). I, of course, am working on overall 'look' of the whole game. We hope to be done with the questions in another two weeks so that we can playtest the thing on a few people. Don't be surprised if you're one of the chosen ones.

The Ciencia site has all the information, so I won't write any more here. And by the way, my two animated videos Dark Machine and The Cybertech Incident are going to be put up in one of the stalls, so be sure to check them out. Even if you've seen them already.

That's pretty much it for now. I submitted four photos for the CNN-IBN photo contest, the theme is "Photographs that best define why we love India". I noticed there are shots of a cow smelling a dog, so I'd say I stand a chance. The finalists will be chosen on a show which is going to be aired on March 26, so let's see how that turns out.

Now I'm off to check out if the video ads are up on Pratyusha's blog...