Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Farishta ki Jai. Worldspace ki Jai.

I'm an avid Ghazal fan, and I was recently listening in to one of Farishta's Ghazal shows. Farishta is a radio channel on the Worldspace Network, by the way.

So there was this contest, and I mailed in my answer. And to my surprise, they sent me a personally autographed Ghulam Ali CD. I mean a CD signed by the master himself. My brain can't even process this information. I'm shell shocked.

Two reasons. One, Ghulam Ali is one of the bestest, fantasticest, geniusest singers I've ever heard. He makes me forget my English.

Two: I've never won in any contest like this. I always thought it was a con job. I guess it took a Farishta to open my eyes. My thanks goes to all of you at Farishta, and please, keep it going. I love your channel.

IIPM: it doesn't seem to be over just yet.

There's a lot of action happening at Wikipedia's IIPM entry.
The History section shows at least 50 Entries, with at least nine entries dated 29 November 2005. Jeezus.
And while I was writing this blog post, someone named "iipmstudent9" came in and vandalised the page, removing many of the items that weren't bowing to the IIPM highness.

So I, muttering under my breath, registered in Wikipedia and reverted the edits.

But check out the Talk Section of the entry. There's extensive conversation between Ravikiran R, Kunal (on one side) and a drnaomchomsky (who later changed to IipmStudent9).

IipmStudent9 is described as An alias used by a group of IIPM students, dedicated to fighting the lies and misinformation spread by IIM-alumnus, whose burning jealousy is the subject of much laughter on IIPM's campus. Considering the size of their average campus, this is probably more like a snicker than a laugh. Anyhow.

Just a clarification: I'm not an IIM-ian. I'm just a regular guy, with no MBA degree, that is absolutely ticked off with the lies and fraudulent behaviour of IIPM.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I don't know anymore.

A dingy hostel room. 8 feet by 7, a metal cot next to one wall, a four leg table next to the cot. On the table is a collection of wires attached to an old car stereo and some speakers. A chair, conveniently placed at a corner to pile unwashed clothes on. Five men. No, "guys". Sitting around, on the floor, on the bed, and even under the table.

A zero-watt bulb glows dimly near the ceiling. Red. Pink Floyd is being paid homage, as Indian hostelites have done for the last few decades, and will do for the next few. Someone is smoking a joint. Someone is not. And someone's waiting for it to come their way.

They all don't know what's going to happen. They don't know why they're where they are, or where they want to go. Even where they have to go. Five people, who've been told all their life that an engineering degree would take them there. They would have arrived. They have. Only they don't fucking know where.

But in life's fogginess, it dawns on them, with the unerring clarity of a grass-induced high, that this is the clearest their life will ever be. They know they have no frigging clue - a few years later, they still won't have a clue but will be too full of it to admit anything.

They're all talented, but not in the way society would be proud of. Some can sing, some can play a mean guitar, and some can kill flies with one hand. But something tells them this isn't what they came here to become. A one-handed fly-swatting guitarist singer isn't going to cut it, not in the resume department, no sir.

But they did cut it, somewhere. And ten years later, today, one of them stands and looks back and sees the bullshit they fed to him. A farcical glorification of muggu behaviour. An absurd lack of self determination, proliferated by superstitious beliefs, and reinforced by the education system. When in doubt, shut the fuck up, they said. Lie if it helps you, they said. Stand for what's right, only as long as it's winning, they said. HONK before an intersection, they said.

Games are for losers, a 10 year career, tops. Media is for pimps, Hospitality for "waiters" and B.Sc for the people who couldn't make the "engineering" or "medical" grade. Learn to save. Sex is not even a word.

Some chose not to listen anymore. One of them who, when he looks back, realizes how silly it all was. And today, he's seeing it again.

The schools are feeding the same crap to the children. They interview kids - kids that are three years old - and expect them to know the ABCD. And of course, how the optic nerve works. They're supposed to know, dammit, what were you doing for three years?

Then they interview the parents. We only want the best, they say - a rat race for grades again. Tutions for them, extra classes, and please, if they do badly in the exams we don't want them here. What's that, a guitar? In your spare time only.

And parents listen. They want to fire the competitive spirit in their kids. Only in the academic department, of course. My kid is better than yours, you hear them think. Yeah, take that, you little prick - why don't you see, it's simple, the square of the hypotenuse is....okay, I'll change your diaper now.

Get ready, or they'll get you.

I wonder what it would be like to have been "got". I wonder, because I've always been running. Jumping, screaming, crying, laughing, but always running. It's terrifying to have to run forever. How long will it take for us to figure that out?

Our kids don't have to be like us.

Our kids should be kids. And we should be kids, more often.

(And buy that Playstation 2 we have been wanting for the last few months.)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Of Dinosaurs and Shady Headlines

Okay, this is absolutely ticking me off. An article in HT, from The Press Trust of India (PTI) is headlined "Indian dinosaurs were vegetarians". Now what impression does that give?

That all dinosaurs in India were herbivorous, and did not eat meat, correct?


A National Geographic Article, dated August 2003, confirms that India had at least one carnivorous dinosaur, the Rajasaurus.

("We know that there were carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs in India through individual bones...", a quote from the article.)

This isn't all. My first google results gave me IndoSaurus and IndoSuchus.

There's also the Dandakosaurus (Check the "India" section).

I fail to understand why the headline was that misleading. (Note: Conspiracy theory coming up) Was it some bored sub-editor trying to tell us Indians *should* be beggie because heck, even the dinos were?

Or was it simply an attempt to sensationalize an otherwise mundane issue? I mean, so what if they were vegetarians...I'll say "hmm" and move on. This headline forces me to stop there and marvel and wonder..."heck, if dinosaurs in India were vegetarian, then maybe even I should...". Nonsense.

(Now that the headline is also proved incorrect, I will resume my non-vegetarian-ness with gusto, thank you.)

One good thing about this exercise: I found out many dinosaurs had brains the size of a walnut, which is perhaps a wee bit bigger than the cranial mass of the hitherto mentioned headline creator.

Update: I earlier thought this was an HT headline. Thanks to Aadisht Khanna for pointing out that it was actually from PTI.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Parking isn't that easy anymore.

Bangalore's Parking Woes.

And more deeply, Bangalore's Garbage Woes. No, not the Fiat.

Dave Barry in a Movie!

They've made the movie! Wowee. I absolutely loved the book - it's called Dave Barry's Guide to Guys, if you didn't guess by now.

Check out the trailers. I's gonna buy DVD and get it shipped here, no matter WHAT.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bloggers Stung in Operation

Or so I glean from Ravikiran's post. S'posedly Some Bloggers met in Delhi. S'posedly there was journalist posing as bee in sting operation. S'posedly he was Manipuri, which is where Uloopi, one of Arjuna's wives was from. That was a long time ago, so don't go looking for her now.

Also Manipur is famous for a lot of things including eating fish that has been buried a few weeks ago. We currently cannot find other things Manipur is famous for, but we are digging it up and in the process, finding lots of fish.

Anyways, the Bee Stung in the MSM world. Which, after some googling, found "Main Stream Media". So Mr Bee said, in "Delhi Times":

Bloggers are Bad, because they call a four people episode a "Delhi Bloggers Meet". Bloggers are pathetic because half of them (?) are IT professionals. And they only bash the MSM, often with little or no substantiation. And they don't have no journa-listic skills, and we the MSM ain't afraid of you, no way, so tell me bitch, who's your daddy now, huh.

Or something of that sort. That riled everyone in the "blogosphere" (that term again) of Delhi and other places closely related to Delhi, unless they are married and filing jointly.

So a mini bloggers unite happened, and people threw dirt, washed linen in public and generally created a big fuss. The Bee got ticked off at the Manipur attacks, people quoted Wikipedia as the Oracle, others said How dare He, and he said How dare They.

Aaj ke samachar samapt hue. Ab aaj ke vichaar suniye.

Delhi times is a tabloid for heaven's sake. This is like Bangalore Times, except it's in Delhi. (Duh) And if it's anything like BT, the only nice things about it are a) Calvin and Hobbes and b) Sudoku. (You could say the TV listings are nice. You could be that bored) Most of the rest is arbitrary dhanda chaap, most of it...like Love in the time of astrology. Take appropriate amounts of salt before reading.

Next, Bloggers, MSM bashers, Stung operators: He's partly right, isn't he? Journalists will do selective journalism and so will those of you who aspire to be the next news channel. You still have a long way to go before you reach Ramu kaka and Birju halwai. And if you said "elite", boo. Which field's radish are you?

Blogging is largely opinion. Which is different from fact. It sometimes helps dig out facts, but it's rarely, if ever, unbiased. And journalists aren't any different - by the end of an article, it's fairly obvious which side of the fence they're from.

I don't pretend to be a journalist. I'm not. I'm not in the caliber of a journalist who can write pages and pages about how Monica Bedi refused to eat rice and rasam but might have shared her food with a co-inmate in jail. I'm never going to be a sting operator, unless you could the times I've played "Englishman in New York" at parties.

So if you think any of my writing is unsubstantiated or other very long words, I don't give a rat's ass. Or Murine Posterior, as the real journalists, who haven't stood up, would say.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Rishte mein hum tumhaare...

"Ek ladki hai"
"Ek kundli hai"
"Beta, ek achcha rishta aaya hai, vakil ki beti hai, ladki ka naam hai Pooja"
"Mujhe pasand hai ma"

That's an ad for a phone company. Just one of those ads that seem to glorify the phenomenon of matrimonial arrangements in which things happen in one tinny little glance. In the ad above, the guy's in a bus stop, looking at a girl in an autorickshaw for approximately three seconds after which he pronounces the verdict "Mujhe pasand hai ma". Yuck.

Another ad I remember was one in which girls meets guy, tells him she's not interested, she has to pursue studies, confides in friend, friend tells her guy would've dumped her anyway because of hair. So she uses some shampoo (or soap? or detergent? I don't remember) and cleans up the act, and guy comes home, says yes purely on hirsute attraction. Loverly. Just loverly.

And how can we forget: Girl likes house, asks parents to "baad badhaiye na", and parents do so to find out son of house is 10 years old. Girl says 'main intezaar karoongi'. (Clap, clap)

What prompted this blog post was yet another one of these ads: Girl is told to go to parlour, gets lazy and uses some liquid on hair, mom says "kahaa tha na, parlour chali jaao, woh to aa gaye..." and then obviously man with brains below navel goes ooh-aah, but not the iodex way.

I think these ads are driven by people who're getting into the whole arranged marriage concept big time. Perhaps the copywriters have come to that age where their parents are "thoopofying" them with resumes. Perhaps the ad-men have the daughters of that age. Perhaps we're all getting carried away with tradition, and want it in a quick-fix-two-bit-film manner.

While I don't particularly dislike the arranged marriage concept, I find the concept of choosing ones life partner because of flimsy things such as hair...fairly stupid. To see it in an ad is quite demeaning - to women because they're now objects of desire only with respect to hair silkiness, or to expand it, with respect to their looks only. And to men too, since we're dumb enough to stop at percutaneous pulchritude.*

But if this helps reduce dowry because "heck, man, look at that hair, I'll take her without any money!", I'm all for it.

(* - Beauty only skin deep types. Someone once said "Of course beauty's only skin deep. That's fine with me. What do you want, an adorable pancreas?")

Friday, November 11, 2005

Another blog!

I've created a The Investors Blog - a Blog on Investing. Very beginner-ish at the moment, and talks about two issues:

1) Capital Gains Tax
2) Equity Linked Saving Schemes

If you have too much money, give it to me. (Give, not lend) If you want to make some money, I hope my blog will help you.

Book review: The World is Flat

“The World is Flat” says Tom Friedman, three-time Pulitzer prize winner. Pretty apt for a book by a New York Times Columnist who was born in Minneapolis, studied in Oxford, and worked in Beirut and Jerusalem, and who got the title from a statement made by a CEO in Bangalore. In an interview, Nandan Nilekani of Infosys said, “The world is being levelled” – and what he really meant, says Friedman, is that The World is Flat.

Expanding his take on Globalization in his earlier book, Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman concentrates on the relatively new phenomenon of High Tech outsourcing, primarily in India and China. Already, companies in these two countries process U.S. Tax Returns, analyze CAT Scans, handle worldwide insurance claims and even do Friedman’s job – journalism. All this, writes Friedman, is part of a fundamental change the world is undergoing – flattening – with nine other forces, including the fall of the Berlin wall, Open source collaboration, Google search technology and the digital “steroids” like Palm pilots and Wireless Technologies.

The book gets overly defensive at times; the author’s nationality shows in his obvious fear that American jobs are at stake in the flattening process. From fright at Indian CEO Jaithirth “Jerry” Rao’s statement, “Any activity where we can digitize and decompose the value chain, and move the work around, will get moved around”, Friedman moves towards realizing that this will mean more meaningful work for Americans. He concludes that the way ahead (for Americans) is not to stop outsourcing, but to upgrade their skills so they can claim their “slice of the bigger but more complex pie”. It’s not going to be simple, he writes, but there’s no option but to be an “untouchable” – a person whose job cannot be outsourced.

Outsourcing today is just a repeat of what happened when the world started to be connected earlier, Friedman notes. And what does he say connects the world today? Technology. With access to the Internet, any individual can empower himself anywhere – noted in the book are interesting examples: people printing Boarding pass online so they can board before other passengers; a friend using wireless access to send email to Kazakhstan from a train in Japan traveling at 240 Km/hr; an Indian company building a game on “American Wild Wild West” using Google to find out what a saloon looked like. The book is laced with enlightening examples, allowing for very individual interpretations to his theory.

India benefited from the overinvestment in undersea fiber optic cables by Americans, writes Friedman. When these investments went bust in 2000, the bankrupt companies were sold at throw away prices, bringing down the cost of bandwidth and therefore, making “remote” business process outsourcing (BPO) possible and profitable in India. Friedman postulates that it started with Y2K – an acronym for the work involved in converting massive legacy systems to accept four digit dates – and spread to running American back offices today. He even suggests that Y2K be India’s Second Independence Day – a day that helped give freedom from unemployment to a large number of Indians. (While this may not be feasible, it does make you stop to think!)

But the book does offer a warning: that no developing country can afford to be complacent, that other developing countries would be more than glad to grab the Indian part of the pie. China, for instance, is “a powerhouse of low cost manufacturing….it can do high-quality low-cost manufacturing better than any country, and increasingly, it can also do high-quality higher-cost manufacturing”. Friedman suggests deeper reform – removing more of the bureaucracy that hinders business, loosening labour laws, bettering infrastructure – something he says is inevitable in the flat world. The message is simple: The more you just sit there, the more you will be run over.

Friedman also warns about the dangers that resulted from 9/11. The flat world, he says, makes it possible for the perpetrators of terror to co-ordinate in a way that has never been possible earlier. “Al-Qaeda has learned to use many of the same instruments for global collaboration that Infosys has”, he writes, but leaves the solutions on shaky ground. How can you stop the Osamas of the world from collaborating without shutting down the Internet and therefore, Friedman’s reason for the “flatness” of the world? This book holds no conclusive answers.

Friedman interviews a large number of people in very different environments – the book contains snippets from people all over the world. From the likes Bill Gates and eBay’s Meg Whitman, to Palestinian militants, to Fadi Ghandour, the CEO of Aramex, a package delivery service in the Arab World. Each interview seems to reiterate Friedman’s point, but will also give you a little more to think about.

“The World is Flat” is quite an enthralling read, filled with simple interpretations of a complex world. Running through the lively and provocative analyses, you will find yourself keeping the book down every few minutes, just to sit back and think. A very stimulating book for those who want to understand where the world is going, but don’t know where to start.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My wife thinks I'm a sharaabi

It's true. I am in no way drunk, of course, since that would instantly incriminate me. I like to think I'm only temporarily OH positive. How muccchh can do too to two drinks do?

Sunila's finding it too funny. I should tell you about the time SHE was "inebriated" - it was at ..


Monday, November 07, 2005

Anything you say, or do...

...or possess, may be used as evidence.

What's hilarious is: " Justice Margaret Eberhard must weigh the evidence, ..."

"Can't say"

I was in Delhi, watching the cricket matches on Doordarshan. DD loves to put ads everywhere. After the cricket match I had to tear away stickers of Alpenliebe from the BACK of the TV. But I digress.

Every few minutes, Reliance had these little surveys - "Will Atapattu score a half-century? SMS A for Yes, B for No and C for Can't Say".

"Can't Say" ?????

Who the F*** is sending an SMS to Reliance, at an absurdly high charge, answering that they "can't say"? Why are these people being allowed inside the gene pool?

Well, turns out Reliance figured this out by themselves and in the last one-dayer, had only options A and B. "Are you wearing underwear? SMS A for Yes, SMS B for No". (Because you can say.)

Also they moved from :

"Who will Win the Match? A: India, B: SriLanka C: Tie"

to "When will Sri Lanka win? A:>48 overs, B: < 48 overs"

when SL still had 30 or so runs to win. (Reality: SL Won in the 48th Over)

If they're riggin' it, Reliance is diggin' it.

Five Point Who?

In the light of my review of another Chetan Bhagat Book, I've decided to post my not-so-long-ago review of his Five Point Someone. Not as much a review as a reflection of my college days.

I read Five Point Someone a while back. I'm an RECian myself, and it was very surprising to see the similarities and differences between life at KREC and IIT Delhi. A few interesting things to note:

1) We never ever needed to study four hours a day. I have never studied four hours a day, constantly, in my entire life. Even during PL (Preparatory Leave) we used to sit at a table, and concentrate hard on Andrew Tananbaum's Networking book for 10 full minutes, and then immediately lose it when someone walked in to our room and asked, "Sutta hai kya?" IITians on the other hand, seem to study every day - even during the beginning of a semester. In my college, this would have resulted in the dunking of one's head into one's block ka fountain (if there was water there)

2) No one had any idea where they were going. No one. I mean even the top rankers were clueless, though they put up a brave face most of the time. People still don't know, of course, much after we graduated. But that, I think, is because the real world is a lemon.

2.5) Everyone was "insane" - one way or the other; Each person I knew had his or her eccentricities. IIT doesn't seem to be very different. Today, it's those idiosynchracies (sp?) that bring us together - it's all I remember. From doing the planchet drunk, to pushups on the highway, walking down the haunted beach road, playing teen patti till 3 in the morning and ending up owing 23 paise to someone who still wants it back 10 years later. It's all we had - yeah, there was the education thing too - but today, 10 years later, it's all I have.

3) The food was bad. It's always bad. We got bulletproof idlis and high tension chapathis. We got "tomato pachix", which noone ever wants the ingredients of. We got stuff that was hard enough for use as those clay pigeons that those olympic shooters shoot at. Just that these things would probably reflect the darn bullets.

4) The friendships last forever. It's just unbelieveable, but they do. They may fade away, but one reunion of sorts and you're out there, talking about those days, forgetting we have spouses and other paraphernalia, forgetting our mundane lives for a while through those insignificant but very real moments .

5) RGs are bad. Relative Grading simply sucks - we never had it while I was in my college.

In all, the book was fascinating - not as much about the content, which I believe was fairly mediocre. Chetan'll do better in his second book (*), I think - because there are those times when he runs away to some distant land where there's a surreal element that us non-IITians can't grasp. You had to be there types.

And the whole Neha element - it's disconnected, disjoint and left me feeling like she was schizophrenic. Not very nice, yes.

What I found amazing was where it took me back 10 years. Those were good days - and the book triggered the collapse of a wall I'd built around me since. And that, in my humble opinion, is always a good thing.

(*) NO.

The zero point call center.

I've decided I don't like Chetan Bhagat's one night (at) the call center. No not just because it's about follicle attraction or that it's not literary. I don't even know what being literary means, which is perhaps for the best.

If you intend to read the book, stop right here and go do it. I'm going to reveal its deep, dark, secrets.

What's lousy? The plot. Story is about a few call center people that have different problems, and then the call center itself has problems, and so on. Few things I couldn't digest:
- The saving of a call center by putting "fear" into Americans by telling them - hold your breath - terrorists have attacked you by putting a virus in your computer. Okay, so many Americans are paranoid: but this borders on the INSANE!

First, Americans, despite their reputation, do have friends and someone is bound to talk to someone who realizes this is hogwash. Second, this someone will most likely sue the pants (or panties) off the call center. This will soon be the do-not-call center.

Third, and most important, this is the stupidest idea I've ever heard.

- Chetan asks you in the beginning to answer a few questions, like "What do you hate most?" etc. , giving no reason for this survey. I guess it's because the book is supposed to touch a chord someplace. The only way it will do that is if someone uses it to pluck a guitar.

- The whole God thing. When I picked up the book, I thought it was something fascinating because I'm an atheist, but this is not even a god worth believing in. God calls a mobile phone when four people are in a qualis that's hanging precariously off a few rods....and tells them to make a left. Oh, wrong story. God tells them to be themselves and make changes and they agree, and then live happily ever after. (Puke)

- Blackmail by accusing Boss Sexual harassment by sending an email from his computer. This is justified because Boss is a prick and uses management jargon. What's this, a call center for vigilante cowboys? We're going to encourage such pathetic forms of fraud? To all call center bosses out there, don't worry - Systems can find the arseholes that do something like this.

I've seen a lot of SH cases in call centers, and most go through a thorough investigation before blame gets assigned.

- The love story ending of running and proposing at red lights. Which brings a whole new meaning to the term "Red Light Area". I frankly think that love ish-story was nicely put, although the use of font changes to depict a flashback is mildly unnerving.

That's the bad part.

What's good?
- The price. I love Rs. 95.

- The Indian Author that's trying something different. We've had sordid tales of the partition, suitable boys, small things in kerala, profound utterances about cities and their sex lives...I find them all of a genre that is somehow ....whatdyacallit... boring. Although this book is not that great, I find books of this kind a welcome break from the pseudo-ness of the "literary" Indian author.

But don't include Shashi Tharoor - I really like "The Great Indian Novel".

Friday, November 04, 2005

Language barrier

But this could not happen.
But this could not happen, and the now the verdict is
that if there's no you, there's no sense of loss or desire for you either
life goes on in this manner,
that there's no desire for anyone's support anymore
No road
no goal
and no way to light
my life roams about lost in a dark tunnel
it'll stay in this darkness forever perhaps
i know it well, my lady love,
but just like that
sometimes, sometimes,
a thought comes to my heart.

Poetry should never be translated.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

SONY puts virus-like software on your PC!

Read Mark Russinovich's article on Sony's DRM CD applications. To you non-techie readers, the concept is:

a) Sony, in it's fight against piracy, decides to implement Digital Rights Management (DRM) on it's CDs.
b) It creates CDS that won't run directly on your PC - you have to run a special media player (from First 4 Internet (F4I) ) to play these files.
c) How does F4I do it? When you insert your CD into your PC, the CD will "autorun" - in this case, a special software is installed on your PC.
d) This software is dangerous: It hides files on your own PC, eats system resources, and is running in your PC in the background even when you are not using a SONY CD.

You can't uninstall it normally. If you try deleting the files, your CD ROM drive will stop working. Ha.

Do you know if your PC has been attacked? Create a file called $sys$test.txt - if it vanishes, you're "infected".

How could SONY do something so stupid? Has DRM gone too far? Now they will tell us what files we should be viewing and what not, just because some people have copied their CDs? I refuse to buy Sony CDs anymore.