Saturday, December 31, 2005

Known Highlights of 2006

For all the green-activists out there, Olduvai theory predicts that World Oil production is to peak in 2006. So folks, start thinking green!

Some known highlights of 2006:

in Politics:

* Anticipated retirement of Alan Greenspan
* Change of Guard expected in Brazil, Italy, Israel, Palestine, Canada, Fiji, Peru, Ukraine, Uganda

in Film:

* in March: Basic Instinct 2, Ice Age 2
* in May: The Da Vinci Code, MI 3
* in June: Pixar's Cars, Superman Returns
* in July: Pirates of Caribbean: Dead men's Chest

in other Media:

* BBC World Service to end radio broadcasting in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian and Thai.
* TV shows Ending this year: Will and Grace, The 70's show
* Will be able to register .eu domain name for European Union.

in Music:

* in May: AR Rahman's stage musical: The Lord of the Rings
* 2006, The Mozart Year, 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

in Sports:

* XX Winter Olympic Games: Feb 2006 in Italy
* Commonwealth Games: Mar 2006 in Melbourne, Australia
* Soccer World Cup: June - July 2006 in Germany (UTC + 2 with Day Light Saving)
* 15th Asian Games: Doha, Qatar in Dec 2006 (UTC+3)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Green Costs of Christmas in UK

  • 200,000 trees are felled to supply 1.7bn Christmas cards sent in the UK
  • 40,000 trees are used to make 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper used for presents
  • Nearly 6m Christmas trees end up in landfill sites every January
  • The UK throws out 3m tonnes of extra waste over Christmas
(Source: BBC)

whew! What abt the giant guzzler, the United States? 2m trees for cards, 60m christmas trees and 30m tonnes of extra waste? Probably much higher!

Not so pretty Google Doodle

First Google doodle that does not end very pretty looking, though the idea is still good: http://www.google.com/doodle10.html

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Praying


Praying. Meenakshi temple
Originally uploaded by Claude Renault.
"Iha Samsaare Bahu Dustaare
Kripayaa Paare Paahi Murare"

(This eternal cycle of rebirth is hard to cross over. Save me from it, Oh merciful Lord !)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Women Admissions

Here are a couple of graphs showing the percentage of girls admitted in 1996 and 2004 to BITS Pilani (peak years between '96 and '04 have also been marked):

DisciplineIn 1996In 2004Peakin Year
BE Chemical29.1742.3751.612000
BE Civil28.1334.6242.862003
BE EE21.4328.1334.551999
BE Mech6.1526.5828.42003
B.Pharm23.3346.1551.352003
M.M.S.5067.567.52004
BE CompSci30.1941.9449.472001
BE Instru31.2547.4649.182002
MSc Bio33.3369.05752003
MSc Chem17.2442.547.52003
MSc Economics9.6837.542.52003
MSc Math25.7137.7851.112003
MSc Physics13.5135.5635.562004
MSc Tech ET044.4462.52001
Msc Tech IS26.675864.291998




Data from this Source

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

Overweights > Underweights

I am not stating the obvious. BBC reports that for the first time in human history, number of overweights rival the number of underweights. Thats so saddenning.

Bygone Days?


[r]
Originally uploaded by Babsi Jones.

NYC - Central Park Rink


NYC - Central Park Rink
Originally uploaded by RUKnight.
Where's the Kong?

Change to speed gear

Those laces are innovation. A simple and a great idea. Can be laced to any shoe. Available in different colors for the right styling for your shoe.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

San Francisco


San Francisco
Originally uploaded by !Habit Forming.
Still iconic with out the Golden Gate.

Dear Santa...from Harley


Dear Santa...from Harley
Originally uploaded by Cynr.
Santa, Grant these wishes dear...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Netflix+

How about a wishlist for Netflix+? Netflix reviews your wishlist and then buys them once it decides the items in the list are non-porn (whatever its policies are) etc....

Friday, December 09, 2005

Googlers and del.icio.us

Given the fact that Google doesnt have a formidable equivalent tool for delicious (atleast publicly), I am inclined to believe that many Googlers must have been using delicious for tagging. Now that Yahoo! has bought the company, isnt it easy for yahoo! to keep a tab on the worlds and trajectories of these googlers? Isnt this a bigger issue for Web 2.0 in general, where players have the potential ability to lock up peoples data? Its easier to Do Evil once things fall into corporate hands (as corporations have lower moral and ethical standards. Yeah, thats one thing where sum is always less than the constiuents).

Anyways, Google is falling behind in this MyWeb area and thats one thing that sometimes makes me think of using the yahoo! toolbar.

Ajax and the Back button

Its snowing here and my shoes are proving to be slippery. So I decide to buy a pair of shoes from columbia.com. Their whole catalogue is thru a javascript menu that nests upto four levels ( What We Make >> Men's Items >> Outdoor Casual Footwear >> Outdoor and trail). I carefully choose 'Outdoor and trail', I am taken to a new page with those shoes. Now, I think "May be I'll find something in 'Trek and Travel'....Guess what? I'm stuck. Theoretically, I've made my way thru three levels of the catalogue tree. But when I hit back, I am taken back to the homepage. (why? because technically, i moved by just one page). From the 'Outdoor and trail' page, is there an alternate way i can browse thru the catalogue? NO. I've to take the "What We Make" menu on the top and start all over again.

So, moral of the story? Isnt Back button more to do with how you design the overall interaction? Isnt it about providing a means to get back, when you expect somebody is gonna need it?

Crediblity and Ads

Some times, its so hard to understand why do credible organizations like Discovery, CNN (Credible?, I know), The Hindu, even NY Times...allow a mess of ad-banners and popup windows! BBC, ofcourse, is the cleanest in terms of advertisements. Isnt 'keeping the site clean of advertisements and pop-ups' a factor of quality and credibility?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bank of America and Laundry

I was thinking about Bank of America's new 'Keep the Change' scheme. Isnt that change precious for laundry? Isnt the amassing quarters for laundry usually thru Starbucks and its ilk?

Heavy Snow at Fishers


Heavy Snow at Fishers
Originally uploaded by kaysov.
Good to see snow all over...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Homecoming is Ever Present"

I found some great world music on NPR today. Rachid Taha is a leading Rai musician. He's a second generation Algerian immigrant to France and is now one of the most sought after artisits in France. He's nominated by the BBC for the World Music Awards too. I liked Ya Rayah and Mamachi tracks in particular. Ya Rayah is a widely popular Algerian song that vaguely means "the feeling of homecoming is always present among first generation immigrants." Wonder how this song is perceived after the recent French riots. There is a more recent track called 'Tekitoi', that sounds like a Bollywood remix. You should give a try. (All tracks available on iTunes Music Store)

I got one other track called "My Comfort Remains" by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook. I think I am falling in love with Sufi music.

All white with snow


All white with snow
Originally uploaded by kaysov.
Its very bright with the reflecting light.

National Cheese Emporium

Sometime back, when I was trying out yahoo video search, I found this classic little piece of animation called "National Cheese Emporium". I thought it was short, yet brilliant. Only today, I learn that it was a Monty Python sketch ! I should have recognized Sir John Cleese's voice in the animation.

Monday, December 05, 2005

12 F does this


12 F does this
Originally uploaded by kaysov.
Its was 12F today here in Fishers

NYTimes Photo essay on India's Golden Quadrilateral

This photo essay points out some glaring differences between North and South in terms of speed and quality of the road work, which I find a little alarming and disturbing. As North falls behind South in virtually all progressive aspects of society, the South is vulnerable to phenomenon like huge exodus to its urban areas. (Just like Eastern China Vs. Inland China). South in no way is equipped with enough infrastructure to cope up with it.

Luckily, "Yeh Madrasi tho bekaar ke cheez hai" attitude of average-North Indian may act in favor of South.

When I think about it again, I realize that I am talking about things which are already occuring. Well educated large North Indian populations exist in Bangalore and Hyderabad. I think I am fearing something like "Thousands of Jobless desparate Biharis littering Delhi".

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Design and Pickle Bottles

Thinking about design in the Indian context, I find pickle bottles extremely clumsy to use. As a south Indian, I eat food with my right fingers. I think of pickle in the midst of eating. So, I have to go unscrew the lid of the bottle with the left hand, find a clean and dry spoon, take care of the dripping oil on those trips between the plate and the bottle, and then finally close the lid and then take care of the dripping greasy spoon. The pickle being real greasy does not fall freely from the spoon. So I have to keep yanking the spoon till the pickle gets off. The whole thing just sucks. It could get worse: you had disposed the greasy spoon and you decide to go for a second round of serving!

I was thinking of something like an icecream scoop and a good bowl for the whole setup.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A documentary on Maya Lin

The first two minutes of the documentary pass by And it invariably strikes to me..."Oh! My God, What an emotional roller coaster is the chronological order taking the visitors thru !! Thats the heart of the design. Nothing else matters as much." Ofcourse, Maya Lin later explains the significance of the chronological order. She goes on building on this very notion of capturing time in all her works. First in the Civil Rights, then the Womens Memorial at Yale And the Eclisped Time at Penn Station.

57000 Names stretched on a timeline (wall) of a decade long! The numbers and the stretch of time add up creating an immensely overwhelming emotion moving the visitors to the core. A simply Brilliant Simple Idea !

Monday, October 03, 2005

Walk in the Rain

Sometime back in 2000, PC Quest has given 1 min excerpts of hugely successful tracks from the label : Music Today . I had the mp3s, but no ID3 tag info. So, I started naming them to my imagination. I called one of them "Mayur Ka Naach" (the dance of a peacock). Yesterday, I found that iTunes 5.0 is selling that track. Its called "Walking in the Rain", a Pandit Shivkumar Sharma composition for the album "The Elements: Water".

I thought, "Well, I was pretty close!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Consistency and pulldown menus go away in a new Office version

Couple of genuinely interesting things happening this time.

Microsoft is moving away from pull down menus and toolbars in their next release of Office called Office 12. So no more "I have seen it. But cant find where it is" stuff.

The pull down menu technique was introduced into the office when there were about 150 features. But over the years and several releases as the commands and features grew to 1500, they had to use additional techniques like preferences/checkboxes to present all that stuff. The consequences? Some of them are deeply hidden...and it takes a lot of time to get to them. They realized that the technique no longer works.

In a strange way, the root of the problem has been "consistency". Yeah, consistency with the legacy of the predecessors in the product line. With office 12, they have finally decided to break off from the lineage w.r.t consistency. They began to think what they would do if they had began all over again. (Yeah, I too think Consistency is overrated and Change is good.)

They have reorganized all of the menus into 'galleries' now. The galleries look very task oriented and they actually guide you thru the lifecycle of creation/maintenance of the artifact. Everything is shown upfront in the galleries. No pulldown menus. No hidden features. Did this come at a price of loss of functionality? No. I am guessing they have built lot of contextual intelligence into it.

No annoying clip. There is thing little thing called floaty that comes up when you right-click and gets you most frequently used commands on the selected text. (Behaves little more intelligently than the current right click).

They have also departed from the alt key board shortcuts into something called Overlays. When you press the Fn key or something, you are shown the keyboard shortcuts on the items themselves. (With galleries you have nothing hidden.)

"You tell it what to do and its going to do that." , thats the motto. I think finally, its going to be a fair deal.

There is a great video on the whole thing: http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=114720

Why are those Classics?

Why are movies like Gundamma Katha (The Story of Gundamma) and Maya Bazar classics? Both of these movies were adaptations of hugely successive stage plays. When something is a successive stage play, the contents turn out to be nothing less or nothing more, but just what is necessary. Going in multiple iterations helps anywhere, not just in building software. Or may be film making is not very different from building software, both work towards a common goal: appeasing the audience and making money.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

98 BITSians on Map

I did this plot of BITSians-'98 on Google maps this Friday night. Tell me if you think something makes it better.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ones with Very Long Wait

Two movies indicate a "Very Long Wait" on my Netflix Queue*. K. Vishwanath's Sirivennela and the "Pirates of the Silicon Valley", a dramatized war between Microsoft and Apple. The former has a niche American-Telugu audience (and presumably, Netflix has just one copy of the movie), while the latter probably has atleast a quarter million slashdot geeks waiting for it!

*There are about 110 movies in the Queue, as of Sep 08. Kungfu Hustle had a 'long wait' until its release recently.

Tagsonomy for iTunes

I have a decent collection of M.S. Subbulakshmi. The collection is dominated by two genres: Carnatic and Devotional. The other genres include: soundtracks, bhajans, light classical, Hymns (like Vishnu Sahasranama, Venkateswara Suprabhatham). Bhajans and Hymns fall are partly Devotional genre too. Some of the tracks are more listenable during early morning hours, some contemplative, some very festive (Hindu festive, ofcourse) in nature...

You see where I am getting at? Tags for songs, apart from the genre.

Genre is too rigid a classification and playlists are too cumbersome to achieve all of these listening patterns! I am hoping iTunes 6.0 will have it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Some lessons from IM Pei's works

I was watching a documentary on the works of IM Pei, yesterday. I thought I would put down some of the things I took from it.
  • Form follows function, except when things are pushed to the extreme. In his case, the HK's Bank of China tower's form followed structure (and not function). The structure enabled him distribute the loads to the four corners, tall ones needed to be counter the effects of things like strong winds.
  • Design for people's needs. So there is no instant gratification from design work. It needs people to actually go around the buildings and live in them to get to know if the design really works.
  • It takes things like hardcore persuasion and persistence to make things like the pyramid at Louvre happen.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

$2,275 to change the destiny of Indian Roads

As $2,275 or the 1 lac car from Tata Motors is getting ready, my worst apprehensions about Indian road traffic and the emission levels are all set to be true. In a country where car has been a status symbol, 1 lac is no big deal to move into that status. More cars -> more traffic -> more gas -> more parking -> more pollution...more God knows of what!! Gas will probably shootup from Rs.45 a litre to Rs.60+ a litre. Most of the shopping districts, entertainment centers, business districts do not accomodate parking lots, forcing the car owners to park them on the roads creating huge road blocks for the moving traffic. Its too huge a problem to be postponed even by a single day OR to be thought about in a single dimension. Wish I had a part to play in solving these huge problems.

PS: $2,275 has the potential to spread the same problems to most of the developing countries making them more unmanageable!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A bad idea: Spell Check for IM

While I was exploring Google's new IM, it re-struck to me why spell check is such a bad idea for IM. Most popular case against a spell checker can be that its a very informal mode of communication and hence you dont have to be pedantically right.

I think that a bigger point against spell check is that: Given a context, we are extremely good at auto-correcting.
IM, being a conversatory mode of communication, defines and keeps re-defining context clearly. Also, we humans are good at re-iterating mutual feelings thru conversations, thanks to paraphernilia like :) , lol , ha ha, :( , :D , :P ....

Ironically, there are hundereds of spell check plug-ins readily available for every IM client.

PS: Here's a poem that passes thru a spell check. It makes good sense to humans too. But its a total nonsense to an English teacher.
Eye halve a spelling chequer,
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I'm shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it's weigh,
My chequer tolled me sew.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Arnold in India

When Terminator 3 got dubbed into Telugu, Arnold Schwarzenegger was translated as Anna Swarnasekhar. Yeah, "Anna Swarnasekhar natinchina Terminator 3". (Arnold stars in Terminator 3). Wondering what he might be called in Tamil Nadu? Anna Saravananan? (An extra -an to make it a little more tongue twisting.)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Different and Unlikely

Indian movies use two words a lot, when they write down the synopsis of a movie.

One: Different. "This movie is so different from the rest of the stuff." Remember (A')' = A ? Yeah, thats the case with Indian movies.

Two: Unlikely. "The girl realizes that love happens
with the most unlikely guy in the most unlikely circumstances ." I have started questioning the very meaning of unlikely after all those unlikely usages of the word.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Why is Amitabh such a mainstream actor even now?

I think thats mainly because its only he who provides writers to write a story/script that does not entirely revolve around cliched love stories and still managesto make money at the box office. What do you say?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Water Tragedy

It takes about $1.7 billion a year to provide fresh driniking water to everybody on the globe. And about $9.3 billion for sanitation. The irony is that there is an annual spending of $46 billion on bottled water!!

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Rising

A bunch of kings revolting against Lord Dalhousie's Doctrine of Lapse and then another bunch of soldiers revolting for a thing as silly as animal fat. Now, how interesting can that be for a movie?

Answers?

"Computers are useless. They only give you answers." -- Pablo Picasso

Yeah, the greatness lies in asking the right questions.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

India going more Nuclear

Dubya and Singh have talked about giving more nuclear technology to meet increasing demands of power in India. It sounds good in the first hearing. But how good is it? Well, India is definitely gonna dig out far fewer amounts of coal and thus emit much lesser greenhouse gases. But then you have the problems of disposing the nuclear waste. On a bigger picture, I think the more you have, the more you tend to consume it. People hop in to buy more gadgets and 'utilities' with the availability of power. But more buying means more depletion and more pollution.

Vijay Vaitheeswaran of The Economist says that Centralized Power Generation is a bad idea and it should be decentralized by giving it away to markets. You'll be much more frugal when you have to generate your power in the backyard using sun, wind or whatever.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

London 2012 and boom come the attacks!

What if someother city had won the 2012 Olympics? Did the terrorists plan to blow stuff in the winner city OR was London the only target?

The best words came from Tony Blair. He said...Our resolve to live the way we live is stronger than their resolve to shake it...or something on those lines.

One of the best reports on the whole attacks are from Wikipedia, apart from the BBC. Smartmobs, afterall!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

10 years of growth and still a toddler.

Amazon.com is celebrating 10 years of its existence. Here is their first homepage. Today's homepage is hell a lot better! Amazon.com has been consistently improving its user experience and converting them into customers quite successfully. They have been constantly realigning their technology to suit their business goals of allowing more sellers and buyers. Netflix is another great example I can think of that create a good experience.

The web has matured by leaps and bounds on the user experience front. Yet it is still a toddler. A lot more can be done to help businesses and design. We'll see much better experiences and designs in the coming years.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Why is life worth living?

As Woody Allen puts it, in the movie Manhattan:
Why is life worth living? It’s a very good question. Well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. Like what? For me, I would say, what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing … and Willie Mays … the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony … Louis Armstrong’s recording of Potato Head Blues … Swedish movies, naturally … Sentimental Education by Flaubert … Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra … those incredible apples and pears by Cezanne … the crabs at Sam Wo’s … uh … Tracy’s face …

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Qawwali and Harmonium

Qawwali is a 700-year old tradition. Harmonium is a European instrument and was introduced to India quite recently, may be a 150-200 years back. But it plays a very important role in the Qawwali tradition.

Wikipedia explains the inconsistency. Sarangi was the instrument used in Qawwali prior to Harmonium. The new entrant was even better as Sarangi needed to come in between while this one didnt have to, and has quickly become the de facto accompaniment.

By the way, very few Indians know that harmonium is an alieninstrument. Interestingly, India has been the last refuge for this extinguishing instrument. To quote somebody, India is the museum of the British Raj. Brilliantly said, ha!

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's Kinna Sona

Joy of the day has been discovering Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's live recording of "Kinna Sona". Honestly, I am ashamed for not having listened to enough of Maestro's works.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Glimpses thru Google Maps

Some funny Tees

These are really good ones.




Kinsey and the Ubiquity of Knowledge

Watching Kinsey was a little dumbfounding experience. The movie was suggesting that knowledge which is so ubiquitous today and which takes up major chunk of the web, was virtually unknown in 1940s !! Americans didnt know that there is more than one way to do it? That was something incredible. Indians knew it atleast theoretically, thanks to a classic treatise. Kinsey's work was so remarkable that it altered America's culture significantly along with taking the burden off their conscience. It was a pleasure to watch Liam Neeson in the role of Alfred Kinsey.

The movie made me appreciate Larry Lessig's ideas even better. What if we didnt share knowledge that would benefit all human race? Sharing shrinks time. 20 non-sharing years could be equivalent to just a couple of sharing years! Thats the capacity of knowledge sharing.
































Thursday, June 23, 2005

And so are the ilk!!

Pustak Mahal's Sudhish Pachauri says:
"No new truths are being told. Our new writer (of Hindi literature) is not talking about youth, or even new ideas. He is talking about his/her own inner conflicts. Those who write do so because they like the idea of being writers. They want awards, and they get them through networking... plying older authors and literary editors with favours and alcohol and parties. They are content with a certain amount of 'fame' that comes from having a book published and being mentioned in the mainstream newspapers.
Thats exactly similar to my wail over the state of affairs of my mother tongue telugu. Major throughput of the society in recent years has been Eenadu, Swathi, Sitara, Cinema and TV. Eenadu, though not as sensational as north Indian media, is about selling news as hot cakes (and not about being reflective in writings). Swathi is Andhra's version of People, Femina, Cosmopolitan along with a column on religion, some cheap erotica and a related QnA session. All of this nativized to the telugu tongue and then
packed together on newsprint for Rs.10/-.

Cinema is full of stories about boy appearing smart to the girl or the vice versa, Smart in telugu cinema's own lexicon, which when translated to spoken language can mean irritating and slappable. TV has promised itself to soap operas with subjects like Pati, Patni aur Woh, surrogacies, nonsensical family problems of which the roots normally date back to another 250 episodes. All of these sickening subjects moving at an alarming rate of 1 frame per 4 weeks...with expressions of a theater artist acting at a distance of 250 mts from the audience!! (You'll know what I mean, if you listen to their high volumed voices and if you look at those exaggarated Kathakali expressions).

Publishing: Visalaandhra is no longer flourishing as it used to once upon a time. The era of Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Sri Sri, Chaso, Devulapalli, Jashua, Narayana Reddy, Sankaramanchi, Mullapudi, Veturi is history now. Sirivennela, the last surviving legend, has penned a great song last in 1990 and good song for Gayam in 1993. Not that people have no new ideas, its that people stopped choosing Telugu as a medium of expression. Is it because of a low percieved reception? Those definitely are not signs of a flourishing language.

I cant ignore this ONE. Bhagwan Sathya Sai Baba has been delivering all His Divya Vani in Telugu. And yeah, thats something the rest of all lit. cannot even compete with.








Yet another new bio computer out in market!

I saw this hilarious post announcing their new born baby.








Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The One Where India's loss is China's gain

Gurcharan Das notes that UGC's redtape has driven away American Universities from setting up their schools is India. And China had welcomed them. He says:

A private education costs less than a car, and we don't protect car customers via AICTE or UGC.
...
A free society must offer autonomy to its universities — only then will minds be able to fly.

The One with iTunes' patent infringment

Some company called Contois accused apple today of infringing their patent on UI for music playing application. The patent has such a generic description that you write a command line program for playing music, you would still be violating some section of the patent! A fine example for how crappy the patenting business is! If I ever asked to design a player, I would have invariably come up with a similar interface, with out the slighest knowledge of existence of such a darning patent, because it was a natural way of organizing music.

Think about being over-protective about your stuff for the fear of divulging in too much information, while in reality sharing could have actually got in more business? Yeah, thats an undesirable side effect of patenting. (or is it a mainstream effect?)

We should realize that sharing and co-operation are the key in the new economy.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The One With Mira Nair

I was 15 back then when Mira Nair's Kamasutra was released. I was 18 when I saw it for the first time. 18 was not a very good time to appreciate the movie in public. (Nor can I appreciate it today except for a few shots). But that was my first introduction to Mira Nair. And the impression "This lady is taboo" carried over for a long time untill I saw four of her better works: "Salaam Bombay!", "Mississippi Masala", "Monsoon Wedding" and the more recent "Vanity Fair". All the four movies had great casting, great music, good story line and most importantly some social commentary. New Yorker Mira keeps shuttling between NY, Bombay and Uganda....and she's got a great eye for the immigrant experiences.

MS Masala has been one of the first takes on the Indian immigrant experiece in the USA. More importantly it highlights the difference in perception between black and brown among the browns. (and that was Denzel Washington just before Malcolm X).

Salaam Bombay isnt magical trying to rescue street children..but takes a very realistic look at the maginificent tales of those tiny lives. Magsaysay winner Jockin was flashing in my mind all the while I was watching the movie. Jockin discourages pulling out these children from streets. On the contrary, he's been practising going along with these street children and trying to better their values instead of injecting middle class values. Mira Nair was ofcourse not speaking exactly in these lines. But she has supported these counterintutive ways in the scenes like the children being better off on the street than the rehabilitation center etc.

Monsoon Wedding...so many narratives run concurrently ...to bring out a real sense of wedding. The movie was immensely enjoyable including the opening and closing credits.

Vanity Fair. The closing song "Gori Re" by Javed Akthar beautifully summarizes the strong female lead character's sojourn in Britian and the British Empire.

Jhumpa Lahiri is naturally a befitting collaborator for Nair (I'm waiting for screen version of "The Namesake"). Shekhar Kapur was once my favorite when his Elizabeth was nominated for a few academy awards. But as Kamal Haasan rightly tells Amir Khan and Rajnikanth, "You have got to work. Otherwise people are going to invariably forget you."

Mira Nair continues to take up more space on my entertainment radar, while Shekhar Kapur is a lost signal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The One with 2.96 billion search results

Which keyword search results in the maximum number of search results? Intution tells me it's the alphabet a, a staggering 2.96 billion. Google indexes about 8.05 billion pages. So thats about 37% of pages which have an "a" in them. It pops an obvious question. "Why dont all the 8 billion pages have an 'a' in them?". Yeah, there are Japanese and Chinese. (BTW, Does Spanish language has an "a" ?) So do English web pages constitute only 37% of what Google indexes?

The basic premise has been a fetches maximum number of results. Do you have anything higher?

Some interesting numbers:

  • I has lesser search results than you. Lesser by almost a billion!! (Is web, a place with lesser ego?)
  • US is an incredible close contender with 2.2 billion!!
  • Highest ranking number was 1. and Highest ranking alphabet was not 'I'.




The One With Yahoo!'s intent search

I was checking out Yahoo!'s intent search today. Intention behind the new search tool sounded good. But the slider and results were bullshit.

First of all, how much sense did the slider make? What does it mean when I slide it midway towards shopping? Does it mean that I have assigned .75 weight for shopping and .25 for research? What do those weights .75 and .25 mean anyway? I mean, how do you differentiate them from .95 weight on shopping + .05 weight on research? Does it mean that somethings are inherently more commercial (and offer lesser important information)?

When I slide it towards the research end, results which normally appear in pages 8 or 9 show up. So does research mean looking for stuff that is hidden deep inside?

I think that shopping/research preferences should have been more of black or white(radio buttons) instead of the slidebar.

I thought Google's personalized search (though broader than sales and non-sales) was better. It solved the above problem with check boxes. :).

Choice is good. But more of it does not necessary mean it is better.




Sunday, June 12, 2005

The One With the scription on Bell

I just listened to this passionate talk by Clifford Stoll about his second thoughts on computing and its hype as 42.

He ended his talk with these beautiful lines, that were inscribed on the bell of University of Buffalo.

All truth is one.
In this light, may science and religion endeavor for the steady evolution of Humankind.

From darkness to light, From prejudice to tolerance,
From narrowness to broadmindedness.
It is the voice of life that calls you.
Come and learn.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The One With Eating Fish

Jared Diamond's Latest book "Collapse" has sent me into thinking about Bengali Brahmins and they eating fish. Back then, when we were still at Pilani and were in a hot season of debating on every god damn thing, I had an argument with one of my good old friends, on Vegetarianism Vs. consuming meat out of necessity. He was telling me that he would rather die than consume meat and I, on the other hand, was trying to argue that necessity sometimes forces you to adopt meat as a staple food. One of the examples, I was trying to give was Greenland, as it seems to have little arable land. He did seem convinced for a moment, but then he was constantly drawing his side of the arguement from scriptures and quotes...and so we had to cut the debate out.

Now, when I read about Jared Diamond's book, I am surprised at his citing of Norse culture of Greenland as a prime example. The Norse lived in those arcitic lands for about 400 years, but then they vanished as they did not seem to adopt to the methods of the land. They raised cows and built big wooden houses. Cows needed lots of grass lands and each house needed about 10 acres of forest. Unlike Inuit (a local tribe of Greenland), eating fish was a cultural taboo for the Norse. The Norse didnot leave out their European culture of beef being a prized food.
In summer months, they did not go out hunting fish, but instead went hunting walrus for their tusks. Ironically, Greenland is a fisherman's paradise. The Norse sold walrus tusks and got premium robes, big bells for the churches, wine glasses...etc...etc...

Meanwhile, the ecology of Greenland was fragile that it could no longer support the needs of the Norse, they starved to death and ultimately a civilization collapsed. If only the Norse adopted eating fish, their ecological demands would have been far lesser and the mighty focres would have let the Norse endure for a few more years!!

I guess the Bengali and Saraswat Brahmins had this wisdom. Both these clans lived in areas (The Ganga-Brahmaputra delta and the Indus delta, respectively) where fish was abundant. Hunting fish was less demanding ecologically than raising crop. I dont know if any major ecological disaster has led these guys to accept fish OR if they were wise enough to observe the trade-off. Whatever be the reason, they survived, which the Norse failed to do. Survival matters!

PS: A google query on "Why do Bengali Brahmins eat fish?" had answers like "Eating fish tells about the openness". Whoa!, give me a break!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The One Where I visit an Obstetrics ward

I've been to an Obstetrics ward today. All the setting was extremely familiar to me, thanks to Carol, Phoebe, Rachael and Erica. The one thing that was extremely impressive were the steps to peep into the glass panes of the nursing section. Children under 4.5ft were the targeted users in the scenario for design. Design outside the software world generally seems to be good as it evolves more organically.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The One With Ashkenazis

Economist has this politically incorrect article on the influence of certain type of genes like Tay-Sachs on intelligence and disease. Gregory Cochran has results in which he found out that Ashkenazi Jews scored atleast a minmum of 15-20% higher in IQ tests than any other major racial group. (Were Indians too considered? I dont know). He's also found a correlation between this intelligence and some disease.

The results of this study could be revolutionary!! You are then scientifically (but may not be legally) allowed to have prejudices on basis of race and color. So can I trade in some intelligence for a disease? Many of us might want to be Einstein for a day and create some amazing science and history.

The One Where Sitemap > Content.

Probably yes!! Thats atleast what markets think. Google is now valued at $80bn, while the media giant Time Warner at $78bn. Yeah, well, if you think about it, Google is 'after all' a company that actually redirects you to places with actual info like TIME or CNN or...etc. But then you ought to reach those places to find the value in those places. "We take you to places which add to your value", how about that as a business goal?