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 many narratives run concurrently 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?