Friday, December 29, 2006

Post 150, New year and so on.

Folks, this is my 150th post. Neat, eh? And to commemorate it, I've decided to make it the last post of this year - 2006.

The year started with me being coming back refreshed from a trip to Kansas City. And it is ending with me being not-so-fresh in a new company in Bangalore itself. In case you wondered, its been a good year for me overall - I got to keep all but one of my new year resolutions for the year! I finished a (half) marathon, wrote more than 52 posts on this blog, bought my car, fell in love, fell out of it, changed jobs, made new friends, renewed old contacts, read 23 new books, got a couple of awards, and was never bored for most of the year.

At the same time, I left a place that was really dear to me, lost a great manager, lost one good friend to an argument, lost face once, *never* practised the violin - something I swore I'd do, and...well, let's leave it at that.

So, what are my resolutions for next year? Here goes:
- Better my half-marathon time,
- Get some serious violin practice
- Get some piece of authorship out in public
and some more...maybe I'll add them in later. :D

Anyways, have a great new year ahead. Thanks for reading my blog, and may 2007 bring you here more often, even as it brings you far more happiness and joy than you can ever handle.

Bangalore Autos

Having travelled regularly for over two years in Bangalore autos, I've had my share of auto-rejections. The drivers may have been different, the destinations I wanted to reach may have been different, and so were the times-of-the-day when I hailed the autos, but there has been a general pattern of how I've been asked to GTH. Here goes:

The "Devdas" driver: This person is actually sad to let go of your fare. He puts on a sorry face, and with a voice that reminds you of that loser, Devdas, asks you to find an other auto. Of course, it maybe that he's simply sorry about something else, but at least you get to hear a kind word. Needless to say, his species is rather rare in the ecosystem of Bangalore autos.

The "Amitabh" driver: He is ANGRY. You've just brought him down to near stopping speed from his usual "take-you-closer-to-god" speed, and not just that, have dared asked him to go to a place where he doesn't want to! And beyond that, you have the audacity to quote the rulebook, and tell HIM that he has to take you where YOU want to go!? Persist, and you get a quick lesson in the "Art of Kannada scolding". Ofcourse, his species dominates the ecosystem - much like rats in a sewer.

The "Nero" driver: He is the indifferent one. He couldn't care if you existed, or if you wanted to go somewhere. All he knows is that you are too insignificant to be registered in his intellectual and visual radar. A quick glance, and you are consigned to the fumes of the exhaust, as he haughtily turns forward and speeds away.

Any more that you guys know of? Post it in the comments!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The true face of a communist revealed

For eons, we've been brought up on a steady diet of homilies about Communism. On how the communists treat everyone equally. How there is no "Maelu keeLu" in commie-land. And how even the biggest CEO gets the same treatment as the 'lowly' peon, whose cause the commies never refuse to champion.

Apparently. But we all know how different the truth really is. And giving us a little glimpse into it was the Lord of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee, also known as "The Impartial Master".
When recently, the opposition BJP created a hullabaloo about JMM leader Soren having to resign, he said: "This is pathetic. We take pride in being the largest democracy. Is this the way we function? Is this the example we are setting? That is why even a cricket coach is abusing us." (emphasis mine)

Even a cricket coach? Even a cricket coach? How high should you be on arrogance to say such a thing!? According to this worthy, everyone is equal, except cricket coaches. Oh, and to them, let's add the middle class, the rich, the software engineers, the professionals, the non-communists and the others. After all, they are just after a good, decent, legal life and don't have the "Great Communist Cause" to dedicate their lives to. And then, we can add the businessmen - how dare they make money! And so on, except ofcourse the loyal, sincere, pro-poor, pro-undertrodden, business-class-flying, five-star-hotel-staying, million-dollar-illegally-earning commies, and their junkies.
Equality. Yeah, right!

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Rajinder Sachar report, Part I

Ok, so you've heard of the Rajinder Sachar committee report. At the least, you've heard of a report doing the rounds - the one which first tried to split the army across communal lines, and later lamented the poor state of Muslims in the country.

The conclusion of the report is something we all expected. Muslims are worse off in many areas of health, education, employment than even the Dalit community. Most Muslims live in ghettos, in slums, and have lower-than-average access to credit, to education, and to jobs. The only area where the community has adequate representation, the report says, is in our jails. Sordid.

No one can argue with the conclusions of the report, in terms of the facts presented. However, once the report came out, we had the usual cacophony of voices, criticising all and sundry for the community's backwardness, arguing how the discriminatory Indian state was jailing more Muslims considering them to be terrorists, and of course, asking for reservations for Muslims, further reservations for Dalit Muslims, and so on. Fortunately, it didn't reach a high enough crescendo to actually ask for reservations in Parliament!

We should examine these arguments in some detail. Let's take the easiest one first - the question of a far higher Muslim "representation" in our jails than in the population. Why is this so? But before that, we should ask, is it really a sign that the state discriminates against Muslims? To answer that question, we should impose another question on ourselves. Is the number of criminals 'produced' by a community only a factor of its population? So, should we have precisely 80% Hindu criminals, of which 52% are OBCs, some 2% are Brahmins, and precisely 13% Muslim criminals? This kind of pseudo-logic is one propagated by our 'intellectuals' (read commies). The argument goes - since everyone is equal, everyone is equally likely to commit a crime (as the women's rights advocates argue - every man is a 'potential rapist'). Since everyone is equally likely to commit a crime, the number of criminals who belong to a community should be proportional to its population (actually, these worthies would say "male population", but that would be blatantly sexist). Ergo, if a community has a higher 'representation' in the jails, it is being targeted. Conventional wisdom, don't you agree?

Unfortunately, this is just convenient wisdom. Anyone familiar with the criminal justice system will tell you that factors like a high level of education, fruitful employment, family support and a standing in the community all go a long way in keeping people away from crime. Therefore, communities that are less likely to foster these characteristics are more likely to have criminals amongst their midst, not to mention the fact that in this country, it is the rich that get away with murder while the poor pay for even the slightest crime.

So, yes, there is discrimination, but it is economic, not social. The State is targeting the poor, not the Muslims.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cricket crazy? No, power drunk.

What can you say about the hours of debate the honourable members of parliament spent in discussing the Indian team's performance in SA? One way to look at it is that the honourable members are as crazy about Cricket as the rest of us. Another way to look at it is to think that the honourable members have conveyed the dismay(!) of the rest of us to the team. But in reality, it is nothing more than the honourable members being so drunk on power that they can't distinguish between national issues and notional ones. It is about them being so high on the power drug that they think they own all of Indian Cricket, simply because one very honourable member is the chief of the BCCI.

But why am I so angry? Well, it pisses me that my weekend-working-eye-drying-rsi-causing work is going to pay for these a*holes' power trips. It pisses me that when there are 260 million people starving, the rulers of the country have nothing better to discuss. Most of all, it pisses me that this is another intervention into the private space of the individual (or in this case, the team). What we'll have next is Ramdas Athavale criticising Rahul Dravid's fashion sense. And then criticising Aishwarya Rai's performance in a Bond movie (if and when she gets to it). And then, parliament will pass a resolution criticising Shah Rukh Khan for singing badly. And get the idea.

But like everything else in this house of honour, this debate wasn't devoid of humour. Sharad Pawar with his cancer-eaten jaw talking about performance and Ambika Soni talking about sportsmanship(!) were both so much like Brutus talking about Roman democracy that I could only marvel at the similarities. But the icing on the cake was provided by the anti-Dalit, anti-performance Ramdas Athavale, who suggested that the only way out was to provide Dalit reservation in sport! Yeah, and then we can also amend cricketing rules so that Dalit batsmen don't have to walk until they are bowled thrice, we can amend the rules so that any bouncer bowled to a Dalit batsman will automatically add 5 runs to his score, and we can amend the rules so that every 5 balls a Dalit bowls, an opposition batsman must walk. See more of the consequences here.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

No one is irreplaceable

Among the many urban legends governing the software industry, the one which has gained currency in recent times is the one about no engineer being irreplaceable. We've all seen it in action - many times, a lead developer quits in the midst of a project, and yet the project reaches fruitition. A manager may leave, but the project gets completed on time, on budget. In fact, a rather gory saying for this phenomenon, where you can simply replace an engineer by an other, is: "If your lead engineer gets hit by a truck, your project should still run on schedule."

However, is it true? Are engineers replaceable/dispensable?

I don't know. Years ago, the team lead, my mentor and guru for my first project suddenly quit. He was followed by two other senior members in the team. Now, all we had was a team of freshers, and the average experience of the team in that domain was around 6 months (down from around 2 years). Still, we pulled the project through. A couple of years later, two of my close friends left the team. The project went on as usual. Then, I quit, and there was still no material difference to the project - yes, people worked harder to make up for the loss of a teammate, but otherwise, to the external world, everything was hunky-dory. Since then, I've left two companies, and many people have left my place of work, and life went on as usual.

What this ignores though is the sociological aspect. In a well-jelled team, every team member has a place of his own - not just technologically or organizationally, but also sociologically. Invisible threads of trust, of emotional support, of friendship that take months to build are usually torn off when a person leaves. Those are harder to replace. When the seniors in my first project quit, the rest of us were able to take over the technical and organizational aspects quite well. The ten things that my mentor was responsible for, we split amongst the four (or five) of us. What we couldn't split (immediately) is the sense of confidence of having someone to turn to when we were in trouble. What we couldn't take over was the friendly smile that greeted us when we approached him with a problem. Ofcourse, with time, we built support structures of our own - which were again dismantled when people left.

I think this is the aspect of turnover that is largely ignored by companies. What thinks you? Use the comments link freely to express your opinions.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Technology notes Vol 1, Ed 2, Nov 06

Welcome to the second edition of Technology notes. This time we have:

* Peopleware

At the recently held Bangalore Book Fair, I got the opportunity to finally buy a book I'd been hunting for a long time. This book, called "Peopleware", written by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister is a classic - something that can be compared with "The Mythical Man-month".

Now we've all heard about hardware, software, shareware, and even vapourware. So, what is peopleware? Well, it is about the only raw material that matters in the software world - people. It is all about how people must be managed, the kind of work environments that software companies must provide, and the kind of managers/senior leaders that you must have in the profession for a company to succeed.

A must read book for anyone, including those not in the profession. Nothing in the book is new - just uncommon, like common sense. Let me know (if you're in Bangalore), if you want to borrow the book.

* Pair programming

The first time I heard about pair programming, I laughed my heart out. My good friend Sathya who introduced the concept tried very hard, in his own inimitable way, to convince me about the worth of the concept. Nothing would make me budge...two programmers working on the same piece of code at the same time!? What crap! What about productivity? What about cost!? What about conflicts!? These were all questions I asked.

It is a different matter though, that later in my life, I actually wrote a paper on the benefits of pair programming! Even then, despite having officially pair-programmed more than a few times, I hadn't experienced the "Aha" moment - when I was convinced that pair programming helped me do a better job of something.

Around a month back, a manager at my workplace had a cool idea on some updates to a web-site that we host. Essentially, we were changing the rendering algorithm, and he asked if I would work with him on it. I agreed, and man, was it fun! The three hours we spent deciphering the existing code and tailoring his algorithm were probably the most productive hours I've spent in some time! And it was fun! We each complemented the other's skills, learnt from the others' approach to code, and finally came off with renewed respect for each other.

Now that is the "Aha" moment I was looking for. That is one of the biggest benefits of pair programming - building better teams.

Anyways, this is all for this edition. Keep visiting this space for more technical updates. Next time, I plan to write about user-interfaces and the general stagnation in the area.

See the previous edition of technology notes here:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Linguistic Abuse

The eternal bard once said "What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". Maybe true. But every word has a meaning. And to use a word in a manner as to distort its meaning is unfortunately, today's journalistic trend.

For example, take the word (phrase?) "high-tech". It stands for high-technology - which means technology of a certain calibre, a certain novelty, and a certain degree of precision, one that stretches the state-of-the-art in a field. How do our papers use the word? Well, simply, everything in the 'high-tech' (sic) city of Bangalore is high-tech. The bus-stand is hi-tech, even though it doesn't have proper water-proofing. The buses are hi-tech, even though they run on 80s technology. The government is hi-tech, even if it doesn't understand technology. Everything is hi-tech. Most vulnerable to this phenomenon is the New Indian Express - which is otherwise an excellent read.

Here is an other one. "Militant". Websters' defines "Militant" as someone who takes to arms for a selfless cause. A "terrorist", on the other hand, is one who "systematically uses terror as a means of coercion". So, are the terrorists in Kashmir working for a selfless cause? Or are they using terror to coerce the Indian government into accepting the two-nation theory? Well, if you go by the anchors, they are those fighting for a selfless, no doubt, secular, cause.

I'll add more as I remember them.

The biggest threat to India

Here is a pop quiz. In one word, what is the biggest threat to the security, development, and integrity of this country? Terrorism? No. Poverty? Not at all. So, is it fundamentalism? Nope. So, what is it?

Well, it is Communism. And communist control over premier educational institutions in the country. This in turn has led to their control over all of primary/secondary education, over most of the print and visual media, and over many influential institutions like the ICHR. As Ayn Rand, in her book, The Fountainhead, eloquently stated, this bunch of commies are not interested in 'physical' power. What they want is power over thought. Power over the minds of the people. They want to hold the levers to power, not power itself.

So, how do they accomplish this mind-control? By obfuscating facts. By telling lies. And by having acolytes back their lies. Here is an example: In today's "We the people", the debate was about "Health-care outsourcing". Barkha Dutt introduced a Bill-something from California who had come in to Fortis for treatment. He was obviously impressed with the world-class facilities and the low cost. Obviously. And two other truths are self-evident. Health-care outsourcing helps hospitals improve, it gets India more foriegn exchange, and it clearly benefits the patient. Now that the worthies cannot dispute these facts, the JNU-types on the show ask, "Who will do anything about the Indian Bills?". Point. But what does this have to do with the whole concept? Indian Bills cannot afford treatment because the government spends 1% of the GDP on healthcare, instead of 5-7% like the other countries, and even that 1% is not used effectively. It is not because the private hospitals treat foriegn patients. But the force with which these guys put it, the private hospitals are put in the dock, for no fault of theirs. And in this debate, you can be sure, there will be no mention of all the Pakistani kids who got treatments done here! BTW, if you treat a Pakistani, if you treat a Kashmiri terrorist, you are a national hero. If you treat an American, you are a blood-sucking vulture.

And this is typical. Praise a NarayanaMurthy for creating Infosys, and these worthies will say "Oh, it provides jobs to only 50,000 people." Praise the software industry for letting these worthies fly to other countries witout being treated as terrorists, and these will say "Oh, it is *just* a few million jobs." Praise the export sector for doing well, and these worthies will point to all those below the poverty line. But praise a Mao, praise a Stalin, praise a Caucescu - all butchers, and these a*holes will clap with you.

Disgusting. And if you haven't read these three books - Animal Farm, 1984 and The Fountainhead, I'll urge you to read them now. It is the duty of every citizen to see through the propaganda of these a*holes.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Much more typecasting

If you are one of those who is going to heave a huge sigh of anguish, you are not the only one. Yes, I know, I've ranted on and on and on about typecasting people. And I've admitted that I've been guilty of the same. So why am I blogging about it again!? Is there anything new I want to say about the topic? Well, not really, but it is surprising that even after I made my transition from C++ to C#, the typecast haunting continues, albeit in different forms, which is what I want to mention.
The underlying theme is the same. Being ever so slightly(!) on the plumper side of things, people are surprised that I ran the marathon. But what is most funny is when other people who throw run-time exceptions when typecasted, typecast you. Oh, you make jokes, so you can't handle serious! Oh, you don't believe in God, so you cannot enjoy classical music. Oh, you like the US, so you cannot enjoy Mohd Rafi. Oh, you speak ever so softly, so you cannot drive your Swift at over 100 kmph. What is worse is that when conversations steer to the above mentioned topics, I'm automatically classified as a liar, a futile boast, and what not.
Oh, well. The good thing is that I'm getting used to it. The bad thing is that I'm still guilty of typecasting. :)

Cell phone conversation

Those of you that know me in the real world know that I don't have a cellphone. Now, being without a cellphone in 21st century India puts one in funny situations at times. Here is one incident that happened when I had just joined my present job.

Receptionist (Opening a register of employee contact information): Sir, can I have your cellphone case someone wants to contact you

Moi: No, sorry, I don't have a mobile phone

R (Incredulous look on his face): Sir, but we'll keep it confidential...won't give it to anyone

M: No, really, I don't have a mobile phone!

R: Sir, but we need it for our records...
(At this time a 'worker' walks in carrying a heavy case. He keeps it on a table nearby, fishes out a mobile from his pocket and dials...)

R: Sir, even *he* has a cell phone...

M (big smile on my face): Well, OK...what you mean by that!?

R: Sir, you *really* don't have a mobile?

M: No, *really*, I don't have a you want to check my bags now to confirm it?

R: No...sir, sorry...

(Moi walks out of the door...the 'worker' suspiciously follows me out, staring at me most of the time...)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The biggest obstacle to Time travel

No, it is not grammar. Nor is it the 'Grandfather paradox'. Really. The biggest obstacle to time travel is the digital watch. After all, how can you turn back the hands of time when they don't exist?

Pseudo logic.

Earlier, I had posted a link to Michael Crichton's criticism of the SETI 'equation'. I came across more such pseudo-logic recently. And on no less than the Discovery channel.
I was watching this programme on Discovery where a 'researcher' is researching the death of Julius Caesar. He wants to know who killed him, and why. No problem with that. But how do you find out how many stab wounds a guy killed over 2000 years ago took without having access to his dead body? And of the 22 senators that are supposed to have plotted to kill him, whose knife dealt the death blow? And this lunatic even goes to the extent to say that not all stab wounds Caesar suffered were fatal. And he wants to do research to find out which ones on earth do you do this!? He performs a 'simulation'. He has 22 guys trying to stab a single person, and apparently when they all tried together, not all the wounds that occurred were fatal! Geez!

This is the kind of thinking that pervades most of Indian life today. I'm subscribed to an orkut community on Calvin and Hobbes, on which someone posted a question wondering what Calvin's star sign was. Here is what is possibly the 'best' answer:

he has to be an guys an Aries...n he is no less than Calvin....n he adores him a gotta be Aries

What astounding logic! Calvin has to be an Aries, because 'her guy' is an Aries and he is adores Calvin. Haven't these people heard of 'evidence'? Or 'scientific enquiry'? (The second question was for the Caesarian idiot.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Online literature

I found this site with some really cool books:

Also, visit the Distributed Proof readers page:

How to become an acclaimed Indian author

After Kiran Desai won the Booker this year, and the resounding success of leading lights like Anita Desai, Arun'dirty' Roy, and Kaavya Vishwanathan, I've been wondering: "What exactly does it take to become an acclaimed Indian author?" Well, here is what you need to do:

- Be of Indian origin. (Well, this one is a no-brainer.) At the least, fake it.

- Immigrate to the US, or to the UK. Or better still, have your parents immigrate when you are hardly speaking

- Write about one of the following topics:
* How your Grandmother was married off at 12
* How your mother (or yourself) was never allowed to date a guy
* How your grandparents arranged your parents' marriage
* How your grandfather always had the last word in everything
* How your grandmother, mother, aunts behaved
* How you never kissed a guy till you reached the US (or the UK)

- Now, praise the US and the UK for being the free societies they are, in which, thanks to the grace of the Lord merciful, you can actually kiss a guy! (Even if you are one!!!)

- Lambast western capitalism. Fly in business class to attend World Social (sic) Forum meetings to rant against the wealthy.

- Wait until the Guardian or the New York Post publishes a review of your work.

Lo and behold, in no time, you'll be one of the grand candidates for the Booker, the Nobel, or what have you.


Have you ever, as a child, slept on the roof of your home? I used to - there was a time when frequent power cuts in my locality during summer nights forced me to do so. Lying still in complete darkness, I used to stare up at the skies and wonder why the stars shone, why they didn't fall on my head, who made the splotches on the moon, whether you could stand on the clouds and a hundred other things. Later, as I learnt more about the solar system (through Flash Gordon comics, Russian magazines and books, and our own "Bala Vijnana"), my fondest dream was space travel.
I always dreamt of being "Scotty Scott" - the chief engineer of Star Trek. I'd be navigating my ship through the open vastness of space, then upon sighting the Milky Way, would swoop down to its outermost spiral, and then fly past Orion, be warmed by Proxima Centauri, and finally, see Pluto, Uranus and Neptune, before wondering at the rings of Saturn, the blazes of Jupiter's red spot, then announce to the crew to be prepared to gun down any asteroid that got too close, and finally, peek beside Mars to see a bluish-white Earth. I'd then announce to the crew that we were nearing home, and I'd then call "Hassan" - where the ISRO Master Control Facility is located, to guide me in, to land at, where else? HAL Airport! I knew then that my ambition in life was to become a space scientist, building FTL (Faster-Than-Light) ships, powered by anti-gravity.
Whew. If you're wondering why I'm delirious, let me say that this is the after-effect of reading Carl Sagan's "Cosmos". An extremely well-written book, Cosmos is a great mix of History, Science, and Philosophy - a most honest attempt to explain the human fascination with the Cosmos. Beyond the science though, Cosmos raises a few relevant questions regarding our fascination with God, our arrogance to imagine life as being mainly carbon-based, the importance of arousing scientific curiosity amongst children and also of the importance of democracy and free thinking in progress. The last point to me was most interesting. Sagan points out that all the societies that reached high levels of scientific sophistication were some form of democracies - ancient Greece, medieval Holland, today's America. While the evidence he supplies is rather sketchy, it is interesting to see that Tom Friedman, in his "The World is Flat" refers to modern India in the same vein. So, is that true? What do you think?
I'll write more about Cosmos and Carl Sagan's other book, Contact in the coming weeks. Oh, and if you haven't seen Star trek, you can see some pix, videos and get an overall picture of the series at: Also,
To know more about Flash Gordon: Click here
To crib about today's comic books: Click here.
To know more about me space fantasises: heh heh. Keep visitin'.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I told you so

Earlier on my blog, I wrote about the idiocy of the Manmoron Govt in opting to support Shashi Tharoor's nomination for UNSG. Well, this week, the expected happened, and in all probability, it was China that expressed a desire to veto his nomination. Well done, Moron!
Moron has a lot to learn from Laloo about international politics. I remember Laloo's immortal words: "I don't want to be king. I want to be king maker!" (Read with a Bihari accent.) In the world of politics (domestic or international), it is the king maker that has more power, not the king. Think Sonia v/s Manmohan, Left v/s UPA, Jayalalitha v/s Vajpayee first edition, Laloo v/s Deve Gowda and Gujral. How can we expect the 'paavum' (Tamil; innocent) economist to realize this!?
So much for listening to the pinkos, reddies, and nammies.

How did I do it!?

Ever since I wrote about my participation in the Bangalore International Marathon, I've been inundated by requests to blog about my preparation for the same. (Ok, actually, there was only one request from my friend Kattricker, but a little bloggetic license never hurt anyone, eh?)
I kind of decided at the beginning of the year (it was actually one of my new-year resolutions) that I should participate in a marathon this year. So, I started practicing - running around 5km/day (actually jogged/walked/ran for 5kms) on weekdays and 11kms on weekends since February of this year. This was on empty stomach, with no fluid intake in-between. Midway, I realized that completing 42kms in 3+ hours was simply not my cup of...well, Gatorade, so I decided to go in for the half-marathon. And I continued this for nearly 4-5 months.
Just before the race though, I had a quiet period because of work pressure, and couldn't keep up the schedule. But anyway, I had to attempt this - I had come too far down the road to give up. (BTW, thanx to a mythical creature who egged me on.) So, the day before the race, I ate well, slept early (as the race was scheduled to begin at 5:30AM, I had to get up real early), and was off. I wouldn't have completed the race if I wasn't paced by my former manager, Venky. He had run in the previous race, and showed me how to pace myself. Another thing we kept in mind was to drink just enough water to keep us going, and not gulp down a litre at each leg of the race.
So, that's it...and BTW, if you folks are under any illusion that this is something great, let me tell you that my average speed of around 6kms/hr, is just above normal walking speed. So, it is just that _I_ entered the race - anyone else could've done it with equal or greater ease. Finishing it in around 2.5 hrs - with an average speed of around 8-9kms/hr - now that'll be an achievement.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Where is my post?

Did you folks know that you cannot search for posts older than a certain date in Blogger? I was looking for one of my early posts, and the search facility in Blogger was of no help!

I also looked for a feedback link to give them a piece of my mind, but that doesn't seem to be present, either!!!

What is happening, Google!?
(For the skeptics, try this: Search for "Gandhi" in my blog. You'll see one result with the title "Nostalgia updated". Then, go to this link: and you'll see another instance of "Gandhi". Why isn't this shown in the results!? Or why doesn't Blogger come forth and state that posts before a certain date cannot be searched!?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Blow hot, Blow cool

One thing I never understood about the Americans is their obsession with the two adjectives hot and cool. From what I know, 'hot' means being beautiful/attractive, and 'cool' means being with the times. Physics be damned, most American lives circulate around making themselves both hot and cool, and at the same time! It starts in childhood when every girl has to become a 'hot' cheerleader and every boy a 'hot' football player. At the same time, every child has to be cool - which essentially means they should have a position at the popular table in school. Anyone who is warm is essentially consigned to the dustbin as a geek, dork, nerd, or a whatchyagonnacallit.
And the trend continues throughout. That you have to be both cool and hot to get dates is a given. What is funny is how parents (some of them at least) try to be cool with their kids. Trying to pickup teen-lingo, trying to 'hangout' with them, trying to be with the times in letting them do as they like...the scene would be hilarious if it wasn't so tragic.
That really is the tragedy of the US. If President Bush is really serious about 'reforming' the education system, the first thing he'd have to do is to get the US rid of this temperature obsession. That is the reason many US kids don't do well in maths and science. There are few problems with US public schools - if Indian schools had half the infrastructure, facilities and teaches that US public schools have, there would have been no software industry in the US. What is required is a little perspective.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Christopher Alexander

Most folks in the software field know about Design Patterns - the timeless way of designing software first elucidated by the Gang of Four. But not many know that the original inspiration for these patterns came from Christopher Alexander - who in his all-time classics "The timeless way of building" and "A pattern language", captured patterns in architectural design for posterity. I've been trying to buy these books for some time now, without success, but today, I saw on Eric Raymond's site, a lot of information about the same.

Bangalore International Marathon 2006

Today I completed the half-marathon organized as part of the Bangalore International Marathon event. All 21.097 kms of it. It was fun!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Technology notes - Vol I, Ed I, Sept 06

For some time, I've been thinking that I need to have a regular spot on my blog for anything I want to write about technology. So, in the spirit of the times, I'm calling it "Technology notes" - random jottings about my tecxperiences. ;)

* Why hotmail sucks

I've been using hotmail since the time it was the only free, web-based, e-mail service provider, way back in the mid-1990s. Even when I got my Yahoo and Gmail accounts, I continued to use my hotmail account for some of my e-mail. Of late, Microsoft has paid more attention to Hotmail, and I now have like 2GB of free storage, and a whole new interface that looks just like Outlook. While the extra storage is welcome, and is a marked improvement over the 2MB I had earlier, the new interface, simply sucks.

First, it takes a long while to load. Then, I still need to click on "Inbox" to access my e-mail. Why can't Hotmail (and Yahoo) simply take me to my Inbox? Do I login to check my Junk e-mails, or do I login to check my Inbox!?
My next peeve is the usage of screen real-estate. The "Windows Live" banner takes away 25% of screen space, and there is a lot of additional white space surrounding it, which makes my e-mail pane really small and forces me to do a lot of scrolling. This is another illustration of forgetting user needs over self-aggrandization. It doesn't look like the product has seen a lot of usability testing.
Finally, there is the point about Junk e-mail filters. Hotmail's is probably the worst in the business. There is hardly any filtering done and all the junk simply lands up in my Inbox totally reducing my effectiveness in processing my e-mail.


* Unicks rocks

Heh heh. Did I just hear a "I told you so" from somewhere in Sahakaranagar, Kansas City, LA and Singapore? All I can say in response is that I believe in the "horses for courses" theory. There are things about Windows that are nice, and the same holds for Unix. But anyway, coming to the point of this post - the problem with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) is WYSIWAG (What You See Is All You Get). No designer can design a GUI for doing everything a user may want - but a group of well written tools that confirm to an interface can rock your world.

How did I realize this? Well, recently, I had to create a password file for a project I'm working on. The file stored a triple - username, password and a user directory for users enrolled in the system. For bootstrapping, I already had a directory tree with a lot of user directories listed, so I wanted to write a script that'll run through the tree, and dump each folder name into a text file in the format X, , X, where X is the directory name and passwd is a number that gets incremented for each directory.
Question was, how can I do it easily on Windows? Well, a small C program might do the trick, but then I need to check for file handles, and stuff like that which is clearly not an option. DOS shell scripting is too primitive - for example, the for loop can only execute one command! So, if you want to execute multiple commands, you need to put them into a separate batch file! And I don't know anything in VB, so there was no way I was going to write my 'program' in VB script.
I was in a quandary, cursing myself for not having a Unix shell somewhere, when cygwin came to my rescue. One install and two lines of shell script later, my password file was ready!

So there. While GUI's have played a very important role in making computers more accessible, a shell prompt is indispensable if you are doing serious programming, as I realised after this experience.

On an aside: Eric S Raymond has these fun Unix Koans, with the one about GUI's being the best. Read them here.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

What in h*ll is wrong with Rahul Dravid?

What in h*ll is wrong with Rahul Dravid!? I mean, when he became captain, I thought he was probably the best choice for the post. Unfortunately, he has proven me wrong repeatedly. Here are a few instances:

- Handling Sehwag: Clearly, Sehwag's performance is nothing to write anywhere about. But still, he continues to be in the team, at the expense of younger talent like Robin Uthappa who had like a dream start to his career. Now if you want to groom young talent, why keep Sehwag? And what impact will this have on Uthappa's confidence!?
- Handling Kumble: This is most shameful. How can you drop India's best bowler for the Champion's trophy? If you want to select him for the next world cup - which everyone mostly thinks will happen - you have to give him match practice. If you don't want to select him - which is disastrous - tell him straight and ask him to retire. Is this the way to treat one of the best bowlers in the world!? Instead of issuing platitudes like "Kumble is the best bowler we have", why not say openly, yes, we want Kumble, and this is how we want him!?
- Handling Saurav: I wrote about this earlier too. But what is really poignant was Saurav stating in a recent interview that neither Greg Chappell nor Rahul Dravid had spoken to him about why he was kept out. While I don't disagree with the decision to keep Saurav out, is it that difficult to simply walk up to him and tell him why he was kept out? Isn't it incumbent upon the captain to tell players why they're kept out? At least, for courtesy's sake!?
- Dhimmitude: This has happened many times. See this post for an instance.
Sorry, Dravid. India expects better from you.

Yet another change of name

For sometime, my posts haven't been justifying the title my blog had - "Why life sucks". So, I've changed it again. It is now 42. The answer to the ultimate question. So, in a way, I am pompously suggesting that my blog is the answer to the many questions I pose for myself. :D

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The average curse 2: Not having a niche

Earlier on this channel, you read about the average curse and how it has impacted my life. Recently, I changed companies, and the average curse has comeback to hit me with a vengeance. But this time, it has more than one dimension. While earlier I only cribbed about having friends who could do things better than me, I now face an entire battalion of more-capable people, that too in my favourite areas of CS.
I was having lunch with some of them, and was simply amazed at the depth of their knowledge and the sparkle of their intelligence. There were many topics being discussed - from the organization of files in Unix to the way malloc works, to database queries, and database-object oriented round-tripping. Each of those persons held their own in their topic, and that was when it struck me.
I have no niche of my own.
Now, that, my dear readers, is the real disaster of the average curse. Not knowing what you're good at. Not having a niche. Not being able to hold forth in any area of your choice. And how much time has it taken for me to realize it!!!
Anyway, another 'get it off the chest' post.

What makes a good programming language?

Have you (if you are a computer software geek) ever wondered why some programming languages suck? I mean, for example, you have languages like C and C++ that are extremely powerful for system-level programming, languages like Pascal that are easy to learn, languages like ML that make things like writing a compiler a matter of a few hundred lines of code, and yet, there exist half-dead languages like Ada, that no one uses? Why do languages suck? Or, more importantly, what makes a good programming language?
Well, here are my criteria:
1. A good language is designed for the designer to code in.
i.e. The language has not been designed for 'them' - who ever they are. So, this automatically puts languages like Ada (which was designed by a committee (a defence committee, no less)), C#, (which was designed with one single motive) and Java, (which was designed for those poor object-oriented programmers who couldn't figure out multiple inheritance) in the trash can. Languages like C, PERL, Pascal, Fortran, C++, on the other hand, shine in this category. Note, I'm ignoring Python because I haven't programmed enough with it.
2. A good language tries to do as much as possible at compile time
Good languages try to find as many defects at compile-time as possible. They are usually statically typed, and enforce type-safety in varying degrees.
3. A good language is never created with corporate interests in mind
I don't need to expand on this.
4. A good language does not underestimate the programmer
Why doesn't Java have multiple inheritance, or enums? Because, ostensibly, they "confuse" users. Well, Einstein's theory of relativity is confusing. So, should we ban it!?
5. A good language respects the programmer's application domain
My favourite recent peev is the way C# handles structs. Now, user-defined structs cannot have default constructors. So, the compiler will provide one, initializing all members to zero. Normally, this is OK, except if the zero-state is an invalid state for your application domain. Let's say it is - then what do you do? A famous book on .NET framework design suggests that you make it valid! So, the language will not serve your purpose, you'll serve the language!
6. Beyond these, a good language gives you good expressive power, excellent libraries and run-time support, and great documentation.
Well, obviously.
I know this post is incomplete, and there are many other criteria for a good language. If you feel strongly about any, post it below :)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Way to go, Gulzar!

Just yesterday, I heard that Gulzar has been nominated for the Dada Saheb Phalke award, along with actresses Sulochana (of Marathi cinema) and Suchitra Sen (of Bengali cinema, most famous for her role of veteran politician in Aandhi). IMHO, the award couldn't have come later. Gulzar is most famous for his superb lyrics in some Hindi movies - notably those that had RD giving music. From the melancholic "Tere bina zindagi se koi shikva"[Aandhi] that celebrated Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen's longing for each other, to the "Do diwaane sheher mein"[Gharonda] that immortalized Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab's middle-class aspirations, to the peppy "Chal Chaiyya Chaiyya" that symoblized 21st century style, Gulzar's songs spanned generations and genres with ease.
His directorial ventures were successful too - with Aandhi and Maachis being my favourites. And just so you know, if you've watched the cartoon "Jungle Book" on DD or any of the cable channels, the title song "Jungle Jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai" was penned by Gulzar!
Indeed, a worthy choice for the highest movie award of the land. Here is my vote for the legend.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Lord Kelvin once said: "When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind." How true. And Einstein showed that the variables need not even be complex with his everlasting "E=mc^2" equation.
One drawback of this is that most laymen think that everything expressed as a number is either correct, or scientific, or both. For example, take HDK (Kumaraswamy)'s injunction that he is 12.5% satisfied with his performance. Now, what does this figure mean, unless you know what the "per-cent" actually means? There are many instances - for example, ministers rating themselves on scales of anything from 5 to 10, industrialists rating budgets, and not far away from 'home', project managers tracking projects with Microsoft Project plans. In today's world it is possible to give anything respectability as long as you express it as a number.
Oh, and the scientific world isn't immune to this phenomenon. Those of you who read science fiction (and those who read my Michael Crichton forward :D ) will know of this 'equation':
N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL
This is the famous Drake equation from the 1960s to estimate the number of advanced civilizations in the galaxy. N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.
Tell me, if someone had told you that the probability of finding intelligent life depended on all the factors mentioned above, in plain English, would you have taken that seriously? Now that it is in the form of an 'equation', it has to be right, doesn't it? Well, what is the problem with this 'equation'? Simple,
a) It cannot be verified
b) It has, (and therefore, as some folks conclude needs) no proof
c) There is nothing you can do with this equation. OK, we might be able to calculate (or at the least estimate) the values of N and fp. But what will we do with the values of fi, fc and fL? Do we go by statistical data? In that case, we know of only one planet in which life evolved, and then evolved into intelligent life. So, is the fi factor = 1? But what about all the planets and stars and solar systems that we haven't even 'heard' from? How do you factor those into this 'equation'?
Thanks to Michael Crichton for writing about this one. Read more of his thoughts and opinions at this site.

Nostalgia updated

I was channel-surfing today, when I came across a programme on one of the news channels about public service messages that were telecast on Doordarshan ages ago. You folks may remember those too - there was one with many famous sportspersons carrying a lighted torch, and another one about Mahatma Gandhi, which showed his simpliciy through a line sketch. But my all-time favourite was "Mile sur mera tumhara" - sung in a bevy of languages. Today, while watching the video on the tube, I must say, I had goose-bumps. It is hard to believe that Doordarshan could come up with such a 'cool' video - simple, easy-to-understand, with no bombastic claims, and still conveying the central message of national integration.
The video was telecast for the 40th year of Independence, when Rajiv Gandhi in his "Naani yaad dilaadenge" mood went overboard with nationalistic sentiment.
What's funny is how much India has changed since then. Twenty years is a miniscule period of time for a civilization that has spanned 5000 years, but the amount of change that has happened in the last twenty years has clearly dwarfed those that happened over the preceding 4980 (to be mathematically accurate).
Would such a video be successful today? Will a honest-to-earth video like this one succeed in the pop-patriotic world of today? Let me know through the comments link :)
BTW, a few graduate students in MIT made a similar video in 2003 - view it here
Update - Listen to the original soundtracks at

Saturday, August 05, 2006

In love

Folks, I know this may come as a surprise to many of you, but it is about time I told this out in public. Yes, I am in love. Desperately in love. The 'object' of my affection stays near my place - she is a beaut, if you know what I am talking about.

When it comes to looks, there are few of her kind that can even hold a candle to her. She's so cool that she makes the Arctic Circle feel like a sun tan joint. She's so hot that she can melt your heart. Not just that, she has this amazing purr in her voice - which is simply to die for. She's got amazing brain-power for someone who looks like her, and not just that, she's low maintenance. Well, not absolutely, but relatively. On the outside, she's as tough as steel, but on the inside, she is one soft, sweet thing. Well, I could go on and on about how well she handles the rough roads of life, but I'll simply be making you guys jealous. So, let me desist.
Ever since she's come into my life, my travails have morphed into fun. Her smooth voice humming in my ear, I've been able to take on some of the most tight situations in life. She's with me almost everywhere I go, and when I don't take her along, she doesn't complain. A nice word is all she asks for - she's more than happy to let bygones be bygones when she gets it. She has also adjusted remarkably well with my family - they all love her, and in particular, my nephews just can't get enough of her.
So who is she? It sure was tough getting her to agree, but I've posted her photo on my website - go check her out.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mohammad Rafi

Tomorrow (July 31st) is the 26th death anniversary of the great conniseur of Hindi music, Mohammad Rafi. One of his kind, Rafi stands like a beacon of light in the darkness of present-day Hindi singers. No, don't get me wrong, Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam, Abhijeet, are all excellent singers, but no one has the class that Rafi, Kishore and Manna Dey commanded in their heydays.

Of the three, Rafi was (and is) my favourite. Be it the melodious "Mere Mehboob tujhe" from a movie of the same name, or the peppy "Yeh chand sa roshan chera", or the sorrowful "Raha gardishon mein hardam", Mohd Rafi was the voice that made the actors of those days. Of course, the songs then had great music and wonderful lyrics, but Rafi's voice added that icing on the cake that made each one of his songs special.

My introduction to Rafi was with a song he sang for "Hum kisise kam nahin" - "Hai agar dushman dushman". This was the beginning of my 7-year association with my dance troupe. (Yes, I know it is hard to believe.) Anyway, I was one of the background 'dancers' for this song, and loved it. Later I heard more of Rafi - and when we got our tape-recorder, I spent hours listening to his songs on tape and radio. In fact, I've lost count of the number of Rafi songs that I recorded from the Radio - from programmes like "Bhoole Bisre Geet" and "Aap ki farmaaish". Indeed, those were the days.

See more of Rafi at

Which is your favourite Rafi song? Let me know.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

'Great' minds think alike :)

Earlier, I had written a post on the similarities between technology and art and how the two stem from the same core of human spirit. While browsing on some topic, I came across this article by Paul Graham which talks about the same thing.

As they say, 'Great' minds think alike! ;)

Comments invited as usual.

Friday, July 07, 2006

World domination, Google style

A lot has been said and written about Microsoft's attempt at world domination by proliferating its software on computers. Even more has been written about its attempt at reducing competition to dust by giving away software for free (Internet Explorer, for instance.) What has gone unnoticed, in the meanwhile, is Google's wonderfully silent attempt at the same.

For the uninitiated, Google has just released Spreadsheets - an Internet-based spreadsheet application ( or applet?) that will be available for free use. Ofcourse, by default, the files you create will be stored in your Google account, hosted on what else? Google servers. So not only does Google get you to abandon Excel, but it'll also hold you to ransom - your income tax returns for instance, will be available to Google's administrators if they were interested.

Wonder why no one is raising a hue and cry about killing competition by offering software for free. Wonder why no one is raising a privacy issue about having your files stored on their servers.

Anyways, folks, this is world domination Google style. The only difference is that you don't have to pay for it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Shashi Tharoor

I had mostly ignored Shashi Tharoor's nomination as India's candidate for the UNSG's post until my friend Prad and his friend, G3, blogged about it.

I think this is one of the most stupid foreign policy decisions that the Manmoron government has made. Why? A MBA-friend once explained about the risk-reward concept by saying that some risks are acceptable provided the rewards are proportionally higher. What is the reward India gets if Tharoor gets the post? One word: Nothing. He is not going to support India on any issue of consequence, he doesn't have a vote that can make a difference to India, nor can does he have executive powers - for example, to tell Pakistan to buzz off from Kashmir. In fact, why has no big country ever held the post? Because unlike what we are told in our f'ked up Civics books, the UNSG is nothing like a World President. He is more like a World Puppet - a very well paid one at that. Shashi Tharoor has obvious interests in becoming the UNSG. India gains nothing by proposing him to the post.

What are the risks? Well, first off, we'll now be counted as a country on par with Thailand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan - that have all made nominations for the post. And if God forbid, India were to lose (which isn't all that improbable), it'll be a huge slap on our face. Not to mention the fact that we can write off Sri Lanka's and Thailand's support for an UNSC seat - if that were ever to be put to vote. Or the fact that we just ruined a relationship with Sri Lanka by announcing Tharoor's nomination just when the Sri Lankan foreign minister was in India asking our support for his candidate.

So, this is just some sort of personal give-and-take between the lefties, the soft-lefties and the Manmoron government. There is nothing India will gain from the move. In fact, this might be the first nail in the coffin of our UNSC hopes.

Congrats, moron!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

More shayaari

Many of you would have heard the hit song from (I think) Mohabbattein:
"Aankhen khuli ho ya ho band
deedar unka hota hai
kaise kahoon mein oh yaara yeh
pyar kaise hota hai"

Back in NCSU, I was working on our SCTP project with a couple of friends, and to our surprise, our test server was receiving the SACK*s from the test client without the protocol (which was the intermediary) being notified - infact, the SCTP socket wasn't even open! In a moment of inspiration we came up with this song:

"Socket khuli ho yaa ho band
data transmission hota hai
kaise kahoon mein oh yaara yeh
SACK kaise aata hai"

*(SACK = Selective acknowledgement - a packet sent by the receiver to the sender acknowledging the receipt of a set of packets)

Khud ko itna...

"Khud ko itna buland kar ki har takdeer se pehle, khuda bande se pooche 'bata, teri raza kya hai?' " - one of my all-time favourite shers. For those who don't get Hindi quite that well, it means: "Raise yourself to such heights that even the Lord, before deciding on your fate will ask you for what you want."

When I was in my previous company in India, the Kargil war was on, and in one of the Indo-Pak rivalry chatrooms, we used a modified version of this sher:

"Khud ko itna buland kar ki Kargil ke choti pe jaa pahunche aur khuda tumse pooche 'abe gadhe, ab utrega kaise?' " - which, for the shaayarically challenged means: "Raise yourself to such heights that you find yourself on the tops of the Kargil mountains and the Lord asks you 'you idiot, how will you get down!?' "

If you folks know who authored the original, please let me know.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

All ye Indophiles

I may have mentioned this before, but there is this website:
which no Indophile should miss. The work of one D V Sridharan (not to be confused with Metro's E Sreedharan), the site consists of true stories from India - stories of sung and unsung heroes (note that I use the term 'hero' without reference to gender). The site has hours and hours of pro-India stories for those that are interested.

If you are ever going to Amazon to purchase a book, please go from the links provided on this site.


I was watching a "Hollywood Top Ten" show on Z Cafe today, when there was a reference to a movie about Jane Goodall. For those who came in late, Jane Goodall is the woman who single-handedly demolished our misconceptions about that relative of ours - the Gorilla. She showed, for example, that Gorillas do use tools - something we thought was exclusively human, leading to the modification of the definition of the human from 'tool-user' to 'tool-maker'.

Read more about her here:

Crediting Jane Goodall is not only why I wrote this post. I wrote this to highlight the difference between two classes of societies - one that respects and truly worships its heroes and the other that pretends to. With due apologies to my friend, 'Anonymous', who incidentally accuses me of being 90% American, we know which the two classes of societies are.

Look at the movies Hollywood has made about American heroes. And I am not referring to war heroes, politicians, or sportsmen. I am talking about your 'everyday' mathematician, scientist, or writer. Many examples abound: "A beautiful mind" talked about the achievements of Dr. John Nash, whose Nash equilibrium is said to be one of the building blocks of Operations Research, "Apollo 13" commemorated the bravery of the Apollo 13 astronauts who against great odds managed to finish their intended mission, why even our own Gandhi was first celebrated by Richard Attenborough in what is the classiest movie made about him. Not to mention all the unsung fire-fighters, policemen and other day-to-day heroes who have been celebrated in so many movies.

So the question arises, why don't we have the same in Bollywood? Is it because such movies don't sell? Or is it because as a society we don't really know how to honour our heroes? Is it because we don't like heroes except those imposed upon us - like the cricketers, film stars or politicos? Or, is it because, as a society and a culture, we don't have a sense of history? Why?

I don't know. But I do know that a society that forgets its history is condemned to repeat it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Writer's block

Suffering from writer's block lately. There seem to be too many things that are happening, but I don't feel enthused by anything to write about it.

Need to get out of this phase soon.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A posting century.


You guessed it right. This is my 100th post. At first, I thought I'll follow my favourite TV personality and have a "Best of Gopal's blog" for my 100th post, but I realized that I wasn't *that* self-involved.

So. Here is to further blogging. Thanks to my regular readers for keeping my motivation levels high enough to hit this 'landmark'.

Accepting congratulations... :)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

So, what is Freedom?

Well, according to Paulo Coelho, as written in the book "The Zahir", Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose - and commit oneself to - what is best for him/her.

Couldn't agree more. Thanks 'Anonymous' for the correction. :)

Nice guys...

Rahul Dravid is a wuss. I hate to say this, but this unfortunately is a fact. For all his faults, Ganguly knew how to deal with people. Dravid unfortunately, is obsessed with being nice. So much so that he negotiated away with Lara and the match-referee, a wonderful opportunity for India to put Lara out of the series. And to top it off, Sehwag gets fined for 'excessive appealing'!!! Can you believe it!!?

I've always believed that nice guys finish last. No where is it better illustrated in the recent test between India and the West Indies. Lara was way out of line in demanding that Dhoni walk. Dravid should have asked him to shut up first. He thought it was better to declare, rather than waste time, so as a strategy, it is probably OK. What was the need to go to the match-referee and exonerate Lara? Let Lara be dunked a couple of matches - India would have been in a better position to win then. But no, we have to be the nice guys (read fall guys)!

To add injury to insult, Sehwag was fined for excessive appealing. Nice going, Rahul!?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Fanaa controversy

I am no fan of Aamir Khan (I do like many of his movies, though), and I thought that his intervention in the NBA agitation was rather poorly scripted. Still, I can't help but condemn the BJP government's attitude towards Fanaa. Whatever Aamir Khan said was well within his rights as a citizen. And if someone had a problem with it, he has every right to: a) boycott Aamir Khan movies (b) promote his point-of-view non-violently, and (c) go to court. No one though, has the right to enforce a ban on the movie. No one has the right to prevent its screening, and for gods' sake, no one has the right to threaten theatres against screening the movie.

But what we saw was the occurrence of all three. And there are in fact people who went on national television calling Aamir names - "enemy of Gujarat", for example.

I was discussing this issue with a friend - someone I respect greatly - and his point was that Aamir should have exercised restraint in whatever he did or said. And that what was happening was essentially his (Aamir's) fault.

In my opinion, it is this attitude that has allowed governments, hooligans (read Rajkumar 'fans'), and plain sickos (read VHP/Bajrang Dal/Muslim Personal Law Board/Christian 'activists') to get away with denying us one of the most fundamental human right - the right to speech and expression.

What is your take?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Nanny State, Police brutality, and other issues

Did you have a nanny when you were young? I had one - infact, my school had one, and she used to walk a bunch of us home from school on some days. Simply put, she was a terror. She dragged us as she wanted, cursed us when we fell back, hit some of us on occasions, and was simply using us to vent her frustrations. Ofcourse, she would be on her best behaviour when any of the parents were around: her true self revealed only when they left.

Why am I talking about this? Well, the recent reservation debates have demonstrated the 'nanny' nature of the Indian state. First, you have a hidden agenda, that comes out only in the last minute. Then, you have the mandatory round of police brutality - non-violent protesters being beaten mercilessly. Finally, you have the denials - the Commisoner of Mumbai Police denying that there was any lathi-charge at all. In fact, Star News did something real cool for once. They broadcast his denial and shots of people being beaten up on a split screen simultaneously. Still, the shameless state did nothing.

Consider this - the brightest, young minds of the country are protesting against an injustice. How does the government treat them? No one listens to them at first, then, the police beat them up, and even after that, no minister had the courtesy to apologize or at least visit the injured students. Contrast this with the treatment given to VIP protesters like Vandana Shiva, Arun'dirty' Roy and Medha Patkar. These worthies are feted, cajoled, and even the tall and mighty Indian state falls at their feet.

I could go on and on about why this is so - but I'll defer it to an other post.

Friday, May 26, 2006


A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

Came across this in the book "Eats, shoots and leaves" by Lynne Truss.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Drinking and Alcoholism

Yesterday, NDTV carried a debate about youngsters coming under the influence of alcohol on its "Big Fight" programme. The participants were Vijay Mallya of UB, Jaya Jaitley of the Samata Party and some other 'social activist'.

Needless to say, Vijay Mallya was pilloried by everyone, including the audience, the other debators and the compere. And to add to it, my Mom. Somehow the words "alcohol" raises the temperature of any room it is uttered in, particularly when women are around. Some assumptions are immediately made:
  • Only men drink
  • Only men drink irresponsibly
  • Men drink and they come back and beat their wives/mothers/sisters/daughters
  • One drink is enough to convert a man from a normal human being into a raving psychopath/rapist/criminal.
  • Anyone who drinks once instantly becomes a slave to the drink and can't live without it
  • Every man who drinks is depriving his family of essentials to pay for his habit
  • And importantly, any one who tries to introduce some sanity into the debate (poor souls like me) are either drunkards themselves, or they want to become one.

The best part is that all these comments come from those who have *never* had the misfortune of actually consuming alcohol. And you know where they get these ideas from? Depending on your preference, B(T)(K)ollywood. Every villian, particularly in the old Hindi movies would conduct his 'business' over a peg of whiskey. Every vamp would tempt the unsuspecting hero by giving him alcohol. Every heroine or hero's sister would be led astray by first filling her up with alcohol. And mind you, everytime, after one peg, there is no stopping these victims! After one peg of whiskey, the normally sedate hero would starting uttering gibberish, attempt to molest the heroine, drive like a man possessed, and simply make a fool of himself, until the heroine or the mother intervened with a bucket of ice-cold water after which he immediately returns to sanity. Geez!

I know I am going to get spammed like hell, particularly if some people read this. But seriously, grow up, folks!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

C++ and Movie dialogues

I am one who believes that there is a single thread running through all facets of life - be it music, art, movies, sports, or technology. See my "Technology and Art" post for a hashed attempt at explaining its logic.

Recently, I got an opportunity to talk about C++ to a few colleagues at the place I work (yeah, yet again!), and then a few movie/comicbook dialogues popped up in my mind as I was explaining C++ concepts. Thought it'll be interesting to share them with you.

On the fact that while C++ gives you near total control on how your clients can create and use your objects, you have to take care of many details to make it work properly:
"With great power comes great responsibility" [Original: Dave Parker, Spiderman's uncle.]

On the fact that even when an exception is thrown (not to the runtime), objects that have been created will be destroyed:
"Everything that has a beginning has an end." [Original: Matrix I]

I'll update this post as I find more. And no, I am *not* offering this as proof of my theory about the single thread running through all facets of life. That proof will take some time to materialize.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sitcom stuff.

As some of you already know, my favourite tele-series of all time is Frasier. With the series being re-telecast on Star World now, I am getting an opportunity to re-live some of the fun times I had watching this series (and a few others) when I was in NCSU.

Here are some dialogues I kind of remember from the series:

Roz telling Frasier after yet another unsuccessful date: "You are sweet, you're smart, you're nice - you are exactly what women should be looking for".
Frasier (with a sad voice): "Yeah, I am the Brocolli of dating!"

Another one:
This is the first episode, and Martin has just moved into Frasier's apartment. Frasier asks his opinion of how he has setup his living room and Martin cribs "But nothing matches".
Frasier: "Yes Dad. It is _eclectic_"
Now two workers come in carrying Martin's chair. The look on Frasier's face is one of sheer horror. He doesn't want that chair in his living room at _any_ cost.
Frasier: "Dad, but that...that chair doesn't go with anything in the room!"
Martin (with dripping sarcasm): "I know! It is _eclectic_".

Here is another one:
Daphne has become real fat after she and Niles start dating - but no one wants to point it out to her. One day however, she slips and falls. Niles first rushes to lift her up, but he can't. Martin joins in, and they still can't move her. Finally, Frasier arrives and the three lift her up. So, here's what Martin says:
"Daphne, I just thought of somethin' funny: It took three Cranes to lift you!?" [Frasier/Martin/Niles's surname is Crane]

There are so many more...too bad I can't remember all of them! :(

Anyway, here is one from Friends:
Monica and Chandler are dating and they think no one knows. But Rachel and Phoebe know, and Monica and Chandler know that Rachel and Phoebe know. Phoebe and Rachel are coming up with a plan to oust them (Monica and Chandler) and here is what Phoebe says:
"But they don't know that we know that they know we know!"

If you haven't had an opportunity to watch Frasier - do watch it now. Considering the kind of junk that passes for comedy these days (what with Paapa Pandu and the like), you'll definitely find this series refreshing.

Monday, May 08, 2006

How do I feel, driving my new car in town?

Well, too many people have asked this question, so I thought I'll put the answer down on my blog.

You guys know the 'Friends' title song? Well, for the uninitiated, here it is:

"So no one told you life was gonna be this way
[Your job's a joke,
you're broke,
your love life's D.O.A. ]
It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year " ...

Well, the part of the song enclosed in [] was true of my life for a long time, and now with the car, the next line has come true as well!!!

But anyway, on a serious note, driving in Bangalore isn't as bad as it seems. There are still roads on which you can reach 4th gear. Seriously! :)

Friday, May 05, 2006

More role modeling

Seeing the enthusiastic response I got to my first blog on role models, I think I should write more about the subject. I now realize that 'role model' might have been a very strong term, so I'll qualify it as 'influencer' meaning a person or persons who influenced me a great deal.

Obviously, after my parents, my brother has been a big influence on me. He was my first maths and science tutor, my first cricket coach, my first 'how to tackle bullies' instructor, and being fourteen years older than me was my guru for practically everything (except maybe languages, social studies and music). He introduced me to the world of English literature, (read novels) and Old Hindi film music. He gave me my initial goals in life - first to be a participant in many activities, then to enter SJIHS, and then to prepare for the IITs. Ofcourse, not all of those goals materialized and for that no one is to blame but me. The biggest lesson I learnt from him though is that raw talent is nothing without the effort to back it up. That has been the most important lesson in life. Just a pity that I learnt it very late.

The next person I want to credit is my sister-in-law. For a single 1/2 hour session where she taught me the intricacies of C pointers. That lesson is with me even today - and was the single thing that helped me learn pointers - her lesson helped me more than many reads of Kanetkar's "Pointers in C", giving me such a strong basis in pointers that I lost all fear of it :)

Whew! Looks like I wrote quite a bit. And the smell of my mom's cooking is wafting through the air, restricting my vocabulary to food-related words. So, I'll stop here. Do cook up (oops! send in) your comments.

I'll write about my other role models (influences) in the next posts. _That_ should be interesting...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Goodbye, Mr. Mahajan.

In the death of Pramod Mahajan, not just the BJP, but the entire country has lost an accomplished politician and administrator. Mahajan, who came from a village in Maharashtra, typefied why many people of my generation were attracted to the BJP. He was suave, sophisticated, was a great communicator, and unlike the other politicians did not hide his good fortune.

Another young, able son of India stolen away in 'youth'.

May his soul rest in peace. Am unable to say anything else.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The reservation debate

I _had_ to comment on this one, didn't I?
After this ridiculous coalition of lefties and wannabe-lefties known as the UPA has come into power, we've kept hearing about nothing but 'empowerment' of the so-called backward classes and the minorities. While one cannot be against that in principle, it is the implementation that is causing a lot of disconcertion amongst those who really want empowerment of all sections of society.

It is no one's case that the underprivileged sections of society must be given a chance to compete with the others. But who are the underprivileged? Son of a former railway minister, just because he is a Dalit? Son of a RBI governor, because he belongs to the scheduled castes? Or is it a poor Brahmin's son? Or the daughter of a poor Muslim?

Caste-based reservations haven't really led us anywhere. It is not that the politicians can't see it. But as Ayn Rand eloquently explains in her masterpieces, they are a bunch of second-handers who are out to destroy everything that the first-handers have created.

More on this later...just got back to blogging after a long hiatus.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Foot(firmly)-in-the-mouth disease

All my friends, particularly those that know me well, know that I suffer from one serious, but non-infectious disease. This is the "Foot-in-the-mouth" disease whose main symptom is the patient's unending urge to plant his/her foot (gulp) into his/her mouth.

Usually, symptoms of this disease manifest themselves during puberty, and while it affects both genders, the male of the species tends to succumb to this more frequently, and with greater intensity. Ofcourse, there is no cure for this disease and while the symptoms may be mitigated, they tend to relapse ever so often. And a miraculous thing about this disease is that its symptoms adhere to Modern Physics - they appear in both space and time, confirming to the eternal Space-Time Continuum. To elaborate, there are three major kinds of symptoms that have been observed. The first is "SITAAT" or Say Inappropriate Thing At Appropriate Time. The second, "SATAIT" or Say Appropriate Thing At Inappropriate Time, and the final one is "SITAIT" or Say Inappropriate Thing At Inappropriate Time. Ofcourse, there is also the rarely occurring DITAAT, DATAIT or DITAIT, with the D standing for "Do", but that is not significant to my discussion and so I'll let that rest.

However, I am not a registered medical practitioner, and with the licensing hawks around, I better take care about diagnosing medical problems on my blog. [Remember, my disclaimer does not still exempt me from any harm that may be caused to someone using information from my blog.] I'll just talk about my symptoms. I have a severe, relapsing case of FIM, known as the FFIM, or the Foot Firmly In the Mouth disease. It's symptoms are similar, but unlike the FIM, where the foot does get to go out of the mouth, when you have the FFIM, the foot just doesn't leave it. Ofcourse, it relapses quite regularly, is mostly harmless, and tends to attack particularly when I am conversing with an (unrelated) female of my species. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the disease immediately 'informs' me that it has set in, but only after the symptom has been broadcast to the entire planet (which according to the Stinky Foot theory of relativity, is at that instant of time constituted of the trigger and me and any others listening in to the conversation). For long, I've been looking for a cure for this disease, but it has eluded me. One way to mitigate the problem, has been to avoid the trigger, but in today's world, that is hardly feasible.

Diagnoses welcome.

(PS: In case you noticed, I did change my blog to add the disclaimer. So long, suckers!)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Still More Freedom of Speech and Expression

Today, NDTV carried a story on how the moral police in Tamil Nadu were running amok, with the latest incident being that of a warden in a government hostel who actually asked the girls in the hostel to maintain a public record of their monthly cycles. This is ostensibly so that the warden can make sure that none of them were involved in pre-marital sexual activities. Of course, the warden wasn't concerned that the hostel had only one bathroom which was reserved for him, and the girls actually had to bathe in the open after dark.

Can you believe it!?

I can't begin to say how wrong this whole thing is. But I'll let that pass. However, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I'll only say what I had said earlier. This is just another symptom of the underlying malaise where societal moores get higher precedence than the legitimate privacy of an individual. People like this warden get the guts to do something like this because the way society reacts to an individual's freedom, because of the kind of support the 'moral police' got during the Khusboo or Suhasini incidents, and because of the whole assumption that wierd concepts of societal honour are more important than individual rights.

God save this country.

C++ Static blocks

Ok, this isn't rocket science. But every now and then I should post something technical, if only to remind myself of my primary profession.

This time it is about static blocks in C++. Now what are static blocks? They are a cool feature in Java that lets you write code that executes when a class is loaded. For example:

class InitializedVariable
private static Vector data;
public static void main (String args[] )
for ( int i = 0; i < data.size(); i++ )
System.out.println(data.elementAt(i) );

static {
data.insert (new Integer(10));

So, how would you do this in C++? Ofcourse, you have static variables that can be initialized before the program starts (or the library loads). But how will you insert values into a map, or a vector?

Well, the answer is simple. Use another static object. In its constructor, perform the initialization that you want. :)

using namespace std;
class Static
static vector values;
Static ( )
vector::iterator b = values.begin();
for ( ; b != values.end(); b++ )
cout << *b << endl;

class VectorInitializer
VectorInitializer ( )
Static::values.push_back (20);
Static::values.push_back (40);
Static::values.push_back (60);

friend class Static::VectorInitializer;

vector Static::values;
static Static::VectorInitializer initalizer; //initializes the vector.

int main ( void )
Static x;

While on this, can someone tell me how I can get code into HTML without the associated struggle? Thanks! :)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

More Freedom of Speech and Expression

Time and again, I've ranted and ranted on my blog about why individual freedom is the most important aspect of a true democracy. For those who came in late, what I mean is that creating an environment where the freedom of an individual to rise to their potential - irrespective of gender, caste, race, financial status or religion, and one where polite dissent is encouraged, is the most fundamental aspect of a democracy.

On both these aspects, India fails quite miserably at times. For an instance of what I mean, see this story:

A young Muslim girl from one of Kerala's districts is learning classical dance. And is pretty good at it too. Her parents support it as well. But meanwhile, we have the local demagogues who have ostracized her family because of this.

So, what we have is a classic example of the conflict between the right of an individual to lead their lives and the power wielded by society. Fortunately, this time, the right of the individual seems to have the upper hand, but it is anyone's guess as to how long that'll last. And where are the 'guardians of public interest' now? Why are they silent? Why is Brinda Karat, who frets and fumes on women's rights, silent when faced with a real-life issue?

Before you think I am a different kind of (anti-Muslim) demagogue, let me clarify that I feel the same way when young friends are beaten up in UP parks, or when couples taking a walk in a park are harassed by the police, or when girls are killed to 'defend family honour'. My point is simply this - if the right of the individual is subjugated to the brute force of society, that society is not democratic.

Which, unfortunately, still holds for our dear own India.

The 'Average Curse'

Regular readers of my blog would probably have already realized that I have many interests in life. At the risk of sounding very pompous - I read a little, love to write, enjoy listening to music and singing, play the violin, play cricket, table tennis, badminton, and many other games/sports, follow politics/current affairs and try to keep up with the happenings on the economic front. Ofcourse, my chosen field is software development, and I am decent at what I am supposed to do.

However, in all of this, I suffer from what I call the "Average curse". While I may not suck at any of these, I am not exactly an expert in any of them. There is always someone in my friends' circle who can thrash me in each one of these. For example, for everything technical, my good friend Balbir is head and shoulders above me. If you take cricket, there are at least three or four of my close friends who can whack my bowling for over 20 runs in an over, and prevent me from scoring any when they come on to bowl. And then there is TT, where again, I am an also ran. If it comes to music/singing, even my nephews can do better! My brother may not have had formal training in music, but he can recognize raagas even before I can hear them!

In fact, like fractals for which the part is a reflection of the whole, my average curse takes effect both at macro and at micro levels. In computers, for example, I am supposed to have done a Masters' degree with specialization in compiler concepts, but I know atleast two people with no formal background in the field who can run rings around me in the subject. The same applies to networking or security - two fields on which I've worked earlier. Or for that matter, C++ - my favourite language.

So, essentially, you get the bane of my life - being average. An also ran. Now, don't get me wrong. It is not that I am frustrated with what I have. I mean, there is a wholely positive side to this - I do have some amazing friends who can keep me on my toes all the time. But still, there is one side of me that wishes I had something of my own - where I could be a Vijayan, if not a Stroustrup.

Anyways, had to get that off my chest.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Role modeling

My good friend Balbir once wrote an excellent post about role models in which he mentioned how people might be looking up to us without us realizing it. While I thought it was possible, I didn't think it would happen in my own life.

A few days back, I was talking to my Mom about my nephews (see them here) and she mentioned that my younger nephew, Vikas used to spray himself with my deo (oh yes, I use one) before going out to play. Then, she mentioned how he wanted to do everything I did - and then it struck me - I was a role model for my nephews. Not that it is surprising, after all, we all look up to the uncles, aunties and siblings who can bridge the gap between our parents and ourselves. Most of us have had the cool aunt, cool uncle or cool elder brother/sister who gave us our initial goals in life. However, in my case, my nephews and I are more friends than uncle/nephews. I never expected them to imitate any of what I did - so this came as a kind of a surprise. Now on, I've got to be more careful about what I say or do - I now have two pairs of eyes that'll be watching me.

This reminds me, I've got a lot to write about my role models. Let me start with my parents. They are probably the most honest, tough and yet nice people I've seen in my life. Both came from extremely poor backgrounds, starting their lives in a village called Nambihalli - in Kolar district. Both knew the value of education when they were very young - my mom having fought with my grandparents to be the first person in her family to pass 10th, and my dad having lived on "vaaranna/bhikshanna" to finish his BSc at Bangalore's Central College. I won't pretend that they've had the perfect marriage - but their commitment to each other and to my family has been nothing but marvelous. They displayed the true meaning of sacrifice - giving up their chance at a good life for my uncles and aunts (on both sides of the family) - spending more than 80% of 'our' income on their education. In all this, did I mention that my mom sings and my dad writes!? Not to mention, both have a keen sense of what is happening in the world around them.

Anyways, this post is starting to go beyond the lengths of reasonable comprehension. I'll stop here - feel free to post your comments and your role model experiences!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The first blooms of Spring

The thing I miss the most about not being in the US is the change of weather. I simply loved the change of colours in the fall, the dreary dry branches of January, and most of all, the first leaves and grass sprouts in Spring. It was as if the Earth was renewing herself, in all her magnificence. Of course, this also had other consequences - which my friend jokingly called "Spring fever", but let's not go there now :)

All of which is something I never got to see in Bangalore. This year however, thanks to the unprecendented rainfall and cold during last winter, many trees near my place had shed their leaves - and when I returned from Kansas City, all that greeted me were dry twigs. And after the rains the day before, the tree has sprouted leaves again - renewal greeting me in the morning! What a spectacular sight!

While on the topic, some of my friends have remarked that I am all logic and no feeling. Boy! has _that_ hurt!? Why is it that if you appreciate the fact it is chlorophyll that gives leaves their colour, you are branded as someone who can't appreciate the One's talent in creating it? I guess I simply can't get over my typecasting issues!!! :D

Anyway, read this for some old opinions on a similar topic.


Regular readers of my blog (and there aren't too many of them, I'm afraid), will recognize that one of my favorite blogging topics is Freedom. Not the kind propagated by President Bush - freedom to bomb countries - but the kind propagated by the rest of the US - freedom to do your thing as long as it is within the parameters of the law. I was looking for something on the web and came across this poem by Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

That "heaven of freedom". Indeed. Funny how far away we've come from these ideals! But that is beside the point. Along with Nehru, whose "Tryst with destiny" speech, in my opinion, sets out the Indian dream, Tagore is one of those thinkers who knew the real meaning of freedom.