Saturday, July 31, 2004

If you like fresh news being served to you in a platter, you might have visited Google News already. Well, now Microsoft has launched its own newsbot service too. Check out this site for the beta version. Apparently MSN is tracking more sites than Google (4800 compared to Google's 4500). The site also has this neat feature where they return news snippets you might be interested in based on your previous clicks (using cookies - so you don't even have to log in). Sounds promising! Shall get back on this one after a little more usage.

The Candidate's Performance
Flu, tired and bored - that's me right now. Decided to spend the evening by myself (actually I am not that bad a company when I take myself out on a date, Plus no one can blame me for being cheap either). So I went out for dinner and then went for my quintessential Friday night movie - Manchurian Candidate being today's pick.

The movie was just about OK. The critics seemed to love it more than I did, but that's my opinion. The ending was kind of a let down. There was an undercurrent of tension which was neat but then after a while it got monotonous. It's been a while since I saw a good psychological thriller (can't even remember the last one that would qualify for my humble praise). Washington though, was really good. I like the fact that he manages to use his body movements very effectively, be it the confident cop in Training Day or the anxious wreck in this movie. Meryl Streep's character was slightly hackneyed but she still did a great job. I stood in the queue and repeatedly juggled my decision between this one and The Village before finally narrowing down the Candidature. The Village hasn't opened to the best reviews either - but I plan to watch it tomorrow.

The name of the movie makes me feel like having Chinese food right now :(

Friday, July 30, 2004

Thesis Topic
I just met Jeanne and Larry and came up with the official statement for my thesis topic. Here it goes:

For large scale and dynamic systems, Decentralized and Autonomous computing can achieve the same (or comparable) performance and efficiency as centralized or hierarchical systems.

Crazy work, little fun and sniiiffff!!!!
To start with the explanation of the "sniff" reference - I have a bad cold and am running mild temperature (I am blaming my roommates who both recovered from flu). Now the work - yes! I worked like a crazy ass today - and the ass still has work to do before it can sit and enjoy a nap! However, took a 2 hr break in the afternoon to slip in a screening of Asambhav (courtesy the darling Sid). The movie is the epitome of the cliched commercial potboiler (more watchable than Julie though). The only thing that I remember from the movie is its catchy theme tune which has been going on in my mind since afternoon - this guy Viju Shah is a dude when it comes to the synthesizer.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

My Vote mattered - thank you mom, thank you dad ...
Whoa! Two days back I mentioned that I submitted by first vote for a reality show for Last Comic Standing and my candidate won - Jay London. I feel the guy is really talented, funny, down to earth and above all has a very unique style. Wow! It almost sounds like I have been paid to patronize him. What the heck - I feel kicked right now! Yabadabadoo!

Webbed thought
Had to mention this - just got an absolutely brilliant mail from Anurup. This one line really caught my attention - "Thoughts are often like a spider weaving a web; you can see the process and understand the beauty but you just can't place it to its exactness". Amazing! Woooof!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Blog on blogs
Well, the growing popularity of blogs can be gauged from the fact that they have a special site for the thirty something bloggers who are part of the DNC. Everyday you can see these bloggers being interviewed and making the word "blog" more "mainstream" in the process.

Another blog that Sub's pointed me to is this one dedicated to the upcoming Microsoft Longhorn OS. Haven't read much of it but will definitely do so in the coming days.

The third and final blog worth a mention is one that is associated with my good friend Ronny Dam, called Red Herring. Dam, moi has endorsed you and your company in my own humble way - now you can send me the zillion dollars you guaranteed :)

Two JVMs and a program
I spent the last 2 hours trying to install, uninstall and re-install MATLAB in my university computer. The process was quite strenuous because I have the Sun JVM installed in my machine but MATLAB wanted the MSFT JVM, which on automatic installation screwed up my browser settings. A zillion efforts could not restore the browser to its original state; so I had to restore my system to a previous state and then manually install the MSFT JVM and redo the whole installation. Woooof! Things "seem" to be working fine for now. Need to take a break!

Julie julie julie ... the film was way too mamuli
Sid and I just finished watching Julie. The movie easily qualifies as the single most absurd, idiotic, artitistically drained and cinematically void effort that I have seen in recent times. It must be mentioned here that I have an above normal tolerance level for bad movies - this movie had to be exceptionally painful to have disappointed me this way. Neha Dhupia's acting made robots from I, Robot look like real people and the wafer thin plot was less visible that the invisible man in Gayab. Man! Going through this post makes me realize how much I was irked by the movie. Have wasted too many words on this film - delete delete delete

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Reality bites
Yes! I finally cast my first vote for a reality show - the show being NBC's Last Comic Standing. Lesse if my vote mattered - personally I have almost always shown great disbelief in any form of voting - not that this one was the first one (nor is worthy of being termed momentous) but it was among the few rare times that I have voted.

This weekend sees the release of four movies of which I plan to watch three - Harold and Kumar ..., The Manchurian Candidate and The Village. Shall stay away from Thunderbirds. Surprisingly "Harold ..." has won rave reviews (check out here);the surprise arising from the absence of the critical slaughtering this genre normally receives.

Have been pretty much away from music for the last few days - barring exception to the title track from the forthcoming Dhoom, featuring Tata Young. Need to listen more, read more, understand more and for sheer peace of mind - forget all of it.

Ha ha ha ha
At 2 am last night I got hooked on to a stand up comedy show by Kathy Griffin (of Suddenly Susan and Seinfeld fame). I was about to sleep but then the show was so funny (and engrossing) that it kept me awake for an extra hour. I watch a lot of stand up (which by no means makes me an authority on them) and this one is definitely one of the better ones that I have seen (others which come to my mind are Robin Williams on Broadway and Ellen Degeneres's HBO special on Procrastination). The lady was funny and had a unique style. Moreover, there were no jokes or one liners that she used - it was all descriptive, making it more episodic in content. Nice one!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Work, movie and play
The day saw a good mix of fun and work (actually in the reverse order). Started the day with work and got some pending stuff finished and then followed it up with an hour of workout and Catwoman - yes, I saw the movie, despite the reproval from the critics, despite the near dismal box office performance, moi went and saw the movie. Well the movie was indeed ordinary but mind you it featured the ravishing Berry and the gorgeous Sharon Stone in a fight - that wasn't good enough to recover the 7 dollars I spent but then it did bring back some value.

I am increasingly becoming more lonely and not minding it much. People I could confide in are fast disappearing. I will soon be left with no friends here and that would mean I will have all the time to sit and ponder and watch movies. Is that a good thing? Don't know the answer to this one yet. I need new friends in SD - people who are like me. I am no rare breed for sure (I once joked that my biggest strength is my commonality, that I know the way several others think coz that's the way I think too) so there has to be a zillion like minded people around. Need to find out about them. Three words that describe by mental state - confused, indifferent, crazy and disturbed. I know that's four words but mind you I am disturbed.

Search on
I somehow don't like aggregation services when it comes to search engines (engines which gather search results from other engines and put it up) for (i) they try to use the hard work of others and do nothing much themselves (ii) sometimes when I go to a particular search engine (read Google) I want a specific feature specific to that site; something which gets lost in aggregation engines and (iii) these engines normally have grotesque interfaces.

The market leader in this space is probably Dogpile. This one is actually not that bad but what I find most amusing in this site is that they replace the search button with a "Fetch" button true to their dog-matics. A little humor is always a cool thing. Incidentally, courtesy this site I reached a new search engine called Kanoodle which wasn't any good but the name caught my attention.

While on the issue of search engines check out this slightly old but intesresting article discussing the future of the space.

Breaking up with the e-mail
Washington post had this article (sadly can't reference it since one needs a membership to access it) on how the growth of spam might lead to the shutting down of e-mails. Can that really happen? Apparently a survey reveals that 60% of organizations agreed to stopping the use of e-mails if it continues to be menacing. Whoa! My dad keeps saying that we are so devoured by technology that we fail to see the world without it. I remember not missing e-mails when I unaware of it 10 years back; never felt the need for the medium. Come 2004 and I check my e-mail almost addictively around 50 times a day (and yes 40 of those 50 times I am greeted with a new "pre-approved mortgage rate"). Still, I believe that a large fraction of human civilization has accepted e-mails as a form of day-to-day communication and it will be a mammoth task to dissuade them (or let go of them). Let's wait and watch (or read).

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Food for thought (ahem ahem)
Well, no reviews or news snippets today. Just a summary of my day's activities. Woke up and went for Indian lunch alone and followed it up with grocery shopping. Worked a little and then settled for a little siesta. Woke up and went to the gym. Then decided to go for Catwoman but went for Thai dinner with Vipul instead. It was great catching up with him. Topics discussed varied from movies to Intel's plummeting stock prices to marriage and hiking. Talking about hiking I saw the repeat of stand up performances by some of the guests from Colin Quinn's show and one of them pointed out that many people mention hiking as a hobby and are the same lazy bums who refuse to go to the kitchen and fetch a glass of water :) Anyway, after my Thai dinner I came back home and discussed "detective stories with innovative twists" with Subs and Sid (it amazes me how these two can quote lines and obscure character references from stories). Now I have to get down to some serious work before I take a break to watch Coupling at 1. I am fast becoming a fan of this show.

Foot-ball and cricket
The new Gatorade ad caught my attention for (i) they show cricket (they also make a statement about the bat being flat) and (ii) they mention that "Football is football except when it is foot ball (referring to what is known as soccer here). I thought the ad was pretty cool.

..., ...
I have suddenly started seeing a pattern in madness. I always sensed it but now I have started understanding it - the rhythm in chaos, the composure in whims, the words in noise - its time to do something different. This is the time I feel. I hope I am right.

Gayab aya
Just finished watching Gayab - a Hindi rehash of Invisible Man and Hollow Man. It wasn't a great movie but there were some things which were interesting (my yardstick for desi invisible movies is Mr. India which was simply awesome). To start with I thought that the story dealt with a different side of the "Invisible Man story" where a lot of people know about his existence and he (mis)uses his powers. At the same time the movie did not make the character completely black like Kevin Bacon's role in Hollow Man. I personally like gray characters as they seem more real and found the portrayal pretty cool. The story gets slightly monotonous at times but as I said the movie wasn't great as a whole - but still watchable (even though the protagonist can't be seen). I realized that I almost sound like one of those film critics who find faults in movies and then try to attach an aesthetic value to their judgment:)

Yanyway, got tonsa work to finish tomorrow, managing which I might watch Catwoman in the evening. Hmmm!

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Kenny Jenny
Finally managed to see Ken Jennings of the "Jeopardy winning streak" in action. The TV in my gym was playing the show and finally saw what all the hullabaloo was about. Later he also appeared in the Tonight Night Show and I caught that interview too. He seems to be a nice guy but I wouldn't call him a genius - or maybe he is - I don't have the intelligence to judge that maybe. What the guy has though is a very sharp pair of eyes. It literally shines. He also has a truck load of money now, courtesy the show. A software engineer and a trivia buff - that's almost (mind you I have purposely put the "almost" in bold) me but add to that the millions of dollars he has and the fame et al., the differences are striking. Well done Kenny J. Keep the trumpets blowing.

Identity is Bourne
Friday night - movie night - choices were Bourne Supremacy, Catwoman and Napoleon Dynamite - settled for the first one. Wasn't disappointed. There were times in the movie when I thought I liked the first one more but then there were times I thought otherwise - I think the story was more gripping in the first one but the second installment had cooler visual value (including an awesome car sequence). I was also impressed by the fact that a fair amount of the movie was based in India. Hola ho! Planning to watch Catwoman (which has been scathed critically) on Sunday. More on that shall follow. For now, I need to just sit back and do nothing for a while.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Two great chats
My day started with a phone call from Pummy (my darling sister) who informed me about her great results in her University exams. She is now an official holder of a B.A. (Hons) in Sociology. Way to go girl! We are all very proud of you.

The other great chat happened with Abhik where we got into one of our profound philosophical states and discussed the vagaries of ambition. It was very refreshing (though I don't think it will change the way we think). Some statements from the chat:

- The competition never ceases, just the competitors change.
- Keep running; either you will get tired and stop or after a point you will stop looking around to see who you are running with.
- When you try to think way too out of the box, you just get trapped in new boxes; it might be better to choose one box and make it your home.

This might be crap to a lot of people but Abhik and I have been having these (ah)musings for a while. What's crap to one is rap to another!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

It's a Noun, it's a Verb, it's ...
Bangalore. Well, well! TOI claims here that our city of The Boiled Beans is fast gaining "verb" status, courtesy the outsourcing phenomenon. Should we feel good or bad about this? Who knows - remember the Bard and his famous statement ... What's in a name?

What's in a name?
Yahoo has this article on the best and worst car names. I found it to be quite an interesting read. My personal favorites from the list were cars named Futuramic, Rambler Country Club, Naked and Suzuki Cappucino. Just go through the article for a more detailed set.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

What the ... ?
Have you ever felt your mind is empty yet full of thoughts?
You have so much to say but you don't know where to start.
You wait for the right time but what if now is that time?
BTW what is the right time to do something?
What is better - blurting out crap when you have nothing to say?
Or having things to say but no one to hear?
How long can solitude be bliss?
Can you share solitude with anyone?
What is love? Where can you find it? Why do we "fall" in love?
Maybe because love is blind and therefore you stumble ...
Maybe ... maybe not ... maybe
Is madness relative - what's insane to one is purpose for another.
Am I sane ... am I?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I was so tempted to begin with the phrase "Just read that ..." but realized that I had over used it as a beginning prior to its last few uses itself. So giving the hackneyed a break let me get straight to the point. They are making a sequel to the Italian Job. I thoroughly enjoyed the remake of the Michael Caine oldie (remember the "monstrous" Charlize Theron). That makes it the second "ongoing high profile sequel to a remake where the original did not have a sequel" (did I have to create a category like that?) - the other one being Ocean's Twelve which again I am eagerly waiting for - this one adds Zeta Jones to the already sumptuous ensemble.

On a personal note I finally upgraded my new laptop (I think I had mentioned this one) with an additional 256MB RAM and re-installed a whole bunch of stuff from scratch. I am also eagerly waiting for an early screening of Harold and Kumar ... since the initial reviews tout this movie to be a blast. Shall keep this space updated on that.

The junk is back
I have said enough about spam to qualify as a spammer on spam myself. That's surprising since I've also claimed to be fairly nonchalant about the matter. However, when there is no creativity involved in the process it irks me mildly. For example, last evening Subs and I reveled at a spam which after offering me the "pre approved mortgage" went on to add some really cool English words at the end to avoid being caught by Bayesian filters. It also used certain traits of human cognition to misspell words in a fashion where the spell checkers would fail but I would still get it, e.g. "mortgage" is a common words spam blockers search for, so this one wrote "morgage" instead. Now that was a good spam where the spammer showed some thinking or at least the whole thing challenged my intelligence. Sadly, there's also been a resurgence of the stupid mails where they have no mail body but just a worm filled attachment with the mail. I have received at least 15 of them since yesterday and that is Annoying!

On a different note, I had complained about TOI becoming more of a gossip column as opposed to a newspaper. To reaffirm my claims they have a front page article on Madonna's ex-lovers. Check this out. Phew!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Lingo-istic Nostalgia
TOI has this article on college slangs in India (I remember Ritesh once claiming that 'slang' itself stood for Systematic Language Assassination by the New Generation). What? Item, pakawing, faccha, chindi ...? These weren't around when I was in college. Then it was freshers, sams, bogs et al. Man, now they are changing the lingo as well :( My sister Pummy (who took great offense at the fact that there were no mentions of her in this blog) speaks in a weird mix of bad Hindi, Bengali and English which is borderline ludicrous and partially sad. Imagine, not only will the Gen X (or are they Gen Y or Z/Zee now?) now make fun at people like us but we won't even get it that they are making fun of us! Is that a good thing or a bad thing? In the words of my college days - Why put T?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Quality of Searches
This is part two of my exploration of search engines. Part I evaluated three of the engines - Google, Yahoo and MSN on the sheer volume of search results and Google and Yahoo seemed to be considerably better than MSN. However, normally when I am searching for stuff I don't go beyond the first 1-3 pages of search results. So it doesn't matter much if I get 10 million results as opposed to 23 million. So today I decided to conduct some basic tests on the quality of the results. I also added Teoma to the list. I just searched for a few key words and tested how high up the list the result I most desired appeared. The results are given below:

1. Key Words - Sagnik Nandy (now where have I heard that name ?)
Expected Result - my web page
Position of result (1 means it was the first result): Google - 1, Yahoo - 2, MSN - 1, Teoma - 8

2. Key Words - Times Of India
Expected Result - the TOI front page
Position of result: Google - 1, Yahoo - 1, MSN - 1, Teoma - 1

3. Key Words - "best search engine"
Expected Result - probably Google :) but I was ready to get anything satisfactory (mind you the key words were unlikely to appear in the front page of any of the engines)
Position of result: Google - 9, Yahoo - 1, MSN - 1, Teoma - 1

I don't know whether this was modesty but Google was the only one that did not return Google on top. I found it ironic.

Anyway, enough on searches. Based on the results of these three simple queries and some others that I shall not bore you with I would say Google rules in quality but Yahoo and MSN are close enough to be as good I would say. Temoa needs work.

Do you ever feel lost? Maybe not really lost, it's just that you don't feel the way you think you should. Then you try to place what is missing, what is causing the digression in your thought chain. It's ironic though because since I am lost now I don't have full control over what I am writing. I am just writing because it feels almost intoxicating to scribble crap like this; where you stop reading through your passage to continuously check for congruity; hoping it will all make sense to you or someone; hoping that someone else has felt the same way.

I seriously have random words or almost word like sounds coming to my mind - flex, lex, toxic, banter, what, psychedelic, gargantuan, laud ... that's it. Madness deserves shackles now.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Aye, Robot!
What has now become a habit - my Friday night movie watching, led me to the latest big budget Sci Fi extravaganza - I, Robot. Now before you hear my opinion on the movie you should know what the general critics felt. Some liked the movie (since they spent time on "character building" - this seems the latest obsession among the film connoisseurs), others wrote it off on the grounds that it was "just another" excuse to show ceaseless CGI.

As far as I am concerned I liked the movie, liked it but did not love it. It was like a good first date with a girl; where you enjoy your time, laugh and then come back home and wonder whether you would like to go out with her again, but finally decide against it. The movie is definitely watchable, specially for Will Smith, who I feel has loadsa attitude but never over does the "cool guy" thing. The CGI is also first rate when it came to the Robots but was slightly tacky in the design of the futuristic world. I personally felt the part where they delve into Smith's character's psyche, was a tad bit contrived. The movie had it's share of good (again not great) one liners, which Smith delivers with elan. The one place where the movie failed slightly was that it did not force you to think on the pitfalls of the situation if the setup of the move did happen (I felt that Minority Report had done a great job of it). On the whole though, definitely worth a watch.

Watch it out!

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Fischy Legend
An article I read in NY Times this morning brought back some childhood memories. The article was about chess-ing great Bobby Fischer, who after leading a fairly reclusive life for the past many years, is likely to get deported back to the US. The reason Fischer brought back many memories was the fact that my dad kept talking about him since I was a child. My dad has always supported sporting greats who had an "image" surrounding them; he always touted for the reckless - McEnroe, Viv Richards, Maradona, Fischer - he always loved the guys who added drama to their game. I had not seen or read too many things about Fischer, except or the fact that he had an IQ of 180 (which is truly amazing) and that he found a variation of standard chess called "Fischerandom" where the pieces behind the pawns are randomly shuffled to start with (I actually liked this variation). Anyway, the news makes me feel like calling up my dad and chatting.

The West-side Story
I am completely bowled over by Kanye West's latest song - Jesus Walks. I heard the song at least 10-15 times today and the number is surely going to improve tomorrow. If anyone takes my suggestion and listens to this song and likes it then should also listen to West's earlier song "Through the Wire" and if possible read a little about the making of that song - you are bound to appreciate the song more that way.

Incidentally, Subs and I did a little experiment on the three premiere search engines by giving each one the names of each other as input. We were just trying to judge the quantity of the results and here they are:

1. Key Word - Google
Google - 57.4 million, MSN - 13.5 million, Yahoo - 65.4 million
2. Key Word - Yahoo
Google - 160 million, MSN - 25.2 million, Yahoo - 125 million
3. Keys Word - MSN
Google - 58.6 million, MSN - 12.8 million, Yahoo - 62.3 million

I don't wanna analyze the data but I found it interesting that for each of the queries the search engine corresponding to the query was not the winner (???). Shall do an experiment on effectiveness of the results soon ... zzz

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The movie(e) summer - read the whole blog to find out why the extra e - cheap technique to hold viewer attention

I am somewhat disappointed with this summer's movie bonanza. What I expect from a good movie season is a spree of large scale productions that are so big that each movie overshadows the previous one. A good summer to me is one where no "one" movie rules the weekend box-office more than one week. Sadly, this summer has not offered me that. Come on - Sleepover, Cinderella Story ??? These are not supposed to be summer releases. I agree we've had the ogre and the wizard perform some magic. The web spinning hero has also risen to new heights but other than that the summer has been fairly damp I would say. I am personally looking forward to I,Robot releasing this weekend but I don't think it will change things in a big way. If you don't agree with me check out the #1 movies of the weekends starting mid May to mid July last summer. They included:

1. X2: X-Men United
2. The Matrix Reloaded
3. Bruce Almighty (2 weeks)
4. Finding Nemo (2 weeks but not in succession)
5. 2 Fast 2 Furious
6. Hulk
7. Charlies Angels: Full Throttle
8. T3
9. Pirates of the Caribbean
10. Bad Boys II

Compare this with the #1s in the same period this year:

1. Troy
2. Shrek 2 (3 weeks)
3. Harry Potter (2 weeks)
4. Dodgeball
5. Fahrenheit
6. Spider Man 2 (3 weeks)

Need I say more. There just doesn't seem to be a deluge of the biggies. Well, well :(

Anyway, coming to the issue of the extra e at the beginning, check out this site which lists the first 2 million digits of the number e. I am sure you will read through this information carefully.

Laptop to top it all
My darling advisors bought me a new laptop that finally arrived today (though I am still using the old one as of now). It's a Dell Inspiron 600m. The machine configured properly but on doing a hardware check I realized that it came with 256MB RAM as opposed to the 512MB I had specifically asked for. As a matter of fact the two things I was most looking forward to were (i) more main memory and (ii) a lighter load on moi lap. So now I have to wait for the department to rectify the mistake :( This also means that I cannot go ahead and install the zillion things I have to (read JDK, Yahoo Messenger, Acrobat Reader, Ghostview/Ghostscript, Visual Studio, Eclipse, Cygwin and manyyy manyyyyy moreeeee stuff), lest I have to return this machine. Incidentally, the first thing that I installed on the machine was the Google Toolbar.

That's all the news I have on my side before I doze off - I am soooooooooooooooo (the repetition of letters, to enhance an effect, is fast becoming a bad habit I see) sleepy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Calling out from in there
Much has been splattered on newspapers about the outsourcing and call-centre issue in India. What started as a purely business decision, now has several sociological and political implications. Sadly (I don't know why I am using this term though), I have nothing to add to this matter. However, this TOI article caught my attention where they have decided to use inmates in some American prisons for call centre jobs. I think this is a very interesting decision. Not only does it give these people a chance to make some money but it also addresses the issue of "foreign accents" without increasing the cost. Now that's a good idea with a capital G.

While on the topic of BPOs, every time I mention it in a group I have at least one person who questions me on the term and its meaning. BPO stands for Business Process Outsourcing and involves the transfer of jobs to other pastures, largely with the intent of making more green. A lot of articles have started using the term synonymously with call centres. While these centres are one of the largest forms of outsourced jobs there is more to BPOs than the "Trrring trrrring factor". Enough said - if you desire more information check out this site.

All that's new(s)
I figured out that I visit around seven news sites a day - NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, Times Of India, Outlook and Asian Age. I also occasionally visit CNet to nurture my longing for the geeky stuff and occasionally stop by Google News to ensure I haven't missed anything that I shouldn't have. Someone recently asked me why a person like me, who dedicatedly refrains from reading, visits so many news sites and my answer (though slightly cocky) was - Fiction is too far fetched and Facts are oft mundane; News does a good job of mixing the two.

I have to mention though that in spite of my near diligent visiting of these sites I am partial to only certain kinds of content. These include Business, Technology, Arts and Entertainment, some Sports and a few columns that look amusing. Interestingly, I consciously stay away from political news as I don't have any political view point :(

Of these sites I really enjoy BBC's technology section, CNN's money watch and Outlook's columns. I get irked by Asian Age's amateurish layout and have strong opinions against the fact that TOI is quick changing (or maybe it has already changed) from a serious newspaper to an extended gossip column - some of their recent articles include a discussion of fashion mishaps in India ala Jackson style (suggestively titled Peek-A-Boob!), claims that Paris Hilton got a new tattoo on her hind spot (check here) and a photo article on the hotties of Indian cinema. However, I am totally impressed by TOI's "print edition" feature which lets one browse through the newspaper as it is.

More news on news will follow - I need to sleep now to wake up in time for my morning newspaper :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Good Ol' Johnny
Subs brought to my attention the following site. The site is a message site for a now forgotten, almost obscure show called Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. However, the show was a cult phenomenon in India in the days when Satellite was still considered fiction. I remember being glued to the show, specially for the use of gadgetry that could be created easily and yet looked cool (My personal fav was the matchbox watch Jojo and I made which could be flipped and Giant Robot was then summoned to the scene). Since then I have discussed (read shared) my love for the show with several people (most notably Sudhakar who got into a state of undesired frenzy). Thanks to Sub I got hold of this site (make special note of the pilot with a pink scarf).

This also made me reminisce about some other shows I used to be fond of as a kid and have lost touch/fascination/admiration/dedication towards thereafter. Some of them include:

1. Space City Zigma (or was it Sigma)
2. Street Hawk
3. Chitrahar (this was my only source of Hindi film music once)

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect! - Owens Lee Pomeroy

For all that it's worth
Yesterday I mentioned the efforts of some economists at quantifying certain intangible events. On a similar note, there has been some research at trying to put a price on the time we spend. The following article discusses the issue in detail but the bottomline is that you can find an approximate worth of your time (according to this theory) by the formula

The value of your time = [Wage(100-Tax rate)]/Cost of living which for most of us would translate to [(Annual Salary)/(52*40*Cost of living)*(100-Tax rate)]

A list of Cost of living in different places can be found at the above link as well. I did a rough estimate and figured out that the value comes to a meager $6/hr for me :( This means that if anyone offers me a movie and a packet of popcorn, I am better off accepting the offer than sitting at home and working at that time. Hmmm! The life of a grad student :))

Monday, July 12, 2004

Read this article which mentions an ongoing company's demand that Google is jeopardizing their business since they are (and were) called "Googles". I personally feel that this is just an attempt to milk the gifted cow but let's wait and watch. Incidentally, a small experiment on my part revealed that the search giant has managed to pretty much buy over all other similar sounding domains that people might have inadvertently typed. Check out - Gogle and Googel.

I also came across a set of interesting lists and true to the virtue of a good blogger I shall share the information with all and sundry:

1. Google Zeitgeist: for Google search related statistics (right now Spiderman 2" rules).
2. Boxofficemojo: for all the information and ranks you need on movie earnings.
3. Channel 4 Lists: this one has a bunch of interesting lists including greatest movie lines, tear-jerkers, sexy movie moments etc.
4. Ask Men: to end these citings on a truly beautiful note, check out Ask Men's list of the 99 most beautiful women. Check out number 70 for a special surprise.

This is someone signing off for now ...

Sunday, July 11, 2004

The equation of marriage
TOI has this interesting article about a research that tries to put a price on otherwise intangible factors. The study prices sex, done once a week (as opposed to once a month), at $50k a year and marriage as $100k a year - does that mean that people might actually be willing to jeopardize their marriage for having sex twice a week? Whoa! Well, "sheet" happens.

Truly random snippets
I just wanted to jot down two things, both having nothing to do with each other:

The first one is the amazing Google sponsored advertisement having the clue {First 10 digit prime in consecutive digits of e}.com. The answer happens to be www.7427466391.com and takes you to the following site. I felt the concept was extremely novel. Kudos to the company which continues to amaze me with their entire functioning. Goooooood job!

The other thing worth mentioning is the Asian Age newspaper site, which according to me has one of the worst possible web layouts. First, they have a zillion weirdly organized links in a page; then they have a frame layout where both sides of the frame are reloaded at the drop of a hat, nullifying the whole motivation for having frames and finally the site blocks right clicking of links - why would anybody do that? Why Tony why? Why? Why? As you can see I am irked and probably rightfully so ...

More movie news ...
I pondered and wondered and followed it with a little more pondering on whether to go for dinner or watch a movie instead. My love for cinemascope prevailed. Went and watched Anchorman. The movie is quite funny and has a very impressive list of cameos (including Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Tim Robbins etc.). It belongs to the same genre of goofball comedy as Dodgeball but I personally preferred the latter, though this one was quite good too. The movie is quite satirical, taking incessant shots at 70's chauvinistic news-room arena. As far as Will Ferrell is concerned, I think he is fast becoming one of the most dependable comedic stars - remember his villainous act in Zoolander; well the same guy has now churned two consecutive solo hits. What I like about Ferrell is that he goes to massive lengths to make a scene funny (something which is present in Ben Stiller as well).

Overall, a 3 star on 5 I would say, but keep in mind that I am an avid watcher and generous grader.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Arthur O Arthur
As part of my Friday movie watching experience moi just came back from King Arthur. The critics had varied opinions on this period piece but I personally liked it. The movie had a brisk pace and the camaraderie between Arthur and his knights came out quite well on screen. Add to that some well executed action sequences and a charming Keira Knightly (did anybody else notice the fact that she has a "knight" in her name!) and I will say we had a decent movie in hand. The production values were slightly below par in a few places and the director made excessive use of smoke/fog to produce the feel of vastness that looked contrived at times. All said and done I would say that this movie was worth the money I paid for it.

Good Knight!

Friday, July 09, 2004

Who is Car-Man?
Had ten minutes to spare before I get back to coding - so drew a sketch of Car-Man (mentioned in the entry below this one). Here is what Car-Man looks like. Poor chap looks like he has damaged legs :( Mind you - the guy's jacket is equipped (and shaped) like a car with an emission nozzle that lets him fly ;) Now tell me - who do you think was jobless to create this character - bolo bolo

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Car-Man Electra: The common man's super hero
I have been running around all over the place with my car - first, to get it registered and then to get it smog tested and then to find a repair shop that is both a smog check/repair facility. That made me realize that I don't need Spiderman (I seriously can't remember the last time I needed someone to climb a building for me), I don't need Superman (come on the guy still wears his underwear outside) and I don't need Batman or Robin (the guy shares a name with Howard Stern's female side-kick). What I need is a common man's superhero - someone who can do groceries for me or someone who makes sure that I pay my bills on time or as in this case a fabulous motor mechanic who repairs stuff on the road for distressed riders - maybe I shall call this superhero Car-Man. "The name is Car-Man, Car-Man Electra".

Can you imagine the impact? The amount society will benefit from him? Imagine a movie where the lady love is about to board the flight and leave for Europe to be with Greek men equipped with six carved sets of ab-muscles. The hero tries to make a final bid to meet her before she leaves. He is a high school teacher speeding his way to the airport in his 1991 Honda when his car breaks down. He is in despair! A drop of water starts rolling down his cheek (in slow motion) and the camera follows it ... and just when it is about to touch the ground - enters Car-Man. He fixes the car and adds 12 cylinders to it. Hero zooms past the traffic to meet the damsel causing distress and the two get married and speed off to their honeymoon in a car gifted by Car-Man.

So raise your hands in the air - Car-Man baby's out there ...

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Some recommendations ...

Here are some new things that have caught my attention:

1. Web site - HowStuffWorks. Its a cool collection of know-hows and very informative. I am also very impressed by Yahoo Finances Money Manager, though it is slightly (read a day or two) delayed in its refreshing abilities.
2. Song - Mase's "Welcome back". Mase is back after a 5 year hiatus and the song has a certain innocence to it, without being preachy. I am also listening to the "U n' I" number from Hum Tum. It's a nice combination of hip hop and Hindi filmy music, kind of similar to Rishi Rich's previous foray into Hindi music - "I Just Wanna be With You" from Boom, but still listenable.
3. TV watch - I personally despise Reality Television for the sole reason that it depicts anything but reality but have been diligently following NBC's Last Comic Standing for the simple reason that you get to watch a good ensemble of stand up comedians. My personal favorite is the guy Gary Gulman (who avoided elimination this week) and Jay London (who has a very unique style). I would also recommend, to the ones with Digital Cable, BBC's Coupling for the extremely experimental story flow they occasionally adopt - very inventive.

More views to follow - you just try to swallow ...

Agar Kar nahin hai to?
Just read here that Ajit Agarkar has been dropped from the Indian team selected for the upcoming Asia Cup. If you take a look at the team you will realize that it would have been difficult to put him in it given the fact that almost everyone did something in the Pakistan series and Bhajji had to be brought back. The only person in the team whom he could have replaced is Ashish Nehra and I would have supported that decision. Both are players who have consistently underperformed. Nehra is still reaping benefits from the England tie in the World Cup and Agarkar has the first test in Australia to boast of. Agarkar also has the "all-rounder" tag to his name but come on - when was the last time we saw him put a 5 before the 0 in his score? However, I feel that he will be the first person to be brought back after any one of Nehra, Balaji or Zaheer fails, since he is still in the upper half of the good books of "Maharaj Dada".

On a separate note Rohan Gavaskar has been omitted too. I feel bad for the chap because he did do a good job of whatever opportunity he was given but the famous Indian batting line up makes it impossible for the still-kinda-young chap to wriggle into the team.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Apathy of the confused mind
I have been writing this blog almost meticulously for the past one month. I have to say that I am impressed to find out that I do have a few readers who read this but I have almost started questioning the whole utility of this blog. Look at some of the entries - (i) X is coming to SD (ii) Y is angry with me or (iii) Z and I had a chat today. Does it matter to anyone? I feel disillusioned; an almost desire to make this place meaningful or just shun it to oblivion. But "why" I question again? Does everything need to have a reason? Can't I just indulge in meaningless ramblings without justifying it to anyone and myself? I don't know; I just feel this place should be pepped up; but then I think a whole bunch of other sweet nothings as well. Confused as ever - that is me ... what?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

For the want of work the techies played ...
The past 24 hours witnessed a combined effort in our household to computerize some common functionality (this was our way of doing something useful for us). We decided to computerize the entire monthly billing and transaction system. We found out that some other students had done that but their solution lacked features like - input validation, cheque optimization (reduce the total number of cheques we write) etc.

Sub was the first to take some initiative and after we formulated the "cheque optimization problem" he solved it and wrote the code for it. Sid then provided the PHP back-end to save and retrieve the data and moi added the Javascript support for form control and validation. The end result is neat but sadly it is also password protected.

Why did we do it and what is my point in mentioning it here? Nothing. We did it because all of us had nothing to do and thought this would be a cool thing to spend our time on. That's it. No points to make and no points made.

A crowd of known faces
There seems to be a deluge of known faces in San Diego this weekend. Asad is down is SD with some of his friends and I met up with him this afternoon. For those of you knowing this "tiger on the prowl" - he looks different; strikingly different! Anand Ranganathan (Randy to most others) is in town too, attending one of the innumberable quintessential CS conferences. Gotta meet him tomorrow. Vipin, a friend from my school days, has just joined Qualcomm and am supposed to meet him tomorrow too. The guy has almost become my next door neighbor and it should be good fun catching up with him.

Ain't it funny when some close faces turn blurred and the ones peek-a-booing in the background seem bright and clear. My film class taught me a term for this - rack focus.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Remember those guys
I just discovered that Maria Sharapova won the Wimbledon by pretty much demolishing Serena Williams. I have seen the girl only once or twice on TV. Frankly speaking, I have lost the gusto I once had for watching the game. I still remember that I was a little kid and had to plead my mom repeatedly to give me a day's (actually night) break from studies so that I could watch this new sensation called Boris Becker. He was 18 then and I was 9. I remember the hysteria surrounding him. I was a huge Becker fan and hated it when Edberg would defeat him (I also remember what a huge Edberg fan my good friend Suraj was/is). This was the same anger that I later felt when Steffi ousted Martina, Seles defeated Steffi (yes I had switched loyalties towards her by then), Sampras defeated Agassi et al.

Sadly, this thing I did, called engineering, diverted my love for the game and all I do these days is occasionally check out the names of winners. Whatever happened to those people? Remember Jim Courier? Or the one time boy wonder Michael Chang? Or Path Cash? The buttock balled Sanchez? Did I really see those people coz lot of people I speak to these days don't even know them :( I guess it's not love all after all.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Tech Bits and a movie review
Saw Spiderman II yesterday. I have to mention that I did not like the first installment and found it a little too saccharine coated for moi taste. However, I try to remain unbiased when watching movies and quite enjoyed the second one. The critics had all said and I shall say it once again that the movie does spend a lot of time in character building and that was neat. The CGI quality was really neat - specially the train sequence alone is worth the $7 I shelled out. So if you liked the first one you will anyway watch this one but in case you didn't like it and you are reading this blog (which leaves you in a select handful :)) then this one is definitely worth a watch. Also I have been raving about one small thing that Sam Raimi added to this one - the popular Spiderman song that played before the TV serial aired makes a cameo in the movie, bringing back delightfully nostalgic images to mind.

On the tech front, Sony has launched its version of small media players, Network Walkman. This one is priced below iPod and is the smallest of the lot too but sadly does not support mp3, something I think will not go very well with the listeners. Interestingly, Dell is trying to lure in users with an interesting "exchange" offer. Somehow, I am not impressed by the offer. For a user who already has an iPod (like me), the offer doesn't have enough zing to make me part with the player. Anyway, let's wait, watch and listen.

Just one more point on the issue of music players and online music. They are finally coming up with an official chart for online downloads, combining data from iTunes, Napster, mycokemusic.com etc. Both Britain and Australia are planning to launch their versions to this thing and I feel it will provide some good encouragement to the music industry.

Play on !

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Admission to my Alma Mater

The BITS, Pilani admission system is drawing a fair share of debate/controversy/publicity of late - check this out. A lot has been read and splattered on numerous web forums and I just thought of adding my perspective on the issue:

1. I support the current board exam based entrance to BITS. Without BITS the whole importance of board exams in India would be brought down. It is undoubtedly the highest ranked engineering college in the country to offer admissions based on 12th standard results and nullifying this system would undervalue the importance of board results for several students.

2. That said, I seriously support the strong allegations of people citing undue advantages to certain boards for their marking system. I have spent a good four years in BITS and strongly agree to the fact that the place is slowly loosing its diversified student mix. If one or two states are accounting for more than 90% of the total population the system is definitely flawed. So, while I don't support a Common Entrance Exam for BITS I strongly urge the administration to re-vamp the admission policy, keeping its reliance on board exams intact.

Once again this has been an issue with a wide range of opinions being voiced. My personal take on the matter is that board results should be weighed by the average result of the student's taken from that board. Such a system is mathematically sound as it would lead to an improved standard of students, reduce advantages provided by board markings alone (since if students fail to perform in Pilani they would reduce the importance of board results) and most importantly under the assumption that the country is equally gifted with talent all over the place - it will gradually help in creating a balanced geographical diversification. I am not saying they should take only the previous year's performance - a moving average over the past few years can be taken. A bunch of other things can be done too - I am sure Pilani has a gamut of bright minds who can come up with it. All I am saying is that to allow the system to survive the system has to change - now!

The Search goes on ...
I have been quite a search enthusiast ever since my days in IBM last year and have been following the trends and updates of most of the technologies in this space. Sadly, I was unaware of one of the most comprehensive places of discussion on the topic. Just reached John Battelle's extremely comprehensive Searchblog. It is an absolute delight to read and needless to say very informative. A sure add to my list of daily visited pages. More to follow ... search on.

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