Monday, October 29, 2007

Ambassadors of Sport

I don't follow American sport all that much. I do watch it, whenever I am in the US, but it's with absolute detachment. The kind of detachment you associate with a Will Smith summer flick. But there are some players you see who are really good at their games. So good, so natural, that even people who follow other sports, realize their talent. Kinda like Michael Jordan, Roger Federer or Tiger Woods.

Alex Rodriguez and Peyton Manning are two such talents. Manning is so good, even my wife knew his name.

Any others you can name? Any sport? Brian Lara would be my cricketing equivalent.

Friday, October 26, 2007

GSpace Puzzle

So, I go to GMail. As I am about to click enter, I see the amount of space available. I feel like an idiot to have sent the previous post.

So, I decide to do the correct thing, log out and get to Blogger and delete the post. And I see this..

Anyone else seeing this?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Is it just me, or did Google just somehow mercifully double the space available for Gmail? My signup page says I have some 4.7 Gb available

Poker Thobda

Stephen Dubner asks an interesting question about why there's not enough desis on Poker Tables on the Freakonomics blog. My guess is it's a bit of all the reasons given in the comments by the guests & the readers. But my best guess is something like this:

Gambling at the pro level is not worth the risk for first generation immigrants from India. A large majority of Indian diaspora (I love that word) have come here by the rules. The last I heard, gambling was illegal, and has a social stigma, back home. It's just not worth it. There's just too much they have invested in their lives from the money based on their professional skills that they cannot risk losing it for the probability of making money. All they know about gambling is that Amitabh Bachchan was 'The Great Gambler'. (They ARE film watching engineering nerds after all)

Second generation immigrants (aka ABCDs) do not have such issues of battling the perception back home, since this is their home. Yet, they are still not at a critical mass level where you can see them play at the level that others play at. But it will start. Quite soon.

There's another possibility. Somewhat related, but on a tangent. The story of the normal first generation Indian immigrant really doesn't bleed. And if it bleeds, it leads. There might be a whole bunch of Indians playing there for all I know, but their story is not one of the everlasting hope that TV producers love. "Yeah, you know, I came on an F1 visa and went to Stanford, where all I could think of was how the dollar was worth 49 rupees. All I could afford was rice and beans." Yeah, right. Like that's going to get more people watch a TV show in the hope that their lives would turn.

Dumble Dry...

Meghna writes in a comment to my previous post. Here's what I found most interesting.

"I can hope that maybe they will see that being gay is not as awful as a thing as they are being told, but unfortunately, I don't think they will see it this way."

Honestly, I agree with you. I also feel it's not just your family, but probably an entire international society that is in denial. I am sure even the author recognised this, especially since the main target of the book series was children. So then can we accuse JK Rowling of deliberately keeping this away from the reading public so that the popularity of the series doesn't get affected?

But then, that's besides the point. My point was very simple. The series is so wonderfully popular, that people are creating a fantasy in their own mind for no reason at all. What difference does it make to anyone if the character was gay, or bisexual or actually a transvestite if it was not there in the books? Is it worth so much of news space and public thought?

However, Meghna, if your cousins are nine years old, I wouldn't worry so much. I'd be more worried about your uncle and aunt (i.e. their parents) who have supposedly seen the world, but are in major denial. Especially since kids have a sense of logic and propriety that is not very obvious. Simply put, imagine how you were at nine and all that you had been told, and look where you've come in the years since. If you can, surely kids of the twenty first century would not happen to take everything at face value of what their parents teach them? And I bet, if you tell these kids that Dumbledore is gay, they probably would care less.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pulpy Fiction

Noted script writer Javed Akhtar, script writer for Sholay, while speaking as chief guest at the Save a Child Today mentioned that Gabbar Singh turned out the way he did because he was abused as a child, by his rogue uncle. This uncle, Makhan Singh, was a history sheeter with known cases against him in about 30 police stations in the Ramgarh area. Gabbar, who lost his parents when he was 3 in a police shootout while they were trying to protect Makhan Singh, was consistently abused by his uncle, who also used his young nephew as a conduit for his wild ways such as armed robbery and murder. To avoid this abuse, Gabbar ran away from home (if you could call it that..) at the age of 14 using his uncle's horse and single barrel rifle with no education to speak of and only 56 rupees in his pocket (which he had stolen from his uncle, who was knocked out drunk, one Diwali night). He had learned only one way to live.

Upon hearing Mr. Akhtar's comments, noted social worker Asim Sarode expressed the hope that this raised awareness about the pitfalls of child abuse and more cases would come out in the open.

All this is a complete hoax. It's as much of fiction as the whole of Sholay. But hey, if Albus Dumbledore can have a history, so can apna Gabbar!!!

Does it make any difference to anyone? Not to me, and should not make any difference to anyone else, if you ask me. I found the whole thing so idiotic. Especially the part where the audience responded with "gasps and applause". I mean, how exactly is this even news?? People have nothing better to do than to discuss fictional histories of fictional characters. Is it really so important to someone, anyone, that a character in a seven-part series of the most fanciful imagination possible had a history which was not covered? Grow up, and take it as a piece of fiction. If it was worth noting, it would have been in one of the books. She had seven chances to put it in there.

Am I missing something here?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Help Again

What is it that they put in breakfast muffins in the US, that they don't put in anything else? For some reason I seem to have an upset stomach whenever I have the breakfast muffins. Everything is fine with cereal and eggs and milk and the rest of the crap they have in the hotel.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I have been trying very hard to get this on to my video iPod. I got it from Google Video, which normally allows downloading on to the Video iPod, except in this one case. Since I can't do that, I am doing the next best thing.

Putting this on my blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pettyness. (Is that even a word?)

Yesterday I had a chance meeting with some of the IT guys from our office in India. They were recounting instances of how a lot of software professionals in other organizations have made so much money out of their on-site visit and how there's not much scope to do that in our office. Now, I'd have thought that's a good thing, right? But, I digress. Somehow I see a lot of this in India. There's hardly any pride in yourself, no feeling of ownership, it's just how you can benefit out a particular situation. Whether it is cutting traffic signals or making money out of a 2 month stay at Waukesha, MI it is all about yourself in India. There's a whole load of insecurity in that sense. There's no self belief, that you can handle anything the world throws at you that you don't need to try nefarious means to go that extra mile to benefit out of a situation. It definitely has something to do with the competition and the population in India that you try everything possible to get ahead.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Inferno in Newhall

There are times when you feel lucky.

It's been over 20 months since I last drove on this highway. But everyday, for almost 3 years, I took this road 4 times a day. Based on news reports, if I remember right, this tunnel is the connection between the Old Road and the 5 North and leads to the Truck route. The pictures were not very clear about the exact location, but when I read the news that's the one that popped into my mind. Actually the moment I read the headline "Fire in LA Tunnel" I just knew it was on the 5 North. Had to be. I just cannot get it over my head. We would take this road probably every week a couple of times, when the 5 North was unbearably heavy. Every morning I would take the old road coming in to work.

Hope there's not too many casualties. I heard one of the casualties was a child. May all affected find the courage to recover from the loss

I think once the traffic conditions ease, I doubt anyone going to Sylmar from Valencia / Palmdale will take the Old Road for a while.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Things they don't teach in the best business schools

There's something inherently charming, yet at the same time devious about this news item that I read. Definitely entrepreneurship at its finest.

There's some part of me which finds this extremely charming and wonderful, that people who've never stepped inside a plane, and who've only dreamed about sitting in one would most definitely find this experience exhilarating. Something like what I might feel if someone said I can sit in a simulation / replica of an F-16 fighter jet. Also, the faux capitalist in me, feels that "Captain" Gupta is indeed a visionary in finding a possible revenue stream out of a scrapped airline. You provide a limited service, you make the money.

At the same time, this virtual flight thing is basically making a benefit out of people's lack of opportunity. If flying was within the monetary reach of the average person, I am sure this idea would never have "flown". If you want to provide a service for the greater common good, you ought to be a little benevolent and make it a free trip, don't you think?

Now.. If someone were to make it an "airline finishing school" where they taught people how to behave on a flight, I'd support it whole-heartedly

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Things I think I think

- I am watching a baseball game, primarily because there's nothing better to do, when it occurs to me, that the American passion for data must have some relation to baseball. These guys are basically just blurting out statistics like game's just an excuse. There's a Chinese guy pitching for the Yankees. He's just pitched to two guys, and I already know that he's never pitched on 3 days rest, he's only given 9 home runs over some period, he's X of Y against left handers. I am sure, somewhere they also have a database on the middle names of baseball players or how well they have scored on their wedding anniversaries.

At some point, when a game becomes a statistic, I don't quite know how much fun it becomes to play or to watch.

- Expectation. It's such a heavy word. Almost every one has some expectations out of something. And almost every time you're setting yourself up for disappointment. If things work as expected, you're not very thrilled since you expected it anyway. If things don't work out, man you're disappointed. It's only when you exceed expectations that you're happy. So, if you don't have any expectations from anything, you're probably a very happy person.

I don't quite call it my Gautam Buddha moment, but I think I am on to something here as well.

- I don't know how this thought came to me this morning, but Captain Dumbfuck sounds like an awesome name for a B-grade comic book hero.

Captain Dumbfuck: Equal Opportunity Discriminator.

That's my anti-Gautam Buddha moment for this week. Definitely

- It's nice to see that Scrubs has so many reruns running on TV now in the US. Comedy Central, Fox18, even WGN seems to have graduated from Friends reruns. Else TV in the US is pretty much the same. Have not watched much of it though. Been too busy these days.

- GOD!!! Baseball is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Boring!!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Handwriting Blues

One of my oldest friends is on the blogosphere, and I didn't really know it. व्यक्तिगत - मनोगत - स्वगत, is Salil Divekar's blog. I should have guessed that he would be blogging. Astrologically, we are about as close at it can possibly get. Born in the same city, a day apart. (I know, I know.. closest is the same hospital on the same day in the next door delivery room, 1 second apart, but guys.. Bloggers factor of exaggeration!!!)

Anyway, what caught my main attention was his last post, which by the way, should not be the last one. (Note to SD, please write more often.) Ms. Doctor was, by far, the best teacher we had. Ask Vincentian, who graduated in the 90's and was there from the first standard, chances are he would agree with me. Those who graduated before that would probably have had teachers other than I did. Her insistence of good handwriting was legendary, and that's something I'd like to address here.

Of all the souls in the work force today, I think without any doubt that I am the luckiest one. If computerisation had not occured by the time I hit payroll age, I would have been in deepest of deep shit. The very fact that I am even remotely successful in what I do, has completely to do with computers. I guess I must have lost at least 5% marks in school due to my handwriting. If you're counting a 5% differential in my HSC marks, you're talking the difference between COEP and Bharati Vidyapeeth. You're talking the difference between an ATKT in SOM and an all-clear.

The very fact that you're reading this, is a miracle, because if you were reading my handwriting, you probably would be banging your head on the wall. Anyone who says that emotional crap about how computers have taken away the romance of writing, has obviously not read my handwriting. In almost every letter, I have to put an apology for my handwriting. It is different from line to line, let alone from page to page. Just thinking how my life would be without computers, makes me shudder. Especially my previous job, which involved a lot of documentation work. (On second thoughts, maybe the FDA would have approved the devices a lot quicker, and I would have risen through the corporate charts)

Ms. Doctor lived in a different world. A world, where rich people had Godrej typerwriters, and normal parents would write a letter to the teacher explaining the previous day's absence of the student. A world, that required ink pens and kids to learn the art of writing cursively and neatly. Most people of my dad's age have beautiful handwriting. They have it, because they needed to. I know I probably won't need it for writing letters to the teacher. They have parents login ids for St. Vincents now. (No kidding, you email the teacher)

I know they don't make teachers like Ms. Doctor any more. I guess they don't need to!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Go Cardinal

It's unusually hot in Moline this weekend. Bright sunshine with an expected high of 91F. Considering average highs in October are 65F, one can say that it's a hot day.

But it's a mighty fine time to wear a Stanford sweatshirt

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The law of unintended consequences

Every act of mankind has its consequences. These consequences could be broken down into what we call "pros" and "cons". Once the act is carried out, the subsequent pros and cons occur as expected. However, the effect of these pros and cons on other things beyond the purview of the original act is almost impossible to account for. This phenomenon is termed by economists as the law of unintended consequences.

Here are some examples:

How Jane Fonda is to blame for global warming.

How the American Disabilities Act, intended for granting equal rights for people with handicaps, has actually led to a decrease in the number of opportunities for people with a handicap

All in all, this is a fascinating area to delve into. It's almost impossible to capture all the possible consequences of a certain act.

Maybe this is what we in India would generally label as Kismat!!

You gotta be kidding

I think I am going to start a new set of series (like the immensely popular Things I think I think) where I plan to provide links to the weirdest things on earth.

Like for example, we have actual scientists researching something like this.

What a good job. Going to a strip club for scientific research!!

Nulla poena sine lege

I gave up on track and field atheletics long ago. Nothing to do with the doping scandals, but I think it was when Carl Lewis retired, which if I am not mistaken also coincided with a introspective dawning of how unathletic I am. Marion Jones came in the limelight after this. She won 3 golds at the Sydney Olympics, which was unprecedented and also has never been done since. Despite widespread rumors of doping at the time, she cleared all the drug tests, and never actually failed a test till last year, when her first sample failed. She got reinstated when the B-sample was negative. So, technically, to date she never failed a test. She was rumored to be involved in the BALCO scandal, and coincidentally (or otherwise) her performances seemed to dwindle as the BALCO scandal started hitting the news coverage. Some said drugs (or the lack of them), some said injuries, some others said age. But the matter was soon laid to rest.

However, now she has come back in the news, as she has admitted using performance enhancing drugs knowingly. ( Read Here) And the question arises. What should be her punishment for taking performance enhancing drugs? Here's my stand. She might go to jail for lying to prosecutors, but you cannot take away her medals and her records. She may have cheated knowingly, but as far as the official method of verification goes, she cleared everything. She may have lost face morally and ethically, but the fact is that legally I don't think she can be touched as far as erasure of her records go. Whatever the substance was which was injected, there was no test for it at that time, so in theory it is legal at the time. That she knew it was cheating is an ethical question. Ex post facto law is illegal in most countries. I am not a lawyer, but I'm thinking if her medals are taken away, she could challenge in a court of law based on this theory, and have a credible defence.

If there was no punishment for the cream and clear at that time, you cannot punish her now because a punishment exists now.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rose is but a rose

What's in a name, apparently is what the Bard asked.

Apparently, enough to get a tax exemption in the great state of Tamil Nadu.

Money quote:
...both are coming together in Thamizh M.A (the title of the film has now been changed to Kattrathu Thamizh to avail tax benefits)...

Honestly, I don't even know what I was doing on that page. I think I clicked something else on rediff, but landed here.