Monday, March 31, 2003

an engineer by any other name | the Texas exception

One of the oddest battles of the 78th Legislature is pitting Texas' licensed professional engineers against the high-tech industry's software dudes. At issue is just who in Texas can call himself an engineer ... {more}
what would you do if you loved movies and hated dubya? (besides being a sensible human being)

Design posters for the dubya-s (dubious) dude, of course {WARNING: potentially long yet worthwhile load-time} [courtesy: Chris]
don't you eat that: it's patented {courtesy: Chris}

This patent is for a sealed crustless sandwich. Commonspeak would call this a "peanut butter and jelly sandwich".

Related links: intellectual improprieties | bust patents

Related posts: apple patents trash | patented circumlocution
buster keaton: then and later

Caught The General again last week (Wednesday to be precise) and like the other Keaton enterprises, it's hilarious and entertaining. Like Harold Lloyd, Keaton did his own stunts and his films are (more often than not) showcases of his ability to mix humour and daring physical exercises in timing and synchronization (eg. Clearing the railway track of fallen logs -- best seen than described). Caught a glimpse of In The Good Old Summertime and noticed Keaton, now years older, but still recognisable. Some IMDB fishing told me that he had also co-directed this Judy Garland vehicle. That was consoling -- I was almost worried that Keaton had gone the way of Bhagwan (who started off with the smash Albela and then, failing to capitalize on his fame and fortune, was relegated to supporting roles requiring him to indulge in antics ranging from bland to mildly amusing to coarse and insulting).
Running on 58/straw dogs

Eric Clapton turned 58 yesterday. Yay!

The Criterion Collection has released Sam Peckinpah's controversial (banned in the UK till recently) shocker Straw Dogs as a 2-disc feature-rich collector's item. MUST_OWN (well, someday). Wonder what happened to the Miramax-sponsored adaptation (with Edward Norton standing in for Dustin Hoffman) Fear Itself?

malayalee stumps raveena

Meant to post this last week. But better late than never. Raveena's first production venture Stumped hit a cog when a college student in Kerala filed a petition against the film alleging that the film was based on an article he had published in the July 5, 1999 edition of the Malayala Manorama. Raveena and her team have been given a fortnight to respond to the allegation. Strike one for the naadu.

Related: TOI article | Hindustan Times
tri-movie fest

Aside from the radical drop in temperatures and forecasts of cold fronts, it's been a rather decent weekend. I upped my movie count by catching 3 flicks on DVD. The first was Road, followed by Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!! and closing Sunday with Singles, Cameron Crowe's amusing and entertaining love flick set in grunge-era Seattle. Brief thoughts on each movie, before I get some time (yes, someday) to add more meat.

Thoughts on Road: Cool interesting sidestream film. Excellent performances from everyone except the lead pair -- the overhyped Vivek Oberoi and the perfect-person-to-play-an-emaciated-Medusa Antara Mali. Good sound engineering for the most part, although the background score seems to compete with the dialogue track on several occasions. The movie is full of asides and sendups on its mainstream predecessors and contemporaries. The songs are ordinary, and except for khullam khulla, they jar. And the film suffers only from its indecision: it's not sure if it wants to proceed as an exploration of the "evil hitchhiker" genre in an Indian milieu or as an ogler's exploration of Antara Mali's endowments.

Thoughts on Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar: Highly recommended. Out-of-bandwidth movie with just bare trappings of mainstream cinema (namely, songs). Vishal belts out another interesting score (although I have reservations against the title song, both for its lyrics and the choice of Asha Bhosle). Manoj Bajpai's stellar performance is supported by a great cast of people that should be familiar to fans of Satya. A refreshing script with crackling dialogue from Saurabh Shukla (co-writer for Satya) who also doubles as the morally challenged Gaitonde. Kenneth Turan, when reviewing The Stunt Man observed: "Is this a comedy or a tragedy, a dark picture with touches of wit or a witty film with overtones of darkness? Until the closing sequences, it is beguilingly hard to say". That, in essence, can sum up an apt reaction to this film.

Thoughts on Singles: All the touches of Cameron Crowe here: cool soundtrack, catchy phrases (emotional larceny), interesting lines and light-hearted entertainment. Don't expect an intellectual challenge. This is a rockster's chick flick. And it's fun. My favourite moment comes early in the movie when Steve Dunne (Campbell Scott) recounts a childhood incident involving sex education.

Friday, March 28, 2003

the mithun DVD syndrome

The last time I got a mithun DVD it turned out to be a bad one. Being a sentient being, I should have been wiser the next time (Tuesday this week) I picked on. My glee got the better of me and I carted home Road (more about that once I get done with watching the film) and Bhairav. The latter turned out to be a DVD player choker again ... sigh! Got to get a replacement now. More trips.
bloggerama continues

These guys at Blogger are about to qualify as people most trying of my patience. A brand new hiccup (to add to the existing ones, of course, not to supersede them). I try to republish my archives and I get Error 203:java.lang.NumberFormatException: (server:page). Great. These guys probably never heard about usability. There I go complaining about the quality of free stuff again. However, it must be noted that they have migrated to Java ... but still running Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Windows 2000.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

new pancham album {source: a post on the Pancham group}

This should give those remixers something to think about. Pancham Studios and Saregama have unveiled their new collection of Rahul Dev Burman-scored rarities. This compilation's called "The Bullet Train". The byline goes "R. D.'s fastest tracks ... pure and unmixed". Authentic vintage influence-laden RD tracks with the remix-hungry crowd as a market. Anything's acceptable so long as I can get my hands on this ASAP.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

post world cup mortem

While the World Cup has now become an element of the past and India's defeat is being discussed and debated and criticised, WCNJ ("America's first and only 24 hour a day 7 day a week, Indian FM radio station") continues to air those fast-buck "inspirational"/utopian pop songs about India and Cricket. There's one that includes the corniest line in a long time: "cricket hi to hai desh ka Fevicol". And the other one whose rock ballad-ish chorus ends with "...hai World Cup hamara". Wishful thinking, in past, present and retrospect, and a few quick bucks. (The Adnan Sami video was kinda cool though -- if only for the Big B's beard coloured up with the three colours that adorn the national flag).
yahoo! hack

About 30 minutes ago, a friend told me about a fake Yahoo! login page (removed as I write this) that captured login names and passwords from unsuspecting users and then proceeded to mess with their accounts. He just received a response from the hosts of the domain (who, by the way, are running Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Windows 2000) saying that they had banned this site and that they appreciated his advice. A little tracerouting told us that this was an Atlanta-based host. Some excitement for the day (The weather is glorious by the way, although I think it's a little too hot -- which means I've lost my Indian immunity and resilience to extreme summers. Weep).

An extract from one of the recent spate of reports and warnings from MSFT (all emphasis with bolding is mine): Microsoft has warned users that most versions of its Windows software have a "critical" flaw that, if exploited, can allow a hacker to usurp control of a system or network when a victim visits a Web site or uses an e-mail program (The flaw, in case you were interested, was in the Windows Script Engine). Ever since the Slammer Worm, I decided to pursue an old worktime relief activity: finding out what webservers different famous domains were running. People who have been following the news reports every time a new virus hits the Internet will not be surprised to know that a lot of Government sites use IIS (the victim of numerous attacks in the past, present and forseeable future): the CDC (which grows popular every time a new disease attacks the world -- to be more precise, every time a new disease that has affected the rest of the world affects someone in the US of A, which defines the world as itself) is but one local example. What is interesting is the information returned by a query on Netcraft's Uptime Survey Site for the CDC: The site is running Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Linux. Of course, my hosts Blogger are running IIS as well (Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Windows 2000).

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

travelling stops

Started off searching for updates on RSS aggregators and ended up reading Would you change your blogging habits if ...: Imagine you have a blog with a couple hundred folks who read it on a semi-regular basis. Some of them are your co-workers. Further imagine that you work for one of the world's best known tech brands. Finally, suppose that you know at least two of your company's vice president's read (or have read) your blog. A former colleague of mine used to read my blog frequently and stated different reasons/benefits: he could see me thinking these thoughts; he could find out what I had been up to once I left for the day or the week; he didn't really have to talk to me during work (thus saving valuable clock cycles and getting more done). Another decided to start his own blog. A lot of other friends (peers, juniors) also got bitten by the blog bug and started their own blogs. While I don't really use my blog to exorcise my deepest fears and feelings (which would make this a really irritating read after a very very short while), I do let it dig deeper than being simply a superficial navel-gazing saga. I enjoy it. I've made a lot of new friends thanks to my blog (I can see people going "and lost some old friends too", but that has never happened -- this just gives my old friends a reason to chide).

Monday, March 24, 2003

the world according to america {image from Jürgen Hermann, author of the MoinMoin}

the world according to America
oscars 2003: mixed bag with thrills, spills and sour milk

Steve Martin is not a good choice for hosting the Oscars -- unless the Academy is looking for a goodie-goodie inoffensive personality who can at most get you to crack a smile (but mostly groans). My first complete before-the-TV Oscars in the US had some cool surprises and some rather unpleasant upsets (my P.O.V of course). Everytime Martin returned to the dias, I had to twiddle thumbs waiting for him to finish. The overall mood of the proceedings was rather funereal and subdued, contrasting the fact that this was the 75th anniversary of the industry's biggest moment of self-congratulation. Perhaps it was the war. Perhaps the war was just an excuse for people to pout and look glum. Except for the Chicago song, I liked the Best Song performances -- Paul Simon, U2 and most of all the song from Frida. If you count carefully, that's only 4 out of 5. The fifth nominee was Eminem's song from his acting début 8 Mile. Wonder if it was the lyrics or prior engagements that prevented this performance. But Mr Mathers capped it all by taking home the Best Song Oscar (ironically trouncing the musical Chicago). Michael Moore walked to the stage to a standing ovation when his name was called out for Best Documentary (Bowling for Columbine). He brought along his fellow nominees and then launched into a rant against George Bush that was met with applause and boos. Very brave: "We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons....[to Bush] anytime you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against ya, your time is up". Made my evening. And while Steve Martin's post-commercial break joke, "It was so sweet backstage. The teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo." was greeted by cheers from the crowd, a calm composure was going to be difficult for most. The technical awards weren't too surprising with Golem's creators for The Two Towers topping the category. The Pianist's winning the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay got me thinking about the TNR article that explored the liberties taken in the adaptation, but since I liked the movie (despite all the arguments against it and its maker), the minor detail didn't matter to me. Adrian Brody was IMHO the most pleasant surprise of the evening, when they called out his name for the Best Actor Oscar. A great acceptance speech, especially when he told the band to stop playing (a signal that the winner had to leave) saying he had only one shot at this. He noted the topicality of The Pianist and prayed for a friend of his who was in the war right. "Let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution," he said to a standing ovation. Mention of the war popped up in other speeches too, but Moore took the cake (at least my cake) for the most effective lashout. And thankfully there were only hopes for a swift resolution, and no gung-ho militant spiels. Peter O' Toole had the next great acceptance speech, as he accepted his Honorary Oscar (marking him as another nominee-but-never-a-winner who had to settle for this token). The British wit gave the proceedings something it really needed -- good humour. Roman Polanski won for Best Director and there was another standing ovation. Predictably he didn't show up (what with pressing charges of child molestation). Some news reports are sure to tout this as the biggest surprise (I'll get to my pick for that shortly), but I expected (and hoped) he would win. Besides, this gives the Academy another opportunity to take a politically safe (and seemingly strong) stand on art and politics. Pah! Kirk Douglas and son Michael Douglas (great pick) were joint presenters of the final Oscar of the evening -- the one for Best Picture. And this is where my dinner nearly hit back up at my Adam's Apple. While a lot of polls have indicated that Chicago was an expected (and often desired choice) I had hoped (ever so fervently) that the Academy and the industry would not indulge in childish self-congratulation at having revived a dead movie genre. I'm sure everyone associated with the film is glowing (the acceptance speech was tolerable, at best), and the film didn't do so badly, winning less than half (6 out of 13, yes I plead floating-point leeway) the awards it was nominated for. The Academy continued in its tradition of placating people who were snubbed in the nominations (getting the lead actor from Y Tu Mamá También to introduce the performance of Frida's Best Song entry) and also people who hadn't or wouldn't (Julianne Moore who suffered from two nominations in two different categories for roles that despite her strong performance could be clubbed as being the same) win. The deserving Ms Kidman and her nose (I must admit, I wanted Julianne Moore to win for Far From Heaven) echoed the confusion of the vastly wasted Ms Paltrow a few years ago. And I wonder if Sean Connery was attempting to make a fashion statement when he showed up underdressed to present the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. All in all, not a bad way to kill the waning hours of the day (the live retro introduction to past winners was long but had a few cool moments when you got to compare the present, immediate and distant pasts). The camera seemed to relish displaying Martin Scorsese discomfort (mostly) and happiness (as he applauded winners) -- Gangs of New York came up with nought yesterday night. Wonder if the great faux pas from the Weinsteins (aka Miramax, who also got a few jokes dedicated to them early on in the program) was the culprit. And yes, Steve Martin did put in a plug for his movie Bringing Down the House.

And what Oscar post would be complete without the Razzies?

Saturday, March 22, 2003


Friday, March 21, 2003

movies music ... spring!

Got my first Mithun DVDs (on rent of course) from Taj yesterday. Marked a little bright spot in an otherwise foggy cloudy gloomy clammy day. There was Bapu's Hum Paanch and the Mithun-Puru Raj Kumar action flick[sic] Khatron Ke Khiladi (not to be confused with the early Madhuri Dixit starrer of the same name). The latter choked my DVD player, which was rather unfortunate, since it offered loads of B-entertainment. The former worked just fine (it was an Eros/B4U DVD after all). I managed to finish my first viewing of Hum Paanch, and I should be able to post some thoughts later.

Coming soon/watch this space: the synopses of both movies (for your reading pleasure[sic]).

Also got m'self some more music yesterday from the hidden alcove of music in Texas Sari Sapn�, right next to Taj. There was Satya, Zulmi (why this Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen scored Akshay Kumar-Twinkle dud? For the sole uncredited song composed by the late R D Burman), The Golden Collection - A Great Team: Asha Bhosle and R D Burman (another unimaginatively titled compilation from HMV featuring no real novelties from their rotting collection, except for the sole [to my knowledge] song from Teesra Kaun: album details and track listing), and Mehbooba (being the 'classics forever' remastered with bits of dialogue release, rare on CD for some reason, but sorely missing the title song sung by Kishore Kumar).

The Indian calendar for 2003 on sale at Taj yesterday had today (Friday, March 21, 2003) marked as the beginning of Spring. Scoff all you want but that's exactly what has happened. It's bright, sunny and clear outside. And TGIF. I sometimes wonder if the weather actually is controlled by administrative secret agencies that we are unaware of (ref: The Matrix, The Truman Show).

Thursday, March 20, 2003

updates: Blogger
[followup to Blogger QoS]
At least they have a new error message "Error: Object required (server:disco). Please try again.[more info]". [more info], however, takes me to the same error, so this is, in programming parlance, a different interface to the same implementation. Tch tch! Perhaps it's time to try out MovableType. In advance, may I present How has Blogger changed your life?.
ready yet? Being a followup to the Ready.Gov diatribe. This one has images. WARNING: Also has way too many popup ads. Use Phoenix or Mozilla or some other derivative and you won't even notice, thanks to some great popup blocking.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003


Slashdot's running a post that refers to Sun's firing of US workers to hire lower-paid Indians. While there's more more smoke than fire, and there's no real fear of an anti-H1-B wave, some of the comments accompanying the slashdot post are rather interesting. Review the H1-B checklist, while you're still here.
khaté {for linguistic reasons, this will make sense only to people with an Indian background}

So here's a nice spicy PJ (aka another entrant into the khaté family, as a friend would put it). There's this industrialist dude called ram swaroop narayan, who, because of his accumulated assets, found cause and funding to invest in pastoral retreat of his own complete with pool, jacuzzi and the works. He named the retreat after his wife. Now with general airplane chaos, baggage claim issues and rerouting, a Chinese dude happened to end up at this resort. Now Narayan had set up an exquisite state-of-the-art alarm system which combined the latest in electronics and artificial intelligence. This system was configured to send him alerts of unexpected events such as this one. The question is: what was the alert that the system sent out? Also, based on this alert, can you figure out the name of Narayan's wife?

The alert was Ram Teri Ganga Mein Lee. Needless to say, Ram's wife's name was Ganga.

On November 1st, 1959, the population of New York City was 8,042,753. If you laid all these people end to end, figuring an average height of five feet six and a half inches, they would reach from Times Square to the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan. I know facts like this because I work for an insurance company - Consolidated Life of New York. We are one of the top five companies in the country. Last year we wrote nine point three billion dollars worth of policies. Our home office has 31,259 employees, which is more than the entire population of Natchez, Mississippi, or Gallup, New Mexico. I work on the 19th floor - Ordinary Policy department - Premium Accounting division - Section W - desk number 861

Those are the opening words for Billy Wilder's classic The Apartment, which I rewatched yesterday (this time on DVD). The film showcases the best of the Wilder touches: a tight script with crackling dialogue, Jack Lemmon, Wilder's references to motifs and people from his previous films (exorcising his distaste for Marilyn Monroe with the Monroe-esque character in the film, reusing the name Sheldrake last seen in the wonderful Sunset Boulevard, and that stray reference to a "lost weekend"). Fred MacMurray (best remembered as Walter Neff in another Wilder classic Double Indemnity. I didn't much care for AFI's choice of Wilder's Some Like it Hot, released a year before. This film has more believable people and situations than that drag farce. Ihad forgotten that Ray Walston was in The Apartment. I had typed him based on Judge Henry Bone in Picket Fences, and it was such a pleasure to see him devouring the role of a scheming lech with aplomb.

This set me thinking about directors in Indian cinema who have been cast by the media as counterparts for famous Hollywood directors. For example, Mani Ratnam has been referred to as the Steven Spielberg of India. My pick for the Wilder in Bollywood would be a tie between Hrishikesh Mukherjee (mostly) and Basu Chatterjee (who, incidentally, had adapted Wilder's The Fortune Cookie as Lakhon Ki Baat).

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

things you can expect in the US of A

* reach the lowest possible speed of your vehicle (namely 0 miles per hour) on the expressway

* hear about a guy driving on the interstate (aka the expressway) call in a radio station on his cellphone to tell them about another guy on the interstate playing a trumpet (while this last part is fairly interesting, the caller is, like the trumpeteer, in clear violation of safety recommendations on the interstate).

Monday, March 17, 2003

malayalee blogs

Found out last Friday that I had made it to yet another list of Indian bloggers. Only this time it was a list of Malayalee (read: natives of Kerala) bloggers. Maintained by Manoj M Prabhakaran, a Graduate Student at Princeton. Kind of him to include me in the list, although the few of the blogs I sampled there seem to be heavily political. But then Malayalees have had the clichéd reputation of being a scheming people. But this is also probably a good time to thump my chest and remind people of the rich cultural heritage of my home state.
monday morning

It's raining. The sky is crying [cliché]. You're sitting in a car staring at a distant billboard in the distance. WORKING | HARD | TO BE | NO. 1 | GOOD CREDIT | BAD CREDIT | NO CREDIT | REPOSSESSION. Fazil Say (solo and overdubbed) is drumming out Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps on piano. The wipers are in tandem with the rhythm of a relatively straightforward section of this avant garde composition.

Minutes later, you are walking out of the rain with a wet umbrella into the College of Computing, to spend another day applying for jobs. Sending emails to destinations that don't even bother to acknowledge receipt these days. No one is interested in hiring people who can pick up technology within a snap. In hiring people who can add more value to a company than a hardened N-year-experienced (N being a suitably unfairly large number) professional. The College hired a new Dean last semester and he seems to have taken a leaf out of the rule book of Indian politicians (who believed that the best way to leave a mark of your tenure was to rename streets and junctions and important locations to the vernacular, causing rampant confusion and fondling unimportant egos). The new Dean has ordered physical restructuring of the place. You walk past rooms in disarray. Past equipment for construction and deconstruction (pardon the pun). Past walls with holes in them. Past doors that have been replaced by translucent white sheets. Past walls that have become orifices protected by solid glass doors. The ironic expressionism of the moment does not escape you. Outside, it's still raining.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

a weekend of options

Sunday: Om Jai Jagadish phase II; lunch @ Frontera; Om Jai Jagdish phase III; groceries {3333333, Joni Mitchell/"groceries"}
Saturday: The Atlanta Mandolin Society Revue at Oglethorpe University and a Bluegrass Jam (a splendid time was guaranteed for all); Om Jai Jagadish phase I

Friday, March 14, 2003

Blogger QoS

It's not often that I'm caught ranting about the free services I avail of on the Internet, like Blogger in this particular case, but this case is a prime example of all the problems with Blogger that I hope will evanesce once the merger with Google is complete. Updates don't reach the pages that frequently. Lately, I've been getting "Archive error" problems on republishing my archives. The Blogger help pages and troubleshooting pages are rather ineffective in this regard. And I couldn't find a blessed email address. All I found was a note saying that they didn't have the time to help free users (which means countless people like me!). Something in the documents caught my eye: something about XML. Had these guys suddenly moved from a hacky underbelly and attempted to work out a sane design for the product and in the process break everything that worked before (things like JavaScript-based comment systems, for example)? I had to find out. I tried following the instructions in their response about FTP problems. But I couldn't view my FTP logs (of course, there could be a valid reason for this besides the big software move). Then I notice the [more info] link in my web interface and click it to be taken (back) to their troubleshooting page. Scroll all the way down. And there's a link that says Discuss. Somehow this carried some contextual information that was otherwise denied to me and I was taken to a formatted page where the following stared back at me:


XML Error loading ''

A string literal was expected, but no opening quote character was found.

at line 27, character 26
<font face="Arial" size=2>

That last line was important. Just the information I needed. And this was their code in the template. Having had dealings with ugly markup that pretended to be XML, I knew that the '2' was missing the double quotes. I modified the template, but now the error refuses to go away. I know they still use Microsoft Publishing Software [sic], so it will probably be a long time before (a) the error vanishes, if at all, and (b) my sidebars are updated. Till then, c'est la vie.

Addendum: Just figured out something else. That error page was something that happened at Blogger. They stepped on their own toes (ROTFL). It was just a coincidence that I had the same problem. Hope they fix it soon.

Cross-cultural dinner

Desi dinner group time again yesterday and the venue was Song Long, a Vietnamese restaurant with a full and tasteful menu. Large-screen TV. See--through glass walls. Bosnian folk music from a pair of guitarists in the Brazilian style at the neighbouring table. Mindboggling. Decent food, except I'm still not convinced that what I ate (sauced noodles with chicken and veggies) matched the description "chicken fried rice". The location: close to Pho79 in the Plaza Fiesta strip on Buford Highway.
fastest name change ever?

Roogle {previous post} has now become Feedster. Guess they did run into the name-sounds-a-lot-like-Google obstacle pretty soon.
abhimanyu's nemesis celebrates third glorious anniversary

Puneites in the know are perhaps aware of Chakravyuh, the annual quizzing event organized under the auspices of COEP (my gothic undergrad alma mater). The first and second times they did it (2001, 2002) came off as resounding successes. And this year (March 09, 2003 | venue: the nostalgic COEP auditorium) was no different. The grassy lawns that spurred this effort now have a web presence (it's still coming together, so please be kind in your reactions). Go COEP!
happy birthday einstein

Google comes up with another cool logo {reproduced here for that very reason} commemorating Einstein's birthday.

Google's Einstein Logo

Thursday, March 13, 2003

shards of song wafting through my head as I sit in the train ...memories of good old MTV back home in India ... and perhaps still topical

Free your mind and the rest will follow (En Vogue) {anyone in the White House listening?}

Just found out that the Salt N' Pepa hit (a duet with En Vogue) Whatta Man was a cover ... of a Linda Lyndell song from 1968. AllMusic has nothing on Linda Lyndell. Surprising.

And the Coolio - LV hit collaboration Gangsta's Paradise explicitly samples the tune of Pastime Paradise, from Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life. Never paid attention to the base tune itself, but the really really interesting (cool) thing about Wonder's original is the way the song ends, with the chorus recanting "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna/Krishna Krishna/Hare Hare | Hare Rama Hare Rama/Rama O Rama/Hare Hare". In a like vein, pay close attention to the "Jai Guru Deva" refrain in The Beatles' Across the Universe.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

what can you do if you're sick of eating meals at McDonald's?

Surf the web. 10 of the MacDonald's restaurants in New York metro area will begin offering an hour of free wireless Internet access each time you buy an Extra Value Meal. If you want to spend more time browsing you can (a) pay extra or (b) get another Extra Value Meal. Of course, you still need your notebook computer and make sure that it supports 802.11b. {source: eWeek}
it happens only in america {with due regard to anand raj anand}

The US Department of Homeland Security [sic], an affiliate of Dubya's modular framework to secure[sic] American homes in the event of attack, has long since manifested as a web presence. The department's legendary suggestion has been, of course, "that citizens buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal windows in case of an attack with biological, chemical or radioactive weapons". Clearly, high schooling has not been a very important issue for the powers that be. To say they didn't do a good job with the website either is to state the obvious. And since the French support for the American stand on Iraq has been lacking, the Government of the US of A has decided to retort in very typical fashion, sans cogent coherent and informed tact. They've decided to ban all things French. And start calling them Freedom.
In vim this would be a regular expression: :%s/[Ff]rench/freedom/g (no special handling of case there). This means new phrases like freedom fries, freedom kissing, freedom rolls, freedom toast and the like. Creative Loafing had an interesting cartoon strip (sorry, didn't find it online) on the hilarious possibilities of this action. Officials at the French Embassy were kind enough to point out that french fries actually come from Belgium. {inputs: laxmi, chris}

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

new blog title

Driving by a truck on the interstate (I was not in the driver's seat, for the record) I concocted a new title for my blog. The old one was the simple innocuous "Itsy Bitsy Blog". The new one has the suffix "kya main beau lou". For people who don't speak Hindi: Pronounced as is, the last two words are a pun in Hindi on the word "boluu.N". The line thus translates as "what do I say?" (also a refrain in a popular tapori song of the 90s that marked the playback singing début of Bollywood film star Aamir Khan).

having an honest résumé helps

A colleague of mine just sent me a link to a little note on Monster about having an honest résumé. My colleague doesn't follow my blog and he didn't know what happened a couple of days ago. The coincidence and the irony are striking, but the note itself is a comfort. So all those out there like me who are sick of seeing bloated requirements for people with several years of experience can take heart and be confident about exactly what you know. There's surely a job for you out there.

Addendum: {march 12, 2003}

Really Ridiculous

I'm not sure if anyone has noticed, but Real has made it really hard to get to a usable free lightweight version of their proprietary player for a proprietary online streaming audio format that (hopefully) is losing out to more widely supported formats. Their main page is a mess and the only thing you can download is RealOne. This is a 14-day trial version and they won't let you download unless you give them your credit card number (so they can bill you from day 15). Schmucks! Since I need the player for some of the online music I listen to, I started searching the web. Google was a great help and I found a solution in less than a minute. Predictably, there's a site called, which has the apt byline "because newer is not always better". RealPlayer also figures in the list of top downloads. Looks like I'm not alone. So anyone in a similar predicament, you now know where to go.

Addendum/Corrigendum: [Chris] In typically intuitive fashion, there's a little link on the top right that takes you to a spot where you can actually download the free version of RealOne. I stand corrected. But I'd still recommend

Another search engine, return of the Google server error and crawling Flash

Just read about Sprinks. It's a pay-per-click search engine that allows advertisers to "place targeted ads across the web on a high-quality network of web properties". Guess the beast of online advertising still has some life in it.

Something I noticed early this year apparently recurred this month and a lot of people noticed. Wonder what's cooking at Google...

Macromedia (they that are responsible for a cool technology that's actually inappropriate for the Web, is trying to get search engines in a bid to raise the visibility of Flash-created content, which is frequently passed over in Web indexes. They've got a toolkit out that converts a Flash file's text and links into HTML for indexing and they're hoping that crawlers for search engines will incorporate this in their voyage across the Internet. So far, AllTheWeb is the only one biting. Google reports that it can extract links from Flash pages but has not adopted the toolkit. Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch rightly states the problem: "It's nice that they are talking, but you still have this issue that a lot of Flash content isn't textual, i.e., (it's) full of images, (music) and logos".

Monday, March 10, 2003

google + rss = Roogle

It's a new RSS search engine. They need a logo. And they could get in trouble with Google. But the interface is simple and elegant and cool.

A Koogle is a Jewish dish. Usually sweet and sometimes spicy. Wonder if that's the only common noun that rhymes with Google.

another blogosphere entrant

This is rather late in coming, but please welcome Connection Machine.
me the radio star

well not so dramatic. but I merited a mention on Music from India on WRFG 89.3 FM yesterday [more on my association with the show and the station]. I had made a strong claim to the host of the show that Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar, although talented singers, were not foolproof in the pronunciation department. While she strongly contested this, a song on her playlist yesterday gave her proof (at least for Asha) and that's when I merited mention. 5 seconds of fame. And now, back to reality.
is this me?

G is for George

{from: G is for George} [link courtesy: Chris]

Sunday, March 09, 2003

a question of integrity and need (aka how I never got to see Adaptation and lived to tell the tale)

So I had an interesting experience spanning several hours from late afternoon to late in the evening today. I have had time to reflect on what I did and I have no regrets about the decision and choices I made, but if you are reading this (and will continue to, till the end of this post), I'd like to know what you think. Here goes (all names abstracted for reasons of privacy, but also because they don't really matter).

1 pm EST. Lunch is done. I'm all set to head out for Adaptation when the phone rings. The person at the other end identifies himself as X from a consulting firm C, which happens to be elsewhere in the country. He happens to be a recruiter with this consulting firm C and is fielding me for a potential opening at Atlanta (me being local really helps, especially since the position requires me to start work tomorrow itself!). So we go over what I'd need to know for the job as well as questions from my side so that I could understand what I was getting into. I have a fair idea of how the consulting protocol works so everything was in order. X tells me that Y, probably from his firm or a go-between for the position at hand would talk to me. This talk would be a pre-screen to make sure I was on level. I indicate that I may be unavailable immediately and would a couple of hours later in the afternoon be fine. X says that urgency is the need of the hour (which is why he is working on a Sunday) and if I wasn't interested he could proceed with other candidates. Since offers and openings for interviews have been so few in this trying economy (especially given my international status), I have no real options. So I agree to field the call immediately. By now, any hope of catching Adaptation is lost.

I take a few deep breaths and compose myself before I call Y (X has given me the contact number). Y is fielding other calls and returns my call in a couple of minutes. He is convinced, at the end of a brief exploratory Q&A that I am not bluffing (he tells me that he has encountered several candidates who claimed to know stuff but weren't up to snuff and were only faking it. This is an important detail that I will address at the end of this involved narrative). I call X back as he requested and he informs me that the next step would be that I would talk to his supervisor G. Shortly he calls me back (instead of G, whose call I was expecting) and tells me that Y confirmed my feelings about the screening -- that I was OK. X now tells me that I have to call Z (not G, mind you), who is an employee with this Atlanta firm and Z will "interview" me for the opening. X instructs me to mention to Z that I was referred to him by X working for C -- thus setting up the chain of consultancy (in plainspeak: if the Atlanta firm decides to hire me, they will have to interact with C acting as my employer for all the logistics of payment and work detail). I am a bit surprised at this new development but I don't give it much thought.

I call Z up (again after a few breaths and a moment of composure -- to tell you the truth, I am feeling good about this experience: and this is beneficial for what must follow). Z asks me to send him my resume, which he will then refer to his boss and then they will get back to me about an interview, possibly in person, since I am a local candidate (Rather a busy afternoon, if I may say so). I call X back to update him on this development. The reason I do this is twofold (a) Since X is "responsible" for me, I have to keep him updated on all counts till the deal is through (b) X had some comments about my résumé and I got the impression that he wanted to tailor it a bit so that the match for the requirements would stand out. X asks me to email him my résumé.

At this point I must break to (sheepishly) confess that I don't have a computer at home. This may seem strange, but as a student I lived so close to campus that not having one helped me live a non-tech-dominated life if I chose to (also, if I had possessed a computer, it would have been gone by now). Since this was a weekend, I was at home, to begin with. Which meant I'd have to head out to my usual access points (my former place of work/my lab). X is not too taken aback, but since Z has also hinted that there could be an in-person interview, I get into some business casuals and head out to my lab. Despite the urgency of the situation, I am calm (which helps) and unhurried. So there's no undue haste.

Once I'm in the lab, I call X back and he has already sent me the reformatted résumé. This is where things get interesting. Did I say "reformatted"? Make that "fabricated". This résumeé makes me look like what X describes as a "professional consultant". This puts me in a quandary. Apparently, X doesn't see any moral issues in this. He expects me to go over this "new" profile of my work experience and see if I can handle/defend all the technologies. I must admit, right away, that defending exposure to technologies is never a problem to me. Most people (as do I) pack their résumé with technologies that they have worked with, regardless of how much they have used it. Extent of knowledge can always be explored in interviews. Having a diversity on your résumé is always good and tells your prospective employer that you are worth taking a look at.

Back to the main story. So I go over this new profile of my life as I never knew it and my conscience has already started kicking in double-time. I can't do this. There's no way in the world I can corroborate and support such vicious lies. Sure, the economy is tough. Sure, the job market sucks. Sure, I have limited work experience. Sure, I stand to lose out on a potential stable job if I don't go through with this. But at what price? Yes, we have all seen countless movies extolling virtues and nobility (the Indian cliché is Raja Harishchandra). And stuff like that usually happens in the movies. Well, maybe I learnt from the movies. Maybe I believed in that stuff. Maybe I deserve to sit with a dunce cap saying "this guy was actually honest" or "this guy actually had some integrity". I call up a couple of friends who are employed to find out what they thought about this. It's probably useful to mention that the consulting firm C had no website of its own. This may not be such a bad thing, but does strike me as odd. It's like the secret government agencies in The X Files: they don't exist. One friend affirms my position and augments my level of caution. The other friend, surprisingly, tells me that (a) this is common (b) a lot of people out there are working with similar concocted résumés and, since a job was a priority for me, I should consider going ahead with it, because, there's no harm that will come out of it (something that even X has tried to tell me). Now I may be thinking too idealistically, but I can imagine at least a dozen unsavoury situations where I might be taken to task for this fake past at some point in the future. And it's not just the possibility of being persecuted. This new work profile also belittles the honest work that I have actually done in the past. All in all, not a pretty package. Another friend isn't available to take my call -- and probably just as well -- this way I won't really know what he thinks (and can assume that he would have sided with me).

I call X back and politely indicate that this is "morally unacceptable". In fact, I remember actually using these words at which point I could hear him groan and sigh about what he had gotten himself into. Technically, I had been a waste for him as a potential source of income and a useful sheep to herd about in the future. I still find it surprising that he never really expected me to have a righteous reaction to the whole thing (all through our conversation, he offered to trim things down in terms of detail but wanted to stick to the years of experience, assuring me that this would help avoid any detailed questions). To top it all, I am confident (based on the job description I received) that I could do the job, and do it well. I had no need to resort to subterfuge and present myself as over-qualified. So what if I seemed "entry level"? So what if I didn't seem to have too much experience in the industry hotbed of buzzword-based technology? Didn't honest diligent work matter any more. Suffice to say that, with me sticking to my ground, the only option he had was to go along. I must thank him though since the résumé we finally agreed upon was everything on my true profile, enhanced with detail to match the opening. It is now past 7pm. I should hear from Z (if they find me suitable) before 9pm.

It's 8:50pm now. I have a headache. I don't expect a call. I don't feel bad about what I just did. Just one thought runs through my head right now: Y told me he was screening people to rake out the ones who were bluffing. Yet, they were about to manufacture a fake me, who was supposed to succeed in this screening. A cyclic problem, don't you think? Of course, I never got to see Adaptation. I wish Sliding Doors were a reality for me right now, at least so I could explore the possible alternative evening I would have had, if the phone call hadn't come through while I was still at home... And I wonder if it's prudent to mention that X, Y and Z were Indians? A lot of my Indian friends would probably have made a guess to this effect. And since I am Indian myself, a couple of unconscious connections were made. As for non-Indian readers, I agree that this puts the community in a poor light, but we can rest assured that such occurrences are few and far between. Then of course, we must not forget the debacle that was Andersen Consulting. So the issues of integrity in a consulting firm are clearly not territorial.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

classic double bill

The Rialto Centre for the Performing Arts in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies decided to celebrate women Oscar legends with a series of movies across Saturday and Sunday. While I was tempted to try more, I decided to go on with the first double bill: Suspicion and It Happened One Night.

The former is worth the big screen if only for the brief sequence where Cary Grant takes a glass of milk up to Joan Fontaine (shooting trivia: there's a light bulb in the glass, which explains why it sticks out of the screen and in your head). There are touches of Hitchcock's trademarks throughout the movie, but this has been recorded as one of his 'uncertain' movies: lack of decision on the title, the plot (altered significantly from the source novel) and a decisive ending. While Strangers on a Train suffered from a similar indecisiveness of endings, it managed to pull through thanks to an assurance that guided the rest of the production.

The latter is just a pleasure on the big screen (my reaction was ably supported by the applause at the end). This film is ample proof for the assertion that Mahesh Bhatt is aware of input/output programming fundamentals. One of the important things you learn when you copy one file to another is that it's faster and more efficient to do it in chunks. Mr Bhatt did exactly that with this film and his musical blockbuster Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin. The sophistication and the well-scripted allusions to the walls of Jericho did not make it. The fact that the heroine is already married to begin with would also not have worked in the Bollywood framework of life. And then 105 minutes is too short by Bollywood standards, so let's put in some songs. And then we need to construct situations for these songs. Add some loud comedy to the mix. And voila! Another assembly-line Bhatt classic.

more books

The bad news was that a branch of Kudzu Books [a book chain in Atlanta] in North Decatur has decided to close. The good news is that they have a closing sale (and it's similar to the last time I visited them. I've also updated that post in the meantime). So I decided to go in and get some more books cheap. Apart from the fact that they had shipped all the computer books to another branch, I wasn't disappointed.

* Me and Hitch: Evan Hunter's slim memoir about his experiences working with Alfred Hitchcock on The Birds. I had read an extract when Sight and Sound reviewed this book in their June 1997 issue (must add a little plug of nostalgia for the veritable British Library branch on Fergusson College Road in Pune).

* Projections 7: Film-Makers on Film-Making. There's a whole series here, but this one had several magic words associated with it: Cahiers du Cinema, Martin Scorsese, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Psycho

* Making Meaning in Indian Cinema. It was so cool to find a compendium of Indian film criticism (by Indian writers) in an American book store -- and cheap too. Titles like "Kaadalan and the politics of resignification fashion, violence and the body" promise interesting reading

* Paul Verhoeven. An English translation of a biography of the interesting and controversial filmmaker

Friday, March 07, 2003

no more DLL hell

Developers and users alike who primarly work on Microsoft Windows X platforms have been through hell and back for years with applications crashing/refusing to work/demanding isolation thanks to DLL version conflicts. Windows Server 2003 (whenever it hits the market) hopes to bring an end to this with a technology going by the incomprehensible marketing tag of Global Assembly Cache. In simple lay terms this new fancy hi-tech appendage simply indexes all DLLs with a unique key for each one composed of a set of attributes. This uniqueness allows two versions of the same DLL to co-exist. Of course, we now only have to deal with legacy applications and software that hasn't yet been written to take advantage of this feature that hasn't been released yet.
imdb for books

The Internet Book List takes off with the idea of IMDB, but this time it's books. Slashdotted shortly after a post on slashdot. The question is: what space does it fill? Of course, I can't think of any single site if I need to find out about a book, the way I think of IMDB when I think of a movie.
stream of consciousness: words without punctuation and meaning

enright java adaptation xml rosenbaum desani suspicion gillespie hendrix wcnj coke pepsi twist research interfaces instant messaging scp python xmlrpc jaani dushman

Thursday, March 06, 2003

happy birthday michaelangelo ... world book day

Google has a great logo {reproduced here just because it's really cool) commemorating Michaelangelo's birthday.

Google's Michaelangelo Tribute

From Ireland, J R tells me it's World Book Day. More so, it's the first-ever World Book Day online festival.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

apple patents trash

Apple has been one of several companies patenting things like there was no tomorrow. Their latest achievement[sic] has been a patent for the trash icon.


Reading the Apple Patent Tea Leaves

patented circumlocution

hendrix/are you experienced: fragments matching moods of the day

Purple Haze was in my brain,

lately things don't seem the same

...I know what I want,

but I just don't know how to go about getting it (Manic Depression)

No sun coming through my windows

feel like I'm sitting at the bottom of a grave (I Don't Live Today)

Well, I think I'll go turn myself off an' go on down (Purple Haze)

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

lata screams

well really!, this time. The aging nightingale of India retaliated with a "Why are people hellbent on dissecting what I'm doing? Why can't I be left alone? -- when Rajya Sabha MP Shabana Azmi objected to Lata's regular absence from the Upper House. And the article concludes by quoting her: "I'm a singer and I understand only music. What do I have to do in the Rajya Sabha? Honestly, I go there and just sit... I was never interested in this prestigious offer in the first place. But I took it up on the request of somebody who I have high regard for. And it's for his sake that I've been silent." Well Ma'am, the Upper House of Parliament, despite the poor opinion a lot of people have about it, ain't a park you know. If you never thought you could devote the least modicum of support to the responsibilities demanded by the position you are in, you should have stuck with singing (asserted yourself, as it were). We can't have the proverbial cake and proverbially eat it too, can we?

Monday, March 03, 2003

online shopping on indian portals: a variation on finnegans wake

The experience I just had scrolling through the catalogue of VCDs on Rediff was not unlike the circularity of Joyce's incomprehensible literary masterpiece (Something has to be said about a novel that ends "and then a walk along the" leading you back to the opening: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's". If you thought the Jabberwocky was a task, you would probably classify this under unsurmountable. Rediff's VCD catalogue does not allow you to specify the number of results you want on each page. And several mouseclicks later, a strange sense of déjà vu hit me. Every list hence started featuring items I had seen before, except in a very random fashion. This is probably Rediff's undocumented implementation of a pseudo-random number generator transplanted to the domain of internet applications. The least they could do (if they had a sense of humour instead of the tardy laziness that results in a helpful error message like "Pls enter a valid query") is add a footnote of acknowledgement to the man who created Stephen Daedalus who "proves by algebra that Hamlet's grandson is Shakespeare's grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father".

Sunday, March 02, 2003

there's something about schmidt

Kathy Bates and Dermot Mulroney hold up a Jack Nicholson vehicle (directed by Alexander Payne, who also made Election, which I haven't seen yet, and despite the praise afforded to it, a backward interpolation of my reaction to About Schmidt will not help matters much). This has old mean Jack playing his age, but still being himself, although with restraint. There's nothing spectacular about this physical comedy for the middle-aged. The downplayed ending was a blessing, preventing the film from being a complete waste. Jack's got another Oscar nomination for this role. Perhaps the most telling note was the poster for a forthcoming film with ol' Jack costarring with Adam Sandler. The movie's called Anger Management. I won't even bother wasting my time thinking about the avenues this film is going to explore.
scary in the usa

you arrived in the USA for a graduate degree. as you crammed and studied and cursed core dumps, you also took in the industrial homogeneous landscape of America -- a product of interstate highways, exits, chain stores, gas stations, vegetative desolation, no chirping birds, faux greenery. and just when you got used to seeing the stores, the downslide in the economy suddenly manifested itself -- chains you visited regularly started closing down (Wherehouse Music, Mars Music, Denny's). chain stores merged (Macy's, Rich's). and then there's KMart, which promised to die but is doing it very very slowly (like Shah Rukh the Ham in Devdas). you've lost your moorings. mom and pop stores don't register as much as a Waffle House at every corner. The corporate uniformity that defines this country's cityscape is being threatened. And there's nothing you can do about it. Enjoy your waffle.
new entry in the "are these guys really serious" category

sunny deol. a big budget. the overseas market. the first two factors mean disaster. the third can actually mean a good ROI. what i'm yammering about is the hero: the love story of a spy starring Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta and Amrish Puri.

the allure of big flicks continues to hold {March 04, 2003}
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