Tuesday, November 29, 2005

konquer-your-desktop dept.

KDE 3.5 is finally out. I've been using Beta 2 for some time now, and I can heartily recommend it. In addition to being serious eye-candy, this is probably the first significantly usable, yet powerful windowing system for Linux.

KDE has always been extremely configurable, and this version does not disappoint. Significant chznges include applets that you can drop onto the taskbar, transparency support that would really rock if X would let it, the Kopete IM client that finallly manages to kick the aweful GAIM in the arse, and a bunch of cool navigation tools in Konqueror, which i prefer over firefox.

I really hope more people use KDE, and bury that text-console simulator for VGA, more popularly known as GNOME.

Friday, November 25, 2005

there-is-no-sachin? dept.

An essay on NPR by someone called Penn Jillette, who justifies his belief that there is no God.

An argument that is very coherently and eloquently put forth.

Monday, November 21, 2005

when-harry-met-voldemort dept.

I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire over the weekend.

I liked many things about this movie.

But most of all, I liked the imaginative, and highly original plot twist at the end.


The evil villain Voldemort (a noseless Ralph Fiennes), not having much of a corporeal existence until now, proves he is a character of some substance after all.

This is followed by a climactic wand-duel between Potter and his nemesis in a graveyard, where Harry loses his balance at a cliff edge, and hangs on precariously, gripping onto a tenuous fistful of English lawn.

Voldemort, gloating over his fallen prey, grins and says:

"Dumbledore never told you who your real parents were, Harry".

Harry winces.

"He told me you betrayed and killed my parents."

"No. I am your father, Lu ... errr ... Harry."


"Search your feelings, Harry, you know this to be true. Join me, and together, we shall rule the galaxy."

"The galaxy eh? You sure about that?"

"... errr ... I mean ... errr ... well, at least a rather substantial part of Islington."

Monday, October 31, 2005

all-hail-st.sachin dept.

This article, written almost two years ago, but reposted by Cricinfo, speaks about Sachin in almost hushed, ecclesiastical tones. Apparently, according to the author, who slobbers, fawns and drools over Tendulkar as if he were a greater God among lesser ones, Tendulkar is the one true force of certainty in a despairing sea of chaos. The batsman's batsman, the cricketer's cricketer, the professional's professional...

I couldn't agree more.

Friday, October 28, 2005

get-me-to-the-church-on-time dept.

I saw an interesting discussion on live-in relationships on ETV Marathi a couple of days ago. The dicussion was hosted by journalist Nikhil Wagle, and the panel included three very eloquent women whose names, I'm afraid, I do not know/remember.

Since I'm essentially an armchair-anarchist, I pretty much don't care about these stupid issues, unless they affect me in some way.

However, since I'm getting married soon, the question that really interested me was this : What is the marriage process exactly? I mean how would you define a 'marriage'? For that matter, how would you exactly define a 'live-in relationship'? Where does a relationship stop being a marriage and become a live-in relationship?

OK, the traditionalists in the audience must be puzzled. How are live-in relationships the same thing as marriage? And so must the modernists, who want to throw the whole "vivaha-sanstha" out the window.

To me, the difference is a little fuzzy between the two. Why?

I ran a mental checklist of the characteristics of the two, and it all distilled down to this, if we abstract out the details of ritual, cast creed, religion, location, age and other unimportant things (such as sex and feelings ;-)).

Marriage is essentially a three-way contract. Two parties -- the bride and groom, enter into the contract, with a third party as witness, arbiter, judge and sentencer in case of contractual violations (most often, in India, the thord party is most likely to also be the mastermind behind the whole deal in the first place).

With live-in relationships. the first two parties dispense with the third party -- the enforcing authority. So its purely a two-way contract between man and woman.

With this bare-bones definition, the pros and cons of each are easily open to analysis.

In the case of marriage, if the third party enforcer is too strong, bad marriages can stifle the partners. For live-in relationships, since both partners forfeit the protection offered by society/law, the weaker of the two partners is vulnerable to being exploited by the stronger.

But I suspect that most of these people who appear on talk shows and defend or advocate live-in relationships are actually living in a marriage, although they don't know it :-). In their case, social approval is often tacit, and their peer community (people they hung out with in college, their school friends, family) will take on the 'enforcer' role without anybody being the wiser :-).

This gives rise to Anshuman's law of procedural equivalence :-). In short, this law states that all things being equal, a relationship shall be deemed as a wedding as long as it can be proven that a three-way contract exists and is subscribed to by the concerned parties, either explicitly, or tacitly.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ontological dept.

Contrary to popular opinion in the modern world, God does exist, and revealed himself and his true glory on the 25th of October, 2005 A.D. at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Cricket Stadium, Nagpur.

His coming was broadcast on national television, so there!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

digging-in-the-nose dept.

For all those like me, suffering from allergies, sneezing fits, and blocked nasal passages, there is a possible ray of hope.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

shameless-plug-and-google-bomb dept.

I'm trying to write a programmer's guide to object oriented perl. Object Oriented Perl looks very similar to
C++, but only superficially. The underlying mechanisms are very different -- in fact they very much resemble an afterthought. I am still grappling with it, but I plan to write out a learn-as-you-go report that people may find useful.

You can read W0lf's Guide to Object Oriented Perl for C/C++ Programmers, here.
boot-me-up dept.

All those years I wasted waiting for my machine to boot up...

Monday, October 10, 2005

the-blogs-of-war dept.

Blogs are a wonderful thing. The fact that every human being with Internet access and time on their hands can broadcast their thoughts is a trully disruptive and enchanting idea.

Now if only we did not have people who sound better only when they shut up.

But it ain't a perfect world.

There are some blogs I read that are so unashamedly mediocre, that they cross the threshold into sublime humor.

I hope, dear reader, that this blog does not serve the same purpose for you.

If it does, well, I intended it to be so all along :-).

But seriously, there is a blog out there called Vantage Point which I read often. I mean its in my Safari RSS Feed list. What happened to this guy is truly frightening.

Any medium is great at first when there is a barrier to entry to access and use it. It just gets harder to mine all the good stuff as it is created and published in real-time. With today's cutting edge technology -- essentially Pagerank, content can only be found when it has already enjoyed a certain degree of social acceptance, or unless it is so distinguishable from the crazy mass of words that is the Internet that it lights up like a Christmas Tree.

With this technological barrier still in place, the blog as a source of innovative writing is finished.

Unless the content location technology is upgraded soon, there is every likelihood of the loud, stupid voices in the world drowning out the sane, rational ones.

So for its next avatar, I would like the blog to be complemented with an intelligent search engine. Something which checks for tell-tale signs of insight -- dunno what those could be...good grammar? Allusions and references? Originality (Even Shakespeare wasn't original)?

Or should we just teach a Bayesian filter the works of all the great authors in all languages, and then use that to rank content?


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

a-real-book-review dept.

I am currently reading the book The Best Software Writing I (ed. Joel Spolsky). The editor is of course, a high profile blogger and code-philosopher. The book is organized around the same topics that the editor deals with in his blogs i.e. software processes, defining product quality, some hiring heuristics, lifestyle issues for coders and a bit of business sense thrown in for good measure. And of course the outsourcees. Grrrr...The outsourcees...Those evil-smelling, foul-talking, gibberish-spelling spineless serfs from the nameless land. I was thinking of Chaplin's "Der Juden" rant as Adenoid Hynkel in The Great Dictator. If you haven't seen it, its the greatest impression ever. Actually, those are the kind of subjective statements you are likely to find in this book.

But its eminently readable, and some of it even makes sense.

However be warned: it is written from the coders' perspective. Which means that the world-view this book reflects belongs to people who spend 90% of their working time (which may be 90% of their actual waking time :-)) hunched over their monitors furiously assaulting their keyboards - and the remaining 10% being assaulted by the QA and marketing teams in meetings about bug fixes and product specifications. So expect a whiny-ass tone and lines like "A good manager should...blah, blah, blah...".

There are no conclusive answers to some of the social questions raised, only vague solutions like "hire developers, not programmers". Hmmm...and why and how do people make the transition between these two extremes? There are vague indicators, but again, most of the solutions proffered by the book take the form: "you either do or you don't". Not a very scientific approach, if you ask me.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

a-new-kind-of-ring-tone dept.
Hmmm...a man invents a whole new paradigm of science.

All to what end?

Downloadable ring tones.

Friday, September 09, 2005

do-the-evolution dept.

My grandfather, who also claimed to be a writer of some sort, always talked about a book called Janus: A Summing Up, by polyglot, philosopher and novelist Arthur Koestler. It was a theory that he expounded on every alternate day at the dining table, until all of us had it memorized -- well almost. It is a miracle how much information the human mind can retain even without the ability to comprehend it :-).

Janus is a two-headed Roman God, and from what I remember of the book, it had some dire predictions for humanity. It sure began on a sombre note -- with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- about how after that day, humanity exited the age where human beings had to face destruction as individuals, and entered one where humanity itself faced destruction as a species.

The scare-mongering just got worse from there. The two-headed allusion was of course, directed at a duality of the human mind -- the 'philosopher' and the 'hunter'. Presumably, the philosopher makes and lives by rules and aesthetics. The hunter, on the other hand, relies on instinct, and is a much more unpleasant sort of animal.

The ultimate question then, was -- which of these two dualities is the dominant one. And if one factors in evolution, are we moving from being dominant hunters to dominant philosophers? And if so, is that a good thing?

And then , where does humanity itself fit into this interplay between the two? Are we heading towards becoming a more refined, intellectual, gentle race of supermen. Or are we just kidding ourselves, and sowing the seeds of our own destruction?

My grandfather, of course, could play around with this if he wanted to. For those familiar with his work, the play 'सूर्याची पिल्ले' contains an inside joke on the doomsday prophecies of Koestler.

I personally find either extreme distasteful of course-- more so the dominant philosopher types -- ever been with some one that made logical arguments founded purely on deduction i.e. other people's theories, without any substantial experience with the human condition in its myriad forms? You know them -- they live by certain books, and idols, and substitute practical experience for a lot of 'ism's they can throw about in casual conversation :-)?

God! I mean even Sherlock Holmes relied on induction now and then. (See : his experiments with opium)

Of course, for a naive adolescent, ideas like these can really get you to wilt in despair.

Which is why, its a relief to know that the human mind is on the move after all!.
release-me dept.

There has been a long silence on these pages, and for good reason too.

For the past three weeks I was sucked into a team that was ceaselessly working towards releasing a product.

I have done bits and pieces of products before, but this was the first time that I got a ringside seat (actually, you could say that I was in the ring most of the time -- and without the benefit of a second) to the entire process of making a product shippable.

Now that the beta release is happenning, I can take a breather, look back and analyse the past few weeks that blazed through my life like Hurricane Katrina.

First of all, I consider myself to be a reasonably dyed-in-the-wool geek. Getting through this milestone was very important to me personally, and my ego dragged me through days and nights of nervous fidgeting, frantic coding, trivial but frustrating political games, and finally, the joy of seeing a multi-organism jerk suddenly into life, and establish a steady, but reassuring pattern of its own existence.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I signed up for many years ago in my undergraduate years.

This makes the circle complete -- or rather, makes it turn in on itself, starting that inevitable self-feeding spiral that any creative person aspires to ride, for as long as the surf is up, and the heart clamors for more.

Monday, August 29, 2005

blast-from-the-past dept.

Another bit in my continued re-romancing of the Java programming language. This makes me feel like a starry-eyed nineteen-year-old again.
ajax-watch dept.

As part of my weekly watch on the world of AJAX, came across this article that is a much more technical, non-evangelist, and lucid exposition of the innards of AJAX applications.

ashes-2-ashes dept.

Hands down, the best test series ever.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

redundant-information dept.

Didn't need an academic to tell me this.

Monday, August 22, 2005

धनुष्य-बाण dept.

बाप गेला घाम गाळूनी
जगाचं पडलं बाभळ-रान
हरेक गुंगला आपुल्या नादी
मग त्याचे का ना विरेल भान?

भणंग शिकारी सुगंध शोधे
रान पालथे करूनी, आज
तरी ते सावज मात देतसे
सवंगतेच्या अंधारात.

गळेल घाम अन् निशा अंथरेल
संथ मंतरेल दृष्टीपथात
तरी तो कालचा डाव न रोकेल
उचलेलच कोणी धनुष्य-बाण.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

alone-in-office-on-a-bleedin'-saturday dept.

It is deathly silent here
Silent as a lonely grave
Quiet as the still, watchful waters
That stealthily but surely tread

Black, grey, stoic, surrounding walls?
Guards beneath a deceptive veil
The cold, unceasing metallic hum --
No warm footfall -- whispers "all is well"

It is deathly silent here
No voice to break the music dead
No living laughing working now:
A cold, penetrating, eternal haze
jargon dept.

AJAX or Asynchronous Javascript And XML.

The application coding technique that products like Gmail use, where the application is written in browser-independent Javascript, and communicates with a server back-end using XML/SOAP based transports.

The essay by Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path that coined the term. Seems fairly recent, only beginning of this year.

Friday, August 12, 2005

तो-मी-नव्हेच dept.

मराठीत आणि इंग्रजीत लिहीण्यात अर्थातच, फरक असतो. हा फरक वरवरचा जरी वाटत असला तरी तो कुठे तरी खोलवर, मनाच्या अंतरिक प्रक्रीयेत दडलेला असतो. पण या दोन भाषांचे संतुलन बर्याच लोकांत एका बाजूस कलंडल्यासारखे वाटते. अर्थात यात कुणाचा दोष किंव्हा बरे-वाईट असे काहीच नाही. एखाद्या भाषेत आपले प्रभुत्व वा भाषेची आपल्यावर पकड असणे हे बर्याच प्रमाणात आपल्या सामाजिक व आर्थिक परिस्थितीवर अवलंबून असते. शेकडा नव्व्याण्णव लोकं त्यांच्या वाटेस आलेल्या परिस्थितीला बळी पडून स्वतःच्या नजरेस पडलेल्या दृष्टीक्षेपालाच सत्य समजतात. अशांतून भाषेवरून भेदभाव वगैरे प्रकार निर्माण होतात.

पण २-३ भाषा येण्यासारखे सुख जगात नसावे. प्रत्येक भाषेत विचार करण्याची प्रक्रिया निराळी. हर शब्दांत निरनिराळे संदर्भ दडलेले. प्रत्येक भाषा ही एका विशिष्ट संस्कृती, राहणीमान व विचारधारेची छोटेखानी मूर्तीच नव्हे का?

मी आता मराठीत लिहीत आहे, तर इंग्रजीत लिहीणारा 'मी' कुणी भिन्न प्राणीच असावा असे वाटते. तरी 'त्या'ची ही जागा मी थोड्यावेळापुर्ती का होईना, हडप केली आहे.

च्यायला...एवढं लिहूनच बोटं दुखायला लागली राव. लई झालं...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

hit-search-to-download dept.

If you have the energy and the bandwidth, you can try this.

Monday, August 08, 2005

OLS dept.

Jonathan Corbet of lwn.net has put up an interesting presentation describing the roadmap for the 2.6 linux kernel.

Interesting reading is the change in the current development/release engineering process being followed by the core developer team.
mergers-and-acquisitions dept.

Cisco planning to buy out Nokia?

Friday, August 05, 2005

page-rank-really-works dept.

Failure, according to Google.

Thanks to Pushyamitra, for this astute observation.
perversions dept.

Well, I'm not ever, ever going to have a Subway sandwich again!!!. Brrr....pthuuuiiii....gargle, gargle, gargle...pthuuuiiii...

And here's something from the same evil brain -- The Complete Jailhouse Diaries i.e. a survival guide for first-timers in the slammer.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

i'd-rather-be-a-watcher-than-a-watchee dept.

This conclusively proves that there is money to be made from September 11th in more ways than one.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

software-pricing dept.

An article with a great bit of lateral thinking. Essentially, it deals with the problem of decomposing product prices (software product prices, specifically) to find acceptable prices for 'service options' bundled with the product.

Again, the iMac + Applecare spin is what made it interesting for me...(I'm not buying Applecare)...and the really interesting mapping techniques the author uses to model behaviour for patterns that haven't been studied well (like comparing tech world product price fluctuations to stock market indices).

I hope I understand this article :-).

Friday, July 22, 2005

पिरतीची कीरत dept.

पिरतीची कीरत समद्याहुनी लई न्यारी ।।

ही पिरत जडली रामाला, शीतेसाटी यडा परभू जाला ।
मग पुसं झाडापाखराला, कुनी दावा पिरत माझी प्यारी ।।

हीनं जनीला यडं क्येलं, हीनं नाम्याला घायळ क्येलं ।
हीनं तुक्याचं मन भारलं, सार्या सृष्टीत रमले नर-नारी ।।

अशी झळंबी कितीका बिजली, कितीकांची जीवजोत इजली ।
पर जीचावर मती हिची रिझली, त्यानं साधिल्या मुक्ती चारी ।।

पिरतीची कीरत समद्याहुनी लई न्यारी ।।

- कवी गिरीश.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

apple-on-a-roll dept.

A good game to play in the Bay Area these days is "count the iPods". Wherever there are pedestrians, count on atleast a few with those distinctive white wires sticking out of their shirts. The 'halo effect' of the iPod is now starting to reflect on Macintosh sales too, if this report is to be believed.

Apple is now the no.4 seller of personal computers in the US this quarter. (The ones ahead: Dell, HP and Gateway)

Their market share is now 4.5 percent, with a 33 percent rise in Mac shipments.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

damn-lies dept.
Take the MIT Weblog Survey
newkiller-power dept.

Is this goodbye to three-hour blackouts?
i-want-my-iptv dept.

Damn. I need a bigger remote.
yankee-dawdles dept.

Those sluggish Yankees. India and China plan to steal a march on them again. Its bad to be in a position of being the only technology innovator in the world, with no way to deploy your own inventions for legacy reasons.

I wonder if this lesson applies to individual human life as well, hmmm?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

somebody-gonna-get-a-hurt-realll-baad dept.

The Stand-Up comedy of Russell Peters.

retro dept.

RSS seems to be the new hot thing -- the shopping cart of the 2000s. Strange that multi-dimensional information structures like the web should be built, only to be abstracted out into single-dimensional linear feeds like RSS.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

while-we're still-on-iraq dept.

The existential poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.

Ha ha. I have to post this, because its even more hilarious that 'Rumy''s verses. A post-modernist deconstruction of this book. Posted originally by this guy as a review on amazon.com.

A Unique New Voice in American Poetry, September 3, 2003

Reviewer: C. Colt "It Just Doesn't Matter" (San Francisco, CA United States)

"Pieces of Intelligence" is the landmark publication of verses written by the previously unpublished existentialist poet, D.H. Rumsfeld. While Rumsfeld is widely recognized and often quoted, his poetry has received surprisingly scant attention until now.

Rumsfeld first emerged on the scene during the turbulent Watergate years, however his poetry remained overshadowed by more flamboyant voices of the time such as those of J. Dean, G.G. Liddy, and D. Throat. Beginning in the late 70s, Rumsfeld entered the so called "wilderness phase" of his creative ruminations and was scarcely heard from. Turning up in a number of odd corporate and government locations, and once even in Baghdad as a guest of Saddam Hussein, much of Rumsfeld's poetry during this time remains classified.

Rumsfeld's period of artistic obscurity came to an abrupt end with the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. As a traumatized nation struggled to understand what had taken place, Rumsfeld addressed both its disorientation and its deep nostalgia for better times in his now landmark poem, "Glass Box" (December 6th, 2001).

You know, it's the old glass box at the-
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.

And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,

Some of you are probably too young to remember those-
Those glass boxes,

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

The beauty of this poem is that it remains both complex and accessible in a manner that appeals to practically every type of reader. The poem contains a clear sense of regression, with each stanza becoming progressively smaller until the final stanza "stabilizes" at the same number of lines as the preceding one. Similarly, while the first three stanzas end in incompletion with expressions such as "It's-", "But-", and "But-" the final one firmly anchors the poem with a nostalgic reference to childhood in a bygone era. At a time when the collective psyche of the nation's populace had become traumatized in an unprecedented fashion, "Glass Box" showed them that the answer to all of their problems lay in the past. The poet had found his voice.

While "Glass Box" may be Rumsfeld's signature poem, it is really his deconstruction of knowledge in the poem "Unknown" (February 12th, 2002) that demonstrates his skill and subtlety as an existential poet.

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

Because the musicality of this poem tends to fool many readers, they often miss out on its uncompromising logic. One useful trick to avoid the dreamy cadence produced by the "oh" sound in all the "knowns" is to separate them from the rest of the poem an a substantive manner:

Know known knowns
know know

Know known unknowns
not know

Unknown unknowns
don't know don't know.

Even by extracting and parsing the most emblematic term of this verse, we must labor to keep up with poet's logic. The beauty of this poem, as with many of Rumsfeld's more subtle ones is that, indeed, by the time he is done we wonder what it is we actually know.

While I have quoted two of Rumsfeld's more academic poems in this review, readers will be pleased to learn that he is a poet of tremendous variety, which makes his work infinitely readable. Among other genres, "Pieces of Intelligence" also features Rumsfeld's haiku, hiphop and free verse.

Whether you're a sophisticated student of poetry or just a person who enjoys some really cool verse, I highly recommend purchasing the first publication of D. H. Rumsfeld's poetry. I hope that in future we see more of Rumsfeld's verse including his lost earlier poems from the 70s and 80s.
stuff-happens dept.

The play's the thing. Interesting play by David Hare.

electronic-life dept.

As I write this, I am sitting with my laptop next to a vacuum cleaner power socket at Gate 12, Terminal 3 of JFK International Airport in New York. My iPod Mini is plugged and charging itself for the implending, mind-numbing twelve-hour flight to Paris. Internet Connectivity is through TMobile's pay-as-you-go WiFi service at JFK (I had subscribed at SFO Airport, and my account works seamlessly at JFK). Am I a geek or what...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

map-quest dept.

Thanks again to Jeet for this diversion...

How much of India have I covered?

A long way to go yet...This definitely makes me parochial.

States visited in India

Brought to you by pratibha75, quizling and teemus.

Friday, July 01, 2005

h2g2 dept.

A bit of H2G2 trivia -- an answer to a question that has puzzled me greatly ... No! Not that answer, and not that question either ... it is this -- what is so funny about the name 'Ford Prefect'?

In the first book, Douglas Adams mentions that Ford chooses this name because he feels its nicely inconspicuous. Now after having read this far, knowing Adams' style, one begins to think there must have been some lingering irony behind that origin of his name.

A clue was revealed to me when I stumbled upon a wikipedia entry for H2G2 -- more specifically, the French translation, in which the names of the characters have been changed around. So, Ford Prefect becomes Ford Escort.

Apparently, Ford Prefect was the name of a Ford Car specifically marketed in the UK as a low-cost car in the 50s/60s that became quite popular. And Adams mentioned in an interview that the reason 'Ford' chose his name was because he simply miscalculated the dominant life-form.

Get it?
mystic-redemption dept.

In Mystic River, Tim Robbins plays a man abducted by child molestors as a kid, who spends his adult life finding and beating up child molestors. In that movie, he is seemingly dispatched into Boston's Mystic River by a vengeance-seeking Sean Penn.

In Steven Spielberg's War Of The Worlds, however, we learn that he somehow made it out of the river, moved to the countryside, and found out that his abductors were actually Aliens from outer-space, planning a mass extermination of humanity. Now he waits, talking to his shotgun in a rickety old basement of a rickety old house, biding his time. Until of course, his old tormentors arrive to finish the job.

Then he runs into a guy who calls himself "Ray Ferry", who is actually Mitch McDeere, hiding under an alias -- he brought down The Firm, remember? Mitch is trying hard to pretend he is not a Yuppy, working at the docks, trying hard to look like a slacker, stretching out his perfect abs to simulate a beer belly that isn't there. He's gone underground, taken his older brother's first name (and also his persona, I might add ... but naah, Ray McDeere was way too cooler), and managed to lose his wife to a guy who's not afraid to show his yuppiness (also I don't think Abby really forgave him for that beachside romp in the Bahamas, and of course, for the fact that he got to cheat with a Penelope-Cruz lookalike hottie and she got to cheat with Gene Hackman. Although women are turned on by wealth and power, well, he's still Gene Hackman.)

Abby -- she's actually Eowyn in disguise, conferred immortality after an accident in the grasslands of the Riddermark with a Noldorin Elf and some spare Longbottom Leaf from Pippin's secret stash -- has now moved to Boston.

Meanwhile, all these strange goings on, with people hiding themselves under aliases, talking to their shotguns, Aliens digging themselves into the earth, only to come out of it, first zapping human beings with a death ray, then thinking it would be a good thing to drink their blood and spray the tri-state area with their intestines instead, all of these strange things have been foreshadowed by Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding. He was just fed up of fixing boats in Zihuatanejo is my guess. Besides, when one does too much voice-over work, one does get 'institutionalized'.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

ash-nazg-durbatulúk dept.

Almost four years ago, on a whim after reading too many /usr/games/fortune's, I bought a volume of The Lord of The Rings. It was a time in my life where I had developed a sort of mental block and had problems reading books (among other things, like spotting holes in the ground two steps ahead of me). I had spent almost a year before that without reading a single new book (this of course, includes my textbooks in engineering college), and had serious concentration problems. I would try to focus on things, but my mind would wander and I would begin to mentally digress.

Well this book eventually brought me great enjoyment and reassurance, and I feel I should acknowledge that. It was a welcome friend to me in a time of confusion and desperation. I had mixed feelings when reading the trilogy -- mostly because I was trying to force myself to read arduous, complex writing like Dostoeyevsky's Crime And Punishment and books of the same ilk. Rings seemed to be sinfully enjoyable compared to those other ones (the measure of a great book is -- it goes well with snack food of any kind), and for some time after I'd finished it, I was sort of lost because there wasn't anything else to read. So I hobbled out to the bookstore and back again, and bought The Hobbit instead.

More recently, over the last few months, I went through the entire Lord Of The Rings Extended DVDs -- through the documentaries, and also watched all the movies with commentaries turned on ( Cast, Director and screen writers, Weta Digital Special Effects Crew -- you name it. Don't ask me how I found the time).

And now, joy of joys, I have begun reading The Silmarillion. I have never read anything quite so beautiful, and so complete and as imaginative. Its like reading a "Best of" collection of human mythology. There are online reviews of The Silmarillion which say that it reads like a catalogue of events, but please don't believe them.

To paraphrase the central idea: the world is created out of a symphony by "The One" -- Eru or Iluvatar -- who creates a number of guardian spirits to watch over it, and then he creates Men, who are blessed with a will of their own and are driven by a quest for the infinite, and who above all have been bequeathed the one gift which the other spirits lack -- death, or freedom from the circles of the world.

How can you not like J.R.R.Tolkien?

Monday, June 27, 2005

color-me-bad dept.

Thanks to Jeet for this link. A rivetting, veritable explosion of color.

Friday, June 24, 2005

i-ain't-never-gonna-need-this-but-anyway dept.

An idea that some guy who calls himself numbski had for preventing the slashdot effect.

More interesting is an analysis of this idea by some other guy called morethanapapercert in the comments thread for the above journal posting. He coins an interesting term (don't know if he coins it or if it has always been in circulation) -- the golden minute rule -- which is a sort of thundering herd variant for the web.

The reason I read numbski's journal is his interesting suggestion on how to make OS X -- the Intel version -- run on non-Apple Intel hardware when it comes out (Apple is rumored to be thinking of putting a dongle-like ID chip on the motherboard to prevent installations on anything but Apple hardware).

In short, his idea is -- Install Darwin/x86 to get the base BSD subsystem; then copy over the other system binaries from an already installed OS-X Intel Machine. Hmmm...A very weird idea that isn't so cool because it doesn't involve any binary hacks. And needs an Apple machine, which we were trying to avoid in the first place (though why anyone would want to do this is beyond me -- hey call me biased, I don't mind).

But earns its fifteen minutes of attention.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

dog's-bark dept.

Bangkok Street Dogs finally have their day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


The problem with having led a peripatetic life in your childhood, is the occasional desire to take a peek at places and people you've left behind. It is a strange feeling to see words and names and phrases that were once part of your daily lingo now pop out of the page like vaguely familiar ghosts.

So every few months, I find myself parked on some obscure web-site such as The Bangkok Post. Back when I was a budding computer geek in the Land of Smiles, I would devour every square inch of the Wednesday supplement called Post Database. My dad did not mind either, in fact, he'd courier me a whole stack of Post Database prints when I moved into the computationally deficient heartland of India some years later to further my education.

Compared to the efforts I seem to have put in, I seem to have retained comparatively very little knowledge. I have a theory (read excuse) to explain that too, but that is another story.

To cut a long story short, this story grabbed my attention this time 'round, and finds its way into this blog.

I hope someone up there in the chain of command of the Indian Telecom Ministry has this at the back of their minds. Much of the terrestrial lines that Indian telecos have laid will be redundant once WiMax networks start popping up. Though god knows how these network specifications will deal with the inherent security issues that wireless has.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

rant dept.

So you know a bit of C++. So you've also read the first 10 pages of the Gang of Four book. So you think using C++ static members to limit instantiation of your classes is a neat idea. So every frigging class you implement is going to have that god-awful static getInstance(). And tomorrow your program needs multiple instances for your class. What do you do?

You kick yourself in the ass is what you do.

Singleton sucks. Please don't use it. Free your classes. Let them proliferate.

Real programmers can count their classes.

End Rant.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

the-taxman-cometh dept.

I hate taxation. Someone at slashdot agrees with me:

A fine is a tax you pay for doing wrong and a tax is a fine you pay for doing all right.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

another-technology-whore dept.

Linus Torvalds now uses a Power Mac G5 as his main workstation.
But of course, he runs Linux on it.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

strange-quotes dept.

And then leaning on your window sill
he'll say one day you caused his will
to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
an old schedule of trains, he'll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger.

-- Leonard Cohen
(The Stranger Song)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

the-story-of-my-experiments dept.

I am an hopeless eccentric. The one or two people who know me, and many who claim to know me will testify to this. I have my own pet likes and dislikes and although I try to maintain a facade of disinteredness in all controversies, truth is, I'm as much a fanatic as the next guy. Maybe a wee bit more.

My pet peeves? Astrology (ooh, don't get me started), blind ritualism, tribalism in urban life (I don't believe anyone quite understands what that one exactly is), and social inequality (which I am prepared to discuss extensively and know that my inclination to put my money where my mouth is is absolutely zero).

I absolutely detest astrology and astrologers, to the point where I sometimes fear I shall resort to violence when the 'believers' begin to stonewall all logical arguments against this absolutely unscientific art. Most astrologers are flatterers, liars and great manipulators -- in short, extremely disagreeable people, and I try to stay away from them as much as I possibly can. You see, if you think scientifically, sure, astrology may have validity as a possible area of scientific research, but then you see it being practised, or rather, people being practised upon, and then you know that human nature is too fundamentally flawed to allow astrology to become a purely scientific pursuit. It has been, is and will always be a political tool.

Well, there have been a spate of deaths in my family and many of my clansmen/women (some of them very well educated, and apparently, very suave and urbane) actually want my family to appease the supernatural powers-that-be with some mindless pagan rituals. An aunt said, "Well, you know, not that I believe in them, but people just talk". I asked her to name the people who will talk, I will personally go and bash their brains in. Needless to say, this gentle approach does not win me many friends. I have begun to slowly garner the reputation of being an unreasonable hothead, and I see people being somewhat circumspect when round me.

Which brings me to the third topic, which is more a fact than some anomalous human behaviour. Human beings like to congregate and settle into specific kinds of hierarchies and social patterns. Useful to create systems where the individual does not have to think. Now, I have been raised in many places, and never have had the chance to enmesh myself in these 'social grids'. So it frustrates me to see people not willing to think outside this box they confine their minds to. And then there's the problem of language! The language becomes rife with symbols drawn form the grid (peoples, their experiences together, etc.), and then it becomes impossible for an outsider to join in.

And that leaves social inequality. All well-to-do young men have a soft-corner for the underdog. Well there is no shortage of underdogs in my fine country.

Signing out.

Monday, February 21, 2005

mac-and-me dept.

This piece is about my new Powerbook. Nerdy, you say? Well, balls to you then. I love it, and I'm shouting it out from the rooftops. A fine piece of engineering like a Mac is something to be cherished and something to motivate oneself to achieve after days of hard work.

Already, I hear whispers from people (Computer Engineers, mind you, not functional illiterates): "What is he going to do with a 17" powerbook?". Question is, what will I not do with it.

Millions of years ago men were monkeys and lived in trees. Some monkeys thought it would be good idea to live on the ground instead. Others said, "But Why? There's foliage here, and fruit, and we all live perfectly mediocre, meaningless lives. Why strive for more when there is enough less to go around?". Thankfully, the first group just shook their collective heads and went their way, did their thing, and well, the rest is history. Unfortunately, the first group hung on to their coat tails and we still see them around.

You know when you try to better yourself, and someone pops up and says, "But Why?" -- you now know where they're coming from.

Balls to them!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Saturday, January 29, 2005

a-new-kind-of-business-model dept.

I have heard much talk about the book A New Kind of Science (NKS) by Dr.Stephen Wolfram, and even considered buying it. But today morning at the on-going IIT Techfest 2005, I saw a video presentation by Dr.Wolfram, and I was hooked. Because of my relative ignorance of higher mathematics, I'm afraid I do not possess the credentials to comment on its contents. But it does seem to reconfer a degree of simplicity and accessibility to science that has been eroding away with the increasing complexity we see around us. I hope to learn something new from this book, and am currently reading it on-line, though I will most certainly buy it soon :).

A word about Stephen Wolfram -- he is the creator of Mathematica, one of the most sophisticated mathematical modelling software packages out there. He is also the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, the company that markets Mathematica software. At Rs.80,000 a pop, I do not see myself buying it in the near future, unless I manage to have a child, decide to home-school him/her, and furnish evidence for the same to Wolfram Research (which makes me eligible to buy a student copy without being a student myself). Being such an unabashed lone wolf, neither have I any hope of finding a friend with access to Mathematica and with the attendant degree of generosity and comfort to let me have a crack without an accompanying monetary transaction of any kind.

But I can afford the book, and perhaps the explorer kit that allows one to further the experiments described in the book. At this point it might be relevant to note down some of the themes Wolfram elaborated on in his two-hour live presentation:
  • Until NKS, Science has been trying to explain apparently complex phenomena with almost equally complex models and mathematical equations. There is perhaps a simpler way of looking at things by considering complexity as a net result of iterative or nested applications of simple rules.
  • The universe and all in it should be viewed as an ongoing computation. The computation throws up interesting patterns like sentient beings on a lonely planet trying to explain the state of their own being :).
  • Science in the last century was, because of the success of its empirical investigations, more obsessed with testable hypotheses (statements that clearly stated the conditions for their refutation). NKS moves the focus away back to the realm of pure mathematics, where the emphasis is more on building conceptual models of things that 'generate' physical laws iteratively. There is nothing that needs to be refuted. The state of the world is just one possible path in a pyramid of successive computations.
  • Wolfram uses the phrase NKS to refer not only to his book, but as a generic term for a new paradigm of science (In the same sense that we use the words Arithmetic or Geometry or Calculus, but with, obviously, a much wider scope of reference).
All this is very interesting, and also interesting is the way Wolfram puts out his message. When he talks, he comes across as more of a used-car salesman than a scientist. One can only marvel at the way he markets his new science:

You first buy the book, then the accessories: the explorer kit that allows you to play with some of the experiments described in the book. Then a programmatic interface to the explorer kit that presumably, plugs into Mathematica. Finally, mathematica itself, in all its license incarnations.

But his enthusiasm for the pursuit of truth seems to be genuine, and is almost infectious. Perhaps this closing anecdote would illustrate how...

At the end of his lecture, Wolfram was taking questions. An IIT academic (let us not name him) asked him very laboriously in a five-minute, rambling monologue, if he agreed that tools like Mathematica could be effectively used as educational tools. Instead of nodding his head and prosaically saying in his pucca British accent, "Yes", which was all that was expected of him, Wolfram excitedly brought up his latest Mathematica daily build, and started building a spontaneous pedagogical experiment to illustrate the convergence of Fourier series.

He would merrily have continued on into the day, if the IIT folks hadn't stopped him when time ran out.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

unpremeditated,-i-swear dept.

More stupid quizzes, this time, one with a surprising result...

What Pulp Fiction Character Are You?

You are the king of smooth -- enough said.

Take the What Pulp Fiction Character Are You? quiz.

Thanks to this guy for the diversion.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

back-to-the-future dept.

This has been splashed around in print and on the news all this week. I got around to reading it today, following a link from iMule's blog.

Makes one think (among many things) about the implications of population control. Is it really as bad as they say it is? Is having the second largest population in the world such a dubious distinction after all?

Japan and Europe are gradually becoming older, thanks to decades of falling birth-rates (mostly offshoots of economic prosperity and personal sexual independence). Productivity is falling (the report claims that this may allow India to match the GDP of some of the large European countries as soon as 2020!), but the fiscal burden of supporting an ageing population (health-care, social security) is coming back to haunt them.

On the contrary India and China are poised to launch into a sustained growth spurt on the coat-tails of a youthful, energetic population that is just waiting to be harnessed by market forces. This may take some time in coming to see radical shifts (if you feel the decade from 1995 was not radical enough :)) in the look and feel of our country. The report has a projection for Chinese and Indian GDP growth rates as percentages of US GDP for the next half-century or so -- the knee of the curve is somewhere in 2010, (A good time for me to be a grizzly ageing wolf, raising a pack of cubs ;)) so presumably that's when India will see the kind of growth spurt South-East Asia saw in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Super Highways will start getting built, cities will start getting monstrous new skylines (Cranes, Cranes, Cranes everywhere -- the Bangkok of 1992 of my memories) and fancy transport systems.

Coming back to the issue of population control, I have long felt that it is a moot point. Reources are scarce, and must be managed. Fair enough. But the truth is that they are taken by the strong and the weak die out for want of them. This is ground reality, and the world scarcely bats an eyelid as it perpetuates it. So why bother? The rest of the world is dying out (not for want of resources, but out of renunciation ;)) -- we (as Indians and Chinese) are in a position to seamlessly fill their shoes, taking the reins of the technologies they built up on the rising and ebbing tides of European and American rivalries and ambitions.

Have as many children as you like, really...Enough so that you can give them the essentials for their personal survival in this new age -- good education, nutrition, enlightened company and a good social network that makes the fulfillment of their aspirations more of a thing of collective concensus than something to really struggle for ;). If you can't do that or won't do that and that's your excuse for having a single child, get some ambition, god-dammit -- stoke that fire in your belly :).

A far more important issue for India to tackle in the coming years would be the seriously worrying disparity in the child-sex ratio across the country.

But I wonder if there's a study out there that compares historical shifts in global population growth rates (with migration factored in) with economic prosperity?

Friday, January 07, 2005

haw-haw-haw-haw dept.

I am nerdier than 95% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

disks-get-harder dept.

I don't know jack about disks.

I had no clue that the average hard-disk on the desktop had only one platter. Neither did I know that the CHS (Cylinder-Head-Sector) model of a disk I learnt in school (and from a lot of geek magazines) is slowly going out of existence. Seems to me that drive mechanics has finally evolved to a point where disks are essentially, gradually starting to behave like large tape spools with a big on-board read/write cache :)...Tape Spools yes, albeit with much better random seek performance.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

analytical-poetry dept.

This just in. Maybe this is a crazy thought. But the mathematical analogue of poetry is really -- a digital signature. What is poetry but a condensation of a sensation or the rounding off of experience? In terse and simple words, the poet seeks to capture pain, rapture or equanimity in equal measure. A digital signature or message digest is of course, a lossy method for summarizing data content i.e. a digital signal. Now, Messrs. Shannon, Nyquist et al tell us, that downsampling a signal (effectively, trying to compress it beyond what its base information content allows) may cause us to lose information during the process, if the downsampled result is too terse.

From our hypothesis that poetry is the analogue of signal compression applied to linguistic expression, the same effect of ambiguity should apply.

At this point, it may be beneficial to introduce the notion of a well-intentioned poem, which we define as follows:

A poem written with a specific meaning in mind by the poet, with the clear intention of letting the readers of the poem be able to decipher the intended meaning.

Unfortunately, the available corpus of poetry that can be classified under this heading, is as we know, quite sparse.

Agreed? Shall we move on? Alright then, if we would have to demarcate good, skillfully-written poetry, it would now be reasonable to assume that such poems would be well-intentioned poems whose informational analysis would leave them hovering somewhere near the boundary where compression begins to become lossy.

Hmmm...can this intuition then, be encoded into a versification algorithm? Is poetry, as we know it, doomed to become the domain of cold-hearted automatons? Is there really no hope in this world for all those ugly people out there looking to get laid (well, actually, there's always beer)?

For answers to these and many other equally vexing questions, tune in next time...