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Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired. - Jules Renard 

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Good Axe Commercial

http://twelvefifteen.com/media/axecommercial.php

| posted by Ramki @ 7:06 PM

Thursday, May 26, 2005

POST your Secrets

I had heard about this blog on NPR too.
http://postsecret.blogspot.com

| posted by Rajan @ 10:07 PM


Nonsense Law Suit

How stupid can lawyers and suing mentality get? A couple of teenagers were affected in a Jerusalem suicide bombing in 1997. They took advantage of anti-terror legislation signed by Clinton and sued Iran for harboring Hamas. They won the case for $259 million dollars in damages. Obviously, Iran did not pay the amount. Now, these people are trying to recover the money by taking old Persian arts and sculptures from places like Boston Museum, Harvard University etc. to recover the cost. What the hell is wrong with these people?

| posted by Shankar B @ 1:17 PM

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

42 Inches Wide and 1090 Miles Long

No, not any anatomical anomaly. This is the vital statistics of the BTC pipeline that touches Turkey, Georgia and Azebraijan.



The establishment is expected to tap the land-locked oil resources from the Caspian Sea. Many consider it much more than a commercial establishment and being close to a sovereign state that they have coined the name Pipelinistan for it. Many controversies plague the pipeline : economic for sure - given Azerbaijan's poverty and Georgia's dependence on handouts from USA; ecological safety - though touted as one of the cleanest, it displaced many a farmer in Georgia; political - Ilham Aliev is given a blind eye in Azerbaijan for human right violations, Mikhail Saakashvili was installed in Georgia with copious US help, much to the chagrin of Russia. Mr Burns (spelt Cheney) was excited at the break up of USSR and the emergence of sovereign states in the Balkan. As the then chief executive of Halliburton he commented "I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian," in 1998. The stakes are as follows :

SOCAR (the state oil company of Azerbaijan); BP (UK); TPAO (Turkey); Statoil (Norway); Unocal (USA); Itochu (Japan); Amerada Hess (USA); Eni (Italy); TotalFinaElf (France); INPEX (Japan) and ConocoPhillips (USA).





US is planning to deploy its troops to Azerbaijan with no mention of why. And the troops in Georgia are to stay. I was wondering about the nature of visit of Dubya to Georgia, now things seem a little more clear to me. During the opening ceremony, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, who stood alongside the four heads of state said: "The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will play a huge role in world energy policy."

What this means for Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia is clear in the near term. But, Russia is pretty pissed off, especially given the fact that they are building their own pipeline. Add another contention to the religious zealotry in the Middle East, yes that's the way to handle it. Way to go!!

| posted by Shankar B @ 2:24 PM


Can the wall split the web?

Communist China has watched the number of internet users rise to more than 100 million and the number growing exponentially every year. Eventhough Internet access inside China is restricted and all ISPs are controlled by the Communist government, people seem to find their way to reach for information/provide information from within through proxy servers and user-forums. Here is one of the many recent articles I read about the mighty Internet taking on the Dragon controlling it. Let's see if Chinese Police are able to secure their great wall inspite of the small and steady holes being made by the hackers within!

| posted by Ramki @ 4:58 AM


Creative Wedding Invitation

An Indian guy invites people over for his wedding day. Quite funny and very innovative. Click on the image and then click on "All Sizes" on top of the page to see the zoomed version.



Saga Begins


The Story


The End

| posted by Shankar B @ 2:45 AM


Dawkins Disses Creationism

Dawkins, the self-proclaimed (and of course famous and my favorite) geneticist is at it again : creationist bashing. In his recent article for Times UK, he discusses the guile of creationists and how often they misquote famous scientists to meet their ends.

He provides an example : Darwin said "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Creationists mine ignorance and uncertainty in order to abuse his challenge. "Bet you can't tell me how the elbow joint of the lesser spotted weasel frog evolved by slow gradual degrees?" If the scientist fails to give an immediate and comprehensive answer, a default conclusion is drawn: “Right, then, the alternative theory; `intelligent design' wins by default."

And his own words about Cambrian explosion (the time period in which the evolution "evolved" in leaps and bounds) "It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history." was twisted around to a "gap" in the fossil record. And whenever there was a new fossil record from an erstwhile "gap" was discovered, it neatly bisected two "gaps" (as told by Michael Shermer who writes the Skeptic article for Scientific American) - creationists started claiming there are two gaps now.

He writes further : Matt Ridley said "Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on." Science mines ignorance. Mystery - that which we don't yet know; that which we don't yet understand - is the mother lode that scientists seek out. He opines that creationists fill all gaps with God and hence his advice to scientists : Please don't go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don't work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don't squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God's gift to Kansas.

I loved his books "The Selfish Gene" and "Blind Watchmakers". I have read many works and seen many lectures of this God (to me) and I must tell you that he is one vocal son of a gun (no disrespect to Him - I mean Dawkins).

| posted by Shankar B @ 2:01 AM

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Watch Where You Talk

A joke : I was barely sitting down when I heard a voice from the other bathroom stall saying, "Hi, how are you?"

I'm not the type to start a conversation in the restroom, but I don't know what got into me, so I answered, somewhat embarrassed, "Doin' just fine!"

And the other person said, "So, what are you up to?"

What kind of question is that? At this point, I was thinking this was too bizarre, so I said, "Uhhh, I'm like you, just traveling!"

At this point I was just trying to get out as fast as I could, when I heard another question. "Can I come over?"

Okay, this question was just too weird for me, but I figured I could just be polite and end the conversation. I told the person, "No... I'm a little busy right now!!!"

Then I heard the person say nervously, "Listen, I'll have to call you back. There's an idiot in the other stall who keeps answering all my questions!"

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:50 PM


HIV in India

· About 5.1 million people are infected with HIV in India, second only to South Africa

· Infected people make up less than 1% of population

· The first case of HIV in India was diagnosed among sex workers in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in 1986

· Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Manipur states account for three-quarters of the country's estimated HIV cases

· One sixth of all new Aids cases in the world occur in India, 30% of which are women

· Last year the World Bank warned that India could have 5m new HIV infections every year within 30 years if condom use does not increase

· Britain's international development department estimates that two adults become infected with HIV every minute in India

The CIA predicts 25 million Indians could be infected by 2010.

The reason, say experts, is a historic indifference to public health - India spends less than 20 cents (11p) a head on HIV prevention and treatment, a third of the spending in Thailand and a ninth of that in Uganda - and weak political commitment to combating Aids. Although the new government, controlled by Sonia Gandhi of the Congress party, has increased public health spending by 25% and sports stars such as the cricketer Rahul Dravid are beginning to front condom campaigns, many worry that the country has passed a tipping point in infection rates.

Last year Richard Feachem, head of the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said he believed official statistics underestimated the prevalence of HIV. "The Indian epidemic is on an African trajectory," he said. "Today we are not making a difference. The virus is winning."

The losers appear to be the country's youth. Children are first forced to leave school to care for sick parents. Once orphaned they are then consigned to work to replace their parents' income.

Sixteen-year-old Anjali Kolukapalla, whose mother, Rani, died last year of Aids, wakes up at four in the morning to sweep the streets of Vijayawada so that her nine-year-old sister, Kumari, can go to school. She earns 1,800 rupees a month (£22) and she and her sister cook, eat and sleep in one room. "There is nobody to look after us. That is why I have to work."

The spread of HIV also threatens to shake two of India's most resilient institutions: arranged marriage and the dowry. Abandoned by their extended families, orphans find themselves without the money or social network to marry. The stain of Aids also marks them out as a new class of untouchables.

 .... Complete Guardian Article on Indian AIDS orphans

"The official statistics show India in second place and South Africa in first place," said Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  "The official statistics are wrong. India is in first place," Feachem said. [ more ]

(Commenting on Feacham's statistics in an IHT article )
"This is technically incorrect and misleading," Quraishi said, stressing that the Indian government did not sanction the range in possible figures cited by Feachem.

"According to our figures, 0.9 percent of our adult population is currently infected, compared to 23 percent in South Africa," Quraishi added. "The gravity is not the same, and highlighting this will just make people in India complacent."

Feacham also wrote in a letter to the National AIDS Control Organization  "We know from a number of other countries that the epidemic can grow from a fraction of 1 percent of the population to 10 or even 20 percent within a decade,"

| posted by Rajan @ 10:05 PM


Brazil spurns US terms for Aids help

Brazil yesterday became the first country to take a public stand against the Bush administration's massive Aids programme which is seen by many as seeking increasingly to press its anti-abortion, pro-abstinence sexual agenda on poorer countries.

Campaigners applauded Brazil's rejection of $40m for its Aids programmes because it refuses to agree to a declaration condemning prostitution.

The government and many Aids organisations believe such a declaration would be a serious barrier to helping sex workers protect themselves and their clients from infection. [ more ]


| posted by Rajan @ 9:41 PM


A Hairy Tale

From South Asia to East London, human hair is a little known but highly lucrative trade: Hair Trade Route.  

Recycled as expensive wigs for the West, or sold for use as raw material  for the chemical industry, India's human hair trade has grown into a multi million-dollar industry.  
Four types of hair are harvested in India: Temple hair, Village hair, Sikh hair and Barber hair.


Hair is used for a multitude of purposes. Men's Temple hair is used for jacket linings, cosmetic brushes, and is also interwoven with other fabrics to make suits. Lower quality Barber hair is converted into amino acids, which in turn are used in food and medicine.(Via J-walkblog)

| posted by Ramki @ 6:16 PM

Monday, May 23, 2005

Nature Pictures

From Photosapiens :















Foxy


Ow Ow Owlie


Brady Bunch


Leap Frog


Watching Out


Come here my lunch

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:02 PM


Break a Leg or Two

Some videos I found that are good :

1. A good breakdancing video.
2. A funny video from Netherlands.
3. Japanese toilet ad.
4. Not for the common people. A funny deodorant ad.
5. Two robots fall in love as they are made. Read the story for the making of the video.

| posted by Shankar B @ 9:32 PM


Soldiers and Surfers

Soldiers of the Norwegian peace keeping force have made a video blasting NATO and their embargos on many nations. The song, sung in the tunes of Kokomo (a wonderful song by Beach Boys and a must listen for lazydesi crowd), shows the sense of satire and their amazing singing abilities. I am not going to discuss if this is in good taste or not, but here is the video and the lyrics of the song.

Croatia, Albania somewhere near Romania
Each hero and NATO, why the hell do we go
Pristina blew up a head for Macedonia, I'll race ya

Somewhere far overseas
There's a place called Kosovo
That's where you don't want to go
If you're Albanian at all

Protecting Human Rights
Air strikes and firefights
And we'll be dropping our bombs
Wherever Serbian bad guys hide
Just up from Kosovo

Somalia, Grenada or rescue in Kuwait-a
We screwed ya Rwanda, wish we could of helped ya
Iraqi embargo that's the way we hustle

Rules are why we're helping out in Kosovo
We'll kick some ass and see how it goes
And then we really don't know
Good luck to Kosovo

Milosevich you sorry son of a bitch

Every time we go
To little places like Kosovo
We never really know
What happens after we go
Tough luck for Kosovo

Croatia Albania somewhere near Romania
Each hero and NATO
Why the hell do we go

Pristina, blew up a head for Macedonia
We'll kick their ass and then we'll see how it goes
And then we really don't know
That sucks for Kosovo

Somalia, Grenada or rescuing Kuwait-a
We screwed ya Rwanda Wish we could of helped ya
Iraqi embargo
How it ends we don't know...


Read the original Kokomo lyrics and listen to a sample of Kokomo from Amazon to appreciate how good this is. I have not seen the video of Kokomo, can anyone comment if the video is also similar to the one by the soldiers here.

[Via Milblogg]

Update : Stian writes that the song was not sung by the soldiers, they just used a CD with the song in making the video.

| posted by Shankar B @ 2:01 PM

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Schooling Can be Soul Crushing

Six lessons school students must learn so that the soul surrendering can be made as simple and painless as possible. As a school student :

1. Stay in the class where you belong : There is no way out of a class except by magic. So stay put and enjoy the ride.

2. Turn on and off like a light switch : Turn on during class time, absorb all the things that is said in the class. Turn off as soon as one class is over and turn back on when the new teacher walks in.

3. Surrender your will to a predestined chain of command : Enough said.

4. Only the teacher can determine what curriculum you will study.

5. Your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth.

6. You are being watched : In school during classes and at home under the disguise of overseeing your homework, someone is going to watch you over. Stop believing that you have any private time.

| posted by Shankar B @ 10:51 PM


George Dantzig RIP

George Dantzig is the inventor of Simplex method for solving linear programs. A legendary mathematician who laid foundations to linear and non-linear programming, sensitivity analysis and large scale optimization, Dantzig is famous for his teaching too. Dantzig died of diabetes and heart problems on the 13th of May. Read the coverage from NYT, SJ Mercury and Slashdot.

One story about a day in his graduate life at Berkeley :

During my first year at Berkeley I arrived late one day to one of Neyman's classes. On the blackboard were two problems which I assumed had been assigned for homework. I copied them down. A few days later I apologized to Neyman for taking so long to do the homework - the problems seemed to be a little harder to do than usual. I asked him if he still wanted the work. He told me to throw it on his desk. I did so reluctantly because his desk was covered with such a heap of papers that I feared my homework would be lost there forever.

About six weeks later, one Sunday morning about eight o'clock, Anne and I were awakened by someone banging on our front door. It was Neyman. He rushed in with papers in hand, all excited: "I've just written an introduction to one of your papers. Read it so I can send it out right away for publication." For a minute I had no idea what he was talking about. To make a long story short, the problems on the blackboard which I had solved thinking they were homework were in fact two famous unsolved problems in statistics. That was the first inkling I had that there was anything special about them.


This story was the inspiration to the movie Good Will Hunting and the legendary nerdy ghosts wandering in the corridor story. Dantzig later went to do some very seminal work, most notably the Simplex technique. Another legendary monster mind von Neumann is also credited for co-inventing the technique and another interesting story from the meeting of these monster minds :

Dantzig had gone to Princeton to see von Neumann at one point to talk to him about the idea of linear programming. Dantzig went to the board and started writing. Von Neumann would interrupt and say, "No, here is the solution as I understand it. Go on." Dantzig said that he thought he would have a three-hour lecture to give, and in fifteen minutes he'd exhausted all his material. That's the type of story that I've heard from a number of different people about the lightning speed of von Neumann's mind.


Supposedly, Neumann also got the dual solution to the problem on such a meeting.

| posted by Shankar B @ 9:45 PM


'Sardar' Hacker deletes own hard drive.

"You're going down man", finally the hacker declared success. "I can see your E: drive disappearing", he gloated, "D: is down 45 percent!" he cried, before disappearing into the ether.

A chat channel spat ended when a wannabe hacker was duped into deleting his own hard drive. The 26 year-old German claimed he was the baddest hacker in town and threatened to attack a moderator on #stopHipHop's RC Channel because he thought he'd been thrown out. He demanded the moderator cough up his IP address and prepare to be hacked.

The moderator sent back a bunch of numbers and there then followed a period in which the moderator assumes all manner of hack tools were unleashed at the IP address. English translation of the entire chat is here. It is very hilarious! :-)

| posted by Ramki @ 5:47 PM

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Juicy Tidbits From Googlefront

Some interesting tidbits about everyone's favorite company Google :

1. Google is working on translation technology that uses statistical analyses of texts that are available in multiple languages (such as United Nations documents). They demonstrated Arabic-to-English translations that were perfect.

2. If you work at Google, you may end up with an untraditional job title...such as "Spam Cowboy and Porn Cookie Guy".

Many other juicy details are available at Search Engine Lowdown which tracks the latest in search engine news. Of special interest to me in that website were Brin and Schmidt's interview, and the rationale behind the lenghty beta process. Google also has a video of the Google Factory tour.

| posted by Shankar B @ 12:54 PM


Vision 2010: Beyond the mobile frontier

Watch NTT-Docomo's Vision-2010 video. Corporates do have a long term vision. Here is one that has clearly spelt it out!
The video is excellent and with the progress in wireless technology, all these can definitely happen by 2010!

Awesome promotional videos for BMW cars. Each of these videos is for 6 minutes and can easily match any hollywood movie climax. Complemented with amazing background scores, these videos are toooooo good!
1.- Ambush (Clive Owen,John Frankenheimer) 13480KB
2.- Chosen (Clive Owen) 13669KB
3.- Star (Clive Owen,Guy Ritchie) 15344KB
4 - Powder Keg (Clive Owen,Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) 18168KB
5 - Hostage (Clive Owen) 20238KB
6 - Ticker (Clive Owen,Joe Carnahan) 20106KB

For the insatiables, here is another collection of technology videos!

| posted by Ramki @ 12:10 AM

Friday, May 20, 2005

Feynman's Letters

Feynman is known for his physics and for being a simple and amusing person. What is not common knowledge is the letters he used to write. His daughter writes :

A few of his friends were also surprised, as my father had a reputation in the physics community for not writing letters. Why had he spent so much time corresponding with the general public and not with his fellow scientists? I believe the answer has to do with my father's great love for teaching. In an article on education he wrote for Caltech's Engineering and Science he stated: "The problem is clear language. The desire is to have the idea clearly communicated to the other person." I think this statement in part explains why he was such an effective and prodigious communicator. Again, his own words, this time from a letter to a young student seeking his advice, explain it best: "You cannot develop a personality with physics alone, the rest of life must be worked in."

His letter to Mark Minguillon, April 23, 1976

I see nothing wrong with nuclear power except questions of the possibility of explosions, sabotage, stealing fuel to make bombs, leaking stored radioactive spent rods, etc. But all these are technical or engineering questions, about which we can do a great deal. So I think the risks can be controlled and that nuclear power, if economical, should be developed. Problems about the atomic bomb and the future are much more complicated. Well, I guess that means you win your debate — but that doesn't mean we know what's true. Just because Feynman says he is pro-nuclear power, isn't any argument at all worth paying attention to because I can tell you (for I know) that Feynman really doesn't know what he is talking about when he speaks of such things. He knows about other things (maybe). Don't pay attention to "authorities", think for yourself.

His letter to Koichi Mano, February 3 1966

I was very happy to hear from you, and that you have such a position in the Research Laboratories. Unfortunately your letter made me unhappy for you seem to be truly sad. The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. A problem is grand in science if it lies before us unsolved and we see some way for us to make a little headway into it. I would advise you to take even simpler, or as you say, humbler, problems until you find some you can really solve easily, no matter how trivial. You will get the pleasure of success, and of helping your fellow man, even if it is only to answer a question in the mind of a colleague less able than you. You must not take away from yourself these pleasures because you have some erroneous idea of what is worthwhile. No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it. You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office.

You are not nameless to me. Do not remain nameless to yourself — it is too sad a way to be. Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of the naive ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher's ideals are.


Letter to Tina Levitan, February 7, 1967

In your letter you express the theory that people of Jewish origin have inherited their valuable hereditary elements from their people. It is quite certain that many things are inherited but it is evil and dangerous to maintain, in these days of little knowledge of these matters, that there is a true Jewish race or specific Jewish hereditary character ...

At almost 13 I dropped out of Sunday school just before confirmation because of differences in religious views but mainly because I suddenly saw that the picture of Jewish history that we were learning, of a marvellous and talented people surrounded by dull and evil strangers was far from the truth.The error of anti-Semitism is not that the Jews are not really bad after all, but that evil, stupidity and grossness is not a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general. Most non-Jewish people in America today have understood that.The error of pro-Semitism is not that the Jewish people or Jewish heritage is not really good, but rather the error is that intelligence, good will, and kindness is not, thank God, a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general.

Therefore, you see at 13 I was not only converted to other religious views but I also stopped believing that the Jewish people are in any way "the chosen people".


Other interesting letters on the webpage are the letter to James Watson (of Double Helix fame) and his letter to his first wife Arline (read it for sure). These letters and many others are collected in the book titled "Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track: The Letters Of Richard P. Feynman" and is already in the shelves. The book is titled "Don't You Have Time to Think" in UK for whatever reason they have.

| posted by Shankar B @ 10:37 PM


Mumbai Navigator

"IIT Bombay has launched "Mumbai Navigator" for people to find out how to reach from one place to another. Just visit the site and  find out how many types of routes are available from your present location  to the desired destination, how much time each route will take. It also gives information like how to take one mode of transport first, where to get down, the distance one needs to cover on foot and where, which mode of transport to take next and where to get down again."
P.S: I guess the site is currently taken off. However you can check it out in google cache.

| posted by Ramki @ 3:05 PM


Bondoogle

With Greasy monkey extension of firefox, people are really thinking creatively. Checkout Bondoogle.
If you are using firefox and have greasymonkey extension installed, you can also try out April Foogle!
(Via Krazydad)

| posted by Ramki @ 2:45 PM


Gaping Maw

A gallery of open-mouthed animals - In other words photos of animals yawning (read lazy-pranis).
Also checkout satellite photos of abandoned stadiums.
(Via Incoming Signals)

| posted by Ramki @ 2:31 PM


Star wars : It seems free downloads you have.

What do you get when add the biggest movie release of the year to the tale of unauthorized file sharing? Apparently the biggest file sharing story of the year. News outlets are agog that someone "leaked" the studio print of the latest Star Wars movie, which a few thousand people are now sharing online. This is bad ostensibly for the same reasons the entertainment industry frowns on all unauthorized sharing and piracy: it's taking money out of the studio's coffers. But really, does anyone think that the die-hard Star Wars geeks who are downloading the film will not go see it in theaters? Or buy more stuff like DVDs, video games, and the occasional Chewbacca novelty suit? If anything, free distribution to a just handful of avid fans will only add to the positive buzz and already impressive revenues. Color us conspiracy theorists, but we wouldn't be surprised if the "leak" was intentionally done for this purpose. It makes perfect sense. The bootlegged movie is reaching only a limited audience that will go see it anyway, it's already getting good reviews, and the "piracy" story is getting the studio tons of free publicity. Maybe this is a case where Hollywood has actually caught on to the  value of free content. Nah, that'll never happen.   
(Via Techdirt)     

| posted by Ramki @ 2:20 PM


Yeh Mera India

An interesting story from Hindustan Times :

Insecurity adds excitement to life in India
Dr Pramod Kumar Garg, New Delhi
pgarg10@hotmail.com, May 20, 2005

Life may at times be absolutely boring or immensely exciting. I learned by chance from a 12-year-old boy the very essence of life while waiting to board an Indian airlines flight from Hyderabad to Kolkata. Waiting is the most boring thing in life and reminds you of the relativity of time. You perceive minutes as hours while waiting for your beloved and hours as seconds while with her. I was sharing a row of chairs with a Muslim family who was returning to the USA. I suspected the family to be from the Gulf region but the English accent of the two young boys suggested their breeding in farther western shores.

 

Starting the conversation, I asked the oft-repeated question as to how the young boys liked this country. And pat came the reply "India is great!" And a natural counter question "why?" got a one-word answer "insecurity". This somewhat baffled me and I thought the boy said something wrong. The bemused look in my eyes prompted the 12-year-old boy to reply, "I like India because there is so much insecurity here while there is too much safety and everything is too well-planned in the the USA, which makes it an absolutely boring country."

 

His father nodded in confirmation and said that the boys liked India much more than the USA although they had been born and brought up in that country. The boy further surprised me when he said 'despite being poor, Indians are far too smarter. It is perfectly normal to be poor in India while it is considered to be a sin in the USA. The state of affairs of poor in the USA is much more pathetic than that of their counterparts in India'.

 

Such mature observations from the mouth of a young boy who would otherwise be following a soccer or baseball game were indeed heartening. I could sense the true human values imparted by his parents. The boy's father praised India for its development and growing prosperity but raised concern about threat to pluralism because of incidents such as Godhra, which scared him. I tried to pacify him saying that 1984 and 2002 were just aberrations and that the secular values were much too deep rooted in this country to be threatened by a bunch of hooligans and anti-socials.

 

Much as I wanted to continue the conversation, I had to say goodbye when I heard the last announcement for boarding of my flight. What followed was interesting. The boarding gate of the flight was changed at the last moment and the passengers were literally dragged down to the ground floor to board the flight through another gate that resulted in a little chaotic situation. More was to follow. Landing at Calcutta was a jolt to awake those who had dozed off. I was visiting Calcutta after a long time and it was a pleasant surprise to see a 6-lane highway from the airport to the city.

 

My host told me there were many more surprises in store. Well, the next one came soon. The driver was speeding at well over 80 km/hr with the old rugged Amby on a near empty stretch at 10.00 in the night when the car suddenly came to a screeching halt. 'Oh! The tyre has gone bust', exclaimed the driver. I could not help saying 'indeed there are many surprises'. The host, somewhat embarrassed, said this one wasn't expected. Well, a surprise is never expected.  I reached my hotel passing through the swanky New Town and Salt Lake City, house to all multinationals, admiring the capitalist colours of the communist government. I remembered the conversation with the American boy and enjoyed my journey thoroughly. Who cares if there are a few loose bolts and rough jolts here and there? They add that much needed spice to life and make it much more exciting. What waters your mouth - cold bland meat or spicy Hyderabadi Biryani and chilli chicken? The choice is yours.


| posted by Shankar B @ 1:59 PM


iPod lure to cut down junk food


Healthy eating school pupils in Glasgow are to be rewarded with iPods and Xbox consoles for ditching junk food.

Glasgow City Council is offering the electronic incentives to about 30,000 children in 29 secondary schools.

The pupils are given swipecards and can claim various prizes depending on the number of points they gain for eating "sensibly" on school premises.

A council spokeswoman said youngsters "wouldn't turn up their noses at winning an iPod for eating nice food".

They can redeem their points for a selection of goods - from cinema tickets and book tokens to top-of-the-range iPods and Xbox games consoles - at the end of the term. [more]



| posted by Rajan @ 9:03 AM


Apocalypse Now

Robert McNamara is worried at the current US nuclear policy. He was the Secretary of Defense between 1961 and 1968 and is commended for many bilateral talk and for putting many safeguards in nuclear use.




He is asking the world to rethink their nuclear policies. He thinks that the US policy of preparedness to initiate nuclear attack is unnecessary, obsolete and more importantly puts too much power into one hand : the president's. He writes

I have worked on issues relating to U.S. and NATO nuclear strategy and war plans for more than 40 years. During that time, I have never seen a piece of paper that outlined a plan for the United States or NATO to initiate the use of nuclear weapons with any benefit for the United States or NATO. I have made this statement in front of audiences, including NATO defense ministers and senior military leaders, many times. No one has ever refuted it. To launch weapons against a nuclear-equipped opponent would be suicidal. To do so against a nonnuclear enemy would be militarily unnecessary, morally repugnant, and politically indefensible.

Even though he and the presidents he worked for felt like this all along they were forced to be silent because of NATO's policy. He talks about how the situation can get way out of hand. Quoting about the Cuban Missile Crisis :

Clearly, there was a high risk that in the face of a U.S. attack, which many in the U.S. government were prepared to recommend to President Kennedy, the Soviet forces in Cuba would have decided to use their nuclear weapons rather than lose them. Only a few years ago did we learn that the four Soviet submarines trailing the U.S. Naval vessels near Cuba each carried torpedoes with nuclear warheads. Each of the sub commanders had the authority to launch his torpedoes. The situation was even more frightening because, as the lead commander recounted to me, the subs were out of communication with their Soviet bases, and they continued their patrols for four days after Khrushchev announced the withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba.

When McNamara met Castro during a conference in Havana in 1992 :

I asked Castro whether he would have recommended that Khrushchev use the weapons in the face of a U.S. invasion, and if so, how he thought the United States would respond. "We started from the assumption that if there was an invasion of Cuba, nuclear war would erupt," Castro replied. "We were certain of that... . [W]e would be forced to pay the price that we would disappear." He continued, "Would I have been ready to use nuclear weapons? Yes, I would have agreed to the use of nuclear weapons." And he added, "If Mr. McNamara or Mr. Kennedy had been in our place, and had their country been invaded, or their country was going to be occupied ... I believe they would have used tactical nuclear weapons."


Bush's proposed Nuclear Posture Review worries him a lot. It assumes that strategic offensive nuclear weapons in much larger numbers than 1,700 to 2,200 will be part of U.S. military forces for the next several decades. Although the number of deployed warheads will be reduced to 3,800 in 2007 and to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012, the warheads and many of the launch vehicles taken off deployment will be maintained in a “responsive” reserve from which they could be moved back to the operationally deployed force.

He is asking the US to sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). By not ratifying CTBT, the message that is sent out to the world seems to be "We, with the strongest conventional military force in the world, require nuclear weapons in perpetuity, but you, facing potentially well-armed opponents, are never to be allowed even one nuclear weapon."

Wise words from a well educated man, W wouldya listen? An interview with McNamara is an interesting read too. I have great respect for this wonderful statesman. The current administration must learn from the master.

| posted by Shankar B @ 1:31 AM

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Pogue on Longhorn

NYT David Pogue's Review of Longhorn :

Yesterday, Microsoft showed me a very, very early version of the next version of Windows (code-name: Longhorn). It's not even in its first beta-test version, so a lot could change, and the final version won't be available until the 2006 holiday season (that's right, it's a year and a half away).

Even so, the version I saw is far ahead of the version that Microsoft demonstrated only a couple of weeks ago at the WinHEC conference. So considering that, oh, around 200 million people use Windows, I thought I'd share my impressions.

First of all, Microsoft has had quite a swig of the Apple Kool-Aid; product manager Greg Sullivan must have used the word "elegant" for the new cosmetic Windows design (which is indeed beautiful) about five times.

Apple-esque features include the new system-wide search box at the upper-right corner of every desktop window and atop the Control Panel window, much like the Spotlight search box that debuted in Mac OS X Tiger a couple of weeks ago. Similarly, the three control buttons at the top of each window light up as the cursor passes over them, and windows shrink away with an animation when minimized, just as in Mac OS X.

On the other hand, many of the new features represent Microsoft's own creative thinking, especially when it comes to everyday folder windows. Window title bars are translucent, which Microsoft says makes it easier to notice that one window is overlapping another. And you can make icons in a window larger or smaller in real time, with no loss of clarity, by turning your mouse's scroll wheel while pressing the Ctrl key.

In one of the new icon views, folder icons appear to be tipped 90 degrees. In real life, of course, such folders would dump out everything inside. But in this experimental view, you can see some of the documents inside peeking out: thumbnails of the first pages of the actual documents inside!

The idea of "stacks" has been kicking around system-software seminars for years, but it looks like Longhorn will bring them to the masses. It's another icon view, in which your documents look like they're piled up in literal piles of paper; the taller the stack, the more stuff is in there.

Thanks to a radically different set of sorting criteria, you can define how your stuff is sorted into stacks: chronologically, by author, by keyword, and so on. (Note to the technical: In other words, Windows is about to go metadata-crazy. You can apply keywords to your documents right in a folder window, using a collapsible list of keywords at the left side. And you can edit other kinds of metadata — date, author, keyword, music genre, and so on — in a panel at the bottom of the window.)

Yet another change in desktop windows is the "list." It's an area that you can summon at the right side of the window; any icons you drag there turn into shortcuts, no matter where they originated (on the Internet, on a network server, on your own hard drive, and so on). You can build as many lists as you want. They're handy, they're flexible, and you can e-mail one to other people so they can play with the same set of documents and folders you have.

The only downside to all this desktop-window magic is that, with so many features crammed into so little space, mastering all of these controls may become overwhelming. At one point during the demonstration, a window full of documents had two stacked menu bars at the top, a panel at the left side showing "virtual folders" (like Keywords and Recent), a panel across the bottom for editing those file details, and a panel down the right side showing lists. I had to squint just to find the actual document icons, huddled in a little square in the middle of the window!

(Of course, complexity has never been an impediment to Windows's success in corporations, where Microsoft's bread is buttered; if anything, complexity means job security for the very people who buy 500 copies of Windows at a time. Furthermore, it's important to remember that, with 19 months to go before the next Windows is released, Microsoft has a heck of a long time to simplify and straighten out all of these feature ideas.)

Microsoft has also elegant-ized the Start menu, which, with the weirdly overlapping All Programs menu in XP, desperately needed a rethink. Now it's only two columns — the same two you have in Windows XP — but you can expand and collapse folders in the left-side list with just a click, to save space and assist with organization.

When you click the All Programs button in Longhorn, you replace the left-side column with a scrolling list of your programs. There's a little Spotlight-ish search box at the bottom, too, so you can jump to a program whose name you know with a couple of keystrokes. These are very nice changes.

Now, I've just focused here on the on-the-screen differences; Longhorn will also include a huge number of deeper-seated architectural features — self-healing features, a new driver system, and so on — that Microsoft says will drastically improve Windows's security and reliability. "It just works," says one of the slides in Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation.

Of course, Microsoft says this kind of thing EVERY time it releases a new version of Windows (especially "It just works"). Here's hoping that in the next 19 months, the company puts its coding where its mouth is.

| posted by Rajan @ 3:59 PM


USA Gets the Middle Finger

Indra Nooyi is the CFO and president of PepsiCo. Originally from Chennai, she got her MBA from IIM Calcutta and a MBA from Yale later in 1980. She gave the commencement speech to the Columbia MBA class of 2005. She made an analogy that is stirring up the blogosphere. She compared the world to the hand and five continents to five fingers. Africa is the little finger because of its place in the world's stage, Asia to the thumb because its strong and ready to assert itself, ring finger to South America because of the romantic passion, index finger to Europe for pointing towards western civilization. She reserved the best for the last. The excerpt :


This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, The United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg-up in global business since the end of World War I.


A graduating student expressed displeasure and the conservative blogs pounced on her for being unpatriotic, ethnically insensitive and what not. What they left out and refuse to acknowledge is what immediately followed the text above :

However, if used inappropriately, just like the U.S. itself, the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I am talking about. In fact, I suspect you are hoping that I will demonstrate what I mean. And trust me, I am not looking for volunteers to model.

Discretion being the better part of valor ... I think I will pass. What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S., the long middle finger, must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand ... not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S., the middle finger , sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.


They want her blood for doing so and some are speculating that PepsiCo may bid goodbye to her, some want to boycott Pepsi products and so on. Grimes of India has covered the issue too. Nooyi is probably banging her head over how this went out of control and she has issued a statement which was covered by Grimes again. I do agree that the analogy is not very great but I feel that her intentions were not bad. And I really think that it is good for MBAs to know how to be humble in the international arena.

Conservative cogs are always ready to grind the gears. Karl Rove the master puppet-master, Ann Coulter the molter and Rush Lumbaugh flush-Lumbaugh have all reared a wide conservative base that spews venom, albeit effectively.

| posted by Shankar B @ 3:19 PM


DLP Goes to India

Texas Instruments' DLP technology has finally arrived in India. First ever DLP cinema theater in India is in Chennai and it is opening with Star Wars Episode III today. Sathyam cinema complex is a wonderful cinema complex, they were the first cineplex to have Dolby Stereo Surround in Chennai(possibly in India too) and they are the largest theater in India in terms of moviewatchers. They were the first theater to have online booking for movie tickets too.

I first read the DLP news here. I later dug up news items and Hindu has covered about Sathyam complex 10 days ago. Sathyam is also about to get two IMAX screens, one in March 2006 and another in 2009. I am beginning to drool now.

| posted by Shankar B @ 3:00 PM


Language learning declines after second year of life

Source:  news @ Nature

Excerpt :
Our ability to learn language is already on the wane by our third year of life, according to a study of profoundly deaf children given cochlear implants to restore some of their hearing.


The research supports the widely held belief that there is a 'sensitive period' for language learning, during which the capacity to acquire vocabulary and grammar is heightened. "But I was surprised we found evidence that this sensitive period occurs so early in life," says Mario Svirsky, an acoustic engineer from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, who led the study.

Svirsky and his colleague Rachael Frush Holt looked at 96 children who had received implants during their first four years of life. The implants, which are surgically inserted in the ear, convert sound into electrical signals that the brain can interpret, allowing many deaf people to hear.

The team then tested the children's language development and speech comprehension every few months for several years after the procedure.

Svirsky found that the rate of language learning was greatest for those given implants before they turned two. This was measured with the widely used Reynell Developmental Language Scales, which test a child's vocabulary and understanding of grammar. Children given implants at three or four years of age acquired language skills more slowly, although Svirsky stresses that these children still benefited from the devices.

Implantation before the age of two is still relatively rare, but "this study is convincing evidence that implantation in the first two years of life is more beneficial", Svirsky says. He presented his results on 16 May at the Acoustical Society of America conference in Vancouver, Canada.

| posted by Rajan @ 1:30 PM

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code

You want to know how good your software team is? Take the 12-step "yes or no" test called the Joel Test and find out.

1 Do you use source control?
2 Can you make a build in one step?
3 Do you make daily builds?
4 Do you have a bug database?
5 Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
6 Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
7 Do you have a spec?
8 Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
9 Do you use the best tools money can buy?
10 Do you have testers?
11 Do new candidates write code during their interview?
12 Do you do hallway usability testing?


Add 1 point for every answer that is "Yes". 12 is very good, 11 is acceptable and 10 or below is bad.

A recent article by the same author on how to make bad code look bad is here.

For hardware guys writing RTL code I have a very simple questionnaire :

1 Do you use loop constructs?

If yes, you must be taking the 12-step test above. Lazy desis, add your questions for hardware in the comments section. Keep it a simple yes or no type. Don't restrict it to RTL, you can add any digital design question here.

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:54 PM


Nice game: Vending machine

(Thanks Lad)

| posted by Ramki @ 12:15 AM

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Browsershots

Submit a URL and see how it looks in different browsers: Browsershots. I don't know why someone might want it though!

| posted by Ramki @ 11:51 PM


Get paid to blog

Poor graduate students who have lot of time to blog can now think of becoming rich!

| posted by Ramki @ 11:49 PM


British Politician Kicks Ass

British MP George Galloway appeared in front of a US senate sub-committee to defend allegations against possible kickbacks he got during the "Oil for food program". Right from the beginning, the MP was in a fierce attack mode. These Brits are really quick to their feet and are wonderful orators. You can see the whole video here [real video link] and read the complete transcript at Times UK. I also watch Jon Stewart's Daily Show on Comedy Central once in a while and he has a segment called "Moment of Zen" where he shows some funny bizzare moments. Recently, he has been showing clips (example here) from the British parliament and news reels where politicians and audience alike pounce on the powers-to-be. I am expecting Jon Stewart to have a field day with this testimony. Here are some juicy bits from the actual testimony (gleaned from BBC) :

# Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars? The answer to that is nobody and if you had anybody who paid me a penny you would have produced them here today."

# "I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."

# "You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever having written to me or telephoned me, without any contact with me whatsoever and you call that justice."

# "Senator [Norm Coleman, committee chairman], this is the mother of all smoke screens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth."

# "You have nothing on me Senator [Coleman], except my name on lists of names in Iraq, many of which were drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Iraq."

# "I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf."

# "I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."

# "One of the most serious mistakes you have made in this set of documents is such a schoolboy howler it makes a fool of the efforts you have made."

# "Senator [Coleman], in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies."


Aspiring politicians, watch the video and pick a cue or two. This is an amazing mix of rhetoric and plain-speak, not a single moment he wasted in using the lion's den (his own words) to further his political statement. Whether he will be found guilty or not seems widely beside the point now (to me). Galloway is appearing on Charlie Rose Show tonight.

| posted by Shankar B @ 3:10 PM


Biofriendly Brazil and Bush the Bully

In a recent Wired article, John Gartner discusses the energy policy adopted by Brazil. With 1/8th the size of US, Brazil produces more ethanol for energy consumption than the US. What interested me more is that Brazil produces more than 43% of its power from renewable resources - hydro and bio. Contrast that to US, which produces only 6%. Brazil has also adopted a strategy to include atleast 2% of all diesel fuel must be bio-diesel and must be at least 5% by 2013. A move that shocked Brazilians in the 90s that 26% of fuel must be ethanol based, is now seen with less scorn : with rising gas prices many Brazilians buy ethanol-only cars.

Corn and sugarcane are usually the primary sources for ethanol. I attended a tech-forum two weeks ago where we had some interesting chat : an engineer claimed that more than 50% of US grown corn ends up being wasted (he also included corn that is sold to other countries as a waste, I wanted to slap him) that can be converted to bio-diesel. Jack Uldrich gave an interesting talk about how nano-technology is a disruptive technology : it breaks markets in ways it was never intended to be. He later joined a bunch of us at our lunch table when he exclaimed that energy industry is the first one that is going to bear the brunt of nanotechnology's disruptiveness : from bio-mass to super-efficient solar cells and so on, energy industry is set for a nose dive. He also felt that, unfortunately the energy companies don't see it coming and hence are unwilling to mend their ways. (Jack is the author of a recent book "The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business.")

In another story, Bush has expressed his opinion on energy crisis and the ensuing increase in oil prices. With lip-service that can surpass only that of a hooker, Bush has been unwelcoming to renewable resources. But oh no, thats not going to stop him from bad-mouthing developing countries : It's in our economic interest and our national interest to help countries like India and China become more efficient users of oil," Bush said at a Virginia processing plant that makes "biodiesel" fuel out of soybeans. I agree that the energy requirements of India and China are on a steady rise, but the projected requirements of both countries for 2010 are still very less compared to current American requirements. Gas prices in the US are among the lowest in the world and the increased dependncy of US population on petrol is not helping to reduce oil imports. Many energy companies feel that it does not make economic sense to them to get into alternate fuels, but Brazil is taking the right step ahead for the future. Bravo Brazil!!

| posted by Shankar B @ 1:08 PM


Ten Must-Read Tech Stories

Forbes has an interesting article of ten most tech stories.
The last one has already been posted as a separate story in the blog.

| posted by raj @ 11:26 AM


Intel's CPU with hyperthreading under attack!

A recent paper published by an oxford graduate reveals how an Intel P4 with hyperthreading can be exploited and impersonate the server in order to steal other users' login credentials. Intel acknowledges the loophole found by an unemployed Oxford graduate, who right now is too busy to do any work! The exlpoit works in multiuser environment or in the server side.
"How the attack is used would depend entirely upon the environment. In the case of a multi-user server where users login via SSH, a legitimate user could log in, provoke the SSH daemon into performing a private key operation using the host key, and then steal that key and use it to impersonate the server in order to steal other users' login credentials," he wrote in the e-mail. "

| posted by raj @ 11:12 AM


A parody Blog: Marissa(BETA)

"Hi, my name's Marissa. I'm head of consumer web products for a company you may have heard of. There's absolutely nothing wrong with our products, even though they're perpetually in beta, the user experience is perfect I tell you, perfect. Or it will be as soon as those webmaster thingies modify the web for us. Oh yeh, and this blog's a parody of me!"

| posted by Ramki @ 2:56 AM

Monday, May 16, 2005

Give me back my Bangalore !

A very funny article about changing lifestyles in Bangalore. I have first hand experienced the same things as mentioned in the article. I have felt like a villager who has wandered into a mall, surprised at the advances and scared of appearing uncouth. There is a corner store near my house where you get everything from Tropicana, RedBull to salsa for your nachos !! However I still miss my Bangalore, yes it has now been completely packaged and sold to crass commercialism. But it would be stupid of me to expect DSL on one hand and no pseudo accents on the other ! This is the flip side of commercialism I will have to come to terms with.

http://littleindia.com/may2005/KeepingUpWithKapoors.htm

Is it the same deal with Chennai and Hyd ?

Comments welcome.

| posted by HollaMan @ 9:30 PM


Sleepless in Seattle (and in the rest of west coast)

An interesting article in MSNBC on how outsourcing has affected the sleeping patterns of workers in the US . Some companies like TI and Intel actually plans across timezones for their projects. The projects and responsibilities are divided up across timezones. Work from one location is taken over by the other when the sun goes down. India, specifically, is well located because of its 12-hour timezone difference with the US. Employees start their day with a handoff from across the pond and end it with handing off their work. With broadband and computing equipment becoming very cheap, its no surprise that companies use the time zone difference to their advantage. But, what effect it has on employees in both the sides is a whole different issue.

| posted by Shankar B @ 5:54 PM


University Goes After Anonymous Bloggers Because They Don't Like Them

Apparently there are some fairly obnoxious anonymous bloggers at St. Lawrence University, who have been criticizing and mocking students, faculty and staff at the university. It's clear that some administrators are pretty pissed off about the whole thing (as are plenty of students). However, just because you don't like something doesn't mean you can go after them legally. However, the university appears to be doing exactly that, filing a lawsuit to unmask the anonymous bloggers. Of course, since there's nothing illegal about being anonymous, they had to come up with another reason. So, they came up with some bizarre charges, saying that the students violated copyrights by taking some photos off the school's website, altering them, and posting them to the blog -- for which they could probably claim it was protected parody use. However, even the school admits they don't really care about the copyright issues, they just want to find out who the people are, so they can take other action against them. This certainly seems like a pretty serious misuse of a copyright violation claim. Anyway, it looks like the school may be closing in on the students as the court ordered Google to give up their IP addresses (which they did) -- but so far Time Warner Cable has resisted in turning over whose accounts are associated with those IP addresses. Obviously, the bloggers involved are going a bit over the top in what they're posting, but it doesn't sound like they've done anything really illegal -- just annoying.

(Via Techdirt)

| posted by Ramki @ 2:44 PM


Kids Say the Darndest Things

Ask questions on dating and marriage, and kids had the following to say. This is pure comedy gold. Comments are not mine. Come back and read this if you dont have time now.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO MARRY?

( 1 ) You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. -- Alan, age 10
( 2 ) No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with. -- Kirsten, age 10

WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED?

( 1 ) Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then. -- Camille, age 10
( 2 ) No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married. -- Freddie, age 6 (very wise for his age)

HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?

( 1 ) You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. -- Derrick, age 8

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MOM AND DAD HAVE IN COMMON?

( 1 ) Both don't want any more kids. -- Lori, age 8

WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?

( 1 ) Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. --Lynnette, age 8 (isn't she a treasure)
( 2 ) On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. -- Martin, age 10

WHAT WOULD YOU DO ON A FIRST DATE THAT'S TURNING SOUR?

( 1 ) I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns. --Craig, age 9

WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?

( 1 ) When they're rich. -- Pam, age 7
( 2 ) The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that. -- Curt, age 7
( 3 ) The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do. -- Howard, age 8


IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?

( 1 ) I don't know which is better, but I'll tell you one thing. I'm never going to have sex with my wife. I don't want to be all grossed out. --Theodore, age 8
(2 ) It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. -- Anita, age 9 (bless you child)


HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT IF PEOPLE DIDN'T GET MARRIED?

( 1 ) There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there? --Kelvin, age 8

HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?

(1 ) Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck. -- Ricky, age 10

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:23 AM

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Matrix not too far away

I got this forwarded mail from a friend of mine... But there is indeed some truth in it. The ALICEbot is really cool. Try chatting with it.

No doubt you have seen Matrix movie. What powered those machines?



Step 1 -------------------- Power source

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&amp;click_id=31&amp;art_id=qw111596760144B215
&quot;A Japanese research team has developed a fuel cell that
&nbsp;&nbsp;runs on blood without using toxic substances...&quot;



Step 2 -------------------- Self replication

http://www.macnewsworld.com/story/Cornell-University-Scientists-Develop-Self-Replicating-Robot-132007C8P73O.xhtml
Cornell University Scientists Develop Self-Replicating Robot



Step 3 -------------------- Brain

http://www.cyc.com/
Cyc is set to be released on Internet soon...
Cyc is supposed to have common sense and retrieve info from Internet



Step 4 -------------------- Language interaction

http://www.alicebot.org/
ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity)



Step 5 -------------------- Matrix

When artificial brain CYC, finds out about self-replication
and uses ALICE to fool humans to provide power.

| posted by Ramki @ 3:07 PM


More funny videos

Scare Tactics ; Store wars; Mazda-B series.

NSFW :Lord of the Raised Sword: LOTR for grown ups! Spermo from the swolland ballz have been sent on a crucial mission in the land of Cuntia. :-)

| posted by Ramki @ 3:14 AM

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Young Japanese are Rude

Japanese youth as rude as any other youngster : not respecting personal spaces, yapping on cellphones, reading pornography in public (???) or sending emails from the parliament (thats better than sleeping in one).


Rudeness does not stop there
. How dare they cross the legs in the train, swing umbrellas during their preppy little walks or eat lunch in public. Oh my goodness, eating in public. Carrying large bags, kissing, crying, sitting on the floor are the other rude things that they do.

The old folk are pretty pissed off and they are visibly uncomfortable. Not to mention, they scold the youngsters. The ever polite Japanese youth are now getting back.

The worst that one can do in daily speech would be Shine bakayaro!, which means little more than "Drop dead, you idiot!" Such is the dearth of salty invective that angry Japanese turn increasingly to a reliable English expression, pronounced the Japanese way: Fakkyuu.

| posted by Shankar B @ 5:26 PM


News from Iraq

I am not sure if the situation in Iraq for both the population and the soldiers fighting there is getting any better, so why not try to find a news reporter covering the news from within the country itself. Now is it safe in Iraq?
[Via attu Caution : Mildly NSFW Website. Video is safe and damn funny]

| posted by Ramki @ 5:09 AM

Friday, May 13, 2005

Web @ work

" The 2005 Web@Work survey suggests that surfing the web may be more addictive than coffee. Fifty-two per cent of employees surveyed who use the internet at work for personal reasons stated that they would rather give up their morning java than Internet access at work, while only 44 per cent would give up their internet access for coffee. Furthermore, Internet usage at work is increasing -- 93 per cent of all respondents said they spend at least some time accessing the Internet at work. This is up from 86 per cent in 2004, as reported in the 2004 Web@Work survey. " [ article ]

Its suprising that last year 14% of the employees do not spend anytime on the internet. I hope the sample space had people who all have access to the net. Do you have an idea how many hours you spend browsing personal pages at work ? Would you agree with the 3.5 hrs/week (45 mins a day) avg resulting from the survey of the emplyees or 6 hrs/week estimated by IT employers.

| posted by Rajan @ 8:27 AM

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Lost in Translation

In a bizzare story in the business world, a mistake in translation resulted in widespread panic across the world and caused US Dollars to take a small tumble. Guan Xiangdong is a tourism reporter for China News Service who was filling in temporarily for finance section. A statement that she made was incorrectly translated as Chinese yuan being revalued. This newsfeed was picked up by Bloomberg and flashed across everywhere in the world. The markets were closing in Asia at that time and this led to traders dumping USD for Japanese yen, Singapore dollars and Indian rupees. When the mistake was noticed by chief China economist of Standard Chartered Bank, the damage was already done. Almost $2 billion dollars were traded within a space of few minutes after the Bloomberg newsfeed.

Chinese yuan has been suspected to be artifically undervalued by many and so any revaluing of yuan will mean that their exports will become expensive and the Chinese trade surplus will diminish.

The passage in question :

China had decided to revalue the yuan by 1.26 percent within a month and 6.03 percent in 12 months.


must have been

Speculators on the nondeliverable forward market were betting that the yuan would rise by 1.26 percent and 6.03 percent.


Those greedy suit-and-ties who were trying to make quick money on these short fluctuations definitely deserve some holes in their pockets. The finance world is so bizzare it can take any small rumor and magnify it many times more and cause a frenzy. I remember an anecdotal quote from a long time ago in India : Harshad Mehta, the Indian stock market wizard, was talking something about Andhra Pradesh which was overheard by an eager (actually greedy and bastardly) small time investor who thought Andhra Cement is upto something. He shared it with his buddies and they with theirs and this caused a wildfire. This trigerred a wide purchase of Andhra Cement stocks without any rhyme or reason. (I will search for a link about that and post it. If any of you know a link, post in the comments section.)

Incidentally, there was news report that Indian rupee was at an all-time high in the past 71 months yesterday. Is it because of this stupid trigger happy trading, I am not qualified to tell.

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:17 PM


XX < XY at Top Math and Science Positions

Two weeks ago I blogged about sex differences in the brain. I recently saw a beautiful dialogue for nature vs nurture argument to explain the differences in male and female brains. Two eminent Harvard psychology professors Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelk focused on the relevant scientific literature. The excerpt of the entire debate is below. There is a full 290 MB video for the broadband dwellers.

For Nature : (Stephen Pinker)

... important corollary is that tail ratios are affected by differences in variance. And biologists since Darwin have noted that for many traits and many species, males are the more variable gender. So even in cases where the mean for women and the mean for men are the same, the fact that men are more variable implies that the proportion of men would be higher at one tail, and also higher at the other. As it's sometimes summarized: more prodigies, more idiots.

Six differences : Men and women differ in
1. What they state are their priorities in life
2. Their interest in people versus things and abstract rule systems
3. Aversion to risk
4. Ability to perform three-dimensional mental transformations
5. Mathematical reasoning
6. Variability - as described in previous sentence

.... many sex differences can be seen in other mammals. There are large differences between males and females in many mammals in aggression, in investment in offspring, in play aggression play versus play parenting, and in the range size. ..... Among baby vervet monkeys, the males even prefer to play with trucks and the females with other kinds of toys!

Some sex differences seem to emerge even in the first week of life. Girls respond more to sounds of distress, and girls make more eye contact than boys. And in a study that I know Liz disputes and that I hope we'll talk about, newborn boys were shown to be more interested in looking at a physical object than a face, whereas newborn girls were shown to be more interested in looking at a face than a physical object.

For Nurture : (Elizabeth Spelk)

.......... Babies also start with rudimentary abilities to represent that an object continues to exist when it's out of view, and they hold onto those representations longer, and over more complicated kinds of changes, as they grow. Babies make basic inferences about object motion: inferences like, the force with which an object is hit determines the speed with which it moves. These inferences undergo regular developmental changes over the infancy period.

Five core systems in learning how humans began to do abstract mathematics :

1. Representing small and exact number of objects
2. Discriminating large approximate numerical magnitudes
3. Natural number concepts
4. Geometry of the layout
5. Landmarks

In all five, male and female infants do not show any significant difference. .... The differences which are seen in later stages are still not deficiencies.

About variation in men vs women :

Some studies have interviewed parents just after the birth of their child, at the point where the first question that 80% of parents ask — is it a boy or a girl? — has been answered. Parents of boys describe their babies as stronger, heartier, and bigger than parents of girls. The investigators also looked at the babies' medical records and asked whether there really were differences between the boys and girls in weight, strength, or coordination. The boys and girls were indistinguishable in these respects, but the parents' descriptions were different.

For example, in one study a child on a video-clip was playing with a jack-in-the-box. It suddenly popped up, and the child was startled and jumped backward. When people were asked, what's the child feeling, those who were given a female label said, "she's afraid." But the ones given a male label said, "he's angry." Same child, same reaction, different interpretation.

..... There's clearly a mismatch between what parents perceive in their kids and what objective measures reveal.

Her reasons why females may not be present in top rungs of the academic ladder :
1. Biased perceptions produce discrimination
2. More men than women will put themselves forward into the academic competition, because men will see that they've got a better chance for success.
3. Biased perceptions earlier in life may well deter some female students from even attempting a career in science or mathematics.
4. Snowball effect - All of us have an easier time imagining ourselves in careers where there are other people like us.

Spelk also discusses studies in which blind review for academic tenure showed gender bias in recruitment of male vs female faculty who are not the exemplary type.


All in all, the whole talk is a very interesting read.

| posted by Shankar B @ 5:19 PM


Dutch academics declare research free for all!

"Scientists from all major Dutch universities officially launched a website on Tuesday where all their research material can be accessed for free. Interested parties can get hold of a total of 47,000 digital documents from 16 institutions the Digital Academic Repositories. No other nation in the world offers such easy access to its complete academic research output in digital form, the researchers claim. Obviously, commercial publishers are not amused."
(From theregister)

| posted by Ramki @ 1:57 PM


India eyes own open-source license

CNET News.com (http://www.news.com/)

Here is another twist to open source licensing KPL (Knowledge Public Licence). BTW I didn't know about the Ekalavya program in India which hooks you up with a mentor from Industry if you have a selling idea.

India eyes own open-source license
By Michael Kanellos

Does anyone really need another open-source licensing model? One of the leaders of India's IT movement says yes.

http://news.com.com/India+eyes+own+open-source+license/2100-7344_3-5701861.html?tag=sas.email

Read all technology news from this week:
http://www.news.com/thisweeksheadlines/

| posted by raj @ 10:34 AM

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Funny videos

If Bush were black ....
Loser
Don't touch my car bitch!

| posted by Ramki @ 5:06 PM


Pleasure Marriages

The Shiite administration in Iraq is taking the expression "Trophy Marriage" too far - much to the discomfort to women's rights. A practice called muta'a meaning "pleasure marriage" is a contract that can last anywhere between 1 hour to 10 years whereby a man pays a woman in exchange for sexual intimacy. This practice is 1400 years old and has been banned in the Saddam regime with heavy fines and imprisonment for violators.

Shiite clerics want to base the Iraqi constitution on Sharia, the Islamic law, which has legal provisions for this heinous practice. Originally intended for widowed women and singles under "special circumstances", the sweeping victory of the Shiites is bringing this under-the-radar practice above the surface. Many students are practising this marriage now. The practice is considered wrong by many Shiite and Sunni clerics alike but the legalization is expected to open a can of worms. Read the news story here.

Sharia has its other problems when it comes to marriage : a woman who had legal recourse if her husband got into a secret muta'a is now helpless. Women, however old they are, must seek the permission of her family to get married. Minors can be married off without their permission. All this will just offset the women's rights that was dreamed of at the end of Saddam regime.

I have only one question to the clerics and the government officials trying to legalize this practice : WTF?

| posted by Shankar B @ 3:42 PM


Vegetative Feedback


"Earth's climate is all about relationships, and this study shows that ground cover plays a significant part in determining changes in climate extremes," said Diffenbaugh, who is an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in Purdue's College of Science. "We are accustomed to hearing that greenhouse gases affect climate, but they are not the only factor we should consider. Our climate models also must incorporate the effect of vegetation if they are to capture the full scope of reality."  [article]

"Interpretations of this research could be challenged because it is an initial idealized experiment, not a forecast," Diffenbaugh said. "For example, I used an idealized vegetation cover for the region, and I have left out several important processes, such as the role of human land use and the role of changes in the way nutrients cycle from the earth into living things and back again."

Aside : Modelling the environment and the feedback due to vegetation in an area is awesome.

| posted by Rajan @ 9:46 AM

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Google Content Blocker

"Google's mission is to organize the world's advertising for maximum exposure to Web users. Unfortunately, annoying Web content often overwhelms the page, causing many users to become distracted and overlook the ads."
Check out Google Content Blocker. [Via J-walkblog]

| posted by Ramki @ 4:08 PM

Monday, May 09, 2005

Dont's For A Job Interview

Some job-seekers just don't get it when it comes to interviewing. Following are some thumbrules which a HR director provided after seeing people do some silly things:

| posted by Shankar B @ 10:01 PM


Firefox Ads

Three TV commercials for firefox.

Do you need a commercial to promote a good product? In Internet world, those who want better browsing will automatically switch to firefox. Ofcourse, there are those ignorant browsers who end up as the target of all the worms and viruses. But is this really required? Does google air commercials?

| posted by Ramki @ 10:01 PM


Feast for Your Eyes

Timecatcher is an amazing collection of pictures from America, Europe and Australia. Some samples :


























































The site is run by Jay Patel. We get a whole new meaning for Patel Point Pictures as we know it :-)

| posted by Shankar B @ 2:39 PM

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