Monday, December 31, 2001

Afghanistan hopes to lure back Western tourists.

Here's how a guided tour would go...
What is this pile of rubble? Oh, there were once called the Bamiyan Buddhas. The Taliban didn't like them much. But there are better places, let me show you around.

Over here, over here... ladies and gentleman, that heap of rubble you see was once the Red Cross centre, one of the first civilian casualties was suffered here.

Here's a historical site. This is the place where the US dropped its god-knows-how-many-tonne Daisy Cutters. Neat job, eh?

Oh, and this one here, is where Osama spent three seconds of his life. You see that chair in the corner, he almost sat on it before fleeing to another safe house, we don't know where...

And this prison here: it was a scene of a massacre by US-UK-Alliance forces.

No, no, no... Don't step that way... that's off limits for Western tourists... Only Afghans can go there, unless you want to get your feet blown off....

A parking ticket for Steve Waugh.

Steve Waugh on being penalised:

"It was a misunderstanding from my point of view. I read the papers and I wasn't overly pleased with what I read -- I thought it was a little bit unfair but you guys (media) can only write what you see. It wasn't as straightforward as what it appeared.''

Shouldn't he have kept his mouth shut in the Sachin Tendulkar case?

Rodney Ledward, a gynaecologist, was accused of raping and sexually assaulting 60 women patients. Now there are allegations that he make have faked his own death.

Requires free registration.

In the past 48 hours, the Indian-Pakistani conflict has exposed almost every fuzzy, unconsidered, unclear aspect of America's new foreign policy, and with alarming speed.

"If the United States was well within its rights to destroy terrorists who attacked Washington and New York, the Indians are well within their rights to destroy terrorists who attack New Delhi: Imagine a suicide bomb attack on the House of Commons or on the steps of the U.S. Congress. If we are not to appear hypocritical, we are obliged to sympathize with India."

Kashmir is part of the mess that Britain left behind.

Computer code is like chromosomes, both store information.
But now that similarity is being extended to build evolutionary computers. Chips that redisgn themselves for optimum efficiency.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

I am not a great one at farewells. I have worked with Lindsay for six years and he leaves today. Since I am not writing a very emotional farewell note to him... here are three written by fellow bloggers and colleagues.

Farewell ......curite noctis equi

See Ya Around

This one is for what could have been!

Here's an interesting observation I picked from Bibek Debroy's essay on the Indian Middle Class in The Week magazine.
A somewhat simplistic analysis, but one that we can think over nevertheless.
Based on available data he classifies the middle income group as a household earning anywhere between Rs 33,750 and Rs 1,44,000 pa (Rs 2812 and Rs 12,000 pm).
Then he argues how the middle class is the beneficiary of all subsidies.
Explicit subsidies are around Rs 30,000 crore. There are 250 million people below the poverty line. If this Rs 30,000 were distributed directly to the poor, each of these would get around Rs 1200 a year. Obviously that is not happening. So where is the booty going?
It's goint to the middle class: via PDS, via fertiliser subsidies (benefiting rich farmers and fertiliser companies), via higher education subsidies, via LPG, or finally via protected and subsidised jobs in the public sector and the government.
The government, according to the essay, employs 20 million people, mostly in urban areas, where most of the subsidies are. The urban population stands at 65 million households. So, one in three earns its living from the government and obtains the benefit of subsidies.
No wonder then that the middle class is the strongest opponent of a removal of subsidies.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Should you be worried?

Is there a shortage of women?

The Wall Street Journal recently used birth rates and census figures to predict a shortage of marriage-age women in the next 10 years for guys who are in their 30s and 40s. Currently, it said, numbers of single men and single women ages 30 to 44 are about the same.

And a lot of American men are losing sleep -- and hair -- over the report.

And now, a computer that's better than humans at determining gender

Hopefully, we won't start having sexist computers!

Friday, December 28, 2001

A new take on an ancient Indian dance form: Bharat Natyam. From the Pakistan newspaper, The Friday Times.

Sometimes, I feel completely out of whack with reality.

Especially when an old colleague tells me excitedly on an instant messenger that she is doing pot.
"So what's wrong," she asks me. "My hubby encourages me. And it's good fun doing it together."

I thought holding your hands and watching the sunset was fun. I thought arguing over little things and making up was fun. I thought listening to music with the lights dimmed was fun. I thought a quite, private dinner at your favourite restaurant was fun.

Has fun changed all that much since?

Union Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi vows to eradicated illiteracy by 2010.

How about eradicating illiteracy among our elected representatives first. And what does he mean by illiteracy. A school education? A college education? A useless degree? I know many educated people who are illiterate and I know many supposedly illiterate people who know more about the world than we will ever learn in 15-20 years of formal education.

Singapore uses SMS to match-make and up its population count.

Has Popeye, the spinach-loving sailor, gone gay.
A new ad would have us believe so.

Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Have I changed the blog or has the blog changed me?

If you notice, my blog has changed considerably since I first started blogging three months ago.
Initially, I used to post just links that I found interesting during the course of my work, sometimes accompanied by a blurb.
Somewhere along the way, I realised I had a readership. And that's when the change started happening.
Not just in my blog. But within me itself.
I began having opinions about things I wouldn't usually have bothered with. I began observing things more closely and thinking about them more deeply than is my wont.
Now, there's more of me in the blog than merely interesting links.

A call to alms

At a food stall of a Railway Station in Mumbai: An office-goer is busy eating his lunch: a vada-pav. He spots a stray dog at his feet, wagging its tail and eyeing his lunch expectantly. He promptly buys a couple of pavs and feeds the dog. Moments later, a beggar, who looks like he hasn't eaten for days, walks up to the office-goer. One disdainful look, and he summarily shoos him away.
Why is it that we are kinder to animals than our fellow human beings?
I wouldn't give the time of day, leave alone a few paise, to a beggar at a signal. But I wouldn't think twice about feeding a stray dog.
Is it that something about such a human condition stirs our revulsion more than our genorosity? Do we, subconsciously, blame human beings for the condition they find themselves in, and reason that an animal couldn't have known better?

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Pot Luck!

Between the time I graduated and got a job, I lived with a cousin in Antop Hill.
His house was a haven for bachelors like me and others from my community. Married with two kids, he had turned his house into a mini-hostel. At any given point in time, there would be five young hopefuls sharing his 1BHK flat, that was rented from a central government employee.
We would sleep on mats in the living room, while he found a modicum of privacy with his wife and kids in the bedroom.
Every morning, even before brushing my teeth, I would pore over The Daily.
By The Daily I am not referring to those sheets of newsprint that feature the previous day's news. I couldn't have cared less whether Gorbachev's perestroika was working as well as Chandraswami's shenanigans.
The Daily I scrutinised every morning cost one rupee and featured only numbers. Numbers recommended by experts, dreamt up by people, numbers that were the flavour of the season (26 on Republic Day for instance), and numbers picked by astrologers.
The Daily was the Holy Book of matka punters. Among other things, it featured a 30-day list of prize-winning numbers announced by the five main bazaars.
Bazaars? A matka operation was called a bazaar. There were five then: Kalyan, Worli, Main, Morning Janata and Night Janata. The last two had a dubious record of being fixed and hardcore matka players usually preferred either or all of the first three.
There are three basic bets to a matka play: Single Number (odds 1:8), Bracket (odds 1:90), and Paana (odds 1:140). There are of course many variations like DP (Double Panna), Forecast, etc.
This is how it's supposed to work. Every bazaar announces two sets of numbers, called the Open and Close. How do they arrive at the numbers? According to hearsay, a top honcho of the bazaar draws three cards for the Open results. Let's assume he draws 3 (thiya), 6 (chakka) and 9 (nauvva). Then the winning Single Number is 8 (3+6+9=18). And 369 is the winning paana. This process is repeated after three hours to get the Close numbers. Let's say, our man draws 1 (Ikka), 2 (duva) and 10 (Mindi, for matka purposes 10 is considered zero). The single number is 3 and the Paana is 120. The Bracket is essentially a combination of the Open and Close single numbers, in this case 83. The bet gets its name from the way a day's matka results are written 369 (83) 120. Double paana is basically a paana with two identical numbers like 255 and a forecast is a combination of Open and Close paanas.
We used to place our bets at the local franchisee (they were there all over Mumbai). For your money, you would get brightly coloured chits with your numbers written on them. Usually, the Den my cousin frequented honoured all winning chits, though I heard horror stories of defaulters. Matka dens were great levellers. Homeless, drunken vagrants played 25p bets at the same counter as well-heeled gents placing 1000 rupee bets, and some of them even exchanged dreams and reccos. The expression on the faces of punters and the air of expectancy just before the results had to be seen to be believed.
Naive as I was then, I was told that matka numbers followed a pattern. To pick a winning paana you had to follow the cycles. Let's take 369. There are three possible cycles in this 36, 69, and 39. Cycles, according to the people in the know, were repeated weekly. If 369 was the winning panna in the Open last Wednesday, it was likely that one of the three cycles would be repeated this Wednesday. Numbers separated by five, like 3 and 8, were considered opposites. So if there was a 3 as a Single Number on a specific day of the week, then an 8 was likely on that day next week.
There were of course innumerable patterns. And spotting those patterns is what I would work on every morning. It's not that I hoped to win a few thousands (of course, I could have done with a lot more than a few thousands). The thrill was in cracking what I considered a mathematical problem. The thrill was in beating the system.
I failed hopelessly. And never managed to pick a single winning number. A cousin, who backed his dreams and hallucinations, not to mention the astrological predictions in The Daily, won a lot more.
Isn't life a bitch!

Monday, December 24, 2001

The Big Ten powerhouses that control the world's media and shape popular culture and worldwide opinion.

Can Chicken shit save the world from an energy crisis, while simultaneously helping the environment.

West Virginia University chemical engineering professor Al Stiller thinks so.

A lot was made of the Indian security agencies inability to forestall the attack on Parliament, despite warnings of such attacks from various sources.
Two days ago, a man smuggled explosives hidden in his shoes into an American Airlines flight and almost blew it up. In fact, American security agencies had warned airlines that shoes could be used by terrorists to smuggle explosives on board.
So, how did this huge security lapse occur? And, especially, in country which is still reeling from the worst terrorist attack in history?
The problem with security warnings is we usually only hear of the ones that come true, and then we blame a security lapse. I am sure that in situations like the present, law enforcement agencies around the world must be receiving and processing many threats. Sifting the credible from the cranks is not always an easy job. We have been hearing constantly since September 11, that more major terrorist strikes are imminent, that terrorists may use dirty bombs, biowarfare weapons may be unleashed. But, thankfully, none of that has materialised.
If we start believing every threat to be credible and true, how will we ever get on with our lives. The first fallout of such a situation will predictably be civil rights and free movement.
Are we ready to live with that?
Besides, no matter what precaution we take, history proves that if a terrorist is willing to put his life on the line, there is little anybody can do to stop him from committing his heinous acts.
I am not saying that we should stop protecting our institutions, leaders and people. All I am saying is that we should not use terrorism as an excuse to subvert freedom, victimse sections of the population and subjugate civil rights. Because none of these will ever contain the canker.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

Should Time Magazine name Osama bin Laden the Person of the Year.

I think so. Because if there was one person who dominated the world's consciousness, it was Osama. Tomorrow, we will know if it does name him.

But it's turning out to be a PR nightmare for them.

"You can’t shake a URL these days without stumbling upon someone’s attempt at self-disclosure or masturbatory linking."

That's how psychologist John M Grohol describes the weblog phenomenon in his article the Psychology of Weblogs.

What better barometer of popular culture than an analysis of search queries on the world's most popular search engine. Get a peek into the year that was at the Google Zeitgeist

In the 1960s, social psychologist Stanley Milgram suggested that every person in the US is connected through a chain of, at most, six people. It came to be called the Six Degrees of Separation theory.

Now a team of sociologists at Columbia University are testing the hypothesis using email.

A New York Times article. Requires free registration.

He is just 15 years old. And he is dying of cancer in a bleak hospital ward.

He has one dying wish: to make love to a woman.

How does a minor and the people who care for him tread though the ethical and practical minefield to see that he gets such a wish? And should he be granted that wish at all?

Friday, December 21, 2001

This was voted the world's funniest joke in a web experiment.

"Famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his gruff assistant Doctor Watson pitch their tent while on a camping expedition, but in the middle of the night Holmes nudges Watson awake and questions him.

HOLMES: Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you deduce.

WATSON: I see millions of stars, and if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it is quite likely there are some planets like earth, and if there are a few planets like earth out there might also be life.

HOLMES: Watson, you idiot! Somebody stole our tent."

More jokes on Laughlab

I haven't visited a library in years. Today, I have just been to one. It's called ebrary. Set up by the Learning Network, the people behind popular sites like Infoplease and Factmonster, this one is an online library of ebooks. Learn more about it by taking the virtual tour.
One of the first things that caught my eye on the home page is Arundathi Roy's Cost of Living. Download the free software called Infotools, available on the site, and you can read the entire book (a collection featuring The End of Imagination and The Greater Common Good) online.
I downloaded Infotools just to get a feel of digital book-reading. I must say I am bit disappointed. The process is too slow, cumbersome and not to mention bad for the eyes. But I guess we might just have to get used to it.
Next on my agenda is the 268-page Globalization by Malcolm Waters, who promises to simplify the complexities of the global economy for the lay reader. Will report on my experiment soon.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Noam Chomsky’s Lies

"What really alarms me about President Bush's "war on terrorism" is the grammar. How do you wage war on an abstract noun? It's rather like bombing murder.

A Daily Telegraph report on why grammar is the first casualty of war

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Today, an old colleague dropped in. Just. Out of the blue.
He used to be a cut-paste artist in a newspaper. Now he is a dinosaur of the inforamtion age.
After 20 years of service, and just four years short of his retirement, he has been handed the pink slip (of course, in this case the pink slip is merely metaphorical for his termination). He has been replaced by computers that can do his work faster, more efficiently and at a fraction of the cost.
His sense of loss -- and betrayal by an employer to whom he dedicated 20 years of his life -- is incalculable.
It's not the loss of remuneration that worries him ("My children are doing well," he says). It's the sheer weight of time on hands that's burdening him.
He wants to know whether there is anything he can do ("I can even deliver stuff, I know the city well"). The money is not important. He wants to feel that he is still useful for something. He wants to have his self-respect, not live off his children.

Monday, December 17, 2001

Salon calls Lord of the Rings The movie of the year

A great review.

The origins of racism

An article from The Economist which says that racism could be easily eradicated.

Athletes Sleep Into Thin Air

Athletes are training for the 2002 winter olympics using Hypoxic Tent System, which simulates the rarefied air at high altitudes.

This has spurred an ethical debate over whether they are a legal way to boost performance of a naturally occurring hormone or simply a form of doping.

Finally, a cure you shouldn't sneeze at.

Two new drugs promise a cure -- and not just relief -- for common cold

International intrigue and war reporting at their very best.

Seymour Hersh reports on a new war plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein

Here's how it will work: The Iraqi National Congress, an anti-Saddam group, will infiltrate Southern Iraq via Iran. Once in Iraq, the INC would create a povisional government, which the US would recognise. The US, in turn, will begin intense bombing of Iraq and simultaneously insert its special forces troops for a ground war.

"If all went as planned, dissent would quickly break out inside the Iraqi military, and Saddam Hussein would be confronted with a dilemma: whether to send his élite forces south to engage the Americans or, for his own protection, keep all his forces nearby to guard against an invasion from the north."

Confessions of a Teenage Drug Addict

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Here are some points to ponder from a man in the know :)

Count your cliches before they hatch

This is the kind of writing that could open your eyes to a brave new world.

Enjoy the cliches!

LIC has pleasantly surprised me. I guess they had no choice with the growing number of competitors in the insurance business.
I logged into the LIC site quite by chance only to discover a few cool changes.
Now I can pay my premiums on my policies online and even manage them better thanks to an online folder of my policies. At any given point in time, I can get, with a few clicks of the keyboard, the status on my policies.

The AQ Test

A test to measure autistic traits in adults.

Home Sweet Home
Part 1 | Part 2

Part 3

Dahisar seemed like heaven after Kurar. The paint was peeling, there was more furniture than floor space, the doors wouldn't shut properly, the neighbours were surly... but these were niggles we could live with.
But slowly the euphoria of moving into a relatively better house, in a relatively better area began to wear off. A building sprung up overnight to block our terrific view -- and the easterly breeze -- of Bombayites strap-hanging from trains on their way to work; the rains brought with them a flood of sewage water right into our compound; the taps ran dry; after the paint, the plaster started falling off in chunks; the doors grew increasingly intransigent; the knees got bruised through regular and forceful contact with edges of unwanted furniture.
With each passing day, the cribs grew...
Living in a rental house is like living in transit: your life is forever on hold.
The little things you thought would adorn your home: like that set of gifted crystalware; that lovely wooden fruit bowl we bought on our honeymoon (our first purchase after marriage); the handcrafted pot; the ethnic wall hanging; the colourful thorans... they all remained neatly packed, stuffed under the huge double bed; soaking in the smell of naphthaline balls from neighbouring woollens.
Every purchase we wished to make was prefaced with three questions: Do we need this now? Can't it wait till we have a house of our own? Where will we keep it?
So we waited. Buying nothing. Doing nothing. Postponing our very life.
We had both given up our jobs. We had turned 'entrepreneurs'. The real estate boom went bust (What was available for nothing less than Rs 7000 a square feet in Powai was now going at Rs 4000 and finding few takers). But, by then, we had abandoned all hopes of buying a house, at least for a while. Our greatest benefactor -- HDFC -- wouldn't entertain us without three years of tax returns, and even then we would be treated like pariahs of the credit-seeking world.
The business grew slowly -- but steadily. I bagged a part-time consultancy job with a national daily. I applied with the only savings we had -- Rs 50,000 -- for a MHADA house, on the advice of an influential friend, who promised to swing it for us. Three months later we got the money back, without even so much as a note of regret.
Aeons later, the influential friend surfaced again. His story: a big builder in Kandivli had built rows upon rows of buildings, and post-the-real estate bust, was finding it difficult to get buyers. He was selling flats, in distress, at Rs 800 a square feet (at the height of our house-hunting exploits, it was Rs 2400)
Off we went to the builders' office. In the first place, my friend got the name of the builder wrong. In the second, he was a 1000 bucks off the mark.
Dejected, I went home to inform an expectant wifey of the bad news. She took it very well. "What's wrong with 1800, isn't it much less than what it was three years ago. Where will we get a deal like this?"
What's wrong indeed? And that was that. We didn't bother looking up the place. We didn't bother checking on the builder's antecedants. We didn't bother checking our cash flow ("At the most, what do we have to lose, if we can't come up with the rest of the money: only the signing amount, na? Let's cross the bridge when we come to it"). We parted with the fifty grand that we got back from MHADA as the signing amount.
The builder promised possession in two years. Every month we would have to pay 10 per cent of the total amount, based on the progress of the work. Thankfully, as is the wont of builders, he took four years instead of two. That gave us two years more than we had expected to raise our end of the money (HDFC having reluctantly agreed to foot the rest).
I am not a great believer in destiny. But just think about this: when I chased the dream of a house desperately and ceaselessly for over a year, it completely eluded me. And then when I was not even trying or thinking about it, it falls into my lap, like some manna from heaven.
It's twilight again. The palm fronds have lost their golden sheen. The birds are massing on the water tank. I turn my head and, in the distance, I see a skyscraper rise above the surrounding slums. I shiver a little at the memories it evokes. And I thank my stars.

Saturday, December 15, 2001

I noticed a strange disagreement.
Two of India's leading newsmagazines, Outlook and India Today just can't seem to agree on the state of the Indian economy.
India Today, in its December 10 issue, attempts to call the government's bluff on claims of the economy being on the mend. Its conclusion after busting several myths: We are heading for recession.
Outlook, in its latest cover story, on the other hand thinks the economy is one of the fastest growing in the world. It feels the vital signs are extremely healthy and concludes that things can only get better.
Considering that my expenses have shot up considerably in the last few months without any corresponding rise in my income, I think I lean more towards India Today's argument.

Kidneys on Auction

Last month, two human kidneys were put up for sale at for Rs 5 lakh and Rs 20,000 each. In one case, an 18-year-old boy put up his virginity on auction, but it was detected and removed later.

Friday, December 14, 2001

Microsoft has released a mother of all security patches for Internet Explorer.
According to the company, the patch "eliminates all previously discussed security vulnerabilities affecting IE 5.5 and IE 6" besides three new vulnerabilities.
Microsoft claims the patch is critical and urges users to install it immediately.
Here's where you can download the patch

Do you believe in coincidences?
Coincidence Design believe in creating happy coincidences that will help you break the ice with the woman of your dreams.
All for a hefty charge, of course.
Are they a fake? I don't know. But if you want to meet your dream date, and have lots of money to throw around, give them a try.

How do they do it? Well you are better off not knowing. But check out their site anyway.

If you enjoy playing around with words Anagram Genius can be fun.
George Bush turns into He Bugs Gore. You can even try anagrams of your own name or your favourite celebrity.
It's free to download.

Thirst among equals

British fans relate horror stories of trying to lubricate their parched throats in a dry land called Ahmedabad.

Quote of the Day: "It's all about loving your lachrymals."
Shobha De on K3G

This is one hell of an innovative idea.

Indya did a minute-by-minute live review of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum (As I am posting it, the movie is about 2hrs34mins old and has some way to go).

What do I think about it? As an idea, it's great. But works only as a gimmick. Gives me no feel of the movie at all.

Stirring, human interest reportage on the children of Kashmir.

The Lost Generation A series on the children of Kashmir

Two things to come out of the Attack on Parliament for the BJP:

It has diverted national attention from the coffin scandal

It has given it enough leverage to push POTO through.

Conspiracy theorists (the kind I am talking about are usually gathered around the Paanwala at the Naka) are already reading more into the attack.


Thursday, December 13, 2001

Sometimes newspapers just amaze me with their insensitivity. Especially when a reporter tries to be clever and ends up being dumber than dumbest.

Here's the first para of an article on Indian Express reporting the attack. I am horrified!

"First, the good news (Is this the way to start a news copy on an attack of this magnitude? And what in heavens is the good news?). New Delhi’s December 13 was no New York’s September 11 (Luckily, Thankfully, perhaps. Good News, NO!). Only (ONLY????!!!!) seven innocent people—six security personnel and a gardener—lost their lives, all the five terrorists were killed less than forty minutes of their firing the first shot."

Here's more on diapers and alcohol.

I attended a lecture on Knowledge Management: A Data and Text Mining Perspective by Hsinchun Chen, founder of Knowledge Computing Corporation and the Artificial Intelligence Lab at Arizona University.
Of all the things he said, one particular example struck me most.
An analysis of sales data by a American supermarket chain revealed a suprisingly high co-relation between the sales of diapers and beer.
Flummoxed, the chain investigated it further. Only to be confronted by a syndrome called the 5pm Man.
The 5pm Man is your average American joe. On his way back from work, he calls up his wife to ask whether she needs him to buy anything.
"Diapers," she says. Off our hero goes to the nearest supermarket. While buying diapers, he picks up a few cans of beers to go with it.
That's knowledge. No counter salesman could have made that association. A computer using complex statistical analysis did.
How did the store use the nugget of knowledge. It began stocking diapers next to beers. That's taking knowledge to the user level.

In my drinking days -- and I have been sober for eight years now -- a bottle of rum would get me either a pack of cards with semi-nude women printed on them, or a glass or a bottle opener or a key chain.
Last week a friend informed me that he received -- hold your breath -- a packet of atta with his daily poison!!!
I also read this snippet of information in India Today about how wine sellers all over the country are trying innovative sales pitches to sell their wares. Anything from eggs to rice to kitchen utility items these days come gratis with liquor.
The idea being that it would stop the significant other from objecting too strongly to her husband's indulgence.
Stereotyping at its worst? Or just innovative ways to sell liquor?
And, what next? A pack of huggies with a kambha of DSP?

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Looks like we are nearing the end of the Great Free Internet Ride.
First email, then content and now even ecard sites are turning pay.
When and decided to charge for its value-added email service, there was a huge hue and cry about what was basically a free service turning pay.
But with the dot come dream turning sour, you couldn't probably expect companies to continue bleeding simply to support a free service.
The Newspaper Today, an excellent online newspaper and one of my bookmarks, went pay about two weeks ago. I wonder how the response has been., one of the first to offer free connectivity in India, yanked the plug on its free service this Monday (December 10, 2001).
I also learnt yesterday that, that pioneer of ecards, and AmericanGreetings have also started charging for their services.
What a pity!

A brilliant piece of writing on Enron's precipitous fall from grace.

The author draws striking parallels with Drexel, the firm where the junk-bond guru Michael Milken plied his trade thought.

A great read.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) has laid down quality benchmarks for ISPs.

Under these, a susbscriber should be able to connect to the Internet within 30 seconds and three attempts.

How TRAI intends to enforce this is anybody's guess.

But a more important quality issue is one of bandwidth and speed of connectivity.

A friend, drawn by the great broadband dream, subscribed to a DSL connection, which had promised 64 kpbs speeds.

A few minutes into his connection, he discovered the speeds were no better than on a dial-up. He asked the Dishnet representative why he was getting a throughput of between 4 and 8 kbps, which on a good day is what you get from a VSNL dial up.
Oh but that's the standard, said the representative.
But you had promised me a 48 kbps throughput, insisted our friend.
Yeah that's what you are getting, said the representative.

My friend missed the fine print. The 64kbps refers to bits, the representative told my shocked friend, and not bytes. Around 7 to 9 bits make a byte. So 8 kilobytes translates into around 48 bits.

And my friend's broadband dream had turned sour.

Monday, December 10, 2001

This is taking navel-gazing to the extreme.

A physicist at Sydney University called Karl Kruszelnicki researched for a year before discoveing how lint gets into the navel.

"Lint mostly moves up from the underwear rather than down from the upper body and believe that a pierced navel will not collect fluff."

"Hairy overweight men produce more belly button fluff than slim, hairless women."

Thanks Karl, for the education.

At the India-EU summit, Atal Behari Vajpayee was asked if the Euro would be made a reserve currency for India. The prime minister paused, thought and while, and said: Indian tourists should not skip Europe while going to the US.
When an embarrassed official nudged him, Vajpayee corrected himself: "The question can be considered and a decision taken."
Turns out that the Euro is already a reserve currency in India, and only Vajpayee was unaware of it.

Suddenly, the newspapers, at least in Mumbai, are full of one man: Sharad Pawar.
I have been stumbling into him, for the past week or so, after every few pages. Every newspaper worth its salt, and its supplements, are full of the Maratha Strongman's (as my journalist friends like to call him) upcoming 61st birthday. The guest list, the kind of food being served, who is sitting where, pictures of preparations, interviews with the man, nostalgia, political analysis... the event is coming out of my ears now.
Is anyone's 61st, or whatever, birthday that important that the media of an entire city is so exercised over.
As a former journalist myself, I know only too well how politicians like Sharad Pawar play the media for publicity. Pawar is perhaps the most media savvy of the lot, and he is using all his contacts in the press to get maximum mileage out of the event.

If you manage to break out of jail, keep running.

Our hero of the day escaped from jail to join a beer run.

He was finally caught while trying to sneak back into jail.

Israeli Kids admit to creating and spreading 'Goner'

Just back from a brief sabbatical in Bhandardara, a cross between a hill station and a village, near Nashik.
And the first thing I find in my inbox is the first feedback to my blog from a stranger.
Thanks Madhu. You just made my day.

Anyway, here's his feedback in response to my post on Durex's survey of sexual habits around the world.

My original post: According to a survey of sex habits around the world, conducted by codom-maker Durex Indians prefer TV and socialising over sex as a means of spending their time.
Which begs the question: how do you account for one billion people out there?

Madhu's response: Very simple really. Durex didn't go to the villages, especially the
northern states, where they have hordes of children on the basis of the
"more hands, more work" principle. That, and the fact that many couples
continue to have children till a son is born.

Lastly, bear in mind that surveys are prone to biases and taboos in
society. The typically conservative Indian would think twice before
actually admitting that sex was his favourite activity. (gasp!) Ditto for
frequency of sex. That could certainly skew the results. How else can you
explain this statement: "At least 30 per cent of Indians surveyed prefer
going to work to having sex."

Talk about workaholics! That *has* to be bull, and we both know it.

One thing is sure: they didn't include me in that survey ;)

My take: I don't think they visited the slums of Mumbai either, where they breed like mosquitoes in the Amazon forests, simply because they can't think of anything else to relieve either their frustration or the tedium of their existence.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Does India need Temptation Island.

A good cover story in the Week Magazine on reality television, adultery and Indian attitudes towards sex.

Monday, December 03, 2001

Reads like a script out of Bollywood's cliched lost-and-found formula.

Only in this case a man was united with his wallet 34 years after he lost it at a funfair.

English cricket captain Naseer Hussain on the game's fall into disgrace; A Melbourne Age report on why the next controversy is not very far away till Dalmiya is around; and the man at the centre of the storm, Virender Sehwag on cricket, Chandigarh and controversy.

Sunday, December 02, 2001

Orwell Today is a great site for all fans of George Orwell. The site aims to compare the world Orwell described in 1984 with the one we live in today. A section called Today's Orwell features news stories, articles and commentary, chosen for their similarity to conecpts presented in 1984.


15 lessons I learnt from Monsoon Wedding

1) Weddings are an expensive business. And the father of the bride will have to borrow from his golf partners to meet the expenses.
2) White shamianas are for funerals. Water-proofing the shamianas, white or multi-coloured, costs Rs 2 lakh.
3) Most families have weird people. Don't be surprised if the most-respected member of the family is a pervert.
4) Love blooms in unlikely places... atop bamboo scaffoldings and in generator rooms.
5) When you start munching on yellow flowers, it's a sure sign that you are in love.
6) It could rain on your wedding. Remember to water-proof your shamiana, no matter what it costs.
7) Sometimes, a simple and touchingly funny love affair between an unlettered contractor and a maid could be far more endearing than the complicated relationships of a noveau rich family celebrating a wedding.
8) You can fall in love with your hubby-to-be-in-a-day 24 hours after you are caught inflagrante delicto with a married man in an SUV on a rainy night by a bunch of cops.
9) Said hubby-to-be can fall in love with wife-to-be, and coochie-coo like a honeymooner in Kodai, despite knowing what transpired a few hours previously.
10) If you are caught in a comprising position by cops, and flee the scene of crime, the cops will forget all about you.
11) If your son watches too much TV and loves to sing and dance, pack him off to a boarding school.
12) Naseeruddin Shah, despite being a flop as a Super Selector, is still a great actor.
13) Never judge a movie by its review, especially if it appears in The Times of India.
14) Never judge an Indian movie by a foreign award.
15) It makes far more sense to have a Summer Wedding.

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