Friday, May 31, 2002

Time is money, economic professor proves

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Why Dilbert loves the Internet

Hear it from the creator Scott Adams's mouth.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Yahoo bug on the rampage

The latest version of the popular Yahoo Instant Messenger (YIM) software has been hit by multiple vulnerabilities which may allow an attacker to hijack another user's machine.

Complications Under the Microscope

Atul Gawande, an Indian surgeon in the US and author of Complications, talks about why doctors too are human after all. Interesting interview, and going by this, should be an interesting book too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Google Problems?

It's never happened before. A page cannot displayed on Google. Suddenly, I am getting a rash of these when I try reaching the search engine, or once I have reached it, when I try searching on it. It can't be my connection, because other pages load quickly. Have any of you been having problems with Google lately? Or could it be something else?

Thursday, May 23, 2002

I consider myself a hardcore sceptic. As a journalist, scepticism comes with the territory and is constantly honed. But I liked to believe that I never let it cloud my judgment. I always respected other people's beliefs, however irrational they may have seemed to me. And never tried to force my opinions and scepticism down other people's throats. I suppose that's what people call tolerance.
Four years ago, my wife was going through a particularly stressful period, brought on by a trying journalistic career and a crippling slipped disc.
I had accompanied my wife for a health programme in Bangalore. Someone suggested that she try the Art of Living course before we head back to Mumbai. A deeply spiritual person -- as opposed to religious, which she is not -- my wife readily agreed. We did the course. I must admit that I had no deep spiritual experience. But it did offer me some fresh perspectives on life and the breathing techniques were rejuvenating.
We came back to Mumbai. And I promptly forgot all about it and returned to the hurly burly of work. To this day, I have not resumed the practice.
But my wife's experience was completely different. I am not exaggerating when I say it transformed her life -- and, by extension, mine. She has not been miraculously cured of her bad back. But she has found a wellspring of strength inside her that helps her fight and manage the pain. She leads a largely stress-free life, is far more active than she has been for a long while, and has a greater gusto for life than I do :) She has now completely immersed herself in the foundation's work. She has found her purpose.
Last week, Sunday Mid-Day, a newspaper my wife and I once worked for, published an article by Sharad Nair about the Art of Living, an article that breached all norms of good journalism and decency.
Criticsm is understandable, even necessary. But criticism, especially in the public domain, can be dangerous when it stems from prejudiced opinion, distorted facts and tid-bits of juicy gossip about the private life of unnamed women.
A pretty substantial portion of the article covers the life of a young Art of Living teacher who, it claims, had a bad marriage. According to the article, she tried to find peace through a number of measures. Before finally, says the writer, she did something that required hard work: "She had flings."
I am not easily outraged, but this takes the cake. My wife couldn't recall anyone that fitted the author's description. But even if this person exists, it begs the question: How does the author know about the "flings"? Surely she hasn't confided in him. If she has, he certainly shouldn't be betraying such a confidence in public, especially since short of naming her, he has dropped enough clues for people close to her to be able to identity her. Surely, this isn't relevant. Surely, this isn't journalism.
Eventually, according to the article, she joined the Art of Living and became a teacher. In conclusion, the man seizes the moral high ground: "If you can find guidance from her," he says, "you won't need a lamp in a cave."
If it were left to him, perhaps he would recommend burning women who have affairs at the stake.
The rest of the article is full of:
clever writing ("For a man whose name sounds like a typo, Sri Sri Ravi (sic)" -- coming from a writer who spells Jedi with an 'a', that sounds a bit rich);
stereotypical generalisations (people in Art of Living are "too rich, too bored, too lost and single" -- there are thousands who don't fit this description; "teachers chiefly come from affluent families" -- again not a fact, though the media is obsessed with that variety);
an attitude that insults the faithful ("they are taking away business from the shrinks" -- implying that all those who join the fold require a psychiatric's couch);
and really, really little else.
He brands the Art of Living as some yoga and grandmom's literature. Why should anyone believe the claim? The author is no expert in these matters. Neither has he done the course. It's like reviewing a movie without watching it. It's just plain irresponsible.
According to me, it is neither. I know, for I have done the basic course, and I have seen my wife go through several advanced and other courses.
Here comes the unkindest cut: The author is not a staffer; my inside sources haven't even heard about him; I have never seen this byline before (have any of you?); and there's nothing by him I can find on the net. I smell a pseudonym.
In these intolerant times, I am amazed that a newspaper showed such poor judgment and scant respect for people's beliefs and sentiments. It was a careless, insensitive and shoddy bit of reporting.

Madman recommends Shower Shock, a caffeinated soap for overworked and groggy geeks.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Google Demos

Test demos of stuff like Google Glossary, Google Sets, Telephone Voice Search and Keyboard Shortcuts (To navigate results without the mouse).

The pick of the lot is of course the Keyboard Shortcuts. Unlike some old pros I know, I more of a mouse person. But on this page, a little practice, and you can chuck your mouse.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Simpson slams ICC and 'chuckers'

The former Aussie captain resigned from the International Cricket Council's legal committee protesting against the ICC handling of chuckers.
High time, too, someone took that stand.
Chucking is illegal. And the ICC's pussyfooting on that front stumps me.
If a bowler has an illegal action, he should be called. On the field of play. By the umpires. Maybe, the umpires could warn the captain and bowler once. If they persist, no-ball them.
There is simply no point in reporting suspect actions to the ICC, after the damage to a team, to individual players and the game itself is done.
If we can't trust the umpires to call correctly on an illegal action, they have no business being in the middle.
As it now stands, umpires report an illegal action to the ICC. If the bowler is reported again, only then does the ICC view it seriously.
Another convenient excuse is deformity. Simpson puts it succinctly: ''Sorry mate, deformity can not be allowed to violate laws.''

Monday, May 20, 2002

Google and Dilbert Doodle

This is crazy, real, mind-bogglingly funny, or what?

Invasion of a Web Snatcher

What's Hotmail up to? It's supposedly changed users privacy settings on the sly. MSNBC (a Microsoft-NBC joint venture) reports a more official version.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Why the politics of search engines matters

I think we are heading for a day, when the Net could well become our main medium of information. And to find any information on the Net, you need a search engine. Now, imagine if a powerful search engine had a bias... Say you want to understand the issues behind the Israel-Palestine conflict. Or the Kashmir conflict. What if the search engine you use bombarded you with just one side of the conflict on its first several pages? Food for thought, eh?

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Madman was so inspired by the "I Love Spam" article on C-Net, that he has written a companion piece on why he loves pop-ups :)

Very briefly, I watched the Sri Lanka-England Test last evening. The one thing I noticed was Ruchira Perera's odd action. I won't say it's illegitimate. But definitely one that warrants closer scrutiny.
Update: I believe, Ruchira Perera has now been reported by the umpires to match refree Gundappa Vishwanath

Since, I am not in a mood for too many arguments :) here are some that aim to demolish Arguments for the Existence of God.
From Pascal's Wager to Religious Experience to Cosmological Arguments...

News by the People, for the People

OJR this time does a panegyric for blogs...

Was just going through a discussion on Platic. A perfect example of how arguments can quickly degenarate. And at the end of it, I guess people just lose thread of what they are talking about.

Friday, May 17, 2002

It's no longer a dog-eat-dog world!

Oh, how I wish this spam-lover had left his email address. I would have forwarded all my junk to him.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

What cannot be proved, it's futile arguing over.
A lot of arguments are intellectual vapourware. Chewing gum for the mind.
I have had many arguments over the years -- with friends, family, colleagues... acrimonious ones, reasonable debates, friendly banter -- and rare have been the occasions when I have been convinced of the other person's viewpoint, and rarer still occasions where I have managed to convince the other person of my viewpoint.
I doubt whether opinions change simply in the face of a forceful argument. Opinions change if they are based in ignorance, and facts bear them out to be wrong. Opinions change if our own experiences go to the contrary. Opinions change if events influence them.
If you have very strong opinions on issues, unless any of the three factors above change them, it's unlikely that any amount of arguing is going to make a difference.
Oh sure, we all have an open mind. Our open mind, if at all, extends to accepting that a differing opinion could exist. Not that we are going to accept it.
Of course, if we are not sure, then a healthy debate definitely helps clarify things. And sometimes confuse.
My earliest arguments were with my brother, and revolved around relative merits in the batsmanship of Gavaskar and Vishwanath. I argued for the latter, my brother supported the former. To this day, I don't think we have settled the debate.
Recent arguments have had a philosophical undertone -- a sign of advancing age, I suppose :) -- and have centred around issues like the purpose of life and the existence of a higher force governing life. After many arguments and debates, online and off, I must admit, my position remains unaltered.
When arguments end amicably, it's usually with a "let's agree to disagree". Other times, they end in acrimonious *&%$#@!!!.
So is there a point to it?
Do I see the beginnings of an argument here? :)

The fake persuaders

Big corporation have always had a bag full of dirty tricks. They have used the media in more ways than one to sway public opinion. The internet, with its anonymity and viral reach, makes it so much easier to run a smear campaign.

Night clubs strips good ole movies of dating excitement.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The Indian defence establishment is trying to find inspiration in the ancient text Arthashastra, for more effective ways of fighting wars.
"The book includes the recipe for a single meal that will keep a soldier fighting for a month, methods of inducing madness in the enemy as well as advice on chemical and biological warfare." And the project has been approved by George Fernandes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

What is the purpose of life?
Take a look at what inventor Ray Kurzweil has to say
"As we become more intimate with our machines, biology does become trivial. The nonbiological part will accelerate and become a million trillion times more powerful than biology. Because it is the nature of the nonbiological intelligence to grow exponentially, it will eventually dominate. This whole period of transhumanism is just an interim period."
Although humans as such may disappear in the nanotechnological future, that which will endure beyond our biology will be an expression of our civilization.

Monday, May 13, 2002

What does Google say about you?

An interesting article on how the search engine defines our online identity and the problems thereof.

Btw, I drew 1430 hits. About six of the 10 on the front page have nothing to do with me... :)

Hindu Nationalists Are Enrolling, and Enlisting, India's Poor

A NY Times article on Sewa Dham schools:

"Its backers praise their efforts as a lift for the society's most downtrodden. But critics describe schools like this one as madrasas of the Hindu right: they pluck the youngest and most impressionable minds and offer a basket of goods to those who otherwise have nothing. While there is no evidence that these schools prepare young boys to take up arms for a holy war, as some madrasas do in Islamic nations, certainly, schools like this one can train foot soldiers for the Hindu nationalist crusade."

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Saudi Arabia opens up the legal profession to women, but with a rider. They can't got to court. They will have to write out their arguments, and hand it over to men who will present it in court.

BBC held a nationwide IQ test, simulataneously on TV and the Web. The test is still here, so you can check out your IQ too.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Backlinks to the fore

Check it out. Inbound links that automatically link outward.

Delete, Baby, Delete

We are not as good at destruction as we think we are.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Will Macromedia's "blog strategy" pay dividends?

It's in fashion, you know. Salman Khan is one of the latest celebs to endorse the slick-top look. If you want to join the Bald and the beautiful, HeadShaver has the goods for you.

Women beat men in web browsing

"Women know what they want from the internet and spend less time than men getting it, according to analyst firm Jupiter MMXI.

"Women spend an average of seven hours online compared with male surfers who clocked up 10 hours per month, its study found."

Anita asks the right question: How can they publish this?

Prince Otto, the last known descendant of 'Count Dracula' wants to secede from Germany and establish the Kingdom of Dracula. They won't be sucking blood, he says, but just collecting taxes.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Here's how I have been spending some of my time online:

The Intelligence Test

Discrete Reasoning Puzzles
One of my favourites among these is this one:
"An Arab sheikh is old and must will his fortune to one of his two sons. He makes a proposition. His two sons will ride their camels in a race, and whichever camel crosses the finish line last will win the fortune for its owner. During the race, the two brothers wander aimlessly for days, neither willing to cross the finish line. In desperation, they ask a wise man for advice. He tells them something; then the brothers leap onto their camels and charge toward the finish line. What did the wise man say?"

Here's the solution

While the wise man surely prescribed the wisest course of action, here's what, in my humble wisdom, I would have recommended.

I would have told the heirs that neither of them would ever want to cross the line first. So they would wait for the other to cross. And wait. And wait. And that wouldn't happen. Maybe, with time, one of them would die, or the camels would die. That would be leaving the matter to fate. The outcome would still not be decisive. So I would have told them to seal a pact of honour: regardless of who crosses the line first, they would split the booty equally. They would then get to lay their hands on the money immediately. :)

Interesting. Try them out.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

"For me, it is much more important that a true democracy will come into being in Pakistan. The world has to let itself be convinced by my words, because I have never lied."

Pervez Musharraf.

Monday, May 06, 2002

I got an intriguing letter-mass mailer from the Indian Express along with my Sunday Express. Here's the full text:

"Dear reader,

Greetings from The Indian Express group!

We have been sending you a copy of our recently launched Sunday newspaper, 'The Sunday Express'.

I hope that you have liked the contemporary and sleek look of The Sunday Express, a newspaper which has revolutionised Sunday reading!

I am confident that you found more worthwhile reading material in The Sunday Express, and that you will continue to support and encourage us by continuing to read it.

At our end, we shall keep-up our endeavour to constantly improve the newspaper for your reading pleasure.

If in case you may wish to discontinue your copy of The Sunday Express, please tick in the box provided below.

(box) Please discontinue my copy of The Sunday Express

However, we do hope you continue to read The Sunday Express, and give us an opportunity to get Sunday reading back in fashion!"

Signed by the Chief General Manager, Circulation.

I have a few problems with this. First it's a bad marketing ploy. Was the letter really necessary. Even if the Express wanted to send the letter, was an invitation to discontinue necessary. It's not as if the Indian Express is spamming me with the newspaper. I am buying it. So why prompt me to discontinue. Makes absolutely no sense to me.

Second, suppose I want to discontinue, since Express has prompted me to do so. What do I do after ticking the box. Frame it and put it on my drawing room wall?

Sunday, May 05, 2002

20 factors that will change PCs in 2002

Friday, May 03, 2002

A man and a woman robbed a Starbucks coffee outlet in the United States. But they were not happy with the take. So they served coffee till the collection was good enough, and they made their getaway.

BBC launches Net search engine

hmmmm.... will get back with how I found it...

update: well it's a dead ringer for google. and, methinks, google is indeed powering the search.

An index of logical fallacies

Thursday, May 02, 2002

My blog, my self

Yet another article on blogging. This time from a CNet copy editor.

It smells like a dead and rotting fish. Throngs of spectators are expected to come to catch a glimpse -- and whiff -- of it. It's the world's stinkiest flower. It's on display at a London Garden.

This is my first post with w.bloggar. It's pretty cool. Try it out.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Steven Spielberg will be happy. 48 per cent of Americans agreed that the earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.

Sylvia's blog has some discussion on God. I would recommend this quiz-cum-game Battleground God! to bloggers participating in that discussion. It checks the rational consistency of our beliefs. Interesting. I bit the bullet twice, and emerged without any direct hits. But I still didn't make the Medal of Honour (about 8 per cent made it), I got the medal of distinction (about 49 per cent of respondents). Let me know how you have fared. Do read the criteria for hits and bullets before you begin. There are also some other interesting games here.

A sneaky, viral ecards site.

All this wordage on blogs made me remember a line said by an old friend:
"Words are a net through which truth escapes"

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