Sunday, November 26


Last week when I was preparing my resume, I was carefully selecting only the projects, that would, er... well, look good on a resume. I wasn’t actually lying. I just was preparing a refined version of truth about my professional career to fulfill specific goals. But I didn’t have a word for this selective thing, I was doing. While I was searching the word and had almost given up after a while, Rands in Repose came to my rescue. Rands in repose is a blog on software engineering written by Rands, who - in his own words - is “an engineering manager of teams that designs stunning software”. The word I was looking for is Spin; And I found this, when I read his recent post - Truth vs. Spin. As Rands defines it,

Traditionally, the opposite of Truth is Spin. Spin is a pejorative term that comes out of Public Relations land. Spin is the deliberate selection of facts constructed to prove a specific point.

Rands gives an example for Spin - the weekly status report, the piece of literature from the cubicle-dom prepared with absolute indifference.

Go fire up your mail program and find your last status report… Does it represent everything you did in the last week? I’m not suggesting that you didn’t work, but is that all you did? Probably not, so what did you document in your status report? You document the stuff you were asked to document and you document stuff you just want to tell people about. A status report is your Spin on the last week. It demonstrates how you carefully select facts from the week to portray a specific version of the truth.

Of course, I was spinning on my resume. After reading Rands, I started to think of more examples of Spin. I thought I would just write these example all along. But, I am bitten by the Powerpoint bug… And so, Here are the bullets!

  • commercials - the root of all spin. If there were ten commandments on Spin, the first one should be “Thou shall never forget the spin quotient of an advertisement” .
  • profiles on social networking sites such as myspace, orkut etc. - The second layer in the hierarchy of spin is based on the simple question - “Tell us about yourself”.
  • every thing else - media broadcasts, dates, interviews, mobile phones (the official device of spin), mobile phone conversations, sms, instant messaging, e-mail , snail mail, avian mails(pigeons), and telegrams
  • and mysteriously in this is list is, that dinner you had with your girlfriend’s parents a few months ago. (Why did you smile so much ?)

According to a recent research conducted by Spinesian University of Spinville, the whole fabric and foundation of human communication is Spin. You just have to look around for spin, and understand the direction, that you are being spun. Understanding Spin is the only way to reach out to your soul and the glorious path to enlightenment - it is the Zen of all human interactions. After all, this blog post, you are reading right now is my flimsy spinning effort on Spin!(You saw this comming, right ? Come on, I mentioned the ultimate spin software - “the mighty Powerpoint”)

Friday, November 24


Nov 7 2006 - The day did not start like any other day, but it didn’t seem any wired either. It is not every other day I wake up in a Kodambakam(Chennai) hotel room at 5:00 am in a rainy morning. It is not every other day that I catch a flight from Chennai to Hyderabad at 9:00 am. But again, it was not something unusual, or a sign of all the things to come. I had been to Chennai this weekend to attend a Marriage reception ceremony of my friend. I was returning back to Hyderabad that morning, as I do have to get to work.

The flight reached safe, and I got to home in Hyderabad at around 11:00 am. It was already late, and I really do have to get to work now. I thought of changing from my t-shirt & jeans to a formal wear, but since it was already late and the security strap tied to my baggage wasn’t coming off my, I decided to go casual for the day. When I reached work, I didn’t know that the Dress Code Police was at work. I didn’t even know that there was a Dress Code Police at my workplace. Well, anyways, some guy stopped me at the gate, and extended his hand towards me saying “Hello”, with a condescending look and assumed air of authority. I know he works here too, because he was wearing the badge. But, I don’t know who he was. I didn’t ask “Who are you ?”, but I hesitated to answer him.

Taken aback that I wasn’t responding and his hand hung in air pointing no where, he asked, “So, you hesitate to shake hands with another colleague ?”. I responded, ” Well! You talk to me as if we are familiar. But, I don’t know you.” Then, he introduced himself. Yes, that sounds better. I told my name. Then he told, that my clothes were not appropriate and asked the reason. I told that I have been flying in from Chennai, and I was late and so on and on. He made a joke and laughed, which didn’t understand at all. Finally, I was told that I have to go back home and change or I wouldn’t be allowed inside. He also told that my bosses will be informed of the delay that I caused myself as a result of the “attire issue”.

First, I didn’t know how to react. I am tad conservative on the matters of professional attire. Yes, I do think that the wear to my kinda work should be formal, at least for 4 days of the work week. But the way I was told made me feel like a school kid. If my boss has told to me -or- if any HR personnel had told to me in person about my “attire issue”, it would have be more dignified. But, this dress-or-go-back-home method sounded so middle-school-ish. I remember an event in middle school, where I was asked to go back home, because I didn’t finish my home work. Probably the next time I was caught by the Dress Code Police, I would be asked to write the statement “I will wear formal wear on the first 4 days of work week”, 50 times in the black board. Or Stand up on my chair while I am working. Or probably, some form of corporal punishment of the medieval times.

For my commute, I use an arrangement, quite prevalent in Hyderabad, called the “shared auto”. Auto-Rickshaw or Auto is a three wheeled vehicle, supposed to carry only three passengers, and supposed to be metered like a taxi. But, under the “shared” arrangement, this vehicle is made to carry five passengers and every passenger pays the fixed amount arbitrarily decided by the vehicle driver at the end of his commute - supposedly based on the distance the passenger travels. The cost is not as much as the metered one, because the driver picks up his revenues on volume, rather than per-unit. I went back home, changed my clothes and returned work on a “shared auto”.

At the end of my commute, I was supposed to give the driver my fare - 4 rupees. Within a moment, I had a disturbing discovery - I forgot to bring my wallet (purse)!!! I changed from Jeans to a formal trousers, but forgot to take the wallet!!! I told the driver that I had forgot the wallet. Looking down upon me, the driver asked me in a menacing tone, “What do you want me to do, now ?… Tell me, Sir. What should I do now ?”. I looked helplessly. Fortunately, another passenger came to my rescue. He told the driver that he would pay my fare too. I thanked him… twice or may be more. I had nothing but words at that moment. Even, that came with a whimper.

But, there is still some more… Sometimes, When extremely accidental events happen, you wonder, if they were a perfectly scripted play. When the “shared auto” was about to leave, a small girl wearing a plain dark green dress came to me and begged for some money. I thought for a moment. Of course, what I was experiencing at the moment was heavy-duty guaranteed-for-life embarrassment, but there was something more than just embarrassment. I really wanted to hold her hands and thank the little girl, but, I laughed and told her, “I didn’t even money to pay to this guy… You are asking me the money ?”. Every one including the driver in the vehicle laughed, as it passed me slowly.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of the moment. Just two days ago, I was told that I would get 250K rupees of credit limit for my credit card application, if I just show my pay slip and my organization bage. But, this moment neither my pay slip nor my ID could secure a credit of 4 rupees with the auto driver! And the girl, who begs me, thinks that my “formal wear” should mean that I could solve her poverty! I was laughing quietly at myself, just happy to be - there and then.

Monday, November 13

மழை, சென்னை மற்றும் சில சிந்தனைகள்

கடந்த வாரம் முழுவதும் மழை - அழகிய பருவக்காற்று மழை. பருவக்கற்று மழை என்றதும் எனக்கு தாகூரின் வாரத்தைக்கள் தான் ஞாபகத்திற்க்கு வருகின்றன. மழையை எழுவத்தில் வடிப்பதில் தாகூருக்கு இனை எவரும் இல்லை என நினைக்கிறேன். அவருடைய வார்ததைகளை மொழிமாற்றத்தின் மாசில்லாமல் வாசிப்பதிற்காக, வங்காள மொழியை கற்க வேண்டுமென அவ்வப்போது நினைப்பதும் உண்டு. இதோ, எனது துரு பிடித்த தமிழாக்கதில் தாகூரின் சில வார்த்தைகள்

மேகங்கள் வானத்தில் தடபுடல் சத்தம் செய்யதவாறு,
ஜூன் மாத மழை பொழியும் போது,
கீழக்கிலிருந்து வரும் உலர் காற்று விளையாத நிலங்களின் மீது படையெடுத்து,
மூங்கீல்களின் நடுவே நின்று வாத்தியங்களை முழங்குகின்றன.
எங்கிருந்தென்று எவருக்கும் தெரியாமல்,
தீடீறென வெளியே வரும் பூக்களின் கூட்டம்,
புற்களின் மீது நடனம் ஆடத் துவங்குகின்றன.
தாயே, பூக்கள் பூமிக்கடியில் பள்ளிக்கு செல்கிறதென நினைக்கிறேன்.
கதவை மூடிக் கொண்டு அவை பாடம் படிக்கின்றன;
பாடத்திற்க்கு முன் (பூமியை விட்டு) வெளியே செல்ல முயற்ச்தித்தால்,
வாத்தியார் (வகுப்பின்) ஓரத்தில் நிற்க வைத்து விடுகிறார்.
மழை வந்தால், பூக்களுக்கு விடுமுறை…

நல்ல வேளை, தாகூர் இன்றய பருவக்காற்று மழையை பார்க்கவில்லை. அதுவும் மழை பெயிது முடிந்தவுடன் சென்னை தி. நகர் ரங்கனதன் தெருவில் நடக்கும் சுழ்நிலை அவருக்கு எற்பட வில்லை. அங்கு அவருக்கு, சரவன செல்வரத்தினம் நகைக் கடையில் 916 தங்கத்திற்க்கு, கிராம் ஒன்றுக்கு 804 ரூபாய் விலையுடன் 5% extra கிடைத்திருந்தாலும், இந்த வார்த்தைகளை எழுதுவதற்க்கான ஊந்துதல் கிடைத்திருக்குமா என்பது சந்தேகம் தான். பிளாஸ்டிக் பூக்களை பற்றித் தான் எழுதியிருப்பார் தாகூர். ஆம், கடந்த சனி/ஞாயிறு வார இடவேளையில், சென்னையில் தி. நகர் ரங்கநாதன் தெருவிற்க்கு சென்றிருந்தேன். இந்த ஆண்டின் இலக்கியத்திற்க்காண நோபல் பரிசு வென்ற ஓர்ஹான் பாமுக் இந்தியா வந்த பொழுது, தான் மதுரையில் உணர்ந்தாக சொன்ன “glorious abundance of humanity” இந்த தெருவில் தினந்தோரும் பார்க்கலாம். சொல்லப் போனால், இந்தயாவில் எந்த பெரிய நகரத்தை கடந்தாலும், ஒரு முறையாவது இந்த உணர்வு ஏற்ப்படும்.

Dil Chahta Hai திரைப்படத்தில் Thanhayi என்ற பாடலில் நடிகர் ஆமிர்கான் நிற்க, அவரை சுற்றியுள்ள உலகம் - மனிதர்கள், வாகனங்கள் - வேகமாகச் செல்லும். ஆமிர் சிலை போல உரைந்திருக்க, மற்றவை VCR-இல் fast forward செய்தது போல அறக்க பறக்கச் செல்லும். தனிமையில், அழ்ந்த சிந்தனையில் ஆமிர் இருப்பதை அழகாக இயக்குனர் ஃபர்ஹான் அக்தர் கான்பித்திருப்பார். அதே சூழ்நிலை இயற்க்கையாகவே ஃபர்ஹானின் இயக்கமில்லாமல், ஷங்கர்-இஷான்-லாயின் இசை இல்லாமல், ஸ்ரீகர் பிரசாதின் editing இல்லாமல், இரவி கே. சந்திரனின் ஒளிப்பதிவும் இல்லாமல் தி. நகர் ரங்கனதன் தெருவில் அமைந்துள்ளது. அந்த தெருவில் ஒரு நிமிடம் நின்றிந்தால், நம்மை வேகமாக உரசிச் செல்லும் கூட்டம், நம்மை ஒரு ஆழ் சிந்தனை கடலில் மூழ்கடித்துச் செல்லும். இவ்வாறான இடங்களை, ஆழ்சிந்தனை சந்திப்புகளென நான் பேரிட்டுக்கொள்வேன். சென்னையில் இது போன்று பல இடங்கள் உள்ளன. சென்னை சென்ட்ரல் அது போல இன்னோரு இடம்.

சென்னைக்கும் எனக்கும் இன்னொறு உறவும் உண்டு : ஒவ்வொரு முறை சென்னை செல்லும் பொழுது, மனதில் ஆழமான சிந்தனையை ஏற்படுத்தும் எதாவதொரு நிகழ்ச்சி நடக்கும். அந்த நிகழ்வு, அந்த பயணத்தை மறக்கமுடியாமல் செய்யும். இந்த முறை, இரயில் பயணத்தின் போது, பக்கத்து சீட்டுக்காரர் என் வேலை மற்றும் படிப்பை பற்றி விசாரித்தார். நானும் சும்மா பேச்சு கொடுத்தேன். விவரங்களைச் சொன்னேன். பேச்சு கொஞ்சம் வளர, தீடீரென்று, “நீங்க ஐயரா (Iyer) ?” என்று கேட்டார். 500 பக்கங்கள் தடிமனான ஆங்கில புத்தகத்தையை, நான் மிக மும்மூரமாகப் படித்துக் கொண்டிருந்ததை பார்த்து அவர் அவ்வாறு முடிவு செய்திருக்கலாம். இல்ல ஒரு வேளை, நான் நல்ல கல்லுரியில் படித்து,கொஞ்சம் பேர் பெற்ற நிறுவனத்தில் வேலை பார்த்துக் கொண்டிருப்பதைக் கேட்டு அவர் அவ்வாறு முடிவு செய்திருக்கலாம். எந்த காரணமாக இருந்தாலும், இந்த கேள்வி ஒரு சக பயணியிடமிருந்து வருவது என்க்குப் புதிதல்ல. இதற்க்கு முன் என் பயணங்களில் பல முறை இந்த கேள்விக்கு கொஞ்சம் யோசித்து, இழுப்பறி செய்து, வேறு வழியில்லாமல் பதில் சொல்லியிருக்கிறேன். ஆனால், முதல் முறையாக, சிரித்துக் கொண்டே “இல்லை”-திசையில் தலையாட்டினேன். மேலும் அவர், “ஐயர் இல்லன… நீங்க யாரு ?” ம்ம்ஹும்ம். நான் பல்லைக் காட்டிக் கொண்டு தலையாட்டுவதை நிறுத்தவில்லை. புரிந்து கொண்ட அவர், பேச்சை சிறிது நேரம் நிறுத்தி விட்டார். சாதி, குலம் போன்ற நம்முடைய சில கலாச்சார அடையாளங்களுக்கு இன்னும் உபயோகம் இருப்பதாக எனக்குத் தோன்றவில்லை. இந்த சம்பவம் அவைகளை நான் துறந்து விடுவதில் ஒரு சின்ன வெற்றி போல எனக்குத் தோன்றியது. அதற்க்கு மேலாக, இந்த “caste stereotyping”-கிற்க்கு எதிர்ப்பு தெரிவித்த ஒரு உணர்வு.சிறு சந்தோஷம்.

ஆனால், சென்னையில் என்னால் மறக்க முடியாத சம்பவம் 2003-இல் நடந்தது : சுதந்திர தினதின் போது, “தாம்பரம் - கடற்க்கரை” இரயிலில் வந்து கொண்டிருந்தேன். ஒரு தீ விபத்தில் தன் கணவனை பறி கொடுத்தாக, ஒரு பெண்மனி பிச்சை எடுத்துக் கொண்டிருந்தார். அந்த பெண்மனிக்கு, பிளாஸ்டிக் தேசிய கோடிகளை விற்றுக்கொண்டிருந்த ஒரு சிறுவன், தன் கோடிகளைக் கொடுத்து, ” பிச்சை எடுக்காம, எதாவது தொழில் பன்னலாம்ல… இந்த கொடிய வித்து, காசு செத்துக்கோ” என்று சொன்னான். “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime” என்ற ஆங்கில வாசகத்திற்க்கு இயக்குனர் பாக்கியராஜ் திரைக்கதை எழுதிய ஒரு காட்சியை பார்த்தது போல நான் உணர்ந்தேன் (ஆமாங்க, ஸீரியஸா தான்ங்க). இதல்லாம் சென்னையில தான் பார்க்க முடியும்.

அப்போ நீங்க கேக்கலாம் - “அப்படி சென்னை மீது அவ்வளவு லவ்வு இருந்தா, அங்க குடி போக வேண்டியது தானே!!!” இடம் பெயர்ந்தால், இவ்வாறு ஒவ்வொரு சம்பவத்தையும் நின்று சிந்தனை செய்ய முடியாது. தினமும் பார்த்து பார்த்து, அந்த நகரம் பழக்கமாகிவிடும். சென்னையுடனான என் உறவு முற்றிப் போகும். இந்தக் காதல் கல்யாணாமகி விடுட்டால், 90 நாட்களில் (ஆசைக்கு 60 மற்றும் மோகத்திற்க்கு 30) உறவு கசந்து விடும். அதனால் தான், சென்னக்கு நான் ஒரு வெளியுர்க்கார்னாக இருக்கிறேன். செல்லும் பொழுதெல்லாம் ஆட்டோவிற்க்கு 100-200 என்று அழுதாலும், அவ்வப்பொது இடம் தெரியாமல் தொலந்து போனாலும்(சென்னையில் அது கூட ஒரு சுகம் தான்!), இந்த சிந்தனை சந்திப்புகளின் விளைவுகளினால் எற்படும் சுகத்திற்க்காக முடிந்தவரை சென்னைக்கு வெளியுர்காரனாகவே இருந்து விட்டு போகிறேன்.

Thursday, October 26

five random thoughts

I decided to walk from work to home the other day. It just takes twenty minutes, but walking on the Madhapur Road produces a lot of potentially harmful, but fortunately bio-degradable thoughts. Here are five of those still alive.

  • I can not stop wondering, Why private hospitals, now a days, have blinking neon signs on top of their buildings ? For some reason, these signs reminds me of "Kahoots" sign(a strip club in East Hartford,CT) or some of those "Hotel Marriott" signs. Even Marriott doesn't have its sign blinking!!! I can learn to accept Neon signs. But, Why make it blink ? Shouldn't the advertisement be more professional ? Or Is it just me who thinks such frivolous entertainment elements should not be a sign of a hospital ? Anyways, this is another reason, Why I think the next big thing is neither the hospitality industry, and nor the aviation industry, but the health care industry!!! I know what I am going to do, if a well-known hospital in big city goes public with an idea of building a chain of hospitals all over the country. By the way, I think a better way to indicate the location of an hospital is put signs on the roads indicating its way, rather than put up blinking red/blue lights like a Wireless tower.

  • The logo of Airtel is another proof for the theory on branding, I have been thinking about : To be a successful brand in a common market place, the brand logo should be so simple that you can draw it with your own hand. Or using Microsoft Paint - No, not Photoshop, but just the default Paint software that comes with Windows. No obscure fonts. No transparency. No reflection thingy. No shadows. No layers. No millions of colors. Just the basic 32 colors, fundamental shapes and a few basic fonts. Of course, this works only for common marketplace brands, not specialized brands developed for specific markets like - developing roller skates for the hobbits in the Middle Earth. Another example for the theory is Google - OK, you can forget that thing I told you about shadows. By the way, if you, like me, are wondering what exactly the font of _Airtel_© is, it resembles more like Centry Gothic, and not Arial. Yes, I too thought it was Arial.

  • While the passenger cars in India have been forced to adopt Bharat III auto emission norms, I don't know what emission norms do Auto rickshaws conform to. I don't think anybody would dare to develop a standard for these three wheelers. Only thing anybody could do is give a name to the level of emissions, that they already produce, and issue that as a "standard". If you ask me, such a standard would be the minimum emission standard for a tear gas, and would be called as Bharat Smoke Screen 1.0. But, you didn't ask me though.
  • Have you ever noticed that it is very easier to cross a road with crazy traffic(a fast flowing traffic with high frequency of vehicles), when you cross it with a group of people, and majority of the group are colorfully dressed women ? It might sound obvious to you that it is easier to cross the road if you start from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) rather than from Govt. Boys Higher Secondary School. But my point is - I didn't say good looking woman, I said colorfully dressed women. Because those who drive in crazy traffic don't really have time to see the details. When they see a sea of colors, they go 100 to 0 in less than a second!!! My grand father once said, the actual brake inspector of a vehicle is not sit at the motor vehicle dept. office, but it is the buffalo that comes to the middle of the road out of no where. Yesterday while I was crossing the road, the brake inspector for that moment was a wall of women wearing pink, magenta, green, yellow, red and their million respective shades. (My eyes work only with some 7-8 colors)

  • Speaking of women and dresses, Have you ever noticed that most of the women, we think look good on the street, are actually only well dressed ? It seems to me that, looks really doesn't matter. In the sense of capturing your momentary attention, what matters is the appearance of looking good.(If you think this is a shallow and superficial line of thought, I am with you. You can skip this point, and write your angry comments to me.) From a blog written by a gal, I remember that, the most important thing in a movie, with a theme of a girl going from not-so-good-looking to absolutely-n-stunningly-amazing, is just the dress upgrade! She also wrote that the English movie "Pretty Woman" is a good example. Apart from being the touchy love story it is, the most important thing in "Pretty Woman" is Fashion 2.0 of a hooker.

For no reason at all, I would augment the last two points with this news story: Fertile women dress to impress, U.S. study finds. I did think of combining this news story with last two points into a different blog post, but it probably would destroy me. Yeah, the battle of sexes that nobody wins.

Thursday, October 12

gandhi-giri and new york subway cars

I saw a Hindi movie on Friday called “Lage Raho Munna Bhai”, directed by Rajkumar Hirani. It was smart, hilarious and very intersting. In the movie, the protagonist Munna Bhai uses Gandhigiri, Gandhism equivalent of Dadagiri, to solve his problem. Even though the movie is about social transformation, it doesn’t get as preachy as the tamil director Shankar’s movies. But the significant difference between Raj kumar Hirani’s Munna Bhai and Shankar’s Anniyan/Indian is that Shankar uses the philosophy of fear (as typified by the cliche “An eye for an eye”) and Hirani tries the antithesis of fear - love, as manifested by the principles of Gandhism. But, if you don’t want to get so touchy by using the word “love”, feel free to give your own name. In the movie, Munna Bhai appears in his friend’s on-call radio program, to provide solution for the callers’ problems based on the principles of Gandhism.

Here is an example of such a Gandhi-an method, Munna advises. One of the callers’ problem is that his neighbor spits pan right at his door, making the door and the area around it look like cat puke. The caller says he had tried to tell the neighbor, but he doesn’t stop spitting. The Munna Bhai’s gandhigiri solution caller is this: After the neighbor spits in front of the door, smile at the him, and Clean the door. The idea was to send a message to the neighbor by cleaning the door over and again, and thus producing a transformation in the heart of the neighbor. I agree its touchy. In the movie, Munna Bhai shows that Gandhi’s method works, when the neighbor stops his spit act. While watching this scene at the movie, I hear murmurs among the audience questioning if such a solution would work in real life. I would be one of those audience, if I had not read the book “Tipping Point” written by Malcolm Gladwell.

The book “Tipping Point” is about an interesting phenomenon defined by the moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like an wildfire - like an epidemic. In this book, Gladwell discusses about such a phenomenon that happened in New york city in the 1990s, causing the crime rate to plummet. In the city, during a period of five years, murder rates fell by two-thirds, and total crimes fell by half. Gladwell says that this crime drop has the same characteristics of the spread of epidemics. He defines three principles of epidemics - The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and the most interesting one I think is, The Power of Context. My point of interest is the the “The Power of Context”, which says “Human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they seem.” and “A small change in a person’s immediate environment can cause big effects”. For the other two, here is an writeup of these principles in the context of marketing.

While discussing the power of context in the case of New york city, Gladwell produces examples about the small changes brought about in the New york subway systems that helped reverse the city’s crime epidemic. David Gunn was appointed the new subway director. He insisted that they have to start with the small things that symbolically indicate an environment for crime to happen. Graffiti being painted on the subway cars is such a symbol. Gunn decides to take on graffiti before anything else. He says

The graffiti was the symbolic collapse of the system. When you looked at the process of rebuilding the organization and morale, you had to win the battle against graffiti. Without winning that battle, all management reforms and physical changes just weren’t going to happen.

How did Gunn handle the problem of Graffiti in New york’s subway cars ? He drew up a new management structure aimed at cleaning the system line by line, train by train. On stainless-steel cars, solvents were used. On the painted cars, the graffiti was simply painted over. OK. What if the cars were vandalized again ? They cleaned again, and again. They were religious about their cleaning. At the end of the line, where the trains stopped and turned around, Gunn setup a cleaning station. If a car came in with graffiti, the graffiti had to be removed during the changeover, or the car was removed from the service. They make sure dirty cars are never mixed with clean cars. The idea was to send a clear message to the vandals - by cleaning over and again.

I was totally struck the method Gunn used to make the subways clean - not harsher punishment for the vandals, but to send a message to them by cleaning the cars. Of course, there is a difference between the tone, the kind of the message (or even a subtle difference in the motive), Gunn and Munna Bhai conveyed to their subjects. But the action point is the same - If you want to stop people from making dirty of public places, you just have to keep it cleaning - rigorously and continuously.

If it works for the multi-billion dollar cars of the New york subway system, it sure would work for everyone.

Friday, September 29


When started, the idea of this blog was to make my thoughts as brief as possible. But after having successfully failed at my attempt to keep myself brief, I decided its time to change the name of the blog. Hey, If you can not change, just change how you call yourself. So, the new name for this blog is self.reflect(…). And the tag-line is # a reflection of me and everything else onto myself, and vice versa. Even though I don’t expect a tag-line to contribute to this blog as much as it does for a Telugu movie, it helps to deceive everyone that there is something more than just a dumb title. (I am huge fan of Telugu movie tag-lines. I mean, seriously. Who cannot be impressed by “Bommarilu - Love makes Life beautiful” or “Sprasha - Be ready to be Touched” ? . For more, flip to “Gemini” channel and watch “Bioscopuu”. )

There are two completely insignificant reasons why I kept the title in the form of a statement written in a computer language. One, after working with computers for a while, it kind of grows upon you. Very often, I see myself as a computer program badly in need of a maintenance contract, and a separate IT department with pointy haired managers. No.. no.. that is a different issue. Moving on to the second reason - When expressed as a line from a computer program, everything is brief. The title of the blog, actually, squeezes this whole post into a single line. To tell you the truth, the content of this post is redundant to the title and is wasting your time. You can just read the title, and go back to whatever you were doing before. At least, you can do it now. Seriously. I mean it.

But, you might not do what I advise and read this line. Then, I would tell you about the billion dollar research and development behind the new name. The word “self” is lifted from the syntax of Objective-C, and Ruby language (I think it was actually stolen from Smalltalk, I am not sure). The “self” in this title represents no one but me, this insubstantial self as it writes this word. The use of “.” between the subject “self” and the function “reflect” is a convention used both in Ruby and C++. Since the “self” pretends to do something while it muses upon the objects of reflection, “reflect” is a function - an act - being called upon the “self”.

The use of “…” is the C/C++ language convention for variable arguments. Here, it means “everything else”, those objects I reflect upon and that reflects me. Since “everything else” is actually everything else, I use “…” as shamelessly as I use it with the word “etc” (I feel that “etc…” amplifies “etc.” by 200%). As such, the whole statement “self.reflect(…)” doesn’t belong to any one computer language. That is to trick everyone that I, the self doesn’t have any language bias. I mean, I use every form of every expression in every language I know to do this reflection thingy (and to waste your time and bandwidth).

When everything is said and (nothing is) done, I got a comment from someone - “So, you are going to reflect. Sure, I will bring my sun glasses.” I think that this someone knows me. OK… I made up that comment. I just started reflecting…

Sunday, September 24

மீண்டும் Mac

மீண்டும் Windows PC-லிருந்து Mac-ற்க்கு வந்து விட்டேன். இது என் தங்கையுடன் நடந்த ஒரு ஏற்ப்பாடு. இரண்டரை வருடத்திற்க்கு முன் நான் வாங்கிய Apple Mac Notebook என் தங்கையிடம் கொடுத்திருந்தேன். அந்த Notebook ஒரு அழகிய வெள்ளை நிற G3 800MHz iBook. Mac OS X 10.2 ஒடிக்கொண்டிருந்தது. அதை, என் ஒன்றரை வருட பழைய Windows XP ஒட்டிக்கொண்டிருக்கும் (கொஞ்சம் அசிங்கமான) Dell Inspiron (Intel Centrino 1.6 GHz) laptop-ற்க்கு பறிமாற்றம் செய்து கொண்டேன் - செய்ய வேண்டிய சூழ்நிலை. என் தங்கைக்கு, Mac-ல் Floppy disk இல்லை என்றும் VC++ programming செய்ய வசதிய்ல்லை என்றும் பிரச்சனை. முக்கியமாக Windows-ல் ஓடும் பல மென்பொருட்கள் Mac-ல் இல்லை என்று கோளாறு சொல்கிறாள். அடப் போங்கடா!! Microsoft வெண்ணைகளா!!! (நடிகர் வடிவேலு மதிறி ஒரு வசனம் எழுதலாமுனு ரொம்ப நேரம் யோசிச்சி 'வெண்ணை'யை தவுர வேற ஒன்னும் வர மாட்டிங்குது... அடி வாங்கினாதான் வரும் போல... இல்ல, அட்லீஸ்ட் பார்த்திபன் மதிரி யாராவது ஒரு ஆள் பக்கத்தில இருந்தா வரலாம்)

சரி, இப்ப iBook சங்கதியை பாக்கலாம். இந்த iBook-ஐ upgrade செய்ய, ஒரு 512 MB RAM-மும், மேக் ஓஸின் அதி நவீன பதிவான OS X 10.4-இன் ஒரிஜினல் டி.வி.டி ஒன்றும் வாங்கினேன். அந்த RAM-ஐ மாற்றுவதற்க்கு தேவையான 5 mm Philips screw driver, கோவில்பட்டியில் கிடைப்பதற்க்கு ஒரு வாரமானாலும், RAM-ஐ மாற்றி, OS X 10.4-யை இன்ஸ்டால் செய்வதற்க்கு, ஒரு மணி நேரமே ஆனது.

iBook துவங்குவதற்க்கும்(இயந்திரம் துவங்கி லாகின் திரை வரும் வரை - 45 நொடிகள்; லாகின் செய்ய - 15 வினாடிகள்) மற்ற Applications துவங்குவதற்க்கும் கொஞ்சம் அதிக நெரம் ஆனாலும், துவங்கிய பின் ஸிஸ்டம் வேகமாகவே செயல் படுகிறது. 800 MHz-இன் விளைவு வேகத்தில் சில நேரங்களில் தெரிந்தாலும், 640 MB நினைவகத்தை (Memory) OS X நன்றாகவே உபயோகித்து கொள்கிறது. Dashboard, Spotlight போன்ற OS X-இன் சிறப்பம்சங்கள் சிறப்பாக பணி செய்கின்றன. Unix-இன் பல அம்சங்கள் தினசரி காரியங்கள் செய்ய உதவியக உள்ளது. மென்பொறுள் தையார் செய்வதற்க்கு தெவையான பல டூல்கள் -Ruby, Perl, PHP, Applescript editor, மற்றும் XCode - ஓஸுடன் வருவதனால், வேறு எந்தச் செலவுமின்றி ஒரு முழுமையான Development system-ஆக செயல் படுகிறது.

இதை எல்லாவற்றையும் விட, இந்த Mac வேறு எந்த மென்பொறுளும் தனியக இன்ஸ்டால் செய்ய வேண்டிய அவசியம் இல்லாமல், தமிழ் கனினியாக செயல் படுகிறது. முரசு அஞ்சல் மென்பொருள் நிருவனத்தாரின் தமிழ் Keyboard ஊள்ளீட்டு முறைகளும்(Input Methods), இனைமதி என்றழைக்கபடும் தமிழ் Unicode Font-ம் ஓ.ஸுடனே வருகின்றன. எனவே, எந்த டாக்குமெண்டையும் தமிழில் கோர்ப்பது சுலபம். முரசு அஞ்சல் நிறுவனத்தினர் 'அஞ்சல்' மற்றும் 'தமிழ்99' என இரு keyboard உள்ளிட்டு முறைகள் உருவாக்கியுள்ளனர். அதில், 'அஞசல்' ஊள்ளீட்டு முறை மூலம் text editor-ல் தமிழ் வார்த்தைகளை Keyboard-ன் ஆங்கில எழுத்துக்களின் மூலமே கோர்க்க முடியும். அதாவது 'கில்மா' என்று editor-ல் எழுதுவதற்க்கு keyboard-ல் "gilmaa" என்று டைப் செய்தால் போதும். இதை Mac ஒ.ஸின் default editor-ஆன TextEdit மூல்மே செய்ய முடியும். ஏன்! இந்த blog post முழுவதையும் அதில் தான் எழுதினேன்!!!

மேற்கூரியவற்றை Windows-லேயே செய்ய முடியும். ஆனால், Mac OS இதற்க்கும் மேலே செல்கிறது. இதில் File-கள் மற்றும் Folder-களின் பெயர்களை தமிழிலிட முடியும்!!! அது மட்டுமில்லாமல், அந்த File-லில் உள்ளவற்றின் preview, File-களை List View-வில் பார்க்கும் போதும் தமிழ் வார்த்தைகள் சரியாகத் தெரிகிறது. (Windows-இலொ Linux-இலொ இதை செய்வது சாத்தியமா ? சாத்தியமகலாம். ஆனால் அதற்க்கு இரண்டு கிடாக்களை ஐய்யனாருக்கு காணிக்கையாக வெட்ட வேண்டுமென நினைக்கிறேன். ஹி..ஹி.. ) இதோ என் கனினியில் 'தமிழ்' என்ற folder-ல் உள்ள File-களின் list view...


ஆனால்,List view-வின் Previewவில் ஒரு text டாக்குமெண்ட் சரியாக தெரிவதற்க்கு அது Unicode UTF-16 encoding-ல் எழுத பட்டிருக்க வேண்டும். UTF-8-ல் இருந்தால் பிச்சைக்காரன் வாந்தி எடுத்தது போல தோற்றமளிக்கும்.(Unicode என்றால் என்ன ? UTF-8, UTF-16 எல்லாம் புதிதாக இருக்கிறதா ? இதோ ஜோயலின் ஒரு கட்டுரை! ஆங்கிலத்தில் இருக்கிறது. சமயம் கிடைக்கும் போது தமிழில் மொழிபெயர்க்க வேண்டுமென ரொம்ப நாள் ஆசை. )

Spotlight என்பது Mac-ல் உள்ள ஒரு desktop தேடல் மென்பொருள். அது ஸ்டீராய்டுகள் அருந்திய Google Desktop Search என்று கூரலாம். மிக வெகமாகவும் துள்ளியமாகவும் செயல் படுகிறது. அதன் மூலம் தமிழ் டாக்குமெண்டுக்களையும் (UTF-16 encoding-ல் எழுதப்பட்டவை) தேட முடியும். இதோ என் 'காதல்' தேடலுக்கு Spotlight மூலம் வந்த தேடல் முடிவுகள் (search results).

Mac-ன் மற்ற சில applications-ஸினால் உருவாக்கப்பட்டவைகளைக்கூட Spotlight-ஆல் தேட முடியும். உதாரணத்திற்க்கு, Address Book-ல் உள்ள, எனது நன்பர் பழனியப்பனின் விலாசத்தை தேடும் பொழுது வந்த முடிவுகள்...


அதை திறந்து பார்த்த பொழுது...


அவர் இந்தியவில் எதொ ஒரு தெருவில், எதொ ஒரு நகரதில், எதொ ஒரு மாநிலத்தில் வசிக்கிறார் என தெரிய வந்தது. நான் சொல்ல வந்தது என்னவென்றால், மற்ற Applications-ஸிலும் தமிழில் எழுத முடியும். இன்னொரு உதரனம் - சிக்குன் குன்யா நோயயை ஒழிக்க Stickies application மூலம், தமிழ்நாட்டின் சுகாதார அமைச்சகம் இப்படி ஒரு to-do list உருவாக்கி இருக்கலாம்.


எதிர்கால ஓ.எஸ். Unicode-ஐயும், Unicode தேடலையும் மையமாக் கொண்டிருக்குமென நான் நம்புகிறேன். எனவே, Mac OS X 10.4 எதிர் காலத்தை இன்றே கொண்டு வந்துவிட்டது என்று சொல்வது மிகையாகாது.

Monday, September 4

obesity, an epidemic ?

The International Congress on Obesity starts on September 3 in Sydeny, Australia. Here is a news piece about the "epidemic of obesity".

"Obesity is an international scourge," Prof Paul Zimmet, chairman of the meeting of more than 2,500 experts and health officials, told delegates in a speech opening the International Congress on Obesity. "This insidious, creeping pandemic of obesity is now engulfing the entire world."

"It's as big a threat as global warming and bird flu," said Zimmet, an Australian diabetes expert.

Other experts at the conference said the cost of treating health problems related to being overweight was immeasurable on a global scale, but was estimated at billions of dollars a year in countries such as Australia, Britain and the United States.

The professor boldly said "pandemic...engulfing the entire world", and I go like - "Did you mean, even in Africa and developing countries in Asia ?". The last paragraph clarified that obesity, right now, is a huge pain in the (fat) butts of Australia, Britain and the United States. That is not actually so surprising. Development, naturally, causes epidemic of diseases of comfort - caused by imbalance due to surplus, and not scarcity. Personally, I think obesity is as much an epidemic as Chain smoking or Alcoholism.

So now, experts and health officials have gathered to "fight" Obesity. Now what ? A war against fat asses ? I believe obesity has a place in Capitalism. As a business, it makes a sustainable industry with such an wonderful prospects. First, you have fast food restaurants serving junk foods, and, then you have diet and other programs to work it out, and, then you have the biotech companies working for technological developments to fight obesity, and, then there are pharmaceutical companies making magic pills to thin you out, and then there are doctors and obesity specialists advising you, and then finally, you would soon have a special obesity-insurance - all of these contribute to an economical system rich and, well... obese. Obesity will live, because it will make money - a lot of money!!!

So, my advise to you is - Invest in Obesity.

Saturday, September 2

firefox 2 beta 2

I got nothing to do today, and there is a long weekend ahead. I had thinking of trying Firefox 2.0 beta 2 since it was released Thursday. (Also, I wanted to write a blog with lot of colorful pictures for a long time ). Well, at first I accidentally download the German version (I followed the link from a blog. Even though the blog was written in English, it lead me to the German version.). Even though the installer spoke German, I went ahead and installed assuming that the problem might a locale setting or something. Then, I figured out that there are separate versions for each language.(Why ? ) Anyways, I then downloaded the English version and fired up the installer. The installation went well and, when it tried to import the extensions from the existing installation of version 1.5, most of the extensions were not compatible.

Extensions not Working

Yes, I was warned about incompatibility, while I downloading. So, no complaints here. But there is a really nice option for the rest of the working extensions (now called Add-ons). Add-ons, now, can be disabled with a click. Hooray!! Long live the add-on Gods!!!

Disable Extensions

The basic UI looks the same. Some cool tab features have been added directly into the browser. A new option for tab has been introduced, which has basic feature of any tab++ extensions out there.

Options for Tab

An easier way to get to the list of all tabs is something, I have always wanted with in a browser.(I mean, a browser with tabs function)

Tabs List
And the one that impressed me most is the feeds options. Now you can redirect any RSS/RDF/Atom links to your favorite feed reader directly from the browser. You just have to do this...

Options for Feed

A special mention - Built in "Restore Session after Crash".

Crash Restore

But I don't know why the QuickTime plug-in still crashes on me. I am still not able to see the new apple ads.(It does to me even in Firefox 1.5, and IE 6.0. Bad Computer! ) Also, the bookmark explorer crashes, when I try to change the properties.

On the whole, Firefox 2.0 looks good with lots of nifty features. But I see that the features of popular extensions are slowly creeping inside the browser. I hope, it doesn't bloat Firefox.

Thursday, August 31

sins of the fathers

When the recent Isreal-Lebanon conflict (12 July - 14 August 2006) was going on, there was an article in BBC about debates in Germany over involvement of Germans in a Lebanon peace force, before steps were taken to create one. The article is about the debates in German Media on the ethical questions faced by a German soldier, if he is needed to fight an Israeli soldier.

"History is the past, but the history of the Holocaust belongs to the German present," said the Frankfurter Rundschau. No German soldier should, even theoretically, "be brought into a situation where he has to aim his weapon at an Israeli", it added. [...]

[...] Austria's Der Standard said it was "unthinkable" that the grandchildren of Holocaust perpetrators might find themselves shooting at the grandchildren of victims.

Germany is a country with a dark period of history during the reign of Hitler, leading to the second world war. When it all ended, there were trials, especially the famous Nuremberg Trials, incriminating the war criminals of Second World War. But the punishment for the sins of Third Reich didn't end there. The most unfortunate were not those who were tried (deservedly so), but the sons and grandsons of the Nazi generation. That regime has left such a deep stain in the German history, that its descendants carry that even today.

In contrast, the way the Japanese handle their history is... well, not quite the same. There have always been questions about the accuracy of Japanese history textbooks, and the accusations that they "justify and glorify the wrongs committed in the past" (especially the Nanjing massacre. Wikipedia entry is here). Even after protests, those textbooks were never changed. Recently, there have been protests over the Japanese prime minister visiting the Yasukuni shrine, where war criminals are venerated. By such attempts, Japanese try to paint a different picture of history to their younger generation. Though their objectives on re-writing Japanese history are political, it probably would make the future Japanese generations carry less burden of the past. Unlike the Germans.

The question is how nations (and its people) choose to handle the sins of their history - either let it burden them for generations OR glorify the sins to make them proud. I couldn't do an ethical analysis of the Japanese stand on its history OR the reasons why Germans has to confront their history head on (I don't have access to a good library and, I am no historian. We can't miss the cultural angle(east vs west) too).

Bringing the same line of questioning towards ancestral histories, I think, our parents, grand parents, uncles, and aunts had the same two choices. When they had to tell us the inconvenient truths of the past, they either choose to bury them down or pass those burdens over. Of course, they would rather bury them, than do the dad-son karma-transfer. So... I wonder, Do I really believe in everything of what I am told about my family ? (or my country ?) And, Am I going say everything, most importantly every sin of my life to my next generation ?(if by an accident or some act of God, a next generation happens to me!!!)

Tuesday, August 29


The most important problem of blog writing is the lack of brevity and relevance. As David Beaver of language log points this here, while comparing blog writing with Grice's Conversational Maxims, he says the main reason of blogs being verbose and not to the point, is the uncertainty of the audience makeup.

In the case of blogs, uncertainty over audience make-up and mores reaches a new high. You could be anybody. In fact, many of you are not bodies at all, but automated web-crawlers. And there simply is no commonly accepted purpose or direction. Bloggers are free to make up purposes and directions as they go, to inform as much as they like about whatever they like in pretty much any way they like.

So, a blog is more whining and ranting, than something that could add value to the reader. And, there is a commonly known tendency for Indians to get verbose. Putting it all togeather, it makes brevity a difficult thing to do for me. Even though the goal of my blog was to deliver my thoughts as short as it could possibly expressed, I have hardly well done.

There is an old story about a famous Tamil speaker. When this speaker was asked to give a speech for ten minutes, he said he needs two days of preparation. When he was asked to give a lecture for two hours, he said that he can start right away. Silence may be golden or even diamond-ish, but being brief is the arduous task of mining the precious stone.

Thursday, August 24

where is the sport in motorsport ?

I have a problem with the idea that is "motorsport". And, that is - I don't think, it is a sport. I tried, but I couldn't see a sport in "motorsport". I don't discriminate any form of motorsport - F1 or NASCAR or IndyCar. I hate them equally. More importantly, I think "motorsport" a misnomer. Call motorsport, a shameless and profligate expression of penis-envies, exhibited by those whirring, exploding, gas-sucking, and piston-pumping motors as a symbolic extension of the male genitals (except for Danica Patrick, may be). I stand behind you (with a little caution). Call it as motor-circus. I am totally with you. Call it a motor-driver-exhibition. I agree. Call it as a motor-competition. There is a bling of disagreement. Still, I nod. But, Calling it a sport - No, Sir ! Circus is not sport! Yes, it is entertainment. But not a sport.

I know what is coming next. You are, probably, going to throw me the definition of sport. OK. Lets get this over with. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Sport (in the sense of, ah, well, sports) is defined as

An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.

Technically, of course, any competition involving skill is a sport. ESPN thinks that Poker is a sport (Oh, Well, the argument that shuffling chips and picking cards as a "physical exertion" is not really, you know, getting through). Again, I have no problems with Poker being a recreational activity. But, a sport ? The problem actually is not the definition or classification of motor-what-ever as a sport - technically.

So you tell me, it may just be a matter of personal preference. Probably, I don't like motor-blah-blah as much as, say, baseball. I compared my comparison with another comparison. (Is this a record - three comparisons in a line ?). I do like baseball more than cricket, both of these I admire as sports. One of the many reasons for liking baseball is what I perceive as a difference between hitting and batting. Hey, I am just a fan. I may be completely wrong here.

Most of Indians who like cricket (that's a given), tend to dislike baseball, because they think there is absolutely no intelligence in hitting. But I wonder - If it is true that hitting is a dumb thing like pinning the donkey's tail, Why every hitter in baseball doesn't hit with the same average ? So, here is the comparison. In cricket, a batting is a mini-gymnastic exercise. The batsman has to look the swing on the ball, see where it pitches, and orchestrate the movement of the foot (the foot movement is like an Irish dance) in sync with the movement of hand.( with a perfect timing of course). The batsman spends more time understanding the ball, than the bowler. In cricket, batting is all about concentration and choosing the perfect stroke - and the stroke, as a result, is as brilliant and creative as a chess move.

In baseball, hitting is not really that complicated. There is already a stance, all you have to worry about is your shoulders, your waist and your swing. (There is a little foot-work,but you really don't have to dance) This makes hitting simple, but more mental. It is all about judgement, and getting into the head of the pitcher - Ah, there lies its emotional rub. So, as I see, the swing of a successful hitting is as beautiful as the free-kick in soccer that ends up as a goal. Finally, in a seven game series between beauty of baseball and brilliance of cricket - Beauty - 4, Brilliance - 3. (This is how I see these two sports. Of course, it is entirely possible to see this the other way) But I really couldn't do this comparison with motor-boink-boink against any of the sport I admire. I really don't think it is relative liking or relative hatred. There is something more...

My problem is the meaning of motor-boo-boo as a sport. I see the motor as a machine, and the driver as an operator. I see no difference between twenty drivers racing their machines, and twenty lathe operators on a shop floor, in a pump manufacturing company, working up their productivity charts for a TPM showcase. Only difference is that the question on the shop floor is - Who drives the tool tip faster ? Would we call that a sport ?

I would like to relate to any sport just by watching it or playing it. In the exhibition of motor"sport", I see nothing of the driver's skills. I only get to see the effects of the skills. So the driver managed to keep himself ahead, while negotiating the curve. What did he do, really ? What were his movements ? Did he flinch ? Did he have fit ? or Did he fart ? I don't see nothing. (OK. Technically, you can't see a fart. That aside. Personally, I think, driving is a boring activity with its only use of transporting a person) I can't even play that game in my yard or in a park. Is there anyway to relate to this "sport" ? In this sense, I think, even Dodgeball or Rock-Paper-Scissors are agreeable as sports. Or Competitive eating, for that matter. (A clip from the movie Dodgeball explaining the rules. For those who haven't heard of Dodgeball before, there is no such thing as ADAA. Its just a parody of naming sports associations of America.)

Finally you say, what you have to see is the power of machines. Its the technology, baby. runs a long list technical details to look for in a F1 racing. If its about technology, why don't they have an Auto expo or something like that? At least then, you can have the technology without the noise and heat. The claim that its an exhibition of technology doesn't really make motor-pee-pee a sport.

And finally, the reason why I even started writing this. Some time ago, Chuck Klosterman, one of my favorite writers on American pop culture, was writing about Barry Bonds, (the Sachin Tendulkar of Baseball) under the suspicion of using performance enhancing drugs, surpassing Babe Ruth's (the Don Bradman of Baseball) record of home runs (the sixer of a baseball game. Yeah, they do have record for sixers!!!). He wrote

It's a problem for anyone who considers sports to be a meaningful prism through which to understand life and culture.

Yeah, that is it. I wanted to use this line, and I don't understand life or culture with motorsport. But... Wait! If motorsport is a prism to understand culture or life that is - just noise, pollution and exploitation of fossil fuels - well then, may be, motorsport is the sport of our generation. Probably, the last generation that uses fossil fuels.

Tuesday, August 22

little miss sunshine

It was an interesting day yesterday. I read the book "1984" by George Orwell, finally. It consumed my whole day. The writing was so powerful, that, I was underlining at the rate of a sentence per page. That reduced my speed of reading, and guess what!!! It made me think!!! Yeah, its deep. I think, I would reserve my thoughts on "1984" for another post. Later yesterday, I went to watch the movie "Little Miss Sunshine". It was comedy movie, and when I try to classify the movie in the unofficial comedy-film-making taxonomy, that was so not a comedy.

It is true that "Dying is easy, but Comedy is hard". But the writers of comedy movies, of late, doing it easy. They have only been picking the toppings from an available of menu of theme-choices. The menu (also called unofficial comedy-film-making taxonomy) goes like:

  1. satire/parody
  2. slapstick
  3. gross-out (the flavor of the day)
  4. screwball (the classic)
  5. a double with the choices 1-4
  6. a triple with the choices 1-4
  7. anyway you want (available toppings: choices 1-4 again).

Or they probably could be using a script-vending-machine. Or they were seriously trying to prove the hypothesis that an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite amount of time could reproduce the works of Shakespeare. And probably, they didn't get enough monkeys. (I do think they have a lot of time)

Well, there is another generation of comedy movies, that start out funny, but as it grows - We have got a surprise for you - tada!! - A chick flick!!!. Actually, I am not against chick flicks. I don't hate them. I even enjoy some of them. My only concern is that jokes in such movies would have made a pure comedy movie.

There are Comedy movies made of nothing but a few jokes scattered here and there in a generic sub-theme. And then, there is "Little Miss Sunshine". I had a wonderful time enjoying this movie, but a hard time classifying it - only to have found out that it doesn't fit any of the choices above. I think it belongs to a genre of its own.

The story is about a (dysfunctional) American family - a dad, a mom, a brother, an uncle, a grandpa, and finally the youngest member of the family - the blue eyed little girl - Olive. They set out on road trip from New Mexico to California, so that, Olive can compete in a child beauty contest, Miss Little Sunshine. The movie is about their their adventures during the 700 mile journey and at beauty contest.(The tendency to place "dysfunctional" in brackets is a because of a general Indian thought that "dysfunctional American family" might sound as an oxymoron. I don't think, it is prejudice, but it is a gap in family values between two cultures and the assumption that MTV is America. But I do think, every functional family, irrespective of nationality, has to be dysfunctional in some department. We don't pick our parents or our children -OR- Do we ?)

The movie, of course, is a satire about the issues in family life and other heavy issues it rubs on, such as drug abuse, suicide, and child beauty contests. But the comedy is not satirical. Comedy in the movie is mostly a the result of irony about an individual's position against the family backdrop. Though, the family is fabricated for the movie, the script brings a kind of plastic realism touching all the characters of the story. It is smart and funny.

I couldn't remember a movie or a story, that displayed such a weight in each of its character - in the solemn expression of comedy.

Wednesday, August 16

nitpicking on language

I have become a fan of Language Log, a blog by a group of linguists from UPenn. Their analyses on language and its usage are very interesting. Recently, a reader of the newspaper Oakland Tribune wrote to the editor about a news story they had printed. It goes like this...

THE TRIBUNE'S Aug. 7 front page story headline said, in large print, "Rocket attack kills 12 Israelis," and in smaller print, "At least 16 in Lebanon die from air strikes." This has an immediate bias that Israeli lives are more valuable than Lebanese lives.

Geoffrey K. Pullum and Bill Poser of Language Log blogged here and here to explain that, bias in Tribune's use of words, if any, was not immediately obvious. Their main points of observation are

  • Both "to die" from something, and "to be killed" by something roughly mean the same thing. Their usage could possibly imply a difference in the duration of losing a life. But that doesn't imply a judgement in the value of lives lost.
  • The difference in choice of words may reflect the the fact that the Israelis were intentionally murdered (genocide) while the Lebanese were killed accidentally (collateral damage).
  • It could just be that the editors could have avoided the same words for monotony.
The difference between the choice of words in this case is very subtle, and hence the bias is not obvious (or rather no bias at all, according to the authors). I remember a better example in Indian newspapers, when I was young. It usually happens in the Sports pages, when there is a cricket match between the arch rivals - India and Pakistan. If India won a cricket match against Pakistan, the head line would read something like "India beat Pakistan by 45 runs". But if Pakistan had won the match, it would read "Pakistan won by 6 wkts" or better "India lost by 6 wkts". In some weird sense, "beating" feels better than "winning" or "losing". I think that, the choice of such a headline is a conscious decision by the editor.

I enjoy such examinations of our language and the choice of words. I re-write my sentences two or three times until I feel OK about them. I want to make sure that my tone is not condescending, not authoritative, and not offensive. I also would like my style neither be absolute nor be vague. (What am i trying to do here, really ?)

But still, one of my friends commented about a previous blog entry that I better do spell check, and grammar check. I read my blog entries again, and found my grammar awful. I had missed verbs in sentences. My prepositions were on top of each other. It seemed to me, that words were so uncomfortable being in my sentences. It looked like I was writing this blog, as an attempt to avoid watching an episode of 'Barney, the Dinosaur' (or a Tamil mega serial).

I found the reason to be my tendency to quick-edit sentences, even before they were complete. I do a lot of "micro editing" in parts of my sentences, that I end up missing verbs, and adding prepositions. I think, I need more nitpickers. (or a book on english grammar ?)

Monday, August 14

why can't software be like an aircraft engine ?

When dealing with software professionals, the users, tend to asks questions like why the making of software doesn't work, exactly like their actual job. And when you make a software for the engineers who design, develop and test Aircraft engines, they seriously ask questions like why this software can't be like an aircraft engine.

I get really excited about such comparisons. When it comes to software, I always hold the opinion that there is no comparison that fits. I wish the poet Pablo Neruda had written some poems about making software. Then, at least, we would not have this shortage of good metaphors.

I wrote a blog entry sometime ago about what I do for a living. I can say it again - RSA wouldn't mind it actually - I work on a team of customizing an Engineering software for an Aircraft Engine manufacturer. We work on a monthly build cycle, that works fairly successful in fixing bugs and introducing a new feature every month. In plain words, we put in a new version of the software every month for our users - with a new major functionality and a few bug fixes.

There are no dedicated testers here. (Yeah, I know. Just give it a break. It's just a customization project). Its the actual users who test it in a simulated test environment, before we push the software to the real time, live wire production environment(Again, with the shortage of metaphors in Software Engineering, we use buzzwords!!!) . In the previous build, it so happened that the testing for the major functionality was complete, but the bug fixes - We couldn't get enough users to test them!!! Obviously, we can't push the software to Production, until we are sure we aren't breaking anything with our "fixes". So we had to delay the build a week. When we told that to our clients, one of them had this to say....

You are saying that you can't push the software to prod until the bug fixes are tested ? Its like saying - Even though the nozzle assembly of the engine has been tested for every other performance metric, and just because a small component such as a bracket is not available, I can't ship the engine. Can't you just pull out the bracket ?

When all of our customization is built and bundled into a single shared library (All of them are in a single binary file), it is impossible to pull the fixes from the dll file. Sometimes, I do wish I have some supernatural power by which I can rip apart the bytes of that binary file, and pull out the ugly "brackets", I wish I had not made. (The main reason would be - save some embarrassment.)

Unfortunately in Software Engineering, we are still trying to figure out how to do things better. And all I can say is that making parts of working software into components hasn't reached the level of granularity of building an engine - to its bolts and nuts.

It is not impossible. (Pardon the double negatives. I need to be explicitly equivocal here.) You just need a highly flexible version control system, probably use a scripting language instead of a compiled language (a framework like Ruby on Rails ???), then a perfect system of tagging, naming, arranging builds, then of course, a reliable system of automated testing, and then finally a highly granular configuration system - seamlessly integrated with the rest of them.

If we can have all that systems, then probably we can "pull out" stuff that is not required. In short, it is just not like pulling nuts and bolts or even a bracket out of an aircraft engine assembly. (Or it could very well be just that the comparison of bug fixes in a software to a bracket in a engine could be wrong. I told you - We badly need Neruda)

Thursday, August 3

just give me the news

Was every one thinking about this ? Last week, I was watching one of those 24 hour news channels "covering" the war in Middle-East. The back ground music, while showing the images of destruction, was something like the one for a techno dance party. Whats up with these news channels ? Do they hire a DJs for mixing this music ? What are they thinking ?

The exact same day, in The Daily Show by Jon Stewart had this to say about the "musical montage" of MSNBC about the war in Middle East. In case you haven't seen Cable TV in the US or heard about Jon Stewart, "The Daily Show" is a half-hour satirical news program produced by and run on the Comedy Central cable television network.. And their host Jon Stewart is know to be "the most trusted name in fake news". It is one of my favorite shows, where they rip apart and make us laugh at the absurdities in everyday news stories, and the media that brings the news. Now, back to Jon...

Apparently, the war in the middle-east is also taking place in the middle of a rave... What've they got ? "Tears for Fears" in the back room of MSNBC ?... I am telling you... What are they doing !?!?

Here the link to this Jon Stewart's video in You Tube

Seriously, What are they doing ? It has become OK for News channels to create unnecessary drama in News. When does this all start ? Why there should be drama in News ? For drama, I will watch TNT (a TV channel in US cable network know for its "drama"). It seems like an unwritten rule for news channels these days - "If ain't no drama, it ain't important".

I don't want sound like one of those oldies saying - "When I was kid, I used to milk 321 cows everyday for a living". But I should say this - News was not drama those days. My initial television watching days in India included an everyday news program -covering local, state, national, international, entertainment, sports and weather - all in just 20 minutes. It was just fine.

I learnt that the Berlin wall went down. I learnt that "Silence of the Lambs" won an academy award. I learnt that Steffi Graff took another Wimbledon. Every knowledge happened in that 1/3 of an hour. It was simple and straight forward. No analysis, No drama. And most importantly - No Noise! 20 minutes was just enough.

Now its on - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and every moment of is made to seem important and dramatic. But now a days, I am not sure, if I know it right. And If i know it enough.

Sunday, July 23

why should anybody learn latin ?

In my last post, I wrote about Sudbury Valley School. I read some essays by Daniel Greenberg about the Sudbury Valley School experience. To illustrate a point, he tells a story about Issac Newton. Here goes the story.

Isaac Newton wrote a book when he was twenty-one, his first real production. It was a new theory of optics. It was a fabulous book. Physicists still read it with joy, and a lot of the ideas that he put into the book are still talked about. But they ran contrary to the accepted theories of optics in his day and, in particular, they ran contrary to the theories that the elders in the English physics establishment held to be sacrosanct. So he was lambasted for being an upstart, for not toeing the line, and he decided to never write another book. "I'm happy. I'm doing my thing. I know what I like." He had a professorship, so he didn't have to worry about his income, and he just sat in his place in Cambridge and did his stuff.

Twenty years later the rumor got out that he had solved the problem of gravitation. So a couple physicists who heard about this in London came up and said, "We heard that you solved the problem of gravitation. Is it true?" He said, "Yes, that's true." They said, "What is it?" He showed them. He wrote it out, and they were flabbergasted, because they immediately saw that he was right. They said, "Write it." He said, "I've done my writing for my lifetime." They begged him and begged him to write it, and he finally wrote it in a book called Principia Mathematica, which was written in Latin. The optics book had been written in English. His new book was written in Latin that almost nobody could understand, and all the simple proofs that were easy to read he replaced with obscure proofs that were very difficult to follow.

Hmmm.. So, latin has it uses. That and another use I know is - You can skip almost 75% of the book "Word power Made Easy" by Norman Lewis. That's the book I was asked to read in my childhood to expand my vocabulary.(I completed almost 60% of the book) Studio Latin, Amigos !

Thursday, July 20

dream of a democractic school

When I read the book "Maverick" by Ricado Semler before I even got my first job, I was blown away by the idea of the book. I was fascinated by the way how Semler carried out his company Semco's transformation from a traditional "pyramid" organization to something described like

Semco's staff work in small, autonomous units of about a dozen (the size, says Semler, of a close family group). They make the decisions, choose their leaders, set objectives and decide who they need and what they should be paid[...]

At Semco we did away with strictures that dictate the 'hows' and created fertile soil for differences. We gave people an opportunity to test, question and disagree. We let them determine their own training and their own futures. We let them come or go as they wanted, work at home if they wanted, set their own salaries, choose their own bosses. [...]

At the heart of our bold experiment is a truth so simple it would be silly if wasn't so rarely recognized: A company should trust its destiny to its employees. [...]

Every decision of the company - from salaries to the cafeteria's menu - is decided by the employees democratically. Meetings are voluntary. There is little bureaucratic control beyond financial accountability. Most importantly, the employees are treated as adults rather than an asset - another piece of furniture.

Well, after I got a job, and found the stark reality of how a company functions - no different from how Military is run. Except for the uniforms. One wears a tie, instead. I realize that organizations are more Dilbert like rather than Semco like. (Funny how, I read Dilbert only after joining organization. I think every company should give a copy of "The Dilbert Principle", rather than make those dull Power point presentations during the placement interviews in Colleges)

One day I was coming back from work in a local bus in Hyderabad. Travelling in a Metro-Bus anywhere in India is the ultimate feast for all your senses - You smell everything Coconut Oil, Shikakai, Soap, Sweat, Cement , Iorn, Dried Fish or Jasmine - it really takes my breath away. You see everything that is India. And you touch, and you are touched. Any where I travel in India - I make sure I use Public Transport at least once. OK...I digress.

I got this idea of a school that is democratic as Semco - where the student chooses what he or she studies. The student has a say in how the school is run, who their teacher should be, and what they want to learn today. I did get a some inspiration of this idea "The Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", where the professor abandons all grades so as to understand something in a qualitatively rather than quantitatively. I seriously think abandoning grades is a good start for a free school. (free as in freedom, not as in no-cost)

Anyways I pat myself on my back for such a wonderful idea. Fortunately, I didn't boast myself to anybody that I got such an original idea. After a year or two, one of my friends told me about a democratic school in Germany called Sudbury School Even though the site is German, it didn't take long for me to realize the original idea of Sudbury school is from Farmingham, MA USA - The Sudbury Valley School. It was founded in 1968. To give an idea of this school, I will quote one of the founders

At Sudbury Valley, a class is an arrangement between two parties. It starts with someone, or several persons, who decide they want to learn something specific -- say, algebra, or French, or physics, or spelling, or pottery. A lot of times, they figure out how to do it on their own. They find a book, or a computer program, or they watch someone else. When that happens, it isn't a class. It's just plain learning.

Then there are the times they can't do it alone. They look for someone to help them, someone who will agree to give them exactly what they want to make the learning happen. When they find that someone, they strike a deal: "We'll do this and that, and you'll do this and that -- OK?" If it's OK with all the parties, they have just formed a class.

I still do have this dream of building such a school one day - where every student is free to study what he or she wants. Every student has froms the class, choses the teacher, and learns - learns free. May be, the idea sounds too romantic. I need to do some homework. Until then, it is my "some day"...

Friday, July 14

dreams, depression, mumbai, and then hope ?

Sometimes I feel that my body seems to be so limited for the dreams i want to reach for. It looks like if these dreams, I have in me - I am not sure what part of me really  dream the dreams - those dreams might be achieved, if they were not created inside me, my body. It squeezes me in such a pressure inside me - its so depressing sometimes.

Well thats the kind of feeling i have been through for the past three days or so, and was amplified when i read the news about Mumbai bomb blasts. I still couldn't understand these people. How could terror be some one's purpose ?. I felt i hit bottom. But just browsing around, I hit the mumbai help blogspot website. And there  is this post on top of everything. Going through some of the posts, I remember these lines from the movie Love Actually. It is the starting line of the movie, and here it goes...

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

Well, may be there is hope. But after reading the news about a possible Pakistan link with the bomb blasts (Source :, then may be there is not. Anyways, I am not sure, if another War to end every other war could solve the problems caused by our economic, social and cultural differences.

Just wanted to write something...

Thursday, July 6

punk to gentleman

Why do we watch sports ? We watch sports for what we lack... that lightning speed, or that impossible skill, or the most important aspect in any sport - athletic wisdom.  We don't want to miss that momentous invention of a completely new possibility, an athlete fabricates, in the realm of the same court (or pitch) using the same ball. We seek for moments of inspiration in our mundane and ordinary life. We yearn for those crossovers, those buzzer-beaters, those tie-breakers - quick moments of passion and intelligence that make beauty. I don't know, if we could ever define a Calculus based off that logarithmic d2y/dx2(acceleration) feeling that happens only in sports!

After the game is over, well, most of us get on with our lives. We know that we pay our sports heroes only for their on-field work . It doesn't really bother us much, how they do outside the lines. Of course, their lives are exciting. And yes, most of our sports icons live like how the truly rich live - invest more, spend more, and not necessarily save more. But there are some personalities, whose lives transcend beyond that momentary exhibition of speed, and skill.

Andre Aggasi is such a man, and a sports personality - in the literal meaning of the word personality. From his carefree beginnings of punk-iness to the gentleman he has grown to be now - He is the paragon on the kind of transformation a person can reach for. This is a small anecdote I heard on ESPN other day. After Andre was defeated in 2005 US Open Finals, his 4-year-old son, Jaden asked him, "Daddy, Who beat you ?". Andre replied, "Just some guy with long hair !" ( Roger Federer beat Andre in 2005 US Open Finals)

Yeah! I remember this long haired guy, whom I was religiously rooting for in 1992 Wimbledon finals against Goran Ivanesevic for two reasons

  1. I hated Goran's terribly boring aces.
  2. I felt, the hairy guy's ear ring was really cooool. (I was 12!)
And the hairy guy finally won. Well, this one is for the Andre then, and the Andre Now ( and a special mention - Andre's magical serve return ). We will miss him in Wimbledon. Hopefully, we will see him  at-least until the Semis in US Open.

Monday, July 3

lost+found in translation

When I learnt English in middle school and high school in India, I was told never to use the method of translation to learn the language. I think, that it is a tacit agreement among my English teachers (4 of them in 2 schools) that the idea of learning using translation is a bane.

During my school days, I came to accept this rule, but never understood why. Until the other day... I was talking to some one about my hurt toe. I said, "I hurt my leg finger, when I played soccer (football) yesterday". It took some time (with the puzzling look on his face) to realize that there is no such thing as a "leg finger" in English. They are called toes. It often happens when I try to construct a sentence in my mother tongue (Tamil), and then translate to English. In Tamil, (if you literally translate the words), they call the toe - "leg finger", and the actual finger - the "hand finger".

I think, more than just trying to avoiding such pitfalls, what my English teachers were trying to achieve, was to induce a sense of the English culture into my learning experience. Language is the most important aspect in the definition of a culture. Why would then, Sir Winston Churchill write a book "A History of English speaking peoples" rather than say "A Short History of the Great Britain and the USA" ? I think, for Churchill, "English speaking peoples" was a means to convey the language as a cultural identity.

The problem of learning a foreign language, thus, for most part, is a problem of understanding a culture. Whenever I see a new word or a phrase in English, I don't try to a cultural context of my mother tongue. Because of the way I was taught, I now am trying to understand it in the cultural context of the "English speaking peoples". I never "need to" understand what it would mean in my culture. Or if there is even a definition of it in my culture. All of these happens without any conscious decision of my own.

And So, When I was trying to translate this phrase "Our Endangered Values:America's Moral Crisis" (the book by Jimmy Carter) to Tamil, I stuttered. Because I couldn't translate the word "Values" in its English sense to my mother tongue. (Probably because the values in my culture are tied more to religion than the common law. That's a different story).

It was an exhilarating experience just to realize that... What is found in translation, is more interesting than, what is lost. I find my cultural identity.

Saturday, March 11

software requirements

Ken is one of the guys, who explains to me, the standard procedures defined for Engineering Changes for his company. The responsibility of me and my consulting team is to customize and to maintain a commercial software product, to suit his company's process needs.

Let me try to explain of what is that I actually do for a living. Here is a company that builds aircraft engines, which, not surprisingly, is made up of thousands of components. To design, to develop, to repair, and to service these components that make aircraft engines, not so surprisingly, this company gotta have hundreds of Engineers working on these components - simultaneously.

And those Engineers work hard. Engines are made, and sold. They are installed into nice, big airplanes. People fly on those airplanes all over the world... yada, yada, yada, and the whole world is a happy place.

Now lets say, a component, that goes into such an aircraft engine, requires a modification for engineering reasons, such as, a re-design to handle more pressure. Or Probably, it has to be modified for quality requirements, such as, a change in the inspection method. Well, if we have to change it, Why don't we just do it ? Not so fast, Young man!!!

When hundreds of engineers working on thousand different components, obviously, we need a standard process of doing it. Also, we need a pre-defined way of documenting those changes, so that we can go back or reverse the change, if needed. Now, go back to first paragraph... Just read the first paragraph, and come back here.

So, now you know what I do, right ? Yes, that's what I do. If you didn't get it, I can say all that in a line - I make a living by trying to make a commercial software work for a business.

So, Where were we ? We were talking about Ken. Ken and I were talking about how to keep track of a component, that is just lying there, and is never used in any engine - Of course, using the software. Well, the process and the software is already there, and Ken just wants to know how it works.

When we were talking about another related functionality, I said that it is already there, and showed the paragraph in the documentation explaining it. He said,

I know this requirement. But we forgot what we meant, when we asked you to do it. If you could say me, how you made your program to do this, then, we could know what we meant, when we asked for that.
And he laughed. Then, I laughed.

I was reminded of this Dilbert Cartoon, when the analyst asks the user for his software requirements. The user asks the analyst to make a software that would tell the requirements. In Software, it is always like that.

When you buy a car, you exactly know what you are buying. When you buy a software, you really don't know what you are buying. When you put your hands on it and start using it, you wonder "Did I really pay for this ? Why did I ask for this ?". That's why it is so difficult to define a software requirement, especially, when it is customized for a business.

Wednesday, March 8

vagueness of a psychiatrist

I saw the movie Analyze This yesterday. The movie is about a New York mob boss (Robert De Niro) seeks the counsel of a psychiatrist (Billy Crystal).

In the final scenes, Billy Crystal would appear on behalf of De Niro, in a meeting of gangsters. Before going to the meeting, De Niro's right-hand man would give an advice to Billy Crystal to be vague. Billy Crystal replies 'I am a psychiatrist. I can't be nothing but vague'.

I have never been under a counsel of a psychiatrist, but I have read books written by psychiatrist. More often, I have felt the vagueness in their content. I mean, they seem to talk about something, but they wouldn't conclude on anything.

I think, the goal of a psychiatrist is to induce, what they call a break-through in a patient. This break-through is not a target, you can push people into or heal only with medicines... Its a kind of self-awareness.

I have to relate it with the puzzles in Zen Buddhism. These monks ponder over some puzzles , to reach the state of self-awareness. A sample puzzle would be - 'Hear the sound of one hand'. Yes, its vague.

I guess, it all comes down to something like - If you really want to know yourself, immerse yourself into vagueness... Hmmm, Very interestingly vague.

Monday, March 6

செல்ஃபோன் சிந்தனை

செல்ஃபோனின் இடஞ்சல்களால் ஏற்படும் எரிச்சல்கள், அதன் உபயோகங்களினால் ஏற்படும் சுகங்களை விட, அதிகமனு தான் சொல்லுவேன். அந்தச் சாதனம் ஒரு சுமையாத்தான் நான் நினைக்கிறேன். அதைப்பத்தி என் room mate ஷரத்தோடு ஒரு உறையாடல் ( converstation-ங்கற வார்த்தைய மொழிபெயரத்தா, உரையாடல்னு ரொம்ப formal வார்த்தையாடுச்சு. கலாச்சாரம் நம்ம மொழில எப்படி கலந்திருக்கு !)...

நான் : செல்ஃபோன்னால என்ன use ?
ஷரத் : செல்ஃபோன் வைச்சிகறது நமக்காக இல்ல. மத்தவங்க நம்மல contact பன்றதுக்காக.
நான் : அதுக்கு தான் வீட்டல ஃபோன் இருக்குதுல்ல...
ஷரத் : வீட்ட விட்டு வெளிய போனா, contact பன்றதுக்காக.
நான் : வீட்ட விட்டு வெளிய போறதே, மத்தவங்க நம்மல contact பன்ன கூடாதுங்றதுக்காக தான்.

அது அந்த வார்த்தையிலே இருக்குது. " விட்டு வெளியே போறது " - அப்படி விட்டு போறப்ப, அத்தன பேரையும் வீட்டுல விட்டு போக வேண்டியது தான்...

I used Kamban Software's Universal Editor (beta) to write this paragraph. Its good. I guess, it takes quite some time to get used to it.

Saturday, March 4

cricket for the people of united states - part two

On the changes required for selling cricket to the people of United States, the next category is scoring. And the nominees (with which we have a problem) are... 1) sky rocketing scores, 2) pumped up batsman averages, and 3) caffeinated run rates.

Since the number of balls in a over is reduced, it automatically reduces the scoring chances. Still there is a possibility of scoring 220-250 runs. For people in the US, 220 can be an OK Cholesterol count, but certainly unacceptable as a game score. (Disclaimer: Actually, 220 is NOT an OK Cholesterol count. I am NOT a physician. So don't sue me if I made you believe that this is a fact.)

Hence, I propose a reduction in the runs awarded in each play. To maintain the proportion, every scoring unit will be reduced by half. Only 0.5 run is awarded for what is now a one run play. A four run play would be just two runs, and six would be three. That would do it, for the scores. From now on, I would refer a six as three.

To reduce the run rate, I propose a new rule - (Take a deep breath) - "A batsman can score a second three (aka six) in three overs, if and only if his partner has scored atleast one three, or his partner gets out. This rule is applicable for the every second three (aka six) scored by a batsman (aka six) in the three over stretch, starting from the first three (aka six)." No such restriction for twos (aka fours) scored.

If you think the above rule is very complicated, my friend, Welcome to the world of American sports. Let me explain you this rule "clearly". Stay with me. OK ?

When a batsman scores a three( aka six), he can not score another three (aka six) for next three overs. Still with me ? Good! BUT the batsman can score a three (aka six) after his partner scores a three (aka six), or his partner gets out. Clear ? OK. What if the batsman scores a three ? - He would be awarded only 0.5 run. And this rule is applicable for every second three (aka six) scored by the batsman.

I know what you are thinking - This rule is dumb, and filled with lot of loopholes. That's what American sports are all about. First - Make dumb complicated rules. Second - Bring in lot of controversies out of these rules. And Third - Blame the referee or the umpire for everything, including the Bird flu in Asia and Europe, and of course, Malaria in Africa.

Finally - Handling a tie. Why this should be a even considered ? A tie game happens, say, once in half-a-dozen years ? Americans can not handle that, even there is a chance of it happening once in, half-a-million years. What would they write in the history books ? That no body won ? And most importantly, that no body lost ? Who was the "Looser" (with a big 'L') ?

And, how good could be a tie game ? - For American fans, "A tie game is like kissing your sister on the lips. Of course, you had a kiss. " This is one of the most important reasons, when you talk about soccer, the real football, Americans say "I don't know, man ! I think it tastes like almonds, may be ???" Translated: They don't care. That's a game, that the whole world is crazy about.

For handling tie, I propose Sudden Death. Alternate plays of one over each, who ever scores more than the other wins!!! (This should happen even if a team had all of its players out)

If we do all that, may be, Cricket would be as exciting, as dramatic, as nerve-racking as a Basketball or an American Football game. But it wouldn't be that as relaxed, as lazy, as a game it is now - with heart-warming light fun... Like a Cafe Latte. No, we wouldn't be seeing those bikini women lying, as spectators, when a game happens in Australia or Newzea Land.

No, we wouldn't be seeing a single player, as a hero, (like Rajinikanth movies) saving everything. No, it wouldn't be played by 11 fools and watched by 11,000 fools, as George Bernard Shaw thought it was. Cricket, then, would be a product deigned, manufactured, quality controlled, painted, packaged, made more sexy, shipped, and delivered for the sake of excitement, and entertainment.

Cricket, just wouldn't be cricket anymore. Cricket, wouldn't be played just for the sake of Cricket. I guess, it has already begun, and I am not sure, I am happy about that.

Wednesday, February 1

cricket for the people of united states - part one

The game of cricket is followed by almost every one in India. But in the US, no body cares about the game. I can not say, I am a fan of cricket. I call myself, a spectator of any sport (of course, a little partial towards of baseball/field hockey). I think the true value of sports, is to inspire the rest of us , the non-athletic beings to... ummm, well, write, debate, argue and fight (of course, peacefully) about it. Any sport is a better religion to fight for.

As I have followed basketball (NBA), baseball (MLB) and American football (NFL) for the last two years, I think, it qualifies me to compare cricket with other American sports. (Yeah! ! Two years is enough, and No, I don't see Ice Hockey!) I will try to compare it in five categories - competitiveness, player/team specialty, duration, scoring, and handling a tie. For all purpose of discussions, we use the one day format of the cricket game - even, that is too long for Americans

By competitiveness, I mean a level of even-ness in the format of the game. Offense and Defense should alternate in multiple plays. Like, in basket ball, when one team scores, the other team gets the ball, and thus, the opportunity to score. Defense should become offense, and vice versa - the sooner, the better.

The biggest problem with the game of cricket, there is no opportunity for lead changes. The game is over, when the lead changes!!! Americans don't buy any game, which doesn't have the chance of alternating plays. Their normal reaction would be -"I have to wait for another three hours to see the other team play ? Let get some sleep"

So, I propose a format of cricket with each team playing 10 overs - each team playing alternatively. There would be five innings, each inning limited by 10 overs. The produces the opportunity of a game with alternating scores, and nerver-racking match-ups.

Now, the problem with cricket is it takes time for the team to take field positions That brings us to the second point - player/team specialty. I propose that, in cricket, there will be two different teams offense team (batting), and the defense team ( bowling, and fielding). Also, the defense team(bowling and fielding) should start the play with in 5 minutes of the play clock. If the defense team fails to start, it would be penalized with one over in their inning.

Of course, this will reduce the chance of a cricket player becoming an all-rounder. Hello! Nobody wants an all-rounder. Just do what you do better!!! We would rather watch your good bowling, than your average batting.

Now, we might have to increase the total team strength to 50, because we can't do the "inning change" with in 5 minutes with just 11 players. A lot of special positions will be created, and of course we will have an offense coach, a defense coach, a captain's coach, a fielding coach, a wicket keeper coach, and, of course, the head coach. Yes, this is completely based on the game of American Football, where you have more coaches than number of players in the field.

More rules can be developed similar to the half-back option (American Football), travel/technical fouls (Basketball), and stealing the base (Baseball) to making Cricket possible to have varied style of plays, special plays, and more physical plays. (This is left for the reader as an assignment...;))

Coming to the duration of game, I have to talk about a person who some one I know, knows. This guy, an American, watched three hours of test cricket match between Australia and England, was so surprised that the game is not over yet!!! Or atleast, it not nearing an end, where people stand up, and get ready to leave the stadium... Also, the game has to be very quick. Americans think that they would rather watch the game with wrong decision than waste time for the interruptions on TV replays. (OK. This is still a debate.)

Though, its very difficult for cricket to reduce its duration to have a complete game, I think, we can look at the time wasters in a cricket game, and restrict them. One of the most important time waster in a cricket game, is the fast bowler. The run-up of the fast bowler should be restricted, and also, the time taken to deliver a ball should be restricted. (This time includes the time required to spit, and shine the ball)

The number of balls in a over should be reduced from 6 to 4. But that doesn't give the bowler enough time to warm up. So, the rule to change the bowler for every over should be relaxed to every three overs. Its the captain's choice (or Let the coach ask for a timed time-out) to change the bowler after one over or three overs. But the time between overs should be penalized, if it exceeds more than the time it takes for two advertisements - one with a cute child, and another one with a movie-star dancing with an animal (preferably a bear). (Huh! Those Superbowl Ads!)

Now inning time is reduced, and game is just 400 balls. So, that comes around 5 hours of playtime - that doesn't hurt...much.

Scoring, and tie-handling will be discussed in the next part of this series.

Tuesday, January 24

IIT guys' political party

Really interesting news today, about how 5 IITians have formed a political party

IIT geeks form political party: "Five IITians in their 20s have taken up mainstream politics and formed a party called Paritrana."

I have always wondered, how the Goverenment of India's most expensive educational institutions produce citizens who eventually become the non-citizens of the country.

And Wow! This is a very serious involvement in affairs of India. I hope they find some success in their mission.