July 31, 2005


New book and Music

Last week I read The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur and a VC. This book is a handy guide to wannabe entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs. Why was I reading this book? Quick answer would be, it was lying in the office. My only connection with startup is that I work for one. I thought it would dish out some gyan which is meant for employees of startup. It proved to be worth every dollar and, definitely, my time spent. I am not going write any elaborate reviews on the book.

One thing that struck me the most is his illustration of how every single... I mean, every damn single....startup talks about market opportunity of $50 Billion waiting to be captured. He analyzes it quite nicely using...err, common sense and some dry humour.

2-3 years back, I got an opportunity to read 4 business plans from India's one of the biggest Business Plan competition, each of them having more than 75 pages! All of them talked of no less than $40 Billion market size. These plans were written by people whose brief resume was very impressive. Kawasaki is bang on the head when he says everybody, including some of the smartest of all, fall into this trap. You may read his interesting graduation speech, before you venture out for his book.

Mahesh has tagged me, and I am supposed to write about books I own, like, dislike. But, till the time, C by Dennis Ritchie remains in my top 5 favourite books, I will believe I have not read enough books.

New music:
Mangal Pandey - The Rising and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (Not new, but I listened recently):
Though you can listen music there are no songs which you can hum or remember after few years. The title song of Mangal Pandey is a haunting composition.

Asha by Asha Bhosale:
Asha Bhosale at her versatile best. "Aaj jaane ki.." should become a big hit. Or it, already, is?

Kaash by Hariharan:
Good album. Will need few more sessions, before I can identify all the ghazals.


Fish plates and brakes

From last few years, for almost every rail accident, the Ministers are religiously giving a ingenious reason of missing fish plates [1].

Now our Civil Aviation Minister says, the plane went off the runway since "pilot did not brake hard" [2]. He goes on giving some ridiculous reasons, "runways were submerged due to the heavy rains, the highly-sophisticated electronic instrument landing system and navigational aids were under water and slush." What sophistication you are talking about, Sir? I just hope that our honourable PM doesn't say, "They did a good job." The runway can be made little longer if vote-bank politics makes a way for some sensible and precautionary measures and our neta-log bite the bullet by removing the slums on airport's land.

Seriously, the last thing India wants is a screaming headline "Air India Plane Skids off Runway, over 300 die" on http://news.google.com with a link to all "1,858 related ยป". This news has potential to wipe out whatever little positive reputation India has at the world stage. India will just be laughing stock of whole world who would say, "Guys, before begging for UNSC seat, why don't you take care of your citizens at home?"

Yes, I am in a cynically pessimistic mood right now, but if some abnormal rain can cause such a havoc and power-that-be continue to behave as if nothing has happened, what choices I am left with?

[1] Google search results
[2] A-I pilot did not brake hard: Patel


Important disclaimer

To check today's rainfall in Mumbai, I visited the site of India Meteorological Department, Regional Meteorological Centre, Colaba, Mumbai (India). The disclaimer on this site, I must say, was one of the most reckless I have ever seen. It goes like this.
Access to the works and information contained in this site is provided as a public service by the Regional Meteorological Centre, Mumbai (RMC), with the understanding that the RMC makes no warranties, either express or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, currency or suitability of the information. Nor does the RMC warrant that use of the works is free of any claims of copyright infringement.
This can be read as "We are doing a BIG favour by posting few numbers on this site. Don't expect too much, you bugger."

So next time you hear rumours about tsunami, cyclone, earthquake or other natural disaster in Mumbai, you have to use your gut feel to decide the course of action. Any official denials from RMC should not be taken as gospel since they do not guarantee "accuracy, completeness or reliability" of this information.

So what is the whole purpose of putting up this site? To serve as warm-up sessions for some 7-year old HTML coder?


Shameless display of callousness

When the death toll[1] due to rain is nearing 1000 in the state, the Chief Minister is busy awarding[2] the newly inducted Rane with a plum portfolio.

No wonder when people consider politicians' usefulness to the society equivalent to that of pimps and black-marketeers [3].

[1] Death toll in Maharashtra climbs to 850
[2] Rane joins Cong, made Revenue Minister
[3] Lord Ram's Party

July 29, 2005


Older than expected.

My worst fears have come true. This slashdot story (Email is for old people) just vindicated my fears which, till now, I used to shrug off as some random schizophrenic hallucinations. It hurts me more because I quit IM some 3 years back. Initial euphoria about IM dried when I found very little value in exchanging "R U there?" message 27.3% of the time (YMMV).

Recently, when my colleague asked for my IM id to add in his list. He nearly fell out of chair when I said, I don't use IM, thereby revealing my uncoolness quotient. Then his next curious question was, "So, how do you communicate? You.....talk?"

Forwards and SMSes are another reasons which constantly remind me of my age.

When I receive the General Motors and Vanilla Ice Cream story for 3,445th time, I feel I should just log off the net for few years. Or that Microsoft paying $231 for each forwarded message. And those badly written poems about (mostly idle) software engineer's life. That 1 MB ppt with beautiful pictures and messages about life/friendship/inspiration. The chronology for such messages was I-liked, It's-boring, It's-crap and finally Don't-hog-my-mailbox-you-idiot (pre-gmail era). Now-a-days, I just delete those mails without any emotions.

Meanwhile, I continue to use IM vicariously. For some instant, small message, I type it in the subject line ending with an EOM (End-of-Message marker) . And I find it annoying if somebody replies in more than 5 words.

Of course, my monthly cell phone bill performs its duty of reminding me of my age by sincerely showing the volume of SMS to a grand total of lower single digit.

July 27, 2005


Rains in Mumbai

The record rains have crippled the life in Mumbai for more than 24 hrs now. During such unprecedented natural calamity, the public transport coming to halt is understandable. Power shut down is also reasonable to avoid any major accident. At such times, one of the major thing you desperately want to work is communication network. But, when most of the cellular services went silent (excuse the pun), there was near panic situation. Landlines were, of course, dead.

And cellular services didn't go down due to a sudden spike in volume, as it happens on new year eve, where you get blatantly false and recorded message "The call cannot be completed due to congestion in other network". There was absolutely no network signal available indicating the base station (the tower-like thingie) being conked off. After 24 hrs, the situation remains the same. Isn't it supposed to work 24x7? I think, all the major service providers owe an answer (and an apology, for the case given below) to the subscribers. In all the operators, Reliance was the only one which was working with almost zero downtime.

A more disturbing thing is service provider(s) offering you the location of nearest coffee shop. Imagine your car being stuck in 2-feet-deep water and the first thing you care about, is the nearest and hippest coffee shop! Anybody who thought of sending such SMSes is a shameless moron. As they say on slashdot, these are such insensitive clods.

During such crisis, the real help comes from so-called aam aadmi. Last night, while on my way home, I saw few people standing at the beginning of a 200 mts patch which had knee deep water. They, standing in that incessant rain, were instructing everybody to form a group of 2/3, hold each other and walk in the middle of the road as the water was running with quite a force. Kudos to the spirit of Mumbai!

July 15, 2005


Timeline of Taj Mahal

Taken from Telegraph.

It makes me wonder if there is some sort of competition for superior stupidity quotient between the aforementioned lady and the person, who included her statement in the historical moment of the monument. I think, the prize should go to the lady since her statement is nicely laced with a judicious amount of vanity. What do you think?


A not-so-great tribute

One of my friend is a Tendulkar fan(atic.) Every time Tendulkar walks in for batting, my friend has only one small wish - Tendulkar should score a century. Every single time. Same thing happens with me while watching Ram Gopal Verma's (RGV) movie. I just want it to be as good as, if not better than, Satya. But, this time again, with Sarkar, my desires remained just desires.

A lot has been already written on connection between Sarkar and The Godfather. If you start comparing RGV's latest adventure, with The Godfather, you'll be in for disappointment and more of it - in spite of having a talented team in play! Comparing one of the all-time great movies with a copy of it, is unfair and insulting. Unfair for Sarkar and insulting for Godfather. It didn't give me that can't-wait-to-watch-it-again feeling.

Here is a note about what I liked and disliked about Sarkar.
To sum, I would just say, Sarkar is a better effort than recent Hum Tum (a shoddy copy of When Harry Met Sally.) But, then, this is on expected lines given the fact that RGV loves to talk about cinema and Chopras talk about entertainment.

PS: Just read that Saif has bagged National Award for Hum Tum! Directors like RGV will continue to carry big burden of our expectations. Please continue to give us more actors who will stand out in the crowd of these stars.

July 14, 2005


Quotable quotes

Rituparno Ghosh makes two amusing quotes .

"It makes no sense to give the awards for Best Film and Best Director to two different sources."

Incidentally, it makes perfect sense to have two separate awards.

"I think Ash deserved the (Best Actress) award."

Ouch! I am not at my sarcastic best (a typical week-day!) and I don't want this quote to escape cheaply, hence I am not making any comment on this.


Indian team shines at Physics Olympiad

Isn't this a Page 1 news?

Hey, but I am expecting too much from Indian media which is is under the impression that aam junta is interested only in masala stories.

Kudos to the whole team which put India on sixth rank out of 71 participated!

I was not able to visit the official site http://www.ipho2005.com/ to see complete standing. If you happen to visit the site, please post the complete standings.

July 06, 2005


NYT's flip flop

NYT changes its tainted headline.

"Ethnic clashes"?! Its been 24 hrs and no signs of it, though there might be stray incidents in next few days.

Mark Tully understands India better than NYT folks when he says,

"So India with its Hindu majority should be the last place to find religious fanaticism. It should be an outstanding example of religious pluralism in a world where people of different faiths still so often find it difficult to live with each other. "

ps: Sorry for the poor quality of images. I did not put enough time to make them small and beautiful.

July 04, 2005


Everybody says I am Arjun

I didn't know, Mahabharat's Arjun is a very popular figure among politicians cutting across rival parties.

Ajit Jogi said, "Just as in the Mahabharata, when Arjun could not be defeated, Abhimanyu was trapped by his enemies in the `chakravyuh'. My rivals and opponents in different political parties, knowing that they will not be able to defeat Arjun(Ajit Jogi), are now targeting Abhimanyu (Amit Jogi)"

Err... Isn't he the same, who was caught on the wrong side of law and suspended from the party?

(BTW, where is Mr. Judeo?)

Another occasion, another person, another quote.

"I have been passing through the same phase as Arjun," Lal Krishna Advani said , and so instead of running away he had decided that "one must stand by one's convictions."


Just eye candy?

Steven Spielberg's latest sci-fi flick, War of Worlds, is mere eye candy without any real stuff. I was definitely expecting another Minority Report (from Spielberg, not Cruise). It was not disappointing, but neither did it give "Wow" moment. Some of the special effects were beautiful, thanks to DreamWorks team. Recycling some of the ideas from Saving Private Ryan and Minority Report is good, but I would ask more bang for the buck from Spielberg.

I have personal bias against Tom Cruise. He kept me wondering if his arrogance in the movie was by design or he was playing himself. He ruins a fantastic role. Tim Robbins does a great job in small role.

I can sense part 2 and part 3 in the offing. I just hope Tom Cruise doesn't play a Neo and Save the World(TM).

Warning: This movie is not for kids. It has some disturbing scenes.

July 02, 2005


Technology against technology

Street hawkers, auto rickshaw-wallah, house maids owning a cell phone is not taken with surprise anymore. But the downside of this pervasive toy is most visible in movie halls, theatres, restaurants, concerts, places of worship, etc. (See, how restrained I am not to mention office!)

These are the places where you realize that showing off latest ring-tone at its loudest is in vogue. So is answering your phone during movie, play and concert. Typical conversation in movie halls goes something like this - "Hello.... I in movie hall watching [insert-some-trash-movie].... [insert a terse review of the movie]... baad mein phone karunga/karungi". I have snipped a large amount of typical conversation since you already know some variation of it.

The technology has shown the manners-challenged and uncivilized side of even the educated and, otherwise suave. If technology creates problems, there must be technological answer to it. (One can easily make such blindingly obvious statement with some trivial knowledge of technology.)

Yes, there is a solution called "cell phone jammers". Before I write anything on this, let me put a disclaimer. USING JAMMERS IS ILLEGAL in major part of the world. I am not aware of Indian laws, but I err on conservative side and assume that it is unlawful in India. I have not used any of these solutions and I don't think law (and my pocket!) permits to do the same. Neither do I endorse use of these devices in any way.

In this post, I am going to have some vicarious, devilish and sadistic pleasure by analyzing possible ways to counter the annoyance.

To quote from howstuffworks.com, "Jamming devices overpower the cell phone by transmitting a signal on the same frequency and at a high enough power that the two signals collide and cancel each other out." Now what are these frequencies? GSM (Airtel, Hutch, Idea, BSNL,..) operates at 900 MHz and 1800 MHz, whereas CDMA (Reliance, Tata,..) operates at 800 MHz. India, probably, is one of very few countries, where both technologies have sizable market share. GSM and CDMA dominate in Europe and US, respectively. So most of jammers available are either meant for GSM or CDMA.

Some jammers I looked at, were very similar to mobile phones, with a price tag of Rs 13k and effective in the radius of 15 mts. Sounds good for a small movie hall in multiplex. Now if you want to block an area equivalent of cricket stadium, I can imagine the device big, like radio sets of old days, and expensive. Another device I stumbled upon is available for Rs 18k which blocks CDMA and GSM up to distance of 20 mts. Good stuff!

One of the sellers, based out of India, made me wonder if Indian laws really approve use of jammers. In that case, all the places deserving fair share of silence must install these devices.

The above solution is (probably) unlawful and expensive. How about some solution which is perfectly legal? There are gadgets which detect the presence of active cell phones. These gadgets cost approximately Rs. 13k. Expensive, but lawful! Such device can be very effectively used to embarrass people who keep their cell on in spite of repeated requests.

How about something lawful and "Cheap"? Use the cards of Society for HandHeld Hushing. Make sure these cards are exchanged in presence of bunch of people.

Another idea is financial punishment, say Rs. 1000, for every buzzing cell phone. Somehow I am confident that material punishment acts as the biggest deterrence, if implemented without making any exceptions. This is non-tech solution but probably the best one. More ideas, please!

What next? Well, I am looking for gadgets to over-power instant mobile paparazzi.

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