October 31, 2006


All generalizations are bad...

All generalizations are bad including this one. Nevertheless here is one. Indians (exclusive of NRIs living abroad) form a poor netizen lot. Two data points will support my conjecture.

Few months back, I had written about how my oh-so-exclusive email address became a source of annoyance and occasional fun. Since then, I have received approximately such 100 mails. I have replied as many of them as possible with exception of frivolous forwards. Each reply was a simple request to verify the email address. Generally, one would expect a small reply as a matter of courtesy. But many of them go unanswered. On last two Sundays, an matrimonial ad was published in Hindustan Times and Times of India seeking groom. The storm of response again set in. My mailbox has 15-odd such mails. Since matrimony is a serious matter, I again sent the templatized responses. In response, I received exactly two mails apologizing for wrong address and thanking for letting them know about it. This ratio was much on the expected lines. As matrimonial responses are large part of these 100-mails (refer above) I decided to find out the root cause. And here is the ad which elicited this response. Click here if you can't see in your reader.

Now, I don't think there is something wrong with the ad. The address clearly is "gupta.shashikant" and not just "shashikant"; and "girl.gupta.shashikant" doesn't exactly sound like a respectable email address. The wrong interpretation is completely owned by the readers. But, nevertheless, none of them want to apologize or thank for my gracious act.

Then, a mail was sent "gupta.shashikant" requesting to provide some other e-mail address to avoid confusion. I also offered to forward all the mail I mistakenly received. Even this mail went unanswered! [Update: Mr S K Gupta replied asking me to forward all the mails.] Coming back to this data point, there are some other mails sent by Indians in India. Most of them well educated, which included a professor at premier institute and officer at large organization. These people also didn't respond to me. They would have experienced some tense moments had I just pressed "Delete" button.

Contrast this with the set of responses which admitted their inadvertent mistake. These included a foreigner and few Indians living abroad. Sample this.
Dear Mr. Shashikant,
Thank you very much for letting me know about my mistake.
It was very thoughtful.

And this.
Thanks Shashi,

Sorry for inconvenience, by mistake it was wrong id. Please ignore.


What's so embarrassing in admitting a minor mistake? Why can't we laugh at ourselves?

Data point 2. I have subscribed to bunch of technical mailing lists. Few of them are generic technical stuff, like say MySQL. Other include a very niche vi editor list. General observation suggests that Indians (from India) on lists like MySQL ask questions of the type "How do I do X?" where "X" is something simple. And many of these worship Hanumaan as they send that question to as many lists as possible in a single mail. Most of the time these are trivial questions tell only one thing - this person is poor netizen committing several mistakes in one go. Not reading FAQ and not going through discussion archives are two glaring mistakes. On a good day, such questions receive detailed baby-sit answers. On bad day, the poster will be verbally molested with replies such as RTFM or STFW or other variations (which are listed on Wikipedia link), a polite version being GIFY. Many people subscribe such lists to genuinely help others or improve their gyaan. So obviously people are furious with such noise making it to their mailbox.

Again make no mistake, the posters are lazy software engineers from companies of all sizes and shapes. (Such people are never found on lists which require effort, say developers mailing list.) Almost never I come across an Indian from say Berlin or Washington DC asking such question.

Obviously, you will point me to lots of examples where exactly opposite is true. They are the exceptions who prove my rule. So tell me how off-the-mark I am.

October 10, 2006


Woh Lamhe and some emotional statements about things that bother me

I wasn't even recovered from the shock of RGV's Shiva, I happend to watch Woh Lamhe. Initially I was little skeptic about the Bhatt production as, in recent years, they have churned out the B-grade skin-flicks with saving grace of good Quality Control. But, its pleasantly fresh sound track piqued my curiousity. After getting feel of the topic and couple of reviews, I made up my mind. "It can't be worse than Shiva," I assured myself.

To my astonishment, the movie turned out to be real good cinema. The movie has a slice of Mahesh Bhatt and Parveen Babi's life, which helps strengthen the plot. The sense of maturity is visible in every aspect of the movie. The young actors Kangna and Shiney Ahuja handle the multi-layered roles with ease. The A-grade music blends in the story, and at times leads the story. The lyrics capture the exact mood of the moment by using a larger-than-regular vocabulary. My mild disappointment came when the wonderful track "So jaoon main tum agar mere khwabon mein aao" was missing from the movie. The song could have been easily accommodated, but the director, thankfully and rightly so, was more concerned about the pace of the movie. The final shock was waiting for me when my friend casually mentioned that the director, Mohit Suri, is just 25-years old. That was almost the age when Farhan Akhtar equally brilliant Dil Chahta Hai. But, if I've to pick one person from the entire crew, it would be Kangna. It is her movie.

The common crib among the people with supposedly good-taste for movies is that by and large hindi movies suck. But, when a movie as niche as Woh Lamhe is made with strong disregard to the point of contempt for box-office consideration, the same crowd is vanished in thin air. IMDB is still waiting for 5 votes on this movie. I suppose, just replacing Kangna and Shiney Ahuja with top stars who can act, would have made this movie a phenomenal success.

Till the time we send box-office hits - a mediocre Rang De Basanti or a feel-good and commercial Lage Raho Munnabhai - to the Oscars by ignoring good cinema, our egos will get a hard snub. Why is the directory of Munnabhai so vocal about Gujarat govt not offering tax sops to the movie? If you are making truckload of money, the govt needs to pick up its fair share.

BTW, did anybody see the trailer of Don? "Arre deewano, ab to pehchano, main hoon don" in Shahurkh's voice is sinfully incongrous. Yikes. What RGV did after more than a dozen films, that is to remake a gold standard, Farhan is doing in third movie. RGV is showing all signs of running out of ideas. But Farhan? I mean is so young.

And the trailer of Jaan-E-Mann? Well, somebody should tell these clueless guys that a trailer is a teaser which entices audience to watch the movie. This trailer looked more like epitome of the movie in 3 minutes.

Nevertheless, I'm watching neither of these two. What I'm waiting for is Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday. I saw it in Pune Film Festival in January 2005. The movie didn't see the light of the day due to legal complications. It should be released in a few weeks time. I watched much-acclaimed (in USA) docudrama United 93. Black Friday falls in the same genre, but it is far better and will be far less successful.

Oh... Apparently, the "Kya Mujhe Pyaar Hain" sung by Kay Kay in Woh Lamhe is a rip-off of an Indonesian Song. It is better than dozen copies of Macarena, you have to admit. Heck with originality, I loved the song. Here are videos of both - courtesy YouTube, I mean Google.



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October 07, 2006


Predictable cacophony in the media

The arrival of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the top-notch celebrity couple, in Pune for their movie shoot has generated huge amount of interest and curiosity. The media which has the tacit mandate to "create" celebrities, Pitt-Jolie in the backyard is a wildest dream coming true. Now, if media just writes about which cars and planes were used to ferry them, the suspense over the choice of hotel (Le Meridien or Taj Blue Diamond?), and other such harmless things, it is OK. But, look at this heady cocktail of imagination and speculation.
Among the top 100 US celebrities on whom Al Qaida terrorists would love to lay their hands on, Brad Pitt is alone worth over $100 million while Angelina earns $16 million per film.
I didn't know that Al Qaeda has top celebrities on its "TODO" list. Geez, thanks for the enlightenment. More...
The entire media and some Papparazi from abroad were caught unawares when a Bombardier aircraft belonging to the Raymonds group quietly landed at Pune's Lohegaon airport at 2.40 pm.
If (Indian) media people show desperation, which is fairly obvious, to get a glimpse of the couple, they are just trying to "cover the story." These people from abroad are the papparazis, not us. And the magnitude of event is so enormous that the Indian media is short of people to cover the story. Well, you always have "citizen journalists" to kick in whenever required.
If you have any pictures or video clips of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Pune then send them to us at citizen@ibnlive.com or write CJ followed by your story and send SMS to 2622 or send MMS to 9873544444.
Journalists, OK? Not those blood-thirsty papparazis. Indian media definitely observes highest ethical standards when it comes to privacy of the rich and famous people.


October 01, 2006


Get your math right

I read an article spewing venom (via Sambhar Mafia) on bloggers with great amusement. Such is the ferocity of the attack that, for a while, it made me wonder if it actually is a blog post. The author is entitled to express her opinion, however tainted, misinformed, judgmental, unsubstantiated and preposterous it might be. So, no red flags to her freedom of expression. Here is the gem from the article (Emphasis mine).
Every 10 minutes, some three million new bloggers invade the WWW with a vengeance.
That would be 18 million new bloggers per hour, 432 million per day. With world population of 6.6 billion, within 15 days the entire human race should blogging to the glory! Six Apart, will you let me invest a few thousand dollars? Puhlleeeze.... And, I'll move over from Blogger to your platform. Promise!

These bloggers might be "half-wits, religious maniacs, failed writers, sociopaths and cold-blooded killers", but, let's give them their due for getting elementary math right.


Open Source and Commercial software

VirtualDub is one of the best software to cleanup video files and convert videos from one format to AVI. And here is the second line in its description.
"It lacks the editing power of a general-purpose editor such as Adobe Premiere, but is streamlined for fast linear operations over video. "
Such sincerity and honesty to the point of being self-critical can be found only in open source software. They will tell you upfront all the problems software has, in spite of the fact that their software is better than commercial software by one or two order of magnitude.

PS1: When I used the word "open source", it referred to both - "open source" and "free". Purist may object to it, but for a lay user there is very little difference.

PS2: I've started a second blog - Segmentation Fault Kore Dumped. Bunch of times, I hit some technical problems which take quite some time to fix. And few months down the line, it is déjà vu all over again. I get upset with myself for not documenting earlier solution. This blog serves as bookmark for all those problems.


Storm in the loo

The chess championship match between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov to decide the world champion has come to a standstill due to an amusing conflict. Topalov complained that Kramnik visited bathroom too often during the game. Almost 50-times in a game of 4-6 hours, according to an astute source. When the organizers closed one of the bathrooms, thereby denying Kramnik private bathroom, Kramnik refused to play 5th game. It was awarded to Topalov.

Obviously, Topalov and his team feels that Kramnik might be consulting somebody about the game. Kramnik was leading 3-1, you see. The easy argument against this would be it is unlikely that Kramnik seeks help from somebody because he is one of the top players in the world. The number of players better than him can be counted with fingers of one hand. While this sounds obvious, it will be accepted by only those who know very little or nothing about the game.

In chess, the observer is the best equipped to judge the course of the game. Of course, the assumption is the observer comes close in competence with the players who are playing the game. The observer doesn't have the burden of winning the game. As he has nothing at stake, he can think with a free mind. In 1995, Vishwanathan Anand played as a challenger to Gary Kasparov for World Championship. In the third game, Anand came dangerously close to winning the match, but let Kasparov off the hook. One of the commentators said, in jest, something like "Vishy will jump off 107th floor of World Trade Center (the venue) when he comes to know his mistake." Coming back to the original question, while there is non-zero chance that Kramnik might be seeking help from team, it is unlikely as one doesn't become champion by blindly following every move given by the team . For 12 matches.

Here is my theory about it. Chess players generally seek to get the read the mind of the opponent for clues. If a player realizes mistake/blunder in his recent move and shows the expression "Arrghh... I scr***d it up" on his face, the opponent has just to analyze a little more to check the mistake. As the players improve their game, they also become expert at reading the wrinkles on opponent's forehead and at the same time maintain an expressionless face. By moving away from the board, the players deny opponents an opportunity to get any clues from reading face.

If duration of Kramnik's each break is just 1-2 minute, probably Topalov may not complain.

Well, I might be wrong.

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