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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What's in a name?

I have never done anything that would get my name in the papers. And there are strong indications I might never make it either. The only thing I can be pleased about in all this is that I haven't done anything negative enough to make my name notorious.

I slogged hard was lucky enough to finish my schooling with top honours, yet my school did not publish any advertisements in the newspapers. Imagine, guys who had secured a good 20 to 30 marks less than me found their photos and names in The Hindu and The Indian Express and many Tamil dailies - and all of them looked like hardly-out-of-creche momma's boys.

I also used to write to newspaper editors, but just for fun. I have written a hundred times to The Hindu telling them that they are becoming incresingly page 3. After all, which newspaper editor will publish your letter if you dare him to do it? Again, if you glance at the Letters to the Editor column, you'll know how bland your letter needs to be in case you want to get it published. Vapid journalists and vapider readers!

But, as if Mumbai Mirror was eavesdropping on my entire life, and wanted to put an end to the sorry run that I have had with the media, they have published an excerpt from my blog, on Sharad Pawar's elevation to the BCCI top job. I wouldn't have known this at all, but thanks to Anthony, I did manage to find it. Voilà, that's like my fifteen minutes seconds of fame!

However, when great (?) things happen, you always suspect that something is odd. If you look at the image above, you'll understand. Instead of publishing my name, Mumbai Mirror has published just the permalink of my blog post! And that means, my name still hasn't figured in any newspaper!

Life ho to aisi!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Let's go hunting

Sun TV couldn't have timed this better themselves. Khushboo's fall from grace, though induced, is a great plus as it will naturally deal a blow to the popular "Jackpot" show on Jaya TV.

Thanga Vettai, which went on air this Saturday, is a quiz show for the family. The show's USP is that the prize is in gold - that glittering yellow metal whose value shoots up constantly, next only to petroleum. Of course, Ramya Krishnan (the golden girl?) is supposed to be another plus.

The show is pretty straightforward. Some amount of thinking seems to have gone into the way the rounds are structured. One thing I liked was that each team should have members spanning three generations. Each team needs to answer some simple questions (sample: What is Tamil Nadu's capital?) and they walk away with gold coins - 200 of them to be won in an hour!

Honestly, there isn't much that can be done with these kind of programmes. After all, Sun TV has an audience spanning the length and breadth of Tamil Nadu, so they are forced to keep things simple.

Ramya Krishnan is a let-down. I think someone told her that the louder or the more shrill the voice, the more appropriate it is. She repeats the same things over and over again, the only difference being the intensity. Almost everyone I spoke to opines the same way. That is not to say that she draws a blank. In situations where she has to interact with kids, she is patient, even sweet. But overall, she could do with some tutoring.

The programme structure too can be tinkered with a bit, so as to make it more appealing to the serious viewer. Therein lies KBC's success (even when dubbed!), and Thanga Vettai can surely emulate that.

Overall, I'm not sure if the new quiz on the block is a winner. It is too early to draw conclusions. However there is room for improvement, which we can expect Sun TV to address in the coming weeks. After all, they would not like another flop like Koteeswaran.

Rajnikanth "LE CHEF"

After thrilling audiences in the Far East, Rajnikanth's next destination is Europe - but not through a voluntary move. The superstar will feature in a French comedy movie, albeit for 10 seconds!

The Hindu reports...

If all goes well, Tamil superstar Rajnikant, is all set to be part of a French film - or at least his kung-fu skills. French filmmaker Alain Chabat, wanted a small filler for a fight sequence in his comedy 'Rent a Wife' which is slated for a 2006 release.

His eye fell on a martial arts sequence in Rajnikant's Tamil film 'Muthu' (1995) and he immediately decided to use it, a French official told PTI here today.

"A ten-second kung-fu clip from Rajnikant's film 'Muthu' will be used in the movie which is currently under production," Etienne Dubaille, an official in Chabat's Chezwam company said.

The film had already created waves when it was released in Japan in 1998 making the Tamil superstar a household name in the island nation.

Well, he isn't know as thalaivar for nothing!

Pawar shift

Mr. Sharad Pawar has won the election for the post of President of the BCCI. The polls, which were a drawn-out affair, took a decisive turn after the appointment of former Chief Election Commissioner Shri T.S. Krishnamurthy as Special Observer.

Rediff.com reports that the Pawar faction has won 20 - 11. That comes as a suprise because both factions were reported to have the same amount of backing.

Union Agriculture Minister and Maharashtra Cricket Association chief Sharad Pawar is learnt to have won the BCCI elections, pipping incumbent Ranbir Singh Mahendra for the top post.

Pawar won 20-11, his faction claimed.

NDTV's website, however is more circumspect: "Sharad Pawar faction claims victory in the BCCI presidential polls" is all that it says.

Pawar's election, if confirmed, is a major blow to Jagmohan Dalmiya, though it remains to be seen how the veteran from Maharashtra is going to rid Indian cricket of its politics.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Shame on you, Kolkata

After Mohammed Kaif hit the winning boundary this evening at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, to square the series 2-2, Rahul Dravid did a rare gesture, which we don't normally associate with a man of reticence. No, not the shirt swirling "What the f***" à la Sourav Ganguly. He looked at the crowd, raised his bat and applauded them. And that is something which will never happen in Kolkata.

I have great respect for people from West Bengal - their contribution to India has been immense. Eden Gardens has a fabulous cricketing tradition. The cricket stadium with the biggest seating capacity - alas, in a city which knows no respect for people. Which lacks cricketing sense and which has brought untold misery to not just itself, but also to the entire cricketing fraternity.

My first memories of the barbaric attitude of the Kolkatan crowd date back to the year 1996. Semifinals of the World Cup, Sri Lanka v/s India. Sachin Tendulkar had been in pristine form, and India had just beaten Pakistan comprehensively in Bangalore. But once the Bombay Bomber got out, wickets started tumbling and India found itself rattling at 8 down for 120, still a good 120-odd runs away. The stands at the Eden Gardens erupted. There was fire and smoke. Missiles started flying in, and Kolkata ensured that India never got to play another delivery. Sporting sense, anyone?

A couple of years later. The Asian Test Championship. India v/s Pakistan. Sachin Tendulkar was run out in a mysterious manner. Crowd trouble, and play was stopped. Sachin had to come out and pacify the crowd. The last day of that Test match was played before an audience of barely a 100. Why? Just a few weeks before that, India had lost a test match to Pakistan by a dozen runs in Chennai - a match we should have won easily. The spectators at the Chepauk stood up and applauded genuinely the Pakistanis who did a lap of honour. What constitutes cricketing sense, you decide.

Three days ago. You know what happened. The crowd booed and jeered whenever India did anything meaningful. And when Indian wickets fell, or when Graeme Smith and Andrew Hall started walloping our bowling, cheers! Not genuine appreciation. Because an overfed local lad who thought that it was his birthright to be captain, despite his non-performance, till retirement was sent packing, the crowd started acting like a mob. Moreover, the Sports Ministaer went on air saying he wouldn't attend the game because his Prince wasn't playing. (Like we cared.) What the people from Bengal have done successfully is that they have converted this into an issue of Bengal v/s the rest of India. That makes it even more difficult for others to show them any reason. Sporting sense, anyone?

Of course, cricket spectators don't need to be like those gentlemen of yore who used to carry walking sticks and wear round hats and ballroom attire, applauding in unison every boundary. But they can at least stop short of acting like madmen and bringing the game to disrepute. Yes, disrepute - that is what Kolkata is guilty of. Just like in Ganguly's case, too many chances have been given to cricket's other Mecca. It is time we stopped giving matches to a senseless and insensitive audience.

After all, why be Left behind, when you can instead be right?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Stop Explore-ing

Firefox is the world's fastest growing browser. It is simple to use and is packed with features to enable safer browsing. With more than 100 million downloads in the past year, Firefox is definitely a phenomenon. I myself don't know why I shifted, but once I did, I've seldom used Internet Explorer.

But here's a site that gives an impressive list of reasons why you should consider seeing the world through Firefox.

Reason #1 sounded fairly convincing to me...

1. You'll only see porn when you want to.

Sick of seeing pornographic pop-ups all over your computer while you're helping your daughter with a research project? Since Firefox blocks pop-ups, you won't get tons of porn in your face when you're least expecting it. On the flip side, since Firefox stops spyware from taking over your computer, there will be nothing to slow you down when you go and look for porn.

Another site, ExplorerDestroyer.com, offers users a script that they can put on their pages to annoy IE users and ask them to shift to Firefox. The site also offers a partner program, through which you can get $1 for making a user shift to Firefox. Now, that's taking militant activism to another level...

Haven't you moved to Firefox yet?

Friday, November 25, 2005

If winter comes...

4, 2, 6, 123, 1, 9, 93, 67, 2, 11, 19, 39, 2, 2 and 2. That gives you the runs scored by Sachin Tendulkar, my favourite player and inarguably the world's best living cricketer, in his last 15 ODI innings. Hardly anything that displays consistency or lives up to the aura and halo we associate with name.

Yet, an entire nation backs him each time he goes out to bat, while they will invent new reasons to deride Sourav Ganguly. Now let me inform you that I don't carry any brief for Sourav, and I am not an ardent supporter. What he has - or rather, has not - done definitely doesn't win my vote for his inclusion into the squad. But how far behind is Sachin?

Double standards

We have brought things to such a pass that the halo that we have created around the man has made it impossible for us to even think of a game without him. True, the little master from Mumbai stands the tallest when it comes to smashing existing records and creating new ones. Yesterday I heard someone say that even bookies never placed bets until Sachin got out - which shows the calibre of this living legend.

But the moment someone talks ill about his batting or form, that someone is slammed from all sides. They call him God, venerate him, drink Pepsi, ride Victor and wear Adidas. And he, er.. "He" fails repeatdely.

When Yuvraj Singh played a face-saving innings against the Lankans, the whole of India deflected praise by saying, "Ah, he knew he would be dropped! That's why." But the string of poor scores above doesn't follow that logic. They scoff at suggestions that Sachin does, at times, play for records. Haven't you seen him drop anchor when he reaches 90? The next 10 runs takes a good 20 deliveries. "Arrey, why should he be rash now?" Well, India needs 20 from 10 balls, and yet he needn't be rash?

If Sourav doesn't bat, then he is useless, arrogant and "a typical Bengali". But Sachin is "just going through a lean patch. Didn't he score that brilliant 90 the other day?" No two-minute noodles stories this time around.

When Sourav was dropped, people said that it was time to move away from ranting about past glory. In Tendulkar's case, I concede that any talk of past glory is hasty. But the fact that we don't even come to think of it exposes the pedestal on which we have placed him. "What more has he to prove?", they ask. Well, if there was nothing more for him to prove, shouldn't he be sitting at home?

Our veneration blinds us from the obvious. Our fear of being bashed stops us from being forthright. And our inability to be forthright screws up our national passion. That sums up our cricketing sense. We simply don't have the guts to drop Sachin.

... can spring be far behind?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another Microsoft bug

Just when the fame of the = rand (200, 99) bug in Microsoft Word reached another level, with Chetan Bhagat exploiting it in his latest novel, One night @ the call center, another geeky bug has come to light. Try this...
  1. On your Desktop, and create a new folder with the name "Notepad"
  2. Open any webpage in Internet Explorer.
  3. In IE, go to View > Source. Normally, this should open the HTML code of the webpage in the notepad program, but now it opens the Notepad folder on your desktop.
Microsoft-bashing being one of the world's favorite pastimes, let us indulge in it with renewed vigour, till they come out with a fix for this bug - or better, another bug!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Designer chips

After quite a lot of negative publicity, Anna University is in the news for a good reason.

Magma Design Automation, a California-based electronic design automation (EDA) company has tied up with Anna University's Integrated Systems Laboratory (of the Department of ECE - my own alma mater!). According to The EE Times, Magma considers this move as "a push to help increase number of professionals trained on state-of-the-art EDA tools."


According to Magma (Santa Clara, Calif.), the partnership has already resulted in the successful completion of a telecom chip. Using Magma's RTL-to-GDSII design system, students were able to tapeout a general-purpose CDMA receiver quickly while meeting timing and area goals, as well as maintaining power and signal integrity, Magma said.

“With the semiconductor industry in India entering an exciting new growth phase, it is imperative that we train more engineers on advanced VLSI design to bridge the current talent gap,” said Anand Anandkumar, managing director of Magma Design Automation India, in a statement.

Wonderful times ahead

Magma said its IC Excellence Initiative trains designers on cutting-edge technology to meet the growing demand for VLSI design expertise in the Indian semiconductor industry. With access to the latest technology through the engineering curriculum, Indian designers can expand IC design capabilities, thus bridging the academia-industry gap, Magma said.

Under the program, which was introduced in March, Magma India works closely with VLSI heads of top-tier engineering institutions providing training material, applications engineering support and software licenses. The initiative encompasses the launch of an IC Physical Design PG Diploma Course through leading VLSI training institutions in India, collaboration with leading corporations and partnering with the government of Karnataka and the government of India’s Department of IT, according to the company.
The Integrated Systems Laboratory, headed by Prof. P.V. Ramakrishna, is also involved in developing the ANUSAT, a microsatellite, for ISRO.

Surprisingly or not?

For more than a month now, State Bank of India has been running ad campaigns - basically a set of teaser questions, all of which end with a matter-of-fact "SURPRISINGLY SBI".

I particularly liked the ad campaign, because SBI is probably the only "old bank" that I respect and would like to bank with. If you visit branches of old-gen banks, you would know why. I have had particularly poor experiences with Indian Bank. SBI's new ad campaign meant that it was looking into the future, and wanted to push its way into the ground it had lost to banks like ICICI, UTI and HDFC.

However, my dad was not impressed with the ad campaign. He was of the opinion that SBI got the last line totally wrong. "SURPRISINGLY SBI" gives the impression that SBI is some lowly two-branch bank, and not the 200000-strong behemoth that it actually is. The ad campaign should have ended with "NOT SURPRISINGLY SBI", which would have conveyed the bank's pre-eminence.

Sucheta Dalal (Financial Express) and Kaps (Sambhar Mafia) express similar opinions.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Chepauk curse

The Chepauk stadium is considered (not just by people from Chennai) as one of the best venues in India not just for the laurels India has won on this ground, but also because it is "reputed to be the most knowledgeable and appreciative in the country" (Cricinfo.com).

That sporting crowd has, in the past few years, gone home disappointed every time because Mother Nature decided to play spoilsport. The ground where India won its first ever Test match played sad witness to a rained-out fifth day on which India were chasing a gettable total in the fourth innings against Australia. Sehwag's form, the previous evening, seemed like it would ensure a squared Test series, enabling India to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Similarly, the previous ODI against New Zealand was also abandoned due to rain, after India had climbed to a respectable position. Sachin Tendulkar, who claims Chennai to be his lucky venue, and where he played one of his best Test knocks (the 136 against Pakistan which India lost by a small margin), was denied a fifty that day.

And the little master would have claimed another record (maximum ODI appearances - 357) had today's match not been abandoned. I think the last completed international game at Chennai, the stadium where Pakistan was given a rare rousing ovation after their Test victory, happened four years ago - a victory against England.

Let's hope and pray that the upcoming Test match against Sri Lanka goes on without any problems, treating the Chennai audience royally.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mr. FrowNEL

Andre Nel, the South African quickie, should easily qualify as one of the most non-sporting cricketers around. His famous glare down the pitch after every delivery leads me to that conclusion. It is, if we believe Mr. Nel, a habit. However habits cannot be cited as an excuse. (If you look at Sachin's attire in one of his earliest pictures, you'll know why.)

Not just the glare, Nel tries to provoke batsmen verbally too. It is something only the Aussies are wont to do. Though a late starter, Nel has surpassed them all! Some tame cricketers (Ganguly, for instance) do get psyched out because of this. Thankfully, Gambhir stood up to the menace, dispatching him to the fence more than once. A minor altercation between the two, and the ensuing warning / advice from the umpires led Nel to overcome "his habit".

There is a larger issue surrounding this, one that has been highlighted by many. Australians and South Africans get away rather easily when it comes to such offences. Umpires and match referees do not view these intimidatory tactics as seriously as something half that magnitude if committed by Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans. This may not be due to racist reasons; maybe their physical stature and cricketing successes intimidate match officials.

I don't remember one occasion on which Nel or his spiritual father, a certain Mr. Glenn McGrath, were warned for their unsporting behaviour. Yet, match officials start thinking up innovative interpretations of ICC rules whenever others take to the field.

The warning that Nel received from the umpires should set him right, and serve as a precedent for others as well. It is time we rid the game of such provocative behaviour. After all, Nel and McGrath are capable of intimidating batsmen with their bowling alone.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A saga comes to an end

[This is my 100th post on this blog. However, I would have loved something more joyful.]

They say fairy tales don't end. But this one has ended. Yesterday, Roy Keane has quit Manchester United as player and captain, and has announced his decision to sign a long-term contract with a different club. That ends 12 long years of glory in which Keano symbolised all that Manchester United stood for - resurgence, brashness and the fighting spirit that has won them cult following from across the world.

Reuters sings tributes to the legendary Irishman...

Midfielder Keane, 34, joined United in 1993 from Nottingham Forest for a then British record fee of 3.75 million pounds and has been the lynchpin of Britain's most famous club for a decade.

Keane helped United win the Premier League seven times as well as the league and FA Cup double in 1994, 1996 and 1999 when United also won the European Cup.

He was the on-field mirror image of United manager Alex Ferguson - tough, uncompromising and interested only in winning - and the Irishman's departure after 326 league games for United signals the end of the most successful era at Old Trafford.

Keane's decision to quit hits us hard because of its abrupt nature. He had announced earlier that he would quit at the end of the season, so there will be questions raised as to the timing of the move. Inevitably, it will be linked to his recent outburst in an MUTV interview lamenting United's poor form of late and assailing many players of losing the appetite to win. Though the interview was prevented from being telecast, the contents when leaked to the press struck a chord with the Old Trafford faithful, who have always been behind their captain.

Praise for Keano has come from all quarters, with Sir Alex Ferguson leading the way calling him "a faithful servant of the club." So has Arsene Wenger, hailing him "...as a quality player, as an influence on the side and as a brain on the pitch he was very influential in the success of Manchester United."

Keane, who has dreams of following his mentor as manager of Manchester United, is currently linked with a move to Celtic of Scotland.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Look how they fleece you!

Today, there was an Airtel ad in the papers promising all existing and new subscribers a free air ticket for travel within India. In the era of low-cost air travel, this gimmick shouldn't come as a surprise... until you read the fine print.

Customers opting for this scheme would be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of Rs. 500, and would also be required to bear airport taxes and surcharges (quoted at Rs. 442). Now that's what we call "taking 'em for a ride" (or " ...on a flight"). God only knows what other charges will be thrashed on the gullible customer.

My father informs me that there was a similar ad targeting prepaid customers, the fine print in this case being a 999-rupee recharge having a talk-time of Rs. 50 (fifty). Well, that's like saying "Give me 10 lakhs, and I'll give you a Honda City for free!" Win-win. Fair deal, eh?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

First look: Microsoft Office 12

New design, new interfaces and extreme user-friendliness. This is what Office 12 aims at. Softpedia takes a sneak preview.

Who will it be?

Trivia time. What connects J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, Bono, Pope Benedict XVI, Mother Nature and The Google Guys? Need more names? George Dubya Bush, Bill and Melinda Gates...

They are all in the running for the TIME Person of the Year 2005. Like many other things with the media, the decision would have been taken already, but TIME has put up an online poll, where you and I can vote. Others in the running are Condoleezza Rice, Rick Warren, Valerie Plame and Lance Armstrong.

I voted for the Google guys because of the technological revolution they have brought about, and making their brand synonymous with the term "Search". Without them, the web wouldn't have been half as interesting.

However, they are currently placed 5th with 3% of the votes. Rowling tops the list with 62%, followed by Bono (14%) and Mother Nature (8%).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Weah played, and Weah lost

Former Chelsea and AC Milan star George Weah has been defeated in the Liberian Presidential elections by Harvard-educated economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. This is the first time that a woman is at the helm of power in an African state.

Whereas Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf had campaigned on the plank of development and her wealth of experience, Mr. Weah had relied solely on his charisma and lack of experience. The Hindu had pointed this out in their story a month ago...

Liberia's choice has been narrowed to two strikingly different candidates. Mr. Weah (39) is a former AC Milan and Chelsea striker who has made a selling point of his lack of experience and qualifications. Instead, he has stressed an empathy with ordinary voters. Though he is a millionaire with a home in Florida, he refers regularly to his upbringing in a slum in Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

Mr. Weah's supporters chant the slogan: ``He know book, he don't no book — I'll vote for him,'' meaning that his lack of education is no bar to high office.

His rival in the run-off, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf (66) was an economist before entering politics in 1972 and would be Africa's first female President if she wins. Her campaign stresses her experience. One poster has a latest image of her alongside a 1986 photograph of her as a young woman emerging from prison and raising her hand to greet jubilant supporters. She was jailed twice for speeches critical of the corrupt former President, Samuel Doe, who seized power in a coup in 1980.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Any takers?

My blog is worth $31,614.24.
How much is your blog worth?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Double up!

I just installed the new Google Web Accelerator, a tool that prefetches links from web pages, so that when you click on the link, it loads instantly.

That sounds like any other prefetching tool. However, the advantage here is that Google delves into its own cache of the web. (A popular rumour is that Google maintains an almost perfect mirror of the web, that even if the WWW were to crash, Google could single-handedly resurrect it!)

The only catch is that its effect can be felt only on a broadband connection.