Friday, December 31, 2004


While in graduate school, I was going through a period of angst that was quite unlike my usually easy-going character. Various reasons including the usual - funding, money and the quest for employment were all part of the equation, and the overriding question was "Is this all worth it? "

Sid, a voice of reason in the most irrational of times had the answer as always. He said that working with underprivileged children at Akanksha among other things had given him an appreciation of life as we have it. Having so much and yet not being appreciative enough is a theme that has recurred strongly in my mind in the past few days since the tsunami struck.

Impossibly cruel, but true:

"Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you"

Various Artists - Do They Know It's Christmas?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Return of the Prodigals

Even as Australia showed why they are the best, halfway across the world, a challenger rose. It's been a good run by the English. They have shown as much (maybe more) promise as the Indians did in the golden Australian summer of 2003, when the Indians almost did the unthinkable -beating Australia in their own backyard.

There are no reasons to think this run may last longer than the Indian one did. But, I feel that India were done in this year by what I believe was a combination of statistical anomalies. So many top batsman losing form at the same time combined with bowlers being injured at the same time did take its toll.

But England seem (I say seem, as cricket for me is what I follow online) better poised this time around. I am writing this as we still go into the fifth day of what has been an intense Test match so far.

This summer's Ashes promise a tough fight. I know the world's waiting for someone to give to Australia as good as they get, and I sure don't mind it being the limeys.


As I sit at a PC typing into an Emacs window, a thought strikes the mind.
Why is it that my code looks clean, and someone else's gobbledygook?

To wit:
Kya mera khoon khoon, aur baaki sabka paani hai?
Mera code maintainable, aur sabka spaghetti hai?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


As the world celebrated yuletide, thousands died, and millions wept.


My U2 "Best of 1980-90" cassette broke two weeks back. Made me kind of sad. I dont have a CD player in my car, and my old cassettes give me good company during long drives.

A lot of my cassettes have special memories associated with them. Especially because as a student in Pune, Rs 125 on a cassette was a guilty pleasure. You couldn't buy these too often without making a dent in your "allowance money".Actually, I didn't have a fixed allowance, but my parents had a good idea of how much money I'd have to spend per diem in Pune as a indigent hostel student.

Not that they'd mind me buying music. But, with other indulgences including movies, concerts, (and dinner outside on weekdays when the mess food was bad, which was often) supported on the same budget, buying cassettes was a special occasion, something you didn't do on a whim.For instance, my Bon Jovi "Crossroads" was among the first albums I bought after starting engineering. It was in a hole-in-the-wall place somewhere on M G Road. Then of course, there's Scorpion's "Acoustica" bought at the MusicWorld near Blue Nile, just before a long train journey to Chennai.

The advent of MP3s changed that to a great extent.But, there is something distinctly boring about a Gig of songs with plain file names. Unnamed actors in a plain iTunes window.They don't speak to you the way a well-designed inlay does.

So, I am returning to the old days -with CDs this time around. I somehow missed the album covers, and neat inlays with lyrics and notes. Pearl Jam's "Ten" cover is enough justification for the love affair to begin again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Woo Hoo!

Talk about good Christmas presents. My cousin just gave me 50 free credits on his Napster account, ones that he got on his Creative Nomad.

50 songs for the buying...

I've already used up 9 credits. 41 more to go before the year ends and they expire...

Addendum: Napster is pretty neat, though the whole environment reeks of a iTunes rip-off all the way. Well, nothing beats free and legal.

Tracks so far: 2 from Howie Day, 4 from Goo Goo Dolls (including the divine Iris) and 3 from Vertical Horizon.

I am the kid in the candy store.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Microsoft has been under fire due to the security flaws in their products lately, especially in Internet Explorer. Enough has been said about that. However, its latest move to acquire anti-spyware software maker Giant doesn't look good on its resume. The key to secure software is prevention, and Microsoft of all people has no right to complain of a resource crunch.
They have the money and the (highly skilled) manpower to throw at this problem. Absolutely necessary is a drastic reworking of the browser - a la SP2, where they let applications break, but put security first.

Even more galling is the possibility that they may charge for this software. The reason spyware exists is because of the bad security model that Microsoft used for IE. I don't say this - CERT does. ActiveX, and the whole "zones" model is completely broken. In a recent statement, Microsoft said that spyware was the users' fault, not theirs. Yeah right.

In most cases, maybe. But I've been infected by spyware without ever clicking "OK" on anything. It was due to streaming music websites (before you think of other, more "unclean" reasons). I'm not that dumb. I used Firefox then too, but my realplayer plugins didn't work cleanly on it then. Valuable lesson learnt: NEVER use IE-only sites, unless they are your bank or something and you have no choice.

Another pet grouse to get off the chest: For those who say that all of Microsoft's problems stem from marketshare, I call their bluff with two words - Apache and Oracle. I don't even remember the last time a major Apache server or an Oracle database (both market leaders by a wide margin) was taken out by a vulnerability. Slammer, of course is fresh in everyone's mind.

Complacency is one thing open-source can do well to guard against though. It wasn't so long ago that Debian's servers were hacked into just days before a major release, rendering the whole source of Debian vulnerable to tampering. Mercenaries are exactly that - they have no respect for authority or principles, making open-source software an equally good target if the incentive's right.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I link to Ramanand's keen insight on what's wrong with COEP ( PIET, since they insisted on effacing any history we ever had) , and what can be done to fix it

I can't say it any better, so here goes

Friday, December 17, 2004

It's been interesting over the past few days to see the obvious influence of Andy Warhol on popular culture and art as it stands today. A trip down a good music store's aisle showed me at least 2-3 albums with covers influenced straight from one of Warhol's prints. Problem is, I cannot remember the album names, nor did googling help very much.

A typical example is linked here from the Warhol store:

Then I saw this. A tad on the expensive side, but a nice nod to pop culture as would be defined by Indian cricket fans.
Amit Varma writes in Cricinfo about choking, and how it is related to implicit versus explicit learning.

hmm...worrisome. Definitely worrisome for someone who's stumbled through life more or less on what is called "implicit learning" that is.

This may explain why for some inexplicable reason I've lost the plot at times I'm not supposed to, as also why I revel in the same ulcer-inducing conditions at a different time and place.

Actually, this does make sense. I've looked back at times in my life when I've done well, and honestly, I have no f*&^ing clue what I was thinking of then. Which makes that success irreproducible. (Heisen-success anyone?). The heartening part is, it's happened enough times for me to know that it isn't all uncertainty.

But I do need to bone up on that "explicit learning" part he goes on about.

Read the article for sure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Someday I'll fly

Someday I'll fly...

Someday I'll soar...

Someday I'll be so damn much more...

'cause I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for.

- John Mayer "Bigger Than My Body"

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Rage against the system

A wonderful article about why today's metal and hip-hop music is so violent and depressing. Traces this right from Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, thru hip-hop icons Tupac, Jay-Z and Eminem.

Eminem is Right

via Amit Varma's (of Cricinfo fame) wonderful new blog: The Middle Stage

Friday, December 10, 2004


When was the last time a piece of writing brought a lump in your throat, made you appreciate life all over, AND re-affirmed your faith in words like hope, optimism and bravery?

I hope this does some of that. Ivan Noble is a writer for BBC who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He has been undergoing chemotherapy and underwent surgery to be cured.However, his tumor is in remission now. He writes every week about his struggle with the disease, his pain, and
his hope for the future. All without sounding maudlin.

A toast to courage.

Hackers Part Deux

Paul Graham certainly has some interesting things to say. Actually, he says things that I've thought of at times, but never really articulated, because these things weren't all clear in my mind. (If they were, maybe I'd be a genius of his caliber) But his essay here on hackers is remarkable.

After my previous post on hackers, this makes for an interesting sequel. I've met people who fall in this category, and I know what it entails on their part to be that way, and though I am not half as good a coder, the attitude rubs off.

And this guy writes well: "At our startup we had Robert Morris working as a system administrator. That's like having the Rolling Stones play at a bar mitzvah." Amen to that.

For those who don't know Robert Morris, here's a blurb: The man wrote the first ever worm, which accidentally spread so far and wide that it brought down the Internet as it stood then (in 1988). He was sentenced to 3 years of probation. Finding the last refuge of true hackers, he is now a Professor at MIT.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Time to face the moojik

It's amazing when you realize that a decade passed you by, with an alarming lack of exposure to quality contemporary music.

I am referring to the blighted late 90s and early zeros, when we had the pleasure of MTV and Channel V with a disgraceful mix of boy bands and bubblegum pop princesses passing off as "Music" (this, in addition to a few dozen punjabi singers and the drivel they pass off as remixes). I didn't notice too much, maybe because I was hardly at home, and also because my hostel and friend network provided me with enough classic rock to sustain me through the blues of COEP.
A good ride on Internet radio over the past few months has left me with a long list of bands/singers from the last few years that I'd like to hear more of:

Green Day
Goo Goo Dolls
Matchbox Twenty
John Mayer
Sarah McLachlan