Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Following the news over the past few weeks, one gets the distinct feeling that this government, has done more than any in the recent past to weaken the position of the US in the world. On the one hand is the burgeoning fiscal deficit, financed by emerging markets, primarily China which is working hard to maintain its currency so that its exports are competitive. On the other hand is the weakening military, which has its hands full in Iraq and is finding it increasingly difficult to keep going there. If a new threat opens up elsewhere, the military is too stretched to act with vigor and decisiveness.

Then of course is the all-important issue of energy security. China is bidding strongly for Unocal. With other aggressive moves in Iran and Central Asia, and India too making its moves there, America is not the only high-roller in town with the dough to pay for oil anymore. While drilling in the Arctic may sound cool, it is not going to be enough (not at the rate SUVs sell in the US). The biggest producer of oil outside the Middle East is Russia. Russia will obviously sell to the top bidder, and with the money China controls, the US may be left with a real energy crisis. With a move on Maytag (a known name in the US to anyone who's been to a Laundromat), they are charting new horizons in branding. They aren't happy selling in Wal-Mart or Target under American or Japanese brands anymore. A great article by Paul Krugman describes most of these issues pretty well.

Additionally, Bush's new Energy plan has no new ideas, offering even more sops for the oil industry and not enough for renewable fuels. While the whole country's economy and infrastructure is based on cheap oil, not enough is being done to ensure its availability.

The US' stay at the top of the food chain is not under danger by any standards. However, they are maneuvering themselves into a corner where there isn't much room for any... um... maneuvering anymore. The blockheads on Capitol Hill are extremely savvy at obfuscating the real issues for the electorate(W in a second term is enough proof of that). However, that doesn't mean they should lose sight of it themselves.

The US better pray that things go according to plan. A single untoward incident on the global geopolitical scene over the next few years could bring this pack of cards crumbling down.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

So, agreeing with Ramanand and George, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is it. A movie that after a long time , reaffirmed my faith in Hindi films. (Note that I say Hindi and not Indian - I don't watch movies in other languages).

I liked Ramanand's review - and I don't think I'd write any better. A few personal observations:

1. Most Hindi films are too loosely edited. Add songs to the equation, and you are left with a film you can watch with your mind at half-speed. Fixing dinner, doing the dishes and all manners of domestic chores are accomplished while the film is going through its nth item number, or n+1 th overblown dramatic sequence. HKA leaves no room for that. A fairly eventful script and tight editing means I'll probably watch the movie again in a few months to enjoy the subtler nuances that I'm positive I missed on even while watching at full attention.

2. The English in the film, as well as Shiny Shiney Ahuja's clothes seemed too contemporary for my comfort. Phrases like "messed up" and the use of the f- word didn't quite gel with my idea of what people must have spoken like then. The British influence on Indian English remains strong even now, and back then there was no American influence which means we only spoke the Queen's tongue.

3. The censor board in its infinite wisdom considers the use of the BC word (in hindi - you know what I'm talking about) unacceptable while the f-word is fine. This, after giving the film an 'A' rating. (rolls eyes).

4. The soundtrack seemed interesting enough to warrant a listen. Being in the US means you have to make an effort to be clued in to what the hindi music scene at present is. This one looks (or rather sounds) promising. The title song has the finest lyrics I've heard in a Hindi film in a while.*

5. Page 3 was IMO the best Hindi film of the year so far, among the small number of films I've seen. The two things dragging it down are the unnecessary songs, and tacky production values (maybe it was just the DVD I rented). The script and some fine performances managed to redeem that film. This one's above and beyond that in all respects.

The 60s-70s in India, unlike the US,is a time that has not been covered very well in the visual media. Most of my knowledge of the time comes from an anniversary edition of India Today which carried key stories from the tumultous period 1975-90, and the limited economic history I know is due to Nani Palkhivala's collected essays in We, the Nation and Beyond the Last Blue Mountain, JRD Tata's authorized biography which describes, among other things, the disgraceful nationalisation of Air India. This is probably the first film that tries to convey a sense of the time in hindsight.

All the cliches apply to it- "A coming of age film", "The loss of innocence"." "The passing of an era", but the film is anything but.

Watch it.

*Update: I learn that the title song has lyrics by... Mirza Ghalib ("the greatest Urdu Poet of all time" - so say the ending credits) . I've never had any faith in my taste in Hindi lyrics, but even I am impressed *pats own back*.

Edit: It is 'Shiney' Ahuja, not Shiny.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fun At The Movies

Carrying forward the movie thingie...

This is a good topic to chase away the writer's block blues. Plus, I discovered a few interesting picks via the movie/book memes floating around. Here's hoping someone finds something of interest here:

Last Movie I rented: Edward Scissorhands from the public library. I've seen the movie in parts on TV before, but I wanted to watch it whole. Tim Burton is a visual genius, and this movie re-inforced my view of filmmaking with a good story (he disappointed with the story in Sleepy Hollow, for instance). Johnny Depp's performance helped as well, and the satirical element was funny too.

Last Film I watched in the theater: Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle". He's been called the world's greatest living animator. He is a magician and he shows what great story-telling for children (and the child in all of us) is all about.

Which Five Fictional Characters in Hollywood do you have a crush on? Not five, but three will have to do:

Kim in Edward Scissorhands: I was still a teenager when I first saw the movie. Put this down to puppy love, but you have to admit, Winona Ryder is beautiful, though I prefer her brunette over blond.

Tricia Mcmillan/Trillian in H2G2: No reason why, just that she's pretty and a bit wack.

Helen Parr/Elastigirl in The Incredibles: I know - freaky, having a crush on a cartoon character and all, but she's smart, strong and sassy. Extremely classy.

Which Five Fictional Characters in Bollywood do you have a crush on? Again, not five, actually just two. I haven't found many female characters in movies all that interesting for some reason.

Madhuri Dixit in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun : Again, strong, sweet and incredibly good-looking. I liked the movie too.

Preity Zinta in Dil Se : I remember almost falling off my seat laughing when she asks SRK "Are you a virgin?". Those dimples...

Five Hollywood Movies That Mean A Lot To Me, Or I watch a lot:

The Matrix: The movie. Defines life, the universe and a lot for me. "Don't think you are. Know you are." The movie I've seen the most number of times, and am ready to watch again right now.

Good Will Hunting: I'll forgive Ben Affleck anything because he co-wrote this. It's probably the only Oscar he'll ever see.

Fight Club: A metaphor on wasted suburban existence as it stands today. Ed Norton's one of my favorite actors, and I think Brad Pitt was pretty good here.

Aladdin : Disney's magic at its best before it started to fade. A manic Robin Williams, a wisecracking parrot, and smart-alec humor before it became a cliche in animation.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Again, probably a kid thing, but I find this movie a wild trip whenever I watch it. There are probably better films that could be here, but I don't watch them again and again. This is so much more fun!

Honorable Mentions: Rain Man, Dead Poets' Society, and Mr. Holland's Opus.

Five Bollywood Movies That Mean A Lot To Me, Or I watch a lot: What, only five?

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron: I don't remember laughing till my insides hurt for a movie since this one. I say, we call it a cult classic now?

Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar: Ah, the wonders of the 'high school film'. Pehla Nasha. The adrenalin of the last bike race. Model .Rajput.

Sholay: 'nuff said.

Satya: For me, the Sholay of the '90s. RGV at his visceral best. Sandeep Chowta's haunting background score, and the on-location shots in B'bay.

Honorable mention: The Amol Palekar series of films ( Golmaal, Chhoti Si Baat...). Rangeela.Dil Chahta Hai. Kabhie Kabhie.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Anti - Populism Brigade

I came across this interesting post via blog-crawling (the ajayvb web-spider at work on a bored afternoon). It links to this essay in Esquire (behind a wall, sorry- will need a pesky reg or something, bugmenot should have something) Quote:

"Every so often, I look at the condition of the world and suspect that our most widespread problem is the ever-growing sentiment of anti-intellectualism that seems to permeate everything, particularly politics (where intelligent candidates are attacked for being intelligent) and advertising (where everything is designed to convince smart people they'll be happier once they agree to become dumb). However, this is something I'm wrong about. Anti-intellectualism is a dangerous problem, but it's not as annoying as pretend intellectualism, which invariably manifests itself as antipopulism. "

Pretty well put. The media hype over popular things notwithstanding, liking something that the junta takes to, is somehow considered infra dig among the so-called 'elite' crowd. Govinda was that way in the late 80s- early 90s, till he suddenly turned acceptable. It is now cool to watch a Govinda film, a fact that leaves me in a minority, since I genuinely don't enjoy his films except for a few notable exceptions.

At this point, the favorite target for the anti-populism crowd I see is the Karan Johar/Yash Chopra school of film-making, and Shah Rukh Khan. It is cool to make jokes about Shah Rukh Khan or Karan Johar, even if the topic is totally unrelated. I saw a really funny one on a blog comment somewhere . To sum it up:

"they are banning everything starting with 'S' in Indian films. First sex, then smoking - it would be great if the next thing is Shah Rukh Khan." WTF? (Sorry ,cannot attribute it, don't remember where I read it)

I get weird looks when I say I like SRK as an actor and importantly, as a star. The funniest statement I've heard about that is "You're the first guy I know who likes SRK". I like him, so I like him. Period. He has the charisma and the intelligence to carry the aura of being a superstar. His interviews are refreshingly candid, unlike the pathetic sycophancy of most of the industry. Of course, his choice of films leaves a lot to be desired, but honestly, his experiments like "Swades" or "Asoka" didn't go down well at the box-office.

I don't like the Johar/Chopra school myself, but I find their movies reasonably enjoyable for a family outing, which is the exact audience they serve. My parents sure as hell are not going to watch "Kill Bill" with moi on a weekend when they want to escape it all. Escapist? Sure. Entertaining? Hell, Yeah.

Having said that, media hype is a genuine problem. Once a thing is accepted by the masses, it is increasingly difficult to escape it. Without even watching television either here or in India, it is difficult for me to escape the flavor of the moment Mallika Sherawat. She seems to have a new outrageous quote attributed to her every day on Rediff or on ExpressIndia. And yes, Tom Cruise marrying Katie Homes. Does this really merit frontpage mention on any news portal?

Karan Johar making a movie every other year is one thing, but seeing his mug once every week on "Koffee ..." with copious quotations everywhere is another. Liking Howie Day when he did the coffeehouse circuit and you listened to bootleg records of his live concerts is one thing, while listening to "Collide" (and getting half - sick of the song) on radio every morning is another. I think the bigger challenge for mainstream content is to remain alternative enough to be acceptable. Having no credible competition like in the case of the iPod helps.

So there you have it. I like SRK. I think Kal Ho Na Ho was an awesome movie. I don't like Govinda's movies mostly. I liked the few episodes of "Desperate Housewives" that I've seen. I can't wait to be skewered the next time any of this topics comes up in a social discussion.

Edit: Typo corrected.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Tags Gone Wild

As a reader, I am all over the place. There is no rhyme or good reason to what I read, and why I read it, other than the simple fact that it caught my fancy at that point in time. I do have a list of books that I'd love to read sometime and I'm slowly crossing off (and adding) books from it.

Anyway in keeping with the meme going around, here goes:

How Many Books I Own: Must be in the range of 20-30 including here and in India. Excludes books my parents and brother/sis-in-law own, and only includes books I bought on my own initiative. The rest I've read in India were all borrowed - thanks to friends and family. Here, the wonder of public libraries has kept me solvent and sane.

The Last Book I Read: The Best American Non-Required Reading 2003. - A delightful menagerie of short non-fiction pieces appearing in various places, including The New Yorker and Time on a variety of subjects ranging from meth abuse inThailand to sub-saharan African kids adopted to new lives in Minnesota. Picked it up off the ' paperback picks' at the library.

I tend to juggle more than one book at a time, and am presently reading Ten Things You Can't Say in America by libertarian talk show host Larry Elder (a $1 acquisition at a library sale), On Paradise Drive by NYT columnist David Brooks, and a project crawling-at-the-speed-of-my-brain - The Bhagwat Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda. I'll be happy if I finish (and understand) it before I die.

Books That Mean A Lot to Me:

The Fountainhead (sorry Sumedha :-)) by Ayn Rand - I personally like this more than Atlas Shrugged. Probably because it deals with the creative spirit more than the mercenary spirit, and it is mercifully shorter and less redundant. Reading this when I was around 18 shaped my beliefs as an individual more than all other books. I can still read Howard Roarke's monologue at the end over and over for his insights.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach - There is something inherently appealing about the loner who goes his own way to achieve something above and beyond him/herself and all of humankind (seagullkind in this case). Life's not about survival and this mundane, wasted existence that we lead. That's also the reason I love "Fight Club"...but I digress.

As The Crow Flies by Jeffrey Archer - I know this one springs a surprise - but I'd die to be able to write like Jeffrey Archer. He spins the most preposterous fictional epics in the most entertaining way, keeping you hooked all along. This one's in the saga mould with enough hairpin twists to give a Shyamalan movie competition.

Haroun And The Sea Of Stories by Salman Rushdie - for the kid in me. That I read it when I was 21( then 22, 24, 25 and counting) counts for nothing. With colorful names like the Shah of Blah, and Mudra Abhinaya, Batcheat, and two fish named Goopy and Bagha (in a reference to Satyajit Ray's film) this one's utterly entertaining and brings a smile to the face more often than not. Also had some nasty puns on my last name in Pune due to a pesky character called Butt in the book.Take that, J K Rowling!

Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig - Goes into IP law territory now. Trying to understand why companies want to sue people who share files on P2P networks led me to the mother-lode. Well-written and balanced prose without hysterics or polemics. Larry Lessig makes a convincing case for a strong public domain. The book where Creative Commons is described in detail. (The link points to the free downloadable version of the book)

Fictional Characters That Have Influenced Me: This one's tough - Jonathan Livingston Seagull for one. Not many others. Dunno why, but have been my own person mostly - hehehe.

I don't know if there is anyone in the blog world left to be tagged - but if you already haven't been, Sumeet, and Alhad stand tagged. Anyone else who is reading this, please consider yourself tagged, and leave a comment, saying you're it!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Social Networking

Is social networking on its way back? In the initial frenzy, I registered on Orkut, like everyone I know - getting 'in' was a big deal - the hoopla for an Orkut invite being like that of GMail invites. However, after enthusiastically adding and inviting about a dozen or so friends, my enthusiasm fizzled out. I didn't quite see much value in it for me. The discussion forums I was interested in didn't seem to take off much, and it all seemed a bit lame. I am still not completely sure how I can use it, though I'd appreciate some pointers from ardent orkut-ians.

However, in the past couple of weeks, at least 4-5 people have added me to their Orkut friend lists. Since I stopped adding friends (somewhere around the time my friend list was in the late teens), my list has swelled to 50+ people - all through people adding me to their lists. Ironically, the people I invited to Orkut probably still have a list of friends in the single digits.

I'm reading too much into it - maybe the summer hols have made grad students dust off their orkut accounts and go friend-hunting. Maybe it's just a blip in the vast scheme of things - statistically insignificant. I was just surprised that I've had to log into Orkut so many times over the past fortnight.

Another interesting observation of this online junkie - none of my offline friends (people I consider good/very good friends) blog, except for Alhad (who is AWOL as he lives it up in India on vacation). And many friends of this blog (the small number of people visiting or at least commenting here) are people I've never met in meatspace, or have not met for more than 4 years, since back when I was last in college. While this kind of thing may make sense for bigger bloggers, for me it is nothing short of "Wow!". Amazing, this Internet thing is.

And, Sumedha's book-tagged me. Yikes. I thought I'd escape this madness spreading through the Indian blog circuit (though I'm secretly pleased that someone did tag me :-) - ahh...the social animal that man is, no escaping that - is there? ). More on that over the weekend.I'll do the movie thing as well.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Who Watches You, Pixar?*

So, a second viewing of The Incredibles was in order this weekend. A friend had the DVD from Netflix, and I wasn't going to let a chance to see the film again pass by. Incredibly (bad pun, sorry) I was let down.Which was extremely surprising.

You see, when I saw The Incredibles the first time around (in a movie hall), I was mesmerized by the imagery, the whiz-bang action and the clever script. Of course I read more into it than is good for me, but I was still bowled over by how ingenious it was.

Then I read Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" (movie version due soon) last month. While reading it, the inspiration for The Incredibles was obvious. The superheroes in hiding, living ordinary lives, and so on. What was more incredible (sorry again) was the number of smaller nuances from Watchmen used in the script. The perils of wearing a cape, the nefarious scheme adopted by Syndrome in the end, the character of Syndrome itself in some ways. Of course, the violence was toned down, and dastardly darkness of villains lightened to a PG-13 shade. Also, the blurry greyscale of do-gooder superheroes like Rorschach was passed through a high-pass filter to yield the pure B&W of Bob and Helen Parr. But the 'inspiration' was there for everyone to see.

Of course, no one creates in a vacuum. You always have some sort of creative license to move ideas across genres and mediums. But when the ideas are so obviously derivative like in this case, some acknowledgement or credit is generally in order.

While all of us as always went ga-ga over Pixar (I remember reading how 'ingenious' people thought the idea of superheroes in hiding was), the sad fact is that this movie has a lot of unattributed credit due. To Alan Moore. To Stan Lee (who created the Fantastic Four). And to the rest of us mere mortals, who think Pixar is awesomely original. And Incredible.

Update: In hindsight, this post is probably putting Pixar down a tad more than it should. I'd say that I was pretty incensed and disappointed when I wrote it, because Pixar seemed like a holdout in this era of focus group scripts and political correctness in films, and this threw them off a pedestal for a bit. (To think that I'd probably have ended up seeing Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with only two of us five guys being against watching it)

I still think the film is great and original, albeit with some caveats now. An important distinction for me is that Watchmen is uncompromisingly bleak, with a wry, ironic sense of humor at some places. I won't give much away, but The Incredibles is, well, a Disney film in comparison.

*"Who Watches the Watchmen" is a byline from Watchmen.

This post itself owes its idea to this post I found while on a search on the web for more material linking "The Incredibles" and "Watchmen". The post is 404 Not Found now - I have the google cache here .

Friday, June 10, 2005

Random Music Musings

* I pick up albums to listen to(and buy) mainly on gut feel, and upto an extent based on reviews, and occasionally recommendations from friends. A single or two on radio and the Internet give you a reasonable idea about whether the artiste is a one-hit wonder or if it is someone you want to plug your ears into.Great discoveries using this M.O. - not in the sense of their being unknown, but in the sense of their music being relevant to me - include Matchbox Twenty, Switchfoot and Dido. More here .

Add Sarah McLachlan to the list. I just happened to pick up the live concert DVD "Mirrorball" from the library for want of something to watch while hogging dinner at night. Being my second Sarah album, I thought I knew what to expect. Suffice it to say, I was pretty surprised. While her latest studio album Afterglow (another middling to good album) seems polished and introspective, this one harks back to an older and more effervescent time. While she was a pretty good songwriter even then, a different energy flows through this album. The overall instrumentation (great keyboards, aggressive percussions, guitaring with liberal use of distortion) of the concert performances, lined with old familiars ("Building a Mystery", "Sweet Surrender" "Possession", "I Will Remember You"), and some powerful vocals made this a great listen (and watch, since she's easy on the eye. Not that it matters - really). She goes from serious to sappy in minutes, yet retains her credibility (there aren't many singers who'd look good singing something like "Your love is better than ice cream"). Her incredible vocal power remains the highlight throughout. Songs that totally rock including an incredible rendering of "Building a Mystery" as well as "Possession".

Like all albums I really like, this has been on endless rotation for 3-4 days now, and seems like it will be on the list a few days more. Sadly, the CD album has only around half of the 23 songs on the DVD, and misses out on many of the songs I really liked. I've been reduced to ripping the DVD audio track so that I can listen to the songs that I won't be able to otherwise, since they aren't available anywhere else.

* This just in - her new live album Afterglow Live is equally compelling, though somewhat more subdued. The usual suspects reside here - with a few off the new record making an appearance as well, and of course, a goose-bump-inducing version of the Beatles' Blackbird. It's difficult to go up one up on the Fab Four, but there' s something about that voice... and the new track "Train Wreck" goes completely overboard with the metaphors.

Would your eyes like midnight fireflies
Light up the trenches where my heart lies
Until I can see again
to find my way back again

'Cause I'm a train wreck
Waiting to happen
Waiting for someone
to come pick me up off the tracks
A wild fire born of frustration
Born of the one love that gets me so high
I've no fear at all

If this effusive praise gets you interested in her music - go to her official website - there are downloads of mp3s or lossless tracks from her albums - no DRM crap.

* A perennial debate between the mix meisters that churn out remixes at the drop of a hat (or a turntable, or a mixer) in India revolves around the argument that classics are being 'desecrated' by the new generation, and the counter-argument is that this is one way for the new generation to be exposed to older songs. They didn't have to ruin my vacation last year by exposing me to the wonders of Meri Beri Ke Ber Mat Todo - that too two versions of it.

I don't subscribe to either school of thought - bad remixes are just that - bad. That doesn't mean there is any point to stopping them from being made. For every 10 "Dr. Phil" s (or whoever the latest expert on skewering Indian classics is), there is probably someone in India or UK or the US who is actually doing a good job of churning out these club favorites. Bally Sagoo is one of my personal favorites. Some of his remixes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's stuff are amazing - Kinna Sona and Jhule Jhule Laal come to mind. And - they got me interested in listening to the pristine traditional versions. Khan saab's voice was cruelly cut short but the magic lingers on. Round one to the remixsters - they turned me on to NFAK. Doubt I'd have heard them but for Bally Sagoo.

* There's something about the wet, slightly cloudy Northwestern weather that is conducive to musical genius. I'm coming out with an album with my newly acquired musical skills.

Ha! Gotcha. In my dreams.Just checking if you were awake through what is probably the longest post I've ever written. Seattle has a throbbing indie music scene (that I only read of in the papers - I should actually go and see what the heck it is all about)

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Pearl Jam. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and now of Audioslave .The Grunge Music movement (my generation's sad and depressing answer to 60's and 70s music).And the guru of all Guitar Gods - The Voodoo Child Jimi Hendrix all owe their birth to this fine piece of land called Washington state. If you want to be a musical genius, plan to be born here in your next janam .

Walkin' On

You leave all that you have to leave behind
Because you have to
Because you want to
Because you'd love to
Because it's too much to carry around
New beginnings get in the way of the old
That's a good thing for the most
Because it is the only way to be
The past burns in the fire of crimson regrets
Let it burn
As I move, freshly cleansed
Into a new dawn

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

'Tis Time For A Change

Big F*&ing Deal - is it only me who doesn't quite see what the hooha over Apple adopting Intel processors is? Apple has announced that they will be supporting OSX only on Apple hardware. So, any OSX or newer Apple OSes will not be that easily ported onto that shiny PC you got via a sweet deal on .

The noise seemed to emanate from two sources:

1. People who don't know much better, and think that this is a bold new move on Microsoft territory. It isn't. At least from what is visible till now. I am no 'visionary' (I never claim to be one). I cannot figure out how Apple can even come close to supporting the amount of hardware that Microsoft does before even trying to compete as an evenly matched competitor( and not as a niche player.) It's not like people were buying Windows because of the "Intel Inside" logo or the Blue Man Group, and they'll suddenly shift to Apple because the Blue Man group will be in silhouettes with white earbuds and silver Powerbooks.

2. People who should know better, are (as usual) hyping the world's classiest designer much beyond what its 2-3 % marketshare deserves. That generally includes "Apple fanboys" on Slashdot and elsewhere, who seem to drool over anything Apple. So far, it was "The PowerPC's better than your lame Intel" and now it will be "Ooo , Intel". These guys would be rubbing shoulders with Steve Jobs to pick up his dandruff.

Of course, Apple designs the coolest PCs around. An iPod' s still high on my long list of things-to-buy. I'd kill for a PC that looks and feels like the Powerbook. But to compare Apple's "my-way-or-the-highway" approach to computing (we ought to be thankful since their way is usually great. I hate to think of MS being that way - elegance doesn't come easily to the Redmond gang - the XBox is the best example) to the "I support a million manufacturers, and a bajillion OEMs" approach of Microsoft is an exercise in futility.

The sad truth is, Microsoft isn't exciting anymore to a lot of people who matter - the young people in colleges learning computer science. Having reached round middle age, the scrappy company isn't seen as cool by the media too (Leave the whole rabid anti-MS crowd over at the open-source end aside - they are dogmatix, not pragmatix, or even realistix, by Toutatis). A business model that relies heavily on two products, on execution over out-of-the-box innovation and a follower mentality in many markets (console gaming, search to name two) has led to Microsoft not being as cool as it should be. I mean, the product that I do development for will be used by approximately 90% of the computer-using population of the world. If that isn't cool, what is?

Apple and Google are the new darlings. Heck, as a student at grad school, I thought working at Apple or Google would be cooler than working at Microsoft, which through no fault of its own, came through as being a 'corporate'type to me than the 'maverick' type (Apple) or the 'hacker genius' type (Google). * And, I'm sure there are lots of people out there like me, who labor under similar assumptions.

That, IM(not so H)O is what is a challenge for Microsoft today. Not the change in processor by Apple. But a change in the way people look at it.

*Now that I've had the opportunity to work here (albeit only for a project, and not as an employee), my assumptions have been *ahem* altered.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

So, Hirak talks about things to do before you die. I agree wholeheartedly - I've had a list of places to go, books to read, et al before this blog (before the term 'blogging' existed actually - it still lives in a diary that has traveled halfway across the world with me) .

I did one thing last week that wasn't on the list - jump off a cliff with a prayer on my lips and a parachute on my back. Paragliding wasn't all smooth sailing (it takes a while to get the hang of the controls and the harness, even with the instructor strapped along with you for the ride), but it was awesome all the way. There is a sense of freedom quite unlike any you've known. The feeling of not having the constraint of ground beneath your feet, and going pretty much anywhere you feel like it is liberating (to put it mildly)

Origin of terms

"So, I will be OOF for the next three days". OOF ? Out of Office? Um... isn't that supposed to be OOO? Or is it just too cumbersome to say? Why OOF ? Why not just OO?

As usual, there is a story behind every quirky acronym in the geek world. Be it GNU or OOF. Here it is, from the good ol' days of when Microsoft licensed and sold its own version of Unix (yes, they did.Hard to believe, isn't it?)