Monday, October 31, 2005


P1000063, originally uploaded by ajayvb.

Is the air shedding a tear on the turning of seasons?
Or is it the leaves grieving over their last bit of glorious color before they turn a dark brown and wither away to nothingness?

An advantage, really?

It's always fun being the Devil's Advocate on things. If you question assumptions enough, you at least force a new way of thinking at times. It is not something that comes naturally, but something or the other keeps happening which may make you do it. I recommend it - helps you clean out the brain like nothing else.

An advantage that comes up when magazines and newspapers talk about outsourcing to India is that there is a 12-hour time difference, which makes handing off work easy. We work, they sleep. Vice versa. The cycle continues. The citi never sleeps.

After talking with different people who have some experience in this (outsourcer and outsourcee), I realized: what a load of bull.

See, the basic assumption is: work is seamless. You do some work here in the US, and then the work continues in India while you sleep. Only one problem: in programming, no one works on the same code at the same time. As in, if I start writing a function, it's not like someone in Bangalore is going to continue writing it after I shut shop and go home at night. Most of the time, whole modules are handed off to India, with requirement specs and all that blah.

And what if there is a doubt, or an unresolved issue? The person in India is working on something, and he has a problem at 2:30 PM. He shoots an email to , say, me, the person he's liaising with. It is 2:00 AM here (Pacific Standard Time), and I definitely am not checking my email till, say 9:00 AM when I get to office. I reply to him. He receives it, and it is 9:30 PM in India then. Unlike BPO companies, programmers work the same hours everywhere. No night-shift stuff there. So, he's gone home by then. If he has a niggling issue, there is another 24-hour turnover before the issue is resolved.

If it is too knotty an issue, it may involve me coming in early and him waiting till late to actually do a conference call and resolve the issue.

In fact, I know of people here on client projects from Indian companies who take calls late at night (say, 10 PM) at home or on company-provided cellphones, because it is a more earthly hour for his team in India to talk. That of course isn't necessarily possible all the time .

I am slightly confused: where is the value add in the 12-hour time difference for any programming company? Other advantages including the human capital angle and cost of course apply. But this twelve-hour lag advantage thing is bugging me now.

Maybe I am missing something. More experienced campaigners may pliss to explain.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A new era begins... I hope

I don't remember the last time I so fervently wished well for an Indian cricketer (Sachin, like everything else is an exception). Dravid begins his campaign on the hot seat of one of the most thankless jobs in India.

Dravid epitomizes every one of the qualities that I look up to in a sporting hero. He is hardworking, polite to a fault, and yet impossibly resilient ( He isn't aggressive? Tell me that if you think Eden Gardens 2001 and Adelaide 2003 isn't about being a goddamn d*#k and not getting out while scoring runs) . A team player to the core, he's played in positions 1-7 and as wicket-keeper in ODIs depending on the team's needs and contributed immensely to our short-lived stature as a good one-day team.

He definitely is the person I want to succeed, and succeed emphatically. Only by succeeding emphatically will he bring to an end this carping over whether he is a good captain.

That being said, it is too short a timeframe for him to succeed. In fact, I get the bad feeling that he is being set up for failure by the selectors. The good thing is that he seems to be seeing eye-to-eye with the coach, and they do seem to have some ideas. I hope they are the right ones for India.

Update: As I write this, India is on the rampage in the 1st ODI against Sri Lanka.

Go India!
Every generation brings its own fashion sensibilities to the fore. In the 50s it was sweaters and slacks for the rich and leather jackets and boots for the toughs. The 60s brought flower power - printed shirts, bell-bottoms, and the ubiquitous peace medallion. The seventies continued the bell-bottoms and tie-and-dye shirt revolution. The funny thing is, even though these fashions are a bit dated, seeing them on screen in old TV shows or movies doesn't really look all that funny to me.

Then of course there was the 80s. The clothes from that era for some reason look so egregiously bad now, that I wonder how sane people even found them fashionable back then. There were the weird hairstyles for men and women, polka-dots, those horrible baggy pants (the kind that M C Hammer kept wearing into the 90s). Then there were of course those oversize plastic sunglasses that covered up half your face.

I wonder what fashions of today will coming generations shake their heads at?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

My review of S E Hinton's "The Outsiders" on the Lit Blog.

Comments there, please.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Driving with Elan(tra)

While watching the Super Series, I learnt that the ICC Player of the Year was to get a Hyundai Elantra. I remember as a child the wonder that we all had, when Ravi Shastri won an Audi for becoming the Champion of Champions at the World Series in 1985.

Seeing an Audi on the street (a rare sight in India then, and even now, I'm sure), we'd go "Ooo, Ravi Shastri won an Audi". Things sure have come a long way since then

Audi -> Hyundai. hmm.. I'm not sure I like this journey.

Hyundai of course is big in India now - a huge seller of cars with SRK endorsing them. I'm sure they must have gotten a lot of leverage out of this. Boatloads of money made by the ICC?

The big question is, are either Kallis or Flintoff going to hold on to theirs? Their endorsement money will surely buy them fancier Italian or German models. Will the car have enough sentimental value for them to keep it, maybe for the missus to go down to the grocery store in? She could surely try the Quattroporte. Lots of trunk space in that, I hear.

I sure hope they do (hang on to their cars). Then there'll be only one degree of separation betwixt yours truly and Freddie and Jacques. You see, I drive an Elantra too. Oh, the horror.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Random Music Musings - Part Deux

Disappointed, I am. Indian Ocean, one of India's finest prog-rock-folk-fusion (for lack of a better word) genre-defying group is playing a set of select gigs in the US. Unfortunately, Seattle isn't part of the set, though LA, the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City are.

If you haven't heard them yet, I recommend them highly. I've heard two albums now - Kandisa and Black Friday. They've impressed me highly with their virtuosity and skill at combining the flavor of Indian folk with the jam band sensibility of a Dave Mathews Band (or is it the Grateful Dead?) to create a collage of sound that is soothing, invigorating and mind-bending, often all of it simultaneously.

More details here. Check out their official website - a fairly creative site, even without the use of annoying flash animation.

If you're in the area, definitely check out their shows.


What is it with young rock stars and dying early? Of course, some of the great who died early including Jim Morrison (drug overdose), and Kurt Cobain (suicide) took their own lives figuratively and literally. But then there's John Lennon (assassinated) and of course, the subject of this ranting, Jeff Buckley.

Jeff Buckley is an alt-rock icon. The problem is, he is alt(ernative) enough that in spite of being really interested in rock/alternative music, I hadn't heard of him till some time last year. He is apparently an extremely influential artist, influencing the style of, among others, Chris Martin of Coldplay and Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

His debut CD Grace, (it turned out to be his only full CD released when he was alive) sizzles and crackles with enough verve to hit the spot immediately. I bought it a month back on a pure whim. On first listening, I realized that it was one of those CDs that I would grow to love. His voice has impressive range, and he is impossibly ambitious in the CD, with Zeppelin-esque guitar flourishes meeting his wailing voice to create absolute mayhem (and beauty). There's a certain melancholy that resonates through most of his work. As a review I saw states, it's almost as if he had an inkling of his early death. It's not without a sense of foreboding that I hear him sing "Eternal Life is now on my trail". It's tragic to die early, but for someone like him to, that too in such freak circumstances is heartbreaking.


I found this completely awesome resource online. (Via Indian Writing). Jaideep Verma or Jebbit,has archived some music columns from his previous writings for Tehelka and Gentleman magazine. Impressively knowledgeable about music, he's put together some great lists of artists and critiqued what in Indi-pop is worth listening to (hint: not much.)

The most interesting point he makes is the lack of iconic singer-songwriters in the Indian music culture. The all-pervasive influence of Bollywood has left the non-film world in a rut and except for a notable artist or two, there isn't much to crow about. He plays up Indian Ocean (rightly), plays down Euphoria (wrongly, IMO) and plays up Strings' Duur and Silk Route's Boondein, among other albums.

I hope Jebbit continues to post newer articles. Till he does, there's enough material and album names in there to keep me going for a long time.

Previous music musings.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blogger Boos

I started blogging at the cusp of it taking off - mid 2004. It had already taken off in the tech and early adopter world, and six months into me blogging (three months into me being serious about it), it was the Word Of The Year for 2004. It felt nice to be part of a phenomenon, since I definitely wasn't part of the 2003 Word Of The Year 'Metrosexual'.

At the time, Blogger seemed sufficient, especially since it was the most well-known one, and everyone I knew seemed to be on it. That it was owned by Google meant that I hoped it would keep getting better all the time.

I must say I am disappointed. As I've blogged more, some of the other features of blogging that I'd love, most importantly, blog categories haven't been added to Blogger. I've already posted over 150 entries, and I'd love to be able to (natively) categorize these posts as I write them. I've mulled over hacking something with Technorati tags, et al, but I'm too lazy to do it.

Another very helpful thing would be stats. My site is not very widely read, but it's still nice to know that there are people out there who like to read what I write (heck, everyone needs a little ego-massaging now and then), and there's no way for me to know how many people subscribe to my feed, since the site meter only tags the site visitors.

Lalit's already canvassing me to move over to MSN Spaces. I don't want to yet, but a migration tool might make it tempting for me. There's already migration tools for blogger to wordpress (there might be stuff for typepad too, haven't checked).

In addition, things like better templates and ways to organize links (there's only so much HTML hacking you can put up with), plus an easier way to get photos on your blog (admit it, the hello! route is the pits).

Blogger was once the pioneer, boldly going where no blog tool had gone before. I wish they'd get back to those ways again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Former COEP-and Electronics Department-mate Gaurav comes to grief over nothing. (Link via George's post)

As has been discussed at a million places online now, India as a country pays lip service to democracy and freedom of speech. You dare to question anything done by an influential organization (this IIPM seems to have a lot of clout), and you may get into trouble. It's kind of sad, but you have to hand it to Gaurav. It takes courage to go through with the decision he finally did.

More details on India Uncut.

Monday, October 10, 2005


It was long overdue. After recommendations from friends with exteremely divergent tastes in movies, I finally caught Ijaazat with a couple of friends a few weekends back.

Without being review-y, my impression of the film - outstanding. Naseeruddin Shah and Rekha shine as one would have expected them to. There is an easy onscreen relationship they share, making their husband-wife turn all the more believable. Naseeruddin Shah is particularly good - a full range of expressions on his mask-like face underlining a fine performance. Anuradha Patel as Maya is slightly disappointing - I found her demeanor more childish than I would have liked.

My conversational hindi is competent at best - that I speak reasonably well is more of a tribute to the fact that two of my room-mates in CMU were very good hindi speakers. However, my understanding of it is much better - kind of like my cricket.

Which leads me to the best part of the film - Gulzaar saab's writing and lyrics. The play on words and the man's mastery of the idiom is evident in gems like:

"Sab kuchh to wohin hai. Lekin kuch bhi to wohi nahi hai".

Translating it won't cut it all - let's leave it at that. Classics "Katra Katra" and "Mera Kuchh Saman" are songs that I've liked without 'getting' them the way I did when I saw the film. Some of RDB's finest works (IMO) have come in combination with Gulzarsaab and this is another fine example of that.

A great film, recommended to anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

What, only 55?

The best tag I've seen going through the blog-world. No one's tagged me, but I'm reading a lot of tagged people. A challenge, it is. hmm...

Here goes nothing:

Springfield Blues

Was he a loser? He had a job, a great wife, and three kids. A house in middle-class America.

He wasn't so sure. He seemed to be lazy and not really rising at his job. His daughter made him feel dumb. His son was a brat. Yikes.

"Homer, the game's on TV".

"D'oh. I forgot."

Master Chief

He was in trouble. He was out of ammo.

He ran helter-skelter, avoiding open spaces. They'd be on to him - vultures, preying on his weakness. He was never the soldier, preferring the company of his books and music.

Bang! It was over.

He put his controller away. "Damn, you are good with that shotgun".

Embrace Her

The reports were here.

He wasn't giving up. Money was no object. He was a fighter, and fighter hamesha jeet ta hai. On the way back from the doctor, he stopped at the pharmacy. He saw her then. Black hair, sparkling lined eyes, the ankh. The ankh. He sagged. "It's time, isn't it?" She nodded.

Some extremely good ones:




* The last one's my favorite, but a bit obscure...this link may help.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Compliance, complacence

Much digital ink has been wasted on the atrocity that is the Times of India, and I really am not getting into that again. What is really getting to me over the past couple of days is the sheer incompetence of the website developers over at the other Indian newspapers. Bad layouts along with obviously clunky and non-compliant HTML make keeping up with any news in India a nightmare of Tolkien's middle-earth proportions.

I am on broadband at home, yet the number of time-outs on each page of the Express brings me to tears. (Note: This does not happen with other websites - at least not for every page I navigate to).

Staying on top of news and blogs with a voracious appetite has been greatly facilitated by RSS. However, India's top newspapers like the Hindustan Times and The Hindu provide no feeds. The ones the Express provides leave much to be desired. I really don't want to read Harish Dugh's opinions on anything. Could I have a single feed devoted to Shekhar Gupta, one to Harsha Bhogle, and one to Ashok Malik?. Maybe one for all columnists, which isn't too bad. Even the new upstarts, like the Mumbai Mirror are not much better, and the old suspect - Mid-Day is still so.

I'm not really in favor of New York Times' new policy of charging to read Dowd/Friedman et al, but there are other reasons for that. At least they are providing serious value for their online reader - all for the fair price of $50 annually (believe me, by middle-class US standards, it really isn't much money). Moreover, for the (30 second?) price of actually logging in even without paying, the amount of content available is pretty reasonable - and well laid-out.

The Indian digi-rags need to understand that Indians online are likelier to be educated, better-off and more likely to get interested in creative ads. Moreover there's all the NRI junta. For those of us exposed to slick US online ads, do they really expect us to click on the flashing 'remit money to india' banner? ('99 called, they want their annoying GIF banner ad back). The popups are another story - a tribute to Indian ingenuity, they manage to overcome even Firefox's pop-up blocker.* The only thing that keeps them out is the IE pop-up blocker's high setting, where you press Ctrl even for 'voluntary' popups.

Get some good website designers, clean out the crud. Get some nice CSS and better layouts and I'm sure there'll be some good coming out of it. Less is more.

*I am in the process of trying the AdBlock extension, so the jury's still out on that.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Are you 'in'?

'In' jokes are exactly that, a nudge, a wink and a hat tip in the direction of an influence or a favorite of some sort, that only people who are 'in' on it will understand. Literary allusions in movies that need explanation and context are part of the game. Sequels, of course enjoy using it a lot.

George Thomas has considerable fun with classic B-movie, Western and Eastern influences on Quentin Tarantino, displaying a depth and breadth of knowledge that boggles the mind. This means he probably enjoys QT and Robert Rodriguez movies ten times more than I do.

I don't claim to be an authority, but (slightly) offbeat music is where my mojo lies. I have the most fun watching movies where the soundtrack is likely to be important. (See Cameron Crowe, or watch any movie with John Cusack in creative control - Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity). A moment of epiphany this weekend was watching Vanilla Sky. I picked up a few electronica tracks that I knew (including Thievery Corporation's lovely Indra), and songs from here and there, including U2, the Beach Boys and Radiohead. Nothing spectacular, just an interesting bunch of songs used as part of the soundtrack. I personally prefer that over the John Williams' soaring violins style of music, especially for contemporary romantic comedies/ dramas.

I digress. So, there is a scene in the movie where the starting guitar riff from Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye" plays.

The scene doesn't justify it. (No spoilers here). You don't expect a last goodbye riff at that point. (The lyrics of the song) So, here I am, wondering about appropriateness of songs vis รก vis situations in the film.

However, the movie makes its way through ill-defined reality and well-defined dreams. Just as you lose track of what is real and what is not towards the end, the loose ends start pulling together. It is a farewell scene in the real world, just before the dreams (and nightmares) begin.

How dare I not trust Cameron Crowe?

On another note, the movie was interesting, but middling. Not compelling stuff. Nowhere close to Almost Famous, and definitely not a crowd-pleaser like Jerry Maguire. And, finally, an opposite number (Penelope Cruz) with whom Tom Cruise has palpable on-screen chemistry. I thought that that particular honor would be reserved for Dustin Hoffman forever.