Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sox-y Adventures

I'm not given to Seinfeld-esque observations because I'm simply not as funny as the man. However, there are quirky everyday mysteries that make you really wonder about the laws of physics and suchlike phenomenon.

One of them involves my laundry.

I saw this advertisement within my office building for an internal company campaign of some sort. It shows a washing machine and a single sock. The theme of the advertisement was: "Some things will always remain a mystery."

Tell me about it. One of the most mysterious (and infuriating) things about doing your laundry is sorting all your clothes once you are done. If you have clothes in the load which are prone to attracting static, heaven help you. By the time the dryer's done, many of your static-y clothes are filled with enough electricity to power a small bulb (I'm sure Mohan Bhargava could have put this idea to some use) and they are all sticking to each other. The worst culprits, of course are the socks. Invariably, one sock (or three, or five. It has to be an odd number) will go missing. After sorting all your laundry, you are left with that mysterious odd one out.

More than once in the past few months, I've had this wonderful mystery. All my laundry's put away, making for a successful weekend (or rather, a peaceful week ahead) and the next thing I know, there's a single sock left. It sits there, in the corner of my bedroom, in silent admonishment of a job badly done. I look at it before I go to sleep most nights, wondering if I should get up and turn my wardrobe upside down to search for it. Invariably, sleep is too tempting.

I dread the day when I'll wear a sweatshirt to work, and some pretty girl (the kind I absolutely don't want to be embarrassed in front of) will say "What's that sticking out of your sweatshirt"? and it'll turn out to be that pesky sock stuck to the inside of my fleecewear.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Thanks for all the views...

This blog started out and continues as a personal exercise, a place to flesh out thoughts, to tame those whirling dervishes that dance in this head, and to bring a semblance of sanity to a mind that is “A Greyhound station, where I send my thoughts to far-off destinations

Writing for me was catharsis, a way to lay those demons in my head to rest. It was a way to retain my sanity as the world about me fell apart, me the Nero, writing as my Rome burnt.

Well, I exaggerate. My world was/is fine, the sky isn’t falling on our heads, but yes, I’m probably a bit wack in the head, as you may have concluded from some of the stuff I post here. That some of you think it’s worth their while to come here and give my wild thoughts their time is touching.
When I meet or talk to people in meatspace, and these people tell me that “I read your blog. You write well.” I wonder what this world has come to. I look at my sitemeter. Though it doesn’t move like the meters on the rickshaws in most Indian metros, it has shown a steady trickle. I look at the hits and where they come from. I wonder, “Why are these people here? Is any of my writing this interesting? The purpose of this exercise was that – to better my writing. Is it working?”

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But thanks for keeping the faith. Keep coming back. Especially if you think any of this is worth it. The best analogy to personal blogs like this one is the one Michael Higgins uses – some of these blog posts are chocolates – the quick taste gives you a few seconds of pleasure. Some may be gold coins – genuinely valuable nuggets that you may want to pass around in perma-link form. Be it for chocolates that you come here, or for gold coins or maybe just for vela time-pass, thanks.

No, there are no anniversaries or landmarks coming for this blog (It’s almost eighteen months and over 200 posts old). This is just one of those “from the bottom of my heart” posts that I’m putting out because I feel it from the bottom of my left ventricle.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

On Rocky And the Underdog

*Spoiler alert* for someone who's not seen the movie and cares to not know the ending to a non-thriller with a non-Shyamalanesque twist.

Rocky is one of cinema's big cliché movies. The story of the underdog who overcame the odds to become something bigger than himself. The backstory of the movie itself is similar, with Stallone pushing the script door-to-door, refusing to make the movie unless he got to be Rocky as well. The story to trump all stories, the movie won multiple Oscars, including Oscars for Best Film and Director, and nominations for Stallone for the screenplay and (gulp) for his acting. Rocky got so crazy that there were eventually five Rocky movies. Stallone went on to become a billionaire, giving us other classics like the Rambo series and some really bad acting too.

When I first saw the movie, I was underwhelmed. There was a bit to the tale, but I didn't see much. One of the explanations that me and my friend (whom I saw the movie with) could muster for the success and resonance of the movie was that it was arguably a function of the times. The late 70s with a bad economy and the movie symbolized hope for the underdog in some ways. Maybe in the more prosperous '0s, that wasn't so true anymore, and we couldn't (and could never) 'get' the movie.

I was wrong. Even as I think back to the movie now, it (the movie) makes more and more sense. Part of it is arguably that I've grown older and seen more of life since then. The character-building itself is one thing, but what holds the key to the film is the last, actual boxing match. The night before the match, Rocky says to Adrian, "Cause all I wanna do is go the distance."

Then of course, there's the fight. Even as Apollo pummels Rocky, he just keeps coming back, doesn't he? He really shows no sign of giving up. He does go the full distance to lose on points. What matters there is the fact that he goes the distance. Every blow that he gets, he manages to get up again, ready to fight.

Like Simon and Garfunkel sing poignantly,(not about Rocky, though this could apply)

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
’til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains

Hell, yeah. Rocky's my hero. Now, if only they hadn't made those sequels...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Economics and Us

Two books that in the media recently have caught my attention and are going up high on the list of books I wish to read.

One of them is The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen ( a good review on the BBC )and the other is The Undercover Economist. The Undercover Economist seems like an interesting read. Freakonomics has caught attention all over, thanks to the accessibility of its content, and the popstar-styled title. I've read that, but as this review states (via India Uncut) , The Undercover... probably has more in terms of learning value. It definitely seems to have some interesting points to make.

In a related thought, there was a great joint interview with the two richest men in the world in Fortune a few months back. One of the most pertinent points Bill Gates made in the interview was (I'm paraphrasing here) that normal people were genuinely lacking in economic education, which made debates related to jobs, outsourcing and the economy emotional and not well thought-out.

I personally find this extremely relevant. While one course does not an armchair economist make, I've seen my thinking on many aspects of business and the economy shaped considerably by the one "Managerial Economics" course I was required to take during my Masters. The concentration of the course was on demand-supply and pricing related theories (mainly macro-economic theory as it were), but it opened up a fresh insight into a whole new area of thought.

In the US, a common complaint is about the scientific temper being lost. With strident protests against teaching evolution in schools, and an impressively insidious campaign raising skepticism about global warming, there is definitely a greater need for debate to take place in scientific terms, and for these to be accepted by the mainstream.

India, of course has a greater challenge of educating a large proportion of people who are still uneducated. However, even among educated people in India, there is a genuine need for a greater economic temper as well.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What's in it for me?

One of Business 2.0's themes for successful businesses in 2004 was that they were businesses that allow other people to make money as well. The web affiliate system has made it a lucrative way for genuinely savvy people to make money without really bothering other people (unlike some of the more unsavory incidents related to 'independent ventures' that we hear of). This has been an important trend over the past couple of years.

There are infinite variants on this scheme, with more ingenious ones coming out all the time. The first major one, of course, was AdSense from Google. Other services like Overture existed before this, but this was the first one to really take off. Then there are other ones like Amazon's affiliate system where you click on a link to buy a product, and some part of the proceeds go to the seller.

An interesting new job site called Refhounds got forwarded to me recently which is to an extent looking to tap into the same 'entrepreneurial' spirit among people. If you refer a person to the site and he gets hired, they pay you. I wouldn't be surprised if there are other similar services, but this is the first one I've seen of this kind.

Ben of Ben's Bargains apparently makes a cool $20,000 a month only on the basis of his site. I'm sure there could be some kind of entrepreneurial model built around all of this.

Friday, February 10, 2006


General ennui and busy-ness in general has led to this unprecedented 10 day gap in blogging. Apologies. Beethoven, I'll be. hmm.

Commenting on the Grammys cannot be done without though. U2 are the media, industry and crowd favorites at the Grammys. I don't mind them winning, but there is something about double-dipping. They won a number of awards last year, and exactly how they won again this year isn't something I understood. I wish they'd keep the rules simpler.

More names have been added to the list of artistes to listen to. Books have been read and discussed, and posts will be made when this phase passes.

Till then, sample this fine video from SNL to keep you entertained.