Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Predictions for 2005 - One for the thumb!

BusinessWeek Online has put up its What will drive 2005 list of predictions for the upcoming year. #19 certainly looks promising
19. The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the 2005 Super Bowl.
Big Ben's fantastic rookie year certainly seems like the one where they will bring in home One of the thumb - a reference to the 5th Super Bowl ring, always missing in Pittsburgh, the first four ofcourse going back to the glory days of the Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Tsunami Relief Efforts

A series of tidal waves lashed the coasts of south asian countries causing tremendous devastation and loss of life. these were triggered by a massive earthquake near Sumatra. Nearly 22000 people are believed to have perished in one of the worst natural disasters of modern times, in nine countries, including India. About 3000 people died in India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, including personnel of the Indian Air Force and their families. Rediff's entire coverage can be found here.

Check out a comment at Selva's Scientific Indian blog. Certainly seems like some of this loss of life could have been averted by just responding to known warnings.

In the meantime, if folks want to help in relief efforts, the Association for India's Development (AID) is soliciting monetary support. They have already started helping out with efforts by grassroots partners in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. You can make a donation here.

From the Indian Express
After yesterday’s earthquake, there were 90 minutes before the first wave of the deluge crashed into the Indian coast. Within 15 minutes of the earthquake, scientists running the tsunami warning system for the Pacific had issued a cautionary from their Honolulu hub, to 26 participating countries. India was not among them.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

the chicken, the egg or the genome?

not sure whether the chicken or the egg came first, and till the announcement in today's issue of Nature, the genome of the chicken had never come. the International Chicken Genome Sequencing Consortium has published the draft genome sequence of the red jungle fowl, Gallus gallus. Quoting from the article [International Chicken Genome Sequencing Consortium, "Sequence and comparative analysis of the chicken genome provide unique perspectives on vertebrate evolution", Nature, 432, 695-716 (2004)]
Because the chicken is a modern descendant of the dinosaurs and the first non-mammalian amniote to have its genome sequenced, the draft sequence of its genome—composed of approximately one billion base pairs of sequence and an estimated 20,000–23,000 genes—provides a new perspective on vertebrate genome evolution, while also improving the annotation of mammalian genomes.
Gallus gallus is an important model for biomedical research, and the primary lab model for almost 9600 species of birds. In addition to its importance in agriculture, it serves as an important link between man and other vertebrates.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The darkest night ....

today's featured article on wikipedia is on India - has some interesting links to india's economy as well india's nuclear capability

The darkest night ....

today is also the twentieth anniversary of the worst industrial disaster the world has seen - the Bhopal gas tragedy, where methyl isocyanate leaked from Union Carbide's pesticide plant in Bhopal, killing more than 3000 (officially!) and injuring about half a million. Union Carbide got away with an out of court settlement of $470 million, most of which is still lying with the Indian government - who has shown an absolutely gutless face and an inability to stand up for the people who were affected.

according to Union Carbide Corporation's official statement on Bhopal:
A thorough investigation was conducted by the engineering consulting firm Arthur D. Little. Its conclusion: The gas leak could only have been caused by deliberate sabotage. Someone purposely put water in the gas storage tank, causing a massive chemical reaction. Process safety systems had been put in place that would have kept the water from entering into the tank by accident.
Thankfully, the issue is not yet over and done with, thanks largely to the efforts of NGOs such as the Association for India's Development (AID), Amnesty International, the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (not really an NGO by itself, but a coalition), and Greenpeace

As a chemical engineer - it certainly was the darkest days for my profession, and it my heart goes out to all those who were hit by tragedy by this accident. This post is but a small effort towards spreading awareness about the tragedy.

News Links:
BBC News

Sunday, November 28, 2004

BCS mayhem ...

i am back after a very long timeout ... been traveling, been busy ... and then been chilling out on the thanksgiving break ....

but in the meantime, the pitt panthers led by QB tyler palko (who threw the the obscenity on national tv after the notre dame game, not to mention 5 TDs against the irish, more than any other QB in history - since matched by "that heisman wannabe" matt leinart) and coach walt harris have won a share of the Big East title, while being completely below the radar till this week, when they upset the west virginia mountaineers in the backyyard brawl. and now the big east, while making a mockery of the BCS - seems almost certain to send pitt to the big dance, unless a conspiracy thwarts the inevitable.

here is one time where its really good to see how bad the BCS is :) ... go pitt!

1. john walters at cnnsi puts forth an explanation of how the BCS really has not failed ... and why auburn is getting their just desserts for wasting their non conference schedule on lowly Louisiana-Monroe, The Citadel, and Louisiana Tech.

2. ironically, the losses for pitt so far have been to nebraska (a last second miss to a team who didnt even get enough wins to make to a bowl game), syracuse (who will probably lose out to pitt in the big east championship tie breaker), and the uconn huskies who till last year werent even a big east football team!! but for those silly losses, pitt could have been in the sugar bowl playing auburn (ofcourse, if i have to dream, why settle for anything less than the national championship!!) - but seriously, pitt is quite bad this year, and i have a feeling utah will tear them apart in the fiesta bowl.

Friday, November 05, 2004

the op-eds pour in ....

following the democratic loss in the presidential election, the NY Times' liberal op-ed columnists are bringing it on ... almost venting the frustration and helplessness at this vote ...

accompanying tom friedman yesterday was maureen dowd (thanks to parag for bringing it to my attention.

in today's edition are op-ed and opinion columns with the same sort of mood ...

bob herbert's O.K., Folks: Back to Work:
Here's my advice: You had a couple of days to indulge your depression - now, get over it. The election's been lost but there's still a country to save, and with the current leadership that won't be easy. Crucial matters that have been taken for granted too long - like the Supreme Court and Social Security - are at risk. Caving in to depression and a sense of helplessness should not be an option when the country is speeding toward an abyss.

Roll up your sleeves and do what you can. Talk to your neighbors. Call or write your elected officials. Volunteer to help in political campaigns. Circulate petitions. Attend meetings. Protest. Run for office. Support good candidates who are running for office. Register people to vote. Reach out to the young and the apathetic. Raise money. Stay informed. And vote, vote, vote - every chance you get.

Democracy is a breeze during good times. It's when the storms are raging that citizenship is put to the test. And there's a hell of a wind blowing right now.
paul krugman's No surrender says:
President Bush isn't a conservative. He's a radical - the leader of a coalition that deeply dislikes America as it is. Part of that coalition wants to tear down the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, eviscerating Social Security and, eventually, Medicare. Another part wants to break down the barriers between church and state. And thanks to a heavy turnout by evangelical Christians, Mr. Bush has four more years to advance that radical agenda. .
This election did not prove the Republicans unbeatable. Mr. Bush did not win in a landslide. Without the fading but still potent aura of 9/11, when the nation was ready to rally around any leader, he wouldn't have won at all. And future events will almost surely offer opportunities for a Democratic comeback.
the NY Times certainly seems to be working overtime to get over the crushing defeat ...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

as the dust settles ...

gwb got elected again ... as the dust settles, the shattered democrats will try to pick up the pieces and figure out what went wrong ...

tom friedman is back in the op-ed section of the ny times, and he perfectly puts forth what the real situation is - check out his op-ed column in today's edition

Monday, November 01, 2004

the washington redskins and the presidential election ...

while going over the highlights of sunday's football games on espn's sportscenter, hosts stuart scott and scott van pelt could not help but proclaim the following urban legend again and again (guess it was espn's contribution to election politics):
If the Washington Redskins have lost their last home game prior to the election, the incumbent party has lost the White House. When they have won, the incumbent has stayed in power.
this has been true for the past 15 presidential elections. check here to get the entire list. and
On 31 October 2004, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Redskins in Washington, 28-14 (in quite dramatic fashion, with the redskins game tying touchdown called back because of a penalty, and the redskins then threw an interception on the following play, which was returned for a TD, sealing bush's fate ....). If the established pattern holds true — predicts that Democratic challenger John Kerry will unseat incumbent President George W. Bush in the upcoming presidential election.

Friday, October 29, 2004

miscellaneous ...

i typed out the whole post in w.bloggar - and my machine crashed ... too bad w.bloggar doesnt have auto-save .... sucks! i cant believe i am typing the whole thing again ...

  • the redsox won ... all my predictions for doomsday ended as the boston red sox swept the hapless cardinals, who werent helped by some glaring blunders - including the horrrid base running in game 3 by suppan. thousands of boston fans lived their entire lives without getting to see their team win the world series, and then there are those who survived the 86 years of championship drought ... the curse of the bambino is finally over.

  • the final frontier was conquered ... the aussies get their first series win in india since bill lawry's squad won in 1969 (heck, if the red sox could win the world series, then an aussie win in india doesnt seem that bad eh ... ). thanks to a spineless batting display again, and some excellent facesaving rearguard action by the tail enders. there was no way tendulkar was going to be able to do anything coming in with no match practice for almost two months now (perhaps more, if someone can confirm ... ) and facing the best bowling attack in the world. everyone almost expected someone or the other to show up and do their bit in this test series, inspite of the fact that the indian team has been nothing short of pathetic in the few months leading up to the aussie series. well guess what ... sooner or later, the luck will run out ... and then you have to fend for yourself .. and this indian team just wasnt capable of doing that . the ghosts of calcutta have been finally laid to rest (some brownie points for india were earned when the aussies again refused to enforce the follow on ... but who cares about that). steve waugh, although disappointed not to be the captain who conquered the final frontier, must be smilng at the sweetness of this revenge. a well desrved win for gilchrist, mcgrath and co ... - redemption at last.

  • black tuesday - today is the 75th anniversary of the great stock market crash of 1929, when the dow jones index lost 31 points in a single day - one might say whats the big deal, considering the dow today is around the 10,000 mark. but that crash corresponded to nearly 12% ... and was the start of the great depression that followed. Marketplace has a feature on the anniversary. The marketplace morning report also carried a couple of stories today - The Class of 1929 and Remembering the Crash of 1929.

  • Sage - just started using Sage - an RSS and Atom feed aggregator extension for Mozilla Firefox. i certainly liked it ... im sure there are other free aggregators available, but i loved this one since its an integral part of the browser. firefox rocks!!
    Get Firefox!

  • a weekend of work - Vamsi Mootha, born in India, and now an Assistant Prof of Systems Biology (Harvard) and Medicine (Mass Gen), was awarded the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship ($500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years) in recognition of his work related to identification of a gene underlying a rare but fatal pediatric disorder called Leigh syndrome, French-Canadian variant, or LSFC. Turns out he did it in a single weekend of work. perhaps this may be exaggerated ... but what was more attractive was the computational method for identifying patterns of gene activity in specific diseases. In the vast bulk of data that arises from microarray experiments and high throughput screening studies, pattern and motif identification has always been one of the challenges systems biology aims to overcome. Mootha's work has demonstrated powerful, adaptable computational algorithms for efficiently mining data to spot gene interactions that lead to a wide variety of diseases. Certainly, a great impetus for the field of in silico systems biology...
  • Thursday, October 28, 2004

    Homo floresiensis

    this week's issue of Nature features a special on the discovery of a new species of the genus Homo on a remote Indonesian island named Flores - hence the name Homo floresiensis. NPR carried a special today on morning edition - check it out here ...

    a fascinating discovery ... especially considering that this species was alive about 13000 years ago. as it turns out, prashant already has a blog entry titled The Hobbits from Flores - certainly something LOTR fans can identify with.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2004

    the end of the curse?

    the red sox are up 3-0 after last night's performance against the cardinals. now, i have been turned to supporting st. louis. its no fun if there is no fight coming forth. the cardinals have not had the lead even once in any of the three games so far ... hopefully things will turn around tonight.

    what would be the ultimate heartbreaker for the red sox nation, and the ultimate endoresement of the curse of the bambino would be if the red sox, after accomplishing an unprecedented comeback from a 0-3 deficit (and against the Yankees too!!!) were to go down in this one in a 4-3 loss..... i think that would set boston back by a 100 years .... they would probably wish they had never beaten the yankees and lost to them in 4 or 5 games. atleast they wouldnt have to bear this embarassment....

    but ofcourse, if all this is possible, it is also possible for me to walk on water, and then convert a jugful of that same water into sparkling champagne (to quote prem panicker - needless to say, during the comeback calcutta test of 2001!!). sox nation - looks like your day has finally arrived, almost ... or is your worst nightmare just about to begin ? :)

    Saturday, October 23, 2004

    the STF hero ...

    veerappan was finally brought down earlier this week ... there was certainly much relief all over the country ... and among indians abroad. one of my classmates from high school was certainly very proud while announcing this on our email list:
    I happily and proudly state that it was my father-in-law, Mr.Vijay Kumar and his STF team who cleverly laid out the trap for the deceitful criminal and gunned him down.
    i ofcourse want to reiterate - we are all proud of them as well ....

    there was ofcourse the issue over human rights violations - but encounter killings have become almost routine, especially in cities like mumbai ... folks almost think its ok to use that option. in this case, i believe the those who will overlook any "violations" far outnumber those who wont.

    Friday, October 22, 2004

    prem mhaNaje prem mhaNaje ....

    happened to pick up mangesh padgaonkar's "bol gaaNI" after a long time .... this was a pleasant break ....

    A few of images i got recently in forwarded emails - pretty funny i thought ....

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    bharat ek khoj ...

    just laid my hands on the start and end title tracks of bharat ek khoj - the documentary series that used to appear on doordarshan a long time ago ... thanks to ram for making them available

    red sox-yankees series .... parallels to ind-aus(2001)?

    the red sox have already achieved something previously never accomplished by forcing a game 7 after being 3-0 down! a game 7 victory after being down 0-3 is something no one has achieved in the NHL or NBA either ... so the red sox are on the brink of going down in history .....

    i had made a prediction before the series started that the red sox are going down again on a walk off run by the yankees ... and i was even brazen enough to pick my guy for the job. an unlikely hero - john olerud, taking over from aaron boone. was starting to get disappointed when the sox went down 0-3. but 3 amazing performances have left the series tied ... and my man olerud has his shot at greatness tonight. i aint a yankees fan, i would have hated to see the sox lose in 4 - heck i am delighted we are in game 7. but i wont mind if the yankees win tonight .... the fun will disappear if the curse were to end. nevertheless it should be a good game i think ... looking forward to it.

    and now i think a lot of parallels can be drawn to india's comeback in the 2001 test series against australia. india were blown out in the second test, came and teetering on the brink of defeat after following on in the second test .... and narrowly pulled of an outright victory on the fifth day (like boston's comeback to tie the game in games 4 and 5) ... if the sox were to win game 7 (like india won the last test in chennai), it certainly will go into baseball history as one the best series of all time - folks will talk about it for a long time to come - just like the memorable win for india in 2001 :)

    Tuesday, October 19, 2004

    the cricket series ...

    its that time of the year again - the aussies are back in india for the first series in india since THE SERIES happened in feb-march 2001. rain played a total spoilsport on the last day of the second test, but here are some observations about the aussies by the BBC's Scott Heinrich:
    As for Gillespie, he showed Australia what they were missing during Steve Waugh's reign when nightwatchmen were outlawed.
    Although Waugh's legacy will rage on for a long time, the traits which marked his brand of cricket are slowly vanishing from Australia's play. Australia paid for being too gung-ho when last in India three years ago, and this time around they are scoring slower, setting more defensive fields and leaving risky pace propositions like Brett Lee in the dressing room.
    and not just that, they are trying to rebuild their tarnished image - walking when they are out (irrespective of what the umpire decides) - certainly not something they have too much credibility built up about ..

    let see if this series will be the conquest of the final frontier for gilchrist, or will it be just another pipe dream ....

    back ....

    i am back after a prolonged hiatus ... been terribly busy and been traveling too. hopefully this blog will get entries more frequently ...

    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    To Pakistan ... with thanks ....

    that is the title of an article in Slate. in response to the purchase of F-16s by the Pakistanis:
    Even if Pakistan were serious about fighting the Taliban, it could certainly find a better way to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars the F-16s will cost. But the Pakistanis gave a clue as to what they really want with the planes: They are requesting that the F-16s be armed with top-of-the-line air-to-air missiles that would be of little use against targets like the Islamists it's fighting on the ground. Other equipment Pakistan is getting from the United States—navy surveillance planes, for example—is similarly useless against a guerrilla insurgency. They would, of course, be useful in a war against India.

    Tuesday, October 05, 2004

    more CFD Haikus

    some pretty cool CFD haikus from CFD Review

    CFD Mystery
    Must have answer fast.
    Do not use many grid points.
    Is this answer right?
    What is CFD?
    Difficult question...
    what flow field hidden within?
    computer reveals
    Watch residuals!
    How does my solution go?
    Is it converging?

    Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar prize

    Vivek Ranade has been selected for the Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Prize. He heads the Industrial Flow Modeling group at the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune. He is a well known name in the CFD community in India, and has made significant contributions to CFD modeling of multiphase reactors (in particular to bubble columns, stirred and trickle bed reactors).

    The Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar prize is awarded every year by the CSIR to young Indian researchers for their contributions made primarily in India during the last five years preceding the year of the prize. It was instituted in honor of the founder-director of the CSIR.

    Sunday, October 03, 2004

    the lawsuits begin ...

    just a couple of days after Merck pulled its blockbuster drug Vioxx off the market, the lawsuits have begun - people suing Merck for deaths caused by cardiovascular disease induced or aggravated by Vioxx.
    A Missouri woman has sued the maker of arthritis drug Vioxx over the 2002 death of her daughter. The suit filed Friday by Caroline Nevels of Lexington came a day after Merck & Co. pulled the medication from shelves over fears users faced increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

    Nevels says her 34-year-old daughter, Shelly South, took Vioxx for 2 1/2 years before dying of a heart attack in November 2002. She claims Merck knew of the risks of Vioxx long before its announcement Thursday
    If what she alleges is proven, then the loss of $25B in marketcap on friday might just be the tip of Merck's iceberg of problems ...

    Friday, October 01, 2004

    a computational haiku ...

    a perfect way to describe the relationship between the computational guy and the experimentalist:
    Your experiment
    does not agree with my code.
    Get back in the lab
    Courtesy of CFD Review

    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    game over for vioxx

    merck volunatrily recalled its blockbuster $2.5B arthritis drug vioxx after longstanding concerns about increased risk of heart disease and stroke were confirmed in a study ... merck (Dow: MRK) shares went into a tailspin on wall street, sending the dow jones index down with it.

    this puts pfizer's celebrex at the top of the market. i suppose this is good news for folks over at pfizer .... !! the stock (PFE) would probably do well in the short term because of this announcement.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2004

    A generation moving on ...

    (Image taken from Mid-day)

    Lata Mangeshkar turns 75 today - From Madhubala to Madhuri Dixit and everyone in between and close to 6000 hindi songs later, she is still going strong ...

    On another note, Shobha Gurtu, the "Thumri Queen", passed away at her residence here today following a cardiac arrest. She was 79.

    Sunday, September 26, 2004

    journalism blunders ....

    no i am not referring to Dan Rather and CBS ... here is a news article from indiatimes by soumitra mishra about the west indies winning the ICC champions trophy - the relevant line in the third paragraph is:
    The Windies' clinched their first major title in over two decades. Their last remarkable win was the 1983 World Cup.
    this coming from a journalist from india - where for many the only remarkable win ever was the 1983 World Cup!!

    the BCCI also announced that the much talked about contract system for cricketers would be enforced from october. Here is what is surely a mistake - either by Rediff, or by Dalmiya:
    Also, if any player is involved in 31 Tests or 10 ODIs during a year, he would be offered a Grade C contract, Dalmiya said.
    There is no chance of anyone playing 31 tests during a year!! journalists (or the newspapers/websites etc.) have got to be more careful about what they publish ....

    Saturday, September 25, 2004

    India - the final frontier ...

    the aussies arrived in india for conquering what steve waugh described as the final frontier - no aussie team has won a test series in india since 1969 .... the last time they came here in 2001 - they were knocking on the doorstep in kolkata - but laxman, dravid and harbhajan had other ideas ... and the rest is history - probably the greatest test series of all time ...

    the aussies play 4 tests in bangalore, madras, nagpur and mumbai .... they also open the series with the only other first class game - against ranji trophy champions mumbai at the brabourne stadium. hopefully, the series will still be alive coming into wankhede stadium .... my gut feeling says this will be the one for the men of ozz ... ponting's place in history will be clinched (even though he is out for the first test - perhaps gilchrist may take his place in the record books instead) .... all india needs is to not lose the series in order to retain the border-gavaskar trophy ... yet, they dont stand a chance unless they play to win!

    if the last two test series between these two are any indication ... its time get ready for a cracker ...

    Friday, September 24, 2004

    shwaas - indian for oscar ...

    sandeep sawant's national award winning shwaas will be the indian nominee for the academy awards. a tremendous achievement for sandeep sawant considering that its his directorial debut.

    hopefully that will allow an opportunity to see the movie here in the states.

    on a totally different note, here is suketu mehta's new book Maximum City: Bombay Lost And Found - he is being interviewed in a bar(?) named Olive in Mumbai [somewhere in south bombay i assume!] - the description of the folks visiting the bar makes me wonder if it was the same mumbai i grew up in ... and then there is shanta gokhale's analysis of the psyche of mumbaichaa marathi manus... again makes you sit back and think hard about the completely different worlds existing in mumbai - the millworker on the one hand and the myriad of folks at Olive with too much money to spend!

    Wednesday, September 22, 2004

    equinox ... and the fall ....

    the autumn equinox is about to end in an hour or so ... the fall season is underway - football is here, baseball is almost knocking at the gates of the post season - the red sox will probably endure the curse again ... and australia come to india to try and conquer the last frontier!! no steve waugh, no ricky ponting (atleast for the first test) ... but with mcgrath, and warne probably at their best ... and my gut feeling is that the aussies are going to kick butt this time ... the last two series were a cricket lovers delight ... but this one might be a heartbreaker ....

    as for the equinox, the day and nights are supposed to be equal - sunrise here was at 6:35 am and sunset at 6.43pm .... i suppose 8 minutes is an acceptable error :) .....

    check out the photolog equinox picture at the photolog ....

    Monday, September 20, 2004

    50 .....and not so strong ...

    today is the fiftieth anniversary of the first fortran program - this info comes from the Wikipedia - yet sometimes i wonder how exact can such information be ...

    nevertheless, its a historic day for guys who like me who have written fortran code (and continue to do so) ... and for a long time, that was the only language i could program in .... fortran has come a long way since the days of fortran 77 - with the evolution of the fortran 90 and 95 standards. but its days seem to be winding down ... nagware, i heard has stopped making compilers, and others might follow suit. the next stage would be the end of support for existing compilers, and following that would be the end of the world for the language ... in terms of evolving further. there will continue to be thousands of programmers who will continue to use existing libraries and numerical recipes for formula translation ... and hopefully keep the legacy alive ....

    as for me, i have no qualms about letting go of it ... personally, i think C++ will kick its ass anyday ....

    Friday, September 17, 2004


    Ivan passed without causing nearly as many problems as were expected of it .... but left a lot of broken twigs, and leaves all over the place. a tree got uprooted in my apt complex and fell on a swing that kids played on ... no one was there at the time ofcourse, but the steel frame broke into two from the fall of the tree on it. here are some images:

    Fallen tree

    The snapped swing frame

    Uprooted remains

    The snapped steel frame

    the richest cricket club in the world ....

    here is an indiatimes article about the BCCI. deals with the problems that come with the BCCI being the ultra affluent private organization that it is. the last para hits home the message
    Watching cricket in India is a misery that the BCCI’s immense wealth has been unable to resolve but it has certainly made cricket a very rich game in a country where all other sports languish in poverty. Need we even say that Indian hockey players cannot afford to go to Tendulkar’s restaurant in downtown Mumbai?

    Thursday, September 16, 2004

    a tribute to bloggers ....

    today's marketplace edition on NPR talked about the role of bloggers as the new journalists of the day - their unbiased attitude towards news, and the ability to analyze and carefully break down the news ... and ask the right question - something real reporters and journalists (esp tv networks and newspapers) are struggling (or are unable) to do - attributed to the various vested interests that control networks and newspapers. the story in question was the role of bloggers in bringing to light the negligence of CBS in making sure of their evidence in Bush's national guard service report.

    Ivan - not so terrible after all ...

    The dark cloud almost resembles the satellite image of Ivan that we have been used to seeing ... it rained hard, and there were strong winds .... you can see the rain drops rippling across Lady Ann Lake. There is still a flood watch on ... along with a wind advisory.

    but tropical depression (yeah, downgraded from a storm by now) Ivan has caused minor flooding, and a few trees down so far in my corner of the world ... but trivial compared to what we saw on the gulf coast. a lucky break i suppose ... folks down in mobile or panama city or pensacola wont quite appreciate the title of the post ... my apologies to them.

    Ivan the terrible .....

    we have all reading about the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan ... well, tropical depression ivan has arrived in my neck of the woods ... its very dark outside, very heavy rain, and very windy (ofcourse nothing like the 120 mph from last night). here is latest picture from the national weather service:

    the eye of ivan is within 100 miles of us (almost sounds like the eye of sauron doesnt it!), its going to be a very interesting next few hours .... time to shut down all workstations, and head home ....

    Wednesday, September 15, 2004

    president promotes nanotech ...

    i aint referring to mr. bush, but our very own dr. apj kalam - has been promoting nanotechnology as the vehicle for increasing wealth and improving the quality of life in the impoverished nation of more than a billion people (smalltimes.com). check here for details.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2004

    chowk and shwaas

    shanta gokhale reviews a new marathi play presented by Rangasanga, a new initiative by the sahitya sangha mandir to promote experimental plays. Chowk, written by Makarand Sathe, and directed by Sathe himself, along with Atul Pethe, sounds like a very interesting experiment about interactions and sensitivities of folks from different points of view and walks of life ... who come together in a chowk. its kinda weird, writing about a review of a play, rather than the play itself. but for a lack of opportunity to actually go see the play, this is the next best thing. shanta gokhale does describe the play in a fair bit of detail (particularly the idealogy, and performances) - and certainly managed to generate some motivation for me to go watch the play. hopefully there will still be a chance to do so, the next time i am in mumbai.

    on another note, the marathi movie shwaas won the national award for best movie. its a tremendous achievement, in an era where the marathi film industry is almost extinct, and the only marathi actors/actresses to be seen are in hindi movies, playing character roles, speaking hindi with a marathi accent that would make any marathi guy (read punekar) proud. in spite of a thriving theater and literary circuit, marathi cinema has lagged behind other regionals (malayalam/bengali) in making quality productions. shwaas, directed by sandeep sawant, is the story of a boy, suffering from a rare eye cancer, and about to lose his sight to surgery that would save his life though. ashwin chitale plays the young boy Parshya, and shared the award for best child artiste with Kalidasan for the malayalam film Ente Veedu Apoontem. producer arun nalawade also plays the boy's grandfather, who tries to fill the boy's mind with lasting images of the world and sneaks hiim out of the hospital, a day before the surgery. the movie is largely based on the real life experience of pune based oncosurgeon, dr. shailesh puntambekar.

    shwaas comes exactly 50 years after a marathi movie, acharya atre's shyaamachii aaii, based on the novel by sane guruji, won the national award with child artiste madhav vaze as the main protagonist. again, look forward to an opportunity to see the movie on the big screen, perhaps here in the states or else atleast on the next trip back home ... hopefully there will lead to a resurgence in quality marathi cinema ...

    Thursday, September 09, 2004

    the desi grad student romeos .....

    hi all ... am back after an extended hiatus, took some time off for the labor day weekend, and had to fight off some major deadlines at work ... but am finally back with more transport phenomena (whatever that might mean!) ....

    here is something i had received as a forwarded email when i was a graduate student .... it was hilarious, and you could certainly identify someone of almost every type. the fall semester/quarter is underway at almost every university in the US, and as a new batch of graduate students is in ... it was fun to come across this again ..... i do not know the source, but i would like extend due credit to whoever wrote it ..... there is ofcourse plenty of stereotyping, exaggerating, sometimes its gross, and a bit painful at others .... but quite enjoyable all the same

    Since the annual induction of new recruits is under way, let me start the ball rolling on the touchy topic of the intrepid romeo's courtship ritual... I would love to say that any resemblance to people living or married is a coincidence,but unfortunately that isn't really the case. It has been my misfortune to come across despos who fit at least one description very well.Some of the descriptions here are based on the outrageous opinions expressed y our dudes in private in an all-male environment, usually in a stag party while consuming egg-curry and the
    ubiquitous 'chole' and raita, and chugging cheap beer.They probably did not expect these clandestine details of the courtship ritual would become public knowledge... so sue me.

    SMOOTHIES :The Smoothest, The Slimiest:
    We begin with the SMOOTHIES...those who have been ere for a year or two, some of whom are resigned to spending a couple more years on their Ph.D., and have that magic phrase "I have a car".Having thus established their solid gold credentials with the new girls as the "guys-to-be-smiled-at-so-that-they-can-be-asked-for-rides-to- roceries", they are the elite of the desi student circle.
    Common come-ons used by the Smoothies include: [THIS PART SEEMS TO BE INCOMPLETE]

    THE TALENT AGENT: (Romeonensis Recruitus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Hello,I am Dr. Breslauer's RA."
    The romeo who uses this line usually has been working for 3 years with a well-funded prof in the epartment, whose RA'ship offers are being actively sought after by the freshies.He really has NO say whatsoever in the decision, but until the RA'ships are decided, this guy is sitting pretty.We would advise him to move quickly and snare a naive new student before the RAships are assigned.His answering machine usually gets a lot of messages in the month RA'ships are assigned... he only calls back the female callers... the guys will just have to call him again...

    THE SLIMEY GROPER: (Romeonensis Gropius) ( Also known as the DANCE MASTER )
    Favourite Pickup-lines: "Hi, would you like to take the ballroom dancing class with me?"
    The oldest sleaze-bucket trick. Ulterior motive: To grope and fondle forbidden flesh. This is the smoothie who religiously attends all the new-student orientation parties...scopes out all the 'fast' ones who venture out on the dance floor... generally goes for quasi ABCD's or Bombay types ..The only species of romeo who is sleazy enough to even hit on married women. A standard approach is to pay a shallow compliment to half a dozen girls (one at a time, of course!) such as: "Hello, you have very nice voice.Just like MS Subbulakshmi." OR "Hello, you dance very well.Did you take dance lessons?"
    Our lady-of-the-dance-floor invariably giggles and says: "No, I only took bharatanatyam when I was little." Hmmm...Excellent candidate for hitting upon later.So our groper invites her over (with some other friends, of course) to his house a couple of evenings for dinner...and then pops the question... "There is a ballroom dance class every Tuesday evening. Would you like to be my partner...you dance really well (yeah, of course!)" . Some of the intended victims see the slime dripping all over him, but there is always one innocent girl who falls for the oldest trick in the desi-lothario's repertoire... and our groper-friend is all set to get his paws ready for a semester's groping and fondling,all for just 45 bucks registration fee (split 22.50 each, of course...). Plus he can look forward to being taken out to Pizza Hut by drooling roomies and wanna-be-slimeys who get their kicks by his serious XXX-rated description of each dance-class. He struts and brags, and within a day, the entire romeo community is aware of his conquest.A couple of his cronies call him up (even long-distance!) to "congratulate" him on his success at luring yet another freshie with the old trick: "saale, hat-trick maar diya, last year Pooja ko pataaya, last sem Rajni ko, aur abhi isko bhi thokne ka plaan bana raha hai kya? Kya class le raha hai, saala, Lambada sikha na usko!!Heh heh heh, Saala, congrats yaar!*sneer* *smirk* *nudge*". All his friends snigger in the background and start making plans to hit upon the poor girl who, of course, is absolutely _thrilled_ at being the "popular" girl...

    Poor chick (who may still be in denial of having fallen for such an obvious trick) gets the reputation of being "fast", "dumb" and an easy lay;is doomed to fighting off sleazy advances from every desi desperado in town for the rest of her sojourn at the Univ.After she graduates and leaves, she becomes a legendary figure, the yardstick for measuring "fastness", and the stories just get embellished more for the entertainment of new students for years to come.

    THE SLIMEY SCOPER: (Romeonensis Scopius)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Hi, I have olympic size swimming pool in my apartment. I can teach you swimming...?"
    The lesser twin of the Slimey Groper.Moves 17 blocks away from the University just because the apartment has a swimming pool.Always plans elaborate "pool-parties",which invariably end up with a dude-dudette ratio of 14-to-2(one of them being the ever popular "dance class" victim who is always invited to parties for all the wrong reasons...).

    THE CHAUFFEUR: (Romeonensis Mobilus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Hi, I am going to K-Mart.You want ride? I have one extra seat..."
    Actually, there will be two extra seats vacant,three if you count that ragged one with the funny oil-stain...but of course, the chances of a freshie saying yes to going anywhere alone with him would be slim ... so the reassuring "one seat is vacant..."implying that there will be other people present...

    THE CHAUFFEUR DELUXE: (Romeonensis Mobilus Ultra) (Romeonensis Mobilus Alpina/Pioneera/Aiwa/Audiovoxa)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Hi, I am going to K-Mart.You want a ride? I have a car stereo..."
    A sub-species of the common-or-garden Chauffeur. The distinguishing mark being that funny noises bearing a passing resemblance to an old Dire Straits song occasionally emanate from a wheezy speaker hidden in the recesses of his automobile.

    THE MOVIE MOGUL: (Romeonensis Cinematicus)
    He doesn't have a car.He doesn't have the Slimey Groper's ability to cheat and deceive.He has tried asking newbies out to ballroom class, but somehow, all of them have seen through him, and the really dumb ones have already been snapped up for "ballroom-dance-classes" by the Slimey Groper. But he does have that master ace up his sleeve, or more accurately, perched precariously atop his tv... the magic box that has the power to induce women to stay past midnight in his apartment... the VCR. Manages to get some newbie dudettes into his apartment to watch "Nayagan" or "Roja", or that old reliable, "Sholay". (editor's note:This was first written in 1992.Hence the Nayagan/Roja reference.I dunno which movies are currently in vogue for this purpose.) Ten minutes into the movie, Movie Mogul changes into his lungi.His roomie plays the good host with nachos & cheese dip. He makes coffee with his lungi hitched up in half & a kitchen towel on his shoulder. These dudes try to impress their guests by shouting dialogues a good two minutes before the scene.Sonia, from Delhi, has no clue what is going on.The next time she visits, it will only be for help with Math 805 assignment.

    THE FATHER FIGURE: (Romeonensis Paterfamilias)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Hello...No, no! Don't call me uncle."
    He is the one person on campus who has the one quality all other lotharios envy: an aura of harmless trustworthiness... Full sleeve tericott bush-shirt (Amba Tailors, Rajajinagar), tight dress pants, Bata shoes recently replaced with black Reeboks, same nylon socks - all 4 seasons. Need I mention Brahmi Amla Hair Oil? Has lots of "Platonic" friendships.Hates Plato.Wishes Plato had never been born.
    He is usually on excellent terms with the veteran desi females on campus.This gives him instant respectability among the newbies. Always trust-worthy, courteous and helpful. Other desi guys hate his guts, because newbies soon learn that it is far better to ask him for a ride than one of the other desperadoes...Keeps an umbrella in his office. Walks chicks home on rainy days.Of course, he dares not try anything for fear of losing his reputation...Always afraid someone will discover his stash of porno magazines hidden under the bathroom sink.

    THE INTER-RACIAL: (Romeonensis Miscegeneticus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Hi, this is Debbie, my date."
    The guy who is on top of the world.For the moment.The one with the "gori" girlfriend "Debbie".He speaks not of Diwali, but of Thanksgiving. He has the respect and admiration from all the juniors. "Saale ne gori ko pataa liya yaar." His seniors don't particularly care because they know that Debbie was a drunken loser the semester before he turned up. He dreams of getting a green-card through Debbie, the US Citizen. This dude has never been south of Chicago, but has contracted the Southern Drawl from his g.f. Tries to convince everyone that Debbie was really a virgin until he met her.He has tried to convince others so hard of this that he almost believes it himself... Debbie Dumps Desi when she gets a real job and moves to another town.

    THE ECLECTICUS: (Romeonensis Eclecticus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Like, hi man, what a scene.Like I was totally lubed man... totally like an Ephemeris video dude... like blow me man."
    Very, very rare - this dude listens exclusively to new age, drives a beat up Bug with psychedelic murals on the fenders and a stained glass rear-window... has Dali posters in his living room, a nude he sketched himself in his bathroom, an open condom pack on the counter. This dude actually brews his own beer. Long hair and an earring seems de riguer. Never tries to pick-up desi chicks...usually accompanied by a pale, skinny, raggedy blonde with a nose-ring and a tattoo, and a couple of pot joints in her pocket...

    The "Seniors":
    This is the underclass of the desi lothario heirarchy. Those who have been here a scant one or two semesters, and have not yet acquired a car.Some of them purchase a VCR and turn into wanna-be
    movie-moguls. But they haven't yet acquired the smoothies' savoir faire, and the easy sense of 'I belong here' that distinguishes the sleazemen from the sleazeboys.

    THE TOURIST GUIDE: (Romeonensis Peripateticus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Last month, when I was in Grand Canyon..."
    This is the guy-on-the-move, the going-places dude... or that is the impression he gives. Overrates the already over-rated. Doesn't mention that he had never left the premises of the campus until that big trip to the edge of the Grand Canyon.Drove a rental subcompact crammed with 5 desis singing to Kishore Kumar songs on the tape player all the way. Always argues about whether Yose-might or Yose-miti is the right pronunciation... although he hasn't really ever been to Yosemite. His main drawing power is the tale about how his co-driver was caught speeding on the highway.Feels smug until someone mentions the ticket he got for reversing into the freeway from an exit-ramp. Will try to pick up newbies by talking about how he can rent a car with his American Express Chaarj card. Fails spectacularly.

    THE PHOTOOO-JOURNALIST: (Romeonensis Autofocus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "This is me in front of Universal Studios..."
    Carefully documents his summer vacation with the photooos taken in front of prominent landmarks,including uncle Chunnibhai's motel in Bakersfield. These photoos are commonly referred to as "Patel-Shots". His approach is not "u have to see to believe it", it's more like "look at this foto, yaar, I have been there" showing a patel shot. Invites people to his apartment to see the pictures. Hardly any success...

    THE NOT-SO-GOOD SAMARITAN: (Romeonensis Nefarius)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "You are taking 'Advanced Computer Calisthenics'?No problem.Friend took it last semester. Will get you the book. It costs 40 dollars."
    Freshie giggles and simpers a thank you, thinking, "what a nice guy!", and our samaritan extrapolates this into a wild fantasy. "She wants me!I bet she wants me baaaad!", he keeps telling himself as
    he runs to the university book store through the pouring rain and buys the book (sorry, no used version available). Two weeks later, ladki bhee gayee, paisa bhee gaya.How does he manage to
    afford this? Well, he takes the book back from the freshie at the end of the semester and returns it for a 60% refund at the bookstore.

    THE FRUGAL GOURMET: (Romeonensis Gustatus-Parsimonius)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "No, no.Taco Bell doesn't use lard.And Taco Bell has unlimited Pepsi refill macha!! But MacDonald's has good milkshake."
    Apart from being the fast-food aficionado, he has also mastered the art of making tostadas at home.Expert on cooking advice, though most of his dinners comprise of two burritos to go and unlimited small pepsi. Gets one and only one "date" to go to Taco Bell.She doesn't talk to him again for the rest of the semester.When questioned,he only says, "oh, she wants to go out again, but she is too busy. "She, on the other hand, usually changes the subject when the topic comes up.

    THE WANNABE MOVIE MOGUL: (Romeonensis Cinematicus Minora)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Hi.I have VCR."
    Has very little success with that pick-up line.Wonders whether he should not have spent that 150 bucks on the Korean VCR...Has got into the habit of eating Doritos and Coke for dinner while sprawled in front of the telly. Uses room-freshener and cologne inter-changeably.Generally dejected at not havin' "patao"ed a single chic in spite of the VCR.Doesn't realize it may have something to do with the fact that he tried to trick a freshie dudette into getting "hot" by watching a XXX-rated movie...

    THE ASPIRING INTER-RACIAL: (Romeonensis Miscegeneticus Minora)
    Cut-offs, "just do me" T shirt, coasters from payless shoes, $2 reflecting sunglasses with neon threads, baseball cap worn backwards, just like Puke-Daddy-MC on MTV. He hangs out with the smoothie interracial (refer to description above) all the time, and picks up enough skills to have moderate success in the ABCD crowd.Has hopes of someday getting out of his relationship with the ABCD, but chances of survival are pretty slim. He is usually married to the ABCD by the time he graduates, or very shortly thereafter. The juniors, of course, marvel at his girlfriend, and try to hit on her so
    that she can get _them_ dates.

    THE IIT-ian: (Romeonensis Clanicus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "Hi. I am from IIT-B.I was 247th in JEE.My name is Raj."
    Has even lesser success with that pick-up line than the wannabe-mogul. None of the "smoothies" use this line because they have realized no one gives a damn.Our IIT-ian still clings on in the fervent hope that the cachet of his undergraduate institution will make nubile young things swoon with awe. Sure,ex-IIT-ian chicks hang out with him, but hey, we all know that ain't worth squat... Faded blue Levis, round-neck Tee, mostly wears bathroom slippers from hostel days. No wrist watch.Hasn't given up smoking yet. Main source of entertainment:the e-mail list of all his IIT batchmates... Can't understand how that other guy, a non-IITian (gasp), gets all the dates. Drowns his loneliness by hanging out with wing-mates from IIT-B and reminiscing about old Katre, the Taklu tutor at Agrawal's.
    When introduced to new IIT-M arrivals, always asks them which hostel they they were from: Goda or Mandaks?

    THE SUPER-TECHIE: (Romeonensis Esotericus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "then you issue an asynchronous sigint to the child process through the named pipe which induces it and fork a subcommand in the same kernel thread which..." As expected, he has little success with anyone, except newbies who need help figuring out how to log into their accounts.Needless to say, these newbies don't understand the detailed login instructions our Super-Techie gives them. While "helping" them, he manages to get their passwords and reads all their personal email for the next two semesters.If this doesn't work, he can break into their computer
    anyway.Generally considered a reliable source for gossip about the freshies' private affairs. Freshie guys always come to him for info on how to decode the gifs on alt.sex.pictures... When officemate asks about lost car keys, helpfully suggests grep-ing for them iteratively in /usr/office/desk -drawer and /usr/pants/pockets. Usually seen in plain shirt (or whatever mom sent him), pair of jeans, unkempt hair, didn't-shave-or-shower-in-2-days-look.A bold HMT (grandpa's high school graduation gift) adorns the wrist.Survives on pizza, Cheetos and Jolt. Has programmed the vending machine into selling
    him candy for a nickel.

    The "Freshie" Dudes:
    Pretty much nothing to say about the freshie guys.Most of them are preoccupied with settling into graduate student life.So their Romeonating characteristics have not yet come sufficiently to the fore
    to enable classification. And since they have not been accepted by credit card companies yet, their ability to go out on dates is somewhat hampered. Which is not a problem, because with the standard opening line: "Hello, I am from Gowripalya in Ramnagar, where you are from?", or the ever popular: "What is your mother tongue?" , they really don't have much luck in getting a date. And the fact that these guys were fighting bitterly over a dog-eared three-year-old issue of Penthouse in the T.A.lab last Tuesday doesn't help their chances...

    THEDEHAATI: (Romeonensis Rusticus)
    Favourite Pickup-line: "yhou know what haapined when I came out of airport? I got taxi, and yhou know, taxiwala was Indian!"
    Always speaks about a couple of octaves higher than necessary.Responds to the name "Babloo".Just arrived from Gorakhpur.Absolutely thrilled that the taxi he took from the airport was driven by a Jat dude from Faridabad. Exchanges phone numbers with taxi-dude and resolves to keep in touch with the fellow.Writes to mom about it. Contacts relatives in "Buphalo", "Peetsburg" and "Batlimore" (no, not a typo) on the first day to inform them that 'he has arrived'.Gets confused by the answering machine at his cousin's number in "Arijona" and leaves a completely undecipherable message. Buys a large economy size bottle of Brut on his first grocery trip. Before stepping out of the apartment, BRUT goes under arms, on shirt, back side of shirt, inside shirt, inside the VIP brief... While some desi romeos buy Aqua Velva (utmost parsimony),the Dehaati pays a few cents more for "achcha khaasaa boo". Suitcase filled with latest line in safari suits from Gorakhpur. Wears kurta-achkan and shiny new Reebok sneakers to orientation. Wants to buy Haanda Civeec. Wants to patao sitijen or haraa pathey waali. No wonder, dude is chasing our younger cousins (aka undergrad ABCDs).

    THE SLIMEBALL: (Romeonensis Mucus)
    Silently scopes out all the 'chicks',with help from his mentor, the Slimey Groper.Tries to score but strikes out because the slime is still a little too obvious.Hits on other people's wives/girlfriends at the
    orientation.Tries to hit on every American girl who smiles at him. Backstabs to get assistantships. Insists on walking girls home from department at night. "Arrey, very dangerous, you know, not like Mylapore.Last week only my friend Rick got mugged on Maple Avenue...Chalo, chalo, let me walk you home...Oh you want to work in lab for two more hours? No problem, I can wait..." In the end, the poor girl ends up calling our trustworthy Father Figure (see the smoothie section for description) to escort her home. Father Figure smoothly whisks the maiden away, ignoring our slimeball's scowl and flashing him a cordial smile... Consummate geek that he is,recycles centuries old jokes he reads on rec.humor.Every alternate sentence is punctuated with a reference to beer.Has practically memorized the list of reasons "Why beer is better than women".But two cans of pissweak lager make him tipsy. Manages to hitch his wagon to his idol, the Slimey-Groper and begins to try out some tricks but without immediate success...shows promise... If people still trust him in two years, he may turn into a successful Slimey Groper.Until then, he organizes pot-luck parties.

    Thursday, September 02, 2004

    google ads ....

    this was an ad i saw in the google ads frame, while checking my gmail account ...

    Fake Mailz
    Send fast, anonymous, fake email and also receive replies. $4.95/Mo.

    Intrigued by that ad, i explored the website a little further ... here are some interesting snippets from their FAQ:
    Why would I want to be anonymous?
    There are many reasons one may want to protect their real identity. Quoting simply, we all have the right to privacy and anonymity as long as we are using for ethically correct and resonsible reasons. Being anonymous always help in many circumstances, take for instance of sending some clues to a journalist, Communicate with a self-help organization, or just want to post all those politically incorrect thoughts.

    What other things do I have to consider when sending anonymous emails?
    Few things that Fake Mailz suggest you as precautionary measure are:
    # Do not put your personal details on the email or the attachment.
    # Do not put information in the email that may narrow down the possible senders.
    # Use different writing techniques than your own when sending emails.

    Is it possible for the recipient to know my original information?
    Under normal circumstances, you don't run the potential risk of hurting your privacy. But well, Fake Mailz do cooperate with recipient in case of legal hassles. Therefore it's always a good practise to ensure contents of email to be in compliance with terms and conditions.

    And ofcourse the most important one of them all:
    What if I wish to use your services for SPAM?
    Spaming is prohibited at Fake Mailz. If a user account is found to violate our terms and conditions, original information will be disclosed to recipient and account banned.

    pretty hilarious ... and yet kinda scary stuff ... it is easy to imagine more sinister uses of such services than just to remain anonymous on a public BB ..... now as i post it, i wonder if perhaps i should be doing it at all ... doing my bit in bringing such services to those who want em ....

    Wednesday, September 01, 2004

    a village named kuppam ....

    HP's chief executive carly fiorina gave the commencement address earlier this summer at caltech. here is an excerpt from the transcript of her speech titled Dare to dream
    Let me tell you about two women named Saraswati and Gowri. They live in a rural community called Kuppam, India, and it is about 100 miles from Bangalore. It is a place where one in three citizens is illiterate; more than half of the households have no electricity, and most of the able-bodied adults are HIV-positive.

    These young women were forced to leave school after the fifth and seventh grades respectively, because their families could not afford their schooling.

    Now, one of the questions we ask at HP is, “How do we use technology to bring opportunity to places like Kuppam, India?” And we had a number of inventors, probably including some Caltech grads in this village in India, and they came up with the idea in observing the village around them of a solar-powered digital camera, and a solar- powered printer, and this equipment fits into a backpack.

    So Saraswati and Gowri were chosen among 10 young women to be trained as village photographers and given this digital, solar-powered camera and other equipment, and after two weeks of training, they were able to serve as official photographers for a launch event that we did that was overseen by the region’s Chief Minister. And seeing how people loved having their pictures taken with their elected officials, these two young women seized on a business opportunity: they decided to follow the minister on his rounds, selling inexpensive photo opportunities. In less than a week, they had earned the equivalent of a month’s income. For both of them, it meant that they would be able to better educate their children and finally bring tap water into their homes.

    And today not only do they photograph engagement ceremonies and many other important family occasions – occasions that in the past were not recorded because it was too expensive – they are now working to set up a fund so that other young women in their village can use it to start up their own businesses. And these two young women have become so successful in their villages that their husbands now tag along with them.

    To me, this is just a tiny, perhaps even prosaic example of the billions of ways that science and technology can and will change lives and solve problems in the 21st century. As science moves to the mainstream of peoples’ lives, scientists and inventors have to move to the mainstream as well. Technology cannot be mysterious to people any more. Science cannot just be an experiment; something cloistered in a back room or a dark lab. Science and technology need to be understandable and you need to our guides.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2004

    movie soundtracks ...

    as i write this, i am listening to itzhak perlman play some movie classics in cinema serenade. it was a delight listening to perlman's violin performing some of the great movie soundtracks of all time - and i started thinking about my favorites (movie themes, soundtracks, musicals) ........ here are a few of them, in no particular order:

    Dr. Zhivago - Lara's theme rocks!

    Chariots of Fire - the soundtrack is excellent but vangelis' main theme steals the show

    Cinema Paradiso - the main theme is intoxicating - keeps playing again and again in your mind ...

    The adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - starring Eroll Flynn and Olivia de Haviland - Erich Korngold's score is phenomenal - it was one of the first movies made in glorious technicolor - and the technical excellence of the movie is phenomenal, considering it was made 66 years ago. do watch "the making of" on the special edition DVD

    Star Wars - all episodes have a good score (by john williams i think) - and ofcourse the theme is now legendary ...

    Jurassic Park - i love the theme, but my personal favorite is journey to the island

    Dil Chahta Hai - this sticks out like a sore thumb in this list - but personally i thought the background score by shankar, loy and ehsaan was very cool ...

    Monsoon Wedding - my personal favorite was "love and marigolds" featuring vijay raaz as parbatlal kanhaiyaalal dube

    Gandhi - composed by Ravi Shankar, the music was great - one of my favorites is discovery of india, featuring ravi shankar himself on the sitar ...

    All James Bond themes

    Last of the Mohicans - starring Daniel Day Lewis and Madeleine Stowe - the movie was quite ordinary, but the score was awesome

    Apocalypse Now - Die Walküre, Ride of the Valkyries

    Schindler's List


    Amadeus - ofcourse, nothing but the best of Mozart here

    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Yo-Yo Ma on the cello is awesome - that chinese pop track sucks!!!

    an unsung hero is The truth about Charlie

    The Thomas Crown Affair - the new one, starring Pierce Brosnan

    Musicals: THe sound of music, My Fair Lady, The Lion King, Mary Poppins - all of them favorites since childhood ...

    this list is ofcourse not exhaustive .... watever i could remember right now ... :) - feel free to comment on your own favorites/likes/dislikes ...

    2001 A Space Odyssey - the title track Also Sprach Zarathustra and Johann Strauss' masterpiece The Blue Danube (used in tons of movies, Arnold's True Lies, for example) - are excellent.

    Oliver Stone's Platoon - Adagio For Strings ...

    Stallone's Rocky - the theme has a cult following b y now ....

    Top Gun - decent score - but an awesome collection of songs .... the Righteous Brothers' You've lost that lovin' feeling at the end credits fits perfectly in the movie ... actually most of the songs just fit in perfectly. im sure this is one soundtrack everyone must have :)

    primetime is back ....

    primetime deion sanders will be back this season ... at age 37 - playing for the baltimore ravens ...certainly lost something since his glory days, but they say he is still in awesome physical shape. lets see if he can give some primetime performances through this season ...

    he last played in the NFL in 2000.

    Monday, August 30, 2004

    Here is a forwarded email i got:

    A few days ago, a person near Kollam (Kerala) was recharging his cellphone at home. Just at that time a call came and he attended to that call with the instrument still connected to the mains. After a few seconds electricity flowed into the cellphone unrestrained and the young man was thrown to the ground with a heavy thud. His parents rushed to the room only to find him unconscious, with weak heartbeats and burnt fingers. He was rushed to the nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

    Cellphone is a very useful modern invention. However, we must be aware that it can also be an instrument of death. NEVER use the cellphone while it is hooked to the mains!

    and accompanied by this picture ... what does one say to that ....

    Sunday, August 29, 2004

    the last of the games ...

    the olympics concluded today in fine fashion - leaving the world applauding how good and well conducted the games were ... and also leaving the host nation with a huge bill of more than 10 billion dollars - and surely deeper in debt ... begging the question: WAS ALL THAT WORTH IT? i thought the host nation was supposed to make a lot of money off the games - hence the great struggle to "get the games". is it worth paying 10 billion dollars for bragging rights and stadia and facilities which perhaps might not be looked at after these games?

    the closing ceremony was very good ... but IMO, the chinese stole the show - the "welcome to beijing" by the sweet little chinese girl on the lantern was just too cool .... NBC continued to harass with several commercial breaks that seemed quite inopportune ...

    earlier in the day, the drama in the marathon was just too much - with the deranged dood coming and shoving pack leader vanderlie lima off the road .. he recovered to secure bronze ... the incident probably didnt change the inevitable ... but the IOC gave lima a special award during the medal ceremony before the closing ceremony. and the indian women disappointed in the 4x400 relay, finishing behind all but greece (who had a messed up baton exchange) ... but as always, we will find contentment in the fact that it was an achievement just to be there ...


    and on a totally different note, matt leinart and usc showed why they are ranked #1, holding off a spirited VaTech challenge ..... with or without mike williams, they will be team to beat .....

    Saturday, August 28, 2004

    College football is back ...

    The season opens tonight with Virginia Tech playing USC (ESPN tonight) - i expect USC to blow out VaTech.

    on a totally different note:

    Last night - ESPN had a behind the scenes look at the making of Sportscenter - it was a pretty cool show ... they were showing the making of the show on ESPN - including the studio/location going-ons, while the actual show was coming on ESPN2. i thought it was a pretty cool thing ... so many pieces have to fall in place for the show to be broadcast. But I love Sportscenter ... they were describing that it is a show produced in several languages in several countries bla bla ... they actually showed a shot of a Sportscenter version with the name of the show written in Hindi!! So do they have a hindi version in india these days?? now, that would be something to watch out for on the next trip back home:)

    and in the olympics - the dream known as the dream team is finally over ... the USA lost to Manu Ginobli and the Argentinians. Argentina won the soccer gold, and Marion Jones' comes back empty handed.

    I also saw the 4X400 womens' relay heat - the indian quartet of Rajwinder Kaur, K M Beenamol, Chitra K Soman and anchor Manjit Kaur gave a spirited performance, breaking the national record to qualify for the finals. After a poor third leg, Manjit Kaur had a very good run in the final 400m to pull up from 5th to 3rd and ensure automatic qualification. Anju George broke the national record in the long jump too, but could not manage more than 6th place in the finals - and yet it was an impressive performance. Heroes are there to find ... except that now, the bar of winning a medal has been removed ...

    Harsha Bhogle on Hayden's comments ...

    Earlier in the week, Matthew Hayden commented that the Aussies are able to play for the team, while the players from the sub-continent often get caught up with achieving personal milestones. Here is a response from Harsha Bhogle posted on a BBC Sport bulletin board (actually, i would like to make a clarification here: i could not find any page/column where Harsha made these comments - someone has posted it, quoting Harsha)
    It would be tempting, and egotistical, to ignore Mathew Hayden’s remark about players from the sub-continent being selfish. You could call it gamesmanship, and there will be a substantial element of that, but if it hurts there is probably some truth to it.

    If he had said all Indian batsmen are bandits, we wouldn’t have read it a second time, we would have called it whimsical, even wild, it wouldn’t have hurt. This one does, and so it merits examination. Sometimes it helps to look beyond initial feelings of outrage!

    It is my hypothesis that in over-populated, and therefore insecure, countries the self will always dominate. Feelings of comradeship, of surrendering the self to the wider cause, can only arise in either a highly spiritual phase or where the performer has ascended to a level of personal calm about his achievements.

    Where you are in a mob, and we are in a mob, self-preservation will always prevail; whether it is catching a bus, or getting out of a movie hall or getting admission to a professional college.

    So too with Indian cricket, where unless you are selfish you cannot make a mark. We have 27 first-class teams and it is impossible for anyone to monitor individual players. At one level lower, it is even worse. Young players learn very quickly that it is their score, and not the manner in which it was scored, or indeed the situation that warranted it, that counts more than anything else.

    A 17-year-old is bound to feel tempted to stay 66 not out even if his team loses the match than try to blast a quick 35 which won’t look as impressive when the selectors compare scores. If there were fewer players to look at, a selector could make his own assessment but with the numbers in India that is often impossible. That is why I would go so far as to say that unless you are selfish you have no chance of making it in Indian cricket.

    And it is not easy to change, leopards in every profession are stuck with their spots. Actors from folk theatre will remain loud even in serious cinema, batsmen growing up on bouncy tracks will instinctively play the horizontal bat shots, people from gloomy lands will look unhappy even in bright sunshine. Players from our part of the world cannot suddenly become team players when they have survived by protecting their interests fiercely. In times of crisis, you go back to your instincts.

    When a team is performing, and therefore settled, and where individuals are secure, they can rise above the self and play for the cause. Indeed, playing for the cause then becomes a greater virtue and we have seen that aspect too in Indian cricket. In Australia they learn that early because there are fewer people playing the game; the difference between being in a side and not being in it is not nearly as pronounced as it is in India.

    If Australia had 500 million people, let alone a billion, they would play like a nation of 500 million, they would guard the self before aspiring to enrich the team.

    The way out is to have fewer teams playing at the highest level. Apart from intensifying competition, it means only the best can play and with that comfort behind them players can get noticed for putting the team first. 27 first class teams is a recipe for selfishness and poor quality. If we can still put out a fairly good international team, imagine what you could do with only 15 teams. Concentrated solutions are always more potent than diluted ones.

    As a result we tend to applaud individual efforts even if the team has collectively been let down. The batting average is a batsman’s badge of honour, the number of centuries his entry to the hall of fame. Even his advertising contracts have bonuses linked to the number of runs he has scored, not whether his team wins.

    We dance alone, not in an ensemble, we pray alone, not in a community. We cannot suddenly expect young, insecure sportsmen to become team players when most of us aren’t.

    Small, focussed groups can be different if they breathe a different air. In India’s cricket team there are many who are willing to go beyond the self. Now it needs to become addictive, it needs to spread to selectors and administrators. October might be a good time to prove to Matthew Hayden that it can happen."
    In spite of the outrage, I think few would disagree with the fact that this players often are "selfish" - especially those from India and Pakistan. Yet, I am not sure that this is as commonplace as its being made out to be ... and too much is being made out of it. And yet, I would be glad to see Team India make Hayden eat his words.

    Monday, August 23, 2004

    today ....

    Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, better known to the world as Mother Teresa, was born in Uskub (now in the Republic of Macedonia), on this day in 1910. She lived in India from the late 1920s till her death on September 5, 1997. Beatified by Pope John Paul II, she was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1979, and received considerable international praise and recognition for her work in Calcutta (though unfortunately, the city is now almost permanently identified with being filled with the poor, the needy and downtrodden ....), as well as considerable criticism for her stand on family planning, abortion, the role of the Missionaries of Charity w.r.t. furthering of the Christian faith as well as the use of donations and funds for purposes other than charity.

    Sunday, August 22, 2004

    heroes ...

    the olympics really is the time for the real heroics to come out ... the athletes seem to step it up a notch ... i have been watching the olympics on tv, and seeing how proud the athletes feel when their national anthem is played out, and their country's flag raised. i dream often of listening to jana gana mana while the indian tricolor is raised. alas, such opportunities are only in dreams - and i missed the flag raising at rathore's silver medal presentation. hockey has been a disappointment, and lea-hesh lost a heartbreaker.

    but on the whole, its been exciting to watch, inspite of NBC's coverage. and at times, if there isn't enough technical merit, its compensated by high drama. this is certainly true of the tennis competition, especially on the men's side. i have been watching plenty of olympic tennis over the weekend - and there certainly were some heroes ... coming into this weekend, chile was a country that had never ever won an olympic gold. after some unbelievable heroics by two men - fernando gonzales and nicolas massu, they now have two gold medals and a bronze in these games. both of them spent about 7 hours each on court on a single day, and showed an indomitable never say die attitude, and won, inspite of being down facing matchpoints.

    gonzales beat taylor dent in the bronze medal singles game - a match that went 16-14 in the final set, and lasted more than 3.5 hours. withing two hours, gonzales was back on court, teaming with massu against germans schuettler and kiefer for the doubles final. they were down four matchpoints in the 4th set tie-break, but showed some amazing guts to come back from the dead, and win 6-4 in the fifth, giving chile their first gold medal ever. the match finished in the wee hours of sunday morning. massu was back on sunday evening for the singles gold medal game against a fresh mardy fish. another drama filled match, massu showed cramps, nearly gave up with exhaustion, and frustrated mardy fish into smashing a racket before winning a five setter for another gold in a 4 hour classic.
    it was a phenomenal performance, and even the american commentator (jim courier) acknowledged it to be the most amazing physical effort by a tennis player - ranking above pete sampras's epic 3 day marathon to win the davis cup for the USA in moscow.

    to put massu's effort in perspective, he has played 11 matches in the past 8 days - gruelling mentally exhausting encounters. and has been on court for about 25 hours. that level of effort is unbelievable. i myself play a lot of tennis, and i cannot even imagine the exhaustion accompanying that kind of effort - not to mention the physical abuse on the legs by playing on hard courts. the guy had not won a hard court match this year coming to the olympics, never won a major competition, and walked away with the biggest prize of them all, from a field that included federer and roddick. i think that his and gonzales' effort was nothing short of heroic ... as boris becker said : the fifth set in a major competition is all about heart and ceases to be about tennis - and these two chileans, spurred on by a faithful chilean fan contingent certainly showed loads of heart ... and it was quite amazing watching them get their gold ... and seeing the delight as their flags went up ... and their national anthem played ...

    again, all i could think of was ... what a proud moment it would have been to see leander and mahesh there, watching the tricolor listening to jana gana mana .... with no one else likely to bring in a medal, perhaps it will have to wait till beijing ... but then heroes come out of nowhere, perhaps there is an indian athlete who might just fulfil the aspirations of a billion people before the flame is extinguished in athens ...

    Thursday, August 19, 2004

    taking the law in your hands ... is it ok?

    sounds like a cliched dialogue from a hindi movie, doesn't it? kaanoon ko apane haath me.n mat lo blah blah blah ...

    but something lke that happened in nagpur last weekend, when an undertrial (a notorious character charged with 20+ counts of extortion, murder etc.) was lynched to death by a mob comprising mostly of women, while in police custody, and inside a courthouse complex ... i heard the story earlier today eve1ning on NPR's all things considered (click here to hear the story) - it turns out that it was a premeditated attack on the goon ... the 5 women arrested were let out on bail today.

    its true that these folks were quite disillusioned with the justice system and the courts and police .... but it still is murder to just lynch someone in a premeditated attack. i know the obvious reaction - its easy for me to say all this ... i totally agree, but that does that justify killing that thug? if everyone started doing this, it would be anarchy pretty soon ... wonder what others think about this ....

    back ... in olympic style

    i'm back - after an extended hiatus ... been busy lately, and then took a weekend off to cool off on the white sand beaches of the Florida panhandle, enjoying the Gulf shore, while Hurricane Charley ravaged the Florida mainland. thankfully, there was not a cloud in sight or a drop of rain on the gulf coast.

    in the meantime, the olympics are on in full swing, some incredible performances so far - thorpe winning the 200 freestyle, ahead of van den hoogenband (who won the 100 freestyle) and phelps (who won the 200 IM). the US mens' team won a superb race to win the 800m freestyle relay. and yesterday, the american women's relay team smashed the oldest standing record in swimming (800m relay) by more than 2 seconds. a record that has stood for more than 15 years, blown to smithereens just like that .....

    one important reason for these achienvement is new and improved swimsuits that are more than just a necessary. they are designed to aid the swimmer in ways that his body alone cannot provide for. drag reduction, and streamliining are more important than ever before, in today;s ultra competitive swimming events. progress in swimsuit design has been achieved through the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for minimizing drag. Speedo has showcased the latest FASTSKIN FSII suits that mimic the tiny toothlike scales in shark skin, called dermal denticles, that are slanted toward the tail of the shark and help force water flow around its body, thus reducing friction[Courtesy: Christian Science Monitor]. CFD simulations were used to test the suit's drag reduction capabilities. the suits compress the body, and are so tight, that it takes about 10 minutes just to get into one of them. the sport's governing body has ruled that these long-john bodysuits are still aceprable accessories. a prominent example of these new body suits is the 6'5" aussie giant with size-17 shoes: ian thorpe.

    with these advances in swimwear, track and field is not far behind ... with new body suits designed for increased support, ventilation, freedom of movement, and muscle control and guidance. other sports such as rowing are not behind. adidas is also added the clima-cool technology to take the summer heat in greece, and nike's dri-fit technology for removing moisture faster. technology certainly seems to be propeling these athletes to better world records and more frequently at that .....

    and in the mean time, major rajyavardhan rathore has won a silver medal .. india's first of the games, while paes and bhupathi just went out in the semifinals - hopefully, they will atleast be able to get a bronze ....

    i will signoff for today with this quote about the olympic spirit from melville dmello's book about the olympics:

    when one great scorer comes ... to write against your name
    he writes not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game ....

    Saturday, August 07, 2004

    Dutch IPO

    Google's IPO has been announced and may happen as soon as a couple of weeks from now. the use of the "Dutch auction" by Google has been talked about a lot .... i went searching for what exactly it means (see i dont bid on ebay, where i hear its a routine thing).

    here are couple of couple of useful links that explain the process in a simple way:
    bill mann at fool.com - this may perhaps need free registration at fool.com
    WR Hambrecht + Co has a slide show on the open IPO

    check today's fool.com edition for the oops in the google IPO.

    Friday, August 06, 2004

    ported at last .....

    finally got rid of the sidey sprintpcs service - they have horrible coverage in my neck of the woods ... and got what i waited for so long as well - number porting, so the number stays the same - its a pleasant feeling, not having to email out your a number to all the contacts .......

    Thursday, August 05, 2004

    59 ....

    thats how many years its been since the first atom bomb Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima ... and then three days later, Fat Man appeared in Nagasaki - thankfully, there has been nothing since ... touch wood! the early part of this century was supposed to be the golden age of physics - an era that can only perhaps be beaten by the days of Galileo and Newton in terms of the breakthroughs achieved about our understanding of this world - the so called Sturm und Drang period of quantum mechanics .....

    the discovery and development of quantum mechanics as a key to the working of the world has been one of the greatest achievements of man, hopefully it wont be one of the most regrettable.

    on a brigher note, Manindra Agrawal and two of his students at IIT Kanpur, Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena, put forth their new method of determining whether a number is prime or not. here is a link to their original paper that came out two years ago today ...

    Monday, August 02, 2004

    Blogger/w.Bloggar Problems

    when i try to modify the my blogger template using Bloggar - i get this error. is anyone else also facing the same problem?

    this is the following message if i clickd "ok" to the previous one ... i am then forced to log in directly to blogger.com

    Sunday, August 01, 2004

    The Blue Moon was not blue ... unless you consider this next one ...:)

    [the images are blurred because i did not have access to a tripod, nor did i have access to a camera where i could set longer exposures ... ]

    Saturday, July 31, 2004

    a blue moon ...

    today is a blue moon ... if there are things that happen once in a blue moon, today is a good day for all such things to take place .... :)

    check here for what it means ...

    For all Madhuri Dixit fans ....

    here is a picture i got from a friend ... not sure of the source of the picture ... but madhuri sure seems to have slimmed down ... looks as pretty as ever ... the kid's cute as well ... looks like those from the tv ads.

    Friday, July 30, 2004

    cell phone handsets marketshare .... samsung on the move ...

    the bottom line - better products get better demand .... and that is precisely what samsung seems to be proving. i have been using a samsung handset for more than two years now, and currently i am in the market for a new one. there are none that come remotely close, and LG seems to be following similar lines and trying to make samsung clones. motorola comes a distant third in my list - and nokia doesn;t even show up. they just dont seem to have anything better than the phones that are handed out free when you purchase a plan - even the "high end" nokia phones suck! looks, usability, features - nokia phone generally seem quite sidey ....

    the second quarter results just came out - samsung is the hottest name in the list - registering a scorching growth rate. nokia seems to be averting a slide, but its mundane portfolio will cost it if it does not improve (i have seen a lot of folks in india use nokia phones - is that true, or is it just me?) .... and motorola seems to be hanging in there, after a dominant first quarter performance.

    what handsets do you use? and what do you think of them .... ?

    Thursday, July 29, 2004

    cnn telecast ....

    a few hilarious moments at the end of john kerry's speech at the DNC ... the convention organizer's microphone left on ... the guy was screaming for the balloons and confetti to come down ... it was only a matter of time before a prophanity came on air ... and then it came ... reminded me of SIr Humphrey Appleby in The Tangled Web story of The Yes Prime Minister series. Humphrey gives a radio interview to the BBC ... the interview is over ... but the microphone is still on ... and the cabinet secretary Humphrey lets go his mind on unemployment .... and what follows is pretty hilarious too ... and wisecrack bernard's suggestion to humphrey that he issue a press statement expressing sympathy for the unemployed, after all he might be joining them pretty soon!! but humphrey wiggled out of it ... and im pretty sure so will this guy - the organizer of the democratic national convention.

    [UPDATE - i had a glitch posting this one ... posted it on the wrong blog ... duhhhh .... !!!]

    [UPDATE - the news story just came out on this ...]