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 ...]

Monday, July 26, 2004

shifting trends in outsourcing ...??

to quote from a news report on cognizant technologies' dominant second quarter performance:
Reflecting shifting global trends, Cognizant said that it had closed its European facility in Limerick, Ireland, due to higher costs of doing business in Europe tied to the strength of the euro. Europe produced 12 percent of Cognizant revenue.

Cognizant said it would perform the work in North America and India instead. It also said it had opened a facility in Shanghai, China, and had begun recruiting software engineers.
does this suggest a trend ? infy has already setup base in china, while tcs has been there for a bit now - infact china seems to be reducing the gap on india in regard to english speaking deficiencies. are indian companies starting to use china to maintain their margins in the wake of burgeoning costs in india? trying to be a middle man - how long before the clients directly move to shanghai before taking a stopover in bangalore? or i am misinterpreting it - perhaps its only to cater to chinese and far east clients that indian companies are setting up shop in china?

perhaps, i am just jumping the gun ... over-exaggerating ... over-reacting - but i am not a part of the outsourcing industry myself - and rely on the web,press and other media to provide me information that eventually builds my views - and this one says the gap is closing.

vijay diwas ...

its been 5 years since the kargil conflict .... today is vijay diwas - to commemorate those who fought and died in the war ... somehow the slimes of india was one of the very few who carried this news - either that or google news aint as good

i came across a study by the center for contemporary conflict in california - titled Asymmetric Conflict in South Asia --The Cause and Consequences of the 1999 Limited War in Kargil. in addition to a post-facto post mortem of the kargil conflict - this bunch seems to have a particular interest in conflict laden hotspots of the world - one of them being the indo-pak situation .... they do research projects, analyze, have conferences ... reading their website is almost like watching c-span. there is even a thesis from the naval postgraduate school on high altitude warfare in the kargil conflict - a 102 page document ... should make for some interesting reading tonight. the bottom line - after reading these references, there seems to be no question about pakistan's complicity in the whole "intruder" business - unfortunately, there didnt seem to be anything more done about it ....

let us not forget those who fought and died ... to protect our freedom ... here is a link to a special feature on rediff remembering them ...

Sunday, July 25, 2004

return of the sox?

the weekend saw a 3 game series between old rivals the NY yankees and the Boston redsox. friday night was an all too familar sight, with the red sox blowing a 4-1 lead half way with the yankees scoring 5 in the 6th, only to tie it again in the 8th. but we know the story - same old stuff ... a-rod hitting the game winning run in the ninth for a 8-7 win. saturday seemed like the same with the sox down 10-8 when rivera walked in to close it out for the yankees ... but an unbelievable finish - the red sox actually pulled back to win it 11-10 on a 3 run charge on the bottom of the ninth. it was an incredulous game - lots of fists thrown, benches emptying, players ejected ... and ofcourse a 10 run sixth inning - yeah no kidding ... 6 for the yankees and 4 for the sox!!

so it came to the decider on sunday - lots of well known personalities showing up at fenway - including john kerry (local senator, and ofcourse - soon to be nominated presidential candidate at the democratic convention later in boston this week), john glenn, ben affleck (an ardent red sox fan) ... the opening pitch by kerry - quite ugly, someone should have given him more practice!!

but either way ... the red sox powered their way to a 9-2 lead - but you could always sense the comeback - it seemed unavoidable - and when hideki matsui hit a grand slam in the 7th, it seemed like the curse was back ..... the red sox managed to hold on to the lead ... and won 9-6 in the end ... come october lets see if its deja vu :) we all know the curse of the bambino.

other sporting news:
lance armstrong won a record sixth consecutive tour de france ... this fella is just amazing ... his victory was amazing this year - come the mountain stages - you knew what would happen ... was just a matter of time before he showed his alpine superiority.

ricky williams retired! the already sidey dolphins sink further!

india lost to pakistan in the asia cup cricket tournament ...

this blog is probably a better option that or - a vain boast ofcourse :) would love to hear what folks have to sya about that ....

and on this day in 1978 was born Louise Brown - the first test tube baby, while in 1997, K.R. Narayanan was sworn in as the 10th president - the first dalit, a fact unncessarily hyped up so much by the media (esp the western press) - that narayanan's name has simply become synonymous with that fact! a travesty ...

Thursday, July 22, 2004


saw a documentary on man eating leopards of india on the discovery channel. this airs again on july 24. reminds a lot of jim corbett's superb documentation of man-eaters - specifically the man eating leopard of rudraprayag. the documentary also shows the efforts that are underway to identify and rectify the problems - set in the bori national park. some very simple but cool infrared detectors coupled with cameras to identify and photograph the nocturnal cats in the natural setting at night, in order to track the leopards responsible. the problem starts with habitat encroachment, and conflicts with humans living on the park vicinity - putting intense pressure on the ecosystem. i would like to bring up an earlier post about conflict of leopards in the sanjay gandhi national park in mumbai - leopards are instinctively creatures who leave people alone - but the constant conflict with humans lead the leopards to cattle preying - easy prey - later on extending to small kids, generally less than 10 years old - again easy prey. they do become sworn enemies of the people affected who do not spare efforts to kill the culprits - cannot blame them either. hopefully there will be a solution forthcoming ... before its too late ...

π = 22/7

today is pi approximation day - an approximate value for pi being 22/7 - thats the way the date is written in the british format ... of course the actual pi day is march 14 = 3/14 in the US format = 3.14 (widely used value for pi).

as a fine point of interest, the first 64 digits of pi are 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 592 .. .. ..

[i have tried to use < f o n t face="Symbol"> < / f o n t> - tag for writing p in the symbol font - why doesnt it show up that way? still shows up as p .... any suggestions?]

[the "symbol" font works fine on IE - does not with mozilla, netscape, firefox. i have used prashant's suggestion, although it looks quite ugly (again. only on non-IE browsers!)... ]

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

indians hostage ...

three indians were among 6 hostages taken in iraq - here is the picture - amid threats to behead them if their nations do not withdraw their citizens. india does not have troops in iraq, looks like civilians are unwelcome too. from what i have read, a lot of indians do low level jobs for the US military - truck drivers, contractors, cooks, menial help etc.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

a memorable day ....

today is the 35th anniversary of the first landing on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Edwun 'Buzz' Aldrin, who, along with Michael Collins formed the crew of Apollo 11. The mission was launched on July 16, 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Neil Armstrong's words echoed through the world after he landed on the moon:
That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
The Saturn V rocket that took the astronauts to the moon was developed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, right across the street from where I work. In fact, there is a giant Saturn V standing at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, located right outside NASA Marshall - today is its glory day ... a proud one for Wernher Von Braun, who was director of NASA Marshall during those years, and one of the pioneers of rocket science.

The moon landing has always been a source of fascination for us - Herge wrote about Tintin's visit to the moon in Explorers on the Moon - more than a decade before there was a moon expedition - a rivetting adventure story and some pretty scientifically accurate stuff. And of course, there are those who believe its the biggest hoax of them all:
If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool.
- R.E.M (Man on the moon - from Automatic for the People)
Apollo 13 became famous because of the failure to make it to the moon, but the successful return of the astronauts - its one thing to have your car break down in the middle of nowhere, but a totally different thing for your rocket to break down two-thirds of the way to the moon! Houston, we've had a problem has been frequently misquoted as Houston, we have a problem. The movie was a great effort IMHO, and the IMAX version was cool too - it was awesome watchign the lauch on IMAX. As NASA renews its vision to resume human space exploration, one cannot help but remember Tom Hanks' (as Jim Lovell) final dialogue from Apollo 13
I look up at the moon, and wonder: When will we be going back? And who will that be?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

ICC holding India to ransom ...

the ICC has warned that India may not get host ICC events including the Champions Trophy in 2006, if the tax laws are not amended. This means that we either bite the bullet and exempt cricket events from the appropriate taxes by making exceptions or forego the opportunity to host events. in my opinion, cricket is not a sport made in heaven, that it should be accorded special treatment by the government. its not even the national sport - so if there is going to be a change, it should be a real change in tax laws (and i cannot comment on whether that is good or not, since i dont know it). there is infact a third option, what if india refuses to comply and play in ICC events? from what i understand, about 60% of cricket's revenue comes from India - wouldnt the ICC want to not lose that by losing out on India participating in events? what is the policy on teams from other countries touring india? doesnt the ICC (or say the BCCI) pay taxes on income from those tours?

the ICC's obsession with money (a lot of which comes from indian consumers) might have more drama yet to unfold ...

skewed sex ratios

i was watching CNN's "in the money" earlier today - they had a feature who's description reads "Many countries are now seeing a scary population imbalance with boys outnumbering girls by a widening margin. Find out why this is a dangerous trend." - referring to skewed sex ratios in the two most populous countries in the world - China and India. The basis for this story is a recent book co-authored by a professor of political science at BYU named Valerie Hudson titled "Bare Branches - here is a review of the book by The Wall Street Journal. this ties in with earlier posts on Atanu Dey's Deeshaa blog on the issue of population control. There was a particular post in which Atanu points out that neglect of the female child is worse than the abortion of a female foetus simply for reasons that it is female.

hudson seems to be talking mostly of china and not india (although some of the arguments do apply - i have myself not read the book, but am relying on hudson's interview in the CNN program and the WSJ review of the book. enforcing of the "single child" policy has resulted in couples who are more eager for a son choosing to abort foetuses if they are female (india seems to be no different). the reasons for favoring a male offspring over a female one are primarily social, influenced by economic factors - the reasons that the WSJ review describes seem to be very similar to those prevailing in india. that this domination of numbers by males will lead to a propensity of violence through "gang formation" sounds a bit hokey. but here is what the rediff article says can result due to an imbalance:
What of those, though, who can't find a bride?

With high unemployment in the north and frustrated young men hanging around street corners, more crimes against women are being committed.

'Violence against women is rising. We'll have more unnatural practices, such as brothers sharing a wife. In a few years, no woman will be safe. There will be abductions and rapes, even of minors. Even married women won't be safe,' says Dr B S Dahiya, a government official in Haryana who is battling illegal sex determination tests.
how then can the skewness be mended - or further skewing controlled? is an increase in education level changing ages old social beliefs and practices about male and female offsprings? i am not quite sure .....

Friday, July 16, 2004

education issues ...

[i started this post about 3 days ago, finally got around to finishing it]
Niket talks about the need to bring about the need to move away from an exam-centric system, which seems to focus attention on training children to beat the exam system rather than giving them an education that will train them to "think" and give an opportunity to explore their potential. i have tried to give some thought to what might help change this - somehow i end up thinking more with a college student in mind rather than one in primary or high school. but take college education for instance - colleges are forced to stick to a single examination system administered by the university to which they are affiliated. the sheer scale (# of students, for example) at which this is done almost forces it to be a system wherein a student tries to beat the "exam". would things have been any different had the college been administering its own examinations? perhaps, if there was a manageable number of students (like say in an engineering college, where each discipline - EE, ME etc, have a limited number of students, say 60-70). this is the system prevalent in most universities in the US. given a particular syllabus, the teacher would be forced to make sure that most of it is actually taught in class, and the students would be assured that they would be graded on a relative scale with respect to their peers, in a manner that would be fair - atleast in the ideal world - where one would expect that the teacher-student connection would take on a more important role. it could allow the teachers to challenge the students to think - and force teachers to think as well (perhaps that was missing too/?).

giving colleges more autonomy certainly has its merits. but in a country like india, the advantages disappear quickly because of abuse of the privilege. one would have private colleges controlled by the political establishment, and thereby churning out a series of graduates, who might have gone through an incompetent education system (represented by their autonomous colleges) instead of a better (albeit incompetent nevertheless) system currently prevailing, where atleast the varsity wide exams force some semblance of order in the system.

The Seattle chapter of ASHA has been conducting a review of the syllabus of 5th and 6th grades schools in gujarat - trying to help fix it. The bottom line of the study was that content and quality wise the books that we have reviewed are extremely poor. A significant observation is the promotion of stereotypes in social studies textbooks. Check the summary to get an idea. Hopefully the recommendations of the report will be implemented. The ASHA chapter is sending a signed petition to the Education Dept. and Chief Minister of Gujarat trying to demand a revamp of the syllabus. One might think - what good is this petition going to do/? They will just trash it - so they very will might. But only after it goes on record that such a petition was submitted. Its the democratic process in action. please do spare a minute or two to sign it. eventually, the government will actually act on it.

[on reading this post, i find tht its absolutely out of whack, ideas drifting like crazy - that is what happens when you do not complete the post when you have a clear train of thought. its almost impossible to regain the thread]

jersey # and cricket

check this article in the ToI talking about the relevance of numerology in determining the jersey numbers of indian cricketers - and their influence on cricketing performance. Jersey number lets Sachin down! - so says some numerology expert sanjay jumaani ....

if the jersey number was all it took to win matches - we would have won everything in sight with the astrology and numerology expertise that exists in india. perhaps we have not done so yet, because we may have hired the wrong numerologists for the team - who perhaps picked the wrong numbers (e.g. 10 for sachin tendulkar) and incurred the wrath of "shani" :) - the article provided some humor on an otherwise dull friday afternoon.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The happiest days of our lives

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Photoblog up and running

posting photos i n this blog was starting to muddle up the page. i decided to start a separate photoblog - blogger currently does not have a direct way of posting files using the "free" interface - but allows this to be done using clients such as hello.

the photoblog is up and running and can be found here. i checked with blogger support - there is no limit as of now on the number of posts (i.e. seems like there is no quota for the photoblog either :)

Sunday, July 11, 2004

2 months later ...

its been two months today since i started the blog with this post. its been about 50 posts and 1300+ hits in this time ... some come here because they know me, others stopped from google and yahoo searches, and few others show up here from time to time simply as a means of getting snippets of trivia, which they enjoy finding out about - but would not have bothered to find out on their own. i, myself have been surprised that i have managed to keep it going this long. its been only two months, but seems much longer than that. i was sure i would give up on blogging after a week or so .... but thanks to prashant and niket for keeping my enthu level up.

not to mention the fact that i got introduced to a whole host of other interesting blogs and bloggers, and the living in india network. they probably make better reading than a lot of newspapers.

lets see how long this enthu continues ... so far so good ....

Friday, July 09, 2004

some convictions .... and some evictions

its been more than 11 years (march 12, 1993) since the bomb blasts in mumbai, but the indian justice system slowly seems to have worked its way around to convicting the accused. the big fish however continue to be sheltered abroad ... still far away from justice.

while come are being convicted for crimes they committed, others are being evicted for crimes they did not commit - i m referring to the leopards in mumbai's sanjay gandhi national park. for years, there has been sustained encroachment on the leopard's habitat by urban settlements. now the problems are rearing their head - the leopards are getting out of their habitat and into the human settlements, and ofcourse the eternal conflict - maulings, attacks and so on ... and the leopards have to be captured. but whats worse is that the government, instead of saying that they will remove the illegal settlements, is saying that there are too many leopards, and will bring their numbers down by relocating them to other forests. while some of the reasons do seem genuine, the fact remains that they have lost considerable ground to urbanization, and it is the illegal structures in the park that needs to go, not the leopards (atleast not so many of them). mumbai needs this big chunk of green to maintain a balance for all the other urban problems it faces.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

once in a blue moon ....

july 2, 2004 is a full moon day - in the hindu calendar, its more famous as "guru purnima " .... but so what ... it comes every year, and goes ... whats the big deal about it? the big deal is not this full moon night, but the one that will come on july 31, 2004. it is the second full moon night this month and is therefore known as a blue moon. this is the definition of a blue moon (quoted from the infoplease site):
a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. For a blue moon to occur, the first of the full moons must appear at or near the beginning of the month so that the second will fall within the same month (the average span between two moons is 29.5 days). July 2004 will have two full moons: the first on July 2, the second on July 31—that second full moon is called the blue moon
this certainly is not a common occurence - that explains the term "once in a blue moon". the next time a calendar month is going to have two full moon nights will be in june 2007.

there is one more definition, this one is a little more complicated (again quoting from infoplease)
the blue moon is the third full moon in a season that has four full moons ....
... It has to do with the Christian ecclesiastical calendar. Some years have an extra full moon—thirteen instead of twelve. Since the identity of the moons was important in the ecclesiastical calendar (the Paschal Moon, for example, used to be crucial for determining the date of Easter), a year with a thirteenth moon skewed the calendar, since there were names for only twelve moons. By identifying the extra, thirteenth moon as a blue moon, the ecclesiastical calendar was able to stay on track.
This is referred to in the HIndu calendar as an 'adhik maas' (additional month) - actually i am guessing that the adhik maas refers to this. i will try to confirm this info. but nevertheless, this is quite rare too. it will occur in august 2005, and then only in may 2008.

yet, this does not seem to be the origin of the "blue moon" phrase. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first reference to a blue moon comes from a proverb recorded in 1528:

If they say the moon is blue, We must believe that it is true.

i am not sure about that but check this out: the month of feb has 28 days, while the moon cycle is 29.5 - all other calendar months have a longer duration. so it is quite likely for both jan and march to have two full moons (double blue moon in a year!) and february get totally left out - and have no full moon at all .... that is going to occur next only in 2018, and then in 2037 - truly a once in a blue moon

the curse lives on ....

i have never quite been a yankees fan - for that matter, i have never even been a chicago bulls fan during the jordan years or a dallas cowboys fan during the 90s or the lakers in the kobe-shaq era. guess i am just the type who either favors the pittsburgh steelers, the pirates, penguins, pitt panthers or the underdog. ever since i started watching baseball, the boston red sox have always been the underdog in any game against the yankees. there kept coming up talk about a curse .... and although i vaguely knew something about a trade of babe ruth from the red sox to the yankees early last century, i never quite bothered to find out what exactly the deal was.

i had seen the yankees defeat the red sox after pedro martinez choked in the 7 th innings of game 7 of last year's ALCS after pitching so well early on ... and it was all yankees after that inning, when everyone started accumulating base hit after base hit. the same story today. the red sox had a 2-0 lead into the 7th inning, after which david ortiz at first base saw in horror as the ball passed through his glove - it was clear that the curse was still around. and those damn yankees, once they smell blood, they never look back. sheffield's hit got them the lead, and with rivera to close out the game, it was a no brainer - the yankees prevailed 4-2 eventually. but as chris burman pointed out on espn, this game will be remembered when the season is analyzed later ....

in this context, i went and tried to find out what the curse of the bambino really is, and here is what i found (ironically, from the blog of a red sox fan):
In 1918 the Red Sox won their 5th World Series, the most by any club at that time. One of the stars of the Boston championship franchise was a young pitcher by the name of George Herman Ruth, aka The Babe or The Bambino. In 1920, however, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed money to finance his girlfriend's play, so he sold Babe Ruth's contract to Colonel Jacob Ruppert's New York Yankees for $100,000 (plus a loan collateralized by Fenway Park). Since then, the Yankees, who had never won a World Championship before acquiring Ruth, have gone on to win 26, and are arguably one of the greatest success stories in the history of sport. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox have appeared in only four World Series since 1918, losing each one in game seven. Many consider Boston's performance after the departure of Babe Ruth to be attributable to "The Curse of the Bambino."
ofcourse there seems to be plenty of evidence to support the conspiracy theory of a curse. ofcourse, that might have been the reason why ben affleck and jennifer lopez finally called it quits - what with him being a huge fan of the suffering red sox and bronx girl lopez reserving her affections for the bronx based yankees. again, its the red sox who get dumped in the end .... :) the curse certainly is for real !!!

[UPDATE: CORRECTION - the yankee comeback in game 7 of the ALCS began in the 8 inning (not the 7th as i have stated above) - to tie the game from a 5-2 deficit - and win it with a leadoff home run from aaron boone in the 11th.

on a related note, chicago cubs fans are more than familiar with the curse of the billy goat - more than evident last year in game when the cubs post season dreams unravelled after a fan Steve Bartman snatched a ball that the cubs' Moises Alou was all set to catch. ofcourse, it was a case of the choking cubs and the spirited marlins - no curse .... however boring baseball may seem in april, it certainly picks it up when october draws near ... ]