Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mr. Remi - I am Steven ...

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson will be directing'Tintin' movies!! It seemed they signed a deal to make 3 Tintin animated movies - with Spielberg and Jackson each directing one, and the details of the third one yet to be decided. In case you are wondering who Mr. Remi is - he is Georges Remi (more commonly known as Hergé )

I have been a Tintin fan since my childhood, and am definitely looking forward to seeing the finished product. Jackson's special effects company Weta Digital will be providing the animation for the movies.

If the Lord of the Rings Trilogy is any indication, this should be a classic - same goes without saying when you look at Spielberg's resume. I can't wait to see Captain Haddock scream "Billions of blue bilious blistering barnacles in a thundering typhoon".

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Fielding was not important till this happened

Cricket was out of sight, out of mind - till the World Cup came along. It became useless again after India lost - now the drama shifts to the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai as the BCCI figures out what next.

In the meantime though, I started scouring YouTube for videos of the cricket matches gone by - and some great gems turned up.

No one knew Jonty till he blew out the stumps ...

This one made him a fielding legend.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tendulkar vs Chappell

Indian cricket is in turmoil - the debacle at the World Cup, a shameful premature exit, and now reports of a deep divide between the captain/coach (Dravid/Chappell) duo and the rest of the team that seems to have reached a point of no return. I personally believe that senior players like Tendulkar need to be let go - trust me, I enjoy watching Tendulkar just as much as anyone else, but this is getting to be too much. Now, when Chappell criticizes Tendulkar for not pulling his weight, Tendulkar reponds saying the coach is going to far. Some player went so far as to say,
"Does he understand the pressure Tendulkar is playing under before he
questions his fitness or attitude? .... Remember one thing, coaches come and go, but the boys are what is important. We have to play with each other through our careers."

Now I take exception to that - I agree that I cannot imagine how much pressure Tendulkar plays under - but then thats his job. He is not getting paid millions to just be a poster-boy for Airtel or whatever other brands he endorses. He is getting paid because he can get to the crease and score, and millions of Indians still believe he can. Thats no shield for not questioning his lack of performance. Either he is too old - in which case he should retire. If its not old age, and he is still not performing, its either his attitude or his fitness. And the idea that coaches come and go is ridiculous - it is the one of the biggest problems with Indian cricket - senior players permanently occupying spots in the team, despite a lack of performance. Lesser names would have long disappeared. The idea that boys are more important is ridiculous - you are professionals, be mature, grow up and perform!!

Compare that to professional athletes in sports like football in the US or even baseball - such statements will be looked upon as ridiculous. Non-performing athletes are cut as are non-performing coaches - as long as its clear who's non-performing. And in case of the Indian team, I don't think its the coach - its the players. So they are the ones who I hope will go, and give Mr. Chappell one more shot.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Gavaskar v/s Ponting

India lost to Bangladesh today ... that certainly was rock bottom as far as World Cup aspirations go for India. On another note, a storm has been quietly brewing in the days leading up to the World Cup. Gavaskar's outburst against the Aussies and their on-field behavior provoked Ponting's predictable response about the famous Gavaskar walk-off from the field (1981 at the MCG) - certainly the low point of Gavaskar's illustrious career.

But things have gone one step too far - with Gavaskar bringing in the fact that David Hookes died of injuries suffered in a bar, an apparent example of the fact that the Aussies' off-field activities could land them in hot water. I was all with Gavaskar about the sledging and the taunting by the Aussies on-field - but that was just too tangential, off-track and downright personal and dirty. Certainly not a smart thing to say, and no surprise that it has come in from condemnation from Aussie cricketers.

Greg Baum uses these episodes to highlight the East-West divide in his article in the Australian newspaper The Age. Baum correctly argues - "Gavaskar invoked the late Hookes' name needlessly, carelessly and tactlessly. It did not belong in this dialogue." He also points out that such rhetoric can also bring forth extreme reactions from the public like someone calling in a radio program in Australia asking that Gavaskar's name be removed from the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The East-West divide is exemplified by his concluding remark:
Former Australian prime minister and cricket enthusiast Robert Menzies wrote once that Englishmen and Australians were of such like minds that "thankfully, we don't have to be too tactful". Between Indians and Australians, it is not so simple.
The World Cup is well and truly underway - and if the Aussies win again, with India perhaps not even making it to the Super 8 stage, it will be a needless point used in the above argument.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Beer launcher

The ultimate weapon in a couch potato's armory - an robotic arm that extracts a drink from a fridge and propels it to your seat on the couch! A Duke University graduate has created just that - an automated way of extracting a beer can from his fridge and tossing it to him. This includes an elevator to bring the can out of the refrigerator before loading it into the catapult. The beer launcher is pretty darn cool and is sure getting some good publicity for its inventor John Cornwell.

Check out this video of the Beer Launcher

One thing I admire - the hands on skill of this guy! I have been to engineering school in India, but being hands-on is not a skill that is cultivated - at least not through the school curriculum (or perhaps the way it is enforced). The school system here in the US is quite good at encouraging this ...

Leonardo da Vinci would certainly have been proud of Mr. Cornwell.


The onion has a pretty neat article about Apple's latest new and revolutionary offering:
At a highly anticipated media event Tuesday at San Francisco's Moscone Center, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced a new Apple product he said would "revolutionize" the process of unveiling new products throughout the world.
About the new product (called iLaunch), Jobs said that it "will be able to make announcements from this, or any other stage, making human participation in generating consumer awareness almost entirely unnecessary." But what he concluded with really took the audience by storm
As his presentation wound down, Jobs said there was "one more thing" he wanted to mention: the iLaunch automatically saves a significant, salient product feature for the end of a presentation, to surprise and delight audiences.

"Do you want to know what the surprise of this unveiling is?" said Jobs to the eagerly nodding crowd. "The iLaunch itself generated this entire presentation, as well as this very surprise."
If you found the whole thing weird and hilarious, its because it is. Self-referencing can make things complicated as well as interesting. And when I showed the article to my brother (who is a fan of The Onion), he was immediately reminded of Godel, Escher and Bach, and had this to say
The Onion is entering "Godel, Escher, Bach" self-referential territory... i guess they could also have added that iLaunch also automatically generates news reports in satirical journals that closely mimic actual news reports, and in fact, that particular report was itself generated by iLaunch...

For the first time the "i" really means "I", as in "I launch myself" as opposed to "iLaunch launches iLaunch".
If all this sounds confusing, it is indeed that way (ask Bernard Wooley).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.

- H. W. Longfellow (The Ladder of St. Augustine)

200 years ago ....

200 years ago on this day (Feb 27, 1807) was born one of the greatest American poets - certainly one of my all time favorites - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

In his memory, here is one of my favorites ...

A Psalm of Life
H.W. Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.


There are other favorites too ofcourse - but this one is by far at the top of the list ...

Monday, February 26, 2007

New blog - apnafinance

Just started a new blog a couple of days ago called apnafinance. While its still a solo effort so far, I hope that it will be a collaborative effort with a few more friends actively participating.

I envision the blog to be a common way to share thoughts and experiences about personal finance, stock research, investing, economy, India, outsourcing, and other related issues. I often get into discussions with a few friends over one or more of these topics. So I figured it would be a good idea to consolidate some of these at one location. The name apnafinance may not universally fit everything that is added there, additional blogs may get created as needed.

Friday, February 23, 2007

hours v/s business hours

Yesterday, I was on the phone with a call center representative of my bank. I asked for a change to be made on my account, and she replied that she would be glad to take care of it for me. And once she put in the request, it would show up on my account in less than 72 business hours. So I politely inquired if she meant 9 business days? She 'corrected' me by saying that it turns out to be 3 business days. I decided not to push the topic further and let that be. Then I asked for another change - she made that change, and again added that it would get done in 72 business hours.

At that point, I couldn't help but smile at the situation and thanked her for the help and hung up. All I can hope for is that she realizes the difference soon, and that she is not based in India (she didn't sound like she was - I can tell when the call center is in India, because no non-desi can pronounce my name exactly the way it is supposed to be!).

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cigarette smoking? no problem ... drink chai

A bunch of Bengalis hypothesized that the oxidative stress caused by cigarette smoke could be countered by the antioxidants from black tea. So in order to test this hypothesis, they exposed guinea pigs to cigarette smoke from five cigarettes (two puffs/cigarette) per guinea pig /day for seven days [Yes, in exactly that amount!] and then gave them water or black tea to drink. As a control, they had another bunch of guinea pigs exposed to air instead of cigarette smoke. They measured the lung damage caused by the exposure.

They observed that cigarette smoke exposure indeed caused lung damage (surprise surprise ...!!), and not only that - the damage was prevented when the guinea pigs exposed to cigarette smoke were given black tea to drink instead of water.

Conclusion - lung damage from cigarette smoke can be prevented by drinking chai ...

The results have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Inflammation.

Black tea prevents cigarette smoke-induced apoptosis and lung damage
Shuvojit Banerjee , Palas Maity , Subhendu Mukherjee , Alok K. Sil , Koustubh Panda , Dhrubajyoti Chattopadhyay and Indu B. Chatterjee
J. Inflammation 4(3) , 2007, doi:10.1186/1476-9255-4-3

Newsflash: Major tobacco companies just announced strategic partnerships with Tata Tea and Hindustan Lever to market cigarettes with genuine Darjeeling and Assam tea that will prevent lung damage.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Novartis v/s the Government of India

In my freshman year in college, i had a course on "Perspectives in Society, Science and Technology". It was essentially an introduction to the social and ethical ramifications related to the technology as I started on getting a Chemical Engineering education. It dealt with situations such as pollution, plastics, DDT, cleaner pesticides, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, severe mercury poisoning of Minamata Bay in Japan, the Bhopal disaster, and last, but not the least, the far reaching implications of the Indian Patent Act of 1970. The law had far reaching consequences for the Indian pharmaceutical industry. According to the law:
In the case of inventions-

(a) claiming substances intended for use, or capable of being used, as food or as medicine or drug, or
(b) relating to substances prepared or produced by chemical processes (including alloys, optical glass, semi-conductors and inter-metallic compounds),

no patent shall be granted in respect of claims for the substances themselves, but claims for the methods or processes of manufacture shall be patentable

In other words, this act prevented issuance of product patents in India for pharmaceuticals and drugs, while only processes to make drugs could be patented. This led to the development of India's formidable generics industry, which could reverse engineer manufacturing processes with remarkable efficiency, without having to spend billions to discover the drugs - today, this industry is led by Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Ranbaxy and Cipla.

While the act ensured that pharma industry in India was sheltered from the fierce competition from big pharma worldwide, India's entry to the WTO has changed all that. The WTO entry has resulted in the adoption of a new Indian Patent Act in 2005 - one which was supposed to spur the generics driven pharma sector from reverse engineering to innovation. While the rise in prices of new drugs was anticipated, it turns out that the new patent act seems to be very carefully designed to take into account the socio-economic situation in india and tries to enforce a lot of protections for the common individual to prevent big bad pharma from coming in and exploiting him. Kudos to the Indian government for ensuring this. I was not aware of this ...

In the aftermath of the new patent act has risen another controversy. Currently in the eye of this storm is the situation with Novartis' drug Glivec, which was denied a patent by the Indian Patent Office. The reason given was that the law does not allow patents for marginally modified drugs, which do not constitute a novel molecule or original invention. In response, Novartis has challenged the ruling and filed litigation against the Govt of India saying that some of the provisions of the new patent act be scrapped, because they violate WTO rules. Indian generic manufacturers are already selling generic versions of the drug at 10% of the price that Novartis was charging for Glivec.

Novartis has certainly stirred up a major situation, given how much the indian generics have managed to impact the availability of low cost drugs in third world economies. In fact - Indian generics companies supply 84% of the AIDS drugs that Doctors without Borders uses to treat 60,000 patients in more than 30 countries. Given this situation, its going to be very interesting (and important) to see how the judgement comes out in this case. The New England Journal of MEdicine has a very good 'Perspective' article on this - its a very good 'plain English' discussion on the situation. This issue has drawn a lot of attention in the pharmaceutical industry and among lawmakers around the world. US Congressman Henry Waxman wrote to the Novartis CEO Dr. Daniel Vasella saying “I do not dispute your right to apply for a patent or appeal a denial. I am concerned, however, that your attempt to influence domestic Indian law could have a severe impact on worldwide access to medicines.” He concluded his letter by urging Vasella, “to reconsider your position in this case.” He highlights the critical role played by the Indian generics industry in providing low cost drugs to the entire developing world, and making health care more affordable to a large number of people.

The case brings to the forefront an important issue - the role of governments in trying to protect the interests of their people seemingly in conflict with their role in driving innovation and development through the protection of intellectual property. Another fact highlighted is the strategy tried by large corporations to ensure that they reach their profit goals even at any cost, irrespective of the consequences. While I have clearly come across as a socialist in this matter, I don't quite disagree with Novartis' right to get appeal their patent denial or even the claim from pharma cos. that IPR protection is needed to spur innovation and improvements in treatments. I am actually quite supportive of the position that Waxman has taken about Novartis' challenge to the Indian law itself. I would however be quite keen to know how folks feel about this issue in general - esp Indians working in the pharma industry in the US.

The progress of the Novartis vs the Govt of India case will be closely watched all over the world, and the outcome will certainly have far reaching consequences on the future availability of low cost pharmaceuticals. I bet this will certainly be discussed in the "Perspectives in Society, Science and Technology" course for several years to come.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


About 6 months have passed since the last post on this blog. A lot of things have happened since, and I really mean a lot. These include
  • Its a new year ...
  • Federer has won another Grand Slam ... this time without dropping a set (he also won last year's Tennis Masters' Cup in Shanghai - giving James Blake a quickie tennis lesson)
  • I had a two month long trip to India ...
  • The BSE Sensex went up and down past 14000 a few times, the Dow has also had a few record breaking finishes
  • Saddam Hussain executed
  • Died - Milton Friedman, Rosa Parks,
  • Google bought YouTube for $1.65B
  • Rumsfeld is out of the Iraq situation
  • Shane Warne retired
  • Payton Manning actually won the Super Bowl
  • A new Windows OS was released - Vista; not only that, Microsoft finally came out the with IE 7
  • An iPhone was showcased by Jobs
  • Blogger has improved, and the blogs at blogger can be assigned tags now!! hear hear ...
If there have been more interesting events, I don't deny it ... these are the ones that seemed interesting at first glance (source Wikipedia of course!). But suffices to say that I plan to post a bit more regularly now ... let's see how things actually pan out ... after all, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip!