Saturday, December 29, 2007

Google invades your privacy...and you are surprised?

Everybody stumbles in figuring out what is the right set of "social networking" features. Its scarier with Google because it holds so much of your information.

Google Reader introduced a feature recently which shares your shared blog subscription items with everyone in your google talk list. The slashdot discussion is here. I am glad I never switched to Google Reader from Bloglines. Its good to sometimes not be over zealous in adding half-baked "features".

Friday, December 28, 2007

Taare Zameen Par - A Review

2007 was marked with mostly usual (read crappy) unremarkable masala movies in bollywood, some small budget movies with substance but the only one that also got audience revved up was King Khan, Shah Rukh's "Chak De India"...Well, until Aamir Khan's "Taare Zameen Par" was released in December. It not only met but also exceeded my expectations. The subject of the movie was very apt for the current state of our Indian society. It shows how parents, in the race of making sure their kids achieve the best in every field, forget that every kid is different. They are not to be treated like race horses. The movie says that these individual stars, have their own way of learning, and if special attention is not paid to their individual needs, these stars might get lost in this world.

The Plot in brief

The story revolves around younger brother, Ishaan, of an over-achieving older brother. Ishaan is dyslexic but the people around him don't seem to get the pattern and think of him as a duffer, an idiot. Thinking that boarding school is the right "treatment" for his under achievements in the school, his parents send him away. Aamir, the substitute art teacher, identifies his learning disability and works with him to overcome that hurdle.

The topic is very delicately handled with much attention paid to every detail. The music, composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and written by Prasoon Joshi, just propels the movie forward and absolutely captures the mood. The movie shows an important message for every parent without being didactic. The story is written by Amole Gupte and the editor of the movie is his wife, Deepa Bhatia. Darsheel Safary, who plays dyslexic Ishaan, has done a praiseworthy role.

The beginning part of the movie shows the school life in India, which I am sure, everyone who has grown up in India will be able to identify with. The movie gripped me from the beginning to the end and I was touched by the story. Hats off to the first time director Aamir Khan.
It is a must-watch.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Site closed due to heavy traffic

Happy Halloween Friends.

This year Castro Halloween party was declared DOA by SF Chronicle. It used to be a great party and I have been there a few times in last few years during Halloween. Hundreds of thousands of people would come down to Castro in various different innovative and ready made costumes. It was fun to watch. It was more fun to go dressed up as someone. It is a time when you get creative and figure out what you would go to the party as. I have been a 70s Disco man with Afro, a Kung-fu master with Ming dynasty hat, Dumbledore (Stuthi was an Egyptian princess), Caesar (Stuthi was Cleopatra), a Rastafarian, and Zorro(Stuthi was a bat girl). You can see some of my pics here.

No matter how much fun it was, many a times in these last few years, it did get out of hand. It was too difficult for the police to control such a big crowd of drunken revelers. People started avoiding it for fear of getting groped by few bad apples. The ruckus that outsiders created was too much to handle for the people living there.

However, the businesses, hotel chains, restaurants, pizza corners, bars, and costume shops must have made a killing while the party lasted. The city must have benefited from the real life user traffic. I can't help but draw a parallel to the online world. If the traffic increases, it is now considered good for the business. Since Google has figured out a way to monetize traffic, the rush to get the online traffic has increased again. There are many businesses who are going through a crazy growth period and many businesses are helping them scale. I guess there was no Amazon Web Services in the real life which could help San Francisco scale its operation so that it could benefit from the increased foot traffic. Can you imagine how much drunk people can spend on cold night in San Francisco when they are thirsty and hungry? Over and above the parking fees and public transport/taxi fees they could be collecting.

Oh well, for now, some of the castro citizens who were unhappy with the clean-up got the quiet halloween they had hoped for and deserved.

For now, the site is closed due to heavy traffic.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Where is my North Pole dude!!

It is a well known fact that the earth's magnetic field protects us from Sun's solar flares and harmful radiations. It also gives us our North Pole and South Pole. So, if anything happens to this magnetic field, it would be quite catastrophic, right? Not quite. Pratik, my brother-in-law, said last weekend that the earth's polarity is changing. I google'd about this and found this lesser known amazing fact about the earth and its magnetic field.

Our geomagnetic field has existed for about 3 Billion years. The dipole polarity of this magnetic field has switched many times in the history since then. There is no rhythm or set pattern. The interval between the switch is not constant, but observed mean time between polarity switch has been roughly 200,000 - 300,000 years. The individual reversal events take about few thousand years. The last reversal took place about 750,000 years ago. So, does this mean that such a reversal of polarity is due sometime soon? Nobody knows because there is no set pattern that we know of.

At any time, the magnetic field is either getting stronger or weaker. According to Gary Glatzmaier, University of California professor, the magnetic field has been 10% weaker compared to the 19th century. Even then, the current dipole moment, the measure of intensity of the magnetic field, is 8.0 x 1022 amps x m2, twice that of million-year average intensity of 4.0 x 1022 amps x m2.

The poles are not constant either. Every few years, scientists travel to the frigid north pole to find the exact location of the magnetic north pole. Our north pole has traveled 100s of miles since the first time it was discovered by James Ross in 1831.
So, this means we are probably in the process of switching our polarity. During this time of transition, the strength of the magnetic field could wane, but it will never disappear. Many mini poles could pop up in various odd locations. The north pole could show up on top of Tahiti. It sure will be weird but it would be cool to be able to see northern lights in your shorts.

For further reading, read this article on NASA's website. It also has lots of great relavant links at the bottom of the page.

Image from:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sick of iPhone adticles (sic) in NYtimes

One, yes there are more than one today, article in NYTimes starts thus:

Talk about hype. In the last six months, Apple’s iPhone has been the subject of 11,000 print articles,

10,569 in the NYTimes

and it turns up about 69 million hits on Google.

68 million of these, lead you back to the NYTimes website

Cultists are camping out in front of Apple stores;

Most of these "cultists" are NYTimes employees, hence NYTimes is getting its reporting done by outsourcing the writing of its articles

bloggers call it the “Jesus phone.” All of this before a single consumer has even touched the thing.


I am really sick and tired of reading these fluffy-nothing-more-than-an-ad-posing-as-an-article articles in NYTimes. I read NYTimes to get my news, not the hype. I think NYTimes has the credibility so far that if it tells me once that the iPhone is hyped, I will believe it. It doesn't need to report it everyday and sometimes, like today, multiple times.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Abida sings Kabir

कबीर का एक और दोहा सुना तो ब्लोग करने का मन किया

पाषाण से हरी मिले, तो पूजुं पहाड़
तां ते तो चक्की भली, पिस खाए संसार ।

Heard this in a song from Abida's CD in which she sings Kabir's dohas in a sufi style. The CD also contains little bit of voice over by Gulzar. I highly recommend this. The songs are very soothing and the wisdom in Kabir's words is just सोने पे सुहागा.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Microsoft....catching up?

Microsoft was left far behind in the web world and it is trying to do what it does best, catch up. At least in the space. Checkout the Live Maps and you will see Google Earth like product embeded in the browser. You have to install a 3D-plugin like software but once installed you can control the 3D view of buildings like you would in the Google Earth.

Also, the game Flexicon is a neat mixture of crossword and their new search engine.

It will probably not develop Google Docs like product to compete with its own Office but I am sure it will make the Office complementary to some online document management service. I haven't seen the full version of Office 2007 to say how this will play out.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Name The World's Hottest Chilli

You probably would say Habanero. Not even close!! The spiciness of any chilli, or chilli peppers as is known in these United States, is measured in SHU which is Scoville Heat Units. More details about what SHU is and which method is used today to measure the spiciness could be obtained from here. In recent tests done by the Chili Pepper Institute the spiciest chilli was found to be Naga Jolokia Bhut Jolokia also called Bih Jolokia or Naga Morich from Assam, India. The regular Habanero chilli is at 100,000 to 300,000 SHU, Bhut Jolokia crossed the 1,000,000 SHU mark. It broke the record previously held by California's Red Savina at 577,000 SHUs. The chemical compound Capasaicin, which gives the chillies its heat, is measured to be 16,000,000 SHU.

Most people are reduced to tears at 300,000 SHUs.

For your reference, here are the rough figures of all the various chillies.

Chilli NameUnits (in SHU)
Naga Morich970,000 SHU
Naga Jolokia850,000 SHU
Red Savina350,000 to 577,000 SHU
Habanero's & Scotch Bonnet's100,000 to 350,000 SHU
Chiletepins, Thai & Birds Eye50,000 to 150,000 SHU
Piquin, Cayenne, Tabasco & Rocoto30,000 to 50,000 SHU
De Arbol, Aji's & Shipkas15,000 to 30,000 SHU
Serrano5,000 to 15,000 SHU
Jalapeno, Mirasol & Hot Wax2,500 to 5,000 SHU
Anaheim, Rocotillo, Sandia & Cascabel1,500 to 2,500 SHU
Ancho, Pasilla, Mulato & Espanola1,000 to 1,500 SHU
Cherry, New Mexican500 to 1,000 SHU
Bell Peppers & Pimentos 0 SHU

Updated [Feb 24 2007]: Thanks to thechileman, I have updated the name of the hottest chilli.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Glass half empty

Whenever I read an article by Somini Sengupta, I feel it to be leaning more towards showing the negative side of things. Just consider the heading of her last few articles in NYTimes.

  • Even Amid Its Wealth, India Finds, Half Its Small Children Are Malnourished

  • Indian Army and Police Implicated in Kashmir Killings

  • Former Cabinet Officials Arrested In Bangladesh Corruption Sweep

  • Ethnic Unrest in Southern Plains Undermines Peace Pact in Nepal

  • Debate in India: Is Rule on Yoga Constitutional?

  • Putin in India: Visit Is Sign Of Durability Of Old Ties

  • MEMO FROM LONDON; Some TV Contestants Feel More Equal Than Others

  • In Bangladesh, State of Emergency and Election Delay

  • India Prosperity Creates Paradox; Many Children Are Fat, Even More Are Famished

How about something positive Somini? Get some zoloft and lift your spirits to see that the glass could be half full too and not just half empty. Are you paid to write a "balanced" report so you have to fill your articles with qualms in the body as well as the title? It is hard to believe that even after the whole world has noticed India's progress, you refuse to see anything positive without any reservations. May be someone else is making that decision for you.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pray for normalcy when dealing with big banks

Seems like my friend, Cedric, had a bad time dealing with Wells Fargo support. I completely empathize with him and can only hope that these big banks become a little more nimble about changing their stupid rules. Even though there is no monopoly in banking, why are these banks like this? Don't they want more customers and don't they want to grow their base or are they so overwhelmed with their existing customer base that they are happy increasing their bottom line by introducing other products and slapping hidden fees to unsuspecting customers?

I have been with Bank of America for over 7 years and fortunately have never been troubled so much with such an event. Sure there are times when I go "Doh! How can you have such a policy" but then, the person I am talking to is usually not someone who can do anything about it. I have had major issues with ICICI bank while sending money to India but then there are no better choices. So, my mantra in dealing with banks is, just pray that you only have to deal with the banks under "normal" circumstances. If you find yourself in any abnormal situation, don't boil your blood over their stupidity. Just remember to say, "God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to see the difference".

Friday, January 12, 2007

पुष्प की अभिलाषा

This was one of my favorite poems in school.

चाह नहीं मैं सुरबाला के
गहनों में गूँथा जाऊँ

चाह नहीं प्रेमी माला में
बिंध प्यारी को ललचाऊँ

चाह नहीं सम्राटों के शव पर,
हे हरि डाला जाऊँ

चाह नहीं देवों के सर पर चढूँ,
भाग्य पर इठलाऊँ

मुझे तोड़ लेना बन-माली,
उस पथ पर देना तुम फेंक

मात्रभूमि पर शीश चढ़ाने
जिस पथ जायें वीर अनेक!

- माखन लाल चतुर्वेदी

Beckham Retires

David Beckham signs a $250 million, 5 year contract with a struggling MLS team, the Los Angeles Galaxy, and will leave the spotlight of European Soccer in style. Read the NYTimes Report.