Friday, December 28, 2007

The Best of Times

It was built with the idea that good time would last forever.

But like the Paradise Theatre, New Delhi's Chanakya Cinema was closed down this week.

It was in the 70's that I saw my first movie at Chanakya: Lost in the Desert--the story of a small boy surviving in the desert after a plane crash. It's not a movie often remembered today, but I can still recall the vivid grains of sand projected on the finest screens of its time in New Delhi.

Chanakya was an experience unlike any other. In its early days, the movies were mostly Hollywood, though a few years late; and the crowd, expatriates and the rich that lived around the area. The quietness of the surroundings, the bold architectural style of the theatre building and when you entered inside, the plush carpet--everything in Chanakya had character. For India passing through difficult times, it was a piece of the future that we hoped to create.

As a schoolboy I heard of the technical challenges in designing the "structure and the acoustics" (yes, the very words of the storyteller), with assistance from the nearby IIT.  Don't know how much of that story was true, but it made us want to grow up and do big things.

India has since arrived. And so have the new generation of malls and multiplexes around Delhi, one of them being planned for the hallowed ground where Chanakya stands today.

The city of Delhi has been rebuilt at least 6 times in last 2000 years. So one structure being razed to make way for another, is perhaps par for this course.

Nevertheless, the memory of Chanakya shall remain in the hearts of men and women of Delhi, who can associate events in their lives with movie posters that adorned its walls at the same time.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Beware of who automatically sees your shared feed in Google Reader!

Google has added your friends shared items right inside the Google Reader. See the link highlighted below:

Google Reader

It is a great way to share the feed with chat friends on Google Talk, EXCEPT:

It appears that your blocked contacts would also see your shared feed when they begin to use Google Reader. While the shared feed is public, you may not want it to appear automatically in blocked contacts' accounts.

If so, you have to delete their contact information from your address book!


My shared items from Google Reader

Tried EVERY SEO trick and failed? Read Jonathan Morrow

There is a technique to making your reader follow the words effortlessly.

If they read, they also comment, subscribe or link. After that what you've learnt in SEO school may prove useful.

Getting them to read is the key. And it works like this:

Google would always find you and send a few visitors. But visitors don't automatically become readers. You've to entice them to read. If they read, they feel a little compulsion to act. For instance, some of them might give you a link.

But it's not for us to worry about links and how they convert to PageRank. It's for Google to worry about their technology and to send visitors to pages that people read. We can trust them to keep tweaking their methods and find content that people like to read.

Read Jonathan Morrow for content, and you'd learn something useful. But study his method to entice you to read on, and you've cracked the code!

Try Jon's latest post on Copyblogger. You may want to think how you'd treat this subject before reading the piece.

Your writer's muse is like a puppy. It needs care and discipline and if you treat it well it will be your best friend for many years to come.

read more | digg Jon's story


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Monday, December 17, 2007

Nature's way: Does he snore for you?

981269875_32a6377cf6_b Source:

ninjapoodles, who relates an interesting story about the picture.

She also blogs at Ninja Poodle.


Does it constitute an explanation that snoring is caused by the vibration of soft tissue at the back of the throat?

That's like saying that the coqui frog produces ear-splitting calls because of the vibrations from a sac near its mouth. Of course, but why?

Click here to learn about frog communication. For a theory about snoring read on.

Such a theory must explain:

  1. Why does it affect men far more than women?
  2. Why does it seem to switch on in middle age?

It must also explain why evolution hasn't worked to eliminate it when:

  1. Women don't consider snoring attractive and
  2. It could cause a serious disorder called sleep apnea in the snorer.

Could it be that snoring offers (or once offered) a survival advantage

Quite likely, when you consider:

  • It isn't a health problem, unless it becomes excessive and occurs in conjunction with other conditions, such as obesity. Well , what is not a health problem in its more severe or excessive form?
  • The snorer can sleep undisturbed. Actually, so can his companion in bed, unless there is some other underlying reason for her disturbed sleep.

But what could be its survival advantage? Perhaps, the fact that snoring loudly can scare away animals that may attack a sleeping family.

Plus, an adult male would be the best choice for tackling an animal that comes snooping:

  • He would be strong, and skilled, enough to take on a wild animal that may be reasonably repulsed
  • The one to sacrifice, should this become necessary. He would have already passed on his genes to the next generation.

Oh, btw, animals also snore. It would make sense for them to snore too, isn't it?


Thursday, December 13, 2007

When all information might reside on your iPod?

To the prediction that all content in the world would easily fit inside an iPod by 2020, Amit Agarwal asks a relevant question:

Interesting but if these Google-iPod predictions happen to come true, we would definitely need something like a Google Mini Search Appliance for our Apple iPods.

Source: Google: All Content In This World Will Soon Be in Your iPod | Digital Inspiration Technology Guide

But wait a second. Are we taking of all content of the year 2020? Can we even estimate how much content that might be?

Yes, cost of storage has dropped dramatically, but many other technologies have seen similar improvements that could cause a content explosion. Network speed, for instance.

Or take cameras and video recorders in cell phones. What might be the impact of streaming high-definition video produced continually by every cell phone? And the impact of inexpensive bandwidth to store all of it online?

Yes, much of the content so produced may be pointless, but would that deter us?

We may actually never need much storage on an iPod, no matter how many functions we can think of fitting into it today. The memory required may be no more than what's needed to operate a cache for the ever connected iPod of 2020.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Capturing essence in a few strokes

With a few pen strokes, Hugh of gapingvoid captures Barcelona's church, Sagrada Família.



The church appears to reach out to heavens in much sadness, if not anger.

The pictures I took of the church (coincidentally at the same time as Hugh was there) don't capture the feeling as accurately as his sketch.

I played with one picture in Photoshop, but the results, even when interesting, weren't art.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting acquainted with Seville

Haven't made a new post for a long time because I'd been travelling and was occupied with work.

One interesting place I got to see was Sevilla in Spain.

The city has a river running through it, called Guadalquivir.


Here's a night time picture from one of its bridges (Puente del la Barqueta?) that connects the main city to island Triana.

There's a lot of life in this area, and not just in the evenings.




Painters doing their thing at the foot of the bridge next morning.





Sevilla (some claim the much smaller Triana) is the birthplace of Flamenco music and dance that are such an important part of Spanish culture.DSC00092

Here's a dancer at one of the shows I got to see.




The landmark that city identifies with most closely is Giralda, the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville.

DSC00147It's painted on ceramic plates that tourists to the city are supposed buy.

The cathedral is awesome.








And so is the castle nearby, the Alcázar of Seville.

It is a strange structure, because several castles seem to occupy the same place and are fused into each other, much like objects in a Picasso painting.

DSC00150The rich stonework on its walls is unbelievable, even as you look at it.







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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 designed for SEO in Google!

Wonderful way to learn:

  1. What the SEO guys mostly do,
  2. How their strategy works, and
  3. When it may be completely unnecessary!

In a painless, humorous demo.


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

If you change nothing, expect more of the same!

In yet another incident, a Blueline bus crushes a motorcyclist to death in Noida.

The High Court calls the death of seven person in an earlier incident as shocking. The police have impounded 100 buses and a former Union Minister drives a Blueline bus to the Chief Ministers home!

Everyone is clearly agitated and surprised that nothing seems to work.

Now consider this:

A large number of Blueline buses ply whole day in Delhi, they take small risks all the time (because it pays), and the chance of a mishap is small (in any individual incident of risky behaviour). But on an average we have an accident every two days.

The situation may be modelled using the Poisson Distribution. Without going into the mathematics of it, we can expect:

  1. A few accident-free days. 

    It won't be the result of the so-called crackdown, but rather due to Poisson Noise.
  2. A spate of accidents. 

    For the same reason as above, not because things may go completely out of hand. (Mathematically, the situation seems to be stable for last three years!)

The accidents would reduce when the distribution characteristic change: either reduce the number of these buses or adjust the incentives that cause the behaviour.

But that seems to be difficult to do.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chema Vilchez in New Delhi

The Lotus Temple, September 29, 2007

Sometimes images get stuck in the mind.

Most of last week, I revisited the shimmering Lotus Temple that was visible from the auditorium where we had gathered for a concert hosted by the Spanish Embassy.

Perhaps, it was the magic that created in the next hour that fixed the whole experience in my mind.




Monday, October 08, 2007

Why do Blueline buses continue to kill?

In July the Times of India reported that Delhi State's Transport Minister, Haroon Yusuf, would pray at Ajmer for respite from deaths caused by Blueline buses.

Either the visit didn't happen or the Spirit at the Dargah wasn't mollified because deaths from Blueline buses have continued.

Seven people, including five women, were killed in Badarpur area on Sunday morning when an overspeeding Blueline bus rammed into people crossing a road, triggering protests by angry onlookers who indulged in stone pelting and tried to set the bus afire.

Blueline bus kills seven in Delhi-Delhi-Cities-The Times of India

Not only the prayers, nothing else seems to work either:

  1. Speed governors. (Easily tampered with. Or, maybe with some difficulty.)
  2. A crackdown on the buses. (Whatever that means.)
  3. Action against errant drivers. (Not much it seems, because it hasn't made a difference to their behaviour.)

"Technology is the only way out of this mess," according to Mr Yusuf. And some technology solutions are being thought up.

But my question is: Who or what created the mess in the first place? It should be obvious that the answer is incorrectly aligned incentives!

It pays to speed. And the returns aren't offset by penalties, whether you are caught speeding or arrested after the accident.

What would fix the problem then? Adjusting the incentives, of course. But that seems to be difficult to do for some reason.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where is my home?

Delhi is beginning to get colder. This morning there was also a light drizzle.

Why does such weather make one happy?

Tens of millions of years ago where human ancestors were born in Africa or Eurasia, the climate may have been just like this.

Since then not only humans but weather too probably drifted away from what was paradise.

However, occasionally, we can still experience it.

Lovely morning!

Have a great day!


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Milan's first Twittergram

Milan's first Twittergram
Originally uploaded by Robert Scoble.

Robert Scoble recorded a Twittergram to announce the birth of his son.

Something about the first cry that just gets your attention. It’s different than any cry that’s come since.

Source: Two days of Milan — his first Twittergram story — BlogTalk Radio « Scobleizer

I know what Robert is saying.

Nearly 15 years ago, when I heard my own son cry for the first time, I was startled. It was a voice that I recognized instantly--and unmistakably. It was my grandmother's!

When he cried again, I tried to hear carefully. The resemblance was much less obvious.

It was gone in a few hours.


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Monday, September 10, 2007

The menace of chain mail

Did you receive the warning that:

  • Some erasers contain formaldehyde?
  • Most major brands of lipstick contain dangerous levels of lead?


Surely somebody tipped you off about Microsoft and AOL coming together to give away thousands of dollars?

How do you deal with these forwards?

I've tried pointing out obvious errors in the story with a link to, or other sites debunking urban legends. Mostly it doesn't help. Some cheerfully say oops, and send another forward within the next hour. Others remonstrate that they were only trying to he helpful.

It doesn't occur to the decent, and otherwise intelligent folks, that they jeopardize their own and their friends' email addresses, while wasting everyone's time, attention and patience.

I wish Google--because they are the best, but also other email providers--would add the following functionality to their email:

  1. Trap email with dozens of addresses in the body or the headers at the sender's end, warn him or her of the danger and offer to strip out the addresses. (Facility to strip out email addresses from forwards would be useful otherwise too.)
  2. Block suspicious messages (like they do with attachments) at the source,inform the sender that the story could be a hoax, provide links to verify the facts, and suggest that the message could embarrass the sender.
  3. Let people elect to have their email address removed from suspect chain mail messages, before these are sent out. Of course, this can work only if the sending and receiving address are with the same email provider, or across co-operating providers.

Meanwhile, please, somebody suggest what to do.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

No Robert, small publishers needn't worry

Robert Niles argues that if service providers are allowed to offer premium access to corporate clients, it threatens net neutrality.

He would like to see legislation to prevent the such a move.

The industry's plan ... would charge individual publishers different rates for bandwidth based on negotiated deals. AT&T, for example, could cut a deal with Fox News, serving its content to subscribers at a faster rate than that of the New York Times. And people-powered sites from DailyKos to Free Republic would be left with the digital scraps, their readers waiting while AT&T gives higher priority to requests for webpages from its corporate partners.

Source: It's up to Congress now to protect Net Neutrality

Bandwidth cost is hardly the dominant factor in distributing content. It is zero for millions of bloggers. Who pays their bandwidth cost?

Answer: Those who derive economic profit from their outpourings.

Technology has made the Long Tail of publishers economically viable for hosting services that find a way to make a profit from them.

For a healthy tail, it is necessary that its economic viability be preserved, but that's not a task for legislation or government policy.

I don't worry about Fox News, they have to worry about


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Problems installing Windows Live Writer

The new Windows Live Writer is out and making waves in blogosphere.

I had the misfortune that it failed to install on either my desktop or laptop, connecting through two different networks. This happened with XP Professional and Home editions.

The problem got solved following advice on this page.

If you are having problems installing Writer, Messenger 8.5 or Mail, in particular if the the Windows Live installer disappearing halfway through (after a Windows Vista UAC prompt if enabled), this may help.

  1. Close all Windows Live applications
  2. Navigate to C:\Program Files\Windows Live and delete the Installer folder
  3. Navigate to C:\ProgramData and delete both Windows Live Installer and WLInstaller directories if you have them.
  4. Reboot (important!)
  5. Reinstall the application you want to install

Windows Live Installer problems? Try this. - LiveSide - News blog

(Step 3 is not for XP and I didn't do anything here. You may read the full post and discover more about the problem and a link to the official solution, none of which I have tried.)

Post made from the mint fresh Windows Live Writer 2008!


Happy fallout of Keystroke loggers

Amit Varma writes about an initiative of the Mumbai police that would cause such distress in the population that the terrorists may be popping champagne:

A few days ago, Mumbai’s police revealed their plans to install keystroke loggers in Mumbai’s cyber cafes, besides imposing licensing requirements on them.

This is done ostensibly to fight terrorism, and here are the implications for you and me. Whenever we surf from a Mumbai cyber café, everything we type will automatically be captured on record. Our email passwords, every message we type, the sites we visit, the pictures we download: everything will be stored in police records, rendering us, effectively, naked in their eyes.

India’s Cops Get Orwellian - The India Uncut Blog

However, things might actually turn out a lot happier for everybody, if you carefully consider the implications.

If the police enforce it aggressively, it might popularize:

  1. OpenID, thus avoiding login at individual sites. I shall provide a low cost OpenID service with a mouse activated onscreen keyboard. :-) Yes, with randomized layouts, in case mouse trails are also logged.
  2. Skype and other voice and video services.
  3. The sign language over Skype. Thus making communication easier for the hearing impaired in the non-virtual world, with wider benefits to society.
  4. Touch screens, light pens and other types of digitizers.

Cyber cafes might vertically separate into two business lines:

     (a)  WiFi service providers,  and

     (b)  laptop renting services.

This is to be welcomed. Internet cafes forcing you to rent their outdated PC's, or regular cafes renting their expensive WiFi are both unholy economic alliances.

The credit card companies would have to smarten up and improve security, if they wish to survive. No citizen groups could have forced them to do it, without this initiative by the police.

With so many things to look forward to, we really need to worry about any rearguard action to derail the scheme.

Two likely groups of spoilsports are:

  1. The policemen, who'd refuse order to scan the cyber logs. And I don't blame them because it would be the most extreme form of torture. How many million lines of "hi, wassup?" can anybody endure?
  2. The lawyers, who might have it declared against the law.

Whatever, there's sure to be fun in days to come.


Friday, August 31, 2007

What is Bareng2?

An initiative to garner links. It's supposed to work pretty much like all such initiatives do:

We all know how important getting link backs is and with this chain, you can get the ball rolling! You don’t have to be an established blogger to take part in this chain.Here are the rules:
1. Copy this post from the point where it says “Start Copy Here” to the point where it says “End Copy Here”
2. Add yourself and 5 of your favorite bloggers to the end of the list.
3. Post this on your blog

The Life of Socrates: Bareng2 Increasing Your Traffic :))

However, instead of following the instructions exactly as given, I left a comment as follows:

Would it work? Unless:

  1. I have a good number of readers already, and 
  2. Some percentage of these readers follow my request to link to you.

I'd like to give you more than a dead-end link from me. Help me get a little readership by including me in your list of 5 bloggers friends and then I link to you.


Was this comment was noticed by Nanyaar, or did he just link to me minutes later quite independently?

I got to know Nanyaar while experimenting with my first posts from BlogCamp in Chennai last year. He happened to be waiting at the airport and following the conference online.

Great to hear from you, Nanyaar!

Here are a few links:

  1. Is there no sin in it?   No longer updated, but there are some awesome posts.
  2. Out There  Hasn't been a post from Elizabeth Starr Hill, who wrote the most exquisite posts about nature and people. I hope she is happy and well, even if not blogging.

Oops, I was supposed to find five bloggers and notify them about the links, then why have I listed only two discontinued blogs!

Just keeping space for anybody else who notices my offer :-)


Blog Day 2007


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Neutralizing the terrorists

In the wake of recent bomb explosions in Hyderabad, the Times of India has run a series editorials evaluating the adequacy of our response to terrorist actions.

Apart from its practical aspects, targeting terrorism through special laws is a declaration of intent and signals the political and societal resolve to take on an enemy. It's a call to arms and tells those on the frontline that the authorities recognise the nature of beast and are prepared to confront it. That there will be no half-measures in a war against opponents who do not believe in dialogue, rather are convinced that their cause will be served by killing innocents.

Source: 'What other nations are doing to curb terror'-India-The Times of India

Elsewhere too, there is discussion--in media, blogs and around water coolers--about how we ought to protect the ourselves from future risk.

Exactly one year ago, Bruce Schneier wrote on about the nature of the beast and how to confront it. It's a must read in its entirety for anybody thinking about ways to tackle terror, and what NOT to do.

Our politicians help the terrorists every time they use fear as a campaign tactic. The press helps every time it writes scare stories about the plot and the threat. And if we're terrified, and we share that fear, we help. All of these actions intensify and repeat the terrorists' actions, and increase the effects of their terror.

Source: Refuse to be Terrorized

The 24 hour news channels are especially given to sensationalism, because such reporting apparently attracts audience. 

However, playing on the fears of the public, in the case of terrorist acts, is equivalent to playing into the hands of the terrorists.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Can an agnostic be canonised?

It appears that Mother Teresa's crisis of faith won't affect her chances of achieving sainthood:

Mother Teresa has already been beatified, said Monsignor Robert Sarno, who is in charge of her case at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. For her canonisation as a saint, she now requires one more verified miracle. Mgr Sarno said it was not surprising that Mother Teresa had, at times, turned away from God.

Mother Teresa's canonisation not at risk - Telegraph

Apparently she wasn't an agnostic, but a devout believer who didn't find evidence of God in her life.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith

Richard Dawkins must be delighted to hear these revelations:

Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.
— Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith - TIME

Mother Teresa

He may now want to moderate comments about her in his bestseller The God Delusion.

I wonder if such views of Mother Teresa's are the reason why she was never canonized, or ever might be. 


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Will there be hell to pay for?

This post on Overcoming Bias makes me wonder how the relentless onslaught of K-soaps on Indian television may be creating biases and thus shaping relationships!!

Fiction is not only not real, it differs from reality in systematic ways. For example, characters in novels, plays, TV tend to be more attractive, articulate, expressive, and principled than real people. Now we also like to tell stories about ourselves and the events we see around us. These stories are more constrained by the facts we see than fictional stories, but I suspect they suffer from similar biases. That is, I suggest we have a fiction bias...

Overcoming Bias: Tell Your Anti-Story

Picture from:


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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can blogging bring about long term change?

Robin Hanson writes:

The joy of blogging for me is taking just an hour to pen and distribute an apparently powerful insight.  But this joy is illusory if my insights never join a process of accumulation where others build on my insights and integrate them effectively into a larger body of thought.  If I'm mainly the equivalent of a newspaper columnist, rather than a part of a community of modular thinkers, this is to me a waste. 

Overcoming Bias: Blogging Doubts

Blogging can be a part of the "process of accumulation" in several ways:

  1. Bloggers document history in making which can be invaluable for researchers who later try to make sense of an happening or a period of time. Please see: They help the most, who collaborate about the 2004 Tsunami.
  2. Insights from blogosphere, at least in some areas, coalesce into an accepted body of wisdom fairly quickly. For example, the debate about desirability of DRM. Such debates could influence outcomes.
  3. Debates about emotional topics, like existence of God or abortion rights, would likely make people veer to rational viewpoints, as progressively younger population see viewpoints otherwise disapproved by their religion or family.
  4. More nuanced understanding of phenomena like terrorism, that affect large populations whose opinions drive the way their governments or other institutions act.

Together with easily accessible and constantly evolving wiki content or social booking marking, it could well be the most powerful process of accumulation ever seen in the history of mankind.


Predicting Success

Scott Adams says he didn't foresee that Dilbert would be successful as a workplace strip.

When Dilbert launched in newspapers, the response was underwhelming. In the early years, it wasn't a workplace strip. It was about Dilbert's life in general. He just happened to have a job. I was surprised to learn, via my e-mail, that readers loved the relatively rare comics featuring Dilbert in the office. Personally, I didn't think those were my best work. My ego told me to do it my way. My readers told me I was wrong.

The Dilbert Blog: The Loser Decision

However, while discussing hypnosis not too long ago, Scott had told us:

... Dilbert is designed using tricks I learned from hypnosis. The reason Dilbert has no last name, and the boss has no name, and the company has no name, and the town has no name is because of my hypnosis training. I remove all the obvious obstacles to imagining Dilbert works at your company.

Were Dilbert comics carefully designed for a target audience. Or did Scott realize, with help from his audience, that a comic featuring Dilbert at the workplace is the way to go?

Could it be both?

Bloggers, some very successful ones, often admit that they aren't good at predicting their successful posts.

I guess it's the same with songwriters, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, and managers that plan the displays at departmental stores. They must try different things and adopt what seems to work.

In other words, you don't create a successful strategy, but rather discover it.

A lot of intelligence lies in being quick to learn.


Related: Conversation in the digital world

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Do photographs depict the truth?

For a Zen master's way of looking at things, read the article from where this was taken:

The idea that photographs hand us an objective piece of reality, that they by themselves provide us with the truth, is an idea that has been with us since the beginnings of photography. But photographs are neither true nor false in and of themselves. They are only true or false with respect to statements that we make about them or the questions that we might ask of them.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Errol Morris - Zoom - Times Select - New York Times Blog


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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Astrology and religion in everyday life

Yesterday,  blogged about 's qualifications to be the President of India in a delightful tongue-in-cheek post:

Consider, first, her spirituality. We are a spiritual nation, and Pratibha Tai actually converses with spirits.

Source: Celebrating Pratibha Patil - The India Uncut Blog

His piece opened my eyes to very interesting stories that seem to regularly appear in the media. Take two recent examples:

  1. The Times of India reports today that Delhi State's Transport Minister, Haroon Yusuf, is going to Ajmer to pray for respite from deaths caused by Blueline buses.

    If we are clueless about how to handle the errant buses, perhaps, it's appropriate to seek the intervention of gods. But what if the spirit at the Dargah got unhappy with the Minister? Will that mean more deaths?

  2. The current issue of Business Today has an item ,"Three out of four", examining an astrologer's success in predicting the movement of bullion and commodities prices.

    Ah! I always knew that astrology isn't so different from  in its methods and beliefs. At least you now have a choice.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is it the Taj or the Indians?

In a last minute rally, Indians voted massively to propel the into the list of the .

Indians voted overwhelmingly in the polls cast by over a million people. The polling picked up drastically over the last one month, to see the ''monument of love'' through to the final seven.

Source: Taj on list of world's seven wonders

Taj is undoubtedly magnificent. But isn't it on the list largely because the Indian diaspora asserted it voting power?

A community asserts itself when it's politically strong--when it is confident of dealing with the visibility, which inevitably leads to some unwanted attention too.

What does support for the Taj indicate more of:

  1. Taj is truly magnificent.
  2. Indians are now a confident community.

I think, more of 2.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Your Citizenship Provider

Denis Bider reflects upon the founding of the United States 200 years ago as an "experimentation with systems of government".

He blogs about the dilemma of the founding fathers:

You know that there must be some good system of government, but you don't know what it is. So what do you do?

And answers:

You do the reasonable thing: create competiton. Instead of creating one country and enshrining a certain system into law, you create dozens of separate states; you say little about the organization of their internal governments; but you pit them to compete against each other to attract citizens.

That was 200 hundred years ago. Perhaps, it is time for another experiment?

brings certain privileges and government provided services to people in defined geographic area.

But people are now beginning to relocate outside their country of birth for extended periods, if not permanently. Also restrictions on foreign nationals acquiring are reducing the world over.

Then why should citizenship (or nationality) be closely based on a geographical territory?

Rather it should be more like membership to a club, that comes at a price and provides services to its members.

The Citizenship Provider would negotiate with large territory owners (, which may themselves be citizenship providers through their ) for residency rights for its members.

In time a market for citizenship, much like for insurance or credit cards should develop.

And the territory owners would have interest in developing their property in the hope of attracting more residents and charging appropriate rents.

Would it be too difficult to make this market work? If not, we have an alternative to expensive elections and the consequences of living with other people's choices.


Friday, July 06, 2007

When the spouse is hotter

It's rare, but by no means uncommon for a piece in mainstream media to be the stuff that makes a classy blog.

For instance, in the July 9 issue of Time, Belinda Luscombe writes a delightful essay on the perils of marrying outside your looks or "cute-category".

As in so many other areas of discrimination, women face double jeopardy. Guys who marry a few rungs up the looks ladder are rock stars or rich or have, I don't know, beautiful penmanship. Women who marry up, well, they're deluded. Their husbands must be gay or have really bad bacne to even look at them.

When Your Spouse is Hotter than You - TIME

Picture from:

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Little Girl Speaking on Environment

Here's video clip of an eloquent speech delivered by a 12 year old girl from Canada at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Brazil some years ago

The most eloquent speech on environment is, of course, the one that Chief Seattle made. I wish there was YouTube video of it, but here is a text link:

Chief Seattle's speech on environment

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Friday, June 22, 2007

There's no customer loyalty in net shopping

I had been a regular customer at, mostly buying books from them.

One evening about four years ago, I couldn't log into the site. But I wanted a book, so I logged onto (now and bought it there.

In years that followed, I never went back to rediff, because Fabmall was equally easy to use. I joined the Fabmall book club (nice discounts) and did all my shopping there.

That was till last Sunday, when at 6 pm I tried Indiaplaza, and their server was down. I typed in the address bar, loss of discount not withstanding.

This time Rediff didn't ask if I was registered with them, only for an email ID. They accepted the payment by credit card, without fuss and sent a mail, creating an account in the process.

My book was delivered yesterday.

I should have been happy with the whole experience, except that I also received a mail shortly before the book was delivered:

You should receive your order between 29 Jun, 2007 and 03 Jul, 2007.

The mail provided a tracking number and a link, but this number was declared invalid at the Courier's site!

Hmm. This makes me want to declare the rules of business for net merchants who expect me to shop with them:

  1. Ensure no glitch. 99% uptime is not good enough.

    Know what the best in the business can achieve and go for it. If there's a break down, say so on the main page, give an estimate of when you would be back and ask the customer to leave their email address, so you can get back.

  2. Eight days in advance isn't customer delight.

    It shows that your information is unreliable. That the tracking number fails even as the package is being delivered only reinforces this impression.

  3. Promising eight days later is wrong.

    Your business has an expected response time that your competitor sets and your customer knows. Promising less, even if you can meet this expectation isn't the best strategy.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Google must be doing something right

Of course, or GOOG won't be where it is today!

Apparently, everyone has discovered by now that there's money in the Long Tail. How much better is Google compared to its competitors in exploiting this opportunity?

I looked at the traffic to this blog (which sits firmly at the far, thin end of the tail) to determine Google's performance in this area.

Here's the breakup by source of visitors that reached Making Sense via search engines in last 30 days: 

Google Search


Google Image Search


Google BlogSearch


Microsoft Live Search


AOL Search




Startling, isn't it?


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Windows Live Writer Beta 2 - new capabilities

Windows Live Writer Beta 2 has now been released with some very useful enhancements. It would make sense for most users to upgrade.

Here's my list of what is nice:

  1. It highlights spelling mistakes as you type. Reduces risk of publishing without checking spellings.
  2. You can add categories, or blogger labels.
    (Just click on the line below the main message window and your list of categories is presented. Check any that apply!)
  3. It allows you to add tables.
    You could do them earlier too, but had to create tables in FrontPage or some other HTML editor and paste the the resulting HTML code.

    Now it's easy to handle tables directly!
      Ever Seen A Sundog?
    You could even do a layout with tables!

    Wenpics on

To download and to get more detailed information you could visit:

Writer Zone: Windows Live Writer Beta 2 Now Available


BTW, while Beta 2 installs over the older version of Live Writer, it may be best to add the Weblog account afresh. Categories (labels) only started to function when I did so :-)


Is "India Everywhere" just a slogan?

Simon Robinson of Time magazine recounts incidents from his stay in India and concludes that:

... parts of Africa have better services and infrastructure than India, and just as good prospects for development. It's just that Africa hasn't yet come up with a catchy slogan to sell itself.

India Without the Slogans | TIME

I hope that Africa can make the most of their prospects.

The question in my mind is whether India Everywhere was just an empty marketing campaign.

Mr Robinson has a litany of woes to support his conclusion.

... one of them [a Global Fortune 500 executive] asked why his cell phone kept dropping out on the trip from the airport to his hotel. "It could just be that you were passing through the diplomatic area and there may have been security issues," offered an Indian colleague. "Or it could just be India."

Really? I live in the diplomatic area and do travel to the airport. It has never happened to me! 

New Delhi has several service providers, both CDMA and GSM, and they are not all equal. You get what you pay for. The Global Fortune 500 executive really ought to speak with his home service provider about the poor quality of coverage he got in New Delhi, when others have no problems (assuming he bothered to check and found this to be true).

The glitches could be due to incompatibility between the handset and the network protocols or configuration of the handset. But these things are a nightmare everywhere, including the US.

I was brought up in Delhi. In some areas, you had to wait for 15 years to get a telephone signal, not a few seconds. The long distance call charges were extortionate, if the service was available at all. And hearing the dial tone, when you picked up a phone was always a source of pleasure.

Incredible IndiaYes, India has the problems listed in this Time essay, but religious conflicts? Where in the world don't you have them? And the recent Mecca Masjid explosion in Hyderabad is a terrorist, not religious act. Surely the two are not same?

Yes, it is true that "compared to Beijing, which can decide to build a road today and start on it tomorrow, Indian authorities have to consult and win over the people".

It is true that "Fixing problems is difficult in a democracy". But even identifying the problems correctly is impossible without one. It is democracy that has prevented India from slipping into chaos despite the economic ruin that it was at the time of independence.

India is "a place of momentum and hope" at the moment. It hasn't arrived, but is surely on the right track.


Link: Incredible India

Friday, May 11, 2007

Workplace Relationships

professor blogs about the "kind of relationship the teacher is supposed to have with the students" and presents her viewpoint as follows:

The contract language is an attempt to change the focus from identity to the work itself. We may incidentally like each other or be annoyed by each other, but this is just the nature of being human. You work with people you wouldn’t be friends with sometimes.

Source: Who's your mama? « Is there no sin in it?

The same question arises in other types of workplaces too, indeed anywhere people spend a lot of time together. How do you treat colleagues much older or younger than you, or even own age?

A contracts approach is the logical one. It keeps the interactions Adult - Adult, which is highly functional. Yet, over a long period, most of us cannot sustain such interactions. Because, human beings need to relate to others as human beings. 

Rivier Classroom
Originally uploaded by FJ Gaylor Photography.

Furthermore, teachers, and often managers too, need to exert a good bit of influence that may not be possible in interactions modelled around contracts.

Think To Sir, With Love.




To understand To Sir, With Love, do read the AWB's wonderful response on her blog. An excerpt:

For example, one of the rules of the class is that they will not complain about their grades for 24 hours after receiving a marked paper. Why? Because I have written loving things on them. I have spent hours and hours tending to each of their needs, as I am able, looking for every shred of thought, humanity, understanding, and skill that I can, and written encouragements to find more. To flip back to the number of the grade and whine about it is a breach of our contract.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Beauty in flow

What is the best way to send a small round object the longest possible distance?

How can you obtain an accurate likeness on paper?

How can you most faithfully control production of sound?

Well, the best way to send up a projectile is not to swing a golf club. A controlled explosion in a tube would achieve the same result, more accurately.

Obtaining a likeness? Not by dabbing colour on paper, but rather by operating a timed mechanical shutter. And using a series of automated processes to finally transfer micrograms of ink to a surface.

And computers can play musical scores. Repeatedly. Slavishly. Accurately.

Why is a well-executed golf swing such a beautiful sight and a pleasure to execute? What infuses beauty in a charcoal portrait?

Why is the accuracy of MIDI sequencer a spoiler?

Of course, a musical composition is not fully captured in the score and requires interpretation--that is, introduction of fine differences between what is written and rendered. These deviations aren't noise. They have a logic that the mind can appreciate, but not analyze.

If the mind can't analyze these differences, did the composer grasp the full beauty of the piece when he put down the notes?

I suspect very often this beauty arises from body own's behaviour, its limitations and knowledge of its own abstract proportions.

Who creates a beautiful dance? The choreographer or the dancer? Why do we find it beautiful?



dancing in degas shadow Originally uploaded by jenink.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Where to get your car serviced in New Delhi?

In today's post Stephen J. Dubner blogs about IBM's exceptional customer service that made him wish that:

... IBM made more things so I could buy them and know that if something went wrong, the repair process would always be this good.

Source: Freakonomics Blog » Should IBM Run the DMV, CIA, and TSA?

Almost immediately one of his readers (Kent, unfortunately no url) asked:

Why is the co-author of Freakonomics buying overpriced insurance/warranty for a computer?

Good point. However, exceptional service is just such a magical thing that it makes you price blind.

Today a V-belt in my car ripped as I was driving to office. At 3.30 in the afternoon, with the Sun at its fiercest.

In some distress I rolled into the office with a noisy, flailing piece inside the bonnet. A friend suggested that I contact Himalayan Motors in INA market to have it fixed.

They agree to pick up the car and reach my office in less than 30 minutes.

  • The car is examined and the offending V-belt cut away with a blade in about 5 mins.
  • One of them recognizes that the car has visited their workshop earlier. (True. More than a year ago!)
  • The car is delivered back in little over an hour.
  • Two belts replaced (the other was also worn out).
  • Also, some length of rubber tubes (hardened due to engine heat), one T-joint (wrong size) and a rubber grommet (disintegrated) replaced too.

Total cost to me? Rs 270 (less than 6.6 US dollars), all inclusive.


Technorati tags:

Friday, April 27, 2007

What does Technorati rank really mean?

Lately I had been thinking about my blogging experience of less than a year. 

Starting September 2006, I saw the Technorati rank of this blog climb from over a million to within a whisker of 200,000, in a few weeks. Since then it has dropped below 500,000 and isn't holding!

Beginner's luck? Perhaps, because I never did anything to push up the rank, either then or now.

I have, however, been posting steadily. Does it therefore mean that my blog has become less popular with more content?

Well, there are more subscribers and casual visitors now, but their numbers being embarrassingly small, I can't make any definitive claims.

Technorati ranking system is flawed in many ways. For example, it fails to count lots of links. Yet is a good indicator because it presumably miscounts for everyone, so the ranks are fair.

However, there'd be a strong incentive to game any such system, and bloggers do seeks links using every conceivable trick. Is that good or bad?

I think it's wonderful because it forces all of us to think about meaning of rank, the best way to measure it and newer ways to exploit the system. In the ecosystem that is the blogosphere, blogs and ranking systems, thus compete with each other and evolve.

There can be no better way forward!

Today I came across an experiment on Dosh Dosh's website, whose result would be very interesting to watch:

Technorati link count rankings are a source of social prestige in the blogosphere and are often the pride or despair of many bloggers. Unlike Technorati Top 100 Most Linked To blogs, which has a high barrier of entry, the Technorati Top 100 Most Favorited is a list that is much easier to break into.

Source: Dosh Dosh’s Ultimate Technorati Favorites Exchange: An Interactive Experiment

Happy experimenting and best of luck!



Amit Agarwal writes that Technorati Favorites is not Worth it Anymore. It's led to an interesting conversation on his blog. 

Perhaps, Technorati could provide users a negative vote too (as on Reddit or Digg). Thus any blog that's got an unfair rank simply by gaming the system wouldn't sustain the advantage very long.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Cappuccino cell phone plan

light on the line
Originally uploaded by Mr. phelps.

Cappuccino, from Illy naturally, with an additional shot of espresso, cream and some honey. Also a moist banana cake.

No idea how this would turn out. But I'd like to place the order, if only to leave the barista no options to play with.

Never mind the unnecessary expense, I just want to deny them the pleasure of inflicting more damage on me for once.

Perhaps, whenever the service provider has a bewildering set of options to offer, but doesn't, it means they have already got you on the most expensive plan and maximum add-ons.

For example, my cellphone provider hasn't offered any plan changes or opt-in's for a while now. Have I already maximized revenue for them?

Maybe I should vary my options at random and measure the provider's distress by the number of times they contact me per months. Then stick with the configuration that maximizes their discomfort.


Technorati tags: , , , ,

Friday, April 20, 2007

Making Office Ergonomics actually work

Originally uploaded by Pollona.

If you work in an office, you know the aches and pains that come with a day at the computer. But it doesn't have to be that way.[1]

Yes, that’s true. There is a correct way to place your monitor, keyboard, mouse, arms, shoulders and head in the natural and neutral position. (Besides taking regular breaks, of course.)

My questions are:

  1. Why doesn’t the anatomically natural way come naturally?
  2. Why the relapse into painful, dysfunctional postures, after being taught the correct neutral one?

Perhaps, the answer lies in loss of strength and calibration.

Take a different example. Simply being told to hold the head erect sometimes doesn't work. That’s when doctors prescribe a Cervical Collar to ease the pain, and exercises to strengthen the involved neck and shoulder muscles.

The best to way to avoid postural problems, whether in office or otherwise, is probably to develop adequate body awareness and strength. And nothing helps you get there more easily than the Ancient System of Exercise called Yoga.

It was two years ago that I got introduced to yoga and enjoyed the learning experience.

Started on it again after a longish break. It's been as wonderful all over!


[1] Office Ergonomics presentation created by Prometheus Training Corporation, winner of the Articulate Guru Awards 2007.