8:16 PM | Author: Siva
I was waiting for my first $100 cheque from Google. And it is sweet when you don't do anything but sit and wait for it. Isn't it ? Does that sound like a good excuse for not blogging for almost 2 months ? Well that is atleast a better excuse than exams and research projects, right ? Thank you for those loyal handful of readers and search engines.

But why will someone looking for a bangalore female will ever land in this blog ? Atleast I can understand the guy searching for a bar tender in Bangalore and landing here. But how can search engines send a person searching for a bangalore female to this blog. Google needs some serious rework. I can understand when the search phrase is something like "nigritude ultramarine", rare once (not now there are close to 90000 pages with it), the search engine can rank the guy who asks other to link to him with the phrase at the top. But that poor guy(or gal) who came here from google would have been disappointed for sure. Anyway, I am back, and if you want to know more about it check the nigritude ultramarine page.
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10:11 PM | Author: Siva
Seeni recently forwarded me the results of this survey, for the "Best companies to Work for in India", conducted by TNS-Mercer-Business Today. Infosys topped the survey as the best company to work for in India. This resulted in some interesting discussion. Some excerpts from the discussion are below. The survey links require subscription to BT. So to provide some background this is an excerpt from the methodology part of the survey: (italics mine)

After much deliberation, BT and knowledge partner Mercer Human Resource Consulting came up with a methodology built around four quadrants (for a note on the methodology itself, see page 78). These relate to HR metrics, employee satisfaction, perceptions of key stakeholders, and HR processes and policies. (each with 15%, 35%, 30%, and 20% weightage respectively)

Then they describe the criteria in each quadrant

We start by looking at the number of employees (which indicates the complexity involved in people management; in fact, to participate in the survey, a company must have at least 200 white-collar employees), attrition rates, average career tenure, promotion rate (that is, total number of promotions as a percentage of the overall headcount), average time for promotion, and go up to things like HR budget and the actual spend as a percentage of total revenues, training budget and spend, and gender ratio. ...

we seek feedback from randomly selected employees on several key issues. These are: leadership, HR processes, transparency, alignment with organisational direction, quality of work life, employee development, and the HR function in the organisation. ....

There are five broad issues that we consider within this quadrant: HR philosophy and policies; recruitment, selection and induction; performance and career management; training and development; rewards and recognition; and culture and work-life balance. ....

...Finally, we ask for the opinions of four important stakeholders in the job market: A company's new recruits, ex-employees, campuses, and search firms.

One final quote about the methodology

Weights were assigned to each quadrant and, as per the methodology, were premised on the need for companies to demonstrate balanced and comprehensive performance across dimensions. The performance of a company on one quadrant was sought to be corroborated by evidence of performance on the other quadrants. The index scores based on quadrant performance and weights were used to propose the ranking order of the companies.

With that background about what the survey is about and how they did it, here are some of my comments :

1. The purpose of any such external survey is not to make the product (engg college, univ, IT company) a better one. (that is just a side effect) The survey is for the end user to make some well informed decisions. If it is not detailed and accurate the purpose is defeated.

2. If the methodology is not good enough to be published in its entirety your survey is not good enough to base my decisions on it. The above survey didn't publish it fully. For example statements like

(The companies were asked to give a large list of employees and the respondents were picked randomly.)

don't do me any good. What is a large list ? All the employees in company ? 10 % of it ? Can the company pick all the employees with the best performance reviews and give it to the survey ?

2. What is the scoring system ? Was it properly explained ? I would say NO. What were the weights for average career tenure or average time for promotion ? We don't know.

3. Forget the ranking table. What is the score of each and every participant in every aspect you chose to evaluate ? Was it published ? How much difference exist between #1 and #2 ? #1 and #131 ? Who leads in criteria A/B/C ? No answers again.

4. Leave the above point. At the least, What is the mean of all the participants, standard deviation among companies ? When you are assigning quantitative numbers as rankings better publish what quantitative numbers you used to arrive at those rankings. Qualitative statements are just not enough. If all of them were at 60% employee satisfaction then who really cares about this whole stuff ?

5. Do people who fund surveys have some interests in the survey results. What is it ? It appears Mercer had some conflict of Interest. So they got some random codes instead of company names. Fair enough. But companies can be easily guessed (at least a few in the top 10) based on their employee strength which was in the details collected. Let us assume those details were not shown to Mercer and the survey is fair.

The article on Infosys mentions that the company helped employees when they were in trouble during the London bombings. There are similar statements about other top 10 companies. I know Infosys gave just week vacation for my cousin to travel to India , get married and return to US, including the travel time, which is bad. Both of these are qualitative statements and don't prove nothing. To be useful enough it has to be quantitative. How many times it helps and how many times does it screw up ?

The employees were selected by the the group that conducted the survey. But what is the sample size. Was the sample size same for infosys and say a startup which had 300 people.

Have you heard of the two monkey problem. Ask two monkeys to type 300 letters. Now there is a subsequence of 50 letters that match in both of them. Ask the same monkeys to type 60000 letters. Now there is a subsequence of 50 letters that match. Which appears more significant ? So, was the sample size good enough to be statistically significant ?

I am not saying they did a mistake in the survey or that the survey was rigged. What I am saying is if they don't publish all the details and all that is available publicly is some ranking table they give me then the results are not verifiable. Hence invalid till proven otherwise. It is not a scientific survey.

It is not even good for the end user to make informed decisions. Can I decide about joining a company ? Can I marry my daughter to a person who works for Infosys ? (Well... may be that one) . If I want to join a company that is highly ranked in work life balance but I don't care much about say training then the survey can't help.

So what good is it for ? If you are in top 10 just enjoy the attention you get. Post it in your website. Project it to your clients. You know, the usual stuff. Otherwise, just forget it. It is not something you should take seriously, atleast in the form it is published now.

PS : I mentioned Infosys not because I don't like the organization. It just happened to be the No, 1.
4:34 PM | Author: Siva
Google has acquired JotSpot yesterday. The news is also on JotSpot's blog. If you don't know JotSpot, it is a easy to use wiki platform which allows you to collaborate without the trouble of editing those convetional wiki pages. It also allows you to colloborate with Spread Sheets, Calendar, bug tracking, Project management, to-do lists stuff like that.

Google has some overlap there in terms of the products. Only one of those will survive and it is going to be Google's mostly. My guess is that Google is after the wiki style functionality. So JotSpot's style may fold into Google's Docs and spreadsheets. The other apps may fold into Google Pack or could be scrapped.

Wiki style version control, collaboration will help any Office 2.0 style suites. I am a fan of version control. What is the use of collaborative documents without a proper verion control ? But we can expect it soon in Google's Docs and Spredsheets.

It is going to be interesting to see what Zoho and Microsoft do.
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9:51 PM | Author: Siva
Have you wondered about making a Hangover juice ? How about making Chicken Tikka Masala ? The right way to tie a Half Windsor Knot ? All these are answered in one site. VideoJug , new venture. The videos are short, with correct descriptions, warnings, all the bells and whistles.

I tried the instructions from "How to fold a T-shirt in 2 seconds". It really works. Try it out. It is fun.
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7:37 PM | Author: Siva
NY Times article "It's Not the People You Know. It's Where You are." says lot of VC's still obey the 20-minute rule. If you want VC funds then you have got to be within 20-minute distance from their offices. Which means you have got to find a office in Silicon Valley. Not just that. It is better if it is in Mountain View. Understandable to some extent. The VC's are investing so much money they may expect it. People who want the money can either move there or find an alternative.

Then the article has this

"Silicon Valley is not “bigger” in a literal sense. In fact, it remains geographically contained by the Santa Cruz Mountains on one side and San Francisco Bay on the other. The physical features of the place help explain the Valley’s vitality.

MR. JOHNSON, the venture capitalist in Palo Alto, noted that the greater Los Angeles area also has a pool of talented engineers (working at aerospace companies like Lockheed, Northrop and Hughes) and great universities (notably Caltech and U.C.L.A.) and plenty of money to invest. “But in Los Angeles,” he said, “people are scattered across a wide area; everything is more spread out.”

It’s harder for entrepreneurs to meet with one another and with investors, he added. And that means connections take longer, deals move slowly, fewer companies are formed. “Like a gas, entrepreneurship is hotter when compressed.” he said."

Pearl of Wisdom.
2:47 PM | Author: Siva
Wall Street Journal has an article titled "He Drinks, She Drinks" (summary page). The entire article requires subscription. But I will quote the article here to give some idea about it. The central thread is "Men can't order anything they find in the cocktails list, you have to be choosy otherwise risk being called a sissy"

As drinks menus have increasingly skewed toward female tastes, men have grown leery of experimenting with new concoctions. Many guys eschew the cocktail list partly because they know what they want before they walk into the bar -- an example of what Anthony Burgess called the male preference for "old pipes and torn jackets." But I also think men cling to what they know for a sense of social security -- a Jack Daniel's is a safe, embarrassment-free drink, so why order anything else? Thus a vicious circle: With men hesitant to venture onto the cocktail list, menus skew even more heavily toward female tastes.

This isn't much of a problem for women. They can choose to indulge in the saccharine offerings designed with them in mind, or opt for more serious drinks, all without reproach. Women who buck convention and drink gin Martinis or Scotch on the rocks raise no eyebrows -- instead, they are rightly applauded for the sophistication of their choices. But for guys, the choice brings no small risk of social stigma: If men think that they're being judged by the drinks they order, they're right.

"There is nothing quite so disheartening for me as to see a rugged hulky man swagger in, take a seat, and grab the girly-drink menu," writes Ty Wenzel in her memoir "Behind Bars." A fashion editor at Cosmopolitan before she turned her hand to bartending, Ms. Wenzel writes with dismay of any chiseled-faced man "sitting here having a melon martini." Delivering the cocktail to one such specimen, "I made it known to him that I have no regard for him as a man." And all the poor fellow wanted was a drink.

Then it proceeds to add from a survey of Men and Women's choices
"Cheers, a magazine for the restaurant and bar industry, regularly does surveys to find out who is drinking what, and where. Recently it asked Middle American men and women their favorite mixed drinks. The top seven male drinks were Rum and Coke, Screwdriver, Gin and Tonic, Seven & 7, bourbon on the rocks, (Gin) Martini, and Scotch and Soda. And women's favorites? Margarita, Pina Colada, Daiquiri, Vodka and Cranberry, Cosmopolitan (but of course), Mudslide and Sea Breeze."
and adds a suggestion
"You can be pretty sure that if a cocktail's name even hints at love, it's a girly drink. The bar at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas has its Brazilian Love Potion (light rum, strawberries, pineapple, sugar syrup and lime juice). The cocktail menu at BLT Prime in New York features Aphrodite's Potion (champagne, "fresh berry melange" and blackberries). One SixtyBlue in Chicago offers L'amour (chocolate vodka, Chambord and Frangelico). Or how about just plain Amour (espresso, Amaretto, brown sugar and whipped cream) at David Burke at Bloomingdale's in New York?"
and concludes with
"With any luck, men and women will find it easier to get together over a drink -- the same drink, that is."
But if you ask me I am not the one who sticks only to those rough drinks. Sure, Jack Daniels or Johnnie Walker on the rocks will be on the top of the list, but an occasional pina colada is fine with me. The thing I get uncomfortable with is the color (Sex and the city style pink) and the umbrellas. But mostly the bar tenders are good enough to warn on those.

But if you are in US be careful what you order. I heard a bar tender in Bangalore say Long Island Ice Tea is famous and the crowd is predominantly men. So I guess it is ok in Bangalore to order that Pina Colada. Hope things haven't changed.
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11:36 PM | Author: Siva
It is this problem "Poincare's Conjecture" that started it all. The problem is in the area of topology. I am not going to pretend to understand this area. The problem has been in the list of millenium problems of Clay Mathematical Institute and it was open for nearly 100 years vouches for the difficulty of proving it. Then Grigori Perelman, a Russin mathematician, claimed he had a proof for the conjecture and started posting them in arXiv. It is not the usual way. Especially when you have proof for one of the toughest problems around you don't just post it. You will normally publish it in a peer reviewed journal. But he chose not to do that. He just posted the proofs and then gave a series of lectures in US about it. That is all he did. He never attempted to publish it. All this happened way back in 2002.

It took 3-4 years for some great people to verify it and convince themselves that the proof is correct. But these 3-4 years didn't go without controversies. Grigory Perelman had used Richard Hamilton's earlier works in the field as a basis to prove the conjecture. There were other proofs. Recently when Perelman was awarded the Fields medal there was an article in New Yorker by Sylvia Nasar (It is a long one, but will give you some background) . This had some serious allegations against Harvard Mathematician Dr.Yau. Dr.Yau was one of the collobarator and friend of Hamilton. Two of his other students worked on the proof too and recently published the proof in a journal where Dr.Yau is the chief editor. Some people find the proof similar to Perelman's proof. Dr.Yau is a Fields medalist himself. That is the highest honor in math. What is his motivation for wanting more ? I don't see any. The article says

“It’s all about their primacy in China and their leadership among the expatriate Chinese,”

Now that is some serious allegations against an eminent mathematician. Another quote says

“Yau’s not jealous of Tian’s mathematics, but he’s jealous of his power back in China.”

Dr.Tian is Dr.Yau's student. Every teacher will be proud his student's achievements. I doubt they will be jealous. Dr.Yau supporters' letters are in his web page. But so far there is no letter from the student objecting the Newyorker article which is suspicious. Meanwhile, Perelman didn't accept the Fields medal.

Meanwhile The New York Times has another article with the title Emperor of Math.(Again a long one, this supports Dr.Yau) The subsection on Poincare's Conjecture is with a title "Messy Proof". It is unfortunate for such a problem's proof to be in this controversy.

When I started my higher studies, academics appeared to be a field where there is no groupism, politics, greed. Especially mathematics departments where materialistic things like a Benz is often frowned upon and bicycle is the preferred mode underlined those beliefs. Sadly, all of those problems exist. It is not to a level they affect the work done in these departments. But they do exist. It is rarely for money. But sometimes for power, fame and legacy. Hope they remain too small to affect the work done in these departments.
2:35 PM | Author: Siva
The Hindu reports that Google is finding it difficult to hire talent in India. The report is actually based on the speech of Kavitark Ram Shriram, a founding board member of Google, in the Investing in India conference. I will agree with the argument itself. It is difficult to find the right talent. The Hindu's article itself is an example.

Check the article. It is from PTI. The first part is the report about the speech itself. Then they contacted Google India's spokesperson and published his views. So far so good. But they continue

"Meanwhile, people in the blogspace are also blaming the talent crunch Google is facing to the recent controversy related to the company's social networking service Orkut."

Where did that come from ? That is surely a googly. So is it Indians are boycotting Google because Orkut had a 'I Hate India' group ? But The next line is the best

"Orkut is evolving into a major controversy as Indians are really concerned over privacy and there is no privacy on the site," wrote a blogger.

So even the Faltugiri is not the reason. It is privacy. Who is this blogger ? Blog Search at least shows only one other blogger who has that in his blog. But he has the same aforementioned article reproduced in his website. I will take blog search's word and assume there is no such blogger and it is the author's words. But still Why will Orkut evolve into a controversy ? Why will this lead to Talent crunch for Google? The answer escapes me.

Sure. It is difficult to find talent. The standards of India's National newspaper proves it.

Follow up : The same piece of wisdom is also published in ToI.
10:26 AM | Author: Siva
JAM magazine is conducting a survey of Engineering colleges in India. It is going to be a difficult rank colleges all across the country. But I guess the 66% peer group rating will eliminate most unknown colleges. To take the survey you have to be a current student or recent graduate. (2003 or newer). That is sad.

I know, among the handful of readers of this blog, a good number is from TCE. So pass this on to our current students and recent alumni.

The survey is here. The details are at Rashmi Bansal's post. As pointed out in the comments the survey itself misses some points like research if any, number of students who go for higher studies, industry interaction etc. Still the survey is a very good effort and worth participating.
1:42 PM | Author: Siva
Guess what, my favorite beer Miller Genuine Draft(MGD), is in the top 10 brands. (The news is old but I just found it) Apple is at a low 59 and MGD is at 9. That says a lot about this beer. This is one beer that changed my perception about, well, beer. I used to sprint at the sight (or the smell?) of UB's Kalyani Beer in India. MGD changed it all. And here it is in top 10 brands with me as its loyal consumer.

If you want to know how loyal are people to MGD check this letter from a loyal MGD drinker and reponse from Miller.
2:45 PM | Author: Siva
Let us demystify some of the myths that shrouds Computer Science and Programming.

Myth #1: Coding is like driving a car. You need a driver, not a mechanical engineer. For God's sake NO. Coding IS designing a car. Try writing a compiler, web server, OS. Or for that matter try writing a good small application. How about writing the software that executes your bank transactions, stock trades, auto pilots, cruise control, handles insurance claims ? Is that like driving a car ? You need qualified people for creating these. If you appoint just drivers you will get icicidirect and citibank like software.

A sub-myth is that the above myth is true for only Indian IT service companies. A lot of Indian services companies have clients from banking, insurance, automobiles, aircraft design. If everything else is equal any recruiter in Indian IT company will choose a CS grad to a non CS grad. The problem is there aren't enough good people with CS degrees. Sometimes brilliant people with non-CS degrees are better than a stupid CS-degree holder. So changing the requirement is not an indication that the job can be done by anyone. It is just an indication that the company need to increase its revenues. Hiring more people is one of the ways to do it. So they just changed the requirement.

Rarely will these people create any software of importance in their lifetime. They may manage others who do it, but never themselves. The companies know it, the people who get hired like that know it. So that is the hurry in moving higher in the management ladder. So you see a bloated middle management in most services companies. If some do create software of importance, it is because by that time they have learnt so much about computer science that they are qualified like a CS guy to do it. To continue the driver analogy, they hire drivers, a lot of them learn to become auto mechanics, rarely will they understand aerodynamic design but they know how to fix a starter trouble. A countable number will move further to be equal to mechanical engineers. But they would have struggled less and enjoyed much if they chose mechanical engineering as their field. (or computer science in our coding case).

Myth #2: Anyone can do coding. Well for that matter any one can become Einstein. All of us are born equal, No ? Try it.

Myth #3: What you study in college is not important. Even going to college is not important. You can still code.
Another variation of this
Myth #3: You can learn computer science in part time NIIT classes. Learn ECE/EEE/Mech/ Civil/Industrial/Mining/D.F.T in college and computer science in NIIT. You will be a master in 2 subjects.
There are some exceptions. But remember they are exceptions. They would have done it anyway. If these NIIT educated guys learn half about computers as a self learned auto mechanic learns about his car then they got what they paid for. It is just that. Well if you think about getting a degree in some other branch and then become a master in both CS and your branch, well I will say Best of Luck. You may end up being a jack of both or may be master only in CS. Why not just do CS then ?

Myth #4 : Computer Science is all about coding. No, it is not. Even computer engineering or for that matter software engineering is not just about coding. Anyone who know his CS will vouch for it.

Myth #5 : Learning Computers is like learning science/engineering. The word computer science or computer engineering is usually created by the departments. The study can never classified as such. It is not a science as in Physics, not engineering as mechanical. It is just part of both. But it is also about art. Lot of difference between good and bad software, high performance and useless hardware will be from the arts part. This is one of the reasons for so many geeks in this field.
2:13 PM | Author: Siva
Though my profile says I live in Gainesville, FL, I spend a fair amount of time in the Matheson Reading Room of Emory University. The news today is the famous Salman Rushdie (or should I say infamous?) is joining the Emory faculty as professor in English department. I am no fan of his books. But I may attend one of his talks. It could be interesting, especially the Q&As, considering the huge Pakistani population in Emory. Let us see. (No, it is not for the hope that Padma Lakshmi may attend the talk.)
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10:54 PM | Author: Siva
Work till 4 am on thursday night, Sleep for 3 hrs, Get up and work out, Attend a marathon meeting for 3 hours which exposes you have a long way to go, Understand your procrastination is not going to help you, Attend a lecture on greedy approximations most of which is bouncers in the best and beamers in the worst, Realize it is weekend already, Boose and sleep like a log.

Oh, I missed this. Speaking about procrastination, search about good procrastination and realize there is something like that. Check out Paul Graham's article about Good and Bad Procrastination. That is something to feel good about. Isn't it ? So Blog about it !
9:36 PM | Author: Siva

Thiagarajar College of Engineering also known as "mottai arasar" college is where I spent 4 good years of my undergraduate days.** Our college is preparing for its Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2007-2008. As part of the preparation, the correspondent, the principal and the registrar were in Atlanta to meet some alumni. About 11 of us attended the alumni meet. Some of the alumni were even from 1979 batch. I was surprised to see such enthusiastic response from people who finished so many years back. The enthusiasm of the organizers was infectious. They did a great job by organizing this meet.

The principal gave a wonderful presentation about our college and where it stands now. 7 years doesn't seem too long. But I was able to see that the college has transformed itself totally in these 7 years. All for good. Some of the good things that I observed about the college.

  • The emphasis is shifting towards research. Well atleast in the ECE, Mech and EEE departments. The young departments, like CS, are yet to follow. I found the collaborations in International virtual lab really interesting.
  • The attitude of the administration is totally different now. In the current principal the college has found a man with a vision. This surely is going to help. For e.g.: They are visiting US universities and analyzing how to improve our college, Starting from simple things like having a t-shirt for TCE to having a separate program administration type of department to market the college. (T-shirts are banned in college now as it is in most of Anna Universities' affiliated colleges, but they are contemplating about lifting the ban)
  • The infrastructure, industry cooperation, everything seems to be improving. The Motorola’s R&D center in campus seems to be great idea.
With all the good points listed it would be biased if I don't list the negatives.
  • The first and foremost, our college was not ranked in the outlook's survey of India's best engineering colleges. The principal himself acknowledged this and said they are planning to participate in next year's survey. If Karunya, SSN and Amrita colleges are ranked and we are not ranked it won't look good. Though the ranking methodology is not so great, from the college's perspective it is good to be in the ranking than out of it. Especially when we are pretty close to PSG on all the criteria listed and PSG is listed at 23, it makes a lot of sense to go for it.
  • Too few faculties with PhDs. There seems to be an effort to push the existing faculty to go for the PhD. But it may just improve the quantity rather than quality. They should target hiring PhDs. Attractive pay packages and benefits should do the job.
  • Too few students go for higher studies. In fact the principal didn't list the numbers. The college can never be considered a research institution if it is not motivating people for higher studies. There could be multiple reasons behind it. Some key reasons could be
  1. The student population in our college is predominantly from rural areas. So getting a job is mostly the primary goal when students enter college.
  2. Lack of motivation due to high paying jobs. (I don't believe this myself, people from madras leave high paying jobs to join ms/Phd)
  3. Lack of guidance in terms of career options, advantages in doing higher studies etc.
  • No active fund raising efforts. Even in the silver jubilee year the college is still not having a fund raising effort. From the reactions, I understand they are not very comfortable with it. This mindset should change and the college should seriously consider raising funds from Alumni.
Negatives 1, 2, 4 are administrative issues. For negative 3, I strongly believe the main reasons are the initial goal and the lack of guidance. I have some ideas to solve them. I know there exists a booklet in SVCE which jots down the steps to follow from first year to the day you land in a US university. It includes everything from FAQs about marks in semester exams, preparing undergrad level papers, GRE/GMAT/TOEFL preparations, application process, funding process, travel agent numbers, things to bring to US, EVERYTHING. If you get that book in first year, follow it, then you should land in a US university for MS/Phd without much of a problem.

I am planning to prepare one such booklet for our college. Of course, I am going to take help from a few others. A lot of info is available in the net. But the consolidation is going to take some effort. I would love to get questions from others to add to the booklet. If you happen to read this post and have tips /questions about the booklet send me an e-mail or leave a comment.

More photos of the alumni meet can be found in TCE Atlanta Alumni site.

** I carefully avoided the word "studied" in that first sentence :-)

1:33 AM | Author: Siva
This is one of the things I don't understand. If appendix and toncils are vestigial organs and Darwin's theory holds, then what is the purpose for facial hair ?

There are some cosmetic reasons for Sri Sri Ravishankar, kalki avatar and other self proclaimed god men.

It really helps Gillette to beat Moore's law with respect to razor blades. I mean, don't these guys double the blades every year. I cannot wait to see that 10 blade razor. I hear they are waiting for the holiday season.

It helps Saeed Anwar make a come back, and Inzamam win matches. (How come nobody suggested this to Ganguly ?)

It helps the new desi grad students and bored to death s/w engineers to make a statement(!) when they grow their first goatie immediately after landing in U.S.

But are these things considered in evolution ? If the evolution is taking place slowly then Pakistan, Bangladesh et al are still very backward. We are still an evolving country. China appears to be the only evolved place. I am serious. My department has two chinese guys for every non-chinese around. Have I ever seen one with a beard ? All of them are grad students. Someone should be lazy and should forget to shave, right ? I have seen no one, not one single person with a beard. Ok, I have seen those kung-fu movies with that old chinese guy with a long goatie and the ponytail and , but that is ancient china. They have evolved NOW. I can't wait to see the headlines why china is more evolved than India, how India will be more evolved soon, and how all Indians won't have facial hair by 2030. It will be great if some of my handful of readers pass this on to CNN-IBN or rediff !
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4:48 PM | Author: Siva
In the events that followed the ban on blogs, we talk about censorship. We talk about freedom of speech. We find short cuts to read the blogs. We plan to file PILs. But what is this world coming to ? Did anyone bother about that poor webserver which is getting millions of requests to those blogs, but has to block it. Simply bacause it was "ordered to" block them. How emotionally draining will that exercise be ?. Here is the story from the webserver's side.

Note : It is hosted on geocities :-). If you are in India : please use tor. It is a rare, old forward, customized for the ban.
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1:07 AM | Author: Siva

My bro Suraj forwarded this picture last week. Is that a resilient family ? Check out the poor man who is in the background. I can assure you that this isn't just a pose for the photo. Those people sincerely want to watch the serial. I have seen such personalities. I guess, it all started with Ramayan and Mahabharath. But that was fine. Some Mythology, some war, it was sort of ok. There will even be a confusion when there is a one day match to switch between DD-1 and DD-2.

At the same time DD had this 13 episode serials. Some of them were quite decent and it gets over in 13 weeks. So we were still in safe territory. KB's Rail Snegham was pretty decent. But that was it. I was left behind there. I wasn't part of the mega serial boom. But it happened and the boom is at its peak now. In Tamilnadu it started with Chithiiiii. It led to the development of the following characters.

Grandma : you will often hear her talk to grandma2 "sandala pavi, gayathriya kai vittutane". If you assume she is talking about your ex-girl friend gayathri and plan to confess then you are in serious trouble.

Mom : "It is already 8.30. Why don't you come and have dinner ?" Is it because of the couple of inches we lost ? No, Wrong again, it is because kudumbam starts at 9.00.

Sis : "What are you watching ? Is it good ? ". That probably means give me the remote and get out.

Dad : "vaada sappitralam." That means let us eat fast or we won't get food for another hour.

Seriously, these are real people. There is this girl we know. She is a s/w engineer. Being in a thankless job she works till 8.50 pm. Then her poor boy friend has to drop her at home. He again picks her up at 9.30 pm for dinner. 9.00 - 9.30 was her serial time with some kudambam, kaviyam type serial. It doesn't matter that your own life could be in jeopardy. What if the poor BF gets frustrated ? Who cares ? It appears people need that peek into some other people's problems. Most of these serials satisfy that longing for the gossip. They satisy the urge to see what is happening in the next door. But the problem is "the girl next door" has a drunkard as her husband and is perpetually crying.

For a change I would like to see a mega serial like "the girl next door" itself. Let me not care about Day-Night matches. Let me forget about food and make my mom wait for me. Ah, if had all my wishes granted then I wouldn't be blogging about this now, Will I ? :-)
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3:24 PM | Author: Siva
Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi (Annoying(?)* King Pulikesi-23), is banned in Karnataka. Rakshne Vedika and Kaveri Kannada found the conspiracy of the Tamils. Pulikesi-2 defeated mahendravarman a tamil king in the 600's A.D. But mahendravarman's blood line is still a closely guarded secret. But they found it. Yes it is director sankar. He made it big into movies with one goal in mind. To avenge the defeat mahendravarman suffered against pulikesi. But he cannot blow his cover by directing a movie on pulikesi. So he instead produced one which portrays pulikesi with vadivelu !

Now tell me, how cheap can these people get ? Don't these guys have some sense of humor ? Can't they see vadivelu ? How can that character hurt sentimets ? I was looking forward for this movie, a political satire(probably) after a long time. Anyone remember cho's Mohammed-bin-Tughlaq ? The least common denominator of the bangalore is dictating terms once again. God save the high cort judges in Bangalore. They need to go to their grand kids' history books now.

* Imsai is not annoying as in Somnath Chatterjee, but it is annoying as in Sidhu. Something you can laugh at.
** The ban is true, Karthik, my friend in Bangalore, went to see it but couldn't. PVR refunded the money.
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10:17 PM | Author: Siva
Pt. Lobbos & Carmel
South Bay,
originally uploaded by rsiva.
I hope I saved the best for the last. Point Lobbos is one of the best places we visited in this trip. Carmel is on the way. So it doesn't hurt to stop. PT.Lobbos where land, sea and the sky merge mesmerizingly. Check out the photos.

Tip : If you ever plan to visit Point Lobbos take your lunch. There is not even a snack shop in the park.
PS : flickr doesn't allow me to create more than 3 sets. I have started using flickralbum. If you want descriptions click on the photos themselves.
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1:34 PM | Author: Siva
It is appalling how our politicians can react to a situation of emergency. When they get the news of 8 serial blasts in mumbai and 5 in Kashmir, they call a meeting, they meet for an hour, then they issue lame statements. They claim that these attacks won't derail the peace process.

If we do little thinking then we will see that it requires a coordinated effort to carry out such an operation. These 13 or more guys should use something to coordinate. Can it be phone calls or e-mails ? They couldn't have just used sign language. Do we have the technology to track all of those phone calls ? My guess : In India it is not good enough to catch them. They didn't apparate into the mumbai trains. Can we trace them ? No we don't have surveillance cameras in place in most of our public areas. Sure they are invasive. But I would prefer to be safe. When we don't spend our money on security we are doomed to what happened yesterday.

Media and Politicians are claiming the 'resilience of mumbai'. The point is not being resilient or succumbing to the terrorists. The point is we don't need to face those misfortunes to be resilient later. We deserve a safe life.

If I were to write a letter to Dr.Singh -
Dr.Singh, this is the best opportunity to hunt these idiots. You have provided photographs of their camps for years now. Can you take security seriously and start spending on it ? Can you order a surgical strike on these camps ? The international community will support you now. Pakistan can't support these extremists atleast for now. If you lack the technology or the guts for the operation then stepping down will be a better option. When there are serious problems we need leaders who lead from the front. (Please don't give us a feeling George Bush would have been better)

Let us not issue statements like "We urge Pakistan to take steps to dismantle the infrastructure as early as possible". Thankfully, the word is atleast urge and not request ! Forget the economy bouncing back, stock markets rising despite the attacks. That is your forte. For once let us talk about the problem in hand and solve it. We won't become a super power unless we act like one. We won't get the Security Council seat with desires. Deserve it by showing that we will hit back strongly. For god's sake, ACT.
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10:22 PM | Author: Siva
South Bay
South Bay,
originally uploaded by rsiva.
Some of the beautiful places south of the bay area are just 1-2 hrs drive from there. Big Basin Redwood state park is one of them. When you are surrounded by those giant redwoods some 2000 years old, some 300 ft tall, you literally see how small you are against nature. We also did the 17-mile drive. It was nothing great when compared to the drive along Highway 1, but we just drove the 17 miles as we were staying close by. The lone cypress gave some good photo ops.
Tip : If you are planning for a short day trip in the bay area then go to big basin. Lot of people will suggest mystery point and 17 mile drive. Big Basin is better and little known.
PS : flickr doesn't allow me to create more than 3 sets. So please use the next photo option starting from the current link
10:40 PM | Author: Siva
SanFrancisco & Pacifica
San Francisco & Pacifica,
originally uploaded by rsiva.
San Francisco is famous for the quote "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." which is often misattributed to Mark Twain. But it lived upto the quote. These photographs are taken in a june afternoon. The second part of the photographs are from Pacifica. This is a small town fondly called the fog capital of the world (like the Basketball's "World" Champions - Miami Heats). Our hotel Best Western lighthouse was right on the beach. Wonderful place.

Tip : If you are visiting San Francisco then plan your stay in Pacifica. It is just 15 miles south of San Francisco. But it is away from the city with a beautiful rugged and fogy coastline.
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1:56 AM | Author: Siva
originally uploaded by rsiva.
These pictures are from Yosemite National Park. What a place ! Breathtaking scenery, serene beauty, Nature at its best. Million words won't describe it. So let me leave it to the pictures.
Tip : Don't go on a holiday weekend. Stay inside the park even if it is expensive. you won't regret it.
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4:21 PM | Author: Siva
After a week's trip to different parts of California, I am slowly settling back to normal life. With close to 500 photographs, I won't be able to upload them all. We were fortunate to see some of the best places in California. I am going to upload the photos as various sets over a week. Below is a small sample from my wildlife set.

Most of these photos are from two places. Pt.Lobbos state park and from our whale watching trip. No photo can do justice to the magical beauty of Point Lobbos. We were happy that this place is still not in the tourist radar. Hence retains the magic.

We went 2.5 hrs into the sea to watch whales.(Sanctuary Cruises, Moss Landing) The trip was well worth it. To see 4 of those huge whales, move in tandem, blow, dive, breach out of water, play going sideways was an experience to itself. All this happens from 100-150 ft from where you stand. It is their territory. They dictate the terms. They dive, disappear for 4-5 mins and then reappear. Sometimes dangerously close to the boat, sometimes far away. If you are in the bay area don't miss these.

Wild Life,
originally uploaded by rsiva.
Whales, Birds, Sea Lions in California
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1:54 AM | Author: Siva
What are the defining qualities of the best Chick ? Should be Hot ! Hot ! & Hot ! Anything else is sub par. Should melt at your first touch but shouldn't be spineless. Should have a balance in the spice level. Just enough to keep you interested but not too much to saturate your taste buds to enjoy the rest of the wonderful things this world has to offer. The juiciness is normally a matter of preference. Mine borders around 50-60%.

Too idealistic ? Does one such "chick" exist ? yes, It does. Check out Shalimar in the Bay area. It is a Indo-Pakistani restaurant. Famous for its food and infamous for its service. I don't care about the service as long as a I get the best chick on a weekly basis.

This is the best chicken in the bay area, in fact the best I had in US. But if your spice expectation level is equivalent to the global thermo nuclear* of University chicken or your patience level is zero then Shalimar may not be the right place.

Who cares about service** ? I am all for the best chick.

P.S : * if you don't what the global thermo nuclear is then it is just enough spice to keep all your holes burning for couple of days !
** Never go to this place alone. It has a funny requirement. You need to hold a table and give the table number when you wait in line and order the food. But you can't be at the table (if you aren't there then someone else will take it) and order at the same time. Can you ?
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8:07 PM | Author: Siva
Few recent things inspired this post. The first one is the V for Vangibath story and the next was an episode in "Boston Legal" about a black man enquired because he was in a white neighborhood and the subsequent lengthy discussion with my friend gradus desicus.

Though the situation of brookentooth's friend is worse I have been in a somehwat similar situation. The place is Orlando airport. Being the usual grad student self I didn't bother to shave and was pulled out of the regular line and sent in a much shorter one. Poor me ! I didn't get the plot and was as usual happy seeing the shorter line without the screaming kids. It turned out to be a special line for suspects and I was frisked and my baggage was thoroughly searched.

When I left that line, I was curious to know whether the hair growth in my face or my color had anything to do with the previliege. There weren't any cruel intentions like suing. I just had my plans for the shorter line in my subsequent trips. The officer didn't understand my plans though. He didn't give a direct yes/no but he pointed to a white old man who didn't have a beard but was still being searched. So the plan for the shorter line was trashed.

The "Boston legal" case was similar to these except the race was different. Apart from these Driving while Black (DWB) cases seem to be a common thing here. The broader question that remains unanswered "Can we allow special forces to do racial profiling in some form ?". Though it helps having shorter lines and avoid screaming kids with Disney bags not everyone will like shorter lines. What if someone feels hurt ? Is the law still valid ? Can it hurt someone's feelings to protect the rest ? It appears it can because the law is for greater good. The term greater is ill-defined, in a broad sense can be majority but in the narrow mind can be the a single family (as it happened in recent Office of Profit issue back in India).

To me discrimination in any form cannot be allowed. Even if it helps the majority feel secure if it hurts the feeling of one innocent person then the law is not just. It ought to be just, right ? Well, what if it helps the minority like the profiling of the number of muslims in the indian army. Is it just ? My take : No, it isn't. By doing this the common law is starting to encourage discrimination which is amoral. Can legal experts curtail this before the disease spreads ? Time will answer.
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8:54 PM | Author: Siva
The Coke factory in Gangaikondan, Tamilnadu is the place this time. There are investigations over a death. It will be very difficult to prove anything especially with the Indian penal system which provides the benefit of doubt to the accused. If it is in U.S then it will be simple. Get a middle class jury. The verdict will be almost decided at that point against the company. A better way for Coke to prove its social responsibility, as it claims to have, is to join the desalination project of the Tamilnadu government. But I am sure they won't do it for a few more years.
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9:35 AM | Author: Siva
Check this article on GE Durham. One plant manager for 170 people who build aircraft engines. That says something about that 170 people. Every person knows every other person's salary. You need extraordinary trust in people to run a company like this. But isn't it the way it should be.

In contrast, look at the current conditions in services industry. It appears it is built on extraordinary disbelief in people. All the processes to avoid human error, then a process to evaluate the process itself(sei cmm?), salaries known only to your manager, more processes to keep it that way. I would like to work in a place like GE Durham. hmm ...
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1:56 PM | Author: Siva
A very recent story about Coke's exploitation of natural resources is here. Coca cola is demanding sales tax benefits from the state government. For what ? Is it for its service to the humanity ? If the supreme court acts fast and finds Coca cola guilty of exploiting natural sources it is going to start a string of cases against all its bottling units. Let us see where this goes.
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12:58 PM | Author: Siva
Coca cola's violation of fair trade practices is finally being noticed. Not in India, Colombia or Turkey where this violations happen. But in U.S. The Univ of Michigan has suspended sale of Coke products in its campus. Here is the letter doing that. When I went to see Constant Gardener (good movie) last week in UFL's cinema there was a signature drive to do the same in UFL. I happily agreed to sign. This is after NYU also chucked out Coca cola for similar reasons.

Me and Sri are one of those minority who say no to any of the carbonated drinks. We prefer plain water and are plainly surprised that the Coca Cola is beating its main competition "Water" in U.S.

When the U.S universities are doing this, what do we do in Indian colleges ? We will negotiate with Coca cola and pepsi for sponsorships and will choose the one who pays more ! Our actors will endorse it to make some more money ! Will someone in Indian Universities take a clue from these ?
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3:51 PM | Author: Siva
This is partly my wish and partly my vision, if you will, about how the connectivity in the world will be in the next 5 years. Now connectivity at home is unlimited. There is the broadband, and cable. I don't pay by how many movies I watch or how much I download. I pay for the connectivity.

What happens when I leave the house ? I pay for each message I send and receive. I pay for each call I make and receive. This trend will (has to ?) go away. I expect this in another 5 years in U.S, probably 7 years in India. People should be charged for mobile connectivity. Note, I don't want device based connectivity. I want one provider who allows me to go mobile. I should be able to connect with my laptop, blackberry, cell phone, whatever that is. I need one guy with whom I will maintain a subscription, and I stay connected all across the country/globe. The connectivity level should be as good as cell phones.

Let us see how this idea works in another 5 years.

BTW, You may ask why this connectivity is required for a guy who bought his first cellular phone in 2005. That is not the point, I don't need it. I prefer to be without this connectivity. But this is how I see it can be done in future :-)
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9:47 PM | Author: Siva
Karthik forwarded this link about the most popular myths. I atleast quoted a couple of them within the past month in some conversation. I quoted the 10% brain myth and seven second thought myth.
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1:50 PM | Author: Siva
As my code is running endlessly, staring at the giga bytes of data being printed becomes a bit boring. So I look around and I find myself sitting next to the H stack of the journals section of emory's library. As usual the library is deserted. So I take a look at the journals. Hinduism today, Healthcare financial management, Harvard Business review. I find myself reaching for the last one. I am no great fan of management philosphies. But somehow I was curious.

There was this article about people. Make a matrix with likeability and Competence as two axes. You have a lovable star, lovable fool, competent jerk, incompetent jerk. The authors present their survey results about what kind of co workers do people go to when they are in need of help. Everyone wants a lovable star, no one wants a incompetent jerk. When the choice narrows down to other two categories, people prefer a lovable fool over a competent jerk even though they may get better help from the competent jerk.

They also argue that you need competent jerks too. So they outline a manger's course of action to make use of the lovable fools and competent jerks. Choosing a fool : People's preference sometime amazes me !

The complete article is not in the web, but some excerpts are here.
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8:13 PM | Author: Siva
Though I spend most of my time in Georgia nowadays, Florida is still my favorite in U.S. The reason is obvious - weather. So we decided to take a break and travel Florida during the christmas season. A sample of what the state has to offer along with my jottings follow.

The first stop : Universal studios. We have been to the Islands of Adventure and Disney before. So we stopped at Universal studios. We liked it. The rides, shows and regular theme park stuff. Though this is aligned with movies. They also had a holiday parade. Of course what is s parade without Santa. Surprisingly Santa had some cheer leaders too.

The next stop was Kennedy Space center, Cape Canaveral. Frankly, I didn't have lot of expectations due to security restrictions. But the place surprised us with a real saturn v. Built in 70's with the design in paper w/o all the 3-d modelling stuff, it did amaze us. That is me standing next to a saturn v.

The IMAX movie filmed in the international space station(ISS) was also worth watching. The parts that are waiting to be sent to the ISS can also be seen there. They are going to take another 6 years to send all those parts. The Lunar module and a lunar rock was also there. We liked it a lot.

So after a day of fantasy theme parks and real rockets we decided to see the nature in Florida. This time the stop is Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
We just picked it randomly. But again it turned out to be nicer than we thought. After 2 days with bus loads of tourists the deserted trails with its chirping birds and the river with fishes was a totally different experience. We met four other people when we were returning.

The north end is relatively more populated. Though there were only 10-15 other people. The trail was beautiful, with the clear springs, Ichetucknee river flowing without much of a noise. It was refreshing.

The last day was for rest. But as we were fresh we went to the Florida's museum of National History as this place is very close to my house. The main reason to go there was to see the butterfly rain forest. They breed and protect around 2000 butterflies in this place. When you enter the area there are butterflies all around, flying past you, waiting in the path, hiding behind rocks. They are just everywhere. Beautiful place.

The museum also has a mamooth and matodon exhibits.

Somehow the last 3 days were the best in the trip. But the first day was the most expensive :-).
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