Saturday, December 31, 2005

Quiz Time 13 - The Blogosphere

Quiz Time 13

Yr Host - Aaman Lamba

Answers have been added to Quiz Time 12 - and the winner is Phillip Winn, with 3 points

This quiz has a theme - the blogosphere. All the questions are related in some way to the blogosphere and it's denizens. Are you a question or an answer?

Also, tonight (Jan 1), there is a huge and arbitrary quiz online on a blog hosted by the Karnataka Quiz Association (KQA), the finest Quiz Association in the world, and one of which I have had the honor of being a member, and ranked quizzer, along with my team, "Mustafa and the Fat Bottomed Girls" - the quiz is online from 1500-1800 IST (09:30:00-12:30:00 GMT) - give it a shot, if you like.

Send me your answers by email - aamanlamba at

Prize:Once again, whoever gets the most answers right will get a prize mailed him/her from me. Honor system, so no looking up answers from Elgoog, etc.

The Questions - Stage I

1. What does it mean if you get SLAPPed?

2. What did the following people start: Evan Williams, Paul Bausch, and Meg Hourihan?

3. What immortal phrase did Sam Sugar coin in his article "How to Make Money Podcasting if You’re Not Adam Curry"? (I'll accept small variants of the term)

4. Name at least two people in this picture. For a bonus point, name all 5.

5. Which podcast was the winner at this year's Weblog Awards (2005)

6. Which blogging service allows users to add eProps to other users' blog entries, to encourage comments?

7. Who wrote this blog entry?

Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown and went to her window, and thought it to be on the back side of Mark Lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. . . . By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw

8. What is a livemark?

9. What is the Chinese term for blogger?

10. Complete this series: b2\cafelog, Miles, Blakey,Mingus, Strayhorn, ?

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Some of the Best Books of 2005

Friday, December 30, 2005

Easy Ajax: A Case Study

Writing a concurrency control system in an afternoon using Asynchronous Java And XML (Ajax)

read more | digg story

Watching Star Wars

I've just started something that's taken a long while to put together - I'm finally watching all the Star Wars films in sequence, chronologically speaking, i.e. from the Phantom Menance to the Return of the Jedi.

Might sound simplistic, and one has indeed seen all the films numerous times, but this is, I believe finally affording me an impressionistic experience of the Film qua film. Aidan Wasley called it the 'Greatest post-modern art film ever'. One aspires to understand the validity of this statement through this viewing.

What fun!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Birds At Newport Aquarium, Cincinnati

Originally uploaded by aacool.
Nice aquarium, interesting walkway, great sharks - and Santa swimming in the shark-waters!

Technology Trends 2005 and 2006

Technology seems to be the only scientific realm where innovation continues apace, and yet it has shown an amazing ability to adapt existing tools, while extending them in surprising ways. At the end of 2004, I had humbly predicted a few technology trends I felt would gain ground in 2005. Let's see how I did.

1. Dualcore chips: The Xbox 360 is the most high-profile multi-core chipset in production, and AMD is a clear leader here

2. Desktop Search: Still gaining ground, although it doesn't seem to have made a material difference to the way we work

3. Swarming technologies: Still on the periphery of the mainstream.

4. The Blogosphere reaches critical mass: Bingo! Although, not that hard to assume

5. Spyware, collaborative viruses and all that good stuff: Collaborative anti-spyware like Spynet are on track. Spyware typically now lasts less than a week or two before being trapped in a safety net. If you don't run Anti-Spyware, you should.

6. Voice over IP(v6?): VOIP still booming, and we haven't seen anything yet.

7. NextGen Gaming Consoles: 2006 will be the true year of the next-gen consoles. The 360 was more a shot across the bows, and the true value of these devices as being post-PC tools is only beginning

8. WiFi/WiMax: WiFi is now the defacto standard for homes and many public spaces. WiMax is still over the hill, but getting closer.

9. Business Process Modeling: BPEL-based tools are available everywhere, and process engines are making enterprise workflow easier and more standardized. The memo has not yet reached all departments yet, and political resistance from legacy chieftains is still a stumbling block

10. Global, low-cost, localized IT: Getting even closer - the Simputer, the $100 laptop, and Microsoft's Project Bhasha are a few examples.

For 2006, many of the trends above will continue to gain mindshare. A few more technology trends for 2006:

1. 64-bit technologies The big shift will begin, and with it, the ability to address large, large memory spaces - thereby eliminating the folder-based hierarchy of storage

2. Wiki news Collaborative news-gathering will further doom old media. All media will move towards being effective content aggregators, providing value through effective information service management. Google and Yahoo will both purchase Old Media companies.

3. Air web: EVDO, EDGE and related wireless web protocols will untether us from our chairs, information-wise. This will be coupled with initiatives like Office Live and Google Office(?) to mean the beginning of the end of Office Space

4. Flat World technology: More of what can go over a wire will go over a wire to the BRICs in the global wall.

5. Media convergence: The PC, the phone, the Blackberry, the Xbox - will all be channels for communicating with the information store - integrated through a consistent interface.

Wishful thinking:

> SETI Contact
> Free Internet access (0c bandwidth costs)
> Universal Translators
> The Singularity

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005 downtime and the new Venture Capitalism seems to be down again. Visiting now (10:10 PM EST,Dec 27,2005) throws the following error:
System error
error: could not get config: err= eval= at /www/ line 9.
5: $setbundleview => ''
6: $noui => 'no'
8: <%init>
10: do "/etc/delicious/" or die "could not get config: err=$! eval=$@";
12: $dbh = $db->{master};
code stack: /www/

raw error has faced downtime and outages at least twice recently, both explainable by tech mavens, and perhaps related to the need for Six Sigma+ availability, but interestingly, and purely coincidentally, all downtimes have occurred post the Yahoo! acquisition.

One is somewhat addicted to the convenience of as a device-independent storage of bookmarks, and the serendipity of finding links via or /popular - almost a measure of zeitgeist, albeit among a small uber-techno-chic subset of the human race, it is a valuable resource. Various clones do exist, but why bother?

Yahoo!'s acquisition raises no concerns, at least for me - flickr goes well, and they have ably emerged a leading player in the Web 2.0 discussion by answering the technological question of 'buy vs. build' one way, unlike Microsoft or Google. There seems to be as little method to their acquisitiveness as there is to Google's or Microsoft's, but when cash is cheap, and startups plentiful, a shot in the dark is all you need to make it in Web 2.0 and beyond.

eBay snapped up Skype, Oracle bought 13 companies, in some of the best tech moments of 2005. In an analysis of Google's acquisitions, Adam Rifkin noted,
-- the assets of Deja and Outride, plus Pyra, Applied Semantics, Kaltix, Sprinks, Ignite Logic, Neotonic, Picasa, and Keyhole -- reveals a common theme: these are all small, creative, engineering-driven teams with no-bullshit cultures and interesting products and/or innovative technologies. A key challenge going forward is... can Google absorb bigger companies that contribute revenues

Wired, BusinessWeek and other commenters have noted the emergence of a new variety of venture capitalism, one driven by companies like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, to the consternation of traditional VCs.
The Google effect is already changing the delicate balance in Silicon Valley between venture capitalists and startup companies. Instead of nurturing the most promising startups with an eye toward taking the fledgling businesses public, a growing number of VCs now scour the landscape for anyone with a technology or service that might fill a gap in Google's portfolio. Google itself and not the larger market has become the exit strategy as VCs plan for the day they can take their money out of their startups

Analysts caution that the market cap driven heft of these companies is ephemeral, and to not use it, could mean a withering away of the Google Effect. Startups, though, will continue to hope and dream of the proverbial knock on their door, by Mr Moneybags.

Who's next in the shopping cart?, Slashdot, Netflix, Technorati or boingboing?

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Monday, December 26, 2005

It's Quiz Time 12

Quiz Time 12

Yr Host - Aaman Lamba

Answers have been added to Quiz Time 11 - and the winner for Quiz Time 11, receiving a pristine copy of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" is Mary K Williams. with actually a tie between her, Alisha Karabinus and Phillip Winn, resolved for a variety of reasons in Mary's favor.

This quiz was won by Phillip Winn, with 3 points

Some new questions on a variety of themes. Send me your answers by email - aamanlamba at

Prize:Once again, whoever gets the most answers right will get a prize mailed him/her from me. Honor system, so no looking up answers from Elgoog, etc.

The Questions - Stage I

1. Where would you find The Dot, F-1, The Genius, the Jigsaw, Mother Nature, Links, Clippy and Rocky?

2. The Duramax comes in at least 4 versions - the LG5, the LG4, the LGY and the LGZ. It uses high-pressure common-rail direct injection. What is the Duramax?

3. Complete the title of this well-known book:
      _____________ from This World to That Which Is to Come

4. Who is represented in this painting?

5. mpg4 This piece by Offenbach from Orphee aux Enfers, is used for a popular dance form. Name the piece/dance form

6. Ozzfest, the annual heavy metal festival organized by Ozzy Osbourne and Sharon Osbourne, is no stranger to controversy. Which famous band faced heckling and sabotage at Ozzfest 2005, allegedly encouraged by Sharon herself?

7. What is the NASDAQ symbol for the restaurant chain, The Cheesecake Factory?

8. What is this icon called, and where did it originate?

9. What is this ant called? It was recently discovered by Brian Fisher in Madagascar, via a California Academy of Sciences project called Antweb, and might well be considered the world's first dot-com ant pic2

10. How was this famous note signed? (A word has been elided to make it a little harder)

I know I will be dead long before you read this

but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret.

I have stolen the real ______ and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.

I face death in the hope that when you meet your match you will be mortal once more.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Halo 2 Canada

Ways the Canadian version of Halo 2 differs from the US version, from TechStuff
1. The guns are registered (but not very well).
2. Injured players get publicly funded health care.
9. Officially refuses invitations to join U.S.-led multi-player campaigns,
then quietly helps behind the scenes without telling anyone.



Good game, though, still addicted to it, after all this time.

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Meri bhi Christmas

Shivam of Mall Road, gives us a good riposte to political correctness with his brief, yet pithy post on Christmas.

For those of us from truly multi-cultural nations, like India, the recent brouhaha about 'Happy Holidays' is odd.

Firstly, there is no true concept of 'Holidays' the way we celebrate them in India and Europe - no one takes long breaks, there is little exultation in the streets, like Diwali or even Christmas, and people don't travel as much as almost every middle-class-and-up desi does, partly thanks to the colonial LTA/LTC (Leave Travel Allowance), a tax-deductible allowance available bi-annually to be used for travel.

Secondly, secularism, a word rarely mentioned in the West, although practiced more concretely here, is partly about being able to exchange Eid wishes and Christmas salutations equally, irrespective of denomination.

Finally, it is disconcerting, and socially dysfunctional, to avoid a word used as a connotation of brotherly love, rather than the borrowed religious connotation, which itself was introduced over an older greeting of warmth.

'Nuff said. Excuse me while I settle down with a Chivas Regal next to my crackling fire, beside our 6-foot Christmas tree, and go through the presents of the day.

Meri bhi Christmas (It's even my Christmas, to translate literally)
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Challenge Of Choice - Best Lists Of 2005

The plethora of best-of lists that appear every year seem to wash over oneself, giving little distinction and creative impetus worth appreciating, either through their sameness, or due to their contents being mostly over-played in the year. This is most applicable to best-of movie lists, whether or not one has seen the film in question.

The publicity machine of mass media sends out waves of information and noise, that after a while become indistinguishable. Cultural differences are lost in the new global commons. It becomes difficult to choose.

Stylus Magazine's Top 50 Albums is different in many respects, including an album that blends music and noise from the interzone between AM stations (Tod Dockstader – Aerial 1), another from a country icon who hasn't released an album in 20 years (Bobby Bare - The Moon Was Blue), and much newness, from The Russian Futurists to the very good Spoon. Kate Bush makes an appearance, as does Sufjan Stevens. Insights are to be had in the crisp comments for each entry, such as this one,
Music these days is all derived. It’s always coming from influences here and there, with traces or hints or aspects of this, that and, quite possibly the other thing too.

Coming to film, one finds an inordinate obsession with films from Hollywood, a naivete that extends even to aficionados like Roger Ebert or the Boston Film Society critics. The other side of the pond offers more well-rounded lists, such as the Telegraph's, which included Howl's Moving Castle and the Guardian's list with Downfall and The Consequences Of Love. Despite these variances, there was still a depressing sameness about these lists. Missing were Indian excellences like Black and Paheli, and the Korean "Blue Swallow". I must, however, mention the more than eclectic New York Times' movie list from A O Scott

Books are somewhat easier to choose from, and given the richness of fine writing this year, as in most, there is a lot of good stuff.A grandiose claim was made by Sir V S Naipaul that "Fiction is Dead", as noted by Salon, and disproved by their own list, which includes Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go", "On Beauty" and "The Assassin's Gate". Amazon's editors provide a rather effective best-of list of books.

Gregory Maguire comments on how we are bound together by our books, a good thought in these tense times.
The literature of childhood — including the fairy tales, the parables of history, the hero tales and legends, the cautionary lore and the folk beliefs — increasingly serves as that rarest of constructs: a set of references recognizable to us all.
This is either a wry comment on the Flatness of the World, or another example of naivete, overlooking regional originality.

Blogcritics prepareed various best-of-2005 lists, too - with much variation across the spectrum

I had a good creative year, personally, although I am looking forward avidly to 2006, and much newness, myself. Incidentally, this appears to be the 450th post on this blog, from the control panel.

Feliz Navidad!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Something This Way Comes

Red Skies at Night
Originally uploaded by jurvetson.
I've been conceptualizing something exciting in the web world of late that will arrive by Jan 26 next year. More shall be revealed soon.

2006 awaits

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Best Essays Of 2005

Prose endeavors to convey the meter of poetry through everyday language. Poetry by relying on meter delivers a succinct view of the world which affords the reader a prism on which to reflect on greater realities. Where poetry must appeal to the emotions, prose addresses the intellect.

The essay is the literary form most well-suited to express a specific idea or theme within a specific frame of reference. Where a book might expound a series of ideas, the essay constrains itself to concepts germane to the theme at hand. The term was coined by Michel de Montaigne to describe his 1580 collection of reflections on himself and human nature. The word essay also means 'to attempt'. It is therefore often a preliminary approach at a concept which may later be expanded into a book, if sufficient depth and interest is found on the theme. The best essayists like Bacon, Macaulay and Emerson have the ability to make the reader appreciate the personal, objective and abstract themes addressed. As Aldous Huxley noted, "The most richly satisfying essays are those which make the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist".

In present times, the most common place to find a good essay is in the pages of a magazine or a newspaper. The blogosphere has also afforded aspiring writers space to express themselves in the form of what can be considered essays. In one sense, this is the Age of the Essay. Here are my nominations for the best essays I have come across this year - both in print and online.

1. Paul Graham's "Web 2.0": THe creator of the Yahoo Store may not have invented Web 2.0, but he does a masterful job of listing it's attributes: AJAX, Democracy and Don't Maltreat Users.
...Web 2.0 means using the web the way it's meant to be used. The "trends" we're seeing now are simply the inherent nature of the web emerging from under the broken models that got imposed on it during the Bubble

2. Virginia Postrel's "Consumer Vertigo"(Reason): Addressing the paradox and proliferation of choice, the essay illustrates how choice provides a large tent for the wide variety of human preferences, and how maturity lies in navigating choice, not avoiding it.
Since different people care intensely about different things, only a society where choice is abundant everywhere can truly accommodate the variety of human beings. Abundant choice doesn’t force us to look for the absolute best of everything. It allows us to find the extremes in those things we really care about, whether that means great coffee, jeans cut wide across the hips, or a spouse who shares your zeal for mountaineering, Zen meditation, and science fiction.

3. Wired's "10 Years That Changed the World": In his new book "The Next Global Stage", Kenichi Ohmae says the world changed in 1985. Thomas Friedman expresses similar thoughts in "The World Is Flat". Wired Magazine took a look at the years since 1985, when Netscape went public, a time they term "A Decade of Genius And Madness". A host of interviews with the icons of the new Pantheon. Kevin Kelly notes,
Why aren't we more amazed by this fullness? Kings of old would have gone to war to win such abilities. Only small children would have dreamed such a magic window could be real. I have reviewed the expectations of waking adults and wise experts, and I can affirm that this comprehensive wealth of material, available on demand and free of charge, was not in anyone's scenario. Ten years ago, anyone silly enough to trumpet the above list as a vision of the near future would have been confronted by the evidence: There wasn't enough money in all the investment firms in the entire world to fund such a cornucopia. The success of the Web at this scale was impossible.

But if we have learned anything in the past decade, it is the plausibility of the impossible.

4. Salman Rushdie's "The Right Time for An Islamic Reformation"(Washington Post): The author with the mostest lays down the gauntlet to the traditionalists and literalists with a call for reform of laws and concepts out of sync with the time, before they are swept away.
The traditionalists' refusal of history plays right into the hands of the literalist Islamofascists, allowing them to imprison Islam in their iron certainties and unchanging absolutes. If, however, the Koran were seen as a historical document, then it would be legitimate to reinterpret it to suit the new conditions of successive new ages. Laws made in the seventh century could finally give way to the needs of the 21st. The Islamic Reformation has to begin here, with an acceptance of the concept that all ideas, even sacred ones, must adapt to altered realities.

5. Kurt Vonnegut's "A Man Without A Country": Breaking my own rule about essays, I must select the entire collection of essays by Mr Vonnegut only because it is so difficult to select an individual piece from a writer still in form and very much in touch with the 'Evening Land'. The black humor is strong, as is the acerbic view of society. He even admits his long-windedness.
"No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph,

6. Naomi Klein's "The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism"(The Nation/Alternet): In a year when Time Magazine's Best Photos issue features more disaster vignettes than anything else, when we saw the horrors of land, air and sea, it is a tough proposition to overlook the truism that every man's challenge is another's opportunity. Naomi Klein brings this home in her essay by detailing the beneficiaries of reconstruction - not just the sufferers of disaster, but the corporations, governments and regimes that move in to claim the new 'terra nullus'.
Few ideologues can resist the allure of a blank slate--that was colonialism's seductive promise: "discovering" wide-open new lands where utopia seemed possible. But colonialism is dead, or so we are told; there are no new places to discover, no terra nullius (there never was), no more blank pages on which, as Mao once said, "the newest and most beautiful words can be written." There is, however, plenty of destruction--countries smashed to rubble, whether by so-called Acts of God or by Acts of Bush (on orders from God). And where there is destruction there is reconstruction, a chance to grab hold of "the terrible barrenness," as a UN official recently described the devastation in Aceh, and fill it with the most perfect, beautiful plans.

7. Aidan Wasley's "
Star Wars: Episodes I-VI The greatest postmodern art film ever"
(Slate): The culmination of an epic as old as I am young has brought out the deconstructionists and revisionists. Critics revel in interpreting life through art, often merging the simulacra with the original. In this essay, Aidan demonstrates how Star Wars is "really just one big elephantine postmodern art film." He explores how the film(s) unravel the fundamental mechanics of storytelling.
Every text depends on the balance between inspiration and authorial control, and Lucas makes that tension the principal subject of his film. Lucas, like every author, is Luke to his own Palpatine—both the surrenderer to chance (as in Harrison Ford's memorably ad-libbed "I know" in response to the scripted "I love you" from Leia), and the rigorous, arranging schemer (as epitomized in the films' elaborate special effects).

8. Christine Rosen's "The Image Culture"(The New Atlantis): Being a word artist, one is is in constant fear of the seductive power of the image. In the fragmented post-modern world we live in, images control our perception of events and society more than we realize. Christine explores 'our contemporary confrontation with an image-based culture'. In an essay that spans centuries and tectonic paradigm shifts, she exposes the danger at the heart of image - the loss of memory.
...So it is with those who resist an image-based culture. As its boosters suggest, it is here to stay, and likely to grow more powerful as time goes on, making all of us virtual flâneurs strolling down boulevards filled with digital images and moving pictures. We will, of course, be enormously entertained by these images, and many of them will tell us stories in new and exciting ways. At the same time, however, we will have lost something profound: the ability to marshal words to describe the ambiguities of life and the sources of our ideas; the possibility of conveying to others, with the subtlety, precision, and poetry of the written word, why particular events or people affect us as they do; and the capacity, through language, to distill the deeper meaning of common experience. We will become a society of a million pictures without much memory, a society that looks forward every second to an immediate replication of what it has just done, but one that does not sustain the difficult labor of transmitting culture from one generation to the next.

9. James McManus' Please Stand By While the Age of Miracles Is Briefly Suspended"(Esquire): Blending the personal with the public, the social with the ethical, James chronicles the debates around stem cell research and cloning, while expressing his personal griefs.
Whatever epoch we live in, we all have to face getting caught at the worst possible point on the curve of medical progress: My cowgirl's campfire is visible on the horizon, yet I am accorded the honor of being the very last hombre to succumb to Syndrome X. "Remember when people had heart attacks?" some lucky duck in 2050 may guffaw, clutching her chest in mock agony. "I mean, can you imagine?" This fortunate woman would be exactly as human as any victim of plague or polio, and a lot more human, in my view, than the cretin with the club. However long it may seem to us now, her life span will still seem to her the way Nabokov and Beckett imagined it in the middle of the twentieth century: as a brief crack of light between two infinities of darkness.

10. Paschal Nee's “The changing role of business in society: why the emperor has no clothes.”(Ashbridge, PDF): The runner-up in the 2005 Ashridge Best European MBA Essay Award, this essay examines the contradictions between businesses' claims to social responsibility and the reality of their behavior in society. Rather than a litany of failures, the author delves into the causes of social irresponsibility and possible futures.
The shareholder view of the corporation (i.e. that the corporation exists solely to generate a return for its shareholders) could be driving socially irresponsible actions by that corporation’s employees. While a stakeholder view of the corporation, where managers take the interests of multiple stakeholders into account, has become popular, the dominant legal framework is still that management have a fiduciary duty to generate shareholder return. Within this context, employees will increasingly be pressured to disregard whatever personal values they might hold in favour of actions that are generate shareholder return regardless of the social esponsibility of those actions."

These selections barely touch the surface of the finest writing this year. One has refrained from choosing any of the excellent pieces from blogcritics, but you are welcome to name your favorites. Reading is a community-driven habit, and we must fight against the 'culture of the image'.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Operation Duryodhana Nets Politicos, Bloggers Exult

A sting operation by an online news-magazine has netted 11 Members of Parliament in India after they were caught on camera taking cash to ask questions in the Question Hour. This naturally rocked the Indian political system, bringing comparisons to lobbying. It also caused waves of hilarity to course through the Indian blogosphere, owing to at least one of the questions that actually got asked on the floor of the house by a senior MP for the BJP,
“Is it true that while NRI firms such as India Uncut of USA, Sepia Mutiny of Britain and AnarCap Lib of Netherlands have been allowed to invest in Indian SSIs, the reputed German investment firm Desipundit has been denied permission? If so, the reasons thereof? Is the Union Government of India planning to make automatic the long procedure of permission for SSIs to import new technologies such as Trackbacks, Pingbacks, Blogrolls, Splogs and Hitcounters?

Read that again carefully.

India Uncut, Sepia Mutiny, AnarCap Lib and DesiPundit are all leading Indian blogs, which were taken unawares by this question, and which are now worthy of discussion in political science classes the world over.

The online magazine, Cobrapost, which conducted the sting operation, is run by Anirudha Bahal, who had distinguished himself earlier at another online mag, Tehelka, when they videographed other politicians accepting bribes for weapons purchases. The hue and cry resulting from that operation led to seismic shifts in the polity, and may have contributed to the downfall of the government in power at the next elections. It also caused insane allegations to be brought against the magazine by the government in an attempt to discredit them.

This operation, called Operation Duryodhana,
succeeded in capturing the acts of 10 Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha members as they accepted money from representatives of a fictitious body called the North Indian Small Manufacturers’ Assosciation (NISMA) for asking questions in the Indian Parliament. In all more than 60 questions were submitted by 11 MPs of which 25 questions (at last count) were tabled in the Parliament.

The operation, which is named after the villain in the Indian epic, the Mahabarata, has the politicos flailing and giving vague responses to questions from their parties and the Secretariat. A few have resigned or been suspended. Video clips are available on the website of Aaj Tak, the television channel that participated in the operation, and gave it greater legitimacy. The following exchange is typical of the interaction between the politicians and the undercover reporters, who spent almost a year in the operation, and risked death, sexual advances and more if they were exposed.
Patil: Main... Kitna amount karenge. Aisa monthly basis pe (What amount will you pay me on monthly basis).

Reporter: Aap bataiye. Aap jo kahein (Tell me whatever you want).

Patil: Bhai dekho. Aapko bhi to helpful hona hai is sab se (You see it is all going to be helpful to you).

Reporter: Haan (Yes). What...What...What is the...Aapke samajh se kya (What do you think it should be)? Because Parliament is in session four - five months in a year.

Patil: Yes.

Reporter: Jo bhi hai (Whatever it is). But we will pay you throughout the year.

Patil: Yes.

Reporter: Haan (Yes). To (Then) that is the...Throughout the year.

Patil: Mutual nature.

Reporter: Mutual relationships.

Patil: Mutual relationships ka agreement.

Reporter: Haan (Yes).

Patil: To mujhe lagta hai ki kam se kam chhe lakh rupya to saal mein aana chahiye.(Then I think I should get at least six lakh rupees a year).

Reporter: Theek hai (Okay).

Patil: To 50 hazaar kam se kam hona chahiye.(Then it should at least be fifty thousand).

Reporter: Theek hai (Okay). Done sir. Usko ....that is not a problem. Because we want trusted people even if they are very small. 2 -3 trusted people. That is enough.

Patil: Yes, yes.

All the questions were classic put-ons, and prima facie false to anyone with a basic knowledge of popular culture. Some examples:

Whether the Railway Ministry has placed any order for purchase of the Yossarian Electro Diesel engine from Germany? Is the ministry aware that the Tom Wolfe committee report in Germany has halted its induction into the Euro Rail system?

Has the ministry lifted the 1962 ban it imposed on the book “For whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway and the 1975 ban on Ken Kesey’s book “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest” and Hunter Thomson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”? If so, when were the bans removed?

Anirudha Bahal raises an interesting question, of interest to citizenry the world over, when he notes,
While nearly all the questions had a public interest element in them, some, like the one above [...about blogs...] , were passed on to the MPs with the intention of showing how easy it was for amateur teams to infiltrate the system and get bogus questions submitted in the balloting process. While, in this case, these were harmless, humour inducing efforts, in the hands of powerful lobbies this power acquires a sinister dimension.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Coders, Superheroes, Microsoft and Raga Rock

Microsoft has been on a whirlwind of product releases and innovations. In the development space, they've released Visual Studio and SQL Server 2005, tools to build Windows applications. The launch has included free giveways of the product and detailed seminars. BillG visited India in conjunction with the launch, where he announced a $1 billion+ additional investment in technology development, besides being treated like visiting royalty by the desi technorati.

A leading Indian rock band, Parikrama, penned a song dedicated to developers, that has been chosen by Microsoft as the theme song for the launch. They performed it to an audience in Bangalore which included Bill Gates, and doubtless much applause. It is titled "Superhero", and is available online, as are most of their songs.


Springs up from the bed with a crossword in his head,
A shiver shakes his spine thinking what the boss said,
Feeling like a mouse in the tiger’s den (ah right)
Missed the bus again, runs all the way to work,
Prays to all his Gods, even Captain Kirk,
Hoping he can make it in time for the bumpy ride.

Opens all the windows, as he shuts the door,
As the magic begins to flow, out to the fore

He’s no less than a super hero
can’t make him fall
Ones and zeroes, threes and fours
But not that bad a guy after all

Afternoon comes when everyone eats,
Staring down at lines on his L.C.D screen,
Cracking up the code, faster than the speed of light.

Evening bells ringing, had to meet his date,
Digits on his hand will have to make her wait,
Smiles at his phone, then tosses it aside.

(Repeat Chorus)



Parikrama represents the best face of Indian rock music. The rock music scene in India is vibrant, and has been for many years. Most major colleges feature some form of a cultural festival, with a strong emphasis on performance art and arena rock shows. Many innovative bands and musicians have made a mark, from Gary Lawyer to Millenium and Indus Creed. The music has an Indian influence, which completes the circle begun by "raga rock". Indian classical music influences can be discerned in Indian rock, including both Carnatic and Hindustani classical themes and instruments like the tabla and the veena. (List of Indian fusion and rock bands).

Rock music bears a strong connection to the Indian techie scene. Bangalore is a key center for rock music, as well as being the Indian Silicon Valley. There are probably more coders per square mile in Bangalore than anywhere else. There are also probably more pubs per square mile than most places, and almost every pub is music-crazy. Some, like Pecos, are dedicated to rock music of a certain vintage - more's the joy. I remember hanging out at all night rock concerts in the Bannerghatta hills in the nineties, decently sozzled.

I have no data to backup this assumption, but I believe most coders are also rock fans. The state of satori one enters when one's fingers are flying on the keyboard is comparable to that induced by a classic Dead song or some fast fretboarding. Good coders tend to be treated as superheros, much like the best musicians. Originality and creativity is prized in both fields. Unfortunately for the Indian scene, Indian programmers and musicians both suffer from the same malaise - a general lack of originality. The derivative nature of code and music produced by Indian coders/musicians translates to a lowered global perception and inability to scale up the value chain - both in technology and in the music business.

Techniques and tools like Microsoft's Visual Studio, Linux, and the internalized Indian musical tradition will enable a flowering of original code and musical content that is necessary to make them a potent force on the world scene. The general independent streak of rock musicians and coders is a valuable asset in this sense. As Parikrama puts it on their website,

sing bye bye music labels ...
we're yet quite young and able
besides we got MP3 ... not the musicians, but the music for free,
so ya can hold yer hindi horses in yer own stables ...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Texas wins Major League Cricket Interstate Tournament

Texas easily beat Virginia in the finals of the new Major League Cricket Interstate Tournament at Brian Piccolo Park in Broward County, Florida. Teams from 16 states participated in the tournament, with Washington in third place. (Texas 140 for 3 (21.1 overs) beat Virginia 138)

The tournament has had a tortured beginning, with Bernard Cameron being snubbed by the USA Cricket Association three years ago for proposals of a national tournament, and interference by New Jersey politicos when the tournament was planned in the NY/NJ region. MLC decided to go it alone, stepping away from the cesspool of US cricket federations, and opted for Broward County, Florida, more in the news for 'hanging chads' in the 2000 Presidential elections.

The tournament had to be postponed after Katrina's devastation, and it's successful completion has vindicated the MLC proposition - that cricket is a viable sport in the United States, and with sufficient encouragement and funding, could rival the other major sports in the country. Broward County has also been validated as a cricketing center, being the only officially certified site in the United States for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

The finale was even more impressive, with two exhibition matches against top teams from the Players' Associations of England and the West Indies. Although both matches were lost by the US teams, the US players performed admirably and gained considerably in terms of experience playing against top international cricketers.

This has to be contrasted against the continuing inability of the USA Cricket Association to get their act together. The most recent scheduled meeting of the USACA in Dallas last week was scrubbed after a quorum of attendees failed to show up. US Cricket's eclipse after the excellent cricketing year of 2004 has saddened many fans. The technicalities of the crisis are intricate, but an overview is available on about the US cricketing standoff

Will MLC create a new viable platform for cricket in the US, or will it be stifled by internecine politics and grandstanding remains to be seen. The tournament is a good start, though, and should encourage players.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Miss World 2005 Is Miss Iceland,Unnur Birna Vilhjálmsdóttir

Miss Iceland was crowned as Miss World today, chosen from over 100 countries, and using the world's largest text vote system on either SMS or IVR. Six Miss Worlds were chosen, representing different regions, and Miss Iceland,Unnur Birna Vilhjálmsdóttir, was crowned the overall winner from among them.

* Miss World Africa: Tanzania, Nancy Sumari.
* Miss World Americas: Mexico, Dafne Molina Lorna.
* Miss World Asia Pacific: Korea, Oh Eun-young.
* Miss World Caribbean: Puerto Rico, Ingrid Marie Rivera Santos.
* Miss World Northern Europe: Iceland, Unnur Birna (Miss World 2005).
* Miss World Southern Europe: Italy, Sofia Bruscoli.

The jury consisted of a unique panel of nine former Miss Worlds chaired by Miss World Chairman Julia Morley, which chose Iceland as overall winner of the contest.
miss world

The show was hosted in Sanya, China, and had a TV audience of over 2 billion in 200 countries. Sanya is called the Hawaii of China, and has been home to the Miss World event since 2003.

The current positioning of this event, no stranger to controversy, is "Beauty With A Purpose". The 2002 event saw Miss Nigeria use her celebrity to draw attention to a woman sentenced to die in her home country. Most winners and contestants have proven themselves to be well-informed, socially conscious citizens, thereby vitiating the perceptions of some who would rather do away with such events.
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Mohammed ElBaradei Wins Nobel Peace Prize 2005

Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency received the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize today, making an impassioned acceptance speech that called for the total elimination of nuclear arms.(Video of the lecture) The prize was shared with the IAEA themselves.

In the so-called nuclear non-proliferation regime, the world's most exclusive old-boys-club, the IAEA is tasked with limiting spread of nuclear arms. It is therefore either sophistry or daring to call for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. General Eisenhower proposed the IAEA in 1953 in his famous "Atoms For Peace" speech to the United Nations.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty has not proved very successful in it's objectives, partly because of a reluctance on the part of the major powers to move towards disarmanent. Only one country, South Africa, has developed nuclear weapons and then abandoned them. Ukraine and Kazakhstan renounced the atomic weapons left behind in their territories by the erstwhile USSR. India, Israel and Pakistan, on the other hand, have expanded their militaristic nuclear programs.

The IAEA has also faced challenges monitoring the nuclear programs of countries like Iran, North Korea and Iraq. Iran today announced it would be producing nuclear fuel. North Korea's ambiguity and posturing has challenged the efforts of IAEA in the Far East. As Professor Ole Danbolt Mjøs, Chairman of the Nobel Peace Committee said, when announcing the prize in October 2005,"At a time when international organizations have been heavily criticised, the IAEA has not only maintained but even in many respects strengthened its position. Its security control enables the organization to exercise functions that were previously the preserve of national authorities. In so far as it has encroached on national sovereignty, this control has broken new ground. Complete sovereignty in the nuclear field means complete insecurity for the rest of the world."

Mr Baradei noted in his acceptance lecture,
...our security strategies have not yet caught up with the risks we are facing. The globalization that has swept away the barriers to the movement of goods, ideas and people has also swept with it barriers that confined and localized security threats.
Fifteen years ago, when the Cold War ended, many of us hoped for a new world order to emerge. A world order rooted in human solidarity – a world order that would be equitable, inclusive and effective.

But today we are nowhere near that goal. We may have torn down the walls between East and West, but we have yet to build the bridges between North and South – the rich and the poor.

Consider our development aid record. Last year, the nations of the world spent over $1 trillion on armaments. But we contributed less than 10 per cent of that amount – a mere $80 billion – as official development assistance to the developing parts of the world, where 850 million people suffer from hunger.
Today, with globalization bringing us ever closer together, if we choose to ignore the insecurities of some, they will soon become the insecurities of all.

Equally, with the spread of advanced science and technology, as long as some of us choose to rely on nuclear weapons, we continue to risk that these same weapons will become increasingly attractive to others.

I have no doubt that, if we hope to escape self-destruction, then nuclear weapons should have no place in our collective conscience, and no role in our security.

To that end, we must ensure – absolutely – that no more countries acquire these deadly weapons.

We must see to it that nuclear-weapon states take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament.

And we must put in place a security system that does not rely on nuclear deterrence.
Imagine what would happen if the nations of the world spent as much on development as on building the machines of war. Imagine a world where every human being would live in freedom and dignity. Imagine a world in which we would shed the same tears when a child dies in Darfur or Vancouver. Imagine a world where we would settle our differences through diplomacy and dialogue and not through bombs or bullets. Imagine if the only nuclear weapons remaining were the relics in our museums. Imagine the legacy we could leave to our children.

Imagine that such a world is within our grasp.
(Please excuse the long quotes, but I recommend you read the rest of this important speech as well)
Nuclear Energy is proving a boon to the energy-starved BRIC countries (Russia, China, Brazil, India). Some of the credit for this must go to the IAEA and their efforts at peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In the 60th year after the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, these peaceful uses are perhaps the only way we can channel the genie and placate the hungry heart of the atom.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Creative ad rips off Katamari Damacy

The ever popular Katamari Damacy game, which seems to be akin to defining a cultural mythos, is being adopted avidly.

From, comes word of Creative 'adopting' the Katamari Damacy theme for one of their advertisements.

The image/ad in question is shown below:

creative damacy

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Microsoft Launches Windows Live Local

Microsoft has launched Windows Live Local, one of the first applications under it's new Windows Live brand. This web application is a rebranded Microsoft Virtual Earth, and provides features typical to other map sites, although it provides subtle usability tweaks typical to the Microsoft design ethos, which innovate while retaining known usage paradigms.

New mouse navigation features allow one to zoom in by center-clicking and drawing a zoom-in box on the map. One can also merely left-click continuously to zoom into the target region. Right-clicking brings up an intiutive menu that affords navigation and driving direction options.
Windows Live Local image
A feature called Bird's Eye Images provides a high-resolution, low-angle aerial view of a small area. This goes beyond the traditional satellite imagery by providing top-down as well as angular views of the area under observation. Coverage is currently limited to a few metropolitan areas in the continental United States. Additional views include the traditional Road map style and the Aerial view, which provides satellite imagery.

Driving Directions allow one to plot a route between both known addresses and random points on a road, marked by Pushpins. One can create and store pushpins and tag them with notes. These custom pushpins can be emailed if one chooses. The Scratch Pad also allows one to blog (via MSN Spaces, naturally) and annotate the map/driving directions.

The Locate Me feature determines the user's current location either by using the public IP address associated with the device or via Microsoft' Location Finder, an application which attempts to determine the location from nearby WiFi networks. My location was incorrectly determined as being in the center of Seattle (I'm in Ohio) by Location Finder, and accurately by the IP Address locator.
Windows Live Local image
Interestingly, relevant text ads similar to those provided by They-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named are displayed along with search results, such as a search for the Golden Gate Bridge providing tour operators' advertisements.

Some nifty features deserve closer attention, such as the Community site, which seems to display random images, perhaps based on current searches. Developers are given information on building custom URLs, which allow one to create a hyperlink that always opens Windows Live Local to a specific location, map style, zoom level, and with specific search panels and your scratch pad.

The AJAX application is interesting, and well-designed, although the map is a little too sensitive to casual mouse movements, scrolling when one moves the mouse around the edges. One does not fathom clearly the correlation between the Windows brand and the mapping tools. Perhaps in the future, a sea of Windows PCs will blanket map regions. One can visualize numerous applications that could leverage such knowledge.
Geographic Information Systems have transitioned painlessly from the academic to the commonplace. It remains to be seen if this new branding will help Microsoft gain further marketshare in this space. Google is apparently launching Google Local for the Mac soon. In related news, Microsoft has also pushed back the launch of IE 7 to 2006.

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It's Quiz Time 11

Quiz Time 11

Yr Host - Aaman Lamba

Questions on a variety of themes. Send me your answers by email - aamanlamba at

Prize: The winner this time was Mary K Williams. Thanks for playing

The Questions - Stage I

1. What is the claim to fame of the intermission piece in the
Eurovision song competition held in Dublin in 1994?

2. Saddam Hussein's hometown is Tikrit. It is the provincial capital of which Iraqi province, that also contains the significantly larger city of Samarra?

3. On Pink Floyd's rock epic The Wall there is an intentional backwards message halfway through the track "Empty Spaces":

"...congratulations. You've just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the funny farm, Chalfont"

Who/What does this refer to?

4. What is this symbol and why is it in the news?

5. Of which city was British historian John William Burgon writing when he wrote,

Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city - half as old as time!

6. Which word does the New Oxford dictionary consider the word of the year?

7. The flag of this country is never lowered to half-mast because it bears the shahada. The country protested against its inclusion on a football that FIFA planned to issue for the 2002 World Cup. Which country?

8. Who or what are the Socceroos?

9. Star Wars fans date events in the Star Wars universe as either BBY and ABY, thus, the events described in the Phantom Menace happened in 32 BBY and the recent book series Star Wars: The Dark Nest Trilogy occurs in 35 ABY. What is the origin point, the BY as it were?

10. The Delight-O-Meter is currently at approximately 73,521,539. What is the Delight-O-Meter and where would you find it?

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Are Games Art? Ars Longa, Ludus Brevis

Matt Paprocki points to Roger Ebert's commentary on whether games are art.

Games are software, and until the Singularity, all software is only as good as experiencing a simulacra of realism. You can only follow arcs of intent within the game that pre-exist. Thus, it is hard to call them art.

The landscape of the game, like a film or a painting, on the other hand, is open to interpretation and layering of meaning. This is artistic, but the art is in the player's mind.

Thus, games in and of themselves are not art, but a player's artistic sensibilities may be induced by playing a game.

Of course, the same reasoning could be applied to other forms of creativity. Is a bad film art, or is my artistic reaction to the film art?

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Xbox Game Review: Serious Sam II

In the post-Xbox 360 winter wasteland, one pays frequent visits to the local game stores, ostensibly to browse the game shelves, but covertly to ask by-now jaded questions on potential supply of the 360. One knows of the daily 10 AM call from Microsoft about whether the store in question is in line for a delivery. One knows of rumors that another store in town is now taking pre-orders for February. All the same, the console and its games are twaddle for the rest of us.

Interestingly, one is finding much fine pickings on the shelves for the Xbox. A couple are nearly good enough to begin a long-overdue process of de-addiction from Halo 2. These range from Battlefield 2 to the new Prince of Persia. A bad copy of Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time led me to pick up another game recently - Serious Sam II, the sequel to the entertaining Serious Sam from a couple of years ago.

Serious Sam was an FPS that consumed many nights round about when my first-born slumbered fitfully. A few of the boss battles were all-nighters. The game was enlivened by self-referential parody, a trait that sees even greater prevalence in the new game.

Both games suffer from a linear monochronic storyline, wherein Sam must fight his way through waves of aliens before facing a progressively harder boss. (The backstory is pretty intricate and humorous) The settings in the first game ranged from the cities of ancient Egypt to the jungles of South America, battling against the minions of Mental, the alien overlord. The finale saw Sam hitching a ride to Sirius in pursuit of Mental.

Serious Sam II uses the new 'Serious 2' engine, with much sharper graphics and smooth gameplay. The Croatian company which conceived of the engine and the games is now evidently a subsidiary of Take 2 Interactive, from the logos on the game cover. In this game, Sam is put through a series of tasks to retrieve various pieces of an object that renders Mental vunerable. The settings are all alien, yet evident parodies of Earth-like environments, such as a South-east asian uber-metropolis, and a tribal village with all it's trappings.

Sam can pick up and potentially destroy almost anything that is moveable in the game environment, leading to much hilarity involving barbecued chickens and broken crates. Power-ups and weapons festoon the landscape, so don't overlook a single box, crate or hut. The powerful weapons can shred almost anything, including the huts in the village, a useful ploy to gain a clear line of fire, as it were.

A heads-up display called NETRICSA provides guidance as to sub-tasks and serves as a foil for Sam's acerbic humor. Various NPCs provide backup in tight spots, although not enough to afford one a breather in a wave of attacking aliens. Targeting is good, though not perfect. The auto-aiming does not lock on to the next target, requiring much flailing around and wasted shots.

One truly innovative weapon is the Clawdovic Cacadoos Vulgaris, a sort of rocket-propelled parrot, a 'kamikaze bird' which is quite effective in open spaces against a host of encroaching enemies. Vehicles range from velociraptors to dropships.

One must cavil against the obvious influence of both Doom and Halo, in gameplay as well as enemy AI. This makes the creativity and originality of the game suspect, although it may be intentional in some sense. The game is an entertaining, if somewhat enervating experience (some alliteration, that).

The game offers Xbox Live support, with online gameplay, although one was not able to experience this, not finding anyone online the few times one logged in. Online gameplay provides both co-op and Deathmatch modes, which should be fun.

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