Monday, November 21, 2005

Quiz Time 10

Quiz Time 10

Yr Host - Aaman Lamba

Here's another set of questions - give them a shot

The answers are up - Alisha/LegendaryMonkey topped the scores with 5.5, followed by Philip and swingingpuss at 3 - that's pretty good. Thanks for playing

The Questions - Stage I

1. Which film holds the record for the biggest opening weekend box-office gross ever outside of May

2. This person, under the name Sayako Kuroda, is in the news. How is she better known, and why is she in the news?


3. Without getting too technical, what is the Bradley Amendment in US Law?

4. The Cathars were a religious movement of the 10th to the 11th centuries C.E., which faced strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, and were suppressed through pogroms and massacres. They believed in a dualist view of the universe, and derived from the earlier Gnostic traditions. What term did they use to refer to themselves?

5. The Sims 2 introduced aliens, The Sims 2 University introduced Zombies. What innovation did The Sims 2 Nightlife introduce to Simcity?

6. What is the headquarters of the Canadian Space Agency, named after the father of the Canadian Space Program, called?

7. Connect the following: Kodak, Yahoo, Flickr? (Hint: Photos )

8. Name the artist behind this creative song -

9. Where would you find the BIKINI states and what are they?

10. The Broadway musical "Rent" has been made into a film, and is still seeing a great run on the stage. The playwright, Jonathan Larsen died before the play opened on Broadway. It features a group of impoverished musicians and artists struggling under the twin shadows of AIDS and poverty. What famous opera is it based on?

Send me questions, if you like at aamanlamba at

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire - Very British

The British nature of the Potter books has rarely come through as strongly as it does with the new Harry Potter film, which is imbued with a British sensibility, possibly because it is the first with a British director, Mike Newell. He has also brought many of the characters to life with more verve than the author herself, although one must attribute this to the fine acting as well.

The opening sequence is set on a moor, with a misty lighthouse, and a crusty caretaker. England's Channel coast has numerous such lighthouses, and the English tradition of decentralized adminstration means that most are under local control. The depiction of the aged solitary caretaker is thus true to life. The scene also sets the dark tenor of the film, with it's slithering Nagini, and rasping Voldemort.

The cut-in brings us to Harry's turbulent dreams, and the Weasley's cottage. The children have grown, become adolescents, and unexpressed romantic angst is the subject of the film. All the same, being children, the angst is expressed haltingly and off-target. Not very different from adult life, really.

One of the challenges of the structural form chosen by Rowling - the school year - gives us little opportunity to observe the extra-curricular life of the wizards. Apart from Diagon Alley, which is absent in this film, and vignettes of London, we get little insight into the Wizarding world. This film affords us some cultural perspective by rendering the Quidditch World Cup as a humongous soccer game, with spectacular effects and cheering crowds, confined in a Brazil-like setting, though unfortunately little to no actual Quidditch.

The storyline is familiar enough to readers of the books, although various sections are excised from the screenplay, making it rather two-dimensional, even more than the books in some respects. Most characters get barely a few minutes on screen. All the same, the superlative acting by almost everyone makes this one of the better films of the year. Michael Gambon settles into his role as Dumbledore. Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane live their roles well. Brendan Gleason (Mad-eye Moody), who we have seen a lot of in recent years, is a very effective and sinister character. Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort creates an aura of palpable evil, and of being a cold-blooded social climber. The child actors are barely actors, and nearly not children, creating a situation where fine actors are surrounded by weak ones.
Daniel Radcliffe delivers a great alienated-hero performance, and Emma Watson could well be one of the best actresses of her generation, as time will tell. She also gets one of the best lines in the film when she asks an emotionally confused Ron, "What's got your wand into a knot?" Harry Potter is once again helped along to a destiny of some significance. The film is even less of a children's film than the book was at this stage in the series, which is good for us adults.

If the director did not have to deal with Rowling's penchant for bringing in and then dropping characters merely to move the story along, he might have had the opportunity to explore the fragility of frendship or the inter-cultural conflicts of the Wizarding world. Occasional odd moments cause some disconnect in the flow, such as a dragon with a fear of heights and the abrupt transition from the climax to Dumbledore's eulogy. The dramatic force is weak, and again that cannot be attributed to the director's talents. He fails however to extract the psychosexual elements of scenes like the loved ones trapped underwater(discovering the unconscious self), the diffident adolescents unable to express themselves, and the hero trapped in a maze of closing hedges (think Briar Rose, the hidden dangers beyond puberty). Romantic tension is mostly rendered as banality. The only point where he ventures into dangerous waters, as it were, come in the bath scene with Moaning Myrtle, who puts in a tantalizing performance, and becomes the subject of much fan fiction online.

In all, it is an exciting film, if not precisely a great one.
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"Lost" numbers almost found in Ireland's National Lottery

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, & 24 - these numbers should be familiar to fans of ABC's Emmy-award winning television drama, Lost.

Well, look again, those are actually the winning numbers for the November 19th drawing of Lotto in the National Lottery of Ireland

The actual Lost numbers are 4,8,15,16,23 & 42 - the last was transposed in the winning lottery numbers. There was a bonus number in the Lotto drawing - 19. The jackpot was €1,350,000, and 3 people have claimed it. Matching just five numbers gave €341, won by 298 people - one wonders how many of them were Lost fans.

Wikipedia notes on the Lost numbers,
The number sequence 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 is a recurring and significant story element. This string of numbers was broadcast from the island's radio transmitter, and it was this message that drew Rousseau's expedition to the island. Although she later changed the message after the deaths of her team, the numbers had also been heard by others, eventually making their way to Hurley, who used them to win the lottery. However, after his win, a series of misfortunes began to happen to those around Hurley, leading him to believe the numbers are cursed.
. Also of relevance: some symbolism around these numbers

It seems rather strange that the numbers helped win a lottery in the show as well as in real life.

There are numerous mathematical coincidences, of course, not least signficantly the Fibonnaci sequence and the Golden Ratio. This might be considered an application of the anthropic principle, and any meaning given to these occurences merely wishful thinking

Or it might be the Singularity manifesting itself.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

50000 visitors

I passed 50000 visitors recently and missed the mark - thanks folks - hope you've been liking my musings.

Let me know how I'm doing, and what you'd like to read

Of course, this isn't a patch on my favorite site,, which cleared 10 million visitors a while back

Monday, November 14, 2005

Afghanistan joins SAARC

Regional cooperation is more effective in ensuring stability than puppet regimes. South Asia took a significant step towards this end by making Afghanistan the eight member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, SAARC, at their annual meeting in Dhaka on the 13th of November.

SAARC was established in 1985 as a forum to work on mutually beneficial issues. It has proved viable at certain aspects of multilateral cooperation in the region by avoiding politically divisive issues like Kashmir and internal concerns like the LTTE. The association has also served as a forum for talks on these matters on the sidelines.

It is an eclectic body, with democracies, republics, monarchies and dictatorships. It's member nations comprise a fifth of the world's population, half the world's poor, and a sizeable market for the world's goods. Interest in the body is growing after a hiatus in the late nineties and the end of the Cold War. Both Iran and China have expressed a desire to be members, and China and Japan were admitted as observers in Dhaka this year.

SAARC has also pledged to bring to fruition a free-trade agreement with tariffs between zero and 5% by 2016, with significant steps by Jan 1, 2006. Regional trade cooperation has lagged behind the EU and ASEAN, primarily due to the long-standing issues between Pakistan and India, the largest members.

“Regional economic co-operation in South Asia has remained far behind the more successful examples in both Asia and other regions of the world,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the summit.

“If our region wishes to be a part of the dynamic Asia, which is emerging in our neighborhood, then we must act and act speedily without any further loss of time.”

Afghanistan's entry into SAARC will likely enable easier access to the landlocked country and looser trade barriers.

The leaders unanimously demanded that an Asian should be appointed as the next Secretary General of the United Nations.

King Gyanendra of Nepal also assured Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of a rapid return to multi-party democracy.

Menu at the SAARC meet in Dhaka

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Scooter Libby Nursery Rhyme from the Nation

From this week's Nation:
Scooter Libby: A Republican Nursery Rhyme by Calvin Trillin

Scooter Libby told a fib. He
Shouldn't have told at all.
Though not slimy all the time, he
Has to take the fall.

Permaslimer all-the-timer
Rove has got away.
Naught to plea to, he's now free to
Slime another day.

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Stacked returns - Pamela Anderson's comedic verve

Stacked, the comedy set in a bookshop and featuring the comedic verve of Pamela Anderson, returned to television yesterday. The show was pretty good in its first season, which saw Pamela Anderson's character, Skylar, a ditzy blonde, join a motley bunch of characters at a bookshop. Each of the characters was well-drawn and the acting was above par, sitcom-wise.

The new season attempted to take up where the past left off, but the hiatus seems to have affected the chemistry between the characters, though it is still early in this season. The humor was patchy and edgy. The product placement - books published by Harper Collins - continued apace, featuring "Anansi Boys" and "YOU: The Owner’s Manual”. It was an entertaining episode, with a wry look at Pamela's ability to be affectionate without realizing the consequences on lesser mortals.(My review of the first season of Stacked)

Skylar comes to work and spreads some love, to the disconcertment of the bookstore employees and patrons. She does this with everyone except the owner, Gavin, played by Elon Gold, making him fretful. His brother, Stuart, played by Gavin Scolaro responds avidly to Skylar, before he is pulled back from the brink of over-commitment by the patron-in-residence, Harold, a retired rocket scientist. The tension Gavin feels at not being appreciated by Skylar is explainable only if you know that there was an indeterminate romantic attraction between the two in the first season. The tension is resolved, and other tangential subplots introduced like a lovestruck customer who is only too delighted when Stuart tells her he loves her in an attempt to prove to Skylar that he says this to everyone. Skylar does this out of a sense of self-assurance, on the other hand, not to prove anything.

Skylar's high sense of self-esteem was contrasted with the follow-on episode of "Trading Spouses", where a hyper-tensive reject from Jerry Springer freaked out when her space was invaded by someone from the 'dark side'. Her over-reaction was violent and evidently traumatic for the whole family. While a lot of the histrionics may have been 'managed' for effect, and the individual possibly a deliberately chosen negative stereotype, the viewing experience was interesting, in a tragic way.

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All Marketers are Liars - authentic story-telling

In "Purple Cow", Seth Godin told us the 5P's of marketing like Product, Pricing, Promotion, etc. were not enough and a new P - the Purple Cow - was needed. He described the essence of the Purple Cow as being remarkable. In his new book, "All Marketers Are Liars", he focuses on an even more critical element of marketing - telling a good story.

He looks at ways to tell a good story well (Kiehl's Since 1851) and to tell it badly (telemarketers). Despite the title, it is an important book, because it is about telling and living the truth, having an authentic story, and about the power of marketing as a force for change, but only if people tell your story for you.

In a breezy manner, he covers the changes marketing is going through after the demise of television as a one-stop shop to push your message, and how many people still don't realize things have changed. He notes that most marketing fails and delineates what makes marketing work when it does. The steps people go through when they encounter successful marketing, the organizing principle of the book are:
  • Their worldview gets there before the marketing does

  • People only notice the different or new

  • First impressions start the story

  • Great marketers tell stories that are believable

  • Marketers with authenticity thrive

Marketers in most companies still believe they are in charge and consumers listen to them. Seth Godin points out that people tell their own stories and interpret whatever they hear from within their own worldviews. The mass market is long dead and the fractured worldview or weltanschauung we live in changes moment to moment. According to Seth, our worldview affects our attention, our bias and our vernacular or manner of expression. The story told by a savvy marketer much match all of these elements to be believable and accepted.

Numerous examples are provided to illustrate the key points, making for great reading. Best Buy's decision to prefer non-bargain hunters is analyzed as an appeal to two worldviews - angels and demons. Jimmy Carter's success is compared with the failure of Howard Dean, and most interestingly, George Carlin's euphemisms are used to show how the same unpleasant concepts can be painted in more pleasing terms before the door is slammed metaphorically in the hapless marketer's face.

Seth references other seminal books such as Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" about the transition from early adopters to the majority, and Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" about instantaneous decision-making with little data. He could delve deeper into aspects like the post-consumption consumer, but that would affect the general flow of his books, which serve as a springboard.

The power of the story to influence and affect is the oldest one in the book. As Neil Gaiman says in his "Anansi Boys",
Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look so pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each...
It's just a matter of how you tell the story. That's all"

In a chapter that serves as an interlude to the story in the book, Seth addresses the nature of stories that are fibs and those that are frauds. He demonstrates how fibs are true because they are authentic while frauds are inauthentic. As an illustratation he looks at the success of the Mercedes versus the Cadillac, and compares it to the fraudulent or inauthentic story told by Nestle about baby formula. He riffs on his anger when he finds deceitful marketers, and his pleasure that thanks to the power of open media and the Internet, frauds tend not to last too long nowadays.

He completes his perspective on storytelling as a force for marketing by focusing on authenticity and the need to show the remarkableness of the story. He takes the example of George Bush vs. Kerry in the great flip-flop debate to show how the storytelling made a greater difference than the truth.

A couple of 'bonuses' describe a few master storytellers, ranging from Fox News to and some advanced riffs on topics like how Google AdWords shakes things up. He concludes with some recommended reading that carries his story further than he could - books like Positioning, "Don't Think of an Elephant" and "In Pursuit of Wow".

In all, Seth covers much ground lightly, almost blog-like, yet leaves deep impressions on the power of the authentic and remarkable story.
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Quiet Wisconsin Pond

Quiet Wisconsin Pond
Originally uploaded by doc will.
Just awesome - I've seen the area and it is phenomenal

The XBox 360 Launch

I have been an XBox fan for a while, despite the often crappy games, and occasionally frustrating Live experiences. For the last year, it has primarily been because of my addiction to Halo 2. I played through the entire campaign, have spent more hours on Halo 2 Live than asteroids in the belt and still love it.

That being said, I have mixed feelings about the upcoming XBox 360 Launch. At one level, I can't wait. I saw a demo machine at Wal-mart and it rocks. Call of Duty 2 was surreal.

At another level, I couldn't care. I am among the great standard-definition masses. The visual excellence is what I would look forward to. So I would probably couple my purchase of the XBox 360 with an LCD television. That probably won't happen soon.

Also, without Halo 3, I'm not too interested, despite the excellent games coming out.

Matt Paprocki has other, more business-oriented reasons why the launch of the XBox 360 could be a disaster in more ways than one.
This has nothing to do with the quality of the hardware or the console itself. It's going to be a fantastic piece of equipment. Microsoft though doesn't seem to have a clue what they're doing with this. Nothing seems ready, and they've done nothing to calm rumors of heavy shortages, broken demo kiosks, delayed (and major) launch titles, and a complete lack of advertising.

If one had to buy a console, and supply was not a problem, I would recommend the bundle - why wouldn't you want the hard drive, etc.?

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Programming .NET components - A review

The Microsoft .Net framework has provided an elegant programming model that has been well received and proven to be productive for complex managed code. For the non-technical person, that means code executes within a runtime environment that interprets the code before passing it on to the operating system. This allows for safe access to memory and improved security. It also creates a contract of execution between the code and the environment. One of the best things about the .NET framework is the ability to code in multiple languages that can be interpreted into the Intermediate Language understood by the .NET runtime. These languages now range from Cobol to C#, as well as Visual Basic, Managed C++ and Visual J#.

Microsoft has recently released the .NET framework 2.0 providing a variety of enhancements. These include 64-bit platform support, support for custom data types in SQL Server, better authentication, data protection and most importantly generics. New features in Windows Forms, the UI layer of .NET, such as Toolstrips, Layout Panels and DataGrids will appear soon in a window near you.

One of the benefits of .NET is that is makes component-oriented programming much easier and efficient, building on previous technologies that were forbidding in complexity and limited in scope. Programming .NET Components by Juwal Löwy from the fine O'Reilly publishing house provides an excellent guide through the intricacies of component programming in .NET.

It begins with a look at the differences between component-oriented versus object-oriented programming. The author then addresses the principles of component-oriented programming such as binary compatibility, language independence and location transparency, showing how .NET adheres to these principles. He discusses .NET basics from a detailed perspective, covering assemblies, deployment and metadata, providing a Visual Studio 2005 perspective.

Next, aspects of interface-based programming are considered with VS2005 features like the ability to generate skeletal implementations and refactoring. Interfaces are collections of methods that provide access points to the component from external clients. Components can implement any number of interfaces, providing the ability to extend functionality easily without breaking existing clients. Again, generics provide a means of defining an abstract template for an interface and using it on multiple components with different specifications. For example, consider a generic List interface,
public interface IList
void AddHead(T item);
T RemoveHead();
void RemoveAll();

A component that supports lists of integers could implement this as
public class NumberList: IList
public void AddHead(int item){...}
public int RemoveHead(){...}
public void RemoveAll(){...}

Another component can re-use the interface for a list of strings
public class StringList: IList
public void AddHead(int item){...}
public int RemoveHead(){...}
public void RemoveAll(){...}

This reduces code bloat while preserving type-safety.

The next chapter looks at the niceties of garbage collection in .NET, which deals with the disposal of managed objects created while a program is run. Pre-managed code, memory leakage was commonplace because of programs that did not clean up after themselves. The garbage collector takes care of that for the programmer, although abstruse features such as non-deterministic finalization mean that one cannot be really sure when the garbage collector will come around, although patterns to mitigate this are covered.

After an overview of versioning, including a look at side-by-side execution of multiple .NET CLR versions, the book moves into a set of chapters dealing with critical elements of component-oriented programming - events, asynchronous calls and multi-threading. Events and asynchronous calls are mechanisms to allow components to notify their clients when a specified condition occurs. These could be Windows-type events like Mouse-clicks or custom events. The introduction of generic delegates opens new vistas for event management. Some of the concepts presented here should be part of the .NET framework for their simplicity and brilliance.

Since all .NET programs are multi-threaded, they allow concurrent execution of multiple code contexts. A multi-threaded application is more responsive to users. In the past, development of such applications has not been a task for the faint-hearted. Tthis thorny problem is mitigated in .NET by a number of convenient features for concurrency management, increasing developer productivity. The book looks at the various elements of synchronization, even providing a convenient helper class.

Subsequent chapters cover serialization, remoting and security, with weighty appendices on generics, web services and a C# Coding Standard based on the best practices in this book, itself the de facto standard for C# coders. This is a book with much meat, enough to serve a feast of ravenous developers, starved from nights of toil at the desktops of the giant software factories. The author was recognized by Microsoft as a Software Legend - one of the world's top .NET experts.

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San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo
Originally uploaded by aacool.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

HBO's Epitafios - Argentinian Crime Fiction done right

HBO constantly stretches the envelope in television production, even with genre shows. Epitafios, which runs on HBO Latino, is a cop show with numerous layers, plot twists and deep characterizations. It is also available on HBO On Demand, and comes with English subtitles, if one needs them.

An ex-cop, Renzo, who left the police force in Buenos Aires five years ago after a hostage situation went bad, is pulled back into the game when his ex-partner, Benitez discovers a gruesome crime scene - a headless body and two empty graves with gravestones for the two cops and the pychologist on the school hostage case. Soon after, the missing head is found in the psychologist's, Laura's car - it is that of the hostage-taker, a disaffected school teacher. The rest of the first episode serves to provide background material on the inter-relationship between the main protagonists, before a macabre plot twist complicates the situation and sets the stage for an intricate hunt for a serial killer.

The plot twists continue, and the body count continues unabated. Along the way, the relationships become more unbalanced - there's never a dull moment, as it were.

Epitafios, or Epitaphs, is the first original series produced by HBO Latin America, in association with Pol-Ka, who has made other fine television thrillers in Argentina. The rich complexity is indicative of the polychronous perspective on life inherent in South American and other cultures, one that permits a simultaneity of intnet and action at multiple levels. This works to our favor as consumers of the series, and is in keeping with the neorealist HBO metaphor of film-making.

Argentinian crime fiction has a long history. It has traditionally been rooted in social and political metaphors, coupled with black humor that gives it a distinctive flavor. Men of honor deal with issues of trust and betrayal, while their worlds crumble. The hero is usually steadfast, yet flawed - all very Latin and tragic. THe first notable crime series, El Septimo Circulo, had illustrious creators, the writers Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-Casares. Borges and Casares wrote a number of collaborative works under the pseudonym, H. Bustos Domecq. Other luminaries of Argentinian crime fiction include Rodolfo Jorge Walsh and Mempo Giardinelli. There is some dispute on whether the hard-boiled school of crime writing began in Argentina and moved to the United States or the other way round.

Epitafios gets better with each episode, it also gets darker - there's no telling which way it will turn in the few episodes remaining, but it's a show worth watching.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Microsoft Launches Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005

Microsoft launches the first of many products that have been pent up for long in their impressive pipeline. Over the next couple of years, we will see the XBox 360, Windows Vista, Office 12 and tons of allied products within the Windows ecosystem. Most will be built using one of the two products launched today - Visual Studio 2005. The powerful database engine, SQL Server 2005 delivers impressive power and features, although it may take a miracle to dislodge the current enterprise database systems, Oracle and IBM DB2.

For the technologist, especially a Windows maven, these are long-awaited updates. Visual Studio is one of the best Integrated Development Environments around. It provides a set of software tools to build Windows and Office Applications in a number of languages. The new version provides the second version of the .NET framework, Microsoft's answer to the Java Enterprise system. One key enhancement in the two products integrates Visual Studio with SQL Server, allowing for managed custom objects to be created on the database. This enables true object-oriented database development. Most other features enable enhanced developer productivity. The Intellisense feature provides suggestions to code as you type, which can be downright scary in it's intuitiveness.

The Visual Studio Team System provides comprehensive Application Lifecycle Management to Windows developers within the Visual Studio framework. This enables collaborative development of applications, allowing application models to flow into development artifacts, and test suites.

Web development is elevated to a higher level with the new version of ASP.NET, while new versions of Microsoft .NET languages like Visual Basic and Visual C# promise to make the development cycle more productive for toiling millions of coders the world over. The poor sots currently, and in the past, have had to plow through numerous repetitive and potentially bug-ridden code routines to deliver software. Their hour of deliverance is not quite at hand, but draws near. Rumor has it the shrink-wrapped box of Visual Studio has the words 'Don't Panic' emblazones across it in holographic fonts. Rumor also has it that early users of the Visual Studio 2005 IDE are complaining it's buggy and needed more testing - not really a new thing with complex software products, Microsoft or otherwise.

Microsoft SQL Server 2005 is a polished beast. It provides a host of database-level enhancements, most significantly a native XML datatype, and full-text search capabilities. The tight integration with Visual Studio allows significantly higher-level programming of stored procedures and other data layer tasks.

Free full-version copies of the products will be available at the launch events, which kick off in San Francisco's Moscone Center on November 7th, the site of Oracle OpenWorld a short while ago. Free developer versions of the products under the Express moniker will provide legitimate access to anyone to develop the next Firefox/Oracle/Office-killer.

Coming soon: Detailed review of .NET 2.0 components, Avalon and Indigo - if those mean anything to you, you'll look forward to them, if not, they promise to make your computing experiences better and seamless, lulling you into a calm before the event horizon of the Singularity

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Mail Guy

The Mail Guy
Originally uploaded by kentbrew.
Yahoo's tribute to their Yahoo Mail team - who they claim beat Gmail - we'll see:)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Netflix announces class action lawsuit settlement

Netflix has sent out mails to its current and ex-subscribers informing them of an out-of-court settlement of the class action lawsuit pending against Netflix for apparently failing to live up to its marketing claims. The lawsuit, Chavez v. Netflix, Inc. alleges that Netflix failed to provide "unlimited" DVD rentals and "one day delivery" as promised in its marketing materials.

Netflixwill provide the following benefit to customers if the settlement is approved:

  • Current Subscribers: A free one-month upgrade to the next service level (3 DVDs to 4 DVDs)

  • Former Subscribers (Pre-Oct 19,2005): A free one-month subscription at the 1,2,3 DVD levels

To opt-in, and if you meet the criteria above, go to and sign up before February 17, 2006, or file an objection if you choose.

This is not as rosy as it seems - the enhanced or new service will automatically continue/renew after the month is up, which means a large number of people will end up paying for extended service before they realize their free time is up, although an email reminder will be sent.

{Removed reference to law firm)Netflix announced an expected drop in 3Q earnings due to expenses from this settlement. The law firm stands to make over $2.5 million from this case, as per the filings. Netflix boards are buzzing at the perceived inequity between this amount and the one-month upgrade offer. Others feel acceptance of the settlement validates the alleged 'throttling' of DVDs to high-volume customers that has been going on.

Frivolous or deserved? You decide.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Review: Pamela Anderson's "Star Struck"

Pamela Anderson's recent tome, Star Struck is unlikely to toll any bells in the halls of academia. It has possibly seen many people pick it up from the shelf solely because of the provocative cover and the stellar name of the author. It is worth reading for other aspects though.

For one, a roman a clef with vignettes of the love life between Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson is hard to avoid, despite the multiplicity of visual images and leaked Internet videos. Furthermore, this could be titled 'In which Star gives those paparazzi what they deserve' - much blood is shed in the name of privacy. Even more ink is spilt detailing thinly what Jackie Collins and others did with much mirth - the lifestyles of the rich and famous are less about glamour and more about ducking the public scrutiny, near-permanent narcissistic states and obsessive hangers-on, stereotypical entourage members and frothy interludes with sex, drugs & rock'n'roll.

The story, as it were, describes the movement through marriage of Star and her ardent rock star lover-turned husband, Jimi. Their desire for privacy leads them to cut off a few persistent followers, while the pressures of fame and media drive subtle wedges into their relationship. They neglect to look closely for serpents in the grass, culminating in a rambunctious climax, pun intended, and perhaps wish-fulfilment for Pamela in re Tommy Lee.

The writing is sometimes unconsciously satirical, often deliberately sleazy. The characters are not expressive of more than a couple of shades of the rainbow, mostly the vibrant ones. Ludicruous sub-plots serve to set up tense moments which fizzle out with little bang. As is par for the course, there is a focus on homoeroticism expressed as stereotypical bit parts.

Other reasons to read the book include Ms. Anderson's undeniable charisma. Authors often complain that poor book sales are because of low public awareness of the author. Not in this case - her career as a model and star has provided her more than enough mindshare in the fickle public mind. One wishes she had pulled back the curtain and given us a feckless perspective on a life richly lived, or is that lived richly? Instead one has to settle for trite platitudes and numerous passionate moments. The microcosm of society in question is richly detailed. Star goes through much tumultuous experiences in the book, yet there is no catharsis.

Cultivating the image can be tiresome, and Pamela knows it is an image, as evidenced by her role as Skylar in "Stacked", which has unfortunately not yet returned to our screens. Star is a very different character - still based on the Pamela Anderson image, yet with little depth. There is very little exposition of the character's perspective or startling revelations, if one was hankering for some.

Do the right thing

"Always do right. That will gratify some of the people, and astonish the rest." - Mark Twain

Rightness is a very Buddhist approach - it is both absolute and relative

it must be coupled with compassion

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader