Thursday, July 31, 2008

An interesting junk mail

Today, I got an interesting junk mail on my office email address. Interestingly, this mail originated from within my office because the sender knows quite a bit about the habits of the employees and the name of the VP. Without going into details, here is the email -


Hello all,
It has been brought to my attention, by a certain soothsayer, that developer productivity, on a given day, is inversely proportional to the number of postings to dl-nb-random.
I have decided to monitor and use this, from this day forward, as a metric to measure what our employees are up to.
Weak Rum
President of Vice

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hardy's - Australian for Wine

Last night's dinner was special. We all were having Pomphret (fried and Goan style) for dinner. I had picked up a bottle of Hardy's Cabernet Merlot (a red wine) from a supermarket.

"Red wine with fish? White wine goes with fish." is what many people will say on reading this article. Let me tell you a small story before I go any further. On a wine tasting tour in Napa Valley, California, I was asking some very obvious questions to the lady who was conducting the tour. She was telling me that she could feel "peach and cherry" flavours in the wine. Since I had read their brochure some time back, I knew she was telling me exactly what was written in the brochure. This prompted me to ask her - "Where do all these flavours come from? Do you add these flavours to the wine?". She said "No. These flavours come from the soil, but we dont add anything to the soil". I instantly knew that she was spinning-a-yarn. To me, all this looks marketting gimmick.

"Make a simple thing a bit complicated, and you will arouse interest."

The point of the digression was that if you like a particular wine, just grab a bottle and enjoy it, and avoid all the talk-about-the-wine.

Coming back to Hardy's. I had a glass full with fish, yes fish, and my head started swirling. Curious to find out how others felt - I said - "Hardy's is ... (searching for the right word) ... dangerous". Instantly, others agreed, except Richa, who had consumed very little wine. I felt extremely fizzy from inside. Like shaken soda in a can. Just can't wait to get out. A bit too happy. This feeling is superb. Worth experiencing.

Come home sometime and I will get one more bottle of "Hardy's - Australian for Wine".

Friday, July 18, 2008

Commentary on DD-Sports

It was Saturday again, and as usual I got up early in the morning. Usually on weekdays, I get up around 9am, and on weekends, I get up around 7am. I find that quite unbelievable and strange.

I was surfing the channels, when I noticed that DD-sports was telecasting the final of Junior Asia Cup (hockey), the match India won against Korea two days back. I hadn't seen the match live, so I decided to watch it.

One thing I have noticed is that India always does well in the junior hockey event, but fares poorly in the senior category. I guess the other teams graduate very rapidly and we don't when it comes to playing at the higher level.

The soul of world hockey has changed, ever since "astro-turf" was introduced. Hockey is no longer "dribble past the opponent" game. It has become more of positional play, a quick one-touch game. Very much like football. If you ever see the Dutch playing hockey, you will understand what I mean. We continue to play the same old hockey which was popular when hockey was played on grass. Another major issue with Indian hockey is that we don't have a penalty corner specialist. Diwakar Ram is a budding talent, but he is still not in the class of Bram Lomans of Holland or Sohail Abbas of Pakistan.

The highlight of the programme was the pathetic English commentary on DD-sports. The whole commentary was made up of max. 4 words per sentence. The funny part was one commentator sounded drunk, and was interrupting his partner. Here are some excerpts -

  • Koreans moving fastly
  • Here come the Korea
  • The defence of the Korea
  • Yes Yes. Indians takes the move. On the attack.
  • Right, right. You are right. Chance missed.

Solar power plant in Nevada

Solargenix Energy,, has commissioned a solar power plant in Mujave desert in Nevada, US. I came to know about this through Nat Geo when I was watching MegaStructures. The plant is able to generate some 22MW of electricity and is feeding it into the Nevada grid.

The solar power plant works this way. Very simply, sunlight is reflected using concave mirrors onto a special tube. The concave mirrors and the special glass tube have been specially made by Schott, AG. The concave mirrors focus sunlight onto this special tube. The glass tube is special because it is made from ultra-pure sand. This sand is free from metallic impurities. This helps it in letting through a lot more light w/o reflecting any of it. The glass tube has a metal tube inside and the air between the glass tube and the metal tube has been removed, creating a vacuum. In short, its a thermos. Temperatures inside this thermos can be as high as 700C. A synthetic oil is heated due to sunlight. The oil heats water to produce superheated steam, which drives an alternator.

The power plant is spread across 40acres of land. The cost of building this plant was high - something around 250M$. Doesn't sound much, but so much money for 22MW of power is high. However, the beauty is - fuel is free. All your investment is one time investment. The incremental costs are only maintenance costs.

The sceptics will argue that it is way to costly to be commercialized. I disagree. We have to start harnessing solar energy, wind energy etc today. The fuel is free. We don't have to invade other countries to get fuel :-).

Something like this should be done in Rajasthan's Thar desert. It will probably go a long way in solving India's energy crisis.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sports and Performance Enhancing Drugs

Mohd. Asif is yet again at the center of a drug controversy. Some days back, he was detained at the Dubai airport for possession of cocaine, which he said was given to him by some hakeem. Now, he has tested positive for an anabolic steroid, which will, in almost all certainty, be Nandrolone. Some years back, he and Shoaib Akhtar, his good bat-wielding friend, had tested positive for Nandrolone. PCB had banned them, and in its inimitable style, had exonerated the duo of all offences. Now, PCB has banned Asif for life. I guess, PCB is helpless now, and cannot help a person like Asif who gets caught thrice.

Why do athletes take to drugs? Due to the pressure to win. The physique of an athlete, his endurance, and injury management have become so important today, that these athletes are forced to look for short-cuts. Anabolic steroids (Nandrolone being one example) provide them this short cut. They help in building muscle and bone mass by stimulating the body to create more protein. These steroids help athletes to train harder and longer.

But as you have definitely heard - "no gain without pain". One has to earn the muscle the hard way. Taking steroids to build muscles is not correct, not only because it is banned and unethical, but also because it puts you at risk. All these steroids have serious ill effects.

At times, even in gyms, the trainers offer your some good advice - "You should take protein supplements in the form of shakes etc." These protein supplements have a photo of a muscle-man on them. You know what I am talking about. My dad (a doc himself) told me a few days back that these protein supplements create electrolyte imbalance and put your kidneys under a lot of duress.

Another example is "lose 5 kgs of weight in 5 days w/o any exercise". Lot of TV commercials are promoting various gadgets that help you lose weight without exercise. Frankly, all that is lost is water. I have been running 2-3 kms per day, lifting a lot of weights, and eating normally, and I have lost just 1kg in 15 days. Still, I am happy with my progress, because I am not losing water. I am burning fat.

People should understand - "no gain without pain".

Sunday, July 13, 2008

कभी ख़ुद पे कभी हालात पे रोना आया

It was the final of yet another reality show "जो जीता वोही सुपर स्टार". Mandira Bedi was back in the spot light. It reminded me of the cricket world cup in South Africa.

When I started watching the show, it was time for the duo of Shahid Kapur and Vidya Balan to promote their upcoming film "Kismet Konnection". If not anything, the name has an Ekta Kapur "konnection". As usual, they mentioned that the film is different, and the moment they read the script, they fell in love with the script, and they had a great time shooting the film, and they shared a great chemistry with each other. So so cliche.

One interesting question w.r.t this camaraderie between realtiy shows and film promoters is whether any money exchange is involved? Or is it simply - we increase your TRP and in return we will promote our film through your show? This is the most interesting aspect of this association.

All this was followed by some stupid challenges for the contestants, and the judges clapping for them, and those fake whistles from the crowd. Finally, it was time to announce the 2nd runner up. I did not count how many times Mandira repeated "2nd runner up" and its meaning, but it must have been atleast 20 times. In between, there were those expected surprise breaks "जो आपके दिल की धड़कने तेज़ कर देती हैं". Just before they were going to annouce the results, the contestants were asked their "दिल का हाल. क्या कह रहा है आपका दिल आपसे इस वक्त", and they were asked to sing a song that reflected what they felt at that moment.

Harshit sang "सुनने वालों कभी ऐसा भी होता है" from OSO. I dont know how he could feel that way, but it is his heart and his feelings. Rahul Vaidya sang - "कभी ख़ुद पे कभी हालात पे रोना आया" and sung it beautifully. I dont know how he could feel this way, but because this is one of my favourite songs, I give him the benefit of doubt.

Rahul Vaidya singing the old melody was the only highlight of the show. You will be wondering why do I watch this reality show if I have so many abuses to hurl at them? Only for some good hindi songs. This is the only reason why I am ready to absorb so much of stupidity.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Left pulls the plug

Last night, I was watching CNN-IBN and Rajdeep Sardesai was questioning politicians from various political parties. The agenda of discussion was "Left had pulled the plug on the government".

The Left was saying why the PM had to issue an important statement on the nuclear deal when he was not in India. The Congress spokesman replied that when the statement was issued, the PM was in air and in Indian airspace, so technically he was in India.

The fight then moved to why the PM had to make the statement in the first place. What was the big hurry? to which Congress spokesman replied that the left had demanded that PM give his final position by 7th July.

Sometime later, Rajdeep Sardesai asked a very simple question to the Left. "By voting against the government, are you not siding with the BJP, the party you are so fundamentally against and the very reason why you sided with the Congress?" to which the Left gave some convoluted answer. Now, if I understand correctly, if you are not with the AYEs, then you are with NAYs unless you abstain from voting.

Politics is one area where boolean logic can never be applied. As one prominent politician has said - "In politics, there are no permanent friends and no permanent foes". I guess, when confronted with simple questions with very clear answers, politicians tend to use diversionary tactics and start a debate on the most frivolous matter without addressing the core of the question. They have this unique ability to call an Apple and Orange and justify it in one statement and deny it another.

Something I find very interesting, amusing and worth inculcating.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Income Tax Returns and Refund

Two very interesting things happened today - both are excellent examples of how things should not be.

I got my first income tax refund today. I was glad that ultimately I got a refund. I was all very excited to open the envelope, as I was hoping that I will find a cheque inside. Although I manage my taxes well and generally dont exceed the actual tax, some time way back in 2005-06, I had paid some 1K extra tax. This refund was for the same year. My excitement was short lived as the cheque was already invalid. It was more than 6 months old.

I was preparing all the paper-work for this years IT-returns when I noticed that my wife was given only 7K of deduction instead of 70K in the ELSS segment. I was shocked. I asked my wife to raise the issue with her finance dept. As expected, the reply was -

"अम्ह. एक ज़ीरो ही तो मिस किया है. अगले रीफन्ड मे ले लेना."

Both are excellent examples of carelessness.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sholay Tune

One of my colleagues has installed a new ring tone - the Sholay tune. The tune which Jay used to play on his mouth organ (harmonica). I love that tune. I have to get it from my colleague. Unfortunately, my mobile does not have an mp3 player. I need to install one. I dont have any data cable or any of the accessories, so not sure how I will be able to install an mp3 player on my mobile.

During our regular team meeting, my colleagues phone went off. In the midst of absolute silence, the Sholay tune was sounding great. My colleague was struggling to get his phone out of his tight jeans pocket. I enjoyed the Sholay tune.

One of our other colleagues quipped - "The National Anthem - huh".

What a pity. I was surprised to see that this fellow could not even recognize the national anthem. The anthem that one sings in his school day in and day out. The Sholay tune is markedly distinct from our National Anthem. Its impossible to make a mistake.

The fellow made it and then tried to cover up by saying - "Some other country's probably".