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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Swades (Confessions of a romantic fool)

"You are being a romantic fool" says Mohan's friend to Mohan and it applies to me as well. Here is how.

When i first watched Swades, i didnt liked it that much, My initial reaction was like it is a good movie with great acting but it is too far away from reality. But then i was in India.

After coming to US, it was in my long list of things to do and today just like that i saw it yesterday. And i loved it. Why i love it now:
1. I am in US. What a reason!!!!
2. Music and background score - He is a god and he rules over me. 7 songs take screen time of about 30 minutes and the rest 2.5 hr movie has got a background score that is enough to make hair stand on my hands and legs. Title song, its shehnai version couldnt have been more beautiful.
3. Very simple direction and background.
4. The best SRK movie, an awesome actress and supporting cast is also brilliant.

The fact is still true that the movie is miles away from reality but consider this. Had the movie portrayed true reality of castes, reality of rural villages, it is so dirty that (a) people can not watch it (b) It will give a reason for idiots who easily say that -"see! i told ya! nothing can be done in India" and will happily settle outside India. HKA portrayed some aspect of true rural India and many can not bear it.

The story could have been unfolded this way as well - SRK gets kids and more kids at her school. And in this way contributes in removing some caste based divide. That is there is no need to show the over stretched concept - Electricity. This is where the Socio aspect lies of Swades. By showing a stretch thing, Gowarikar establishes a sense of positivity in our minds - anything is possible. If you look at all inspiring true stories, they are all extraordinary and stretched by our imagination. Had it been a true story, my appreciation towards Swades would have magnified exponentially.

This reminds me - "Society needs a hero" - The cult spiderman line.

Lastly, SRK is plain lucky to be in this movie. Any actor would have done a good job because the man calling action is smarter than all of them. Having said this, SRK has done a good job with Mohan. And a final mention to ARR without whom this movie's effect would have reduced by 50%. He simply describes the mood with his music. He understood a scene better than SRK's eyes or Gowarikar's imagination. If someone just plays the soundtrack, i am sure i will still weep at the key points.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Why?

Why we have such a metric system of time: 60 seconds for a minute, 60 minutes to an hr, 24 hrs and 365 days? Why 60 only of all the numbers?

Have you ever wondered? Why we are never taught the why part? Why havent i questioned it so far?
Bill Waterson said : "The surest sign that life exists outside Earth is that they have not tried to contact us"?

With such an obscure terminology, metrics and funde, i started to believe him.

Thanks to internet, i can find an answer every time i have a question.

The importance of 60 comes from the Babylonians used a base 60 number system as compared to our base 10 system. 60 and 6x60 = 360 were very natural numbers for them to work with. They used a 360 (6X60) day calendar as opposed to our 365 day calendar. The ancient astronomers would have noticed that it takes 365 days for the sun to move (about our fixed Earth) past the stars that appeared to be fixed to an external heavenly sphere, and return to where they started. The choice of 360 days for a year may have been a compromise between a 365 day solar year and a 354 day lunar year, (consisting of 12 months of 29.5 days each).

Source : http://mathcentral.uregina.ca/QQ/database/QQ.09.01/andy1.html

Paintings

Esref Armagan : http://www.armagan.com/paintings.asp

John Bramblitt : http://www.bramblitt.net/gallery.htm

Awesome work! Two painters, both blind. Their work shall describe the rest!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jung-Sun Arirang

If Kaze-wo azumete was awesome in Lost in translation, then this song goes beyond that. This is from the movie - Spring Summer, Fall, winter and spring. (Cult!)
This one is a traditional Korean song and i could not find its translation/meaning on internet.

singer: Kim Young-Im
song: Jung-Sun Arirang

01. Á¤¼± ¾Æ¸®¶û - ±è¿µÀÓ

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring again:
Must see! multiple times. I can not describe the movie, it is futile to do so. It needs to be experienced.
The Heart Sutra:
















गते गतेGone, gone
पारगतेGone beyond
पारसंगतेGone completely beyond
बोधि स्वाहाPraise to awakening
[Wiki speak]
Heart sutra is a well-known Mahāyāna Buddhist sutra that is very popular among Mahayana Buddhists both for its brevity and depth of meaning.

My first movie of Ki-duk Kim. I have to see more by him. His trademark is characters in movies who speak nothing or very less.

Social networks - the best is yet to come!

Over the past 5-6 years the buzz word that everyone in tech industry has noticed, observed standing by and seeing it rise, unable to anticipate its potential, that buzzword would be , no it is not "search", it is "social networks".

Search solved one big problem, and modeled many others problems to a search problem, but social networking is a step ahead. It captures the heart of communication, of interaction and more importantly, it has created a world of its own.

Even with such enormous popularity, i will attempt to prove that we are still seeing only the tip of iceberg. Its potential is too much, and we have just started to peel the onion.

Lets see what social networks have done:
1. Provided us with our own individual network of friends/acquaintance.
2. Ability to communicate within our network and outside it (scrap/posts)
3. Sharing photos, videos, music etc.
4. The community concept: We would like to associate with a particular group of people who share common interests, hobbies,favourite movies etc.
5. Lastly the apps where people can make anything on their own.

Now, we see what users like about them:
1. You dont call your hundred friends everyday, infact you call some and others you dont even call. Social networks provided an easy way to communicate with others, or whenever we need to communicate, we can do so.
2. By checking other's profiles, we can check out the developments in other's lives without even communicating.
3. Before digital camera, photographs were printed and one used to share them whenever someone came to house. With digital images, flickr etc have developed but there is no better way to update your existence through images posted on social networks. Same applies to videos.
4. Its all virtual: Even introverts can participate. You can create yourself as you want to be.
5. Lastly, the cool factor or the tipping point economics play very well here.

There are many other factors but i am listing the best 5 in my opinion.

Before we see what social networks are missing, lets see what other things have become popular/widely used-
1. Blogs.
2. Linked in
3. Youtube/Flickr (Already integrated into social networks)
4. Adwords/adsense
5. (little old) Email/Chat (Chat is already getting into social networks)

A point that is missing above is mobile and particularly its interaction with internet. It is going to be the next in-thing, just like what SMS was about 6-8 years ago, micro-blogging through sms is emerging as the next cool thing.

What social networks still miss?
The amateur mistake of any person working in Artificial Intelligence is the desire to replicate the human intelligence in a computer. Many have traveled this path, some committed suicide (its true!), some gave up and others succeeded to an extent.

My idea is that social networks are still not replicating a real social network, that is how we network in life. With the risk of repeating the above mistake, let me carefully state what my point is.

Social networks have captured the structural properties that we follow in life. Each one of us are participants in different social circles, call them communities or sub-networks. That social circle may be nearby church community, our office team, school alumni group etc. Currently social networks capture this idea nicely.
But what they lack is that in each social circle, we maintain a different social identity. I portray a different social identity when i work in a company, when i go to a pub with my friends. I write different things on my resume, I am a different person when i meet my family, relatives etc. People maintain a different identity when they blog, a different one when they write their dairy.
Other way to put what i am saying can be through the means of permissions. Some might not like his boss to know that he is a smoker or dipsomaniac.

Social networks should give this flexibility to have multiple profiles, coupled with permissions on who is allowed to access what.
Future uses:
1)Integrate linked in.

2) Each office has its own communication network, a messenger, a calendar, mailing lists etc. All of this is a social network. Mailing list are basically communities within an office. There should be a hierarchy of community - a network of community. For example (a fictitious one), I am a member of badminton club in my company, a member of badminton club of mountain view so there is a network of badminton clubs also.
Another one, a real one, in trilogy each team had a mailing list, here each team has its own blog. Basically all these are communities of social networks except that they are servicing a different purpose. All this should be integrated.

3) Online marketing - Online consumership: Online ads industry in itself is a billion dollar industry and many say that this is just the beginning. Marketing on social networks can be more targetted. Not only this, consumerism can also be exported here. People can make lists, not wish lists but normal grocery lists, apparel lists etc and these lists will not be made public. They will be shared by stores for offers etc. Also add here the craiglist phenomenon, the ebay culture.

4) Yesterday, i came to know about dedicated social networks in the indutry of health - (a) between doctors to share information, and learn (b) between patients to share common symptoms, advices, troubles etc.
They are held off independently because in the current schema of social networks they are outcast as they want a certain level of privacy, they maintain a certain level of standards and quality which is diluted in the normal one.

5) Email can not be replaced but this is what can be done: - Centralization. I have a different email account for office, i have a gmail account and a old yahoo account which i use sometimes. Why do i need to use 3? Again the role of permissions is the game. Same applies to the messenger. Do not force people to change their ids, instead make something that runs on top of existing ones. The concept of OpenID is more than welcome and similar efforts should be taken.

6) There are many softwares that capture your ancestory like geni tree etc. Thats a big part of social culture. That should be integrated.

Musiccovery plays music based on your mood. Why cant i read news based on my mood? Why cant i talk to people based on my mood. It is all about categorization, all about permissions, watch out for social networks 2.0 (whenever it comes)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Where trilogy went wrong ...........

Where trilogy went wrong ...........
or may be i am just getting dumb?
or may be both. But this is my blog.

My internship at kosmix is going good. Kosmix is a company that has left the shell of startup and the chicken is out in the real world and trying to improve its footprint and growing strongly. Every day or week i see policy formulations , setting up of processes for communication, for vacation/sick leaves etc. I see many similarities between Kosmix and Trilogy but at the same time i see there are crucial differences. Somethings that i had felt right at trilogy but now i feel different. Mind you, Trilogy despite all this had very good points and still is one of the good companies to work for, atleast in India, besides they pay quite well.
And also before i begin, i am not going to highlight the trivial points like lack of communication, change in strategy to outsourcing etc. Those were the reasons but i am talking about where the practices went wrong.

1. During the training phase, we were told to stay away from patent website and not to browse patents files elsewhere. This is plain BS and i hate this to the core. The objective of browsing patent is to learn from other's inventions and share information. That is how information evolves and improves.

2. Career advisor: Every employee is assigned a career advisor who is responsible for that employee's career. Career advisor is the person whom you can talk to if you do not like your work, do not agree with your manager or anything that you are not willing to share freely in open. In the end, during evaluations, your career advisor is the one responsible for advocating on your behalf and depending on his appraisal, a person gets promoted etc. On the surface, it looks like a brilliant idea and gives employees another channel to vent themselves in an appropriate manner. I also thought like it when i was in trilogy. There were some problems like your performance evaluation depended on how good an orator your career adviser is and other things but no system is perfect. But i am not questioning this here. I am questioning the whole idea behind this. What this does is that people generally are not open to others on how they feel. It creates an environment where people speak behind other's backs. People do not trust each other, the team spirit is gone and work is affected considerably. I saw this and it happened. People used to talk about their managers behind their backs but never confronted the actual problem. It is against the practice of transparency. The open culture which Trilogy boasts about so much (and which is quite true to some extent ) is compromised due to this thing.

3. Non-transparent evaluations : On a personal note, i love horizontally structured companies but i acknowledge that when a company grows there is a need of some structure. The bands or levels in trilogy were a decent concept but the thing that reeked was that the evaluation was not transparent. They were done in a small room where the participants may have no idea on what you did or why you did what you did.

4. Trilogy is more like a Indian cricket or IPL to be precise. As Kumble cleverly says "Indian players need help to handle fame", it holds true for Trilogy as well. May be i am saying more than my stature but i think it is true. When trilogy entered indian markets in 2000, they offered salaries around 20L which was unheard off. 6 years later they were doubled and senior people were the top managers making the decisions of the company. Some people from that group were geniuses and they made some classic decisions but not all and the fame, the position was not matched to their capacity to handle it.

5. Trilogy had an high attrition rate and they did nothing to stop it. When asked they had no answer and were ok with it. This pained me the most as the company which boasts that its people are its biggest asset, does nothing to stop it, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. Microsoft ant Google also have huge number of attritions but look at their hiring spree and look at their size. But in a company of size 400, if 100+ leave in a year, you are obviously making some mistake.



One of my colleagues once remarked to me : The decision of Trilogy to move to India had back fired as we were not as capable as they thought we were and due to which things are getting worse. This is the reason why they are moving to outsourcing also.
Interesting, I was not the only one who realized the above mistakes, there were others too.

[Update] Thanks to Ankur for pointing it to me. I dont know how many ( but definitely Ankur), has setup alerts on blog search where they are notified whenever Kosmix is mentioned in any blog post. I did not knew about it. And that's how ankur came to know about this post and this blog. Two things go in my mind:
(a) I am impressed by this idea - to track yourself and see who all is talking about you.
(b) Now i would be careful while blogging about you-know-who in future :)) LOL

Monday, May 19, 2008

the start

It was written on 4th may but i am posting it today.

The start could not have been better. Today is Sunday, 4th of May, 2008 and i am flying to California for an internship at kosmix, a startup in search domain.

It all started by me waking at 5 am, a rarity but i had to catch the flight. Early mornings are good everywhere, be it India or US. On reaching airport, they are playing wonderwall at a reasonable sound for me to get high. Climbing the escalators on Concourse E, I look above my head and there is a modern art hanging in a bulging-in position, full of colors but it is dominated by a reddish shade, a shade which you get when you cover a bulb with red umbrellas in a lamp. In between those colors, there are boxes of caricatures of people with a 3-4 word phrase which do not make sense completely but they are there for a reason. Some artist's mastermind, may be. Effort is needed to decipher it. I have to turn around to match the pace of escalator in order to maintain my look at that painting. But it is not a good idea to not to look forward while going up on an escalator. I realize it just in time to look straight and the painting will have to wait for some other time.


Best comes in the flight : I switch on my laptop and start watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

It is a movie about a person, Jean-Do, who wakes up from his coma only to find himself paralyzed completely except for three things - His left eye, his imagination and his memories. We see the movie from the perspective of Jean-Do as we can hear his thoughts although others cant. Not only this, we see the movie from his perspective as well, aka the camera's scope is limited to the vision scope of Jean Do's left eye. By using these simple yet creative technique, we see the process of how a person copes up with such paralysis, his memories gives us a picture of his past and his imagination shows us his character. And on top of it add the complexities of human nature, his dad, ex-wife, kids, girl friend, nurses, each defining a new meaning to human relations. All this makes the movie a classic and the best thing is that it is based on a true story. Jean-Do wrote a book after he was paralyzed and we get to see how he wrote it. Truly an inspiring emotional story captured in this movie with a positive attitude showing meaning of life and its beauty. The analogies to being paralyzed are too good. An old man trapped in an apartment, a person taken as a hostage, a vegetable, all are shown in a good manner.

May 4 - May 18 , 2008

Life couldnt have been better for me now. Out of school, into my internship and things are looking pretty good.
Its too bad that its been 2 weeks out of school and i haven't written a blog post. When you have time you squander it.

Anyways, i have done some interesting things over the last week:

Movies:
1. Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (The diving bell and the butterfly).
There will be a review soon. I have written it but then its on my laptop and i am now on my office comp on a sunday after noon. But don't worry, i am not working!!
2. Sweeny todd - A Tim Burton - Johnny Depp venture (again). And it does not disappoint either (atleast to me). Though the ending is a little weak and gross but the start is awesome. I didnt knew that it was a musical but the first 3 minutes made it clear. Johnny Depp is stunning again and sets are awesome. My best is the dreamy sequence - By the sea.

Books:
1.The Count of Monte Cristo. First V for vendetta had a reference to this one and then the diving bell and the butterfly also said something about it. Those two were more than enough to convince for me to read that book. And what a book it was. Revenge has a new style. This revenge is completely different from Cook thief or even Baazigar (if we are talking revenge) or Ocean's 13 for that matter. It has more style, more substance, more meaning making it a cult novel. My only regret is that i read a not-so-good translation and it was abridged (still 450 pages of small font). Originally, it is a 2 volume epic in french. But sure i will read it again in future.

Food:
My office is on Castro street. It is filled with restaurants on left and right.
So far i have tried indian(first day, first meal (dinner)), thai (thrice), italian(not pizza), chinese, mexican, french in atleast 12 different restaurants.

Music:
Attended one day of Wasiffudin Dagar sahab's workshop at Stanford. Organized by Venkat, i had a great time attending it. In this workshop, dagar sahab taught everyone to sing the basics of dhrupad or sa, re ga notes. In my case it was mostly limited to sa note. But it was the first time someone had asked to sing something and that too in fron of everyone. I must admire his patience that he gave 15 minutes of that workshop to me and bore my voice. It was an amazing experience.

Travel:
1. Golden gate: I was 100 metres away from the 1 mile (if not more) golden gate and yet i couldnt see it because of the foggy clouds. What a day it was yday! It had been hot here since the past 3 days but yesterday weather bestowed its best. Near the Golden gate, it was a hill station like environment. We saw clouds touching ground, clouds falling over water, the SF bay, wind blowing, fresh air. We went to the Rhodeo beach where the sand is black, water is icy but the feeling is lovely.
2. Crooked street: or the lombard street - Classic street, brilliant architecture and the best of all people live around the street. I wonder how, particularly how they park. But its a must see.
3. Larkspur: A small town near SF, yesterday it was its 100th anniversary. Visited their downtown and had classic italian food. Our company was very good - Deepti didi, jijai and his friend - Maneesh and his family. Good food and people - who can ask better!!


Misc:
Freecycle: I have joined moutain view's freecycle group. Do check out their generic website - www.freecycle.org. Their idea is that instead of throwing useful things to trash, someone might use it. So they have a mailing list (yahoo group) for each city(some even in India, not sure how active). I got a hand soap and a rug for free.

Biking:
Kosmix has taken a step ahead from Google. They have given me a bike (and a very good one indeed!) to keep for summer while i am here. I have travelled many places through it. Moutain view has got an excellent road network for biking and i have taken good advantage of it yet more will come!