Vantage point

Saturday, December 30, 2006

It's Leveled Now

India lost the Kingsmead test, but I don't think there's too much shame in the defeat. Throughout the test, the rub of the green seemed to go South Africa's way. Especially Asad Rauf's umpiring in the second innings. he gave Dravid and Tendulkar out wrongly. And even in the end, when the light was deteriorating, he gave Sreesanth caught behind thought the ball brushed his shoulder.

One of the heartening moments for me was Sreesanth's reaction. He was livid. He was fuming to be given out wrongly. He just stormed off the ground without shaking hands with the South Africans or anyone. The guy had intent as well as self-belief that he could slug it out and fight for a draw. He was ultra-motivated, and had the stomach for a battle. This sort of attitude is very uncommon amongst Indians, especially tail-enders. Sreesanth has already captured 16 wickets in the series. His job is done. He could have just laid ducks while batting and no one would have given him any grief over it. But in the first test, as well as here, he showed a desire to contribute. And he hated to lose. Whether his pace, seam control and fitness holds up remains to be seen. But his attitude is perfect. And with experience, he has managed to not let excitement or pressure affect his bowling.

The openers seem to reside in a world of their own. Sehwag's failures deserve another post. But Jaffer's rush of blood was inexplicable. He was looking very comfortable, and positively at ease. Why he needed to attempt that suicidal hook and throw away an opportunity to remove the uncertainty over his place in the squad is something even he won't be able to explain.

South Africa have won. But their problems are still unresolved. Luck has played a huge role in this success. It could all change. I am backing India to win at Capetown and take the series 2-1. I am also backing Sehwag to score a 150-plus.

Friday, December 29, 2006

They Hanged Him!

Saddam Hussein has been hanged. A few thoughts -

- Saddam is not the first dictator to be hanged, neither will he be the last. He did carry out genocides and so isn't exactly an innocent victim. Whether you agree or disagree with the death penalty is another matter altogether. I used to be very agnostic on the topic, but am lately leaning towards the "death penalty is wrong. full stop." line of thinking. But that is neither here nor there.

- Saddam's hanging is by no stretch of imagination an "insult to Muslims", "slap on the face of Muslims", "another attack on Islam" or anything.

- Will the Indian english language news channels stop saying "How are the Indian minorities reacting to this?" and instead say "How are the Indian muslims reacting to this?". I know it might be a tough point to grasp for them, but minorities does not equate only with muslims. Minorities aso include Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Jews and Pastafarians who really have no reason to react to Saddam's hanging any differently.

- Heard on IBN a while back - "By killing Saddam, America has ensured that his ideology will live for ever." What? Hang on. I mean WHAAAAAAAAAAT? What ideology?


What will happen in the Durban test is anyone's guess. We may just play out the day comfortably and draw it. Or South Africa might knock us over and equalise. Or the rain might have the last word.

Here's what I would like to see. India should lose a bunch of wickets. We should be 8 down or 9 down. And then the rain should come down, or bad light should halt play. Rain has robbed us of a victory so many times, that it will be nice for a change to see it save us.

Plus it will mean more frustration for Graeme Smith. I hate Smith. He is a mediocre batsman, a horrible captain and a petty petty man. He is easily the worst captain I have ever seen. Earlier this year, he declared too early and lost a test to Australia. Now if his late declaration robs him of an opportunity to win a test, more joy.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Purviche Pune Rahile Nahi

As Pu La wrote, one every Punekar loves to say "purviche pune rahile nahi", i.e Pune isn't the same as before. Returning to this city afterall of 4 months, I have already noticed a few changes.

The De-Pulchritudinization of the Tekdi - Visited the tekdi aftera longtime. Noticed that the babe content on the tekdi has drastically fallen. I specifically mean pretty young things unaccompanied by boyfriends. This species used to abound on all tekdis, especially my beloved Law College tekdi. But it isn't so any more. I blame all these new gyms, overflowing with treadmills.

Puneri Signs in English - Acerbic and tart signs have been part of the Pune DNA. But these signs are usually in marathi. I spied a few new signs - "Saaykali vyavastheeth lava", "Internet band padlyaas kangaava karu naye. ISP kadoon connectionband hotey." This timeI also found a shop w ith the Puneri signs in English. And iice cream shop in Kothrud had the notice under the heading "Points To Be Noted"(this heading itself is quite a killer!)" - "Wedo not have any branches in or out of Pune", "Serving the ice cream may take 10-15 minutes in presence of rush" etc. I guess withthe increasing inflowof non-Maharashtrians into the city, it becomes essential to translate our Puneriness. :)

Friday, December 22, 2006


"No way! You're kidding me, right?", I said. It has been a tremendous effort keeping a straight face to everything that he had told me until then. I nodded politely to everything he said, asked all the right questions, hmmmmed and aaaahed as if I was on board with whatever he was saying.

But his latest claim was so preposterous, that I could not control myself.

"It is true. I am the one who invented all these nuclear weapons. I am the one who convinced Truman to bomb Japan." said the man with a pale circular patch on his forehead, right where women wear a bindi.

"But why?", I asked.

"Because I am tired. I am tired of roaming this earth. I want to be set free. It was fun for the first few hundred years. And you'd think it would be fun now. But everything gets boring eventually, even sex."

"Hmmmm.... and you are 6000 years old, right? You don't look a day over 35 to me."

"I eat well. Exercise regularly. Still remember everything my father taught me. He used to say - being a brahmin doesn't mean you stuff your face with sweets, grow fat and cram the scriptures. You have to be physically fit to be mentally fit."

I craned my neck hoping to spot the train. The track was still empty. It seemed like I would have to listen to more of this lunatic's rambling. Strike up a conversation with a desi in America, and this is what you get. They either try to sell you an Amway dealership, or they claim to be 6000 years old.

Well, at least he wasn't trying to sell me anything. And he wasn't trying to talk me out of my plans. I thought I'd help him a bit with his delusions.

"So why don't you just invoke one of your astras and destroy the world?"

He shook his head and said,

"Can't. Can't do it anymore. I can teleport and control a few minds and all that. But that's it. Can't make astras any more. The rules of physics have changed. I really miss the tretayug. The human mind was connected, it was so much powerful, we could do things you folks can't even dream of. But then Brahma got sick of it all one day, especially after Arjuna and I had that fight, and decided that humans did not deserve such power. So he made this new set of rules, called it kaliyug, and just changed the world upside down."

"Really?", I wondered where his marijuana came from.

"Yes. You know this whole thing between Arjun and me. It happened very differently from what the books tell you. The books will tell you Arjun was able to revoke his pashupatasta and I could not revoke my brahmastra so I aimed it at Uttara's womb. Now tell me. Do I look like the kind of guy who will kill an unborn child?"

"I don't believe in judging people, but you are talking of destroying the world. That would mean killing a whole lot of unborn children."

"Oh it's different now. Now I am tired. But back then I was honest, idealistic, honourable. I would never do such a thing. You know who was the real culprit?"

"Who? Arjun? He killed his own kid?"

"No! Arjun was dumb. You guys think of Bhim as the dumb one. But Arjun was really dumb. Bhim was not intelligent, sure, but he at least had a mind of his own. I really liked the guy. A real independent spirit. Even Draupadi liked him the best. But this Arjun was like a frigging robot. Always looking for someone's orders to follow. He was a compulsive submissive."

"Well, then who was the culprit?"

"Can't you guess? Don't you know who was the shrewedest and most conniving SOB of them all? The guy with no ethics or decency whatsoever?"

"Hmmmm....Ravan?", I said with the intention of needling him.

"Ravan?? Ravan?? God, cable tv has really scrambled everyone's brains. This is the Mahabharat you fool.."

"I know, I know. I was just pulling your leg. You meant Krishna of course?"

"Who else? That guy always had a trick up his uttariya. Just as I was about to destroy it, he deflected it towards Uttara's womb. Then since it was his own deflection, he was able to revive the child. I told the gods that I didn't do it. But they were all so biased when it came to krishna. It was his word against mine. The God Jury didn't take even 5 minutes in deliberations. They came out and announced, they would snatch my mani, give me leprosy, I was to wander the earth until kaliyug ended."

"You don't seem to suffer from leprosy, dude."

"I know. That Sushruta was a magician!"

Ah, the plot freakens, I thought to myself.

"So your whole plan to initiate a nuclear war is so that kaliyug will end?"

"Precisely. But these other Chiranjeevis screw it all up. They still want to keep living, and keep nailing chicks. Vyasa made the Japanese surrender, just as I had Harry convinced to fire six more nukes. I worked Fidel and Ernesto so hard, but Parshuram went and told Kennedy how to diffuse the Missile Crisis. Then Bali came to me and said he was sick of living too. He had this plan. We'd convince Reagan to step up the arms race, USSR would collapse, and pretty soon nukes would be sold over the counter by the broken Soviet states."

"Bali is on your side?"

"Yes. The guy makes sense you know. For years I was trying quick-fix solutions. They never work. What we need is a 50-year long plan. A protracted strategy that will ensure a nuclear war."

Right then I saw my train in the distance. I got up.

"Hey, my train is here. I gotta go."

"Oh, ok. It was nice talking to you."

"Nice talking to you too, Ash. Good luck with your nuclear war."

"Thanks. Good luck with your suicide. I envy you."

What's Your Beef?

Another ridiculous and farcical case of misuse of the section 295(a). The Bajrang Dal in Indore has filed a case against Ravi Shastri for eating beef and talking about it on TV.

All these laws need to be scrapped from the book at once, or they will continue to be misused by publicity hounds like this. The Bajrang Dal is the nearest thing to a Hindu Taliban.

By the way, do these Bajrangis or nutcases like Uma Bharti, who worship Savarkar know that he actually ate beef, advocated eating of beef, and said, "the cow is just another animal"?

Link via email from Rony


That is me laughing as I look at the stack of graphic novels that I am going to read today, and then tomorrow on the plane. There are 3 Lady Snowblood paperbacks, several Hellboy comics, Frank Miller & Dave Gibbons' 'Martha Washington Saves the world', and about half a dozen comics by Warren Ellis. All brand new, mint condition, easily worth at least 300 dollars or so. Plus there are 3 exquisitive art-works.

And I get to read them all for free! How did I manage to pull this off? Mwahahahaha! By asking Beatzo if there are some comics he wants me to carry back for him from the US. Sure enough, packages started arriving. And I have them all here, and am reading them.
And I am spilling food all over them. No, I'm not. That was just to give Beatzo a minor heart attack.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Significant Moments

Sometimes significant and life-altering moments occur without us even realising them.

I came down from the Empire State Building and walked into Jim Hanley's Universe. It is a comic lovers' delight. I browsed around, and admired in print several comics for a long time. Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Steve Ditko, and of course Neil Gaiman. Pored over their work without any interruption. Argued with myself back and forth about whether I should buy a copy of V For Vendetta. Did. Sentimental reasons you see; first graphic novel I read and all that. Then argued with myself whether I could afford to buy the $30 hardbound Good Omens. Decided I couldn't afford it. But bought it anyway. Then walked over to the t-shirt section. Needless to say, figuratively drooled over the Cartman t-shirts. "GODDAMIT!!!", "Respect My Authoritah!!", "Ai, get your bitch ass in the kitchen and bake me a pie", "You're breaking my balls here". Then suddenly remembered I had to buy a gift for Aadisht. I had forgotten which of the Death books he specifically wanted. Decided to get him my favourite - High Cost of Living. You'll never guess who the introduction is by. Well, maybe you will if you know enough about Gaiman and the speculation about who he modeled Death on. Or if you just check out the book's wiki.

Took the books to the check-out, and walked to Ariana for lunch.

Four hours later at the MOMA, Karishma and I were looking at Roy Lichtenstein's 'Drowning Girl', which is drawn in comic-book-style. That it is drawn in comic-book style is obvious from the picture I linked to. But Lichtenstein was really serious about it. He even drew an array of tiny red dots, basically pixels, on the girl's face, similar to what you will observe on someone's face in an old comic book if you look at it really closely.

And that painting suddenly reminded me of something. My trip to Jim Hanley's. I realised that a few hours back I had experienced a life-altering significant moment. I saw the Eric Cartman "Respect My Authoritah" t-shirt, more specifically, size-small. And I did not buy it. I did not even think about buying it. It never even occured to me to buy that size-small t-shirt. A month ago I would have bought it, and all other Cartman t-shirts and couriered them. But not now.

Great success!!

P.S - If this post doesn't make sense to you, don't worry. It barely makes sense to me.


Take a bowl. Pour one helping of Terry Pratchett. Pour one helping of Neil Gaiman. Pour half a helping of 'The Omen'. Mix profusely. What do you get?

My latest bedside companion!

My Favourite Painting

I got to see it up close today. Heavenly!

Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) - Don Mclean

Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless head on nameless walls,
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the strangers that you've met,
The ragged men in the ragged clothes,
The silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still.
Perhaps they never will...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sunrise at Brooklyn Bridge

The next time you are in New York City, do try this out if you are an early morning person like me. Well, to be honest, I didn't exactly wake up that early in the morning. My bus from State College got to Chinatown at 5:30 a.m. So I decided to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Now I don't know if "Sunrise at Brooklyn Bridge" comes heavily recommended in Lonely Planet type guides, but I am guessing not, because even for a peak tourist season day like today, there were just a handful of obvious tourists. So when it comes to being a "something you can't miss according to the guide books", Sunrise at Brooklyn Bridge is no Rockefeller Centre.

But it ought to be. My camera is out of commission so I can not present photographic evidence to back this up, but it has to be among the best sunrise sights in the world. The eastern skyline behind Brooklyn and Queens turns almost completely orange-red. And the sun announces its arrival by lighting up the window panes of some buildings along the east river on the Lower East Side. As the sun gradually rises, the window-shine spreads, selectively illuminating buildings, tall and short, all along midtown, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, Chinatown. One of the brightest reflectors is of course the Empire State Building. Now if you are standing on the bridge, with your back towards Brooklyn, admiring the sun's holiday lights at play in Manhattan, don't forget to keep looking back at the actual sunrise and how divine it looks against the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn.

So far the window-lights will have been at play mainly to the right side. In a short while, you'll get the money shot. The sun's rays reflecting from the buildings in the financial district in Lower Manhattan. Now if you start walking on the bridge back towards Manhattan, the reflection travels with you, lighting up different buildings as you walk, changing your perspective.

It's just breath-taking!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Our Athletic Achievements Multiply

I made this post on the spur of the moment after reading the news. I now realise it was not in good taste. The matter seems more complicated than I initially thought. Some hormonal imbalances or something which seem beyond Santhi's control. Mentioning her in the same breath as drug-test failed athletes was stupid. For what its worth, I apologise for the post, and am deleting it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Free Markets and Dalits

Kuffir asked in his post "Do free markets mean free individuals?"

I posted two comments which I am reproducing below -

in plain words, would the markets render caste irrelevant?

No. And I don't think any right-thinking free-market supporter will claim that markets can make caste irrelevant.

And a question which seeks to link the two reminds me of a joke. A patient with a broken hand is being wheeled in for surgery. He asks he doctor "Will I be able to play the piano properly if the operation is successful?". The doctor says, "Of course you will.". The patient is overjoyed and says "That's great. I couldn't play piano for nuts before my hand broke."

Free markets are a solution to our economic problems, not social. There are several ways in which a less-socialist policy will give the oppressed castes greater opportunities and greater access to resources. But they can not, by themselves make caste irrelevant. That needs a change in the social mindset. But yes, if there is a change in the social mindset, then free markets can be enablers of further change.

Take the blacks in America. While they still have a lot of problems, I hope you will agree that their situation and standing in society is far better than, say, the 50s. Taking the specific example of Michael Richards, he was banned from the LA comedy club because of his racist outburst. The club banned use of the n-word. Voluntarily. I am sure that the market played a huge role in the proactive steps taken by the comedy club. If their image suffered, they would lose business since people who care about the issue of racism would not visit the club.

But this effect of the market was possible only because the civil rights movement has caused a social change in America big enough to make people feel outraged by someone using a racial insult.

Now here's what I am interested in knowing. Forget, for a while, the macro-concept of laissez-faire free markets. It is not a realistic idea in India for a few decades at least. I am thinking about some of the specific policy changes being proposed by free marketers - labour reforms, a change in the law which gives government a monopoly over buying agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, simplifying the entry of private players into primary education, dismantling the monopoly of APMCs everywhere, reforms which will stop harassment of street vendors by the police, denationalisation of the power sector.....

Which of these policy changes do you think will worsen the caste problem? In general, can you think of an economic reform which will actually make the life of an SC/ST/OBC worse than it already is? Do you not see some, if not all of the above policy measures actually helping everyone, including the oppressed castes?

And here is my criticism of the left-liberal commentators in India who write about caste. Their focus is too scattered, and a lot of the points they raise seem to have their origin more in a guilty-conscience and an intention-driven thinking, rather than a closer examination of the root of the problem.

One of my pet peeves is the logic of "representation". I have read people argue - reservations are not about oppression or skewed resource access. reservations are about representation.

Focusing on representation is what has made the caste problem stagnate. Because everyone, from thinkers to politicians, is just working to make sure that they can say "the proportion of the oppressed castes in colleges and offices is the same as their proportion in the population".

They ignore that a place in colleges and offices comes much later in life. What is more important is representation in more basic things which enable a person to get on equal footing.

What is the proportion of dalit and obc houses in rural India that have electricity, running water, as compared to the national average? What is the proportion of dalit children who complete primary education?

How about talking about representation in those things? Why is that never talked about or promised? It seems to me that the facts - "Only 31% dalit households have electricity as compared to 61% non-dalit households" or "Only 16% dalit children are enrolled in primary school as compared to 84% non-dalit children" are much more damning, worrying, unjust, and problem-causing than the fact that dalits are under-represented in industry.

But those issues are not raised or talked about. Instead there is reams and reams of polemic on more peripheral and secondary outcomes like dalit percentage in the IT industry and post-grad courses.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I Did It!!!

I am 2006's Time Person of the Year!! My mom will be so proud.

Hat-tip - Ravikiran


Help me! Heard "Come On Closer" by Jem today. It begins with the opening notes of a bollywood song I know, and the tune keeps reappearing throughout the song. I just haven't been able to identify which song it is. It's R.D. Burman for sure. Please listen to the song below, and mail me if you figure it out. This is driving me insane.

Update: For some reason the most common answer was "dil ke jharonkhe mein" from Brahmachari. Similar music, but not an exact match. The song is 'Baharon Phool Barsao' from Suraj. Music by Shankar Jaikishen, not RD.

Thanks - Shashikant, Jaideep, Cuckoo, Krishna, Giridhar and Sailesh

Dammit Dammit Dammit!!

India is sitting pretty at Wanderers, with a lead of 311 and 5 wickets still in hand. 5 wickets which include the dangerous Dhoni, already off to a start, and the even more dangerous Laxman, who is looking like he is in that zone which sees him unleash a string of big scores. I am happy. Doubly happy, since Ganguly's made a triumphant return to the side.

Why the dammits, then? Because I never made a preview post about the test series. Instead I restricted my opinions to email discussions with RajK and Rony. For instance on December 5, I wrote -

We never played in SA before 1992. The last series against them was 2001-02. In that stretch India didn't win a single test outside the subcontinent. After SA in 2001-02, we went to West Indies, where we won a test, and after that have ben winning at least a test match away on regular basis. I do think we will win a test this time round. Don't get fooled by the ODI debacle. Test cricket is a different game altogether. And Munaf-Zaheer-Sreesanth could be quite a handful on a pace-friendly track. This new crop of Indian pacers have rarely gotten pace-friendly tracks to bowl on. Australia produced one in Brisbane, where Zaheer got a fiver, and got us first innings lead. But all the other tracks were flat. In New Zealand we bowled very well, but batted worse. Pakistan produced a pitch that was a greentop for the first 2 days, and we all know the havoc our pacers wreaked there in the first innings. Of course the pitch evened out and we got creamed in the 2nd is a different story.

Point is, this new lot of pacers will get, for the first time, pace-friendly pitches. If our batsmen don't capitulate, and there really is no need to... SA bowling in tests is mediocre... we have a good chance. Of course, I hope SA won't wuss out and prepare feather beds in Joburg and Capetown.

I am good! Anyway, here's hoping there are no slips twixt the cup and the lip, and we win this test by a massive margin. And the rain better not play spoilsport at Johannesburg again. Or else, India may just be forced to nuke the place.

The Cartel Expands!!!

What is the Libertarian Cartel of the Indian blogosphere? It is basically a bunch of bloggers whose first principles are -

a) Individual freedom is absolutely sacred
b) Private property rights are absolutely sacred

The term "cartel", came into being as a joke (details here). We were then just bloggers who shared similar ideas. Then we got to know each other better, via email, chat, phone, blog discussions. Many of us have met in real life too. And we have embraced the term "Libertarian Cartel", because it is superbly ironic, and we are big fans of irony.

Though world domination is there on our agenda, our main activity is having extremely stimuating conversations about economics, politics, entertainment, art, and other matters, mainly via email. To put it simply, the Cartel's trade is intellectual masturbation

So what's new, my old readers ask. Well, we have fresh blood in the cartel. Shruti Rajagopalan, a law student from Delhi, who has had some experience with our favourite NGO CCS, started blogging a few months back, and her posts left us quite impressed. We invited, she accepted, and short story shorter, she is now officially a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Cartel. That brings the membership of the Cartel to an even 20.

Welcome, Shruti. We don't have a secret handshake yet, but you are free to invent one if you want.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Gargantuan Usefulness of Mike Hussey

Tinku had a crush on Chinki. He had been showering her with attention, having long phone conversations with her, and gotten quite close to her. But he still didn't know if she liked him back "that" way. He asked his best friend, an expert womaniser, how to figure that out. The laconic friend, gave him a cryptic 3-word piece of advice.

Armed with this advice, he went to meet her. And looking at her intently, he asked,

"Chinki, who do you think is the best batsman in the world right now?"

Chinki blushed and said, "Mike Hussey".

Tinku was overjoyed. He knew now that Chinki liked him back. After all, as his friend said, "Hussey, toh phasee".

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sucky Ads

This is one of those posts that was conceived months ago, but never quite found its way out of the pipeline. As you know, when exams are looming on the horizon, your brain empties the entire time-wasting pipeline. So instead of worrying about what I must do when the assumptions of the classical linear regression model are cruelly stripped away, one skedasticity at a time, I am composing a post about the series of ads that I have found most pathetic over the last few months.

The ads were not being telecast in India when I left, so maybe this will be fresh news for some of you. The "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" series of ads is the lamest and most wannabe one that i have seen in recent times. It features a young actor (whose name I forget) dressed in "cool and hip" clothes. He is a very laid-back and chilled-out guy. He is Mac. With him is an awkward, stodgily dressed, bespectacled PC, played by John Hodgman. PC is shown to be nerdy, desperate, inadequate, and incompetent.

Here's one of the ads -

To me, these ads make Mac seem more pathetic. "Very subtle!!" is a comment that should be directed at Mac. I don't know whether Apple managed to pull off whatever they were trying to pull off here. Whether there is a significant jump in Mac sales. But to me, a fence-sitter who uses Windows, and is wondering about switching to Mac, these ads seem crass. It is not like they are poking fun at an equally matched rival here. Microsoft's marketshare is a multiple multiple of Apple's. It makes ads, especially like the one above, seem like the desperate pleas for attention from an insecure kid. And they actually seem to strengthen the stereotype of a Mac as being very pretentious and high only on the "cool" value, but with little substance.

Here are a few spoof ads by Truenuff that poke fun at Mac and also at Linux. Offered without a plug for any platform. I've had enough evangelical brainwashes from Linuxalites recently to last me a lifetime.

Decemberists vs Colbert

Thanks to Pandora, discovered The Decemberists a couple of months back. Have been following their music ever since. So recently when they announced their contest Re-animate The Decemberists, I wondered if they got the idea from Stephen Colbert's Green Screen Challenge.

Sure enough, Colbert reached the same conclusion and his counter-idea was hilarious. He wants fans to incorporate his sabre-weilding video into the Decemberists' video. In his words, "Let's see how well they perform their trademark brand of hyper-literate Prague rock when I'm slicing of their legs at the knee. Oh yes, they will feel the pain!".

Of course, the Decemberists lead a Sporting Life, and they gave Colbert a counter-challenge for a guitar solo.

The Decemberists-Colbert Guitar Solo Challenge will take place on December 20th.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fun Times Ahead

Remember the quiz that George W Bush flunked 7 years back? When he couldn't name the head of states of India and Pakistan? People found it funny then. Well, who was laughing when he attacked Iraq for links with Al Qaida?

History is being repeated as Democrat Silvestro Reyes, picked by Nany Pelosi to head the House Intelligence Committee, could not answer whether Al Qaida was a Sunni or a Shiite organisation. When pressed further he said, "Predominantly, I would say Shiite". And he had no idea who or what Hezbollah is. In fact when he was asked about Hezbollah, his answer was sublime -

"Why do you ask me these questions at five o'clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?"

Very nice. Mark Foley was the head of the Committee to protect molestation of children. And this guy is now going to head the House Intelligence Committee. Such fun!

Bring me your poor, your wretched, your math dunces

Do you find graphs and Venn diagrams boring? This blog should cure you.

Link via email from RajK

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reasons Behind India's Dogmatic Status-Quo-ism

Have you ever wondered something? India is not exactly and completely a "soft state". It is more of a semi-soft state. Secessionists who have suffered atrocities in kashmir and North-East will hardly call us a soft state. Yet look at how the Pakistanis were creatively iron-handed in dealing with their half of J&K. They happily ceded a large part of it to China. They ensured that a lot of Punjabi Pakistanis bought property in and settled in their half of J&K. The Northern Areas still don't have any sort of representative democracy. Look at China. They filled up Tibet with non-Tibetans. They literally de-Tibetised Tibet. Now those are 2 really hard states.

But not us. We gave J&K a special status under Article 370. Non-Kashmiris still can't buy property in J&K. They still have a different administrative set-up. And it is still a Muslim-majority state. We have been very accomodating and nice in some ways. But not completely. We ever gave them the plebiscite they were promised.

India has vaccilated somewhere between soft and hard, and thus attracted all possible problems of both the divergent stands, while not getting the benefits of either. Why are we semi-soft and status-quo-ist?

This article by Mukul Kesavan does a good job of trying to understand why

China solved its Tibet ‘problem’ by repopulating it with Han Chinese. It did this without embarrassment because its claim to Tibet was historical and frankly hegemonic. The nature of Indian nationalism and the structures of its constitutional democracy don’t allow ‘solutions’ of this sort. The history of republican India is the history of a state which, when pushed, will recognize every sort of identity — linguistic, tribal even religious — for the sake of pluralist equilibrium and political peace. You can see this happen in the formation of linguistic states, in the creation of a Muslim majority district in Kerala, in the segmentation of the North-east into tiny states. But when it comes to its borders, India is dogmatically, even violently status quoist. It will deface every map that shows Kashmir with its ears missing, it will defend a glacier down to the last soldier, it will go to war with China (and endure humiliating defeat) in defence of a colonial border and it will inflict sickening violence upon insurgent nationalists in the north-eastern states. Every secessionist movement and every disputed border is, for this insecure heir to the Raj, a domino. Committed to the principle that the diversity of the subcontinent can be housed within a democratic state, it will let no one leave home.

Read the whole thing. It brings to my mind an oft-occuring thought - India needs a secular-right government.

Link courtesy - Confused

About the JAMMAG Ads Controversy

I was absolutely shocked and horrified to read about my good friend and companion-in-troubled-times, Rashmi Bansal being booked for a non-bailable offence. Apparently the Mumbai police have registered against her an offence for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of people by making derogatory remarks on religious icons. The news report also says she is untraceable.

I am still a bit unclear about what was found offensive. JAM in its apology mentions some ads. The news article mentions punchlines below some pictures. Whatever it was, has been deemed offensive and obscene by the Mumbai police, and she has been booked under Section 292 and 295a.

Needless to say, I completely sympathise with and support Rashmi and Yatin, and hope they don't face too much of a hard time.

I have written previously about how the First Amendment to the Indian Constitution put several restrictions on our freedom of speech using riders like "public order", "decency", "morality", all of which are so subjective, that freedom of speech might as well be called a discretionary right instead of a fundamental right. It is the First Amendment which made it possible for such sections of the Indian penal code to be in place. I find the two sections in question utterly ridiculous, and if we are to have real freedom of speech in this country, they should be scrapped, and the provisions of the First Amendment reversed, giving us real freedom of speech.

Since I find the laws wrong in the first place, I obviously do not regard someone booked under them as an offender or a wrong-doer. Just like I would not consider someone being prosecuted for homosexuality as an offender.

Rashmi is a widely-read and popular blogger, and was at the centre of the IIPM controversy, which many bloggers feel passionately about. There will be bloggers supporting her, and the cause of free speech, and exhorting her to fight for it. But I wish to make a very important point here, which bloggers should try to differentiate from the free speech issue.

Freedom of expression is inviolable and sacrosanct. But it is the central issue if and only if Rashmi meant to express those things. For instance, she meant to criticize IIPM and expose the truth behind their tall claims. And she stood by it. this case is, however, different. It seems, from the apology on JAM's site, that the magazine did not intend to cause offence to any religion or community. Rashmi regrets that the illustrations inadvertantly offended people. Thus it is not a question of free speech. It has more to do with overzealous and faulty use of the law by the Police.

Mind you, if she intended to make fun of some religion or community, I would have supported her 100%. Freedom of speech should be absolute, and making fun of anyone or anything should not be punishable. But she apparently did not. So she is right to issue an apology. And she should not be charged with the offence.

Here's what section 295a says -

[295A. Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs
Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 146[citizens of India], 147[by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 148[three years], or with fine, or with both.]

So this section, as wrong as it is, can be applied only if there was a deliberate and malicious intention to outrage religious feelings of people. It seems clear from the apology issued that there was no such intention, and thus the decision of the police to register an offence against her was wrong.

Now section 292 is tricky. It is a long one, but I will quote only the relevant portions here -

For the purposes of subsection (2), a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect, or (where it comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items, is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt person, who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or. embodied in it].
[(2)] Whoever-
(a) sells, lets to hire, distributes, publicly exhibits or in any manner puts into circulation, or for purposes of sale, hire, distribution, public exhibition or circulation, makes, produces or has in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever, or

This section does not hinge on intent. But it has a very subjective term "obscene", and the definition is extremely sketchy. Some might find a woman in a bikini to be obscene. Others might find kissing obscene (and they have, judging from the case against Aishwarya Rai). Heck, if you are an extremely orthodox person, you may find a woman in jeans obscene. So not only does the section violate the freedom of expression, it is also badly worded and open to misuse. I also don't understand the logic behind making this a non-bailable offence.

I have not seen the ads in question, but have been a reader of JAM magazine in the past, and it never publishes anything which can be termed as more obscene than what you see in Times of India. So I find it highly unlikely that whatever was published was obscene in most senses of the word.

Thus the Mumbai police, by registering an offence seem to be just harassing Rashmi for no real reason, even if we take the sections in question to be correct.

So in this case, I protest the way Mumbai police is handling this matter, and I hope the mainstream media picks up this news, and generates enough publicity and outrage to make them drop the charges. That should be the more immediate goal.

Free speech is important. And it is important for the constitution to be amended to ensure free speech. But the immediate concern is Rashmi being charged for something wrongly. Please keep that in mind.

The Daily SomeAchaar - Panic Grips Indian Software Industry

by our general correspondent
Bangalore - The Indian software industry is in throes of panic, fearing the impending Chinese domination. The industry expects that China will rapidly become the most preferred destination for offshoring software products, and lead to Indian companies suffering heavy losses and force mass layoffs.

While there have been murmurs about China gradually catching up in software, the possibility started seeming all too real after the Indian hockey team failed to qualify for the semi-finals in the Doha Asian Games, after a surprise loss to China.

"We know that the China is better at us at foreign trade and sports. But at least in software and hockey, we have held an edge over them. But now they have beaten us even in hockey. Is software safe any more?", opined an Infoscion, on the condition of anonymity.

The hockey team's failure in Doha has taken by surprise even Fudginder Singh, Chief Analyst at the "Sports and Software Research Institute" in New Delhi. "Using past data of several socio-economic indicators, we had built models to predict when China would nudge ahead of India in hockey. According to those models, the said event was expected to happen in 2018. However, it has happened in 2006. Many of the same indicators were also used for models to predict the growth of the software industry. The loss at Doha has shown that the parameters in our models were horribly wrong, and indeed, the software industry should start taking the Chinese threat seriously."

Even as most software professionals are sweating buckets at this impending doom, some have enrolled for Mandarin classes. A young software professional was asking this professional about the immigration policy of China concerning software professionals.

It remains to be seen whether it is a matter of days or weeks before Chinese software exports exceed India's.

Brilliant Idea!

Damn, the Pakistani government is smart. They are proposing that China should play mediator in the Kashmir issue. Brilliant. I think the next suggestion might be North Korea playing mediator in the US-Iran stand-off. Or Iraq playing mediator in the Cyprus issue.


Thanks to Athiyaman, I came across this excellent compilation of C Rajagaoplachari's essays.

How it makes me wish this man had been allowed to play a bigger role in shaping our country's future.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Shallowness of the West Bengal Land Reforms

Ever since I first read about the Singur controversy, a bee has been buzzing in my bonnet. It finally bit. Six months ago, I had written a post about how the TATA Motors decision to set up a plant in West Bengal was disastrous. However I wrote that post merely from the labour trouble perspective. Why did I not realise that trouble would start right from land acquisition? Because, like several others I bought into the oft repeated "fact" that the Communists have carried out widespread land reforms in West Bengal. So I actually thought, believe it or not, that West Bengal is one place where the Narmada-type or Posco-type problems would probably not be repeated.

But it turns out that I was wrong in thinking that the Communists have done at least one good thing - land reforms. Singur gave me an opportunity to read more about the land reforms in West Bengal. And after reading about it, I have come to realise that the land reforms are a sham. They were at best, a short term quick-fix solution, with absolutely no long term respite for the poor farmers.

I am a big supporter of land reforms. While some of you may find this paradoxical given my libertarian beliefs, I insist it is actually consistent. Yes, I believe in the sanctity of property rights. But only when the property in question is rightfully the owner's. However I am not convinced that the massive landholdings of the zamindars can be thought of as their rightfully owned property. If you go through the history of India, most of the land has been distributed by Kings or rulers, i.e the "state" of that time, to these zamindars. That is, it was grabbed by force, and then distributed to a select few. The reason its ownership was given to a select few was for ease in tax collection. It is easier to collect tax from 1 zamindar owning 100 acres with a 100 farmers working on it, than from 100 farmers owning 1 acre each. This gave zamindars a lot of power.

Specifically in Bengal, the zamindars used to be only tax collectors. But the Britishers, to collect taxes more efficiently, conferred ownership rights to the zamindars under the Permanent Settlement Act, vastly multiplying the zamindar's power. Thus the land held by most zamindars at the time of India's independence, was theirs because of a legislation of convenience.

In other words, the status of land ownership in 1947 was a legacy of several acts which trampled on property rights. So setting 1947 as the zero on the graph does not make sense for a new country.

This country should have seen massive land reforms to right historic wrongs. Most of the land owned by zamindars should have been redistributed among the peasants working on those lands. And most importantly, these peasants should have been given individual ownership titles to the land. Individual ownership titles are very important. It is the difference between owning a home and having a long term lease on a home. It gives you clout, a say, and a voice. Unfortunately that didn't happen. Zamindars had a lot of clout, and land reforms were not carried out. Under Vinoba Bhave's Bhoodan movement, several zamindars voluntarily gave up land to be redistributed. But even in this movement, following Gandhian principles, the focus was more on community ownership rather than individual ownership.

Coming back to West Bengal, during the 1977 elections the commies promised the voters land reforms. And keeping their promise, they carried out Operation Barga. However, is this really land reform? I don't think so.

Here's something about Operation Barga that Amit sent me yesterday(taken from here) -

In 1978, the government launched Operation Barga, a programme that has now recorded the names of approximately 15 lakh bargadars and educated them about their cultivation rights, thereby raising their economic and social status. The state changed the landlord-bargadar relationship in two fundamental ways.

First, through anti-eviction measures, the landlords were largely prevented from forcibly throwing the bargadars off the land. In fact, the bargadar rights were made hereditary and thus perpetual.

Second, the state guaranteed that the bargadars would receive a fair share of the crop (75 per cent if the bargadar provides the non-labour inputs and 50 percent if the landlord provides those inputs).

West Bengal 's land reform legislation does not directly attempt to turn the bargadars into landowners. However, the legislation includes two provisions intended to facilitate that conversion from bargadar to landowner. The legislation gives bargadars priority rights to purchase the barga land if the landlord decides to sell such land.

(emphasis mine)

I am not saying the land reforms were bad. They prevented evictions of the bragadars. And they ensured them a substantial share of the crop. But by not turning them into land-owners, the government still accepted zamindars as the owners of the land. By not giving the bargadars any property rights, they did not empower them sufficiently like land reforms should have.

And therein lies half the root of the Singur problem. The large land-owners are happy to sell the land because they think it is a good deal. But the bargadars, who were given no ownership rights, are being screwed over. Their livelihood is being snatched. And because they dont own any property, they lack the bargaining power. Because the land reforms in West Bengal, while doing a lot of minor good, fell well short of the main thing - giving property rights to the poor farmer over the land he cultivates.

Greatbong in the comments of the post here says -

My question is if my company was taken over by say Microsoft and the company reorganized the workforce and fired me then I would be in the same position as these landless labourers. Their “company” has just been bought out and re-organized.

Ah, but it is not the same as a company. A company is set up by its owners, by arranging for capital on their own. The employees are being paid for their efforts. They do not have a greater say. And I agree, in accordance with the capitalist system, they shouldn't have a say. But the land owners here don't have the same rights on the land, as Bill Gates does over Microsoft. They were just given the ownership by some rulers out of convenience for tax collection. They were just in the right place and the right caste at the right time. So a bargadar should have a say in whether the land should be sold, as opposed to an employee of a company, who shouldn't. To prevent this kind of a mess, bargadars should have been given ownership titles to the land they tilled.

It is another matter altogether than even land titles might not have helped in Singur. A majority of the farmers in Singur are small land-owners, some of whom might own land, others who might have bought off portions of the land using the provisions of Operation Barga. So even these rightful owners of the land they cultivate have been forced to sell their land by the government because of eminent domain. Thanks to the 44th amendment of the Indian constitution in 1978 which removed right to property from the list of fundamental rights. And here's an interesting tidbit which I also learnt from Amit. This decision was taken by the Janata government because the communists asked them to do so in return for their support in the 1977 elections.

Which brings us to an oft-repeated theme on my blog. Just like the right to freedom of religion is essential for the survival of secularism in this country, the right to property is essential for the reduction of poverty. Leftists and their utter disregard for the sanctity of property rights has hurt the rural and urban poor people of this country the most. Narmada was one chapter. Singur is another chapter. And urban slums are yet another chapter. And such chapters will keep getting added in our country's history for as long as the Government is not made to take radical steps to ensure the sanctity of property rights.

It will be a more pro-poor move than a dozen employment guarantee schemes.

My sincerest thanks to Amit and Ravikiran for their inputs used in writing this post

Crossposted on Indian Economy Blog where the comments are open

Update: A healthy debate at the Indian Economy Blog(linked above) has made realise a couple of flaws in my line of thinking. Please read the comments there for details.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Update on the MBA Reasearch Repository

I received several mails from people interested in editing/managing the Research MBA blog. My timing of making that post was slightly off because term end is drawing close and I have several deadlines to meet and exams to face. As soon as the semester ends I will get back to this idea. Till then keep your suggestions and mails coming.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Big White Sheet of Paper

For days, I was waiting for it to snow. 26 years of snowless life was about all that I could take. The wait was agonizing. I even planned to post a Calvin & Hobbes strip about the agonizing wait for snow. Asked a few friends, they didn't have it. Finally got hold of a source, but before he could send it to me, it started snowing.

It's snowing, and I feel like a kid again. Catching the snow flakes, crushing them, eating them, rubbing them on my face. Picking up an armful of snow, making a snowball out of it, and looking for someone to bash it with. Building a tiny snowman. It was all fun. But what I loved the most was the blanket of white descending upon everything around me. What a breath-taking sight. Even the most mundane parking lot seems pristine when covered with a sheet of snow.

I know what you snow veterans are going to say. The novelty lasts only for a few days. Then you're sick of the snow, the inevitable slush, the slippery sidewalks, and you start a countdown to summer. Well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Until then let me post another Calvin and Hobbes strip which is now relevant(incidentally, the final C&H strip ever).

Pathan - Handle With Care!

Raw talent comes along very rarely. And no one can deny that Irfan Pathan is supremely talented, with the bat as well as the ball. Recently his fortunes with the ball have taken a beating. He appears listless, even pedestrian, and barely a shadow of his former self.

And yet, it is not as if he has been "sorted out" as bowlers often are in their 2nd and 3rd seasons. Because Pathan is a genuine swing bowler, the kind that can not exactly be sorted out. When a bowler swings it at 85 mph or thereabouts, even the best battaing lineups with the best laid plans can find themselves tottering. And yet, his swing has mysteriously disappeared. And his speed has dropped to Prasadesque levels. His relevance in the overall scheme of things, even in an underperforming team, has been rapidly diminishing over the last year. And it has undoubtedly hit his self-belief.

I hope Potchefstroom will serve as a wake-up call to the Indian cricketing establishment as well as to Irfan Pathan himself. Here is a bundle of raw talent fading away because of something that has gone wrong. And whatever has gone wrong can not be unfixable. The guy is just 22 for crying out loud. His batting at Potchefstroom shows that he has the ability to apply himself. He takes the game seriously. And after 2 decades of false starts, we have a player who can be termed a genuine all-rounder.

M/s Dravid, Chappell, Vengsarkar and Pawar need to chalk out a strategy for him. Have faith in him. Get the best help possible to sort out the problems in his bowling. And make sure he always has the establishment's support. Remember, even Andrew Flintoff took 5 years to hit top form. But he was always kept in the team. That faith has paid off.

Irfan Pathan needs to be handled with care... and persisted with. Help him get his bowling mojo back.

Getting the Point

The fact that the "big bad guys" in the Singur mess are Communists should help people get a very vital point. That all such land-grabs, from Narmada to Posco to all those mentioned in Sainath's book, have a common cause - no sanctity of property rights.

The success of eminent domain rests on the premise that the government will take the right decisions. That it will only acquire land which is unfit for agriculture. That it will compensate the land owners appropriately. All the protestors and activists ask for better decisions and better compensation. The assumption here seems to be if you have a compassionate pro-poor government, it ensures that such injustice can be avoided. And yet, it is supposedly the most pro-poor of them all, the Communists, that have been grabbing land this time.

There is only one way out of it. Restore right to property as a fundamental right in the constitution. I am amazed at how left-liberals and activists don't see that it will be the most pro-poor step possible. Right now, anyone's property can be grabbed by the government. But is anyone's property grabbed? No. You hardly ever hear of rich people whose land has been grabbed. They have the influence and the resources to ensure that they are not screwed over. So the rich people in India don't really need property rights to be enshrined in the constitution.

It is the poor who need property rights. So that they can not be browbeaten by government decree to part with something that they own. So that they have a real shot in court against such decisions.

But bizarrely, no bleeding hearts, no Patkars, no Sainath will ever propose something as simple as this - restore that which was a fundamental right of ours 30 years back.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What's Racist and What's Not

This was a clear-cut and blatant case of racism. It deserves all the attention it is getting and more. An innocent man was shot dead just because of the colour of his skin.

This however was just a little bit of harmless fun. Here, people who actually did commit an offense, albeit a minor one, were actually let off. Making it into such a big deal actually does disservice to the merits of diversity. An example of the excessive political correctness which actually dilutes the seriousness of the race problem.

We Are Stupid!

Last week, Dr. Ambedkar's statue was vandalised in Kanpur. And that caused Dalits in Mumbai and Pune to vent out their fury, destroying private and public property. Venting your anger on buses, trains and cars has become so acceptable in India that we might as well legalise it. The Shivsainiks do it when something pisses them off. The Muslim groups do it when something pisses them off. And we've never heard of anyone from those mobs being punished for acting like hooligans and disrupting lives. Why be surprised and extra shocked when dalits do it, then?

But I want to talk about something else in this post. I want to talk about the utter stupidity of us Indians which shines through at times like these. Doesn't matter if we are right-wingers, communists, muslims, dalits or anyone. We all can be equally stupid. The kind of idiotic reasons that set us off on these rampages are so inane. Some statue being desecrated. Some foreign head of state visiting. Some other slight oversight. It would make a neutral uninformed observer feel that we have no real issues to get pissed off about.

The real problems, the real outrages go unprotested. Real people can be raped and murdered like in Khairlanji. But what brings us out on the streets is some statue being desecrated. Some mosque being demolished. Some temple which was demolished 300 years ago.

We are stupid!

Good Ole Namya

This video-clip will be relevant only to those who grew up in Western Pune. It has N.M. "Namya" Kulkarni talking about Matrix Algebra in a Distance Learning thing on the DD-Sahyadri channel. The same old Tarkhadkari accent, the same tone, the same emphasis on the same words, it almost transported me 10 years back in time to the tiny room of his coaching class in Kothrud. He had a 90% market share amongst HSC Maths Coaching Classes. Of course, since this is a televised appearance, we see him talking only maths. What made his classes memorable were his trademark rebukes like "Sabnis, tu ek ateeeeeshay agau mulga aahes" or "Miss Kolhatkar, aga ikde laksha de jara, tichaashi kaay gappa maartes" or "Nulkar-Nerlikar ekdum khaas mitra aahet bara ka? Nehmi ekatra".

Or his excited statements like "Aaj mee tumhaala ek bessssst super IQ problem denaar aahe. baghuyaat kon sodavtay te" or his sing-song formulae like "limit theta tends to jheeeeeeeeero...sine of theeta upon theeta eeejheequalto one".

This clip, as I said, is cmparitively staid. Yet, served as quite a blast from the past.

What a headline!

Vice president's lesbian daughter pregnant

The story says McBride declined to elaborate on the circumstances of Mary Cheney's pregnancy.

Looks like someone needs to have a little talk with CNN about birds, bees and in vitro fertilisation.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Man We All Love To Hate

Anand Vasu has a superb article in defence of Ajit Agarkar - the man we all love to hate. He compares Agarkar's statistics with all Indian bowlers, present and past.

If he bowls so many loose balls and is so inconsistent, how can the combination of Agarkar's bowling average, economy rate and strike rate be better than anyone else who has bowled quick in Indian cricket?

Agarkar-Ganguly-Kaif form the trinity of Indian cricketers that I always defend during debates. The most tragic thing about Agarkar is that when he does well, no one heaps praise on him. There have been many times when he has picked up crucial wickets, bowled good spells, even had great series, but he doesn't get shot into the limelight. But when he does badly, like in the recent SA series, everyone gets a shot in like sexually frustrated rednecks at a public lynching.

Agarkar is not a "great" in any sense of the word. But he deserves more credit than is given to him. And he certainly has been one of the best pacemen India has produced.

Another thing I find bizarre is that often we will lament that all bowlers we have nowadays at military medium Prasadesque bowlers, and that is why we don't do well. But Agarkar is and always has been consistently fast-medium. In a country where most bowlers quickly settle into an average speed of 130, he has always been 138-140.

As Vasu writes -

The question that must be asked is whether Agarkar has failed Indian cricket, or whether Indian cricket has failed Agarkar. Therein the enigma is laid to rest.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blogs in Marathi Media

(click picture to expand)

Dr. Dilip Sane from Pune sent me a scanned copy of a small column which appeared in Sakal, the highest selling marathi daily. The column is carries the blurb "Blogvishva" i.e Blog World, and its heading means "The Expanding World of Blogs". It talks about how popular blogging is among Indian 'netizens'. It also mentions Indian Economy and India Daily as good blogs to follow. My "Kiranas Will Still Rule" post is also mentioned.

It is heartening to see the regional language media taking notice of blogs. The English media's reach is still tiny compared to the regional media. Local newspapers are the big cheese when it comes to reach as well as influence. So if these newspapers are following blogs and writing about them, then the Indian blogosphere is doing something right.

My Favourite Bitch

You know how there are days when you just miss Mumbai? I am missing the pants off Mumbai right now. Just lying down on my bed, thinking of random things uniquely Mumbai - that soft juicy paav, stacked in a big cloth 'thaila', hanging on bicycle handlebars as it heads towards the nearest shop... calibrating where exactly you should stand on the platform so that the door of the local train rake is right in front of you... knowing instinctively as you wake up in the morning and see the torrent outside, that today is THE day that the rain will throw Mumbai out of gear and you can safely stay home without worrying about your Boss being pissed off... taking pride in the snobbishness of living on the Western side and not Central... using your cellphone camera to snap the most hilarious "Baba Bangali" and "Cure for Piles" type ad stickers inside the local train...

Bombay, you bitch, I miss you. See you in 3 weeks.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Here's a great concept I learnt today - Uglytarian

Muck Dee: So you're saying you eat beef and fish but not chicken and turkey?
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: thass right
Muck Dee: Hmmm....logic?
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: i m an uglytarian :D
Muck Dee: A whatthefugatarian?
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: uglytarian. i wont eat animals i find cute. only those i find ugly.
Muck Dee: what???? :O
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: simple idea. i find chicken and turkey damn cute. cant stand the idea of someone slaughtrin them
Muck Dee: Ok... and you don't find cows cute?
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: naaah... cows're stupid
Muck Dee: This is hilarious. So what other meat don't you eat on grounds of.... cuteness?
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: lamb. lambs are cute. but goats are butt-ugly. goat i'll eat.
Muck Dee: That rules out rabit meat then
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: ofcourse. only ugly things... cows... pigs.. fish...shrimp
Muck Dee: You're weird
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: thass what they tell me
Muck Dee: The world's first ever Uglytarian
Ashitaka's Bitch| My Cartoon Network, where did you go?: thass me. :) :)

Whoz Yer Daddy?

After an hour of trying, managed to prove that the hypergeometric distribution approximates to binomial when M and N tend to infinity and M/N tends to zero. What's more, I didn't even have to use Stirling's Formua.

But an hour? I'm getting old. :(

The Sanest Rebuttal in a Long Time

Ashutosh has written the sanest rebuttal of a pro-free-market blog post I have read in recent times. In response to Gautam's post about Ram Guha, he has written Why Do We Always Have To Defend Free Markets?

There are a couple of oints in Ashutosh's post that I disagree with, but this really hits the nail on the head -

* The market disregards those without purchasing power:
Gautam calls this the "most brutal misrepresentation" of free markets. I would call it the most brutal truth about free markets. Again, I would have no objection accepting this point. In fact, of course free markets disregard many people who don't have purchasing power. But what system on earth can possibly not do that?? What distinguishes free markets is that they give incentives to every person in their purview to gain that purchasing power. That is really the nature of the free market soul. So this objection, while true, does not really say anything dramatic. One might as well criticise free markets for saying that they don't make sure that every victim of AIDS in Africa does not get access to the best anti-HIV drugs. Of course he or she does not. But find me a system which would make those drugs available to all those people, and which simultaneoulsy has incentives for self-advancement and progress that are built in Adam Smith's grand ball game. In fact, find me a system which satisfies even the first condition. Except in very limited circumstances, I cannot envisage free markets duly regarding every person and his brother who doesn't have purchasing power. So this critcism by Guha, while warranted, is a trite truism. We knew that for many years; in fact, wasn't that what the communists and leftists have been saying for time immemorial? To say that free markets don't regard people with purchasing power is to enunciate a bitter truth of humanity; all humans are simply not born equal, and in fact most humans won't ever become equal. But what free markets do is to give every man a realistic chance to become equal. In this respect, they are remarkably humanising structures which promise decency to every individual. Again, they may not do this in the best way, but they do this better than any other system we have dared to imagine and implement. So this trite truism will in the end elicit a trite response from me- "True, so what?"

(emphasis mine)

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Pietersen Mystery

Kevin Pietersen's CV grows longer still. He completed his century at the Adelaide Oval a while back. What I miss the most about watching Ashes is the Pietersen-Warne battle.

Now Pietersen is the sort of player I'd pay money to watch. How is that possible, given his background? A friend and I were discussing this a few months back and we hit upon the solution. He is actually South African. South Africans are amongst the dourest, most boring batsmen in the world. And he plays for England. Englishmen are also among the most boring batsmen in the world, though not as dour as they'd like. Now thanks to some weird crickecelestial co-ordinate thingummy, the two boringnesses must have been of opposing polarity or something. Hence they cancelled out. And instead of getting a player twice as boring, we got a dazzler.

House in da House!

Latest TV show I have discovered and fallen in love with - House. It was first described to me couple of months ago as "A show in which this doctor called House examines unusual medical cases and comes up with solutions.... something like a medical X Files". That description didn't really grab me. Medical sitcoms, i.e M*A*S*H and Scrubs I dig. But medical dramas bore me and I didn't feel enthused to try it out. Then I came to know that House is played by Hugh Laurie speaking in an American accent. That de-enthused me even further. Why the perk is Laurie agreeing to put on an American accent? I stayed faithful to Comedy Central for laughs and Fox News for more laughs. Occasionally wandering over to NBC for a fresh episode of The Office.

But then in San Francisco, Ani sold the show really hard. He had the first season of House on DVD and made me watch it. And yes, now I am hooked completely. The show is completely Hugh Laurie. Can't imagine anyone apart from him pulling off the character. The American accent still rankles though. Why not let him be an obnoxious sociopathic Brit doctor instead of an obnoxious sociopathic American doctor?