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Monday, August 29, 2005

Rocketboom - pioneering Video Blogs

In one of my Blogs earlier this year, I had mentioned that Video Blogs (or vlogs) were growing in popularity. One of the pioneers of Video Blog, Rocketboom got a mention in Businessweek today. I checked it out and well, I wasn't too impressed with it.

Firstly, the video took a long time to buffer and once it did buffer, it kept on getting stuck time and again. I was on a high speed DSL line.

Secondly, the instructions on how to see the video on the website are not clear. It took me quite a while to figure out what exactly I was doing wrong. Other people may not have the same patience to navigate through the site and check out the video.

Having said all that, I must say that their content is quite good. They post a 3 minute daily video and that covers all the recent headlines and news. It is definitely worthwhile to check it out once. There is a lot of scope of improvement and I am sure the coming months will see a sharp improvement in this once more and more people start visiting the site.

Bye !

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Remembering India's famous victory

India might be struggling to beat any world class team right now. But 34 years ago, on this day, India had created one of the greatest upsets of all time - defeated England in England. Put in present day context, this is similar to Bangladesh going to Australia and defeating them. Now, what are the odds for that?

In tribute to this fantastic victory, Rediff carried a wonderful photo feature and a special report. Enjoy it.

Hope India notches up victories such as these in the coming years. For that to happen, we need a miracle and forgive me if I sound repetitive - this can only happen if Sachin is there.

Cheers to these wonderful heroes.

Google Talk

Google Talk, which marks Google's entry into the IM market was released today. This is probably one of the first products of Google that is clearly divergent from what they are famous for - an obvious ploy to take the market share from the Yahoo!s and MSNs of the world. I tested the Voice Chat with this and it seems to be at least as good as Skype. One good thing about the Google thing is that it is based on a standard platform called Jabber - this will help you to connect with various other IMs - i.e. you should be able to connect with Yahoo! or MSN IM's through Google Talk. But this feature is not yet enabled right now. I plan to test drive this for a few weeks with our India team - hopefully, this will stand the test of time :).


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Wrap up - 08/24/2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Trip to Alcatraz

Today morning, on the 21st of August, 2005, we (myself, Susmita and my parents) had gone to Alcatraz islands in San Fransisco. This island is just a mile and a half away into the ocean but this, at one time, was the home to one of the most harshest prisons known to mankind. Some of the famous criminals who were kept at Alcatraz was Al Capone, Robert Stroud etc.

We had booked the tour in advance from the Blue & Gold Fleet. I was really surprised by the popularity of the tour - all tours are booked way in advance and so, it was no surprise that the boat was full of people ready to start off on their mission. It was a glorious day and one could see the majestic skyline of San Fransisco from the boat while heading north to the island.

Once you land on the island, you need to walk a mile or so up a hill to get into the actual cell chambers. While you enter, you will be given a head-phone and a player. You just need to follow instructions and play the audio as you move along the cells. It is quite eerie to see the dirty and small cells and it is scarier to think that people could have stayed in such "holes" for so many years. The only good places in the whole of the cell house was the library and the dining room. From the dining room windows, one could see San Fransisco at a distant - apparently, these were means of letting the prisoners know that the world outside was so beautiful and they were missing all that.

I must say that you cannot come out of that place unnerved. My mother was clearly shaken and was not able to take it for a long time. Once you are out of the cell house under the clear sun, world looks beautiful again :). After coming back to San Fransisco, we spent some time in the neighboring Fisherman's Wharf and then drove back home.

It might be a little eerie, but it is definitely a place worth visiting, in order to know what price some people had to pay for the crimes that they had committed.

-- Thyaga

Friday, August 19, 2005

Weekly Wrap Up - 08/19/2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Sultans of Swing

In the early and mid-nineties, when Pakistan toured England, England was bowled out stock and barrell thanks primarily to the "swinging" exploits of the Sultans of swing - Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. The stumps cart-wheeling all over the ground was a familiar site. Today, England seems to be using the same medicine on the Aussies and so, swing bowling is really the hot topic nowadays. Even more importantly, reverse swing has become music to the ears of the Englishmen and the death knoll for the Aussies. While the Aussies spend some timeout figuring out this whole reverse swinging business of Harmison, Jones, Flintoff and Hoggard, here is a useful primer on swing bowling - this should get you started.

Time to sing and become the "Sultans of Swing", eh ?

-- Thyaga

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

South Point Reunion

Yesterday, on the 13th of August, a group of my school (South Point High School) friends and their spouses gathered together at the Bombay Garden restaurant. It was just a wonderful feeling to get-together with people whom I had gone to school with. It was also amazing to see how people have changed over the years - physical appearance, world outlook et.al. But when you meet these friends, you still tend to associate old incidents which happened more than 15 years ago in school and still remember those incidents vividly. It was also great to know that many of them are doing so very well in their lives right now - some at Google, some doing MBA at Michigan, some going to do MBA at Sloan, many working in Hi-tech companies in the Bay Area etc. All of these seemed quite a distant dream when we were in school, where our main task was to complete class-works, home-works and exams. Little did we know that one day, most of us would end up in and around the Bay Area.

In passing, I must thank Ayan who did a splendid job of organizing this get-together. We must have more of these reunions - it is just great to keep in touch with old friends.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Calcutta bans rickshaws

An interesting piece of news caught my eyes today - Calcutta (a.k.a Kolkata) is planning to ban the famous hand-pulled rickshaws. Well, that came as a real big surprise to me because Calcutta is a city where any proactive action takes years to come and more importantly, even if it does come, it takes years to implement them. Let us look at some of the effects that this decision is going to cause:
  1. I always believed that hand-pulled rickshaws were one of the toughest jobs in the world and also the lowest paying. But in some of the streets in Calcutta where the roads are bad and narrow, these rickshaws are the only means of transport (e.g. Bada Bazaar, M.G Road etc). It now remains to be seen how people are going to survive in these parts of Calcutta.

  2. For reasons which are more philosophical than anything else, I have always tried to avoid getting onto the rickshaws. I have always felt that getting up on the rickshaw and then being pulled by a man who is sweating and tiring was very very unhuman-like. If I can walk it, then I shall do so.

  3. However, the other angle for the argument in Point #2 is that this serves as the only means of income for the hundreds and thousands of rickshaw-pullers in the city. Most of the rickshaws are pulled by the immigrants from Bihar for whom this is the only means of survival. I hope the Govt. has taken this into consideration as well.

  4. One thing that I know that will definitely happen is that there will be less traffic congestion in many areas. Many times I have seen these rickshaws holding up traffic due to lack of space and due to their lack of speed (e.g. in a narrow lane, imagine yourself in a car with a hand-pulled rickshaw in front of you).

All in all, it is probably a good step for Calcutta. We keep talking of making the leap into the new century - hopefully, steps like these are along the same lines.

Eng Australia - 3rd test - another nailbiter

If you thought that the second Ashes test match at Edgbaston was one of the best seen in recent history, you will have to think again. The recently concluded 3rd test match at Old Trafford probably equalled the previous test match, if not bettered it. In a test match, where England held the trump card right from Day 1, the last day's play was probably the most intriguing seen in recent times.

England had set Australia a mammoth score of 433 to win in the final innings - in reply, Australia saw off the last 30 minutes of play on the 4th day without any damage and ended up on 25 for no loss. Day 5 began in the most dramatic fashion - Langer fell in the very second over of the day and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. England kept on applying relentless pressure on Australia by taking wickets at regular intervals. But the Aussies managed to stand firm, thanks mainly to a brilliant and courageous 160 from their captain Ricky Ponting. Surely, this innings must rank as one of his very best. Pointing was the 9th man out and when he was out, England must have felt that they had already won the game. There were 24 balls to be bowled and the last pair was at the crease and one of the batsman was McGrath ! Surely, any team must have fancied a chance to wrap up the game. What followed was a tense 4 overs in which the Aussies - Brett Lee and McGrath played sensibly - left the balls outside, defended the balls on the bat and did not do anything silly. Of course, England tried all they could without any luck. In the end, the match ended in a pulsating draw and it was remarkable to see the Aussies celebrating the draw. This has given them the breathing space that they need before the last 2 tests come up. The series is interestingly poised at 1-1 and it remains to be seen which of the 2 sides emerges the stronger amongst them when they cross swords once again in the 4th test at Trent Bridge.

Cheers !

1 year completed at Santa Clara University

On August 10th, 2005, our Summer Quarter came to an end and with that we completed our 1st year at Santa Clara B-school. Boy! - it has been quite a journey. Some of these classes have been really interesting and some not so interesting. One thing that I must mention is that unlike in my undergraduate studies, I haven't yet found any course which is downright boring and in which I haven't paid much attention to in the class. The fact that we have had some good professors has also helped.

During the first year, I have generally been low on the Networking Activities. I plan to step up my participation there. This is also the time when we get to decide on what type of concentration (if at all) we plan to do for our MBA. I am tinkering with the prospect of doing a concentration in Enterpreneurship and Marketing Management - I am yet to finalize on anything concretely though. Supply-chain is an interesing concentration too and so are Economics and Finance. One thing is for sure - I am not doing a concentration in Accounting :) ! So, these are interesting times indeed.

Anyway, we have a 1.5 month break from classes - so, I hope to take this time and relax, unwind and generally hang out with my beautiful wife and my parents who are visiting us from India.

Hope you are all having a sunny and pleasant summer !

-- Thyaga

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Indian Cricket - what is missing ?

So, it is the end of another Cricket tournament and India have turned out a cold-turkey performance once again. They barely made it to the final by struggling to defeat a depleted Windies squad and in the finals, they were beaten square and hollow by a wonderful Sri Lankan squad. No wonder that Sri Lanka are known as tigers at home. I don't want to discount the fact that Sri Lankans had a distinct home advantage, but what bothers me is that in this new season, I don't see any palpable changes happening. We have a new coach with very interesting and unique ideas, we have the same people who are training very hard but unfortunately the results are the same everytime - we lose from situations where a professional team would never lose, we tend to choke when there is no need to do, we don't know how to defend a small total, we drop important catches, we miss run-outs etc and etc. No, I am not saying that the Indian cricketers must be super-human but at least they should get the basics right. Or are we to believe that the cupboard of players is totally bare and those who are playing are the best that we have among the billion of people that we have in India. I refuse to take that as an excuse. Of course, all cricket experts will have their 2 cents of advice. I am no expert but I still have some advice :)

  1. Hunt for the elusive all-rounder - The basic problem with the Indian team today is that it does not have an all-rounder especially in the 1-day internationals. Although there are players such as Sehwag, Ganguly and Yuvraj, who can all turn their hands, but none of them is close to being called an all-rounder in the Flintoff or Kallis or even Afridi category. A person who can bowl his quota of 10 overs and who can be reliable to score at least 40+ runs and who is not a liability in the field. India definitely did the right thing in taking in 3 new bloods - Raina, J.P and Venu but what baffled me was the selection policy for the final team. J.P was never given a match to play. Raina and Venu were played but they hardly bowled. What this means is that at the end of another 1-day tournament, we are back to square one - we still do not have an all-rounder and that, I believe, is going to be the difference between us and the rest of the world during the Caribbean World Cup in '07.

  2. Check the flow of runs in the initial overs - I think, this area has seen some improvement in the last few games. Traditionally, our Indian pace bowlers have been guilty of leaking away far too many runs and that too in extras (wides, no-balls). This just releases that extra bit of pressure on the batsmen who then breath freely and start scoring. I mean, when is it that you have seen any of our opening bowlers go for 30 odd runs in their 10 overs and also taken some wickets. I can't think of any occasion actually ! Now check out Chaminda Vaas - he comes back from a break of 5 games, bowls at a time when Veeru is going berseck and yet finishes with 2 for 38 in 10 overs. That, my friend, is good bowling. He is not fast or terrifying but he is extremely accurate. I know it is not easy to build speed but what does it take to improve one's accuracy ? - after all, what are the nets for?

  3. Indian fielding is never perfect - although we have some fantastic fielders in Kaif and Yuvraj (Raina and Venu are also good), but there are others who are just liabilities in the field. Nehra is always slow to react to the ball, VVS Laxman and Saurav are just embarrasments to the team. In fact, Dhoni also dropped so many important catches during the finals. That is just totally unacceptable. The old adage still holds true - catches win matches. If you drop Jayasuriya twice in the same match and still expect to win, you must be kidding !

  4. Draw out a long term policy for some players - I am amazed that some of the senior Indian cricketers still want to continue to play even though they don't have a future in the 1-day games. Anil Kumble is a prime example. He is 35 years of age and though, he is extremely fit, I don't see him playing an important role in the World Cup in '07. I mean, we already have a fantastic spinner in Bhajji - if we really need to use a spinner, we can use Murali Karthik. Kumble should just take it easy and play an important role during tests - just look at Shane Warne - that is the way to go !

  5. Finally, PLAN PLAN PLAN ! - of course, that is easier said than done with the Indian cricket team. You have a year and a half to go for the World Cup in 2007. India plays around 40 1-dayers each year. So, that makes it 60 1-dayers to go before the World Cup. So, the time is really ripe for us to groom a new all-rounder. Whoever it may be - Raina, Venu, J.P - each of them needs to be given an extended run. I am sure that one of them will at least click and probably be our trump card in the World Cup. The Indian cricket team totally lacks balance - especially with the 5th bowler and the 7th batsman. We need a person who can fit into both the roles easily and we need that real fast.

Well, there you go - hopefully, Indian cricket team will get wiser after this tournament. We need to think ahead and the faster we do, the better it is for the Indian cricket team.

A hopelessly optimistic Indian cricket fan

Monday, August 08, 2005

England level series

Oh boy ! - what a test match. England levelled the 2nd test match at Edgbaston by defeating Australia by 2 runs ! When the 4th day started, Australia had required around 100 odd runs with only 2 wickets remaining. But Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Michael Kasperowich showed tremendous heart, courage, willingness and determination that other players lacked and took Australia to an almost miraculous victory. But in the end, with just 2 runs to go, Michael Kasperowich gloved a rising ball down the leg stump to Geriant Jones, sparking off wild celebrations all over England.

England have only 1 person to thank for this win - Freddie Flintoff, who was just amazing in this test match. In the second innings, he came in at a situation which was hopeless - England was down and out at around 100 odd for 7. The blistering couter-attack that he launched will be remembered by fans for a long long time. That time England to a healthy total (189) and a healthy lead of 282. Flintoff followed this up with a superb performance with the ball when he had Langer and Ponting's wicket in the same over - it was truly an inspired performance from the man considered to be the next Botham.

Of course, Australia were without their main strike bowler, Glenn McGrath. But the way Lee bowled in the 2nd innings, the way Warne turned the ball square and the way in which the Aussie lower order fought must have given them heart. This series is now wide open and one cannot but wait for the next test to begin on Thursday, the 11th of August. Truly, this is Test cricket at its very best.

-- Thyaga

Friday, August 05, 2005

Weekly wrap-up - 08/05/2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Interesting shopping tool

The other day while I was browsing the Web, I came across a wonderful utility tool, called Dealio
( http://www.dealio.com ). We all have used some kind of comparison shopping tool such as shopping.com, mysimon.com etc. But this tool is a little different. It "sits" in your PC and appears as a toolbar in your browser(and FYI, it does not install any kind of spyware when you install it). Now supposing you go go bestbuy.com and then search for "IPOD" and you found the price to be $200. At the same time, if the tool would find out for you whether any other webiste was selling the same IPOD for less than $200 and would popup a message for you with the best available deal. So, it is kind of a shopping assistant, you might say. I am yet to try it out but going by what the tool is supposed to do, I think it will be really really useful.

As I have constantly said, better technology should help improve one's life. A tool such as this only helps to get the best deal available in the market - in other customers are the ultimate benefactors of this wonderful technology. Long live the Internet and long be the power of the customer.

-- Thyaga

Monday, August 01, 2005

Oliver Stone's JFK

Over the weekend, we saw Oliver Stone's JFK, a thrilling drama which talks about the investigation of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who is highly suspicious of the official story presented by the FBI to explain JFK's assassination. When he takes it upon himself to investigate, he unearths a deadly conspiracy that may go deeper than he could have ever imagined. Although, I had seen this movie during my childhood, I never fully understood the political significance of the movie. This time, seeing it with my lovely wife, I got the complete hang of the events and I guess, there might have been political parties behind the assassination of the former president.

Of course, we will never know whether the facts argued upon in this movie are totally rubbish or not (according to the movie, CIA & FBI are yet to reveal the official investigation documents - they are supposed to do so in 2029). But the movie does dish up an intriguing political conspiracy and keeps you glued to your seats till the very end.

Indeed, if you haven't seen this movie till now, it is time to do so !