Man, All these browsers!

Netscape, IE, Firefox, Safari etc etc. and each of their versions, extensions and what not! Testing websites and applications on each of these has become quite a task. Check out Rediff (a pretty popular site) on Firefox. The home page is pretty messed up. It has been so for quite a few months now. Or maybe its something unique to my PC.

Its about time someone (Microsoft, huh??) came out with a master browsers (Netscape seems to be trying this with its new release) and destroyed all other browsers once and for all. It will make everyone’s life so much easier on the net. There was an article some years back in Time magazine (I think) where the writer suggested that we give all the software business on the planet to Microsoft, then the next time we have trouble we’ll have only one company to blame! (Of course, it could be a hardware issue!).

p.s: Btw, can someone tell me how to prevent pop-ups from this site! I use Firefox for the most part and sometimes IE.

Senate Crisis: What a pity!

The US Senate crisis appears to have been averted.

After all the excitement created by the Presidential elections last year, there has been a relative lull on the US political scene. Barring the boring opposition (which systematically ended in failure) from Democrats to virtually every nominee proposed for every single post by the President, there has hardly been any new exciting developments since the Presidential polls (with Howard Dean in charge there is some hope of an literal outburst sooner or later). Unfortunately, just when it seemed like some new excitement will creep into the mainstream the Senators have arrived at a comprise. What a pity! (They just saved the world from a few thousand hours of TV analysis and speculation and several thousands of pages of online commentary!)

Chappell it is…Dada still wields clout

Greg Chappell landed the job of the coach for the Indian cricket. Given that Ganguly was in favor of him, its a sign that Dada is still a force to reckon with behind the scenes in Indian cricket. I just hope Chappell can influence the selection to a point where India is not simply re-cycling the same superstars from match to match (only to end up with the current pathetic world ODI ranking). He managed to convince the committee that he is the best choice for the job. Its time now for him to convince the Indian cricket crazy public that the committee made the right choice.

Personally, I am glad its not an Indian coach. In case you haven’t been following Jimmy Amarnath took 2 hours to complete his allotted 45 min interview thanks to computer trouble. He brought along a relative to help with the computer. Just one more reason our former stars might not be good fits for job in this day and age of technology driven analysis and strategy.

A VC calls it quits

Check out this article by a VC who has decided to quit the VC business. Interesting analysis — can no longer make insane amounts of money from investments, so its not worth it, the dynamics of the VC business has changed etc. Maybe its about time more VCs quit the business. The world will be then be left with less greedy VCs who are ok with the idea of making smaller returns over a longer period of time. Entrepreneurs will have true partners in building companies. There will be fewer VCs but hopefully genuine, quality ones, who won’t have to claim that “their money is different”. With the economic downturn every industry has seen changes, its about time the VC industry did. After all, the business of “making money without doing any work” (quote from a well known veteran VC, Bill Draper I think) can’t last forever!

Impressive win for Netflix

Check out this story about Wal-Mart’s deal with Netflix. Truly an impressive victory for Netflix. Its amazing how a small company with an innovative idea is able to hang on to its lead in the market. It will be interesting to see how this whole space shapes up. I suspect that either Netflix might be forced to expand beyond DVD rentals or might eventually get swallowed up by the Amazons of the world.

p.s: Netflix desi collection of late has improved significantly (especially Hindi).

Kerala Update

Pitched by the KTDC as “God’s own country” the southern state of Kerala, tucked away in a corner of India, is a unique blend of breath taking scenic beauty, rare left leanings among its people, highest influx of foreign exchange in the country (mostly from “mallus” in the middle east), highest rate of suicide in India, very high consumption of liquor among its residents and potentially high rate of domestic violence, highest rate of literacy in India, etc.

Here is a quick dump of news from the state. None of these have been necessarily fact checked, some of it is hearsay, some of it is mere conjecture/inference, all from a very brief trip to God’s own country.

Politics

1. A new Chief Minister (Ooman Chandy) replaced AK Antony, but is struggling to stay afloat. Plenty of opposition within the ruling UDF, as always. All those dropped from the new ministry are waiting by the sidelines to destroy the new govt. There is not a day when someone does not call for the CM’s resignation.

2. The erstwhile Congress leader M. Karunakaran has launched a new party, National Cong (Indira) while still technically remaining in the Congress! He installed his son, Muralidharan as the party leader! Some Congressman said in jest that he should have named his party “Kundumba Congress (meaning “family Congress”). Ironically, he has spent a better part of his 86 years fighting the Communists, and yet finds himself fishing for political favors from them!

If there is one thing the veteran Congress leader can claim from his long political career (“I could have been PM“), it is about consistency. He has consistently opposed the Kerala Chief Minister (even if the CM were from his own party!) as long as he himself does not hold the post! Now this golden rule has been extended to the next generation, his kids. Now, as long as his son and daughter are not in plum political posts, his infamous “oppose everything” strategy will be in place. The Kerala electorate has been smart and tossed both the Karunakaran kids to the defeated list of political waanabees. Yet, Daddy steps in to the rescue and keeps them in the limelight. One more defeat at the polls and the damage can be irreversible.

3. The Communists meanwhile are just counting days before they return to power. Kerala electorate has a unique electoral strategy — every election the opposition is voted to power! Going by this as well as the fact that the Congress and its UDF are falling apart, the popular opinion appears to be that the CPM will be back in power soon. With the passing away of CPM veteran E.K Nayanar and other political happenings, it appears as though Pinarayi Vijayan is the front-runner for the CM’s post.

4. Hartal/Bandh (“strikes”) when life comes to a standstill at the tax payers expense, are very common even to this day.

Films, Music:

1. The Movie business appears to have slumped. Its no longer a good business proposition, apparently. Several theatres have closed down. The number of film releases have dropped. Former big stars like Mohanlal and Mamooty come out with only a couple of movies each year. Dileep apparently is the box office favorite.

2. Udhayananu Tharam, a new film, is a movie worth watch (starring Mohanlal, Sreenivasan, Meena).

3. “Dapaan kuthu” was/is very popular in Tamil Nadu. Kerala has been hit by a Dapaan kuthu storm in the recent past thanks to a hit song by a certain Jessie Gift. Every movie has one now.

4. Unlike in the past, when mallu (slang for “malayalam” the language of Kerala) movies had a distinctive style of their own (realistic, easy paced, no pressure to have songs, unnecessary fights, minimal song and dance, focus on acting more than the actor), these days Mallu movies have started to ape the conventional Tamil, Hindi, Telugu movies. Song and dance sequences infested with extras, hereos and heroines gyrating to noisy music, these were alien to mallu films. Not any more. Unfortunately, they do such a poor job of it, its pretty pathetic to watch. The realistic aspect of Mallu movies appears to have been lost. Barring the occasional good film, the standard stuff is similar to other regional trash.

Living

1. As a part of an e-governance initiative the govt has setup a comptuerised center in TVM (and possibly other cities) with extended work hours where citizens can stop by and pay any bill – telephone, electricity etc. (I think the center is called “Friends”).

2. The govt buses have done away with conventional tickets. The bus conductor carries a devices where he punches in the value of your ticket and out comes a print out, Viola!

3. The mall culture that has stormed the major Indian cities and the up and coming ones (like Gurgaon) has yet to hit Kerala.

4. Bookstores are so few in TVM, the capital city. One local said to me that the local public libraries are pretty good. Anyone who loves to read goes there. No one buys books!

Cricket

The popularity of cricket has grown significantly. Mostly at the expense of soccer. Fields where one could always watch soccer being played have now been replaced by cricket. Soccer meanwhile has become a part time affair. Tinu Yohanan the local cricketer who made it to the Indian team appears to have vanished from the national scene. He still appears for the state Ranji team.

Infrastructure

1. There is a proposal (championed by Dr. M.K Muneer, Minister of Works) to develop an extended freeway connecting the entire state of Kerala. Personally, I think this is a plan worth implementing and it will do wonders to the state and its economy and give it a huge advantage over its neighboring states. Unfortunately, there appears to be severe opposition (“the road will divide the state into two” and other compliants) to this plan. With the current govt floundering, this plan may fall by the wayside.

2. Power outages are very common unfortunately.

3. Broadband connections to homes has improved significantly. Wireless phone service to homes combined with wireless internet service has started to take off. Here is how it works. You get a wireless telephone device (very much like a regular phone rather than a cell phone) which you keep at home and use like you would regular phone. You can hook up your computer to it and connect wireless to the Internet. They claim speeds of up to 112 Kbps. Tata Indicomm and Reliance are the two competing services.

Give Our Cricket Heroes a break!

A floundering team like the West Indies have taken a bold step. They have dropped Lara, or rested him! (yeah, right). Its time India did the same. Sachin, Ganguly, Kaif, Pathan, Kumble, Nehra, among others need a break from the game. This is a perfect time for India to experiment with some new fresh talent. This will give India a great opportunity to broaden the scope of selection for the next world cup. How about a new look 14-member squad for the next one day series against SL and WI:

Virender Sehwag
MS Dhoni (wkeeper)
Rahul Dravid (Captain)
Yuvraj Singh
S. Sriram
Venugopal Rao
RS Sodhi
Joginder Sharma
Harbhajan Singh
Zaheer Khan
SS Paul
Romesh Powar
Hemang Badhani
JP Yadav

The intent of going in for a new look team is not to get rid of our (I dare say, jaded) superstars. Instead, its an opportunity to give the up and coming stars some international exposure and see how they perform. This will help broaden the pool from which the final 15 for the next world cup can be selected. Afraid that India will get thulped witha seemingly second string team? Not to bother, check out India’s current standing in world one day cricket. This is what our superstars have achieved in the last couple of years. It can’t get worse.

Book Review: Maximum City

Author: Suketu Mehta
Non-fiction, based on the City of Bombay (Mumbai).

The author does a terrific job of identifying a whole bunch of characters based in Mumbai and explores each one of them in great detail, through a series of anecdotes and very deep personal interactions. The amount of time and research spent in this book is truly fascinating. Its a wonderful expression of the author’s journalistic talents. To give you an idea, here is a gist of the kind of individuals and their psyche that he has tried to explore: Monolisa, the bar dancer;Babbanji, the teenager poet from Bihar; Bal Thackeray (“a cross between Saddam and Pat Buchanan”), the Shiv Sena supremo; Seventhibhai and family, who give up wordly life; Besides there are others from the underworld ranging from small time killers to top Dons (Chotta Shakeel), Ajay Lal, the ACP (cop), Bollywood folks like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Mahesh Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt etc.

The author has a nice easy style of writing that makes the book easy to read. He certainly has a great sense of humor as is in display in the early part of the book in particular. The sections which talk about the use of the word “bhenchod” (its various flavors and connotations) is truly hilarious. For instance he describes the mood when India when it tested the nuclear bomb with a simple “We have shown the world, bhenchod”.

The only real issue I had about the book was its length. I thought it was a little too long. Personally, I find a 500+ page book a little daunting. I completed most of it on a plane journey. At least for me, on a regular day, its hard to find such uninterrupted time to read such a lengthy piece of work.

If you lived or live in Bombay (Mumbai), have an interest in Indian politics, have wondered about the Bollywood connections with the underworld, or simply care to know more about Mumbai — how it has transformed over the years, its people and its challenges, this book is a “must read”.

There is an interview with the author on NPR which I found very interesting as well.

Spice Hut in Fremont

The popular Spice Hut restaurant in Sunnyvale has now opened one in Fremont, close to Coconut Hill, the Indian grocery. The food is extremely good, and the place is very crowded despite being very spacious. If you like Kerala-style cooking, its definitely worth checking out.

It’s my blogging anniversary!

I have completed a full year since I published for the first time on this blog. In short, I now have one year of blogging experience! (for whatever that’s worth!) Its been great and hope to do more in the months and years ahead. Its amazing how time flies!

Btw, I set up Google Adsense (to check it out, more than to serve as my retirement package!) a couple months back on this blog. I have earned exactly $0.49 to-date. Not exactly a great ROI story! Hey, but why do people climb mountains?