Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Reviews

'2 states' by Chetan Bhagat:
Obviously the book is not as good as the first one. But i feel it is better than Chetan Bhagat's second one, "One night at a call center" (It was crap!). You have to give full marks for his sarcasm and good narrative style. The story is a bit boring. I mean, we have seen million movies with the same story. That is exactly why this novel by Chetan Bhagat can never become a movie, unlike his previous novels.

He has made some really bold observations about Tamils and Chennai. Sadly most of them is true. Inspite of being a Tamilian, I kind of enjoyed the mockery. Not too bad. It was actually only 95 INR, which is pretty cheap and I finished the book in 3 days. So no complaints.

'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell:
Brilliant book. When I first heard about the concept of the book, I immediately decided I should read the book. It is an analysis on why some people in the world are way too successful than others. What apart from talent, distinguishes success? Why some smart people can never reach the top? How much can the cultural legacy of your ancestors affect your success? The book is an answer to all these questions. A must read for people who love non-fiction.

Thesanthiri by S.Ramakrishnan:

I love S.Ramakrishnan's writing. It is more natural and it makes you ask questions. His writing takes you back to the beautiful days of your life. I have read Thunai Eluthu. I wanted to read Kathavilasam next. But my mom highly recommended Thesanthiri. She is an avid reader of Tamil books. So I bought this one. And it is a very good book, if you like travel writers and memoirs.

There are so many places, within India which are completely forgotten by people. This is a compilation of his experience when he travelled to these places. There is a part about pudukkottai and a place called "Nartha malai" in pudukkottai. I have lived in pudukkottai for about 7 years now and I had no idea about this place. It made me feel, how much I have missed in life in the last 21 years, given the fact I am an Indian. Reading the book, I swore to myself, one day I will take a month long trip from Kanya kumari to Kashmir.

The book is not just about the different experiences but also about the good people he meets along the way and interesting realizations about life. I simply loved the book. And have decided to read all of S.Ramakrishnan's work. (After I finish all of Malcolm Gladwell's books).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer movie review


1. UP:

Another great Pixar movie. Really liked the movie. The movie was released in the US months ago. But i waited until i can watch it on theatre. Didnt want to watch in my laptop. I dont understand why all Pixar movies are released late in Singapore. Anyways, the movie is not as good as Wall E or Finding Nemo. For pixar standards, not so great. But definitely 8 out of 10.

I liked the first 10 minutes of the movie. Without a single dialogue, that part was good. I also liked the speaking dog idea.

One more thing, there is no point in watching the movie in 3d. Wasted 5 bucks there.

2. GI JOE:

Please dont watch the movie. It is really bad. I hated every part of it. But that could be because i am not a great GI Joe fan. My friends and colleagues were surprised to learn that. They kept repeatedly asking if i have never played with a GI Joe action figure, when i was a kid. To be honest, nope. I have never played with a GI Joe. When i was a kid, i had so many toy cars around me and i always made up a story of how a convoy of cars go before and after my car. (Remember Basha movie?)

Anyways, the movie was a mixture of Iron man, spiderman, Superman, Terminator, Transformers, and even Star wars. But the car chase scene in Paris was good.

3. The Hangover:

It is a really surprise movie. I was once watching the preview of this movie in golden village few months back. And said to a friend sitting next to me, that this movie is going to be a big flop. I mean, we have seen loads of movies like this. And that too, the trailer was not so fantastic. But the movie was good. Really funny.

4. Harry potter:

The movie was really good. The special effects was also good. I like harry potter movies. But I dont read the book. There is a problem in reading harry potter books now. I shall give an example to explain why. It was before the 5th movie was released. I wanted to read the book before watching the movie. So i decided to go to a store nearby and bought the book. (I was in Chennai then). I started reading the book and i didnt understand anything. Then I said to myself, i will start reading from the first book, so that i shall understand what is being said in the 5th book. So wat did i do? I bought the first two books. I start reading the Philosepher's stone and it is damn boring. All i see are Daniel Radcliffe and Emma watson. Really difficult to picturize the book and it is quite bouring too. I mean, i have seen the movie. So you see my dilemma? The information shown in the movie is too minimal. So for people like me, we gotta wait until the next movie is being released.

5. Ice Age 3:
Was pure fun. Loved the movie. Wish i had seen it in 3D. Would have been amazing.

Looking forward to - District 9(directed by Peter Jackson), Still walking (a very different plot), Jennifers body(no reason, but Megan Fox)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Review: Three cups of Tea


This is a very inspiring book. Everyone should read it.

I really liked the book. It is a real life story of how Greg Mortenson, transformed the lives of so many thousand people in Pakistan. It is really amazing to read how much trouble the guy has endured to build a school in Pakistan and how he has built so many schools and enlightened so many lives after that incident. Mind you, he has spent more than a decade in a country, that is on top of the "Dangerous places on Earth" list and a country, where people like him (Americans) are generally disliked.

We all know, people are generally scared of Muslims in the western world. In their eyes, all muslims are terrorists. Recently the Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan was detained in the Newark airport, just because his last name was Khan. But it plainly is a very normal name in the muslim world. Pretty much 60% of all muslims i know have some sort of Khan in their name.

Along with Greg's troubles and pains in building schools in Pakistan, the book also touches few important events, like the 911. Greg Mortenson was actually there in Pakistan during the incident. And as he recalls in the book, one villager came running by and said to him in urdu, "I am really sorry. Some one has bombed a village named New York. You should leave Pakistan immediately" Imagine how much trouble Greg should have had to raise money for his foundation, after the 911 attacks.

I personally feel, American government can give few millions to him rather than giving billions to the Pakistani government. It will be spent more wisely.

As argued in the book, proper education alone will eradicate terrorism. Education about the world and education about Islam itself is necessary in that part of the world. The main reason for all this trouble is that few people completely mis-interpret Islam and use the strong belief that Muslims have in their religion for selfish needs.

I recall a recent article I read in New York times. Americans use the Drone missiles to just bomb the hell out of every inch of Swat valley in Pakistan and that is not going to control terrorism. It might eradicate few important terrorists. But normal citizens of Pakistan are angry. This anger itself will give rise to new Al-qaedas and LeTs. As Amartya Sen once said, the only way to develop a country is to educate the girls. Read the book and you will certainly agree with him.

Few useful links:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NUS life


I am a graduate now. It does feel good.

I discovered something interesting today. I started using my current google id, 4 years ago. And it became my primary contact id. Which means, my google account has the complete details of my NUS life. The mails, chats with my friends, etc, etc. I took some time today to go back and read through the chats and mails. It was really funny. I can see the difference between me 4 years ago and the me, today. It is surprising really how much 4 years can change you completely.

NUS life did change me a lot, both in good and bad ways. I became more aware of things around me. I was this innocent school kid, who didnt know anything. My parents gave so much importance to studying that they never taught me how to socialize with people. Adding to that the inferiority complex of coming from a village and lacking good english language skills, my first year in NUS was hell. But good thing was I wouldnt have faced my deepest fears, if i had chosen to study in Anna university instead. In that way, NUS was a great idea.

Looking back, third year of Engineering was very busy, with internships and attachments. Fourth year was the best year of my university life. Got a bunch of good friends during this year and my decision to stay off-campus was the best decision during my NUS life. Inspite of FYP, it was the most fun-filled year.

But NUS life has made me more cynical. I completely and honestly believe that people around me are selfish and cunning. These days, i never trust anyone. Thinking about it, me being a cynical person is not bad after all. Maybe NUS did prepare me for the future.

Most people in my batch accepted the NUS offer because of interest. But i accepted the offer only because of compulsion from my parents. During the first two years of my university life, i truly regretted my decision to come to NUS. But i completely changed my opinion during the last two years. The amount of oppurtunities provided to me by NUS was staggering, thousand times better than any Indian universities. There is a question of how much opportunities i made use of. But the fact still remains, NUS is easily far better than any Indian university. I gotta admit, I could have done so much more in NUS, if i had the maturity that i have now. Thinking about this, maybe, schooling when you are 3 years old is not a great idea. Maybe you should wait until you are 5 to start schooling.

I have few regrets though. I should have gone to Germany for the student exchange programme. I should have gone to NewYork for the Harvard conference. I should have stayed in PGP atleast for a semester. I should have spent more time in pudukkottai during the vacations, which i utterly wasted doing some pointless courses in chennai. I should have completed the Technoprenuership minor, which i dropped after doing one module. Shoudlnt have judged the minor based on one bad experience. If i had a time machine and i were able to go back and redo my entire university again, the first thing I would change is, i wouldnt have attended even one 'orientation' session.

And one very important realization after 4 complete years. Never ever take a module in NUS, which people say is easy. Always do the modules which you like.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ஒரு வானம் இரு சிறகு

Recently read this collection of tamil poems by Mu.Metha, titled, ஒரு வானம் இரு சிறகு. Not an amazing classic. But a pretty good read. It is a very small collection. I was able to complete it in one night. Anyways, some good poems from that collection.

சூரிய சந்திரர்
சும்மா இருக்கையில்
விளக்குக்கு கேட்குதாம் விளம்பரம்
.....
பதவிக்காக வலை விரிக்கப்பட்டது
பதவியும் வலையாய் விரிக்கப்பட்டது
கண் விளித்தால் இந்தியாவை காணவில்லை
......
கூடி கூடி பேசிக்கொண்டு இருகிறார்கள்
எபோது பிரிந்து போகலாம் என்று
.....
இங்கு யாருக்கும் முகமூடி தேவை இல்லை
எவனிடமாவது முகமிருந்தால் சொல்லுங்களேன்!
.....
இந்த மனிதர்கள்
முகவரிகளை
பத்திரப்படுத்தி விட்டு
முகங்களை
மறந்து போவர்கள் !

I personally liked the last two poems in the book. One about Barathiyar and the other about the cinemas.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Indian Foreign policy

Recently read this interesting article in the Reuters blog. It got me thinking about the challenges that Indian government is gonna be facing in the years to come. We need a strong foreign policy. It is time, we move on from free TVs to how to tackle china. I strongly believe, that India should take a leading role in the world. Afterall, we are one of the worlds fastest developing country. Unlike china, the growth of India is completely internal. We dont have a bunch of smart technocratic geniuses working in our capital for the betterment of the country. (Maybe we can hope to see that in the next 5 years) 

We badly need a foreign policy(I dont think we have one, except for a policy towards Pakistan. On a side note, i recently read, the Pakistan government has 64 nukes pointed directly at India) Pakistan is completely unstable now. No doubts there. They have a nuclear weapons programme that gets constant support from the people and the government. I dont think Pakistan people and the politicians get the idea that India is lot bigger now to worry only about Pakistan. 

Last few weeks, we have been getting Time Magazine in our home. Though you can read all the articles for free online, nothing beats reading the real magazine itself. On average, you can see  2 articles in every issue of Time about Pakistan. People in the west are really scared about Pakistan and most importantly about its nukes. US is already in too much trouble. Add to that the Pakistan nuke problem, Iran's Ahmadinejad and N.Korea's Kim Jong-il. The press is going crazy. 

My worry is this. Pakistan is getting so much support in terms of money, weapons and technology from the US for the time being. I dont wanna comment on the imminent threat that might post to the Indian stability. But I feel that the Indian government shuould be ready to tackle the military nightmare this advancement can pose in the later years. Indian army is one of the biggest in the world, with respect to manpower. But not in terms of technology. We are still far behind. The number of nukes, air-craft carriers, submarines we have can be counted. That is not a good thing. 

In every possible aspect, India should focus on how the future is going to be. I mean the future 10-20 years down the line. We are not a small under-developed third world nation anymore. With the US, Europe in shambles, it is time, we and other BRIC nations take responsibility in the global stage. 

It seems like China is already ready to do that. Their relations with many countries are constantly improving. China is funding billions to other nations, including countries in Africa and srilanka. They are constantly voicing their opinions against the Americans. Chinese premier recently called on to create a new currency that will replace the green back. Do you know what will happen, if that was made possible? With people dumping the US dollar, the dollar exchange rate will go down and the US government wont be able to afford anything, let alone the bailouts. 

And one more strategic thing is that, the Americans are getting more dependent on China and its exports. Add this to the fact that Pakistan is also getting close to the americans. Given this scenario, there is a very high probability that India could be left out. 

The new congress government should ensure this doesnt happen. They have enough smart people in the cabinet and hopefully they should realize what India should become in the future and act accordingly.



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Project Madurai





For people who dont know about Project Madurai, here is the wiki page that gives all the information. Click here to go to their home page. In short, it is a project aimed at using the power of internet to spread the greatest language in the world, Tamil. (I am a Tamilian, what do you expect?) Greatness of Tamil cant be discribed in few paragraphs. Tamil manuscripts were recently discovered in Egypt and the inscriptions date back to 1st century BC. One of the oldest languages in the world is under threat. UNESCO lists Tamil as one of the few languages that could vanish in 50 years(source - Ananda vikatan). 


People gotta understand. Noone is forcing you to abandon English. Learn English, learn chinese, but not at the expense of Tamil. I recall a recent argument in Neeya Naana, where there were few tamilians who were born and brought up in Tamil Nadu, who sincerely felt, learning tamil was a waste of time. I was seriously upset, that there are people who find their own culture and language to be inferior. If you dont respect yourself and your culture, how will a third person respect you?

The project was started and supported by the Tamilians living abroad, not the people in Tamil Nadu who call themselves தமிழ் தாயின் புதல்வன். If you check the list of people who have contributed for the project, there are loads of people from the US, UK, etc. I also saw few professors from NUS including Dr. Ulrike Niklas, and prof Thinnappan, from the faculty of arts. And ya, Dr. Ulrike Niklas is not from Tamil Nadu. I am really impressed.

All the so called Sons of tamilnadu, please re think your strategy to save our mother tongue. Naming lousy tamil movies in Tamil is not going to spread Tamil.

Check out the list of the books that are available in pdf format. It ranges from agananooru, purananooru up until Jeyakanthan sirukathaigal. Only one thing is missing. If someone would take time in explaining the old tamil poems, it would be really helpful for people like me, who want to learn, but find the sangathamil and senthamil really difficult to understand.


thirukural

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Congress Govt



India is the world's biggest democracy. The monumental 1 month long election itself is fascinating. Somehow the Congress government managed to win with a majority. I should say they deserve the victory. We have been through a very rouch ride, with the food crisis, economic crisis, Mumbai terror attack and numerous other small terrorist plots, etc etc etc. But India is in a far better shape than any other country.GDP growth is less, but we are not going to face a recession. Our banking system is pretty stable, thanks to RBI. 


I am actually glad, that the congress government is being elected with a full majority. There are no communists around to stop every possible growth. Without them in the picture, it is actually a good chance for Congress to come back and do something good for the country. 


These are the people who are completely responsible for India's growth today. They opened up India for foreign investments. They demolished the License Raj. Hopefully Mr.Singh's team should do a decent job in the next 5 years. I read an interesting article today in the India Today magazine. You can read it here. It is about what needs to be done in the next 5 years. 


Because we all know this term is going to be even more crucial for the congress government. They have to make an impact and make way for Rahul Gandhi to take over next time. When you look at him, Rahul is just an exact photocopy of Rajiv Gandhi. And that similarity alone is enough to make him the next PM. And it seems like he made a big impact in the UP elections this time. Remember, no party has ever captured power and formed a government in the central without winning UP. Even after breaking UP into 3 states, UP is still a big deal in India. Sadly, it is one of the most under-developed state too. One of the many reasons why the US presidential system wont work in India. 


Coming back to the point, this congress government is filled with great and smart people. First of all, our PM, Mr.Singh. One of the most respected politicians in India. Easily the most honest man in Delhi. It is an added plus that he is a finance genius. I personally admire Sonia Gandhi. First of all, she could have peacefully lived in Italy. But she chose to come to a chaotic country, India and lead a political party that was in a very bad shape. Second of all, she passed the PM post to Manmohan singh twice. Say whatever reason you want. When Mayawati wants to be a PM, what wrong can possibly arise from Sonia being the PM. But she didnt. That requires lots of courage and wisdom. That is a great political move, which won her respect among people and even the opposition, who have not made a single comment about her being a Italian born woman, during the last election. 


And then, P.Chidambaram. Another brilliant politician. The one and only Harvard educated politician in India. You should see the way he handled the shoe-throwing incident. A very composed and smart person. Am glad he is the home minister. We need some changes with respect to our attitude towards Pakistan. 


Shasi Tharoor. Have you seen his speeches? (lots available in youtube) He is another damn smart politician in the current Indian government. I was hoping he would be given the External affairs ministry. But sadly SM Krisha got the portfolio. But it is ok. Shasi Tharoor has been given the minister of state role for the external affairs ministry. Hopefully in the next term, he should become the cabinet minister. That would be awesome. 


Another disappointment with respect to portfoli allocation is Dayanithi Maran. He is obviously good at IT. But he was not given that portfolio, instead Raja got it. Really sad. I think it is our honourable CM who should have interferred and made sure that Maran didnt get IT. But lets hope Maran can make a big difference in the textile industry. 


I dont trust Pranab Mukerjee as the Finance minister. But lets wait for the first interim budget. Another disappointment was Kamal Nath. I thought he will get the commerce ministry. He did a great job last time. 


Anyways, lets hope the current cabinet can make an impact for years to come. Here is a great speech by Shashi Tharoor, in New York while releasing his book, "The elephant, the tiger and the cellphone". 





Shasi tharoor on the growth of cell phones in India. (below)




Saturday, June 6, 2009

Book Review: Planet Google by Randall Stross

I have always admired Google, as a company. The growth of the company is staggering and that is not a surprise. Their business model is completely different. Unlike Microsoft, they will give you everything for free, but they will continue innovating. Surprisingly this business model is working perfectly for them. Microsoft has been trying to catch up with the Google search, but they are not even close. Their new search engine, sorry decision engine, Bing sux big time. A friend of mine had this status message few days ago, "Bing - But It's Not Google". So true. One important lesson that we need to take from companies like Yahoo is that, in Silicon valley, if you dont innovate and change according to the market, you will vanish. It seems like google has learnt that lesson. They have effectively moved onto the mobile market now, while constantly changing and innovating their existing services. I always read something new in Gmail labs or addition of new features in Google docs or introduction of completely new products. Quite often i get new and cool mobile apps from google as well, for my G1.
The above book by Randall stross is good. It gives a first hand report of how google emerged from a small dorm room to a world dominating company. The narrative style is very good. And this is not another book about statistics. the thing i like about the book is, the author has given a detailed analysis and its implications. So it doesnt feel like reading a history book. It seems like the author was present in every meeting that google ever conducted. It gives first hand report of why and how Google created an empire around its search business. It feels more like a novel. A rags-to-riches-story, that we all love.


Reading the book, i learnt how the google founders made use of every oppurtunity they got. Main reason for the success of google is, they were right-place-at-right-time. After the dot comm bubble, they literally paid pennies to buy huge data centres. When every other competitor of Google had invested millions and millions on Super computers to do the search, google on the other hand used the power of thousands of personal desktop computers. This, according to the author was a bold move by the Google founders which paid huge rewards later, both with respect to cost and technology.


The author recalls one incident during the intial days of Google. This happened many years ago. Marissa Mayer was a new employee (She was employee number 20 in Google, by then a unknown startup). When the company was still in very beginning stage, they didnt have enough programmers or computers. They struck a deal with Netscape, which agreed to divert every one of the five search requests it got from its user, which was so minimal in number compared to the number google is handling right now. But what happened was, the google servers couldnt manage the load and they went up in flames. Sergey brin and Larry page were devasted. After few mins, noone could find the founders. Marissa Mayer went searching for the founders and she found one of the founder in the nearby coffee shop, sitting in a corner. She asked him, why he was sitting there alone. And he said, "I am hiding". Marissa Mayer recently recalled in an interview, that she said to herself that the company would go bust in 2 months. But who knew then, that Google will become a multi-billion dollar empire.
If there is something that i learnt about Google from this book, it is their planning and dedication to quality and innovation. I shall give a small example. Google is offering a free service called, Goog-411. This service apparantly involves so much money and time. But Google did provide this service for free. When it was released 2 years ago, there were few critics who said, this is waste of time. But do you know why Google released this free service? It is to collect voice samples from people. During the last few years, the number of people in the US, who used this service increased in exponential terms. They collected so many millions voice samples, which was fed into an algorithm which used these voice samples to perfectly convert people's voice into text. This algorithm that google has is ten times effective as any other voice recognition system. Do you know what google is planning to do with these voice samples? To index audio content and Google Voice, which is their new service for mobile phones. Read up on Google voice. It is just stunning. Critics say, Google voice will completely change the way we use telephones and mobile phones.
But there could be potential problems with one company controlling all the information in the world. Google's motto is "Dont be evil". But for how long can they be not-evil? Recently in China, Google had two options.
1. To allow any search request irrespective of pro-communist party or anti-communist party. As a result they will be banned by the Chinese government and loose revenue.
2. They had another option to accept the terms of the chinese government and block loads of anti-communist party webpages. By this they can earn loads of money.
If Google should stick by its motto, they should have taken option number 1. But they didnt. Things like this make people wonder what Google is becoming.


Currently, they know all my mails. With the Google search, they know what i am interested in. With my android phone, all my contacts and their phone numbers are all saved in google servers. All my SMSes are stored in Google servers. With google voice, they can also know who i talk to and what i talk about. They know which stocks i am interested in thru Google Finance. they know my family and friends thru picasa and orkut. they know what i am doing today or two weeks down the line thru Google calendar. They know my current location using Google latitude. They also know what videos and news content i like. So literally Google knows everything about me. This is a serious privacy concern.


I recall an interview i read recently, where the VP for search in Google said, they have only indexed 5% of the world's information. Their ultimate aim is to make Google so ubiquitous that you can go to google.com and type, "What shirt should i wear today?" or "Which job should i take?" and Google will give you an answer. Google has created a brand value which is based completely on trust. So I sincerely trust Google and same goes for so many million people who use Google services everyday. Lets all hope, Google sticks by its motto, "Dont be evil".

Thursday, April 23, 2009

LTTE, Prabakaran and our honourable CM



The war in Srilanka is about to end i guess. The LTTE are confined to a 17 sq km area. The Srilankan army is better than ever with superb weapons. With constant victories, their spirits are high. In spite of all the international pressure, the Srilankan government is not going to stop the war. This is going to kill lots of people, but atleast the srilankan government can stop the 25 odd years of uprising against the government.

I am not going to speak for or against the LTTE. Maybe LTTE is a "freedom outfit", as they claim. Or maybe, LTTE is a terrorist organization. I dont know much about it and i dont want to talk about it. Internet can teach you only few things

I am just surprised at the amount of support that LTTE is getting in Tamilnadu and among Tamil people. To some extent, i can understand, that Tamils in Tamilnadu favor Tamils in Srilanka. But i dont understand why the politicians love the LTTE outfit and prabakaran in general.

Vaiko, the founder of MDMK, says there will be a blood bath in the streets of TamilNadu, if Prabakaran was killed in the war. Ramadoss, the PMK cheif publicly issues LTTE video and audio CDs containing LTTE message in a rally held in the state capital. The Chief minister of a state, smartest and the most senior politician in Tamilnadu goes to NDTV and says Prabakaran is his friend and LTTE is not a terrorist outfit. And that he will be sad if Prabakaran was killed in the war. I just dont get it. Unless proven otherwise, LTTE is a banned organization in India and the leader, Prabakaran is the most wanted criminal, according to the Indian government. Why would a CM go on national television and say Prabakaran is his friend? Is it just the votes? If it just the votes, do the Tamil people in TamilNadu really care too much about LTTE? If so, i believe it is not right. Probably there is some sympathy for the numerous Tamils who are stuck in the warzone. But not LTTE. And what is Ms.Sonia Gandhi doing? A senior politician in her coalition is talking about a terrorist outfit and publicly declaring Prabakaran as his friend. And that Prabakaran happens to be the guy, who assassinated her husband. Why is she not saying anything? Is it all just votes and money that matter to these politicians? Dont even get me started on the coalitions in India.

I dont know what the srilankans did to the Tamils in Srilanka 25 years ago. I dont know why LTTE has been resisting the Srilankan government and has been asking for Tamil ealam. But i know one thing. They assasinated Rajiv Gandhi. In a very rare press meet, when asked about the Rajiv Gandhi incident, Prabakaran said, "athu oru thunbiyal Sambavam". He didnt deny it. He rather said, it is a saddening issue. They killed Rajiv Gandhi. One man who could have saved India from the tough times we were facing 15 years ago. They killed our country's Prime Minister. And it is completely wrong to go on national telivision and say Prabakaran is a freedom fighter and not a terrorist. And that too a senior politican like M.Karunanidhi shouldnt have said it. This is completely misleading the people. he can now use his words in smart ways and explain what he "really meant", but the fact still remains, Karunanidhi went on the National television and said a terrorist outfit leader is his friend. What a shame !

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

உலகம்

After all the FYP stunts, i now have some time to breathe. To honestly admit, i am now wondering what i usually do, if i am not working for my FYP. To finish the damn fyp, i still have two more grueling and painful presentations, which i can foresee, is going to suck the life out of me. Life goes on.

Anyways, i wanted to share a good tamil peom that i read recently. Well, i have read it before. But sometimes, reading the same thing again can give you a completely new perspective. The following peom titled, "உலகம்", was written by Vairamuthu. The following is just one part of the poem. To read the complete poem, you gotta buy the book.
எளிய தோற்றமே இயல்பென இருந்தேன் 
வடுக பட்டி வழியுது என்றது  
அழகாய் நானும் ஆடைகள் கொண்டேன்  
கழுதைக்கு எதற்கு கண்மை என்றது  

மேடையில் கால்மேல் காலிட்டு அமர்ந்தேன் 
படித்த திமிர்தான் பணிவில்லை என்றது  
மூத்தவர் வந்ததும் முதலில் எழுந்தேன்  
கவிஞன் நல்ல காக்கா என்றது 

மற்றவர் சூழ்ச்சியால் மண்ணில் விழுந்தேன்  
புத்தி கொளுத்தவன் புதைந்தான் என்றது  
மூச்சு பிடித்து முட்டி முளைத்தேன் 
தந்திரக்காரன் தள்ளி நில் என்றது  

பகையை கண்டு பய்ய நகர்ந்தேன் 
பயந்துவிட்டான் பாவம் என்றது 
மோதி மிதித்து முகத்தில் உமிழ்ந்தேன்  
விளங்கி விட்டதா மிருகம் என்றது  

விருதுகள் கழுத்தில் வீழக் கண்டேன்  
குருட்டு அதிர்ஷ்டம் கூடிய தென்றது  
மீண்டும் மீண்டும் விருதுகள் கண்டேன்  
தில்லியில் யாரையோ தெரியும் என்றது  

உலகின் வாய்தனை தைப்பது கடினம்
உந்தன் செவிகளை மூடுதல் சுலபம்

I leave the meaning of the poem to the reader.

Friday, March 20, 2009

KenKen

This is my new passion. For people who hav no idea, check here.

I always loved Sudoku. It is super fun. When i was in my 11th standard, i discovered sudoku. It is still interesting, but I was constantly looking for something else to replace sudoku and i found one. It is called KenKen.

New York Times crossword puzzle editor, Will shortz, introduced this puzzle in New York Times last month. He is the same guy who introduced sudoku to the world. I recently read an article in Time, titled, "Is KenKen the next Sudoku?" Then tried one 4x4 puzzle and really loved it.

Actually 4x4 is really really easy. 5x5 is also pretty easy. 6x6 can be quite tedious. Initially it took a bit longer to solve the 6x6 puzzle. But after a while, it is also manageable. I want to try the 9x9 puzzle. It is called the "Einstein puzzle". But before that, i gotta get used to other easy ones.

It adds a bit of maths to the traditional sudoku. So people who love puzzles, try this one. Warning - It is really addictive.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pakistan

While stumbling today, i found this website. It has 40 good photos from various cities in Pakistan. Have a look at the country that we (Indians) dont know and for some unknown reason hate the most. You will come to understand that not all of Pakistan is filled with terrorists and there are people struggling for everyday life, like people in India do. I cant help thinking, We(Pakistan and India) are not so different after all. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Google Android

First of all, i just have to say, i am so suprised, that few of my friends in India have no idea about the Gphone. This goes to say about the marketing power of Apple. So, for their reference, here are few links that might help understanding this post better.

1. Android OS - http://www.android.com , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Android

Anyways, now to the real post. 

I recently bought the HTC dream (Gphone, T mobile G1) from the Singtel shop. It is amazingly responsive and i love the phone already. 



I had a sony Ericson k700i for the last 3.5 years and badly wanted to update the phone. Initially wanted to buy the Apple iphone, but it is way to expensive for me to afford. And quite frankly there are too many iPhones already. Whereever i see, there is an iPhone. To accept the fact, nowadays iPhone is making me sick. 

For people who dont know, Linux is a brilliant OS. I have been using Linux in the past semester and really loved it. The stability and reliability is way too awesome. You gotta use linux to see it. And i learnt that the Android OS is a linux based platform. Started doing a bit of research and understood the power of Android. Then decided to buy this phone. The following is the analysis i did before i decided to buy the Gphone. 

iPhone:
Plus:
1. looks - Amazing looks. No other words necessary
2. Apps - iPhone came to the market first, and so obviously there are tonnes of good apps available. 
3. Usability - Brand Apple. That says it all. when people say, "It just works", yes it does work like magic. 

Minus:
1. pretty wide and very slim - difficult to hold while making phone calls. 
2. No full qwerty key board and the soft keyboard sucks big time. 
3. No multi tasking.  
4. No background tasks allowed. 
5. No copy and paste. 
6. Basically no flexibility, exactly like Mac. 

Android:
Plus:
1. Google Android - Complete linux based OS. The OS is too good, they are even considering to run that in the computer. It is that powerful and customizable.  
2. The OS was built from the basic linux kernel. A bottom-up approach. So it has all that u need and it is amazingly fast.
3. Multi tasking - Press and hold the home button for two seconds and you will get a similar pop-up like u get when u hold Alt+Tab in your computer
4. User interface - Quite comparable to that of the iPhone and it is about to get a lot better
5. Apps - It is an open platform, unlike Apple. So the opportunities are limitless. There is already an exponential growth in the Android Market and they have also allowed payable apps. So watchout Apple. In one year, Android Market will overtake the Apple App store. 



Minus:
1. Nothing really. Even if there is any, Google will release an update and you are done. GPhone initially didnt have the soft keyboard. But they released a Cupcake update and voila, the new android has the soft keyboard as well. And even though HTC dream was released before this update hit the markets, you can just go to your phone settings and click update and that is it. Google wont charge you for any updates, now or in the future. This is the power of Open source. Actually this should be a plus.

HTC dream - Hardware:
Plus:
1. Full qwerty key board - Makes mails and chats whole lot easier. 
2. Rollar ball - There is a small rollar ball, actually an idea stolen from the Blackberry. But it is amazing. It is just so easy to use. 
3. the phone is not as wide as the iphone. So a lot easier to handle. 
4. I like that new mechanism while opening the keyboard. There is a subtle twist. 



Minus:
1. The design - For gods sake, who the hell designed the hardware in HTC? Why did they add that "Leno Chin"? Compared to the iPhone this doesnt even stand a chance. See this video to understand why they did this horrible design. 
2. Because of this design, it is quite difficult to simply slide in your pant pocket. 
3. Not so slim as an iphone.

I can write a seperate blog post about the Android OS. It is marvellous. check out this playlist in Youtube to get a quick idea of the OS. And also this one, to know more about the features in Android. 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Book Review: Interpreter of Maladies


I recently read this book, Interpreter of maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I think most people know her by her book, Namesake, which is also a successful Hollywood movie, by the same name.

This is her first novel and she won a Pulitzer prize for this one. She is one of the very few authors to win, Pulitzer for their first book. A friend of mine suggested the book and I started reading it reluctantly. I usually dont like Novels. I jus dont have the patience to read a 300 page novel. but this one was different. It was compilation of 9 short stories.

It is worth reading this book. Most of the stories are about normal people. People like you and me and things we face in our everyday life. The author is really good in explaining intricate things about day to day life in a completely new way. Most of her novels are about Indians living abroad and the challenges they face, in adjusting themselves to a completely new culture. I faced lots of issues, when i first came to Singapore. I was able to relate to many things, said in the book.

My favorite short stories among the nine are, A temporary matter, Interpreter of Maladies, Sexy, Third and final continent.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Should have been the 13th Oscar

My previous post on Slumdog Millionaire .

ARR IS GOD.

Inspite of so much work, i woke up early and watched the Oscar presentation ceremony. And it was worth the time. ARR won 2 oscars. Not one, TWO. It is indeed a happy day for all the ARR fans and indians in general. To hear Tamil in the Kodak Theatre, is just amazing feeling. Thanks ARR for that. ARR already enjoys a God-like status in India. This is just going to elevate his status. (And thank god, atleast during this ceremony, they didnt pronounce his name wrong. In golden globe, it was Ruhman, in tonight show it was A.J.Raman. Even though the hot latino women who presented the award stressed the 'h' in Rahman, it was not so bad)

The music for the movie was indeed good. No doubts there. The jai ho song was good as well. But i kinda liked O..Saya better. But lets face it, this is not ARR's best work. According to AR Rahman standards, this is just a normal movie. Compared to his many other previous movies, Slumdog doesnt even deserve to be mentioned. I have listed few movies (not in any particular order) which i feel are far better than Slumdog. (considering only ARR's work)

1. Kannathil Muthamittal
2. Roja
3. Bombay
4. Rangeela
5. Iruvar
6. Dil se
7. Alaipayuthey
8. Lagaan
9. Ayutha ezuthu
10. Rang de Basanthi
11. Guru

Every one of the above movies are better than Slumdog, music wise. What i am trying to say is, ARR is a truly deserving musician. And this Oscar recognition is quite late. And if Slumdog can get him 2 oscars, then he should have won oscars for all the above mentioned movies. Let all of us be proud of AR Rahman. I am especially proud, as i am from the same state as he is. To hear Tamil in the Oscar presentation is ceremony is a treat to all tamilians.

But there were also things, that i felt could have been better. I think ARR was not prepared for two oscars. It was quite obvious in the second acceptance speech. He swiftly, walked form the stage, even the Spot light cant keep up with his speed. And also, why should they arrange for that lousy Indian dance, before the presentation?

Well, anyways, It is a brilliant day for all Indians and for all Tamilians. And again, ARR IS GOD.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Salaam Bombay


After watching Slumdog millionaire, i thought i had a good picture about the true life in Bombay. But i am so wrong. A friend suggested this movie, Salaam Bombay. It is a really good movie.

It is a true depiction of a life of children in slums in Bombay. I will try to give a quick idea about the movie, with just few key words. Poverty, unemployment, red light area, a crooked pimp who trick young women into prostitution, a prostitute, her daughter, and a young boy, who just wants to make 500 Rs, before he can go home to his village. Add all this and you get a really tragic, true story, and that is Salaam bombay.

Wonderfully made movie. It got Oscar nomination. And 90% of the actors in the movie are from real slums and red light areas. That anonymity adds a bit of reality to the movie. I think that is a big plus. When you see the hero, you get the feeling about what the movie is really about. And just for the record, if Slumdog can get an oscar nomication, this movie should have won an Oscar.

A really tragic movie. I just felt really bad after seeing the movie. It disturbed me so much, i couldnt sleep thinking about this. There are so many people struggling in life and I cant do anything about it. Why is that? When you face questions like this, you always end up questioning the existence of God. If god does exist, why should people suffer like this? Why cant he just forgive and save them all? The whole god theory is just useless. Life is just probability. Nothing more. Nothing less.

If you are able to read this post, count yourself lucky. See the movie and you will know what i mean.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama - The unknown commodity

Kashmir has remained one of the main problems that the Indian democracy is facing next to, poverty, corruption and bureaucracy. We all know what the basic issue is. Pakistan is claiming Kashmir. (In fact, the 'K' in 'Pakistan' represents Kashmir) But India says Kashmir belongs to India. And the problem still is going on. It seems like it will never end. We have already fought 3 full fledged wars and have faced numerous insurgencies. The Kashmir state is still consuming biggest chunk of Indian defense budget. Numerous soldiers have lost their life, both in India and Pakistan. People in Kashmir are constantly living under fear. If there were a peaceful period in Kashmir, it was during Musharaff rule in Pakistan. That is the only time, India had a decent oppurtunity to conduct talks about the Kashmir problem.

What exactly is the solution then? There is no peaceful solution. If Kashmir is merely a political issue, it can be sourted out. But it has become a nationalist issue. It is far from a normal border dispute. It has become Indians Vs Pakistanis. The general population itself is angry over this issue. Pakistani people are determined that Kashmir should be in Pakistan. Same goes to Indians as well. Many people have suggested that the LOC should be peacefully agreed as the international border between Pakistan and India. But i dont think that is gonna happen.

India is a diverse nation. Actually, to call india a diverse nation, is an under-statement. India is too diverse. India is so fragmented with respect to any cultural issue that you can possibly imagine. The regional politics in India is getting stronger, which in one way good, because it is a good signal that the Democray is more mature now. But also, is a bad signal, as there is not a central unification factor in India. This diversity is a crucial player in deciding who is gonna get Kashmir. If India is willing to give up Kashmir, it can create numerous violences around the country. Trust me, Kashmir is a liability for India. But giving up Kashmir can have serious repurcussions.

Enough said about India. Do you think Pakistan will give up Kashmir to India? Nope. Not gonna happen. So what is the solution then? I have no idea. My prediction is, the Kashmir problem will go on for years without a solution. Kashmir can be given more regional autonomy in the Indian constitution like the Kashmiri people want. But that is not completely feasible too.

But am afraid the US is gonna interfere in the Kashmir problem, which will undoubtedly be skewed towards Pakistan and which will seriously disturb the India-America relationship. India has always denied any support - nope intrusion is the right word - from foreigners when it comes to Kashmir issue. But am afraid, Obama is gonna push for a resolution for this problem, which will create tensions. As many analysts point out, India-Pakistan problem is the first reason for a rise in Islamic terrorism in the region. Above all, Obama had Afghanistan and 'killing Osama' as his cheif Campaign promises. To do that, he definitely needs Pakistan. If pakistan should cooperate and help the American troops, Kashmir issue should be solved or atleast American experts think so. There is a wide spread speculation that Obama will introduce a special position in his cabinet, a rather powerful one. It will be called the "South Asian envoy". People are speculating that the position will have extra ordinary powers and someone very knowledgeable will be appointed soon. In that case, trust me, that person will concentrate on Kashmir. In that case, as i said, Kashmir will once again become a major issue. According to Obama, Kashmir is part of the problem, rather than the part of a solution for the American resolve in Afghanistan.



And at the same time, there are also predictions that the US will continue to be an ally for india. If you think about it, they need India to have a check on China, which is slowly emerging as a powerful nation, which has already started demanding US for many things. Usually it the other way round. 

I read a related article in Reuters today. you can read it here. And you can read another interesting article here, about Indo-US relationships and foreign policy challenges for both India and US. The Indian govt and its top diplomats are calling Obama "the unknown commodity". Rightly so. Lets wait and see. The first 100 days of the president are very crucial.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Phd comic strip - Abstract

See the following phd comic. For some reason, it reminds me of my Final Year Project. Pretty funny. And honestly, i am going to use this for my forthcoming report. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

இனிய பொங்கல் திருநாள் வாழ்த்துக்கள்

I initially wanted to write this entire post in Tamil, in order to remind everyone, that it is indeed தமிழர் திருநாள். But i am seriously lagging behind in my Final Year Project. And so, i cant afford to waste time in blogging in Tamil. Let me proceed in English.

Something about Pongal, that makes me miss home. For many people, it is always the Diwali, when they miss home and crackers and stuff. But i dont care about diwali. In our house, we never really made a big deal about diwali. I hated crackers. 

But in our house, Pongal is a big deal. Even when we were in Salem, we used to travel 10 hrs to reach our village, கீழ்ச்சீவல்பட்டி.(The place is just 40 mins drive from my current place, pudukkottai) It is a small, but lively village. We have few farms there and a really big house, which i think should be more than 100 years old. Our house extends from one street to the other. It is not a big surprise really. Most of Chettinad houses are that big

  Our house in our village
If you wanna see the real pongal, come to our village. People in big cities cook pongal in rice cooker, and eat it while watching lousy Sun TV. Real pongal celebration is in the village. Have you ever watched a ஜல்லிக்கட்டு? That too, the அழகாபுரி ஜல்லிக்கட்டு is quite famous. அழகாபுரி is very close to my village. The scorching sun, the crowded land and the air filled with dust, adds something to the environment and your mind, that i cannot express in words.

For every pongal, we will get Sugarcane, Rice, Groundnuts,etc, form our own farm. We go to the temple in the morning and then to the lovely green farm in the afternoon, fresh tender coconuts in the evening. That is probably the day i would spend happily, without even thinking about TV. Man, i miss India so much.

Here I am in Singapore. It is 4 am in the morning and I am sitting in PGP study room(a residence in NUS), pretending to work for my project, thinking about my village and home. It is not always fun to live in a foreign country.

Anyways, Happy pongal everyone !

Monday, January 12, 2009

Windows 7

My desktop with Windows 7 OS

Finally after a series of bad Operating systems, Microsoft has come up with a pretty decent OS. (Check out the videos here)

I am currently using the Beta version of the Windows 7 OS and i gotta say, it is pretty damn good. I dont have a problem accepting that, inspite of the fact, that i am not a big fan of Microsoft products. (I mean, honestly, is there a bad Browser than IE and a bad media player than Windows Media player?)

My laptop has outdated hardware. Very bad configuration. 60 GB hard disk and a 512 mb ram. The OS calculated a performance score and said my PC score is 1.9, which is basically the lowest possible hardware. (The highest will be 8). Windows XP in my PC was painfully slow. So just tried out the new Windows 7. Even in my pc, with such poor hardware, it is faster than the usual XP. The bootup time is jus 45 secs in total. I am really surprised. In just 45 secs, you can access all your applications.

There are lots of good features in the OS, that will really make it easier for everyone to use the computers. My personal favorites are "Action center", "Dynamic Taskbar", and the "Aero shake effects".  They have adopted few methods from other OS like the "Synaptic Package manager" from Linux and the "Dock" from Apple. But still, you gotta admire the speed. I mean, Microsoft, good or bad, still has the biggest market share. I would say, this is the only time, when they have realized the responsibility and have understood what people want, rather than forcing everyone to use a crappy piece of software. This is what Vista was supposed to be. I read somewhere that the new version, is a very optimized version of Vista. I would say, this is the only time, when Microsoft product "Just works". Well, Windows 7 is still in Beta stage. Basic assumption is, it will be a lot better when the full version is released. So it should be the best windows ever, as the critics say.

Anyways, after years of suffering humiliation in the form of ads by Apple, Microsoft has a good chance to rebuild the image with the new OS. It will be available in the markets sometime next year.