Monday, June 23, 2008

Compete ups stats: Y! up from 13.3% to 19%

Wow! I'm proud to see my finding a regex bug helped Compete correct its stats and set the record right for Yahoo!. As a result Yahoo! Search marketshare is now ~19%, which is up from the wrong percentage of 13.3%. Yahoo! surely needs some positive buzz at this point than any other. That too this one they have the right to.

I'm happy for my alma mater (aka ex-employer). At the same time, I'm mildly disappointed that neither Danny (@SearchEngineLand) nor Jeremy (@Compete) chose to acknowledge me by name or link to my post. Even other commenters have felt so. Glad that Webpronews managed to dig the link out from my comment at Danny's post.

Edit: Compete has linked to my post now. Max from Compete has commented below saying that they meant to give credit to me. Thanks guys.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Compete admits bug, says they'll recount

[Update: Compete ups stats: Y! up from 13.3% to 19%]

Steve from Compete has posted a comment confirming that their regex did have the bug pointed out by me. He, however, added that for capturing clicks on result pages, they use other regexes which don't have such a bug. He assured that they'll do a recount and update their numbers. I don't know how much difference it'll make to search engine market share numbers. But, any increase will do good for Yahoo!, I suppose.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Confirmed: Yahoo! does get screwed by a regex bug

[Update: Compete has confirmed that it was a bug.]
[Context: My previous post]
I had earlier suspected that Yahoo! Searches are severely undercounted by Compete because of a regex bug. Now, my suspicion has been confirmed. Danny Sullivan of the SearchEngineLand has confirmed that those regexes were indeed given by Compete.

By some estimates, refinement queries constitute over 70%? of the total queries. Is Compete, a widely quoted stats provider, undercounting Yahoo! Searches by 70%?OK, in a hurry, I might've dramatised the impact, but some significant chunk of searches are undercounted. Doesn't it amount to a huuuuuuuuge difference to Yahoo!'s market valuation?Well, I hear that other Stats are more widely quoted than Compete.

And when Larry Wall wondered whether a Perl bug could cause the next Wall Street crash, he must have been only half-joking!

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Yahoo! getting screwed by a regex bug?

[Update: Yes, Compete says it was a bug.]
I hope not!

SearchEngineLand says Compete uses the following regex to count the number of Yahoo! searches:

It actually excludes a vast number of searches that uses Yahoo! link tracking parameter.
For example, a search that I made from my Firefox searchbox has the following url:

No issue here. But, when I refine the query by adding "language" in the search box in the results page, following is the url:;_ylt=A0geu6Xv_FhIOyoBokNXNyoA

Anybody who has worked with regexes can see that this url and scores of similar urls of query refinement won't match the regex supposedly used by Compete and hence not counted! And, all this while, Yahoo! stock keeps taking a beat for failing in Search. If true, it could be a multimillion dollar bug.

Anybody from Yahoo!, Compete who can confirm or deny this?

Meta: If you're posting this, link back to this post, please.

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Friday, May 23, 2008


Imagine scrolling a video back and forth by dragging the cricket ball to see whether it hit the pad or the bat? DimP lets you do that. Amazing technique that allows us to specify a recall frame intuitively and objectively!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008


I have several incomplete posts in my drafts, my planned move of this blog to WordPress on my own site is long overdue, and so on. To break the impasse, let me post this link to Procrastination Central, a great read.

Got the previous link via Seth.
The key point Seth makes is that "there's no way of getting around procrastination for most people".
The reassuring part is that "it's perfectly alright".
The most important takeaway which we might easily miss is that, "Knowing fully well you won't start in time, use the idle hours to feed your creativity. Take a tangential aspect of your task at hand and do it. It'll be refreshing, at times be useful, but, in any case feels good because you've successfully procrastinated."

Read the short article, the author has put the above better.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Count me out, please

Thus asks lawyer Venugopal:[1]
“800 million people believe Ramar Sethu was built by Lord Ram. Can court go into the issue whether he existed?”

I don't know on what basis he claims 800 million, but if that included me, without any bearing on anything else, please count me out!

Meta: I wish that this meme catches on with bloggers saying either count-me-in or count-me-out. If you're doing so, please link back to this post so that we can keep track and I get some linkjuice.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Google biasing News on it's finance site?

Disclosure: I previously worked for Yahoo! and still hold a small number of Yahoo! shares.

A regular user of Y! Finance, I go to Google Finance only from Google News search results for the query "Yahoo!". With so much buzz happening around Yahoo!, I keep checking Google News search results for Yahoo! and the Google Finance page for YHOO.

One intriguing thing that I noticed was that, while the former showed stories on Google losing Search Ad marketshare to Yahoo! reported by Reuters, NYTimes, etc., the latter didn't show any of those, but showing other "less important" stories from those same sources. It's anybody's guess that which stories they show in the charts of Google Finance would have a non-trivial impact on investors' decisions.

The question is whether Google does any "filtering" of news stories shown on its finance site to favour its stock? I seriously wish it doesn't, but these days I get reminded of Orwell whenever I read about Google.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Sometimes ...

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Lessons in town planning?

Via: Adeo Ressi

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Funny langauge

China's State Administration of Religious Affairs issued regulations in July banning reincarnations of "living Buddhas", or holy monks, that fail to seek government approval.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Yahoo! driving directions

Hats off to Shivku and the product team!


Friday, August 17, 2007

Blatant rip-off?



Saturday, July 28, 2007


Was reading an article on Kalam and I get this ad. Wondering if the Election Commission of India went Web 2.0, I clicked and it takes me to Monster India. Left a bad taste (even ignoring the lower case "i" in India).

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Friday, May 11, 2007

The Smile

27 Reflection 2, originally uploaded by deepsan.

Enough said.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Back from 'net vacation

Hurray! Now, I've got high-speed Internet access. Yes, but I may not blog or edit Wikipedia often since we're still busy setting up, learning, and developing at Kneaver.

If I were to give a mini-update of what happened all these days, hmm ... where do I start? The withdrawal effects of net abstinence? The phantom limb that kept looking for the Yahoo! identity card in my pockets? The urge to look for my friends to discuss recently-heard trivia on "Dhaavanik Kanavugal", to discuss the future of Indian economy (as if we're Manmohan and Montek!), to mutually inflict goose bumps by talking about Cantor, or to rant about geopolitics?

Or the deservedly silent nights here in Sholavandan? The exposition of Tyndall effect in full glory over fields with paddy crop lollypopping dew drops? The sight of the full moon reflected on River Vaigai running in full spate? The myriad of things that I learn at Kneaver everyday?

I need a better medium to capture them all — some sort of a brain dump.

I can give a quick intro of Kneaver. It's a technology startup in Knowledge Management space. The unusual thing about Kneaver is that its founder, Bruno Winck, chose to have the India development centre in Madurai, and not in any of the metros. A French guy heading an American company setting up the India Development centre in Madurai; the world is getting flat, indeed.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

I'm feeling at home. Well, I am.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Good bye, darling

Come December 15, I was about to shout Yaaahoooo! to announce my third year in Yahoo! But, today is my last day here, at least in this innings. I've been through several separations - in high school, college, previous employment, post graduation, and more, but this is the most painful of all. I don't say this simply because they're distant memory, but because I had always faced such events far more easily. Perhaps because they were all eventualities and this was by choice.

I'd earlier remarked to a friend that I've mastered the art of letting go - that is, by not thinking about it when you do. I tried doing that and was superficially fine, until I sent out that final email announcing that. My hands quivered as I composed the email and I was even more moved to the point of crying when I saw replies. As a colleague remarked, it's like the Marine Corps, once a Yahoo always so. Yes, it's a nation, not just a company to work for. I'll continue to evangelise Yahoo! (I've already converted one loyal Google search user into a Yahoo! search user) and recommend it for my friends, it's a fantastic place to work in.

While I'm sad for leaving Y!, it was an occasion to know how many friends I have and how much I mean to Yahoo! And, I'm looking forward to my next stop, Kneaver. More about that in another post.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Functional copulation?

Looking at my AdSense accruals stand at a paltry $1.76 (though a ten-fold increase from $0.17 in March) and my readership going for less than one (me!), I've decided to write something spicy. It's about Niyoga that I came across here.

I was told in my younger days that Rishi Vyasa gave the kids that were to be Dhridharashtra, Pandu, and Vidhura as "boons". Not that I believed in the euphemism. ;) Reading about Niyoga makes me wonder if it's possible to "perform" the act merely for functional reasons! One of the points about detachment from the "product" (offspring) is quite a practical thing, well thought. Why did they adjust to limitations, they should've invented artificial insemination instead. By the way, what's with ghee? ;)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Quote of the day

You see things; and you say 'Why?';
But I dream things that never were;
and I say 'Why not?' - George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Several weeks ago we had an internal contest in which we competed by developing plugins to the then yet-to-be released Y! Messenger beta. I submitted a conversation plugin that helps one chat in Hindi and Tamil by typing the phonetic transcription. It wasn't an engineering marvel, but a practical utility nevertheless. While I didn't get any of the prizes, the judging team forwarded it to the Y! India Communities team, which got excited about it. They encouraged me to develop it to an official product supporting the effort with someone to develop the UI mocks. Last week, it was launched officially as IndiChat and has received a lot of press. The best part was when my father discovered it from the first page of a complimentary copy of "Business Line" that we got at a petrol pump!

OK, enough of vanity for the day.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jimbo @ Bangalore

Jimbo and Sundar
Originally uploaded by kalyanvarma.
Having learnt that Jimbo Wales is visiting Bangalore, I'd emailed him requesting his visit to Yahoo! and a separate meeting with Indian Wikipedians. He agreed and visited Yahoo! office at M.G. Road on September 29 (Friday). I went to pick him up from Le Meridian and on our way, we were discussing mainly the differences between American, British, Indian, and other international English dialects. We reached our office by 10:30 AM. Followed by a campus tour through empty cubes (!), he spent sometime reading and replying to his emails offline. From 11 AM, there were a few meetings with interested teams and then we had our regular office lunch. Later, he gave a talk that was attended by MG Road yahoos and remotely by yahoos in other offices. The talk was interesting and Jimbo said he found the young, informed, and curious audience interesting. He gladly mentioned Yahoo!'s hosting support for Wikipedia, the biggest single donation in kind, which incidentally was proposed by me.

Later we left for a wikimeetup at Coconut Grove and had nearly three hours of chat with fellow wikipedians, some of who had come from as far as Kolkata. A writeup with links to pictures is at

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Perl and postmodernism

I was searching for "Perl figures of speech", not an unusual query if it's Perl. I wanted to add some figures of speech that I discovered in Perl literature if there was such a list. (Let me blog them later.) I couldn't find such a list, but found an "interesting" speech by Larry Wall. Be warned that it's long, full of isms, tiring, postmodern, self-referential, and almost everything else. Plus, it has an ugly hyperforeignism - in the non-word octopi - as well. I somehow liked the speech or may be I've led myself to believe I liked it. I started copying quotes from that for blogging and realised that nothing but the complete article can illustrate itself! Not to waste what I'd copied, I present them below.

"When I started writing Perl, I'd actually been steeped in enough postmodernism to know that that's what I wanted to do. Or rather, that I wanted to do something that would turn out to be postmodern, because you can't actually do something postmodern, you can only really do something cool that turns out to be postmodern."

"I would like to tell you that Perl is simple in its complexity. But some people won't understand that. So pretend I didn't say that, unless you do."

I think I do. I did if Larry meant "lacking artness" or "undesigning" when he said "simple".

Update: I didn't get around to blogging Perl figures of speech. Let me add them here as I find them. I start with ellipsis.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mind reading, a possibility?

I was never concerned this much about privacy issues before I read this. To sustain a society that's built on "diplomacy", "political correctness", and a delicate unsaid contract, it's extremely important to have privacy of thoughts, a dark cupboard to put our skeletons in. On the other hand, in a hypothetical world where all dark corners are illuminated, there would be no room for hypocrisy, perhaps paving the way for society as a super organism. That'll kill the notion of a free-thinking individual. As an individual, I feel like the protagonist of the Orwellian 1984. But does this all matter once the transformation to a superorganism is complete?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Such is your online footprint ...

Someone steals a guy's cellphone and uses the phone to take pictures. This phone faithfully sends them to the original owner's flickr account! It would've been even more interesting had the phone supported automatic geocoding of flickr photos. The complete story at

As an aside, you can check out my geotagged photos here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Malice, stupidity, and information asymmetry

Says Hanlon's Razor principle:
Information asymmetryNever attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.Information asymmetry

Spurred by my recent thoughts on information symmetry, my mind was quick to follow it up with "... and never attribute to stupidity what can be explained by information asymmetry". What I refer to as information asymmetry may be as simple as differential visibility while on road or might be manifested subtly in international relations.

When I was searching for links to cite, I came across this site, which has a more elegant formulation by M. L. Plano.
Information asymmetryNever attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. Don't assign to stupidity what might be due to ignorance. And try not to assume your opponent is the ignorant one -- until you can show it isn't you.Information asymmetry

Sigh! Someone always does it before you, and better.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Google Toolbar chomps away Wikipedia text

Suddenly, a lot of people started noticing that some content towards the end of Wikipedia articles is missing while editing. They filed a bug, and the Mediawiki developers found that it's due to Google Toolbar for Firefox. They've intimated Google and are waiting for a fix.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

What The Null?

You know you're not talking Perl when Java unsurprisingly takes exception to a null pointer! Larry would've sighed "What The Null?" and "What The Pointer?"

To be fair, Java (or any other "serious" programming language) is being right about strict type checking etc., But, I still would like to indulge and say "no thanks" ("no strict;") and get going for one-off things while prototyping. Not to mention the almost-singular autovivification. ;)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Yet another milestone

Sometime back, English Wikipedia announced its millionth article. Now, it's achieved a milestone of its 1000th featured article. Featured articles () are high-quality articles chosen after peer review by Wikipedia editors. India-related featured content can be found in this noticeboard.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Of bamboos and rats!

Mautam () is an extra-ordinary cyclical ecological phenomenon that happens in Mizoram. Once in 48 years, a particular species of Bamboo flowers here and, for reasons unclear yet, giant bandicoots start multiplying like hell. Understandably, this results in famine and plague. It seems Mautam has had a big influence on the political history of the region itself. It's being viewed with enough seriousness that the Indian Army has been pressed into service to combat rats!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Yay, it's raining in Madurai!


Friday, June 02, 2006

Height of political correctness

From Wikipedia:
Human primates are recognized as persons and protected in law by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights[4] and by all governments, though to varying degrees. Non-human primates are not classified as persons, which means their individual interests have no formal recognition or protection. The status of other apes amidst humans particularly—as their closest genetic cousins—has generated much debate, particularly through the Great Ape Project[5] which argues for their personhood.

[4] - UN Declaration of Human Rights
[5] - Declaration on Great Apes, Great Ape Project

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fort of Death

Last friday, our extended team went on an outing to Savanadurga. [1] We started at about 7:20 A.M., a full 35 minutes later than our scheduled departure. As there were a number of newcomers, we got a good opportunity to know each other better during the two-hour journey. Even though it wasn't a dense forest, away from the incessant traffic, the silence could hardly go unnoticed.
After we had our breakfast comprising Sevige Pongal etc., Rahul made us do a train-race without dropping or bursting the baloons between us. While it was good fun, Rahul gave a lecture on the lessons like adaptability, communication, blah, blah that it taught.

Then, accompanied by curious canine friends, our team climbed a hill to do rappelling, while the other team went for rafting. Having had an injury on a previous rapelling trip, I was a bit nervous this time. And, words of caution from colleagues really helped. YahooFlagWhile some where rappelling, others were asked to make a flag for Yahoo! from a chart sheet, glue, and whatever else was lying around. We came down to be treated with lemonade and tender coconut.

The next event was to build a raft ourselves and row it up and down a lake with coconut "branches" for oars! Man it was truly hard. While half our group was doing that, the other half was trying to make a missile launcher out of stationery. Then we reversed roles. At the end, we had lunch, played some games and then came the announcement of winners. We won on the flag front due to some on-the-spot smartness during our presentation (per Rahul).

In the missile launcher event, for reasons we knew only post-mortem, our launcher launched the TT ball far away in a different direction! I tried to justify saying we won on the Euclidean distance metric, but the argument went on even during our return journey. I attempted to prove that if we won on the Euclidean distance metric, it automatically means we won on every distance. In the process, a colleague and I jointly inferred that only if we beat the runners-up by a factor of \sqrt{2}, shall we automatically win by Manhattan distance as well!

Then we went on to climb a nearly monolithic hill. The view of rain moving at a distance, the curvy River Arkavati, and the surrounding hills was at once spectacular and overwhelming. We relaxed a while there and started our journey back playing Antakshari all along.

[1] - Legends say that the name is a corruption of Savinadurga, which means "[a] fort of death" in Kannada. Apparently, Kempe Gowda and his troops defended themselves by pouring mustard oil down the monolithic hill from being on its top.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The rest is history

"I couldn't and didn't buy this company and the rest is history," Semel said, adding that it was also fortuitous because that harkened the birth of the search-advertising business.

I completely agree with the second part. But for that company, search advertising would have taken a longtime to come to mainstream. Overture, the inventors of search advertising, were bleeding and only after this company adopted their idea and expanded the market space did Yahoo! buy Overture and enter this business.

P.S. No prize for guessing the name of this company. ;)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Filter coffee?

Baidu benefitting from Wikipedia ban in China

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The future, what's that?

Many of my friends have argued that concepts may not be unthinkable even if something like NewSpeak, a hypothetical language imposed by the Party in George Orwell's "1984", became the norm. I never had a convincing answer for them, but given my inclination in favour of languages, I believed in it and in the following quote:
"That language is an instrument of human reason, and not merely a medium for the expression of thought, is a truth generally admitted."
- George Boole, quoted in Iverson's Turing Award Lecture

Well, today's NYTimes adds strength to my belief:
When asked if the Nukak were concerned about the future, Belisario, the only one in the group who had been to the outside world before and spoke Spanish, seemed perplexed, less by the word than by the concept. "The future," he said, "what's that?"

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Widget in gallery

The widget that I'd mentioned in an earlier post is available for download from a new location. Please download, use, and rate it there. Why Yahoo! Gallery? Well, partly like the good old SourceForge, it's easier to track the number of downloads, see user ratings, get feedback, manage versions, and ... feed your vanity. ;)

Update: After I uploaded a thumbnail image, it's under moderation. Will be back soon. Till then, you can download and use it from its old location.

Update 2: It's available in the gallery after moderation. Feel free to make improvements and reupload new versions.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How free can word order be?

I've learnt that some languages like Sanskrit are declensional to the point that word order is totally free. If so, how would they map qualifiers like adjectives and adverbs with their corresponding nouns and verbs when there is more than one possible combination? Can someone give examples? How would they differentiate between the two following senses?

Only, he went too far.
He went only too far.

Update: Learned people from Wikipedia Reference Desk inform that free word order does sometimes cause ambiguity, but most declensional languages help resolve them with the context. Well, what's the fun without room for ambiguity in language! As an aside, I find that for serious technical questions Wikipedia Reference Desk may be a better place (as of now) than Yahoo! Answers. However, good questions and answers have started coming into the latter.

Follow-up update: Yahoo! Answers is not all that bad. It did give an authoritative answer for my question. Below is the answer given by a linguist:

There is no language where word order is totally free. That is a myth. There are two strategies for marking the relationship of qualifier-qualified. The first is word order. The adjective occurs right next to the noun it modifies (or the adverb next to the adjective/adverb/verb it modifies). The strategy that is usually adopted in languages with a highly marked declensional system is that the adjective carries a similar or identical declensional ending to the noun it modifies. In the case of adverbs, word order is still generally the means used.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Thirukkural on your desktop

I've become a regular blogger at YCoolThing and yesterday, I was thinking of doing something for that. I wrote a Perl script to scrape the 1330 couplets of Thirukkural and their English translations by G.U. Pope. Quickly, I wrote up a widget that displays a random Kural and its translation. Featured in the screenshot is Sanjeeth's favourite Kural, in which, I like the beautiful similie for human reflex. I've blogged that here where I've given the link to download the widget. Once the widget comes up, you can press F8 key to toggle the view between the widget layer and your regular windows layer and you can click on the widget to generate random kurals. Please try that out and tell me how you liked it.
Aside: This is the first time I wrote anything for people to download and use freely. So I wanted to feel like an open-source guy and I released my code under The Perl Artistic License. :D

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I couldn't think of a better title for the post. Suggest me if you can?

I once found an anonymous editor adding the following text to the article in Wikipedia on free will:
Some indeterminists believe that all things are chosen, and that determinism is only an emergent illusion resulting from the elements choosing to act or react in predictable and consistent ways.

I thought it was a funny play of words. But recently, I got to read this truly mind-boggling dialogue (via Ananth). It's an immense article that can even effect religious conversions; well, change your definition of religion! If you see my MyWeb2 links on the right side below the archives, I've tagged this link with numerous tags for want of sufficiency.

Below is one of the gems:
I could no more choose to give you free will than I could choose to make an equilateral triangle equiangular. ... A conscious being without free will is simply a metaphysical absurdity.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The few who use "few" instead of "a few"

I've often noticed that many non-native English speakers drop the grammatical article "a" of "a few" where they shouldn't. This is because many languages do not have articles while in some languages like Tamil, there are other devices to indicate definiteness. I wondered if when some languages that do not have articles are, at least, as expressive as English, are the articles redundant?

The answer is a "no" as explained by a coworker in the editorial team: "Each language conveys meaning with its own set of structures. Once the structure is set up, you can’t make meaning in the language effectively without all the pieces, but if a given language is structured without parts that another language uses, they’re unnecessary in that language. Imagine if a few players in a soccer game quit kicking the ball and starting throwing it, like a basketball." The soccer-basketball analogy hit the nail on the head. There are people who believe that articles are more fundamental while I think other devices could be used for "quantification". Whichever is true, articles are simply fascinating.

The use of articles has an acute relevance in the chosen case of "a few" vs "few". When we say "a few", we mean "some" with the connotation analogous to a glass "partly full", whereas the meaning of "few" is almost the opposite with the connotation analogous to a glass "almost empty". The sentence "a few of us liked the show." means that we know some who liked the show, whereas without the article, it would mean that almost none of us liked it.

For a self-test of article usage skills, one should take this quiz. I got a score of 96% The site also has an excellent guide on articles.

Meta: Funnily enough, blogger thinks that articles are superfluous. Look at the URL for this post :P

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A new thread elsewhere

Some yahoos thought of an unofficial blog where we post some lesser-known cool product or feature of Yahoo! everyday. JR just went ahead and created one at Y!CoolThing. I too jumped in and have written a post that I've scheduled for sometime around 8:30 PM IST that's up now!. Check out.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Project 69

In a previous post, I had made a mention about sites that offer reciprocal links and pageviews. I'm planning to understand their dynamics better. So, I've uploaded one of my photographs to and planning to upload one more. You can help keep the photo afloat there by clicking on this referral link and by clicking on my photo on their site. Also, I've planned a simulation run codenamed Project 69. [1] I'll share the results at a later point.

[1] - 69 symbolises ISYBYSMB standing for "I Scratch Your Back, You Scratch My Back" or "I See Your Bullshit, You See My Bullshit" and nothing else. I'm not responsible for hyperimaginative people getting visions of other phenomena. ;)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Profoundness, presumed?

This page triggers a lot of thoughts in, perhaps idle, minds. The statement written is true, somewhat disturbingly so. For the statement to be true, it has to be witty first. For that to be witty, it has to be true in a strange fashion, which it does. This is a peculiar circularity that carefully avoids being a contradiction. And because of such a brilliant "play" with text, it qualifies being postmodern. This completes the second loop of circularity, namely the requirement for the statement to be true, in a non-contradictory fashion. If one can visualise the "play", it would look like this! What do you say?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jeffrey Friedl

Has used as an email since before there was Yahoo! Mail. Still use it.

Having "seen" him in internal mailing-lists, reading his parting mail, his book, and the above line from here, I've developed an inexplicable admiration for this guy. Blame it on this or this. ;)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Extreme case of privacy invasion

I got a link to a shameful story from my friend. I never knew people could be this bad even though I've seen from close quarters how poor students are ill-treated in government-funded hostels. Thanks to increased media activism (a result of competition), such things come to the public fore. No doubt, this calls for stringent action. But, in addition, I wish that they anonymise these records and give them to academic institutions to study phenomena like McClintock effect.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ad sense

If anyone has consistently followed my posts (I doubt if there's any besides me!), they might've noticed a point of inflection after this post. In that post, I'd incidentally countered a view expressed in an ezine with significant readership. And that brought me a huge number of visitors, unprecedented for my blog. I started fantasising the possibility of getting dollars by subscribing to Google AdSense. So, I did subscribe.

From then on, I'd started looking at the number of hits to my site and the referrals often. Then, consciously, I began to do some Ad sense optimisations. First was linking my earlier posts however remotely they're related to a phrase used. An example would be this post. ;) I tried to get some page views from sites that sell reciprocal pageviews and reciprocal links under whatever garbs. In the process, besides ending up in their hall of fame, I got some understanding of the dynamics of such sites. More on that later.

The next is audience engagement. I found that two things work. One is manifested in the last sentence of the previous paragraph - give an indication that more will come. I used it in this post and others. Audience engagement also happens when readers start commenting. When they do, they visit repeatedly to check others' responses. So, reader-generated content brings pageviews to me. This is a microlevel instance of the web 2.0 monetisation strategy.

One another thing is increasing the frequency of posting and timing them appropriately so that you get visits due to readers who keep checking for newer posts and visits soon after new posts. Of course, I'm not a blogging machine to be able to stick to this schedule.

Despite all these, I've earned a meagre 17 cents in the two months that Ad Sense ads are shown in my blog. At this rate, it will take years for me to get the first cheque for 2000 American Dollars! Here comes the last of all taboos - sensitising readers to the ads situated at the top and bottom, make them conscious of them, and where applicable make them click the ads. If you're wondering what I did to get there, read this post again. ;)

Friday, March 17, 2006

On commoditisation, gear indicators, and web search - part 3

In part 1 and part 2, I'd written about commoditisation and some responses from web search engines. The responses included new features built on the top of their core engines, and personalisation. The next logical step would be using social networks. Myweb 2.0 seeks to do that. Can totally unsupervised machines come up with neat clusters like these in flickR? May be, but why not use the humans where possible? That's why, answers, etc., are being given additional attention even while there are people like Andrei Broder working on "searching without a box".

So, can these companies come up with all possible applications that can be built atop web search by themselves? If not, who'll do that and what will these companies do then? Web 2.0 is not just about user-generated content, but also about small enterprises and individuals building cool applications using web as a platform. So, if you want to build your own search engine, go build it! Just use the APIs from Amazon, Yahoo!, Google or numerous others. If you're an AJAX dummy, you can even get ready-made UI components. But, we all know that there's no free lunch. So, what would the platform guys do if they were to let anyone use their platform for commercial purposes? Yes, they're slowly evolving a business model around APIs. So, anybody listening?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Continuum conundrum

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. And, I was in an inebriated state of post-prandial sleep. My mobile phone goes "tring-tring" or whatever ringtone that I have. Kishore pushes my room door in, and sticks his neck in. Kishore tells me that my phone is ringing and I need to pick it up. A part of me is inquisitive as to how I'm able to see Kishore or the door from where I'm lying. I get up, pick my phone from the shelf, and press a button to accept the call. But, the ringing continues. I see myself desperately pushing the button repeatedly even as Kishore keeps asking me to attend to the call. I feel strange that this thing is happening with my phone, but I'm not able to tell this to him as an explanation. The inquisitive me wonders how Kishore is not in Hosur but here. I pick my phone lying on the adjacent bed with my left hand and accept the call lying on my bed. The incessant ringing stops.

Monday, March 13, 2006

On commoditisation, gear indicators, and web search - part 2

In a previous post, I was talking about the potential effects of commoditisation of automobiles. This post and subsequent posts are going to be about the commoditisation of web search, its signs, implications, reactions, and opportunities.

Roughly speaking, commoditisation happens when products are undifferentiated. That said, will people agree that web search is so? Not many. But, that is the truth. At their cores, search engines are approaching comparable levels of quality (not necessarily identical results). It will be hard to believe, but this has been verified empirically. There will soon be a time when MSN catches up with the index sizes of Google and Yahoo! So what accounts for the unequal split of the pie? The reasons are manifold and complex. Brand loyalty, simple inertia, denial or unwillingness to compare, better UI, faster download, default homepage, distribution channels like toolbars, messenger clients, ISPs, PC vendors etc., are a few obvious factors.

So, what are these companies doing about it. These companies may not fully acknowledge this, but, have already started differentiating their services with features extraneous to basic query-relevance. Google Suggest, Yahoo! Mindset, and MSN Query Builder are just a few examples from Yahoo! Next, Google labs, and MSN. Besides feature differentiation, these companies have started personalisation to increase loyalty. MyWeb, personalized homepage, A9 etc., show the trend.

More on further implications and what it has in store for "commoners" like you and me in subsequent posts.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pavlovian pseudo-skepticism

Most self-professing skeptics are merely biased against a particular point of view and don't truly believe in their ideology.

They have a tendency to pre-dismiss anything that they perceive as contrary to their point of view. Sometimes they reject every statement coming from an alternate school without listening to its argument. This may be, in part, due to the conditioning by association of falseness with a certain school, altogether. I call it Pavlovian pseudo-skepticism. An example would be a left-winger rejecting, without applying thought, a claim from a right-winger of antiquity of an archaeological site.

On other times, they may reject every statement that appears to contradict what they know already. This is due to an extreme case of narcissism without realising that their knowledge is bounded. One such instance was a recent refusal by my friend (who happens to be well-read) to accept that infinite sets can have different cardinalities. Even after I cited cantor's diagonal argument, he didn't agree, thinking either that I'm appealing to authority without comprehension or that he has limited the scope of Cantor's implication. It is alright not to have known or read about Cantor's argument or aleph number, but rejecting it right away was irritating.

I'm no exception to the above and more fallacies. But, I'm trying to correct myself after experiencing such instances.

Update: As the friend cited in the post has no way to defend his case, this post shall be deemed a one-sided account. However, the issues mentioned in the post are independent of any specific examples.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

On commoditisation, gear indicators, and web search - part 1

Today, I woke up later than I wanted to and after wrangling for precious resources, I missed my pickup cab by a whisker (as always?). So, I asked Kishore to wait for a few more minutes and rode pillion to him on Johnsy's motorbike. Given the state of Bangalore traffic, we had plenty of time to opine and discuss several things. That's when the engine stopped. Kishore explained that from rest, he released the clutch without realising that the drive was in second gear. Because of his mechanical engineering background and my exposure to automotive talk, we naturally began to discuss solutions to this problem. We wondered why there is no gear indicator in all motorbikes, even when that and auto-clutch has been shown to be possible.

Initially, we thought this kind of lack of choice in features might go away in the face of increased competition. While this is true to an extent, we realised that no company would invest in such features as long as they know that people can't afford to choose bikes on isolated features like this. I reasoned that this may change if these products are "commoditised". That is, when motorbikes become platforms where you can get comparable configurations of mileage, power, and other core functions from virtually everyone, you can then pick and choose on the "peripheral" features. In fact, component technology companies like Delphi are set to offer after market solutions. Given my predisposition, I began to think about commoditisation of the web search market. More on this in part two. Do you see similar commoditisations happening in other (non-internet, non-automotive) sectors?

Monday, February 20, 2006

I got "mug"ged

A few months back, we'd been to a Tamil movie and marketing people from MetLife insurance were conducting a lucky draw under the garb of a "quiz." Not wanting to miss any opportunity, I participated in it, but, forgot all about it. Two weeks back, I got a letter from a representative from MetLife asking me to collect a surprise gift that I'd won! I was cautious enough to confirm that there are no strings attached.
MetLife Mug
And the D-day came. That was the last day to collect the gift and I'd to reach their office by 6 PM. Since I didn't have any liquid cash with me that day, I borrowed a hundred-rupee note from my friend Sanjeeth and hired an auto rickshaw to reach their office just in time. My friends might know how hard the decision to hire an auto would've been for me given how value-conscious I am ;) After establishing my identity beyond doubt and signing the necessary papers, the representative gave me a nice little box, which I frantically opened to find the above mug! It took 66 Indian Rupees for me and all I got was a mug (with MetLife advertised in it), an event planner (which I'll never use) and the knowledge that either both the autos had proper fare meters or both were tampered to the same effect!

Friday, February 17, 2006

An answer to Kamal Hasan's wager

I remember Kamal Hasan sarcastically posing a wager to a girl in a Tamil movie asking, in response to her assertion that men and women are equal, if women can pee on a wall standing upright. This seems to be a reply.

Disclaimer: I do not mean any insult to women. This post is meant to be plain fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Railways and rationale

Back in 2001-2002, I was working in a cement manufacturing plant in a remote place and was actively looking for another job. In those days, I used to travel a lot for attending interviews and had to think on my feet regarding travel mode and means. That was because the place was remote and most often the travel was unplanned. So, I had a wonderful train schedule book from Indian Railways at hand always. Besides train timings, it had a comprehensive description of railway rules regarding payments, discounts, refunds etc., It made an interesting read for me while waiting in railway stations. And I admired the thought behind many such rules. One such was an option called "telescoping." The gist of the rule is this: if you've booked tickets on a train for travelling from point A to point B and you want to extend the travel to point C, you just need to pay the difference in fare between travel AC and AB and not the fare for BC, which could be substantially higher than the difference. Of course, this is subject to the availability of berths for travel between B and C. Fair enough.

Much recently, armed with the above knowledge, I decided to use the facility to extend our travel from Bangalore to Madurai upto Kovilpatti. I kept awake until 2 AM waiting for the Travelling Ticket Examiner to board our coach in Erode. That is when he told that "telescoping" facility has recently been scrapped and I need to take the tickets for the remaining travel from Madurai railway station. Even though the travel between Madurai and Kovilpatti was during the day and we were simply seated, we ended up paying a heavy sum as they would charge for berths. Similarly, there's a minimum fare to be paid even though the distance between Madurai and Kovilpatti is far shorter for that. More than the displeasure of having to pay a heavy sum, my disappointment at the scrapping of a rule that was based on sound rationale was immense. I was wondering how a "smart" person like our Railway Minister could've done this. This incident followed with more reports of change in rules like the introduction of a "cut" in the refund at the cancellation of even waitlisted tickets. On more thought, I realised that it's a clever ploy by the minister to increase the revenue without appearing "unpeople-friendly" as these technical rule changes would not get as much focus and press coverage as a raise in fares during a railway budget.

Monday, February 13, 2006

AJAXy Yahoo! Photos

Some cool AJAX work in the upcoming version of Yahoo! Photos. The demo that happened in Demo 2006 at Phoenix looks impressive.

Anthro dons a prediction hat

Anthroponym has predicted an upcoming Google-Microsoft fight on the Office turf. Going by past history when M$ created the legendary MS Word in response to Wordstar (a word-processing program of yesteryears), the users stand only to gain with this fight.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Human brain simpler than Microsoft Word?

Futurist Ray Kurzweil has claimed that human brain would be simpler than Microsoft Word! And he bases his conjecture on the fact that the brain's design is embedded in the genome, which itself is only between 30-40 million bytes of information - less than M$ Word. On the face of it, this looks very convincing. But, if we think deeper about it, the genome is more like a language definition, which may be a mere 30-40 million bytes, but the set of all valid constructs in the language can be indefinitely large. Interested people can read up this article on formal languages to find out how.

In plain terms, the genome itself may be small, it gives information about how to model the brain, but it is not the model for the brain itself. So, it is not as if a digital emulator program 40 MB long can act like a brain, it can only "manufacture" brain(s) if you have the "appropriate apparatus." I'm reminded of this quote by Carl Sagan: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

Update: Of course, the quoted word "apparatus" abstracts away a whole Universe by itself. People have talked about the biochemistry and biophysics involved in the making of the brain and much else.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cantor's diagonal argument in Tamil!

I consider Cantor's diagonal argument to be one of the most ingenious and beautiful methods of proof that humans have ever employed. I still remember the feeling of shock and awe that we were all struck with when Prof.Srinath completed explaining the proof in just a few minutes. It took sometime for the feeling to sink in.

While I was creating and editing all sorts of articles in Tamil Wikipedia including on topics like Brownian motion (), Colostrum (), Medical ultrasonography (), Venpa (), Colour blindness (), etc., the most satisfying (but possibly the least useful article without enough background material) was Cantor's diagonal argument in Tamil. Having learnt all my science and mathematics through the English medium, I found it hard to translate several technical terms into Tamil. Thankfully, there was a very comprehensive online dictionary from English to Tamil. Later, I also found that the Kerala state government has placed a number of their text books in several languages online, which were useful too. I don't know how useful these would be, but more accessible information won't hurt.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sanity is a belief

Sanity is a belief. It's malleable. It's a dualism of being statistical and not being statistical. Such were my thoughts on reading 1984. This book has set the bar too high for the best book that I'd read in my lifetime. A brilliant book that projects a consistent allegory, which doesn't seem like fiction at all, and complete to the point of defining a morphology and vocabulary for the synthetic language Newspeak of Oceania. Wonderful characterisations, beautiful prose, convincing arguments - so much so that you risk getting (self-)hypnotised into insanity! The author must have faced a wide range of human behaviour and should've thought very deeply about social systems. Wish he was alive for a few more years.

His other book Animal Farm was also excellent and got reminded of when Google updated its Ten Things, and more recently when they removed "democracy" from their policy. While "Animal Farm" was more about how social systems that start with an egalitarian motive end up becoming feudal, 1984 is about an interesting way in which a totalitarian regime could control the past and the future. A must read pair of books, I'd say.

Monday, January 23, 2006

All it takes

It takes an infected root canal to understand pain, accept your helplessness, philosophise maya, and appreciate the advancements in medical science and technology!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nice parody

After oil pulling, I guess, it's time for some "leg pulling". See this post by Yardley.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Open sesame - placebo or not?

There has been a spate of advertisements promoting "oil pulling" - gargling with sesame oil - as a "cure all" for humanity's diseases. Advertisements by a leading brand "Idhayam" in Tamil Nadu cite a study undertaken by Dr.Vetrivel. They subjected 22 subjects to "oil pulling" for about a month. Among other things, the study concludes that there was an increase of Haemoglobin level, a rise in WBC count, a fall in Eosinophil count, blood sugar level, urea, serum creatinine and cholesterol level in 12 subjects on an average! Patients reported deeper sleep, odour-free mouths, increased agility, reduced hypertension, better skin complexion and so on, the study claims.

This campaign has created a buying frenzy for "Idhayam Gingelly Oil" in the market. There could be no better way to increase the sales for a market leader than to increase consumption.

Economics apart, the purported study appeared too good to be true and I looked at it more deeply. One fallacy that I could find was that while they had a "control set" of subjects take up this treatment, they failed to have another control group undergo a treatment with a placebo to rule out placebo effect. But, still so many biochemical changes are unlikely to happen simply due to placebo effect. While I'd earlier vociferously defended Sesame oil's medicinal properties here, I was sceptical how mere gargling would cause so much biochemical effect. Partly out of curiosity and partly due to my father's insistence, I'm trying it for the past few days. The only notable thing I observe is a reduction in the amount of dental plaque. It's plausible given that oils are good solvents.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Why do I love Perl?

1. Perl is as much idiomatic as any natural language would be. In fact, it has admittedly received inspiration from Greek, and English among other languages like sed, awk, C and BASIC. It's a linguist's delight.
2. The language has a certain theme in design and consistence of philosophy despite having evolved chaotically.
3. The documentation has brilliant prose. A typical example would be this piece.
4. It has a wonderful community behind it who add to it's repertoire.
5. It's somewhat liberating to write text with Perl. It makes easy things easier, nothing impossible.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Amusing ...

Someone sent me this link. It was amusing to see that. Following are the screenshots for posterity. You can find them here and here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


The realisation was sudden when Vinoth asked me whether I've completed my second year in Yahoo! I'd completed precisely two years the day he asked. The two years were excellent and eventful.

On December 15, 2003, I joined Yahoo! as an intern. In the next few days was the year end party at "Club Cabana." I was pleasantly surprised that Jayanthi had arranged for my year-end gift - a music player - even though, they couldn't have planned one for me. After a full day of celebrations at Club Cabana, there were cultural events and I was merrily competing with the person seated next to me for the chicken pieces that were being passed around. Only when the awards ceremony came did I learn that this person was the CEO!

Soon after the chicken episode, I contracted chicken pox and was sick for over a month. When I returned, I was told that interns do not have the unlimited sick leave that employees do. I'd expected this a priori. But, two days later Jayanthi comes and tells me that they've decided to pay me the full stipend although I'd worked for merely 5 days or so!

Around the month of May, I'd developed a search-related hack (we don't have a 20% limitation :p) and was surprised to see the CEO coming down to my desk to see that. He offered several practical suggestions, I was looking at him wonderstruck. This is one of the biggest things that I feel extremely happy about - people are respected and every bit of their work is recognised. Soon after, on May 18, 2004, I was crossing the road and met Sridhar (then COO, now here) at the MG Road median. As we were waiting to cross the other lane, Sridhar asks casually if I'm taking up the offer from Yahoo! That was truly Yahoo!-style. I do not how many people got their job offers while crossing a road. I could only stammer "wh-y n-o-t?". On my request, they handed me the offer letter the next day and that became a perfect anniversary gift for my parents who were entering their 25th year together.

The next Monday, I became a full-time Yahoo! and was greeted with balloons tied to my cube walls and a basket full of chocolates at my desk. And ever since, it has been fun throughout. The organisation has grown more than three-fold here, but the basic culture has been organically maintained even while assimilating the increased diversity. The fun was all the more great when we worked on "cutting edge" technologies (literally) with hack saws and the drill-bit that our manager had brought for setting up a team stall for a recent internal event.

It's amazing to see how conversations that happen in the gym, lunchtable, or the corridor or rants vented out in random mailing lists result in newer products or features. An example would be how a lunchtable conversation with this "Big Guy" led him to staff a hack project. Also, having been in several teams, many of them horizontals, I'd had a chance to wow at the Life Engine that Yahoo! is.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Am I a warthog?

At least one guy thinks that I am a warthog (of course, with a disclaimer that he means no offence to warthogs) :p

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Outsourcing and Giffen effect

My brother who recently joined Delphi automotive Systems is worried about the recent bad news surrounding his company. I, being the primary influencer in his decision choosing Delphi over a couple of other companies, needed something to reassure him and myself. So, I decided to look into the future in a positive light.

Bad days at Delphi are due to high costs. Now, it has to cut costs and hence manpower. Counting on what Robert Giffen has wonderfully formalised (), I feel that there will actually be increase in both headcount and welfare measures to retain talent here in India even if the cost increases here in the future.

This case is analogous to the textbook example of potatoes and meat. In an economy where people eat potatoes and meat primarily (meat is costlier), when the buying power of the people reduces, they will cut down on meat consumption and compensate that with more potatoes even if the price of potatoes keeps increasing (of course, it should still be less than that of meat).

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Placenta recipe!

Never thought Wikibooks is this comprehensive!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Yahoo! hosts Wikipedia

Following is the news that delights me in multiple respects; first of all being a Wikipedian myself, second as I had a non-trivial role within Yahoo! in this happening.

Yahoo! Search will dedicate hardware and resources to support Wikipedia, a community based encyclopedia written and edited by people from around the world. In addition, Wikipedia content will become available to hundreds of millions of users worldwide through Yahoo! Search via shortcuts that are automatically displayed above the relevant search shortcuts.

"Yahoo! Search's support and vast user base will provide critical material aid and global reach for Wikipedia," said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikimedia Foundation. "Yahoo! has been Wikipedia's longest-standing corporate supporter and with this dedication of resources we will be able to offer Wikipedia content to a growing worldwide audience, while maintaining full flexibility in our ability to expand relationships and freely distribute our works."

"Wikipedia is one of the most recognized community-generated resources of its kind and it demonstrates the ability to create and manage a high quality content experience," said David Mandelbrot, vice president of search content at Yahoo!. "Supporting the expansion of this free service aligns with our objective to help people search for and use online content, while also encouraging the growth of communities where people can share and expand upon the growing collection of information on the Web."

Thursday, March 17, 2005


A rather unusual characterisation that I read:
Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. -- François duc de la Rochefoucauld

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The language of Love ...

As my script was running through gigabytes of data, spitting some weirdly encoded information, I was feeling very bored to sit staring at the monitor and running commands like "ps x", "ls -lh some_arbitrarily_long_path", zmore some_zip_archive etc for the umpteenth time just to see if the process (also me) is alive. Just then I got reminded that my friend had asked me to buy something from M.G. Road. Wow! What a wonderful reason to go to M.G. Road.

The timing could not have been more apt, it was 5:30 PM and a gentle drizzle had just stopped making the setting perfect. I walked along the pavement gazing at the huge buildings (believe me!), crossed the Mayo Hall and Symphony Cinema Hall and finally reached the opticals shop, all the while watching people and listening (no deliberate over hearing) to all the languages spoken in Bangalore. The crowd primarily consisted of young couples with dreamy eyes walking hand-in-hand, making hush-hush statements in mostly English. I was wondering if English is the lingua franca of 'modern day' Love or if these couples don't have a common native tongue.

I bought the contact lens cleaning solution and was returning back to my office on the opposite pavement. Long after the end of the 'colourful' Brigade Road area, my eyes caught the sight of a bright young couple standing in a place unusual for such meetings. The girl appeared to be highly animated, so I stopped for a while and watched. Having been exposed only to the good old Doordarshan and having been forced to watch every program relayed by them on Sundays including the 'News for the hearing impaired', I could recognise the sign language she was using. Oh! I realised that either the girl is dumb or the boy is deaf or both. The question I had about the language of Love is long gone from my mind as I walked back to my office ...

Monday, June 28, 2004

What if we could ...

... hibernate?
This was a pseudo-random thought that happened when I was chatting with my friend. First consequence I could think was that life (as in human life) would become a lot slower, because more and more people will start opting to hibernate to escape the troubles in life. The thought at the back of their minds would be that, "time as we define it, largely a creation of humans, has to move on, even if I as an individual don't exist for a few days and hence all the troubles have to move with passage of time". This is a logical extension to the thought behind drinking (alcohol, of course!). Escapism seems to be a basic human tendency (does it lead to the conclusion that humans are inherently weak?).

One mundane consequence of the trend towards hibernation would be that, companies may start giving hibernation vacations to employees!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Apparent altruism

Any body who has travelled on Airport Road (in Bangalore) to office would know how the traffic moves (or should I say it doesn't?) in the morning hours. One such morning, I was fortunate enough to get into a mini bus supposedly meant for the private use of a MNC, but was made available for the general public by the benevolent driver (of course, for a price!). As usual, the traffic was seemingly in a state of perennial infinite static inertia.

At this juncture, we heard the siren of an Ambulance van behind us. The remnant humanity in us plus the very nature of the siren made us look back anxiously. Our driver commented in Tamil that the ambulance driver seems to be inept in pushing aside other vehicles and moving ahead. As he was saying this, he started doing some exceptional driving stunts and after repeated honking, eye contacts with other drivers and some verbal abuse, he cleared the way for the ambulance and signalled the ambulance driver to go ahead.

I was overwhelmed emotionally on seeing his act just when he commented "every day if I get such an ambulance to tail behind, it would be great i.e. all signals will be thrown open for the ambulance, which can be exploited by me".

I sat speechless ...

Friday, June 11, 2004


Once I was chatting with my brother. We wondered if what I 'see' as green is same as what he 'sees' as green. We were all shown a particular colour (which we may perceive differently) and were taught the name of that colour. So, we all agree on what's green, for example. But, how do we perceive 'green'? What I perceive as green may be perceived by you as the equivalent of my 'blue'. How do we find out if our previous hypothesis is true or not? At that point of time we were not aware of Godel's incompleteness theorem; we almost reinvented it (though the essence of the theorem has been around for a long time in the metaphor 'kiNatruth thavaLai', a frog in a well).

Later, I suggested that if ever there's a poet who can describe the colours in a way even a person born blind can differentiate, then we can test the hypothesis by making the poet describe the colours (essentialy the poet's own perception) and we test if it matches our perception. Little did we realise then that, for this to be possible, either the poet has to break the incompleteness or colour of light should not be an orthogonal property (one which can't be expressed in terms of other properties). With my creative skill level at absolute zero, I am still wondering if someone who's blessed with such poetic skills can ever confirm or deny this fact ...

Besides colour is just another instance of human perception ...

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Oru kanam oru yugamaga...

... Something very tempting is close to your hands, too close to resist. Everyone in the bus is fast asleep. So is the girl next to you. You browse over her sub-thoracic region. There lies your object of desire. But, oh, all the moral instruction classes you had every Tuesday in your school tell you not to have it. You turn the other way around trying to fill your mind with something else, but to no avail. You suddenly feel that all that your moral strength can do is to delay your yielding to temptation for a few minutes more.

Time passes by. There's total silence. You start feeling something which you are not clear as to whether it's your heart beat or lung movement. Just as time is running out and you are almost sure of the ignominy that might follow if you yield to your temptation, the driver switches the lights on. Your pupils take some time to adjust to this. The conductor cries in a loud voice, "Salem! Salem! Get down". The girl gets up and runs to the door, with the object of your desire, a big size 'Dairy Milk Chocolate' in her pocket! You heave a sigh of relief, "what a difference between this moment and the moment before!" The bus moves on...