Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gems I StumbledUpon

Human stupidity is now a serious study.

But have you ever wondered how Google manages to serve up the best possible search results? In compliance with SEC guidlines, last April the guys at Mountain View disclosed a few details about their technology. Amazing, isn't it?

And as a parting shot, if you are cribbing about your job as you read this, thank god that you are not of these guys!

Order! Order!

It's quarter to twelve in the morning and greater forces are hard at work to make me hungry. What should I order for lunch? This? This? Or this?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Woody Allen Quotes

There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?

Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.

To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.

What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

When I was kidnapped, my parents snapped into action. They rented out my room.

Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?

You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.

What if nothing exists and we're all in somebody's dream? Or what's worse, what if only that fat guy in the third row exists?

More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won't get much sleep.

It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gems From India

Kodak, Fujifilm, Pepsi, Cock, Soda, Leman.
Signboard of Akash Audio and Cold Drink Shop, somewhere between Uttarkashi and Gangotri

Remove Outer Packing Before Consumption
Printed on plastic that is used to individually wrap Britannia Processed Cheddar cheese slices

Ya malik kyon banaya motor banane wale ko?
Ghar se beghar kar diya motor chalane wale ko.
[Attempted translation]
Oh Master why did you make the car makers?
You took car drivers from their homes and made them homeless.

Sticker on dashboard of taxi, Bombay.

Life is precious, don’t give up, try once more, try us.
Ad for a 'suicide' clinic, seen at Kalighat Metro Station , Kolkata

Frigid Corporation
An aircon shop near Dover Lane

Name of a furniture store in New Alipore.

Pent House
On the sign-board of a paint shop in Selimpur

Don't whistle at the girl going out from here. She may be your Grandmother!!
Sign on a famous beauty parlor window:

Those....drinking to forget... please pay in advance.
Sign in a bar

Success is relative. More the success, more the relatives.
Seen on a bulletin board

Cholonto dhaatu
Heard at IIT Kanpur from Hall 5 jonota, Progressive Rock, ie.

Dhora porley Dhononjoy..naah porley enjoy.
SMS text msg

Jaata obostha...oshomoy-ey maa hoyey gelum.
[(Attempted translation]
In dire straits, have gained motherhood at wrong age)
Girl calling up home from Delhi after M.A. exams)

Show-case-e bhodrolok
Godown-e goonda
From political campaign poster pasted on a JU canteen wall

She turns me on.
A 48 year old man on why he prefers Mallika Sherawat to Aishwarya Rai (on Radio City 91 FM)

God is love. Fixed price.
Asha Saree Centre, Gariahat

Biyebaarir doi, Banglar koi;
Shobai kheye bole, bor-bou koi?
Sales pitch for 'Dushtur Mishti Doi', sweet-yougurt flavoured candy, 234 Bus, Calcutta

Entering and playing by non-authorized persons is strictly prohibited.
Notice posted at Gate No. 3, Jadavpur University.

Why can't my son answer the English deparment admission test in Bengali?
Insistent parent at Presidency College, Kolkata

Is it absolutely necessary for my daughter to come for her admission test herself?
Asked by confused parent trying to submit admission form, heard at Presidency College, Kolkata

"Go see a shrimp!"
helpful advice from a friend over MSN.

Electricity theft is a crime. Do not be a hooker.
Placards put up by the CESC, seen all over Calcutta

It is far better to be pissed off than to be pissed on.
People tell you to trust your gut feeling; until you realise that your gut has no feeling.
The mind is like a drunken monkey. If you titillate it, it wants to get higher.
Heard in Kolkata

Ees Your Tooths Strongaar Than My Feest?
Exchange in a Calcutta minibus fight

Trinamool, Padma phool.
Before election, beuatiful.
After election, April fool.
Election related graffiti seen off Gurusaday Road, Kolkata

Bankura sohorrey Booby asee-chey! Lach-lachi tey Rissi Kapur, dholla-dholi tey Dim-paull . Bisess akorsson! Bisess akorsson! Leddiss der jonno pissup er alada byabostha achchi!
[Attempted ranslation: Bobby is coming to Bankura. Dirty dancing, Rishi Kapoor! Steamy sex, Dimple! Special attraction!!! Special attraction!!! There's a separate place for women to piss!)
Movie promotional campaign in Bankura

TMC candidate, Mamata Banerjee
Press this botom.
Election-related Graffiti seen near Rabindra Sarobar, Kolkata

Monday, August 21, 2006


TOI's headline for a Ganesh idol arrival newsphoto.
"Ganesha begins his annual trunk call."
Makes me wince that I used to read this paper once.


After some 'inspired' posts, here's a real one.

Last night we celebrated Mi's birthday at S and Mi's place (corny as it sounds). Hoping we will have a chicken dinner, thanks to D's condition, we had carried a bottle of Sula white. Which we promptly polished off. And that's when the Bengali curse of alcohol-at-any-cost got the better of subtler points about the correct way of drinking wine. Throwing the menu to the wind, we opened another bottle of Shiraz red and polished off that too.

We exchanged vacation snaps, found new ways to download/exchange/post more vacation snaps. Plans are afoot to make a vacation 'film' with jpegs, grainy videos and 'post' interviews. Dunno how it will turnout. But it should be edgy, hilarious and creepy. That's my brief. (Note to myself: learn how to use MovieMaker)

Mc came back home with us last night. Was very sleepy and groggy on the way back, thanks to all those wines mixed up. Was still feeling sleepy this morning and the rest of the day. Which immediately reminds me of a bad thing I caused this morning. G insists it's ok and nothing to feel perturbed about. But thanks to a quasi-Freudian feeling, I am in a tearing hurry to fix it. Clean it. Erase all trace of it.

Methinks, I am going mad.

I Love Controversies

Moral maze at the heart of one man's small judgment
By Simon Barnes, Chief Sports Writer at the Oval
The Times August 21, 2006

IN EVERY walk of life, there are offences that are against the law and there are offences that contravene a higher morality. To be caught speeding is regarded as rotten luck, too bad, too many rotten cameras. Driving while seriously drunk is (these days) regarded as an immoral act: irresponsible to the point of wickedness.

Cricket is tremendously keen on the higher morality. That is why controversies in cricket are so virulent, so far-reaching, and raise such extraordinarily high emotions. Yesterday, a small judgment about a small infringement of the laws created a day of outrage, distress and fury at the Brit Oval yesterday.

Pakistan were not accused of ball-tampering yesterday. They were judged and found guilty by the umpire, Darrell Hair, as they sought to halt England’s second-innings resurgence. This is a profoundly serious business in cricketing terms. It is not like calling a woman a tease. It is like calling her a whore. Well, there are women who are whores, but you’d better be bloody sure of your facts before making the accusation.

It’s not the legality of her actions you are calling into question, but the morality. Pakistan were punished not for breaking the law but for — as cricketing people see it — attempting to subvert the higher morality of sport and human conduct. No wonder there is a fair amount of distress.

There is inevitably an undercurrent of racism here. Pakistan is regarded by some people in cricket as a nation addicted to ball-tampering. Pakistan players have been reprimanded and punished by fines and suspensions for the crime before. There is inevitable resentment at this. Pakistan feel hard done by: that they have been punished not on action but reputation.

For the first time in cricket history, a Test team have conceded five penalty runs to the opposition for the crime of tampering with the ball. Interestingly, five is also the number of penalty runs a fielding side concedes if the ball strikes a discarded helmet. But striking the helmet is not regarded as an immoral act, while tampering with the ball is an instant scandal. More than in any other sport, there is a requirement that cricketers act not according to the laws but to a higher morality.

A fielder who falsely claims a catch is regarded as a cheat. He is not clearly breaking a law, but his action is seen as immoral. Scuffing up the pitch to help your own side’s bowlers is regarded as — well, a bit naughty. It’s done with the same intention as roughing up the ball: to give your side a bit of an edge. It is also illegal. It is less certain, and so is regarded as a venial rather than a mortal sin.

But tamper with the ball and the consensus is that you are tampering with the very essence of cricket. This is a very curious and strong reaction. Cricketers play with the ball all the time: polishing one side of it, drying it, spitting on it, rubbing sweat into it, cleaning dirt from the seam. You are allowed to alter the condition of the ball in a manner unthinkable in baseball.

But cricket has carried its heavyweight moral baggage since it was regarded as essential to forming the moral characters of potential Empire-builders. That is why, when the line is crossed from cleaning and polishing the ball to picking of the seam, raising the quarter-seam and roughing up the ball, the offence is regarded as destructive not just of cricket balls but of cricket — and by extension, of morality itself. From there, it is but a short step to say that: well , the Pakistanis have never had any regard for morality. This is a particularly bad time in the context of the great world outside sport to be implying such a thing. No wonder, then, that deep offence has been taken.

One of the reasons for the deep emotional response to ball-tampering is the fact that if it is well done, by both tamperer and bowler, it is extremely effective. Yesterday, the ball had, indeed, begun to reverse swing, which is a devastating ploy when carried out by a suitably devastating bowler. But when it is achieved by illegal means, it is regarded, simply enough, as not cricket.

Not cricket! What a wealth of genuine decency, oppressive rigidity, moral confusion and out-and-out hypocrisy has been inspired by that phrase! And how curious to think that the breaking of one law of a game (but not another) is regarded not as naughty but as genuinely degenerate.

Players from all over the world, England included, have messed about with the ball since time and cricket began. Ball-tampering is part of cricket, a bad part, and therefore it needs policing. And it has indeed been policed. But because it is regarded morally — though not legally — as one of cricket’s greatest possible crimes, the reaction is out of all proportion to the punishment.

All this, Hair, the umpire at the sharp end of this extraordinary incident, knew when he made his decision. He knew it was nothing like telling a batsman: look, you got a touch, you should have walked, now I’m telling you to go. He knew that it was going to cause a massive rumpus. He knew he was calling the Pakistan players the equivalent of a whore.

He also knew the scandal he would cause by refusing to come out and umpire a game when two teams and several million people were ready to carry on. Was it a taste for drama in a drama-prone man? Was it demoniacal moral rigidity? Was he standing unforgivably on his dignity? Or was he right about the decision he made?

Sky, not short of cameras or curiosity, was unable to find any footage of a guilty player doing some sneaky thing to the ball. All we have, then, is Hair’s judgment: Hair’s punishment: Hair’s abdication: Hair’s creation of one the great periodic scandals in cricket history. All I can say is that he’d bloody well better be bloody well sure that he was bloody well right.

Attack on Inzy's 'izzat' was the final straw
By Mihir Bose

At the heart of the crisis that hit the Oval Test are two simple factors. The first and overriding one is that the relationship between the Pakistan cricket team and the Australian umpire Darrell Hair has completely broken down. Indeed Hair is the 21st century equivalent of David Constant, the English umpire through the 1980s who so infuriated Pakistan that it led their captain at the time, Imran Khan, to call for neutral officials.

The other is that Hair's action in deciding that the Pakistanis had tampered with the ball, though without naming a player who might have been responsible, meant that for the Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul-Huq, it was not merely a questionable decision but a slur on the entire team and therefore the whole nation.

As far as Inzaman was concerned, what Hair was doing was to call into question his own, and Pakistan's, izzat.

Izzat is an Urdu word that can be translated as 'honour', but it means much more than that, and izzat is a much prized comodity in the subcontinent. It is something that Inzamam, a quiet, deeply religious man, values highly.

Inzamam is one of those Pakistanis who passionately believes that a man can lose everything he has, including his life - but not his izzat. For him, the manner in which Hair took the decision as much as the decision itself meant that Inzamam's personal izzat, and that of his beloved Pakistan, had been besmirched.

It was in order to assert that he and his team were still honourable that the Pakistanis decided that they would delay their entry on to the field after tea for a few minutes to signify their protest and reclaim some virtue.

Unfortunately, this protest backfired.

Hair took it as a sign that the Pakistanis were threatening not to play. He came off the field and, going to the Pakistani dressing room, told Inzamam that if his team did not take the field as the umpires walked out again they would forfeit the match.

While this was entirely correct according to the rules of the game, the manner in which Hair delivered the ultimatum further infuriated the Pakistanis. Still recovering from being seen as men without honour, they felt further humiliated, and for some time stood shocked in their dressing room wondering what was going on.

As they did so, Hair and Billy Doctrove walked out on to the field of play - followed by the England batsmen - and then decided the Pakistanis were not coming and so took off the bails. It was only after they had returned to the pavilion that a still bewildered Inzamam started to lead his team out, only to find that the umpires had walked off and were not coming back.

In the Pakistanis' eyes, if Hair's initial decision was a slur on their nation, then his subsequent warning that they would forfeit the match was hugely insensitive.

All this would not have mattered had Hair got on with the Pakistanis. Imran used to say, comparing Constant with Dickie Bird, that Bird also made mistakes but unlike Constant did not rub the players up the wrong way. Players accepted his decisions even when they did not like them because they liked the man.

Not so with Hair. Pakistan and Hair have a history going back several years.

A story common in Pakistan cricket is that back in the mid-1990s, on a tour of Australia, Hair lectured the then Pakistan captain and told him: "I hope you people will not in this series carry on appealing like monkeys."

This may be an apocryphal story, but it is one that is widely believed in Pakistani cricket and, of course, has racial overtones.

Things worsened during last winter's tour of Pakistan by England, which Hair also umpired and where some of his decisions did not please the Pakistanis. They made their feelings about the matter very clear.

So the Pakistanis were most surprised when they found that Hair was to umpire in this series.

His appointment raises questions about the choice of umpires made by the cricket department of the ICC headed by former South Africa wicketkeeper David Richardson. Some Pakistanis are all too ready to see a conspiracy here. This may be fanciful, but it exposes the curious nature of inter-national cricket, where the ICC have nothing like the power that Fifa have in world football. They appoint umpires and match referees but the match is basically between the two countries and while the match referee can sanction players, it is the umpires that are supreme and whose authority cannot be questioned.

The ICC are powerless, and this match may expose that cruelly.

Spirit of sport defeated by pride and prejudice
By Derek Pringle

England (173 and 298-4) beat Pakistan (504) after Pakistan forfeited the match.

Pride, principle and prejudice replaced runs, wickets and catches as the final Test of the summer reached an extraordinary climax at the Oval.

With one official day to go, Pakistan, on top here since Thursday morning, traded their winning position in favour of making a protest after the match umpires had punished them for ball tampering in mid-afternoon. But it was not just about them and by the close there was the farcical situation of the umpires refusing to restart play despite Pakistan having been persuaded to soften their original stance.

The controversy spoilt the day for the 23,000 sell-out crowd, who should have been kept informed. Inevitably there were boos and some parts of the crowd threw their beer into the outfield when play was eventually called off at 6.25pm. With 12,000 tickets already sold for today, and with cricket's reputation at stake, the match needs to be resumed, weather but not light permitting, at 11am.

The nature of Pakistan's stand-off first became apparent when Inzamam-ul-Haq and his team failed to appear at 4.40pm, the official restart time after a period of bad light, and some 70 minutes after umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove penalised the visitors five runs and changed the ball.

It was that initial incident that proved the tipping point. England were 230 for three at the time and still 101 runs from making the visitors bat again, when the umpires saw fit to confiscate the original ball and replace it with another in the 56th over. Umar Gul had just bowled the previous over and his instant withdrawal from the attack pointed to his guilt as the culprit, though there was no immediate evidence to back this up.

Kevin Pietersen, at the crease at the time, was given the choice of choosing which ball Pakistan should continue with (a playing condition agreed by both sides), though there was some irony in that when he was dismissed with it 50 balls later for 96.

Pakistan have previous form when it comes to ball tampering, with Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younis given short bans for doing it, but most teams are guilty. Unfortunately, the stigma attached to it means that the very public action of the umpires was tantamount to an accusation of cheating, a humiliation for Pakistan and their captain in front of such a large audience.

According to the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Shahryar Khan, the intention of his team was to delay coming on to the field by five minutes, so that the crowd knew there was a protest being lodged. But if that were true, why did Inzamam and his players fail to appear when the umpires, this time with England's not-out batsmen, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, tried to restart play for a second time 15 minutes later?

That second no-show led Hair and Doctrove to remove the bails. It was a move that many felt meant Pakistan had forfeited the match, though surely they would have removed the stumps as well if that were the case. Pakistan's protest, which had many sympathisers, looked resolute until some behind-the-scenes diplomacy saw them take the field on their own at 5.25pm, though by then the umpires - perhaps sensing a U-turn would compromise their own sense of pride - refused to join them.

The presumed ogre in all this is Hair, the big umpire with a correspondingly big ego. He is a fine umpire but has been involved in all manner of controversy over the years and is stubborn to the point of intransigence. Many sides feel he is prejudiced and it is no secret that Pakistan had complained to the International Cricket Council about him after the series against England last November, over what they see as bias against them.

Those concerns appear to have fallen on deaf ears at the ICC, for Hair has umpired two matches this series. More likely, though, is the ICC's pathological fear of setting a precedent - for once one country is able to influence which umpires can or cannot stand, the floodgates are open.

The umpires' refusal to stand is not without precedent and Arthur Fagg and Shakoor Rana are two other umpires who went on strike during Test matches. Rana's protest was over the infamous finger-jabbing incident with Mike Gatting in 1987, while Fagg's stance came after the West Indies had criticised him for giving Geoff Boycott not out during the Edgbaston Test of 1973.

Hair's feelings, and he will maintain he has played it by the book, should not really be part of the equation. ICC have five officials present at every Test and match referee Mike Procter should simply have replaced him and Doctrove, if he was in sympathy with his colleague, with the third and fourth umpires present and got on with the game.

Hair could and should have played it differently. Unless he saw a player deliberately altering the condition of the ball, it is difficult to claim tampering by condition alone. While there appeared to be scuffs and striations when television zoomed in on the ball, Pietersen and Alastair Cook could have caused those when hitting it into boundary boards and beyond.

There was also no context for Hair to suddenly stop play. There had not been any massive reverse-swing, though Cook will claim the yorker that upended him swung a touch. There should also have been more sensitivity and Hair could just as easily have dealt with his suspicions at the end of play.

The playing conditions allow for protest, provided it is not permanent, with the time off the field getting added on. It has happened in the past, with the West Indies refusing to take the field against New Zealand in the acrimonious 1979-80 series. The game got finished, but the bad blood between the sides persisted for another decade.

Ironically, given the history of conflict between the two sides, this is not a result of animosity between the sides. In fact, relations have been good, which is why the umpires, sole arbiters of what happens on the field, should be by-passed now, so that spirit can be upheld.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Looks like the first shots have been fired in the War Against CapsLock. Come to think of it, who needs CapsLock when you type everything in lower case anyway, especially in informal emails and IM programs.

Death to CapsLock! Join 'em here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Stumble Mumble

I have discovered StumbleUpon. From now on I will entertain your otherwise sad, sorry, mundane electronic existences with bursts of Internet brilliance and spice up your otherwise dumb lives. I know that none of you ever visit Shundi any longer. In case you do, you prefer to keep your gab trap shut like a 60-year old spinster's orifice. So from now on, I will insult your devolved state of cyber existence with this pearls like these.

The first of the two. The Big Lebowski Random Quote Generator. And the second is despair. Serves you right.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Of Blogs, MSM, Rants and Raves

If you thought blogs were just about finding an outlet for your less-pluralist points of view, you are so jurassic. There is a new kind of blogging in the air. It incorporates a bit of yellow journalism and penny press with the old-fashioned peer-group talk board. Case in point: War For News.

It is a cut-throat, take-no-prisoners, uncensored insider story on the electronic media...specifically, the three English news channels, CNN-IBN, NDTV and Times Now. And with an ocassional rant about CNBC-TV18, Headlines Today and the vernacular channels. (There is obviously a class struggle, even in our quasi-leftist media!)

Going by the kind of insider information that gets posted in this blog, the three anonymous bloggers obviously work for the first two channels. On a good post you will find internal memos from Rajdeep Sardesai, inside scoops on which well-known business anchor can't stand the sight of another leading anchor who also happens to be the wife of the Managing Editor. The posts go down as far as 'incidents in the terrace' involving well-known faces.

But what is of obvious interest is the kind of dirty competition that goes on behind the glossy graphics and signature tunes that greet us every day on the telly. Strangely, War for News is visited by every member of the electronic news media fraternity, including the top ones. And I am talking posts by the likes of Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami. Which anchor looks tired on screen, which Managing Editor will stop at nothing to get a story, which lead anchor sucks, who threatened to quit...nothing is taboo.

What we are seeing is the Stardust-ification of the blog. The debates are hardly about which channel is good or which program is making a difference. Personal reputations are torn apart, rumors surface and die. And it all happens in a very public forum much similar to ones that these scribes attach themselves to. Only this time, they are the lead story.

Albeit, the 'readership'/'viewership' of this blog is nothing compared to that of the MSM (mainstream media). But the eyeballs who matter are there. And it's only a matter of time before it's gets into public domain.

Which brings us to the bigger question. How long is it before we see a similar thing being replicated in another industry. Imagine a blog for the doctors in Mumbai, or a rant and rave address for the film-industry. Imagine you can write whatever you want. There's no fear of a defamation suit or a black list. It's a twin-edged sword. No misdeed will go unpunished/unpublished. And no reputation is unquestionable.

As an aside, the Indian government is planning to give accreditation to bloggers. The US Govt. already does.

Move over MSM. You are yesterday's news, before you can say 'breaking news'.