October 29, 2005

Big Kahuna

The much hyped Hotmail beta looks way too much like the default Zope/Plone interface. Other than on the odd weblog or two, I just cannot stand layouts comprising vast expanses of white, broken up by grey text and pastel colour borders. Even for someone like me, who has pretty okay eyesight, the interface is very confusing to use for the lack of clear demarcations.

Moreover, there is nothing great the beta has added to the product and if the Microsoftians think this is going to grab the e-mail market by its balls and give Gmail a run for its money, they don't understand the first thing about the balls they are dealing with. Psst.. it does not work on Firefox either. At least not yet.

October 28, 2005

Bloogle

Honestly, the Blogger posting interface sucks. It takes forever to load even on a fast connection and even with their clunky interfaces, I lean more towards using the API clients like Wbloggar and Qumana for my posting needs. But using these clients gives portability a huge hit. Basically, I am stuck to the same machine if I have to keep working on my post over a day/ number of days.

An alternative to this is to use the drafts feature in Gmail, now even more funkified with its auto-save feature, and use the mail-to-blog option in Blogger to post straight to the blog. The only issue is that you cannot edit posts via email on Blogger. Maybe Google should dump the blogger interface, integrate it into Gmail and make even more money by showing text links in the compose window.

With time, Gmail has actually become more of an information organiser than an email client for me. I use extensive filtering and labelling to manage my different email accounts, to-do notes and almost always a compose tab is open with random notes, numbers etc that I can use through the day. Looks like I can now check mail, keep notes, post to my blog, from a single interface. Not bad, huh?

October 27, 2005

Signaling Noise

You cannot ever underestimate the value of nicely padded noise canceling headphones if you sit right next to the travel desk in office. Note to Motheater & Mangs: If I am not married to the black contraption, at this rate, I would pretty soon end up being the de facto authority on airline bookings in India. The levels of euphoria have come down a little bit from the giddying heights it had hit in the morning following the exciting development of the day. There is talk of merry making somewhere south-side in the evening, but after yet another late night out in the city, I am not too sure if my system can take the abuse via the use of even more alcohol. These are exciting times indeed.

October 26, 2005

Google Blaze

Why, but why would information on Ta-da Lists be worth millions unless you can't marry the problem (which is a requirement in this case) to the solution (which is a solutions service provider)? It would be nice, from a voyeuristic point of view, to know what Noname1 or Noname2 wants to do first thing come tomorrow morning, but other than for a behavioural sciences geek the data by itself would be of little value. In any case, even if you preside over the wedding, are you allowed to expose personal data in such a manner in the first place?

Nightmare scenario:

On Joe Husband's Tadalist:

Urgent: Remember to figure out what to buy for Sexy Secretary at work on her birthday.

Note: DO NOT tell the missus about it.

On Mary Wife's Google Base:

Excellent at helping men pick gifts for women. Only 2% of gift value charged as consulting fees.

Alert on Joe Husband's Tadalist: Low rates from new gift picker in the market, click to find out.

Two hours later, Joe Husband is happy with his purchase, Mary Wife's happy with her spare cash and Sexy Secretary is beaming about her perfect birthday gift. All is beautiful on planet convergence located in the Web 2.0 galaxy till Mary Wife takes a closer look at the transaction details in her Google Base account. Something looks very familiar, something looks very fishy.

Uh oh.

October 24, 2005

Run

Considering that I have managed to seriously fuck up my stomach over the weekend, it would come as no surprise that I am having an indifferent start to the week. To add to my woes, in one quick swipe, a lot of the clarity that I gleaned over the past couple of months seems to have been replaced by a feeling of walking round and round in concentric circles. Somehow I had expected a pristine and complication-less version of my life to manifest itself, once I had decided to dump a lot of my earlier baggage and moved on. Instead, I ran into some of my age old issues, of being able to walk the fine line between being too free and too dependent, the realisation of which dawned rather unceremoniously late on me. I am sick of fighting these battles over and over again. Seriously, there should be some way out of this conundrum.

How do you really 'settle down' in life? Is there a single point or an event, like a bomb going off or your eardrums getting blocked, which signifies that fork in the road? I have thought about this countless times and I just cannot seem to find any answer for it. For me, life would be wonderful if I can live it the way I want to live it and if I could sneak someone else into that life, without any major changes. Of course, I do know that I am sounding like yet another inflexible moronic alpha male, but I don't need anyone permanent in my life to buy my groceries, wash my clothes or cook my food everyday. If I were to consider long term, what matters for more for me is the mind and I can't run around forever keeping myself lowest in my list of priorities. The only problem is that other than these odd moments, clarity is an elusive state for my ridiculously fucked up mind.

Looking at things from that point of view, I do have a problem. In fact, I have many problems, but this one is particularly bad. Emotionally, I tend to spread myself over a handful of people to meet my needs. At this point, it is irrelevant whether that is morally right or wrong, but one thing that is clear is that it is quite detrimental towards being in something stable/steady. I mean, hello, it is so clearly counterproductive. But to get to know different people is so intrinsic to my being that without it life would become even more dull and drab. It is all so very confusing, yet so very real too. So I need to be looking out for something where I'd have the freedom to do all of this and yet not have to try hard to be in it. Which begs the question, then why do you need something stable and steady at all in the first place? Welcome my dear friend to my crazy, mad world.

Strangely enough, what triggered off this long boring post was Rachel Kramer Bussel's latest column on her having stayed off sex for close to three months and the surprising revelations that it has led to. The interesting part is not that she has not had sex for a long time, but why she has not had it. There is neither a lack of (sexually) interesting people nor a lack of opportunities that has led to her dry run, but the longing for sex which is better than just good sex. In normal parlance this is called emotional involvement, where the entire act has dimensions beyond the physical and there lingers the promise of an interesting involvement, which might trickle on, effortlessly, in the bed and outside it, into the long-term. In an age where even married couples are some of the most lonely people on earth, is it wrong to stick it out for your concept of the (probably unrealistic) ideal?

Update: Haloscan seems to have conked off for some reason. My heartfelt apologies if your comment has disappeared. Thanks, Syl & WillO for the heads up.Update 2: With the work around noted here, it seems to be working now.

October 21, 2005

Seven Seasons

The problem with a to-do list is that you are jacked pretty bad if you forget to check the list on a daily basis, which happens to me with an unfailing degree of regularity. This is even more irksome because the new jig means that I have to keep track of a lot of things and it is not funny to chance upon tasks you should have finished off much earlier. Right now I am using Microsoft Outlook's Tasks and Notes features. But these are not available to me outside the office because of the way our Exchange server is configured and the online services that are there, which can be subscribed as an RSS feed, is not quite up to scratch when it comes to ease of use. I will have to try some other way to sort out this issue.

In other news, the house is still a mess. All my things are either packed into different bags or piled up on beds and chairs. For someone like me, who is very finicky about what goes where and cleanliness in general, that is a hugely depressing thing to come home to. I have to get that fixed over the weekend. That, though, has not stopped me from finishing off watching my friend's box set of Sex and the City. The end was a bit disappointing even if they managed to make Carrie look much better than her usual rag doll self in the last two seasons. Still, it was sad to watch Big being anything but his obnoxious but sweet self and Miranda (my favourite) developing traits of correctness. They all grew up over a change of DVDs. Not fair at all!

October 19, 2005

Cold

There is a sheet of searing, fuzzy lightness over everything and an overwhelming tinge of exhaustion that flavours all things concerned. I wish I could run behind the wall of the mild morning fog and stay away forever. The light above me, shaped like a big inverted handle-less teacup, flickers, subtly displaying numerous variations of its creamy white light, while Juana Molina's dreamy voice sings No Es Tan Cierto into my ears. Conversations by random people around me sneak in like a cold draft emerging from under a fragile door in a closed room. I should embrace the darkness and kiss the salty remains from my soul as winter sets in once again. This is going to be yet another long night.

October 17, 2005

Emotional Prostitution

One of the things that I look forward to while driving to work in the morning is the free copy of Hindustan Times they hand out at the toll booth if you make it early enough (till 9:00 AM?). Not that it makes much of an economic difference, but it is still gives me something novel to look forward to. At least on days like these, when my house has been turned upside down with some much-needed maintenance, the freebie and the foggy flyway corridor make for excellent excuses to start early for work.

DNA's RSS Feeds page does not list my favourite section of the site -- After Hrs. You can grab the URL for the section's feed by hacking the existing URL a bit and drown in the pleasures of very nicely done slushy soft journalism. I am assuming that they are using a lightweight version of the framework used to power the old jig, thus enabling the access (copy the catID from the section and use it in an existing feed) to the 'hidden' feeds. Carrying over the framework's legacy, there is no auto-discovery on the site either.

It started as one of those very geeky sci-fi jokes, but these days I am very much tempted to believe in the vision of the future where you can rent 'experiences' for the lack of time. For a certain fee, you can sign up at 'experience providers' for given periods of time. The range of experiences could range from having a family to being a business tycoon. Imagine how convenient it could be if you could swipe your credit card and do two hours of quality husband-wife time without the problems that come with being actually married?

Think of it as emotional prostitution on steroids. The employees, obviously, would have to be actors. It could even be called as an opt-in version of the The Truman Show . Money, of course, would be a major sore point. But we are talking here about a luxury that is on the scale of owning a yacht or a private jet. It would alter your reality for a certain period of time, but I think it could be quite healthy too. Take some two hours off and you are back on your feet, minus all those irritating emotional cravings.

October 15, 2005

Not One of Those Things

Note to self: When you do not find even a single good point in a movie's trailer, it is generally considered a safe idea to give the actual movie a miss. Additionally, I should remember to not line up to watch a movie just because I am fascinated at that time by the movie title's subject matter -- Things To Do Before You Are 30. Dark, Brit humour, on the lines of Snatch? Perish the thought. This is one movie that will have you cringing in the aisles for a) having wasted Rs 150 b) for frantically searching for something to like in the movie due to point 'a' c) for not having listened to others who wanted to watch Monster In Law. Enough said.

October 14, 2005

Of Herds

One of the first things they try to teach you in journalism schools and the jobs that come after that is to take your job very seriously. Then written word, even in print, has permanence and consequences. The same holds true even in the online sphere. Still, there seems to be this attitude about things online, be it blogs, message boards and other community-oriented activities, that the medium being new and powerful excludes it from the normal rules. I have a great degree of discomfort when it comes to dealing with such an attitude, because this is precisely the thing that would lead to its downfall, laying to waste one of the most promising things that I have come across in a long time.

I have been writing on this blog since late 2001 and on various other platforms before that. The major part of my career has been spent in different capacities in the online realm and in the previous job and the current one I have been nurturing and dealing with what we call in the industry "user generated content." So I can say with a fair bit of certainty that I kind of know what I am talking about here. And one thing that I have seen time and again is that people always confuse freedom of expression with the freedom from responsibilities. There is this feeling that having the browser between you and the reader somehow empowers you to say anything and then not have any responsibility towards what you just said.

Mind you, this responsibility covers things more just commenting on public issues or public figures. It is very much valid for your personal life too. Since Google has a pretty good memory, the chances are that once you put something in the public sphere, your lovers (former and current), parents might get to read it. The medium being the internet does not protect you from that possibility and anonymity on the internet has been one of the greatest myths of our time. If you can't stand behind what you said and accept all of its consequences (like lovers deserting you and mothers finding out about your latest kink), don't put it out there because the data will live on for a long long while, even after you are dead and gone.

Freedom of expression is not being able to say whatever you want to say. Freedom of expression is being able to say what you want to say, knowing fully well the consequences of your actions. Freedom of expression does not mean that people won't react to what you just said. In a free country, people have an equally valid right to react as it is valid for you to express yourself. Freedom of expression does not guarantee that blogging being the next earth shattering revolution will protect you from hooliganisitc behaviour by the bad boys when you rub them the wrong way. Freedom of expression does not mean that blogging is exempt from the normal rules. Wake up, it is about time you smelled the coffee.

I do not have anything against stings, exposes and passionate writing on serious subjects. What I dislike is the lack of seriousness the bloggers seem to have when it comes covering these topics. Seriously, was anyone expecting the unruly crowd to send a "thank you" note when they were exposed? Ask any investigative journalist and they would tell you that it is a tough life. Bad boys are precisely what they are because they don't play nice, if you were surprised by the reaction, then, like I said before, you don't take what you do seriously enough. Same goes for the most of the easily excited crowd who seem to believe that showing support buttons on their blogs will sort out the situation.

If the legal notices are indeed serious enough and the case goes to court, 50,000 buttons on a similar number of blogs won't make even a bit of a dent in the proceedings. Even with the comical nature of the notices, you have to keep in mind that legal system and law enforcement in India is still struggling to grasp even a basic concept of how things happen online. Beyond all the frantic chest beating and button making, nobody seems to have given much of a thought about what can actually be done if the case does go to court. Can we please get beyond the "outraged" feelings which seem to fill page after page of Indian bloggers these days? It has happened people and it will happen again, please do get over it.

It is no great secret that I am not too fond of the herd mentality in blogosphere. I dislike the manner by which how numbers add up to help erode the freedom and independence that made blogging attractive in the first place. In any case I am not a very social person, which is a stronger factor than the dislike I have for crowds that get easily excited. In the early days it is good fun. I have also had my fair share of overheated arguments on the blog, but eventually we all need to grow up at some point and learn to take a few breaths before we push the publish button. Blogging already has a major problem with its perception as a fad. The herd mentality, sadly, only adds to it.

October 13, 2005

Friend

Watching two seasons of Sex and the City on the trot can have weird effects on your thought process. Your association with normal brands is quietly replaced by names like Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and Prada. And yes, I am a complete footwear freak, even if I don't own or wear much else other than my really cheap and really shabby collection. Of course, you could argue that such a situation would make me anything but a shoe freak, but I do beg to differ. And then flares up the latent desire to redo your place on the lines of Bill's hacienda in Kill Bill vol. 2, ably assisted by my fondness for minimalistic furniture and stucco walls. Fantasy, obviously, has no limits.

We all love to identify with characters. Otherwise, there would really be scant importance for fiction in our lives. In fact, importance in itself is such a contextual concept. Still, we deem it important at times to to step away from what we are for various reasons. We extend ourselves over time, mutate and morph into shades and shapes we have seen in others, read in books and dictated by shrinks. And one day, quite unexpectedly, you come across a piece of paper or an old favourite poem and all the layers acquired through the years strip away, exposing a face in the mirror you could never mutilate. The old feelings come back and you reacquaint yourself with your oldest friend - fate.

October 11, 2005

Dissent

Following an interesting IM conversation with FullTP in the morning, who has come out partially out of his blog hiatus, I found myself talking about about my pet peeve -- dissent and other disruptions in systems -- once again. The trigger, predictably, was the IIPM controversy, which I won't blog about since I've been arguing about it with almost everyone and everywhere (IM, blogs, face-to-face) since morning. So, coming back to the peeve, the question is whether dissent actually achieves anything substantial or if it is a feature of the system to let the users let off some steam?

This line of thought came into being some two years back while arguing with my COO on the impact and usefulness of public blogs, which anyone and everyone was launching in those days. I remember telling him at that time that for most of the community-oriented blogs, the key factor to their existence/popularity is the dissenting factor, the idea of being against something all the time and how it has been commodotised -- like how denims, once a symbol of rebellion, has now been assimilated even into corporate culture. Dissent is no longer an anomaly, it is a feature and a useful one at that.

Even in designing systems for the real world, the focus has shifted from set ups that are designed to not to fail, to systems that fail gracefully, after adapting to the glitch in its stride, assimilating it back into itself. Dissent is one such glitch that has been gradually factored into our systems. There are now proper corners marked out for dissenters, where they can make all the din they want to make and once they hit a critical mass, the system ensures that they are susceptible to the same problems that plague the others, rolling them back into the mainstream fold before they even realise it.

That elusive realisation is where the system works its magic. Most of the dissenters think they are going against the system, setting a new order in place, while all they are doing is taking yet another channel that is made available by the system. In fact, it is debatable whether it is the dissenter or the believer who is more delusional. The question then arises whether there is any way of dissenting or stepping out of line that is not accounted for by the system. I would like to believe that you can work against it from the inside, then again, who knows, it might also be yet another channel. Strange, no?

October 10, 2005

Disconnect

A catherine wheel is what I am reminded of when I think about the rate at which Google is spewing out products these days. It just keeps firing in all directions, over a vast variety of domains sending all and sundry for cover. And as the webspace soaks in its latest product, Google Reader, I just hope that it does not meet the same end as the firework used in the metaphor meets sometime down the line. In any case, having used it for a just a teeny weeny bit, I have to agree with the Decafbad man and say that it really does not get butterflies or any other objects,dead or living, airborne in my tummy. There is just too much eye candy, the interface is simplicity gone wrong and it is quite different to what I am used to. I'll give it a pass.

The net connection has been more flaky than it has ever been at home. Airtel does not service my area and the other options, Tata Indicom (unknown, unreliable quantity?) and MTNL (250 MB data cap on a 256 Kbps line? You must be kidding me, right?) just does not have enough traction on the appeal side for me. That means I am stuck with my lousy local cable franchisee powered SpectraSmart connection, which has been down recently more than it has been up. Not that I am complaining a lot. I have cut down my computer usage at home to email, a bit of browsing and some four hours of mixing practice every week. Anyway, I have been wanting to catch up on my reading for a while now and I simply do not want to delete all my subscriptions in a meltdown-influenced pruning like Russell has done recently.

And the man is not kidding. Information overload can end up causing you serious trouble and I have gone through stupid depressed phases when I could not check up on my subscriptions over the weekend, leaving me with a feeling of being an ignorant idiot for not knowing what is being talked about. Thankfully, after a couple of recent major power and connectivity outages, I came to realise that the world can survive without either. So get off that chair, read a book, listen to some music, use the phone to call up people than email them and if nothing else works, throw away all your gadgets and take a vacation here. Even when you get back, chances are that you and the world would have survived pretty fine.

Eff One

The weekend has been quite a pleasant one, even though most of my own work is still remains unfinished, the urgent things that were lined up did get done and I am feeling quite pleased about that. As a result of Sunday's developments, I missed the Sunday morning Formula One race and had to catch the re-run in the night and what a race it was! I for one can't wait for the 2006 season to start off and it is a real pity that the best years of Schumie's career did not coincide with the rise of the sport's two new stars - Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso.

One of these days somebody should thwap the Star Sports commentator Steve Slater real hard on his head. Even Chris Goodwin, the other commentator, who is actually a McLaren employee, does not let his bias affect the way his does his commentary that much. Moreover, Steve can hardly suppress his snicker when has to spout some market dynamics driven faux excitement when mentioning our ever-ready-to-fail-beacon-of-speed Narain Karthikeyan. Not that our lad is doing anything great on the tracks, but hey Jenson Button, in a much better car, at this point in time has only 32 points, no snickers for him though.

In other racy news, I see that eM's been talking about sex. Now I am impatiently waiting for the mainstream Indian media to pick up the 'India Shagging' theme once again and splash it all over the place screaming: "holy hell, bloggers have sex too!" I can't wonder how in the world did the concept of Indians being sexless ever come to be? We have always been a really horny lot and have always been humping, under the covers and behind the curtains, through the ages. It is just like the drug theme where the media constantly expresses shock and awe that Delhi is a druggie den. Ignorance, even feigned, is quite a high, I guess.

October 06, 2005

Bound Hard

I am sure this has been pondered over a million times before, but given a situation where both the heart and the mind are in sync, which one do you listen to more? It is sometimes almost like starting on a new book. At times the beginning is a little slow, the language impenetrable and the flow anything but what you can comprehend. Gradually, provided it is a good book, it starts to grow on you and it starts involving you more and more. You start seeing finer nuances, exceptional passages, moments which stand out and moments where you can't wait for the next development.

Weirdly, I seem to be reading three books alternatively these days. The first one, A.S Byatt's Possession: A Romance, is gradually growing on me. Hari Kunzru's Transmission is boring, but I started reading it again, after dropping it half way through, because I wanted to find out more about the promised great karmic collision that should make the three characters cross each other's paths. The last, Peter Mayle's A year in Provence, is a fun read, which almost suceeds in getting the smells of the French countryside into your mind at times. Obviously, I am not making much progress on any of the three.

October 04, 2005

Other Side

Before the extended weekend started, we moved, with six desktops and one server in tow, across the Yamuna and into the swanky, half-done office at Noida. And over the three days I finally summoned up the courage and purpose to bring into effect changes that I've wanted to make to my life for a long time now and in the process I also managed to find a companion who has always been around, but one who's always managed to just about stay out of the line of sight. Now that the visibility issue has been sorted out, there is the sweetness of familiarity, the invaluable relief in not having to try much at all and there is also the pleasure of getting familiar once again with a language I've not spoken in a while now.

In the two months after the parting all I wanted to do was to let go, drift away in a void and get back on the wagon once I was up to it. I was exhausted, both emotionally and physically, and I knew somewhere something had to give. Things had to change, even at the cost of walking away from commitments, I was burning up way too much than what I could afford to. After a couple of the above-said 'do nothing' weekends, I decided to list out five things that I wanted to really do in life, concentrate on that and that alone, and the first item on the list was that I wanted to be happy. I no longer wanted to be the crabby, whiny, self-destructive person I had become. I had to change and if I could not manage it now, it was possible that there would never be a next time.

One of my greatest problems in life has been that I always end up being apologetic even where I have no reason to be. This time there is no such thing. I don't feel compelled to go out of my way anymore. Walk three steps with me, then I'll walk five with you. It is about time I stopped walking all the way to the other end of the field all by myself and then keep bawling about not being able to understand how the situation came to be. It has not been easy though and it is certainly not the first time that I have tried to make it happen. Well, in any case, that is how these things tend to work out with me. Keep trying forever and if you need it badly enough, one day it is bound to fall in place. The trick is to keep going even when there seems to be no hope at all.

Having moved to Noida, I have to admit that I quite like the place. The addictive pleasures of taking the DND Flyway are not limited only to comfort, it also extends to the convenience of being able to skip at least three traffic lights, trucks and the exceptionally nice feature of landing up almost right at the entrance to Film City, once you take the Greater Noida exit. Moving on from the news of the NCR variety and to something slightly off-topic, I will be turning off the Blogback comments sometime soon and switch to Haloscan. Blogger's got too much of comment spam, even with CAPTCHA on and anonymous comments set to off. I will miss Blogback though, Marcus has been brilliant with his service, but like every good, free thing it has to go too. It will be remembered very fondly.