Sunday, May 30, 2004

Who said monkeys aren't intelligent?

This happened to me when I was in my senior year at college. I was standing outside our Computer Centre, thinking about nothing in particular and watching the monkeys. One particular pair caught my attention: it was a male monkey trying to get it on with a female one (no, our campus was not so culturally advanced then for gay monkeys to come out of the closet). This male monkey (let's call him Jack) kept trying to do you-know-what, and the female monkey (Jill) kept shifting position, effectively frustrating Jack's designs.

After repeated tries, our hero had enough of it. No, he didn't say "Screw you!" and walk away with his dignity intact. Instead, he chose to question the very essence of Jill's feminity, by lifting up her tail and peering under it to really ensure that Jill's anatomy was as his friends had advised him it would be.

May be this just goes to show that the male of the species will not take no for an answer and would go to any lengths to protect their self-image. In that case, monkeys may be as dumb as humans.
A little bit of investigation reveals that do have banner ads. Only problem is, I don't get to see any of them, since I bypass the login page and go directly to my bookmarks (by virtue of cookies). Memo to MyBookmarks: if you want to maximise your ad revenues, please place banner ads in all your pages.
MyBookmarks was down for a couple of days. I thought they had folded up (I still haven't figured out what their business model is -- no sign of banner ads anywhere), but they are back online. Anyway, I have a backup of all my bookmarks in my home page for just such an emergency. I took this opportunity to spruce this up a bit by adding a collapsible feature to the link categories. One more skill to add to my resume (DHTML).
1. Sarah Michelle Gellar is the prettiest young thing on TV.
2. The theme is one of the the most adrenalin-pumping bits of music I have ever heard.
3. The 'silent' episode is one of the classics of modern TV.

But do all or any of these warrant an academic conference about the show? No fricken way!!

I think Sonia Gandhi should have become Prime Minister if for no other reason than to give us the pleasure of feasting our eyes on Sushma Swaraj's clean-shaven head.

Disclaimer: I do not have a fetish for bald chicks.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Some philosophy for a change. What constitutes the innate characteristics of an object? This question is not as simple as it sounds. Let me give an example: if you consider a wooden chair, what would you say are its innate characteristics? Is it its colour, shape, texture, size or composition?

Whichever of these attributes you choose, the fact is that all of them are properties of our interaction with the chair. We perceive it as red because we shine a light on it and red light is reflected back at us. We feel its texture as smooth because we run our fingers over its surface and encounter no resistance. We say it is a big chair because we find that there is a lot of room left when we sit on it.

You get the idea. The bottom line is that we have no way of knowing 'ultimate reality', as it were, through our five senses.

I think this is what the architects at Microsoft had in mind when they came up with the idea of using interfaces as the primary programming constructs for COM.
Our very own Aimee Mullins. Way to go, girl!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Looks like Mickey Mouse took one look at my trap and hightailed it to safer pastures. No sign of the bugger for more than a week now (touch wood).
Which language:

1. Has only five keywords
2. Had garbage collection at least a decade before Java
3. Is three times as productive as Java
4. Is completely object-oriented ("Everything is an object")
5. And, in spite of all the above attributes (along with others not mentioned), is still nowhere near as popular as Java?

Here is the answer. Just goes to show that the best is not always the most popular.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

It took Opera 7.50 for me to finally see some decent italic text in Linux. Opera 7.50 seems quite spiffy and revamped (the ad bar at the top has become smaller and less intrusive -- looks like they have taken a leaf out of Google's book). Only peeve is that Gmail doesn't support Opera (yet?). Masquerading as IE6 doesn't get you anywhere because Gmail asks you where the &*%? are your ActiveX controls.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Neapolitans have a saying: "See Naples and die". Well, I have a slightly different version: "Listen to this album and die". It's that good.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Italia '90: Semi-finals - Germany Vs England. Penalty shootout. Stuart Pearce misses his penalty kick, and England are out of the World Cup.

Euro '96: Semi-finals - Germany Vs England, again a penalty shootout. It's again Stuart Pearce's turn. This time he doesn't miss. You can literally see the burden lifting from his shoulders as he exorcises the demons that must have been haunting him. But Gareth Southgate misses his, and thus England are out of the tournament. Pearce walks up to Southgate, puts his hands on Southgate's shoulders, says something and consoles him.

Simply the most poignant moment I have ever experienced. It took six years for this story of hope, agony, guilt, redemption and compassion to play itself out.

There were tears in my eyes that day, and it wasn't because England lost.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Boys and girls, the word of the day is schadenfreude. It's the feeling you get when you see Michael Shumacher's front suspension go for a toss in the Monaco Grand Prix, thereby snapping his winning streak.

<rubs hands gleefully with an evil grin>
Come on, give the guy a break!
Should gay marriage be made legal or not? You won't find the answer here, but you will certainly have a good laugh:

>>Now the door is open for multiple wives, "marrying" your Great
>> Dane, or whatever. The Left now insists none of those things
>> will "diminish marriage" either.

> Since you're more than aware that Great Danes cannot give
> consent, you're being deliberately stupid.

>> Laws requiring consent can easily be overturned by liberal
>> activist judges, once the people who want to marry their Great
>> Danes organize and become politically active, like the
>> homosexual people did.

> So it's you who are being deliberately stupid and who are hiding
> your head in the sand.

>> Not to mention there are countless instances where animals have
>> shown sexual aggression/desire towards humans.
>> Now please don't say at one time or another a dog hasn't tried to
>> hump your leg! This could be misconstrued in the courts as "consensual",
>> imo.

> No, it can be construed as a horny animal that is legally incapable
> of giving informed consent.

>> No! Those horny animals can also be selective(just guessing)...

> That's the point. You cannot be "just guessing" either an animal
> has the cognitive
> abilities to give informed consent, or they do no. They do not.

>> There is nothing to prevent those consent laws from being changed.

> On what legal basis?

>> Who are you to tell another human being that he or she "shouldn't be
>> allowed" to marry a goat, a donkey, or a Great Dane?

> Goats, Donkeys, or Great Danes

There it is again. "Great Dane".

What is the obsession these homophobes have with this one particular breed
of dog? They never mention other breeds.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

At last watched something worthwhile [*] on CNN: a show about Howard Stern and how his indecent utterances in his talk show were offending sensibilities. Pretty balanced reporting. One interesting thing I learned was that he cannot play a taping of an Oprah Winfrey show on air because he would be violating some rules, whereas that same Oprah show was allowed to air without any problems. Huh?

Question: If a regulatory body wants to ban some content, say a list of 'dirty' words, how would it convey this ban? Can it broadcast an announcement saying 'The following words are banned:...' and read out the list? Wouldn't that be offensive in itself? Or should it refer to the words indirectly (e.g. '...the four-letter word that starts with 'F', and ends with 'K', denoting the act of mating...')? But one can argue that unless one is told explicitly what words not to use, it is not correct to say that some rule is being violated. I think we are in self-referencing-systems territory here.

[*] whoops, spoke too soon; the very next program is live coverage of Spain's crown prince's wedding to some media celebrity.
A long, long time ago, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears newbie, I committed the cardinal sin of posting to Usenet using my real email address. I am still paying for this today, with my mailbox overflowing with at least 30-40 spam emails every day. I have stopped using this email address for anything important now, but don't want to give it up altogether (it's like your first flame you never really get over). But one good thing is that I am forwarding all these emails to my Yahoo mailbox, which has an excellent spam filter.

If you have the patience, do a Google search for the story of a retiree in the USA who lost all his life savings to the Nigerian email scam. (I have a link for this story, but the link has become stale). Shows you what extent people will go to to believe what they want to believe.

Friday, May 21, 2004

"Day by day, in every way, I am getting better, better and better". Ain't this a wonderful slogan to develop a healthy, positive outlook in life? The only problem is, if you keep repeating this mantra to yourself and do get better and better every day, whenever you look back on your life, you will invariably find that you are asking yourself, "Was I that bad then?"

I sure am in a pessimistic mood today.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

PayPal sucks.

I made a payment through them for a Fedora Core CD set about five weeks ago, but have not received the CDs yet. It seems PayPal cannot do anything regarding this; their brief ends with taking my money and depositing it into the account of the seller (who, BTW, is reachable only through an email address -- even that is a Yahoo address, making it completely anonymous).

I first sent a polite email to the seller inquiring about the status of my order; no reply to that. Next I contacted PayPal, who claimed an inability to do anything since more than 30 days had elapsed since the order was placed. However, they suggested that I have a look at their Buyer Protection Program for the options available to me.

I then sent a slightly less polite email to the seller asking them to refund the money. No go. Guess I'll have to chalk it up as the cost of learning about the pitfalls of online commerce.

The most galling thing is that PayPal have the temerity to request me to take an online survey two days after they blew me off, and to let them know about my experiences using PayPal. My only feedback is to ask them to take their service and shove it where the sun doesn't shine. Here's one customer you'll never hear from again, pal.
The latest casualty in my War Against the Rat: my Samsung Mouse.

That's it, buddy. All bets are off. The trap has been set. I have some delicious food waiting for you in the Restaurant pour des Souris. Please come and partake some of this offering. The moment your foul-smelling teeth bite into the first morsel, before you can say "Rajesh is a friend of animals", your ass will be mine.

Sidebar: Does a 2.4 kernel need something additional done to recognise a USB mouse? For some reason, my Linux box is choking when I connect my Windows USB mouse to it. Back to the stores for a new PS/2 mouse.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

"In between the call/response of, 'What's the spirit of bayonet? Kill! Kill! Kill!' drill instructors (DIs) would pick up megaphones and scream, 'See those C-130s landing? They are bringing in bodies of dead Americans killed by gooks. The gooks murdered our soldiers! Do you want to be a body on that plane? I can't hear you? What's the spirit of bayonet?' Every once in a while, a DI would pull several of us aside and give us lessons on the proper use of bayonet in performing a field abortion. 'Stick the bayonet in the gook's c**t and pull up towards her throat. A dead gook in the womb saves Americans lives!'"

Or this, from Roger Domagalski, describing what he was told as a recruit and his duties after basic training: "From the first moment we arrived, we often heard the words, 'girls, ladies, sissies, p***s, and worse' when insulting us. Thus 'women' as a whole became a derogatory concept; very sexist and very dehumanizing. I had been dehumanized to such an extent that I completely lacked all empathy for these frightened, new trainees. Instead of treating them decently, I mistreated them as I had been mistreated. Once you dehumanize a person, you need to maintain control because such a person is liable to do anything, from the relatively mild 'hazing' I engaged in, to the Nazi-like terror tactics used by the guards against Iraqi prisoners. Yes, basic training works...all too well sometimes."

This is how soldiers are dehumanised in basic training. Any wonder why torture scandals erupt?

But it can be argued that unless soldiers are toughened up like this, you cannot get them to go out and kill the enemy soldiers in combat. All your life, you are told that killing another human being is one of the worst crimes that one can commit. Then one fine day you are sent to boot camp; at the end of the two/three month period, you are expected to be ready to murder people without any qualms. Something radical must take place in this period to achieve this kind of transformation.
This is the best anti-war song ever.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Watched the Nick Berg beheading video just a while ago.

Just a thought: how differently would you feel if Nick Berg had been killed earlier, and the naked prisoner cowering before the soldiers with their snarling attack dogs was the person who took the knife to Nick Berg's neck?

It is very difficult to take sides when both sides have so much blood on their hands.
I recently saw a map of India in one of the popular courier companies' billboards (not exactly a billboard, rather the display over the entrance - marquee?) in which only the portion of Kashmir controlled by India was shown to be within Indian borders.

Does this mean that the powers that be have finally admitted to themselves the reality of the Kashmir situation, i.e., contrary to our publicly stated position that the whole of Kashmir belongs to India, there is no fricken way (short of winning a nuclear exchange with Pakistan) we will ever reclaim the portions not under our control?

Friday, May 14, 2004

I am a firm believer in animal rights, but if I get my hands around the scruffy little neck of the rat that is at this minute hiding somewhere is the maze of wires behind my desk, I will do things to it that would instantly make me a war criminal in the International Court of Rodents' Rights.

This rat has so far cost me a nice Timex strap and a keyboard (the keyboard is one of those cheap Chinese imports, so my anger is somewhat mitigated).

Time to get a humane mousetrap...
Question: In which parallel universe do all these shining happy families exist, doing things like prancing around in their designer clothes, taking off for a vacation in the family car and sitting around the dining table gawking greedily at gourmet food? I am talking about TV ads, of course. Talking about advertising, here is an interesting take.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Reasons why I will not be renewing my Time subscription this year:

1. Charles Krauthammer. This guy will defend Bush no matter what he does. Some of his recent columns:

a) Why Bush should not go to the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq
b) Why Bush should not accept that he made any mistakes at all
c) Why people who never went to war make better War Presidents than decorated war heroes
d) Why the American President has practically no control over the economy.

(Prediction: you can expect his next column to say that the Americans were actually doing the Iraqis a favour by torturing them. Otherwise how will the Iraqis learn discipline and humility?)

2. Joe Klein's faint praise for Kerry, while taking every opportunity to belittle the Democrats.

3. The vapid articles about Japanese (and other Asian) pop stars. Like I give a rat's ass that Tammy Ho's latest Cantonese album sold three million copies, or that Lucy Lulu has dyed his/her/its hair pale pink.

4. The pro-Israeli tilt (I noticed this first during their coverage of the Jenin massacre).

5. For publishing letters like this

6. Devoting needless space to report on the antics of people like Britney Spears, Ozzy Ozbourne and Jennifer Lopez.

7. Serving as a role model for India Today (don't even get me started on India Today. Suffice it to say that they have shamelessly plagiarised Time's style and content. Want an example? See the Milestones section in both the magazines. You'll know what I mean).

8. For omitting Noam Chomsky from the list of 100 most influential people in the world.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. Senate hearings on the Iraqi prisoners scandal would most probably end up giving a clean chit to the real perpetrators (see here), you have to admire the dignified way the whole affair is conducted. Compare this with with the way our mike-throwing goons behave.
Who is President Abdul Kalam giving the bird to?

Monday, May 10, 2004

This is why I love Usenet.
Memo to Apple:

Please name your iTunes setup files so that the version number is included in the file name. This will help me to organise the various versions more easily. Thanks!
I don't know whether I should be scared or happy about the level of customer service offered at

Whenever I call them, the lady at the other end instantly recognises my voice and asks me, "Is it Rajesh Jayaprakash?"

Reminds me of the joke where a man wants to deposit his ill-gotten gains in a Swiss bank. After the man makes his deposit, the manager says to him, "Thank you for banking with us. Here is your customer identification number," and hands him a slip of paper, on which is written "#001".


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Never thought I would see both of these on the same web page (landed here while googling for a fix to my Eclipse problem):


$ apt-cache show libeclipse-swt-java
Package: libeclipse-swt-java
Source: eclipse
Version: 2.0.1-0.2
Priority: optional
Section: contrib/devel
Maintainer: Takashi Okamoto
Depends: libatk1.0-0 (>= 1.0.1), libc6 (>= 2.2.4-4), libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.0.1),
libgtk2.0-0 (>= 2.0.2), libpango1.0-0 (>= 1.0.1), java-common
Architecture: i386
Foregin Sex Slang Terms
42. Dick: chinko
43. Penis: chimpo
44. Willy: chimpoko

Somewhere in Japan, a Linux programmer is really mixing it up :-)
Check out To those of you who think that our Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are the best things to have happened to Indian democracy: if you still hold that opinion after seeing the material in this site, well, you're not thinking straight.

If voting irregularities documented in can occur on such a scale in a (supposedly) mature democracy like America, we poor third-worlders stand no chance.

Just imagine: you dutifully queue up behind a hundred people, awaiting your turn to exercise your franchise. You walk up to the EVM, scan through the list of pathetic symbols like umbrellas, cycles and condoms (just kidding [*]), identify your candidate, and press the button. The machine dutifully emits a long beep, saying, in effect, "Thank you, Sir/Madam. Your vote has been recorded. Have a nice day!" What if it is really thinking, "Ha ha, so long, sucker #12134... next sucker, please.."

The only saving grace is that, unlike the voting machines in America, our EVMs are stand-alone machines (i.e. they are not connected to each other or to a central server; neither, God forbid, to the Internet).

"The Best Democracy Money Can Buy": Greg Palast's expose of, among other things, the malpractices in the American presidential elections of 2000.

[*] Come to think of it, this might be a good way to reinforce birth-control policies.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

What's the deal with music videos? Why do we like them? Here goes:

Music videos fall into three categories: a) those with a single theme running through them, b) 'disjointed' music videos in which different images are spliced together and c) ones in which the band is simply playing the song (even concert footage sometimes).

We like the first category of videos because they present something novel and unique, something that we would not see in a TV serial or a movie. Evanescence's "Bring me to life" would fit into this category (as would most of U2's works).

The second category appeals to our right brain; we are stimulated by the random images and ideas presented; they set our creative juices flowing.

The last category doesn't have anything going for it, except the music itself.

Of course, we also like videos in which three guys run naked in the streets of LA!

My personal favourite is Lenny Kravitz's "Believe," in which he is the lone astronaut awaiting an unknown fate, about to be blasted off in a spaceship. It is a very powerful metaphor for someone facing incredible odds without any help and relying on his faith to see him through. The climax (rocket taking off) coincides with a superb guitar riff, too.

The worst video I have ever seen is The Bee Gees' "Staying Alive." The whole fricken video is simply the three brothers walking down the street (and singing, of course), with bad haircuts and even worse clothes. To be fair, this video was made in the seventies, when there was no concept of engaging a director to do the video. A great song, though.

Speaking of music videos, next time you happen to stumble across a rap video, watch it with the mute on. You will then catch what the rapper (and all his homies) are really saying: look at me, I am rich, I wear a lot of jewelry, look at all these big bosomed women gyrating wildly and rubbing themselves all over me, ain't I a great guy or what? Ain't I? Ain't I?

Did I mention that I hate rap music?
"..the target was not at home. The neighbour came out to see what was going on and we grabbed him."

-- Excerpt from field report filed by American troops hunting for fugitives in Iraq.

I am still rolling on the floor with laughter.

Friday, May 07, 2004

The more I think about the Iraqi prisoners' torture story, the more I am convinced that the release of these photos was no accident. (Yeah, I am a closet conspiracy theorist :-) )

If there were a quiz programme and the question "What act by America would produce the maximum amount of rage and revulsion in the Arab world?" were asked, and one of the contestants answered "Undress an Iraqi prisoner, parade him naked in front of a Caucasian American lady and a) ask him to pretend to jerk off and make the lady gleefully point at this act and laugh or b) make him wear a pair of panties (which most probably belong to said American lady) as a head-scarf", the quiz master would have said, "Whoa, son, let's not go overboard with our imagination..."

Somebody is hell-bent on starting WWIII.
Whenever I watch F1 racing with my friends, this topic keeps coming up: Is Schumacher really that good? My friends say yes, but I really don't agree with them. It is indisputable that the Ferrari is miles ahead of the other cars in the fray. My contention is therefore that Schumacher's continued success merely proves that he is a better driver than Barrichello (for the uninitiated, he is the other Ferrari driver). I will concede Shumacher's supremacy only if he wins the title driving some other car (I know that he has done so once quite some time ago, but that was just once, wasn't it? Not thrice consecutively).
I have no factual basis for saying this, but something tells me that it will not be long before we see Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich handcuffed and bundled into a waiting car. Whenever the camera focuses on him after Chelsea have scored a goal, he dutifully stands up (along with his glamorous wife) and feigns a joyful expression. It is so obvious that he is faking it. I bet he is thinking, Keep it cool, Roman, baby, no one will notice, you have left no tell-tale clues behind...
Next time you look at a picture in a newspaper of a Japanese consumer electronics giant displaying its latest wares, pay close attention. In nine cases out of ten, you will find a very cute girl either holding the product in her dainty little fingers or pointing them at it. Guess the 'Geisha' mentality has still not left the Japanese. Using beautiful models for such things is not something only they do; cars and bikes are showcased in trade shows in a similar manner by everyone, but no one else does it in such a consistent fashion.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Signed up for GMail just now (beta version, actually). First thing that struck me was "You are currently using 0 MB (0%) of your 1000 MB". To hell with privacy concerns... Google, you've won me over :-)

But I hope they change the logo; it looks slightly tacky.

What is the fastest way to screw up a Linux installation? I read somewhere that it is to login as root and execute rm -R /*

Well, I think I have discovered a faster (if not faster, at least easier) way: simply delete the symbolic link I deleted this link (I will not go into the reasons why I did this), and that was it. No command worked after that. I rebooted, hoping that my problems would disappear, only to find that init will not work without, either.

Some time ago, I had made a boot floppy for just such an emergency, but I learned the painful truth that the boot floppy will only work with a functioning root file system, which I was lacking because of the file.

The next line of attack was to replace my current hard disk with an older one which also had a (still intact) Linux installation. The idea being that I would boot using the root file system in this hard disk, then mount the new hard disk as yet another file system and recreate the symbolic link. This plan almost worked; but the mount command had other ideas: it refused to recognise the new hard disk's file system (vfat). I think this has something to do with either a) the kernel being 2.20 or b) my old installation was also somewhat broken (I was getting a lot of messages from modprobe about modules.dep missing).

To cut a long story short, I ended up doing two Linux installs (one for each hard disk). The cost: staying awake until 2 AM and the loss of about 400 MB of downloaded files which were reformatted out of existence. You live and learn...

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

If you are an OSS guy and would never dream of touching things like COM with a ten-foot barge pole, I would urge you to still read Chapter 1 of Essential COM. Don Box starts off with the pre-COM attempts to achieve interoperability and flexibility in a distributed, OO computing environment and takes you through the various options at hand. He shows how each option improves on the earlier one, and you are impressed by the strength of his arguments. You reach the end of the chapter, and this line stares you in the face: "In short, we have just engineered the Component Object Model." The first thought that strikes you is "WTF?!", followed closely by the blasphemous thought that may be the guys at Redmond aren't so dumb, after all :-)

Sunday, May 02, 2004

You've got to hand it to the folks at Zone Labs. They sure know how to do their marketing. Zone Alarm is their free firewall product (it's a great product, BTW). Whenever a new version of this product is available, you are also advised that you can try out the Professional version of the same product for 14 days. Naturally, not being one to turn down a freebie, you download and install it.

All goes well during the trial period. Come Day 14, you are intimated that the trial period is over, and are asked whether you want to buy the Professional version or go back to the basic, free version. Cheapskate that you are, you obviously go for Option 2.

Now the fun begins. Up pops a dialog that says that the professional version is being removed. It also displays the removal status, helpfully showing what is being removed:

Privacy Protection
Email Virus Protection
Hacker Intrusion Protection

After each feature is removed, a check mark appears against the feature.

You start feeling uneasy. What are you going to do without all these protections? May be you really do need the Professional version, after all...