Wednesday, June 30, 2004

What's up with The Sopranos? No more four-letter words? Somehow it's not the same, hearing wise guys say "freaking" instead of the usual adjectives that we all know and love them for.
After two days of non-stop coding, java.lang.Class has been implemented. The code is most probably buggy as hell, but I'll worry about that bridge when I have to cross it.

One down, ten to go.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Footballers are incredibly cynical people. They are also incredibly dumb. Otherwise how can one explain their actions like:

1. Launching into a crunching two-legged tackle that leaves their opponent writhing on the ground with agony and then feigning complete innocence, claiming that they were going for the ball

2. Collapsing on to the ground (and writhing with agony, of course) inside the penalty area if a defender so much as breathes on them, in the hopes of scamming a penalty out of the referee

3. Pulling an opponent's hair (Gronkjaer did it to Nedved in the quarter-finals) when they think the referee is not looking

4. Exaggerating their injuries when fouled so that the opponent receives a yellow card (or hopefully even gets sent off)

5. Raising their hands righteously to claim the throw-in when the ball goes out of play, even though they were the last to touch it (I used to think they were being sooo fair and all, conceding they had last touched the ball, but man, was I wrong!)

when they know full well that the cameras are recording every one of these actions?

To paraphrase Paula Cole, where have all the people like Gary Lineker gone?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Adam Sandler has toned down his antics somewhat in 50 First Dates. Though it has its good moments, I wouldn't call it a great movie.

I am seriously considering adding Drew Barrymore to my A-list, BTW.
Gmail may not be the best thing since sliced bread, but it does have its advantages:

1. As far as I know, ISPs (at least in India) do not give email storage space of the order of gigabytes.

2. A person who accesses emails from multiple computers (e.g. home and work) or even multiple email clients (as I used to -- Thunderbird in Windows and Mozilla Communicator in Linux) will not have consistent access to his emails (leaving the emails on the server is not much of an option when the disk quota is something like 10 MB).

3. IMHO, Gmail's interface is the best of the currently available web-based email services (Disclaimer: I have not had a look at Oddpost yet)

It almost feels as if The Other Road Ahead had Gmail in mind when speculating on the direction of desktop software. It's not fully there yet, but is definitely on the right track.
Payback for screwing over the Italians.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

I just need to implement eleven classes on my own to integrate Vajra with Classpath. Seems simple, doesn't it? But progress is pretty slow. Each of the methods (forName() in Class, for example) needs a lot of thought, digging into the header files of the Vajra classes and figuring out how to hook it up with the internals (the fact that I wrote most of this stuff more than a year ago doesn't help, either). Sometimes it is even necessary to tweak the data members of Vajra's C++ implementation classes to plug things together. Something tells me debugging all this is going to be a nightmare. Long haul ahead...
Nothing like the knockout phase of an international football tournament to set the pulse racing. The last five minutes of the match when the underdog is desperately clinging on to their lead and the favourite is throwing everything at them (including their goalkeeper) feel like eternity (for the supporters, that is). Not to mention the drama associated with the golden goal or a penalty shootout.

If it were up to me, I would decree that there are to be no more draws in football matches. The Americans had the right idea when they ruled that all drawn matches would be decided by penalty shootouts (this decision was subsequently reversed). What is the point in watching two mediocre teams battling it out for ninety minutes, without even the consolation of seeing something conclusive? The teams' supporters may be happy with a well-deserved draw, but not neutral observers. We would also be spared the abomination of a win netting three points while a draw gets only one.

BTW, I have never seen a header so powerful that the ball bounces back into the area of play after hitting the back of the net.
I can't wait to see Mark Morford go to town with this.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Not a day passes by without my hearing the cries of a street vendor offering to repair things like umbrellas, slippers and even sofas. Indians are, by nature, very thrifty people and have not taken to the 'use and throw' mindset that easily. There are, IMO, two reasons for this: a) India is not that rich a country (probably the understatement of the year); the majority of her citizens has to watch carefully every rupee that they spend and b) India's large population dictates that people are willing to (and in fact, in the absence of other opportunities, forced to) make their living fixing stuff, keeping repair costs sufficiently down (this will not be possible in a country like America, where the cost of repairing a TV would be comparable to that of a new one, owing to high labour costs).

But it is sad to see that some Indians (a good example would be the bozos targeted by the 'lifestyle' purveyors) are losing sight of this virtue and are exercising their new-found economic power with gay abandon, not stopping to think of the wastage of resources and the damage to the environment that they are causing.
Man am I dumb. Recently I was wondering what was's business model, blissfully overlooking the fact that anybody who maintains a repository of the frequently visited sites of a large number (thousands? hundreds of thousands?) of people is sitting on a veritable gold mine of personal data that marketing droids would kill for.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

In case anybody is wondering why I have not mentioned anything about Euro 2004 for the last week or so, my cable TV operator is to blame for this. Due to some licensing issues between the operator and ESPN, the signal has been cut off. Repeated complaints have been of no avail. As a result, I have missed a lot of good matches (both genuine and fixed).

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

My search for a Linux RSS reader is finally over. I have settled upon RSSOwl. My quest was not an easy one at all. A Google search revealed that the most popular ones are Straw and AmphetaDesk, but neither of these could be installed on the first attempt. Had I been in a more forgiving mood, I might have rolled up my sleeves and gone about resolving the issues (Straw complained that intltool-merge was missing; AmphetaDesk has such a painful installation process involving Perl/CPAN), but I was not, so I decided to give RSSOwl a whirl.

Installation of RSSOwl proved to be a snap, but I had trouble getting it to work. After some patient hand holding by Ben Pasero (the lead developer of RSSOwl), I am all set.

P.S. Being a Smalltalk fan, BottomFeeder was my first choice, but I was not very happy with the UI (right-click on an item and you are shown a context menu with something like 20 choices). The fonts were not very impressive either. One of these days I am going to devote a post to the ways in which BottomFeeder can be improved.
I read in The Hindu today that baseball is making an appearance in India. Don't these people have any shame? What next, prom nights in Indian high schools? Idiots.

This reminds me of something Anuradha, the undisputed queen of Indian weather TV (she of the 'western disturbances' fame), said a while ago. To make the point that the weather was sunny in Goa, she said (I am paraphrasing here), "Goa is the place to be for those of you looking to get a tan." Come on, give me a break! Indians are desperately trying to make themselves Fair and Lovely (tm), and this lady suggests that they rub suntan lotion all over their (already oily) bodies and lie on the beach under a scorching sun? Memo to Anuradha: tans make sense only for Caucasians.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Where else but in the OSS world can you find the developers of an application asking you to try out other similar apps if you want something more mature (since their own app is still undergoing development)? My already high esteem for the OSS model just climbed up by another notch.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Watched The Day After Tomorrow. It's a decent movie with some pretty spectacular special effects. Unlike Deep Impact, they didn't go overboard with the sentimental stuff. An otherwise uneventful movie was somewhat marred by a) a small kid next to me who insisted on providing a noisy running commentary throughout the movie and b) a couple in the row behind us who were having a pretty serious fight for the majority of the movie's duration (guess somebody won't be getting any tonight).
Here is a 'woo-woo' site. Initially I thought it would be something similar to The Celestine Prophecy, but I beat a hasty retreat when the lady started talking about how she receives signals from some aliens called the Cassiopaeans who are nothing but our own selves in the future.
The Firefox/Qute saga is not as simple as it seems. Has all the hallmarks of a soap opera (pun unintended).
I don't know whether there is any effort underway (or already expended) to come up with Smalltalk documentation similar to that of the Java APIs. This might help me to dive into Smalltalk with greater gusto. One issue I see with this is that, since each vendor has classes unique to their flavour, it may not be possible to come up with a single repository of documentation (may be a common project documenting the ANSI-compliant portion of Smalltalk would be a good place to start).

Saturday, June 19, 2004

A hard-hitting (but nonetheless true) essay.
I owe Raymond Chen an apology: sorry Raymond, I missed the timestamps. But I am firmly on the Linux side of the fence :-)
How can one reconcile Iraqi sovereignty after June 30 with the presence of about 130,000 American soldiers? People point to the situation in South Korea as an analogy. Some questions:

1. Are American soldiers patrolling the streets of Seoul?
2. Do car bombs claim, on the average, 10 lives a week in South Korea?
3. Do any of the South Korean ministries have American 'advisers' who control their day-to-day affairs?

I could go on, but I think the sham is pretty obvious.
I cannot understand how countries that possess nuclear weapons can, without even a hint of shame or guilt, tell other countries that they should desist from any effort to acquire them. Their argument is that only the nuclear haves are responsible enough to shoulder this burden. This is patent hypocrisy at best, and racism at worst. If they are so concerned about the dangers of these weapons, why don't they come up with a treaty to abolish all their arsenals in a specified time frame? Trouble is, none of these countries would voluntarily give up the 'big stick' (how big a clout would America (and previously the USSR) have had with the rest of the world had they not been in possession of a huge stockpile of atom bombs?).

To counter the argument that there is a danger of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists, I would say that there are two categories of countries involved here: (a) responsible countries who are mainly concerned with their national security (b) 'rogue states' who may be in league with terrorist organisations. Countries that belong to category (b) should be tackled by the United Nations in concert with the IAEA (and not by pre-emptive action by America). The fact that the weapons inspections worked very effectively in Iraq supports this approach. Countries in category (a) -- India is a good example -- should not have anything to fear.

Bottom line: Iran can have nuclear weapons, as long as it doesn't give any of them to Hizbollah.
The founder of Autodesk has an interesting site here.
Kofi Annan does have a backbone.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The Firefox developers have come to their senses. Qute is now also offered in the Mozilla web site.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I was pretty surprised to see Switzerland's Stephane Chapuisat still going strong. Thought he had retired long ago. He used to be a prolific striker for Borussia Dortmund in the early nineties.
I was wondering whether I should allow comments for my blog. Then I came across Raymond Chen's blog (Raymond Chen is a long-time Microsoft employee). His blog is very popular and attracts a lot of comments; not all of them positive, it seems. One particular post descended into a Linux/Windows flame war in which Raymond was taken to the woodshed by a quite-knowledgeable Linux hacker, forcing Raymond to close commenting on this article before things got out of hand.

I guess I'll sit quietly until the urge goes away.
Installed Mandrake 10.0 today. Compared to Debian, Mandrake is incredibly easy to install. The whole process was completed well within an hour. One minor hiccup was that my mouse didn't work. Inspecting XF86Config-4 revealed that the mouse was incorrectly configured as '/dev/mouse', which was non-existent. Once I set this right, things were fine.

My Windows box has once again been relegated to the role of a proxy server.
I have to give credit where it is due: though the Latvians lost their match against the Czech Republic as expected, they put up a very good fight (almost winning the match). Sorry for underestimating you, guys.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Decided to update my Windows XP installation by going to Windows Update. First lesson: you have to use Internet Explorer, as the update process relies on ActiveX controls embedded in the page.

I was asked to scan my PC to determine the updates that I would require. This turned out to be 18 critical security updates, 16 Windows XP updates (whatever that is) and three driver updates.

I decided to start with the security updates. About 18 MB of files were then downloaded and installed, with the various setup programs begging me to permit them to phone home.

I was then prompted to restart my computer. After rebooting, I again went to the same web page and asked for a rescan. Found that two more critical security updates had become available in the meantime. WTF??
Has the ghost of a long-dead cat taken up residence in my den? The reason I am asking this is that for the last two or three days I have been periodically assailed by the smell of stale cat piss.

If you are wondering how I can identify the smell of cat piss (and certify it as stale or fresh), I used to volunteer at the cat shelter at Blue Cross when I was young.
This is a comparison of how our Electronic Voting Machines stack up against those in the U.S.
Dick Advocaat (the Dutch coach) jumps out of his seat to protest one of the decisions made by the referee in the Germany-Holland match. His arms are raised above his head; you can see the large sweat patches in his armpits. Gary Bloom (the commentator) has this to say: "The players want consistency. He wants deodorant".

This page contains other gems from football commentators.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Yahoo has increased the mailbox quota for its users to 100 MB. I wonder what prompted them to do this.

The interface is also supposedly more streamlined, but I couldn't notice any appreciable difference (one thing I did notice, though, was that it has become incredibly slow). The new interface is way inferior to that of Gmail, anyway.
Some doomsday stuff.
Euro 2004 trivia: the Latvians are the most experienced team in the tournament; collectively, the team has over a thousand caps.

Not that all this experience is going to prevent them from getting their asses reamed by the Czechs, the Dutch and the Germans, of course.

Monday, June 14, 2004

<Kicks self in the butt>
I couldn't stay awake after the first half of the England-France game. Turns out that a lot of things happened after I turned in: Beckham missed a penalty, Zidane first equalised with a majestic free-kick and then won the game for France by converting an injury-time penalty.
</Kicks self in the butt>
Preacher passionately entreats God for a sign.
Preacher's wish granted.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

I do not consider Portugal's loss to Greece a sensational upset at all. The Portuguese have, to my knowledge, never done anything worthwhile in international competition for the last 15 or so years. Their youth team did do well when Figo and others were youngsters, but this success was never replicated at the senior level.

Prediction: Portugal will go on to win the tournament and make me look like an ass.
Bush at Reagan's funeral. The reference is to this famous photograph.
If I accumulate enough good karma in my current life to enable me to be born as a wealthy Arabian prince in my next one, these ladies would definitely make it to the A-list in my harem (in no particular order - heaven forbid that Emmanuelle takes offence):

1. Gwen Stefanie
2. Amy Lee
3. Toni Braxton
4. Allison Krauss
5. Natalie Merchant
6. Avril Lavigne
7. Narmada Shirodkar
8. Dimple Kapadia
9. Sophie Marceau
10. Sarah Michelle Gellar
11. Enya
12. Rukmani (featured in Snap's Rame)
13. Kristen Miller
14. Clare Danes
15. Emmanuelle Beart

In case you are wondering whether I am a sexist pig, whatever gave you the idea :-) ?
A voter survey in The Hindu states that, when asked the question "Are you satisfied with your present economic condition?", 13% and 11% of the respondents categorised as "Poor" and "Very poor" respectively answered "Yes".

I really don't know what to make of this. Does it mean that at least a fraction of Indians have successfully internalised the maxim "Be content with what you have", or that the person(s) conducting the survey had no clue how to go about doing their job?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

I understood the full power of my Knoppix CD today. This is what you should use to repair a fscked up Linux installation; not a boot floppy. Boot using the CD, mount your hard disk, do what you have to do to repair this and you are done. In theory. What I did actually was slightly less heroic. I used the Knoppix installation to recover whatever I could (burned the files to a CD) and sneaked out with my tail between my legs (I did download and compile cdrtools and xcdroast in the Knoppix environment, though, so may be I was not a total wimp).
Euro 2004, here I come!

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Firefox developers don't know a good thing when they see it. They removed the Qute theme as the default one for version 0.9 and have replaced it with one that quite frankly sucks big time. You can still get the Qute theme here, though.
Factoid of the day: The members of the Philological Society of London (compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary) decided in 1857 that existing dictionaries were so poor that a total reassessment of the language was needed. They thought they'd release their dictionary within a decade, but it took five years for them to reach "ant". The final section (Wise to Wyzden) was completed in 1928 (four teams were working in parallel; the team responsible for X, Y and Z completed their work in 1921).

Incidentally, the last word in this dictionary was zyxt, meaning a miniscule pimple on the tip of your ass that simply refuses to go away (really!).

I know I am not helping my karma by saying this, but isn't it poetic justice that the person who stonewalled the Iran-Contra Senate Committee hearings for three straight days saying "I don't recall" finally succumbed to Alzheimer's disease, the terminal stages of which are accompanied by complete memory loss?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Yep, I've done it again. Screwed up my Linux installation, that is. Tried upgrading to the libc6 in Debian sarge. Ran into some dependency problems. apt-get -f install removed some twenty-odd packages, and that's it. Kernel panic.

The timing is pretty good, as I am going to try out Mandrake 10.0 shortly. I also have backups after burning my fingers last time. Every cloud has a silver lining...
"Chopsuey!" by System of a Down is a very unique song. Parts of it are incredibly good, while other parts are indescribably bad (in which the band descends into sheer screaming).

Speaking of good songs, I don't know why I like this one. As the French say, it has a certain je ne sais quoi. Perhaps because the lyrics somewhat mirror my current situation in life, or perhaps because the tune appeals to me? Any way, Live is one of my all-time favourite bands.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Here is a hilarious thread in alt.atheism where a character called 'Kadaitcha Man' sets up a thesis that atheism is a mental illness and keeps knocking out refutations by hiding behind his own rules of debate. Warning: be prepared to be exposed to quite a bit of obscenity, as Kadaitcha Man is wont to abuse other posters liberally.
"Best of all is never to have been born. Second best is to die soon."

Came across this quote in Slashdot. Not sure who the author is, or whether it is a philosophical or humorous quote, but it sure made me stop dead in my tracks for a while. I guess there are days when you can empathise with such a sentiment.

Update: This quote is from Greek mythology; the satyr Silenus is said to have given this reply to King Midas' question "What fate is best for man?"
Day three of my 'No TV' week. Got to catch up on my reading; The Runaway Jury was one of the books I got to spend my time on. I know, I am bit late reading this, but to tell you the truth, I didn't like it as much as, say, The Chamber or The Rainmaker, so I guess I didn't miss much.
Andrew Tobias agrees with me!
The euro is not just giving the dollar a run for its money in international financial circles; even the Mafia has switched over to the euro:

"..When I asked a smaller group of Wall Street bankers the same question, they were more doubtful - though one observed that the euro is already the preferred currency of organised crime because, unlike the Fed, which no longer issues bills with a value above $100, the European Central Bank issues a high-denomination E500 note. That makes it possible to cram around E7m into a briefcase - which can come in useful in some parts of Colombia"

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I got a reply from my credit card company that they will not share my personal data with anyone. Why am I still not convinced?
There is an article entitled "What is an American" that has been making the rounds on the Internet for the last three years or so. This article was supposedly written by an American professor (the link incorrectly attributes this to an Australian dentist, BTW) in response to an advertisement placed in a Pakistani newspaper that offered a reward to anyone who kills an American.

I generally agree with this article, except for the following points:

1. It is a bit disingenuous to think that America poured arms and supplies into Afghanistan to help the Afghans to win their freedom.

2. The fact that people from developed (read white) countries are admitted freely into America with minimal immigration restrictions while people from third-world countries are not puts to the lie the claim that America is ready to open its arms wide to the "....tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, the tempest tossed.." This may have been true some fifty years ago, but not today.

3. The point that is being missed is that, to the rest of the world, Americans are synonymous with the American government. The sooner Americans wake up to the fact that, as Van Halen put it, their government is right now doing things that they think only other governments do, the better for everyone.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

I had let my old ISP account expire (this was the one that was nothing more than a spam magnet). As a result, the spam was mercifully stopped (to be precise, even legit emails would not have made it through). I finally got around to renewing this account, and lo and behold, 36 offers to enlarge my you-know-what's size!

The sad truth is, I was actually missing these emails. Quite comforting to know that someone, somewhere (even if only a spambot) cares about me and the state of my love life/personal finances/software needs :-)

God, I am such a loser.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

JDK 1.5 does not have generics. You don't have to take my word for it. Bruce Eckel says so.

Damn, I am getting to like Java lesser and lesser every day.

Friday, June 04, 2004

No one should take themselves so seriously
With many years ahead to fall in line
Why would you wish that on me?
I never want to act my age
-- What's My Age Again, Blink 182

Who said punk rockers' lyrics are shallow? Never mind the rest of the song, though. Incidentally, this is the song in which the dudes run naked in the streets of LA.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Recently I bought a copy of Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. I had read this book in college and was pretty impressed with it then (though I didn't understand all of it). Hofstadter has added a new preface for the twentieth anniversary edition. In this preface, he states that he finds Zen Buddhism "quite confusing and silly".

WTF?! This one statement of his has made me lose half my respect for him. Hofstadter's opinion brings to mind this quote from The Three Pillars of Zen (it's about the enlightenment experience of Dogen Kigen):

"...Dogen's insights as to time and being, realized by him introspectively in the thirteenth century through zazen, and the views of certain contemporary micro- and macro-physicists on time and space, parallel each other to a remarkable degree. The difference, however, and a deeply significant one, is in the effect these insights had upon these men. Dogen's realization, being a Self-discovery, liberated him from the basic anxieties of human existence, bringing him inner freedom and peace and deep moral certainty. But, as far as can be seen, no such inner evolution has followed in the wake of these scientific discoveries."

I think it is very appropriate that I am listening to Shame by Matchbox Twenty as I type this.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

For some reason, I have not been able to make much headway learning Smalltalk. I have wrapped my mind around images, dynamic typing, blocks and all that, but whenever I try to do something worthwhile, I hit a snag and end up feeling frustrated.

Smalltalk's huge class library is both a blessing and a curse. The moment I open a System Browser, this whole class library is exposed to me (including the source). Being curious, I start browsing these classes, and, needless to say, feel overwhelmed very quickly. Java too has a huge class library, but I get the choice of sticking to only those classes/methods I need. It's thus a quick in-and-out operation. I also don't get to see the innards of the library that easily.

Some time back, I asked the folks at comp.lang.smalltalk for some ideas for hobby projects. I got a lot of responses (even a job offer -- thanks, guys), but due to various reasons I have not been able to pursue these ideas (the fact that I got a bit involved in bringing Vajra into shape didn't help matters, either). But I must say, Smalltalkers are incredibly friendly and helpful people!

The most ironic thing of all is that I discovered the pleasure of working in a Smalltalk environment while working in Java. I was trying out IBM VisualAge to port an applet-based application to Java Web Start and was really impressed with the level of productivity I was able to achieve (VAJ is heavily modelled on a typical Smalltalk IDE -- the same layout of panels for packages, classes and methods; file-less development and so on).

I was just idly going through my credit card statement this month when I discovered something: there was a small section at the back of the statement entitled "Important information please do not ignore" that said that my current and historical data was going to be shared with their Group companies and vendors. It went on to say that unless they heard from me within 15 days, it would be assumed that I concurred with this. This sharing of information was being done ostensibly to "serve me better".

"Serve me better" my ass. I bet you weasels are going to sell this information to some direct marketing company who will then start bombarding me with spam.

If they had wanted to be upfront about it, they would have a) sent me a separate letter about this instead of using the fine print that nobody ever bothers to read and b) made the opting out the default action (i.e. if they didn't hear from me within 15 days, they would assume that I didn't want them to share my data).

On a similar vein, have you noticed that, whenever you sign up for something in a website, you have to uncheck the box that says "Please use my email address to bombard me with spam"?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Today I learned that a beautiful girl will come for a ride in your new Ford Ikon if you manage to keep some pigeons from taking a dump on her head.