Wednesday, May 31, 2006

WSIF provider for Spring

Today I did something worthwhile for the OSS community -- if I get around to releasing it, that is: I wrote a WSIF provider for the Spring Framework. It was pretty trivial actually, as I reused quite a lot of the code from the existing Java binding.

Speaking of WSIF, I still fail to understand why it hasn't taken off in a big way; I can't think of a more performant and flexible way to do an SOA in a Java world.

Now that is picturesque speech

Her faked orgasm was so unconvincing that I mistook the feeble shudder as a delayed gastric response to the conch fritters, which had been criminally overseasoned.
-- Carl Hiaasen in The Basket Case

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I know

...that there is a moral in this story, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it is. Maybe I can.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Funny KDE bug

When I right-click on the KDE desktop, the context menu makes an appearance only when one of these conditions is satisfied:
  • It's Monday, Wednesday or Friday

  • The hour of the day (24-hour format) is a prime number

  • I have thought of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path within the last 37 minutes
This is where the difference between Suse and the other distros becomes apparent; Mandriva has quite a few of these annoying bugs, whereas I don't remember even a single such instance with Suse. I don't have the option of going back to Suse, as only Mandriva -- for all its minor quirks -- is immune from my freezing problem (the BIOS update has immunised Mandriva, it seems).

Next big project:

... Converting my entire tape collection to MP3. I had converted a few of my tapes earlier, but looking at the rest of the collection gathering dust reminds me that there is some great music that I no longer listen to simply because the idea of physically swapping tapes and rewinding/fast-forwarding till I reach the desired song seems too much of an effort.

I signed up with a couple of months ago, but started using their player only since last Friday. I don't want to take the name of Web 2.0 in vain, but really seems to fit the mould. Compared to the top-down classification of radio stations (a la Worldspace), the concept of tagging music, and much more importantly, letting you listen to music of a particular tag or related tags is really great.

Oh, and getting a (thoroughly undeserved) free subscription for a month as a deal-sweetener for putting up with some glitches doesn't hurt either; I get to enjoy two more stations: one for my personal music (i.e. the ones that I have submitted) and another for my loved tracks.

There are still some glitches; I keep getting "There is not enough content left to play this station" errors for no reason, but temporarily switching to another user name takes care of this.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Baby Blair in Yale

I have never understood how Ivy League universities admit below average students purely on the basis of their parents' connections, while closing the door to much more deserving students who don't have influential backers. Since these universities are privately funded (alumni donations forming a sizeable portion, granting the donors even more influence), I guess they don't have to answer to anybody re their admission policies. But the problem is, when you hear that so-and-so is a Yale/Harvard alumnus, there is a lingering question in your mind whether he or she really deserved to be there.

Treating letters of recommendations as one of the key admission criteria (I think this applies only to post-graduate education; I could be wrong) is another related practice that I find irregular. Come to think of it, such letters could be the fig leaf used to justify such admissions.

Of course, we too have private colleges with management quotas here, but they do not enjoy the sort of fame and name recognition that a Yale or a Harvard commands.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Movie Review: The Pink Panther

The comedy scenes (when I say 'comedy' I use the term very loosely) in The Pink Panther remind me of a crappy program called 'Didi's Comedy' that used to air on DD2. Typical scenes would include someone carrying a ladder horizontally and knocking people down when they turn carelessly, opening car doors in traffic and sending cyclists flying, and so on. It wasn't that funny then, and it's not funny now.

Pink Panther only has slapstick comedy to offer, never mind the poor attempts at making fun of the French language. BTW, the only joke I enjoyed in the whole fricken movie was the Is it hard? What is? exchange in the New York hotel bed between Steve Martin and Jean Reno. Not even sure whether this was meant to be a joke. Go figure.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


From Thomas Friedman's latest column:
If more countries can get just a few basic things right -- enough telecom and bandwidth so their people can get connected; steadily improving education and decent, corruption-free economic governance; and the rule of law -- and we can find more sources of clean energy, there is every reason for optimism that we could see even faster global growth in this century, with many more people lifted out of poverty.
That's like saying, If only I had Rs 100 crores, were engaged to Aishwarya Rai, and were the captain of the World Cup winning Indian football team, there is every reason for optimism that I could be happier than I am today.

Pruning my reading

Yesterday I unsubscribed from a few blogs; I realised that there was not much takeaway from them, for various reasons: scatological humour and general obscenity (Rude Pundit, Bile Blog) stop being funny beyond a point, reading about stuff already covered elsewhere (Common Dreams, Gorilla in the Room) is actually not a very productive use of my time, and some blogs are so rarely updated (OSI News, What's Happening in Smalltalk) that you are not missing much.

I would have unsubscribed from Bruce Schneier's blog as well -- squid blogging? Yeah, I care *so much* about that -- but his post on the value of privacy convinced me that there is still good stuff there.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

That's a new experience alright

Driving behind the municipal truck on the IT Highway, enjoying Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, watching large pieces of garbage escape the loose netting covering the truck's load and fall in front of you, swerving to avoid the pieces, and continuing to appreciate the music while you continue to take evasive action...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Quote of the day (July 3, 1990)

The Italians have seen Naples, and they have died.
-- Commentator, after Italy lose to Argentina at Naples in a heartbreaking semi-final penalty shootout

(Caught one of the FIFA World Cup Specials on ESPN last night)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The perfect cup of tea

I usually don't care how I brew my tea: boil the water, add the tea leaves, milk and sugar, stir and drink. But once in a while, the urge to do it the mindful way hits me, and I go all out to do everything the way it ought to be done:
  1. Pour three-fourths of a cupful of water into the pan

  2. Fill 10% of the same cup with milk

  3. Allow the water to come to a complete boil

  4. Add two teaspoonfuls of tea

  5. Wait for about 10 seconds

  6. Change the stove setting to 'Simmer' mode for a minute

  7. Apply the 'Normal' mode for two quick bursts of five seconds each interspersed by three seconds of 'Simmer' mode

  8. Pour the tea into the cup containing the milk

  9. Add sugar to taste

  10. Stir the cup the Zen way, i.e. don't have any preconceived notion that you have to stir it for 20 seconds; keep stirring until you 'know' that the sugar is now one with the tea
Now you know why I prefer coffee most of the time.

Monday, May 08, 2006


I have voted in all the elections that I have been eligible to vote in -- '89, '91, '96, '98, '01 and '04. 2006 is the first time I will not be able to do so, due to no fault of mine: my name is missing from the voters list.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Reservation in the IITs

Today's Hindu carries an essay by a student of IIT Madras about one of the complaints against reservation in the IITs. I am going to address only the core of his argument and ignore the things he says about how JEE can be cleared just by cramming, how IIT graduates end up just being 'techno-clerks' in IT, and so on. Maybe later, if I work up sufficient enthusiasm for it [*].

He takes issue with the argument against reservation that "there should be no regulations upon excellence" and claims that the IITs aren't
actual centres of research that do indeed strive for creative and disciplined endeavour...
OK, conceding for a moment that better research gets done in other places like BARC, TIFR and IISc, how does it take away the calibre of the students passing out from IIT? Do they not *excel* in whatever they do in life after four years in the campus? And no, I don't buy the argument that they are simply "software-writing minions". IT jobs are not just about writing CRUDy business applications, you know.

[*] On second thoughts, maybe it is pertinent to address them, since they are put forward to downplay IITians' calibre.

Let's take JEE. I cleared it more than a decade ago, and things are bound to be different now, but even then I cannot accept the fact that someone can clear the exam just by rote-learning. You need a pretty strong grounding in the fundamentals of science and math to do well. Even if it is the case that sheer hard work will get you in (which I don't buy at all), someone who makes this concerted effort, sacrificing all the things a typical seventeen year-old gets to enjoy, and succeeds, *has* done an 'excellent' job, I'd say.

OK, what about this:
Temples of education? Of the 180 credits that a B. Tech student is required to accumulate towards completing his degree, how many do not relate to science and technology? A grand total of twelve -- including an instructional course in English. How much flexibility does a B. Tech student possess in deciding his course work? None.
News flash: The 'T' in IIT stands for 'Technology'.

Or this:
Even a cursory perusal of campus culture in the IITs -- their cultural hierarchy, their social interactions, their means of recreation, etc., paints a definitive picture of IIT students as self-aggrandising delusional brats living off the fat of the land in the form of subsidies that an indulgent government continues to ritually bestow upon a system that has deviated so far from its founding principles that it betokens those who feel responsible for it to look the other way.
Great prose, but whoa there, that's a mighty broad brush you got there, fella :-)

Movie Review: Syriana

I was expecting something of the same calibre as Traffic, but Syriana comes nowhere near. The first half of the movie is incredibly boring that at one point I even contemplated walking out. Things are better in the second half.
  1. The scenes involving the Pakistani boy and how he is brainwashed by the devious preacher are probably the most riveting parts of the movie.

  2. The Prince's assassination is overly dramatic; drives home the point, good cinematic value, and all that, but showing the CIA guys shaking hands with and backslapping each other borders on caricature.

  3. Matt Damon's character opting to switch vehicles seems to be introduced into the script solely to have a happy ending of sorts, when he rejoins his wife and son in the States.

  4. Clooney's performance is singularly unriveting.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


The Polish Ambassador to India, Dr Krzysztof Majka, has written a strongly worded protest to The Deccan Chronicle for publishing a piece called "Poland next in line for US invasion", not realising that this article is actually a satire piece. Excerpts from his letter:
The observations made in it are totally unfounded ... The new phase of Poland-US relations started ever since Poland became independent from the clutches of so-called socialism in 1989 and remains unchanged. There has been no deviation or rift from the original standing. We enjoy smooth and uncontroversial political as well as other ties with the United States. Therefore, we must consider this article to be a single-handed effort to mislead the public, and we will not bow to such provocative and malicious inventions of unscrupulous and irresponsible acts.
Quick, someone set His Excellency straight before he calls for a pre-emptive strike on New Delhi.

The Semantic Web

Today I quickly put together another hype-laden FAQ; this time it was about the Semantic Web. I think I am getting quite adept at churning out such evangelistic brochures.

Incidentally, FWIW, when I posted a message in comp.lang.smalltalk quite a while ago asking for ideas for hobby projects in Smalltalk, Dublin Core was one of the things that was brought up.

Coming soon: "All You Ever Wanted to Know About Web 2.0 But Were Afraid to Ask". Just kidding.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Movie Review: Basic Instinct 2

Here's a wild thought: Stan Collymore would probably have been a better choice for David Morrissey's character. Morrissey's performance is very one-dimensional. His range of emotions seems to be limited to suppressed rage, suppressed lust and not-so-suppressed superciliousness (and no, dumb looks of bewilderment don't count).

As for the story itself, the plot is devious and Stone plays a great villain, but I feel that things could have been done much better. The movie really seems to drag at some points.

BTW, I couldn't figure out one thing: why does Stone have to bend forward and place her left hand on the small of her back every time she lights a cigarette?