Tuesday, February 24, 2009

KDE 4.2

Well, most of the things I bitched about 4.0 have been fixed in 4.2. All in all, a much better user experience, except that things are not very zippy.

BTW, owing to MEPIS not shipping 4.2 yet, I have switched to Debian Lenny. It needed adding the experimental packages to apt, but no issues in the installation, as was the case when I tried it with MEPIS.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Definition of the day

Quantitative easing: A word invented by central bankers because 'printing money' smacks too much of Zimbabwe -- John Mauldin

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Inflation, financial markets and fiat money

From a column in the latest issue of Outlook Money:
Don't be surprised if [educational] costs quadruple by the time you need to reach out for the chequebook for your kid's higher studies. This means that, unlike our parents, we can no longer invest in lower-risk, fixed income options since the growth of our investments will be hopelessly outsprinted by inflation.

Now comes the tricky part. To catch up with runaway costs, you will perforce need to mount the high-speed but higher-risk horse of growth investments such as equity mutual funds (MFs), unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips) that have a high equity exposure and perhaps some stocks.
Yeah, nothing like some good old fashioned scaremongering ("Think of the children!") to drive the suckers into the markets so that the insiders can make their killing. On a related note, consider this:
Under a commodity standard, people could save for the future by accumulating gold and silver coins. The coins’ value appreciated over time because of their natural increase in purchasing power, as the relatively slow increase in the production of precious metals was outpaced by the much faster increase in the production of other goods and services. Today, only a fool would try to save for the future by piling up dollar bills. Everyone is forced to enter the financial markets, which are risky even for knowledgeable investors, in order to prevent the value of his retirement savings from vanishing before his eyes
Something to think about.

Managing the jargon-mongers

There is an article entitled "Managing the slowdown" in today's Hindu that sort of sets the bar on how high (low?) you can go with just spouting jargon and still end up with a publishable piece. Rather than quoting portions from it, I'll just let the list of buzzwords do the job:
strategic management, effective management practices, effective management of various processes, operational efficiency, evaluation of all processes and systems, efficiency improvement, value-engineering, re-engineering, efficiency improvement parameters, SWOT, group discussions, formation of task forces, schedule for achieving better results, right sizing, managing human capital, upgrading of people's competencies, improve all round efficiency, human capital restructuring needs, exit route strategies, out-placement, talent development, Management Information Systems, Project and Office efficiency, Training Need Analysis, Train The Trainer Programme, feeling of ownership among employees.
Man, I wish I could write like that -- I would then leverage a synergistic win-win situation for all the stakeholders just like that -- *snaps fingers*.

It would be funny

...if it weren't so sad:
Asked by The Sun newspaper what (the 13-year-old father) would do financially to support his "family", the baby-faced father looked flummoxed and asked, "What's financially?"
Screw it, it is funny, bad karma notwithstanding.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


From an article about Ukraine's financial troubles:
Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky — a highly visible politician — had difficulty answering even the most basic questions about the capital's financial problems at a recent news conference. Asked about shortages of gas to schools, city doctors who hadn't been paid for months and a threatened strike by local bus drivers, Chernovetsky responded with mumbles and stream-of-consciousness riffs about the local zoo and his affection for elephants, the need for more trees and flowers in the city, his propensity to dry off naked on a balcony after showering and the importance of the Bible.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The end of the two-state solution

This article talks about how difficult it is to implement a two-state solution. What with Qaddafi's proposal for a one-state solution finding mindshare, the global revulsion at the Gaza war crimes and calls for boycott, it looks like the Israelis have been hoisted with their own petard -- all their efforts to squeeze the Palestinians into smaller and smaller swathes of land and make a Palestinian state unviable seem to be in the process of backfiring spectacularly, with the end result being a single democratic, post-apartheid state with a Palestinian majority. Watch out for a quick scramble to accept the 1967 borders.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mahesh 'ditches' Mirza, takes Bopanna to movie

From DC:
Sania wanted to watch the much acclaimed film, directed by Danny Boyle, but instead of taking her along, Bhupathi and Bopanna went ahead and saw the movie. "Mahesh and Rohan ditched me and went to watch Slumdog Millionaire," Sania said on Tuesday.
She went on to add, "And they came back and had ice cream cones in their hands and I was very upset that they had ice cream without me and I got angry and I went to my mommy and told her 'Mommy, Mahesh and Rohan went to the movies without me and had ice cream cones. They are bad boys and I don't want to be friends with them', and my mommy said, 'Don't worry honey, you don't need them, go to bed like a good girl and mommy will find you much better friends tomorrow' and that made me happy and I was smiling and I got into bed and fell asleep and dreamt of hundreds of tennis balls with Mahesh's and Rohan's faces drawn on them and I was hitting them very hard with my tennis racket and I felt even happier".

For God's sake, grow up, woman.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"Sweet Rascal" my ass

Today a biker overtook me dangerously on my way to work. Common occurrence, given the below-average intelligence of these Neanderthals, but one thing was different this time: the sticker on the rear of his bike that said "Sweet Rascal". Sweet Rascal? Try "F***ing Idiot".

That reminds me of a car that did more or less the same thing to me a couple of months back. This guy had a big sticker that said "Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven". Not quite, buddy. There is another way, too, and it looks like you've a head start, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What revival?

From The Hindu - Exports show signs of revival:
Halting the sharp fall for the past two months and giving indications of a revival, exports declined by a meagre 1.1 per cent in December 2008 over the same month last year showing a negative growth for the past three months but with signs of withstanding the worsening global economic crisis.
Not so fast:
India's exports in January are expected to plummet by more than a fifth as the global slowdown slashes demand for Indian goods, and the trade minister said further government aid for ailing firms may follow.

"We expect exports in January to be down 22 percent in dollar terms," Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai said, indicating that overseas sales could decline to $11.5 billion from $14.7 billion a year ago.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Spot the hypocrisy

"Judges must make their assets public" -- Jayanthi Natarajan, Congress MP and AICC spokesperson.

In other news, "Ministers' assets not under RTI":
The PMO has decided to keep the assets of ministers and their relatives under wraps saying (this) information is exempted from the RTI act.

Vitamin C can help beat cancers

Not a very catchy story, is it? Let's spice it up a bit -- "Munch on: Potato chips can help beat cancers":
The mouth-watering chips have long been labelled as a "junk food". Yet, experts have claimed that gorging on a deep-fried potato diet can help people in beating certain cancers.

According to them, chips are rich in vitamin C, which tackles dangerous free radicals associated with cancer growth, and those suffering with the disease can even shrink the size of their tumours by eating wafers, the Daily Star reported.
Why do I get the feeling that this news item has an ulterior motive of persuading people to eat more of a) potatoes or b) junk food? The conspiracy theorist in me leans towards (b) -- potatoes, after all, are proven to be a good source of nutrition (including vitamin C), and there are other, much healthier, sources for vitamin C as well.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Note: Please refer to this for more on the evaluation parameters.

Question #1: The ability of the movie to hold your attention is:
A. Huh, you were saying?
C. So so
B. Very good
D. Let's go out for pizza

Question #2: The quality of stunts/effects/action sequences is:
A. Excellent
C. So so
B. Very good
D. Not really applicable
How can there be two correct answers to a Who wants to be a millionaire contest question, you ask. Bite me.

Question #3: How would you rate the crispness of the dialog?
A. So crispy I thought it was the popcorn
C. So so
B. Very good
D.Stilted and soggy like a wet samosa

Question #4: What about the clicheness index?
A. Completely refreshing and original
C.It's a Bollywood movie. Need I say more?
B. Very good
D. Danny Boyle directed this? Seriously?

Question #5: How would you rate the originality of the plot?
A. Very highly
C.It's a Bollywood movie. Need I say more?
B. Quite original
D. Danny Boyle directed this? Seriously?

Question #6: Believability of the plot:
A. Same thing happened to me a while ago
C. It's a Bollywood movie. Need I say more?
B. Heck, I know Jamal
D. CowboyNeal

Question #7: Quality of the cast and their acting:
A. I am uplifted
C. It's a Bollywood movie. Need I say more?
B. I've seen better
D. Abysmal

If you banish the thought that you have to like the movie -- it's won ten Oscar nominations, A R Rahman put together the music, so you better leave the country if you don't like it, you dirty traitor, and so on -- Slumdog Millionaire is a very average movie. The choice of English for the dialog reminded (I should say brought bad memories, rather) of Sins, another movie I remember for all the wrong reasons.

Except for the younger versions of Salim, Jamal and Latika, everybody else turns in pretty crappy performances. Irfan Khan's talents are criminally underutilized, and as for Anil Kapoor, can't really blame anybody -- there's not much talent to utilize, is there? He could have gone easy on all the sneering, though.

The climax reminded me of The Truman Show, with everybody glued to their television sets, watching the fortunes of their hero ebb and flow, but here the suspense and drama are inherited (stolen?) from the Millionaire contest format than anything else.

BTW, the best scene in the movie is the Bollywood dance in VT right before they start rolling the credits. That says a lot.