Thursday, May 28, 2009


Both Jayalalitha and Subramaniam Swamy have questioned the authenticity of the recently concluded general elections. While they have not substantiated their allegations, consider these facts:

  1. Media organizations were prohibited from conducting exit polls.

  2. Navin Chawla was accused by ex-CEC Gopalaswami to be partisan, going so far as taking bathroom breaks during crucial election planning meetings, and passing on information about the happenings to the Congress netas.

  3. There is no verifiable paper audit trail that independently proves that my vote was registered for the candidate of my choice.

  4. The candidate's name is linked to the voting button via a strip of paper stuck to the top of the voting machine (rough analogy: numbers stuck to a phone keypad). How do we know that the paper is really in sync with the candidate details fed into the machine? For that matter, how do we even know for sure that two buttons are not connected to the same candidate?

  5. There is a huge disconnect between then opinion polls and the actual results.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Got work?

From ABC News via Mish's blog:
Casey Savage graduated from Trinity College in Hartford with a 3.8 grade-point average and honors. What he doesn't have is a job.

"I've talked to 24 different firms so far. Hedge funds, investment banks, private equity shops," Savage said. "And I just feel that there's limited opportunities at this point."
It's a bad situation, alright, but I can't feel too much sympathy for someone whose goal -- right out of college, no less -- is to take up a career where one's job: a) doesn't add anything to the real economy b) involves either a Ponzi scheme or blowing up the next bubble and c) screwing over old widows and pensioners.

Friday, May 22, 2009

You can't make this stuff up

First IPL2 semi-final: Delhi Daredevils' Dilshan, a Sri Lankan, hits a boundary and is applauded by somebody holding a sign that reads (in Tamil) Tamizhanda!!.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I haven't been paying attention to MotoGP for a while, so I don't know how long the unedifying practice of changing bikes during the race has been in place. Doesn't really matter: it sucks big time, and takes away an important aspect where MotoGP scored over Formula One.

Maybe it's my belief in the KISS principle, but the idea of starting and finishing the race non-stop and relying only on your driving skills -- as opposed to the scheming and tactics associated with pit stops, fueling, tyre change, etc. -- appeals immensely to me. While we are at it, why not dispense with having two drivers and cars per team as well? It leads to charges of favoritism and ill feelings between the drivers, and results in violations of the spirit of racing when one driver is instructed to let his partner win in the interests of the team.

There is also a financial benefit to the no pit stops strategy -- think of all the money saved because you don't need such a large crew in every race.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

There's this web site called that keeps passing off lies as news. The latest one is a news item that Seymour Hersh claimed in an interview to an Arab TV channel that Dick Cheney ordered the assassination of Benazir Bhutto -- a claim that has been debunked quite thoroughly. I would have let this go if it had been a one-off thing, but these guys did it earlier too, trying to pass off a controversial but unattributed quote to Robin Cook (I tried searcing for this in their web site, but it looks like they pulled that story).


The Hindu is carrying a 1986 interview with Prabakaran as part of the news coverage of his death. While one must take his answers with a pinch of salt -- he was living in India at the time, and this was before the IPKF operations -- I can't help but think that republishing the interview is going to have the unintentional effect of building sympathy for him, and gloss over the transmogrification that has happened over the 23 years since then.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Party's over, folks

Time to say goodbye to the easy money.


According to this story, retail sales fell in April by 0.4%, while according to this one, they were up by 1.2% in the same month. Both stories are carried by Yahoo Finance (sourced from Bloomberg and NYTimes via Indian Express), and both were posted within minutes of each other, probably by the same journalist -- as indicated by the URL. Mind you, it could be that one of these numbers is year-on-year while the other is month over month, but it's still sloppy journalism if I have to figure this out on my own.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here we go again

The reason for Monday's fall in the Sensex is the "uncertainty over government formation". Which brings up the question: what was the level of uncertainty a few days ago, when the Sensex was moving upward? I don't know who is to be blamed for this: the market players who try to pass off such after-the-fact rationalizations, or the reporters who quote these jackasses mindlessly.

A Recent WTF

This DailyWTF story reminds me of something similar that happened to me recently. I created a user account in one of the government web sites -- I think it was to pay the water tax -- and there was no option to specify a password during account creation. I thought I would receive an email containing a link for activating the account and specifying a password, but nope, no confirmation email. When I tried to log in using the newly created user name, however, I found a password field guarded by the usual annoying JavaScript alert. I guess you can see where I'm going with this by now: disabling JavaScript bypassed this validation and I was shooed in without any ado.

I haven't tried accessing the site again after this, so I don't know whether this state of affairs persists. Considering that this is a government web site, I wouldn't be surprised if it does.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Dude, I think you're missing the whole point

From a letter in The Hindu:
Ajmal's trial is nothing but taking democracy too far. Only a person whose guilt is in doubt should be given an opportunity to defend himeself, not one who is is responsible for killing innocent people indiscriminately.
Pray tell, how do we decide that someone's guilt is in doubt or not, without going through the whole judicial process (a.k.a. 'trial')?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

IPL 2.0

Random thoughts:
  1. Quite a few of the umpiring decisions have been abysmal. Is it because they couldn't get the good ones to travel to South Africa at short notice?

  2. Where did they get the cheerleaders from? Hookers 'R Us?

  3. The commentators, as usual, outdo each other with their cliches and insincere attempts at drumming up the excitement (see #5 and #6).

  4. You have great ads like the Vodafone zoozoos that cost next to nothing, and then you have Airtel's contrived romantic crap featuring jaded, overpaid stars.

  5. A team needing less than ten runs in the last over with four or more wickets in hand does *not* constitute a thrilling finish in T20 cricket, contrary to what Ravi Shastri or Harsha Bogle says.

  6. It's not a DLF Maximum, it's a fricken sixer, dumbasses.

  7. It's been more fun reading the Fake IPL Player's blog than watching most of the matches.

  8. Speaking of the KKR, I haven't experienced this much schadenfreude in a long while (evil grin).

  9. Trivia: The father and son in the ad where the mother berates the father for being irresponsible are father and son in real life too. I think.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Easy there, Sparky

From The Independent:
The biggest internet revolution for a generation will be unveiled this month with the launch of software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that the web has never managed before.

The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet's Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.
Revolution: check. Holy Grail: check. Massive interest among pundits: check. Evolutionary leap: check. New paradigm: check.

Boy, everyone must be breathless by now, from all the Web 3.0 bubble-blowing.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Reddit vs Slashdot

I had stopped reading Slashdot a while ago, as Reddit had started having more interesting/new stuff. Things have changed between then and now: Reddit has morphed into a sort of dumping ground for all kinds of crap -- witness the number of 'Vote up if you hate...' and 'Dear Reddit, I wrote a new JavaScript Sudoku solver. Tell me what you think' posts that make it to the front page. Slashdot continues to have more focus, with a much higher signal to noise ratio -- no doubt owing to more editorial control over the content. It also continues to be one of the few places where the quality of the discussion consistently exceeds that of the content.

To be fair, Reddit does provide some value with the NSFW^H^H^H^H funny pictures and videos, but a good source for the latest news? Not anymore.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Get off my lawn

I have been meaning to write about this for a long time, but considering that the size of my friends list in Facebook has exceeded the magical number of four, now is as good a time as any other: this may just be a generational thing, but every time I see a Facebook/Orkut page with the pokes, scraps and assorted other crap, my fingers start twitching involuntarily, trying to reach for the nearest neck to choke. The exposure of the messages in one's scrapbook/wall/whatever to everybody in the friends list is, to me, the equivalent of making the password to your email account public. Even if the messages are in the nature of 'Hi!!!! Great to get in touch with you!!! lol!!' (I'm not even going to comment on the language or the presence of the extra exclamation marks), I still consider such exposure a violation of my privacy.

P.S. And dude, there's a word for using $HOT_HOLLYWOOD_HUNK's picture as your avatar or whatever the fsck it is called: loser.


Dear Tata Sky

The way you disallow any control of the content for the first ten seconds or so after switching on the set top box and ram your promos down the viewers' throats is extremely presumptuous and shows that you don't give a tiny rat's ass about your customers. Believe me, the last thing a person wants to experience just as he's sitting down for some hopefully decent entertainment is impotent rage at the non-functioning remote.

You give research a bad name

I don't think they could have picked a more irrelevant topic for research if they had tried. Coming soon to an academic journal near you: 'Correlation between the colour of the suits worn by CEOs and the year-on-year growth in the quarterly profits reported by their companies'.

Kamran reported

Rajastan Royals' Kamran Khan has been reported for a suspect bowling action. Excuse me, if Kamran's action is suspect, Lasith Malinga should be banned from coming within 100 yards of the bowling crease. I can't for the life of me imagine why no umpire has had the guts to report him so far (unless it's because of the power wielded by the Asian lobby in international cricket affairs). Staying on the subject of cricket affairs, Lalith Modi is beginning to look more and more like a Mini-Me version of Jagmohan Dalmia.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Government launches new pension scheme

Ignoring the convenient timing of the announcement -- frankly, the postponing of the announcement by a month doesn't really cut it -- the idea of a pension scheme in which one can invest up to 50% in the stock market is simply abominable. Here's a suggestion: why don't they rename it from NPS to 401K?

Update: Now the IT sector is contemplating a switch to the new scheme. The article touts a number of benefits of the new scheme over EPF:
NPS scores over EPFO on several counts. While EPFO follows a moribund investment pattern with no equity exposure, NPS allows members to design their own retirement portfolio and offers six different fund managers to choose from. EPFO's service delivery and account keeping is de-centralised and a recent audit found that over 90% of EPF members' accounts are inaccurately maintained. With a professional central record-keeping agency in place, NPS is better placed on this front.

Workers can check their pension fund balances online, far advanced than the delayed annual contribution slips EPFO sends.
Frankly, except for the better record-keeping, the rest of the reasons are in no way deal-clinchers (note how the EPFO's lack of exposure to the equity market is dismissed as a "moribund investment pattern"). Also, good luck with backing the horse -- aka 'fund manager' -- most likely to win.

The family that flips together

Check out this picture of Amitabh Bachchan proudly giving the bird to everybody (I couldn't locate the online version of the image where the entire Bachchan clan is indulging in unintentional rudeness). Somebody in the polling booth is having a good laugh about the whole thing.

Props to Priya Dutt for realizing the stupidity of holding up a finger (middle or otherwise) and showing her whole hand instead.