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Showing posts from 2008

A case of misplaced priorities

Recently India's first air conditioned bus stand opened up in Bangalore. In a state that is reeling under severe power shortage - street lights are off on many roads in Bangalore, farmers in the state are getting electricity in the night, hence watering the fields in night and getting bitten by snakes in turn - 2 deaths and 6 more cases in past month or so. And in a city with a lovely weather, which is said to have natural air conditioning in place. Sure it has deteriorated in years but still pretty powerful if you ask my running nose and coughing throat. And in such a city and such a state, we proudly build a air conditioned bus stand.
It is wrong on so many counts that it makes me desperate.

5 of Pothi.com titles launching today during Bangalore Book Festival

Five of our books are being launched today in Bangalore Book Festival. I am very excited and a little nervous too :-). Please come to the launch and show your support. We promise it will be interesting. Here is a Press Release with some more information - Print-on-Demand titles come to Bangalore Book Festival . You can see the titles being launched on Pothi.com .Time: 4:30pmVenue: Gayatri Vihar, Palace Grounds, Near Mekhri Circle, Bangaloreupcoming page

Bangalore Book Festival 2008

The Bangalore Book Festival is back. It is happening at Palace Gorunds from 14th - 23rd November. There are going to be over 275 stalls by various publishers and booksellers. I am excited about it both as a book lover and also as somebody who now has business interest in publishing and printing. Check out the details about the festival here : Bangalore Book Festical 2008I visited the 2004 festival and was mightly pleased with the tons and tons of books all around. That was also the start of my professional life and for the first time I had lots of disposable money on my hands. As a result, I returned back home with around 15 books in my hands, some of them still unread 4 years later :-). But the excitment of buying books is always worth it.Do leave a comment if you plan to go to the festival. What are your expectations? Looking for some rare books? Hoping to discover some new and exciting publishers?

Guy Kawasaki, Books, Fake Steve Jobs and Motorcycles

The foreword to Guy Kawasaki's new book by the Fake Steve Jobs. Funny ! I don't know if it will make me jump out of the window and head to a book store to buy the book but will sure make me pick it up and turn few pages whenever I see it next. This may have something to do with me being a poor cash-strapped entrepreneur who loves books. But it sure proves the worth of a suitable foreword in marketing a book. Enjoy !You know what I think about whenever I hear the name Guy Kawasaki? Motorcycles. It's true. It's the first thing I think about when I hear his name, even though I???ve been told again and again that Guy actually has nothing to do with motorcycles. So then I try not to think about motorcycles, but come on, the dude's name is Kawasaki. What else are you going to think about? And don't say Vietnam because that is not cool, people. Not cool at all. Guy was just a friggin kid when all that shit was going down. Anyway, since Guy is not a motorcycle designer…

Didn't we put our best boys to work in i-banking?

Over the years I saw and wondered at the recruitment patterns at I-banks and other top notch financial institution. They took BTechs, MBAs and PhDs, in Mathematics, Computer Science and even Physics. These were some of the best brains around, armed with the best education our society offered. And we hoped we were in secure hands.
Only that the mess we see now tells us we were not. It is one thing to be able to crunch numbers, to be able to understand and beat complex dynamics of markets, to churn profits years after years for your employers. Putting it all in perspective and seeing the big picture is another. When profit is the only marker one gets judged by, soon or later it will stop mattering where it came from. It has happened again and again but alas ! our greed gets better of us every time.
I think, at one level, it all comes back to the familiar question of responsibility of science. Just because something can be done, should it be done? Packaging bad intentions into a intellectu…

The slippery slope of prejudice

Recently, while talking to couple of my friends about the bomb blasts and the subsequent police investigations, they took the following two positions without any sense of irony:Police can easily crack these cases, the only thing missing is political will to let them do it. Example was Gujrat police was able to crack the case in few weeks while so many other cases have not been cracked yet in other states.
In the cases of terrorism, you have to accept circumstantial proof and cannot hope to get good solid evidence.The question that remains is if the speedy cracking of cases related to acceptance of weak evidence? I totally agree that the political will to crack such cases is missing in general but I see no ground for accepting anything less than rock solid evidence. If we are not able to gather that, we are not cracking the case, we are probably finding scapegoats left behind by the actual master minds.

That thing that never fails !

I return to blog after so many days and unfortunately it is a bad news. Millions of people in states of Bihar and Assam are reeling under massive floods in Kosi and Brahmaputra rivers. The Kosi floods are much more damaging than previous years because due to the breach in Nepal, the river has taken the course it had left 200 years ago and the areas under flood were actually considered flood safe! While the blame game is on, it is quite clear that the embankment was not repaired and was already beyond its expected life.But none of that matters right now to around 3 million people in Bihar and 1 million in Assam who have lost their everything in the floods. Many of them are still struck in water logged areas and those who have been evacuated are trying to survive in relief camps setup all over the state. The situation is going to be serious for months to come since breach can only be filled after 2 months when the water level of kosi goes down. Right now the hope lies in the only thing …

Snapshots from Indian Retail !

Organized retail is the industry of moment in India. For past few years, it has been the big thing. Every business group/company in India worth his/her salt has put some eggs in this basket. Now with dwindling growth rates and high inflation rates, the picture is not as rosy as it was a year ago but still most people would bet you money that organized retail is here to stay in India. Presented here are some of my experiences in past few weeks with Indian retail.1. One day in big bazaar, we decide to have a look at sandwich makers. There are few brands on offer with most stock of a brand called Koryo which Future Group is promoting. For comparison, there is one from Usha. The piece is clearly old, its cord already disintegrating. Its only purpose seems to be to give some sense of choice and make Koryo look like a good deal.
2. We walk into Vivek's, an old and prominent electronics retail chain. They seem to have a more balanced collection with Bajaj, Murphy Richards, Philips.. Phili…

Coming back !

After the marathon journey of 14 hours and a missed flight scare, I am sitting here on Mumbai airport waiting for the final connecting flight to Bangalore but it has still not completely sunk in. That I am finally back ! This single journey has changed so many things ! So many thoughts claiming my attention ! Nostalgia about the lovely friends I have left behind, many of whom I will never see again ! Leaving PhD and returning back with a MS from CMU, something which was a dream come true 2 years ago ! Being back home after 2 years ! For the first time in my life, no security cover in the form of a job or studies! The new personal life that awaits me in months ahead ! New developments, new life or a promise made 2 years ago is getting fulfilled? My tired and jet-lagged brain is not letting me think about any of these right now and the only thing I am able to worry about right now is my luggage, I hope I get to see it and take it through customs today only.--------------
The luggage was …

Learning the ropes

A beautiful quote from a interview taken from an interview of Sean Johnson published by Coffee with Sunder .

Beyond a CS degree there are some obvious skills you need such as the ability to present to customers and at industry conferences. But more than a specific skill set, you need to develop a base of knowledge. You need to spend time with the sales organization learning how a deal progresses from an email address of a prospect to a closed deal 9 months later. You need to spend time with marketers to understand how hard and expensive it is to generate a quality lead. You need to spend time with quality assurance and support teams to understand the ramifications of ill defined features. You need to spend time with software executives to learn how a software business operates, how contracts are negotiated for example or how a partnership is put together. You need to learn the domain that your product is in and become something very close to a domain expert in it. You need to know your…

POD is to Self-Publishing what Free is to Music

The concept of self publishing is as old as books. Before the advent of modern publishing companies, people ended up publishing and distributing their own work.

It is said that the publishing industry has remained more or less the same since Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing in 15th century. Of course the printing presses have become increasingly sophisticated with the advance of technology, but the basic model has remained the same. This model can print many copies of a book quickly and cheaply once a certain amount of time has been invested in setting up the type. With the advent of mass market retailing in 20th century, this technology proved to be just the right match : print in bulk, distribute, return the unused, destroy. Books are printed in runs of few thousands and distributed to offline stores which can return back the unused copies later. The minimum number of copies required to make this process work ( to generate a profit for everybody along the chain) …

दो अधूरी कवितायें

दो कवितायें। दोनो ही कुछ अधूरी सी पर जिन अहसासों से वो निकलीं थीं वो अब अपनी ताज़गी खो चुके हैं और इसलिये इनके पूरा हो पाने की ज्यादा उम्मीद शेष नही है। अतः जो कुछ भी है, हाज़िर है।१)
पूरब रवि तत्पर आने को, पश्चिम मे विधु ढल जाने को,
धूमिल पडते जाते तारे, जग से अंधियारा भाग रहा ।
कल रात नयन से निद्रा का एक पल को मिलना हुआ नही,
पलकों मे बन्द रहीं आंखें, मन का दरवाज़ा खुला रहा।
कोई बुला रहा !२)
हर एक दिल मे हमें दर्द बेहिसाब मिला ,
जब भी आंख खुली, चूर चूर ख्वाब मिला ।
सवाल जब भी उठे इश्क़ के, मोहब्बत के,
हर इक निगाह से एक टका सा जवाब मिला ।
मिला इतना अभागा, भर गया दामन मेरा,
गगन मिला, ज़मीं मिली, तुम्हारा साथ मिला ।

Barak Obama's Speech on Race

I happened to watch today the speech by Barak Obama that he delivered shortly after the controversy about the comments made by his former pastor broke out. A more perfect union.

I must agree that it is a nice speech. He takes sometime to warm up, to get into the groove but then he is very fluent and impressive. Race is a very tochy issue and I am not familiar with the noraml political commentry on the subject in US. He delicately builds up his argument and sounds pretty convincing.

At one point of time during the speech he said that an easier thing to do would have been to simply denounce Rev. Wright but he is not doing that. I don't quite agree. I don't think that was a path available to him considering his strong black constituency. His strong point is not that he made a choice to walk the right path, he was pretty much forced to do so. The thing I liked was when pushed on the path, he walks it courageously, with confidence and comes out on top, turning what could have been a…

Countdown to countdown...

.. to go home ! I finally have my ticket in hand !! End of semester is keeping me busy and so countdown will start after the semester is over. In the meantime, I am counting down to that day :-)


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The travails of first time enterprenuers

I guess Jaya has been supplying everybody with a steady dose of what is happening with our startup and all the ups and downs. If not, head over to her blog to read all about it.

The only thing I might want to add is that all this is so much fun and it would be even more so if making all these mistakes wouldn't mean losing money, something which is always in short supply in a startup (yes, even when you have landed VC funding ( which we have not )). But it is okay I guess.

However this makes me ponder about the issue at a more general level, about what kind of policies and attitude from government can really help out those who are entering this new and strange world of CAs, Company Secretaries, Lawyers. I am sure the things have changed a lot in past few years and more and more processes have been streamlined. Incorporating a company can be as fast as 20 days for somebody reasonably familiar with the system and with small support. But still there remain so many small things that can…

NIST Machine Translation Workshop

I was in DC last week to attend the follow-up workshop on the shared task that consumed the better part of my first 2 months this year. It is quite humbling to go to such a conference. A lot of people in the room had contributed something very significant to the area of MT in last 10 years and it is a pleasure to see them discussing things with each other and talk about the direction of the field.

The workshop had a rather competitive tinge to it with Google, Microsoft, BBN, IBM and other companies being there apart from many universities and everybody trying to win the bragging rights for next one year at least. What was funny however that most of the people doing MT at these places are relatively young and so most of them have worked together and published joint papers in last 4-5 years. I can count at least one joint paper between most pairs of companies. There were many advisor student pairs that are now in different competing companies. It is a nice little well knit community.

One…

If you cannot access pothi.com

.. that is because we are trying to shift our site to different host. It should be back up soon. We are slowly moving towards having a more functional website before the end of the month. Hope to see you all there !

O Destiny !

Who knew I would be playing 'Aashiq Banaya Aapne' ... again .. and again !

I want to shout out loud ...

..everytime I read another blog post trying to build a case for somebody for staying in US or returning back to India. Someday I will collect all of them and publish them in a book called "A Study in Denial: How our education system is making us all into ostriches". I have read one today (as if you could not have guessed) and fortunately I found something today which quite suits the occassion. Here you go :

Fractal Wrongness

Ok, so may be that was a little too harsh :-) but doing human evaluations of MT output can do that to you !


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हल्ला बोल

पिछले शुक्रवार को तकरीबन १ माह से चल रहे NIST Machine Translation Evaluation का अंत हो गया और बहुत दिनों बाद चैन की सांस मिली। वैसे जो काम चल रहा था वह भी कुछ कम मज़ेदार नही था, काम था एक उर्दू से English मे अनुवाद करने का सिस्टम बनाना। इसी बहाने मैने उर्दू लिपी को थोडा बहुत पडना सीख लिया। इस पर आगे काम होगा कि नही यह तो नही पता पर अभी के नतीजों का बेसब्री से इंतज़ार है।
इतने दिन बाद मिले अवकाश का फ़ायदा उठाते हुये मैने जमा हो गये ई-मेल और ब्लाग पड डाले। उसी मे से एक ब्लाग से पी. साईनाथ का मैगासेसे अवार्ड मिलने के अवसर पर दिया गया व्क्तव्य पडने को मिला जिसने पूरे दिल-ओ-दिमाग को हिला दिया। किसानों की आत्महत्याओं के बारे मे पहले भी पडा था और तब भी बुरा लगा था पर उस वक्तव्य को पडने के बाद एक ऐसी बेचैनी का अनुभव होता है कि फ़ौरन ही इसके बारे मे कुछ किया जाये। मुझे पता नही मैं कब और क्या कर पाऊंगा पर अब मन मे ये बात अटक तो गयी है एक लम्बे समय के लिये । आप लोगों के लिये भी ये रही वो लिंक -
http://subalternstudies.com/?p=153और करेले को नीम चडाते हुये आज मैने हल्ला बोल फ़िल्म देख ली। फ़िल्म कई स्तरों…

Delicious usability problem

I recently started using delicious and I think I will stop pretty soon. Reason? No space allowe in tags and so every time I want a multi word tag, I find myself thinking if I want multiTag or multi_tag or multi-tag or some other version of it. I see that they have been aware of the problem but isn't this one of the first things that one would have noticed when starting to use the site? And even that post is now almost a year old.

I just got in the line for their limited preview of next version, I am hoping for something good enough and soon enough. Btw, any recommendations for online bookmark managment services?


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New year and IE7

Lots of new year love to whomsoever is reading this ! All the nice wishes and all sorts of wonderful things to you !

And now that all the love is done with, here is contempt. I had the misfortune of having to run IE7 because I was trying to test some website. I am amazed by the kind of effort they have put in to make it absolutely unusable. A lot of thinking must have gone into it. They have decided that script generated drop down boxes are bad for everybody. Doesn't matter even if you are a fucking I-write-browsers-over-weekend-who-knows-his-pop-ups kind. If IE has decided something is bad for you, you cannot have it. I have tried every recipe I could find on Google to turn off the annoying pop-up blocker and I am still waiting to see that drop-down menu.

Utterly butterly frustrating !