See how a black woman beggar cashes in on Obama’s “change”

Posted November 24, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Satire

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This morning on my way to work, I saw a black woman outside McDonald’s on Market Street begging for money. A homeless person begging in the streets of San Francisco is nothing new but the placard this woman was holding up and her ethnicity drew my attention. The sign said,

Obama gave me change, Can you?

I was wondering why a person who is smart enough to use such a message to beg, needs to beg in the first place unless this is some crazy social experiment!

Dostana

Posted November 23, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Entertainment

Tags: , , ,
Dostana

Dostana

Dostana is different! We all smile at this cliche and dismiss the bollywood personality who says it as unimaginative!! In this case, let alone any other Bollywood film, Dostana is even unlike Karan Johar’s other films:

  1. The movie name doesn’t start with letter “K”!
  2. The movie does not star Shah Rukh Khan!!
  3. The movie does not involve a love triangle!!!

But it is just another Karan Johar film considering it is eye candy from start to finish! Right from the beginning when credits roll as “Shut up and Bounce”unfolds in the back ground (or maybe its the credits that roll in the background), it is evident just how sweet and mouth-watering the candy is! Tarun Mansukhani (the first time director) and Karan make it ample clear what they have in store for us as Shilpa Shetty flaunts her fabulous body and John Ibrahim flaunts his. I am sure John with his six-packs gets more cat-calls from both sexes (it is a gay movie after all!) as he emerges from the waters of South beach than does Shilpa Shetty!

The story is simple and a little predictable but it does have a couple of unexpected twists and turns. Thankfully the film keeps up a fast pace and leaves the audience no time to predict. There is a scene where John discovers Abhishek also loves Priyanka. This situation had the potential of taking time but its crisp handling is ample evidence to the fact that the director does not want to waste time at all.

I have to say that Dostana is an extremely humorous movie peppered with very witty, funny jokes (even the gay ones) that keeps the audience in splits throughout. Some of the real gay characters in the movie are cliched portrayals but it does not take away anything from the movie. Most of the jokes will not offend you irrespective of your sexual orientation. In fact, they are more likely to crack you up completely!

Priyanka is very competent although the role wasn’t all that demanding. John who is not a terribly accomplished actor does fine here – no faux pas by him. But the pick of the lot is Abhishek who does an outstanding job of a straight male-nurse pretending to be gay, a traditional punjabi mama’s boy, and a cool single Miami dude trying to woo a cool single Miami gal. He has the most difficult role of the movie with a relatively complex characterization but he pulls it off well and remains believable doing it. There are quite a few really gay scenes and thankfully both John and Abhishek look relaxed and at ease which is crucial to the success of the movie. 

If you are looking for some light-hearted GAYentertainment, Dostana is for you but if you are looking for some emotional, thought-provoking and closer-to-stark-reality (Brokeback mountain) then you will be disappointed. Although, there is a little cheeky reference to realism right at the end when Priyanka questions Abhishek and John if they developed any real gay-feelings for each other in the course of their masquerade as a gay-couple. Actually, we would like to know the answer to that one as well!

Mastam mastam

Posted November 11, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Entertainment

Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been an ardent fan of A. R. Rehman since he released his first full length film album Roja. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the Bollywood music space, his compositions have this lasting quality. I have to admit that I have been rarely smitten by his melodies and compositions the first time I listen to them. And this is not Rehman’s fault, but it is my brain that needs some time before it can comprehend the greatness of his complex compositions. But by the second, third or sometimes the fourth time, when my brain finally gets it, I am totally in love with his music. With Yuvvraaj, 2 times was the charm for me.

The one song that definitely stands out is Mastam Mastam. I believe it is the best song that the album has to offer because it is a beautiful confluence of the four essential elements that make up a great song – melody, instrumental rendering, vocal rendering, and last but definitely not the least – the lyrics. The song opens with a vocal chorus whose tune is ample evidence of the complex melody that is a hall mark of Rehman compositions. The first half of the song is mostly vocal rendition with a subdued instrumental rendition. This changes in the second half where the instrumentals get more focus and build up full blast to a crescendo in the end. The immensely talented Sonu Nigam and Alka Yagnik are the lead vocalists and do a fabulous job.

I strongly believe that the soul of any song is its lyrics and Gulzar once again displays his maverick streak as a poet in this song. Labelling the lyrics as unconventional would be an understatement. They are truly wacky and only Gulzar can come up with something like –

Mast Mast Dar Mastam, Dar Rind Vind Dar Mastam
Aast Hast Gar Mastam Dar Mastam

OR 

Aaye Ji Baanke Aaye, Hastam Mastam
O Danke Bajate Aaye, Rustam Shustam
Bheje Mein Bhauchal Hai, Pairon Mein Paatal Hai
Dil Ka Ahwal Leke Aaye, Billi Ki Khaal Hai
Chitey Ki Chaal Hai, Dham Dham Dhamaal Leke Aaye
O Rustam Aaya, O Chustam Aaya
Sou Surangon Se Mein, Chup Chup ke Yun Lene Aaya 

Listen to this song today, tomorrow, and a year later and you will enjoy it equally.

In God we trust; all others must pay cash!

Posted November 10, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Finance

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This morning, I read this on my orkut homepage in Today’s Fortune section. I thought it was a great line and especially relevant in these difficult financial times. With the Dow losing nearly 1000 points in the space of 2 days (Nov 5, 6), and the ongoing slowly thawing credit crunch I can bet that, all banks/financial institutions on Wall Street right now are going by this maxim. With the US economy shrinking in the third quarter, and a potential global recession (the technical definition of a recession here in the US notwithstanding) practically upon us this seems to be very sound advice to all of us on Main Street too.

Desi Girl

Posted November 6, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Entertainment

Tags: , , , , ,

I am a fan of Karan Johar movies and Vishal-Shekhar music and so Dostana (in which the two come together) is a treat.

Ik lakh lakh pardesi girls, Ain’t nobody like my desi girl!

Who is the hottest girl in the world? Desi Girl, Desi Girl!!

Thumka lagaike, she’ll rock your world!!! Desi Girl, Desi Girl!!!!

That is how the new song – Desi Girl (listen to the song by following link) from the film Dostana goes and I could not agree more with the lyrics. Not to mention that the song itself is quite outstanding. I absolutely love the fast beats. This song was made for the dance-floor and even a complete non-dancer like me cannot help tapping his feet after listening to the song. The visuals of the song in the promos also look quite promising.

More power to Karan Johar and Vishal-Shekhar.

Teen pregnancies tied to tastes for sexy TV shows?

Posted November 3, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Logic

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Here is a study that ties teen pregnancies to risque TV shows. The study was released in the November 2008 issue of Pediatrics – official journal of American Academy of Pediatrics. 

The conclusions of the study – “This is the first study to demonstrate a prospective link between exposure to sexual content on television and the experience of a pregnancy before the age of 20. Limiting adolescent exposure to the sexual content on television and balancing portrayals of sex in the media with information about possible negative consequences might reduce the risk of teen pregnancy. Parents may be able to mitigate the influence of this sexual content by viewing with their children and discussing these depictions of sex.”

At first blush – it appears logical, almost obvious that the conclusion is valid. Impressionable young teenage minds are easily influenced by the popular TV shows. I was somewhat surprised that the popular show Friends was part of the risque TV shows! Anyway, the researchers found that pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched such shows regularly, compared with teens who said they hardly ever saw them. The researchers said TV-watching was strongly connected with teen pregnancy even when other factors were considered, including grades, family structure and parents’ education level.

Attributing teen pregnancies (effect) to risque TV shows (cause) alone is naive at best. There are so many other socio-economic factors affecting this phenomenon – communication between parent-teenager, lifestyle, household income, cultural effects, and many more. I don’t claim in any way to know the cause of teen pregnancy but to say it is caused by sex in TV shows seems flawed.

Lets give credit where credit is due – the researchers did identify an important link between two phenomena. But I believe its interpretation is a classic example of a logical fallacy – mistaking a strong correlation between two events as implying a cause and effect relationship. If you are interested wikipedia has an excellent article on this fallacy. It is like saying teenagers who play violent video games are likely to associate themselves withviolent activities, so violent video games cause violence in teenagers. It could very well be that teenagers who are predisposed to violence because of other more compelling socio-economic factors also like violent video games. In the same vein, it could be that teenagers who are likely to engage in unprotected sex, like to watch That ’70s Show or one of the twenty listed by the authors of this study. It is convenient but definitely dubious to conclude that it is the other way round!

 

WWW versions

Posted October 21, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Technology

Tags: , , , ,

There is so much written, discussed, and argued about the web versions all over the blogosphere – web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and so forth. There are at least two schools of thought regarding the nomenclature. One (the puritans) that accurately defines the version, presents strict guidelines for a website to belong to a certain version and lays down well defined frontiers within which each version resides. The other takes a less pedagogic view, dismisses these versions as buzz-words, and questions whether these can be used in any meaningful way. You can argue ad infinitum about the rationale of this nomenclature but you cannot ignore it completely. If anything, the versions help us nail down those attributes that make a website attractive in all respects – aesthetically, functionally, and above all economically.

Well, to be precise these are the versions of the world wide web (hereto forth referred to as www) as there is a difference between the internet and the www. Here is an assimilation of the past, present and future state of the www using the versioning system mainly because of its intuitive and chronological appeal.

Web 2.0 conference

Here is a little bit of history to get us started. We cannot talk about www versions without mentioning the Web 2.0 conference held in 2004. Here leaders of innovative startups and internet industry titans came together to discuss the theme – “the web as a platform”. This was the first ever second generation internet business conference. The term web 2.0 gained wider popularity and acceptance as a result of this conference and web 1.0 is a retronym referring to the state of the www maybe before the internet meltdown of 2000-01.

Web 1.0

Lets start at the beginning – the seminal ARPANET of 1969 (the famous year when people were singing “Hello Mrs Robinson” and cheering Apollo 11 on its way to the moon) evolved into the internet as we know it. The www not only gained wide acceptance but also became extremely popular. People discovered new ways of leveraging its appeal. The first movement – Web 1.0 – was to move knowledge, information, data, etc online. In other words, a lot of content was being brought online. There was commerce also – but again it was like taking a static catalog and publishing it online. Then people could use a shopping cart  as they would in real life to pile items and pay for it online. There were search engines too like yahoo (yes, it was one of the first and earliest), altavista, opentext, infoseek, lycos, excite, hotbot, askjeeves just to name a few! There were also some budding communities like geocities, icq, slashdot, among others. Geocities as it originally existed was a webhosting service that let users create content but also had community characteristics like bulletin boards, and chatrooms. Icq was an internet wide instant messaging website. Slashdot was the precursor to present day blogging.

I came across a harmless and hilarious rendition of a web 1.0 website and I am sure it is a joke. If you want to get a taste of it, you can get it here! This was the past and now lets move on to the present – web 2.0. Web 2.0 seems to be all about communication – networking (if I may say so) amongst humans and computers.

Web 2.0

Lets investigate the human angle of Web 2.0 first. Social networking sites are immensely popular as they make it so easy to interact, connect, and communicate. Weblogs (blogs) have revolutionized conventional journalism. Before the advent of blogs, an army of journalists covered events, voiced opinions, and chronicled history as it happened. Now you don’t have to be a journalist to get the right to write history!! Ok, I got a little carried away with my affinity for assonance here, but what I mean is that the layperson can now publish online about current events, or about events that are going to happen (and get sued if you are the blogger spilling the beans about Apple’s latest product launch). I think blogging is the most potent online revolution that has happened in the recent years. Wikis are another great product of human interaction that leverages such interaction to produce the greatest encyclopedia ever and that too so quickly and so efficiently. Above all its free to the public!

Now the technology angle of Web 2.0. The web Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and web services are the means by which computer-to-computer (C-to-C) interaction becomes possible. APIs are just programming interfaces that lets a web application interact with a site or service – like the Digg API that lets web developers retrieve Digg data that can be used by their sites. RSS is the other tool for C-to-C interaction. This is a multicronym (if I am allowed to coin a new term here) that has many long-forms like Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary, or RDF Site Summary. The pictures that you see on the side bar of this page are just an RSS feed from my Flickr site. If you are a content provider (blogger, for instance), then syndicating your content to RSS aggregators (like My Yahoo which is also a great example of personalization), is not only a great way to reaching a wider audience but also an efficient means of search engine optimization (SEO). For instance, you are Joe the plumber and own a plumbing business. If you have a dynamic website that offers visitors bookmark tools for StumbleUpon, broadcasts RSS feeds (maybe articles about benefits of repiping or bathroom fittings product reviews), offers comment threads to readers for asking questions or posting comments, categorizes and archives content by tags/categories, then you can be sure that a Yellow pages site won’t rank above yours in the search results served up by an internet search engine.

Here is a great directory of cool Web 2.0 sites.

Web 3.0

Moving on to Web 3.0. Here things get interesting as Web 3.0 seems to be in the budding stages now so we can safely say it is the version of the future.  I have to admit that it was Sramana Mitra’s blog that got me first intrigued by the www versions. It is an excellent way to classify Web 3.0 and it has a lot of intuitive and conceptual appeal and makes for a very compelling read. She says that the recipe for web 3.0 consists of content, commerce, community and introduces a fourth “C” – context. It is context that would drive Web 3.0 in addition to vertical search (a great example is the travel site kayak) and personalization. Personally, I feel the semantic web in which computers become more human like and are able to analyze data and instructions (not only low level readable by computers but also high level semantic understood by humans) is the version of the future. This may not be as hard to achieve what with artificially intelligent agents already in existence.

While the concept of making computers more human-like does evoke disturbing images of machines taking over the world as depicted in innumerable sci-fi flicks like Terminator, it is not too hard to imagine that it will take decades if not centuries for this to happen. So instead of a single Web 3.0 version there may be several versions in the interim. Before I go into a new way of keeping track of what these versions would entail, let me say a little more about personalization.

Amazon shopping experience

Amazon is a great example of a website that incorporates commerce, community, and personalization among other things. We will focus on personalization. Most of you would be familiar to the amazon shopping experience. Lets say you are looking for books on enterprise risk management. You sign in and you search for risk management books. You find one that looks interesting and you click on its link. Then you are presented with the book price, details (it lets you look inside the book at the table of contents). If you are unsure of what you want, it offers invaluable options, like other books on the same topic, or what other people are buying or end up buying eventually (community). If you are like me, you want to read reviews before you buy anything and amazon offers just that – invaluable previous customer reviews of the product, and discussion threads that may eventually influence your decision one way or the other (community). The best thing is that the reviews are rated as being helpful by other readers and amazon displays these ratings which again is invaluable because you don’t want to be swayed by a vested interest but rather want a good unbiased review. If you just go to the homepage, amazon lists the New for you and the Latest from authors you may like sections, which have newly published books that you may like (personalization).  This is remarkable as you don’t need to explicitly indicate your preference. Like a human, it figures them out based on your past browsing or buying history. I also think that this personalization, rather the degree of personalization may well become the preferred benchmark against which the future versions will be evaluated.

Degree of personalization and future www versions

Let me expound upon what I mean here. When I searched for the term www versions on Google, its search engine returned about 116 million search results – try it. Now what I don’t understand is – Why is google so proud of the fact that it found 116 million in 0.17 seconds?! All I asked for was one page that had the information I need. Ok – granted the search term was a little generic but how many of us actually look at the next page (beyond the first 10 results) of any search we initiate unless we are desperate for the information and the first ten results just don’t serve up what we were looking for? Will any one of us ever go through all the 116 million results?!! It is inconceivable even to think of it!! I would hope that this would change as the degree of personalization increases. As your artificially intelligent personal Google search agent gets to know you better after learning about your personal preferences, habits, dispositions, needs, etc maybe able to cut down on the irrelevant results of your search. So with every www version it gets better and serves you fewer and fewer pages but these are more relevant and you don’t have to waste time sifting through the irrelevant information overload. Until your search agent knows you completely, maybe even better than you know yourself, at which time it will need to present only one page with exactly what you need – this page may not exist but it may have been customized by the agent to get you exactly what you need. At this point you would have lost all your privacy – but isn’t that a small price to pay for the perfect search engine?! Here is a graph that charts the course of the future versions.

Google Search Results vs www versions

As the www versions progress, the search results produced by google, or any search engine for that matter, will tend to one.