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Archive for November, 2007

A stark feeling, especially when there are hundreds of thousands of them, trying to make a point. The point could be good or bad, this again is as you are made to think. They engulf the mind, and gets unbearable at times. Nescafé for the rescue this time. An average man gets about sixty thousand thoughts per day (source: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari). But at times i seem to get sixty thousand thoughts in about sixty seconds! Calvin‘s quote, ‘My brain is trying to kill me’ is very apt.

My brain is trying to kill me

It’s all still in my mind, whether to let the thought take over or not. One, seeming not so harmful, thought triggers a chain reaction as if a neutron is bombarded to an active chunk of fissile material. At times they get really uncontrollable. This uncomfortable numb feeling eventually causes headache. Thus making the whole thought process unproductive, not that it otherwise would be ‘productive’, at least in not serving the purpose intended by the first thought.

The thought is the basic unit to trigger any action. If one, well controlled, thought gets more focus, it helps in eventually achieving the ‘action’. But more often, this one thought goes uncontrolled and causes a chain reaction, thus blowing up my mind.

This time i somehow gave it a direction, and focused in achieving this ‘action’ of conscious write-up.

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I am always fascinated the way a human brain works, which i consider the most powerful and beautiful part. Left part of the body is controlled by the right part of the brain and vice versa. I tried to meddle with the right-handedness or left-handedness, and confuse the brain a little bit. Tried table tennis, riding cycle, playing carrom and a couple of do-not-wish-to-disclose things in unconventional ways. In the process, i only got few unanswerable questions! ( for now :)

My first experiment was in trying to play table tennis with left hand, my natural hand being the right one. Though i am not ambidextrous, i tend to play better with my awkward hand than most others here. But there is a flip side.left handed?

I am more dominant with forehand shots while playing right handed, topspin, chops and smashes coming with relative ease, but backhand struggles. The case is reversed when on left hand. The interesting thing i observed was when i play left handed, most of my shots comes off with backhand. This being towards the right side of body. I suck at forehand shots when on awkward hand, except for occasional top spins.

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Tried riding my two-wheeler (and a cycle) with my right hand placed on left end of the handle and vice versa. This could have led to catastrophic results if i wouldn’t switch hands in a flash!

My ride would be fine as long as i keep going straight, but the moment i tend to take a turn, things get commoved. When on to a right turn, my brain would have to direct my right hand to take that end of the handle inward and let the left hand lose, taking that end to front, and thereby a smooth right turn. But with my hands swapped, brain gets confused! With the usual tendency to have hands at right places, my left hand is let lose (which has to pull the handle inward), and the right hand takes the handle inward! This tends to left turn, but the intention was for a right, turn even that of the brain!!

Also, i tried Carrom with left hand. The strength of my left hand does not complement the accuracy required. If i try to hit hard, i misdirect it, and if i give best of my concentration to direction i lack power.

This leaves me with a set of questions:

Why is that my backhand shots are better than forehand shots while i play left handed, and not when on right hand? Is my left brain more active as i am a natural right hander? But isn’t left hand controlled by right brain? Keeping the lefthand towards the right side of the body makes left brain control its movements? Am i left brained or right brained?

Why is left hand weaker than right? Because of using right hand more?

Is it that i need more practice, and need to ‘train’ my brain for not very routine actions? Does training help? Can i control my brain for involuntary actions, there by making those voluntary? Can i controls reflexes to behave in not-so-obvious way, and still keep it fast? Does practice really make you perfect in unconventional actions?

This is the end of part 1, i am in the pursuit of finding answers to these questions, and will try to answer in part 2. But before i finish, here’s something interesting:

How does our brain see this pic?

maria sharapova

I don’t see anything but Maria! :)

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Who isn’t interested in music? If there are billions interested in just listening, there are at least a few millions who play, and there would be hundreds of thousands of bands. Most of them are amateur musicians wanting their talent to be heard. The audience they get are at a college fest or on a reality TV shows like American Idol. But how many get a second chance at such a stage? Almost none.

Muziboo‘Get an audience’ is the tagline of Muziboo.com, a start-up co-founded by Prateek, ex-colleague of mine. Muziboo is targeted at amateur musicians all over the world who want an audience, a critic or a reviewer. The best critic/audience one could earlier get were their friends, or family. Here you get to showcase your talents to many people sharing similar interests. You want a band member? Muziboo offers you the platform for you to hire someone for your band after listening to their music.

There are many with original compositions, and also there are people who have sung a popular number, wanting a feedback from peers on their singing. Though Muziboo doesn’t offer rating of the music, you can get a hint on the popular ones by looking at the ‘Most Played’ section.

For some negatives now. The notion of such a platform for amateur musicians is very impressive, but the website itself looks very amateurish. The site looks more like a web forum. Some blogs are better designed than Muziboo, in layout and design, and i’m sure many would agree with me. Why refer to other blogs, Prateek’s blog itself is more impressive than Muziboo in aesthetics and design. Though the KISS (Keep it simple stupid) principle is highly valued, Muziboo has to be more impressive in the design, for that’s the only thing that could catch an eye in the first look. Also, tag cloud is unimpressive. It is repeated in almost every tab of the site.

My rating for Muziboo: 4/5 for the idea, and 1/5 for the design, and this is something that they could work on to make it better. For the rest of the features you can check out Muziboo yourself.

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Microsoft finally bought a stake of 1.6% in Facebook for $240 million taking the worth of facebook to $15 billion. Some say Google tricked Microsoft in the deal. Did Google really trick Microsoft in this or is it just that there are many Google admirers who over speculate Google’s strategies? After all Microsoft is not run by a bunch of idiots!

The launch of OpenSocial, a common API platform for an array of Social networks, in just a week after Microsoft bought a stake in Facebook upholds ‘Google tricked Microsoft’ story. I’d like to explore the flip side.

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Microsoft had earlier bid for 5% stake, still over priced, for net worth of Facebook to $10billion. But they just bought 1.6% in the end. Why could they have done that? Why not buy 5% or more?

Bill Gates

With a small stake in facebook, for an exorbitant price, Microsoft could keep off other interested parties like Cisco, and Yahoo. Remember Yahoo had bid for facebook at $1.6 billion sometime last year, and was turned down by Zuckerberg? If you are wondering what’s Cisco has got to do with social networking, you will be surprised to know that Cisco recently bought a social networking company based in San Francisco.

Yahoo is losing out it’s dominance in the Internet to social networking without facebook or any other new features in the horizon, also with its shares going down it shows signs of being acquired by some company in future, this could as well be Microsoft.

Still as the quest for the social network continues, the bigger loser in future, as i see, could be Mark Zuckerberg. How could this happen?

With Microsoft having 1.6% share, Yahoo and others are off in contention to buy stake in facebook, for Zuckerberg would not be interested in anything less than $15 billion, and none of them would be willing to shell out this much. Google obviously are not interested, and are trying hard to increase Orkut’s popularity, than what it already is, in US and other places. With OpenSocial, they have got this Facebook v/s all other social networking sites battle, which facebook may lose.
Now, at this stage even if Zuckerberg wants to sell off stake in facebook, who would, other than Microsoft, buy that? And obviously they would not be shelling out billions for this at a later stage. This leaves Zuckerberg to compromise for not-so-exorbitant price. Finally Zuckerberg may get only about $500 million for his 30% stake in Facebook, he had initially turned down when yahoo offered, which shot him to fame.

Now, does Microsoft buying the stake at $15 billion makes some sense, doesn’t it? :-)

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Music is not always bought authentically, especially in India. Piracy is prevalent, be it in selling Hindi movie mp3s, dvds or latest games and other softwares. Why do people buy pirated stuff? The answer is the cost. They feel these are exorbitantly high priced. Yes, obviously true when compared to the pirated stuff. All that these people have done is copy on to the cheapest available CD-R or DVD. Digital rights management won’t work in India. With widespread Internet usage, P2P downloads, and with mobile Internet in future this problem is only going to escalate.

In one of my previous posts, music modes, i had mentioned how buying of music has gone down over the years, from cassettes to audio CDs to mp3s. Very very few people buy Hindi movie songs, but many listen to them on their mobile phones, computers, ipods and other players. Piracy is the killer of music industry.

Five years down the line, say by 2012, as the Strategy Analytics study shows about 40% of the mobile phones would be touch-screen based, like the iphone. The figure could be the more or less the same in India at that time or may be a year later to that. At least 80% of the urban Indians would have a music phone that will be able to download music directly through WiFi or 3G/4G. If a service provider would sell a song at Rs.5/-, there would be few buyers. I think music industry can afford to sell songs at Rs.0.99/- per song for streaming or download, and still make profit.

If the service provider is giving out songs at 99 paise, people would not not mind buying original songs. 99 paise may seem too cheap to sell music. But the sheer number of people downloading the songs will out weigh this low download cost. A different strategy like 10 songs per month only for Rs.30 would also attract lots of customers, still selling at a price of Rs.3 per song. The price tag will be in the range of some audio cassettes. Caller tunes are used by virtually everyone, shelling out Rs.30 per month. This when only the caller listens to the music. Now, paying to listen music yourself would not be all that bad, ain’t?

Moser Baer Hindi movie DVDs are selling at Rs.38/- and CDs at Rs.28/- presently. Selling audio at that price makes sense now, ain’t it? I agree they are selling older movies at that price, and obviously not at the day of release. But even by selling audio at atrociously cheap price music industry can make good profits is my argument. Now is a situation where almost no one is buying Hindi music CDs, so this strategy could change the face of music industry.

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For the sixth year in a row, Indian students have emerged as the largest group of international students in the US. In last couple of years, this has included many of my school and college friends, and also some relatives.

Why do all of you have to go to US? Is India so bad? Yes, i agree you get to have better standard of living over there, but doesn’t the place where you’ve grown up, the streets you’ve walked, learnt cycling with your dad/bro/sis holding your seat, the playgrounds you’ve played hours of cricket in the scorching summer sun, the footpaths you’ve walked on to your school/college make you nostalgic enough to hold you back? Is all that matters to you now is the money you will make? Doesn’t what you actually like to do bother anymore?

Don’t tell me so many of you actually ‘want to’ pursue graduate education for the love of the field, for i know most of you are neither aware of the intricacies of the field (as you were before taking up engineering) nor the on going research in those areas, Other than the job paying in dollars of course, and may be for more dowry you get being a techie in US over the Indian ones (ref.: AP guys). I’m sure many of you would not even want to be engineers given a choice.

Why can’t you be happy with the not-so-high paying ‘software engineer’ job in India? You wouldn’t anyway get to do earth shattering or noble-prize winning work even over there, if you aren’t already doing it over here. I think there is nothing you can do over there that you can’t do over here.

800px-usa_flag_mapsvg.png

still hot..

is US of A. I was wrong in the thought that it was the preferred and hyped “places to be” of the 80’s and early 90’s. Of late India has enormous growth in economy and is creating enough jobs in the BPO and IT sector. Who the heck wants to go to US!? Yeah, i know there are hundreds of thousands of them. US of A is still damn hot! No more doctors are seen to be migrating to hatch their eggs there, nor are many of the famed IITians. The guys who are thronging to US are the ones who have an engineering degree (i’m careful in not calling them engineers) from a ABCD, XYZ, alpha, beta, gamma, delta Institute of Technology, who either can’t get a “software engineer” job in here or consider themselves worth much more than the kind of work the IT industry offers. They are the ones cramming Barron’s wordlist these days.

Whew, even a guy who struggled to clear the university exams talks about Cornell and places! Only to end up doing a masters in a much lower ranked university, working part time as a dish washer or baby sitter. (which is better than not having a job here you say?!)

This year Indian students comprise about 14.4% of the total international students in the US beating Chinese! There has also been an increase by 9.6% since last year. Read this for more information.

Best chance is that you’d end up at Mountain View with the so called technology company which appears to be the best job an average techie could dream of. Most of you are not working on majors you took in your engineering or in any of those fields you choose your electives with so much zeal. What makes you think that you will be able to get the ‘earth-shattering-job’ a 2-year Masters in US would provide that 4-year bachelors didn’t, reading more or less the same what you crammed to clear your 6th, 7th, and 8th semester exams!? Is Google, Yahoo, TI et al hiring only MS? What i am trying to say is, what you are doing now is not all that bad.

My near-Swades experience, not just in watching the movie, by going out, and seeing the actual things happening around has made it more hard for me to leave this country. It’s not all that bad for you guys, it’s much worse for many people out here. The disparity, the divide between rich and poor, is showing up. You still can have a much better lifestyle than a majority with the not-so-sacrosanct-anymore ‘software engineer’ job.

I’ll miss you guys, that’s why i am writing this blog!

‘If you can’t be happy with what you have, you can’t be happy even with a million dollars.’

UPDATE (4th DEC ’07, 2:32 pm):

we are like this only

Read this.

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P.S.: Exceptions would be there for almost everything that i have mentioned above, i have written this on happenings around me in the recent past.

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Until recently i used to feel medical field has not done much progress, using the same old techniques to treat patients. What i felt was true for treatments in India, where affordable treatment is necessary. What’s the use of developing a cure which is not affordable by we people? This was also true for the frequently occurring fever, cough, and common cold in kids. I felt why don’t they develop some drug/vaccination with which they totally eliminate this?! I haven’t figured out why they have not come up with something like that, but there were a couple of recent developments which made me happy. One was an article about two kids getting titanium ribs, and another was on dandruff cure.

Scoliosis X-ray

2 kids get titanium ribs to straighten the spines‘ read the heading of the article. Scoliosis was the disorder, their rib bones were fused or missing, severely affecting the space for their lungs. The treatment was to use titanium ribs, having the chest of kids enlarged, giving space for lungs to grow. The surgery was preformed by India’s first paediatric orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Ashok Johari at Lilavati hospital, Mumbai, on a six-year old and a four-year old girl. The image on the left shows an x-ray of a patient with scoliosis.

The titanium ribs cost over Rs. 24 lakhs. If you were thinking that those kids would be of some filthy rich people, you are wrong. This was the part that surprised me more. They kids got the titanium ribs for free! This happened by the efforts of Child Foundation, an international non-profit organization, which got the manufacturers to donate two for Indian children. VEPTR, acronym for vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib, is approved by FDA. The device needs to be lengthened or replaced as the patient grows, requiring repeat operations every six months. Just when you think it was all over huh? :)

Scoliosis affects 4 children per 1000 births, but not everyone of those can get such a treatment. Good that medical researchers are doing great job in coming up with such wonderful things. This also brings back some respect for doctors in me, the reasons for that will be made aware to the ones who ask me personally(surely will do this time, if you’ve read till here). Hopefully doctors i consult are not reading this. :)

Here is another such miraculous story of a 4-year old girl.

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Silvery Flakes,

of Dandruff…

A group of Scientists have cracked the genetic secrets of the microbe that causes dandruff, and the breakthrough holds out prospect of effective treatment from the scratching, and silvery flakes caused by a fungus Malassezia globosa, living and feeding on human skin (that’s enough to freak you out!).

The team of researchers were led by Jun Xu, a researcher with P&G, at its American centre, and about twenty researchers have worked at seven institutes around the world to crack this genome.

The ones who could be benefited from this include Myself, Bill Gates, Preity Zinta, Salma Hayek, Tyra Banks, Johny Depp, Brad Pitt, and many more.

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