Vote for me in the Indibloggies

We interrupt our regular schedule of quality programming to bring you this message. We’ve been nominated for the IndiBloggies, which comes with 25 cartons of Ego Boost as the prize. (And some other miscellaneous stuff, none of which we’re really interested in.)
OK, so I’ve been nominated not once, not twice but three times for my two blogs – this one and my chef blog. Shiok Chef’s Notes has been nominated for best topical blog, and hey, anyone who’s read my detailed recipes and seen my gorgeous photographs has to vote for me. The only competition I can see is from Yazad, whose blog AnarCapLib has also been nominated. Actually, I write over there too, so this is a fight between me and 25% me. 🙂
If that weren’t enough, both of my blogs have been nominated for the best design award. Yes, both MadMan’s Web and Shiok – Chef’s Notes are going heads up against each other. This makes me happy but also sad at the prospect of the vote being split.
I’ll make this simple for you. Vote for Shiok as the best topical blog, and MadMan’s Web for the best design. My chef’s blog has exhaustive useful content and this blog is filled with design doo-dads. I’ve combined two blogs (the links blog and the article blog) on the same page without crowding the place. My nav bars slide out of side if you want to read my articles on a smaller monitor, and my text is well spaced and readable. Heck, even my comment box expands if you want to write a ton. There’s a whole bunch of usability thingamajigs too if you look closer (try hovering your mouse over some text box or label some time.) I deserve this award over the other contenders, some of whom don’t even live in this country.
(Update: I see that Ravikiran and JK are now accepting bribes for their votes. I’m far too honest for that. Besides, I have l33t rigging skillz.)

Bharteeya Blog Mela: The Tsunami Memorial

(Welcome, Instapundit readers.
Get yourself a cup of coffee, and set aside some time for reading all these

It’s Blog Mela time again, as we present the best posts from Indians and
about India/Indians. This is also the first Blog Mela of the new year, which is
of course a meaningless statistic.

As you would expect, this week’s reading is heavy on Japanese 101, as the
word "tsunami" is introduced to thousands of people who had never
heard it before.

This past week, bloggers have supplemented the regular and mostly repetitive
news coverage with their own account of the disaster, and some of these have
been more revealing than what the newspapers dished out.

Sameer has an overview of what
a tsunami is

While we don’t typically accept whole blogs as nominations, Amit Varma’s India
has tons of reading, written while visiting the tsunami-affected

(Update: Amit is churning out reports faster than I can read them. Some outstanding writing there.)

Amit’s travelling companion, Dilip D’Souza, too has plenty
to report
. I recommend you set aside a big chunk of time to read everything
they’ve written.

Kiruba, who normally sticks to very "bloggy"
stuff on his site, changes gear to write long accounts of the relief efforts. He
also takes photos, which is helpful.

Suman Kumar, who has suffered a bandwidth
tsunami on his site due to being mentioned in the New York Times (with a little
help from yours truly), is trying to do his bit with the relief. He has a tsunami
site of his own

Alpha is upset over the
loss of life
, but is more upset at the lack of news coverage in the USA.

with Alpha. He thinks the media is being particularly insensitive
in its relentless display of dead bodies and suffering people.

Sandeep blames
the government’s apathy for the deaths in India. As did I earlier.


Rhyncus has a
strange rationalisation
of why God is needed because two tectonic plates
causing the earthquake is not satisfying enough as an explanation. In part
2 of his article
, he says he’s got a rock which he calls God, and it’s an
extension of his parents.

Yazad has some thoughts on depression
caused by the tsunami

Ramanand thinks the media
is being unfair
in its criticism of cricketers for supposedly not doing
enough towards the relief effort because they make an easy target.

And now, on to the non-tsunami stuff…

After the silly MMS "scandal" where Avneesh Bajaj was arrested by
for no fault of his, Sandeep
lashes out

Vivek draws some parallels
between Don Quixote and the Nasruddin Hodja
legends in the middle-east.

Sharma says
"A human edited product news feature is never going
to happen at Google" because he thinks Google is primarily a technology

A lady known only as "Medium Latte" says that she prefers
not to accept help
given just because she is a woman, although it’s

That’s it for this week, folks. I know some Hindi blog entries were
nominated, but I’ve left them out of this mela, not because I’m a snobbish
bastard, but because:

1) I studied Hindi for 10 years at school, and speak the language fluently, but haven’t read any big chunks of
Hindi since 1990. So my reading speed has reduced to a crawl.

2) The thin strokes of the text coupled with the low resolution of a PC
monitor made it even harder to read the entries.

3) Some of the spelling mistakes (mostly misplaced matras) didn’t help

My apologies to you all. Perhaps we should start a Hindi version of the Mela
soon. Shanti, what do you think?

I’d like to remind you that my web links blog, in addition to being on this
page, also has a separate page of its
. Even if I don’t write longer entries, the links blog is still updated
almost daily. Check back often.

The next Mela will be on

Blog Mela: Call for entries #2

Ladies and gentlemen, our beloved Yazad Jal, who blames the viruses for his inability to post his Blog Mela on time, has now created a cascading wave of schedule changes to the darn Mela (I think I won’t use the word “tsunami” at the moment.) Since his mela was a week late, my Christmas edition shall now be the New Year edition Blog Mela (apologies to Nilesh.)
I’m sure you’re familiar with the rules, but here we go anyway:

  1. Posts must either be made by Indians or must focus on India or Indians.
  2. Post permalinks to the individual blog entries, not the blog URL. If the permalink is not working, post the title and date of the blog entry.
  3. You can nominate your own posts or someone else’s
  4. You can submit any type of posts except personal journal entries. I am serious about this.
  5. The entries have to be dated between December 26-31.
  6. Last date for submission of entries is 01 January 2005.
  7. My own little rule: Entries written in SMS-lingo will not be considered, no matter how insightful.

C’mon folks, shake off that holiday lethargy and write something interesting.
The last mela was held at AnarCapLib and the next one will be at Nilesh’s weblog.

The earthquake

Dear Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India
Merry Christmas!
Early this morning, I woke up because I felt something. It was as if my bed was shaking mildly. To make sure I wasn’t dreaming this, I got up and walked around the room. I checked the time on my watch – 6:41 AM. Since I was now sure I was fully awake, I sat on the bed. There it was again. There was a definite tremor in my bed. It went on for another two minutes. Later that morning, I checked Google News for “earthquake bangalore” and it came up with nothing. When I checked the regular news sources, however, I found out about the Indonesia earthquake and the resulting damage.
All through the day, the death tolls kept rising. I expected casualties in Indonesia, but the deaths in India and Sri Lanka were a more unpleasant shock.
At times like these, I’m glad I’m an atheist. I’d find it very difficult to accept that a “God” would cause something like this.
I feel the need to rant about a few things:

Read More

…and another year passes

Oh boy, is it that time already? (Sigh) Yes, it is.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, MadMan turns 29 this day. Thank you in advance for buying me that BMW. I really appreciate it.
I think I shall spend the day doing something different. Yes, today I will be crankier than my normal self. 🙂
And I will take myself out to a special dinner at my own restaurant.

BSNL’s new mystery broadband service

BSNL, our wonderful government telecom
provider, has of late been putting out big newspaper advertisements touting its great new
broadband service called DataOne. These ads are remarkable in that they contain
absolutely no information except that they’re introducing a new service. That,
and their web site URL is all.

A couple of weeks ago, there was absolutely no information on their web site
either – all very perplexing at the time. Today, there was yet another ad about
DataOne, but once more no information about plans or cost. After today’s ad, I
checked their site again. Now they even have an FAQ
about the service

So does it help? Nope, that’s basically a page about what ADSL
is. The two most important things you need to know are completely missing: available
throughput and pricing
. Here’s what the page has to say about it:

How about Broadband Plans and Pricing?

These will be declared very soon. Meanwhile you can fill up the
registration form so that we can work out the logistics for your connection.

They even have a
you can fill up to get a connection even though you don’t know what
you’ll get and for how much. (The form is an image. Wow!)

It contains the helpful clarification:

* Tariff will be most competitive in the industry

** Data rate of 256 kbps and above

That sure tells you a lot, doesn’t it?

According to Kingsly, who has spoken to some
BSNL folks, they have yet to decide on download speeds and tariff, and the
service is supposed to launched only around 15 January. So why on earth are they
wasting money on advertisements if they haven’t worked out any of the important
details yet? Who knows? Somebody on the india-gii list thought that it was
because they wanted to use their ad budget in this financial year. Ah, that
explains it all, doesn’t it?

I’m waiting to be pleasantly surprised by BSNL giving us a 512 Kbps unlimited
connection for about 2000 bucks a month. I’m currently on the Touchtel
Airtel Broadband 128 kbps DSL
which costs approximately Rs. 1450 per month with all the fine print
charges included. It’s already saving me about 5000 Rupees every month, but I’d
love to have some higher throughput. That 128 Kbps is called
"broadband" in this country is downright shameful.

New mailing list for food lovers

Lavannya has started a new mailing list for food lovers. I’m copying and pasting her announcement:

Just started a new Yahoo group for all food lovers in India…

I finally thought we need a proper discussion platform for our palate. Lets bring together our common love for food.

Come join this group and lets discuss recipes, tips, eating places, in Bangalore and beyond.

Let us all get together…. and vent out all our food thoughts and ideas. Lets share our experiences with food, our likings and dislikes.

All are welcome – the excellent chefs and the beginners, the new wives and the bachelors who are tired of eating
Maggi and puffs everyday… those who want to cook a quick and healthy meal and those who want to make an elaborate menu as a treat.. those who hate to eat out and those who just love restaurant hopping..

Lets all pour out our ideas and knowledge… and we can have some experts and absolute novices all exchanging thoughts.

So if you’re interested in food, please do join.

Click here to join chilliesandchutney
Click to join chilliesandchutney

Links blog

In case you missed it, I have a web links blog integrated into this one. On the home page, just click the “show daily links blog” link and it will drop down for you to enjoy plenty of weird-ass reading on the Web. It will also give you a reason to visit more often even if I’m not writing longer articles.
(Oh, and for the family and friends reading this, don’t forget that 30 November is my birthday. My Amazon wish list is here, but feel free to surprise me with a BMW M5.)

The future of matrimonial classifieds

I noticed something interesting the other day as I walked into the offices of
the Times of India to place a classifieds ad for some waiters for my
. As I was handing in the form to the lady at the counter, a sign
on the side caught my eye (mostly because I saw a "10% off" screaming
from it.) Unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying my digicam with me, so I’ll have to
paraphrase what the sign said.

Here’s how it essentially read: "If you place a matrimonial classifieds
ad and do not specify any religion, caste, or regional criteria, we will give
you a 10% discount on the ad. We are doing our bit for the betterment of society
and eliminating bigotry."

I was quite pleasantly surprised to see an initiative like this from an
otherwise morally bankrupt publishing group. We "educated"
middle-class and upper-middle-class Indians love to tell others that the caste
system does not have a strong grip in this country, yet we are unbelievably
hypocritical when it comes to marrying off our own sons and daughters. "We
don’t believe in the caste system, but my Sanjay can get married only to a [some
language] girl from [some caste] caste."

Speaking of matrimonial classifieds ads, I think that the growing popularity
of online wedding sites like will
mean the slow death of the print classified ads, at least in English newspapers.
They will do what the spread of cellular phones did to the pager industry (yeah,
remember pagers in India?) It won’t happen immediately, but I give it about 3
years. The print medium has severe limitations: you can’t write more than a few
lines, which have to as short and sweet as possible, giving you only enough
space to write a bunch of numbers and abbreviations. Here’s an example:
"Smart beautiful homely [caste] girl 25/157/6000 seeks [caste] qualified
well-settled boy. Contact Box no…" Now this could fit almost anyone,
giving you very little info to go on. Online, however, you don’t have any space
restrictions, and adding more fields isn’t that complicated. It also allows you
to easily build databases that can be searched on various criteria. What’s more,
it has that most important bit of information – a photo!

When I mentioned the above Times of India signboard to one of my friends, he
pointed out to me that one of the matrimonial sites, instead of leading the way,
was actually being regressive in its approach.,
that advertises heavily on many sites, has an annoying "feature"
that’s also a bug. If you want to search for a bride or groom, one of the
parameters required is "language". This isn’t a multiple choice thing;
you can only select one language. It then redirects you to one of its
language-specific sub-sites where you can search away. However, if you are
slightly more modern and don’t particularly care that your prospective partner
come from a particular state, you’re out of luck. There is absolutely no way to
specify "any" as an option or even to search through more than one
language. If you want to check out women from all over the country, you just
have to conduct 29 different searches. Isn’t that amusing?

Lastly, I must mention an interesting conversation I had about our
matrimonial ads with John Rhodes (he runs
– a usability site) who was visiting Bangalore for some business. He pointed out
some differences between personal ads in the USA and over here. He found that
the most important criteria here seemed to be the person’s caste, religion and
family, while in USA, people would put their interests and partner requirements.
He was amused to note the classifieds were divided by language. I just shrugged
my shoulders and said, "well, it will take another couple of generations to
get rid of our deep-rooted prejudices."

GMail down: yes, it does happen

This, kids, is why you should never use Beta software for anything critical. Not even if it’s good ol’ Google.

Gmail down screenshot

Thankfully, I have three separate backup email addresses, all on different
domains. It is very unlikely that all of them will be down at the same
time so I’m generally reachable at all times.

Update (16 November): To the scumbag who’s trying to guess my GMail password and clicking the “forgot password” link so many times – give up, doofus! I used to be a sysadmin, so my passwords all look like “rj87iy90l” and I can actually remember them.