Jeff Smith: May The Force be with you

Jeff Smith, 1939-2004: The ‘Frugal Gourmet’ was TV’s original celebrity chef

Jeff was a major influence in my life. In my early teens, when I was just
learning to cook, I would watch Jeff Smith’s Frugal Gourmet religiously. It was
the first cookery show I learnt from, even before learning to mince garlic from
Martin Yan. His obvious love for cooking was infectious. It inspired me to take
up cooking seriously and have fun doing it. His show also taught me some
important basic principles of cooking including one that I continue to preach to
all my friends and family: "Hot wok, cold oil; food won’t stick." It
is these principles that mark the difference between a good cook and a great
one. Jeff’s smooth-talking style made cooking look not like a chore but an
extremely rewarding experience. Wannabes like Sanjeev Kapoor can’t come anywhere
near him.

Today, I’m the chef and owner of a fine dining South-east Asian restaurant in
Bangalore. Jeff, you played a big part in shaping my future. For that, I will
always be grateful.

May The Force be with you.

Holiday snaps

Yes, I was away on vacation to Mauritius, and it was good fun. I’ve created a web album of snaps for you folks to check out and be envious of.
You can find it at
(Some of the pics had to be scaled down in size for the Web, hence the lower quality.)
I was also in Mumbai for a few days after that where we had a big meeting of the Libertarian Cartel High Council. Pictures of that are with Yazad, but some other pics of Mumbai as well as a Bangalore meet will be uploaded shortly have been uploaded at:
Bloggers in these photos:
Yazad Jal
Gaurav Sabnis
Amol Hatwar
Aadisht Khanna
Asli (no, it’s not his asli name. Get it?)
and I, of course.

Off on holiday

Hola, amigos!
I’m taking a well-deserved break from all my cooking and heading off on holiday for a couple of weeks. The first week will be in sunny Mauritius (well, it’s winter there so not terribly sunny) after which I will be in Mumbai for a friend’s wedding from 25-28 June. Any of you Mumbai libertarians who want to meet up should please leave a comment so I can ping you. Oh, and some contact info would help too. 🙂
I know this blog’s been rotting away for a bit, but I’ve been posting a few things on the more widely-read AnarCapLib aka Yazad’s site. Here they are:
Introduction to logical fallacies and critical thinking
Reservations – the economy ain’t safe yet
Other stuff I’ve written for (older stuff; and sorry, the site sucks):
A scathing review of the TV Channel Zee English
A thumbs-down for Hathway the Cable Internet service
I’ll see you folks in a couple of weeks. Till then, let’s see who steps up to uphold fairness, justice, and logic in the blogosphere. 😉

A small interruption

I’ve temporarily removed the previous post about Indiatimes spam because the screenshots were breaking the layout in lower resolutions (damn this CSS layout stuff!). Yes, you losers who haven’t upgraded to a 17″ monitor and still run at 800*600 resolution have made me do this. 🙂
There are also a couple of minor layout issues that I’ll get around to fixing soon. So if something looks screwed up, mail me at blog AT madmanweb DOT com and let me know. – India’s spam champion

That wonderful Indian portal we all love,,
affectionately known as Indiaslimes (and various other names), has clearly taken some lessons in usability
from the mistakes of other mail services like Yahoo and Hotmail. Hotmail and
Yahoo, as part of their registration process, offer you several pages of
newsletters and information services that can very quickly fill your inbox with
unwanted junk mail. This extra step is of course an annoyance to new users.

Therefore, Indiatimes has decided to make the sign-up process simpler. It
does not ask whether you want to sign up for any newsletters. Instead, it
decides by itself that you like spam and happily fills up your inbox for you.

For instance, I had to sign up for an Indiaslimes account to read some crap
on their site some time back. I never intended to use their email because I
don’t need yet another email address. However, curiosity about their much-touted
APIC (which deserves another blog entry of its own) led me to log in to my
never-used account and see what the fuss was about. Bear in mind that I have never
given this email address to anyone or used it for any other purpose.

After logging in, this is what greets me:

Wow, so many "special offers" and all of them from
Indiatimes. I really appreciate their concern for me getting the best
deal for my money.

No, no, no, this isn’t "spam" at all. Most spam messages include
some cheesy way of getting yourself off their "subscription" list.
Indiatimes, to prove that it doesn’t spam, dispenses with that completely.

Here’s what one of the messages looked like:

See? Not a single "get me off this fucking list" link anywhere.
Saves them the trouble of even programming the feature. That’s efficiency!


When I saw this, I wondered, "was there some fine print in the sign-up
screen that subscribed me to so many damn mails?" To be sure of that, I
created a new account. Like I said earlier, the sign-up process is only one
screen. And this is the screenshot of it. Do you see a "spam me
liberally" checkbox anywhere?

and this is the next screen:


Indiaslimes is fond of another method of spamming. All you have to do is give
Indiaslimes your email address for anything. (For instance, if you give
your real email address for posting an ad on their classifieds site.) The next
day, you will start getting discount coupons, "special offers", etc.
from their e-commerce group. To make it harder for you to unsubscribe, they are
all on different mailing lists so you have to remove yourself separately 
from each one. – India’s #1 spammer. Richly deserving the title of IndiaSlimes.

PS: if you need an Indiatimes ID, I have created one dummy account for you.

username: moronuser
password: moron


How blind is justice? Is it mentally challenged too?

Innocent: Don’t pass go, but you still owe. (Metafilter discussion and BBC coverage): Get locked up 25 years for a crime you didn’t commit and then the government wants to charge you money for your prison hotel stay. This has to be one of the most asinine things I’ve read in a long time. I wish it were a joke. Unfortunately, the BBC story confirms that the British government has indeed losts its marbles.

Journalism or advertorial?

The latest issue of Outlook magazine has a piece titled The
Body Electronic
that I found… strange.

It masquerades as an article about exposing the Indian sex sites on the
Internet and how they’re hawking women to willing customers. If I didn’t know better, I’d call it an "advertorial" for the sites in
question. The writer goes all out to provide every last bit of contact
information for the people involved in this business.


"Business is good…. Earlier, we had services all over India…but
stock was proving to be a problem…we are looking for customers for a
lifetime…" ?Sameer, who claims to be an MBA with specialisation in
marketing, on the Mumbai mobile number 098216-86191., true to its name, is more pan-Indian, giving contact
details for most big cities.

In Mumbai, you can contact one Robert or Ashok, reachable at 09819437751,
who will do the needful. The duo has offices in Churchgate and Andheri (W).

A registration at the dating site in Kashyap’s name (Is
Outlook ready with my bail money?) led me to Arun, available at 098218-44021.
"I can sure provide the service in Delhi. Just call me two hours in
advance," he said. Based in Mumbai, he needs just an hour’s notice there.


The author concludes with:

My intention is not to raise awareness about Sameer, Arun, Purnima, Robert,
Ashok, or their websites. I wouldn’t dream of doing that in a magazine that’s
read by my mother. My honest intention is to make cyberspace a little more
worthy of our kids’ eyeballs. So I spoke to the cbi about it, whose
spokesperson expressed surprise and wanted the addresses of these websites.

Gee, by publishing it in a magazine read by thousands of people, he’s
certainly raised awareness. Just what we need – a journo on a moral crusade who
writes articles like advertorials. If he wanted only the CBI to investigate, he
could’ve given them the mobile numbers in question. What purpose did printing
them in the magazine serve?

Go read
the article
and tell me if you too find it stinks a bit.

Job reservations in the private sector

The ugly word "reservation" is making an appearance again in the
legislative circles. Now, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is considering passing
a law
making a certain percentage of private sector jobs available only to backward castes.

Job reservations for "backward" castes, regardless of merit, have
been present in government and public sector jobs for a long time now. Isn’t it
enough that we have to endure the appeasement of vote banks by shameless
politicians? Why should the government interfere in the running of private
companies and dictate its employment policies? Unlike the government, social
justice (or the appearance of it) isn’t one of the responsibilities of private
corporations. A corporation exists to make money for its shareholders. While you
could argue that it has a duty to its employees, it doesn’t have a duty to
. A private corporation should be free to hire whoever it wishes,
competent or not, justified or not, and pursue whatever path it thinks will lead
to profitability. The government’s meddling will only result in more social
divisions. Do they honestly think people who get hired only because
"there’s a quota for them" will be welcomed with open arms by other
employees or that they will have a great career path?

Reservations were originally intended to be a temporary measure; something to have in
place while the government tried to provide education to the so-called backward
castes and get them to equal societal and economic status. That they continue to
exist only points to the utter failure of the government to do so in the
last 55 years since we became independent.

You’d expect a politician like Mayawati to resort to such tactics, but what
do you say when members of the intelligentsia also support these policies? JK
points to this news article in which Narayana Murthy, the Indian media’s God of
the software industry, opposes caste-based reservations proposed by Karnataka
Chief Minister S M Krishna. He, however, extends his support for economic
criteria-based reservations in our companies. In other words, Murthy wants us to
reserve a certain percentage of jobs for the poor. No, it’s not for
government jobs but in the private sector. I’m not sure why Murthy, a capitalist
for sure, is making such a statement. Why does he want to force philanthropy on
us? Why isn’t he content with just hiring the best people, regardless of their
economic background? 

His hypocrisy shows through in that he
doesn’t think his own company, Infosys Technologies Limited, is a good place to
start practising what he preaches. Does Infosys reserve any percentage of its
— and I mean the serious software development jobs, not the lower end
"office attendant" type — for poorer people? No, they certainly
don’t. If Murthy is serious about his intentions, let him put his money where
his mouth is. That may, however, present a problem because there’s something
already there.

His foot.

Interface critique #2

For a user experience consultant, I don’t post enough material on my own blog, but somehow seem to find the time to post tons of comments on Webword, one of the best usability-related sites on the Net. So what do I do? I pester John Rhodes, the keeper of the site, to become a guest blogger and post links and commentary on the site. And John, being the naive soul that he is, actually grants me this access. Little does he realise how opinionated his site is about to become. So all you friends of MadMan’s Weblog (yes, all 3 of you), be sure to visit Webword every day and see what interesting tidbits I post there.   

Look Ma, I got featured as a “Net veteran” on Ma…? Ma! Come use that funny thing called a PC and surf the Net. Don’t be such a technophobe. Relax, computer screens don’t blow up like they show in the movies. It’s safe, I promise you.   

Damn it, this site is supposed to be about user experience – Content, Interfaces, Usability, Site architecture, and Business strategy. We need some dope on that, don’t we? It’s been a while since I last critiqued interfaces, so let’s look at some new awful specimens.

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Stupid interview questions

So the big day finally arrives. You’ve got an interview at a company where you’d really like to work. You eagerly arrive 15 minutes ahead of schedule, are ushered into a room with three interviewers, and it begins. Just when you think everything’s going great, the HR manager asks you one of those groaners. “So… what would you say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”

Your mind screams, “Oh no, not that one again!” but you somehow manage a clich?answer anyway. And just as you’re hoping that the question was just an aberration, out shoots the next one: “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?”

In an instant, your impression of the company crumbles. Is this the company you admired? How could it be, when you’re being asked such asinine questions?

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