Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Orkut Testimonials: Are people up for sale?

What would you think of this situation? A shop does a fantastic marketing pitch in TV, Radio, Magazines, internet etc. Amazing marketing. You are thrilled at the product and you want to buy it. And so you go to the shop and - - THEY DONT LET YOU IN. Why? Because they dont know you. Actually there is nothing up for sale there. Why were they advertising then? oh! just like that. They wanted other people to know how great they were. Do you think the above situation is crazy weird and does not happen in the real world? Welcome to orkut.

I have been spending a lot of time in orkut (also called orkutting). Maybe its the enthusiasm of a new found toy or maybe orkut is really addictive. One of the things that keeps me entertained in orkut (apart from drooling at girl's photographs) is the whole testimonial thingie. If you don't know what a testimonial is - let me explain. If a person has a profile in orkut - a friend of that person writes a testimonial about the profile owner. Testimonial by definition is like an attestation of various attributes of this person (beauty, friendship, character etc) by an other person. It is like those old ladies in Surf detergent advertisement who give testimonials on TV that the detergent is simply awesome. Here people give testimonials about other people in orkut. Ofcourse people give testimonials in courts also but thats a separate story.

"She is a good girl. Absolutely fantastic. If you haven't met her you don't know what you are missing" insists one testimonial writer on a orkut profile. Another person writes in a testimonial "she is so sensitive, helpful, courageous, adjective4, adjective5, adjective6, adjective7, you must get to know her". Then ofcourse there are guys slipping in a semi-droolish "she is so beautiful" under the guise of being cool and frank but secretly hoping the girl noticed their tactful flirt.

As a reader - I am not sure how to react to these testimonials. They make me feel like a customer. I like what I am seeing. I am impressed with the testimonial, written about an unknown person, by other unknown people. I have to say, I completely trust these testimonials because I know that the profile owner would not have censored bad testimonials and would have done her/his best to present a complete opinion of himself/herself -- ;-) (yeah! right!). So I'd like to buy the person. Say if Shailaja's testimonial has glowing praises of her - I want to buy 5 Shailaja's and you can throw in a Suman also. Shailaja is sensitive, courageous, smart and beautiful (and intelligent) and Suman is very helpful around the house. I am looking for a product package that is smart, sensitive etc and one which can help around the house. How much should I pay? Oh! what? You weren't up for sale? Why not? Then what is the deal with the testimonials? Why does Raju have 53 testimonials that sing praises about how 'understanding' and 'helpful' he is? What is the end of this?

But what confuses me more is that these Shailaja's of the world have allowed these testimonials to do a fantastic marketing pitch for her but she wont let boys have 'fraanship' with her. In the 'about me' column she writes 'please dont request friendship from me if you dont know me' (this is really really common in most girl's profiles). And one of her testimonials read "you dont know what you are missing out on, if you arent friends with her" (this sort of a testimonial I found in over 50 profiles). This is too contradictory for a person like me. Yes! I am missing out. I understand the pain of the testimonial writer in imploring me to make 'fraanship' with this girl. I'd like to help him. But I can't do anything about it.

And the boys in orkut. Boys in general. I mean God had a wicked sense of humor when he created such a sex starved species such as the male homosapien. I guess most men in orkut are walking hard-on's. Most men enter orkut , browsing through profiles, internet, skype directory thinking " i need to get laid. will she work". I think the biological circuitry for the entire species is wired that way. Ofcourse girls - your friend (who is a boy) is different, your brothers (both real and created) are different. But they are the same :-). They are different while being the same. I dont mean to condescend (well! I do but thats a separate topic) but in all honesty, I sympathize with my fellow male species. There is this overwhelming desire to make the 'sex' but they have to make the 'fraanship' first. So you see all these guys leaving messages "will you make friends with me" -- "can I be your friend". So what the internet has done is bring out the male stupidity into the public domain. In my college days we had guys hand out landmark greeting cards (with a passionate face), love letters (no email in my college days, no chat, no mobile - can you believe it?). The only messenger in my days was another friend who communicated 'love' and 'feelings' to this girl. The girl tore up these cards or bashed up the messenger. However, it was all well concealed and happened in private. The boy rarely suffered public humiliation.

Things like skype and orkut are irresistable to the male species. On one hand all girls are in a centralized place (imagine a congragation of 'figures' in one place - that is orkut) and there is opportunity to flirt. But on the other hand its ripe and presents enormous scope for public humilaition. But the male of the species still bite it. They have an open profile with testimonials, brothers, sisters etc and they still leave 'fraanship' messages in unknown profiles. I have laughed so loud at certain guys begging, pleading and imploring for 'fraanship' in orkut. And I dont blame him. If you haven't seen orkut, go surf it - there are some seriously good looking girls out there. Would I have done in my 18-25 sex starved age? Yes! But I have the right to hypocrisy as much as the next guy.

Then there is this skype thing. My skype account is in my wife's name and I often get messages asking "would you like to be my friend". I mean the guys can just see a name on the directory. All they can see is a bunch of alphanumeric characters that indicate that the account owner is a female. Imagine how 'turned on' or sex starved the male of the species must be to just go ahead with just a name. Sometimes they call directly on skype and sometimes they send text messages. Depending on my mood I play with him or ignore him. When I play with him, I ask him point blank "are you sex starved? is that why you are messaging me". And you should see the nonsense he throws out as replies. From "I want to be your true friend" to "I want to be your brother" to "arent you a proper indian girl... why do you talk like this" - its a laugh riot. I, ofcourse, am on the other side of the fence and I feel so powerful breaking the ego of these vulnerable men with the sleight of the keyboard. Its an amazing experience. I can now see the dominance that women have over men.

Orkut is a theater. And people play their parts I guess. I think its more relevant to people in school/college than others. Maybe having 570 fans is a status symbol in some colleges. who knows?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Meme - Lies About me

Before I start the meme -A digression - let me do a quick introduction to some of my favorite Under-Eighteen-Blogs (Blogs run by very young people). Hamsini is this sweet little girl who runs a delightful blog at Live Journal. Sometimes - it is so nice to visit blogs by U-18 kids like Hamsini or Magix (not U-18 anymore - I guess). They talk about stuff which takes you back in time to your college days. The passion and fanatism they show on idols and stars actually makes me miss Michael Jackson, Boney M, Sachin, Sunny and all those things I used to die for. Hamsini is a huge Harsha Bhogle fan (who isn't) and a Cricket fanatic. Another U-18 blogger that I have been reading - since forever is Magix. He is a die hard ARR fan and I have known his interent fanatism for ARR for around 5-6 years (from TFM days). He runs a hilarious blog known for its kadi jokes.
Anyway the point of this post is that I was tagged by Hamsini. The object of this tag is to write 6 things about me. 5 are complete lies and 1 is totally true. The idea is for people to find the 'true' thing and leave a comment - saying what the 'true' thing is. So here goes.
1. I sing very well.
2. I don't like to eat. Especially to eat out.
3. I do all the work around my house and never trouble others.
4. I had a secret crush on 'Kutti' Padmini (Hindi Folks: She played lead role in a TV drama series about Navy People).
5. I hate drum sticks. Especially drum sticks in sambhar.
6. I hate P.C.Sreeram. I think he is the worst cinematographer in India.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Movie Review: The Prestige - Oh My God! Simply Mindblowing

Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called "The Pledge"; The magician shows you something ordinary, but of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn"; The magician makes his ordinary some thing do something extraordinary. Now if you're looking for the secret...you won't find it, that's why there's a third act called, "The Prestige"; this is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you've never seen before.




Have you come out of a theater believing that no praise can be too high for a movie? Have you watched a movie like Memento and thought "this director can never beat this" and then you were proved wrong? Chris Nolan is genius. I know that this is not his story. But the non-linearity of this script, the style, the dialogs , the depth - words simply fail me while describing this work of art. Recursion is an art. Understanding recursion takes some sense. Explaining it to people is an art. Doing that with a wink and style is pure magic. That is what this movie is all about - pure magic both literally and metaphorically.

Two magicians, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale share one thing in common - an obsession for the art of magic. They are so taken in by the art of deception that they would go to any lengths, to any extreme to earn that applause from the audience. You would like to believe that this story is told in early 20th century but you don't really know. There are trains, old horse drawn carts. This is a time when Edison has a mafia team that works against Tesla (The guy had something to do with Magnetic forces?). The names, I guess are a tribute to those scientists. These two magicians start together in the same team but circumstances force them to become enemies and they are engaged in this constant one-upmanship over the other that just drives them to the extreme.

The story is told in a non-linear fashion. If you thought the backward-forward style of narrating a story in Memento was confusing, then this one really takes the cake. It swiftly cuts back and forth in time seamlessly. It is unapologetic about this. But yet, you know exactly what "time" the story is narrating currently. You have to come up to pace very quickly and concentrate really hard to know 'when' the things that are shown to be happening are indeed happening and exactly 'what' is happening. The movie opens with a key scene that is actually the penultimate part of the story's timeline and then much like the beginning it keeps revealing incidents that are much ahead of what(or is it when) the story has progressed. You wonder where somebody's wife has gone? You are told later. You wonder why he suddenly has a limp. You are told later. If you don't notice you never wonder and you miss out on the charm of the whole thing. The graceful back and forth movement is just one of those 'aha' moments.

The other 'aha' aspect is the recursion - the cheater is cheated and being cheated is part of his cheating game and so he still is actually cheating - but the other person knows this and so cheats him at another level. The movie is about magic and magicians and as they talk about the art of magic, the processes and the deception, the movie does the same on you. You are looking - but you are not - and you are constantly trying to find where the trick is and what it exactly is - but you are willing to be fooled at the same time.

Watch the chinese magician in the beginning, he is a sample for this movie. The concept of what level of sacrifice one has to make to make the act sound real is explained so beautifully and has a lasting impact on the movie. [ couldn't resist the analogy alert: I found people call fork() function and becoming two processes that share same memory and call "kill -9" on the other process :-) ( I gave too much away)]. The point of all this is - who thinks up of all this stuff? Who can conceive such a wonderfully layered idea and present it so well? Imagine the kind of work that needed to have gone to sculpt a movie to this precision. The way Nolan presents this movie is unbelievable. He owns the Noire world. He only shows the stuff in the movie that you want to see. He dabbles a bit in the turns and the pledges but every scene is really a prestige. You see what he wants you to see and you are fooled. Fooled in the micro world he takes you to and you get carried away by the revelation after revelation practically every scene in this movie seems to throw at you. It is a magic show - really - the whole movie is one delightful trick after another. and you are entertained. If somebody talk about pedestrian cinema and compares it to the work of a genius. Nolan is the genius.

To put it simply this is the kind of movie that makes you get those goospimples and makes you fall in love with movies.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Business Week Rankings - Michigan Breaks into Top 5

So this is the month when rankings from various magazines come out. Business Week is by far my favorite place for information on business schools. Once every two years (which is the correct frequency to rank schools) it comes out with a new set of school rankings. Among the rankings that are out there I feel, Business Week's ranking system is reasonably better than U.S.News or Wall Street Journal. Rankings on the whole are a subject of great dispute and many terabytes of data have been wasted on it. However, while applying to business schools, I took it a litte bit more seriously than many others (who claimed they did not see rankings at all - not that I believe them completely). And the rankings I looked at the most seriously was BW rankings.

The knee-jerk reaction for many students/applicants when asked to name their top 5 schools would be 1. HBS 2. Stanford 3. Wharton 4. Kellogg 5. Michigan/Chicago. This is like a typical representation of asked-while-walking-on-the-street opinion of an applicant. BW rankings, are slightly better than the other rankings because, even though they have the order different they are at least in the ball park of common man's opinion. Anyway here goes their rankings

1. Chicago - GSB
2. U Penn - Wharton
3. NorthWestern - Kellogg
4. Harvard - HBS
5. Michigan - Ross
6. Stanford - GSB
7. MIT - Sloan
8. Berkeley - Haas
9. Duke
10. Columbia
11. Dartmouth - Tuck
12. UCLA
13. Cornell
14. NYU - Stern
15. UVA - Darden

I mentioned last year in a blog post that Michigan (which was at 6 then) was looking at knocking out one of the top 5 and enter the Top 5. I wouldn't have picked Stanford as the candidate that was knocked out. I am wrong and surprised.

I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan drops (if it maintains itself at 5 in 2008 - then it has done really well) in the 2008 rankings because its going through a huge renovation/construction. However, what happens after that would be interesting.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tips to Handle Stress - I

Are you studying for exams? Are you preparing for tough interviews? Are you wound up? Stressed? (Does this remind you of the "amaam sir! amaam" Anacin advt).

If you have checked one, two, three or all of the above do what I do.

Take a break every one hour or so. Log in to your messenger (both Yahoo and MSN). Find out who are all online. On a loop

for( i = contact_1; i <= MAX_OnlineContacts; i++) {
1. Send them all possible kinds of smilies, kick in the but, bat animations
2. Send them all kinds of winks, water splash, lady laughing.
3. In Yahoo Messenger - send out various kinds of coo's, abuses, pithy onliners (there are many pre-recorded stuff avaailable in the UI) - If you have N. Indian friends send them 'Tamil' pre-recorded stuff. Send Hindi stuff to your elderly relatives who dont understand hindi. Send Telegu stuff to your Tamil friends. National integrity is very important.

4. In MSN - record and send voice-o-grams. Record "boooo" (with 'oo' sound going on for 1 minute) or record "shaniyan" (say it 20 times) and send.

5. type "uck" cut (as in edit->cut) it and then type all 26 alphabets one-by-one and after each alphabet paste "uck" press enter -> type alphabet, paste, enter -> etc...

}

6. Dont reply to their messages asking "what" "are you crazy" " whats goinnn on"

7. Calmly log out. Don't feel guilty at all.

Do it every one hour. You will have a pleasant mood, have a smile in your face, will forget your stress. You will also do well in whatever you are preparing for. I just did it for my cousin. It was thereaupatic (I cant spell this word).


P.S: I am assuming your contacts aren't professional contacts.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pickles

Remember that old advertisement for pickles. There is a boy who does not want to eat. He is sitting on his couch, refusing to budge, when his mom calls him for lunch. Then the grandma' taps the pickle bottle with a spoon and he rushes out of the couch to have lunch. I used to wonder - "who the hell would eat just for the sake of pickles. It is Just wrong". Turns out I was wrong. I am like that boy now (except that I don't refuse to eat lunch - Infact I often demand 3 lunches a day). Nowdays, I eat for the pickles. I am not sure if that advertisement was for Ruchi or Priya brand. But I am now, for some reason, addicted to Priya brand :-).
Especially Priya's Mango Thokku pickle. Its just so awesome. Since I hate garlic (my wife loves it), I am very choosy about pickles I eat. I have to say this Mango Thokku is the best. I am now not sure if the pickle or the curd rice is my main dish. I was not a big fan of curd rice, but now I eat it like there is no tomorrow. And pickles are the reason.
I would like to rank pickles in the following order - (Criteria: "Who is curd Rice's best Friend") . This excludes vegetables (because Potatoe Roast, Cauliflower & Okra/LadiesFinger would win hands down). I am only ranking commercially sold pickles and not homemade stuff (because inarguably homemade stuff rocks). So without any delay...
3. Gadaranga Pickle (whats a more identifiable name for this?)
4. Naarthamkai (just bite it and eat it along with Curd Rice)
5. Mango ( Ripe full Mango - not the Pickle)
6. Mixture (with ground nuts) - Whats the Hindi Name for this?
7. Maavadu (Unripe Mango - I am not a big Fan)
hmm... Why do I suddenly miss a lot of things? I hate exams. I hate them. I hate them. I hate Them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hair Cut - III

Its official. They hate me. I am convinced that there is a centralized database that all hair-cutters around the world have access to. From Kerala Salone to Master Cuts, wherever I go, the hair-cutter peeps into this database and cuts my hair based on the instructions given there. What I tell him/her is immaterial. She probably never listens to what I say. She must be thinking "the computer says this fellow is in the most hated list of the Hair-cut world. I have specific instructions to mutilate his hair in the worst possible way" . Today I got the worst hair-cut a man could ever get. She drew a line on the back of my head. It does not go away. Why would someone do this?
If I never ever got a good hair-cut ever in my life, I wouldn't be this sad. But I have got 3 very good hair-cut's so far in my life (possibly because of some rule-breakers in the hair-cut world). Everytime I visit the Hair-cut shop I go in with an expectation if this would be the 4th best hair-cut. Unfortunately I am now left to reminisce those 3 good cuts. How do those people, who get the exact hair-cut they want, feel? I mean, what more do you people want in life. I can't even imagine how that sort of a deterministic hair-cut experience feels like.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Google: Vettaiyadu Velaiyadu

The search giant buys You Tube.

I always thought You Tube was not a clean buy because of the innumerable pirated stuff it contains. However after close of day on Monday Google announced that it is buying You Tube for $1.64 Billion.

1. Google Inc. is snapping up YouTube Inc. for $1.65 billion in a deal that catapults the Internet search leader to a starring role in the online video revolution

2. It came just hours after YouTube unveiled three agreements with media companies in an apparent bid to escape the threat of copyright-infringement lawsuits.

3. The price makes YouTube, a still-unprofitable startup, by far the most expensive purchase made by Google during its eight-year history.

4. You tube is a 67 employee company.

Spouses get to see Case Based method

For the past one year many in the MBA spouses society were wondering - what the hell do these MBA husband/wife of theirs meant when they said "case based method" or "networking" (no connection to Richard Stevens or Doug Comer). These two words have become some sort of a inside joke. The ISBA at the Stephen.M.Ross School of Business has actually come up with an event that would allow some spouses to attend the strategy 502 core class taught by Prof. Prashant Kale. Prof. Kale is one of the favorite professors in the student community here. Many students believe that he is one of the best professors in Michigan and really good at teaching a case-based course. Unfortunately, I have not yet got a chance to take his class so far.
So, my wife received a case-study yesterday to prepare for her class (which is today). She, and 3 other members from the spouses club, get to sit in a first year MBA class and observe how the case based method works. It is the XBox case. So she gets to see an analysis of the video game industry starting from why Greg Canessa of Microsoft X-Box was staring out of his window into the cascade mountains wondering if the online-connected X-Box would work or not - to - if Sony would pull the carpet under Microsoft and enter the PC industry through the video game back door. XBox is actually an awesome division to work for. Product Manager roles in XBox is one of the most sought after jobs in campus. Unfortunately, it is also very hard to get.
Prashant Kale is a professor, who cold calls with sincerity. If you aren't invited to say something then you only raise your hand when you have something really intelligent to say because he will almost always provide an awesome counter argument to your point. Then you are on the spotlight with a professor at your neck. Out-arguing him is regarded as a learning experience in itself. He is one of those professors in Michigan who makes the case study concept truly interesting.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Superficial Idiots - I

It is amazing right. A judge listens to arguments, evidences and counter arguments from leading lawyers in the country. Makes careful deliberation and prepares a N page report elucidating his rationale and then delivers a judgement recommending death penalty for Mohd. Afzal. Forget corruption, forget agendas and all the usual error factors involved in judgements being delivered.
Some idiots, who (a) have no clue what the evidences are, (b) no clue what the arguments were based on, (c) have never read the judgement and (d) do not know the rationale behind the judge's decision - actually get to talk about the judgement and whats more - disagree with it. Their only 'qualification' to do all this nonsense is a celebrity status (somebody ought to ask Arundhati Roy - which part of the judgement report she disagrees with) or a blogger account username and password and they can talk about any complex judgements delivered by high courts and supreme courts. These idiots draw some vague arguments in the air and dance around like monkeys using words like 'human rights' and some other stupid cliched 'values' and act all moral. Disgusting.
The judge should have added one more page to his report which brings in a requirement that only people who cross some logical threshold ( greater than plant life) should talk about this judgement. I would seriously consider amending our 'Freedom of Speech' and put an 'Idiot clause' to it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lightning Strikes (Me) Everyday

Classified Under: Rant, Mega Rant, Uber Rant.
I ordered my Marketing textbook via eBay(half.com). There were 20 sellers, selling this book. I chose the one seller, who turned out to be half.com's biggest scamster. Thats me. I can never go wrong in doing the wrong thing. "Ah! This is no biggie" you say. "You are a pessimist" you say. You are wrong. You are wrong the second time also. If this happens once, you maybe right. This happens everytime. Not once. Not twice. Everytime. And if I am living to tell you this, I am the greatest optimist the world has been. If I write a book on "The Wierd Things That Can Happen To No One But Just Me", people will be stunned at the contents of all 7 volumes, each of which will run to 3000 pages. But Ofcourse no one will never get to read it, because a weird power cut in Chicago (that only affects my desktop computer, and only those file sectors which had the book stored) will delete the soft copy of that book from my hard drive, and magically all the 300 CD backups that I did (I have reconciled to my fate so I do this multiple backups thing) will break, disappear under 300 different weirdly unique circumstances.
Ofcourse I won't have a hard copy because all the printers of the world still dont like me ( I still cant take print outs peacefully. I can't remember a single instance where I have pressed 'print' and a page has come out succesfully. Many people of today cant even understand this jinx anymore. This printer saga began when I tried to print out my 8th sem project report in undergrad. Last week, I spent 40 minutes trying to print out a 1 page resume - all 4 printers in my library stopped working when I went for my print out, when they were fixed, my access card died.. hmm). The only reason anything good happens to me is mainly because there is an error factor in Murphy's law.

Many have wondered the reason behind such a title for my blog. None knows the reason for this title. Some olakais have scoffed at it. They should recollect the instance when George Costanza lets Jerry know who the "Lord of the Idiots" is, thereby putting Jerry in his place. I am putting all ye doubters in your place. I am the Lord of Blog Name tags. Let there be no doubt about it. It has profound meaning(s). Let me tell you one of its multi-faceted meanings. They say "Lightning never strikes a man twice" - implicitly assuming that the probablity of lightning striking (Lets call it P (LS) where LS = Lightning Strike) precisely the same person twice ( which includes the low prob event of the person surviving the first strike) = zero ( in most cases). For me P(LS) = 1. Thats final.
The world of Quantum physics does not apply to me. There are no multiple worlds with multiple things happening at different probabilities. When I started this blog, I thought for about 2 nanoseconds before naming this title. It just was so obvious to me. You have to be me to understand the whole concept of lightning striking me down everyday. If you see some wierd bad ass stuff hapenning to someone and you are thinking "what freakish bad luck - this wont happen to him again" - just know that it has happened to me 300 times already.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Indian Cricket - I

Dilip Vengsarkar was one of the most elegant players on circuit in the 80s. So was Gundappa Viswanath in his days. Both share something else. They later became Chairman of National Selectors with the responsibility for selecting the Indian cricket team. They share something else + 1 too. They are the most parochial people in the history of Indian cricket to take up this top job. Their regional biases, narrow mindedness and i-will-push-my-state-player-no-matter-what is unparalleled. Anybody who has seen Sujith Somasunder, David Johnson, and Dodda Ganesh can attest G.R.Viswanath's credentials. Any old copy of Saturday Sports Special with Vengayasarkar's Straight Drive column should speak volumes of his jingoism.

Kiran More was probably the best Chairman of Selectors in our history. I liked his professionalism and for most of the time couldn't believe my ears/eyes that there was someone with such a logical brain in the selection committee. His time is up and he hands over the reins to Colonel.

Here is the nation's top newspaper shamelessly sucking up to the new chairman, who funnily according to the newspaper, is a "firm believer in performance". He is supposed to decide the fate of deposed captain, who has consistently been a firm non-believer in domestic circuit performance. Well! lack of domestic performance never stopped Ganguly from getting into the team before, why should it bother him now? Either Ganguly's got some hope of a second life afterall or he has fallen from More's frying pan into the Sharad Pawar lit Mumbai fire.

Huh! Vengsarkar is a "firm believer in performances". Robin Singh must be sharpening a dagger somewhere