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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat

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Tax Free in Alabama Durable Link to this BLOG
The state of Alabama is trying out what I think is a brilliant marketing move. I'm told the idea is borrowed from the State of Florida.

This weekend (August 4-7 2006) is tax-free to encourage people to spend money in preparation for the academic year.

So most people are planning to buy computers, cars, clothes, software to take advantage of this offer. Of course, it is triggerring many purchases which otherwise would not have been made.

So if you live in Alabama (or can drive to Alabama), go shopping this weekend.


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Last Modified: 8/8/2006 9:57:03 AM

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Call Center Movie and Desi Humor for Foreigners Durable Link to this BLOG
There's this amateur clip ridiculing the call centers in India. Starts out funny, but turns lame quickly.

I think the producers have lost out on what could have been a great movie idea. Like "Office Space" it could have been a cult-movie.

Anyway, here the link Video:

Of course, the reviews have already turned into flames and counter flames.

I don't get people who can't laugh. I guess laughing at oneself is pretty hard.

For me, laughing at ourselves came easy. My mother's three very popular books "Samsaradalli Swarasya", "Nage-Kedige", and "Heegiddeve Navu" all center around our family and redicule our own manners and mannerisms.

See: Kamat in Caricatures

If you have appetite for more desi ridicule, try the "You kicked my Dog" Sound

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, August 4, 2006
Last Modified: 8/4/2006 12:44:55 AM

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Rediscovering the Joy of Books Durable Link to this BLOG
In the last year or so, I have taken up reading and have tremendously enjoyed many books.

One of the readers of this blog, Venkatesha Murthy of California sent me "Parva" which I tremendously enjoyed. I just finished reading "Mookajjiya Kanasugalu".

Here are some interesting tidbits about books in our collection.

My grandfather loved books -- I think he loved to buy books as much as he loved to read them. He would walk five miles to downtown Bangalore (Majestic) to attend a Book Sale. "In the money I save by walking, I can buy another book!" he'd exclaim. Many of the inexpensive books he'd buy were junk or Communist propaganda books dumped on India. They were colorfully printed, hard-bound, and one would think, "This book is only three bucks? Must be a great bargain!".

One of my cousins started a circulating library from Baba's books, his collection was that big.

My father (Bappa)loved good books. He was not affiliated with any library or institution, and to support his hobbies and research, he had to build a personal reference library. He had an eye for bargains -- he bought "second hand" books ("prior owned books" I think is the new way to reference them). The small used book store on Sampige Road between 2nd and 3rd cross roads of Malleswaram was a particular favorite, and the shop keeper offered special service to Bappa. Bappa even bought the used periodicals from him at a deeply discounted price. Anyway, one day Bappa saw one of his own books in the used books store and asked for pricing.

Owner: "It is a very good book Sir. You want to buy it."
Bappa: "Have you read it?"
Owner: "No Sir, but I have read a different book by the same author. Very rarely his books come in my store, you really want to buy it Sir, because it will be gone very quickly"

My dad had to buy it! The shop keeper had no clue that he just sold a book to the author!

Just FYI, most of my dad's books are out of print. So if you see his books in a used book store, you can buy it and sell it at a higher price elsewhere.

See Related Stories:


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Last Modified: 8/9/2006 11:18:32 PM

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My 15 Years of Web Durable Link to this BLOG
BG Mahesh: My Fifteen Years on the Web

Quote Begin

There are many such good portals (like Kamat.com) which very few are aware of, mainly because they don't spend on marketing and rely on word of mouth.

True. Till today, we have not spent a red penny on advertising. It could soon change though...

My Fifteen Years of Web

Fifteen years ago, I was programming on the NeXT computer. It was a small comunity of developers and there was buzz about this Worldwide Web. That's the first I'd heard of it (1992).

During 1993-95, I was drawn to the Web in a major way. I wrote a browser (yes, this was before even Microsoft has browser) and some web apps (we called it "Seamless Web") but the technology was exploding with cgi and all kinds of cool stuff and we had do discontinue our product after Microsoft released IE.

I was totally sold on the idea of "Network is the Computer" and sold some network computers to clients. But that was bad idea and I lost many customers.

Then a friend, started a hobby website called "mahesh.com". In those days, it was very popular. All it had was links to other sites. But it contained a lot of useful information about USA, immigration, Cricket etc.

I wanted to do something on AOL, then the leading ISP/provider of branded Web. I have spent a lot of time on AOL. Since I was a Windows programming guru, I knew all the hooks of the AOL client for windows and all the ways you could make AOL better.

The Y2K bug changed everything. All the programmers were busy fixing Y2K bugs, including me, and meanwhile Microsoft had engineered a major coup.

Since then I can't decide which warring faction (Java or .NET, Linux or Windows) to endorse.

That's my fifteen years on the web. Somewhere in there, I wrote search engines, directories, content management systems, content classification systems, aggregators, blog engines, and blog portals.

Is it really fifteen years? Wow!

See Also:
• Chronology of Development of Kamat.com

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, August 10, 2006
Last Modified: 8/10/2006 10:01:01 AM

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Happy B'day India! (and Kamat.com) Durable Link to this BLOG
Happy Birthday India

© K. L. Kamat
Ashokan Edict, Sanchi
Indian National Insignia showing the lions and the chakra
Detail from an Ashokan edict, Sanchi

Amidst concerns of terrorist threats and ever-so-complex domestic problems India marks her Independence Day today.

And amidst new found interest in content sites and web portals, Kamat's Potpourri marks the 11th birthday.

Primary Sources for Researchers of Indian Independence

V.N. O'key/kamat.com

Volunteer Activities during Freedom Struggle

If you are an enthusiast of India's epic freedom struggle, we have some exciting new contents we received through recent donations. These are primary sources, never published before. They are oral histories, rare photographs, memories, and historical documents such as posters, autographs, and jail records.

Portuguese Wound Satyagrahis

They are constantly being added to Kamat Research Database as and when we are able to identify, authenticate, and classify.

Examples:
• Biography: Vishwambhar Dayalu Tripathi
• Dipaji Rane
• Indian Policemen Hassling Indian Freedom Fighters
• March of Satyagrahis in Goa

Many unclassified documents are available privately for enthusiasts who have registered as Friends of Kamat

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, August 14, 2006
Last Modified: 8/14/2006 8:56:22 PM

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Dr. Amitabh Bachchan Durable Link to this BLOG
Times of India: Amitabh Bachchan refuses to be called as Dr. B and in doing so, he gains my admiration.

I say so, because in the rotten sycophant society of India it has become very common to decorate actors and actresses with honorary doctorates, and worse, refer to them as Dr. So-and-so. It has reached the point of being distasteful, and I find the practice insulting to the scientists and scholars who devote decades in academic studies.

Amitabh says that in his mind, Dr. Bachchan will always be his dad, noted poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

Here's a picture of Bachchan Sr. You can't miss the resemblance.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan (1907-2003)


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Last Modified: 8/17/2006 10:11:44 AM

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An Unsung Hero - Virupaksha Naik Durable Link to this BLOG
A lot of public funds are being spent to celebrate the 50 years of the formation of the state of Karnataka. A lot of fanfare, a lot of abuse of power, a lot of nepotism, a lot of wastage.

But we must remember that the state of Karnataka and the Kannada language and culture has survived not because of Government subsidies, change of laws making Kannada or Kannada movies mandatory. It survived and flourished because of devoted volunteers and visionaries who spent a lifetime promoting the ancient language while experimenting with new sciences, themes, techniques, and media. (Kannada language is on the decline today for the same reason -- the leaders are fewer, and the love for the language has diminished among its practitioners and patrons.

I have this long introduction because I have personally known many men and women who have spent a lifetime in the service of Karnataka and no one knows about them. They never grew rich, nobody recognized them for their contributions, but they did (or continue to do) it anyway, in the most selfless manner. They have remained modest, and many have suffered grave difficulties, because their work didn't get the attention it deserved.

One such person is Virupaksha K. Naik of Dharwad. Now in his 80s, he has dedicated his entire adult life in promoting the theatrical arts of Karnataka. With some friends, he founded the Karnataka Kaloddharaka Sangha (Society for Revitalizing of Kannada Theater) in 1954 and has been running a newspaper called Ranga Torana with his savings. I have seen him struggle to no avail for patronage, subscriptions, and sponsors, and the very thought of his struggles is inspiring for me.

Today we live in the world of self-seekers. Persons without a personal ambition are considered incompetent. (I think it is called "Personal-branding" akin to a Gorilla thumping its own chest). But I feel that greatness of a person doesn't come from how famous he or she is, but what an inspiration a person is.

I once read a Kannada poem about the "Basava's Worm", you know the the snail that goes where there's no path -- it makes a path, and in doing so it wears out its own shell. Then it leaves behind a silvery track -- the traces of its worn out shell.

© K. L. Kamat
Virupaksha Nayak
Theater Activist, Publisher Virupaksha K. Naik

Naik-mama, thank you for being the snail and for the silvery tracks!

If you dig Kamat's Potpourri deep enough, you will come across many inspiring stories of most common of Indians exhibiting extraordinary character, virtue, courage, and intellect. I am just proud that we are able to document these untold stories of India.

Amma remembers D.V. Gundappa

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Sunday, August 20, 2006
Last Modified: 8/29/2006 12:09:27 AM

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BarCamp Birmingham Durable Link to this BLOG
Meet me at the BarCamp Birmingham this weekend.

Amazon Cloud

I recieved an invite to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. I tried to make sense of it, but I could not.

It is possible that the emperor is really naked.

Some Interesting URLs from BarCamp Birmingham

• Tech Birmingham
• Second Life
• Ruby Q and A
• Best Practices in BPM
• Daily WTF

Links to BarCamp Birmingham Pictures

• The Mountain Top Church where the event was held.
• Pictures at Fickr

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, August 25, 2006
Last Modified: 9/4/2006 5:13:09 PM

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Review of Deepa Mehta's ''Water'' Durable Link to this BLOG
I saw Deepa Mehta's Water. This is an important movie, exposing the suffering of child-widows in India.

Fox Searchlight/www.kamat.com

Widows Chuyia and Shakuntala ponder at Life

Set in circa 1938, it is about the suffering of Hindu widows, considered inauspicious and condemned to lead a life of severe penance (see: Miseries of a Widow). Graphic descriptions of an ashram and the daily activities are provided.

Unnecessary Controversy

The movie ran into controversies in India during its making because Hindu nationalists thought it represented Hindus and India in poor light. They burned the sets and caused violence against the crew. If the fundamentalists are so concerned about India's image, they should do something to eliminate the prejudice against widows in India. Protesting against this movie or Deepa Mehta is not worth it, because neither is "Water" a masterpiece, nor it is a documentary.

Lack of Authenticity

The movie, trying to depict organized cultural prejudice against widows lacks attention to detail, and hence is disappointing. The rave reviews the movie has received is solely due to the movie's sex appeal that the movie is about the "Status of Indian Women" made by an "Indian woman" (Mehta is based out of Toronto, but was born in India). It lacks the depth, drama, and honesty of similar movies made in India -- like the award winning Phaniyamma (1983).

Some quick visual anomalies I noticed are:

  • Rampant mixing of South (Dravida) and North Indian customs. Seventy years ago, the differences were much more pronounced.
  • Fake Hindi accents (especially by main characters Chuyia and Kalyani, they are pretty bad)
  • The movie is set in 1938, but they show Narayan hanging photograph of Gandhi taken in 1945.

The cinematography (by Giles Nuttgens) is quite stunning and provides a lesson in the use of lights and shades. I think the fundamentalists should have let Mehta do her thing, and we'd have been treated to spectacles of Varanasi akin to Kashi depicted by Satyajit Ray in Aparajito. Instead we get coconut trees on the banks of Ganga river (they had to film in Sri Lanka, I am told).

Actress Sarala as the young widow is very cute. Shakuntula (Seema Biswas)gives a very convincing performance.

I don't get the title of the movie. The title is absurd to the contents of the movie.

Links


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Sunday, August 27, 2006
Last Modified: 8/31/2006 8:01:03 AM
Tags: phaniyamma, widows

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US Open 2006 Preview Durable Link to this BLOG

I am so ready for the 2006 US Open. Too bad, many players are injured and won't play. They blame the long tennis season for their injuries. I blame the players' greed. They can always play less, thus more players can get exposure and the depth will be greater.

Anyway, although unlikely, I am hoping for a Agassi-Federer final. Nadal, Roddick, Andy Murray, and James Blake have also been impressive.

In women's draw, my bet is on Justine Hennin-Hardene, although I am not fond of her. My personal choice is for an American woman (Lindsey or Serena) to win it. I am also rooting for Sania Mirza to make it to the second round (pardon my low expectation from her).


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, August 28, 2006
Last Modified: 8/28/2006 1:00:48 PM

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Roddick and Sharapova Durable Link to this BLOG
No News from US Open, other than the exciting first round match between Andre and Andre, won by Agassi.

Roddick and Sharapova, Romance of Superpowers?

MSNBC: Roddick has Sharapova are dating. Has Andy found his mojo?

Well, I will give them six months.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Last Modified: 8/29/2006 8:41:16 PM

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