Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat
|Smelling the Roses|| |
| Smelling the Roses|
I took some time off to renew myself, and smell the roses.
© Vikas Kamat
Hiryoung and I drove up to the Cumberland plateau in Tennessee in search of the
foliage. I guess we were too early. The trees are not red yet, just shades of
yellow. We just will have to make another trip...
I made myself some time and surfed some of our old contents. Hidden underneath the contents of Kamat's Potpourri are some fascinating pointers to life's most
difficult questions. Some are the opinions of
sages and saints, and some are those of the
most common people you will find on the streets of India.
I spent two days in Microsoft sponsored .NET training school. I learnt a lot
of new stuff. I still can't decide whether to adopt C# or VB.Net for my Windows
application development. I however, made up my mind to use only
non-Microsoft stuff (Linux and PHP) for my recreational programming projects. It
was very funny to listen to the teacher trashing all old Microsoft products in
favor of .NET. People who know better have had these tools (open standards, file
based configurations, cross-platform computing) for a long time....
I also saw the PBS special on
Jefferson. What a great man! I found the letters he
and John Adams exchanged in their last years very inspiring.
|First Written: Wednesday, November 06, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/6/2002
|My InBox|| |
| In My MailBox Today|
(real mailbox that is)
- The National Geographic's November
issue has a nice feature on Hyderabad. (the story is not online)
with some exotic pictures.
- Nielson Norman Group's report on Return on Investment. My notes on "Where
to Place the Toolbar" is featured in it.
- This Month's Tennis Magazine has an interesting interview with Big Mac.
|First Written: Thursday, November 07, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/7/2002
|Monsoon Wedding, Good.|| |
| Thumbs up for Monsoon Wedding|
Picture Courtesy: Mira Nair Films. Used with permission
I saw Mira Nair's Monsoon
Wedding. It is a delightful movie, full of drama, visuals,
and humor. I want to see/make movies like this one, that glorify beauty -- real
and perceived. I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone. It challenges
our assumptions about contemporary Indian culture, as it reinforces the
traditional Indian customs, and their values.
My favorite parts:
- Hemant, the groom ordering the "two very special chai" in
the same joint he used to hang out as an engineering student. Man, that's so
surreal. Reminded me of Kalipod's joint in Ontikoppal, Mysore. I certainly
would like to meet Kalipod again.
- A dub artist enacting an orgasm. It's as good as the one in "When Harry Met
- When Aditi's brother whispers "KLPD". This was quite a
popular slang during my time. The movie translated KLPD as "betrayal
of the erect penis", but the slang has a far more hilarious
BTW, in my time, there was even more hilarious slang KLPR (khade lund pe
|First Written: Monday, November 11, 2002|
Last Modified: 9/10/2003
|Child Labor in India - Epilogue|| |
| Child Labor Problem = Unemployment Problem|
Apropos to our recent notes on problems of Child Labor
in India, many have asked about what is being done, and what can be done.
There's no easy solution to the problem. Many Western nations, listening to
liberal propaganda, have banned goods produced with child-labor, which has only
resulted in further impoverishment of the children. In her blog, my mother
proposes starting evening schools for working children, following some
experiments of Mumbai.
I may sound naive, but Gandhi foresaw this problem. When he advocated
job-training for children, the Indians called him casteist. Gandhi's
purpose was to impart job skills to the children without burdening them with
economic responsibilities or destroying their creative intellect. He fought very
hard to bring respect to the so-called condemned professions of India (hence the
weaving, and toilet-cleaning rituals in his ashrams). Now it is too
late for India to revert to a Gandhian way of life anyway.
How would Gandhian way would have solved this problem?
Gandhi didn't foster capitalism, great entrepreneurship, or large-scale
industrialization, but the Gandhian way provided for universal employment. If
you study the child-labor problem, it is really a problem of unemployment.
Real Jobs - pictures of hard labor
India's Street Children
Gandhi on Labor
Reaffirming an Old Policy
Several non-profit organizations have asked me if they could use our pictures of poverty in their fund-raising campaigns. I am sorry, but you may not.
I have said before that showing images of poor and destitute to raise funds is distasteful and immoral.
I enforce this policy to honor the poor people of India who agreed to be photographed without the entice of money or fame, and to honor the photographer who photographed them selflessly, just to document a space in time.
But I welcome and encourage the use of our pictures when they are used to touch people's heart in a positive way. Asha's 2002 calendar, and an exhibit in Argentina of the handicapped children are examples of this. The difference might be small to many, but it is of great importance to me. Thank you.
|First Written: Tuesday, November 12, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/12/2002
|Define Customer|| |
| Just Who is a Customer?
My job description is that I help my customers help their customers help their customers.
cool, but sometimes I forget whose side I am on, or whose interests I must
Once (1995, Software Development, San Francisco), I argued with Dr. Ivar Jacobson
(Bio - books)
-- the genius who gave us Use Case, and
UML, on the definition of a customer. Jacobson, in his Business Process
Reengineering Workshop was advocating a customer centered software development process, and defined a
customer as someone who pays you money. Of course, he is right, but my point of
contention was that he couldn't generalize that definition, and that he was
leaving out the actual users (who may or may not be paying) out of the process.
Take the classic case of breakfast cereals (example courtesy of Gary Coker).
The children eat them, but it is the mothers who buy them. As a cereal maker,
whom should I target? Make the cereal very sweet, chocolaty and hope the kids
will ask their moms to buy it? or make it very fibrous, healthy, and cheap and
make them appeal to the moms?
Software is indeed such a business. The people who use the software are not
always the ones who buy them or pay for them. Therein lies the complexity, and
But software is much more than a form of business. It is a religion to some
(like many in the Open-source paradigm), a hobby to many, and I often encounter
moral dilemmas, because defining just who is the customer has become so hard.
Sometimes I reverse the situation to find a way out.
Am I a Yahoo customer? I'd like to think so, but does Yahoo treat me as
a customer? Am I a Google customer? I haven't paid them a red penny... If I were
a vendor to Yahoo, are Yahoo's customers, my customers? What about AOL, who take
my money and still don't treat me as a customer ( I have written to the Better
Business Bureau about that)!? Is Walmart a customer of Coke or Coke is a
customer of Walmart? Who is the customer for a professional writer? The
publisher, the book-store, or the reader? or the library?
Then I get lost hopelessly, and I go back to Jacobson's simple definition.
|First Written: Wednesday, November 13, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/13/2002
|Gourish Kaikini is No More|| |
| Gourish Kaikini is No More|
I mourn the death of Dr. Gourish Kaikini, a great scholar of Kannada and Sanskrit, writer and critic in the town of Gokarn today. (via a private email from Dr. B.A. Sanadi).
Gourishmam, as he was known to us was a friend of my grandfather and was very fond of my father and mother. His death is a personal loss to us at Kamats as it is a loss to Kannada literature.
|First Written: Thursday, November 14, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
|Odd News Links|| |
| First it was Florida, Now it's Alabama|
If you know what happened to the elections in Florida in 2000, the same thing (narrow margins, bad computerization, and legal battles) is being repeated in Alabama right now. Welcome to hi-tech democracy.
God is Indian
First the idols of Ganesh drink milk, and now Jesus reveals
himself on a chapati.
I told you, the God is Indian.
If you are a Cricket buff, you've heard these tongue twisting commentary:
- Lillee, caught Willey, bowled Dilley in the gulley
- Caught Knaught, bowled Old
|First Written: Saturday, November 16, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/17/2002
|You Don't Know Jack|| |
You Don't Know Jack
Jack Welch ran GE (General Electric, the bulb company; they also make jet
engines) for several years. He was an exemplary
manager envied by even Bill Gates. He took GE to great heights and retired
to a life of great wealth, luxury, and perks.
He had everything. An apartment whose rent per month is $80,000 (I didn't
know such apartments exist), A Boeing 737 jet (valued at $291,869 per month),
free tickets to the best seats of concerts, sports games, and a great legacy
that future generations would try to emulate. He had everything, except respect for his
penis that is.
A female journalist met him for an interview (apparently, she made $250,000
per year in her job. Where are these jobs guys?!), and Jack and she began a
romantic relationship. The problem was that Jack was married.
In the movie Panic
Room, there's this great punch line uttered by a kid. "My
dad is rich and my mom is mad", after the husband starts having an affair
that results in breaking up of the family. Well, Jack is rich and Jane (his
wife) is mad, and outcomes a lot of dirty laundry, that is the talk of parties,
Here's a sample monthly
budget of the Welch family. These luxuries are on top of other imprudent luxuries like the
jet and the apartment mentioned above, which are paid for by GE.
||$51,531 per month
|Food and Beverages
||$8,982 per month
||$1,903 per month
|Country Club Memberships
||$5,480 per month
|Source: Newsweek Magazine, Nov
11, 2002 Issue
BTW, Jack also pays $614 per month for charity.
Far from being a role model, with his questionable character and
questionable lifestyle, this dude brings bad name to all top business
executives, and rich people in general.
Wisdom of the Day
If money is lost, nothing's lost
If health is lost, something's lost
If character is lost, everything's lost
|First Written: Tuesday, November 19, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/19/2002
|Things to do for God|| |
| Things You do for God|
Appeasing God is a new section I have
opened at Kamat's Potpourri, and it explores the elements of devotion in India.
Contents include my own experiences, traditions we've documented, and of course,
a lot of pictures on the topic.
The first in the series is a report on Gundabala, where people having been Dancing
for God for eight-hundred years in a time-tested tradition. The belief is
that the deity doesn't refuse any fair requests (example of a fair request are: cure for infertility, matrimonial happiness, success in job-hunt),
if you promise to entertain him all night long with a performance of a
Also read brief
history of the town of Gundabala and an interview
with a local family.
The Bhakti Cults
Song-Dance-Theater Art of Yakshagana
|First Written: Wednesday, November 20, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/20/2002
|Review of Victoria's Secret Show|| |
| Victoria's Secret Show|
I watched the entire hour of the Heaven
on Earth Victoria's Secret show last night. It was entertaining while it
lasted (it went off too fast), but had very little lasting impression (quite
unlike the famous 1999 Superbowl ad.).
My favorite parts:
Endorsement by a schoolboy who claimed the VS
catalog helps him with his homework. Very funny.
The underwear so small, it fits into a wristwatch.
The selection criteria to be a VS model -- they need
to be young, tall, gorgeous, sexy, voluptuous, healthy, radiant, graceful,
energetic, and other criteria that I forgot now. Isn't that just like women
asking for a handsome, healthy, intelligent, sensitive, and rich man? There's
no such thing, everyone's a compromise!
Marc Anthony's "Tragedy" performance (link to lyric)
The show was controversial due to its soft-porn
nature, and also because one of the models also promoted fur.
I'd rate Just My Size
(a competing underwear company) advertisements, which featured normal
women, ahead of this multi-million dollar extravaganza. For all the hype, the
show had so little impact (on viewers and I am sure as it will on VS's
Meanwhile, in another part of the world, there were riots against a beauty pageant.
|First Written: Thursday, November 21, 2002|
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
| Obituary |
Prof. A.G. Hariharan
It is with a sense of loss that I announce the passing away of Prof. Hariharan, who served as the Senior Systems Manager at my alma mater SJCE.
As a senior faculty and a visionary, Hariharan was responsible for introducing Unix to many students of my generation. Under his leadership the state of Karnataka introduced computerized entrance tests for the highly sought after college seats in engineering and medicine.
He also served as a consultant to the Governments of India and Bangladesh in the field of computer education.
Prof. Hahiharan served me as a reference when I applied for admission to Universities in USA, and I owe my gratitude to him for recommending me for higher studies, and for recognizing my academic potential.
Kamat's New Book is Out!
Sarpa Sankula (in Kannada), my father's unpublished manuscript has been brought out by Prism.(via telephone from my mother)
It should be available in bookstores soon. It is about the Snakes of India. I haven't read it yet...
Snakes of India: Frequently Asked Questions
Fall of Indian Civilization -- my review of father's last book.
|First Written: Friday, November 22, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/21/2002
|Theatrical Arts of India|| |
I have opened a new section on the Theatrical Arts of
India. Topics include play theater, puppetry, classical dances, and folk dances.
|First Written: Monday, November 25, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/25/2002
|Thank God for Mississippi!|| |
| Thank God for Mississippi|
Question to Miss Alabama during Miss USA Contest: If you could live
forever, would you and why?
Answer: I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if
we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live
forever, which is why I would not live forever. (via Wired)
I live in Birmingham Alabama, the longest I have lived anywhere. I studied
here, married here, own property here,
and play tennis here. So I don't take
kind to all the facts, jokes and movies that ridicule
Alabama. But that doesn't mean we can't make fun of ourselves
Some things you don't know about Alabama
- The two primary religions are Southern Baptist, and Football
- Even though there are 4 million football fans here, there's no
professional football team
- The expression "You all" is one word here, pronounced y'all.
Y'all is singular. All Y'all is plural.
- We are 49th in education (there are 50 states in USA), 49th in
healthcare, 48th or 49th in most categories comparing the development of
states. Thank God for Mississippi !
Urchin's No Good
Who said paid software is better than free software?
I installed the commercially avaialble Urchin 4.1
on my Linux server after going through the pain of registration and key handling
protocols. You know, Webalizer, a free and stable program is far more superior. I wanted to try Urchin because I wanted to dig deep into the usage patterns of Kamat.com. Who cares about the brushed
Two word review of Urchin: No Good
Two line review of Urchin:
Urchin doesn't know how to compute page views.
Isn't that one thing it is supposed to do?
|First Written: Tuesday, November 26, 2002|
Last Modified: 11/26/2002
|So Long 2002|| |
| 2002 Wouldn't End Too Soon|
This has been a lousy year for me and I am ready to start my next year.
In fact, this week, I started living my life like it is 2003. Starting
everything I wanted to do next year right now, and stopping everything I wanted
to stop at the end of this year.
First I took a lesson at Home
Depot on how to install wooden flooring. Although I am an engineer by
education, the lesson was intimidating because I didn't even know the basic
terminologies (what is plug flooring?). But I am going to give it a shot,
remembering Gandhi's famous quote "Work with the hands is the
apprenticeship of honesty and a recognition of fellow humans' toiling."
I think work with my hands (rather than my mind) will do me a lot of good.
Then, I decided to take my tennis to the next level and have been learning
the kick-serve (1-
2). It will be a
while before I get good at it, but I am determined. Mastering kick-serve is a
goal for 2003.
Later this week, I will hit the road for long drive, a long weekend, and find
I am going to try to talk Hiryoung into building a publicly releasable
versions of Remokon software and Blogging
Upon my return, I'm going to review, renegotiate or cancel our content
agreements with Times of India
and Zee Education. It is not working
See, the next year has begun for me!
|First Written: Wednesday, November 27, 2002|
Last Modified: 3/5/2003
|This is how I surf the web. Turns out
creating your own start page beats all portals, back-flipping,
personalized corporate pages, and book-marking tools.