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Kamat's Potpourri

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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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Unripe Revolution
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Don't Know Jack
No Love for Condi
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TinTin's Diary - I
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Hate Bollywood
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India's First IT Guru

 

Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat

Diwali Greetings Durable Link to this BLOG
Happy Diwali Festival

I wish our patrons a very happy and prosperous Diwali.

Happy Diwali
Diwali: A sketch by K. L. Kamat

See Also:
• Festival of Lights, Deepavali
• Diwali Greetings
• Diwali Pictures


First Written: Friday, November 01, 2002
Last Modified: 11/6/2002

Smelling the Roses Durable Link to this BLOG
Smelling the Roses

I took some time off to renew myself, and smell the roses.

© Vikas Kamat
Tennessee Fall
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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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. Durable Link to this BLOG
Thumbs up for Monsoon Wedding

Picture Courtesy: Mira Nair Films. Used with permission
Monsoon Wedding

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 Sally".
  • 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 connotation. 
    BTW, in my time, there was even more hilarious slang KLPR (khade lund pe Rakhi) ;-- )

Links


First Written: Monday, November 11, 2002
Last Modified: 9/10/2003
Tags: review

Child Labor in India - Epilogue Durable Link to this BLOG
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.

See Also:
• 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
Just Who is a Customer?

My job description is that I help my customers help their customers help their customers. 
It appears cool, but sometimes I forget whose side I am on, or whose interests I must represent.

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 the opportunity.

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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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
Tags: obituary

Odd News Links Durable Link to this BLOG
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.

Cricket Fun

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

Then there's


First Written: Saturday, November 16, 2002
Last Modified: 11/17/2002

You Don't Know Jack Durable Link to this BLOG
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, and board-rooms.

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.

Mortgage Payment $51,531 per month
Food and Beverages $8,982 per month
Clothes $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.

Related Links:

 

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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 song-dance-theater.

Also read brief history of the town of Gundabala and an interview with a local family.

See Also:
• Meeting God
• 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 bottomline).

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, there were riots against a beauty pageant.

Surf Log


First Written: Thursday, November 21, 2002
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
Tags: review

Obituary Durable Link to this BLOG
Obituary

Prof. Hariharan
Prof. A.G. Hariharan
(1939-2002)

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...

Links:
• 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 Durable Link to this BLOG
Performing and Theatrical Arts

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! Durable Link to this BLOG
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'allY'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 aluminum look?

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 Durable Link to this BLOG
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 my mojo.

I am going to try to talk Hiryoung into building a publicly releasable versions of Remokon software and Blogging engine.

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 out.

See, the next year has begun for me!


First Written: Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Last Modified: 3/5/2003

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