Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Regina Spektor – On The Radio

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

What a beautiful song! Totally love the lyrics, especially in the second half. Thanks to Suman for introducing me to the artist.

Watch the video:

I love this phrase:

And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

And my favourite bit:

You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took

And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood

And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again

Casual and Unprofessional: Not the same

Friday, February 12th, 2010

I’m peeved by a trend I’ve started to see among Indian startups: trying to be casual and ending up being unprofessional.

Being casual may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you are targeting. But being unprofessional is never a good thing.

<Edit: I’ve taken off the rant about a particular website that I had here.>

The worrying thing is that this kind of unprofessional-ism is all too common among Indian startups. (Even my own company’s corporate website is an offender. At least we are not trying to use it as the forefront of our offerings. But that’s not an excuse.) We need to buckle up and get our act straightened out.

Now, I’m no spelling/grammar Nazi. Heck, my grammar sucks and I look up spellings on Google at least five times a day. But that’s no excuse for putting up a public website that is sprinkled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Your website is an indicator of how professionally you handle everything else.

Here are some concrete suggestions (based on my observations):

I’ll keep updating this list. You can make suggestions in the comments.

It doesn’t take a lot to avoid these mistakes. Please do.

I’m NOT proud to be an Indian

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Summary: Stop being proud of your country’s history. Stop being proud of your countrymen’s achievements. Stop being proud of your country. Strive to make your country proud of you.

(Yes, I’m preaching. Only for today.)

Social networks — Facebook in particular — have created a super-culture of show-off. So when it’s the Indian Independence Day, everyone wants to show off how patriotic they are. In come shouts of “Proud to be an Indian.” The following ad by Airtel is an embodiment of all such sentiments:

(Make no mistake, they’re not talking about parental pride here. That I don’t have a problem with.)

This annoys me to no end. I just don’t get how anyone is able to take pride in something to which their own contribution has been an absolute zilch. I can understand a feeling of greatfulness. Or reverence. Or even happiness. But pride? How can you ever be proud of something you were merely born into? This applies to taking pride in a country as much as taking pride in a religion, caste or family.

PS: Lest somebody misunderstands me: I love India as much as anyone else, I’m happy to be here and would rather be here than anywhere else.

Cognitive Dissonance of the Comma

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Here is an excerpt from Jawaharlal Nehru’s Tryst with Destiny speech. Beautiful speech. But can you see what is wrong with how it has been reproduced here?

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny , and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge , not wholly or in full measure , but very substantially . At the stroke of the midnight hour , when the world sleeps , India will awake to life and freedom . A moment comes , which comes but rarely in history , when we step out from the old to the new , when an age ends , and when the soul of a nation , long suppressed , finds utterance . Its fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity .

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest , and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures . Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength . We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again . The achievement we celebrate today is but a step , an opening of opportunity , to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us . Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future ?

The glaringly obvious problem: there is a space before every comma, full stop and question mark. It is so obvious only because your brain wasn’t expecting it; the brain has certain ideas about how these should be used which clashes with how the above snippet uses them. I call this conflict cognitive dissonance of the comma.

(I do realize that cognitive dissonance may not be the most appropriate term to use here. However, it’s pretty close and makes it sound like I know what I’m talking about. Maybe I do.)

Now, I’m not suggesting that people are going around thinking “this is how a comma should be used” all the time. Neither am I suggesting that people will have any problem in understanding the above — our brain is capable of ignoring such aberrations to some extent, thus allowing us to understand what is being said. But years of setting expectations for the brain takes its toll. When expectation isn’t met the brain takes notice, at least at a sub-concious level. I can’t imagine a prose where you would want to divert the reader’s attention towards the punctuation — the only accomplishment would be to take away some of the focus from the message.

I have heard some very amusing reasons for why people continue to use punctuation like this. The common theme seems to be: “I like it this way. I find text more readable when it is this way.” Great, so your brain is wired differently from most other people; nothing wrong with that. But the question you need to ask yourself is: “Who am I writing for? For myself or for others?”

Another mistake in the above reproduction — one that is not as obvious but far more common — is the use of “its” where “it’s” should have been used. http://www.its-not-its.info/ does a great job at explaining the difference, so I’ll not attempt to repeat it here. In summary: “it’s” is just short for “it is” and “its” indicates possessiveness.

Yet another mistake that I notice being made very often (this is not present in the above snippet): using “few” when one means “a few.” This is a big problem because the meaning is the exact opposite! “Few” has a negative connotation, indicating an almost complete absence where as “a few” has a positive connotation, indicating the presence of something. This discussion at the EnglishForums.com offers some good examples: Difference between ‘few’ and ‘a few’. Here are a few posts from PluGGd.in, a popular blog on Indian startups, where this mistake has been made in the title of the post itself:

(My intention for pointing to PluGGd.in is only to show how common this mistake is, not to pick on them; Ashish, the guy who runs the blog, is a friend.)

When PluGGd.in says “Content Filtering: Few Great Lessons from Twitter and FriendFeed,” it seems like they want to say that Twitter and FriendFeed have done a terrible job and offer almost no lessons we can use, when, in fact, they list out some very good lessons they have gleaned out for us!

What I want to be when I grow up…

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

(via)

They dont understand life.

Few people do understand life.

Twitter is down

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Twitter is down. I’m missing it. I’m addicted. Sigh.

PS: This post is shorter than 140 characters. It should have been a tweet.

Desktop App development in Ruby

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Bowline — A cross-platform Ruby desktop application MVC framework where views are written in HTML/JavaScript and Webkit is used for rendering.

Shoes — A cross-platform Ruby graphics toolkit.

I had given up on developing desktop applications, mainly because they were running out of fashion. But also because the tools involved were a good deal of pain to use (and I’m no fan of pain.) So when I came across these two cool frameworks/toolkits that allow desktop app development in Ruby, my brain directed my mouth to exhale a “sweeeeeeeet!”

Yes, I enjoy programming in Ruby, more than programming in any other language. Yes, that is in spite of that fact that I’m pretty darn bad at it.

I like Bowline more than I like Shoes, so I’m going to talk only about it (but let me just say that in trying to be extra-cool, Shoes has rendered their website virtually information-less; proof in point: their about page mentions Ruby exactly once, in the last line, and that too just in passing.)

I came across Bowline through this article, which also shows off a simple Twitter app developed using it. Like the article says, “Twitter apps are the new ‘Hello World’!”

Apart from the fact that it uses Ruby as the programming language, the thing I like most about Bowline is that it uses HTML/JS for the view. I have been creating websites at the pace of a Ninja for a few years now and this much I can say: while HTML/JS is less expressive than regular desktop GUI toolkits, it is far easier to express the interface in it. And don’t forget intuitive. Well, at least for me it is.

Bringing MVC architecture to desktop app development is also commendable. Since the time I started developing websites using Rails/Sinatra (which almost force one to use an MVC architecture), I have never looked back. I believe this is the way to develop applications. At least until someone comes up with an even better way. (To be sure, there are several GUI toolkits that also encourage MVC architectures to some extent or other; for example: QT4 and above, Adobe Flex, Java Swing, MFC, Cocoa/AppKit etc.)

All I need now is an idea for a desktop app and I can start exploring Bowline. Sweeeeeeeet!

Redesign

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

After putting it off for ever so long, I finally got around to redesigning the home page of my website (it used to be just the boring front page of this blog.) I think it is pretty swell, except for being a tad over-designed that is. Check it out at www.sids.in and form your own opinion. Maybe also share it with me?

While I was at it, I also got myself a new domain name and pointed to it to that page: www.siddhartha-reddy.com. Among other things, this has helped me reclaim the top position for a search of my name on Google :) I’m using the new domain for the home page and the old domain for everything else; this is made possible by some pretty slick Apache mod_rewrite rules.

In other news, I’m planning to get back to regular blogging. Let’s see how that goes.

Art is useless

Sunday, April 12th, 2009
Oscar Wilde in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray:

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.

To reveal art and to conceal the artist is art’s aim.

The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.

They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth-century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth-century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.

The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.

No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.

Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.

From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type.

All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.

It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.

Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.

When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

I just started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, with a lot of expectations.

Freedom of Speech

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

NDTV forcing the withdrawal of Chyetanya Kunte’s blog post “Shoddy Journalism” (see http://bit.ly/hMsH, http://bit.ly/yS2G and http://bit.ly/4ZgS) was a hot topic of discussion this morning on Twitter. nb42 replied to one of my tweets with the following:

Stupid coverage: Rs 50k

Lawsuit to shut a blogger up: Rs 1L

Fancy lawyers to accomplish the settlement: Rs 3L

The fact that the irony of it all is lost on NDTV: Priceless

There are some things in life that money can’t buy. Freedom of Speech, sadly, seems to not be one of them.