Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The last couple of weeks have been hectic.
Last weekend, a bunch of us took a Friday night bus to Goa, to throw a bachelor party for Vikas. It wasn't too crazy but we did spend the entire weekend relaxing, getting massages, drinking (banana milkshake mixed with Old Monk dark rum was the unofficial beverage sponsor) and eating (goan spicy sausage, prawn-curry-and-rice, prawn-stuffed-papad).

This past Friday afternoon, S and I flew to Kolkotta to attend Naveen's wedding. We went out for dinner and drinks with some of his highschool friends on Friday night, and followed it with an evening of gambling. I don't gamble on principle, but it looked like a lot of fun and I was pretty tempted to join in. Instead I sat back and enjoyed the Black Label that Sahel graciously provided. On Saturday we ate, did a superfast city tour (the Victorial Memorial is breathtaking; S ate some Mishti Dahi, Roshogollas, and Sondesh), came back and ate again, and then got ready for the evening reception (yes, they had a reception before their wedding). The reception was at an amazing location next to some body of water. They had fireworks, candles floating on the water, unimaginable amounts of food (I guess the latest thing in Indian weddings is to have a bunch of food stalls where you can get different types of food; they had everything from mediterranian and domino's pizza, to north indian and chaat).

On Sunday morning, we took a flight to Delhi and hung out at my parents place in Gurgaon. Monday morning we went to the US Embassy to take care of some business and then drove to Chandigarh for Vikas's wedding.

I missed out on all of the heavy pre-wedding drinking with Vikas (they were up till 6am on Monday morning) but the wedding was awesome. Both Vikas and Pooja looked fantastic. My wife, though, will soon be publishing a treatise on Why Punjabi Weddings Should Not Be Late at Night. The actual wedding ceremony started at about 2am (outdoors) and it was frikkin cold. Luckily, I was wearing a set of heavy wool robes that I picked up in Ladakh earlier this year so I was nice and toasty.

On Tuesday we drove back to Delhi and almost missed our flight back to Bangalore (they had closed check-ins but I had been able to call ahead so they had blocked seats for us). I was extremely stressed out.

Now I'm back and should really get cracking on all of the piled up work.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


This article from a list apart talks about website usability and how design choices have a serious impact on site performance.

One of the things that I love (and amazes me) about amazon is that they have a really cool framework that allows you to test any design changes to the site. Almost all design changes go through this 'weblab' process which calculates the statistical impact of a certain change on various things (purchases, add-to-carts, etc. - I don't know the actual set of metrics we track).

Design is a wierd and sometimes counterintuitive thing. I couldn't guess which was the most usable site out of the three listed in the article above. I think the discipline of constantly collecting and analyzing metrics goes a long way.


news in india is not perfect; my wife often complains about the newspapers carrying mostly local news and only a page of international news. That said, the other media (magazines, tv) have pretty good coverage of international events.

I was having a conversation last week where I mentioned to a friend that, while I can't find much to complain about living in the US, the one thing that infuriates me is the subconscious messages that tell you that the world ends at the US borders (often accompanied by a very 'holier than thou' attitude towards the rest of the world). I'm not eloquent or observant enough to put my finger on exactly what it is that causes that, or even to be able to enumerate the ways in which it manifests itself. But the feeling was undeniable while I was there.

Although living in Bangalore is not always pleasant (dirt, dust, pollution - all the things I promised never to complain about if I moved to India) what I love about being in India is the feeling of being part of a world that is much larger, and much more diverse than the US of A.

On a different note, check out Toxic truths from the Iraqi battlefront.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

artificial artificial intelligence

Amazon Web Services released a beta version of mechanical turk last week. see here for a description of the term.

What does Turk have to do with Web Services? Mechturk is a framework that allows people to get paid for tasks that humans are much better at than computers (e.g. image recognition). But it allows applications to submit those tasks. So the tables are suddenly turned and we have this apocolyptic scenario where applications submit tasks, and you have a bunch of humans plugged into a system, doing jobs for the applications. How whack is that?

Without hyperboling, it actually takes outsourcing to the next level. It may change the economics of research; at least for a short while. Why bother putting millions of dollars of research into something like image classification when you can outsource it on a massive scale to people all around the world for a fraction of the cost?

I think a lot of economists, philosophers, computer scientists, criminals, and sociologists are going to have a fun time thinking/talking/writing about mech turk.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


On the way to work today my cab driver, in slightly broken english/hindi said something about "fistblood, rumble,film?" After some clarification it turns out that he was asking me if I'd seen any of the Rambo movies. According to him my face looks like Stallone's. Funny.

update According to imdb, him and I do share the same birthday, though he's 32 years older than me.

ps: in hindsight, maybe Stallone's great acting and stellar portrayal of the I hate being in 'nam and I'm gonna kick your ass look and my I hate going to work and I'm gonna kick your ass look have something in common. ;)