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Showing posts from July, 2007

There's good sports writing...

....and there's great sports writing.
Bill Simmons is one of favorite sports writers writing about my favorite sport to watch, and this article on the KG trade is a great example why. Most other writers did, "trade happened, X is good about it, Y is bad." Simmons makes everything personal, makes everything matter and makes everything interesting. He has the luxury of not having to churn out columns on everything that hits the wire anymore and he uses that time and freedom well.

Each article is ridiculously long, but it doesn't matter because its interesting (to me anyway:)) throughout. There's an urgency, passion and a "talking to you" feel that Simmons successfully brings to almost every article of his I've read.

My stuff: The Prophecies

Oh well. By popular demand (actually just one person, I couldn't say no to:)) , I dusted off this short story, that I wrote a while ago for a creative writing class.

I'm not thrilled with it: I think its a little too long and the beginning is kinda weak. The plan is to go back and fix it, and tighten the whole story at some point, but...

Yeah, I have some serious self-criticism issues, but I like setting low expectations. I hope you enjoy it if you choose to read it.:)

Update: Oh I got one friend's semi-favorable review way back.

My Whitecastle story.:)

This is a great true example of how the marketing mix actually worked on me.:)

I hadn't heard about Whitecastle or Whitecastle burgers until one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, "Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle" came out a few years ago. (Incidentally, sequel out next year and this is the only movie that I thought Kal Penn was actually good.)

Anyway, Whitecastle outlets aren't ubiquitous like their competitors and since (for me anyway) a burger is a burger, I didn't go out of my way to find one.

The company managed to stay in my head all this time because, their promotions on radio are kinda kooky and fun, and play pretty often on the channel I listen to. For reasons I'm not exactly thrilled about, I was driving around late yesterday and was considering if I should wait to get back home and have dinner or....

Suddlenly I see a Whitecastle joint. Now their signage was pretty good and the lighting (very white and blue!) caught my attention right away.…

Quick review: Hairspray and CotGF

Curse of the Golden Flower

Caught this one on DVD, and even on the smaller screen the set design and cinematography is spectacular. Very strong Thumbs Up: on par (if not better) with the director's other movie that I really enjoyed: Hero



Hairspray

Alright! Caught this one last night, and there wasn't a single moment during the movie that I wasn't enjoying it. There's just so much "niceness" and energy in the movie that you can't help loving the ride. I've always enjoyed movie musicals and this one in particular is easy to fall for. All the songs work, the pace is quick, the story is engaging with enough different tracks, and the entire cast is fantastic. Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad is great, but Travolta in drag as Edna Turnblad is just outstanding. He plays the role completely straight, and in a movie with plenty of great performances, for me, he stole the show.
The songs were pretty decent, but as this Slate review pointed out Marc Shaiman is the gu…

A BoP strategy for the PC?

There's something endearing and noble about a company (especially a corporation) trying to serve the poor and bridge the Digital Divide. Something that can make you forget that, as John Mclane said, "Its always about the money." Of course, it is unwise to do so. That really explains the bad blood between Intel and Nicholas Negoroponte's OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project.




VS






I've been hearing about Negroponte's proposed project for years, though now it finally seems close to completion (shipping November-ish?). He's made a lot of noise about it, and has found a lot of interesting moral support. On the other hand, I hadn't heard about Intel's Eduwise computer until very recently and its already in production.

Why is Intel so interested in fighting on what is perceived (at least) to be a socially-responsible project? A few years ago, Prof. C.K. Prahlad's book "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid", explained and gave examples of how ser…

Brand it like Beckham

There was a time a long, long time ago when I cared very deeply about football (soccer, not American. Still don't care about real American football; love itin themoviesthough.) I knew the teams, the players, the transfer prices, the rules, the leagues, the cups etc., etc. My interest started to wane mid-way through college, and has gone downhill since then. I still read soccer news on the web occasionally, but I haven't been able to recite the standings at the top of each league, like I once used to, for quite a while.

But you don't need to be a soccer fan in the US to know that David Beckham has come to L.A., to play for the L.A Galaxy (a team in the MLS.) The Posh and Becks show has been playing relentlessly on the US news, reality TV and dozens and dozens of magazines.

Beckham is a pretty good football player (yeah, I'm going to call it football for the rest of this post.) There was a time when you could say he was the best footballer on the planet and keep a straight…

Golfing stories...

I've been playing golf quite a bit over the last two weeks. Its strange how I've avoided playing for such a long time despite having the opportunity (my dad has played for ages), and now when its reasonably inconvenient (don't have a car or golf clubs and golfing in the US is so much more expensive than Africa) I'm kind of getting in to it.

Is it an age thing or a post-MBA thing? I suspect its more a peer thing. I have enough friends doing it, that it seems like fun. Anyway, this makes me want to re-read P.G Wodehouse's golf short stories. I remember reading this when I was 11-12 and loving it. I haven't read Wodehouse in quite a while. There was a stage a while ago, when I hardly read anything else. That stage has long passed, but I still haven't come across a modern author that quite matches his humor or I've enjoyed as much. My mother once said that me giggling uncontrollably at regular intervals was a sure sign that a Wodehouse novel was being read.

LinkedIn and Facebook debate...again...

I didn't know who Jeff Pulver was, but he's prominent enough for this blog entry to show up on Techmeme. His entry is about he's dropping LinkedIn for Facebook for professional networking. For some reason, I just couldn't resist. Hence, for the second-time ever, I ended up commenting on the blog of someone I don't personally know; conversational media, here I come.:) My comments below

Interesting. I think its a bad idea; but very interesting.:)- I think pwb above gets it exactly right. There is value in keeping personal and professional interactions separate. I remember LinkedIn once being described by its found Evan Williams as "Resume 2.0." That's (mostly) exactly what it is. Facebook, for most of its users, is exactly not that. My sense is that most of its users (even young adults not just students) use it to talk about and to their friends, share (occasionally embarrassing) pictures, play games, flirt, waste time etc. That is definitely what Facebo…

Yet Another way I will waste time on the Internet

TechCrunch warned me about this months ago, yet today I finally got around to taking a look. I started playing Desktop Tower Defense, and suddenly it was 1.5 hours later. :):(

The continued success and playing of relatively simple games like Tetris and Snake shows that there's something about simple, relatively low-strategy games that still appeals to us. The success of games like Tower Defense, shows that there's plenty of room still available to innovate in this space.

Quick review: Talk to Me and Potter 5.

Caught the Order of the Phoenix earlier in the week. No. 5 was probably my least favorite of all the books, but the movie works much better. General solidity all around. The script was surprisingly tight and I thought Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge was particularly good.

Now begins the wait to read the Deathly Hallows, the final Harry Potter book. Given my resolution to avoid buying books to keep the clutter away, the biggest challenge will be to avoid listening to any spoilers, till the book is ready for me to pick up at the library.:)

Talk to Me:

A review at Rottentomatoes used the words "multiple oscar nominations" while reviewing the movie. I kinda agree, though I'm not completely certain who get the Best Actor nomination and who gets the Supporting Actor one. I thought Chiwetel Ejiofor stole the film despite a predictably great performance from Don Cheadle. Taraji P. Henson is great as well. Despite all the great performances, it isn't just about the acting. T…

Warner Bros. has a search engine!? :)

A friend recommended the TV show Traveler to me. So far, I really like it! But watching it I just realized just how much my viewing habits have changed, how ubiquitous product placement can be and just how much can go just into the details of a TV show (also realized what a complete dork I am.:))

So, imagine this scene: the two protagonists (Jay and Tyler) need info on companies/stock trades/people (happens when you've been implicated in a terrorist attack), so naturally they do what everyone else does: they use a search engine.
Except they don't google, they use something called "Kazew." The site (as shown during the show) had a ridiculously large Web 2.0-ish logo on the top left and plain vanilla Yahoo-ish results page.

I couldn't resist, especially with my laptop just open: typing in "kazew.com" take you to the Warner Bros. homepage. They produced the show for ABC. The whois entry for the kazew domain, shows that they had Markmonitor, a fraud preventi…

Quick review: iCon, and where are all the nice people?

I'm one chapter away from finishing iCon, an unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs. The choice of capitalization in the title isn't just a play on Apple's attempt to corner the market on technology products that start with the letter i. The authors while clearly admiring of Jobs achievements and brilliance, don't hold back on their criticism of some of his personal traits and egregious behavior. Apparently, it was enough to have all the publisher's books officially banned at the Apple Retail Stores.

If you've seen Pirates of the Silicon Valley, you're familiar with some of this material. The authors do a great job of telling Jobs' personal and professional story; and the story is truly, truly remarkable. It chronicles entrepreneurial experiences that started ridiculously early, tremendous restlessness to "find oneself", eclectic tastes, a relentless drive for perfection, incredible confidence and an almost magical ability to negotiate and to gai…

Indie Movie Distribution 2.0?

I haven't found too many other success-ish stories like this one, but I'm really glad it seems to be working. I found this via the WSJ.

In short, these guys made a film. They went well over a $100k in debt and couldn't find a distributor. So they put their film up on YouTube and ended up striking a deal with film-review/social networking site, Spout (they sell themselves as MySpace meets NetFlix). Spout gives them $1 for every person that signs up with the site after being referred by them.

Hopefully, the $1 price has been carefully set, so that even though there'll be a lot of people who sign up just because they want to help out these guys and may never go to the Spout site again, the percentage of users who do come back are worth it eventual revenue. The conversion ratio may be higher than usual though given that the users who find this movie will be really into movies anyway (Spout's target customer.) The Spout design on first look doesn't seem bad, so maybe …

The Nuances of a Public Conversation

I've been using (the ridiculously addictive) Facebook and even Orkut quite a bit over the last year. I'd signed up ages ago very soon after both sites just came out, but it took enough of my friends/(extended) family signing up for me to become active. It looks like I fall into the "early majority" on most technology diffusion curves.

The feature I've been using quite a bit, are the Wall and Scraps, as ways to quickly communicate with my friends. If you haven't used these, they're exactly what they sound like. You can leave messages for people to read on their "wall" or leave them a note (or "scrap".) The people can read these later at their convenience; the thing is so can everyone else....and they do. Features like Facebook's mini-feed make this easier to do, and so even more addictive. After all there's nothing more interesting than seeing what other people are up to.

Like leaving comments on someone's blog post, you'r…

Quick review: "Dreaming in Code" and why isn't Programming taught like Creative Writing?

I finally finished "Dreaming in Code" by Scott Rosenberg last week. I absolutely loved it! (BTW, it was brought to my attention that I seem to "absolutely love" everything I review/watch. The person who pointed this out believes its a personality trait/problem.)

The book chronicles the development of "Chandler", an open-source Personal Information Manager whose development was sponsored by Mitch Kapor. However what makes the book so great its use of this story as a way to frame explanations and discussions about the development, design and process of software. While reading it, I found myself smiling and nodding in agreement with so many issues and situations I recognized from work, and from school; issues fundamental to writing software, issues unavoidable in managing large software projects and frankly so many things I thought we did so well at work (when I say "we" here I really mean my managers.:))

I also ended up learning a lot: about the his…

Quick review: Transformers and product placement

I caught a midnight show of the Transformers movie this Monday. Loved it!
The special effects really work (essential for this movie), as does the entire story.
The cast is likable, as are the robots. The movie doesn't need you to know the entire Transformers backstory.

The best part of watching a first-day show of a comic book adaptation is that you're watching it with the fanboys. When the truck that we know to be Optimus Prime, just appeared in the distance the crowd started clapping, and Prime's first spoken words, "I am Optimus Prime" was enough to bring the house down. Even though I wasn't as much in to the Transformers as a kid, there's something about the franchise I've always loved; and heroes just don't get much more noble or admirable than Optimus Prime. :)

After the movie, I was chatting with someone about product placement in the film. The discussion started out with what worked and what didn't, but later on it got me thinking about wh…

Some recent column reads: Tharoor, Das, Blair and bout Murdoch.

Shashi Tharoor has been writing a column for the Times of India. Incidentally if you find a newspaper website thats less readable/more annoying than the ToI website do let me know. It used to be just the poor editorial choices on the front pages, but now its even the little things like knowing where to put the "Next Page" links, and the ridiculously indiscriminate use of ads and pop-ups.

Anyway, its rare to find someone with Tharoor's incredibly eclectic background, gift for language , track record of professional success, access to knowledge and clearly ridiculously high IQ, writing on a range of topics of general interest, so today I enjoyed clicking through his columns over the last few months.

Revisiting the ToI website also allowed me to read some articles from Gurucharan Das, whom I followed regularly for quite a while before falling off about a year ago. I've always enjoyed his insight and his concise, clear writing, even though his tone of disappointment about …

I think that TV show sucks... and so does the market!

...the stock market that is.

Random surfing led me the Economist website, and this article aboutMediaPredict. The site portrays itself as a virtual stock market game. Most current revenue seems advertising-driven, but as a side-effect it will generate information that is useful to Big Media. As the article explains:

Artists or their agents post samples of their work (a book chapter, say, or a television pilot). Traders armed with a free wad of virtual cash buy shares in the material they feel has the greatest potential. The idea is that as traders buy and sell shares in competing content, the cream will float to the top—where entertainment-industry bosses can skim it off.

I suppose this is another example of using the wisdom of crowds to gain greater insight and make decisions. The best example I remember reading about was when such prediction markets were used by a company to see when people in the company thought their product would ship, and that was management realized there was go…