Tuesday 29 September 2009

Tech fundoo

"Tech fundoo" is term first made known to me by Krishnamurti (G, not J). It appears to me to be the Indian form of a hacker, as defined in its 'original' form.

I have always felt that I was tech fundoo, and sometimes attempted to back it up with a few blog posts. But most tech fundoo I have felt was, curiously, NOT when twiddling with hardware/software innards or some arcane Linux-y fundaes. These two occasions, by some weird coincidence, involved the use of the Character Map in Windows XP.

The first time was when ant poop had eaten into my laptop's keyboard circuitry, rendering some keys useless. As Murphy would have it, one of these alphabets had a double occurrence in my Windows password.

Living in a relatively boondocky area in Chennai then, rendered me completely unable to get a USB keyboard, so some other ingenuity had to be thought of. Which is when I used a cybercafe computer to look up the Alt code for the missing alphabet of my password, and used this to peacefully log in to Windows. Such technological satisfaction. Such tech fundoo-ness. Ah!

The second time was the previous night, whilst waiting to board a Jet Airways flight from Bombay to Bangalore. (Aside: This was via Jet Airways Konnect, but Travelocity losers never informed me of this in any manner throughout the booking process, or in the e-ticket. And I would rather go hungry than pony up Rs.100+ for a sandwich that wouldn't be enough for Kate Moss.) The waiting area at the boarding gates of the domestic terminal at Bombay Airport has 4 Internet kiosks. Two of them are your standard kiosk fare - LCD screen, hobbled laptop keyboard with touchpad. The other two are touch-screen LCDs, one of which was switched off. The other one was running, and logged in to WinXP, but had no keyboard, and no apps running! This explained why people would wander near this terminal, scratch heads for a few minutes, and walk away. So the question now was: how were we to check up on cricket analysis/bulletins?

Easy. Fire up the Character Map, click-select 'cricket' letter by letter, open up IE, focus on search box, Page > Paste (This took a couple of minutes to figure out - IE8 is frickin' counter-intuitive!), Go. Bam, reading Cricinfo!

Happier still this made me, when after we were done, the stream of people to this kiosk increased. As did the subsequent head-scratching and walking away. We did end up slightly miffed that we'd forgotten to erase the browsing history, so an enterprising kid fired up the browser and used the History to get to CricInfo.

Occam's Razor takes a while to slit one's throat though - I realised much too late that happy online-ness could have been attained via the free airport wi-fi on my trusty Nokia N82.

Still. I am tech fundoo.

Friday 25 September 2009

On mistakes

Today's so-called 'avant-garde' crowd over-rates making mistakes. The precise load of horse-manure that captures this kind of thinking is spewed by Alyson Hannigan as Lily in How I Met Your Mother:
OK, yes it's a mistake. I know it's a mistake, but there are certain things in life where you know it's a mistake but you don't really know it's a mistake because the only way to really know it's a mistake is to make the mistake and look back and say 'yep, that was a mistake.' So really, the bigger mistake would be to not make the mistake, because then you'd go your whole life not knowing if something is a mistake or not. And dammit, I've made no mistakes! I've done all of this; my life, my relationship, my career, mistake-free. Does any of this make sense to you?
What a steaming load of tripe. Some things are just wrong, religious or philosophical eloquence notwithstanding.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

The gut is right!

Preface: BOCTAOE.

Happiness usually results when one's subjective instincts are validated by more or less scientific methods.

In our somewhat sports-nutty home, Sumana and I made the observation that top mens' tennis players, as general practice, seemed to cruise through their early games without expending too much effort. Basically, they would take it easy, clinch a break, and sail through the match, one set at a time, and by and large on a single break of serve. Imagine my delight when I found out that not only did economists agree, but that this had also been objectively proved!

The basic premise of the linked blog post and the PDF are actually different: the post talks about how the clustered scoring system in tennis differs from a cumulative one like, say, basketball, and the paper is about "Gender Differences in Performance in Competitive Environments".

The paper is pretty revealing about several aspects of tennis though, and a particularly good commentary on the state of the sport in the 2006-2007 period. From its abstract:
It finds that at crucial junctures of the match the probability that a point ends in an unforced error increases substantially for women, but remains unchanged for men. Data on serve speed, on first serve percentages and on rally length suggest that women play a more conservative and less aggressive strategy as points become more important.
I am going to use the blog post and paper to make some (wholly unsubstantiated by data, as of now) observations.

On the whole, in the last 5 years or so, mens' matches seem to be more evenly matched. This can be attributed to both the phenomenon of the top players cranking it up a notch at crucial points, but also to the fact that the 'spread' in the abilities of the top mens players appears to be a whole lot lesser than the similar 'spread' for the good ladies of the WTA Tour.

I suspect that the top players realise both this and the findings of the paper intuitively, and hence the women set out to 'demolish' their easier opponents, while the men prefer to conserve energy to 'peak' at the right time, which might be proved if one looked at the number of bagels and breadsticks for the men vs those for the womens' matches, over the last 5 years.

Ah, if only there were a StatsGuru equivalent for tennis!

Friday 4 September 2009

Random thoughts on growing older

(as paraphrased from arbit website - note to creator: don't sue me, pretty please)
  • Is it just me, or are 80% of the faces in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook, people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?
  • You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.
  • Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realise you're wrong.
  • I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?
  • Have you ever been walking down the street and realised that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.
  • I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
  • The letters T and G are very close to each other on a keyboard. This recently became all too apparent to me and consequently I will never be ending a work email with the phrase "Regards" again.
  • Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There were no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.
  • There is a great need for sarcasm font.
  • Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realise I had no idea what the fuck was going on when I first saw it.
  • I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's definitely watching and laughing at the right parts.
  • I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.
  • I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
  • The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text.
  • Was learning cursive really necessary?
  • LOL has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".
  • I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
  • Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".
  • How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?
  • I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!
  • While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it... thanks Mario Kart.
  • Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an client and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)... ummm... Goonies".
  • Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
  • I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.
  • Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
  • I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!
  • I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
  • Bad decisions make good stories.
  • Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!
  • Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.
  • As a driver I hate pedestrians and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.
  • There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.
  • I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.
  • "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.
  • I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'
  • I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Darnit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?
  • I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.
  • When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentioning something she hasn't already told me but that I have learned from some light internet stalking.
  • I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.
  • Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
  • I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
  • Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...
  • I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.
  • I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
  • More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.
  • The other night I ordered takeaway. When I looked in the bag, I saw they had included four sets of plastic cutlery. In other words, someone at the restaurant packed my order, took a second to think about it, and then estimated that there must be at least four people eating to require such a large amount of food. Too bad I was eating by myself. There's nothing like being made to feel like a fat bastard before dinner.