Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscars 2007 | Al Gore's strategy...

Al Gore is one smart guy...he ensured yesterday that the playing field (the 20+ field of presidential wannabes) was drastically reduced to maybe like five. Yeah, only those of strong heart remain(and Obama, 'cos he believes that he is virtually untouchable due to Geffen's support...ah! for the naivete of the inexperienced), thus making it a more-or-less obstacle-free run for Gore to enter the white house! The others probably went down in a foaming-at-the-mouth, hand-clutched-to-the-heart, eyes-bulging-out kind of way...

So what did Al Gore do? For those of you who were living in a cave and did not watch the Oscars last night, Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio came on stage to announce that this Oscar presentation was the first one which was completely green - i.e., it has been produced with techniques and considerations for making it environment-friendly. Then DiCaprio asked him, "do you think there is any other maaaaaajor announcement that you want to make today?" In response, Gore goes teary-eyed and says something to the effect of, "considering the overwhelming response and support I have received, I would like to make an announcement", (takes a piece of paper out of his pocket), "My fellow Americans...". Suddenly the Oscar music starts playing and the mike is withdrawn - an obvious gesture that he is out of time...Gore looks up into the sky and smiles sadly...a humourous take on all the fuss that has been about him announcing his candidacy for the presidency...

So, Al Gore's near announcement with DiCaprio on Oscar night was a smart move...every politician who has the slightest of misguided hope that he or she can become the next American president probably saw their worst fears come true...Al Gore, about to announce to the world, in front of billions of people (on TV), with the Hollywood glitteratti backing and cheering him to the hilt, that he might run for president! Then they proceeded to have a heart attack, in a foaming-at-the-mouth, hand-clutched-to-the-heart, eyes-bulging-out kind of way, and die! And for the unlucky ones that didn't die the first time, the second time he said "my fellow Americans" after winning the Oscar for best documentary ("An Inconvenient Truth"), coupled with the Oscar win, probably did the trick!


I mean he has Leonardo DiCaprio egging him on, on national (nay, international TV) for godsakes! That alone would ensure that women and the gay community would vote for Gore! Which gives him a majority. How? see if women make up close to 50% of the population and the openly gay community makes up say even 5% of the remaining male population, then Gore gets close to 55% of the vote...add to that 10% from the remaining 45% of men who are secretly gay, and also 10% from the remaining who think they are liberal and helping the environment (these guys are also gay probably, but don't want to even start thinking about it, heh, heh!). So, 50 + 5 + 10 + 10 = some ridiculous number of people that will vote as long as it is above 50 (ok, ok, it is 75%).

Now to be honest, this is not 75% of the total population of America...that would be blasphemous...what, in a total democracy, you wouldn't expect more than 5% of the population to actually want to have anything to do with the election process would you (the remaining 95% of the people leave their choice-making to the courts)? So that's like 75% of 5%, which is like, err...ummm...ahem... 3.75 % of the total population voting for Gore - which makes him the next president of the US.

I mean how many politicians, other than Gore in this case, have a sense of humour? We know that Hillary certainly doesn't...Bill Clinton was probably the last one to seem to have one and he used to it to rake up the brownie points with the ladies and "make sexy-time" (as Borat would put it). Even he seems to have lost it now considering his blow-up on TV recently. So, all the remaining candidates were dropping dead at the sight of Gore starting to announce his candidacy, thus ensuring that when he does make the real announcement, he would be left with no real competition.

But spare a thought for these poor candidates...I mean, when their souls do turn up in Hell, and they catch the remaining parts of the Oscar telecast and then read this post about how it was all an elaborate set up, they would continue the foaming-at-the-mouth, hand-clutched-to-the-heart, eyes-bulging-out dance that got them to Hell in the first fact, if I was Satan, I would ensure that they are shown reruns of the Gore-DiCaprio fake ad-infinitum, and then force them to read this post during the short breaks that they get (in fact, I have a sneaky feeling that Satan uses my blog posts as a torture mechanism anyways!).

So, considering that Gore gets the 3.75% and that the remaining candidates are in the field only 'cos they never really mattered in the first place, perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio should have addressed him as Mr. President! (But I guess that would have been a mistake 'cos Spielberg might take offence!)

Update : Here is the video...


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Book Review : Beowulf graphic novel

"Take warning by him O Beowulf.

Wondrous it seems when Almighty God gives a man fortune and fame and a wide dominion - power over great parts of the earth, an empire so ample that he can comprehend no end to it. But it ever comes that the frame of the body fragile yields, fated falls, and there follows another who joyously thy jewel divides, the royal riches, and cares not for his predecessor.

Take thou, therefore, good head, O Beowulf, against pride and arrogance. choose the better path; profit eternal. Now, indeed, thou art in the pride of they strength and the power of they youth; but there will come of surety, sooner or later, either sickness or the sword; fire shall consume thee or the floods swallow thee up. Be it bite of the blade or brandished spear, or odious age, or the eyes' clear beam grown dull and laden.

Come in what shape it may, death will subdue even thee, thou hero of war."

This is the friendly advice given to Beowulf by King Hrothgar of Denmark. Grim though it may be, it is sound.

Gareth Hinds graphic novel adapts the classic Norse myth of the legendary warrior named "Beowulf". Originally self-published by Gareth Hinds as a series, it has been released again, by Candlewick press, as a single graphic novel, albeit with a new text which is based on a 1904 translation by A J Church.

The book follows a poetic approach rather than the use of prose and on a first glance, the text may not seem to be directly linked to the images around it. On careful inspection though, one realizes that the images tell a story by themselves, often times embellishing details that the poetic text glosses over; the details of battle, for instance. Hinds does not intrude on his visual story-telling by putting in unnecessary words - words that may take away from a reader's own comprehension of events.

Beowulf is initially shown to be god-like almost, in his stature, strength, reserve and ability to take down mighty monsters. The first part of the book builds on the legend that was the mythical Beowulf in his youth. On conquering Grendel and his troll-mother, Beowulf is showered with gifts by King Hrothgar of the Danes. Perhaps the most important "gift" given, is the advice quoted above.

Until this point, one might be led to believe that this is another story of an all-conquering hero, who with his great abilities and strength is able to perform many great deeds, but this is where Hinds' vision comes into play. We see Beowulf again, but in old age! He possesses a similar stature, but his visage is that of an old man - one who has seen a lot in his life. He is almost resigned to impending death while he sets out, again, to take on a monster/dragon that has been tormenting his people.

Interestingly, the book traces Beowulf's life in just two events, both of which are about how he deals with monsters that are troubling his friends or his people. In the first half, he is full of vigor, confidence and agility and is able to easily take on monsters at will. In the second half, though regal, he is old and doubts if he will return alive from the dragon's lair. Interestingly, while the first half is resplendent in color, the second is illustrated in grim, gray tones. Compare these images of Beowulf from the two stages of his life in the book...


The story comes full cycle with the death of Beowulf and the homage paid to him by his people. On a grim note, the story-teller who has been reciting the saga of Beowulf also forsees the end of Beowulf's people - the Geats. The Geats were people who supposedly occupied the lower half of Sweden and were either killed or driven from their homeland by the Swedes. Many claim that the Wuffing dynasty of Denmark was set up by fleeing Geats, but nothing is known for sure.

Hind storytelling style is really interesting...he is able to make us aware of the fickle nature of life using the stories of the rise and fall of even great, mythical warriors. He evokes wonder and pity for the same character by judicious use of imagery that will stay with us long after we have put down the book.

The story of Beowulf has seen numerous adaptations and is supposedly set to appear on film to be directed by Robert Zemeckis. Then there was Michael Crichton's "Eaters of the Dead"/"the 13th Warrior" which was a farcical take on the Beowulf mythology. But I find Hinds' graphic novel adaptation to be one of the best so far...


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Science Trek | Feb 22, 2007

Scientists have shown that chimpanzees may have had their own "stone age"! Evidence shows that they were using stone tools and implements to crack open nuts around 4,300 years ago.


From chimpanzees to dolphins, animals seems to be in the news everywhere...the US Navy announced that dozens of dolphins and sea-lions could be used to patrol a military base which is vulnerable to attack from terrorist swimmers and scuba divers.

Johns Hopkins university researchers recently announced that they have disproved the long-standing theory that the spinal cord cannot repair itself. Human nerve stem cells transplanted into damaged spinal cords of rats have survived, grown and in some cases connected with the rats' own spinal cord.

In one of the biggest announcements in the world of computing, D-Wave announced that they have created quantum computer. Named "Orion", it is a 16 bit superconducting adiabatic quantum computer. For now, the computer seems to be performing slower than a single fast PC solving the same problem, but that won't remain the case for much longer if the company's ambitions plans pan out.

A lot happened on the information technology stage involving some of the biggest players in the field. Microsoft blasted IBM in an open letter, accusing the latter of deliberately blocking Microsoft's interoperability attempts in the open document format world.

Google was at the losing end of a legal battle in Belgium. A group of disgruntled Belgian newspapers who, oddly enough, did not like the free publicity from links in Google News, sued and won a case against Google for copyright infringement in their Google News service. Google now cannot link to news articles by the group or cache any of their articles.

Apple and Cisco have finally reached an agreement where they will share the use of the iPhone name. Cisco has held the copyright over the name since they bought Infogear in 2000 and had filed copyright infringement cases against Apple earlier this year when Apple released its iPhone.

In a blow to romantics and Shakespeare loyalists the world over, recent discoveries have shown that Cleopatra was no beauty! A coin dating from around 32 BC shows her with a pointed chin, thin lips and a sharp nose. Cleopatra has often been the benchmark for beauty the world over, even since Shakespeare wrote that she "beggr'd all description".


Monday, February 19, 2007

The fall of the Australian empire ?

Australia has dominated world cricket since the mid to late 90s. They have captured consecutive world cups in 1999 and 2003 and until recently, seemed to be on the verge of capturing the next one (March-April 2007) as well. They have been able to crush all opposition, home, or away. With one of the most feared batting lineups led by Ricky Ponting - a skipper who leads from the front, and an accurate and hungry bowling attack to back them up, they seemed indomitable. Until now, that is...

They have fallen from the top spot - the number one ranking in one-day international cricket  now belongs to South Africa. This is the first time in five years that the top spot is held by a team other than Australia! Australia have lost the last four games they have played and have lost a total of five of the last six games they have played - both unimaginable until a year ago or so ago.

So why is it a big deal that just slipping from the number one spot portends doom for the Australians ? If there exist competing teams, then one would expect this sort of situation to arise time and again, right ?

Well, for one, they have held the top spot since the rankings were introduced five years ago. Second, the current Australian team seems far less confident than the one that won the world cup four years ago. They are able to post large totals but their bowling department has become very weak and other teams are able to score and make up the runs required to achieve a victory. A case in point being the massive 437 that South Africa chased down last year and the 336 that New Zealand just chased successfully. Also, this is the second consecutive loss to New Zealand - the previous match they lost in the current series was a loss by 10 wickets! This was the first time that Australia lost a match by 10 wickets!

They also lost to the minnows of international cricket, Bangladesh, a while ago, and this was a full-strength Australian team!

There is, of course, the argument being proffered that they are not playing their complete team with Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne missing. But time and again, Australia have shown that they have depth in batting and it was not uncommon to hear the following sentiment...

"if Australia were to field two teams in the world cup, they would both meet in the finals!"

This much-vaunted depth seems to be lacking these days and even when the team plays with full strength, they are being overtaken by others.

In my opinion, it was the bowling that used to set them apart - while the batsmen were more than capable of posting large totals or even chasing them down with ease, the bowling attack would render opposition attempts useless. And the person most responsible was Glenn McGrath.

McGrath in top form would tie down and ultimately decimate some of the best batting attacks from around the world. His tactic of bowling a niggling line outside the off-stump would frustrate most players and then his beautiful outswingers used to hypnotize them into fishing outside the off-stump, leading to their downfall.

He was well supported by Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee, who though wayward, could tear apart the lower order of a batting line up with ease. Led by McGrath, this trio of bowlers could strike fear into the heart of opponents. Now consider the added pressure when their batsmen have posted huge totals which an opposing team must chase...

There is of course, Shane Warne - many consider him to be the best spinner of his generation! He has been effective against teams that are not from the subcontinent, but as I wrote earlier, he does not really deserve the title of the best. But he is a force to contend with, at least for some of the test-playing nations.

Glenn McGrath is still playing, but has announced his retirement, post World Cup. Shane Warne has already retired. Also, their much-vaunted batting lineup seems to be dissolving as well. Justin Langer and Damien Martyn have retired. With age creeping up on Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, it is only a matter of time before they put up their pads, which would leave the top order, barring Ricky Ponting, completely devoid of experience.

I predict that the Australian team will not be the dominant force that they once were by the end of this year. In fact, I have predicted for a while now that it was an in-form Glenn McGrath who has been the difference between a good team and a great one. With McGrath's prowess waning and with his announcement of retirement will make the Australians easier to beat and level the playing field for the rest of the world.

Well, knowing their fighting spirit, one has to wait and see if they are able to kick into gear and do well in the world cup, but somehow (I'm sticking my neck out a bit here) I don't see them qualifying for the finals...and this is great news for teams like India, who are finding a bit of good form. We shall have to wait and watch though, for when on a song, the Australians are a treat to watch.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rahul Dravid : "The Wall" passes a milestone...

 I'm watching the 3rd ODI between India and Sri Lanka, and noticed that Rahul Dravid went past 10,000 runs in ODI cricket! He celebrated in classic style by scoring three consecutive boundaries - all in his impeccable, technically correct fashion! (He also scored the only six of the Indian innings - a massive shot down the ground which went high up into the stands!) He is the sixth person to score over 10,000 runs in one-day cricket, after Sachin Tendulkar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sourav Ganguly and Brian Lara.

While watching him steer the match India's way, I couldn't help but sit back and smile (and applaud of course) on him crossing the 10,000 run mark in one-day cricket! Oh, the innumerable arguments and "discussions" I have been involved in while trying to defend Dravid's abilities over the years!

I remember watching his test debut at Lords and was impressed with his class and attention to technique. While Sourav Ganguly was making splashes for his gifted offside play, everyone who watched Dravid would come away remembering his technique. Of course, invariably, the same people would also comment that he was just a "test match player" and that he was too slow and the fact that only "technique" gets you nowhere in the fast-paced world which is one-day cricket. Look at Sanjay Manjrekar, they say - a batsman gifted with "technique" but not really cut out to be in the Indian team's long-term plan.

What most people fail to realise is that the very technique that they used to deride Dravid for is what keeps him going - and of course the fact that he is a fantastic student of the game...always looking to improve his batting and eliminating any minor niggle or flaw that might remain while not allowing any more to creep in. When he was criticised for being too slow in one-day matches, he became the ultimate finisher - honing an exquisite ability to accurately plan out a run-chase (such as today's game). When he was criticised for not being able to take singles and rotate the strike, he went back and practiced dropping the ball short and playing with soft hands to sneak in quick singles. When there was a problem with him being only a specialist batsman in a world of all-rounders, he took on the role of wicket-keeper, where he did very well and carved out a place as a wicket-keeping all-rounder! (How many teams in world cricket could claim to have a wicket-keeper with a test average of over 57 and 23 centuries?)

His discipline and search for perfection led him to take over the reigns of captaincy from Sourav Ganguly; a role in which he has flourished! Considering his career, he seems to be performing better as captain than otherwise. Here are his stats from before the current match:

                       Mat      Runs           HS          atAv       100     50   
                308       9978          153         39.91       12       76  

as Captain        60       2102          105         42.04         2       20   

Very few players in the history of cricket (especially Indian cricket) have been able to soak in the pressures of captaincy and not let it affect their personal form - it even affected the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly! Captaincy was probably the best thing that happened to Dravid.

While his wicket, along with Ricky Ponting's, has become one of the most prized wickets in Test cricket he has carved out a niche in one-day cricket as well. Dravid is now able to adapt his batting style to any position in the order - depending on the situation and team requirements. The very fact that people (cricketers, journalists and even the general public) find it odd when Dravid fails to make an impact in even a single game just goes to show the fact that we have gotten used to consistent, match-winning performances on his part.

Dravid also has a completely selfless streak about himself - while he is capable of steering an innings, he is only too happy to revert to encouraging batsmen at the other end, no matter how young/junior they are. If they are performing well, he can stay back and play the supporting role to perfection. This just goes to his convictions of putting the team ahead of himself.

With a few years of international left in him, it is only a matter of time before we see him breaking more records - both in test as well as one-day cricket. The "wall" has learnt not just to defend well, but also to strike back and take the the battle to the opposition. We should see some more magical innings from him in the not too distant future.

[As an important side note about today's match - Dhoni was fantastic! He showed that he has a mature cricketing brain and is not just a club-weaving Neanderthal who only hits the big shots...he played for a long time scoring only singles and rotating the strike with Dravid and then cut loose when the time was just right.]

With the world cup almost on us, may we dare ask - is it time for the second coming for India, with Dravid leading the way?


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Are we (bloggers) giving ourselves an unnecessary air of importance ?

Bloggers are everywhere - they seem to be coming out of the woodwork, literally! With millions of blogs out there, and with the mainstream media playing catch up, bloggers at times are at the forefront of information dispersal. A blogger was the first to break the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, another was the first to find evidence of air-brushing in Reuters photos, and so on. Some even credit themselves with being instrumental in Joe Lieberman's loss to Ned Lamont in the Democratic primaries.

It looks like the politicians are also taking note. John Edwards and family have been actively blogging and trying to cultivate bloggers for their cause; McCain and Hillary have bloggers on their payroll, and each activity, speech and personal history of the candidates is a serious topic of discussion on the blogosphere.

And this is an international phenomenon - we see Chinese bloggers writing under the guise of anonymity, Indian bloggers writing about everything the failures of the cricket team to raising funds for tsunami victims and British bloggers criticizing the Blair administration for the mess that is the Iraq War.

Over a period of time, we (bloggers, i.e.) have come to believe that our opinions really count and that we are making a difference, especially when it comes to politics - I mean, isn't that the best way to ensure that we're making the world a better place? We can make sure that "good" candidates win and hence solve the world's problems.

I sometimes wonder...are we giving ourselves too much importance as bloggers ? Do our opinions matter as much as we'd like them to, especially in the real world ?

A classic case in point, is that of the Lieberman-Lamont Senate race. "Liberal bloggers" (as they were termed by the media) were influential in ensuring that Lieberman lost the democratic primary. This was hailed as a great success; it is as though the following message was sent out to the world - "Beware : we're bloggers and we have arrived!" But then, what happened in the actual election ? Lamont loses to Lieberman, and now the Democrats are short of an experienced senator!

I have a feeling that while many people out there read a large variety of blogs and form opinions or gain knowledge from them, come election day, the main stream media (msm) will still rule the roost. Honestly, the reach of television, radio or newspapers is far greater than that of the blogosphere - admittedly many urban households have computers and internet access, but how many people really log on and gain political know-how from the internet ? Most people would stick to email, music, videos, chatting and of course, searching for porn.

Television and radio, on the other hand, are far more pervasive - some of the poorest people have access to televisions and radios and often gain information about their elected representatives from these traditional media. The msm may pick up occasional stories from the blogosphere, thus giving that particular blog/writer his/her 15 minutes of fame, but present their own views and opinions about candidates that the nation generally listens to.

They choose which facts to present and which ones to leave out. While tech-savvy people will go online and look around for the remaining details, chances are that they are an insignificant minority.

Not that the politicians will acknowledge this of course - if there exists any possibility of damage to their image, then they will work on appeasing bloggers, just as much as they work on forming good "relationships" with the msm. So we see John Edwards and co. scrambling to fix problems with bloggers on their payroll.

But in the larger scheme of things, will blogs and bloggers be influential in the '08 presidential race ? Can we make/break candidates based on what we write ? We would like to think so, but I believe that the blogosphere is far from being that influential...unless we are able to reach a large majority of the citizens that matters - i.e. the ones that vote on election day, we will lag considerably behind traditional media...

Meanwhile, one is left to ask about the fact that conservative bloggers do not like John McCain - who cares ?


Science Trek | Feb 10, 2007

[I am planning on changing the formatting of this "column" so that I can publish it more often...instead of elaborating on each story, I shall post short one to two line entries with links to the actual story. This way I get more stories in as well...Also, since I haven't published one in close to two months, this first story will be a roundup of interesting stories in the last month or so...]

We lead off with an MSNBC article which details China's planned space programme, which eventually will have humans landing on the moon. This apparently is not just about national pride - it involves the utilization of a limitless supply of a clean, safe, energy source, Helium 3 (3He), which is available in abundant quantities on the Moon's surface. To put it in perspective, a mere 40 tonnes of this material can handle the energy needs of the United States for a year!

The next big thing in physics, according to the New York Times, is a machine 20 miles long which will be used to recreate conditions when the universe was only a trillionth of a second old! The "International Linear Collider", as it will be known, will cost $6.7 billion and will slam together electrons and positrons. It will be later extended to a length of 31 miles!

In the semiconductor/microprocessor industries, Intel led with the announcement of the 45 nm processor technology. This would ensure that the self-fulfilling prophecy that is Moore's Law will still be true. IBM was not far behind with their own 45 nm announcement.

Climate was in the news, what with Richard Branson announcing a $25 million prize for the technology that removes the most Carbon from the atmosphere. But on a more ominous note, experts who regularly assess dangers to human civilization have added climate change as one of the greatest threats to mankind! As a result, the group moved the famous "doomsday clock" two minutes closer to midnight! Here are the changes the doomsday clock has undergone in the past:

British scientists have created genetically modified chickens, which can lay eggs which can be used to create cancer-fighting drugs! The eggs will have useful proteins which can be used to produce cheap drugs to fight cancer ! Incidentally, this was the same group that cloned the sheep, Dolly.

While the world was going ga-ga about Apple's iPhone, the OQO UMPC (ultra-mobile PC) model 02 launch flew under the radar. The OQO mode 02 claims to be the smallest Vista-capable PC. Take a look at the images to see for yourself!


Monday, February 05, 2007

Peyton Manning gets the monkey off his back...

Peyton Manning has often been compared to Dan Marino - they were both considered to be the best players in their position (as quarterbacks), to have never won the Superbowl. To hear the Chicago Bears fans and sports commentators go on about it for the last week or so, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the comparisons would continue...

Tom Brady was considered as being an insurmountable hurdle for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, having always lost to Brady's Patriots in post-season playoff games.

Manning was known as the choker who could not handle big games...he would do exceptionally well during the regular season, often throwing as many as a record 49 touchdowns but was then considered to be unable to go the final mile - winning the AFC championship and the NFL Superbowl title...

All that changed, today, in what can be considered to be a historic Superbowl XLI! Manning and colts razed the Chicago Bears team in the first rainy Superbowl ever...a Superbowl that gave a deserving coach the honour of being the first African-American to coach a Superbowl-winning team!

Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, left, and quarterback Peyton Manning celebrate winning Super Bowl XLI in Miami on Sunday.

It was, at times, hard to back a quarterback who has been regularly breaking all NFL records in his nine year career as a pro, while not being able to win the big one. Most people who follow football agree, without a doubt, that Manning is a contender for the the football Hall of Fame. He would be the next Dan Marino and the best quarterback till date, but...

Some detractors would claim that the rain, or Rex Grossman, or the failure of the vaunted Chicago defense were the reasons why the Colts won the championship. While some of these factors might have contributed, there are a few points worth considering...

The rain was falling equally on the Colts as it did on the Bears. Rex Grossman did make many costly mistakes, but that was after the Colts came back from a 14-6 deficit to take the lead at 16-14, all based on the brilliance and planning of Manning. The Chicago defense did not get a chance to crush their opponents as easily as they have done over the course of the season because Manning, with his ability to decipher defensive strategies, was able to take advantage of holes in their defense. Those meager holes grew in size as the game progressed, and were letting in water at an alarming rate.

Football is a team game, and both Manning and the Colts' head coach, Tony Dungee, paid homage to the idea.

Each time the question was repeated, Manning's answer was the same: team.

"It was a wonderful team game," he said. "Everyone did their job."


But then, like Manning, he slipped into the Colts' mantra.

"This may not have been our best team in five years," Dungy said, "but it was the closest and the most connected -- and it showed in the way we played.

The game has its stars, but a large number of factors must fall into place to be able to win the Superbowl. While Manning led from the front, the Colts' coaching strategies and the way the defense pulled up their collars were important factors in the win. Not to mention the rest of their tremendous offense. The Colts are a fantastic example of how a team can come together, in every aspect, to crush even the most favoured opponents.

But Manning's contributions in passing and leading the team got him the well deserved MVP award for the game, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!

On a personal note, this was a great week for sports, what with India beating the West Indies, NC State trouncing the favourites UNC, and Manning & co. winning the Superbowl...

Now, I only wish that another gentleman would be able to shut his critics up by performing well in the cricket world cup.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Microsoft constantly under a microscope...

I found the recent controversy about Microsoft paying Rick Jeliffe, an independent writer, to correct some Wikipedia entries to be much ado about nothing.

So they paid someone to take a look at the entries and see if they're correct...that person was given complete freedom to make whatever choices he felt right in the process, and not necessarily toe the Microsoft it such a serious problem that everyone has to constantly criticise them ?

In Rick Jeliffe's own words...

I think I’ll accept it: FUD enrages me and MS certainly are not hiring me to add any pro-MS FUD, just to correct any errors I see. If anyone sees any examples of incorrect statements on Wikipedia or other similar forums in the next few weeks, please let me know: whether anti-OOXML or anti-ODF. In fact, I already had added some material to Wikipedia several months ago, so it is not something new, so I’ll spend a couple of days mythbusting and adding more information.

Just scanning quickly the Wikipedia entry for OOXML, I see one example straight away: The OOXML specification requires conforming implementations to accept and understand various legacy office applications .


So that entry is simply wrong. The same myth comes up in the form “You have to implement all 6000 pages or Microsoft will sue you.” Are we idiots?

I don't understand why everyone, the Wikipedia folks included, is making such a big fuss about this topic. I mean, in Microsoft's defense, here's what their rep had to say...

Microsoft acknowledged it had approached the writer and offered to pay him for the time it would take to correct what the company was sure were inaccuracies in Wikipedia articles on an open-source document standard and a rival format put forward by Microsoft.

Catherine Brooker, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, said she believed the articles were heavily written by people at IBM Corp., which is a big supporter of the open-source standard. IBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Now I'm don't care anything about who created what entry and who's updating what, but I can completely agree with the following sentiment...

Brooker said Microsoft had gotten nowhere in trying to flag the purported mistakes to Wikipedia's volunteer editors, so it sought an independent expert


Microsoft believed that having an independent source would be key in getting the changes to stick - that is, to not have them just overruled by other Wikipedia writers.

I personally have tried to add some articles to Wikipedia (no, they're not about me or stating that I'm god's gift to mankind...although that would be a good addition) and they have been turned down by the editors...I mean, these guys are just volunteers who deem to judge everyone ! They summarily reject most articles and then flag those topics to avoid them from being updated in the future, even if it is in the public domain. I tried to update an article about science blogs to include some more collections of science blogs that were around, they were turned down by the Wikipedia editors...something that I found odd as it wasn't about anything related to me personally, or something that had an opinion - its was supposed to be just a list.

So I can understand Microsoft's frustration at not being able to fix any inaccuracies that might exist. Sometimes Wikipedia does not check to verify the credentials of the people editing their content, but when someone has been misrepresented, they cannot change the entry as they are a "concerned party".  The odd part is that the OO XML format is Microsoft's baby, and I think they should be concerned when anyone tries to put up information which is inaccurate.

A side issue is that of the problems that Microsoft faces when they try to do anything...and I mean anything - whether right or wrong...or even just doing that they do regularly, like say, releasing software. I mean, some of the biggest names in the software world were running scared to the European Union to complain about the then impending release of Vista ! Now the press is hounding them for something that shouldn't even be an issue in the first case...someone needs to let up and relax on this taking on the big corporation bit...I mean, they have shown some remarkable insights while creating interesting products from time to time - products which have made life a lot easier for users, from programmers to bloggers (by the way, they even have a Linux lab...yes, hell hasn't frozen over, it's true.) And from what I hear, post-release, Vista is looking pretty good too, but I guess it will take some time to get to know of its real capabilities and problems.

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