Thursday, March 02, 2006

Rec center @ Stanford

I checked out the new Rec Center @ Stanford today. Located on Campus Drive, across the street from the Taube Family Tennis Stadium, it has everything: a big gym, b'ball courts, squash courts, AARC (Athletic Academic Resource Center - I guess the athletic types can get help here with their coursework), climbing walls...

It doesn't have quite the grandeur of rec centers elsewhere tho' (the one at Uni. Of Chicago looked cooler from outside).


I'm at a Sharks vs Red Wings game right now. I used to think hockey's a wild, violent sport. It's not! It's beautiful - a fantastic spectator sport. My misconception was because they only show the fights on TV - it's not a TV sport because the puck's too small.

The best part is that it's fast and the rules are simple. If the puck flies too high, then you catch it with your hands and drop it to the floor and start right away: no stoppage. If you want to bring new player/s in, just do so: no stoppage. Things like that...

The banging opponents against the wall is overdone, but stick play is mostly clean and uncomplicated. Very, very high speed game. These guys skate better than the figure skaters. The stadium atmosphere is good too.

Sharks lead 2-1.

This sport is fun!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More hockey

Minutes - 60
Shots at goal - 61
1 silly fight
1 timeout?
Score - 5:1 (Sharks win!)

No out-of-bounds. So different from field hockey...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Raj Ghat

Funny piece on Zee News: Bush 43 won't be able to plant a sapling at Raj Ghat - Gandhiji's samadhi - since there is no more space left. Instead, he'll water one that was planted by his dad. Cute.

Crazy: The Bush to India frenzy

It's hard to understand the Bush to India frenzy. Fareed Zakaria started it in Newsweek. Now both Wall Street Journal and New York Times have picked up the meme. If it's in the Journal, it must have been initiated by the administration.

Stormy evening

It's been an extremely stormy evening - lots of wind, rain and broken branches.

Francis Fukuyama on Europe's identity crisis

Francis Fukuyama has written this awesome article on Europe's problems with radical Islam. He squarely blames their immigration policies:

... the deeper source of Europe's failure to integrate Muslim immigrants ... is not trendy multiculturalist ideas embraced by the left, but ... a mind-set that until five years ago prevented a German-speaking third-generation Turk from acquiring citizenship because he didn't have a German mother. According to Bawer, "Europeans … will allow immigrants into their country; they'll pay high taxes so that their government can dole out (forever, if necessary) rent support, child benefits. … But they won't really think of them as being Norwegian or Dutch. And they'll rebel mightily against the idea of immigrants living among them as respected, fully equal professionals." American identity, by contrast, has from the beginning been more creedal and political than based on religion or ethnicity. Newly naturalized Guatemalans or Koreans in America can proudly say they are Americans. Pat Buchanan may not like it, but that is precisely what rescues us from the trap the Europeans are in.

He goes further and proposes what seems to me to be a really good remedy:

The problem that most Europeans face today is that they don't have a vision of the kinds of positive cultural values their societies stand for and should promote, other than endless tolerance and moral relativism. What each European society needs is to invent an open form of national identity similar to the American creed, an identity that is accessible to newcomers regardless of ethnicity or religion.

This has a lot of lessons for India too. As India opens out to the world and becomes attractive for immigrants from elsewhere, Indians will also have to craft a sense of identity that goes beyond color and language. Marrying an Indian, wearing a sari and speaking in Hindi was not sufficient for Sonia Gandhi; for other immigrants, it may be even harder to assimilate. What would an accessible Indian identity consist of? Here is my proposal:


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Blu-ray vs HD-DVD: The last format war

When was the last time you burnt a CD or a DVD, except as a backup? When was the last time you worried about the space available on your CD/DVD?

With 3G telephone networks, ubiquitous WiFi/USB memory sticks, and 60GB iPods, who the hell needs a clunky disk, even if it can store a zillion movies?

I haven't burnt a CD or a DVD in a long, long time. The only reason I burn a DVD nowadays is if I need to send software to India - they still pay for downloads by the megabyte there, and airmailing a disk from here is cheaper than downloading 2GB there. Most data movements between machines and backups are done over the network or on to Flash memory or hard disks.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD are the last generation of removable media storage devices, and the only reason for their existence is movie distribution. The parallels are clear - the music CD started on its downhill course with Napster in 2001, and is pretty much on its way out in 2006 with the increase in the popularity of iPod and iTunes. Streaming movies have already started (Check out BWCinema, for example), and will probably become commonplace by 2010. The new disks won't replace DVDs at least until 2007.

So they have about 3 years to play between 2007 and 2010, and in one single market: movies.

Let's say 100M movie DVDs are sold annually in the US. If Blu-ray/HD-DVD capture 50% of that market (an ambitious estimate), that adds up to 150M over 3 years. If the companies make even $5 per disk (very optimistic estimate), that's a $750M market. I bet these companies have spent way more in research, development, production and marketing costs. I don't understand why they are fighting such a bruising format war.


More, smaller countries our future?

Peter Thiel, a Paypal founder, speaking at the Open Source Business Conference, said there were 51 countries in the World after World War II. Now we are at 190+. Are we going to have lots more countries going forward? Should Iraq have been split into 3 different countries post-Iraq?

Terry Gross's Thank You

Terry Gross, the host of NPR's "Fresh Air", has this weird trait: She never has a "last question" nor does she give any hint that her interview is about to end... until she suddenly and abruptly says "Thank you for being with us." Often, important questions/follow-ups are never asked before this rude thank-you. Often, the guest is just stopping for breath when the Thank You is dished out. It's almost like her producer is bored, and asks her over the headphones to cut it short - RIGHT NOW!

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