Friday, March 16, 2007

Long words we like to use and their shorter/simpler alternatives

I like using big words. So does the Times of India. And The Telegraph. And other newspapers too. Here are some big words and their alternatives:
  1. Envisaged: "It’s a role reversal neither Joydeb Ghosh nor Ganesh Koley ever envisaged in Singur." How about "foresaw" instead?
  2. Bastion: Fortress

Big words whose meanings I never know but liked to use

Here is a list of words whose meanings I never knew but liked using regardless:
  1. Bollocks: I thought it meant "Bullshit". Correct meaning: Testicles.
  2. Trenchant: I thought it meant "nasty". Correct meaning: Keen, sharp, caustic, penetrating etc.
  3. भद्रलोक(Bhardralok): I thought it meant "English-speaking Bengalis". Correct meaning: It's complicated - read the Wikipedia definition.
  4. Heinous: I thought it came from "like a hyena". Actually comes from the German word for hate.
This list is actually much longer. I just don't remember all those words right now. I'll keep updating it as I go along. Add yours too.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Telcos get a bad rap unnecessarily

Criticising and mocking telcos is the favorite pastime of technology types. Telcos don't have a whole lot going for themselves. They don't develop their own technology. They sell sexy hardware, but it's not their own. They lobby DC relentlessly. And their ads are awful... And they have boring CEOs.

I would have agreed pretty much with all of this until a few months ago. But ever since I worked with the City of Palo Alto to set up a WiFi mesh network on California Avenue, my views have changed. Setting up networks is hard. Digging up the ground (for cable), installing towers (for cell phones) or climbing light poles (for mesh networks) is not easy.

I must confess that for one reason or the other, we were never able to get the network to work very well. Moreover, there were all sorts of challenges - having the right equipment to install the equipment, making sure the equipment is tuned/configured, making sure the equipment wasn't taken away (one day, we found the equipment lying on the ground since they had removed it from the light poles for maintenace reasons). Even Google Almighty's network in Mtn View barely works, when we compare it to a Verizon or Cingular cell phone network.

I've read these stories about how Google, Microsoft and others want to compete with the telcos, but they'll somehow be nicer than the telcos. I don't buy it. Being a telco and a good one at that is hard. You have to deal with the physical world, and with all sorts of pressures from a million bureaucracies. Taking a page from the Situationists' book, I'd that if you try to do a carrier's job, you will become a carrier too - warts and all.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Messy, violent and filthy rich: Religious sects in Gujarat

An Indian Express article on violence within different religious sects (Swadhyay, Swaminarayan etc.) in Gujarat. The focus - property worth hundreds of crores of rupees.

Some things in the article seem exaggerated: for example, it says "Bhav Nirzar temple premises in Ahmedabad ... is worth over Rs 500 crore now..." That I don't buy। I'd say the place is valued at Rs 15-20 crores at most. That too if someone can move the temple. But how would you move such a nice temple?

Btw, Bhav Nirzar is mostly locked down (except for maybe once a week, I was told) and hasn't been used for the last few years. What a sad state for one of the nicest places in Ahmedabad.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Swaminarayan action

The Times of India reports that Swaminarayan sadhus from BAPS(Pramukh Swami) and Vadtal got into a big fight over a temple wall. The cops obliged with "prohibitory orders", a baton charge and patrolling:

Sadhus belonging to two sects of the Swaminarayan order clashed on Monday in Gadhda town in this Gujarat district, prompting the police to lob tear gas shells and fire in air to disperse the crowd.

The police action followed after a huge crowd comprising locals and sadhus of the Swaminarayan sects gathered at a police station defying prohibitory orders. A police baton-charge failed to control the warring groups.

The incident was a fall out of this morning's clash between the sadhus and later with the police.

The clash between followers of Swaminarayan sects - Vadtal and Baps - erupted over construction of a temple wall here, police said.

When the police tried to intervene the crowd turned their anger on them and some of the sadhus tried to immolate themselves, they alleged.

Authorities lobbed tear gas shells in the morning to quell the crowd and also managed to control the situation by clamping prohibitory orders.

However, the dispersed groups managed to regroup in larger numbers in the evening.

There were no reports of any injury. No arrests have been made as yet. Police patrolling has been increased in the locality.



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