Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Rafa needs to do to be competitive in the Aus Open Final

Rafa and Verdasco played in a match for the ages on Friday; too bad it wasn't the final of the Australian Open. Nadal's opponent in the final, Federer, had an easy outing in the semis - he beat Roddick in straight sets - and to the casual observer, Federer wasn't even the least bit exhausted after the match.

To be competitive in tonight/today's final, Nadal is going to have to do more than recover both physically and mentally after the ordeal in the semis. For those with the slightest insight into the game and reasonably powers of observation, it was obvious that there are glaring faults in Nadal's approach on hard courts. Here is my list of things he needs to alter if he is to make short work of opponents that have had success on hard courts in the past:

- Selectively flatten out his shots (backhands and forehands) instead of hitting all of them with so much top spin. The 95 winners Verdasco hit against Nadal are testament to the effectiveness of a flattened shot on hard courts - the ball doesn't sit up and the added speed is an aggressive posture.
- Return serve from closer to the baseline
- Hit a deeper service return (corollary of the previous "point")

I am looking forward to a great contest today; a Nadal-Federer match-up has always lived up to expectations on every surface other than the Red Clay of Roland Garros. Let's see how the latest bout in their storied rivalry plays out...

Troubled peanut firm's chief also an industry quality adviser

The president of the peanut company linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak serves on an industry advisory board that helps the U.S. Department of Agriculture set quality standards for peanuts.
Aah the Irony - Part Deux.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pasting code in VIM is broken, here's the fix

Copying and pasting code snippets from other applications or a browser is du jour these days. If you're a VIM user like me, you've definitely run into the problem of Vim mysteriously inserting a lot of extra white space into pasted code. This is Vim being smarter than it should be - it thinks that you are actually typing and not pasting, so it proceeds to re-indent already indented code. The fix is simple:
:set paste
Paste the code in Insert mode, and once done, type the following command:
:set nopaste


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elasticfox feature requests?

Elasticfox is an EC2 management console written as a Firefox extension. If you have a feature request for this extension, please post a comment, and I'll do my best to implement it in an upcoming release.

Features not going into the next release - Tagging. I know people want it so you don't need to post a comment for that feature's addition.


Using Blogger is so much better than your own hosting service

Here's why, and I've been using it just for a day:

1. Layout customizations
2. Posting takes less than a second to complete
3. Blogger Image Upload is pretty cool

... why it's a bad idea:
1. If Blogger is down, your blog is unavailable to the World. But then again, the 95%+ uptime is good enough for my blog.

I am going to post a story about how to do MUI stuff in Windows tomorrow.

(I) Need to stop freaking out!

Primarily because it isn't good for me, but the problem is, panicking is a genetic trait, and both my parents kinda have it. I tend to stay calm when shit hits the fan, but it's the calm that's at the eye of a storm, one that belies the resident turmoil. I become extremely single-minded, and have a hard time focusing on anything but the crisis at hand. My blood pressure spikes up, my breathing becomes less regular, common sense takes leave of me, and I start thinking of every possible way to resolve the situation. Often times, this includes making a desperate call to a friend that I think can help. Today's emergency - my blog ISP is run by folks on the chopping block at Microsoft; maybe unrelated to the layoffs was the 24hr outage of my site. Enough reasons to trigger PANIC-mode. Last week, bad gas in my fuel tank caused me to ask my dad if the misfiring engine was symptomatic of a timing belt or spark plug problem. Geez!!

Under normal circumstances, I believe that I use common sense and know how to work the system. When something freaks me out though, I lose this ability; in moments like these, I have no qualms in calling a friend and asking the stupidest questions possible - smart move if I knew one. Once I have done this, I recover my composure, and with some help, usually overcome the hurdle. If I can't, I realize that I must let things unfold, which restores me back to my normal self.

Avoiding the freak-out episode is difficult but is something I have resolved to fix in the coming year. Big ticket items for me are keeping a lid on my temper, not drinking caffeine, getting in shape, and, as I just said, not freaking out. If you notice me straying from these goals, remind me of this post and I'll correct my course. To a better 2009 then...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Location, Same Old Content

The folks that used to ensure that my blog was constantly available have been laid off, so I need to move to a new hosting provider. Starting today, my old blog address: will no longer work. Instead, I resume hosting my blog on blogspot's public servers. It's been a great ride with winisp, and I'd like to thank everyone with Winsip, Microsoft included, for providing a great hosting environment.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Weekend Shenanigans - Revisited

Do you remember having a conversation like this one in your life?

Friend: "You coming to Vertigo tonight for Ashish's party"
You: "I wanna, but I don't got no pants!"

Friend: "You can have mine!?"
You: "None of my legs will fit into your pants."


Friend: "Clearly, you got some pants..."

Something like this can only happen if you fly by the seat of, wait for it, your pants! Rewind back to Saturday... I was cleaning up the house, resolving EC2 tickets, and after a particularly harrowing week of oncall, I was ready for a run to get some fresh air. Right about the time I was headed out, I got a call from Shari for a game of squash. Now this was an unexpected event, and without realizing it was already 5:30 in the evening, I marched out of the house with my pager, laptop and workout bag.

The game went on for almost two hours, and by the time I walked out of the Pro Club, it was close to 9pm. Part of the delay was my incessant checking of the pager and ticket queue to ensure I didn't miss anything important, but that's just an excuse. I should know full well that a trip to the Pro Club on the weekend is rarely quick - I catch up with everyone, play squash, get a good steam in, et al.

Only problem with leaving the Pro at 9pm was that the party was on the East Side at Vertigo. I was now faced with the dilemma of driving back to Seattle, getting ready and coming back to Bellevue or heading over to Ashish's in my tracks and hoodie. Had I gone home, there would be no reason for this post...

Lucky or not, I had a pair of pants in my car boot, but they were marked for donation for a reason - the zipper didn't stay up. This fact was extremely entertaining for my friends for reasons that are unclear to me, and they insisted that I wear them pants to the party. Eventually, I let myself into Ashish's closet and picked up the first M sized shirt I laid eyes on, and he was gracious enough to loan me a pair of pants that were too loose for him. They fit me just right :( :)

Well, I can't think of a Mastercard commercial about this, so without further ado, let me show you the end result.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The 44th President of the United States

Mr President, you take office in difficult circumstances. An unprecedented, global financial crisis that has diminished the confidence of the American populace, high jobless rates, and wars on multiple fronts are just a few of the problems you inherit on day 1. On the home front, you have called for investments in infrastructure - in the building of roads and bridges - which will create jobs for millions and invigorate the economy. New roads and bridges are great, but I beseech thee to invest in initiatives that let Americans meet at crossroads without having to jump into their cars to get there - in mass transit projects for instance. One can argue that American society has advanced to the point that we almost never need to interact with another American. Our quest for personal space is now our Achilles heel, and we seek solitude to our detriment.

Your election to the highest office is a testament to your ability to unite people of disparate backgrounds. Help us help ourselves - give us more reason to interact with one another, and we will find a way to prosper as one. The compassion of American citizens is unquestionable, but our insular society has helped foment hatred and split us asunder. "One swallow does not a summer make" - yet, like the rest of the World believes, I know that your Inauguration is the harbinger of a new era. Good Luck and God Speed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Windows 7 love-fest has begun, and for good reason

Rolls the drums please, because for the first time in maybe 10 years, the entire tech industry is excited about the release of a Microsoft Operating System. Last week, I commented on the Windows 7 presenter's apparent inability to control her gushing while describing 7's new features. Apparently, the gush-fever has spread to the rest of the blogosphere:
If the Vole has learned something from Apple is that an operating system has to be simple to use and look a bit tasty. Windows 7 does this in a way that Vista didn't. It also has to work, which Vista didn't properly.

If Microsoft had released Windows 7 instead of Vista there would have been no rise of Ubuntu or OSX. Now, alas, it is only a matter of time until people come back to the claws of the Vole. The Linux crowd were too busy talking about their superiority on the server and ignored the desktop to the OS's eventual doom. Windows 7 is as pretty as Apple stuff, just as easy to use, and does not treat you like a moron.

The only thing that will keep people away will be the price. If Microsoft was a little bit sensible it would learn that the prices it is shipping the software on are far too high. With a product like Windows 7 at a price of less than $100 it would clean up spectacularly. It will not do this of course which might just save other operating systems out there. Me, I will probably get Windows 7. µ
In case you didn't recognize the µ at the end of that post, it's the inquirer's signature "End of File" tag; for those who came in late, the Inquirer is renowned for its Microsoft bashing. With 7 going prime-time in July 2009, it might just be time to invest in Microsoft, again! Well, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are shite right now...

Quote of the Day, courtesy Gina Tripani

"it's time to mitigate the urgent to focus on the important"

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Steve Jobs health fracas

The melee in the press that followed after Steve Jobs' announcement about his health deserves rebuke from all quarters. I am glad I live a life of relative anonymity because this kind of scrutiny of my personal life is something I can't handle. As the editor of Gizmodo said so eloquently,
Writing about a man’s health, trying to figure out if he’s dying or not by talking to third-party expert doctors, checking statistics for Whipple procedure survival rates and timelines, checking in with sources who know people who know people who have heard that he’s dying—they’re all basically indecent things to do.
As regards the opinion that the Apple ship is going to sink soon, I beg to differ. Apple has great minds at work; though Steve is the public face of Apple, there are elves at work in the background that actually ensure that Steve has something phenomenal to announce every time he takes the stage. The folks that made Apple work before, will continue making it work in the future. The key for Apple is to find a creative force that continues to galvanize its employees and keeps the press salivating for future product releases.

Don't get me wrong, Steve's shoes are going to be very hard to fill, but as long as someone else fits in 90% of the way, Apple should be in good shape. Are you telling me that there isn't another Type-A, controlling, demanding, creative, visionary dictator out there? Do you think Steve hasn't groomed someone to be the heir to his throne? Wait, did I just equate Steve Jobs to a dictator? Too bad I can't attach the term perpetuous to his tag...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Greate news - Retail sales plummet 2.7 percent in December

The stock market has crashed on the news that retail sales were worse than expected, and the lowest in 40 yeas. Am I the only one who sees the silver lining in this dark cloud?
Retail sales plunged far more than expected in December, ending a dismal holiday season with a record sixth straight monthly decline, and there's no relief in sight as consumer demand remains weak.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that retail sales dropped 2.7 percent last month, more than double the 1.2 percent decline that Wall Street expected.

The December plunge in sales, which followed a November drop revised downward to 2.1 percent, confirmed private sector reports that retailers had suffered their worst holiday shopping season since at least 1969.
Now is the time to invest in stocks because come nex Holiday season, there is a distinct possibility that retail sales will be better than this nadir they have hit. Analysts and market watchers are going to jump with joy at the positive news and stucks will surge upward.

There is precedent for this - it's called the last 15 years. The US consumer's purchasing power has increased year-on-year since Clinton came into power, and like every bubble, this one was sure to burst. Things will line up in the coming years and everyone will prosper...

Microsoft Songsmith commercial uses a Mac

Aah, the irony.

As usual, everything else about the commercial kinda sucks.

Bin Laden tape calls for holy war in Gaza

Big Surprise.

The 2009 story thus far - sore, Market sucks, 24 is back!

Not just because it is difficult to motivate yourself to go to the gym. It's what happens after you have made the trek to the gym that the pain begins - the machines seem to be conspiring against you, you can't will your body to go the distance you could, the weights you lift are not as heavy, and the aches and soreness - they last days. Most people take a break before returning back to the gym...

Yesterday was the first day in 2009 that I completed what I consider a workout: stairmaster - check; sprints - check; strength training - check; squash - check; wake up in the morning with sore muscles - check. The reasonable thing would be for me to take it easy today; instead, I climbed stairs at work, ran part of the way to the gym (2 and something miles), and did a killer yoga class that felt more like a massage than a yoga class, but I digress. The shower after all of this exertion was interesting - I had to sit on the bench for a few minutes before taking the "plunge" :)

I haven't been focusing on the markets for the last month primarily because the market is still too volatile. The Bush presidency is coming to an end, GM hasn't turned a corner yet, Microsoft might be laying people off, and the new season of 24 just began this weekend. Jack is back, minus the CTU this time around, but the whole show has a skunkworks feel this time around - Chloe and Buchanan are working out of a makeshift garage type office outfitted with cool gadgets; Jack doesn't have access to a never-ending array of weapons; finally, he is competing against the Goliath of Law Enforcement - the FBI. For once, Mr Bauer is the underdog, and we all love the underdog, don't we?

Time for bed...

Monday, January 12, 2009

15 Things

I got a request from my cousin to write 15 random things - observations, quirks, opinions, et al - about myself last night. At first, I didn't think much of the request, but I couldn't do anything else until I was done with the 15th item. Here is what I came up with:
  1. I am stuck between two phases - being old and feeling young
  2. I am addicted to coffee, but I am trying to rid myself of the habit
  3. I am a social person, but get bored in large gatherings of people
  4. I have a short attention span
  5. Good music makes any activity doable
  6. I know the lyrics to almost every Pink Floyd song
  7. Being frank is one of my strengths and weaknesses
  8. Age is just a number - you are as old as you make yourself out to be. Likewise, someone's age doesn't stop me from befriending them.
  9. My favorite quote - "If you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything"
  10. 24 is my all-time favorite show
  11. I am shy at first, especially with women; my tongue-tiedness is often mistaken for arrogance
  12. Some of my closest friends formed bad first impressions of me. Now they wish they hadn't revised that first impression :)
  13. Waking up early has eluded me all my adult life
  14. I fancy my cooking
  15. I stopped working out as much as I used to because of ennui; it's time I found other activities to keep myself in shape or else I'll have to buy a new wardrobe.
You should try this exercise - it might help you realize something that you've been wanting to avoid confronting.

Friday, January 09, 2009

What You Don’t Know About Gaza

The US Press and, for once, the BBC have presented just one facet of the ongoing conflict in the Gaza strip. The outcry from the rest of the world over the civilian killings has fallen on deaf ears as Israeli ground troops continue their onward march in Gaza. America's tacit cooperation - the US abstained from voting on a resolution that calls for a cease-fire in Gaza - has allowed the Israeli troops to plunder with impunity. Courtesy ABC NEWS: U.N. Approves Gaza Cease-Fire Plan
She (Condoleezza Rice) said she abstained from voting because the United States first wanted to see the outcome of ongoing mediation efforts in Cairo, Egypt, but she stressed the United States supports the text and goals of the U.N. resolution.
The linked article was forwarded to me by a friend, and I thought I'd share it with you. Surmise what you want from the text, but I'll leave you with this moving quote:
“The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Blast from the Past

This was the first blog post I wrote when I arrived in Seattle after a tumultuous 6 final weeks in Troy. My tone conveys both melancholy and cautious optimism. 7 years have passed since, and I have a lot to cheer about, and a lot to mourn. Here goes...

All updates gone... My new life is going to begin... A new year has dawned! Make way for the new... The Spring oops, winter cleaning of my life has been done! Have kept what should be kept, jettisoned what shouldn't be. My grief is my own, my happiness to share! Have a great year ahead... And don't stop reading this space!!!

Trying to give up coffee. Is Green Tea an option?

I was starting get caffeine withdrawal headaches in San Francisco - headaches that would increase the nausea I experienced while sitting in the back seat while being driven around the Bay Area. The headache would start if I didn't get a chance to drink coffee in the morning, and it would subside momentarily if I did get a caffeine fix later in the day, but as the caffeine shock would pass, the headache would rear its ugly head again.

It's no resolution, but I want to rid myself of my caffeine addiction. Like giving up Nicotine, there are two ways to give up Caffeine - the phased approach or the cold turkey way. In researching the first option, I am stumbling upon the many health benefits of Green Tea:
Green Tea has four important constituents that all work together, caffeine, tannin, essential oils and vitamins. Many people may be surprised to hear that caffeine can actually be beneficial when taken in tea as it works slightly differently from the caffeine in coffee. The good news is caffeine in tea can stimulate the circulation and metabolism via the central nervous system. As more oxygen is pumped to the brain, mental powers are heightened, reactions speed up and muscle function improves.

The tannin in the Green Tea works alongside the caffeine, having a relaxing and stabilising effect. This means the caffeine is absorbed more slowly and prevents that "caffeine shock" we all know too well from coffee.

Green tea contains L-theanine. L-theanine is a healthy amino acid that is only found in tea plants and certain mushrooms. L-theanine directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves which promotes a state of relaxed awareness, it has a calming effect on the body without making one drowsy.
If brewed right, most of the caffeine in Green Tea can be expunged:
There is a way of naturally removing caffeine and preserving the health benefits. Steep the tea for 45 seconds in hot water and then pour off the liquid. Next, add more hot water and steep as you normally would to brew a cup of that tea. Up to 80 percent of the caffeine is released in the first infusion of water so only minimal amounts will remain when you add water the second time. This method eliminates very little of the tea’s flavor and aroma.
Too bad I like the taste of coffee way too much, and Green Tea don't taste any good :( Why is it that in most cases, the healthier option tastes worse than the unhealthier one?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Is Chrysler a lost cause?

Dire news for Chrysler and for folks that bought a Dodge or a Jeep that is still under Warranty.

"'Basically they're done,' said Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst with the consulting company IHS Global Insight in Troy, Mich. 'There is no real possibility of turning this thing around as an independent company in my opinion.'
It is telling that more Corollas were sold in 2008 than all the cars sold by Chrysler. I guess the taxpayer isn't going to see the portion of the bailout money given to Chrysler, ever!

I hope someone buys the Jeep brand and continues to make the cars which became icons after World War II. If this doesn't happen, which car will the iconoclastic rebel among us drive as a statement of freedom and emancipation?

R.I.P. Chrysler.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The MBTI and where I stand

After going through an MBTI evaluation, this is what I came out as: ESTP. Here's the official description:
According to Myers-Briggs, ESTPs are hands-on learners who live in the moment, seeking the best in life, wanting to share it with their friends. The ESTP is open to situations, able to improvise to bring about desired results. They are active people who want to solve their problems rather than simply discuss them
What type are you? More info about what an ESTP type person's characteristics are can be found via the wikipedia link.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Taxpayer dollars bailing dairy farmers out?

I can understand that a quasi-socialist country like India subsidizes farmers - levies on Petrol are imposed to subsidize Diesel for farmers and Kerosene/LPG for homes. When I find out about a similar practice in the US, not only am I at odds with what I am reading, but I am troubled by the fact that my tax dollars are bailing out an industry that isn't keeping up with the times.
As American dairy farmers increased their shipments of powdered milk, cheese and other dairy ingredients to foreign markets, their incomes rose. And the demand surge helped drive up the price of milk for American families. The national average for whole milk peaked at $3.89 a gallon in July, up from an average of $3.20 a gallon in 2006.
Sheer outrage envelopes me as I continue reading...
Some critics of farm subsidies argue that price support programs are antiquated and allow farmers to continue producing even when the economics make no sense, as taxpayers will always buy up the excess production.

“They don’t want to downsize or respond to the market signal. They want to keep producing,” said Kenneth Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research organization that has long been critical of the government’s farm policy. “Once you get in a jam like this, it becomes our collective problem.”