Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2012

On Identity

Identity is a something that people grapple with all the time but don't really get. Consider for a second  looking out of a car with the windows rolled up. When you do this you sometimes see your reflection along with the outside world at the same time. Identity is a bit like that. Who you share as is just as important as who you share with. This is something that both facebook and google plus get wrong. Have a look at how Sacha Baron Cohen has various personas. What he can do as very different from what he does as AliG even though in many cases the audience is the same. Twitter gets it right because they are the only service that allows multiple handles, monikers and they are essentially the only ones right now who allow(or even encourage) you  to have a online presence that is completely divorced from real life. This is important because people have stereotypes in their head and if your name or picture reinforces those, you are already in a box, out of which it is very diffic

Online vs Offline bookstores

There has been a deluge of support for local bookstores across the internet. I am going to take the contrarian view on this and say that buying books online is much better. Physical bookstores suck to say the least. I remember my experiences way back when I was a kid and hunting for something to read. The people who ran the shops would usually know nothing about the books whatsoever. I remember looking for American Gods by Neil Gaiman and being asked to spell his name and Gaiman is no small fry by any stretch of imagination. The guys there know absolutely nothing of what I want. Next once by some chance you find the book that you are looking for you have to stand in line to get the thing billed. The whole process is lengthy and painful to say the least. Also till recently most books didn't let you read when you got to the shop which means that you would have to buy the book just based on the blurbs without any other signal. Buying books online is just easier and better. You ca

Rule 34 by Charles Stross : You will never look at your email the same way again

This is one of the great reads of the year(with a terrible cover though). Charles Stross writes a near future police procedural in this one. Its a future where 3d printers are a reality and plans for printing almost anything are available online(This includes all sorts of weapons of course). This of course leads to a whole lot of materials being smuggled. Its a future where you have to bid to get a bus to go your way. The police instant messages and everything has gone digital. The rise of the internet has lead to an increase of unimaginable crimes. Our lead detective Liz works in the Rule 34 squad. A series of apparently connected murders take place. Only no one can figure out the perpetrator and the motive behind the crimes. Stross moves from the grissly murders to explanations of AI, singularity and spam with ease managing to keep you on the edge of your seat. Its a complex novel that virtually demands a reread. It is also written in a weird second person style that jar

Adapt By Tim Harford : Why companies die and how innovation works

In Adapt Tim Harford points out that the world we live in has become incredibly complex. He begins with the example of a design student trying to build a toaster from scratch. (He fails of course because he sets out to even make the alloy the toaster is made of). He also begins the book by laying the foundation for trial and error which is 1) Variation 2) Survivable Failure 3) Selection He points out that big leaps sound and look better but it is better to make small changes and measure the impact. He emphasizes on keeping failures survivable. He points out that trial and error(evolution) is the best way and also points why it is so hard to do so.(It is ridiculously hard to admit that you are wrong, to take the view that you made a mistake and that failure is very very difficult to deal with.) He deals with how the Iraq war turned when it seemed all hope was lost thanks to the ground forces adapting to the insurgents. He takes on how bureaucracies stifle innovation and

On Mark Waugh

The thing about Mark Waugh was the fact that he never looked tired. He had this air of nonchalance, a languid grace about him in whatever he did on the cricket field. He made the game look ridiculously simple. He was probably the most freakish fielder in the entire game at his peak. Jonty they say was the best but he was forever hustling. Mark Waugh was always there and had an uncanny sense of where the ball would be. He made catching look ridiculously simple and I don't recall a single instance where I saw the ball fumble in his hands. I think all Indians will remember the catch he took to dismiss VVS Laxman in the second innings in the epic 2001 series where Laxman walked away absolutely stunned after a ferocious pull he had hit was pulled out of thin air at short mid wicket by Mark Waugh. His numbers are not as good as they could be but some of the most extraordinary things he did on the field were never recorded. His ground fielding when he would swoop in on the ball an