Hari's Corner

Humour, comics, tech, law, software, reviews, essays, articles and HOWTOs intermingled with random philosophy now and then

Almost a year!

Filed under: Site management by Hari
Posted on Fri, Oct 7, 2005 at 09:36 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 20:51 IST)

We are now just a couple of weeks short of completing a full year of LiteraryForums.org! This is really fantastic. It all began when I started a book thread in LinuxQuestions.org and I thought: "why not start a board where people can just talk about books and stuff?" It was an idle thought that quickly gained momentum as I began exploring ways and means to create such a community site. After some frantic research on "forum software" I discovered phpBB, tried it out on my local server and was absolutely thrilled with it! And so began the journey of LiteraryForums.org.

The first thing was obviously to pick a good domain name. I wanted a serious book discussion website but at the same time I will admit frankly that I was not too keen on using the word "literature" or any of its derivatives. It makes it look a bit exclusive and tends to alienate the average book lover. However, to my dismay I found that most of the decent "book" domain names have already been registered. And to be sure, some of them were worthless cyber squatters. The long and the short of it was that it was really hard to find a decent domain name with the word "book" in it. I finally narrowed down my choices to "LiteraryReviews" or "LiteraryForums". I chose the second since it sounded a little more general than strictly talking about reviews. In hindsight, I am still wondering whether the word "literary" in the domain name was such a good idea, after all.

The second thing was finding a good hosting provider. Believe me, I was really struggling to find one. I searched the web for weeks in search of a quality hosting provider who didn't charge a hell of a lot of fees. It was tough going, but ultimately I found a host that was just right. One thing I discovered in a hurry was that Indian hosting providers have a hell of a long way to go before they can even begin challenging hosting providers in other parts of the world, but that's another story altogether.

Having set up the community, it was tough going, trying to get it started. Within the first few weeks, it was obvious that getting good content was going to be the key to promoting the site. There could be no shortcuts. There have been many ups and downs. Luckily however, we've got a few excellent members right from the beginning. Without their contribution, I have no doubt that LiteraryForums.org would have died quickly. I cannot find words to express my gratitude to those who participated in my vision of LiteraryForums.org and those who consider this site as a part of their daily routine. There were some desperate times when I was beginning to wonder whether creating a Wrestling Forum would have been a better idea. There were days and sometimes weeks when we went without activity on the forum. Yet, LiteraryForums.org has not died. It has grown slowly, yes, but it has grown. I now believe that having emerged from that phase, we will start growing a little faster. Reaching 100 members was the first and the most crucial landmark and I'm extremely glad that we got that behind us. Now let's aim for the next 100!

The key to the success of any community is not the quantity of activity, but the quality of activity. I am a firm believer in that. So far LiteraryForums.org has been blessed with some quality members who have not only found time to share their literary tastes, views and reviews with us, but also to contribute some original content for peer review. Such a process will surely enrich the content and the utility of this site, so I hope that we get more people doing this. By the way, it is only fair to add that we've been extremely lucky with having attracted very few spammers in this twelve months. It has made my job and the job of the site staff much easier.

On a personal note I have been busy of late with other things in my life such as education. It is becoming harder to find time to merely browse the site every day, leave alone contribute to the forum with my usual reviews on a regular basis. Having said that, I try to follow the reviews and discussions of other members with great enthusiasm. To be frank, I sometimes feel rather foolish when I check out the sheer range and quality of literary tastes of some of the other members. They will, I hope, continue to contribute on a regular basis.

So, all in all, LiteraryForums.org has come a long way in the first year... hopefully, we'll see a higher rate of growth in the second year!

Yours Sincerely,

Hari (Forum Host)
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Of schoolboy cricket

Filed under: Sports by Hari
Posted on Fri, Sep 23, 2005 at 10:03 IST (last updated: Sun, May 24, 2009 @ 19:23 IST)

India finally won a series outside the subcontinent after 19 long years! Wow! Great achievement, right? Big deal!

Sorry to sound cynical, but this series victory against a schoolboy Zimbabwean outfit (which had at most just three or four players of real international class) doesn't mean a thing even if that dubious record is now out of the way. To illustrate my point let's look at the manner of victory in the second test: a real struggle to bowl out a team that was standing on its last legs. Without Irfan Pathan's magnificent spells, India would probably struggled to bowl out Zimbabwe twice. Essentially, it was a one-man show with a burst of aggression every now and then from Zaheer Khan. Again, going back to the batting performance, was it really satisfactory? 366 all out after being 190 odd for just the loss of a wicket? Admittedly that score was enough in the final reckoning to win, but was it enough to prove a point? I don't think so. Then let's go back to the first test match and take a look at Ganguly's laboured, almost pathetic, century. It was enough to silence his critics for the moment, but was it enough to really justify that outburst against the coach? Ganguly's very defensiveness and his attitude speak volumes. The very fact that he spoke out so vehemently after his century goes to prove that he was essentially playing for himself, not for the team. He was playing to prove a point against his critics: not for the benefit of his team. Hence that extremely defensive style of play and a excrutiatingly slow run rate.

I really do think that for the benefit of Indian cricket, Ganguly should retire from international cricket honourably before he's chucked out like so many before him. If the history of Indian cricket should teach him anything it should teach him to quit while he's ahead (and even at this moment of victory, I seriously doubt whether he's ahead). He's had a very long and successful run as a captain and he should seek to end it on a winning note. He's had his chances and he's had a fairly successful career as a batsman. It's only going one way for him now: downhill, fast. Before everything starts falling apart, he should just withdraw respectably. It would also open up the team for a fresh set of youngsters to step in and prove their worth. For far too long, Ganguly has blocked his place in the team at the expense of fresh talented youngsters. For too long, there have not been enough chances given to the newcomers. For too long the batting positions have remained stagnant. This should change. The senior players should slowly make way for the next generation. It's now the era of the Yuvraj Singhs, the Virender Sehwags and the Mohammed Kaifs in Test Cricket. As I have already mentioned before in a previous article, whether they like it or not, the Gangulys, the Dravids and the Tendulkars will have to move aside at some point of time or the other. Time is running out slowly but surely on their careers. The sooner they step aside, the better for them and for Indian cricket.

Speaking of schoolboy cricket, the Bank Alfalah Series in Sri Lanka was another instance of why the ICC has got its priorities screwed up as far as quality cricket is concerned. Sorry, sir, but Bangladesh versus Sri Lanka is a mockery of International cricket. Bangladesh stood absolutely no chance against a strong Sri Lankan side playing at home. After the highs of the dramatic Ashes series, we are condemned to watch India make heavy weather of a weakened Zimbabwe team and a strong Sri Lanka professionally maul a pathetic Bangladesh. Do India or Sri Lanka really gain out of beating Zimbabwe and Bangladesh? Is there really any meaning or pride in playing such weak sides or is it just an exercise in boosting up individual and team records? All this makes me seriously think that a two-tier system of International cricket would be definitely worth implementing. At least we wouldn't have to watch such one-sided contests on a regular basis. Sadly I doubt whether the ICC would implement such a system because it would cut down on the number of series that can be played in a year and that would mean so much loss of revenue... that's the focal point of modern cricket and that one factor explains the current state of affairs so succintly.
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Indians tend to make great bloggers

Filed under: Internet and Blogging by Hari
Posted on Wed, Sep 14, 2005 at 21:12 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 20:36 IST)

Before I start off I would like to make two things very clear:

The first one is quite simple. I lay no claims to being any good at blogging.

Secondly, we all know that many people use a blog for different purposes and needs. In this article I am going to talk about personal blogs only. Not about techno-blogs, info-blogs, news blogs, ad blogs, developer blogs and all other kinds of blogs which exist under the sun.

Having got rid of those two disclaimers let me say that I'm proud to be part of the community of Indian bloggers. I have read many different kinds of blogs but somehow Indian blogs have always attracted me. Although I must admit that I'm biased (being an Indian myself), I think I have found certain qualities common among Indian bloggers which seem to be missing from bloggers who come from other cultural backgrounds.

First of all, there is this typically and uniquely "Indian" passion among Indian bloggers who've adopted this form of personal publishing wholeheartedly and with complete confidence. On the other hand, I find bloggers who come from a Western culture to be a lot more inhibited and a lot less confident about opening their hearts to the world. This is a critical difference which makes all the difference. We Indians generally tend to put our hearts and souls into something that we enjoy doing. Western culture demands a certain restraint of emotion. They also tend to be a lot more concerned about privacy while Indians are generally more open. I guess it's part of our very culture that makes us so. Secondly, I think that the blogging culture itself has a different connotation in an Indian context. Most Indians seem to have fully accepted blogging as a form of art. An expression of our creative talents. A typical Indian blogger tends to be more poetic than his Western counterpart. This may or may not be true in specific cases, but I have generally observed this artistic side in so many Indian blogs. On the other hand, bloggers who come from a Western background to be a lot more journalistic in approach and a lot more serious. It's a fact that the typical blogger from a Western cultural background tends to use a blog as an instrument of democratic journalism and protest rather than a form of art. This is a crucial difference, I believe. The whole context is different and they tend to focus a lot more on serious political issues. Interestingly, Indians, even when talking about politics, tend to have a lot lighter approach. Which brings me to a very interesting point indeed. Your typical Indian blogger is a lot more humourous and tends to take life lot less seriously than the typical Western blogger. Again, this might be a cultural thing. An Indian is generally more philosophical about life and hence a lot more relaxed when facing the ups and downs of life. You find a very laidback, humourous, yet philosophical style in many Indian blogs. There is something I find uniquely magical and charming in that quality which attracts me and I'm sure which attracts a lot of others too. No wonder then, that Indian bloggers generally don't come alone but in hordes: they tend to form communities around their writings. And this is the essential quality of a successful blog - the ability to attract similar people with your writing skills.

Let me add that this is not a critique of other styles of blogging. I just wanted to explore some of the reasons why Indians make such good bloggers. Maybe some of the talent is inborn, while some of it is practice and passion. While my style of blogging definitely does not match the profile I just described, I still continue to admire the unique and endearing skills of my fellow Indians! Long live the Indian blogger!
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Sensible dressing

Filed under: Life and Leisure by Hari
Posted on Fri, Sep 9, 2005 at 21:42 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 21:18 IST)

I am going to start off by saying that wearing Western formal clothing is literally and figuratively a big time pain in the neck. In a country where the average temperatures range between 30-45 celcius throughout the year and particularly in a city where humidity levels rarely dip below 50%, it's raving madness to go around dressed in a full arm shirt, a tie and a blooming blazer on a hot summer day. It's ridiculous, yet it is seen as the right clothing in a formal environment... by most of the corporate giants of the world.

There are a few reasons why I detest these kinds of unreasonable dress codes. The first reason is obvious. Western clothing is suited for western climates. Such clothing was invented by people who are used to living comfortably in regions where temperatures hover between 15 and 25 degrees max. Not the hot, humid tropical regions close to the equator. As I already mentioned, wearing a full arm shirt by itself is uncomfortable in a typical Indian summer day. To wear a tie on top of that makes you nearly ill. But the blazer is the figurative salt rubbed into the proverbial wound. Even in an air-conditioned room, a blazer can become quite stuffy over time. Never mind comfort... you still have to wear it because it's "professional". Never mind if you sweat like a pig inside, it's your "corporate look" that counts. I pity those who have to wear this kind of outfit on a daily basis just to adhere to the "dress code" of their organizations. I can understand their suffering.

Secondly, comfortable clothing always enhances our productivity in any situation. This is common sense. What makes a suit better than an ordinary shirt and a pair of corduroy trousers? Absolutely nothing! Practically, little is gained by wearing formal clothing except to appear formal. Which is a foolish obsession in my opinion. As long as a person dresses decently and sensibly, why on earth should he or she be forced to wear stupid ties and suits especially when they don't add to the comfort? In cold weather, I can understand the need for warm clothing. In warm weather it is plain stupid and does absolutely nothing to increase work productivity or output. On the contrary this discomfort may lead to lower levels of productivity at work. I simply cannot understand this irrational justification of excessively formal dressing. Nobody has yet convinced me why employees absolutely *have* to wear formal clothing just because they are about to meet a client. Show me one company that gained an extra customer just because their salesman wore a full fledged suit and I'll show you a customer whose priorities are seriously screwed up.

Thirdly, let me add that, on ideological grounds, I am uncomfortable with the cultural undertones of wearing such clothing. I personally detest this form of West-worship that India seems to be excelling in. We are experts at copying, aping and imitating some of the more ridiculous practices of Western culture without actually taking in the really beneficial aspects to our advantage. Clothing is one such thing. I am not totally against Western clothing, but we should figure out the point at which it stops being useful to us and learn to use and adapt it to suit our own requirements. Nobody's objecting to wearing a decent shirt and a good pair of trousers. For example half-arm shirts are excellent and practical without sacrificing any degree of formality (and let me add that this "formal clothing standard" is just an illogical and subjective "tradition" imposed often without any rhyme or reason). Common sense and a basic adherence to decency should dictate clothing - not rigid adherence to some arbitrary nonsense imposed on us by the dictates of Western culture. Unfortunately that is not the case.

In this era of MNCs and liberalization, India needs to stand up as a culturally independent nation in an increasingly homogenized world. Indian employees working in India for Indian or international companies need to put their foot down with regard to freedom in dressing. Rigid and strict dress codes should be made less rigid. Traditional Indian clothing is eminently suited for Indian weather, but surprisingly Indian wear has been downgraded by Indians themselves to the status of "informal" or lower - in many cases, not even fit to be worn in public. How stupid! It shows how deep the problem is and how indoctrinated we are in the ways of the West. Deep down, at some level, it really hurts my self respect to wear clothing that I find alien to my nature and culture (and which is uncomfortable to boot) just to show my compliance to the Western standard of dressing imposed arbitrarily and without any practical benefit to me. And I'm sure that most self-respecting, red-blooded Indians would feel the same way. India as a whole would be a prouder nation if we all asserted our right to stick to our rich and glorious culture in dressing even in a global scenario. In this context, let's remember that the one who makes the rules is generally seen as the boss. Right now, by allowing the West to make the rules (as far as formal dressing is concerned) we are pyschologically at a disadvantage when we face up to them. The best and the most visible way of reasserting our independence would be to show that we follow our own rules when dressing as far as possible. If nothing else, it would surely reinforce our individual identity in a world where nine out of ten executives wear the same old formal suit.

In closing, let me just say that decency, comfort and common sense should dictate what anybody wears on any occasion: formal or not. Nothing more or less.
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Isn't Sourav ashamed of his performance?

Filed under: Sports by Hari
Posted on Mon, Sep 5, 2005 at 10:46 IST (last updated: Sun, May 24, 2009 @ 19:23 IST)

I really didn't think that India would win against Zimbabwe in the final "league" match of the Videocon cup yesterday. Zimbabwe scored 250 and India were struggling at one stage. Ganguly failed as usual. Sehwag usually fails in the more tense run-chase situations. It was a Sunday, an unlucky day of the week as far as Indian Cricket is concerned. Nothing seemed to indicate that it was India's day. Everything seemed to be going against India.

Except Yuvraj Singh. This fellow has really come on in International cricket. It's amazing but sad how a certain cricketer can be labelled as a "one-day" cricketer or at least tagged as a player who performs better in ODIs than in Tests. Whatever may be the truth of that statement, Yuvraj hasn't seem to have let this tag affect his performance in the shorter variety of the game. His failures have come under extreme criticism in the past by those very critics who have been far more forgiving of Ganguly, Tendulkar or Dravid when those players have gone through a string of failures. Equally his successes has been amazingly flashy and brilliant and attracted a plethora of superlatives. Maybe he's just that kind of a player who tends to attract criticism as easily as applause. His fielding skills are so electrifying that he puts so many of the current senior players to shame. There is no denying Yuvraj's influence on Indian Cricket. I think that he would be a natural choice as a captain a year or two down the line because of his outgoing personality and his dominant nature whether with the bat or on the outfield.

Now let's come back to Ganguly. I cannot help it, but I simply detest his oily smile when he comes up to receive the award for the winning captain at presentations in matches like this. His continuing failures with the bat appear to have made no difference at all. Not a hint of shame or regret that he hasn't really contributed in any way to the team's cause. And his fielding continues to be pathetic at the best of times. I continue to assert that Indian cricket seriously needs to find a new captain. Even his record as a captain is no excuse for such a long spell of non-performance as a player.

Moving on, who would have thought that England would lead 2-1 in the Ashes series going in to the final test match? In such a situation I would expect the England management to ask for a very flat pitch to be prepared at The Oval. If I were in charge of the English team management, I would definitely not take any chances in the final test and ask my groundsman to prepare an absolute belter. A pitch that lasts for five days and a pitch which doesn't allow wickets to be picked up in a bunch. A chance to create history shouldn't be allowed to slip away and make no mistake about it: Australia is the dangerous wounded tiger who can bounce back at any time. However, one must add that Australia's front line bowlers seem to be needing more help from the pitches than English bowlers at this point of time and as an Englishman, one should back the pace of Flintoff, Harmison and company to do the job regardless of the pitch.

Ricky Ponting will definitely feel the heat, make no mistake about it. In the space of a couple of weeks, he is almost in the same boat as Sourav Ganguly and it's ironic that an Australian team that boasts of such talent over the years should find their weakest link in the form of their captain. Although he's not plumbed the depths as a batsman, for sure his captaincy will come under the scanner at the end of the series and I'm sure a change of guard would be on the cards even if Australia do manage to reverse the trend and beat England in the final test to square the series and retain the Ashes. Is Australian cricket on the decline? I wouldn't go so far as to say that, but I think the Steve Waugh era was the highest point they reached in this generation and since then, it's only headed downwards. No matter what happens from here on in Australian cricket, it will take quite some doing to emulate his outstanding record and career as a captain.
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Recent Debian mirror issues

Filed under: Bits and Bytes by Hari
Posted on Mon, Sep 5, 2005 at 09:48 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 20:28 IST)

Of late I have been having issues connecting to the Debian mirrors for package updates to Etch. As a result, I haven't been able to update my system for the last several weeks. Now, I have been having problems with my ISP on and off, but while other sites have worked well, I have been consistently getting different errors with Debian mirror sites recently. Changing the sources.list files to point to different mirrors hasn't really yielded any results. apt-get update has been yielding nothing but error messages, which is so annoying for a Debian user so used to updating his system every two or three days. This has been the situation for a couple of weeks now. In the past, issues like this have been resolved fairly quickly, but there seems to be a drop in activity of late.

In general, Debian seems to be experiencing some technical niggles in recent times as far as updates are concerned. Other users have also commented on the fact that after the Sarge freeze to stable, Debian sid has been going through turbulent times. Some of these problems seem to have filtered through to Etch as well. Hopefully these mirror problems will be sorted out in the near future. This situation, though surprising, is quite understandable. Debian is a real monster when it comes to package maintenance and updates in the repositories because of the sheer size and complexity of the distribution and although the package maintainers are such a dedicated lot, they still have so much on their hands to take care of at their end. It's their hard work behind the scenes that keeps the average Debian user happy and content. To their eternal credit, those thousands of fantastic volunteers have kept Debian going so smoothly for years and years now. It's a real tribute to their professionalism that I have had no real complaints about Debian ever since I've started using it. Most commercial distros cannot boast of a track record like that.

So I sincerely hope that it's just me, but I have a feeling that it may not be an issue at my end. If that's not the case and it works fine for you do feel free to comment. I'll keep you updated on this issue.
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