Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sanjay Dutt

Yes, Sanjay Dutt has got 6 yrs in Jail. Considering the tough stand that the court has taken in other cases, the verdict probably reflects the best possible solution to the ethical dilemma of the case.

Here was a public figure who has left an impeccable record after the event, the event itself a response to the prevailing situation at that time. Yes, the man admits he committed a mistake. But the fact of the matter remains that the case is that of criminal conspiracy. Justice has been served in its own merit. Whether the larger picture is considered (in terms of setting an example to other high profile people or the fact of him having lead a reformed life) is a mere footnote in the argument. For example it would never be known what role Sanjay’s presence served in the entire terror network.

6 yrs, he has already spent 16 months in jail and would most likely not do the full sentence with probation a strong possibility.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter-Movie Review

Director: David Yates

The franchise goes to a new director this time and he does a decent job of it. The best part about the potter series is that you don't really need to have read the book or seen the previous parts of the movie. I have been told that this part has hardly been faithful to the book and at a runtime of 138 min is the shortest movie of the whole series. Thats probably the reason that the movie comes across as pretty crisp, tho' the ending is rather abrupt.

The distortions of Harry's mind give an edgy feel to the movie, with all the other characters just filling in the places. Radcliffe is definitely a good character, tho' the hype about the kiss is hardly worth it (the theatre did burst out in applause). Of course by now I have come to love Lord Voldemort, he has a funny face, can disappear at will, spout weird dialogues and gets to wear black.

The sad part is you can expect what the movie would be about. Whatever the name of the movie is, the plot is simple. Harry boy goes through some emotions, there is a sinister plot, someone gets conked off in the end and people are waiting for the next part. Maybe I should redo my post on Harry Potter being shallow. If this is the most important book of the last decade, our level of understanding of complexities must definitely be on the wane. Anyway, to people-as they want.

The sets are pretty well done (the shot of Hogwarts from top was nice) and the cast is chosen as the story demands.. err.. not too demanding. Bring on some pondi next time man.The movies solves its purpose I guess, decent one time watch and it makes more money for the Potter pheonomenon. Amen. But then, I am just a muggle.

Rating: 6/10

Cleantech Breakthroughs

Funding Cleantech ventures is a complex process. While the end-user economics has gained some visibility the funding for research is still not a very clear process. According to reports, cleantech research funding was of the tune of $48 billion last year with the govt funding half of it.

But, mainstream adoption of cleantech will only happen if it is customer driven. While adoption of cleantech initiatives on an implementation scale is happening (installation s of biomass, solar and wind) etc, the end users could also put pressure through shareholder activism. Shareholder activism is the force that will help companies justify the large investments that are required for cleantech funding.

Further, it is probably important to understand that most new research in cleantech is going to be incremental. Almost all major technologies have been explored at some time or the other. The climate change debate has just bought these technologies into focus and hence forced companies to come up incremental research to push forward consumer acceptance through better economics.

One of the possible ways to look at cleantech funding would be set up a global fund for each field of research with identified centers of excellence to pursue those technologies. The companies could continue to focus on commercial incremental ventures. But the large breakthrough initiatives would require massive scales of funding where pooling of resources makes sense.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter-Blairite Britain?

The Fin Times has done piece of analysis on the Harry Potter series. I have never been a fan of the boy wizard, having just hardly scraped through the first book. But the fact that literary commentators have taken it upon themselves to dismiss a phenomenally successful series is quite simply weird.

But critics say that, compared with the great children's books of the past, the Harry Potter stories fare badly, appearing derivative, modestly written and superficial.

Hello? Compared to what great children's books? Most of the books I know (Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland) were more social commentaries first and children's books later.

Some cultural pessimists have gone further still, lamenting the strange tendency of adults to become as obsessed with the Harry Potter books as their children. Here, they argue, was a perfect metaphor for dumbed-down, Blairite Britain: a nation choosing to escape into facile fantasy and revel in the hype, rather than knuckling down to issues of substance and gravitas.

This is probably more interesting, Britain has had a problem in identifying its role on the world stage and also coming to terms with the colonial times. The industries are dying and except as being packaged as the financial center or hanging on to the UN security council veto the British pride appears from outside to be on the brink. Further, immigration, nationalization-privatization and now the war has put further strains on the system. But, Harry Potter = Tony Blair? Potter became famous as Blair rose and Potter series is coming to an end as Blair is done. So?

Language as a medium has changed. An amalgamation of cultures and the need to communicate shortly and quickly (courtesy the communication revolution) has meant that audiences cannot connect with complex language. Also if someone is looking for Floyd lyrics in a Britney spears concert they are simply out of their mind. Harry boy is not an English phenomenon, it has spawned a sub-culture across geographies.

The problem is that culture pundits are probably at the worst possible time in history. While on one the development of language as a medium of communication over centuries is threatened, at the same time the ability of people to choose all kinds of media they will consume, down to the last detail has meant that there is no clear consensus on what kind of culture will dominate. Pop? Classic? Short-term fix or perennial nirvana?

Poor culturists-till then Potter would be ahem "symbol of Blairite Britain"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Press 'con'ference

Last weeks press conf in the sporting world:

Rafa Nadal: I think that my opponent is the favorite. Goes on to beat Youzhny, Berdych and Djokovic (conceded) after saying that.

Gasquet(after beating Roddick): It was a pleasure to play a great champion. He is very very good, but I played better today. (on meeting Federer): It will be a honor to play the great champion. I will try and play good tennis.

Federer: After for once agreeing that he expected better from Gasquet in semis, goes on to say sweet things about beating Nadal.

Collingwood (after being 'Gayled'):
q: how did series go.
woody boy: we learnt a lot, its a young team. there are good opportunities
q: who did WI turn it around
woody boy: our boys competed well. we are quite young and learning
q: what were your weaknesses? the batting let you down right?
woody boy: we see a lot of opportunities

These are examples of the quite weird problem of sports persons taking political correctness to the extreme. We are in the PR era, so your usual barrage of Paris going "i felt claustrophobic, i will change" (), Rakhi Sawant having a cute home, everybody liking everybody else, somebody calling Sanjay Leela Bhansali s movies masterpieces, the congress keeping quiet on the Maran fiasco, xyz donating their undies to children in god forsaken Africa et all, we could at least have clarity in sports atleast.

Come on, its ok if someone says "I beat him because I was better today" instead of "he is a great champion, he competes brilliantly, he was very very close to winning". C'mon Fedex you can do better than that. Sport is one field that clearly proves who is better. Unless for exceptional circumstances (injury, boredom) the ranking and performances shows who is better.

Give me Schumi, Armstrong, Bryant any dny man. Modern sport has probably reached very high levels, but public relations still sucks.

Nationalism, national pride et all


Does being born in a particular nation automatically mean that an individual should be proud of that nation? or should national pride be restricted to cases where there is a case to feel proud?

Judging from the reaction to the Taj vote we are led to believe that the Taj is a true wonder in the world and symbol of national pride. Is the Taj on the list because of the numbers or does it truly deserve it?

Nationalism is a time tested concept, predating the era of the nation state. And any argument of a seemingly dominant culture would automatically lead to conflict with groups having different views outside of the geographic boundaries of nations, but even within it could impinge upon liberal/minority interests. The problem is in a way circular, unless there is universal agreement that birth/upbringing happens purely by chance there is a high likelihood that people would align themselves in different groups. Now lets say if there are no nationalists in one country, its likely that the country would be run over from nationalist groups in another country. So the liberals in different countries whose attentions are primarily drawn towards events on merit will probably need to work harder on making people understand the futility of nationalism vs universalism. But then they are liberals.

The problem is compounded by the thoughts of the major religious/political views. Christianity and Islam are more universalist but would be at logger heads on individual superiority. Jews and Hindus are probably the true exponents of the 'promised land', they would be loggerheads with the others. An understatement.

The fundamental problem is more towards difficulty of the human race to judge for itself. Peer review, acceptance and the need to belong to a social group far outweighs the individuals capacity to think/act rationally. And once the alignment happens, in case of nationalism, its by default then there is very little opportunity for someone to create a liberal view. Or is it?

In a curious way, unless nations feel threatened a large scale war is unlikely to happen in the near future. Now is a good time to re-assess the need for nationalism and visions of superiority of the nation state. As people realize that even their day to day actions are influenced by global events (the internet/global warming) the idea of common usage of scarce resources has its best chance to prevail over existing forms of nationalistic thinking. But this development would have to walk a tightrope with the stabilizing nationalist forces and there lies the problem.

Since we start from such an inequitable distribution of wealth, there would be an relative importance of groups till there is better distribution. Before this happens any sort of dialogue would not be possible. So, liberals be doomed, who cares about them anyway, My country right or wrong.

Outsourcing trends

CNET recently did a piece on trends in outsourcing.

Consolidation: The space here is not very clearly defined. While on the one hand most of the large players themselves have set shop in outsourcing destinations, the markets for some services has not yet taken off (Financial services, Legal Services, Medical R&D processes, High end engineering modeling etc). I believe that the major outsourcing players will raise capital and expand before the first trends of consolidation clearly emerge.

Globalization: Whatever IDC may say India will not lose its edge for the 'English' dominated markets. We already cant cover the Asian markets which could as well turn out to be huge opportunities. Indian companies will open international centers. Companies like Genpact already seek to leverage their experiences in other low cost centers.

Person-to-person offshoring: Now this is interesting, but how big will this market be? Tutoring-definitely, its already a success story. But with issues such as data security creeping in this could likely be only a small piece of the entire pie. Probably the proverbial long tail market here.

Green sourcing: Still the parameters of 'Green' are clearly defined very few companies will have the incentive to look at green sourcing. I believe its unlikely to happen in the next 3-4 years unless the new Kyoto negotiations impose strict penalties on companies based on the green footprint.

Virtual worlds: Very very likely. The market could emerge as a subset of the entire p2p offshoring premise. A part of a world could be created or maintained by anyone with access to the account. How big and how soon? Large scale connectivity would be the key issue.