Showing posts from February, 2009

A Starter DSLR Kit

Those who are just entering the field of DSLR photography can easily be intimidated by the sheer vastness of the information and choices out there. Therefore, I'll describe what I think of as a good starter DSLR kit, i.e. my kit. But before I do that, I'll present you with the bare minimum terminology that you need to understand if you're going to engage in DSLR photography. There are two foundational concepts you need to get your arms around -- focal length and aperture. In looking at these two major topics you will also get introduced to some other peripheral terms, which I have underlined so that you don't miss them. Focal length. The focal length is the distance between the lens and the film. (In the case of digital cameras, the role of the film is played by the image sensor.) Focal length is measured in millimeters (or mm) and is directly proportional to zoom. That is, the larger the focal length, the larger the zoom. A lens with a small focal length (i.e. low zoo…

Not All Starbucks Stores Are Made Equal

I love Starbucks. In particular, I love their coffee-based offerings. I've noticed a huge variation in the quality of Starbucks stores. The facilities and quality of staff vary greatly. The low-end stores don't even have ovens and, therefore, don't carry the hot breakfast sandwiches. The high-end stores offer Clover-based custom brewed cups of coffee, available only at select locations in Seattle and Boston. The quality of the staff is more or less proportional to the facilities. The staff at the low-end stores can barely manage to create a Starbucks Doubleshot whereas staff at the high-end stores will happily engage in chit chat about the merits and demits of various coffees and brewing styles. The best Starbucks store in my area is the one near the Drum Hill Rotary at 101 Drum Hill Road, Chelmsford, MA 01824. Among Starbucks' food offerings my favorites are the lemon loaf (with delicious pieces of lemon zest) and the butter croissant.

Emerging Economies Aren't Isolated From the Recession

According to the decoupling theory, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies or emerging economies would be largely unaffected by a downturn faced by the advanced economies. Over the past few months this theory has been largely discredited, as evidenced by this report from the Reserve Bank of India (India's central bank) and this writeup on the decoupling theory. The reasons for coupling are primary related to India's globalization levels -- 34.7% trade globalization (measured by two-way trade as a proportion of GDP) and 117.4% financial globalization (external transactions as a proportion of GDP).

Slumdog Sweeps Oscars But Underwhelms India

Slumdog Millionaire won eight Oscars last night including best picture, best director, best cinematography, best adapted screenplay and best soundtrack. It is ranked #35 (with 68,758 votes) on IMDB's list of Top 250 (of all time). And yet, Indians, especially those living in India, remain largely unimpressed. The elite in India don't like the movie's emphasis on India's underbelly. The masses don't like the film because it is essentially in English and has little star power (the lead roles are performed by rookies). Furthermore, even though the great Rahman won two Oscars for it, the music will remain under-appreciated in India because the heavy influences from foreign genres have rendered it somewhat intangible to the masses.

The Emergence of Key/Value Databases

Key/value databases (KVDs) are emerging as a potential challenge to the long-held monopoly of relational databases. The weakly-typed nature of KVDs is not unlike the growing trend with weakly-typed programming languages such as VB, JavaScript, PHP, Python and Perl (programming by convention -- "strong typing is for weak programmers"). The KVD trend is emerging in concert with the maturing of cloud computing (see my post from yesterday). The KVD paradigm simplifies object-data mapping but suffers from data duplication in exchange for improved scalability (perhaps an acceptable tradeoff, given that disk space is cheap). The biggest mind-shift is that the responsibility for ensuring data integrity is moved to the application.

Berkeley's New Blog on Cloud Computing

This excellent white paper (PDF) from a group of professors at Berkeley serves to launch what promises to be an influential blog on cloud computing. The authors of the paper have shown foresight in providing an executive summary and a video so that individuals can absorb the material at the level that suits them. Start with the executive summary on the main page. And if you're completely averse to reading, check out the video.

Delhi-6: Rahman's Most Versatile and Accomplished Movie Soundtrack?

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've been listening to the Delhi-6 soundtrack almost nonstop for about a month now. A R Rahman, the composer of this soundtrack and so much wonderful music over the years, seems to have outdone himself on this one. The set really has a bit of everything.
Masakali. This hot and groovy cabaret number, perhaps the highlight of this set, has been delivered expertly by Mohit Chauhan.
Arziyan. A reflective sufi song by Javed Ali and Kailash Kher.
Dilli-6. A number of singers contribute on this electric rap song: Blaaze, Benny Dayal, Vivianne Chaix, Tanvi Shah, and Claire.
Rehna Tu. A melancholy piece, delivered by Rahman himself with assists from Benny Dayal and Tanvi Shah.
Hey Kaala Bandar. A cool hip-hop number by Karthik, Naresh Iyer, Srinivas, Bony Chakravorty. Embar is responsible for the rap contributions.
Dil Gira Dafatan. Ash King sings this soft ballad with support from Chinmayee.
Genda Phool. An exquisite folk song by Rekha Bhardwaj.
Bhor Bhaye.

The Canadian Solution

Americans don't have to look far to discover what might have prevented the economic mess they're in now. Their quiet, unassuming neighbor to the north -- Canada -- is the only country in the industrialized world that has not faced a single bank failure, calls for bailouts or government intervention. The current Newsweek has a cover story entitled We Are All Socialists Now and includes an essay by Fareed Zakaria entitled Worthwhile Canadian Initiative. Read and learn.

Who Is A Sikh?

The current issue of Outlook contains Chander Suta Dogra's excellent article on the age old and continuously fascinating question of what constitutes religious identity in general and Sikh identity in particular. The article is particularly topical given that today marks the 20th anniversary of the fatwa declared by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses.

Shoe Throwing Is For Retards

I hope I never have a shoe thrown at me. And, in case I ever spot an airborne shoe approaching my coconut, I hope my reflexes turn out to be as good as those of former US President George W. Bush. I can readily understand the dissatisfaction with Bush or Wen Jiabao. But seriously, I feel that shoe throwing is a most unimaginative and inarticulate form of protest. How handicapped does one have to be to succumb to throwing one's shoe? I'm guessing that the folks who throw shoes must have some serious speech impediments. I suppose I've developed a particular distaste for show throwing because it is a most common expression of disagreement in the national parliament and state assemblies in India, where I grew up. And I am totally disgusted at all the people joining Facebook groups that lionize shoe throwing as some sort of heroic act.