Saturday, March 22, 2008

Money spent on someone else == happiness?

It's true, or so claims this study . Research done in University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School on this very unusual topic shows that money spent on another person significantly boosts happiness compared to that spent on oneself. Seems almost counter-intuitive to me, especially considering how morale boosting self-shopping is.

The more I think about it, I feel maybe there is something to this finding, after all. Another way to interpret the results is, if you spend money on people around you and keep them happy, your life will be made easier as well, and consequently, you are happier. In any case, charity is a wonderful thing, and now that there's research showing that the more you give, the happier you are, and there's no better reason to keep up the good work.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fighting fire with fire

Scientists at Yale University have managed to fight inoperable brain cancer using a modified virus. The above picture shows the virus in green, invading the tumor cells in red. Mice that harbored various kinds of brain tumor, when treated with the virus, were completely tumor-free after three days. This is a very interesting, yet counter-intuitive idea and the dramatic results that it yields makes us hope that it can be applied to humans as well. The concept does have its drawback that the virus would infect the entire animal, and not just the tumor. Notwithstanding that, the results of this study are quite encouraging and could, we hope, improve the treatment options for human brain cancer.

Friday, March 7, 2008


You can follow this algorithm to try and come up with a fancy science name for your new tech company.

This reminds me of one of Ramesh Mahadevan's posts on algorithmic approach to Tamil verses, excerpt from which can be enjoyed below:

Rasathukku uppazhagu, vishathukku warning azhagu
pazhathukku juice azhagu, kizhathukku thadi azhagu
(Salt beautifies rasam; 'warning' beautifies poison; juice beautifies a fruit and a walking stick beautifies an old person)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Maddy and Shruti

I was delighted to find that Madhavan and Shruti Hassan have a joint project in the offing. Madhavan's previous project Evano Oruvan was an off beat attempt that portrayed the frustrations of a sincere middle class citizen. Though not a success in all dimensions, the film did win the hearts of the mainstream audience.

Shruti Rajalakshmi Hassan is a formally trained musician who is hoping to become an actress in Kollywood. She made a cameo appearance in Kamal's Hey Ram. So the next venture with Madhavan should be called her 'debut as a heroine'.

This joint venture is going to be directed by Nishikant Kamat and is tentatively named Endrendrum Punnagai. People surmise that it is going to be a romantic thriller and apparently Madhavan has to lose 6 Kgs to appear compatible with Shruti - and I know how hard it is to lose 6 pounds! Good luck Maddy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Baby slips out from womb in train

That too, in an Indian train!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Writer Sujatha passes away

He is one of the most versatile writers who has constantly adapted his style to cater to the Tamil audience. A renowned columnist, Sujatha has worked with Kumudam, Ananda Vikatan and Kalki. A renowned novelist, stage-play writer, poet and disseminator of Science, Sujatha has also worked on many notable projects with Mani Ratnam, Kamal and Shankar. Personally, I have been often surprised to discover that most of the Tamil film dialogues that have impacted me have been penned by Sujatha. Incidentally, for the past 2 months, I have wanted to rent his movies and watch them and revel in his genius.

May his soul rest in peace.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscars: Is predictability a sin?

Yahoo!'s Jake Coyle feels that the predictability of last night's Oscar is "sapping the ceremony of drama". Predictability, I feel, lends more authenticity and detoxes the ceremony of randomness. I used to think Oscar awards were arbitrary, but with the predictability factor increasing, I feel it has some substance to it and is a proof of concept that the Oscar system works.

But a few surprises are always good. And Jon Stewart isn't funny to me anymore. I hope they change the host next year, at least.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

'Nepali' audio release

More images can be found here.

The song (Priya ithu sitout) is a bit vulgar for my taste and another (Sound of action) is almost completely cogged from Kill Bill's soundtrack (Ironside by Quincy Jones). Other than that, I have nothing much to say about the soundtrack. I hope the movie saves face. I like Bharath and most of his movies and owing to my faith in him, I'll probably shell out the money to watch this movie. This movie could be the last straw on the Bharath's-fan-oLi's back!

The following is one of the stills from the movie I found here:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Slithering news

(Current Range -

If all of you living in North Texas, North Arkansas, southern Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, southern New Jersey, California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington and Oregon thought you were all safe from serpent trouble, well, rethink. Global warming is going to provide the reptiles with a warm and conducive climate, and the snakes have already started to slither north.

(Projected Range -

And if you believe in God, here is something that can save you from their deadly fangs:

Sarpa raksha manthra (Prayer to protect oneself from the snakes):

Apa sarpa sarpa bhadram the Dooram gacha maha yasa
Janamejayasya yagnanthe aasthika vachanam smaran

And a little bit of the antidote might help too...

Curcumin prevents heart failure

Friday, February 22, 2008

IPL: Money for something

This article in CricInfo by Dileep Premachandran discusses whether cricketers deserve their astronomical salaries.

Doesn't the answer to the question - "Do they deserve such high salaries?" - depend on whether we, as spectators, are willing to watch the games on TV and sit through the commercials and whether we are willing to pay for the tickets, merchandise etc. If we are willing to pump in the money, then why should they not be paid so well?

But on the other hand, Dileep brings up one other very interesting point: Are we paying certain cricketers too much, too soon?
The sort of money thrown at young players in the IPL - is Tiwary really worth twice as much as Michael Hussey, even if Hussey only plays half the season? - should also make us wary
I agree with Dileep that some players are paid more than their talent-display thus far. But I don't see why franchises would not invest so much on MS Dhoni. He is talented, powerful, dedicated and aggressive. If the gripe is about the pure $ amount, then at this point I would reserve my judgment and see how the whole series pans out.

Alongside, Dileep also suggests a cautionary lesson to be learnt from NFL on rewarding unseen talent:
American Football offers the greatest cautionary tale of too much, too soon. A few years ago, Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons was the most exciting quarterbacking talent around, the future of the league, and in possession of a contract worth $130 million over 10 years. These days he languishes in a penitentiary in Kansas, after a federal investigation exposed his involvement with Bad Newz Kennels, a pit-bull fighting and gambling syndicate. No one should expect young sportsmen to be role models, but you also don't want them to end up like Vick
This comparison between Michael Vick and Tiwary seemed a little baseless to me. Micheal Vick had played 4 full seasons before he was offered the then league high $130 million. Where as, Tiwary has so far played 1 ODI and 6 20Twenty matches. The main problem I have with the above argument is, what could Atlanta Falcons have done differently with Michael Vick when they decided to pay him so much?

Dileep is also skeptical about the ability of players not playing for their home franchises to create "fanatical" fan following. Why don't we look at NFL for example tales?: Peyton Manning was born in New Orleans (home team: Saints) and played college football at Tennessee (home team: Titans) and plays professional football for Indianapolis Colts. He is probably one of the most revered quarterbacks in the league's history and his fan following doesn't just stop with Indy. Tom Brady, born in San Mateo, CA was a "fanatical" fan of the 49ers and he now plays for New England Patriots - he now commands the most loyal fan base in the league[1]. So, I, as a Chennai franchise fan, will root for anybody wearing the SuperKings T-Shirt and plays cricket. I don't care if he's from Ranchi or Jupiter.

All that said, it took me years to adjust to franchises and leagues after having supported "countries" in cricket and football. And I think IPL is a healthy first attempt to promote the game of cricket amongst youth and general public worldwide. Like someone pointed out, this is the first season and it is difficult to pull crowds without big stars and big bucks. But whether the whole affair is worth the time and money invested (money mainly), is yet to be seen.

[1] Of course, agreed that Rohit Sharma is no Peyton Manning and Robin Uthappa is no Tom Brady. But at least Brady, when drafted, was a no-name player.

PS: I'm a loyal reader of Dileep's articles and, of course, occasionally dare to disagree with his expert opinion. Overall, I consider him to be one of the best critics and Sports journalists.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sivaji's re-entry

Latest addition to the list of actors entering the film industry by virtue of personal networks is Sivaji, grandson of the legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan. Sivaji is making his debut as a hero in the movie Singakutti. Gowri Munjal stars opposite him and it is said that Vivek and Malavika also have important roles in the film. Music composed by Prasanna Sekar is mediocre, although 3 of the songs are already claimed to be hits. Sripriya is the producer and Venkatesh is the director.

Honestly, I don't think he appears very smart or charming, but I hope his genetic histrionic skills keep him afloat in the extremely competitive Kollywood industry and I wish him the best!

Drink Coffee, Drink Smart

In the past 5 years, not a day has passed without caffeine consumption. The teasing aroma of hot stimulating coffee every morning is unmissable. I wouldn't have completed my thesis if not for coffee. And, I don't dare to think about how much would tech companies and academia suffer without the regular supply of caffeine to its people.

How to make coffee (caffeine) work for you? How to optimally consume coffee (caffeine) so as to maximise its benefits? Well, Drink Smart.

PS: I'm no lobbyist.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

HD DVD - Strike Out?

The battle between Blu-Ray (Sony) and HD-DVD (Toshiba) formats is almost over, especially with Amazon extending its support to Blu- Ray. This has been very similar to the VHS- beta war in the 1970s where the now familiar VHS tape format erased Sony's beta format out of existence.

This time, luckily for Sony, history is not repeating itself - Sony Corp's Blu-Ray format has clearly emergied as the winner. With many stores and online rentals such as Netflix backing Blu-Ray, we can all expect a Blu-Ray monopoly quite soon.

Societal effects of management philosophies

According to Matthew Battles' report in the Boston Globe, management philosophies have a more far-reaching effect than we perceive them to: research suggests that business can have an important -- and positive -- cultural impact as well. Companies that empower their employees to cut costs in the workplace not only improve their bottom lines, but also may foster civic engagement and contribute to peace in the societies where they operate, according to research published in the November 2007 issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior.
The article also touches upon how the research has unraveled a concept that, maybe, strikes the middle-ground between Milton Friendman's view of businesses and John Mackey's view of businesses.

Interesting, huh?

Marudhanayagam trailer


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Haasan & Chan

I believe that it is easy to beat all expectations if you set them low. But setting-low-expectations and Kamal's-movies don't go together. As with any other Kamal movie, either advertently or inadvertently, Dasavatharam has gathered enormous hype around it. To add to the pre-release aura the movie created, The Hindu reports that Jackie Chan will preside over the Dasavatharam audio release function to be held on March 14. But, I don't see why Jackie? Do you?

Beauty of Math

Brushes and paints are tools of the past to create an appealing art. These days scientists use rules of Mathematics and the computational power of computers to achieve the same result.

Random browsing can be very enlightening.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sabermetrics and Clemens

This article on NY Times by a group of people from Wharton uses Sabermetrics (the statistical analysis of baseball data) to arrive at the following conclusion:
Our reading is that the available data on Clemens’s career strongly hint that some unusual factors may have been at play in producing his excellent late-career statistics.
Such conclusions may make good coffee room discussion topics, but are no substitutes for hard evidence and human testimonies in Roger Clemens' steroid abuse case.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kamal or Rajini

This is not an analysis of the two stalwarts. If you were expecting one, I'm sorry to disappoint you. But on the other hand, I'm sure you'll be wearing a smirk on your face after seeing the following pic :)


You can find more incarnations of Kamal here at Behind Woods.

Onset of migration debate

I have often wondered if the social effects of mass-migration (mainly immigration) on countries like US of A have been studied.

I thought it was ironic that UK, a nation that forcefully emigrated to almost all countries on earth and elsewhere, is now starting to pay attention to the social costs of mass-immigration. You can read the story here.


It takes effort to blog after a protracted blogging hiatus. After significant contemplation on answering "How do I break the ice?", popped the answer, "Just blog". So here I am trying to break the ice by apologising for leaving without much explanation. I'm not here now to extend any explanations, but I'm here to express my sincere intent to try and blog regularly henceforth. I don't promise, but I'll try.

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