Archive for March, 2012

The Innovation Trap

March 29, 2012

Harish Bhat, who is a friend on Facebook, and posts a lot of interesting stuff, posted about

the flexible e-paper display launch .

Though I am impressed by the innovation in terms of material use and invention, I still feel that products like this fall into what I call the classic Innovation Trap.

The Innovation Trap is the phenomenon of designers being blinkered and hobbled by designs and forms that they are familiar with. In the case of the product above, it seems to be the goal to get as close in appearance as possible to laminated resemble some form of actual paper. But one wonders why that resemblance is needed at all.

The classic example of the Innovation Trap was when automobiles started being designed. Being familiar only with horse-drawn carriages, early cars looked boxy and square, exactly like the old carriages. It took a while to realize that though it was irrelevant for horse-drawn carriages, for cars, aerodynamics would improve the efficiency, and that the shape of the automobile must be very different from that of a carriage.

This problem was once again demonstrated when, in the era of tailfins and long lines, with the cars looking like ships, the VW Beetle was introduced. It was pronounced an ugly car…when it was actually very functional in design, and hence very beautiful.

In similar fashion, there is no need for outer-space-only spacecraft to have the sleek, aerodynamic, cigar-shaped look of the rockets that lift off from the Earth’s atmosphere. Since they operate in a vacuum, and there is no resistance from the atmosphere, outer-space-only craft (I am sure there is a technical name, very scientific) for such vehicles), they can look as clunky as they want to be, with antennae, and solar panels, and such, sticking out in all directions. Maybe design has to take into account the possibility of an aerial snapping when hit by a passing meteor, but in general, it does not need the shape that a craft that needs to enter the Earth’s atmosphere should have, to reduce the friction and heat of re-entry.

Another example of this is the “qwerty” keyboard, that is still widely in use. I know that many computer techies (like ) use

the Dvorak keyboard

and many mobile phones and keyboards have an “abcd” keyboard; but the majority of all keyboards still use the “qwerty”, which does have many problems. But…it’s as if we, when used to something, are often unwilling to conceive of

something different .

This applies also when someone has made a true innovation. When Sony built the Walkman, for years, we saw me-too’s flooding the market. Now the iPad and the iPhone are cool things to imitate…even when their drawbacks are quite apparent.

I suppose one may also call it “design fashion”. One particular design becomes the “norm” and other designs, even if better, fall by the wayside sometimes, and are not commercial successes. The cathedral of “That’s the way things are always done” seems to loom large on the skyline of design, and sometimes real creativity is sacrificed at its altar.

How long it took for the no. of camera exposures to be counted downwards, or the fuel guage on cars to show how many miles the fuel available was good for (varying with the speed of the car) rather than just showing how much petrol was in the tank! With the innovation, one could get the actual information one really wants…how many exposures are left, and how many miles one can drive the car for. (Most cars in India still have only the old-fashioned petrol guages.)

But in spite of the Innovation Trap, true innovation and creativity continues to happen, and that’s the great thing about the human mind….!

The Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Bheemeshwari, 240312

March 28, 2012



is listed as “near-threatened” by IUCN.

We are extremely lucky to have quite a few of these beautiful arboreal animals, about 100km from Bangalore, in the

Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary

and more specifically, at the

Bheemeshwari Fishing Camp of Jungle Lodges and Resorts

Though KM had the squirrel pointed out to him by Bharat and Alim, who run the adventure activities at the resort, while we were having an afternoon nap, I was feeling bad that Poornima, Kannan and the twins, Suhas and Supriya, had never seen them. So I was thrilled when Tanu, who is on the staff at JLR, told me he’s also very interested in these animals, and right at dusk, as we prepared to leave, he called us to see them.

The sun was setting and the light was fading rapidly; and we were, of course, looking directly up into the canopy. But I managed a few shots and videos (and I am sure the others have got much better pictures!).

Here’s the squirrel, looking down at us while “on the munch”:

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Here’s the short video I took:

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I caught this short bit of the squirrel running and jumping:

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Then we were even more delighted…because a baby squirrel came up to be with its mother!

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Very happy at having seen this beautiful animal, we left them to their meal in the huge trees of the camp:

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We said a “farewell” (literally!) to these two, and made our way home.

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Purple-rumped Sunbird….

March 28, 2012

…I’m not sure if this is the smallest bird in India, but it must be one of the smallest. It’s also a very common bird….but it’s so incredibly beautiful!


They come out when the sun does, and so, their name is rather apt, along with the fact that the sunshine brings out their wonderful colours….

This is the


and this one is a male, on the leaves of the Rain Tree.

Caring for children….

March 28, 2012

My friend, Saritha Rai, has started a new fortnightly column in the New York Times online-

click here to read her article on day care, and night care

I posted this on a mailing list to which I belong, and here are two responses:

(he doesn’t post on LJ)

For the heck of it I post a slightly edited version of something I said
elsewhere. The language was designed to trigger particular switches in the
target audience 😀

Children need mummies and daddies to grow up as healthy well adjusted
individuals. The institution of marriage evolved for just this purpose and it
was aided by joint families. The institution of marriage unfortunately
trampled on women’s freedom and rights.

The women’s rights movement and the desire to “set free” female sexuality from
the burden of childbirth led to the development of contraception and laws that
dissolved marriage more easily. That in turn led to societies in which
multiple sexual partners for male and female became easier as part of freedom.
Single mothers by choice also became more common without having to face
criticism from society for having a baby outside of marriage. But children are
themselves an economic burden and a restriction of freedom as is marriage. So
couples without marriage and without kids are the ultimate in financial and
physical happiness. This is the ultimate freedom. Marriage and children are
bonds that reduce physical, emotional and financial freedom. Freedom from these
bonds constitutes modernity.

Archaic and oudated societies such as Hindu society encourage freedom
restricting ideas like “Dharma”. Dharma demands the bondage of marriage and
children as a duty. Dharma restricts freedom and by insisting that couples
have children. This is a disaster for individual freedom and wealth.

I am sure the state can look after children as happens in advanced countries
and old people can go to old age homes courtesy the state. This gives people a
lot more freedom. Sexual freedom. Financial freedom. Freedom to travel. etc.
Every individual has to decide for himself what he wants. You could choose the
route of bondage and outdated laws and restriction of freedom. Or you could
choose a free society. The former conforms to dharma, the latter is adharma.

And from (he no longer posts in LJ, like so many others):

The many liberated Communist states have their favorite coping phrases
to describe their transition to a market economy and its effect on
society. When human and economic dreams soared and crashed
unpredictably, and when the emptiness of communism was replaced by the
emptiness of capitalism. When chaos prevailed.

India went through an even greater transition in the last 70 some
independent years, second only to the Chinese cultural revolution, and
yet it’s gone unnoticed. Like the silent killer of the night,
inconspicuous yet deadly.

Under the literate tradition of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and later the Nehru
– Gandhi dynasty, a cultural and western educated elite operating
presumably centuries ahead in their thought than their obedient
compatriots, three hundred million people used to an alien hand on the
leash, allowed themselves to be led.

India leaped from a classical age of temples, society, rituals, castes
and traditions headlong into the bureaucratic equality and rationed
guarantees of socialism and then the shunned embraces of market
capitalism. For a vocal democracy capable of great bloodshed this was
a rather boring bureaucratic revolution.

With India’s historical disdain for the humanities, neither historian
nor sociologist was around to fully record or explain the scale of the
destruction. And thus, inside the heads of most upwardly mobile urban
Indians today there’s a very poorly formed sense of society and
family, and an even less formed sense of self. Since the revolution
was never announced other than as a fait accompli, most Indians never
fully grasped the enormity of the change, nor of the havoc it was
going to wreak on family, hearth and home.

One look at the classics will tell you that it was a sin against
tradition to cross the oceans, or travel other than when forced by
trade or religion. Thus as a classical society India has always been
ill prepared to deal with personal mobility. In the socialist years,
if you moved across the country it was usually for a government job,
and the State played parent and guardian to its favorite sons, if it
willed them back and forth across hill, valley and plain it also
offered useful excuses and lodgings that preserved morality. There was
a fatalistic appeal that this held to the Hindu traditions, if the
master willed, who was the servant to object after all.

Yet when the capitalist chapter began Indian society didn’t really
have any of the tools to deal with the consequent personal mobility,
not even the helpful fatalistic attitude. After all it is clear that
personal decisions are being made here.

The personal sphere that has remained silent for millennia in Indian
society, a slave to the family and society is now unlocked, and
instead of fighting the forces that caused it to be liberated – and of
what use would that be, the enemy is invisible and long gone – the
Indians fight each other. Father against son, family against freedoms,
ambition against tradition.

Dharma vs adharma is phrasing it unhelpfully. India needs to learn to
cope as a nation with this new balance of the personal, the familial
and the social. Sadly there isn’t any conscious public debate of any
significance, nor is it feasible any more to lead by the leash. So it
plays out in a billion internecine conflicts and clashes.

As the Americans say, it will get worse before it gets better.

My response to this:

Cheeni…that was so impressive. I had not thought of it as a cultural revolution, and that is, of course, what it has been.

But, Cheeni, you criticise Shiv for terming it “dharma vs adharma”….but when you call it a “silent killer of the night” (I remembered Bhopal when I read that)…you too, take a judgemental stance.

I cannot believe that the old system was always good; the concept of family before self, of duty before self, did, in my opinion, lead to a lot of bad practices, and deep unhappiness. This was especially so when a person did not believe implicitly in this concept.

For better or worse (obviously, you two feel it was for worse), the change has come to stay. We are now cocooned in individuality; but yet, I feel that we are quite connected to our families and to our friends.

The question of “who will care for the children” has always been a complex one, and continues to be so. I, for one, would rather have parents drop off their children at a night care, even if they are partying, than either drag them to unsuitable places, or stay at home with them and vent their frustration on them. I have seen this happen so often in the old family system. A constant refrain of “I gave up a, b, c, for you, be grateful to me” is like the Chinese water torture….a constant drip, drip, drip of mental tyranny.

What is old is familiar, but for that reason, it cannot be held to be universally good. We just have to accept that many parents today cannot quit their jobs and be with *their* parents; they have to lead a lifestyle different from their parents’ and they have to accept solutions about child care, that are different.

Hmm…I wish I was as articulate as Cheeni or Shiv is…I’m just trying to say, we have to accept the new realities and not hanker after the old, seeing them through the rose-tinted glasses of selective memory and hallowed traditions.

Society, and lifestyles, continue to evolve, and often at an accelerated pace….we are on a roller-coaster ride, and do not really know where we, and our children, are headed.


March 27, 2012


What is a Yankee?
The same as a quickie, but a guy can do it alone.

What is the difference between a Harley and a Hoover ?
The position of the dirt bag.

Why is divorce so expensive?
Because it’s worth it.

What do you call a smart blonde?
A golden retriever.

What do lawyers use for birth control?
Their personalities..

What’s the difference between a girlfriend and wife?
20 kgs.

What’s the difference between a boyfriend and husband?
45 minutes.

What’s the fastest way to a man’s heart?
Through his chest with a sharp knife.

Why do men want to marry virgins?
They can’t stand criticism.

Why is it so hard for women to find men that are sensitive, caring, and good-looking?
Because those men already have boyfriends.

What’s the difference between a new husband and a new dog?
After a year, the dog is still excited to see you.

What makes men chase women they have no intention of marrying?
The same urge that makes dogs chase cars they have no intention of driving.

A brunette, a blonde, and a redhead are all in Grade 9.
Who has the biggest boobs?
The blonde, because she’s 18..

What’s the difference between a porcupine and a BMW?
A porcupine has the pricks on the outside.

What did the blonde say when she found out she was pregnant?
‘Are you sure it’s mine?’

Why do men find it difficult to make eye contact?
Breasts don’t have eyes.

What would you call it when an Italian has one arm shorter than the other?
A speech impediment.

What’s the difference between an Australian zoo and an English zoo?
An Australian zoo has a description of the animal on the front of the cage along with a recipe.

KTB…and what she reminds me of….

March 26, 2012

KTB recently took part in a march against Cystic Fibrosis, along with the rest of her daycare, Urban Sprouts….here she is (from their newsletter)…


She looks exactly like her dad, and like her Nana-in-Maine, in this.

When I saw this sight, early on Saturday morning, it reminded me of her…


She is a lotus bud, blooming in the sunlight…and that bee hovering attentively…would be the rest of us!

Meme: “C”

March 22, 2012

I usually don’t do memes, but I actually asked Prashanth Chengi for one, and here goes, a letter of the alphabet, with which I must list 5 favourites….

1. Cream. I just love the top-of-the-milk, whipped cream…write “cream” on a piece of paper and I’ll eat that!

2. Carbon. I am fascinated by two of its forms…coal, and diamond, their essential oneness in spite of the incredible difference in their appearance…it’s a great metaphor for me.

3. Chemistry. Though I am not one for equations, the process of interaction of chemicals…and the way, at some point, they give rise to life…is wonderful.

4. Creatures. I enjoy watching all sorts of creatures…from a tusker to a tarantula. The world of living beings is full of marvels.

5. Cryptic Crosswords. I am hopelessly addicted to them.

C…PC….I’ve done the MM…sorry, the meme.

Two “algorithm” songs….

March 22, 2012

There are many of what I call “algorithm songs” in old tamizh film music….and this beautiful, melodious song from

“pArthAl pasi theerum” (hunger will be appeased with just a look)

For the most of the song, the lines go, “Did X happen because of Y? Or did Y happen because of X?” with several things being X and Y…starting from the moving of the creeper and the arrival of the breeze.

I decided to google for the lyrics before posting a translation, and I got this hilarious link….

click here to see how much you can understand!

Superb job, wouldn’t you say? I’m sure, “nfhb mire;jJk” explains it all very well!

Oh well, here goes the transliteration and translation of the lyrics….


kodi ashainthathum kAtru vanthathA? kAtru vanthathum kodi ashainthathA?


nilavu vanthathum malar malarnthathA? malar malarnthathAl nilavu vanthathA?


pAdal vanthathum thALam vanthathA? thALam vanthathum pAdal vanthathA?


bhAvam vanthathum rAgam vanthathA? rAgam vanthathum bhAvam vanthathA?


kaN thiranthathum kAtchi vanthathA? katchi vanthathum kaN thiranthathA?


paruvam vanthathum Asai vanthathA? Asai vanthathum paruvam vanthathA?



vArthai vanthathum vAy thiranthathA? vAy thiranthum vArthai vanthathA?


peNmai enbathAl nANam vanthathA? nANam enbathAl penMai AnathA?


Odi vanthathum, thEdi vanthathum, pAdi vanthathum, pArkka vanthathum


kAthal enbathA? pAsam enbathA? karuNai enbathA? urimai enbathA?




Did the breeze arrive when the creeper moved? Or did the creeper move when the breeze arrived?


Did the flower bloom when the moon arrive? Or did the moon arrive when the flower bloomed?


Did the rhythm arrive when the song did? Or did the song arrive when the rhythm did?


Did the melody arrive when the emotion did? Or did the emotion arrive when the melody did?


Did the scene arrive when the eyes opened? Or did the eyes opened when the scene arrived?


Did the desire arrive when the phase of life did? Or did the phase of life start when the desire did?



Did the mouth open when the words came? Or did the words come when the mouth opened?


Did the shyness come because of womanhood? Or did the womanhood happen because of the shyness?


The running to me, the searching for me, the singing to me, and the coming to see me….


Should it be called love? or affection? or mercy? or taking a liberty?


The melody is delightful, but the lyrics, while sounding sweet, are like gossamer and don’t convey much.

Another “algorithm” song is “kaNNukku mai azhagu”….

“A” is the beauty of “B”….that is the algorithm here 🙂

Tere bina bhi kyaa jeenaa…..what is life without you?

March 21, 2012

I’ve heard this song so many times, and liked it a lot, but somehow, it’s become so specially beautiful, and I’d like to share it….it touched my heart so deeply.

O sAthI rE, tErE binA bhi kyA jInA…

phUlOn mEn, kaliyOn mEn, sapnOn kI galiyOn mEn
tErE binA kuchh kahIn nA
tErE binA bhi kyaA jInA

O sAthI rE, tErE binA bhi kyA jInA..
tErE binA bhi kyA jInA

har dhadkan mEn pyAs hai terI, sAnsOn mEn tErI khushbU hai
is dhartI sE us ambar tak, mErI nazar mEn tU hI tU hai
pyAr yE tUtE nA …
pyAr yE tUtE nA, tU mujhsE rUthE nA, sAth ye chhUtE kabhI nA…
tErE binA bhi kyA jInA
O sAthI rE …

tujh bin jO(gan mErI ratEn, tujh bin mErE din banjAran
merA jIvan jaltI bUndEn, bujhe-bujhe mErE sapnE sArE
tEre binA mErI …
tEre binA mErI, mEre binA tErI, yE zindagI zindagI naA….
tErE binA bhi kyA jInA
O sAthI rE…

The “extra” stanza (that usually gets only sung in the movie and is not on the records) is:

jAnE kaisE anjAnE hI, An basA kOi pyAsE man mEn
apnA sab kuchh khO baitthE hain, pAgal man kE pAgalpan mEn…
dil kE afsAnE…
dil ke afsaane, mein jAnUn tU jAnE, aur ye jAnE koI nA….
tErE binA bhi kyA jInA
O saathI rE…

Rough translation:

Oh my friend, what is life without you?

In the flowers, in the buds, in the paths of dreams,
There is nothing anywhere without you…
What is life without you?

What is life without you?

In every heartbeat is the longing for you, every breath carries your perfume
From this earth to that sky, I can see only you.
May this love never cease
May this love never cease, may you never get angry with me, may our togetherness never lapse;

What is life without you?

Without you, my nights are hermit-like, my days without you are nomadic
My life seems like burning droplets, my dreams extinguished…
With you, my life, and without me, your life…this life is no life..

What is life without you?

O friend….what is life without you?

The “extra” stanza:

Wonder how, without knowing it, someone came to live in a yearning heart
I’ve lost everything of mine, in the madness of my mad mind
The tales of the heart…
I know them, and you do…but no one else does.

World Sparrow Day….

March 20, 2012

Today is World Sparrow Day, and I too will be taking part in a panel discussion on the topic of these lovely, perky birds, that suddenly seemed to vanish from the Bangalore urban scene.

click here

to see the schedule for today.

However, they do seem to be making a comeback lately, and that is probably what I will mention during the discussion this evening.

I’d posted some time ago about the “Building-a-House” Sparrow:

And, from the same area, posted this video of a sparrow and the rear-view mirror:

I do love sparrows, and was grieved, a few years ago, to see a notice in Forest Park, St.Louis, that said, “House sparrows are an immigrant species, and they can be killed and their nests destroyed” or something to that effect. Thankfully, the notice has been removed now. Of all countries, I cannot imagine America forgetting that the immigrants of today are the citizens of tomorrow!