Sunday, August 24, 2014

Richard Attenborough - A legend laid to rest

 

Today when I opened up my news page, what I read was a unpleasant shock. Richard Attenborough, known to most as John Hammond, died yesterday at the age of 90.

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With a lot of buzz around the upcoming Jurassic World (sequel to Jurassic Park series) many (including me) where hoping of a cameo by the gentle Mr Hammond. Alas, it seems he has had the last laugh. The other movie I have enjoyed him in , is the 1963 war filmthe Great Escape.

 

 

Richard Attenborough, left, preparing to shoot Ben Kingsley, right, on the “Gandhi” set in the early ’80s. Mr. Attenborough won an Academy Award for best director. Credit Columbia Tristar

Looking at Wikipedia traffic, Richard’s bio page has got heavy traffic today.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This SOA hype is getting out of hand

 

Via Scott Stewart I came across this article on Infoworld. Let me rehash the quote Scott posted as well:

The database community is also heading toward SOA. Plans are afoot to enable IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Oracle 10g, Sybase (Profile, Products, Articles) ASE, and other platforms to participate actively in Web services-based SOA activities as first-class citizens -- even without the use of application servers. This will have profound implications for the design and management of widely distributed n-tiered applications because, in effect, hierarchical tiers will become horizontal peers.

Let me be blunt here: this whole SOA hype is pure marketing-poop. I mean: every developer on the planet knows that if you have several different elements in your application (gui, business logic, perhaps even a data-layer), element E provides services for element F and F is consumer of the services of element E. That's as old as what, client-server? Similar for library L which provides a set of functionality for application A which loads L at runtime. Offering a 'service' is nothing more than offering functionality (in any form you may think of) to others.
On a sunny day, some marketing department thought it would be great if the company's products would get a new 'unique' feature. What would be better than to re-hash the current features by giving them a new name? After days of brainstorming, consulting expensive advisors and visiting hand-reading guru's, they came up with... Service Oriented Architecture, better known asSOATM©®. SOATM©® would be the unique new feature of their products, which would give them an edge on the competition! Now, in the country were I live, The Netherlands, this acronym was already taken: "Seksueel Overdraagbare Aandoeningen", which roughly translates to: "Deceases transferable through sexual intercourse". Of course an unlucky coincidence.
Is this SOATM©®-thing (the English marketing version) really new? No, of course not. I mean, pulling data out of an RDBMS and into an external client program, how was that done a couple of years ago? That's right, calling into the service which was offered by the RDBMS through its API! However what do we see happening today? People who earn their living by selling hot air under the most weird acronyms, are yelling as hard as their lungs allow them to that something new is invented! SOATM©®! Don't be a slacker! Enable your applications for SOATM©® today! SOATM©® is the only real future! If you don't jump on the bandwagon today, you'll be sorryforever!

...(breath in.... breath out... 1 2 3 4 ... )
When I read an article like The Fallacy of the Data Layer by Rocky Lhotka, my eyes hurt, tears pop up and I can't stop shaking my head and whenever I read articles like that, one thought keeps coming back: are these SOATM©®-guys just doing this to get themselves more air-time at the next INETA sponsored speaker convention/PDC/TechEd/[your favorite fancy fair] ? I mean: it can't be just because they saw the light and can't stop themselves telling everybody how it really has to be done, how software really has to be developed, because all they do is re-hashing decade-old wisdom with newly invented acronyms!

Of course, the Infoworld article is written by a journalist, perfectly echoing the chimes coming from the marketing departments of their favorite sponsors. I can't blame him, he's not writing for developers who are standing knee-deep in the cold mud of the programmer-trenches, he's writing for managers, oh sorry, Enterprise VisionariesTM©®. However more and more, the developer world is talking about things which are just pure marketing inventions and which never should have left the manager's office, and SOATM©® is one of these things.
Years ago, the developer community embraced one of the predecessors of SOATM©®: N-tier developmentTM©®. Even today, large groups of developers are pulling their hair out of their bright heads and wonder "What exactly is n-tier development?" (if you don't believe me, check the www.asp.net forums). And rightfully so, because it's a vague term and almost everybody has a different opinion about it.
Years later, Web-servicesTM©® were introduced.
"Ah, a service which is a web."
"No."
"No?"
"No, a service using the web. (I think)"
"Oh, so a service not using the web, but normal TCP/IP isn't a web-service?"
"Hmm, good question. Ah I have it: a service written by the web-services logic build into VS.NET!"
"Ah, I can work with that. But... what about a remoted service, using SOAP and remoting, not web-services build into VS.NET" ?
"..."
Sounds familiar? Good. Now, to prevent this from happening again with SOATM©®, let's make a deal. Let us, developers across the globe, make a stand here: Enough with the marketing goo polluting our profession!.
Thanks for listening.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Coorg Trip

 

Just back , and exhausted from a two day trip to Coorg.This week we had an rare long weekend in our favour, Independence day, a mandatory holiday here , fell on a Friday. My current project follows an Agile delivery model, we have a release every Friday night, and testing on Saturday morning. But this time, I had very few changes going in. So, I could afford to take the weekend off, and we began making last minute arrangements for a quick and short weekend trip. We found out the hard way that it was raining in most of the places of our first choice. The monsoons are still strong in South India, so most of the destinations in Karnataka, Kerala , and even Goa, was soaking wet. Then I did a weather search for Coorg, and it came out dry. Wait, what ? Coorg it was.

After making quick reservations at one of the few hotels still available in Madikeri, we booked the last two seats on a private bus from Bangalore to Madikeri. We stayed at the now-dilapidated Hotel Hilltown in Madikeri. And had a two day itinerary planned to visit the most popular destinations around the Coorg.

Tip : Don’t book Private buses from Bangalore to Coorg. The Private buses are rare and not in good condition. KSRTC is much more active on this route, you can get good bookings all day and all night round, for a little less money.

Tip : If you have Payback points from your credit card you wish to redeem, book hotels via makemytrip. They let you pay via payback points, we were able to cover half of our hotel charges this way.

 

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Day 1:

  1. Abbey Falls
  2. Bhagamandala
  3. Talakaaveri & Brahmagiri
  4. Madikeri Fort  (not worth it :-( )
  5. Rajas’s seat

Day 2:

  1. Dubare Elephant Camp
  2. Kaveri Nisagardhama
  3. Tibet Monastery

Over the years, many of my acquaintances had visited Coorg, and most of them told me it was not as good as Ooty.. Well, maybe I had not taken a trip in many months, but the whole trip to Coorg was …AWESOME ! The picture below was taken on top of Brahmagiri hill near Talakaaveri. No, the camera is not faulty, the whole place was covered in dense fog when we arrived there. It was 1pm, when the sun was right above you. Mist and rain had covered the hilltop, and the winds blowing where also strong. We were drenched to our bones in the cold rain. I don’t remember the last time I had a similar experience.

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My best part about the trip was the Abbey falls, and the Brahmagiri hill above Talakaaveri. These where the places truly Coorg, cool and hilly areas covered in fog. The places on our Day2 of our trip where all down flatlands. If you are planning to visit Coorg, try to book and stay at a homestay in the hills instead of the city around it.

Madikeri, the main town of Coorg, turned out hard to navigate, it is definitely not as clean as Ooty or Kodaikanal Eventhough Coorg has been made a plastic free zone, there was lot of plastic and garbage on the road side. If you are taking your own vehicle, be prepared to drive everywhere in first gear, because the little town is all topsy turvy, most of the roads are at 30 degree angles to each other. Our cab driver Zafar (+919945303537) knew all the shortcuts and the quickest way to get there. They charge 1300 for a 1 day site seeing travel in Coorg. And maybe because we travelled on a long weekend, every site we visited in Coorg was crowded !

This turned out to be a much needed break for me and my wife. The place not only cooled our heads, it also gave us a lot of things to talk about. We could not get enough of the hills and waterfalls. My wife specially enjoyed the Dubare elephant camp, there were two baby elephants , she was around them the whole day. She was able to ask and find the names of all the elephants there, …I only remember a Gopi elephant, and a Rama elephant. Anything to keep her happy  !

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I cycled to Office today. Still in one piece !

 

Today, I finally crossed something off my 2011 new year’s resolution list. (Or was it 2008 ?) After moving to Bangalore that year for health reasons and the wonderful weather, I decided to take up cycling. Cycle to office, or , at least take up cycling on the weekends. But I was not prepared for the oh-so-bad traffic and late working hours. My office was 14 kms away from where I stayed, and for someone who last cycled 10 years ago, that distance was un-coverable.

But my patience paid off. I moved to another company seeing that their office was closer to my home, 8 kms. A little more reachable. I went out and bought a second-hand all terrain 21 gear bike last year. But again, I was on a support project. And the odd working hours  meant I postponed cycling again. But after participating in Bangalore Cycle Day last month, I decided to take one more shot at it. Today, I cycled the 8kms to office, and managed to cycle the distance back even though it was raining all the way back.

The easy part ? The morning ride to office. The weather was cool and dry for some weeks now, no raining at all, seemed like a good time to take the risk. I started around 9 am, as I only need to be in office by 10. The roads at this time are just building up traffic; and the weather is still cool. Perfect ! After cycling for 20 mins, I got exhausted, the old engine isn’t what it used to be.  I walked about 10 mins, to get my breath back. I had my backpack with me, my laptop and lunch packed, had to carry that weight all the way.Then the last 15 mins of cycling was easier, as I got more confident of my riding and the began to understand how the traffic around me worked. When I reached office, I was sweating all over, and out of breath again. 45 mins for 8km, not bad ! I took my asthma medicine , and stood under the AC for 5 mins for the sweat to dry up ;-) . (Next time, I am packing a change of clothes). There was no bike parking area in my office parking lot, so I locked the bike to the generator pipes ! Man, it pained, all through the day, I could feel by body aching, as it was not used to such stress for many years. But only the easy part was done. Since I had biked to office, I had to bike back too. And this served as a push to stay on the ordeal.

The ride home was much more problematic. I had some late calls to attend, some last minute work. And then, out of the blue, it started raining. I decided to wait till the rain stopped, but then there was not halt even after 8pm, I decided to start anyway. Riding a bike in the rain is a really different experience. Having been born and brought up in rain soaked Kerala, I was never scared of it. In fact, I love rain. I can walk and bike in the rain all day, but it seems very few people share my enthusiasm for the beautiful phenomenon. People are in a hurry to get to dry ground, they are willing to break every traffic rule to get there. I had a special problems with the two wheelers on the road, as they were also exposed to rain like me, but found my little bike taking up too much space on the road. They were coming at me, horns blaring, lights blinking , literallay yelling at me to get our of their way. I couldn’t see where I was heading most of the time, it was already dark, and the rain on my glasses meant I could not see through them. Anway, after 40 mins of biking I reached a place where I could get into a bus stop to get away from the rain. It would tak me another 20 mins to reach my home, where I just walked in and fell on my bed exhausted.

This was truly a new experience, I had not expected it to rain on the way back (screw you, google ). What made the journey tough was my nearly 8kg backpack, with my laptop and other stuff. And the problem was compounded by the rain and zero visibility on the road. But it is certainly do-able. Just to need to ensure I leave a little earlier, when there is still daylight. And to pack light, maybe I can leave my laptop at office ? Anyway, I have overcome a big hurdle today. Looking forward to the next ride !

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cooking Up The Delicious Food In Jon Favreau’s "Chef"

 

For his culinary dramedy, expanding nationwide this weekend, Favreau turned to celebrated chef Roy Choi to create dishes so tasty you would want to eat them off the screen. “I really tried to tell a story with the food,”

John Leguizamo, Jon Favreau, Bobby Cannavale, and chef Roy Choi on the set of Chef Open Road Films

With a title as direct as Chefthe indie dramedy written and directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) that is expanding nationwide this weekend — it is perhaps no surprise that the food in Favreau’s film looks good enough to eat. And that’s because it was.

“We were eating the food,” Favreau told BuzzFeed. “There was nothing that we shot that wasn’t amazing.”

The food in Chef wasn’t just delicious, though. (Warning: Some plot — and food — spoilers follow.) It was also crucial to telling the film’s central story about lauded chef Carl Casper (Favreau), whose many years at a middlebrow Los Angeles restaurant have dulled his culinary senses so much that it takes a scathing review by a famed food critic (Oliver Platt) — and a subsequent social media meltdown — to jolt Carl back into making great food again. That journey comes to a head with a sequence in which the food critic is served Carl’s old menu a second time while Carl, who has been fired, cooks up a far more adventurous — and mouthwatering — menu at his home.

With so many different dishes appearing on screen at the same time, Favreau turned to one of L.A.’s most celebrated cutting-edge chefs, Roy Choi, to construct it all. Choi, 44, became a star of the foodie world when he launched the food truck phenomenon with Kogi, which fused together Korean BBQ and Mexican cuisine so effectively that it has launched countless imitators. In addition to Kogi, Choi now oversees a string of Los Angeles restaurants. When it came time to find a culinary adviser for Chef — which ultimately leads to Carl starting his own food truck serving authentic Cubano sandwiches — Favreau understood that Choi’s sensibility was so spot on for his story that he gave Choi an unusual degree of creative control over his movie. “His whole thing was, as long as you do it right, and as long as we get it authentic, he would put the work in and do whatever I needed and teach me whatever he could,” said Favreau. “Everything — whether it was the script, what I was wearing, what I was cooking, what the kitchen looked like — everything was cleared through him.”

John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, Jon Favreau, Oliver Platt, and chef Roy Choi at the SXSW Film Festival premiere of Chef Michael Buckner / Getty Images

Choi took that wide latitude very seriously. “The way we designed the food, I really tried to get into Carl as a character, as a person, and what he was going through,” he told BuzzFeed. “I really tried to tell a story with the food.”

That proved to be a challenge when Choi was tasked with creating a menu that a food critic would not like.

“That was tough, man,” said Choi. “It was really, really tough. It wasn’t tough to create, but it was tough forcing yourself back there. Imagine some of the stuff you first wrote when you first started [in journalism], and having without judgment to go back to that place and use those same metaphors and same similes and ways of structuring your words, the over-the-top stuff before you kind of evolved. Going back there was weird.”

Choi crafted a menu filled with what have become culinary clichés, including a poached egg topped with caviar, a bowl of French onion soup, scallops with beurre blanc, frisée salad, and filet mignon topped with a massive slab of butter.

Caviar Egg

Open Road Films

French onion soup

Open Road Films

Filet mignon

Open Road Films

“I just tried to think of six or seven things that would be like daggers to us [chefs],” said Choi. “It was like wearing old clothes from stuff you looked at in the ’80s. Like, Ohhhh, man.” The idea, he explained, is that Carl’s restaurant — and his cooking — had over the years become an institution without any invention. “Maybe similar to like [popular L.A. establishment] The Ivy, where it’s packed, you’re still going there [to] see and be seen. It’s not like you can put a roast squab with braised tripe and test it on the menu with pickled fermented chili. No one’s going to order it, and everyone’s there for the cobb salad and the scallops or whatever.”

That was most typified by the final menu item that Favreau had written into the script early on as the nadir of Carl’s creative stagnation: a chocolate lava cake.

Chocolate lava cake Open Road Films

“Jon had it there as a placeholder [in the script],” said Choi, “and then I think as we got to know each other he started to understand the impact of why that is kind of symbolized as the worst part of our era. It was overplayed. It was something that was a wonderful, wonderful thing that was created by Michel Bras, but then it got copied and mutilated and taken across the world into every chain restaurant, every chasm of American psyche. And it was done wrong a lot of the time.”

It wasn’t that this food was unappetizing — Favreau made a point of noting that every dish overseen by Choi “is actually all good food” — just that it was boring, and deserving of a terrible review that could push Carl to begin to exercise his cooking imagination again.

In the film, that creative reinvigoration starts with Carl whipping up a few new possibilities for the restaurant’s menu, including Santa Barbara spot prawns in a curry-carrot purée and garnished with radishes, and a roast squab with pickled red onion, chilies, gochujang, and soy vinaigrette.

Santa Barbara spot prawns

Open Road Films

Roast squab

Open Road Films

“At that stage, he still hasn’t completely reached the mountaintop yet and spread his wings,” said Choi. “He’s just starting to explore, really tying to find his voice again. I feel like that [squab] dish was one that really stood out that you could see Carl was really trying again — seasoning and roasting the squab whole, and serving it with Korean chili paste and puréeing garlic and green onion and ginger [in] all of these fermented flavors, with an infused soy reduction, and pickled red onions, and chiles. Really starting to push himself again, to say, I don’t need a starch on this plate. I don’t need the flavors to be subdued. I can really cook the way that I love to eat.

Of course, as Choi said, “That’s a huge leap for a traditional restaurant in [L.A.], putting these flavors on the menu” — and when Carl tries to put them on the menu, he’s fired. Which is what finally launches him into cooking at his own home with abandon. “He’s fucking pissed,” Choi said. “He’s lost his job. And it’s like a guy punching a wall and making hole after hole in a wall, like a boxer just pissed off and just cooking. In his apartment, I wanted him to cook in a way where he was cooking food that you couldn’t deny.”

First up, “a whole roast pork belly slathered with garlic chili paste, cured and braised and cut and served over an heirloom carrot purée that’s as silky as can be, with a little salsa verde and pickled radishes.”

First up, "a whole roast pork belly slathered with garlic chili paste, cured and braised and cut and served over an heirloom carrot purée that's as silky as can be, with a little salsa verde and pickled radishes."

Open Road Films

Next, “Korean spicy octopus, like a stir-fry with bell peppers, onions, green onions, sauce filled with sesame oil, ginger, garlic, puréed onion, orange juice, chili paste, kimchi, all that stuff.”

Next, "Korean spicy octopus, like a stir-fry with bell peppers, onions, green onions, sauce filled with sesame oil, ginger, garlic, puréed onion, orange juice, chili paste, kimchi, all that stuff."

Open Road Films

Then, a “28-day dry-aged ribeye from Harvey Guss in Los Angeles. It’s fully coated with salt and pepper an hour-and-a-half before. Searing it. Letting it rest. Serving it with charred cauliflower, roasted potatoes, lemon, garlic, and really good oil.”

Then, a "28-day dry-aged ribeye from Harvey Guss in Los Angeles . It's fully coated with salt and pepper an hour-and-a-half before. Searing it. Letting it rest. Serving it with charred cauliflower, roasted potatoes, lemon, garlic, and really good oil."

Open Road Films

The dessert dish was a trickier challenge, because it needed to contrast with how symbolic the chocolate lava cake had become to Carl’s career. “Jon really wanted something that you could see and be like, Oh my god, I want that right now,” said Choi.

The dessert dish was a trickier challenge, because it needed to contrast with how symbolic the chocolate lava cake had become to Carl's career. "Jon really wanted something that you could see and be like, Oh my god, I want that right now ," said Choi.

Open Road Films

“I thought, he’s not going to be baking anything,” Choi continued. “He’s not going to be making his own ice cream in his house and things like that. So I was thinking what possible dessert can we do: Let’s just macerate some berries, some really good mint, some lemon verbena inside of there, make a really great whipped cream. And then Jon said, ‘I want something to show that Carl has this really fine-tuned level of OCD where it’s like even the smallest thing takes steps.’ So then we started thinking of a brittle, and then it evolved into this powder. We’re cooling it, breaking it, pounding it, running it through a sieve, and then letting it fall like dust, all for just one little piece of that dessert. I think that was the story right there.”

Indeed, Choi’s investment was not just in making the food look good but making sure it connected to both the film’s central narrative and reflected where cooking is today. “How he’s cooking in the apartment is a whole departure, not only mood-wise, but getting away from dishes having to be completely composed for each diner,” said Choi. “We’re just cooking. Sometimes things are shared. Sometimes you’d have your own plate, but it’s a lot more rustic. It’s a lot more focused on the actual flavor versus the construction to wow you and show you how special we are. It’s more about making sure it’s delicious, and I felt like that food in that apartment was all about that, making it as delicious as possible.”

Open Road Films

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Country Club - Total Mall Scam

 

This week I was the target of a scam run by The Country Club and Total Mall. The scam runs in various malls across India, but in my case, I was targeted at Total Mall on Old Airport Road. After searching about this on the net, I now realize I luckily (or smartly) escaped from this well planned scam targeting innocent shoppers.

So last week, we were happily shopping at Total Mall; now usually I cautiously stay away from big malls, preferring to shop only at smaller stores, but I had to buy something which was available only at some meat stores. I knew the meat store at Total Mall had it, so off I went. On the way back, we saw these young 20-something sales boys going around telling customers about their lucky draw program. Country Club (the guy with the thumbs up) and Total Mall was organizing this draw, and winners would get exciting gifts ! All we had to do was to fill in our detail in their foms. I was sceptical, but thought of trying it out just to see where it goes. Both me and my wife filled out only first names, and phone numbers in the forms, leaving everything else blank. Both of us entered MY cell number, so that I would get the call no matter who’s form was selected. Nothing else was entered. We forgot the whole matter.

Two days later, I get a call from an unknown Bangalore number, to confirm my identity. They asked me my monthly salary, which I refused to reveal. I added the caller’s number to my phones black list, so that they could never call me again from that number.The scam had started !

And then today, at about 3pm, I get this call from another unknown number. It sounded like another 20-something guy, who wanted to inform me that I had just won one of their elusive prizes ! Worth 30,000 Rs /- Wow ! He tried to sound enthusiastic, but I could sense the tiredness in his voice. He told me that 30 couples had been selected from 2000 families, and we were the luck ones to win the prize. A travel prize of 25,000, a one day something pass of 1000 , and a kitchen set of 4000! Inorder to claim the prize, both of us had to attend their function at 9pm at Outer Ring Road. I thanked him, and said I would attend.

This is the message I got from them via SMS:

Total mall convention hall , BEFOR Intel Cmpny, near to new horizon engineering college  DEVARBESANALI stop B'lore
After coming here it will take maximum  30 to 45 min to collect your gifts
manoj 9686618685

The call came from : ‍+914066050000.

 

 

I was outside, so when I cam back to office, I tried simply googling up Total Mall Country Club Prize. Then I started seeing pages of pages of complaints, consumer complaints. People before me had unknowingly fallen for the scam and had lost lakhs of rupees !

Basically, this is how the scam worked:

    1. Couples would get fill in their details in forms run by these scammers.
    2. They would then get a phone call a week later, saying they have won the prize. Inorder to claim the prize, they had to attend the function as a couple together.
    3. The function would be at 8pm onwards, during which the poor attendees would be subjected to a hour long presentation from Country Club, about how their life would improve if they would join the club. Annual vacations abroad, using their club…blah blah..blah. Some tea and biscuits would be provided.
    4. The salemen would make the deal sound like a once in a life time offer, and convince the couples to sign on. The amount is in the range of 75,000/- to 1.5 lakhs rupees. They would be given a cheap kitchen set, which can be bought outside for some hundreds of rupees.
    5. The rest of the prizes including the vacation prize, they say, would be mailed later.
    6. Poor couples who have just lost some lakhs, go home waiting for the remaining prize, which never comes ! If they call country club up, the support guys give bullshit like call some other numbers, blah blah…
    7. The poor couples have now paid lakhs for a vacation, which can be had for a few thousands.

I did not attend the function. The next day, I got a call from that guy Manoj again, asking why I did not come. I told him to f** off, and that I would never fall for their marketing scam.

 

The Indian Consumer is a breed very susceptible to fraudulent marketing schemes. Poor (not money poor) Indians are always looking for discounts and free prizes, they would buy even poison if it is on a 50% sale ! Such fraud scams thrive on the money of such people, worsened by the fact that they don’t think twice, or know of their rights as a consumer.

Always be careful when you hand out your personal details to strangers outside.

Why I did not fall for it: I have heard of such scams in the past, and I make it a point to double check every form I put my sign on and hand out. And nowadays, due to cheap internet, any information can be had easily. So I make sure I search on such things before I jump in joy at the thought of winning a free prize ! As a rule, I do not answer calls from unknown numbers, staying away from such hunters.

 

Be an alert customer ! Happy Shopping !