Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Carol Bartz at AmCham, Singapore

Posted in technology by Aditya Moorthy on November 11, 2009

I had a chance to sit through a speech by Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo! today at AmCham Singapore. I’ll make this a quick post about my opinion on today’s speech.

I went there with a bit of expectation to hear her speak as the (relatively) new CEO of Yahoo! I read through her bio in Wikipedia beforehand to put the person in context and I should say, I was quite impressed by what she has achieved in her career. At the time of reading, it struck me as to why would she take up a position as Yahoo!’s leader given that at the outset it looks like a lost cause to head a company that has paled against it’s competitors in terms of new landmark innovations in the recent past. People at that position and at that age (I am very broadly generalising here) would want to leave a legacy behind, especially in her position for what she has achieved at Autodesk.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, the speech was terrible and pathetically weak in my opinion. She kept using Autodesk instead of Yahoo! more than once (and I can attribute such slips to jet lag or hectic schedule). The statistics she was throwing (with the expectation I suspect, to impress her audience) was totally irrelevant and who cares now whether Yahoo! manages 100 billion emails a month? I am sure many in the audience must have more such tidbits to throw around and we didn’t want to hear them again! There was no new insights that I gained (which I already didn’t know). No strategic thought process or direction as to where Yahoo! was heading and mind you, many of those sitting through the sessions where shareholders as well. No indication of any new innovation coming out of Yahoo! No clear growth plans for emerging markets. No clear solutions for SMEs and enterprises as to how they can leverage Yahoo!’s platform. In total, nothing beneficial to the audience at all.

To cut her some slack; I understand that 30 minutes at AmCham in Singapore is not the great venue to talk about grand plans and I am sure she has a million things running through her head to manage shareholders and board of directors expectations. But one needs to also bear in mind the time that several key leaders and business people have sacrificed and have gathered to hear someone at the forefront of Internet and Technology speak. But well… what can I say. Being the head of Yahoo! is not easy and not going to be any easier in the near future until something radical happens to that company.

At the end after several cliched Q&A banter, I was itching to ask her my question. I, for once would like a CEO of a struggling company putting up a brave face to the world, to come out and say loud and clear – what we are doing sucks and we would like to hear from you as to what you think we should be doing, our strategies don’t seem to be taking us anywhere and we have little clue as to how to bring this company out of the woods and compete in real terms rather than the legacy the company has accumulated over the hay days of the Internet boom. Guess what, I did ask the question and I got a politically correct answer from her – we have made some tactical mistakes in the past but our current strategies are sound and will yield the right results – this in effect was her answer to me.

Let me not scathe anymore. I am sure she is doing the best she can and I do sincerely hope that Yahoo! does become one of the leading players in the Internet services space.

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Hougang to Kota Tinggi

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on November 9, 2009

I’ve been on long hiatus in posting anything to this blog. Blame it all on laziness, lack of motivation and quality content to write.

But some of that changed this weekend (not the laziness if that’s what you were expecting). I went on a biking trip to Kota Tinggi in Malaysia with my brother on Sunday. The road distance we measured from our home in Hougang, Singapore to Kota Tinggi and back was approximately 120 kilometers. I wasn’t too worried about the distance as we have done this kind of trip in the past and I felt reasonably fit having ridden about 20 kilometers the previous day to TR bikes, a bike shop in the east coast of Singapore. I know what you must be thinking now but let’s just say, that I was psychologically feeling fit about the ride and I love riding in Malaysia, one of the friendlier places to ride a bike.

We started at about 8.30 in the morning and by the time we crossed the border and stopped for breakfast it was 10.30 in the morning. Had some sumptuous Indian breakfast and we set off on the Malaysian highways. For those of you who have not ridden on Malaysian roads, they tend to be a little daunting for an occasional rider (like myself). There is never a long (about 1 KM or more) flat patch of highway for you to relax and stretch your legs.

I normally ride my Terk 1200 SL but this time, I picked up my friend’s Bike Friday Tikit and it was super comfortable to say the least. It has 20″ (updated) 16″ wheels and can be quite slow compared to my road bike but I don’t like riding fast so it was just nice. By the time I hit the 45 KM mark, I started to feel the strain. Tells a lot about my current fitness condition! When we reached the 60 KM mark, we stopped for tender coconut and I realised I was scraping my last reserves. We still had another 8 KM to Kota Tinggi and the whole 68 KM back home. But we decided to turn back as I was not sure if I could go up the additional 8 KM to our destination. Looking back, it was a good decision to have turned back without pushing further. I almost lost it when we were about 10 KM to Johor Bharu the town just across the causeway from Singapore. I had to push my bike up a hill on one stretch. My brother was feeling quite fit on the contrary.

To cut a long story short, we reached Singapore after 10 hours completely exhausted and burnt out. Now that I’ve had a day to reflect on my ride, I think the highlights of it were that we did 100 KM in a day after a long time and discovered the whole new riding experience of a folding bike. The lowlights were of course my fitness level and the incredibly hot sun. I think it must be my hottest ride ever.

@nat had taken some photos which I’ll try to post once he’s processed it. Hopefully, I keep riding most weekends from now on and of course, write about my road trip in an engaging way!

Kranji station, Singapore, ca. Sep, 2009

Posted in photography by Aditya Moorthy on October 8, 2009

Sunny day in Singapore. On my way to Sungei Buloh

From non-profit to profit

Posted in Uncategorized by Aditya Moorthy on February 13, 2009

My brother forwarded me a link – www.kiva.org and after I looked at the site it struck me as to how closely it was related to an idea of mine, which I wrote about a few days ago. Of course I don’t claim to be first here but it is nice to see that I could think of something original which has materialised elsewhere even though I wasn’t the first.

I think KIVA is a great initiative and it seems like it is a natural extension of my idea. I wanted to build a portal that will bring the charitable organisations and volunteers together in a seamless way and generate huge man hours at the disposal of these organisations. And as in any charitable activity everyone recognises that the people receiving the charity would eventually like to stand on their own legs (no pun intended). There are of course exceptions such as old age home, tree planting etc which would have to be a continuous effort. But where there is effort to help people rebuild their lives, we would want them to start managing their affairs by themselves at some point. That is when a service like KIVA kicks in where it takes my idea one step further by allowing people to “loan” small amounts of money to small entrepreneurs around the world through micro-finance institutions with which they partner. The micro-financing institutions ensure the proper disbursement of money and collection and eventually pay it back to KIVA who then disburses the money to the original lenders. So in effect someone requiring a loan of US $500 in Cambodia could be getting the loan from 20 different people who would have donated $25 each. The Internet ensures that the money is collected properly, accounted for and handed over to the financial institution with which the borrower is associated with and it works in the reverse when the money is paid back by the borrower. There will be tons of nitty-gritty issues in managing bad debts, lead time for collecting the loan money, service charges by KIVA and the financial institution etc. But I think they can all be ironed out with minor compromises.

Micro-finance is a powerful tool which was popularised by Muhammad Yunus through his venture called Grameen Bank. He jointly won the Nobel Peace prize in 2006 for his efforts to bring people out of poverty through small credit facilities without collateral. Many agree that this is one of the most powerful tools we have today to uplift people from dire straits. There are also criticism levied on this process since the micro-credit scheme levies a higher than normal interest due to the risks involved and the cost of managing several accounts in the place of few. But nevertheless it is still a wonderful way to provide capital to small and micro businesses by cutting through the bureaucracy and red tape.

Coming back to the main argument, that Internet can and does indeed change lives in several ways. In fact, KIVA can then be further diversified to offer investment options for medium to large business – but then I am getting ahead of myself. The core argument that I am trying to put across in this blog is that we can and must do something to change lives of the peoples of the world. We face numerous problems today from different dimensions – religious, political, economical, natural etc., and beyond a certain stage we lose track of what we are trying to solve as one resolution seems to fuel as a cause for another problem from a different dimension. An example would be a political solution to resettle the Jews during the Second World War has caused a religious problem in the Middle East post that event. If one takes a step back and has a holistic perspective, I am sure we would be able to see a cause-effect outcome in most of the solutions to problems. One of the best ways to have the right lens to see the larger issues is to get most people in the world into some sort of a common platform so most of those people see the problem with similar variables attached to it. We have divided this planet into different countries, different races, religions etc and all this has disintegrated the fabric of a common human society. We should all be seeing each other in the same standard and the way we can achieve that is by ensuring that everyone has access to all the knowledge about the other. If only I understand the sentiments of a particular race, I would be careful not to upset it and it works vice versa. And this works in all levels like if I can understand the role of a scientist then I would be sensitive enough to provide them the space and tools necessary to continue their work or at the least not do anything to upset them.

The only way we are ever going to do this to ensure that there is free and fair access to knowledge, structured, malleable and willing to grow as and when it learns of more and more types of people. This should be some sort of an intelligent Internet organism that feeds people with what they want, learns from them and adapts to their needs. I am not talking about Wikipedia but something that is more structured as an University course but provided free with no strings attached.

Knowledge is free

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 12, 2009

Wonder if there is a study which talks about how many people would like to have education but cannot afford it; especially in a developed country where education is not subsidised by the government. I think most of Western Europe is out of this equation.

Now, why would such a study be interesting? To start with, it tells how much the government is lagging in laying the foundation for a better future. The way we measure success and economic prosperity today is primarily through how rich the people are. Although I strongly disagree with this approach, I can’t do much but live with it. The way people can become rich is by producing more and the society consuming the production at an every greater volume so we see a constant increase in production and consumption which leaves people with enough money, employment and security. But the biggest flaw in this approach is the concept of consumption itself. What we are consuming is this planet’s resources and the more we consume, the lesser the available resources are and it will deplete if not immediately but at some point in future. We would have accumulated so much of garbage that we would have to colonise another planet just to dump them!

Anyway, back to my core point of this post, fundamentally we need to shift the focus of economic prosperity from wealth to knowledge. Of course we would still be a consuming population but the shift in focus in terms of how prosperous a person is will be from money to knowledge. And I think this is imperative we recognise this if we need to save this human species from self-destruction. Unless we understand the workings of the Universe and constantly create conducive environments for the people to live, we would disappear like the Dodos. Ancient India had recognised this as an important aspect of life and the economy was never around how someone can make money but rather how knowledge, education, art and literature could be fostered and opportunities created for the peoples of the society. We are living in a world were everybody wants to be a trader. It is not practicable and it will only lead to a collapse which we are seeing now.

For a nation to be advanced from a knowledge perspective, it needs to give opportunity for every person to be able to seek that knowledge, try them out and see if they are able to acquire it and find a suitable niche where they can shine and where they feel contented simply because they have physically seen their own limitations. This does not leave room for any anguish and jealousy and retarded complaining that one did not get enough opportunity to survive in a better way. And the only way it can be done is to ensure every person gets free and fair access to knowledge and facilities. I think governments everywhere should recognise it and start preparing for a platform to meet its needs if it wants to be a knowledge leader in this globalised world.

Use the Internet – Change a life

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 11, 2009

I recently discussed an idea with my brother about building a portal that would connect non-profit and voluntary organisations with people willing to volunteer for short periods in a week thereby amassing a significant number of man hours towards a social cause. The way the idea works is like this. The website would dedicate a page for any organisation that requires volunteers or donations for a social cause – could be in nursing, education, animal welfare etc. Each of these organisations would first need to register and they would be invited to write about them in that page which would be sort of a wiki controlled by that registrant. Once they describe enough for someone to get an idea as to what the organisation is involved in, then they can create ‘Events’. Events are those activities conducted by that NPO which calls for external volunteers or donations in order to run it. An example for an Event would be volunteers required to spend time in the old age home entertaining the old people. Every Event would have several attributes which describes the Event, specifies what is required – volunteers, cash etc., what kind of skill set required – nursing, no skill etc, date and time of the Event and so on and so forth.

This portal would also invite Volunteers – any kind of people, non-skilled people to professionals to register themselves and generate a unique identity in the portal, sort of a social networking structure. You could also make friends with other registrants. Each individual who registers would also have a set of attributes – times they can volunteer, skill sets they possess etc.

What the portal does is it enables NPOs to search within the list of Volunteers as to who matches to the Event created by the NPO and access their profile, free times available for volunteering and invite them to participate in the Event. It also allows the Volunteers to search for appropriate Events where there is a match between the times they are available to the times when the Events are conducted and register themselves. It would be a simple process similar to booking a sports hall to play an indoor sport! As this is voluntary and given that many of us could easily spend couple of hours in a week volunteering for a social activity, my gut feeling is that there would be a point of inflection when there are more people actively available to volunteer than there are social projects existing. This would in turn drive a new initiative to create new social projects – A tennis coach could volunteer to teach tennis to under privileged kids for couple of hours in a week etc.

This has to be highly localised given that the volunteers have to be within the same city where the Event is taking place but I don’t see why this can’t be scaled up to large projects as well such as earthquake relief etc. I haven’t seen anything like this on the Internet although there are many sites – more vertical for specific projects such as blood donation sites etc.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this idea and one last thing; the site can support itself with advertisements or donations similar to what Wikipedia is doing thereby releasing any financial commitment on anyone’s part.

Sewers in India to social support in Singapore

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 10, 2009

Couple of things prompts me to write this post. When I asked my brother as to what did he thinks of my post yesterday, he said that it was fine but there wasn’t much value for him in it since it did not have continuity to it and it was just random thoughts. Today he shared one other post from another blogger called Mr Wong Says So who commented on a news item in Today newspaper and went on to explain how the Singaporean government thinks that $330 is enough for the needy and poor to survive for a month. So I decided to write more along those lines.

Thankfully, I am not in the business of determining the amount of money to be dispersed by the government to the needy. I am sure Dr. Vivian has trouble bridging what he believes and what he is expected to do and convince a parliament and the people at large. Now, in a country like Singapore where the concept of poor is very different from what the term means in a country like India, it is easy to point the finger at a person like Dr. Vivian and say how he could be so insensitive and expect a person to live with $330 a month. But if you are a little bit read and travelled, you understand that everything is subjective and relative. Perspectives drastically change with just adding or removing few variables into the equation.

What do I mean by that? In yesterday’s post, a complaint about a complaint by a reporter about squalid working conditions of under privileged people, we see that things are much worse in a country like India where a huge number of people are living on less than a dollar a day. When Dr. Vivian says that people should learn to be self-reliant and / or depend on the immediate family for support rather than the State, as otherwise we cannot run an efficient and lean government, he is stating what is rational and what is expected out of every citizen. But what about those people who do not have a base to begin anything to become self-reliant and how could an immediate family support when they potentially are in same or similar conditions. Naturally they turn to the State for support but then again, the government cannot be feeding everyone as that is not its function.

I define the function of the government as a facilitator for every citizen to become self-reliant and as an arbitrator of open issues and a guarantor to the weak and under privileged ensuring they get a level playing field. If this definition is adhered, I believe that every government irrespective of how rich or poor the country is, would be able to do justice to its people. In order for the government to do this, the most important thing to offer to the citizens to create level playing field is to offer education to one and all irrespective of whether they have to resources to study or not. Now, if a person refuses to acquire knowledge or skill and chooses to be lazy, then he / she deserves to be poor and under privileged. No amount of money from anyone is going to solve that problem. In fact the Dr. Vivian could declare that $330 is more than enough without doubt or guilt if he promises free education to everyone in the country who is willing to study. So goes in India. If the government steps forward to such people who clean sewers in hazardous conditions and tells them that they can acquire a skill (to clean sewers in a safe and hygienic way) or knowledge to pull themselves out of the rut they find themselves in to improve their lives. Governments who don’t do that will have sleepless nights and so would the needy and poor people

Space program or Sewers?

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 9, 2009

I just read an article on BBC. I have read many such as these where I hear an emotional voice of a reporter voicing out for the voice-less people of the society. It is an amazing feat to speak for others who find it impossible to speak themselves. Kudos to their effort. But I don’t understand why such articles are being written. Of course, I am not trying to be naive, I can think of few reasons:

a. The reporter is venting his / her frustrations when the press (or website) allows the content to be published simply because it comes from a qualified reporter
b. The press thinks that this article would generate enough clicks or readership that will warrant some revenue for the company
c. The reporter and the press are trying to create awareness among the larger public on the plight of many under privileged citizens who are suffering
d. The reporter and the press are hoping that this would elicit some responsible citizen to take up the cause with the authorities and do something about changing their lives
e. The reporter is giving voice to the voiceless and hopes that this would give them strength to take up their cause themselves and seek justice
f. The reporter wishes to shame the authorities / people responsible for making others suffer
g. A combination of the above and so on

What I fail to grasp here are few things:

a. The comparison called by the reporter on the government spending on space program vs. sewage improvements
b. The reporter feeling guilty about the plight of another human being
c. Indirect criticism of the authorities and calling all economically developed people to feel guilty through his / her article

Now, since I don’t understand the true intentions of the reporter my comments can be way off what the truth could be. But I persevere since I would like my thoughts on paper (or blog) as you interpret. I think the reporter is venturing into areas where he / she has very little knowledge, expertise or information about. A reporter’s job is to state facts and not write articles laden with facts and suggestive ideas as the reporter see’s fit. By comparing the investments on space program and calling attention that sewage infrastructure could use some of those funds the reporter has demonstrated poor knowledge about the functioning of governments and tried to spread misinformation and perceptions that the Indian government has misplaced priorities.

Secondly, why is the reporter feeling guilty? Because the reporter is contributing to the sewage fluids that another human being is cleaning or because the reporter has not done enough to uplift that person from that state to a better one or because the reporter has not challenged authority to change status quo or is it because the reporter has written a poor article on a so called prestigious news agency’s website. It leaves me wondering where the reporter’s priorities are when he / she states – “How can our so-called civil society be so indifferent to the millions like him? I, for one, am left feeling guilty.”

Thirdly, there is no direct accusation or information about any municipal office responsible for such affairs. There is no link between the so called middle-class and upper middle-class as to why they should feel responsible for the sewage cleaner’s state of affairs. I am not a heartless man to ignore another man’s suffering. But I am not that naive to put the blame on someone who is working hard to make a living with a middle-class, upper middle-class or rich status. There is clear accusation on the government not doing anything about the lives of such people but instead spending the money on space programs. India is a country where the majority are poor, majority among the poor are below poverty line, lack education, opportunities, suffer caste discrimination and work in the most squalid conditions a person can imagine, work more hours than most people with a decent life and yet earn less than they can afford to eat a decent meal. Now they are the ones electing the government. They are the ones who believe that the leader they elect will change their lives for ever or at least attempt to. The so called economically comfortable people who wash off their responsibilities by expressing their altruistic thoughts in such articles on BBC are the ones corrupting the same government elected by the majority of the poor people. Given that there is such a symbiotic relationship between these factions, and the ‘poor people’ not willing to take things in their own hands by seeking knowledge, we are not going to eradicate such living conditions.

What people need is facts stated on a certain situation. These facts might call for the necessary authority to take action with enough information provided by the reporter and hopefully bring about at least attempt at bringing in change. It should be left to the reader as to what is justified and what not. There is no point in stating that the country should be stop spending in space programs and spend on sewer. A society needs to go on and which means a lot of activities must go on. Sometimes, changes are slow in happening and people suffer in the process. Nothing can be done about it. Instead of pitying them and having a false sense of guilt, the responsible journalism should ensure that the facts and facts alone reach the audience. If opinion is required, the readers would naturally seek the opinion section of the site and not intermingle it with factual journalism or News.

Me and my first Marathon

Posted in endurance story, life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 2, 2009

I ran a marathon last December and completed it in about 8 hours. I never really prepared for it although I thought I was reasonably fit to complete it in 5 hrs 30 mins. Running a marathon is a funny thing. There is lot of excitement and optimism at the beginning that you will meet the target you have set for yourself. As the run progresses and you become tired, you tell yourself that this is an incredible challenge and that you are attempting something that many don’t. And when you cross the mid-way point and your legs start to cramp, you develop thoughts that it is better to give up than to damage something in your legs and that it is not shameful to give up and try next year. But if you somehow convince yourself to carry on and reach the 30-34 KM range, you start to ask in your mind some profound philosophical questions about life and pain and the meaning of our actions; most questions for which you never get an answer. But if you still manage to drag yourself towards the final few kilometres of the run, then you get to a stage where there is nothing in your mind. It is blank with no thoughts, all you feel is a dull lingering pain that seems like it will stay with you for ever and you are no longer bothered about anything. There develops an insensitiveness that you have never experienced before or thought that you were never capable of. And then the finish; for one glorious moment, you feel at the top of the world, elated, as if you have been the first ever to attempt something like this and that you are the One. But this feeling vanishes as soon as you begin to revel and it follows by an incredible amount of pain that you have never experienced before. Pain you thought that human body was not capable to withstand and that you are probably going to have some permanent damage to your body. You start to look for a corner to sit and then just pass away.

At least this was how I felt during my ‘record’ 8 hours run. But I did finish. Right after I finished I looked for my brother who ran the same marathon and he finished just under 6 hours. He seemed to be doing quite fine except for some pain in his legs and here I was completely hopeless and wishing that life would just stop there. After a couple of days, I started to get back my usual spirit and the pain started to ebb away. I am now getting ready for my second attempt at the marathon called the Sundown Marathon in May. I hope to be better prepared this time and I am still aiming for that 5 hr 30 mins finish.

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How to make Coconut Rice?

Posted in home@sg by Aditya Moorthy on December 13, 2008

This Saturday started off well with getting up early and having a nice hot cup of coffee. I had to decide if I go out for lunch or make something at home. Mom came to the rescue. Few days back I bought grated coconut to make a particular type of coconut chutney and had some left overs of it in the fridge. So, she suggested that why don’t I make coconut rice and that’s it, I made up my mind to cook at home. Here is how I made it.

Ingredients:

1. 100 grams of grated coconut or less depending on how much you like coconut
2. Urad dhal – half a table spoon. Click if you don’t know what Urad dhal is.
3. Channa Dhal – half a table spoon. This is a bit hard to explain in English but it is commonly available. It is split black chick peas with the skin of the black chick peas removed. You should be able to get this in any grocery store. Check the linked Wiki article to read about it.
4. 2 green chillies
5. Mustard seeds – half a tea spoon
6. Salt
7. Cooked rice

Method:

Use a wok and add couple of table spoons of oil. You can use sunflower or canola oil. Add the Urad, Channa Dhal, Mustard seeds, chillies cut in small pieces. Once it starts to heat up, the dhal will start to turn brown. Add the grated coconut now and saute it a bit. Don’t overdo it since the coconut can easily burn. Once it heats up, switch off the heat and add the rice to the mixture and mix it well. Add salt to taste and voilà the coconut rice is ready.

The coconut rice goes very well with fried potatoes. Cut them in small pieces and saute the potatoes until they are cooked. Add salt and chilli powder to taste and it is a great side dish to the rice. Enjoy! and if you like it, leave your comments.

Coconut Rice

Low hanging clouds in CBD area Singapore

Posted in life, photography by Aditya Moorthy on December 5, 2008

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Leftover pumpkin becomes pumpkin sambar (curry)

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on December 2, 2008

I had a big piece of pumpkin left, after the pumpkin soup that I made on Sunday. So, I decided to make pumpkin sambar and here is the recipe for it. For those of you who don’t know what sambar is, let me explain. It is a simple South Indian curry / gravy which is usually mixed with white rice and eaten with some vegetables on the side. For first timers it can be a bit daunting to make it, given the number of ingredients but take my word, it is worth the effort and you will soon become an addict like me. The good thing about South Indian sambar is that you can substitute it with any vegetable and it becomes a different sambar and the taste and fragrance is different as well. So, here is the ingredients list and the method.

Ingredients:

1. Sambar powder – You should be able to get this in any Indian provision store – 2 tea spoons
2. Toor Dhal – Also known as Yellow Pigeon Peas – 1 cup
3. Mustard seeds – half a tea spoon
4. Pumpkin – 200-300 grams – cut in small pieces (1 cm cube approximately)
5. Canola / Sunflower oil – 3-4 table spoons
6. Tamarind – This normally sells in an Indian store in processed fleshy form – 1 cm cube
7. Salt
8. Red Chilli powder
9. Coriander leaves

Method:

Boil the toor dhal, preferably in a pressure cooker (I like it that way) or you can use an electric cooker as well. I boil it with the ratio of 1:3 water, that is, 1 cup dhal and 3 cups water. While you are boiling the toor dhal, soak the fleshy tamarind in warm water and after a while, mash the tamarind so that all the essence of the tamarind comes out. Keep this aside for the time being and let it continue to soak. I would use about 250 ml of water for this.

In a wok, take pour 3-4 spoons of oil and add the mustard seeds. Heat the wok till the mustard seeds starts to burst. Add the pumpkin cubes and sambar powder and sautee it a bit. Then pour the tamarind water (use a filter so that the fleshy portion of the tamarind does not fall into the wok). Add salt and let it boil till the pumpkin is soft. Now take the toor dhal from the cooker and mash it nicely (make sure that it is fully boiled). Then add the dhal into the wok and allow it to boil for a little while (about 5-8 minutes). You can add red chilli powder if you like it spicy or alternatively you can add a little bit more sambar powder. Taste it to see if there is enough salt and sourness in it. It should not be sour but you should be able to feel the tingle in your toungue.

Switch off the heat and add the coriander leaves chopped into small pieces. Voila! the sambar is ready. You can eat this by mixing it with white rice and some cooked vegetables on the side. Baby mango pickle would go well with this as well. Try it and let me know your comments.

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Pumpkin soup made easy

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on December 1, 2008

I tried my hand at pumpkin soup on Sunday and here is the way I did it in case you would like to try your hand at it.

Ingredients:

1. Red pumpkin – half a big one or one small one – approximately 1 kilogram
2. 3 Onion – purple or white – depending on what you like. I like the purple ones
3. 3-4 red chillies – You can use the green ones but it affects the colour of the soup
4. 3-4 cloves of garlic
5. Cayenne pepper – in powder form – half a table spoon or depending on how spicy you like it
6. Salt
7. Corriander leaves
8. Coconut milk – 150 milliliters 

Method:

Remove the seeds of the pumpkin and the skin and cut them into small pieces – just so that it boils quickly. Boil the pumpkin chunks until they are soft. Cut the onions into small pieces. Keep it small so that they are not too chunky while eating the soup. Sautee the onions until they are golden brown. Don’t make it too brown as it will affect the colour of the soup.

Add the chillies, garlic, corriander and boiled pumpkin in a blender and make it into a nice paste. Pour this into the wok in which you sauteed the onions and let it simmer a little. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste and keep stirring. Just before it begins to boil, add the coconut milk and let it simmer a little. Don’t keep it too long as the coconut milk will start to separate and will make it taste bad. After you add the coconut milk, do not boil more than 5 minutes.

Add some corriander leaves and ground black pepper to garnish. Voilà the pumpkin soup is ready.

Let me know if you tried it and leave your comments below. Would appreciate it much.

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China Town in Singapore

Posted in photography by Aditya Moorthy on November 29, 2008

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What do we do?

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 28, 2008

I have been pondering about the climate issue for a while now. Actually the term climate crises or issue has become so cliched that no one gives a second thought unless something big happens. Then people think about it for while, get agitated that nothing is being done and there is lot of media attention suddenly on climate change and then it slowly loses interest and the issue is dormant waiting for another big event to occur.

Looking at it pragmatically, there is little hope that CO2 emissions can be reduced. People are still exploring for oil in the Arctic circle, middle east, Americas and Russia and there is no indication of any slowdown in consumption. Developed countries are blaming the developing countries for emissions, developing countries are taking offense that the developed countries kept emitting CO2 during their industrial revolution and taking a double-standard towards developing nations. Under-developed countries continue to suffer with no hope in sight and the whole world is just chugging along.

I have been thinking about a scenario where there is no respite for CO2 emissions which seems to be likely and sometime in the future the oil runs out and we have alternate technology in place but the damage is already done. The planet is chocked with CO2 gases, glaciers have melted, most island nations are submerged and there is a huge influx of refugees from island nations to mainlands, coastal towns are submerged, unstable sea, poisonous air and erratic climate leading to drought and floods. This is a grim picture but does not seem impossible.

Let’s assume that this is how the world is going to look like sometime in the future. What do we do in such cases? I am sure one of the alternatives would be to explore the solar system and beyond for a suitable planet to colonise and humans start to migrate from this planet. So far we have not found any place in the solar system or beyond which is habitable freely. Assuming that we do find within traveling distance a piece of rock were we can set up a new base, is it going to be easy? Initially not but maybe technology will mature to make it easy. But is the effort worth it at all?

Nature evolved animals (including humans) and plants to co-exist without the need to go great lengths. Plants require carbon di-oxide and produce oxygen and animals require oxygen and produce carbon di-oxide. What more can we ask for from Nature. A nicely balanced set up where all one needs to do is maintain the balance. I don’t understand why we are bent upon upsetting the balance. Is it some kind of a group rush we all feel facing the uncertainty and trying out new things? Or is it arrogance that we can manage nature? Or is it ignorance – we understand but don’t internalise? Is it callousness?

I don’t know… what do we do?

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Is there a real alternative to climate problem?

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 28, 2008

The Indian government won the vote of confidence and there is jubilence in many quarters. What brought this political uncertainity was the deal that the present government wanted to sign with United States for nuclear technology transfer so India can meet its energy demands.

There is a great demand for energy everywhere as we become more and more technology dependent and our per capita consumption is increasing every year. The biggest source of energy known to us is fossil fuel (coal, oil etc) and nuclear fuel. Any casual reader of any news source will know that both these energy sources has significant environmental impact. One increases CO2 in the atmosphere and thereby warms up the planet and the other creates nuclear waste which is poisonous.

When one considers deeply on any other form of alternative like solar, wind or wave power, none of them offer the critical quantum that is required to make it meaningful and all of them require huge investments. So in a nutshell, there isn’t any other form of energy source that is safe, abundant, cheap and requires little additional investment to deploy without re-engineering all that has already been produced. That leaves us with a situation that there is no ‘real’ solution to the problems we are facing today such as climate change and its implications.

If at all we are serious and totally understand where we are taking the humans as a species (as well as our little planet and its other inhabitants) in the current environment, I think we need to reduce our consumption drastically. Reducing consumption is obviously not good for the economy and the comfortable life styles that we are used to but the alternate is very scary – unrest among many developing and under-developed countries, threat of terrorism and envy, environmental destruction, massive movement of population and an impractical strain on the resources of this planet. It may feel good now as we still have some resources left to tackle these problems. But we are not very far from a situation that the current resources will run out and the latent problems will surface like a huge monster.

So, reduce consumption (I mean avarice consumption) thereby indirectly bring about a better future for this planet.

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Endurance sport

Posted in endurance story by Aditya Moorthy on March 7, 2008

I can’t write like Jill nor can I ride like her. But I hope to some day, at least the riding part.

I like cycling, biking and mountain climbing (although I have done very little climbing) and have been following Jill’s blog for a while now. She is an inspiration to practically anyone who even has the slightest idea of pushing oneself to their physical limits by biking, running or any other means. You should read her blog.

Anyway, I recently started my workout routine of running and cycling. After more than a year of not doing anything physical, my body is in an abysmal condition so much so that I can’t run more than 5 kms now. But I have not lost hope yet and I am pushing it up slowly. I started doing about 2.5 kms and now reached a point of 5 kms. I bike about 20 kms without any struggle. But beyond that my neck and back starts to hurt. I can’t decide now if this is a fitting issue or lack of using my muscles. I am more inclined to doubt my physical condition rather than the bike. In any case, that is where I am at now and my intermediate target is to do about 100 kms in bike and 20 kms running a week. I just need to juggle time between work and workout. My commuting to work takes couple of hours a day off my free time which I can’t do much about. I want to commute to work by bike but being in Singapore and the humid conditions, I have to take a shower before I enter the office and there is no facility available. I can go to a bike shop to take a shower and park my bike but it is expensive for me.

So, that’s the beginning of the story of my training for endurance biking. I hope to sustain this as in the past I have given up very easily but the more I read about Jill’s determination and will power, the more I am desperate to achieve something similar to what she has done. So keep me inspired Jill.

Aditya.

A great new discovery today

Posted in technology by Aditya Moorthy on December 22, 2007

I had completely stopped blogging for a long while but something I found made me to come back and write about it. The new discovery I am talking about is called Qik. It is a new Internet cum mobile tool that lets you stream live video feed to the Internet and let you save it in your profile to view later. Robert Scoble had talked about it a few days back but I didn’t bother to check it until today. This new stuff is mind boggling. The technology might not seem like a path breaking new invention but the creators of Qik have cleverly put together some available technology and built something that has the potential to become the next big think in the Internet world.

Once I saw what Robert was doing live with his mobile phone, I knew I had to register for it and I did. It is currently supported on a number of mobile phones. All you need to do is provide your mobile phone number and Qik will send you an invitation that will let you download and install a small application in your phone and bingo, you are now ready to stream live with your Internet connection on your phone, be it GPRS, 3G or Wifi. I put up some video of mine today and this thing has got me excited all day. I simply love this service and glad to be one of the firsts to be using it.

Some of my initial thoughts:

Positives:

1. The whole sign up process is extremely simple. No huge web forms that asks all your history to sign up. All you need is a mobile phone number and you are ready to rock.
2. Currently supported on a number of popular phone models, one of which happens to be mine, Nokia E65
3. The web site is very simple to use and no cluttering with too many features which you might never or seldom use
4. The video practically live with few seconds delay which is fantastic
5. All the videos gets saved in your profile which acts like your personal youtube account will all the videos you uploaded
6. Another great feature is when the video is being watched live by someone, they could type a message on top of the streaming video and the message pops up on your phone. This stuff is really freaky and cool.
7. Great support and very passionate people behind the product development. Had a first hand experience with a support request.

Areas of improvement:

1. There is no guide for non-tech users to install the application in the mobile phone. If the phone is set up to install applications then this happens seamlessly but if you had blocked something in the phone then you need to first unlock it before you can install it. This happened to me since I never install applications in my phone, I completely forgot about resetting it to install the application. Fortunately, Bhaskar Roy, VP, Product Management was still checking emails and he saw my support request and immediately replied with the details to install it. Kudos to good support.
2. It would be great if I could see how many people are watching my video while I am streaming. I am sure that they are already working on something like this as this would be THE request from heavy users.
3. A good feedback form so people can leave their comments and suggestions
4. I think the FAQ should be expanded to include how to comment, which is not very intuitive
5. The live feed appears only on the home page (at least as far as I know) so if someone starts to stream after I begin and if the browser is refreshed then the latter video takes the place and mine goes to the film strip in the bottom of the page
6. It would be great if I could download my videos to my computer for offline viewing. Currently the only way to watch it is when I go to my profile. I am sure, I should be allowed to download my videos and keep a copy on my computer.
7. I would like to stream from my computer as well and wouldn’t want to use only my mobile phone
8. I am not sure how it would work when someone owns two phones. Will two profiles be created? I guess that’s the way it works now and there should be a way to link more than one phone to a single profile and vice versa if it makes sense to some users
9. It would be great if the the tagging process happens on the My Profile page itself instead of clicking on each video and enter the tags.

That’s all I can think of for now. I am sure that my 3G bills are going to sky rocket this month and I will have more to say as I keep using the service.

Great job guys, keep up the good work going.

What’s wrong with Meebo widget?

Posted in technology by Aditya Moorthy on July 27, 2007

I have the Meebo widget on my blog and even if I am online on Meebo it says that I am offline on the blog site. Does anyone else have the same problem? This has been happening for a while now and I thought it might be a temporary glitch. I use Firefox by the way.

Pownce invite finally arrived

Posted in technology by Aditya Moorthy on July 27, 2007

So, I finally get my Pownce invite and my initial reaction is – It’s pretty cool, much cooler than twitter. It is quite simple to use, I would say as simple as Twitter itself. There is no posting by phone or instant messaging which Twitter provides. Maybe it does as I have still not explored it. I like the organised interface. It is better than Twitter. It lets me change my theme for the blog site. The only negative point I see is that scrolling is not smooth as the background is kept static. I don’t know the rationale behind this. So does Twitter but somehow the scrolling is faster in Twitter. Maybe the culprit is the AJAX code (if at all it exists in Pownce). I haven’t explored that either.

Overall, I like it but I am not sure if I would be using both Twitter and Pownce, for that matter I am not sure if I would be using microblogging at all. Maybe while I am only my biking trip 🙂

Here’s my Pownce profile and Twitter’s, not that you are going to find something useful in it!

http://pownce.com/kanmoorthy
http://twitter.com/kanmoorthy