Archive: May 2007

An eBay news day

Some excellent news for friends and former colleagues from eBay –

Jeff JordanJeff Jordan is the new CEO of OpenTable. I loved working with Jeff at eBay – he has a fabulous mix of product, business and people skills. Jeff was one of the most well-respected and approachable executives around. He was an endless-well of energy who made stuff happen!

OpenTable is very lucky to have him. Good luck in your new gig, Jeff!!



StumbleUponAlso today, eBay confirmed that it acquired StumbleUpon. To my two former eBay colleagues who are there – the incredible UI god, George, and the excellent marketer, Dave, congratulations on being back in the fold!

I love StumbleUpon – the incredible traffic driving capabilities and the unique discovery engine. I can’t wait to see how StumbleUpon is integrated into Skype.

It is a wonderful thing when good things happen to good people!

No to perpetual copyright

I’ve talked about copyright before. I believe the extension of the life of copyright is a bad thing for artists/creators. If that sounds counterintuitive, you should read the articles below…

— Mark Helprin, a fellow at the Claremont Institute, argues that copyright should be perpetual! He equates copyright ownership with that of land ownership (or any other tangible asset). There’s a fundamental flaw in that argument and the next link (below) explains it well. I believe Helprin’s moving in the wrong direction on copyright.

— Lawrence Lessig starts a wiki page to offer a counter to Helprin. Excellent collaborative piece that explains why Helprin is wrong and why freeing creative works after a certain point helps to “free culture”. In addition to explaining the difference between tangible works and intangible property, it clarifies the point that artists are entitled to profit from their work, but usually the ability to extract value from a work, ends after a few years. When that period is over, the rights should end in order to allow others to create…

Further, the legal burden on authors and artists would increase immeasurably, literally to the point where no new works could be produced. There are a limited number of popular plot lines, a limited number of melodies, and so forth. As already noted, artists have always appropriated others works and incorporated it into their own. Homer, Shakespeare, Calder, Warhol — there is no artist that does not incorporate the culture that surrounds them, produced by previous artists and artisans. into their own art. It would be impossible for an artist to research the copyright ownership of every element they incorporate into the work they produce.

But,you say, it would be absurd to copyright, for example, plots. Boy meets girl.Consider then, music written in 4/4 time. A liberal calculation, assuming a 16 note scale, sharps, flats, and regular notes, the possibility of silence, a possible 32 beats per note, and 4 beats per bar, yields a total of only 75,264 different melodies expressed in 12 bars or less. This includes one or more repetitions within the 12 bar interval, as well as the melody of John Cage’s 4’33”. At the rate of one new melody per day, surely not an outrageous rate given the number of musicians in the world, all possible 4/4 melodies will be exhausted in a mere 207 years. Of course we will run out of appealing 4/4 melodies far sooner.

In addition, the wiki postulates that artists should be able to attach a creative commons license to their works so that they can determine that the work can not be used for commercial purposes etc.

Since I now fall into the camp of creators (albeit a very, very minor one with my two little short films), I tried to put myself in the shoes of a creator and think about this problem. After the end of the copyright period,1 I would be perfectly happy to attach a Creative Commons license to my work and let it go2. Now, for me, the Creative Commons license would be a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license3 so if someone else makes money off my work, they have to pay me. But if they don’t and if they attribute appropriately, and are also willing to share their work, go for it.

— Finally, here’s a YouTube video that Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University put together using minuscule clips from Disney cartoons. It explains copyright law, how it has changed, and provides a brief overview of Fair Use as well – all by clipping words out of the Disney cartoons! Worth a watch.

Hat tip for both the YouTube video and the debate between Helprin and Lessig: Boing Boing

  1. What about before the end of the copyright period? Hmm… probably fine with that too, if the Creative Commons license is followed. 

  2. Note: Copyright is now the life of the author/creator plus seventy years! Clearly way too long. 

  3. The same one that covers this blog 

Insanity in Baroda

I started this post with

There are nutjobs everywhere. Every religion has them. Hindu right-wing nutjobs, Muslim right-wing nutjobs and Christian right-wing nutjobs…

and went on to talk of a Christian University which expelled a student for making a gay film

The poor Hindu nutjobs were feeling left out. So they upped the ante – significantly. Forget expulsion – a BJP leader storms into an exhibit of student works at Fine Arts Faculty, M.S. University, in Baroda and has a student arrested. Final year Masters student Chandramohan was arrested for offending the religious sensibilities of both Hinduism and Christianity.

So, the rest of the students protested brilliantly – by holding an exhibition on the history of erotica in Hindu and Western art. I mean, come on people, have you not seen temple sculpture?? Devas are happily copulating – it is fantastic!!! A celebration of life, for god’s sake (or for God’s sake?) It is one of the things that I think is so cool about temple architecture – that it deals with real life. Of course this exhibit is shut down as well.

Artists around the country are showing their solidarity with Chandramohan and the Dean of the college, who refused to back down (you go, Dean!).

  • The chronology is detailed here.
  • Read Ranjit Hoskote and Gulammohammed Sheikh’s thoughts here.
  • And the images that caused all of this are here and here.

Here’s my way of giving these right-wing nutjobs the bird – an image by another beleaguered artist – M. F. Husain.


Third anniversary of blogging

On May 10th, 2004, I started blogging.

I had been in New York for about six months (albeit with a horrendous travel schedule to California) and I quite disliked being in Manhattan. After the wonderfully warm weather and incredible open skies of the Bay Area, I found Manhattan claustrophobic, dirty and over-crowded. And, to be fair, I was never here long enough to establish any kind of routine to help me feel settled.

I thought a lot about my own attitude and decided to try to focus on the positives. So, I committed to blogging about the best of the city each week. Three years ago today, “My Space In A Place” with the tagline “They say loving a place is all about attitude. Let’s see, shall we?” was born.

I didn’t focus too much on the title (obviously!) or the aesthetics or the logistics (no Feedburner, no Technorati) of the blog – I had a very clear purpose – to start sampling the variety that the city offers and to document it online to make myself see the pluses of the city.

My first post included the following:

On that topic, I realized I need to give big, bad, Manhattan a chance — yes, the winter sucked, but we are past that and I hope a glorious summer will let me explore more and enjoy this city. I’ve heard that it takes about a year to fall in love with Manhattan. Which means that I have till October or to be fair, till May of 2005 (arriving in winter can’t count, can it??!!!).

So, a post a week till October and we’ll re-evaluate, shall we? 🙂

The blog lived on Blogger and I did not list it publicly. I shared the URL1 with family and a close friend who was also adjusting to Manhattan.

With each post I wrote, I started to fall in love with Manhattan – opera, ballet – no, not just ballet, but Swan Lake with Nina Ananiashvili!!, Carnatic music, concerts in Central Park… It was a fabulous summer. Soon, I was missing NYC when I was in California on business. My experiment was working!!

I hit my goal of starting to love NYC by October of 2004. And I was having so much fun with my blog and I kept it up. Finally, in late 2006, after I had quit my commute to California and taken a little breather, I felt ready to blog publicly. That’s when this blog and my Tatvam blog appeared2.

I’ve loved my three years of blogging – I’ve fallen in love with my city, made wonderful new friends and had great conversations!

To my incredible readers, thanks for making this little blog, which started out with only imaginary readers, so much fun! 🙂

  1. Since that blog had so much personal information, it is now only open to invited users. 

  2. A couple of times I’ve wondered whether I should have blogged publicly earlier. The answer is no – my earlier blog was a personal journey and one I was not ready to share with the whole world. 

Heaven is…

eating an Alphonso mango!

There is no doubt about this. None.

AlphonsoTo those who wonder what the fuss is about, the Alphonso mango is a type of mango grown in India. To say it is the best mango species in the world is a huge understatement. You have not lived until you have savored one.

Due to the US ban on importing Indian mangoes, it is virtually impossible to eat one in the United States. And given that I rarely go to India in April, May or June (mango season), I haven’t eaten an Alphonso in about 12 years. I weep at the thought of my deprivation.

But all that changed this week. A good friend very kindly gave me three Alphonso mangoes a couple of days ago. Entirely unexpected. I refused to ask how she got them – I am just happy she shared her bounty with me!

I’ve been savoring one each night. Eating an Alphonso mango late at night in the heart of Manhattan is a delight to be treasured.

When India and the US negotiated the nuclear deal, India also negotiated the export of mangoes and apparently this summer will be the first time in two decades that the Alphonso will be available in the US. I still have no clue where they will be available (if you know, let me know in the comments, please!), but I assure you that as soon as I find out, I will be first in line!

Photo courtesy: Kejriwal Enterprises, which retains all rights

Saving New York City

In the four years I’ve lived in New York City, some things have gotten better and some things have gotten worse – much, much worse. One of the key things has dramatically deteriorated is the traffic situation.

There is gridlock in so many parts of the city and not just at rush hour, but almost all the time. It is unbearable. Don’t ever try gong up Sixth Avenue – except late in the evenings, and a few short patches in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, it is like being in a parking lot. While I often take the subway, sometimes I can’t and I sit in traffic wondering how much worse things will be in another year’s time.

Well, if you leave it to Mayor Bloomberg, things will get better not worse. He has proposed a plan that addresses a lot of the environmental and infrastructural issues that NYC faces, including the traffic issue. Having spent a fair amount of time in Singapore, I know that they have a surcharge for going through the CBD (Central Business District) during rush hour. Perfect – all non-essential, non-urgent traffic will use another route.

NYC traffic mapBloomberg’s idea is a little different. He wants to impose a $8 fee on anyone who enters Manhattan below 86th street. Great start, but I would also like to see a fine on those folks who violate basic traffic laws! One of the biggest issues that makes the traffic worse in New York (and therefore one of my pet peeves) is the sheer stupidity, arrogance and thoughtlessness of the drivers. NYC is filled with intersections. Tons of them. And every single one of them can become a traffic nightmare with just one inconsiderate driver. Here’s the situation – let’s assume uptown traffic (on an avenue) has a red and crosstown traffic has a green. The cars start moving – all is well so far. The light starts to turn to red for the crosstown guys, but a stupid jackass decides that he can still get across. Of course he can’t. There is no where for him to go. So what does he do? He blocks the avenue, preventing uptown traffic from moving. What the heck?? Since most streets and avenues have timed lights, the avenue gets backed up and then those drivers block the intersection and the vicious cycle continues… I say, ticket them all! Just a day a week, get cops to hand out big fat tickets. It will solve the problem within a month. Where are all the traffic cops??! I have yet to see one ticket handed out for this gross misbehavior.

The traffic rant aside, I like a lot of Bloomberg’s other ideas too, especially the bit about adding trees and parks –

The mayor is proposing 127 new initiatives dealing with land, air, water, energy and transport. His proposals include introducing molluscs into the city’s waterways as natural bio-filters, adding bicycle lanes and hastening the cleaning and rezoning of 7,600 acres (3,100 hectares) of contaminated land. He hopes to add 1m trees. New parks should mean that every New Yorker lives no more than 10 minutes away from one. School playgrounds will be open to the public.

Some of his provisions are even more ambitious. He plans to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in part by improving the efficiency of power plants. To pay for this, a $2.50 monthly surcharge will go on electricity bills. He argues that by spending $30 a year until 2015, every household will save $240 a year after that. This bid for energy conservation would be the broadest attack on climate change ever undertaken by an American city.

I hope the residents step up and support him. We need to think ahead and make the hard decisons to save our city. It is the only way to continue to keep it the coolest city in the world!

Photo courtesy of The Economist, which retains all rights.

Green Dimes

Green DimesMany months ago, Charlie had mentioned on his blog that he’d love to stop receiving all junk mail. That got me thinking – there is the Do Not Call registry, why the heck isn’t there a Do Not Mail registry? Junk mail sucks up a lot of time too! Then a few weeks later, I found Green Dimes which promises to shield you from all junk mail. I wasn’t too sure if it would actually work, so I held off on signing up.

But after my friends Om and Micheal each did a post on it, I decided to try it out.

I’m a rabid recycler – I will spend ten minutes ripping the plastic and random other doodads off cardboard in order to recycle it. So saving trees is a huge motivational factor. Green Dimes says for $36 a year, they will unsubscribe me from junk mail. In addition for $3 a year, I can add another name to the removal list. Lucky for me, they are running a promotional special and I added on R for just an extra dollar. So, for $37, in about 3 months, I should be junk-mail-free! In addition to saving tonnes of paper, it will, hopefully, save me the time and the pain of having to shred, toss everything into the recycling bin and drag the huge bag of paper down every week.

I can’t wait. I am still a little fuzzy on what happens with catalogs – they tell me not to unsubscribe from catalogs that I don’t get because the evil catalog companies will then add my name to the list (yes! instead of unsubscribing you, they say “a-ha, a name we didn’t know” and subscribe you!) So, I wrote to them. The answer, which I got back in about 10 minutes, was disappointing. There is no catch-all for catalogs. I will have to get the catalogs, go to the Green Dimes site and unsubscribe. I guess that is better than having to call the companies, but I hope they can come up with a better idea for dealing with this.

A couple of months ago, I called my credit card companies and asked them to not send me *any* solicitations whatsoever. AmEx is the worst offender in this regard. And last year, I switched everything to paperless statements. So, I am on my way.

And now with Green Dimes, I hope to be almost fully paperless. Green Dimes will even plant a tree for me every month. I could even pick which part of the world to put my tree – I decided that I would keep my tree planting equally divided across North America, Central & South America, India, Africa and Haiti.

Let’s hope Green Dimes really works. Saving our planet while also saving time – what could be better? I will be sure to report back on progress!