Aug 31, 2008

Nike Human Race

Nike has organised a world wide 10k race today touting this as the largest such race ever. Those not in the chosen 25 cities can run on their own, and need to sync their runs using the Nike plus ipod kit. Nike is raising $50 per runner and donating $5 to charity, wonder what the cost breakup is. Some experienced runners found this run amusing, but the sheer scale of this and the technology driven nature makes this unique.

I chose Indira Park in Hyderabad for my run - approximately six and half laps. I am still recovering from my comparitively long runs and somehow managed to complete it. It felt good and the fact that lakhs of people world over are running meant something. It was also a proper 10k i ran with some restraint and carrying a water bottle throughout. So i do not feel as terrible as last week.

Aug 30, 2008

Computing on Cloud 9

I happened to run into two live events on a technology topic this week. The topic is Cloud Computing, something that promises to stop companies from worrying about technology infrastructure and scaling it up. The first event involved an Amazon guy who made a strong pitch to IT Services companies to help them take this trend to their customers. The second event (held today) was a technology barcamp at Hyderabad. Two guys from Google talked about the Google App Engine (GAE), but I was more impressed by an unassuming entrepreneur who demoed Amazon Web Services (AWS) in action. Unfortunately his map making product is likely to be eclipsed by Google's Map Maker even before it hits the market. But he showed how AWS was far more flexible and powerful than GAE.

This trend is particularly relevant in Indian context as it has a potential create vast economies of scale in computing thereby making Information Technology accessible at low price points. IT adoption in India is at a world class level in the big corporates, but SMEs have not embraced it yet due to price and maintenance issues. Cloud Comupting could free up all of that and jumpstart the productivity of the Indian economy.

Chiru throws a party

Popular Telugu film star Chiranjeevi launched a political party with fanfare this month. Motives are to do-good and 'clean up' the much system. He claims former President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam as his inspiration among others. What remains to be seen is if his coterie of family and friends will help him in his or will they help themselves. People though seem willing to give him a chance.

This throws the political equations in the state of AP awry and no one knows who will win the elections next year. But having another strong regional party will definitely help the state; just see how Tamilnadu manages the federal setup no matter who is in power on either side.

Aug 28, 2008

Recovery and Run

The Sunday run took its toll on me as i ran without any water or an eat! The weather was not very cool either. Even after i got home, breakfast and refill were not on my mind. So the next four days I spent recovering from sore muscles and finally this morning went to Indira Park for a 6 km run. I am deliberately keeping my pace slow (it is anyway fairly slow) to avoid injury.

Rahul Varghese wrote a very nice article "Wake up call from Beijing" exhorting Indians to take up more running. See it here. I like his missionary zeal which was on display ten days ago at the Hyd Marathon.

Aug 25, 2008

Mangalampally Balamurali Live!

Last night i had a wonderful opportunity to listen to the legendary Mangalampally live at the Ravindra Bharati auditorium. I am not big into Carnatic music - cannot make out the nuances of ragas but can somewhat understand the language (mostly Telugu) and the devotion (Bhakti) that makes a composition. As a child, i grew up listening mostly to MS Subbulakhmi and Balamurali on the gramaphone record though i had no schooling in any form of music. My favourites composers are the famous Tyagaraja, Annamayya, Shyama Sastri and Ramadasu. Balamurali sang from the works of all of the above and more! The legend sang the famous 'Endaro Mahanubhavulu' upfront and later 'Paluke Bangaramayena' - two of my big time favourites!

At the beginning of the program, he was magnanimous enough to call Dr C Narayana Reddy as his manasika guru, one who inspired to him start writing compositions himself. He was also gracious enough to respond to the audience's requests. S Janaki requested 'Devi Brova Samayam Idhe' and he responded 'Idhena?' as if she herself was the 'Devi', before singing it. This somewhat contradicted a notion that he is a pompous artist; I found no traces of that yesterday.

Aug 24, 2008

My first run with "Hyderabad Runners"

Today i had an opportunity to run with the Hyd Runners group at KBR park. We did the inner loop (4km) first and then the outer loop (6km). The much more experienced runners (several had multiple marathons under their belt) were gracious enough to let me run along with them though i am still a rookie. Rajesh egged me on and pulled me through the inner loop of 4kms. They then took off for the outer loop and i followed, miserable most of the time but determined to finish. The outer loop was almost 6 kms and had several steep ups and downs (some were just steps with no trail). I was surprised to see a very beautiful lake hidden inside the park, from one of the peaks in the outer trail. Was happy to eventually finish in 1 hour 09 minutes.

Apple Mac gaining

Last week, I ran into two fairly successful professors who came from the US to Mysore to teach a course. What was common between them that they both used Apple Macbooks. That is not enough to make a trend per se, but I believe there is more to it than just coincidence.

The ipod has been setting scorching sales records and now it looks like Apple is also gaining on the computer sales front. Check this out to see that Apple is very strong on the retail sales front; Windows continues dominate OEM and institutional sales but Apple is approaching a critical mass. The Apple Mac ads have been a rage and now Microsoft is forced to counter them in a big way and has signed up Seinfeld himself for that!

Apple iStores have made their appearance in India - there is one in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad - giving Indians a closer look at the sex appeal of an Apple Macbook Air, to pick just one product. Apple also made a big launch yesterday of the iPhone tying up with Airtel and Vodafone - two large telcos in India.

Aug 23, 2008

"It's not about the bike!"

One of the few books I have managed to finish rapidly in the recent past, is Lance Armstrong's autobiography "It's not about the bike". A hugely inspiring book - Lance makes no bones about how he grew up, raced, became a world champion, faced cancer, beat cancer, came back to win the Tour de France and became a father. I will soon cite some key snippets that impressed me the most. Lance's Texan style of writing is open, in the face yet friendly, and very transparent.

Would strongly recommend this book to anyone especially those Indian athletes now looking to beat the world post Beijing Olympics with London as the target.

Hyderabad Runners organise a great Marathon

The Hyderabad Runners group, led by the resourceful Rajesh Vetcha, organised a marathon run last week, in association with the Hyderabad 10k foundation. I got to do a bit of '"squirrel's service" (ఉడుత భక్తి) as a volunteer in the UOH leg of the race (a squirrel had deposited grains of sand when Lord Rama was building a bridge over the sea to Lanka).

The event pulled together about 600 runners from all over the world and included the Grey Hound contingent from AP Police too. A very well organized run that drew appreciation from one and all. Hoping for more such events in Hyd and I look forward to run in them in addition to cheering from the sidelines.

Aug 18, 2008

More cribs about BIAL

Two days after my post comparing the Bangalore (BIAL) and Hyderabad airports, Deccan Herald has published this interesting report citing that a team of the civil aviation ministry will visit BIAL tomorrow and inspect the facilities to see if the cribs are indeed true. The Airports Authority of India has already reported that the airport was facing severe capacity constraints putting passengers in great inconvenience. Against the allotted 12 to 20 per cent of space for commercial utilization, BIAL has used up to 30 per cent of the space! This has severely affected the passenger amenities particularly in the security hold area (SHA) where there is even lack of adequate space for toilets.

Aug 14, 2008

A Tale of Two New Airports

The two new airports at Bangalore (BIAL) and Hyderabad (GMR-RGIAL) were much needed: traffic at Bangalore will touch 10 million this Fiscal Year and Hyderabad is expected to touch 7.5 million. The airports have now settled into steady state and one can compare the 'character' they begun to acquire. I personally find that on almost every count Hyderabad scores over Bangalore; and I am not saying this just because I am from Hyderabad.
  1. Let us start with the time taken to commute to the airport. The commute from Electronics city to the Bangalore airport takes two to three hours. A similar journey from the Hyderabad IT district takes less than ninety minutes. Hyderabad is also building a huge 11 km expressway from Mehdipatnam to the highway from where the airport will be a smooth ride. Bangalore has no similar infrastructure in the works.
  2. The approach roads are both comparable and 'world-class' but the landscaping along the road at Hyderabad is arresting and done very nicely. Even the round abouts closer to the airport at Hyderabad give a touch of class and lend a character to the entire edifice. Bangalore has nothing of this.
  3. BIAL has both arrivals and departures at one single level which causes some confusion and clutter outside the airport. Hyderabad has two levels which streamlines inbound and outbound traffic and creates a lot 'space' and 'depth' to the structure.
  4. Check in at both places is smooth. However after clearing security at Bangalore you run into this strip mall kind of atmosphere which is highly cluttered with lots of shops jostled next to each other. People queuing at the gates run into each other, in fact anyone going anywhere runs into each other and doesn't know here he is going. The Hyderabad sitting areas is much more spread out and has a lot of greenery with indoor plants decorating the place.
  5. The colour schemes and layout of various buildings at Bangalore airport are not in sync with each other unlike Hyderabad.
  6. The aerobridges at Hyderabad are all transparent gives a pretty neat feeling whether you are looking from outside-in or inside-out. Bangalore aerobridges are opaque (perhaps to place more ads inside), adding to the already claustrophobic feel you get at the departure gates.
Hope these two airports continue to compete with each other as they evolve and grow. After all traffic is expected to eventually take off further, not withstanding the dampening effect of the recent oil crisis.

Aug 12, 2008

Are we becoming more selfish?

Not sure if this is enough anecdotal evidence on the loss of our collective 'Good Samratinism'. Over the last few months I have done several train journeys and usually things come together such that I get the responsibility of escorting senior lady citizens. Trains have sleeping berths in three tiers and the reservation systems somehow do a very poor job of allocating the lower berths to those who really need them - old, frail, disabled, pregnant etc. Most people perhaps just plump for lower berths even though they may not really need them.

And once you get onto the train, requests to fellow passengers for a lower berth exchange usually meet with a smirk and stare as if you are begging for alms. Perfectly healthy middle aged people pointedly refuse an exchange claiming they have a backache or leg pain, though they can clearly see the state of a 80 year old woman. Trying 25-30 people finally yields one positive result and the search is closed (a 'courtesy-hit-rate' of 4%). Last month, my mother met a pregnant lady who was requesting a lower berth and finally when amma agreed, she had to move to an altogether different compartment . The lady must have asked 75-80 people, a courtesy-hit - of 1.5%! What has been your experience with courtesy-hit-rates?

Aug 11, 2008

Gold, at last

Today there were two sports headline news. One was India losing the third cricket test against Sri Lanka at Colombo. Nothing very surprising there in a game that eats up 95% of the country's attention and money. For all you know some bookies would have made huge money with kick backs to you-know-who.

The second less probable but infinitely more welcome news was an Indian finally winning an Olympic individual gold medal in shooting. It is fitting that in a country that has produced the like of Arjuna the mighty archer, a related sport brings us glory. I was just about write about the national humiliation that we are beginning to undergo at the Beijing Olympics and here come Abhinav with his outstanding performance. Now this one gold has gotten the monkey off our backs and the effect on other sports persons is already visible.

I've always held that India has a chance of winning gold most individual sports, funded by corporates, given our relatively poor 'team playing skills' and the huge scam the political-sports establishment is. Winning a gold at Olympics involves much more than raw talent - conditioning, grooming, medical attention, advanced equipment, careful diet and nourishment etc.

Let us hope this sets the trend for sports in India as a whole! In hindsight, the cricketing news should not have even made the headlines!