suresh ramasubramanian

Go all the way around the world, but ...

I was in Buenos Aires last week, at (what else), a conference.  Now, BA is a lovely city, wonderful weather, almost like a slice of old Europe transplanted into south america (old buildings, couples kissing in the parks, marketplaces with beautiful women who will give you a quick ten minute lesson in anything from waltz to tango, for something like 15 bucks, music from a live band .. well, one guy with an accordion and another with a guitar) .. oh, and steaks to die for.

So, I'm trying to get some sleep in my hotel room, but dismally failing thanks to the fact that my body keeps reminding me it is broad daylight back home in India.  So, I switch the TV on .. there's usually something boring going on that'll send you straight to sleep (on US cable channels, it is usually ads for the sort of stuff you would have to be a complete moron to buy, $9.95, shipping and handling extra).

I was out of luck, the first channel that I turned to was an Italian movie dubbed in spanish .. staring Kabir Bedi, with a long, scruffy beard instead of his usual dapper vandyke, dressed like an afghan bandit, belt festooned with flintlock pistols and malay parang daggers.  "Sandokan", the so-called "Tiger of Malaysia", a malay pirate who has two major enemies James Brooke, the "White Rajah of Sarawak" and another local ruler.

This clip on youtube should give you an idea .. ..  a tiger leaping onto a woman who has fallen off her horse, and Sandokan leaps under the tiger with a drawn dagger, slits its belly and completes his leap .. the tiger finishes its leap very dead indeed. 

Apparently inspired by a series of Italian novels by Emilio Salgari (died 1911), and these novels appear to have been very popular in south america as well, they were Ché Guevara's favorite books, and oh, they were favorites of people like Sergio Leone and Umberto Eco as well.

I flipped the TV on just past 1 AM, and it was close to 3 AM before I finally forced myself to sleep.  Too bad my alarm was set for 6:30 AM and I had a breakfast meeting .. Oh well, c'est la vie.

Returning home was an absolute bitch of a trip, having been booked onto Continental Airlines (route was actually india - washington dc for a meeting, buenos aires for another meeting and then back home).  That meant Buenos Aires - Houston (10 hours), 4 hours at the lounge in Houston arpt (shave + shower + breakfast + email), Houston - Newark 4:30 hrs  (technically 3:30 hrs + an hour when our plane just sat on the tarmac thanks to weather delays), 3 more hours in the Newark lounge and then 16:40 hrs nonstop Newark - Bombay. 

Arrived more dead than alive, at something like 9 PM local time, checked into a local hotel .. where I still couldnt sleep till 2:30 pm and the complete crap that late night programs on Indian TV channels are didn't help put me to sleep any, and I had to wake up early yet again as I had a 9:40 AM flight back home to Madras.

I've done longhauls before but this one was a killer.  Body clock still out of kilter almost a week after I got back, which is, frankly, unusual .. I dont even feel the jet lag mostly, these days, if it is only India - USA and then back.
  • Current Mood
    tired tired
suresh ramasubramanian

The Petraeus ad and my reactions to it

Seeing all the noise around this made me think a bit.

Sneak propaganda and personal attacks masquerading as political action is reprehensible, whether it is Eli Pariser and doing it, or purveyors of right wing froth like Ann Coulter, or backstairs political manipulators like Karl Rove.

If you condemn swift boat (and I do) and think Ann Coulter is a brainless rabble rouser (and I do that, too) you should condemn the Petraeus ad. For just about the same reasons as I have condemned moveon and other organizations's campaign against Goodmail.

Someone has to take the high road - a road that doesn't include simply operating in a "moderate" area demarcated by extremists on the right (coulter) and the left (, with the boundaries made very gray indeed by Karl Rove and his ilk.

With "friends" like moveon, the democrats don't need enemies. Of course, unless the ultimate goal is just winning elections (isn't that every political party's goal, anyway..)

One bonus that seems to have come out of this entire mess is that Moveon has had to cough up a much larger sum for their attack ad than they figured to pay - and the NYT is out to collect the same from Guiliani. Nice take on it on the NYT's political blog

Pasted below, makes entertaining reading. Particularly:
And so, here’s what MoveOn’s Eli Pariser had to say today. In effect,  he’s trying to move away from the controversy, while saying the organization stands by its message:
Sad, for organizations that claim to speak plain, unvarnished truths (and what political action campaign doesn't?)


September 23, 2007, 7:25 pm
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  • Current Mood
    annoyed annoyed
suresh ramasubramanian

Long lost brothers reunite

I'm sure an old hindi movie can be made out of this story...

Lost Lab Brothers Meet at Dog Daycare
Mar 23, 7:59 PM (ET)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) - They were called Wallace and Gromit, a couple of abandoned yellow Labrador retriever siblings who wound up at the Coulee Region Humane Society. The pups were 5 months old last June when they were adopted out, but to separate homes. Months later, Pat Kucera at Diggity Dog Daycare noticed two yellow Labs named Levi and Cooper would "play like crazy" every time they got the chance during visits to his facility.

"They love playing chase, ring around the picnic table and face wrestling on the couches," Kucera said.

When he mentioned their behavior to their respective owners, Cyndy Lamb remembered the other pup she never forgot - the one that was with Cooper when she took him home from the humane society.

She asked Denice Mack, owner of Levi, about her dog's past and found out she too adopted her dog last June.

"When she said he was 5 months old when she got him, my heart stopped," Lamb said.

"I was so excited," Mack said, "because when we adopted (Levi), we knew there was another yellow Lab out there, and we wanted to find him and get together with him."

Mack and her husband Curt said they're hoping to set up play dates outside the daycare for the two long-lost Labs.

"I'm definitely going to take them up on that," Lamb said.

Information from: La Crosse Tribune,
  • Current Mood
    cheerful cheerful
suresh ramasubramanian

Ouch, I say Ouch,23599,20548077-13762,00.html

Lightning exits woman's bottom

October 09, 2006 12:00am
Article from: The Australian

A WOMAN has suffered severe burning to her anus after being struck by lightning which hit her in the mouth and passed right through her body.

Natasha Timarovic, 27, was cleaning her teeth at home when lightning struck the building.

She said: "I had just put my mouth under the tap to rinse away the toothpaste when the lightning must have struck the building.

I don't remember much after that, but I was later told that the lightning had travelled down the water pipe and struck me on the mouth, passing through my body.

It was incredibly painful, I felt it pass through my torso and then I don't remember much at all." Doctors at the city hospital where she was treated for burns to the mouth and rear said: "The accident is bizarre but not impossible.

She was wearing rubber bathroom shoes at the time and so instead of earthing through her feet it appears the electricity shot out of her backside," a medic told local television news channel, 24 Sata.

"It appears to have earthed through the damp shower curtain that she was touching as she bent over to put her mouth under the tap. If she had not been wearing the shoes she would probably have been killed by the blast."
suresh ramasubramanian

Spooks on a plane

Ah. An airport built on the site of an old temple and graveyard.

I am sure the local purveyors of schlock horror are going to have a field day
Ghostly encounters at Suvarnabhumi
By Amornrat Mahitthirook

Airports of Thailand (AoT) organised its largest religious rite at the new Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday to ward off evil spirits, only to experience an encounter with the unexplained. Rumours of occasional ''ghostly sightings'' have gone around since the first foundation brick was laid at the airport many years ago. The AoT is determined to correct the growing perception that the airport is possibly harbouring some ''uninvited inhabitants'' and to put its staff members' minds at ease.

Yesterday's rite was presided over by 99 monks who chanted en masse to improve the luck of the new airport, set to open commercially on Thursday.

However, halfway through the rite, a man appeared, quivering, and began to speak in a commanding voice claiming to be ''Poo Ming'', a guardian spirit of the land partially developed into the airport.

He ordered that a proper spirit house be built at the airport to allow for its smooth operation. The man, who was unidentified, later passed out and woke up to find the spirit had left him.

AoT president Chotisak Asapaviriya said the ceremony helped to boost the morale of airport staff, some of whom were unnerved after learning of frequent car crashes on the road running parallel to the airport's eastern runway.

Some veiled figures have sometimes been spotted on the 6km-long road.

Somchai Sawasdeepon, the airport general manager, said he had heard ghost stories from staff who came across a woman dressed in a Thai-style costume at the airport construction site in the evening.

He said the airport land formerly belonged to some local communities encompassing the centuries-old Wat Nhong Prue and its cemetery. It was reported that the bodies had not been exhumed for proper religious cremation.

Sqn Ldr Panupong Nualthongyai, head of Suvarnabhumi airport security, was also a witness to some strange, unexplained episodes.

''Whatever you make of it, it is the belief associated with the Thai way of life. For the non-believer, it is best not to act disrespectfully [towards the supernatural],'' he said.
suresh ramasubramanian

This was listed on for a while ..

A delightful (!) tour of bombay - a city that I try to avoid as far as I can

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [india-gii] A never to miss opportunity in Mumbai.
Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2006 12:45:08 +0530
From: Akshay Mishra
To: india Gii

Take a ride down the mumbai roads from Powai to Borivali and back and experience the moon. Experience the first pothole opposite the IIT wall and then teeth chattering ride near Ajahara. Reach the lake to see the sheer absense of roads and utter chaos. We shall take the Jogeshwari Vikhroli link road and reach SEEPZ, experiencing a back massaging ride. From SEEPZ, our ride shall see further ups and downs in the craters to land at the Western Express Highway. We cruise down the Western Express Highway in a tin plate going up and down and down and up. The craters are BIG to not miss them and the experience an unforgettable one. Once we reach Borivali, we shall take the return trip back to Kanjurmarg to see the mars terrain near the Gandhinagar flyover.

All travellers interested can bid for the ride. The ride shall be in the red Mumbai tin cans. Please make sure the date of travel is free of all other appointments. The scheduled total time of 3 hours may get delayed by about 3 more hours. Guests are expected to carry their own water and food. You are paying for a detailed instruction manual of what to experience. We are in the process of labelling each pothole, work in progress and inconvenience shall be regretted. Travel starts from 10th September 2006. At a bus stop near us. Delivery of the manuals shall begin from the travel date.

Additional benefit, new pothole/crater spotters can name them after themselves. For a small additional fee users shall be able to get the GPS co-ordinates of those potholes and a link to the google earth marker to the crater.

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Make your websites wear the Gray Ribbon

Take Back the Net -
Secure Your Computer and Sport the Grey Ribbon

There's this huge amount of assorted nastiness on the net that goes on just because too many people leave their PCs un-updated and let them get infected by every kind of virus and spyware on the planet. Spam, DDoS attacks, ID theft .. all of which can be cured by simply practicing the online equivalent of safe sex.

So, here's the gray ribbon campaign launched by my good friend Anne P Mitchell of ISIPP that just might convince people to secure their computers.

Please do stick this on your blogs and websites etc - spread the word.
suresh ramasubramanian

General LJ friends list cleanup

Hi, I've been going through LJ removing quite a few old friends entries - several users / feeds in my friends list were appearing crossed out, showing that those accounts were deleted. If I unfriended someone by mistake do let me know (am severely jetlagged and sleepy, no time to be lj'ing)
suresh ramasubramanian

Frankfurt airport, vegetarian travelers ...

I've seen lots of LJ'ers of the "travel to the states and back on business" community generally dismiss Frankfurt airport as bad, dirty, overcrowded, with dirty toilets etc.

Well, one way to put it would be "if you are planning to catch an incredibly overcrowded flight, especially on an airline that offers the cheapest fares to europe and the usa - like lufthansa does - keep away from the flight gate till the last possible moment".

The gates for flights to india out of Frankfurt are usually crowded with a lot of people who are sloppily dressed, unshaven and stink of the collective stale sweat that characterizes a crowded long haul flight - all the natural consequences of having just got off a long haul 8..12 hour flight from the USA. Being in close proximity with almost 400 people (the full capacity of a boeing 747-400), all of whom are in the same sad condition, and all of whom are trying to find a place to sit in or near the gate for their flight to wait a few hours till their connecting flight to india gets in, will definitely leave you with that opinion.

Spreading out to other parts of the airport (to the parts where you mostly have flights to various EU countries, say, or even gates closer to flights that are going to various US cities rather than coming back to india) gives you a slightly different opinion. As do one of the lounges if you have a gold / silver [lufthansa FTL only] card or are flying business class. Sure the place has all the elegance of a proverbial brick shithouse, and sure it stinks of tobacco smoke - especially the lounges. But the rest of the airport - especially its toilets - is far cleaner and less crowded than the areas where you have 400 people just off a long haul flight who are all jostling for space near a single gate.

Food for thought I guess.

Speaking of food, and thought, the other thought I get is about food abroad - about people who still retain south indian dietary habits (as in vegetarian food = rice, not even rotis, dal, sambhar etc) frantically hunting for an indian grocery and an indian restaurant once they land in the USA - they find it REAL tough there (and far tougher if they happen to travel to china, japan or korea, say).

The first problem is that the usual western idea of a vegetarian diet (soya, salads, etc) just doesnt look all that appetizing to them. And then eat can turn up in some strange places .. french fries and onion rings fried in lard, or vegetable soup made with beef stock, say. Land in a conference in (say) Japan, and have a good friend who actually happens to be a practising brahmin (ie vegetarian, no alcohol, etc) suddenly discover that the "vegetable fried rice" in the lunch buffet has chunks of ham and shrimp in it. Makes it a lot tastier, but well, I can kind of understand why the poor guy made it a point to ask the waitress a whole lot of questions about everything from the soup to the dessert before taking very small helpings of each and filling up the gaps with salad and bread.

An even more interesting situation develops when they're returning home and forget the little matter of a special meal request (asian vegetarian meal / indian vegetarian meal) on their ticket - indian travel agents make it a point to put that meal request in unless they're explicitly told not to .. but if they book their tickets online or from a travel agent stateside that just might not happen at all (seat requests too ..) - like this pregnant indian lady with not very good english (small town andhra pradesh I guess) who was traveling in a middle seat rather than an aisle seat, let alone a bulkhead seat, and didnt have a meal request set up either, on the montreal --> frankfurt air canada flight I was returning home by yesterday (so I could catch the Frankfurt - Madras flight, an antique, and typically overcrowded 747-400 that Lufthansa has, thankfully, refurbished recently - probably Delta flying a brand new 767 from MAA-CDG connecting to ATL / JFK at around the same prices has something to do with it)

Offering her my seat and then working with the aircrew + LH ground staff to get her something that at least looked vegetarian, then getting her into the frankfurt LH lounge as a guest the next day so she could stoke up on croissants and hot chocolate before catching her connecting flight to Hyderabad, was my good dead for yesterday I guess.

One of the aircrew, a smiling grandfatherly type, nice guy, had an interestingly practical suggestion that the lady didnt quite like - with lots of apologies, he handed her a meal where the entree was a plate with beef on one side and vegetables on the other, and suggesting that she leave the beef alone and just eat the vegetables, as they were so sorry but they had no vegetarian meals on board at all ... at least, there was milk, and bread rolls [with sesame seed on them that she had to remove as they would make her sick] and and salad.

Now, I've told my wife all this, with the suggestion that perhaps she should consider turning non vegetarian the next time she travels stateside (or to montreal, where vegetarians would miss the delights of a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz' Deli - about a pound of hand carved smoked meat slathered with homemade mustard, between two tiny slices of rye. Mmmm..)

She's still glaring at me now. Oh well ...
suresh ramasubramanian

Antispam conferences

Well, it has been a hectic year of travel so far - flying out about once a month this year, or sometimes more, to lots of antispam conferences in one city or the other, and coming back after a short trip that's 3..4 days of meetings.

Maybe an hour or two of sightseeing if I have the time. Lots of time for beer and dinner with old friends, though - and that's usually a bonus.

Enough travelling, in fact, that I just hit 100K miles this year, which just about brings me to a gold card on lufthansa's miles and more - that's about twice what most other airlines ask for to give out gold cards.

Damn, if only some of these conferences (some of them pretty big ones) would actually coordinate and work together instead of going their own way, trying to do some stuff and then discovering that someone else has been working on just that for the last several months at least. Well, they're starting to notice each other, and more importantly, to work together, against spam. Without that essential ingredient - cooperation - the conferences only serve as an excuse to pile up air miles on an admittedly limited expense account, and meet up with old friends.

Cooperation definitely works great, when for example the OECD and APEC decide to hold joint workshops on malware, inviting a bunch of CERT teams, antivirus types, etc. Then there's the "London Action Plan" and the "Seoul Melbourne Pact", both of which involve fair trade / law enforcement / privacy agencies from about a dozen countries, the OECD, ITU etc, along with ISPs, blocklist operators, and NGOs that do antispam work like

Then there are other conferences organized by industry coalitions like MAAWG ( and APCAUCE - these are the good ones that I've attended, with proper operational content from people actually involved in hands on antispam work, and not a succession of vendor presentations or ivory tower academic research that while technically elegant may not always have any reasonable correlation to the operational realities of spam filtering, being either unscalable, cpu intensive, failing when applied over very large streams of email (or all three at the same time).

APCAUCE will, next year, try to combine the cooperation and public policy parts of antispam with a "regional update" meeting featuring ISPs, agencies, and other people - good speakers, people who I respect for knowing what they are talking about (and also known for putting their thoughts into action, in the fight against spam). The keynote being one such person, John Haydon of the Australian Communications and Multimedia Authority. The ACMA is the agency that enforces australia's excellent and well written antispam law - a law with quite sharp teeth as several spammers including a spamhaus listed guy called Wayne Mansfield recently discovered. This will be on 2/26/06, during Apricot 2006 (, at Perth.