Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World
ROFLer from The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Tiger Woods, Gender and Domestic Violence
Perhaps the most sensible article about the issue. The allegations remain unsubstantiated, but the fact remains that there is such a thing as equality before the law. True or not, the image of Tiger Woods ducking a golf club swing continues to be a subject for mainstream humor in games, cartoons and SNL skits, in the grand old tradition of the spousal rollerpin chase. Which would be unthinkable if the genders were reversed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Marketing WTF: Häagen-Dazs

Via Times of India:

My friend Ramit (name changed on request) called me late Friday night. He sounded quite agitated. “You know, Haagen Dazs has opened its Delhi outlet”. I reacted with a joke. “Good, now you can spend a lot more on an ice cream than you normally would. But why are you agitated?”

“Because I am not allowed to enter”, he said. Now, Ramit is not like one of the politician’s son or into drugs, the sort who are often in news in India’s capital for all the wrong reasons, nor is he the kind who will shoot someone down because she refused to serve him a cone of ice cream.

He did not waste much time and said he has taken a picture and is mailing me the reason. I switched on my mail, and clicked on the attachment. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Was I in India, 62 years after gaining independence, and years after South Africa officially ended apartheid? The banners outside the outlet said: Exclusive Preview for International Travellers. And under that, in an even finer print, the real bombshell: Access restricted only to holders of international passports.

This raises a couple of questions. The lesser being how they would expect foreign nationals (of Indian origin or otherwise) to be carrying around their passports while strolling around a mall, in case they are asked to prove their nationality (unless they intend to judge nationality by appearance). The greater being why on earth a Häagen-Dazs franchise would make their first entry into the Indian market by specifically excluding Indian nationals.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dubai in Film: City of Life
"'City Of Life' is an urban drama set in Dubai that explores the existing complexities within an emerging multicultural society's race, ethnicity and class divide. A privileged Emirati male, a disillusioned Indian taxi driver and a European woman's paths are about to collide and irrevocably impact one another's lives. The first multi-lingual feature film to be written, produced and directed by an Emirati with UAE funding, intended for both local and international release, 'City Of Life' blazes an impressive trail for Emirati film."


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interview with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
I attended his presentation in Abu Dhabi last night. Very relevant work, very scientific approach, and VERY engaging oration.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

National Day Weekend 2009


Another extended weekend ... I took Thursday off as well to link the weekend with Wednesday, December the 2nd. On this day, the UAE celebrated its 38th National Day. Despite the recent financial bombshell, festivities seemed to be going on as usual (as with life in general, apparently). But 2-Dec is not considered a day to scrimp anyway.









 There was a parade of boats on the creek in the afternoon. Twin-hull racing powerboats Victory 1 and Fazza were there, along with abra, waterbuses, coast guard and various other public service craft. A few private yachts and commercial craft also made appearances.



Dressed in flag colors, I had a great dinner with friends at Noodle House (excellent laksa, but forgot to take pics)



The next day, I went to the Global Village, an annual multi-month expo for merchants from different countries to peddle their wares. The pavilions were certainly impressive, built in the popular imagination style of the country being represented, or featuring some architectural icons thereof. Some of the stage performances were impressive, and there was some decent food to be found.


Inside the pavilions, though, things were often less exotic. There were too few vendors of traditional or popular items UNIQUE to the countries, and too many trinket mongers selling cheap factory outlet products. This varied from pavilion to pavilion, but some of them were major offenders in this regard. Likewise, there were too many fast food restaurants and way too many generic karak tea stalls. And I could not find a single European country in the Europe pavilion (no, Turkey doesn't count). What's the point of going to a "Global Village" to find plastic kitchenware and a tub of KFC? If the organizers simply rejected all the merchants of miscellanea and at least 90% of the McChai stalls, more authentic sellers of real national products might be attracted to come there, along with buyers of the same.

Anyway, while it did not nearly live up to expectations, it was not a total disappointment.


An Emirati dance, one of the performances

Qatayef (Arabian pancakes) and Shay Zaatar (tea of thyme)

The day after next, I went out in the afternoon for some actual Emirati food. Few restaurants serve it, and it took some trouble to locate one. This one is known as Al Makan, and serves Levantine food as well. The one at the Dubai Mall also features a nice alfresco area for when the weather is good, with The Address towering nearby, and the Burj Dubai itself next door.

Yarish Soup (vegetable soup with crushed wheat)

Kabbouli Meat (a mild lamb biryani, with lots of lentils, raisins and cashews, served with yoghurt ... probably of Central Asian origin, but it was in the Emirati section of the menu)

Assidat Boubar (sweet mash of red pumpkin, a bit like pumpkin pie minus the pie)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eid al Adha 2009

We got an extended break (26th - 29th Nov) for Eid al Adha, thanks to the festival falling on a Friday. I decided to spend the whole first day ambling around Dubai. With the weather cooling down from a sweltering summer to a pleasant and breezy winter, it was a perfect day for a stroll about my 'hood in Deira (*flashes east coast gang sign*). After a morning walk and shower, I went back to the creek for an everything-in-it "dynamite sandwich" (I love how Dubai's small cafeterias come up with these names) at the wharf customs gate. The winter landscaping had just been completed, and the fresh flower beds were beautiful.












The weather was wonderful and the city was glittering in the late morning sun.



After a long walk, napped under a tree near the NBD building, headed to Salahuddin street and then walked to Muraqqabat for a lunch of falafel, ful and tabbouleh, followed by a cheesy dessert of nablus and sfouf.



After a couple of hours back at home, I travelled down to the Muteena and Naif communities for an evening stroll. These are areas where a lot of low-wage workers gather on weekends and holidays. Many garment outlets, barbershops and eateries were bustling on Eid's eve. There are also some nice parks in this area, and even an old fort that I did not previously know of [EDIT: "watchtower" would be the more appropriate word].












After some shopping and people-watching, I hopped into a South Indian restaurant for the house special Red Pepper mutton curry. Gosh, that curry was so delicious - and so HOT that I needed an extra vellappam to finish it, and had to follow it up with two scoops of ice cream.



Good I had that day of quiet, because the next two days were spent partying at the Flamingo Beach resort in Umm al Quwain with nearly 40 extended family members.



There was no dearth of ruckus - but for the morning in between, when I got up early for sunrise and coffee.












Ah, the simple pleasures.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na - Kabhi Kabhi Aditi

Pretty much the only good song from the film. And it's very good too.

Besides, there is a bebe kitteh at the end.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Genre: Animation
Ambitious inventor Flint Lockwood is a reclusive genius in a town where sardines are all there is to eat. When he finally makes a breakthrough with a water-to-food convertor, he becomes the town hero. But human greed and limitless treats can be a toxic mix.

- Pure comedic delight
- Positive and humorous portrayal of nerds
- Epic and gorgeous animation, especially outstanding when viewed in 3D
- Voice acting was superbly done, especially Anna Faris as Sam
- Heartwarming story
- Song/animation played during credit roll at the end worth staying for

- Nothing significant, except perhaps some really implausible faux science (even for Hollywood)

Verdict: One of the best animation films ever

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Finally made the order

Just ordered a fresh batch of DVDs from YesAsia, including some top K-dramas, and a couple of historical TV series. One of them is 少年杨家将 (Young Warriors of the Yang Clan), which, by the way, has a nice opening theme (posted below). Was in two minds for a while (mainly because YesAsia has recently removed UAE from their free international shipping country list) but had to accept it for lack of alternatives.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Singapore 2009

Towers pop out of a bed of green

While I had no plans to take a second trip abroad this year, let alone within barely two months of my 17-day European conference/vacation, the opportunity to visit Singapore during the Diwali/ZhongQiu season was too inviting to pass up. The opportunity to once again meet old friends, thunder along old walking routes, haunt old haunts and eat old favorites. These are my four nostalgia-soaked days in the Lion City.

Power Station: Ai Dao Feng Dian

愛到瘋癲, composed by Ella and Hebe of S.H.E, sung by duo Power Station, with an MV featuring Ella. This song was playing on the Emirates Airline in-flight entertainment on my flight out of Singapore, and it kind of got stuck in my head.


Monday, October 5, 2009


Start:     Oct 6, '09
End:     Oct 10, '09
Location:     Singapore

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Paris 2009

At Place de la Republique

Last stop and grand finale. With the three days I had in Paris, I decided to skip supersized portions like the Louvre and Versailles, and take in smaller morsels like Picasso and Eiffel, and at a leisurely pace. Each place had pieces so magnificent that it would be a shame to merely scan them. Paris is great on foot, as there is much to see and experience between and beyond the galleries. It is an unforgettable city, and I will definitely come back when I get the chance. Many thanks to Francois for his hospitality.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Luxembourg 2009

Grand Duchesse Charlotte Bridge, popularly known as the Red Bridge

A breathtaking lake of foliage floods the massive gorge that cuts through this city. Luxembourg has a floral biodiversity unlike any I have ever seen, and one which is a pleasure to explore. Learning the history of this great city, known as the "Gibraltar of the North" for its strategic position and defensibility, was also a treat for the mind. Strolling through quaint old lanes, sampling the culture and cuisine, trudging through densely forested mountains and hills, and marvelling at charming edifices, I found Luxembourg a great place to wind down and stimulate the senses.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick Gun Murugan: The Return of the Legend

MTV meme celebrity Quick Gun Murugan is back in his own movie. A South Indian "vegetarian cowboy", he first became famous from his two-minute spots on MTV back in the mid-90's, for his Dravidian witticisms, Bond-like bravado and ridiculously superhuman feats of marksmanship. I'm betting that more than a few Southies (and maybe even a few Northies) are going to get nicknamed "Quick Gun" in college campuses across India. Anyway, this soundtrack number, sung by Mika Singh, is really catchy. Mind it!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Amsterdam 2009

View from the hotel bar deck, where five canals merge

While the CogSci conference took up almost the entirety of four days in Amsterdam, I managed to squeeze in quite a bit of explorations and visits in the evenings, and the one and a half days after the conference. The conference itself was awesome, and our paper appeared to have been received well, despite our having been allotted a last-day-last-show slot. The city is beautiful and is always full of life, well into the wee hours of the morning. I could not catch a Dutch movie, but I managed to squeeze in an improv comedy show. And thanks to fortunate misfortune, I got an extra day in Amsterdam, which was so what I needed to wrap up some things I needed to do before leaving.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nana Kitade: Kibo no Kakera

The Hague 2009

Noordinde, near my hotel

Den Haag is not particularly large or lively, but there is so much natural and cultural beauty to see for its size. I spent around 24 hours in the city, and absolutely loved it. A very walkable city center, a good tram system for longer distances, beautiful canals, plenty of gorgeous parks to roam (and even see some deer and ducks), and lots of public and museum art to keep the wanderer occupied.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Brussels 2009

My neighbors

I was fortunate to live so close to Jubelpark, thereby getting museums, an excellent park, EU buildings and the business district for neighbors. At the same time, I was within (what I consider) walkable distance to the city's palace area and urban centre, availing myself of even more museums and exhibits. I had three days, so I took my time: walked almost everywhere I wanted to go, explored the city and suburbs, ate leisurely, stopped and sat down when I felt like it. As with most cities of the kind, there was far more to see than can be seen properly in a few days. Of what I really wanted to see, I missed the Magritte Museum, and an exhibit by Keith Haring. But I think I made the best use of my time, considering my goal was to relax and explore as much as it was to muse and take photos.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Dubai Metro Trip

Quite pleased that Dubai has joined the ranks of the 150 or so metrified cities in the world, I took my first trip today, on Tuesday the 15th of September, nearly a week after the official launch. While there were some teething and adaptation issues in the first week (someone apparently hit the emergency stop button, thinking it was like the stop buttons on the public buses), things appear to have more or less settled by now.

For now, only 10 stations are open, so I had to take a cab from the one closest to my destination. Still, the savings are immense, and the time taken to get there was comparable to that which would be taken by a private vehicle. Getting in and out was smooth and hassle-free with the wave-and-walk Nol card. It was all so ... first world.

Some of the stations are especially impressive and unique, and the frequency and punctuality seem to be well planned. Some stations were dug surprisingly deep into the earth. The cars were also comfortable and sharp-looking. I expect to use a lot of this service, considering how close stations are to my home and other areas of interest.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dubai gets a Metro

There is a metro stop very close to my home, close to where my relatives live, and not too far from where my university is located. Not to mention the stops near major malls and hubs. The launch also coincides with the rollout of a new unified proximity fare card system called "Nol" for bus, metro and waterbus transport. As a nod towards market segmentation and/or social stratification, there is going to be a "Gold Class" of coaches. Definitely as a nod to the segregation options available to women and families in this part of the world, there is going to be a coach for women and children too (wonder what happens if you are a father with your children). While the traffic congestion and taxi availability problem that ostensibly motivated its development have mostly disappeared due to the recession, it is still a relatively cheap*fast means of long-distance transport, and will be especially useful once the economy recovers (and may even contribute to said recovery). Looking forward to a ride on the weekend, and the remaining stations opening in the near future.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Selling Private Service and Retail to Emiratis


The sight of young Emirati men and women working as fishmongers and bakers or checkout assistants and shelf-stackers is very unusual.

The jobs are normally filled by Dubai's massive foreign workforce.

Emirati workers in the retail sector are still a minority within a minority.

Nationals constitute less than 20% of the total population and according to some researchers make up less than 1% of the private sector workforce.

This is because employers in the emirate have found it notoriously difficult to attract young nationals into the private sector.

They mostly favour working in the public sector - which offers more pay, far fewer working hours, longer holidays and security.

There is also the issue of prestige. Working in a supermarket still carries, for many Emiratis, a stigma.

But the Aswaaq stores are providing an unlikely setting for a cultural revolution.


This is a step in the right direction. Once retail and service are no longer stigmatized, perhaps there will be more fair treatment and better compensation for those professional classes. And when "management" is not seen as the only/primary career path for Emiratis, they will have more incentive to diversify their skill acquisition towards more "hands-on" type careers.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nigerian Scam Victims Offered Restitution ... yeah, right

Got this in my email. Gosh, this is just royal. I wonder how many of those people who got financially punk'd by these guys would come back for seconds. Hmmm, actually ...

Attn: Beneficiary, I write to bring to your notice as a delegate from the Nigerian Government Reimbursement committee under the strict supervision of the United Nations to pay Five Thousand Nigerian 419 scam victims the sum of $950,000 USD (Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars Only) each. You are however listed as one of the beneficiaries for these payments. You are expected to get back to us for your immediate reimbursement.
As a result of this laudable recommendations, you are hereby informed that during the last U.N.meeting held in Abuja,Nigeria, it was alarmed so much by the rest of the world on the lose of funds by various foreigners to the scam artists operating in syndicates all over the world today. In other to redeem the good image of our country, the President has ordered the immediate payment of $950,000 USD each to the affected victims in accordance with the U.N.recommendations.
Due to the corrupt and inefficient Banking Systems in Nigeria, these payments are to be made by BARCLAYS BANK PLC, UK as the corresponding paying bank under the funding assistance of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Presently,Two Thousand Five Hundred Beneficiaries have been paid;more than 50% of the Victims are from the United States, while about 40% are from other parts of the world.
Your particulars were among those mentioned by some of the Syndicates that were apprehended in Lagos, Nigeria as one of the victims of the operations, you are hereby warned not to communicate or duplicate this message to anybody for any reason whatsoever as the U.S. secret service in conjunction with The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has swage into action to track this criminals down.
Once again, you are expected to keep it secret until these criminals are all apprehended. ...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Women at Risk
... if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar.

According to police accounts, Sodini walked into a dance-aerobics class of about 30 women who were being led by a pregnant instructor. He turned out the lights and opened fire. The instructor was among the wounded.

We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.

A limp response to women's erotica
"Perhaps what's most insidious in this saga is that the market's refusal to admit Filament reinforces an idea of female sexuality which justifies that very refusal. The absence of visual erotica for women on shelves crammed with magazines where women are products for male consumers, reduces female desire to the less-interested counterpart of male desire. The deficit positions women as the providers of sex for perpetually horny dudes."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Glasses, New Look

Now I look ...

... really smart

... plain dorky

I just bought a new pair of glasses. Always wanted a pair with black rectangular lens frames.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Conference Paper Presentation

Start:     Aug 1, '09 4:15p
Location:     VU University, Amsterdam
The Effects of Goal Revelation on Computer-Mediated Negotiation
Presented by Gal, Y. (MIT) and D'souza, S. (BUiD)
At the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Love You, Man

Genre: Comedy
- "Ladies' man" is engaged to love of his life
- Realizes he does not have close male friends
- Tries various setups to get a buddy
- Runs into carefree, brazen dude who just might be "the one"

- Comedy, especially wordplay- and awkwardness-driven
- Acting, especially by Paul Rudd

- Too much reliance on "cringe humor"
- Implausible marketing scenario

Verdict: Definitely see.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Excellent battle scene action
- Special effects
- Awesome bots
- Megan Fox

- Implausible archaeology
- Dragged-out plot
- Unnecessary characters
- Occasionally corny dialogue

Overall: See it if you have the time

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Television Tropes & Idioms
Perhaps the biggest and most exhaustive list of descriptions and examples of stock tropes used by writers for TV, films, literature, anime, etc. Written fairly well, too. Everything from "British accent" to "the Libby" to "Final Girl".

Friday, May 22, 2009

Paper accepted, Sohan Van Souza is going Dutch

I am proud to report that the paper I co-authored and submitted in February has been accepted for publication and presentation at the 2009 annual conference of the Cognitive Science Society. We turned in the final version recently, and it looks like I will be travelling to Amsterdam to present "Gal et al (2009)" with the first author at the conference in late July. I am excited to go to Europe after all the missed chances in years past. More excited am I that my first research paper submission was accepted, and that I have a publication to my credit.

Gal, Y., Dsouza, S., Pasquier, P., Rahwan, I. and Abdallah, S. (2009), The effects of goal revelation on computer-mediated negotiation, Proceedings of Cogsci 2009: 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society

This paper studies a novel negotiation protocol in settings in which players need to exchange resources in order to achieve their own objective, but are uncertain about the objectives of other participants. The protocol allows participants to request each other to disclose their interests at given points in the negotiation. Revealing information about participants’ needs may facilitate agreement, but it also exposes their negotiation strategy to the exploitation of others. Empirical studies were conducted using computer-mediated negotiation scenarios that provided an analogue to the way goals and resources interact in the world. The scenarios varied in the individual positions and interests of participants, as well as the dependency relationships that hold between participants. Results show that those who choose to reveal their underlying goals outperform negotiators in the same setting that use a protocol that forbids revelation. In addition, goal revelation has a positive effect on the aggregate performance of negotiators, and on the likelihood to reach agreement. Further analysis show goal revelation to be a cooperation mechanism by which negotiators are able to identify acceptable agreements in scenarios characterized by few socially (Pareto) beneficial outcomes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Graduation Photos (MSc this time)

Two years after my MBA graduation, and 5 years to the day after my BS graduation, completing my MSc at long last. That dangerous-looking glass object in my hand is my academic distinction award.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Young woman losing camera with revealing pictures actually a guerilla marketing ploy
This has got to be the first big example of a viral publicity scheme by an erotic site. Can't say it was very subtle, but it seems to have worked. Anyway, she IS extremely attractive, adult site model or not. I think she would have attracted about as much attention even if she had been more fully clothed.

Angels & Demons

Genre: Mystery & Suspense
- Excellent reconstruction of the locations in the Vatican and CERN
- Ewan McGregor and Ayelet Zurer
- Nice explosions

- Too "talky", like Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown's books are generally talky ... in the middle of a suspense/action scene, Langdon would remember some conversation with a student from years ago. That's fine and even necessary in books on conspiracy theories, where you have to go into background, but it kind of drags a film when you have to qualify every term with historical explanations and/or pseudohistorical diatribes.
- Acting did not seem all that convincing.
- WAY non-canon. Major plot and theme elements from the book were removed, some apparently for political correctness.
- Questionable science, even more questionable history

Verdict: If you haven't read the book, see it ... if X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not showing

Friday, May 15, 2009

nom nom nom 4 fud
Pinball-style game from I Can Has Cheezburger and IAMS cat food. A little hard in the later levels, but cute and fun all the same.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
This is the first movie I watched after a month and some of busy-time. Not disappointed in the least, but a bit more surprised than I expected.

- Verging on "hard scifi". Is perhaps to the Star Trek franchise what Batman Begins was to the Batman franchise. The setting was very ordinary, much of the time, yet futuristic. Off-duty humans wore jackets and jeans, rather than shiny tunics with oversize shoulder pads, for example. They lived in dorms or houses, and drove bikes with wheels. Bar fights.
- Great opening. Very emotional. Very powerful.
- Awesome graphics. Great use of moving camera and panorama.
- A good bit of ship redesign in line with modern technology and sensibilities, but still within range of the originals.
- Seeing how it all began. There were plenty of smirk-worthy moments, as we see the young characters exhibit their familiar traits, and mouth their familiar catchphrases.
- VERY non-canon. I wonder if any sequels will continue in this very different altered timeline, or reboot.

Visit to the Pet Store: Wook at teh bebe kittehz

I found these adorable kittens at a pet store called Excellence in front of the Abu Dhabi Mall. It's kind of rare to see mammals larger than gerbils on sale around these parts, and more rare to see kittens. They were so young they would not be on sale for another month. They and the other animals seemed well-reared and healthy, and were kept with others of their kind so as to not be lonely, thank goodness. The grown up ones were also very friendly, but these kittens were just so playful I had to film them. The shop owner even let me hold the one in the foreground. I recently lost a neighborhood stray kitten to a tragic death, and holding the little floofeh snorglepuff felt so nice. I just felt so bad putting it back in the enclosure, as it was trying to get back out. Oh, when I get my own apartment ...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Whose Line Is It Anyway: Three-Headed Broadway Star

One of the greatest shows on yesteryears TV. And in my opinion, the greatest comedy show on TV.

One of the best games on it was the "three-headed broadway star", which really defined the kind of creativity and spontaneity that characterized this improv show. Here are three of my favorite acts, which still get me everytime I watch them.


Colin: "He stole my 'you!'"


Wayne: "I'm going way over the 'abyss' limit."


Wiggling ... FREEEEEE!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Graduation Ceremony

Start:     May 14, '09 12:00p
Location:     KV Auditorium
Graduation ceremony for my Masters in Informatics

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Now you know Jack Schitt!

You Don't Know Jack Schitt?
Author Unknown

Many people are at a loss for a response when someone says, "You don't know Jack Schitt." Now you can intellectually handle the situation.

Jack is the only son of Awe Schitt and O. Schitt. Awe Schitt, the fertilizer magnate, married O. Schitt, a partner of Kneedeep &. Schitt Inc. In turn, Jack Schitt married Noe Schitt, and the deeply religious couple produced 6 children: Holie Schitt, Fulla Schitt, Giva Schitt, Bull Schitt, and the twins: Deep Schitt and Dip Schitt.

Against her parents' objections, Deep Schitt married Dumb Schitt, a high school drop out. After being married 15 years, Jack and Noe Schitt divorced.

Noe Schitt later married Mr. Sherlock, and because her kids were living with them she wanted to keep her previous name. She was known as Noe Schitt-Sherlock.

Dip Schitt married Loda Schitt and they produced a nervous son, Chicken Schitt. Fulla Schitt and Giva Schitt were inseparable throughout childhood and subsequently married the Happens brothers in a dual ceremony.

The wedding announcement in the newspaper announced the Schitt-Happens wedding.

The Schitt-Happens children were Dawg, Byrd, and Hoarse. Bull Schitt, the prodigal son, left home to tour the world. He recently returned from Italy with his new bride, Piza Schitt.

So now if someone says, "You don't know Jack Schitt", you can correct them. Not only do you know Jack, you know his whole family!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Comedy Convention - Dubai Edition

This past weekend, for the first time, I attended a live stand-up comedy show. I have always liked catching a smart stand-up gig on the tube, so I was quite excited to see what it would be like to actually attend one, and especially to see what one in Dubai would be like.

Title Board

The 3-day Comedy Convention tour goes through Dubai and Beirut. I attended only the last of the three days. It was held outdoors in the Dubai Media City amphitheatre, but (thankfully) the weather is still good in the evenings. But c'mon, no coffee? There was a hard bar, Japanese, grills, crepes, and Arabic, but no coffee?! I had to make do with a cranberry vodka to go with my tempura, and hope that it and the comedy would keep me awake.

Our performers were all American, except for one Italian. Erik Griffin, the comedian/host did a great job entertaining us in between his fellow comedians. His roasting of the generous chest hair of men here, and his scenario of an Arab man with a Black-American wife brought the house down. A lot of race/nationality jokes, but none I found that really crossed the line, so kudos to him.

The first comedian was Rusty Dooley, whose act consisted mostly of impressions of comedic alternatives to real movie scenes, or parodies of film personalities. It was pretty decent, most of the time. Especially his impersonation of Tom Cruise in Top Gun, down to the rectangular smile and the hair. Overall, not too broadly appealing, but better in that sense than Tommy Davidson.

I'm sure Davidson, the third, closing and headlining performer is a great comedian. His impression of Spanish TV news was probably the best part of his act. However, I felt his performance required far too cultural context to elicit the laughs. It might be great for Americans, but even he could feel the cloud of confusion hanging over much of his audience. At least Dooley had the relative prevalence of Hollywood culture going for him. I just thought Davidson should have focused more on more universally-themed jokes, considering much of the audience was not Western or American. Being English-speaking and even having a good deal of Western exposure does not mean you will know enough about Sammy Davis Jr. to find an impression of him to be funny.

Maniscalco? This man is loco!

But what made the whole show, according to me, was the middle act, by Sebastian Maniscalco. This guy is NOT to be missed. He totally dissected the awkwardness of the "first date", to peals of laughter from everyone. His gripes about the travails of air travel had us doubled over. His facial and vocal expressions were dramatic, yet believable. Maniscalco, together with Griffin, pretty much rocked the house throughout their performances. Don't miss them if you get the chance.



Friday, April 10, 2009

9 months later, the manifest opus

Yes, my thesis is finally done!

(Disclaimer: The bearded character in the image above in no way represents my real thesis advisor. He's not bald or thickly bearded! Oh, yes, and he's a nice guy too. . Image from PHD Comics)

Empirical Studies in Computer-Mediated Interest-Based Negotiations

Sohan D'souza

Master of Science in Information Technology

Faculty of Informatics

The British University in Dubai

April 8, 2009

Negotiations in which participants exchange offers based on their chosen positions can be extended to include dialogue about their interests. Revelation of negotiators' interests allows them to make more acceptable offers and perhaps propose possible alternative approaches toward each other's interests, both of which may result in mutually and individually beneficial outcomes. However, it can also expose their strategies, and possibly their dependencies on other negotiators toward the achievement of their goals. Revealing this information can leave them vulnerable to extortion or retribution, but it can also be used to gain sympathy or build a relationship of trust and reciprocity.

This dissertation studies human behaviour and performance upon introducing options for goal inquiry and revelation into mediated-protocol negotiation scenarios. Empirical studies were conducted by having human players negotiate over an alternating offer protocol and an interest-based bargaining protocol, on a platform specially adapted for this purpose. The analysis of data from these experiments revealed interesting patterns in the human use of goal revelation, and its effects on individual and social outcomes and likelihood of agreement. The design of the experiments and the development of the experimentation platform lay the groundwork for the further study of goal revelation in mediated negotiations with humans.

I still have the defense and some minor polishing to go, but the official submission is done

Nao I can has a life! Noes, srsly!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world
Suggestions for a robust world economy from the originator of Black Swan theory. I especially like principles 4,7,8 and 9.

(sorry, I initially posted a members-only link)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

After AIDS, another "disease" that rape cures in South Africa
Because we all know that the best way to get someone to like your favorite beverage is to heat it to boiling point and pour it down their throat while beating them to a pulp.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Women's Day

There may not be much to be happy about, really. From Brazilian churches defending the "human right" of fetuses to kill or seriously harm a 9-year-old waif of a child, to an Eastern European head of state defending the killing of women for "honor", to Indian tradition-peddlers defending attacks on "loose" women like thrashed pub-goers and gangraped lovers, to Pakistani Taliban shutting down women's education, the situation looks pretty disheartening. Even where women have made strides in getting employment and supporting themselves, it leads them into the clutches of predators. And let's not even get started on what's happening in the Congo.

But for those who have been strong and/or lucky enough to go through life without getting totally screwed over by the traditionalist patriarchy, congratulations on making it this far, and best wishes for the future. That's not just for women, by the way, because this is a day for men too; any system of oppression is not just bad for the oppressed group, it also corrupts and damages the oppressor group. Not to mention that we men all have mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers and wives, after all. As long as feminism and masculism are seen as an us vs them thing, gender-identity extremism and reactionism will inevitably thrive in the collision zone. But when educated aware men join hands with educated aware women to ensure dignity and rights for each other, extremism will be tempered and reactionism will wither away.

So Happy Women's Day to all women AND men.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chechen President Defends Gynocide

Kadyrov Defends Honor Killings

02 March 2009

By Lynn Berry / The Associated Press GROZNY — The bull-necked president of Chechnya emerged from afternoon prayers at the mosque and with chilling composure explained why seven young women who had been shot in the head deserved to die.

Ramzan Kadyrov said the women, whose bodies were found dumped by the roadside, had "loose morals" and were rightfully shot by male relatives in honor killings.

"If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed," Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny.

The 32-year-old former militia leader is carrying out a campaign to impose Islamic values and strengthen the traditional customs of predominantly Muslim Chechnya in an effort to blunt the appeal of hardline Islamic separatists and shore up his power. In doing so, critics say, he is setting up a dictatorship where Russian laws do not apply.

Kadyrov's bluster shows how confident he is of his position. "No one can tell us not to be Muslims," he said outside the mosque. "If anyone says I cannot be a Muslim, he is my enemy."

Few dare to challenge Kadyrov's rule in Chechnya.

Kadyrov describes women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children. He encourages men to take more than one wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Russia. Women and girls are now required to wear headscarves in all schools, universities and government offices.

Some Chechen women say they support or at least accept Kadyrov's strict new guidelines.

"Headscarves make a woman beautiful," said Zulikhan Nakayeva, a medical student whose long dark hair flowed out from under her head covering, her big brown eyes accentuated by mascara.

But many chafe under the restrictions.

"How do women live in Chechnya? They live as the men say," said Taisiya, 20, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of retribution. She was not wearing a headscarf while shopping in central Grozny, which she said was her way of protesting.

I know the Russian culture is also a bit misogynistic, but this article makes me wish for Chechen War III with a Russian victory. His brazenness just goes to show how confident he is that neither the Russians nor the Chechens will oust his despotic dynasty. The Russians prefer to allow him his little tinpot moments as long as he toes their foreign policy line, and the Chechen want to avoid more conflict badly enough to put up with this crap. But ...

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

- Benjamin Franklin


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dubai Shopping Festival

Today was the last day of the festival, and I had been pretty busy all these days, so I decided to go to Al Seef and walk the carnival area to the abra docks. Got there by water taxi.

Rode a ferris wheel for the first time in living memory, and took some birdseye pics of the creek area.

The yacht wharfs

Midstream Deira skyline, the typical Bollywood introductory shot anytime Dubai needs to be mentioned.

The rest of the games and shopping area in Al Seef, with downstream Deira as the backdrop.

After some indulgent carnival snacks (deep-fried, of course), I strolled around the shopping area, the so-called "night souk". I was a bit hurried, but I managed to grab one thing I have been seeking for a couple of years at least.

Finally, my very own Daruma/DaMo doll. I shall fill in the other eye when I graduate.