July 27, 2007

Fighting – what is it good for?

I happened to catch an episode of "The Contender" today and got hooked in. It’s not a show that I normally watch but when they showed the families of the two guys who were fighting in this episode, my interest was piqued. For those of you who have not seen "The Contender", it is a reality show along the lines of "The Apprentice" where a bunch of hopeful boxers get divided into two teams, get trained and fight members from the other team, eliminating the loser from each fight. The last man standing gets something big I guess.

Anyway, what interested me was the fact that they have the wives and children of the fighters watching when they fight. You see the wives cheering their husbands on with comments like "You get him baby!" or shaking their heads when their husband seems to be doing badly. You also see the son of one of the contestants crying because he just saw his father get a cut over one eye. As I watched all of this, the question uppermost in my mind was, "why?"

Why do we find the sight of two human beings beating each other to a pulp entertaining? Why do we call this kind of thing a "sport"? Why can’t the wives who are cheering on their man think about the fact that their husband might be killed, maimed or injured during this "contest"? Why don’t they also think about the fact that while they are asking their spouse to beat another guy to a pulp, that guy too has a wife and kids who love him?

I guess the beat-their-chest-and-how-at-the-moon types will call me a wuss or a sissy or somebody who doesn’t understand what it means to be "manly". But is it really "manly" to beat somebody else down to show how strong you are? Aren’t we once again setting the example to our kids that it’s only strength that matters? That you will always win as long as you are strong?

Sure, I realize that boxing is not just about strength. That the strongest doesn’t always win and there is a lot of strategy, style and grace involved at times as well. But the fact remains, you have to beat a fellow human beings physically to win. What does that say about us as humans? To me it seems as if that it only says that we haven’t progressed very far from our own animal heritage – that we still haven’t learnt that control is better than force, that peace takes more effort than violence. But what do I know? :p

July 15, 2007

TreeDBNotes – time for alternatives?

I have talked of TreeDBNotes before. I like using a treeview based information manager and TreeDBNotes has been my software of choice for a few years now. One of the reasons I opted to register TreeDBNotes in the first place was because they had advertised free updates for life at the time I was considering using the app.

Fast forward a few years (or months) and here we are at TreeDBNotes 3.0 and suddenly, I notice on their forums a notice saying that old keys would not work and a new upgrade policy would be made available soon. I’m like "Huh? What do you mean new upgrade policy?" So I go to take a look at the original page which said free upgrades for life but I discover that the whole site has been revamped and there’s a new page which says that registration gets you free upgrades to all 3.xx releases – basically that free upgrades are only for minor releases. I’m like, "Did I dream it all?" So I go hunting on Wayback Machine and discover this page. According to the page (and I quote), "Registration benefits: lifetime technical support including support via e-mail, FREE upgrade to all new versions, and product notification by e-mail." (the bold text is not mine – it’s theirs)

I was confused. So I went over to the TreeDBNotes forums and posted a query about this discrepancy. The developer of the software appeared to disregard the query entirely and didn’t respond in the two threads I posted – except to say that wasn’t the place to post my question. (I did learn later however that he had posted a separate thread explaining that new upgrades would not be free even for existing users.) However, a moderator of the forum came forward to say he didn’t believe in binding a company or person to old terms. That that was politics and that no other company offered free lifetime upgrades and it was ridiculous to expect TreeDBNotes to do so.

I responded to him and said that if companies (and individuals) did not find agreements binding, then nobody could do business. I also pointed out a specific application that I had used (Now You’re Cooking) and their registration terms, which mentioned that they provided lifetime upgrades. He dismissed this by saying that I provided only one application and that didn’t prove anything and that I was bluffing. He also removed all my posts which showed that his statements weren’t true saying that the forum rules state that I couldn’t publicly contradict an admin or a moderator and that I was breaking the rules of the forum. Conveniently, it left his post saying that asking that the developer stick to the terms of the original agreement is ridiculous intact while removing all posts which showed that his arguments were specious.

All these shenanigans aside, the developer says that he has to charge for an upgrade because he rewrote 80% of the code and because he had to buy new components to use in the application. I don’t see how this absolves him from honouring the terms of a contract which was already in place. I fully accept that developers need to be paid and that he has every right to revise the terms of the contract for new users. But he cannot retroactively change terms for existing users.

In the midst of all of this, I was urged over and over again to talk to the developer privately and try to resolve this instead of talking about this publicly. I see this being pretty similar to the tactics here in Sri Lanka where people who speak out are hushed up in private by offering them something. Perhaps I will be offered a free upgraded. But that’s not the point. The point is that they are defrauding registered users and going back on their word. And that’s just unprincipled and unethical. But then again, this seems to be the pattern almost everywhere I look …

Tags: , , ,
Posted by Fahim at 10:48 am  |  5 Comments

July 2, 2007

Fortunes of fame

We were watching an episode of "Numb3rs" yesterday (and incidentally, it’s a pretty good show) and the story was about this singer who kills a paparazzi who was hounding her. Her final words in the show were to the effect, "they always say that the hounding we get is the price of our fame and now one of them has had to pay for it".

I scoffed at that statement at first – you mean the celebrities would actually give up fame if they had a chance? They really don’t want all that money, power and adulation? Then I asked myself another question. How does one become a celebrity? Why are we (as a race) so curious about the lives and actions of those we think are rich and/or famous? When somebody is hounded because they are well-known, isn’t it really a reflection of the fact that the general populace is hungry to know all about the lives of these people? Most importantly, why are we like that?

Why do we need to know about everybody else? This is not just about the rich and the famous. We all know of neighbourhood gossips who need to know everything going on around them. We often hear of stalkers who’ve taken this obsession about people to the next level. But why is this kind of thing so important to us? Does knowing what George Clooney had for dinner change any of our lives for the better? Does knowing who Cameron Diaz is sleeping with make us a better artist or painter or writer? If such information is totally useless with regards to making a difference to our own lives, why do we obsess about it?

On the flip side, would all of these celebrities be such celebrities if we didn’t make such a fuss about them? Yes, there are good artists, painters, actors, musicians etc. but why do we have to get into personality cults about them? Isn’t their work what is important and not the person? If we didn’t elevate them to such a high status and didn’t care one jot about their lives, would they be hounded by paparazzi? I don’t think so.

I find it a really interesting fact about humanity that we care more about learning about somebody else and their private life than we do about enriching our own. What does that say about us as a species? You can be the judge …

Posted by Fahim at 9:08 am  |  No Comments