Wine Tasting

Jan 02, 2012

I have indulged in wine over the last few years (a budding oenophile :) but the tasting has been more confined to standard varieties like Merlot, Cab and Pinot. This changed when a friend gifted me a Gewurztraminer. My first thought was, I love German beer but German wine?? Of course, Google is a great friend and I realized I have left out quite a few wine varieties, some of which btw, go very well with Indian food.

Red Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon: take a bit longer to reach maturation, high tannin content (particularly if young). Hence, it is good to have Cabs that are aged several years old to get a well rounded taste. Goes very well with red meat (starch foods like rice and pasta do not go well with Cabs at all). Cabs with high alcohol levels *do not* pair well with spicy foods. The hotness levels of the capsaicins present in spices like chili peppers actually increase the bitterness of the tannins.

Merlot: the best wine to start with for non-wine drinkers. Soft, medium-bodied red wine, and has lower tannin levels than Cab. Fairly versatile in food matchings.

Pinot Noir: lighter-bodied, delicate and fresh, very soft tannins. Difficult to cultivate, and hence there are very few Pinot-making regions. Lighter in color and goes best with Grilled fish, Japanese foods.

Malbec: a rich, dark and juicy medium-bodied wine and is adaptable enough to stand up to spicy Indian and Mexican food. Try with red meat particularly with BBQ sauces.

Syrah/Shiraz: has an abundance of fruit sensations and gripping tannins. These wines also have a variety of flavors depending upon the region cultivated and are generally powerfully flavored. Some varieties also have a spicy taste. Ideal with meat dishes.

Zinfadel: Red zinfadel is an American classic wine. Some have these wines have a higher alcohol content and hints of spice/fruit. Can be consumed pretty young, within a year or two. Goes well with typical American food: Grilled/BBQed meats, and Pizza. The white zinfadel is made from the same grapes, albeit a different process, and is light and refreshing with a sweetness/fruity taste to it.

White Wines

White wines have lesser tannins, and it is also recommended to have white wine instead of red wine if you suffer from acid reflux.

Chardonnay: voluptuous, with some having a 'buttery' flavor. It is a favorite white wine and is generally dry. Does not contain strong aromas like some of the other white wines. Goes well with fish, and white meats like chicken/poultry.

Sauvignon blanc: a crisp, dry and fresh wine with herbal character. Has naturally high acidity. Food pairings include Seafood, Salads and also goes very well with Sushi.

Moscato: also called Muscat, it is sweet and fruity and hence a dessert wine. Has a sweet floral aroma. Very good after-dinner drink.

Pinot grigio: crisp, dry wine with good acid "bite". Good to have if you like acidic tasting drinks. Should be consumed young. Goes well with seafood.

Gewurztraminer: Fruity flavor with aromas of lychees. Full bodied, non-dry wine that goes well with Indian non-veg starters like Tandoori chicken, Asian cuisine, and Smoked salmon.

Riesling: slightly sweet, aromatic and much lighter than Chardannoy, tastes fresh. Most come from Germany which also has a classification system on the quality and sweetness of the wine. Ideal for Fish.

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JQuery slideshow

Jul 24, 2010

There are innumerable gallery and image slideshows applications and plug-ins, but very few show the images enlarged or full screen. With the 8 megapixels and above that most digital cameras have by default nowadays, lot of image detail gets lost.

JQuery has a great plug-in called SuperSize to show images full screen and fill up the browser window. Take a look for yourself:

View Photo slideshow

Pics are located on Google Storage Beta service for fast loading.

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Geolocation service

Feb 21, 2010

On a recent web project, we were looking for a geolocation service to restrict the service to US users only. There are a bunch of geolocation services available from different vendors, each having its own unique variation. Some are priced steep too, costing about $3K per year. Fortunately, a coworker mentioned that he was using the geolocation technology from MaxMind. They have an open-source component too, which may not be as accurate, but does a decent job of finding the city, region and country.

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Writing a book - which words do you use most?

Sep 13, 2009

A friend who is writing a book requested help in an app which can count number of occurrences for each word in the book. The idea is to identify words that one tends to use more often (everyone has favorite words), and then reduce such occurrences.

Of course, scope creep always seeps in, and by the end it was more than just counting occurrences, with additional features like 1) exclude common words like 'the', 'and' etc specified in a config file 2) allow sorting based on count, alphabetic etc 3) calculate average word size, avg words per line, total lines etc.

Download python executable

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Boxee

Jan 11, 2009

The latest media center and entertaiment hub is Boxee (boxee.tv) . At HP, we have been working on a similar concept MediaSmart TV portal to consolidate media content, both online and content available on your home network.

Looks like media content over the web is finally arriving.

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Bollywood Music

Jan 08, 2009

Check out the latest bollywood hits. The chartbuster songs are also linked to video clips on YouTube. View the current top songs

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Web customer service

Jul 08, 2008

Sometime back, I wanted to get a subscription to Mercury News (www.mercurynews.com) and like a true Silicon Valley techie, went to the website to subscribe online. My only worry was that I shouldn't get caught in a web of forms and do get a chance to decline the 'email offers'. Pleasantly, the process was simple and done in less than 2 minutes. I received a confirmation which directed me to call a representative if I don't get a paper within 5 days. A week went by and still no paper, so I called their office. The customer service took my details and informed me that my order does NOT exist !! When I mentioned the confirmation, he said that he does not find anything in the system and that I should try to place the order again.

There are multiple problems with the Mercury News ordering process, if one can call it a process at all. Which shows, that even the best businesses sometimes flounder over basic issues when dealing with web orders.

Online ordering process typically falls under the following two models:

Registration model : This model suits businesses which expect the user to visit the site again and again. Most businesses that sell products online would fall under this category. The registration process gets the customer data one time and just needs the username and password going further, making it convenient for the customer.

Guest Model : Ordering a paper subscription would probably fall under this category, or at least could be a choice for the customer. Ideally, since the business has greater benefit with registered users, it makes sense to provide an incentive to the customer to register. For a news agency, the incentive could be as simple as allowing access to privileged articles online or allow them to search archived news. However, the guest model does help customers who do not want to give their email (to avoid spam) or want a quick checkout sans registration.

Here are some basic tenets to follow for an online ordering process:

1. Make the ordering process very simple. Ask for information that is really required for processing the order. The most important data would be one that allows a feedback loop back to the customer (an email address is the de-facto standard for this today). This is important because you potentially have a way to contact the customer for additional information or clarification. If you go to amazon.com, it asks you one simple question: what it your e-mail address? Simple and efficient, because now it can identify you AND contact you anytime.

2. Create a tracking model. Provide a confirmation number to the customer, on the order confirmation page as well as in an email. This is important to reduce customer support issues, since it becomes easy to track and lookup the order. Ideally the order number could be linked to a support system/service like Kayako, which would maintain a history for the customer issues.

3. Encourage self-service. Allow the customer to view the order details anytime he/she wants. Some customers are paranoid, so it helps to feed updated information. If you can update the page dynamically with ordering and shipping information, it reduces the support costs further. For example, I have never spoken to a Fedex support person, since ALL the information I need is available to me instantly on their website. Allow the customer to update personal details like address, phone number etc. This helps in reducing costs while keeping their information current.

4. Identify your customer. If you are shipping a physical item to the user, and card transaction is involved, you need to have a way to verify the customer information. Email verification is typically done by sending an email with a unique token in the content. Address verification could be done using third party merchant services, along with card verification (e.g. Authorize.net)

6. Integrate the customer data. If possible, funnel the data into the back-end ERP/SCM systems. This would apply mostly to the big businesses, but there are cost-efficient ways even for mid-size companies to transfer data back and forth between the web-front and the back-end systems using some kind of a home-grown enterprise application integration (EAI).

Back to the Mercury News. I received an email in about 2 weeks soliciting me to a subscription to the paper. Looks like they did save my email address but only with the marketing department. There is nothing funnier than trying to subscribe to a process and in turn getting an offer for the same subscription. Which brings up another scenario of poor service. How many times have you received an offer from a business, where you are already a customer (even using the same physical address)? I have received quite a few.

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Life ambition

Jun 24, 2008

Interesting comic on life's ambitions:

Life ambition !!

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Open source tools

May 30, 2008

Open-source has really revolutionized software development. Recently, I was setting up a new notebook and that is when I realized how many open source and free tools I use (some of these are not really open source, rather you don't need to pay a license for a simple base version):

LAMP structure: The combination of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP is superb for creating quick dynamic web sites. It particularly helps me to create decent sites with dynamic behavior that don't require heavy duty processing or business logic. Most of the sites fall under that category and lately with Javascript becoming a key force with AJAX functionality, it is no wonder that the majority of the sites out there use this combination.

SQLYog: This is a decent GUI Client for MySQL and somewhat better than phpAdmin in terms of UI. Allows easy creation of DB, tables and editing of table schemas. It is also easy to edit data inline and import/export data. Toad has created a new MySQL client, but I haven't tried it yet.

NetBeans: excellent Java IDE. Other languages like PHP and Ruby are also supported (or in the works). I particularly like the code completion and popup help/hints.

Skype: Allows easy conferencing over the Internet. Makes it easy to stay in touch with other developers and talk using the headset and hence an ideal tool for entrepreneurs :). A webcam can also be integrated into this app.

Putty: to telnet and SSH into remote servers.

PDCreator: Allows easy creation of PDF documents. Don't want to send your resume in Word? Just output it to the PDFCreator to get an exact looking PDF doc.

Picasa: In addition to organizing your (large collection) of pics, it also allows easy creation of web albums. It then becomes very easy to publish the albums onto any web site.

Vyew.com: For online colleberation and desktop sharing. This one requires no installs and it becomes easy to show your desktop to others over the internet. Can be slow sometimes, though. Crossloop is another excellent app.

IrfanView: A Windows based graphics viewer supporting a large number of file formats. It is very easy to navigate a folder of images with this (just keep pressing the space bar). Also allows basic image editing.

Pidgin: provides a single interface to various IM clients like Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, MSN, etc.

VLC Media player: plays almost all Video formats including flv files.

iTunes: Makes it easy to manage mp3 songs. Even though I buy very few songs online, it allows me to easily manage songs, burn mp3/regular CDs and edit the meta tag on mp3 songs.

SmartFTP Client: FTP client with an easy interface

Real Alternative: Allows you to play real media files

RealVNC: allows me to connect to a remote computer and control it. No, I am not hacking anyone.

Firefox w add-ons: Does not need a reason. The add-ons are so many, you have to actually pick and choose. The favorite ones include web developer, download manager, firebug, delicious, weather, google notebook.

Firebug: excellent Firefox plugin allows debugging of JavaScript, CSS, HTML

del.icio.us: provides a convenient storage for online bookmarks. The firefox plugin makes additions and access easier.

Fiddler: allows debugging of HTTP traffic between computer and Internet. Want to 'see' SSL traffic? It decrypts it for you.

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ExtJS JavaScript library

May 07, 2008

I was recently looking for a framework for JavaScript/ajax functionality. There are soooo many, each providing its own distinctive flavor, making the decision process complex. I played a bit with Dojo and Mootools, until my colleague mentioned about Extjs. The demos looked cool, the questions I had were:

- how easy is it to plug-in into your website, with minimal JavaScript knowledge.
- how extensible is the library and can it co-exist with other JS scripts I have on the site.

I have been reading the documentation (the API docs are fantastic) and trying out a few samples. So far, it has been going good.
Here is a sample grid application with search integrated.

Purchase Orders shown in grid

There are a few nuances between Firefox and IE, though.... but that is not something new. However, with just a few lines of code, the library provides Ajax based UI components that take care of functionality like pagination, data sorting, column manipulation etc.

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Feeling nostalgic!

Feb 19, 2008

I had been interested in starting a blog for a long time, but never really got to doing it. Until recently, that is, when by chance I came across a video about my alma mater, REC trichy and went down the memory lane. It is called NIIT now, and the video is from the 1993 batch. It is interesting that the more things change, the more they remain the same! All the faces were new yet strangely familiar and seemed to imitate and echo those wonderful moments I spent at college.

Here is the link... I am sure you will identify with it too.

Compilation of life at RECT

Btw, if you are from the 1985-89 RECT batch, we have a Yahoo group.
Join the Yahoo group

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