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Monday, December 31, 2007

The (In)Tense Indians

Firstly, I offer my apologies for a late posting. I was just recovering from the rather bad display of cricket from India. The first test is wrapped up in less than four days and Ricky Ponting has not even arrived as yet. If I were to analyze it to death (I cant help it; it comes with Indian blood), I would think there are a few basic areas that Australia out-played India;

First and foremost is the Aussie intensity. This is the first time I saw with my own eyes the intensity of Aussie players in field. Whether they are batting, bowling or fielding, they are always busy with one thing or the other. With the day simmering at 40 degrees, and if an Aussie fielder doesn’t get a ball to run after(With India batting, that is a very high likelihood), he will be either stretching at inhuman angles or shining the ball for the bowler or simply erupting in a sprint back and forth. On the contrary, Saurav Ganguly will be asking for a physiotherapist within his first hour of batting. He probably shares his match fees with Dinesh Karthik who is always on in his stead in the field. The rest of the fielders are upto no good either. We do have Yuvraj Singh who is a reasonably decent fielder but that is where the list ends. The only real intense player is probably Anil Kumble who just keeps coming at you irrespective of the hour of the day or the opposition. Australia, on the other hand, has a long list starting with Hayden, Symonds, Ponting, Stuart Clark and even Mitchell Johnson.

The second area would definitely be the batting. I think our bowling was pretty disciplined, the pitch was fairly neutral and we lost this match because of our mediocre batting. This is when we have four of the world’s top batsmen in our team. But they simply could not be bothered. Only batsmen who played better, relatively that is, are Laxman, Sachin and Ganguly. Any talks about revitalizing Indian team with fresh blood can go for a heavenly toss; Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni could not bat if their lives depended upon it.

The third area will be the captaincy. Anil Kumble has simply not been able to galvanize the team into action. He just hasn’t been able to influence, be it the idiotic batting order, or simply the lack of his match-winning ability (He is a talented player but he cannot win us matches). I also have serious concerns about a bowler being a successful captain. We actually thought about all kinds of bowler-captains and could not think of a single guy who was really successful. Unfortunately, our two lead contestants are a bowler and a wicket keeper, hardly much of a choice.

The 29th night was an interesting night where I came face to face with the legend Erinc Ilkehan. His stories have been doing rounds in Singapore for ages now with some aftersparks in Malaysia as well. Funny and full of life, he showed us some of the night life in Melbourne more of which is covered at footnotesonpage4.

We are now in Sydney for the second test and of course the new years eve. Before heading out, we spent a nice afternoon playing Beach Cricket in Melbourne. I surprised the folks and myself with some nice bowling. Ganji claimed I was chucking. I pointed out the similarity between myself and the world's greatest bowler (arguably) which disappointed a few Srilankans into whacking me for big sixes. That was the end of my rather short-lived bowling career.

The new year beckons and offers a clean slate yet again. Lets see what India does about it. We have the tickets to a nice party close-by and are looking forward to it. To all of you folks, Happy Days.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Aussie ki tehsi-day 4

Let me start of by conveying my special regards for the warm hospitality extended to us by ponna(in spite of his passionate pleas to unfold my jeans), his family(reinforcing my belief that the subcontinental folks - curries all share the same values deep within), his extended family(from the psychologist jenny to the cricket crazy uncles and aunts). I will be an utter idiot, however if I didn't mention uncle ponna (I want to grow up to be that guy) and annie (can anybody ever do more for us and still feel inadequate). Thanks to you all, our stay here has been a tripper of a trip and that is inspite of the way india is playing.

Alright, wiping the tears aside, let's get to something less taxing. My memory is acting funny(only cricket is safely preserved in a chronological manner, the rest is all hazy), so I am going to mention things in no particular order.

Last two evenings have been a riot. The first evening was spent watching the musical phantom of the opera. And what a breathtaking display of a moving storyline accentuated by elaborate set (it was like magical hat throwing out wonders after fantasies), a soundtrack to be taken to a deserted island and dazzling use of light. To me, sitting in the theatre, it was as good as any multi-million dollar hollywood movie. I think we are gonna follow it up with the opera at opera house in sydney.

We followed it up with dinner and poker. This was the first time lal and myself played poker in a casino with ganji and bangalore as our cheerleaders. I won a few, lal lost a few but it was an experience. I am glad that there are no easily accessible casinos where I live.

Last night was a chilled out night. We spent hours roaming in melbourne, checking out cafes after pubs, had a nice dinner at jaiselmer (once the ponnas knew that jaiselmer is in rajasthan- my homeland, they had to go there). I am still struggling with my motions, I just hope they are alright.

As I write this from mcg, india has lost two wickets. Dravid played like an idiot yet again, having done the hard work and giving it away to symonds (??) And that too just two balls before lunch. I mean we all have our phases where we just can't wait to eat, but this is just too much. He could have waited a bit longer, I reckon.

We are looking at a mammoth task of staying on for one and a half more days. Doable? I think so but then so does bhajji (in whose judgement I have no faith). We will see, won't we?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Aussie ki Tehsi: Day 2 and part 3

Well, well, well. Except Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, nobody else looked like scoring much. Ganguly/Dravid did show some tough and gritty work out there, but it didnt come up to much good, proving my theory to be a bunch of crap. Well, what good is an Indian cricket fan, if he is brought down by failure of his theories. Afterall, he continues to be at the height of "bouncebackability" even with India continuing to disappoint him through the entire time that he has come to know and love cricket. On day 2, the session count became 2-4 with Australia dominating four out of six sessions. As I write this, Australia has set India a target of 499 with more than half the test time remaining. Is that arrogance or well-founded professionalism? We will sure find out today and tomorrow. India has survived the second session and as they toil for the third, we are heading out to take a look at the Chapell Street. Being true fans, we cant possible survive a live viewing without a heart-attack or two. Plus, if we are away, India seems to stand a better chance.

I will repeat myself when I say that the result is very much in the offing. We can play to draw; that choice has been snatched away from us. The only way out is to play to win. If we survive today with at least eight wickets to spare, then we should be looking to close the deal within tomorrow. On the other hand, we may just be bundled out by noon tomorrow.

Well, all the best to Indian team and to us.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Aussie ki Tehsi: Day 1

Predictable as we were, we could not make it in time for the train journey and were in serious risk of missing the first ball of the Boxing Day test match. We ended up driving to the stadium, were hit by the bad news of Ricky Ponting winning the toss yet again and electing to bat (whatever happened to the principles of greater good). Having reached the stadium, we wasted some more time talking to a group of boisterous Aussie blokes making their breakfast on the grill right outside. We exchanged some witty comments about India’s chances of winning. In the end, thankfully, we made it in time for the first ball.

And what an atmosphere it was. All my adjectives have already been used up by commentators and in a bid for being authentic, I would just have to say that you have to be there to believe it. Among chants for Aussie,Aussie,Aussie: Oi, Oi, Oi, there were enough Swamy Armies out there to match the decibel levels. Folks were drinking beer as soon as 10:30 in the morning when the very first of India were just waking up to hot cups of tea. We were sitting at the top of the stadium and the view was breath-taking. Ganji, our unofficial photographer (the official photographer – Lal proved to be upto no good) took some really cool pics; check one on the left.

Zahir Khan and Ruddar bowled really well in the first hour; the scoreline at 48/0 in 12 overs, however, didn’t do any justice to that. By 11:30, we were all pretty dismal and we decided to shake up the cosmos by doing something different in a bid to help Indian cause. For perspective, whenever myself/Lal have watched a game together, India has lost in the most depressing manner possible. So, we decided to get out of the stadium and check out the Great Ocean Drive (Couple of hours away). As we were walking, we saw the very first wicket fall and as a gesture of immense sacrifice for Team India, we kept walking. Why change something that seems to be working.

During the drive, we listened to a combination of local commentary (The best I have heard, delivered in a Seinfeld manner) and Ponna’s choicest swearing directed to whoever attempted to thwart our way. Karthik Bangalore slept for the most part while we listened to the fall of wickets, one after the other. A part of our heart was missing the live action at the stadium while the other was happy with the way we had unshackled India from the mysterious way the Cosmos operated. In the end, our team broke down and myself/Lal were blamed for the inept decision of leaving the stadium. We took it like men who had done the right thing for the greater good.

The great ocean drive wasn’t bad. Ganji got some pretty decent shots. I am publishing the left over pics, the best ones are available at his blog. See some on the left(Full of vanity as you will notice):

Towards the end of the drive, Ponna miraculously remembered that the BMW had an in-built TV and after a brief period of Ponna-bashing, we stopped the car and turned on the TV. Australia were 8-wickets down by then. We watched Mitchell Johnson clearly caught by yuvraj Singh off Anil Kumble which was not given out; thereby justifying our decision not to watch the match. We turned the TV off and drove off and were instantaneously rewarded with the fall of ninth wicket. Lal was so moved that he went to the extent of suggesting that we don’t watch the match the next day as well so as not to disturb the favorable forces, but after a thorough discussion about the pros/cons lasting a tick or two, we decided against it. Towards the evening, We were told off by Uncle Ponna for deserting Indian team. He said that inspite of being a Srilankan, he was a bigger fan, having watched every ball of the match.

About cricket, the day was great for India but 350+ (which is what they may eventually score) keeps the match pretty much evenly balanced. What has worked for India is Kumble and possibly increasing pace of the wicket as time passes by. What has not worked for India is bad fielding and Australian tail-enders. Looking at the profile of who has scored today, they have all made gritty runs (Matthew Hayden scored just nine boundaries in his century). The ones who have failed are the ones who are otherwise class-act to watch but have failed today while playing flashy shots against a reasonably disciplined bowling. It seems to me that the gritty ones (Dravid/ Ganguly and possible Dhoni) will survive and they will have to dig even deeper because Australian bowling attack promises to be much more disciplined than ours.

With the Australian inning almost wrapped up within the day, a result is in the offing. I just hope that our team realizes it and plays to win.

Aussie ki Tehsi: The night before the DAY

After a hupsh flight comprising of insomnia, three movies interrupted by slightly noisy cuddling couple in the next seats and intermittent bad French wine, we finally landed early morning (by my standards) in Melbourne. Well, at least for Lal and myself, it was still a direct flight as opposed to our other partner in crime and cheap Ganji who had taken a four-hour stop-over at Perth in the dead hours of night. He, infact, started two hours before us and arrived two hours after.

I was looking forward to some authentic Aussie welcome but was utterly disappointed in the warm and friendly people at the airport. The guys even helped me carry my luggage in small snippets off and on the conveyer belt. The airport was small but people were big, really big. I spent the next couple of hours waiting for Ponna and used it to make small talks with Lal and later, having exhausted that possibility, moved on to read the Melbourne tourist booklet. The city is worth coming to, even without cricket. But that is not what this trip is about now, is it.

Ponna arrived, followed by Ganji an hour later and we were immediately off to a marathon luncheon lasting a good three hours. Held at Ponna’s family friend and attended by the Who’s who of overseas Srilankan community (One of whom offered us his BMW during our stay which we gladly took up), it was a pleasant atmosphere and at any other time, it would have been an awesome welcome. Just that, all three of us had not slept for the past 24-30 hours and were really zonked out accompanied by temporary attention deficit disorder. The food was awesome and the prayer administered before the food, touching. Just before zoning out to dreamland, we helped a friend patch up a rocky relationship in the true American Pie fashion and be done with the good deed of the day.

Rejuvenated with a three hour sleeping session (Somehow, I slept like a log even with Ganji sleeping right next in a bed the size of which will embarrass hobbits), we finally got to meet Karthik Bangalore. The stage is set for an adventurous trip with all riders uniquely equipped (with the exception of yours truly). It turns out that Kartik is an avid sports freak with his databank and strong opinions spread from baseball to rugby, an ideal guy to chip away at during a moment of dullness (which will be hard to come by, in the first place).

The evening was spent in warm debate with Uncle Ponna over topics ranging from Srilankan cricket to firing employees to spotting stars in southern light and with Auntie Ponna over chick-flicks/Bodyline TV series, the background made colorful by masala chai, homemade cake and “You have got mail” aired on TV.

We are all united in our view that Indians should win the toss and bat first. Since the latter is the key objective, we pondered over writing a petition to Ricky Ponting for letting India bat for the greater good, in the event that he wins the toss, but somehow, the odds didn’t seem right.

Tomorrow is D-day and I am still up at 3.30AM local time. I just hope that I get up in time for the train journey that promises to be such a cultural event full of racial taunts. I am looking forward to it.

For an alternate view, refer Footnotes on page 4. Typed at around the same time, no notes compared.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Aussie ki Tehsi: Prefeed


I have embarked on a trip of a lifetime - Watching Boxing day test match between India and Australia at the MCC. This will also roughly be the time that my entire generation of cricketers (Sachin Tendulkar/ Rahul Dravid/ Saurav Ganguly/ VVS Laxman/Anil Kumble) will make way for the next. I have grown up and loved to watch cricket with these players; sometimes, they have messmerized me with their exquisite display of skills, at other times, they have left me disgusted with utterly impossibly infant-like disregard for winning. Heck, they are no different from anybody out there who has seen similar mix of jubiliant successes and miserable failures. And I still love them.

I arrived in Singapore last evening from KL, Malaysia. I covered 401 KMs in exactly 3:47 hours, door to door which includes immigration and a ten minute stopover for refuelling. I touched a top speed of 240 km/hour; all thanks to a wonderful 2.0L 200hp Volkswagen Golf GTI (the one that was featured in Bourne Ultimatum - after I bought it, by the way) and awesome music (I spent the previous weekend burning CDs with the best music that I could think of). With the stage set for the upcoming trip, I am restless like the teenage guy the night before his first date.

And what a series it promises to be. The five cricketers, I mentioned before are almost sure never to visit down-under as players in future. Down-under is also the last frontier for most cricket playing nations. India is also the only team to have come closest to winning the series here the last time, in 2002-03 which ended in a draw. The team has the same unforgetting foursome of Dravid/Laxman/Ganguly/Tendulkar combined with the young and aggressive Yuvraj/Dhoni. The current bowling attack is better than the last one but relatively speaking Aussie bowling attack is nowhere close to what it was back then, what with Warne/Mcgrath out of picture. Not taking anything away from Australia who kicked the heck out of us just recently and at home; if it can ever happen, Indians stand the best chance now.

I will be flying out to Melbourne alongwith three other guys from the same generation, Sharad J. Lal/Nitin Gajaria/Kartik Bangalore (And I thought only blacks had fancy names, no racism intended) and we will be hosted by none other than Eshan Ponnadurai (I am looking forward to the barbeque on the boxing day eve at his home). This will be followed by new year's celebration at Sydney and of course the second test at sydney. Savvy?

Over the course of next fortnight or so, you can expect daily updates on the test-series on this blog from the eyes of an average cricket fan posted right from the stadium stand. I will try to be biased but my respect for good cricket might come in the way. You can be the judge.

PS - For non-curry folks, Aussie ki tehsi loosely translates as "To hell with the Aussies"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

From Suicidal to Suicide Bombers

Whenever I read something about the suicide bombers, I wonder what drives them to the brink of taking such a drastic action. Some explanations that I have come across:

a) Brain-wash into religious/communal/racist devotion,
b) Unpardonable sins committed against their family/loved ones
c) Historical exploitation of the class they belong to,
d) Possible blackmail

I am probably not the best person to pass judgements on the righteousness of their actions since I have never been in any such situation even remotely resembling to what they have been subjected to. However, I do hold strong respect for the sheer motivation/ drive that these guys possess - the unwavering focus towards that one thing that they want to achieve and undaunted by the monstrous odds against them.

On the other end of the spectrum lies a suicidal person. Dejcted by circumstances and faced by the unadmissible prospect of not being able to influence the circumstances, these guys take to taking their lives. Some of us call it the easier way out; others refer to them as societal/system failures. Again, most of us would not know what it is to be in such a person's shoes. Whatever be the case, the person is driven to such extremes so as to stop living.

How similar are the above two cases! In both, the person is willing to take his/her life. In both, they are driven by circumstances. In many cases, both are willing to take others' lives - in the case of a suicidal person, often times, he/she takes his/her family alongside.

But yet, at a closer scrutiny, these cases are so different that you wonder how such a contrast can exist in cases so similar. I think the difference lies in the fact that in the former case, the person is willing to take the most desperate course of action in a bid to change the circumstances (for others) while in the latter, the person is fed up of the circumstances and is willing to succumb to it with little regard for others (family/loved ones) who will continue to be thulped by the very same circumstances.

The former is highly fired while the latter is utterly depressed, both representing two ends of the motivation continumm. Somewhere in between, all of us crawl.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Working hard or hardly working?

Recently, I saw a news-clip on BBC (or was it CNN?) where they were talking about a guy who just collapsed on the shop-floor and died of a massive heart attack. The cited reason was that he was being made to work enormous hours. His wife mentioned that for the past six months, either, he wasnt around home or was constantly fretting about work.

Well, no problems with the above. If a person collapses in a pile of dead meat, then he was probably working hard enough to that objective. What surprised me was the way one particular "Expert", expanded this very unique case to an overarching generalization - how everybody is being made to work harder and harder and that the increasing rate of suicide/suicidal attempts (this event happened in Korea) is a testimony to that.

Let me take it step-by-step. Firstly, I wonder where these "Experts" come from and how often the channel/newspaper simply fail to mention the credentials or even the general field in which they operate in. Consider if you were writing a thesis, would you get away without citing references properly? Can you, for example, say that space must be full of water because as per an "expert" the Earth is being carried around by a giant tortoise. Probably not. In fact, in some of the cases, the news agencies simply refer to them as "trusted source". Whose trusted source? Definitely not the audience's. Infact, I think that every news agency has a standby batallion of "Experts" and that every reporter has a split personality and he toggles between himself and his "trusted source" at his will. Off late, I have taken to watching the news hour fairly regularly trying to catch the same "expert" appear twice on unrelated fields. I reckon if I watch long enough, I would be able to catch them at "IT". Well, you will hear about it on this blog, for sure, if I hit success.

In any case, getting back to the point in contention, as I said, I was surprised just how serious that "Expert" made the problem sound like. I thought about similar conversations that I have had with my colleagues/friends and I felt that I need to set the record straight (A brain-wave from an unlikely source also helped).

Consider a year with all its glorious 365 days. For me, saturdays/sundays are off, so that would mean that I work for about (365-104)=261 days. But hang on a minute, I am supposed to consider the public holidays as well. A quick check revealed that at my location, I get to enjoy 18 holidays (all surprisingly fall on weekdays). So, that leaves me with (261-18)= 243 days. WOW, I am already feeling better. Let's take out my vacation/casual leave as well. On an average, I take about 40 days off for vacation/casual leave which leaves me with about 203 days of hard work. That is below four days in a week !! And I am not even counting the sick leaves and the actual working hours because they differ significantly for different people.

Nonetheless, I did a check on my working hours and it revealed a not-so-surprising statistic that I work about 20% of the time. It doesnt mean that I work only for two hours in a normal 10-6 routine; it means that of the total time at my disposal, I spend only about 20% in office (not necesserily working :-). No wonder, I am not stressed about work. You should do this exercise for yourself and you wouldnt be either. :-)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Me, myself and iPhone

Before I brag about my recent acquisition, let me brag about something else first. My blog has inspired a good friend to kick-start his blog all-over again. I never thought I could inspire anybody with anything, but I have been proved wrong yet again. Check out:-

Now that I have successfully (?) raised the bar for all bloggers out there, let me brag about my new best friend - iPhone. Well, I know that calling a gadget as your new best friend doesnt speak much about your life or the lack of it. But, on this one, I will make an exception.

First things first, I am NOT a gadget guy. I had been operating with a simple mobile phone for years. I do like playing games on xBox but I would not go to the length of buying one. I really like music but have been postponing the purchase of an iPod for ever. When I pondered over it, I realized that it was because I like to travel light. Travelling light, to me, means no excess baggage in life. The thought of carrying a cell-phone and an iPod was too unbearable to me and so I resisted.

But not for long. An iPhone was introduced and a friend bought it while we were in Vietnam and as I stole some glimpses of it while pretending to be uninterested, I was hooked on to the tappititap interface and the crystal-clear display. After a day, I was five hundred US dollars lighter and 135 gms heavier. That was a week back and I am still having the second moments of truth also like as a never ending multiple orgasm.

I wont even harp about the basics like loading my albums/songs/lyrics onto iPhone. Of course, sync-ing my calendar means that I would hopefully not be late again to a meeting. But, the best thing about an iPhone is wi-fi net accessibility which means that I dont have to be stuck at home/office to check the net. Now, I can just sit around in a mall, having coffee and watch the latest video on YouTube or do random research on whether Dumbledore is really gay, all at high-speed and with an amzingly clear display.

I have been told that it has been voted as the most innovative product of the year. But, the true indicator of a great product is when others modify their products/services to accomodate it. Let me give you some examples. All the major websites have come up with an interface more suitable for an iPhone. You log onto facebook, it automatically figures out if you are logging from an iPhone and moves you to a more navigable display. Of course, you can always switch back and forth. Within a span of three months, thousands of web-applications have sprung up providing all kinds of games/news/weather/travel services on an iPhone. I can download Google maps on it and may never get lost again. Most automobile companies have modified their cars to be iPod/iPhone ready, meaning you just need to jack it in and the music will be played over car stereo. How cool is that? I dont particularly like using the word "cool", but there is no other way of describing it !!!

The pitfall is that I am more anti-social than ever. Last week, I went for lunch twice on my own because I wanted to spend time with my iPhone (I know how ridiculous it sounds, but there you go, I have said it). I am working hard to avoid the temptation of losing myself with it when I am out with friends but its getting difficult. The quest goes on.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gues who??

He has an obsessive-compulsive need to count anything and everything; near or far, few or many, digital or analogue, gulps or burps, dogs or cows. His counting is rarely mathematically correct and often is not in the same order as I have been taught over my better years. Sometimes, he counts couple of moons and at other times, he restricts the number of stars to three, all in the same night. He shows promise of fast thinking but is unable to coordinate his other senses or is simply too arrogant to bother; as a result, he often skips number "4" and sometimes an entire sequence of half a dozen jealous numbers.

He shows glimpses of structured and organized thinking by referring to his growing list of newfound acquaintances by alphabets like A,P etc. He is yet to exhaust the full potential of twenty-six alphabets for lack of socializing. Limited personal hygeine is surely one factor but he is getting there by an abundant abuse of charm.

He likes to communicate by gestures and an overdose of a variety of frowns signifying all the points on the continumm ranging from ecstatic approval to violent disagreement. When others fail to comprehend his language, he is reasonably patient, drops the frowns and proceeds to explain it in a step-by-step alogorithm using only gestures. When that doesnt work, he gives up as signified by a loud and exasperated wail which always seems to work. Still, he limits its use only for exceptionally idiot folks.

His daily routine starts with giving a wake-up call to me. This is the most effective wake-up call I have ever received. Consisting of just two syllables, it is persistent and simply cannot be snoozed away. Rest of his day is passionately and playfully devoted to making sense out of this chaos that is the world. Sometimes, you can almost sense the brooding, infectious in its ways. Sometimes, you can positively hear the amused spirit.

In all his adventures, he is highly self-motivated and claps impartially for all his achievements, mostly trifling but sometimes downright outrageous. While he expects others to clap with him but he is willing to excuse their inability to comprehend the magnitude of the task.

Such are his ways...

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Off late, I have been adding more acquaintances to my repertoire than friends. It is probably as much a sign of ageing as a general laziness in investing time and effort to get to know the other person. It, however, beings into existence some interesting problems that I havent encountered before.

The first and foremost is the problem of names. Acquaintances, in my case, probably are a hundred to one friend. Even allowing for the fact that I dont have many friends, my acquaintances are still running into a number higher than my mind is capable of processing. Consider a person that I have 'known' to exist for over an year now. I bump into him every other month. When I was introduced to this person, I didnt know that I would be bumping into him again and again and therehow my mind classified his credentials (including his name) as inessentials. So, I promptly forgot his name and even his face. The second time I bumped into him, I offered my name alongwith my handshake and he politely reverted in kind but not before reminding me that we had met before. Now, I am not one to be embarassed easily with such social ineptness since I have developed quite a thick skin from similar (and worse) cases which have happened over time, so I conveniently forgot his name again. Ever since then, everytime I have met him, I exchange pleasantries as if we have known each other for ages. But, I still dont know his name. Sounds familiar?

That brings me to the second problem. To avoid being embarassed again, I take care not to land in a situation that necessitates mentioning his name. This, among other things, include being aggressive and overly enthusiastic in greeting him and keeping the conversation short and flimsy. But then therein lies the problem - how, on earth, am I supposed to get to know him better? Have I just lost a great friend because I cant unshackle myself from the social courtesies?

The problem magnifies when I unknowingly gatecrash into his birthday party. I saw him, he saw me and all I could think of was "Oh No, not again." Here is how the conversation went:

Myself: "Hey, fancy meeting you here!"
Him: "I wonder where I would be if not at my own birthday party!"
Myself (Recovering quickly): "Oh wow, happy birthday, mate. Did it even cross your mind to invite me?"
Him: "I wanted to but then I forgot your name."
Myself: "Haha. You funny bastard."

And then I ate his cake, danced with his girls and took off.

Am I telling your story too?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Did God play dice with the world?

Einstein famously mentioned that God did'nt play dice with this world. This was in spite of the fact that his own findings (further worked upon by others) suggested that our universe, capable of bearing intelligent life, belonged to an infinitesimal minority of all the universes possible. More recently, this was coined in the form of "Anthropic Principle", stated simply:

The universe must be such so as to admit the creation of us as observers within.

In my mind, such a principle overly simplifies things and undermines any deeper research. Consider some answers from the Anthopic principle:

Q: How can intelligent life exist in the Universe in spite of such heavy odds against it?
A: Heavy odds or not, the event has happened. We are here. That is the explanation.

Q: How could the condition on earth be ripe for our existence?
A: If the condition were'nt ripe, we would'nt be here to ask this question, now, would we?

This leads to the question whether the nature is truly random and we are here just as a statistical possibility. Put another way, if I throw coins for millions of years, will the results be equally split between heads and tails?

I have been intrigued by this question before and considered it to be just a matter of belief since I did'nt think it could be possible to prove one way or the other. But a program on National Geographic yesterday shook my thoughts again. The episode was about a Random Event Generator (REG) Experiment. Pioneered by Prof. Jahn in 1970s and furthered by Doctor Nelson at Princeton University, the experiment consists of REG black boxes (smaller than a cigerette box) containing a microchip which constantly throws a one or a naught randomly. 65 such REG units have been installed in 40 countries and have been throwing one/naught for over a decade now at extremely high speed. If nature is truly random then the results should be equally split.

And so is the case. However, not quite so. Every once in a while, when a global event happens, the results go out of whack. The first such event was in 1997, Princess Diana's funeral. The chart shot upwards recording a major shift in the results. Infact, since then, the REG has somehow sensed a whole lot of global events ranging from September 11 attacks to the Asian Tsunami. And behold for the spookiest detail - the charts sensed Sep 11 attacks four hours beforehand and the Tsunami 24 hours beforehand !!! An electronic oracle??

The Scientists are skeptic as well as flabbergasted. The project team states that the chances of such correlation between REG and global events is a million to 1 and ascribes the correlation to a "hypothesis" that human community shares a common sub-conscious mind and when they are all focussing on one thing, they tilt the odds of the nature. Phew !!!

I am not so much concerned about the power of mind, important as it might be. I am just happy that there is some hope that we are just not statistical freaks of nature but there could be more to us.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Occupational Hazards of being a Superhero - I

We were watching the movie - Superman returns and somebody asked the question why people can't link Superman's face back to Clark Kent. An honest reply came that it is so because Clark Kent wears glasses. It brought smile to my face but also took my mind to another tangent. Clark Kent does'nt just wear glasses, he also wears the Superman Costume (Complete with the cape, though they never show that) underneath his normal clothes. If the size of the cape fluttering behind a flying Superman is anything to go by, then it would be quite ackward to wear it underneath. Going further back, imagine how much time it would take Clark Kent to get dressed in the morning. I remember having dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow to a theme party. It took me over half an hour to put the damn thing on and that too when I did'nt have a Superman's costume underneath. That is a mighty waste of time when you could put it to better use such as killing the bad guys or taking your women to a space-trip.

When Clark Kent goes to the tailor, he probably has to get his measurements with the costume on so as to accomodate the extra inches (meters if you are thinking about the cape). The tailor has to be one of the best if Clark Kent's fitting clothes are anything to go by and probably quite expensive too. But then, probably Superman covers it off by offering his services in exchange like precision-cutting the cloth via his laser eye thing.

That is not a problem for Spiderman, though. His costume is really tight-fitting and his normal clothes are conveniently ill-fitting to hide the costume underneath. If not, he will probably need to offer to stitch for the tailor in exchange for his services. Come to think of that, Spiderman and Superman can really be a great business team - Cut and Stitch tailors. They will probably need to hire professional designers, though; who wants to wear their underwear on top of their pants or a tight mask making it difficult to breathe or to be kissed.

Spiderman, however, has other problems. I, for one, would not want to live in the same city as Spiderman. Imagine the plight of the municipality when the whole city is swarming with Spidey's webs hanging from every sky-scraper and too strong to be just wiped away with a broom. Living in such a city, one will always be prone to walk into a maze of slimy webs created by a mutant, making your skin crawl. Consider you are jogging and all of a sudden you are catapulted into two-three spins before hitting the ground face-first because you ran into a waist-high rope slung by Spidey a couple of years back. No sir, I will prefer to stay in a city ridden with crime than share it with Spiderman.

Batman, however, is neat and tidy. He is rich, has got good taste and barring some rare displays of bat-flurry, mostly leaves you in peace assuming you pay your taxes on time. But his gadgets are something to be considered - batarangs, bat mobile, bat sub, utility belt..., the list is endless. Think about batarang, the bat-shaped throwing weapon. I remember the scene in "Batman Returns" where Bruce Wayne is working on a machine to make batarangs. If you are remotely like me who looks at every task and immediately starts thinking about how difficult that task is, how much time/effort/money is involved and eventually gives up on the task, you would know what I am talking about. In any case, these batarangs are of bat-shape, of course and would take a professional hours to get the right shape and size. Assume that Bruce Wayne imports small metal pieces in bulk and then shapes them into batarangs on a portable machine. Now, do you see the difficulty. The fact that he uses Wayne Enterprises money for his personal whims should be a topic for debate on corporate responsibility. If he is using Alfred to make these batarangs, that is a bloody murder and he will probably need to pay a rich monotony allowance. Consider Alfred watching Batman thulp the bad guys on Bat-TV and when Batman throws a batarang, he would have to gasp - "Oh there goes another one. Now there are only 223 left in store."

All the above is probably the reason why they don't have any girl friends. See some conversations:

Woman: Lets make love.
Clark Kent: Ok. I will need about 25 minutes to get out of my clothes and then I will try and last for a good five minutes.

Woman: Why dont you spend more time with me.
Batman: Umm, I have to make 473 batarangs before the sun goes down today.

Well, you get the point.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Exact Science

As a child, the thing that initially attracted me most to Science and math was that they were exact. History was always written by the victorious. Language had too many nuances in both the usage and pronounciation that I find hard to comprehend even today. Civics was a study too far removed from the reality and geography seemed too backward (Who wants to dig when one could fly out to space and beyond)

However, as I grew up, the same exactness of science and math became too predictable and monotonous. The periodic table listed all the elements discovered and also had slots for the ones to be discovered. The speed of light was defined and constant. A star's life was reduced to a choice between being blown up, being crunched to a dot or flicker away into non-existence. Big pregnant bang gave birth to the universe which was again pre-destined to either continue expanding or oscillate between expanding/contracting. It seemed that our predecessors were too selfish and had discovered everything by themselves leaving us with no mystery.

How wrong was I? Over the past years, science is no longer as exact as it used to be. Some examples:

Blackholes are'nt entirely black any more.

The smallest particle is not an electron but it is a quark and that too because a smaller one is yet to be discovered.

The uncertainty principle states that at a given time, one can either know the velocity or the location of a particle, but not both.

Speed of light may be a constant at a given point of time but there are indications that it was much faster to begin with and has slowed down over time. Seems, it is tiring down.

The big pregnant bang theory still holds its fort but further research is on to identify the father.

When I came across the above, I presumed that all this must have been discovered only in the recent years. But that was'nt the case. Some of the above is recent but a lot was known as early as seventies and eighties. It turns out that my curriculum was behind time. Infact, it was so behind time that time would have been a speck on the horizon. Too bad, the world lost out on another Einstein.

Nonetheless, all this has made Science interesting once again, even in this old age. I can hardly follow much of the recent theories but it is a pleasure in looking at these immense puzzles that nobody knows how to solve, for sure. Infact, with each small step towards the solution, the puzzle becomes even more complicated. May be Scott Adams was right when he said that as soon as a theory to explain the universe and everything is found, the universe will immediately transform itself into even more complicated form. Spooky, well, this puzzle is definitely better than a crossword or a sudoku.

Science Fiction

I have been reading science fiction for a long time. The limited knowledge of physics that I have always seemed to take the credibility/punch out of the most consummate plots. I guess that is why it is Science Fiction and not just science. Nonetheless, I thought that in the past decade that I havent stayed in touch with the development in physics beyond the third law (There is no end to being pushed around) and relativity (in grading and performance appraisal, that is), it may be that some of the old science fiction may have ceased to be fiction. After a long time of struggling with five dimention mathematics and string theories, I had to give up (Surprise, surprise). But, it did enable me to look at science fiction from a very comical angle.

Consider an example of a starship located about ten light years away from Planet Earth (It will still be next-door neighbour to Earth at a cosmic scale) and communicating with Earth over a three-dimensional telephone line (wireless, of course). Now, since I know, thanks to Einstein, that nothing can travel faster than light, let us see how the communication flows:

Earth: "Hi there" ; October, 2047, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

This signal, assuming it travels at the speed of light, will take about ten years to get to the Starship.

Starship Captain: "Hi yourself" ; October 2057, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

Earth in-charge, if he chooses to continue this rather quiet conversation, will get the reply in 2067, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era. Imagine if he did'nt really keep a detailed log of all the multiple conversations he has been having and in this particular case, cannot recall what they were talking about.

Earth: "Sorry, how can I help you?" October 2067, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

Starship Captain: "Huh?" October 2077, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

Earth: "Oh yes, you are relieved of duty with immediate effect and can come back home. A very well deserved vacation. Congratulations." October 2087, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

Starship Captain: "There is some disturbance in the line. Can you repeat that?" October 2097, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era.

The captain, in this story, finally gets the message two decade hence and promptly dies of heart attack as the excitement of the news was too much for that old age. The above is just one example. Now, imagine coordinating troops for a space-war against aliens, romancing with your lover, wishing your son on his birthday or playing long-distance scramble/chess with your grand-dad etc. etc.

The only way, this could be faster, is a) modes of travelling faster than light are possible or b) the world is full of almost immortal bored individuals devoid of any life (Notice the similarity with zombies). Since (a) is virtually impossible (or so I think), it is most likely going to be (b).

I am glad that I wont be around to check that out.