Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Flexing the Guns for the big guns

Usually I never post about anything that happened at work, but I will make an exception in this case.
I was on my way back with a friend from a coffee break. As we got into the elevator, we were joined my two gentlemen in suits. I paid no attention to them, since I work at a bank, and well everyone wears suits.
I dress down by bank standards, usually sticking to a polo and formal trousers.
I also have this rather unfortunate habit of stretching my arms out behind my head.
Unfortunate, since it gives of the impression I am flexing my biceps.
The 2 gentlemen got of on the second and we got off on the fourth floor.
My friend immediately turns around and mentions to me that those 2 gentlemen were the big bosses in our division. Guys I had  only ever seen on video.
So if I don't get a raise this year, at least I can say I tried everything.. Including flexing my guns at the top management(even if it was inadvertent).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A modest proposal to save the Indian cricket team

If you have any idea what cricket is, you probably know that the formerly first ranked Indian test team went over to England to be summarily thrashed 4-0 . This was a shockingly unexpected result to put it mildly.
The Indian side was beset with problems such as injuries to key players, an aging middle order and youngsters with neither the technique nor temparament for seaming conditions.
The culprit behind the Indian teams poor performance, even though the players might be to admit to it, is the IPL.
The way the IPL is set up, each team criscrosses the country playing 16  or so 20-20 games in little over a month and a half.
Whereas the test stars of other countries, in some cases have kept away from the IPL, the entire Indian side bar none, play for the entire tournament(fit or otherwise as Sehwag and Gambhir proved)..
Without further ado I am going to present my proposals to save Indian test cricket from the advent of the IPL.

1. Roster sizes are impractical. This needs to be trimmed.  Which will mean fewer players involved in the tournament. Hopefully , fewer Indian test cricketers will be picked(especially if they do not particularly suit the demands of T-20)
Teams should be allowed to cut and bring in new players at some pre-determined times in the season.

2. Travel with fewer players than the roster size... Its a 11man game.. how many reserves do you need while travelling? Why this matters... Players complain that more than the actual playing time , its the travel time that completely exhausts them.

3. Introduce a hard salary cap, and make sure if there is to be an auction, everyone can participate.
This can practically be achieved , by allowing every team to vote on wheter they would be insterested in seeing a player on auction... if more than 1 team shows interest, they end up in the auction...
If not the players get the minimum allowed, by whicher team actually showed the interest.
All this matters because, by allowing only certain players to appear in the auction, and posing limits on the number of overseas players allowed to play in a game... An effective caste system was created.. with the Indian test players on top and domestic players on the bottom, with overseas players in the middle.
This artificially inflated the price on Indian test players..above everyone else...
$900K, which is what Ishant Sharma got in his first contract, is hard to walk away from, but say the market determined his value was a lot lower... maybe its an offer he could refuse, just to play for country.

4. In case of injuries to Indian players... they have to be examined by BCCI appointed doctors... whose responsibility it will be to ensure , injured players fo not take the field.
5. Remove restrictions on the max overseas players per side per game.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Has Osama's death changed anything?

We call all agree that 9/11 fundamentally changed the world. At the very least it changed America, and in the last decade that virtually meant changing the world.
But did the the killing of the perpetrator in chief of 9-11 change anything?
Since I am from India and I live in the US, my focus is on these 2 countries.
The big hope is that Al-Quaeda, would disintegrate without Osama, and while that remains to be seen, even the most optimistic American, would agree, we cannot go back to our pre 9-11 ways.
America, still has many non state enemies, there is a vast pool of willing recruits to their cause, and as 9-11 showed us, it does not cost a lot, to unleash destruction of unimaginable proportions by a crazed few.
As far as India goes, the Osama killing has renewed calls for India , to go in Commando style, to neutralize the many Hall of fame enemies of the Indian state, that Pakistan, so lovingly hosts.
There have been warnings of how the Al Quaeda , will turn its anger and vengeance to 'soft' targets such as India.
The Indian political leadership, no doubt aware of the likelihood of Nuclear weapons being used in any conflict, have so far resisted such calls.
So futile talks will continue.
We will 'extract' a commitment from Pakistan to jointly fight terror.. and absolutely nothing will happen.
If you do not learn from history, you are doomed to see a repeat of it.
India , finds itself in exactly that situation.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Rage against the .....

Pick the object of your choice to complete my incomplete title. We have all felt rage and anger, and those we care about and those we don't care about. About those things in life we can't control and those things in life we wish we had done differently. But if you look at it closely enough, rage is all about yourself. Its a choice you make. You can chose to let things go, but you don't always.. Sometimes you let them linger, till they explode.
Why am I suddenly doing a Dr Phil, on rage?
I was at the gym the other day on the elliptical and watched a video of Chris Brown(Forever).
I absolutely loved the song when it came out. And watching the video, reminded me of the enormous potential the 19 yr old Chris Brown had as an entertainer.
Why do I talk about it in the past tense? He is probably only 22 and probably hasn't forgotten how to dance or sing.
He let a moment of rage label him forever, when he beat up Rihanna. And now anytime anyone thinks of him, it will be in that context.
Does he deserve a second chance ? Everybody does. How about anyone of us? Do we deserve second chances? Maybe. But it is a given , that we will get it? I think the awnser to that one is obvious.
So rage all you want against a punching bag in the gym, or how unfair the BCS ranking system is, but before you direct some of that rage at the people around you.. take a deep breathe.. and let it go..

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Japan's nuclear predicament

The recent Tsunami and earthquake that struck Japan recently, brought along with them another disaster, potentially even more devastating , the radiation leaks at multiple reactors. The full extent of the damage is not known (or at least known in the public domain).
On cue commentators of 2 types have leaped up to kick Japan while its down. The environment activists who view Nuclear energy as evil, at least have some intellectual honesty , when they go about criticising Japan for suffering the consequences of its pursuit of harnessing nuclear energy.  The second kind of critic , I find far more annoying and plain, mean spirited, are the type of critic , who points out how Japan, as a nation was so confident of its technology , but even their technology was no match for Mother Nature.
There is an undercurrent of glee in that observation, I cannot palate.
But I am going to address both , categories of critics..
With the invention of the internal combustion engine, and almost simultaneously that electricity..before the commencement of the 20th century, the world had been divided into the Haves and Have Not's of energy. With the end of the second world war , having your colonies supply your energy needs was no longer an option.
So for the last 70 years, countries like Japan, with no real energy resources, have been shipping over the money they earn by being amongst the most hard working and innovative people in the world, to countries like Saudi Arabia, so that they can keep their economies running..
Are the Japanese , not justified in at least trying to seek an alternative?
Especially in times, where  we fear the World Oil production has peaked..
What alternatives did Japan really have?
Go back to the stone ages?
They use a lot less energy per capita , when compared to America... (I haven't looked at the figures but anecdotal evidence, does bear out my assertion).
And as far as misplaced pride in their technology goes.. Why should they not be proud, they have certainly showed the world the way.. in many technologies endeavours, while there are many nations, whose only contribution to the world has been suicide bombers and child soldiers.
All this doesn't mean the Japanese are above criticism, but before you criticise , step back for a second, imagine that their compulsions are your compulsions and their circumstances are your circumstances.. Could anyone else have done a better job?

Donating to Japan

I recently donated to the Tsunami relief in Japan.. It got me thinking, since I had made no donation to Haiti. Haiti was clearly less capable than Japan, to take care of its own. So why did I donate to Japan and not Haiti?
 I don't know if I came up with the the right reasons, but here is what I have so far.
I have visited Japan, and feel a connection to the place, which I do not feel to Haiti. I have a great respect for Japan and the Japanese for the manner they powered themselves to the number 2 economy(until very recently) from the devastation of World War II.    
How many civilizations  have done so much with so little? 

The Turkish Getup

When Gray Cook mentions the Turkish Getup as the one free weight exercise he would recommend over any other, you pay attention. The mechanics of the move are best explained by the man himself. I have been dying to do this in the gym, but have been holding myself back, since I only had knee surgery a little over 2 months back..
Also this move has a lot of parts so after much youtube repeats, I finally tried it out at the gym... And though I topped out at the 18lb kettlebell, I can say I do not feel any ill effects.. I am definitely adding this to my routine.      

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The absurdity of complaining about US action in Libya

While the World watched, Col. Gaddafi, the despot who has ruled Oil rich Libya for close to 40 years, used an iron fist, and by some accounts , mercenaries, to crack down on dissidents, who threatended his hold over the North African nation.
Finally under the aegis of the UN , a no fly zone was finally imposed, so that Gadaffi , could not atleast use war planes against the over-matched rebels . As part of the effort to impose the no fly zone, it has been estimated, this would cost close to $800 million.
 Such spending has come in for criticism at home , where there is a new conciousness of the state of the deficit..
All this consternation, is at the very least perplexing and in my opinion misplaced.
Firstly, the reason why America, spends as much as it does on the military is to protect and project American interests abroad. If this was not the objective, America can get by spending the same as Canada and Mexico.
Some of the media attention on spending on the hostilities in Libya , has focused on the Tomahawk missiles (hundreds are being used).
I also saw an estimate on how much it cost to operate a military aircraft for an hour..
A couple of points need to be made here. Missiles have a shelf life.. If they are not used in a certain time frame, they will eventually have to be scrapped.
So firing off a tomahawk, is closer to using an egg once you have bought it , before it spoils.
Also what exactly do you believe the military does in peace time? They train and practice.Would anyone question the cost of operating military aircraft for such purposes in peace time?
Coming to think of it In have never heard a single protestation of the pointless fly pasts during the Superbowl.. Do you believe the NFL pays for that?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The $10.6 billion dollar question

For most of this decade, India has been  in the process of acquiring a 'Medium' Fighter aircraft in large numbers(approx 126). The size of this deal makes it the most eagerly anticipated decision(for the manufacturers in the fray)
But there are no easy options. Here are the drawbacks of each aircraft as I see it.
1. Eurofighter : at $100 million a piece, this might be too expensive.
2. Rafael: No way Rafael, wins this over the Eurofighter.
3. Saab Gripen: This might be a good solution, but Sweden is a politcial light weight
4. MIG-35: Does not find place in the Home Airforce (Russia)
5. and 6: F-16 and F-18: If we buy American and America turns around and supplies Pakistan with free airplanes to 'fight the taiban', I am not sure How we will live down that one.


Monday, February 21, 2011

No democracy for you

For the last month or so America has been captivated by the many pro-democracy demonstrations taking place in much of the middle east. For a region thats been battered by dictatorships for so long, such a transition is long overdue. I imagine most freedom loving and fundamentally democratic individuals would agree.
To a large extent, it would appear popular sentiment in America has backed the demonstrators in Egypt and the the other Arab nations.
This has however left many in Israel, and many Israeli backers in America squirming.
Since 1973 , there have been no wars launched by the Arabs against the Israeli's in large part due to the pro-American dictators in power.
So any regime change seems to be threatening he very security of Israel.
Lets set that aside for a second.
Go back to the second gulf war and 9-11. When the question was asked , whether America was paying too high a price for backing Israel over the Arabs, we were told , that we had to back the only democracy in a neighborhood filled with autocratic regimes. Nobody mentioned that the autocrats were in power partially due to America's backing..
 Now that those very same autocrats have been overthrown, and these Arab nations take their first tentative steps towards democracy, how can we not back them?
 How are one kind of people capable of democracy and another kind are not?
Backers of the theory, that democracy is good for us and not for them, will throw Hitler in your face, by saying  "Wasn't Hitler elected democratically? Look how that turned out.."
Yes Hitler won some 30% seats in parliamentary elections. But he was no democrat.. He violated every principle of democracy and used decidedly undemocratic methods on his opponents.
He was destined to lead Germany down the path of destruction, one way or another.
Will these Arab nations elect governments hostile to Israel?
I imagine that is not outside the realm of the possible. But a lot of the anger on the streets is for economic reasons too... That economies thrive in peace times, is no secret. How the Arab street will behave after this transformation is compete , I cannot predict, but I think there will be enough of breathing space, for work to commence on a two state solution , thereby ending the Arab-Israeli conflict..
Yes we are a long way off... but democracy in the arab world is not necessarily a bad thing.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Don't hate on the crunch

Anytime you see an informercial, for a product that purports to solving your flabby abs woes.. the recurring theme seems to be , why that piece of equipment is better than the crunch.. Invariably the the explanation veers around to how crunches hurt your neck... and how the equipment in question(unimaginatively named Abs something)
does not hurt your neck.  I am no fitness expert, but I have done my share of crunches.. and done right, they really shred your abs.. Not once have I felt any discomfort in my neck.
So people the next time you pull your credit card out to buy the Ab thingamajig.. remember , don't buy it because its safer than a crunch.. (in all likelihood thats not true)...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How Bush was half right

When Bush invaded Iraq , the motives attributed to the invasion kept changing. First it was that Iraq was on its way to assembling a nuke... that was proved to be incorrect.. The term WMD was introduced into our lexicon, and also meant chemical and biological weapons(The same kind that Iraq used in the Iran Iraq war...).
That bogey was also disproved. And finally we were offered the Bush vision of a democratic Mideast, which would then not be such a hotbed of disgruntlement and extremism.
Its too early to tell, but the events in Tunisia and Egypt, might have set the ball rolling for a democratization of the mideast.  
But this is how it was always meant to be , the masses revolting against the rulers... Not democracy imposed from the outside by Uncle Sam.
How things will play out in both Tunisia and Egypt is not clear... What is , clear, there is a belief amongst the populace that by not accepting status quo they can change things..
That belief might have been missing or lacking upto this point.
Solutions imposed from th outside are typically resented by all parties.
Ask the Indian government who brokered peace between the LTTE and the Lankan government in the late 80's. How did that end? With the Lankan government supplying arms to the LTTE to take on the Indian Peace keeping force.
So in conclusion, Bush had one right idea (manybe in a thousand).. but he sure went about it the wrong way.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rehabbing from my second ACL(Knee) reconstruction surgery

I went in for an ACL reconstruction on my right knee on Jan 17th 2011. The procedure was performed by Dr Robert Marx at the HSS.
Today is T+8 days since surgery and I am able to walk around without crutches for the most part. I have to keep the crutches as a precaution. I have started physiotherapy today. I have also been following the exercies outlined in the "Knee Crisis Handbook". I started going to the gym a few of days back and have not missed a a single day since.
I have decided to maintain some sort of a record of my activities on this blog, so it might be of some help to others in a similar situation.
So far as far as the PT goes I have focused on
  1. Leg raises.
  2. Heel Slides
  3. Leg extensions
  4. Quad Sets
Other exercise not related to my rehab I have been able to do are
  1. Bench Press
  2. Upright Rows
  3. Preacher / dumbbells curls.
  4. pushups
  5. lat bar pulldowns.
So far the focus has just been on figuring out what I can do , without putting my surgically impacted knee at any risk or discomfort.
By the weekend I intend to try pilates. I am not able to bend my knee comfortably, but there should be more than enough exercies I should still be able to do.
The PT has also promised to try out cycling and a whole other bunch of exercises the next time I see him. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Teaching a lesson you say? Oh well thats alright

Jan 22nd 1999, an Australian missionary Graham Staines along with his sons aged 10 and 6, were burnt alive , while they slept in their car in Orissa (one of India's poorest Provinces). The main culprit, Dara Singh was apprehended and sentenced to life in prison, a sentence that was recently upheld in the highest court of the land

I would be unfair to not give any background on this issue. Graham Staines had been involved in converting poor and uneducated tribals in some of the most impoverished parts of India. Such activities have been going on for long. Hindu organizations have long objected to such activities, and even in a country like India with its long history of tolerance to various religions, such activities are not exactly welcomed. There has been a build up of anger in the tribal belt helped along by political organizations that can be described as Hindu right wing.
In trying to explain the background of this , I am in no way trying to condone , the grave injustice that took place on the night of the 22nd Jan 1999.
Quite the opposite actually.. No matter what your views on conversion.. as a decent human being you have no option but to be outraged at the murder of a missionary and 2 kids both below 10 years.
Here is bits from the Supreme Court judgement that overturned the prosecutor's plea for the death penalty.

“Whether a case falls within the rarest of rare case or not, has to be examined with reference to the facts and circumstances of each case and the Court has to take note of the aggravating as well as mitigating circumstances and conclude whether there was something uncommon about the crime which renders the sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for death sentence,” said the bench.
“In the case on hand, though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur, the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity. All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the High Court and modified the sentence of death into life imprisonment with which we concur.”

Note that the judges thought the intention of teaching a lesson , somehow was enough to save the perpetrator from execution..

If this isn't a miscarriage of justice.. I am not sure what is. If this is not grounds for execution , I do not know what is..And if this does not meet the requirements for a rarest of rare case I am not sure which case would.