Thursday, November 29, 2007

Indian Restaurants in Seattle Area

Not a single Indian restaurant in the Seattle area is good. Not even one. Every single restaurant specializes in making bad food. Its almost as if they carefully make really good food and then spit on it to make it bad. It is hard to make food that is consistently so bad. There must be a process in place to make it so fool proof. Otherwise, I can't imagine people doing such a spelndid job of doing a despicable job on the only thing they've set out to do business in. I can imagine someone juggling between 5-6 different day jobs and cook badly. Unless the chefs here are preparing cat food in the same kitchen and are mixing the two up, this level of bad food is impossible.
Indian restaurants in the US generally suck. But I have never seen them suck to the level that they do in Seattle. This has got to be the worst city anywhere in the world for Indian food. Its not just the food, its the ambiance. My god. Spending 40$ here is the worse than using the dollar notes as toilet paper. I pity the Americans who eat food here. If you are visiting Seattle/Redmond area please don't ever visit any Indian restaurant. I've completely lost my appetite.

Marriage

Marriage is really a long behavioral sciences experiment. The object of the experiment is to establish the fact that men are selfish. That's all there is to it - A science experiment with a predefined conclusion. Men are found guilty of selfishness for acts that are perfectly normal in a bachelor's world. Suddenly 90% of their actions are determined as selfish. Men are simply an apparatus in this grand science experiment. They are like test tubes, beakers and pipette. While men lie on the lab table staring inanimately. Women perform all kinds of test, confer with each other, do some calculations and record in the observation book; "men are really selfish".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Movie Review: American Gangster

This is one of the finest movies to get released this year. I suspect that this movie will be a top Academy Award contender next year. The key to the movie is its analytical approach. It presents a sound business model as the basis for drug trafficker Frank Lucas' success. He cuts the middle man (the italian mafia), approaches the asian supplier directly, buys a pure product and supplies it to his customers unadulterated. His 'blue light' drug unsurprisingly develops an amazing brand value and so fetches him a lot of money and customer loyalty. This allows him to pay his supplier and distribution channel very well. Everybody is happy. Here is a clean business model that is adhered to with discipline. Frank's discipline in keeping a low profile is admirable. He is a perfect example of Level 5 business leadership that the book 'Good To great' talks about. The scene where he burns the expensive coat that his wife buys him is a fantastic scene. Rarely has a scene shown a person ruthlessly disgregard another person's sentiment, to express, without any pretense, what his top priority and focus is. That is Lucas with his eye on the ball for you. More importantly, Lucas is a black man and no non-italian, especially no black man has ever done what Lucas has done.

For the Indian audience, this movie is sort of a parallel (but AG is an infinitely better movie) to Manirathnam's Guru. There are two characters - one who rises in business through illegal means and is very successful and another who is a honest person bent upon bringing the other guy down. Only that in this movie the opponent/challenger is more a busy bee sort of person. Less interested in showing how cold/ruthless he is, but more professional in the way he goes about his business. Richie Roberts played by Russell Crowe is a police officer who finds a million dollars in unmarked bills lying in an abandoned car and actually has the guts to turn it in. Oddly among all super-cop qualities, a dull and drab 'Honesty' is his calling card. That surprises people because honesty is so passe. No cop can believe it. They all stare at him as if he committed a murder. And this fact is presented to us so elegantly. Roberts shrugs off his image and does not answer back when people constantly ask him if that was true. Even here, note that Lucas is different when he confronts Roberts. Lucas asks him "but would you do it again?". Lucas sees an angle when nobody thinks an angle exists. He doesn't point his gun and pose, he shoots nonchalantly. He does it with minimum fuss and resumes a family conversation. Denzel Washington plays Lucas as if he were a model from GQ, with customary style and ruthlessness.

Ridley Scott teams up yet again with Russell Crowe and gives us a movie with a distinct look and feel to it. The movie has like dusty grey denim 60s style tone to it. The costumes, glasses, talk and walk all ooze class. Its unlike any style Ridley Scott has thrown at us before. The movie starts by alternating between Lucas and Roberts. The initial sequences will not make much sense - as seemingly random unconnected events are thrown at us. Roberts' narrative sequence seems similar to Gyllenhall's search for the Zodiac killer in the movie Zodiac. Frank Lucas's story is told in a 'Harlem meets Godfather' fashion. The story obviously covers a long timeline in their lives and so moves rapidly by touching just the highlights

However, there are these garden vegetable wife characters in both the Roberts' and Frank's lives, who are seriously very annoying. I saw it in Zodiac and many other movies and never thought such a character added value. A woman who is conflicted between an obsessive compulsive/law violating/ immoral husband and her own quest for a peaceful life with someone dedicated to her. Most successful men, upon whom other men look up to, aren't those romantic TV advertisement type wife pleasers who buy huggies Teddy Bear everyday and hang around their wife all day. This movie does not talk about such chocolate boys. So I don't understand the need for such women characters in this movie. Regardless of whether such women existed in the character's real life or not - it almost seems unnecessary to include such stereotypical women who ask "choose between your career and spending quality time with me" . This blemish apart this movie lives up to very high standards.

While this movie narrates a true story, I suspect, much like Guru, it adds its own cinematic license and exaggerates certain aspects of the story. However, the narration of the means through which drugs are transported to the US is no exaggeration. In a way, the sequence where Roberts begins to unwrap the body bags of dead US marines alone is testament to the ambition of this movie, the character of Roberts and the capitalistic outlook of George Lucas. A few days after watching this movie, I am still wondering about the way Lucas emphasizes the value of underplaying, keeping a low-profile, and discipline to his brother. They don't listen. Only he gets it.



Thursday, November 22, 2007

Movie Review: Azhagiya Thamizh Magan

We all know the movie is crappy. But leave that aside. Lets talk about the songs. A.R.Rahman is simply awesome. He has given us two remixes so far; 'Thottal Poo Malarum' was the first and needless to say that was really good. 'Pon Magal Vanthal' to me is the best song in Azhagiya Thamizh Magan. Its almost a cameo of a song. Just 3 minutes. Fits the situation like a glove. Picturized fantastically well. In the middle of the song, after the initial 'diamond girl' rap sequence there is a mazhalai rendition of 'Muthukkal sirikkum vithathil' and following that is a serious rhythm rendition of the same stanza. I went to a different world upon hearing that. My god! Thats simply brilliant. Orey 'Grass Scratching'. The second best song is 'Kelamal Kaiyil'. I suspect it has a similar raagam as that of 'Mellisaiye' in Mr. Romeo. A superb Carnatic/Techno fusion that sounds more like one of Erasure's techno songs than carnatic. The third best song is 'Nee Marilyn Monroe cloning' ; Digression - I am a convert. I am an official Namitha fan. I think she should be future Thamizh Nadu CM and should replace Sonia Gandhi as Congress President. She comes for such a short time in the movie. but don't worry but there is so much of Namitha. The fourth best song is Ella Pugazhum, which is the typical 'Regemaan Anthem Song'. Just because Vijay 'kashtapattu' made a Lawrence-like dance step, they kept on showing that 3 times in that song. Although all songs were picturized very well, they kept repeating the same shots again and again, which sort of made me feel they were lazy and didnt want to shoot enough.

The movie is the worst Vijay movie ever. Thats a splendid accomplishment though. Given most Vijay movies are absolutely horrible, this movie does great effort to out beat all of them. I can imagine how the perusus of 70s and 80s welcomed Rajinikanth saying 'ithellam oru padam ivenallam oru hero' but the younger generation fell in love with rajini anyway. I feel the same thing when I see Vijay on screen. He is ugly, cannot act at all, and just has 2 standard expressions that he repeats over and over again. This movie had a good story but any good story when filtered through the Rajini/Vijay/Ajith hero-worship sausage grinder becomes a gooey movie with non-sensical punchlines directed at no one in particular. You can almost see that this movie had the potential to be a very good movie if they had taken it with a reasonable human-being hero. Some good scenes even managed to slip through, which is a rarity in any Vijay movie. But for most part every scene was illogical, improbable, and artificial. They managed to make every scene, every situation stupid and unbelievable. If I begin to question the logical flaws in this movie, it would fill 5 TB of data. Thank god Namitha appeared for those 7 minutes. She is a handful isn't she? And Shriya. Wow! now there is no 'pothikinu' shriya. She is 'avithikinu' all the way. And she looks really really awesome. There is this glow about her. I am pretty sure thats not some digitizing work in post-production. She is almost ethereal and I can't sometimes believe she is for real. If Vijay hoped that someone would sit in this movie just to drool and Shriya and Namitha, I see his point. He's got me there.

One can develop over-estimated view of Thamizh cinema by just watching Kamal/Manirathnam/Gautham movies interspersed with movies like Veyyill Mozhi and Chennai 28. If we never see any other movie we may even think Thamizh cinema is simply awesome. One can even begin to entertain hopes that Thamizh cinema is world class after all. Much similar to people just watching Amir Khan movies and an odd RDB and thinking that gooey machine called Bollywood actually produces an art form that can be categorized as movies. This movie brought me back to reality. This is how Vijay sees Thamizh viewers. He has estimated that an average Thamizhan goes to a movie after seeing a poster and needs a song, a fight and a 'sentiment'. Apparently that's the level of the average thamizhan. And he is right. Success of movies like this, OSO and those stupid Akshay kumar movies repeatedly prove that a good movie in Indian cinema is an aberration. It means the system failed to check and root out errors. In ATM the system worked perfectly in catching a good story and massaging it to fit the 'quality standards'.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Old Man From G.N. Chetty Road

There was an old man who lived for many many years in G.N Chetty Road. When it was decided that a flyover would be built near the Vani Mahal junction, it was also decided that a major portion of the beautiful trees in GN Chetty road be cut down. Now, when you drive by, you can't help noticing the absence of greenery. The entire place is suddenly all very bright. The day after they cut it down, I drove by the road and I felt a twinge in my heart. Well! it had already been cut down. There was nothing I could have done about it. I am not sure if I would have wanted to do anything about it. Apparently an old man who had lived in that road for many many decades did not think so. He threw in his might.

Before the trees were cut: He pleaded, cried to the workers cutting down the trees. He even protested on the road. His, words according to people who drove by were "They are closer to me than my children. I have seen them grow old from a sapling. Please don't kill them" The man had apparently taken care of those trees and was deeply fond of them. People who saw him mentioned that he was tottering old man, maybe around 80 years old. He was pleading to the workers with tears running unashamedly down his cheeks and literally was mourning the impending loss of a child. The night before, he had taken the train from Bangalore to Madras when he heard the news that the trees might be cut. He came down to save those trees.

There are people and then there are people.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Book Review: Shane Warne : My Autobiography - II

(Video: Warne on Warne's best 10 deliveries)



"Really, it was a complete fluke" - This is Warne's comment on the 'ball of the century'. Although I did not hold the hype surrounding the ball in that high a regard, its hard not to look forward to Warne's own description of that ball. "I am not sure a single delivery could change a person's life. But in a second or so it took to leave my hand, swerve to pitch outside legstump, fizz past the batsman's lunge forward and clip off stump my life did change." Botham has later said that Gatting has not looked that horrified since his lunch was stolen from him. Cricket fans who saw the ball would admit that it was an orthodox leg spin stock delivery just that it had a big ass turn. Warne says "the best leg breaks should curve into the right-hander through the air if they are spun hard enough..although I didn't realize how far it had deviated until I saw the replay". Moving on to the topic of Warne's gurus. Shane Warne' s relationship with Terry Jenner is often talked about in glowing terms by the media. I guess, when the media describes someone as a famous cricketer's guru, we should understand the guru to be an occasional consultant. Ramakant Achrekar comes to mind. Warne describes what the media skipped. When Warne met TJ, Terry had just been released from 18 months of prison sentence for bank embezzlement. Warne describes, in his own inimitable style, why he liked Terry Jenner, "He liked beer and a good time. When he said something I listened, which was not the case with other coaches at the Academy. It helped that TJ could do everything he suggested to me. Suggested is an important word because he never presented his way as the only way. In what I found to be an over-strict regime, it was refreshing to meet somebody who did not impose his methods on me."

99 World Cup

Reading the book gives you an insights on the small habits, the inside stories and the subtleties involved in the game. Steve Waugh's book completely enriched my experience of watching cricket in England. No amount of TV would impress upon me like his book on the steepness of the slope in Lords. I have seen most of the Ashes series Warne has played and wanted to know Warne's thoughts on many of those matches. Reading the book was really like watching a movie with a director's commentary switched on. Here is my opinion Warne's aggression and his attitude. Some like it. Many don't. I love it. I think his 'attitude' and his talent are atomic. Indivisible. He is talented because he has that attitude and vice versa. You shut one up and you shut down the other. It is important for people to be comfortable being arrogant. Many successful people are assoles. And, it is hard for people, especially Indians, to accept that it is okay to be one. Case in point World Cup 99. Warne had a bad series until the semi-finals. Prior to it, he flopped in India, was dropped for the last test against WI leading up to the WC, had misbehavior problems in the WC Scotland game and there were calls to muffle him. Then he got Gibbs out with a ripper of a delivery, at a time when its most required. That was the turning point of the game. The way he pumped up Australia with his celebrations clearly changed the way they were looking at that game. "The single delivery restored all the confidence that had been slipping away the previous week. I was so pumped up, I had to take deep breaths to concentrate". The part about Warne's prediction that Gibbs isn't properly holding on to his catches was to me an astounding observation. It defines Warne to me. He casually makes this along with his other inane observations. He says this about his prediction the day before the game "We had gone through our usual business, run through the game plan and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition when Geoff Marsh asked for any final comments. I put up my hand and said that if Gibbs took a catch we should stand our ground and let the umpire make a decision because I did not think he held the ball long enough before beginning his celebrations. He had taken a catch recently which I considered to be debatable. The meeting broke-up amid laughter a few shouts of 'Shut Up Warne".

Match Fixing Scandal & Anecdotes

The book has interesting anecdotes apart from Warne's thoughts on his opposition teams, match fixing scandal and his own leg spin bowling. One interesting anecdote is how the irritating Basit Ali kept causing delays in getting ready to take strike. Basit Ali to me was as much a Miandad as Adam Hollioke was Ian Botham. So on the last ball of the fourth day, Warne and Healy decide to give it back to him and Healy deliberately walks up to Warne for a talk after Basit is ready, Warne claims he said " do something mate! bowl him around his legs or something". But if you notice Richie Beneaud's commentary (in video above) you'll get an insight. The concentration loss sees Basit getting bowled around his legs. He describes his duels with South Africa a great deal. Another interesting anecdote was from his bowling to, obviously, Darryl Cullinan. Poor Cullinan, I guess he was the only batsman to have really been damaged by 'mental disintegration'. On match fixing Warne insists he has never fixed a match. From the reports I have read before, Waugh's book and now Warne book, I am inclined to believe that the money Warne received from 'John' the betting guy was taken out of context and that Warne is not guilty. Warne lost money on the gambling table and this man, introduced to him by M.Waugh, gives him the lost money back as a 'gratitude of a fan'. Most country's, at least Indian, laws hold a person culpable for accepting money regardless of whether a favor was returned or not. So technically Warne was guilty. But he has been given many gifts by people in subcontinent and that one of them turned out to be a 'crook' is more of bad luck. He narrates Malik's $200,000 offer to him. It adds up with what Steve Waugh wrote in his book. Malik seems to be guilty as per anybody who has ever squealed about match fixing. However, most people including Warne are genuinely surprised with Azhar and Cronje's convictions. Also surprising is Waugh and Warne's rabid dislike for Ranatunga. I personally think Ranatunga was the cheapest and worst captain/sportsman I have ever seen as far as playing ethics and aesthetics go. While it is no surprise that the aussies hate him, I am glad they do.

Captaincy & The Art of Leg Spin

Warne concludes his book with a chapter each for sledging, captaincy and 'art of leg spin'. On captaincy, it is well known that Border got Australia back from the dead. However, most players who played under Taylor clearly thought Taylor was the best captain among Waugh, Taylor and Border. Warne is no exception. Taylor's tactical skills come in for lot of praise with good examples of match situations (batting first in 97 old trafford test is a notable example). Contrary to popular opinion, Warne does not review Waugh badly though and in fact praises him. Warne's choice of really good captains is unsurprisingly Stephen Fleming and surprisingly Wasim Akram and Jimmy Adams. Warne's assesment of Atherton made me happy. I thought Atherton was a very interesting guy, who could come up with a superb observation that would have never struck you while still managing to be detestable. Warne has both criticism and praise for Mike A. I personally thought Warne would have made an excellent Aus captain. Probably one of their best. Unfortunately he was unlucky (For some perspective - I also thought Lara and Sachin were brillliant captains but ultimately unlucky). I never cared for good personal character record of a captain. It is irrelevant. But then the stupidity of popular opinion can never be underestimated. Then there is a huge chapter dedicated to 'Art of Leg Spin', which I think most people would love to read. He talks about his choices surrounding when to bowl the wrong un', using angles from the crease, creating variable bounce and speed, when to bowl round-the-wicket, overspin, straightball, and zooter. He also describes the various grips he uses, he mental preparation at the top of his mark, his work on his follow-throughs, falling away at the crease etc. After seeing Channel 9 analyse his bowling to unlock its secrets during 90s this read-up was very interesting. He is okay with batsman playing the sweep shot against him and hates when they pad him. He also lists Sidhu as one of the best batsman to play his spin among the other usual suspects.

Warne's List of Best Cricketers

Finally, Warne's rating of Waugh in his top 50 cricketers is another controversial topic that was given a lot of media attention. I did not think Waugh's was the most aberrant ranking in that list. While it is easy to dismiss the list as 'warne's opinion', even opinions have to make sense at some level. The first instinct is to think of Warne as putting in place a guy who stole Warne's captaincy opportunity. Warne's relationship with Waugh is complex because he constantly says his closest mate in the team is Mark Waugh. I never thought Warne 'had it in' for Waugh at any point in time during the book. If you observe the non-Australian cricketers in the list, if Warne had used their performance against Aus as a bench mark, the list seems a little fair. Especially Waqar, who rarely been awesome against Australia. Since Warne has played with/against most of people in the list, then you have to grant him some concession for he has 'real' experience verses our 'TV' experience. However, even after all those discounts there are still gaps. For example his new list contradicts his own top Aus XI and Top Intl XII listed in his book that was written well before his newspaper list. His Aus Test XI is Taylor, Slater, Boon, M.Waugh, S.Waugh, Border (Captain), Healy, Warne, Hughes, Lee, Mcgrath, and Reid. His Intl XII is Anwar, Gooch, Lara, Sachin (Vice Captain), Martin Crowe (Captain), Kallis, Cairns, Moin Khan, Akram, Saqlain, Ambrose, Brian Macmillan.

Overall I thought Warne's book was an interesting read. But it does seem as if he wrote the book with less enthusiasm or interest. Waugh's book was serious and aimed to provide a lot of information. This is just a casual effort

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book Review: Shane Warne: My Autobiography

Reading Shane Warne's autobiography can sometimes be a very funny experience. I couldn't stop visualizing an on-screen persona of Rajinikanth narrating Shane Warne's life to me. Imagine Warne doing something with his right hand, a cigarette goes up. He would then take a match stick with his left hand, do some magic and the cigarette would automatically light up. Sometimes his description of his own bowling is like that "I did xyz, I did abc and got a wicket. yohoo! magic". When you begin to wonder if there is any depth to Warne at all, he gives you a very analytical description of leg spin bowling and match situations. Suddenly he is very perceptive. So you never know what to make of him. He appears to be quite a character. There are several off-field controversies he entangled himself in. Many, in which he is, quite clearly, guilty. However, he describes those situations in the equivalents of "So I hit him on the head with a hammer and he died. Big Deal. Whats so wrong about that. The police make too much of death, I say. I agree murder is not up to my high standards but I thought jail sentence for such a trivial thing was quite harsh." And you are left wondering "how can you not not know you are so wrong." If Steven Waugh, a careful practitioner of batting temperament and technique, chose a similar personality in the form of Dravid, a quiet sober perfectionist in the art of batting, to write his foreword, Shane Warne does something similar. He chooses Ian Botham to write the foreword. Quite appropriate.

Shane Warne is one of my favorite cricketers. I would rate him as the best spinner, I have ever seen play cricket. Knowing Shane Warne through Steve Waugh's book gave me only a partial view into his cricket life. Reading his own autobiography sort of completes the circle. Both Waugh and warne started under Allan Border, played under Mark Taylor, were in contention for captaincy and were superstars in Australian cricket. Reading their books gives an excellent perspective on the state at which Border left Australian cricket and the value of Border, Taylor and Merv Hughes to Australian Cricket. Warne and Waugh took Australia to the next level. They had contrasting styles and personalities, both were equally popular/unpopular, more importantly both were extremely effective. I always thought Warne was more important to Australia than Waugh. He gave Australia a dimension they rarely had and lifted them when things were really bad. As debatable as such opinions are, it Warne certainly made cricket very exciting. He always had something different to say or do. While his antics ranged from childish to brilliant, he was certainly entertaining.

Early Days

He starts his autobiography with a reference to the movie 'Sliding Doors'. He really wanted to be a Aussie Rules Football player and still wonders 'what if'. On his school life Warne describes the person we all love and hate "I could hardly describe myself as academic. A lot of time I would be a lesson behind. If the lesson was English, I'd be doing Math homework from previous night. Then in Math, I might be copying somebody's History essay. Somehow the work usually got done and I managed to scrape through". And he describes himself better than anybody else has ever done "I liked to see the funny side of everything. I was mischievous rather than nasty. If only I engaged my brain before my mouth, school would have been a less painful experience." Cricket too, Warne. On his book reading habits he has this refreshingly honest thing to say "I can honestly say I have never read a complete book in my life. I have started a few but tend to lose concentration and forget what has happened in the previous pages. Sometimes now I will have a quick look at the pictures if I see one of Steve Waugh's diaries or another cricket book in the dressing room, but that's about it all." So much for cricketers who read Milton and Zen stuff.

His description of his life at the Academic is revealing. It probably also sings a verse for Harbhajan's experience at the Indian Academy. Cricketers comes in different sizes and shapes and Warne hits the nail on the head when he stresses the need for an academy to adapt to a cricketers style rather than function it like a 'one size fits all' military camp; "I do not think I was handled particularly well. I am not going to pretend that I was an angel. Having said that, if all the stories about my behavior were true then I would probably have not left alive. Some of the tales have been exaggerated for whatever motive, but nor was I ever a model pupil. I did not like the way that we seemed to be treated more like school children than young adults." He then describes a situation where clearly everybody involved is clearly wrong. "There was an occasion when I was made to swim in heavy chlorinated pool without goggles because I was not allowed to borrow a pair, having forgotten my own. I had stayed out all night and was unable to get to the digs to pick up my goggle for a 7 Am start - but my eyes burnt for days afterwards. This was more like medieval torture than punishment." Although he doesn't go into the "I stayed out all night" he at least accepts the lesson learned when he says "But I didn't forget he goggles again".

To Be Continued

Kiruba & Maanga

If nobody is wondering about it. Maybe I will.
Are Kiruba and Maanga colleagues at New indian Express? Do they sit in the same room and brainstorm about "Technological impacts surrounding the success of communist party in W. Bengal"?
Will they go doubles in the same cycle?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tendulkar: A Statistical Look.

I made an interesting observation. Most cricket viewers I speak to have no idea regarding Tendulkar's ODI stats and its relationship with India's ODI stats. So:

ODI:

  • India has not lost 271/504 games after Tendulkar's debut [51%].
  • Tendulkar has not lost 222/404 games he has played in those 504 games [54%].
  • Indian Batting Average in the 504 games after Tendulkar's Debut is 32.0
  • Tendulkar's overall batting average in 404 of the 504 games is 44.27 [1.45 times that of India]
  • Indian Batting Average when it does not lose matches (those 271 games) after Tendulkar's Debut is 44.8
  • Tendulkar's batting average when India has not lost games is 55.81 [1.24 times Indian average]
  • India Loses 75% of the games in which Tendulkar fails to reach 30.
  • India has not lost 30/41 games where Tendulkar scored a century [73%].
  • India has not lost 51/86 games where Tendulkar scored a half-century [60%].
  • Rest of India batting order failed to capitalize on Fifty+ starts provided by Tendulkar 46 times.
  • 37% of the time Tendulkar provides fifty+ starts Rest of India does not cash in. This contributes to 20% the time India has lost with Tendulkar in the team [46/182].
  • India's batting average when it loses is 31.1
  • Tendulkar's batting average when India loses is 32.92. [1.05 times ~ same as India average]

P.S: The author is aware of the cliches and proverbs related to statistics.
P.S2: The author believes that if the statistics do not capture the entire truth then the fault lies with the filters/analysis/views applied on those statistics and not the statistic itself.
P.S3: The author does not have sufficient statistical tools to run correlation analysis with oether batsmen/bowlers.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Danda Naka

Yeeii Danda Naka
Aaaa Tanaku Naka
Tanaku Tanaku Tish
Deepavali Wish

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Madras Miscellany - US Consulate etc

  • The arrival, immigration and luggage belt scene in Madras airport is just awesome. The newly renovated airport rocks. The waiting area for immigration has no baaeed-smull and they don't throw out your luggage from the belt after it completes one round. Fantastic. Marvellous. Stupendous. I orey yappy.
  • There was 65 year old grandma with me on flight. She was a Srilankan tamil/catholic. A jolly good character. She was under the assumption that the crew alway treats people going to Kerala badly. And so kept yelling at the crew members as if she were an inspector and they were all Yaettu Ekambaram [ the two naught one - four twenty one types]. She gulped down, literally many many, bottles of scotch, beer, wine during the 9 hour flight. Still remined steady. I never eat/drink anything in flight. So she said "dont feel shy. Have a sip. I am like your grandma. I drink with my grandsons". I said something along the lines of "No Mrs Robinson. Take itttt eaazeee."
  • I was struggling to 'ezhuthu kooti padichify' my first Thamizh novel and she nudged my shoulder and said "dont you read romance novels. what kind of boy are you" and then burped and winked. All very romantic. Someday when I get tired of my bad luck with co-passangers, I'll get a hot looking Preity Zinta with sleeveless T-shirt/low-neck types sitting near me, and out of sheer habit I'll doze off by mistake trying to avoid the chick.
  • Chennai Consulate is incredibly funny. There is almost no line outside the consulate but the average wait time is more than what it was 10 years ago when I went for my first visa stamping (the one where someone sleeps in Mt. Road for you all night in the line). The guards have been specifically instructed to keep the line on Mt Road short. So they do a random job of kicking out 11:30 appointments from the line while keeping in 12:00 clk appointments ( I was a 12 appointment). Well, the line is short! if you peep out and look at the gate. So the system works.
  • People don't want to wait in line outside, inside the compound walls, inside the building - anywhere. While inside the US consulate people with children are exempt from standing in any line. Of course not everybody knows this. So once somebody (who is standing as the 234th person in a 500 people queue) sees a family go through the door without waiting in line, they want to go too. Because everybody has this feeling that they are special too. Or at least feel that they wouldn't get noticed if they walk in. When they are turned away near the door, they don't come back and stand in their spot on the line, but linger on near the top of the line. They hope that if they look down and stay disappointed they can continue to stand in front of the line. Nobody counts on being embarrassed by me. There is nothing like taking out your leg-pain/jet lag related frustration on a line-jumper. Much pleasure.
  • It is really frustrating when a person gets to go ahead of you - right when you are next in line to be processed - just because they happened to have a baby. This good samaritan policy is not fun when it does not work to your advantage. When I was in high school, and when my mom sent me to buy stuff from the insanely crowded Bombay Grocers, I used to pluck my neighbor's infant from its 'thooli' and go there. Sometimes my neighbor wouldn't even know her son's gone missing. The kind sottai thalaiyan manning Bombay Grocers would process me first just because I, a 12th std arai drowser, had a baby in hand. I wished I had plucked some baby on my way to the consulate.
  • Although men are educated and all, I guess there is lingering genetic MCPness still left behind. When the consular officer asks a pointed question at your wife. It is courtesy to let her answer it. Of course, I forgot about it. So I replied in a microsecond unknowingly giving an impression that I was making decisions for her. That is until the officer shut me up with a 'nee mudri nee' and pause and then a 'adungu di nee' before proceeding to ask her questions.
  • I felt like the Indian movie gounder when I 'pammikittu' crossed my hands (with 2 index finger pointing out for finger printing), bent down and say 'yes aapicer'. (Watch 37th second and 40th second of the linked youtube clip for a visual description)
  • My luck. The 'aapicer' had gone to Ohio State. He saw OSU and U Mich show up on his computer and the only thing he asked was 'how could you?' I should thank football for helping me with the uneasy small talk in all sorts of interviews.
  • Entertainment inside the consulate is very easy. You always have odd-ball interviewees. Last time a F-1 kid listened to the Visa Officer's question took a few steps back and in what was a 'humor in uniform' readers digest moment, yelled out his pre-prepared answer in military style. He completed his command, received a 214(b) reject and left without saying another word ( I am not exaggerating even a little bit). This time a guy was caught with fake work-exp certificates. Having interviewed close to 400 people while working in Bangalore, I am all too familiar with Mannar & Co from Hyderabad, which hand out fake work-exp certificates. Our H1B man was working in a legitimate company but joined that company using fake certificates. The consulate has a blacklist of such companies. He was busted and tense dialogs followed

VO: Accept this is a fraud company and tell me how much you paid for the document and I'll forgive you. Otherwise I'll ban you for all your life.

Boy: No sir! Actually I was in training....

Everybody began to look at the boy and started whispering to each other in hushed tones.

On other things

  • Its funny Karunanidhi choosing to build flyovers before election year - again.
  • There is a sissy law banning firecrackers outside of 6AM and 10 PM. I plan to violate it.
  • November, Madras and rain. Its all romantic.

P.S: Mannar & Co is in reference to Dhanal K. Thangavelu's employment profile in the movie 'Kalyana Parisu'

P.S: Previous visa interview blogs here and here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Entrepreneur Vs Risk Taker

I have really heard all the quotes that is there is to know about entrepreneurs being risk takers. The party line in business school community constantly subscribes to the hype that ability to take risks is the chief virtue of an entrepreneur. Risk and entrepreneurship are clouted as inseparable. I was never taken in by that theory. I felt 'risk taking' ability is at best a low bar for being an entrepreneur and at worst a negative attribute for being one. By virtue of working in a place which is filled people who started their own company, I happened to discuss this theory with a person who has some experience in it. And these are the best and most impressive words I've heard on this subject. I paraphrase;

"An good and successful entrepreneur is not a risk taker. He cannot think of himself in those terms. How would he convince other people if he himself thought that the whole venture was a risk? How would he get funding? How would he get people to do work for him if he constantly thought he was taking a risk. To him, his idea is everything. His plan is all carefully worked out. People outside, who don't know the plan, use frivolous words like 'risk taker'. To him its a done deal. He is sure his plan will get him there. Its not a question of 'if' but 'when'."

That to me rings true. If 'risk taking' was a factor in some body's business plans then taking a 12 std public exam will also qualify as a entrepreneurial venture. Because 12 years of a person's life is wasted if he fails and everything is doomed for him. Isn't having 'everything to lose' the substance of the risk attributed to entrepreneurs? By that definition of risk everybody is taking a risk, aren't they? The lowest bar is risk. Let me take another trivial example; a few people ask me "how did you quit work, join business school, take a 140K loan within months after your marriage? You are a big risk taker?" Hell No. I am the most paranoid guy, I have ever seen. 95% of BSchool students end up in jobs. A huge majority of them in really decent jobs. So if someone joining Bschool thought s/he was taking a risk, I am not sure how they navigated through all those interviews and networking-related scrutiny with that kind of self-doubt. Some of the most risk-averse people, I have met went to Bschool with me.

If risk taking was a standard then pretty much a gzillion people would become awesome entrepreneurs. Because the risk involved in going to bschool is pretty much the same as starting a company or writing a 12 std exam. All have 'everything' to lose. 'Risk' is not a distinguishing dimension. It has infact clouded the analysis and due diligence aspect of starting your own venture. The significant dimension is the content and preparation for the venture. This is obvious when you say the venture is a 12 std exam. But not so when venture = start-up. Its the people who don't know the requisite information that label the unknown as 'risk'.

It is in the content. It is in the idea and its execution plan. That's what a good entrepreneur should worried about. The rest are incidental details and useless hype.

p.s: Risk has many contexts. Don't confuse market risk beta with 'risk' bhaskar.