Autos on the Go (Franklin, Michigan) – Avoid the Guttersnipes Like the Plague

I normally don’t do this through my blog, but this time the circumstances were just too much to keep quiet.

A few months back I moved from San Jose, California to Vancouver, British Columbia on a new assignment with my employer. One of my considerations was that I wanted to move my car, because it was just 2.5 years old, it had been driven just about 40% of the national average, and most importantly it was the metaphorical brand-new-looking car.

So I put out a request for quotes and received a few. One of the companies that responded was Autos on the Go, a company based out of Franklin, Michigan. A person called Mirel Molnar, who some claim is the owner of this company got in touch with me and sent across the forms required. This wasn’t the cheapest quote I had (though it was close), but what convinced me to go with this company is that Mirel seemed pretty professional. This company was a broker rather than an actual mover, and basically arranged for door-to-door service, doing everything from the pickup of the vehicle to the delivery and insuring the move.

The Contract

The contract I signed was pretty straightforward and among other things it had the following clauses:

Damages and Required Documentation. Neither AOTG nor carriers will be held liable for damage caused by leaking freezing, exhaust systems, acts of God, or flying objects from the road or objects falling off of cars. In the event a vehicle is otherwise damaged during transport, the carrier’s insurance is the primary insurance. Shipper agrees to fully inspect the vehicle at both pickup and delivery and denote any and all damages on the carrier’s bill of lading/condition report BEFORE the driver leaves.

Damage must be properly noted while the driver is still there, regardless of the time of day or dirty condition of the vehicle. Signing the carrier’s bill of lading at the destination without specific notation of damage shall be evidence of satisfactory delivery of the vehicle.

Claims for Damages. Shipper’s vehicle will be transported by a trucking company and the carrier actually transporting the vehicle shall be liable for any and all damage claims arising from transport. Shipper is responsible for getting an inspection sheet from the driver both at pick up location and delivery location. Shipper agrees to release and hold harmless AOTG from any damage claims. Upon request, AOTG will furnish Shipper with name, address, and phone number of the carrier and provide a copy of the carrier’s Certificate of Insurance. In the event of damage, shipper is to provide AOTG a copy of both inspection sheets from the pickup location and the delivery location within 48 hours after receiving vehicle at the delivery location. All claims are to be submitted directly to the carrier within 7 days of Shipper receiving vehicle unless noted otherwise on the carrier’s bill of lading.

Any claims for damages not noted on the bill of lading/condition report will not be honored by the carrier’s insurance company. Department of Transportation regulations require that all claims be filed in writing and all tariffs be paid in full before claims are processed; therefore, Shipper agrees he/she will not seek to charge back a credit card or stop a check to offset a dispute for damage claims. AOTG will support you in filing claim against a carrier should a problem occur, but in no way will AOTG accept responsibility for any negligence of the assigned carrier.

The above clauses are very significant in the context of what transpired.

Continue reading Autos on the Go (Franklin, Michigan) – Avoid the Guttersnipes Like the Plague

Plagiarism, Copyright and Licensing

I recently received a message on FaceBook that quite literally horrified me. It said that I was using Steve McCurry’s picture of the Afghan Girl in my WordPress design and that since it was a copyright violation the least I could do was to acknowledge who the photographer is. So I immediately responded with the background: I had written a very laudatory post about a year back called Haunting Photos on this very blog, complete with references of who took the photos, where it was originally published etc, and provided links to all the original articles.

I explained that what had happened is when I provided a screenshot of Suffusion to WordPress, there was a screenshot of the original “Haunting Photos” post (which had proper crediting) and unfortunately the credit information did not appear on the screenshot. I immediately apologized and within a day got the screenshot for the theme changed on the official WordPress site. Steve understood that this was an honest mistake and appreciated the fact that I had always had the credit information on the post and gotten the image removed from the screenshot almost immediately when notified of the copyright violation. So I could breathe easy.

Continue reading Plagiarism, Copyright and Licensing

Beautiful Numbers

While reading the The Da Vinci Code a few years back, I came across this passage:

He felt himself suddenly reeling back to Harvard, standing in front of his “Symbolism in Art” class, writing his favorite number on the chalkboard.


Langdon turned to face his sea of eager students. “Who can tell me what this number is?”

A long-legged math major in back raised his hand. “That’s the number PHI.” He pronounced it fee.

“Nice job, Stettner,” Langdon said. “Everyone, meet PHI.”

“Not to be confused with PI,” Stettner added, grinning. “As we mathematicians like to say: PHI is one H of a lot cooler than PI!”

Langdon laughed, but nobody else seemed to get the joke.

Stettner slumped.

“This number PHI,” Langdon continued, “one-point-six-one-eight, is a very important number in art. Who can tell me why?”

Stettner tried to redeem himself. “Because it’s so pretty?”

Everyone laughed.

“Actually,” Langdon said, “Stettner’s right again. PHI is generally considered the most beautiful number in the universe.”

The laughter abruptly stopped, and Stettner gloated.

As Langdon loaded his slide projector, he explained that the number PHI was derived from the Fibonacci sequence – a progression famous not only because the sum of adjacent terms equaled the next term, but because the quotients of adjacent terms possessed the astonishing property of approaching the number 1.618 – PHI!

Despite PHI’s seemingly mystical mathematical origins, Langdon explained, the truly mind-boggling aspect of PHI was its role as a fundamental building block in nature. Plants, animals, and even human beings all possessed dimensional properties that adhered with eerie exactitude to the ratio of PHI to 1.

– From the Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

That passage set me thinking about other numbers considered pretty or at least very interesting. As an Indian I can point to quite a few numbers that we can be proud of. At the top of the list is Aryabhata’s invention of the most famous number of them all – 0, which by helping establish the place value system and the decimal number system made innumerable mathematical and scientific discoveries possible and practical. Just imagine having to write a number like 999,999 in the Roman Numeral system. You would need to write CM XC IX CMXCIX. And if you weren’t aware that adding the “overline” multiplies a number by 1000, then you would have to struggle significantly more to represent a number such as 999,999.

As an ex-IIT’ian I have had a fascination for numbers and so have many of my classmates. Both during and after life at IIT I have seen my friends use one particular number quite often – 1729. I myself used 1729 as my page id when I was building my hostel’s website back in the days when you needed to sign up for a free web-page at sites like GeoCities. A few years after graduation my friend asked me to unlock his bicycle. The code – 1729. A few more years later another friend sent out an email saying that his previous email id had been handed out to several mailing lists and he was receiving a lot of spam. So he changed his email id to something that had the number 1729 in it. If you are not very mathematically inclined you might think of 1729 as a very weird number to be fascinated with. But there is history behind it. 1729 is in fact called the Hardy-Ramanujan number, following a very famous conversation between G. H. Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan.

Hardy used to visit him, as he lay dying in hospital at Putney. It was on one of those visits that there happened the incident of the taxi-cab number. Hardy had gone out to Putney by taxi, as usual his chosen method of conveyance. He went into the room where Ramanujan was lying. Hardy, always inept about introducing a conversation, said, probably without a greeting, and certainly as his first remark: “I thought the number of my taxi-cab was 1729. It seemed to me rather a dull number.” To which Ramanujan replied: “No, Hardy! No, Hardy! It is a very interesting number. It is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.”

That is the exchange as Hardy recorded it. It must be substantially accurate. He was the most honest of men; and further, no one could possibly have invented it.

– Foreword by C. P. Snow, to G. H. Hardy’s “A Mathematician’s Apology (Canto)

For those trying to figure out what Ramanujan meant, 1729 = 123 + 13 = 103 + 93. Not only is this number an Indian favorite (Ramanujan was Indian), but mathematicians worldwide recognize it for the brilliance and simplicity of the discovery. This number is also referred to as a Taxicab number due to the associated incident, though the unique property of this number was actually discovered by Bernard Frénicle de Bessy.

There is another number that piqued my interest, however, when I was preparing for the Indian National Mathematics Olympiad in 1994. I came across a number that was referred to as the Kaprekar Number – 6174. In later years I came to know that the information was inaccurate, because this number was called Kaprekar Constant, and Kaprekar Numbers referred to a separate category of numbers. A Kaprekar Number is a number that is thus defined:

A Kaprekar number for a given base is a non-negative integer, the representation of whose square in that base can be split into two parts that add up to the original number again.

As the Wikipedia article states, 45 is a Kaprekar number because 45 = 20 + 25 and 452 = 2025. These numbers were discovered by another Indian mathematician Dattaraya Ramchandra Kaprekar, who had a penchant for discovering several results in number theory and was very well known as a recreational mathematician. Funny what people come up with during their free time!

But back to the Kaprekar constant – 6174. Again, this falls wholly into the category of an unremarkable-looking number. But there is a lot more to it. Arrange the digits of the number in descending order: 7641. Arrange its digits in ascending order: 1467. Subtract the two: 7641 – 1467 = 6174. This happens to be the only 4-digit number that exhibits this property. If you think that is surprising, there is more. Take any 4 digit number with at least 1 digit different from the rest. Repeat the operation of subtracting the ascending order of digits from the descending order. After a finite number of iterations you will hit 6174!! I was so impressed with this number that I couldn’t rest till I had established the proof of this. Yutaka Nishiyama has a well-documented proof, which is much more rigorous than what I came up with (plus I am too lazy to type out my proof in HTML here).

There are other Kaprekar constants when you change the number of digits to 3 (495) or something else.

I am sure there are several other numbers that have even more quirky properties. Having had an affinity towards mathematics in general since a young age and towards number theory in particular since I was 15, I know that I am missing out on such a huge treasure by pursuing a career in something so far removed from mathematics.

The Legend of the “Interview Shirt”

I grew up in an era punctuated by the liberalization of the Indian economy and India’s subsequent ascension as a power in the world economy. During the years that I was an undergraduate my peer group was comprised of people from Indian upper middle class families. So most of us, while not really starved for means, weren’t exactly rolling in money either.

We used to start the semester with a wardrobe that stayed reasonably constant, unless we happened to venture to Palika Bazaar or SN Market during a weekend and spent a couple of hundred rupees getting ourselves some T-shirts. Occasionally when one of us had an expected or unexpected windfall we went to South Ex because the shops there were otherwise beyond our means.

Once we reached our final year, of course, we had to prepare for placement interviews. A typical firm doing a placement interview had 3 rounds: a preliminary CV screen, a written test and an in-person interview. Some firms did one of the first two, some substituted them with a group discussion, but all firms had an in-person interview.

Now, people had clothes for different occasions. There was the regular stuff that you would wear in the hostel and that could range from something that looked like a dirty rag to a half-decent T-shirt. Then there were clothes you wore to class and they were somewhat better, in the sense that they did have encounters with a bar of detergent once every few weeks.

Next came “date clothes”, which were essentially an assortment of clothes that you thought looked cool on you and you wore them on those special events where a girl was probably milking you for all your pocket-money’s worth. A lot of us didn’t have the need or the luxury to worry about date clothes though, because the prerequisite of having a girlfriend, real or purported, was never met. Nonetheless I could regale you with tales of some gentlemen, who would shave only on date days, thereby never letting their girlfriends form even casual acquaintances with their raging stubbles, but that is a tale for another day.

Last came the “Interview Clothes”. This was a tricky category. Some people were dead sure that they would go into academia after graduation, so they never bothered themselves with mundane matters like their appearance in an interview, and as a result they never had anything different or unique to wear for an interview (some such people didn’t even bother themselves with job interviews!). Some were certain they wouldn’t graduate in four years, so they too never bothered. But there were others who were very, very serious about job interviews. But even here you had groups. First came the people who made several attempts at interviews, but started getting dispirited after multiple failures. Such people typically paid attention to their appearance initially, then lost enthusiasm. Then came people who made it to the interview round of their dream jobs, and they, naturally, had to look their best.

So what really comprised the “Interview Clothes”, or more particularly, what was the “Interview Shirt”? In the most general sense, this was supposed to be one shirt that you wore once a semester, if not once during your entire four years in college. Shirts hardly ever strictly met this condition – in most cases you would end up wearing your interview shirt about 5-6 times a semester. Some people liked calling it their formal shirt, but they would have been the only ones calling it that. Some people simply reused their “date shirt”, if the date involved going to an upscale restaurant. Simply put, this was the one shirt you possessed that met all these criteria – long sleeves, cleanest of the lot and most importantly, hadn’t been worn after being last ironed.

Given the economic era we were in, a formal shirt would cost you equal to your entire semester’s tuition fees. You see, the market had been liberalized allowing consumerism to rise, but our families didn’t really fit into the category of the targeted consumers. Moreover our college hiked fees tenfold the year after we joined, making us the last batch to pay a total of around Rs. 8920/- (approximately US $255 those days) for four years of India’s best undergraduate education. So spending more on a shirt than you would spend on half a year’s fees was tantamount to sacrilege. Of course, some saw this as money well-spent and they not only had a designated “interview shirt”, but also had a suit or a blazer and a tie to go with it. Given the heat in Delhi, interviewers never actually expected you to wear a suit for an interview, but the people owning one felt obliged to wear it.

Wearing a suit absolved you of owning a decent “interview shirt”, because your shirt would essentially get covered by the layer above. But for people who preferred comfort during an interview, the shirt was mandatory. People were generally okay with wearing a long-sleeves shirt without lurid patterns, and which showed prominent creases from ironing. Checks were generally considered a no-no, and some people even excluded stripes from their consideration. Solids, particularly those in light colors were most welcome.

People who didn’t possess a shirt that met their own definition of an “interview shirt” usually borrowed one from a friend. Some people also wore ties to interviews, but the opening up of the Indian economy made sure that ties that were in vogue at the start of our education were considered passé by our fourth year. As kids we considered it fashionable to wear a tie in school with a four-in-hand knot, which we referred to as the single knot. Later we figured out that the formal way of wearing a tie was the Windsor knot (what we called the triple knot), or the somewhat less time-consuming half-Windsor knot (aka the double knot). Without intending to lace the statement with double-entendre, it wasn’t the length (of the tie) that mattered, but it was the thickness (of the knot).

Times have changed. In my first job the emphasis was on feeling comfortable, so wearing jeans and T-shirts to work was considered the in-thing. My second job being in consulting, the emphasis was on dressing “smart” (read Business Casual) for regular work and formally for client presentations. So my definitions have changed. What I revered as “interview shirts” during my college days is now a part of my everyday wear. But I still have interview shirts – plain, expensive, clean and well-ironed.

Hubris and the IPL

Fact: Since 26th November 2008 I have been staunchly against Pakistan’s participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL). In fact I have been staunchly against any Pakistani citizen making any money in India, be it as a player or an artist.

Fact: I wasn’t always this way. I enjoyed the Pakistan cricket team’s visit to India in 1999 and I was proud of the fact that the Indian spectators in Chennai gave Pakistan a standing ovation after they narrowly beat us in a fantastic test match. Of course, I was even more thrilled when Anil Kumble picked up a perfect 10 in the match that followed, ensuring that we didn’t lose the series.

I also enjoyed the fact that Pakistan welcomed us with open arms in 2004 in a historic series (India won 2-1 in tests and 3-2 in ODIs).

But once the cricket started getting more frequent the novelty wore off. Pakistan visited India in 2005 (Tests were drawn 1-1 and Pak won the ODIs 4-2), India visited Pakistan in 2006 (Pak won the tests 1-0 and India won the ODIs 4-1), then Pak visited India again in late 2007 (India won the tests 1-0 and the ODIs 3-2). As the cricket went into overkill the matches seemed forced, almost as if the sole reason for the matches was to get the cricket boards some money. I wasn’t alone in my thinking, apparently, and matches in Pakistan in particular were rather poorly attended.

Fast forward to 26th November 2008. In a dastardly siege of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai and extremely well-planned attacks across all of the city over 170 people were killed (or murdered, to put it correctly). There was national outrage over India. Unlike earlier instances, this time India was swift in establishing links between the terror attacks and two Pakistani extremist groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Pakistan’s response: denial, claiming that the proof was not adequate. The lone surviving terrorist from the attacks, Ajmal Kasab claimed he was from Pakistan, but this was refuted by Pakistan. And the process went on and on. Every time India offered proof, the Pakistani administration shot it down, maintaining the facade of cooperation.

The rather minor collateral damage was that India cancelled its December 2008 tour to Pakistan and Pakistan reciprocated by cancelling its participation in the second season of the India Premier League (stating that India was not a safe place) and Pakistani participants of music reality shows in India like Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa were unceremoniously kicked out. Bilateral cricket tours between the two countries were put on a hiatus, for all intents and purposes. The Pakistani Government started issuing orders to all its nationals to cease traveling to India because “it was not safe”.

Pakistan’s image in the world (or at least in the cricketing world) became that of an unsafe place. International cricket teams in general refused to travel to Pakistan for any event. One team dared – Sri Lanka. This was perhaps in cognizance of Pakistan and India’s gesture before the 1996 Cricket World Cup when Australia and West Indies forfeited their matches in Sri Lanka by refusing to play there on the grounds of security (though a lot of Asians believed Australia’s refusal was more due to fearing a backlash over calling Muralitharan a “chucker” in the previous summer). What Sri Lanka got for its gesture was a terrorist attack on the bus carrying the Lankan team. While none got killed, a few Sri Lankans did get injured. The trip was terminated with immediate effect.

Some Pakistanis went far enough to blame India for the attacks, though this wasn’t the official position of Pakistan. But the bigger impact for Pakistani cricket became the revoking of Pakistan as a venue for any of the World Cup 2011 cricket matches. Rather unsurprisingly, the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) refused to support Pakistan as a venue when this happened. And rather surprisingly the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) expected BCCI to support it and even accused it of backstabbing. Historically whenever Pakistan had gotten itself in trouble, the BCCI had stood by it. The biggest such instance was the unsavory match forfeiture incident between Pakistan and England, thanks to the umpire Darrell Hair.

So what changed? The political scenario did (and hence the history lesson preceding this point). I often hear the statement that sports and politics shouldn’t be mixed, and art and politics shouldn’t be mixed. As an ideal it is as noble as it is asinine and impractical. The fact is everything is tied to politics. Unless the political situation somewhere is good, nothing can thrive there. If sports and politics weren’t interlinked, you wouldn’t have the national anthems of the teams being played before a football match, and you wouldn’t have country-based teams in events like the Olympics.

Throughout history sports events have been used to make political statements. USA boycotted the Moscow Olympics and USSR repaid the favour by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics. Both were making political statements. Cricket had its own political statements made when Henry Olonga and Andy Flower wore black armbands to protest against Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship in Zimbabwe. And even more prominent was the total boycott of South Africa for several years due to its policies of Apartheid. I am sure there are other such incidents.

This brings me to the point of this article. Ever since the terror attacks on Mumbai I have been staunchly against India giving any form of remuneration and recognition to to anyone from Pakistan, be it their cricketers or their singers. These people are not terrorists and hell, some of them are eminently likeable, but they pay taxes in Pakistan and those taxes go into letting the perpetrators of heinous crimes flourish. I don’t want Indian money to feed people who come back to launch attacks on India.

When the Pakistan government and interior ministry kept flip-flopping on issuing its players NOCs for IPL, I was quite happy. This would mean that they would miss the deadline for filing applications and they would automatically be rejected for IPL. That would be great riddance without us doing a thing. But my fantasy was short-lived and though they missed the deadline, the IPL organizers bent backwards and got them drafted in time for the auction. That was a crying shame.

On auction day no Pakistani player out of 11 was offered a single bid. There is more to this statement, though. There were 66 players in the auction pool and 13 spots had to be filled, so 53 players would not be picked. If you follow the way the auction progressed, technically the Pakistani players actually put up for bids were Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Kamran Akmal, Imran Nazir, Umar Akmal and Rana Naved ul Hasan, in that order. By the time Rana Naved ul Hasan was auctioned, 7 players had been bought – Keiron Pollard, Wayne Parnell, Shane Bond, Kemar Roach, Eoin Morgan, Damien Martyn and Thissara Perera. Several others were not bid for – Brad Haddin, Graeme Swann, Mohammed Kaif, Darren Ganga, Shakib Al Hasan, Doug Bollinger, Tim Bresnan, Justin Kemp, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chamara Silva, Phillip Hughes, Wavell Hinds, Lendl Simmons, Upul Tharanga, Jonathan Trott, Jason Krejza, Johan van der Wath, Grant Elliott, Ashley Noffke, Rory Klienveldt, Tyron Henderson and Su
leiman Benn. That is a total of 21 players apart from the 6 Pakistanis who didn’t attract any bids.

At this time the process was shortened since 5 overseas slots were to be filled, and four teams out of eight had no money left, so teams could explicitly ask for a player. If two franchises asked for one player then that player went into auction, otherwise he was to be sold at base price. At this point 2 players from the discard pool were bought – Justin Kemp and Mohammed Kaif, the latter actually going into auction. In addition Adam Voges and Yusuf Abdulla were bought. Since none wanted to bid on any of the other players, three Under-19 players were drafted into different teams.

Though Afridi was the talk of the town before the bidding actually started, I had a hard time believing why anyone would want him, good though his credentials are in the T20 World Cup. He was an unmitigated disaster in the first season, he tried to foster ill-harmony in his team with his acerbic comments disparaging his captain VVS Laxman, and his disciplinary track record in Pakistan is, well, dirty laundry. Surely Deccan was not going to pick him up again! Frankly among the Pakistanis only Umar Gul and Mohammed Aamer deserved to make the cut, not players like Sohail Tanvir who struggle to find a place in the Pakistan team.

The natural response to the auction was outrage, which is understandable – none likes to be told that he is unwanted. But then a rather interesting sequence unfolded. Some events in this sequence were hilarious and some were tragic.

A lot of interesting quotes came out:

The way I see it, the IPL and India have made fun of us and our country. We are the Twenty20 world champions and for me the attitude of the franchises was disappointing. I feel bad for the Indian people who, I am sure, wanted to see us play in the IPL this year.

Shahid Afridi, the airhead captain of the Pakistan T20 team

A little later this was heard:

They have basically tried to hurt our cricket and image and this is most disappointing because I believe there should be no politics in sports

Abdul Razzaq

I found these statements really funny and contradictory. One person above branded the non-selection of individual players of the Pakistan team in the IPL to a snubbing of Pakistan as a country. Another was concerned about not mixing sports and politics together, while his captain had done precisely that. If Afridi had drawn a line between sports and politics, he would have stopped at saying that India had made a mockery of his team, and not brought his country into it.

I was particularly pleased with this quote from the external affairs ministry in response to all the rants from Pakistan:

Pakistan should introspect on the reasons which have put a strain on relations between India and Pakistan, and have adversely impacted peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

External Affairs Ministry of India

And this one:

Unless Government of Pakistan takes action against those involved in the heinous acts of 26/11… strong, convincing action to dismantle the terrorist outfits across the border, Indian people will be always impatient.

Defence Minister A. K. Anthony

Then came the damp squib:

I think it is disservice to cricket that some of these players were not picked. I don’t know why the IPL teams acted in the manner they acted. But certainly to suggest that there was a hint or nudge from the government is completely untrue.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram

What is a disservice is that this is a step the Government of India should have officially taken. We should have banned any such participation from Pakistan from our side, rather than waiting for private organizations like the IPL franchises to take a stance. Tell Pakistan that you show us concrete evidence of cracking down on terror and we will let you into our society again. Instead we had pansies like Chidambaram pandering to the egos of people of a country that has done nothing in the recent past to deserve the respect. Shame on you, Chidambaram! You are a disgrace, because you are accusing those people of disservice who have done something you should have done! Whether guided by conscience or business motives, the IPL and the franchises exercised their right. They did not ask the government for help and money and whom they picked and why was entirely their decision. What will Chidambaram do next? Accuse people of “disservice” to the country because they voted the Congress out of power?

There were eminent mediapersons who jumped on with their righteous indignation:

Modi screeched "Availability, availability, availability" is all that will matter in auctions going forward. And so the Australians weren’t the hot picks this year as well. Point taken. But Australia are involved in a cricket series at the time. What are Pakistan doing? Nothing at all. Their players are available for all six weeks and can certainly play T20 cricket, they won the World Cup, remember?

Gaurav Kalra, Sports Editor of CNN-IBN

What is Gaurav Kalra’s IQ? Negative? Is availability something that is determined by a calendar? If that is the case why did the Pakistani players not play in the IPL last year? It is not as if they were engaged in an international tour or had suddenly forgotten how to play T20 cricket. People like Kalra need to realize that this whole issue is a lot bigger than cricket. Even if this issue was not bigger than cricket, who compensates the franchises for the Pakistani players not playing last year? Kalra? Chidambaram?

Whether or not Pakistan plays cricket or anybody plays cricket in Pakistan is never dependent on what the Pakistani players are doing; it is intricately tied to what Pakistan as a whole is doing. No international cricket team wants to play in Pakistan. Some of the logically-minded citizens of Pakistan put this down to the fact that Pakistan doesn’t have the kind of nightlife that international cricketers like to enjoy, hence this is not a preferred destination for cricketers. They tend to forget that the political and security environment in their country doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

While we have had a few people in the media and in the entertainment industry (folks like Shah Rukh Khan, albeit for a publicity stunt of his latest movie) springing to bat for the Pakistanis, the Pakistani people don’t seem to share that kind of a feeling. A lot of people in the Pakistan team don’t distinguish between India and Hindus, conveniently forgetting that India had more Muslims than Pakistan till a few years back. Outlook India had a well-written article about what Pakistan thinks about India in general. Here is what Sohail Tanvir, one of the IPL rejects of this year says in an interview on a Pakistani channel:

Wow! “Hinduon ki zahaniyat hi aisi hai” (This is the typical Hindu nature)! Coming from the person who was the player of the tournament for the first season of IPL, this reeks of the same attitude that the journalist accuses Hindus of having, “Bagal mein chhuri, moonh mein Ram Ram” (They will stab you with a smile on their faces). Didn’t Tanvir benefit hugely from the first IPL? His stock rose and he never really had to do too much of hard work after that season – he currently doesn’t find a place in his national team, as stated earlier.

I am not debating whether there was a deliberate and concentrated effort to reject Pakistanis in the IPL. IPL and the franchises say there wasn’t, some other Indians say there was, Pakistan as a whole is convinced there was and most of the Indians don’t care, because they didn’t want Pakistan in. I am one who doesn’t care. I must admit, though, that I would be very happy if there was indeed a conscious attempt since it would have made a much better statement. With people like Chidambaram in the government we can’t really expect the government to take such a stance. So it comes down to the business houses in the IPL in such a tournament. Even if the business houses’ motive has been a potential loss of money due to no-show Pakistanis, the end result is very much to my liking.

I had initially just saved a draft of about 40% of this article about 10 days back, but following the blasts in Pune on 13th Feb (earlier today in India) I was tempted to finish this. Now imagine that the IPL picked up the Pakistani players and after the blasts today relations went further south, and again Pakistan put on a charade of withdrawing players from IPL. What would people like Chidambaram and Kalra have to say? Nothing, I am sure. They would pretend it did not happen. All talks of “availability” being a non-issue would go up in smoke. As if to prove me correct, I see that Chidambaram has already declined to comment on this.

It is one thing to have your opinion and it is another thing to lambast other people for not sharing it. I have nothing against people wanting to see Pakistan play in the IPL. But I wouldn’t like it if those people started abusing people who for whatever reason decided not to spend their money on Pakistan. I am not against people like Shah Rukh Khan, for example, who made statements on the same topic.

I truly believe Pakistan players should have been chosen. They are the champions, they are wonderful but somewhere down the line there is an issue and we can’t deny it. We are known to invite everyone. We should have. If there were any issues, they should have been put on board earlier. Everything can happen respectfully. Everyday we blame Pakistan, everyday Pakistan blames us. It is an issue.

Here is a set of people who are spending up to Rs 70, 80, 90 crore and suddenly, if you say this much to me (that a buy might be risky), I’m like, “Uh-oh, so should I?”

I am not giving an excuse and I truly believe Pakistanis are the best T20 players in the world. But somewhere down the line there is an issue and we cannot deny it. We cannot keep saying, “Oh, this was wrong”. Yes, maybe the way it was done was wrong, the way it is being carried out may be wrong. But you can’t keep on saying “Koi issue nahi hai yaar, woh aa jate” (There isn’t any issue, they could have come). There is an issue, let’s not deny it.

Shah Rukh Khan

At least he admits there is a core issue at the bottom of all of this and doesn’t go out of his way to abuse someone. Though I question the timing of this statement a few weeks before the release of his movie, I can’t find fault with the statement itself. It is his view.

At the end of it all, forget security concerns about Pakistani players participating in the IPL. This is the time to make a stand and to boycott Pakistan fully till they act on the evidence we have provided them for Mumbai.

PS: I admit it has been long since I have posted. The truth is that my Aquoid blog gets all my attention these days.

Update (16th Feb 2010): Quite out of the blue this post has been picked as one of BlogAdda’s Tangy Tuesday Picks. Funny how I write one article after so many days and that article happens to be truly partisan and it gets picked! Maybe I should try being opinionated a lot more often on my blog!
BlogAdda's Tangy Tuesday Picks

Rounding Up 2009

I remember last year, around the same time of the year Tanuka and Aikataan had gone to India and my client had the annual shutdown. I am not a person who gets bored easily unless I am watching a very poorly made movie. So I found myself a lot of things to do: polish my meagre culinary skills, catch up on my reading, ensure that I watched Bollywood movies in the US before my family in India got to them, lose the incredible amount of adipose tissue built up near my belly and so on. And I also decided to move into blogging more actively.

So I started / revamped a bunch of sites, chief among which was this one. I discovered open source blogging and CMS and I was pulled in. In particular I loved WordPress and Joomla. And so began my journey with trying to do things by myself. Some time in March 2009 I began something as an experiment: Aquoid. It was intended to be an exercise in in building Mac-like themes across multiple platforms. A lofty goal, indeed.

Aquoid was slow off the blocks, mainly due to the intense pressure at work those days. I had a stretch where I was forced to work weekends for weeks together. So I toned down the goals a bit and focused on getting out one simple and clean theme for one platform. I had no idea at that time that I had sown the seeds for a fun ride. Suffusion came about and would have sunk without a trace if it weren’t for a crazy desire of mine to make it just a little bit better. That “little bit” became all-encompassing, and the journey from a simple, single-layout theme to one that can legitimately lay claim to being customizable is a story in itself.

Since this is my blog, I will let myself brag and point out a few nice reviews of the theme at There are a lot of great themes out there and if you ask me for an honest opinion I wouldn’t hesitate to rate them above mine. But all the same it feels good to be the author of something that people in general like.

As I devoted more and more time to Suffusion, my personal blog started suffering from a lack of attention. If you notice here, I have had just about 1-2 posts a month for the last few months. I believe I have compensated by making my updates on Aquoid a lot more frequent, though writers’ block too has had a hand in the reduction of frequency.

But enough about blogging. Professionally I started off on a new project after almost two years on my previous one. Unfortunately this project keeps me away from home around 65% of the time. Thrown in some horrible weather and coach class travel each week and you have a grumpy and weary me.

2009 was an eventful year for me personally, too. I took a true vacation in a very long time when I spent 3 weeks in India attending the weddings of a couple of my cousins. I had forgotten what a humid Indian summer felt like, having stayed long enough in the Silicon Valley to be spoilt.

And then of course, there is Aikataan. He recently started school and is beginning to grapple with English, since we only converse in Bengali at home. It is funny and amusing to see him grow – he turned three during the middle of the year and plays games on the Wii with the skill of a veteran. While he doesn’t understand when he wins at Tennis or Bowling, he does know that he gets a cup if he does well at Mario Kart.

I Want My Coffee

I have never been a fan of glaring “pay-per-click” and online advertising on personal sites because I feel it takes the focus away from the somewhat personal nature of my blogs. But I do believe that you have every right to ask for donations to support your work, particularly if you put in a lot of effort into it and generate a good product. Your users get to determine if you are doing a good job and they can make a donation if they like.

Now, I used to find it a bit corny to explicitly put a button that said “Donate” on my page, because, all said and done, I really had no expectations when I started work on Suffusion. Moreover, the “Donate” button seemed to me to have undertones of begging. Eventually, though, a few people offered to “buy [me] a drink” and that is when I thought about finally biting the bullet and putting in a link. I eventually put in a “Buy me a coffee” button on Aquoid.

I want my coffee!!
I want my coffee!!

Why a coffee? I will be the first to admit that coffee only helps me to stay awake when ingested in extreme doses. For those who don’t know me well, I can get by with around 30 hours of sleep in a whole week and not show any side-effects, all without coffee. I can also get by with 80 hours of sleep a week – I am that weird, but that is a story for another day. The other options were a Pizza (unhealthy) and a Beer (I am a teetotaler). Though now that I think of it, I could have put in a picture of hot wings – something I love. Anyway, the coffee was merely symbolic and had no bearing on what I was really going to spend the contributions on (though I assure you it isn’t for nefarious activities 🙂 ).

What was that, CBS?

I just finished watching the Roger Federer vs Juan Martin Del Potro US Open 2009 final and needless to say, I am a bit upset with Federer’s defeat. But all the same, full credit to Del Potro for taking the fight to Federer and fully capitalizing on the #1’s errors.

However, the post match presentations on CBS are what got me annoyed. The presenter Dick Enberg first joked a bit with Federer, and after Federer gave his acceptance speech and took his trophy, the champion was called. And I was really shocked with the way Dick Enberg handled him. He first asked him a couple of questions, then Del Potro said, “Can I say something in Spanish?” Enberg ignored him saying, “We are running out of time”, then called one of the heads of Lexus (a sponsor, of course) to give Del Potro the keys to the car he won. He then had the awards given to Del Potro and was about to sign off, when Del Potro again asked, “Can I say something in Spanish?” This time Enberg said, “We are running out of time, so a few quick words…” (or something to that effect). Del Potro finally got to speak for about 20s in Spanish and even got teary-eyed at the end of it.

Is this what a 20-year old Grand Slam winner gets for beating the 5-time defending champion? We are running out of time? It wasn’t as though Del Potro was verbose anyway. Why exactly was CBS running out of time? Had they expected the match to be shorter given Federer’s record against Del Potro?

Don’t know if too many others noticed this, but it surely stuck out like a sore thumb.

A Sampling of Spam

My spam blocker does a pretty decent job of keeping out unwanted comments on my blog. Once in a while though, I love going through the list of comments that it has marked as spam, just for a laugh. Here is a small sample of the kind of comments I have seen. Italicized text in the quotes has been inserted by me.

  • The simply obvious ones talk about offering supplies of medicines, dubious or otherwise, that will help typical hot-blooded men keep up with their reputations of being typically hot-blooded while indulging in various nocturnal activities that I shan’t mention here for fear of being tackled by search engines on grounds of sensitive content.
  • There is this one which lures people with an ego waiting to be pampered:
    Thank you! You often write very interesting articles. You improved my mood.

    Huh? In response to me announcing that I will be no longer writing on Of course, the link of the author is really what the author wants approved, for SEO reasons.

  • Yet another one on the same lines as above:
    Hmm… I read blogs on a similar topic, but i never visited your blog. I added it to favorites and i’ll be your constant reader.

    Thanks for the undying fealty, but I will not approve your comment! Particularly since it was to my announcement of a new release of a WP theme.

  • This one tries a somewhat similar approach:
    I’m new and felt the need to make a brand new thread to acquaint myself. My name is Maryann <or Katie, or Beth or whatever – the name is probably algorithmically generated> and I stumbled here by a fast search and preferred to just say howdy. I would enjoy engaging in future day discussions and look ahead to talking with all.

    My best hobby is <some link that I just had to edit>

    Nice try. Up to this point I have had 11 distinct people comment on my blog, of which only 3 people have had multiple comments. The rest have all made solo comments. Wonder what kind of discussions you are looking forward to, when the highest number of comments I have had on any post is 4!! BTW, this is a classic con that has a lot of people without spam blockers falling for it. In general, the more generic the comment and the more commercial the website, the bigger the chances are that the comment is bogus.

  • Then there are comments written entirely in Russian:
    Хочу связать свое будущее с информационными технологиями, достаточно ли курсов или надо учится в универе несколько лет чтобы стадь хорошим специалистом ?

    Now I am fairly resourceful and by cursorily looking at the introductory pages of various books from Mir Publishers that I religiously read in preparation for my Engineering entrance, I got a good enough handle of the Cryllic script to do some transliteration (и -> i, н -> n, ф -> f / ph, о -> o, р -> r, м -> m, а -> a, ц -> sh etc.). But whatever alerted to the comment author of this fact? And why would I accept Russian comments on my blog when I can only scratchily read the language and not understand it? By the way, I did a Babelfish translation of this comment. Apparently the author is looking for information on university courses in information technology for purposes of specialization.

  • I couldn’t figure this one out:
    Yeh right.. great post, Thank You

    The above, when read with emphasis on certain sections (Yeh right), would seem as though the author is mocking me. Oh, well.


Signs of an Idle Mind

There are times when I find it difficult to even look up from my laptop due to the pressure of work. And then there are times when I tire myself out wondering what I should do next. It is for these excruciatingly uneventful days that I have a whole list of activities to choose from:

  • Following “sports” on TV
    • Snooker – Okay, I begin with a lie. I love watching Snooker and I don’t watch it to kill boredom. The games tend to get fascinating and there is so much intelligence and skill involved in each frame, that Snooker becomes almost irresistible.
    • Darts – I never knew that there was an official World Championship for Darts, till I found myself channel-surfing on a lazy Saturday afternoon in London. I remember Ted Hanky winning that particular championship and I even found myself picking up the rules of a standard Darts game. I learned that the Bulls-Eye doesn’t get you the highest score, but “Triple top” (3×20) does. That was the only time, though – I have never tried watching Darts after that.
    • Marathon – How do you explain watching a bunch of people keep running for a few hours? I have never been able to explain it myself, but somehow I have never shied from watching a marathon unfold – it is a guaranteed method of keeping you occupied for around 4 hours.
    • Preliminary rounds of Grand Slams being played by two women, neither of whom is Maria Sharapova – I love tennis and I love watching tennis. But I find women’s tennis to be of a decidedly low quality these days and when Maria Sharapova isn’t playing, the incentive to watch is even less. However my love for the game often overrules the poor quality of play and you will find me glued to the television watching the early rounds of the women’s grand slams championships, provided of course, I am either idle or I am trying to avoid work.
    • Ball-by-ball textual cricket commentary updates on Cricinfo, for matches between Zimbabwe and Netherlands – I love cricket, just like I love tennis. Technical difficulties in the US prevent me from getting a dish installed at home, and as a result I have no access to telecast games. However there is the old and reliable source – Cricinfo. Truly speaking this is not the TV, but in terms of simulating the experience for a person with a hyperactive imagination like me, it gets pretty close. Ever since I was in college, trying to tune into the cricket action in between classes, I have found Cricinfo to be the best source available. When I have nothing to do I first visit Cricinfo and see if there is any match going on – Ranji trophy, English county cricket, matches between Zimbabwe and Netherlands; anything at all. Then I start following the ball-by-ball commentary for it, staying glued to the screen.
  • Keep looking at a BitTorrent or a download to see how far it has gone – I used to download stuff by BitTorrent occasionally, prior to the advent of Hulu. I always found the bytes and file segments being downloaded to be of profound interest, often leading to impatience on my side when things would slow down.
  • Keep looking at the timer on the microwave to find out how much longer before something is cooked – When I have time and not necessarily when I am idle I like to cook rather elaborate meals. However when I am genuinely idle, I love watching the timer count down on the microwave oven.
  • Keep checking my Alexa Rank every few minutes to see if it has improved – This is a somewhat new thing with me. Alexa updates its ranks everyday, so there is no point in checking every few minutes. However I find myself checking the ranking ever so often, in the futile hope that it has improved.
  • Checking my email every minute, even though I have all notifiers installed – This is a classic symptom of ennui, straight from the IIT days. Those days it used to be “nfrm” (“new from”) and now I have the Outlook notifier and Google Talk notifier. The fact remains that no matter what the tools are, I still find myself slinking off to my mailbox application, just to see if the notifiers are indeed working correctly.
  • Looking for real estate in the Bay Area, when I know fully well that I am nowhere close to being able to buy property – This is one of those pipe dreams that I love hanging on to. Given the current state of my finances I am a long way from being able to buy real estate of any sort in the bay area. But I love visiting sites like Remax just to see what houses are available in the locations that I prefer … and wondering when I will be able to buy something.
  • Looking through the Lexus, Acura, BMW and Audi websites for SUVs, though I will be buying none in the near future – Yet another idle fantasy of mine. I love going through the websites and salivating over these cars, wishing that I hit the jackpot somehow so that I might be able to buy one.
  • Looking for tennis racquets on Amazon – I have a couple of pretty good tennis racquets obtained at bargain prices, but that doesn’t stop me from frequenting Amazon and checking out the discounts offered on various high-end models. It does take restraint to stop myself from buying one of them, though.
  • Checking the prices of an iPod Touch – I really want to buy an iPod Touch. But I don’t want to get the current version because my songs will not fit into the 16GB version and the 32GB version is too expensive to splurge on. And yet, I find myself checking out Amazon, eBay and PriceGrabber whenever I can, just to see if some dealer has some throwaway prices for the 32GB version.