Thursday, February 21, 2008

Indian sports - run up to Beijing

Our country is now gripped by the IPL fever. The teams backed by the corporate world are frantically bidding for the world's top cricketers. It is just raining in dollars. The common man is just awestruck at the magnitude of thi new concept. He is happy as long as he gets to see his favourite stars battle it out on the grounds.

In the midst of all this high profile drama, this small news article in the "HINDU" sports section caught my eye -

The article talks about India's performance in the recently concluded Asian Indoor athletics championships in Doha, Qatar. India has finished at the top of the medals table with five gold, nine silver and three bronze medals. This is a very optimistic article praising the achievements of our players and this is indeed an achievement that should be praised.

But the article exudes cautious optimism. It is optimistic about a handful of athletes "qualifying" for the Beijing Olympics, not winning a medal there. A look at the winning times clocked by these athletes explains why.

1. Sinimole’s has clocked 2:03.43 (800m) and 4:15.42 (1500m) in Doha while the Olympic qualification mark is 2:01.30 and 4:08.00 respectively.
2. Chatholi Hamza (1500m) and Sajeesh Joseph and R. Rajeev (800m) are supposed to be quite capable of achieving the Olympic norms of 3:39.00 and 1:47.00. Hamza in particular has come very close with an impressive 3:41.18 for the silver in Doha.

It is very sad that there is not a single sport where qualification to the Olympics is not at all a problem for us. It is not that our athletes cannot perform. But they do not have the necessary support. For every athlete in the top sporting countries, they have coaches, nutritionists, psychiatrists, practice partners, advanced exercise + playing equipments, high tech sporting gears customized specifically for that individual and so on. Our athletes have to depend only on their talent and compete against these well-trained & maintained athletes. Now whatever I've said here will be repeated in so many newspapers and magazines after the Beijing event. Hopefully someone follows it up and acts to provide a solution to this. Let a tiny fraction of the money going to cricket, trickle to other sports.

There are quite a few champions in other sports like Humpy in Chess and illavazhagi in Carrom - She won the world championship last week. I'm not sure how many of us know this. She is the daughter of a daily labourer and hopes that the world championship will help her land a job quickly. How pathetic!!!!! Probably if these sports are included in the Olympics, we might have a chance of winning one more medal.

Given the state of sports now, it is remarkable that we've been winning at least one medal in the past 3 editions of the games. I'm eagerly awaiting the Beijing games. And as usual, I'll be checking the websites every hour to see if at least one Indian sportsperson is in sight of a medal. Hope the day will come when our national anthem is played in the games more than once.
This is a very old article, but it still holds good today:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rain after snow in NY

This is the sequel to the "Snow in NY" post - RAIN in NY. Today is one of the most messy days this season. It had snowed a bit yesterday evening, followed by some ice and today morning, it began raining. The result - a cold, sludgy commute.

The rain so far has not been heavy enough to melt and wash away all the snow. Instead, the water has mixed with ice to form a highly rarified cold sludge. The side walks were so full of this sludge and we had to walk as slowly and carefully as possible to avoid slipping. The worst part was when I had to cross a street. My route to the PATH train station has so many crossings. At every intersection, this icy sludge has formed a big pool. Being translucent, it is difficult to judge the depth. If we step into this thinking it'll be shallow, it is quite deep and the sludge comes up to the ankles. Wading through rain water is not something new. We used to do it for for fun :) But the difference is that this is an icy mix. The moment the sludge enter our shoes, it becomes so cold and the feet become numb. As it has rarely snowed in NY, I never bothered with snow boots. So, I ended up coming to office with fully soaked shoes and numb feet. :)

The weather department has forecast heavy rain for today. So hopefully all the snow gets washed off by the time I leave office. If this is the case, for a small snow-rain combo, I'm afraid to think of how it'll be in places like Buffalo, Syracuse and Minneapolis where it keeps snowing and raining all the time.

Anyways, while it was pure fun walking in the snow yesterday, it was a micro-adventure today walking in the rain & sludge. I saw a guy slipping and almost falling down while crossing a signal and a woman falling down the stairs while entering the PATH station. It was a delicate balancing act out there :)

It was quite foggy today. Most of the building just "vanished" into the low clouds. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


This is one of my most ad hoc posts - posting just after I had a thought. I usually let my thoughts go on for a while before writing them and most don't get recorded. But I don't want miss this - write as I feel it.

Nothing much - the usual stuff that people close would've heard so much - IT'S SNOWING IN NEW YORK :):):) . For all those who've seen sooooooo much snow this year, I might appear to be nuts (probably for others too, but I don't care). But I'm pretty excited about this. While the average snowfall in the NY city region is around 12 inches per annum, it has been falling short of this mark for two consecutive years. I badly wanted to walk outside and feel the falling snow. And today I got my chance after a long time. It's not a huge blizzard, but a small snowy day, probably an inch and a half of snow.

I started slightly early from office, so that I can get some day light views. It was nice inside NY city, but due to the high human and vehicular traffic, we could not see any accumulation. The best part was after coming to Jersey city. When I came out of the PATH train, all I could see was the white powdery substance everywhere. - Just a thin layer. So, I started walking as slowly as possible to my home and snapping photos all the while. Didn't miss a chance to record my foot print in any undisturbed accumulation of snow; didn't make an effort to brush of the snow over my jacket; tried capturing everything from the vehicle tracks on the road, prisitne accumulation on the sides, my deep footprints, tiny dots where the snow salt has melted the snow ...

Its amazing how the sky turns a bright red when its overcast and is raining/snowing. I've noticed this even back home. This gives a twilight effect to the setting when its actually well beyond sunset. This combined with the white powdery snow around and the yellow sodium vapour lamps give a totally different effect. I can say its reddish, yellowish or probably greenish - not sure, forgive my colour blindness :).
The photo looks very "green" to me. Probably the colour more exaggerated by the camera. But this is what I'm seeing outside now - at 7:39 pm

Whatever it is, it's beautiful and that's important. . Actually the complete silence around the place, does make it slightly eerie and I like it.

Recently I bought a $50 digi-cam from HP. One of the most basic models - very small, no optical zoom, additional features. I've been carrying it around in my coat pocket and snapping pictures whenever and wherever I can. All my snow photos today are with that. I'm surprised at the quality of the pictures. They're pretty good for $50. :) In some photos, they've captured the falling snow - something that I could not manage with my other more expensive ones.

And for my parents, if they come across this post - or to anyone else who might talk to them - I was wearing all the protective clothing, covering myself from head to toe. So, no worries in that front. :):):)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Energy quest - Where will it take us ?

I recently came across this article in The article talks about how India and China are moving in the same path taken by countries like US and Japan. It talks about our preference for personal transport and the increasing energy demand resulting out of it. The author then advocates fresh research on better, energy effecient automobiles. He lays particular emphasis on using hydrogen to fuel our vehicles.

He gives a couple of links that describe how a hydrogen based technology would work. On the outset, whatever he proposes seems very promising - A clean, efficient, low cost alternative to fossil fuels. But after reading the comments posted by few others, I'm not so sure anymore. They point out the inefficiencies of hydrogen based technologies and emphasize that a battery based technology is more efficient.

We hear of so many new alternatives every other day. But none of them seem to have been successful enough for mass production. The combustion engine based on fossil fuels seem to have been the last major breakthrough here. So far, nothing has come close to challenging their dominance. Hopefully something comes up soon. As the author specifies, the world does not have the capacity to accomodate the energy demands of the two great asian neighbours.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Place in the cosmopolitan world

My room-mate is returning home next week and so we went out on the usual shopping tour around the city. As usual we were scratching our heads not knowing where to begin and what to buy. We roamed around the city for more than 5 hours and finally found ourselves outside Saravana bhavan at dinner time.

As in Chennai, this outlet also had quite a few people standing outside. We had to write our names on a sheet of paper and wait for our turn to go inside. I was standing just inside the main door trying to shield myself from the cold air outside. I looked around and noticed quite a mix of people waiting along with me. There was a group of six people - all white Americans waiting outside, two women - one Indian and the other white and also a lone east Asian woman. After a short wait, we were called inside and given a table. I noticed that around 50% of the customers are non-Indians. Quite a few of them seemed to be quite used to the place. They placed their orders without any doubts and a few of them even gave their own specifications to the waiter !!! They knew exactly how to eat the dishes and which dish goes with what and so on. One man in particular was having a full south-Indian meal and seemed to have no difficulty in handling the rice, sambhar, rasam etc. Few others were new-comers and were asking the waiters for some help with the dishes.

It was really a nice sight - A small room filled with people from different corners of the world and having a taste of our cuisine. New York and that too Mid-town Manhattan is one of the most cosmopolitan place in this planet and we have our own spot in that. Coooooooool :):):)