@saumilzx #ideas #wishlist 091006.1

In 1999 my iMac was 233Mhz, had 128Mb RAM and 12Gb space.I also had a Powerbook Duo laptop in the early ’90s, with a dock (monitor, keyboard, mouse no CPU). The laptop was grayscale, but when docked, it became a desktop Mac with thousands of colors.. when done, eject laptop like a floppy… and go.

2009: iTablet or iMac or whatever, can perhaps be sold in different form factors, at low cost- just as screen with a docking slot… hmm…iPodTouch is already 64Gb, 500Mhz+… please!!!

Mumbai, India
8 Oct 2009



Scuba Diver, finally

My Open Water Dive Course
with Scuba Cat, Phuket
Sept 1-4, 2009

When we first published our Phuket & Phi Phi travel guide (this book is out of print few years since the tsunami), I have been doing fun dives (Discover Scuba) but mainly have been snorkeling around in Thailand and Indonesia. Since this is my work, I have to mix meetings with other photo targets with many other aqua activities.

Finally, I strung three days together, in a rain delayed Phuket schedule and got enrolled with Scuba Cat for an open water course. The first day in the pool was demanding indeed for someone who lives a desktop life in Mumbai. I must admire the fitness of my Instructor Khun Chart (a Thai Muslim, who adheres to Ramadan fasts), as he was patient with me and did many drills in the pool and next day in the open water- hungry till sunset! Khob Khun Maak Krap!

Anyway, the next two days were real dives off Racha, a great spot to learn diving- as there are reefs ranging from 2m-18m with sandy patches as well for the drills.

Just putting on the BCD (Bouyancy Control Device) and checking the regulator/tank requires discipline and attention. But since you go underwater with an instructor (I had two- Khun Chart and Staurt Roberson, who found that Phuket was the mid point in his life which was shared between UK/NZ).

At 12m depth, I can tell you it is a bit different than a pool, but if you follow the PADI methodology, and your instructors are as good as they were for me, you can apply enough technique to overcome the inexperience of doing drills.

What did I learn? Well a lot of scuba but a lot more about my own fitness and how to deal with situations (more positional play than tactics for me, for sure).

At least, I could get some shots after the scuba certification (full open water is few dives away…).

We will be including more dive options in our programs on itsaqua.com and Scuba Cat (they have a liveaboard catamaran which divers can stay overnight, with sleeper berth cabins)…

Thanks to Sarah and Kath and the staff for guiding me through (and scolding me when I missed the start date!).

Will upload more shots and videos and another essay on how breathing in Scuba is a type of Yoga..

But one thing is for sure, now I can go diving instead of ending up snorkeling, when I just had a day or morning to spare on my busy trips in SEAsia…. some day I will take a vacation…

Mumbai, India
18 Sept 2009

Sachin’s 4 innings ODIs

This is very welcoming news indeed- Sachin Tendulkar has proposed ODI cricket to have 2 innings of 25 overs each, so that the toss would not be a very big factor, especially in day-night games. He got this idea during a Sri Lanka match few years back, which was washed out due to rain, but Sri Lanka had already batted (and on the spare day as well). But India could not complete a minimum of 20 overs for a result…

This is what Tendulkar has proposed out of experience.

I have said the same thing in Dot Chess (2007 April), using a system of formal and abstract terminlogy (Cricket is an unsymmetric playing format as one team bats (scores runs) and the other team bowls (scores wickets); unlike say soccer, basketball, racing, chess etc, where the objectives (and skills) at a given phase are usually similar for both teams- score goals, be faster, capture pieces etc.

This unsymmetric nature therefore makes the toss important and also makes issues like declaration tricky. By pausing at the 25 over mark we just make the impact of the unsymmetric nature more evenly distributed (I assume that we continue the second innings at the point we left off in the first). More interesting would be to be able to decide at which over between 20-30th (by batting team?) to flip the symmetry and let the other side in.

Mumbai, India
18 Sept 2009
Question: This does not affect T20s much, since the total 40 overs fits evenly into a session which can be deemed equal all through. But there are some historic possibilities here as well – and logically sound 🙂

Finally Tendulkar let us down! 1st Test India vs England 2008, Chennai

Listen to this blog?

India have won the first test against England, creating history by chasing close to 400 runs in the 4th innings. Prior to the start of the series, analysts had pondered over the fact that India was at World number 2 spot in Test Cricket, after defeating the Aussies 2-0. However, a Test series loss in Sri Lanka, and a drawn series against South Africa (at home), indicates that the field is still wide open and Australia, although not as dominant as they were during Warne and McGrath times, are still the team to beat. Will things change in the year or so?

Sure it can, India may well take over the reigns of the cricketing world, but we have to begin to get our analysis right. First, we can learn a few things from Tendulkar’s defiant presence in recent times. (I will do a complete round up of that after the English series, which is not won yet. Remember, it is 1-0 in India’s favor).

Toss plays a vital role these days, with the balance of the game in favor of batsmen. We must remember that the India-Australia matches (last year and the recent one), and the India-Sri Lanka matches, were won or dominated by the team which batted first. This is nothing new in test cricket, but the fact is that bowlers are finding it tough to knock teams over in the first innings. It has always been vital to get a good first innings lead, if not a decisive one, of 150 runs or more, and thereby give bowlers time to get 20 wickets.

This makes your team chances of winning or dominating, perhaps 9 out of 10 times. Much better to be in a 9/10 position than be in a 1/10 position – even though this 1 in 10 may fetch you glory… as it did today in Chennai. Suddenly Tendulkar has become the Rajnikanth of Chennai, as one TV channel put it (he has always been adored there, but I did not hear this earlier. I always rated Rajnikanth ahead, since piercing a fleeting bullet is a lot tougher than Tendulkar piercing the field).

So how did India fair in this match? This match explains a lot about our cricket team and what we can do and where we do fall short.

1. India did well to restrict England in the first innings to just over 300, when they had a good opening partnership. This somewhat nullified the toss advantage. India have incidentally, done well bowling first in Melbourne and Sydney last year. But the fact is that toss is a bigger advantage these days no matter who the bowlers are.

2. What was India’s reply? 30 for 3!, with Sehwag throwing it away and Gambhir and Dravid just about making a mess of the first over Swann bowled in his debut. Tendulkar and Laxman revived this, to reach 100 for 3, but then fell softly being caught and bowled.

Just think of it, if Tendulkar had made 75 odd runs and played about 2 sessions, like he has been doing recently to salavage a mess in the first innings (3 times in the Australia series), we would not have seen this historic day. The fact is that this time, Tendulkar actually let us down, after many brilliant first inning recoveries. His 68 in Delhi against Australia (1st innings of the 3rd Test) is the kind of play which will win you more often, but will not be seen as memorable as this Chennai 2nd inning grind. Memorable, but not desirable.

3. Finally Dhoni and Harbhajan, got India to 75 short of England’s first innings total. Just regulation batting in the first innings from our top order, should have given India, 75 plus over England, but it went the other way! The tail-enders have improved their batting, and one must say that at this point they are doing a fair job, perhaps above par to world standards.

4. Ok, so much for the first innings fiasco. But India just about took 19 wickets in the match, they struggled to get Strauss and Collingwood off the park. India with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma , have done well to be a bowling attack which India has needed since decades, one that looks like getting 20 wickets and knocking off the tail. But be wary of injuries! Do not forget the backup bowlers, like RP SIngh or Munaf Patel, when we need to play 3 seamers.

5. Sehwag’s flamboyance in the second innings set it up? Surely, we needed a good opening partnership upfront. But was 83 of 68 balls the need of the hour? 60 of 80 balls might have been just as good. You might say that with Viru, it just works that way, he cannot control it! But his non-shot in the first innings was a contributor to exposing the middle order by the 10th over! Can we play Sehwag at number 3, so that orthodox openers may play out 15-20 overs when needed, especially overseas?

Bradman or Richards never opened, and yet they attacked as good as any in the history of the game. In recent times, Hayden was an explosive opener, but he also had an impeccable defence and could wait and leave the new ball. I do not think they will dare tinker around with the opening slot at this moment, but again, this situation is far from solved!

All in all, this match has brought about a lot of normalization in our lives, after the terror attacks in Mumbai. And just as our commandos salvaged a lot of lives, our batters salvaged a lost match. However, I would prefer that next time we nail the issues, in our national security and our batting as well, before it gets to historic proportions.

That is, if we need to be World Number One, as a nation or in sport.

Have a good night’s sleep Sachin, you have silenced those critics who never got it. Good for you, less nuisance from now. Just get back to your normal self and make sure they do the chasing in the next match in Mohali.

Mumbai, India
15 Dec 2008

Verstality in Sports- In Context of Olympics

The great in any sport are great because they are in masterful control of their art and versatile as well in the subtle variations as and when needed. Most Olympic events by and large are dominated by specialists- as every medal that is up for grabs usually demands total commitment for a decade or two. To be hopeful for a medal, I guess athletes have to focus on a specific event- be it a sprint, throw, jump etc.

However events such as gymnastics (all-round), decathalon, triathalon, and swimming medley are a few individual events- which test how versatile an athelte is, beyond just pushing one parameter to its limits- such as power, speed, flexibility etc as is the case in many other events.

In many other sports, such as cricket or tennis- being versatile is largely dependent on the playing surface and conditions. In cue-sports, the ball momentum/spin and contact principles follows the same laws of physics, it would mean that players are likely to play more than one format very well. However, playing well and succeeding are two different issues. Steve Davis was a legend at snooker, played Billiards well and also gave nightmares to 9-ball legends like Reyes and Strickland.

In Chess, there have been all kinds of players- strategic, tactical, sharp postional across various different openings. There has been a lack of experimentation with opening play at GM level, largely because computers have maxed out options for certain lines of play. But just playing 1 e4 or 1 d4 can be a comfort issue for even the best in the world! No matter how routine some openings tend to be, to be able to excel at the top, versatility is key- and this is perhaps where Kasparov had the edge over the very best in his time.

Then in the modern day there is huge pressure to compress matches in shorter formats. This has happened in cricket and chess, where different aspects of scoring and tactical skills are tested out . Again, only the versatile are likely to succeed.

It must be noted that the greatest sportspersons have often not succeeded in every variant or different style of play. For instance, Borg, McEnroe, Sampras or Federor have not won all grand slams events, on account of different style of play on different surfaces. In cricket, playing in India, England and Australia are so very different, that the same bloke who dominates in certain pitches, may be simply out of sorts elsewhere.

However, the fact is that great players- will yet be above par when tested in conditions which demand playing out of their comfort zone. The same list of tennis players mentioned above were versatile enough to be amogst the top few players on surfaces they do not like, even if they did not win on that surface.

Since being versatile involves blending skills in different ways, we can therefore try to define or explain it in more ways than one. Are you a master of few and good in other skills? (Michael Phelps is an Ace in freestyle and butterfly, and also excels in the other two strokes) Or are you above par in each different department (not Jack of all trades, but perhaps a Queen or King). This will largely depend on the individual and the sport.

Coming to the Olympics, I am always amazed by what the Decathletes have to undergo. Sprint 100m, 1500m laps, run with a javelin and lift a shot put as well, high jump and long jump demand different flexibility… Each of these 10 events demands a different body weight and height, not to mention the seemingly conflicting muscular activity. Surely, a decathlete may not be able to win an individual medal in any of the 10 events, because to succeed as a decathlete you perhaps need to be able to carry a body which is sort of in the middle.

In gymnastics and swimming- you will usually find that the great athletes, being versatile, usually win many medals in one competition, as they can win the all-round events and excel at a few individual routines as well- since their body structure will at least permit it. This however does not mean what Phelps achieved is not super-special (the medals won were all gold and he broke the world records as well).

It would indeed by an interesting subject to explore the type of skills and preparation required by sports persons to be versatile- across the world of sport- and be able to compare the scope of what can be achieved.

Surely, it needs to be addressed in my concepts of Universal Sports Expression and inventing cross-variants in the future.

Perhaps decathletes may be versatile enough to teach us the nuances of conflicting skills.

More later
19 August 08, Mumbai

Electric Saina Nehwal, Beijing Olympics 2008

Exhibition of Power and Balance on a Badminton Court.

Indian Badminton sensation Saina Nehwal lost in the quarter finals of the Beijing Olympics to Maria Yulianti of Indonesia. It was high quality badminton and looked like a classic rivalry of Saina’s power shots vs Maria’s simplicity of balance. Saina had her chances as she led 11-4 in the final set (earlier in the first game she was 20-16 up, and won after toiling hard at 28-26, which could perhaps have drained her batteries a bit).

Yet folks, she has done our nation proud, getting into the quarter-finals at an age when most of us are yearning for a driver’s license- is very big indeed. Also big is the fact that her parents drove 20km every day on a scooter for training when she would fall asleep on the back seat due to hard hours of training.

But this match brought out the beauty of the game of badminton. This is a sport where there is still a balance of attack and defence- unlike other modern day sports such as table tennis and even tennis, where momentum of the ball escalates with each touch and winning or losing points is matter of going with the flow.

You react in table tennis, but in badminton you respond.

Why is badminton this way? Perhaps in my next book or another blog…

But for now, be assured there are enough megawatts in Saina to be an international powerhouse. All she needs is a few more switches to regulate the flow- to ensure players like Yulianti do not use it against herself. But well played Yulianti, she deserves her bronze.

14 August 2008

iPhone 3G delivers the Original Internet Promise?

I have always maintained that the commercial fallout of the internet and B2C in the 90s was not due to ‘revenue model’ issues. It was the interface, stupid! And the interface is not just a point and click thing- it about the way you interact with the machine to accomplish tasks- or rather avoiding those cumbersome things that you should not be doing, which undermine the very ‘reach-out’ advantage of the net.

What was, or rather is needed for B2C to succeed is tracking user identity and therby enabling smooth payment processing, and an assurance to the user that he will be able to get what he paid for. Also assurance is needed that the user will not misuse what he pays for, by eSharing it. Then one could pay 10 cents for a cybercard, without filling up forms and learning various shopping cart interfaces- not to mention the dozens of passwords to be managed. If you like something, and I am willing to pay the price, it should be done, without any further interaction. Also, the buyer must not be able copy-paste and misuse content.

The promise of simplicity of buying and paying for something is perhaps here at last. The user now just has to decide what he wants and whether the price is right or not- rather than wait for Javascript to tell you that your zip code is incorrect! The iPhone/iTunes System is perhaps delivering the original promise of the internet, today, which could have been done years ago by prepaid internet cards to track users and products and pay as you go- but without getting into mechanics of forms and e-commerce nonsense.

Go Apple, go! They better not mess up in India! Every rural and small town in Asia needs the iPhone/iTunes app & content distribution- not just to buy stuff but to be able to publish their little dreams and earn just enough to live on and dream another day…

15 July 2008