Sunday, March 25, 2018

The day I finally broke up

March 24th 2018

For a long time now, I have been a fan of the Australian cricket team. I do not know why/how it started. Maybe I was fascinated by the Australian sport culture. Maybe my child brain was just fascinated by the then champions of world cricket. Regardless, my brain had been wired to like them and even after their sporting success declined, I have always wanted them to compete and win.

Yes, I supported them, even been willing to ignore/rationalize the persistent sledging. Here's a diary note I made about 2 years ago on the anniversary of Philip Hughes' death.

This post is about sledging, boorish behavior and general unsportsmanlike conduct that is now regularly stereotyped with an Aussie cricketer and as a consequence opposition fans regularly belittle their achievements and call them cheats. I am a quiet person who likes to go about my business and sledging or any sort of banter is not within my persona. I come from a pretty non-confrontational culture and as a result frequently cringe when I see boorish behavior on the field, in particular from the Aussies. The Aussies, more so because I am a hardwired diehard fan of Australian sport in general. I suppose it is down to them being a sporting nation and me fantasizing about what I cannot have or be. Regardless, the point is that I am a fan and I cringe when Australian cricketers open their mouth on the field. That is more so because I am afraid of the criticism that is going to come their way in the following days. As any fan would do, I try to deny, rationalize or justify their behavior or actions or words. Yet, I am no fan of sledging. Maybe hypocritical, but that's being human.

In any case, I do not think that sledging or unsportsmanlike conduct is a preserve of the Aussies alone. However, they seem to be in the thick of things more often than not. That's possibly a consequence of increased media scrutiny, coverage and analysis coinciding with Australia being the best team on the planet, and as a consequence their actions on the field get analyzed more. That may have played a role in creating an impression on fans that Aussies are boorish, but opposition players have similar opinions as well. It is possibly a cultural difference where players from traditional non-confrontational sporting ethos do not understand the "hard on the field in all respects and sharing a beer and laughing about the confrontation when off the field" culture of the Aussies (I have only read about this and haven't experienced such a culture. However, from the words of current and former Aussie players, I gather, this to be the case). In any case, culture is something that has to evolve and since it is obvious that the rest of the world do not like the culture of on-field banter it is time Australian cricket did something about it. In wake of Phil Hughes' death they seem to have realized that and seem to be making a genuine effort to change. Let us hope it is not a false dawn.

I had thought, then, that one of the catalysts for the change would be Steve Smith. My impression of him, since I first saw his fielding exploits in the IPL, was extremely positive - the boyish face, the effort he put on the field despite being a persistently mocked bits-and-pieces cricketer, and then later his transformation to world's number one test batsman. I admired his determination and focus, his ability to shut out his naysayers and mockers and find a way to succeed as a test batsman. He clearly appeared as a genuine bloke, one who valued action more than words, who didn't really need to sledge to get pumped up and perform (unlike some other Australian cricketers). When he was made captain I had hoped he would remake the Australian team into that image I had of him. Finally, someone who could break down the boorish, sledger, cheater stereotype associated with Australian cricketers.

While there were moments in the last 2 years where that image I had of him was strained, such as the "Bangalore brain fade", or the Warner - de Kock stairwell incident (which was a culmination  of a series of events that indicated a passive/active support from the captain to get as close to the undefinable "line" as possible without getting demerit points for sledging), I still believed he would gradually lead the team to positive change.

Until today!!!

Today is the day I finally broke up from my 20+ years of fascination with Australian cricket.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Dream Sleep

Diary entry: Sunday, Jan 27th 2013

Have you ever been so tired that you were dreaming that you were sleeping? I am still a little disoriented. You'd be too if you were jolted up from 2 sleeps. I am still not sure if I am up or in another dream.

We were returning home from a family trip. Dad was driving my Galant. I was tired, half asleep in the back seat.I vaguely remember my dad pulling into a driveway and parking on a grass field. My dad took his luggage from the trunk, walked up a flight of stairs, unlocked the door and walked in. A few lights turned on and my attention was back around me inside the car. Mom had now got hold of the wheel and my brother had jumped into the passenger seat before I could even respond; not sure where we were going. I didn't care. I just wanted to sleep. I sprawled on my back in the backseat and closed my eyes.

I am on a bed on a grass field. How I got there, I don't know. It doesn't matter either. The stars are bright; a cool breeze is in the air. I feel peaceful, almost refreshed.

"Wake up, we are home", I heard a call.

I still feel tired. I turn over and check the clock in my phone; 7:06. I am late. I have to pick my friend up in 20 minutes and go skiing. I'll drive to his place and then let him take the wheels. In the meantime, I should write about this; I haven't blogged in months, I think as I jump off the bed and rush to the washroom.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

“Don’t waste my time”

I found the trailer to the movie ‘In Time’ quite interesting. It offered a new and original premise based on a literal interpretation of ‘Time is Money’ and a slightly left-leaning view of what’s wrong with a scarcity based economic model. This latter point piqued my interest even more.

Of late I have been reading about the Resource Based Economy (RBE); an idea proposed by Jacque Fresco, one which does not involve money for the distribution of resources. More on that later. I am now working on a series of posts on RBE. It sure does sounds utopian but it would be immature to come to that judgement without doing further research and asking more questions. That’s what I am aiming for from that series. However, all about that later.

Here, I’ll just post my review of the flick. As I was walking out of the movie hall I wasn’t disappointed. It was an hour and a half of well paced fun with my mind being taken to RBE on quite a few occasions. Some may pick on this distraction and say that it means the movie is not engrossing enough. True; but I like keeping my mind occupied and in this case since some of the dialogues were taking me to my blog series on RBE, I was enjoying the ride.

Soon after I got home I thought I would list out the movie’s good and bad. If I don’t like a movie I would rather not write about it than dissing about it publicly. Since I enjoyed the ride in the movie hall I thought I could write a positive review of this one. Oh well, was I disappointed? Here’s my list. First, I’ll start with the basic plot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mid-PhD Crisis

Like a madman groping in a dark room
Seek the light to burn away the gloom
I’ve lost my mind but my feelings are true
Everything I do, I offer to you.
-- No Turn Un-Stoned (Shpongle)

I am now a mid-career PhD student. That was how my advisor described me during the first departmental meeting of this academic year while introducing his research group to the incoming batch of grad students. Then, I didn’t give much thought to the term he used; mid-career. However, listening to the above lyrics and considering my PhD progress - probably anyone’s for that matter - it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that truer words have never been spoken.

But then, Jorge Cham knew it all along. Nearing 40 in my ‘lab years’, this is probably the perfect time for a mid-‘lab’ life crisis. It seems to have struck me hard. Look at what I am doing right now. I should be working on my thesis. Instead I am procrastinating, penning down my thoughts. I can’t help it. Each time I stare at the word document of my would-be thesis, I can’t help myself getting distracted. On a positive note, though, this time has been a productive blogging period for me, what, with plenty of updates over the last month or so, both here and at Interstate 42.

Newton’s third law of graduation - "For every action towards graduation there is an equal and opposite distraction".

It wasn’t always like this. I got through the inevitable post-qualifiers slump that hit me last summer, obtained some good results and published a paper before this summer began. But now, summer is gone and I have nothing to show for it. I have been coding, compiling and debugging; but I am nowhere near simulating the thermal behavior around laser heated nanoparticles. Guess it happens; it is after all a mid-PhD slump.

Things should pick up soon, if not I should force it. It is time I took Cecilia’s resolve and started working full time on my candidacy report that would later become my thesis. Before my advisor loses his patience, I have to finish the report and take my candidacy examination. But, where are the freaking results? ~Long breath~

In the meantime, I came across a friend’s facebook status - “I TA for a professor whose Erdos Number is 1. Yes No.1 and no lesser. Despite that fact the amount of respect that he gives to other minions like me is amazing! The more I see these people, the smaller I feel in this world. Who said grad school was burden, it is an enlightening experience at every step”. He is a new grad student at RPI and all I can say is ‘enjoy the honeymoon while it lasts. It won’t be long before you end up like this'.

As for the rest, take care and have a blast.

PS: Take note of Jorge Cham’s disclaimer. If you are new to PhD Comics, then remember, ‘reading this entire archive can be hazardous to your research. Proceed with caution and use only in moderation.’

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A matter of choice

One harmless decision. One more a few minutes later. Then a series of small, seemingly inconsequential choices. Nothing more. Yet, in the end the damage was done. Ah, hindsight! Things look so simple in it. Turning back, connecting the dots, a pattern emerges.

I was tired. Working away in my tiny cubicle, I had kept sleep at bay for forty hours.  No more. I had to get out, get back home. Never before had I longed so much to snuggle under my blankets. Never before had the thought of a warm bed comforted me more.

Before that, though, I had to satisfy the growing discomfort inside my stomach. I needed food. Cooking was not an option, not with my eyelids threatening to snap shut, the threat growing stronger every waking second. Thank god for the new diner just outside campus.

A collective ‘Welcome to Moe’s!’ greeting and a short queue later I was able to give my order - rice bowl with chicken and soybeans with a free pack of tortilla chips. To go; one harmless decision. After all, why take the risk of embarrassment, drooling over the table at the diner?

I got the chips in a paper bag. The cashier asked, “Do you want a bag for the rice bowl?” I shook my head in the negative. The second one, after all why waste paper? I put the bowl in the bag with the chips and headed out.

The pedestrian signal was red. “Home in ten minutes”, I thought as I waited. A minute later the signal changed and I was on my way. A little across I met a friend. He had just returned after hiking the Presidential TraverseI could have just greeted him and walked past but I wanted to ask about the hike. A simple choice.

A few minutes later we said our goodbyes and I continued my journey home. As I reached the end of the block, the intersection between 15th and Sage, the pedestrian signal was red. I looked around. Across 15th I saw another friend of mine. He hadn’t seen me. I could have waited for a few more seconds, rushed across Sage and been on my way. A seemingly harmless choice later, I was on the opposite side of 15th. We exchanged pleasantries and started discussing about possible next hikes and camping trips. Fall was approaching and the views would be simply out of the world.

As we parted our ways, after a while, I could hear my stomach grumbling. I had to rush back home. I increased my speed, my hands swinging more violently. I was just a block away from home when I heard a tear. I looked down only to see the bag give away. Unbeknownst to me leaked gravy from the bowl was gradually weakening the bag’s integrity; and, now there I was staring in distress at my dinner on the sidewalk.

I cleaned up, deposited my dinner in the nearest garbage bin and walked home. Now I had to cook something. I am too lazy to do that on a regular day. Now I was too tired to even think about standing over the oven, stirring and waiting. As I reached home I made my last decision of the day. As soon as I saw the bed weariness overcame me. I would have to sleep in an empty stomach. “How would this decision come back to bite me?", I thought as I lay in bed quickly losing consciousness.

I learnt a simple lesson from all this, one of the simple truths of life. Your choice matters, every decision counts. Everything in life may not happen for a reason, but they definitely do because of one. There are no simple choices. As chaos theory goes, even the flutter of a butterfly can wreak havoc on the opposite side of the world. Every decision, thus, has to be weighted with care.

This is true more so for an entity like a nation. The choices of each of its individuals, however small and inconsequential they may seem, matter. Collectively they form the nation’s psyche.

Next time I’ll think twice before jumping a signal, bribing the police officer to escape the fine, buying movie tickets in black, traveling in a train or a bus without buying the ticket, and misrepresenting land costs to escape property tax. Any one of these acts by a single person may be small with respect to the working machinery of a nation, but it is not inconsequential. Things add up. Collectively they contribute to India’s corrupted psyche.