World T20 and India’s failures

India team World T20 Cricket
The has-beens? Image courtesy Firstpost.com

It’s amazing that a country with the most touted professional cricket league fails to make the semi-final three times in a row. As is being widely said now, the problem is with the selection. The captain is doing fine. But with the wrong tools, the best craftsmen can’t work their magic.

Yes, the current team is young and no less enthusiastic than the one which won the tournament in 2007. But there are also some passengers in the team on the basis of their reputation and not current form. Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir (despite being the winning captain of IPL 2012) and perhaps Rohit Sharma (more on promise than even reputation in his case!) deserve to be knocked out immediately. The purpose of the IPL was to nurture young talent (in addition, of course, to making money) and the best performers from this have not made it through to the national team. Manvinder Bisla, for example did well in 2012. And if Rohit Sharma can get so many chances, why not Robin Uthappa? Continue reading “World T20 and India’s failures”

Sports reporting and its unfairness

I couldn’t agree more with what Sharda Ugra has to say in this post. Since the start of these Olympics Games and indeed before, I’ve wondered why the Indian media is so trigger happy. It is cruel to say someone ‘crashed out’ of the games without saying when it happened. In these Games, such a headline would perhaps have been fair to Bhupati/Bopanna after all their hue and cry before the left for the UK. But for the other players, I feel it is essential to also take into account what they have gone through to reach the Olympics before declaring their exits as crashes.

Yes, the performances have been far from satisfactory. The hockey team finished at the bottom. The tennis stars couldn’t get home any medals and indeed, their entire campaign was about the bickering that preceded the actual Games. The wrestlers did promise, but as of writing this, only Yogeshwar Dutt has delivered on a medal promise. Saina Nehwal did deliver on her promise, but wasn’t the expected Gold. Still, without knowing what has held these athletes back, it’s unfair to ‘crash’ them out.

So far as I can tell, these headlines get rewritten on the desk after a reporter or wire service has submitted it. Those who use wire headlines are simply lazy and anyways deserve an earful! But, for those on the desk who are ‘crashing’ people out of the Games, it is worth asking what their success story has been thus far… if any. Especially on a global stage. After going through qualification stages.

This perhaps need some sensitizing in the newsroom.

[The Goan] Outlook.com Review

Outlook.com
The Outlook.com interface

To be fair to Microsoft, calling Outlook.com refreshed is really selling them short. They’ve done a stellar job of actually making a non-Gmail service look and work well. Admittedly, it’s just been a few days since they opened their doors to the world, but it’s a huge (humongous, really) improvement over what Hotmail had become. Bloated, unusable and quite frankly, pointless. So what makes Outlook.com worthwhile?

For one, Outlook.com does really extend the main features of the desktop mail client to the web. And it does without compromising too much on speed or quality. The continued extension of the Metro UI is also a good change. It will let users get used to the interface before Windows 8 launches later this year.

Yes, there are some annoyances as you would expect. But the hope here is that Microsoft will listen to the users and iron these out. The operative word being hope! Without further blabbering, let’s dive right into it.

Continue reading “[The Goan] Outlook.com Review”

A tab that does the job

Karbonn Smart TabTablets are all the rage. If you don’t have one, well, why not? For one, they are now smaller than ever starting at 7-inches in size and cost less than a decent smartphone. Really.

Much is in questioned about the capability of tablets like the Micromax Funtab, the Karbonn SmartTab and others in the sub Rs 7,000-range. So we set out to find the truths. With a Karbonn SmartTab 1. And we’re impressed.

At Rs 6,499, this is perhaps great value for money. Yes, the Google Nexus 7 will be a gamechanger at Rs 9,000 (approx.), but till then, this one will have to do. We did play around with the Micromax Funtab as well, but the higher processor speed (1.2GHz) of the SmartTab swayed us toward it. Also helpful was that there are no physical buttons on the front facia, something that will prove useful as you use the tab in different situations. Continue reading “A tab that does the job”

Fighting a custody battle

Now, now. No alarm bells, please. All is well with the wife and I and of course, the child! This battle has me as the subject of custody. And although the two principals in question don’t know they are fighting for me, well, they are!

The history is thus: In about 2007, I moved from Windows to Apple because I could. And I loved it. I used my black Macbook 13.3 (it wasn’t called a Pro back then) to the fullest for the next 3 years. Of course, time came for an upgrade and I started looking for the next Mac. But it wasn’t available to me. The cost was prohibitive. And before you knew it, Windows 7, like one of the favouring parents, had wooed me away. Apple didn’t seem to care much about this, but I kept longing for the parent I wasn’t in touch with. Windows was true, it kept giving me more and more until I could need no more.

But here I am, once again on the cusp of yearning for that missing parent. Why? Is Windows mistreating me? No. To the contrary, just today, they gave me and the world the free preview of Office 2013. It’s fashionable to diss Windows, but let’s face it, they are more accessible. But I digress.

In this custody battle, like others, are external factors. While Windows is true to me, it always has a barrier between itself and me. The hardware. It’s never true to itself. And this barrier keeps pushing me away. Unbeknownst to Windows. And the pull of Apple is as strong as ever, the prohibitive pricing notwithstanding. So I wonder now what to do? Wait till I’m rich enough to completely embrace the parent who hasn’t done much for me and has continually become more inaccessible? Or keep with the one that has been with me, but continues to offer much frustration thanks to the barriers that are constantly formed?

It’s a tough and expensive decision.

This time, though, the expensive part applies to the ward in the custody battle.

The Dark Knight Rises

235402id1a_MagnusMask_27x40_1Sheet_VER3.inddOne of the most awaited movies of the year, TDKR completes the Batman trilogy. And it is an almost fitting finale. Almost, because despite clear closure and winding up of all open ends, the movie did leave me slightly dissatisfied.

Everyone now knows the storyline so I won’t go on about it. But here are some impressions:

Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. But decides to return as Batman without any knowledge of the existence of Bane. What was so pressing for him to return? Selina Kyle (Catwoman)? He returns from a self-imposed 8-year exile to hunt down a cat burglar?

While the action is brilliant, some scenes in the movie slow down the pace. The menace that Heath Ledger’s Joker brought to the screen is sorely missing. Bane and (spoiler alert) Miranda Tate do their utmost to strike fear, but fail. Bane is a towering presence, but not nearly as menacing. With the Joker, you were never quite sure what he could do. He felt no fear, no pain, no remorse… nothing. With Bane, you are sure he will pummel everything in his way into submission. Kind of predictable…

Some things are best left unsaid. When it is revealed that Autopilot did indeed work on Lucius Fox’s latest vehicle, the makers should have left the rest to the viewer’s imagination. Did Batman survive? Did he die? Is the young policeman really Robin? By answering all these questions in the last few minutes, the makers got closure, but it was too obvious.

Yes, the movie is definitely worth a watch. But unlike The Dark Knight, TDKR won’t see me glued to the TV *everytime* it is shown.

Catwoman is a bit too flippant in her attitude. Yes, she’s a criminal with nearly no scruples. Very survivalist attitude. But why the change of heart eventually? And why should Batman forgive her for all her transgressions?

And finally, Catwoman cannot pull off riding Batman’s bike. No, sir. Only Batman should ever ride that.

If I were to rate it, I’d rate it a 3.5/5. Some scenes are way too long and verbose and slow down the narrative. All in all, money not wasted.

What’s ‘real’ photography?

If one were to compare, it can be argued that this question parallels the “Chicken first or egg” argument. What is real photography? Opinion is pretty evenly divided. One camp, who call themselves ‘purists’ say it is what the camera captures. The other camp argues it is what the photographer visualizes and creates. This includes post-processing (aka ‘photoshopping’) and any other techniques. Darkroom processes and techniques have existed since photography became mainstream and photographers have used these to improve their photos or even alter them.

I lean towards the second group. Photography by itself is a tool-based art. So why should addition of more tools make it any worse? Moreover, I agree with the thought that a photograph is finally a photographer’s vision and not what the camera captures. That is the difference between point-and-shoot photographers and those who use more equipment, techniques and tools to capture their image. Already, we’re going in circles!

A bigger thought that I still don’t have an answer to yet is what constitutes a good photo? Forget the theoretical definitions of perfect composition, etc. The question is for any photograph. What in the photo can deem it to be good?

Admittedly, it is easy these days to just aim and shoot. The better the camera, the better the result. In case of people photography, make-up, hair, clothes and other embellishments that are part of the photo always take precedence. So what is a good photo? Is it being able to communicate the original thought irrespective of the embellishments? The way photojournalism aims to? Or is just taking a pretty picture and letting the viewer make his choice?

Lots of questions there. Here’s what I think:

– Like a good song, a good photo is whatever pleases the viewer. Highly subjective, even trying to define this is stupidity.

– A photographer should make maximum use of all tools available to him/her to get the image they originally wanted. So long as the photographer is honest in telling the viewer that the photo has been altered, it should be acceptable.

– A photograph is the photographer’s to create and the viewer’s to accept or reject based on the final offering. Tools and means should not matter to them.

But to the viewer, what is a good photo?

Tablets, et al.

I’m in the market for a tablet. To be totally honest, I’ve been in the market since the iPad launched a few years ago. There’s no dearth of choice. The iPad is as good a tab as money can buy. But it’s too much money to buy one. The Samsung Tab is great, but it’s still too much money. The Samsung Note is another super option. Again, too much money. So I took myself out of the market. Until recently, I came across the low-end options from Micromax and Karbonn.

I’ll be honest (again) and accept that I’ve often looked down upon brands like Mircomax and Karbonn. To me, they seemed to be in the market to make a quick buck with cheap products. Their mobile phone offerings are basic and appeal to the basic user. Much like Nokia’s portfolio over the past few years. Which was why I gave up Nokia. But the Micromax Funbook changed all that. Just an hour with it recently and I couldn’t believe I was actually considering one. At Rs 6.500 or so, it’s a steal. Then I discovered the Karbonn SmartTab 1. An even better option (on paper so far since I haven’t actually tried one) for the same money.

Soon enough, I started considering brands like Wespro and a bunch of others I’d written off previously. The beauty of all these tabs is that the hardware is mostly Chinese or Taiwanese with Android (Ice-cream Sandwich in most) and access to Google Play (Marketplace). Most cannot run a 3G SIM card but can handle a dongle solving that problem. They have 1GB to 8GB of internal memory, but can manage a 32GB memory card. Their screens are not great, but above average for sure and get the job done.

So who are these for? Someone who wants a light, unfancy, practical device that lets them browse, read, listen to music and carry some entertainment when on-the-go. The logic I apply is at Rs 6,500, these are great devices if they do their job for even a year. Heck, we’ll spend more than that on a few dinners through the year!

Karbonn or Micromax or Kindle Fire? That’s the only question left.

IPL Learnings

Yes, well done KKR, DD, MI and CSK. Kudos and all that. You all did well to beat Pune Warriors. As did Deccan Chargers. Pune did pretty well too. In the first 5 matches. Soon enough, inspiration dwindled. Some thoughts on why that happened:

  1. Cheerleaders (or whatever they are called by the management) are just not hot enough.  Sure, they’re Indian and native and all that. But then, this is the IPL. It’s all about glamour and glitz and showmanship.
  2. “Where am I batting dude?” That’s a common refrain heard across the PWI camp. Batters always on tenterhooks. No one has a clue who’s coming in next. Including the batting team!
  3. Unimaginative coach and overpowering captain. Let’s face it. Pune has picked up KKR’s leftovers (or is discards better?). A pensioner’s paradise, Pune is indeed beng kind to the likes of Murali Karthik and Sourav Ganguly. And Robin Uthappa.
  4. Ashish Nehra. ‘Nuff said.

So there it is. If you ask me, the fourth point really killed the team. I mean, what’s the guy’s purpose?

Why I won’t be buying an XUV500

Since its launch in India, I’ve been obsessing over the Mahindra XUV500. I missed the boat on the first lot of bookings and was then stunned to know that bookings had been suspended. Earlier this month, Mahindra re-opened them for 7,200 cars to be delivered across 19 cities. But I’m no longer interested.

Dr Pawan Goenka, President, Automotive and Farm Equipment Sectors wrote a rather moving letter to potential customers last week. This actually worked and I was still interested… but over the preceding weekend, I realised that my chances of actually getting one are slim. Moreover, the money we pay Mahindra for the booking will only be refunded after a month (or within, I think) according to the ‘draw’ T&C.

(This whole draw aspect reminds me of the 1980s when people waited months for phone connections or vehicles.)

The trouble is, that according to the numbers, each city would be allocated about 378 vehicles. I am positive that from most cities, there will be at least 1,000 applications each. That itself puts my chances at 38%… 1 in 3. There is no mention of how many vehicles are being allotted per city if in case this is the approach.

Continue reading “Why I won’t be buying an XUV500”