Saturday, March 19, 2011

Zip Zap Zoom…

I am taking yet another attempt to break the 2011 jinx; I have not published a single blog yet in 2011 and it is already two and half months past 1/1/11. If I have to give a few lame excuses, I can attribute the lack of commitment to write at least one blog each month to tight schedules and also maybe I am passing too many short comments on facebook. Those comments might have taken the shape of an article or a blog had the idea waited a little longer. Finally, I decided to bowl a loose delivery just for the sake of it.

After watching cricket for the entire night, I was woken up by the screaming ring tone of my mobile. It was my friend who wanted to check-out a used car. Half asleep I enquired the details. He had narrowed down a Volkswagen from Craig’s list. A familiar thought came to my mind. The German car maker must have really marketed the car as “Folks Wagon” in the US and other English speaking countries. The letter “V” takes the sound “F” in German and therefore what must have been pronounced as “Folks Wagon” is more popularly known as “Volks-Wagon” in English speaking countries. Volkswagen [1] means people’s car (Folk = People). If you had really thought that the makers of Tata Nano [2] were the first to have had the revolutionary idea of providing common citizens the ability to buy a car at the price of a motor cycle, well think again. Volkswagen was Hitler’s idea. Hitler required a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph) [1]. He wanted the car available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings scheme at 990 Reich mark, about the price of a small motorcycle during those times. Today Volkswagen is the third largest manufacturer in the world (and is not cheap either).

I got up from my bed still dazed from the loud ring on my ears and freshened up hurriedly to help my friend with his car purchase. After collecting some key information about the car, we started our research using online tools such as Kelly’s Blue Book (KBB) [3] and Car Fax [4]. By providing the car’s make, model, year, mileage, zip code and accessories, one can get a guidance value of a car being traded in the USA. Usually, the trade price is fixed around the KBB value. Car Fax is used to check the history of a vehicle in US. The report from the website provides key details such as number of owners the car had so far and whether the car was involved in any accident or not. A car involved in an accident usually fetches a much lesser price unless the buyer has not checked the car fax and is unaware of the status. For those of you who yearn for tools such as KBB in India, checkout the Indian version at CarWale [5].

After we were convinced that we got all the facts right, we called the seller to finalize the deal and guess what?

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Emulating Isaac Asimov

Time: Sometime in the future
Location: Dr. Abdul Kalam Interplanetary Space Station, Greater Chennai Area

Hurry up! Shouted Mark Ramprakash as he steered his electric trolley loaded with check-in luggage. Catherine Annalakshmi was right behind Mark trying to catch up with the speed at which Mark was driving his electric trolley. They were late to catch their space shuttle Air Libra [1] to planet La Silla, scientifically known as Gliese d [2], at Dr. Abdul Kalam Interplanetary Space Station, Greater Chennai Area in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. As he was racing to get to the boarding gate, he was mentally calculating the time to boarding and the boarding procedures that have to be completed. They have already loaded their luggage in the e-Trunk. The e-Trunk is a sophisticated case which has an electronic display that displays the name of the passenger, accompanying passenger list if travelling in groups, flight details, ticket number, and total weight of the luggage and warning messages if any prohibited substance or article is detected in the luggage. Mark and Catherine hurriedly got down from the electric trolley to present themselves at the boarding counter for iris scan. The instructions at the unmanned boarding counter flashed on the electronic display, “Please remove contact lenses or spectacles if you are wearing one and place your chin on the white placeholder.” Mark removed his glasses and placed his chin on the placeholder. The ambient and controlled illuminators flashed to scan and confirm Mark’s iris biometric signature. “Identity confirmed” flashed the electronic board. Mark’s e-Trunk was accepted for loading in the space shuttle. The dispenser at the boarding counter allotted an electronic secure ID which must be kept safe at all times during the travel and a boarding kit. Catherine finished her procedures and joined Mark. Both of them were asked to be seated in an upright position on the elevator chair that takes them directly to their allocated seat positions in the space shuttle. The boarding kit contains a complimentary noise cancelling wireless headphone, moisturizers, space pens, and a very mild dosage of atarax, scientifically known as hydroxyzine, an anxiolytic safe drug to counter any anxiety that passengers may experience during the flight and of course chocolates.

Catherine breathed a sigh of relief,” yet again we were late and still made it”. Mark looked at her with a half smile which kind of meant to say “your fault”. They were going to visit Mark’s parents who live in La Silla. Mark’s parents migrated to La Silla sometime back to spend rest of their retirement life over there. La Silla [3] is named after the European Southern Observatory located at La Silla in Chile where Gliese d was discovered by a team led by Stephane Udry of Geneva Observatory in 2007.  La Silla is the fifth planet from the star Gliese 581 which is 20 light years away from earth. When messages sent by the National Space Agency of Ukraine [4] yielded no response, it was initially thought that the planet was probably inhabitable. The advanced space exploration in the years that followed confirmed that life is possible on this ocean planet [5]. Currently, the human population in La Silla is 11.3 million which is relatively small for a planet termed as super earth. However, plenty of job opportunities at La Silla and rapidly decreasing space shuttle flight rates have of late attracted a lot of immigration.

Mark’s mother, Josephine Kaveri, was very excited that she is going to see her son in person after 8 years. She generated the orbit tracker information of the space shuttle Air Libra and configured the live feed to be displayed on her wall clock that also showed times of both the planets side by side, weather reports, ocean current reports and running text of breaking news if any.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

11 Eleven

November 6th, 1996: I was on the edge of my seat biting my nails vigorously watching the Titan Cup [1] finals between India and South Africa played at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. It was a low scoring day and night match with India just managing 220 in 50 overs. And for all those who are accusing Sachin Tendulkar of failing to get high scores in finals, this is one more example when Tendulkar was the highest scorer of the match. I was partly tensed because I wanted India to win the finals but there was something else. The next day was my 3rd semester Math University exam and I hadn't completely revised everything that I must before the exam. Had it been a day match, I would have had at least the evening to revise but this one was a day and night and that was not helping. Being an ardent cricket fan, neither I did allow my Dad to turn the television off nor locked myself in my study room and prepared for my exams more responsibly. India won by 35 runs, I was very happy and yet tensed because I was under prepared for my exams the next day. I passed my Math exam despite not having prepared properly but on 11th June 1997, the Indian cricket team failed her fans when the cover story on match fixing by Indian cricket players flashed in the outlook magazine [2] [3].There were two players I admired most, apart from Sachin Tendulkar, one was Mohammed Azharuddin [4] and the other Ajay Jadeja [5]. Both of them were apparently involved in match fixing scandal and are undergoing life ban from playing cricket.

Today’s Indian team seriously lacks the class of Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid. There are of course powerful hitters who can send the ball sailing out of the stadium on a perfectly dead track. And for the younger cricket fans that are not in favor of Sachin Tendulkar still continuing to play as part of 11, let’s make one thing clear: there will not be and cannot be another Sachin in cricket’s history and that even today he is the most consistent player despite the hype around Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni. At one point in time, most of Indians following cricket would watch only Sachin’s innings in a match and turn the TV off once he gets out and I was one of them.  Frankly, for the way the Indian team was playing cricket until Sourav Ganguly’s aggressive captaincy resurrected the team, if not for Sachin, many would have stopped watching cricket long time back. After the match fixing scandal, the number of matches that I watched came down drastically and even today if India looses a match, it never really hurts because I realized, on the day when the match fixing scandal was confirmed to be true, what George Bernard Shaw once said about cricket was so true, “Eleven fools are playing and eleven thousand fools are watching”. The recent match fixing scandal of Pakistani players [6] accepting money to underperform makes mockery of cricket fans all over the world. It is a shame not only for Pakistan or for India; it is a shame for the game of cricket.

I came across an amusing article that stated Hitler wanted to use cricket to train troops for war [7] and finally gave up and called cricket an “unmanly” game [8].

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