Saturday, September 26, 2009

Celebrating with linen

I began this blog exactly 4 years ago with this post.

Last year I provided some stats about the blog. Here are the updated numbers for the blog:
Total number of posts: 628

Total number of posts written by guests: 14

Total number of site visits: 7,270 (definitely more than half of them are mine!)

Total number of photos used: 318

Personal photos where someone’s face can be seen: 32
I have not been writing this blog for me, but rather for you.  As time has gone by I have tried to be more personal in my writings, opening windows into how I think.  It has been a fun process and one that I intend to continue for years to come.

I am not an accomplished writer, nor am I an experienced blogger.  One of my inspirations has been Amit Verma's India Uncut. Recently, on the anniversary of his blog, Amit provided some tips for bloggers. Here are the tips in condensed form:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Those were the days..

"You see the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the hemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetoretician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TMC: Episode 11 - Icing on the cake

Welcome to The Midwest Chronicles (TMC). These are the accounts of the exploits of the Nebraska Cricket Club in the 2009 season. To spice up what would otherwise be a routine match report of runs scored, wickets taken, and catches snaffled (or spilled) these posts are being written with a tongue firmly in cheek but with the facts completely in the true. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the meandering show.

Here's a complete guide to the cast of characters and their nicknames. The cast will be updated as players are added or dropped or nicknames changed as the season progresses
Nobody travels on the road to success without a puncture or two.
Navjot Singh Sidhu

It is an uncommon man that does not flinch at the altar of success.
Richard Fortwin (JQ to some)
The Cedar Rapids All-Stars and NCC traveled across the great state of Iowa to Ames for the final game of the regular season. A lot of things rode on this game. For NCC, a win would ensure that they led the regular season standings for the second year in a row and a home semifinal in Nebraska. A loss could put them in the prickly position of having to travel to Iowa for a semi-final outing, pending some other results. For CRA, a loss would not be earth-shattering as they still had another game to go but a win could propel them into the top three and help them not have to travel all the way to Omaha for the semi-finals.

Are you still with me after all that? Well, permutations and combinations mean nothing once the games are played. Here is the report.

CRC's captain Senthil won the toss and elected to chase. Captain Ozone sent in Thin Man to provide some thrust and, in a move from left field, sent in Johnny Walker with him. Johnny had never previously batted higher than #9 in any game but has the unique distinction of being the only left-hander in the squad.

Thin Man began with a trademark six over long-on but even in the short time he was at the crease he looked a little out of sorts. Not surprisingly, he out soon after playing well over a simple, straight delivery by Abdul. 11 runs in 8 balls with 1 six pretty much tells the story there.

Bean Counter and Walker set about accumulating runs with some very brisk running between the wickets. Neither of them is a threat to pepper the boundary, least of all when the grass is tall enough to cover people's ankles. In spite of that, Counter did manage a brilliant hook shot for four when Aamir pitched it short. But that was to be the only shot hit in rage for a while. The duo put up a decent partnership, but not at any great rate, and eventually Counter perished to a weak shot to the gully fielder. His contribution was 17 runs in 35 balls.

Bhishma, making a return to the ground where he sealed a win over ISU, did not last for long, adjudged LBW to Abdul while attempting a flick/pull/sweep shot that is unique to him. Following him soon after was Walker, out for 16 runs (23 balls) when he hit a flat shot straight to the mid-wicket fielder who caught it more out of self-preservation than anything else. Until then Walker looked unhurried and *gasp* elegant in the way he dealt with all the bowlers. There is some batting potential in the guy after all.

Kingsize Dada and Energizer Bunny staged a mini-partnership where they tried to steady the boat that had been rocked by the previous batsmen's mistakes more than anything else. At this point, Senthil and Mamu began bowling in tandem. This requires a separate paragraph of its own.

Mamu (no one seems to know his real name) is a bowler who was probably the rage a hundred years ago. He walks up to the wicket and let's the ball go with exaggerated flight. His ball does not spin after it lands but it always lands in a good length spot, teasing the batsman into stepping out of the crease. The ball takes a good 2-3 seconds to reach the batsman and is just the first step in the trap. He always bowls with a packed leg-side field with at least 2-3 fielders on the boundary waiting for that lofted hit. But the real danger is lurking much closer. Should the batsman step out of the crease and miss the ball, he may as well keep walking. Behind the stumps lies the biggest danger - Mike Strydom. This South African, big and strong as you might imagine, is also the best wicket-keeper in the league and possesses the fastest reflexes of any keeper most of us have seen in person. The square-leg umpire gets a lot of workout when Mike is standing up to the stumps.

Senthil, on the other hand, is that rare delight - a leg-spinner with control. In the opinion of most folks in the league, he is the best spinner around and teams are content to play out his assorted mixture of leg-spinners, top-spinners, googlies, and the faster one. This day, Senthil had another added incentive - he needed two wickets to achieve a personal milestone of 100 wickets in the league. By the time he was done bowling he had not only accomplished that goal, he blew past by a pair.

Kingsize Dada and Bunny removed any risky shots from their arsenal, but the battle of patience was won by Senthil. With just a ball to go for the drinks break, Kingsize could not resist trying to hit a googly to the vacant deep square-leg region. Unfortunately he forgot one vital component - connecting with the ball. LBW and victim number 99 was in the books.

After the drinks break Doctor Kamikaze played an innings that is entirely his domain - full of thumping heaves and airy swishes. You can accuse the man of anything but you can never accuse him of not swinging out of his skin every time he wants to hit. Unfortunately for him, on this day, he mainly made contact with the air around him. 11 airy-fairy runs later he walked back, another victim of the Mamu slow-death.

Captain Ozone and Bunny then showed the rest how to play the spinners, repeatedly advancing down the wicket to smother the spin and steal at least a run every ball. Soon, unable to stem the flow and frustrated about not being able to make further inroads, Senthil took himself out of the attack. Mamu went through his overs without further damage....or so it seemed until his last over where, as a final act, he got Ozone to reach for the ball and spoon an easy catch to cover (12 runs in 15 balls).

Seeing the procession of batsmen retiring to the pavilion, Bunny turned on the after-burners and began to hit out. When he plays without thinking, Bunny is devastatingly good. On this day, he eschewed the predetermined nonsense that plagues him and displayed his vast skills. Twice he stepped down the wicket and slammed Mamu and Senthil over long-on for a six. When Senthil left, and Mike and Singh tried their hand, he waited for the ball and creamed boundaries to cover and midwicket.

Running out of ideas to stop Bunny, Senthil came back. Bunny misjudged the bounce and spin of a googly and was out LBW for 49 (3 fours, 2 sixes, 35 balls) giving Senthil his 100th wicket. What a worthy opponent he had snared, making the memory even more...err...memorable for him.

After than the innings folded very quickly. U-Turn remained not out on 0, Gunmaster G9 gave Senthil his 101st wicket and not to be left behind, Little Boy got bowled swinging across the line to become victim #102.

NCC had scored just 149 runs in 29.3 overs. Definitely about 100 less they wanted to before the game started based upon the outstanding batting line-up they had. Mamu's analyses were: 6-0-26-3, while Senthil had even more outstanding numbers: 4.5-1-23-4. Not to be forgotten in this is Abdul's initial burst that slowed the run-rate: 6-1-18-3.

As always, here comes the much-awaited section of the TMC match reports. Let's now take a break to appreciate some of the less known things about the world around us.
  • The pig is the only animal besides a human that can get a sunburn.
  • You can boil water in a paper bag over an open flame.
  • An average American spends 6 months of his life waiting at red lights.
  • If you toss a penny 10000 times, it will not be heads 5000 times, but more like 4950. The heads picture weighs more, so it ends up on the bottom.
  • The average ear of corn has eight-hundred kernels arranged in sixteen rows.
  • A housefly's tastebuds are in its feet.
  • Shrimp can only swim backwards.
There is only one way to defend a small total - bowl the opposition out. Ozone opened the bowling with Gunmaster and Bunny. While Bunny settled into a beautiful rhythm, bowling out-swingers and in-swingers seemingly at will, Gunmaster appeared more labored in his run-up. Sure enough, four overs into his spell, Gunmaster pulled up lame with a side strain that required immediate rest. The CRA batsmen - Mamu and Alok looked to consolidate before opening out. However, a piece of brilliant fielding undid their plans. In taking a sharp run, Mamu-Alok underestimated Thin Man's throwing arm. A "tracer bullet" from Thin Man found the stumps and Mamu's inning ended even before he started.

Abdul has never impressed me as a batsman who can do more than just block the ball. His 14 ball innings did nothing to dispel that notion and he was out to a sharp catch by Bunny off Bhishma's accurate medium-paced top spinners (there really is no other way to describe what he bowls). Bhsihma took over from Gunmaster and tightened the screws in an outstanding spell of controlled bowling.

Mike Strydom patted away the good balls and swatted the erring ones with ferocious power. With Alok stroking it smoothly through the off-side and Mike looking ominous, frowns started creasing some of the NCC foreheads. Bunny finished his spell with a flurry of runs showing signs of losing control once the ball lost its shine. He still ended up with fine numbers for the day: 6-0-21-1.

Kamikaze and Bhishma gave little away and forced the batsmen in taking more risks than they really wanted to with the small score they had to chase. Mike Strydom tried one shot too many and was out LBW to Kamikaze and the first nail in the CRA coffin had been struck.

Aamer and Murtaza then decided to throw caution to the winds and swung high and mightily at everything sent their way and began to take the game away once again. Three sixes, one four, and numerous half-chances later, Bhishma forced his way back into the game castling Aamer in his final over to revive NCC's hopes (32 runs in 28 balls, 1 four, 2 sixes).

U-Turn got into the act with his bowling getting Senthil to loft it towards Walker at deep mid-off. Back-peddling for dear life Walker pulled off a stunning overhead catch to herald the start of a great finish for NCC. That was the invitation Kamikaze needed to put his stamp on the game. Bowling his stump-to-stump line he invited batsmen to swing across the line and pay the price for it. Two fellows hit it high up towards deep midwicket where U-Turn took two nerveless catches and in between those catches a third guy lost his stumps.

Kamikaze finished with 5-0-23-3 while Bhishma had an outstanding game - 6-1-12-2. CRA was all out for 119.

With that NCC was assured of topping the regular season table and went into the semi-finals in a good mood. The opponents? The 4th ranked team in the league...the very same Cedar Rapids Allstars!

Would it be third time lucky for CRA or would NCC continue to dominate the Iowans this year. Time (and my next match report) will tell.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Speed thrills

As documented elsewhere, we all know who the fastest human in the world is. But even Usain Bolt's exploits pale in significance to the speed attained by the fastest animal in the world - the endangered cheetah.

Sarah, an 8-year-old Cincinnati Zoo cheetah, succeeded Wednesday in setting the world speed record for land mammals. Sarah covered 100 meters in 6.13 seconds at the zoo’s Regional Cheetah Breeding Facility, also known as the Mast Farm, in Clermont County. It was her second run of the day. In her first try, she ran 100 meters in 6.16 seconds. The record had been 6.19 seconds.

(...) In comparison, humans are a rather plodding species, at least when it comes to sprints. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt holds the 100-meter record with a time of 9.58 seconds, which he set last month at the world championships.

Visually numbered

If you are a mathematician, how do you view some of the recent blockbusters of our time? Here's a window into one such mind:
In the final scenes of “The Dark Knight” (spoiler alert!), the Joker gives the following choice to the passengers of two ferries: they can either blow up the other boat and save themselves, or themselves be blown up. If no one decides within a certain amount of time, both ferries are destroyed.

(...) This seminal problem in game theory has an important property: while cooperation is a more socially beneficial strategy, it is actually a more “stable” strategy for each person to betray the other, since this makes each better off independent of the whims of his friend. This behavior is known as a Nash equilibrium and is named after John Nash, well-known from the more obviously mathematical film, “A Beautiful Mind.”

US Open leftovers

Here are some final thoughts from the 2009 US Open.

1) One of India's greatest sportsmen added to his collection of trophies at the US Open, while missing out on the the mixed double's crown where his team was the #1 seed.

Check out the following link for the brief video of the Leander Paes-Lukas Dlouhy win over the Mahesh Bhupathi-Mark Knowles combination.

2) If your name (Roger) sounds like Rajah, is it surprising that when you visit NY for the US Open you live in digs fit for a king?

3) The best thing that has happened for tennis in the last few years has been the emergence of Rafael Nadal as a challenger to Roger's era of domination. A case could even be easily made that Nadal is the superior player among the two of them, lacking just a few Grand Slams on hard courts to enter the GOAT equation. Greg Garber of ESPN expands on this theme alluding obliquely to the predator-prey aspect of the relationship shared by these two rivals who, surprisingly, are good friends off the court.

4) Finally, I end with the shot that Roger Federer himself acknowledged as the greatest shot he has ever hit. Too bad that was the high point of the weekend for him, though in all fairness Juan Martin Del Potro won the Open, taking it away from Federer with a coming-out party for the ages.

The weight of our lives

The preview of George Clooney's latest movie is something else altogether. Listen to the character tell us about all the baggage we carry around with us. I could listen to this preview over and over and then once again for emphasis.

Stranger than fiction

From CricInfo's Ask Steven column comes this gem of a question:
When was the last time that a country fielded a Test team, all 11 of whom had scored a first-class century? asked Dennis Clarke from Southampton

The answer: The last time this happened was in the first Test between Australia and Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003-04, the match in which Matthew Hayden broke the world record with an innings of 380 in Australia's total of 735 for 6 declared.

So far, so predictable... except it was the Zimbabwe side that contained 11 players with at least one first-class century to their names (Ray Price, their No. 11, had made his in a Logan Cup match in Zimbabwe the previous month).
I haven't stopped smiling every time I think of this. It is just the type of question that I love to answer on quiz shows.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cricket clicks

Two stories for your consumption:

1) First the ridiculous. Gautam Gambhir is injured and will not participate in an ODI series. Naturally, the BCCI selectors pick Virat Kohli as his replacement, a player who himself is just coming back from a shoulder injury. Is it me or does it seem odd that when an injured Delhi batsmen cannot make it, he is replaced by a recently-injured Delhi batsman. Got to maintain those zonal quotas, don't we?

2) And now for the sublime. Aakash Chopra continues his quest to demystify some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of international cricket on CricInfo. This week's article is about team meetings and their relevance to player preparation for matches. Fascinating and insightful. Read it and enjoy.

And like that, poof. He's gone.

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
- Verbal Kint while talking about Keyser Soze,
The Usual Suspects
It is a common theme in movies for people to "disappear". Due to fortuitous circumstances they are able to leave their current life behind and set up shop elsewhere. Since movies require drama, these subterfuges are rarely permanent. Eventually, the past comes back to claim the protagonist.

Some say that art imitates life. Others insist it is the other way. After reading this story, I am not sure which is true. But I do know one thing, all the people who got caught are the failures. The real successes are folks who got away with it and we do not know how they managed it. Still, it makes for a fascinating human story.
The urge to disappear, to shed one’s identity and reemerge in another, surely must be as old as human society. It’s a fantasy that can flicker tantalizingly on the horizon at moments of crisis or grow into a persistent daydream that accompanies life’s daily burdens. A fight with your spouse leaves you momentarily despondent, perhaps, or a longtime relationship feels dead on its feet. Your mortgage payment becomes suddenly unmanageable, or a pile of debts gradually rises above your head. Maybe you simply awaken one day unable to shake your disappointment over a choice you could have made or a better life you might have had. And then the thought occurs to you: What if I could drop everything, abandon my life’s baggage, and start over as someone else?

Ray of hope

In the 1980's Bombay Dyeing relied on two folks to push their products - Karan Kapoor and Lisa Ray. Karan Kapoor had a brief stint as an actor and faded away. Lisa Ray seemed to be going down the same path until she came roaring back in the late 90's and has been a regular in movies since then.

Like many other actors, Lisa Ray maintains a blog. Unlike most other actors, however, she is very articulate and provides personal details. (Even Amitabh Bachchan who blogs about almost anything related to him rarely provides personal details.) A few days ago, Lisa shared something of an intensely personal nature. It takes great courage to tell people the news she shared and, more impressively, it takes greater courage to be able to deal with it the way she has been.

I hope she beats it and has a long and prosperous future ahead of her.

RIP: Amy S.

Like most people, I have a pattern to my 'Net surfing. For quite some time, one of my regular stops was to a blog maintained by an Australian cricket fan. I enjoyed reading her diatribes and discussions on the more irreverential aspects of the game. And then, a few months ago, she stopped blogging. Breaks in blogging are not uncommon (look at how often I tend to disappear from here) but it got a bit too long.

Yesterday, I found out why, and it made me very sad. Amy S died in a car accident a few weeks ago. It is strange that a person who I never knew personally and who did not even know I existed (as I never left a comment on her blog) could have had such an impact on me.

Rest in Peace, Amy. I am one of many folks who will miss you.

Damage control

Last year Novak Djokovic's image at the US Open took a beating with Andy Roddick, in particular, getting on his case. The fans got into it, too, during the tournament and a visibly annoyed Novak lost his cool. Since then he has been trying to make amends.

On Monday night, after easily beating Radek Stepanek, he went some ways towards building bridges by doing impersonations. Unlike last time when he picked on his contemporaries much to their dislike, this time he chose to imitate John McEnroe. What followed did more for his cause than anything else he could have done. Well watch and find out what hapened:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Musings from the Open

I wrote a long diary that detailed my trip to NY/NJ for the US Open tennis tournament. But reading it was boring - there's only so many names I could drop and matches I could mention before it became repetitive, even to myself. So I am changing the format and putting down some random thoughts that flitted through my (over-crowded) cranium while I was at the Billie Jean King United States Tennis Association National Tennis Center (honestly, yes, that's its full name).

1) I think it was the late David Foster Wallace who once likened watching Roger Federer play to a "religious experience". For three years I planned my schedule such that I would watch Roger play, but was flummoxed every time. This time, due to a very generous gift, I had tickets to every session from Friday through Monday night. I got to watch Federer play twice, once against Hewitt and then against Robredo. I did not find religion, but I was definitely in awe. People talk about his court acumen and flair, but an underrated part of his game is his speed and stamina. He was not required to display the latter but the speed was there for all to see. He is deceptively quick around the court and dictated the pace of most of the points he played. I anticipate that he will win it all this year.

2) I watched Federer, Nadal, Murray, Roddick, Venus, Safina, Dementieva, Oudin, Sharapova, Paes, Bhupathi, and a whole slew (yikes, there I go name-dropping again) of players in all sorts of courts big and small, but came away with one overall impression. Very little separates the good from the great. The cream of the cream play in the majors and almost everyone is capable of hitting winners from all over the court. The very top players (top 5 on both sides) have a couple of extra gears that they can seemingly transition to when in trouble but it is just a small difference. The BIG difference is that the top players, especially the really elite ones, are able to maintain this high level for extended periods of time. In the case of folks like Nadal and Federer, the later it is in the match, the more pronounced this difference becomes as the opponents begin to make mistakes while these guys sustain their high level.

3) Many trees have been killed to write about Melanie Oudin and her feats as she sliced through the Russians one after the other. Except for Sharapova, all the other Russians that she faced imploded under pressure. This applies to Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva, too, who lost to other players. All these women have big games based on hard-hit groundstrokes, powerful first serves, and immensely impressive court coverage. But in return for that they have the worst mental attitude of all. As soon as things start going against them, they start doubting themselves. Melanie played well, no doubt about that, but she was helped by the rapidly disintegrating opponents too. If I was their coach, I'd tell them that they had to go through an entire match without throwing a tantrum when they missed a shot. It takes most of the fun away from a closely-fought game to see a player give up halfway through the deciding set.

4) Rafael Nadal uses every inch of the space available behind him on the court. Not that he will have to worry about it any more for the rest of his career, but I do not think he would be able to play his normal game at some of the other courts because there simply isn't enough room for him to stay back and return the ball. The accompanying photo is of the Grandstand, the third biggest court at the complex and it would not be enough to contain Nadal, such is his range.

5) I watched a lot of Leander Paes (from close quarters in the Grandstand) and saw him interact closely with Lukas Dlouhy and Kara Black. As I write this, he has made it to the finals in both the men's doubles and the mixed doubles. Impressive for a guy who is 36 and has always relied more on his reflexes than anything else. He looks just as quick as always and proved that one great player on a doubles team can be enough to carry a decent player in his wake. It used to be said that in the 1980's the best doubles team in the world was John McEnroe and his partner or Martina Navratilova and her partner. I can see how that can be true! Paes is the livewire of the teams and the audience is there for him, and not just traveling Indians. I sat in a section with folks from all over the world and all of them had Paes in their sights the whole time. Not bad at all.

6) (Storm in a teacup alert). The ballkids at these tournaments are now also required to fetch towels for the players in between every point. It is a little annoying, really, to see that. When things are not going well, the players tend to be very rude, throwing the towel to the court or behind them, expecting these kids to clean up after them. Andy Roddick was positively rude to the ballkids during the first couple of sets of his match with John Isner. Later on he got better but it irked me to see that. And Roddick is one of the nice guys on the tour (as far as I have seen on television and other times that I have "interacted" with him in person). I hope the kids are rewarded in some way for putting up with this treatment.

7) I have said this in the past, but it bears repeating - the US Open is the most fan-friendly sporting event that I have been to. There is a great deal of commericalism and intense price-gouging (a bottle of water costs $4, for instance) but that is the case everywhere. Getting to the facility is very easily done (subway or LIRR) and, once there, the visitor has first-come-first-serve access to all the courts, except for the big one (Arthur Ashe). And if you cannot make it to Arthur Ashe, there are numerous big screens around the complex where you can follow the action. Players sign autographs and pose for pictures, if asked, and celebrity-sighting is a common experience.

8) I have long been a regular reader of L. Jon Wertheim, who writes for Sports Illustrated. After the Federer-Nadal Wimbledon epic of 2008, Wertheim used that as a backdrop to write a book about the rivalry and the two players. Even reading about that match was too much for me so I resisted all impulses to buy it. After Federer's resurgence and subsequent overhauling of Pete Sampras' career mark, the pain had eased enough for me to contemplate buying it, but I hadn't yet. On Sunday, Wertheim was at the complex signing autographs and promoting his book. I caved in and bought the book (review to follow in a few days...but short note - it is really worth reading). When I walked up to him I asked him if he would write a personal note for me inside the book. He responded that he would, but it would depend upon what I wanted him to write. I told him what I wanted; he laughed at it and agreed to do so. So, I now have in my collection Strokes of Genius, by L. Jon Wertheim, with the words: Manish, Ivan Lendl was indeed the truth!

9) Growing up in the 1980's I was mesmerized not by the splendid artistry of McEnroe or the blazing aggression of Becker but by two contrasting characters - Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl (but not in that order). Lendl was, to me, the hard-working, under-appreciated toiler. A man who worked his way to the top and worked really hard to stay there. Tennis did not seem to come easily to him, especially the grasscourt kind, but he stayed at it till he became one of the best grasscourt players in the world (two Wimbledon finals do not come by accident in a time when McEnroe, Becker, and Edberg are at or near their peak). When Pat Cash came out of nowhere to upend him in the 1987 final, I cried for hours at the unfairness of it all. (After all these years, I still cannot think of Cash and not imagine cement-mixers and broken bones. Grrr).

After his tennis career wound down, Lendl disappeared from the public eye. He did a couple of stints of guest commentary on television but seemed more interested in his golf game. On Sunday, years after he had steadily wandered away from my tennis consciousness, I heard he was signing autographs at the Open! Tingling with anticipation, I stood in line and got to meet him, 20 years later than I wanted to but it was just as moving for me now as it would have been then. He has changed a lot (appearance-wise) but who cares. I got to shake Ivan Lendl's hand and get his autograph!!

Once I figured out that I could get autographs from the players, I decided that every year I would sacrifice a hat for players "special" to me. Last year it was Leander Paes. This year I went in deciding that only Federer, Nadal, or Agassi could grace my hat. But once I saw Lendl, it was a no contest. This would be the year of Ivan the Terrible!

10) Ivan Lendl is indeed the truth! Actually, what I really wanted to say was that I think it is cool that they play John Williams' Imperial March whenever Darth Federer comes on court for a night match wearing an all-black outfit.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Labor pleasure

Coming soon to this blog: How I spent the holiday weekend. Here's a sneak preview...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rock on

Once in a while you come across a video that just makes you stop in your tracks and gape. This is one of them. I have camped on the edge of a glacier at 18,500 feet but what I remember most from that trip is the long trek to the glacier. It was the getting-there part that was more memorable than the being-there part...but for the wrong reasons: I was petrified of falling into the valley during the long trek along the edge of a cliff to get to the glacier.

So, for someone who cannot look down from the second floor of a building without feeling a little disoriented,this video showcases skills that are unfathomable. (Unfortunately, embedding has been disabled so you will have click on the link to see it on Youtube).

To mis-quote Denzel Washington: "Hanuman ain't got nothing on this!"

Lightning in a graph

Usain Bolt is impressive. I think I have mentioned it in the past. Here's more proof on how spectacular his achievements really are, graphically speaking.
That bit at the end? That's what Usain Bolt's doing to the record book. Here's the best way to put it into perspective: to go from 9.86 to 9.72 (Usain Bolt's first world record) took just under seventeen years. Taking roughly the same amount again off the record — 9.72 to 9.58 — has taken Usain Bolt fifteen months.
Here's his astonishing run at the 200m world record:

The faux ending

One of my favorite TV shows is Scrubs, a comedy set in a hospital, without the annoying canned laughter in the background. (Canned laughter bugs is as if the writers are telling us when we are supposed to laugh).

Recently, the final season of Scrubs came to an end, sort of. The main character - JD - is leaving and the show is expected to continue in a slightly different format but will not be the same any more.

Captured here are the last few minutes of what (to me) is the real finale of the show. We are all allowed to dream a little, aren't we? I hope JD's dream comes true.