Friday, December 23, 2011

Maggi Noodle Review: Hugo

I had no intention of seeing Hugo.  I am not a big fan of 3D movies.  I feel it is more of a gimmick than an artistic improvement on 2D.  On top of which, I felt the the preview for the movie was about a Dickensian orphan living by his wits in a French station.  Been there, seen that.

Now that I have seen the movie, I am super-duper glad I did.  it is a gem of a movie, an ode to movie-making, and the 3D is non-intrusive, making you (the viewer) a part of the action as opposed to the target of it.

I should have known.  Martin Scorsese, the director, is a man who has long professed a love for the movies and probably sees 3D as the wave of the future and wanted to make a definitive movie for the medium.  Much like James Cameron's Avatar (the only other 3D movie that I recommend must be watched in 3D), Hugo is a movie that relies on the story as the hook on which to hang the visuals where a lesser director would make the mistake of doing it in reverse.

Some of the side characters are caricatures, behaving in a typically predicable manner, but at the heart of the story is the connection between the eponymous hero and an elderly gentleman who own a toy store played with great elan by Ben Kingsley.

Go, see the movie while you can on the big screen and in 3D, if possible.  Then we can talk in more detail about the story and how it is, at its heart, a love story.  A love story between a director and movies.

P.S.  The only jarring (and sad) note for me was that the main protagonists speak in a decidedly English accent even though the entire action is taking place in Paris.  *sigh*

Book review: Beyond the Blues

For a few weeks I have working furiously on a personal deadline of writing a book before Christmas rolled around.  Now that the deadline has been done and dusted with I can get back to more important things like living my life again.  (Some will snicker that the deadline was less about Christmas and more about Boxing Day.  Oh, how well they know me!).

Anyway, thinking about books took me back a couple of years to a book that I had read, liked, promised to review but had never gotten around to doing.  So, here it is - my review of Beyond the Blues by Aakash Chopra.  Better late than never.

From September 9th, 2007 to June 5th 2008, Aakash Chopra kept notes of his actions and thoughts in the form of a diary.  Eventually, to the happiness of many of his fans, including me, he went ahead and published them.

The book is filled with an insider's perspective of Indian cricket, from the behind-the-scenes shenanigans in the backrooms of selectorial meetings to the on-field skullduggery that the viewer is unable to pick up on from 90 (or in these days 60) yards away.

It is a compelling book, written from the heart.  The best way to appreciate the book is to read it in its entirety.  Here are some of the nuggets that caught my fancy and should serve to whet your appetite for when you read the book.

On Sachin Tendulkar (p48):
Aakash Chopra had a very pivotal hand in Sachin's classic exercise in self-denial, that face-saving 241* at Sydney in Steve Waugh's final Test in 2004.  In fact, it is safe to say, that Aakash saved SRT's life that day.  He did something that made him "... one of the few people in the world who has given something to the Little Master without taking anything material from him in return."

On a fellow team-mate (p60):
He has definitely mastered the way to score at this level consistently and I wouldn't be surprised if, one day, if he plays enough domestic cricket (given his India commitments), he goes on to break every batting record on the domestic circuit.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Never die wondering

Seven years ago, the man said he would do it.  Today, he did it.  The "he" is Virender Sehwag, the "it" is a double century.  In an ODI.  Which he achieved with 6 overs to spare.

Last night I was very tired and went to bed very early and slept a dreamless sleep till about 2:55am, when I woke up and was instantly as wide awake as I was going to be.  Call it premonition, call it luck, call it what you will - I turned on the PC and saw that India had won the toss (again!  Take lessons, MSD) and was going to bat.

For years, I played in a local league with a batsman whose appetite for gargantuan scores was seemingly limitless, except that he kept getting out.  We always wondered how much Sohail Chaudhry would score if he lasted the entire 25 overs.  And then one day we found out.  I have always had the same feeling about Sehwag.  He still hasn't ever batted for the entire 50 overs but on the day he does, I am pretty sure he will score more than the 219 runs he scored today.  What a player!

The sign of a truly great man is that he leaves room for improvement even when he accomplishes the unthinkable.  By not batting the entire 50 overs, Sehwag has left the door open for a few more dreams.

In parting, of all the comments I heard/read so far today, the best of them all was by someone named Jim Morrison on CricInfo's (outstanding) ball-by-ball coverage.  Reacting to Sehwag's double, he wrote:
"So, Sachin now holds the record for the SLOWEST double century in ODIs!"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Surf's up: Random musings - 5

Trolling through the web I often come across things that I file away for future (posting) reference. Here are some of the ones that still seem interesting enough to pass on to you.

a)  The shirts worn by the Australian Test cricket players has new design, probably to help them sweat less or something like that.  All I know is that it makes it seem like they are wearing sports bras under their shits.  Not a good look for them.  Fail!

AFP via CricInfo 2010
b)  Of late, soundbites from MS Dhoni have started to take on a fairly simplistic note, probably mindful of his ever-burgeoning public image.  But there was a time, not so long ago, when the man would speak from his heart and speak eloquently enough about his life.  Here's an interview from 2008, a few months after he had become India captain and well before he became the media-created behemoth he is today.

c)  While on MSD, have you ever seen a batsman "walk" for an LBW.  Take a look at MSD's reaction from about the 1:50 mark of this video.  Who knew that in a few years from then, he'd be captaining Murali to IPL (cough) glory.


d)  I was directed to the video in the previous point from the subject of this musing.  For those of us who cannot stand the television coverage of today (aptly described as a bunch of commercials interrupted by a few seconds of cricket), our best recourse to "watching" a game remains online text portals such as CricInfo's outstanding ball-by-ball commentary.  Another frequently visited website is The Guardian's Over By Over (OBO).  To whet your appetite, here's an OBO of the 2011 World Cup final between Sri Lanka and India.  Almost as good as some of my match day analyses.  *sigh*

Monday, November 07, 2011

Open letter to the Indian team

To: Indian Cricket team - Test edition
Date:  Day 2, Test 1 - India-West Indies, November 2011

Dear friends,

After watching most of the first two days of the first Test match against West Indies, here's what I have to say to each of you:

Gautam Gambhir:  Get out of ODI mode.  Stop dabbing at the ball, trying to run it down to third man with 3 slips and 2 gullies waiting for the ball.  You are lucky you got to 41.  You not unlucky you got run-out.  You should have been out much sooner and, also, you were holding the bat in the wrong hand.  You got what you were courting.

Virender Sehwag:  We all see very clearly that you do not believe a spinner exists who is worth your time.  But still, you are a little too casual for your own good.  Having said that, I MUST say this - you rock!  Very few batsmen make a game's situation and the bowling seem as superfluous as you do.  When you were batting, 304 seemed a matter of time.  You got out and the pitch reverted to being a mental minefield.  Now, go and bat in the second dig with your foot inside the crease at all times.

Rahul Dravid:  Respect.  While you may be regretting the pull shot, I think it is a godsend.  The team needed a wake up call.  If you had brought the score close to the Windies total, it would have papered over the cracks.

Sachin Tendulkar: I have never seen any batsman look as guilty as you do when you are hit on the pads in front of the stumps.  My goodness, your body language takes away any semblance of doubt the umpire may have.  By the way, smart of you to have failed in the first inning.  Now the stage is set for you to hit a heroic century in the second inning while leading India to a win, a la Chennai a couple of years ago.  As your financial adviser no doubt told you - very strategically smart move.  (Of course, I jest when I say that...maybe).

(By the way, Sachin's aura is undiminished.  As soon as Sehwag got out, the server crashed!  It was almost as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.)

VVS Laxman:  Are you close enough to that wall that you seem to always have your back against?  Now turn around and look closely.  There's some thing written on it - your future.  You play in just one of three teams for India.  And you land up after a long gap looking like you had a dozen too many extra sweets?  Really?  You can no longer afford to slide by with an inning here or there.  Like Dravid, you need to realize that what you have ahead of you are your last flashes of brilliance before the sun sets.  Lose that paunch, get into a little better shape.  Then maybe you wont look so leaden-footed when playing spinners.  When you inside-edged your 4th ball and it barely missed the leg-stump, in the process getting you off the mark, I though that (maybe) luck was in your favor.  Well, guess what?  You got out off the next ball you faced to a routine ball outside the off-stump from a leg-spinner in the first over of his spell.  Gah!!  Virant Kohli cannot be denied much longer and I don't think he is looking at Yuvraj's spot anymore.

Yuvraj Singh:  Right attitude, right way of playing.  Don't fret.  You were doing the right thing, the execution was slightly awry.  Just retain that attitude, and you'll be fine.

MS Dhoni:  Just pretend you are playing an ODI, for crying out loud.  You got out to Darren Sammy.  Think about that.  You played Finn, Bresnan, Anderson, Broad, Swann and didn't get out and then you get out to Sammy.  Darren Sammy.  Has it sunk in yet?

R. Ashwin:  The second inning was made for you.  You bowled well in the first inning, but I'd like you to pitch the ball up a little closer to the batsmen, giving them less of a chance to play you off the pitch.  Now that you are bowling with the new ball, go forth and prosper.

Ishant Sharma:  You remind me of Jason Gillespie.  And in my book that is a good thing.  Keep your chin up, the rewards will follow.

Umesh Yadav:  Not much to say to you.  The pitch isn't really tailor-made for you.  But you can learn something from the way Fidel Edwards persevered, in spite of being hammered around the ground.

Pragyan Ojha:  You are the Wizard of Ozha.  Give Sunil Gavaskar a few more days and he will come up with that nickname.  Your bowling is just what was needed on this pitch.  Relentless probing on a stump-to-stump line with just a little bit of spin in either direction.  You grabbed your chance with both hands and the sound we hear is of the door swooshing as it starts to slam on Amit Mishra and, if Ashwin can continue to do well, Harbhajan Singh (who went wicketless in his recent Ranji game).


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beefing up one's obituary

Ignore the fact that he is selling some random brand of beer.  You will become a little more intelligent simply by listening to the Most Interesting Man in the World.

The Prestige

This video is just 13 seconds long, but you MUST look at it. Two kids attempt to pull of an amazing magic trick and succeed beyond their wildest imagination.

Don't try this at home.

On second thoughts, DO try this at home.  Just be sure to record it while it happens.

Almost heaven

I spent almost a quarter of my life in a beautiful city nestled among the Appalachian Mountains. The Monongahela River languorously winds its way by the city, providing ample opportunities for residents and visitors to marvel at the pictures it leaves behind. Fall, Winter, Spring or Summer - it does not really matter which time of the year it is. Morgantown, West Virginia, home of the Mountaineers.

I recently came across a time lapse video of the city. I know every location that is shown in this video. I have driven on it, walked past it, or simply stopped right there and admired the view.  If you like Morgantown, you will love this video.

(Credit: Chad Griffith, Chad Griffith Photography;, 
 (I am a sucker for time lapse videos. Click here for previous posts on time-lapse videos, including the most beautiful video I have ever seen.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nor any drop to drink

(Quoting verbatim from the Youtube spot.  For more, click here)

To mark World Water Day, on March 22nd Solidarités International and its agency BDDP Unlimited rolled out a campaign to build awareness of the scourge of undrinkable water. 

The campaign called on journalists to spread awareness of this scourge and appeal to readers to sign a petition that was to be personally handed to the French president during the 6th World Water Forum in March 2012.

To evoke the silent and invisible threat of unhealthy water, BDDP Unlimited opted for a minimalist approach that is both visually appealing and surprising, using water and ink exclusively. The spot shows the power of ink to reveal the invisible.

The spot, created by BDDP Unlimited, was produced by Hush and directed by Clément Beauvais, a young director, illustrator, musician and photographer. His multiple talents and mastery of various techniques enabled him to both create the drawings and direct the spot.

Read, rinse, repeat

With all the ruckus over Anil Kumble's perceived (and real?) conflict of interest, it is interesting to note that this is not the first time the press has gone ga-ga over the issue and neither will it be the last time they do.

Earlier in the year, Prem Panicker gave a detailed explanation of all the activities of N. Srinivasan, the current President of the BCCI.
Back in the day, there was a big brouhaha about the corruption of the Jagmohan Dalmiya regime; hosannas were sung when Dalmiya was replaced by Team Sharad Pawar (what irony!), which sought an electoral victory on the plank of introducing transparency (more irony — Pawar and his hand-picked successors have if anything been more devious, their corruption more subterranean, than anything Dalmiya ever did). The Modi regime at the IPL was deemed corrupt; it has since been replaced by the N Srinivasan regime (Chirayu Amin is nominally in-charge of the IPL, but discount that — as must be painfully evident now, all decisions whether they relate to the BCCI or the IPL emanate from the office of India Cements the Board Secretary). Come to think of it, the shuffling of the board bears parallels to the various Cabinet reshuffle exercises at the center, no? Same problem — endemic corruption. Same solution — move the corrupt around the party table, Mad Hatter  style.
Nothing much came of it then, and nothing much will come of it now.  To paraphrase Lord Alfred Tennyson:
For men may come and men may go
But conflicts of interest will go on forever.

When the die was cast

Not many people can claim to have changed the world.

On 6th August, 1991, Tim Berners-Lee did just that when he posted a short summary of a project of his on a newsgroup, opening the box and making the World Wide Web publicly available.

The world, as we know it, has not looked back since then.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fly over

I want to get off this planet and travel among the galaxies.  I wish I could jaunte like Gully Foyle.  Oh, how I wish the space program would take off and I could read books while a spacecraft slowly took me to my destination, the stars beyond the stars.

Until then, I will have to vicariously live my dream through the eyes of the astronauts at the International Space Station.

A time-lapse taken from the front of the International Space Station as it orbits our planet at night. This movie begins over the Pacific Ocean and continues over North and South America before entering daylight near Antarctica. Visible cities, countries and landmarks include (in order) Vancouver Island, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Phoenix. Multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mexico City, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, El Salvador, Lightning in the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Lake Titicaca, and the Amazon. Also visible is the earths ionosphere (thin yellow line), a satellite (55sec) and the stars of our galaxy. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bad to the bone

How dangerous/fabulous must a villain be if it takes so many super-heroes to fight him?  Get ready to root for the bad guy!

Don't people know?  Dream Teams rarely work out (just ask the Miami Heat, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Indian batting line-up, all of recent vintage).

Odds and ends

Recently, during a lull in the action while on a field trip, I asked a couple of students, RS and FO, to complete some sayings/statements I had written up.  The only condition being that they could not complete the sentence in the normally accepted manner.  Here's what they wrote:

1)  Where there's a will, there's a death.

2) If you run away from home, you also run away from your best friend.

3) What goes up, must not be dense.

4) Whatever else you do, don't ever repeat yourself.

5) The only thing I am certain of is that I am not certain.

6) When I meet St. Peter, the first thing I'll ask him is this good LSD?

7) If you climb every mountain you come across, you will have tired feet.

8) Never say no to a giant.

9) A thing of beauty is a dangerous thing.

10) The brain does what the heart cannot pump.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The eye of the beholder

The NASA website publishes one new photo everyday.  Most are usually spectacular.  Sometimes, they exceed even themselves.  Here's one such gem.  Click on the link to find out more.

Image credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA - September 2011
Look closely to the top left quadrant of the photo.  Inside one of the rings is a tiny blue dot - the Earth!

Standing on the toes of giants

In 2005, when the Sharad Pawar faction wrested control of the BCCI from Jagmohan Dalmiya, many followers thought that it was a new dawn for cricket in India.  Heck, even the new committee believed in it because they published a vision statement!  Today, reading it makes one wonder whether to laugh or cry.

(Click here for the entire vision statement)

Here are some snippets that should tell you how seriously (not!) they took their own vision.

To make domestic cricket attractive, at least 4 weeks in the month of October be kept free from international cricket.  While finalizing bilateral tours, this Edict is to be kept in mind.

Ahem! In 2011, from October 14-29, India is going to play an ODI series against England.  Clean bowled!

Hello, world.

In my review of Casino Royale, I had written:
In the third act the movie meanders a little bit as Bond recovers from the trauma of his last encounter with the bad guys. Then there is a twist, and from the wreckage emerges a more definitive Bond. At the very end he walks past a fallen bad guy, the iconic Bond music playing for the first time in the movie, and then he looks into the screen and identifies himself. I do not get goosebumps often enough in a movie theatre these days, but after this scene I was tingling.
James Bond is back, and how!

Trolling the web, I finally came across the scene I was talking about that day.  Yay for Youtube!

नदिया किनारे ...

A few weeks ago, while the Indian cricket team was getting shellacked in England, Hasha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar took some time out to have some fun by the Trent River.  (Sanjay is quite a singer).

(Update:  It is mostly in Marathi, but if you listen carefully, you'll understand the gist of what they are saying.  Wait for him to sing, it is worth it.  Also interesting is the choice of songs.)

Travel by proxy

Have you ever visited London?  If so, you will like this.  The photograph claims to be the largest photo of its kind in the world as of November 2010. 

If you have never visited London, do you really need to any more?  What's left to "see"?

The photograph is a lot more than just a 360 degree view of London.  Right-click on the photo and explore even further.


Office space

I have been in a pretty bad funk for quite a few weeks.  I figured I would get my work done and only then blog.

Well, I haven't been able to get all my work completed (hence the absence from the blog) and at the same time I am missing out on blogging.

That ends now.

This is what my desk used to look like in the good old days:

(C.S. Manish 2010)
This is what my desk looks like today:

(C.S. Manish 2011)
Hah!  Wouldn't you know it?!  SC, a fellow blogger, captured my feelings perfectly on his blog.  Maybe the same muse visits both of us and it took a little while for it to travel from the East coast to the heartland.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Exit interview with the Indian team

If I were the coach of the Indian team and I had to conduct exit interviews with some of the Indian players in the aftermath of the Test series, this is what I would have said to them.

Friday, August 19, 2011

TGIF: Songs to hum - 5

On Friday afternoons, after I am done teaching (or preparing for teaching, as the case is this week) for the week, I sit in my office, put my feet up on my desk, lean back in my chair and softly hum songs to myself, unwinding and releasing the built-up tension of the week so far. Youtube is a good companion during these times and I have my own version of Chitrahaar, with the songs following some unfathomable pattern, changing per my mood and wishes. 

Here is today's trip through Youtube:

How could I not start with a Shammi Kapoor song? I should probably elaborate on this some other day, but for now let me just say that the songs of Junglee were the first songs I knew the lyrics to. All of them. Bar none. And I still know them after all these years. (More on that some other day, I promise). In that movie, this was my favorite song, though it not the one that is most commonly associated with Shammi Kapoor.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Time to channel the inner Dhoni

Dear MS Dhoni,

Plenty of knees will be jerking helter-skelter. Don't let that get to you. (Though, of all the captains India has had since I have been following the sport, you appear to be the one who is best equipped to deal with the highs and lows of being captain).

You've captained exactly half (30) of the Test matches you have played (60), which let's us have a wonderful exercise in comparative stat-play.

If they say your batting has become worse since you became captain, tell them this:
As a captain, you've scored 1800 runs at an average of 45 with 3 centuries and 14 fifties, strike rate 58.
As a non-captain, you've scored 1422 runs at an average of 33 with 1 century and 9 fifties, strike rate 62.

If they say, your captaincy sucks and you have put up a good record by beating up on a couple of teams, tell them this:
You have registered Test victories against 7 different nations (Zimbabwe and Pakistan are missing but you've never captained against them). In those victories you average over 56 runs an inning.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Future rewards

Dear MS Dhoni,

Things are not as dire as they may seem. This Indian team reached the #1 ranking over a period of time. You may have lost consecutive Tests to start a series for the first time ever, but fret not, you are still India's best option as a captain. Just as you did not become a splendid captain overnight, you did not become a horrible one in the span of two Tests either.

The Bell run-out fiasco is done and dusted with. However, there is one unintended consequence that will play into your hands as the series progresses. By invoking the nebulous "Spirit of Cricket", the two Andys may have put you in a bind but in the long term it is going to come back to haunt them. Can you imagine the furore the next time they are in a position where they have to uphold the "Spirit of Cricket" and fail to do it? The media will be more than happy to pull them up for their double standards. In time, this decision will reap its rewards. For the rest of their career, Strauss and Flower will have this millstone hanging around their neck. After all, they instigated the whole thing by knocking on your door at tea time.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Travel: Day 6 - Puerto Rico - In the footsteps of James Bond

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom.

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned. (You can see all the previous posts in this thread here).

After 4 fantastic days at Guánica, it was with a heavy heart that we bid adieu to our temporary home. MB and LP let us know in no uncertain terms what they felt about heading back to San Juan.

(Miranda Beran 2011)

So, one final photoshoot later we left Mary Lee's By the Sea. (If you are ever in Puerto Rico and are looking for a place to stay, you have all the information you need!)

(Andrew Jacobsen 2011)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dhoni must open

Nine years ago at Trent Bridge, Virender Sehwag was sent to open the inning and responded with a 106 that changed his life. One can even make the argument that it eventually led to India gaining the #1 Test ranking for the first time ever.

Sometime tomorrow either India will somehow get the 4 wickets it needs in the second English inning of the Trent Bridge Test or Andrew Strauss will play that favorite parlor game of commentators (when will he declare?) and no matter when he declares it will be said to have come at the wrong time.

Either way, it appears that India will have to score more runs in the 4th inning to win than anyone has ever done in the 2000 previous Tests played. More realistically, they will have to bat about 4-5 sessions to secure a draw. Based on how they responded to a similar scenario in the first Test, it probably isn't going to happen.

Which brings me back to Sehwag. In 2002, India opened with Sehwag and his blistering starts have set the template for many an Indian win since then. Tomorrow, I am asking MS Dhoni to do something he has never done before in his life - open the batting in a Test.

That move has all kinds of upside and very little downside. He gets a chance to take the attack to the English bowlers. If he gets out, no sweat, he has not exactly been in the best of form and the second new ball has anyway gobbled him up. But if he does get off to a flier, he is the sort who capitalizes on these moments. By leading from the front he will regain some of that equanimity that seems to have ebbed from his countenance of late. Also, by opening, he lets the batting order settle back into Dravid at 3, SRT at 4, VVS at 5, Raina at 6, Yuvraj at 7, Harbhajan at 8...enough gun powder to capitalize on a good start if it comes.

Come on, Dhoni, show me that you still have some of that out-of-the-box thinking left in you. Step forward and pick up the gauntlet. Viru did it in spectacular style for Ganguly so many years ago, you can do it for yourself. It is the time to send messages, and this will be as resounding as any you've sent in the past, including the time you seized the moment on April 2, 2011.

P.S. By the way, I may be the only person who wants to see you suspended for a Test match for the appallingly slow over-rate maintained by your team. You look like you really need the rest. Also, what's with sending Rahul Dravid to face the press at the end of the day after what happened today at the stroke of tea? Man up, MSD, and face the microphone!

Friday, July 29, 2011

A bookworm's dream

There's an old joke, which goes something like this:

"Wow, Roger, you have such an impressive collection of books but not a single bookshelf. Why?"
"Oh, you see, I've never felt the need to borrow a bookshelf."

I was reminded of that joke when I came across this astonishing collection of bookshelves. I'd love to borrow any of them! (Hat tip: Roger Ebert).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A corner of a familiar playing field

Two Americans watched India play Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup and came up with a fabulously interesting and hilarious diary of the day's action. Very revealing and surprisingly insightful, too.

Some samples:
We are further told it's a perfect day for cricket, though we are not told what a perfect day for cricket is. Looks kind of sunny. Sunny is usually good for sports.

Surf's up: Random musings - 4

Trolling through the web I often come across things that I file away for future (posting) reference. Here are some of the ones that still seem interesting enough to pass on to you.

1) Are you a Mac or a PC person? Here's one way of finding out whether you fit into the stereotype or not. (For the record, I am a PC person).

2) I was fortunate to spend a few years in Chicago when the Bulls were winning championships with Michael Jordan. Not surprisingly, my favorite basketball player (ever?) was from the Bulls. He has since retired and enjoys a round or three of golf, which he plays very well, when he can. Ah, by now you know it's not MJ, because I said that he plays golf very well!

3) Interested in reading an online newspaper but don't quite know where to find it? Well, fret not - here's a link to ALL the online newspapers in the world laid out on a map.

4) Sans comment: What can 28,000 rubber duckies lost at sea teach us about our oceans?

5) Finally, how well do you recall the ending of Sholay? I bet this is not the ending you remember!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Objects in the rearview mirror

We all know that Sachin Tendulkar is the leading run-scorer in the history of Test cricket. Do you know who is in second place?

Not surprisingly, Rahul Dravid has quietly overtaken Ricky Ponting and trails only Sachin Tendulkar on the all-time run-getters list in Test cricket. Quite an achievement for quite a guy . . . and the lack of fanfare is typical. After all he has more important things to worry about, like saving Test matches. A task that he does really well.

In the mean time, let's raise our glasses and honor this incredible achievement.

Well done, Rahul, well done! For once, you can look back at the rest of the players in the world (but one). Enjoy this moment of zen!

(AFP 2011 via ESPNcricinfo)

The long road ahead

In a few hours from now, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and co. will resume their quest to bat India to a draw in the Lord's Test match against England. India needs 378 runs in 98 overs, with 9 wickets in hand to win.

A victory is out of question, a draw is a slim possibility, a defeat the most likely result. Yet, my every fiber harbors hope of the draw. And that is because the current Indian team, led by the resolute MS Dhoni, is cut from a different cloth than its predecessors of the last millennium. This team fights.

Tomorrow will be a good day of Test cricket to look forward to. England need 9 moments of inspiration. India need 588 moments of sheer doggedness. Well, since they can afford to be 9 down when the Test ends, one could be pedantic and say they need another 580 moments of sheer doggedness.

Either way, I know what I am doing tomorrow. I hope the Indian team does, too!

Apocalypse now

Tom Cruise is almost certain to portray Jack Reacher in the movie "One Shot".

Cruise as Jack no-middle-name Reacher?!! You have got to be kidding me. (And on top of it, it seems to have Lee Child's approval, too). For the love of everything that is holy to the west of the International Date Line, can someone smash some sense into the movie-makers?

Here are Reacher's physical attributes:

Name: Jack Reacher (no middle name)
Born: October 29th, 1961
Measurements: 6'5", 220-250 lbs., 50" chest
Hair: Dirty-blond
Eyes: Ice blue
Clothing: 3XLT coat, 95 cm. pants' inseam

Reacher left home at 18, graduated from West Point. Performed 13 years of Army service, demoted from Major to Captain in 1990, mustered out with the rank of Major in 1997.

Now, close your eyes and picture Tom Cruise as Reacher.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pop Quiz #3: Entertainment

Questions 1-3 are about information in the Harry Potter books, not the movies.

1) To start off, a very simple one - what is Ginny Weasley's proper first name?

2) Spoiler alert: If you didn't know by now, Voldemort split his soul into multiple pieces and "hid" them in various objects. In all, how many pieces did Voldemort's soul split into?

3) How many Quidditch championships did Harry Potter win in his 7 years at Hogwarts (well, technically six, but still...)? Hint: Gryffindor won the championship three times in that 7 year period.

4) Which TV sitcom character's phone number is 555-2390 (KL5-2390)? The area code, I presume, is 212 (Manhattan).

5) Which actress has received the most Filmfare nominations (16) for Hindi movies - 8 times for Best Actress and 8 times for Best Supporting actress? Hint: She has acted as Amitabh Bachchan's lover, sister-in-law, and mother in movies.

6) Which comic book superhero resides at 344 Clinton Street, Apt 3D? Hint: He died in 1992.

Answers after the jump:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Maggi Noodle Review: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

At first glance it would appear that ZNMD is an updated version of Dil Chahta Hai. After all it does have a Farhan Akhtar connection. I went in with the same impression but came out with a different one.

ZNMD has a superficial resemblance to DCH in that it features 3 friends, a road trip, and a woman at the heart of it. But it is different in that the entire movie is a road trip, the woman at the heart of the movie is not Katrina Kaif, and the resolution is not quite what you'd expect. I will not say more except that the writers play fair and do not cheat you with the ending.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The return of the King

Shah Rukh Khan and Farhan Akhtar are returning this Christmas with a sequel to Don.  A teaser trailer was released a couple of days ago.  It looks sleek and intriguing, except that at the very end the whole effect is lost with a smirky SRK and an inane closing line.  Oh well...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pop Quiz #2: Who am I?

(Note: Every so often I shall have a pop quiz on my blog with questions about people, places, things, events, and any other thing that comes to mind. Please take the quiz without peeking at the answers, which will be included at the end, and let me know how you did.

Click here for an earlier set of questions.)

This set of questions are fairly easy to answer.

1) Of the 65 66 ODI matches I have played for India, no less than 40 have been abroad. I played in the Under-19 World Cup final where my team, chasing 110 to win, lost by 38 runs! Five of my team-mates were out for 0 that day. In hindsight, the 4 runs I scored batting at #3 were a big deal. In the 4 editions of the IPL, I have won a championship and scored over 350 runs in each season. When people talk about me the words talented and lazy often get mentioned in the same sentence.

2) Jimmy Connons once said about me, "In an era of specialists, you're either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist...or you're ______ ________." I have played in at least 5 finals at each of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. The only man to ever do so.

3) My first 8 scores in Test cricket were 16, 18*, 59, 224, 227, 125, 4, 120. Less than 20 months later, aged 23, I played my last Test match for India, finishing with a career average of 54+. However, the enduring memory of my time in India colors isof me shedding tears as the world burned around me.

4) In a classic case of not letting facts get in the way of a good story, my contributions in a World Cup-winning campaign were 0, 26, 33, 8, 0, 6 - a total of just 75 runs in 6 matches @ 12.5 runs per inning. Yet the perception that has built up over time is that I was as instrumental as some of my more formidable colleagues in bringing us the win. On my Test debut, I scored an unbeaten century as my team took a 291 run lead in the first inning at home. Three of us scored centuries while none of the visiting batsmen scored a single one. Yet, we lost the Test match!

5) During the Under-19 cricket tour of England in 2002, in the third One Day International, I opened the batting and scored 177, helping chase down England's total of 305. (A few days later this feat was forgotten as the senior team chased down 326 in the NatWest final at Lord's). I then went on to captain the India Under-19 team in the 2003/2004 Under-19 Cricket World Cup, where we won 5 of 6 group matches before losing to the eventual champions Pakistan in the semi-finals. While my fellow-mates (Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa, Shikar Dhawan, Dinesh Karthik, RP Singh, and VRV Singh) have played for the senior squad I have never had the honor of doing so.

Answers after the jump:

Seasons of change

As time goes by, Hindi movie previews are getting as polished as anything Hollywood dishes out, even exceeding them at times. Check out the preview of this upcoming Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor movie and tell me you are not in the least bit intrigued about it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nature calls

Freedom Park, where the Nebraska Cricket Club plays is right next to the Missouri River. The cricket ground is nestled within the premises of a Naval museum. Surrounding our field are ships, planes, helicopters, and a submarine. Here's the ground during gentler times (the river flows on the other side of the various machines):

(C.S. Manish 2010)
Today, the Missouri River is raging, hell-bent of reclaiming its old floodplain. Our ground is under many feet of water. (Frame of reference: you can see the top of a chain-link fence that borders the field. The fence is about 5 feet in height!).

(Peter Daliere 2011)
Hopefully, the river will recede and we will get to play on Freedom Park again. Sooner rather than later.

P.S. Here's an aerial view that shows the river (as it flows south towards downtown Omaha) and the location of the ground at Freedom Park. (The photo was taken from this site)

(U.S. Army Photo / Carlos J. Lazo 2011)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Travel: Day 5 - Puerto Rico - Wetlands, salt flats, and a lighthouse

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom.

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned. (You can see all the previous posts in this thread here).


After visiting a dry forest on Day 4, we were given the opportunity to visit a wetland on Day 5. Located near the south-wastern tip of Puerto Rico, the exotically named Laguna Cartagena is located in Boquerón.

Nature's services

Wildlife photography at its best. Worth thousands of words right here.


Stepping back to move forward

I am not the only person who has noticed the shortcomings of LeBron James when the spotlight gets intense. I was fortunate that my time in Chicago coincided with MJ's golden finish after his basketball "sabbatical". I even got to watch him play at the United Center (January 26th, 1997, against the Miami Heat). The Bulls won by 22 points, and went on to win an unparalleled 72 games (out of 82) in the regular season.

For the rest of his career LeBron will be compared to the man I firmly believe is the greatest sportsman in the clutch I have ever seen. Unless LeBron discovers some inner toughness he will lose out on the GOAT stakes.

If LeBron is the reading type, I'd ask him to read this tribute that describes Jordan's last run for the Bulls. Taking command of the tight moments is what defines a leader. Until he does that, Lebron will just be another talented fellow who faded away from the basket during crunch-time.

By the way, late in his career, Jordan taught himself to fadeaway from the basket, too. Except he did it as a scoring option that was virtually unstoppable. Watch and learn, LeBron.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yesterday, once more

A few months back I realized that very few sporting events held my fancy any longer. Since then I have stopped watching TV just for the sake of watching it. To me, whether I watch TV or not has become a litmus test for sporting events. If I care enough about a sporting event I shall turn it on. If I don't then I don't care.

Simple. Right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time to bid adieu

It is Finals Week and you'd think I'd be happy about the upcoming break from teaching, but I am not. I love being around students, talking to them, listening to them, watching them mature (or behave immaturely) as the weeks and months roll by. My students often ask me why I look happy on Mondays and sadder on Fridays and the reality is that I miss my interactions with a lot when they are not around.

What makes the Finals Week of Spring semester even worse is that some of the students will graduate and move on to bigger, better things. Most of them I shall never see again, hear from, or read about. I liken a college/school to a port on the voyage of life. You stop for a few days, (hopefully) gain some wisdom, and then move on. Someday, some small incident and how one responds to it will spark a memory - a memory of having been taught that life lesson by an instructor or teacher.

I think back fondly to some of the folks who've influenced me. Dr. M, whose style of teaching I consciously ape. I would never have taken his class if a certain University had offered me a reasonable stipend to enroll in their PhD program. Their loss, my gain!

From Dr. C (Jack to some) I learned about empowering students with responsibility for their own grades and performances by treating them as adults. Once, he gave us a take-home exam. He emailed it to us with two specific instructions. One, do not discuss the exam with anyone else. Two, open the email only when ready to take the exam and once the exam was opened we had exactly one week in which to complete it. That was it! He trusted us to be honest and not take advantage of his generosity. And we did. Be honest, that is. (Of course, the Indian in me made me take my own sweet time to open the exam as I wanted to be fully ready before I tackled it.) One day, as I was crossing Jack in the hallway, he stopped me, grabbed me by the shoulders, and said, "Where's my exam, young man?" Well, needless to say, 7 days later he had the exam. And yes, I did get an A in the class so I must have done something right!

There are numerous such incidents that I shall save for another post. For now, my hope is that someday, somewhere, some student of mine will, during a quiet moment, reflect back on his/her experience with me and remember me fondly. And that, my friend, will be all the gurudakshina I need.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Under-rated over rates

These days, it is tough to find a Test captain who can finish the mandatory 90 overs in a single day's play. For all the good things he does, MS Dhoni earns a big black mark from me for his horrid management of the over rate, very often intentionally slowing it down to prevent the opposition from getting away.

Contrast that with this scorecard from the final of the Ranji Trophy in 1944/45.

Bombay: 462 in 160.5 overs
Holkar: 360 in 123.5 overs
Bombay: 764 in 256 overs
Holkar: 492 in 154.1 overs

Total: 2,078 runs in 694.5 overs

Look at the analysis of CS Nayudu
First inning: 64.5-10-153-6
Second inning: 88-15-275-5

This past weekend I played a 30 over a side game and woke up feeling sore this morning, a full two days later. I cannot even fathom how folks could have played so many overs back then in under 5 days.

What if...

a) This is just mesmerizing....what would some of the planets look like in the night sky if they were the same distance from the earth as the moon?

b) What if the Earth had rings, just like Saturn does? How would it look from different cities across the world? How I wish this were true...*sigh*

c) And finally, if you have ever wondered what Hyderabad would look like if covered by snow, wonder no further. Here it is, courtesy some very imaginative CGI (from about the 1:35 mark).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Random musings 3 - Bits and pieces

(In this column of I shall put forward thoughts that course through my mind - too small to be separate blog posts but too long to be mere passing fancies).

1) MS Dhoni is one of the most successful captains in modern day cricket (and is fast moving up the ranks of the all-timers). I have read as many articles about him as I can in an effort to figure out what he thinks. Lately, he has openly admitted that he does not attend the bowler's meeting prior to a match as he does not want to go in with a pre-conceived strategy. This is admirable, because it clearly shows that he is willing (and able) to think on his feet during the game.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why India won the World Cup

Around the world supporters of the Indian team made all kinds of sacrifices and promises to ensure that the obstacles to a cricket World Cup win would be as minimal as possible. The sacrifices came in various shapes and sizes and ranged from the small to the big, from not changing one's seat during the Final to offering to give up chocolates for a whole year.

However, as far back as last July, the World Cup win had already been sealed as far as JJ and I were concerned. Our cricket ground, Freedom Park, is located less than 50 yards from the Missouri River. Last summer the river flooded extensively and left behind big pools of water on the field. We were to play a game on Sunday and wanted to organize it no matter what. So, one Friday evening in early July, JJ and I toiled for a long time, clearing all the pools of water by hand, filling up a couple of big buckets, and then emptying them beyond the field - repeating the process umpteen times. We motivated ourselves with the thought that if we were successful in organizing a game on Sunday, India would win the World Cup.

We did have a game that Sunday and India did win the World Cup. Unrelated events? I think not! Listen carefully to the video and note that the path to an Indian win is littered by sacrifices like ours.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A joy forever

This is the most beautiful video I have ever seen (The text provided below the video is by Terje Sorgjerd):

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

This was filmed between 4th and 11th April 2011. I had the pleasure of visiting El Teide.

Spain´s highest mountain @(3715m) is one of the best places in the world to photograph the stars and is also the location of Teide Observatories, considered to be one of the world´s best observatories.

The goal was to capture the beautiful Milky Way galaxy along with one of the most amazing mountains I know El Teide. I have to say this was one of the most exhausting trips I have done. There was a lot of hiking at high altitudes and probably less than 10 hours of sleep in total for the whole week. Having been here 10-11 times before I had a long list of must-see locations I wanted to capture for this movie, but I am still not 100% used to carrying around so much gear required for time-lapse movies.

A large sandstorm hit the Sahara Desert on the 9th April ( and at approx 3am in the night the sandstorm hit me, making it nearly impossible to see the sky with my own eyes.

Interestingly enough my camera was set for a 5 hour sequence of the milky way during this time and I was sure my whole scene was ruined. To my surprise, my camera had managed to capture the sandstorm which was backlit by Grand Canary Island making it look like golden clouds. The Milky Way was shining through the clouds, making the stars sparkle in an interesting way. So if you ever wondered how the Milky Way would look through a Sahara sandstorm, look at 00:32.

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Music by my friend: Ludovico Einaudi - "Nuvole bianche" with permission.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Stretching arms towards perfection

(This is a very long post. Disjointed and unorganized. It is a post 28 years in the making but I did not realize it till I sat down to actually write it. I can remember every little detail about the 2nd of April, 2011 like it was (day before) yesterday but just not in sequence! My reminisces about the day are also like that. I nearly deleted this post because of its rambling nature until I was convinced that I should publish it nevertheless because there are people who want to read what I write!)

...Oh My God! I think I may have just cost India the World Cup. How could I be so stupid?! It is 3:10am and I am driving east on Maple Street approaching the 204th street intersection. The light is red and I tell myself, if it stays red India loses, if it turns green India wins. It turns green! Phew! But not satisfied with dodging that bullet, I decide that if the light stays green until it is no longer visible in my rearview mirror then victory is assured. Oh no...oh no...oh no... Phew! I can no longer see it but then I reach 168th street and turn left. Oh dear, I can see the traffic light to the left in the distance, still green but how long can it hold on? Idiot!! How could I be so stupid?!!

Miracle of miracles, it stays green the whole time! India is going to win! After that - Never. A. Doubt. Honestly, God promise.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Not the real deal

Coming up, very soon, a post on what I did on the 2nd day of April in the year 2011. Apart from the usual nonsense - get up, take a shower, drive around for a few minutes, etc., - I did catch a cricket match. I have been writing and writing and am still not done but I know my loyal followers (all 4 of them, I think) are waiting eagerly (one hopes)!

This post is just to say, "Have patience, my friend. A post is on its way." In it I shall reference, among other things, Rabindranath Tagore, OBO ("What's that?," you say? You'll just have to wait), Clint Eastwood, Keyser Söze, Saturn (the planet not the car), Lord of the Rings, Teddy (not Roosevelt but my dog), Doordarshan Samachar, 28 runs in 104 80 balls, Helen of Troy, and VVS Laxman (but, of course).

Until then, feast on this iconic image of the shot heard around the world:

(Getty Images 2011, via CricInfo)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Xander Drax to the rescue

I have been trolling the web for the past few days looking for articles about the Final that rise beyond the common and seek a balance between hype and conjecture.

Call it a search for a frame of reference for the occasion, if you will.

I have found it. Take a bow, Sharda Ugra.

Read the entire thing here.

With reference to the strategy for tomorrow's game, a small nugget comforted me and told me that the Indian team is in good hands. I trust MS Dhoni implicitly. Win or lose, I am happy he is our captain.
Like he (Dhoni) has always done, he will stay away from the bowlers meeting on Friday night, saying it helps him formulate his own alternative plans, if the bowling begins to fray on the field the next day.

Having beaten West Indies, Australia, and Pakistan (in that order, too), India has one other World Cup-winning team left in its sights - Sri Lanka. It is too wonderful a co-incidence to not be part of some mage-super-dooper plan. Or so I believe.

A date with Destiny awaits and I will leave you with these words by Rudyard Kipling (from If):
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;


If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;


If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";


If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
P.S. If you have made it this far and are wondering about the title of this post, click here and see if that helps a little bit.

Thoughts before the Final

It is finally upon us - a cricket final in Mumbai, featuring an Indian team.

Here are some last-minute thoughts on the off-chance that an Indian player reads it and passes along the message to MS Dhoni.

a) Virender Sehwag promised to bat 50 overs. Now would be a good time for him to remember the promise. If he bats 50 overs, the game is almost certainly out of Sri Lanka's reach.

b) Sachin Tendulkar is going to score his 100th international century in the Final. Not for nothing has he accumulated no less than 26 international scores in the 90's. A few years ago in Cuttack, Dinesh Karthik went ballistic with SRT eying a century, stranding him on 96 not out against the Sri Lankans. Now I know for sure that Dinesh did not strand the Master, it was part of a Grand Plan.

While on that, can we stop calling SRT a "Little" Master? He has gone beyond the Little stage by now, I would like to think.

c) In Masada, I trust. I had a dream vision that Masada and SRT were at the crease as the winning runs were scored. That means...

d) Masada needs to lose the toss. I have more faith in the batting chasing down a total than the bowling defending a total. Invariably, because of the great start that Sehwag provides the commentators place a curse on the Indian team by talking about projected scores in excess of 350, only to have the natural course of events bring it down to the 260-280 range which feels like a letdown when, in fact, it should feel like a great total.

e) Ravi Shastri: I know it is the final of a World Cup. You need not scream yourself hoarse reminding us of it. We know that you will be feeling the following things:

  • It does not get any bigger than this.
  • It's anybody's game.
  • The atmosphere is electric.
  • What the batting team needs is a good partnership.
  • What the bowling team needs is a couple of quick wickets
  • (or, if it is late in the inning) a couple of good overs.

Actually, why don't you just click on this link for more.

f) While their careers have overlapped for almost 19 years, I was shocked to read that SRT has faced only 91 balls in ODIs and 366 balls in Tests from Muttiah Muralitharan. What?!! here's hoping for 59 more (and someone else's wicket off the 60th one for Murali).

There are many more thoughts but considering how incoherent the previous ones have been, I should just shut up and write only after my nerves have settled.

By this time tomorrow.....

Friday, March 25, 2011

10 thoughts on the road to salvation

The cricket World Cup's schedule was ostensibly set up to ensure that, at the very least, India made it to the knockout stage. In reality, it was set up to ensure that all the teams that made it to the knock-out stage did so because of a proper body of work and not because of one or two fortuitous days of play (as was the case with Kenya in 2003). In the end it worked out well. Say what you will about England's tortured path to the quarter-finals, they had a chance to atone for losing to Ireland and Bangladesh. Similarly, Bangladesh needed a sustained performance and not just one good day (beating England, for example) to get it to move forward.

Also, the schedule was spaced out such that no team complained about not having enough time between matches, ensuring that all 8 teams came into the QF's with plenty of rest as well as match practice.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts about the quarter-final matches that have been played so far.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Travel: Day 4 - Puerto Rico - Dry forests and ancient trees

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom.

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned

Day 4 and Day 5 marked the birthdays of two of the members of the group. What are the odds that in a 10-day trip taken by 7 folks, two of them would celebrate a birthday in that period? After the obligatory midnight birthday ritual, we went to sleep knowing that Day 4 would be one filled with with a lot of walking and talking, sometimes both together. AJ finally had company under the stars, with MB joining him after the midnight party.

(C.S. Manish 2011)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Travel: Day 3 - Puerto Rico - Coral reefs and open water

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom.

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned

Day 3 dawned bright and early for AJ who took advantage of the warm weather and brilliant skies to sleep under the stars. He did wake up at the break of dawn to capture some silent sights from Percy's Perch.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Travel: Day 2 - Puerto Rico - Of not-so-long drives and icebreakers

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom.

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned


"You were supposed to be here by 7am, not 8."

These are not the first words you want to hear when you walk into a car rental company's office, expecting to pick up a 15-seater van. I may not be many things, but one thing I definitely am is thorough. No sooner had the lady said that, I pulled out three different pieces of paper that showed that I was supposed to be at her office at 8am (which I was, on the dot!). A few minutes of frantic phone calling ensued before the lady tried to cajole me into settling for two minivans (no way!). A few more frantic phone calls later, a very sour-faced lady handed me the keys to a 15-seater van - the courtesy van that received folks at the airport and brought them to the rental agency in San Juan! So, for the next 10 days, I wandered around the island advertising the rental company while also being mistaken on multiple occasions for the ferry to the airport.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maggi Noodle Review: The Adjustment Bureau

What if you did not have the ability to choose your own path in life? What if it was already pre-ordained? How would you live the rest of your life? What could you do in the (supposed) absence of Free Will? The Adjustment Bureau asks those questions about Free Will and Choice and more.

I went in expecting a sci-fi movie with thrills and spills and chases. I came away with the distinct impression that I saw a very well made love story. Yes, there are thrills and spills and chases, but they are moments of kinetic force that simply let you appreciate the tenderness with which the love story develops. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were meant to be together! Or were they? Sometimes, it is not clear if even The Adjustment Bureau knows. And that is where the movie rises above the level of a typical one.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck came into the industry together, but have forged two vastly different careers. Matt is able to juxtapose his Bourne Identity action hero image with intelligent choices in what we would call hatke movies. This movie is another feather in his cap.

As you watch the movie, you find yourself asking questions about what you would do if you found out your life was already pre-ordained to a certain degree. Would you try to break the shackles or would you set forth to get some control over your choices? The answers are not always that simple and the questions are not always that complicated.

As Ian Malcolm once said, "Life will find a way."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Running Diary: India-South Africa World Cup match

A pivotal scheduled clash between two of the strongest teams in the World Cup is at hand. Rather than do a running diary after every over, I shall write frequently, as and when thoughts come to mind during the telecast. Pardon the typos. After all, even the best of batsmen edge the ball during the best of innings.

2:55am: Further signs that the world in indeed going to end in 2012 - India goes into a cricket match at home with fewer specialist spinners than South Africa. India adopts the horses for courses strategy and takes just Harbhajan (Economy) Singh into the game. Of course, the course we are preparing for is a South African one. I hope Yuvraj Singh takes a few wickets. After all, Economy has been told by his captain to not worry about wickets as long as he contains the scoring.

By the way, just as it is not uncommon for my students to develop those 24-hour flus on the day of an exam, now that South Africa have made the quarter-final, leg-spinner Imran Tahir has a fractured thumb on his non-bowling hand that will take 10 days to heal. Just enough time to miss out on the rest of the league games but not too long that he will miss any of the knock-out games. Along the way, it surprised no one (and I predicted this would happen before the World Cup in an email to a friend) Tahir picks up the injury on the eve of the match against India.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The lone and level sands...

Thanks to the replay feature of WillowTV I witnessed one of the most nerveless inning I have ever seen during a run chase. Other batsmen took the glory but watching Mahmudullah calmly farm the strike and play out the good deliveries, showing no sign of panic in spite of Bangladesh's precarious position, was a sight for sore eyes. There is always room for a calm head in a tense chase. Cricket may increasingly advertise its slam-bang nature, but the wins are set up by the pillars, not the wall hangings.

I have followed Mahmudullah quite closely since his Test debut a couple of years ago. (Yes, I do watch all kinds of Test cricket - including Bangladesh!) I wasn't surprised when he scored a century under pressure in New Zealand last year and it is not surprising that his 21 in 42 balls with the team 8 wickets down proved to be the fulcrum that Shafiul Islam used to pry open a win from a tenacious English team.

Unfortunately, in a few days, folks will have moved on. Someone looking at the scorecard in a few years will simply focus on the contribution of Iqbal and Kayes and Islam. Everyone else will forget his contribution, but I shall always cherish this inning from Mahmudullah. Long may he serve the game of cricket.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maggi Noodle Review: The best movie of 2010

2010 was an odd year for me. I saw very few movies, so much so, that during the recent Oscar telecast, the only nominated movies I had seen were Inception, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - part I and *ahem* Tangled.

So when I present to you the best movie of 2010, I do so from my limited viewing list. I thought about making it Inception but I decided against it. Much as I was impressed by the movie and all the conversations it has generated in its aftermath, the movie that moved me the most was:

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Spin it to win it

I had originally intended to give the India-Ireland match a miss until I was asked to take a peek at Kevin O'Brien. (More specifically, his heroics against England a few days ago). I am glad I stayed up all night and watched cricket, including the England-South Africa game (until I switched over to the India game with Amla and de Villiers cruising towards a regulation win).

Some things that stood out for me:

Friday, March 04, 2011

The quietest World Cup ever

We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The cricket World Cup has started and folks who know nothing about the sport ask me how it is going. The reality is that so far I have watched only one full inning - India's inning against England.

I have just not been able to get my head wrapped around a schedule that features games for teams once every 5-7 days. CricInfo has been doing a good job of giving me the news without the need to see replays or highlights on WillowTV.

Can I force myself to stay up and watch the Indian team play this weekend (I had to look it up to even know whom they played)? I'm not really sure.

What I do know is this:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Travel: Day 1 - Puerto Rico - From snow to riches!

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom.

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned.

At 2 in the morning I received a text from Andrew J, wondering whether the snowstorm that was hitting the Midwest would let us even leave Omaha. I looked out the window and saw nothing but whiteness. Our original plan was to leave for the airport at 7:30am. I quickly factored in the weather and told everyone to assemble by 6:15am instead. By 5:30am I was at the University's motor pool trying to jump-start the van that would take us to the airport. (Naturally it picked that day to die). Luckily, the head of Maintenance also believes in an early start and, a hasty truck ride later, we were able to requisition another van for the trip.

The ride from the University to the airport is normally a 45 minute one. That day it took us an hour and a half. We slip-slided our way, more than drove, to the airport. Finally, we reached the airport in time to leisurely stroll to the check-in counter, pick up our boarding passes and stop for the obligatory before-the-trip group photo.

(Miranda Beran 2011)