Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Question of Balls... Football Wins.

Since the last decade or so, Indian kids have had an option of choosing their favorite sport for the first time. Till the '90s cricket was the sole sport religion in India. Yeah,  you could say hockey is the national sport and blah and blah but nothing ever beat the buzz of a crunch cricket match.

With the advent of all-year round football, starting with the English Premier League, followed by the Bundesliga, Serie A and most recently, the Spanish La Liga sport enthusiasts have found a new first love... so much that any kid around the age of 15 would rather spend a few grand on his favorite football team's jersey than on a Team India jersey. It was the same case with me. Around 9 years ago, I was all cricket in the 9th Grade. But then came the English Premier League. And believe me, football trumps cricket any day, everyday.

Let me tell you why...

Firstly, football is a continuous game. The only boring stoppages in a game are for goal kicks and throw-ins. Others like goals, free-kicks, corners, etc. arouse a sense of excitement in most cases. 90 minutes divided into 2 action packed halves of 45 minutes each. Time flies by and its barely 2 hours spent per match. Also, there's a very distinct factor of unpredictability in football. You can never know when a goal will be scored, or when a harsh tackle will have a player sent off.

One-Day cricket on the other hand, is a 100 over game split into 50 over innings which last roughly 3 hours each at an average of 14 overs an hour. Yes, its exciting at times, but, I can't help snooze off between an innings. Its painful to watch a bowler make a run up, bowl the delivery, watch the batsman play and wait the bowler take a slow painful walk back to his run-up starting point only to repeat it 50 X 6 = 300 times in an innings and 600 times in a standard ODI. Moreover, the game lasts 6 and a half to 7 hours on an average. Either you spend 6 hours watching the same thing over and over again or you watch part of the match which is just as pointless.

Secondly, football is a club-dominated game rather than a nation-dominated game. Club football takes precedence... always (well... almost). The point is that with Top Tier National leagues, national knock-out cup tourneys and European Championships, every weekend is new. Your favorite club will rarely play the same opponent twice in the same month, or even quarter of a year. Unless, of course its the last knock-out stages of the European cups which showcase nothing but the very best clubs on both ends of the pitch. So no complaints there. Plus, there are transfers that see players moving from one club to another in the blink of an eye. One moment, he'f your favorite player, the next day he plays for another club, possibly a fierce rival. Its that sort of thing that gives you the kick (pun intended).

Contrarily, cricket is a nation dominated sport. National teams battle it out against other countries in long, sometimes over-stretched series' against the same nation. You might have an occasional tri-series but nothing too exciting until the world cup. I'm sorry, but, I'm not going to spend 6 hours each on a 7 match ODI series of India against the same England 11. How much more monotonous can it get??

However, it would be wrong to suggest that football has taken over from cricket as the primary fanatic sport of India. But, among the urban sections of the society, yes, a high octane football match brings a bigger buzz than the climax of a long ODI series.

Also, I will add that an Indian kid's passion for his country's cricket team knows no bounds during big international tournaments like the World Cup and Champions Trophy. I cite this from personal experience... I am not a big cricket follower but I was proud to lose my voice cheering Team India on to a memorable victory vs. Australia at the Motera Stadium in Quarter Final of the 2011 World Cup. 

Yeah, I love football. But its always Team India time during the World Cup.

- Pratik Gupta

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Phoenix or The Flame?

Yesterday, I read that scientists had finally solved the mystery of the chicken and the egg. An age old question that baffled people more than the all elusive value of x: Which came first?

The Answer: The chicken came first because there is a particular protein in the egg that can produced only by a hen. Without it, the egg cannot exist. So the mystery was closed not directly, but indirectly, by proving the impossibility of the other option.

On not so dissimilar lines, I wondered about the same question about the phoenix and the flame: Which came first? The beauty of the answer lies in the fact that there can be none, for the Phoenix is a mythological creature of fire.

Its a question of opinion and background of a person. A staunch believer in ancient Greek/Egyptian/Persian mythology may chose to not answer the question claiming that there is none, and that its a truly infinite circle. Some believe that it rose from an erupting volcano or something. But in claiming its existence, they leave the doors open to scientists for doing what they do best: ask where the infinite loop started and answer the question.

One answer could be that neither the phoenix, nor the flame came first. Ok, not exactly neither. But the ashes of something else gave rise to the phoenix. Not that plausible, but hey, this is mythology. Magic and Mythology go hand in hand. You'll need to have a decent imaginative range for that.

The other answer is that the Phoenix came first... as an evolved creature. Even for a mystical creature to rise from the ashes, it should have been the burnt remains of a phoenix in the first place. How can a phoenix just rise from ordinary ashes?? This is in compliance with the indirect technique. Disprove the possibility of the opposite and there you have it. Scientifically, it makes more sense than the previous option. 

Personally, I subscribe to the first option. Let the aura of the magic of a mythological creature remain. It also helps to maintain the beautiful mystery of its origin.

The rest, as I said, is a matter of opinion.

-Pratik Gupta

Monday, 10 September 2012

My Favorite Songs

Here is a small post where I list down my all time top 5 songs:

  1. Coming Back to Life - Pink Floyd (Pulse). Timeless Classic. Its a song for any mood. Cheers me up and gets me going when I'm down. Calms me down and soothes me when I'm agitated.
  2. November Rain - Guns N' Roses (Use Your Illusion 1). This is the most complete relationship song. It has a stanza that can be compared to each of the 3 broad states of a relationship: The fight, the uncertainty and the reconciliation. 
  3. Lazarus - Porcupine Tree (Deadwing). This is the second part of the Deadwing Screenplay trilogy (Trains - Lazarus - Half Light). Its about a son 'David' singing to mother 'Elizabeth' upon her death. Beautiful Music and cruel, painful, emotional lyrics make both this song and its sequel (Half Light) make it among the most played songs in my list.
  4. She Will Be Loved - Maroon 5 (Songs About Jane). We all know this one. Maroon 5's best song till date. About a friend who is always there for his female friend in time of need, who knows her every secret, but is secretly in love with her. He sings about how the guy will always be there for the girl but will never be able to have his feelings reciprocated. Try watching the video of Maroon 5 on MTV World Stage at Vegas. Their finale with this song and getting the crowd to sing the end in two halves just blew me away!!
  5. Take Me Home, Country Roads - John Denver (Poems, Prayers and Promises). The best sing-along EVER!!! Liberating. Relaxing. Gets my feet tapping. John Denver's unquestionable best.
A few very close contenders that JUST missed out on the list: Kandisa (Indian Ocean), Learning to Fly, Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd), Sweet Child O' Mine, Stranged, Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Guns N' Roses), Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton). And many more.

I also tend to go deep into the meaning of a song's lyrics... It helps me truly appreciate the beauty of the song. I might write a few posts on intriguing song meanings soon.

Meanwhile, enjoy these. :)

-Pratik Gupta

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Battery Health and Me (And, You too)

Most of us use Smartphones these days. Almost all of us have either an iPhone, an Android or a Blackberry. And all of you will completely understand when I say that battery life is a major issue. I had a very rough 10 days because of an old battery and, boy, was it a major pain in the backside.

Towards the end of my ordeal (yesterday), my phone would stay on for no longer than 40 minutes even if I switched off 3G, kept flight mode on, didn't listen to music, didn't even check my cell by turning on the LED back-light. Cutting through the redundancy, I made my phone worthless and it still didn't last 2400 seconds. And so my phone was on charge all day at work and at home. Basically, I owned a Dabba. :P

Obviously, I got myself a new battery, and couldn't help smiling to myself as the initial charge of 21% lasted close to 4 hours with my regular usage of mobile internet and texting (#WIN). So, anyway I thought I'd do some research on Li-Ion batteries and their working to help me (and now, you) understand how to take better care of your batteries.

For starters, the basic process of battery usage is simple electrolysis. Lithium Ions moving from one electrode to another, positive to negative, and discharging is the reverse process. At the end of my research, I learnt the following things:

  1. The notion that the battery's first charging should last 12-16 hours for good health and longevity is a myth. This was required only in the old Nickel-Cadmium(Ni-Cd) batteries, most of which have been phased out now. The 12 hour charge could actually damage your battery right from the start. A normal charge should be anywhere between 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Ideally, the battery (and thus, the device) should be kept at room temperature, ie. 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. So, if you're at a warm indoor place, keep it near the fan of air cooling vent, and if you're in a cold place, keep it in your pocket.
  3. You should never completely discharge the battery. Recharge it when it reaches 10-15%. However, you should do a complete discharge and recharge of the battery once every 20-30 charge cycles. That comes up to roughly a month in my case.
  4. You shouldn't fully charge it either. I don't quite get how we can manage that, but no harm trying.
  5. Never use a non-approved charger for your device. There could be a difference in voltage from charger to charger and that could damage your battery. In lay man terms, use only the charger that comes with your device otherwise there's some electronic mumbo-jumbo that'll screw up your battery.
  6. Never keep the battery or the device close to a metallic surface for too long. Again, free electrons and metals and some chemical geek stuff.
Apart from these, I read that batteries have two important attributes. A Digital Memory, that kinda helps the device read its percentage life for display purposes; and Potency, a quantitative measure of the number of free electrons it can regain after a full recharge. Both, indirectly indicate battery life and charge percentage. The difference being that Potency cannot be measured by the device, while Digital Memory can... not with pinpoint accuracy, however. So don't rely on the battery meter display on your gadgets too much.

I've been through a good few websites to read and assimilate this information. I hope it helps you guys as well as I hope it helps me. Most of them make sense when you read it in detail. Except the execution of the 4th one. I'll try to figure that out by myself. 

Ultimately, its all in the Science of it. Hope your battery lasts long enough to help you tweet, Whatsapp and listen to music all the way home from work or college.

Cheers. :)

-Pratik Gupta.

PS: Comments and corrections are welcome. :)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Ajmal Kasab: India Wins 2-0... Or does She?

29th August, 2012 will go down as the day the Supreme Court of India sentenced to death, the Pakistani Terrorist, and lone survivor of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Amir Kasab. The cost of keeping this man alive and safe for more than 3 and a half years was about 35 crore rupees. (Yes, count the zeroes if you wish. That's 35,00,00,000). Anyway, the end is near. Death Sentence it is. That'll be a Win for India. In football terminology: India 2-0 approaching stoppage time.

Wait... 2-0?? Where did the second one come from??

Well, the first victory was claimed when we allowed him a trial. High Court, and then to the Supreme Court. Proof that India will not stoop down to barbarianism in times of crisis. The Government, although the Plaintiff, ensured his well being and provided him with a lawyer, health care, newspapers, and the most notoriously publicized Mutton Biryani at his Arthur Road Jail cell, and did so much to the displeasure of the general population who had called for an immediate death sentence.

Morals, dignity, integrity, laws, democracy... The decision to allow him a fair trial, a fair appeal and provisions to exercise every right any defendant is allowed in an Indian Court of Law. THAT was 1-0 to India.
The appeal was upheld at the Supreme Court and he has been sentenced to death by hanging for 'waging war on India'. 2-0.

But, lets not get carried away with the Sentence. Afzal Guru has been waiting for his hanging for some years now. Let Kasab hang first. Then we'll talk. (Ok, that last bit wasn't mine. Read that on twitter.) Makes sense to me. You know how lightning quick Govt. procedures are in India. Pranab da, the call is your's.

Another question I asked myself was: Who did we beat with the 2-0 scoreline?? Kasab? Pakistan? Islam? Terrorism? Jehad? If you answered a 'Yes' to any of these, then I suggest you think again.

Kasab: well, we didn't beat him. We put him through our Judiciary system which, to be fair has had its own share of criticism to deal with. Moral victory, maybe.
Pakistan and its innocent citizens were never the enemy, so... no. The Pakistan internal establishment, yes.
Islam: don't kid yourself. One of my best friends and my neighbor are Muslim. Not the enemy.
Terrorism: No. The element of terror and Jehad as its catalyst are still thriving in the underground extremist networks.

I'm sorry, but apart from the moral victory, I see no positives from the sentence of Ajmal Amir Kasab. 

And also, vengeance for those who lost their loved ones in 26/11. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the sentence. But, Kasab is not the root of the problem. The root lies in the top levels of state funded terror units that brainwash kids like Kasab with a self righteous notion of Jehad and the promise of Allah's rewards, ultimately training them into deadly killing machines. Unless the top level is destabilized and taken down, we will have more 26/11s and Ajmal Kasabs.

This is not a complete victory for India over anyone. But a small step towards the Herculean task of dismantling the Jehadi terror network that still survives in Paksitan as well as India.

Meanwhile, let Kasab hang from the gallows and send a message out to the world: India will strike with dignity. Always.

Jai Hind.

-Pratik Gupta