Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How the Japanese see the Arabs

Today read a couple of articles about a book, 'The Arabs: A Japanese point of view,' by Nobuaki Notohara. The two articles were 'When individuality, privacy vanish' by Ahmed al Falahi & 'The Arabs from a Japanese Perspective' based on excerpts from a review by Muhammad al Rumayhi. These 2 write-ups have got me interested in the book. However it doesn't seem to be available in English. Seems it was originally written in Japanese and later translated into Arabic.

The 2 reviews bring up some thought provoking observations in the book.

  • Arabs are occupied with the idea of a single style. Everyone dresses similarly, for instance. What this costs is individuality, and eventually the notion of privacy.
  • Society takes prominence over the individual. Sense of individual responsibility vanishes. This can be seen in the way public property is treated. Parks, Roads & such.
  • Rulers are unquestioned, whether it is the head of family or state. Hence rulers tenures are normally life-long.
  • Why the Japanese don't hate America.
  • Need for domestic & External criticism. And self-criticism
Would be interesting to ponder how other societies stack up, on these values.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

ISM Inter-house quiz 2011

Had the pleasure of conducting the inter-house quiz at Indian School Muscat for the 4th year running. Some takeaways:
  • Green house won. It was Yellow the last 3 years.
  • Some good answers by all teams. The difference between the 1st and last teams was quite small compared to previous years.
  • My fav question was on the link between Geococcyx Californianus & Canis Latrans. Was easily cracked.
  • Best answered question was the one relating to Sarah Burton. Answered by the only girl in the audience. Unfortunately there was none on stage.
  • A couple of the teams this year were a bit more tuned to entertainment questions.
  • Q related to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' song O Children went unanswered but drew the most oohs & aahs
  • Was held on a Thursday. Since school has shifted to a 5 day week, not much audience.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2 Types of Engineers

3 actually. But lets exclude those (~90%?)  who are not really doing any engineering work. Rather, like myself, filling in spreadsheets, and creating presentations.

Engineers solve problems. They create. They invent, design, build, operate....... Tools, Machines, Systems, Structures. The two classes of engineers are categorized based on the two types of problems that we have.

The 1st set of problems that we face has to do with constraints on our resources. This could be time, money, space. Engineers come up with solutions that help us use these resources more productively. Hence the tools that they construct may help us save time, space or money. Calculators save us time. Skyscrapers save us space. Google saves us time, space and money.

The 2nd group of engineers solves the issue of what to do with all the extra resources that the 1st set has freed up for us. They create smartphone apps.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Barca after party

At work. Celebrating the success of FC Barcelona, and attractive football. Also to spite a few Real fans:-)

Monday, May 09, 2011

We're turning 19 soon!

And you're invited to the party

A banner at Anfield in 94. Soon after United won their 1st Premier League Championship under Sir Alex.

At Anfield in 2009.
Talk about comebacks!

Banner unfurled at Anfield by United fans during the Liverpool - Tottenham match.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Battling Corruption

If you have government, you'll have opportunities for corruption. One way to fight this is to have more stringent laws. Anna Hazare & gang have taken this route. And they seem to have got a lot of mileage as well. But this route is fraught with dangers. Laws always lead to unintended consequences, which could easily open up new opportunities to play the system.

Another option is to have lesser government. Smaller government. Reduce the role of government in everyday life. And leave it to the market to fill in. This reduces opportunities for corruption.

We can have both tougher laws and smaller govt. But if just one, I'd prefer the latter.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Reading Statistics & The G.O.A.T Federer/Nadal

One argument on why Federer cannot be considered the Greatest Of All Time is his record against Nadal. It stands 14-8 in favour of Rafa, with their 23rd competitive meeting scheduled for later tonight.

Their fascinating rivalry is also considered the G.O.A.T! They are the only pair in men's tennis to have finished 6 consecutive years as the top two.

I personally believe Federer to be the better player. And I propose to manipulate the stats to validate my case. This is also a good reason why stats should not be unquestioningly believed.

Splitting into court types the Federer -Nadal records show 4-3 on hard courts, 2-1 on grass, and 2-10 on clay. So one could argue that Federer is the better player on 2 of 3 surfaces.

But there's more to this. The 2 being the top ranked players for the last 6 years, would invariably be seeded to meet in the finals. If more meetings haven't happened between the 2, it's because one of them fell off before reaching the summit clash. This has been Nadal more often. Federer has been generally more consistent in reaching the finals than Nadal.

While Rafa has been the undisputed master on clay (over the decade), Roger has also been pretty consistent in reaching the finals of a good chunk of the clay-court tournaments the two participated in. This has led to >50% of their clashes being played out on clay, though going by number of tournaments this should have been less than 25%.

What this could mean is that while Federer was the 2nd best player on clay, Nadal was not the number 2 on grass or hard courts. Though he has been showing more consistency on all surfaces in the last couple of years.

I immensely like both the players. Roger for his graceful movement, effortless artistry and panache. Rafa for his tenacity, magnanimity in victory & defeat and humility. Also for being left handed;) And both for their talent, competitiveness, sportsmanship and excellence.

But I am wary of stats. And 6-sigma.

Monday, January 03, 2011

"Almost, but not quite entirely unlike Tea"

Dedicated to R - a fantastic cook - with whom my only disagreement has been about making Tea.

Choice Snippets

The socially correct way of pouring tea is to put the milk in after the tea. Social correctness has traditionally had nothing whatever to do with reason, logic or physics. In fact, in England it is generally considered socially incorrect to know stuff or think about things. It's worth bearing this in mind when visiting. - Adams

Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water. - Orwell

And do not put the milk in the cup first—family feuds have lasted generations over this—because you will almost certainly put in too much. - Hitchens quoting Orwell

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Changing Times - New Year Greetings

I remember a time when New Year wishes were actually exchanged in person. This happened whenever you met the person the 1st time into the new year. This could be as late as the 3rd or 4th week of January. This was also complemented by a flourishing business in X-mas & New Year greeting cards. With the postal rush during the period, it meant that you'd have to mail your cards in early December to give it a chance of arriving on time. Quite often one would receive the cards in mid-Jan.

Cut to the mid 90s. With telephones becoming ubiquitous, and long distance charges dropping, a lot of new year greetings changed to phone calls. Usually around the stroke of midnight for your peers, and the morning of the 1st for relatives, elders etc. This meant that if you didn't wish someone within the 1st few days, you might as well save it for next year.

Come the late 90s, and free personal e-mail addresses caught on. This made things much easier. Especially for slouches like me. You could send out e-greeting cards to one and all. Didn't have to shop around for these one month in advance. Mobile phone penetration too had started growing around this time. These two changes reduced the greeting window to about a couple of days into the year.

Early 2000s saw the growth of SMS as a medium to exchange greetings. No sooner did the clocks strike midnight, than your phone would be inundated with a flood of greetings. The likes of me, would wait for about 30 minutes, go through all the messages recieved, copy the most creative ones, and forward that on to all our contacts. This to a large extent replaced the phone-call. But the e-mails continued to complement, since they were free anyway.

Gradually the e-mail volume started to come down over the years. This was being replaced by other forms of on-line greetings. The SMS continued. And the window for greeting reduced to about 12 hours.

This year, 2011, seems to mark the beginning of a new trend. For the 1st year in more than a decade, I got less than 5 SMS. It's not that folks were asleep. Logging into Facebook, I can see the time-line deluged with new year wishes, and exchanges. Facebook & Twitter seem to have not only wiped out e-mails as the primary medium of communication, they appear to have started pushing out the SMS as well.

And all of sudden I'm nostalgic for Bob Dylan.