August 29, 2007

US Americans!!

This is unreal!

Hat tip: Freakonomics blog.

August 27, 2007

India's one-day woes.

For the second time in three one-days India looked completely out of place in this format of the game. Just as things seem rosy in test format, there is a great downturn in the shorter version. Why Dravid chose to bowl today will remain a mystery, but that is only a tactical blunder. The real cause for concern lies in the field.

Indian team for the last decade or so got its fair share of criticism, but one could not say that they were out of tune with the modern game, in the sense that England or the West Indies were. For the first time in many years I get the feeling that India just doesn't get the one-day game. The fielding has plummeted to unseen depths, running between wickets is awful, and the on-field planning non-existent. Of course, fielding was never our cup of tea, but things really seem unmanageable now. As pointed out on Cricinfo, fielding and running between wickets was the crucial difference between the two teams.

May be India will go on to win the series and make me look silly. In fact that is a fair possibility if the wickets remain batting friendly and Dravid has the luck and sense to bat first. However, I simply don't see this Indian team chasing any target of 250 plus. And that is a real worry if any serious achievement is contemplated.

August 19, 2007

Soldiers on Iraq war.

The mood in America with regard to Iraq war is largely concerned with the best way to get out. There is still a respectable view point that the Americans should stay for some more time, but the only mainstream difference of opinion is how long more to stay.

There is also another emerging opinion, it seems to me, that the situation in Iraq is getting better. The "surge" is working. In an unusual step, a group of US soldiers fighting in Iraq wrote an op-ed piece in NYT saying that things are NOT improving in Iraq. They also explain why they will not improve unless the US makes substantial changes in its approach. The article shows a remarkable understanding of the Iraqi politics and historical awareness. It is a must read.
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

August 17, 2007

Comment on India's series win in England.

Finally India have won a "meaningful" series abroad. Our win in Pakistan was in the subcontinent, and the victory in the West Indies was against a weak team. As far as away series go, nothing is more authentic than the English, even if against a comparatively weaker team. Satisfaction all round.

The fact is this win did not come out of the blue. All of this decade India have been much more than a rollover abroad. The highlights included the draws in Australia, England and the wins in Pakistan and West Indies. Another conspicuous change from the 90s was the invariable test victories in almost every series, though the series itself was lost. Series victory remained elusive till now. We came closest in Australia when we were 4 wickets away in Sydney. However, it was always just a matter of time. It is comforting that it came immediately after the world cup debacle.

Test cricket is real cricket. It is only in tests that a cricketer's skill is really put to test and consequently it is only tests that really provide true cricketing excitement. A closely fought test match offers a spectacle of complex patterns that is probably unmatched in all of sport. It is a pity that India seldom plays 5 match or (even 4) test series these days. Nevertheless it is a happy occasion to see India win and move to the third spot in test rankings.

Sterner tests (pun intended) await.

August 16, 2007

Cheney in 94 on Iraq war.

At this point in Iraq war things are so bad that everywhere you turn you find something to embarrass the Bush administration. This is Cheney talking in 1994 defending Bush Sr's decision not to invade Iraq after liberating Kuwait. One must say that all the points he raised then held true also in 2003, though of course they would say that the risk was worth taking this time. Still, it is fun watching him say this stuff.

August 15, 2007

Math, Men, Women.

It is widely held that men are more promiscuous than women and no doubt there is some truth to it. The problem comes when one tries to quantify it. Several studies claim to have concluded that, on average, men have more sexual partners than women. The thing is, assuming an almost equal number of males and females in a population, that conclusion is impossible. This amusing article in NYT provides a proof.

“By way of dramatization, we change the context slightly and will prove what will be called the High School Prom Theorem. We suppose that on the day after the prom, each girl is asked to give the number of boys she danced with. These numbers are then added up giving a number G. The same information is then obtained from the boys, giving a number B.

Theorem: G=B

Proof: Both G and B are equal to C, the number of couples who danced together at the prom. Q.E.D.”

Now assume that number of men is equal to the number of women. It follows that the average number of partners for men and women is also the same. Even if we take into account the slightly smaller number of men, the averages should not be as different as some studies suggest (4 for women and 7 for men).

The article provides some possible explanations for the conclusions of these studies. But the fact remains that one can't trust any study which claims the unprovable.

August 14, 2007

Freakonomics blog.

I quite enjoyed reading Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Though I had mixed feelings about it as a book by itself, I think it raises several clever points. That tradition is continued by the two authors on their blog. I frequent it often and most of the time it is worth my while. After more than two years of independent existence, that blog now lives in the exalted locales of the New York Times. I suppose they will attract more audience now and pocket a bigger sum.

August 3, 2007

Hendrik Hertzberg... blogging. He chose the yearly convention of liberal bloggers to jump on the bandwagon.

I like his writing. His columns on New Yorker seldom fail to please. 40 years worth of these illuminating articles, The Politics, is a gripping read. Anyone who can write like this must be something.

If it is American to believe that God ordered Tribe X to abjure pork, or that he caused Leader Y to be born to a virgin, why is it suddenly un-American to doubt that the prime mover of this unimaginably vast universe of quintillions of solar systems would be likely to be obsessed with questions involving the dietary and biosexual behavior of a few thousand bipeds inhabiting a small part of a speck of dust orbiting a third-rate star in an obscure spiral arm of one of millions of more or less identical galaxies?

Fred Thompson?

It does seem, at least to the untrained, that the Democrats should win the White House in 2008. Things appear to be working against all the Republican candidates and they are well behind the leading Democrats in fundraising. Probably as a result, people are talking a lot about Fred Thompson as a potential candidate. Eric Alterman thinks that he is the only one in the current contenders likely to win a general election.
On the Republican side the news this week was all about Fred Thompson. He's the black box of the Republican side, and perhaps the entire election. As the only candidate who is acceptable to conservatives, acceptable to moderates, admired by the media and potentially saleable to independents - he knows how to act - he is also the only candidate on the Republican side who can win.

Think about it. Those of us who knew Rudy Giuliani as our mayor feel pretty strongly that he's just too nutty to be president. On the one hand we welcome the idea of a race, given how much fun it'll be when the rest of the country focuses on say, the six combined marriages, the terrible dad syndrome, the small but unmistakable tendency toward fascism; on the other hand, we're a superpower and it's kind of scary.

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