Friday, May 30, 2008

'Elementary, my dear Watson'

The second semi-final, in which the Chennai Super Kings (the team I am rooting for) will play Kings XI Punjab, is slated for tomorrow at 10.30 AM EST. I will be watching it in the coziness of my North End apartment. No, no pizza or beer. I am on a strict diet in preparation for beach weather and so only BCAA tablets, some H2O and maybe a bit of cheese will figure.

What about the first semi-final that happened this morning? Well, the Rajasthan Royals' Shane Watson's blazing 52 may have made the Delhi Daredevils nervous. Whatever it was, the Daredevils, when it was their turn to bat, collapsed all out for 87 in the first semi-final of the knockout stage of the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Watson's team, the Rajasthan Royals, are currently at the top of the league table and have shown that the recent fracas with Kings XI Punjab (where RR lost quite spectacularly) was just that: a fracas. And not really the psychological advantage that the Kings XI may have hoped for a few days ago (during the dead rubber -- and final 1st round -- match between the Royals and Punjab).

A quick rundown of what to expect tomorrow

Chennai: Stephen Fleming is back in NZ, in anticipation of his wife's delivery of a child. So it will be interesting to see who Parthiv Patel will open with. But Chennai has a strong middle order, probably the strongest in the league. But then Punjab has the strongest top batting order in the league. Chennai's bowling totally sucked during their second 1st round match against the Rajasthan Royals. So their bowlers cannot afford to screw up against a team like the Kings XI.

Mohali: Kings XI has the strongest top order batting lineup in the league, their opening striker being Shaun Marsh, who at US60,000 has proven to be an outstanding value for the money for Punjab. Marsh by the way has scored the most runs in the tournament. They have very good (and, more importantly, consistent) bowling and fielding.

Verdict: If Chennai isn't consistent in their batting and if their bowlers just give it away, they will certainly lose against Mohali.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Picture of the times

Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona. HiRISE Image of Phoenix descent on the parachute.

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter marks the first time ever one spacecraft has photographed another one in the act of landing on Mars.

This is definitely a picture for the history books. It is an unfettered reflection of human ingenuity in play!!

Friday, May 23, 2008

RIP Reg Park

I know Clancy Ross passed away a month ago but I just found out that Reg Park had died last November.

Growing up in India, I developed an interest in physical culture watching movies starring that big Austrian dude and that other Italian dude (who, in one of his movies, goes to Russia to wallop that big Russian fella). While my Dad eventually bought me some of Arnie's books while I was in high school, I craved a much personal learning experience. I didn't get that until the advent of the Internet -- a few years after my arrival in the US -- allowed me to learn about the lesser known strongmen of yesteryears and their bare bones training with just a few pieces of equipment.

Clancy Ross full squatted well into his 60s and convinced me that full squats were the way to go. A few years after that conviction, I grew from a thin 130 pounder to a dense 155 pounder with 22 inch thighs. Reg Park, on the other hand, remained elusive from my research for many years. Somebody wrote somewhere that if John Grimek oozed dense muscularity and Steve Reeves exuded aesthetics, then Reg Park combined those two qualities to build a rugged physique...a physique that would eventually inspire a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, thousands of miles away in a little Alpine village, to give up soccer and become a bodybuilder. A couple of years ago I re-discovered Park and his lifestyle and made a drastic change to my training again: I threw away isolation exercises and only did the big, compound movements. I stopped feeling guilty about not doing "cardio" or training abs directly. After a while, I realized that I was able to stay strong and in shape without, it seemed, really trying. Workouts weren't simply workouts anymore. I was training and it suddenly defined my existence, like breathing, eating and sleeping do. A year later I finally convinced my brother to start lifting free weights. And, Reg Park, was the reason for that.

Tributes are here (starting with one by that big Austrian dude).

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Cricket is my religion. Tendulkar is my God".

I have often bemoaned the never-ending increase in India's population. I don't bother anymore, of course. But the irony is that it is exactly because of that high population that the formation of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has become possible. Ok, I am not going to go on a rant about saving the planet. Instead I want to quickly gloss over a new phenomenon in Indian cricket: Indian cricket fans hoping that International Indian cricketers will lose their wickets easily in IPL matches.

I mean here I am dreading Sachin Tendulkar's expected active participation with his IPL team: the Mumbai Indians. Tendulkar has been on the injury roster for all the 7 or so matches to date that the Mumbai Indians have played in the inaugural season of the IPL. So why am I dreading his active play on Wednesday? Because the Mumbai Indians will be playing against an IPL team I have started supporting: the Chennai Super Kings! When CSK played Kings XI Punjab (and won) this past Saturday, I was overjoyed! I was elated to see KXP Captain Yuvraj Singh, one of my favorite Indian cricketers, lose his wicket so easily after scoring only 2 runs. Such a strange feeling that was...

A lot of these senior Indian players don't perform consistently well in International games (the IPL, despite having star foreign players, is a domestic league). But the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not replaced some of these inconsistent performers in a long time. This is quite possibly because it is difficult to market the game in the advertising world with relatively unknown talent, such as promising state-level players. So the IPL, which is overseen by the BCCI, is a great way for a lot of these local guys to show off their talent while playing amidst and learning from both International Indian players and foreign stars. So I guess that I am not that confused about the afore-mentioned strange feeling since I can see how the IPL can strongly benefit India's future in International cricket. I am already seeing some of these Indian youngsters being mentioned in news media in Australia, England and elsewhere. If that was one of the original intent of the BCCI, well...hats off to it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Audacity (A brief software review)

For 8 years or so, I used a PC at home. Nothing wrong with that. I played Prince of Persia -- both the original DOS version and the outstanding 3D version from 1999 -- and Microsoft Flight Simulator on it. I edited photos from the weddings I covered and burned CDs of them. I also recorded streaming music directly off the sound card a lot. Creative's sound card on that PC came with a piece of software called...Creative Recorder. How original. Creative Recorder allowed me to capture CD quality sound right off the sound card. And life was good. Kane seemed fine. We were all having dinner must have laid some sort of egg in his body...

No, wait, what am I saying?! That's dialogue from Alien.

"Put me out of this misery, doc. Give me one of those yoghurts that chicks dig into after yoga."

Anyway, early this year, I decided to upgrade my computer since I was getting into serious RAW file editing and the newest versions of Prince of Persia and MS Flight Simulator were almighty slow. Occasionally the Prince would freeze during combat like a Bollywood "action hero" with a synchronized lower jaw and groin cramp. Not good. Besides which the PC started acting up and sometimes wouldn't turn on when I hit the power button. I would even nudge it with an elbow: "Pssst. Wake up." It would just sit there listless like a Gaulish cockerel with adenoids. So before I dropped an anvil on it and earn the wrath of all the tenants in 3R, 2R and 1R below me, I decided to buy a new laptop: 3 GB of RAM, a graphics card with 256 MB dedicated video memory, Vista Home Premium, etc. Everything was great until I realized that there was no way to record sound directly off the sound card in the new laptop. How was I going to rip off my favorite music from YouTube or Ragaa? I tried a variety of software that claimed to record audio directly from the sound card. None of them worked as well as the barebones Creative Recorder. I was desperate. My life was in tat-tat-tatters. Then I discovered Audacity. Suddenly the clouds parted and the sun came out. Little birds with flowers in their tiny beaks circled me a-chirpin' and red squirrels started nibbling at my ears. I was...oh so happy!

Audacity: A turning point in my life!

I had actually started to develop my own recorder software on the laptop using C# and DirectX but then, while troubleshooting an unrelated Vista issue on the web, happened to run across a forum poster who mentioned Audacity. So I thought I would give it a try. And I am glad I did 'cause, trust me, attempting to program DirectX was a chore. Anyway, Audacity is so easy to use. You open it, click record, then click stop and finally export the captured audio to a choice of formats including MP3. Done! You can trim off unwanted portions by selecting/dragging the unwanted region with your mouse. Audacity even captures audio smoothly while I have other applications open and active. I suspect that this is only possible because my laptop has a multicore processor. I haven't used some of the more advanced features the product has. I don't need them. The software is available for free under the GNU license!

Now I can look forward to a summer of new music!