Nov 30, 2015

Anna University draws inspiration from Duckworth-Lewis method to conduct exams #MightAsWellHappen

In a sweeping statement of administrative innovation and cross-functional knowledge sharing, the reputed Anna University has proposed a new method of conducting exams for engineering students in Tamil Nadu. Incessant rains and heavy floods have forced the university to delay the exams this semester repeatedly. While students have almost forgotten which semester they were in, the university pulls out this masterpiece. Apparently, the examination controller said in an interview, the university has drawn inspiration from the famous Duckworth-Lewis method used in cricket to declare a result to matches interrupted by rain. This method requires that  a minimum percentage of the game to be complete before the rain interruption to come into place. Based on the situation of the game, the method works out a complicated projection formula and predicts who is the winner of the match.

Similarly, the university examination control board has worked out a complex formula to project the semester scores of students based on the past performances of the student and the concerned subject. When asked to explain the method, the controller said that in times of rain interruption such as this when conducting exams is not possible, they can project the scores of students without even writing the exam. Two parameters are taken into account for the projection. The student should have completed a minimum of 2 semesters. The scores of the student in the earlier semesters is one parameter. The historic data obtained from the students in each particular paper is the second variable. Based on these two parameters, the method will be able to predict how much a student would score in the current semester. 

Sep 4, 2015

The ring

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I have never worn a ring
before she put one on me.
It felt strangely new.
Intrusive, at times irritating,
like someone barging into my privacy
like someone shadowing me everywhere
like someone's just been glued to me.
because this is not how it should be.
What clause did I miss reading
while signing up for it?

Its presence was loud and big
in my conscience,
blocking my view of the world. 

In less than a week
it has become a part of me,
like someone
who I share my privacy with
who accompanies me everywhere
who has just become inseparable.

When I part with it for a brief while
I feel something is missing.
Now I understand.
I see the world through the ring,
like I see the world through my glasses
for clear vision!

I guess marriages will be like this!


Apr 27, 2015

The world's most beautiful game of chess

Very recently I got to be part of what is to me the world's most beautiful game of chess. Yes, beautiful. Not the most intelligent, not the most brainy but the most beautiful and perhaps the most poetic! The players of this game were me and my four-year old niece.

So on a lazy weekend afternoon, she picked up the chess board and suggested that we play chess. I was curious. I did not even know that she knew this game. For my age, I am nothing more than a novice in chess. I know only the names of the coins and the rules of the game. But for a child's play, this is far sufficient and so I too agreed to play chess.

But to quench my curiosity, I asked her if she knew to play chess. She said yes. I asked who taught her to play chess. She said she had learnt it herself by watching cartoon characters play chess. Wow! Is my niece that brilliant? Should I take her to an IQ test just in case she is the next girl wonder whiz-kid? As my thoughts were spinning in this direction, she asked me which colour I wanted.

I gave her the option to pick herself and she took white. I asked her if she knew the names of the coins. She said yes and that her mother - yes, my sister - had taught her the names of the coins. Then I asked her if she knew how to move the coins. By this time, she lost her patience and gave me a 'Ellam theriyum.. Nee moodu' look and went on with the game. The game began thus!

She took one of the white coins from the box and placed it on a random square on her side and asked me to make my move. Wait a minute! What? I did not get what was happening. I asked her aren't we supposed to arrange all coins in the starting position before making the first move. She looked at me as if I knew nothing and then volunteered to teach me the game. Here is how the game should be played.

Chess is a two-player game. Each player plays with a set of coins of one colour. The players have to place their coins on their side of the chess board on alternate turns and play the game. While they are placing the coin on the board, they have to correctly tell the name of the coin. And most importantly, the players have to place coins in the board, one at a time from the box outside. And whenever a player feels like doing it, he/she can take a coin and attack one of the opponent coins and push it out of the box. Simple!

So I got a hang of the game's rules and thus we began playing the world's most beautiful game of chess. In response to her first move, I took one black bishop and placed it in the board on my side. Her move. She took out another white coin and introduced that coin as the elephant to me and placed it on her side of the board. A few moves went thus. The board was half filled with coins and suddenly she went on attack mode. She took one of her horses and the horse came flying to attack a poor soldier of mine and the soldier was pushed out of the board.

I responded by taking an elephant of mine and I attacked her bishop. She did not expect my move and this time she came back with a vengeance. She took the other bishop and took out my elephant. Then I resorted to the white flag. I suggested that we play normally and not attack each other. She thought for a moment and accepted my peace offer. In an amazingly magnanimous gesture, she even brought the attacked coins from both sides back into play because of the ceasefire. When I asked her why she is putting those coins back on the board, she said 'pavam la.. let them also play'. I was grinning ear to ear by that time. Then came her masterstroke.

She took another coin from her box and placed it outside the box on the floor and asked me to make my move. Is this the out-of-the-box way of playing chess? I was no more asking questions. I should not expect her to teach me everything. I should also pick up the game by seeing it. So I took a coin from the box and placed it closer to where she placed her last coin on the floor. She gave me an acknowledging smile and took a coin from the board now and placed it in the floor. Ah, the game began interesting here! We both knew the rules of the game perfectly and were playing in sync.

I took another coin from the board and placed it on a chair nearby. She took another coin from the floor and started running to the next room and placed it on the floor there. Thus we played chess all around the home for the next thirty minutes and when both of us felt it was time for a draw, we called the game off and put all the coins back into the box and kept the box carefully in its place. Well, that's her habit. She is so particular about the place of each thing. Every toy of hers has a place in the home and after playing, she makes sure that the toy is put in its right place.

So that is the story of the world's most beautiful game of chess, of which I am one of the proud players too. And it is thoroughly my privilege to have played this game with its inventor herself. Bliss.


Image courtesy : Doug Butchy

Mar 5, 2015

From openers to finishers - Jayasurya to Dhoni via Klusener

1996.. The Cricket World Cup. I was just a small restless boy then when my father introduced cricket watching to me. The first cricket matched I watched live on TV was a 1996 World Cup game. I still remember how my father narrated to me then as to how the game has changed a lot in the last decade and how power hitters at the top of the innings are revolutionising the game. Of course, Jayasurya and Kaluwitharana were playing against some team in that match, going after their famous mantra of 100 runs in 15 overs. That was the strategy that the Sri Lanka team executed with great success then, making full use of the field restrictions and lofted shots. My dad had grown up watching Gavaskar and it was blasphemy to him. But to me it was fun.

Sachin Tendulkar did the same. Mark Waugh did the same. Gary Kirsten did the same. Aamir Sohail did the same. Games were won or lost by how well the openers played and set up big scores. It was a World Cup of the openers - especially the Sri Lankan pair. It was a brilliant strategy of getting a jumpstart to the race before the opposition woke up fully to the game.

Two decades later.... as I continue to watch the game with the same passion now, how could I miss the change in the paradigm now! Cricket is now the game of the finishers. A finisher's role is as much a specialist's as that of an opener's. This World Cup of 2015 might very well be remembered for the finishers and may the team with the best finishers win. Who are the names that come to your mind?

Dhoni, AB devilliers, Maxwell, Corey Anderson, Angelo Mathews, Misbah Ul Haq - these are the men who are going to call the shots in this World Cup. It is all about finishing with a flourish now. 100 runs in the last 10 overs is the new mantra. And how has the game changed inch by inch from the push at the start to the finish!

In the 1999 World Cup, one man caught the imagination of everybody with the late flourish and I vividly remember when Lance Klusener took on Chaminda Vaas on a final over assault in a World Cup game in England. 20 odd runs in one over. Ridiculous! How could that be done?! 1999. He pioneered the trend of the 'finisher'.

2015. We are talking scores of 400+ and individual scores of 200+ now. Not in the flat pitches of the subcontinent. But, in the, well... 'flat' pitches of Australia and NewZealand. The game has become more and more favoured to the batsmen and sixers do not carry the halo around them as they had in 1996. In fact, with the bigger bats and powerful arms wielding them now, hitting sixes looks easier than placing boundaries. One need not even worry about placement and fielders while lofting it high and far with as much power as he has.

I would like to see one more interesting change to the game in the next decade. What if the scores are to be swapped for sixers and boundaries in future with the same logic? A wild heave over deep midwicket that lands in the second tier of the audience? Let that be scored 4 runs. A delightful cover drive that cuts through three fielders diving in to stop it from reaching the boundary? Give that the maximum runs - 6! Boundaries are more pleasing to watch and are more a test of skill than power to a batsman. 

Nevertheless, speaking of the shift from the power hitting at the start to the finish, openers have also redefined their roles now. With two new balls, openers are not going after racy starts. They are consolidating. They are playing to keep wickets in hand and give their finishers the platform. Many a times, they make use of the platforms themselves too. Think of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohil, Chris Gayle. They shift from a top order player to a murderous finisher almost effortlessly.

The performance of batsmen has improved drastically over the last years in cricket and it has been aided by rules and pitches too to some extent. It is the bowlers who have had to catch up. Some bowlers prefer the style of old - swing and pace. Dale Steyn and Mitchell Starc stand as examples of these two combined. There are others who master swing - Tim Southee's seven wicket haul in this World Cup against England for example and others who go by sheer pace - think of Mitchell Johnson's chin music. But in general, there are no masterly bowlers today in my opinion as there are batsmen.

In those days we had Ambrose, Warne, Mcgrath, Kumble, Murali, Wasim and Waqar - champion bowlers. No body dared to take them on. They had magic that can last for 60 deliveries. But today, even Steyn and Johnson, on a bad day, are reduced to mere mortals. Whereas the batsmen have flourished. There are greater deeds done with the bat now more than ever. Gayle, Kohli, deVilliers - these are people killing the bowlers with a smile. Dhoni, Maxwell, Misbah - these are people who play in their squads as specialist 'finishers'.

Seems like the performance of the bat has gone up like a hill and that with the ball has flattened a bit over the last decades. However, the side with the best finishers is expected to win this Cup in 2015. Let's see who has the last laugh.


(Images sourced from Google Search)

This post is a reply to Harsha Bhogle's call for his #BloggerDeamTeam through Blogmint. Let's see if I make it. 

Feb 19, 2015

Transparent and sincere - Fall like a rose petal

Let me tell you how this book was introduced to me. 'So I decided I am going to buy you a book. But I really did not know what to get you. I was browsing through many when I came across this book. I was thinking. Fall like a rose petal. 'Fall'? Really? On your birthday? But no, the blurb said that the book had no beginning or end and it just flows and focuses only on the present moment. It spoke of living gracefully without money. It shared character similarities with you. I realized that this is the book for you. I know you do not like self-help books. But I truly hope that this book will teach you something that you already didn't know'. Thus I laid my hands on this book on my last birthday, gifted by a dear friend. The above introduction, despite being about the book, also would have introduced a bit about me. I am an entrepreneur chasing my own passions on an alternate path where money is not the top priority. I live a simple peaceful life, neither rich nor poor. I do not like self-help books. A major impetus for me to start the book was the dearness of the friend rather than the subject of the book itself.

However the book appealed to my curiosity once I started reading it. It did teach me a lesson or two I did not know before. It reiterated a few of my life principles. It challenged my perceptions on some aspects. It made me ask a few rhetorical questions - to myself, to the author, to his wife, to his children and also to the society.

AVIS Viswanathan, the author of the book, takes us through his story with the help of a collection of handpicked journals that he had penned down for his son during a testing phase of his life. He is coming out of the phase slowly but surely but the experiences documented by him will definitely be invaluable to his son and to many readers like us. In a nutshell, he was an ambitious entrepreneur who took the big leap after tasting initial success with his venture. Unfortunately, he did not cross the chasm and he fell into a trap of huge debts, self-doubts, embarrassments and tremendous stress. Fortunately he remembered one vital lesson - to fall like a rose petal - and that has made an interesting story to tell.

As a fellow entrepreneur myself, I could put myself in his shoes clearly on many occasions. I felt the bullish enthusiasm of scaling up. I felt the cringing blow of cashlessness. I felt the prickly stigma of the society. I felt the holding hand of faith. I felt the burning moments of decision making. At a point in his dark days, one of his clients offers to acquire his company for a throwaway price and take him onboard as an employee with a high paid role. Ditto. I have been in that position at least twice in my life so far. AVIS rejects the offer and walks back to be his own boss. Ditto. I have done the same. Twice.

I have always known that a wrong move in scaling up could land me in huge debt. I am still cautious about taking that leap. But I have never heard from anyone as transparently as AVIS from the other side. To me, the most enlightening aspect of the book is the depiction of the daily challenges and embarrassments and doubts of the debt-ridden man. Simultaneously, it cautions me further while thinking of debts and gives me hope that no situation is irreversible. Faith and patience play a crucial role in the life of an entrepreneur. In fact, I have already written a post about our mantra of faith in entrepreneurship that I picked from the Harry Potter books. I will do well to remember AVIS's words when I face roadblocks in life in the future.

I could not but admire the supporting role played by AVIS's wife in his comeback. The woman behind his success. AVIS has written about some extremely humbling moments of breaking down with sheer transparency and courage. He has cried. He has lost hope. He has lost his temper. He has got his hands dirty in life and in writing this book and this sincerity and transparency are the best points in this book according to me.

However I could not but question the sense behind some decisions in the story. It seems to me and even to him in hindsight that he could have avoided the debt getting bigger and bigger with some smart decision making. Experience is the best teacher, they say. So I may not take this book to give me business lessons. It seemed perfectly fine when he postponed payments to some of his debtors who were otherwise well-off. They can wait. But there were a few occasions where he was not able to repay some debtors in time when they were also in a critical need of money. Though his rationale of meeting his own life expenses first before paying off debtors makes sense, such scenarios are extremely awkward to escape from a feeling of guilt.

As an entrepreneur, I know very well what impact a delayed payment can have. If I put myself in the debtor's position, I would be extremely uncomfortable and the frustration would be even more than that of AVIS. At times my clients delay payments to me citing reasons that they have not received money from sources where they were expecting. This is a very damaging chain of events in business because for no fault of mine, I am getting denied of a rightful payment. It will put me in a position to delay payments to my vendors and then in turn they delay payments to their vendors. This debt chain ties the hands of so many people in our life very silently today and I would try my best to stay away from entering this chain at any point.

No man who ever dares to take a risk wishes to be a failure. But unfortunately not every attempt will win. A failed attempt does not mean a failed man. Because he has dared to attempt something that more than half the world's population does not have the courage to even touch. The man will bounce back, no matter how deep he has fallen, if he keeps his composure right during the fall. In other words, if he falls like a rose petal. The injuries will be far lesser and even a slight waft of breeze is enough to lift the petal back again on to the sky.

The book does not go the preachy way which many self-help books choose. Though at times, it wavers into that danger zone for me, it comes back quickly to normalcy. It deals mostly with real experiences and real first-person narratives of the life lessons. That transparency and sincerity make this book a worthy read. Thanks for providing that AVIS Sir.


(Rose petal : Image courtesy : Martin Kenny)