February 14, 2011

Sporting a Moustache: A definitive analysis of facial hair and cricket in the '90s

Five days to go before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 begins--live on ESPN and Star Sports, best viewed on an LG television, while drinking Pepsi and wearing a Reebok chastity belt or, on a Reliance 3G connection in your Hyundai i20 or on your Hero Honda Splendor that runs exclusively on Castrol Power1. In stark contrast to a rather more straightforward ♪Wills World Cup '96. Share the magic(x2)♫ campaign, the last time the World Cup came to the subcontinent. And since I find that almost every blogger worth his salt has already done a detailed analysis of this year's World Cup, I will refrain from doing one myself. However, during the past few weeks, I have been fed an endless amount of highlights, replays, analysis, observations and insight into every World Cup so far, by every Sports Cricket channel offered by my cable operator, that I now have the optimum combination of information and creative license, to make the following observations.

A few days back, in a desperate attempt to refresh my knowledge of past World Cups, I began scanning the pages of cricinfo.com, and soon came to the realisation that just like mainstream religion, there are many questions about World Cup history that are left unasked or unanswered. For instance, which genius administrator is responsible for the mathematical aberration in the frequency of past World Cups (or) Why, pray tell, did they play a World Cup in '92 and '99, defying the tenets of arithmetic progression? Why has the trophy itself changed so many times since its inception? Why did they suddenly stop playing with a red ball? Why did they suddenly start playing in coloured clothes? I guess there are no easy answers.

What I was more interested in, though, was this strange pattern.

Year              Winning Captain              Moustache
1975                Clive Lloyd                             Checked box symbol 
1979                Clive Lloyd                             Checked box symbol
1983                Kapil Dev                                Checked box symbol
1987                Allan Border                           Checked box symbol
1992                Imran Khan                           X in box symbol
1996                Arjuna Ranatunga                 X in box symbol
1999                Steve Waugh                          X in box symbol
2003                Ricky Ponting                        X in box symbol
2007                Ricky Ponting                        X in box symbol

Sort of blows your mind, doesn't it? Since Allan Border in 1987, no captain with any signs of facial hair has gone anywhere near the trophy. That got me thinking. Did the moustache go out of style during and after the '90s, are fewer cricketers capable of growing one these days, or does the moustache in some way hamper their cricketing prowess? Who was the most successful Indian cricketer of the '90s? Did he have a moustache? To analyse these and other questions, I have done an unnecessarily complex graphical analysis of Indian cricketers and their success relative to their facial hair.  

So, if 10th standard Mathematics serves me right, there is an undeniable correlation between a cricketer's moustache and how far he goes in life. Personally, I'm a bit surprised that it took so long for someone to figure this out. Therefore, I pause here briefly for rapturous applause, even as Ranji cricketers scramble for razors. Speaking of razors, a few members of the current Indian squad seem to have received enough money to take a razor to their chest; some were cut in the process, and needless to say, they bled blue. Not quite sure how grown men and Sreesanth were convinced to pose topless for an aerated drink, but let's just say that this presents a disturbing mental image on my way to work every day.   

And so, as the World Cup gets under way--razors, facial hair and ad campaigns aside, I suppose India has a great chance, so long as Dhoni and his boys are equipped at all times with endless reserves of determination, confidence, self-belief and Youngistaan ka Wow. For my part, I promise to occasionally feign sickness to watch a few of the matches live from Madan Pub the sanctity of my home, since buying a ticket for a Bangalore match is slowly becoming more difficult than turning water into wine. 

February 5, 2011

The Office

For a change, I'm going to try and get straight to the point this time. Of late, I seem to be having quite a bit of spare time at the office, and this has given me an opportunity to make a few observations and notice a few things that I normally wouldn't have. Again, for the sake of convenience and out of lunch-induced laziness, I will resort to fictional conversations.

Conversation with the Logistics department at office
Me: I need to ship some equipment to Germany.
Male Voice on the Phone: Submit a letter in the attached format and then, raise a Shipment Request.
Me: No problem. I will send you the letter immediately. 
MVP: Your manager will have to approve of this request first, Sir. After that, the request will be directed automatically to me.
Me: That's great. So I can expect the shipment to be initiated today?
MVP: Haha. Sorry, I meant Yes.

Elephant's gestation period later
MVP: Good news Sir. Your manager just approved the request. The bad news is that your request was not in the approved format. I knew this all along, but I could inform you only once your manager had approved.
Me: That's very kind of you Sir. Can you please tell me what has to be changed?
MVP: The letter has to be on the company letterhead Sir. It also has to be drafted by the receiver of the equipment, not the sender. The letter has to be signed, scanned and sent to me.
Me: Won't a digital signature be sufficient?
MVP: No Sir, we like to do things the way our ancestors did.
Me: Would you like a sample of the receiver's cheek cells or his thumb impression, then?
MVP: Until a few years back, we did require a valid thumb impression, but the process has been suitably modified since then.
Me: Lucky me. Out of curiosity, does the letter have to be notarized by a government officer?
MVP: Don't be silly, Sir. We wouldn't want to burden you engineers with that sort of paperwork.
Me: Alright then, I will arrange for said letter

A few days later
MVP: Hello Sir.
Me: What's up hombre?
MVP: We need some more documents, Sir.
Me: Really? What documents?
MVP: Generally Sir, Process dictates that the documents you don't have are of the utmost importance to us.
Me: What Process?
MVP: Process, Sir. A sequence of redundancies designed to ensure that chimpanzee foetuses couldn't make a mistake.
Me: I understand. After all, where would we all be without process?
MVP: Yes Sir, our profits would be marginal, our wallets would be empty, our tables without food, our fields barren, our women infertile, and our beer flat without Process.
Me(phone muted): Were your parents cousins?
Me(phone unmuted): MVP, this is taking up a lot of my time. I don't have any more documents. Please initiate the shipment immediately.
MVP: I will try my best, Sir. But I just hope my manager doesn't come across this gross violation of the Process.
Me: I hope so too. When can I hand over the equipment to the logistics guys?
MVP: Don't worry Sir, we will send them to your cubicle; you must be very busy.
Me: Really, it's no problem. I can get back to blogging later. Where can I meet these logistics guys?
MVP: Upper basement, Logistics room. Bring a hard copy of the approved Shipment Request.
Me: But, don't you have a copy in your database?
MVP: We do, Sir, but studies have shown that soft-copies are usually not very reliable. What if the hard disk gets corrupt or all the servers crash simultaneously because of an unexpected flash-flood or the file itself is modified by someone who wants to destroy my reputation? What if I run out of space on my system, and I'm forced to delete it to clear some memory? And then if, God forbid, my department was to be audited, what would I tell them? What would I show them? What is the proof that I'm not just another sex offender with an office fetish?
Me: I get it. You need a hard copy. I will be at your desk in a minute.
MVP: Ok.

So, armed with the necessary "hard copies" I head out to meet MVP. On the way to the lift, I notice a group of people, in a room that has obviously exceeded its capacity. Language trainings are on in full swing; the teacher is Indian, the language is German but the students would probably be better served by a crash course in spoken English. Ironically though, this room is probably the only place on campus where everybody tries to speak the same language. However, this overwhelming desire to study "foreign" languages still baffles scientists all over the world, who have tentatively attributed it to the 1EUR>=60INR phenomenon. Confused enough already, I stagger into the 4th floor lift and press "Basement" and, since expecting the lift to go directly to the Basement without stopping at every floor would be like expecting to find chicken momos in an Iyengar Bakery, it comes as no surprise to me when the lift opens on the third floor. What I did not expect, however, was the binary IQ of the gentleman who got in, and promptly got out on the second floor. Resisting the urge to peel his skin and feed it to imaginary vultures, I continue down to the basement. Once there, I search feverishly for the Logistics Room and, as I look around, I see several small groups of people, all in uniform, gathered for a headcount, and reporting to a supervisor. The cleaning staff are asked to explain why the building is not clean enough, the security guys are asked to explain why the premises are not secure enough and the coffee-machine maintenance guys are asked to explain why the milk has become curd. As I look closer, I come to the surprisingly profound conclusion that all of us in The Office have been in uniform for roughly the same fraction of our lives. The maintenance staff will probably spend a majority of their adult life in uniform, having spent their childhood in "coloured clothes"; most of us spent our childhood in uniform, and as our reward, we now wear "coloured clothes" to work. The only difference being that their uniforms are generally coupled with an awful looking cap/headgear of some sort. Looks like our education system does provide equal opportunity, after all.

Eventually, I manage to locate the Logistics room, and as I prepare to hand over the equipment to the guys there, they laugh and bring me a register that reads "Shipment Records". By now, I'm losing my patience quicker than Suresh Kalmadi is losing his credibility, but I restrain myself and fill in the register. However, this is no simple task, as my Name, Department, Employee ID, star sign, birthstone, choice of toothpaste and Skype ID all constitute "mandatory" information, apparently. With the register filled and my patience exhausted, I hand over the items for shipment and heave a sigh of relief. Satisfied with a good day's work, I head back to my cubicle.

Back at my desk, Ctrl+Alt+Del. A message pops up: "Your password will expire today. Do you want to change your password?" I look around desperately for the "No, moth******er" option and since no such thing is available, the next best option is a simple "No". My PC, however is in no mood to relent and prompts me again: "It is recommended that you change your password as frequently as a baby's diaper". "What's the harm?", I think to myself and agree to change the password. I enter my old password and I'm then prompted to enter a new one. mathewsajiv is my first choice, but it is rejected immediately, since I have not paid attention to the following guidelines: 

  • Password must be alphanumeric
  • Password must not contain your name, in part, or the whole
  • Password should contain at least three special characters, upto four lowercase letters, exactly four numeric and upto two uppercase letters 
  • Password must be at least thirteen characters long(and fifteen characters, at most)
  • New password cannot be the same as any other password you have used since World War II 
  • Statutory Warning: After three unsuccessful attempts, your computer will be locked. If you have forgotten the password, please enter an alternate email ID and guess Shahid Afridi's age correctly. The password will then be sent to your alternate email ID.

Against all odds, I am able to change my password, in a procedure that has become slightly more complex than a coronary bypass. My PC is now unlocked and the Inbox is flooded with mails. I will read them all, in no particular order or hurry. It has been another fulfilling day at the office. Tomorrow, I will be back for more.

[Update]: When I said that my "Inbox is flooded with mails", this is what I meant. 

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