Sunday, January 20, 2013


Time and again history has showed how while trying to pursue esoteric ideals and goals have led behind them a wake of false impressions, inspirations and perhaps ultimately disappointment. Since history is always written by the winners, it is quite difficult to shake it off and see things for what they probably really were until someone at least suggests there could be another side. This is because the beneficiaries of the actions of the person in question "play up" the person and his actions without a hint of reconsideration if everything is done the way it is supposed to. Once it falls, they want the person in jail and want their money back. 

Sir Winston Churchill was undoubtedly one of the greatest figures of the last century. It was under his single-minded focus and determination that the second world war came to and the mass civilian extermination was finally stopped. However, he suffered from depression and to some degree alcoholism. The only reason he was given a single handed control over the troops of the british empire was because he brought results to the beneficiaries who gave him that power.

John Nash's case was somewhat in the same lines, a brilliant man whose mental condition wasn't  of much importance, until he went cuckoo beyond repair, because he was of use to someone.

It's like when i said I will go to Melukote with a broken clutch wire and once i come back i will just replace the clutch if it burns out half way, because it was of use to me at the time; an expendable clutch was beneficial to the purpose of successfully completing the trip. If my dad asked me to go to a shop on a broken clutch wire, i'd argue it'd damage the clutch. Well, it's not the best comparison, but you'll get it if you read it a few times.

Why i am mentioning all these is because, lately there has been another sort of milking of the human talent for beneficial reasons. Sports. Which was originally intended to be the celebration of the best a human being can be at physical activity (or mental, if chess) and hence being rewarded for the commitment and performance through rigorous training; it has now become a struggle to keep rewards coming their way by any and all means. The tables have turned. It has become a struggle to win by being better than the others, not because you are, but because you have a team with you that can make you be so.

The reason i am disappointed is because, i was a great admirer of cycling, I followed the tour de France for some years along with a friend of mine and see in amazement how cyclists were almost superhuman in their feats of covering distances along mountains flats, timed stages in rain, sun and wind. We always went with more vigour to our weekly cycling tours on sunday mornings to Chamundi hills during the weeks of the race and a few weeks before and after as the fever slowly crept in and faded out. We always calculated how your maximum heart rates is 250 minus your age and wondered whatever made Lance Armstrong's beat at 220 effortlessly for almost the whole race while i being 20 or 21 at that time couldn't get past 170 even if i saw a ghost. I always knew that people doped at that time, but i always thought it was done by people who are trying and that only men with a pristine conscience and the utmost respect of the sport could win and have the face to accept a medal for it. In retrospect, it was one of the most foolish beliefs i had held. Having said that, i do give it credit for helping me take up cycling seriously as a means of staying fit. I thank Mr. Armstrong for that. But, i feel, as a human being (and not a sporting machine), if you are faced with a choice to go to a high altitude and training in a thin atmosphere  which forces the body to produce more red-blood cells, tapping the blood into a bottle and injecting it into yourself during competition OR doing all that but donating the blood to hospitals for people in need. I say that because the true sportsman, having reaped the long term benefits of high-altitude training in terms of lung function and endurance, should consider what he can do more than just winning in a race which is now being termed as the "moving pharmacy". 

I do know that he has done a lot of things for his cancer foundation and i really understand the impact of that and appreciate it. But there are two things which can summarise this what i am trying to say here.

1. He was played up since it was beneficial to a lot of companies to have their names on his shorts when he crossed the line first. If you and i did drugs, we'd be fired, lose our families and be put in rehab. Now that he confessed, he has been stripped of his medals and the companies want their money back.

2. That doping and in extension drinking is a perceptive term. 

It depends on how people, or you and i perceive it. If a tramp is seen drunk out of his senses, he is said to have an addiction. The booze baron of India and some celebrities across the world are seen drunk all the time and indeed in the most general sense, no big event involving rich people ever happens with only orange juice and mineral water and such events happen all the time but nobody every say they might have an addiction problem. They're seen as "high society""having a good time" and even admired for the comprehensiveness of the bars they host in their very home and as a consequence of that, our judgement of alcohol or drug abuse depends on who's holding the glass or the syringe. That makes our judgement fundamentally skewed.

Will any winner of a sporting event be seen without suspicion ever again?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hello Mr. Braun

In my general opinion, if someone takes the trouble of doing something at all, then it has to be done well, worth the effort and of some use to humanity. It seems to be so difficult to achieve that, that if someone does make the effort of analysing a problem a bit longer than what the corporate gurus and men wearing well-pressed suits deem necessary, then that person is labelled to have a case OCD while in reality, those who seemingly do their job well and yet not display OCD do, in an annoying number of cases, what my grandfather would have called, in his times, a half-arsed job.

Granted, there were less mouths to feed and less clothes to iron back then. There weren't many people back then and those who were, didn't have money to afford clothes or other such luxuries, in fact, they were passed on from father to son like inherited property. Some others wore a factory uniform, went to work and demonstrated in front of the factory gates burning effigies of popular political leaders of the time. So, on the outlook, the time between the war, establishment of republic India and the advent of colour television in India has seen troubled times, even then, everything made in that era seems to last forever. Most people from the seventies, seem to hold on to their things saying they're better than what you can buy today. For example, my grandfather was alive till i was 12 and i have never seen him buy shirts and never saw him or his shirts change in those years. When i look at the photos of him from my childhood, he looked the same in the same shirt in photo just after my birth and ten years hence. We threw out most things only in the 90's, kerosene stoves, pots, boiler, charcoal iron boxes and the whole deal. I still have a watch, which was someone's wedding gift from 1932 and all you have to do it wind it. A film camera gifted to my parents still works today and it has never needed any batteries. Clockwork, was the answer back then, everything, including bombs of the time, had clockwork mechanisms. These made them supremely mechanical, robust, effective and immortal.

It is not to advocate the use of clockwork mechanisms in modern times (the automotive gearbox can be thought of as a clockwork mechanism with the engine perpetually winding it with the energy stored in the flywheel for the return and so on, that's for another time.). But, it is only to draw attention to the fact that when people took an effort to do something back then, it was well thought, well executed and usually was an engineering marvel, if not, at least an embodiment of the attempt to attain near perfection unlike today where most things break down right after their warranty expires or worse, just out of the box. At this point if you're wondering if this is in the iron box series, yes it is. I went through three iron boxes in the last year, one in India and two here. Now i have a fourth one and surprisingly it is not made in any republic of the people although it comes roughly from the same direction of here, east; much closer, in the same continent, Europe. But it did mean that i had to buy it from ze Germans, they are probably the last few people, a country full of grumpy old men who want their money's worth regardless of what they buy. It does mean that it costs much more than the other irons, so now, rather than paying for it for being a brilliant piece of manufacturing, i, rather we all buy from an expensive brand in the hope that it keeps them from breaking down, unless we really can't afford it. That being said, i am happy with the iron from Braun and i can report it isn't broken after the first use and while working, it works indeed well. It's a thing of beauty. 

Coming back to the bigger point. I would like if one among you, whoever knows about this, could tell me why is it that in the present composite age, with all technological breakthroughs, automated production lines and a lot of the big companies boasting six sigma and CMMI level 5 badges make things which aren't better than what was done in what can roughly be called a Victorian Workhouse in the 70's with manual assembly lines, in a time when certain quality certifications probably didn't even exist to have been awarded. In short, i went through three iron boxes in the last year, if that company has a six sigma certification then does it mean that three defective pieces out of eighteen million statistically good ones came only to me? how improbably unlucky must i have been? 

After an explanation, i will really consider not writing about iron boxes and the problems associated with them.