Porcupyn's Blog

March 2, 2014

Humpty Dumpty … and the coefficient of restitution

Filed under: Family,Humour,Sports — Porcupyn @ 8:27 am

The original Humpty Dumpty’s coefficient was, obviously, 0. Mine is closer to 1. Let me explain:

We were at a carrom tournament yesterday (wish I could say I won it all). The tournament was in an auditorium/cafeteria. Carrom boards were all around the hall. On a stage were kids playing with these humongous exercise balls. Unofficial cameraman, yours truly, was trolling around taking photos at random, when one of those huge balls leapt off the stage, ably assisted by a kid.

Camera in one hand, I attempted a classic football/soccer move to kick the ball where it came from. Unfortunately for me (and for mother Earth), my planted foot slid along the ground thanks to the diffused carrom powder.

In my defense, the ball would be ashamed by my elasticity, as I bounced right back onto my feet before the admiring (really?) onlookers could say my name (which, being desis, they wouldn’t need a lot of time for) or come to assist me or check me out. Checking all my extremities, I counted myself lucky that my wrist is the only part that came out the worse for the wear. And the camera thankfully still works.

September 29, 2013

A Mahabharata weekend

Filed under: Family,Parenting,Religion,Sports — Porcupyn @ 6:38 pm

It all started with a ploy to get Katya motivated in her football (soccer) game. This is the third week of the current season, and – after two weekend games and a weekday game – Katya’s team was still scoreless. As one of the older, taller and swifter girls on her team, the coach had put her in the center forward or flank position in all those games; however, the team was yet to score a goal.

So, in order to motivate her and to try to make her understand what she was missing (a razorlike focus on the goal), on Friday morning as the kids were getting ready for school, I decided to tell her the story of Drona’s test for the Pandavas and Kauravas; how Arjuna displayed his focus on the target and did not let outside distractions to stand in his way; how Arjuna never looked away from the target and was even unaware of the tree that the target was hanging from.

Given how well that story telling session went, that evening on a car-ride home from the local Indian grocery store, Mrs. Porcupyn decided to tell Katya a story as well. For some reason, she picked Abhimanyu’s story and finished it by the time we got home – after many interruptions by my (for corrections and, in general, comic relief) and Katya (for extra knowledge). it appeared that Katya finally got the import of this story also and it whetted her desire to learn more about the great Pandava warrior.

With the backdrop that Katya has not really been exposed to our vast treasure trove of religious texts (in any format other than Amar Chitra Kathas, which do not go too much in depth), I was surprised at the eagerness with which she devoured it all and wanted to learn more. We have the entire set of Mahabharata DVDs at home; however, until now, she had been interested in watching one and only one episode – “Krishna jumping on the snake,” DVD #3. Whenever either of us parents had hitherto brought up the Mahabharata  DVDs on weekends, her refrain was “Krishna jumping on the snake.”

Now that the opportunity appeared to have presented itself, I took the next logical step and reminded her of them. So, yesterday afternoon, after her football (soccer) game, I got her to watch the Abhimanyu episode with subtitles. There were many pauses along the way where she stopped the DVD to ask questions about what was happening and why. We watched the gruesome scene (in all blood and gory detail, Indian movie style) of the disarmed Abhimanyu being killed and mutilated by the Kaurava warriors. Later, we went shopping, daughter and I. Along the way there and back, while we window shopped in the local mall, I was peppered with question after question about Abhimanyu, why he was killed, why he was defenceless, why Arjuna was pulled away, why no one tried to save Abhimanyu, what the Chakravyuha is, etc.

After a second (late night, for her) session with more Mahabharata episodes, Katya got started early this morning with her Mahabharata marathon. Folks who go on a James Bond or Indiana Jones or some similar all-nighter binge will appreciate her concentration and desire to sit through the whole epic. [Latest update: we are now at the end of the tale, only Duryodhana is alive.] Questions have been streaming from her all day; the DVD remote pause/play button has seen a lot of action. Now, I can safely (and, I must add, happily) say that my daughter has become a Mahabharataphile.

Oh, and BTW, Katya’s team scored its first – and, as of now, only (but, hopefully, the start of a deluge) – goal of the season yesterday. No prizes for guessing the scorer (and I would like to hope that the story of Arjuna was the catalyst). 🙂

March 7, 2010

World Cup Hockey – A couple of points

Filed under: Sports — Porcupyn @ 10:04 am

I was watching the presentation ceremony at the conclusion of the World Cup Hockey match between Argentina and New Zealand.

First up was the winner of the Man of Steel – best defender. After the Argentinian answers typical questions – in English, of course – the presenter specifically requests him to say a few words in Spanish for their fans. Porcupyn’s score: Indian award presenter 1, Dick Enberg 0. [Another thing I noted, the cheque was presented but the amount was also not loudly announced. My point being that the matter of importance is that the dude won the award, how much he got for it is – for the moment – moot]

Next up was the Argentine goalkeeper for the Man of the Match for a match-saving performance (Argentina won 1-0). He is asked whether the team is ready for their last pool match (vs lowly, in field hockey ;-), Canada) – ‘How many goals are you planning to score?’ To his great credit, the goalkeeper dodges the question and says ‘We are looking to win this game’ Porcupyn’s score: Argentinian team 1, Pakistan/Indian teams 0 [teams from the subcontinent are, more often than not, guilty of underestimating their opposition; case in point Pakistan’s loss to South Africa yesterday!]

February 12, 2010

The Hawk-Eye

Filed under: Sports,Tennis — Porcupyn @ 7:58 am

You are watching a World Cup Football match and watch an egregious foul being committed away from the ball. The referee and linesman are too far away to see the action away from the action. Suddenly, the referee gets a call into his earpiece, he stops the action, and red cards the offender.

Don’t think it could happen? Think again – Hawk-Eye, the revolutionary company that has brought current technology into modern sports, is getting into Football. After addressing obvious issues such as ensuring whether or not the ball crossed the goal-line, players elbowing the ball into the goal etc, I hope the technology goes into the uncharted territory of ensuring that would-be Beckers dive on the Tennis court, not on the Football field, and in Zidane-type of incidents, both players are cautioned (I guess Zidane would still get the red card).

That said, it is ironic that I still have issues with the hawk-eye technology in Tennis but not in Cricket. Ironic because in Cricket, a good portion of the debatable decisions (the famous LBW) are where technology tracks where the ball might have gone contentious issues occur when the technology tracks where the ball has already been! Here is my major peeve with Tennis calls:

This post does a very good job of explaining the multiple angles that Hawk-Eye apparently uses to determine where exactly a Tennis ball landed. However, I remain unconvinced. Let me rephrase that – my issue is with the marginal calls that Hawk-Eye judges to be on the line.

When you take a photo of the ball from arguably the best possible angle, i.e. from right above it, what you see is the part of the court that is eclipsed by the ball. Then you get into the science of determining what part of the ball actually touches the ground (only the part of the ball touching the ground technically counts in determining whether the ball is in or out).

There are probably two good ways for Hawk-Eye to be calibrated.

– paint the balls and compare the marks with the camera’s ruling as to whether the ball was in or out (precise speed of ball, pressure exerted by it against the ground upon impact etc will need to be measured and considered).

The drawback of this method is that the paint on the balls might dry quickly, comparing the marks against the camera would be time-consuming, will need to ensure that the ball lands cloes to the lines else precise micro-measurements would be difficult etc

– calibrate on (red) clay where impact craters and skid marks are evident. But even there, the degree to which the ball sinks into the clay might not be uniform.

In all this, don’t forget that the difference we are talking is a Nadal Unit* or two
For Hawk-eye to be irrefutably correct, I think one of the following needs to happen – and until that point, one of the players would have grounds to feel peeved:

– the player hitting the ball should have killed it with such force that it literally compressed to a hemiphere

– Hawk-Eye has a camera on the ground-level which can see under the ball to determine whether or not there was a gap between the ball and the sideline.

– it is a no-brainer, as in there is plenty of space between ball and sideline (in or out).

Unfortunately, unlike in Cricket, Tennis has no clear-cut definition – that I am aware of – of giving the benefit of the doubt to either player.

Nadal Unit (previously incorrectly termed Nadal-width by yours truly) = unit of measurement smaller than an Angstrom Unit

[wrote the above when the Australian Open was on; was thinking of modifying something, but now forget what. oh well … here it goes]

January 26, 2010

Tennis Buddies

Filed under: Sports,Tennis — Porcupyn @ 9:06 am

For the last few months, I have been playing Tennis (doubles) once a week with three buddies. We are most definitely amateurs ;-), but I sometimes like to compare ourselves with professionals (cricketers)!

Dude #1: He is definitely good (compared to our average level), but he definitely has his off-days. On any given day, he can boom in unreturnable serves (wide off the forehand corner or into the body) or serve double faults galore. His ground strokes can be precise, or they can pierce the bottom of the net or fly out of the court onto the road behind! If you play singles against him, all you need to do is keep the ball in play – he will do the rest. Is like Sehwag.

Dude #2: He is good but relatively predictable. His serves lack the punch of ‘Sehwag’ (above) but are precise. Rarely does he double fault, and rarely are his serves unreturnable either. His groundstrokes are precise and he can rally for quite some time without losing it! You have got to wrong foot him or outrally him to win a point. Is like Dravid.

Dude #3: He is better than me, but definitely unpredictable. He has a wicked backhand slice and no specific faults either on the forehand or the backhand side. ‘Dravid’ probably is a better groundstroke player, but this dude definitely has more of the unpredictability factor as to where his shots will land. His serves lack the ‘Sehwag’ punch, but – again because of their unpredictability – can result in more winners than the ‘Dravid’ serve. Is like Chandrashekhar.

Dude #4: And that leaves me. I am right about average, but steady. My serve is pathetic, but it is my only ploy to get the ball in play – that said, I would never serve underhand (I don’t count Michael Chang or Trevor Chappell among my idols). I can rally with the best of them on forehand groundstrokes, but my backhand I don’t want to talk about (I blame it on Racquetball). I love to run around the court, my weight notwithstanding, though I am clearly no Chang or Nadal. Once in a while, I try to vary my shots and – in general – I am working on improving the accuracy of my shots. I try not to beat myself – you gotta do the hard work (or serve an ace) to get a point out of me. I like to think of myself as Kumble ;-).

If I were to play singles, Dravid is the best bet – we could keep rallying, like, forever! I hope I don’t get in trouble with ‘Sehwag’, ‘Dravid’ and Chandrashekhar’ now ;-). As one of them once said (in jest, I should add), maybe I should get into Tennis coaching!

December 13, 2009

“Age is Just a Number”

Filed under: Sports — Porcupyn @ 9:25 am

The local library hosted five-time Olympian Dara Torres, and obviously, I had to go listen. Too bad Baab is not here right now; he would have loved to be there. Anyway, I got to record most of her motivational* talk (I hope there is no copyright on that; at least, the audience was not told not to record). Here is the first segment (all five segments are on YT):

Apologies for the relatively poor video; the emphasis, of course, is on the audio.

The audience loved her speech and, when I left, there was a really long line of kids queued up for autographs, book signing and photos.

* = Not that I am searching for motivation – my mother started her teaching career after she was 40, in the India of the 20th Century


Dara Torres signs copies of her book


August 21, 2009

I have a dream …

Filed under: Sports — Porcupyn @ 8:46 am

The last couple of days, I have seen how much better Usain Bolt is when compared to his competition. First, he reduced his WR time in the 100 metres to 9.58 (only one or two others have come close to the mark he broke, forget about the new one which is 0.11 seconds better). I pity the cameramen trying to chase down the world’s fastest human on the track, overburdened by their equipment.

Next, he brought down his own 200 metre mark beating the second-place dude by 0.62 seconds. You need to watch the video of the race to understand what that gap represents – and this was in a World-level final.

(No, I don’t understand German, but I don’t need to – this one is a pleasure just to watch)

So anyway, this morning, I had a thought. A couple of decades ago, an old Bobby Riggs was pitted against Margaret Court (beat her) and then against Billie Jean King (lost to her). How about trying something like that with Usain Bolt?

No, I don’t mean to have him run against an aged horse or something, but how about this? Bolt vs. Phelps in the swimming pool? Bolt runs and Phelps swims, of course! 100 yards in speedo, super speedo, or the birthday suit, whatever is acceptable to both gentlemen ;-). Here’s my take on it:

– up to 3 feet of water, I bet Bolt wins and Phelps has a lot of hurt in his knuckles, palms, knees etc.

– over 5 feet of water, Phelps will definitely bolt ahead.

It is what happens between 3 feet and 5 feet of water that would be really interesting. Where is Don King? I have a dream!!

PS: Looks like someone already has had a similar dream!

PPS: Cameramen with built-in cameras(!), chasing down Bolt at the end of the race (check out @1:350.42 mark of the first video of this post) … that would be nice to watch too 🙂

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