Friday, November 15, 2013

The Bald Chronicles

OK. So this is something that everybody seems to be facing these days. They cannot do away with it, or wish it away. The Thailavar himself, the one and only Rajnikanth, has it! Not even he can get away from it! This seems to be the one way ticket to all things related to doom and gloom. Rather, that's what all those hair products say!

In the little time that I have had almost no hair, I have begun noticing the small changes in my life, which I am chronicling here. Some of them are real, some of them just made up in an attempt to revive this blog, which has been really really dormant! In any case, because of the sheer number of people in this world, I am pretty sure at least one person would be able to relate to these!

The opposite sex, in their quest to evaluate you to make their holy matrimonial decision, would be completely blinded by the bright light reflecting from off your head, that they would miss out on seeing the sheer awesomeness that the rest of your face brings. You are already at a disadvantage when you realize your prospective partner making a Chinese face (-_-) (that was an attempt at the Chinese face, in case you were wondering) when talking to you, or holding her hand next to her eyes when facing you to talk to you. This is a guarantee of impending doom in your quest to get the desirable mate. To combat this, you go to a rather dark place with her. Of course, you tell the prospective mate that you want to have the "ambience" while talking to them! Very smooth indeed!

So you start combating this lack of hair by developing another skill. After all, its not the hair that matters, right? You will try to show off this new skill to her, to take her mind away from the "doom" that lies right in front of her face. Probably show off by cracking a few jokes. That ought to work, right? I'd say if any chick likes this blog post, I'm already halfway to developing my extra skill! *Wink Wink*

Your parents start giving very small references to your hairline in each and every sentence they speak with you, be it over the phone or in person. You will start hearing very subtle references to "grafting" operations when you are with them. This is almost always followed by the impending doom that awaits you if you do not do anything about the hair situation.

"How will any ponnu (tamil for girl) marry you?"
"Look at this boy, he has so many cases, its the hair!"
"Ayyooo Rama! Please do something about your hair, there is no way a girl is going to meet you! They will all stop at the photograph stage itself!"
"Here apply this oil everyday in the morning, massage it for good 15 minutes, all your hair will come back! And so will those ponnus!"

You have to give it to them though, they are more worried than you, given you don't have any candidates for matrimonial harmony yet. And with each passing day, your hairline isn't advancing.

So, in your quest to hide the effects of an impending baldom, you start combing your hair, or whatever is left of it, in such a way that the entire world "thinks" that all is hunky dory on the top of your head. In fact, more time will be spent next to the mirror moving each hair in place than in your breakfast table in the morning. That is a FACT! If that doesn't work, in comes those hats. Of course, hats won't work when you have to go to work in a corporate company. Your hand will spend most of its time on your head, moving the hair in place to make sure most of the bald head is camouflaged. This is in addition to what you would do in front of the mirror, when you walk, when you talk, it's like an automation that you have programmed your hand to do.

The colour of your hair wouldn't matter much at this time. You would actually be happy if you see white hair, because that is always better than having no hair, right? Each hair falling (from your head, of course) in your line of sight is met with the loudest shriek you will ever hear. It will be so loud that your neighbours will come running scared thinking that a murder happened at your place!This is in the beginning, however. Later on, you realize "Meh... just another one... tell me something new!" and go on to doing your usual hair camouflaging that you do in the morning.

You now try to use other accessories to camouflage the lack of hair at the top. You do this by wearing "reading" glasses, getting that intellectual look. Or even better, shave your hair off entirely, thus not having to worry about the lack of it.

You begin to notice the lack of hair in every person passing by. That would be the first thing you notice, and you try to find solace in the fact that everyone is in the same boat as you (rather you THINK they are in the same boat as you).

You always try to blame the baldness as a "heriditary" condition. But, lets face it.
Your grandparents started getting bald when they were 60
Your parents started getting bald when they were 40
You started getting bald when you were 20...
What about your children? Are they going to be born bald?

All in all, it does look like all's lost. Baldness is here to stay, and it's an everyday battle you will face from the day it starts to keep the rest of the hair in place. I wish all those people in this position all the very best! Rock on! Or rather, I should say, Hair on!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

My entry in an MOOC - Diving in Football

It's been very busy busy over the past few weeks. Having nothing to do before other than read football articles on the web and stare at any update coming on facebook after office hours, I came upon this site on my College alum forum, and decided to take a plunge at a couple of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) (I do recommend Coursera to everyone, it's a great way to recap your past learnings and, if you pay a nominal amount, get verified certificates to prove you have done something!)

As part of one of the courses I was doing (A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behaviour by Dan Ariely), we were asked to identify an irrational behaviour and provide solutions to solve this behaviour. The following entry below was my entry to this assignment. I would love to hear opinions/feedback/ other possible solutions or anything else, for that matter, on this.

Diving in football
This is one of the issues that FIFA has been trying to solve for a long time now. Wikipedia defines diving as an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by diving to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to appear as if a foul has been committed. Alexandra Pizzera and Markus Raab, in their paper “Does Motor or Visual Experience Enhance the Detection of Deceptive Movements in Football?” define Deceptive movements as movements that purposely mislead the observer or opponent as to the attacker’s true intention or direction of movement. Dives are often used to exaggerate the amount of contact present in a challenge. Deciding on whether a player has dived is often very subjective, and one of the most controversial aspects of football discussion.

Whilst this behaviour was not detectable in yester years of the game, this has become very rampant in the modern version of the game. Consider the following statistics on the EPL by Opta:
  1. A QUARTER of English Premier League football players who fall down after being tackled are diving
  2. In the season of 2009-2010 in the EPL, a total of 168 yellow cards were shown for diving, dissent or swearing. That’s 1 card every 2 games. And these are simulations detected by the referees; there is a possibility of many more not being caught by the referees.)

This clearly shows that this behaviour is rampant in football, and there is a need to eradicate the same from the game.
Why is this behaviour problematic?
Say you are in the 85th minute of the game. The team in red is in the penalty area going for goal against the blue team. The striker has the ball with him, and is dribbling the ball against the blue defenders. All of a sudden, the striker, while trying to go past a defender, simulates a dive and goes down like a pack of pins. The referee blows the whistle and indicates a penalty to the red team, much to the dismay of the blue team. Even worse, as it was a clear run on goal, the blue defender gets a straight red card, and the blue team is now down to 10 men. The red team scores the penalty and the blue team just doesn’t have the time to get back in the game.
The situation above happens quite a lot in the game. Players look for the minutest of opportunities to simulate a dive and gain unfair advantage. You can clearly see why this behaviour is problematic, and needs to be removed from the game.
Research on this behaviour
  1. Tackling Diving: The Perception of Deceptive Intentions in Association Football (Soccer) [Paul H. Morris and David Lewis]: This talks about how footballers attempt to deceptively exaggerate the effect of a tackle, and also provides a taxonomy of typical behaviours associated with deceptive actions.
  2. The act of simulation in football appears to be within the fudge factor range of honesty (Week 3 Lecture 1). This also creates a conflict of interest in the player, with the reward of simulation (a penalty or free kick and possible card to opposing player) being much higher than the loss if he does get caught (yellow card to player).
  3. Does Motor or Visual Experience Enhance the Detection of Deceptive Movements in Football? [Alexandra Pizzera and Markus Raab]: This talks about whether motor and visual experiences enhance the detection of deceptive and non-deceptive actions in football. This study shows that prior visual experience in football was shown to enhance deception detection.

  • A solution based on the research is to train the referees through motor and visual training so that detection of the same increases during the match days. Training through videos increases the chances of the referees to catch such simulations on the field. However, this does not put the onus on the player to reduce the behaviour, and chances are that the behaviour would still continue, if not increase.

I believe that in order to greatly reduce this problematic behaviour in the game, the following would need to be followed:
  • When a player is caught simulating in a game, the team is penalized a goal. The goal is the most important statistic in any game. So, penalizing the team for the simulation would induce the factor of loss aversion and the player would look at not simulating from next time onwards, as now the team would directly get penalized by a goal, rather than by something that could lead to a goal. We would also be reducing the fudge factor, as now the player committing the dive could be blamed for the loss of the team.
  • In addition to this, we would introduce a simulation tax in the salary structure of each of the players. If the player is caught simulating, the amount, decided by the FA, would be deducted from the particular players salary. This would create a loss aversion on the individual player.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The age old Konundrum

PREFACE: All of the below is meant in good taste. :)

The most important decade of your life is probably the decade between 15-30. This is the time when a lot of things happen that potentially define the rest of your life, like:

  1. You graduate from your college with a degree, and enter the world out there.
  2. After a couple of years coding, get irritated with the sheer amount of copy pasting and googling involved, and prepare for your post graduation, and a means to reach ultimate happiness! For most of us, that would mean giving the CAT and entering the RAT race to get into those prestigious B-schools.
  3. Go from a slim, athletic person to a plump, stout guy in a matter of a year or two, as the amount of idleness involved while in our professional lives takes a toll on our bodies. (Sometimes waking us up from our slumber and actually trying out those gyms to reduce and impress them lady professionals! ;))
  4. Fall in love with someone on the way, and develop your emotional side for possible breakups or, if you are really really lucky, carry it forward to marriage!
  5. For those not so lucky in finding that special one, have constant pressure from your relatives, parents, neighbours, other friends who are already married, till one fine day you say "OK FINE I'LL DO IT!", and start on your way to projecting your former slim self on portals specifically designed to ensure that  the better slimmer (on photos!!!) get to see other people who would have put similar covered up photos.
It is simply amazing how parents tend to motivate their children to go ahead in their life, especially during these few years. They almost always use extrinsic motivational techniques, and their most used, abused tool is the carrot and stick.

  1. When you are a kid, you are in the tenth standard. Your first board exams!!!! GASP!! TOO MUCH TO STUDY!!! What do your parents tell you?? "Beta/Kutti/DAI (a very affectionate way of calling your kid in Tamil) you only have to study now. Your life will be made after this for sure!!!". You say to yourself "OK just a few more days to eternal happiness!" and somehow pass your board exams with flying colours.
  2. Two years later, and you find yourself giving ANOTHER board exam. This time your XII boards. What do your parents tell you? "Beta.. you only have to study now. Your life will be made after this for sure!!!" You are at that stage in your life, where you think you have heard this before, but still think it cool that you need not study so much from now on, and give it one final push to pass your second board exams with flying colours.
  3. Graduation. Again the same old studying and the need to pass your exams. What do your parents tell you? "DAI! Study now! Once you get your job your life is settled". You see, parents would ave learnt from the first two times that saying the same thing may not work the third time, hence they add another extrinsic motivation in your mind, a JOB. You think "Meh. I've heard this before. However, getting a job does sound interesting." And thus you reduce to cramming for the exams the last day and getting your degree.
  4. A couple of years into your job, you realize you're through coding (I'm sure most Indians would think that, you B.Techers!). What do your parents say? "DEI! Do post graduation in MBA. You will get extra salary. Once you get new job your life will be made for sure!!". You think to yourself "Where have I heard THIS before?!?!".... but then do a simple comparison between coding now for X salary and showing that others have coded for 3X salary and realize that the benefits hugely outweigh any costs. You take the plunge and do your MBA.
  5. You are now showing that others have coded for 3X salary. Life, ideally should look good and made for sure. WRONG. Parents say now "DEI! You have gotten good job with good salary and everything. Now bring good girl to family, and your life will be made for sure!!". You would also get subtle references life "Hey did you know it is your friends wedding next month?". You think " Will this ever end??" and start forecasting projected scenarios of how this could continue in the near distant future (After all, you do have to make some use of the things you learnt in your MBA, right?) and finally realize that this is a vicious cycle that will never end, for after the girl comes to the family, kids would make your life made. And by the time you achieve everything, you would have been primed to take this cycle ahead with your children.
All of the above happens when you are in your prime, and it is upto us to solve this age old konundrum. All the best to those of us who have almost completed this cycle, and to those who are just beginning on theirs!